I’m a runner. I’ve run many, many marathons. I run a lot. I’m an athlete (shut up, New Balance ad). However, exercising in ways that don’t involve running aren’t really my thing. Sure everyone says we should strength train, do yoga, or whatever, but I was always too busy just trying to get my miles in. I never bothered to heed that advice … until now, that is. Maybe it was the excitement of the New Year, but something called me like a siren to the gym and made me sign up for a circuit training class.
My thinking went something like this: it will be good for me and surely, being the badass marathon running athlete I am, it will be easy and fun!
Picture me standing in the middle of a large exercise studio surrounded by a group of extremely coordinated women in capris and tank tops. The music is thumping and suddenly the instructor orders us to warm up. We start by jogging in place and doing jumping jacks.
I’m over 35 and I have had two children, and as a general rule I don’t jump up and down anymore. My running muscles don’t like it and it carries a high risk of peeing myself. Not wanting to be that girl who’s not participating, and because I’m an athlete, dammit! I jump along with everyone else. Just as I’m thinking maybe I should leave, we stop jumping and move on to something called grape vines that require me to move my marathoning feet in ways that should be illegal. Naturally, I trip a few times and wonder why am I here? I think I should sneak out and go throw some weights around, or better yet, find the treadmills. For some reason, I stay.
Just as quickly as the warm up started, it stops and the instructor is shouting out the list of exercises we will be doing at each of 15 stations. I take in nothing she says, but head over to one of those TRX straps and ask the ladies on either side of me what we are supposed to be doing. I spend the rest of the time watching the lady next to me so I know what I need to do at the next station. I’m not nervous about the exercises themselves, after all I ran 5 marathons last year, I’m in good shape. How hard can this be?
I’m doing ok, working hard but holding my own when I see a large drop of sweat roll off of me and splash onto the floor. I’m only 10-minutes in and I am literally dripping sweat all over the place. I look around and am instantly humbled; I am the sweatiest person in the room. This includes the two women who stayed for this class after participating in the bootcamp class before it. I make a mental note to bring a towel next time. Next time? I guess that means I plan on coming back.
We spend 45-minutes doing burpees, mountain climbers, stuff with ropes, and TRX moves. The class ends and I rush quickly over to the next class, because, of course, this genius marathon running athlete signed up for two classes back-to-back. The next class was a half-hour of leg strengthening that left my quads quivering by the end of it.
This all happened on Monday night. I wasn’t able to walk normally again until Friday. Friday! During my Tuesday and Wednesday runs I looked like Frankenstein after he spent a week horseback riding. I was in so much pain, yet I went back the next two Mondays to two more classes. I looked forward to seeing the women I met. I enjoyed their camaraderie and encouragement. Who had I become?
I’ve come to realize that I am a running snob. Simply put, I think running is the best. I smile politely as I listen to others talking about how much they enjoy CrossFit, Zumba, Barre or pole dancing, but inside I’m thinking why would you do that when you could run? I’m mature enough to realize that there is place for other forms of activity in my life. However, I classify those under the category of “cross training I must do so that I can continue to run,” which up to this point were limited to occasional weights, the biannual swim-a-mile-as-fast-as-I-can-until-it-feels-like-my-head-is-going-to-explode, and riding a bike once every other year.
So how did I find myself enjoying and looking forward to group fitness classes? Well, it was a combination of peer pressure and an introductory membership, crossed with feeling on the verge of a burnout that got me in the door. Once knee-deep in burpees, I learned that other forms of exercise can be fun and improve my running. Sure running during those few days when it hurt to walk was painful, particularly the 20-mile run that weekend, which was miserable, but since then I’ve grown confident that circuits and strength training are making me stronger, which can’t be a bad thing.
I was always nervous about trying things like group exercise classes, worrying they would take away from my running, but I’ve found they actually made me want to run more! Running will always be the best, of course! However, I’m learning to stop being such a snob and open my mind to other forms of exercise. There are plenty of other ways out there to beat my body to a bloody pulp and, in the process, improve my running. Plus it’s kind of fun and it may just help me fall in love with running again.
Do you do group exercise classes? Do you think they help your running? If you don’t, what’s stopping you?