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Want Better Balance and Strength? Check Out ZeSa Fitness

Article by Brianna Ojard, Photos by Ryan Ojard

Many of us don’t realize it, but balance plays a large role in all of our physical activity.  Something as simple as walking down the street or climbing a flight of stairs demands balance from our bodies.  Good balance can help protect us from injury and is a key component in improving athletic abilityZeSa Fitness, located at 1024 Washington Avenue S in the Mill District, understands the importance balance plays in our lives and their classes focus on improving balance and increasing core strength (the two go hand-in-hand). This is done with an Activator, a unique piece of equipment created by co-owner and instructor Shanti Rainey. Simply described, the Activator is a rotating platform that sits on top of a partial sphere and allows for 3-dimensional movement – forward and backward, side-to-side, and rotationally.

ZeSa stock photo

I met with studio co-owner and instructor Cindy Varva in ZeSa’s beautiful studio space to learn more about the benefits of incorporating balance training at ZeSa into a fitness routine. First things first – ZeSa is accessible to all ages and fitness levels. There are 4 levels of Activators used in class, allowing you to level up as your strength and balance improve. To give you an idea, you can start at a Level I Activator, which is the rotating platform on a slightly less than ¼ sphere, and work your way up to the Level IV Activator, which is the rotating platform sitting atop a ¾ sphere (that takes some crazy balance!). And if the Level I Activator is too much for your current abilities you can start on a Stimulator, which incorporates the rotating platform of the Activator but sits on a flat base.  

Cindy explained that the instability of the Activator has neuromuscular benefits such as improved functional abilities, increased muscle strength, better agility, and a decreased risk of injury when taking part in other physical activities. The workouts at ZeSa are low impact and will activate and strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints, which could be beneficial to those suffering from joint pain. Cindy offered to walk me through some of the moves that you’ll find in a typical ZeSa class and I happily, and somewhat nervously, agreed. Turns out, there was nothing to be nervous about. Once I was comfortable getting up on the Activator and finding my balance, it was very fun. We practiced things like lunges, squats, deadlifts, and planks.

Cindy Vavra, left, and Brianna Ojard, right.

Besides the fact that instability made all of the exercises much more challenging, I really loved how the Activator forced me to move through each exercise with much more intention than I would on a flat surface.  I also liked how focused I had to be. There’s not much room for your mind to wander when you’re trying to stay upright. Every Saturday from 10-10:30a Cindy holds a similar session, completely free, meant to let people get accustomed to using the Activators before taking a full class.  

After my one-on-one I was excited to go back and try a couple of classes. I started with ZesaPower, the studio’s signature class. This class is a total body toner that utilizes body weight, free weights, and resistance bands to strengthen from head to toe, all while balancing on an Activator. The class starts with a warm-up to get the muscles loose and the body acclimated to being on the Activator. After that we performed many of the moves that Cindy put me through during our one-on-one. 

I also tried ZeSa HIIT & Kick which, as you may have guessed, utilizes HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to get the heart rate up, as well as kicking. The kicking definitely upped the instability factor. Something I really enjoyed in both classes was when we flowed through a series of moves. The instructor broke down the exercises and we went through each one a few times, then we connected them all together and flowed through them a set number of times at our own pace. This allowed newbies like me to go as slowly as necessary, and people who were more advanced could flow through the moves at a pace that they felt was challenging.

I can say that ZeSa is one of the most unique and functional workouts I’ve tried. The classes offered at ZeSa will definitely help your fitness level to progress no matter your current capabilities (even athletes in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NBA train with Activators).

I recommend you add some (good) instability to your life and check out ZeSa. Here’s what you should know before you go:

  • Your first week is free! You can take as many classes as you want during that time. By the end of the week you’ll be hooked!

  • There’s an Intro to ZeSa class every Saturday from 10-10:30am. This is also free and won’t count as part of your free week.

  • Classes are performed barefoot.

  • There are a variety of classes to choose from: ZeSa Power, ZeSa HIIT, ZeSa HIIT & Kick, ZeSa Cardio Boxing (wraps and gloves are provided), ZeSa Yoga.

  • Definitely bring a water bottle. Towels are provided.

  • There’s a shower if you need to freshen up.

  • There’s free parking located in the Bridgewater retail parking area, accessed from 11th Ave S. There’s also metered street parking available.

You can stay connected with ZeSa on Facebook and Instagram

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