Ankles, Balance, and Improvement

I have had weak ankles since my first sprain, and the many subsequent sprains.  I have high arches, small feet, and am five and half feet tall.  All of those things are not helpful for ankle strength, and I had previously thought I was doomed to have weak ankles forever.  One of the many unexpected consequences of this fitness journey has been the improvement to both my coordination and balance.  These have occurred in a relatively short period time, especially since I picked Sphericality and started taking classes on a regular basis.  All of which seem to involve balance and coordination.

I have loved almost every single class, the instructors are great, and liked the boot camp (the pace was a bit over my head).  The instructor that has helped my balance the most has been Kelly.  She seems to stress it the most, and does many what she calls “balance challenge” exercises every class.  For me, they are definitely challenging and for anyone that knows me, I love a challenge.  I may have to reset, flex my ankle, and restart the pose.  I do not quit, which she pointed out to me.  I am a stubborn person when it comes to challenge, and I do not rest until I at least get better at it.  When you push your limits, you grow EVERY TIME.  No matter what area of your life it is, and your confidence grows along with it

Weekend and Beyond

I spent the weekend paddling, hiking, and with family.  It was the quintessential perfect weekend, the only thing missing was live music.  I paddled approximately 12 miles, hiked about three miles on Sunday, and then spent the majority of Easter playing with my three year old cousin.

On Tuesday though, I was looking for a kick-your-ass workout.  Paddling and hiking are workouts, but they are different. They are generally short bursts of energy followed by lackadaisical energy depending on the conditions of the trail and/or water body.

Enter Sphericality.  I have made the determination that I will attend the 9:40 AM Pilates360 class on Tuesday because it stops me from goofing around all morning.   I love the instructor Tammy.  She is full of get your ass in gear, but in  a tough love kind of way.  She is all about form (which I am super happy about) and taking it one step further.  In anything, if you don’t push yourself past your limit that you thought possible, than you are playing small.  If you are playing small because of some fear of failure, the only person that hinders is you.  As they say, get your big girl panties on and deal with it.

dorian and I

Dorian, the owner of  Sphericality, and I after a Barre Class

After the class, I realize there’s a TRX class after that also with Tammy.  So, I also stayed for that.  It was my first doubleheader, and now I realize I have official become exercise-crazed.  As my friend says, that’s a high-class problem.  I was surprisingly not too sore the next day, just a touch in the arms.

One of my main focuses lately has been improving my balance, coordination, and getting my ankles stronger.  I have little tiny feet, high arches in my feet, and I’m not small.  All of those things lead to a need to improve the above.  My ankles have always been a weak spot.  I basically look at them wrong, and they go out.  Since I’ve been taking these classes, I’ve noticed them getting a little stronger.  I’m not sure how much my balance has improved yet, but I know that my coordination is.  It’s really satisfying to know that what I am doing in these classes not only improves my overall health, but also is having some positive unanticipated affects in the above categories.

20 Gyms in 30 days-summary

It turns out the 20 gyms in 20 days was a bit unrealistic, but you never know unless you try.  It’s better to aim high and fall slightly short, then aim low and miss completely.  This challenge did as I intended it to do, which was develop discipline, get toned, and in shape to go along with the weight loss through the Arbonne nutrition and clean eating program.  Now part one of my mission is complete.  I have picked out a gym, it’s Sphericality in Flemington, NJ.  In the end it came between Cornerstone Fitness and Sphericality.  Here are my synopses of the two.

 Cornerstone Health and Fitness in New Hope, Doylestown, and Warrington, PA.

cornerstone

This was my first gym I went to, and if the location was more convenient to where I am moving to shortly, I would join this gym in a heartbeat.  It’s about 30 minutes from where I currently live, but will be almost an hour from where I am moving to.  I can’t travel an hour to a gym, no matter how good it is.

Here are my reasons why it would be my first choice.  It has both kickass classes, and your traditional style gym.  The gym I joined in Flemington seems to be class based, and not open at anytime with equipment I can just use whenever the gym is open.  This could be a misunderstanding on my part for Sphericality.  It is also locally owned, very affordable for everything you get with your membership, and it has a definite community feel to it.  This is amazing since I only attended one class.  I truly do like the place, and if things were different would be joining there instead.  The atmosphere, camaraderie, the people, and energy of the place is perfect.  The locations are just not convenient for my life right now.

Sphericality

There are a few things that pushed Sphericality ahead of Cornerstone.  The convenience of the location, 5 minutes from where I work, the schedule of classes was convenient, and the overall vibe of the place.  I’ve taken two classes there now, and when I came back tonight the instructor, Kelly, said, “I’m soo glad you are back!”  It made me have a huge smile.  I had told her what I was doing, the 20 gyms in 20 days things.  She said, “you will come back here because we are the best.”  She didn’t mean it in a bragging, superior way.  She said it from a place of knowing her worth and the gym’s worth.  It played a role in my decision.

I will keep you guys apprised of my progress with the gym, results, and affects in my life.  I am truly hooked now.  I went like 2.5 days without going to a gym, and I was practically tweaking for a gym fix.  It’s one of the reasons I started to do this, to develop discipline and commitment to something outside of paddling and Arbonne.  I have found another niche to love and develop.  I can safely say, I don’t think I’ve loved my life more than I do right now.  It feels damn good.

Day 18, Gym 17

My friend Krissy is an instructor kickboxing at Freedom Xtreme Fitness in Branchburg, NJ.  I had done a one kickboxing class at Sweat Like a Girl which incorporated other things, but this would be a strict kickboxing.  I was both a little nervous and excited at the prospect of it. 

post workout

A much needed Arbonne After Workout drink to prevent soreness.

The class did not disappoint, and it kicked my ass.  I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend.  If the class was less than stellar, I’d still be writing this and saying so.  One of the best workout classes in terms of whole body workouts, cardio, abs, and oh my fizz legs.  There was an abundance of leg work.  Favorite quotes of the class:  you can do anything for 30 seconds; no one brags about a small butt, and when it hurts that’s when growth happens.  We did everything, squats, lunges, burpees, pushups, laps, and of course bag work.  The class pushed me to my limits, and past them at times.  It is dead true that it is when growth happens, and not just in terms of the physical..  She was great mix of motivator and encouragement without being military style about it.  She was full of tough love, encouragement, and “hate me now, love me later” attitude.

If you are in the area, and enjoy something that is both fun and sweat-inducing, this is for you.  The drop-in fee is usually a very reasonable $12 for an hour class.  You will not regret dropping in for this.

Day 16, Gym 10

I was looking to get into a kickboxing class, and found one in Flemington, NJ at MMA 10 at 6 PM.  I was really excited to try it at a real martial arts school.  Their website was fully functional when I signed up for the class that afternoon, and thought it was slightly odd I didn’t receive an email.  I got to the address a little before 6, and found that the school had closed.  At that same address, however, I did find a volleyball center with open courts on Fridays 8-10 PM.  I am excited for that because I played on a recreational (more like pick-up) in college, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The universe conspires.

So, I thought it’s now a little after six and most classes start at 6 and run for an hour.  I had a business appointment at 8, so even if there was a 6:30 class available, it wouldn’t work.  I checked out the schedule I had for Health Quest, and saw there was a class called CXWORK that ran from 6:30 to 7.  Perfect!  I had no idea what the class was, but I thought I’d try it and give Health Quest a more rounded perspective.  The class was focused on core toning, while using your legs and some arms, too.  I got there a little early, and had the previous class instructor get me set up with the equipment needed.  She wasn’t teaching this class, but usually did.  She said, “focus on your form.  You could end up hurting yourself if you don’t.”  I agreed, and said thank you.

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The class itself was a honed, efficient workout that really did what it said it would do. The instructor was decent, but I wish she would have focused a little bit more on the newbies (myself and another woman) form.  My coordination is getting better, but it’s not my strong suit at this point.  I will say towards the end of the class, she was watching my form and giving some instruction as to how to improve it.  There was another student who about halfway helped me with my form, and I was thought why is she helping me and not the instructor?  At the end of the class, I find out that she also teaches the class.  So, that made me feel a bit better.

At the end, the instructor said, you did really well, especially since it was your first class.  This class is one of the most awkward you will take, and it takes some getting used to.  This made me feel a bit better.

Overall, still not super impressed by Health Quest.  I did enjoy the class, and it really is a tremendous workout, especially for 30 minutes.  The gym may not be my preference, but it’s hugely popular in the area.  I may take another class or two since I have a 5 day pass.

 

Day 15, Gyms 14 and 15

I decided to go to the Health and Wellness Center in Clinton, NJ for a leg day since I’ve been doing a lot of arm exercises.  It is run by the local hospital the Hunterdon Medical Center, and it has two locations, one in Whitehouse Station and they opened one up in Clinton as a second location.  The Clinton one is closer to my house, so I went there.  I have been to the Whitehouse one years ago, and was even a member.  I remembered liking the gym, and the atmosphere.

The website said they were open until 5, and I got there a little later than I would have liked.  I got there at 4:25, and thought this will give me just enough time to complete my leg workout.  I was told when I got there that the exercise area closes at 4:45, and I said on the website it says 5.  She explained, we close the exercise area 15 minutes before closing.  Now, I can understand this from an employee point of view.  They want to leave, go home, and don’t want to waste time waiting for members to get off the floor, shower, and change.  However, I wish they had stated that on their website.  We both are at fault a bit.

I first noticed that everything seemed very clean, even though it was late in the day. The equipment wasin good working condition, clean, and well labeled.  I went over to the free weight section of the gym, and it’s relatively small.  It may be one of the smallest out of the traditional-style gyms I’ve been to.  The gym features more options in the cable, “Nautilus” style weight equipment found near the cardio equipment, and there it appeared you could get a circuit strength training.  There was a lot of cardio workout equipment, which is always a good thing and something to look for in a gym.

The configuration of the gym was interesting.  There was a decent amount of room in the free weight area to not feel crowded.  The rest of the equipment area seemed close together, almost too close.  When it gets crowded, I’m not sure how the well the room would flow with people moving in and around equipment.  As I stated, this is definitely the smaller of the two locations, with doctors offices on the second floor.  The Whitehouse one at least from what I remember was more spread out, had more equipment, and featured a full-sized pool.

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The second “gym” was the great outdoors in the form of a hike along the South Branch of the Raritan River in High Bridge.  The river was high, so none of my usual rock jumping was going to happen.  It was a short walk, but as anything in nature, I immediately felt a calming affect to my body.  So I got my cardio and legs in all in one day.

Day 14, Gym 13

I travelled to upstate New York for an Arbonne training, and an incentive power hour.  It was pretty incredible.  Regardless of the training, I woke up early yesterday and hit the  small gym at the Hotel Hyatt in Balston Spa, NY.  There were some free weights, and four pieces of cardio equipment (2 treadmills, 1 recumbent bike, and one elliptical).  Since the elliptical was taken, I hopped on the stationary bike for about 15 minutes.  The hotel also had a pool, which is a very nice accommodation to have for a relatively small hotel.  The fitness room was open 24/7, and the pool from 6 AM to 10 PM.  As far as hotel exercise rooms go, it got the job done for me.  If you were there for a week, one might get bored.

Update on my TRX class from the other day.  A friend of mine told me that sometimes it takes a up to two or three to be sore.  Well, she was right.  It wasn’t the day after that I was sore, it was two days.  My legs, shoulders, upper back, and abs were a bit sore.  Nothing extraordinary, but I suppose I should have used my Phytosport line the day after, as well.  It’s a good sign.  It feels really good, both mind and body, to be getting back in shape again.  This time, just like when I did the clean eating challenge, it will become a lifestyle, not just a temporary phase.

Day 13, Gym 12

I am becoming obsessed with the TRX system, and thought it was about time to get a formal instruction.  I found Sphericality in Flemington, NJ, which is a fitness studio with all sorts of classes, one of them being the TRX.  I spoked with Maggie, who very nicely waived the fee for the class so I could get an idea of the studio.  I was thrilled, and was excited to finally learn how to best utilize the TRX.

dinner and arb

Gearing up for workout with eggs, and Arbonne Phytosport hydration and fizzy stick.

The class was small, only three students, including me, were attending the class.  The room was clean, and had a great energy to it.  It had a community feel, which I am realizing is becoming a key factor in my decision when I do chose a gym to call home.  There were mats laid out, and the TRX was set up.  This class was going to be no joke, and I could tell that I was going to like the pace and just the general set-up.  The instructor Kelly was fantastic, and definitely did not take it easy on me just because I was new.  She pushed us, but it was more like nudging and providing encouragement.  She made sure my form was correct, which is so important when working out.  This is especially true for this type of equipment where you are using your body weight to develop muscles, which stretching muscles, tendons, etc that do not necessarily get tested on traditional weight machines.  We alternated from arms, to core, to legs, and then back again so we weren’t targeting one group of muscles for a prolonged period of time.   I can feel it in my back muscles more than anything, because I think almost every exercise involved shoulders and/or upper back.  I will be curious to see how sore I am tomorrow in that muscle group.  I haven’t worked my upper back that intensely so far, so I will keep you guys posted.

Update on my overall fitness and results.  I have broad shoulders to begin with, and have been known to rip suit jackets (literally).  I put on a somewhat tighter fitting shirt, and when I flexed my arms across my body I could feel the slight pull across my shoulders.  I haven’t been doing anything extreme, but it reinforced that consistency in anything leads to results over time.

Day 11, Gym 10

I headed to the Flemington, NJ area.  I went to one of the most well-known and popular gyms in the area, HealthQuest.  After my pleasant experience with LA Fitness last week, I was determined to have no preconceived notion about the place.  The lovely woman at the front desk let me do a workout, despite membership not being there which is usually a requirement.  She was quite nice and informative, so I asked about classes.  She got a schedule, and started to go through them with me because they were lacking a description sheet.  However, after this interaction, I had my first disappointing experience at a gym that I had worked out in.  I will touch on why, but first the positives of my past 11 days.

I have noticed a few things about my body progress so far.   My little pudge is just about gone, and my abs are somewhere in between slightly squishy and firm.  This may not sound like an improvement, but when I started 11 days ago there was just stomach flab.  Most of my small pants still fit, but I could feel the little distended pudge and didn’t like how it had crept up on me again.  My cardio fitness is slowly improving, along with muscle tone and endurance.  I weighed myself at 138 pounds, and was quite pleased with the number.  I, unfortunately, didn’t weigh myself when I started because it just wasn’t on my radar.  It may have been around 143.  I think I am most excited about the cardio fitness, and I’ll explain my progress in the next paragraph.

I started off with some light cardio at the rowing machine, which I wrote about in Day 6, Gym 4.  There I did about 12 minutes and almost 2000 meters, which is approximately 165 meters per minute (mpm).  Today I did 18 minutes and over 3,000 meters, approximately 172 mpm.  I wasn’t as tired, winded, and actually increased my rowing speed towards the end.  I am inspired to see tangible results so quickly.

I did my TRX routine, which is going to be a gym requirement.  I then went to the free weight area, since I hadn’t done that in a few days and wanted to work on my arms and core.  This was my first true disappointment in a gym.  The free weight area machines I have used have been mostly by a company called Hammer Strength.  They have either all or mostly been labelled at what muscle groups are targeted on the machine, how the machine works, etc at the other gyms I have been to.  At HealthQuest, this was lacking on a good number of the machines.  Some were labelled with print that said what they were, some of them were partially worn off, and I’d say about one-third to a little less than half were not labelled at all.  More than half did not have a diagram of the muscles that the machine targeted, and while I could guess at most of them, I find this is unacceptable for a gym of this size and cost.  It is not the gyms responsibility to be equipment police in regards to people, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to make it as user-friendly as possible.

On my way out the door, I asked for the membership price for a single membership.  I was astonished at the astronomical price of $93 per month.  This does include all the classes,  but not children’s programs or some speciality programs.  This is according to the little brochure I was given.  She almost looked apologetic when she gave it to me.  I have not taken a class yet, and would like to take one before passing on a final judgement. This is an incredibly popular gym, and I would like to think there’s a reason for it.

Day 10, Gym 9

Updated for full report now that I’m more awake.

This is going to be short, and I’ll expand more on it tomorrow.  It was time to try the gym that women in the Lehigh Valley area all seem to be flocking to, Sweat Like a Girl in Nazareth, PA.  I signed up for a free class, it was fight club.  The class was awesome.  I was sweating quite a bit by the time we were done, and it was so much fun.  Another full body workout, and I mean every part of my body was worked.  The instructor, Amy, was pretty consistent with showing us form, rotation, and placement on the bag.  She seemed to pick up on the fact that at one time the music was too loud, and turned it down.  This was by far my favorite class so far.  It was a combination of community since we broke up into groups, all body workouts, and pushing yourself to the limit.  If you enjoy a kick ass workout that is all-encompassing, but so fun and efficient this is your class.

The vibe of the gym I would describe as low-level coolness.  I’m not sure how else to describe it; it’s understated but humming with energy.  It is unclear how clean it is; to be clear, the gym didn’t have an odor to it or appear dirty, but rags to clean and wipe down the equipment seemed a little spread out.  Hence the I’m not sure.  It could be clean as an ER floor for all I actually know.

The gym itself is a basic gym, which is fine for me.  I don’t need fancy equipment, pool, sauna,  etc.  I would like, however, is a place to shower after I’m done.  Sweat Like a Girl doesn’t have that.  So, if you want a gym that you can take a killer class, sweat, then shower, and go to work afterwards, this gym won’t work for you.  If you want to take a class after work, have the opportunity to go home in between events, or just budget time into do so, this gym is great.  If you want a kick-ass workout where you get sweaty, and then can go straight to work afterwards.  As far as actual basic gym equipment availability, I’m not sure how much they have.  I saw some free weights, mats, etc.  It’s a fairly small gym, and they probably have equipment they move in and out for classes.  It seems to be a gym that is geared towards classes and community.  It definitely has a friendly feel to it, even for my first time being there.  The friendliest gym I’ve been to yet, and very similar to Cornerstone in New Hope.

I think the cost of the gym is a slightly pricey for what you get, but not exorbitantly so.  It’s $50 per month for unlimited workouts if you get a contract, or you can purchase class passes.  It is $65 for month to month.  I absolutely loved, loved the class and the feel of the gym itself.  There’s also childcare available, if that is a need of yours.

All in all, though, upon reflection, the lack of showers is a small caveat.  Sweat like a Girl has been my favorite so far, but I’d have to see what other equipment they have available for it to be an all-purpose gym.  The vibe is great, the people are friendly and nice, and it truly did feel like a community even though it was my first class.  Bring baby wipes with you and do kind of the college shower, because you will sweat.