A Fresh Spin on Things

One of my favorite bloggers and amazing sorority sisters, Danielle (aka T-Rex Runner) reported on her Instagram Stories last night that she was attending her first spin class in some time. She got to try out the new CycleBar studio in Greenville, SC, which is part of a chain of studios around the U.S.  Over the summer I finally took the plunge and went to my very first spin class, also at CycleBar in the Denver metro area, and boy was I in for a wild ride (literally)!

I wouldn’t particularly call myself an adventurous person. I am very much a creature of habit, and I plan out everything from my vacation leave for the next year (I kid you not, I have it all planned through July) to what I am going to wear tomorrow for work. It usually takes quite a bit of convincing, or at least a solid explanation for me to try something new. When I started running, it was because I had researched the benefits, training plans, and feasibility, along with recommendations from friends and family with detailed accounts of how they got started. Similarly when I started going to yoga sculpt classes, after getting the recommendation from one of my dearest friends and workout buddies, I had her explain the flow, the types of exercises and her own experiences with excellent precision.  I wouldn’t say I am a control freak… maybe more like a control enthusiast.

So when my friend, Samantha, came to visit over the summer, she being a certified cycling instructor, I made her go with me to my very first cycle class. I can’t lie, it terrified me. Maybe I had visions of that episode of the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in my head, or the fact that I didn’t even learn to ride a bike until I was 13 thanks to my neighbor, Lauren, but whatever it was, I assumed this would end me.

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Seriously terrifying. This is how I die.

Everyone should go to their first cycle class with a certified instructor. It’s the best ever. Samantha showed me how to set up my bike, explained tap backs, the positions on the handle bars, the push-ups and side-to-side movements, and everything in between.  She even explained not only how to clip in, but how to unclip from the bike (which after an intense class with very wobbly legs is easier said than done).

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I don’t think I could have made it through that first class without her!

Cycling is such an incredible form of cross-training that has been essential in my marathon training plan.  Furthermore, cross training is a huge component for any runner, enhancing power, efficiency and very often speed.  It also helps prevent injuries by balancing the muscles you utilize.  Check out this awesome article by Runner’s World about the eight major benefits of cross training.  I know that for me personally the combination of yoga, sculpt classes, Zumba and cycling, it’s significantly improved my endurance and speed in running.

These classes typically flow between speed work and endurance (“hill” climbs). The higher your resistance, the harder it is to pedal, and it can mimic an actual hill climb.  The playlist is crucial to a good class. The songs themselves need to have a great and easy to find rythm that dictate the RPM (revolutions per minute). The faster the beat, the higher the RPM, and often lower the resistance. The slower the beat, the lower the RPM, and the higher the resistance. You get the idea.  A great class flows through these two ideas, and even better, can utilize one song to work for both concepts.

Since my first class back in July, I have begun cycling more, both at CycleBar, as well as StarCycle, another national chain of cycling studios.  The two are quite different in their approach. CycleBar is more about stats, technology, and a modern club-like atmosphere. CycleBar tends to be more about the community, skill-building, and personal experience. Both are amazing for different reasons, and both have given me an amazing workout. Depending on your preference, there is a cycling studio out there for you too! I definitely know this to be true, because I somehow managed to convince the hubs to join me (he too was a novice cycling class participant), and now he keeps ending up with the highest stats in the class!

What cycling studios do you like? Do you prefer your classes to be more about stats and competition, or to maximize your own ride?

Cherry Creek Sneak: The Race That Brought Me Back

I cannot lie to you, the internet, or myself.  The past few months I, for some unknown reason, loathed running.  It seems odd as running was the activity that really brought me into the world of fitness to begin with, but I just didn’t have the desire or drive to hit the pavement or trail.  My running shoes were feeling severely neglected as I sought other means of fitness.  Granted, it is always good to switch up your routine and workouts, to help balance the toning of all of your muscle groups and to make sure you stay committed, but this was getting a bit dire.  Especially because I had signed up for a race through work, and needed to commit to doing it with coworkers, and my boss, as other race participants.  You can’t tell the Vice Chancellor you didn’t feel like representing the university because you haven’t wanted to run.  Well, technically I guess I could, but I surely didn’t want to.

Probably my last good run before the race was early April, and it was only 5 miles!
Probably my last good run before the race was early April, and it was only 5 miles!

Earlier in the year I had heard about the Cherry Creek Sneak through a chain of work emails sent out to fellow running colleagues.  This is a local race that boasts 4 different distances for the runner in all of us: 10 miles, 5 miles, 5 kilometers, and 1.5 miles.  The event takes place each April in one of my favorite areas of Denver, Cherry Creek.  It’s an old, established area of Denver with gorgeous stately homes and quaint, older cottages.  It’s eclectic and charming, and a gorgeous area to run through.  Being that I had signed up for the Colfax Half Marathon, which would take place less than a month later (AH! This Sunday!), I thought it best that I register for the 10 miler.  Once the hubby said he’d join me, I was committed.

So March rolled around, I kept on running, but was just not happy with it.  March turned into April, and my mood hadn’t changed.  Part of it, too, was that I was so in love with Core Power Yoga and the Tone it Up workouts, that running didn’t seem quite as appealing.  So finally the weekend of the Cherry Creek Sneak arrived, and rain was in the forecast.  If you haven’t kept up with Denver weather (let’s be honest, it’s a fascinating and ever-changing subject here), it rained for over a week straight, with about 3 inches of snow by the end), and I was truly dreading the race.  Sunday morning I woke up feeling groggy, tired, and just not in the mood to run.  But I am not one to back down from a commitment.  So with a sense of foreboding, I dressed for the race and hoped for the best.

You just gotta fake it til you make it!  Pre-race and pre-rain...
You just gotta fake it til you make it! Pre-race and pre-rain…

The hubby and I found a spot to park and walked a few blocks towards the starting line.  The 10 milers started first at 7:30am, so we arrived with about 20 minutes before the start.  I searched around for my colleagues, but didn’t see anyone.  Eventually we just readied ourselves for the race, lining up in our time corral, and prayed for a decent 10 miles.  This was not my most optimistic start, to be sure.  After one of the best race-day national anthems ever, we were off!  Luckily the rain had held off to start, and we made our way from the east side of the Cherry Creek Mall toward Colorado Boulevard, and then looped back toward University Boulevard.  We ran to the northwest corner of the mall and turned left onto 1st Avenue.  We’d already gone 3 miles at this point, and I was feeling pretty good.  Time was passing quickly, it was the perfect temperature for running, and I was actually enjoying myself!

Before the rain descended upon us, the race was going really well!
Before the rain descended upon us, the race was going really well!

As we ran past Denver Country Club, we turned right onto Downing and made our way up the first real hill of the course.  Overall it’s a fairly flat course, which typically makes for great running

times (and happy runners).  We got up the hill and turned right onto 6th Avenue before making our way toward Cheeseman Park.  Any Denverite knows that the city is spattered with local parks, trails and greenbelts. Given my race history, I am most familiar with Washington Park, City Park, Central Park, Confluence Park and Sloane’s Lake.  I had never before been to Cheeseman Park.  The park includes an outer trail which loops in an oval around the perimeter of the park.  It is a gorgeous space with a beautiful pergola and amphitheater along the eastern edge of the park and large trees all around.

Course Map PNG
Source

Once we made our way out of the park, we hit the 10k mark, and the drizzle began.  Rather than turning back the way we came, we headed further east on 6th avenue.  Mile 7 was possibly the

Feeling damp, but still happy!
Feeling damp, but still happy!

longest mile of the entire race, because this is when it really began raining steadily.  The temperatures dipped and it felt like we were never going to turn around.  Police officers lined the streets, and truly I felt for them, having to stand out there until all the 10 milers ended.  At least I was moving!

Making it to mile 8 was a huge feat, and at that point I realized my legs still felt great and I could make it.  The cold rain was not ideal, but two miles is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.  We made our way back to 1st Avenue, which led us straight past the mall and toward the finish line.  My only complaint is that the 5k participants were finishing at the same time, and were primarily walking in large groups, which made running around them very difficult.  The finishing area, as a result, was rather bottle-necked and confusing.  Robbie and I sprinted the last tenth of a mile toward the finish and were instantly slowed by walkers.  I was hoping for a much more triumphant finish, but I did it.

YAY THE END! It's always the best part of every race.
YAY THE END! It’s always the best part of every race.

Immediately afterwards we grabbed water, a half a Panera bagel, and delicious banana, and made our way straight to the car.  It wasn’t worth trying to find folks.  The 5 milers were set to begin at 9:35am, and their whole five miles ended up being rainy and cold.  I’d prefer 10 miles with 3.5 miles in the rain, than 5 miles entirely in the rain.  Thankfully the hubs is BRILLIANT and brought towels to wrap around ourselves in the car, and turned the seat warmers on high.  Rain and cold aside, this race was fabulous, and I am happy to report it was just what I needed to regain my love for running.  I am SO excited for this weekend’s Colfax Half Marathon, and I look forward to the BolderBoulder the week afterwards.

This month I got my running drive back!
This month I got my running drive back!

It just goes to show you, sometimes you need to step away for a little while to rediscover why you love it in the first place. The hubs is so wise, and at the beginning of April he told me to just take a break from running and focus on my other pursuits.  I did just that, and after the Cherry Creek Sneak, I have been running almost every weekday during my lunch hour and feel so refreshed.  So here’s to the next run – no one run will ever be like another, so take the time to appreciate the journey!

Ever just have a running slump? What did you do to get out of your running rut?  Anything you recommend to keep your runs happy?

For the Love of Chaturanga – Core Power Yoga Review

I was never one of those folks who really understood why people liked yoga so much.  Because I am type A, and according to my MBTI assessment I have a preference for Sensing and Judging, I like things to be effective and efficient, including my workouts.  Time is something that means a lot to me, and I don’t want to feel like I have wasted time.  I do spend time stretching, but I couldn’t fathom doing so for an hour.  However, I live in one of the more yogi states in the country (I actually looked this up – there are 0.8943 yoga studios per every 10,000 people in Colorado), so I knew I would eventually give yoga a good ol’ college try (ironically I didn’t do it in college…).  I also did realize it is more than just stretching, it’s strengthening, and this has been something I have wanted to work on in 2015.

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Time to get my Core Power Yoga on!

So last Sunday, I went to my first actual Core Power Yoga class.  I did Yoga on the Rocks last August, which is an unreal experience, hosted by Core Power Yoga (CPY), but this class was different.  My wonderful friend, Danielle, is getting married in October and I am honored to be a part of her big day.  She had been raving about this amazing yoga sculpt class, which combines yoga, calisthenics, core and cardio in one intense 60 minute session.  I joined her at Core Power Yoga in the Lower Highlands area of Denver.  This studio is the flagship in the Denver area, with company offices aboeve the studio, and a really professional atmosphere.  This class did not disappoint.  The instructor, Cori, was good at keeping us moving and maintaining the intensity throughout the class.

Many of the moves focus on sun salutations, isometric holds, and the utilization of weights, blocks and your own body with the intent to tone and sculpt muscle.  Boy was it effective!  I exhibited all the signs of a good workout the next day, and couldn’t wait to try more.  One of the great incentives of CPY is that all new students get a week free.  Now I don’t know about you, but I love free.  It could be just about anything, I love it when it’s free!  After signing up for my free membership that day, I decided to make the most of it.  After work on Monday I tried the Highlands studio for a Core Power 1 class, so I could work on form and the general movement of yoga.  This studio was much smaller, but felt really homey with a great neighborhood presence.  I am not a complete novice, having practiced at home intermittently with videos OnDemand, and having participated in Yoga on the Rocks, but the actual classes were still very new.  This session was really helpful (oh hey there Chaturanga, I got you now).

The next day I went back to the Highlands studio for Core Power 2 (CP2).  This class was definitely more advanced, not to mention heated.  The pace was much quicker, so I did my best to keep up and absorb the adjustments from the instructor.  Crow and I still aren’t good friends, but I will keep working on it!  I realized I had not sweat that much in my life before, and being from the south this is very hard for me to admit.  Typically I “glisten and glow,” but not this time – I just plain perspired profusely.  It still didn’t quite give me the same sensation as the yoga sculpt class, though, which I later came to realize could just be the instructor and the flow of the class sometimes.

Oh yeah, this was me alright.  Crowed myself flat onto my face.
Oh yeah, this was me alright. “Crowed” myself flat onto my face. #YogaFail Source
A girl can dream - I wish I looked this good!
A girl can dream – I wish I looked this good! Source

Thursday I returned to the LoHi studio for another CP2 class, which was significantly more of a workout.  I was able to more easily flow with the routine, and definitely could tell my breath was more closely aligned.  It was just the right intensity, and yet again, a decent amount of sweat to feel like I worked for it.  Emilie, the instructor, moved us quickly, but ensured we had time in the movement to make adjustments and deepen the stretch or hold.  I joined Danielle again for this class, and although she strongly prefers yoga sculpt, she, too, thought it was a meaningful workout and good class.

I loved the Cherry Hills Studio - it was a great size and an awesome class!
I loved the Cherry Hills Studio – it was a great size and an awesome class!

Finally, Saturday morning presented the last opportunity for my free classes.  I was going on a hike later that morning, so I went early to the Cherry Hills studio for another yoga sculpt class at 7:30am.  This one was even more intense than the Sunday prior (I can still feel it today – good pain!).  It was fantastic, and the instructor, Stephanie, was phenomenal.  She made a lot of corrections throughout the class, thankfully, and really kept us going.  We almost didn’t have time for savasana because she worked us so hard.  I made sure to use 5 pound weights whenever possible to increase the intensity level.

Do you think Rocco would learn to do this with me?

After all of this, as I am sure CPY hopes, I am hooked!  It’s such a great combination of classes, with varying levels and constantly changing routines.  Another huge bonus is that you can go to any studio with your membership.  When I go back to Maryland in May, I could go to the Bethesda studio.  With so many studios around the Denver area, I have a world of options for post-work and weekend classes, all within a reasonable distance.  I will be checking out the Broadway studio this evening for another sculpt class.  I can definitely see incorporating this into my routine between running, Zumba, and at home workouts!

How late am I to the yogi trend?  What type of yoga class do you prefer – hot, vinyasa flow, toning/power, etc?  Have you tried CPY – do you like it?