Maui halau endures 'burning' workouts for Merrie Monarch Festival

PAIA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - At first glance, you may think the group of fit women working out Spreckelsville Beach at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning are part of a boot camp class.

They're actually members of Maui's Halau Na Lei Kaumaka o Uka, training in the sand for the 2017 Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. It takes these ladies about ten minutes to run a little more than a mile on the sand.

"I tried the run once, and it is pretty hard," said kumu hula Napua Greig-Nakasone.

The run is just the beginning. To get in shape, the ladies do duck walks in the sand, up a hill, three times. Duck walks are exactly what their name calls for: walking in formation, like ducks would.

The dancers do it with intense focus and without complaint.

"Your thighs are burning, and you just gotta look up at the finish line," said dancer Makalani Franco-Francis.

"It's pretty difficult, so I give them credit. Always on the first day they are like dying," said Greig-Nakasone.

The halau started the tradition of workouts on the beach ten years ago, when Greig-Nakasone noticed the dancers were getting breathless when they were doing hula noho, or seated hula, a form where the dancers are required to chant for themselves.

She says the intense workouts help her dancers sustain their air for chanting and dancing. She sees herself like a coach for a team.

"You gotta kinda schedule what you are doing and what you are giving to them so that they don't peak too early. That's a real problem, a real challenge for Merrie Monarch," said Greig-Nakasone.

"We all motivate each other. We all push each other. And we don't leave anyone behind," said Franco-Francis.

Like any champion team, there's a physical, mental and spiritual transformation on game day.

"They definite transform when they hit the stage. You'll see it," said Greig-Nakasone.

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