Thursday, March 3, 2011

If That Cheesesteak is the Heaviest Thing You Lift All Week.......

To all of my vegan friends.....sorry :)
So is it strange for two fitness "professionals" (and I use that word loosely) to make Jim's Steaks on South Street their first stop en route to a 4-day PhillyMania Fitness Convention? Guess it all depends on your definition of strange.

What? Fuggedaboutit.

Fitness is about celebrating a healthy way of life and that includes making your belly happy. This is my third year at Mania and, for once, I was well prepared for what was to come over the next 96 hours. I knew that, even with a calorie count of approximately 600, that delicious cheese steak would be toast within the first hour.

Day 1 (Thursday) was filled with fun anticipation of the weekend to come. We checked in, got settled and then hit registration. After getting our badges we were like two little kids running around a candy store. We poked our heads into all of the pre-convention classes like we belonged there. Waving at the presenters as if they were long lost friends who were super happy to see us and giving the obligatory "thumbs up" to the people already knee deep into the convention. (Who, by the way, already looked tired.)

We then geared up for our first class - 4 hours of Outdoor Boot Camp. Can you dig it? We learned new ways to plyo, push-up, punch, pull-up, med ball, and basically beat our bodies into submission. It was outstanding. We received the beating we were looking for and, at 9:45 pm, walked out charged up and ready to go for Day 2.

Our BOSU Playground - 8 BOSUs per team of 6 people.
What a blast.
Day 2 (Friday) started bright and early at 6:00 AM. Our first class was 7:30 - 9:00 AM and had us throwing, bouncing, and lifting a medicine ball in ways that I didn't really think were possible. It left me wondering when we adults moved away from having fun with our workouts. When did we decide it all had to feel like WORK. I mean who doesn't love a good game of knee tag right? 

Does someone smell smoke?
Meg and I moved seamlessley through the remainder of the morning. We hit up the BOSU Playground (which was incredibly fun and difficult all at the same time) and a HIIT It Cycle class (High Intensity Interval Training).

Our afternoon was incredible and started with personal favorite of the weekend for a number of reasons (google Josh Crosby - sigh). Our only break in the afternoon was an impromptu Fire Drill in the middle of the BOSU Athletic High Intensity Class. You know you're in the right place when the fire alarms screams and you continue to workout. I think it went something like this: "Wait? Is that the fire alarm? Well can someone look and see if there's a fire or smoke because if not, we can just keep going." Yesssssssss! After finally being forced out of our room, we rolled down the escalator to safety....or something like that.
Hey guys - whatcha talking about?

Nope - you're all clean

We took the break time to have a little fun and meet some new friends. It's amazing the number of stomach muscles you engage when you laugh uncontrollably.

Once the determination was made that fire would not be an issue, we all returned to our workouts. Meg and I went our seperate ways for 90 minutes - Meg to an RPM Cycle class and me to a S.W.A.T. Team Workout. I had my ass handed to me by a little spitfire of a woman name Leslie Grosshauser. She's a competitive body builder and she does this workout every week with the Kane County S.W.A.T. Team in Illinois. I swear to God I didn't know if I would make it to the end of the class! You know my friends, the funny thing about doubt is how overwhelming it can be. The minute it creeps in, if you don't smack it away with everything you will determine your boundaries for you. So in my mind's eye, I grabbed the closest thing I could, wound up and hit it out of the park. After class we ditched our previous dinner plans and opted for more elegant

TGFP - Thank God For Pizza
Day 3 (Saturday) started with a bang....or was that a whimper? We hadn't made the determination that coming here was a mistake yet so I guess that was a step in the right direction! The good thing about Day 3 is we got to start on the bike. Home sweet home. With three spin classes on the schedule today, two of which consisted of a Race Day and a Time Trial, it was looking like it was going to be a good day.

My legs were already calling out to me to play nice.

The bikes we had in the classes were the new Schwinn AC Performance with an MPower Console that measures speed, distance, wattage, RPM and has readings for heart rate, calories, laps and split times. The bike uses aluminum wheels and magnets for resistance. They are perfectly weighted and even the smallest micro adjustment on the dial is instantly felt. Gotta be honest with you, I was in heaven.

THIS is how one can make the transition from exercising (not measurable) to training (fully measurable). If you think that you're exercising at the right intensity, I encourage you to track down a place that offers way to actually measure the wattage of the power you are generating with your legs. That power is created by resistance AND cadence. I know I sound like a broken record but try it once and you'll never go back. Most people think that they're working a lot harder than they actually are.

OK - moving on. Competition is a great motivator and Meg and I had very little problem where that was concerned. With the power meters on our bikes, we were armed for war! Every time we felt like pulling back to recover, we had to make the or lose. I know that I say this all the time but learning how to recover is so important for your body. Teach your body how to do it and your down time gets less and less.

We pushed through the Race Day with no problem and after hitting up the rest of our classes on Saturday, we ended the day the way it began - on the bike. We had two more tough rides to finish off our day. The first of the two was all about team work. Meg and I make a good team. We're like peanut butter and jelly or mac and cheese so it was only right that we were a team. Although we didn't win MVP for the ride, I'm positive that we beat all the other slackers in the room. How did I know? My distance meter told me so. Regardless - with our team ride out of the way, we were geared up and ready for our time trial. This would be the last ride of the day and take us into our Saturday night.

The setting of the "spin room" was the rooftop ballroom at the Sheraton. The room had 3/4 view windows on the front and back wall. We watched the sun set during our team ride and now, with the lights dimmed low, we were looking out over the lights of the City of Philadelphia. Off in the distance I could see the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the immortal Rocky Steps leading the way to the front door. Yeah - that's what I'm taking about.


I closed my eyes and completely lost myself in the ride. Our instructor, Gregg Cook, was by far the most motivational coach I have ever ridden with. It was almost like you wanted to go just a little further merely because he asked. No questions, no whining, no hesitation - just get it done. Forty-five minutes later, my legs were screaming and I was beaming. What an amazing way to spend Saturday night. The thought of bringing that ride home to my peeps made me pretty happy. You guys are going to love it. Sunday, March 27 and Tuesday, March 30 - we will ride.

Day 4 (Final day - Sunday) started slow until we both realized that we had another ride with Gregg on deck! Just enough motivation to get us moving! We jumped up, rushed through breakfast and headed to the spin room. Half asleep and super tired from the three prior days, we both had full intention of "riding easy" through this class. Then the music started playing and our legs started moving. We had three intervals ahead and heading into the first, we figured "ok...just this one." As painful as it was, we made it through with flying colors and it was at that point, we both decided that maybe we'll just do intervals one and three.

With interval one behind us and two on the way, we lightened the load a little and set in for cruising pace. That lasted for about 15 seconds. Reaching down and slowly adding resistance little by little, we both found ourselves at that race pace again. Ah - what the hell - bring on interval two. By the end of interval two any feeling I had in my legs was replaced by the most intense burn I'd ever felt. Thank God he gave us a two minute recovery - it was just enough time to wrap my head around what the heck it was that I was doing.

Heading into interval three, Meg and I were faced with a tough decision. We could go left and back down or go right and finish. We both smiled through the sweat and pain, gave each other a little high five and reached down for our resistance knobs. "To the right, to the right."

The decision was made, my eyes were closed, the music was blaring, and my bike was geared up. I was ready and more than willing to finish this ride and do it right. After the first sprint, I wasn't sure if we made the right decision. I looked over at Meg and we both grimaced a little and then nodded and went all in. Gregg asked just a little more from us and we both delivered in spades. Now would not be the time to back down. We had a good 5.5 hour drive home ahead of us and we needed to make sure that we left nothing behind. Today would be OUR day to feel the euphoria of giving every ounce of effort we had. Thanks Gregg for an amazing class.

You may be asking yourself - what does one do after a class like that? Well that's easy - you find the closest pile of BOSUs and collapse. Ha. Ha.

What did I learn this past weekend? Some things were blaring and others were subtle. Both gave me a better foundation to be a better friend, coach, and athlete. They are:
  1. Meg is awesome. Those of you who know me know that I'm a pretty intense Type A personality. I expect greatness from everyone especially myself. Meg brings a different and very welcome ingredient to my life. She allows me to be chill and appreciate that sometimes its laughter rather than anger that gets you back into the game after you fail. I'm grateful for her.
  2. 100% is all relative. We are all at different levels in our fitness journey. Some are just beginning and some are all out fitness buffs but one thing remains constant - "100% is 100%". If you give YOUR 100% every time, you can never be ashamed. Rather you can run, walk or crawl out of that training session with your head held high.
  3. Nothing replaces experience. Each class I ask my peeps to give me all they have and leave nothing behind. Sometimes it's easy to forget how hard that can be. Trust me when I tell you that I know the feeling of wanting to stop. I know the feeling of that muscle burning so badly that it may never calm. I know the feeling of being so breathless that your not sure if you're going to make it. I also know the feeling of recovery and the feeling of looking back at my training session with a smile and a "hell yes". It's something I cannot describe but when you experience it - you'll know.
  4. Stop is a verb. A verb is an action and an action takes effort. If you're going to put forth the effort - why not choose GO rather than STOP. Just sayin.
That does it for me. Take a personal inventory of where you are in your journey and where you see yourself two months from now. Small manageable steps will get you there. Feel free to drop me a line or two and we'll work on it together. Remember that only you can put boundaries on your greatness.

Ride on!