Empower Fitness Lab – HIIT Box

This place. This place knows how to ave fun. But let me back up for a second. So, I signed up for a class through class pass, and then last minute had to cancel because something came up. I called to see what could be done, and was prepared for them to be like, your shit out of luck and you owe up $15 for canceling late, but that is not even remotely what happened! The guy that answered the phone, was like no biggie, we will try to recredit the class and if you don’t see a credit back within the week just give us a call and we will go ahead and sign you up for a free class anyways. So about 4-5 days pass and I get a text saying, don’t forget to sign up for your free class! I was like OKAY! YAY! Here is the date I want and I was all signed up again. No harm no foul.

I really wanted to try their HIIT (high intensity interval training) Box class. They also have HIIT Yoga and HIIT Strength I think … and maybe some others, but I wanted to try the boxing one. I signed up for a Thursday 5:30 PM class and got there about 20 min early for the typical paperwork and first time run down stuff. I found a parking spot, but the shopping center it was located in was pretty crowded, so I would imagine it may get pretty tough to park at certain times of the day. As soon as I walked in I was greeted, very energetically I might add, by like 4 people. I filled out the little waiver thing and then was shown the ropes. I was also given a heart rate monitor to put on for the class.

So I found out that the person who like started Orangetheory Fitness branched off and started this after he left Orangetheory. I don’t know the full story, but I could see some resemblance like with the heart rate monitor and ‘scoreboard.’ There are a few screens around class and you are suppose to stay in a certain color with your heart rate and you get points based on the time you spend in each zone and you are ranked in the class. Not sure if I really care about the scoreboard though. I mean I am going to workout the same intensity whether I see my points on a screen or not. Some people may really like seeing that though.

Anyways, the workout was half on the floor and half on the treadmill, but not a normal treadmill. It is one of those curved treadmills that you propel it by how fast you run. So the faster you run, the faster the belt moves. So half of the class is spent on that and you go through intervals that the instructor calls out. So there is you base pace, which is basically walking, then a faster pace that I don’t remember the name and then your all out sprint. So he may say, 1 minute base pace, 3 minute middle zone and 30 second all out sprint. You go through various intervals for about 30 minutes, then switch with the group on the floor.

On the floor we spent 15 minutes doing intervals of free weights, TRX bands and the rowing machine. Then the last 15 minute segment is spent on the punching bag doing various punching combos and other workouts like jump squats and lunges. We ended class with a couple minutes of stretching and that was that!  It was basically a middle ground between Sweat 1000 and Orangetheory. I was not a fan of Orangetheory, but I am obsessed with Sweat 1000. If you have class pass, I recommend checking it out. The atmosphere and staff was amazing and the workout was great too. Definitely something a bit more unique.

For more information on Empower Fitness Lab visit http://www.empowerfitnesshouston.com/ or follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/empowerfitnesslab/ and Instagram at @empowerfitnesslab

Camp Gladiator

One day I was working out at the little gym at the apartment complex that I live in and towards the end of my workout, one of the others guys that was in the gym stopped me and was like, “Have you ever heard of Camp Gladiator?” He said the workout I was doing that day reminded him of it and that I should go with him one day, so I took him up on that offer.

Camp Galdiator is typically 4 weeks of unlimited workouts, for all fitness levels, led by a personal trainer at various locations. When you sign up you can go to any location as much as you like. The workouts are 60-minute long, total-body workouts done in a group class format. I joined Mariano on a Wednesday morning at 5:30 AM at the River Oaks location which is in front of the lululemon in Highland Village. The workouts are done outside in the parking lot and the only equipment required is a mat.

McKenzie was our trainer that morning and can I just say, I almost bailed before I even got there because that morning was 45 degrees and raining… I am so proud of myself for just showing up. Anyways, there were about 15 or so people at class that morning, which was apparently a light crowd, probably because most people aren’t as crazy as me and would prefer to stay bundled up in a warm bed for a few hours longer.

Anyways… We started the workout with 3 laps around the stores then some other light cardio for the warm up, like high knees and hip raises, and a bit more jogging. After we finished the warm up we really got to work. I would describe is best as a HIIT (high intensity interval training) style workout. The first round went something like this:

In and out squats – 20

Hip raises/bridges on the mat – 15

Star Jumps – 10

Sprint to cones and back

5 min on repeat

All out 30 sec burpees to reach your maximum burn out

We did that 2x then did another round of other exercises in the same type format. Classes ended with 1 all out spring around the parking lot, then abs and stretching before taking a group photo and heading home to unthaw.

Camp Gladiator_River Oaks_Group.jpg

I really enjoyed McKenzie’s energy, especially at 5:30 in the morning. The group I was working out with was also really nice. Everyone was high fiving and there were a few partner exercises that we would do while also answering a question about ourselves. For instance, we were asked to tell the other person how we spent Thanksgiving while we were facing each other doing high knees and like high fiving … okay this sounds really corny, but I don’t really know how else to describe it…

Overall I really enjoyed class. It was definitely a good workout, but just tons of cardio and lots of squat jumps. My quads were pretty damn sore for the next few days. I think what I liked most about it was the group accountability aspect. I would think if you go to the same class/location consistently for 4 weeks then you would form a pretty close group of friends from it.

If you are interested in trying a free session, just look up a Camp Gladiator Trainer near you and ask to join in a class just to try. McKenzie was more than happy to have me there and not pushy at all about joining which is refreshing.

Camp Gladiator_River Oaks_McKenzie

You can find out more about Camp Gladiator at https://campgladiator.com/ or follow McKenzie at https://www.facebook.com/cgtrainermckenzie/

Avenu Fitness

Nicest owner ever. Let me just start with that! Not only was the owner insanely generous and helpful, the entire staff was welcoming. LOVED my week at Avenu Fitness. I reached out to Avenue Fitness via Instagram and it took them a bit to get back to me, but once they did, I got treated like a VIP. I was instantly connected with Brent, one of the owners, and told him I had a fitness blog and wanted to try them out! He was so gracious and invited me over for a cup of coffee, on him, at their in house coffee shop where they serve delish Boomtown coffee. He gave me a tour of the facility which is broken into two separate buildings with a interior shop in between that’s separating them. To the right is the fitness/training facility that has free weights, machines, TRX bands, medicine balls, sliders, etc. etc. and to the left is the pilates studio.

All of the workouts at Avenu Fitness are 30 minutes long and guided by an instructor. Brent shared with me his vision for opening this gym and it seems like he has really made his dream come true. Brent and his wife have owned Avenu since 2006 (if I remember correctly) and really wanted it to be that place for those people who are ‘too busy to workout’ to come in, get a killer workout and be out the door in 30 minutes. Right now they have only one location and it is smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood in West U. Very convenient for anyone living in that area, but still really easy to get to if you live elsewhere.

I was set up with a Pilates class with Meagan at 5:30 Monday morning followed by a discovery session with Kay, then I attended a community conditioning class on Tuesday at 6:00 AM that Brent led, and finished off my time at Avenu with a training session with Angie on Thursday at 6:00 AM. Avenue is definitely a place for the early riser. In fact, their last session starts at 6:00 PM because one of the things that was important to them was to be able for, not only them, but their trainers to be able to have a life outside the gym. Most trainers burn out within 2-3 years because they are working from 5 AM – 10 PM at most places and it leave little room for them to have a life outside the gym. Brent mentioned that majority of the trainers have been with them for around 10 YEARS! That alone should prove to you that the community at Avenu is bar none.

Let’s talk about the workouts now. The pilates class with Meagan was good. I have to say the one I took at HIP Fitness was more intense, but It was also 2x as long. We were on the reformer for all of the class which is still a very new piece of equipment for me so I was a little like a baby elk all wobbly and off balance, but Meagan helped me get into correct form and provided a great workout in 30 minutes.

I met with Kay after class for my discover meeting which really got my week started off on the right foot. The discovery session is just a few minutes of chatting about your goals and motivations and trying to identify areas that may need improvement. Where do your weaknesses lie and how can we work on strengthening them to make your overall health and wellness better. That is one thing I was really impressed with about Avenu and it was that they cared about overall health and wellness, not just fitness. They want to find out what those triggers are that have held you back prior to coming to Avenu instead of just prescribing you with fitness classes in hopes that you reach your fitness goals.

Something really cool that Brent does is a community conditioning class every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 AM that is open to the public and free to attend. When I went on Tuesday, there were 7 of us, outside running sprint intervals for 30 minutes and that was it! Simple yet effective. Every session is a bit different, with different drills, but all just quick, simple conditioning work.I will definitely be attending more of those sessions and bringing along more friends, as long as I can get them out of bed that early that is!

Thursday finished off my week with my fitness session with Angie. All I can say is that half hour FLEW by and my hamstrings and lower abs were SO sore for the next 2-3 days. The training sessions are all started on the half hour so as long as you show up on the half hour or hour you can jump in at the beginning either with a specific trainer one-on-one or with a small group. I was grouped with 2 other ladies who showed up the same time as me and we all went through the same exercises then were out the door and on our way in just 30 minutes. Pricing for the sessions depend on if you want to have a one-on-one or group session. A single one-on-one session is $55 and small group session is $35. All pricing is listed on their website.

If you want personal training in 30 minutes at a gym where people actually care about your health and well-being, then I highly suggest Avenu. I didn’t mention this, but when I walked in on Thursday, I think like 10 people all shouted hey to me! It was like I was walking into a group of old friends and just felt welcoming.


For more info on Avenu Fitness visit http://avenufit.com/ or follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/avenufit/ and on Instagram at @avenufit

Nutrition 101

This blog focuses mainly about fitness and exercise, but without this VERY IMPORTANT piece of the puzzle, you will never truly be healthy. Here is the cold hard fact. That saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen,” is the absolute truth. You will never ever ever be healthy from just working out. If your diet is crap, you will never achieve your fitness goals.

Now, I am not a nutritionist, I have no license or degree to tell you how you should be eating, but take it from someone who has spent her life trying every conceivable diet out there, diets don’t work. There is no simple cure or quick fix. Being healthy is a lifestyle choice. Did you catch that? LIFEstyle choice. Not a 2-week detox or cleanse, but a lifetime of healthy decisions. And I can promise you one thing, the less crap you choose to eat the less you’ll actually crave that crap.

Just like with exercise, if it’s not convenient and you don’t enjoy doing it, then you won’t stick with it, and remember I said earlier that your nutrition and fitness is a lifestyle, not a diet that you only stick to periodically. There is no quick fix.

Let’s get one thing straight. I am not telling you that you can never eat cake, or cookies, or candy again … in fact, I am going to eat a small piece of cake tonight, but do so in moderation and if possible, eat something that is homemade and not processed with tons of chemicals and junk you can’t pronounce. Here is my rule: 80/20 – 80% of the food that goes into my mouth either comes from a mama or grows from the ground, the other 20% is where I treat myself 🙂 You noticed I didn’t say “cheat meal?” If you use the “cheat” word when talking about food, I want you to take that word out of your vocabulary right now. “Cheat meals” or “cheat days” are basically telling your body and mind that you are doing something wrong. You are “cheating” on your diet. But everything you choose to put in your mouth is just that, a choice. If I want to eat sweet potato fries then I am allowing myself to eat them. I am not cheating because it is my choice. The key, here, is moderation!

If your head is spinning from doctors and nutritionists telling you how to eat, don’t worry, you are not alone. One day eggs are good for you, the next they are the devil, but then egg whites are deemed okay, but then yolks are okay too again, that is until the next study comes out saying that eggs will actually make you grow and extra toe or a horn in the middle of your head if you keep eating them. It’s confusing to say the least, but here are some simple tips that I follow that will help you out when figuring out what to eat:

  1. If it doesn’t grow from the ground or come from a mama, don’t eat it.
  2. If you want to eat dessert, try to make it homemade instead of a packaged good.
  3. If you buy packaged goods, look at the ingredients and if you can’t pronounce the ingredients or have no earthly idea what they are, put it back.
  4. In fact, if it has more than 5 ingredients, put it back.
  5. Shop the exterior of the store as much as possible. Isles are typically filled with all the processed junk.

Here are some more things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t forget the 80/20 rule I mentioned before. 80% of the time your nutrition should be on point the other 20% enjoy something a little naughty 😉
  2. Everybody’s body is different so find what works for you and STICK WITH IT!
  3. Instead of letting others bring you down, bring them up. You will always have that one (or two, or 10) person that questions why you order a salad (dressing on the side) instead of a burger with fries. If a healthy lifestyle is what you are truly seeking, don’t let others discourage you. Instead, explain to them why you are doing what you are doing and how it would be a benefit for them to try a healthier option on occasion as well. One of the most important things you can do to improve your health is to surround yourself with people who are going to support your decisions and make it easy for you to stay on track. Again, I am not saying you can never eat a burger and fries ever again, I LOVE burgers and sweet potato fries, but I don’t eat them everyday and when I do, I may only eat half and bring the other half home for another tasty meal later in the week.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. We are all human and our primal instinct is to grab food and shove it in our mouths in order to survive. We are all a work in progress so enjoy the journey, slip ups and all.
  5. Most importantly, LOVE YOURSELF & YOUR JOURNEY!

Running…Jogging…or just walking

So I mentioned my hatred for the treadmill in an earlier post, and that statement still reigns true, but running (more like jogging/walking) outside is something I actually really enjoy, most days.

I figure if I am going to talk about all the different types of workouts available, then running should make the list. Why? Well, for starters running is a great workout for your entire body, it is fantastic for building up endurance, and it is practically free, minus the purchase of some good running shoes, and I do recommend investing in a good pair of running shoes. I’m obsessed with Brooks when it comes to running shoes. You can order a pair, wear them for 90 days, and if at the end of 90 days you don’t like them you can return them even if they are covered in dirt and sweat. I was having pretty bad knee problems with my Nikes back when I was training for the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon last year and when I switched to Brooks, it made all the difference. My preference is Brooks for running and Nike for cross training. I digress…

Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon
After finishing the New Orleans Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon in 2016 with my bestie Amanda

Running is also a great break from digital life, which I think is critical to our health. When I run, I ditch the iphone and just think. Even if you need your iphone for music when you run, you still can’t answer a text or call or scroll through social media, unless you are really coordinated, in which case, mad props to you! It’s nice to just get out in the fresh air and lose yourself in your thoughts.

The other wonderful thing about running is you can mix it up depending on your mood. Feel like pushing yourself? Add distance or some sprints into the mix. Are you having a “bleh” day? Go for a shorter jog or even walk it off. You don’t have to run at the same monotonous pace for miles and miles to get results. Mix it up!

I have a love/hate relationship with running in Houston though. There are plenty of parks and bayous to run on without vehicles getting in your way which is fantastic for those of you who like to fight traffic and drive to a place just to run. Me, on the other hand, I would rather save the drive time and just walk out my door for a jog. I run along Kirby Drive which has decent sidewalks, crosswalks with lights at major intersections and okay lighting in the evening, however, there are a lot of neighborhood streets without traffic lights and crosswalks that you have to watch out for and I did have one scare when I was running at dusk where I was approached by a man and literally sprinted out of the way because It made me feel very uneasy.

Anyways … to make my point, running can be just as effective for getting in shape and becoming more healthy as many of the other workouts I will be writing about in this blog. I’ll say this again and again, fitness should be about doing something you love and actually look forward to doing. If you dread the thought of lacing up your running shoes to go for a jog, then you probably arn’t going to stick with it and only discourage yourself from future workouts. Find something you love to do and the rest will fall into place!