The title of this blog posting, I realize, is totally cliche. It’s like one of those inspirational posts on Instagram that you come across and think hey that’s nice but you don’t necessarily follow these words of wisdom throughout your daily life. When my favorite boss left my previous job a few years ago, she gave me a card with “Do Something Everyday That Scares You” on the cover and it didn’t have the same effect that the title of this blog does now. Her words within the card were deep and what you would expect from someone that was invested in you as a person and your future career. Although I wouldn’t say the card and her words were the driving force behind me embarking on a new career and life, they did continue to resonate with me when I tried new things.
This simple motto, although not so simply done when you have to take action, came into my mind when I was at the gym this weekend. Now I know what you’re thinking, how can you do something big at the gym that scares you enough that when you do it, you feel accomplished? Well for me, it happened.
I’ve been lifting weights for a while now and have slowly transitioned away from my years of being a cardio queen. Although I still have work to do, I have watched my body transform and my overall strength increase. There’s nothing more empowering as a female than to walk in the gym and be able to lift heavier weights than some of the men. It’s nice to make them feel insecure for once 🙂
This weekend’s workout called for dips either assisted or unassisted. I’ve always used the assisted machine because I was nervous about failing in front of people. The assisted machine was safe and tucked in a corner so I could get as much assistance as I needed without anyone really paying attention. That theory changed though and I gathered up enough courage to approach the regular dip bars. To my amazement, I was able to pump out about 8 dips, maybe 5 actually looked good but overall I was able to do them on my own.
Moral of the story? You should do something that scares you, even if it’s something small. If I didn’t get out of my own head, I would have never attempted to do those dips and would be selling not only my workouts short but my confidence. There are so many other things in life that I want to try and I’m slowly dipping a toe in the water to see how far I can get without retreating. For now, the next thing to tackle in the gym is unassisted pull-ups. Those will come in time but I know the risk is definitely worth the reward.
While most people were grilling and enjoying the 80 degree weather this Memorial Day Weekend, I hit the streets again with my running partner, Ali, to run in the Boston Run To Remember Half Marathon. What I really do enjoy about this race is that it honors Massachusetts Law Enforcement Officers killed in the line of duty by celebrating their lives and giving back to the community. If that’s not enough to keep you going to the finish line, I’m not sure what else is!
The race starts at 7:00 am, just enough time for the weather to remain fairly cool before the summer-like temperatures start to creep in. Sunday morning was really chilly, about 43 degrees around 6:00 am, which made us both keep our zip-ups on before race time. After parking, finding a suitable bathroom (avoiding porta-potties is key), and renting a locker for our post-race junk, we had about 10 minutes before the race began. We both could not believe how much time had gone by and realized we were a bit too casual with our arrival time. Before we knew it, we were in a cluster of people and had little time to stretch and mentally prepare.
Due to the large crowd and I mean, about 10,000 people strong, we were forced in the 11:00 min/mile section which for us, was not ideal. A lot of times when you are in those areas, you are surrounded by slower runners and even walkers and you end up getting held up for at least the first few miles of the race. This year, they ended up doing two different wave starts which was something new. We were able to be up in the front of the starting line which was the second wave. I almost wanted to take a photo because it felt like this would be the only time in any race that I would be ahead of the pack 🙂
Finally, they let us go after about 10 additional minutes of standing around and we were off over the bridge towards the New England Aquarium. The first few miles felt really good and easy for the most part as it usually takes me a mile or two to feel settled. Ali and I were able to continue chatting and try to think of anything that we remembered from last year. Unfortunately we could only recall bits and pieces because honestly, runs make you black out! One thing I did remember from last year was the lining of the police cars along the course and there they were again to cheer us on. It is amazing to be able to give them a high-five and thank them for their service while they are thanking us for running. What a great way to actually honor Memorial Day!
Things weren’t always so happy and go-lucky after the mid-point of the race. Around Mile 7/8, my legs started to get really tight, specifically my hamstrings. I never felt this tightness before in any type of run and it significantly slowed me down for the rest of the race. There are a few bridges and inclines that we encountered on the course, so I did not find those so welcoming but I stuck it out and continued on.
I would have to say, along with other runners on the course, as well as Ali, that Mile 11 to Mile 12 was about the hardest part of the race, mentally. It seemed to be the longest stretch of the course and it felt like it would never come. I even came to the point of stopping to stretch (something I never do) because my legs were not having any more of this long mile to nowhere nonsense. Ali was great as well and knew I was feeling some pain, so she stopped with me for a quick stretch and we were off again.
We FINALLY turned on Seaport Boulevard and could hear the crowds begin to perk up. Since the race is in the middle of Downtown Boston early in the morning, you don’t see too many spectators so it’s a nice little pick-me-up to get you to the finish line. Up the incline, over the bridge we went and set our sights on the finish line that seemed to not exist. In this moment, all I could think about was that soft blue carpet inside the World Trade Center and how desperately I wanted to lay down and collapse on it.
After a sprint from both of us (where the heck did that come from?) we made it to the end and were both eager to seek out that blue carpet. This race was harder for me this year and I’m not even sure why. Was it the temperature? Maybe the lack of stretching or hydrating before the race started. It could be a number of things but it definitely taught me that race prep is most important. We finished just over 2 hours which was about the same time we finished last year. I was a bit disappointed that I was unable to beat that time because I felt so confident in my training that I could do it! All in all, I was happy that we finished and that I could spend the next 30 minutes sprawled out on that carpet!
What did get me through this race was a number of things but three really stick out. 1.) James Wilson’s 123 Grow program really helped me build up muscle this winter and feel strong throughout my training and the race. 2) The Greater Boston Running Company/Club-this was my first experience with a running club and I really enjoyed it. The variation of training was excellent and our leader, Trish, was a valuable resource in motivating and getting us through our runs. 3.) Ali. Yup, that’s right. Ali with a period after her name. She was the driving force behind me doing this Half Marathon again and I could not have done it without her. It’s great to accomplish something like a Half Marathon but you feel such greater success completing it with someone you cherish so much as a friend. We went through training together, venting, sharing bathroom stories, and planning our race day without any hesitation or argument. I cannot wait for our next running adventure…maybe and just maybe….it will be the Boston Marathon 2016!
Although I used to love taking classes at my gym, there were definitely days where I wasn’t really feel up to overachieving or putting in any effort. Don’t get me wrong, fitness classes are super beneficial especially if you are one of those people who like to be pushed and challenged to do exercises that you haven’t done before under the watchful eye of an instructor. I was one of those people who would religiously attend Spin, Zumba, Body Pump, Butts & Gutts, Abs Class, etc because, let’s face it, I wanted a huge kick in the ass. Most of these classes were full of people that were just as hyped up to start and end as you were which included the typical “woot woot’s” and lip syncing to the music. There were a few times though, here and there, where the last thing I wanted to do was holler about a routine or new song.
It almost seems like there is a bit of pressure to show your enthusiasm for the class not only for the instructors benefit but for the fact that you feel that if you’re more into it, the better you will do. The other night in one of my classes, I just wasn’t feeling it whatsoever and could feel like look of “I really don’t care to be here” come over my face. I contemplated leaving early because why go through the motions of something that you have no desire to do? I ended up sticking it out but I didn’t feel like I utterly enjoyed myself as I have in previous classes. Was it my energy or the energy of the people around me? Do you ever feel this way when you participate in Group Fitness activities?
OK it’s been FOREVER since I actually complained about something, so now there is no better time than the present to let it all out.
Aside from working constantly this winter and shoveling every weekend (see previous posts!), I have done something different with my fitness/workout routine that I have never done before. I cut out CARDIO! GASP! Someone of us out there are absolute cardio bunnies, trust me I was one of them, and the thought of removing 30 minutes on a machine from my daily routine is in the area of heart-attackville. OK..I’ll admit it, I didn’t completely remove cardio. I did keep one day for short runs because as most runners know, you don’t ever want to lose that base but I did cut out everything else. The reason being was after years of playing a cat and mouse game of losing weight and building muscle, I finally woke up and realized you cannot do both. Ultimately I had to pick one and muscle building was it!
In order to do this, I enlisted the help of James Wilson, who is a certified trainer that has a number of programs available to help people meet their fitness goals. 123..Growwas the program that I committed myself to for 12 weeks and at the end, although fluffier, I was a lot stronger! It really helped me get passed the mental part about letting go of cardio because I could see a lot of changes just from lifting.
With the 12 weeks completed, spring had started to slowly show itself and I was faced with a tough decision to either repeat the program and continue to grow or sign up for the same half marathon I did last year. “You’ll lose muscle and strength” others that have done the program preached in the group Facebook page. “You need to decide what your goals are,” they said.
For a while, I was absolutely stuck with my decision on what to do. Yes, it would be nice to run again and shed some of this extra fluff from the winter. Yes, it would be great to continue to the program and see how much stronger I can get. What do I do? Well I finally figured that I needed to do what was best for me. I decided to train for the half and also keep lifting with the understanding that I won’t get the same desired results as I did before all the running. This plan will be give and take. I’ll only run 3 days a week and lift heavy the other days while making sure I am eating enough.
The quest for a somewhat perfect body will always be there and most likely not attainable but I have set goals and will continue to achieve them. What’s next? Beating my last year half marathon time in May and then returning to the 123..Grow Program. You have to live for you and no one else!
Welp..it’s 2015 and the “resolutioners” have arrived at the gym. Now I have seen a lot of fitness people on social media say things like “Hey you started once too” and “You have to respect anyone that wants to work on their health goals,” and yes, I totally understand that but it needs to be within reason.
I worked in the fitness industry for over seven years and I constantly saw the same thing every January; an influx of new members and gym users and then by March, the treadmills were free. For people that consistently use the gym all year long, you have to believe it does become an annoyance for them. You have your routine and schedule and then you have some new person screwing it all up! IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME during this time of year and although I tip my hat to the sentiments shared by those who are in the professional fitness world, I still sympathize with those of us that have been hanging on all year long.
New Years resolutions in my eyes are a total bust. People leave the gym eventually. They smoke again eventually. What is the incentive of a new year give you? It’s not essentially a new start if it happens smack in the middle of winter. Why not start after the summer? I don’t know…. I did way better during Lent (which I don’t normally participate in) by giving something up rather than setting out to do something and not possibly accomplish it in 2015. We are only 5 days in, let’s see how long you last.
I’m not miserable (well, sometimes) but for now, realistic.
Saturday marked the 5th year of the Party In Pink Zumbathon hosted by Adriana Lopez, a seasoned instructor with not only a ton of Zumba experience and credentials but a heartfelt passion for the breast cancer cause. Each year decked out in pink gear, Adriana reminds us to not only remember why we are there but to also think of those us who have battled this horrible disease. She dances in the memory of her grandmother that she lost many years ago. I participate for my aunt and the mother’s of my closest friends who have fought hard to beat it. You feel that type of energy and attitude throughout the room from other attendees not only for those who are affected but also for the women and men that could be in the future.
Aside from the emotional aspect of this event, the Zumba Party In Pink is a great way to exercise, let loose, and dance like no one is watching…and no, I mean that literally…NO ONE IS WATCHING YOU DANCE!Everyone else is too concerned with either hitting their steps or laughing at their fumbles to even think about what you’re doing over in the left corner!
Now that everyone was locked into their places, we were off to embark on an hour and a half class with the D.J. pumping loud Latin beats and Adriana leading the way. About a quarter of the way through, we were lucky enough to experience a variety of songs and instructors, each with their own style and specialty. But wait……you want to talk about style when dancing? Two words: Sam Salazar. Sam, our surprise guest of the afternoon, presents Zumba Master Classes and Jam Sessions around the world, so it was an absolute treat that he was there with us. In case he ever reads this (HA!), Sam, my legs are still burning…FIREBALL!
After squatting, jumping, and jiggling body parts that I thought were never supposed to jiggle (sigh!), we finally made it to the cool-down song. Not only in this moment do you thank your lucky stars that you didn’t pass out but a feeling of accomplishment comes over you. Hey, I just completed a full hour and a half dance class and I did it with all of these other people! That feeling is one of the reasons why Zumba is one of the top fitness classes. It’s not about how many moves you got correct or how many breaks you had to take, you’re in a environment with people who lift you up and are fully in on the journey with you all the way through.
As we stretched our achy limbs and wiped sweat from well, everywhere, I was quickly reminded of the amount of time, energy, and work that goes into putting on an event such as this one. It is not a requirement for an instructor to host a Party In Pink event, so knowing that Adriana has committed to this for five straight years, made me appreciate it that much more. You may believe in a cause but until you actually get up and do something (aka ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) what impact are you making?
Everyone writes posts about the types of people you see at the gym and they are overall pretty accurate and hysterical. This isn’t one of those posts though, instead these are my observations in my new gym environment that I can’t help but share. Let me remind you that I was a part of a women’s only club for the past year and a half, so going back to co-ed is like being released back into the wild. New sites, new smells, and an over-run population of the male species. Gone are the days of Cosmo Magazine, hot pink dumbbells (yes, this was a post last year!) and trendy eucalyptus water. This, my fit friends, is the mother lovin’ real world of gym life.
You would think that proper footwear would be a no-brainer when it comes to working out, at least for most of us. The 5:00 am crew at my new gym has other preferences. To the man wearing sandals: why bother wearing sneakers to protect your feet while hoisting weights that double your body weight? There’s nothing I like better then smelling weight room sweat coupled with crusty feet fungus. Plus, do I really want to look at your overgrown big toe nail in the middle of a deadlift? It’s a like a bad accident, don’t want to look but can’t look away.
Mirror and Rack Envy
This was a factor in both gyms but guys really LOVE to hog the mirror for 1 set of 4 of god knows what movement. I totally get watching your form in the mirror but why do you have to block the entire free weight rack? Excuse me while I crawl through your legs to return my weights to the bottom row.
I Didn’t Know You Could Do That With A Weight….
So that 1 set of 4 god knows what is a daily weight room occurrence. Props for trying to go heavy and push yourself but if you can’t get your bicep curl passed your belly button, are you really making a difference? There are also those that do things with weights I’ve never, ever, in my life seen before and that is not necessarily a good thing!
Grunt, Slam, Take A Walk
Go to gym with guys; check!
Hey, we all sweat and that’s a sign of a great workout, right? But what if I can ring out your shirt, not like I would want to, but wouldn’t you think you might consider bringing an extra? You know, before you lay all over the benches and not wipe them down? It’s not just the sweat that is bothersome but also the cloud of protein farts that overcome my nostrils as I struggle to breathe. We had a bunch of toot blowers at the women’s gym but the muscle milk infused blasts definitely stay with you.
Hey, I’m not trying to hate this Friday morning but instead spread the joys of trying to find distractions when working hard at the gym. No, I’m not against working out in a co-ed gym, I actually prefer it and not all of these observations are about men either. I think anyone that is trying to work out should be extremely proud of themselves but you have to make sure you are doing it the right way!