What Happened When Shape Editors Swapped Workouts for a Month
The Shape staff committed to trying new workouts all month and learned way more than they imagined they would.
If you've ever picked up an issue of Shape or been to our website (hi!), you know that we're big fans of trying new workouts. (See: 20 Ways to Bust Out of Your Workout Rut) But this month, we decided to take our own advice in the spirit of #MyPersonalBest, our yearlong program that encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and become the best possible version of you. See how it went for us, then sign up for that class, race, or epic adventure you've been putting off since forever.
"Pole dancing made me feel confident." -Jasmine Phillips, social media writer
I grew up training in ballet and modern and wanted to challenge myself by trying a new form of dance. I've always admired pole dancers because of their strength and the cool tricks they could do and wanted to give it a shot. (Read all about why you should take a pole dancing here.) With the help of my amazing instructor @jessijamzzz (prepare to be amazed by the tricks she can do), I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and engage muscles I didn't even know existed, which left me sore for days. Pole dancing not only challenged my body in new ways, but it also gave me an unexpected boost of confidence. I became more aware of my body and let go of the fear I had of being watched by my classmates. I learned that confidence is a muscle that I plan on flexing more often.
"I found my fight." -Kiera Carter, executive editor
My usual workouts consist of a combo of running and lifting, but I added boxing to the mix this month. I started with a kickboxing class once a week and soon wanted to make more of a commitment to developing my skills. So I did what any other semi-insane person would do and set the goal of fighting in a boxing match by the end of the year. But before I can come close to fighting another human being (eeek), the trainers at Everybody Fights in New York tell me I need to focus on form and conditioning. (And TBH, I'm not too upset about procrastinating on getting punched in the face.) "Beginners always feel the cardio burn first," says Nicole Schultz, head trainer for Everybody Fights. "But boxing is really a full-body workout that engages your legs, lats, and obliques."
With only a few weeks under my belt, I've noticed improvements in my go-to workouts. Lifting has more purpose now (I do more pull-work at the gym to balance all the "push" motions in boxing), and running feels easier. "Boxing is great cross-training because it's high-intensity conditioning that's easy on your joints and great for improving your focus," says Schultz. Seems worth fighting for to me.
"I gained a new appreciation for yoga." -Kylie Gilbert, associate editor
Even though I've taken random yoga classes in the past, I always felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb since I'm not naturally gifted in the areas of balance and flexibility. (I also had no idea what any of the pose names meant, and it showed.) On top of that, I had this idea that yoga was too slow and boring to be a "real workout," compared to classes like Barry's Bootcamp or Flywheel. But after running the Shape Half Marathon this past spring, I was craving something different than my typical cardio-focused workouts. So when it came time to pick an activity that would get me out of my comfort zone, I knew it had to be yoga.
Reluctantly, I started off at Wanderlust and felt motivated by the energy of the 2,500+ yogis around me. But since then, I've also taken classes in the dark, candlelit Y7 studios, which made me realize that (A) no one cares how far I can get my leg up in three-legged downward dog, and (B) fast-paced flows paired with hip-hop music are the opposite of boring. So, while I don't consider myself a "yogi" yet, I've realized that yoga doesn't have to be taken so seriously or so slow-and, in fact, it can be just as much fun as a "real workout" like running 13.1 miles.
"I overcame my fear of rock climbing." -Lauren Mazzo, editorial assistant
I'm typically game to try new things; the rush I get from crushing a new workout or attempting a never-done-before skill is my favorite part of being active. That being said, some conquests are still pretty intimidating. Case in point: I have a childlike urge to climb on stuff (mountains, scaffolding, my couch) and have always thought rock climbing was totally badass-but I was way too intimidated to actually try it on my own. But then I found myself at REI's female-only Outessa retreat in Waterville Valley, NH, last month. During the trip I signed up for Rock Climbing 101 and spent an entire morning learning to climb on Rumney Rocks (one of the most popular climbing spots in the Northeast) from top-notch instructors. With just minutes left in our session, I decided to attempt the toughest of our three routes. A few minutes dangling by my fingernails, monkeying up the smooth face of a boulder, and I successfully made it to the top. The feeling of literally getting over a challenge? Pretty damn satisfying.
"I crushed my first race." -Alyssa Sparacino, web editor
I never wanted to be a runner, mostly because I told myself over and over again that I wasn't any good at it. (And to be fair, it wasn't something that came naturally to me.) But I finally stopped the negative talk and started thinking about all the reasons I COULD do it-I'm strong. I'm fit. I'm committed-so I just started running. A little here, a little more there, and eventually I signed up for (and crushed) my first 5K. It might seem like a small goal or a short distance to some, but proving to myself that I could do it and actually enjoy running was such a rewarding achievement for me. (Related: 6 Things I Wish I'd Known About Running When I First Started)
"I discovered a new love of dance." -Renee Cherry, digital writer
I wanted to take a risk, so I signed up for a stilettos dance class at Broadway Dance Center. Let's just say that it had been a few years since I had even set foot in a dance studio, and I was worried that I'd overestimated both my dance skills and my coordination in heels. When I arrived, we learned a short routine, and I was especially nervous about having to do it in front of everyone. But when I was in the moment, I was able to let loose. (Shout-out to our teacher Frida Persson for making it a blast, which I'm sure helped ease my tension.) I want to remember how much fun the experience was the next time I'm iffy about trying something new.
"I found my strength." -Marietta Alessi, social media editor
I have a LOT of energy. I'm the girl who actually enjoys burpees and always volunteers for the "extra challenge" move in whatever class I'm taking. While I've always "felt fit" (I exercise a lot and have cleaned up some bad eating habits, I never really knew my own strength. That's why I wanted to try heavy lifting to measure just how strong I really am. I turned to Kristie Muller of Solace New York and Kenny Santucci, Solace's program director and Reebok Master Trainer, to learn how to lift. I was so shocked at how many things I had to remember to maintain proper form throughout the exercises, and staying focused was a huge challenge for me because unlike burpees, I couldn't just crank out barbell squats. I had to slow down and make sure my form was correct from start to finish so I could safely move the weight. I learned how to squat, sumo deadlift, Romanian deadlift, even do GHD sit-ups-that's "glute hamstrings developer," BTW. A month in, I'm squatting 125 pounds, deadlifting 140 pounds, and working toward a new goal-three unassisted pull-ups. It's an incredible feeling being able to measure your progress and know just how much stronger you are than when you started.