Friday, April 30, 2010

Class #111 Cycling Friday Noon (Krissa)

All good things have to come to an end and so too does the quest. There’s only this final cycling class to take and my goal will have been reached. Careful readers will note that the promised 110 classes grew by one when we added the Yoga for Kids class a few weeks ago. Either way, there are no more classes until Lisa adds something else but when she does that will fall outside of my jurisdiction.

As I stagger into class for the final time it’s hard to miss that one of the bikes has a colorful bouquet of balloons tethered to it. Someone, Krissa I imagine, has gone to the trouble to make me a seat of honor for this final class and I am appreciative. Basically, I'm happy to have arrived here at all and I’m ready to ride across the finish line (where’s the champagne anyway?).

Krissa teaches two cycling classes every week (Wed./Fri.) and splits a third class with Betsy on Sunday afternoons. She is an excellent instructor and her classes are among the most popular on the schedule. I really enjoyed the previous class I took with her (see blog #33 ) and I'm happy to wrap things up in her class.

The balloon-laden bike that’s been hand picked for me today happens to be in a back corner of the room and it’s one I used to ride on a regular basis in Carla’s M/W noon class. This bike, I happen to know, is one of the semi-magic bikes and it’s going to give me inflated numbers for my watts. I have studiously avoided “magic” bikes on the quest but it feels appropriate somehow to be on this one for the last class - I’m going to blow away my old average watts record.

Balloon-bike in the corner

Krissa sets a torrid pace for us right from the gate. She’s an excellent triathlete and is currently training for a half Ironman race in June so she’s in terrific shape and is coaxing us to ride in her slipstream.

Krissa’s style is playful and filled with an easy banter – she has a great personality and is very comfortable with a microphone and an audience. I enjoy listening to her as she alternately pushes us, asks how we’re doing (usually and endearingly she answers for us), interacts with individual riders and lets loose her infectious laugh. It’s obvious that she’s working hard because her gasping breath is audible but she’s also, somehow, having a rollicking good time along the way.

The class is nearly full and with everyone working hard the room is getting warmer, the A/C struggling (and failing) to keep up. I’m pouring sweat and my legs are weary but the adrenaline is pumping and I feel good. There’s not much reason to save anything for tomorrow because, well, you know why.

After a hard fifty-minute ride we downshift into an easy cool down and the deed is done. I check my numbers one last time to see another 500 calories incinerated, a magic-bike aided average watts score of 195 (my high score on a regular bike is 146), a maximum heart rate of 150 and an average rate of 127.

As we’re about to end the cool down the studio door opens and a large contingent of LRAC staffers, led by Krissa's sister, Lisa Cooper,who also happens to be the Group Exercise Coordinator, march in carrying a cake with the number 111 proudly displayed atop it. Someone initiates applause and the class joins in – giving a tribute to me and the now completed quest. Simultaneously I feel deep appreciation for all this warmth along with a familiar discomfort of being in the limelight, even for a few moments.

Celebrating with friends (that's Krissa on the far left)

Amazingly, one of the class members, Silvana Berlinski also produces a cake that she has baked to celebrate the occasion. Silvana is perhaps the most dedicated group cycling student in the Club – she attends an average of six cycling classes a week. Thanks so much Silvana!

As I mentioned, the class was near full with 22 or so in attendance. For this last class I thought it only appropriate to draw extra names for the gift certificate so I ask Krissa to draw five winners. Those five are: Lee Burrell, Heidi Tate, John Lang, Sabra Miller and Silvana Berlinski (instant karma).

Well, that about puts a wrap on things. I may check back in with a postscript now and then but my blogging and group exercising are (over)due for a temporary hiatus. I appreciate everyone’s interest in this project and for the loyal readers out there – whoever you are. I also greatly appreciate all of the kind and encouraging words that have been heaped upon me along the way. Bless you all.

Next up: I'll attempt to eat every item on the menu at the Blue Court Grill -- don't miss all the action!

See you at the Club!

Class #110 TBC (Total Body Conditioning) Thursday noon (Carla)

After Cary’s cycling class ends at 9:40, I head up to the pool deck to help out with the bubble take down. I arrive at a good point because the crew (about twenty guys and a couple of gals) has just begun pulling the material. The bubble weights around 4,000 pounds and the only way to move it around is to assemble a bunch of willing bodies and start pulling.

I’m well warmed up from the cardio workout so I grab a “C” clamp and take my place on the line. Everyone complains about bubble day but the truth is when we have a good crew, like we do today, it’s actually fun. We’ve learned over time that it works best if one person calls out the commands to pull and when we all act in unison, we can move a lot of weight. Our de facto foreman is Club Manager Mary Olson’s husband Gary. Gary’s been an integral part of the bubble crews at both clubs for umpteen years and he understands the process really well. He’s also spent enough time in the military to understand the importance of teamwork and he does a great job of leading us.

We make record time today and have the bubble completely rolled up and put on the pallet by 10:45 a.m. All that’s left is to take off the pool cover, replace all deck chairs and lifeguard stands and we’re back in business. We’ll have the pool back open shortly after noon, which has never happened before – yippee.

Cary’s class and bubble duty serve as my ‘warm up’ for Carla’s TBC class, which starts at noon. TBC (Total Body Conditioning) has a well deserved reputation as one of the toughest classes on the schedule but I like it because it’s filled with variety.

I talk my volleyball buddy David McFatrich, who’s been helping out on the bubble crew along with his son Luke, to come take TBC with me. I know that Dave’s working out hard for the summer beach volleyball season and he’s still got about fifteen pounds to lose, he says. This workout is right up his alley.

It’s a beautiful day outside and Carla has us begin by taking about a twelve-fifteen minute run around the Club and through an adjoining subdivision. We finish this warm up by doing lunges up the infamous Peckerwood Rd., which runs along the south side of the Club.

When we get inside, Carla herds us down to the gym floor where we are divided into teams of three. We begin things with a relay where we take a 25-pound plate weight, wrap it in a towel and place it on the wood floor. The goal is to push the plate from one side of the gym to the other where our teammate is waiting to ‘run’ the second leg. Each teammate is to run/push the weight a total of four times.

Carla running a class through drills

I get very low to the ground when I take my turn and this allows me the best angle to push and so I’m able to move along pretty quickly. Since I’m already down so low, it only seems natural, albeit a little show-offy, to dive across the line. I do this the first time without a problem but on the second lap I bang my knee on the floor and I wince in pain. I’m wondering if I’ve done serious damage and I’m feeling extra stupid for this sophmorish move. After a few seconds I realize that my knee is probably not maimed but I know it’s going to be sore. No more diving on this relay.

Carla has us do a few more relays like this including one where each team gets a yoga blanket and the race is to drag a teammate who’s sitting on the blanket across the floor before changing riders until everyone’s been a rider for two times. This relay is great fun when you’re getting the ride across the floor and considerably less fun when you’re towing big guys like Dave or Chris Norwood (my teammates).

After the session in the gym we move into the Group Ex studio where we divide into pairs. In this exercise one person balances on the Bosu ball (flat side up) while doing squats and chest presses with hand weights while the other person does squat lunges (I call these ‘burpees’). We alternate back and forth for different lengths of time as called by Carla and with essentially no rest between sets. This goes on for what seems like a long time.

Squat on Bosu ball (flat side up)

We finish up class with a hard set of abs where we again alternate stations with a partner. Several times during the ab workout I have to rest because I’m seriously out of gas.

Carla’s workouts are always inventive and ‘fun’ in a sweat-drenching sort of way. It’s also fun for me because I know a number of the Carla-ites like Lori Millner, Tricia Buchman, Michele Langston and Chris Norwood because they hardly ever miss one of her classes including the noon M/W bike classes that I’m also a regular in.

Checking the numbers I see that in 56 minutes I burn 571 calories with an average heart beat of 128 and a max of 152.

There are twelve gung ho sorts in class – all women except for me, Dave and Chris. The $25 gift certificate goes to Karen Jo Trulock.

Class #109 Cycling 8:45 a.m. (Cary)

At long last, the quest will end tomorrow and that’s a good thing because my gas gauge has the ‘low level’ warning light on. The proximity of the finish line though, is giving me a psychological boost and sufficient adrenaline (I hope) to cross it.

Yesterday was a rare three-fer marathon as I am in ‘mop up’ mode, crossing off whatever unattended classes remain. After ending Sculpt at 8:15 last night there was still some club work to do and I hung around for an hour to help pull the cover across the pool in preparation for the bubble take down today.

Today then is really the last big push. This morning I’ve got Cary’s 8:45 cycle class followed by Carla’s noontime TBC (Total Body Conditioning) along with a few hours of bubble work sandwiched in between. I should get out to the bubble project just in time to help pull the four thousand pounds of inert platic across the (covered) pool and roll it up – that’s the one part of the job that requires all hands on deck. The truth is, if you have enough folks during this phase it’s not too bad a chore – if not, it can be a real drag.

All this is on my mind as Cary tells us to ‘start our engines’ because class is beginning. Right off the bat, I note a sluggishness in my legs that I hope will subside out over the course of the ride.

After twenty-two previous bike classes you might think that there’s not much new ground to cover. You would be right. Still, each teacher has his/her own flavor and Cary’s no exception. She teaches two classes a week - I took her other one way back on March 1st (blog #23). I remember from that class that she likes to do ‘hovers’ - standing climbs where the rear end is pushed back over the seat to isolate the hamstrings. Sure enough we do those again today and sure enough my hamstrings feel it.

Cary Andrews

Cary pushes us through her own mix of climbs, sprints and intervals, which show up in most of the classes but she also throws in one unique twist that I haven’t seen before. A little more than halfway through she says we’ve got an eight-minute song and our goal is to cover four ‘miles’ on the odometer. Everyone knows that the odometer isn’t really measuring miles (we’re on a stationary cycle for goodness sake) but it’s a reasonable equivalent. The odometer moves faster as the watt reading goes up, which is a function of rpm’s and gears. Anyway, it’s up to each of us to decide what combination of gearing and pace is ideal to click off the requisite mileage. As it turns out, I can’t quite make the four miles because 1) it’s an ambitious goal and, 2) my worn out legs aren’t cooperating very well.

After 45 minutes of work we ease into the warm down and Cary chooses that time to tell us about a recent adventure she’s had. She is an avid horseback rider and lives far enough out of the city to own horses and ride them in her ‘neighborhood’. Recently, she was out riding when a new neighbor’s dogs breached their electronic fence and attacked her horse. Since this was a new, young and huge horse that Cary is still getting used to, she was afraid he would panic and roll on her – a frightening and potentially deadly proposition - so at the first opportunity she jumped off and the horse bolted for the barn. Fortunately, everyone was all right (the horse had a few bites on his ankles) but it was a harrowing event nonetheless. At the end, Cary asked everyone’s advice about fending off dogs in such a situation and the consensus was – the best defense would be to impress upon the new neighbors the danger of their dogs getting out to prevent a repeat performance.

Cary riding Rambo (not the horse involved in the attack)

In class I note that I’ve burned 450 calories while maintaining an average heart rate of 130 with a maximum rate of 145. It’s not my best effort but not too bad either considering my dilapidated state.

It’s a smallish class this morning with only four other riders – all women and all regulars in Cary’s class. The $25 gift certificate goes to Mary Klopfenstein.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Class #108 Sculpt Wednesday 7:15 p.m. (Melanie)

My third class of the day and twenty-first (and final) Wednesday class is Sculpt by Melanie. This class is a companion to the Monday evening Sculpt class also at 7:15 taught by Beth and since I just took that class last week, I notice a lot of the same folks in attendance tonight.

I am very near the end of the quest (only three more classes remain) but the past several weeks have been a non-stop push to stay on schedule and to be honest, I’m pooped. As I set up for class I’m wondering what I’ve realistically got left in the tank to offer up here. Before we even start, I already feel sculpted, toned, buffed, waxed, whipped, scalloped, pureed and deep-fried.

Every Sculpt teacher has a slightly different version of this class and Melanie’s is a cross between Sculpt and Power Pump. For instance, she has us use the plate-loaded bars that are typical in PP along with hand weights (two sets), an elastic band and a step with risers.

Melanie eases us into a nice warm up where we move through essentially every exercise on tonight’s agenda but with only a sample number of reps. After about five minutes of warming up we’re ready to get down to cases (as Maude on the Big Lebowski might say).

Maude in The Big Lebowski

As expected, the “real” stuff is plenty challenging and on occasion elicits a few audible groans from the class (I always love a good groan). Overall, the class is well balanced and every major muscle group gets its moment in the sun. I particularly like the way Melanie does a brief warm up (or re-warm up) of each muscle group before we launch into the heavy work.

Melanie is a vivacious teacher with a big smile and a constant banter of encouragement (“you guys look great”) mixed with motivation (“c’mon, three more sets, you can do it”). She tells us several times that we’re being “saved by the music” when it ends before a set is quite finished and other times that we need to keep going because “the music hasn’t stopped yet”. At one point I catch her singing along with Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. I was hoping she’d really belt it out but she stops short of going full karaoke even though she’s got the mic.

Melanie with daughter Madeline

Melanie has been teaching group exercise classes since June, 1997 when she started at a Bally’s Fitness Club in Michigan. In 2006, she married an Air Force physician and they moved from Belleville, IL to the LRAFB in July 2009. She started teaching at the LRAC and NLRAC last summer.

Her “real job” she tells me is being a stay-at-home mom to her 15 month old daughter, Madeline. This job will get more challenging, I’m sure as her husband is deploying soon to Afganistan for a six-month tour of duty. My best wishes go out to both of them as they go through this period of separation.

After class, Melanie sticks around to practice her Step class routine for Thursday night at the NLRAC. As for me, I’ve got to run upstairs and help put the cover over the pool because tomorrow, we take down the bubble (the air structure over the 25-yard pool).

Tonight in Melanie’s class there are about twenty….mostly women, naturally but late night regular and blog reader Bryan Davis is there to keep me from being the only guy. The $25 gift certificate goes to Phyllis Colclasure

Class #107 Pilates Wednesday 11:00 a.m. (Barbara)

Barbara has just gotten back from a weekend workshop on Pilates and that’s always a great time to take a class. She’s already a fantastic instructor but workshops tend to re-invigorate teachers and spark new ideas.

We start class with something she learned over the weekend. Barbara has us take our mats to the wall where we sit with our hips and back against the wall and our legs straight out in front of us. She has given each of us a thick rubber band to be placed around the big toe of each foot, which are separated by several inches. From here we practice turning out one foot at a time ever so slightly but originating the movement from the hip instead of the foot. In order to do this correctly, the glutes and abs need to contract while the hip flexor is engaged. This is relevant because we’re to use this same movement when doing the side leg series. It’s a helpful demonstration and I make the connection in a way that I had not before.

To do Pilates correctly requires a great deal of precision and subtlety. Much of the movement originates inside the body in a way that cannot always be seen in the outer form. This subtlety of technique is why we offer an introductory Pilates series so newcomers can learn the proper inner technique and not just mimic the outer moves in one of the regular mat classes.

The class today is filled with students who’ve practiced Pilates a long time but even they need these subtle refinements from time to time. Barbara’s ability to clarify the fine points of Pilates, even after years of practice, is what keeps her students enthralled with her as a teacher.

Barbara also has an interesting teaching style. She modulates her voice, sort of like an actress, in a way that keeps your attention. When we’re doing something difficult her voice may rise in pitch with the effort as if imploring us to stay with it and do it correctly. At one point, as a reminder, she says to no one in particular “don’t you dare” do such and such. This phrase makes me laugh but it reveals Barbara’s passion for Pilates and her flair for the dramatic that makes her classes so consistently interesting and good.

Barbara Sarnataro

In today’s class we do a little extra stretching with each series of movements and that makes it even more enjoyable for me. During the quest I haven’t attended as many yoga classes as I would with my normal schedule and my flexibility has suffered somewhat as a consequence.

The class has 20-24 in it, mostly women. Bill Plunkett, Bill Felix and I are the token males in class today. The $25 gift certificate goes to Teka Bartter.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Class #106 CardioMix Wednesday 9:00 a.m. (Beverly)

This class is a new invention from the creative mind of Beverly Lindberg. When I started the ‘quest’ Beverly had a class in this slot simply titled “Aerobics” but before I got to try that one, she implemented this new format beginning about a month ago.

Beverly has essentially divided the class up into a warm up, five ten-minute sections of ever changing exercises and a cool down/stretch. The ten-minute sessions are almost entirely cardio in nature although there is a ‘sculpt’ (i.e. weight lifting and ab) section near the end.

The cardio workout begins with ten minutes of kickboxing where we do jabs, crosses, uppercuts, speed bag work and a variety of kicks. It’s all very fast paced and has some manageable (i.e. I could mostly do it) choreography. There’s sufficient challenge in the choreography though to keep the brain engaged and on its toes, which makes it entertaining.

In another section Beverly uses a rope ladder on the floor to lead us through a variety of lightening quick foot movements. A lot of the drills look like things I’ve seen football players do with tires or in other agility drills. It’s surprising to me how tricky it is to do some of the steps with the ladder because at first glance they appear fairly simple.

Agility drills with a rope ladder

Other sections of class include various combinations of traditional aerobics moves like grapevine, heel jacks or side to side hamstring curls along with athletic moves such as simulating a basketball pass, catch and jump shot. Beverly also throws in a few Zumba movements like, say a mambo step here and there but it doesn’t get any dancier than that.

For me, the class is really fun. I’ve discovered that I enjoy these fast moving cardio classes where the patterns and exercises are changing all the time. And, a lot of the movements/steps that Beverly has included are more sports oriented making it somewhat more familiar to a rhythmically challenged guy like me.

The class today is mostly woman (there are two other guys besides me) and they seem to me to be having a fine time of it. Beverly is a really good teacher and can draw on her experience teaching a wide variety of classes to find interesting combinations of movements that keep things spicy.

Beverly Lindberg

In the forty-two minutes of class dedicated to cardio I burn 362 calories with an average heart rate of 117 and a maximum rate of 162. I could tell I was working hard in class but I was surprised that I got to 162 bpm because that’s quite high – I guess I was enjoying myself too much to notice.

Since this is a new class, I’d be remiss if I didn’t invite you to come check it out if you get the chance – I think you’ll like it.

There are about 22 in class this morning. The $25 gift certificate goes to Sabrina Dufis.

Class #105 Cycling Tuesday 4:30 p.m. (Heather)

This is my third and final class from Heather Isbell who is one of the most popular cycling instructors at the Club. As a newcomer to Heather’s class, the first question you’ll hear when entering the room is “fan” or “no fan”? This isn’t a fan-club issue (everyone here is a fan of Heather’s) but an inquiry about air movement preference. For some reason, there’s a group of regulars in Heather’s classes (unlike any other class that I know of) who really don’t like the fans blowing on them.

In today’s class, the ‘no fan’ section is easy to pick out – it’s the one with hardly anyone in it. I’m no glutton for punishment so I stop just short of the dead air zone and wind up back on the anti-magic bike (see blog # 97). On this bike the gearing is a little harder than the regular cycles so I know my wattage “score” will be off somewhat but I can still keep track of my heart rate, which tells the real story anyhow.

As class gets started Heather tells us that we’re going to be doing the Hawaiian Ironman course today. Since that’s one of the most grueling races on the planet, I’m thinking ‘uh oh’. Of course, I know that the Ironman typically takes nine hours or more to complete and this class is only 50 minutes so we’ve got that going for us.

The microphone is on the fritz today so Heather is speaking over the music and/or giving hand signals. It’s a lot harder for the teacher when there’s no voice amplification but Heather handles adversity (here and elsewhere) with a great deal of aplomb. Basically, she takes such difficulties in stride and just keeps going.

At the beginning of the Ironman, Heather explains, there’s a big rush to begin the 2.4 mile ocean swim and a sprint to the first buoy to reach open water as quickly as possible. For us, it means a high gear and a short intense sprint right out of the gates (we’ve all been warming up for five or more minutes so we’re ready for it). My legs though are somewhat worn out from a hard Sculpt class this morning and when I shift into a high gear and start to sprint, for just a moment, I think my calf is going to cramp. In a flash I ‘foresee’ the embarrassment of having to bail out of class after the first few minutes. Almost simultaneously, my mind richochets off into a wonderment about whether anyone’s ever had a leg cramp at the beginning of a real Ironman and if so, what a drag that would be after so much training yada yada yada. (And, so goes the discursive mind in bike class….)

The sprint to the first buoy in the Hawaiian Ironman

I pull back a gear or two and my leg settles down immediately. I’m definitely not going to be the first one to the buoy - more like the last one - but it’s a long race and I figure I can catch up later.

Heather talks us through the whole race, giving us landmarks, weather reports (we encounter high winds several times) and asking us for periodic pushes along the way. On the long bike section (it’s 112 miles in the real Ironman) she wants us to catch and pass four separate riders who somehow have gotten in front of us. Each time we catch one of the riders we shift to a high gear, stand up and sprint to get around our imaginary opponent.

The long hot ride along the Kona coastline

The visuals Heather creates of this race along with her great selection of music keep us inspired and entertained as we spin on down the road.

Near the end of class, Heather tells us we’re going into the ‘energy lab’, which is something, apparently, her class practices occasionally but about which I am clueless. In the ‘lab’, she turns off all the fans and the lights and we become one big ‘no fan’ zone. It only lasts for a few minutes and because of the short duration it isn’t really a problem. It’s simply a fun little twist that Heather’s figured out to keep folks guessing and to make the class more interesting. The real challenge for all cycling instructors is how to keep a cycling class like this from growing stale. We’re fortunate to have really great instructors at the Club and they’ve all learned how to pull a rabbit out of the hat from time to time to keep us engaged.

Heather Isbell

My average wattage is better than the last time I rode this sluggish bike but it’s still only 130, which isn’t too high. My average heart rate is 132 (not bad) and my calorie burn is about 400 for the 45-minute work portion of the class.

There are 12-13 in class today and atypical of most of our classes, the majority are men. The $25 gift certificate goes to John Bilger.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Class #104 Sculpt Class Tuesday 9:40 a.m. (Beth)

Some of the biggest classes in the Club are ones we call Sculpt. The one this morning, taught by Beth Cirwinski and held in the gym is indeed a large class with around 30 in attendance.

The protocol, I’ve learned, for Sculpt classes on the gym floor, is to read the white grease board above the stereo system. On that board, the teacher has written what equipment is needed for class. Today I see that we need a step, two sets of hand weights, a heavy bar and a mat.

These classes are a non-stop assault on all the various muscle groups. We start with squats, move on to biceps, triceps, lunges, chest presses, shoulder raises, flys, push-ups and so on. In each exercise we do a LOT of reps so selecting the right sized weight is important. Too light and nothing is gained, too heavy and you can’t make it through to the end. Over the length of the quest, I’ve managed to gradually increased my weight amounts – not that the poundage is anything to brag about. I have clearly gotten stronger though so I know these classes are working.


One of the things that’s helpful if you want to teach a class like this is to be able to maintain a smile while doing all the exercises and counting out the reps. This requirement would be somewhere between hard and impossible for me but Beth is great at it. She beams out a beautiful smile the entire time she's teaching – it’s impressive.

Beth Cirwinski teaching (note the smile)

One thing I should point out and I’m definitely not complaining here but somehow we get through this entire class without doing any abs. Glory Hallelujah. My poor midsection needs a break and I’ll happily accept this small crumb.

The rest of class though is plenty hard and there are times I’d really like to scream but I’ve learned that no one does that here. I’m still not sure why. We are a group of stoics and that’s cool with me.

Tricep Kickbacks

The class, as usual, is filled mostly with fit, strong women although there are a few fellow hombres trying to keep pace this morning. The $25 gift certificate goes to Sandy Copeland.

Class #103 Water Aerobics Monday 7:00 p.m. (Mary Lu)

At one minute before seven no one has shown up for class and I’m trying to decide how I’m going to handle a ‘forfeit’ in the blog. Mary Lu and I start asking parents watching their kids swim if they want to take class – “you’re guaranteed a $25 gift certificate”, I say. For one reason or another though no one can take the class. Just then, a sweet little lady walks in and says, “I’ll do it”.

It turns out that the ‘volunteer’ is in town from New Jersey to visit her son (Roman) daughter-in-law (Alexandra) and her grandkids. Miss Helen as we came to call her is totally game to take class even though her original intention had been to come sit in the whirlpool.

Small Class (Mary Lu, me, Miss Helen)

Since it’s just the three of us, I tell Mary Lu that it’s okay with me if we cut class a little bit short. To tell you the truth, I’m secretly pulling for this outcome because I’m pretty tired. The thing is, Mary Lu is so passionate about teaching water aerobics that once we start, I feel certain we’re going all the way till the end.

Mary Lu has brought some special ankle and hand gizmos for me to wear to increase resistance in the water. Sure enough, with those devices on, everything is about twice as hard to do. I’m trying my best to keep up but it’s a struggle. We do some exercises where our feet are to stay off the bottom but with my doodads on I can barely keep my head above water and occasionally I slip just beneath the surface.

Mary Lu on shore

Miss Helen hasn’t done water aerobics before or at least not in a while and so she’s not familiar with the exercises. On some things it’s clear that she’s completely lost but she just keeps bouncing in the water and smiling or giggling the whole time. She tells us that she has a 5 a.m. flight in the morning and I keep thinking at any minute she’s going to say ‘that’s enough’ but it never happens.

Before you know it, eight p.m. arrives and I’m all but worn out thanks to Mary Lu’s new resistance toys. Miss Helen though is all smiles and fresh as a daisy.

After class, Miss Helen and I sit in the hot tub to warm up and she tells me that she’s Ukrainian but spent most of her early life in Poland. I learn that she speaks four languages and has lived in the U.S. for almost fifty years. We’ve only just met but somehow she seems familiar (and adorable) to me. I tell her how glad I am to have met her and wish her luck on her future journeys.

I go in to change clothes and when I come out I find an e-mail address written down. My first thought is, how sweet, Miss Helen has left her address for me but it turns out, she’s given me her daughter-in-law’s e-mail. She’s done the class, at least in part, so Alexandra Ratycz will win the $25 gift certificate. I find all this out from Alexandra who’s been taking Beth’s Sculpt class. I recognize Alexandra because she’s been in five or six classes with me but never won the drawing – until now.

Class #102 Step Class Monday 5:30 p.m. (Ronnie)

When I started this whole thing back in February, this class was in the top three of classes I was most nervous about taking. I had it in mind from the beginning to wait until the last week of the quest before tackling it.

Ronnie’s Monday night prime time Step class in the gym is one of the longest running and most popular classes on our schedule and has a reputation as being hard and requiring some ultra fancy footwork. There are only six pure Step classes on the weekly schedule and I’ve done the other five. I’ve also learned that in certain other classes like CardioSculpt, teachers often use the steps and risers for the cardio portion of class. So, I’ve been in and around the Step world enough now to fake my way through a hard class – even Ronnie’s – I hope. Since this is the last Monday of the quest, if I’m not ready now, it’s too darn bad and too late to do anything about it.

Ronnie Stone leading Step class

In almost every Step class I’ve been to so far, even the Basic ones, there have been times that I’ve gotten completely lost. It’s a surprise then when in Ronnie’s class tonight I notice that I’m able to follow just about everything. There are times when he shows a Level 1,2 and 3 movement and often I have to go with the easiest one but still, I’m doing it (look maw no hands)!

The logical but unexpected consequence of being able to follow all of the movements is that I’m huffing and puffing – getting a better workout than in previous Step classes. As I think about it, I realize that in the past I’ve had to slow down or stop when the choreography got too hard to follow. In this class, Ronnie’s movements are physically demanding with plenty of squats and jumps but the choreography (except for Level 3) is mostly within my grasp.

Poetry in motion (that's me in the foreground)

My handy-dandy Polar watch tells me that I burn a little over 400 calories in the 45 minutes of cardio that I measure. During that time my heart rate averages 120 and peaks at 140, both pretty strong numbers for me.

After class I tell Ronnie about my experience and he says that he’s purposefully making the choreography easier to follow for two reasons: 1) To attract newcomers to Step and, 2) Because it’s easier for everyone to get a good workout (just like I did) when they can follow all the steps. Furthermore, he says, that by showing Level 2 and 3 movements, he can still challenge the Step aficionados. Sounds like a good plan to me.

There are about twenty-five in class tonight with about five guys in the mix. The $25 gift certificate goes to Karen Mourot.

Class #101 Yoga for Kids 3:55 p.m. (Stacey)

Consider this bonus coverage since Yoga for Kids wasn’t on the schedule when I started the quest – still, I wanted to check it out and do a quick write up about it. Stacey Swanson who teaches a regular yoga class on Thursday at noon, recently received her certification to teach yoga to children and she pitched the idea for this class to see if it would fly.

The class is geared for young kids ages 5 – 12 and is a complement to the Zumba for Kids class that takes place on Tuesday/Thursday in the afternoon. Today was the fourth installment of YFK’s. Stacey mentioned that the kids were pretty wild at the first class and she wondered what she had gotten herself into. Each week since, however, the wee ones have gotten quieter and more attentive while obviously enjoying the class.

Today there are about 12 children in class along with four adults (Stacey, her husband Dana, Martha Plaster - training to be a sub – and me). The class works for kids because of the cleverness of the teaching. Instead of traditional names for poses – Stacey offers something more inventive and fun, for instance, instead of cat/cow pose (see pic) we do ‘moo’, ‘meow’, making the sounds as we take the pose. It’s pretty cute.

Cat pose (in cow the head comes up and the back dips down)

Some other poses include – ‘elephant’ – where our arms become the trunk as we bend over to ‘drink’ and then rise up to spray water into the sky. Then there’s the ‘hot air balloon’ where our breath is the fire that lifts our basket (body) off the ground as we float around the room. Another one, perhaps my favorite, is the ‘peanut better sandwich’, which even has it’s own song to accompany the pose. In this technique we sit on the floor, our legs straight out in front of us, reach our arms up high to grab some peanut butter, then we slather it all over our body before bending forward to ‘make a sandwich’.

Peanut butter sandwich

In the traditional final resting pose – Stacey puts a small rubber ducky on everyone’s belly so they can watch it rise and fall with the breath. It’s a simple awareness exercise about noticing our breath, which is an integral part of practicing yoga.

Stacey Swanson

The class is only thirty minutes long so it’s over before I know it, seeming short to me but perfect for the kids. If you’re looking for a fun way to introduce your children the world of yoga (and a little exercise to boot) this class is worth checking out.