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May 20, 2019

4/7/2017 9:40:00 AM
My 10-week journey with Farrell's Extreme Bodyshaping

Week 1: Enough with the excuses
As many of you have gotten to know me in my nearly 10 years out here at the Chisago County Press, you all know different parts about me.

I write sports, I  work on the website and computer trouble shooting, work in the copy and ad design department, and I also work on the advertising side. I visit your businesses as a patron. I see a lot of familiar faces out at community events. Everyone that I work with sees a different side of me depending on our relationship.

But there’s one thing that a constant and that everyone knows about me. I’m a big guy that’s out of shape. I always have been. Dating back to my childhood days, I was always a bigger kid, and then as other’s growth slowed down around me, mine didn’t. I stayed active through high school in football, weight lifting and track and field (emphasis on the field portion of that sport) but I never stayed in shape.

That only got worse after high school. I am still active, but in a lot less demanding sports  and with a lot less structure than in high school. I play in two local volleyball leagues and a co-ed softball league, hardly active enough for a guy of my size.

I’ve made every excuse in the book over the years to not attempt a healthier lifestyle. It’s too much time. It’s too much work. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what I’m doing.

All of those have been uttered by me at some point over the last 10 years. The excuses will finally stop this weekend.

I recently met Rhea Friederichs, the owner of Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping in Forest Lake, through a business meeting. From there she had an idea for me to try the program out and give it an honest review to readers as I went through their standard 10-week classes. It’s six days a week, for 45 minutes, for 10 weeks. There is plenty of time slots to go in the morning or after work, including 5, 6 and 7 a.m. and 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. and there’s a nutrition part to it also that I’ll be finding out about soon. Their classes rotate between strength training with resistance bands and cardio kickboxing.

Rhea told me of the camaraderie among the participants and the general positive vibe at the classes, which piqued my interest. But, it seemed like a lot of work and a big lifestyle change for me. And I was terrified of potentially doing it.

At this point, we were mostly communicating through e-mail and in response to her offer of going through the program, I typed up a long-winded e-mail that was chock full of excuses and was going to turn her down. Spring isn’t a good time with sports. Let’s wait until summer. I have two young dogs that need a lot of attention. I’m not ready for something like this.
I sat at my desk for a few minutes and looked for ways to refine my excuses and make them seem more legit to her.

I never hit ‘Send’ on that e-mail.

As I was looking at ways to make my excuses more believeable, I realized I needed to stop making excuses and that this was the kick in the pants I needed. I need to make a change. I needed to be held accountable, and what better way than having 4,000 readers hold me accountable throughout this process.

I deleted that original draft and replaced it with “I’m in, let’s do this.”

That was about a month ago. Since then, my fiancé Aly has decided to join me on this adventure, and we are both nervous, but very excited. We both took part in two free classes that Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping periodically offers for friends, family and people curious about joining.

The first class we tried was the strength training with resistance bands, specifically a leg day. It was low impact, but high activity. I could feel muscles working in my legs that hadn’t been worked since high school. I felt good after the workout, but the next few days were tough to get off the couch or up from my desk. There was a sore burn to my muscles, but it was a good burn. It’s the one you know is working.

We recently tried the cardio portion of the program for a single session, and that was an eye-opener. It’s constant movement, and it definitely got the heart pumping. I was sweating in the first couple minutes and after 20 minutes, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it through. But, I was in an advanced class that was specifically for longtime members and you’re able to slow yourself down a bit and work at your own pace if it gets to be too much. Both Rhea and Jeff, the owners, assured me that in the 10 week class, there is a bit more of a build up to the advanced classes.

I paired up with Doug during the cardio kickboxing, a member who was actually the inaugural 10-week challenge winner for men at the Farrell’s Extreme location in Forest Lake -- each man and woman with the biggest transformation (which takes in many factors, not just weight loss) after 10 weeks wins a $1,000 prize. Doug was very helpful and had a lot of the combos and techniques down but helped me along with them. He easily outpaced me during the session, and I was shocked to hear afterwards that he is 64 years old. He worked out like he was in his 20s.

All of it has led us to this week. Orientation for the 10-week session is on Saturday, April 8 at the gym at 808 Lake Street in Forest Lake and the classes begin Monday, April 10. There’s still time for anyone to register who might take this column as that kick in the pants too. I’ve gotten nervous about the start this week, but I’m also excited. Excited to stop making excuses and do something about my health. I’ll be taking you guys along  for the journey with updates  throughout the program.

I know it’s going to be a lot of work and quite a lifestyle change, but I’m ready to roll and I hope I can inspire even one person to take the first step too. Here’s to a demanding 10 weeks and hopefully a transformation I can be proud of!

Week 2: Orientation is the first step

Aly and I took our first step in the 10-week program last weekend at Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping!

We had both gone to two ‘Friends and Family’ sessions to see what we were in for, but we finally arrived at orientation for our own 10-week adventure on Saturday, April 8.

Rhea Friederichs, the owner of the gym, has given us a couple of pieces of information that let us know what to expect at the orientation. It consists of measurements, baseline tests for a one mile run, sit ups and push ups and the always-dreaded ‘before’ pic.

I felt like a I was back in middle school the day before me having to run the mile in gym class. I was nervous and scared. I was excited about the program, but not about a one mile run. I hadn’t gone that distance since high school football.

We got to the orientation and there was a lot of activity going on. A lot of coaches and members moving from station to station but we were quickly welcomed and each coach that talked to us made sure we were comfortable and knew what we were doing and where we were going.

Early on, I met Lynette, a fellow first-timer who joined after reading my first column. I was so excited for her and to be joined on this 10-week program by her. She has her own reasons for joining and I couldn’t be more happy to share the 5:30 time slot with her.

I opened with the sit and reach test to establish my flexibility. Shocker that I’m not the most nimble person in the world.

After that, I went over to the measurements station and got my waist, chest, biceps and thighs measured. Luckily they had a long tape measure for that. The numbers weren’t a pretty sight.

I moved on to the line to get my weight and body fat percentage and also my ‘before’ picture taken without my shirt on. For a big guy, these were some of the more uncomfortable moments of the day for me. I’m not blind, I knew my weight would be high, but I also just avoid stepping on the scale at home. Ignorance is bliss they say. Well the facts weren’t so blissful. Not surprisingly, my weight and percentage were higher than I thought. My last step was the picture, and although I’m not terribly comfortable with my shirt off, I was able to be in a private room with just Rhea, the owner, so you’re not parading around with 100 people watching you.

Once I got through those stages, I was relieved but still excited and even more motivated. Those numbers are the reason I’m in the program. Those numbers are what will help fuel me through this 10 week program when things are tough.

The last stages of orientation were the sit up, push up and mile run tests. I did better than I thought in the push up test, but not as good as I thought in the sit up test. Then the dreaded mile run. The staff informed us that the run was optional.

For a moment, I was relieved. I wouldn’t have to run this distance that always has haunted me all the way back to elementary school.

But, much like my long e-mail full of excuses that was never sent to Rhea from last week’s column, I quickly squashed that thought. This process and program are about getting out of my comfort zone. About doing things I might not want to do, but things I need to do. I stayed true to the orientation and ran the mile. It was more like a walk, but I finished it, and established a baseline.

Aly and I went shopping after the class for some cleaner food since our pantry and refrigerator were full of some of my favorite junk food. We didn’t have to throw it all away, though, because of the Sunday cheat days that are important to the schedule. Sundays are a day of rest and cheating on your food. The idea of it being weekly is to keep you from craving your favorites so much at the end of the 10 week program that you just gorge on them until you’ve lost your results.

We did our meal prep day for food on Sunday, cooking loads of chicken, shrimp and jasmine rice, as well as portioning out almonds, carrots and our fruits. (Love me some Clementines).  I know not everyone is attacking this program in pairs, but meal prep was a great time for me and Aly. It took a couple of hours but we each had our own tasks we were doing, and it was something new for us that we enjoyed.

I woke up a bit sore from even just the testing, and of course my calf, which I’ve pulled before playing softball, was very stiff. I was worried I had injured it and was going to need to delay my start, but I wouldn’t let that stop me. I picked up some IcyHot and an ace bandage from Thrifty White and put them together the day of our first class. I made it a point to focus on stretching my calves before that class on Monday and it felt great and is now clear of any discomfort. Whew!

The first class was about what I expected since we had tried it out beforehand. It was tough and I was leaving sweat marks on the mat as we transitioned through the kickboxing and calisthenics, but it was such a great feeling after the 45 minutes was up. To know I was done for the night and was able to relax. I think of what I would’ve done at home instead of working out and it felt good to know  I got through the first class.

I’m preparing myself already to power through any walls that I might hit. I know the excitement early on from changing up your nutrition and working out is usually there and then as you get farther along, you can hit roadblocks and mental blocks.

I know it won’t always be fun and exciting. I know prep day will feel like a chore at some time when the ‘new’-ness wears off. But that’s when I have to stop and think about the two types of people I’ve encountered so far from this column: the supporters and the doubters. They’ll help fuel me past any walls!

Week 3: Really starting to feel the burn!

Well, it had been all peaches and cream so far throughout the introduction and the orientation, but late in my first week and into the second week, I really have started to feel the burn of the workouts, but that’s what we’re all here for, right?

The workouts so far have been energetic and fun, but definitely not easy. The schedule follows an every other format with cardio kickboxing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and resistance band strength training on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The staff at Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping, including the owners, instructors and coaches (who are former members who have been with the program and each take a cluster of students to work with) were great with showing the class the kickboxing techniques so you didn’t feel out of place. I’ve never thrown a competitive kick in my life and very rarely have I ever thrown any punches with any sort of authority, so it was definitely a new experience for me. You start with the basic jabs and crosses, but then mix in hooks, upper cuts and high kicks.

Despite cardio always being my biggest enemy when it came to working out, I’ve actually looked forward to going to these classes. Getting to throw at the bag and put together the combos as you move through more and more techniques have become an entertaining way to workout, which is huge for me. I’ve always played volleyball and tennis and have no problem playing them for hours, but if I’m running just to run or going through a boring workout, it’s always been very hard to push myself, that’s where the kickboxing has been a huge benefit.

Although I’m worried that with Aly learning the techniques just as fast that there may be some more serious consequences for me at home when I don’t put all my laundry in the right basket.

The resistance band strength training is different for me, but a welcome change. I was a fairly competitive weight lifter way back in my high school days at Forest Lake High School and put up big numbers. But I always thought I was a big, tough, macho football player so it was all big, heavy, clanky dumbbells and barbells and 45 pound plates thrown around the gym for our weight training. I loved that smell of iron and being surrounded by a cage while working out, but it took a long time getting everything set correctly when you’re doing high weights.

With the resistance bands, that familiar burn I remember from high school lifting is back, but it’s a much more sleek and streamlined process getting there with the bands. There are different colors with different resistance levels, and I assure you, no matter how big and tough you are, there is a band or a combination of bands that will get you feeling it deep in your muscles.

In the early part of the first week, I already reached my first wall. After not working out for years and years, two cardio classes and a leg-focused strength training day had me feeling miserably sore on Thursday morning. I felt good that I had gotten through the classes, but it didn’t change the fact that I my legs were SORE and felt like Jell-O. It also didn’t help that the Wild had an 8:30 start time in Game 1, went to overtime and then lost, so I was dead tired.

Things wouldn’t have been so bad except I knew I had another strength training class that night. I dreaded it all day. Doubt crept in to my mind. I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t think I could even do another high impact leg day.

But, I pushed through those thoughts and went to class expecting the worst. But a funny thing happened. The people at Farrell’s have a plan. It was an arm day. Outside of some warmups, we did next to no workouts that involved our legs, Now it wasn’t easy, but my arms were fresh and ready for the workout, so I was thrilled when the class got over. I was still sweating and still feeling like I worked hard, but I was able to give my legs a break.

That boosted my confidence and my energy level for the home stretch of Friday and Saturday’s workout. I had what I thought was my best cardio day on Friday night. It felt good, I was working hard and I had legitimate pools of sweat forming on the mat below my face when I was doing push ups in between kickboxing sets.

I had my first real nutrition test on Friday night after the workout. I went to the bar with my buddies to watch the Wild game and when I got there, there was a giant pizza in the middle of the table and they all had beers in front of them.

I kept up drinking with them, but I was ripping through the waters instead of beer and I ordered a nice steak house salad with some light honey mustard dressing. It was phenomenal, and I felt much better the next day than I’m sure they did.

Saturday morning’s class was packed with people, but it was nice to see a lot of the faces from orientation going through the same stuff I was.

Sunday was our first ‘cheat’ day for our nutrition plan and not having to workout. It also happened to be Easter. I did get our dogs out for a walk, so I was still able to fit a little bit of exercise in, but then I definitely enjoyed my Grandma Norton’s spiral ham and the typical Easter spread of cheesy potatoes, corn bread muffins and some carrot cake.

Getting to the cheat day felt good, but at the same time, Aly and I didn’t feel like we needed to gorge ourselves of everything that is bad for us. We’ve had a steady stream of shrimp, chicken, turkey sausage, fruits, veggies and protein bars, natural peanut butter, beef jerky, almonds and hard boiled eggs throughout the process, so we’ve been satisfied!

Hopefully by next week, I’ll have powered through the second week wall and can talk more about the nutrition.

Week 4: The nutrition has to be key

I’m in the middle of week three of this 10 week journey I'm doing with Farrell's Extreme Bodyshaping and I’m already starting to feel a little bit better about things in my life.

When I did the Friends and Family classes a few weeks prior to starting, after I came home from the 45 minute workout, I plopped on the couch and writhed in agony and soreness and didn’t want to move the rest of the night.

But now, I’m working much harder in the classes, but I come home and still feel energized. I feel like I accomplished something for the day and that is a satisfying feeling that just carries over into my at-home mentality. I used to think just working eight to 10 hours a day was a hard day’s work, but now adding the workout has gotten me reenergized at home. I even went over to my parents house on our off day on Sunday and helped rake and mulch the leaves from the garden. That alone would’ve typically left me sore and worn out for the rest of the day, but after hours of raking, I felt as good as when the day started.

I think a big part of that feeling so far has been the nutrition aspect of the program. Early on, I called it a diet and owner Jeff Friedrichs quickly corrected me in saying it wasn’t a diet, it was proper nutrition. At the time, I didn’t quite get the difference, but I’m starting to get an idea.

It doesn’t feel like I’m on a diet. Aly and I eat six smaller meals a day, but it’s still food that’s tasty, yet good for you. I always kind of thought if I did this type of program, I’d go to bed hungry and wake up starving, but that hasn’t happened. Every time I start to get really hungry, I look at the clock and it’s usually time for one of my meals.

Here are my meals from a day earlier in the week:

Steel Cut Fruit N’ Berries Oatmeal, an orange and a low fat vanilla Greek yogurt

Morning Snack
Seven whole grain crackers with seven cubes of low fat pepper jack cheese

Roasted turkey on sandwich thins with spinach, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes and light honey mustard, 1/2 serving of strawberries, 1/2 serving of grapes and carrots. (I didn’t think a sandwich would be any good without cheese, but you wouldn’t even know it wasn’t on there with the other flavors you get)

Afternoon snack
Beef jerky, hard boiled egg, and an apple

We also have a chocolate chip protein bar after our workout that helps rebuild your muscles and satisfies those with a pesky sweet tooth.

Shrimp stir fry with green beans, onions, carrots and jasmine rice

Night Snack
Piece of whole grain toast with natural chunky peanut butter and a light string cheese

The above is just a sample too, as there are plenty of other foods that are available. I’m finding out there’s things I like more than the regular version, such as spaghetti squash. Aly has made a killer meal with the spaghetti squash shredded up like noodles with turkey sausage and a spicy red sauce. I’m a big pasta guy, and it’s just as good as any noodle and Italian sausage pasta I’ve had previously.

I’m also finding out some of the things I don’t like and won’t be adding to my nutrition plan... I’m looking your way cottage cheese.

Overall, it’s been a drastic change for someone like me. I ate out constantly. Arby’s, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Brink’s Deli, Subway.  Most people don’t eat out as much as I was, so it hasn’t been easy. I crave some of those things often, but I have just started telling myself that the taste is temporary and the after effects have a lot more ramifications. It’s not that the food I’m eating now tastes bad, quite the opposite actually, but to go from eating out at those places three or four times a week (sometimes more) to none is very different.

Although I shouldn’t say I have cut them out completely. I did use my second cheat day to grab some Taco Bell, which worked well because it filled the fast food craving that I had been fighting.

A lot of people have asked too if it’s expensive to eat “cleaner.”  The answer is yes and no. We had to make some drastic changes in our pantry and fridge to get some of the right food. We didn’t throw everything out since we do have the cheat days, but we also realized how much bad stuff we had in the house.

In these first few weeks, it has taken me and Aly about $100-$125 per week to keep up our meal prep with the right foods that we enjoy. That number can obviously be different for everyone. And although it may seem like a lot, keep in mind we are shopping for two people. We also have mapped out how much we were spending on groceries previously, plus our fast food and eating out costs and it’s actually saving us money.

I can certainly say it has not been easy making the change in my nutrition habits, but I’m coming from a pretty extreme end of the spectrum. And just like the physical aspect of this program, I didn’t expect it to be easy and knew it wouldn’t be. I have cravings. I have days where I just want to chomp into a big slice of greasy pizza. But then I weigh the short term benefits against the long term results and it helps me to put things into perspective.

Plus, I always have my Sundays to get that slice of pizza in!

Week 5: Finding the right technique

I'm in my fourth week of the 10-week program here at Farrell's Extreme Bodyshaping, and I feel like I'm starting to round into form.

The kickboxing technique was very foreign to me to begin the classes. Some of the kicks we threw were awkward to a big man like myself, and the punching took time to realize it's not all about your arms. You have to work your whole body to throw a proper punch.

When I first started, I was hesitant to really commit to some of the moves simply because I wasn't comfortable doing them. As we've gone through more and more classes, I've been able to ramp up the intensity, which has only served to help me.

You don't need to have a background in any sort of boxing or martial arts to be able to get good at the stuff they are teaching. It's all fairly basic, which has been big for me since I was nervous about being able to execute the moves.

I'm also getting better in form at the resistance bands, which is allowing me to "band up" as they say, and move to the next challenging band. Aly has seen the same results as the workouts have progressed and we've gotten better at our form.

When I started, I rarely used anything except the yellow band, which are the lightest resistance. As we went to class on Saturday, which is a full body bands workout, I decided to try to do my workout without having to use a yellow band at all, only green, red and blue. It was tough at times, but I made it through and have mostly left the yellow bands in the rearview mirror. Although I still have the purple bands to look forward to! They are the highest resistance. I tried them with some curls, and I quickly decided to move back down to blue for now.

The funny thing about the class too is that Aly and I have both noticed significant gains in some of the most basic exercises. When we started, I couldn't do an actual pushup. I had to do them from my knees. My buddies razzed me a little bit, but were encouraging, as was everybody in the class. There's a reason I was there, and it was to improve on those numbers. In my most recent class, we had three sets of 20 pushups to do and they wanted us to do as many as we could from our toes before moving to our knees. I hadn't tried a regular push up since the orientation day, and I was thrilled to be able to do five before finishing out the rest of the sets on my knees.

I know five push ups seems easy for most people and child's play for some, but for me, it indicated how far I've come in just three weeks of class.

Aly has had similar accomplishments. We regularly do leg lift exercises as part of our workouts, and when we started Aly couldn't do one. She just worked crunches while others did leg lifts. At our recent Saturday workout, Aly crushed a full set of 20 leg lifts. Again, that may seem easy and trivial to a lot of people, but for us it's been eye-opening what a little hard work can accomplish in a short period of time.

I'm seeing the gains in my strength. My flexibility has improved. I could barely do most of the warm up exercises when we started, and now I can do all of them. And I do still need my warm ups. The intense soreness and pain from the first couple weeks are gone, replaced by a more dull soreness that tells me I'm still putting in the work.

However, I have still avoided stepping on the scale. Nearly all nutrition and exercise programs encourage you to avoid frequent weigh ins, so I've avoided it as much as I could. I don't know if that's going to set me up for disappointment at the five week testing mark or a pleasant surprise.  I just keep telling myself that no matter what happens when I do step on a scale, I'll know that I've put in the work in the gym and in the kitchen. In fact, I even had to turn down a piece of Grandpa Cheesecake this week when Paul, the owner, swung by with a piece to sample. Normally I would've just secretly hoped all of my co-workers weren't hungry and I'd get the whole piece for myself, but I politely declined and let them enjoy it. And if you've had Grandpa Cheesecake, you know how hard it is to turn down.

Aly had the same problem at work earlier this week. It was one of her co-worker’s birthdays and they had a caramel sundae cake in the office. She texted me a picture of it and said "Torture". Just the picture message for me was torture, so I can only imagine having it sitting next to me. But, she didn't have any and stuck to her guns. She knows we'll get to enjoy some sweets on Sunday!

So far, I've been happy with the results, and we are just three weeks in. It hasn't always been easy, but it's becoming more of a habit. I am getting used to drinking a lot of water. I'm getting used to eating six small meals a day. I'm getting used to not stopping for fast food for a quick meal. And I'm getting used to pushing myself physically to earn the results.

I don't know what the week five testing will bring. It's bringing me back to the feeling I had before orientation. I'm excited for it to get here so I can see my potential improvements, but I'm also nervous for it to be here because I don't know if my expectations will be too high. No matter the results, I'm going to keep pushing through the second half and keep my head up. The changes I made are already starting to pay off after three weeks, I can't imagine what it's going to be like after 10.

Part 6: Past the halfway mark!

I had the butterflies and nerves again late last week in regards to my 10-week journey at Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping.

We had our five-week testing since we were halfway through the program, and a lot of thoughts raced through my head.

What if there isn’t any improvement?

What if everyone else has left me in the dust?

How am I going to shape the column if things don’t go well?

Luckily, after doing the testing on Friday, I was thrilled to say I don’t have to answer any of those questions.

The only testing we did were our sit ups and push ups and although I’ve avoided the scale up until now, I wanted to check out that number too on my own just to see where I was at.

The first test we did on Friday was the sit ups. I remember my first day in the orientation being disappointed at my number. I thought I would’ve been able to do more than the 13 that I did that day, but that was just a driver to push me.

Not only do we frequently work abs, but I’ve also had a fellow 10-weeker, Jim, push me to do some extra sit ups and push ups with him after some of our classes, and all the work really paid off by week five. I was able to do 33 full sit ups in a minute, more than doubling my starting number of 13.

Next up in the testing were the push ups. I already knew I was getting better in those, but again, I didn’t quite know what the true results would be. When I started class, I could not do a real push up from my hands and feet. I needed to be on my knees to do them. But, a few weeks ago in class, I tried some real push ups and was able to get near double digits, so I knew my numbers would do well in the five week testing.

I stuck to doing the push up tests from my knees because it’s impossible to compare the two different kinds of push ups and translating the numbers wouldn’t work. But, I was pleasantly surprised again. I went from doing 24 on orientation five weeks ago to 43 of them after five weeks.

That number seemed like a pipe dream five weeks ago. I didn’t think anything like that was even going to be remotely possible, but now I’m excited to just keep pushing to the 10 week finish line.

My final test that I did on my own was step on the scale. I hadn’t done it since the beginning of class and despite it taking the least amount of effort, it was the result I was most nervous for.

You know the typical sayings...

You’re building muscle, so you may not see weight loss.

Muscle weighs more than fat.

I didn’t start losing weight until eight to 10 weeks.

All of those literally and figuratively weighed heavily on my mind. I knew based on my testing results that I had gained a lot of strength and muscle in the past five weeks, but I had made so many changes in my activity level and in my eating habits that I won’t lie, I was going to be disappointed if I didn’t see much of a result on the scale.

But, after zeroing the scale out and stepping on it,  I sheepishly peeked down at the number and a sense of relief rushed through me. I had dropped nearly 20 pounds in the first five weeks. I didn’t have a specific goal in mind when I started, but when I Google’d what 20 pounds of fat looked like, I was ecstatic with that result.

Aly also crushed her five week testing, which was an awesome feeling for both of us. She has been battling a sore knee for the last couple of weeks and although she could feel herself getting a bit stronger, she didn’t think she was going to have much of an improvement at all when it came to the sit ups and push ups.

She couldn’t have been any more wrong. In the sit up exercise, she went from 16 at orientation five weeks ago to 29 this week and in the push ups, she went from 13 to 28.

I was so proud of her for battling through her knee pain and earning those results.

It hasn’t been easy for her at times, but she hasn’t missed a single class yet and is working her tail off.

We typically pair up with other people for our cardio kickboxing, but Farrell’s has something called ‘Fun Friday’ where you rotate bag partners throughout the class, so Aly and I decided to start together on a bag. On our first kicking exercise, Al led off with a right round and she pounded that bag harder than most of my kicks. The ‘thwack’ sound her leg made on the bag each time pushed me to work harder and set the tone for my day. She’s killing it out there.

The testing really reinvigorated me and Al for the second half. We both have enjoyed the workouts, but at times the nutrition has been tough, and there was a few times when we wondered if it was worth it. If the results were really going to be there. But after seeing where we are at now compared to where we were five weeks ago, it makes it all feel great.

As this column comes out, we are halfway through week six and powering through to the home stretch soon. Things have picked up even more as I’m now going straight from my Wednesday workout to softball, and Aly goes straight from her Thursday workout to volleyball, and then we both play volleyball on our off day.

As the weather gets nicer, the urge to enjoy a patio beer or a greasy burger goes up, but we will stay true to the course and keep grinding for the next four and a half weeks.

Wish us luck!

Part 7: Things aren't always rosy

After doing well in our five week testing, Aly and I were over the moon with where we were at in our 10-week program at Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping. Despite her battling through a painful knee and some aches and pains, we were feeling good.

Then last week came. We were cruising along in week six when I got a call from Aly on the rain-soaked Wednesday afternoon.

Her vehicle, which we just purchased three months ago, was flashing warning signals at her and smelled of “burnt hair” as she said.

Something was wrong with the charging system, and she was just leaving work, which is roughly 40 minutes from the gym.

I told her to get as close as she could to the gym and I would come pick her up. In the meantime, I decided to change into my workout clothes while I waited for her inevitable call. And it hit me that I didn’t bring any workout shorts in my rush that morning. There’s zero chance that my cargo shorts would make it through a kickboxing workout without splitting in multiple places. At that point, I’m anticipating having to pick Aly up from the side of a rainy freeway, but I need to run to a store that carries workout shorts.

I ran to Wal Mart while keeping my phone in my hand to help Aly at a moment’s notice. Luckily, that call didn’t come. Her vehicle made it all the way to the gym, and she got there right as I was getting back from Wal Mart. I went to look at it, and it promptly died, but at least she got to the gym.

We trudged through our workout, knowing we needed to line a car up for Aly to drive and to be able to get her car to a mechanic. But we were both still happy that we were able to work out, despite the obstacles.

Luckily, the car worked again for about a mile, but that’s all we needed to get it to a buddy’s shop down the road. We left it there and then picked up my parents spare car that night so Aly had something to drive to work.

Unfortunately, a $500 fix later, and it was shaping up to be one of those weeks.

On Friday night, we had a niece’s birthday party to go to in Stillwater, and missing our workout never crossed our mind. With two dogs at home, however, we needed to come up with an alternate plan. I went to the early morning class and Aly went to the afternoon class and I picked her up from the gym on my way down to Stillwater after picking up the dogs after work. We ended up in Stillwater until pretty late, and after leaving there, it’s a long drive back to our home in Isanti.

With all of that running, our bed felt almost too comfortable on Saturday morning when it was time to get up for our 8:30 a.m. class. Aly and I both silenced our alarms and seemed like we had no intention of getting out of bed to make it to class. We had perfect attendance so far, so what would be one missed day?

To us, it would’ve meant a weekend of regret and anger for being lazy. The staff at Farrell’s always say showing up is the hardest part, and on that Saturday morning, it was true. But Aly eventually got out of bed and that motivated me to follow.

We got to our workout just in time and although it wasn’t our best class in the six weeks, we were there and we were working.

When it was done, I couldn’t have been happier that we made it to the class and didn’t skip out.

To top the busy week off, we made another long trip on Sunday, but this one for a wonderful reason. Aly’s sister and brother-in-law welcomed their first child, an absolute beauty, Vienna June, on Sunday morning  and we visited them at the hospital in Waconia, which is an hour and a half drive from home.

And I get it, most of this column is just me talking about how tough this week was at times, but my point is that life happens. We make excuses all the time to not get to the gym and not worry about our health. I badly wanted to make an excuse this week. I had excuses handed to me. Stressed from a large mechanics bill, fatigue from non stop running, just needing a day to relax. They were sitting there waiting for Aly and I to use. And we said ‘No, thank you.”

This program is important to us. Making it to every class is important for us. We wanted to take this journey seriously, and once we saw the results from five week testing, we knew we had to keep pushing through, regardless of what real life throws our way.

I didn’t want this column to just seem like everything has been rosy the last six weeks. There’s been challenges and real life has happened, but as long as you keep moving forward, good things still will happen.

On a quick aside, earlier this week, I did hit a milestone that I did not think was going to be possible in my initial 10 weeks.

In our first week, there were parts of classes that involved planks for 30 to 45 seconds. I could never plank for more than a few seconds in the beginning, so I instead put my knees on the ground and just put as much weight as I could on my arms to simulate a plank as close as I could.

I had stuck with that strategy for a few weeks, but then I started to try to hold actual planks for a little bit longer each time as the rest of the class moved to 60 second planks.

Well, on Monday, midway through our kickboxing workout, we dropped down for planks and I blocked everything out mentally and was able to hold the plank for the full 60 seconds. My arms were quivering by the end but I had made it.

Turns out, life really does come at you fast!

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