I didn’t always like working out. I honestly f*cking hated it. I hated walking in to the gym, I hated not knowing what I was doing, I hated not feeling “good enough” – I hated all of it. I didn’t grow up very athletic or with amazing genetics, I simply dabbled in swimming throughout my childhood and adolescence and that was the only exercise I knew. But after my swimming days ended, I became pretty much sedentary. And turns out, when you’re not doing sh*t and you’re eating complete crap, your body doesn’t love it. My body changed, my weight increased and my depression got worse and worse. I was in a serious downward spiral for a while.
But I didn’t know where to turn or how to get comfortable in the gym. I remember going through different stages of fitness; first working out with one of my high school boyfriends then hiring a personal trainer then spending hours on the stair stepper or I would drink an energy drinks and spend hours at Red Rocks. I would go through all these stages but I never felt like I was getting results. And that was because my diet was crap. I would do all this work at the gym and then I would talk myself into thinking that I could eat whatever I wanted since I was working so hard. That’s not real life, sorry, but it isn’t. And at the end of the day, I wasn’t lifting. And lifting is so incredibly important for women. I was never one of those women that thought “well, I don’t want to lift because it’s going to make me bulky.” I just felt intimidated in the weights section of the gym because I didn’t want to look like a fool.
But I didn’t let that intimidation stop me. Since I didn’t always feel comfortable at my college rec center, I joined a smaller gym with less people where I could teach myself to lift without feeling embarrassed if I was doing it wrong. And that’s exactly what I did. I started looking up workouts on CrossFit.com, I modified them to what I could physically do, and I started seeing results. I remember starting my warm-ups doing 3 sets of 10 push-ups (on my knees), 10 pull-ups (on the assisted machine), 10 sit-ups and 10 air squats. Then I would do a workout that I found on the website that I had modified for myself and then I would jump rope for 20 minutes afterwards. And when I finally started adding weights to my workouts and teaching myself how to snatch or overhead squat or clean, that was when I felt my body change the most. And I no longer walked into a gym with my head down. I finally felt comfortable and confident, all because of lifting weights (and not eating crap!!).
But the biggest (and best) change in my life came when I finally started working out at a CrossFit gym. CrossFit gave me purpose, it gave me a reason to wake up every day, it gave me excitement and nerves, and it finally made me feel like I was becoming who I wanted to be, both physically and mentally. And I know that feeling can be hard to find, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes you have to get over your own embarrassment or nerves or ego to finally open a new door. I have people coming in all the time to CrossFit saying how nervous they are or how they are too out of shape for it, but that’s simply their own nerves getting the best of them. Because honestly, every single person in that CrossFit class is feeling the same way, whether it’s the first day or 7th year.
Ok, let’s get to the point here. Finding the perfect workout for you is sometimes hard to find, but even when you find it, it’s still a journey. I’ve tried so many different workouts in my day so I wanted to share my favorites so far so hopefully you can look up some similar workouts in your own city and find something that inspires you! Here I’m sharing a quick recap of the class, why it’s effective, and my pros and cons. Feel free to share your favorites in your city in the comments below because it might inspire someone else!
CrossFit – I started CrossFit on my own in 2009 and then started going to a CrossFit gym in 2010. I worked out at MANY CrossFit gyms until I found CrossFit Broadway and fell in love with the gym, the people, and the programming. CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. In a CrossFit gym, you’re going to see gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and all kinds of different movements. Intensity is essential for results and the more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort. You can read more about CrossFit here before I copy and paste everything and get sued. All CrossFit gyms are affiliates so every CrossFit gym you go to is going to have completely different programming and coaching than the other. So if you don’t like a CrossFit gym, you can easily try out a different one and it will have a completely different feeling.
- Pros –
- Since intensity is high in CrossFit and you’re lifting regularly, you are going to see results because you’re ramping up your metabolism. Lifting = muscle. Muscle = increased metabolism. Increased metabolism = changes in body composition.
- The community is awesome. Some of my closest friends were made at CrossFit gyms. I even met my husband at my CrossFit gym. People are so incredibly supportive and the camaraderie is really what sets CrossFit apart from other gyms.
- You never get bored. Every single day is completely different so you’re constantly doing new things and challenging your muscles in new ways.
- Cons –
- Because you are doing complicated movements at high intensity, you are more likely to injure yourself. Especially if you don’t listen to your body. The only time I’ve injured myself was when I was competing and I threw my thoughts out the door. I don’t blame CrossFit, though, I blame myself. If your only goal is to beat the person beside you or beat the clock, you’ll get injured. Don’t be an idiot.
- Coaching is not the same at every gym. If your CrossFit gym doesn’t have an elements program to teach you all the movements before you start regular classes, move on to the next gym. And if your gym doesn’t have coaches that give you tips every time you’re lifting, move on. I’ve seen a lot of sh*tty coaching in my day, but it’s not like that at every gym.
- It’s easy to burnout and push yourself a little too hard. I experienced adrenal fatigue while competing in CrossFit because I didn’t understand that it was even possible to workout too much.
- It’s expensive. But nowadays, all gyms seem to be expensive (at least here in Denver). It’s crazy!
FIT – At our CrossFit gym, we offer FIT classes. FIT boot camps classes are hour long, high intensity workouts where can burn up to 900 calories during that time. FIT boot camp in Denver is a form of high-intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) that never lets your body grow complacent. You’re constantly doing different movements which means that your muscles will never know what to expect, so they will continually be challenged. And you’ll see more consistent results. You’ll see TRX, running, rowing, dumbbell movements, burpees, wall walks, etc. And all these different movements will be varied each class. If you don’t have FIT classes in your area, you’ll definitely have HIIT-style workouts and classes, just with a different name!
- Pros – It’s an amazing workout in an hour where you leave absolutely exhausted. And since you’re lifting and doing high intensity training at the same time, you’re going to have great results from it.
- Cons – Form can get a bit sloppy when you are trying to stick with the high intensity throughout the hour class, but that’s something you have to own up to yourself and keep yourself in check.
Orange Theory – A one hour class that’s heart rate monitor based where you can burn up to 1000 calories per class. The class is running, rowing and then weights oriented so you continuously moving throughout the hour long class. When you walk into a gym, you have a heart rate monitor on and you can track what heart rate zone you are in on the screen in the class. It also shows you your calories burned and your heart rate zone throughout the class. Then after class, you are sent an email with the breakdown of your workout and what your heart rate looked like throughout the class. Even though I’m not a fan of running, especially on the treadmill, I love these classes and go to 2 a week (8 per month) at this time (going to CrossFit 3x times per week) and I always feel challenged and motivated in class.
- Pros –
- Amazing workout. I always leave completely drenched in sweat and exhausted.
- The best music! Every coach plays different music but I’ve never been in a class that didn’t have fun upbeat music. And the coach even changes the music when it’s time to sprint. It keeps the workout super motivating!
- Love getting the breakdown after every class to see how my heart rate and calories changed compared to the last class.
- Cons –
- The coaching is sometimes hit or miss. Every coach I’ve been around is very motivating, but not all coaches give the best tips when it comes to form. I often see people doing the movements completely wrong and not getting corrected
- Like CrossFit, I think it’s easy to run into some arenal fatigue issues. When they tell me to sprint, I sprint. But they also tell you to stay in a certain heart rate for a certain amount of time and sometimes I have a hard time with that because I’m comfortable with a high heart rate for a longer period of time. It’s just easy to push a little too hard for too long.
Barre – The only time I’ve tried barre is at my friends amazing studio Barre Forte Lohi and I really liked it. There are all kinds of different barre gyms and workouts out there, so you really have to find the one you prefer the most. It’s so incredibly different to CrossFit because you’re doing incredibly tiny movements and either bodyweight or weights under 8 pounds. What they say is that by using small, controlled movements, isometric holds and high repetition, you can develop a dancer’s physique. I haven’t done it long enough or often enough to experience that myself, but I always leave class feeling like my legs are jello and wake up super sore in places that I never get sore. They also added a Barre HIIT class which is more high intensity movements tied in with barre movements, so it keeps your heart rate up more!
- Pros –
- Long lean muscles from the use of small hand weights, yoga straps, therapeutic exercise balls, mats, and resistance bands to shape your body from every angle.
- You’ll always leave or wake up feeling sore and like you got a great workout in.
- Cons –
- I get bored sometimes. I’m used to short bouts of high intensity so I rarely notice the clock, but when I’m in Barre sometimes, I find myself looking at the clock way more often.
- I don’t always get the drenched, sweaty feeling that I enjoy from my workout.
Fierce45 (Lagree Fitness Method) – I tried Fierce45 out for a few classes and loved it! The Lagree method uses the Lagree MegaFormer machine and incorporates slow, controlled, continuous tension, quick transitions and effective range of motion in order to burn through slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. Yes, I stole that from the Lagree Fitness site. You work the entire body in 45 minutes doing strength, endurance, cardio, balance and flexibility exercises. The goal of their workout is to keep you in the fat burning zone for the entire duration of class in order to build long, lean muscles. It’s really cool because with the equipment they use, there is no stress to the joints or spine.
- Pros –
- Like barre, you get the trembling effect, where you feel like your body can barely hold you up anymore.
- The class goes by super fast so you’re in and out the door in no time flat.
- Cons –
- It’s expensive. About $200+ a month for unlimited classes.
- I sometimes felt like I needed another workout because I didn’t sweat a crazy amount.
Cyclebar – I’ve only done Cyclebar once and I loved it! My friend had a birthday party there for all her friends to try it out and it was SO FUN. Probably because almost all my closest CrossFit friends were in that class and we all get super competitive with each other. Cyclebar is an indoor cycling studio that has dark lighting, amazing music and trainers, and fast and fun workout that goes by extremely fast in 50 minutes. You petal to the beat of the music and you’re also hooked up to a heart rate monitor to give you all the details and numbers to your workout. It honestly feels like you’re in a concert venue throughout the workout, which is so fun!
- Pros –
- I found that the class goes by extremely fast and it’s over before you know it, which I love since I’m not a fan of spinning.
- It’s amazing workout that you’re drenched afterwards from.
- The trainer I had was super inspiring and motivating.
- Cons –
- There aren’t a ton of studios yet, so if you don’t live near the one of two that may be in your state, it’s pretty tough to try out a class. But they continue to open up everywhere and will probably keep growing!
Aaptiv – If you don’t follow my podcast, you maybe haven’t heard me chat about Aaptiv yet! Aaptiv is a fitness app that gives you custom workouts with the voice of an elite trainer and an amazing playlist, walking you through the class or workout or training session! They have unlimited workouts such as race training, ab workouts, spinning, strength training, and even more! I’ve been working with them for a few months and mostly use the app for stretching workouts after my CrossFit or Orange Theory classes! This app has exploded and people are loving it everywhere. It’s just nice to be able to get a workout in whether you are traveling or stuck at home. They even let you try it out for FREE for 30 days using the promo code PALEOMG. And they have a curated list of all my favorite workouts on the app!
- Pros –
- You can choose from so many different kinds of workouts, challenges, and programs.
- Pick from workouts based on your abilities, time constraints and goals.
- Do workouts no matter where you are.
- Cons –
- If you have a hard time working out on your own, you may have a hard time making sure you get the workouts done without a coach or trainer right there with you.
- No coach there with you to correct your movements.
I’ve done yoga and bikram yoga, but it’s been years and every time I try it out again, I just don’t like it. I really want to because I know it’s so good for my body, but I find myself looking at the clock every two minutes and being bored the entire time. I also used to do body pump classes and other group fitness classes at 24 hour fitness or Ballys, but I never felt like there was much of a community at those larger gyms.
Any of these workouts I listed above are workouts that I’ve tried and loved and would recommend to anyone. It’s just finding the best workout for you, your goals, your lifestyle and your constraints. Just because one gym didn’t work for you doesn’t mean another one won’t. If you feel lost and feel like you don’t know where to turn to start your fitness journey, just start trying workouts out! Get out of your head or ignore the anxiety or the embarrassment you may feel. You may look in a gym and feel like everyone is in shape and maybe you’re not there yet, but it’s important to remember that EVERYONE STARTED SOMEWHERE. Sure, some people were always athletes or had athletic genetics that helped them out, but who gives a f*ck. You’re you and you should be motivated to become your best self day after day. Just because you’re out of shape or maybe never stepped foot in a gym or just hate working out in general doesn’t mean you can’t change that. I was out of shape, I was depressed, I was putting on weight and I finally said no more. But it took years of trial and error to find what I loved.
At the end of the day, your body deserves the best. Whether that’s walking every day, working out at home, deadlifting 200 pounds, handstand walking, running a half marathon, beating a previous 5k time…whatever your workout is, your body deserves to move. So get moving!! Ignore your doubts, push through the pain, and reap the benefits of your hard work as time goes by. Fitness is not just about physical, it’s about health, happiness, and longer amazing life. Now go kick some serious ass in your own life!