So I attended my first willPower exercise class yesterday. I wanted to give it a thorough review, since I've been reading about it on the internet for some time now, but unfortunately my body had other ideas. Here's what happened, and a short review of what I experienced in the class.
First a little background: willPower is an exercise modality created by Stacy Lei Krauss, who is a fitness educator and also the Lead Fitness Advisor for Vibram Five Fingers. The willPower method stresses that they are a barefoot workout, and blends elements of dance, aerobics, yoga and pilates to create something unique and dynamic. Needless to say I was excited to try it for myself (even though I was worried about how I would manage the dance portions - Matthew don't dance).
I arrived right on time (I had to turn in a free pass to the club, and had to jump through about 5 hoops to check Owen into their childcare), and so I didn't get a chance to talk to the instructor Alyson before class, and we got right into it. She first had us do some foot stretching and flexibility exercises. This was the part I was most interested in, because I of course was very curious to see how the foot fitness thing felt as an experienced barefooter. I consider myself to have strong feet because of how much of my life I spend barefoot, but I must admit I was rather surprised by how wrong I was. Or rather, how many strengths I have been overlooking, because some of the stretches and foot poses (in particular trying to get my big toes and your pinky toes on the ground at the same time, without bring the other three toes down) were a significant challenge for me. But it was still a great deal of fun, and I was challenged to improve - I have a lot to practice to get my feet more robust and flexible.
Then we started on the floor routines which felt more like a typical group fitness class, and given that I haven't really exercised much at all since the end of the summer (when I was biking like a madman), I felt I was keeping up pretty well. I could definitely recognize the yoga and pilates portions of the regimen - and I really enjoyed the challenge of some of the twists, squats and bends. I got in about 30 minutes of solid exercise...
And then my back muscles locked up. I couldn't bend. I couldn't squat. I hobbled to the back of the class and tried to get it to unclench...but every time I used those muscles at all, I felt them tighten in anger. After resting and catching my breath for around 5-10 minutes, I managed to stretch them out enough to move again, and gingerly made my way over to the side of the fitness area to lie down and bring my knees into my chest. Finally, after lying down, the muscles in my low back gave in and relaxed, and I spent the rest of class doing floor stretches on my own.
I realize that this was my own fault. I didn't have time to properly warm up my muscles, and I also haven't done any exercise in months. Combine the two and you get what happened to me yesterday. Just another reminder that I'm heading straight on towards 40, and can't simply jump into exercise anymore. :-)
After the class I sheepishly introduced myself to the instructor (I was mildly embarrassed by my inability to keep up with the 10 or so women in the class). We had been emailing prior to this so she knew to expect me, and we talked about the class and the method, and I told her how glad I was to see a class like this making headway into a typical gym, where shoes are otherwise required. I'm hoping to establish some ties to the people in this fitness movement, as I think that the more allies we gain as barefoot advocates, the more we can all achieve together.
So I would love to go back and try the class again, but maybe after I've done some more work to get my body ready for that level of activity first. When I do, I'll write up my full review. For now, if you're interested, head over to http://www.willpowermethod.com/ and check out the information and links on their website. I encourage everyone, barefooters and non-barefooters, to check it out and maybe even find a class or instructor near you, and experience it yourself.