Pilates/yoga/personal training/exercise

In my paleo post (which generated some controversy over what I said about non-meat-eaters! One vegetarian former classmate/friend took great offense, as she is often wont to do, and immediately cut me out of her online life. Let’s just say that was more of a relief than anything and move on–though I did go back and reword that portion to sound a little more sensitive) I mentioned planning to spend a future post getting into how I’ve changed my workout/exercise routines, as well as my diet. Well, this is that entry! So here we go!

While I’ve curtailed my gym activities quite a bit while I’m buckled down studying, my normal routine has me going to the gym, ideally, five days a week. On weekdays it’s for an hourlong class, and on the weekends it’s a class plus about another hour of either cardio or weights. (I am also supposed to spend two mornings a week doing an hourlong workout at home before work, but that hasn’t happened in quite a while… it’s hard to retain motivation when you don’t need to lose anymore, and extra sleep is always so tempting.) I keep up with this pretty well, actually, mostly out of loyalty and fondness for my regular class instructors. I’ve found some really good ones at my gym, and both my regular yoga instructor and my regular Pilates instructor know me. In Pilates most of the other students know me as well, at least by face. Yoga for some reason, ironically, is less of a community even though I go super regularly!

My history with the gym: it’s taken me a while to get into the habit of physical activity, much less actually enjoying it. I never really liked PE classes in school and did no sports. I got into DDR and Para Para in high school but didn’t really consider it exercise. When I got to college, I automatically gained access to a gym (something I seriously took for granted). I would go a few times every semester to do some elliptical while jamming out to music. It would feel great but I never made it a part of my routine. I did bike around campus a lot and loved it, and in Japan I biked to and from the station every day. (I was shocked in Paris when we rented bikes at Versailles to realize how out of shape I’d gotten by how difficult bike riding had become for me!). The summer before senior year when I was living in LA with Lil (a very active, sporty person–a rugby player!), she introduced me to some fitness activities. We would go to her college’s gym and work out on ellipticals and go for jogs around the neighborhood (which was difficult for me at first after Paris, and bless her for being patient with me, but I grew stronger. On one run we saw a peacock!!!). (It’s another story, but Lil introduced me to sooo many things that summer–American Apparel factory outlet store, Little Tokyo, Arrested Development, cooking, beer appreciation, Trader Joe’s, The Melting Pot. We had so much fun, ahh!). That primed me to spend my senior year biking to campus regularly, taking an aerobics class in the fall where I mostly did elliptical, and going to yoga.

But after graduating college, I got very sedentary again; I wanted to be active but I didn’t want to pay for a gym membership (and I also wanted to be lazy, let’s be real). Two years of more or less complete inactivity passed before finally, at the end of summer 2010, I joined a gym near where I was living. I quit briefly when I moved and then re-joined a month later at a different branch, which is the one I go to today. Up until this past August though, I wasn’t doing much right. Elliptical for cardio, then a round of various weight machines. That was pretty much my routine. And from about November 2010 to May 2011, I didn’t go to the gym very often at all; maybe several times a month. I was bad. Then, as I mentioned before, I started to go very regularly (doing my old circuit of elliptical + weight machines, with the occasional yoga class) but I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted even after a few months.

So in August, frustrated with my lack of progress, I decided to start seeing a personal trainer, hoping she would teach me how to use free weights and help me lose body fat. This flew in the face of my other decisions geared at making and saving more money (moving in with parents, taking a higher paying job) but I rationalized it somehow. I just felt like I needed to do it. I chose a trainer from the board of them up at my gym, met with her, we clicked, and I bought an introductory round of three sessions. I liked them so much that I bought 10 more when they were over, with a discount, and that lasted me until October. After that I couldn’t justify the cost anymore (personal training is sooooooooo expensive!) but I learned so much and I love my trainer. We still wave to each other when I pass by her in the gym. She’s from Iowa and most of my family is from Nebraska (my grandma though is in fact from Iowa) so we bonded over Midwestern heritage. Mostly what I learned was how to use free weights, which weight machines were good, how to do cardio properly (treadmill, row machine, and stairmaster instead of elliptical), how to do things like squats, and she also encouraged me to re-start Pilates (I’d gone to some Pilates classes at my old gym, and before that done a Pilates DVD a few times, but it’s hard so it was difficult to motivate myself to go again). And of course I saw great results: gained muscle, lost fat–not as much as I would have liked, but at least some–though a lot of that was due to paleo as well. I absolutely wish I could keep seeing her and improving and getting stronger, but I can’t when I need to be saving instead. I still have some exercise routines she wrote out for me, and I go through them weekly.

I’m glad my trainer got me back into Pilates, but at the same time I have such a love/hate relationship with it. Let’s just say I would not be continuing to go if it were not for my instructor. I like her a lot, she’s funny (she’ll make fun of people who walk in during class to use the water fountain despite her sign on the door, often while the person is still in the room, and the other night we shared a laugh over some guy blasting “Dude Looks Like A Lady” on his iPod loud enough for us to hear it), and it’s out of loyalty to her that I return weekly even though I do not ever want to go. Do I want abs/a strong core? Yes. Do I actually want to put in the work to get that? No. Every class I’m kicking and screaming in my head, but I do it. I’ve now gone consecutively, without missing a single mat class, for a month and a half. I also go to her reformer class, with the machine, which is not quite so torturous as the mat class, but the time isn’t as convenient so I don’t go as regularly. In any case, I’m getting better. Slowly. It’s now easier for me to lift my legs over my head while lying down using my core strength; I was surprised the first time I realized that. Pilates also used to seriously kick my ass, and now it’s more of a manageable challenge. Some new people are always just collapsed and half-assing it by the end of class, and I never have that much difficulty anymore. I’m not sure I’ll ever have a low enough body fat percentage for visible ab muscles, but my stomach does feel a little firmer in any case, maybe.

I’ve also been involved with yoga for a while, but fairly recently is the first time I’ve been going regularly. I first went in college, since they offered free classes one night a week and I wanted to try it out, aware that my mom did it sometimes and liked it. (Free yoga! So jealous of that now.) I really liked it, and liked the instructor (something I took for granted then, even though it’s so valuable), but it was hard to motivate myself to go regularly. I didn’t go very often freshman year but sophomore year I would lend Han-Hee (Japanese language TA) a mat and we would go together a lot. Senior year I also got back into it and went fairly often. During the two years after college when I lapsed into a sedentary lifestyle, I did a couple yoga studio 10-days-for-$10-type trials; one studio I liked a lot and I wish I could afford a membership there and also that it was closer to where I live now. One studio was a Sunstone branch, which is hot yoga. It was my first time doing hot yoga and I think I could actually handle that aspect a lot better than the fact that while there are various types of classes, every class in the type is exactly the same every time. I hated that.

So when I finally got that gym membership, I also began attending yoga classes at the gym. My first class back was wonderful, and I felt so happy to be going to yoga again. I soon memorized the after-work and weekend yoga times, though–as with going to the gym at all–I was sporadic at best in my attendance. It really wasn’t until this past summer that I got serious about all of this and started forming real habits. The yoga schedule at my new gym is a little different, and I miss one of the instructors from my old gym (who remains the only one that has ever had us do goddess pose, which is the most successful way to stretch my normally super-tight hamstrings I have ever found, so I wish more people would incorporate it), but I’ve worked it into my routine. It’s also funny because the woman who is my current regular instructor also used to teach at my old gym, and I couldn’t stand her. I didn’t like her music or her style at all, and after I attended a couple of her classes I avoided them, and I cheered to myself when she stopped teaching there. At first when I walked into her class unknowingly at my new gym, I was really unhappy, but I gave her another shot. To my surprise, I grew to love both her music and her teaching style. I mean, it’s also fortunate, because she teaches most of the yoga at my gym, and the other teacher is someone I really, truly do not like and refuse to attend her classes. So I’m glad I like her now. I also discovered she does this great thing where, if the room isn’t jam-packed to capacity (and sometimes it is–my gym is a popular location, frequently crowded), during shavasana she’ll go around and give everyone a brief upper arm massage and then press down on our shoulders. (She’s also applied pressure to our lower backs when we’re resting in child’s pose in a gentler, slower class.) I really love nothing more than for someone to play with my hair, draw on my back, whatever (which I would often bug my elementary school friends to do whenever we were sitting in a group on the floor, and of course reciprocate), so this charmed me immediately. I love that she does this and it’s really probably that which endeared her so much to me. Also, as it turns out, our music tastes are really similar, so I don’t mind that anymore either. So I feel very fortunate to have found such good instructors.

As it stands today, I’ve gone to yoga at least once a week since probably the fall, and most weeks it’s 2-3 times, and might even bump up to 4 in the future. That’s pretty crazy for me, to realize I’ve stuck with something this long. But it’s really rewarding. As with Pilates, it’s become more of a fun challenge. I’ve developed the arm strength to actually be able to hover for more than a second in chaturanga, and I understand now how downward-facing dog can be a break/rest pose of sorts instead of cruel torture. When I finally got my boyfriend to join me for yoga in November, he was seriously impressed with what I can do, and reassessed his opinion of yoga as “easy.”

But I do have some yoga pet peeves.

  1. When people get competitive and even though I can tell they’re still fairly new to yoga, if I do something more demanding/advanced, they do it too. Pride isn’t supposed to come into play at yoga at all but, hey, we’re human, it happens; still, it’s distracting to try and be focused on only what you are doing when the people around you are too intent on proving something to do what’s right for their level and I get dragged into that competitiveness as well.
  2. When people just decide to check out or not do something. Like the teacher says forward fold and you decide you feel like showing off in plank, with an attitude of “I’m too cool and chill to do what everyone else is doing.” Some guy was doing this the other night and it drove me crazy. There’s also qi gong guy in another class who spends the 5-10 minutes before things get going doing a bunch of random qi gong moves; he even makes breath noises. What the?? And there’s the lady who seems to treat yoga as social hour, and I always see her in the back just doing whatever she feels like and not following the rest of us, since apparently yakking it up before class starts is the real reason she came.
  3. People who seriously just don’t listen to the instructor explaining the details of how to do the pose (where your feet/arms should be, etc), or even look at those around them to check, and persist in doing something totally wrong just to get through it, and don’t even seem to care! Why are you here if you don’t even want to try to do it right?!
  4. People who set up exactly parallel to me with their mats. Great, now we’re going to fling our hands into each other all class! You are supposed to stagger your mats so that doesn’t happen. Ugh.
  5. People who come to class in booty shorts and see-through tops. Really? Really.

At this point what’s keeping me going and into the gym and these classes is the knowledge that if I stop, I’ll lose my hard-earned muscles and strength and endurance and have to start all over. So right now, that’s my motivation to keep going. Plus, loyalty to my wonderful instructors. I’m happy to have found a routine that works for me and keeps me sane. I really have never felt so little general anxiety and OCD thoughts than in these last few mostly-paleo, variety-of-regular-exercise-filled months.

I’ve also started tracking what I do via Fitocracy and it’s been fun to see what my friends do as well. There’s certainly a temptation to start competing with them, but as studying is my priority now–and I’m in weight maintaining not loss mode anyway so no need to go hard–I’m not really able to. It is fun though! More fun than I thought it would be.

Let’s close with my favorite humorous yoga articles.

My final warning, when you are talking to one of your new yoga buddies, do not accidentally buttdial an old friend, especially if he is a sniping, gym-going homosexual, and allow him to hear you speaking the lingua franca of Yogaland, because, after seeing the record of the call and hoping he heard nothing, you will receive a text message reading: “YOU ARE SO FUCKING BUSTED BITCH – YOU’RE A LOSER!” and no amount of yoga will ever mitigate the shame.

It’s not like you’re the first. Other substitute teachers have come out with some real dillys too. Who can forget “think of your spine as a flexible snake in space?”

Namaste.

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