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TaKIN' It Easy

Step aerobics and the odd man out


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 04/19/12 6:51pm         

The majority of my classes are fairly even when it comes to the men to women ratio, but as you might expect, women heavily dominate aerobics and step aerobics.

In aerobics, there are two guys who generally stay together. They kind of hide together in the back of the room during class, they talk with each other before class starts and they’re in the same group for presentations. Good for them; they stick together.

But in my step aerobics class, there is one guy — whose name I have not yet managed to catch — surrounded by approximately 50 chatty, excited girls — many of whom had previous experience with aerobics of some sort before entering the class. He told us at the very beginning that he didn’t know much about aerobics and didn’t know what to expect.

After the first couple weeks, he admitted that he was pleasantly surprised with the class and was enjoying it. We all gave him props for not dropping the class after the first week and for making the effort to really get into it, which brings me to my main point.

Thursday was his group’s turn to lead the aerobics class, and after watching dozens of exercise-based group presentations in the last couple of weeks, he’s honestly one of the best presenters I’ve seen.

I have a few reasons for this. First, his enthusiasm. Most people get up there and are nervous and less than excited to be leading the class in exercise. But he jumped up there for the first song and led the class as if he was a trained instructor.

He also had a killer attitude about the whole thing. It’s mildly intimidating for anyone to get up in front of a group of 50 people and know that their eyes are glued to you, waiting for the next dance move. But I really can’t imagine what it was like for him to go up and dance in front of 50 girls.

Maybe it’s equally as intimidating to lead a class comprised of the opposite gender as it is your own. But I have a feeling there’s at least a little difference.

In case his enthusiasm and attitude weren’t enough, his routine was awesome. It was fun, upbeat and got us to break a sweat. He clearly was having fun with it, so of course we did too. All in all, he gets a lot of credit from probably most people in the class for everything he’s done this semester.

Good for him for being the odd man out.


So you think you can bowl?


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 04/17/12 6:47pm         

No, I don’t, but I’m getting ever so slightly better than when I started my bowling class this semester.

Better might not be the best way to describe what I’m doing; instead, I’m not as bad as I was in January.

Although for the most part, I stand by my original line of thinking that bowling scores are the luck of the draw, but my mediocre improvement suggests that maybe there is a little skill involved too.

After having scores range from about 70-85 for most of the semester, I had a slight breakthrough, which led me to believe I’m improving, so I guess that comes from skill improvement.

Last Tuesday, I bowled a 98, and for — most likely — the first time in my life, I pushed my way into the triple digits with a 111 score. I’d consider this a decent improvement from my 42 and 51 scores during the first week of classes.

So maybe there’s more to bowling than I thought. Maybe it’s not simply the luck of the draw, but a combination of luck and skill. It’s only taken 13 weeks for me to realize this, but practice likely will improve your outcome, and bowling appears to be no different.

The 111 score is partially the result of bowling two strikes in a row, which I absolutely can guarantee is a first for me. So maybe I’m not the worst bowler in the class anymore, maybe just the worst on my five-person team.

Hey, an improvement is an improvement, and I’m not complaining.


Kinesiology presentations give instructors easy way out


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 04/08/12 6:40pm         

As the semester winds down, many of my kinesiology classes have required group presentations based on what we’ve “learned” in the class so far.

Compared to what usually is considered a group presentation in an academic setting — several people thrown together in an unorganized fashion procrastinating for the whole semester and finishing the project within hours of it being due — these kinesiology presentations are pretty simple.

They range from demonstrating a skill in swimming to teaching a class in volleyball to leading an aerobics class. Still, it’s pretty simple, but my concern with this method of teaching and grading is not the complexity of the task, but rather the benefits to the group presenting and the students participating.

Last semester, I was in a self-defense class, which also required group presentations. But in the class we learned practical and very helpful skills, and the presentations were more to demonstrate our understanding of the subject matter rather than to teach the class.

Unlike self-defense — where pretty much everyone in the class was there to learn and be prepared for bad situations — the people in my classes now are there to get a decent workout, myself included. The workouts have remained the same throughout the presentations in swimming, volleyball and general conditioning (and triathlon training does not have presentations), but I take issue with what happens in aerobics.

Judging by the number of complaints I hear in both aerobics and step aerobics, everyone is there for the workout, which we hardly have gotten since presentations began. That’s probably because none of us are qualified to teach the class given that our instructor is a certified aerobics instructor.

Before running a class, an instructor has to enroll in specific classes and earn a certification attesting to his or her qualifications. With the exception of a couple students, most of us are in no way qualified to teach an aerobics class, and many of us feel requiring us to is simply a cop out. Not to mention it robs us of the workout we hope to get.

Group presentations now consume the entirety of both my aerobics classes, and because we are not trained to teach aerobics, we’re lucky to break a sweat. A friend in my step aerobics class even said she now showers before class instead of after because the “workout” is the equivalent to walking.

I’m not complaining because my presentations have been disasters. They’ve actually gone pretty well — aside from a step aerobics group trash talking my group. (Honestly, who trash talks in aerobics class?)

I understand how presentations could be beneficial in some kinesiology classes, but in those where the instructor must be trained and certified, it’s become a waste of time. It’s an excuse to have something to grade in a pass/fail class, and it seems to be the general consensus that no one finds they benefit from this.


Swimming: The end all, cure all


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 03/27/12 4:30pm         

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about swimming in the last 15 years, it’s that the water can cure most anything.

Since coming back from spring break, I’ve felt a little under the weather, but it wasn’t enough to keep me out of my seven kinesiology classes. But, it was enough to make me not want to go sometimes.

There’s something about the idea of working out when you’re sick that nearly evaporates motivation. However, despite my natural instincts, I went to class.

It takes a decent amount of motivation and force to jump into a pool when feeling ill, but of course, I did. Starting my days in the water — combined with triathlon training sometimes meant nearly two hours in the pool — inevitably made me feel better if only for a couple hours.

There were plenty of times during my swimming career when I was forced to swim despite being sick on a variety of different levels. Many times, I didn’t want to practice, but after it was over, I generally always felt even just a little better. (Other times, I was kicked out of the pool for coming in sick because I thought swimming would help cure strep throat. It doesn’t).

When healthy, the gratification that comes to me from swimming is similar to that of a runner’s high — so it’s a swimmer’s high, if you will.

When sick, the instinctual movement through the water relaxes my body, and once I finished my workouts, I felt a sense of relief from my symptoms as well as a sense of accomplishment that goes hand in hand with the swimmer’s high.

With the glaring exception of a sinus cold — because water pressure combined with the sinus pressure is nearly unbearable, particularly when doing flip turns — swimming aids the recover of most nonfever related colds.

It works every muscle in your body, it helps you maintain consistent breathing patterns and I’m convinced it releases more endorphins than other forms of exercise. But maybe that’s just me. When it comes down to it, no matter how tired or unmotivated I feel before I get in the water, I ultimately feel better when I get out.

I’ve learned a lot about swimming and about myself through swimming, but one of the things that sticks out in my mind is that the water can cure most anything.


Despite the workout, aerobics classes have little music variety


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 02/27/12 5:00pm         

I’ve never been a fan of listening to music while I workout.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy music in general, but whether I’m running, biking, working in the weight room or even skiing, I’ve always been partial to the silence and instead just listen to my heart beat.

However, in terms of an aerobics class, music is a must if the instructor doesn’t want to lead the world’s most boring workout.

I have two aerobics classes — regular aerobics and step aerobics — but both are taught by the same instructor.

She plays upbeat music with a rhythm to move to, and after a few weeks in the classes, I’m learning the different choreographies for each of the songs.

Although the Black Eyed Peas and Rihanna aren’t the first artists I’d choose to workout to, in terms of aerobics and moving and dancing around, they’ll do just fine. Most of the time I’m so focused on what moves my body should be doing versus what I’m actually doing that my focus isn’t on Beyoncé and Lady Gaga blaring in the background.

And while it wasn’t too bad at first, I’ve learned quickly that Gloria Estefan might have been on to something: eventually the rhythm is gonna get you.

Recently, I’ve started to lose my mind because my instructor has been flip-flopping songs between the two classes but has different choreographies for each. So at this point, not only am I listening to “Bulletproof” every day of the week, but I’m confusing which dances go with which songs.

After I’ve had an aerobics class, I can’t help but walk around for the rest of the day singing “Run This Town” or “Boom Boom Pow” and kind of bouncing along to the beat in my head.

If I had my druthers, I’d rather have the Rolling Stones shuffling around in my head, but I guess this is a downside of taking multiple aerobics classes.

So let this be a warning to anyone interested in taking several kinesiology classes. Unless you have a high tolerance for serious song repetition — which ultimately leads to singing these songs for the rest of the day — don’t take more than one aerobics class.


Spin class offers interesting alternative to traditional biking


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 02/21/12 8:42pm         

As far as a triathlon is concerned, I have very unique taste in which activities I enjoy and which ones I don’t.

Favorite: the swim. As a swimmer — spending most of my life in a competitive atmosphere — lifeguard and former swim coach, this one should come as no surprise. But most people would rather bike or run while training or double up on one of those legs rather than swim. Personally, I’d rather swim 3.1 miles than run it.

Least favorite: the bike, or so I thought. The phrase “just like riding a bike” makes riding sound easy, as if muscle memory from your childhood will get you through a race. Not a chance.

Swimming is natural to me. Running is natural to me. But biking is a different story because you never know when you’ll hit an uphill patch that will make your legs feel like they’re on fire.

Plus there’s always the risk of falling. I’ve never had a bad fall on a bike before, but I’ve seen friends wipe out, and it’s not pretty when you’re going at a fast pace.

My triathlon training class alternates themed weeks with swimming, running, circuit training and spinning classes. And despite not being a huge fan of getting on a real bike, the spin classes are really starting to grow on me.

The lights are dimmed, the music is blasting and the class’s instructor is running the show while yelling motivating things to you through a microphone.

You have to push yourself because you have control over the speed and resistance, and yes, the all-out sprints are hard, but there are resting periods. At the end of the day, it’s totally worth it to at least try a spin class.

IM Sports-West Sports West.html offers walk-in classes as well as season passes.

Once never looking forward to hoping on a bike, spin classes changed my perspective on riding and on that leg of a triathlon. It doesn’t have to be a chore if you keep it interesting.


LIVESTRONG app aids workout record keeping


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 02/07/12 5:11pm         

In lieu of the near-excessive amount of exercising I’m doing during the week, I need a good way to keep track of my workouts and eating habits.

Since I’m always so busy and rarely home, I need something to not only remind me of the physical activity I’ve done, but also to remind me to eat enough to maintain my energy level.

So — for the first time in my life — I made an iTunes App Store purchase. Yesterday, I bought an app called “LIVESTRONG,” which allows me to keep track of each workout I do, the meals I eat and my water consumption.

Since I bought it, I haven’t been able to stop playing with it. That’s also because I’ve had a lot of workouts to enter today, but it’s still pretty cool.

LIVESTRONG keeps track of my daily schedule and can show me my progress by week or month. I can set daily reminders — probably along the lines of “Eat something” — write notes about what I eat or about my workouts, and it even comes with a “Tips for Success” section.

I’ve kept records of my workouts for an extended period of time before, but that was in high school when I spent most of my time in a pool. Keeping track of what you do will not only keep you honest, but it also will make you want live more healthfully so you can record what you do.

I’ve already seen that happen with my water consumption in the 24 hours I’ve had the app. I drink a lot anyway because of my seven kinesiology classes, but I’ve been refilling my water bottle all day so I can add more notations in the app.

Stay tuned to see how this works out.


Swimming-driven week provides great workout, severely fatigued muscles


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 01/26/12 6:49pm         

After three weeks enrolled in seven kinesiology classes, I’m doing OK.

The first week consisted of some workouts, but most of it was simply syllabus week to the extreme. (It’s not like we have textbooks to review or materials to turn in.) The second week got a bit more challenging, as all of the classes began workouts.

To summarize: triathlon training did a number on my quads, I realized general conditioning includes a decent amount of running, I love my aerobics classes, and I’m the world’s worst bowler.

I’ve been a competitive swimmer most of my life, so starting the day throwing down a few laps is one of the things I enjoy most about this ridiculous schedule.

Last week in tri training, we worked out in the weight room running circuits. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing circuits more than most things, but when I found out Tuesday and Thursday this week were going to start with two hours of swimming, I was ecstatic.

In the same way some like to start their days with a couple-mile jog or a yoga class, I’m convinced that for me personally, there’s nothing I’d rather do first thing in the morning than put in some quality time in the pool — and subsequently working every muscle in my body.

I put in 2,000 yards in my actual swimming class and added another 1,700 in triathlon training. Not too shabby for someone who hasn’t had a two-hour practice on her own team in a couple years.

Yes, I’m sore, but it’s that amazing sore feeling in my shoulders that constantly reminds me of the good workout I had. Maybe it’s a swimmer thing — as there were countless times in my swimming career when I was so sore I could hardly move — but it’s a feeling of accomplishment.

And 7,200 total yards and two trips to the pool later, I’d say this was a pretty feel-good week. And I know it’s definitely a swimmer thing, but I love carrying around a chlorine aroma.

So that was the best part of the week. Bowling was the worst.

Sure, general conditioning is a solid workout even if it’s only for 50 minutes. And yeah, they’re aerobics classes, but going to them every day Monday through Thursday can be tiring when combined with everything else. But nothing gets to me like bowling — probably because it’s the only activity in my schedule that I hadn’t really put effort toward prior to the class.

Tuesday, I bowled a pathetic 51, which actually should be lower since my instructor informed my lane that we’ve been misinformed about how to keep score. I don’t even want to know what it should be.

Thursday, I bowled a 42. This time, our scoring was correct. Turns out it’s pretty easy to do when I spent most of my time in the gutter. Enough said.

Some days I’ll be knocking out strikes and spares like it’s my job, and others the gutter is my best friend. Conclusion so far: I’m inconsistent, and bowling success is the luck of the draw, but this crazy class schedule made for a great week in the pool.


Intro to Kinesiology: The Experiment


By Michelle Martinelli          Last updated: 01/25/12 5:16pm         

It’s no surprise — and probably quite common depending on the major — that I wanted to take an easier class schedule for the second semester of my senior year.

I should preface this by telling you that I’ve taken my fair share — lots of people’s fair shares actually — of electives in my four years at MSU, some of which include criminal justice, art history, sociology, psychology, history, horticulture, religion, entomology, French and even math. Spring and fall 2011 combined for eight alone.

It’s not that I’m trying to kill time or waste money. I’ve just fulfilled all of my major requirements in the RCAH and the Honors College, but still always needed more credits. So having taken quite the variety of electives in the past — and desperate for an academic break — I enrolled in seven one-credit kinesiology classes.

It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds, and although they’re not necessarily mentally stimulating, having five of those classes on the same day is challenging and exhausting. It’s going to be an interesting experiment.

I’m probably not the first person to try a schedule like this, but nearly three weeks into the semester, it’s turning into quite an interesting and unique experience. Enter “TaKIN’ It Easy.”

Supplementing my own workout notes, this blog will help me document the 15-week semester made up of mostly workouts. So allow me to set the scene.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I’m at IM Sports-West at 9:10 for volleyball and then cross the street for a 10:20 aerobics class. Those days aren’t too bad since I’m home by 11:30 and started the day with a nice little workout.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are a different story. With all my classes stacked on right after the other with 20-minute breaks between each, I start with swimming at 9:10 in Jenison Field House and quickly rush off to triathlon training, unless that’s at the pool too. After tri training, it’s time for general conditioning, then I get a little break with bowling at the Union before it’s back to step aerobics.

I’m not really sure how this is going to turn out. I might love it; I might hate it. But at the very least, at the end of the day, I’m going to finish this semester and be in phenomenal physical shape.

Assuming I survive, check for weekly updates about how my many workouts and exercise classes are going.