One thing that I have always found strange but very common is that people tend to want to begin working out as a means to lose weight. Besides losing weight, fitness has a wealth of benefits that should be enough on their own. When you work, it gives you more energy, boosts your mood, increases your productivity and focus, helps get rid of stress, gets your heart pumping, helps ward off disease, boosts your immune system, and you can eat more (my favorite…haha). Somehow these benefits are not always enough to encourage people to exercise. I know personally that finding a fitness that you love can be the single most important factor in motivating you to exercise more! In this blog post, I interviewed four amazing women about a type of fitness that they fell in love with. I hope that reading their interviews will inspire you to find that type of fitness that is right for you!
So, let me first say that I am definitely at fault for exercising to lose weight too, but this school year I have made it my personal goal to exercise more for the mental and emotional health benefits Teaching can definitely be stressful, and I’m hoping that making a consistent fitness routine for myself can mitigate some of my stress! For several years, I have been really into Zumba and hip-hop dance fitness classes. I have always enjoyed dancing (even though I’m not necessarily the BEST dancer) and for a while was hooked on the Just Dance and Dance Dance Revolution games. During my first Zumba class, I realized how quickly the time passed, because I was out there having so much fun. From books and articles that I had read about happiness, I had heard about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow. Flow is a state during which you are extremely focused and absorbed in an activity. It hit me that Zumba helped me to reach my state of flow. I have other fitness activities that I enjoy, like my bike trainer and the elliptical machine, but nothing compares to the feeling that I get when I dance. Time melts away, any self-consciousness melts away, and it’s just me and the music.
Let me introduce each of my fabulous and fit interviewees for the blog post. Brandi Cooper is a group fitness instructor who teaches Zumba, Body Pump, and CX Worx. Jaimie S. loves to run, and does two half and two full marathons each year. Dr. Katherine Heldt plays underwater rugby and was a competitive swimmer. Sara without an H is a pole fitness instructor, and does burlesque and lyra (aerial hoop) and well.
Group X Classes
(Zumba, Body Pump, CX Worx)
Brandi Cooper is a group fitness instructor for several different classes. I teach Zumba, which is ‘a workout in disguise’ dance cardio workout with some body weight variations. It’s inspired by Latina and international music and rhythms. I also teach Les Mills Body Pump which is a barbel class, full-body workout with weights featuring lighter weights and high reps. It focuses on high reps and pulsing pressure to fatigue muscles and build lean tone. It also focuses on time under tension to produce fast results. The format is always 10 tracks (warm-up, warm-up, squats, chest, back, triceps, biceps, lunges, shoulders, core, then cool down). Another class that Brandi is Les Mills CX Worx. It’s a 30 minute core workout [that] focuses on functional core strength built around our everyday movements. It uses integrated combos and movements. The movements and combos integrate your shoulders, back, core, hips, glutes, and thighs. If you think about what we do every day, it requires a strong and sturdy core. Brandi also enjoys many other types of fitness. She does OCRs (obstacle course racing) and other races with her husband and children. She also likes Pound and Body Combat fitness classes.
I started weight lifting when I was 11. I have been taking group x classes since I had my first child 8.5 years ago. [That’s] when I fell in love with it. I started teaching a little over a year ago officially. My younger sister got me into Zumba first. She found it, and then my mom brought me. I fell instantly in love with it. I started lifting when I was 11, and love being strong, powerful, and seeing definition in my muscles. Also making friends with the others in the classes and being with others pushed you to go harder than you would on your own. You feel team power-that everyone is doing it all together- and it is motivating! The interactions and having the camaraderie of everyone else in the class with us [kept me coming back\. It goes for all group x classes. The music is driving and the instructors are motivating. As an instructor, I love seeing the participants progress each week and each month. Personally, with weight lifting, it gives mere results. I have personal body fat goals and I worked hard to achieve them. Results, people, friendship, and goals…it all keeps me going. Currently I do Pump once a week, do heavy lifting twice a week, Pound once a week, Cx Worx twice a week, Zumba 3-4 times a week, and Combat once a week. (She’s amazing!!!)
What do you love most about each type of fitness that you do?
Zumba= It’s fun and [you can] let go of all the crazy!
Pump= The strength and endurance training, and how it builds stamina
Cx Worx= The stability core training and how I see results in my everyday duties
The best part is how rounded out I feel and that all three together give me the best results and fun that I could possibly have.
What has fitness taught you about yourself?
It’s taught me that it’s ok to push yourself harder than you thought and you’re always capable of more when you put your mind to it! Also that I’m strong, independent, and that I need to be strong and healthy to take care of my family and keep up with my kids. That it’s ok to fail. If you fall, you just have to get up and try harder.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering trying fitness classes?
Group x classes are for anyone, whether you’re 15 or 75, whether you’re a beginner and trying to find what type of exercise you enjoy, or whether you’re advanced and just need to pushed towards your own fitness level. I’d recommend any format, especially to anyone who wants results and team work and not to work out alone. I’d say try everything and find what you love. Make it part of your life, and you’ll never regret it!
Jaimie S.’s fitness of choice is long distance running. I have been participating in long distance running for four years now. I enjoy running half and full marathons. In 2014, I was a busy teacher and grad student. I had just lost 50 pounds and was looking for a new way to develop cardiovascular endurance. I lived across from a park, so running was convenient and helpful for getting outside (without driving the 30 minutes it took me to get to the gym.) (That’s so motivating!) I loved being able to lose myself in a run. I could just be with my thoughts while enjoying nature. I liked being able to set goals and use races to keep myself focused and forever working toward improvement. Now, I run two half marathons and two full marathons each year, but I run for cardio about five days a week.
What do you love most about running?
I love the freedom that I feel when I go out and see where the road takes me.
What has running taught you about yourself?
I learned that I am capable to push myself and accomplish more than I ever thought was possible. I was the kid who hated running the mile in high school.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering trying it?
Start slow. It’s ok to run/walk or use intervals to build up stamina. You aren’t going to like every moment of it, and that’s ok.
Avoid comparing yourself to others.
Remember that every run is different. You will have good days and bad days.
Stay safe! Pay attention to your surroundings.
Enjoy the moment!
I’m going to be honest that this blog post is the first that I had heard about underwater rugby, so I was so intrigued to learn more about it from Dr. Katherine Heldt! Underwater rugby is a three dimensional sport played at approximately 5m depths in swimming pools around the world. Each team consists of up to 15 players: 6 actively playing in the water, 6 substitutes on land (substitutions occur throughout the game), and 3 reserve players. The 6 active players usually consist of 2 goalies, 2 defenders, and 2 attackers. Players wear mask, fins, snorkels, a cap to protect ears, and of course a swimsuit. A ball, filled with seawater so it sinks, is passed among team members with the aim of scoring in the opponent’s goal which is at the bottom of the pool. But it is not as easy as it sounds because if you have the ball you can be tackled, and to score, you must first tackle the goalie off of the goal or trick the goalie and sneakily slide the ball into the goal.
In 2016, a few of my friends from scuba club kept asking me to come and try it out; they all knew I was a competitive swimmer and might like other water sports. After many months, I finally managed to make a practice, and I immediately fell in love! It was the sport I had been looking for my entire life! It combined water, teamwork, and even includes new dimensions to play in. I love the challenges associated with underwater rugby and that anyone who is comfortable in water can enjoy this sport. I am proud to say that I know women in their late 30’s that are fantastic players, which gives me hope that I can continue to play and compete for many more years. Katherine does underwater rugby as often as she can! I currently reside in a regional town in South Australia and am slowly trying to build a team. However, I practice and complete fitness tests at least 3 times a week in my local ~2m depth swimming pool. At the same time, I am part of a fantastic experience via the selection processes for the Australian Women’s National Team and am training with the hopes of being selected to compete in the World Cup in Austria 2019. (Wow! Way to go!)
What do you love most about underwater rugby?
I really enjoy the underwater rugby community. Everyone is always happy to share knowledge and we are one big happy family.
What has underwater rugby taught you about yourself?
Underwater rugby has really taught me to push my limits. I have always been in competition with myself, but I never realized how far I could go until I started playing. Just like many other sports, there are tactics, strength and speed required, but being a 3-D underwater sport there are additional challenges such as breath holding and playing in the ‘up/down’ dimension and angles.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering trying it?
Don’t put off trying this sport because the name and description is a bit intense! Underwater rugby is truly a sport for anyone, and once you start you will improve quickly (we are all beginners at some point!). Take advice from teammates and learn to play as a team (cooperation is necessary to win!).
Underwater rugby is growing rapidly around the world. As I live in Australia, I can say we have at least one team in each major city and with a little help from google you can find a team near you. In fact, I will be visiting and having a play with the New Jersey Hammerheads this fall!
I have seen Sara without an H perform during a recital at Awakenings Pole Fitness, and loved seeing all of the different performances! We saw individual pole routines, partner routines, group routines, in addition to burlesque and aerial hoop routines. So what is pole fitness? Pole fitness uses a brass or chrome pole as a way to build strength and learn skills such as static holds, spins, and inversions. Dance movement and floor work is used to connect skills together to make a smooth flow. A typical class starts with a warm up and conditioning; pole-ups (like a pull up but on the pole) pole tucks, handstands. We then focus on skills, based on level. Class ends with a freestyle dance and stretch. Pole uses your whole body so it’s a great workout!
My background is dance and martial arts. I was looking to get back into dance and was having a hard time finding adult dance classes outside the city. I went to an open house at a gym and found pole. For me it was the perfect mix of fitness and dance. Pole allows me to express myself; it can be a physical challenge that leaves me sore but thrilled to learn a new skill or it can be sultry and sexy. I perform burlesque, pole, and lyra (aerial hoop) so I’m constantly looking to learn and grow. I don’t really like to workout – pole and aerials is all I do. I have been teaching with Awakenings Pole Fitness for 8 years. I started as a student and was hooked from my first class; pole feels like flying! I currently teach twice a week at Awakenings. Some students train once a week; others come 3-4 times per week. (Sara performed to “Take Me to Church” during a duet performance, and it was so beautiful and moving. Loved it!)
What do you love most about pole fitness?
I love seeing students when a new skill clicks! I also love seeing students build confidence in themselves and their bodies. You need skin to stick to the pole so as students advance, they will have to wear clothing that allows for that. I see many students start in baggie tops and longer shorts and after a while they are in a sport bra top and short shorts. We cheer each other on – pole welcomes a wide variety of body shapes, sizes, and ages.
What has pole fitness taught you about yourself?
It has taught me to appreciate what my body can do. Taking something that is hard and making it look effortless makes me proud; conversely it pushes me to keep learning new tricks and styles. I love sharing this passion with students and as a performer.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering trying it?
Bring a willingness to try! Pole is hard and takes time to build skills; I always say it is more like martial arts than yoga or spinning. To get to black belt, it takes years. Pole is similar in that it takes time, some skills may come easier, and others may be hard – but follow your journey and enjoy it as it goes!
When you find fitness you love, you:
- feel strong and powerful
- become part of a community
- have FUN
- set goals and measure your progress (then make new goals)
- are in a state of flow
- push yourself beyond what you thought was possible
Keep in mind that those are not among what I had listed as potential benefits of fitness at the beginning of this post. Our interviewees have revealed some incredible insights about what made them love fitness and what keeps them coming back! It’s really inspiring to see what fitness can teach us about ourselves and challenge us to become.
Hopefully you learned about a new type of fitness that you would like to try, or perhaps this motivated you to get out there and start trying new things. If there’s something you want to try, go for it! If you’re not sure what you would like, join a gym or studio that offers multiple fitness classes so you can try out lots and lots of different types. I joined AFC Fitness in Bala Cynwyd this summer, and have tried so many different types of classes, including Gentle Yoga, Zumba, Piloxing, and still want to try Cardio Kickboxing and Spin class, among others.
I want to hear from you! What type of fitness are you obsessed with? Tell me how you got started and what you have learned!
Until next time…