Running Over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge

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(Obligatory cat-at-my-feet post-run picture. Spoiler alert: This has nothing to do with the rest of the blog.)

I’ve peaked in terms of my physical fitness level three times in my life so far.

The first time was over the course of 2012, when I ran four half marathons in a year.

The second time was around my wedding, during which the fear of flab was enough to will me out of bed every morning, rain or shine.

The third was in high school during basketball season, when despite an addition to McDonald’s MrFlurries and super-sized fries, I was able to maintain a size negative-something frame. Oh, to be young again.

Both of the former, more relevant periods were achieved by participating in various forms of exercise. When I was in race mode, I made certain to incorporate yoga into my weekly routine. Around my wedding, I was into mostly anything that would work up a sweat and work out my arms. Jillian Michaels kickboxing was a go-to, as was a habit I got into of doing 10 push-ups minimum per day.

As I’d find out, life doesn’t always allow for such a rigorous fitness routine. And while I don’t necessarily feel that I’m out of shape, per say, I’m definitely in a different kind of shape than I was in before I moved to Philly, before my trip to Croatia, and before I said “I do.”

On the plus side, I’ve been running regularly–about 3.5-5.5 miles 4-6 days a week–with the addition of a weekly barre class, which I’ve been taking at the gym. The barre class, although not all that tough, has been strengthening my legs. Particularly my calves. In terms of my physical body, I can’t see much of a difference. But in terms of my running, I think that the barre movements have been giving me a little more pavement oomph.

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(Killin’ it with the 3-pounders this week. Say whaaaaaaa?!)

On the down side, I’ve also realized how weak some of my formerly toned arm muscles had become. On Saturday morning, with the temperature outside already well above 80 degrees and the humidity climbing upwards of 90%, I turned to my old friend Jillian (first name basis, no doubt) for a bit of kickboxing fun. Honestly, the last time I kickboxed was right before my wedding. And although I actually found myself keeping up with the video just fine, staying on pace and maintaining a steady breath, Sunday morning–24 hours later–told a totally different story. When I woke up, my arms were sore, and my back was achy. A workout of that nature never would have left me in any kind of pain before.

Then on Sunday, I set out for another longish run with a goal of 7 miles over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and home (about 3.5 miles each way; the bridge itself is a beast and spans a ways across the Delaware River).

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It had been a long, long time since I craved and followed through with an urban-inspired bridge run, and boy did it feel good. Noah and I agreed: The run itself felt shorter than it should have since so much of it actually takes place on the massive structure. On top of that, there are far fewer people–runners, walkers, bikers, sketchy folk–frequenting the pathway, unlike New York City, where a bridge run is often spent dodging traffic, throwing elbows, and being asked by tourists mid-stride whether you’d be able to take a picture for them. Sure thing, let me just drown your iPhone in sweat.

In some ways, that’s the beauty of Philly; few people make a day of trekking over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, leaving plenty of space to roam.

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Surprisingly, I felt strong for all 7 miles of Sunday’s run except for the end when I became slightly dehydrated and started to get the (slight) spins. I’m not sure if it was the fact that we ran 8 miles to Manayunk last week or that I scarfed down a bunch of pastries before we left. Maybe, I’m just in better shape than I give myself credit for. Who knows. Being in a totally new place, exploring a very different backyard, it’s hard to put anything into perspective these days.

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Regardless, my run over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge turned out to be everything I’d hoped it’d be and more. Monday’s run, not so much.

On Monday morning, I wanted nothing more than to press snooze over and over. Knowing how cranky I’d be if I didn’t start my week off right though, I hopped to it, fed the cat, got dressed, and forced myself out the door. About 2 miles into my run, just as I approached Boathouse Row, I saw flashing lights. Getting closer, I saw the marine unit. And as I got real close, I saw men in suits floating a body to shore.

Another 3 miles later, and I was back home generally freaked out by a pathway I was just starting to love. All I can say is, at least it was a pretty morning.

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Happy Monday!

Circuit Of Change

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I couldn’t help but turn to Melisse, one of the wonderful founders of the NYC online wellness hub Well + Good, after completing my first class at Chelsea’s cool studio Circuit of Change. “I feel like someone dosed me with happy pills when I walked through those doors,” I said. “That was like nothing I’ve ever done before.

I have to admit, had I known what was in store for Wednesday evening’s class beforehand, I may have wimped out. As far as I knew, I was signing up for a typical yoga class at a typical yoga studio on a typical Wednesday night. Of course, this turned out to be far from true. What began as, yes, typical turned into anything but. Circuit of Change was a whirlwind experience of jumping, dancing, yoga flowing, panting, breathing and — perhaps the biggest surprise of all — smiling. And it was atypical from start to finish.

Ask yourselves this: When is the last time you smiled from ear to ear throughout an entire workout?

I’d describe myself as cynical and stoic, and so I personally can’t remember the last time I smiled for that long over anything, save for the birth of my nephews and niece. But this workout was different. It was free and fun. It was full of spirit and life. It invigorated me from head to toe, my body and mind, and left me positively glowing — and even wanting more.

As a runner, I’m accustomed to enjoying my outdoor excursions. And yet, there are good miles and there are bad ones. There are hills I want to crush and those I want to cry over. Very few times do I ever encounter a run where 100% of the time do I feel like I’m floating on clouds. Even at the end of a great race, truth be told, I probably felt like throwing up at some point in between.

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(My first green juice experience! Not as bad as I imagined, but still kind of tastes like hippie blood.)

Wednesday’s class was sponsored by Well + Good and Mio Skincare, and it was an all-out fitness event, including an hour-long Circuit of Change session followed by insight into “the fitness of your skin”…plus juice, good chats, familiar faces and cool t-shirts.

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(Ignore the fur vest; I don’t recommend working out in it. It’s freezing in NYC and I was getting ready to venture outside into the frigid night air!)

The signature class, called MINDBODY Bootcamp, is pretty much what it sounds like, combining elements of yoga, plyometrics, gymnastics, cardio core work, meditation and, to my contentment, martial arts. You KNOW how much I’ve been loving my kickboxing videos lately, and during this hour-long sweat session, I really felt as though the last few month’s worth of living room workouts were really being put to the test.

The best part of the class though wasn’t the workout, or the drummers (yes, our class was set to drumming — AWESOME), or founder Brian Delmonico — a true ball of energy — himself. Rather, it was the sense of silliness and exhiliration that, simply put, you couldn’t help but feel. It permeated every move and breath. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I tend to enjoy my solitary workouts, the same old song and dance. At Circuit of Change, I transformed into someone else. I was me — but so much better.

Following the class, we had the opportunity to check out some awesome skincare products from the burgeoning brand Mio, known for their dedication to “Fit Skin for Life.”

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(Photo courtesy of @jboer88)

Once geared to mammas and pregnant women with the Mama Mio brand, Mio is now available for the everyday woman. Or, I should say, the everyday woman that loves to work out. My favorite product of the evening had to be their Workout Wonder Muscle Gel, a cream that, after warming between your palms, you apply to the back of your neck. Following a good workout, the tingling sensation that ensues feels OHMYYES amazing.

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I will always have a love-hate relationship with evening workouts. As an AM fitness lover to the core, a workout at night means I’ll likely be breaking a sweat just a few short hours later at the crack of dawn. And of course, that’s exactly what happened. During those moments, all one can do is push through.

To quote Albert Einstein’s message, displayed prominently on the Circuit of Change website, “Nothing happens until something moves.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Have you been to Circuit of Change? Does this sound like a workout you’d try? When’s the last time you smiled from ear to ear during a workout?