Amari Consulting: Fitness Odds and Ends

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Back Into the Groove!

I realized it’s been almost a year since I’ve updated my Tumblr.  Time has flown!  Looking through some of my old posts I was definitely more in a ‘racing’ zone at that point.  This year has been more laid back.  I’ve only ran one half marathon this year - a destination race in San Francisco.  I did a few local races in the spring but aside from keeping my normal schedule of gym classes, I took 2012 off.  And that’s ok because I was beginning to feel burnt out from all of it.  I don’t love running (and still don’t) so training for races is something I don’t really do.  I take hard classes at Equinox three to four times a week and that keeps me in decent shape to line up for a 10k or even a half marathon.  I love my gym!

Alas, it’s time to start running again.  Back in January, I took advantage of the ING Miami Half Marathon Blitz to pay a very low price to register for the 2013 race.  And now it’s time to start training!  The first step is to start taking advantage of at least one running class per week at Equinox.  From there, I need to increase my mileage because while I heard the Miami half is a great race, it’s also humid and warm in January (when isn’t it warm in Miami?).

I’m hoping this race will motivate me to up the ante in 2013.  I already have my eye on a couple of other locations for destination races in 2013 - stay tuned!

Nov 3

Whipped!

Yes I am officially whooped! It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a class, but this one deserves props!  Whipped! is an Equinox class just recently added to the Loop schedule and finally it’s offered in the afternoon vs. the ultra-early hour of 6:30 a.m. (which I knew I would never take since I’m a coverhugger).

Whipped! is like a mini-Tabata but on 10!  When you go into the class, its setup like a playground obstacle course with various stations. There are five stations with two different exercises = 10 different exercises. At each station you do the 1st move for 30 seconds, then switch to the 2nd move for 30 seconds, repeat moves #1 and #2. Move to station #2, #3 etc.

I was sweating a lot after one time through all five stations.

The difference in this class is the focus is on using strength ropes. Those huge ropes they use on “The Biggest Loser” are what we did at 2 of the 5 stations. Throw in hurdles (jumping over and then to do burpee), body bars for arms and then leg jumps, running drills with cones, crunches, lateral lunges, and mountain climbers using gliding discs (which look like mini frisbees) and that was the obstacle course. We ran through the set two full times and then did core work for 10 minutes. Wowza!

With only 10 people in class, our instructor, Tonya, was able to give a lot of 1 on 1 attention and she would come by me often to give me little cues to make something harder or to go just a little faster. It was GREAT!  We were all breathless! And the breaks in between the 30 seconds were probably 10 seconds at best. Let’s see how the arms/back feel tomorrow after using those ropes!

I shall add Whipped! to the repertoire! 

Three Years of Running!

Well, it’s the end of another month that I’d officially call a roller coaster for me.  The month started out good, was kinda yucky in the middle and ended great.  Ups and downs are a part of life but when you’re going through the ‘down’ part it can seem never ending.  Of course, a ‘down’ phase always has an ending and if you look at it positively, it’ll make you stronger.  But my month ended on an awesome note.  Over the long weekend, I went out of town and had a great weekend with old and new friends while being upbuilt spiritually and emotionally. 

Last Thursday, I ran my second race of the month – this one was the J.P. Morgan Chase Challenge.  It’s held annually in Grant Park, Chicago.  This was the 30th anniversary of the race.  Typically, over 20,000 individuals register for this 3.5 mile race.  As this is a ‘corporate’ challenge, you register as a team with your company. There were 12 runners from my company and we braved the cold (seriously, it was 38 degrees with the windchill on May 26, 2011). 

Because it’s such a large turnout, the race officially decided to split the runners into three categories: fast runners, competitive runners, and non-competitive run/walkers.  When I registered and entered my estimated completion time, I ended up being in the last category.  At the start of the race, we were released in waves, based on our estimated completion time.  My co-worker and I positioned ourselves at the very front of the rope separating us from the middle wave of competitive runners.  Rude people tried to get in front of us and non-deodorant wearers let themselves be known as well (yuck!). 

Finally, we were off and running.  The race starts on Balbo and Columbus, runs north to Randolph and loops around to lower Wacker Drive back to Columbus ending near Roosevelt.  With the cold weather, it was easy to run fast.  You just want it to end quickly.  Suffice it to say, I got a personal record, running 3.5 miles in 31:34 or a 9:01 minutes per mile pace.  When I started running in 2008, the J.P. Morgan Chase Challenge was my very first race ever.  I ran/walked it in 38 minutes.  Three years later, I’ve shaved off 7 minutes from my first 3.5 miler and have started running half-marathons, in addition to other distance races.

After reviewing my race log, I noticed that I did good in some early races, shaving off time, then I’d slack off on my training and seem to be backtracking.  Finally, I realized I needed to focus on getting faster.  So I made the tweaks in my workout plan, added a lot of strength training and core work, and voila!  The last few races have been personal records!  Similar to life, running can take you on a roller coaster! 

J.P. Morgan Chase Challenge will always be a special race for me because when I made the decision to run it, I began training for the first time and from there, it’s truly helped motivate me to integrate fitness into my life.  After three miles became ‘easy’, I wanted to up the ante.  Now, I’m working on getting better at the 13.1 mile races.  Up next: a 10K this weekend – Lincoln Park Run for the Zoo.  It’s summertime y’all – make June a great month!   

Review: 30/60/90 meets I.T.V. + Upcoming Races

Friday is great for many reasons in my book.  It’s the last workday of the week.  It’s a ‘treat’ day where I indulge in certain foods I normally stay away from.  And <insert drum roll> I take one of my favorite classes - I.T.V. Interval Training.  Only today, my instructor was on vacation so Alex subbed.  He is intense in his own right - so much so, that I actually stay away from his classes more often than not for that reason.  Don’t get me wrong — he gets you sweating and it’s a great workout.  I just remember taking his classes when I wasn’t as fit and I had more than one moment where I was seriously out-of-breath.  But isn’t that a sign you have a good instructor?

Alas, we had been warned that Alex was teaching two weeks prior so I had time to perhaps take a different class.  I was actually thinking of doing that.  But Friday is a designated ‘strength class’ for me so I decided to grin and bear it.  I’m SO glad I did.  Alex integrated our normal kettlebell interval training with a signature Equinox class typically taught in NYC called 30/60/90. 

The idea behind 30/60/90 is high-intensity interval training where you alternate between doing a cardio and a strength exercise.  Each exercise is done for 30 seconds, 15-second break, 60 seconds, 15-second break, 90 seconds, 15-second break (THE PEAK of pain), 60 seconds, 15-second break and finally, the last 30 seconds.  So basically you are doing each exercise for 4 1/2 minutes.  That’s one set. 

After a quick warm-up, we got right into it.  The equipment we used was one kettlebell (I use 15-lbs) and a Bosu (optional).

1) Plank - mountain climbers (this was the hardest of them all…everything after was easy, breezy in comparison).


2) Bosu - jump on, jump legs to either side of bosu, jump back on bosu, jump off.  Repeat.


3) Kettlebell swings - either with one or both hands.
 
4) Bosu burpees - lift bosu in air overhead for added intensity


5) Plank row with kettlebell on bosu!!  Either you can put your knees on the bosu and balance while rowing (10 reps per arm).  Or you can straddle the bosu in a wide plank while rowing.


6) Freestyle:  pick any move you want to do for 30/60/90.  I did gunslingers (a curtsy lunge while swinging the kettlebell like a bicep curl), clean & presses and satellites rows with the kettlebells.

As usual, I was a sweaty mess within five minutes of the class, thanks to the mountain climbers.  But I truly enjoyed Alex’s class a lot better than my previous experiences.  All these group fitness classes have made me stronger.  But the soreness has already set in…

Spring is finally here (to stay, hopefully) so I’m in race mode.  Upcoming races include the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge (3.5 miles) on Thursday, May 26 and the Lincoln Park Race for the Zoo 10K on Sunday, June 5.  Hoping to PR in both! 

May 2

Race Recap: First Midwest Bank Southwest Half Marathon

It’s a new month – let’s run a half-marathon!  In all seriousness, it was a little hectic the week leading up to my 3rd half marathon.  I had some personal issues to contend with as well as finishing up an important assignment I had committed to in April.

The pre-race jitters began on Saturday.  I had a long day taking care of some obligations and finally got home around 5:30 p.m.  From there, I cooked a pre-race pasta dinner ala Rachael Ray 30-minute meals.  Finally, I put my race day outfit together (Lululemon tank and the best Nike dri-fit crops I’ve found), got all my other gear together and hit the hay early.  I had a 5:30 a.m. wake up call.

Right before waking up, I dreamed that I overslept and it was 9:30 a.m.  I wondered to myself, how did I miss the alarm clock bell?  How could I miss my race?  Was there any way I could fix this?  Yes – just wake up.  Isn’t it weird when you know you’re in a dream?

I woke up feeling pretty refreshed, got ready and headed out.  Driving at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning with the sun shining brightly and no traffic, it felt like a great start to my day.  This race was in the south suburb of Palos Heights.  It’s a smaller race – the course limit is 2,000 runners and started at 7:30 a.m.  At one point, I thought to myself, what was wrong with me – both days of the weekend and you’re waking up early?  I love, love sleep and I love to sleep in at least one day per week.   However, this experience was well worth it.

From the moment I got near the race course, the event was well-organized.  Police officers were escorting drivers to available parking while other runners who lived nearby walked to the course area.  The buzz surrounding the event was invigorating.  I quickly parked and headed to the course area.   I was pleased to find they had food before the event.  I had a Fiber One bar on my way to the race, but I added a banana to my pre-race breakfast.  I eyed the porta-potties but decided, nah that’s ok.  After the yuck experience in Arizona, I figured I’d just hold it.  That might not have been the smartest decision, but I ended up being ok.

Fortunately, I was pretty calm when the race started and at 7:30 a.m. we were off.  The course map was basically a straight shot down Route 83 for 6.5 miles and then loop back to the beginning.  The weather was perfect – sunny, 58 degrees with a decent wind that would gust at the perfect times – keeping me cool enough that I hardly sweated – yay!

Most people started out with a light jacket on but by the first mile, most of us had those jackets wrapped around our waists.  You get warmed up pretty quick.  My main goal this race was to be 15 minutes faster than the Rock N Roll Arizona half marathon which I ran in 2:44:14.

At mile one, my time was around 10:20.   Miles 2 and 3 were a little faster.  I felt good, my breathing was even and my strides were good.  I like to start out slow and keep an even pace.  When I started the race, a LOT of people were passing me.  That can feel a little disheartening because the negative voice starts to speak and tell me I’m not a good runner; that I’m not fast enough.  I shut up that voice and told myself, “you are strong – you can do this!”

Miles 4 and 5 were in that same 10 minute range.  Usually, I start to feel fatigued around this point.  This is due to the lack of running as part of my training.  However, this time around I actually kept a running base since January.  Mix in my tough as nails Equinox classes and a lot of core training and I think it helped immensely.

Around mile 5+, we started to see the elite runners coming back to finish.  The winner ran 13.1 miles in 65 minutes – that is a crazy 4:58/minutes per mile pace!  Insane!  But watching the elites and fast runners pass us on the return did two things.  1) I was distracted and that took my mind off running and 2) It motivated me to keep going and get better. 

I was just waiting for my body to start to hurt; to get a side stitch or my ankles to tighten up, but it didn’t happen.  I took in water and Powerade when needed but I felt good even through miles 6-9.  Another weird occurrence – as I passed the mile markers and checked the clock, my pace was staying in the early 10-minute mile range.  Could this be?  I did the math and figured if I kept this pace, I may finish around 2 hours and 15 minutes – close to 30 minutes faster than Arizona.

At mile 9, I broke into my Gu (in case you’re wondering what this is, it’s basically an energy gel that fuels you during long endurance activities) to get me through the next few miles.  I felt the first twinges of pain at mile 10, but it was slight.  I started to get tired at mile 12.  This is truly the point of a half-marathon where it’s mind over matter. 

My ipod was on shuffle the entire time and rotated through slow- to mid-tempo songs with some faster songs thrown in but my ipod truly came through at the 12.5 mile point (second to last song before finishing) where I was close to walking when it played The Brand New Heavies “Never Stop”.  Those lyrics couldn’t have been more appropriate to the task at hand.  “Never stop, never give it up….never stop, never give it up.”  Though running is not what that song is about, it kept replaying in my ears and it was what I needed to get through that final push. 

The finish line was just around the corner and I grabbed the last bit of gas in my tank and revved up to finish strong!   My finish time was 2:17:44 – 27 minutes faster and a personal record (PR)!  It was an awesome feeling!

Immediately after getting my finisher’s medal, I felt a little woozy and drained.  I knew I had to get food and quick – banana, orange, bread, water —- it’s literally a stuff your face moment.  A good 45 minutes after finishing, I felt good enough to drive home and continue the recovery process.  Overall, it was an awesome experience.  Now time to enjoy some fun 5Ks and shorter distance races this spring/early summer before running my next half-marathon this September in Virginia Beach.

 

 

Apr 3

Being uncomfortable…

Staying in my comfort zone is easy.  I know what to expect and there are no worries.  But staying comfortable is status quo.  Nothing changes…when you have goals, status quo is not where you want to be.

Looking at the month of March, I definitely was uncomfortable.  At the beginning of the month, I set some goals and made some progress.  In 31 days, I exercised 26 times.  My gym classes continued to produce massive amounts of sweat out of me.  I got my first outdoor run of the year in.  I tackled a daily core workout challenge.  I experienced two new at-home workout DVDs from my faves Jillian Michaels (Ripped in 30) and Bob Harper (Ultimate Cardio Body).  And it was all worth it when I tried on clothes yesterday and realized I was a full dress size smaller than at the beginning of the month!  That was a GREAT feeling! 

The climax of being uncomfortable happened this past Friday during I.T.V.  I don’t know if it was because the ceiling fans weren’t on full blast but THAT class had me beyond sweaty!  Want to try it for yourself?

Equipment Needed:  Bosu (optional) and Kettlebell (10 or 15 pounds).  No kettlebell?  Use a heavy dumbbell (at least 10 pounds)

Set 1

Lateral lunges on Bosu – 1 minute (cardio)

Clean and press using right hand – 1 minute

Lateral lunges on Bosu – 1 minute (cardio)

Left leg on bosu, right leg extended back, kettlebell rows w/right hand – 1 minute

Kettlebell swings – 90 seconds

Push ups – left hand on bosu, right hand on floor – 30 seconds

Figure 8s with kettlebell – swing kettlebell through legs on each side

Active recovery – squat with kettlebell

Put kbell into right hand and curtsy to right – Gunslinger – 1 minute

 

Set 2

Lateral lunges on Bosu – 1 minute (cardio)

Clean and press using left hand – 1 minute

Lateral lunges on Bosu – 1 minute (cardio)

Right leg on bosu, left leg extended back, kettlebell rows w/left hand – 1 minute

Kettlebell swings – 90 seconds

Push ups – right hand on bosu, left hand on floor – 30 seconds

Figure 8s with kettlebell – swing kbell through legs on each side

Active recovery – squat with kettlebell

Put kbell into left hand and curtsy to left – Gunslinger – 1 minute

Turn kettlebell upside down and hold the ‘ball’ portion – reverse lunges – 30 sec

Reverse lunges with kettlebell while twisting to the opposite side – 30 sec

Tricep curls – hold kettlebell overhead and extend forearms back – 1 minute

Bosu – Up/up down/downs – 30 seconds

Plank hold on forearms (on bosu) 30 seconds

Repeat sets 1 & 2

That class definitely made me uncomfortable – but in a good way.    Getting uncomfortable is necessary to keep me on my toes and help me not stagnate.

April is here!  Spring is in the air and I’ll be ramping up the running to get ready for my next half-marathon on Sunday, May 1.  Plus I’m working on getting more sleep (still on the ‘to do’ list)!

Time to bring it!

Dear Spin Class @Equinox &#8212; you truly are a good form of detox!  And you make me sore afterwards&#8230;

Dear Spin Class @Equinox — you truly are a good form of detox!  And you make me sore afterwards…

Review: Ultimate Cardio Body DVD & Rockclimbing!!

This weekend, I was going to use my Groupon and head over to Xtreme Plex in Monee to try my hand at indoor rockclimbing.  When I saw the deal back in November, I thought it would be a fun adventure to try.  That was also before I went to Arizona and hiked/climbed Camelback.  As I’ve said previously, Camelback was one of those experiences where you say to yourself, “if I can do this, I can do anything.”  So I felt indoor rockclimbing would be a breeze.  I was so confident, I decided to workout before going to Xtreme Plex.  I needed to get a bonus workout in to counter the extra calories I had consumed this week. 

This would be a great time to try Bob Harper’s Ultimate Cardio Body DVD.  It’s an hour (yes, an hour) workout and all you need is yourself plus two sets of dumb bells (I used fives and eights).  Bob starts off with a nice warm up and then a ton of alternating lunges, squats, plyometric squats, overhead presses, pushups and any/every type of arm curl.  Throw in some cardio bursts of high knees, mountain climbers, runners lunge pushups, jumping jacks, etc. and you get the point!  You are a drenched mess by the end of the hour.  I liked how the time clock progress meter would show how far you are progressing in intervals of 25.  So at 25% complete, it shows up on the meter, 50%, and 75%.  That felt like a little reward…plus you know how much is remaining. 

Also on days where you don’t have time for an hour workout, just try to hit 50%.  That’s still a 30-minute workout. The talent he used in the video were also sweaty messes so I felt good to know I wasn’t alone in the pain.  But I recommend this DVD if you’re looking for a combination of strength and cardio and need to switch up your workout.  It’s also good because there’s not a lot of floor work, so if you get annoyed with having to alternate a lot between standing and floor work, this is a good DVD.   

After doing this workout, I got ready and picked up my cousin so we could head to Xtreme Plex.  This would be the first time trying indoor rockclimbing for both of us and we were excited!

We got our harnesses on and were ready to tackle our first wall with our instructor, Mark.  I told myself, this would be a breeze after Camelback.  And so up I went on the first wall.  Immediately, I felt down quickly.  Apparently, my shoes weren’t good for rockclimbing.   I wore my running shoes but that was the best I had.  I didn’t have low-soled shoes.  My cousin Cea’s shoes were great for climbing so she tried her first wall climb.  And down she went…

The foot holds at the bottom of the wall were narrow.  So it was a challenge to get a good grip without falling.  Thank goodness for the harness (and the instructor).  I must say I liked falling because I knew I wouldn’t be hurt.  Mark suggested we try a different wall. We moved to this new wall and Cea tried again.  She made it up about 75% of the way before losing her grip.   This is what happened repeatedly for both of us.  Finally, Mark suggested we go to a third wall.  I was getting frustrated at this point because indoor rock climbing was supposed to be easier (in my opinion) than hiking Camelback.  How is it HARDER?  My arms were so sore – it was hard to get my grip on the wall.  But this was another one of those experiences where I had to conquer something very challenging.  It got to a point where I told myself, “WALL – you will not get the best of me!”  So I hit this third wall and got a grip on the foot/hand holds and charged up to the top, honked the horn, and headed down to the ground. 

 

It felt SO good to conquer this!  Oh my goodness – it was hard but I did it!  It was also a great workout.  We tried climbing for an hour and both of us were sweating!   I look forward to trying it again.  Side note – my arms felt like putty the next day.  My whole upper body was hurting.  My forearms hurt, my back hurts, etc.  Onto the next adventure…

Mar 9

WillPower & Grace…Muscle Confusion!

New class day…new class day!  Today I tried WillPower & Grace for the first time.  WillPower & Grace is a fusion class of calisthenics and dance with movement-based exercises.  It’s also recommended to take the class barefoot (hence the need for a pedi last week).  I plunked myself in the front row (which keeps me giving 100%) right next to the instructor.  We had a long warm-up where we stretched the whole body, including our toes!  Then Jenn led us into many body-weight exercises. 

I didn’t think I’d really sweat but about halfway through the class, I was beading around my forehead and then boom!  I was sweating like I do when I take my other classes.  Whew!  I know body weight classes are strenuous but wow!  Equinox always brings it!  There are too many good classes on Wednesdays – it’s hard to choose.  How do I choose between WillPower & Grace, Tabata, Pilates Mat and Modern Mat?  Maybe I’ll rotate them…choices, choices!

On Monday, I felt the effects of my first day doing Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30.  My arms and shoulders were achy.  I immediately thought about throwing in the towel on the 5x daily KKC challenge.  “It’s just not worth it…” I tried to convince myself.  Still – I got up, rolled out my mat and knocked out two sets while listening to the Throwback Jams station on Comcast.  At least I can have good music while I suffer.  I’d get the remaining sets in during the day.  My workout schedule is so structured with classes that I appreciated having a day where I could customize my workout.  

I started my workout with two rounds of KKCs – ugh!  Then I grabbed a 8KG ViPR and did a few sets of arm and leg work.  Finally, I moved to a treadmill to crank out two miles.  I’m trying to keep a base of running until I start outdoor work (which will be soon hopefully). 

I thought about the Biggest Loser and how Jillian/Bob push the contestants out of their comfort zones.  My goal this year is to get faster at running.  Therefore, I knew I needed to kick it up a notch if I want to see improvements in my speed.  So after warming up, I kicked up my speed to 6.2, then 6.7 and ran that for most of the time.  I wanted to run two miles in under 20 minutes.  It ended up being 19:40 for two miles.  I’ll take it.  For being on a treadmill, that was fast for me.  I can run two miles sub-20 minutes outside easy but indoors is so much harder.  It’s a treadmill – nuff said!

With all this variety, my muscles stay confused and therefore continue to get stronger!

Mar 6

Review: Ripped in 30 - Level 1 & March Challenge!

I decided to try out Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30 DVD today.  It came in the mail a few days ago and I watched all four levels first.  Today would be the perfect day to try out Level 1.  Before popping in her DVD, I did one set of the KKC.  On the weekends, I just have to do one set on either Saturday or Sunday.  Ripped in 30 follows the same format as Jillian’s Shred series, which is three circuits of: 3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio and one minute abs.  You need a set of lighter and heavier dumb bells.  I used fives and eights.  I probably should have used only eights but wanted to test out her DVD first.  I also used a 10-lb kettlebell for the segment where she has you swing the dumb bell.  Since I had the equipment, why not? 

Jillian as usual had me sweating with the fun mixture of push-ups, plank exercises, squat and presses, butt kicks, and skaters to name a few.  The DVD is about 24 minutes including the warm-up and cool down so it’s great for those who are time pressed but want to get an effective workout in.  Since I’m pretty consistent with going to the gym during the week, I’ll make this a weekend add-in.  Overall I got 30 minutes in today when you combine the KKC set in.  That works for me on the weekend! 

This month of March, I’ve been challenged to do five sets of the KKC daily (Monday to Friday). 

The plan is to get three sets in before work and the normal two sets during the day.  I asked my trainer for some variations and this is what I got:

  • Five regular push-ups (military-style)
  • Plank hold for one minute – every ten seconds hold one foot off the floor.  Switch every ten seconds.
  • V-Sit hold (45 degree angle) for one minute
  • Mountain climber holds – in plank mode, bring right knee towards left elbow.  Hold 3 seconds.  Bring left knee towards right elbow.  Hold 3 seconds.  That’s one rep.  Repeat nine more times.
  • 25 knee roll-ups.  Get into crunch position, lift knees and legs upward.  When crunching, try to touch your shins.

I started this challenge on Thursday and did five sets on Friday.  This coming week will be the first full week of this challenge. 

Back to the grind tomorrow - make it a great week!