December 14, 2017
CLEVELAND, Ohio – You tell me if this was a good year in fitness. I can’t be the judge.
Sure, I had a great time trying out new activities, equipment, and workouts, and pausing periodically to explore a subject or discipline more deeply. Yes, I got quite a bit fitter myself.
But “Stretching Out” isn’t really about me. It’s about you. The true measure of 2017 in terms of fitness is whether this was the year you took some of the advice I doled out every week. Whether you found and stuck with an exercise regimen, and enjoyed some results.
In any case, it’s worth refreshing our memories. Below are 10 of my favorite fitness experiences of 2017, with links to the original articles. Hopefully one or more of them will stick with you, and help you make 2018 a little better.
100-Ton Club: Count this as one of the crazier, more foolhardy things I’ve done in the name of fitness. This spring, a friend challenged me to join the “100-Ton Club” by lifting, pressing, or otherwise moving 100 tons of weight in a single day. I went at it head-on and ended up spending five hours performing set after set of leg presses, chest flies, upright rows, and a variety of squats. Luckily, all it cost me was soreness, not injury. If you must attempt this feat at home, don’t do what I did. Build up to it gradually over time with lower daily thresholds.
Breath Work: After my time with trainer Matthew Levy ran out, I picked up with (and continue to see) Soul Fuel Tribe owner Shaun Sterling, a guru of focused breathing techniques. What struck me at first as a little silly proved to be not only deeply serious but also enormously beneficial. These days, I’m the master of my lungs. I know how to calm myself down rapidly, recover quickly during exercise, and use my breath to sustain me through bouts of vigorous activity.
Burning River Ramble: Ordinarily, I wouldn’t get too excited about a 5K race. We have so many of them, after all. This one, however, caught my eye as a showcase of the Cuyahoga River waterfront and new northernmost branch of the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath trail. Flanked by a pack of fellow Clevelanders, I ran the race with my jaw dropped, stunned by so many exclusive, gorgeous views of the city and traversals of areas I hardly knew existed. Lucky are those who get to run that path on a daily basis.
Cleveland Clinic Get Fit Healthy Living Expo: Insiders know Cleveland’s a happening, fit place. Thus was I excited to see public recognition of that fact with the region’s first large-scale fitness convention. Over two days at the I-X Center in Cleveland, there was more to do than I had time or energy for, but I managed to tour the enormous vendor marketplace, run an indoor, multilevel 5K, and compete in the first Winter Classic in association with CrossFit. Missed it? No worries. Organizers plan to re-stage the event next year.
Corus 45: I thought I was fit until I entered Corus 45, a new music-minded fitness studio in Beachwood. Moments into my 45-minute workout on the Megaformer, a larger cousin of the spring-loaded Pilates Reformer, my legs, lungs, and core started to give way, revealing weaknesses and instabilities galore. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Unless you’re an elite athlete in peak condition, I guarantee you’ll come out singing Amen, Hallelujah.
F45 Training: In a sign of its commitment to functional fitness, the Cleveland State University recreation center this year wisely dedicated a portion of its facility to F45 Training, a fitness regimen born in Australia and now sweeping the globe. I was among the first to sample the program this fall with a nine-part circuit of body-weight, balance, and light resistance exercises that left me feeling every bit as spent as a morning at CrossFit. If you’re a member, don’t give it a second thought. Get there.
Fitness Cubed: I spent nine intense, wonderful weeks working closely at Soul Fuel Tribe with personal trainer Matthew Levy in a program called “Fitness Cubed.” The thrice-weekly workouts and mobility trainings were grueling but the results were undeniable. Over that period, I learned a great deal and got demonstrably stronger, faster, and fitter in just about every way. If I had more time and money, I’d gladly have kept working with him on a private basis.
The Foundry: As if to proclaim Cleveland a U.S. rowing capital, a group of dedicated individuals this year opened The Foundry, a rowing fitness center whose piece de resistance is one of the nation’s few indoor rowing tanks, rowing’s answer to the treadmill. On that, it’s now possible now to master the technique and enjoy all the benefits of real-world rowing, all without owning a boat or even getting wet. It’s a phenomenal facility and an enormous addition to the local fitness scene. Every local rower owes it to himself to experience it.
Peloton: A hearty thank-you to the Tremont Athletic Club for giving me access this summer to a Peloton stationary bike. I might still be looking for one otherwise. The bike itself, while of high quality, isn’t all that special. What sets Peloton apart is the ability to view or take part remotely in an enormous and ever-growing catalog of live or pre-recorded cycling classes, and to see in real time how your performance stacks up against everyone else’s in the Peloton universe. Never have I been so thrilled to come in 25th.
Rise Nation: I had a grand old time this summer reuniting with the VersaClimber, a whole-body climbing machine I thought had fallen entirely out of fashion. Years after trying one at a friend’s house, I was delighted to discover and sweat it out in a go-for-broke, 30-minute workout at Rise Nation, a new VersaClimber fitness boutique in downtown Cleveland. Truly, for the purposes of fitness, I can hardly think of a more effective or efficient use of one’s time.