Struggling to get back on track

There are certain noises and feelings you don’t want to experience at the gym. The sound of someone dropping a huge weight followed by a scream. The feeling that you are about to pass out. For me, it was a pop and then a shooting pain in my left calf during step class. I thought maybe it was just a muscle cramp and tried to walk it off. It wasn’t happening. I could barely walk.

My walking boot

So, off to the doctor’s office I went.

The doctor’s office led to an X-ray and a trip to an orthopedic specialist. What I thought was just a pulled muscle was actually a torn Achilles tendon. I guess I should have been

thankful that it was only a slight tear. A ruptured Achilles would have required surgery and months of recovery and physical therapy. But a slight tear still means being confined to a walking boot for at least three weeks followed by 10 weeks of recovery.

What was I going to do?

Since I started working to lose weight over five years ago, there’s never been a time when I wasn’t active. Even when sick, I’d still try to get outside for some fresh air or just to take the dog for a long walk. So six weeks of little to no exercise was driving me crazy! I looked forward to physical therapy since it was at least a little bit of a workout.

Getting back to my routine

Four weeks ago, I was completely cleared to start working out again. I was excited and couldn’t wait to get back to the gym. But what used to be the high point of my day has turned into something I dread. I still love taking Zumba© and cardio-boxing, but getting back into the routine of training for a race has been difficult. I don’t know if I’m worried about getting hurt again or if the time off has sapped me of my motivation.

Blue Cross Broad Street Run is coming up soon, and I need to train. Do you have any suggestions on how to overcome training obstacles? I desperately need to get back on track!

Transforming my mind and body

If you’re anything like me, then another day at the gym on the elliptical burning some calories and doing the same ‘ol thing is a complete and utter bore. While growing up I was extremely active, playing a different sport every season. After college, finding the motivation to spend time at the gym on an elliptical, bike, or weight machine was nearly impossible.

As someone who has always had issues with body image, I really need to be active and get to the gym or I get upset. Noticing my saddened mood, one of my coworkers mentioned a studio that I should try. So I did the obvious: I Googled it…

Photo courtesy of

…and then I signed up. (After reading the reviews and making a quick call to the studio, I knew it was a class I just had to take.) The location I frequent is in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood at 255 S. 17th Street, but there are studios in Old City and Northern Liberties as well. (With more to come!)

Lithe Method® is in my life for good!

Lithe Method is a hybrid workout that incorporates moves from yoga, Pilates, barre, dance, cheerleading, isometrics, and even their own Cardio Cheer Sculpt® moves. Each class has a different name and focus, but they all work your entire body!

Turns out, it was not only having a boring exercise routine that had my scale stuck, it was something more. I’m the type of person who works harder when other people are around. Being in a group class setting is real motivation for me. I realized I was working much harder than I ever would have on a machine at the gym.

I quickly went from working out a couple times a week to getting to a class as many days as possible. Being sore all over is a feeling I love, which I know may sound weird but, hey, it means I’m doing something right!

Finding the perfect solution

For me, finding a workout I love made me feel better and helped lead to living a healthier lifestyle. Besides attending classes at Lithe, I’ve learned that eating healthier with more fresh, natural foods and eliminating packaged foods full of preservatives and sodium have been key to feeling better. Granted, I found it impossible to cut out all foods deemed not healthy, so I try to follow the 80/20 rule and allow myself some “not so good for you” foods!

Have you found your perfect solution to your workout rut?

Flying high at the Philly Circus

When you were a kid, did you ever want to run away with the circus? I know I did. I finally got my chance at age 27 at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. I knew the day would be a lot of fun, but I had no idea I would get a great workout, too!

I didn’t know if they were going to throw me around on a trapeze or even try to shoot me out of a cannon! I am absolutely terrified of heights and in my head I kept going over different ways to politely say, “There is no way I’m doing that.”

As my friend, Kerri, and I walked through the doors of their beautiful facility, I took a quick survey of the gym. There were definitely high ceilings and trapeze, but no nets. You can’t throw me in the air without a net. Once the anxiety subsided, I got excited. This is the circus; it’s supposed to be fun.

We met our instructor, Niff Nicholas, who has been with the Philly Circus studying aerials since 2007. She took us through some basic warm-ups to work the muscles we would be using during the class. The warm-ups were mostly stretching and light cardio to get our blood flowing.

Making it look easy

Niff began by showing us how to climb the rope, making it look easy as she scaled to the top in about five seconds. My hands instantaneously shook. It was awfully high. Once I made it to the top, how would I get down? Turns out, my worries were pointless. I have zero upper body strength, so I could barely get off the ground. I climbed a few feet before I plopped back down to the mat.

The trapeze was also difficult for me. I couldn’t lift myself up to swing my legs over the bar. The fabrics were a little easier. I could hoist myself onto a knot and flip my legs over so that I was hanging upside down. Kerri, however, was able to do many tricks and did a great job doing them. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ran away with Barnum and Bailey®!

Practice makes perfect

Niff explained that many new students come to class without having the upper body strength to perform the tricks on each aerial apparatus. This made me feel better. Niff showed us conditioning exercises like pull ups on the trapeze bar and an ab roll with the fabrics. Two days later, and I am still feeling the pain! But don’t worry, as I mentioned in my previous blog, it’s a good pain!

The Philly Circus showed me that I need to work on building up my strength. I am so much more determined to condition myself. Even though I wasn’t able to perform every trick, I still got an awesome workout. You don’t even realize it because it is so much fun. If you don’t believe me, watch the video.

In a few months, you will find me back at the Philly Circus swinging on the trapeze…well, maybe not swinging, but definitely hanging upside down!

If you think you have what it takes, there are adult workshops every Sunday where you have a chance to try out the rope, fabric, and static trapeze with other beginners. But there are also conditioning classes and sessions that introduce you to the aerial equipment for youth and adults, so there is fitness fun for the whole family! Don’t forget, fans of our Facebook page also get $25 off a regular adult session class at Philly Circus!

Is there a circus act you’ve always wanted to try?

Watch Ashley learn the ropes at Philly Circus

It turns out that flying through the air on a trapeze isn’t as easy as the acrobats in the big top make it look. Here’s a sneak peek at blogger Ashley and her friend Kerri learning the ropes (literally!) from team at Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.

Check back tomorrow to read about Ashley’s experience with joining the circus! For the next two weeks you can visit the IBX Winter Activity Guide on Facebook to save $25 on a regular adult session class.

Chocolate-covered calories

Valentine’s Day is one of the few days of the year when we are expected to enjoy massive amounts of one of life’s precious gifts: Chocolate.

To have a well-balanced diet and eat chocolate takes serious planning

Chocolate-covered pineapple, chocolate-covered raisins, chocolate-covered peanuts, chocolate-covered caramel…you name it — I bet it tastes better covered in chocolate!

As you may have noticed, planning works best for me when it comes to sticking to healthy food choices. First things first, I have already requested that my fiancé and children do not surprise me with a gigantic box of chocolate-covered candy. A small heart with a few pieces of candy will be appreciated more than the larger box because it will reflect that they support my goal to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Now here’s the hard part: Will I eat the entire box of candy in one sitting, regardless of the size? A year ago, the answer to that question would have been, “Definitely!” But not today. My plan is to fill snack bags with two pieces of candy and refrigerate them. This way, when I grab my piece of fruit for lunch, I will only grab one of my candy treats.

And just think of it this way: I am kind of turning Valentine’s Day into Valentine’s week by only eating two pieces of candy a day!

A little something extra

In order to make this week-long Valentine’s Day work, I’ll have to do a little something extra for a few days. For example, I might skip my late afternoon granola bar, or go walk for half an hour during my lunch break, or play Just DanceTM on the WiiTM with my children in the evening.

My “something extra” will be something that makes me feel like I am enjoying one of life’s gifts, without compromising my healthy lifestyle.

It has to be possible to occasionally enjoy a little something extra without compromising my healthy eating habits or my “girlish figure,” right?

What are some of the things that you are doing to minimize those chocolate-covered calories?

Sculpere: A challenge that pays off in the end

Yoga has never been my forte. I’ve only taken it once in my life, but on a night last week in Northern Liberties, I decided to try Sculpere. It’s a cross between yoga and ballet, with a little bit of Pilates thrown in there for good measure. The brainchild of studio owner Cristina Espaillat, Sculpere is perfect for those who love yoga and have always wanted to try ballet.

Let me start out by saying that I was ready for the physical workout of Sculpere, but I was definitely not prepared for the mental and spiritual discipline needed to master it.

I was initially drawn to this class because of the ballet component. As a child, my favorite part of ballet class was working the barre. I always felt so elegant and graceful, as I fluidly moved my arms and pointed my toes.

Sculpting the body and mind 

Christina grew up studying dance and concentrated on classical ballet. She joined the City Ballet of San Diego, fulfilling her dream of becoming a professional dancer, in 2003. After breaking her foot in 2005, she gained a passion for yoga that equaled her love of dance. Sculpere is a Latin word that literally means “sculpt.” Christina aims to sculpt both body and mind in her class, and I believe she did just that for me.

The studio is absolutely cozy with Tiffany-blue walls and ceilings, gentle lighting, and soft-brown wooden floors. I felt very comfortable in the class of six, including Cristina.

Feeling the “good” pain

The class began with us sitting on our yoga mats (I purchased my mine at Five Below for $5!) with yoga breathing, relaxation, and stretching. And after a particularly hectic Monday, I really appreciated this de-stressing.

We then moved to the ballet barre for basic pliés (pronounced plee-yays) and grand pliés, then onto simple front, side, and back kicks, complete with pointed toes. This part of the class really gets your blood flowing and heart pounding.  We ended the class back on our yoga mats for core strengthening work and a cool down. The entire workout lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

After taking Sculpere, I realized that I am very out of shape! The next two days, I gingerly walked around because my legs were in pain like I’ve never felt before! But let me clarify, this was a good pain. Given some of the challenges I faced in this class – such as difficulty reaching my toes – I now have a great incentive to get my body back into better condition. Bring on the good pain! I can take it!

In essence, this class is perfect for, but most certainly not limited to, people who have danced in the past, who enjoy yoga, or who are looking for a good challenge. I honestly can’t wait to take a Sculpere class again.

Get discounts at Sculpere

If you’re interested in taking a class at Sculpere, be sure to call 215-592-1200 and reserve your spot. Fans of our IBX Facebook page can even get unlimited monthly classes for $60 and/or a one-hour Reiki Session for $40!

This was a really fun and challenging class that I strongly recommend to anyone looking to get fit and have an awesome time doing it.

What are some challenging classes you’ve taken that have really paid off?

Get Ready, Get Set … Rest

A year ago, the ground was covered in snow (lots of snow). Temperatures in January and February dipped into the single digits. I vividly remember the bitter cold; how I layered running tights, Dri-FIT apparel, and two pairs of gloves; how the water and Gatorade I carried with me to stay hydrated froze; how I begged my running friends to join me on various legs of my longest runs (they did); how thankful I was for all things warm or indoors. I cursed Mother Nature every time I lost feeling in my fingertips or slipped on ice.

And I kept running.

When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon after those months of training, it was in celebration of those moments — of the preparation and accomplishment. That finish line led to a few others and ended with a final hoorah this past November when I ran the Annapolis half marathon. This was my last race of the year and the race in which I qualified for an entry to the NYC 2012 Marathon.

Winter training

Winter training is as awful as it sounds and I don’t miss being a Popsicle in running sneakers. Admittedly, my recent runs have been few and (very) far between. The phrase “I have to go out for a long training run” has been replaced by “Eh, I could go out for a run … tomorrow.” Instead, the time I would have spent running, I’ve spent in activities that I’ll incorporate into my next training plan.

I’ve learned (and laughed) a lot the past few weeks. I’ve used muscles I didn’t know I had and rested other muscles that needed it. Ironically, my daily Runners World quote today reads “I constantly remind myself that resting takes confidence. Anyone can train like a madman but to embrace rest and to allow the hard training to come out takes mental strength”. Olympian Ryan Hall made this observation and I think he knows a thing or two about running.

Somewhere between the past month and now, I downshifted into neutral. I miss running. I’m once again ready to layer up and brave the elements (as I silently urge Mother Nature to bring us an early spring). I’m looking forward to waking up early on a clear, sunny, and brisk weekend morning to jog along Kelly Drive with the sun glistening off the water from the river, or along quiet city streets before the symphony of car horns and the rev of SEPTA bus engines fill the air.

What’s next?

I have a few weeks to tune up before starting a training plan for my next race, much like many other Philadelphians. Race registration for the Blue Cross® Broad Street 10 mile run opens February 15. It’s 12 weeks from then until race morning, Sunday, May 6.

So, who’s with me? Who is ready to start training, bear the elements, and once again love running?

Do you have any tips, favorite routes or inspirational quotes that motivate you to keep running or start training?