Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Class #58 CardioSculpt Wednesday 8:45 a.m. (Betsy)

I’ve purposely held off taking this class until I was further along in the quest and in better shape. Along with TBC, which is a variation of this class, CardioSculpt is probably the toughest workout on our group ex schedule. For one thing it’s 75 minutes long and those extra 15 minutes make a difference. A second challenging aspect for me is that some of the class is “high impact”, that is, it involves jumping and I’m curious about how my back will hold up.

As I write, having finished the class, I’m sitting with an ice pack on my low back – more as a precaution than because of any actual pain. As advertised, it’s a tough class and I expect at least a little soreness by tomorrow. The ice pack, I hope, will diminish the damage.

The taut little pixie putting us through the paces this morning is Betsy Kortebein. This is my third class from her (the first two were cycling classes) so I already know that she’s tough but also encouraging and motivating. One thing she always says that I really like – is a reminder of how lucky we are to physically be able to even do a workout like this. Her message is, we shouldn’t take this capacity for granted and we owe it to ourselves to make the most of this time and work hard. Then, when we are finished we’ll be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

Betsy strikes a pose (we're supposed to do it too).

I set up camp on the back row and I notice how this row fills up first. Apparently, I’m not alone in my desire to be as far from the teacher as possible. It’s nothing personal of course; I just don’t want it to be too obvious if it turns out I can’t keep up.

The back row does Ab work (that's me - next to last - wondering 'how many more'?)

As the name implies, the class is a combination of Sculpt like exercises such as; lunges, squats, upper body resistance training (using hand weights and a heavy bar), balance poses and ab work, AND, cardio work like jumping jacks, bench fly-overs and other heart pounding work. Betsy alternates between the two modes of work so that when one set of muscles wears out – she’s immediately off to the next set. It’s a high energy and challenging workout but I manage to get through it all, although I do have to grit my teeth on more than one occasion.

Cardio work using the bench (I'm nearest the camera, slightly off the beat)

Betsy does the entire class with us, giving us cues about what’s coming next and encouraging us along the way. I notice that she manages to smile at us the whole time as if to say – “come on you can do this”. I can’t see all the faces looking back but I imagine them to be somewhat grim I suspect mine is. I can only guess that it’s hard to be a smiling teacher when the audience is rarely able to smile back.

Deep Squats

There are about 15 in class this morning including one other guy, Gregg Paddie, who tells me he does this class three times a week. Yikes. The lucky winner of the $25 gift certificate is Nicole Kaemmerling.

Note: Thanks to Kelly Parker for snapping some shots of today's class!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Class #57 Pilates Tuesday 8:45 a.m. (Victoria)

After the Stretch class I stay in the studio during the changeover for Victoria’s next class - Pilates. About five people stay for this same double but mostly a new crowd comes in and it’s a big crowd at that. I would guess there are about 22-24 for the Pilates class.

Joseph Pilates developed this method of exercise that focuses on breath, postural alignment and strengthening the body’s core muscles way back in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. Mr. Pilates exercises became especially renowned for helping professional dancers improve and extend their careers. After his death, ‘Pilates’ as the discipline came to be known, began to be taught on a more widespread basis and was introduced at the LRAC in 2000.

Joseph Pilates

The classes are comprised of a series of exercises that challenge/strengthen the core muscles (abs, back, hip flexors, etc.) of the body. There is a learning curve involved in contracting the ab muscles in the correct way to get the most benefit from the exercises and do them safely. We have found that it’s best to initially teach the Pilates technique in a small group setting, which happens on a periodic basis in our Conference Room. Members who have completed that introductory training are then ready to attend any of the Pilates classes on our weekly Group Ex schedule – like Victoria’s class today.

Victoria has been teaching Pilates at the Club since 2002 and has taught both the beginning series and ongoing classes. For several years, I was a twice a week regular at Victoria’s classes. In fact, most of what I know about Pilates I learned by doing her classes. Victoria is an excellent teacher and has a wonderful nurturing way about her that I’ve always found comforting. I notice in class today how Victoria uses the names of those in class (it seems to me that she know almost everyone) to compliment their form or encourage them to tweak this or that.

Victoria High

Pilates is hard work – especially on the tummy and at several points in class people verbally express their joy (or something) when a particularly hard exercise is finished. Over time, the stomach muscles get much stronger but no matter how strong they get – it’s still hard work to do the whole series correctly.

Victoria has over 25 years of experience in the fitness field in areas such as aquatics, yoga, resistance training and working with arthritis and cancer patients. She holds a plethora of certifications in Pilates, Yoga and group exercise instruction. Along with teaching group classes, Victoria also offers personalized training on the various Pilates equipment found in our Pilates Studio.

Victoria training Betty Tucker in the Pilates Studio

Victoria considers Pilates with its emphasis on full body control, abdominal strength, increased range of motion and mind/body connection as “a great solution for all”. She sums up the appeal of this discipline by quoting the founder, Joseph Pilates who said, “You are as young as the flexibility of your spine.” There must be something to that statement because my long time and wonderful chiropractor, Robynn Zinser is a regular in this class and is here this morning (Robynn keeps my spine in shape – you see).

Since Victoria teaches this same twosome of classes again on Thursday, I’ll be back to see her in a few weeks. I’ll be looking forward to it.

The $25 gift certificate goes to Renee Hutson.

Class #56 Stretch Tuesday 8 a.m. (Victoria)

I’ve got a luscious double lined up for this morning. Victoria High teaches two classes back-to-back – Stretch and Pilates – and I’ll be taking both of them. I used to be a regular in Victoria’s Pilates class a few years ago and I love her tender, nurturing teaching style.

The Stretch class turns out to be a sweet and relaxing 40-minute class. Some of the stretches are from yoga but it’s not necessary to know a single thing about yoga to do this class. I’m sure that’s what Victoria had in mind when she designed it. This class is probably most similar to Beverly’s Yoga/Stretch but it’s not quite like it either.

Over the course of 40 minutes, Victoria moves us through a variety of poses that stretch the entire body. All of it is gentle in nature and Victoria continually reminds us to not overdo it. “Stretching should feel good”, she says, “not hurt”. At the end of class, we do a complete relaxation pose, lying on our backs with our palms up. In yoga this pose traditionally ends all classes and its Sanskrit name is Shavasana (corpse pose). Victoria, though avoids using any yoga or Pilates terms because this class is just Stretch.

Victoria actually knows a lot about stretching because of her extensive training in Yoga and Pilates. She’s certified in both traditions and each of them have a lot to say/teach about the importance of flexibility and how to achieve it.

I’ll introduce Victoria more fully in the next blog but I can say here that her teaching style is calming and encouraging – I always find it uplifting to be in one of her classes. She’s also good about reminding everyone to remember his or her form and to do whatever is being instructed in a safe manner.

Victoria High

Victoria has been teaching this same class for almost eight years and not surprisingly she has a good following. There are about 16-17 in class this morning and that includes three men – I’m happy to say. The $25 gift certificate for this class goes to Chloe Lanston.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Class #55 Zumba Monday 9a.m. (Beverly)

This is class number 55 - a significant one for me because it signifies the halfway point on my journey to completing the 110 weekly classes on the LRAC schedule. It seems like it’s taken a while to get here but it provides a psychological lift knowing I’ll be counting down from here on out.

I’ve just completed the Pryme Tyme Sculpt class (see blog on Class #54) and stick around in the Group Ex studio to take the next class - Zumba by Beverly. It’s apparently a popular “double” because about four women from the first class stay to do the second one with me.

This makes my fifth Zumba class and it would be overstating it to say I’ve got the hang of things but my comfort level is growing ever so slightly. The key to my survival in Zumba is to keep my expectations of success extremely low. Every time I stumble onto the right step on the correct beat is a victory to be chalked up and savored.

I learned a new trick in class today that made me feel better. I discovered that by standing in the middle of the room (on the back row of course) I had a direct view of the stereo system nook instead of my reflection in a mirror. I’ll have to remember this for future classes.

I’m not sure if it was the learning curve kicking in or the fact that Beverly’s steps were a little bit easier to follow but I found at times that I was more or less doing what she was doing. It helped a lot that she shows a routine and then repeats the steps enough times that eventually it sorta sinks in. I did say more or less – the less part being the flourish – that is, any hip movement or say a fancy hand gesture – those details remain beyond my reach.

Beverly (right) and frequent student Alene Goetz

I’ve mentioned before that the whole hip gyration thing eludes me in Zumba. Today I noticed that sometimes when I try to move my hips, it’s actually my shoulders that shimmy. This is another good reason to find a spot to stand where no reflection is visible.

After class, Kelly Parker, the Club’s Communications Director, who happens to be a very good dancer, and also attended Zumba was telling me that it was helpful for everyone to regularly attend the same teacher’s class because in that way you learn their routine. This is a disadvantage to the way I am taking classes since I never get to repeat the same class twice. Kelly tells me that she regularly attends Beverly’s Monday morning class and absolutely loves it.

Beverly, like all the Zumba teachers is a terrific dancer and offers really good cueing by continually calling out what’s coming next – which really helps. She also incorporates a few moves that are similar to what’s seen in a dance aerobics class and which are easier for me to grasp. Furthermore, she is obviously having a good time while teaching, which is infectious.

People keep asking me what my favorite class is so far and I’ve got a couple of answers. I love doing yoga and it’s in my comfort zone because I’ve done a lot of it – so that’s one favorite but if I had to pick a favorite that’s way outside of my comfort zone it would be Zumba or Nia. Both of these classes are really fun and the time just flies by plus I’m always sweating profusely, which is proof of how good the workout is.

Today in Beverly’s class there are 17 participants – all women except for me. The winner of the $25 gift certificate goes to Mary Sanati (this is about the 6th class I’ve taken with Mary so it had to happen sooner or later).

Class #54 Pryme Tyme Sculpt Monday 8:00 a.m. (Lisa C.)

Strategically I’ve found that it works well to stack together two classes that are back-to-back and complementary (almost as if someone planned it like that –hmmm). This morning’s combo (NOT found at Burger King) is Pryme Tyme Sculpt followed up by Zumba. The Sculpt class will get me plenty warmed up and work my muscles hard then the Zumba will get the cardio burn going and shake out all the knots – that’s the hope anyway.

Pryme Tyme, I discovered is no longer (if it ever was) for granny’s getting in shape for knitting socks. No doubt some of the participants are indeed grandmothers but they are of the hard body variety. Six pack grandmas – let’s call them.

As we walk into class, one of the women who is no doubt a regular whispers that Lisa is gonna kick my you-know-what in this class. So Pryme Tyme class these days is apparently a cross between fitness training for “seniors” and Navy Seals.

I should point out before I get in trouble with someone – that not everyone in class is a bona-fide senior. We don’t “card” anyone before they come in and truthfully everyone is welcome – it’s just that Pryme Tyme was originally designed for seniors and that’s still the principal crowd.

When Lisa took over this class, she tells me, the feedback from participants was “don’t coddle us – make it tough”. Lisa, of course, is only too happy to accommodate such requests cause that’s music to her ears.

Lisa’s version of Sculpt involves lots of squats, pliĆ©s, lunges, leg curls, calf raises, etc. She combines the leg work with arm exercises using hand weights such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, flys, chest presses, shoulder shrugs and elbow raises. After all that we use the Swiss ball for core work by balancing on it while we do more weights, abs, bridge presses (working the glutes) and other exercises. We end class by doing mat work such as balancing on one arm and one leg and long plank holds. As advertised, the class is plenty tough but from my vantage point no one backs down or wimps out or even whines any.

Lisa Cooper is the matriarch of Group Exercise at the Little Rock Athletic Club and I’ve waited a long time to take my first class from her (she teaches 4 per week at the LRAC). Lisa is the Club’s Fitness Director and the coordinator of all Group Exercise at all four of our clubs. That means that Lisa keeps track of 80-90 instructors who combined teach 230 classes a week. This is a monumental undertaking but Lisa somehow makes it look easy. It isn’t easy though.

Lisa Cooper

Lisa has been the Fitness Director at the LRAC for more than 20 years. We lured her away from her native Minnesota and while it may have come as a big surprise, Little Rock grew on her and Lisa decided to put down roots here – lucky for us. Her sisters Krissa and Holly eventually followed Lisa to the land of milk and honey (and mosquitoes) – so now it’s a family affair.

Lisa leading a Step class 'back in the day' (that's my sister Katherine on the right)

Along with being a fitness expert and group exercise maven, Lisa is also a Registered Dietician. You will NEVER catch her eating a donut or much of anything else that’s “bad” for you. Instead, she is a true model of fitness, a former competitive runner and happy mother to son Luke.

Lisa and Luke with Susan Garrett at the JCCA Walk for CommUNITY

In class this morning there are about 16 fit women and little 'ol me. The $25 gift certificate for this class goes to long time member and Pryme Tyme regular Cathy Sanders.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Class #53 Cycling Sunday 2:00 p.m. (Betsy)

It seems like I’ve taken a lot of cycling classes so I decided to count them up. Turns out, today’s class makes my 15th. That means that almost 30% of the classes I’ve taken thus far have been group cycling. There are a total of 24 on the schedule so I’m actually ahead of pace on the cycling front. Yea!

All that cycling is building up my cardio endurance and leg strength. Over time, I’ve been able to push up my watts and heart rate incrementally but each class remains plenty hard – I guess, that aspect doesn’t change much. Even as you get stronger and better conditioned, it just means you’re able to push that much harder, the end point is still a lot of sweat and gasping for air.

On the schedule the 2 p.m. Sunday class is listed as shared between Krissa and Betsy – both of them tough teachers – and I don’t know who I’ll get till I walk in. It turns out it’s the Betz, just back from a ten day vacation in Europe and she’s ready to work off those croissants and beignets. (It doesn’t matter to her that WE haven’t been eating them).

Betsy is as tough as nails and everybody knows that if they’ve been in her class before. She is from the school of – “I won’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do” but, by the way, I ask a lot of myself. She likes to challenge the class to make the most of their time and abilities and work to their capacity.

Betsy Kortebein

Shortly after the warm up ends Betsy tells us, “it’s been rumored that men can push higher watts than women. Well, let’s just say that’s true. I’m pushing 160 watts right now so surely you guys (there are 11 of us male types in class) are above that”. Well, actually, at the moment, um, no I’m not but give me about five seconds and I’ll be with you. Challenging one’s manhood is a pretty effective technique to propel the fragile male ego into action even though I have no illusions that I could outride Betsy over any meaningful distance.

Betsy uses “average watts” as the measure for where we should be riding. So, on a typical exercise, Betsy might say “for the next minute, I want you 30% above your average watts”. This means that along with riding hard and pushing up one’s heart rate, you also get to solve a little math problem.

One’s average watts, like a handicap in golf, are calculated by taking a number of classes and noting what one’s typical “score” (watts in this case) is at the end. I need to pay better attention but I think my average is usually around 130 watts. On the absolute high end I occasionally peak at between 300-400 watts but that’s only on very short anaerobic pushes. I can climb (i.e. out of the saddle) up above 200 watts for about 5 minutes but that’s exhausting. In today’s class, which I work very hard – thanks to Betsy’s pushing – I average 135 watts with an average heart rate of 135 as well.

The interesting thing to me is how the perception of work changes over the course of a class. At the beginning, even pushing 130 watts seems sort of hard, whereas at the end of a hard class, a steady state ride around 150-160 watts is very doable. This acclimation to work makes me think that I could probably improve my “handicap” a lot if I got really well warmed up before the class starts but that’s not really in the cards for me. I like to show up at the last minute (in fact, today, truth be told, I was five minutes late - oh the shame of it all).

Betsy gives a great class. She’s very motivating, plays good music, works herself and us very hard and even tells us some good stories along the way. Today, she shared one about going to the Eiffel tower on her trip and how there were two lines to go up to the top. One was about a mile long and led to an elevator on the ground floor. The other line was very short and required people to walk up three flights of stairs to another elevator. Of course, Betsy wanted to go up the line with no one in it where you climb a ladder on the outside of the tower.

There are 16 hard riding heroes in today’s class – 11 guys and 5 women. The $25 gift certificate goes to Bill Walker.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Class #52 Kickboxing Saturday 7 a.m. (LeeAnn)

Seven a.m. on a Saturday morning may seem like a strange time to be kicking and punching to music but that’s exactly what’s on the agenda today. Before this Kickboxing class begins I’m curious and a little worried about how my body will hold up to what is sure to be a high impact workout.

It’s fortuitous then that my friend Richard Peek comes in to class about two minutes late and sets up camp next to me. I saw Richard here last week when I came for the 8 a.m. Power Pump class so he must be a regular at the Saturday morning Kickboxing class.

Richard is a highly regarded physician who specializes in care of the spine. I’ve been to his office to seek his advice about my finickey back so he knows about my “issues”. When he comes in I half-jokingly tell him I’m glad he’s here in case I need his care. Richard replies that this workout is a great one for the core but to take it easy on certain kicks. Sure enough, when we start doing back kicks, which puts my spine in a jarring extension, Richard suggests I avoid it. So, I switch to front kicks and make it through class just fine.

By the way, before class started I went up and spoke to LeeAnn, the instructor and told her that my back was iffy and I might need to modify some things. She assured me that any adjustment I needed to make would be absolutely fine with her. I’m saying all this because it’s important for anyone taking group exercise class to err on the side of keeping oneself safe. If the whole class is doing something that seems like it might cause you harm then don’t do it. No teacher will ever be upset by anyone modifying an exercise for safety’s sake.

LeeAnn offers a class that is high energy and challenging but also fun. It looks like she might have some martial arts training in her background as her kicks are all high and snappy. Along with the kicking and punching she also throws in some agility exercises that look like something speed skaters might do for training. We also do phantom jump roping, jumping jacks and ducking and weaving exercises. At the end of class we do some ab work because what would a day be without working over the abdominal muscles. The hour goes by quickly, it’s enjoyable and a terrific workout.

LeeAnn started teaching group exercise classes during her sophomore year while enrolled at the University of Arkansas. When she moved to Little Rock this summer to begin a PhD program at UAMS in Cell physiology, she contacted the LRAC to see about teaching for us. She started teaching at the Club last August, the same time as her graduate school classes started. She says she loves the stress relieving aspect of Kickboxing and has become attached to the regulars who frequent her class each week. Last week, one of those regulars told me that LeeAnn’s class was her favorite one on our entire schedule.

This morning on a beautiful Spring Break Saturday, LeeAnn still attracts 10 aspiring ninjas to her Kickboxing class. The $25 gift certificate goes to Rhonda Coldren.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Class #51 Aerobics Friday 9:00 a.m. (Sheffield)

Fresh off of my ‘successful’ debut in adult Zumba, I stick around for Sheffield’s Aerobics class, which follows immediately in the studio. This is “old school” dance aerobics and something that I’ve done a few times in the past although it’s been a while (say, 20 years?).

This is first and foremost a cardio class, where we keep moving the whole time. It would also be considered “high impact” aerobics because we do a fair amount of jumping – however, it’s easy enough to modify and do everything without leaving the ground, which in fact, a few people do.

It’s interesting to watch Sheffield build the routine. She warms us up with a series of four step patterns where we travel across the floor from back to front to back over and over. These four moves become the bedrock on which she will build the rest of the class. By the end of class, we will be doing about twenty different patterned movements all stacked seamlessly together. The way she teaches and cues the class, even a dolt like me can get the hang of it. Learning the routine and putting it all together turns out to be fun, challenging and a good workout.

Dance aerobics includes movements like jumping jacks, grapevines, heel/toe sashaying, slide steps, knee raises, leg kicks, twisting mambo jambos (I have no idea what to call most of this stuff – can you tell?). Actually, what it reminds me of is the dancing that was done in the movie Footloose – for those who remember that. It uses strong athletic moves that are more intuitive to me than what I experience in Zumba. One thing that’s different between this and Zumba is the hip gyrations - Aerobics is mercifully missing that element - at least that’s so in today’s class.

Kevin Bacon in Footloose

This is my second day in a row to take one of Sheffield’s classes. Yesterday (see blog # 49) I took her Sculpt class, which is more calistentics oriented. Even in Aerobics, which is primarily cardio, we still use handweights part of the time and at the end, we do abs (are there any classes that don’t do abs?).

Sheffield uses verbal cueing to keep the count and tell us where we’re going next before each sequence change. It’s impressive to me how she can keep this long, rather complicated sequence in her head without ever taking a break or losing her place. Of course, as I mentioned yesterday she’s been doing this for a while but still….

Sheffield Duke

There are about twelve in the Aerobics class and yes, its all women again with the lone (st)ranger. About four of the women who took the Zumba class also stay for Aerobics so it’s a good combination for those who want two hours of vigorous, non stop movement.

The $25 gift certificate in Sheffield’s class goes to Debbie Capps.

Tomorrow morning I’m getting up early to come to LeeAnn’s 7:00 a.m. kickboxing class.

Class #50 Zumba Friday 8:00 a.m. (Paige)

This morning I am going for the Friday dancing double. Back to back classes in Zumba and (Dance) Aerobics. It will be a good contrast to see the “old” (Aerobics) and the “new” (Zumba) side by side. First up is Zumba.

For latecomers to the blog – Zumba is an amped up hour of dancing/gyrating, etc. to rhythmic Latin music. It was developed by a fancy dancing dude in Columbia (the country not the home of Mizzou) and it incorporates steps from salsa, merengue, samba, rumba, cha cha, hip-hop and a bunch of other words that I know nothing about.

"Beto" Perez - Originator of Zumba

I’ll tell you this – it’s fun to watch Paige do Zumba – the girl can move. I can also say that as soon as I forget about what I look like (hard when you're surrounded by mirrors) it’s a lot of fun. Some steps are easier than others but objectively speaking – nothing I do looks remotely like what Paige is doing.

Paige Perritt

It’s the whole hip movement thing that I’ve lamented about in previous Zumbaesque blogs. An integral part of doing Latin dancing is being able to move the hips in a rhythmic and supple way. It dawns on me that swimming butterfly (my best stroke in college) required this sort of coordination but I guess it doesn’t translate to dry land. Or maybe, I just need to practice it a lot more instead of whining about not being able to do it.

This is my 3rd Zumba class but first one that’s not intended for kids. I’m glad that I warmed up twice with the Zumba for Kids class because there is some incipient learning curve that’s kicking in. There are a total of 9-10 Zumba classes on the schedule so maybe by the last one I’ll have a bit more of the hang of things. Even if I do it everyday for the next ten years, however, I ain’t ever gonna be confused for Paige.

The music in the class is really great and it’s the kind that makes you want to move. Along with lots of sassy Latin tunes meant for the tango, samba, rumba, etc. Paige also throws in the oldie-goldie “ABC” from Michael Jackson, which is fun cause I know it well (shake it shake it baby come on now, etc.). At one point, Paige while introducing a new routine says “sorry about this Pat” – and launches in to what turns out to be the “belly dancing” song. Sorry, indeed.

Zumba is the kind of workout that doesn’t feel like a workout at the time because it’s too much fun. It’s a similar feeling for me when I play beach volleyball because I never think about how hard it is or how much I’m sweating it’s just what I love doing. There’s a lot to be said for exercising in this way.

At the end, everyone in class is super nice and encouraging to me. I’m definitely given credit for trying, which feels good. It’s also a common theme in all the classes I’ve been to at the Club – the regular participants love it when new folks come in and they really WANT you to like it and come back.

This morning there are about 12 in class – all women except for me. The $25 gift certificate goes to Carol Schriver.

Next up, Aerobics with Sheffield Duke.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Class #49 Cycling Thursday 4:30 p.m. (Heather)

You’d think I would learn but no, due to scheduling reasons I find it necessary to return to the scene of the crime and take ANOTHER cycle class from Heather this week. I’m still recovering from the first one on Monday (see blog for Class #45) and as I saunter into the studio I do my best to show no fear.

Heather’s class is renowned for having a fan (air movement) side and a no fan side and I foolishly wind up on the end that typically goes fan less (I should have known since hardly anyone else is over there). Today, though the vote count tips in favor of turning on the fans on our side and I’m glad for any help I can get…even though Rusty is giving me the evil eye.

Heather tells that we’ll be riding a “century” class. That is, we’re going to ride as if we were trying to do a hundred mile bike race. The idea is to keep the pace high and continually building but never venturing in to “zone 4” (on the exertion chart that’s listed as ‘breathless and uncomfortable’) i.e., “anaerobic”.

Instead we’ll mostly be working in Zone 2 (challenging but comfortable) and Zone 3 (challenging and uncomfortable. Those zone’s also correspond to a percentage of one’s maximum heart rate so Zone 2 = 60-70% and Zone 3 = 70-80%. Lots of people are wearing heart rate monitors, including me, so tracking our work by heart rate is very effective.

By the way, I love the heart rate monitor. It never lies and lets you know exactly how hard you are working. I recommend folks who ride in bike classes and/or do other regular cardio classes or workouts consider getting one. We have the Polar straps and watches available in the Pro Shop. I only use a strap because the bike picks up the heart rate and gives me a read out so I can always see where I am. The watches are cool too and give lots more info but that’s just one more thing for old scatterbrained Pat to keep up with.

Back to class – already in progress. Similar to Monday’s workout, Heather slowly but sure ratchets us up through the zones getting our hearts and legs accustomed to the higher effort level. It’s amazing how at first, 135 beat per minute seems really hard but after getting settled in it becomes much more manageable.

Heather Isbell

I pay close attention today and sure enough we go the first 36 minutes of class without every gearing down – instead it’s a slow increase in gears till we reach a plateau and then the periods of relative work and “rest” comes from speeding up or slowing down our pace as called out by Heather. It’s an effective way to work and today, since I’m a little bit tired, this long steady increase in work seems more palatable to my body than interval training might have.

Like Monday, the last 7 minutes of class require the strongest push and sure enough I find myself hitting my high heart rate in the last two minutes and holding on for dear life. My average heart rate for the class – including the long warm up is 134 bpm. That’s about 81% of my supposed maximum heart rate (220 – age). It’s a good workout and I’m struck again with how adeptly Heather pulls me along with her voice and cueing. She’s a first rate teacher and I see why so many members are drawn to her classes.

Heather’s music selection is also integral to the class. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of it before, most of it is instrumental, but the pulsating guitar and percussion riffs keep me pumping hard. When things get tough it really is helpful to tune into the music and use that rythym to drive the legs and forget about the pain for a moment.

There are about 18 in class today – an even mix of men and women. The $25 gift certificate goes to Cherry Landfair.

Okay, folks that 49 classes meaning tomorrow I hit the big five oh. I can’t get too excited though since that means I still have six oh to go but it is progress!

Class #48 Sculpt Thursday 1:00 p.m. (Sheffield)

The story today isn’t as much about the class as the teacher. Sheffield Duke has officially been teaching at the LRAC for longer than anyone else on staff. In fact, her tenure as a teacher pre-dates even my involvement with the Club (I started here in 1985) going all the way back to 1983 when, as she put it, “it was the Westside Tennis Center and out in the middle of nowhere!” Back then, she says, she was teaching school and had no children. Today she has two daughters, Sheffield Duke, age 24 and Riley Duke, 23.

The amazing thing is that Sheffield looks the same as when I first saw her 25 years ago. She is a living, breathing testament to the benefits of staying active, eating right and whenever possible selecting from a good gene pool.

Sheffield tells me that while she’s been at the Club she’s taught everything on the schedule except Step, Yoga or Pilates – that makes for LOTS of classes that she has taught. When Anne Piazza left, in 1994, Sheffield took over the renowned Pryme Tyme group and taught those classes for eleven years.

Sheffield with Pryme Tyme group in mid '90's

These days, Sheffield teaches a Sculpt class on Thursday (the one I took today) and an Aerobics class on Fridays (I may take that tomorrow). Outside of the Club, Sheffield is an Activities/Volunteer Coordinator at Pleasant Hills Senior Living Community. My guess is that one of the activities she coordinates for the good folks living at Pleasant Hills is something akin to a Sculpt class….maybe not as hard as the one we did today.

Sheffield Duke

In class today, Sheffield worked us over using a “body bar” (weighted bar), hand weights, an elastic strap thingy and a step bench. She put us through the requisite litany of squats, lunges, bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest presses, shoulder presses, flys, shoulder raises, planks, ab crunches of all varieties and flavors and lots of other stuff. It wears me out just to write about it. It was a good workout and I was happy to make it through without whining.

As you would expect from someone this experienced, Sheffield is an excellent instructor. She gives good cues, is continually encouraging while urging everyone to do just a little bit more. She stays in complete command of the class and is cheerful on top of that. It’s the mark of a professional to teach something for the 1,000th time and yet make it fresh and vital. Good job Sheffield!

Sheffield teaching a class

As we near the end of the week on this Spring Break, the Club is much more deserted than usual – still there are ten in Sheffield’s class today. As fate would have it, I’m the only guy. The lucky winner of the $25 gift certificate is Gina Terry.

Class #47 Step Wednesday 5:30 p.m. (Ronnie)

I’ve used Spring Break week to go to some of the most popular classes on the schedule and Ronnie’s Step classes on Monday/Wednesday certainly qualify as Club favorites. He’s been teaching them for a long time (around 16 years) and has developed a large fan base because he’s a wizard at Step.

One of the things that makes Ronnie’s classes so popular is his inventive choreography. He knows a few thousand different ways to step on, over or around the bench – usually with some quick-footed combinations in-between. It’s fun to watch he and the regulars do it but I’ll admit that I’ve been pretty nervous about taking my turn at bat.

I originally planned to save Ronnie’s class until I had done three or four other Step classes and had a better idea about how they work. Well, before today I had only made it to one Step basic class and I was lost in there most of the time so my expectations for “success” coming into Ronnie’s class were pretty humble.

The reality was better than I hoped for though because Ronnie, along with being great at choreography, is a master at giving cues. He tells you everything you’re going to do before it’s done and then he builds the routine in a way that gives you the best chance to catch on. That said there were plenty of times when I clearly wasn’t doing what everyone else was but if I stayed patient, in a few more beats I could rejoin them and do something that I had mastered.

Along with watching Ronnie, I was also keeping an eye on my neighbors and picking up clues from them as well. The tricky part when you’re doing all this looking around is to make sure that one part of your focus stays on the bench so you don’t entirely miss it.

The class went by quickly and I had fun doing it. Beforehand, I thought I’d feel so klutzy that I couldn’t enjoy it but that wasn’t the case. I can see how doing the routine on a regular basis would allow one to jazz it up some and make it even more fun. For instance, Ronnie would throw in a flourish here and there that the “good steppers” could easily handle while the more remedial among us could stick with a more basic step and still have fun.

Step class on gym floor

One other comment about the class – it’s a terrific workout – I was pouring sweat about half-way through and only part of that was from being nervous. By the way, I only used two risers (one on each side) and that was plenty high to get my heart rate way up. The first Step Basic class I took, I used four risers and that was a mistake for a newcomer.

Ronnie ended the class with a ten-minute ab routine. I was relieved to have made it through the step portion and mistakenly thought I could relax….oops – the ab section was a killer. I had to rest on several occasions murmuring “I got nowhere else to go” (the unofficial ab war cry).

As I mentioned above, Ronnie Stone has been teaching at the Club for about 16 years. He told me that he first got certified by the AFAA in 1991 and has been teaching ever since. Ronnie related that as a youngster, growing up on a farm near El Paso Arkansas, he had been 40 pounds overweight. When he discovered exercise, he said, he gradually lost the weight and fell in love with the fitness world.

Along with teaching group exercise classes, Ronnie is also a certified personal trainer through NASM. Outside of the fitness world, he’s taught Special Education in the public schools for 11 years and is currently the Office Manager for physician Joseph M. Beck.

Ronnie’s friend and fellow group exercise stand out, Krissa Thoreson, has encouraged him to be a national presenter at the annual IDEA (International Dance Exercise Association) Conference in San Diego because she says, “he doesn’t know how good he is”, but so far he’s demurred. Since he likes challenges though, maybe he’ll do it someday and dazzle teachers from all over the country.

Tonight’s class had about 20 in it – all women except for one other guy – bless his heart, and me. The $25 gift certificate goes to Susan Bradley.