CityShred with Friends

I had so many reasons not to participate in CityShred in Toronto on July 16th, described as, “the EPIC group-training experience that challenges you to push your limits, work as a team and SHRED limited beliefs, together is BACK for the BIGGEST SUMMER SHRED TO DATE.”

My gym, Move Fitness Club, shared the information with its members, explaining that they were going to have a booth at the event and encouraging us to join in the FUN!!

The athlete in me was intrigued by the idea of a different, intense, workout, to shake-up my very regular routine. If some of my workout buddies would be there, all the better. The other side of my brain worried pictures of the event hinted at a much younger, influencer, crowd. Also, there are certain activities I know I have no interest in participating in – I don’t want to climb walls – for example. The pictures of previous CityShred events seemed more of a very intense conditioning workout than an obstacle-style course, which I imagined I would love. Also, I have long believed that shaking things up doesn’t have to mean doing things OUTSIDE of my comfort zone. It can mean amping things up and new things WITHIN that zone. So if I went to the event and I could do most of it and decided not to do the odd thing, it would still be worth it.

Planning to participate in the event, for me, meant considering my usual workout schedule for the week and switching some things around. I didn’t want to do the usual Saturday conditioning class at Move, the day before CityShred. Sometimes parts of my body are still sore after my Thursday (run), Friday (strength), Saturday (conditioning) workouts and, not knowing what was ahead for me on Sunday, meant I was being cautious. It’s one thing to do my usual long run on Sunday. Another, to do new things, with sore muscles. For a routine-oriented person, like myself, changing up my overall schedule can be a bit anxiety inducing but is also part of the point – something different.

Speaking of potentially sore muscles, I also made sure I did some “runner’s yoga” on Saturday.

Details for the event said that it would take place from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. It was at Varsity Stadium in Toronto, which is a huge football field that is part of the University of Toronto. The doors would open at 8:30. They encouraged people to get there early as the first 400 entrants would be given the swag bags and there were TLF Athletic Apparel Outfit for participants, while quantities lasted. The workout was supposed to go from 10 am to 12:30 pm, with a “burpee challenge” at 9:30 am, which I wasn’t planning to participate in because I didn’t want to burn myself out before the main event. Looking back, I think I should have participated in it, even for the personal challenge, which involved pairs doing as many burpees as they could for 10 mins straight. The winning pair completed 400+ burpees and won $2000. I wouldn’t have jumped to near 400 burpees, but I might have had fun trying.

On Sunday, I awoke with a feeling of anticipation, at 5ish. That’s not far off from when I typically get up for my long run, around 6. I had my coffee and a protein bar, organized my things, relaxed and started off on foot to the event (according to Google, it’s 4.9 km) around 7:30 am. I arrived at Varsity Stadium at 8:20ish and there was already quite a long line up at the entrance. As I waited, my friends started to arrive and joined me in line. Laura, Kat, Sanu and I were in the line together. Rose, Marina and her sister arrived a bit later and met us inside at the Move booth, which was staffed by our wonderful and long-time coaches, Barb and Bethany, as well as with new staff member, Sara.

It seems the line to get in took much longer than the organizers anticipated. The people working the swag desk seemed a little overwhelmed at the volume of people trying to get their right size. We didn’t get past the registration/swag pick-up/outfit pick-up until almost 9:30 am. Those of us who arrived earlier were able to snag these items, but anyone who arrived even 10 min after us seemed to have lucked out. The swag bags contained the typical fitness event items, of different hydration packets, protein snacks, coupons for products sponsoring the event. If you were able to get the swag bag and outfit, those items alone covered the entry fee of $40.

Once inside the stadium we had time to walk around the booths and try some samples. I enjoyed one of the products so much that I bought some online later to use at the office. Polar Joe is marketed as a functional iced coffee with a good amount of protein. I have been looking for something to tie me over in the afternoons at work, so that I don’t feel the need to go out and buy another Americano Misto that day. I certainly was their target audience!

After bits of samples of energy snacks and drinks (and trying not to enjoy too much before the workout which wouldn’t have been good for my stomach) the warm-up appeared to be underway, about 11:15 am, so a bit later than anticipated. Our group got ready to go on the turf. While fun, the warm-up turned out to be a series of gym spotlights, with trainers talking about their coming-to-fitness stories, before doing a bit of a warm-up. It felt a little stop/start/stop/start and it would have benefited from the use of the big screen because it wasn’t always easy to see what the trainers were doing enclosed within a circle of people. The stories were inspirational, for sure, but I would have liked a more continuous warm-up to keep the energy going and think organizers might consider telling their stories during the workout rather than before each segment.

At this point we joked we needed to think of this event as a “fitness festival” more than an intense fitness workout event. As a fitness festival it was ticking a lot of boxes. Swag, samples, inspiration, bits of movement.

After the 30 minute warm-up we started off as a group running the track 2 times before getting into groups in a line behind several rope ladders (on the ground on the turf) for a series of drills. There was another set of track running in between drills. We were encouraged not to bring our water bottles on the turf to avoid tripping hazards. For someone, like me, that was a bit of challenge, not having my water bottle with me, while exercising, particularly in muggy weather. Luckily, while muggy, it wasn’t particularly sunny, so it was manageable.

Bethany commented how amazing it was to see everyone (organizers said 1500 were there but seemed more like 800 in person) running together around the field. The feeling in the crowd was collegial. It didn’t feel super competitive, which is great. It felt very motivational for all levels. It felt mostly like an easy jog for me. Our small group is fairly homogeneous, given that we are a women-focussed gym, but the overall group did seem diverse. More diverse in colour and gender, than in age. I would say the age range was mostly somewhere around 30 with some much older (like me) and some a little younger. Even though I am much older than 30-something, I didn’t feel like I stuck out in the crowd. It felt as though if you were there to participate and have fun you were welcome. It’s possible, that if this type of message was more widely broadcast, these types of events would attract more older life athletes.

The drills were the toughest part, in the way I enjoy. They reminded me of our Move’s outdoor conditioning workouts, which we did a lot of during the pandemic and which I loved. This part did feel a little more competitive for me in the way that I grew conscious of trying not to hold people up on the ladder behind me. People were good about running around others, if necessary, when sprinting, etc. There were side shuffles, hops, bear crawls, sprawls, and did I mention sprinting?

When we left around 1 pm, I felt like it was a good workout, although not my toughest by far. I thought I would want to still go to my regular gym class the next day and signed up for my usual 6:30 am class. But, as the day went on, reality set in and I felt my legs stiffen up. I realized I would be better off giving them a break the next morning. That’s one of the things I’m trying to get myself to accept. It doesn’t come easily to me, but my legs would benefit from a rest day. I keep reading about the benefits of rest days to make sure my brain understands it and makes peace with the concept. I do notice, after days of intense workouts, my body seems to get a bit more agitated, without a rest day, and that seems to defeat the purpose of the mental health boost I have always gotten from the exercise itself. Rest, here and there, seems to be the key for balancing agitation at this stage of my fitness journey.

Our little group of gym buddies enjoyed the day together and we all commented how nice it was to do something together outside of the gym. I’ve mentioned before, and I’ll mention again, one of the reasons I enjoy my routine so much, is the friendship and community I derive from the small group of regulars (and coaches) I see regularly.

All in all, the “fitness festival” was a great way to spend half a Sunday and was indeed a little shake-up to my routine.

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and two dogs and is likely going back to her exercise routine this week.

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