Saturday, February 27, 2010

Class #21 Sculpt Sat. 10:30 a.m. (Lisa D.)

For complicated or perhaps simply poor scheduling reasons I just went to my third Sculpt class this week. Fortunately, I’ve had a day’s rest between each class giving my poor aching muscles time to recover. Barely.

It seems that everyone likes to get their exercising in early on Saturdays so the Club offers nine morning classes. To make that happen we need to use all of our various venues. The choices are: group exercise studio, bike studio, gym floor or swimming pool. The class I attend is on the gym floor.

This makes my second class on the gym floor and already I feel more comfortable than the first time out. It’s helpful too that in this class I’m surrounded by members I know well. These sculpt classes are hard work and it’s nice to have a friendly face or two nearby to commiserate with. After a particularly difficult set, I ask Lori who’s behind me if members ever revolt during these classes. She says outright insurrection is rare but audible groaning is common.

I think back to the days of “dry land” training in college. That’s what we called the grueling calisthenic workouts the swim team did during pre-season before we started swimming 10,000 yards a day. In a big group of guys such as that, groaning was the mildest form of protest. The workout leader, usually a big strapping senior, could count on being called every name in the book. Of course, that only emboldened him to ratchet up the pain while questioning our manhood and calling us things that I dare not print.

The proceedings in the gym this morning, by contrast, are completely civilized. Women are polite (and in my experience, generally tougher than guys). Still, the workout is strenuous.

Armed with only two sets of hand weights, one light, one heavy, Lisa leads us through a series of lunges, pliés (I love it when I can throw some French in here) and squats, while simultaneously pumping weights with our arms. We do a seriously challenging series of plank and side plank exercises along with push ups, curls, flys, chest presses, tricep extensions, bent rows, dead lifts and a boatload of abdominal ouchers and plenty more. The class is an hour long and we’re actively doing something for at least 58 minutes. Mabye 59.

Having taken three Sculpt classes this week, I have an observation about the music. It all sounds the same. It has a frantic rhythmic beat not normally found in nature or in music one would listen to, say, for pleasure. This is, I believe, what’s known as “aerobics” music; where somewhat familiar songs are taken, rearranged and pumped full of amphetamines. I guess I’ve been hearing this stuff forever but never stopped to think about why it’s that way. I’m sure there’s a great reason for it. Maybe the idea is to get one's heart rate up to the rapid beat of the music?

This morning’s instructor is Lisa Duke. On Saturdays Lisa teaches Sculpt immediately following her cycling class, talk about a tough double.

Lisa is certified by the AFAA and has been teaching for six years at both the LRAC and NLRAC. She’s learned her craft well. Throughout class she keeps us all working hard but continually cues modifications for multiple fitness levels. She reminds us that technique should not be sacrificed - if the weight gets too heavy switch to a lesser weight or no weight at all. These are helpful reminders to keep everyone safe and exercising efficiently.

Outside of teaching, Lisa is employed full time as a Pharmaceutical Rep, something she’s done for 11 years. She grew up in Fort Worth, TX and attended Texas Tech University. Outside of work, she enjoys horseback riding, running and spending time with her husband Brad and three year-old daughter, Blakeleigh. Along with Sculpt, she also teaches two cycling classes so I’ll see her again down the road.

There were around 25 in class this morning and once again, I was the lone cowboy. That makes about 75% of the classes so far where I’ve been the only guy. Again, I’m not complaining, just reporting the facts.

The $25 gift certificate goes to Carrie Carr.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Class # 20 Water Aerobics Friday 9:00 a.m. (Anna)

As predicted, I woke up this morning with a few sore muscles. I thought it would be my hamstrings (back side of upper leg) but instead it was my glutes (rear end) and traps (upper back). In Sculpt yesterday we did a lot of walking lunges, which really work the glutes. Boy howdy.

Other muscles are feeling it too but the glutes and traps are the most noticeable. None of this soreness is extreme by any means; it’s just there. In general, a little muscle soreness is a good thing; it means the muscle has been subjected to some stress. Give it time and nutrition to recover and the muscle will increase in capacity (i.e. grow, tone, strengthen, etc.). Extreme soreness is not so good - it feels awful and may keep you from going back to exercise cause it’s no fun.

Moving the body in water is a great way to recover from low-level muscle soreness. So, water aerobics is just what the doctor ordered.

This morning’s class is my second one on the quest and also my second one lifetime. I don’t quite feel like an “old pro” but I’m a little more confident than the first class. As a former college swimmer, I’m pretty comfortable in the water and enjoy that medium too. Still, water aerobics is different than swimming laps and like anything that’s new, there’s a learning curve.

Our instructor this morning was Anna Swallow. (aka anna, banana from montana – so she tells me). She is extremely high energy and has a big, fun personality. She’s encouraging to everyone from the get go and that’s important in this class.

A brief aside here to help set the scene – I swam competitively for 14 years – practicing twice a day for most of that time. Over my career, I attended somewhere close to 8,000 swim team practices. In all that time, I never liked the part where I had to first get in the pool (unfortunately, getting in is pretty much a prerequisite to swimming). I’m a little skinny you see, always have been, and so I get cold easily. The iconic image of me as a kid, which all my swimming buddies remember, is a waif shivering next to a pool. The water is cooler than our body temperature so there’s always a little shock getting in.

I find that my aversion to cool water is shared by all of today's class members. In fact, water temperature is a common topic of conversation, I gather, in every class. We (I’m speaking as Club management now) try to keep the temp between 83-84 degrees – this is not an accident. We’ve found that precise threshold is (barely) tolerable both to “serious” lap swimmers and water aerobicizers. Actually both groups would like us to move the temperature a few degrees “their way” but the compromise has forged a fragile détente.

So, back to today’s class. Anna, knowing that water temperature is an issue, strikes preemptively – “get in and start doing my warm up and I guarantee you, you’ll get warm”. She’s right of course, once we start moving around sufficiently the body temp rises and next thing you know the water feels fine, maybe even a little warm. Such is the plight of a water aerobics instructor.

Anna teaches most of the class from the pool deck. The advantage is it’s much easier to see what she’s doing and somewhat easier to hear her than if she leads from the water. The disadvantage is she has to work really hard because the exercises are high impact from shore but low impact for us.

She makes the class fun by continually changing up what we’re doing and sequencing it in such a way that it’s necessary to really pay attention. Today’s routine is a new one for Anna and the class so it’s even tougher for everyone (including Anna) to remember what comes next. I like the fact that we all had to keep thinking the whole way through.

Anna also makes it topical by throwing in lots of techniques named and patterned after events at the Winter Olympics. For instance, we do cross country skiing, downhill, moguls even bobsledding and aerials (you had to be there). Mix in ‘dancing frogs’, ‘chubby checkers’, ‘jumping jack plus sign’ and a hip rotation thingy where we all said “booty booty” in unison and you’ve got quite the class.

Anna was subbing today for Mary Lu Pabian who normally teaches the Friday class. For that reason I don’t have her bio info or photo yet but I’ll give you more background on Anna the next time I take a class with her. From today’s class, I can report that she loves the number 13, she jumps out of airplanes on occasion (presumably with a parachute) and she dressed up as Carmen Miranda for Halloween. After only a one-hour class with her, none of this surprises me.

Guess how many we had in class today? Yep – thirteen. Twelve women and the odd man out. The whole class was sweet to me, thanked me for coming and invited me back, soon. No worries, I’ve got six more water aerobics classes to go and frankly, I’m pretty happy about that.

Today’s lucky winner of the gift certificate is Angela Finney.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Class 18/19 Core Crunch/Sculpt Thurday 9:25 a.m. (Michelle)

I’m taking advantage of a slight anomaly in our group ex schedule to wipe out, superman style, two classes in a single bound. It turns out that on Tuesday/Thursday mornings we list a 15-minute Core Crunch class immediately followed by a 50 minute Sculpt class. Some folks tack on the CC to the end of their previous class while others stick around for sculpting.

The point is you get two classes for the price of one. Of course, you can bet that a short class dedicated to crunching the core will be intense even if it only lasts a quarter hour. Today’s class didn’t disappoint on that score.

If one stays for the Sculpt session, as most people did, it’s out of the frying pan and into the open flame. In Michelle’s class, we used a weighted bar, stability ball (see photo below) and hand weights to aid in the wearing out of all major muscle groups. I don’t know about everyone else but the class and accoutrements were working for (and on) me.

This class is also notable as my first foray onto the gym floor. I had purposely avoided the gym so far, feeling I wasn’t quite ready for “prime time” but given the two for one enticement and a mid-morning start (not a super busy time) I decided this was as good as it was going to get.

The Club has always offered classes on the gym floor. The purpose for this is two-fold. The primary reason is the extra space, which allows us to hold classes here that would not fit in the studio. The other reason has to do with the excitement and energy that group exercise classes bring. In that sense, classes on the gym floor serve as an entertaining backdrop for those in the weight-rooms or on the track.

It can feel a little intimidating, I imagine, to be out on the gym floor exercising in this way. Of course no one really notices the individuals on the floor, it’s more of a collage effect unless, for some reason, you happen to be the only guy in a class full of attractive women. And how often does that happen?

So yeah, I was the only guy again today but hey, I’m not complaining. I couldn’t help but notice however, that I was sweating more than any of my classmates even though they were lifting comparable size weights and doing as many or more reps than me. Could it be these women are in better shape than me? Well, I’m working on it.

Our instructor this morning was Michelle Wilkerson. She’s been teaching for more than fifteen years and it shows. She started teaching after friends encouraged her to try it. At first she resisted she says, out of shyness but that was then – these days she’s a confident (and popular) instructor. She’s also a certified personal trainer but right now her fitness training is focused on leading group classes – usually large ones. Outside the gym, Michelle has a pet sitting business called Wags and Whiskers. She is also a collector of “rescue dogs” so along with having a strong heart we can be sure it’s also a kind one.

No doubt I will remember Michelle and her Sculpt class when I get up in the morning. I can already feel any number of muscles talking to me and they’ll likely be screaming by tomorrow.

Okay, two classes today and two $25 gift certificate winners – they are: Cecelila Blasier and SarahBeth Estes.

I think I’ll head to the pool tomorrow and take Mary Lu’s 9 a.m. water aerobics, talk to you after that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Class #17 Senior Weights Wednesday 1p.m. (Jeff)

I came right out of Carla’s noon bike class and walked down the hall to the Aerobics Studio to sit in on the Sr. Weight class. In fact, ‘sit in’ is the right descriptor because all of us sat balancing on big swiss balls for most of the class.

This class is such a sweet and unique experience. The first thing I need to explain is how this class evolved out of the CARTI cancer well-fit program. That’s a program we ran for years in partnership with CARTI (Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute). The program allowed cancer patients who were undergoing chemo and radiation treatments to come exercise, which has been shown to be extremely helpful to patients in treatment.

Along with a free temporary membership, cancer well-fit participants also attended a specialized group fitness class. That class would use light weights and stretch bands to gently exercise bodies that were enfeebled by cancer and its treatment. That class was the precursor to “senior weights” and many of the current participants came to the Club as cancer patients. For instance, Wanda Smith, who came up after class to tell me that she had started in the Cancer Well-Fit program in 2001 and had been coming ever since. She’s 81 now and feeling pretty darn good and loves coming to this class.

Today’s class was all women. I asked them where the men were and they laughed and said there used to be a few guys but they’d run them all off. I seriously doubt that.

It was apparent that everyone really enjoyed the class and each other. They also clearly adore their instructor – Jeff Witherington.

Jeff Witherington

At first glance, Jeff wouldn’t seem like the most likely candidate to be teaching this class. He’s a big bear of a man who knows a lot about strength training and weightlifting for competitive athletes. No doubt, had he so desired, Jeff could have been a college level strength coach and he looks the part. Instead, he’s a personal trainer at the LRAC and twice a week, leads the Sr. Weight class with his low-key, minimalist approach.

Jeff started with many of these ladies years ago when he used to lead the cancer well-fit classes along with Victoria High. He quite clearly has a soft spot in his heart for this group in the same way they do for him. His instructions are given in a short-hand that tells me these women have been coming to his class for some time. On several occasions I need to ask for some clarification so I’m on the same sheet of music.

While we’re doing our sets, which never lets up the whole class, Jeff fields and asks questions about American Idol, the Winter Olympics and tonight’s Razorback game among other subjects. Between groans and oomphs there is a steady banter about current events, the lingering winter weather and what sound to be some pretty good recipes. It’s easy to feel at home in a group like this in a hurry.

As our session wraps up, a number of the women come up to talk about the class and the Club and how much its meant to them. When everyone has finally left I realize again, for maybe the thousandth time, why I love what I do.

(The gift certificate for this class goes to Wanda Tapp.)

Class #16 Cycling Wednesday Noon (Carla)

The scheduling worked out well to grab another bike class today. That makes two cycling classes in two days, which is no big deal for real cyclists but it’s a decent challenge for me.

Going to Carla’s noon class was something of a homecoming for me. I’ve been a regular in this class on Monday/Wednesday for nearly five years. I’m used to cycling with all these folks and vice versa so it was fun to be with them today. That is, if your definition of fun includes getting ground into the dust by the one and only Carla Branch.

Carla is nothing short of a legend when it comes to group exercise in Little Rock. She started teaching back in the early 80’s at a place called the Sweat Shop, which was located in the back of Tanglewood shopping center and was the first business in town that existed just to teach aerobics. From what I understand, the place was aptly named.

Carla at the Sweat Shop circa 1984

If you’re in one of Carla’s classes, you can count on sweating. She likes folks to work hard and makes no bones about vigorously challenging us if we lose focus and begin to loaf. Carla knows that getting fit requires pushing past self imposed limits and she sees it as her job to give a little shove from time to time. She’s old school in that way but members love her classes because they know if they can meet her standards, they can hang with anybody.

Carla teaches five classes a week so I’ll be seeing her again. Besides cycling she also teaches the fearsome TBC (total body conditioning) class. Members speak in hushed tones about TBC and warn me that I better be ready when I step out on that floor. I’m listening. In fact, I’ll probably give myself a few more weeks of preparation and training before I jump into that bit of trouble.

Carla teaching a TBC class

Today’s bike class was fun and as always – challenging. The music was good - it must be a new playlist because I didn’t recognize most of it. (If/when I get Carla’s playlist I’ll paste it at the end of the blog). A typical Carla class includes a combination of seated climbs, standing switchback and various few sprints and we did all of that. Occasionally she also likes to throw in some serious anaerobic pushes. We did five of those at the end of today’s class. Each one is 30 seconds of generating the highest amount of watts you can muster. These pushes are akin to running up stadium steps as fast as possible for half a minute. After doing this drill a few weeks ago I woke up one night about 3 a.m. when my calf started cramping, which, I can assure you is a rude awakening. I told Carla about it the next day – she didn’t let on but I knew it made her proud.

There were about twenty Carla-ites in class today and I can name most all of them but since I’d forget someone and get in trouble I’m not going to start. The $25 gift certificate goes to David Shephard who’s a regular in the M/W noon class.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Class #15 Sculpt Tuesday 1 pm (Brittney)

The Sculpt classes are timeless. Even if you go back to Westside Tennis Club days (more than 20 years ago) there was a version of this class. The names change some through the years, such as: “calisthenics” or “stretch and flex” but it’s all the same magilla. For most of LRAC’s tenure, this class has been called Bodysculpt. I’m not sure who decided to drop the “body” part but so far no one’s shown up asking where the kiln is, so I guess the shortened name still works.

The class uses a series of props, gadgets and doodads to help you forget about the fact that you are working out. Today we used, an elastic band, hand weights and a Bosu ball to do a variety of exercises that tone most of the body’s muscles.

For the uninitiated, a Bosu ball is basically an exercise ball that has been cut in half and attached to a platform. The purpose of this clever device is to challenge one’s balance, which in turn causes stabilizing muscles to engage. The idea is that if a muscle is carrying a load and working to stabilize itself, it will build that muscle more quickly and completely. The Bosu balls are also quite versatile and can be used in lots of different ways to “sculpt” one’s muscles.

Push up using a Bosu Ball

Our instructor for this class, Brittney Patty, is also a certified Personal Trainer, so she knows lots of different ways to healthily make the body go ouch. My observation is that using all of the different gadgets makes the workout more fun and it’s helpful when instructors know how to change things up in that way. Besides it forces a momentary break in the action while changing gadgets, which is something I always appreciate.

Brittney Patty

Like many of our teachers, Brittney has loads of experience leading group exercise classes. Besides Sculpt, she has taught Step, Power Pump, TBC (total body conditioning) and Group Cycling at the LRAC since 2003. Brittney is certified as a Personal Trainer through the ACE (American Council on Exercise) and as a group exercise instructor through AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America).

For a mid-day offering this class has a huge following. There were around 20 in class today. Guess what, I was the only guy in there but I wasn’t ostracized or asked to stand in the corner. Instead everyone was nice to me and took my presence right in stride.

The $25 gift certificate goes to Pam Noonan. Congratulations Pam.

Okay then, I’ve only got 95 classes to go. Next up, noon cycling tomorrow with Carla Branch.

Class #14 Cycling Tuesday 10:30 a.m. (Barbara)

This class makes the second of 24 cycling classes on the schedule. Since I have ten weeks to complete all classes, I should be averaging 2 and a half per week. Last week I only went to one so I figured I better get with it. I really don't want to be doing only bike classes the final two weeks.

I have purposely avoided going to those bike classes on the schedule that regularly fill up. I don’t want to be the cause of anyone missing a class because I’m in there. We’ve ordered four new bikes and, as the weather turns nicer, the demand on classes will ease up a bit, then I should be able to go to any class with a clear conscience.

Since this class is held at the mid-morning hour it rarely fills up though it does attract a steady following. I can see why, it was a first rate class and I worked really hard in it.

This was one of the classes Lisa Cooper selected to demo the Polar Heart Rate monitors, for a promotion Polar asks us to do occasionally (I didn’t know that before I came in). As such, Lisa was on hand to help folks get set up with a monitor and a watch. I always wear a monitor in bike class anyway but I borrowed a watch to see what that was like.

Our instructor (Barbara Sarnataro) liked the fact that everyone had a heart rate monitor and she really focused on pulse during this class. As the workload was steadily ratcheted up Barbara had us focus on watts, which change immediately upon shifting the gear higher or increasing cadence and heart rate, which takes a few seconds to respond to the increase in work. When getting feedback like this, there is a tendency to work a little harder for some reason. Since a big part of a bike instructor’s focus is to push us to work more, they tend to like heart rate monitors and the like.

Barbara Sarnataro

Barbara teaches a great class. Her music, most of which I didn’t recognize, is really good. Normally, I wouldn’t like music when hearing it for the first time but her taste in music is obviously great. I asked her to send me a play list, which appears at the end of this post (see below).

Barbara has been teaching at the LRAC for almost ten years, since she and her husband moved to Little Rock from Tucson, AZ in May 2000. She was certified in group cycling by Madd Dog Athletics and “Spinning” in 1997. She is also a PMA certified Pilates instructor and a personal trainer specializing in Pilates. Besides all that, Barbara has a master’s degree in journalism and works as a free-lance writer for WebMD and others.

In today’s class, Barbara’s cuing was excellent, always letting us know what was coming and building each exercise to a crescendo before taking a (very) short break and moving on. We did a nice mix of climbs, sprints and various other pushes. Barbara commands attention with a quiet insistence that we keep pushing ourselves and I found her style very effective. I give the whole experience two handlebars UP.

There were around 12 in class today. I’ve noticed that bike classes, for whatever reason, attract men and women in equal measure and this class was no exception to that rule. The $25 gift certificate goes to Pat Sanchez.

After a short break, I’ll head down to the Group Exercise Studio for Brittney’s 1 pm Sculpt class. Talk to you after that.

Barbara's Play List for today's class:

The Violet Hour 3:34 Sea Wolf
Bodyrock 3:36 Moby
Runaway Car 4:12 Mat Kearney
Sex On Fire 3:24 Kings Of Leon
Pain 3:05 Jimmy Eat World
If It's Love 4:01 Train
Monsters 3:17 Hurricane Bells
Sad Songs 3:54 Matt Nathanson
The Man Who Can't Be Moved 4:02 The Script
Sweet Disposition 3:53 The Temper Trap
Ya Mamma 4:28 Fatboy Slim
Two Towers Theme 4:06 Lord of the Rings
Lean On Me 3:37 Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock & Keith Urban Hope for Haiti Now
Hallelujah (featuring Charlie Sexton) 4:16 Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris
Hope for Haiti Now

Class #13 Nia Monday 6:15 pm (Susan)

For the first time, I’m taking back-to-back classes. After finishing Breezy’s yoga class I stick around to dance with the Nia-phytes. There are others who like this double as well. The two classes while significantly different nonetheless complement each other.

Nia, in a word, is dancing. At its most basic level the steps are doable, even for a clodhopper like me. However, like most classes there are multiple levels attainable. So, if you really know how to dance, the basic steps turn into something elegant and beautiful. There’s a real flourish possible for each move that the “good” dancers seem to effortlessly manifest.

The cool thing is, nobody seems to care that vastly different skill levels are sharing the same space. Folks are just having a good time. It’s really all about, the music, the movement and in the process some pretty great exercise.

I would guess that most members don’t really know what the heck Nia is - even though it’s been at the Club for over 15 years. Unless you’ve seen it or done it, you may have the wrong idea about Nia.

Nia means “movement with purpose” in Swahili and the official slogan for Nia is “the joy of movement”. This discipline is based on three movement modalities; dance, martial arts and healing arts. As I told Susan last night, when I think of the movements as aikido (something I practiced for many years) they become more accessible to me than “dance” where I have only the slimmest of backgrounds.

This evening’s instructor is Susan Sell-Garrett, who teaches the bulk of the Nia classes offered at the Club. Susan earned her Nia license ten years ago, almost the same time she started working full-time at the LRAC in our Membership Office.

Susan Garrett

You can bet your booty that Susan can dance. She adds flourish to each move and makes them really fun and beautiful to watch. A lot of that ‘icing’ to my eye is an innate sense of rhythm and an ability to move the hips in a way that mine seemingly cannot. I’m not saying it’s not possible for me - just something with which I am not familiar. Between Nia and Zumba I’ll keep getting practice so who knows, maybe there will be an Elvisian breakthrough one day.

One thing that occurred to me during class was how much teachers have to practice to offer an hour of choreographed movements. For instance, last night’s routine was a new one for Susan. That means, she received a new DVD from the Nia folks, which she then had to watch, learn and teach to all of us without pause for an hour. Yikes! Her skill at cuing made the moves immediately accessible to us. I was amazed at how quickly most of the class caught on.

Attendance was strong with more than twenty folks in class. There were two other guys (yea!) present who I learned were regulars and like everyone else, seemed to be having big fun. I’d also like to mention, two of the women who were present; Margaret Hatchett and Priscilla Youngblood. Both Margaret and Priscilla have been coming to Nia on a regular basis since this class started. On the rare occasion when I show up, they are always so sweet and encouraging to me and I love seeing them too.

The $25 gift certificate goes to another long time Nia dancer – Yulonda Wallace. She tells me that the back left corner of the studio is her “real estate” and where she can regularly be found.

Class #12 Yoga Monday 5 pm (Breezy)

Due to scheduling logistics, I’m firing my yoga bullet early this week. It’s also my first time to do a class during “prime time” (i.e. 5-7 pm Mon.-Thur.) when the Club is especially hopping.

Breezy Osborne’s 5 pm yoga class is a familiar place for me. I used to be a regular in this class before it conflicted with a weekly tennis match. I’ve also taken many classes with Breezy at Barefoot Studio, the yoga studio she owns.

I happened to be in this same 5 pm yoga class 3 or 4 years ago when Matt Krepps was the instructor and Breezy was a teacher trainee. Matt had Breezy lead the class through the warm up portion of class. That may have been one of the first times Breezy had the opportunity to lead a class and doing so under the watchful eye of her instructor, had to be difficult. As one would expect, Breezy was a little tentative and probably terrified on that day.

No more. Breezy has developed into an extremely confident and competent teacher in the intervening years. This is the result, no doubt, of lots of hard work and having taught hundreds of classes in the interim.

Breezy Osborne

Breezy honed her skills in Las Vegas where she taught regularly and developed a strong following of students before being lured back to Little Rock when Matt and Holly sought her out to buy Barefoot Studio. That sale consummated on June 1, 2009 and from my observation, it’s been a good fit.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the LRAC has a unique partnership with Breezy’s studio. In essence, the Club pays a monthly fee to Barefoot and in return all Club members receive a 20% discount for their classes. As part of the agreement, Breezy teaches the Monday evening class at the LRAC. This is the sort of win-win scenario that I really like. Instead of being competitors as we might naturally have become, we are instead partners and as a result each business is strengthened.

As usual, on this Monday night, Breezy’s class was huge. By my count there were 30 students in the room. The class focus was on ‘side bend’ but as always the entire body gets exercised. Tonight’s sequence included ab work, horse, chair, forward bend, wide leg forward fold, gate, cobra, downward dog, tree, triangle, Warrior two and probably five or six techniques that I’m forgetting.

Breezy takes us through the paces in her soft but encouraging way always emphasizing staying safe and working within our limits. As with all good yoga instructors, modifications are offered for the different skill levels in the room. As we ease into Shavasana (corpse pose) there’s a pleasant feeling of resting after having worked the entire body.

The winner of the $25 gift certificate in 5 pm yoga goes to Kokila Vyas, who has been a regular participant in this class for years.

Okay, I’m going ‘back to back’ for the first time – Nia at 6:15 pm is next – no rest for the weary.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Class #11 Step-Basic Sunday 4:30 p.m. (Trish for Hannah)

That’s one small step for a Pat (followed by a whole bunch of bigger and trickier steps). Well, it took almost 20 years but today I attended my first Step class. I left a sweaty mess but managed to never totally fall off the bench. (Is it permissible to call them benches?)

I keep referring to this type of class as “bench” and people stop and look at me strangely. Well, that’s what it used to be called.

I still remember the first time I ever heard about “bench” class. I read about it in one of our trade journals around 1989. I pointed out the article to Deon Pillard who was the Club’s Fitness Director at the time. Deon skimmed the article and quickly dismissed this as a fad – “that’ll never make it” she assured me. Well, none of us can be right all the time.

In the beginning, there weren’t any manufacturers of benches for aerobics classes. Each bench was instead custom made by a local carpenter. I imagine we gave the carpenter a photo and said build ‘em like this. They were made of some fairly stout wood and weighed a ton. If you could carry the bench to the gym or studio, odds were you were strong enough to endure the class. Instead of risers, these benches came in different heights and were color-coded.

Step class on gym floor circa 1991

We’ve come a long way baby. Today’s steps are light but sturdy made of hard plastic and come with risers to easily adjust the height. The higher the step, the harder the work. I ambitiously opted for four risers (two per side) and that was probably about two more than I needed.

Our teacher today, Trish Blair, asked up front who had never done a Step class and fortunately, I wasn’t the only one to raise my hand. There were three of us back in the corner doing our best to keep up. Trish was really patient and sweet with us, assuring us that succeeding at “step” was basically a matter of learning all the terminology, words like: “A-step”, “L-step”, “Up and Over”, “Mambo Cha Cha” and the like.

The first time through, I was nailing it but then we sped up a bit and as Trish went back to former steps my brain couldn’t recall what it had “learned” before. Still, it wasn’t a complete disaster; I was able to hang in there pretty well (I must admit that I never really got the arm movements cause I was concentrating so hard on the foot placement). It was a terrific workout and I was so happy when Trish gave us a little break halfway through to get a sip of water.

The last ten minutes of the class we did abs using a Swiss ball. I’m afraid my abs were still stinging from Kris Mougeot’s Friday morning work over. Then, like some bad dream, I look out the back window of the room and there she is snickering at my shabby form. Mougeot is haunting me (actually, she was just waiting to teach the 5:30 Hard Core Stretch class which I happily announced I wasn’t taking today).

There was a good turnout for class, twenty-something. There was a guy in there early but he didn’t stay the whole time so, like usual, it was me and a bunch of women in better shape than me. It’s okay; I’m getting accustomed to it.

The $25 gift certificate goes to Michele Adams. Congrats Michele.

So, ends week number one. I haven’t planned out week two yet but will get right on that.

See you soon.

Class #10 Yoga Saturday 11:40 a.m

Before I delve into this morning’s class let me just pause a moment to celebrate a milestone. Yea, for double digits! That’s right, class number ten is in the bag. Unfortunately, there are still triple digits to go but that too will dip into the double digits tomorrow, so there’s something to be thankful for.

There are 11 yoga classes on our schedule and as I’ve already bragged, I can do those bad-boys standing on my head. So, I’m trying to spread them out some because they are somewhat restorative for me. Today was the 2nd yoga class I’ve taken on the quest and since this is still week number one – two yoga classes may be a little greedy on my part but I’m still easing into this whole deal. Besides my abs still ache from yesterday’s – Hard Core Stretch (a class that I hoped was yoga-esque but alas – no such luck).

I loved today’s class, it felt really good for my body. Our instructor this morning was Mike Danley. I’ve practiced yoga with Mike quite a bit but have only taken his classes on a few occasions. Mike’s gentle approach has a becalming quality, which is so helpful in a yoga practice.

Mike was trained at Barefoot Studio by Matt/Holly Krepps and therefore has a style with which I’m quite familiar. As you may know, the Club has a partnership with Barefoot Studio, whereby all of our members receive a 20% discount there and we frequently share teachers…also, current Barefoot owner Breezy Osborne teaches one class a week at the LRAC.

I’ve practiced most of my yoga at Barefoot and since this is a blog about the LRAC’s group ex program, perhaps I should explain myself. The thing is, yoga is as much about one’s inner state as one’s outer condition. That’s why it’s called a mind/body discipline. If the mind isn’t still, then the body won’t be relaxed. The problem for me while practicing yoga at the LRAC is that I’m still at “work”. I’m hyper aware of everything happening in the room, wanting to make sure the experience for members is a positive one. When I’m Barefoot, or anywhere else, I’m not responsible for what everyone else is experiencing so I can completely relax into the practice.

A good example of what I’m trying to say happened in class today. For some reason, children are drawn to all of the exercise doodads that are stored right outside the group exercise room. To the kids, the medicine balls, hand weights, balance balls and step benches are just a bunch of toys to be explored and played with. The problem is, that playing right outside the studio can be distracting during the stillness of a yoga class – or, at least I imagined it to be so this morning. As a result, I was distracted, worrying about others in the class being distracted – while also wanting to respect the kid’s desire to play. When I saw - between my downward dog legs - that two kids were dueling with the power pump weight bars I swung into action and went out to ask them to please play elsewhere.

All this motivates me to find an even better way to soundproof the room. Many LRAC members may not realize that last year we added a second pane of glass to the back wall to reduce noise. It helped a lot but still some sound gets through. I’ll keep looking for a solution – a Maxwell Smart “cone of silence” would be nice.

As for attendance at this morning’s class, it was really good….I’d guess about 25 and well balanced between men and women. The winner of the $25 gift certificate is Stephanie Sherwin.

Next class up for me is Sunday afternoon's Step Basic.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Class #9 Hard Core Stretch Friday 5:45 a.m. (Kris)

I penciled this class in early in the week because I figured by Friday I’d need a nice stretch class to work out the kinks on my fifth day of this adventure. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m accustomed to doing a fair amount of yoga so stretching is right up my alley.

Naturally, I took note of the word’s “hard” and “core” before the word stretch but even this didn’t scare me too much. I knew this was a Kris Mougeot class and that every class she offers is “hard-core”. For several years, Kris taught a yoga class, which was probably the toughest one I’ve taken but since then I’ve taken hundreds of yoga classes – surely I was ready.

I would quickly discover that the title of the class should be Hard CORE/stretch. We started doing standing ab crunches at 5:45 (for warm up) and completed our last ab exercise at 6:43, before we eased in to the heavenly stretching part of the program. For those keeping score at home, that’s 58 minutes of Hard CORE and 4-5 minutes of stretch. I would complain to management about this except that I AM management. Drat!

Most of this class reminded me of the scene in An Officer and A Gentleman when Louis Gossett, Jr., playing a drill instructor, is trying to make “Mayo” (Richard Gere) give up and resign from the Aviation Officer Training program by forcing him to do a torturous series of ab exercises. Eventually, in pain and frustration, Mayo cries out “I’ve got nowhere else to go”. I love that line. BTW, Mayo survives the ab episode, confesses his hubris, gets the girl (Debra Winger) and becomes an Officer – all in the last five minutes of the movie.

The point is - this was a killer ab class. It’s one of those classes where when you finish -it feels like you’ve really accomplished something. We did crunches till the cows came home. We did enough planks to build a barn. Hand weights, a squishy ball and a hard foam roller were creatively employed in endless ways to make the abs scream – “I’ve got nowhere else to go”.

As I’ve already mentioned, this was another Kris Mougeot production. This is my second Mougeot class and first time to repeat with a teacher. I’ve already introduced Kris (see class #1) but I’ll add a little here. To go along with her big smile Kris has a great sense of humor. When I told her, after class, that I had been looking forward to her “stretch” class she cackled with delight and asked how that had worked out for me. Kris is a multi-talented athlete – while growing up she competed in snow skiing, swimming, and, track and field. If all that isn’t enough - she’s also an excellent horseback rider.

This class was mostly filled with women although my yoga buddy Larry Alman was there too. I have to say that everyone there seemed to handle all these core-building exercises right in stride. It was pretty much only moi that had to back off every so often and rest for a few seconds. I was impressed.

The $25 gift certificate winner from this class goes to LaDona O’Nan.

Okay, that’s 9 down and a 101 to go. Next up, yoga on Saturday morning.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Class #8 Zumba for kids 3:45 Thursday

Since this class is “designed for ages 5-12”, technically speaking, I don’t qualify and could have reasonably opted out. But that’s not the way I roll. I told you I was going to all the classes on the schedule” and by (bon)jove(i) that’s what I’m gonna do.

Plus it’s only 30 minutes long. And, it’s good practice for the hour-long version of Zumba that I’m sooo looking forward to.

I’ll spare you the ‘history of Zumba’ lesson today since this was more or less a trial run and because I don’t feel like getting in to all that right now. I will say, for those who don’t know – Zumba is a dance-oriented class with a “Latin flavor”, which, you can bet, is pretty much my specialty.

Truthfully, this is one of my favorite classes on our whole schedule because it’s the only one specifically designed for kids. It’s a hoot to watch 40-50 youngsters bouncing off the walls and dancing with abandon. I would imagine that most parents appreciate the post-Zumba serenity- if that in fact occurs.

The kids seemed to take my presence in stride. A few even mistakenly assumed that as an adult, I must know what I was doing and would follow my smooth moves for a few seconds before coming to their senses and traipsing off to greener pastures.

As for me, I had a blast. The music is great and would make anyone want to move. I can’t help it that I look like Al Gore doing the rumba. In spite of all that, I noticed halfway through class that my heart rate was zooming. It’s cool when you can get your pulse that elevated and not even be aware of it.

The ZFK class instructor is Karen Tonti. She is a fabulous dancer and has great energy and rapport with the kids. Karen is a recent transplant to Little Rock, having lived previously in Gulf Breeze, FL and Atlanta. She discovered Zumba at the LRAC when we began offering classes almost two years ago. She loved it so much she decided to get trained to teach and has been teaching the Kid’s Zumba twice a week since the school year started. Karen has three children of her own – in fact, I think they were in there dancing with us.

Karen Tonti

Okay then. This is my fourth day in a row of two-a-days and the ole bod’s beginning to feel it. I plan to dial it back to one class/day for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Next up for me is Hard Core Stretch on Friday morning at 5:45.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Class #7 Pilates Thursday 5:45 a.m. (Paige)

Pilates – (puh lah tees) is French for “ooh my aching belly”. Okay, not really but few who have done it would quibble much with that definition.

Actually, this discipline is named after its founder Joseph Pilates. Sickly as a child, Mr. P. dedicated his life to studying and improving his and others physical fitness. He was born in Germany in 1880, moved to England in 1912 and to New York in 1925. Along the way, he developed a method of exercise that focused on breath, postural alignment and strengthening the body’ core muscles. He called his discipline “Contrololgy”.

Joseph Pilates

In New York, Mr. Pilates caught on big with dancers and the performing arts community. At the time of his death in 1967, the Pilates method was best known and practiced most extensively within the dance community. After J.P.’s death some of his students opened studios of their own and the “method” as it’s known now, grew legs.

Sometime in the late ‘80’s, the Pilates method began developing mainstream appeal…eventually making its way into health clubs even here in the hinterlands. The progenitor of Pilates at the LRAC is Barbara Sarantaro who began teaching here in 2000 and fortunately for us, continues to teach here today.

Mr. Pilates taught techniques that can be done on the floor and those which use specialized equipment that he invented. The classes we hold in the studio are the floor version or “mat” classes. We also have a Pilates studio where instructors who are certified to teach using the equipment offer personal training sessions.

There is, btw, a learning curve to the Pilates method. There’s a certain way to breathe and hold the abs in place to get the most benefit from the exercises. There are also standard techniques that are done in each class such as: “the hundred”, “teaser”, “open leg balance”, etc. For this reason, the Club offers an Intro course, which is required (or at least highly recommended) before attending a mat class. But never fear, your intrepid blogger has earned his Pilates stripes, having regularly attended weekly classes for several years, several years ago.

So anyway, I went to a Pilates class this morning. It was real early. My tummy was not completely on board with the rest of the body’s decision to go to this class. It complained. I told it to “take a number”.

Our instructor this morning was Paige Perritt. Paige is an excellent and experienced instructor having taught at all four of our clubs since 2001. Along with Pilates, she also teaches, group cycling, Zumba, TBC, and Power Pump. Paige has a degree from TCU (where, by the way, she was a cheerleader when LaDamian Tomlinson played there) in Fitness Promotion and Management. She also works full time as the Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity of Pulaski County.

Paige Perritt

There was just a small group of us in class today – I’m thinking that other tummies were home resting up – maybe even (gasp) asleep. The tummies that were there worked hard though, you would have been proud of us.

The $25 gift certificate from this morning’s class goes to Ana Selva.

Next up – the Kids Zumba class – mercifully only 30 minutes long. Check in with you after that.