“Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?”

That’s the song that comes to mind, every Monday evening around 7 p.m., half way through teaching PoundFit when I start to get really, really hangry hungry.  I see stars, not to be mistaken for the disco lights from the party-in-the-box.  And then there are visions of food, most often peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

My summer teaching schedule, coupled with my summer marathon training schedule, has often left me deprivation mode, especially on Monday nights when I’m still recovering from the weekend miles and I’m faced with what I call “the trifecta”:  Bodypump, PoundFit, CXWorx.  I’ve tried subbing out my Sunday classes, tweaking the diet, drinking more water, consuming a protein shake (or two) in between classes, during classes, after classes.  Nothing seemed to work quite right.  The worst end result from all of this tweaking has been insatiable hunger on my rest days and an overly snug sports bra, two of the worst things that can happen at the same time, short of an injury, in my opinion.

A fellow instructor introduced me to Beachbody’s Performance products, and I immediately had to give it a try.  Just several months ago, I learned a valuable lesson about Shakeology.  Despite the fact that most of my fitness friends were devout followers of this product, I refused to believe the hype.  For years I let it go in one ear and out the other, until one day I decided to just give it a try because I could not deny the fact that the people who preached the benefits of this product were also in excellent shape, with abs to prove it.  Sure enough, I was instantly hooked.  Whenever my monthly supply runs out before the new shipment arrives, I literally go into a depression.  I’m sure most of it is that I’m a creature of habit and when one daily occurring event doesn’t happen (for example, my daily dose of Shakeology), my whole entire week is thrown completely off.

But getting back to the Performance line, I had to order the complete package:  pre-workout, hydrate, post-workout recovery, creatine, and overnight recovery.  Starting Saturday I’ve had the opportunity to test the full package since very day has involved quite a bit of exercise:

Saturday:  BodyCombat

Sunday:  10 mile training run, BodyPump

Monday:  Bodypump, PoundFit, CXWorx

Needless to say, Tuesdays I’m about as useful as anybody would be in the supine position.  Any attempt at being productive is curtailed by muscle soreness and frequent foraging into the fridge for food.  My mantra at the beginning of the week:  Just get through Tuesday.  Tuesdays are supposed to be easy because I just teach one Bodypump class in the evening, which gives me plenty of time to recover.  But Tuesdays are such a bear.

I have been telling  myself that my fatigue has more to do with lack of sleep and nutrition.  And okay, I’ll admit that teaching as much Bodypump as I do is not recommended, especially when there is marathon training involved.  However, I am often so wired Monday night that I toss and turn, often waking at 3 a.m. with little more than 4-5 hours of sleep under my belt.  Usually I’m still in recovery mode from Sunday, so the giant coffee I consume before my Monday classes is likely the culprit, but I didn’t know of any other way to get my game face on, and I refuse to teach a class in a tired, monotone voice.

Since I am new to all these workout supplements, I can say right off the bat that I’m mostly happy about a few things:  Sunday felt easy.  I thought we still had 5 miles to go until my husband informed me we were already at 7.84 miles.  Bodypump was uneventful that afternoon, and I didn’t notice any overwhelming soreness in my legs Monday morning.  Monday evening, the pre-workout gave me a ton of energy and focus from 5:30 p.m. until I said my final gym goodnights at 8:15 p.m.  I did not once get hungry or see stars last night even though I ate my usual food earlier in the day, except for the slice of whole wheat bread and peanut butter before class.  Admittedly, I was so busy trying to get all the supplements ready that I forgot about it.  The post workout shake kept me from gnawing on someone’s arm on the way home, which I’m sure my kids were thankful for because every time I pick them up from their dad’s house after dinner, they carry with them the aroma of whatever they ate, and it always smells so delicious.  I have yet to determine if the overnight recovery shake has worked its magic, since soreness often creeps up on me later on in the day.  However, nothing gave me an upset stomach AND I was able to fall asleep, and stay asleep.  That in itself is the best part of it.

I will continue to use these products since I’m curious to see how they help in the long term.  But for now I’m going to relish my Tuesday and be acutely aware of tiredness or soreness later on today.  Even though I love everything I have tried from Beachbody, the science student in me is always the skeptic.  I have to see how it goes before I can sing its praises to everyone I meet.  But I’m hopeful for this one, for the sake of my hangriness.

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The 21 Day Fix. Revisited.

The concept of “clean eating” was first introduced to me several years ago by a personal trainer I worked with in North Carolina.  At the time I was teaching my fair share of group fitness classes, specifically Les Mills Bodypump and Bodyflow, but in addition to that I was attending Bodyattack and RPM classes, with a few Bodyjam and Bodycombat classes here and there, which are all pretty intense cardio formats also offered by Les Mills.

It was common practice for me to take a class, teach a class, then head straight to the nearby Harris Teeter, where I’d purchase a full slab of ribs and a loaf of cornbread.  Without a healthy breakfast to head off my morning workouts, my famished self would devour the whole entire thing, all in one sitting.  I would eat again in the evening sometime, though that meal was often something I’d find leftover in the fridge, but without fail, I’d have an alcoholic beverage of some sort to accompany my dinner.  For the longest time I liked to mix a bit of diet Sprite with some red mine, what my friends like to call the “wine spritzer”.  Of course one was never enough, and I deemed multiple pourings okay since I had worked out so hard that day.

I continued this way for many months because I didn’t know any better.  I was by no means overweight, but I wanted to look as trim and fit as some of my fellow instructor friends who were lifelong athletes.  I convinced myself the only way to do this was to jump on the bandwagon and see the personal trainer that all the instructors trained with.  He and I already had a professional relationship established because I had done a number of photography assignments for him, so it was a win-win arrangement for both of us.  I take his photos, he gives me free training sessions.

Wouldn’t you know it, the first thing he told me was to hold off on weighing myself – for the next month.  He also said to start taking vitamins regularly.  And then he had me sign up for an online calorie counting website (at the time it was Livestrong.com, though now there are many out there that are just as good) and told me to buy this book:  The Clean Eating Diet by Tosca Reno.

For the first week I was overwhelmed, and of course, I continued with my habits and ate poorly.  One night, around 11 p.m., I received a text message from my personal trainer which simply said:  “Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Are you serious?”  Yes, that’s what I had for dinner.  In fact, I was so hungry that I snarfed it down, then headed to Bonefish Grill to visit my girlfriend who tended bar there, and chitchatted with her while enjoying a vodka martini.

The next morning I likely dragged myself to the gym to take an RPM class, followed by Bodyflow, which I was on the schedule to teach.  But in hindsight I can count many, many times in which I taught that class feeling very much under the weather.

I finally decided to clean up the diet, and though I didn’t lose actual weight, my body fat percentage went down and people started to notice that I looked “different”.  They weren’t sure why, but I just did.  So, there’s definitely something to be said about this “clean eating” shenanigans after all.

Since that time I’ve done a number of different things to play around with my poor eating habits (because admittedly, I tend to revert back to the full slab of ribs and cornbread, sometimes).  My cousin, who owns a yoga studio, often does a 21 day cleanse in which we give up six known inflammatory foods:  wheat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and meat.  Aside from the massive headaches the first couple of days, it was a great experience, though I don’t necessarily recommend this if the workouts are intense.  I was training for my third marathon at the time, and had one scary moment after a 12 mile training run that involved seeing stars and complete blackness for a moment, at which time it suddenly dawned on me that while being very thin was great and I had an abundance of energy, my thinning hair and protruding collarbones were probably an indication that I wasn’t eating enough.

Which brings me to the whole concept of eating clean but at the same time eating to fuel the body.  That’s when I finally took off the blinders and removed all the negative thoughts in my head and decided to jump on the Beachbody bandwagon.  Everybody was doing it, so what was all the fuss about?

First I have to say that Shakeology, as much as I frowned upon it as an expensive gimmick, is AMAZING.  I used to go through great lengths to find dense nutrition, and there are many products out there that fulfill this need.  However, I am lazy about some things.  If it’s not convenient, I simply don’t feel like tackling it.  In one serving of Shakeology, everything is there.  I no longer need to take vitamin supplements, not that I ever did on a consistent basis.  But my ongoing issue with thinning hair?  Gone.  That is the one biggest indication that I was finally doing something nutritionally correct for myself.  I can see all the baby hairs growing back in, which made my hair very poofy once again, like back in my college days, before kids and breastfeeding and over the top workouts.

Shakeology:  Your daily dose of dense nutrition.

And then I decided to try the 21 Day Fix.  When the colorful little boxes arrived, I laughed.  Partly because they were so little and looked like ridiculous little toys, and partly because I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to feel satiated with so little food.  The amount, I soon realized, was enough.  But when I made the effort to follow the 21 Day Fix guidelines and eat the recommended foods, it was effortless and easy.  I was energized and never felt deprived.

So as we kick off another month, I’m starting another round of the 21 Day Fix.  Next week I have an order of the Beachbody Performance line coming in, to add some much needed oomph to my full teaching schedule, and just in time as we start to dive in to the double digits of marathon training.  I also ordered the much anticipated Fixate Cookbook, created by the 21 Day Fix’s mastermind Autumn Calabrese.  I’ve followed many of her recipes and admittedly I’m not a very good indicator of what is considered “yummy” since I will eat just about anything, especially when I’m hangry hungry.  But everything I’ve made thus far has gotten an overwhelming thumbs up from the hubby and the kiddos, so I’m excited to try more recipes.

I try to stay away from the aesthetics of it all and instead try to focus more on how I feel throughout the day, whether it’s while teaching or running, or even when I first wake up in the morning, and changes in the diet have definitely made the biggest impact, physically and mentally.  While the clothes start to fit differently, ultimately when I’m feeling good in my head, everything else falls into place.  Next week will be like Christmas in August.

When it hurts to sneeze.

This kickboxing circuit class.  It’s going to kick ass.  I know this every time I sneeze, cough, or burp because all those muscles that are apparently used to do these simple bodily functions scream in pain every.single.time.

It’s been two days since my test run, with my only intention to see if the combinations flowed smoothly and, most importantly, to make sure the intervals app I downloaded on my iPhone worked without crashing.  I’ve realized through the years of teaching that anything related to technology can go wrong at any time, so the latter will require some crossing of fingers and a back up in the form of my old school iPod Classic, which has it’s own story of death and resurrection that I will save for another blog entry.

At least now I know what sorts of pain the participants might be feeling a week from today, and hopefully it’s the type of pain that will keep them coming back for more.  Not that I have a no-pain-no-gain mantra by any means, but at this particular gym I know the members have been seeking a class that isn’t Zumba or anything related to music and choreography.  It’s bare bones, simple, but intense, which will add some nice variety to the evening schedule.  Followed by CXWorx, a 30-minute core conditioning class, we will all have awesome core muscles in a few weeks’ time.  Honestly, can it get any better?

Well, I can answer that more honestly in a couple more days after I get a much needed massage from the hubby and the soreness subsides.  Until then, all those muscles.  They seriously hate me right now.

Circus, I mean, Circuits

Next week I’ll be adding a kickboxing circuit class to my schedule.  It would be nice to say that I’ll be a participant this time around, but let’s face it, I never seem to have the time (or the motivation) to head to the gym to do my own thing, unless it’s squeezing in a few miles on the dreadmill for marathon training.  And even then I feel like I’m sometimes doing it under duress, like if I don’t adhere to the training schedule then I will be doomed in 15 weeks so it has to be done, no matter how miserable it feels.

I have to blame the mind tricks.  The first couple of miles are awkward and slow, and I ask myself why I can’t just skip today and do this tomorrow.  Then in the last one-tenth of a mile I’m in a euphoric state because it’s another few miles in the books and my runner’s high suddenly outshines my old, lazy, unmotivated self.  Yes, I must do this again and it will feel awesome, it really will!

Which leads me to the question, once again:  How did I get myself into this?

Oh that’s right.  It was winter.  Training through the summer in preparation for a fall race sounded like a great idea at the time.  Most days it still sounds like a great idea because it does the body good to do something different every so often.  But some days I am so tired.  The knees hurt more this year than last year and the previous years.  I’m getting old.

Or maybe I just need to stop teaching so many classes.

Which leads me to another question:  How did I end up teaching a kickboxing circuit class?

Simply because I really wanted to teach CXWorx, a core conditioning class, right after it.  Currently I only teach it during the summer and it was my chance to teach it on a regular basis.  It’s only 30 minutes long, but does a phenomenal job with functional core strength, which is needed for every day things such as picking up children, gardening, lugging groceries up two flights of stairs, and of course, teaching one too many group fitness classes and marathon training.

But before I start to convince myself that I’m not a kickboxing anything, I must be reminded that it was my first group fitness class many, many years ago, when I was too scared to join a gym and a girlfriend decided during her bachelorette party that she would like all of us to attend a class as part of the festivities.  It became part of my workout even after I started teaching classes, though I never personally taught it.  I know the technical basics, which is all I need to see how this class fares the first time around.

If there is anything I learned as an instructor, it’s to teach in the essence of the program.  I know that’s totally Les Mills thing, which is engrained in all of us when we go to the initial training for any of their phenomenal programs.  It simply means do not show up to an RPM (spin) class wearing leotards and a tutu.  Needless to say, the gloves have been broken in, and the outfit is in the works.  The rest will come in the form of an attitude.  If it’s an opportunity to hit stuff, then it will definitely be worth it.

Mileage.

In the last seven years of teaching group fitness classes, I’ve amassed a few certifications and licenses:  Bodypump, Bodyflow, Bodyattack, CXWorx, Zumba, Insanity, and PoundFit.  The only three I don’t teach regularly are Bodyattack, Zumba, and Insanity.  I’m not a huge fan of cardio; PoundFit is about as cardio as I get.  So even though I’ve had many opportunities to teach these classes, I often hesitate long enough so that someone else who absolutely loves teaching those formats can have a go at it.  I don’t want to be a class hog, after all.

Obviously marathon training involves a great deal of cardio, however, I’ve come to the realization that the temporary bout of insanity brought on by cabin fever around the frigid months of January to February is the reason why I tend to find myself at the start line of a marathon the following fall.   It sounds like such a great idea at the time:  the warm wind in my hair, the sound of pavement beneath my feet, the chance to be one with nature.  But then there is the training schedule, and so many miles.  So many miles.

Yet, as the first week of marathon training was underway, where was I?  Sitting in this very spot starting a new blog because I couldn’t do much else.  I’ve had injuries before that involved broken toes, sprained ankles, a random ache and pain that is easily foam rolled away.  However, this thing going on with my back was maddening because I could not pinpoint what it was.  I immediately looked up the anatomy of the back to try and find what muscle was affected, perhaps so I could attempt to fix it somehow.  But the following day I was rendered immobile, literally.  The only remedy was to sit and wait.  And wait some more.  As much as I welcome the idea of sitting and doing nothing, being forced to do so was starting to gnaw at me.

Tomorrow I’m back teaching Bodypump, which will be the true test to see how the back holds up.  With my husband there, I won’t be tempted to go over the top, even though I am so incredibly antsy at this point.  If anything, I suppose I should give myself some credit for following doctor’s orders, and also for showing restraint every time a friend mentioned another race.  I could have easily signed us up for half a dozen races between now and December.

But lesson learned:  Let the body heal itself.  Rest.  Recover.  Because being sidelined, even for a few days, really stinks.

The trial run.

This morning will be my first time back in the gym teaching a class.  My mental schedule is so out of whack, when I wake up each morning I have to really think about what day it is.  It’s Sunday.  That means it’s the 5th day of being down for the count.  I’ll blame my lack of routine and the pain meds.

Since June I’ve taken on 9 classes a week.  It’s likely the reason why I injured my back, though I will gladly blame anything else but that.  The night before I didn’t sleep very well, therefore, I didn’t allow myself to recover.  That morning I cleaned all three bathrooms in the house, like really got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed every corner.  Cleaning has not been my top priority since starting school, so I’m fairly certain that contributed.  And ultimately, the first day of marathon training with the inaugural 3 mile run could have done it also.  But I refuse to blame my teaching schedule.  Bodypump six days a week?  Nah, that can’t possibly be it.  Right.

Today the test run will be Bodyflow, a fusion of tai chi, yoga, and pilates.  It can be more difficult that lifting weights.  Or it can be relaxing and restorative.  I have a feeling today will be difficult, but more mental than physical.  A lot of talking, which I don’t like to do normally.  This will be an interesting challenge.