Tag Archives: Out of My Comfort Zone

Out of My Comfort Zone: Tabata Bootcamp

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It’s been a while since I’ve tried something that was out of my comfort zone. For the first year and a half of Kevin’s life I had such limited time that I used the time I had to do what I love: running. I didn’t branch out much from there, even though I kept telling myself I would. Finally, a friend encouraged me to try a class she had been taking at the gym called Tabata Bootcamp. After she told me about it I realized it was actually taught by a friend of mine, Gina, and I was even more excited about trying it out. Gina is the instructor at my gym who first introduced me to cycling and body pump over 3 years ago. Throughout the last few years she’s become a friend who I feel so lucky to know!

Gina and I did sprints and a mini tabata workout at the track today!

Gina and I did sprints and a mini tabata workout at the track today!

At my gym, Tabata Bootcamp is a 30 minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) class. It consists of short periods of hard work followed by even shorter periods of rest. The exercises are done for either 40, 30, or 20 seconds, and since you’re working for a short period of time you really try to do it at an all-out effort. As Gina says, “You can do anything for 40 seconds!” Each set or cycle of exercises has 8 rounds, and we usually do 4-5 sets in a class… I think! Sometimes it’s just a big blur of sweat and I don’t know what’s happening 🙂 Besides being an awesome full-body workout it also has another benefit. Because it’s a HIIT based class you continue to burn 250-350 additional calories once the class is over.  That’s a great after burn! Here’s a good article that explains how this type of interval training works and helps you burn so many calories and fat.

Motivational quotes at my gym!

Motivational quotes at my gym!

Here are all the exercises I could think of that have been used in Tabata Bootcamp at my gym. This isn’t all of them, obviously! Gina is always looking for new ones for us to try and I can’t remember them all!

  • High knee run
  • Burpees (with or without a pushup)
  • Mountain climbers (with or without gliders under feet- OUCH!)
  • Push-ups (on or off the Step 360)
  • Tricep push-ups (on or off the Step 360)
  • Tricep dips
  • Walking plank
  • Plank jacks
  • Crab walk
  • Squat pulse
  • Squat bicep curl
  • Squat overhead press
  • Squat jump
  • Walking lunges
  • Lunge hop
  • Russian twist (with or without a ball)
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Toe-touch crunch
  • Jump on and off Step 360
  • Step up and down Step 360
  • Speed skaters (with or without gliders under feet)
  • Froggy jump
  • Split jumps

Some of these exercises require only body weight to do, and some require other equipment as you can see in the photo below. We have used an Ugi ball (similar to a medicine ball), resistance bands, gliders that go under our hands or feet (those things are the death of me), a mat, a Step 360 (platform with inflated chambers underneath, weights, and of course- WATER! Every exercise can be made harder or easier with modifications, and Gina always demonstrates that. I’m not going to lie, I had to (and still do) modify these frequently. I’ll do some of my pushups on my knees or will opt to not hold a ball or resistance band. I’m slowly letting go of the modifications as I get stronger though!

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I have been going to class for about 6 weeks now, and since it changes every time it really doesn’t get much easier. It still kicks my butt and leaves me totally empty, but in a good way. I finish class completely spent and drenched with sweat. Knowing that I only have to work hard for 30 minutes really keeps me motivated and helps me get the most out of the workout. I asked Gina how she plans what we will do during class, and she said part of her training to teach this style of class is to learn which exercises compliment each other and how to pair them up to work the whole body. She does a great job, because I can feel it everywhere when I am done and especially the next day! Since starting to incorporate this type of workout into my weekly routine I’ve noticed changes in my body and have lost a few pounds too. Crazy, because it’s only a 30 minute class! Burn baby burn!

If you are interested in this type of class there are a ton of Tabata-style workouts online to try. Searching “Tabata” on Youtube (one of my favorite free online resources for exercise) 315,000 results come up! You can also find Tabata timers online (here and here) or download a Tabata timer app. I definitely recommend trying it in a class with a fitness professional first though, because it’s important to learn proper form and to do it safely since it is so intense.

I am so glad I tried this new class that took me out of my comfort zone! I know it has already made me stronger, inside and out.

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Out of My Comfort Zone: Swimming

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A couple weeks ago I took on a big challenge: finally learning how to swim correctly. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while because I know how good swimming is for the body and I want to incorporate it in my routines as cross-training. I am also interested in doing a triathlon someday and the swimming part has been holding me back. It’s not that I can’t swim at all- I just have never felt totally comfortable in the water and never learned the proper way to swim. I can “fake it” but not enough to use it for fitness purposes.

The pool at my gym has always been a very intimidating place for me. It’s filled with people wearing goggles and swim caps, with strong muscular arms and shoulders and perfect form. I decided it was time to face my fears and signed up for an adult swim class. I went to buy a one piece bathing suit (not cute!), some goggles, and a swim cap. I was nervous and worried I wouldn’t fit in.

I showed up for my first class last Saturday morning, got dressed, rinsed off, and went into the pool area. And waited. Nobody showed up. I started feeling more and more anxious. Finally I asked a lifeguard if he knew what was going on with my class and he called the swim director to find out. Apparently, I was the only one that had signed up for the class and nobody had notified me that it had been cancelled. I was so disappointed. I talked to the swim director who was very apologetic and she offered to give me one-on-one lessons instead (these usually cost over $200, I paid $75 for group classes). She told me she would see me on Tuesday evening.

For a brief moment I thought about giving up and not doing any lessons at all. But I knew I had to just do it and get over my stupid worrying! I went to the gym again on Tuesday feeling nervous still, but ready. I walked into the pool and my instructor came up to me right away. She was super nice and made me feel comfortable right from the start. She told me that she had been coaching for 13 years, and asked me about myself and why I was interesting in swimming. I told her I wanted to get into triathlons and using swimming for fitness and she told me to hop in so she could see what I could do.

I felt like I was about to take a test or something. I did my best attempt at freestyle all the way down the length of the pool. It seemed like it took so long to get to the other side even though my pool is only 25 meters long. When I finished she told me that I was actually better than some of the people that come in for adult beginning classes. She told me she could see that I have a lot of strength and have potential for being a great swimmer, but that I was doing a lot of things incorrectly. I knew this already- that’s why I wanted to take a class! She had me work on one technique at a time and I went back and forth to practice a few times after each adjustment. First, we worked on my breathing because four strokes was too long for me to go before taking a breath. I was feeling like I couldn’t breath and it was making me panic, so instead I did every 3 strokes and alternated sides. After breathing, I focused on putting my head all the way down in the water because she told me it was too high. This was making my legs drop too low in the water. Finally, we worked on not kicking as much. Obviously, my lower body is my strongest area from running and I was trying to use my legs too much. All of this was a lot to think about and coordinate at once (especially for someone with zero coordination), and I found myself breathing heavy after each lap. It was exhausting!

After our one-on-one session my coach told me that I would be a good fit for the other class they offered, an Adult Triathlon class. I looked at her and laughed because I felt like it was way too out of my league. She said it really wasn’t, and that there were other people in the class at my same ability level. The class met from 6 – 7 a.m. on Friday mornings, which actually works better with my schedule because Friday is my cross-training day. I said I would try it.

I went to bed on Thursday night excited to swim the next day. I was really motivated to learn and improve.

On Friday morning I got up really early, packed my things, and went to the gym. I put on my suit, swim cap, and goggles and tried to walk into the pool with confidence. There was a swim team there practicing, but I tried not to be intimidated this time. There was only one other woman there for the triathlon class, so I just tried to tune everyone else out and listen to my coach. She told me to start with a warm-up of 6 laps (150 meters). I went slow and tried to work on the techniques that she showed me earlier in the week. It was hard for to swim for 6 laps without stopping so I stopped at the end of a few of them to breathe for a second.

After my warm-up, she took me through a bunch of different drills to work on my breathing, keeping my head down, gliding on my side, and not using my legs too much. I swam with a buoy between my legs at one point to work on my balance (I have the worst balance ever!) I did at least 4 sets of 100 meters for each of these drills. She told me to try to do each set without stopping at all. I tried to just push off the wall and keep going when I got to the end of each lap. By lap 4 of each set I could feel myself fatiguing and my form falling apart, but I tried to hold it together as best as I could.

We ended with a bunch of 50 meter sprints. She told us to do two laps as fast as we could. She timed us to see how long it would take. The lady that had been coming to classes before me was swimming each sprint in 1:08 – 1:13. I did each one in 1:14 – 1:15. We did about 8 of them, resting in between, and my coach said it was good that I was so consistent with my times because that shows that I have good stamina that has crossed over from running. Next time I want to improve those times!

After class my coach told me that I had swam 1,150 meters in total. That converts to 1,258 yards and .71 miles! I couldn’t believe I swam that much in an hour. I know other people can swim much more than that in that amount of time but that was huge for me. I showered quickly, got dressed, and went home to finish getting ready for work. I was exhausted but felt great at the same time.

After my swim class I felt like I was on cloud 9 all day. I was also STARVING all day. I ate before and after class, and still had to eat lunch an hour earlier than usual. Then I had a snack before dinner, ate dinner, and had a snack afterwards.  My stomach was grumbling all day. Swimming is no joke! No wonder Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day when he’s training.

I am really starting to enjoy swimming and excited to see myself get better with more practice. It’s going to be a great form of cross-training to incorporate into my routine, and I know it will make me a stronger and more well rounded athlete.

Out of My Comfort Zone: Trail Running

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Lately I’ve ventured into a totally foreign world: running on trails. I signed up for the HAT 50K trail race because I wanted to try something new and get out of my comfort zone. I was feeling a little burnt out from running on the road after three years of intense training and I knew there were tons of trails around my area to explore. However, I knew nothing about running on such a different type of terrain. The only experience I had was one 5K and a few Warrior Dash races, which all left me with incredibly sore ankles and leg muscles. Clearly I was not used to this type of running!

I knew that the best way to get comfortable on trails was to actually RUN on them (duh). One of the goals of my new training plan was to get on the trails at least once a week, for one of my long runs or at least part of it. It would be difficult to do it more than once because most of the trails require me to drive to them, and I don’t have enough time for that in the morning.  The first step was to figure out where to go and convince Kevin to come with me. I knew there were a lot of trails nearby, but I had no idea how to access them or where to go. I started doing some research online. I found a few great websites like Every Trail and Washington Running Report’s Trail Maps. It’s amazing how many great trails there are in my area that I never knew about before!

We started with a 6 miler on the trails in Prince William Forest Park. I have run past the entrance to this trail many times but was always too afraid to go in alone. I looked at the map ahead of time and saw that we should be able to run 3 miles in and 3 miles back.

We entered the park and immediately I noticed two things: 1) I’m slow, and 2) It takes a LOT of concentration to run on trails! One of the things I love about running is getting in the groove and zoning out for a while. There can be none of that while on the trails, at least not at first. My mind and eyes were constantly looking around me, looking on the ground for rocks, sticks, roots, and holes. My ankles felt weak and unstable running on that type of terrain. The trail was wide but it was VERY hilly, full of rocks, and other things that made my accident-prone self nervous. The hills seemed never ending and it wasn’t long before we took our first walking break. I usually stop my watch when I take a break, but I kept it on because I wanted a realistic idea of what my pace was like on trails. It was actually kind of nice to take walking breaks without feeling guilty about it!

It wasn’t long before we reached the turnaround point and headed back to complete our run. Since the trail was a little more familiar now I knew what to expect and felt more comfortable. We almost took a wrong turn but ran into a woman with a map who helped us. I was thankful Kevin was there with me. Along with being accident-prone and clumsy I also have no sense of direction so I’m sure I would have gotten lost. Plus the trails went very deep into the woods, and I don’t know if I would feel safe going alone. We finished the 6 miles in 1:02:32, an average pace of 10:15/mile.

After our first trail run I went to my local running store to talk about shoes. I already wear very supportive shoes to correct over-pronation but I felt very unstable on the trails and wanted something made for trail running. The guys that work at VA Runner in Woodbridge were experienced trail runners, and we talked for a long time about all kinds of things related to shoes, training, gear, trails in the area, and nutrition. I tried on a few pairs of shoes but he told me that I would be fine with the ones I was wearing to start out with, since I was only running on trails once a week. He recommended that I buy trail shoes in February, closer to the race. He also told me that I should go run at Burke Lake Park because they had a nice 4.5 mile trail loop around the lake. He said it was well populated and safe. I was sold!

Burke Lake Park is only a 15 minute drive from where we live and well worth the trip! I went by myself the week after my first trail run with 8 miles to run. I planned to do two loops around the lake and then walk the last mile as a cool down. When I arrived there were many runners and walkers on the trail which was comforting since Kevin wasn’t with me (I get anxiety running alone in the dark or in the woods). I discovered quickly that it was much easier terrain than Prince William Forest Park. It was mostly dirt and flattened gravel, but it was more narrow than the other trail which meant I had to run around people sometimes. This wasn’t a big deal unless there was a group of people walking side by side and blocking the whole trail- so annoying, especially when they don’t move when you let them know you’re coming up on the left.

Anyway, I loved this trail! It was beautiful running around the lake. The 4.5 miles were challenging the first time around and a little easier the second time because I knew what to expect. I finished in 1:18:00, an average pace of 9:45/mile.

Since that day we’ve been back to Burke Lake Park twice and each time my pace has gotten a little bit faster and I’ve gotten more comfortable. My body is responding well to this type of running too. As I run on trails more I can feel my ankle muscles strengthening and I don’t have as many little aches and pains afterwards. It does drain my body though- I can feel that I worked extra hard if I run the next day because my legs feel much heavier than when I run on the road. I will admit that I have been choosing Burke Lake Park over Prince William Forest Park because it’s easier. I know I need to stop taking the easy way out and get more experience on more challenging trails, and I plan to do that this weekend. I want to explore as many trails as I can in the DC area. I am really enjoying this new type of running and I am excited to see where it takes me!

Any experienced trail runners have any advice for a newbie? Trails in the NOVA/DC area, gear, online resources, tips, etc.? I would be so happy if you shared!

Out of My Comfort Zone – Hot Yoga

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Last month, I finally tried hot yoga! I was home for the weekend in Pennsylvania for my final dress fitting and my friend Christy invited me to go. She had been going for a few months and was loving it. I really wanted to try it because I had heard amazing things, but I was nervous because I knew it was intense. I also don’t really do regular yoga [or as much stretching] as I should, so I knew doing it in a hot room was going to be a challenge.

Here is a little background on Hot Yoga. In general, Hot Yoga is any form of yoga practiced in a heated room. The hot studio is kept at 105°F, with humidity levels between 30%-40%. The style of yoga we were taking was Hot Vinyasa. According to http://www.newyorkyoga.com, Hot Vinyasa is described below.

This technique is sometimes also called Vinyasa Flow, or just Flow because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance. The word Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement.” In a Hot Vinyasa class, the students develop skills of concentration and patience that help focus the mind as they increase physical strength, stamina, flexibility and overall health through a dynamic practice of continuous movement that helps rid and flush the body of wastes and toxins, thus cleansing and purifying it.

The benefits of hot yoga include:

  • Strengthening, cleansing, and removing toxins from your system
  • Improved performance of the heart and internal organs in hot weather [great to know for summer running]
  • Increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Weight loss
  • Developing muscle tone
  • Building up your immune system
  • Can reduce symptoms of chronic illnesses

Christy and I met at her yoga studio, Dana Hot Yoga in Bala Cynwyd, early on Saturday morning. Christy had told me to bring a lot of water, a mat, and a towel. She also said to eat very lightly before class, so I had a Honey Stinger Bar about an hour and a half before. When we got there we paid ($14 regular, $12 student drop-in rate – more expensive than I am used to, that’s for sure!), then went into the room to find a spot. It wasn’t overly hot in there yet, but it warmed up quickly. It felt good at first because it was cold and raining outside.

The room filled up and the class began. Our instructor’s voice was very calming, and it was easy to follow the poses she was leading us through. She told us how to modify them if needed and encouraged us to listen to our own body, not pay attention to others, and do our own practice. This was helpful for me, because I definitely felt like the least experienced person there, and definitely the least flexible! I just tried to focus on breathing, sweating, and moving the best I could. Since Christy had been going for a while, she knew the general sequence that the instructor was following and she got into them quickly and easily.

Some of the poses felt amazingly good, and some felt amazingly difficult. I could tell I had the strength in my legs to do some of the poses (especially the warrior poses) but I was lacking the flexibility to really do them to my full ability.

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Downward facing dog was a pose that got easier as class progressed. It was difficult to get my heels down at first because my hamstrings are tight from running and not stretching as much as I should.

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I was also lacking arm strength! I’ve been going to Body Pump so my arms are stronger than they used to be, but some poses like chatarunga were difficult for me. Especially after a LOT of sun salutation sequences in a row!

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I think my favorite poses were the hip openers. They felt SO GOOD on my tight runner’s hips, especially this frog pose.

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The hour long class went by quickly, and before I knew it we were in savasana. I almost fell asleep because I was so relaxed.

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After class, I felt light, loose, calm, relaxed, and happy. It was amazing! I had heard that some people get headaches after class if they don’t drink enough water, so I made sure to hydrate all day. I never got a headache, but I also didn’t sweat as much as I thought I would, and I didn’t ever feel overheated during class. I looked this up to see why this may be, and I found a possible answer from this website. It said that if you don’t feel overly hot during hot yoga, it means that your body’s cooling system is working properly. It also said this about the amount of sweating during hot yoga:

Just because you are not dripping sweat does not mean you are not sweating. The body’s cooling system relies on sweat turning to water vapor. If sweat remains on your body or falls onto the floor it is not being used to cool you. Efficient cooling takes place when sweat evaporates as it is produced, thereby immediately transferring heat out of your body and into the surrounding air.

I am assuming this means my body’s cooling system is working efficiently. Maybe this is from all the running? I don’t know. I will have to try another class and see how much I sweat again.

Unfortunately I haven’t been back to a hot yoga class since, but that is mainly because I haven’t really put effort into looking for a nearby studio that offers it where I live. It’s also expensive, and I already pay for a gym membership monthly so it’s hard to spend the extra money. However, most studios do offer packages or monthly rates which make it more affordable than the drop-in rates. I know that practicing yoga is GREAT for running, though, so one of my goals for 2012 is to do it more consistently during training. My gym offers a few regular yoga classes and I know there are a ton of DVDs and Youtube videos I could use as well. Actually, I think I may do a little yoga after my run today! 🙂

My Newest Adventure: An Ultra-Marathon

Yesterday I did something I never thought I would do! I signed up for an ULTRA-MARATHON!

Back in July I mentioned that I wanted to run an ultra, but I had my eye on another race- the Umstead 100 (I would have done the 50 mile option). I thought about it A LOT and decided that it wasn’t the right race for me. For one, it is on a Saturday in North Carolina. This means I would have to drive at least 4 hours there on Friday after work because I can’t take any more days off from school this year (I’m using all my leave for our honeymoon). Then I would have to wake up super early to run on Saturday. I didn’t really like that idea. Plus, it would be expensive- $150 registration fee + hotel costs for two nights. We have traveled to a lot of races over the past 2 years and it’s really added up. Finally, it is a 50 mile race. I wasn’t sure if it was smart to make the jump from 26.2 all the way to 50, or if I could even do it!

All of that led to my decision to not register for the Umstead 100. Now I am so glad that I didn’t because I found another ultra-marathon that is a much better fit for me! The HAT 50K Run.

The HAT 50K Run takes place in Havre de Grace, Maryland on March 24, 2012. It is a very popular race that I learned about through Matt from No Meat Athlete. They only allow 500 runners to register to run this challenging 50K (31 mile) course. Here’s a description of what I will be faced with:

One of the things I liked when I found this race is that it is a looped course, which means I will be able to see Kevin 3 times and he can give me anything I may need (food, water, new shoes, socks, etc.).

Now, I didn’t take registering for this race lightly. It took a lot of thought before I finally decided I was ready to take on this challenge. Here were the pros and cons I came up with:

Pros:

  • It would be a new state for me, which means it would count towards my 50 Marathons in 50 States goal (anything 26.2 miles and over counts!)
  • It is relatively cheap to register- only $70. Very inexpensive compared to most ultras!
  • This race is on a Saturday, but it’s only a 2 hour drive from my house so it wouldn’t require as much travel time as North Carolina would have. I also wouldn’t have to stay in a hotel before the race because it starts at 9 am, and we are able to pick up our packet that morning. Another way to save money!
  • Training would not start until late December, giving me a nice long break!
  • My training would focus on distance, not time or speed. This is a huge deal for me. I’m so burnt out on running for a time goal because for the last 3 years I have been focused on running a 4 hour marathon. Now that I have finally done that I’m looking forward to training for a race where I don’t care how long it takes me to finish. Accomplishing the new distance will be my goal!
  • It’s a new and exciting challenge! I’m so ready for a change after 7 marathons.
  • I am planning on taking a longer break from training for big races next summer to begin the next phase in my life 🙂 I think that this will be a wonderful and satisfying accomplishment before that next step begins.
  • Kevin can ‘crew me’ like I mentioned above. His support is so important to me and it will be nice to know he’s there.
  • A 50K is a slightly less scary ultra distance than a 50 miler!

Cons:

  • It’s 31 miles. Can I really do that?
  • The course profile is really scary. Check out these inclines! I’m also nervous about running on trails because that’s new to me.

As you can see, the pros definitely outweighed the cons! I registered for it last night when registration opened at 9 p.m. It sold out in less than 15 hours!

I am so excited for this new challenge! I have no idea how to train for an ultra-marathon and I know I have a lot of research to do. I do know that my training will involve an emphasis on “time on my feet” rather than mileage goals, and also incorporating trail running so I get used to that kind of terrain.

So, can I do it? I guess we will all have to wait and see!

Out of My Comfort Zone – Body Pump

Today I tried Body Pump for the first time! My favorite Spin instructor teaches this class and she encouraged me to come try it. I have been trying to do things that are out of my comfort zone of running, and since I have the time now that it’s summer I decided to go this morning. I am really bad at doing strength training regularly so I knew this was going to be a challenge for me.

Here is a description of the class from the Body Pump website:

“BODYPUMP™ is the original barbell class that strengthens your entire body. This 60-minute workout challenges all your major muscle groups by using the best weight-room exercises like squats, presses, lifts and curls. Great music, awesome instructors and your choice of weight inspire you to get the results you came for – and fast! Like all the LES MILLS™ programs, a new BODYPUMP™ class is released every three months with new music and choreography.”

The instructor told me at Spin on Friday to come a little early so she could help me get set up and explain things to me. When I walked into the group exercise room I realized what she was talking about- each person had so much equipment set up next to them! I needed a step bench, four of those square lifts that go underneath the step bench (I don’t know what they are called), a weight bar, several different sized weights to go on it, a mat, and a towel. Whew! All this equipment intimidated me at first but my instructor assured me I would be okay and catch on quickly.

The class began and after the warm up I knew I was in for a challenge! I had very light weights but it still felt difficult for me, since you repeat the strength moves over and over again for the whole song. My instructor also told me how to modify some moves and the amount of weight to use since it was my first time. I had to watch other people in the mirror to make sure I was doing the right thing and that my form was okay. I loved the music and the variety, though. The hour truly flew by. When it was over my whole body was jello!

Group exercise is still pretty new to me but I am slowly learning to love it. I think that doing things other than running is making me much stronger and it is definitely giving me more muscle tone. I really, REALLY want to continue taking Body Pump during the summer and when the school year starts up again. We will see if that happens!

Out of My Comfort Zone – Zumba

Today after school I tried Zumba for the first time. I wrote before about how I want to take my month off from training to try new things, and after last week’s successful spinning class experience I was feeling adventurous. I am a teacher, and our guidance counselor invited a Zumba instructor to my school to have a class with the teachers. About 13 other teachers came and it was SO MUCH FUN!

I was a little nervous about it at first, because I knew that Zumba is a Latin dance based fitness class and I am VERY uncoordinated and have zero rhythm. I also underestimated how much of a workout it would be! I ran this morning (4 miles) and I was really feeling it in my legs this afternoon. They may have also been a little tired from hours of dancing in heels at the wedding on Saturday night…. 🙂

Within 10 minutes I felt much less intimidated and was starting to sweat up a storm! Our instructor was full of energy and her personality helped me loosen up a bit. I just tried to follow her lead and keep my body moving. I couldn’t quite match her awesome sexy moves but I tried! She played all Spanish music which was fun and different. Before I knew it the hour was up and all the teachers were sweaty and (most) were smiling!

It was awesome to try another new type of exercise. I am learning that I do like to do things other than running! The instructor is going to continue to come every Monday and some Thursdays, and I am going to try to keep going. We are also planning to go to spin class again this Wednesday, and I can’t wait!