As I’ve shared in the past, I always feel better when I exercise regularly. But, life can get in the way easily; and once I’m out of the habit, it’s so hard to get back into it. But a little inspiration goes a long way, and that’s what this week’s guest blog, by PLANK editor Mandy, is all about.
Mandy is one of those people who is always game to try something new … to say “what they heck,” let’s give it a shot. I find that inspiring in all things, but especially in the area of fitness – an area which I think many of us struggle. This summer, Mandy took on a little exercise exploration, and I think you’ll agree that it’s both fun and inspiring.
My summer on the move: How goats, drumsticks and surfboards inspired me
by Mandy Denaux
More often than not, when it comes to getting started on a new exercise routine, the toughest part isn’t physical … it’s mental. Sure, there’s usually some commitment of time and money; but for me, even once I’ve made up my mind to take on some goal or plan, actually getting started is still a big hurdle.
Because, let’s be honest, going to a new gym or workout class can feel like your first day at a new school. Where do I go? Where is the bathroom? What if I mess up and the other kids laugh at me? Okay, so perhaps it’s not that bad, but it can feel like it. Especially when you’ve been “out of the game” for a while!
After nearly a decade of being a pretty regular exerciser, I felt like I’d tried most workouts – running, spinning, kickboxing, boot camp, barre, etc. But to be honest, I was bored and struggling to rediscover the motivation that had been my driver for so long. So, this summer, I decided to look fear and boredom in the face and take that challenge head on by trying as many new classes as I could. Part of this little experiment was the fun of trying something new each week, and part of it was making a game of the whole thing so that the idea of new wasn’t intimidating … it was the point.
Living in L.A., between the beautiful weather and the popularity of fitness, I literally have a smorgasbord of options when it comes to exercise activities. So with the help of Google (I literally searched terms like “weirdest L.A. exercise classes”) and the occasional unsuspecting friend (they’ve learned that when I ask things like “Hey, what are you doing this weekend” they should be wary), I embarked on a summer of fun, funky and formidable workouts.
First up … Goat Yoga.
Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, it’s exactly as the name implies – yoga with goats. I saw a news story about this concept, and after a little research found a place available near me – Lavenderwood Farm in Thousand Oaks, where they offer Goat Yoga on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I grabbed my mat, enlisted a friend and off we went!
Now, let me say here that if you’re some advanced yogi looking for the next step in your yoga practice, this probably isn’t for you. But if you simply want to be outdoors, moving your body and engaging with baby goats … well, then the $20 fee is more than worth it!
The class took place on a pretty, residential farm property – in a small, gated area strewn with hay. As we piled in the yoga area, 8-10 goats ran in to join us. Having watched a few videos prior to coming, I had a pretty good idea what I was in for, but I couldn’t have imagined how absolutely sweet goats are. They just want to be held and loved. Needless to say, minus the poop and pee (which they did everywhere, including on our mats) it was a peaceful, joyous experience that I would absolutely do again.
Next up was Orange Theory Fitness.
I’d seen a few friends post about Orange Theory Fitness (OTF) on social media, so I did a little online digging. I’ll admit, I was intimidated, but, when a generous friend gifted me with a two-month membership for my birthday, I didn’t really have any excuses.
OTF isn’t unique to L.A. – in fact it’s one of the fastest growing workout trends, with nearly 1,000 facilities worldwide. The “theory” behind this trendy, high-intensity workout is the benefit of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or afterburn. Bascially, they contend (and I certainly want to believe) that after really strenuous exercise, the body continues to break down and burn fat long after the workout.
In this group class, each participant wears a heart rate monitor as they cycle through workout stations. TV screens throughout the room display the names and heart rates of participants, and the class leader coaches participants to achieve certain heart rate levels – shown in green, orange and red. Each class is divided into two groups, and while one group starts on the treadmill, the other does a combination of rowing machine and strength training activities. Half way through, you switch positions. (Take a look at this OTF video.)
I’d say it’s that simple, but it’s not simple at all. In fact, on your first workout, you have to arrive 30 minutes early to get an orientation to the workout, including getting set up with a heart rate monitor, machine operation and how to read color-coded heart rate targets.
Then the workout begins … and I’d be lying if I said it isn’t hard. It’s hard. BUT, the coach provides modifications to each exercise. Can’t run? Walk. Can’t do full pushups? Try modified or wall pushups. In my first class, there was even a woman who had a torn achilles heal, which made walking hard. No problem – they had a bike there for her. So you really can modify this workout to your particular fitness level and still get a really great workout.
Prices for OTF vary based on location, but at nearly $30 per class (plus the cost of purchasing one of their heart rate monitors), OTF isn’t cheap. They do, however, offer discount packages – and your membership can be used at any of their locations!
But wait. This class was HARD! Way harder than surfing was for me. Imagine all the hard parts of a boot camp – burpees, push-ups and spider crawls – and now imagine doing them on an unbalanced surfboard (see for yourself here). A half-hour in I was sandy and sweaty, and I’d taken a more than a couple painless spills off the board, but I was having fun!
All in all, this was probably my favorite class this summer. First, I love the idea of supporting this small business studio where the owners actually teach the classes. Next, the small class size (it was just my two friends and me) allows for plenty of one-on-one attention. And finally, in addition to the adult classes, they also offer personal training, kids classes and private events/parties.
A single class at Sandbox is $26, but they offer a free or discounted first class, have package discounts and sometimes do Groupon specials.
I finished off my gym tour adventure by visiting Basecamp Fitness, a new interval training gym with three area locations. And, because they assured me that all fitness levels were welcome, this time I brought my 65-year-old mom along.
- Getting started is still the hardest part, and there’s only one way to do it – get up and get to it!
- Working out makes me feel good (and it usually leads to me eating better too).
- Exercising can be expensive! But, it doesn’t have to be. And I know that in the long-run, not exercising is more expensive.
- Working out with friends is always more fun!
- Many studios offer a free or dramatically discounted first class. I only paid for one of the above mentioned classes (though I’m a sucker and now have more memberships than I can possibly use).
- I sweat. A lot.
- Groupon is a great way to try out some classes to see what you like.
- I’m always temporarily relieved when the end of class “floor” time arrives … but that relief is short lived when I realize that core exercise isn’t easy either!
- Goats are super sweet.
- The hardest workouts of the summer were Orange Theory Fitness and Surfset, but as is the case with most things, you get out what you put in!
And in the end, my biggest takeaway is this: You don’t need fancy classes with heart monitors, surfboards, TV screens or even baby goats to get fit. Sure, they can help with motivation and accountability, but those are all just accessories – nice to have, but not necessary. So, if you want to make a healthy change and get fit, just get up and get moving!
I’d love to hear from you too – what workouts do you love and how do you push yourself beyond your fitness comfort zone!