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The launch of Body Jam 53 was AWESOME!  We had a full studio with amazing Jam music blaring on a hot summer Friday night, and it was a blast team-teaching with Tavia and Brooke.  The only problem?  I think I got a little too ‘Jammie’ with my Jam.

Since Tavia was wearing the mic, and I had free reign to be dancin’ fool, I got carried away on one of my moon-man jumps and landed wrong on my left leg.  Consequently, I jammed my left hip — or strained a ligament somewhere in that general vicinity.  Now, as a good friend of mine likes to say, “my hips don’t lie.”

Actually, lie was pretty much all I could do all the next day.  Lying on my good side to elevate the bum hip, I iced 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, hoping that my hip could be cured before Sunday morning Body Jam so I could be ready for Disco 2010 round 2!  Honestly, I didn’t mind the excuse to lie around and do nothing.  I felt a little better after many cycles of the icing regimen, so I walked to the grocery store.  I came home nearly in tears.  My hip just did not want to do anything.  Ugh!

The worst part of all of this was the fear.  The fear of not being able to teach my classes and move my body at the gym.  I knew I was okay because I had been able to finish class after the nasty jump, and I could get from Point A to Point B without terrible trouble the next day.  But I have always been terrified of serious injury, and this little ligament incident was too close for comfort.  I hope I haven’t been taking my physical health for granted because I’ve certainly had a wake-up call with this minor injury.

Ice, ice, ice and more ice.  Rest, rest, rest as much as possible.  I repeat the mantra, follow the directions, and will myself to get better.  I love teaching my classes — not teaching them halfway using only my upper body — but teaching them full out, getting everyone in the room fired up.   I’m working on getting back to 100% and soon as possible.  And forever after I’ll be bracing my core on all jumps to avoid jamming body parts.   I dance like a maniac, but I want to be a healthy, smart dancin’ fool!

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I’ve been indulging in some pampering lately and, I have to say, it feels good!

Last week I had my first-ever facial with Nina in the Healthworks spa.  I was definitely nervous going in, as I had no idea what to expect and had heard that it can sometimes be a slightly painful experience.  However, other than getting gently scolded for not removing my make-up before workouts, the experience was wonderful!  Nina taught me so much about my own skin that I just never knew.  Plus, she urged me to sign up for one of her free 15-minute skin consultations this week so that she can check on my progress.   I’ve been following Nina’s directions, so let’s hope I pass her test!

This past weekend, I also got my hair cut, something I rarely do.   I’ve been known to go a full 12 months without sitting in the salon chair.  Yes, I realize that’s a little ridiculous.  So I visited the new Rock Paper Scissors Salon on Newbury Street for my Saturday appointment with Sami.  It was a fabulous hour!  I was in very good hands and got to listen to 80’s Hair Band music the entire time.  YES!  I left feeling like a million bucks, got compliments all afternoon on my new ‘do and will definitely go back to Sami’s chair next time I need a cut.

This week, I’m up for a leg-waxing.  I have a few days to brace myself for the varied pains of the waxing table, but my legs will be so much cooler and aerodynamic once I’m done.  I can’t wait– it’s been a HOT couple of weeks.

So what started me on this pampering kick?  It had to have been my one-hour massage with Back Bay’s Lisa a few weeks ago.  I hadn’t taken time for myself like that in over three years.  And Lisa took such good care of my tired muscles, I felt like a new person for the rest of that day — and for days after.  The experience got me thinking about how much I push myself and how, if I want to continue pushing, I need to stop and take a break every once in a while.  Respite is good, and we all need some pampering now and then.

My mom recently began working with a personal trainer.  I found this puzzling because my mom has always worked out on her own in our living room or at the gym, and she taught group fitness classes for many years.  When I asked her why she thought she needed a personal trainer, she said, “Because sometimes I just don’t wanna do it anymore.”

Uh oh.  My mother, the aerobics queen, doesn’t want to exercise?

Okay, there are a couple of reasons for her sudden gym stubbornness. First, some of her old gymnastics injuries have come back to haunt her, which means that a lot of body parts hurt when she moves them.  Second, she no longer has to live in full-steam-ahead mode, so I think checking 50 things off the to-do list every day, including the exercise check box, just isn’t necessary.  She’s obviously grateful that her life is calmer, that all of her children are grown up and self-sufficient (we hope!) and that she has a comfortable home to relax in at the end of each day.  But suddenly working out just isn’t as urgent.

So I give her credit for going to the wellness coach and finding herself a personal trainer.  She knows how important it is that she stay in shape and continue to live a healthy life.  Even if she doesn’t have the same motivation to do the workout on her own, she is going to find a way to get it done.  If that means someone else telling her what to do, then that’s the way it has to be.

I can tell you one thing though — my mom loves Body Jam.   That’s one workout you’d never have to force her into.   Every time my trip to the Midwest is approaching, Mom calls to make sure I bring home my Body Jam music so she can have a private class.  We dance until we can’t dance anymore!  Then we go home and put our feet up.  And, because she’s my mom, she makes us each a salad to sit and eat together.

Recently one of my Back Bay Healthworks class participants came up after class to thank me for that morning’s workout.  I’m proud to report that this isn’t uncommon.  People often give me a “thank you” shout out on their way out the door, and it’s a fabulous farewell until we meet to workout together again.

But this thank you was different.  This wonderful woman, who always comes into the studio with a smile on her face, stopped for a minute after class to tell me how much she appreciates  that I squeeze a tough workout into a 30-minute class and that I change things up all the time.  It meant so much to me that she took the time to let me know.  And it means the world to me to know that those 30 minutes make a difference.

Ultimately, I appreciate that she comes to class–that she finds time in her busy schedule to make it to the gym.  I am happy to see everyone who comes to class and exercises. Thank goodness for all of the people doing something good for themselves by moving their bodies!   One of my coworkers came to Body Pump for the first time not long ago, and she complained of sore muscles for three days afterward.  Unpleasant?  Sure.  But my hope is that she will quickly start to see the very pleasant benefits of her hard work and will get hooked on the exercise.  She took a chance on coming to my class, and I know it wasn’t a small deal, but I suspect she may even have had some fun!

So, you can bet I’ll be bugging my coworker to come back for Body Pump-round 2, and I can promise everyone in my morning classes that I’ll be working on new moves to challenge them in that quick half hour we have before the rest of the day takes over.

I had a new experience last Friday night.  My friend Carolyn had organized a small group for drinks and snacks—a fun weekend gathering.  When I met up with everyone, I found Carolyn’s friends and colleagues as charming and interesting as usual, and we all quickly started chatting.  As can happen when a table full of medical professionals, gym instructors and fitness-conscious individuals come together, the conversation turned to recent news of obesity epidemics and health concerns.  There was much discussion over the high percentage of Americans who are obese, about the enormous portions served in American restaurants, and about the lack of pedestrian-friendly cities in the U.S.

It was at this point in the conversation that I realized I was one of only two Americans at the table, and I had the unique opportunity to hear the observations of my acquaintances from Singapore, Greece, and Morocco.  One of the women noted how accustomed she has become to her large coffee with cream and Splenda each morning.  Now, when she visits her home country, she is surprised by the tiny coffee cups and notices the normal servings of everything from coffee to dinner entrees in Morocco seem small compared to the average in the U.S.  I really could not refute any of the negative commentary about Americans’ eating habits, because the observations were scarily true about the enormous frozen coffee drinks packed with sugar, the gigantic platters of nachos and fried finger food for appetizers, and desserts large enough to satisfy the entire group seated around our table.  Of course the problem is, because we are so used to the more-is-better portions, we are often not satisfied with less, or smaller, or what is actually appropriate.  None of this is news, but it struck me anew when told from a different perspective.

I began feeling a little depressed, honestly.  I felt proud knowing that the two American representatives in this wonderful mix of nationalities were both healthy, fit examples of people who enjoy life in moderation.  But I suddenly felt weighed down by the huge task in front of us as a nation of food-lovers.  I realized again the long road ahead of many people who join the gym after years of over-indulging.  It’s a lot of work to get back in shape, and it’s even harder work to shed pounds and change long-standing habits.  But we need to do it.  It’s important and, though it can definitely be made more fun with fabulous music and a motivated group of fellow exercisers in the studio, we do all need to get to work!

On this day I am grateful to my mother who always served colorful meals with lots of fruits and veggies (on small dinner plates), who locked us out of the house and told us to run around in the yard as children, and who recently put herself through rigorous fitness testing so she can improve her health.  I have learned from the best!

A few weeks ago I got an email from one of my former students.  Mary was not one of my group fitness students from the gym, she was one of my wonderful ninth graders when I taught high school in Minnesota.  Of course, Mary is grown up now.  And she was sending me an email to announce that she has just completed her group exercise instructor certification.  I am thrilled!

I was bursting with pride reading that this beautiful, intelligent young woman is well and wants to help others be well, too.  Mary will always live in my teacher memory as a bright and energetic student who could improve my day just by walking through the classroom door.  I was more than happy to oblige her email request for teaching tips.  In fact, I sent her everything I could find in my teaching files about water aerobics routines and technique.

This summer, Mary will teach water aerobics at the community pool in her hometown, the same town where she was once my English student and where I also once taught water aerobics during summer vacation.  Mary will do a fantastic job, I have no doubt.  I’m just so excited for her to begin teaching group fitness, as I’m excited for the lucky gals who will get to take her classes.

If I had one little tiny bit to do with this, I’m absolutely delighted.  But Mary has always believed in leading a healthy lifestyle and, in the end, there is another fit person out there helping others to get fitter.  Plus, I think Mary is really going to have fun sharing her love of exercise with others.  It’s a good day for everyone.

I was totally spoiled at the recent Healthworks Blogger Bash.  What a party!  I finally got to meet some of the other bloggers, and some lovely women who have been hiding out in the back of my classes.  We were all treated to cocktails at Alibi.  I was good though, and got myself home by 10 p.m. to rest up for my early-morning classes at the Back Bay HW the next morning.  Fitness Flashback and Body Express were even better this time because I wore my brand new sports bra, courtesy of NUX and my blogger swag bag.  What’s better than new socks?  New sports bras, of course!

I have to say, I was daunted by the pale pink color of the sports bra I was given, since I’m sort of an always-feels-safer-in-black kinda gal.  But there was just enough black piping around the edges to make me feel at home.  The luxe-but-stretchy fabric definitely didn’t hurt either.  I was lookin’ pretty darn good for 6:30 in the morning, and I felt great (as in fully supported) as we started our jumping jacks and 80’s style jogs and arm combo patterns.

This morning’s line-up: a little Kenny Loggins, a little Pat Benatar, a little Starship.  Outstanding way to start the weekend!  I was pretty in pink, feeling like a goddess — even if I was sweating like a banshee.   You can bet this new NUX sports bra will automatically be in the weekly workout wear rotation, right to the top of the pile.

– Sarah

This morning as my bus crossed Mass Ave Bridge, I was heartened to see so many people walking and biking.  I usually listen to NPR on my iPod radio or read Newsweek during my commute, but I always look up as we cross the Charles River and take in the view of my adopted city through the windows of the No. 1 bus.

Boston is vastly different from my Midwestern hometown in many ways, but one of the reasons I chose to move to Boston was so I could live in a place where I do not have to drive or own a car.  Walking is my favorite mode of transportation, and spring weather reminds me how much I love using my feet to get from Point A to Point B.

In Minnesota I drove everywhere, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the world’s best driver!  However, every friend in Minnesota has a driveway or free street parking, all stores have parking lots, and many businesses even have drive-through windows so you don’t even have to get out of your car at all to order coffee, do your banking, pick up dry-cleaning, or return DVDs.  One summer when I was in a car accident that crunched my little red Chevy, I was determined to bike or walk everywhere while my car was repaired.  This goal proved nearly impossible in a city built for driving.  And it was kind of ridiculous that I spent an hour walking to teach an aerobics class and then an hour walking all the way back because I had to go very much out of my way to avoid the highway overpass standing between the gym and my apartment.

I hope I never take for granted the walk-ability of Boston.  My favorite restaurants are all within a 20-minute walk from my apartment, I can speed-walk to the Back Bay Healthworks in 10 minutes and, if I want to see whether there are any Boston Ballet tickets for the Sunday afternoon performance, I can walk to the Opera House, too.  I have had to transition my shoe collection from stilettos and fiercely-pointed toes over to flats and rounder wedges for safety reasons but, when the sun comes out and it’s warm enough for flip-flops and tank tops, it thrills me to see how many Bostonians do the city walk.  Of course, this morning I watched them from my bus seat, but I know that if I want to walk to work in the morning, I can.  It takes an hour, and it’s hard to do on the days I carry a gym bag (which is pretty much every day).  But I’m in great company when I commute to work on foot.  Walking will always be better than my rural commute on a two-lane highway, going 20 mph, stuck behind a John Deere tractor.

So tie on those sneakers and walk to your next destination.  Just watch out for the cobblestones!

I love push-ups.  I would never think of them as punishment.  But recently I reconsidered.  I considered making the girl with the cell phone do push-ups for interrupting my class—and for interrupting everyone else’s workout.

It’s not like I haven’t seen this before.  We all see it all the time—everywhere, including the gym.  In the studio I’ve heard cell phones ring out over the music, seen people slide phones under their benches just before class begins, and noticed the flashing light of a phone vibrating in the corner.  All incidents are pesky but still less troubling than the girl a few weeks ago who was still talking on her phone as she walked into class five minutes late and who continued talking on her phone as she gathered the necessary equipment.  Not until about 10 minutes into class, once she had set everything up, did she end her call.  If I had it to do over, I would say something to her, but at the time I didn’t want to rudely call out her rudeness!  Plus, I generally think, “We’re all adults here.  People know they can’t talk on the phone during a class, don’t they?”

More recently, I’ve noticed during the brief breaks when I direct everyone to grab water or to switch equipment, there are women checking cell phones and responding to messages mid-workout.  Perhaps I am an extremely unimportant person, but I have never gotten a text message that couldn’t wait until I was done working out.

Naturally this lack of etiquette is upsetting because I find it hard to concentrate on teaching when I am sidetracked by a cell phone.  Not only that, I put time and thought into preparing for class and, while it’s an open fitness forum, talking or texting on a cell phone during my class is simply inconsiderate.

But the most disturbing part of this cell phone discourtesy, is that these women are letting their workouts be interrupted.  Your workout should be for YOU.  It should be your time free from distraction.  It’s a time to de-stress and do something good for your body.  Reserve your workout to focus on yourself and your own health.  And guard it fiercely!

When you walk into the gym or into the studio for class, I encourage you to let everything go for that brief time.  There are a lot of important things out there for us to worry about, but doesn’t our health take priority?

– Sarah

Twice in the past week, I have heard from women at the gym that coming to group exercise class has kept them going, not just physically but emotionally or spiritually.  These admissions absolutely floor me every time and I think, “Oh yeah, it’s not just about the muscles and the calorie-burning.”

It is always a DUH moment for me.   “Hello, Sarah, there is a bigger picture!”  But I am still always amazed and truly humbled to hear from my class members that exercising with other women helps them heal a broken heart, or that looking forward to a class each week keeps them afloat through illness and recovery.  First of all, I never know what to say.  When I taught ninth graders,  I always knew what to say to my young students in such moments.   But with the awe-inspiring women in my classes, I am dumbfounded.  It’s like “5-6-7-8” or “squeeze your glutes” are suddenly the only words in my vocabulary.  I feel safe behind the microphone or, strangely,  standing in front of the class.  But I’m speechless, powerless,  when faced with someone who feels pain that is not from too many reps or too much weight.

Second, I feel overwhelmed by the sense that I might actually be an important part of someone’s experience.  Sure, I know that providing exercise opportunities for fellow women is really important.  But I have trouble thinking about what other significance a step class might have because I become weighed down with the feeling that I must be more than just the leader of a set of push-ups.  I’m not trying to have illusions of grandeur here — just absorbing the fact that when we step into a studio to sweat and strive together, we become connected.  Sure, you may put your equipment in the corner and try to hide in the back of the room, but you are part of the class.  You are part of something someone else in that room needs — a team, a support group, a network.

So I take a deep breath and overcome my fear because I realize the big picture is just that–that we women are there for each other, as a group fitness class getting our cardio on, as a web of gym members cheering each other on, not just through weight-loss and strength-training but through life, love and loss in general.  Instead of fretting over the burden, I should embrace the ability to be there for someone, knowing that looking out at each of the women in each of my classes every time I teach most certainly heartens me more than I can express.

When we workout in a group, we get more than just the workout, we get each other, too.

– Sarah