Fitness Class Review: Core Fusion Extreme at Exhale Spa

What is Core Fusion Extreme (CFX)? – CFX is high intensity interval training (HIIT) with a focus on cardio and getting the heart rate up. CFX originally launched in New York. Dallas’ Exhale Spa in the Highland Hotel (formerly known as the Palomar Hotel) is the third location to offer the class. The schedule added CFX this month and offered free drop-in classes for a week to encourage current members and the curious (brave) to check it out. It is a challenging class to say the least.

CFX Core Fusion Extreme 3

Instructor Bergen Wheeler warming up the class. Photo cred: Endicott PR

Leading Up to the Class: I was nervous and excited to check out the class. Other blog reviews about the class made core fusion extreme sound super hard. I am also recovering from a lower back injury and I was really nervous about taking the class. I’ve been put through similar HIIT circuit training classes before and wasn’t sure how I was going to handle the intensity. But there was really no turning back once I walked in the door. I had an opportunity to speak with Kristen Hoffman, one of the CFX instructors at Exhale Spa. She described the class as a challenging class that compliments the other core fusion classes Exhale offers such as core fusion yoga and barre. With a focus on cardio, the class is designed to tone and sculpt muscles while preventing members from plateauing. It the only core fusion class that requires athletic shoes.

First Impression: Exhale is a beautiful spa/studio. It’s been rated top spa for years and I’ve only ever been one time before. The amenities are luxurious to say the least. After signing in, I was handed a number to indicate which station I would start with and headed toward the studio. The room is spacious, but intimate and there were five stations set up. Strewn across the floor, I saw mats, medicine balls, dumb bells, gliders, TRX ropes, and boxes. It seemed a little intimidating for sure and the other attendees had unsure looks on their faces as well. What have I gotten myself into!?

The Class: The room is divided into five stations where a max of five people can do the exercises. Depending on the number you were given at the front desk, people huddled around their respective stations waiting for instruction. There are two exercises per station which we would crank as many reps as possible in 40 seconds and do each round twice. We were only given 10 seconds to move to the next station. Each station would target a different muscle group and definitely get your heart pumping. The intention is to go through the entire circuit twice. The first round is pretty much a blitz of exercises. You go through them quickly. For the second circuit, after completing each station, you’d do an active recovery exercise such as pulsing squats or wall sits to work on core stability and flexibility before moving to the next station. The class is an hour long with a warm up and cool down.

As Kristen explained what we were doing, I could see lots of mortified “WTF” and “why the hell am I here” faces light up. Um twice?!!? Once isn’t enough?

CFX Core Fusion Extreme 2

Pistol squats with TRX. Photo Cred: Endicott PR

So to prevent people from having second thoughts, Kristen jumped into the warm up with a few exercises and went through all the stations again. With 25 people in the room, the space became a little cramped. There was lots of re-positioning so as not to accidentally kick a neighbor in the face. I think the classes could be a bit smaller. Another interesting tidbit, there are no mirrors. Kristen pretty much ran around the room the entire time checking for form and posture and to push people to go a little harder if they can. I like the idea of no mirrors; it kept me focused on the movements and not on how I looked. Attendees mostly kept their heads down and powered through each station. Eventually, you stop thinking about the exercise and just do it. Before your know it, you’re on the very last set.

My Experience: As I mentioned earlier, I had some lower-back problems. I was able to do most of the exercises and avoided anything that involved my back. I knew I was going to pay for any jarring activities like box jumps later on. This class is meant for healthy people. Modifications would be needed for anyone with injuries and pregnant women are not advised to take the class. The upside to the timed exercises is being able to go at a comfortable pace. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of workout. Every person is at a different level in their fitness journey and how intense it is will vary for each person.  Seeing everyone beasting it out is really encouraging and pushed me to keep going when I wanted to stop. After getting through all the stations, I was really proud of myself.

Photo cred: Endicott PR

Photo cred: Endicott PR

The Instructor: Kristen Hoffman is a badass. She is also tiny and I mean that in the most flattering way. You are just in awe while watching her lead the class. She is really passionate, intense, energetic and a little intimidating. She definitely knows what she’s doing and is there working it out with you. She told me she teaches this class 2-3 times a week and it’s even hard for her. Before the launch of CFX at Exhale, she flew to New York to train for the class and also found the class challenging and invigorating. She is more of the person that pushes you to go at it harder. When we got right into the class, her instructions sounded almost drill sergeant-ish as she is trying to cram the entire circuit into one hour.

Loved? Hated? Loved the overall workout. I liked that Kristen warmed us up and cooled us down. I appreciate getting the time to start healing the muscles. I didn’t like how crowded it felt with a full class.

Who came? The entire class was all women ranging in age and body sizes. It was really inspiring to see a variety of ages, shapes, and sizes because everyone was kicking butt. Despite a mostly female attendance, this is a place I am pretty sure guys will benefit from tremendously.

The Next Day: Following the CFX class, I attended an hour of Chill Yoga and the stretching was gentle and really helped me a lot. I was sore the next day mostly in  my lower body and upper back, but it was the best kind of sore. I believe you burn an average of 500 calories after an hour of CFX or more depending on how hard you are going at it.

How Much is It? Exhale Spa is one of the more luxurious spas in Dallas and pricing is more expensive than most. The first CFX class is free, but after that, drop-in classes are $25 dollars. You can purchase class bundles of 5 to 20 for $120 to $430.

Difficulty Level: It is a hard class and personally I think everyone can benefit from it. I will say that it’s for people who are looking for a challenge and want to be pushed harder. The CFX routine stays the same all month long, allowing you to get used to the circuit and become stronger. Once the month is over, it’s a completely different circuit. According to Kristen, the reason for teaching the same circuit all month long is so that members can feasibly see themselves improve and grow stronger versus having to work through a completely different routine each time. Expect to sweat a lot.

The Takeaway: If you are looking to get to the next level and are serious about results, I think you can find the answer with CFX. The pricing isn’t exactly budget friendly, but if you don’t mind – go for it! Because it is so intense, I’d recommend attending one to two classes max a week so that you don’t injure or burn yourself out.

In order to provide a review of Core Fusion Extreme at Exhale Spa, Deep Fried Fit attended a complimentary class.


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