This time last summer, Ed Kastelic, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and former pro hockey tough guy-turned fitness guru, was introducing the world (or at least the East Valley) to his new workout invention.
Eskalation, as he called it, was - and is - a workout regimen centered around a multitiered set of adjustable colored plastic blocks that can be morphed in seconds to change workout patterns.
A year later, Kastelic has not only fine-tuned his system for optimal performance, but tweaked the workout product's name ever so slightly as well, now calling it Eskalating.
And that's exactly what Kastelic and his program are doing now that he's set up to offer south East Valley residents ready-made access to what he calls a "breakthrough" program.
"We're trying to take it to a new level," said Kastelic, who beginning next week will partner with Valley-based Mountainside Fitness to bring his Eskalating system to Mountainside's south Chandler facility on the northwest corner of Alma School and Germann roads.
Kastelic, a National Hockey League alum who spent the better part of two decades playing professional hockey worldwide, said the name change was centered mostly around a desire to make the process into an action: "Like spinning, this is Eskalating," he said, which promotes continuous movement.
To re-debut the system to a new market, Kastelic and Mountainside are offering Eskalating classes to Mountainside members as part of their dues.
"It's so different than anything that even we have," said Anthony Bardino, fitness director for Mountainside's Ocotillo location.
"It's great for group fitness. That's how we plan to run it in our club," Bardino said. "It integrates core, stability, cardiovascular, balance. There are so many exercises with really easy transitions to it."
Kastelic said it's been a labor of love getting the Eskalating system up and running, with years of researching, hiring engineers and contracting manufacturers overseas to produce the blocks.
"I wanted portability, the ability to have graduating heights ready to go, multilevel heights," Kastelic said, adding that "the ability to rotate the unit and the versatility to have a bench or a plyometric device" is key to the system.
Kastelic said he's had severalprototypes of the system over the years, starting with what turned out to be impractical 40-pound wood contraptions, then aluminum, and now the plastic blocks that resemble traditional "step" workout programs. "Step is useful. It's been around forever," he said. "But I wanted more."
Bardino, who has known Kastelic for years since they worked together at a local Lifetime Fitness location, said having a former professional athlete training clients is anything but bad for business.
"The NHL thing is definitely something that people get attracted to," Bardino said. "It is a good draw. Plus he's a certified personal trainer as well.
"To be a professional in any sport you have to have a certain level of knowledge and ability," he added.
Kastelic said his program is largely based on balance, and that the use of the blocks and barbells for simultaneous weight training makes Eskalating more complete than most other fitness programs.
Kastelic said tweaks are always happening, and a nationwide marketing campaign is something he hopes to embark on down the road. In the meantime, the only place to try it is at Mountainside's south Chandler location.
"We're exclusively going to have it in Ocotillo and see how it goes. Then based on its success we'll try to slowly integrate it to other Mountainside (locations)," Bardino said. "We're all excited to see how it works out."