Monthly Archives: January 2011

Tales of a Gym-Goer

School started last week and with it began Free Week — the time when the gyms I work for, Cooper and Glimmerglass Fitness Centers, offer free admission to all students, staff and faculty. Anyone can test out the classes and equipment, get their body measurements taken and speak with a personal trainer free of charge.

Sounds fabulous, right? Not if you’re a regular gym-goer. Just like most regulars hate going to the gym during January because of all the people with New Year’s resolutions, the employees and gym regulars at Cooper/Glimmerglass dread Free Week. Hundreds of people filing in and out throughout the day, body odor filling the air and so much sweat on machines it’s scary to even think about.

Antonio's going under cover.

A co-worker of mine, Antonio Troina, decided to study those who only go to the gym during Free Week. Below are the details of his epic journey, the experiences he lived through and the emotions that ripped through him.

Day One

The vast amount of unspeakable atrocities that I have witnessed may haunt my memories for years to come. These so-called “students” that flock into the facility are the most barbaric and ruthless batch that I have ever seen. No one is safe, not even women and children, from these migrating sloths, or as the natives call them, the free-weekers. Luckily, I have found a safe haven behind this makeshift fortress — a common desk — in Glimmerglass.

Glimmerglass desk = safety.

Sometimes I feel like these free-weekers have no idea that I am studying them in an attempt to comprehend their abnormal behaviors. Maybe one day I will understand what it is to attend a gym for only one week and truly feel accomplished. Until then I must keep watching, knowing that only vigorous research may uncover the mystery that shadows this land.

This is an important expedition that the world needs to know about. I will not let you down.

Day Three

As the third day of my expedition unfolds, I find myself questioning the events that took place in the Glimmerglass jungle last night. After getting somewhat accustomed to the strange behaviors of the free-weekers, I decided to take my chances and see if I could cohabitate. I disguised myself in the common free-weeker garb — a cutoff shirt and worn basketball shorts – and stood nervously in the middle of the free weight floor, which happens to be the most dangerous area of Glimmerglass during this dreaded week. At first, it seemed as though I was accepted as one of these free-weekers, but disaster struck soon after.

Blending in with the nomads.

A larger individual, commonly known as a Grunter, grabbed some free weights and began slamming the weights on the floor. I tried to communicate with the Grunter, asking him not to drop the weights for the safety of others, and instantly my cover was blown. The Grunter’s face went from dumb confusion to a deep scowl.

I quickly looked around and realized that I had managed to grab the attention of the other free-weekers during this debacle. The silent agreement swept the room and the community isolated me as “The Employee.” I needed to make an escape, and quickly. Luckily for me, I found a vacant Expresso bike and peddled my way to safety.

I might not be so fortunate next time, but I will count my blessings each day.

Day Five

Truthfully speaking, the catastrophic events of day three derailed me from my overall objective. Day four was filled with quiet terror that clouded my research, keeping me away from the gym as much as possible. But day five was a new day and I couldn’t let my supporters down, so I mustered up enough courage to grab a dry pair of sneakers, trek through the mountains of snow outside and find a spot among the swarms of people.

I needed to take another approach into learning the mindsets of these free-weekers because field work clearly was not the answer. I decided to study the female free-weekers to see where this route would take me. The best way to accomplish this? Observing their frequent celebration rituals which consist of sporadic stomping and jumping. The male free-weekers, I noticed, kept their distance from the mob of participants, muttering the word “Zumba” while shaking their heads in disapproval. Zumba? Maybe this would give me the answers I have been searching for.

Zumba rituals.

Stationed at a vacant desk near the ceremonial dance floor, I anxiously waited for the festivities to start. The sounds of foreign instruments began to echo through the gym and a choreographed dance occurred. The more experienced individuals were closer to the front of the floor, dancing with as much style and grace as I imagine the art of Zumba can get. The individuals dancing in the back of the room, however, looked lost and somewhat scared. Oddly enough, they seemed to be enjoying themselves despite fumbling through each song.

The strangest discovery, however, revealed itself at the end of each song: the participants briefly huddled together to tell each other about how happy they all were to be there. It happened more than 10 times in an hour! Baffling…Maybe this quick exchange of emotion is part of the ritual needed to appease the Zumba gods? My research is expanding, although I’m not sure what answers I will find.

Day Seven

The brutal weather and sleepless nights during this anomaly known as Free Week have finally paid off. Though I only did my field work at this facility, I believe that this data has shed light on the common lifestyle of gym members and mapped out a portion of the psychology behind the minds of the free-weekers. Simply put, free-weekers like to roam around aimlessly, participating in foreign rituals and taking up people’s private spaces so that they can say they fit in their fitness quota for the year. One of the few questions that rises now is, where will these nomads go? Is it possible that these free-weekers can find other gyms and pollute them with their improper gym etiquette without memberships? Unfortunately, there isn’t much that I can do other than equip others with my newfound knowledge. This has been a very dangerous task for me, one that I wouldn’t have survived without proper training. For that, I must thank Brian Wallace, the fitness centers manager. Without his extensive experiences in many fitness centers, I would not have lasted one day in this jungle.

Pedal away from danger.

As I sign off, I hope that my efforts will help someone in times of fear or desperation. If you ever find yourself in any sort of situation, take a deep breath, look left and right, then grab a stationary bike. No one ever uses those anyway.

-Journal entries written by Antonio Troina and edited by Samantha Shelton. All photos by Samantha Shelton.

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Pushing through Mental Blockades

I survived the first week of training and rightfully earned my rest day! It’s been hard to schedule my workouts while settling back into school, but I managed to squeeze in enough time to finish the required amount according to my plan.

However, I have felt the mental blockades start to creep in. Remember, I haven’t run more than a 10K before and that was a few years ago, so the thought of running 13.1 miles at a time is a bit daunting. In fact, it’s so intimidating that I try not to look ahead on my schedule and instead only focus on whatever I need to complete that day.

Yesterday I was required to run/walk four miles, so I plugged in my summer playlist and set out determined to run as much of the distance as I could. I completed two miles before I had to stop and tie my shoe, which sparked the mental anxiety. Thoughts of doubt started to seep in, such as:

  • Just finish this song, then you can stop.
  • There’s no way you can finish that distance right now.
  • My leg is too swollen (I’ve cleared it with my doctor, so deep down I know this isn’t true).
  • There’s not enough blood flow in my left leg.
  • You’re not ready for this.
  • I feel like I’m carrying an extra 10 pounds on my left leg.
  • I’m so tired.
  • My body hurts.
  • You’ve done great so far, you can just pick up the slack later.

This is going to be my biggest struggle throughout my training and race day. I caved every once in awhile and walked, but didn’t allow myself to walk for more than the duration of one song. Luckily, one song popped on at just the right time to really get the mojo flowing again.

Music makes you lose control.

“Push Push,” by Kat DeLuna and Akon got me back on track and motivated me to keep running. I know it’s not about working out or goals, but I took some of the lyrics to heart. Which ones? The chorus, of course!

Push, push, push baby don’t stop for a minute.

Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh!

I said push, push baby take it to the limit!

In the end, I ended up pushing through and running 5.6 miles! It took me longer than I would’ve liked, but I’m really proud of myself for finishing! I’m not unbelievably sore today either, so I’m amped up for tomorrow’s workout!

Completed in 1:01:05

What do you do to get through mental blockades? How do you keep the motivation flowing?

Added Pounds on The Biggest Loser

Week four of season 11 of The Biggest Loser has passed and it’s been a whirlwind of a show. A team of unknown trainers have been revealed, game play has gone on and pounds have been added in unbelievable amounts. Looking to catch up? Here are a few highlights:

The producers brought in two new trainers to replace Jillian Michaels after this season. Recently revealed as Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronova, the two took a team of players to Fitness Ridge, which is the training camp for the Unknowns team (All players who opted for the Unknowns received four weeks of immunity from elimination). Hoebel is famous for his holistic approach to fitness and his experience in Capoeira and Muay Thai kickboxing. He’s definitely a looker, just like Bob Harper, but doesn’t seem to be as hard-core as the Bob and Jillian combo.

Photo via Fit Sugar

Castronova is a two-time Golden Glove champion and her main focus is boxing, which is good because Jillian is always the one seen doing the boxing. She appears to enjoy putting the contestants through boot-camp style workouts when they’re not boxing. Thus far, the Unknowns have been doing a great job shedding weight, but it was just revealed that their meals are cooked for them to fit exactly into their caloric intake regime and they don’t have to clean up after themselves. Talk about spoiled!

The contestants are competing as couples this season and my favorite is the Aqua team, Courtney and Marci. Courtney is a 22-year-old who was inspired by The Biggest Loser to lose 112 pounds at home, bringing her back under the 400 mark. At the start of the show she weighed in at 323 pounds and has been shedding ever since. She seems to be the most determined of them all, doesn’t partake in game play and is inspiring to watch. With an optimistic attitude, you never know what this girl is going to achieve! I’m really rooting for her to be the big winner, er, loser.

Go Aqua Team!

Temptations have begun on the Ranch, this week in the form of the contestants favorite foods. Each player had to confront their favorite dish — from mac n’ cheese and cheesecake to pizza and fried chicken — and decide whether or not they would compete. Whoever ate the most calories got to choose which team would be sent to the Unknowns camp for the week. Arthur (blue team) was the only contestant to participate and sent the green team packing. I give this bunch major kudos for denying all of the temptations and food-taunting they’ve faced this season — they’re really proving that they are here to change their lives.

Game play still hasn’t left the building, though. The black team, twins Don and Dan, did a phenomenal job of throwing the weigh-in last week. Both stepped on the scale to reveal a nine-pound weight gain per person! I know twins are often in sync, but even when you’re throwing a weigh-in?! Dan was sent home, which was the best idea because he was extremely homesick, while Don faced the wrath of Bob and Jillian this week.

Each gained nine pounds in one week.

Unfortunately, Don didn’t fess up to throwing the weigh-in and instead acted out an f-bomb filled show, denying that he gained weight on purpose. Nobody believes him, so why not fess up? People would have more respect for him if he just said, “Yeah, I did it” and then moved on.

This week’s episode was cut short due to the State of the Union address, so there was no weigh-in or elimination. Next week’s teaser shows that someone gained six pounds! Honestly, what a slap in the face to Bob and Jillian. I have a feeling it’s going to be Don, but we’ll have to wait until next week!

Have you been watching The Biggest Loser? Who’s your favorite team?

P.S. Fellow blogger Jen, from The Biggest Loser Blog for phillyburbs.com, found this awesome video of a girl, Emily Skaar, rapping a potential number for the opening credits. Talk about creativity!

High Intensity Training Session

Day two of half-marathon training was a success! Today required cross-training, or anything other than running, that wouldn’t put a lot of pounding on my knees. So I scoped out the group exercise classes offered through my gym and decided on the brand-new H.I.T.S. (High Intensity Training Session) class that has been getting a ton of hype.

The class was one hour and took you through a warm-up, four circuits of exercises and two stretch periods. In the beginning, I was optimistic about the class and ready to work up a good sweat. I made sure to stretch my calves really well because all of my co-workers who took the class said their calves were killing them for days.

All stretched and ready to sweat it out with instructor Matt.

Each circuit included four exercises and we did each exercise for 30 seconds. After a one-minute break to grab water, you repeat the circuit before moving on to the next one. From high knees and butt kicks to ab work and basketball jumps, the circuits definitely made me feel the burn.

Basketball jump part one: squat to touch floor.

Basketball jump part two: jump and reach as if shooting jump shot.

Wooahh, too fast for the camera!

Basketball jump in action!

Stretching is vital to this workout and I’m glad we took two periods to stretch our entire bodies within the class. I’m definitely going to stretch before I go to sleep tonight because I can already tell I’m going to feel this workout tomorrow!

Matt and I hug after class despite all the sweat.

This is a class that I’ll be attending often throughout my training. Two days down, 68 more to go.

How are your fitness goals coming along?

National Peanut Butter Day

Yesterday was National Peanut Butter Day. How did I miss that?! Because I’m such a devoted fan to this delectable food item, I’ve decided that I just can’t let this day pass by without any sort of celebration. Therefore, in my mind, today is National Peanut Butter Day and I’m going to celebrate all day long!

To kick the day off right: breakfast.

Mmmm

While browsing around my kitchen to figure out what I wanted to nosh on for breakfast, I pulled out my big ole’ jar of pb and dipped in a spoonful. In my household, I’m known for randomly grabbing a spoonful of peanut butter. I mean, why not? It tastes delicious! People call me crazy, but I think I’m on to something.

I know my hair looks awesome.

I also love Thomas’ Bagel Thins, so I decided to make myself a toasted peanut butter and jam bagelwich. I used a 100 percent whole wheat bagel thin and slathered on Jif’s creamy peanut butter and Price Chopper’s grape jam.

Yum.

It was delicious! I toast my bagels beforehand because I love the taste of gooey peanut butter.

Breakfast also reminded me of the delicious brunch I had in Astoria to kick off an annual New Year’s tradition: brunch at Sanford’s Restaurant with the girls. I ordered the peanut butter and banana pancakes with my friend Nina, while my friends Victoria and Libby ordered other delicious treats. To see Victoria’s recap about our foodie adventures, check out her post on The Frittering Conch.

Photo courtesy of Victoria Phillips.

Want to know more about peanut butter? Yum sugar posted some fun facts about the goodie — did you know that one of Elvis’ favorite foods was a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich?

I’m going to incorporate more peanut butter throughout my day (I can practically hear peanut butter M&Ms calling my name). Dustin’s been craving comfort food, so I’m thinking about whipping up my grandma’s delectable peanut butter pork chops for dinner. Here’s how:

Ingredients:

Pork chops

Brown flour

1 large white onion, sliced

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup of peanut butter – more if you want a stronger flavor

1.5 can of condensed milk

Directions:

Shake pork chops in a plastic bag with brown flour. Place pork chops in 9×13 baking pan, then layer sliced onions on top.  Stir together soup, peanut butter and milk, then pour over meat and onions. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, checking every 20 minutes to make sure the meat’s not getting too dry. If it is, you may have to add more milk. Meat should be fork tender when done.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the healthiest recipe, so I’m doing my best to switch things out to make it healthy but just as yummy. Let me know if you have any ideas!

What are some of your favorite peanut butter treats?

Training for a Half-Marathon

Today officially marked the first day of my half-marathon training. I’m following a beginner plan from FITNESS magazine, which makes sense because I’m planning on running the FITNESS/MORE half-marathon. Luckily, my refund from school came in today, so I plan to register for the race tomorrow. Hopefully it hasn’t capped out yet!

It was also the first day of classes today, so my day was pretty packed. Fortunately I was able to head to the gym in time to watch the brand-new episode of Gossip Girl, which kept me motivated throughout my workout.

This is the plan I’m following for the big day.

My new fitness schedule.

I know it says to cross-train on Mondays, but there’s a new class being offered at my gym, HITS (High Intensity Training Session), that is scheduled for Tuesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and is taught by my extremely athletic friend and co-worker, Matt. So I decided to switch Mondays with Tuesdays in the plan so I could take the class on my cross-training day. Therefore, once Gossip Girl was on I hit the treadmill and made sure I ran as much of 3 miles as I could.

I finished the required distance in about 40 minutes, which was a little disappointing. However, I felt myself pushing through mental blockades and am proud of myself for finishing. When I was finished, I didn’t want to stop watching my show, so I alternated between walking and jogging for the next 15 minutes. I ended up running 4.55 miles in just under an hour.

One day down, 69 left to go.

I know I have a long way to go, but I’ve enlisted support and have decided to dedicate part of my blog to updating you on my training sessions. That way I’m not only accountable to the people around me, but to you too! You know the plan, so you’ll be able to see if I’ve been slacking. My goal is just to finish the race and I’m determined to stick to the plan so that I can do it.

I finished about half of my grocery shopping tonight, but wasn’t able to bring a list with me, so I was careful about what I bought. Tomorrow I’m going to look up recipes and foods I should buy suggested by FITNESS so I know I’m on track nutritiously as well.

I hope you’re as excited about my goal as I am. Here’s to reaching new fitness goals!

Working Out with Glee

Lately, music has been dominating my days. I just have that urge to listen to tunes all the time, whether I’m in the shower, at work or pumpin’ iron. I find myself often tuning Pandora to my Glee channel (my co-workers might be getting irritated), especially because I’m still so happy with all of the Golden Globes that the Glee cast went home with Sunday!

Before I headed to the gym today I created a Glee playlist to see if they could keep me moving during my entire sweat session. Turns out, they can! The medley of songs I put together were a great concoction of fast, upbeat tunes to push me, and a few slower ones to let me recuperate.

Turns out I’m not the only one who wants to sweat it to Glee, either. If you’re in NYC, check out the Glee workout at Crunch Fitness. The instructor, Carol Johnson, dresses up as one of the characters every week and the class dances — and sings! — to the songs in a week’s episode. I can’t wait to check it out!

Below is the playlist of Glee songs I used — enough for about an hour-long workout. The mashups turned out to be my favorite, just like they are when I watch the show. I’m going to keep mixing and matching though, and I’ll keep you posted whenever I make good changes!

If you’re not as big of a Gleek as I am but still like the songs I chose, I also included links to the regular artists of each song. Enjoy!

Bad Romance Lady Gaga

Gives You Hell All-American Rejects

My Life Would Suck Without YouKelly Clarkson

Safety Dance Men Without Hats

It’s My Life/Confessions MashupBon Jovi and Usher

4 MinutesMadonna

Borderline/Open Your Heart Mashup Madonna

Express YourselfMadonna

Like A VirginMadonna

Halo/Walking on Sunshine Mashup Beyoncé and Katrina and the Waves

Me Against the MusicBritney Spears

Stronger Britney Spears

Teenage DreamKaty Perry

Forget YouCee Lo Green

Start Me Up/ Livin’ On A Prayer Mashup Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi

Marry YouBruno Mars

Stop! In the Name of Love/Free Your Mind Mashup The Supremes and En Vogue

Any Way You Want It/Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ Mashup Journey

You Keep Me Hangin’ OnKim Wilde

Just the Way You Are —  Bruno Mars

What are some of your favorite Glee songs?

Rockin’ Summer Playlist

Sweet, sweet summertime

Now that I’ve fully admitted to the fact that I really don’t enjoy winter, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m already craving summer. Actually, I’ve been daydreaming about the beach since the third week of November (yes, that’s when the bitter cold starts to seep in at Oswego). So it makes sense that music about summer tends to pump me up the most during my workouts. The pulsating beats that go along with the warm-weather lyrics syncs with my heartbeat and I always find myself running farther, spinning faster and pumping out more reps.

In the hope that winter decides to be a shorter season this year, here are some of my top workout tunes that are mostly about summer in some way or another. There’s a mix of old stuff with new and warm-up tunes with fast-flowing beats. Enjoy!

“Summerboy” by Lady Gaga — She makes it clear that she’s only interested in a summer romance, but wants to make it a summer to remember. Who can blame her?

“18 Till I Die” by Bryan Adams — Summer always makes me think of younger years.

“Boys in the Summer” by Jessie James — One of my all-time faves. I can’t help but sing every time it plays.

“DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” by Usher — Summer love found at a beach party, maybe?

“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys — This song always reminds me of my 2010 summer.

“Endless Summer” by Cascada — Hoping that summer love will never end.

“Day ‘n’ Night” by Kid Cudi — They’re practically the same when you’re young and it’s summer.

“California Gurls” by Katy Perry — “Daisy dukes, bikinis on top.” Enough said.

“Summer Love” by Justin Timberlake — Who doesn’t want to think about J.T. with his shirt off?

Sizzlin'

“Memories” by David Guetta and Kid Cudi — This is mostly just about partying, but it has a great techno beat.

“Sexy Chick” by David Guetta and Akon — Watch this music video and you’ll understand why it makes me think of summer.

“Starstruckk” by 3OH!3 and Katy Perry — For those of you who love being single, especially during summer.

“Call N’ Return” by Hellogoodbye — Tryin’ to have fun in the sun while still missin’ someone. (Good rhymes, eh?)

“All Summer Long” by Kid Rock — Kid Rock manages to capture some of the greatest things about this season in one song.

“Boys of Summer” by The Ataris — This song is completely different from the similarly named track by Jessie James, but I love them both.

What summer tunes do you like? Are you, like me, hoping summer comes quick?

Strala Yoga Impresses Again

Strala Yoga has made an appearance on The Pulse before, but after chatting with fellow bloggers about the place, I decided it was time to test it out again. Although I loved the “Strong” class the first time, it didn’t convince me to pick up yoga on a regular basis. I definitely incorporated it into my workout routine more often, but only when I happened to be available during a class. I never purposely made time for it.

Tara Stiles’ “Relax” class, however, may have changed my mind. I headed over to the new studio at 632 Broadway tonight and prepped myself mentally for a session that was sure to be filled to capacity. Originally, I was going to meet up with Jess from Fit Chick in the City, but unfortunate circumstances kept her from joining me. Despite the initial rush of anxiety that I felt in the elevator, I forged ahead and I’m glad I did. I felt immediately welcomed the minute I stepped through the glass doors and my fears subsided as I settled in the dimly-lit room amongst the numerous yogies.

The new studio is beautiful with plenty of room to stretch without feeling like you’re stepping on toes — but like I assumed, the class was full. Stiles is rising in fame every day and everyone wants to get their om on with the well-known teacher. Who wouldn’t when you can take a class for only $10? I was even offered a deal to take an unlimited number of classes for a week for the ultra-low price of $20 because I hadn’t been to the new studio before. Talk about a deal! If I was in NYC long enough, I definitely would’ve signed up.

Stiles in the old studio in NoHo.

The poses Stiles took us through weren’t extremely challenging, yet they worked my muscles enough for me to really enjoy every move. She fluidly instructed us from pose to pose, yet also allowed time for us to do our own thing and move the way our bodies wanted to. The calming music connected with the high points in the class, with the volume increasing when we were set free to listen to our bodies, focus on breathing and move through poses that felt best. By the end, I was thoroughly relaxed, invigorated and happy. My body was humming its thanks for such a glorious workout.

If you have a chance, head over and reap the benefits yourself. But if you’re not in NYC, consider buying Stiles’ book, Slim, Calm, Sexy Yoga. I got it as a Christmas present and like what I see so far!

How ’bout you? Are you a yoga fan or gym rat? Tell me what you love about both!

Fitness Passions

Fellow blogger Julie, over at Peanut Butter Fingers, posted a fun survey pertaining to things you’re passionate about. I decided to answer the survey, but make mine all about fitness! Drum roll, please…

Four TV shows I watch during cardio:

  1. The Biggest Loser
  2. The Bachelor/Bachelorette
  3. Dancing with the Stars or America’s Best Dance Crew
  4. America’s Next Top Model

Four things I’m passionate about:

  1. Testing new workouts.
  2. Outdoor activities (hiking is my favorite!).
  3. Training and helping others reach their fitness goals.
  4. Fighting cancer.

Beautiful survivor cake from RFL 2010.

Four things I’ve learned in the past:

  1. Don’t let the past hold you back. Who you were back then doesn’t define who you are today.
  2. Always be open to change. You never know what amazing things will happen.
  3. Communication is key. You need to know your limits and clients need to communicate with me to help me determine theirs.
  4. Find your reason. No matter what it is or who it is that motivates you, your passion is what’s going to push you past what you thought was possible.

Four things I’m looking forward to:

  1. Graduating in May and looking for jobs to moonlight as a personal trainer.
  2. The half-marathon I’m going to run in April.
  3. The triathlon I’m going to compete in this spring.
  4. Relay for Life at Oswego State to raise money all night to fight cancer.

Four things I love about winter:

This one’s tough for me because I’m not a huge fan of winter, but here’s what comes to mind…

  1. Ice skating.
  2. No humidity.
  3. Snow shoeing.
  4. Kisses under the mistletoe. (Did you know kissing for one minute burns 26 calories?)

It’s your turn! What fitness things are you passionate about?