I will be the first to admit that I’ve never really been an athletic person. Growing up I played 1 season of soccer in the 5th grade, and that was the extent of my athletic activity. I never had dance lessons or played any sports, or anything else except swimming lessons during the summer (my mom can’t swim and therefore couldn’t have saved any of us kids if we got into trouble, so I did get swimming lessons every year until I was certified as a lifeguard).
I played flute from 5th grade all the way to high school graduation, which at my school meant you did marching band too, which is probably the most “active” thing I’ve ever done. My junior year of high school, I decided that flag corps looked like more fun than marching with a piccolo (but really, what isn’t more fun than that…) so I auditioned, and spent the remainder of high school and the first two years of college in the flag line. I would probably have continued for my last two years of college, but I spent the Fall semester of my junior year in Washington DC as an intern and when I came back to college the feel of the flag line group had changed, so I decided not to go back for my senior year. However a friend and I also coached a high school flag line for my sophomore through senior years of college, so we still got our fix. 🙂
Marching band was enough activity (1 hour every day for marching rehearsal, plus once a week flag sectionals that were 2 hours long, plus parades and games… plus teaching at the high school) that I managed to stave off the dreaded freshman 15 in college, and I left at roughly the same weight that I started. I didn’t feel like I was “working out” because I really enjoyed marching, but it was definitely a calorie burn. Then I graduated, left the area, and moved to DC for law school, where I sat in class, sat around reading law books for class, and sat around for hours studying for finals. I didn’t bring a car with me to DC, so I walked everywhere, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from gaining 15-20 lbs. over three years. So, now that my schedule is steady, I’ve been working to bring that number back down. My entire goal in this is simply to be able to wear all my clothes again without worrying if they’re too tight (my summer shorts and nice work pants in particular are waaaaay small right now – I can get them on and get them buttoned, but they’re skin-tight, and not in a good way. Which brings me to my next point: just because you can get it zipped/buttoned/shimmied on does not mean it fits…)
So far my attempts to be more active have been sporadic, with the exception of running with the Horrible Hound. Since he is super energetic in the morning, and I have to take him out no matter what, we usually run 1-2 miles every morning Monday through Friday. If the weather is good and I have time to take him to the nearby dog park, we’ll do our usual route, and then double back and jog to the dog park, which probably only adds another 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile. In addition to the running, I’ve tried a few different fitness classes, and I’m still looking for something that I really enjoy, and that I can afford to do on a regular basis.
So far I’ve tried:
Bikram Yoga – There was a Groupon deal to a place close by where I work for an unlimited month of Bikram, so two of my co-workers and I decided to give it a try. I learned that I’m still fairly flexible, but my balance is awful. While I enjoyed the feeling of being de-toxed from all the sweating and having my muscles be a bit sore the next day (which is always a sign of a good workout), Bikram isn’t something I see myself doing more than once a week. I felt like the second and third classes each week were harder for me to enjoy, and my form actually got worse! But I did enjoy it enough to go back whenever I feel like I need a detox and a quiet stretch.
Crossfit – Full disclosure, I only tried this twice, and what I’m about to say won’t be pretty. My hubby does Crossfit on their standard schedule (3 days on, 1 day off as a “rest” day) and one day he convinced me to do a leg workout with him, because it didn’t require any weights (I hate working with weights, which I realize is silly, but there you go). The workout was something like 40 feet of walking lunges, 100 squats, and 25 supermans (which were actually a sub for something we didn’t have equipment for), repeated 3 times. Let me tell you, I knew this was going to be harder than it sounded, so I cut the squats back to 50 per set. By the middle of set 2 I was ready to call it a day, but I finished it out. My legs felt like jello. The next day (and the 2 days after that) were awful. Sitting down to pee was one of the hardest things ever (I mean, you can flop down into a couch or chair when your legs don’t want to lower you any further, but you can’t really do that in the bathroom…) I went running on day 3 with the Horrible Hound, and for a while it felt good to stretch my leg muscles out, but after I got done running they hurt even worse! The second Crossfit workout was to run 1/4 of a mile as fast as you could and then do 100 squats, repeated 3 times. Again, I cut the squats to 50, and I ran the whole 1/4 mile each time, although my “fastest” got slower and slower until I was barely going faster than a quick walk. I wasn’t nearly as sore from this workout, but I was certainly tired at the end of it! If the hubs tries to convince me to do another weight-less Crossfit workout with him, I’ll probably do it, because for such a short amount of active time (each one above takes around 30 minutes) you do get a huge calorie burn, but I wouldn’t want to do the full Crossfit system (and I don’t have a gym membership like the hubs does, so most of the workouts I can’t do anyways). One thing I will say about Crossfit – it really does help you perform better in other areas. At the very least, every other workout will seem less difficult because at the end of the day, nothing makes you as sore as a Crossfit workout does 🙂
Pure Barre – A brand new Pure Barre franchise just opened in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of DC, and I purchased their opening special deal to check it out (one month of unlimited classes). The friend I taught flags with had been in Drum Corps for years (look up DCI, it’s basically professional-caliber marching band) and she taught me several warm-ups and stretches that were ballet-based, and which I love, so I thought a barre class would be a good fit for me. A lot of their exercises are variations of things we taught our flag line girls, so it was nice to have that familiarity, but the time spent on them is very short. After two classes, I can tell that my abs, thighs, and triceps are sore, but bearably so (again, nothing compared to the day after that first Crossfit workout!) I can tell my muscles are really working during class, because they’re literally shaking, and they’re sore the next day, but walking out of class I wasn’t wobbly and I felt pretty good. The classes seem to go by really quickly (you switch positions and do something new basically every 90 seconds) and they’re set to a good beat. I do wish there was a little more stretching time though, particularly at the very end of class. There are a few yoga studios that also offer “barre-style” classes, so I might try one or two of those for comparison when my unlimited month ends at Pure Barre. (Also, without the special that I purchased these classes are crazy expensive!)
Of course, a girl can’t work out without a gym bag and some essential goodies, and I love to peek inside other people’s bags, so I figure it’s only fair if I share the contents of my gym bag with y’all too 🙂
My prior “gym bag” was a reuseable grocery tote (pathetic, I know) so when I signed up for the full month of Barre classes, I splurged a bit on an actual gym bag – the Thalia tote from North Face. I love that it has straps to carry a yoga mat on the back, which will come in handy if I go back to doing Bikram every now and then, and that it has multiple compartments with padding for a laptop, if needed. In the photo above are the bag, my “gym” clothes (my fave capri yoga pants, a sports bra, and a tank top, all Champion brand from Target – my other fave sports bras are from Aerie by American Eagle; I’m not busty, so I can get away with cute thin sports bras), a few snack items for pre- or post- workout, water, my grippy socks for Barre class, a mini brush, Neutrogena makeup remover cleansing cloths, and a Sonia Kashuk makeup bag filled with hair ties, bobby pins, and thicker hairbands to keep my short hair in line, as well as deodorant, tissues, and a mini rollerball of my current perfume (Dot by Marc Jacobs). Barre class doesn’t make me that sweaty and I shower once I get home, so I don’t have a towel/shampoo/body wash in here right now, but I would throw those in for an actual gym workout or Bikram. I also have some of my fitness faves posted on Pinterest – feel free to go over and check it out!
Do you have any favorite workouts or must-have products for your gym bag? Anyone else working to lose some college/grad school/9-5 desk job weight?