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Get on board: Surf class gets you fit for land or sea

Thursday - 1/30/2014, 10:18am  ET

SurfBoard.jpg
A fitness class is taking surfing out of the water and onto the gym floor. SurfSET is designed to get its participants in top shape for the challenging sport -- only without the water. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
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In order to hang 10, you need to hang with Jen

WTOP's Rachel Nania reports

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Why some locals surf in the winter

WTOP's Rachel Nania reports

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WASHINGTON - At noon on a Tuesday, the temperature outside a Tysons Corner strip mall registers at 14 degrees Fahrenheit. But that doesn't stop a handful of women from coming together to surf. Yes, surf.

Inside the new Crunch gym on Leesburg Pike, in Vienna, Va., bulky surfboards line the mirrored wall and loud music pumps through the room.

Christina Rheault, of Alexandria, Va., picks one of the boards out of the pile and places it on the wooden floor of the gym.

"I've heard it's really great for your core, so, we'll see," she says.

It's her first time at the SurfSET and Sand class, a 45-minute fitness session that's gaining a lot of popularity in warm and cold climates.

The surf-inspired class is meant to mimic the movements of surfing, and the board, which was originally featured on an episode of "Shark Tank," is meant to make participants feel as though they are in the water.

The base of the board holds three air-filled discs, filled to a certain regulation. The surfboard sits on top of the discs, and all of the pieces are held together using cords which can be adjusted to make the experience more or less challenging.

"Everyone talks today about core training; they want their core to be stronger. Well, being on that unstable surface will help your core naturally kick in," says Jen Frankel, the instructor of the class.

Frankel has been teaching SurfSET and Sand for about one year. She began in New York and recently moved to the D.C. area, where she teaches the class in Tysons.

In addition to core strengthening, Frankel says one of the biggest benefits of the class is the fun factor.

"People love to work hard, but they also love escaping the confines of the gym. We really take them to another place and encourage them to envision the surf and the sea and the sun," she says.

"It's particularly great for wintertime, when you're really chilly and ... you just want to warm up and sort of experience almost like a vacation."

And that mentality is what she delivers in class.

"Push your paddle through the water," Frankel says. "If anyone's ever stood up and paddled on a surfboard, you know that's tough work."

She keeps her class motivated by using mental teaser phrases, such as "jump off the hot sand," "feel the sun on your back" and other mentions of palm trees and Caribbean seas as she leads everyone in plank exercises, pushups, cardio and yoga-type routines on their boards.

Linda Manson, of Vienna, Va., is taking the class for the second time. She says she enjoys the class because it is "something different."

"It's unlike any class I've taken before, and I've taken a lot," she says. "Maybe it will help me become a better surfer come summertime ... [Surfing] is on my bucket list. I've always wanted to."

While Frankel says the class won't teach you to surf, it will give you an idea of what surfing is like.

"It's more designed to give you the same benefits that you would receive if you were surfing," Frankel says.

The challenging class is designed for women and men, as well as participants of all ages. Frankel says older class members especially benefit from the balance- training aspects of the class.

The Crunch gym at Tysons currently has 11 SurfSET boards, but Frankel says the gym plans to order more.

However, the number of boards doesn't necessarily limit the number of people who can take the class. Frankel explains the class is designed so that two people can be on the floor and one person can be on the board, and the participants rotate.

The SurfSET class is offered at other places in the area and nationwide, as well, including the Crunch gym at Reston Town Center, Mantra Fit in Severna, Md., and Canton Club in Baltimore.

After 45 minutes of surf, sweat and stabilizing movements, first-timer Rheault sits next to her board and leans against the back wall.

"It was really great; I mean, it's a total body workout, which is nice. And it's nice because you don't really feel like you're in the gym. I can get really bored in the gym doing the same thing every day," she says. "I'll definitely come back here again. It was fun."

One thing's for sure -- thoughts and talk of waves, sand and surfers is one way to make this brutal winter more bearable.

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