For the past 3 years, Times health reporter Giles Bruce has been trying out new workouts in Northwest Indiana — so you don't have to.
Bruce, the self-proclaimed Times fitness-experimenter-in-chief, has attempted CrossFit, an early-morning boot camp in the middle of winter and seemingly every form of Yoga imaginable. By no means a fitness buff, Bruce aims to give you an idea of what each workout is like for the average person.
In chronological order, here are 11 of Bruce's favorite fitness routines he has done for The Times. And if you have a workout you would like him to try, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 219-853-2584.
New exercise equipment in NWI allows for quick, intense workout
SCHERERVILLE | I'm sore today. From a 3-minute workout.
And, according to the experts at Northwest Indiana Chiropractic, it's all the strength training I'll need for the next week. Good thing, because I'm not sure my body could handle any more.
On Wednesday, I tried out the "adaptive resistance exercise" equipment, or ARX, at the new chiropractic office in Schererville. The machine is the only one of its kind in the state. What makes the ARX unique is it both adapts to your strength and resists as you're contracting each exercise.
When I talked to chiropractor Bob Newhalfen on the phone earlier in the week, he told me I could show up in my work clothes since I probably wouldn't even sweat. He didn't account for the fact that his trainer, John Vode, was going to give me the full treatment.
I sat down on the machine, which looks like a flying car with no shell (for some reason, it has exhaust pipes on the bottom), and Vode strapped me in. I started with the leg press. He told me to do the first rep at about 50 percent. After that ...
"Give it everything you got!" he yelled (at that point, I realized he and the doctor hadn't communicated beforehand about taking it easy on me.) "Speed it, speed it up. Stop the machine. OK, ready, set, drive! Speed it up. How fast can you get this thing going? It's going to squash you. Drive, drive, drive, drive, drive. Now, resist."
Even more fun was the row exercise, which Vode managed to equate with a makeout session with a beautiful actress.
"Jessica Alba's in your arms right now, bring her closer and don't let her get away," he said, as I pulled the bars and they pulled back. "Don't let her go. 'Come here, Jessica. You belong to me.' Bring her back, bring her close. Very good, very good. Oh, yeah, hold her close. She's powerful. She's skinny, but she's sleek. You're coming off the seat. She's good! Pull her back. Ten seconds left. Don't let her go. Hold on to her. 'Come back here, woman, you're mine!'"
While most people can resist more weight (that's called eccentric strength) than they can lift (concentric strength), Vode said, they don't use that ability because traditional training doesn't typically allow for it. I discovered I'm three times stronger eccentrically than I am concentrically.
Newhalfen explained why this is important for athletes. Most sports injuries happen either on the way down or during a plant or cut motion — think about how Bulls star Derrick Rose hurt his knee — so increasing that eccentric strength will hopefully prevent them. In the same way, it can help elderly people either avoid or decrease the physical damage from falls.
He also said the ARX limits workout injuries because it adapts to each user's strength.
"It's a self-limiting machine," he said. "So whether it's the 18-year-old football player or 77-year-old Aunt Betty, she's only going to push as hard as her body allows, so safety is inherent and built in."
I did the leg press, bench press and row for a minute each. Vode said it would take my body seven to nine days to recover. (Great.) He noted that the machine, like strength training in general, isn't just for athletes. It improves quality of life, reducing the chances you'll need a joint replacement later on or won't be able to run around with your grandkids the way you do with your kids now. "Stronger is always better," he said.
Vode wasn't done with me after I got off the ARX machine. He gave me the "functional movement screen" he and the chiropractor do for clients, testing things like my shoulder mobility and stability while rotating. I learned I can't do a proper pushup and I may have a previously undetected wrist injury. I scored an 8 — only five points from LeBron James! — with the goal being 14. I have some work to do.
Times reporter survives first CrossFit workout
MUNSTER | I tried CrossFit this week — and lived to tell about it.
There were a couple of close calls: the time I started seeing stars after doing multiple burpees (going from standing to a pushup and back up again in one fluid motion) and the fact that I barely remember driving home.
But I survived my recent workout at a local CrossFit gym, which was done for the public service of telling Times readers what this fitness craze is all about.
After my editor asked me to do a story about CrossFit, whose popularity has seemingly approached cult-level status, I thought the best way to write about it was to experience it firsthand. So I stopped by a gym I pass every day on my way to work — CrossFit Munster on Calumet Avenue — to participate in a beginners class.
When I pulled up Monday evening, I was immediately freaked out by the sight of a mammoth tire, the kind you see CrossFit aficionados flipping as easily as breakfast cooks do pancakes.
Inside, I was greeted by Casey Sheridan, who looks like a guy who should be teaching fitness. The humid gym had exposed ventilation and a brick wall inscribed with messages such as "HARDCORE SH*T."
I was there early. "I have to watch this class to make sure nobody's doing anything reckless," Sheridan said, as Lil Wayne blasted against the gym walls. "It happens sometimes." He had me fill out a waiver releasing CrossFit Munster from any liability for me being injured — or worse. Uh-oh.
I returned to the gym for warmups, which included such exercises as the high-knee walk and pushup crawl. Halfway through these so-called "warmups," I was gushing sweat and ready to go home. But I soldiered on.
After that, Sheridan took me to a quiet spot in the back of the gym — if by quiet, you mean Limp Bizkit blaring at full volume — to show me some basic CrossFit exercises, like the sumo deadlift high pull (standing out of a squat while lifting a kettlebell above your chest) or the inverted row (pulling yourself up to a barbell).
"What's your regular workout routine?" Sheridan asked.
"Walking," I said.
So he had me do the various exercises with either a PVC pipe or 45-pound bar. He then attempted to reassure me by telling me he's trained people in worse shape than me.
"I take people from the couch to CrossFit," said the gym's owner, George Burke, who could pass for professional wrestler or offensive lineman but is actually a former cop.
He and Sheridan both repeatedly stressed the importance of proper form, such as keeping your back straight and head back when you squat. "Form is the biggest part of this," Burke said. "It doesn't do us any good if we get anybody hurt."
The trainers then informed me that the actual workout was set to begin soon. This was news to me and my soaking-wet T-shirt. Burke told me I would only be doing half the 20 minutes the rest of the beginners class had to do. "I don't want to kill you your first time out," he said, joking (I think).
It was an AMRAP workout, standing for "as many reps as possible." It consisted of three inverted rows followed by five dips, five sumo deadlift high pulls and seven burpees. For 10 minutes.
The rows and dips were fairly easy. But I couldn't get my form right on the high pulls, and the burpees were by far the most difficult. By the end, I couldn't do seven of those. I lollygagged for the last half-minute of the workout, watching the seconds of the clock tick away, hoping Burke wouldn't notice.
When I was done, Burke told me to go drink a lot of water and eat a bunch of protein — CrossFit enthusiasts are often fans of the meat-heavy Paleo diet. He also said I was going to be sore Tuesday (correct) and even more so on Wednesday (also correct), and by that time I was going to hate him for it (maybe — not that I'd ever say it to his face).
He then talked to me about the benefits of the workout routine. He said it not only has helped him and others lose considerable weight — with the intensity of CrossFit, I can see why — but increases strength, endurance and flexibility. He invited me back for a month of CrossFit classes, predicting I'd be hooked in no time.
I'm still mulling the offer.
Times reporter: 'I stood up to stand-up paddleboard yoga'
CEDAR LAKE | When I heard a local yoga studio had started offering stand-up paddleboard yoga, I knew that, as the Times' fitness-experimenter-in-chief, it was my duty to try it.
When I got to Cedar Lake on a recent afternoon, I quickly realized the naivete of my decision: I had never been on a paddleboard, and had attempted yoga maybe twice in my life. But yoga instructor Roberta Rewers saw me when I pulled up. My photographer/videographer was there. There was no turning back.
And before I could say, "Maybe this wasn't the best idea," I was in a life vest, coated in sunscreen and sliding out into the warm, cloudy water. Though I paddled with the ferocity of a tortoise, I was put at ease when one of my classmates took a spill in the water. I wasn't the only beginner in this group. Phew.
We congregated in the harbor for a few minutes, then — oh, no — we had to paddle into the actual lake. I let the flow of the water steer me as much as possible, trying, unsuccessfully, not to run into any of my fellow boarders.
I had to be constantly reminded by the instructors — in the sweetest, most nonjudgmental way possible — how to hold the paddle or steer the board. This was obviously yoga and not my last interactive fitness endeavor, CrossFit, so there would be no giant men barking in my ear, just peaceful, free-spirited women who would push me only as far as I was willing to go.
We got out near a long dock, and it was time for yoga. I saw the Times' John J. Watkins, dry and clothed, standing on said dock, photographing me, a "glad-it's-you-and-not-me" smile on his face. My board starting rocking, and I was reminded that I was on a lake. With boats. So I tried to do a yoga pose — while balancing on a paddleboard that was swaying with the waves, pushing me into my classmates.
But as some of my fellow participants, female friends from a local gym, continued to tumble overboard, and instructor Lisa Knott, co-owner of Cedar Lake's Love & Light Studio, gave off a warm, reassuring vibe, I got more and more into it.
As a yoga novice, I didn't know the names of the various poses, so, just like I was back in middle school, I copied what my classmates were doing. I would tell you the names of those poses, but apparently no one has invented a waterproof reporter's notebook.
Perhaps my favorite part was when we moved near some vegetation, lying on our boards for, in essence, nap time. I looked up at the ocean-blue sky and fluffy clouds and, for the first time that day, felt relaxed. I could get into this, I thought.
Then it was time to head back to the harbor. Everyone else was standing on their stand-up paddleboards, so I tried to as well. Splash — into the water.
Let's give it another shot. Splash — into the water.
I paddled back on my knees.
Before we returned to land, it was time for the "show-off" portion of the class, where participants, now feeling brave, attempted some extreme yoga moves.
I stayed low key, as the girls did poses I couldn't do on land, hoping not to be noticed. But then I heard my name. It was Knott, encouraging me to do the "camel." As she instructed, I got on my knees, pointed my heels toward the sky and bent my back until I grabbed my soles.
To my amazement, I heard ... applause.
Knott later explained what had just transpired: "The minute you relaxed and you found yourself going with the waves, your body lightened up. You actually absorbed the vibrations, the frequency of the waves. Once you took that into the body, the practice became very relaxed and you actually enjoyed it. That's when you got crazy and wanted to try camel and tried to stand up and do all those fun things."
Despite my initial trepidation and unease on the board, I'd recommend stand-up paddleboard yoga. It's a fun way to get out on — and most likely, into — the water on a warm summer day.
Plus, it's good exercise. I felt the fact that my muscles, some of which I clearly hadn't been using, had gotten a workout that afternoon for days after. As the instructors explained, you have to work even harder to stay balanced doing yoga on a paddleboard, so you activate your core that much more.
And don't worry if you're a beginner. The people from Love & Light Yoga Studio will treat you like they did me: with (velvety, extra-cushioned) kid gloves.
Some like it hot: Times reporter tries Bikram yoga
HIGHLAND | "Your goal is to stay in the room."
And that's what I did, even though the room in question was 105 humid degrees and I was in it for 90 minutes, twisting and pretzeling my body in ways I didn't think possible.
My latest adventure as The Times' fitness-experimenter-in-chief came last week, at Hot Yoga Highland, a new studio that offers daily classes of so-called Bikram yoga. Doing yoga at tropical temperatures is said to cleanse the body of toxins, increase flexibility and both loosen and strengthen muscles.
I arrived on a Tuesday morning in swim trunks and a T-shirt (which owner Stan Darnell said was optional). I was given a towel and yoga mat and directed toward a dark, mirror-filled space that felt like a large sauna. "Stay in the room. Stay in the room," I kept telling myself, echoing the objective given to me by instructor Evan Losacco.
We started with deep breathing exercises before doing some warm-up poses (as if we weren't warm enough already). I put my body into the shape of a half moon, posed like an eagle and tried to reach my heel with my leg stretched parallel to the floor. Not easy.
Eventually, it was time for a rest and a drink of water.
This part I can get used to, I thought.
But it didn't last long. Soon enough, it was time to see what other shapes I could contort myself into.
I surprised myself with some of the poses I was able to do, including the camel pose, where, from my knees, I leaned my head all the way back and held my feet. The one-leg exercises were a different story (I usually ended up back on both legs within a few seconds). The toughest part of the poses seemed to be keeping things straight -- my mind, yes, but also my legs, arms, neck.
The sweat poured off me throughout. While the two guys next to me and I started off wearing shirts, by the end we were bare-chested. If I had to do it again, I would bring a change of clothes -- and several towels.
"I probably sweat the most out of anyone here," said Bob Hogan, a retired train conductor who lives in Hammond. I think I might have had him beat on the recent day. Hogan notes that he's gotten increased flexibility and endurance from Bikram yoga
After 90 minutes, and nearly that many internal debates about whether I should leave the room, the session was over. "You'll never have to do your first hot yoga class again," Losacco said.
Afterward, a fellow participant asked me if I felt like I was going to vomit (I did not, luckily -- Darnell told me to fast before coming).
"You did well," the instructor told me.
That's when I saw a bucket of Flavor Ices at the front desk, not that happy to see frozen sugar juice since childhood. Refreshing.
While I was wiped out and foggy-minded immediately after the class -- one of my classmates called it "Bikram brain" -- I felt energized the rest of the day, and I didn't even have my morning latte.
Boot camp workout pushes Times reporter to the limit
CROWN POINT | I almost retired as The Times' fitness-experimenter-in-chief Tuesday.
Since April, I've been trying out various fitness fads in the Region, including CrossFit and a couple of different types of yoga. But Tuesday's was the most intense yet.
Earlier this month, Jason Hendrickson invited me to work out with F3, a group that does outdoor boot camp-style training sessions three times a week in his hometown of Crown Point. I should have known from the words "boot camp" and the fact that these dudes exercise at 5:30 a.m. that this was going to be hardcore. But I'm naive.
When my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, I wished it hadn't. But I powered through, putting on two pairs of sweatpants and socks and four shirts, including two hoodies. The forecast wasn't pretty.
An hour later, I arrived at the picturesque church off Broadway, the field surrounding it covered with snow, the parking lot icy in spots. As soon as I got there, Hendrickson had me verbally sign away my life, releasing F3, its members or the church from any liability should I get hurt. If I hadn't already asked what I'd got myself into, I did then.
The 10 of us warmed up with a run. Then did jumping jacks. Then squats. Then pushups. Who needs to take a breath?
Then we ran back to a wooded area behind the church to retrieve two 580-pound tires, rolling them back to the parking lot so we could flip them.
"This is the part you sign the waiver for," Hendrickson said.
He wasn't lying. It took all the might of three men to lift then push over one of those tires. Then we had to repeat ... and repeat ... and repeat ...
The temperature was 23 degrees.
By 6 a.m., I was spent. I considered making a run for it, thinking no one would see me slip away in the dark. But I was too proud.
At one point, I thought back to a discussion I heard on the radio the other day, about how Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is still kicking after 71 booze-and-smoke-filled years. I wondered: Is all this fitness really necessary?
But there was no time to think. It was time to bear crawl across the slushy parking lot. Back to reality.
The finish line, however, was in reach. I almost gave up, again, at 6:14 a.m., when we were doing the "Freddy Mercury," aka bicycle situps. But I heard Hendrickson encourage me: "One more minute," he said.
After it was over, the guys got into a prayer circle, the way they end every session. They asked if I wanted to join. "Might as well after that," I said.
Then, one by one, we stated our F3 nicknames. I was dubbed "Cronkite" because, apparently, I'm the most-trusted newsman in the business. Walter Cronkite might have reported from the battlefields of World War II and Vietnam, but did he ever do a boot camp workout before sunrise in the freezing cold?
As for F3 (fitness, fellowship and faith), it's a national organization that originated in Charlotte, N.C., where Hendrickson previously resided. He lost 80 pounds doing the workouts, so after moving to Crown Point he decided to start a local chapter. The group has been training — rain, sleet or snow — since July 2014.
"It's the fellowship that keeps you in there," Hendrickson said. "Plus, the cost is awesome."
"It doesn't ever get easier," he added, "but you get stronger."
F3 isn't only about exercise. The guys also have participated in some community services projects, such as helping seniors fix up their homes and holding food drives. They also take it easy on newcomers like myself.
So after giving it some thought, I've decided to continue as The Times' fitness-experimenter-in-chief. The service I provide — letting Times readers know what to expect from the latest workout crazes — is just too valuable.
But can the next story at least be indoors, at a reasonable time of day? Is that too much to ask?
Times reporter underestimates abs workout class
HAMMOND — I walked into the Advanced Abs and Core class Wednesday at Purdue University Calumet assuming it would be easy. It's not the Extreme Abs and Core class taught there on Saturdays, I thought, so how hard can it be?
About five minutes in, I realized the blunder of my ways.
I was sweating profusely. My abs were burning. I couldn't keep up.
But I had committed to do the class, and wasn't giving up. It's not a good look if the newspaper reporter with the photographer taking his pictures walks out of the room.
Because while the class might not look that strenuous to the untrained eye, it works out all the muscle groups at once, so it's cardio and full-body strength training at once. It's a great way to improve your balance, functionality and, of course, your six-pack.
You just have to make it through that first session.
The instructor, John Bobalik, does not take it easy on newbies. The 68-year-old goes from one exercise to another, one rep after another, not stopping for breaks. He says he wants to keep the pace for the class's regular members.
Afterward, Bobalik told me he usually tells first-timers to start with Beginning Abs and Core. Funny, in his initial email inviting me to the Purdue Cal fitness center, he never mentioned that class.
Also bad for my self-esteem was working out next to Stephanie Peters, a 23-year-old figure skating coach from Highland. As you imagine from someone who figure skates, her form was exquisite. She appeared to do every rep, without fail, while I was hunched over in the fetal position, hoping no one would notice.
Peters made me feel a little better when she told me she'd been doing the program for three years, only mastering it about a year ago. Even though she graduated from Purdue Calumet, she continues to come back for the class.
"You're got to keep up with it. Otherwise you'll lose it," she said, not a drop of sweat on her.
That's another good thing about the Purdue Calumet classes: They're open to anyone (though there is a fee for non-students or non-employees). Take Fred Hammond, the oldest class regular.
"Old people are afraid to really push themselves. But I'm a nutcase," said Hammond, a retired postal worker who lives in — you guessed it — Hammond. "At 78, it's fun taking out the kids. I'm in here to get them all. These young boys have egos. I'm here to get 'em."
He delights in outlasting the muscleheads who come into the class thinking it'll be a piece of cake and quickly wilt like a flower in the fall.
Jesse Munoz, a 20-year-old sophomore at Purdue Calumet, has lost nearly 50 pounds over the past year and a half, in part, by regularly doing the ab and core workout. So, how did he get introduced to the course? "Fred talked me into it," he said.
Hammond boosted my confidence at the end when he expressed amazement that I lasted the entire 45 minutes. "The Times put you up to this?" he wondered.
No, I volunteered. Because I thought it would be an easy-to-report fitness story. Luckily, for those in the class, and other Region residents interested in improving their core and abnormal strength, I was wrong.
Men's yoga no stretch: Classes offered at Highland martial arts academy
HIGHLAND — Rey Candelaria admits that yoga can be intimidating for men. For one, we're often embarrassed we might fall over in front of the opposite sex. For another ...
"If you have three to four women in tights, it's hard for 13- to 14-year-old boys to concentrate on anything else," he said.
For that reason, Candelaria, a Northwest Indiana yoga instructor, recently teamed with a Highland martial arts studio to offer a class specifically designed for guys.
The men who show up are generally beginners, so he focuses on the basics. But that doesn't mean it's easy. I tried the class Wednesday and had trouble doing several of the poses.
I have to concede, though: I was less self-conscious than I usually am doing yoga. My fellow dudes and I simply laughed it off when we tipped over or a pose seemed particularly daunting. Maybe the lack of ladies really did make a difference.
"I do yoga," said Jordan Hestermann, the director at Kempo Jujutsu Martial Arts Academy. "There's always one or two guys in the class. They don't seem to come back."
Candelaria, a ball of compact muscle, designed the class around men's strengths and weaknesses. While guys generally already have strong upper bodies, they also have tight, stiff hips, so he includes a lot of hip-opening poses.
Men also seem to have more trouble relaxing, so he harps on the mind-body-spirit connection, plays singer-songwriter covers of rock classics and preaches the importance of connecting your breaths to your movements.
He points out that guys tend to have more trouble expressing emotions, and end up storing them in their muscles. Through yoga, all that stress is released. He said he cried for 10 minutes recently while doing a child's pose.
Candelaria, who could pass for an MMA fighter, says that since a cancer scare more than two years ago he's only done yoga, six days a week. It's all the muscle and cardio work he needs. Plus, it's done wonders for his mental and spiritual health. "This has been, for me, life-changing," he said. "I'm in better shape than I've ever been in."
Ten-year-old Jackson Jordan, of Lansing, has been taking the class with his father, Ron, a 38-year-old carpenter. He said the yoga has helped wake him out of his winter slumber. Asked what his favorite move was, he responded: "I like them all."
Nicholas and Travis Shamel, of Highland, took the class on the advice of their mom, an avid yogi. After the recent session, Nicholas, 11, said, "I feel a relief." "I feel more relaxed," Travis, 13, added.
Candelaria explained that behind yoga is the concept of oneness, of harmony.
"The truth of the matter is we really are one spirit, one whole," he said.
Us men are just a little more shy about doing yoga.
Times reporter got the skinny on new workout trend in NWI
DYER — I showed up for my workout the other day at Orangetheory Fitness not knowing what to expect. I left sweaty and worn out. I guess that was the point.
Personal trainers led the way during the intense, one-hour, full-body workout. Dance remixes of pop hits played through the speakers. A heart-rate monitor showed me how hard I was pushing myself.
I started out on a rowing machine with a circular tank of water at the end, rotating back and forth between that and strength-training exercises in the weight area.
Halfway through, head trainer Mark Johnson handed me a weight, saying, "Giles, this is you now." I had graduated from 12 to 15 pounds.
Switching over to the treadmills, I did sprints interlaced with recovery time.
During the workout, I was outfitted with a FitBit-like device that tracked my heart rate. I watched a computer screen at the front of the room that showed my intensity: gray for very light, blue for light, green for moderate, orange for hard and red for maximum.
At first, when I couldn't get out of the gray, I worried I might be dead and my ghost was haunting Northwest Indiana fitness centers (which would make sense for the ghost of the late fitness reporter for The Times of Northwest Indiana to do). But it turned out my wrist monitor wasn't on tight enough. Phew!
Once it started functioning properly, I shot up to red as I'd been working overtime to get out of gray.
Carrie King, 33, seemed to stay in the "red zone" for most of her workout. So, she's in better shape than me. But the intensity is what she likes most about Orangetheory.
"It's nonstop. You don't get a break. You keep going," the Schererville school teacher said.
The theory behind Orangetheory is the longer you're in the orange zone, the more ongoing benefits you get from each workout. Your intensity increases the amount of time your body will continue burning calories afterward.
"It's a butt-beating," said co-owner Julie Compton, who plans to bring three more Orangetheory franchises to the Region. "You walk out and you feel like you can conquer the world."
The place goes all out with the orange theme, by the way, from the walls to the towels to the staff's shirts and shoes.
Trainer Brooke Kelly says the trend in exercise is toward fitness studios and away from big-box gyms. "People are getting a lot of attention here," Kelly said. After each workout, you get an email detailing exactly how you performed.
The boutique studio plans to have its grand opening July 1 at 835 Joliet St. Prices average between $8 and $12 a session, depending on which package you buy. People can try the workout for free.
When I saw that Leah Van Drunen, who was working out next to me, was only in the green I joked that she needed to pick it up. (Truth is, the Orangetheory coach was probably trying not to show me up.)
"I like the competition. It's fast-paced. I'm never bored," she said of Orangetheory. "I especially love the community that comes with it."
At the end of the workout, I learned I'd burned 708 calories and spent 17 minutes in the orange zone and 15 minutes in green. I also earned 23 "splat" points, for the total time in orange and red.
And I took comfort from the fact that my numbers would have been even higher had it not been for those first few minutes when I didn't have a pulse.
C.P. obstacle course workout tests Times reporter
CROWN POINT — In my time as health reporter for The Times, I’ve written maybe a dozen stories of Northwest Indiana residents who have lost extraordinary amounts of weight. Two of them happen to workout with the same personal trainer, Maggie Keilman.
So I wondered: What was Keilman doing with her clients to help them be so successful?
Now I know.
I did Keilman’s boot camp obstacle course one day last week. I made it to the end, barely. This woman does not play.
At the workout’s conclusion, I was drenched in sweat and walking to the wrong car in the parking lot. But I could definitely see how Keilman gets people into shape.
After I arrived at MAK Fitness, she told me the Thursday evening athletic conditioning class was her “fun” workout for the week.
“Does that mean it’s easy?” I asked.
“Don’t say easy,” she corrected me. “Fun.”
The roughly 10 other people and I warmed up with a routine that included pushups, jumping jacks and situps (which, I’ll admit, caused me to throw out my back on the concrete floor). Forget being warm; by the end the session, I was hot.
Then we started the obstacle course.
We rotated between mountain climbers, squats, lunges, burpees, running in and out of the rungs of a ladder, jumping onto a tire with both feet (which, surprisingly, was the hardest exercise), swinging kettle bells, sprinting around the building and jumping sideways over hurdles, for 15 minutes.
When I was out of Keilman’s sight, behind an adjacent office building, I walked rather than ran. “She’ll find ya,” one of her fellow clients warned me. Sure enough, when I tried the same trick behind another building a few minutes later, Keilman popped out the back door and nearly caught me.
After that, we stood in a single-file line, side by side, squatting and passing a medicine ball to one another. Staying in the squat was the hardest part. If you don’t believe me, see how long you can do it before your legs give out.
Then Keilman upped the ante. She added a burpee for the next round. Then she threw in pushups. Then combined them all. Nelly, Ludacris and Juvenile bumped through the speakers, giving me flashbacks to my early 20s.
We ended with another two rounds of the obstacle course circuit training, at max speed.
Keilman’s personality makes the workout a little easier to endure. She’s one of those bubbly, eternally cheerful people who leaves you convinced there’s a happiness gene. And maybe an energy gene, too.
The brightly painted gym also had a family atmosphere, with kids and spouses hanging around as their loved ones bled sweat. When one toddler started crying, one of Keilman’s clients said, “That’s how I feel right now.” A camaraderie also exists there. “Once you step foot into MAK, you’re part of the fam!” Keilman texted me this week, asking when I’d be returning.
I can blame Brittany Rutledge for my latest assignment as The Times’ fitness-experimenter-in-chief. After I did a story about Rutledge’s 77-pound weight loss recently, I interviewed her trainer, Keilman, who invited me to workout at her gym. I took the bait, as I always do with these fitness assignments, like a fish with multiple hooks in its gill wondering how they got there.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t sore the next morning, though my lower back hurt from the situps. By the next afternoon, though, the soreness started creeping into my legs. And then my upper body. It’s just going away a week later.
Because even though newspaper reporter is perennially ranked as the worst job in America by the website CareerCast.com (yeah, I haven’t heard of it either), it’s generally considered painless. But I sometimes wonder if it would be less hazardous to cover drug cartels in Mexico or the Putin regime in Russia than be a fitness reporter in Northwest Indiana.
“One to 10, how much fun was it?” Keilman asked as I was about to leave. “15?”
After that, she boosted my self-esteem a bit when she told me most newcomers to MAK Fitness don’t last halfway through their first workout. So I have that going for me. Just don’t tell her I slacked off when she wasn’t looking.
Sky's the limit with NWI trampoline workout
SCHERERVILLE — "I thought we were just going to be jumping on trampolines," I said.
It turns out the workout was harder than that.
As part of my ongoing effort to do every fitness routine in Northwest Indiana, I tried SkyRobics at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Schererville. The workout mixes aerobics, calisthenics and core exercises, and purportedly allows participants to burn up to 1,000 calories an hour.
I put on my fashionable bright-orange, camouflage Sky Socks and started bouncing on the one of the wall-to-wall trampolines, bringing me back to my childhood. I could get used to this, I thought.
Eden Rau, the spunky former cheerleader who was teaching the class, then made things a little harder, instructing us to kick out our legs and touch our feet or jump to each of the corners of the trampoline. But still, bouncing around is a pretty fun workout.
Then Rau took us off the trampolines. She had us do pushups and situps, and other core work, like planks. Some of these exercises pushed me to the limit, though they could be done in any gym, with or without trampolines. Still, they provided some strength training in between the cardio.
We later raced across the trampolines, running and bouncing while trying not to wipe out. At one point, I couldn't stop myself but a net was there to catch me. If you do fall at SkyZone, there is plenty of padding to absorb the fall. Rau even had us race one another, getting my competitive juices flowing.
The workout is easy on your body in another way. Since you're bouncing on trampolines, it is low impact and easy on the joints.
SkyRobics is great for people who are looking for something beyond running on a treadmill or riding elliptical. Best of all, it makes you feel like a kid again (though, like in my case, in worse shape).
Times reporter gets a good workout from dodgeball in Hammond
HAMMOND — "I'll protect you, reporter," my teammate shouted out. "I failed you once. I won't do it again."
I charged toward the center line, my comrade, Noor Ahmad, in front of me, dodging projectiles coming at us from the front and back.
A few minutes later, Ahmad and I both found ourselves in the "prison," where we went after getting hit by the enemy.
"What happened?" I asked him. He shrugged.
As intense as this battle sounds, we weren't, of course, at war. We were playing dodgeball at Purdue University Northwest. And what fun it was.
Matt Dudzik, an assistant athletic director at the Hammond campus, invited me over to try the sport, one of a number of intramural activities open to the university's students and employees. So, Thursday of last week, I put on my Times dodgeball T-shirt and dodgeball socks, courtesy of the Lake Area United Way dodgeball tournament I participated in last March, and headed to the school's fitness center.
"Dodgeball is really good exercise, a good workout, you're running back and forth," he said when I arrived. "People stay the whole hour and a half, so they're sweating like crazy by the end."
I've been slacking a bit in my exercise routine so far this year, so I thought a little competition might get my fitness juices flowing. I was right.
First, Dudzik explained the rules. Purdue Northwest adds a twist for its version of dodgeball. People who get hit by a ball go to the "prison" in the back of their opponent's side. If any balls bounce to them, they can throw them at the opposing team. So, in this interpretation of the sport, you have to dodge balls from both the front and back. Yeesh.
I jumped right in to the first match. When the whistle blew, the roughly 15 people on each team sprinted for the balls at the center of the court. It was five minutes — seemed longer — of chaos.
I dodged balls being whipped at my head at high speed, from all directions, all while trying to pick up bouncing balls and throw them at the other team. Usually when I got hit, I didn't see it coming.
Thankfully, my team won the first game. I even got the last person out. We also took the second round. And the third.
Then, the pendulum swung. The refs gave traded some of our stronger players to the other team to make it more fair. "Put this in your report: The government here is all corrupt," Ahmad said.
We proceeded to lose the next match. And the next one. And the next one.
It was the crucial seventh game. I had to leave in a few minutes. I strategized, staying near the back, waiting for balls to come to me, then charged and hit who I could.
We won. Even though it was time for me to go, the competition was addicting. I decided to stay for one more game.
Thankfully, we won. If we hadn't, I probably would've stayed until we did. By the end, I was breathing heavy and sweating and energized.
Which proves my theory: Competition makes fitness fun.
I grew up playing pickup basketball, football, baseball and street hockey with my buddies. I was competitive, sometimes to a fault. Our friendly games got heated at times.
But I was also in shape. When I grew up, went to college and started moving around the country to pursue a journalism career, I stopped playing sports for fun. And I put on a lot of weight.
I lost it, in part, by playing pickup basketball at the Y.
I now exercise more consistently. But I can't say that I enjoy running on the treadmill, using the elliptical or doing pushups. I do them because I have to.
Last week's dodgeball made me realize that to stay consistent with exercise, I need more competition in my life.
"Highly competitive people are driven by goals or motives that might include mastery, a sort of internal goal, but also external motives such as an award or medal, or acclaim, all of which are readily available through competitive sport," Jack Raglin, a professor of kinesiology at Indiana University, told me.
I just like to win.
So thanks to Dudzik, Ahmad, my other teammates (and opponents) for the reminder: I need competition to stay fit.
And if you're the same way, I suggest checking out your local Y or parks and recreation department. Many offer sports leagues for adults, including dodgeball.
Just hope you don't see me on the opposing team. I'm kind of a beast (wink wink).