Marie Berkovich put on her tightest outfit before walking into her weekly belly dancing class. That way, she could watch the outline of her slender silhouette as it flowed against the grand mirrors. Her beaded skirt jingled to the beat of the Middle Eastern melodies. Her red tank top was tight enough to reveal her abs. One hour later, the same shirt had turned a deep shade of crimson. A testament to how much one sweats in this seductive and effective workout.
As we begin to replace our bikinis for Grandma’s knitted sweaters and our tube tops for tuques, we start to fall off the bandwagon that once drove our butts into shape. Staying fit is easier said than done, and often all those woolly layers can be a big hindrance to ones fitness goals. Rather than letting the monotony of treadmills and stationary bikes turn you off the idea of fitness, here are three dynamic workout classes that will reduce those autumn blues and help you stay in shape all year long.
Berkovich, an accounting student at Concordia University, got into belly dancing because she was inspired by her gymnastics teacher, also a belly dancing professional.
“I find it sexy,” Berkovich says. “It also gives you a sick stomach, and I feel energized the next day.”
Though belly dancing does not require that you get down on the ground and slave over sit-ups, it is a great abdominal workout.
“All of the hip gyrations force you to maintain a straight posture while engaging your abdominals,” explains Mikhail Sigal, a personal fitness trainer at the YM-YWHA on Westbury Avenue. “This workout is targeted for women, because let’s be honest here, can you really see a man doing this?” he jokes as he shakes his hips seductively.
Regardless of whether belly dancing is your thing or not, Sigal has one simple mantra: “Do what you love. Do anything that will prevent you from falling asleep when you come home from school.”
Opt to ditch that six-pack of Budweiser for a six-pack you’re proud to show off. Spend the extra $15 on a hot yoga session. Breathe in and breathe out to a taller, calmer body in a room that is 38 to 41 C and mimics a tropical beach when you close your eyes. The heat takes a few minutes to get used to, but once you are flowing gracefully in and out of those downward dogs, you will feel way too accomplished to roll up your mat and leave.
“Hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga, is particularly great for improving flexibility and keeping your mind focused,” says Sigal. “[Hot yoga] is also great for any season. The calming atmosphere keeps clients coming back multiple times a week.” But he warns beginners to take classes in order to learn the specific approach.
Chugging water is crucial during this workout. Concordia fine arts student Elyse Jacobson reported feeling dehydrated and tired after a hot yoga session. “I was spent for the day. I enjoyed it once it was happening, but I was sick for two days after,” says Jacobson.
McGill management student Liya Adessky displayed a more positive attitude towards the practice. “I got into it mostly because I switched over to a healthier lifestyle in terms of nutrition and stuff,” she explains. “I was looking for workouts that would compliment my new outlook on the mind/body connection.”
Adessky was told hot yoga is great because it is an incredible workout, relaxing and calming. “I didn’t know which yoga to get into because there are so many, but a friend told me she had tried hot yoga and that it was really invigorating, so I gave it a shot and loved it.”
Ever wanted to be Shakira’s backup dancer, but felt like you didn’t have the glutes or the moves? After you’ve tried a hot yoga class (and loved it), hit up a zumba class offered at most local gyms and sweat your way through a high-energy, high-intensity dance workout. The combination of aerobics and African/ Salsa/Latin dance moves has turned faithful runners and spinners into zumba addicts.
Concordia English literature student Allie McDonald explains that zumba is great because you’re burning calories while having fun and following the music.
“It is like a dance class, but way more cardio,” she says. “You don’t have to be a good dancer to enjoy zumba.”
McDonald has participated in many other cardio-targeted aerobic workouts but she describes zumba as the most fun and interactive.
Sigal states that one hour of zumba a week would provide great cardiovascular benefits, but “it should never replace weight training. Combining toning and cardio exercises provides maximal benefits.”
If you’re trying to score biceps through endless rounds of hazy beer pong, there are better alternatives out there. “Do what you love,” Sigal reinforces. Allot two to three hours per week to that amazing activity, and voila? &- a body and mind you can actually feel proud of.
For drop in belly dancing classes head to Studio Sharqui, which has a beginner class Friday nights for $20. For more information visit www.studiosharqui.com.
Private belly dancing lessons are available for booking at www.elizabethbellydance.com. It is $35 an hour or $25 if you add a few friends.
Bikram Yoga Montreal has a student rate that drops the price of classes by $5. A single class will cost $15 but you can buy an unlimited three-month pass for $360. For more information visit www.bikramyogamtl.com.
Moksha Yoga NDG also offers a student rate at $15 for a drop in class or buy a card with five, 10 or 20 classes. Visit www.mokshayogandg.com for class schedules and more information.
With zumba gaining popularity, classes have began to pop up in nearly every gym in the city. Registration for the class at Concordia has already passed so in the meantime head over to Bamboofit at 3451 St-Laurent where first-timers only pay $5 and score free passes for friends.