Fitness

Getting in Shape: My Kickboxing-versary

Kickboxing

Thanks to Facebook, I will never forget a memory — or in this case, my kickboxing-versary. That’s right. It has been a year since I took up kickboxing. As a former equestrian, with no prior martial arts experience, I never thought I would enjoy kickboxing as much as I have. The class has challenged me both mentally and physically — and the results speak for themselves.

The workout: In one word — intense. Even though I have been taking the class on a weekly basis, there are still some days when the workout just wipes me out. The warmup consists of either indoor running or shadow boxing, push-ups, and jumping jacks. By the time I get through the warmup, I’ve already gone through half of my water! Next, it’s time for some actual kickboxing — usually with a sequence of punches (jab, cross, hook, and uppercut) and then kicks (front kick, side kick, and roundhouse). And just when you think you’re done, it’s time to partner up for some relay sprints, sit-ups, and of course, more push-ups.

The benefits: I couldn’t do a single push-up when I started the class. Now, even though I hate them with a passion, I can get through a few sets of push-ups (before I need to cheat and drop to my knees). I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my overall stamina as well. I used to have to take frequent breaks between exercises, but now I can make it though the hour class without them. And my muscles are no longer sore for days afterwards. Last week, I attended two kickboxing classes. A first for me!

Kickboxing Results

The results: I love taking my weekly Saturday morning selfie. But more than having an Instagram-worthy image to post, it’s helped me document my progress. My biceps are much stronger than they’ve ever been. And now that it is almost time to hit the beach, I am really proud of how far my abs and core have come.

The takeaway: Trying a new workout can be intimidating. There have been plenty of times during the year that I’ve wanted to quit (and some months where I was less disciplined than others). But by sticking with this workout, I’ve tested my body and my mind. While I don’t always love waking up early on a Saturday morning, having a workout buddy has made it more enjoyable (thanks, Fran!). So, if there’s a workout you’ve been wanting to try, I say go for it. And bring a friend along. It just might become what you look forward to all week long!

Have you tried any new workouts recently?

Crunching it with Crunch Live

Crunch Live

I enjoy working out and staying in shape, but I wouldn’t consider myself a gym rat. My ideal fitness environment includes a class at a studio, or a work out in the comfort of my own home. So when Crunch approached me about trying their online Crunch Live program, I suspected I might get hooked. And I was.

The idea of going to the gym after work has never appealed to me. Add in that they are noisy and crowded and that is enough to make me skip working out altogether. For the past few years, I have enjoyed various apps on my iPad to help keep my fitness goals in check. But Crunch Live has streamlined the process by offering different types of workout classes of varying lengths all on one platform, thus simplifying my life, keeping me motivated, and reducing the amount of apps on my iPad.

The first class I tried with Crunch Live was Yoga Body Sculpt taught by Bethany Lyons. It was a fast moving yoga class and really got my heart rate up. Unlike traditional yoga classes, which focus on stretching and relaxation, this class was all about burning calories in a short amount of time….and, boy, did it accomplish the goal. Halfway through I felt as though I had done more work then in some of the longer fitness classes I’ve tried in a studio. Bethany was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and she offered accommodating variations for those who may not be comfortable with certain poses. That is something you don’t always see in online classes!

Crunch Live also has cardio and strength training classes (which were a great supplement to the kickboxing class I take on the weekend), Dance Rythms (something fun to do when you aren’t in the mood to work out, but just want to move around a bit), and Quickies, 15-minute workouts when you are crunched for time.

If you’re like me, and enjoy working out at home, or you find yourself traveling a lot for work and missing your fitness routine, then this platform is worth a try (and you can try all their videos with a 3-day FREE trial!). I found that even on days when I was tired after a long day at the office, Crunch Live made it convenient to squeeze in a quick workout without adding extra travel time to make it to a studio. With many different classes (they have over 70+ online workouts), all tailored to getting you fit in the shortest amount of time, this is a great way to stay in shape and have fun doing it.

Image courtesy of Crunch Live

Summer Fitness

Kickboxing

If there is one thing I love more than summer, it’s all the sweet treats that the season brings. Take one look at my Instagram and you would know that I have been indulging in gooey chocolate chip cookies, sinful pudding, and homemade ice cream sandwiches. And while I’ve enjoyed eating all the sweet stuff, I also feel like I should be working out extra hard to burn it off.

I recently took up kickboxing and love the workout. The class is the hardest thing I have ever done and tests my endurance (which is seriously lacking). But during my last class I noticed that I’ve gotten much stronger and less winded. Don’t get me wrong, the class is still intense, but now I don’t feel like I’m going to have a heart attack after 15 minutes of rigorous exercise. After taking a two-week hiatus to enjoy the summer I need to up my fitness game — in the form of an additional evening kickboxing class this week (yikes!).

The only problem with this idea is that I’m still sore from the last kickboxing class. So, here are a few of my tips if you find yourself facing a similar workout quandary.

Try to work different muscles: Like, the ones that aren’t sore! Thankfully, my instructor is good at varying the class. My arms are still feeling all the bag work we did the other day, but they are noticeably less sore than my shoulders and abs. My plan for the next class is to work more on my kicks, if possible.

Rest up during the day: I like to take a two-mile walk on my lunch break, but since I will be doing this class after work, and probably will be tired to start with, I’m going to limit my daily activities before the class to working and eating. With any luck, this will help my body be ready come evening.

Stay hydrated: I tend to get headaches after vigorous exercise — and this happens frequently after kickboxing if I get dehydrated. To combat this, I’ve started drinking lots of water in the morning before my class and I make sure to drink throughout the day. Bringing along a frozen water bottle has helped and allows me to get a few sips in during an intense class (it melts nicely in the hot dojo, giving me a cold drink).

Stretch…stretch…stretch: I find stretching before and after a class very helpful, especially when I’m sore. I will be doing some extra stretching before the next class to help loosen up my muscles and avoid injuries.

Give your body some down-time: My second kickboxing class will be less than 48 hours after the first, and I’ve noticed that I am more sore on day two. After this class, I’m planning on taking the rest of the week off from any strenuous activity so my body can recuperate.

How do you stay in shape over the summer? I’d love to hear your tips for exercising when sore.

Kickin’ It in Kickboxing

Victory Mixed Martial Arts - Kickboxing

Over the weekend, I tried my first kickboxing class. Let me just say — I might be hooked. It was such a great workout (even though I thought I was going to pass out after five minutes of rigorous exercise).

My friend Fran, who has been taking kickboxing classes for a while at Victory Mixed Martial Arts (VMA) in West Islip, New York, invited me to join her. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, so needless to say, I was excited.

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I knew I was in for a workout, but really wasn’t sure how intense it would be. Our instructor, Charlie, had us begin by running around the perimeter of the studio to get our heart rates up. Loud music got my feet moving fast, and within a few minutes I realized that I was fairly out of shape. After our “warm-up” run we did a series of jumps, squats and push-ups before securing our spot with a free standing punching bag. We started off with some right-left punches and gradually added in upper hooks. Next we incorporated kicks into the sequence. This works your whole body, and midway through, I could feel my arms and legs becoming sore.

For the last part of the class we worked with a partner on the punching bags and each took turns punching or kicking for ten reps while the other person spotted the bag. Lastly, we used a resistance band around the base of the punching bag and did sit-ups while our partners gripped our legs. The final minutes were spent on working and maintaining a strong core through leg-lifts and scissor kicks.

Victory Mixed Martial Arts - Kickboxing

{I survived my first class!}

If you’re new to kickboxing, here are some things to keep in mind:

Bring water. I forgot to remember this helpful bit of advice that applies to 100% of fitness classes. Thankfully, Fran was kind enough to think of me and brought along an extra bottle (thanks, Fran!). I chugged a lot of water throughout the class, so it would be wise to have one or two on hand.

Wear comfortable clothes. Kickboxing works your entire body, so wear something that moves easily and is lightweight.

Bring hand sanitizer. Unless you own boxing gloves, chances are you are going to have to use the ones at the studio. Just in case there is no hand sanitizer provided, you might want to have your own supply.

Wear sticky socks. Since there are no shoes allowed on the mat, I opted to wear my socks, which made the run part a bit challenging (especially around the turns). You might want to wear socks with some grip so you don’t slip on the mats if you opt to leave them on.

Do what you can. This was a small class, but there were clearly people well more advanced than I. It’s easy to want to give it your all, but listen to your body if you feel you need a break.

As a workout, this class was fabulous. There was so much energy in the room that the time went by quickly. Charlie did a great job going through the sequences and motivating us throughout the class. I am looking forward to getting fit with kickboxing and making this class a weekly occurrence.

How to Incorporate Exercise into Your Day

Yoga at Runyon Canyon

I love to exercise, but lately I’ve found myself short on time during the work week. Question number two of Talentedly’s 67-day challenge asks me whether I have exercised daily for ten minutes. For two consecutive days I have had to answer “no,” which got me thinking about fool-proof ways that I can incorporate at least ten minutes of exercise into my busy days.

Now that the weather has warmed up, I try to slip out of the office for a lunchtime walk — usually around two miles. But that has become a luxury these days. I find that if I don’t get some form of exercise in before leaving the office it just doesn’t happen that day. So here are a few ways I’ve been able to squeeze it in. Some are unconventional, but exercise is exercise!

Impromptu dance party (in my living room): I know this might not burn as many calories as a five mile run, a barre class or two hours in the gym, but when I’m short on time (and energy), cranking up the tunes and making up a routine as I go is a great way to get my heart pumping.

Planking/sit-ups/push-ups (in front of the tv): This is a great remedy for when it’s 10 p.m. and I have completely abandoned my exercise goals for the day. I’ll alternate between holding a plank pose for a couple minutes to doing some push-up variations before finishing it up with sit-ups or crunches. If I’m really ambitious, I resort to holding chair pose during commercials.

Sun Salutation: This is reserved for those days when I’m stressed and stiff (read: in need of a yoga class!). If you are not familiar with the sun salutation poses, check out YouTube for some demonstrations. What I love about this is that I can incorporate my own variations and make it as challenging or as easy as I need for that day. It will definitely get your heart rate up and make you more supple!

Take the stairs: I try always to take the stairs, but if I know that exercise is not in my immediate future, I make an extra effort to climb the stairs multiple times a day and at a brisk pace. If no one is around, I skip steps and run up them as fast as possible.

Find a time that works for you: I would probably be able to exercise regularly if I devoted a consistent time each day to it. But since no two days are alike for me, it’s easier said than done. I like to exercise around mid-day. I find that it’s a good break for my mind and I come back ready to tackle my afternoon a bit more refreshed.

How do you include exercise in your day? Any tips for when you are short on time?

Yoga 101

Yoga 101

Yoga has long been practiced for its restorative effects on the body – increased flexibility, clarity, focus and stamina, to name a few benefits. But I still hear people say that they don’t like yoga or they find it hard to enjoy. I used to be one of them. As an equestrian I gave yoga a try time and time again, hoping to increase my flexibility and build long, lean muscles. It never quite worked for me. I was too restless to relax and focus on my breathing. Fast-forward a number of years, and after undergoing a thyroidectomy and looking for a way to stay in shape, I attended a beach yoga class courtesy of Lululemon. Although the participants were way more advanced than I was, I finally could strike that balance between working out and finding peace within my body. Since 2013 I’ve practiced yoga regularly through complimentary classes at Lululemon and classes that my gym offered. It was through the latter that I found the most amazing yoga teacher who always seeks to educate her students on the benefits of certain poses and varies the class to give you a real workout.

If you are interested in trying yoga here are some tips to get you started:

1. Try taking a class through your gym: This is a great way to try yoga and see if you like it before committing to a series of classes. The gym will likely have different instructors and offer vinyasa, hatha and hot yoga.

2. Take advantage of community or complimentary yoga classes: I credit Lululemon with getting me hooked on yoga. I enjoyed waking up early on the weekends and heading into a quiet, peaceful yoga studio before I started my day. And after you get your Om on, you can shop for new yoga gear.

3. Download an app: Not sure you want to try yoga in a class setting? Yoga Studio is a great app to have on you Ipad or Iphone. I love that they offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for either 30 minutes or an hour. The instruction is very clear and you can go at your own pace. It is also a great option if you are looking to supplement your weekly yoga routine and would like to do so from the comfort of your own home.

4. Treat yoga as a workout: Yoga isn’t just all mat-work and stretching. It can be intense and requires not just physical strength, but also mental composure. Some yoga classes I have attended have been as hard, if not harder, than an hour cycling class.

5. Give it a chance: It takes about six weeks to see an improvement in your flexibility, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Stick with yoga – try different teachers and classes. Eventually you will find something that works for you.

I am so glad that I have been able to incorporate yoga in to my life and I have seen an improvement in my strength and flexibility. It has also helped me combat my anxiety through breathing exercises and taught me to handle stress better. I look at yoga as doing something good for my mind and body.

Namaste!

All Aboard

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Over the holiday weekend, I tried something I have been dying to do since last summer. I’ll give you a hint… it involves water, a board and paddle, and nice weather wouldn’t hurt… You guessed it – stand-up paddle boarding. Every time I am at the beach I see people enjoying the calm water while getting a good workout paddling. Since I spent last summer recovering from a thyroidectomy and trying to avoid the sun and getting my neck wet, I had to forgo the paddle board experience then.

Now that my neck is fully healed, I am always on the lookout for new activities to vary my routine, and stand-up paddle boarding was number one on my list. It has become a very popular activity on Long Island in recent years. Most of the local beaches and marinas offer either lessons or paddle rentals. I checked the rates online at a few places and they were steep – around $75 for an hour lesson, whereas just the paddle board rental ran around $40 for an hour. I was pretty sure that I did not need a lesson and was planning on just renting the board and taking it from there. However, the last call I made was to the Long Island Stand Up Paddleboarding Company, where I was greeted by a friendly voice offering to extend the Groupon price of $39 for an hour lesson to me. SOLD!

With several convenient locations across the North and South Shores of Long Island, this place has you covered wherever you live. On the day I wanted to go out on the water, Saturday, the South Shore had strong rip tides and I was advised that they would be giving lessons in Saint James, on the North Shore.

I love exploring Long Island – so I welcomed the opportunity to see yet another locale. The drive up to the water through Saint James was exquisite, and if you are a horse person, the equestrian estates along the way will leave you speechless. It seemed like every house on Long Beach Road was a Dutch Colonial with a barn in the backyard. The rolling, manicured front lawns complete with horse-proof fencing were similar to the Kentucky landscape. Almost every house had their horses grazing on their property. The Knox School at the end of the road was the pièce-de-résistance. I had heard of this private school before because of its equestrian program, but seeing it in the flesh was a whole different story. At first, I thought it was just another stable, but the sign was too obvious to ignore. If I were a kid, this would be where I would want to go to school. There were horses out in the paddocks welcoming you down the long majestic driveway, and it looked more like a showground than a K-12 school. I digress!

After regaining my composure, it was time for the paddle boarding (the whole reason for the trip in the first place). The final destination was not a beach, but rather a bay with some boats docked in the water. The paddle board instructor, Scott, was young, but seemed experienced. There really wasn’t much instruction needed on land or on the board. Scott helped me get on the paddle board and attached the board to my ankle. Once up, I paddled away, taking a stroke on each side with my paddle. The winds were strong, fueled by the fading but still powerful Hurricane Arthur, and trying to avoid a collision with the docked boats was probably the hardest part of the whole experience. But the cool breeze felt great under the hot sun, although be sure to don sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses (although not expensive ones, as people have lost them falling into the water). A few other people took the lesson-rental when I did, and I was even able to carry on brief conversations with them while paddling and maneuvering around the bay. The hour flew by and I was sad when I had to return to shore.

Overall, I found paddle boarding to be every bit as exciting as I thought it would be. It provides a great upper body workout without being too strenuous on the legs and back. I enjoyed being out on the water, and the whole experience had a peace and serenity to it. It was liberating not to have to talk, text, or answer emails for one whole hour, and to be able just to concentrate on myself. I enjoyed paddling by the boats, silently moored in the bay, and from the vantage point of the water I could observe the shore, too, with its beachgoers, fishermen, and traffic.

I would highly recommend the Long Island Stand Up Paddleboarding Company if you are in the area and interested in giving paddle boarding a try. (Even at their remote, mobile locations, they take credit cards, which was a marvelous convenience.) I certainly plan on renting a board from them in the near future and enjoying another hour of peace.

If you are new to paddle boarding, I suggest calling a few different places to get rates and also look for a Groupon. I didn’t particularly find the lesson very helpful, but if you aren’t sure, go ahead and take one. The key to paddle boarding is remaining balanced. Once you can do that, it’s not very difficult to stay on the board and paddle.

F-U-N with B-O-S-U

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Top & Pants: Athleta

The other day I tried my first BOSU (BOth Sides Up) class. This was another case of ‘I have no idea what to expect,’ but I was excited to try a new workout. One of the best things about all these new classes is that I get to shop and add more fitness clothes to my already excessive wardrobe.

Once I figured out how to pronounce the name properly, my excitement turned to sheer delight when I met the squishy half-dome ball laying on the floor. After initially dropping the BOSU ball on my toe while attempting to move it, underestimating its weight (yes, this really did happen!), I then proceeded to try my luck in standing on it. To my surprise, it was not as hard to stay balanced as everyone had warned. Even though the instructor advised us not to jump on the ball, I had to try that, too, and felt like a rebellious kid jumping on the bed.

Now the serious part – the workout! We began by finding our balance atop the ball. Easy! Next we did some lunges with the ball, stepping side-to-side and also backwards. I felt my heart rate accelerating a bit. After we were all comfortable with our BOSUs we moved on to planks, sit-ups, and then back to kicks and lunges.

After only 30 minutes I was exhausted and felt like I burned a lot of calories. The workout is intense and really makes you use every muscle group in your body. We ended the class by lifting and turning the BOSU ball in the air, about chest high, to work our arms. When we needed a break, the instructor told us to hold the BOSU over our heads. A word of caution: the ball is cumbersome and this is harder than you may think.

Overall, this is definitely a workout that I look forward to adding to my routine. It’s fun, not too hard on joints (but you will be sore the next day!), and there are plenty of exercise variations to tailor it to your specific needs.

If you are new to BOSU:

– Make sure your sneakers are tied tightly to prevent your feet from sliding in your shoes and getting nasty blisters!

– Avoid working out on the ball in socks

– Have fun!

Happy National Donut Day! I hope you all enjoy the day and indulge.

Passing the Barre

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Lately, I have been hearing much about the Pure Barre workout. Since my spring yoga classes have ended, and fearing that I have indulged in one-too-many chocolate croissants in the past week, I thought it was time to give this a try.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I assumed a ballet barre was involved but was prepared for little else. Before the class, I visited the Pure Barre website and read about what to wear for the class: workout attire is preferred and sticky socks are recommended. I think after my many yoga classes and shopping trips to Athleta to purchase said workout attire, I had the first part of the required items covered. Sticky socks, however — I’m not sure I have ever found a need for those and therefore wouldn’t even know where to look for them.

Upon arriving at the studio, while filling out the standard waiver, I decided to ask whether I really needed the sticky socks. Since this was my first class, I was advised that regular socks would be fine, but if I continued with weekly classes I would probably want to buy a pair. For those like me who don’t have the proper socks in your closet, not to fear: you can purchase them at the Pure Barre studio for $12-15.

Now that I knew my attire would suffice, I grabbed a pair of weights, a small ball, and an elastic band for stretching before the class began. The studio was equipped with a long ballet bar facing a mirror. So far, it seemed like what I envisioned.

We began by doing simple exercises meant to get your heart rate up – squats and kicks, and then added weights to the exercises. I began to see that this was not just a ballet class! Next up we were at the ballet barre, parallel to the mirror. The exercises were getting progressively more difficult and I could feel my muscles begin to quiver a bit. We had to hold many poses and repeat movements. Lastly, we did mat work and a series of ab exercises. After 55 minutes, the class was over and I felt like every muscle in my body was invigorated.

Overall, I am glad I gave the Pure Barre craze a try, although I think I will stick to my yoga. Great workout? Sure! Relaxing? Um, I guess that depends on your definition. By the way, were you wondering why we needed sticky socks? You are working out on carpeting, so the socks prevent slipping at the bar. I can see using them, but I thought regular socks were fine. At least I’m glad I “passed the barre.”

Happy Monday!

Climbing the Walls…Literally!

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This week I went rock climbing at Island Rock, an indoor climbing facility. I didn’t really know what I was in for, but I am always up for trying something new.

Before I could even get my climbing shoes on and begin scaling walls, the first order of business was a mandatory belaying class. After an hour of tying and untying the figure-eight knot, figure-eight follow through, and double fisherman’s knot, I was itching to start climbing.

My first wall was a lot of fun, but required some serious upper body strength. By the time I got to my second climb I was a legend in my own mind. I picked the wall that had a slight angle to it and thought it would be a piece of cake. I made it half-way up, but then came the part where I needed to use every ounce of upper body strength I had left, which by this point wasn’t much, to overcome that angle jutting out to reach the top. After dangling mid-air for a few minutes, and vowing to tackle this wall, I had to call it quits!

I will return to that dreaded wall, but until next time… On belay!