Not your mama's workout
January 9, 2013
- A fit new year
- Check out Fitness Day at the Graf gym this Sat., Jan. 12 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- The new year usually means a new you. We want to improve and become healthier and happier version of ourselves.
For many, this transformation starts by logging hours at the gym. But, running miles in place on the treadmill, climbing endless stairs to nowhere and silently repeating dumbbell reps quickly becomes dull. Motivation falters and that once-inspirational resolution gets lost in the bottom of that second box of Cheez-Its.
But, the exercise classes at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Physical Fitness Center can help animate the listless. The sheer variety of classes -- from Zumba to pilates to indoor cycling --appeal to anyone willing to move for an hour.
The classes always intrigued me, but as an exercise newbie, I felt too intimidated to join and feared the workouts would be too hard. But, in the spirit of New Year's, I resolved to try TotalFit, Body Pump and yoga.
TotalFit, a CrossFit-inspired workout, is high-intensity, nonstop and varied. Participants do pullups, pushups and box jumps. They jump rope, lunge, squat, row, bear crawl and crab walk, use dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells.
"TotalFit is a very fast, very explosive workout that you see results from very quickly," said Jaimin Williams Harris, a TotalFit instructor at the Grafenwoehr gym.
Both novices and veterans filled Williams Harris' 9 a.m. class the morning I attended. The class was so full, the normally 10-20 minute power workout was extended to accommodate everyone.
We started with 100 air squats and moved to 90 sit-ups and then 80 Supermans, 70 kettlebell swings, 60 pushups, 50 box jumps and so on down to 10 pullups.
The session worked my major muscles and those I didn't know existed from my neck down to my calves and forearms.
Despite the intensity of TotalFit, it is wonderfully modifiable. Can't do a regular pushup? Sink down to your knees. Is a chinup impossible? Use the rubber bands to help. Your legs just won't jump onto that box? Step up instead.
"People tell me that they've been watching our class for a year and they've been too scared to come in. But, anybody can do it," said Williams Harris.
Body Pump, led by Natasa Helixon, is a "very traditional barbell class." While the class focuses on building strength and getting fit, it is still fun.
Unlike in TotalFit, where participants complete tasks at their own pace, Body Pump is a group activity where everyone moves together. Helixon's energy and go get 'em attitude is contagious.
Equipped with barbells and extra weights, Helixon led the class for an hour of curls, presses, squats and lunges. We worked on our shoulders and triceps and finished with ab work. All the while, Helixon yelled out encouragement peppered with reminders that we were burning calories.
"The good thing about strength class is that the body burns calories after the class," said Helixon. This is called the "after-burn effect" and participants can burn from 350-650 calories both during and post-workout.
Having never lifted weights before, I was pleasantly surprised to find Body Pump so accessible. Helixon started me with very light weights, so although I was going through the same motions as the rest of the class, I was still lifting what my body could handle.
While yoga lacks the meaty intensity of TotalFit and Body Pump, it is not for the lazy or faint-hearted. I find myself cursing under my breath more at the strain of a long stretch or difficult balancing pose than when I'm trying to eke out that last pushup.
"I think there's a misconception about yoga that it smells like patchouli or it's easy," said Molly Hayden, a yoga instructor at the Grafenwoehr gym.
While there is a Zen aspect to yoga -- it focuses on breathing and serenity -- participants build strength and endurance repeatedly holding the same poses and attempting obscure positions.
During class I found myself trying to sit in the air, balancing on one leg while the other rested on the opposite knee. Later in the class, we did headstands, using our ab muscles to raise our legs up over our heads.
But the great thing about yoga is the balance. Resting poses often follow difficult ones and a strenuous workout ends in quiet reflection. Novices can also find alternative poses if one looks too daunting.
The results from yoga are immediate and gratifying. Every time I bent down during class, my fingers got closer to my toes. Afterward, I felt limber and light, my stiffness gone after an hour of stretching and focused breathing.
"I choose yoga because of the way it makes me feel," said Hayden. "I feel stretched out, taller. I like the pace of it. And even though I don't like to run, when I do run, I have more endurance and it's easier because I'm stretched out."
All class instructors at the Grafenwoehr gym welcome new recruits and accommodate them as they grow into a new exercise routine. But first, they beseech the community to come try what they have to offer.
"Don't be afraid," said Williams Harris. "What's the worst that can happen? Either you don't like it, or you change your body forever."
To try out most of the classes the gym has to offer and get message demos, nutrition management information and a fitness assessment, check out Fitness Day this Saturday, Jan. 12 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
TotalFit classes are Monday-Friday at 9 a.m. Williams Harris also teaches Workout of the Day Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:45 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Body Pump is Monday and Wednesday, 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m., and Tuesday and Friday, from 8:15-9:15 a.m.
Yoga is taught by a number of teachers. Yoga with Molly is Mondays from 5:30-6:30 p.m.; YogaLean with Destiny is Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesdays at 10 a.m.; Yoga Express with Kristin is every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.