Wednesday Workout: 5 Ways to Spruce Up Your Workouts This Spring

Ahh, dare I say that spring might have FINALLY decided to show up?! With all of the cold, rainy, gloomy weather we’ve been having in New England, it feels pretty good to have some nicer weather gracing us with its presence! Along with nicer weather comes the option of getting to get outside for your workout instead of being stuck in the gym (unless you’re coming to a class, of course, because you shouldn’t feel stuck about that ūüėČ ), which is one of my favorite parts about the weather warming up. Although I was able to run outside pretty consistently this past winter, it feels so much better to get to run outside with minimal layers on.

But, if you still feel like you need a little something extra to put some pep¬†in your step and pump you up for you workouts this spring, I’ve got 5 ways that might be just what you need to get excited about working out… and also allow you to get outside for your workout- enjoy!

  1. Get Outside! You knew this was coming, right?! Whether it’s for a run, walk, run/walk combo, bootcamp, or even just your normal workout, but taken outside, getting to breathe in fresh air while you workout can be exactly what you need to push through and not dread your workout. Lately, I’ve been trying to run once or twice a week outside, but the other week I took advantage of our back patio and did this workout– all I needed was a mat, set of dumbbells and a jump rope! Or, maybe you grab a friend and head to Harvard Stadium to run stairs. I plan on doing a whole post soon with a list of organized bootcamps/workouts in & around the Boston area so if that’s your type of desired workout- sit tight!
  2. Buy Something New- There’s something about new workout clothes, shoes or equipment that makes me SO EXCITED to workout. Whether it’s a tank top, new socks or a new resistance band, just knowing I get to wear/use something new will help me get out the door to workout outside or in a class. TJ Maxx/Marshalls and Old Navy are great places to get some cute, but inexpensive items- both clothes and equipment! If you’re looking to spend a little more, Lululemon and Athleta have SUPER cute items in their spring collections (and fitness instructors- you get 15% off at Lulu and 30% off at Athleta!)
  3. Try A New Class/Gym- It seems as though every week there’s a new studio opening up or a new class being introduced, right? Is there a class you’ve been interested in checking out, but for one reason or another haven’t done so? Maybe it’s a barre class or pilates or boxing or rowing- whatever it is, maybe now is the time to finally check it out! I suggest checking with the studio prior to going because they often have new student/member discounts which is always nice.
  4. Try A Morning Class- With spring/summer comes an earlier sunrise meaning it’s a little easier to get up (is there anyone else who doesn’t sleep as well once the sun is up?), so why not try getting to the gym BEFORE work? Or maybe checking out November Project and joining them for an outdoor morning workout? Or even going for a walk or run outside. I love morning workouts, especially in the spring/summer because it leaves time after work for fun things like meeting up for drinks or going shopping or for a stroll to enjoy the weather. Check out this post for tips on how to make getting up early to workout a little easier. My friend Athena also wrote a post recently that might be of interest: My #1 Tip for Becoming A Morning Workout Person
  5. Sign Up For A Race– I haven’t run a race since October, so I was so excited when I was able to sign up for the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge race coming up in June. If running isn’t your thing, maybe you sign up for an obstacle race if there’s one coming to your town. Sometimes having an event or challenge on your calendar to look forward to or train for is just what you need to get motivated to crush your workouts and keep consistent with them.

What do you think? Do any of these things seem like something that would help you spruce up your workouts this spring? If you’re looking for ways to get outside for your workout or to spruce up your runs, I’ve got a whole bunch of outdoor workouts here.

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Photo Credit: Janelle Carmela Photography

Questions for you: What’s your favorite outdoor workout? Have you spruced up your workouts this spring? Have you tried any new classes or studios? Do you have any races or events coming up?

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Hi there! Remember how I talked about getting out of my comfort zone a few weeks ago when I went to Foster Fitness? It wasn’t comfortable. In fact, it made me feel quite uncomfortable. The gym and working out is usually a place and time where I feel comfortable, but I realized that’s only because I tend to stick to the same things: teaching, running, UXF area, KB’s, TRX, etc. Take me out of my “comfort zone” area? I felt humbled, and, well,¬† “new” to working out.¬†While it was hard, it was also exciting because it ignited a spark that hadn’t been ignited for a while; Fitness instructors get in ruts, too!

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You see, I’ve gotten SO comfortable with the gyms I frequent, exercises I do and classes I teach that I had almost forgotten what it was like to be “new”. I wasn’t used to not knowing exactly how to brace my body for the exercises and heavier weights, I had to take multiple breaks on the last set, and I had to make multiple self-corrections throughout the various exercises. But, I didn’t let that get me down. In fact, I’ve visited the heavier weights section at the gym since that one on one session¬†and have done barbell back squats, front squats and deadlifts multiple times now… on my own! I’m getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

And you know what? It’s not so bad!

I’ve been back to Foster Fitness for group ex classes two times now (maybe a third after work today) and I have to admit, I was faced with that same “uncomfortable” feeling. Most of her members have been going to her religiously since she opened her studio, so to say they all knew her and each other very well is an understatement. On top of that, they were familiar with the particular class, what weights they should use to execute the moves in a challenging, but safe, way and where everything was. And, they¬†were SO STRONG! ¬†In other words, I felt like a total newbie/outsider. But, I tried to put those feelings aside and do my best in the class. I asked questions and followed the lead of the other members.

And you know what? It wasn’t so bad!

After the initial uncomfortableness went away, I was able to focus on my workout and not about being the newbie. I realized that while my strength isn’t with the barbell- yet!-,¬† I was able to fly through the second half of the workout which relied more on speed and lighter weights. I even did 150 consecutive jump ropes…. on very tired legs! So, even though I experienced discomfort with certain parts of the workout and experience, I left there feeling proud of myself for powering through the hard stuff and for¬†crushing part of the workout.

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Here’s the thing, though, I could’ve easily let the first part of class and feeling like a “newbie” get me down and discourage me from going back, but I decided to get comfortable being uncomfortable and go back for a second class. While I still felt new, challenged and uncomfortable at times, I felt more confident than I had the two previous times I worked out there.

When we are in the midst of discomfort, I think it’s easy to feel like it’s never going to get easier. We like consistency,¬† comfort and feeling like we know what’s going on and what to expect. We don’t like¬† feeling uncomfortable, but the thing is- that’s where the change happens. It means we are doing something new and different and the natural result of that is change and growth, which is pretty awesome. Like the old saying goes, if we keep doing the same thing we can only expect the same results, so even though it’s hard to get out of our comfort zone, it’s so important to give it a try. I promise, although it’s hard and maybe a little scary¬†in the beginning, it WILL get easier and better the more you practice and stick with it. And once you feel comfortable, you’ll know it’s time to¬†change it up and get uncomfortable again- it’s a lovely little cycle ūüėČ

On that note, get out there and make some changes- they don’t have to be big and they don’t have to be super scary, but I promise that if you give something new a try you’ll feel pretty awesome!

Questions for you: Have you ever felt like you needed a spark with something in your life? What changes did you make to ignite the spark? What’s the last scary thing you’ve¬†tried at the gym or with a workout?¬†

Getting out of my comfort zone & getting my butt kicked {Studio Review}

Good morning! As I mentioned on Instagram last week, I had the pleasure of not only being a student in the gym/one-on-one session, but also the pleasure of getting my butt kicked. I was contacted by the Meghan, the owner of Foster Fitness, to see if I wanted to come check out her gym. Little back story- her soon-to-be father in law is a managing director at my office and knows how much I love health and fitness and knew we would get along so he gave her my information. Long story short, he was totally right! Between our love of fitness and both being newly engaged, let’s just say we had lots to talk about ūüėČ But don’t worry- we didn’t just talk- she lead me through¬†one heck of a workout, too!

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Let’s just say that Meghan does what’s always been my dream: she owns her own gym and runs classes and does some one-on-one training. Due to my crazy schedule, I was having a hard time getting to a class so I asked if there was any way to do a one-on-one training session and lucky for me, she agreed, so I went there on Thursday afternoon feeling so excited to try something knew. My co-worker told me that he told Meghan to challenge me, so at least I was pre-warned. Meghan had also asked me what I was looking to do and I asked her if we could go over some basic heavy lifts and get me more comfortable with barbell lifts and pushing me to get out of my comfort zone with regards to weights.

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We started with a quick, dynamic workout before going through the workout. It looked a little something like this:

  • 3 rounds of back squats with a 1 second pause X 10 reps and walking lunges w/DB shoulder press there & back. Since barbell back squats aren’t something I feel overly comfortable with, we kept it light-ish at 75lbs. It was encouraging because it didn’t feel super challenging!
  • 3 rounds of 10 SLDL right & left and then 10 standard deadlifts with 35lb dumbbells &¬†10 sumo squats
  • 3 rounds of 10 single leg hip thrusters right & left and then 10 double and then 10 chest press (I used 30lb dumbbells here)
  • 3 rounds of 10 chest fly and then 45* angle chest press & 6 heavy step ups rt & lt
  • We finished with one hell of a killer set of sled pushes and then she had me do push-ups for the amount of time it took me to push the sled down and back. The kicker? I had to do as many rounds as necessary to get to a total of 50 pushups. Luckily I did it in 3 rounds!

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“I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try”

“I’ll try”… two words that are music to a fitness instructors’ ears! As a fitness instructor, it’s not only my job to lead a safe, challenging workout, but it’s also my job to try and get people out of their comfort zone, to teach them new things and to give them encouragement to try something new. Something that they may not think they can do.

But, there’s a fine line with being motivating and helpful and encouraging and with pushing people too far and making them feel UN-comfortable. So, I’ve always got this in the back of my mind when I go over to help correct someone’s form or ask them to try it a different way or to increase their weights. Some people take really well to this, but some get offended, which is always a tough situation. When I correct someone’s form, I NEVER intend on offending them; merely, I’m doing it to help them do things the correct way to avoid a potential injury.

In my class on Wednesday, I had a few new people. I like to ask if anyone is new at the beginning of class so that I can make sure to keep an extra eye out for them throughout the class to make sure they are using correct form and are doing ok (pushing themselves hard enough, taking it down a notch if necessary, etc.). I was having them do Goblet squats with the focus on squat depth, ie: feet a little wider than hip width, kness and toes at a 45* angle, dropping deep and keeping the chest up. One new participant was doing more of a plie squat, which is fine… if we were doing plie squats ūüėČ Since we were doing a Goblet squat, I went over, moved my mic away from my face and talked her through form correction for the Goblet squat, which is when she said “I don’t know if I can do that, but I’ll try”.

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Sometimes Workouts Have To Take A Back Seat

As I mentioned yesterday, I wanted to spend some time today sharing a little bit about what I’ve been dealing with over the past week or so. It’s certainly been a frustrating time for me, but it’s given me time to think about a lot of stuff!

So. Let’s talk about health… and how much I (and I’m sure some of you can agree) take it for granted on a day to day basis. It’s not uncommon for me to workout at least an hour or two a day for 6 days a week. It’s just become part of my normal daily activity. I love it, I love the endorphins I get during and after a good workout, I love the feeling of sweat dripping from my face (and arms… and legs… and knees… and hair…), I love the feeling of working out with others, I love the feeling of teaching a class full of hard working members… you get the idea. Working out has just become a huge part of my life, so when that is taken away from me- even if it’s only for a few days- it’s really hard on me.

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I’m not worried that I will gain 5 pounds or lose all my muscle definition and cardio endurance I’ve gained over the past X number of years of working out. It’s more than that- it’s my source of stress relief, it’s¬†my “me” time to think or not think, plan or not plan, it’s something I do for myself each day that helps me relax, get centered and appreciate my body and its abilities.

Last week, over a short amount of time, I came down with a weird skin condition (for the sake of privacy, I’m not sharing what I was diagnosed with) that literally made me the most uncomfortable I have ever been. My hands and feet were incredibly painful and so swollen I couldn’t bend my fingers and it hurt to put on sneakers or brush my teeth. My arms/legs were covered with spots as well, and although they weren’t painful, they were itchy as hell. Needless to say, my number one priority and concern during the first part of the week¬†(ok, actually most of the week)¬†was, “what the F*** (pardon me) is going on with my body right now? When will it stop? What is causing this? Who will be able to tell me what it is and how fast it can be healed”. Working out was such a distant thought in my brain, which never happens.

However, as the medication started to have positive effects on me and I started to feel a little better, I was getting antsy. Working from home all week with pretty much no social interaction is such a foreign thing for me, and is not something I enjoy, so when you pair that with having physical limitations inhibiting you from working out, it makes for a cranky Monique. Actually, more than cranky, I was frustrated. Why me? What have I done to make my skin react on me like this? Why do my hands and feet hurt so bad? {Cue the “woe is me” music…}

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After I spent some time (ok, a lot of time) feeling bad for myself, stressing myself out and crying to my¬†parents, I realized I had a choice: I could wallow in self pity and be miserable, OR, I could appreciate the fact that what I had was likely nothing TOO serious, and certainly nothing fatal. Yeah,¬†it’s super¬†uncomfortable and annoying, but it would be so much worse.¬†So, I did my best to keep myself busy with work, blogging and talking on the phone to take up some of my abundance of “free” time (it’s so annoying that when I actually HAVE free time, I never remember all the things I want to do when¬†I’m busy and don’t have time. Anyone else have this issue?).

And, you know what? It wasn’t the most miserable thing. Sure, I got bored and certainly got cabin fever, but I think the fact that I knew, physically, that I couldn’t be as¬†active as I normally am¬†and really couldn’t be in public helped me accept it more…. Until things started to feel a little better. At that point, I was getting restless from lack of movement. Even if I don’t work out on a particular day, I can usually bank on walking at least a few miles in my normal commute. That doesn’t happen when you don’t leave your house for 48 hours… just saying.

Thankfully, I was able to come up with a very modified, no-contact, no impact workout on Wednesday that I did (going to post for you this week!), and then on Thursday, after g-chatting with Athena and asking her for more suggestions for exercises that didn’t require any touching with my hands (planks, push-ups, tricep dips, anything with weights, etc.) or jumping, I got in a really good- and fun- workout on Thursday after work. An hour passed within a blink of an eye and I think I smiled the whole time (my 3 mile walk during the day in 50*, sunshine weather didn’t hurt my mood, either). Granted, it wasn’t high impact, but you know what? It left me sweaty and sore and gave me that boost of endorphins that I was really craving.

So, what’s the point of this long rant, you may ask? Well, I wanted to catch you up with what’s been going on and I wanted to show you that if you want to make something happen, you can. I knew I physically needed to let my body rest for a few days (Sunday- most of Wednesday), which I did, but I also knew that for me, I needed to figure out a way to get some endorphins flowing once things started to clear up. And, you know what? Having to step outside of the box and my “normal” workout regimen was actually kind of fun. I was able to do things I hadn’t done in a super long time and, because of that, I felt the effects of it the next day. Our bodies get used to doing the same things day after day, week after week, so when you throw in “new” moves or variations, it wakes up some muscles that may have been dormant for a bit (Athena wrote up a great Sunday Sweat Talk on this topic on Sunday- couldn’t agree with her more!). Next time you find yourself with injuries or something else that’s limiting you from doing your usual workouts, I challenge you to talk to friends and try to find “new” exercises that you can do- you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results AND probably won’t be bored because it will be new to you.

Your turn to talk! When’s the last time you changed up your workouts? How do you deal with being cooped up at home for an extended amount of time? Who do you go to when you need fitness advice, ideas or motivation?