By Kylie Blanchard

Combining strength, endurance, cardio and flexibility, the willPower & grace® fitness class provides the benefits of cardio exercise, intensity of boot camp, self-awareness of yoga, discipline of Pilates and uplifting philosophy of meditation. “It is a blending of all the disciplines I loved: yoga, Pilates and old-school calisthenics,” says Stacey Lei Krauss, founder and president of the willPower Method®. “I took the most effective and efficient exercises and pulled them together into a seamless flow.”

Since early November, willPower & grace® has been offered at Bismarck’s Sanford Women’s Health Center, and attendees are enjoying the many benefits of this unique class. “For someone who wants the overall experience of mind, body and soul, this is the class to take,” says participant Janae Mulder.

imageThe willPower Method®

Krauss began developing willPower & grace® in 2000 in New York City as a class that fused functional, equipment -free exercises. She further developed the program as instructors began asking her to train them in the willPower Method®. “I worked for Equinox Fitness Clubs, which had the first willPower & grace® class on its schedule,” she notes. “Fourteen years later, the class is still offered in the same time slot on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. It was never intended. Now, it’s just amazing.”

The willPower & grace® class is now taught by 600 certified instructors across the globe, and Bismarck’s Sanford Women’s Health Center is the only facility in North Dakota to offer the class. Kara Ulmer, certified instructor, says she became interested in willpower & grace® after taking a class led by Krauss at the facility in July. “Immediately after the class, I knew I wanted to be a part of the willPower program,” she says. “The feeling of personal empowerment and intense workout I received was an incredible feeling.”

Ulmer attended an eight hour training in Pennsylvania with a certified trainer and then, over the course of the next 90 days, memorized the class’s choreography and perfected the alignment of each movement. After submitting a video of herself teaching a one hour class, she was approved as a certified instructor.

Krauss credits Ulmer with bringing willPower & grace® to the state. “Kara brought us into North Dakota and now we have a team of instructors there. She has really embraced the willPower Method® philosophy, and is dedicated to giving excellent willPower experiences at her club,” she says. “It took commitment on her part, and she rocked it.”

Barefoot Fitness

The willPower & grace® class also incorporates a unique barefoot component; an element Krauss says was originally incorporated by chance. “One day I arrived at the gym and realized I’d forgotten to pack my athletic shoes, so I decided to teach barefoot. A few of my students asked if they could take off their shoes,” she notes. “I realized that day, most people don’t know how to use their feet and land gracefully. I saw a huge teaching opportunity.”

Ulmer says she has seen and experienced the benefits of this barefoot approach. “As an avid runner, I understand that strong feet are literally the foundation of a strong body to ensure proper alignment of the ankles, knees and hips and to prevent injuries common for runners.”

“I think this class is really helpful on many levels,” adds Melanie Carvell, director of the Sanford Women’s Health Center and a physical therapist. “Working on overall balance, strength and flexibility is so helpful, especially in preventing injury. Working barefoot in willPower and grace®  is a wonderful way to strengthen our bodies starting with our feet, especially since we often spend long periods in uncomfortable footwear or in overly cushioned shoes that can interfere with our posture, efficiency of movement and sensory input.”

Ulmer notes there are over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons in the feet. “They are just as important as those in the rest of our body. The barefoot aspect is very critical in creating strong feet for a strong body.”

Benefiting the Body and Mind

“The willPower & grace® class provides clients with a one-hour workout that is comprised of some of the most efficient movements in group fitness today,” says Ulmer, adding the physical movements are combined with positive philosophy to create a complete mind-body practice.

“We incorporate sports psychology into our program through visualization and intention,” says Krauss. “Our Word of the Week allows us to have a theme that changes. Depending on where a client is mentally on any given day, that word may speak to him or her.”

Incorporating seasonal challenges also encourages class participants to work towards a skill, like holding a plank or doing the splits. “In a world riddled with instant gratification, it’s important to remember long-term goals take commitment, practice and dedication,” says Krauss. “These challenges are an important piece of teaching the concept of willPower.”

Mulder has been attending willPower & grace® class since its beginning in Bismarck. “Once I started attending, I realized there was more to this class. You challenge your body, but also strengthen your mind.”

“I have a better attitude, my energy is up and I feel empowered when I leave class,” Mulder continues. “Then a couple of days later, I am still sore and I realize it is a great physical workout as well. This is a cardio class where you will sweat, you will work and you will be sore.”

Participants are often surprised by the physical demands of willPower & grace®, notes Ulmer. “I have had clients that are extremely fit take my class for the first time and comment how sore their legs were the next couple of days. The movements use unique stabilizing muscles in the legs that are often missed during other popular group fitness classes.”

The class benefits all fitness levels, she continues. “Instructors are taught how to modify movements ranging from level one to level four depending on how long a person has taken the class and how their body responds to the movements. However, level one can be just as sweaty and challenging for even the most experienced athletes when completed in the proper alignment. Each client is able to continually grow with their practice.”

Amazing and Inspiring

“There is such a blending of disciplines, it just feels good,” says Krauss of willPower & grace®. “Right now, I’m in the best shape of my life and I know it’s willPower. It works. It’s safe, feels amazing and has made me healthier inside and out.”

Ulmer says she hopes willPower & grace® participants carry the class’s lessons with them. “I love inspiring our clients to recognize their individual strength and willpower. My goal is for them to leave the class with an incredible workout and a renewed vision of the greatness that is in each of them. I want them to leave the class ready to tackle whatever the world has in store for them and take that confidence through the week.”

For additional information on willpower & grace® and the willPower Method® visit Information on the fitness class schedule at Sanford Women’s Health Center is available by visiting or calling 701-323-6376. Punch cards are available for purchase for non-members to attend classes at the facility.