From Polaroid to PR: Week Two

For the next five weeks, I’m working with NTC Chicago to achieve my New Year’s resolution of running a sub-1:50:00 half marathon with the help of Nike Master Trainer Kate Hiipakka and our crew. The date is set for May 18th, and I’m using Fab Fit Chicago to keep me accountable during my training. Check out my first post here. Let’s run!

Friday: Total Body at Crosstown Fitness

When I got a five-pack of classes at Crosstown Fitness, I didn’t really know what I was walking into. A friend had recommended it, and I was filling my then-funemployed days by hopping from gym to gym around the city in search of the next workout high. At Jeana’s urging, I signed up for a class with Betina Gozo, a trainer/model/bass player/all-around amazing person. I walked in, noticed the dry erase boards with different strength moves written on then, and thought to myself, “Oh. This is like a CrossFit thing, isn’t it?”

I’m not really sure why, but for me (and many others, I think), CrossFit has a stigma attached to it. Some may think it’s too intense, it’s not for women, it bulks you up, it’s dangerous and can lead to injury, it’ll make you barf or cry or possibly both… the list goes on. Now, CrossTown Fitness does not identify as a CrossFit gym (or “box”), but all this background is just to say that thanks to my (illegitimate) preconceived notions, I was intimidated before the workout even started.

Welp, that was stupid of me. The CTF workouts are high intensity and utilized circuits- not unlike an NTC class. On Friday’s workout (my fourth trip to CTF, in case you were counting), Betina challenged us to complete The 100s Workout: 100 reps each of box jumps, kettle bell swings, squat thrusts, hand-release pushups, weighted windmills crunches (holding a medicine ball, raise your torso and touch the ball to your opposite leg, and alternate), and the option to include as many pull-ups as you like. Oh, and we ran a mile too. Casual. I chose to break my workout into four rounds of 25 reps each, and I finished with plenty of time left, so I threw in some band-assisted pull-ups and an extra round of box jumps. I guess it was the green smoothie I had as a pre-workout snack…

Check out Jeana’s review of Total BodyInterested in learning more about CrossFit? Check out my friend Elizabeth Ann’s blog about her one-year CrossFit birthday and how she’s progressed from a beginner to a bonafide competitor. 

Saturday: 7.46 miles at 8:45/mile with NTC PR Crew


I think when it comes to approaching runs in weather that you know is going to be less than ideal, mental preparation is key– and I have to say, I was ready for this snowy run. The night before, I made sure to get enough sleep, and I woke up in time to chug a green smoothie before lacing my running shoes. I had decided that I was going to run the 2.7ish miles to our group’s meeting spot- I don’t trust the busses on weekends, and I figured the run would be a good warmup and would help me adapt gradually to the snow and wind. This ended up working perfectly. For this section of my run, I maintained a 8’49″/mile pace (which was helped by the fact that I didn’t hit any red lights while running from Lincoln Park to downtown), and I actually enjoyed the quiet streets and comparatively mild temperature (at this stage in winter, 24 degrees is something to celebrate).

I cruised into Kate’s apartment lobby (our meeting place), and chatted with the other girls while we waited for the whole crew to arrive. Our plan was to head north on the lakefront path, but we had to quickly go to Plan B when the path was closed. Instead, we made our way south under Lakeshore Drive (I always feel like Batman when I run that path, anyone else?), and turned around at the Adler Planetarium. Despite the cold, Kate kept us at a great pace, and I was running at a tempo where I could speak, but only in broken words and sentence fragments.

I think one of the benefits of these group runs will be that they tend to ignite my competitive side. Like, y’all know the Girls episode “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident”? Shoshanna, the best Girls character and if you don’t agree you’re wrong, accidentally takes crack and goes on a rantish monologue about kickboxing class:

“I just had like this crazy realization and I’m going to share it with you right now, okay? Okay. So I was thinking that I feel, I believe, that I can be much more awesome in kickboxing class. Maybe I could even move towards the front and people would follow me… I work hard, and I kick ass, and I’m going towards the front.”

My ego agrees with Shoshanna. I like being pushed harder, and group runs definitely do what me against the treadmill speed can’t. Our run clocked in at 4.75 miles at 8’42″/mile, despite the wind on the way back being so fierce that at one point I grabbed onto another girl for support. We celebrated our group run with coffee and refuel food at Corner Bakery, and then I came home and ate even more, something I continued doing throughout the day.

Sunday: 60 minute Spin class, Total Body at CTF

You know how sometimes when you’re driving and you have a lot on your mind, your body goes on autopilot and somehow you end up safely in your driveway with absolutely no memory of how you got there? Well, that’s kind of how my Spin class was on Monday. For some reason- lingering exhaustion from the day before, nervous thoughts about my new job starting the next day, whatever- I could not focus during this class. In fact, I could not tell you one thing about this class except that “Timber” was played. I left pretty dissatisfied and having to rush to a babysitting job.

Luckily, I had also signed up for my final CTF class of the 5-pack I had. I say “luckily,” but on the way there, I was trying SO HARD to talk myself out of going. “I should go to the grocery story instead.” “I’m really tired.” “I literally can’t imagine doing a pull-up right now.” “I’m really, really tired.” “I have laundry to do.” “I’M REALLY, REALLY, REALLY TIRED.” And so on, and so forth- to the point where I was checking bus schedules to see if there was a bus going the opposite way that I could catch. Yup, I’m embarrassed.

I’m proud to say I avoided this urge and ended up at CTF as scheduled. The workout was short but intense: 25 minutes, as many rounds as possible of box jumps, hamstring curls on gliders, v-ups with kettle bells, weighted crunches, low-high medicine ball toss, and pull-ups (ten reps of each exercise), plus a twenty-second treadmill sprint on a 5 incline, punctuated by two burpees every minute on the minute. There was A LOT going on and it was kind of chaotic, but I think that was good for my mindset because I couldn’t zone out at any point, and I made it partway through the sixth round. At the end, we did a finale round with a partner: one partner did a burpee and then mountain climbers until the other partner had completed five kettle bell swings, then switch until each partner had done eleven total burpees. Once again, “you never regret a workout” comes through in the clutch.

Monday: Barre Brawl at Barre Bee Fit 

Monday was a big day for me, y’all- I started my first official big girl job in Chicago! To get the week “kicked off” on the right foot, I signed up for Barre Brawl at Barre Bee Fit Lincoln Park. Despite the snow, the 6 am wakeup call was actually kind of welcomed because it meant that I was finally going to work soon instead of thinking about it. Also, not gonna lie- you know the moment when BBF instructors ask you to think about why you came to class this morning? I was totally visualizing myself kicking butt at new job. Cheesy, but I think it works!

The first half of class was different cardio kickboxing sequences (weights optional), and as I am not a naturally coordinated person. it took all of my concentration to executive the sequences without harming myself or the others around me. The second half was traditional barre toning, and while I snuck out about ten minutes early (didn’t want to rush to get ready on my first day of work!), I still got a great cross-training workout and an adrenaline-filled start to my day.

Side note: I forgot how sedentary I am when I’m in an office. Between jobs, I’ve been babysitting, and my Nike+ FuelBand has gotten to green an amazing 13 days straight. I’m going to have to work a lot harder to be active and earn my Fuel Points with this new job!

Tuesday: 3.5 miles at 9:34/mile

After a head-spinning first day at a new job, I was looking forward to this morning run for its meditative purposes. Sure, the air was cold, and the sidewalks were unshoveled (looking at you, Halsted and Division area), and my pace was pretty slow, but it was honestly nice to have uninterrupted time to think about the day ahead and get focused. Morning workouts always get me started on the right foot, and I felt infinitely better when I walked in my front door.

Another thing that helped? Listening to my favorite running “song,” a 54-minute mashup by White Panda called “Bearly Legal.” I love that the clips all blend seamlessly, and the mashup format helps the time pass quickly when I might otherwise be judging the length of my run by how often the song changes.

Wednesday: NTC with Kate

After this class, I’m convinced that Kate gets paid per squat. Thanks to a noise complaint from NTC Chicago’s downstairs neighbors (which cracks me up to no end), our Wednesday night workout was less plyometrics and more strength and toning. The workout was divided into sets composed of five to six exercises, each lasting for around a minute, and each set was completed twice. With a total of three sets, the 45 minutes went by super quickly and I still felt pretty energetic at the end of it. Maybe I’m better at evening workouts than I thought?

My favorite new move that we did was something I mentally dubbed “The Prone Frog”: starting in a straight plank with feet hips-width apart, we pushed ourselves back until our legs were in that notorious NTC frogger position but our upper half was still holding a plank. Then, we shifted our weight forward to our original starting point and, if you were ambitious, did a triceps pushup. I realize that wasn’t a great explanation, but next time you see me, you can ask and I’ll demonstrate it for you. I promise.

Also worth noting? The two dudes from last week’s post were back for more punishment. Overheard at one point while doing hip bridges followed by squats: “My body just doesn’t bend that way!” I gotta hand it to them, they’re troopers.

Thursday: NTC Barre

I was so excited to walk into this workout and see one of my favorite instructors from NTC Lincoln Park, Trista. Trista’s Barre classes typically follow a traditional barre format, devoting a section to arms, core, thighs, and seat and fatiguing each section until you are screaming on the inside. This class was no exception, and for the first time I’ve ever attended an NTC barre class, we had three pound weights for each girl to use as well. You won’t necessarily break a sweat, but the phrase “let it shake, let it burn” will be forever, well, burned into your mind, and your body WILL be sore the next day.

Afterwards, I stuck around to hear nutritionist Ashley Pettit speak to my PR Crew. Ashley is quite possibly the cutest pregnant nutritionist in Chicago, and she spoke to us about hydration, pre-workout fuel, and post-workout recovery meals while training for half marathons. She was incredibly helpful and answered all of our questions about working out in the morning, getting protein as a vegetarian, “race goos”, and protein powder. I definitely encourage y’all to check out her website, and if you have any questions, reach out to her directly!

Oh, and after that, our crew did a fifteen minute core workout with Kate…  because Barre class wasn’t enough for some of us, apparently. Phew.

Next Week’s Plan

Friday: Sprint workout on a track with Annette

Saturday: Six mile group run

Sunday: Mystery workout at ENRGI with Gina

Monday: Cross-training

Tuesday: 4-5 mile run

Wednesday: NTC

Thursday: NTC Barre

I’m looking forward to FINALLY having some decent weather to run in next week! How is your training going? Anyone else planning on enjoying some time outdoors this weekend? Any tips for getting to green on my Nike+ FuelBand while sitting at a desk most of the day?

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

4 thoughts on “From Polaroid to PR: Week Two

    1. Lenka, that sounds great! If our NTC crew run with Kate ends up getting canceled together, let’s definitely meet up. Shoot me a message!

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