Remember my friend Tiffany? Yes, the crazy yin obsessed yogi (just like me) who convinced me to do my first 30 day challenge? Well, it just so happens she hasn’t been around the studio much these days. But nor have. I’ve become a regular at Kula for the month of July. More on that later! JK will be so proud of me and the positive things I have to say.
But Tiffany hasn’t been to Kula. Where could she have run off to? Well I got to the bottom of this and figured out where in the world Tiffany Astle went.
I’ve come to discover, Tiffany hasn’t been practicing yoga at all. Nope, Tiffany my friends, been cheating on Moksha Downtown with Barreworks! What? Oh my! But after my first introduction to the ballet style work out at the Extension Room, I honestly can’t blame her.
Even though the Extension Method class I went to was clearly not my most graceful of work out experiences for me. Let me tell you it was still a tough workout, despite the coordination needed to fluidly dance around. This type of work out requires your total body, every muscle in your arms, legs, butt and face. You lift your arms, kick your legs and point your toes and you’re told to do this while smiling. Ugh? Believe it or not smiling is a work out for your face. Go figure, no wonder dancers look so happy all the time. You can only imagine how intrigued I was by this Barreworks Tiffany spoke of. I assumed it would be of similar style and require the same amount of coordination that Jennifer demanded of me. But that Tiffany, she wouldn’t give up. She was so persistent on having me tag along for a class. And she promised there would be no dancing. Okay, maybe the occasional hop-step-hop-step sequence, but I could handle that much, at least I hoped so. For weeks, I had yet to go. Can you blame me, every time is saw Tiffany she would complain about how much she hurt or how badly the teacher kicked her ass that day. This doesn’t help with the convincing aspect, Tiffany.
Until one day, Tiffany and I finally scheduled an actual date outside of yoga, (see we really are friends) and this date would include a Barreworks class. Hey, where your first class is only $10, you really have no reason to not try it at least once, so I sucked it up and signed up for the Barreworks Mixed Level class. The bran new studio still smelled and shined of newness. It was even more beautiful when I actually entered the studio. It’s spacious, friendly, and the owner (a too cute older gentleman) couldn’t do enough for you. To my surprise, I felt right at home.
Barreworks as limited classes, four different types to be exact, but I guarantee each time you take the same class it will be different. Paulina was our teacher on that Sunday. No wonder it was called Mix Level because we covered everything. Every possible Barrwork exercise and we used all the different props at least a zillion times. This was another total body explosion! But not in a hard, “there is no possible way I can get through this” kind of way. I felt strong, silly and got a good sweat on that morning. And what I really liked, we were constantly moving. But there were breaks for water so don’t stress to badly. It’s meant to be fun remember. Yes, there is a serious component if you want to make it so, but for me, when I can see myself and see how ridiculous I look when I try to plie I cannot take myself seriously. Maybe one day with a little practice. Or a lot of practice. But until then, I would recommend Barreworks as a substitute to the gym. Go with a bunch of your girlfriends (sorry guys there were zero males in my class of 25-30) not to say that boys are not allowed at Barreworks, as I’m sure they are. I see Barreworks as the perfect fit recommendation for those people I see in yoga classes all antsy and disappointed because yoga wasn’t a hard enough workout. There are restful elements, like yoga, but you have work for that reward. You will sweat enough to work your whole body real good no matter your dancing skill or fitness level. Barreworks is designed for everyone – another major plus – I felt this about the space as soon as I arrived and I really appreciate that. You too, will have fun dancing and sculpting your body, that I can promise. Maybe go to a class that Tiffany is at. She will make it that much more fun. Trust me.
Take this class if:You’re on the hunt for a total body workout, you won’t dread going to.
This is a new (and irregular) feature here at Two Fit Girls. I love sports literature. A lot. I loved Friday Night Lights. I loved The Game. I loved Cheer. Basically, if it involves someone competing, it goes on my to-read list. So I’ve decided that — unless I need to read the book for work — I’m going to review the sports-related books I read here.
I love Leanne Shapton’s work, and probably would have picked this up no matter what. But the competitive swimming angle intrigued me. I was a competitive summer one summer and hated it. HATED IT. I was a strong and had all my badges. I posted the fastest swim time in my class for Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross qualifications. But there was something about competitive swimming that irked me. I just hated the tight swimsuits, the repetitive laps and the smell of chlorine. I hated the bone-chilling dampness that never seemed to go away. I hated wearing a swimcap. I hated it all. So after that single season, I quit.
Which is weird, because every now and then, I’ll join and gym and include recreational swimming in my fitness routine. I don’t mind doing laps if they are just for me. But as soon as they are for someone else, I’m not doing them. I’d rather eat glass.
In Swimming Studies, Shapton reflects on her her competitive swimming career and how she didn’t quite make it to the Olympics. Her parents signed her up for swimming. Before she could decide whether or not she liked it, she was good at it. She became better. She decided to go for it. She didn’t make it. She tries to separate herself from swimming, but can’t. Then, in her late 30s, she returns to competitive swimming.
The sport is pervasive in the book (I mean, it’s even in the title!), the fact that Shapton was a swimmer and not a sprinter or archer or pole vaulter doesn’t matter. Because the book is about isn’t really swimming. It’s how being really good at something — but not good enough — goes on to define you for several years after it happens. Even when no one else cares. It’s impossible to no longer be that person who swam 8 times a week and lived and breathed the breaststroke just because you are no longer swimming. Shapton struggles with recreational swimming, especially in open water — she’s “pool-trained,” after all — and with how people like her husband can see her outside her swimming identity when she can’t. Shapton’s writing moves fluidly from past to present, not-quite-stream-of-consciousness narrative that invites the reader inside Shapton’s mind. It’s emotional, intimate writing, and definitely Shapton’s most personal and probably her most vulnerable work yet. You go completely inside her head and her swimming career, see how she obsessed about her times, routine and weight. Her status as a swimmer — she was once ranked 8th in the nation — doesn’t matter as much as her swimsuit collection or her disgusting “muffin in a mug” breakfast concoction. The reader never escapes “Shapton the swimmer” because Shapton herself can’t.
Swimming Studies is about how our past shapes and defines us well into the future. And everyone — even the least athletic among us — can relate to that.
Thanks to American Ninja Warrior, I am obsessed with all-purpose fitness. Bootcamps, parkour and crossfit seem to be all the rage. And if I want to not die during the Toronto Urban Warrior 10k, I figured it was time to give this kind of work-out a try. Then I learned that the CrossFit Toronto gym was a) close to my house and b) offered free consultation and a free first class. I was in!
Jill and I signed up for a consultation the day after we got back from Nova Scotia with no idea what to expect. It was the hottest day of the year, we were both exhausted from our trip and — let’s face it — neither of us do a lot of strength training or conditioning. Gillian, the trainer assigned to us, sat us down. We walked through our fitness routines, then she gave us a tour of the gym. The gym had a similar vibe to the boxing gym we went to a few weeks ago: manly, stuffy and sweaty, with lots of scary-looking equipment. But Gillian was there to convince us that we had nothing to be afraid of. She walked us through what a regular crossfit class was like: the routine is on the board; come early, warm-up, do the routine as fast as you can. When you finish, cheer those behind you on, cool down and get out. CrossFit is all about intensity.
After we had a better idea of what to expect when we take a class, Gillian showed us some basica crossfit moves: pole stretching, squats, push-ups, rowing, tricep dips, backbends, and the dreaded pull-ups. What I liked about this segment was that Gillian stressed form, form, form. It was beneficial to be walked through how to do a correct squat and push-up. That alone made the consultation worth it.
Once we got the basics down, it was time for our crossfit test. We were expected to finish the following in 5-10 minutes:
500 metres of rowing
I loved the rowing even though my machine was broken and I just had to assume I was done when Jill was done. The first 20 squats were okay, but the last 20 were hell. And it was hard to keep my chest up and arms out. So tiring! The situps were easy, the pushups were okay — although I cheated and did pushups from the knees because I wanted to focus on form. Then came the pullups. I cannot for the life of me do pullups. In fact my pullups were so bad in the demonstration segment of the consultation, Gillian made me do ring rows instead. Jill, on the other hand, could do pullups like a pro. At least I finished faster than her. It’s all about small victories.
In the end, Gillian spent almost two hours with us, and it was just supposed to be a one hour session. She was patient, helpful and full of information.
What I liked about CrossFit was that it’s about useful fitness and intensity. What I didn’t like about Crossfit was the gym atmosphere. I’m not the biggest fan of using props in my workouts (this is true for yoga as well) and I’m into the dirty, industrial gym environment. That said, I could see adding crossfit to my fitness once or twice a month.
But Jill and I still have to take advantage of our free first class. Then I’ll know for sure.
Jill doing a pullup.
I liked CrossFit. I liked it a lot! I think what really sold me was the fact that firefighters and policemen and women train doing CrossFit. Which is completely understandable now that I actually know what it is.
My first introduction to CrossFit was through my old roommate Shannon. A colleague at her work convinced her to buy a Daily Deal or Team Buy or one of those things for a CrossFit boot camp. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why she enjoyed it, but Shannon was hooked. Then my buddy Ken (at Moksha Downtown) spent a day raving about how awesome CrossFit is. Oh my goodness, what is this CrossFit and why do people love it so much?! I was so confused. And also petrified. Isn’t CrossFit crazy intense, and scary, and involve people yelling at you? I hate all these things. I would clearly hate CrossFit. So I blocked it from my mind entirely. But, oddly enough, I still secretly wanted to try it.
And CrossFit is expensive. I can’t afford the membership Shannon was paying when she joined, plus the nice and calmness of the JCC is more my style. But like I said I was still intrigued. Then what really pushed me over the edge was talking to my friend, and yoga teacher, Rachael Kess who is now a CrossFit addict. Once and for all this had to happen! Lucky for me Erin, through her Urban Warrior obsession, discovered CrossFit TO.
Here I’ve foolishly thought Erin’s been racking up these freebies for us through the blog — our FitStreets class, this CrossFit TO consultation — turns out we weren’t invited because of the blog. Oh well. One day… this is my dream. But still these are free fitness things, people. So give them a try if you’re looking for things to do.
I was nervous for CrossFit, excited, but mostly terrified. Was a very large scary man going to make us throw tires around, do millions of push ups then run and sweat until we cried? To my surprise, we did none of those things. And Gillian was not a very large scary man. My versions of CrossFit were completely inaccurate.
To my surprise the setting was very welcoming. Where Erin did not like the super gym feel, I did. Maybe because I surprised myself by actually doing a real pull up. I feel that was my induction into CrossFit this day. I love the gym and love working out. But my biggest challenge is not knowing what to do. Gillian walked us through proper techniques of basic exercises that anyone can do at any gym, anywhere. But now I know “how” proper technique feels, it changes everything. CrossFit TO also didn’t reek of the stuffy gym feel that you get a most gyms. It felt tough and intense, but in a good way, like I really wanted to work. That’s always good because how many times do you drag yourself to the gym, not really wanting to go? I’m a victim of this too. With CrossFit the energy was contagious and not misleading. All very good things and reasons you should not be afraid to go.
CrossFit TO is sort of a mix between a gym and a studio. It’s designed for you to drop in for class and not necessary spend your time working out as you please. I get it because the mindset behind CrossFit is quick and rapid: a short workout but loaded with intensity. I’m not all about fast pace all the time, but I understand the benefits and probably should be working out more CrossFit style than I do. But the fact I’m not able to come and do what I want when I please is a bit of a set back for me. I get it though, I would live at this place and workout all the time if I could and I’m sure the people there would not want me there all the time (or other people like me).
Overall, my introduction to CrossFit was awesome. And Gillian could not have been more helpful. The attention she gave to Erin and I was surprising and extremely helpful. If anything, like Erin said, going just for the consultation is totally worth it. Learning new and proper techniques is good information to store and retain. For me it was the rowing I found tough, not the actual workout, but getting the form right. This slowed me down in the circuit we did. Yes, Erin was faster, but I did the pull ups, remember. It’s the little rewards, as Erin said.
Taking an actual CrossFit class will be a whole new challenge, but after meeting with Gillian, I feel ready. We shall determine if that’s true soon enough.
I was not this angry the whole work out, I swear! (Thanks to Andie for tweeting this pic!)
After a positive experience with FitStreets two weeks ago, I decided to buy a four session pass. Why? One, it was perfect for my schedule. Two, I really liked Andie’s fit philosophy. Three, I like the idea of supporting a young entrepeneur instead of a big gym. Four, it was less than $60, which is cheaper than most of the yoga classes I buy. So after Jill and I returned from our Nova Scotia adventure, I was back. This time, I was doing it by myself.
This Monday was a humid day and I broke into a sweat on my warm-up jog (okay, it was closer to a walk) over. But Andie was prepared: our route this time had two water stops, instead of one, and our pace was about 10 seconds slower per kilometre — but the route itself was a little bit longer. Speedy, but manageable. (That might have more to do with Jill not being there and me being all whiny about my rolled ankle than the weather. But I’ll take it). I think Andie was in the Kula class Jill, JK and I took the night before, as she focused on legs. I have done more squats and chair lifts in the past two days than I ever have done in my life. My quads are burning.
FitStreets was easier the second time around, but I think that was just because I knew what I was in for, and not because the workout was less intense. I liked that Andie mixed it up — there were only a couple exercises we replicated, like tricep dips and squats. And I like the small group atmosphere. This time, it was just me and a guy named Steve (Hi, Steve!), which make the hour feel more like “hey, this is a kick ass run with friends” instead of “hey, I’m taking a class.”
Except Andie made us sprint. Three times. Sprinting is my all-time most-hated fitness activity. I guess what doesn’t kill you….makes you a better runner.
All in all, I’m really glad I picked up the extra FitStreets passes. And if you’re a runner looking to mix things up, I can’t recommend FitStreets enough. You’re first time is free, and if you don’t want to go alone, let me know! I’d be happy to come with you.
Jill and I went home for a week this month, to celebrate our mama’s birthday. We also took the opportunity to take advantage of the amazingness that is Nova Scotia in the summer. I’ve lived in Ontario now for five years, and I may say: I’m sorry, Ontario. Your summer weather can’t hold a candle to Nova Scotia’s weather. Your air is too hot. Your water is not vast enough or salty enough. Simply put, Nova Scotia is the best place to by in July.
(As long as you’re on the ocean. If you’re in the middle of the woods — like the house we grew up in is — be prepared to be eaten alive by bugs!)
While we were home, Annie, the littlest sister, suggested we go kayaking. She’s spending the summer working at the Dockside, which is a pub in downtown Digby that sits on the water and is the epitome of every seaside bar you’ve seen on film and television. But it’s lovely and they recently started renting kayaks. HOORAY.
Anne and Jill paddling like pros.
Kayaking is my favourite kind of paddling and it’s something I wish I did more often. Jill and I keep making grand plans to kayak to the island, but it has yet to happen. So I’m glad Anne suggested we take the boats out at high tide one morning.
Yup, Digby is the kind of place where the schedule depends on the tide. It’s awesome.
Our uncle Peter and cousin Erica joined us and we were off. We decided to head to the base of the Joggin river, which is the river that snakes up the back of our house. It’s seriously weird — and amazing — to sit in a bay you drove by every day growing up. It changes your perspective on pretty much everything. For a moment it made me love the little town I grew up in, even though I spent 18 years dying to get out. The weather the perfect, the water was calm. Everything was grand.
Oh, and I learned I’m way way way better at kayaking than Jill. And, really, that’s all that matters.
So if you’re ever on the East Coast, I have two suggestions: go to the Dockside and tip my sister well. Then rent some kayaks and take the Annapolis Basin in. It’s an enclosed harbor and there’s not a lot of boat traffic — which means it’s perfect for first-time or newbie paddlers. And if you’re really experienced, you can head to the nearby towns of Bear River or Annapolis and back in a full day. It’s worth it. I swear.
Summer on the east coast is always worth it.
Okay, “a way way way better at kayaking than Jill”? Please. Don’t let Erin’s suttle enthusiasm fool you. Just because she decided to kayak much further away from the rest of us to try and reach the deserted island in the middle of the Digby Gut — it’s called Bear Island — doesn’t make her a better kayaker. But if that’s what it takes to make you “better” then I guess Erin wins this around. I bet if we raced, I’d be faster. And that’s all that really matters. I, on the other hand, decided to hang back and take the more leisurely approach to kayaking and took in much more important sisterly bonding with our baby sister Anne.
I am clearly the better big sister.
Kayaking is one of those things that looks so much easier than it really is. It takes a lot of coordination, arm and shoulder strength. And you also need to be able to say put on your butt for quite some time. That being said, I will give it to Erin, she took to the coordination much quicker than I. Good thing Anne is not as nearly as out to out do me in because I clearly needed a lot of assistance. Of which she was super helpful to my kayaking capabilities. The niceness came through no doubt when it was easily sensed she was better kayaker, but that’s besides the point. I was grateful for Anne’s help. I still blame the wonkie paddle and I also had a different boat than Erin and Anne. And Uncle Peter and Erica were off soaring in their 2 person kayak. I was set up for failure from the start.
And give me a break! The last time I was in a kayak I might have been 15 when I went on a trip to Weymouth (an even smaller town than Digby, if you can believe it) with my Dad.
Now back to the important details – kayaking as it relates to fitness.
I felt fantastic roaming the salt waters of my hometown. The ocean sea breeze, the open bliss of life in a super small town, made me really appreciate my childhood. I left actually feeling for once, that I actually could have stayed longer. But Erin said it best: Nova Scotia is amazing in the summer. Growing up on a golf course, my summers were spent as far away from the ocean as you could possibly get. But for some reason the feeling of home really struck a sentimental cord with me. I’m getting emotional in my old age, or my Mom’s old age. Sorry Mom, I couldn’t resist.
One thing is for sure there are many ways one can be fit in a small town, on vacation or in Nova Scotia – or all of the above! Kayaking is one of those activities that does’t require lots of experience or preparation to do. It’s not entirely complicated and it’s a good work out. You’ll have sore arms and shoulders the next day, and that’s a guarantee! I sure did.
And if you’re not convinced yet that Digby is a place for you, just head towards Shelburne Road and you’ll know for a fact that rednecks really do exist. Then you’re know for sure.
Summer has been busy, busy, busy. So busy that our monthly PubRuns haven’t been well attended. Which is fine — it’s all about coming when you can! Last month, Jill and I ran through High Park, along the waterfront and eventually made our way home. This month, Kendal and Karen joined me for an out-and-back along Leslie Spit, followed by brunch at OK OK Diner. I really like running Leslie Spit for three reasons. One, it’s hard to believe it’s made of garbage. Two, it’s hard to believe this park is at the bottom of our city. And three, the views of Toronto are pretty spectacular. If you’ve never been there, you should. It’s a bizarre wasteland of nature and industrial debris and it’s beautiful.
We met at 9am because it’s been hot. Really hot. I’m not the best at running in the heat and I like getting my runs out of the way early — because if I don’t it means waiting around until like 9pm to get my run in and that’s not fun.
The original plan was to run the whole thing, around the lighthouse and end at the park entrance. We started off strong, but it was tough. I haven’t been running all that much (thanks, hip) and when I was home, I rolled my ankle. It’s nothing to be too worried about, but I need to take it easy in order to prevent things from getting worse. And I should probably see somebody, just in case. But as we hit the bridge, we weren’t feeling it. Pubruns is supposed to be fun! So we stretched out out and headed back, deciding to run all the way back to Queen and Leslie for a solid 8k effort.
Along the way, we discussed strength training. We talked about FitStreets and what a great idea incorporating strength training into runs is. So we decided: PubRuns BootCamp. The idea is that one evening a month, we’ll organize a bootcamp-based run — 5k through the city, stopping every 10 minutes to do dips and lunges and what-not. We’ll still have our regular pubruns, I promise! This is just a bonus add for anyone who is as crazy, er as serious, as Kendal and me. If you want in, let me know. The first PubRuns bootcamp will be in September.
I feel like my body is turning on me. The hip is old, the ankle is temporary, but during this run, my knee was twinging. I’m going to power through until Midsummer’s Night Run, then reassess. The half-marathon this season may be out. I like pushing myself, but not to injury.
I hope I can push myself to get better.
The next PubRuns is in August. If you have a route suggestion, a brunch suggestion or want in on our awesome running group, let me know!
I don’t remember how I found out about FitStreets. Twitter? Andie’s blog? (Which you should all read, by the way. It’s great!). But as soon as I learned the first time was FREE, I was in. (Fit Girls tip: the amount of free and cheap classes in this city is insane, if you are looking for them.) Jill and I signed up for the 6:30pm Monday class because it was close to my house and the 6:30 start time was more manageable than most post-work classes. (How people can hit up 6pm classes right after a 9-5 shift, I will never know.) Jill and I met at my house and walked over. We probably should have ran, but we didn’t know what we were in for and needed to conserve energy. And we were still feeling the effects of our Muay Thai class the week before. Andie met us inside and was really welcoming and friendly. We signed a bunch of paperwork, and were off. There was one other student in the class (??) with us, a FitStreets regular.
We ran (fast!) down the Esplanade to a small park for our first top. Kicks and stretches. Then we ran (fast!) to the Distillery for some lunges and tricep dips. Then we ran (fast!) to Sherbourne Common to jump on things and to do push-ups. Then we ran (fast!) to another park for ab work. I think you’re getting the idea. At every red light, we did squats. Each running segment was between 2 and 10 minutes, at about a 5:30 pace, sometimes faster. Andie and Jill were off and running, chatting the whole way. I could keep up, but this class taught me two things: 1)I’ve been a lay runner since the Goodlife Half Marathon and that needs to change and 2) I need to turn these speed dreams into reality.
This is a tricep dip. I do not look very happy demonstrating it.
I really liked breaking up the running with strength training. I don’t get a lot of strength training in my fitness routine, beyond random bursts of “I will do sit-ups and planks EVERYDAY!” that last two weeks before I abandon them. And the frequent breaks meant I could work on running fast for short periods of time — something else I’m not used to and need to do more of.
We finished the class in just under an hour. Total run time: 24.11. Total distance covered: 4.5k. A solid first FitStreets effort, I’d say.
As soon as the class was over, Jill and I were talking about how we needed to turn our weekday runs into FitStreets runs. No more breaks! More planks and things! I hope it lasts.
FitStreets was so great! Who would have thought the idea of working out during a run, on the street, with no equipment or props would be so brilliant? You tell yourself now this sounds simple enough, but will you actually do it? Probably not. I sure didn’t, but I would try to convince myself I should do other activities before or after a run. But now I actually will. Or at least I’ll think more about what these other activities can be, since Erin and my FitStreets meet-up with Andie.
Andie was also super great! From the moment we arrived for our meet up, I knew it was going to be fun. The atmosphere, the vibe and Andie’s friendly personality made everything feel okay. I bet this girl can get away with murder. Imagine a friendly, sweet girl as your trainer. She’d tell you to drop and do a million push ups and you would becasue she’d be smiling at you the whole time. At least I would anyway. Andie made me feel safe, comfortable and excited. She was also so nice to chat with! Thanks for listening to me for pretty much the whole way, Andie. I hope I didn’t talk your ear off too badly!
I was so ready to get fit on the street! Ditching the gym is exactly what I’ve done since my half marathon training began. This was not by choice, however. It’s really hard to run, work out, and do yoga all the time. FitStreets taught me doing all these things is indeed possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if the JCC sent out a Missing Person ad for me. But that’s okay because I will be found on the street! Does anyone else think of Step Up 2: The Streets whenever you heard the word street? No? Maybe it’s just me.
I’m demonstrating the twisted lunge we did! Much more fun than tricep dips!
I kept struggling with the idea of what to do about my membership because I am someone who needs variety in my work out routine. If not, I get bored. Andie knew exactly how I felt and knew exactly how to carter to my short attention span. One reason I hate doing short runs is I can’t justify running 3 or 4k for 20 minutes and that’s my work out. No way, a work out that doesn’t last at least an hour seems dumb to me. And an hour plus work out in this heat? You’ve got to be kidding me! But, again, Andie knew what she was doing by including various body workouts into our run, not only did the hour fly by but the run was actually enjoyable. It’s genius!
After walking away from FitStreets that Monday evening, as Erin mentioned, our new running plan is to be just like Andie. She’s upbeat and lovely, but also made us work. I took to every instruction of hers like an excited little puppy. I just wanted to do it all and more.
Andie the Fit Geek was fast (if that wasn’t made clear by Erin) and the ideal trainer. We ran at a much faster pace than I probably would have done on my own, but again that’s where hitting the streets with a group and a trainer comes in handy. You will actually do all the things you say you will, and you will actually push yourself a little more knowing there is someone telling you what to do next. The route we ran was the perfect distance to complete all the park exercises — all those jump squats, the core work and leg lifts was tough — but not to the point of exhaustion. It was challenging, but in a way that left you wanting more. Maybe that’s Andie clever methodology?
Erin and I are not only making new friends (thanks Andie!) while being fit, we’re discovering there is so much you can do, in terms of keeping fit, in this city while on a budget. And you don’t need fancy things to do it. FitStreets is one of the best examples we’ve come across so far. I highly recommend it! FitStreets works for all and any fitness level, so there is no excuse not to try it at least once. And you’re first meet up is free! Okay, now there are zero excuses. Trust me, Andie will take care of you, and it will be fun. I promise!
When I was in California a couple years ago we stopped at a beach to go swimming, and as we were bobbing about, a young woman paddled by me on a stand-up board. She had that classic California Girl look, all lean muscle and tan and long, wavy hair. And up on this board, casually paddling as the afternoon light started to wane, she was the very picture of cool. I had to try it.
It’s taken me awhile to accomplish that goal — finding a place to do it, a companion, a good price — but when I discovered by coworker Erin was interested too, we found a groupon for a company that operates a five minute walk away from our workplace in the Beach.
SUPGirlz (which isn’t just for girls, BTW) has a full schedule, with several classes a day, every day of the week. It was no problem to find a convenient time slot, and registering for a class via their website (even with a groupon) was a breeze.
Our beginners class (which is a prerequisite for all other SUPGirlz classes) had 6 people in it (4 newbies, and 2 more experienced ladies) — a very manageable number. (Classes can accomodate up to 7 new students.)
It started with some fundamentals on land: how to hold the paddle, how to use it, and some general advice. Janna was very matter-of-fact (do this, don’t do this, any questions?), and while some newbies might need a bit more rah-rahing, I was just fine with it. And also she had good reason: it’s ISN’T that complicated. In less than 10 minutes had covered off the bare essentials so we could head down to the water. There, she demoed how we’d paddle out (on our knees) and stand up and it was up to us to follow.
We got to take our first wobbling strokes in a sheltered cove, which made things a bit easier, and I’m pretty proud to say, I didn’t fall. Not even once. (Though, to be fair, it was a pretty calm day.) But if you do? No big deal. The water’s pretty warm, and you can get right back on. The paddling takes a little practice, especially since you’re supposed to keep your arms straight, like dragon boaters do, and use your core to move, rather than bending your elbows. (It feels unnatural, but you start to get the hang of it.)
After everyone showed Janna they could do the basics (paddle straight-ahead, front turn, back turn), we left the cove on, paddling for 10 or 15 minutes. This is when I really started to feel relaxed. It was easy! Or perhaps I had just been training for this my whole life. I realized that my years of swimming (upper body strength), lifeguarding (paddleboarding — on a kneeling board with your hands rather than a paddle, but still), and my regular yoga practice (balance and core strength are essential), actually made me feel like a natural at something athletic for the first time in my life. Guys, it feels amazing. Someone should have told me.
We took a break after this paddle and if you wanted, you could try some yoga poses on the boards. Naturally, I wanted to. I discovered a basic flow is pretty easy, but things start to get a bit harder when you enter lunge and warrior territory. SUPGirlz has a paddle flow class that I’m dying to try: you paddle out, do 20 minutes of board yoga, then paddle back.
Janna also took the time to take pictures of us on our boards: a really nice gesture, because, let’s face it, you look pretty cool doing this and you want to show it off. (She also emailed them to us the same night! Very impressive.)
We did another longer paddle in the other direction, then eventually worked our way back to the cove for a last bit of free time. At this point I was sweating. My long-sleeve rashguard may have offered good sun protection, but I’d recommend something cooler. (A bathing suit and a t-shirt or tank top would be plenty.)
I hoped I’d be sore the next day, and while my muscles were definitely tired after I got home, I only had some wrist and shoulder soreness on one side, probably more from me trying to figure out my technique than anything. But I definitely broke a sweat and felt a burn, and once you got better, I bet you’d get a solid workout. (Plus SUPGirlz has bootcamp classes that combine dry-land exercises.)
Erin, my work paddling pal, had to work a little harder to get the hang of things (not having been training her whole life), but Janna gave her some key one on one feedback, and by the end of the 90 minutes she was feeling comfortable and totally gung ho. We’re ready and raring to go back, and when I can see the lake from our office window, it’s a constant temptation. Classes aren’t cheap ($35 a piece, or 10 for $300), but I can feel my inner cheapskate softening already and my inner California Girl dying to get back on the water.
I’ll admit, I only had a vague idea of what thai boxing was before we got an email from Carina at Krudar inviting us to try out a class for the blog (thanks, Carina!). This was months ago, but between marathoning and yogaing and book writing, I put off responding. Also, because I was scared. This looked like the kind of workout that would kick my ass.
And it did.
After chatting with Carina, we decided that the Wednesday beginner class was our best option. It fit our schedule and she promised that the instructor, Ryan, was great. We arrived at the gym and already were intimitaed. It was hot — Toronto summer heatwave hot — and people were already skipping, punching and jumping around. Carina showed us around (she was the first of the many lovely, lovely people who helped us out in this class), then we got changed and waited. I was surprised by the number of girls in the class — in a good way. There were probably 25 people in the class overall, and 7 or 8 or them were women — including an adorable young girl who was no more than 12 years old and knew what she was doing. If we had fought, muay thai style, I would have gone down immediately. Many of these lovely ladies assured me and Jill that we would not die. I did not believe them.
We got the breakdown of the structure of the class from Carina: 45 minutes of cardio and conditioning, then 45 minutes to work on fighting. Okay. We can handle this.
Then Ryan came out and started yelling. This was scary. He was a yeller. He reminded me of my first basketball coach, the one who believed the season wasn’t a success until he made everyone on the team cry. (He never made me cry. I’m not bragging — I was so low on the totem pole that I don’t think I mattered. But he once yelled at our star player during a time out, then called a second time out just to continue yelling at her. It was intense.) Ryan yelled. And yelled. We weren’t going hard enough. Our arms weren’t high enough. We weren’t counting out the reps loud enough. This was one intense instructor.
That said, Ryan was very, very good at addressing technique for a lot of the stranger cardio moves. After skipping for 5 minutes, we went through a cycle of jumping jacks, squats, planks and kicks and some boxing-inspired moves — jumping, punching, kicking and jabbing. Ryan worked the room, demonstrating each move. All while yelling. We got a 30 second water break every 5 minutes. About 30 minutes in, my calves were on fire. (I need to skip more.) But the pace was rapid-fire, so I didn’t notice I was dying, expect during the later planks.
When the 45 minutes were up, we were told to “wrap it up.” Not knowing what this meant, Carina got the next nice person, Sean, to help us out. We got to wrap our hands up and it looked and felt badass. If you’re planning to take a class, watch the video on thai handwrapping below so you are not as obviously clueless as Jill and I were.
After wrapping it up, we shadowboxed for about 10 minutes. This was when we realized Ryan was not crazy, but a thoughtful, helpful instructor. Everyone who was a regular got to freestyle at the front of the room. Everyone who was new (me, Jill, another girl and 2 guys) got a shadowboxing tutorial at the back of the room. The boxing stance does not feel natural at all. You’re always moving, but always relaxed, but always ready to punch. It’s exhausting just being ready to punch something. But Ryan went over the technique with us, walked us through how to move around the ring and where to hold our hands. And because we haven’t done enough upper body work, this was interspersed with push-ups every few minutes. On your knuckles. (Which is actually easier when your hands are wrapped up.)
Fact: wrapped hands make you look tough.
Finally, it was time to punch things.
Punching things is really, really fun.
Everyone partnered up “based on size and experience level.” Jill and I paired up, natch. Hooray for both being tall and clueless. We got some pads and some gloves. The rest of the class worked through a jab, punch, jab-punch sequence, but Jill and I took our time. The pads are super heavy and we were still absorbing the technique lesson we got during shadowboxing. Again, everyone around us was so helpful. Ryan’s assistant (whose name I think was Howard, but I’m not sure) repeatedly came over to review our technique and offer us feedback. He was encouraging and helpful and truly great. Ryan came over a few times too. Considering how big the class was, the ability to give everyone this much individual attention was a nice perk. (Or proof of just how clueless Jill and I were.)
What I found the most interesting thing about this process was how much yoga and golf helped me understand what do to. Yoga is all about balance and inner strength, and muay thai boxing is the same. You need to be strong and find balance before you can do anything else. And, like golf, the movement is all about your entire body, not just your arms. Your fist is a guide for the punch, nothing more. The power comes from your legs. After 15 minutes, we switched it up and it was Jill’s turn to punch things.
I left the class completely spent. I was soaked. My legs were exhausted from the cardio work and my arms were exhausted from holding the pads for Jill. Muay Thai is a full-body workout. And I highly recommend it, if you’re looking for something high-intensity and/or something different. Don’t let the yelling men, shiny shorts and bright red room scare you. Inside is one of the friendliest fitness communities I’ve ever been to. And one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done.
I am ready to punch things!
Amen, to everything Erin said and more! I also have to say, thank you Krudar for your amazing hospitality and patience. Although it was very clear Erin and I were new, I did not once feel out of place. Okay, that’s a lie I felt totally out of place! But I didn’t feel as though I should be there or that I didn’t belong – and that is really hard to find in a gym or fitness centre anywhere.
Krudar is proof you don’t need the gym to feel like you belong to something. I don’t know too much about the sport of Muay Thai, but I am intrigued to learn more and will be back to give this another go! But this will be after my half marathon. I can’t do too much at once… now where have I heard that before??
Boxing is one of those sports where just saying the name is scary. However, for me, thought of punching people and being able to throw a punch is one of my ultimate fitness goals of life, but I am also terribily afraid of getting a fist in the face or the possibility of breaking my nose or teeth (I know, this may my sound very sissy, but having teeth fall out is a big fear of mine). Fighters, I don’t know how you do it, but no wonder you are totally bad ass!
When Erin told me we were invited to a Muay Thai boxing class I was beyond excited. As Erin mentioned, we had a lot going on this spring, but I was getting impatient and kept insisting we go. And soon! I wanted to go boxing before it was too late – although I don’t really know what the hurry was.
I new Muay Thai was going to be a killer work out, and again, I would get to punch things. But unlike Erin, I’ve had some boxing and some fighting experience, so I wasn’t that afraid. Okay, that’s another lie. And by some experience I mean one beginner boxing class at Totum and one taekwondo class with my black belt, world wide fighting champion friend, Jimena. Many, many months back I took advantage of Totums’s free introductory week and tried boxing for the first time. And I really do have a black belt, taekwondo, fighting friend. At George Brown a teacher of ours called her Triceps. At both these classes (and again at Muay Thai) I too discovered the hip rotations and body coordination from golf really helped. This is also where my visions of me being the next Laila Ali came to surface. I really do just wish is was just good at everything. But maybe I could have been an amazing fighter! Again I will never know. Just like my dreams of being a dancer.
Erin did an excellent job of covering, well, every single detail of our class. From the skipping to the yelling to the super heavy pads, I can attest to it all. But the most important piece everyone must take away from our time spent at Krudar was how nice everyone was. I really respect a teacher who makes the personal gesture to help and assist the entire class. Thank you Ryan. And Carina, and Sean and everyone!
I even made a new friend in the locker room – the little 12 year old girl who put Erin and I both to shame – she even asked me if I would be back next week. How cute! I’m sorry to say I won’t be there this Wednesday, but I will take advantage of the 30 day for $30 deal (at least I thought I saw that somewhere). Regardless, I am excited for Krudar’s big move to Kensington Market (on Augusta) this summer. Carina promised a bigger and a more conditioned studio.
I advice everyone else to go as well. There is also a $10 intro class special for first timers. A guaranteed solid, total body work out is totally worth that price. But be warned, Muay Thai is highly addictive and you will want to go back. And don’t be scared when you first arrive, as Erin and I discovered, boxers have a tough outside and are genuinely nice on the inside. Oh and make sure you’re not doing any heavy lifting for 2 days afterwards. Where Erin couldn’t walk the next day, I couldn’t lift my arms!