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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…

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’m a long time fan of personal training. 

As a bride, training with the late  Hungarian Olympic runner, Maria Kovacs, I  lost 12 inches in 6 weeks. 

As a mother of toddlers,  I trained with Radu Teodorescu, Cindy Crawford’s trainer,  who taught me to ‘be fit where you are.’ 

In my 40’s, I trained with Mike Lalor, the Montreal Canadiens, Stanley Cup-winning defenseman, who prepared me for a wild ride, dogsledding in the Canadian Rockies.  

And finally,  I trained with Shay Pastick, Healthworks‘ own Level 3 trainer and physical therapist who led me to realize that all my accumulated injuries and issues were a poor excuse for not working out.  

So there’s no misunderstanding,  I’m not a descendant of Jack LaLanne (though my  earliest memories of physical fitness do date that far back).  I am a woman in my fifties with a few extra pounds, a muffin top, not much cartilage left in my knees and a bad case of tennis elbow.  Dr. Oz says my “real age “ is a couple of years younger, but I’m no athlete and have my share of trouble remembering my vitamins. 

Finding an alternative 

With the economic free fall and three college tuitions looming, individual  personal training was no longer part of the personal care budget. It’s little wonder many top fitness experts pointed to group personal training as one of the hottest trends for 2010. In search of an affordable alternative, I found Cody Harter’s  “Lose It to Win it  Boot Camp.”   

What is boot camp?  

Boot camps, in general, are no-nonsense, intense group training sessions.  Modeled after soldiers’ physical training, workouts are fun, intense, varied, and a great way to burn lots of calories. They are remarkably efficient, giving participants of all ages a full body workout in just 50 minutes 

In fact, Cody Harter’s six year stint as a Marine is evident in everything from his intense preparation to his no goofing around attitude.  This is serious business.   People take these intense measures because they want results.  Cody delivers. 

How it works   

You’ll find us somewhere around Route 9 in the early hours most Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  You’ll see ten  to fourteen ladies of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities, likely lugging  25 pound body  bars through the back roads of Chestnut Hill.  We’re counting off lunges, squats, push ups and jumping jacks.  You might even see the dreaded 12 kilo green kettlebell passed around between team members, a cruel reminder of what it’s like to lug around any additional weight.   There’s homework too.   Add in a minimum of five additional intense cardio workouts each week… grueling calorie burning combinations of step mill, elliptical, arc trainer, and treadmill.  Already spinning, swimming, hiking  or walking as part of a personal fitness regime?  It doesn’t count. Cody claims those activities are just part of living an active lifestyle.  This is different.  This makes you hungry and sore.   It also makes you sleep like a baby. 

No workout is ever the same as the one before, so boredom is never a problem.  That is  frequently a very good thing.   As a boot camp member , I now expect that I’ll do plenty of things I don’t think I can, and  plenty of things I don’t really want to.   But most of all, I am amazed at the things I can do.   And, after ten weeks of this, I know that as long as I  stay focused and give it my all, I’ll be okay…maybe better than okay. 

Raining again? No problem... bootcamp moves inside. These ladies are smiling because their workout is over and they just burned 600 calories. Don’t they look fabulous?! (Note the dreaded green kettleball, bottom left).

Are you up for the challenge?

Cody Harter’s “Lose It to Win It Boot Camp” concludes its current six week session, on April 1. Plans are to extend the sessions for an unprecedented third consecutive run with a fitting theme of “Performance Fitness.”  The six week, 12 session  program begins April  13,  meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:00 am – 8:00 am and costs $209.00 for Healthworks members. At just shy of  $18.00 a session, it’s a great alternative to individualized personal training.  Non-members are welcome at a fee of  $270.00.  To book your space or for more information, contact Healthworks Chestnut Hill at  617-383-6100.   Book your space on line. Or try a special demonstration class on  Thursday, April  8 at 7:00 am for $10.00 (pre-registration required).  

Hope to see you there! 

Roberta B. 

 Roberta Balder has been a Healthworks member since 2005.  As a mid- career marketing manager and social media anthropologist she enjoys helping small businesses grow their market share using digital media.  Roberta muses about her experiences using new media in her blog.



It’s been hectic lately, and I haven’t been at a hundred percent this week.  I’m still dragging from a weekend conference which was, while absolutely fun, totally exhausting.  My muscles are stiff and I have a scratchy throat that I hope is only from teaching without a microphone and not a sign of impending illness.

But I do not write today to vent or complain.  I write today to say that YOU are the reason I’ve been able to get through this week.  Each time I’ve gone to the gym to teach a class, you’ve walked through those studio doors smiling, asking what we’re going to do for our workout or what music I’ll be playing.  You tell me how thrilled you are about your legs feeling stronger or your injury getting better.  You ask a meaningful question that shows me your workout means something to you. 

You give your full effort through squats and jumping jacks and complicated choreography, and you impress me with your endurance—with your drive to improve.  You keep me going when I want to stop or when my legs start to feel like giant jello-y puddles.  I take pride in knowing my job is to motivate you, but it heartens me incredibly to feel that inspiration from you.  If I were a set of dumbbells, today you would be lifting me up.

Thank you.

So yesterday was my 61st birthday. I had a goal of 210 by my birthday day and missed it by two pounds but that’s okay. I’ve come a long way and have even longer to go, so I’m fine with my progress. Besides, I am trying to measure success by more than just the scale–a fickle friend to say the least. I have so much more energy–fit in some size 16 clothes–and generally feel optimistic about myself and my life–so what the scale says is (almost) inconsequential.

I was taken to dinner at Sorellina by family and friends. It’s a lovely place and the food was fabulous. I had already told myself that I could eat whatever I wanted. The most difficult part was deciding what I would order. In the end, I had a fabulous raw tuna appetizer, pasta with meatballs for the entree and chocolate mousse for dessert. I also ate their delicious bread, drank champagne and shiraz–my favorite wine. Like most fine restaurants, Sorellina doesn’t serve mammoth portions–it certainly wasn’t the Olive Garden’s endless pasta bowl. So there was less than cup of pasta and while there were four delicious meat balls they were quite small. In the end, I was very full and a bit tipsy (I usually don’t drink much) but felt satisfied and not gluttonous.

Of course then this morning I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to training by 7. I came within a whisker of canceling, but decided that I would feel like I’d really let myself down if I did. I did allow myself to take a taxi–I always walk, but it was raining and I was hung over. I did the training and am now waiting for the Zumba class to begin. I had promised myself that I would be ready to take classes by my birthday. So here I am.

– Cheryl

With my race just around the corner, I have to start thinking about tapering. Tapering is when just before a big race or event, an athlete pulls back in training in order to start conserving energy. Some people get nervous about the idea of tapering because they’re afraid that they’ll lose all the fitness they worked so hard to achieve. But according to, tapering before a race is really important because “levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones–all depleted by high mileage–return to optimal ranges during a taper.” You do a lot of damage to your muscles during this kind of marathon and half marathon training, and resting helps your body repair itself. Plus, tapering makes a runner less likely to catch a cold or get injured.

Sounds pretty good to me – all definite reasons to take seriously. For my last half marathon, the team tapered for a week, and then took a week off. I’m not sure what I should do this time. I think that I will probably keep working out this week (I get sad and stressed when I don’t!). I also think that my training run this weekend will be a good opportunity to really prove to myself that I’m ready. And then I’ll taper for the week before the race. I’m not going to stay off my feet completely, but will probably just enjoy walking my dog and other light activities.

What do you think? Do any of you taper or rest before a big race? Should I taper more?

– Hannah

One of my serious obstacles during my last half marathon in September was that even though I trained a lot, I never really knew exactly how far I was running. When race day finally came, I was actually more unprepared than I had thought I would be. Two weeks before the race, I ran what I thought was 12 miles (according to a website I use to map all my distances), so running 13.1 should have been a breeze. But it wasn’t! In fact, the race was brutally painful. I came to the conclusion that I never really knew how far I was going.

I have some pretty cool running gear. I recently succumbed to peer pressure and bought a Nike+ SportBand; so many of my friends have them, and it seemed like a really useful tool to have. Basically, the SportBand is a fancy pedometer – but it’s so much more! With the SportBand, I’ve been able to calculate my distances better. It also tells me my pace, which is crucial information.

This past weekend, I really pushed myself. After all, race day is in T-13 days (yikes!) and I really want to feel good about this race. I was visiting a friend in Toronto, and didn’t know the area very well, so I just started running and kept on going. It’s interesting to look at the Nike+ data after a run.

A snapshot of my results

From the website, I can see that I started out pretty strong, but slowed way down once I hit some hills, and really slowed down by the end of the run. In fact, I slowed so much that my overall pace was dragged down. From this, I’m getting that I need to be more consistent in my run. Instead of starting too fast, I need to be a little more even in my pacing, so that I can prevent myself from hitting that dreaded wall (and I definitely hit it last week. It’s terrible, my muscles freeze up and my legs feel like 100 tons of bricks).

– Hannah

It feels so nice to be back in the groove of training. I honestly can’t believe how soon my Disney Princess Half Marathon is – it’s only a little more than a month away! It is really starting to feel like a reality. One of my friends even bought me a tiara for the occasion (I have run in costume before, but never with a tiara, so this is looking to be pretty exciting… and sparkly).

Last Sunday, my team and I gathered to run the Newton Hills. Just to set the tone, I should let you know that it was 14 degrees on Sunday morning, and for the first half hour of my run, I actually could not feel my toes. I think I need to invest in some warmer wick-away socks! Running in such cold weather is very challenging; normally, as your body moves your muscles warm up, but when it is so cold, it feels like all of your energy is going straight out to the atmosphere. It also makes you feel really stiff.

Cold weather aside, it was really exciting to run down Commonwealth Ave, and I very much got the sense that I was in the midst of a running community. There were so many runners out that morning, all training for the Boston Marathon on the actual course. Even though I’m not running in the Boston Marathon, it was still powerful to feel a part of something so big and connected with so many different people. I ran for 2 hours, up and up and up hill, and finally reached the peak of Heartbreak Hill before turning around. Heartbreak Hill isn’t actually that big of a hill, but it occurs at mile 20 of the Boston Marathon, just as many runners hit the dreaded wall. I honestly can’t imagine running up Heartbreak Hill after moving for 20 miles (which is a really far distance). I hit the hill at mile 4, and that was challenging enough!

– Hannah

My running team and I will be training in Newton this weekend – will I see you on the course?

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that cardio is not my favorite. But while I find the bike a bore, dislike the treadmill and consider the elliptical punishment, there is one machine that strikes even great fear into my heart—the Stepmill!

For the past three months, I have watched fellow exercisers struggle on this diabolical machine while I pedaled away nearby. I have also heard my daughter’s stories of the torture of stepping. I thought I was safe from this particular torment because my knees aren’t great. But last week Bonnie said, “Okay. It’s time to try the Stepmill.” I whined about my knees and she pointed out that I walked upstairs without a problem. I cried that the first step was too high! I was too short! It was too scary! She wasn’t buying any of it. “Two minutes,” she said. “Just two minutes.”

So I clambered up onto the dreaded machine and began “climbing.”  As anyone could have predicted, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined. Of course, I was on about level 2—but I was doing it—just like all of those other folks I had seen. I did my two minutes and hopped off—very proud of myself. One more challenge conquered!

The dreaded Stepmill...not so bad after all!

– Cheryl

Which cardio machine is your least favorite?

I hurt my back!  My hips are really tight and I must have stretched something too suddenly on the thigh machine because a few days ago, I woke up and my back was really stiff when I tried to stand up.  I could walk, but sitting hurt and getting up was really painful.

On the first day, I went to HW and had a massage. Now, I’ve never liked massages. I have always found them painful, but Madelon was wonderful. The only place that hurt was where I had hurt my hip. I am sure that almost three months of exercise also made a difference. My muscles just aren’t as tight as they were.  My back still hurt after the massage, but the rest of me felt great.

Massage at Healthworks

On the second day, I spent the day in bed. Big mistake! Hours of sleeping to endless Law and Order reruns was no good for my back and terrible for my psyche. For the first time, I seriously considered breaking my diet. I was desperate for a pizza from Pizza Regina. I called my daughter to confess because I knew she would dissuade me and she did. Instead, I made myself a “legal” treat of a steak rollup with sautéed peppers and onions. It tasted great and was really satisfying. On the third day, I went to HW and did 30 minutes on the elliptical. The more I moved, the better my back felt. It still twinged when I stood up, but not nearly as badly.

Today, Bonnie made me do the foam roller on the floor. Now lowering and raising 227 pounds is no joke. And, for those of you who have not experienced it, the foam roller is a b**ch! I whined a lot, but Bonnie refused to listen to my entreaties. In the end, I did it. And you know what? My back feels almost normal now.

Once again moving is the answer.

– Cheryl

Do you have a favorite exercise that helps soothe your aches and pains?