5 Ways to Step Outside of Your Exercise Comfort Zone

There are so many new fitness trends out there that it’s hard to keep track of them all. But a new workout, or even trying an activity with friends, can be a great way to reset your mindset on what constitutes working out, and can help you step outside of what might be a monotonous routine. I love trying new workouts, and as a fitness instructor, fitness conventions and demos can make them easily accessible. But as a consumer of fitness, you have a ton of options too!

So, first things first, channel your inner Cirque du Soleil artist and try out…

1. Aerial Silks

Aerial silks can be a fun girl’s night out, especially as a lot of companies tend to offer them as a special event with chocolate and wine after you test gravity. But don’t let this class fool you; it’s a HARD workout! I did this with a bunch of girlfriends and we were shocked at the upper body and core strength needed. We also gave our core an extra workout from laughing so hard that we almost fell out of the silk ropes. But that’s a different story. If you enjoy your night out, this is a legit workout with regular classes. Facilities are popping up all over, and offer weekly classes to build your skills or pop-in class opportunities.


2. Pound Fitness

You may have heard of Pound Fitness, or seen the video clips in your newsfeed as you scroll through Facebook. It’s essentially a workout class that uses music, drumsticks, and rhythm to bring a whole new level fun into your work out. A lot of fitness studios are starting to offer this regularly. I know in Raleigh, you can find it at Ladies Fitness and Wellness. A quick Google search will tell you if it’s being offered near you. Get ready to rock!

3. Standup Paddle Boarding

This is one of my favorite activities to do when the weather warms up in the Triangle area, but you don’t have to be by a lake or the ocean to take part in SUP Fitness. Many pools will also offer SUP yoga classes where you flow through moves while balancing on a standup paddle board. It can be surprisingly hard and a ton of fun. Don’t be afraid to fall in, everyone does it!
If you happen to be by large bodies of water, check to see if they offer classes, or if your local REI or Parks and Rec catalog might have introductory lessons. There is also a huge difference between paddling on the lake versus the ocean so if you’ve tried one, make sure you try the other. It’s a fantastic full-body workout and you get the bonus of getting outside and enjoying the calm of the water!


4. Trampolining

Ok, I’ll admit that I haven’t tried this yet, but I do see it constantly offered on Groupon and my girlfriends always say that we’re going to try it. Essentially, the same trampoline facilities where you would take your kids for an afternoon of fun often offer adult fitness classes. It sounds like it would be an awesome workout and one of those activities that looks easy… and then you try it and five minutes in really ‘this is gonna be tough.’ Even more reason to give it a go!

5. Rock Climbing

An oldie, but goodie. Indoor rock climbing gyms seem to follow me wherever I go and it’s another fun workout to do with a friend or a group. Climbing gyms always offer introductory classes and even if you’re scared of heights, challenging yourself each time to get a little higher can be an exhilarating experience. And your arms will be like jello by the end of the session. The thing I love about rock climbing, is it makes me challenge myself and my fear of heights, and the next day my whole body aches… reminding me what an incredible full body workout it is. While your arms may hurt in the moment, you have to use so much leg and core strength to get yourself to the top of each wall.


So there you have five fun ideas of how to mix up your workout routine! Now, you don’t have to do something totally crazy to step outside of your comfort zone, but these are just some different ways to approach your regular fitness day-to-day.¬†Many gyms may also offer ‘sampler’ days where you can try out various classes that you may never have considered. Be sure to ask your gym management, or if you are looking into new gyms, see what variety of classes they might offer.

When shopping for your activity, don’t forget to check sites like Groupon.com who often have promotions for a lot of completely random (ok, saying it like it is, because some of these activities really are random) classes. It’s a great place to start if you’re even looking for ideas of what is local to you. And if you’re using Groupon, you better have your eBates on because you get cash back from your online (or even cell phone) purchases, and Groupon is usually one of their big cash back partners. It’s legit, I promise. Ebates gets a commission from clicks to shopping sites through them. They share that commission with members of their program. I’ve been using eBates for years and I love getting my quarterly bonus check from them.

What are some unique workouts that you’ve tried or that you want to try?

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.



Lessons in Teaching Group Fitness

It has been about a year and a half now since I first obtained my Group Fitness instruction certification and I’m so happy with my decision to pursue it. There have definitely been some moments where I’ve had to figure out how to juggle it all: working full-time, family life with time for my young kids, training for various races, and teaching! But overall, I’ve been happy with my recent balance.

I am certified in general group fitness which technically means I can teach ‘anything’, however, I personally have preferred to focus on certain areas. I have taught Piyo Live, Barre Above, Cycle Beat, and water aerobics. Piyo Live still remains my favorite by far… partially because I teach it so often! But I love the music, the flow of the classes and perfect balance of movement, and of course, the participants! I have a dedicated group of regulars who are a pleasure to teach, and I love encouraging new participants who come to class.

I think the biggest thing that I deal with is the guilt of balancing home-life with my teaching schedule. Thankfully, the class times that I now take on make for a comfortable balance, and I also consider that much of what I teach makes for excellent cross training with all of the running that I do.

But ultimately, I have to admit, that teaching and the journey to become a fitness instructor gave me so much confidence and has impacted my attitude and outlook in both my professional and personal life. I used to be terrified about public speaking, or just being in front of a room of people. When I decided that I wanted to teach, I realized that I needed to get past that fear. It has definitely taken practice to get comfortable with it, but I have been able to take it into my professional life as well. Now, when I have presentations for work where I start to feel my nerves getting the best of me, I remind myself that I’m able to stand in front of a room of 40 people and teach a class and demonstrate movements… if I can do that, then surely a one hour presentation is doable. It’s also taught me that preparation is key; the more prepared I am and the better I know my content (again, personal and professional), the less nervous I feel about delivering it.

If you’ve been contemplating teaching group fitness and you’re on the fence about getting certified in fitness instruction, I cannot recommend it enough. I think there certainly needs to be more hands on training with new instructors, but you also will only learn by doing. Regularly going to classes, trying different workouts, and learning what I have liked and would change has been so important to keeping up with how I also teach my classes. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for tips from instructors and get their opinion on the type of class you want to teach and their recommendations about pursuing it, or even how to get more practice time in.

What is your favorite group fitness workout? What is a new one that you want to try?

If you are in the Raleigh area and want to try one of my PiYo Live classes, here’s where you can find me (as of January 2018, make sure you check the facility schedule for the most up to date information!):

Tuesdays at 6:30pm at Ladies Fitness and Wellness
Every other Wednesday at 5:30pm at AE Finley YMCA
Saturdays at 9am at AE Finley YMCA

I also teach Barre occasionally based on scheduling availability at the Y. Both of the above mentioned facilities have a great assortment of classes to choose from, so make sure you check them out!

Running to Save Sight

Choroideremia. That’s a mouthful. I had to practice saying it… heck, I avoided saying it for the longest time because I butchered it every time I tried. But like the name, it’s a hefty disease. Choroideremia is a rare disease carried by women, but only affects men, causing a loss of that starts to occur in their teens, and can ultimately lead to blindness. My dear friend Liz is a carrier of this disease and recently found out that her son unfortunately has this recessive gene.

California Love. Time with Liz on a recent trip back

When I decided to run Rock N Roll New Orleans, Liz was the first person that came to mind. No, not because of choroideremia, but because Liz loves New Orleans. She’s obsessed with it. When I lived in California, we would have Ghoul’s Nights where we watched horror movies and talked about amazing locations with haunted histories. New Orleans is always part of that list, but also because we both just love the culture and atmosphere of it. If you haven’t been, it’s a pretty incredible place. I ran the half marathon in NOLA a couple of years ago with a group of friends, but a few of us enjoyed it so much that we promised to visit again. Well, when my friend Stephanie said she wanted to run her first full marathon, we decided it could only be done in this incredible city. Once again, Liz came to mind.

One of our many training runs

This time, I realized that while I rarely fundraise for races (the last time was probably the Avon Walks that I did in my 20s), this was a worthy cause. Liz had just found out that her son had choroideremia and I wanted to help in any way I could. Running for Team CHM is a chance to both raise awareness for this disease, and to raise money towards the development of a cure or treatments, both of which have made considerable progress in recent years.

So this March, when I lace up for that long 26.2 mile trek, I’ll be doing so on behalf of Team CHM, with Liz and her family on my mind.

Ian and Dylan playing trains

If you would like to contribute to my fundraising page, any amount is appreciated! You can find the link to my page here: Running 26.2 for the Smith Family

Planning Out the Year

It’s a new year, which means it’s a time to set your sights on the future and plan out your goals for 2018!

While New Year’s resolutions get a lot of grief, I try to look at the start of the year as a time to plan out activities I want to participate in, travel for the family, and other positive goals for myself. I’ve tried to stop making resolutions that are solely ‘I want to lose x amount of weight’ but more along the lines of ‘I want to do this many races this year’ or ‘I want to try this new thing.’

Weekly Planning

Last year saw a considerable drop in the number of races that I participated in. Primarily from a cost perspective… all of those races add up! I also did some pretty hefty mileage that left me burnt out from running at the beginning of the year. I didn’t like that feeling so I decided to concentrate on trying some new races that I hadn’t done before, and a couple of destination events. It was so much more enjoyable planning for these activities and it wasn’t as hard to be dragged out of bed for an early morning race start time.

This year, my race schedule is a bit more uncertain. I am definitely doing Rock N Roll New Orleans in March. The full marathon. But I want to space out my next race because the last time I did a full, I raced just a few weeks after and my legs didn’t forgive me for it. Summer races can be a bit harder to find in muggy North Carolina (for good reason – no one wants to eat the air while they’re running through it) so I’d either have to travel to a destination or wait until the Fall. I’m pretty certain and I am going to do the Big Sur Half Marathon in California come Fall. Big Sur has a special place in my heart… my husband and I have so many memories camping there or staying in yurts along the coast. I would brave a few hills for that race. The only thing that is holding me back is the rest of my running schedule. I’d love to check out the Oiselle Volee Bird Camp this summer, but I also want to try for the Lululemon Sea Wheeze Half Marathon weekend in Vancouver. It’s a lottery system and would be quite a trek, so I have to decide if this is the year I try for it or if I focus on some running training for 2018. I do still want to attempt a sub 2 half marathon, but that will be dependent on my training time (which I won’t think about speed until I’m done with this full marathon) and location of the race. I know better than to attempt that in hilly Raleigh.

Making running a family affair

So there you have it: my race goals for 2018! I haven’t forgone the focus on other goals in the meantime. I definitely used January as a time to reset certain unhealthy habits. I’ve given up alcohol for the month… and coffee. I know, I know, people think that’s crazy. But with the holidays, I found myself making drinking more of a habit than I’d like. A dry January has been a nice reset to focus on healthier eating and just drinking some more water. And coffee? I’m actually not very dependent on coffee for the caffeine, but I do like the habit of it. So I’ve switched over to either more water or a cozy cup of tea like chamomile with a dash of honey. The coffee won’t be reintroduced after the month just because I would prefer to keep it as an occasional treat rather than an expensive habit.

What are some of your New Year goals? Have you signed up for any races this year?