Why I’ve Decided to Try CrossFit

I used to swear up and down that I was never going to try CrossFit. I was simply not interested. I think the Paleo diet is a bunch of BS, and I generally avoid hanging out with “meatheads” or participating in anything that might be described as cult-like. We’ve all heard the CrossFit horror stories of being pressured into fad diets, or doing too much too fast and winding up grievously injured. I turned my nose up at the possibility that so-called normal people could get anything out of CrossFit.

Lately, though, my mindset has shifted somewhat. Some of the reasons are pretty personal so I’m not gonna get into that, but suffice to say, I’m ready to commit to putting my health first.  I have a HORRIBLE family health history, including but not limited to: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, and a selection of cancers on both sides. I need to really take care of myself or I’ll end up on the same path as my aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Also, I have made no secret over the course of my time writing this blog about the fact that I’m not super happy with where I’m at physically. Since moving to Vermont in 2013, I’ve slowly but surely gained about 20 pounds. I thought that by really committing to running, training for my first half, and then another few halves, and then my first marathon, I might finally drop the weight and get back to a better place mentally, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, it’s gone the opposite way and I’ve GAINED weight since I started running more. I’m hopeful that really mixing things up and adding serious weight training into my routine will help me achieve the results that have been eluding me for some time now, not to mention helping to prevent the aforementioned health issues.

I definitely still have some anxiety and fear regarding CF, but I’ve been doing a lot of research. What I’ve read has led me to believe that a good box and a good trainer really have your best interests at heart, and care about keeping you healthy and helping you achieve your goals. There’s a box less than a mile from my office that offers a free intro class every Saturday morning, so I’m gonna go check it out this weekend. I know CF is pretty expensive, but I’ve decided that if I like it and feel like it will help me get where I want to be, I’m willing to pony up the cash. It’s time to stop whining about how unhappy I am and actually do something about it. Who knows, I may totally hate it and feel uncomfortable and whatever, but I’ll never know unless I try, right?

Have you ever tried CrossFit? Thoughts?

 

Instituting “The Dailies”

I have this little thing called the Spartan Sprint coming up in little over a month. I signed up waaaay back in February, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to do some strength training and get into shape. Spoiler alert: that didn’t really happen. So now I’m running out of time and feeling thoroughly unprepared. My schedule lately has been so busy that I’ve barely had time to fit in my running, let alone Body Pump or CXWORX.

Still, though, I need to do something. And not being able to make it to the gym isn’t really an acceptable excuse for slacking on basic strength training. Therefore, I’ve decided to adopt a daily routine of quick, simple, bodyweight exercises that I can do in my own home, whenever I have time. I’m calling this routine, “The Dailies.” I may not remember to do it every day, but at least having a plan should help me fit some strength training in more often. In case you’re interested, here’s what I’ll be doing:

The Dailies

Please Note: I am not a personal trainer, coach, or expert. This is just a routine that works for me. Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

What’s your go-to at-home exercise?

Trying Out Pilates

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading about how Kristen at Run Away with Me has been trying out a Pilates boot camp class. At first, she wasn’t into it, but now she loves it, and the results speak for themselves–she lost almost 5 inches over the course of 4 weeks! I was really jealous of her awesome results, but the only Pilates studio I know of near me has absolutely insane prices that I just couldn’t justify paying.

And then last week, I got an email from our office manager that our company would be sponsoring a 5 week Pilates mat class series–one class per week every Wednesday night, with a drop-in price of $12, or all five classes for only $50. At first I waffled, because I already spend a lot of money on my gym membership, and they have Pilates classes that I could take free of charge. But then I decided to go for it, because the classes are literally IN MY BUILDING. I would have to walk right by the room to go home, so it would be super easy. I’d also be in class with friends and coworkers, and $10 per class is a GREAT price.

We had our first class on Wednesday the 29th, and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually quite familiar with a lot of the moves due to having been exposed to them in lots of dance classes. Unfortunately, I felt like I was a bit short-changed on the basic knowledge, because this class has been going on for a while and was only recently opened up to my division. This meant that everyone else in the class had been doing it for weeks, and the instructor very obviously had already given them the core principles and I was just sort of left to figure it out on my own.

Despite that, it was a very fun class. It’s a small group of ladies who are all very friendly and don’t take themselves or the class too seriously at all. And it’s a GREAT workout. My abs were sore for two full days after class, to the point where sneezing was painful. I think this will be a good supplement to running and Body Pump, since it focuses on core strength. And the timing is perfect–the last class is the last week before Chess rehearsals start up on Monday, Wednesday, Sundays, so I can just transition right into rehearsals.

Have you ever tried Pilates? Did you like it?

Body Pump Will Pump You Up

On Monday, I attended my first-ever Body Pump class.  This seems to be one of Les Mills’ most popular class offerings, and I know a lot of my run-blogging friends are fans.  I decided to give it a try because I really need more overall strength training, but I find the weight room intimidating.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m an empowered woman, blah blah, but still.  I don’t like it.  And I also don’t really know what I’m doing.  So to have an instructor telling me exactly what to do and when sounded really appealing.

Since I didn’t have rehearsal until 8 pm, I was able to make a 5:30 class (class is one hour), and my coworker/gym buddy Freda came along for the ride.  We got there early and approached a woman who we assumed was the instructor.  She had just finished up teaching the previous class, but was kind enough to get us sorted out before she left.  She actually said, “OK, we gotta get you set up, these people are like pirhannas, like sharks after chum.  You gotta get your equipment fast or it’s all gone!”  She wasn’t kidding.  This class was jam-packed and there were people swarming all over the place grabbing bars and plates and steps.

She gave us a quick run-down of what the class would be like–warm up, squats/legs, upper body, abs, cool down and stretch, and showed us how the bars and clips worked, and explained that we could use as much or as little weight as we wanted for each section.  After that, we just sort of waited anxiously for the class to start.

Guys, the instructor for this class was pregnant.  And she’s not even the regular instructor. The regular instructor (who happens to be her sister), is even MORE pregnant.  If you ever wanted to feel completely inadequate, take a Body Pump class taught by a visibly pregnant woman who doesn’t even break a sweat.  I can only hope I’m half as active and strong as those two when I start procreating. My personal feelings of inadequacy aside, we lucked out once again with a new release, so we weren’t walking into a class where everyone knew the routine except us.

I will say, because the class was so full, and with so many people who obviously do Body Pump regularly, I feel like there is a very real possibility for failure/error/doing exercises incorrectly as a new person.  I had never done a clean and press before this class, and could have used some more help getting that motion down.  Proper form is really important to get the most out of an exercise and to avoid injury, and I feel like while Melissa did the best she could to describe the movements well, she was more focused on moving through the routine than giving individual feedback.  Keep this in mind if you decide to try Body Pump.  Maybe seek the instructor out before your first class and try to get a bit of coaching first.

Photo Jan 26, 7 29 09 PMAside from that, this class is VERY good, and I can see why it’s so popular.  It really is a full-body strength workout, that in my (non-professional) opinion, was pretty well-balanced.  The warm up was just long enough to get my heart rate up a bit, and then we went straight into a squat track, which kind of made me want to die.  Honestly, I thought I was a relatively strong person going into this class, but now I realize that that was a fantasy.  I’m wimpy and out of shape.  After doing 3 minutes of squats and lunges, I thought my legs were going to fall off.  I kind of wanted them to.  And then we did upper body.  And then abs.

The day or two after, I had quite a bit of DOMS (particularly in my quads and the weird underarm/boob-fat area, which I think is a good thing), but nothing unmanageable, which means that I didn’t push it too hard.  I want to take this class once a week, but I’m having a tough time fitting it into my schedule right now because of rehearsals.  I’m probably going to end up having to go to a 6 am class, which is SO not my usual scene, but I think it will be worth it, particularly since I have the Spartan Race in September and have no idea how to train for it.  Full-body strength training seems like a pretty good start for lack of another plan.

Have you ever tried Body Pump?

If so, are the people at your gym pirhannas? Do you have to get to class early and fight for a spot and equipment?

CXWORX – A Killer Core Workout

As part of my quest towards a more balanced fitness program, I’m in the process of checking out various group exercise classes offered by my gym.  This past Thursday, I decided to check out CXWORX.  I chose this class for three reasons:

  1. The class starts at 5:10, so I don’t have to hang around the gym waiting for it to start (I get out of work at 4:30)
  2. The class is only 30 minutes long, which means I get home that much sooner on one of my few rehearsal-free nights
  3. The class is focused on strengthening your core, which is really important for me as a runner

Here’s a description of the class I lifted from the Les Mills website:

Exercising muscles around the core, CXWORX provides the vital ingredient for a stronger body. A stronger core makes you better at all things you do, from everyday life to your favorite sports – it’s the glue that holds everything together.

All the moves in CXWORX have options, so it’s challenging but achievable for your own level of fitness. During the 30-minute workout trained instructors guide you through correct technique as you work with resistance tubes and weight plates, as well as body weight exercises like crunches, and hovers. You will also get into some hip, butt and lower back exercises.

I was nervous before this class, especially because I attended solo.  Thankfully, I lucked out once again, in that this was only the second class of a new release, so we were all learning together.  There were also a number of other newbies, so I felt fairly comfortable.  The instructor, Betsy, was REALLY good–great descriptions of the movements, variations for different levels, what we should or shouldn’t be feeling or doing, and she called the transitions between movements really well.

This class may be only 30 minutes, but we were WORKING!  The class flowed really well, in that every time I was starting to feel like I couldn’t continue a particular movement one second longer, we transitioned to something else.  We worked our entire core, as well–back, abs, obliques, glutes, hips, and even some shoulder and arm work.  The movements that we did are kind of hard to describe, because most of them are not traditional exercises like crunches or curls.  There was a lot of rolling around and going from sitting to standing and back again, so if you’re not super mobile, this is probably not a good class for you.  I’d definitely call it more of an intermediate level class than a beginner level class, so keep that in mind if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey.

All in all, this class is a lot of bang for the proverbial buck.  Having a strong core is essential for a runner, and if the way my abs felt the day after is any indication, this class is really going to up my game.  I plan to go every Thursday.

Have you ever tried CXWORX?

What are your favorite core exercises?

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

I got a forwarded email from my coworker Alison on Monday.  20% off registration for a Spartan Race.  I had been seriously considering a Spartan Sprint for a while, since Alison had done the one at Killington this past fall and really enjoyed it.  But I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it.  The catch?  The coupon code was only valid that day.

Long story short, I ended up registering.  I mean, come on, 20% off?  How could I say no?

Of course, I’m equal parts terrified and excited.  I’m terrified because I’ve never really thought of myself as the type to attempt an obstacle course race.  This is something that’s completely outside my comfort zone.  I’m not terribly strong, and this is a race with all kinds of obstacles like rope climbs, wall jumps, and sandbag carries.  It also requires you to complete 30 full burpees for every obstacle you fail.  Newsflash, I can’t even do 10 burpees once, let alone 30 burpees for each of the obstacles I’ll likely fail.

However, I’m excited because this will pretty much force me to focus on strength training in addition to my running.  As of right now, I’m only looking at one half marathon for this year, the Wine and Dine half in WDW in November, which will definitely not be a PR attempt (except in fun!).  This means that since most of my “long runs” will be much shorter this year, I’ll have more time for things like yoga, body pump, and burpees.  Seriously, does anybody aside from Kellie actually do burpees?  They suck.

My friend Andrew (remember I worked out with him once?) will also be doing the Spartan Sprint, so I’m going to see if he’s interested in doing some training together, because I honestly have no idea how to go about training for this.  I Googled “Spartan training,” and got a lot of crazy Cross-Fit style workouts that I am SO not capable of completing on my own.

So yeah, Sunday, September 20 is gonna be crazy!  Hopefully I don’t die…

Have you ever done a Spartan Race?  If not, would you?

If you have done a Spartan Race, how did you train?

30 Day Push-up Challenge

I’m starting something new today–a 30 day push-up challenge.  As a runner, I focus a lot on core and lower body strength, and not so much on upper body.  As a result, my arms, shoulders, and upper back are quite wimpy.  I think this is a fairly common issue for runners.  So I’ve decided to focus a bit more on full-body fitness for the next month, but I wanted to start small, since I’m pretty dang weak.

I found this great 30 day pushup challenge for beginners graphic after a very brief Google search.  I like that it starts out with only 3 push-ups, because in all honesty, I’m not even sure I can do three actual, non-modified push-ups.  And it works up to doing 20, which I think is a reasonable goal for a beginner like myself.

Photo Oct 23, 6 43 31 AM

Once I complete the challenge, I hope to incorporate more upper body workouts into my weekly routine, whether that’s through Body Pump classes at my gym, or dumbbell workouts at home.  I know there are all kinds of arm workouts on the Tone It Up website that seem pretty varied and challenging.

The short term goal here is to have nicer arms for the wedding since I’m wearing a strapless dress (yes, I know the wedding is only a month away, but I think that’s long enough to see some improvement).  And the long term goal is to be ready for the #nardichallenge at my first runDisney race, the Wine and Dine half marathon in November 2015.  Also, one of my ultimate fitness benchmarks that I hope to meet someday is being able to do at least one pull-up.  I would be over the moon if I could do that.

Can you do a “regular” push-up?  How many can you do in a row?

Do you find that, as a runner, you skimp on upper body workouts?