Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Butt-Blasting Beach Beating

Whether you need an excuse to head outdoors on a cloudy day to workout or you have some body parts that aren't ready to go bikini bare as we zoom into swim season, there's always a will and a way to get beach body ready. And in Chicago, that couldn't come in better form than a free Memorial Day workout on the beach thanks to Core Fitness and its Beach Body class at North Avenue Beach. The class kicked off at noon--perfect for anyone wishing to sleep in on a day off or squeezing in a workout before an afternoon BBQ, or as yesterday would have it before rain clouds covered Chicago and washed away any sort of outdoor plans--and the usual $20-per-session fee was waived, appealing to both my unscheduled laze-away day and perpetually penny-pinching wallet.

Rarely--and by this I mean once--do I use the beach as a training tool but Core Fitness proved me wrong during Beach Body. Not only did I not care about sand sticking to my sweaty limbs and running down my shirt and pants, but it worked me out far more than an elliptical session covering the same amount of time could and would. The sand can be great to lay on to catch some Vitamin D rays, but it's even better for providing a butt-blasting, gut-wrenching workout. Or I'm just really out of shape (which I don't deny after plenty of lackluster workouts all winter, constant failures at Vision Quest cycling classes and a bonk at Saturday's race).

Plus all of those moves I always tell myself I should do to give myself a better workout--lunges, sit-ups, push-ups, yoga moves like plank and side plank, and even basic stretches I'll talk myself out of (bad me, I know)--are covered and there's no escaping their wrath. You'll be corrected by the Core Fitness trainers if you do it wrong and encouraged--or yelled at depending on how you look at it--by them if you skip out and quit. It's not easy or for the weary, but if you're looking to get fit fast or get fit and fast, this'll do it. The sprints kicked my legs in gear and made me feel every ounce of Saturday's run and Sunday's bike ride. The push-ups left my arms on fire, while my abs thanked me for the sit-ups. My hips, especially my right half-injured one, are feeling the mountain climbers, lunges and side shuffles. But no complaints because trust me, I needed the workout.

Reluctant to go at first because of the forecast of rain on the horizon, clouds covering the sky and chilly temperatures that had me wishing I could rewind to Saturday, I honestly was shocked to see the crowd already gathered at the meeting spot when I arrived and how many kept coming in the minutes afterward. A cloudy day doesn't stop this group--nor is it limited by age and gender. A long line of us ran through Lincoln Park on the way to the beach, kicking off the workout by jogging single file for half the distance then picking up the pace with the last runner in line sprinting to the front until we reached the beach, something about an Indian and running but I missed the exact term. A little chaotic when some runners surpassed others--I think I screwed it up when I saw I was last in line and took off toward the front--but good for getting the blood rushing. We hit the beach, dropped our gear and shed our shoes, and within moments, Mike from Core Fitness has us lining the beach to start the first part of the challenge, dynamic stretching. We're sprinting from one set of cones to another, adding other elements like skips, knee grabs, lunges, grapevines and shuffles to spur the joints into action. Then we're adding down dogs with foot stretches to the sky, cobra to stretch out the back and neck, mountain climb lunges that stretch out the hip flexors--think feel-good pain.

Next step, if my mind serves me correct, it's time to add perpetual motion to the training. Now we're sprinting then doing drills to work the rest of the body. Definitely not something I'm used to, both in getting friendly with the sand as I throw myself onto the ground seven times before sprinting back to the cones to hold in plank or Superman stretch, or really anything that starts to inflict achiness after holding it repeatedly. Later we were introduced to funny running--if only it merely consisted of laughing through a workout, ha. Take your usual running but mix it up by putting your hands on your head, running backwards, or partnering up to hold hands as you sprint back to start. Good news is you do get breaks between exercises, and sometimes they can't come fast enough. And that's especially true before the last round of cardio jolts. Think Simon Says kicked up a notch for this one. We're shuffling from left to right, sprinting forward and back, depending on the hand signals we see from Mike. Just as we start to shuffle right it's time to move left or we're sprinting forward about to run out of sand when we're directed to run backward then side to side. There's a time limit attached and in between the shuffles we're down in the sand doing push-ups, sit-ups, or mountain climbers before moving through the routine again. Note to self: I need some help with my push-ups and need to watch those around me before not following suit with my sit-ups or mountain climbs. Oops.

Anyone would love the last few minutes of class. After dropping to the sand and standing as many times as we can in a minute, it's time for cool down. Forget the blood-rushing, endorphin-inducing drills we just went through, lay down in the sand and simply concentrate on breathing. I felt like a disco ball was spinning above me at first--I think as a result of all the ups and downs and side to side motion my body just went through--but what a good wind down. And definitely something I'd want to do again, especially for all the core benefits I often ignore. Good for cardio, muscle toning, stress relief and more, who can complain about a little grunting in the sand? The 6 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday option might kill me--and send me straight back to bed rather than energize my day--but the class also meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Talk about an easy way to whip into shape and at no greater location than the beach. And among the Memorial Day Weekend activities I mentioned not to miss--Beach Body is easily among the top three if I were to rank them. Find out more information about the class by visiting Core Fitness' website at www.corefitnesschicago.com, or check out some of the other choices bound to whip you into shape. Photos taken by Core Fitness trainer Cortez--thanks for using my camera while busting my butt. Posted by Kate

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