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!

Exercises To Do This Week: Everyone Can Do A Pull-Up

Woo-hoo! Time for some cross-training, you fabulous runners. I know, I know, you don’t wanna. But you gotta! Let’s mix it up and work it out with two total-body exercises. GET PUMPED! Disclaimer: the plyometric ski jumps are not for newbies. If you are new to exercising or strength training, master the basics from previous posts for now and move up from there! If you’re ready for the challenge (admit it, you probably are!) then check out these awesome moves. Oh, and I’m going to show you how to do a pull-up even if you can’t do a pull-up. Read on.

Ok, first I have to admit something: I can’t do an honest-to-God pull-up. Never could. Not when I was 9, not when I was 19, not when I was 29…you get the picture. And I’m not talking about those so-called pull-ups where people are swinging their legs all over the place and using momentum to heave their bodies up. I can do those (but I don’t because I am the Form Police, thanks to Obi-wan) but I could never do a proper pull-up. Wimpy? Not on your life. Anyone who calls me a wimp for that has never challenged me to a 90 minute hot vinyasa class. Or a 15K. Nor have the worked out with me. I will dominate! You will cry and apologize. End of story. At any rate, I see the benefit of the exercise and have found a modified way to do it (without swinging around like a monkey)!

Big hand to Rainbow Bright who is the fabulous model today!

1. Modified Pull-ups

    

Grab a Smith Machine and sit underneath the bar so that your arms can straighten, but your bottom only grazes the floor. Keep your hips underneath your shoulders and your rear end hanging down as you pull yourself up towards the bar. Bring your collarbone close to the bar and slowly lower yourself down. Do 10-15 reps, 3 sets. To build up to using less weight, lift one foot. Sexy shoulders, here you come!

2. Ski Jumps

    

Fine a line or place something down that you can easily jump over on the ground. Bend your knees slightly, reach your arms back and jump over your object. Land with both feet on the ground and stop for one second, stabilizing yourself. Repeat: Jump, land, stop, jump, land, stop for 20-30 seconds. Great for strengthening your quadriceps and the tendons and ligaments around your knees. When done properly, the lateral motion and force it takes to push and land forces your glutes to get involved. Gets your heart pumping, too!

The reason I like these two exercises so much is that they hit all the muscles groups at once. Pull-ups are the quintessential upper body exercise that calls upon every muscle to get involved at some point in the motion while requiring balance and stabilization in your core. Ski jumps challenge the control of the quadriceps to land without bouncing, while requiring the push of the hamstrings, glutes, and the often-forgotten calves to propel your body up and over to the other side. Oh, and you hit that core again (if you’re keeping your back straight!). I just love it.

So, next time your in the gym (today, tomorrow?) give these a shot and see how they feel. Let me know how you do! In the mean time, what are you waiting for? Go out and run!

WAIT!!! LISTEN UP, NYC READERS! (This is the corrected version: the event is on Thursday, August 11th at 6:30pm)

I almost forgot! You know how I have ulcerative colitis and how much is sucks? And remember when I met Ali who has Chron’s disease (and how much that sucks–Chron’s, not meeting Ali. Ali’s awesome!) and how she’s is running for the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America? Well, she’s having fundraiser on thursday, August 11th at the Upper East Side JackRabbit Sports on Lexington Ave. between 84th and 85th Streets at 6:30pm. Raffles, prizes, games, food, booze! What more could you ask for? 15% of all merchandise bought tomorrow night goes to CCFA on behalf of Ali’s fundraising efforts. So, if you think I’m awesome and my disease sucks, come on out and grab some new running shoes or a hydration belt or some Shot Bloks and support us all! Or donate to the CCFA on Ali’s website. And thanks!