CLASS BENDS THE LIMITS

Fitness instructors feel the burn, too, after this
Jen O’Neal leads a R.I.P.P.E.D. training class for instructors Saturday at the Ashland Family YMCA.Julia Moore

For everyone who has ever felt pushed by a PE teacher, take satisfaction in this: On Saturday, 20 of Oregon's fittest fitness instructors, personal trainers and muscle maniacs gathered at the Ashland Family YMCA for a day of butt-kicking, ab-burning, leg spasm-inducing workouts.

They gripped heavy weights, stretched out tight, resistant bands and leapfrogged across the room. They mimicked sports drills, moving with imaginary equipment as if playing a competitive game of basketball and football, and flew over pretend track hurdles. They threw boxing jabs, kicked out their legs while squatting and performed endless pushups and jumping jacks. They sweated, panted and puffed.

And then, after eight hours, they were done.

Now these fitness gurus, from Ashland to Eugene, are certified to take their hard-earned knowledge back to their gyms and teach others about a "body shock" program called R.I.P.P.E.D., which has been embraced by YMCAs and more than 1,500 fitness centers around the country.

Chip Layton, the Ashland YMCA's Health & Wellness director, organized the event to help the fitness pros earn continuing education credits to maintain their certifications. He hopes to host other trainers' sessions throughout the year and to start scheduling R.I.P.P.E.D. classes for Y members by the end of July.

The challenging, cross-training routine combines the coordinated power of kickboxing, the cardio of spin class, the strength building of weight-lifting and the athletic movements of sports, all in one hour. A leader blasting instructions and throbbing music with lyrics such as "Can't stop, won't stop, no, we don't know how to stop" keep people from slowing down.

The routine can be modified to accommodate all levels of stamina, endurance and fitness, say experts.

"Anyone can do it, from a teenager to a fit senior," promises Layton. "It's meant to be a short, high-intensive, high-interval training, so you get the best bang for your buck."

But there was no easing up on Saturday. Fitness pros in prime physical condition who usually coax slouchers to do one more situp were being put through the ringer by master trainer Jen O'Neal, who flew in from Sacramento, Calif., to introduce them to the choreographed, heart-pounding routine.

The energetic 39-year-old used a pink headset to bark nonstop commands to the group, her red head bobbing to the beat. "Yes! Yes! Go! Go!"

"I yell at the instructors who yell at you," joked O'Neal before the class started. "I need to beat up the instructors to make sure they are in tip-top shape so they can help you reach your fitness goals."

In the Y's downstairs aerobics studio, the exercise pros wearing form-fitting tank tops and shorts were on the floor by 9 a.m. During a short lecture, O'Neal broke down the activities that form the routine's name: resistance, intervals, power, plyometrics, endurance and diet.

"R.I.P.P.E.D is not a funky little name," said the fitness drill sergeant, who also teaches Zumba and cardio kickboxing, but likes the variety in this strenuous routine.

She told them they might have seen the program on TV or in videos, or read about it or heard about it from a friend. "But you have never experienced it," she said. "And now you get to do a cannonball into the R.I.P.P.E.D pool."

As O'Neal glided around the wood floor, vigilantly watching every elbow angle and foot position, her students stepped quickly, doing a boxer shuffle that Rocky Balboa would have applauded.

They repeated "burpees" — bending down until their hands hit the floor, then stiffening their bodies like wood planks, pushing one leg into the air, jumping back into a squat, then standing again. Then they did pushups holding a weight in each hand and lifting one arm in the air as they turned to do a lateral stretch, then plunged down for another pushup.

"Faster, faster, faster," said O'Neal, her amplified voice filling the large room. "If six (pushups) is all you got, I want six, but if you can do nine instead of eight, great."

They ran forward, their knees reaching their chest, their arms pumping like pistons at their sides. They dropped into a squat and circled around. "Hands off the body," called out O'Neal. "No hanging on."

While squatting, they did biceps curls and pulses with heavy weights. "Light as a feather," said O'Neal trying to psych out fitness experts who knew exactly the number of pounds they were lifting.

During endurance drills, they lunged forward, punched the air, twirled their fists around each other as if doing "speed bag" hits on a punching bag. "Hook, up, push, faster," she said to the toned students who moved quickly and yet nothing on their bodies seemed to jiggle.

"If you look pretty at the end of this, you're not doing it right," said O'Neal.

The morning workout put them into what O'Neal rightfully called "a sweaty mess," so they were given a 10-minute break to change clothes, gobble a snack and check their cellphones. "We don't want them sitting in their cold, wet clothes," said O'Neal.

Then they dove in for more. They did another hourlong grinding class. Then they took a 50-question quiz and demonstrated to O'Neal that they knew her program's form.

Finally, it was over. You'd expect exhaustion. But instead, endorphins filled the room. O'Neal gave them high fives and they posed for a group photo.

"You do this for eight hours, and it feels like eight minutes," she said. "The fun side of your brain wants to do it again but then your body tells you that you are crazy."

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@dailytidings.com.



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