Guest post: a fitness bonding evolution

So, ya’ll know by now that one of my sisters and I really bond over our workouts.  This barre n9ne challenge came at just the right time for both of us – both physically/mentally but also in terms of our relationship. Now that we don’t work together anymore (and commute together), we have far less time together. This challenge has become “our” time and we’ve been having a blast together – which resulted in quite the giggle fit during the stretch/cool-down in class the other night (whoops, hope nobody heard us).  It’s also resulted in a pretty cool realization – something my sister so eloquently shares in her guest post for me below – on our fitness bonding evolution.

For the last few years, my sister Jess and I have embarked on fitness ‘challenge’ after challenge together because we love to try new things and push ourselves (as you probably already know!) and because doing it together makes it that much more fun. Whether it’s Cathe Friedrich’s STS series (or her Road Trips, which we’ve loved and are sad to miss this year!), training to run our first-ever half marathon together, training for (and PASSING) Group Kick certification, the ‘homegrown’ Core Fusion 30 day challenge we did recently, and now, the Barre N9ne 60 day transformation. (Phew, guess we’ve done a lot, huh?) I’m proud to say I wouldn’t have wanted to have it any other way…experiencing all of this together has been the best part of it all!)

So, this Monday, as we kick-started our first full Barre N9ne week of classes, when I heard “Start me Up” by Kingston come over the speakers, I instantly flashed back…to Group Kick. We were training. And practicing. And practicing some more. And rehearsing for our second-ever launch (every three months there is a ‘launch’ of a new program and as part of that, our group of instructors would get together, assign tracks to learn and teach it to each other). If I recall, Jess had this song (the warm-up track) and I remember watching her teach it to us and she did it so effortlessly (and of course, for some reason, that track was tricky for me to learn that time around!) and she had a huge grin on her face. We had fun learning to cue tracks, show energy, and get through an entire cardio-intense class together.

But most importantly, we did it together.

Fast forward back to class on Monday. The song was slower than in Group Kick (it was a remix then) and we were sitting on mats on the floor next to each other. Focusing hard. On form, On lengthening. On proper form for the ab moves we were doing. And I looked over and just smiled. She knew exactly what I was thinking (and I, what she was thinking) and smiled back. And it came to me…this is what we bond over. This is what we love to do together. This is something nobody can ever take away from us, because it’s made us who we are, we’ve learned so much from these challenges and they bring us closer than ever.

So, thank you sis, for being part of this journey together. It’s always a fun ride and we always learn so much. Here’s to another fitness challenge together. Rock on. We got this.

STS – that’s a wrap!

Today marks the end of my STS rotation.

I cannot believe it was just over three months ago that I decided to start this rotation – how the heck did that fly by so fast?!?

Of course, while I made my way through my last STS workout today, I started to assess how this rotation went vs. previous ones. <—-and ahem, note to self? Don’t try to do a killer STS heavy weight training workout *after* repeating yesterday’s interval workout on the treadmill. It.Nearly.Killed.Me.

So, my assessment?

Aside from feeling rather She-Ra like, other observations…

  • Paying closer attention to how close “to failure” I was on each set paid off. I felt like I worked my hardest everytime I did an STS workout. I can’t say that I necessarily felt that way after every STS workout last time around.
  • While I did not take measurements or before/after pics, I feel and see improvements. Note I didn’t say “changes” but “improvements”…I don’t view STS as a workout I went to to change my body but to improve upon what’s already there…it’s a mindset thing, learning to love who I am, what I am, right where I am, if that makes sense.
  • Stronger legs, stronger arms, means other workouts are stronger. I definitely saw much improvement in my kicking ability during Kick workouts than before. I can keep more forcefully and more effectively now. I credit stronger glutes, thighs and calves for that (oh how I love to hate leg workouts in STS – they get me good every single time).
  • I fell back in love with weight training this time. While I’ve always done weight training as part of my workouts, I never really LOVED it. I was always a cardio queen. But this time? I LOVED STS days, looked forward to them…hell I even had an anti-cardio week which is huge for this self-professed cardio addict! I call that progress. Now I love both, equally.

So that’s that. My self-assessment: STS style. My sister just finished her rotation, too which means we’re now collaborating on our big “what’s next” plan, which I plan to share with ya’ll next week. So you’ll have to be patient for now. ;-)

**********

In the meantime? I’m borrowing a fun theme for Friday, courtesy of Erin at The Healthy Apron who asked her readers to identify their “Favorite Feature Friday.” In other words – what feature about your body are you loving most right now? As Erin did, I’m urging you all to find one feature that you love and to celebrate it today. We work hard, might as well celebrate it, right??

For me? My shoulders are my favorite – not just because they are strong (and stronger thanks to STS), but like I told Erin, they are a shoulder that my friends and family can lean on whenever they need it. And I love to know that my loved ones trust me enough to come to me for whatever it is that’s bugging them. So that’s it – my shoulders!

Your turn. :)

An STS check-in

Since I’m almost at the end of my STS rotation (that would be lucky #3 for those of you following along), I thought I’d post a little STS-style check-in.

That and I had a workout tonight that left me feeling like my childhood favorite – She-Ra. In my book, she pretty much rocked growing up. Just sayin. ;-)

(of course now that I’m looking at a pic of She-Ra herself, she’s dressed rather inappropriately for the age when I admired her most…like six?? Geesh. LOL)

So anyway, I’m into the second to last week of STS. That means I’m into week three of mesocycle three which is alllll about heavy weights, very few reps. I’m the first to admit that the previous two rounds of STS I did NOT love this cycle. I got bored with the long rest periods between sets. I have wicked antsy pants, what can I say. But what I realized this time is that I wouldn’t have been bored in M3 the last two times around if I was lifting heavy enough in this cycle. Duh! So I’ve really been focused on that this time – because I’m only lifting each set for about 6-7 reps, I can certainly go a lot heavier than I would in mesocycle 2 or 1. So I have been.

And dare I say I feel significantly stronger. And I’m seeing those efforts pay off.  Which I LOVE!

I love how the physical strength I feel translates into mental strength and toughness.

And it’s definitely boosting the confidence – something I’m totally needing now that I’m into this whole new job thang. Confidence is a MUST!

Which brings me to my next point: physical changes in my body since embarking on this round of STS.

I intentionally did not take a single picture or measure a single body part. That wasn’t (and isn’t) what it’s been about for me. I won’t lie and say that seeing physical results isn’t appealing because duh, I’m human, right? But – what I will say is that it’s not about the numbers game this time around for me. It’s the feeling of strength that I dig. And that is a huge switch for me – someone who can easily get stuck on numbers and I count that as a home-run for me – numbers aren’t ruling me like it used to. Wee!

There ARE some numbers I am proud of, though. Some of my recent strength gains I’ve noted in this round of STS, even just this week (i.e. last night!)…

  • I can bench press 50#.
  • I can lift 40# during bent-over rows.
  • I can deadlift 60#.
  • I can curl 27.5# (per dumbell)
  • I can squat 55#

I type those numbers with pride..and without fear of sounding like a show-off. I’m just damn proud of myself – for what it’s done for my physical and mental strength. And I want to openly share that feeling with you. I think we all deserve to celebrate our achievements, don’t you?? So hopefully, you agree and don’t think I’m just blabbing away because I think I’m awesome or something ;-)

And of course – now I’d love to know what you’ve celebrated lately...even if it was just a personal achievement that you didn’t even share with anyone or very broadly. It can be anything – big or small, as goofy as you like. Anything!  Let’s celebrate our successes together, shall we?

 

Having an “anti-cardio” moment, help!

Oh wait.

I already resolved the problem.

Though I’d love any neat ideas you have for cardio workouts to try. ;-)

But lemme back wayyy the heck up.

I’ve been on an anti-cardio kick this week. No idea why (well I do know…I am already sick of being trapped inside for most cardio workouts, I seriously live in the wrong part of the country). All I’ve gravitated towards since Monday has been weight training. I’m in the second week of STS mesocycle 3 (reminder – all about heavy weights, few reps, lots of rest in between sets) and am really into it this time, much more so than previous STS rotations. I usually get SUPER duper antsy during the longer rests between sets but I think I’m finally lifting heavy enough in this phase that I’m finding I need that long rest. I likey. ;-)

But anyway, the cardio thing (sorry, my brain has been ALL over the place this week…just ask my husband who I’ve been driving nuts with it all week!).  Everytime I consider a cardio workout, it’s like all I can do to avoid it. I’ll think of any excuse.

You should’ve heard my convo with Scott last night about what workout to do this morning (ended up sticking with STS paired with some core work from core fusion). It was hysterical and went something like this

Me:  Should I do STS and core? Treadmill and core? Kick and core? Intensity? Or stick to STS since that was what I had ‘scheduled’ to do tomorrow? But I should do cardio…hmm…but I should stick to STS since it’s part of the rotation schedule…buuuut.

Scott: Do STS and core. Ok, fine, do the treadmill then. STS and core? Um. Ok.

<this lasted for the duration of dinner prep, believe it or not>

He fully thinks I’ve lost it, if he didn’t know that already after 6+ years of marriage. ;-)

BUT – have no fear, my anti-cardio moment is about to pass. I found a great solution over at Beck on the Run - she is currently training for a half marathon (ohh how I miss thee) and found a great speed workout that works well on the treadmill.

An excerpt (she calls it “speed wednesday”…I may need to borrow this!):

Speed Wednesday (on the treadmill)

  • Warm Up: 1.5 miles @ 6.2 mph – 9:40/mi
  • 4 x 800m (1/2 mile) @ 7.6, 7.7, 7.8, 8.0 (7:53/mi, 7:47/mi, 7:41/mi, 7:30/mi)
  • Recovery: 400m (1/4 mile) @ 6.0 mph between each interval
  • Cool Down: 1.5 miles @ 6.2-6.4 mph

I don’t know why but reading her post on it totally got me jazzed about doing some speed work of my own on the good ‘ol dreadmill tomorrow. Yes. You heard me right – the dreadmill hater looking FORWARD to a dreadmill workout…that involves speed work? Who am I???

But yes. I’m excited about it.

And I promise to report back tomorrow.

(wow, talk about accountability, blogging about your AM workout before you actually do said workout, huh??)

Jump, jump, jump!

Well. It’s done.

I jumped into my first day at the new gig and guess what?

I freakin’ LOVED IT!!!!

It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for: That dare to be great moment, career-wise.

Feeling inspired and passionate again about what I do for a living (PR for those of you who don’t know).

Feeling challenged.

Feeling uncomfortable (but in the best possible way).

I won’t lie – I was very nervous this morning, and even had to nix my planned AM workout due to lack of sleep the night prior (don’t worry – I got that STS workout in tonight, instead). But, once I arrived, I felt welcomed with such open arms that the nerves instantly passed and I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that this was the right career move. Because, let’s be honest here, even though I was all gung-ho about the new gig, a teensy-weensy piece of me wondered if I’d show up on day #1 and realize that it was the wrong decision.

Phew. It wasn’t.

It’s like a huge, gigantic weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I now know that I’m just where I’m meant to be. I’m blooming right where I’ve been planted (Ah, Joel Osteen messages never get old, do they??). And I’m psyched.

**********

Couple notes to self on the new gig, however:

  • Working out in the AM is going to have be a priority vs. extra sleep…my commute is significantly longer so even with less than normal traffic today (some companies used today as a holiday), I’m still home later than usual. Which means practically keeling over during my workout tonight from hunger pangs. Lesson learned, indeed. Keep those PM workouts to a minimum, or at least to something “doable” after dinner (like Core Fusion). Good thing I’m naturally an AM workout fiend usually, anyway.
  • Carrying around TWO blackberries (vs one) is gonna be interesting. I either need to suck it up and cancel my personal blackberry service or I need a larger purse or bag to fit both into neatly. I’m thinking I may need to make a little splurge once I get my new paycheck…are ya with me on that one??
  • I’m gonna need a personal GPS to wander the new hallways without getting ridiculously lost. It’s like a giant maze. Good thing I at least know where the bathroom and kitchenette are located. That’s all I need the first week at least anyway, right? ;-)

 

Learning curves

I’ve recently discovered that I have a learning curve – as in a “learning to love something I previously hated.”

(hat tip to my sis for helping me come up with the idea for this blog post today)

Case in point #1: The dreadmill

You all know that I cannot stand the dreadmill. The time goes by so s-l-o-w-l-y. It’s painfully boring. It’s not at all exciting like running outside, the wind rushing through your hair, the birds chirping (well not in the winter, but you get the idea), the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the run. Nope. The dreadmill is surely some form of torture chamber for us fitness and running nuts.

BUT, I learned something this weekend. I’d rather run on the treadmill than not at all. In other words – there will be times this winter where it’s either “put up and shut up” and get that run done on the treadmill or face no running at all. And you know how I feel about not running. I miss it WAY too much to avoid it this winter on days when running outdoors is just not an option (like this weekend, hello 18″ of snow!).

So yes, I’m learning to suck it up on the treadmill. But only when I HAVE to. This weekend I managed a 5.5 mile run at a 6.7 mph pace or faster (topping out at 10 mph at the very end of the run for about a minute) and it felt awesome! I won’t lie – the first THREE miles were torture. The only thing getting me through it was the Hawaii Five-O episode I watched On Demand.  I’ve figured out that the magic number for me is getting past the 3 mile mark on the treadmill and I’m golden vs. the usual 1-mile mark it usually takes me to get my groove when running outside.

Case in point #2: I tend to get really bored when lifting super heavy and taking long rests between sets.

Enter STS mesocycle #3 this morning. Normally I dread the leg workouts in this mesocycle because there is a full 2.5 minute rest between each set. That is a LONG time in my book. But today was different. I made sure I was lifting as heavy as I could safely lift for 8 reps. And I felt it. Like whoa. My legs were deader than dead by the end of the four rounds of each leg exercise (squats, deadlifts, front squats and lunges). And it felt awesome! Normally I’d be sitting there with antsy pants the entire time, so tempted to fast forward through the rests. But today, I NEEDED that rest and it made all the difference in the world. Totally worth the 68 minutes it took to get that leg workout done.

Silly me tried to “stretch my legs out” by doing a short jaunt on the treadmill (see? look at me go on that treadmill, ha!) but ended up having to walk most of that 25 minutes because my legs were so tight that I was giving myself a nasty case of shin splints. Not good – especially since the temps are supposed to get to a “balmy” 45 degrees later this week. Hello outdoor run, you’re calling my name! :)

But I digress…what have YOU learned recently about your workout style that surprised you? Any interesting learning curves you’ve experienced lately?

Ah, endorphins

First of all – I have to thank you all for such great comments on my post yesterday about balance and my struggles with it, lately. I can’t get over how honest, supportive, and helpful they all were! And from some new faces, too – love it!

So clearly I’m feeling a lot more “me” and less in a battle with myself which is obviously a much better alternative than how I felt yesterday.

What I realized in spite of myself was something I’ve touched on before but made a big impact on me yesterday – endorphins.

Or lack thereof.

As of the posting of yesterday’s blog, I hadn’t gotten my workout groove on. Which isn’t a bad thing at all – I sure got my butt kicked last night instead- but it DEFinitely had a big impact on my mood all day.

I was in big-time overthinking mode, scrutinizing everything about myself as you witnessed in my post, and just wasn’t feeling very happy, energized or…me.

But after last night’s workout (a doozy – Kick followed by the second to last in my STS mesocycle 2 workouts), I suddenly had new perspective.

I felt strong again.

I felt confident again.

I felt happy.

And, healthy.

Now why it took a good workout to get that groove back, I’m not questioning – I know the answer.

Endorphins!

I’m not saying that the key to all happiness is a good sweat, but…it certainly doesn’t hurt things either. ;-)

Just sayin’.

Aside from that – what did I learn from yesterday’s little “balance” rant of mine? That everyone’s definition of balance is very different and very personal. And that’s ok. I think this sort of goes back to my previous post on the one downfall of blogging – the fact that we all inadvertently compare ourselves to eachother. Sometimes doing the comparison thing is good for perspective, but other times it just makes things more complicated, making us over-scrutinize our own choices versus just being confident with our decisions and approach at living a healthy, balanced and happy life.

At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.

That we’re happy.

We’re healthy.

And, we’ve found balance (in our own very unique way).

**********’

BTW – for all of you who have heard me talk up a storm about how great the Exhale Spa Core Fusion DVDs are, mosey on over to Dori’s blog to enter her giveaway. It’s for their newest DVD – Core Fusion Boot Camp. How fun! I promise you – once you try Core Fusion you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. Ok, maybe that’s just me, but you get the picture ;-)

Cathe Friedrich’s STS Total Body – a (quickie) review

Whoa.

I just had my first STS Total Body experience, courtesy of my fave Cathe Friedrich, and just had to capture my reaction and feedback as soon as I was done (well, after I refueled that is, holy starvation!).

All I have to say is this – if I thought I loved the STS series before? I’m even MORE obsessed with it now.

And here’s why:

No other weight workout I’ve ever done has left me feeling as spent as this workout - and I do mean that in the best possible way.

If it’s one of Cathe’s regular STS workouts that focuses on a couple of body parts per workout, you’re left with a burning chest, wobbly legs and shoulders that make blow-drying your hair later that morning a wee bit difficult.

So I had high expectations of Cathe’s attempt at a total body version of STS. She did not disappoint. Nor has she ever. But that’s besides the point. ;-)

What I loved most about the full body version of STS was that it relied on trisets mainly which I LOVE. Trisets are basically three sets of exercises for one body part done back to back with minimal rest in between. You see a lot of those trisets in Meso 2 of STS, particularly for the leg workouts. So I was really pleased to see Cathe use this technique not just for the leg work in STS Total Body but for the ENTIRE workout.

She also likes to sneak in some “surprises” along the way which she did in this workout in the form of “burn sets.” For example, after a chest triset, she threw a “burn set” of pushups (tricep and regular) into the mix. Um, ow.

And finally, I loved that there was quite a bit of cardio involved in this workout. Since the weights were kept around 65-75% of your 1 rep max, weights weren’t ridiculously heavy like in the latter half of STS is. This meant, though, that there were higher reps than the STS mesocycles that focus more on hypertrophy or strength. Which meant less rest in between sets – which equals lots of huffing and puffing. I’d call STS Total Body a mix of Meso 1 which focuses on endurance and Meso 2 which focuses on hypertrophy. My kinda workout, that’s for sure!

Long story short – this is a phenomenal full body workout and I loved every sweaty second of the nearly 70 minute workout. Even the core section (that was for you, Heather – see? I like working my core now!) was awesome.

Rock on, Cathe. You impress the hell outta me.

So what makes a workout “puke-worthy” you ask?

Well – none of you really *asked* this question, but I’m gonna answer it anyway!

(and part of me is surprised nobody asked what I meant by that in my random post the other day, but then again – you’re all just as crazy as me so it kinda makes sense, scarily so!)

A workout just *may* be puke-worthy if it involves…

  • …your crazy – but favorite – spin instructor urging you to turn that resistance up higher than you thought you were capable of climbing at. And then pushed you to turn it up even more.
  • …double-wave loads (hello STS!). As in six, yes six, sets of one exercise done with 5% increased weights after each set. So for example: one set of chest presses at 20 lbs for 12 reps; set two at 22.5 lbs for 10 reps; set three at 25 lbs at 8 reps. Repeat series once from the beginning.
  • multiple rounds of double-wave loads. As in three in one workout. One for chest press. One for shoulder presses. One for tricep extensions. Oof. Oof. Oof.
  • …the coldest run you’ve done in awhile, complete with husband yelling at you to run as hard as you can, and that yes, your chest should be aching or you’re not running hard enough. <ahem>
  • …HiiT work (as in high intensity interval series). But not just any HiiT work. A round of true HiiT work (as in high intensity the entire time) followed by a round of low-impact HiiT work (much of the same intensity, just done with less wear on those joints).

And yes, these are all workouts I’ve done as recently as today, if not this past week.

And it’s been awesome.

JUST what this self professed workout-a-holic has been craving since the cold weather has hit. Lots of variety, lots of fun, lots of, um…near-puke moments? And I mean that in the best possible way, of course. ;-)

But now I gotta know – what was your last workout that left you gasping for air and praying for a reprieve??

And while I eagerly await your responses (hehe), I’ll go back to searching for my inner Type A-…I’m sure it’s around here somewhere….

 

Confessions of a fitness blogger

I confess.

Not only do I not know how to swim, but…

I hate working my abs.

I hate stretching or anything to do with yoga-like moves.

I get bored and have no patience (which probably has a lot do with my go, go, go mentality and my severe lack of flexibility, ha!).

But – one of my goals this year was to build a stronger core.

So far, I’m doing ok, but not great at meeting that goal.

Plus – I just finished the first mesocycle of STS and the program calls for an “active recovery” week which means no weight training, mainly stretching, cardio, and, well – rest. (let’s not even get me going on how much I hate to take rest days *gasp*).

So what’s a girl to do, when:

  • Cardio options are limited given bum knee issues
  • I can’t weight train this week (or shouldn’t for maximium results with the next phase of STS which is all about building muscle definition – hypertrophy)
  • And, I need to focus on my core, desperately.

Well, it’s time for a self-imposed Core Fusion challenge. This week coming up I am going to do mostly just Core Fusion workouts at home mixed with a couple of Ride classes and a Kick class.

And that’s it.

I envision my schedule looking something like this:

Sunday - likely a rest day or Core Fusion

Monday - Core Fusion (Body Sculpt)

Tuesday - Core Fusion (Pilates Abs)

Wednesday - Ride

Thursday - Core Fusion (Body Sculpt) and Kick after work

Friday - Core Fusion (Pilates Abs)

Saturday - cardio TBD (seriously hoping I can run by then)

Sounds pretty good, right? I’m trying to tell myself that it’ll be fantastic but I know (based on this morning’s Core Fusion workout) that I will have bouts of frustration because I can’t hold the ab curl moves long enough or because I seriously miss runner’s high (and STS for that matter). But, I’m sticking to my guns and seeing how this pans out.

Who knows? Maybe next week I’ll confess that I now love to work my abs.

Hey, it could happen. ;)

**********

#TheLittleThings – today, I am thrilled to see the sun shining and to hear that the weather forecast for this weekend includes milder weather. We’ve had a bout of dreary, dark, cold weather this past week so the sheer thought of sunshine on my face makes me smile. Truly a little thing, but makes a world of a difference on my mood. (remind me again why I live in New England??)