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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.

I am in search of new motivation.  Three years ago, I lost about 40 pounds.  This was a great accomplishment, and I have managed to keep it off since then, but I have been stuck on a plateau for a long time.  I’ve been taking two steps forward, two steps back over and over again and I need to break out of my old, tired habits and do something good for myself.

I turned 29 in July and I have just started to realize that this means that I will someday soon be turning 30.  I am setting a goal for myself to lose 30 pounds by the time I turn 30.  Hopefully I can get out of my own way enough to do this.  I have the skills and the knowledge, and now I need the motivation to get going and to keep myself going – not to get bored after a month and lose sight of my purpose.

I am no stranger to working out and working hard.  I take Spinning classes and I love Body Pump; I trained for and ran my first half marathon in June.  I also enjoy a lot of healthy foods and have incorporated clean eating into my life.  But, I have trouble getting both my workouts and my good eating habits to happen at the same time.  And if I have learned anything about losing weight and feeling good, it’s that these things need to coincide.

I hope that you enjoy reading my blog posts as I try to kick my own butt back into action and become the balanced, energized, happy 30 year old I know I can be.

-Johanna

I am a goal-setter, but I have never been particularly good at working toward them for very long. In the past, when I began a weight-loss program, I set goals about the amount of weight would lose and how quickly I would lose it. At first, this worked okay, but after a while the scale would stop cooperating and I would get discouraged. This time, however, I decided to set goals based on the two facets of the program that were under my control—how much and what I ate and how much I moved.

For example, I have a lot of physical activity goals. When I started exercising, I really wanted to take classes but was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I didn’t want to feel embarrassed if I couldn’t keep moving (and frankly was unsure about how I would feel with a constant view of myself in the mirror.) So, I decided to make classes a future goal.

For me, another aspect of achieving goals is anticipating them, so I thought it would be good if I chose a particular class as my first goal. Since I often found myself in the lobby looking on jealously at the Zumba class, (dancing is the only type of movement that I have ever looked forward to doing) I set myself a goal of taking a Zumba class for my 61st birthday.  As further encouragement, my trainer, Bonnie, agreed to go with me. That goal is now just two weeks away. I’m much fitter than I was when I started though I am still unsure if I can keep more for 60 minutes and we might just do the express class. I’ll be sure to post about my experience.

I find these kinds of goals useful.  At New Year’s I wrote a plan for the year incorporating lots of physical activity goals. For example, in April I am supposed to be buying a bicycle and trying a spin class (that will have to be express!) In July, I plan/hope to incorporate Gravity (We’ll see.) I have started anticipating my bicycle goal. I’m a bit scared because I haven’t been on a bike in 15 years. I don’t want to waste my money on a bike I won’t use, so I plan to rent a bike first in order to make sure I can still balance. 

 - Cheryl

What helps you achieve your fitness goals?

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

After three exciting weeks of travel, I’ve finally come home again! I will say that as much as I love to travel, I am so excited to be home. I really miss having a routine and eating my normal foods. I missed my dog and my bed, and I missed going to Healthworks  while I was away! I’m really proud of myself; while I was away, I lost 4 pounds! This is impressive because it was over the holidays and because I was really terrified that I would gain weight while I was away. I think that my running and walking habits really paid off on this trip.

Now that I’m back, I have to do a lot of scheduling and figure out what I’m doing with myself. It’s time for me to start (cue scary music) my job search. Yikes! Luckily, I still have another semester to enjoy the student lifestyle. I have a day or two to get things in order and make a plan for myself.

Today is going to be a great day: I book a massage for myself! I’m going to go to a spinning class, clean up, and enjoy the day before school and work. I’ve never had a  massage at Healthworks , and I am really excited to try it out. This may sound silly, but travel is actually really hard work, and I could use a bit of a post-travel de-stress.

What do you do to get back in the groove after vacation?

- Hannah

Sometimes, I feel like I’m becoming my mother – in good but nonetheless surprising ways. I know a lot of people say this as they get older, but I’ve never really been able to connect with that sentiment before. My mom died when I was 17, and I haven’t actually known her for most of my adult life (however you define that).

My family was never a really active family. We had a pool, and used to swim a lot, and my parents encouraged us to take all sorts of lessons. All the same, it was never a part of our family dynamic, and we were all overweight to some degree.

Before she got sick, my mom discovered spinning. I think one of her friends took her to the gym, and she fell in love. She bought all the gear, even those special shoes that clip into the bike. She went all the time. I remember she would come home from her hour at the gym, feeling so happy, and explain, “you just go so fast!” Read the rest of this entry »

I woke up early this morning without an alarm so I decided to head to spinning class at Healthworks. It was a challenging class, full of small blocks of work – about 5 minutes each – on gradually increasing hills (which were hard!) and a minute or two of recovery in between. The instructor played a funny song by Weird Al Yankovic called “Grapefruit Diet” which was a parody of “Zoot Suit Riot.” (See the lyrics here) I’m not sure if it was the song or the really great work workout, but I noticed that I was hungrier today than usual! Read the rest of this entry »

I starting hypothesizing a while ago that the more fit I get, the easier it is for me to sweat while exercising. I had always thought it would be the other way around, that when I was heavier I would have gotten sweatier faster because working out was harder work. It’s funny, though, because now that for several months I’ve regularly done intensive workouts, I’ve noticed that I seem to sweat more and more. Plus, I started sweating in different places, like on my arms. If I really push hard in spinning, even my fingers start dripping – it’s such a funny feeling!

For a few weeks in September, my arms stopped sweating, for some reason, and I was really worried about that. Plus, I kind of like being totally gross when leaving the gym– it makes me feel like I really made an effort and had a great workout. Maybe it’s a little strange that I like being a sweaty mess, but it feels like such an accomplishment! Anyways, I decided to do some research on sweating to figure this whole thing out. This is what I learned: Read the rest of this entry »

It took me a while to get used to my new fall schedule, but I have finally managed to ramp up my fitness goals (workout 5 days a week!) and settle into some sort of routine. My routine has pretty much been to go to spinning three times and smartbells twice each week; I had mostly been doing cardio this summer in preparation for my half marathon. You’ll notice that this schedule doesn’t leave very much room for running. In fact, I hadn’t really run very much at all since the Labor Day race.

Until Sunday, that is!

Some friends convinced me to run a 5k in Salem. Actually, I had planned on running two 5ks earlier this fall, in Newton and in Somerville, but for each of those occasions the weather was freakishly out of season (snow in October! Not my idea of a fun run…) and I wimped out each time. This weekend, though, I was determined to complete the race! Because of the differences in distance, 3.1 miles compared to the 13.1 of the half marathon, I had to rethink my running strategy and pacing goals. While training for the half marathon, I did a ratio of 1 minute walking for every 5 minutes of running in order to build up the endurance needed to finish the race. But 3.1 miles seemed much more doable – I knew that I wanted to do it in one go with no stopping, and that I wanted to beat my 5k time in the half marathon.

hannah_white_salem5kAnd I did! I finished in 40 minutes, which beat my last time by about 5 minutes! This is so crazy to me for a few reasons. Firstly, I can run for 40 minutes without stopping! I may not be the fastest, but that is such an amazing improvement from where I was a few months ago, when I couldn’t run for 10 minutes without stopping. Second, I drastically improved my pace, without even planning to! I think this is because of my intensive focus on cardio and strengthening my heart. Also, racing is so exciting. I never ever thought that this is something I would be interested in, and now I’m envisioning my future collection of race entry bibs. I talk a lot about wanting to change my life, and I know that I have. Really, there is no way that I would have done something like this a year ago. Now I can’t stop! Anybody interested in the Somerville Superhero 5k or Brighton’s Thanksgiving Day Race?

Finally, I should just say how super fun it is to run in a costume. The 5k was a Halloween run (it’s Salem, so of course it was Halloween themed), and I was excited to run in a costume. I wore my regular running gear, plus a few accessories: 20’s style flapper dress, satin gloves, feathered hairband, and fishnets!

-Hannah

What races are you running this fall? Leave your comments!

 

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