Finding a New Way hOMe

I started off March with the 5th Anniversary OMember Challenge at OM Power last week. Deal is that you take as many classes as you can and whoever makes the most classes wins prizes. What a lot of my studiomates didn’t know is that my regular workout schedule already includes 2 – 3 hours of exercise a day (more when I’m actually training or going on long bike rides) so something like this is right up my alley.

I mapped out how many classes I could make in 7 days with maintaining my previous commitments like work and social events. I would have to give up almost my entire week’s swim schedule but everything more or less would stay the same. I could make 19 classes in 7 days and I’d only keep 1 swim on my schedule. What many people there didn’t know is what my regular workout routine actually is as I don’t usually do it all in one place between swimming, OM, and 2 gyms. 2+ hours exercising a day doesn’t sound too bad until you add it up to 14+ hours a week.  I’m used to doing multiple hours of cardio at a time ( up to 10+hours on the bike and of course my 17.5 hours Catalina Channel marathon swim crossing).  I’m used to mainly cardio with some resistance training, not the other way around. The reverse would be the challenge for me. Just the weekend before I’d done the Row HIIT, Spinning, and TRX classes on Saturday (all before noon!) and the Row TRX and a Bay swim on Sunday then going into my usual weekday schedule that starts off with Spinning on Monday mornings. What’s a “rest day”?

My workout class schedule for the OMember Challenge 2017. 19 classes in 7 days.

The week also coincided with the anniversary of my hospital stay for my first pelvic surgery. I’d been checking out Facebook’s “On This Day” feature and saw the posts from 2011 that I made while in the hospital and shortly after getting home. I think about that time a lot but I’d never gone back to what I wrote during that time and had forgotten some of the details. It was strange yet familiar, like reading someone else’s writings even though it was yourself who wrote them. I wish I’d written more back then as it already seems like a lifetime ago. I’d never had major surgery before and never broken a bone before 2011 so I really had no idea what I was in for. I also didn’t know that it’d give me the new way to look at life and simple things like walking (and stairs!!) that people take for granted.

For someone who works out at a place mostly known for yoga, I rarely do yoga. Like 5 times in my entire life. I mostly take TRX and spinning classes here with the rowing classes thrown in when I can make them. So my 19 classes were made up of 9 TRX, 5 Spinning, 2 yoga, 1 rowing, 1 rowing HIIT, and 1 Row TRX combination classes. Actually the yoga classes were to get Enrique off my back (more or less) about me not doing yoga to balance out everything else that I do. I’d have done more rowing classes if I didn’t have that thing called “a job” and unfortunately many of those classes aren’t at times that I can make it. I didn’t even think about 9 TRX classes being hard for me to do in 7 days. I was excited to try out a few instructors whose classes I don’t normally make it to like April (TRX), Kara (rowing), or Megan (yoga). April’s class would be the first female-led TRX class I’d ever take! Kara won the bronze medal in the quadruple sculls in the London Olympics! Jennifer, OM Power’s owner, and Enrique said that I’d love Megan’s class which I was still a little skeptical about but ’tis the week to try her out.

I made it through the first few days without any issues since 8 classes (hours) in 3 days is normal for me. Tuesday (Day 4), I was starting to hurt a little in April’s TRX class. Not painful hurt but just the muscle fatigue wasn’t something I experience except immediately after a 80+ mile ride with lots of climbing or a 6+ hour swim. April’s class is definitely different than “the boys”‘ classes. A lot of aerobic energy and a “keep moving / active recovery” motto that Duncan has in his Rowing (HIIT) classes. Every time I think of it, I just see her blonde ponytail bouncing all around. The woman LOVES jumping jacks!

After work I power through Enrique’s TRX Strength and Kara’s Rowing classes. Kara looks like she’s still training for the Olympics. Super tall, broad shoulders, no body fat, bright smile. During the “nice and easy” warm-up, I see her splits are about 2:08 / 500 m for a 22 strokes per minute. My splits are about 30 seconds slower and I’m booking it if I’m hitting 2:08. She isn’t even breaking a sweat! There’s no way that I’m going to be able to come close to her splits so I’m not even going to try. It’s not a competition though and I’m focusing on what I can do. Love her class as like Duncan, she’s going through all the proper technique first then focusing on maximum power while maintaining your form. I decide right then and there to start incorporating her rowing class into my schedule when I can do it. Rowing is primarily about legs then torso and finally the arms which makes sense since your leg muscles are bigger than your little arm and upper back muscles.

One of my cans of OSMO Acute Recovery catches my eye in my pantry on Tuesday night. It’s an exercise recovery drink that I haven’t taken in months because I haven’t been in any kind of real training mode in months. I usually have it in my car for after long rides and usually forget to take it after the ride. The thoughts of getting out of my cycling kit, changing clothes, showering, and eating (as I run my body on the bare minimum during rides like many cyclists to avoid indigestion, cramps, and nausea) take precedence over remembering that I have a recovery drink waiting for me in the car. Why haven’t I been taking this stuff all week? I throw it into my backpack to use the next day.

I’m sore and looking forward to my usual Wednesday (Day #5) morning Bay swim with Cathy. I need the cryotherapy to soothe my muscles. Cathy and I have been swimming on Wednesdays for the last 2.5 years (basically since I moved back to SF after the 15 months in Pasadena). I don’t like not showing up for our Wednesday morning swim dates and the OM Challenge isn’t a good enough reason to cancel on her. The cold water does some good on alleviating my muscle fatigue but not all of it. I’d liked to have stayed in longer but I had to get to work!

Best swim buddy Cathy Harrington and me swimming in Aquatic Park on Wednesday, 8 March 2017.

I make it through a triple workout Wednesday night with both of Kevin’s TRX classes and Enrique’s Spinning class. I’ve never looked so forward to a Spinning class in my life since cardio is my bread & butter (yum..bread..yum…butter..what we were walking about?) and easier for me to drag my sorry carcass through. I take some of the OSMO Acute Recovery right after the Spinning class.

The recovery drink turned out to be a total game changer for me. Usually after long rides or swims I’ll take a day or two off afterwards to recovery and get back to normal. I’ve never had to do a multi-day endurance event like this OMember Challenge that combined cardio with strength training. When I swam in a pool every day I was swimming about 3 hours / 6+ KM a day every day with no rest days without issues. The combination of resistance training with cardio isn’t something my body is used to and it was suffering. I woke up Thursday (Day #6) morning completely refreshed with NO muscle fatigue at all!! It’s a miracle!

I bust through April’s TRX class before work and Enrique’s TRX class after work. I tell him about what I learned about the importance of the recovery drink. He tells me that unlike other people doing the challenge, I’m learning about how to improve my training and get my body to recover faster so I can push my body harder. I’ve been training with Enrique for the last few years and as a triathlete, he understands what I’m putting myself through with endurance sports. I remember my first Spinning class with him which was the first one that I’ve ever had a RPM meter. I was trying to ignore the pain my legs were in and focus on hitting the RPM that he would say to be at during every part of the workout. Even though I was living in Pasadena at the time, I knew then that I wanted to hit up as many of his classes as I could when I was home. I started going to his Spinning classes regularly when I moved back home in October 2014.

It’s Day #6 so the challenge week is winding down. I can’t do Kara’s class that night because I’ve got dinner with friends in Oakland and again, I hate canceling on people for non-health reasons. Time with my friends is priceless anyway since there’ll be a day where we all can’t get together since we’re not immortal. I know a couple of other OM members have declared that they’re going to beat me in the challenge which they can have it as far as I’m concerned. I was just seeing how many classes that *I* could make regardless of what anyone else was doing. It’s the same thing I have with cycling and marathon swimming. You’ll get frustrated if you are trying to compete against anyone else’s times and in the long run it all comes down to YOU. The most important thing really is to finish since there are a lot of people who DNF and even more who never even started. Do what’s right for you though and find out what you’re capable of for yourself. Ego boosts from winning a challenge isn’t necessarily going to turn into a lifelong change for better health.

Enrique’s TRX Strength classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 PM. He loves single arm/leg exercises!

Day #7 and the last day of the challenge arrives. Yah! Rob is off at Spring Training so Katie is covering his Friday morning Spinning class. Katie’s new to OM and I’d taken her class the previous Sunday and given my feedback to EJ and Jennifer. I’ll give her another shot though and my second class with her is definitely better. I do really like her energy and personality. Thanks to combining my recovery drink even once a day after the multiple-hour workouts, I find that I have zero muscle fatigue and feel like I could keep doing this intensive workout for several more days. Friday evening yoga arrives and April is also telling me that I’m going to love it. Still a little skeptical.

I only know two positions in yoga : child pose and downward dog. Everything else I’m completely lost on. I grab a spot next to Jay, who has done many classes as me during the week. I’m really glad I’m next to him instead of an unfamiliar face or someone I know who is a die-hard yoga expert. Jay is a leukemia survivor and we’d bonded earlier in the week over our medical histories and our past experiences with leukemia (as my uncle passed away from it in October 2015 and I donate platelets almost weekly and am in the national bone marrow donor registry). I’ve got a clear view of Sarah who is a yoga addict so I look at her every time we’re supposed to change position so I can see what we’re supposed to be doing. Why don’t most yoga instructors demo what the position is before you have to get into it? My friend Rebecca is the only yoga instructor I know who does this! Megan’s Hatha & Alignment class is slow enough for me though that I’m not feeling like a total bafoon during it and watching Jay struggle with some of the moves right next to me is also comforting. I stick around for Megan’s Restorative Yoga class afterwards. I’m confused on why we need pillows and blankets for this class at first. It’s not an exercise or yoga class at all but more of a relaxation class. You get into certain positions for several minutes with the lights really low and just lay there. Megan goes around and presses on a certain part of your body. I like this class because it gets me to really do nothing for an hour. I decide to incorporate one or both of these classes into my schedule with time permitting. Hopefully the Hatha & Alignment will help me stretch out the areas that get built up from swimming and TRX along with regaining a lot of the flexibility that I lost from my surgeries. The restorative class would be good just to get me to actually relax.

The week was a learning experience on what it takes to get my body to recovery quickly and keep going. I can bring that into my training schedule when I start training for my big swim later this year and future ones. I’d started coming to OM Power 3 years ago strictly for spinning classes and it’s become much more important to my fitness and training than that. Each class instructor has really been more of a coach in different areas of my learning about myself and enabling to push myself farther. Enrique has been a great mentor for my endurance training and offering advice on how to listen to and respond to my body. He also calls me out when I’m slacking off as he can tell instantly like any good coach. Unconsciously every time I’m on a bike there is at least one time where I hear his voice in my head saying “Push! Pull! Push! Pull!” This is especially true when I’m coming off a descent or trying to quickly cover distance on a flat. Rob has taught me a lot about cycling especially about controlling my breath. Jennifer introduced us over email when I’d asked for help training for my first endurance ride. Rob and I exchanged several emails before I’d ever met him in person or taken his class. He recently shared some of Jim Karanas’ old articles which got me into thinking and researching what exactly my body is going through biologically during exercise. Kevin has taught me an incredible amount about nutrition and weight management. I think I’ve annoyed him the most with all my questions! He’s a TRX Master Trainer so you seriously won’t find anyone who knows more about making your body your machine in the Bay Area who is better than him. His enthusiasm for fitness encourages me to maximize  my potential on multiple levels while still having fun. Elliot’s enthusiasm has gotten me to try new things because, as he always insists, I’m going to love it (even if I don’t, at least I tried). Duncan manages to kick my butt with his workouts no matter what and I always come out of his classes feeling stronger (eventually, after I recover). He’s the energizer bunny when it comes to fitness! Kara makes rowing look effortless and while she’s got the aura of the Olympic champion that she is, she’s approachable too. I love her constant encouragement and positive feedback even though I feel like a fat slug next to her. April has limitless energy and always getting me to keep moving. I’ve never met anyone so positive and absolutely has your back 100% of the time. I look forward to attending her classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings that I’m not swimming. Jennifer, the owner, did a great job recruiting the right people to make up her team. She hired people who shared the same level of passion for their respective areas of fitness that she has for her own. They get to know all of the members on a first name basis and make the effort to get to know you as a person and athlete. OM isn’t just a type of gym for me as it’s become a place where I make new discoveries about myself and become a stronger athlete. More importantly, they’ve become people I consider to be more than just friends and are part of my extended family.

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