Category Archives: Exercise

NSH Lady Project, Strength in Balance & Andrea Quigley Maynard Teaming Up for Active Night

NSH LadyNext Friday, October 17th, 2014, the NSH Lady Project is hosting their first Active night at Strength in Balance.  The event starts at 7pm. For just $5 (all of which is being donated to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Nashua), you’ll get to mingle with some new ladies you haven’t met before, take an introductory Booty Barre class with Becki Somers and you’ll get to hear me talk!

I’ll be teaching a class on Eating for Energy & Vitality (something many of us could use some help with).   I’m so excited about it!  We’ll talk about some of the most common culprits that sap our energy throughout the day, natural ways you can boost your energy and some of the best foods for keeping energy levels strong.  I’ll also be sending folks home with some delicious recipes they can make themselves.

Those of you who follow me on facebook or read my blog regularly know that I’m a huge fan of the classes at Strength in Balance – I’ve been going to classes there at least 4 days a week for almost a whole year now.  It’s an amazing workout and Becki is a great instructor.  This event really is a great chance for you to try it! It’s challenging but also a lot of fun!

You can purchase your ticket here.  Hurry though, space is limited (due to the size of the studio)! See you Friday October 17!

Do it Because You Can

Move because you can.

Do it because you can, even if you don’t want to because someone else can’t.

Some mornings, I’m more likely to hit the snooze button than get out of bed to go work out.  Though I have to say I usually only do that now on days when I know I can get my exercise in later in the day.  If I have a packed day ahead of me and my only opportunity to exercise is first thing, well you can bet I’m getting up.  I’m squeezing myself into a sports bra, pulling my hair into some sort of attempt at a ponytail, grabbing a smoothie out of the fridge and on my way in less than 10 minutes from when I hop out of bed.  Sometimes I just want to go crawl back in bed but I don’t, for a few reasons, but one that stands out to me more and more the older I get is:  Because I can.

I walk because I can.
I run (sometimes!) because I can.
I bust my butt at Booty Barre because I can.
I ride my bike outside in the summer and my indoor spin bike in the winter, because I can.
I lift weights in my living room because I can.
I do yoga at home, outdoors and in a studio because I can.
I do push ups & crunches because I can.
I go swimming because I can.

I do these things even though I don’t always want to. Sometimes I’d much rather just lay on the couch and watch TV. Sometimes it would be way more fun to go out for a cocktail.  And sometimes when I’m in a grumpy mood, even though I know working out will make me feel better, I just straight up want to stay my grumpy self. Most of the time, I do what my body feels capable of each day – even if it is just something small (and yes I do allow for rest when it’s needed). And I push forward because I can.

Why am I repeating myself? What’s the significance of “because I can”?  Well I have 3 people whose experiences I can thank for it.

The College Roomie’s Mother
In college, we walked all over campus, all of the time. Over time, as some of my friends brought their cars on to campus (parking was always a pain), the idea that we wouldn’t have to hoof it from one end of campus to another on foot was pretty appealing! One friend insisted we still walk everywhere even when her car was parked directly outside of our apartment. Me and our other friends would complain and tease her, saying “Ug, you make us walk everywhere!”  One day, as we were walking across T-hall lawn, she turned to us and said “You want to know why I walk everywhere? Well some days my Mom can’t. Some days her legs don’t work, so as long as mine do, I’m going to walk everywhere I can.”

Her mother had MS, which all of us knew, but we didn’t really know enough about the day to day goings of someone dealing with it.  We were young, the general public was less informed about it than they are today and this friend didn’t talk about this stuff with us very often. While it helped me understand my friend better and what her family was going through, I don’t think it had a huge impact on me personally then, but a seed was definitely planted in my mind.

My Mother
Many of you know that my mother passed away just after I graduated college, and her passing has heavily influenced my lifestyle decisions since.  But even before she passed, my mind was often on her health. She was a smoker, had asthma (and more lung issues but we didn’t know it yet) and I remember coming home for a holiday break and hearing her having coughing fits in the middle of the night, so bad, that I got up to check on her.  She was up doing a nebulizer treatment (a common sight in our house – most of our family had asthma) for the second time in an hour – which was not like her.  Coughing fits were the norm, having the nebulizer not help the first time wasn’t. In fact, her cough was so distinct (at least to us kids) that when I was in the Catholic school choir and the school attended a monthly mass together, my sisters and I always knew when our Mom was able to make it, without even seeing her, because we would hear her cough and recognize she was in the building. My mother quit smoking not too long after the two nebulizer night but her lungs only got worse.

Regular breathing was such a struggle, that without her saying anything, I learned to recognize the signs – shoulders up high and lips pursed, it would take up a ton of her energy to just breathe.  But she continued doing things normally as much as she could.  Going to the grocery store, I’d offer to push the carriage but she wouldn’t give it up.  I realized later that it wasn’t because she wanted to be tough, it was because she literally needed it to hold her up, because she was exhausting herself just trying to breathe, something that most of us take for granted.

My father gave her a hard time about needing to exercise – he (and my sisters & I) thought, that if only she exercised, her lungs would get stronger and her “asthma” wouldn’t be so bad.  Her “asthma” at this point was really end stage COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) but none of us knew this, and if she did, she kept it from us.  Her exercise goal was just to walk to and from the mailbox a few times a day. She said she would be proud of herself if she could do that. Our mailbox was not very far from our house. I have no clue what the length of our driveway was, but if you parked 5 cars back to back from our doorstep to the mailbox you would probably reach the mailbox before the last car was even squeezed in.  Covering that tiny distance took everything she had.  And she’d have to stop and catch her breath when she came back in the house.

Looking back, the biggest sign of how sick my mother was and how limited her physical mobility was, came my junior year in college. I was living at the “Gables”, UNH’s on-campus apartments and my mother was coming to pick me up so I could work for the weekend.  She hadn’t see my apartment yet and I was excited for her to see it and meet my new roommates.  When she arrived, she called me on her “emergency” cell phone.  Back then, no one used cell phones for anything but emergencies but my mother wanted to let me know she was there but didn’t want to come up. I gave her a hard time.  I really wanted her to come see my place! The building we were in had a little cul de sac out directly in front of the doors, you weren’t supposed to park there but we all did if we were just going to be a minute (the parking lot was really far away otherwise), then you walked down a short hallway into an elevator, rode it to the 6th floor and my apartment door was right in front of you.  She would not have had to walk very far at all – probably no farther than the distance to the mailbox.  I was a bratty know it all 20 year old and acted ridiculous about her not wanting to come up.  I couldn’t comprehend how she wasn’t fit enough to come inside. Even though she told me she just didn’t have the energy to come up, I saw it as her being “lazy” but what it really was was her cells being completely starved of oxygen because of the COPD.  She was in tears (and I probably was too) by the time I got down to the car.  She rarely let us see her upset so I knew she had to be hurting.  Still, I didn’t quite get the message until later.

My Aunt
My mother had one sister, Denise.  She was “Aunt Ninny” to my sisters and I.  She never married and had no children.  She chose a life of freedom & adventures with her friend’s John, Rosie and Linda, instead of settling down with a family. She enjoyed wine, cheesecake and her dog when she wasn’t hitting the casino or visiting a new city.  She was one of the most giving and hilarious people I’ve ever known.

She also was a smoker and had asthma.  She spent many years on corticosteroid inhalers to control the asthma and that medication caused osteoporosis. One day, she had a coughing fit and coughed so hard that she fractured her T4 and T5 vertebrae. When brought to the hospital she was still able to walk so no one thought it was that serious, but within a day or two she mentioned being unable to feel her legs and then after that she lost all movement and sensation.  She ended up being paralyzed from the waist down and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, which sadly was only a few years. She spent many months in the hospital and in rehab and then many more months in a nursing home while her home was renovated to be wheelchair friendly. Doing basic tasks for herself became impossible. Things we all take for granted – cooking, going to the bathroom, showering, walking the dog, reaching for a cup on a shelf – were all out of reach.  Her vibrant life was whittled down to days spent waiting for others to come visit or assist her with everything, and though she tried to put on a brave face when we came to visit, you could see in her eyes just how painful her new reality was.

My Motivation
The conversation with my college friend happened around 1997 or 1998, my Mother passed in 2001 and Ninny died in 2005.  By the time Ninny became paralyzed I had fully heard the message – do what you can, while you can.

Nothing is guaranteed.  You could say that both my mother and aunt ended up the way they did because of smoking, so if you just don’t smoke, you’ll be ok, but that’s not true.  People who don’t smoke get Emphysema and COPD, get paralyzed and develop MS. And there are countless other conditions or unfortunate situations that arise suddenly and can take away one’s ability to do the things they love or do the things that keep us physically fit.

Exercise keeps me sane.  It gives me an outlet for nervous energy, helps give me focus and clarity.  It helps lower my blood pressure, reduces my chances of getting sick and gives me energy to get through each day.  It keeps me strong enough to pick up my 70lb niece like a sack of potatoes and climb 5 flights of stairs to get to a class.  Being able to move when I want to and because I want to is currently a choice, but if it was suddenly taken away from me, whether through my own fault or not, I would be devastated.  So, I will continue to move when I can and how I can, not just because of the benefits I outlined above, but because I CAN.

I keep my friend’s mom, my mom, and my aunt in the back of my mind when I’m thinking about skipping my workouts.  I know not everyone feels the same love & need for exercise that I do and I understand that.  But if you enjoy your physical ability to do anything you want, I hope you honor it by indulging your body and moving it the way it was meant to be moved, even if “movement” for you means going apple picking with the kids, visiting a new city on foot with friends or just getting your feet wet at the pool.

What’s your motivation for exercise or for pushing forward when you don’t want to? How do you honor your body?

Let’s Go to the Barre!

 

Coaching Blog Photos1If you knew me when I was in my 20’s, it would probably be not too far of a stretch to say that I was addicted to going to the bar.  Now, in my 30’s, I’m also addicted to going to the Barre.  I never thought I’d enjoy going to a fitness class so much that I would drive 40 minutes to it, each way.  But I do.  In case you’ve never heard of Barre, the classes are fitness classes that are based on ballet, pilates and yoga.  I’ve had such a good experience with the classes that I wanted to share about them here.  I love sharing things that I love because I think you will love them too!

I started taking Barre classes at Strength in Balance NH (the first barre-only studio in NH) last November.  I bought a groupon/living social deal with a friend and settled in to enjoy what I thought would be a handful of reasonably priced fitness classes.  I’d workout and move on to something else when I used up all of my classes . . .because that’s what I usually do with trying something new (BECAUSE I HAVE ADD AND GET BORED EASILY. WHY AM I YELLING?).

I enjoyed my first classes.  I thought they were challenging but still doable no matter what your fitness level with modifications. I enjoyed the classes so much that I signed up for a 90 day 50 class challenge in January when I used up my deal classes. I knew it was going to be tough for me to make it to 50 classes in winter (when I live in a town that thinks snow plowing is optional) but I was determined to do it.  It was tough!  Towards the end of the challenge, I had to double up on classes just to get them all in but it was totally worth it.  I lost 8.6 lbs and 23 inches over the 90 days!

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of exercises – running, cycling, Body Pump, yoga, heavy weights – you name it. My body changed with those things for sure, but Barre hits spots that no other exercise gets to in the same way.  For the first time in my life I’m wearing skinny jeans.  Even when I weighed 30 lbs less than I do now you would never have caught me in a pair of skinny jeans because they just didn’t look right on me. I’m not a tiny girl but I now look fab in my skinny jeans.  I’m noticing definition in places that have never had definition before (hello abs? I have some under there?) and changes in places that have historically been impossible to change (for me at least), my inner thighs!   I can even now zip up knee high boots over my calves . . .something that was pretty tough even when I was my thinnest 5 years ago.  Barre can be crazy hard but it’s also crazy effective.

The instructors constantly change up the workouts so I’m not getting bored and my muscles continue to be challenged.  Just when I think I’ve got a certain move mastered or that something should be getting “easy”, we do something else and I feel like I’m at square one.  It never gets “easy”.  You’d think that would be unmotivating, but it’s not!  I keep coming back because I’m getting results (results I wasn’t getting even when I used to run 25 miles a week).

It’s not just a great workout.  It’s also a positive and warm environment. The instructors, Becki Somers (owner), and Julia LeFebvre make it a point to learn everyone’s name who comes to class. I’m always impressed at the effort they put into making newcomers feel welcome and comfortable.  There’s nothing worse than going to a new class for the first time and having it feel like a big high school clique. I’ve been to some straight up snotty & superficial classes before. That’s definitely not the case here.  Everyone is too busy trying not to slip on the floor in their own sweat puddle to spend a moment judging you.  There’s a lot of laughter and joking among the women who come to class. It’s a great group of women. Everyone is super friendly and welcoming.  We may not know each other’s names (in some cases) but if I’m sweating alongside you for months while we both curse the little blue sponge ball that we’re squeezing between our thighs (while on our toes and in a pulsing plié) I feel like we’ve bonded.  Sweaty sisterhood.

If you live in the Nashua or Hudson, NH area and are tired of your current workout or looking for something to help you get through a plateau, you should come check it out!  Strength in Balance NH is right on the Nashua/Hudson border on Bridge St.  There’s a fabulous deal/challenge going on right now. It’s the Bikini Challenge (no bikini involved) and it’s $99 for UNLIMITED classes for 6 weeks.  You can sign up between now and May 25th.  It’s a ridiculous deal and I’ve already signed myself up for it.  If you’re interested and thinking of checking it out but feeling intimidated, let me know when you’re going and I’ll come with you if I can!

A couple of things you might want to know before going:

  • Your first class is free!  And you can sign up online for it.
  • Class is done barefoot or in socks (if it’s cold)
  • Yoga mats, weights, thera-bands, and any other equipment you’ll need is provided
  • You don’t have to have a dance background or be graceful to take these classes
  • You’ll probably be really sore after your first class (even if you workout already). My calves were so tight after my first class that I almost fell getting out of bed the next morning.  Husband thought that was hilarious.

Oh and the studio just moved to a new location on Bridge St and they may not have signs up when you go, so check out my little dorky picture spread below to give you hints about how to get there.  It’s like fitness and a treasure hunt all in one.  Aren’t you lucky?!

The new studio is a little tricky to find if you've never been in this area before so I made you dorky OCD picture directions!

The new studio is a little tricky to find if you’ve never been in this area before so I made you dorky OCD picture directions!

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How Ninjas Spend Their Sunday Mornings in Manchester, NH

Photos courtesy of Karen Gagnon

Photos courtesy of Karen Gagnon

Last Sunday, I took an Introduction to Aerial Fitness Circus Workshop with my friend Karen.  She bought a groupon for the workshop earlier this winter and asked if I would go with her. I love trying out new ways to get and stay fit so I jumped at the chance to try it even though the idea of me doing “Aerial Circus” conjured up not very graceful images in my head.  Willing, yes.  Graceful, no (but working on that!).

The workshop was through Go Ninja which is a part of Bareknuckle Murphy’s Boxing Gym in Manchester, NH.  When you first walk in to the gym, there are colorful silks hanging down from wooden beams on the ceiling and a boxing ring in the background.  Our instructor, Heather Murphy, was super welcoming and made us feel comfortable with her sense of humor and no bs attitude.  She ran our group through a warm up that included jumping jacks, downward dogs, planks and a few different stretches for our hip flexors and wrists and had us introduce ourselves. Once we were warmed up, she showed us how to tie a knot in the silks that would be supporting our bodies while we were in the air.  If you are afraid of heights, have no fear (or not too many) we made our knots low to the ground since we were all beginners.  Heather told us they have a “no falling” rule and none of us wanted to break it!  She stressed that we needed to learn the foundation of each move and how to activate our core before we could go on to crazy complicated stuff.  She made the moves look so easy but some require a ton of strength and all require trusting in yourself (and in the silks) for support.

We had a blast!  I got sweaty palms just watching Heather do some tricks on the silks but once I got on it and felt how strong it was (the silks are rated for supporting 2000lbs) and could feel how close the floor was, it became a lot less scary to lift my legs up over my head and go into an inversion or stand on the rope with both legs.  It was a little difficult to get comfortable with how the silks felt pressing in to my back/waist but they had little foam “noodles” you could use to pad the area – it helped a lot!

Photo courtesy of Karen Gagnon

Photo courtesy of Karen Gagnon

I definitely plan to take more aerial classes.  I actually can’t wait!  It was super fun and challenging!

In addition to the Aerial Fitness Circus classes, Go Ninja also offers Modern Dance, Pilates, Aerial Yoga, Mixed Martial Arts and workshops for kids and moms.   They also offer private sessions and can host parties.  This workshop would make a great alternative for a healthy bachelorette party or girls night out.  If you want to try something new and build confidence – check them out!  The best way to make exercise a consistent part of your life is to find something you really enjoy doing.  Don’t be afraid to try new things!  Everyone was a beginner once!

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