fitness · motivation · strength training

Mashing Up A New Workout Routine to Replace the Spin and Aerial Studios

Like most everyone here at Fit Is A Feminist Issue, I’ve modified my workouts in response to COVID. On the curve, I’d place myself on the low end of creativity in this regard. For the first several months, I was in California and had access to mountain trails, so my only modification was switching from yoga in a studio to live virtual. And even then, when I’m in California I only do yoga once every 10 days or so. So that wasn’t a big adjustment. I did buy a $7 jump rope, to fill in for some incidental movement that I wasn’t getting (thank you, Cate Creede, a fellow blogger here, for the idea).

But now I’m back in New York City and there’s more to replace. Here, I usually do aerial yoga classes, instead of regular mat yoga. And I can’t replicate it at home in my apartment. The Anti-Gravity studio is not offering any virtual classes and, if they did, I’d have to figure out how to install a hammock at home, which requires either access to a major structural beam or quite a bit of space for a hammock stand. In pre-COVID times, I did aerial yoga at least once a week, and very often twice (riding a Citibike back and forth to the class).

Then there’s indoor cycling classes, or studio cycling or spin classes, whatever I’m supposed to call them, at Soul Cycle. That’s currently impossible and I can’t even imagine when next I’ll feel comfortable enough to spin furiously, sweat profusely and breathe heavily in an enclosed space with a group of people. So that’s off the table. I don’t have a peloton or Zwift or anything at home that gives me a biking option. Oh, except for my actual road bike in the closet, which I somehow cannot get up the energy to freshen up for the season. Road cycling, unlike running, is one of those sports that I need to do with a friend. And I’m short on cycling company at the moment.  

So running and live virtual yoga are my go-tos. But as time has gone on, I’ve gotten inspired by all the home gym initiatives that others (particularly on this blog) have taken. I’ve been experimenting with building one new routine (baby steps). Early on, I added in Trail Runner’s eight-minute speed legs. Then, when I got back to NYC, I decided to upgrade my jump rope to a Crossrope. Theoretically, I can now clip on and off different weights of rope up to 2 lbs. I haven’t actually purchased anything other than the ¼ pound rope so far. I liked the green colour. And I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually want to use it. It turns out that a good jump rope is actually pretty fab. I liked the rope so much, that I decided to mash up the eight-minute legs and the rope together, plus throw in the pushups I do randomly at the end of runs.

The routine takes about 20 minutes (including some what-I-feel-like-in-the-moment stretching in between activities while I’m catching my breath). I’ve been using an 8 lb weight for the speed legs exercises, but I may add the other 8 lb weight I happened to have around and see how it goes.

Green jump rope and the 8lb weight I’m currently using; plus the other 8lb weight I might add in this week.

Here’s the workout (in case you are looking for new ideas):

120 skips (60 two feet and 60 alternating feet)/25 pushups/50 alternating back lunges/120 skips (2x 30 two feet and 30 alternating feet)/25 pushups/20x each leg Bulgarian split squats/120 skips (3x 20 two feet and 20 alternating feet)/25 pushups/20x each leg Romanian deadlifts/120 skips (4x 15 two feet and 15 alternating feet)/25 pushups/20 squats/100 fast skips, crossover arms every 10th/25x each leg step ups

For the first couple of weeks, I did this as an add-on after running. But I was also increasing my mileage and my body was overtired on running days and not-quite-satisfied on yoga days. Now I’ve switched to doing the routine first thing in the morning on yoga days. The yoga may happen at any time later in the day, depending on when there’s a class I can fit in.

View from my apartment building roof, aka my home gym

At first, I did the routine in my apartment, but then I took it to the roof deck of my apartment building. Which is lovely. I’m super lucky to have a view of Riverside Park and the Hudson River up to the George Washington Bridge from the roof. The only tiny downside is this—I’m self-conscious. There’s a camera feed from the roof that shows up on a monitor in my superintendent’s apartment. Carlos has a screen inside his front door that shows live feeds from all the security cameras in our building. I keep imagining him or his wife, Debbie, or his son, Matt, catching a glimpse of me doing my routine. And while I feel strong inside myself when I’m doing it (and I think I’ve noticed a few more muscles on my body), I realize that part of that feeling comes from being alone, outdoors, away from anyone else’s judgment. To add to my self-consciousness, Matt is a personal trainer. He has a serious home gym set up in their apartment now, so he can do online sessions with his clients. I imagine him thinking, “her form is all wrong” or “she should be working harder” or “she calls that a pushup?” 

I persist. Because I’m starting to love my new workout and the location (despite the camera). Fresh air. A view. Some burning muscles. And the comfort, that it’s just not interesting enough to watch me skip and lunge. I’ve even had the fleeting thought that maybe I should do a few sessions with Matt on the roof and get some tips.  Not yet. For the same reason I haven’t sought out any other online trainer. I’m enjoying the freedom of mashing up my own routine.

What are your homemade routines? I’d love more ideas for things to change up in my mix.

Guest Post

Fun, fun, fun (Guest post)

In the last two days, I’ve had flashes of childhood fun that have made me really happy about moving more.

A last-minute invitation to go to family roller skating at a local arena led to me feeling like this:



Rollerskating is fun.  Wobbly, old school fun. Family roller skating is a mix of ages and skill levels, and proof that “YMCA” by The Village People gets everyone skating at the same time. It hardly feels like exercise, but somehow two hours happens and you leave the rink with your legs wanting to skate instead of walk.

Then, yesterday, a last-minute change by the Bootcamp instructor to use weighted skipping ropes had me smiling for a full hour of interval training. I love skipping. Having the rope in my hand brought me back to being on the playground. I haven’t skipped that much in years – but the body remembers. Pretty soon, I was doing pretzel crosses (where you cross your arms in front of the body and jump through the space of the ropes) — eventually with my left (non-dominant) arm remembering what it was supposed to do in order to lead the cross. I was playing.

It was so much fun.


Skipping in the school yard, or why I’m so grumpy about double unders

double unders make me pee tshirtLast summer I blogged about the problem of peeing during workouts, Peeing during workouts, not just an older woman’s issue, and frankly, since it isn’t a problem I have (yet?) I haven’t thought about it much since.

But I’ve been working towards mastering one of the CrossFit staples–the double under–and it bugs the heck out of me that I can’t do it. I can skip really fast and I can tuck jump but I seem to lack the coordination to get it just right. I’m either landing on the rope, or whipping myself in the shins with the rope, and it’s super super annoying. Reading up on difficulties with double unders I was struck again by all that’s written about women and exercise induced incontinence.

(By the way, would you wear that t-shirt? Who would? It’s a prank gift  for mean people to buy for their partners, don’t you think?)

What’s a double under? “A double under is a popular exercise done on a jump rope in which the rope makes two passes per jump instead of just one. It is significantly more effective than a single rope pass in that it allows for higher work capacity.The Double Under takes a bit of coordination and determination to master. Those with less coordination will find it a little more difficult. The Double Under must be executed with more intensity in order to complete a high number of repetitions without mistake.” More here.

Ryan Gosling memeI wondered for awhile about why the frustration. After all, there are a lot of things at CrossFit I can’t do unmodified (see Leveling up at CrossFit: Rx versus modified workouts for more details): box jumps, pull ups, even push ups if I need to do more than 10.

Then it hit me. It bugs me because I’m used to thinking of myself as being good at jumping rope. I love jumping rope. It makes me feel like a kid again. See The joy of jumping rope .There’s lots of gender role socialization I missed out on. I don’t know very much at all about make up. I can’t knit or sew and I cook only because someone has to but I did get elementary school skipping! I attended elementary school in Newfoundland, Catholic elementary school, wearing  school uniforms and being taught by nuns. I know ideologically there’s a lot to dislike about Catholic school but these nuns were terrific. They were post-Vatican II nuns, hippie folk granola nuns with acoustic guitars and a fervour for educating young women.  There and then it was likely a choice for them as girls to either marry and have a dozen children or become a nun and get a university education. They taught me to read, to write, to knit, and on the school yard I learned to jump rope.

I also recall lessons in penmanship which clearly didn’t take.

Recently I had the occasion to go back and wonder about these nuns. I found my old first day of school diploma! Who on earth gets a first day of school diploma? It reads “we’re sure that the years between now and your graduation from university will be rich and rewarding”? I had taken it out and was marveling about the bravery and optimism of nuns in rural Newfoundland sending these beautiful certificates, complete with photos, home to families who might have been giving not so much thought to their daughters’ educations beyond high school.

my diploma!They were members of the Presentation Sisters,, an order which had come from Ireland to Newfoundland charged with the task of educating girls.

Four pioneering Sisters among Nano’s followers, Sisters Bernard Kirwin, Magdalen O’Shaughnessy, Xavier Maloney and Xaverius Lynch, carried her vision and spirit to the shores of Newfoundland in 1833. They came at the invitation of Bishop Michael Fleming to establish a school that would offer improved educational opportunity for girls and young women in St. John’s. Nano’s vision had birthed a response that was both broad and penetrating. For the next 175 years our sisters continued to respond to this call. Academic learning, spiritual development/religious education and a deep appreciation for the arts and music were central to our education ministry among students, teachers and parents.

So I think I’ve always thought of myself as good at skipping rope. I’ve got lots of fond school yard memories. That’s why I get so grumpy now that I can’t do double unders. Searching for advice about mastering the double under I found lots of advice geared at older women. Great, I thought. But sadly it’s all about strengthening the pelvic floor so you don’t pee during double unders. (See Curing a Case of the Workout Pees and “CrossFit Gynecologist,” I’m Appalled. There’s Help For ‘Peeing…)

That isn’t my problem though. I’m back at it next week, learning to whip the rope faster and hold a tuck jump longer. I’m following CrossFit coach Dave Henry’s instructions and I’ll let you know how I go.

It took awhile to find a video double under with a woman! But here’s one:

And here’s someone doing a wild number of double unders very quickly!