I’m a sucker for a bargain. I buy sale items, even if I don’t absolutely need them. So when I started to climb out of my fitness rut and decided to recharge and diversify my fitness routine, I took notice of all the deal-of-the-day fitness-related offers that flooded my email inbox. Everything from a Groupon trapeze cardio deal to a swanky pilates reformer offer on Living Social. Again, no reason for boredom wherever you are (these deals are all over the U.S.)! Bargains and promises to whip me back in shape? Done! I took note of one email in particular with the subject: “Holistic fitness draws raves and gives results – up to 73% off classes.” I opened the message and saw that the class met .2 miles from my apartment; no commuter excuse for being lazy. Luckily my credit card information was saved from one-too-many bargain clothing purchases (none of which helped me out of my rut or promised holistic wellness!), so with a few clicks, I bought a very bargain-priced 5-pack of classes to Circuit of Change.
I went to the website to register for my first class and poked around to learn that the instructor, Brian, is a gymnast, Ironman triathlete, and yogi who leads a 60-minute “Mind-body Bootcamp” that combines plyometrics, body weight exercises, sprint interval training, kickboxing and core training. I was intrigued by the Ironman/yogi creds, and the workout sounded fun and challenging; just the right mix of new and exciting moves for my tired running legs and weak upper body. I was a bit nervous on my first day of bootcamp since it seemed that most people knew each other, but Brian walked up and immediately introduced himself then gave me my first-day peptalk: “listen to your body to gauge how it responds to the jumping and circuit training, and take a break if it gets too strenuous. Breathe and have fun!” His positive energy was infectious, so I was ready to sweat and push myself.
We started with a few laps around the pier and “circled up” to stretch, just like high school lacrosse practice. As Brian led our stretches (many yoga-based), he briefed us on the importance of breathing, and taught us how to breathe deeply using the Ujjayi technique (in and out through the nose). With each inhale, he asked us to take in the good, healing oxygen, and with each exhale, we released toxins and negative thoughts. Though I could hear car engines revving and horns honking on the west side highway, I tried to focus solely on my breathing. I liked the idea of letting go of my day, my anxiety, my stress. Brian then asked us to create an intention for our workout (mine: “don’t make a fool of yourself and don’t throw up”).
From spiritual stretching, we moved into our first circuit which included jumping jacks, squat thrusts, high-knees and mountain climbers. We were working out in a relatively small area, but my heart was thumping. I was gasping and needed every second of the 2 minute breaks in between the 4-6 minute circuits The workout continued with abdominal moves consisting of planks, bicycles, and time on our backs lowering/raising outstretched legs. There were sprints, tricep dips on park benches and step-ups on ledges. I wasn’t wearing a watch, but when Brian said we’d be closing the class with some yoga and stretching, I was both relieved and surprised to know the hour had passed so quickly.
It’s a great workout and though it’s tough to measure my aerobic capacity or mile times because I’m only running recreationally right now, this is a workout that I look forward to doing and one in which I feel like I’m burning a ton of energy and testing my fitness limits. I have found myself breathing deeply to work through stress during other activities (be it a workout or a tough day at the office) as a result of Brian’s focus on the ujjayi technique. Though I could technically do these exercises on my own, I know I’m not going to (and I wouldn’t have Brian to correct my form and repeatedly remind me to “breathe!”). And working out in a group environment motivates me to keep up with my classmates. If I’m going to dedicate 60 minutes to my workout, I want to feel like I’m surrounded by others who are as into it as I am.
For everyone out there looking to mix up a running routine or for folks like me who are re-igniting their workouts, I’d recommend trying a bootcamp class. If you’re deep into marathon training, this type of cross-training may be a bit hard on your knees, but as Abby has told us, workouts that raise your heart rate to a high-percentage of your maximum (VO2 max), can help you improve your overall cardiorespiratory endurance (which = faster, longer runs!). Overall, bootcamp classes offer a fun and variable workout, burn a lot of energy and often work out your whole body. Do a quick search to find bootcamp programs in your area or subscribe to one of the many daily deal sites out there and see what pops up. You may get more than you bargained for!