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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.


In some crazy way, I can say that it was indeed a Happy Thanksgiving. We entertained not out-of-town relatives, dear family friends or make-themselves-at-home siblings. Instead, our guest, the infamous stomach bug, was uninvited and unfriendly. In my opinion, it overstayed its welcome, but has now seemingly and finally left our home, leaving only hints and whispers of its lingering and annoying presence.

On Tuesday, I was remembering one of my favorite Thanksgiving mornings, just a few years ago, when I was able to start the day with a Healthworks spin class. By the time I headed to the home of some friends (who are both chefs and wine connoisseurs, mind you), I felt great and hummed with energy. That early morning work-out, time alone and sweat set the tone for the rest of what became a balanced and very happy Thanksgiving celebration. On Tuesday, I also remembered, somewhat sadly, that this year, I would not get to the club, or sweat, or enjoy time alone.

And then, by Wednesday, the subtle complaints and hollers from our stomachs began. No Kindergarten that day. No work either. The writing was on the wall, even if I didn’t want to read the message just yet.

And so, with a bit of comfort and normalcy returning to our moments, I look back on our non-traditional, isolated holiday weekend with a bit of a smile. It turns out that it was somewhat healthy in an uncomfortably unhealthy way. Even with a very quick trip to my mother’s home, the calorie intake was low and guarded. For us, there were no hors d’oeuvres, fancy drinks or rich desserts. No extras enjoyed as we dashed in and dashed out. Not disappointing as I also realized that it meant there were neither over-sugared and over-stimulated children nor an over-triptophan sedated mother.

Once we were home, I enjoyed a good 36 hours of near continuous lunges, sprints, dead-weight lifts (Luckily, I have a 5 year old 45 lb weight and a 1.5 year old 25 lb. weight in house and easily accessible. Who needs barbells?), and stair climbing with overflowing baskets of laundry. I even got a great upper back workout as I scrubbed the bathroom & bathtub, washed floors and spotted carpets.  During our down time, my boys and I enjoyed many hours of old cartoons, chapters of The Magic Treehouse, adventures in firefighter role-playing, handfuls of dry Cheerio-s and glassfuls of warm Ginger Ale. When the high drama moments had passed, we each enjoyed splashing, or soaking, in long and relaxing bubble baths.

Life is good.

In the end, I got my Thanksgiving work-out. It just came in a form that was unexpected and unlike any that I have enjoyed before. May I return to my spin class for next year, but for tonight, as my sons sleep soundly and in relative comfort, many are the blessings that I count.

So This Is What a Plan To Fail Looks Like

I’ve often heard (and actually agree with) the adage “A failure to plan is a plan for failure”.  But the past couple of weeks, it has really hit home.  I think most people who know me would tell you I’m a very organized person.  I love lists.  If I have a “to do” list and I do something that is not on that list, I will add that task after I’ve done it just for the satisfaction of crossing it off.  But one of the reasons I am like that is that I’m actually a totally unorganized and ineffective person if left to my own devices.  So if I’m not super vigilant about planning, chaos ensues.  And all of this leads me to the point that chaos has reigned supreme in my life since I got back from vacation because I haven’t forced myself back into hyper-vigilant planning mode.  This has led to all sorts of things of which I am not proud.  Like the fact that on Friday morning, I was forced to wear a pair of pants on which the hem had come undone and I had to fix that hem after I had the pants on.  If that doesn’t sound too bad, it’s because I haven’t told you that I fixed said pants with a stapler.  And let me be clear here – this was just a regular old stapler with regular old silver staples.  And on an even more troublesome note, this lack of planning has led to dinners that look like this:

Yes, that is a bowl of Cheerios (with raisins!) and a glass of red wine.  And that was my dinner on more than one occasion this past week.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Cheerios red wine.  But it isn’t a very satisfying dinner.  And since my lunches weren’t much better, I ended up snacking on crap a lot.  To add insult to injury, snacking on crap makes me feel sluggish and far less likely to go the gym (especially on nights when I don’t have a class).  There you have – a plan for failure.

So now I’m attempting to regain control.   Friday night I sat down with the latest issue of Clean Eating (soooo many good recipes!) and planned my meals for the week.  I spent today cooking, cleaning and actually writing down my workout plan for the week, complete with lists of exercises for nights that I don’t have a class (oh lists, I missed you!).

So I’m starting this week feeling like I’m back in control.  But just in case, I also made sure to reload my stapler.

I like to think I’m  someone who pushes myself in my workouts.  I also like to consider myself a “quiet” person, but a friend nearly spit out her drink when I announced this the other day, so eager was she to correct this illusion.  Apparently, I harbor under a lot of false illusions.  So when left to my own devices, I do try very hard at the gym – but I don’t try hard enough.  I’m fine with cardio and basic strength training exercise – but I totally cop out when it comes to exercise I truly detest (proof the universe hates me can be found in the fact the exercise I detest are the ones that trainers love) and when it comes to exercises where I’m not totally confident in my ability to perform it without breaking a window/maiming a fellow gym member/knocking out all of my teeth.  So this all means that my workouts on my own in Europe were not on par with my normal workouts.

That changed today.  I swore at Lauren under my breath  a few times and half way through demanded that she return the present I gave her for her birthday – but when it was all over, I wanted to hug her (I was very sweaty – so *not* hugging her was kind of like a second birthday present).

When I’m working out by myself, my thought process goes like this:  “I will do planks now.  Actually, no.  I will just lay here on my stomach for a while.   I’ll suck in my stomach while I’m doing it though – that will totally work my abs.”  Planks are probably my least favorite gym-related activity.  I did not do a single plank the whole time in Europe.  I even lost my “plank elbow” (also known as the rough skin around my elbows where my arms touch the ground during planks).  And then there was today’s workout, where we did many, many plank.

Another solo scenario:  “I think I’ll do some dead lifts with this super heavy weight.  I’m totally strong enough for it.  Hmm, but what if I do something wrong and screw up my back or break a window.  Maybe I shouldn’t risk it.  Is there a juice bar in the gym?”  But in Bootcamp, I know I can rely on Lauren’s expertise to keep me away from broken backs and broken windows, so I’m free (and encouraged) to try the heavier weight.

All of this is my way of saying that today’s boot camp was the best workout I’ve had in over two weeks and I needed it.  I felt grumpy and slow in a way that didn’t have anything to do with post-vacation/back to work blues.  Nothing like a butt-kicking work out to clear the cobwebs!  If you are interested and have never tried agroup training class, I highly recommend it.  Being a confirmed introvert and self-conscious about the way I look (and sometimes smell) when I workout, I never would have thought I would like them.  But I absolutely love them.  You’ve got a trainer to push you and you’ve got classmates who cheer each other on (and sometimes plot about overthrowing the trainer in a bloody mutiny – but that hardly ever happens).


Anyway, I feel I have diverged a bit.  I just feel 100% better after today’s workout.  Now I just need to get back to sticking to me eating plan…


no planks were done in this lovely gym….

And lest you think I didn’t work out at all in Europe, I present you with a picture of my gym in Prague (people looked at my pretty funny when I was taking this picture – I didn’t care).  A lovely and fine gym, but there was nobody there to tell me to do planks.  And I don’t know the Czech word for plank, so it would have just been confusing.

So, a long time ago one of the trainers at my Healthworks suggested that I “shake things up” a little bit and try new things. She thought it would keep me from getting bored and keep my body from getting too used to the same old routine. Of course, I promptly ignored this advice and kept doing my same old routine. I like routine. I like knowing that it’s Wednesday, and on Wednesday nights I go to Body Pump. I realize that this makes me sound like Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” (do you watch that?) but I kind of take comfort in knowing what comes when.

Well, we kind of know how far this has gotten me. Stuck on a plateau. I’m not putting any weight on, but I haven’t been taking any off, either. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and, after my normal routine class on Monday, I stayed for Urban Rebounding.

Holy cow. First of all, I don’t really take many classes that require too much coordination. I am not exactly what you would call graceful. This was maybe my first problem. But also, I didn’t really expect to sweat a whole lot on a trampoline or for my quads to feel like Jell-o by the end of the class. I kind of had this idea in my head that we would be doing splits in the air and jumping around like that music video the girls did on “Saved By The Bell.”  [Best. Episode. Ever.]  I did not think that my shirt would have become an entirely different shade of gray due to all the sweat. This class was much more challenging than I gave it credit for, but it was also really fun! The songs were upbeat and fun (and not from the 80’s – I don’t know why that is the idea I have when I think of taking a cardio class) and FAST and we stopped and got off of the trampoline a few times to do lunges and planks and to use barbells for arm exercises. This was no afternoon of bouncing on the trampoline in my sixth grade best friend’s backyard.

Maybe the only downfall of the class was watching myself look like a total goof in the mirror, but once I got over that I was able to just have a good time.  Overall this was a great workout and I will be back.  And who knows – could this be a gateway for me into the scary, scary world of Zumba?

If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought about the Tufts 10K for Women, I would have told you that it’s annoying that they close of Memorial Drive on Columbus Day and you can’t get around Boston where you want to.  But last year, as I started pushing myself to run more and I found new challenges to take on, I registered for the race.  (Well, I convinced my friend to register for the race, was too chicken to actually register myself, and then had to pay the late entry fee when I got there because I couldn’t let her do it alone when it was my idea in the first place.)

Today was my second time running this race and I have to say, it’s amazing and inspiring.  It is not only extremely well-organized and planned out, but it is just fun.  I love their slogan – Start strong; finish stronger.  I love the route from the Boston Common through Back Bay, down Memorial Drive, across the Longfellow Bridge and back down Mass. Ave.  But I also love being surrounded by 7000 other women doing the same thing that I’m doing.

I never really think about being surrounded by strong, healthy women and how much that pushes me to continue on my own fitness journey, but today I was struck by the camaraderie that comes with sharing goals and common celebration.  Around mile 5, when I hit a slump, a woman in a green tank top came up beside me and said, “Come on, you can do it.”  She was right; I could.  That was the little push I needed to get me past my (mostly mental) wall and to the finish line.

I certainly didn’t set any personal records today, but I did accomplish a goal and I reminded myself what I need to do to keep at it.  Here’s hoping that while I keep going in my weight-loss journey, I keep getting the little pushes that I need to remind me that I can do it.  Thanks to that girl in the green top, if you happen to see this – I’m going to keep you in mind next time I’m feeling too lazy to pack my gym bag, make a healthy dinner, or treat myself well.

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.

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.

My foot is ok – basically all healed. I have a bit of a cut on the top, but the bruising is gone. I have rested up, and following the end of an incredibly stressful semester, I am back and ready for action. I can’t explain how good it feels to be moving my body again. I think I used the hurt foot as a little bit of an excuse to bum around and be lazy – I mean, yes, it hurt, but there were probably ways I could have been active. It’s so tough to keep going in the thick of things. The semester was ridiculously crazy for me, and sometimes I just succumb to the feelings of stress. I know that it would make me feel better to just exercise for a little bit, but taking the time to go to the gym, or even just to go outside, somehow feels really stressful in itself. Thank goodness the semester is over! Plus, after a while of living the bum-life, I start to feel antsy. I noticed that, though I didn’t gain any weight (yay!), my body felt different. Usually, when I spin or run a lot, my thighs get very muscular, and I’ve noticed lately that my pants have been fitting differently (maybe that means I lost muscle?).

Last weekend my roommate and I decided to go for a run together. We used to run together all the time, but unfortunately M. tore a ligament this year and hasn’t been running at all. Lately, her physical therapist said it would be ok to run, but at a slower jogging pace – which, as it turns out, is my pace! So, on a gorgeous day, we headed out to hit the bike path. It felt so good to be up and moving, and to keep up with M., who is usually a very fast runner.

I’m back to my regular exercise schedule of 4 to 5 times a week, and it feels so good. I love feeling sore. Especially now that it feels summery outside, all I want to do is move my body!

– Hannah