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I Tried It

“What Was I Thinking?!” Tales From my First Marathon… (Plus a Giveaway!)

Written on November 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm , by

And we're off! NYC Marathon 2011 begins on the Verrazano Bridge. (Photo coutesy of NYRR & ING NYC Marathon)

Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon—was it a one-and-done thing or will I do this crazy 26.2 mile race again? Crossing that finish line I told whoever would listen, “Never again! I’m sticking with triathlons!” but, now a few days later, as my sore legs are starting to feel normal again, I find myself thinking, well maybe I’ll do it just one more time. As my editor in chief told me, “If only one percent of the population have done just one marathon, imagine doing two? That means you’re a fraction of the population—how inspiring!” Before the race, I laughed at this thought (being just one person of that one percent is pretty damn good!), but now I’m thinking, is a marathoner a marathoner after doing just one, or do you need to rack up more to give yourself this esteemed title?

This entire marathon experience has been an incredible journey from the start. Since day one four months ago pounding the pavement trying to get mileage up, to the moment I stepped over that finish line, has been a roller coaster of emotions and a lifetime of memories that I’ll always cherish. Having watched my first NYC Marathon just a year ago, I never thought I’d be one of those 47,000-plus runners out there. Only a few years ago, I had never run more than six miles, and my first half-marathon was a spontaneous thing. But marathons were for everybody else, not me, so I always told myself. Maybe NYC is a place that makes you want do extraordinary things, but watching people put their bodies through this mental and physical challenge made me want to feel what they were experiencing. And as I watched the runners in 2010 finish their feat, I knew that 2011 was my year to tackle this goal.

I had a year to mentally prepare and tell myself that I was doing this and I had four months of intense running—not to mention incredible time management to fit in all the training—to get through everything I needed to do to be prepared. I was fortunate enough to run on the Asics team with my friends in the fitness magazine industry (yes, although some of us work for competing magazines, we’re still friends!) and have Andrew Kastor (husband of Olympic marathoner, Deena Kastor) as my coach.

The night before the race, I was all ready to go.

As the days to the marathon quickly approached, I was more than ready to finally do this. As Coach Kastor said, “You’re halfway there.” The day of the marathon would be the rest of the journey. And luckily, Sunday was an unbelievably beautiful day here in New York City and we had perfect 60-degree weather. All 47,000-plus runners left their homes before the sun was even up and we huddled together on Staten Island as we geared up for the start of the race. Although starting the race more than four hours after I’d woken up isn’t ideal, it was definitely nice to have some bonding time with the people I’d be running alongside with.

The race is only beginning! Keep reading to hear about Jenna’s seven favorite things about the marathon. Bonus: One reader will win a prize in honor of her big race!

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A Weekend in the Nation’s Fittest State

Written on September 23, 2011 at 9:32 am , by

Looking awful stylish before my first fly fishing experience.

That's me, on the right, looking awful stylish before my first fly fishing experience.

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to spend an active weekend in Aspen, Colorado—basically the epicenter for the healthiest lifestyles in America. As I was reading a city magazine in my hotel room when I first arrived, it was clear that this place was different. (A resident detailed his daily routine, which started with a hike, followed by a few hours in the office, a ski break at lunch, catching up on a bit of work and wrapping it all up with a run.) So I knew I was in for a load of fun during the next few days!

The adventure crew at The Little Nell, the gorgeous hotel that hosted our group in Aspen, kicked things off right with a morning of fly fishing. While I’m no pro, the guides helped me taste a little victory—I caught two fish! (Although I have to admit, they were both less than six inches long. And don’t worry, we just released my little Nemos back into the pond.) After fueling up with a gourmet picnic lunch, I got the rest of my activity in by shopping the afternoon away.

Flying high above Aspen!

Flying high above Aspen!

Later on during the weekend, we hit the skies during a paragliding outing. I wasn’t nervous one bit until our Land Rover kept climbing, and climbing, and climbing up Aspen Mountain. We reached about 11,000 feet (more than 3,000 feet higher than our landing spot) and saw our parachutes and pros waiting for us. I started to get what you might call “Sweaty Palm Syndrome” when I saw the steep hill we’d be jumping off while strapped to a person we’d known for five minutes!


For the conclusion of my paragliding escapade and more fit trip details, click below.

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I Tried It: JumpSport Trampoline Workout

Written on June 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm , by

Jump around!

A few weeks ago, I shook up my fitness routine (literally!) and tried a 45-minute class on a JumpSport Fitness Trampoline. It may seem a little like ’80s retro aerobics, but the mini-trampoline has received a makeover—and is a great workout!

The JumpSport upgrades your traditional mini-trampoline with stretchy cords rather than metal springs (good for the less-coordinated among us who may find themselves occasionally stepping off the surface). It’s also equipped with sturdy legs perfect for supporting strength moves while you’re balancing on the JumpSport’s side, such as triceps dips or push-ups.

We started off getting comfortable with the surface area we could work with, then practiced high, bouncy jumps. And for the meat of the workout, personal trainer and group fitness instructor Abbie Appel led the class through quick, low bursts with fast feet designed to strengthen the lower half while keeping the heart pumping. Think of holding a semi-squat and bringing your knees up just a few inches before pushing them down into the trampoline repeatedly—using the springing action as resistance rather than to propel you up certainly makes the exercise more challenging!

My favorite move from the class? A ski-like hop with our arms extended straight out at shoulder height. We bounced like popcorn from side-to-side while toning our legs and obliques. But the entire class was a blast. Time to resurrect the retro rebounder!

Now tell us: Which former fitness trend do you wish would make a comeback?

Sound Off: Your Toughest Workout!

Written on June 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm , by

I consider myself a pretty fit person and given that working out is part of my job requirement, it’s no surprise for me to have seen it all and done it all. However, last week I was literally gasping for air during a boxing class with Delon Nelson of D&I Fitness here in New York City. It’s not that I couldn’t keep up (I actually have 10 years of experience with marital arts and fighting—what can I say, I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid!), but Delon’s warm up—yes his warm up—was intense! I felt like an NFL player preparing for a big game when going through drill after drill. We did jump rope for what seemed like 15-minutes straight (most likely it was just 5-minutes!), tire flips, sprints, pushup crawls, jumping jack sprints, squat jumps, training ropes…are you getting the picture?

2XU compression tights saved my legs from being totally sore!

2XU compression tights saved my legs from being totally sore!

Basically everything we did was a pylometric move to make my heart race and keep me moving the entire time. These moves weren’t just done in place either. I had to continually move from one end of the gym to the other along an imaginary line—and of course there were multiple reps. At the end of the warm up, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we put our boxing gloves on. Needless to say, the old fighter in me resurfaced and I think I kicked some good butt. Delon say’s I’ve got a nice kick!

I’m constantly doing different workouts and mixing things up, so it was a pleasant surprise to have a really tough one thrown in there. I know I’ll definitely be back to Delon because I kind of enjoyed the torture—it was that much more satisfying in the end when our session was over. So I wanted to know what other editors considered to be their toughest workout.

Here’s what my co-workers said: Read more

4 Things I Learned About Celebrity Fitness

Written on May 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm , by

Climbing the rope at Training Adventure sparks memories of gym class!

Recently, thanks to ASICS , I was lucky enough to spend a few days living (and training) like a celebrity in L.A.! A team of writers were treated to six workouts over the course of two days—and each was hosted by a different celebrity trainer. Along the way, I had four “aha! moments” about exercising like a star:

  1. Variety is the spice of life. We tried a beats-driven spinning class at Equinox, a zen yoga session with Kirschen Hagenlocher (who traveled to India with Julia Roberts during Eat, Pray Love!), a sculpting class with Jennifer Garner’s pal Valerie Waters and more. Each workout challenged our bodies in different ways and proved to us that exercise can never get boring.
  2. Improvise with what you’ve got. Surprise! Many celebrities don’t have home gyms and squeeze in their workouts outside or at their homes using furniture like coffee table for step ups and swap in bands for heavy equipment. Christopher Ross Lane, who has helped whip Valerie Bertinelli and Sara Rue into shape, showed us how to tone up outdoors with the Pro Gym in a Bag, which he uses with his clients. They also slip in plyometrics and neighborhood runs for some cardio. (Christopher also trains our pal Jillian Michaels—trainers need to be pushed by trainers too!)
  3. Take advantage of your surroundings. Have a beach nearby? Run on it! A ladder or swing set? Climb it! Just because it’s not considered “exercise” doesn’t mean it’s not a fabulous workout. This was exhibited during our amazing, fast-paced hike in Temescal Canyon, led by Michelle Lovitt, trainer to Courtney Cox, Eve and Yvonne Strahovsky from Chuck. We didn’t run once, but our heart rates were pumping the entire time. The amazing views didn’t hurt either!
  4. Victoria Beckham is more adventurous than I thought! We couldn’t stop laughing (or sweating) during our workout with Paul Vincent and his team at the Training Adventure. We flipped on mats, climbed over walls as high as our shoulders and maneuvered the monkey bars. I could picture Tom Cruise doing this to prepare for a film role (he has), but had a harder time imagining Posh Spice completing the stunt workout! But Paul claims she comes, with family in tow, and knocks out similar workouts to the Olympians he also trains. Hardcore!

Now tell us: If you could train with any celebrity, who would you pick and why?

Testing my yoga limits.

We were treated to a workout like Jillian Michaels, thanks to Christopher Ross Lane.

I Tried It: Unconventional Fitness Tools

Written on April 26, 2011 at 11:04 am , by

Photo courtesy of StreetStrider

Written by Nicole Brennan, editorial intern

Here at FITNESS, we are constantly looking for ways to switch up our routines.  Whether it’s by sweating it out at a fun new gym class, exploring a different running trail or testing out some of the industry’s latest equipment, we are willing to try it all (at least once!). Three recent finds:

  • StreetStrider. This new outdoor cardio tool combines the benefits of multiple exercises into one. It is most closely compared to an “elliptical with wheels,” and is the perfect activity when the weather is nice!
  • The JumpSport Fitness Trampoline. Want to spring into shape? This trampoline is designed with more resistance than your regular recreational tramp, making it more challenging to bounce.
  • The Body Blade. This oscillating blade is used to increase engagement of the muscles, focusing on the shoulders. It forces your muscles to contract “270 times per minute,” and can be used for physical therapy purposes

Now tell us: Have you tried any new fitness gear lately? What did you think of it?

What We’re Snacking On Now: 18 Rabbits Granola Bars

Written on March 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm , by

One of the best parts about working here at Fitness: all of the healthy treats that come across our desks in hopes of getting on our radar. We’re knee-deep in taste testing for our upcoming food awards (look for it in the July/August issue!), and amidst all the piles of good-for-you goodness, I found a new granola bar that caught my attention.

Image courtesy of 18 Rabbits

18 Rabbits is a new (ish) line of granola and bars, chock full of whole ingredients—oats, seeds, fruit, nuts, honey, etc.—and lacking in un-pronounceable additives. Not too sweet, chewy and delicious, the Nibblin’ Apricot was a perfect breakfast in a pinch, especially since it did not contain almonds—a maddening allergy that I have (seriously, do you know how few granola blends and bars are almond-free??). Check out all of the yummy flavors here.

Tell us, what’s your favorite granola bar? Any other almond-free goodies that I should know about?

I Tried It: Aqua Zumba

Written on March 21, 2011 at 10:38 am , by

While on a recent trip to Hawaii, I got the chance to visit the beautiful Hilton Kings’ Land resort for an early morning Aqua Zumba class!

Aqua Zumba at the Kings' Land resort!

Aqua Zumba at the Kings' Land resort!

What it is: All the latin-inspired, dance-fitness moves of regular Zumba but with added resistance from the water.  Our instructor guided us through the moves on dry land so we could see all of her movements. Just like in a regular Zumba class, we jumped, stretched and moved to the beat of the music — all while pushing our arms and legs through the water. (One neat trick: You can adjust the level of difficulty by closing or spreading your fingers when pushing through the water. Open fingers provide less resistance, while a flat, closed palm makes things a little harder.)

water zumba 3Who should try it: Everyone! This workout is completely beginner-friendly, but it even got my heart rate up. Plus: Being in the water makes even the fast-paced Zumba moves nice and easy on your joints.

My favorite move: The exercises didn’t have names, but I’d call this one the “Walk Like An Egyptian.”  Extend one arm out to the side, bent at a 90-degree angle with your fingers pointing down (like the back half of the famous pose). Keeping the top half of your arm lifted up away from your body, swing your hand toward your torso and then away, pushing the water away from you with a flat palm. You’ll feel it in your triceps — it gets right to that hard-to-tone “bat wings” zone.

Read more to find out how to find an Aqua Zumba class near you! Read more

My New Favorite Workout: Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Written on March 16, 2011 at 11:38 am , by

Paddleboarding off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island (That's me, third from the right)

Paddleboarding off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island (That's me, third from the right!)

Alright, so living in New York City doesn’t exactly permit me to paddleboard any old day of the week. However, I recently got the chance to tour Hawaii’s Big Island courtesy of the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, where I took the opportunity to learn how to paddleboard in their gorgeous, ocean-fed lagoon.

If you’re not familiar with stand-up paddleboarding, it’s exactly how it sounds: standing up on a surfboard while using a paddle to propel you through the water. Our guides from Hawaii Ocean Sports started our group off in the resort’s protected lagoon, which allowed us to get the hang of balancing on the board without the added challenge of the ocean waves. I was surprised to find myself engaging muscles I hadn’t used in awhile (hey there, lower calves!) and getting a pretty great ab workout as I used my core to stay upright.

When standing up on the board, your upper body does most of the work to pull you through the water. But once we started to make our way toward the open ocean, our guide instructed us to drop to our knees (first to duck under a low bridge, second to avoid falling into shallow, rocky water). On my knees it was a whole new workout — though I no longer needed to work as hard to stay on the board, being low to the water required lots of ab strength to pull my big paddle through the water.

This was, by far, the most fun workout I had in Hawaii (and I tried Aqua Zumba! More on that later…). It was amazing to be so mobile in the water, as opposed to simply riding waves back to shore on a traditional surfboard.  And, as you can see in the photo above, the scenery was unstoppable. I paddled past sea turtles and got up close to fish of every color imaginable — which sure beats my usual view from the treadmill!