Friday, July 27, 2012

Aerobic Step Class: Michelle Style

I have recently joined a new gym due to moving, so I am not completely settled in to all the classes I would like to take. I have taken a bit of a running break after the Joplin Memorial Run debacle, so classes are a great way for me to really push myself. The summer is apparently a wishy-washy time at this gym because trainers take turns covering classes while the normal trainers take vacations. I was so pumped to have an easy day while the normal spin instructor was gone, but had another bumpy ride when she returned. I have heard people around the gym, trainers included, talk about how crazy-intense Lori is in her classes. In true Michelle spirit, I met Lori today in Aerobic Step and Sculpt class.

I have been thinking that I would try Step class, but I wasn't sure because I don't have the best balance. I saw people in Step last weekend through the window, and it looked like SO MUCH FUN! I couldn't wait to go this week. I didn't make it on Wednesday thanks to PennDOT and their ridiculous DMV system, so I went in today ready to go. I made sure to get there early so I could try to scope out what supplies to get out and secure a spot in the back of the room. I kept waiting to see the instructor's equipment magically appear as it so often does before a class starts, but to no avail. When I saw other regulars I noticed from Spin go in the room, I started to feel pretty good about the whole thing.

I should not have felt good about the whole thing. The reason the instructor's things didn't magically appear was because the normal instructor was gone, and his substitute was the infamous Lori. She was like a combination of Jersey Shore and Billy Blanks. She immediately informed us to get the equipment she wanted us to have and told us that she does mostly advanced workouts, but she assured us that she would try to take it easy. After the class was over, she was so proud of herself for giving us a "piece of cake workout." Believe me, no cake. The combinations were hard, and she kept saying, "You gotta commit to learning  the sequence, people!" I tried my best, and despite falling over when she was teaching from the back of the room, aka putting me front and center with her, I think I did a pretty good job for pushing through my first ever Step class with an infamously intense trainer.

When she finally stretched us out, I was proud of myself for making it through. As we were putting our equipment away, she came toward me yelling, "You did it, Cookie! You made it through your first Step!" I had informed her that it was my first time when she asked my name before we started. I admitted that it was super hard, but lots of fun. Then she told us all that she was sorry for going a little over time because her classes are always an hour and fifteen minuets long to really get the cardio in. I looked at the clock a bit confused. I am bad with numbers after all, so I just assumed that I didn't know how to tell time. Then everyone in the room corrected her. The class, which is scheduled for one hour, lasted an hour and forty-five minuets today with Lori. Apparently, the universe is trying to pay me back for that whole, "Challenge yourself! Get out of your comfort zone to see results!" thing I posted yesterday.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Michelle's 4 C's of Health and Fitness

I am by no means a professional or expert in the area of health or fitness. This blog contains my stories, what motivates me, and second-hand knowledge from reading books about health, fitness, and nutrition. So today, I am going to share some rules to live by when it comes to health, wellness, fitness, and nutrition. These rules can be applied pretty much across the board for all areas leading to wellness. Here are my four C's of Health and Wellness. I know this is a long one, but please be sure to read all the way to the end.


None of the rest of these rules will matter if this one is not applied with diligence. We all know that there has to be a commitment to consistency, or your goals will never be reached. I know that I have not met my goals because I have not been completely consistent and committed. If you cheat on your "diet," you know that you are not going to lose weight, reverse a disease, gain more energy, or whatever it is you are trying to gain by following a certain "diet." Too many people think of diet as something that is temporary, but it is important to think of it as all things you consume in general. Be consistent. "Dieting" is not consistency.

When it comes to exercise, the same principal applies. You must be consistent. If you, or a trainer, plans a workout routine for your goals, you must be consistent. What good does a plan do if you only halfway follow it? What good is it to only go to the gym, or only workout, if you feel like it that day. Is it ok to take a day off if you are just really having a rough day? Sure, but that should be the exception and not the rule. The rule is consistency.


Challenge yourself when you workout. Being comfortable will not result in progress. I have found that often, and sometimes unintentionally, I don't challenge myself. I start doubting whether or not I can run one more mile, or if I can make it to the end of spin class, or I tell myself that I don't deserve or belong in the weight room. All those things simply are not true. Do not underestimate yourself. You are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for. I know that because I have realized the same thing. And along with that, it is important to challenge yourself to accept that you are worth the challenge. 

Many of you have probably seen my Lesser of Evils post and think that I need to challenge myself in the area of nutrition a little more, and to that, I'd say you're right, but it is a process I am challenging myself through lesser of evils. This week, I switched out half of the lean beef in our dinners for ground turkey. I am taking on a series of challenges to form new habits. Nutrition is definitely one of my weaker areas, which is why challenging myself to try new things and learn more about what I put in my body and why, and  I am trying to dedicate myself to make it a priority.


Now, in my Lesser of Evils post, I also addressed that nutrition and diet should be made up of conscious decisions. Everything you eat has a 100% direct impact on your body. I think as a society, we both forget and deny that fact. Be conscious of what is going in your body because it will affect your health, well-being, energy levels, and so much more. It is also important to be conscientious of the food as it is consumed. Mindless eating has no place in a healthy diet. You are better than that. Be conscientious of your health. We as a society also often put things off until there is a problem. Be aware of how your body works and feels, and take care of possible health issues as soon as possible. Be on offense instead of defense, and start being proactive about your health.

I have been reading The Body Sculpting Bible, and I learned something that is so simple, yet very fascinating to me. When working out, it is important to focus on the work your body should be doing. If you are lifting weights, it is important to think about and focus on the muscle that a particular lift should be targeting to monitor whether or not you are targeting what you should be. In spin class today, I noticed that the instructor kept pointing out the same thing. She would say, "This jog should be working your quads," and things like that. I was then able to hone in on my form to get the right muscles moving. When running, I have also found that it is important to focus on what my body is doing. I know that it can be difficult when you feel like you can't go any more, but when you get to that point, it is time to focus on breathing and relaxing the parts of your body that might be tensing up and expending extra energy.


Lastly, it is important to be cautious. Although challenging yourself makes change happen, pushing yourself to the point of injury or over training is never going to be advantageous. Paying attention to your body, while keeping your goals in mind, and being honest with yourself, is going to really help you be cautious when you're training or adapting to changes in your diet. Keep in mind that changes should be realistic and balanced between challenging and cautious. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lesser of Evils

I love soda. It's terrible, I know, but I seriously love soda. It is a problem. I am a firm believer in lesser of evils because, let's face it, not all of us have an iron will. I know people who do, and it seems like such a simple thing; you just choose to do or not do something, and that's all there is to it. My brother-in-law Nick is one of those people. He resolved to cut out soda and candy, and he started working out. He did it, and he lost a ton of weight. Now, he is a fitness freak, gym junkie, and diet conscious. I don't mean those to be insults either because I envy his dedication. But as for me, I will continue to just try to choose the lesser of evils.

If you are a soda lover like me, I might have a solution for both of us. I do my best not to buy soda when grocery shopping. If I see it in the fridge, I grab it even with the twinge of guilt I feel as I pop the tab, which is why it is best for me to just keep it out of the house altogether. I know that drinking calories is terrible, so I needed a solution to my pop problem. I went for the lesser of evils. I know that there are some people who are dead set against artificial sweeteners, but I have no real issue with them. I started drinking Crystal Light Energy. I didn't want to compromise the caffeine fix in the soda, which I know also isn't great for you, but I wanted to cut down the calories I drank each day.

I have tried the Crystal Light Energy and the Great Value option, and both are good. I have a few warnings though for those who might want to try them out. First, it is advertised that it is only 5 calories per serving, but as with most things, one packet it actually 2 servings, so just be aware of what you are actually consuming. That's a good rule of thumb for all intake. Also, if you see the "citrus" flavor that comes in an orange box and has a picture of an orange on it, it is actually lemonade. I didn't really want orange flavor, but I bought it once because that's all that was stocked, and I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be lemonade.

I may not have completely quit drinking soda, and the Crystal Light is still just a lesser of evils, but I have come to an understanding through reflection that life should be conducted through conscious decisions. When it comes to my diet, I have realized that the smoothest path to change will be traveled through a series of conscious decisions. I am not the type of person who can change over night. I am making small changes, one at a time. Things like choosing the Crystal Light over soda, or picking black beans over refried pinto beans like my Anything for 10 Sister has been trying to get me to do. I did grab the black beans when I made tacos this week, but I still picked the full fat sour cream. It was a conscious decision for both items. I decided that next time, I would take the next step by choosing the low-fat sour cream. A series of conscious decisions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Do you yoga?

If someone had asked me six months ago what I thought of yoga, I can guarantee you that I would have scoffed, rolled my eyes, and given a line about hippies and their bull crap. I really don't remember why I decided to buy a Yoga DVD. It may have even been an impulse buy. I knew when my dad gave me money for Christmas this year, that I was going to buy another TaeBo DVD. Yes, another, meaning I already owned one. And YES! You can still get TaeBo these days! I remember being in the workout isle, Walmart rarely has more than one isle dedicated to workout equipment, but there is candy littered throughout the store, and the next thing I knew, I was on my way home with TaeBo, yoga, and a mat. I have found yoga to be a very helpful tool for me, and I think that everyone could benefit from its practice.

I was initially blown away by how difficult it was. The first few times I tried the DVD, I couldn't believe how challenged I was by just doing some stretching and breathing exercises! I started with the Hatha session, which is a slower, more relaxing practice that focuses on relaxation and flexibility in range of movement. I have to this day only done the Flow session once, which builds in more core work, strengthening, and flexibility. I almost decided to stop doing the yoga DVD as part of my routine because I didn't think it was doing much, but then I started to notice some changes that had occurred.

I have had chronic back pain for nearly 10 years now as a result of a car accident. I started experiencing the pain a few days into my yoga hiatus, and then it clicked. I hadn't had any back pain at all during the weeks that I had been practicing yoga regularly. I started it up again that same day, and almost instantly the pain went away. I also love the way my muscles feel after I finish a session. My body just feels refreshed. Besides the physical benefits, I also started to crave the challenge of mastering certain poses. Yoga instructor Tamal Dodge speaks of  yoga in this way, "Yoga is something that not only enhances stregnth and flexibility, but also state of mind. Each pose gives another chance to meet a challenge and overcome it." It truly is a total mind and body workout. It is also a GREAT stress reliever!

Do you have to join a class? No. Do you have to have some kind of physical ailment to benefit from it? No. Ah, but you have to spend a ton of money, right? No, Walmart sells DVDs for as low as 5 dollars! Don't want to spend the money still? Look up beginner's poses online! What about that mat? You don't have to get a mat if you don't want one. It will eventually be something to invest at least 10 dollars in at Walmart if you decide to get more involved in the practice of yoga because there are some poses that could cause slight rug burn if you just stretch on the bare carpet. Ah, but I'm just not flexible, I never have been. That's the best part! With yoga you only do what your body is capable of. The instructor will show the proper pose, and you adjust to get as close as your body will let you. Over time, your body becomes capable of more and more! Try it out.You just might be surprised like I was.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lesson Learned

The number one reason I write my blog is to hold myself accountable. I am not some big blogger raking in the big bucks from my blog, you could say I am not monetized at all, but the fact that  people view my blog at all makes me do things that I might not always feel like doing. After my recent injury, I have really been slacking. I haven't really been working out at all. Not even Yoga has managed to find its way into my busy schedule. Hahaha. It is way worse for those who know I am on summer break. The second reason I write my blog, and it is a very close second, is to inspire other people to get moving, even if it is just for 10.

I was motivated to get out and change my current course of non-action by two of my old high school friends who commented on facebook that I have helped motivate them at one time or another. I am very grateful to the handful of regular readers I have, even though most of them are just my very large family. So those who know how all this started can probably guess how today turned out. I can get pretty enthusiastic about things. And some might say that I jump in over my head from time to time. Every once in a while, I even commit some major Fitness Cardinal Sins that are really just common sense. Well, thanks to April, Hannah, Anything for 10 Grace, and my fiance Matt, I have a story for you today.

I bought a mountain bike. Yes, I did. It is a Schwinn Ranger in purple and white. My fiance bought a bike almost as soon as we crossed the PA border, and I have been saying I should get a bike too. He rides his to work fairly frequently. My Anything for 10 sister, Grace, is a modern day hippie, and she bought a bike almost as soon as she got back to the US from Thailand. She also rides her bike to work, and anywhere else she needs to go really because she doesn't own a car. Grace bought a very nice road bike, and Matt has a nice enough hybrid. I went for the mountain bike. I was inspired to take the plunge this morning when I saw the encouraging posts on facebook. I woke Matt up, rushed around, and went straight to the store to purchase a bike. We loaded up Matt's bike as well because of course, in true Michelle spirit, I had to use it RIGHT AWAY!!!

Due to my haste and our sleeping in this morning, that landed us at the state park right about, ohhhh, HIGH FREAKING NOON. Yes, that is only the tip of the iceberg. You did know where this was going from the beginning, right? Matt could tell before we even left to buy the bike I presume because he was not very happy with me from the beginning. He knows me, and that also means that he knows I won't listen once I have decided something. I know that I should, but it is a lot harder to remember at the time. I bought a water bottle holder to put on my bike, but we didn't have any tools, so we couldn't put it on. I am very proud to say though that I did bring water with me! Obviously, it did me no good sitting in the car getting hot while we rode. I did not bring a snack, which was a huge mistake considering we got there right at lunch time. That was the exact opposite of awesome.

So we set out on our trail ride in a park we had never been to. I was a little wobbly at first, but I sort of straightened out as we went. Matt was way ahead of my the whole time and had to circle back around for me every once in a while. I had to confess to him fairly early in the ride that I have no idea what the gears are for. I mean, who really knows what those are for? Ok, well most people know, and especially the cyclists who set out on a trail ride. Yeah, I still haven't really caught on. I know low is easy to pedal but slow, and that high is harder but faster; however, I can't tell you when you use which one, and I definitely can't remember when I am in freakout mode in the middle of a trail ride at High Freaking Noon when I have no water and no snack. We only went on a 5 mile trail ride, but I have to admit, I honestly thought I was going to pass out and die there for a bit, and I just knew Matt would leave me there because he was so annoyed by the fact that once again, we were getting passed by powerwalkers. Yes, it happened again. I may have had to walk my bike up the giant hill at the end, and it may have really sucked at the time, but I am ready to go back again. Next time, I am going all Boy Scouts of America on that trail ride, and I am going to be prepared!