Fitness: Volée method offers strength training without standard tools

  • BY MARIA HOWARD Special correspondent 

Sandra Tan doesn’t like weight machines and barbells. But she has found a way to get stronger with the Volée Method.

“I didn’t have any strength when I started,” Tan said with a laugh, after a Volée class at Fighting Gravity Fitness in Richmond. At this point, she had been doing Volée for about five weeks. With some encouragement from instructor Heather Mazeika, Tan did every exercise in the class.

Volée is not a household term, yet. The creation of a couple of fitness professionals from Illinois, the method combines suspension (TRX-like straps), pilates, yoga and barre.

Mazeika started as a pilates instructor, then branched into TRX and barre.

“This puts it all together,” said Mazeika, who traveled to Illinois to get certified last year and became the first person to start teaching these classes on the East Coast. Mazeika teaches Volée at Fighting Gravity near Virginia Commonwealth University and at Turn Cardio Jam Studio in Scott’s Addition.

Audrey Bonafé, owner of Fighting Gravity Fitness, said she was excited to be the first in Virginia to offer Volée.

“People like it because it’s challenging and it’s great for toning,” Bonafé said. “You get a good workout, … a whole-body workout.”

The straps for Volée, she said, are similar to those of the TRX system, but the handles are slightly smaller “to fit better in women’s hands.”

It’s often women who are attracted to a class like Volée, which combines ballet dance moves with strength exercises. Most participants do the class in bare feet. The class I visited was all women, many of whom shared Tan’s aversion to more traditional strength-training tools.

Volée is the brainchild of Vicky Waterman, a former dancer with the Chicago Ballet, and Rachel Kowal, a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist who taught TRX at Waterman’s studio in Geneva, Ill. They developed the Volée method a few years ago, and since then have trademarked and copyrighted the program.

When Mazeika went to the Midwest for training in Volée, “I honestly didn’t know about it,” said Bonafé, of Fighting Gravity Fitness. She happily invested in the straps and put the new class on the schedule, though, because it seemed to fit the out-of-the-box offerings at Fighting Gravity, where silk hammocks and lyra (hanging hoops) are used for aerial classes.

Fighting Gravity plans to offer a Volée instructor training course in August, which may lead to additional classes in the Richmond area.

Alisa Wilma, director of Health and Safety for the Department of Defense at Fort Lee, said the strength exercises found in Volée help with her daily work.

“This is the kind of strength training that gets me ready for what military safety asks me to do,” Wilma said. “There’s lots of core, lots of stability.”

Maria Howard is a group exercise instructor for the YMCA of Greater Richmond and the University of Richmond Weinstein Center. Her column runs every other week in Sunday Flair.

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