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My summer on the move: How surfboards, drumsticks and goats inspired me

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!

 
It being summer, I was craving the beach. So, when I heard about the Surfset class at Sandbox Fitness, I just had to give it a try!
 
A small studio founded in 2014 by the husband and wife team of David and Minna Herskowitz, Sandbox Fitness features nine different classes, each hosted in a massive, 600-square-foot sandbox. The studio’s most popular class is called Surfset, a workout developed by couple using the Surfset® board, which was featured on Shark Tank. Mimicking the physical demands of surfing, this sand training has the added benefit of not negatively impact joints. Soft sand, hard body and no pain … sounded good to me!

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!

Surfing for real in Hawaii was far easier than Surfset class!

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.

 
By the time I was three classes into this new workout exploration, they classes were getting less and less intimidating, so I decided to push myself a little more out of the comfort zone and try a class called Pound at Booty Works. Billed as a full-body cardio jam session in which you literally pound your pounds away, this class is a unique combination of cardio, pilates, isometric movement and drumming (they provide a set of lightweight drumsticks that are used throughout class). Check out this video to see Pound in action
 
Though not as hard as OTF or Surfset, this 45-minute workout was super fun! The instructor was inspiring, the music was motivating and the workout was solid (they claim 400-900 calories burned per hour). At $18 per class, Booty Works was the least expensive in my gym tour, and like the others, they offer a first time rate and discounted packages.
 
 
(t-b) At Basecamp, TV monitors play demonstrations of the movements; Most exercises alternate between these stationary bikes and strength exercises; Mary Beth has even given it a try a few times!

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.

 
In this workout, we spent 35 minutes “burning” by alternating one-minute rotations between the stationary bikes and strength training (they have TV screens demonstrating the specific strength training moves so you know just what’s in store).
 
So, our workout went like this: 1 minute of bike, 1 minute of burpees, 1 minute of bike, 1 minute of pushups, 1 minute of bike, 1 minute of squats, 1 minute of bike, 1 minute of chaos (a combo of the above exercises). Check out a video of the Basecamp workout here.
 
Just when I thought I would drop from exhaustion, the 35 minutes were up and we moved to a 10-minute core exercise on the floor.
 
At $32 per class, Basecamp is another expensive class. But our first class was free and they offered a discount for any packages purchased that day. I really liked the workout, and like the variety their schedule offers, so I signed up for more.

 

 

 
In addition to these new exercises, I also spent some time revisiting workouts I’ve tried and/or loved before. Cardio Barre remains a favorite. SoulCycle is fun, but it’s pricey and not really all that it’s hyped up to be (spinning at Equinox still beats it any day). Tracy Anderson offers a mean workout … but man it’s expensive! On the other hand, hiking area mountains with my pup is free. And, there’s still no workout that quite compares to a session with my trainer, Kelly.
 
Summer has come to a close now, and I’m tired from just the retelling of my summer workouts; but also I’m now re-motivated – which was, afterall, the goal! Of course, I didn’t get to all of the classes I wanted to try (still want to try Rise Nation and Box Union), but I did learn a lot during this season of exercise discovery. In summary …
  1. Getting started is still the hardest part, and there’s only one way to do it – get up and get to it!
  2. Working out makes me feel good (and it usually leads to me eating better too).
  3. Exercising can be expensive! But, it doesn’t have to be. And I know that in the long-run, not exercising is more expensive.
  4. Working out with friends is always more fun!
  5. 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).
  6. I sweat. A lot.
  7. Groupon is a great way to try out some classes to see what you like.
  8. 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!
  9. Goats are super sweet.
  10. 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!

14 Comments

  1. Georgia L

    Great job Mandy for getting out there!

    I hadn’t done anything resembling regular exercise for over 10 years whilst my kids were growing up. But I turned the big half century last year and and also turned the corner on my health.

    For me it wasn’t about weight but keeping me grounded through my menopausal hormonal blow-outs. My husband finally got me to the little local, sweaty, smelly gym. I was given a simple program of cardio and weights. With the music blaring out of my earphones, I became a junkie after the first week.
    The change in my mood was almost instant! Hormone craziness out. Calming, happy feelings in!

    So with that three times a week and a class of Pilates in a little group of three friends (after our weekly coffee catch up) I feel better than I ever have.

    I may get bored of this routine soon but I know that I can never get bored of how fabulous I feel when I take the time to take care of me.

    And it gets even better as we head into our summer here in Melbourne 🇦🇺 and I look forward to my regular Plank fix.

    Thanks again Mandy and Mary Beth.

  2. Stacey AKA BraveWidowMama

    I loved the goat yoga!

  3. So fun reading about your summer fitness adventures! I love the idea of surfing turned into a land exercise routine … I can see how balancing and burpees could make for an awesome core workout! And Goat Yoga!! Sign me up please!! Although I wonder how well Gator Yoga might go over in my part of the world 😉

  4. Kelley Garner

    Enjoyed this Mandy! And you are so right… getting started is the hardest STEP!!Maybe I could trade goat yoga for chicken yoga, on second thought maybe not!!🤣🤣

  5. Mander, you always, ALWAYS inspire me. For ten years you’ve been inspiring me. This is not the first time you’ve tried “the weirdest workouts in LA,” an diet won’t be the lady, and I’ll never be tired of hearing about them. We have a ton of Orange Theorys here, and I always thought they were a smoothie place , and, therefore, obviously, never gave them a second floor. But once you told me about your experience there I started seeing them EVERYWHERE. your description intrigues me. But nothing made me more determined to try it than your goat yoga experience. I tried, but here in Chicago at the Morton Arboretum the only available date was Father’s Day. Meh. The other several sessions got booked in about two swconds and I missed out. Poop and pee be damned. Keep goin’, Mander, I can’t wait to be Inspired by your next fitness adventure!

  6. I’m exhausted just reading all you did. We still need to put on our tap shoes and give that a whirl. Speaking of whirl there’s always hula hooping or just plain hula.

  7. Such a fun post this week! Thanks for all the ideas Mandy! After reading your post it got me thinking about how self-confidence really prevents us from following through on things we want to do/accomplish. I don’t know about others but I know it is something I struggle with all the time. I would love to see a blog about ways to increase self esteem and ways to empower ourselves. I’m sure it has been done already, but it is always good reminders for us all!

  8. You had me at goat yoga 🐐!!! What a fantastic read. Thanks for all of the info, and way to go!👏🏻

  9. Jennifer

    Ugh falling off the exercise wagon is the WORST and even more so with limited support at home. Thx for the encouragement. I’m working with finding workouts around our place that so that I’m not leaving again and therefor not subjected to the guilt of not being home -for something that’s not work

  10. Stephanie

    It is great how you embraced trying new fitness activities this summer. I love how so many companies are being inclusive and creative to make wellness and fitness more accessible to all. Last year we embarked on a journey from Missouri to California for my husband to work on the technical side of a popular fitness app that allows people to find classes all over the United States and abroad. Also, real time pricing is becoming a reality for last minute deals. It is an exciting time for people to try new things! I have a back injury and have to stick to certain limitations but your post is inspiring me to reach out and try new things. I guess having a sense of humor does help! The Goat Yoga classes are by my son’s dorm so that will give me a reason to possibly see this in person and check out the farm. I believe Thousand Oaks also have mermaid classes now. Despite technology’s bad reputation for making people sedentary it does have the flip side of opening up opportunities for people to find the fitness opportunities around them. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  11. Great story Mandy, very interesting and inspiring.
    Maybe you can come to Australia and open up some franchises for these activities. Your millions are awaiting!

  12. Katherine

    Love reading about your summer fitness adventures! Like you, I’ve bounced around a few different gyms/workout routines in the past, get bored and then lose my motivation to go exercise. But this summer, I decided that I needed to reinvest in my health and get my butt back into shape (literally and figuratively!).

    I found this coach-led gym similar to Orangetheory (but with more free weights and cross-fit type exercises) and it checked all the boxes that I was looking for in a workout routine. They change up the workouts every day and there’s a coach for every class to keep you motivated, accountable and doing the right exercise. I committed to myself that I would go 3 times a week, which isn’t necessarily the easiest of tasks since the only time I can get to the gym is for the 5 AM class. So when that alarm goes off at 4:30, I find myself trying to make every excuse in the book to just go back to sleep. But I’ve managed to keep this promise for 2 months now (except for when Hurricane Irma caused us to lose power for 4 days) – so rinse and repeat, as they say.

    But I agree with you…when I find myself exercising regularly, I tend to eat healthier as well. Minus that occasional glass of wine (or two)…This mom needs her mommy juice. 😉

    Congrats on stepping outside your comfort zone – all in the name of health and fitness! Hopefully we both can continue to grow our exercise routines and be physically and mentally healthier! Well done, Mandy…well done.

  13. Mandy, great blog today. Surfset sounds SO FUN- I am inspired to see if they have one locally. Also, here in the Plymouth, MA area they have had those Pound like drumming workouts, held in the early evening on the beach, and I hear they are incredibly fun. I think I’m the opposite of you in terms of exercise! Because of time constraints I seek out what I can work into my daily routine. Being able to fit it in as a lifestyle change of sorts allows me to continue. I get up very early, but I get a half hour on an incline trainer at home 5 days a week and supplement that with a few minutes of free weights, alternating upper body and lower body. I have found it’s the only thing I can sustain, so I thought I’d share. I’m probably getting a 400 calorie burn each workout, but I also find that I’m not absolutely famished and hungry all day like I have been when I have done more strenuous workouts. That being said, I know for a fact that the best thing you can do is change it up every once in a while! I used to do beach body workouts in my home and found myself cutting corners with them after a couple of years. Last, I am not someone who enjoys exercise for exercise’s sake! I always feel good afterward but because it’s so routine, the drawback is that I do look forward to it being over. The only exception I have ever felt to that is kickboxing. I swear, I would feel an incredible mood shift afterward, like I was punching and kicking out aggression and/or anxiety that I didn’t realize I had! You don’t have to go to a dojo for it, but there are a lot of local recreation centers that just have a basic, low impact class, but I would be motivated to go every week.

  14. Good morning, Mary Beth! I have just read this post! Goats! I have goats on my little urban farm in Denver. I met you on the train ride home from SJC last month. Who knew we could have talked about goats too? They are the best. I should have new babies next Spring!
    Denise

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