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Gym Belle  - noun  one who enjoys pull-ups, push-ups, lifting things up/putting 'em down, PRs of all kinds, racing, jumping, spinning, daring and blogging re same (more here)


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Before I took Steve Feinberg's Powerstrike class at the 85th street Equinox back in the summer of 2004, I had never been a class person.  I'd taken a handful of step classes and one dance class that I still cringe thinking about.  At one point, we had to skip in circles.  I kid you not.  I was mortified.

Fortunately, the very next day, I tried Powerstrike.  I wasn't nervous.  After all, the Tae Bo videos I'd done in college had to have taught me something, right?  Wrong.  This class was hard and fast.  I flailed about, fists flying this way and that.  I managed to punch my chin.  My mother may have dreamed of becoming a ballerina, but my father had to be taught to step and clap to the rhythm before we'd unleash him at my bat mitzvah.  I was very much his daughter that day.

The thing is, Steve learned my name.  He came by periodically to correct my form and show me the combinations.  It would be a solid month before I saw any meaningful improvement, but from that first day forward, I knew I could learn.

That's what sets Steve's classes apart from the others I've taken over the years.  If you want to learn, he wants to teach you.  Steve bounces around the room, he dances, he rhymes compulsively and sings out the moves.  As a rule, the combinations will fit the beat perfectly.  Steve's unapologetic confidence and enthusiasm turn some people off, but if you're one of "his people," his classes are the best.

Steve's Powerstrike days are over; he now teaches Shadow-do,which I have yet to try, and host of other classes his company has developed, including Speedball.  Speedball is a cardio class that involves moving with a weighted medicine ball.  All rest is "active rest," so you'll come back to some basic movements every so often to recover, but you'll never put the ball down or stop moving.  Some of the moves are martial arts inspired, some are more sports-oriented.  There's a Tai Chi-esque element in there, as well, because if you try to move the ball with your arms, after an hour, they will give out.  The movements have to come from your core.

Class is divided into 4 sections.  During the first part, you'll learn the basic moves.  In sections 2 and 3, Steve introduces different levels or variations of those moves.  You can always stick with the basics until you're comfortable picking up the levels.  Speedball can be a bit hard on my knees in general, so I'm very careful about attempting the higher level moves even though they're fun.  In the last part of class, Steve strings moves together into choreographed sequences.  Some days I'm better at this than others; I'm still my father's daughter.

There are 2 lb, 4lb, 6lb and, I believe, even heavier balls to choose from.  Most women use the 4 lb ball.   If it's your first class and you want to try the 4 lb ball, take a 2 lb ball as well to keep nearby just in case.  If you're starting to sacrifice form to keep the ball going, switch to a lower weight or put the ball down entirely.  Do this before you lose control of the ball and clock someone.  I've been clocked by arrant balls and it hurts.  I usually start out with 6 lbs and switch down to 4 lbs depending on how I feel.

Steve's classes are full of regulars.  As a general rule, the people in the front row are the best.  They know what they are doing, and you can learn by watching them.  If you are new to a class or don't attend often, my personal opinion is stay out of the front row.  That said, if you really want to learn, don't hide in the back, either.  Stand somewhere where you can see the front row so that you have people to follow.  As always, I'm a big fan of the side mirrors so you can keep an eye on your form.

Speedball is great when I'm looking for something to mix my cardio up.  It's a different kind of challenge than running or spinning, but similarly intense.  Speedball challenges your balance and endurance.  You will sweat and you'll burn a ton of calories.  It's a good time.  Expect some soreness. 

-Gym Belle-

ps - While most Speedball regulars are women, but I regularly see men in class and believe it's totally bro-friendly.

pps - Also check out Speedball classes taught by co-founder Michelle Ho.  She rocks.

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