Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Joni Mitchell Never Lies…

You know the old adage that change is the only constant in life? Well, it’s never rung more true to me than during the course of this past week. As most of you out there are aware, Alive experienced a flood in their Holy Cross Centre location last Tuesday night. As we ran around the gym grabbing computer equipment, paperwork and the occasional random pair of boxing gloves we were pretty shocked at the speed the flooding was happening and overwhelmed by all the work that was going to need to be done to get the space back in working order, but never could we have imagined the punches we were going to have to roll with as the week went on.

If you didn’t know how resilient the Alive team was before, there should be no doubt in your mind now. Within a matter of hours of the flooding Holly had secured an alternative location to run classes and training sessions while the repairs took place. However, as cleanup got underway, more bad news was brewing. On Thursday it was announced that the Holy Cross building was unsalvageable and that Alive would no longer be able to continue operating out of the space they had called home for the last number of years. Understandably, the team was pretty rocked by this turn of events, but as a client, I can say that I’ve never been more proud of them or impressed by their ingenuity and creativity during this rough period. I always knew that our trainers were some of the best in the city, but this situation has really allowed their strengths to shine like never before.

While it was beyond gracious for Chas and the staff at Results to allow us to inhabit (or should we say, overrun?!) their space for a few days, the studio is quite different from Alive and the space presented a few challenges in terms of layout and equipment. While this kind of change could have caused a lot of difficulties and brought out the worst in a lot of trainers, not so for Team Alive. In one particular session, Kate and Damir were surprised to find out that there was also a Spin/TRX class happening in the space, but without hesitation Kate lead her group of ladies through an intensive kickboxing class in one corner and Damir built an entire hour-long program around a 7x7 L shape to keep me sufficiently tortured. I don’t think I can adequately put it into words, but these guys just stepped up when the situation called for it and made it work. All that mattered was taking care of their clients and I think everyone will agree that they did an outstanding job and for that we will always be grateful for their composure under pressure. Ben even managed to lead a Saturday morning kickboxing class without so much as a boxing glove—if that’s not thinking on your feet, I don’t know what is?

I think we all will also agree that even before we were faced with this adversity we knew that we were part of a pretty special little community. But Joni Mitchell was right, you really don't know what you've got till it's gone. Alive isn't just a gym, however, and as other members like Kristy and Brian have suggested, it is a whole lot more than the walls it was confined in. Yes, it is absolutely sad to think that we won't be returning to that space we have all logged so many hours of hard work in, but here's the silver lining: We now have the privilege of experiencing a brand-spanking new facility at 2110.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am not exactly enthusiastic going into my workouts, but after seeing this space and all that it has to offer, I can say that I have never been more excited to have my ass handed to me by Damir than I am for tonight! That could be the first sign of a true workout nerd developing, though, so I'm gonna keep my eye on these symptoms.

Even beyond this incredible opportunity we have all been given, while we are pushing ourselves to the max on all this exciting new equipment, Alive will find a new space and rebuild—bigger and better than ever. Another glimmer of hope is that the training team is able to stick together and, therefore, so will the entire Alive Team and that fact alone takes a lot of the stress and worry out of all this change.

Change is scary, but there is no getting around it in this case scenario. In the words of Lemony Snicket, "Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like." There is a bigger picture thing happening here for Alive and, in my opinion, the future has never looked brighter. While we don't have to like the changes we are facing and we may even whine about it a bit, but ultimately, we will just lean into each other and make the best of it (kind of like we had to do on the "Hill of Hell" last night when we couldn't find adequate space for boot camp). A high five and a wink go a long way my friends, so let's keep the positivity coming and we make our way to 2110. See you all there soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ever Let 'Em See You Sweat? I Sure Do

You know those women who can spend an hour running full-tilt intervals on the treadmill and walk out of the gym looking slightly dewy and pretty much date ready? I am not one of them.

I am a sweater—and I’m not talking about the cashmere variety here. Sure, part of me envies those ladies that merely get their glow on while working out, but the other part of me wears my sweat with pride. When I end a session looking like I just lathered myself up with baby oil, I know that I just pushed myself to the max and my sweaty sheen is my own personal badge of honour for doing so. Sweat may stink, like Holly suggested in the previous post, but it’s also our bodies’ way of showing we are working hard and (hopefully) getting results .

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Meghan Jessiman an editor at the Calgary Herald’s Swerve magazine by day and Alive Personal Training junkie by night. Just over a year ago, I decided to try a cardio kickboxing class being offered at our office gym on a whim and that is where I met Ben, one of Alive’s owners and my exceptionally enthusiastic kickboxing instructor that fateful day. The rest, as they say, is history. After a few weeks of classes at The Herald, I found the courage to drop in on a Saturday morning class to see what the gym was all about and that was that: I was hooked.

Alive was truly unlike any other gym facility I had ever experienced. Everything Holly wrote below is one hundred percent correct and it was evident upon arrival. Yes, ultimately everyone enters the gym to work on their personal health and fitness goals, inevitably however, by the time they throw in the sweat towel and head home they have engaged with a community of people that are there to support one another and, most likely, they have a had a few good laughs.

I’m not going to get all clich├ęd on you here and say that at Alive we are like one big happy family, but it is an amazing community to be a part of. These people will and do pick you up when you are down and they do celebrate your accomplishments. They do take the extra second to give you a fist bump when passing through the cardio room, notice when you get a new workout top and bust out a couple dance moves when the going gets tough. As a result, they become more than just the dude beside you in Kendra’s TRX class; they become your friends. You find yourself mysteriously looking forward to your workouts because you get to suffer through it (and reap the benefits) alongside your buddies. Not too many big box gyms can boast that claim.

I’ve already written a couple articles about what the Alive experience has done for me. In a nutshell, I found a competitive drive and an athlete laying dormant inside me once I started this fitness journey—turns out I was the fricking Mount St. Helens of cardio kickboxing. But everyday I am at the gym (and I am there an awful lot of days) something remarkable happens. Be it an achievement milestone of one of the other members, a great discussion about healthy fats or a funny story that came out of a training session, I’m going to do my best to put these experiences into words and hopefully initiate some further discussions—or at the very least thought—about why we workout the way we do and what makes our gym so unique. To those of you that know me already, I hope you enjoy the blogs to come and getting to know me a little bit better. And to those of you I have yet to meet, come introduce yourself next time you are in—I will be the girl sweating in a profuse and very unladylike way!

Photo courtesy of State of Grace photography

Friday, June 18, 2010

Yes, sweat stinks

Let me introduce myself. I am Holly Spooner and I own ALIVE personal training with my amazing husband, Ben.  When we bought ALIVE, we knew we wanted to own something special, something different from all the other gyms out there.  And now I am sure we do.  A few weeks ago we celebrated 100 lbs lost by a client.  People lose weight everyday, but what is the total weight loss?  Maybe not all people need to lose a 100lbs, but Brian needs to lose 300.  We have people at the studio that are looking to lose 5lbs or 20lbs which all seems to be average in our society.  As we crowded in the group exercise room for the party, I looked around at those that were attending.  They were all there for different reasons. Maybe they wanted to see what 100lbs lost looks like but most were there for support. 

Support is definitely under-rated.  We can carry on our daily lives and not realize  how many times in a day common gestures are made and we don't even realize it.  A smile, a wink, opening of a door, may happen everyday and we don't even realize or we misinterpret.  These little gestures are mankind supporting one another, we all co-exist in this world.  Do you experience this at your gym?  I would hope so, that is good manners!  But do you get a high five from someone walking by you mid way through a 10 K on the treadmill?  Do you Facebook your fellow gym mates to meet on the treadmill or at class?  Do ask your gym mates why their day sucks cuz they read your Facebook status?  Do you let them know that you really wanted a bag of chips or chocolate bar and your gym mates sends words of encouragement over Facebook, text or phone?  This is what my gym does.  And I am proud to be apart of it!

We go through our lives trying to be independent and it is hard to ask for help.  We have GPS instead of asking for directions, we have Google instead of asking a neighbor how to get rid of dandelions,  we join a gym because that is how we get fit.  Where do you learn what to do at the gym - do you check out YouTube videos for your workout plan or do you hire a trainer to give you a program?  Do you do that program and not ask questions like following the route on GPS that takes you through someones yard to get to your destination?  Does that trainer educate you, they should, they are the professional.  So we are able to function independently with the technology at our fingertips.  But where is the human interaction?  Does your GPS encourage you when you are driving a ridiculous route to your destination?  Does Google work beside you as you kill your dandelions?  Does the guy next to you on the treadmill ask how your day was?

Back to the party, as I watched everyone gather to celebrate the 1 year landmark in Brian and Kristy's new lifestyle,  I saw more than just a gym full of professional personal trainers and their clients.  I saw a community of people who made human connections.  There were Business Execs, Engineers, Paralegals, Healthcare Admins, Business owners, Moms, Walmart workers, Hair stylists, etc in attendance.  They all had 1 thing in common for sure - their health!  Yes they all want a healthy lifestyle and want to hang with other people who understand that it isn't easy, we don't join a gym and lose weight instantly!  It takes many sweaty hours in the gym, pushing past your limits, burning calorie after calorie and then there is the 90% of the time away from the gym - FOOD!  Portion sizes, hidden calories, eating out, cooking our own food, grocery shopping all takes alot of work to learn and make it apart of your lifestyle.  We can try on our own, research, use Google, ask your trainer but isn't it more fun doing with people?  Having someone there to hear your pain, give better restaurant choices, cheap deals on health food, planning trips with gym mates to the farmer's market is so much better!!

Sweat does stink but it stinks better when you acknowledge the person next to you has worked just as hard as you and also stinks.  Some of us stink more than others - they ask "Dude, did you eat a whole garlic clove last night?"  Or just smile and realize that they have the same goal as you - to better themselves and the last thing we should worry about in a gym is what we look/smell like.  Have you ever looked in a mirror when you are pushing our the last rep of insanely hard drill?  No and you shouldn't care!  Just smile and congratulate yourself on an amazing workout.  Guaranteed you are walking out of the gym feeling good and can hit the shower knowing you have taken care of your health.