#FitFriday: ‘smabs

Yayyyyy it’s Friiiiiiday!!!!!
Raise your hand if you are as happy as I am about that! <<raises hand high high high pickmepickmepickmeeeeee>>

I thought I’d kick-off Friday with another “#FitFriday” edition for ya. The last “#FitFriday” was all about accountability, fitdates-for-one and fit communities. And because it’s been on my mind a lot as we head into spring and summer, today’s #FitFriday is all about ‘smabs.

What are ‘smabs, you ask?
Those would be ‘some abs’ or ‘smabs for short. As in: “I really need to do ‘smabs but I don’t feel like it, don’t have time, don’t like doing them, <insert your excuse or complaint here>”

I used to totallllly fall in the anti-‘smabs camp. Meaning — I wanted a stronger, more toned core but I had a  very hard time both connecting with my core and committing to building core work into my workout regime. BUT — ever since becoming such a huge barre n9ne advocate and instructor, ‘smabs are like my favorite area to work, well in a close tie with glutes, shoulders, quads…you get the picture. hehe ;-) In all seriousness though, a strong core comes into play no matter what workout you’re doing, or body part you’re working. Your core is connected to everything, truly. <–this is one thing I never really *got* until I figured out how to connect with my core and started to really gain strength and stability there

So when the May ‘plank-a-day’ challenge came out and started circulating around, I totally jumped at the chance.

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I mean, who *doesn’t* want to be able to hold a 5 minute plank by the end of the month, rigtht?? Which puts us right smack dab at the end of May and the unofficial start to summer up in these parts. #bringiton

Soooo in true #teamsutera fashion, I’ve totally recruited Scott to get in on the plank-a-day action and he’s been SO into it. Always reminding me that we ‘need to get our planks done’ before dinner (so we aren’t full and ready to yak mid-plank lol) *and* he added a twist to the challenge: in addition to holding the forearm plank for the allotted time per-day, he suggested we add side plank to the mix. Who am I to turn down an added challenge, right?? So yeah, we’re a little over one week in and holding a forearm plank and then side planking on both sides for 60 secs at a whack.

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(is he *not* the cutest ever in this pic?? <3)

I’m thinking in order to complete this challenge in one piece, we *may* need to start taking breaks before launching into side planks once we hit that 5-minute mark. A 15-minute plank series would be pretty unreal (but I kinda like the thought of it, hmmm!). ;-)

And now, with this plank-a-day challenge constantly in the back of my mind, I’ve been working even more plank work into my classes at barre n9ne (at least for the classes whose structure allows for plankage!); it’s been especially fun to throw plank variations into arms & abs class (or arms & ‘smabs, hehe)– one of my new favorite classes to teach at the studio (but then, I also love teaching Toned, Firm, Fit & Ready, I love our signature barre n9ne method class….ohh do I have to pick just one?? #b9lovah).

So there ya go — my #FitFriday thoughts for the day, all about ‘smabs. Are you a love-to-hater when it comes to ‘smabs or do you hate-to-hate them? AND, are you doing this plank-a-day challenge too, or planning to get in on the action now that I mention it?? Please say yes. ;-)

Connections.

I recently started teaching an arms & abs class at barre n9ne (taking it over for one of the other instructors who is pregnant – and super cute, I might add!) and it’s been a fun, very different class to teach versus the usual classes I teach that are all full body workouts.

What I’ve noticed since I started teaching the class though, is just how connected everything is. Since that class focuses SO MUCH on core work and engaging those muscles throughout the workout (not just during the sections that are ab-specific), I’ve noticed some things.

– For one – hello abs, where have you been all my life? You hurt like hell after that class, but I kind of love that.

– Also? It’s all connected. As in, a strong core ties into SO MANY other parts of your body…your entire body, actually.

I noticed that this morning while taking a fusion class at the studio (same class I took last week with my bestie right upfront!) – since my abs were already sore, I was much more aware of how my abs played into every single exercise we did.

– My posture was taller while we sat and worked our shoulders with those love-to-hate silver balls.

– My back was flatter while we were working our glutes on all fours.

– And everything – EVERYTHING – felt a lot more difficult than if I didn’t have such ‘worked’ core muscles this morning.

Which lead me to this very simple conclusion: it’s ALL connected.

And the more I can personally focus on that connection to my core and to all of my muscles really, the more I’ll get out of my workouts, but also the more I’ll help clients get more out of their workouts too.

While teaching arms & abs especially, I’ve been trying to remind clients to make sure they are engaging their core while doing ALL of the exercises I run through in that class. So while standing and working our biceps with the gray band, really think about pulling your belly button to your spine, engaging your core muscles and holding them firm throughout the bicep pulls. So even if we’re not doing a so-called ‘core’ exercise in that class (or any of the other classes), your core should always be working, always engaged, always firm and strong. Because that’s the key – making that connection to your core, to your muscles, and working them as hard as they can and should be worked. Trusting that you can work a little harder, dig a little deeper, engage your muscles even more.

And yes, that’s exactly what I thought about throughout my ‘me’ workout this morning in fusion.  Connecting with my body, making sure to stay in the zone and enjoying the heck out of every last minute of that class (even though it hurt…a lot, ha).

So that’s my mini pep talk ‘o the day – think about those connections, all of them. And put it to practice during your next workout. I’m thinking you might be surprised at how different the workout feels both during and in the days after that workout (think: DOMS).  Juuuuust a hunch. ;-)

Running + barre: revisited

Last May, less than two weeks into the 60-day barre n9ne challenge, I wrote about running + barre and how great of a combination it was turning into for me. At the time, I was still very, very new to barre and had barely scratched the surface in that post about just how amazing of a pairing barre workouts can be with running.

I have been meaning to revisit the topic for awhile now but after seeing this fab friend posting on Facebook that she was adding barre and yoga work to her (first-ever!) half marathon training plan, I knew it was time to get crackin’ on this post.

So, in no particular order, here is what makes running + barre an awesome marriage (at least IMHO…)

Strong hammies and glutes = happy knees. It’s no secret that I’ve had my fair share of knee issues over the years. There was an ITBS flare-up after my first half marathon (that required PT) and then there was a fairly minor case of patellar tendonitis after my second half marathon (sensing a trend here, are we?).  In both cases, the real issue wasn’t my knees but the muscles surrounding my knees. They were weak. Underdeveloped. In need of some serious muscle conditioning. Since taking barre classes this past year, would you guess that my knees have never been happier? My third half marathon in October did not follow the same pattern as my previous two: I didn’t come away from the experience injured. Quite the opposite. I walked away healthy and fit and strong. I owe it to the barre (n9ne).

Endurance, like whoa. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll refresh your memory again. The barre n9ne method (as well as similar barre styles) relies heavily on endurance-style muscle conditioning. In other words — a shitton lots and lots of reps, done with very light handweights or just the weight of your own body (at the barre and on the mat). That endurance requires focus and mental strength to push through all those reps, to allow your body to do the work your mind is trying to tell you isn’t possible. It’s the same endurance (mentally and physically) that’s needed when it comes to running miles (long, short, speedy, or otherwise). My interval workouts are speedier and more powerful and my overall run-durance is way better than it’s ever been (particularly this winter when I really, really wanted to keep my mileage up during the colder months of the year, always a struggle for me int he past). Again, I owe a lot of that to the endurance and mental strength I’ve gained from the barre (n9ne).

Smabs. <—for those of you unfamilar with my lingo, that’s code for “some abs” or “smabs.” Prior to barre n9ne, I had a really hard time connecting with my core, and because of that, I often underworked that part of my body when it came to strength training. At one point, I hated core work. Hated. Did anything in my power to woopsie, skip that part of my workouts whenever possible. Now? I’m working my core daily for hours at a time. Hours?? Yes, hours. Every single barre class I take or teach requires constant vigilance in maintaining a strong, engaged core. During the upper body work, while at the barre working the lower body and glutes, and most definitely during the core-specific segment of the class. In reality, you should be working your core the entire hour of the class. So you can imagine the difference I’ve seen in my core strength after a year of classes. Not gonna lie, while changing for my interval workout the other night, I actually did a double-take in the mirror — I’m rockin’ some serious ab definition. ((ME? Smabs? Who knew?! )) But I digress — back to running + barre and why this all relates. The core is a huge factor in how you run strong. It keeps you centered and sturdy and able to push up and down hills and into those wind gusts It’s partially why I don’t fear hills and don’t totally hate running in the wind (sure, it’s not *fun* per se, but at least I know I can push through it with strength). Once again, I owe it to the barre (n9ne).

Botton line: It’s all connected. And barre n9ne, combined with running, has more than proven that to me. It’s all connected. It all matters. It all works together in perfect harmony.

Running + barre = happy knees; a centered, focused mind; and the strongest body this girl has ever had. <3
(…how’s that for enough reasons to give this pairing a try some time?) ;-)

An anger-fueled workout high

Ever heard of an anger-fueled workout high? 

Neither did I.
…until last night.
(and yes, this is a totally made up “high,” coined by yours truly!)

So lemme set the stage for you. Yesterday was what I’d call a frustrating day. No one “thing” set me off, it was just a combination of things throughout the day – none of it all that earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things. But all added up? Lots of pent-up frustration and anger simmering beneath the surface.

Enter the Wednesday night mad dash driving-like-a-bat-outta-hell-you-better-get-outta-my-way-or-else commute home in time to make my favorite barre n9ne double session: 6:30 barre fusion followed by the 7:30 arms, abs and barre express class.

You can see where this is going, no? 

Barely make it to class by the skin of my teeth, scrambled in and to my mat with about 10 seconds to spare. Not a happy camper. Fuming at this point. All that “simmering” range was essentially boiling just below the surface.

Well, wouldn’t you know – that same anger and range that was right at the boiling point? Turned my barre n9ne double session into the most ridiculous, anger-fueled workout high I’ve ever experienced. 

Remember those push-ups and planks I’m batshit crazy to master? Well, I did that series proud – sure, I had to stop here and there, but I’ll be damned, I kept it together much better last night than I ever have.

Not one, but TWO trips up to the barre (once in each class)? Sure, why not – lemme have it.  Lots of plie squats, waterskiing and yes, the dreaded chair pose (done in not one, not two, but THREE ways last night). But there I was, shaking away, happy as a clam.

Suddenly that anger and frustration literally melted away and became the fuel that drove my workout into overdrive. I think I basically floated out of class last night, my entire mood transformed from one of anger and frustration to one of pride and glee.

So next time you feel like going home and curling up in a ball for a good cry? Don’t do it. Get yourself to the gym, to your favorite studio, to the streets, whatever. Get MOVING. Trust me, you’ll be a changed person afterwards.

Anger-fueled workout high? I think I kinda like you. 

Hello, body? I have one (ok, two) simple requests

Hello, body? I have one (ok, two) simple requests: 

Can we puhleeze get it together and finally conquer the PLANK and PUSH-UP series in barre n9ne, already??

I mean really, you’ve been taking class for over six months now and those damn planks and push-ups are the death of you. What gives?

…are we sally-ing out and not pushing through the shake like we do at the barre?
(maybe? Ok, definitely maybe. Ok, definitely sally-ing out. Caught. Red. Handed) 

Because really, you’re starting to embarrass me now – you’re strong and able, let’s show these planks and push-ups how it’s done. mmk?

Yep. These were the thoughts going through my head last night during my double session at barre n9ne. That and lots of curse words when Tanya flipped on the song (Beautiful, Dirty, Rich) that only means one thing in class: thigh dancing (which perhaps should be renamed thighs-burning-like-hell-how-on-earth-is-this-dancing??). But we’ll save that topic for another day.

Back to planks and push-ups. They are my nemesis. And I am so determined to conquer them. And soon. To me, being able to hold a plank series and to be able to get through a push-up series with killer good form and without taking breaks? Epitomizes a fit body to me. I don’t know why, but it just does.

I want to be that “fit body” in class that can get through the whole series. I want it badly. So what am I gonna do about it? I’m gonna work hard, wicked hard, to push through the pain, to let my body shake like I’ve learned to let it do at the barre.

And soon, I’m gonna kill that plank and push-up series like a rockstar. Why yes, yes I am

***This pep talk to self brought to you by a serious case of barre n9ne high last night. And now, back to regularly scheduled programming.**

It’s all connected

Remember that song from childhood that talked about the “ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bone’s connected to the leg bone…”? 

Well for the few of you who know what I’m talking about here, that’s the song that came to mind during the barre n9ne intensive I took on Sunday morning.

It’s all connected.

That’s what I walked away from the intensive thinking about. That and very sore abs, glutes, shoulders…well, everything. Hurts so good. ;-)

Julianna used the intensive yesterday to show us exactly how to perfect our form (or come as close to perfect as anyone really can), and not just physically perfecting our form, but mentally perfecting it too.

Because, it’s all connected. 

Your mind. Your body. Your glutes. Your legs. Your shins. Your abs…well, you get the picture.

It’s all connected. 

Just one tiny move or shift in body weight, can change the impact of a glute raise from just going through the motions of that glute raise to totally intensifying that move so that all of the effort is placed on the muscle you’re working.

…just one tiny move.
…a whole lotta breathing.
…total focus.

It’s all connected. 

And that, my friends, reminds me of the beauty of barre n9ne…
…because you’re constantly learning.
…constantly challenging yourself.
…constantly progressing.
…constantly enacting change. 

And because it’s all of that “stuff” combined that I’ve not only used to my advantage during the countless barre n9ne classes I’m bound to take each week, but it’s something I’ve applied to my running and it’s definitely changed my running form and ability in endless ways.

…The focus I’ve harnessed in barre n9ne is the same focus I use during that last half mile, when I’m staying “there.” 

…The endurance and strength I’ve used to stay in a pose, no matter how much I want to give in to the burn, I’ve applied to the longer runs leading into the final weeks of half marathon training.

…The importance on breathing, and breathing through each move versus holding my breath, but also on breathing hard but strongly when I run.

It’s all connected. 

And it’s kind of very cool to me to think about the other connections that exist in life.  And how I can apply those connections – whatever shape those connections take – to other facets of life. Kinda makes you go “hmm” doesn’t it?

Day in the life of a barre n9ne class

Editor’s note: I figured it was high time to give you a little looksie into what an actual barre n9ne class looks like. My mom took these pics at the barre n9ne 60-day challenge kickoff party this past weekend – she did such a great job that I just had to show them off here. Plus, you all know by now that I’m crazy addicted to barre n9ne and would talk about it 24/7 if ya’ll would let me ;-) 
Enjoy!  

Warming up – barre n9ne style

Those evil gray balls - the deadly shoulder series (the one I can now proudly do in it’s entirety without stopping…clearly this requires lots of concentration, hence the ultra-serious facial expression here)

Tricepsin a word: killer.  Jo demonstrates it so well here. Check out those sexy arms!

At the barre (my favorite part, love-to-hate that shake!)

Plies at the barre - keep those toes up!

(editor’s note – yes there *is* a woman at the barre in a dress, she didn’t come prepared to take the demo class but wanted to get a feel for it before committing to the challenge – talk about a trooper!) 

Thigh dancingthis one is must-experience barre n9ne move. By the third set, your thighs are HATING you. <3

Smabs (that’s the technical term Jo and I  made up for ‘some abs’, catchy, right?)

Whew. There’s MUCH more to it than what I’ve shown you here – this was a shortened ‘demo’ class for any barre n9ne newbies but at least now you have a feel for what it’s all about.  

Kinda makes you wanna take a barre class like barre n9ne now doesn’t it?

It. Is. SO. Worth. It. ;-) 

P.S. Thank you a million times over for all of your super-sweet, super supportive and honest responses to my “I am not perfect” blog post. It was like breathing a huge sigh of relief to hit “publish” and to get responses that made me feel less crazy for how I was feeling at that moment in time over the weekend. So thank you, again and again and again!

Of bucket lists and resolutions

So – as I was getting ready to draft my post today, which I fully intended to be short and sweet (best intentions, I swear!), I stumbled on  my 2011 resolutions post.

I was really just digging around trying to find the “bucket list” post I wrote awhile back. Why? Because I’m about to knock something off my bucket list that I probably never even mentioned as one of my “bucket list, fitness-style” goals.

But alas, it *is* a bucket list item of mine:

I’m going to run in Central Park this weekend!! 

Seems like such a small thing – especially if you live in NYC and Central Park is just another park to you – but for me, it signifies the quintessential running experience, somehow. I’m not even really sure why, but for me – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m really excited that I’ll get that shot over the weekend.

I’ll be in NYC to see one of my favorite friends get (re) married to her total soul mate. They are actually getting married right in Central Park (so NO RAIN, please!) which I think is just the coolest thing ever. I promise to take lots of pics to share – including a few of me rocking a new dress that I am hoping looks pretty killer after all this work I’ve been putting into things. ;-)

But back to the whole resolutions and bucket list thing – I was re-reading my 2011 resolutions post and it dawned on me: I’ve almost killed the entire list already and we’re only halfway through the year! 

For example:
I’ve kicked fat talk to the curb – and I do believe it is gone for good. Yes, please.

I’ve gotten over my hatred of yoga/pilates style workouts – um hello, barre n9ne challenge!!

I’ve signed up for my next half marathon. Oh yes, I have. Bring it on, baby!

I’m learning to give myself a bit of a break – letting my Type-A tendencies go just a wee bit. I can’t say I’ve killed this one (yet) but hey – work in progress, right?

The only thing I haven’t touched yet is the whole I wanna do a triathalon thang. I kinda need to learn to swim first. Oops. Have gotten nowhere on that one. Note to self – teach self to swim at the lake this summer.  Um, maybe??

Oh – and while I’m at it, another item I’d like to add to my “bucket list” for this year? A return to NYC for a barre bootcamp weekend – an idea I concocted with Dori. I think it’s a pretty fab concept, personally. I’m trying to get Sam at Mom at the Barre, Jess at FitChickintheCity and Ali at AliontheRun (so I can convince her that barre workouts ARE truly awesome afterall, haha). Anyone else want in on this party?? ;-)  (Tanya and Jo, perhaps?)

And with that – I’m off to get my workday accomplished (very long to-do list, oy) and then the road trip to NYC begins bright and early tomorrow morning (with a packed cooler – gotta keep my game face on, challenge-wise, food log, I will continue to own you!).

Weee! ;-)

barre n9ne –what’s working (for me)

<warning – uber long post, sorry!>

Well, a lotapparently. ;-)

But seriously – I figure a lot of this barre n9ne challenge feels a bit like a mystery to all of you so I thought I’d break it down a little bit more for you. Especially the “what’s working” piece.

I’ve already talked a little bit about what makes a barre-style workout so awesome, but I thought I’d dig a layer deeper and talk about why this particular style of workout works so well – not just the barre classes, but the non-barre work, too. And as usual, this is coming from me, the non-fitness professional – just a diehard wannabe fitness professional. ;-)

The barre n9ne challenge – what’s working for me:

The food log – this is at the top of the list for a reason. Admittedly, the food log scared the pants off of me at first. And it scared me for a reason, clearly. I needed it. In a big way. In a MUCH bigger way than I realized going into this challenge. I was so afraid I’d feel utterly chained down and restricted and that I’d hate every second of the log. Instead, it’s turned into an amazing tool, and a giant eye-opener. Not that I was eating bad – I wasn’t. I was just eating a lot more calories than I needed – albeit healthy foods made up most of that list, but like I said, it was too many calories for what my body needed. The whole “calories in/calories out” rule totally applies. Now, I eat the same amount of calories regardless of it being a Tuesday or a Saturday. I might be having wine on Saturday vs. on Tuesday but I’ve learned to plan for those indulgences. Instead of eating all that I want AND having a couple of glasses of wine, I’m eating a little bit less (or going for foods that are less calorically dense) so that I can afford to have a glass of wine (or chocolate brownie or whatever) on a Saturday night. Before this, I used to routinely have a cheat weekend day where nothing was off limits. Calories didn’t matter. Oy. Not anymore. And surprisingly, I’ve adjusted to the “planning” aspect of the weekends ridiculously well. I’m personally shocked that it’s not been nearly as painful as I thought. Um, wow. I’ve been jabbering on about this food log here, I guess I should’ve written a whole post just on that, who knew!?

Moving on…

Lotsa reps and teensy tiny movements – I sort of covered this in my last post on what makes these workouts so awesomely effective, but I wanted to make the distinction between the barre work and the none-barre workouts that make up the barre n9ne challenge. As I’ve said, those barre workouts are incredible with their tiny up/down movements that leave lasting “damage” effects on those legs and that butt. It’s the isolation of each body part combined with a ridiculously long set of those tiny moves per body part this is killer. The light weights used for each exercise (either bodyweight – at the barre, during planks and pushups – or very light 1-3 lb dumbells) is also pretty critical here. Light weights/high reps is an endurance style of weight training – it’s meant for increasing your overall endurance and typically produces leaner muscles than heavier weight training routines do (that focus on power vs. endurance). And this is why I love it. For the first time, I’m seeing more defined muscles. They look “pretty” versus “jacked” – if that distinction makes any sense! And NOT that “jacked” isn’t a hot look – because it totally can be – but for me, I’m digging the “pretty” defined/lean look my body is starting to take on. I credit the balance between the barre work and the non-barre work for that. I’d call the non-barre work a more focused concentration on core and upper body strength with barre work focused more on lower body conditioning (though, there is PLENTY of lower body conditioning happening during the leg work in Tanya’s long & lean legs class, lemme tell ya!).

Cardio – Although barre n9ne classes are a major focus of this challenge, cardio is an important component as you’ve no doubt seen by now. Especially since I so-very-smartly decided to sign up for another half marathon in the midst of the barre n9ne challenge! So, mixed in with barre n9ne classes, as most of you have seen, I’ve been running 4 (sometimes 5) days a week. I definitely put this in the “what’s working” for me category of the challenge. Personally, my body responds best when I’m doing a good amount of cardio so I knew I couldn’t nix it from my routine during the challenge. I made sure Tanya knew this going into things – my one caveat was “I can’t stop running” to which she happily obliged. Thank god! ;-)

I guess what I’m trying to say here is this – at it’s very basic, the barre n9ne challenge has been about three things:

Healthy eating;
total body conditioning;
and cardio.

Essentially – a very well balanced and focused wellness program – but one that absolutely requires 100% 24/7 dedication. But it’s a wellness program that works. Like 6 inches gone, “works.” It’s stunningly effective and I *almost* want to hit fast-forward to see where we land in 30 more days. But then, the challenge would be over and well, I’m just not ready for that yet. ;-)

I hope this rambly, wicked long post explains some of the “why it works” for all of you. If not, I promise you’ll see a post from Tanya soon that goes into more detail (since she *is* a fitness professional, hehe). <–and oddly enough? As I was drafting this post up tonight? I noticed that Tanya posted a little bit more on why this program is working on her blog, check it out (so weird, we have ESP or something?!)

And so it begins…

Whew. 

Last night marked the first day in the 60 day Barre N9NE transformation.

It was exactly what I’d hoped it would be.

Challenging. 
Uncomfortable. 
Intense. 
Detoxifying.

The long & lean legs class? Um, hello – EVERYTHING was on fire at one point or another, my ass, my thighs (if you’ve never heard the term “thigh dancing” – trust me, you don’t want to, holy fire in the thighs!), my calves, my ass, oh wait – I said that already. You get the idea. ;-) For those of you wondering what this class is all about, it’s all body weight based – and almost entirely floor work. Yes, floor work. My nemesis. I  have a love-to-hate affair with floor work. But this? This was unreal. And I LOVED it. The groans when Tanya said “hold up – you thought you were done? One more set!” were hysterical – not one of us kept quiet at that point.

And then we met with Tanya. Talked about the food log (which, I gotta be honest, I’m not hating nearly as much as I thought I would…), talked about the next couple of weeks worth of workouts (LOTS of workouts, woohoo!), and yes – we took measurements. I’m excited to see those numbers change – but haven’t decided how much of that I’ll share here. I’ll get back to you on that…

After our meeting, we went into round II – Barre N9ne method express. This is a slightly shorter version of their method class but is so close to the full hour that I didn’t feel like I missed much at all. This was taught by Juliana – who I love, she is so bubbly and energetic, and motivating. Between her and Tanya, we’re gonna have a blast, I’ve decided. I’d call this class the most similar to Core Fusion, for those of you who have taken that class or done that DVD at home. Upper body toning, lower body barre work, stretching and ab work.  Great music, btw.

And then? We were done. With day #1.
Pooped. Starving (the second class ended at 8:15pm).
But done. 

Here’s to day #2, #3, #4…and #60.

Weee! ;-)