The trainers and staff at IXL in Simmons Plaza were used to bringing people into the gym, but this summer they are encouraging their patrons to go outside and work out in the open air, flipping tires and riding stationary bikes in the parking lot of the plaza alongside Route 9W.
The core force program, which debuted in June with a six-week session that met for one hour per week, is the brainchild of manager Allison King and IXL trainers Ethan Rowe and Bill Hill.
King says she was tired of customers giving up their memberships in early summer so they could be more active outside. Inevitably, she said, those same customers would return without having spent the time they had planned for outdoors. The core force class not just allows them but forces them to be active outside.
Hill, who years had been assistant art director for Sports Illustrated and coached long-distance running, says one of the benefits to the open-air workouts is that the participants know there is nowhere to hide. In a typical fitness class, shyer or less confident people would choose a spot in the back on the class and hope the instructor wouldn’t notice them. This isn’t possible, he said, in a space without walls.
The result of this situation, according to Hill, is a growth in confidence. To work out in full view not only of the trainers but also of anyone driving along Route 9W becomes empowering, building confidence as well as He says he has witnessed people “coming out of their shells” during the six weeks.
King, who initiated the class and takes it herself, said the participants in the first sessions looked at the large tractor tires with skepticism. They didn’t think they’d be able to flip them. By the end of the session, she says, those same people had flipped them five times. The class was a confidence booster.
Exercising in full view brings more attention from the trainers. The initial class of nearly 40 students far exceeded their expectations for enrollment. But the two trainers managed to provide one-on-one time with each student.
All fitness levels, from beginner up, are welcome. The enrolled students range from 16 years old through 77. Hill’s work as a coach for youngsters has given him experience with a variety of age levels.
Core force is more than just an exercise program, he noted. He and King have brought in people to talk about nutrition, and he counsels frequently about changing mindset. Rather than gym time being something apart from the rest of your life, he said, it should be “a part of your life.”
What is a typical class like? After some dynamic stretching, the participants go through a variety of stations that change weekly. Hill, who described the workouts as “down and dirty,” said they were intended to take people out of their comfort zone. Rowe, who has worked at IXL for just over a year and has a background in the military, said it was not a bootcamp workout. The goal is never to stop moving during the hour-long session.
The initial session of the program has ended, and a new session will begin August 2. IXL hopes to offer it throughout all seasons. King says they expect even more sign ups in the future Because so many participants have been drawn in after they passed the class while driving or walking by the plaza, King is hopeful of more signups. Hill says cars passing along 9W frequently honk and wave, and a few people have walked right up to him in the parking lot to ask for more information.