Reinventing your summer workout

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First Posted: 5/7/2015

Stretch. Run. Lift. Shavasana. Repeat. Your basic workout can get a little, well, basic. Fortunately, fitness experiences throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania are changing the game.

Pole Dance Fitness is turning the stripper pole into an essential tool for an all-body workout. Balance Yoga takes yoga outside the studio and onto the glistening waters of Lake Nuangola — aiding the discovery of a perfect balance while on a paddleboard. And Studio LA schedules a class just for your ass.

Local fitness facilities are reinventing what it means to workout. These alternative workouts may sound crazy, but they’re crazy-effective and participants are left feeling and looking sexier than ever.


Like clockwork, women dance around a pole while wearing high-heels in downtown Scranton at 5:30 p.m. every Friday. No, there’s not a new strip club. Instead, women are feeling empowered and getting fit at Lucy Howard’s Sexi Flexi class at Pole Dance Fitness.

“If somebody compares what we do to what strippers do, then they don’t really know what we’re doing,” Howard said. “We don’t take our clothes off for someone. We do exotic dance in that class; dancing you would possibly see in a strip club, but it’s for fitness and for fun. We’re not doing it for anyone other than ourselves.”

Alexandra Laver of Harveys Lake decided to try the class two years ago after stumbling upon a pole dance fitness routine on YouTube. “There was something about the video that made me want to try it,” she said. “I was not athletic at all. I was the girl who would run only if a lion escaped from the zoo.”

Now an instructor, Laver credits her decision to participate for her body and confidence. “I’m a totally different person when I’m here than when I’m outside. I feel more confident, more strong. It brings something out in you that you didn’t know you have. It’s really empowering,” she said.

Beginner pole classes are offered at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and noon on Saturdays. Amateurs will experience a 60-minute class that targets the entire body and kicks off with a 15-minute warm-up Laver said.

“First day, right off the street, we’re going to have you doing stuff; a whole little combo routine.”

When Maria Tomasello of Scranton took her first class, she said it was more difficult than she anticipated.

“I thought it looked sexy and fun. So I wanted to try it out,” she said. “It thought it would be easier, but it was an intense workout.”

Krista Foley of Dickson City also thought the class was hard.

“You don’t realize how much work actually goes into pole dancing until you do it yourself. I’ve seen girls dance the pole at a strip club before and I thought it looked easy. I have a new respect for pole dancers after taking this class because there’s a lot of work that goes into it. You have to be pretty strong to do some of these moves.”


Kayla Dyches of Hanover Township isn’t your typical yoga teacher — she’s a circus artist. And she isn’t kidding when she says she comes from a “totally different” background. In 2012, she was hired to perform as an aerialist at Heidi Klum’s star-studded Halloween party.

“I was dressed as a bat and I came down from the ceiling,” she said.

Dyches isn’t always performing in the circus or hobnobbing with A-list megastars. For people looking for an alternative fitness routine, the aerialist and hand-balancer instructs aerial strength yoga — where a silk hammock is used for support to explore, refine and advance traditional yoga poses — at 1 p.m. Thursdays at Balance Yoga in Forty Fort.

“When I teach aerial yoga, I want everyone taking the class to be stronger,” Dyches said. “I use very strong, long holds. People taking the class will get a full body workout. I’m talking arms, abs, back, legs. You name it, you’re going to work it.”

Aerial yoga classes provide “deeper stretches,” Dyches said. “You can do a split on a floor, but with the silk you can do an over-split. It sinks you deeper than you will doing it on the floor. Then you go deeper into back bends, and you can find better balance so you can hold stronger poses longer.”

Darlene Medico, 55, of Plains, and Susan Boris, 62, of Harveys Lake, take the class together every week and prove the non-traditional fitness options are for people of all ages. “Aerial yoga has been great for my upper body strength,” Medico said. “The class is so challenging and humbling. It’s so different than any other yoga class I’ve ever taken,” added Boris.

Aerial yoga classes are just one of the alternatives to practicing yoga on a mat. Balance Yoga’s new owner, Corrine Farrell, is focused on providing innovative ways to balance out yogis.

“Our tagline is ‘Find your balance,’ so we’re finding balance on the water, on tightropes, on aerial silks, on mats — but it’s about the right mix of those things that work for you,” she said.

Balance Yoga’s yoga classes include acro-yoga (the combination of acrobatics and yoga with a partner) and slackline yoga (which is yoga performed on a slackline).

Farrell said different people need different things — anatomically, energetically and spiritually —to help bring them to their best balance.

“Sometimes, maybe where we’re out of balance, is that we want to be the stable one,” she said. “We want to be the one that is holding everyone up. So to have yourself be held up on a slack-line or aerial swing or on another person, we learn to give some of that trust up, and in a way we become, rather than tight and rigid, we can start to relax and soften and allow ourselves to be held and supported.”

Starting Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day, Farrell will take yoga to Lake Nuangola and introduce the area to stand up paddleboard yoga — another option for those who feel yoga class is getting a little stale.

“The paddleboard moves kind of like a boat. It makes people feel unsteady; so it offers us an opportunity to notice that we’re tightening up and then to soften, and to see how when they soften they’re more stable and balanced,” Farrell said. “When your body naturally feels like it’s unsteady, it will tighten up. If I’m really aggravated and the phone rings and I tighten up, or that person I really don’t like at work, I see them and I tighten up, or whatever your trigger is that causes you to stop breathing a little bit, it causes you to tighten up, can you instead take that reaction and turn it into a softening? All of those ways of playing with things are just a different manifestation of expressing the same idea of reducing tension, relaxing, and creating a healthier body and mind.”

Farrell’s husband, Mark, says he enjoys stand up paddleboard yoga; adding the outdoor activity may serve as an “icebreaker” for men who are too intimidated to participate in traditional yoga. “Girls are typically more flexible than men,” he says. “They’re afraid they’ll be shown up by the girls. Paddleboard yoga is different, in a sense. It’s a different perspective. It’s still yoga. You’re still using a lot of the same moves. You’re outdoors. It’s great for the guys who love being outdoors and want to get in a good workout outdoors.”

He also added that it’s funny to watch people fall in the lake.


Lisa Lavelle, co-owner of Studio LA in Scranton, says your “ass is everything;” and the perfect one is “round” and “high.” “Look at the news and the Kardashians,” she said. “It’s a huge part of mainstream media. It’s a huge part of your makeup. Everybody wants a nice ass. It’s like we’re raised to think that we should have a nice butt even as young girls — and I hate to say that.”

Lavelle tackles the derriere from “every angle” in her ‘Butt & Gut’ class offered at 9:30 a.m. Fridays.

“Women don’t really want lumps and bumps. I try to target the muscle underneath the fat to help prevent and get rid of cellulite,” she said.

Lavelle noted there is an element of heredity to cellulite, but there’s a lot that she says can be taken care of through proper diet and exercise.

In the 55-minute class, you’re guaranteed to sweat through an ever-changing workout. There’s nothing routine about it. “It’s never a stamped out class,” Lavelle said. “I like to shock whoever is taking my class. They never know what we’re going to do.”

Lavelle mixes up her workout classes using a workout ball, free weights, a mat and a chair — sometimes going outside — to fiercely endure such exercises as planks, crunches and butt-lifts. Karen Guditis of Clarks Summit has taken the class for more than two years and said her butt is now “tighter, smaller and firmer.”

Lavelle said she realizes starting a new fitness endeavor is intimidating — especially for someone who hasn’t worked out in a while. “We keep the lights low and try to keep it really chill so that nobody feels like they’re under the spotlight like you would at a typical gym,” she said. “We want it to be the opposite of a gym and that’s our concept for the studio.”

Ashley Whelan of Scranton, who wants her “belly back” after having five kids, appreciated that when she took her first class on May 1.

“The atmosphere and dim lighting made me feel more comfortable,” Whelan said. “The free daycare is very helpful. They said there’s no limit on how many kids I can bring, either. I can bring all five of my kids.”

Now that area fitness facilities are changing the way people in Northeastern Pennsylvania are working out, are you ready to change your fitness routine?