Tag Archives: fitness

The Beginner’s Guide To Going To The Gym

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gym

I didn’t name this a “guide to the gym.” I named it a “guide to going to the gym.” See, it’s nice to want to learn about machines and exercises, about gym etiquette and basic rules. But to wrangle those things we first have to tackle the very real fact that most people never actually set foot in a gym. Imma help with that.

That’s why I came up with this handy-dandy guide intended to help you get your butt out the door and actually in the gym; to finally shut up that jerk of a voice in your head telling you you’ll look ridiculous and out of place, so why bother going at all. Enough of that shit.

And why should you listen to me?

Because this is what I do for work and how I earn a living. I have insider information.

And also because once upon a time I was in your exact same shoes.

Which brings me to The Things You Should Know #1: Every single gym rat, buff guy/girl and fitness enthusiast you may ever come across, has at some point in their lives started off as a newbie. Just like you. We’ve all been there: the uncomfortable feeling of stepping into new territory, the self-consciousness of knowing we’re going to mess up and be ridiculed, the awkwardness of thinking we don’t fit in, so sure that others will see right through our pretending, sorry asses. Actually (and you have my permission to laugh. Because, really.) I want you to know that I was in your shoes just two years ago– and I was already a personal trainer! Even though I was a fitness professional, I had lots of experience, I knew all the ropes… I couldn’t help but feel scared when the time came to start training at my new place of work. You would imagine that with all I knew and the cred that comes from having put your fair amount of time training yourself and others I would be immune to the mental B.S. But I wasn’t. Because when push comes to shove, survival instincts kick in and fear of the unknown is a very real defense mechanism. It took me one week to finally walk down that narrow hall into the weights area, the lonesome girl amidst the lifting guys. And it got better. Real quick, actually.

That fear you feel is normal.

You got that? It’s normal. 

It’s actually kind of natural, expected and even somewhat healthy to feel this way. Back in the days when our survival depended on our awareness and familiarity with our surroundings, our monkey brain evolved to be uncomfortable and hyper-aware in new situations. Although our lives have drastically changed, to this day that part of our brain feels threatened as we experience something new, as though we were in great danger, and is trying to kick us into fight or flight mode. I mean, what if a sable-tooth tiger jumps out from behind the leg press machine, right?

Our logic, conscious mind knows that new can be scary though not necessarily bad or dangerous. But monkey brain didn’t get that memo. And this is why you have to remember that your brain is simply doing its part in keeping you safe from harm when these feelings arise. It’s trying to convince you to stick to what you know, to what’s familiar and comfortable (like staying at home instead of going to the gym.) Thank your brain for taking such good care of you, but don’t let the fear dominate your life experiences. You got this.

A powerful exercise to deal with such thoughts of doom is what is called notice and name. When the uncomfortable thoughts arise, simply notice their presence without judgment or trying to push them away. “Oh, there’s fear.”  “Why hello, self-doubt.” “Hm, I’m thinking thoughts of ridicule.” This simple action strips them of their iron grip over your life. You become an observer, no longer the main character suffering the story these thoughts want to tell. Sure, it takes practice to catch yourself, but trust me, the benefits of noticing and naming cannot be understated.

 

And while we’re in the subject of “thoughts of ridicule,” let me introduce you to The Things You Should Know #2: No one went to the gym today with the sole purpose of judging, criticizing or humiliating you. Really. Our tendency may be to make everything about ourselves, but in this case it’s just not. Most people in the gym are genuinely there to exercise. Shocking, eh? Most don’t have a whole lot of time in their day to stand around pointing fingers and laughing and newbies (and if they do, how sad is their life?) Even though you feel extremely self-conscious and like all eyes are on you (remember: Your brain is in hyper-aware mode) remember other people have their own worries, goals, insecurities, and time frames to even give you or me a second thought.

Some day down the line, once your gym is familiar territory and you’re rocking to your favorite tunes and kicking ass in whatever you’re doing, you will suddenly realize how you truly don’t pay much attention to anyone else around you. You’ll know with all certainty you had nothing to worry about in the first place.

 

I want to make this as easy on you as I can. So here are my easy-peasy pointers to successfully get your rear in gear.

1) Find a gym you like.

Big, impersonal chain gyms aren’t the only option out there. Find a gym or studio that gives you a nice feeling, that reflects values and ideas that are important to you. If being surrounded by bodybuilders isn’t your idea of fun, maybe stay away from Gold’s gym. There are so many quirky, cute, special and unique spaces where there is a sense of community within members– if that’s your thing. If you’re a loner and would rather not share space with many others maybe find a 24/7 gym to which you can have access at odd hours and rock it out alone. This is about you and what you enjoy. You won’t go to the gym if you can’t stand what it looks like, smells like, feels like, and represents. Be true to yourself.

2) Get at least a one-hour session with a personal trainer.

Many new gym-goers skip on this because of financial reasons, but you have no idea what even one hour alone with a trainer can do for your gym life. You have one hour to ask all the questions you want, they will tell you about the gym rules (the stipulated ones and the unspoken ones), they will teach you how to use the machines and equipment. This can give you all the confidence you need. Plus, it allows you to solidly meet one staff member. Bonus: Have them introduce you to other staff members! They’re you allies, your spotters, your guides. They want to see you succeed and keep coming back. Use them.

3) Do what you like.

If you hate cardio please don’t spend endless hours on the treadmill or elliptical. If you hate cycling don’t join a spinning class. At least in the beginning focus on what you like. Remember we’re in the process of making the gym a familiar place where you feel comfortable. You’ll have time to tackle more new things soon enough. In your first few tries, be kind and patient with yourself.

4) Prep. Practice. Mentalize.

Prepare your gym bag (shoes, water bottle, iPod and ear buds, wallet with gym membership card) the night before. Leave your gym clothes laid out, too. Choose a training program you’re excited about following and (trick of the trade) PRACTICE. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the equipment, simply practice the motions when you’re alone at home in front of the mirror until your body feels comfortable with the movements. Make it easy to succeed! Find YouTube videos explaining proper form for each exercise and practice the shit out of ’em. Mentalize yourself doing the exercises at the gym– this adds to the feeling of familiarity, since your brain can’t tell the difference between what you imagined and what you have in reality experienced. So, as far as your brain knows, you have been in this gym doing these exercises before. Less stress, yay!

 

This should be enough to set you up in the path of being an avid gym-goer. Welcome to the dark side, rockstar.

 

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The No-Human-Power-Can-Make-Me-Leave-The-House-Today Workout

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-20 Celsius. Enough said.

Here’s what to do when the prospect of stepping out and having your nose fall off is just too much to bear.

 

Warmup:

50 jumping jacks

Active stretching

 

Workout:

1st Set:

-5 burpees

-10 squats (I went for full range of motion variation, or Ass to Grass, as they’re commonly known)

Rest 30 seconds

 

2nd Set:

-8 burpees

-15 squats

Rest 45 sec.

 

3rd Set:

-10 burpees

-20 squats

Rest 1 min.

 

THE ASS TO GRASS SQUAT:

Baby squats

Squat, baby, squat. No baby required, though.

 

... and come back up strong, engaging glutes and core.

… and come back up strong, engaging glutes and core.

 

2 sets each of:

-30 side lunges (15 reps each side)

-20 glute bridge

Rest 30 sec. in between

 

THE SIDE LUNGE:

Side lunge: Feet about shoulder width apart.

Side lunge: Feet about shoulder width apart.

Bend one knee and come down pushing your butt back. Keep your spine neutral, don't allow it to round. With a strong push through the heel, use your bent leg to push yourself back to standing position.

… then bend one knee and come down pushing your butt back. Keep your spine neutral, don’t allow it to round. With a strong push through the heel, use your bent leg to push yourself back to standing position. Repeat 15x with the same leg, then switch.

 

THE GLUTE BRIDGE:

Glute bridge: Start laying on the floor, with your heels close to your butt.

Glute bridge: Start laying on the floor, with your heels close to your butt.

 

 

... then push your hips up. Way up. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, then slowly bring down and repeat. Note the hips do not rest entirely on the floor again in between reps-- it's just a dynamic up-and-down.

… then push your hips up. Way up. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, then slowly bring down and repeat. Note the hips do not rest entirely on the floor again in between reps– it’s just a dynamic up-and-down.

To finish:

– 3 sets of 1 minute planks.

Rest 30 sec. in between each

 

Plank: Don't arch your back or allow your hips to collapse down.

Plank: Don’t arch your back or allow your hips to collapse down.

 

Stretch.

 

And there you have a full body exercise (albeit with a bit more emphasis on lower body, which is the way I like it) that doesn’t even require any equipment. This works endurance and strength. Extra points if you use your baby, your fat cat, or any other creative prop for additional resistance.

I really don’t want to say this but I have to say it because YEAH. If you’re exercising with your baby (or your cat for that matter) use common sense and if something feels unsafe/off/too tough put the child down. Put. the child. down. But you’re smart peeps and you know this already, right? Right.

I’m Back and I Bear Gifts Of Triathlon Inspiration

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I haven’t been on the ball lately, but I swear I have a really good reason.

Yes, a cuddly reason…

A sweet and snugly reason that has flipped my world upside down.

Her name is Era and she was born on September 16th. For the longest time my mind had no room for anything other than cooing and loving this little bundle of cuteness, but I’m finally catching up on my sleep and getting the hang of having a tiny baby all over again, after over a decade of last having an infant around. Thanks for sticking around while I figured this out!

And now back to business. Of the non-cuddly but very inspirational kind.

Let’s meet bad girl Harriet Anderson:

This lady was 74 years old when she competed in the 2009 Ford Ironman World Championship. SEVENTY-FOUR cheesuschrist. And you see her arm up with the red tie? That’s because missus there broke her clavicle falling off on the bike portion of the race, and still managed to finish the race on time. This means she completed the remaining 32 miles on bike and an entire goddamn marathon with a broken collarbone. Are you feeling like a total wuss yet? I sure am.

She began competing in her fifties and has been relentless since. She’s badass and I want to be like her when I grow up. I’m not even kidding.

Now click over here and read her full story, you won’t be sorry. Hard core chicks, yeah!

Zumba is Fitness and Dance’s Lovechild

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I can’t think of a single better way to work out than this.

My Saturday began with waking up at 5:30 am in order to get ready and leave the house in time for the 1.5 hour drive to the town where the training would take place.

I love to dance and have been teaching dance fitness classes for some time, so I decided it was time to become a fully certified Zumba instructor. It was also kind of urgent that I get it done as soon as possible because, you know, once the baby is born it will be near impossible to be gone for an entire day. When you’re pregnant it’s like you’re constantly chased around by Mike Wallace’s 60 Minutes ticking clock because time’s a-running. And you can’t forget it.

The training was super fun and dynamic: Nothing to wake you up like a high-intensity dance fitness class at 8:30 in the morning!

Our instructor, Andrea Sandhu, was fantastic.

Super grainy pic. Sorry about that!

I grew up listening to Latin music like the one used in Zumba classes. My favorite for dancing is Salsa, but I’ve always found it a bit difficult how to explain to non-Latin students how to follow the beats. I’ve listened to this kind of music so long that the beats are simply there for me, it all just makes sense. However, someone who is new to the music style may not hear the same things I do; not all beats jump out as clearly. In Andrea’s simplification of the basic steps I learned how to help someone make sense of the different rhythms and pauses, and I’m sure this will help me a lot with my students.

Along with the practical classes in which the simplified steps for Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia and Reggeton were explained, we also had a couple of lectures in which the more technical parts of being a Zumba Instructor were broken down for us. It was very helpful because we were provided with many resources and options, as well as learning tools and material.

Our group was very eclectic, with people from all ages and from all areas in attendance. It was almost mostly women, but I was very happy to see two guys in there! I think Zumba needs male instructors as much because everyone has something of their own to offer. One of our classmates had a very inspirational story that she shared with us: She has lost 130 Lbs. so far, and this was just following the Zumba dvds in her living room, on her own. There’s no doubt that when there’s determination you don’t need fancy equipment or professional studies in exercise and nutrition. She was so happy and I’m sure that she’s extremely proud of herself.

Overall it was a great experience, I made new friends (even someone from my area, yay!) and I had a great time.

I was nervous in the beginning because with it being such a long haul I wasn’t sure where my energy levels were going to be at different points of the day, but fortunately my almost five month-pregnant self got through it fine.

If you’ve been thinking about becoming a Zumba Instructor you should totally go for it. I found the training to be very helpful and worthwhile, and I’m super glad I did it!