Class of the Month: FITWall

The view from the FITWall room at the Canton Club is a spectacular one of boats bobbing in the water. But you'll need to get to class early to enjoy it; during the gym's 30-minute FITWall session, there's no time for idle gazing. It's all about the workout.

The class is built around Canton Club's FITWall climbing walls, structures of metal and plastic that stretch from the floor nearly to the ceiling, adorned with ledges climbers can easily grab onto, even with sweaty hands. As instructor Erin Gouldin, who has been teaching the FITWall class since the spring, leads the small group from wall to mat and back to wall, even the fittest class members huff, puff and sweat.

"It's high-intensity and works all muscles," says Chris Kuligowski, a Canton resident who has taken the class since it was introduced about three years ago.

The class is fast-paced, with short breaks between exercises. Twenty seconds on the wall, climbing or jumping, is followed by a 10-second break then 20 seconds on the floor, doing exercises like burpees (a kind of squat-thrust). Each wall-to-floor combination is repeated six times before moving on to a new combo.

After three combinations are complete, the whole class participates in a fun, but tough, circuit of activities (think sliding around the floor or whipping heavy ropes up and down) or a "challenge" like 50 burpees.

Gouldin switches the specific exercises from class to class to keep it interesting, especially for regulars like Kuligowski.

Kuligowski is now a FITWall master, but he acknowledges that took time and effort. At first, "it seems like you don't ever get better," he says with a laugh. "But you do. You go harder. You get faster. You stay on the wall longer."

For newbies, Gouldin emphasizes the importance of pacing. "There are so many different levels in the class," she says. "You should go at your own pace. You'll naturally get faster."

Gouldin also warns that newcomers often leave with sore forearms from gripping the wall. But when class members learn to engage the cores of their bodies, that takes pressure off the forearms.

Carolyn Brown, a Canton teacher and graduate student who has taken FITWall twice, says it got easier the second time. "When I did it the first time, I was sore for days," she says. "This time was already better."

Brown says the FITWall workout is a nice contrast to her other hobby, running. Plus, she and Kuligowski agree, the 30-minute timeframe can't be beat.

Any longer than that might be too much, says Gouldin. "It's an intense workout. That's why it's only 30 minutes."

If you go

Class time: Thursday at 5 p.m.

Where: Canton Club, 2780-D Lighthouse Point East, Baltimore

Cost: $12 per class or $50 for five classes for members; $20 per class or $80 for five classes for nonmembers


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