Guest Blog: Kim’s Balancing Act, Bootcamp Edition

Kim does Bootcamp!

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.

Good morning, NYC! (photo courtesy of circuitofchange.com)

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”).

Push ups for everyone! (photo courtesy of circuitofchange.com)

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.

Awesome instructor. Awesome workout. (and no vomiting!)

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!

Guest Blog: Kim’s Balancing Act

Happy weekend, everyone! In the spirit of learning and sharing other people’s fitness journeys, I’ve asked some fabulous people I know to share theirs with all of you. The first in the Guest Blog Series is Kim, a reformed obsessed runner. She wants to share her story and her new perspective on fitness with you. Hope you enjoy!

 

Hey, Runners!  I’m Kim; a runner, fitness fiend and mentee of our coach Abby. She’s kindly given me the mic for a day to talk about how I am learning from her and our vast NYC fitness community how to run stronger every day by mixing up my routine and finding fun, new outlets to become a fitter and more balanced runner.

Hi, I'm Kim!

Like Abby, I have been addicted to running since my ‘tween’ years when my best friend convinced me that cross country would be far more fun than field hockey.  Crazy as it sounded (moving from the desirable ‘girls-in-kilts who scored dates with upperclassman’ sport to the ‘girls who sported fartlek t-shirts and talked about the color of their urine’ team), I made the switch.  What started on a whim, has turned into thousands of miles of pavement pounding (I can count my treadmill runs on one hand) and time spent with running buddies but mostly myself – reflecting, planning, prioritizing my eternal to-do list and working through all of life’s challenges.

I like to run.

Like many of you, I love running – plain and simple.  I love it because it is plain and simple.  It is convenient (all I need are shoes, safe-footing and safe surroundings – though I’ve done a few without all of the above), efficient (I’m burning ~90 calories/ mile) and mindless (I completely zone OUT).

 

Though I love zoning out for an hour while outdoors, inaccessible to the world, I recently found myself in a big running rut.  I hadn’t done a crunch, lifted a weight, or stretched for years.  In typical type-A style, I thought I had found the most efficient form of exercise for my lifestyle and I had no reason to change.  That is until I found myself dreading my daily runs so much that I wouldn’t do them at all.  Work became more intense and my social life took precedence, and then I sunk to the point that, as a runner, I never thought I’d hit; the dreaded rut.

Pre-rut with Mars at the Boston Marathon

When the stress increased and my muscles softened, I decided I had to do something about it. I had gone from running nearly 50 miles a week during peak marathon training to nada.  I live in New York City, a virtual playground for exercisers – with everything from a Cirque du Soleil-inspired Jukari workout to an entire class centered on a hula hoop.  With unique classes offered at every hour of the day, there is really no excuse for physical inactivity or boredom!

 

So now that I’ve filled you in on my fitness journey to date, I welcome you to join me for the next chapter.  With motivation from my trainer Abby and an island full of fitness classes, I’m on a quest to try as many workouts as possible in order to find what works best for my body, mind and lifestyle. I will moonlight as a blogger when I can and will continue to run so long as it’s fun.  I will hope to share lessons and activities I will incorporate into my improved, sustainable fitness lifestyle (notice I did not say “routine”).

 

First stop:  Vinyasa Yoga at Yamuna with Nahdi Devi

 

I know I may be in the minority of runners, but I have not given yoga a fair chance. I used to think that if you weren’t dripping with sweat after an hour-long workout, it may not be worth it.  But with the amazing press that yoga receives in medical journals touting benefits like stress relief, improved strength and flexibility, and mood enhancement, and the fact that I haven’t stretched since high school, I decided to try it.

 

The instructor, Nahdi, greeted each of us, and took the time to ask our names and if we were new to yoga.  As a newbie, I appreciated her explanation of Vinyasa flow, which is the synchronization of breath with movement, and her assurance that she would always provide an option if a particular pose was challenging or uncomfortable.

 

Nahdi began the “practice” by playing a harmonium and using a melodic, low chant thanking us for attending and asking us to thank our body, which according to the principles of yoga, is the most important tool humans have & should be treated with the utmost care and respect. A perfect mantra since I have fallen out of touch with my body’s potential.

 

I wasn’t sweating yet but I felt good and not too awkward as I moved from downward dog into warrior one and back again (I quickly picked up these movements by keeping one eye on my fellow yogis or Nahdi).  Nahdi kept reminding us to take long, deep breaths (“fiiiill it up.. empty it ouuuut”) with each movement.  I wasn’t exactly moving gracefully from pose to pose, but I remained focused on my breath and didn’t draw too much attention to my amateur status. At one point we were in a triangle pose or “trikonasana” (legs wide, arms outstretched leaning to one side – see pic) and when Nahdi asked us to look up at our hand (toward the ceiling), I completely lost my balance and nearly face-planted right in the middle of the lovely, tranquil yoga class.  Trying to reign in my giggles and regain composure on my hands & knees, I returned to the triangle pose.

Trikonasana or "Triangle pose"

Awhile into the class (without a clock I wasn’t able to concern myself with the passing minutes), I started to sweat.  The sweat came from a place of focus; every bit of concentration I could muster to hold stretches for muscles that were only used to moving one way (pounding the pavement).  I had an idea of why my muscles felt strained because I did some research before class and found that most runners have very rigid muscles that yoga helps stretch and strengthen.  Muscle rigidity occurs when muscles perform the same action over and over again and then become brittle, hard, and inflexible.  Through consistent yoga, you can engage, strengthen, and place demands on all core muscle groups, which support and stabilize the entire skeletal system. So these are the muscles that I’ve neglected all these years??  They shook and as I grew tired, my motions became less fluid. By the end of class, when others were doing headstands, I was just chilling in downward dog, recognizing I have a long way to go to strengthen and stretch my poor neglected muscles (hips, abdominals, hamstrings, oh my).

 

Overall I enjoyed my Vinyasa yoga experience, and I definitely want to continue this practice. I can understand why these once-neglected muscles need some attention, and why yoga will be a good way to enhance them and treat my body like my most valuable tool.

 

As Abby says, “now go out and run” and I say “na-ma-ste!”