I’m standing in a dimly lit studio, with two fat wooden sticks in my hands, on the edge of what looks vaguely like a giant skateboard deck with its tail in the air. A soundtrack of nature sounds, hypnotic chords floats through the room; and, despite the photos in this article, the people circled up on either side of me are mostly senior citizens.
Suddenly, our instructor tells us to raise our sticks laterally to the “horizons” and “drum.” I do it, but I can’t help but laugh a little under my breath (I feel like Animal from The Muppets, in overpriced leggings). After about 20 seconds of vigorously pounding the air while trying to remain stable on the sloping board, however, my shoulders, biceps, and core are seriously burning, and I remember that this is a workout—and it’s no joke.
No, I’m not taking part in an extra-trippy Venice new moon circle; I’m experiencing In-Trinity, the new fitness concept from Spinning creator Johnny Goldberg (known in the industry as Johnny G).
Over a decade in the making, In-Trinity combines elements of yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and meditation, all atop an ergonomically designed slanted board. (Apparently, inclines are in when it comes to fitness equipment.) While the board itself gives a new level of intensity to standard workout moves—try doing wheel pose on a downhill slope and you’ll see what I mean—In-Trinity also puts your mind into a deeply relaxed, meditative state via the music, which is based on Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s brainwave training techniques.
The end result—both challenging and ultra-chill—is like no workout you’ve ever done before. “It’s just really a cool physical art form,” says Goldberg, who is currently piloting the program at Cal State Long Beach’s LifeFit Center (a gym for those 49 and over, where I tried the class); he also opened a flagship Santa Barbara “dojo” on April 23. (The workout has been picked up in 12 countries worldwide since it launched three months ago—more US locations will be coming soon). “I believe this is the best work that I’ve ever produced.” And that’s saying a lot, coming from the guy who created perhaps the biggest group fitness phenomenon of our time.
Keep reading to find out what Johnny G. says a Brazilian river bank, Bruce Lee’s trainer, and the world’s most grueling bike race had to do with In-Trinity’s development—and what the heck those sticks are for.
How was In-Trinity conceived? Ten years ago I went to Brazil, and I was taking a nap on a riverbed while my friend went windsurfing—it was on an incline. When I woke up, I went into a spinal twist and it felt really good lying downhill. This was the beginning of the epiphany… I really believed that working uphill and downhill could be revolutionary, because people have been training on a flat floor for a lifetime.
What does the slope do for your body, exactly? The line I use is that you can go deeper than you could ever imagine, and access what you didn’t think you could access. A pushup downhill becomes more challenging, while a pushup uphill is more accessible [for those who struggle to do them on the floor]. The negative space beneath the board also helps you go deeper—like pigeon pose with your arms [wrapped] under the board.
And what about the sticks? Never seen that before. My passion is martial arts stick training—I worked with Bruce Lee’s stick training teacher many years ago, and I wanted to bring in the Zen nature of training with sticks. I find they make a lot of people feel really empowered. It’s not just to add resistance and a burn in your shoulders—it’s a way to extend and express yourself in a way that is very special.
I’ve also never had my brain waves trained before. Where did that come from? When I was doing the Race Across America [as an endurance cyclist] in 1987, it was the most grueling, toughest physical event in the world—I was forced to spend 200 hours on the bike and had two hours of sleep a night. And I went through a lot of different shifts in 200 hours of nonstop activity: depression, elation, not feeling good enough. Four-hundred miles from the end of the race, I dropped out. I didn’t want to get back onto a bicycle; I was done.
A doctor that was treating me had been doing research on Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, and he constructed these 30-minute [brain wave music] sequences for me so that I could stay positive and motivated and it would have healing effects on my body. By 1988, I set a national [cycling] record across the country—the brain wave entrainment became really important.
It was definitely a relaxing workout—much more chilled-out than Spinning! What I’ve been instilling in the In-Trinity instructors is this slower pace with pauses [in cueing] and balance, [so the student] can look into herself and feel her own body, versus being told how to feel a movement. You naturally fall into a space where you connect with you.
The class I took was mostly filled with older people—it’s great that you developed something this growing demographic can enjoy. But what can a younger person with an intense workout practice get out of In-Trinity? I think that done twice a week this compliments everything; I’ve had people who are really aggressive in their training, from CrossFit to Insanity, respond very well. If I had a group of people with a deep yoga background, I would add in a couple of arm balances or movements that require a bit more skill. But then, then there are a lot of people like me who enjoy it (I’m 59). People are looking for a mindful experience, no matter how old they are!
In-Trinity Dojo, 651 Paseo Nuevo #311, Santa Barbara, CA, in-trinity.com