Ditch the beach clothing for spandex to surf on land

Didn’t hit the beach for spring break? Well, you can catch some waves at Core 3. Just pack the spandex instead of a bikini.

Using surfboards designed to simulate the physical demands of surfing on the ocean — along with classes using body suspension training and “stationary” bikes that lean and steer like you’re on the road — the studio in Brentwood, Mo., aims to offer adventurous ways to strengthen the core and burn calories.

“I wanted to do it because I get bored with just doing cardio and weights,” said Lisa Restivo, 27, after a recent packed Saturday morning introduction class to the boards. “It’s different. In Missouri, we don’t surf.”

The surfboards balance on air-filled balls. Elastic straps on the sides can be adjusted for more or less stability.

At the start of class, owner and instructor Cari Allen tells the group that it can take a while to get used to standing on something that’s wiggling and swaying. But unlike the ocean, “The floor is always an option,” she says.

Any exercise done on land can be done on the boards, but exercising while also trying to balance on the boards engages the entire core — the muscles in your pelvis, lower back and hips. Overall fitness improves when all these muscles work together.

The surfboard classes consist of various planks, squats, pushups and arm and leg extensions that tone muscles and boost the heart rate — all with a surf-inspired twist. Mountain climbers are called waverunners, burpees are surf pop-ups and explosive squats are frog hops. Props like resistance bands and a “paddle” are also used for rowing-like moves that work the entire body.

A movie of surfers riding rolling waves projects on the wall during class. “Imagine you’re paddling out to catch that big wave,” Allen says, as students swim on their stomachs before jumping to their feet. While doing abdominal kick-outs, the class pretends to kick sharks in the nose.

In the bike room, a wide open road with mountains in the distance covers the back wall, so cyclists feel like they are hitting the asphalt as they look in the mirror.

Allen’s aim is to help people stay committed to exercise. It helps when hitting the gym is not something they dread.

“We want fitness to be fun and exciting and be an adventure,” she said. “We want to create this experience that people enjoy.”

Since teaching step aerobics in the mornings before high school; Allen, 39, says she has always loved all things fitness. In college, she organized running groups and has taught everything from spinning to sculpting classes. She’s done marathons and completed the grueling Ironman Triathlon. While visiting a yoga studio during a family summer vacation in Costa Rica two years ago, Allen came across SURFSET land-based surfboards. She immediately wanted to bring the class to St. Louis.

“Over the years of doing marathons and triathlons, I really beat my body up,” Allen said. She found the boards could be rehabilitative. “It’s a way to strengthen those stabilizer muscles, muscles you need to do these other activities in a way that’s fun,” she said. “It’s super beneficial to athletes of all types.”

She bought a board, earned her certification and taught classes in the basement of her Brentwood home. The excitement in her early pupils inspired her to open a studio.

Expanding on the core concept, she included the RealRyder bikes and TRX suspension training in the mix. Core 3 opened January 2015, less than six months after her Costa Rica vacation.

Over a year later, Allen and 13 instructors teach nearly 40 classes a week that includes various combinations of the three formats that focus on calorie-burning, toning or strengthening. Kids can even have surf-themed birthday parties.

Dan Reynolds, 55, started coming to Core 3 soon after it opened. An avid cyclist, Reynolds was drawn to the RealRyder classes but now craves the waves. “I came for the bikes and got hooked on the boards,” he said. The simulations have inspired him to do the real thing this summer when he visits San Diego. “This got me thinking,” he said, “I can do this.”

Reynolds said he also enjoys the comfortable atmosphere and camaraderie with instructors and classmates.

Allen said most students come to Core 3 because they are having problems with their back or knees and want to strengthen their core, or they want to try something different.

Instructors continue to switch things up with new ideas for classes, she said. The latest and most popular is CoreSurf Barre, which includes elements from dance and Pilates on the boards.

Once they’ve tried it, they tend to stay, Allen said. “When people come in and find out it’s a really, really tough workout — people who enjoy that challenge, and like the vibe of the place, they stick around.”