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Fitness with a side of sand

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Fitness instructor Calico Hauser says that she doesn't know anyone who doesn't like nia. From her young children to 70-something clients who attend Hauser's weekly nia classes, everybody seems to enjoy the workout that combines movements and techniques from dance, martial arts, and physical therapy.

"Nia is a little bit of everything," Hauser explained. "It's a way to release yourself from the daily grind."

WORKOUT WISE :  Nia instructor Calico Hauser offers body and nature friendly workouts at the beach. - PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • WORKOUT WISE : Nia instructor Calico Hauser offers body and nature friendly workouts at the beach.

# Debbie and Carlos Rosas developed the new workout method in 1982. Both were tired of joint-jarring, no-pain-no-gain workout routines and decided to develop their own music-based workouts. Since then, they've developed about 20 hour-long routines and continue to produce one new routine every three months. The routines aren't particularly complex. Instead, they make use of repetitive movements and offer the necessary freedom for participants to modify elements that may be too fast, too slow, or simply unnatural.

"Your movement may not look anything like mine, or it may resemble it, but there isn't one way of doing anything," said Hauser, who's been teaching nia since February.

Two and a half months ago, Hauser added her own twist to the workout when she decided to offer classes at William Randolph Hearst State Beach.

"To me, nia is something that you should do outside," she said. "It's very much about appealing to your inner child."

For health seekers who watch spandex-clad fitness machines smile determinedly through workouts on television, it may be difficult to associate physical fitness with nature, but Hauser means what she says. In a 10 minutes of one of the routines, she stretches repeatedly toward the sky and earth in slow, embracing gestures. The music accompanying the different routines is vast, from African drumbeats to Hauser's personal favorite: Prince. As the music shifts, so do Hauser's movements, from faster and bolder to slower and gentler.

The music first drew Hauser to nia. After getting married and having children, she didn't have as much time to spend at music festivals as she wanted. Because nia encourages free movement and dancing, Hauser found it reminiscent of the emotional release she acquired at such festivals. She was hooked during her very first class.

"You really get to express who you are and what you feel like at that moment," she said.

At certain times during the routine, participants are invited to express an emotion, sometimes one they feel, sometimes one they don't feel. Certain routines encourage participants to accompany certain movements with grunts, yells, and even animal noises.

For anyone who can't imagine making funny noises on a beach with strangers, Hauser emphasizes the importance of a non-competitive workout environment. Fellow participants enhance rather than restrict the nia experience, and Hauser often mixes or changes routines depending on how the group seems to be feeling. The result is a complete fitness experience from head to toe. Even hands receive a complete workout through routines that involve making butterfly movements and water-flicking motions.

Nia classes take place at William Randolph Hearst State Beach from 8 to 9 a.m. on Saturdays and at the Veteran's Memorial Building in Cayucos from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Classes cost $10. For more information, call 471-0375 or visit www.nia-nia.com.

Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach compiled this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to kvelie@newtimesslo.com.

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