I am going to be completely honest here and tell you that I really never thought much about exercise classes.
I always considered myself self-sufficient enough to take care of my own fitness, and in a completely judgmental and unfair way, I thought the reverse about people who went to classes. I’m a jerk, I know, and all I can plead is ignorance. I preferred keeping myself disciplined and designing my own workouts as opposed to someone telling me what to do. I figured classes were there for people who didn’t know how to exercise and needed encouragement and motivation from an instructor. Asshole, I know.
Fast forward to March 2011 (Or I guess rewind? Go with it):
Injured Robyn: Completely incapable of running, or even walking for that matter. Also, really effing grumpy.
Universe: “HA! Want to rethink judging those exercise classes, or drown in an out-of-shape pile of couch-sitting and Phish Food pints?”
Now, the Phish Food definitely happened, however at this point I realized that despite my aforementioned preference toward solo-cizing, in order to maintain a level of fitness—I would need to surrender at least some of my gym time to a professional instructor.
(Robyn, stop trying to make “solo-cizing” happen, it’s not going to happen. Thanks, Regina George.)
And you know what? I converted (ish). Spinning is a really darn good workout, and it necessitates a killer instructor who is kind of scary. Yoga is one of my most favorite things now, and not only does it make me stretchy and flexible (good for running), but it calms me down.
fyi: I NEED CALMING A LOT OF THE TIME.
Anyway, I am fairly certain that had I not been literally forced off the running-only wagon, I would never have found these other forms of sweating. Even when I was able to run again, I kept rolling on the cross-training bus, much of which included group-exercise classes.
Where am I going with all this? Well, if you haven’t been listening to my incessant blog rants, tweets, and merciful pleas to the universe(joke-ish), I am currently not able to run. I was robbed of a happy IT band in the Tacoma City Marathon, and since then I have had to be creative.
Luckily, thanks to last year’s injury, I was better prepared for how to keep myself in shape. (Dear world, if I must get hurt, let’s go for the winter months next time, cool?) In essence, I’ve been spinning and swimming like a madwoman. You would think I was preparing for a tri. Wait, am I? But, this time I wanted to actually try and take advantage of this temporary loss of my run love.
I committed to focusing the energy that is normally occupied with race registrations, long runs, and PRs on other aspects of my health—like getting stronger and more bendy. I knew this would entail doing some of the things I normally avoid—such as venturing outside of the familiar spin room to—gasp!—another class. I have the yoga and spinning thing down…I’m a regular, the instructors know me, I’m comfortable with both. However these are the extent of my class experience.
My lack of attendance in other classes was due primarily to two things: 1) No time with marathon training and (honestly, more so) 2) apprehension. When I work out, I like knowing what I’m getting myself into. I like knowing beforehand that it will be worth my time, as in difficult and a good sweat, and I like knowing that I can get through it no problem. I didn’t really think that other group exercise classes would be beyond my physical condition, however as someone who is used to getting along no problem in a group exercise setting, I don’t like thinking of being the newbie who knows nothing.
Yes, I am psychotically competitive.
HOWEVER, I did vow to try. And try I have!
More specifically, I’ve been going to a “Maximum Sculpt” class at my gym, which was the least frightening choice when reading the online description. I knew the instructor, and the paragraph detailing what it included had enough familiar terms that I was comfortable testing it out.
It seems that I was not alone in preferencing this class—because when I arrived at 5:55 for a 6:00 am class, the entire room was full of everyone with their little stations of a step and weights and omg how much crap do we need??. So, obviously I pretended like I had been before, didn’t ask for help, and found the very last spot in the back of the room—which honestly I was grateful for.
And just like that, I was sweaty, tired, and humbled. Despite having a fairly strict routine myself, switching to something new proved that I have things I can definitely work on. My hammies were screaming after that first class, and lifting my arms to shampoo my hair was equivalent to bench-pressing BF.
Yes, you read that right—I do shower.
In essence, I was out of my comfort zone. And you know what? I’m totally digging it. As a creature of habit in all aspects of my life, I rarely stray from my normal routines—and exercise is perhaps the most perfect example. Because I can(could, sad face) run really long distances and lift weights on a semi-regular basis, I gave myself an out on not really pushing my body otherwise. I was so focused on running, and not having too sore of legs, that I was wary of ever doing anything else. And I didn’t care. I gave myself a get-out-of-jail free card and simply refused to try anything else.
Now, PLEASE remind me that I said this when I can run again, but I am realizing that we aren’t actually reaching our full potential by doing the same things over and over again. I know every exercise know-it-all preaches this, but I never really internalized it until I realized all the things my body couldn’t do. Naively, I figured that because my endurance was tip-top and I could run 26.2 miles, I had everything else in the bag.
Guess what? Running might be fantastic for many things, however just because you can run for three hours does not mean you have the fitness thing completely figured out. In that same breath, I am hoping to use this whole humbling I-actually-have-room-to-improve experience to teach me that while running might be my numero uno, I still need to focus on strengthening myself in other vacinities.
Running actually leaves a lot of our body parts quite weak, as I’m finding, and it’s due to these imbalances that a lot of injuries occur. Pounding out miles doesn’t always mean we’re getting better, and I’m recognizing the fact that the only way for us to get better is to do things that are uncomfortable.
In this respect, I’ve sort of admitted to myself one of the biggest reasons I haven’t tried on any other exercise caps. It’s because I was/am afraid of it being hard. I know that sounds funny coming from someone who will willingly run 12 miles before the sun is up, however running is something that I know I can do. When I don’t know that I have the ability to excel at something, I get scared that it will be beyond my physical condition. Hence, the underlying reason why I never wanted to try out anything else.
Sure, it’s really easy for me to say these things when I don’t have the availability to run whenever I want, but it’s something I hope that injured and non-injured runners alike can recognize in their own habits. In running, in all physical conditioning, and in life, it’s the hard things, the things that are outside of our comfort zone, that actually make us better. It’s great to get comfortable…to know that we can knock out effortless miles day after day. But, that’s exactly the time that we should be looking at our weaknesses, and figuring how to improve upon those things. Plateauing is really easy when we stick to one repetitive routine, and it can be one of the fastest ways to injury, boredom, and actually losing our strength. I’m realizing now that I was absolutely plateauing when I was running a lot, and had I been a little less obsessive perhaps I would be in a different spot today.
So, I suppose for now—I am a “class person.” I am really, really enjoying getting my butt kicked by workouts, specifically when it’s facilitated by someone else. It’s good to see that despite having a lot of endurance strength, I have a lot of room to improve. Because despite how humbling it might be, it’s really exciting to see that I have a lot more potential—which gives me a lot of hope for my racing future, whensoever that may be.
I know I will always prefer to workout alone, but a little socialization never hurt anyone—and for someone desperate for another best friend while running takes a time out, a group setting could be just the ticket.
Now, talk to me: Are you a class person? Do you try to shake up your routine? Have you ever hit a running plateau?