Exercising out of your Comfort Zone with A Healthy Slice of Pai

Three fitness classes that pushed me outside my comfort zone in three very different ways.

That was my mission for the start of 2018. I decided to do this experiment not just to try something new, but because there is value in, from time to time, taking classes outside your usual disciplines and seeing how your body and mind respond. Adhering to a training program and routine is important; I’ve seen significant, steady improvements in my strength and speed as a result of doing so. But when you take a class that forces you out of your usual thought and movement patterns, you discover new approaches and areas of work that can reinvigorate your training. That was definitely the case with all three classes I took.

Cardio Legs at 305 Fitness:

I have always avoided cardio dance classes like the plague, because I’ve convinced myself that I was born with two left feet, have no rhythm, and just was not meant to dance. So, naturally, taking a cardio dance class was at the top of my list for this project. I decided to tag along with a friend who is a regular at 305 Fitness, which offers high-intensity hip-hop dance classes. From the moment I walked into the studio, I was transported to a hopping Miami club, from the hot pink lights, to the live DJ spinning hits from the 80s through now, to the energetic, hilarious instructor who led us through an almost non-stop series of back-up dancer-style moves. For the first ten minutes of class, my type A mindset kicked in and I kept staring at the teacher and class regulars and (unsuccessfully) trying to mimic their movements. Then I finally took in the instructor’s advice for us newbies—follow along with the choreography as best you can instead of worrying about it. So instead of getting frustrated with achieving perfection, I did just that and I found the choreography started coming to me more naturally. By the end of class, I was letting myself enjoy the fun vibe of the class, instead of obsessing over how I looked or whether I was getting every dance move “right”. My takeaway? Don’t forget to find the fun or joy in any form of training, and not just when you nail that tough move or PR, but also along the journey to that point. Too many times when we overthink what can go wrong or what we can do better, we hold ourselves back from taking that one blind leap of faith that is necessary to make real progress.


Aerial Circus at Om Factory:

Incorporating more yoga into my fitness regimen has made a huge difference in my athletic performance and daily state of mind, but one thing that has held me back in my practice is my fear of inversions or, more specifically, falling on my head. I took the aerial circus class, which incorporates the use of silks and suspended lyra hoops, so I could tackle that fear in a big, but supported way. After an extended core warm-up and series of hip-openers, we practiced a variety of moves on both apparatus, including learning to hang upside down on the silks by fully engaging my upper body. Executing moves on both pieces of equipment while hanging in mid-air much of the time was intimidating, but the instructor made me ignore my hesitation and just practice each one several times until I focused less on my fears and more on my body. My takeaway? When a particular type of movement or form of training intimidates you, the only way to get past that fear is repetition. Practice over and over again until your mind steps out of the way and lets your body take over.


Road x Triathlon at Everybody Fights:

I had been wanting to take this class at EBF for a while because it is a uniquely demanding cardio workout—10 rounds, 3 minutes each, of intervals on the treadmill, rower, and bike. Building up my endurance has always been a struggle for me, so taking a non-stop cardio interval training class with no strength section to bring my heart rate down, was a challenge I was curious to take on. The class definitely delivered with lots of sprints on the treadmill and rower and resistance-heavy climbs on the bikes, but the instructor hung in there with us, joining in on many of the intervals and giving us tons of helpful cues for managing our effort. I must admit, I gave myself a pat on the back for making it through that particular workout. My takeaway? Having to shift from one very different, but tough, interval to another highlighted areas I needed to work on that were holding me back in the endurance department—maintaining my breath, pace, and form even (especially) when I’m feeling fatigued.


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Natalie NeumannComment