fitness · fitness classes · training · weight lifting

Fitness on the cheap: Sam joins a discount gym

Our group of regular bloggers is pretty privileged. Between us we pay for spin classes, CrossFit style studio memberships, rock climbing, coaches of all sorts, yoga classes, monthly access to indoor bike trainer facilities, Zwift memberships, personal training, and more. We try new things, like Orange Theory. I tell people I don’t have other hobbies and it’s my my form of recreation. But still, it’s costly.

(We’re not even going to talk about gear or clothing or bikes or boats, just the places we work out.)

Does fitness have to be expensive?

Recently I joined a discount gym. It’s not a chain fitness studio and it’s not $10 a month. But it’s close. It’s $20 a month and it’s open all the time, 24/7. I joined because I like to work out with my son sometimes and he’s got an all hours kind of schedule. It’s my personal trainer’s home gym and also the gym my physiotherapist goes to so I figured it must be okay.

What’s the price contrast? Let’s see, an hour of personal training costs twice as much as one month at the discount gym. A month at the gym costs the same as one session at the bike studio. Zwift is $15/month and that’s just a virtual world. You still need a bike and a trainer.

What I love so far:

  • When it’s staffed (regular hours) I can bring a friend anytime. It can be the same friend every time. And there is no pressure on them to join. After hours, there’s no staff and you use your card to get in. If you’re nervous, there are emergency call buttons on lanyards you can keep with you. 
  • It’s got every piece of workout equipment possible. It’s enormous. There are three big rooms and one is set up CrossFit style with room for ropes, tires, etc. There’s a sled to push and pull. There’s also a fitness studio with an app and workout videos to choose from to display on a big screen.
  • The other customers are an incredibly diverse bunch. I love the range of clothes people wear to workout. There are Italian grandmothers in cardigans, elastic waist pants, and flat dress shoes. There are serious powerlifters in all the gear. And everything in between. I love the high school students who come in after school in pretty much what they are wearing. Ditto the guys in construction boots and nurses still partly in uniform. There’s zero pressure to look all matchy-matchy in nice workout outfits. People are doing lots of different kinds of work outs and it’s all good.

What’s not so great?

  • Unlike classes and personal training and coached cycling/rowing workouts and boutique fitness studios like Cate’s feminist CrossFit or Tracy’s body-positive boot camp, or Orange Theory, you need to have a plan. It’s on you. You need to have a plan for what you are going to do when you get there. I cheat. I follow my son’s workout at about half the weight. But on my own I’m sometimes stuck and go back to old favourites. Lat pull down and bench press and deadlift, anyone? You also need to get there. When there isn’t a group and things start whenever you get there, I sometimes have a harder time getting myself out the door. Without a person whose expectations I want to live up to, sometimes it’s challenging to push yourself. 
  • Also because you can go anytime–24/7!–I can tend to put off going to the gym until later. I sometimes think what I need is a series of workouts on my phone that I can follow along with at the gym but my bad knee means I have to pick and choose. I manage. But I could be more thoughtful and deliberate about it.

Okay, now about you? Are your fitness activities all planned by you or by a trainer or by the agenda of group fitness? Do you go to pricey boutique studios or the generic discount gym? How much do finances and cost play a role in your choices?

people in gym exercising
A photo of a gym, lots of free weights, by Mark Bertulfo, Unsplash.

 

cycling · fitness classes · traveling

Sam worships at the church of spin and empowerment in Halifax, #SpinCo

The back story: I travel a lot for work and I struggle to combine work travel and fitness activities. I blog about it a lot. It’s a challenge. See here and here and here and here.

But it’s also a challenge that’s changed a lot over the years. Certainly it’s changed since we started the blog. The big difference is that I used to be able to count on walking a lot while traveling, carrying my own bags, and a little hotel room yoga to meet my fitness needs. These days though I can’t walk as much as I’d like. My knee is unreliable. Some days I can’t walk much at all.

So I’ve realized that to achieve my fitness goals and stay emotionally healthy I need actively pursue fitness while I travel. I need to take time out of my days to do specific fitnessy things. Everyday movement just won’t cut it. My knee even feels better with exercise so riding my bike has a kind of urgency about it these days. Heading out to Halifax for the Canadian Council of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science Deans annual meeting, I decided to take some spin classes while there.

So I searched online and found Spinco. They had classes at a time I was free and it was right downtown. I signed up for two classes.

Here’s my quick review:

👍 I loved the staff,. They were so warm and welcoming and enthusiastic. They helped store my new Brompton behind the counter, talked with me about Guelph and about spin classes, and they helped get me set up. They were probably the friendliest and most helpful fitness studio staff I’ve ever met and I’ve been to a lot of fitness studios in my life. Give these women raises!

👍 I loved the energy and the music. I even went looking for playlists on Spotify. Here’s one. The vibe was upbeat and happy. We worked hard but we also had a lot of fun.

👍 The physical space was bright and light and comfortable. They had nice lockers and showers. There was zero weight loss messaging and no scale in the locker room.

👍 I loved that I could use my road bike shoes. These were the first spin bikes I’ve seen that have Look Keo pedals. Most people won’t own them and the studio had cycling shoes which most people there were wearing.

👎I wasn’t a big fan of the music volume. I had a hard time hearing the instructor over the music. I kept thinking of your post Cate on what makes a good spin class. You would have also hated the volume. At one point I thought the instructor kept yelling “Wall Two, Wall Two” and I wondered what that meant. Some special SpinCo thing? No, it was of course “One Two.”

👎I also wasn’t a big fan of the dark. I couldn’t really see what the instructor was doing. There was a disco ball and groovy lighting but still, too dark for me.  When I went to get weights I couldn’t read the numbers of the end to see how heavy they were (not very) and to make sure I got a matched set. I nearly tripped returning my weights when it was all done! I would’ve put on my phone flashlight except I’d followed instructions to leave my phone in the locker.

👎 I missed having access to the data. I want to know my speed, my cadence, my power. These bikes didn’t have computers with the data. Now, this  is more a “spin/dance” class than an “indoor cycling” class but still. I missed my numbers!

👎 I felt a little bit out of place. There might have been two people in the class over the age of 30! There were a lot of pony tails and yoga pants and sports bras. It’s okay not to fit in and I’m comfortable with that most of the time but this was a bit much. (I went twice though and the weekend class was better. There were two guys and a couple of women closer to my age.)

❓ There was a lot of bike dancing. Check out the video below if you don’t know what I mean by that. So much moving around on the bike to music. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I might have preferred less of it truth be told, much as I love dancing off the bike. In order to keep my knee happy with all the dancing I had to keep a lot of tension on so I was in control but it’s nice to be able to do that now.

❓I was intrigued by the SpinCo motivational jam. It was like being at church with Oprah on speed. “You are enough. You are not broken. You are not the habits you acquired while coping with trauma. Those habits do not define you. It’s a new day. You are powerful. You can leave all your bad news behind in this class.”

You get the idea. It was pretty unrelenting. I didn’t mind it but it’s a definite thing.

It’s obviously connected to the company’s mission.

“It is our mission to empower and inspire our community. We are in the business of revolutionizing lives and know that our work is never done. We believe that strength comes from within, but that we are stronger as one. Our aim is to infuse our community with a positive, never-quit attitude, which reaches far beyond the doors of our studios. This is our culture. We believe in it. We live it. We breathe it. It’s who we are.”

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@brenden.butchart ⚡️🏁#SPINCOhalifax

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See lots more on their instagram page. Would I attend regularly if I lived in Halifax and worked downtown? Maybe. It was a pretty good workout. It was fun. I left in a good mood.  If i’m in Halifax for work again I’ll definitely go back.

YMMV.

fitness classes · flexibility · stretching

Sam is not a big fan of stretching but thinks the new fancy stretching machines are okay

Left to my own devices I am not a big fan of stretching. It’s time consuming, boring, and border line painful. It’s even more boring than physio exercises.

I like doing activities that involve stretching–yoga and Aikido, for example. But stretching after cycling, or worse yet, before, has never been my thing. At personal training Meg builds stretching into the workout and then I stretch. Yay! (Oh, you’ll get to meet Meg soon. She’s going to guest blog for us.) Yet my knee physio involves daily stretching and I struggle to get myself to do it.

However, the Guelph gym has these cool fancy stretching machines that get you into position and then leave your hands free to check your phone while holding a stretch. I really like them.

Image description: Sam’s right leg in a hamstring stretching machine. She’s wearing black capris and purple sneakers.

I confess though when I am getting myself into the machine I keep thinking of medieval torture instruments. I’m reminded of a novel I read–was it by Rose Tremain?–about a young woman captured by the Inquisition who looked on at the stretching rack, knowing that she would die on it, waiting her turn. It’s one of three stories in the book. One of the others was about Joan of Arc. If you know the name of the book, could you let me know? I’m digressing. Sorry!)

But the university stretching machines are all self-controlled and you can get to a just barely comfortable position, check your Facebook notifications, and then stretch some more. I like that. I approve comments on blog posts and play moves in various word games. All while stretching.

Fitness magazines tell me that stretching is the New Big Thing. There are even whole classes devoted just to stretching and now stretching studios. For now, I’m sticking to the stretching machines and Meg’s stretching routines and the ones I can manage to do at home.

How are you about stretching? Do you like it? Do you do it?

fitness · fitness classes · Guest Post · habits · health · Metrics · motivation · Tools · trackers

A WayBetter way to exercise? (Guest post)

Elan Paulson is an exercise-curious, occasional guest blogger on FIAFI.

The world of business has many concepts to describe how it sells things to people. One is innovation. According to Clayton M. Christiansen here and in other places, there are two main kinds of innovation.

  • Sustaining innovation refers to how businesses with many resources (those that dominate the market) make a product better for their target consumers.
  • Disruptive innovation refers to how businesses with fewer resources explore new ways of meeting the demands and interests of new or underserved consumers.

According to Christiansen, sustainers focus on improving a product, while disruptors challenge sustainer dominance by focusing on changing processes (of product creation, distribution, etc.). Disruption occurs when the innovation becomes mainstream.

There’s more to say about these concepts, including my critique of them as lens for sense-making, but for the moment I want to use them to understand WayBetter, a subscription service that has emerged in the health and wellness app industry.

In its About section, one of the WayBetter co-founders describes its services as “a whole category of games that help people stick to their commitments” because “life is better when you can turn work into play.”

This is what he means: Users bet their own money that they can accomplish a specific time-bound exercise goal. After the allotted time, users who achieved the behaviour-based goal receive back their own money (through a point system) as well as a cut of what was ponied up by those who did not meet the goal. Picture-taking and sync-ups with exercise tracking technology are put in place to minimize cheating.

In Christiansen’s terms, WayBetter is a disruptive innovation for how it has found a new process to promote exercise behaviours. (Its name suggests that it has literally found a “better way” to exercise). While other companies sell on-site, group-based fitness memberships and training services, WayBetter offers the flexibility of anytime, anywhere activity as well as the support of a group. WayBetter emphasizes how the process is fun: pay yourself for exercising. WayBetter has developed a market not in exercise programming but in exercise motivating.

However, WayBetter is a disruptor not because it turns “work into play” but because one could regard this as a betting service, or a form of gambling. (Waybetter). On one hand, the “game” is betting on yourself, and getting back your money simply by doing the exercise that you said you would do. On the other hand, an enterprising exerciser could choose “runbets” that other exercisers might be less likely to complete, thus maximizing their chance of a higher return than what they initially bet. WayBetter turns exercise into a game of predictive markets, and exercisers into investors.

So, it’s possible to think about WayBetter as a disrupter not for how it reaches underserved consumers (read unsuccessful/unmotivated exercisers) but for how it has created a new market—one of venture capitalism. Motivate yourself not simply to do exercise but to earn money off of the failure of others to motivate themselves to exercise.

At the moment, WayBetter’s dietbet claims 700,000 users, and the runbet website boasts that users have logged over 1,677,000 miles. I don’t know details about its income, but WayBetter takes a rake of each bet and uses third-party advertising. With no compensation, stock, acquisitions, or other company information currently available on Bloomberg, it’s not fully clear whether WayBetter’s disruptive innovation will become a sustained innovation.

But I believe it will become a sustained innovation because the value of its ability to change behaviour pales in its ability to change in mindset about exercise not (only) as a game but as a financial investment. WayBetter’s legacy may very well be how it and other services like it will change the very meaning of exercise by casting it (explicitly or implicitly) in market terms.

And, whether consumers win, recover, or lose their money, WayBetter still comes out Way Ahead.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

fitness classes · yoga

Live music vs. live goats in yoga class: which is better?

Catherine on 6 ways live music is better than live goats in yoga class:

  1. Goats don’t have fingers, so they’re not adept at playing either keyboards or cello.
  2. Musicians don’t stand on your back during crocodile and plank pose.
  3. Musicians (for the most part) poop in private.
  4. Reproducing music for at-home yoga requires only a CD or mp3; reproducing goats for at-home yoga is a much bigger commitment.
  5. The kind of chanting goats do doesn’t conform to any Sanskrit texts I know of.
  6. Musicians might be bad but goats can be really baaaaaaaad…
The actual bass player who played for my yoga class (although this isn't my yoga class).
The actual bass player who played for my yoga class (although this isn’t my yoga class).

Sam on 6 ways live goats are better than live music in yoga class:

  1. Goats make me smile, especially when they stand on your back during child’s pose. Musicians don’t do that.
  2. Goat yoga feels less serious and more playful. Yoga with music might, for me, feel more like a performance.
  3. Baby goats are clumsy (like me!) and live music is usually rhythmic and orderly.
  4. You don’t get to feed the musicians bottles and tuck them into bed after yoga and the farm I do goat yoga at lets you do that with the goats.
  5. Goats provide excellent distractions when the poses are too hard.
  6. Goats sometimes nibble on your yoga clothes so everyone wears scruffy old clothes not pricey Lululemon matching outfits.
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#goatyoga

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Bottle feeding a baby goat

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So many goats

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Crossfit · cycling · fitness · fitness classes · Rowing

Sam Tries Orange Theory Fitness

It’s January. It’s cold and grey and I’ve been feeling in a bit of a fitness rut. Besides the campus gym I haven’t really stepped out into the fitness world in Guelph. But my options are limited here. There’s less going on than in Toronto where I spent sabbatical and even less going on than in London.

Sarah and I tried out Zwift at the Bike Shed on Saturday and on my own I went and tried out Orange Theory.

I’ve always been a bit of an attention deficit disorder exerciser. I like to have lots of options. And lately it’s been feeling like it’s just a matter of giving things up: running, soccer, Aikido and CrossFit.

Snipe racing is new but it’s winter.

Enter Orange Theory. I first noticed them in London and there’s one in Guelph. I knew the format. Like CrossFit it’s a group workout, a mix of cardio and strength training. I have friends who go and think it’s fun.

I stopped in on Friday for a demo class. I was equipped with a heart rate monitor and my name and heart rate appeared on a screen in the gym. The instructor asked about my fitness background and got points for not even once mentioning weight loss.

As for the class itself, there was a nice gender mix, mostly women but some men. I used the rowing machine and the spin bike instead of running on the treadmill for the cardio bit. I alternated 400 m segments of rowing with 1 mile efforts on the bike as prescribed by the workout of the day. The classes are 1 hour long and that felt just right.

The strength training was mostly chest and triceps using the bench, dumbbells, and the TRX. Each person got their own station. Unlike CrossFit there was no competition and no team efforts. There was no measuring or comparing. I have mixed feelings about that but right now, that works for me.

The instructor also got points for showing me where the heavier dumbbells live!

What did I like? As with personal training it feels good just to show up and have some one else plan the workout. I liked that about CrossFit too. I like the cardio and strength training mix, again like CrossFit. The group vibe works for me. I like that it’s month by month so I could sign up for the worst of winter, say January through March, and then say goodbye and head outside again. It also works with my limitations right now.

I could do without the calorie counts. Yawn.

Have you ever tried Orange Theory Fitness? Love it? Hate it? Tell us your story!

Here’s the results of my workout emailed to me after the class. Lots of time in the green cardio zone but also I was just learning my way around.

fitness · fitness classes

All I want for Christmas is: to fly…

Exercise, and physical activity in general, really helps keep me calm, focused, and grounded. In a good way. I love the sound of rubber tires humming on the asphalt as I cycle in the countryside. Feeling my two feet connected to the yoga mat, supporting me as I reach overhead or forward or back, conveys strength, security and solidity. Again, in a good way.

I wrote recently about having finally discovered the joys of weight training, which seems (so far) all about solidity– muscle, sinew, iron. And I like it.

But these days I’m finding myself wanting something different– a feeling of airiness, of height, of weightlessness. In short, I’d like to experience the world from a different perspective. I need some air around me.

No, this is not going to be a blog post about skydiving, although I’m sure that’s a fine thing (you do you). It’s also not going to be a blog post about thrilling, death-defying (or accelerating) extreme sports. Again, go for it if you like.

I’m talking about expanding my physical activity regimen in 2019 to include something that lets me explore space in a different way, from a variety of perspectives and perches.

I’m talking about parkour.

You may be thinking: what’s parkour? Here’s a short description from this site:

Parkour can be defined as the practice of moving logically and creatively through a – typically – urban setting to get from a start point to an end point as quickly as possible. This involves physically overcoming barriers on any given route, creating inventive but practical ways in which from get from A to B as efficiently as possible.

Mpora.com

Well, that sounds okay, like running an obstacle course, right?

No, it’s much much more than that. Check out what Dan Edwardes (guy who runs a big parkour organization) says about it:

[Parkour is] also a transformative practice which aims for self-improvement on all levels in the practitioner, developing resilience, courage, strength of mind, adaptability, humility and a sense of community. People get involved for all sorts of reasons, but often just for the sheer enjoyment and pleasure of moving and using the body the way it has evolved to be used. It’s a challenging activity that actually asks you to use your physical and mental capabilities to overcome movement tasks and achieve more than you thought possible.”

Mpora.com

That sounds much better. But of course there are lots of activities that transform us, challenge us, please us.

You would also be right to point out that I am very late to this party. Parkour probably peaked in the aughts. The TV show The Office had an episode featuring Parkour (you can see a clip here), which I saw yesterday (thanks, Emma!) but which originally aired in 2009.

So why me and why now?

  • I’m still in PT for my sprained ankle, but that’s winding down.
  • I just saw that the Boston parkour place has classes nearby for 50+ adults.
  • I’m looking for a regimen of exercise to help me be stronger and more agile, and reduce my risk of future sprains, etc.
  • I watched some cool parkour videos and loved the idea of being able to walk on high things, jump from heights, climb things, and see the world from above. All without hurting myself (other than some minor scratches and bruises…)

Honestly, simple-looking but impossible-for-me-right-now moves like these would be great to do:

Yeah, I may not be flying through the air with the greatest of ease yet. But taking on something completely new is exciting.

Have any of you readers tried this? I’d love to hear from you. I’ll also report back after a class or two (my friend Pata is in, and Norah is a maybe).