I asked my pal and co-worker, Jen, to guest blog and share her wisdom with us all… because she kind of killed it at Firebrand Sports the other day. Firebrand was nice enough to offer some free “lunchtime express” classes to our office. I went with Jen to their “Pyrolates” class and then me and my jelly legs promptly left to go back to our desk and silently cry. Jen, on the other hand, immediately went on to finish their cycling class back to back… making her the official queen of badassery.
I’m as surprised as anyone to say this, but I’ve become kind of a yoga nerd. Lately, I’ve been trying to focus my practice on letting go of ego. I’m a naturally competitive person and frequently in class I find I’m comparing myself to the people around me– noticing that my forward fold isn’t as deep as the girl that’s super ripped and wearing the ‘namaste, bitches’ tank top, or congratulating myself that at least I can get my standing splits higher than that big, hairy guy. But that’s a giant yoga no-no. ‘Focus inward’ the teachers say. ‘Listen to your own body.’ ‘There’s no being ‘good’ at yoga.’
But I’m an overachiever and I want to be the best, and I struggle to quiet my mind.
So as part of this ego-dismissing process and inspired by this blog here, I’ve been trying to push myself harder while I exercise and take on fitness experiments that are way outside my comfort zone. Try things that are hard enough that I am too tired to think, or try things that are so new that I have to concentrate on how to do the movements instead of what’s going on around me. Lucky for me, the fine folks at Firebrand Sports offered a couple of free taster classes that fit exactly this bill.
Firebrand Sports is a new, beautiful, spacious gym in the Pearl District that focuses on two equipment-based fitness classes: ‘Pyrolates’ and ‘Full Tilt Cycling.’ While the classes are usually 50 minutes, they cut each into 25 minute taster sessions so we could cram a sampling of both into our lunch hour.
We started with Pyrolates which is basically a modified Pilates Reformer with some extra bells and whistles that I’m sure their website can more accurately describe than I. I’ve always been really intimidated and a little terrified by Reformers, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to take a short beginner-level class that would be focused on teaching us how to use the thing without risking injury or the bevy of medieval tortures that would appear to be the machine’s primary use.
Our perky, helpful instructor, who also happened to be the gym’s owner, thoroughly explained how to use the Megaformer safely (thank goodness) and lead us through a series of planks, squats and lunges aided by the machine’s sliding carriage.
While the machine was at its lowest setting, and the instructor was mindful that most of us in the class were new to it, it was hard as hell. The level of focus and isometric isolations needed to stabilize myself on the moving platform was beyond any other exercise I’ve tried. My muscles were pushed to their max and I was suffering through until, like a bolt of lightning flung by the fitness gods, it hit me, ‘oh, I don’t HAVE to do every single one of these movements. I can opt out! It’s my first time, and it’s my body, and it f*cking hurts. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, I can do what I can do and that can be enough.’ So I did, and while I probably looked horrible, and took the easier option for more than a few of the exercises, I felt pretty awesome, and I still got a fantastic workout without while saving up enough energy to get through the whole class and onto the second.
The second half of our hour was devoted to a spin class on their ‘RealRyder ‘unstationary’ stationary bikes.’ Unlike most exercise bikes, these are rigged with a side to side pivot so the rider can turn the handlebars and lean to the right or left. This is meant to simulate outdoor bicycling more realistically and adds a whole second level to the workout–working your core and arms along with the legs and makes it just that much harder.
I have to confess, I have taken spin classes before and really hated them, but knowing that this was limited to 25 minutes, that there would be dance music blasting, and as I was imbued with my ‘what you can do is good enough’ feeling carried from the Pyrolates class, I decided to push through and give it a shot.
Like with Pyrolates, this class was almost impossibly hard and I was admittedly horrible at it. My muscles, particularly my thighs and core, were wiped and I could only do about half of the hills, jumps and leans that our instructor prompted us to do, but I focused inwardly, listened to my body, and did what I could, pedaling steadily for the full 25 minutes and feeling proud of myself for getting through.
As I write this, I am sore as hell, particularly my abs, but I feel pretty great about how it went. And most importantly, I’m looking forward to going back to Firebrand whenever my ego needs a quick kick in the ass.
Follow Jen via @GirlGoneGoldbrg