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Health

Drumming workout hard to beat

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Baila Smith offered a statement that probably has never been uttered after a fitness class.

"I have a lot more respect for drummers now," said Smith, 35, of Boca Raton.

The one-hour class at Life Time Athletic Boca Raton, called Beyond the Beat, is designed to give participants a killer arm workout, as they beat their sticks on a stability ball. Instructor Michelle Mascari leads them through aerobic moves while Bryan Sussman provides live accompaniment on his drum set. (There's also taped dance music.)

Mascari saw a similar class at a fitness conference with taped music and knew she likely had an ally in Sussman. He is Life Time's business administrator, but he also teaches cycling and plays drums in a band on weekends.

He jumped in with both feet.

"Whatever it takes to keep people motivated to exercise, I'll be there," he said, noting that drumming is something everybody does — either on a desk, a car dashboard or in the Rock Band video game.

Sussman once wore his heart-rate monitor during a nightclub show to test how strenuous drumming is. He said he spent the whole time in the fat-burning zone — about 65 percent of his max heart rate.

"Me playing for 45 minutes in this class nonstop requires probably double the endurance of a cycling class," he said.

As she warms up the class, Mascari instructs everyone to hold their drumsticks over their head and click them together, like a drummer exhorting the crowd to clap rhythmically. She throws in some side stretches — drumming on the side of the ball — and regular fitness fare such as aerobics steps, jumping jacks, lunges and cha-cha dance moves.

Students prop up their balls on four upside-down risers that are used for step aerobics.

"OK, everybody jam!" Mascari shouts, beating on the side of the ball.

The beat goes on; no one quits. Students are so pumped they plow right through, Mascari said.

"You're so passionate about the drumming that you don't know how hard you're working," she said.

Dr. Robert Lawrence Friedman, author of The Healing Power of the Drum, said drumming can take people from anger to sadness to joy. Others just find a general sense of stress relief.

"Stress happens when people get caught up in the past or in the future. Drumming keeps them in the here and now," says Friedman, a drum therapist in New York.

He said he has never heard of a drumming-for-fitness class.

Lional Dalton, who played defensive tackle for five NFL teams for about 10 years, finds it a challenge.

"It felt more like fun than work, but it kicked my butt," said Dalton, 34, of Boca Raton. "I thought I'd need an hour of cardio on my own after this class, but this was enough."

He also likes the musical aspect. "It felt for a minute like I knew how to play the drums," he said.

Marjorie Newman, of Delray Beach, tried it earlier this year, then returned for a recent class. All of Life Time's classes are for members only.

"My arms will be sore tomorrow morning," she said. "Plus, it's good to just beat the heck out of something."

Nick Sortal can be reached at nsortal@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4725.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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