Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HIIT SUP with Crosstown Fitness Chicago

Crosstown Fitness SUP

This Saturday, I got to participate in a very unique workout. Crosstown Fitness, a high intensity interval training gym, teamed up with Chicago SUP, a premier Stand-Up Paddle Board outfitter, to offer a class on the beach for a total body workout. Every Saturday morning through September, attendees can experience a 50 to 60 minute combination of CTF’s HIIT with SUP’s hybrid of surfing and paddling through a variety of drills that incorporate cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility and balance.
It was a full group that gathered, grabbed life jackets, paddles, and stand up paddleboards and headed to the water's edge. Coach Bettina led us through a quick HIIT workout consisting of jumping jacks, push ups, quick feet, burpees, and more. VERY tough in the soft sand and a quick way to work up a sweat.
Crosstown Fitness founder Charlie then went over the basics of stand up paddleboarding, giving tips on getting started, standing on the board, and how to paddle. Then into the water we went. We could not have asked for a better morning for it - reasonable temps, no wind, a glassy surface on the lake. Depending on one's balance, dexterity, and comfort level, it's possible to paddle quickly and keep the sweat going. Several of the advanced participants got some SUP Yoga in, with downward dogs and headstands included. I limited myself to paddling around and looking for fish, enjoying the sight of the skyline, and the volleyball tournament on North Avenue Beach.
This is a unique workout and a total blast - I highly recommend it. As with many group classes, there is scalability, so in both the HIIT and SUP portion everyone could participate at their own comfort level.

Crosstown Fitness SUP

Crosstown Fitness, located in the West Loop, holds group classes, personal training, has childcare, and a cafe, so it's a one-stop shop for fitness. There are plans to possibly open a second location or more. There was a friendly feeling amongst participants at the SUP lesson, so they are definitely doing something right for their members - with all that they offer, it's no surprise. It is awesome they are thinking out of the box and coming up with creative options.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Crosstraining Again, Finally


Since my running is not going all that well, I decided it was finally time to get off my ass and work on the rest of my fitness. To build up motivation, I recruited my kids to join me in the garage for some bodyweight exercises and driveway running. This weekend I also headed into the city to participate in a lakeside HIIT workout followed by some stand up paddle boarding (more on that tomorrow).

My kids loved doing the workout - Tazer was unfazed by it, while Gaigai struggled a bit, but was happy she was building upper body strength, a weakness of hers. The younger two didn't really find it interesting, Munchkin wandering off and the Little Worker mostly excited by the running.

Of course I overdid it and now am suffering some back pain, but am looking forward to getting back at it soon. I requested some bodyweight exercise books from our library, am researching the same on the Internet, and will be planning some workouts for us to try out. It's definitely something that I need and it's really awesome that we can do it as a family as well.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

LifeStraw® Personal Water Filter

LifeStraw® Personal Water Filter
“The LifeStraw® product and information have been provided by Vestergaard.”

The LifeStraw® Personal Water Filter filters at least 1,000 liters of water (about 264 gallons), weighs only 2 ounces, removes up to 99.99999 percent of waterborne bacteria and 99.9 percent of waterborne protozoan cysts, so why wouldn't you bring it with you on your next camping or backpacking trip? Since it uses no batteries or moving parts, no worries about keeping it charged or having it jam on you at an inopportune time. In fact, this is probably something that would be a good thing to have in your car's emergency kit (you do have an emergency kit, right?).

If you can use a drinking straw, you can use a LifeStraw®. LifeStraw® uses hollow fiber microfiltration technology - simply place end in water, suck and drink. You are the engine! It's lightweight and simplicity of use are definite pros.

What about cons? Well, you can't use it if you don't have the energy to suck the water in, due to illness or injury. Also, you have to place the straw's end into the water, which means your face is half a foot away from the water source; could be iffy if you're trying to drink from fast-flowing water. There's also the comfort aspect - being only 8 inches or so, you have to lie down or maneuver yourself into an awkward position to utilize this. Since it was originally developed as an emergency solution, the negatives are easily explained as necessities of design. Those negatives, in my opinion, are far outweighed by its otherwise simple usage and ease of transport.

As an added incentive, for each LifeStraw® sold, one school child in the developing world receives clean water for an entire school year. That's a very generous bonus of purchasing this filter!

As I mentioned, this would be a very handy item to bring along on your next camping or hiking trip. Beyond that, it definitely has a place in an emergency kit as well. Use it as a backup for your full-sized filter, as an ultralight accessory, or for that one time when things go awry.

This product was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mantry (The Modern Man's Pantry)

I love handmade, artisanal goods. Craft beer, boutique wine, freshly made food. It's fun to travel and experience businesses that are doing this around the country (and world). Mantry is a service that can bring some of these products to your doorstep, which is a lot of fun. I was sent a sample shipment for review, and I must say it's pretty intriguing.

Mantry (The Modern Man's Pantry)

The sample crate included the following:
  • The Hickory Smoked Country Bacon from Broadbent's in Kentucky was salty, smoky, and had plenty of fat, very tasty. I loved the thick slices, not always easy to find these days.
  • The Summer Sausage from Vermont Smoke and Cure was unusual to me, a smoked sausage that was soft on the palate. I really enjoyed it as a pizza topping.
  • Soberdough was so simple - take the batter, add beer and cheese, then bake. Our sample was for a green chile and cheddar loaf, which turned out fantastic. For non-imbibers, they also suggest using carbonated water as an alternative.
  • The Just Cook Herbed Coffee Rub has an amazing smell and I would suggest will improve just about any meat you rub it on. While you would expect the coffee to overwhelm the other spices, this had an even taste about it, with everything harmoniously blending into a better single whole.
  • I'm a big fan of brittles, and the Southern Artisan Chocolate's Barrel Aged Bourbon Nib Brittle was a special treat, as I'm also a fan of bourbon in food. Crunchy, sticky, tasty - this is one I didn't want to share with the rest of the family.
  • From La Fundidora, their Fuego Salsa was spicy, earthy, and beautifully balanced, not always found in salsas, where often either the heat or the other tastes predominate.
Six products, all great in their own way, definitely a good indication of the high level of products you might expect. Mantry ships 6 full size American Artisan food products (similar to the ones above) to your door every month in a signature wooden crate (reusable as storage, though the lid is loose-fitting). A subscription runs $75 per month, which while not inexpensive, is still cheaper and easier than jetting around the country. Surprisingly, since it includes shipping, it's about the same as buying these products at retail. Nicely done. Mantry is available in 1 month, 3 month, and 6 month options - this makes a nice gift, for yourself, on a special occasion, or for a good friend or loved one.

This product was provided to me for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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