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New Recess-Style Fitness Class Has Adults Acting Like Kids Again

By Emily Frost | December 13, 2013 11:13am
 The new class takes activities and games from school recess and makes them into fitness challenges.
"Recess" Class on Upper West Side
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A new class aims to transport hardworking, stressed-out adults back to their favorite part of the school day — while burning a whole lot of calories. 

"Recess," a new Sunday morning class that started in late November at Reebok Sports Club/NY on Columbus Avenue, includes activities like relay races and hopscotch to help participants embrace schoolyard-style games while working up a sweat.

"Who wants to be picking up weights? It’s so boring," said instructor and fitness pro Eva Pelegrin, who has been teaching at the club for 10 years. She noted that she wanted to take her students back to a time when their movements were free and easy. "What you see in a child is the joy of movement."

The class uses games and simple challenges to get the body moving in different directions and to raise the heart rate.

"We stop playing at a certain age," Pelegrin said. "We start sitting and everything goes downhill from there."

Participants, who so far are mainly women from their 30s to 50s, start by crawling like an inchworm, walking like a bear and swaying like a gorilla — with Pelegrin encouraging big smiles and laughter. 

"It was so much fun!! I am not a morning person nor into partnering, but I had a blast... was working hard and smiling ... can't beat that combo!," attendee Sandra Lespinasse wrote on Pelegrin's Facebook page. 

"So much FUN today!!" chimed in Erika Leun Rodríguez.

After the animal moves, the class progresses to relay races in which participants are divided into two groups and run back and forth with an exercise ball or jump over human hurdles. 

"It’s friendly competition," Pelegrin said. "It’s not about comparison."

Wheelbarrow pushups, in which a partner holds another's legs in the air while they do a push-up, are meant to add a layer of difficulty amid the childlike movements.

"You’re having fun, but you don’t even realize how hard you are working," Pelegrin said.

Other activities include hopping up and down a ladder on the floor, an exercise reminiscent of hop scotch. 

A crowd favorite so far, and one that had everyone laughing in a recent class, is an invention of Pelegrin, who likes to make up games. She has everyone lay stomach-down on a big towel and try to move themselves across the room only using their arms. 

"You’re giggling," she said, "and you’re burning calories." 

The teamwork and camaraderie is supposed to evoke feelings of childhood and help motivate participants, Pelegrin explained.

In future weeks, she said she may bring in jump ropes, create an obstacle course or work in a game of "red light, green light" — all activities that will have participants working harder than they'd think and keep the mood upbeat, she said.

At the beginning of the class, she hears from students about their favorite recess games to give the class a sense of community and to bring members back to a happy place in their minds.

"The possibilities are really endless," Pelegrin said.