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I’m feeling in need of pithy, clichéd sayings because I’m battling the impulse to throw in the sweaty gym towel.  Not when it comes to the gym in general mind you – just when it comes to my dismal performance in TRX TEAM training.  From a rational point of view, I know that it is perfectly fine that I’m struggling with TRX TEAM.  It means I have plenty of room for growth and I know that the challenge is good for me.  I know that if I stick with it, I will get better (and stronger!) and I will once again be in love with TRX TEAM.  However, if my rational point of view was always in charge, then I would be able to say that I have never once spent an entire day eating pizza and watching bad TV – and I can’t truthfully make that claim.

So I find myself battling the evil voices in my head telling me that I should just give up (side note:  why do the evil voices *always* manage to yell louder than the nice ones).  It has been so long since I’ve fought this impulse (that is, to just give up an exercise that is too hard) that I’d thought I’d totally conquered it.  When I first started seriously working out, I dealt with it a lot.  There was a six-month gap between my first and second BURN classes because I just decided I couldn’t handle BURN classes after the first one (and it took me six months to get back up on the horse – well in this case the treadmill).  And now, even when a BURN class leaves me wondering where the nearest AED is, I still love it.

So I know that I can work through this.  It is just really hard to focus on that fact when I’m struggling to get the TRX straps around my feet and then I’m barely able to do even one atomic pushup or when I fall out of the TRX while trying to do a one-legged squat (oh yeah, did I mention I fell flat on my butt in the middle of the gym?  That was awesome).  And it is especially hard to keep the proverbial “can do” attitude when I start comparing myself to the awesome ladies that are rocking the TRX on either side of me.  That kind of comparison I something that I firmly believe should be avoided in pretty much *any* circumstance – but this time I just can’t help myself.

Luckily, the TRX instructors at Healthworks are amazing and Tracy manages to keep me in the game even when I feel like my only option is flee the gym and never look back.  And I was so excited about starting TRX TEAM that I know all of the amazing things about it. And I know, to bastardize Eleanor Roosevelt, that no workout can make me feel inferior without my consent.  So, I’m going to keep at it.

My plan for this to not pay attention to how well anyone else is doing (unless I’m doing it to be inspired by their awesomeness) – I’m just going to focus on my own progress (no matter how incremental it is).  And I know that in a few weeks, I’ll be writing a post about how I can’t believe I ever thought I wanted to give up on TRX.

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 have a confession to make.  Fitness Flashback is my favorite class. 

Healthworks just put this class on the schedule in January, but it has quickly become something I look forward to every Sunday morning.  Toward the end of the week, I begin pondering which songs I want to use for class, and on Saturdays I comb through my music library to create a playlist.  Most often I find great oldies in my own collection, but sometimes I go shopping in search of other classics to add in the mix. One of the wonderfully energetic and generous members who takes my classes in Brookline surprised me with an iTunes gift card for the holidays, and I spent the entire amount on Flashback music.  It was the perfect gift!

The next step involves kitchen dancing.  I already have fun routines made up to my favorite songs, and I’ve inherited fabulous choreography from instructors I teamed with in the past.  But other songs require creative be-bopping in the small space between my dinner table and refrigerator.  Whether I decide on a mambo, grapevine, pony or some kind of shimmy-shake, the moves have to fit the music so the exercise feels like dancing instead of working.  I’m sure any neighbors whose windows face mine probably think I’m crazy hopping around next to my stove, but I’m willing to risk the scrutiny.

Final preparation is my walk to the gym, when I listen to my iPod and dance the workout in my head.  I am always excited to surprise the class with a new song (well, old song we haven’t heard in a while) and a goofy move that will make us all laugh as we burn calories and pump our hearts.

Never tried it?  Put on “Johnny Be Good,” play the guitar on your leg and hop backwards, shaking your head like a fool.  Then come to Fitness Flashback and do it with everybody in class!

– Sarah

Over the course of the last year, I’ve lost a lot of weight. It’s something that I worked really hard for, and am really proud of – and it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. My main strategy, until now, has mainly focused on exercise – I figured that if I just moved my body much more, the weight would come off, regardless of what I ate. And to a certain point, this has been true. I mean, if you go from a relatively sedentary lifestyle to exercising four or five times a week, something is going to happen.

Then I hit a plateau. This has been incredibly frustrating for me. I had achieved such success through exercise, and even though I was pushing my workouts as hard as ever, I just wasn’t losing weight anymore. I wasn’t gaining weight, either, which was reassuring. But I’m still overweight, and I have a lot more to lose before I have reached my goal. I set out to change my life and I’m sure not going to give up half way.

Although I’ve known this all along, I have recently come to terms with the fact that I have to get my eating under control. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 15 years, so while I do eat a lot of veggies, I also love: anything fried, beer, chocolate. It’s not that I would eat those things every single day, but I will admit that I consume much more of those foods than I should. I am also a classic emotional eater: mashed potatoes are just so homey and comforting after a fight or a stressful day. I know this about myself, and I’m trying to let it go.

livestrong.com's nifty diet journal

For the past two weeks, I’ve been trying out a new technology. I’ve been counting my calories through the livestrong.com website, and I have to say, it’s much easier and far less tedious than I thought! The site lets you track what you’ve eaten, how much water you drink, and what kind of exercise you do throughout the day. The point is, even if you don’t count your calories, really thinking about what goes into your body is a helpful mental exercise. I’ve been focusing on the kinds of foods I eat as well as portion size (I mean, as healthy as almonds are, they are also high in fat and calories). I’ve been journaling for 2 weeks, and with my workouts I can already see myself losing weight quicker.

What tools do you use to keep track of your diet?

– Hannah

When I joined Healthworks this past fall, I was at a point of utter exasperation and boredom with my workouts.  I was still dealing with a stress fracture (my second of the year), and had at least a couple more weeks where my workouts out of necessity were relegated to low-impact.  The gym I belonged to at the time did not offer classes, and so my workouts consisted solely of the elliptical and stationary bike.  I knew that, even when I did start running again, I would need to very very gradually increase my running, and therefore needed to be more engaged in my low-impact workouts.  While I have always considered myself a solitary exerciser, I knew I needed something to distract me from elliptical drudgery. 

With my injury, my orthopedist had given me the go-ahead to do any sort of low impact exercise, including spin class, as long as I did not stand up on the bike too much.  (And of course, the edict to stop exercise if anything hurt was still in place.)  That was enough incentive for me to get a couple trial passes at HW, and take a Sunday morning spin class with Tara B.  And then a Tuesday evening class with Kathryn Z.  I was hooked.  Immediately.  We’re talking love at first bike ride.  I had always considered myself a solitary exerciser.  Long distance running put me in my own world where I could zone out and follow my own pace.  Even the sports I participated in growing up, although on teams, were sort of individual sports: skiing and tennis (singles, of course).  So, it was outside of my tendencies to actually like a collective group exercise, and I’m so glad I got over my presumptions. 

"Power and endurance!"

What I love about spin:

  • It makes me sweat.  A lot!  Like, puddles.
  • I didn’t have any machine showing me calories and stats.  All I know is that I am working hard, which is actually a big step for me mentally as I’ve always been overly-fixated on numbers when exercising. 
  • You can go at your own pace and push yourself as hard as you want/can.  Beginners and expert bikers all get a great personalized workout. 
  • All the instructors at HW seem to be engaged and concerned with the wellbeing of their classes.  I’ve since been to other health clubs while out of town/travelling, and was surprised that not all spin instructors ask their class if they need help setting up their bikes. 
  • The music!  I’m not typically a pop music fan, and can be sort of snobbish about listening to indy music, but sometimes a girl just needs a little Pink in her life to kick butt.  And, hey, if Fergie tells me tonight’s gonna be a good night, that is enough to get me through the 6 am hour.
  • The messages the instructors convey, especially as they are sweating alongside you.  Some of my favorite motivational quotes: “Power and endurance!” “You can do anything for two minutes.” “Strong Legs!”  Also, having an instructor help you to “visualize” a course strangely helps me to focus.  It takes me back to my team sport days, having a coach there pushing you the entire time.

Since joining HW, I’ve branched out in my fitness regime, and I’m sort of impressed with how adventurous this routine-driven girl can be.  So far, I’ve tried Urban Rebounding and Body Pump.  Next on my list: Yoga and Core Express. 

What are your favorite classes you’ve tried at Healthworks?

-Joanna

I am thrilled to be writing my first blog for Healthworks, and I want to begin by addressing the issue that always comes up when I find myself in a discussion about health and fitness: yes, I do love to exercise and …. no, I am not crazy for loving it.  I actually enjoy going to the gym.  But I always have, and here’s why.

It’s nearly impossible for me to set foot in a gym without thinking of my mom.  She always made working out look like a great time.  From the time I was a little girl, sitting on the living room floor with my blocks and puzzles, Mom would be jogging, jumping, and twisting in her leotard and headband.  I wanted to have a pair of gray KangaROO sneakers (with the little zippers on the sides!) and to do jumping jacks and leg kicks just like her.

 When I was a teenager, she took me to the YWCA where she taught aerobics, when it was called “aerobics,” and step class in a studio with carpeted floors and pastel walls.  She would bop around the room, yelling over the Pointer Sisters on her mixed tape, and I would try my best to keep up. From the very beginning, working out seemed like a kind of dance party or an excuse for friends to play great music, wear their hair in ponytails, and just boogie to forget about everything else for a little while.  Of course, there are days when I would rather sit on my couch than hike all the way to the gym, but most of the time I look forward to the gym because I know there will be a group of amazing women there with sneakers on and their hair in ponytails, ready to de-stress with fun moves and maybe a few pushups.

I know I’m lucky because working out has always been a good experience for me.  I thank my mom for that.  She made it fun.  And it makes me wonder, can you remember how much fun it was just to hop up and down as a kid?  Or dance with friends? Or just change out of “grown- up” clothes into comfy sneakers and sweats?  It feels great.

 – Sarah

One of my strategies for going to the gym lately has been to find a workout buddy. Recently, I went to Fitness Flashback with my friend, J., and we had a lot of fun dancing to 90s pop songs. This week, another friend, E. and I went to Zumba together – it was great! First of all, I can’t say enough how much I love love love Zumba. But part of what was so fun about going this week was that I had a friend with me. I accidentally stepped on her toe (I am just that coordinated), and we shared a laugh and a high five in the middle of class.

My first ever workout buddy...she inspired me to lose almost 60 pounds.

Sometimes going to workout with a friend gives me a little extra push – in Zumba, I definitely added a little bounce to my step, and kept me going for the entirety of the class. I knew that E. was right there, and that she was pushing herself, too, so I had to just keep going! Over the summer, my friend A. and I used to go to spinning classes together (sadly, she’s since moved away), and that was really helpful to me, and forced me to think about my form and endurance – she’s so athletic and has been spinning for years. In fact, she’s the one who got me to try spinning in the first place.

I think that at sometimes, going by myself is enough of a challenge – especially when I’m feeling really motivated to compete against myself, and really push myself to go the hardest I can. Sometimes, though, I get tired, and think that I’ll just relax for this song, and take it easy. That’s why I like having a friend in the room. You won’t catch me dozing in front of J., E., or A.! I always benefit from a little extra competition, whether its real or imagined.

Do you have a gym buddy? What’s your system?

– Hannah

I have been seeing a “diabetes doctor” ever since last October when I received my “pre-diabetic” diagnosis. He checks my food records, asks about my exercise for the week and gives me advice and encouragement.

So far, he’s been very pleased with my progress and last week he called me a “role model.”  I said, “I’m actually a role model for myself.” That interchange made me think a lot about the concept of role models. Can we actually emulate someone else’s positive experience? Is it helpful to see that others have succeeded at challenges we find daunting? I’m not sure.  Having been overweight for my whole life, by this point I have read scores of stories of people who have lost enormous amounts of weight. While I often admired them for their persistence, their experiences did not spur me to do the same.

There were several reasons for this resistance. That person wasn’t me. They weren’t living my life. They didn’t have my problems. Most importantly, they had found something in themselves that I apparently lacked—mental toughness—determination—commitment—resolution—call it what you will. I was born without it. I was congenitally incapable of sticking to a diet and/or exercise routine.

Then I was told I was pre-diabetic.  Horrified at the possible consequences (blindness, amputations etc.), I realized that this was it. It was now or never. No more excuses. This diagnosis worked like magic. All of a sudden, I was as determined, as resolute, as committed as anyone I had ever read about.  I am certain that I will reach my goal. There is no other choice.  I know I can do it because I am doing it. I am, in fact, my own role model.  I am so grateful for that diagnosis. Without it, I would still be a 256 pound couch potato. Instead, I am now a 218 pound woman who actually enjoys moving. Even more importantly—I have found the quality that I admired in all those others.

Before

After

 

– Cheryl

 Who is your role model?

I’ve been off the exercise wagon now for a bit. This is mostly due to the fact that my chronic pain issues have been off the charts. It’s hard to work never mind workout when your head feels like it’s about to split in two. It’s certainly easier to rest, nap, or watch television than it is to go to the gym when you aren’t feeling well. 

I haven’t gained any weight, but I haven’t lost any either. I just can’t seem to get out of this pain induced funk that I’ve been in since the beginning of the year. I know it will pass, once I see my neurologist again next week, and then I can reclaim the enjoyment of working out more than once or twice a week. I try to make the most of my time at the gym while I am there and I’m hopeful to get back on the wagon as soon as possible.

– Cindy

Does anyone else suffer with pain or chronic pain issues? If so, how do you balance pain, life, and exercise?