Bikram Yoga – 90 minutes of death

They say you should change your routine up to improve your bodily function. I have tried pretty much everything to get rid of my crazy headaches and stress, so I thought I’d try bikram yoga as well.
Can’t hurt, right? Well, it’s been two weeks, and 7 sessions – and I’m still not a convinced yoga person. In fact, I actually hate doing it already in the first pose. 90 minutes become a very long time when you don’t like what you’re doing.
For those who don’t know, bikram yoga is 26 strict yoga poses, performed twice and held for a period of time, in a 40 degree room, over 90 minutes. Its selling points promise better sleep, a happier mentality, less recovery after injuries and a toned body, as well as improved physical and mental health. It is also suggested that it may lower blood pressure, reduce depression, and strengthen the immune system – all while detoxing your system and helping you lose weight and increase flexibility.

Just like any other type of exercise, pretty much.

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So they tell you that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th session will be way easier than the 1st session. Not too sure about that. I still struggle. I actually think I struggle more now that I know what I’ve got coming up. But I’ve said I’m going to give it a month – because apparently you become a completely new person after a month of practising bikram yoga. They just forget to mention how bloody hard it is, and how dizzy you get if you do one of the early morning classes.
If you want to be someone you’ve never been, you have to do something you’ve never done, they say. So here I am. Stepping outside the comfort zone again.
You know you’re inflexible when the old lady in a swimming suit in front of you can touch the floor bending over, and you can’t. I knew I had no flexibility, but I didn’t think it was THAT bad. Hamstrings – on fire. Lower back – stiff as a pole. Calves – cramping.
Oh, and the best thing? When they tell you to HOLD OFF drinking your water until the water break. Sorry abnormally flexible lady in lululemon clothes, if my body asks for water, it gets water.

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They like to tell you how you can burn around 1000 calories during one session, however – if you do intense exercise for 90 minutes in any way, form or shape, you can easily burn that amount of calories either way. And as much as bikram yoga challenges the body, each session is the same, meaning that your body will adapt. You might get really good at practising bikram yoga poses, but the shock your body got in the initial period of doing it, will wear off.

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Studies have shown that the raised temperature in the room, and the set structure of the poses can assist in stimulating glands that improve the T-cell function, i.e, the proper functioning of the immune system, which is great, however the excess sweating can also bring high risk outcomes with it – if you are not careful.

Ask me again once my month of practising this torture type of exercise is up, and I’ll answer whether my silky baby soft skin result is worth 90 minutes of hatred. For now, I believe it is a good detox for periods of time, but not the first choice of exercise people should resolve to.

Oh, and if you think you have sweated the most you’ve ever sweated it your life – you haven’t until you’ve tried bikram yoga. You sweat in places you didn’t think could sweat.

Mind over matter; RocFit Bootcamp Melbourne

You’d think I have enough exercise activities with my nine workouts every week, BUT I somehow ended up signing up for boot camp with crazy PT-Daniel. Doing it at 6 am twice a week sounded easy when I signed the papers, but let me tell you; dragging your sorry ass out of bed at 5 am when it is still dark and pouring down outside is a struggle. This is just about how excited I was on Monday.

IMG_4351And this is just about how soaked/sexy/very good-looking I was after dying in the rain this morning.

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These two hardcore Norwegians have joined me in boot camp, and I’ve gotta say, working out in teams is so rewarding! I almost understand why people play soccer now. They’re both competitive, and even though I don’t really think I like to compete much, I’m pretty sure I push myself a bit harder when we’re all working together.

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Daniel is mean, yet knows when to push you and when to let you pull back. My long list of injuries/things I can’t do obviously makes me work around things now and then, but both sessions so far let me burn over 600 calories, and that rarely happens now that I’ve lost weight (the more you weigh, the more calories you burn).

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I think I can’t exercise without music, in fact, if I forget my music going to the gym, I cancel the session and go back home. But guess what, turns out I can! Boot camp is for sure just a matter of ignoring all the things you think you can’t do, and just pushing through. Getting up early is no problem if you go to bed at a decent time, and I’ve gotta say; you do feel pretty badass running around in the rain and having completed a workout by 7 am. 1 week down, 7 to go. We’ve done tests to see where we are now, and by the end of the program we’ll hopefully be way better than before. I’ll update you guys on the journey, and I think everyone should step out of their comfort zone and change their routines up. It’s healthy for the brain.

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Swimming is the new yoga

As a result of my body sort of falling apart, and my desire of staying as active as possible, I have had to explore alternative ways of working out. Post surgery on my knee, I was told to swim. As treatment for my incredibly tense back, I was told to swim. When I tore my ligament in my lower back, I was told to swim. And now that I am limping around, I have been told to swim again.

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I dare say I am as hopeless at swimming as I am at body balance. I cannot swim freestyle, I do not like getting my hair wet, my eyes get red from the water. But I still gave it a shot. Yesterday was actually my third time returning to the pool. How about that for someone who is negative to anything new and scary?!

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Better Health claims that swimming is good exercise as you have to move your entire body against the resistance of the water and you are thereby provided with a full body workout. In addition to toning your muscles and building strength, swimming keeps your heart-rate up, builds endurance and cardiovascular fitness and helps in the maintaining of a healthy heart and lungs. It has also been proven to release stress and promote relaxation, whilst improving coordination, balance and posture, as well as providing good low-impact therapy for some injuries and conditions.

22 year-old Tonje Sønneland started swimming when she was 8 and has always loved spending time in water. From the age of 13 to 16, she was swimming about 18 hours a week.

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She enjoys swimming mainly because it is a great way of working out the entire body without emphasizing the use of a particular muscle group. “To become a good swimmer, you need a strong core and a flexible body in order to get your body into streamline – the body as straight as possible to go fast through the water”, Tonje explains.

She emphasizes that a strong core is important no matter what type of exercise you choose to do, and that she is continuing to include swimming in her workout routine to further strengthen a previous back injury. “I can really feel that it helps”, she says.

health_benefits_of_swimming_xenical_effective_weight_loss_lose_weight_gain_lifeI promise to attempt swimming once a week, if you promise to give it a try.

Just my luck

So remember how I said I’m injury-prone? Yeah this girl is currently out of order with a very bruised knee and a sprained ankle struggling to co-operate when walking. So much for monday-intervals and wednesday-legday. Or cardio in general.

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I am really annoyed with myself for opening up an old injury (again), and even more annoyed for missing out on my daily workouts. Not really being able to move anywhere but between the couch and the kitchen has left me dying to exercise, but I am trying to be patient (not my strongest feature) and listen to my body.

After all my attempts to rest, ice, compress and elevate, I had to suck it up and go see my physio and instead of feeling sorry for me, he laughed and hooked me to an ice-machine of some kind. Anyway, my ankle will be fine eventually, I just have to ignore the pain and keep on going.

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An injured lower body does, however, not mean that I can’t use my upper body, so I’ve had help to reschedule my workouts and will hopefully be gaining some more muscle (aaaabs) and get one step closer to my ultimate goal; chin ups. We find a way to work around things, right?

Good thing I’ve injured myself like this numerous times and good thing my dad has taught me how to bandage the ankle enough to almost move normally. Okay, limping is probably not considered moving normally but you know, it works. This silly injury will set me back about 4-6 weeks, and I know I tell you to only do what makes you happy – but in this case being able to exercise in any kind of way will make me happy, so I will even include bicep curls in my program (my one enemy in the gym).

I am also still sick and cannot really taste any of the food I’m eating, so I’m pretty much eating soup and fruit every day. HOW EXCITING. No actually, it’s delicious, I just can’t taste the flavors.

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Balance Your Body

Are you one of those people who think of “training” as weights and cardio? Who skips the stretching session after? Looks at the foam roller with hostility? So am I. And stepping out of the comfort zone is just about as probable as traveling to the moon.

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Imagine this. I used to be a figure skater. I used to be flexible. I could at least touch the floor bending down. However, standing in a room full of flexible-looking people, this including the younger generation and the casual 70-year old, I feel as flexible as a tree.

Les Mills defines Body Balance as a combination of yoga, thai chi and pilates, and is claimed to build flexibility and strength whilst leaving you centered and calm. Benefits include improved core strength, reduced stress levels and an advanced range of movement. Each class is made up of 45 minutes of exercise, followed by 10 minutes of complete relaxation. A study conducted by the Roehampton University in 2010 proves that Les Mills Body Balance can be used as a tool for prevention and treatment of low-back pain and state anxiety – so why not give it a try?

First time. Could not touch the floor. Could barely move or stretch. Could for sure not balance. Felt out of shape, despite being a gym addict, and was looking forward to the relaxation part more than anything. Coburg Leisure Centre, why are you doing this to me? 

It took about a month for my weights-suffering muscles to get into the habit of the Body Balance routine, and as it operates with the same routine for about 12 weeks, the familiarity with the exercises made me feel successful and the chances of returning to the class became higher.

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CNN Fitness Expert and owner of SCW Fitness, Sara Kooperman, suggests that students return to the class because of the motivating music and focused instructors, as well as the system being the same regardless of who is teaching the class – hence allowing for maximum benefit in terms of successful workouts. “If a participant isn’t successful in their exercise routine, they will drop it”, she explains.

Justine and Michelle belong to the younger generation, and they both agree that they are coming back because of the “lovely instructor”. Being frequent attendees at Les Mills Bodypump and fans of weights and cardio, they find the stretching sequences of Body Balance beneficial for keeping the body at good health. “It is a good change up in the normal workout routine”, they say.

One face standing out in the crowd of flexible Body Balance‘rs, is 69 year-old John Saunders. He started the class with his wife, who did not like it, and has been returning by himself for the past 6 years. John explains, “suffering from a sore back, I believe Body Balance is giving me more flexibility and is positive for my body”. Being a part of the aging generation, John has changed his philosophy of life and wants his life to last as long as possible.

IMG_3108Michelle, Justine, John and Body Balance Instructor Bella Marie @ Coburg Leisure Centre

And as with John, I kept coming in every Wednesday too. Body Balance is not a workout I would solely rely on, but as a break and change up from my other weekly workouts, it is definitely a keeper. I still cannot touch the floor, I still cannot twist my body into the craziest positions – but Body Balance has become a part of my weekly routine – leaving me incredibly relaxed, just in time for MasterChef Australia.