The Transformation Challenge

As a studious bookworm for much of my young adult life, I dreaded gym class and fitness tests more than any academic exams. I always felt I could master most subjects if I worked hard enough, but I viewed athletics as something that simply wasn’t for me. In elementary school, I pushed my awkward self to try dance and figure skating, and while I managed to make this last for longer than one might expect, I ultimately came to the conclusion that I didn’t have what it took to sustain these activities in the long term (to this day, my hand/eye coordination skills are remedial at best). Combine that with a series of mean-spirited gym teachers who publicly teased me for my lack of physical prowess, and you can understand why I began to believe my name and the words “physically fit” could never be uttered in the same sentence.

But as I posted on this blog back in 2014, I decided I was tired of my clothes not fitting and my weight going up and down, so I took a chance on Pure Barre. With my background in figure skating and ballet, barre workouts turned out to be a great fit for me. I dropped two clothing sizes, and I was able to stick with it.

Now that I am beginning a new year with new challenges, I feel like it is time to master something new. I recently joined the gym near my office, Midtown Spa and Fitness, so I could sneak in quick workouts during my lunch break. When I first heard they were offering an eight week Transformation Challenge, I doubted whether I should do it or if I’d even be able to survive it. Sure, I can take Zumba and kickboxing classes, but lifting weights or doing pull-ups has never been my thing – I pretty much always max out at 5 lb. weights and the last time I tried a legit pull-up in high school, I dropped directly to the ground. (To this day, I can still play back in my mind the eye roll and heavy sigh from my gym teacher that always followed my feeble attempts.) I was consistently among the worst performers on the fitness test, which was hard to accept for an overachiever. So, knowing this, I’m committed to pushing myself out of my comfort zone – and perhaps overachieving in whole new ways!

When I finally listened to my coworkers and joined in on the Transformation Challenge, I was actually surprised at how well I handled the initial fitness test, which consisted of most of the things I struggled to do in high school (sit-ups, push-ups, planks). I’ve come pretty far since then, and I can only imagine how far I can go in eight weeks.

My initial goal with fitness was weight loss, but I’m finding it has become a lot more for me than that: It’s about reaching goals, feeling good, feeling confident, and above all, it’s about strength. I’ve realized that upping my fitness game has all along been about proving to myself that I’m stronger than I think I am. And I’ve learned that statement applies to all areas of my life, whether it is my work or my somewhat disastrous love life. (Note to self: Yes, you ARE strong enough to keep searching for a nice guy, even if it means you have to first make it through some terrible Tinder matches.)

I’m only about halfway into the eight-week challenge, but I look forward to sharing my progress. I will say, I’m already adjusting to the feel of 10 lb. weights – those five pounders are starting to feel pretty light these days!

A final note to the reader (which is mostly my friends and family, let’s be honest): I know this blog has not been updated in quite some time, but I’ll be back to share more soon about a wide range of topics, including the much needed revival and revamping of my Single in the Suburbs blog. Stay tuned!

5 Life Lessons I Learned from Pure Barre

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In late April, I had one of those moments many women dread. I was packing for a work conference in Orlando when I discovered a majority of my clothes from a few seasons ago no longer fit: zippers were much harder to close and sitting down could only happen if I held in my breath. I couldn’t believe that I’d managed to gain so much weight in such a short period of time. And all I could think was that I was unable to wear clothes I had only just finished paying off on my JCrew credit card….how sad (for my health and my finances)!

I was mad at myself for not noticing these changes in my own body. I knew all of my old excuses had to go – the biggest one being that I just didn’t have the time to work out.

Since I am terrible at motivating myself to get to the gym, I decided taking a class was the best way to go. Every night on my way home from work, I would pass a Pure Barre studio that had opened recently in my neighborhood. I’d always liked the idea of it since I had taken ballet as a kid, so I signed up in May 2014. Since that first class, I have gone to the studio at least five times a week (when not traveling for work). And on October 25th, I celebrated my 100th Pure Barre class, joining the studio’s 100 Club.

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In this journey to finally get fit and take control of my physical health, Pure Barre has taught me five great lessons that I plan to take with me as I continue this new healthy lifestyle:

  1. You must take time for yourself.  Most of my adult life has been devoted to work, both my day job and the many projects I take on outside of the 9 to 5. I was going to networking events, volunteering, doing work for professional organizations, writing for online magazines and blogs – but I wasn’t giving any of my time to my physical health. I thought the networking activities were the way for me to truly grow and I made them a priority, until I realized I wasn’t really doing any of this extra work for myself. While it is important to nourish your mind and build your network, it doesn’t do any good when your body is run down from sleep deprivation and a terrible on-the-go diet.
  2. You can build new habits. I always thought I wasn’t the athletic or fit type, and that this was just who I was; why bother changing or apologizing for it? But a surprising thing happened — over the last five months, I discovered I really enjoy physical activity. It was just a matter of building it into my daily routine. Now I am at a point where I couldn’t see my life without it, and wonder how I managed in those years when my idea of stress relief was eating in front of the TV or drinking a beer.
  3. Progress is made in small increments. I could barely make it through all the Pure Barre exercises when I started, but with the encouragement of the instructors (who never make you feel too weak or too slow), I built my strength up one class at a time. Pure Barre is all about small, incremental movements, and it is amazing how these small movements can make big changes in your body and your mind. I also applied the idea of “small incremental changes” to my diet, and have slowly worked in healthier foods and have adjusted to eating smaller portions of my fattening favorites: French fries, mac and cheese, and craft beer.
  4. You are stronger than you think you are. The instructors always say this during class, right when you hit that point where you’re shaking so much you want to stop and take a break, or give up completely. We always think we aren’t capable in those moments when the pain or discomfort starts to kick in – but it is pushing through those moments that make you realize your body is capable, as long as your mind remains focused and positive.
  5. Breathe, focus, and tune out the world, because this is your time. Pure Barre is one hour in the day just for you. The instructors make you put away your cell phone and focus on the moves and music. It amazes me what I am capable of if I just let myself focus and breathe. Even when my legs are shaking (embrace the shake!), I can conquer that fear of not being strong enough by focusing on my breathing or the beat of the music. My ability to focus in class has helped me focus better in my everyday life, and I can now better tune out the unnecessary noise when I really want to finish a project.

Thanks to Pure Barre, I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in. At the moment, I don’t fit in to many of those old clothes, but not because they’re too tight – they’re too big! In fact, I had to buy a lot of new clothes recently, one to two sizes smaller.

Thanks to Pure Barre for pushing me in the right direction, and here’s to many more happy, healthy, active years!