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Going with the flow: PiYo workouts gaining in popularity

Barefoot and on mats, three women moved from lunges and squats to far-reaching yoga poses. Upbeat music set the pace.

Sweat arrived long before they executed a Bowler’s Lunge, as fitness instructor Cherylina Moore stretched a hand upward before bringing it back under her other arm on the floor.

“It’s a low-impact, high-intensity class,” said Moore, who leads PiYo Aerobics at the HUB Sports Center.

PiYo is a hybrid fitness routine blending parts of Pilates, yoga and other exercise positions, but nobody pauses long enough to hold a Warrior pose or listen to Zen music. PiYo uses popular songs with a beat instead of calming instrumentals.

Fitness entrepreneur and author Chalene Johnson, who created TurboKick, designed PiYo. A description at www.beachbody.com explains that PiYo’s flowing sequences burn calories while lengthening and toning muscles, and increasing flexibility.

“There isn’t a lot of jumping and running, but you do work your muscles. You work the whole body, from the head to the toes,” Moore said.

PiYo isn’t as well-known as other group fitness classes, although that’s changed in the past couple of years, Moore said. She thinks some people mistakenly assume it’s a yoga variant.

“Once people start it, they love it,” Moore said. “Or some may think it’s a little too fast because they get it confused with yoga, where you hold a pose for a moment. With PiYo you don’t, you just keep moving.

“You’ll go from a pushup, to a plank, to a Downward Dog, then you’re lifting your leg up in the air, then you’re coming into a lunge, so you’re up and down and keeping the momentum going. You’re getting almost a cardio that way, secretly.”

Participants pay a $4 drop-in fee at the HUB for the 4 p.m. Tuesday class lasting an hour.

Other PiYo classes are available around the region, including at the north Spokane YMCA of the Inland Northwest and at some MUV Fitness gyms.

Lana Grytdal teaches PiYo at MUV Fitness Spokane Valley and trains new PiYo instructors who work regionally at various facilities. She has taught the format since 2009 in Spokane, but it’s really caught on locally within the past three to four years, she said.

Her PiYo class draws 25 to 35 people, but Grytdal hears some misconceptions from people unfamiliar with the format.

“There is so much confusion on what PiYo really is,” Grytdal said. “People think it’s just a yoga class. Yoga is a beautiful thing, but PiYo is absolutely a different format. We go to the beat of music, and it’s a fusion, so we’re constantly moving.”

PiYo routines have some original moves along with familiar fitness positions, for a full-body workout, she said. Sections include lower-body work, a power section and sculpting of the body’s core.

It’s all choreographed, and people progress while learning a new routine every eight weeks, she said. Fairly quickly, students can see flexibility improve, Grytdal added.

That was true for Moore, who started teaching PiYo in June. Part of her reason for teaching the class was that she could do a certain strength move. Now, she realizes everybody in PiYo progresses at their own pace.

“I teach cardio formats, so I have a good comparison,” Moore said. “When I first started teaching PiYo, I could not do a single pushup. Now, that I’m doing PiYo, I can do a pushup, maybe not the best, but I’m gaining momentum and seeing that right before my eyes.”

Students side-by-side are at different levels, while all are working toward improved strength, balance and flexibility. Moore said one song in the middle of the routine is geared strictly for cardio work to bring the heart rate up, before bringing it down, to burn calories.

“It’s like a personalized workout and challenge that you get to see and physically get to feel,” Moore said. “You’re using muscles that you’re not used to using. But you don’t have to be perfect to start it.”

While PiYo is a challenging class, Grytdal agreed it’s really for anyone, because instructors offer modifications. Someone who doesn’t want to do a full pushup can start by doing one from a kneeling position.

Plus, for someone who does a lot of straight cardio work such as cycling or running, PiYo can benefit them to gain more balance and flexibility, Grytdal said.

“It’s a great complement for those who cycle or lift heavy weights, because they need those stabilizer muscles.”

Moore’s student Paula Wiemer has taken her class regularly.

“I love PiYo,” Wiemer said. “It’s a low-impact workout, and it gets me out of the house for an hour.”


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