The Only Possible Answer Was Yes: The Aquaphor Tri Team

About a month ago, I received an email that totally turned my life upside down – in the best possible way. The email was titled “Invitation: NYC Triathlon – Aquaphor Tri Team” and I gasped as I read it what it was offering me. I have wanted to do a Triathlon for YEARS – for me, it has always been that “I will really be an athlete if I can do that” thing. These days, I feel like an athlete but that thing in the back of my head has remained. To have the chance dropped in my lap to compete in one of the premiere Triathlons in the country, and one that I had completely written off because I couldn’t remotely afford the entry fee, was shockingly awesome. It honestly never occurred to me to not snap up the opportunity. I immediately wrote back to say yes.

In some ways, it is great to not have time to really freak out about it – really, because there is too much to make happen before the race that there isn’t a window of time to panic. Head down and get prepared -mostly what that has involved has been LOTS AND LOTS of swimming. It’s funny, when I was little, swimming was the one thing that I loved.  At every Navy base, there was always a large, magical place of escapism for me at the pool and I would swim laps forever, easily doing a mile a day. However, it has been years since I even had access to a pool, so the very first thing I did was figure out how to change that. To that end, I have been at the amazingly beautiful Reebok Sports Center/NY’s pool 3-4 times per week. The pool is amazing and seemingly never overrun but always filled with serious swimmers of all shape and stripe. There are a lot of people who are obviously training for the Tri too, which is inspiring to see… and has incidentally provided me with swimming tips.  I don’t think swimming is “like riding a bike”, but I have been shocked at how quickly it has come back to feeling natural. I am back up to mile swims and have loved every moment I have gotten to be back in the water. The swim was really the only part that worried me and while a mile swim in the Hudson still seems slightly scary, it no long sounds so daunting. Plus, my wetsuit has been ordered and really, how can you not feel like a superhero getting to race in one of those??

I really can’t wait for the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon and I almost can’t believe it is happening, but as everything starts to fall into place, it doesn’t just feel like a crazy dream. I am so grateful for the exciting and truly amazing opportunity to be part of something so special and when July 8th rolls around, I am going to be ready. Until then, I will be swimming as often as possible…and biking…and running….. so there may be a few weeks before I get back to lots of class reviews!

Top & bottom photos from Aquaphor New York City Triathlon’s Facebook page and the quote in the middle just a really good thing to remember.

Kira Stokes & her amazing small group class….

This week, I got the chance to try another one of Kira Stokes‘ classes, from her “Stoked” series.  This time, I took “Stoked 360 MAX”, the small group version of her classic class. I had loved the Stoked 360 class I tried a few weeks ago and was excited about getting another chance at training with Kira. I love small group programs, both for the individualized attention that the trainers are able to give and also for the participants’ dedication – which is a given when you have someone like Kira Stokes, who is such a stickler for form and has such an intense loyal following, I had a feeling it was going to be a good class. I didn’t expect it to quite as awesome as it was though!

On Monday morning, I ran into the Reebok Sports Center, stashed my stuff in a locker and hurried upstairs to class. Kira had told me to head upstairs to the 6th floor and grab a medicine ball before joining the class, however, by the time I got there, only the 2lbs balls were left so I grabbed one and then promptly realized that the class wasn’t starting in the normal studios where I thought it would. After a quick look around, I noticed a group of really fit women jumping rope on the basketball court below and realized that HAD to be Kira’s group so I ran down the stairs to join them. As soon as I hit the door, I had an immediate moment of “oh shit” the group was so super fit that I knew this is going to be even more hardcore then I had bargained for. I steeled myself as I entered the room, expecting the group to be annoyed that I was crashing their class, since it was at the tail end of a session.  Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Kira introduced me to the group and I was immediately met with warm smiles, welcomes, and a little teasing about if I knew what I was getting myself into. I promptly realized this group was going to be amazingly fun to workout with for the next 90 minutes.

As we jumped rope to warm up, Kira told us we had 20 minutes on the court and then would be heading up to the studio, so we better make those minutes count. We did suicide sprints, threw the medicine ball at the wall and then catching it in a squat on the rebound, and this overhead throw at the wall and mountain climbers with your feet on gliding disks thing. The final exercise in this group was the killer though- a moving plank to pike move that I thought might just kill me.  With our feet still on the gliders, we pulled up to a pike before walking our hands forward back into a plank, finishing with a pushup each time as we inched our way to center court. Nothing has ever seemed so far away. By the time the 20 minutes were up and the 3rd round completed, I was shaking. During each round, Kira kept telling people that they could switch out with me for the lighter ball if their 6lbs got too heavy, but no one took her up on that and by the end, I was really grateful that they had taken pity on me!

As we made our way up the stairs, the women laughed and told me I was doing good. I might have been holding my own but good was a long way away! The second section included lots of jumping rope, stair runs, so many variations on push-ups, lots of multi-directional movements and Kira’s version of the walking lunge with 8 lbs weights in each hand. In her version, there is a reach out and pause at the bottom of the movement, which effectively robs you of any moment you could build, making it so much harder to pull up into the standing bicep curl at the top. It hits everything. It is an amazingly simple and effective move – crossing the floor both directions in each round. We went about half an hour over -which I am always for in any class, but in this one, I was actually concerned that if there was another round of those lunges I might just keel over. We wrapped up with a core section that I liked, mostly because by that point, I really just wanted to lay down and whimper and at least I got to lay down!  Whimpering I would manage to hold off ’till the next day… when I actually did whimper going up the stairs at the subway station!

It was one of those classes that just entirely kicked my ass BUT was filled with such awesome, funny, impressive women that I couldn’t help but love every minute of it. I knew Kira was good. A master trainer with an impressive ability to focus on form while challenging you with new and interesting moves, but those women, her core group, show just how great she is. They follow her from program to program because she is great, inspiring and truly cares about the people she trains. The group on Monday included all ages, but all were really fit, funny and welcoming…just like Kira is! If I could, I would join that group every Monday. They just ROCKED!

(Top image of Kira from her website, of how a pushup is supposed to look! Bottom image just a little internet goodness.)

The Stoked Method: Kira Stokes & her massive following…

On Monday evening, I trekked over to the Upper West Side to check out Kira Stokes and her “Stoked” series at the Reebok Sports Club. I was planning on going to all 3 of them that were scheduled that night, but my slowpoking it out of Brooklyn didn’t let that happen – which was probably a good thing. I arrived on the UWS just a few minutes before the first class was going to start and headed over to find the gym.  It turns out that the Reebok Sports Club is a HUGE, gorgeous gym.
I took the elevator up to the reception desk and when the doors opened, I was surprised to see the super fancy, but very sweet concierge who greeted me.  After a brief once over of the interloper who obviously didn’t belong (sigh, I never remember to dress up to GO to the gym,) the Jeremy Renner look-alike found my name on the guest list and proceeded to turn on the charm. It was such a fitting introduction to the fancy gym – and holy moly, was it FANCY.  The nice thing was that, because I was a little late and missed the first class I was aiming for, I was able to take my time in the locker room and get up to the studio. The locker room was open, immaculate and pretty, which is rare – and the women in there were chatty and friendly. It felt a little like I had entered the other side of the looking glass.

After passing through all of the beautiful floors of shiny equipment, checking out their climbing wall (belay only, phew – something I didn’t like!) I finally made it up to the studios where I got my first glimpse of Kira Stokes. Now, mind you, I had seen pictures of Kira, looking all fitness-competition-fit but I had sort of assumed that isn’t what she walked around looking like. You know the type you see in Oxygen magazine and tell yourself  “they don’t really look like that.” Kira really looks like that in real life. As I sat there watching the class I had planned to be in “Primal Stoked”, I was floored at how hard it looked – and what a sight it was to behold. Kira was doing all of these crazy moving-across-the-floor plank variations. The people in that class were all in great shape and it was fun to watch everyone push themselves. The next class on the menu was “Stoked Abs”, a 15 minute ab intensive. It was fun, hard and full of weird variations that completely fried my abs in that one little quick session. When I had gone in with all of the teaming masses (this is a wildly popular class and the studio was packed to the gills,) I didn’t really think about where I was, I just made sure that I had a clear eyeline to Kira and staked out my space for the longer class. I really should have paid a little more attention, since it turned out that durning the long class, I was directly behind her – and in HER eyesight for the class I had really come for “Stoked 360” (see a theme here?). Which meant there wasn’t even a moment of slacking that was going to be allowed for the next 75 minutes. Kira has been a trainer for 18 years and is a stickler for form. Really, she isn’t going to let you get away with anything, and had I really thought it through, I would NOT have positioned myself right behind her! As Kira handed out jump ropes to a few of us, and yes, I did try to hide from that, she explained to us that we were to keep moving throughout the whole class.

Each segment was made of 3 moves that were done 3 times – once to learn it, once to know it, and once to failure. All were done to push our endurance. They were all compound moves that were challenging but really fun – lots of plyometric moves and changing directions. She corrected me a lot which I loved, but I wasn’t the only one by any stretch – when she said she was a stickler for form, I should have believed her! In a class that large, to really be so passionate about form in everyone, was awesome to see.  She kept the rowdy guys in the corner in check and still kept a keen eye on the inspiringly fit pregnant woman in the front. It is no wonder that Kira has such a following – she loves what she does, creates a hard, fun, challenging class AND keeps an eye on you? You really can’t ask for much more.

Now if I can figure a way to sneak back into Reebok Sport Center, I am totally trying that “Primal Stoked” class…plus, maybe that “Stoked Abs” again…but I now know that a third one on the same day would be the death of me!

(Image of Kira Stokes from her website. Bottom image from ESPNW’s Facebook page)