Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Pure Barre Adventure

Adventure can be defined many ways but when I think of classes at Pure Barre, my definition would be: an exciting or remarkable experience.

Back in June I purchased a Groupon for 20 classes at Pure Barre (Ladue and Central West End) with a 20% off code.  This meant that I paid a total of $79.20 for 20 classes, or $3.96/class.  A single drop-in class at Pure Barre is $22 and the price per class could decrease by a few dollars if you purchase a package, but they will NEVER be as cheap as $3.96/class.  This was such a good deal that I also asked/made my friend purchase the 20 class pack so that we could go to some of the classes together.

We scheduled our first class for Saturday, July 14 at 9:30 a.m. and were told to arrive a few minutes early for a quick overview before class.  As you walk into the Pure Barre - Ladue studio you are greeted by staff, who check you in for class.  A small merchandise area and changing room is also in the lobby.

Pure Barre Ladue

Cute merchandise!

After checking in, the instructor gave us a tour and a brief orientation before class began.  A door separates the lobby from the actual classroom to help control noise.  Adjacent to the door are rows of cubbies for your personal items.  You remove your shoes, leave them in the cubbie, and wear sticky socks for class.  I have a pair of yoga socks that I wore for the first couple classes, then I ended up purchasing a pair of socks from Pure Barre as well.  They had so many cute options that I just could not resist!

Just past the cubbies is all the equipment you will need for class, neatly stacked and organized. 

The classroom itself is a large carpeted room with mirrors on two sides and ballet barres around the entire perimeter of the room. The instructor will display the equipment needed for class on either the front or side barre but you typically need a red ball, the red tubes, and a light set of weights.  The red mats shown in the picture below are brought to the center of the room by staff halfway through class for ab work and cool down.

 Below is information about the class types and Pure Barre Etiquette that I picked up at our first class.

What to wear:
  • Pants, leggings, or capris (no shorts) and a top that covers your midriff
  • Sticky socks

What to bring:
  • Water
  • Sweat towel (I seemed to be the only one, but I needed it)

What I love about Pure Barre is that even if some of the exercises were included in a previous class, every workout is different!  Over the course of my 20 classes I would start to guess what the instructor was doing next, and then I would be wrong.  This forces you to actually be mentally and physically present in class and I was always learning something new and working muscles that I hadn't before.

The class flows like this:
  • Participants are generally stretching and chatting before class while seated throughout the classroom.
  • The instructor walks in, turns on their mic, and everyone automatically stands up at attention.
  • The music starts and the instructor leads the class through a challenging warm up.  Sometimes the warm up includes more floor work than others, but it always involves planks and push ups!
  • Next is arm work with light weights.  Don't be fooled by the light weights because the arm section of class will leave your muscles burning! Before moving on you go through several stretches specifically for the muscles in your arms.  Your weights are picked up by staff as you are stretching since you won't need them for the remainder of class.
  • Up next is thigh and seat work.  Sometimes you use the tubes, sometimes the ball, sometimes just the barre.  Each class varies but once you are done with thigh and seat work, you stretch those muscles as well.
  • The red mats are brought out halfway through class for ab work and cool down.  Ab work utilizes the ball, the tubes, or just your body weight.  Sometimes participants face the instructor with their mats parallel to the front mirror, and other times all participants are facing the center of the room.  Once ab work is complete, you stretch your abs and lower back.
  • The last working section of class includes glute bridges, sometimes with the red tube and sometimes without.  The instructions for this section vary, but it's really your last chance to push yourself.
  • Then it's time to stretch!  You will notice the instructor's tone turning from energetic to quiet and calming as they lead you through a series of deep stretches.  
  • Finally, everyone claps and you wipe down everything red which includes your mat, ball, and tubes.  

The Pure Barre website is a great read if you are new to barre.  Click here to see what I mean.  You can read about some of the lingo you will hear in class by clicking here.  Your instructor will also cover the basics during your orientation. 

What I love about this section of the Pure Barre website is the "What if I am not a teeny tiny ballerina" section.  Let me explain why.  While I loved every class I took at Pure Barre, I did not feel like I fit in at first.  I was the most overweight participant in the room by far, my pants were usually from Target and not a designer brand, and I would wear a baggy t-shirt that I typically earned in exchange for volunteering at a race or an event.  I looked NOTHING like the other people in the room and I could feel that I was comparing myself to others.  At that point, I should have just told those negative thoughts to stop because no one cared what I was wearing or how far from flexible I was.  We were all there for a great workout and to improve ourselves, not judge others.  The instructors were also nothing but kind and discrete with any corrections given.  I don't know why I let myself get so worked up about not looking the part during the first couple classes, but I want to reassure you that no one is judging you and you just need to relax and enjoy the class.  I still get a little intimidated by the warm up section of class but once the class is over, I am so glad I toughed it out!

During the time we were using our 20 classes, Pure Barre - Ladue offered a special "Tuck and Glow" class that we decided not to miss.  I don't have a sufficient supply of neon clothing, but I still had an amazing time sweating under the black lights. 


My friend and I were able to use most of our classes together at the Ladue studio, which made it much more fun.  But don't let the lack of a wing-man/woman deter you.  After our package at Ladue was gone, I purchased a Groupon for five classes at the Chesterfield location.  A five pack through Groupon was $39 which makes each class $7.80....what a deal!  This studio is a bit out of the way for me, so I purchased the smallest package knowing that I would only attend class on the weekends.

The Chesterfield studio still had staff check you in and merchandise in the lobby, but the classroom itself was more rectangular and smaller.  What I really like about their layout (having previously been a space planner at an architecture firm) is that you don't have to walk through the classroom to get to the restroom, there were more cubbies for your personal items, and the hallway was more spacious which decreased congestion before and after class.  ALSO, the Chesterfield classroom has ceiling fans which is much appreciated by those of us that sweat profusely during class (I am still convinced that I am the only one that sweats buckets during class).


Both studios send informative and inspiring emails to keep you motivated and explain the benefits of the workout. 

Between both studios I have over 20 classes under my belt, but I always find the workouts challenging both physically and mentally.  I still can't make it completely through the warm-up without stopping.  I still have to stop and pause throughout class to give my shaking muscles a break.  But all of that is perfectly normal!  Pure Barre is not easy BUT it is A LOT of fun.  You won't believe how your flexibility improves, how you feel after taking a class, and how your body shakes as it improves.   Click here to find your closest studio or try Pure Barre On Demand from the comfort of your own home to see what I mean.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

MO' Cowbell Half Marathon Recap

The MO' Cowbell Half Marathon last weekend was my 51st half marathon and the 3rd time I have "run" the half marathon in St. Charles, MO.  My 2013 time would have been the best time on this course and in 2017 and 2018, I opted to mostly walk the course.  In 2017, I took a lot of pictures on the course because it was a beautiful and sunny day.  So be sure to check out the 2017 race recap for course pictures. The 2018 race was hot and steamy and started in foggy conditions, so I didn't take any pictures on the course.

What I did take photos of was the expo, which is always held the Friday and Saturday prior to race day at St. Charles Community College.  Both days offered FREE exercise classes, packet pick-up, and lots of vendors.  Even if you aren't running the race, the vendors and FREE classes would be worth your while.

Free cowbells!!!
Bumper stickers for all distances

I worked at the expo on Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the shirt pick-up area.  It was super busy, but I was pretty much in motion the entire time.  Next year I will have to remember to wear a pedometer because I swore I got in at least 10,000 steps during my shift.  

We received a lot of positive comments on the jackets this year, even though race day was too hot to wear them.  This jacket is perfect for fall and winter runs!

The drawstring bags also come in handy year-round!

On race day, I did get a few early morning photos since I arrived so early.  There is plenty of parking all around Frontier Park and downtown, but you really do have to heed the race director's warning and arrive by 6:00 a.m. or you could get stuck in traffic searching for a parking spot, leaving little time to relax and warm up prior to start time.  You also have to allow enough time to get parked so that you can be at the start line by 7:20 a.m. with your cowbell for Don't Fear the Reaper!!!  Then at 7:30 a.m. the marathon, half marathon, and half marathon relay begin with the 5k following at 8 a.m.

Start/Finish line set up

PR Bell!!!
And the medal!

No matter what the weather brings, I always enjoy this race.  The course takes you through some scenic areas of St. Charles County, the community support is awesome, great pre-race communication, training runs during the summer, you get to shake your cowbell to Don't Fear the Reaper, nice medals for all distances, you have the opportunity to pose for photos with Chuck - the mascot - who has 6-pack abs instead of udders, and the swag is always top-notch.  The 2019 date is already set for Sunday, October 6th so be sure to pen it in!!! 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Looking back on 50 half marathons

You may recall from my very first blog posts, that I started running back in 2009 while living in DC.  My first running shoes were purchased from Pacers, which is a local running store that also manages many of the races in the DC area.  While purchasing those shoes, I remember seeing signs for the Parkway Classic race, which starts at the Mount Vernon Estate (George Washington's home) and ends in a park along the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria.  It sounded like an exciting and scenic race, so I registered. I finished the race with an average 10:36 per mile pace, so I was ecstatic!!! I must have been bitten by the racing bug as soon as I crossed the finish line that day, because I remember asking myself when my next race would be.  It turned out that my next race and my very first half marathon would be that fall at the Baltimore Running Festival.

It seems like so long ago now, but I remember my mom flying out from Illinois to support me even though she had just met me for a girls weekend in Baltimore the month prior.  I remember that my only goal was to finish before the sag wagon came through.  The race itself was pretty much a blur now, but I do remember celebrating my first half marathon with carrot cake from Lexington Market.

This was the beginning of my half marathon addiction

Waiting, waiting....

I used this same fuel belt until it finally broke in early 2018!

Fast forward to 2013, and I had moved to St. Louis.  I started this blog 19 half marathons in because I was starting to forget which year I had run a particular race and the details were all starting to blur together.  This blog was really created as a way for me to remember the details of each race from that point forward.  My mother was my only reader for the longest time and my early reviews were pretty short and had no real format until I started networking with other bloggers. I took pieces of what I liked in their blog posts and avoided incorporating anything that just didn't fit my own blog.  I also found the BibRave website, which was designed to be like Yelp for race reviews.  As I read race reviews from other runners, I learned more about what made a race review helpful for other runners and then I started replicating that.

As my blog grew, I would email local races to see if I could help promote their race or write a race recap in exchange for a free entry.  To my surprise, it worked a few times! That process is how I came to be a MO' Bassador for the MO' Cowbell races in St. Charles, MO.  They were seeking runners to help promote their race, so I applied and was one of their original MO' Bassadors.  As more MO' Bassadors have been added over the years, I have learned more about races than I ever knew before.  Some of us had run Disney races, some were trying to run a half or full marathon (sometimes both) in every state, some schedule back-to-back races, some run for swag, some run for medals, some run as an excuse to travel.  Their race experiences provided a wealth of information and also fueled my desire to continue running half marathons.  And that's exactly what I did - I kept running races.  In April I finished my 50th half marathon in Nashville, Tennessee and in October, my 51st half marathon will be the MO' Cowbell Half Marathon.

Even after 50 half marathons I am still superstitious and NEVER wear my race shirt on race day.  I force myself to earn it first.  I keep things the same as much as possible race-to-race, which is why I kept using the same fuel belt for 9 years until it finally broke and the reason why I have a gps watch that is absolutely massive on my wrist.  But if it ain't broke, don't fix it!  I still get nervous, especially at large half marathons.  Every race day I hope that my training was enough and typically wish that I would have done just a little more.  Then as soon as I cross the finish line, I am already thinking about my next race.

But through plenty of injuries, some health issues, major fluctuations in weight, and paces that vary widely, I still love the thrill of completing a half marathon.  My motto for this blog was that if I can do it, you can too and I still find that to be true.  I am pretty sure that I am the slowest MO' Bassador by far and I could let that discourage me, but I still get out there and finish a race regardless of my pace.  So get out there and try a race in your area!  You never know where it may lead you (literally - I never look at the course before a race) and it may just start an addiction for you too.....

Half Marathons by Year:

Baltimore Half Marathon

National Half Marathon (now a Rock 'n' Roll race)
Frederick Half Marathon
Pacers Running Festival Half Marathon (defunct)
Heartland Half Marathon (defunct)
Baltimore Half Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Half Marathon

Walt Disney World Half Marathon (part of the Goofy Challenge)
Illinois Half Marathon
500 Festival Mini Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis
U.S. Air Force Half Marathon

Disney Princess Half Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll USA Half Marathon
Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon
Monumental Half Marathon

Alton Half Marathon
GO! St. Louis Half Marathon
Roots, Blues, and BBQ Half Marathon
MO' Cowbell Half Marathon
GO! St. Louis Halloween Half Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon
Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Disney World Half Marathon (Dopey Challenge)
Innsbrook Adventure Max Half Marathon (defunct)
Southern Illinois Spring Classic Half Marathon
GO! St. Louis Half Marathon
Rock the Parkway Half Marathon
500 Festival Mini Marathon
YMCA Schoolhouse Rockin' Half Marathon
River Town Run Half Marathon
Disneyland Half Marathon (Dumbo Double Dare)
Roots, Blues, and BBQ Half Marathon
St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon
Monumental Half Marathon
Litchfield Route 66 Half Marathon (defunct)

GO! St. Louis Half Marathon
St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Illinois Half Marathon

Illinois Half Marathon
500 Festival Mini Marathon (part of the Mega Mini Challenge)
Race 13.1 Half Marathon
Vine to Wine Half Marathon
MO' Cowbell Half Marathon
Monumental Half Marathon

Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll DC Half Marathon
GO! St. Louis Half Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll Nashville

Or click here for half marathons by location.

Stay tuned for my MO' Cowbell Half Marathon race recap in October!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Volunteering at Race 13.1 - St. Louis

I first volunteered for Race 13.1 in 2016 as a course marshal.  In 2017, I was a race sweeper for the half marathon with a fast runner friend of mine.  In 2018, there was supposed to be four of us sweeping until I got injured the Thursday before race day.

Only me!  It was an accident waiting to happen really. 

The couple weeks prior to the race, I had noticed that my legs were just extra tight every time I would stretch after an Orangetheory class.  Every time I noticed the tightness, I would think about taking a yoga class or doing some extra stretching during the week, but neither of those thoughts ever became a reality.  So when I tripped on my sandal going up the stairs at work, I immediately felt a pull in my left calf.  The result was a pretty significant limp which meant NO Race 13.1, not even the 5k distance they offered.

I was completely bummed about not being able to participate in the race and I also mad at myself for not following through on my initial thoughts about extra stretching.  I could have let myself be depressed about it and avoiding the race entirely, but I decided to volunteer on race day instead.  I still wanted to be part of the race day action and I also wanted to see my friends take off from the start line, so volunteering at race day packet pick-up allowed me to accomplish both of those things PLUS get a free t-shirt!  I guess that's what you call making lemonade out of lemons.

Back when I signed up for the race, I also signed up for the Saturday packet pick-up volunteer shift.  When I got injured last week, I signed up for the exact same duties on race day too.  Both packet pick-up shifts went really well.  Race 13.1 is very good at communicating with racers leading up to race day.  Most participants had the email with their bib number pulled up and ready to go but if they didn't, it only took a matter of seconds to look them up.  It was a very quick and easy process from the volunteer perspective and the participants seemed pleased with the quick in-and-out for packet pick-up.  On race day, the line was a bit longer at times but the process still ran incredibly smoothly.  My volunteer shift ended at 7:00 a.m. but as I walked back to my car, I passed the finish line and noticed that they needed more volunteers.  At that point, I decided to stay and help pass out medals.  It was hot and the finish line was completely in the sun, but the DJ played amazing tunes (Ice Ice Baby and Bye Bye Bye had me dancing and singing) and the time just seemed to fly by.  Before I knew it, my sweeper friends crossed the finish line and the race was over!

I really enjoy volunteering at races because it not only gives you a behind-the-scenes perspective, but it also makes you appreciate all of the work and planning that goes into a race of any distance.  It doesn't matter if it is a company that has races all over the country or a local run raising funds for a charity.  You are guaranteed to meet some amazing people and learn something new during your volunteer experience.  So go volunteer at a race near you!!!!

Race day packet pick-up before the rush
5k runners waiting to start