My First Aerial Yoga Class

Alternative title: how I learned to quit worrying and let go.

IMG_4895.JPG

My friends Kevin and Jessica had taken aerial yoga before, and after hearing about their experiences, we planned a date at the Om Factory in the Fashion District of Manhattan:

We entered the class to find a room full of slings hanging from the ceiling and a few females who introduced themselves as sisters and co-instructors, Grace and Laura. They – along with basically ALL of the other students – are younger than me and my friends by… let’s say a lot… and could fit right into an episode of Girls without even trying.  This is not meant to be disparaging in any way. It’s just that their mannerisms and speech patterns and personalities were very millennial. And their class playlist consisted of Robyn, Temper Trap, and M83, which I really dug and am pretty sure I’ve actually heard in an episode of Girls.

IMG_4857.JPG

After Laura adjusted my sling to my height, we discussed how our party of one Kevin and two Jess’s would require the instructors to create nicknames for us to tell us apart (I proudly accepted Grace’s choice of “Jess Leia” after seeing my Star Wars race shirt on the way in), and we got started by sitting on our mats while Grace… led storytime? I don’t know how else to describe it.

IMG_4866

And again, this is in NO way meant to demean or insult, it’s just a fact that we sat there on our mats for 5-7 minutes while Grace told us about how she had just returned from Mardis Gras where her friend got so caught up in getting ALL THE BEADS that they didn’t have fun. She then talked about how her mother called in a panic after hearing about an accident at Mardis Gras that happened a mile or so from them, and that was a bummer. This was a fun story about Mardis Gras but also a… metaphor for yoga and life? Don’t get so caught up in getting all the beads and just enjoy the process? OK. I can do the deep breathing and stay centered, but I also paid 25 American dollars for a 60 minute class and feel like we kind of wasted 10 of them on storytime.

However, that is the ONLY negative thing I to say. Once we got to the yoga part of yoga class, these ladies were phenomenal. Encouraging, strong, incredibly funny and welcoming, Grace instructed verbally while Laura took a sling at the front of the class and demonstrated. Their sisterly dynamic added to it, also.

IMG_4878

We started off doing basic yoga poses to warm  up, using the fabric to do pull ups and squats and lunges, which I felt immediately. Having the fabric there to help me open up my hips and stretch the rest of my body felt incredible. Then we did downward dog while folded over the fabric, and floated by tucking our knees up and turning into eggs, engaging our cores to stay stable. My first time off the ground in yoga and I loved it!

Next we made the first really frightening move: standing ON the fabric. I was terrified, but had no time to panic: before my brain knew what was happening, everyone around me hoisted themselves up so I did too, and suddenly I was standing in the fabric, three feet above the ground, my head in the ceiling! It took lots of core and arm strength to stay balanced, but I focused and nailed it. I guess Grace’s story about just living in the moment really did have some value 😉

IMG_4892

The final part of our class was spent going upside down and sideways in a variety of ways. This was my favorite part, especially because, as Grace and Laura said, “We face the wall on these poses so we can be vain and see ourselves in the mirror when we go upside down.” They just get me, these girls.

IMG_4876

This was another case where I was scared at first, but after just letting go (in the metaphysical sense, of course, because physically holding the fabric was the only thing keeping me from cracking my skull open), I was upside down and able to fold and bend into some incredible positions I never thought possible. The only negative to all this: my over enthusiastic posing had me swaying more than my inner ear would have liked, and my motion sickness acted up pretty much instantly. I can’t win.

IMG_4927

After spending the last 15 minutes of class working on these poses, we then unfurled the fabric of our slings to create delicious cocoons where we lay in savasana and floated for a good few minutes. I would go back to class just to do this for an hour.

Finally when class was over properly, we were allowed 10 minutes of “play” time to practice whatever poses we wanted, take pictures, and clean up our spaces. We had fun taking pictures together and laughing about the poses I didn’t attempt because my body was so shredded (I’m looking at you, aerial split). This was also fun to see other people in the class totally whip out these incredible routines – I’m guessing they were all circus performers or ballerinas or both, because they were so talented that I found myself just watching a few times.

All in all it was an incredible experience; I enjoyed it a LOT more than I expected, and I can’t wait to go back. It was a super intense workout, too – 3 days later my abs and upper body are still sore, and I can see this being a great complement to my running and a way to cut loose and have fun while getting a workout in.

Have you ever tried aerial yoga? Is it something you’d like to try? Let’s hear it in the comments!

 

How Bootcamp is Changing My Game

Since the reality finally hit me that I will be running 19.3 miles over 24 hours in less than 6 weeks (and 26.2 miles around the City of New York in less than 12 months!), I’ve decided to step up my fitness game, one month at a time.

This month, I joined Bulldog Strength and Conditioning for a month of bootcamp/ Crossfit-style classes, with the goal of upping my overall endurance and strength training game in the home stretch before my next half marathon and spring race season.

IMG_0631.JPG

My friend Kevin found this place about a month ago to get us ahead of the holiday weight gain by taking a drop-in class the Saturday after Thanksgiving with our friend Angela. I’ll admit: I was hesitant. I’ve done a few month-long boot camp style memberships at other gyms and while they were good workouts, I wasn’t a fan of their mentality and sometimes condescending attitudes. In some cases, the instructors cared more about socializing with the members than helping them get a good workout. Too often I’d see people sacrifice form for time and just flail around without the personal attention they should have been getting for $150+ a month – or worse, they’d get injured!

Having an injury-prone body to begin with, I like to focus on form and doing things the right way for the maximum benefit and to keep myself healthy. And it’s important to me that if I’m working with trainers, I make a personal connection with them about my fitness history and don’t feel too intimidated to ask them for help. So I went into this class with a grain of salt. But from the beginning, the owner Keith was super helpful – asking me about where we found him, what our goals were, what we were currently doing to stay active, etc. When I brought up running, he was psyched to hear about my plans for a half in January and asked me smart questions. Before we even started, I was impressed.

The class size was small; about 10 people, which was great – no crowding, plenty of time for personal interaction, and room to move. We kicked things off with a warm up that included 200M sprints, and Keith and his co-trainer were quick to point out that I should find this part easy, calling me out in front of the class – this was fun! After the warm up, they started cranking some old Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails music to get us into the groove, and we were off onto interval training, two workouts that we repeated two times each. The moves seemed simple at first, but after one minute on and only 15 seconds to move to the next workout, we were MOVING. My one friend had to tap out because it was so intense, and I don’t blame her – I had to pause a few times to keep my breakfast from coming up to make an appearance!

IMG_0798.JPG

After just over 40 minutes, we finished completely spent, sweaty and shaking, and I was hooked. I hadn’t pushed myself like that in months, and it felt great. I’ve been so scared of overdoing it and not being able to run that I’ve been shortchanging myself. No more.

On the spot I decided to commit to a month with Keith and his crew. But because he’s a smart businessman and a good trainer, he was open to discussion. He understood that I couldn’t commit to a full 5x/week schedule simply because the gym is 30+ minutes away and I need to spend more time running for now, and was able to work with me on a plan that fits my schedule and my budget.

Last night I took my first class of the month and I already can’t scratch my nose without that soreness in my arms and shoulders – and I screamed when a sneeze earlier this morning made my abs work unexpectedly. But I’m pumped to see where these workouts take me in my running. Tomorrow I’ve got 7 miles to run, and another class Sunday.

It’ll be a tough schedule to stick to this month to get all of my miles in AND reap the benefits of a month of bootcamp too, but I’m committed. If I’m going to do this 26.2 thing, I’ve got to do things I’ve never done before and work harder than I ever have in any training cycle – but I’m ready!

My New Celebrity Fitspiration

So, I’m a big Star Wars fan now. I’m guessing you knew that already though.

IMG_7954.JPG

While I love the whole fictional universe, I also dig the new stars in the franchise. They’re a talented, eclectic bunch of people with different personalities and styles, and I’m loving all of them. Especially Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey.

I liked her in the movie, but when I discovered her Instagram a few weeks after seeing the movie back in January, I was instantly hooked. She’s adorable,  you guys.

daisy

Also, with posts like this, let’s face it: she’s kind of my spirit animal. 

In a sea of vapid, cookie cutter “celebrities”, her feed stands out. You can really get a sense of her voice and what she’s passionate about – she’s not afraid to speak up and be goofy – AND she loves posting videos of her insane Star Wars workouts. These aren’t little “yay for bicep curls!” videos though. This chick is putting in some serious WORK. So what did I do? Take notes on her workouts and adapted them for myself, of course!

What does the Daisy Workout consist of? Here’s a sampling from a few of her recent videos (note: technical terms are NOT my strong suit. I just call them as I see them):

  • Walking lunges with overhead weight
  • High Knee jumps
  • Pull ups with elevated legs
  • Kneeling bicep band pulldowns
  • Pilates 100’s
  • Jump Squats
  • Jump squats with overhead bar & press
  • Lateral Jumps
  • Lunges with band twist
  • Suspension cable pull ups
  • Kneeling jumps
  • Medicine ball tosses
  • Kettle bell squat lifts (5x arm)
  • One legged box jump
  • Squat jumps with bar
  • Straight overhead Leg lifts
  • Straight leg situps

Now, this is by no means meant to be an official workout, please don’t try all of these and sue for damages when you can’t lift your head off the pillow the next day. I am NOT a professional – I was just looking for a good strength training workout and these moves clearly helped our girl Daisy so why can’t I give them a shot?

Word of warning: after doing half of those exercises up there for a full 40 minutes Tuesday, I’m STILL sore 48 hours later. So please, workout at your own risk.

But while these moves are HARD and have me grunting and swearing and unable to get into my car without screaming the next day, I do know this: I feel pretty badass when I’m done!

How about you: Who’s your current celebrity fitspiration? Have any famous-people workouts to share? Gimme gimme!

 

NJ Half Marathon Training Week 0

Hey all! I’m currently in the middle of my first week of training for the New Jersey Half Marathon in May, and let’s just say I’m glad I added a few extra runs before the plan officially started:

I’m happy to say that the apocalypse you see up there is all but melted now, just over a week since it happened. Thank goodness, too, because I don’t think I could take trudging over a snow mound 4 feet high just to get to my front gate much longer.

To kick off my training a little early I did a few strength training + 1 mile run double workouts last week at the office gym just to get my body used to moving consistently again. I even surprised myself with a nice steady 3.5 mile run at what now feels like an “easy” pace – and on a treadmill to boot!

IMG_2872

Once the weekend hit, I went into high gear with an hour or so of strength training and cross training on Saturday, followed by my first “long” run on Sunday.

IMG_2930

The spinning, lifting, ab, and leg work I did on Saturday morning was made all the more intense thanks to those nifty little tights you see in the pic up there: Physiclo resistance tights. These babies have built-in resistance bands that add a little extra burn to every workout and make me sweat a little harder than I care to admit. That’s a good thing though, especially when I’m doing strength training!

Sunday morning I woke up to a delightfully sunny day, and did a happy dance when I realized it was almost 60 degrees. 60!! On the last day of January!! After babying a slightly pulled muscle in my back (thanks, over-zealous ab work and old mattress) all morning I decided to make the most of the weather and go for a run down the shore.

IMG_3115

I was so stoked! An hour or more all to myself with my new tunes and the ocean, what a great long run it was going to be! I went out thinking I’d aim for 5 miles, but if I did 4 that would be OK too. I’ve got the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler next weekend in Central Park, which I plan on racing full out, so part of me is keeping things a little conservative this week.

Yeah, I was evidently SO stoked about this run that I left in a hurry and forgot my headphones at home.

SNL_1350_09_Debbie_Downer

[sad trombone sound effect]

I had, however, driven more than a half hour to get to my running destination, so I had no choice but to go for it, sans music. Which I HATE. Yes, I know that running is all about connecting with your body and feeling the rhythm and getting into your own thoughts… yeah you know what? I’m kind of tired of my own thoughts. I’m an only child and have spent more time with my own thoughts than I care to admit. Sometimes I like just leaving the headphones at home and feeling it, but not this time.

To make things a LITTLE more bearable, I played a podcast by the hilarious Bill Burr on my iPhone speakers, just loud enough for me to hear, and took off on the boardwalk for my long run.

DCIM105GOPROG2427158.

It wasn’t exactly the head-clearing, zone-out for an hour and rock the groove kind of run I had hoped for, but it was good. I laughed at Burr’s ridiculousness – and had to turn the volume down when passing families with small children! – but after about 2 miles in one direction I started to feel the boredom creep in. This is usually where my tunes would kick in and carry me over the hump and into my second wind.

Instead of the refreshing boost I’d get with a new song, I instead just shut the podcast down and ran. It was not fun. I sang songs in my head. I bobbed and weaved through increasing crowds (who knew Asbury Park Beerfest was the same day?) and noticed that the lack of energy had affected my pace negatively – I was averaging about 11:49/mile at 3.5 and that made me angry. I knew I was capable of better!

So with the final half mile left before I got back to my car, I took off and breezed past everyone, leaping over crusty snow banks and splashing through puddles at around 9:xx/mile pace, loving the feel of the wind in my face and the cold breeze in my lungs. The sprinting paid off, and I finished at my car just over 4 miles at a much lower average pace, thankyouverymuch!

IMG_2946

I’ll call this Week 0 because while I’m more active than I’ve been in the off season, the workouts aren’t 100% on plan. Tonight is a rest night because I’ve got acupuncture appointment #3 (hooray!) and a run and strength workout scheduled for tomorrow, then a light shakeout run Friday to prep for Sunday’s race.

I’m really excited to see what Central Park has in store for me – my current 4M PR is 45:05 which will be hard to beat especially on those hills, but who knows? I plan on giving it 100% and seeing what I’m capable of.

How about you – how’s your training going? Any races coming up? Let me know in the comments!

 

The First 10 Minutes of Every Workout

Confession time: the first 10 minutes of every workout I do – running, strength training, cross training, you name it – are sheer hell. I spend the whole time just going through the motions while one long “UUGGGHH” drones on silently in my head. It takes a good 10-15 minutes before I’m feeling the burn, sweating it out, and reaping the benefits of the whole fitness thing.

yaasss

This is especially the case when I work out in the mornings. I simply cannot drag myself out of bed, get warmed up and get an efficient workout in less than like 2 hours, and I’m not losing 2+ hours of sleep if I don’t have to, dammit. By the time I get in a groove, I need to start cooling down, showering, and getting ready for my day. First world problems, I  know.

Having said that, I keep trying to fight the system by waking up early for a morning run every now and then. And while these runs are always technical successes in that they are runs that take place in the morning, I can still safely say that I hate morning workouts.

IMG_5303Every time I try to run before work, I only manage to get about a half hour (or 2.5 miles) in before the morning routine has to start, and then I’m exhausted for the rest of the day. Sure, it feels good knowing my workout is done, but the pros don’t really outweigh the cons there.

IMG_5314But of course that sunrise was really something to see, and I would have missed that if I slept in.

I know what my problem is: I need to build it into my schedule just like everything else to make it a habit. Once my body realizes this is the norm with more frequent sessions, it won’t be so bad. But until then, I’ll tough it out and try to enjoy myself.

IMG_5302I also battled the “first 10 minute scourge” this weekend when I did my favorite HIIT workout in the living room Saturday morning.

IMG_5328Back when I first started working out in 2004, I relied heavily on group fitness classes to stay motivated. Looking back, I’m like 90% sure the strict start times and “follow me exactly” routines were the sole reason that I was so successful back then. Working out on your own time, by your own rules, and doing your own made up routine? It’s really hard to stay focused. Especially when you’ve got a nosy cat and a husband watching Bob’s Burgers and laughing in the next room.

IMG_5332I would do one set and get distracted by the mailman or the cat or my own short attention span, but I finally managed to  struggle through the full 40-or so minutes (burpees included)! The humidity outside was a real killer, but I felt nice and accomplished afterwards – even if my legs and glutes were screaming for mercy.

IMG_5333

And that’s the happy, sweaty truth I have to keep reminding myself of: even though the first 10 minutes of every workout suck a pretty big windbag, the last 10 minutes are probably the most rewarding and blissful moments of my day. And SO worth fighting through that wall to get to 🙂

How about you? Do you suffer from the same affliction? How do you conquer the first 10 minutes?

Time to Rebuild

So I finished my last half marathon of the spring racing season! Hooray!

anigif_enhanced-27326-1413999458-5

Now that the celebratory peanut butter pie has been eaten, the Tiger Balm has soaked in, and the muscles have recovered, the inevitable question that follows the end of every race is now on my mind: What’s Next?

Well, if I’m being honest with myself – and honest with you, dear reader – I don’t know! I mean sure, I know I’m going to race again eventually, but right now I have zero races lined up in the calendar. Even for next fall.

I briefly considered the Jersey Girl Triathlon this August, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet. I’ve only incorporated swimming into my cross-training plan about a half dozen times so far, and after 25 minutes and about 200 yards I’m physically unable to walk myself from the locker room to the car without my legs shaking and giving out on me. Just the thought of having to add biking and running after a workout like that makes me weak in the knees. I’d have to do some serious training to prepare for an event like that. And I just Googled “beginner triathlon training plan” and the first result that came up is a 93-page PDF. NINETY-THREE PAGES, YOU GUYS. Can anyone point me in the direction of a training plan that isn’t like a book of stereo instructions?

giphy

OK so maybe I need to set my sights a little lower. I’m sure I’ll do some local 5K’s that I’ve always done, and I’m searching the local running club calendars for 10K’s as well. I certainly don’t want to lose the running endurance that I’ve built up these past few months, and having some slightly shorter than half distance races on the horizon could keep me moving. Do any of my local Jersey peeps have recommendations on 10K’s in the next month or two?

Lastly, I’m searching for a new fall Half Marathon to call my own. I could easily sign up once again for the Atlantic City Half Marathon and see if the third time is the charm – after all, it’s where I set my current half PR! But the fall race season is so rich and exciting, that I wonder if I’m limiting myself by just setting my sights on that one bigger race when there are so many other great events going on in September and October. Does anyone in my area have any local half plans or dream races you’d like to do in the fall?

One thing I AM sure of, however, is that I’m going to be focusing very heavily on rebuilding my strength up with weights and cross training. After the little spurts I could fit in while training for my races these past few months, I felt an immense improvement in the running workouts that followed. But just like everything else, life gets in the way and excuses get made and the time I could spend working out was spent on getting mileage in, not strengthening everything else. As a result, I notice the weakness creeping in, even with little tasks like carrying the grocery bags into the house.

funny-gif-weight-liftingNo more!

Today I kicked off this new rebuilding phase by doing something called “3 Times 3 At 3”. It’s entirely made up and in no way scientific, but it’s random and fun and sounds just easy enough to stick with for a while. Here’s how it works: at 3PM every day, I go down to my office gym and do three sets of three exercises for :45 each, with :15 of rest between them. Sounds easy, right? Well. 10 minutes of push-ups, side crunches, and squats later, I’m kind of dying.

reconstruction

Alright, I’m not dying – I’m fine, I just have a fun case of jelly arms from the absolute and complete lack of work I’ve done on my upper body in the last month or so. My abs and legs feel great and strong and ready for more, which is great.

But the whole thing was just what I needed to jump back into a post-race fitness routine and beat the “What do I do now Blues”! Now I’m nice and warmed up for the cardio I’ve still got planned after I get done with work, and I’m excited to build it up into 4 Times 4 or more. Cheers to rebuilding and growing stronger with each passing day!