Friday, December 14, 2007

To Cross Train or Not To Cross Train,

There shouldn't be a question.

This piece was written on spec & ended up more just being a personal kick in the pants.

Im in a huge workout rut.

And it's the holiday-food-treats time of year to boot.

All that to say FEEL free to skim---I just thought Id share in case anyone else needs some CROSS TRAINING ENCOURAGEMENT.

Even when working full time as a personal trainer, I was the queen of do as I say and not as I do.

"You must cross train!" I would admonish a client.

"You can not whine about plateauing," I would tease another. "Have you done any form of cardio this month other than the treadmill??"

I would cajole and chastise-while all the while hiding my own dirty little secret: my stationary bike. Each morning I would climb on the bike and pedal away for 40 minutes while watching TV.

Morning after morning.

For years. Still.

And now I have plateaued.

I knew I needed to change up my cardiovascular routine. And recently. FINALLY. I decided to put myself out there and try something really different.

So I tried NIA.

NIA is a unique combination of modern dance, martial arts, yoga and African dance.

I have to admit that I have preconceived notions regarding "holistic" exercise. While I have shed the '70's no pain no gain mantra but the notion of flapping my arms and chanting my way to a size 8 still gave me pause.

From my first step into the NIA studio I knew this surely wasn't my old stand by Powerhouse Gym. A pungent aroma of patchouli incense filled my nose (!) and various candles and weavings filled the studio's waiting area.

At this point I had to squelch my instinct to turn and run (pun intended). I had the sudden fear that even with the sense of open-mindedness the NIA studio had so painstakingly created, I would do something "wrong."

Something not laidback enough.

Arriving early I had the opportunity to meet the (male) instructor and chat with a few other class members. Can I say that I was surprised how normal (read: like me) they all were? I don't know what I was expecting-but these people did not embody it. We all talked for a bit and after hearing the word dance and free form tossed about repeatedly, I decided to grab my hand weights and make a beeline for the back for the room.

My new vantage point gave me a great view of a rather large painting in the front of the room. The painting was of a naked woman dancing. This woman was naked and voluptuous and frolicking and HAPPY.

That figure seemed to follow the NIA theme: love who you are and the health will follow.

Loving who you are or not, I had wrestled with what exactly one wears to a NIA class. Gym shorts and a t-shirt? A unitard? Flowing pants? Tie-dyes? Robes? In a word: YES.

Unlike many gyms where there is inevitably a "cool" uniform (and usually a mandatory perfect body to be placed in it) at NIA anything goes.


No one in the room either appeared interested in what the other people were wearing or seemed to feel uncomfortable with how much or how little he had on. Big women in little outfits, little men in long flowing outfits-if ever there was a workout filled with unconditional positive regard NIA is it.

And then the dancing began. Just like that. The instructor turned on George Michael and we were off.

The notion of NIA lost me a tad here. I wasn't sure exactly what our goal was, what muscles we were going to work, and in what order we were going to attack them.

I soon realized I was thinking inside the box in a room filled with people who hadn't seen the box's interior in a while.
I needed to loosen up not only my cervical spine-but my mind as well.

The class quickly progressed. We were encouraged to dance what we were feeling.
Me? Im someone who inevitable claps off the beat when music is playing! I wasn't quite sure how to display through dance my feeling of wanting to crawl and hide in a closet.

So I just wiggled my hips a bit.

And waved my hands.

And tried not to look in the mirror.

Eventually, I recognized that there were a few steps that we did simultaneously. Although I also recognized that my classmates whooped and kicked and fluidly moved their arms in a way I had yet to master.

When the instructor encouraged us to imprint these routines with our own creative stamp-I didn't even know where to begin. It was all slightly embarrassing and it was all very amazing.

I might have been focusing on my jerky movements and off rhythm stumbles-but no one else was.

Check out NIA, try a new class at your gym, run outside if you typically use the treadmill---remember, variety is the spice of life! (And it also helps tighten up your glutes…)


crumbs said...

Ha! It sounds like my first day in a yoga class as a freshman in college in the Great Northwest. I looked around and ask "Is smoking pot a prerequisite for this class?"
My instructor wasn't amused.

carla said...

Im amused!
that made me laugh outloud!!