Finding balance of body and mind


Gabriella Boston teaches a 45-minute spin class followed by 45 minutes of yoga. “I was teaching them separately, and I realized that I liked to do them together,” she says. “This is a really, really good fit. It’s a full-body workout . . . [and] you’re getting the whole mind-body thing together.” (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)
Lenny Bernstein
Blogger April 30, 2012

It seems as though we are always struggling for balance in our lives. Work or play? Spend or save? Eat that doughnut or save those calories?

The same is true for our fitness regimens. Everyone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to your physician wants you to mix cardiovascular workouts with strength training, stretching and balance drills. How do you fit it all in?

Lenny Bernstein writes the To Your Health blog. He started as an editor on the Post’s National Desk in 2000 and has worked in Metro and Sports. View Archive

In truth, many of us fall short. We work too long, spend too much, and I need not elaborate on doughnut consumption. When we exercise, we tend to find that workout we love — running, cycling, Zumba, martial arts — and do it more than anything else.

As anyone who has tried to lose weight will attest, our bodies adapt when we challenge them in only one way. They become efficient and limit our progress.

Gyms and experts have recognized this problem and are working to offer options that incorporate more than one type of exercise per session. CrossFit may be the best known of these efforts; it mixes high-intensity cardio with strength training. But you can also find bike and barre hybrids, and workouts that combine spinning with jumping off the bike every few minutes to lift weights.


Olga Kolotushkina during the yoga part of a class at the Capitol Hill Results Gym. (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)

A saner alternative, especially for men of a certain age, like me, is Gabriella Boston’s new Revolution/Yoga class at the Results Gym on Capitol Hill, which follows 45 minutes of high-intensity spinning with 45 minutes of elementary yoga.

“I was teaching them separately, and I realized that I liked to do them together,” Boston, a former Washington Times reporter, told me. “This is a really, really good fit. It’s a full-body workout . . . [and] you’re getting the whole mind-body thing together.”

The class I took was at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday, a time when my mind and body agree they’d rather be drinking coffee and reading the paper. But there I was, trying to keep up, as Boston, wearing a microphone, repeatedly took about 30 of us to the edge of myocardial infarction and back. We kept time with the heavy, percussive beat of a soundtrack as we stood to ride hills and sprinted as fast as our legs would turn.

Mostly I sweated. Rivers of sweat. Waterfalls of sweat. On the handlebars, on the bike frame, on the rubber-matted floor.

It felt great. But the best was yet to come.

Hearts still pounding, shirts soaked, most of us adjourned to the yoga studio next door, rolled out mats and within a minute or two began a series of yoga poses designed to slowly cool us down as we gently relaxed and stretched the muscles we had just taxed. I became dizzy as we bent at the waist to begin easing the strain on our lower backs. But once that passed and my heart rate returned to near normal, the slow, controlled yoga stretches were the ideal balm for the strain of spin class.

“In cycling you tighten, and in yoga you stretch,” 67-year-old Jackie Eiting told me after the yoga class. She took up spinning after the pounding of running had taken its toll on her knees. Then she realized that, like most of us, she usually shortchanged herself on post-workout stretching. That “motivated me to do a full class instead of just doing stretches,” she said.

A bonus of Boston’s class is a bit of upper-body work she includes to complement the lower-body emphasis of spinning. We held plank poses, front and side, to work abdominal muscles and obliques. To develop balance, we stood on one foot and leaned into various positions.

As I’ve written before, flexibility and balance are not my strengths. I like to trudge forward on foot, mile after mile. I like the solitude, the rhythm. This is when my mind and body come together. I know I should do other forms of exercise, and from time to time I feel guilty enough that I’ll lift weights for a few months and do some plyometrics. But inevitably I grow bored.

Boston’s class and workouts like it will help you do better.

At the end of the yoga session, we lay quietly for a few minutes and settled our minds. On Monday, I awoke with just a bit of stiffness in the muscles I had awakened, instead of that beaten-up feeling that follows a long run.

“Yoga keeps my muscles from feeling rusty afterwards,” Lisa Branscomb, who also injured her knees running, told me after the class. “I can now walk upstairs without making noises.”

Revolution/Yoga is offered Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and Fridays at 9:45 a.m. at Results Gym, 315 G St. SE. Payment arrangements vary. For more information, call 202-234-5678 or go to www.resultsthegym.com.

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To read previous MisFits columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wellness . There, you can subscribe to the Lean & Fit newsletter to get health news and advice delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.

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