Fitness tips from the new MisFits

Jul 03, 2014

The MisFits column has been bringing us local fitness news, tips and tricks for seven years now. Most recently Vicky Hallett and Lenny Bernstein made up our writing team, but with Lenny’s move to The Post’s To Your Health blog, we’ve decided to flex our fitness muscle. Starting this week, our MisFits crew will consist of five writers with a variety of backgrounds: a mom trying to juggle work and kids and life, a beginner just starting to figure out a fitness routine, a running addict looking for a sub-four-hour marathon, a high-energy fitness instructor and a veteran fitness writer with her finger on the local scene.

Hey everybody, it's been a long time since we've done a MisFits chat! But that just means you have lots of questions waiting for us, right? Let's get started...

Any suggestions for a 45-min workout I can do at lunch WITHOUT getting sweaty? Would like strength and cardio options if possible. I just don't want have to waste another 20 min showering, changing, drying hair, etc. I can get to and from my gym pretty quickly.

Don't take one of Danielle's classes! :) Her lunch workouts always leave me completely drenched.

I think cardio is going to be a tough one for you. But resistance training is definitely possible. Barre studios often promote the fact that all of those little pulsing movements will leave you sore, but not overly sweaty. That lunch break could also be a good time to work on stretching/flexibility/ foam rolling. None of that will get you too gross, but it's important stuff to get into your routine.

Thanks for the shout out Vicky :) I agree that barre is a great option, as is strength training. Pick 4-5 weightlifting exercises and do a circuit for three rounds.

'Cause it's a lot.

I'll guess -- 315 pounds!

Gym reviews, will you ever do them? Sometimes I see new cycling studios are opening up around D.C. and I want to know if they are worth the money to check out.

Not sure if we'll start doing reviews exactly, but in Express' weekly Fit section, I try to keep up with gym/studio openings and let people know what places are like. Are there any cycling studios in particular you're curious about? If we've been, we can tell you our thoughts. (And anyone reading can feel free to chime in too...)

Getting in a work out in the middle of the day. Yay or nay? I find coworkers that to it certainly take off more time for lunch that others.

Yes, a daytime workout is a great idea if you can swing it. It's a great way to break up all that sitting at your desk and get the exercise under your belt, so to speak, for the day. In the summer though, best to do it indoors if you can -- and find a shower. Your office mates will appreciate that!

This may be easier to get away with as a fitness writer, but wet wipes and a fresh set of clothes can be a speedy shower substitute.

I just wanted to say thanks overall for the MisFits column - have greatly enjoyed the subject matter and the writing. I think this new format will be terrific and I am very eager to follow all of the different views. I'm a working mom, so I can relate there. I've always been a back-of-the-packer, but have greatly enjoyed running as my "me time," and have run a few half marathons relatively recently and even a marathon back in the day. After a two year absence from regular running, however (letting life's stresses get the better of me), I want to build back up, but even a mile seems daunting. How can I get both my head and my body back in the game? Nike's phrase of Just Do It comes to mind, but I'm not finding it that easy to start over. Help!

It's great that you want to get back into running. My advice is to start where you are: It's almost like a clean slate for you. It won't do you any good to try and compare to how you were back in the day. Instead, it's a new opportunity. So, try to run once around the block, then walk once around the block. Or, run for one minute, then walk for two minutes. Eventually, flip it and you'll begin to find your groove. Good luck!

I'd also suggest maybe buying a really cool pair of running shoes? You don't necessarily have to drop a ton of $$, maybe find some on sale for $50. Then you'll feel guilty about not giving those suckers their due!

(of course it's important to get running shoes that fit well, and suit your running style)

Should I get a personal running coach for my first marathon?

You know, there's different schools of thought on this one. Many folks say yes, especially if you have a particular goal in mind (such as running a 4:00 time) or if the course is really hilly or has unique challenges. Plus, training with someone means having good company and a great form of accountability.On the other hand, it's already a financial investment to run a marathon and a coach can be a major cost. Plus, there are so many apps out there that are of great assistance. When I was training for my first marathon in Buenos Aires, I used RunKeeper and that app is fantastic. The Nike App is also very good. Plus, google Hal Higdon. He is the spiritual father of all marathon runners and he has training courses for any type of race. Best of luck to you! Completing a marathon is a major accomplishment!

what is all this talk about a gym tax?

So, it's a 5.75 percent tax on gyms/fitness centers of all kinds. (It's been called the "yoga tax," so I think some people think it's just yoga.) And it's slated to go into effect January 1, despite a really huge effort on the part of the fitness community to fight it. There were burpee fences, outdoor fitness protests, signs posted all over big gyms...

But, at least for now, it sounds like it's happening.

I wish. There's just not enough time, and it's not acceptable in the culture of my workplace to take a long lunch :/ Is there anything that's possible in like a 30 minute time span (and that won't require a whole shower routine after?)

When I'm in a time crunch, I usually do a 20 minute strength routine with 3 rounds of push ups, bicep curls, rows, tricep extensions, dips and assisted pull ups. It's just enough to feel like I actually did something, without getting drenched in sweat. 

Trying to exercise in the heat is quite a taxing effort. I ran this morning and got a late start, so by mile 2,  I was already exhausted. Aside from getting up earlier (runners are all about the sunrise runs), what ways are you doing to get your workouts in while trying to stay cool?

Any ideas on a good desk workout?

Hmm...if you can swing it, you should try sitting on a stability ball at your desk to keep your core engaged (great for the abs). You could also use ankle weights and do leg extensions in your chair.

I loved an article about running with dogs from a few weeks ago. Any ideas on running trails around here that would be safe for it? I live in the urban NW and dont want to be crossing lots of streets while also running with my dog.

There are definitely trails in Rock Creek Park that could work. Between 7 a.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday, Beach Drive above Blagden Ave. gets closed to cars, and there throngs of people running, cycling, so it can get a bit hectic, but there is also a fair amount of room on the sides of that road, and lots of woodsy trails that criss-cross it.

The Capital Crescent Trail is also fun, but tends to get packed on weekends.

Great ideas, Des.

You could also make a special trip out of it (if your dog will stand a car ride first) and head out to the Seneca Greenway Trial or Black Hills Park. I bet your dog will be really ready to run after all that time in the back seat.

I would suggest following a beginner 5K training plan. Even if you were running before, this would help ease you back into it without risking injuries. For motivation, you could sign up for a 5K at the end of September. That would give you 12 weeks to build up a base again. I took a break from running and this is how I got back into it.

This is a great idea! There are 5K, 3 mile runs and color runs all over this area. Any of the running stores (Pacers, Potomac Runners) are hosting or co-sponsoring events. Lots of chances to go from couch to 5K.

What are your thoughts on the new craze of these bar/barre classes that are popping up around the city? I like the workout. A LOT. But they seem unnecessarily expensive for a class that requires pretty much no equipment.

I think a lot of fitness classes in this town seem really expensive, but real estate prices are high and you'd be surprised by how difficult it can be to turn a profit. I did a story a few years back on the financial struggles of yoga studios that I can try to find and link to.

As for bar/barre classes, you can get the best deals when you commit to a large package of classes, or a monthly unlimited membership. (As long as you're using them, it's generally a pretty reasonable price.)

Also, several of the larger gym chains offer barre classes as part of their group fitness schedules. So you're paying a lot for membership, but then you have access to those classes, other classes and the equipment too.

Easy, fun and tested by experts:

A workout at work?

Is this going to be a weekly chat or just a special one-time-only deal? Either way, I'll take it!

I think it's just a one-time special. But if it's popular enough, maybe we'll be back. And you can always email too. Happy to answer reader questions!

We may do another one but nothing is specifically planned right now. However, we're happy to answer emails and can be reached via Twitter, as well. I'm @DesBieler. Plus, we have a Facebook page -- check it out!

I admit defeat: I workout indoors during the summer. If I run outside, it's only for short distances, on a track so that my giant ice filled water bottle is close by at all times.

I'm with you! I tried going on a fun run with the Kenyan runners who are here for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Friday, and I overheated in under a mile. (They ended up going for five!)

But if that sort of thing sounds "fun" to you, they're doing the runs every day at 10:30 a.m. until the end of the festival. This weekend may actually not be so terrible...

I'm enjoying my new fitness bracelet, which tracks steps and sleep. Any tips for how to get the most of these devices?

My friends who are most obsessed with their fitness trackers are the ones who have other friends using them and are engaged in some kind of friendly competition. So, I guess if you like yours so much, buy one for somebody you like, and then you're both more likely to stick with it.

Hey MisFits! Thanks for doing this chat. I have a full-time office job, and I teach group fitness part-time. I'm also training for my third marathon. I find it difficult to get in much running during the week, besides the long run on the weekends. I know I'm supposed to do at least twice as much mileage as the long run, but it's tough to fit it in with my day job and instructor gig. When I did my other marathons 15 years ago, I didn't do any extra running in addition to the weekend long run. I'm much older now and fear that I might not be able to do the same thing this time without getting injured/not finishing. Thoughts?

Your training really will depend on what your particular goal is for the 3rd marathon (and congratulations on going for it!). If you just want to finish, then that will dictate how many times during you run versus if you want to finish in a particular time or whatnot.

If anything, get as much of the long runs in as you can. That helps build your endurance, which you're going to need, especially if this is the first marathon in some time. You'll have to build up to do at least one 20-miler about a month or five weeks before the marathon and that takes time on the weekend. During the week, you could get away with two runs, one that is a slower, recovery-type run a day or so after the long run and another tempo-style run. In sum, figure out what your goal is and find a good training plan that matches that and then take it one day at a time. Good luck!

I want to be a soccer goalie like Timmy Howard. Do you all know how i get more fit and better conditioned and better coordinated to be like SecDef Howard?

Um, I don't know what exactly the new namesake of DCA does to work out. But I did a story in 2010 about Abby Wambach's soccer training routine. (Okay, I know she's a woman and not a goalie, but it's the best I've got for you.)

I recommend this graphic too:

Although it's not a Post piece, I love the exercises suggested in this article on what Tim Howard does to stay in shape:

Is it okay to trash talk people at the gym? I think it increases competition and makes everyone exercise more. thoughts?

I'd say it is definitely not okay to talk trash to someone you don't know in just about any walk of life (except maybe a rival fan at a ballgame). To a certain degree, it might depend on the culture of the specific gym you're in. Some, like Planet Fitness, will throw you out for that kind of behavior, but some, especially with more of a weight-lifting culture, might be places where trash-talking is accepted or even encouraged. Just be sure you're in the right gym! 

It depends on what your definition of "competition" might be. I know for CrossFit, any sort of trash talk isn't encouraged and in some boxes, it's flat-out banned. Unless you're aiming for psychology control in some sort of game atmosphere, I think people want to feel some sort of support when they're working out.

Of course, there's the mantra of "Don't dish it out if you can't take it." So, be mindful of that.

It's hard to work out when you have kids and little time, but often a friend or meet-up group can be a great motivation. Perhaps send a message on your local listserv for a running partner? I suspect there are other people in your area with a similar desire to work out and who are at the same general fitness level. So it can be "we" time.

I'm training for a half marathon at the end of summer. I've been trying to do interval and tempo runs on the treadmill. I try to do the long runs early in the morning or right before sunset (more shade). Sometimes I put a bunch of ice in my Camelbak (the kind you wear like a backpack). The ice keeps my back cool and melts by the time I'm ready to drink it. I plan on getting one of those scarf/handkerchief-type things that keeps your neck cool. Has anyone tried those? Do they work?

I haven't tried the cooling scarf thing but it does sound like a good idea, and I love the Camelbak filled with ice idea. I ran four mile around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, and it was ... not so fun. When I was done, I really could have used a couple of football players to dump a bucket of Gatorade on me. Where are those guys when you need them?

I tried one once, and it cooled me down a little bit, but mostly I just felt like I was wearing a wet rag on my neck. So I gave up.

There are also a whole bunch of other products that claim to keep you chilled out on a run. Here's a gear test story that might help you out:

Apparel's ice age

Has anyone tried Strava for something other than biking?

I think the answer for all five of us is "no." But anyone out there in chat land want to chime in?

I encourage everyone to follow me on Twitter, but I'll just issue a warning that my occasional tweets on exercise will come amid a lot of lame jokes about sports and comments that will seem extraordinarily cryptic if you're not into fantasy football. But hey, apart from that, I'm a great follow!

I had to run for the bus and was gasping within a block. The humidity makes it hard to even process the air through your lungs. Indoor workouts all the way in the summer. I can't believe the people I see out running in the heat of the day.

Yes, and potentially dangerous!

Swimming and yoga are great options this time of year....


I think I'm like a lot of people in that I kinda hate running on treadmills. Just feels like it's all I can do not to stare at how much time I have left to go. Whereas if I'm outside, I have more to occupy my attention, and of course there's the notion of, Well, if I run two miles away from my house, I'm not gonna want to walk back, right?

That said, heat like we had yesterday is brutal, and air quality can be downright unsafe. So I'll be doing the treadmill thing more often and listening to podcasts.

Totally agree with Nora on swimming pools in the summer! Even if you're not a lap person, there are so many ways to take a dip and get a workout in. I recently did an outdoor Aqua Zumba class — so fun and very refreshing.

Worst comes to worst, you can have someone douse you with water with their sprinkler. That's what I had to do this morning. That's not recommended if you're wearing work clothing, but if your office doesn't mind...

Do you know of any places that offer free fitness classes? Any type of class is fine.

There are quite a few! I attend the Nike Training Club classes at the Nike store in Georgetown on Mondays at 8pm. There's a DJ and two trainers that take you through a series of bootcamp-inspired moves. You have to register in advance because the classes are packed.

There are also free yoga classes at various DC libraries throughout the city.

Also, Vicky wrote a great piece on this subject :

Run and fitness clubs at Washington stores

Also, though not *exactly* free, many yoga studios offer "community classes," at a discounted rate, usually around $5 a class. It's a good way to get to know a studio, teacher, yoga style and get a good workout for a small price.

I was out running this morning and noticed so many other runners wearing headphones -- this is on city streets, in traffic. Seems dangerous, right? Any clues on how many people get hurt this way?

I'm going to admit my really weird running habit to you all. I refuse to run outside with headphones for this very reason, but I still like listening to stuff. So I livestream NPR from my phone and just hold it in my hand. (My reasoning: Someone might be offended by my taste in music, but who wouldn't want to hear "Morning Edition"? And I turn the volume down if I end up near other people.)

So yeah, not sure my solution is much better, and it may make me a target for cell phone thieves. But at least I can pay attention to what's going on around me!

There is no doubt that having earpieces in both ears and blasting music is a dangerous move if you're doing almost anything outside. It's important to be able to hear the world around you, which may be doing things you're not expecting.

I only listen to podcasts when I'm working out, so I can always hear stuff over the sound of someone talking in my ear. And when I'm cycling, I'll put an earpiece in only my right ear, since I'm usually on the right side of the road, leaving my left ear able to hear everything clearly.

My NY friends told me to get excited that Soul Cycle is coming to DC. They swear by it. Is it really that great?

So many people seem to totally love SoulCycle. (Including the Clinton family!) But I've never done it either. Excited for the DC location to open so I can give it a try. It's supposed to open this month, but I walked by there earlier this week (it's in the West End) and it didn't look that close to being done.

I'll definitely have something in Express about it, if it's not in the MisFits column.

Where? That sounds amazing.

Vida's Penthouse Pool Club on U Street! They're open to the members or the public for $30. Call the club for dates!

Were just about done with this chat. Thanks for your questions. We five are really excited to show you what's going on in the fitness world in D.C. and how we all work toward a healthy life.

While this chat is over, we still want to hear from you. Find us on Facebook at The MisFits. We'll post articles and respond to your comments. And we're on Twitter as well:

Vicky Hallett: @vickyhallett
Des Bieler: @DesBieler
Danielle Douglas: @DaniDougPost
Nora Krug: @nbkrug
Mike Plunkett: @mjmplunkett

Thanks again, everybody!

In This Chat
Des Bieler
Des Bieler is a reporter for the Early Lead and DC Sports Bog. He is also a MisFits columnist.
Vicky Hallett
Vicky Hallett is a MisFit columnists and the fit editor for Express.
Danielle Douglas
Danielle covers the banking industry for The Post and is a MisFits columnist.
Nora Krug
Nora Krug is a Book World editor and a MisFits columnist.
Mike Plunkett
Mike Plunkett is a designer and MisFits columnist.
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