Tag Archives: Workouts

Surprise! I Did Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix

Yup, you read correctly. I didn’t mention it on social media at all, but from November 7th to November 27th, I completed Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix.

I know, I know… you’re probably thinking “WHY?” There is a pretty negative connotation surrounding all things Beachbody, because like with most things, people get overzealous and talk about it non-stop while trying to rope others into it, and I don’t “look like someone that needs to go on a diet.” I actually never had anyone approach me and ask me to ‘join their challenge group’ or ‘think about becoming a coach to make some extra money’ like I’ve heard has happened to a lot of other people. So while I was wary of it, like I am with any ‘quick fix’ type of programs or products, I didn’t have any personal negative experiences with it. In fact, I knew a few people who — wary of it like me — gave it a try and were pleased with their results.

So, why did I decide to try it? Well, I’ve been feeling a little ‘meh’ in my own skin lately. I’ve never been someone to focus on the number on the scale because it can fluctuate A LOT and isn’t always indicative of how I’m feeling. Instead, I focus more on how I’m feeling and the way my clothes are fitting. Since I’ve been in a running injury cycle for the last two-ish years, I’ve been doing a lot of cross-training, not a lot of running, and a lot of eating like crap. I was always convinced that I was working out enough to cancel out my poor eating habits, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that isn’t the case (boo metabolism slowing down). When I was in high school and college I was solidly in the 130-135 pound range, but wore generally the same sizes I do now, and I was in really great shape… I was swimming 2+ hours a day! So when I ate, I ATE. I also had the metabolism of a teenager/someone in their early 20’s, so I could order a double quarter pounder with cheese (super sized!) from McDonalds, eat the whole thing, and live to tell the tale. Gross, I know. Now I can range anywhere from 120-127, and usually feel most comfortable and my ‘fittest’ when I’m closer to 120. So, despite working out 7x a week (sometimes more than once a day), I wasn’t seeing any big changes. I mean, with the weights I was lifting and the cardio I was doing, I felt like I should’ve seen more muscle definition. That’s when I had the unfortunate realization that all those kitschy sayings are true… “abs are made in the kitchen,” “you can’t outrun a bad diet,” etc. Whomp, whomp.

My main goal for the 21-day fix was to get better with my eating. I knew my workouts, generally speaking, were fine on their own. But I also knew that I was definitely not eating enough of the right stuff, and eating too much of the wrong stuff. I didn’t want to do anything wildly restrictive because I knew it wouldn’t be long-lasting, so that’s why the 21-day fix was most appealing. Rather than count calories, you use color coded containers that correspond to different food groups. Green and purple, the largest containers, are for your fruits and veggies. The sizes get smaller from there, but there really isn’t anything you have to completely eliminate. And yes, there’s the Shakeology portion. This isn’t required, but is widely encouraged… I think mostly because it’s actually really expensive. I bought it because it was on sale with the challenge pack, and figured if I was going to do it, I’d go all in. Guess what? Shakeology tastes just like every other kind of protein powder out there… generally gross, but okay enough to suck down. If anyone tells you they love the taste, they’re lying to you… or they don’t have tastebuds. I ordered everything online off of Beachbody’s website, selected my twitter-friend Nicole as my coach, and started trying to plan out how I was going to make it through the 21 days. There are three calorie ranges to choose from based on calculating your current height/weight and how much weight you want to lose. Since I wasn’t really focused on losing weight per say, I selected the middle option. I went through periods of thinking the containers were so small and I was going to starve, to thinking it was actually enough food.

This was the first time I actually did ‘meal prep’ which is all the rage these days. I had given it the side eye in the past, but mostly because I’m lazy and the last thing I want to do on a Sunday afternoon is roast veggies and cook grains for hours. Turns out, though, it isn’t nearly as time consuming as it seems. I bought tons of vegetables, threw them on a pan, and popped them into the oven for awhile. I also cooked a bunch of brown rice and quinoa, and hardboiled eggs. It was relatively quick and easy, and it allowed me to be prepared (and in some cases over prepared), for the week ahead. I pre-portioned out my lunches and snacks to fit the guidelines, and had everything in the fridge organized so there was no thinking involved when it came time to pack my lunch in the morning before work. Having everything planned and a lot of it already cooked made it SO much easier to stick to it. I’m confident that if I hadn’t done all that prep work I would’ve cheated… which defeats the whole purpose!

Of course, I didn’t stick to the plan 100%. During the first week, I attended a wine and cheese party on Saturday. There was no way I was going to pass up delicious cheese, wine, and bread. It just wasn’t going to happen. I tried to be mindful of how much I was eating (and what), but I also didn’t restrict myself. Having that kind of flexibility and wiggle room was important for me. Similarly, during the second week, I was in Philly to run the 8k, cheer for the marathon, and see some friends. Since most of my friend outings revolve around food, I wasn’t about to restrict myself then, either. I had a doughnut on Saturday morning after my race, and then enjoyed wine and plenty of (delicious!) food at dinner on Saturday night. Again, I was mindful of how much I was eating and what it was, but I didn’t think twice about it. And of course the end of the 21 days, Thanksgiving happened. Just like the first two ‘cheat’ days, I paid attention to what I was eating and didn’t overeat, but I at no point turned something down because of my ‘diet.’ Eating right really is all about balance. There’s no way I’d be able to follow an eating plan that didn’t have any wiggle room.

Aside from the eating portion, there’s the workouts. I didn’t do any of the cardio workouts because I supplemented that with running, and I avoided the lower body specific workouts just to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it as I’m getting back into running. I did, however, do the ‘Upper Fix,’ ‘Dirty 30,’ and ’10 minute ab fix’ weekly in addition to my running, some yoga, and some spinning. The workouts are short (30 minutes total if you include the warm-up and cool-down, which I usually didn’t) and are deceptively hard. I was using two 5 pound weights which I assumed would be too light, but doing each exercise for a minute straight proved to be a lot more difficult than I originally anticipated. I was sore after each workout the first time I did it, but it got better as I continued doing them over the course of the three weeks.

So after all that, what did I think? I actually really, really liked the 21-day fix. I learned a lot about my eating habits! I definitely don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables despite being a vegetarian, I lean too heavily on my workouts as excuses for poor food choices, and I definitely don’t drink enough water. We were encouraged to weigh ourselves and take measurements before the challenge as well as at the end. While my measurements weren’t anything staggering (my quads got bigger because I’m running more again – YAY!, but I lost almost a full inch at my hips and a half inch at my waist), I did loose about 5 pounds (give or take, of course). Considering the challenge ended the weekend after Thanksgiving, my numbers probably would’ve been more ‘impressive’ if that wasn’t the case. But more importantly than those numbers, I feel better. Some of the pants I’d been avoiding because they were just a little too tight fit much more comfortably. And I have some baby ab muscles poking through… just in time for layering season, ha.

I would definitely recommend this to someone looking to overhaul their eating habits a bit. I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do this if I was in the middle of training for a race, but this was the perfect time for me to try it. You can definitely do it on the cheaper side by not including Shakeology and ordering the containers on Amazon rather than through Beachbody. You also don’t have to join a challenge group, but I found the camaraderie of a group (via an app) motivating. There are tons of resources online (meal planning sheets you can download, blogs full of recipes, tips and tricks, and more), and it really isn’t that hard or drastic. Basically, it’s just a way to make sure you’re not overeating, and what you are eating is good for you. Like they say, not all calories are created equal… and as someone who relies on my body a lot to achieve goals and feel good about myself, I need to treat it better. But I am also all about those indulgences (give me booze! cheese! chocolate!)… I just needed to learn how to control them a bit better.

Now let’s see how I do during the month of December!

Tell me…
Have you ever done 21-day fix, or something similar? What did you think?
If you haven’t, would you try it?

6 Comments

Filed under Home Cooking, Life, Running

Spin City

No, this blog post isn’t going to be about the Michael J. Fox TV show from the late 90’s, but rather (a few) studio spin classes in New York City. Sorry to disappoint!

I’ve mentioned a few times over the last year or so that since living in Jersey City and working in NYC that I’ve been exposed to more fitness studios and workout classes than I could ever imagine. You name the type of workout, it’s available. It’s actually one of my favorite parts about NYC and something I longed for when I was living in suburbia. While I’m not on a quest (yet) to try as many different workout classes as possible, I’ve found myself recently trying a lot of different spin studios.

When I was injured this past summer, spinning was my saving grace. I was able to get in a serious sweat and keep my cardio up, without further aggravating my sinus tarsi. I was going to Flywheel two to three times a week, and reaping the benefits. I started running again in the fall, and was thrilled to see that I hadn’t lost nearly as much fitness as I had feared. While there’s still plenty of work I need to put in, I was in a much better place this go around than any other time I’ve come off an injury.

But I digress… I realized that a few weeks ago I went to FOUR different spin studios. Four! In one week! And I didn’t even crack the surface of spin studio offerings in the city. I thought it would be fun to recap and breakdown the differences between the four I visited, since I’m always looking for workout class recaps and feedback from others. With the four studios I visited, two were studios I’ve been going to since I started spinning last year, and two were new-to-me as of last week. I’m going to break down each studio so you can easily compare them!

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Flywheel Sports
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know Flywheel is where I spent the majority of my summer getting in cardio. There are a TON of locations, so it was easy for me to get to; whether I was near work, meeting a friend, visiting my parents in New Jersey or traveling to Chicago, there was a studio nearby.

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Cost: $28-$34, depending on your location. Includes shoes, water, fruit.

Studio: The studios are all pretty small. As most of you know, space is hard to come by in NYC, and it’s no exception for Flywheel. Some studios are more spacious than others (like the Millburn, NJ location – SO MUCH SPACE!), but generally speaking you often feel like you’re in someone’s way no matter where you are or what you’re doing. But it comes with the territory. They all have a little retail area, and depending on the location, either a men’s & women’s locker room, or individual shower and toilet rooms. Again, the size and set-up varies at each location, but they follow the same general concept.

Bikes: Easy to set up and comfortable. Each bike has a ‘tech pack’ that displays your RPM, resistance, current power output, and total power. Everyone’s total power is tracked throughout the class, and if you opt in, you can have yours displayed on the Torq board during class. This set-up favors the competitive types, but can be intimidating for those that aren’t. The good news is that you can opt-out of having your name and stats display on the Torq board. The number of bikes depend on the size of the studio, but the set-up is ‘stadium’ style, so even if you’re in the back you have a good view of the instructor. It’s dark and the music is loud, so you really have the opportunity to get in the zone and leave everything behind for 45 (or 60 or even 90!) minutes.

Class itself: Think combination of heavy hills, leg flying flat roads, and tons of sprints, ranging anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds. The playlists are always great, and I’m yet to take an instructor I don’t like. An arms sequence is done towards the end of class (you don’t have to do it) using a 2 and/or 4 pound bar. Different locations have different vibes (like the Flatiron and Upper East Side locations have regulars that know one another and the instructors well, while Tribeca is more of a business get in/get out), but they all deliver the same high energy classes. And, if you’re into barre workouts, there are a few locations that offer barre too!

Peloton
I stumbled upon Peloton early last year when I found a deal on Gilt City for a 5-class pack. At the time, I didn’t realize that their primary business was selling bikes for at-home riders, and their studio is where they actually shoot and live stream the classes for the at-home riders.

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Cost: $30, includes shoes, water, fruit

Studio size: Impressive! This studio is on the larger side and offers more than just a retail section and locker rooms. They have a fun little lounge area that encourages riders to come early or stay later after rides to just hang out and relax. They also have a smoothie & coffee bar, where you can order drinks before your ride to have them ready for afterwards! The locker rooms have an impressive number of showers and toilet stalls, and a decent amount of lockers. I also love that they have face wash! It sounds silly, but most studios that offer bath products only have body wash, shampoo, and conditioner, so I appreciate the face wash. It can still get pretty crowded (especially in the locker room), but it feels much less cramped than a lot of other studios in the city.

Bikes: Best I’ve ever ridden! Seriously. They are SO incredibly smooth and comfortable. Considering their main focus (at least at the start of the business) was the sale of these bikes, it makes sense. Each bike has a little tablet that displays your stats, and you can see others in the class — both studio and at-home riders — stats and where you rank. It’s nice to have it right there in front of you, rather than on a giant board for all to see.

Class itself: Similar to Flywheel, the classes offer sprints, hills, intervals, riding to the beat, and an optional arms section towards the end of class. Also stadium style seating, this has an added bonus of cameras for the at-home riders! The cameras are facing the instructor, so you don’t have to worry about being seen, but that changes the dynamic a bit since the instructors are there not only for you in the studio, but also for everyone riding along at home either live, or as a replay.

SWERVE Fitness

SWERVE is a new-to-me studio with the theme, “together we ride.” When their PR team sent out an e-mail blast about their soon to open Midtown studio offering the chance to come in for a ride, I jumped at the offer. I’m all for trying new workouts and I was interested to try a team themed workout.

Cost: $34, includes shoes (water available for purchase)

Studio size: Impressive. They have a similar set-up to Peloton in that there is a lot of space; the studio is actually downstairs, leaving plenty of room for lockers and a lounge area including a smoothie bar! It encourages riders to come early/stay after classes to relax and socialize, which is a nice change of pace from the head down, always in someone’s way feeling at a lot of studios in the city. They have separate locker rooms for women and men, but only two bathrooms. So the line for a quick pre-class pee can get pretty long… something to keep in mind!

Bikes: Okay. Admittedly I had a little bit of a rough start due to my own mix up of dates for class, so I was on someone else’s bike then had to quickly switch to a different open one right as class was starting, so I didn’t really settle in until class was already a few songs deep. That being said, the bikes were fine, but nothing to write home about. Since the class does focus on some numbers here and there, there is a tech pack of sorts that provides you basic information like your RPMs, your current resistance, and your overall output.

Class itself: Really different! The concept at Swerve is teamwork; the studio is split into three groups that are color coded (blue, red, and green) and your goal throughout class is to work together during different segments. There are a few TV screens throughout the studio, but they don’t display everyone’s output, but rather the team output. Like most spin classes there are sprints, hills, and portions where you ride to the beat. The TVs display a countdown of the different sections the teacher calls out to be a competition, and as a color team, you work together to hit whatever goal (maybe 75 beats per minute for 38 seconds… or sprinting as fast as you can at a certain resistance number to get you to a specific output number). This approach is a nice medium between the competitiveness of say the Torq Board at Flywheel, and the complete lack of it at a place like Soul Cycle or Cyc Fitness. You also get an e-mail right after class letting you know all your stats (your personal output, estimated number of calories, etc.).

Cyc Fitness
I’ve known about Cyc for awhile since I know a bunch of runners who enjoy frequenting their classes. Up until a few weeks ago, though, I hadn’t made my way over to take a class.

Cost: $28, includes shoes (water available for purchase)

Studio size: I visited their location at Astor Place, which is inside a David Barton’s Gym. Therefore, I guess you could say the location is huge. The locker rooms are shared with the gym, so there is plenty of space for you to get ready and store things (but you need to bring your own lock!). I think their newer Hell’s Kitchen location is stand alone, so that may be smaller. That being said, there was plenty of room near the actual Cyc section of the gym to wait for class to begin, and I liked that they had little cubby shelves for people that maybe don’t have enough stuff to warrant bringing a lock and going into the locker room, but need to put their street shoes somewhere.

Bikes: Meh. The bikes themselves weren’t really that great; I couldn’t seem to get the handle bars to not jostle despite tightening it as much as I could, it wasn’t a very smooth ride, and turning the knob seemed to make it either dangerously easy or impossibly hard; there wasn’t much middle ground. There also isn’t any type of “tech pack” so you’re really not sure about your resistance or RPMs. I know that could be a deal breaker for some, but I think it’s nice to not focus on the numbers sometimes.

Class itself: Party on a bike! Seriously. There was so much movement and while intimidating at first, it was so much fun. While I’ve never taken a Soul Cycle class, based on what people have told me, it seemed similar in terms of the constant moving on the bike. This was also the first class I’ve taken where arms were done two separate times, once towards the beginning of class and once closer to the end. All other studios do their arms sequence towards the end of class. The moves were also geared towards other sports moves (think mimicking shooting a basket, spiking a volleyball, etc.) which was interesting.

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Overall, I’ve realized quite a few things about myself and what I look for in a spinning studio after visiting four different studios in one week. I’m extremely competitive, and thrive off of that in a workout environment. My competitiveness is often hidden because I’m an introvert, but not only am I constantly competing with myself, I’m often sizing up and competing with other people in a class. Call it a strength or a weakness (I suppose it depends on the day), but it’s my reality. That being said, despite hating math, when it comes to workouts, I’m a numbers girl. BUT with all that said, every so often I need a break from that constant competition, so having the option to spin somewhere that isn’t so numbers focused is great. Workouts don’t always have to be something where you’re teetering on the edge of exhaustion and aren’t sure if you’re loving it or hating it — they should be fun!

I’m thankful to have so many options for cross-training available to me. I wouldn’t have been able to get through my last two bouts of running injuries without them, I’m sure of it. It is hard sometimes to pick and choose what I want to do, just because I want to try everything and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in cross-training workouts, running, and a little thing called work (not even including a social life!).

I’d love to know if you have any favorite spin studios I haven’t checked out yet! OR another favorite cross training workout? Tell me!

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Filed under Running

Fueling

When I was just starting out running, I didn’t really understand fueling for long runs. As a swimmer, there really wasn’t any opportunity to eat during practice (though we did sometimes keep Starbursts on the pool deck just in case), and we stuck to water and Gatorade as our main fuel source for workouts. I was always one of those people that couldn’t eat much before working out, and on the mornings of meets you could usually find me choking down a Powerbar or something similar – full meals (or even partial meals) needed to be eaten hours in advance in order for me to not feel sick, and that holds true today.

The biggest difference for me between running and swimming is fueling – mainly because of the amount of time spent doing each activity. Sure, our practices were 2+ hours, but it wasn’t ever 2+ hours of continuous swimming… thank goodness! So the first few long runs and even long races I did, didn’t include a lot of mid-race fueling. I still am unable to eat a lot before I run, but I’ve managed to condition myself to expect and deal with eating along the way. It’s taken a decent amount of trial and error in order to figure out what works best for me, especially making sure I don’t eat something before or during my run that will upset my stomach and GI.

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So what’s my plan? I’ve found that for the most part, unless my run is over 13ish miles, I don’t need any mid-run fuel as long as I have a solid breakfast (which I’ll get to). But, if I’m going longer than that, I like to take something every 5 miles. I’m going to be honest with you – I think energy gels are pretty gross. But, I know that they are the fastest and easiest way for me to eat something during a run. The bites/gummies/chomps/beans are more pleasant, but they also up my chance for biting down on my tongue or cheek while trying to chew them and run at the same time (believe me, it’s happened). Of course I’m picky about the flavors I like, and so I stick to the Clif Shot Vanilla, but will gladly take any brand that has a Chocolate or Mocha flavor as well. So during a marathon I’ll take a gel before the race, and then at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20. I typically take the on-course gel they offer as well, just in case.

My breakfast also varies depending on the length of my run. For runs less than 13 miles, I’ll either have a a Picky Bar or a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For longer runs, I usually have a whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich… and of course lots of water! I’m new to the whole Picky Bar club (literally, I just joined their monthly club) and am IN LOVE with all the flavors. I know a  lot of people don’t like energy bars, etc., because they “taste like cardboard,” but I beg to differ, at least about the PB’s. My favorite flavor is “Lauren’s Mega Nuts,” and they’re gluten and dairy free – nice and easy on the digestive system for someone like me.

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As for post-run, anything is game. I usually spend most of my runs thinking about drinks – smoothies, iced coffee, Slurpees, protein shakes, beer… it’s weird, but I just go with it. No matter how cold it is after I run, I almost always want a cold drink, which I usually wind up regretting as I sit on the floor shivering. Why the floor? Growing up I was conditioned not to sit on the couches in the following situations (unless I put a towel down first): after putting on sunscreen, after working out, or immediately after swim practice (hello chlorine). So I still follow those rules today in my own house. I usually have an iced coffee, and then try to help aid my recovery with a protein shake and tart cherry juice (if I have any on hand). As for food, anything is game – if the run happens earlier in the day, I’ll typically make something brunch-y, but if it’s later in the day or evening, I’ll eat pretty much anything. I just make sure to make it as nutritionally sound as possible, and depending on the number of miles I’ve run, calorie heavy.

Fueling for workouts (especially running) really is a science, like they say at Picky Bars. Different things work for different people, so it’s really important to take the time and figure out what works for you… especially if you have any intolerances, allergies, or dietary restrictions. My routine works for me, so I don’t plan on changing it until I need to!

How do you fuel for workouts?
Do you fuel differently depending on the length or activity?

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Filed under Running