Friday, January 31, 2014

Yoga: YMCA-Style

I've taken all kinds of yoga over the years. It's interesting to me because even though many of the postures will be the same, there's still a lot of variation in the styles of class you can take. I generally gravitate towards what a lot of people would call "power" yoga. I love Ashtanga because it's very structured and it makes me feel super strong afterward. I also went through a big Bikram phase and got pretty hooked on sweating it out in the 105 degree room.

The yoga class I took at the South Shore YMCA this week wasn't listed on the schedule as being a specific style so I wasn't sure what exactly to expect. We started class with a short meditation where we focused on tapping into our breath and letting go of any outside thoughts and distractions. I always like this because it can be kind of a jolt sometimes coming in from the car and snow and yuck and have to instantly calm your mind and be ready to move. The first half of class was mostly standing postures, in including sun salutations and various warrior poses. I felt like we held some the postures a lot longer than I was used to and I liked it. My quads were shaking at one point! When we moved onto seated postures it focused more on opening up the hips. We did some spine twisting and hamstring stretches as well. Of course, we finished class in Savasana (corpse pose) to let everything soak in.

Overall I felt like this class would be very accessible to beginners. I noticed the instructor suggested many modifications and everyone had a strap and block next to their mat if needed. The group exercise room at the South Shore Y is very large so the class didn't feel crowded at all. (Something I've struggled with at smaller studios before.) Although it was slower paced, I still felt challenged from having to hold some of the positions, and I noticed my abs were sore the next day so I obviously tapped into my core muscles.

Class #2 down! I took a rest week after running a marathon on Sunday but I'm planning on getting back at it next week!

Next up: Body Combat

Full Disclosure: I have been offered a free family membership to the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee in 2014 in exchange for blogging, tweeting and general social-media-ing about my experiences there. Hey, why not? Sounds good to me. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Icebreaker, Architecture and Gifts

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” -Daniel Burnham

I mean really, who isn’t inspired by late 19th century Chicago architects? (Just me?)

I’ve been getting new inspiration from a lot of different places lately. A few weeks ago I was running laps on the track at the Pettit Center in preparation for the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon. After warming up I found myself running with a friend who is also a running coach. He asked me what my goal was for the Icebreaker and I hemmed and hawed about it, mumbling something something about how I’d run a 3:50 in Chicago but running indoors is another complicated beast and I *thought* I could maybe sub-4 indoors. He looked at me and said, “See there’s your problem. Don’t say I *think* I can do it. Say you KNOW you can do it. It changes everything.” He went on to tell me that I was capable of running way faster than I thought I could and I how I could totally be more aggressive with my goals and blah blah talent blah blah ability blah. (I’m paraphrasing, obviously.)

It was a pep talk I needed. I also proceeded to knock out a 20 miler with 15 miles of it at an 8:30 average pace that day. So I went home and promptly changed my Icebreaker goal to be sub-3:50. I did all the math for what my average lap pace should be. I ran two more long runs at the Pettit drilling in that pace for the bulk of each run. MAKE NO LITTLE PLANS right? And then I ran a 3:46:29 on Sunday.

I don’t know why I hesitate with goals sometimes. Except that, wait, I totally know why I do. I feel like when I say them out loud to people they become really real in the Real World and then there’s a new sense of accountability. However sometimes it’s that sense of accountability that can be the push I need to get to the next level.

I have a goal for 2014. I wrote it down just before the new year and I tacked it to my wall but I haven’t told that many people about it. (Mainly because of what I just talked about above.) On Sunday though before the race when I was looking for a place to stash my bag I came across this photo:

I read this and something just clicked inside of me. Of course it is! How cool/lucky/amazing is it that I can go run 95 times around the track and feel strong and happy and empowered while doing so? During the race, every time I felt fatigued or started to slip off of pace I said to myself, “Running is a gift.” Because it is. And I’m actually pretty good at it! So I’m embracing the gift and going all out this year. 

I don’t *think* I can qualify for Boston. I KNOW I CAN.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spin it Out: Y-Cycle

I've taken a Spin class exactly two other times in my life. It's not that I don't enjoy cycling, it's just that with running and strength training and dance classes (and LIFE in general) there simply aren't enough hours in the week. With my new Y membership though, I have a goal to try as many new classes as possible over the next six months. So back to cycling it is.

I set up my membership this past Saturday at the South Shore YMCA in Cudahy. After stashing my coat and purse in the locker room I was still a bit early for the 9:15am Y-Cycle class so I wandered around the cardio room checking things out and hopped on the treadmill for a quick mile to get warmed up before heading to class.

I think one of the things that make people nervous about Spin classes is not being familiar with the bikes. I feel the same way. When I walked into the room it was already pretty packed with people warming up so I took the first open bike I saw and just started pedaling. Right away the instructor asked if anyone was new to class and if they had any questions so my hand shot up in the air. She immediately came over and helped me readjust my seat to the correct height and instructed me on how to use the gears and monitor my RPMs (revolutions per minute). This made me feel a lot more comfortable right away.

This particular class 45 minutes and out of that time I'd say 30-35 was moderate to high intensity cycling. You fit in a lot in a short period of time. We did a number of different circuits, including a slow climb, short sprint intervals and high resistance intervals where we stood up on the bike. One of the harder circuits for me was a longer, steady circuit where we slowly increased the resistance while keeping our RPMs the same. I really liked how each circuit was paired up with a song so I could gauge pretty well how much time I had before getting a break. The last circuit we did was three sets of one-minute sprints. It was pretty intense but it was fun to go all out at the end! We finished up with an easy cooldown and some stretching next to our bikes.

Overall this was a challenging and enjoyable class. I'd like to go again but mixing it up is my goal right now so I'm excited to see what else the Y has to offer.

Next up: Yoga!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


In my life I have never been a member of the "Y".  I've been to several YMCAs for various events (trial classes, summer camps and birthday parties as a kid, etc.) but I've never myself been an actual member. Until now!

Full Disclosure: I have been offered a free family membership to the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee in 2014 in exchange for blogging, tweeting and general social-media-ing about my experiences there. Hey, why not? Sounds good to me. 

As you can probably imagine, my regular running/training schedule is pretty darn packed. However, I'm going to make an honest effort to try *new-to-me* cross training classes over the next 12 months. My goal is to get to one of the Y locations (most likely South Shore or Downtown for me) around once a week. As a trainer, I'm very good at structuring workouts for myself at home but I'm also excited to experience new styles of classes and different instructors again. Basically I just really enjoy learning.

Here's what is on my radar right now:

Y Cycle
Body Pump
I also might try (GULP) getting in the pool. We'll see!

Many of the classes have words in the description like FUSION, BLITZ and ABSOLUTION. I will investigate further as to what that all means and report back on my experiences here (as well as on all my other usual social "overshare" platforms.)

Here's to expanding fitness horizons in 2014!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Going Aerial

For my "creative project" in December I stepped a little bit outside of the box. Or actually, into the air? Ha. For a couple of years now I've been really inspired by a friend of mine who does pole dancing. I mean, it's pretty badass right? Those ladies are STRONG. No joke. Anyways, I've been trying to figure out how I can fit a pole class into my schedule and last month while searching around I came across an aerial arts instructor who teaches a silks class at the Miramar Theatre.

What is Aerial Silks? Well, the best way I can describe it is that it's similar to pole, but instead you do all the fancy tricks and flourishes on a couple of gigantic strips of fabric hanging from a high ceiling.

Wut. I know! It looks a little bit like this:

And this:

Except not me when I do it because... hard. This I looked like:

I should also note that instead of being way high in the sky in these photos, I am a mere couple of feet off the ground. In fact, I plopped back down to the floor on my butt with my feet all tangled up right after these photos were taken. But whoa was it fun!

I can't even put into words how much upper body strength this took. And watching the instructor climb up to the tippy top of and get all bendy and twisty in the air was chock full of crazy. My arms were literally shaking at points to where I had to take a break and just watch for a while. (Oh, and I hurt for three solid days afterward. Insanity.) Of course, I'm pretty much dying to go back. A new session of classes starts in February! I am so there.

Backtracking a bit to make sure I'm being honest, I almost bailed on going to this class at the last minute. I was kind of terrified. Not that I thought I would hurt myself, but I was a bit concerned that 1) I wouldn't be strong enough to do it and 2) I would be the "old" lady in the class. (Ok, so one of those things turned out to be true but this old lady can hang with the young 'uns.) I'm glad I pushed myself in the end to try something that scared me because if I bailed I would have missed out on something amazing and fun. And really, who cares if everyone was 10+ years younger than me? I need to get over that crap.

2014: The year of doing whatever the hell I want.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tired of Death

I'm pretty sure nobody is ever happy about death. However, the amount of death happening around me in the last few months feels like it has just reached a tipping point. My heart is sad for so many people in my life right now. I know there's nothing I can do except sit here and feel sort of... empty.

At the end of October my cousin died. He was 41 and he committed suicide. I didn't tell many people how he died- not because it was a secret, but only a couple people ever asked what happened so I just kept that fact to myself. Death is weird like that. In the same week I found out an old high school friend killed herself as well. She wasn't anyone I had kept in touch with after school, but these two deaths occurring so close together had me thinking/searching/reflecting about why some people end up feeling so lost while I'm lucky to have all these amazing, wonderful things in my life (my previous year end recap post being a case-in-point.)

Then on Christmas Day my grandpa died. This was different because he was 88 years old but still, it was unexpected. I put off calling him and my grandmother on Christmas Eve because I thought it would be better to call the next morning after they had opened the gifts I sent down to them in Florida. When I called in the morning my grandma told me that grandpa had a massive stroke the night before and died overnight. My brain tells me it's silly to beat myself up over something like this but my heart still feels sad about it. He requested for there be no funeral service. There wasn't even an obituary in the paper. My grandma will now be moving from Florida to Massachusetts to be near my uncle's family. (With my mom gone, it makes the most sense.) So... I guess that's that. Sometimes it feels like it didn't happen.

Today I found out that an old, dear friend of mine (and Jason's) just lost his lovely wife. She was only 30 years old and died of cardiac arrest due to fluid accumulating around her heart. The official cause of death is a mystery and the doctors have no explanation for it. We attended their wedding in New Mexico a little over 2 years ago and they had just purchased a beautiful home in the mountains there. My heart absolutely breaks for him right now.

I don't know why I'm posting about all of this. It's not well written or saying anything much other than I'm sad. And tired.