Expanding Beauty Babble & My Fitness Story

Beauty Babble celebrated its five-year anniversary this summer, and while that definitely felt like a massive accomplishment, I also couldn't help but feel like things were getting a bit stale. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE beauty, skin care and hair care products, but I've also spent a lot of 2015 expanding my interests, and I've been itching to share those on the blog, too.

I sat down earlier this week and started pondering different ways to add spice to my writing, and the idea to expand to a new vertical -- specifically fitness -- popped to the top. I'll get to the full "why" behind this decision in a moment, but to tease the story, I've spent the last 7 months transforming my attitude about exercise and am really inspired to share that fervor with you! Along similar lines, I was also looking for a way to add local flavor to my posts, so this expansion will let me bring you fitness class/studio reviews for the metro Philadelphia area, in addition to other non-geo specific posts on fitness motivation, health, nutrition and the like.

Of course, I'll still continue to bring you the best reviews in non-toxic, safe beauty products, so nothing will change there. You'll just start to see some new variety in the content. I hope you like it!

As for my fitness story, here's the scoop:

I grew up in a dance studio, taking jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical and pointe classes for 11 years, but outside of dance I was never an athletic kid. I'm the girl who got her two front teeth knocked out in tennis camp, twisted her ankle before her first soccer game and had her nose broken twice from being hit in the face with volleyballs and basketballs one too many times. I got the message pretty early on that I was more of an inside girl, so I never joined a sports team or made exercising a true part of my life, particularly as I got older.

As an adult, fitness was never a priority, partially because I tended to work long hours and felt exhausted when I got home, and partially because the variety of exercise types available to me bored me beyond belief. It took all of my effort to drag my tired body to the gym to suffer through 30 miserable minutes of walking on the treadmill. I tried a few group classes here and there, but they all seemed so low energy or the music was bad or the instructor looked just as bored as I was. Living in Florida didn't help because for at least 9 months of the year, it's miserable to be outside unless you want to die from heat exhaustion or get West Nile virus from all the mosquito bites you acquire after dark. Exercise was just always inconvenient or boring, so I didn't do it.

In September 2013, I move to Philadelphia, and looking back I can now say that the move was pretty traumatic. I didn't know a single person in my new city, and I had changed jobs, companies, industries, functions AND geographic locations in one fell swoop. I underestimated just how challenging this would be, so when I had been in the city for 6 months and still had no friends, I fell into a bit of a depression. Sure, changing my situation was totally in my control - I could have gotten off my ass and done any number of things, but sometimes when you're so entrenched in an emotion, you just can't get yourself to budge.

I wallowed in my sadness for a while -- too long, to be honest -- but in early 2015 I hit my breaking point. After months of turning to my friend, Mr. Dessert, for comfort, I really started to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I have never been a perfect trim, slim gal, so I hadn't noticed that I had packed on 10 pounds of flubber, but I did notice it was suddenly uncomfortable to button my pants, that my shirt buttons kept popping open and that I continually felt sluggish and low-energy.

After doing some Googling, I discovered Philly Dance Fitness. I figured that if I was going to have to change and force myself into exercising the least I could do was find a modality that I liked. With my background in dance, this seemed like the lesser of all the evils of the exercise world. I went to a BalletEXTREME class thanks to the prodding of my friend Melanie, and then a month later I worked up the courage to attend a class called Dance Party Boot Camp that she said was more intense. The instructor, Timaree, was amazing, the music was fabulous and the class completely kicked my ass.

I was so damn winded that I hid in the back, took lots of breaks and looked longingly at the people around me who seemed like they were having fun. I simultaneously felt miserable about how out of shape I was and entirely envious of all the fit, confident people that surrounded me.

I decided I was going to "change," but frankly, I was still pretty lazy and spent the next three months going through the motions. I signed up for the gym at work and took advantage of two, 25-minute personal training sessions a week, and then once a week, I'd go to my 50-minute cardio dance class. But after three months of this "working out" routine, none of the stats on my fitness assessment had even budged. This is when it really hit me that I had been lying to myself, and if I wanted to see real results, I needed to put in real effort. (Duh.)

In July, I joined ClassPass and during a 2-week period where I was forced to work from home due to office construction, I went a little crazy. I took a workout class every single day for two weeks, alternating between trying new studios through ClassPass and going more regularly to my favorite Philly Dance Fitness classes.

And then something ridiculous happened. The two week "test" ended and I didn't want to stop working out. I had created a habit.

ClassPass opened doors for me because it allows unlimited classes per month at something like 150 studios in the area, with the only restriction being that you can't visit the same studio more than 3 times in a month. Since you pay a flat fee for the month and aren't exchanging funds each time you go to class, they start to feel free, and when something is "free" your expectations for satisfaction aren't as high. This allowed me to spend a lot of time experimenting, so I tried different modalities, different studios and different instructors "risk free."

Before long, I had established a routine. I found instructors I loved, studios that were convenient and classes that were actually fun. And I was shocked to see that the more I worked out, the more I loved it.

Like any change, my fitness transformation happened gradually. I was pretty winded for a while, but slowly I was able to push myself harder, take fewer breaks and even declare a few classes "too easy." I noticed that my arms and legs (which always tone faster for me than my midsection) became more defined, and I became one of those people that watches as her muscles flex in the mirror (I know this sounds a little douchey but it's true). When I went back in for my fitness assessment in November, I had lost 8 pounds and 6 inches, increased my flexibility substantially, lowered my resting and active heart rate, and boosted my strength.

I remember feeling a sort of glee that I hadn't recalled feeling before, and as I looked in the mirror I couldn't help but wonder who this "new" girl was. I liked her.

Now I can't stop working out. I have my "regular" classes that I attend every week, and on the off days, I find something on ClassPass to try or return to. And on days when I have to miss a workout, I'm one of those people that feels "off." I'm even pursuing my group exercise fitness instructor certification with hopes of teaching at a studio near you sometime in 2016. When I think back to where I was a year ago, I can't believe how far I've come.

This is not to say that in 7 months I've become this super powered, in the best-shape-of-my-life version of me. In fact, there are still plenty of classes that kick my ass, and I know I have a long way to go. But what I can say is this: I went from being that winded chick hiding in the back of Dance Party Boot Camp to one of those confident women standing in the front of the room that I had envied. I routinely push my body as hard as it can go, and it feels fantastic.

I recognize that working out (mostly) 7 days a week is extreme, so by no means am I saying that you need to do that too. For me, creating a habit that I stuck to every day of the week was easier than trying to do something on occasion, because it became a natural part of my day, rather than something I did "when I had time." What I would encourage you to do is get up and just start moving. Keep moving until you find an activity or class type that you really like (I promise that they do exist).

With all that said, I'll leave you with this: I look forward to coming back to the blog with additional fitness stories, including reviews of some of the classes I've mentioned in this post. If you have a particular request or question, please let me know in the comments section below.

Til then, Happy New Year, and here's to an awesome "year 6" for the expanded Beauty Babble.


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