“Our word of the week is inspire,” the instructor called out over the pulsing beat of dance music that ricocheted off the walls and mirrors of the packed dance studio. “Who inspires you? Be strong, finish this for them!” she shouted.
Welcome to willPower and Grace, the group fitness class that combines popular dance moves with a cardiovascular jolt. Founded nine years ago in New York City, the goal of willPower and Grace is to seamlessly synthesize and strengthen the ability of the mind with the strength of the body.
Offered as a group fitness class at the Athletic and Wellness Center, willPower and Grace has become extremely popular on campus.
“It’s almost impossible to get into willPower and Grace,” said Jen Cummings, front desk worker at the Athletic and Wellness Center at SUNY New Paltz and avid enthusiast of the class. “You have to sign up really early in advance and the class is always packed, but it’s worth it.”
“WillPower and Grace is more than a group fitness class, it is a philosophy,” said Jillian Langenau, assistant wellness and recreation director of the Athletic and Wellness Center and one of the willPower and Grace instructors. “It teaches you to move with integrity not just in class, but in your life as well,” she added.
WillPower and Grace prides itself on being completely equipment free, including sneakers.
“WillPower and Grace is all about being barefoot,” Brittany Watzka said, another willPower and Grace instructor. “By using the support of sneakers, you are using fewer muscles in your feet. Your feet are what hold you up every single day, the root of your entire body. If you don’t strengthen the root of your body, there will be imbalance.”
This is exactly what founder Stacey Lei Krauss discovered nine years ago. When she showed up to teach an aerobics class in New York City, she realized that she had left her sneakers at home.
“That is what willPower and Grace spawned out of,” laughed Langenau.
According to Langenau, SUNY New Paltz is the only college that offers willPower and Grace as a fitness class, but she is certain that will change.
“It is only a matter of time before it’s offered at other colleges,” she said. “That is what we are trying to work on now, promoting it.”
The name of the class strongly embodies what it means to be a part of the program, according to Watzka. “Willpower is the strength to get the job done, grace is the power to make it look easy.”