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I recently started my second season of TRX training.  Not exactly ground breaking news – until you consider the fact that two weeks into the last season of TRX, I had decided that there had never been anything on this Earth that I hated more than TRX (ok – it still isn’t ground breaking news, but maybe it is at least slightly more interesting?).

I started January really excited about TRX and was really looking forward to the classes.  But to my surprise, I really struggled with the first couple of classes.  The workouts were so much harder than I expected (which I know is a good thing – but it can be hard to remember that when you are rolling around like a fish out of water trying to get your heels into the TRX straps).  And despite the fact that I had an awesome trainer helping me through the class (thanks Tracy!), I felt demoralized after the first few classes.

But I decided that TRX was something I really wanted to do and I made myself stick with it.  I formulated a strategy to get myself through those first couple of weeks and I’m really proud that it worked.  Now, I still have a long way to go before I master the TRX (I love the TRX motto of “Make Your Body Your Machine”!) – but I happily signed up for a second season and now when I’m done with a TRX class I leave the gym inspired (well – inspired, sweaty and tired).

I’m sure someday I’ll face a new fitness challenge (like when I finally work up the courage to take boxing!) and I’ll end up feeling like I did after those first few TRX classes.  So I decided I should document my strategy – and I thought I’d share it with you.

  1. Do not pay attention to or compare yourself to anyone else in the class.  Every person is at a different fitness level and has different strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Remind yourself that no one else in the class is paying attention to or judging you – and if they are, then they aren’t working hard enough (so they don’t count!)
  3. Once you get over any hang-ups you have about how you are faring in comparison to the rest of the class (or am I the only one that neurotic?), remind yourself that you are most likely in the company of some awesome women (shout out to Tracy’s TRX team!).  Support them and let them support you.
  4. Talk to your trainer/instructor and don’t be afraid to ask for (and use!) modifications.  I probably should have put this one first.  Tracy helped me few modifications I could make when I was having trouble with certain exercises.  Once I used them (a got over feeling weak for needing them), things became much less frustrating.   We have amazing trainers – we shouldn’t forget to use them (even if I do occasionally roll my eyes at them when they ask me to do burpies…).
  5. Set a date for yourself and commit to continuing with the workout (no matter how much you think you hate it) until that date and then give yourself permission to never do it again if you get to that date and still hate it.
  6. When all else fails, fake it until you make it…

It’s true what they say about riding a bike. It just comes back to you, no matter how much time has passed. Within 3 minutes of my first spin class in over a year, my inner smile returned, my legs found their rhythm and every cell, muscle, thought, quickly remembered how important it was for me to be there.   As always, I enjoyed the dimmed lights, the loud music and the sense of being in a group while focusing inward. There is no competition, no comparison – it’s just a small room packed with individuals sharing an experience. Kind of how I always view the Boston Marathon, actually. No threat.

I was actually able to go to two spin classes this week and already feel like a new person.   I used to love starting my Fridays with Emily M at the Chestnut Hill club.  Unfortunately, with all of the changes in my home life, I have not been able to make that ticketed 9:15 class.  And now, I am thrilled to find that she has added a 10:15 to the roster.  That I should be able to enjoy on a regular basis.  Emily has great music, fun rides and a natural way of leading the class with just the right amount of conversation.   Her calm nature will surely ground you and help you to refocus on your own well-being.  If ever you are looking for a great way to start your weekend a bit early, try out one of her classes.

For a long time, I spied on the spinners from afar. From the safety of the treadmill and the elliptical machines, I watched the ladies ride in unison and then emerge from the room soaked in sweat and accomplishment. They wore power on their relieved and satisfied faces. Oh, how I envied them. And yet I felt trapped by my not-so-daring personality type and stayed put on the machines that I knew I could do well and without embarrassment or risk of “failure”.  Then, one morning I felt compelled to check out the class schedule and saw an Intro to Spin segment listed. Even though I hadn’t ridden a bike in a decade or more, I played with the idea of trying it and headed to the club.

Thank God I did, because it was love at first ride. On those stationary bikes, I soared into my own soul.  A few times a week on that seat, I met my 47 year old, bike-riding brother who had died suddenly of a heart attack. He met me there and filled my head and heart with humorous, healing and inspirational chatter. My dad then passed away and began piping in with a few lines and special appearances. And then I met and had delightful conversation with the baby boy who had been conceived. I rode with and spoke to him until a week before his birth. Before long, my rides were filled with the calls from my heart to allow my marriage to die a graceful death. And this week, my mind allowed visions of a new life to surface. The right class, the right teacher and the right space can support you in untold ways; it’s simply a matter of finding your place at the club and allowing your body and heart to take the lead.

As I hovered outside the door of the spin class on that Sunday morning so long ago, trying to gain the courage to enter the room, a stranger stopped to encourage me. As she swung the door open with a smile, she assured me that I could be in control of my own ride, that I could sit by the door and leave if I wanted to, and that she was fairly sure that I would be hooked by the end of the hour. She also clarified that the women who were riding, in full gear and full stride, were not there for the intro class, but had indeed chosen to ride through one class and into the next as a way to winter train for the PanMass Challenge. Suddenly, it didn’t feel so intimidating. I thought that she was the teacher and followed her to a bike on the right-hand margin of the room. She promptly introduced me to the teacher, David, and asked him to help me set up my bike as she headed to her own in the far corner of the room. She was right, by the hour’s end, I was hooked and ever so grateful to her. I don’t remember her name, but would recognize her anywhere, in or out of context.   After a while, I even had my own “gear” and “stride”.

And so, my advice to you is that if you want to try a new class or experience at the club, just go for it and leave all of your self-limiting labels at the door. It may just change your life. And, if you ever see anyone lurking on the borders of a class that you enjoy, please take her hand, guide her over the threshold and welcome her into your circle. It may just change her life.

I must say, an almost-two week respite in FL does wonders for the body and soul. Just to leave my shovel standing aside my front door and head to the warmth of longer days and expansive views of the bay was rejuvenating. Of course, with the anticipation of mornings by the pool and afternoons by the sea, came the reality that it would be time to break out the bathing suits, shorts, sleeveless shirts. Egad. Could that possibly be the downside of this sunny vacation? Last year when I made the same journey to visit my mother in her winter home, I was smaller than I had been in years, and yet here I was, facing my empty duffle bag and a pile of summer clothes that may or may not fit. And so, I decided not to focus my attentions there, but to rather focus on enjoying the break in weather and routine, regardless of what I was wearing.

As we slipped through the sliding doors of the airport, we could sense the color that we had missed for so long. The greens were verdant, the oranges juicy, the reds blossoming. It was as though our world of black & white film had transformed into a color filled, multi-layered feature.   Everywhere we looked, there was life and movement. I had forgotten how moods and health change when the cold air bites us with each step outdoors and the blanket of white weighs upon us, begging us to stay inside and cozy. Granted, I did get lots of exercise while shoveling my seemingly endless driveway and walkways. I was just as happy, however, to get the same level of exercise while walking back and forth, time and time again, from dune to water’s edge with pails full of water and mud. To get it while chasing my 5 year old who was chasing dolphins. To get it while throwing balls around a tennis court for my little guys to collect and bring back, only to be tossed again. We let the warmth energize us.

And so, as we get back into our groove here in Boston, I want to remember the power of color, to smell it, taste it and feel it around us. Since the snow continues to cover my neighborhood, I have turned to our fruits and vegetables to satisfy part of this need and tropical desire. For years, my sister has made and shared a 7 Spice Mix that is very tasty. Although it is a great addition to many dishes, I especially love it on roasted vegetables. Just this afternoon I cubed a sweet potato and beet, tossed them with a bit of olive oil and the spice mix. I popped them on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a 400* oven and let them cook for just under 30 minutes. A great snack full of color, vitaminsminerals and healthy benefits, it also curbed any cravings that I may have had for something sweet or salty. I have also enjoyed this spice on a combo of summer squash, zucchini, asparagus & bliss potato all cut up and roasted.  Brussel sprouts, eggplant and broccoli.  Really, I haven’t yet met a roasted veggie that doesn’t taste even better with a dash of these flavors. The mix is nice because it doesn’t mask the flavor of the given vegetable, but rather seems to draw it forth and match it.

Since my sister no longer lives locally, she responded to my most recent request with the recipe rather than an already-made batch. I had all of the ingredients in my cabinet and now my stash is full.  According to her, one taste enhancing tip it to use the freshest spices possible.   She taught me to fish.

I hope that if you try it, you’ll like it. Enjoy.

7 Spice Powder

Ingredients                Small                      Large
Garlic Powder              1 – 1 ½ TBS               3 TBS
Ground Cumin             ¾ – 1 TBS                   2 TBS
Ground Coriander      ¾ – 1 TBS                   2 TBS
Herbes de Province    2 TBS                          4 TBS
Celtic Sea Salt                2 tsp                           4 tsp
Black Pepper                 1 – 2 tsp                      3 – 4 tsp
Cayenne *optional     Dash                            Dash

I feel like I’ve spent the past couple of months lacking focus and motivation (to put it politely) when it comes to nutrition and working and out and, well, pretty much everything.  I have no problem blaming part of this on the weather – when even walking to the bus starts to look like a scene from the Iditarod, it is hard not to take comfort in the arms of pizza, red wine, my couch and a good book.  Add to this the fact that I’ve found myself working a fair amount on the weekends and my fitness goals were starting to take a back seat (which is so not where they belong).  So I jumped at the chance to participate in Healthwork’s Drop 10 Challenge. The promise of accountability and some friendly competition seems like just the kick in the (maybe fitting just a little too snug) pants I need.  I had my initial assessment on Saturday with Lauren and we got to sit down and talk as well.  It was great to be able to set some new goals and also to articulate some of the struggles I’ve had recently, as well as some of the things I’m really enjoying (TRX!).

I highly recommend sitting down every few months (no matter good or bad things are going) and taking stock – I left the gym feeling better (and more focused) than I have in months.  I realized (or maybe just admitted) that my biggest problem lately is that I’m not taking the time I need on the weekends to do proper meal planning and preparation, which means I end up eating crap throughout the week, which makes me feel like crap, etc., etc. (As an aside, my favorite part of Saturday’s conversation went like this:  Me:  “I’ve just been eating so much crap lately” / Lauren:  “I’d rather hear that you have been eating too much, but still eating healthy food” / Me:  “Well, I’d rather be able to tell you that – but I would be lying”).

I know that I do really well when I spend time on Sundays doing all my meal planning and preparation – but I’ve been letting other things (work, helping friends, bad TV) get in the way.  So this weekend found me with my recipe collection and my calculator planning out all of my meals for the week.  I then spent a few hours Sunday afternoon doing all the cooking.  And oh my, I made a new recipe from Eating Well for a healthy version of tuna noodle casserole – after the first bite (also, in the interest of full disclosure, after I made a second batch due to ruining the first one with my broiler), I remembered why it is worth it for me to take the time on the weekends to do this.

So tomorrow is the first Drop 10 workout.  I’m looking forward to it.  My team is totally going to win.  (Hence the title of this post).  That is, assuming the results of my Drop 10 are more successful than my first attempt at that tuna noodle casserole…

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