Coming Clean

One woman’s honest quest to clean up her unhealthy life for herself and her family.

Recently in T.E.A.M. Boot Camp Category

Experience Life Magazine

90-Day Challenge: Faster Fitness

Like any American, I can be a bit impatient and find myself regularly short of “free time,” whatever that means. So the idea of going to the gym and spending an hour or more on the treadmill or puttering around without a plan completely turns me off. In fact, it usually convinces me to skip my workout altogether.

When I’ve worked with a trainer these past few years, I’ve loved having the guidance — especially because I’ve been resistant to working out most of my life. It also why I love group classes at Life Time Fitness: I just have to show up and follow along.

As I got stronger, I decided to try T.E.A.M. Boot Camp, which was awesome in the most challenging way. It’s circuit-style training, with some workouts similar to HIIT or metabolic resistance training: work hard and fast and/or lift heavy, rest, and repeat. (Of course, each instructor is different, but you can find examples of exercises on the Boot Camp by Life Time Facebook page or their website here.)

In honor of this week’s Try-It Tuesday events, either a T.E.A.M. Fitness or Ultimate Workout class, I challenged myself in Boot Camp on the clean and press and managed to hit a new PR (personal record): 55 pounds! Up until this week, my muscles could only handle 35 pounds — that’s a 20-pound difference in a matter of 3 to 4 weeks! Go Courtney’s muscles!

I’ve written about my love of group fitness before, and if you are short on time like me and want a specific plan with super-effect results, I think you’ll be happy with one of the T.E.A.M. classes, either Weight Loss, Fitness, Boot Camp, or the Ultimate Workout. And there’s always group-fitness classes to try as part of your membership.

If you enjoy working out alone, keep it up! Whatever works best for you. But if you’re curious about working with a partner or group, give it a shot. (Read more about the benefits of exercising with friends in “Group Effort,” from the May 2011 issue of Experience Life.) Like me, you might find yourself more motivated to work out.

Have you tried one of the T.E.A.M. classes or group workouts?

For those of you looking for more info on metabolic resistance-training programs, check out our video below. And read more about how lifting weights can boost your weight-loss progress in our September 2012 article, “Lift to Lose Weight.”

Experience Life Magazine

Alpha Showdown

In the past few weeks, I’ve been focused on one major goal: competing in the Life Time Fitness Alpha Showdown. Sound intimidating? It was.

Our event took place on April 21, and later that day, my family was getting together to celebrate my grandfather’s 83rd birthday. I was corresponding with my aunt, who was the hostess (and also a member of Life Time), about arrival times and any items we could bring to the gathering. I mentioned we’d most likely be late to lunch because I was in a competition that morning.

“Wait, are you doing the Alpha Showdown?! Isn’t that an extreme athletic event?!” she wrote via email.

Why, yes, yes it is. And I’m participating. Am I an extreme athlete? Heavens no!

But that’s not saying this event was for someone new to fitness. Our T.E.A.M. Boot Camp group has been together, more or less, since October 2011, and even those with the greatest fitness capacity had to muster the strength to finish. It was that challenging.

The event consisted of three parts: power, strength, and endurance, one section after another, all for best time to win. So even though I felt great while doing strength, power and endurance had me arguing with my sensible side. Just stop! she’d shout. This is too hard. That voice was most vocal during the burpee broad jumps, the snatch (that’s me pictured at right with the women’s weight of 45 pounds, midway through my 10 reps), and the duck walk, which I’ve practiced but opted out of since it aggravated my lower-back condition. (I had to listen to my body on that one, even though it meant my time would be disqualified.)

As the voice in my head grew stronger, I became weary. I was fatigued, but knew I hadn’t reached my limit. When I nearly laughed out loud at myself — my internal dialogue was seemingly delirious — I considered quitting.

But then I’d hear the cheers from my teammates, all of whom seem to dismiss the idea of competition with each other in favor of challenging themselves. And then, like something out of a boxing movie, my fellow Boot Camper Earl came up to me as I was losing speed, and put his hands on my shoulders: “You got this. We do this all the time in Boot Camp. You can do this.” The voice of my sensible side faded as he spoke, and I realized she was attempting to make concessions for me. Yes, it was hard, but I was indeed capable of completing the course. All my work in Boot Camp had prepared me for it, and I was strong enough to finish the challenge.

“Finishing is winning,” Earl told me. He’s right. I think we often get so convinced that the only way to win is to take first place, and if that motivates you, terrific. Counting those smaller triumphs, though, are equally important (some would argue more), especially when you’re working toward a larger goal. I needed to finish the Alpha Showdown that day, not win it, because finishing was indeed my prize. Finding stamina during moments of perceived weakness helped me see that my personal reserves of fortitude are big, and when I feel myself losing sight of my goals or veering off track, I can remember Earl telling me, “You got this,” and know that my teammates, too, have got my back.



Experience Life Magazine

Play Ball

In grade school, the boys would play kickball at recess. It wasn’t that the girls weren’t allowed to join the game, we usually just chose to occupy the swing set. My best friend Amanda, however, was not the type of girl who would sit and braid the other girls’ hair. She was outgoing and tough, a girl who could later perform pushups on her knuckles, and when the boys gathered for kickball, she was one of the few girls who participated. And she encouraged me to do the same. We’ve gone our separate ways now, but I will always love my childhood friend for inspiring me to get off the sidelines and play the game.

I summoned her fortitude for Boot Camp’s new Saturday format: play in the park. Across the river from our Highland Park location is the beautiful Minnehaha Falls Park, and on Saturdays, we walk across the bridge to sprint, crawl on the ground and play a form of Frisbee Golf with a ball instead of a disk. It’s a nice way to mix it up after a week of circuit-style Boot Camp workouts.

Unfortunately for anyone on my team, my hand-eye coordination has been drastically diminished in years I’ve spent sitting at a desk. I haven’t participated in team sports since I was a sophomore on our school’s volleyball team. Throwing a ball? Come on! Can’t I just toss it instead, maybe roll it? Even our lab, Chloe, is unimpressed when I throw her the tennis ball — she always outruns it, expecting me to really chuck it. When it lands several feet short, she spins around in to make her way back to me and retrieve it, clearly as confused as I am to its whereabouts. Everything in my body positioning, from the outreach of my arm to the exertion of my breath, would indicate a long throw, but alas. Add “throw a ball a distance” to my list of goals.

So what’s my role on the team? Defense and distraction. Swatting at the ball. Run back and forth and not accomplishing much — save for sweating a lot and burning calories. Maybe I won’t be MVP anytime soon, but at least I had fun.

Experience Life Magazine

Sprint, Slog, Then Sprint Again

Since last October, I’ve been going to Life Time’s T.E.A.M. Boot Camp two to three times per week. Save for a week in December, I’ve made it most weeks. I have skipped a session, I’ll admit — trainer Shane called me out, and I confessed my date with the couch that trumped a workout — but the times I do miss I regret it. Usually because of days like today.

Highland Park’s Boot Camp team is the best. The people are friendly and motivating, and when someone is clearly pushing past their limits, an encouraging “You got this!” is often proclaimed. Tonight’s workout, enjoyed outside during Minnesota’s unseasonably warm March, involved sprinting to the end of the block and back in between push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, lunges and flutter kicks. That’s right: sprinting before and after each exercise that we performed for 30 seconds. Before and after burpees.

I’m not a fan of burpees, and there’s definitely no love for sprinting. Really running of any kind. That’s not me. I love lifting weights, swinging a kettlebell, even holding tree pose in yoga. But running has never made me light up.

Usually I shut down. Maybe I improve, like when I went from the 15-minute mile to the 11-minute mile in 5th grade (oh yeah!), but generally not without complaints. Last fall, Shane had us run a mile on the treadmill. My walk/run was about 18-minutes long. (I was taking the scenic route.) So when he said sprint, I immediately started to doubt myself. I even glanced at the door and thought about counting myself out before we began.

I kept up for a few rounds, then took a few rounds off to do burpees or jumping jacks instead. By the time we got back to running fartlek-style around the building at the end (we started with it to warm up, and I was able to keep up longer than when we did the same drill in the fall), I was wiped out, but gave it one good hard push to race to the front of the line. I told the group to go on without me while I jogged at a slower pace behind them. Soon, they were gone.

As I rounded the building, one of my teammates met me to run alongside for the final stretch. When I caught up to the group at the finish line, a few of them cheered for me, “All right, Courtney!” For a brief moment, I started to feel defeated. I thought, they aren’t cheering because I just made an awesome time and blew everyone away by my speed — they are cheering because the fat girl finished. It’s a horrible thought, and thank goodness it was fleeting, but it’s the voice I battle in my head. The teenage girl who was curvier than the rest and picked on for having “thunder thighs” or who was told by her gym teacher in 5th grade that her weight “wasn’t where it should be” — in front of all my female classmates as we got weighed in together (what kind of medieval torture was that?!). Of course, I know that’s not what they were thinking, and I hope what they were thinking, what was behind their cheers, was the positive message I quickly sent myself: I finished. I did it. And I’m getting better each time we run.

Sure, I'm all smiles now that the workout is done. Me and Life Time Fitness personal trainer Shane Kinney.

Experience Life Magazine

Boot Camp Fitness Testing

In January, trainer Shane announced that we’d have fitness testing one Thursday instead of Boot Camp. Climbing rope, stretch-and-reach, and running the mile?! Please no! I immediately flashed back to middle-school Presidential Fitness Testing and the residual trauma.

Rather, we did a cone drill, standing broad jump and vertical jump, among other tests. And when we tested again recently, I improved all around!

My scores on January 19:
T-Cone Drill: 9.2 seconds
Ladder Drill: 8.8 seconds
Broad Jump: 41 inches
Plyo-Pushups (clap your hands on the -up of pushup): 11 (I did these on my knees)
Vertical Jump: 9 inches (I’m 5’5″)
Plate Push (70 pounds): 19.6 seconds

My scores on February 23:
T-Cone Drill: 8.4 seconds (0.8-second improvement)
Ladder Drill: 8.3 seconds (0.5-second improvement)
Broad Jump: 43 inches (2 inches further)
Plyo-Pushups: 21 (still on my knees, but nearly double my old score!)
Vertical Jump: 10 inches (1-inch improvement)
Plate Push (70 pounds): 17.2 seconds (2.4-second improvement)

We re-test every four to six weeks, so I’m hoping to see even better scores next time.