For many years my fitness routine consisted of running and the occasional group exercise class. Even now that I focus on weight lifting and the occasional cardio, I still enjoy a good group exercise class. I particularly enjoy classes that are full of HIIT (high intensity internal training) workouts or ones that combine cardio with weights, such as Orangetheory. I’d heard of Barry’s Bootcamp but, honestly, didn’t know much about it when I was invited to attend a workout at their location in Lincoln Park.
The studio waiting area is quite “Instagram-able” and also has it’s own smoothie bar. I fully admit that when I go to a workout class, even if it’s a free perk, I’m really bad about taking pictures. I mean, I’m there to get in a workout!
And maybe a smoothie…
So, uh, here’s what the empty studio looks like.
Barry’s helpfully sent an email beforehand explaining their workout so that I would have a basic idea what to expect.
I was there on a Sunday so I got the “full body” workout. I was assigned treadmill 6 and told to start there. We did mainly 30 second jog/run/sprint/ intervals followed by one minute recovery walks for the first 10 minutes. Then it was down to the floor to do some stuff with dumbbells and body weight for 10 minutes, mostly in sets of 30 seconds.
The workout itself was fine, although the treadmill portions felt rather repetitive. The instructor was super high energy, even with a broken arm! Yes, he had his arm in a sling so he had to demonstrate everything one-handed. For the strength portion we did typical dumbbell moves (chest press, tricep press, curls, rows), squats, step-ups, planks, and some various types of crunches. So, again, nothing groundbreaking.
Overall, I wouldn’t say that my experience at Barry’s was worth the hype that it’s gotten in some fitness circles. I’m still a bigger fan of Orangetheory or Fit36 if you’re looking for a class of this type. Although, I did only take one class at Barry’s Bootcamp so maybe my experience was atypical.
Have you taken a class at Barry’s Bootcamp? What did you think?
The Junior Ninja Warriors facility is located almost exactly 2 miles north of me so I decided to get in a short run at the same time. I ran from my house to the facility so I was already nice and warmed up. Oh, and did I mention it was leg day with my trainer at my regular gym so I’d already done a strength workout?
Normally Junior Ninja Warriors is reserved for kids, but a few nights a week they have adult hours. An instructor shows you how to do three different groups of obstacles and the idea is that you practice a few times and then go through each grouping for a time.
Let’s just say that we didn’t always get to the being timed portion of the obstacles! However, I realized that I have so much more upper body strength than I thought. All that strength training over the past 2+ years is actually working!
Among other things, we did monkey bars, scaled the warp-wall (here’s video proof!), conquered the Spider, and tried our hand (feet?) at log rolling.
It’s interesting but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become less afraid of hurting myself. For example, after we did the spider we had to do what basically amounted to parallel bars. I managed it find the first time but the second time my hand slipped on the last bar and I fell flat on my back (on mats, of course). Maybe it’s all those trapeze lessons I did in the past, but falling like that doesn’t phase me anymore!
I had a BLAST and would love to go back. I love being able to put my strength to use and actually see the results of all the hard work I do in the “regular” gym.
Last year Chewie and I ran the Super Sunny 5K and, before the race, one of the volunteers snapped a photo of the two of us.
Little did I know that that photo would become a full page ad in a local magazine!
Isn’t that just the cutest? And, yes, we’ll be there again this year. It’s a great local race benefiting a great cause, and it’s one of the few in the area where you can actually run with your dog.
If you’re in the Chicago area and are looking for a 5K to walk or run, come join us! Chewie promises to be on his best behavior. Plus, maybe you’ll get a chance to unintentionally become a fitness model, too.
I fully admit that my morning did not start out very zen-like. I had Lyft issues and then it was clear when I arrived at the Hancock Observatory check-in that I would have to contend with tourists. Something to keep in mind: yoga starts at 9:30 AM. They tell you to get there at least 20 minutes beforehand, but I would recommend you get there right when the observatory opens at 9AM, if not earlier. Either that, or just bust your way to the front of the line like I did!
I’m not generally a yoga person, but after a hectic morning it was really nice to be forced to meditate and focus on my movements instead of all the other thoughts in my head.
Plus, we didn’t do too many sun salutations and we did my favorite pose: tree pose.
Can you figure out which one is me?
The instructor was lovely, the views were great, and the company was good too (I joined my friend Emily for the morning).
Post-yoga we walked over to Beatrix for brunch followed by doughnuts at Do-Rite. Overall, it was a wonderful morning in a part of the city where I don’t get to spend much time.
Whether or not you’re into yoga, I still recommend you try this out. It’s every Saturday from now until September and costs $25, which includes general admission to the observation deck for as long as you want (normally $10.25 for Chicago residents or $20.50 for non-residents). You do need to bring your own mat and I hope they work out the timing for arrivals of regular guests and yoga class attendees, but it’s still worth it on a beautiful Chicago day.
Note: I was not asked or paid to write about this, but I was given a complimentary entry to 360 Sky Yoga.
Now that marathon training is over and I’m back to focusing on weight lifting and the occasional cardio (and the occasional class at Fit36), I thought I’d treat myself to a few new fitness-related goodies.
My thoughts on the leggings – These are definitely compression material! I ordered them in size small and I probably could have gone up to a medium. They are a nice fabric material, not shiny or slick. I’ve only worn them to the gym to lift weights and they stayed in place. I haven’t taken them running, yet, though.
My thoughts on the water bottle – Okay, I love this thing. It has the same type of top as my Camelbak which means it doesn’t leak. It’s a few ounces smaller than my Camelbak (24 oz vs 25 oz) but I think the hilariously accurate saying is worth the one ounce size difference. This has now become my main water bottle at work and at the gym. And, no, I don’t get pizza after every workout. I usually eat a salad and a protein shake. But I wish it was pizza!
And here are a two other fun things I’ve gotten for to try for free lately.
Click Protein Powder
As I mentioned, I have a protein shake after every weight lifting workout and I swear it keeps me from being sore the next day (well, AS sore, at least. We’ll see how I feel after these 100 squats my trainer had me do on Thursday). When I had the opportunity to try Click Active protein powder via Fitfluential I didn’t want to pass up the chance.
I’ve only recently gotten into coffee (like, in the last three years) and I still rarely drink more than one cup a day. But I’ve been using this stuff after workouts and I really like the way it tastes!
Yes, it has caffeine in it in the form of real espresso (see ingredients here). Yes, it tastes like mocha. No, it does not taste like the fake sugar that I hate.
I also like that it has whey and casein in it. I’ve read that casein is slower to digest helping you feel full longer.
I’m not personally a fan of “meal replacement shakes”, which is why I like that this is marketed as a recovery tool. I do think it makes a difference! And, since I workout at lunch, it’s nice to have a little energy boost to keep me awake afterward.
I honestly haven’t tried this yet. But it does make for a pretty photo! Each bottle has different art on it. This one is by MOMO. They sell this brand at my gym and I noticed my trainer re-uses one of the bottles for her pre-workout drink.
And that’s it! Have you had any fun fitness finds lately? Do you like this style of post? Should I just be quiet now?
I received the Click protein powder and the LIFEWTR for free for testing and review purposes. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are my own. #InspirationDrops #2017 #contest
One of the perks of being a blogger in Chicago is sometimes you get invited to check out new stuff….for free. The latest perk? A class at the brand new Fit36 in Lincoln Park.
The idea behind Fit36 is that your workout is 36 minutes long. That’s it. But it’s 36 minutes of basically non-stop moving. You do 12 different strength or plyometric exercises each for one minute with 30 seconds of rest between each. And then you repeat the 12 exercises again for a total of 36 minutes.
They limit classes to 24 people so that there is a max of two per workout station. Each station is a different exercise and for the strength exercises it’s either body weight or you can choose a weight. You rotate through twice and, let me tell you, the exercises that felt easy the first time through might be a struggle the second time around!
They leave time between classes so you can get warmed up using the video they have playing or just on your own.
Fit36 also has what they call an A/B workout format. Meaning Monday/Wednesday/Friday are the same workout and Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday are the same workout. Which allows you go gauge your progress.
Fit36 also provides heart rate monitors, although in our class we didn’t spend any time going over what our goal heart rate zone should be. They do send you a post-class summary, though.
This particular location has two bathrooms but no showers. They provide deodorant, dry shampoo, hair ties, and baby wipes, though. Still, if you go to an AM class be prepared to shower somewhere else or make do with a bird bath in the sink.
Because you will get sweaty. So sweaty!
No, we didn’t use 50 pound dumbbells in class. I’m just goofing off.
They had two instructors for our class and they were both great about providing encouragement, feedback on form, and helping us when we were struggling to figure out an exercise.
Our class also ended with tasty treats from JuiceRX, although I think that was just a blogger perk. Sorry!
The Fit36 studio is located at 1730 W Fullerton and is right off the 74 bus. Or, if you prefer, you can drive because there is a huge parking lot! And a Starbucks next door.
I actually won a free month of classes so I plan to check them out a few more times in the next few weeks. I already do a ton of strength training on my own, but I like having a HIIT-style class handy for days when I want to get my heart rate WAY up. Plus, I didn’t see any treadmills so if running isn’t your thing then Fit36 might be for you!
They have several more free classes coming up during their soft opening, including this Saturday and Sunday (March 4th and 5th) at 9:30 AM if you want to check it out yourself. Just RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can get your first week free any time after Sunday.
These sweaty bloggers recommend it!
I attended this class for free but all opinions are my own.
Have you ever heard the saying, “In order to run faster you need to run faster”? Have you done your speedwork and your tempo runs and your long runs and not seen much improvement in your running paces? What about instead of running more you actually started running less, but still got faster?
Think it’s crazy? It’s not. And the secret is strength training. But by strength training I don’t mean using hand weights or dumbbells in a group exercise class. I mean getting friendly with that big heavy Olympic barbell in the gym. Picking up weights that are heavier than your purse or backpack. And running less.
Here’s how it works: four or five days a week you do 45 minutes of strength training. Two days a week you do 20 to 30 minutes of high intensity interval cardio. One of those can be running and the other can be swimming, rowing, cycling or using the Stairmill. One day a week you do a longer endurance cardio workout of your choice.
I’ve personally been following this plan for over two years and I’ve dropped a significant amount of time from races and my overall training pace. When I started marathon training in October 2016 my long run pace was 8:45 per mile when it used to be closer to 10:45 per mile!
My paces at each of my five marathons
The key is to flip your paradigm. Instead of thinking of weight or strength training as a way to ward off injury or as something you should do in addition to your running, start thinking of your cardio as something you do in addition to your strength training.
Strength workouts are most effective when you combine low rep, high weight full body power lifts with “assistance” endurance exercises. Full body lifts include deadlifts, bench presses, squats and overhead presses. While you might typically think of these as “upper body” or “lower body” exercises, they are actually also working your core, your back, your arms and your legs all at once. The assistance exercises, such as barbell rows, kettlebell swings, dumbbell curls, hamstring curls, lunges and a variety of other moves done with slightly lower weight and more reps help with your muscle endurance. And, of course, you can’t forget the ab work!
4×8 sumo deadlifts! Yes, I make weird faces when I lift.
Figuring out much to lift for each exercise can be a challenge at first. Lower rep, higher weight power lifts should be done in three to five sets of three to eight reps each at 75 to 85 percent of your one rep max. Your assistance endurance exercises should be 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 20 reps each at 60 to 70 percent of your one rep max. Hold on. I can see you scratching your head and saying, “Huh??”
First, pick an exercise. Let’s say a squat. Pick a weight with which you’re pretty sure you can do at least 10 reps. If you can do all 10 reps and feel like you can do more, pick a heavier weight. Do this until you can barely eek out 10 reps with good form. This weight is 75% of your one rep max. The chart at http://bit.ly/OPRCchart can help you figure out the rest of the percentages.
Let’s keep using the squat as an example. Your workout starts with 3 sets of 8 squats. If you did 10 squats at 45 pounds you should do your 3 sets of 8 with anywhere from 45 to 51 pounds.
Source: Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th Edition
You want the last rep in the last set to feel like you can’t do anymore. If you feel like you can do two more reps you’re ready to up your weight!
Workouts should consist of one or two power exercises, two to four assistance endurance exercises, and at least one abdominal muscle specific exercise. Although, in reality, most of the other exercises you’re doing are working your abs, too! In all of the power lifts you need to keep your abs tight to protect your back. In many of your assistance exercises you’ll be keeping your abs tight as well.
Form is incredibly important if you want to see results from strength training. If you’ve only ever lifted on your own or in a group exercise classes you’re missing out on some great tips. Has anyone ever told you when squatting to pretend like you’re trying to keep a big rubber band from pulling your knees together? Or when doing a kettlebell swing to thrust your hips forward instead of raising your arms? Or how to correctly do a deadlift so you don’t hurt your back? If not, I highly recommend doing a few session with a personal trainer. Be specific about what you want to learn. If you want to learn to deadlift, tell them you want to learn to deadlift. If you want to have them help you with your squat form, tell them that. While you can get some great tips from http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises there is some feedback that only comes from someone watching you do an exercise.
Picture taken by one of my trainers
Learning that heavy weights are not as intimidating as you probably once thought will open up a whole new world. Lifting heavy and running less will not only change your pace, it will change your attitude! It’s empowering to look at a weight and know you can move it yourself. If you’re struggling in a race you’ll not only have the muscular strength to power through, but you’ll have the mental strength as well. And if you track how much you lifted each workout you’ll find you can get PRs in strength training, too!
So, flip your paradigm and try putting the emphasis on strength training and see what kind of results you get. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
I put together four weeks of workouts plus even more information at http://bit.ly/oprcstrength. And, of course, ask me questions! I don’t want to be all evangelical about this, but it really worked for me and I’d like to see it work for more people.
Note: I am not currently a personal trainer although I put together this information based on study materials for the certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Always consult with a personal trainer before trying any new moves. I’d hate to see you get hurt!
Almost every summer and fall I get a little twinge of “FOMO” when I see so many people I know training for the Chicago Marathon. I hadn’t trained for a marathon since early 2013 and there was a part of me that was missing runs of longer than 9 or 10 miles. I was also wondering what I could do with the speed I’d acquired thanks to tons (literally) of strength training.
For the most part, the winter in Chicago cooperated. We only had one bitterly cold day (I think it was like 4 degrees) but even that was sunny and not very windy. We never had a major blizzard. We never had a major rain. I even managed to get in one long run at altitude while visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Sure, I had to do a lot of my shorter runs on the treadmill and sure I had to skip a few shorter runs towards the end of training due to time constraints, but overall I had a really good training cycle. I kept up my weight lifting. I avoid major injury. I enjoyed most of my runs and I definitely enjoyed my training buddies.
My only concern was what the weather would be like in Miami on race day. Humidity is my kryptonite and I’d been warned it could be quite humid. Thankfully, race morning brought cool temps in the 50s, low humidity…and rain. I honestly don’t mind rain, though. Give me that over a hot, humid run any day!
My coach and my main training buddy both told me I would easily break the 4 hour mark. I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe them. My best marathon time previously was four hours and 26 minutes. But, I have gotten faster so I decided to line up with the 3:50 pacer and see what happened.
Turns out that what happened was that I ran every single step of that race, averaged an 8:34 pace, and finished in 3:44:58.
Yeah, that’s a 42 minute personal record.
I’m still kind of in awe at how well the whole thing went. Other than not being able to find my group’s tent after the race and getting caught in a downpour after I finished, it was a perfect day for me. I created my own mantra of “No bonk, no wall” that I repeated to myself whenever it started to feel difficult.
I ran without a fuel belt, a first for me. I didn’t walk a single step, also a first for me. And clearly breaking the four hour mark by a quarter of an hour is also a first for me. I attribute these successes to several things:
An amazing coach who believed in me, gave me workouts that pushed me, and gave me some great advice about race day pacing
An amazing run buddy who stuck with me on our long runs even though he was training for a different race (and pace!) entirely
My personal trainer at the gym who knows nothing about running but knows everything about making me stronger
My husband who didn’t complain at all during my training (and who I forgive for staying in the warm and dry hotel room instead of spectating in the rain)
Live Grit. Without them I don’t think I would have done a lot of the things I’ve done over the past few years.
The weather gods. I asked for cool weather and I got it.
I’m not rushing to sign up for another race right now. I’m going to bask in this accomplishment for awhile. And work on building back up all the glute muscle I literally ran off while training!
Several months ago I was invited to check out AquaMermaid Chicago. After seeing it on several other blogs I was VERY interested! A swim workout that is as much about play as it is about swimming? Yes, please. Even though I’ve done several sprint triathlons, swimming is still not my favorite. But playing around in the water? I’m totally down with that. It took us a while to find a date that worked, but once we did I was IN!
Photo courtesy of AquaMermaid Chicago
(that’s me in the pinkish red tail!)
The lessons currently take place at the UIC student rec center on their west campus which is just an easy Divvy bike ride from me. It was really chilly the day I went, though, so I was happy that Emily joined me and that she drove. I didn’t really factor in biking home with wet hair!
Thanks to Emily for the photo!
I fully admit that the logistics of putting on a mermaid tail are a bit weird and it took the instructor a bit to get around to helping all of us. If you go, be sure to get there early! But not too early (like me) since they tend to have classes back-to-back and you might be standing around awkwardly for a bit.
First you put your feet into the fin and adjust the straps around the backs of your heels. I have weird feet that are wide at the front and super narrow in the back so I struggled the whole class to keep my fin on! They recommend that if you have smaller feet to wear water socks or neoprene booties. I wish I’d had some. They might have helped.
Anyway, once you have your fin adjusted you actually take your feet out and pull on the tail. It has a zipper on the bottom that you then put the fin into, place your feet in the fin, and zip it up. Ta da! You’re now a mermaid!
A mermaid who wears goggles. And a nose clip. But still a mermaid!
Once you’re in the water you basically have to learn to swim with your core and your legs. After spending two years trying to learn how to swim WITHOUT using my legs as much, this was quite challenging for me. I started to get the hang of it right at the end but, man, it was more difficult than I expected.
Photo courtesy of AquaMermaid Chicago
We learned to swim through hoops underwater, do somersaults and underwater flips, and, of course, handstands. If you take more classes you eventually learn to do some synchronized swimming as well as some more advanced tricks.
Photo courtesy of AquaMermaid Chicago
One of which should be how to take a good underwater photo. This was our best attempt.
Anyway, this was a fun thing to try! Especially if you love being in the water but hate swimming laps. They do classes for all ages, too, so if you have nieces (or nephews!) this would be a fun thing to do with them. If you’re uncomfortable in deep water they have pool noodles to help out or you can just ask to stay in the shallow end.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit AquaMermaid Chicago on Facebook, Instagram or on their website. You can even buy your own mermaid tail!
Thank you to AquaMermaid Chicago for having me! And, yes, they let me take the class free of charge but all opinions are my own.
A little behind on my marathon training summaries, so here’s two weeks in a row.
Monday 11/21 – 6 mile run + lower body strength workout
Tuesday 11/22 – Upper body strength workout
Wednesday 11/23 – 4×800 treadmill run + lower body strength workout
Thursday 11/24 – 6 mile run
Friday 11/25 – 3.5 mile walk
Saturday 11/26 – 12 mile run
Sunday 11/27 – Rest
Monday 11/28 – 6 mile run + lower body strength workout
Tuesday 11/29 – Upper body strength workout
Wednesday 11/30 – 8×400 treadmill intervals (6 miles total)
Thursday 12/1 – Upper body strength workout + 6 mile run
Granted, I didn’t get six pack abs in six weeks, but I did get them over the course of about a year and a half.
I was lifting weights 4-5 days a week, doing HIIT training one or two days a week and doing a long run on the weekend. I was also tracking every gram of fat, carbs and protein (aka macros) I ate about 85% of the time.
I felt amazing. I loved how I looked. And I didn’t think it was affecting my social life too much. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I lost my period (yes, I’m talking about that again). I mean, I’m not planning on using my reproductive system but I understand it’s not healthy to go into amenorrhea.
So, I kept my workouts pretty much the same but stopped counting every macro I put on my plate. I posted about specifically trying to gain weight this past February. Well, I’ve definitely put weight back on.
I still look pretty good, though! And while my jeans aren’t falling off me anymore, they all still fit. I’m still feel awesome, can still lift really heavy and, heck I’m training for a marathon!! Someone at work recently asked if I was still following my meal plan and I said that since I was marathon training I needed to eat more. So, I do.
But here’s the rub: just like the author of that article, body image is weird after you get six pack abs and then (kind of) lose them. You think, “Oh, I have to keep it up! Everyone said I looked amazing! What will they think when I don’t look like that any more?” Or, “My love handles didn’t used to hang over these pants…did they?”
It’s weird. So weird. I can’t imagine what people who do body building or bikini competitions go through!
Still, though, I’m glad I did it. I actually learned a lot about how to eat to fuel your workouts and re-fuel afterward. I learned a lot of new recipes that I still make. I still love lifting and refuse to cut back even though I’m marathon training. But I also learned that I love wine and ice cream and pizza. However, I admit, I still feel a bit guilty when I eat those things. So, yeah, if you want to get six pack abs and you’re not naturally predisposed to them, just know you can probably do it, but it might not be easy physically or mentally to get them or keep them.
Monday 11/7 – Lower body strength workout + 5 mile run
Tuesday 11/8 – Upper body strength workout
Wednesday 11/9 – 5.5 mile run
Thursday 11/10 – Lower body strength workout
Friday 11/11 – 2 mile run (treadmill) + upper body strength workout