LEISA HART: Less is More by Christine Lynn Harvey

Leisa Hart, star of Natural Journey’s “Gym in a Box,” has been active in fitness since the fourth grade when she ran track. In high school, she joined the dance team and started teaching aerobics when she was 16. Bally’s had Richard Simmons asylums and Hart auditioned for the training. Hart has been teaching ever since, more than half her life.

Hart says teaching fitness has kept her on track. “Teaching was a wonderful transition. People were relying on me to be there for them, so I in turn had to keep my appointment with fitness. I had to make sure people got a great workout, but it has evolved over the years because I am much more involved in the mind/body aspect of fitness now.”

Hart says being in the limelight has helped her grow as a person. “It really makes me do self-checks. Students were watching me on a regular basis, they wanted to know what I was eating and doing to stay in shape. When you are in TV, and everyone is watching you, it’s very exhilarating. I have to be the best I can be to best serve them.”

Being a fitness star can be challenging and a tremendous boost to the ego but Hart says she finds inner balance by realizing she has evolved over the years. “Just as the fitness world has gone through stages, I have gone through stages. I was more obsessed with working out and the workout itself. It was very stressful and I got burned out,” she says. “The biggest transition came for me when I got married and had children. It put everything in perspective for me. Now, I work out much less often, in less time and I am in better shape mentally, physically, spiritually than I have ever been in my entire life.”

Hart attributes her success to the technical aspect of her fitness regimen. By slowing down her exercise routine, working more on form and quality and what she says is “big-time breathing technique.” Hart says her cardio workouts are less intense and every workout she does “feels wonderful.” “I ask my students can they do the same workout they just did with the same intensity and if they tell me ‘No way!’ then I tell them they are working too hard.”

By working out too hard, stress levels increase, cortisol levels increase and that sends a message to your body to hold onto fat. “What I am finding is many of my students are of the mindset that if you are not dripping sweat at the end of a workout and are not completely exhausted, you haven ‘t had a good workout and that is simply not true!” People want to know what am I really doing. They always think I must be jogging or pumping weights on the side and I’m not!”

Hart begins each day by stretching and doing a sun salutation, a series of yoga asanas that flex, strengthen and energize the body. “People don’t realize yoga can be done as a heart pumping work-out, or in a relaxing way, to relieve stress,” Hart says. Four times a week, Hart teaches yoga, Pilates, or her core training classes which encompass abs, back and glutes. Three days a week, Hart walks with her children at a moderate pace, in a low-fat burn zone. She says she is astounded by the results she has been getting by cutting down the high-intensity aerobics routine she used to do for years and years. She has kept off the weight as well. “I was able to lose most of my pregnancy weight within three months and I am ten pounds lighter by what I am now doing. I am less stressed about working out and I feel great.”
Yoga has helped Hart step outside herself. She says before taking up a yoga practice, she was selfish and that the workouts were very ego centered. “You could come a take a class with ‘me,’” she says. When she was younger, she says that her workouts were was more of a “performance” thing. Now, Hart says, yoga has opened her up to be of more service to her students and to serve them more efficiently. She is no longer bothered by distracting ego chatter. “The mind is a very powerful thing. It can either control you, or you can control it,” she says. “I know looking back, my mind controlled me. Now, I can recognize when I am getting myself to a simmer and I can stop before it builds up.”

Hart is the star of the new Natural Journey’s “Gym in a Box” which is a two-volume DVD and video set that is a complete workout system that brings together a rotation of workout regimes for all needs and levels. The “Sleek in a Week” program promises to help you drop a dress size in one week, while “Time Saver” combines rotation programs for a total time of 40 minutes; “Stress Reduction” mixes the relaxing benefits of yoga with more intense workouts; “Maintenance Plan” is a well-rounded schedule that helps a toned body stay its sleekest; there are other programs as well, some ten in all to chose from. Nutrition plans are also included.

Hart finds viewing things from a different perspective helps her lessen the stress in her life. “Take a paradigm shift. Look at things from other people’s point of view. I look at frustrated students, and think, well maybe they have an ill relative, instead of me reacting to them in an offensive manner,” she says. Her life mantra is, “How you breathe is how you live. Take long, deep breaths from life, rather than shallow ones. You think more clearly when you breathe more efficiently, you are oxygenating your body more and this way you also burn more fat.”

For more info on Leisa Hart and her new fitness program, please visit www.naturaljourneys.com