Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Think I See the Light

Every one of my posts should start out with a Cat Stevens-inspired title, yes? Today, I have started with aforementioned title because it's rings true. I have been trudging through a seemingly endless tunnel; the Tunnel of Infertility, Disordered Eating and Depression. If I had seen the sign ahead of time for that one, I would have avoided it and taken a detour!

Now I am emerging at the other end of the tunnel. I am looking behind me, and saying, "holy shit, that was long as hell!" and I'm also looking ahead, breathing a sigh of relief, and eagerly seeking a change of scenery.

On this journey, I have doubled back many times. I've had some high points, including running a half-marathon, starting an amazing job that I am still loving, getting to a healthy weight, lots of psychical and fitness "firsts". I have also had many low points; ending a very traumatic chapter of employment that caused a great deal of anxiety, stress, and self-doubt, retreating into myself and withdrawing from family and friends, developing disordered eating and loosing too much weight, becoming infertile and struggling with it every damn day. and gaining back all the weight (the loss of which was in part the cause of said infertility).

With the support of my love, many friends and family, some professional help, and lots of ugly, tough work I've been putting in, I have been rebuilding my life. To move forward, on, up, out, past, ahead- choose your descriptor, that's where I'm headed.

Currently, this is going to involve working on some other life goals and passions that do not involve having children. After 2 rounds of hormone treatments and attempts at pregnancy, and after nearly 2.5 years without a period, I just CANNOT continue to devote the time, energy, and mental/physical  anguish I have been spending on trying to make my period appear. It's not here, it might never come back, and I need to let go of it, for now at least. So this is going to be a break from the goal of "starting a family", and focusing on the awesome, funny, weird framily I already have, spread around the city, the state, and the country.

Mike and I sat down yesterday, and plotted out exciting things that gave me energy and enthusiasm (sorely lacking as of late). I can't remember all the things, but it is essentially a list of dreams and goals for the next year and beyond. Things we can dive into wholeheartedly, things that will move us forward, as well as expanding our minds and hearts, some individual goals, some shared.

Exciting things we plan to do in the next 6-12 Months:

  • West Coast(ish) trip: Sara & Wes, Erin & Ali, Paul & Lauren, Angela & Mike; we're coming!
  • Pay down the mortgage so PMI is gone
  • Run a 5k (again)
  • Take a trip to Greece
  • Hike a chunk of the Appalachian Trail this summer: Libby? Mary? Erin? 
  • Pare down the garden outside, and make the part we have left low-maintenance
  • Do some upgrades to the basement (re-tile, add door) to ensure it is rent-able long-term
  • Gym 3x per week
  • Hit the $50,000k mark for retirement savings
  • Finish the Rolling Hills disc course under par (that's a Mike goal. Mine is just to finish without an uncountable number above par)
These are all value-driven goals. My foundation was in a shambles, and in re-building I have been able to examine what exactly was under all that other stuff! I've sorted out some pretty simple core areas of importance that I hope I can live by: 

  • Happiness and enjoyment 
  • Being a regular person, not aspiring to be a perfect, flawless fictional character of myself
  • Presence and authenticity
  • Getting re-involved in community activities that I love
  • Connecting with family and friends (even when times are hard)
  • Building up to a more healthy lifestyle, a middle ground between where I was and where I am
A huge, unending hug of THANKS! goes out to everyone who has lent a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, love from across the miles, advice I needed to hear, patience and understanding when I needed it most, and a kick in the pants, even when I didn't want one! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Product Review- EatSmart Precision MaxView Digital Bathroom Scale.

I recently was contacted by EatSmart products to review their new Bathroom Scale, the Precision MaxView Digital Bathroom Scale, the newest scale in their line of products. It was good timing, since my old bathroom scale recently crapped out! I was debating whether or not I wanted to get another scale, honestly; It's easy to get really wrapped up in weight and numbers. That being said, I appreciate the ability to be able hop on a scale at home to check in and see both the progress I am making, and also to be able to get some perspective on those tough weeks.

That being said, the Precision Max is definitely a scale I would purchase, if I had not been sent one to review! It's really easy to use, and very simple. Basically, set-up involves putting in batteries (which it comes with) and letting the scale calibrate. You can set it to stone, kg, or lbs, which is nice for folks on the other side of "the pond".

The design is modern and clean, and it is a stable little guy, which is a unique feature for a scale. I've had several that rock to one side when you step onto it with just one foot. My husband actually commented "wow this is solid!", without my soliciting any input from him.

The large display is nice and it's backlit in blue, which is a little feature I like- most mornings I like to leave the lights off while I get ready, and now I can incorporate a weigh-in into my morning routine without flipping on the bathroom lights. The display is big enough to see without having to do any squinting down at my feet too!

It sells for $29.95 on Amazon, and I feel that's a fair and reasonable price for a new scale. EatSmart also has a variety of kitchen scales and other products which I'm excited to learn more about. If you're in the market for a new, nice & simple scale that's in your price range, take a look at the Precision MaxView- it's worth your while!

*I was sent a complimentary EatSmart Precision MaxView Scale to review, and keep. However, my opinion and review on the scale are solely my own honest feelings not influenced by EatSmart Products.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Spinning Studio Tour- Vie Fitness and Spa

Last Friday morning, I popped in for a Spinning class at Vie Fitness and Spa (at their Ashley St. location, one of two locations in Ann Arbor). This, as you might remember, is part of my quest to learn about different Spinning studios in the area and craft my own personal style as an instructor. Vie was my first stop on my Spinning Studio tour, and boy did it set the bar high! Here's the scoop on my experience with Vie:

Studio Name: Vie Fitness & Spa
Studio Location: 209 S. Ashley St, Ann Arbor
Owned by: Heather Dupis & Lauren Casanova
Instructor/Class attended: Maia @ 6am on Friday
Pricing: $$ (out of $$$) (can attend 1 free trial class)
1 drop-in $18
8 class pass $13/class
24 classes $11/class
Workout rating (1-10): 8
Class availability (1-10): 10- hugely available schedule! Each weekday offers several morning options, a lunchtime class, as well as several afternoon/evening classes!

Overall, this is one classy studio! When you walk in, it's definitely a spa-like feel. The space itself is two stories, and houses a juice bar, Personal Training, yoga space, Pilates, Barre classes & more, treadmills, weights, as well as the Spinning space AND a Spa featuring massage, nail care, and facials & body waxing- WOW!

The Spinning "studio" section is somewhat self contained, and a very unique set-up. The Spinning cycles are set up in a group, like you might imagine in any typical studio, but since the space is a tight fit, the cycles are not in their own self-contained room- they're next to several treadmills & other equipment.

Vie has a very inventive way to help Spinning students feel that they're in a class of their own, while not disrupting other gym-goers: headphone jacks suspended from the ceiling above each cycle. Vie provides the headphones, and you plug in to your own individual line. The instructor is up-front, and instead of having a massive sound system, her microphone & music is piped directly into your ears! It's almost like listening to a personal Spinning podcast! During the class, the instructor Maia was up on a podium, leading the way, and we could all still see the techniques she was demonstrating, but this way, other Vie members can get a non-Spin workout in without having to hear dat thumping bass and a bellowing instructor. Cool, huh?

The pricing at Vie seems fair- they have an a la carte system, which is nice; you only pay for what you choose to take advantage of! I was able to get in a free ride, which they offer if you're trying the studio for the first time (as many gyms offer). Their drop-in price for a single class seems a bit steep ($18), but if you buy any class packages, the price quickly becomes comparable to many of the other studios in the area ($11-13, depending on how many classes you buy).

As far as instructor style goes, I definitely enjoyed Maia. Since the class set-up was a bit different, it took a few minutes to get used to her relatively calm, collected voice guiding me, vs. an instructor quasi-shouting over the music. It was a bit more of a chill vibe, and I definitely enjoyed that, especially during an AM class when I was still waking up! That being said, Maia had good energy, the song selection kept my legs workin', and she was very good at sharing directions and what was coming up around the bend.

I definitely left with a good solid butt-kicking workout. While I liked the innovative aspect of the drop-down individual headphone jacks, (and I think it works well for Vie's purposes), they cut out the opportunity for riders to interact with each other and for the instructor to call out group response questions, which I like (both as a rider and an instructor). The headphones & speaker system created a very personalized Spinning experience, which is a positive, but I found that it diminished the communal support feelings of group ride that Spinning classes usually provide inherently.

Take-away lessons for me as an Instructor: 
  • Liked the chill music Maia selected- helped to create a great vibe
  • Appreciated the clear direction about the upcoming moves, and how to adjust the bike accordingly
  • Maia's calm, focused approach influenced my ride to be more calm and focused
  • Could have used a bit more in terms of interaction with students, but that's tough when there is intentional noise-reduction.

Thanks Vie Fitness & Spa! A great workout, a swanky setting; proof that a classy and boutique-feel studio can provide relatively affordable, energizing Spinning classes.

*All reviews are my own personal opinion, based on my one experience at Vie Fitness & Spa. My views do not reflect the views of 1 on 1 Athletic Club, they are just my personal 2 cents! I have not been compensated by Vie for this review, nor did I receive any benefits, financial or otherwise, for my review of their studio*

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shaping Up for Spinning!

Hi folks, and Happy Friday!

I have got a booty-bustin' weekend planned, including 2 spins and a Kettlebell class at my new gym! I also told my husband I'm gonna kick his butt at the gym on Sunday evening- I'm gonna school him Bootcamp style, with a custom workout created by yours truly! He's been known to throw up after other Arika's Bootcamp workouts. While that's not at all the goal, it means he's working hard! ;-)

Here's what I'm up to, workout-wise, for the weekend! What do you have planned?

Weekend Workout Plan- 8/22-8/24/14

Friday- 6:00am Spinning Vie Fitness (already done!)
Saturday- 8:15am Kettlebell class @ 1on1 Athletic
Sunday- 7:00am Wake Up and Ryde @ RydeOn  & 7:00pm Arika's Bootcamp

I'm making a point to get out to my gym at least 3 times a week. I want to establish a presence there, get to know my fellow instructors & staff, and meet more members. Hopefully, this will be a great way to build relationships, make some workout buddies, and do some pre-recruitment for my Spinning classes, when they start!

I'm also working hard to get myself into tip-top shape for my new role as Spinning Instructor. This will involve visiting many gyms/studios in the next couple of weeks, sweating buckets, and getting a taste of different spinning/cycling styles. Each new class will help me learn more about the style and persona I'd like to bring to my classes- it should be a great learning experience!

Lastly, I'm going to do some shopping- I gotta get gear for Spinning! I'll be getting my first pair of clipless cycling shoes, and my first heart rate monitor! I'm so dang excited :)

Sharing Time:

What brand of Cycling/clipless shoes do you have and love? Will be used mostly for Spinning, but also some outdoor rides on my 1971 Schwinn LeTour!

What brand/which Heart Rate Monitor should I get? I don't need it to be super high-tech- I'm looking for heart rate, zones, and maybe calories burned (optional)

Have a great weekend!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Heck Yeah- Teaching Spinning at my local gym!

After 8+ years of sweating my butt off as a Spinning class participant, I’m now a certified Mad Dogg Athletics Spinning Instructor!!  I’m sitting on “the other side of the podium” and I’m ready to work my butt off creating amazing Spinning experiences for others.

My role in the Spinning studio has changed, but my love for Spinning has only grown. I completed my Spinning Instructor Course at the end of June, 2014 (facilitated by the amazing Ralph Mlady), and in July I auditioned for a position at a local gym, One on One Athletic Club in Ann Arbor. I've been hired on as one of 3 Spinning Instructors at the club, and I am endlessly psyched!

I haven’t yet been assigned my own regular class slots yet, but my club let me fill in as a sub, since both of the other instructors were out on vacations this week.  That means I got to teach my first-ever Spinning classes!!

Boy, was it a learning experience! I've been reflecting on what I think I did well, what I could have improved upon, and areas that I’d like to focus on as I develop my Instructor experience base.

I rocked at:

Attendance        B-
I had 5 riders in my first class and 6 in my second class. While I will work to build attendance, I’m happy with these numbers for now. Monsoon-type weather both days might have kept people away, and new-instructor-phobia could have been a factor too. I did have 1 return participant, who came both days. That was really exciting!

Attitude               A
I’m generally a positive, upbeat person, and I think this came out pretty naturally in class. I also thought a lot ahead of time about the authentic, happy persona that I want to project, and that helped me achieve my mission here. Since I am new to participants, and they are new to me, I walked around to each person, introduced myself, and thanked them for coming.

Bike Set-up        A
I asked each participant if they were comfortable setting up their own bike. A few folks looked like they had questions, so I made a bee-line and gave them some tips. I think this resulted in more comfort and safety for my riders, and built a rapport too.

Chutzpah             A
As a new Instructor, the only way to get experience is by doing! I was very willing and excited to have a chance to sub a few times before I get my own regular class times, and I give myself a pat on the back for jumping in with enthusiasm. Go me!

I’ll work on:

Communication B-
I quickly learned the importance of clear communication, both in terms of volume (making sure riders can hear you over the music) and content. While I think I was so-so at this, I want to work at being more concise and specific, about upcoming position changes, about time left in tough positions (only 15 seconds left!)

Music                    B-
To start off, I chose music that I thought would be pretty universally appealing. For my second class, I selected a playlist that I loved and was super-excited about. I think the second class had more cohesion, and I was into it more, which probably came across in the class. I am still continuing to learn about song speed, and the correlating cadence for my riders. Also, a few of my Seated Flat “recover/rest” songs were a bit too long; Awkward! J

Rapport                C
Since we were new to each other, I made sure to go up and greet each rider, thank them for coming, ask their name, and introduce myself. I also remembered to give a little intro about myself at the beginning of the class, so people got to know me a bit. The negative side- I was so excited that I didn’t really remember anyone’s name once they said it to me. I’ll have time to improve in this area, but rapport-building is going to be a major focus for me, because I recognize the importance of it.

Vibe                     C
Overall, still deciding what type of vibe I’d like my classes to have. Music, Attitude, and so many other factors go in to this decision, and I know it will be an on-going process, Overall, I just want to differentiate myself from the other instructors  and create my own ‘brand’ of classes that riders look forward to.

Join me on my journey as a new Instructor, as I build class profiles, refine and learn new techniques, and grow my new identity at my home club, on "The Other Side of the Podium"! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wandering towards The Middle Way

I have never been one to traverse the elusive "Middle Way", no matter what the topic is. I like black and white. I like defined and delineated. I thrive on planning, clear direction, and goal setting. Many times, professionally and otherwise, this mindset is an asset. However, it has contributed to a lot of pain and heartache in my personal life. 

Being physically active and eating healthfully without being crazed; Still working on it every. damn. day.

Let me illustrate: For me, “I think I’ll go out for a run” is two quick steps from “and why don’t I just train for my first Marathon!” I have this quirky all-or-nothing mentality that has caused me a lot of trouble, anxiety, and needless stress.

Looking back at where I was a year ago, in May 2013, I can see more clearly than ever the un-healthiness of the “Healthiest I’ve Ever Been” status I’d achieved. I was at my lowest weight - a weight that left me feeling cold even in the heat of summer, and having very low-energy, even for daily activities. I was physically active for at least an hour most days- to the point of it interfering with other life stuff.  I consistently tracked every calorie that went into my body, and rated each and every thing on this self-imposed scaled of whether or not it was a “good” food or a “bad” food. Of course, I was not allowed to let any “bad foods” enter my system.  I had essentially turned being thin and fit into a religion, one to which I was an enthusiastic convert, diving headfirst into orthodoxy.

Now, I’m reformed my worship. I’m still practicing in the temple of Fitness, but I am fitting it in to my life where it belongs. It’s a component of a well-rounded, happy me; it’s not all-consuming, it is not ME. Throughout the last year since my "turning point", even within all these struggles with food, nutrition, feelings, cravings, sadness, and exercise, I have been building a more resilient self. Deconstructing the tough, hardened, rigid self I had created and taking pieces to form a flexible, adaptable, authentic me.

What this looks like for me: the ability to exercise frequently or even participate in races without having to train for the Olympics. The ability to eat healthfully and nourish my body without going on a Whole 30, Paleo-inspiried elimination diet. The ability to get to a place of fitness where I feel comfortable, energetic and active without feeling like I’ll be PERFECT if I just loose those last 2 lbs.

I’ve been working hard at this elusive destination- this Middle Way of health/fitness. I’m moving towards it. Heck, I guess that being on the path to the Middle Way essentially means I am already traveling the Middle Way. Now if I could only quantify where the true Middle is? ;) Just kiddin'.

In the midst of all this flailing about, there is a LOT to be proud of:
  • I continue to flail. I fall and fail on a weekly basis, but I get back up. Each time, I am a bit better at picking myself up, I fall a little less far, and I can rebound more quickly.
  • I’m consistently making it to the gym several times a week- I have successfully cultivated a Gym Habit- that’s a big deal!
  • I’m still un-packing my eating issues. Overall, I am more relaxed with eating what sounds good to me, without a lot of restriction.
  • I've continued to take whatever action is available to get my elusive menstrual period back ,and most days, I can stop myself from flipping out that I haven't had it in more than 1.5 years. Most days.
  • I am working, with the support of counselors, through a lot of the emotional issues that put me in this mindset in the first place. Counseling is painful, terribly slow, and helpful. Also, sometimes it’s the worst.
  • I am falling back in love with exercise, for the simple pleasure of it. I have continued to run 2-3 times a week for fun, I am getting back in to yoga, and I’m thinking about a 10k race here in a few weeks.
  • I’d still REALLY love to become a Spinning Instructor, and I’m planning on registering for a certification course for the end of June. 
The gift of honest self-reflection is priceless. It's a gift that I try to give myself in the toughest times, because a little stumble on the path does not equal a back-breaking tumble down the hill of the Middle Way. As the amazing Cat Stevens would say,  There's so much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

13 Races in 2013- Recap + Plans for 14 in 2014!

I've achieved a whole lot in 2013, if I do say so myself :) I finished the 13 in 2013 challenge, which means I completed:
  • Five 5Ks
  • One 5 miler
  • Two 10Ks
  • One 15K
  • Two Half Marathonsas 
  • One 18 mile Bike race
  • One unofficial Thanksgiving Day family run
For a total of 13 Fitness Events in 2013!! Hot Damn!! Here are some picture highlights:

Commitment Day 
Superbowl 5k
Corktown 5k
Falcon 5 Miler
Dexter-Ann Arbor 10k
Labor Day 30k bike ride
Heroes on Hines- 1st Half Marathon!
Detroit Free Press- 2nd Half Marathon!

In 2014, I have a few overall goals I'd like to knock off the check list:

  • a Trail Run
  • a Mini Tri
  • my first Marathon

and I've set my sights on completing 14 races in 2014! Now that I've done a year of racing, there are a few races I know I'd like to repeat, some I could live without doing ever again, and a few new exciting ones I didn't get to this year. They're listed in chronological order: 

Draft 2014 Race schedule (repeat races are underlined with notes)
  1. 1/1/2014 Commitment Day, Farmington Hills - 5k Run (w/ Mike!)
    • A REALLY fun/COLD way to start the year off right!
  2. 2/2/14 SuperBowl 5k, Novi - 5k Run
    • This is on Superbowl day- a great way to manage calories for an otherwise wreck of a day!
  3. 3/2/14 Fight for Air Climb, Detroit - 70 flights of stairs!
  4. 3/16/14 Kona St. Patrick’s DayPlymouth - 10k Run  (w/ Mike!)
  5. 3/22/14 No Frills All Thrills, Brighton - 8k Trail Run
  6. 4/12/14 Martian race series, Ann Arbor  - Half Marathon
  7. 4/11/14 Falcon 5 Miler, Bowling Green OH - 5 Miler
    • It was about 35 degrees this year. A nice outdoor Spring race to prep for a longer Fall race
  8. 5/4/14 Kalamazoo Marathon, Kzoo - Half or Full Marathon (w/ Mike!)
  9. 6/1/14 Dexter-Ann Arbor Race, Ann Arbor - Half Marathon
    • I did the 10k this year and enjoyed running a local race. Looking to do the Half this year.
  10. 7/4/14 Volkslaufe, Frankenmuth - 20k Run
  11. 8/13/14 Triceratops Tri, Brighton - .5 Swim, 12.4 Bike, 3.1 Run
  12. 9/6/14 Hippe Half @ Run Woodstock, Pinckney - Half Marathon
  13. 9/30/14 Labor Day 30k, Milford - 30k Run
    • Did this 18 mi bike race w/ my fam this year- will run it as mileage build up for a  marathon.
  14. 10/5/13 Sleeping Bear Marathon, Empire - Marathon
Overall, I'm trying to scale up my race distances month by month. I'm not sure if I want to try for a Spring Marathon, or one in the Fall? I did several Halfs this fall, so it shouldn't be out of the question to complete a Full in the Spring, right? I have taken somewhat of a running hiatus, but I'm beginning again this week and it seems that I'd have 20-21 weeks to train and build up my mileage.

The second big question is "Which Marathon should I choose?" I'd like to do a Michigan marathon for my first one, since it's my home. Right now I'm thinking about the Kalamazoo Marathon or the Sleeping Bear Marathon. Kzoo is in early May, and Sleeping Bear is in October. We're headed to for the Kzoo set of races either way- I think I've convinced/encouraged my hubs to do his first Half Marathon this year, and we've chosen to make a trip out of the Kzoo Marathon/Borgess Health Half Marathon. SO I could either train like a boss for May 4th, or I could make that a Half, and do several more halfs in prep for the Sleeping Bear Marathon in October.

Any thoughts from you runners out there? 

What races are missing that I shouldn't leave out? 

Is a Fall Marathon "easier" to train for than a Spring one?