Working It Out

It’s kind of ironic that I’m a runner because I tend to get bored with the same kind of workout if I do it for weeks on end.

I guess I stick with running because, when you’re training for a race, you’re always striving for different distances. If the end goal changes, it’s a little easier to stay focused.

For other workout classes, though, I’ve never been able to do the same thing for more than a year. So I was pretty intrigued when Diana introduced me to Classtivity.

For $99, you get ten classes that you can redeem at basically every boutique gym in the city. (They’re also in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle, and D.C.) You can “spend” all ten classes at the same gym, or try ten different ones. There’s a whole range of classes from yoga and pilates to boot camps and spin, so it’s impossible to get bored.

The cost breaks down to about $10 per class, which, in this city, is an amazing deal. (The average class you take would typically cost around $40-$50.)

A big part of training for the marathon is cross training my legs and strengthening my core and upper body, so clearly this kind of deal interested me.

And just so things don’t get monotonous around here, I thought it could be interested to share what I think of the new classes I’m taking. Maybe not. But maybe? I’ll rate the gyms and the classes? Eh?

Here we go!

Last night, I took a Core Fusion Barre Class at Exhale New York in Soho.

The Gym
Space: The gym was on the second floor of the building. The overall space wasn’t exceptionally large (the lobby was downright cramped as one class files out and the other files in), but the actual studio was fine. There are two dressing rooms with curtain doors and one bathroom. You keep your belongings in cubbies.
Cleanliness: Super clean. You spend a couple of minutes before class wiping down the barre, weights, mats, etc. They also have fancy soaps and stuff in the bathroom so you can wash your face, which I always appreciate.
Attitude: Excellent. Not a snob to be found. My teacher, Erin, was incredibly sweet and encouraging but still pushed you to push yourself.

The Workout
Difficulty (Out of 10, 1 being “could do it in my sleep” and 10 being “omg I can’t walk”): Easily a 9. This class. This class is so hard. I am not a weak person, and I never wimp out on finishing sets, and I had to wimp out so many times. Remember how sweet I was saying Erin was? Behind that pretty smile, there lies a drill sergeant. She told us mid-class that a professional dancer friend of hers once almost threw up in the middle of her class. So…don’t feel bad if it’s tough for you. (Each move can be modified, though, so don’t be too scared!)
Experience: This one was a great workout. Every part of my body felt strengthened, and you get that ballet/pilates feel of stretching all your muscles while they’re strengthened. Just go in expecting it will be hard, but totally worth it. (Plus, each of the workout “sets” only takes about three minutes, and then you stretch. It just feels like an eternity.) And I don’t know about you, but I always feel significantly fancier working out with a ballet barre. So there’s that.
Afterburn (how I felt the next day): As soon as I left the class, I already felt that muscle “buzzing” feeling that I get after a long run. My body is a little sore this morning, but not in a bad way. I’m glad the overall soreness isn’t too bad because I have to run ten miles in a few hours.

Final grade: A+! I’m definitely planning to do this one again.

Ok, so was that helpful? Have I convinced any of you to join me next time? I’m taking another new class tomorrow, so maybe that will be a post later this week.

Have a great weekend!

For the last few years, I’ve been saying that I would like to run a full marathon someday.

The funny thing is, I don’t think I have really believed I would do it. Especially after battling my first real running injury, I had kind of added running a marathon to the list of things it would be cool to have done but that I didn’t really expect to do. (You know, like swimming with sharks. Walking on the moon. Cutting my hair into a bob.)

In fact, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for the run I did if not for my ambitious friend who I had already discussed going to Paris and running a marathon with (separately). When I agreed to do it (at the same time), I did so despite the nagging voice in my brain whispering in a panicked voice that this was a bad idea.

Part of the problem was that the Philly Half wasn’t great for me. My training was tough, and I hadn’t run a 10+ miler that didn’t make me feel like death in over a year. I was really worried I had made a terrible (and expensive) mistake.

So when I set out to run twelve miles yesterday, it wasn’t without a healthy dose of trepidation.

New running shoes I'm really counting on to boost my confidence.

New running shoes I’m really counting on to boost my confidence.

I’m pleased to say, though, that the run went pretty great. I felt good at the end (though a little sore). My legs and hips felt a little tight, but I made it through without needing to stop at any point. That sounds like such a minor thing, but I can’t begin to tell you how much it put my mind at ease.

Because I can do this. It’s just going to be hard. But I’m a big believer in not running away from stuff just because it’s hard.

So now I can say, confidently, that I am running a full marathon. In April. In Paris. And this time, I really believe it.

Marathon training has officially begun. As has my concern that I might be insane for thinking this time of year would be fine for marathon training.

On Saturday, Diana and I attempted our first long(ish) training run. It was supposed to be ten miles.

The temperature clocked in below ten degrees.

And thanks to a recent mini flurry, the ground was also covered in an inch or two of ice, snow, and slush in most places.

I know what you’re thinking: Justine, why didn’t you just run on a treadmill?

Don’t think I didn’t consider it. But my tolerance for that hamster wheel tops out at about five, maybe six miles. Ten would have been brutal.

So despite the cold, Di and I loaded up in fleecy layers, gritted our teeth, and braved the elements.

We ran around Central Park, five miles out. The plan was to run the full five back, but after about six miles of hopping, slipping, and tip-toeing around ice encrusted sidewalks, our whole bodies were exhausted. (Plus our pace was nothing to write home about.)

Since we’ve both dealt with injuries in the past, we decided to call it quits at eight and pick up the extra miles during our shorter runs this week.

And, you know, my face was so frozen by the end that I could barely speak.

I’m planning to do my weekday runs at the gym (hopefully streaming some Netflix to distract myself), but I still have a 12-miler next Saturday to prep for. Any cold-weather tips from my runner friends? Maybe a really great jacket you love? I’ll take anything.

Only 12 more weeks to go!

Today, I did something a little crazy.

I signed up for a marathon. In Paris.

All together now: Eeeeeeeeee!

 

Taken from the Eiffel Tower on my first Paris trip.

Taken from the Eiffel Tower on my first Paris trip.

 

Really, I could not be more excited to go to Paris again. And heck, to run a full marathon for the first time. I just can’t think too hard about it. Or about the training.

Oof, the training.

I’m running it with my pal, Diana, who ran the Philly Half with me, and of course Joey will be there to support. It’s actually the same week as our anniversary, so it will be nice to celebrate by revisiting one of our honeymoon spots. (You know, without getting food poisoning this time.)

So I’m psyched. And terrified. And totally open to any marathon training suggestions/schedules my marathoner readers have to share.

Allons-y!

It has been almost a year since I’ve done any kind of race.

 

The last one was a 5-mile turkey trot that left me limping and wondering if maybe it wasn’t time to stop ignoring that pain in my heel after all.

 

After a year of taking it easy and hoping my plantar fasciitis would just go away, only to be rewarded with a less severe dull aching sensation whenever I tried incorporating cardio or walking a lot or wearing certain shoes.

 

It was exactly as much fun as it sounds.

 

After about nine months of that, I decided to try new shoes. After all, it was new shoes that cured my shin splints problem, right?

 

Almost miraculously, the new shoes worked. After a single run, I started to notice a difference, including that I had less pain even when I wasn’t wearing the shoes. Running in these more supportive sneaks was repairing my foot better than almost a year of rest ever had.

 

Shout out to New Balance: Making long-distance dreams come true for flat footed gals everywhere.

 

It was around this time that my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to do the Philadelphia Half with her. I accepted the offer, excited to get back to it.

 

Of course, even with my healing heel, I had a lot to work back to as I started training for my first half marathon in over a year. It helped that my running partner, Diana, is always pushing her own limits, which inspired me to do the same.

 

By the time the race rolled around, I had cut my nine-minute-something mile down to a consistent eight or lower, and we were pacing to finish the race in about 1:45.

 

Exciting stuff, right?

 

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but my body had other ideas.

 

Not to get too TMI on ya, but I got my period the day before the race. And the. I started getting cramps around mile two.

 

Thanks, uterus!

 

I’m not going to lie — I wanted to quit. At one point, I actually thought to myself, “If I could cheat and just be done, I think I would do that.”

 

But by some strength I didn’t really know I had, I kept plodding along. My final time was two hours even — twenty minutes slower than planned, but still better than my first half time. Go figure, right?

 

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Diana is an animal and finished just under 1:40. I know, right??

 

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I’m just chalking it up as motivation to do another one in the spring. Gotta defend my rep, after all.

 

The rest of the weekend was lovely. We spent time with Diana’s family, all of whom I loved, and ate a bunch of great food. We’re currently on the train home, and I’m pretty excited to see a certain someone’s face after work.

 

Spoiler alert: It’s Joey’s face. I just like him, ok?

 

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I’m writing this with mud still under my fingernails. (Though, for the record, I started writing it Saturday night.)

Saturday morning, I survived my first Tough Mudder.

For those not familiar, a TM is basically a half marathon with obstacles. Tough obstacles. Obstacles with names like Electric Eel, Everest, and Arctic Enema.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it was happening. Here’s how it all went down.

A couple of months ago, my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to join her Tough Mudder team. I’ll be honest: My immediate answer was thanks, but no thanks. I have a few friends who have done Mudders in the past, and I could never get over the fact that there are obstacles that involved running or crawling through electrically charged strings that would actually shock you whilst you tried to scramble through.

I mean, I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise, but that seemed crazy even to me.

A couple of weeks ago, though, Diana was telling me how one of her friends had dropped out of their three-woman team, and since so many of the obstacles require some serious team effort to get through, “If only I could find someone who would take her place.”

I took a deep breath.

“Well, I guess if I could just have her entry, I could do it with you.”

Also known as the words they’ll engrave on my tombstone.

Of course, Diana quickly made the arrangements, even reaching out to a friend of hers who works for TM to get my name on the entry, and the deed was done.

Honestly, I tried not to think about the event too much in the (terribly) short weeks leading up to it. Diana and I are also doing a half marathon next month, so we were already training. We both continued with our conditioning training regimens as well. So we were preparing. We just weren’t thinking about what we were preparing for.

The morning arrived all too soon. Diana and Stephanie (our third team mate) met us at the course in New Jersey. The weather was uncharacteristically good, which actually boded well for the rest of the day.

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That Arctic Enema I mentioned? It involves submersing yourself in a dumpster filled with icy water. Like, the top three to four inches of the water are just chunks of ice. It would be just swell if it wasn’t freezing outside when we got out of said dumpster.

So anyway. Around 10:45, we crossed the starting line. Around 10:46, we had to scale a sheer wood wall.

The race had begun.

Besides running about 12 miles, we also did about 12 obstacles. (I’m honestly too tired to remember exactly how many. Plus, there’s a lot of running up and over steep, muddy hills throughout, and while those don’t technically qualify as official obstacles, they should.)

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You can read the descriptions of all the potential TM obstacles you could encounter here, but the ones I can remember that we did were the Electric Eel, the Cage Crawl, The Cliffhanger, Electroshock Therapy, Everest, Fire Walker, Funky Monkey, Island Hopping, Just the Tip (not as dirty as it sounds)(actually, it was really filthy), Kiss of Mud, Mud Mile (lots of mud), Walk the Plank, Boa Constrictor, the Arctic Enema, a Wheelbarrow Crawl, several Berlin Walls, and Warrior Carry.

The worst parts? Easily the Arctic Enema and the shock stations. As I said, the electrocution had always been my least favorite part about the event, and actually living it lived up to my perception. It hurt. And in a way that just made you kind of angry about it. I did not like it.

Here’s a video of it happening (the weird jerking motions we make are us reacting to the electricity):

The icy dumpster was just the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been. I mean, I’ve done a polar bear plunge, so I guess I thought I had an idea of what to expect.

I. Had. No. Idea.

The second you hit the water, your breath just leaves you. As does any sense of reason. We made the mistake of popping back up for air before swimming under the divider (yup, they make you swim through the icy water completely submerged), so we had to force ourselves to go back under just to get out. I vividly remember swimming toward the end and feeling several inches of ice move around my head as I broke the surface.

As we burst up again, Diana just screamed, “I NEVER WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.”

There was a mad panic as we desperately just tried to fight out way out of the dumpster. I may have kicked a teammate. I honestly don’t even remember.

When you get out, you just have to keep moving. I couldn’t think. I just knew I couldn’t stop moving. You warm up again fairly quickly, but the shock to the system takes a bit to wear off.

Okay, I just made the whole thing sound pretty awful. Let’s talk about the fun parts, shalllll we?

The Warrior Carry was actually probably my best moment. We were a three people, but at the Carry you’re supposed to run down a stretch of the path carrying a partner on your back, then switch midway through. Since we needed a fourth partner, we paired up with another team of three. That was two girls and one dude.

One 6-foot-three, 200-ish pounds dude. Named Adam.

He and I made our acquaintance, and then I hopped on his back. I honestly could barely to put together a sentence because my brain was still a little frozen from the Arctic Enema, but as we approached the switch point, he asked me if I wanted to switch.

“Yeah, sure, let’s do it!” I replied without thinking. The next thing I know, I’m running down the path with him on my back. His two partners turned around one point and marveled at my Herculean strength. (Really, they shouted, “Oh my GAWD, how are you doing that?”)

When we got to the end, we high-fived, and Diana ran up to me shouting, “Justine, you carried a man!

I felt kind of awesome.

Thinking about doing your own Mudder but not sure what to expect? Here are the four things I think you really need to know:

1. You should train for this. I know you did a Warrior Dash or a 5K without any extra training, but this is different. Even if you weren’t doing anything else, you’re going to run between 10 and 12 miles. You should probably be able to run 5-6 without stopping. It also wouldn’t hurt you to work on your upper body strength. There is a lot of lifting yourself over things or pulling yourself through things.

2. You will get dirty. Embrace it. Because you will literally get coated in mud. Mud will be in your toe nails, in your ears, in your eyes, in your belly button. At one point, Diana looked at me and said, “You have mud in your teeth.” At another point, I was looking for Diana, and I realized I had literally been staring at her for ten seconds, I just didn’t recognize her because she was completely covered in mud. You will look like a swamp monster. It’s easier to just accept it. (Plus, there’s probably a water obstacle in the next half mile to help rinse you off a bit.)

Thanks to Stephanie's mom for this pic!

Thanks to Stephanie’s mom for this pic!

3. You will get a little hurt. But probably not too much. I have a bunch of scratches and bruises on my elbows and shins (on top of being sore as heck), and I smacked my elbow falling over the other side of the Berlin Wall. But unless you are actually a spider monkey, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Fortunately, you won’t really realize that you are getting beat up until the end (and even then, not really until the next morning). Adrenaline sort of just powers you through everything.

4. Believe in Tough Mudder karma. You won’t be able to get through the whole course yourself. People will pick you up, give you hand holds, pull you through tunnels, and in some cases carry you through portions of this race. Accept the help (because you need to — you will actually find yourself thanking some dude for pushing you over a mud hill by your butt), but also pay it forward. When you get over the hill, reach back to give someone a hand over. Help the 40-year-old dude get through the narrow, slippery tunnel. Carry the man on your back because it’s part of the fun.

5. And most importantly, you’d best have a sense of humor if you want this to be fun at all. It’s important to choose team members that you can joke with (or at least just make “are we really doing this” eye contact with), and it helps to be friendly with everyone else. Thank people. Cheer people on. Remember that everyone is being ridiculous, and you’re not the only one planning to go home, shower, and not jump in the mud again for at least another year. And if all else fails, remind yourself that there is free beer in the end.

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Honestly, I’m glad I did it. It was extremely challenging, but I think it’s important to challenge ourselves. And I sort of had a similar thought as I did during the polar bear plunge that it’s just nice to do things that you never thought you would do. It’s nice to surprise yourself. It’s kind of fun to crawl around in the mud and get dirty, then jump into cold water from a 20-foot plank, then scramble up a muddy hill, then run a mile through the woods, then crawl on your back through cold water, then carry a tire half a mile, then crawl through mud under barbed wire, then slide down a muddy hill, and finally run up a sheer wall with only the hope that someone will grab your hand and pull you up.

No, really. It’s kind of fun.

So that’s how I survived it. Now I’m sore, scratched and bruised, and still swabbing mud out of my ears.

But also? Kind of awesome.

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