5 Austin workout studios I've tried and loved this year

Now that my 10K training is over and I've discovered that my body can do much more than I expected, I thought it was time to get out of my comfort zone a bit. I've tried a few new workout studios and workout styles in the past few weeks, with mixed results (and a LOT of sore muscles).

Ballet Austin's Butler Center for Dance & Fitness

I've been to a few Pilates classes at Ballet Austin over the years, but after I saw my friend Beth attended a Missy Elliott music video dance workshop there earlier this year, I decided to feel overconfident about my dance skills and sign up for a class. She and I signed up for the Britney Spears Toxic Videodance class, which was a one 90-minute session to learn the choreography Britney performs to the song. I must have blacked out and forgotten for a second that Britney is the literal queen of stage choreography when I signed up for this, because take a look at the routine we learned (starting at 1:25 until about 3:02 because hello, we don't have time to learn the whole dance in 90 minutes). 

This is my first time watching that video since dance class and I feel even more assured that I will never, ever be a dancer (and also more assured that Britney is queen, LOOK AT HER).

Despite my subpar dance skills, it was a really fun class. The instructor, Jenny Alperin, was hilarious and friendly, and she made the class totally accessible. She knew we were all at varying levels of skill, so she gave us options to simplify the moves if we needed (and, uh, I needed). It was a blast, and I'm excited for the next workshop I get to take! Right now, they're offering a three-week NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys Videodance workshop, but I'm going to be on vacation for one of the weeks. Tragic that you guys won't see my boy band moves (though there would probably be less gyrating involved than with Britney).

The workshop did get me interested in their adult dance classes, though! I've been eyeing the cardio dance workout class on Sunday afternoons. Maybe next week? I'll report back.

Align

I heard from an Instagram friend that this Pilates, boxing and barre studio was offering free classes before its official grand opening in a new location on Lake Austin Boulevard, so I had to check it out.

First of all, the studio is beautiful. It's just off of MoPac (right by that pawn shop on the corner) and it's a two-story building with lots of natural light. On the bottom floor, there are Pilates reformers and towers, as well as a room for private lessons. On the top floor, there's a barre studio, a boxing studio and some retail space. 

I signed up for a Pilates Equipment class on a Friday afternoon, a little fearful of the aforementioned towers but mostly excited. The classes are small (there are only five reformers), so the instructor is able to pay close attention to each person in class and help them with some of the more complicated moves—if you're not familiar with Pilates reformers, they can be kind of confusing. My instructor, Chris, told me they normally spend half of the equipment classes on the reformers and half of the class on the towers. We didn't use the towers, so I didn't face my fears that day, but trust me, I got a good, solid workout. We started out working our legs, then spent the rest of the class on our abs and arms, and my triceps felt it for days afterward.

Their full class schedule launched May 1, so if you're interested in checking it out for yourself, you can find the schedule here. I know I'll be back, because that tower and I have a score to settle.

(Oh, and another major perk: The studio is right next to Deep Eddy Pool and Juiceland, so I went for a swim and sucked down a Wundershowzen after my workout.)

Silent disco yoga

Yeah, you read that right. I saw a local yoga studio in town, Stretch Yoga, was hosting an event called "Blissful Beats + Sunset Yoga" on a Friday night, and I had to give it a try. The idea behind the class was to give wireless headphones to class attendees, silent disco-style, and teach a yoga class on the roof of an east side apartment building. 

The result? I have mixed feelings about it. I admittedly haven't been doing as much yoga as I used to (or as much as I'd like to), so I was a little rusty. I was also sore from going to Pilates earlier in the day, and I'd been up since 3 a.m. because I was filling in on the morning shift at work. The headphones were also a little distracting, but the music was peaceful and I loved that the headphones totally blocked out the city sounds. Also, watching the sun set over downtown Austin on a warm spring evening is pretty great. That said, I'll probably stick with my chill restorative yoga sessions in a regular studio—but if you'd like to give it a try, the yoga studio says it's hosting another "Blissful Beats" class in June. 

Impact Strong

I tried kickboxing a few times last year when I bought a Groupon (yes, I'm a Groupon fiend) for Impact Strong's first Austin location on William Cannon. I loved it, and I'm not sure why I didn't stick with it. It really helped me work out some of my frustrations toward the guy I was dating at the time (or rather, the guy I was trying to date...it's a long story). So when I heard Impact Strong was opening a downtown location, I was so excited I bought their opening special class pass immediately...and then forgot about it for about six months. Whoops.

I finally dragged myself back there (thank goodness the people are so nice—they honored the pass I purchased a billion years ago) for a 30-minute kickboxing class at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.

I thought a 30-minute class would make it easier to get through on a Saturday morning...but it was 30 minutes of face-paced, high-intensity cardio. The instructor, Skyla, was incredibly helpful. I told her it had been about a year since I'd attended a kickboxing class, so she walked me through every move and every step. The other people in the class were clearly veterans of the gym—they didn't need any explainers—so I was able to watch and learn. 

The class was basically a half hour of intense kickboxing moves, with quick workouts like burpees, pushups or squats in between. I walked out of there feeling exhausted and invigorated, not to mention the fact that I left a puddle of sweat on my driver's seat when I drove home. 

The Barre Code

Okay, this might be cheating, because I've been going to The Barre Code since January and I've mentioned it several times already. But I haven't gone into detail about why I love it so much. I initially joined The Barre Code during their January Resolution Remix challenge, which encouraged members to take different types of classes and step outside their comfort zone to complete their bingo card. Since I hadn't been working out at all, pretty much everything was outside my comfort zone.

The studio is so welcoming, and the owner, Cami, is one of the nicest people I've ever met. She went out of her way to get to know me on day one, and ever since, walking into The Barre Code has felt like walking into a room full of friends. The instructors are all wonderful, and I've truly never had a negative experience there. I'd say The Barre Code is mostly responsible for helping me shed nearly all 30 pounds of that weight I've been trying to get rid of since January.

They just added a new class to their schedule, too: Brawl. It's kickboxing! And apparently I'm on a kickboxing kick lately (ugh, sorry for the pun). It's more than kickboxing, though. The website describes it as "an intense class that combines cardio kickboxing sequences with strengthening work for the thighs and glutes." I can't wait to try it.

Running a 5K with my 76-year-old grandfather and my beer-bellied dad

My family is amazing. During my entire health journey so far this year, they've been incredibly supportive. I can't tell you how many "I'm so proud of you" texts I've gotten from them since January, and I don't think I could have gotten this far without them.

The day I finished my first 10K race a few weeks ago, my Meme texted me saying my Poppy wished he had done the race with me. My Poppy is 76 years old, and I always joke that he's going to outlive the rest of our family, because he's in such incredible shape. He had a heart attack about 20 years ago, and it changed his life. He whipped himself into shape so that he could stick around a bit longer and give us a hard time about how often we change our oil or how to do our taxes. We're all incredibly grateful. He's a goofy, smart man who loves us all with everything he's got. 

Poppy, me and my dad at the Sunshine Run.

Poppy, me and my dad at the Sunshine Run.

So, because I can't let an elderly man outdo me, I decided I'd find us a 5K race we could run together (or, for Poppy, to walk at an extremely brisk pace for a man in his 70s) before it gets too hot. I signed us up for the Silicon Labs Sunshine Run 5K, which benefits the Austin Sunshine Camps, which are free week-long summer camps for low-income kids in Austin. Poppy was incredibly excited—and so was I—so I recruited our whole family to come along to participate or cheer us on.

To my surprise, my dad took me up on the offer. My beer-drinking, red-meat-loving 53-year-old dad. He signed up two weeks before the race, quit drinking beer completely and started walking two miles a day on the track at the middle school in my hometown. He even roped his girlfriend into it, too. We had a team of four Psenciks with nothing to lose, except maybe a couple of pounds.

When it came time to race, I was amazed. My family showed up at my apartment at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning (after I had worked until midnight the night before—yikes) rearing to go. Poppy, my dad, dad's girlfriend Cynthia and I started the race together, and Poppy and Dad even ran the first leg with me! Then I took off, looking to improve on my time from the Longhorn Run 5K two months ago, and I met them at the end. I finished in just over 30 minutes, a personal record for me—then 10 minutes later, here come Dad and Poppy. Jogging across the finish line! It was a day full of so much joy and laughter. My Meme told me it was the best day she's had in a really long time, and I agree.

I adore this man.

I adore this man.

Dad says he's going to keep walking. and despite my running struggles I mentioned a few weeks ago, I'm going to keep running too. We've never been one of those families that exercises together, that does turkey trots on Thanksgiving or coordinates group runs. We've always been more of the family that gathers around the dinner table or passes around Bud Lights in the backyard. But change is a good thing. And I'm so thankful to have a family that supports me and runs beside me and walks behind me every step of the way.

 

 

Why I quit my second Whole30

A few weeks ago, I decided to embark on my second round of Whole30. I did my first round in February (I wrote about it here) and had great results. I felt energetic, healthy and I lost seven pounds and several inches. More than anything, I was amazed at the change in my mental health. With depression and anxiety, there are plenty of good days—days where I wake up feeling energized and motivated, ready to go to work and do good work that I can be proud of. Then there are the other days—there's a cloud over me and an elephant sitting on my chest; I can't focus and my mind and heart are racing. I had fewer of those days during February. It felt amazing, and I wanted to chase that feeling. I wanted to stop feeling like I was fighting the monsters in my head and start feeling like a normal person. A healthy person.

After my February Whole30 ended, South by Southwest started. I was working almost constantly, and when I wasn't working, I was trying to have some semblance of a social life. It led to me being exhausted, hungover and generally unhealthy. It totally derailed my progress, but then I started training for my first 10K. I was running between seven and 15 miles a week and dropping weight like crazy, so why would I stop? I was still getting the results I wanted. The other dangerous part about this line of thinking was that if I couldn't find something "healthy" to eat, I'd skip the meal completely (I'm embarrassed to even write that here because of how terrible that is). I was working out harder than I ever had before and not giving myself good calories or carbs to burn when I did. Yeah. Not good. I was starting to become obsessed with the number on the scale—I was getting so close to my goal weight, and I wanted to drop the weight even more quickly. 

I decided I was going to do another round of Whole30 in April, after my best friend's wedding was over and before the next wedding I'm going to in May (so many weddings, I KNOW). I needed to get back on track, I told myself (though in the back of my mind, all I could think about was losing weight). My friend Alex decided to join me—she just got back from backpacking around Asia for a few months, and she was feeling a little unhealthy (I think her exact words were "I am made of noodles"). So we started together in mid-April, and I instantly noticed how much more difficult it was than my first time around. I felt frustrated, because I knew that my body could handle some of the things I wasn't allowed to have. My reintroduction proved I didn't have a negative reaction to legumes, so why couldn't I have soy milk in my coffee or a peanut butter protein shake after a workout? I was frustrated and unhappy. Once again, I started skipping meals. I wasn't excited about the food I was eating. I was bored and everything sounded gross, so I just didn't eat. That was when I knew I had to make a change, because I wasn't healthy. All I was concerned about was losing weight, which is not the point of the Whole30. I knew deep down that I was developing unhealthy habits for the sake of dropping pounds.

Grain-free, dairy-free tacos. AKA my first foray into my new diet.

Grain-free, dairy-free tacos. AKA my first foray into my new diet.

So I made the executive decision to stop my Whole30 early. Seventeen days in, to be exact, so I was tantalizingly close to the end. I decided to shift to my own custom version of the Whole30. I added legumes back into my diet on day 17, and I felt fine. I felt great, actually, because I had given myself something my body wanted but I didn't sacrifice my health for it. On day 18, two of my friends got engaged. I had two beers with them to celebrate, and I hadn't eaten anything due to a stressful morning, so I splurged two slices of pizza. I spent the rest of the day feeling a little bloated and gross, but happy I'd been able to have a "normal" experience with my friends. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be having beer and pizza all the time—in fact, I'd say that'll happen rarely—but I'm excited to go forward in this journey on my own terms, eating things that make my body and mind feel good without that guilt and shame that are associated with eating "bad" foods. I've always been an "everything in moderation" kind of girl, and I'm going to go forward with that in my mind, while remembering that things like grains, dairy and added sugars don't make my mind and body feel great. I think that's what "food freedom" is, right? That's what Whole30 promises: Food freedom. To me, that means being able to eat these things occasionally without feeling bad or guilty, as long as everything else I'm doing is healthy.

I'm trying to figure out a way to keep track of my diet, though. I had the idea to make a calendar, or some pages in my bullet journal, to track my eating. Do you have any ideas for how to track your eating habits? Let me know!

I spent eight weeks training for a 10K—and realized I'm not a runner (but I want to be)

As you know, in January, I embarked on a journey to eating healthy and living better (and losing 30 pounds).

I started out in January with a monthly unlimited membership to The Barre Code, my now-favorite workout studio in Austin. Then I got an email blast at work: The Statesman Capitol 10,000 (the 10K race sponsored by the Austin American-Statesman, where I work) was free for employees. I figured I didn't have a choice but to sign up, right? A free race = no excuses.

Then life happened. I was working my butt off at The Barre Code, then I did a Whole30 in February. Before I knew it, the Cap10K was in only eight weeks, and I had yet to run a mile, let alone prepare myself to run 6.2 miles.

So I kicked it in. I searched online for "eight week 10K training plans" and found this one, which seemed doable—I could do 2.5 miles, right?

Y'all, I struggled. Everything hurt. I couldn't breathe. My already-troubled hips and knees screamed at me every second of every day, and I discovered new pains in my ankles and lower back. Every day brought a new ailment. My Fitbit told me my cardio health was subpar for an average 25-year-old woman, which I found troubling (I stayed up until 2 a.m. one night googling what could happen to an overweight mid-20s woman with bad cardio health, thanks anxiety). I went from running 0 miles in one year to running 7.5 miles a week, at the minimum. By the time I made it to week seven, I unsurprisingly injured myself from overexertion.

Leading into week six, I ran my first 5K race. It was exhilarating—I finished with a way faster time than I'd ever expected (I'm not a particularly fast runner) and I was feeling happy, healthy and ready for the 10K. I could do anything. My legs hurt, but my body was strong.  

I woke up on the morning after my five-mile run in week six. I felt proud of myself that I'd completed it in just an hour, but I had been a little lazy about it: Instead of going to the hike-and-bike trail on Lady Bird Lake (without a doubt the best place in Austin to run), I just ran around my neighborhood. My very hilly, very small neighborhood. I woke up the following morning with a pain starting in my lower back that led into my outer hip, then radiated down my leg into my knee and outer ankle. I couldn't even take the stairs at work.

I continued my training anyway, thinking I'd just stretch it out. On week seven, the week before my 10K, I set out on my final long run before the race: 5.5 miles. I wised up and ran it on the lake this time, not wanting to risk anything with hills or broken sidewalks that were a twisted ankle waiting to happen. I felt good. I felt strong. I ended up running seven miles instead of 5.5, then collapsed onto my boyfriend's couch while he helped me stretch.

I guess you probably know what's coming next: The next day, my leg was worse. I felt pathetic, limping around and unable to exercise. I skipped five days of working out (the longest I've gone without working out so far this year). I felt lazy and stir-crazy. I didn't run the entire week leading up to the 10K. I felt deflated and confident that I wouldn't finish the race that Sunday. I was, frankly, scared.

The good news is: I did it. I finished with a better time than I expected, and I felt great.

And guess what? The 10K actually helped my leg. It's still not quite the same as it was before the injury—I still have shooting pains up and down my left leg from time to time, and my knee is a little sensitive, but it hasn't kept me from working out (To my boyfriend reading this: Yes, I've been stretching). 

I'm thankful to have supportive friends to run with!

I'm thankful to have supportive friends to run with!

I feel so proud of myself. It was hard to keep from crying as I crossed the finish line after working so hard these last few months. It was proof that I can do anything I put my mind to, and hey, did you guys know that running burns major calories and helps you lose weight? Who knew! But the biggest thing I learned is that I don't really think I like running. Yeah, after all that—the runner's high included—I'm not sure this is really my thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm going to keep doing it (I'm still very anxious about that low cardio health score) but maybe running seven or even 15 miles in a single week for somebody whose body has been mostly sedentary for the past 25 years isn't a good idea. Consider this my official apology to my knees and hips: Sorry I did that to you, friends. We'll stick with the three-mile lake loops from now on (until my next brilliant, impulsive decision to run a 10K comes along, that is).

I’m doing a Whole30 in February to reset my eating habits — here’s why

I'm a little late in posting this, but I'm currently six days in to my first Whole30. Other than some frustration about the lack of coffee creamer in my life, I'm feeling pretty good! I'm blogging about my experience for work, over at Relish Austin on Austin360. You can read an excerpt from the blog about why I'm doing the Whole30 below, and read the whole thing here


I’ve always loved food. I grew up here in Central Texas with my dad, who makes the best burgers, steaks, spaghetti and “homemade Hamburger Helper” (as we called it) I’ve ever eaten. It’s probably no surprise that as a nerdy, quiet girl who wasn’t good at sports and loved her dad’s homemade hearty meals, I was more than a little overweight as a kid – at least up until middle school, when I joined athletics and lost all the baby fat. From that day on, I was able to inhale Whataburger and Chick-Fil-A and Taco Bell to my heart’s content and not gain an ounce.

That all changed last year, when I gained an unexpected 30-plus pounds for reasons I still can’t really put my finger on. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was going through an earth-shattering breakup, during which I was diagnosed with depression and discovered that apparently I take comfort food to a whole other level when I’ve got the blues. It also probably has something to do with the fact that I’m not exactly a teenager anymore and my metabolism chose this time to turn on me. But regardless of reasons, the weight’s still there. And it’s been…weighing on me (weak, I know. Sorry).

So, when my friend Melanie told me she lost 12 pounds in November doing this fancy “Whole30” thing I’ve heard some people talk about before, I jumped on board. I kept picturing myself at my high school best friend’s wedding coming up this April, the fabric of the size 10 dress I’d ordered engulfing me and all the weight I’d lost. I got kind of obsessed.

Then I started reading more about the Whole30. It’s more than weight loss. It’s a total lifestyle change. 

Read the rest of this story at Austin360.com

Thirty pounds.

That's how much weight I've gained in the last year. I don't recognize myself when I look in the mirror, or when I look back at photos from a year ago. None of my clothes fit anymore. I can barely stand to open my closet door and look at the thousands of dollars worth of beautiful clothes that I can't wear.

I mean it when I say I don't know what happened. It felt like I woke up one morning and the jeans I wore the day before no longer slid up past my thighs. There was one day I broke down crying in the bathroom at my grandmother's house because I had to go to my cousin's volleyball game and I didn't have any clothes that fit me. She cried with me.

I mean it when I say I don't know what happened, but I do know that depression is a cold-hearted bitch. It takes and takes and takes from you until you think it can't anymore, and then somehow it takes some more.

So really, I do know what happened.

When life as I knew it fell to pieces last year, I stopped taking care of myself. I got drunk every day. There was one night in January a friend dropped me off at home after a night at so many bars I couldn't keep track when I drunkenly realized I had lost my keys. I had locked myself out of my apartment. I became hysterical. I called my dad and woke him up because he had my spare. Before he got there, I continued to wander around my apartment complex, wondering where I'd lost my keys. I found them in the parking lot — I must have dropped them either when my friend had picked me up or when he had dropped me off. I ran back to my apartment and I fell going up the stairs. I fell so hard I still have nerve damage in my knee a year later. My dad and his girlfriend still drove all the way to Austin at 3 a.m. and comforted me as I cried off the after-effects of a panic attack. They slept on my couches and stayed with me the next day to make sure I was OK. I wasn't. I stayed home from work for the next few days, ashamed of myself. I had hit rock bottom. 

Thirty pounds. That's what drinking every night did to me. That's what happened when I stopped working out daily, stopped paying attention to what I ate, started sleeping too much.

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I made a bad joke to a friend the other day about how I wished I was one of those people whose depression made them stop eating instead of start overeating, because joking is one way to cope when things feel bleak. But it only works for so long until you realize you have to wake the fuck up and do something.

My boyfriend, Jared, and I have gotten into several fights about my fitness and healthy eating routine (or lack thereof) since we started dating in July. He's a really healthy eater, he stays very active and he really takes care of himself and his body. His discipline is unreal, and I'm jealous of it. He doesn't want me to lose weight — I would "boy, bye" him in like .05 seconds flat if he tried to come at me with that mess — but he knows I haven't been taking care of myself, and he hates it. He wants me to be happy and healthy as I can be — that's love, y'all. But I'm not always good at taking criticism, even when it's constructive criticism. I've never been great at handling a situation when I feel like somebody's telling me what to do. So he's been patient as he waited for me to realize that he was right all along (he was, of course). 

Losing weight is everyone's number one new year's resolution, right? I felt really cliche when I kept telling people I was trying to work out and eat better in the new year. But these thirty pounds and I have some work to do.

I'm not saying I want to lose all thirty pounds. I've never been naturally "thin" and over the years I've come to love my curves. Also, as my doctor reminded me when I went in for some routine blood testing a few months ago, I don't exactly have a teenager's metabolism anymore. I may not ever fit back into those size twos again, and that's fine with me. 

Since January 1, I've been working out (I joined a fitness challenge at a local barre studio, and I'm obsessed) and eating well (I'm beginning to realize I actually like to cook!) and I've been feeling better physically and mentally this month than I have in more than a year. It's amazing what taking care of your body can do for your brain!

I was really hesitant about sharing the exact details of my weight gain with the world, as weight has always been one of those things women "aren't supposed" to talk about. But despite my fitness goals (for example, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't buy new clothes this year until I drop a size), my number one resolution for 2017 is honesty. I'd like to be more honest with myself and with the people around me, so I'm posting that embarrassingly large number on the scale for everyone to see. And you know what? It's going to feel even sweeter when we can watch that number drop together.