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Pre-Climb at registration!

Pre-Climb at registration!

This past weekend my husband, Justin, my friends Jeremy and Adam, and I all participated in the Fight for Air Climb to benefit the American Lung Association.  I’d like to start this race recap with a great big THANK YOU to the friends and family that made donations to our team.  With your help, we raised over $600 to help the mission of the American Lung Association.  The ALA supports anything and everything lung related- including research, smoking prevention and cessation programs and screening programs for cancer, asthma, and rare lung diseases.

I decided to form a team for this event back in October after a good friend suffered a spontaneous lung collapse. Then my dad was diagnosed with primary lung cancer.  What can I say?  It was a bad month for lungs.  As members joined my team, we added some “reasons to climb” for friends and family with conditions including asthma, sarcoidosis and a recent lung transplant recipient.  The one thing we know is this: no one should have to fight to breathe!

ALA Fight for Air Climb events are held at prominent skyscrapers and stadiums throughout the country. Participants basically just climb the stairs as fast as they can- kind of like a vertical road race!  There are different categories at each race including a first responder division where firefighters and other first responders run the stairs in 70 lbs of full gear, and a category called “The Ultimate Climb,” where climbers complete the course as many times as they can within a set time limit.

The Hilton in Springfield, IL

The Hilton in Springfield, IL

We signed up for the regular single climb in the Springfield, IL event.  So, on a cold Saturday morning, we made our way over to the tallest building in Springfield: the 34 story Hilton hotel.  The Hilton sticks out like a sore thumb in downtown.  There’s just no other building around it even half so tall.  It really adds to the intimidation factor to see this one tower dominate the skyline.

We arrived about 45 minutes before our scheduled climb time and went straight to registration.  I get the feeling that locals took advantage of the early registration the night before, because it took no time at all to get in, get our numbers and our tech shirts, and get ready to climb.  And it was good that registration was so fast, because the event was running ahead of schedule and our wave was already being called.

The volunteers directed us toward the basement where we got chip timers for our shoes and where we saw the beginning of the climb.  Yep.  It was just a regular old stairwell.  The team before us exchanged high-fives and took off up the stairs.  We didn’t know really what to do, so we all kind of stretched our calves out for a minute and then walked up to the door.  A very nice volunteer checked off our numbers and then we were off!

The stairwell is pretty narrow, so our team took off more or less single file.  I could hear Adam hootin’ and hollerin’ as we began… and so could everyone else in the stairwell!  You have to love his enthusiasm echoing through the halls!

Personally, I didn’t have any expectations for how long climbing this building would take me.  I just kind of took off as fast as I could go without tripping over my own feet and started knocking out floors.  I didn’t do much stair training for this event since I’m in the middle of my half marathon training plans, but I figured the cardio should transfer… right?

Top of the Hilton with our medals!

Top of the Hilton with our medals!

Wrong! Well, maybe the cardio transferred some, but it was still harder than I expected.  I think it was around the 6th floor where I first felt winded.  It was a surprise to be that out of breath!  There wasn’t anything else to do but keep going though, so that’s what I did, albeit a little more slowly.

Some other women from the team before me were also finding this climb a little harder than expected and were taking a break on a landing.  I high-fived them and yelled out something encouraging as I passed.  Through the climb I passed several other groups- getting around them was not always easy in the little stairwell- but everyone seemed like they were having a good time.

I looked up somewhere around floor 20 and was really proud of myself.  This was going pretty fast, even if I was winded!

My Fight for Air Climb Medal

My Fight for Air Climb Medal

There were volunteers standing at some of the doorways along the way up handing out water or yelling encouragement, and the man at the 28th floor yelled out that I was almost there!  I scurried up the last couple of steps and then it was over.  My time for the climb was 7:30.

The rest of my team were already there waiting for me at the top.  My husband put up our team’s best time: a scorching 4:35.  Adam ended in 5:00 flat, and Jeremy came in at 5:20.  It was kind of strange to be done with an event so quickly.  We didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves… so we snapped a few pictures and headed to one of the best restaurants in Springfield, D’arcy’s Pint, for a victory beer.

The event was a fun time for a good cause. It was also incredibly well-run and well-staffed with helpful volunteers   We all decided if we did this again next year, we’d try the Ultimate Climb.  Our friend Brian Pahlmann participated in this grueling event last year and logged 11 climbs in an hour.  Amazing! I also think it would be fun to try the same event in Chicago at the Sears Tower.  It’s, ya know, just a little more iconic than the Springfield Hilton.

If we do that though, we’re going to need to really train.  Stair climbing is some serious exercise, and I can tell that I need to work on my VO2 Max if I’m going to dart up the 110 stories of the Sears Tower next year!

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nufit-headerJust before I sat down to write this blog, I stumbled across an article about how 1/5 South Korean women have had some kind of plastic surgery.  Often it’s to lighten their skin, widen and round their eyes, and even to shave their jaw bones to make their chins come to a heart-shaped point rather than look square.  They basically want to look more western and go to great lengths to achieve this arbitrary standard of beauty.

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From the gawker.com article on South Koreans and plastic surgery.

I think the knee-jerk reaction to an article like that is, “Thank god we don’t live in a crazy country where those kind of extremes are so common!”  But really when you think about it, American women do go to some pretty amazing extremes and hold ourselves up against standards of beauty that are pretty much impossible.

Some of the things we’d like to change about ourselves can be addressed in healthy ways.  Each time we eat some veggies and not a Snickers, we’re making a healthy choice to change the way we look and feel.  Each time we choose a bike ride over a TV show or a video game, we’re choosing to honor ourselves and add to our fitness.   And all that’s great, but too many women, especially young women, get so caught up in the pursuit of beauty that it becomes destructive.  These women might be suffering from diseases like anorexia, bulimia, or depression.  They might have internal struggles with weight and beauty that cause a lifetime of self-doubt that affect every facet of their lives from relationships to careers.

Prevention of those kind of struggles is exactly why I’ve never more strongly endorsed a program than the one I’m about to tell you about.

A local fitness facility called NuFit for You is offering a new pilot program called the Mirror Image Project.   Owner of NuFit Angie Asmann explained, “The purpose of the project is to focus on building healthy body image and self-esteem in women of all ages. Total wellness starts from within. We plan on revolutionizing the way women view themselves internally and externally, and to raise awareness on what a healthy women is supposed to look and feel like.”

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A local mother/daughter pair who will be participating in the program. Also: some of my best friends!!

This initial program is designed for mothers with daughters ages 8 to 12 years old.  The best part is that the program will be FREE for these mothers and daughters.

“8-12 years old is a crucial time for young women,” Asmann explains.  “It’s when they’re really developing a sense of who they are and who they want to be.  It’s the right time to teach them positivity about who they are.”

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Tiffaney Rains, of NuFit

The program will be led by Tiffaney Rains, a personal trainer and Master’s Degree in Community Counseling candidate at Quincy University.  She’ll be teaching classes on Understanding Self Image, Learning about yourself, Media Messages and Myths, Beauty Within and  Positive Self Image Lifestyle Choices.   The course begins February 3rd and lasts for 6 weeks (meets every Sunday 7pm).

If you know a mother/daughter pair who would benefit from these important classes, DO NOT DELAY!   Since I was writing this blog today, I talked the NuFit crew into extending the deadline to apply to the program through Monday, Jan. 21st at 8 AM!   All you or the mother need to do to apply is write a paragraph about why you should be considered for the Mirror Image Project and email it to angie@nufitforyou.com   This first program will be limited to between 6 and 8 mother/daughter pairs. (I should say, if you’re an aunt/niece or … you know, any other arrangement of important woman to important young woman, I’m sure you can apply too.)

I think it’s wonderful that NuFit is helping young women to find their voices and believe in their own beauty.  I hope this program really blossoms and that all the women of the area can learn just a little more self-confidence because of it.

“Throughout a daughter’s childhood, mother and daughter become like mirrors for each other’s sense of self.”  – Doctor Laura Arens Fuerstein, author of “My Mother, My Mirror.”

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Justin does some TRX bicep curls. Look at those guns!! 🙂

Nothing gets my Adventure Foot out the door quite so well as the promise of a brand new way to workout, so when I heard that NuFit for You was offering sample TRX Suspension classes I said two things:

  1. Sign me up!
  2. What is TRX Suspension training?

… in that order.

TRX training uses your own body weight as resistance in different exercises against an apparatus suspended from a ceiling.  The TRX equipment is beautifully simple- it’s basically just adjustable straps with handles attached that can be used to perform dozens of different strength and core training exercises.

The system was designed by a member of the US Military who wanted a very compact piece of equipment that could help him work out wherever, whenever.

Everyone in the class learning the ropes.

When my husband and I walked into the class at NuFit, I must admit I was a little intimidated by all of the TRX straps hanging from the ceiling, but I was quickly reassured by Kenji Freedman, a visiting TRX training expert.  As I’ve come to expect from the staff at NuFit, we were greeted with a warm smile and assurances that we’d catch on in no time.   We took our positions and Kenji took over the class and explained the TRX Trainer.

It couldn’t be easier to use.  There are essentially 3 lengths you can adjust the TRX straps to; and all it takes to change the lengths is to slide a buckle up and down the straps.  The buckle automatically locks in place wherever you stop.  Kenji then demonstrated a few of the major positions you could stand to do the exercises, for example, a push-up position, a rowing position, and a curl position.

Here I am trying the tricep press motion. This was a tough one!

He must have seen the look on my face that said, “oh god… I don’t really do push-ups” because the next thing he explained is how you can increase and decrease the difficulty of each move.  For example, in the push-up position, you can start by standing nearly vertical and do push-ups from there.  You can try what I mean at home: lean against a wall and try a push-up from a near-standing position.  Now do it with more angle. Get it??? Good.

Well, I may be no good at push-ups, but I can take a little more than standing straight up, so I backed my feet up by two feet or so and did my set of push-ups with a little more angle.  My husband (who is quite good at push-ups) went down to a much harder angle for his set.

And that’s kind of the great thing about TRX.  My husband and I have vastly different levels of upper body strength, but by using different angles with the equipment we could vary the intensity of the workout so effortlessly that we can be in the same class at the same time doing the same number of repetitions and still get a workout customized to our ability.

Kenji was a fun instructor!

The rest of the 30 minute workout just flew by.  We tried each different workout position for a short time, took a 30 second break, and then tried another.  I think the one that I liked the most was the bicep curl exercise (because I feel tough doing that one!) and the one that was the toughest for me was the Pilates-like plank push-ups.

You must be wondering how I felt after the workout.  Initially I was good, but the next day I was sore.  I’d say it was a good kind of sore though.  It helped me to realize that maybe all of my cycling has made my legs strong, but my upper body and core could still use some attention.  All of the core work will certainly help me to be a better all-around athlete and adventurer,  so it’s definitely something I’d like to try some more of.  My husband absolutely loved it- he always likes this kind of thing- and he said it was a really challenging and fun workout.

If you’re interested in trying TRX out, visit www.nufitforyou.com and check out their class schedule.  If you haven’t been to NuFit before, your first class will be free!      Also read about my very favorite NuFit class: CycleLattes!

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