20 Minute Toning: Ignite Fitness Review

Admit it.  Sometimes, during tough workout videos, you lie there huffing and puffing hoping your virtual teacher won’t catch you slacking.  That feeling is slightly guilty/awesome because you know this workout is challenging you.

It may seem that 20 minutes of fitness won’t do squat (HA!) but high intensity workouts can pack a punch for more energy and toning.  We received a complementary Blu-Ray copy of the Women’s Health Ignite workout starring Next Fitness Star winner Nikki Metzger to test its fit factor.  Nikki Metzger isn’t just some gym rat of the street.  She’s a Master Trainer and owner of BODI gym in Scottsdale, Arizona.  She’s not afraid to slap you with a bad @#s fitness routine.

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Ignite fires you up with 3 x20 minute stand alone (or get crazy and plow through all 3) workouts.  Bonus: An 8 minute bananas ab sequence in case you didn’t feel sore enough.

Workout Chapters:

BUILD

More of a traditional weights workout, but still maintains an interval format. Nikki demos the moves and sets before each change.  Free weight usage is optional, removing intimidation for the recently sedentary.

BURN

Guacs, this is a doozy.  Plyometrics take center stage for this cardio heavy chapter with crazy hard moves like the evil planky bear or real move name: Lateral Bear Crawl.

SWEAT

Your muscles will get HIIT from the front and the back with this 360 high speed interval routine.  Expect 45 second sets with 3 sets in each rotation.  Moves include modified burpees with a row added, plank walk outs and our Snapchat favsie: The Starfish Crunch.

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Workout Cheers

  • These 20 minute speed workouts torch calories and slow time.  You can fit this into a busy life!
  • Nikki’s lady crew each demo-ed a different move level for beginners up to bodybuilder lost your mind mode.
  • As a trainer, Nikki is approachable and encouraging.  Also, we like her fitanista style with 3 on fleek fit outfits to choose.

Workout Woes

  • 8 minute abs was like 8 minutes confused.  Transitions were too too fast so it was hard to follow where to move next.
  • Closed caption anyone?  This is 2016 so I am sure the fitness industry would want people with hearing issues to be able to follow along with verbal cues too.
  • Why do all workout videos have drum kit music created on a Casio keyboard for their background?  We suppose it’s necessary to appease a majority of viewers (?) but we think even keyboard cat could do better.

Final (Get) Cut

Extra Extra!  Get your 20 minute toning with Ignite here.  Not ready to commit? Check out a preview of Nikki’s training here.

Looking for other workouts?  Check out some suggestions from previous posts here.

Winter Running Gear: YakTrax Run

What is it about Midwestern winter (and sadly sometimes spring) that can totally diminish your run game?  The chill in the air, the icy scaled sidewalks, that daunting first inch of snow…man we wanna grab our snuggie and hot chocolate just writing this!  We kept trying to figure out how we could keep running safely when the weather outside became frightful Snow solution?  A fluffy white magical Yak picks you up and you sashay through the shivery slush…or you could try YakTrax for a more realistic tool for winter running woes.

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What’s a YakTrax you ask?  The name sounds like a new Dr. Seuss character and just in time for his birthday!  But we digress.  We read a couple of “Best of Winter Running Gear” articles and YakTrax brand traction devices dominated many a list so we ski jumped for joy when we were given a pair from Implus, fitness accessory brand leader, to trek across the blustery terrain.

Inspired by a Himalayan Sherpa, the original Yaktrax model features a spikeless coil design that grips the ice and snow with each step.  Yaktrax Run’s combination of removable spikes and steel coils, providing 360° of unbeatable traction.  Continue your training during the winter with the same stability you are accustomed to on dry surfaces.  The Yaktrax Run can be worn in temperatures as low as ‑41° Fahrenheit.

Mittens Up (Yup, Thumbs Up)

Throw your mittens in the air if you just don’t care…about running in the cold.  Here’s the positives about YakTrax Run and winter running.

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  • Fit like a Glove – YakTrax Run snuggled around our sneakers and stayed put during our jogs.
  • No Directions Needed – You could dream of sugar plum fairies while putting your YakTrax on (aka daydream).  They are user intuitive and are marked to guide you (left and right/heel and toe)
  • Dashing Through the Snow – YakTrax did not have a drastic affect on our gait.  They kinda feel like you’re bouncing a bit on a cloud of snow.  We only put in a 5k distance so not sure how they’d fair on a longer jaunt.

Mittens Down (Thoughts for improvements and tips)

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  • The Weather Calls For Snowzilla – When reviewing other runners, YakTrax Run is made for a specific type of weather.  You probably shouldn’t run across an ice skating rink for prolonged amounts of time as they aren’t made for thick ice or feet of snow backwoods running.  Stick to mildly icy pavement and moderate snow for best results.
  • Slushy Slush (our new rap name) – Slushy snow can get trapped in the back of the heel so you may have to tap tap tap a tree once in awhile to get it out.

For you non-runners, YakTrax carries 6 other types of traction variations for any purpose from your ma’s walks in the afternoon, to your bestie who hits the ski slope every weekend.

Strap up your run shoes in some YakTrax Run coils for only $40 here, less than that Yak (about $2000) and besides Yaks weigh 700 pounds so where would you house them?

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For now, the weather has us chanting the mantra of the post office: Neither rain, nor moderate ice nor snow can stop us from running–now that we have YakTrax Run coils.  Maybe a tornado would stop us though…just sayin’.  What do you think about YakTrax or other run traction devices?  We would love to hear your thoughts.  Comment below and until next time, happy trails!

 

Bar Method #MeInspiresWe Challenge

Cue the Final Countdown Music and say this in a movie phone voice: “We challenge you, dear readers, to a battle to the death…of flappy arms and thighs.” Join us this month, from January 11th-February 15th, and get toned as … Continue reading

Tips for Trekking Your First Trail Run

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Now that Race-tober has come to a close, we’ve had a chance to reflect on all the “firsts” we’ve experienced this month: Monica ran her first 10K, Run 10 Feed 10, Kate took her sister to her first 5k, a very rainy yet triumphant Monster Dash and one of our most memorable races, our first trail run with the The North Face Endurance Challenge at Kettle Moraine State Park.  The North Face went above and beyond in sponsoring us, not only giving us sweet race gear before the race, but also surprising us with a backpack full of running essentials once we made our way to our hotel.

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For anyone who has been running 5Ks for a while or would love to just get out in nature more, we think a trail run could hit both those spots.

Here are some things we learned from our experience:

These shoes were made for trailin’

Invest in a pair of trail shoes.  Your feet will thank you for your generosity.  When we first received our North Face Ultra MT trail shoes, we noticed how stiff they were as compared to our norm runners.  A wise friend explained that trail running shoes and more hearty with more tread so you have better grip and can withstand stepping on wily rocks and sticks that may try to block your path.  These shoes are also waterproof to withstand wet and muddy trails.

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Climbing every mountain 

The environment of trails can vary from run to run.  You may find well groomed trails, wild overgrown ones, or paved trails in your travels.  You may find you require more stamina and time to trail run than what you’re used to so don’t feel discouraged if you are slower paced than your average pavement jaunt.

Dress to impress–the wilderness

The weather the day of our trail run was not exactly what you would expect for early October but Midwest weather is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, ya never know what you’re gonna get.  Chilly and brisk was the name of the running game for our race day.  Keeping in mind that we were going through the woods, we wore layers.  For rain, try a light or medium weight rain jacket, like The North Face Women’s Venture Jacket.  Trust us, don’t wear your poncho to run unless you want to sweat like a wild hog as you swish through the wilderness.

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And some advice from the trail running pros!

Runner’s World: 21 Quick Trail Running Tips

Active.com: 9 Trail Running Tips for Beginners

Trail Runner: The 10 Commandments of Healthy Running

Ready, set, go!

You can still take on the North Face Endurance Challenge in California, Washington D.C. and New York or try an Illinois trail run if you’re our neighbors.

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Still trail shy?

The North Face offers their free Mountain Athletics training sessions every Tuesday and Thursday in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. to help you prep for your next ski jump, rock climb, run or crazy jazz hand competition…whatever your goal may be.

Fitness Friday: Equinox Ropes and Rowers

For those who haven’t been to Equinox, you’ve been missing out on a luxury fitness experience.  Think top tier fitness instructors, a wide array of fitness tools at your fingertips and a cool lavender towel resting on your neck after busting your butt.  If that weren’t enough, Equinox’s group fitness classes keep you on your toes as they constantly think of new ways to challenge your svelte regime.

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Equinox has two new classes in heavy rotation: Best Butt Ever (who can say no to that! Bounce a quarter off this pup) and Ropes and Rowers.  We wrangled our schedules to make time for Ropes and Rowers and the calories were roasted!  We loved the interval format as we moved through 4 different stations: Rowing, Battle Ropes, Step Work, and Weighted Exercise Balls.

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Here’s how to survive this intense class and feel like an Olympic Champion:

  1. COME EARLY! We had a major fitness faux pas as Kate thought the class started at 6:30..soo…but our instructor Tanya from Equinox Lincoln Park not only made space for us but took time to get us set up and explain what was happening.
  2. Get tough!  Neither one of us have experienced a Battle Rope before.   Battle Ropes are said to improve body balance, encourage functional fitness and boost mental toughness.  Our favorite station included thwaping this heavy rope first, then pulling the ropes (attached to a heavy weight) all the way to you, and finishing with pushing the weight all the way back to start.  Killer abs here we come. 20061180962_9b45200960_z
  3. Pace yourself and keep going!  Even though the class isn’t super long (40 minutes with about 5 minutes of stretching), you will be surprised how exhausted you get after donkey kicking, speed water rowing, and Russian twisting your tail off!  One of our rowing segments, consisting of 100 meter row sprints, took our breathe away (and not in the romantic way)! 19881273140_94eede02cf_z

Ready to battle?  Check out Ropes and Rowers at any Chicagoland Equinox.  Has anyone experienced the battle royale of battle ropes?  Let us know what you think!!

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Feel the Burn with OrangeTheory Fitness

Finding time to work out can be challenging enough without worrying about whether or not what you’re doing is effective!  Recently, we were invited to try out OrangeTheory Fitness.  Breathe a sign of relief, there are no solving of the math problems involved but there is SCIENCE, a science-y type theory forms the foundation for OrangeTheory.  Co-founder, Dave Long, and the OrangeTheory team started OrangeTheory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida centered around the concept of the very epic EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).  Read all the beaker and measuring kind of details here.  In laywoman’s terms, when you work out, you monitor your heart rate and try to get as much time as possible in the orange zone.  This zone gives you a stronger afterburn, aka you burn more calories sitting around on your tushy after.

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We traveled to newly opened Wicker Park location to get our afterburn on.  Troy, our instructor, was kind enough to give us an overview of the class before we started.  We wrangled our heart monitors around our rib change (to check our orange essence) to prep for the workout.  The class was large so we split into 2 groups. Our group started with weight bearing sets while the other group cardio-ed it up with intervals on the treadmills.  After half an hour, the groups switched.

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What we dug:

Technology!  Screens showed examples of the order of each of our weight sets and demonstrated how to do the exercise.

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Another monitor showed group members’ names and what zone they were in at all times.  Our heart monitors, linked to the screen, showed green, red or orange depending on zone.  It definitely made you strive for that orange and kept you engaged.

Class goers also get a full report of their workout sent to their email so they can track their progress.

No boredom!

The equipment options and intervals keep you on your toes!  Each class promises variety.  You may row on a water rower one interval, move on to TRX the next, and then on to free weights and have a totally different set of exercises next class.

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Best news!

First timers to OrangeTheory can try out 2 sessions for FREE!  Get ready to burn baby burn for hours after you check it out.

Whether you are looking to lose weight or just improve your speed, strength or stamina, OrangeTheory will make you say “Orange you glad you came to workout!”

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Be Bold with Brooklyn Boulders and Luna Bar

It’s FITNESS FRIDAY and if you’re stuck in a fitness rut, we know just the way to climb out!  Try indoor rock climbing!  Being bold on the boulders not only challenges your body, it can also calm stress and amp up your brain.

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Last Wednesday, Luna Bar continued it’s #LUNAChiReveal with their Salted Caramel Protein Bar, Brooklyn Boulders and a host of talented and strong Chicago women to give us a chance to try indoor rock climbing.  Brooklyn Boulders Chicago is one of facilities in the U.S.  Not only can visitors try traditional bouldering, auto belay or rope climbing, but they can also sample fitness classes like Acro-Yoga, weight training or bring a laptop and get some work done in between climbing in the relaxing upstairs meeting space.

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Luna Bar mixed it up with 3 stations for us rookie climbers:

Bouldering

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing sans a harness or ropes.  Ob-v, Brooklyn Boulders loves safety so there’s a crash mat waiting for you in case you can’t find your way down.  There are various routes, called problems in the rock climbing world, with easy level climbing and ultra hard climbing.  First, BKB staff had us practice falling.  We call it the upside bug technique.  Basically, the goal is to land face up with the impact on your cushiony butt and your extremeties curled in like a insect that’s been flicked over.  Next, we scurried our way up the simpler routes.  Monica is a natural as she made her way to the top and back no problem (or maybe she’s part squirrel).

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Auto Belay Certification

The auto belay, an automatic rope connected to a harness that supports the climber, is a daunting yet thrilling. BKB instructors demo-ed the proper way to connect the auto belay to the harness as well as how to descend (although none of us Luna participates did it quite as gracefully).  Once connected, you freely ascend up the problem of your choice and when you feel you can’t move up any longer, you let go.  The auto belay catches and lowers you safely.  Once certified by staff, visitors of BKB are allowed to move about different courses with auto belays.

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Dream Space

We named this ourselves but Luna put together some inspirational crafting, delish new Salted Caramel Protein Bar samplin’, and blogger minglin’ in the upstairs work space.  Postcards with antique style ink stamps were set up in a cute mailboxes and we were encouraged to write encouraging words to our selves!  There was also a colorful chalkboard set up to channel your motivational side by writing when you feel the most strong.

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We highly recommend rising (ahaaa) to the challenge of indoor climbing.  BKB staff are friendly, professional an truly made us feel safe as first timers.  Step up to Brooklyn Boulders with a Salted Caramel Protein bar to replenish yourself after a grueling but rewarding advance!  Has anyone else been to Brooklyn Boulders?  What do you think!?

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Giveaway: Getting Fly with the April Flywheel Fitness Challenge!

Are we the only ones who threw on bikinis under our parkas in the 70s Chicago weather Wednesday?  Yes, us Chicagoans are weather obsessed because dang it!  Our favorite very short spring/summer season is finally on the horizon.  With that in mind, we have been picking up the fit pace by trying new workout options in the Chi.  On Monday, we were honored to be invited to Flywheel Old Town for an intro to their Spring Flywheel Challenge.  Starting 4/20, Flywheel will be offering a support system to help you meet whatever your health and fitness goals are.  So if you want to throw off the parka and prance around the Maggie Daley water slides, now is the time to focus on those goals.

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What is the Flywheel Challenge?

Allison, our Flywheel instructor and a challenge coach explained that the challenge can be whatever you want it to be.  Whether you want to lose weight, gain endurance or speed or build muscle, the staff at Flywheel will cater the plan to meet your needs.  The basic skeleton is this:

There are 3 options for the 4 week challenge – The Flywheel Challenge, FlyBarre Challenge and FlyPlus Challenge (both Barre and Flywheel).

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(Below description of Flywheel Challenge is described by the Flywheel promotional team)

Flywheel Challenge
·      4 classes per week / 16 classes total

·      Optional weekly weigh-ins with designated Flywheel Coach

·      Kick-off event with a nutritional seminar and a Flywheel technique workshop that addresses proper bike set-up, positioning, arms and more to ensure that participants understand how to get the most out of their workout

·      The Flywheel Challenge is optimal for those looking to burn calories, increase endurance and improve cardiovascular health

FlyBarre Challenge
·      4 classes per week / 16 classes total

·      Includes optional weekly measurements with designated FlyBarre Coach

·      Kick-off event includes nutritional seminar and a FlyBarre 101 workshop where various portions of a FlyBarre class will be highlighted (at a broken down pace) to ensure participants have a better understanding of movements and technique

·      The FlyBarre Challenge is optimal for those looking to tone and sculpt, improve core strength, and increase muscular stamina

FlyPlus Challenge
·      3 Flywheel classes and 3 FlyBarre classes per week / 24 classes total

·      Includes optional weekly weigh-ins and/or measurements with designated FLY Coach

·      Kick-off event includes nutritional seminar, a Flywheel technique workshop and a FlyBarre 101 workshop

·      The FlyPlus Challenge is optimal for those looking to burn calories, increase endurance AND tone and sculpt

All Challenges include other perks like community discussions with other challengers to get peer motivation, professional nutrition support and meal plans as well as a kick off and closing party.

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Our Experience at Flywheel:

So spinning…is somewhat intimidating for those who have barely done it.  You have these shoes that strap you in and bike pedals that lock and load so it’s best to know what you are doing.  We liked Flywheel’s friendly front desk staff and sleek studio space.  The studio had support gentlemen who helped us get the perfect bike set up while the instructor was preparing to start class. The atmosphere during the class was less competitive and more like a fun dance party.  We definitely needed to towel off the sweat and were challenged by the intensity of the interval portions of class.

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Interested in getting a taste of the challenge?  WIN WIN WIN

One lucky winner will receive a free Flywheel class* to prep for summa summa timeeee.  Just comment on this blog post and tell us what your health and fitness goal are in preparation for the warmer months.

*Winner will need to set up a (free) account and username to access the class.

Sign up here to get on that cycle and ride into the sun, friends!

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