Category Archives: Group Exercise and Studios

Keeping Fit as the Belly Expands

I knew before I became pregnant that I wanted to continue exercising throughout my pregnancy.  The consensus is that it’s beneficial for mom and baby.  Sounds straightforward enough, but when I started really trying to investigate exactly what type of exercises I could do and how intensely I should workout I wasn’t finding what I wanted.  I found many suggestions to begin yoga.  “Okay,” I thought, “I’ve done yoga before and it can be very challenging, so this could be good.”  Then when I would read about the sequences of poses that were suggested by various books I was really turned off.  They looked to be mostly resting poses where this silly sketched pregnant lady is propped up with pillows and blankets and just lying there.  It wasn’t “exercise” as I had envisioned.  (Caveat:  check out my post about prenatal yoga at Hot Yoga Downtown.)

Already bummed that I would have to take a break from soccer, I was looking for something more along the lines of running, spin, and weight lifting.  Instead I read that I should “try the elliptical,” “try walking,” “don’t let your heart rate exceed 140 BPM,” and “stop doing abdominal exercises.”  As someone who shuns the elliptical in favor of running and stair-climbing, likes to see her heart rate reach 180 in spin class, and cherishes her core-focused workouts, this did not sit well and so I had to look harder.  I know I need to adjust, but are walking and yoga really all there is?  The health of my baby and me are my number one concern but does this mean cardio and maintaining muscle mass are out of the question?  I think not.

Elite Runners: Paula Radcliff and Kara Goucher

 At first, I read about Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliff (professional runners) in Runners’ World running throughout their pregnancies and using gravity defying running machines.  While I was inspired, I was quite intimidated and, oh yeah, running isn’t my job.  Little by little I uncovered some gems of inspiration like this blog by a gym in Richmond, California that is packed full of inspiring pregnant (1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimester) women working out with kettle bells.  I also found these blog posts (and this one) about pregnant women keeping fit by weight lifting, water running, swimming, and kayaking.  My friend also gave me a handy instructional book for trainers about working with pregnant women.  I love that it’s written from the perspective of a trainer with information about the “why” and “how” and not just “do this move, not this one, then do this move, etc.”

With all of this in mind, I’ve taken up spin again at the YMCA in my neighborhood.  It feels so good to get some cardio I can’t believe it!  Although I can still jog, my pace is so slow it’s sort of frustrating, hence, spin.  I like that I can hop on a spin bike and still pump out sprints and hill climbs.  Also, I continue to enjoy the strength workouts that we have our JV soccer team do during practice.  At this point, I can still do most of them.  (Of course, I’ve consulted with my OB regarding my workouts.)

So I guess I didn’t find the magic book, “Rebecca:  Here is Your Guide to the Kinds of Exercise You Would Like Throughout Your Pregnancy,” instead I’m writing it as I go, drawing upon the experiences of many different women.  Based on how I’ve progressed so far, I’m sure I’ll need to continue adapting and adjusting my workouts as I get closer to my due date.

 Lastly, I will keep this mama in mind when it’s time to start working out after I have my baby (if the video in that link doesn’t encourage you to get moving I don’t know what will!).



Hanging up Your Boots?

Have you ever given up the sport you love because the physical toll has become too much?  In September 2009  I tweaked my knee and I thought I would have to give up soccer permanently.  I took about 4 months off of soccer, running, and cross training. 
Prior to my injury, I was working out 3x per week with a trainer.  I was the strongest I had ever been and certainly the most fit.  After about 2 years I decided I could work out on my own.  I signed up for a gym membership and after about 1 month I fell off the wagon.  Two months later, soccer season started up and I figured I could jump right in as normal.  Wrong.  In the second game of the season I tweaked my knee and by the third game I was limping around.  I realized that all the work I had done to stay fit and strong was what kept me from getting injured sooner.

I got an MRI and was able to see an orthopaedic surgeon who delivered the good news:  I didn’t have to give up soccer or running, but I needed to do physical therapy to strengthen certain muscles.  I worked with Sandra Knudsen, a physical therapist over at NM Orthopaedics, and she was fantastic.  She understood my problem, my fear of injuring it worse, my desire to continue with the sports that I loved, and how to get my legs back in working order.  She explained how the muscles and ligaments around my knees worked and what I needed to do to maintain them.  “Maintenance!” – that thing you have to do if you want to keep playing strenuous sports as you age.

This February race in Jacksonville, FL was my motivation to get well.

Luckily for me, I had not seriously damaged my knee.  After that 4 month break and several weeks of physical therapy (including an awesome boot camp at XPAC Fit with Marsha Gonzales), I ran a half marathon and felt great.  Yes, my muscles ached and my knees were sort of swollen.  But I took care of them with elevation, stretching, massage, heat, and ice.  Ever since, I constantly remind myself that if I want to keep playing soccer, tennis, and running I absolutely must maintain my fitness (strength, cardio, and not least of all, flexibility). 

 That experience was a huge wake-up call.  I’ve also scaled back my intensity on the soccer field.  I satisfy my competitive drive in other ways – I push myself in spin class, run races, and now I’m coaching soccer too.  This way I get to participate in the team sport that I’ve always loved without trashing my joints.

 Have you had to give up something you love because your body couldn’t take it anymore?  How did you cope with it?

Way-Too-Early Morning Spin

I usually get my workouts done after my regular workday, preferring to use the early morning hours for sleeping.  Makes perfect sense to me.  However, to prepare for a half marathon back in February of this year (in Florida – 2 hours ahead of MST) I thought it wise to get up an hour earlier a few times to get my brain and body used to being up and moving at that unholy hour. 

 I questioned my own judgment each morning when NPR started up on my alarm clock at 5:20 a.m.  (Yes, that’s early for me!)  I trudged out of bed, shoved in my contacts, got dressed and headed over to spin with Amy Baldwin at Body Language.  Ten minutes into the class I was already feeling better and quite proud for being there whilst my better half lie asleep in our cozy bed.  The women (no men when I went) in class were energetic and happy, but not annoyingly perky.  Amy was great too – a nice balance between “Good Morning!” and “Let’s just get it done, ladies.”  Good music can make all the difference for spin class and she mixes old and new seamlessly.

 Do you work out in the early morning, midday, or evening?  What motivates you to leave the warmth of your bed for a workout?

P.S.  This little plan did help on the big day of my half-marathon in Florida.  Yay!

P.P.S.  Be sure to bring a mid-morning snack with you to work after you try an early morning workout because spin class put my metabolism into overdrive and, despite eating my normal breakfast after class, I was starving by 11:00 a.m.

P.P.P.S.  I could not keep this up.  Turns out I’m not much of a morning person because I’d rather squeeze in a workout at the end of the day than drag myself out of bed that early :)


Prenatal Yoga Is Not . . .

. . . running, spinning, playing soccer, or boot camp.  There is no open road or grassy field to distract your mind.  There aren’t high fives and there’s no goooooaaaaaallllll!  No one is timing you or telling you to pump out a few more reps.  Yoga isn’t a competition.  It’s just you and your mat.  If you want to be distracted by treadmills and TVs buzzing, weights clanking, or chatter about workdays and other gossip, you wont’ find it in Molly’s prenatal class at Hot Yoga Downtown (the prenatal class is not heated).

In attending my first prenatal yoga class I was hoping to get a bit of a workout, maybe some nice restorative stretching, and some quiet time to just relax and settle into myself.  Done and done!

For me, this class won’t be a substitute for a 2 or 3 mile run.  It won’t take the place of a solid core workout.  It is, however, the perfect addition to my current workouts.  Molly’s class is not filled with props and lots of seated, resting positions; although blocks are available if you need them and Molly welcomes you to rest at any time.  Molly leads a modified type of vinyasa flow.  She started the class by explaining that she believes it’s good to be fit throughout your pregnancy.  I did get a good bit of core work and leg work in the class.  My heart rate increased, but not significantly.

More importantly, and since I spend some time working out otherwise, I got in a great deal of stretching, lengthening, and breathing.  Yoga always helps me smooth out my tight muscles.  It allows me to focus on form and my own individual physical self.  This is especially important now because things are feeling pretty different since my belly is housing a little one.

Most importantly, I got 90 minutes of freedom from all of my mental distractions.  I felt less like I was ignoring or escaping reality and more like I was taking the time to set aside some things and focus on relaxing my mind, yet also strengthening my mental state to handle challenges once I step outside the studio. 

I do enjoy the gym, playing on a team, working out with a partner or group, long runs, and yoga.  But I’ve learned that a balance of all those things is what keeps me well-rounded and sane.  I really do try to always apply this wisdom:  “Everything in Moderation.”  It works for me.  What works for you?


Swim Lessons

the class practicing their kicks

Trying to keep my son busy over the summer time without getting bored can be challenging at times.  Between playing soccer, geo-caching, hiking, and camping I just didn’t think we would really have time for anything else, but I have managed to squeeze in swim lessons in the evenings.  This has proven to be my best summer idea yet!

swimming to his instructor

My son just turned 6 and I figured it was about time for him to swim on his own.  He has been ‘swimming’ for a couple of years now, but I never felt like I could leave him in the pool alone.  My goal this summer was to ‘waterproof’ him and I have done this by enrolling him in swim lessons at Valley Pool.  I enrolled him for 6 weeks of class and by the end of the second week he could float on his back and stomach, blow bubbles out his nose, and jump in without holding onto the side.  By the end of the 4th week, he could swim an entire lap of the pool, jump into the 10 ft. dive tank and swim out, and swim with his face in the water.  I’m excited to see how he progresses over the next two weeks.

getting ready to race

I feel like this has been a great experience for him and even more importantly – a great life skill he has learned.  He will be ready to vacation with us when we snorkel and next summer we want to put him on a swim team.  The city of ABQ offers many swim lessons around the city for $25 per lesson.  Each lesson is a two-week block for about 40 minutes a day Monday-Thursday.  Click here for more info.

I am very pleased with the results!


Working out in extremely hot & humid conditions or simply hot yoga

As a kid, my favorite part of the zoo was that hot and humid tropical exhibit.  So combining that heat and humidity with yoga should make for some good times, right?

Before trying out Hot Yoga Downtown, I’d been to 2 hot yoga classes before, but at a different studio and it was a different style of hot yoga.  Hot Yoga Downtown has a large wall of windows facing Central which is cool, but a little intimidating for a newbie.

Hot Yoga Downtown uses the Bikram and Barkan methods.  There were some iffy moments (camel pose anyone?) but I got through the class without passing out.  It was an hour and a half and the room is kept to 105 – 110 degrees.  There were students of all levels in the class.  There were some obvious regulars and first-timers, but there were many who appeared to be right in the middle. 

The positions are challenging to achieve and even the simpler positions are challenging just to hold.  Students are encouraged to try every pose and move into the more challenging poses only after the basic pose is accomplished.  Afterward, my body felt wonderful and my mind was clear.  I was sore the next day around my obliques and upper back.  Not “ouch” sore but the good “I worked hard” kind of sore.  I like that yoga allows me to see my strengths and gently reminds me (in an obvious kind of way) of where I could use some work.

First Timer Tips:  Arrive 10 minutes early to check in, get situated, and clear your mind before class starts.  Bring your mat, water, a large towel, a small face towel, and an extra set of clothes to change into afterward. (This is a sweat-inducing workout!)  If you can’t stand the heat get out of the yoga studio!  Kidding – actually, don’t leave.  Word is, cutting out interferes with the group energy.  I can’t speak to that, but try to stay and count it as one of your accomplishments for the day :)

Do you practice yoga in the tropical exhibit at the zoo or do you frequent a local studio instead?

Details:  Hot Yoga Downtown, 724 Central Ave SE, (505) 243-4688,


a gym called Powerflex

the free weight area

I recently caught up with an old friend of mine whose husband owns a gym in town.  This gym is called Powerflex and it is locally owned and operated by Dustin Melville.  I had a chance to interview Dustin about his gym and this is what he had to say.  What makes  your gym different from the many other’s around town? We are definitely geared towards the dedicated fitness enthusiast.  Besides being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week we offer a non-crowded, no-nonsense workout environment that can’t be found at other gyms in Albuquerque.  With that being said, I had to check it out for myself.  So I headed on over the Powerflex gym and found it to be bright, welcoming and the staff was also very friendly.  Not only does Powerflex offer a great environment for working out but Dustin says, We offer a full line of free weights, selectorized and strength equipment, cardio training with cardio TV entertainment, personal training, nutrition and supplement sales, and tanning services.”  

cardio anyone?

Dustin prides his gym as being “Albuquerque’s best equipped and cleanest 24 hour facility.   We believe we offer our members the best workout environment with a results driven membership philosophy.”  One of the perks of Powerflex is that even when the staff is not there — you have access to the gym.  With every membership you are given a key card that allows you access when the staff is not present.  The lights and music are always on along with security.  I don’t know of another gym in town that offers that kind of convenience.  This would be perfect for you if you have a crazy or odd schedule.  Now there is no excuse for getting to the gym!  Want to learn more about this local business?  Click here  

There are currently 2 locations, one in the Northeast Heights at Indian School and Eubank (1635 Eubank Blvd. NE) and the North Valley at the corner of 4th and Osuna (6601 4th St. NW).  

Friday Fix: Barre Stretch with Stephanie Thompson

Happy hour is a nice way to wind down a tough week at work.  But no matter how enjoyable it is to kick back, soak in the warm spring weather on a pub patio, and catch up with friends or family, I tend to extend happy hour into late night Friday with too many beers and too much greasy food.  I’m sure I’m the only one.

Feeling guilty about my bad habit, I tried opting for a much healthier alternative:  a stretching class at local favorite, Body Language.*  Nothing like a beer, I know, but hear me out.   At this stretch class you’ll get soft piano music and Stephanie’s soothing voice giving instructions.  (No, it’s not yoga and you won’t be asked to chant.  You can laugh or cringe about your own inflexibility though.)  It’s the kind of class you can melt into after a hectic week.  Stephanie leads the class through a warm-up session and then delves into deep leg, torso, arm, and back stretches.  In true Body Language fashion, the class includes a bit of core work too.

I’m not going to gloss over the whole thing – it can actually be challenging.  It makes me realize how tight I am and while I’m trying to coax my foot to get itself up onto the bar, the thought of a traditional happy hour creeps in.  Alas, no position is held for too long and when Stephanie takes us to the next move, those sinister thoughts vanish and I finish the class feeling stretched out, relaxed, and like I got a little body maintenance work in too.

I’m still a sucker for a beer on Friday, so I follow class with a tall glass of water, a couple of beers, and a mini Babybel (or two) in my backyard talking with T and playing fetch with my dogs.  How do you wind down on Friday?

Details:  Body Language, 3301 Menaul Suite 29 right next to Cost Plus World Market, (505) 821-6580,

(*I’m not being compensated for this post, but I am a regular at Body Language.)