EVAFCC: At-Home Edition

For much of my life, I’ve thought that “exercise” means “jogging.”

I played softball as a kid. I did gymnastics in high school, but didn’t make the school team. So the cross-country team—which at 300 girls strong was the only no-cut sport—was my new extracurricular.

And so I became a runner. (A mediocre one.)

I kept up the habit, on and off, through college. I never particularly pushed myself, and certainly not enough to counteract the drinking and poor diet, but it at least got me outside. During Midwestern winters, I layered leggings on leggings, vests on long-sleeve shirts, beanies on top of earmuffs.

And then I jogged.

During stressful weeks, it was an outlet: I relished the bite of the cold, a podcast in my ear, the barren trees and the vapor of my breath swirling before me. I couldn’t imagine stripping out of those protective layers, exchanging the frosted lining of my lungs for the sweat and stifled air of a gym.

“Running on a treadmill is like a hamster on a wheel in a cage,” I’d say.

I couldn’t imagine there was anything else to do at the gym — it was the college football team that lifted weights. It was the cheerleaders who did the stair-stepper. What else is there?

But at 26, I’d bought a one-way ticket to Asia and gotten a job in internet marketing. I was reinventing many areas of my life, and so who was to say giving the hamster wheel a spin couldn’t be one of them?

In Bangkok, two friends and I set out to try every class that the Virgin Active club offered. (The premise of this very blog.)

By the end of the experiment, something extraordinary happened: I realized I loved weightlifting (a class called Body Pump) and Aqua Fit (dancing in a pool.)

I became a gymrat.

For the next four years, as I continued traveling the world, I made it a priority to locate a gym close to my Airbnb before landing in a new city. Without my beloved gym, I didn’t work out. I needed someone creating the workout plan. I needed social pressure. I needed someone yelling at me to keep holding that plank, even when my abs were about to burst into flames.

I did personal training in Chicago, took private Pilates classes in Prague, lifted weights in Body Pump classes in Mexico City, and later in Chiang Mai. I used my apartment building’s gym in Vietnam on my own. It was tougher without structure, but at least I had a gym.

Then I moved to Melbourne, Australia, in late 2019, where I did dance classes, Pilates, HIIT workouts, and even this ridiculous climbing-machine-techno-thing (that honestly deserves its own blog post on here).

Then the world shut down.

For a year, I struggled. I continued with my Pilates gym, which now streamed classes online. (After I bought the very last yoga mat at my local sports store before the first lockdown.) I took online dance classes for a bit. Then, when gym equipment was finally back in stock, I bought a fancy Australian-brand kettle-bell and followed their pre-recorded workouts.

But I was always counting down the days until the gyms could re-open again.

I was waiting for what I was comfortable with. I was limited by the story I was telling myself, just like I was when I jogged. Except this time, it wasn’t: “I’m no hamster,” but “I am NOTHING without my wheel!”

The hamster needed reinvention once again.

After a year of false starts, I got an ad for Les Mills On Demand: My beloved Body Pump workouts were actually from this New Zealand company, and I could stream them.

As the lockdowns rolled, I slowly amassed a collection of weights, revisiting my favorite Body Pump classes from Bangkok. I dabbled in other Les Mills workouts, like step aerobics and yoga. I was back to exploring which exercise made me feel good, even if it didn’t seem like one I’d like.

When the gyms were back open in-between lockdowns, I wasn’t even tempted to rejoin. I was saving a lot of money, and relishing that I didn’t have to travel to and from the gym, or workout on anyone else’s schedule.

Now that we’re back in lockdown in Melbourne, I’m exercising more than ever. I know it keeps me sane, makes me feel healthy, helps me sleep. There’s no structured class schedule to follow, but at least I have control.

This blog started as a journey exploring a single gym within a tight deadline. In the intervening years, there have been a lot more gyms and classes and exploration.

Five years later, I’m surprised I’m working out on my own. I’m surprised I’m loving my home gym. (I’m not surprised I no longer jog.)

But now I know better than to proclaim that I hate gyms or I love gyms or I need them or don’t. Something that was a three-week lark five years ago has become a cornerstone of my life, and in whatever shape that takes in the future, I’ll keep exploring it.

KBank Family and Friends: U.S.A. Edition!

Abs + Core / with Dylan / 4:30 p.m. April 17, 2018 / 30 minutes / Austin Bouldering Project / Austin, TX, USA

Hello dear reader,

KBank & Friends is back at it, and for the first time ever, in the United States of America. This is literally the first time I’ve ever seen Dan outside of Asia. Wild!

(Here’s Dan signing us up for class as “Kbank Friend 1,” “…2,” etc. –>)

Rob and I got to check out Dan’s gym/co-working space in Austin, Texas called the Austin Bouldering Project, and it is possibly one of the coolest “offices” I’ve ever been to.

Here’s the thing with co-working spaces. Most of them are designed as: Let’s start with a regular office, and then add some cool stuff, like a hammock! Or bean bags!

Wow. Awesome.

Dan’s gym was like, why don’t we build something cool, like, oh, IDK, the biggest bouldering gym in the world, and then add some desks to it?

Definitely the better way to build a co-working space.

After a few hours of computering, Kbank & Friends and special guest Tabria hit up abs class with instructor Dylan.

The highlight was our last exercise, which was called “dying bugs,” and by that point, I had the “dying” part down pat.

Then we hit the walls.

Some bros just broulderin’ around.

I hadn’t heard of bouldering before, but it’s basically rock-climbing without ropes.

Here’s how we fared:

Dan is pretty good, as this, remember, is his daily office. Rob was pretty good, too, for a n00b.

I have a fear of heights.

Tabria basically crushed us at every turn.

Though the Austin Bouldering Project is no Virgin Active gym (as the brand doesn’t exist in the States), it is probably the greatest gym I’ve been to in the U.S.

The best perk was that a lot of people tied up their dogs outside on the patio while they used the facilities, so as I sat outside to work, I got to pet beautiful dogs all day.

I can’t wait to see from where in the world the next update of this blog will be!

Until next time,

Kbank Family & Friends

KBank Family & Friends Reunion Special!

OMG I’M SO EXCITED I CAN BARELY TYPE.

We’re getting the ol’ band back together!

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I was so excited to impress Dan with how strong I have become during our time apart, but alas, I am fragile this week. I can’t believe I made it a year of living in the tropics without getting a mosquito virus, but eventually, those little suckers got me.

So a mild case of dengue fever knocked me out for a while. The timing! It was just two weeks ago I was doing my highest weights, ever!

This was the look the instructor gave me quite a few times during Body Pump today, when I was just resting for like only a second:

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Some things never change.

But! The best medicine is friends. My heart is exploding with nostalgia and rainbows!

Eight and a half months after Rob, Dan and I Bosu’d and then Dan had to rush to the airport to catch a flight to the States, ending the quest to take #EveryVirginActiveFitnessClubClass, we took Body Pump together before Dan had to rush to the airport to catch a flight to New Zealand. Which he missed!

That’s true dedication.

While I have you here, here’s another fun and ridiculous thing I’ve only recently discovered at the gym: A measurement chart that shows the heights of the rich and famous.

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That we are both 1.60m tall is not the only similarity between Mahatma Ghandhi and me. We have also both lived in Asia and neither of us has won a Nobel Peace Prize. Amazing!

If you are taller than me, which let’s be real, you definitely are, here’s the rest of the chart:

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How is Darth Vader so tall?

So good to see you again,
KBank & Friends

Parting Thoughts: #EVAFCC

We wanted to take every Virgin Active Fitness Club class.

It’s been intense, and surprising. I think I worked out more in 17 days than I had in the last year, tbh.

Did I learn anything?

Drinking is Worse For Me Than I Think

When you lead a mostly sedentary life, the scenarios of:
1. feeling OK on your couch eating mozzarella sticks and
2. feeling hungover on your couch eating mozzarella sticks because you need them to live
— these scenarios don’t feel too different.

When you’re trying to work out 12 times a week, you really feel that alcohol, even after a night of mild drinking.

I never realized just how debilitating even a few casual drinks are on your body, and will be carrying this sobering information with me into the future.

Working Out 12 Times a Week Also Might Not Be Good For Me

Going from my mozz-stick life to an intense workout regimen, with no rest days, (and one painful two-hour Thai massage), was probably also not best for my body, drinking or no drinking.

I certainly performed less well in classes as the weeks wore on, and I kept digging myself into a deeper hole with being sore and fatigued.

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“I’m just resting my eyes before class”

But Eddie Izzard ran 27 marathons in 27 days, so whatever, I’m never complaining about soreness after a workout again, sorry for being here, I’ll see myself out.

Peer Pressure Makes the World Go ‘Round

I’d like to be better about going to the gym on my own, but there were some days I absolutely would have flaked had Dan and Rob (and my thousands of loyal #EVAFCC readers, obvi) not been counting on me.

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Once I was there, I was always glad I went, usually because:

Company is Best

Peer pressure gets a bad rap. But positive pressure, or accountability, made me feel a part of something — a team, a tribe, the three musketeers, a KBank Friends and Family.

Working out with other people, or really doing most things with other people, is undoubtedly more fun than doing them by yourself.

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This challenge wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun without Dan and Rob sashaying, punching, sweating, laughing, zumba-ing, and sharing every brutal burpee moment of it by my side.

Dancing Everyday Improves My Quality of Life

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Even if I look absolutely ridiculous.

Perfect is the Enemy of Done

This saying doesn’t translate exactly here, but spoiler alert: We didn’t do all 80 technically differently titled classes.

So it’s not perfect, but we did it.

Dan did the math and found about 30 unique classes offered, for our purposes, at the Virgin Active Bangkok EmQuartier location. (Maybe Rob and I need to meet Dan in Europe for Kickboxing, Mudder Maker, Ugi, and Barre?)

We hit most of the kinds of classes, so achieved our goal of sampling as many different types as possible. We didn’t take every different level of anti-gravity yoga, for example.

But we did most of them, as time allowed with us all moving to a new country and working full time. (And making time to eat and sleep and do all those pesky life tasks.)

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So, we won. We did it. We smashed 25 different workouts in 17 days.

We took Every Virgin Active Fitness Club class.

I’m so glad you’ve joined us for this journey.

Khap Khun Kha,
Kbank and Friends

#25 Body Jam

Body Jam (Outdoor) / with Nadear / 6:00 p.m. June 16, 2016 / 60 minutes

I catch the train to work from one mall, arrive to work in a different mall, and then exercise in a third.

Bangkok lives up to its name as as shopping mecca.

And there’s always something strange going on at these celebratory towers of capitalism. Normal stuff like clothing pop-ups, markets, live music, sure.

But also 4D virtual reality theaters full of screaming people, high-end fashion shows, a jumbo-tron streaming from the train platform, a conceptual art show, a raptor in a shipping container that roars and wrenches when you walk by, a ninja warrior-like obstacle course. I never know what my commute is going to look like, and it’s always weirder than I expect.

Who’s screaming? What’s all that bass for? Dinosaurs? Models in the hallway? OK.

weirdstuffcollageThis photo collage does not do the weird things justice

For our last class together, KBank and Friends got to be one of those weird things at the mall. It was truly a dream come true.

Our outdoor Body Jam class was part of some fitness week that also included free boxing classes in an actual ring and the ninja-warrior-knock-off course.

To be even more ridiculous, our class was held in front the mall’s four-story waterfall next to its glass elevator and huge, decorative peacocks.

IMG_2348Find the peacocks!

As night fell, we danced around in our matching, Virgin-Active-provided space suits, and got sweatier in the Bangkok heat than I imagine even a hot yoga course would make us.

Curious but confused passersby stopped to gawk, and occasionally, the sky opened up and sprinkled relieving, cold rain on us.

We’ve done 25 classes in 17 days.

We didn’t take them all. We never got to Piloxing. Or Hot Yoga. Or Vipr.

But we did most of them.

#EVAFCC was always about the journey — the embarrassing, joyful, confusing, hilarious, painful, fabulous journey — not the destination, right?

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That’s a Wrap,
KBank and Friends

#24 Bosu

Bosu / with Mild / 5:30 p.m. June 16, 2016 / 30 minutes

A Bosu is half of one of these things, with one flat side:

55cm-21-6-hopper-ball-bouncing-jumping-jump-hop-preschool-occupational-therapy-pvc-inflatable-cartoon-style

Lovin’ that helmet, bro

But less bouncing around for fun in a grassy backyard and more burpees and pushups.

We did a lot of partner drills, and Dan and I got a chance to have one last in-person conversation before he left for the airport.

Yes, Dan’s #EVAFCC dedication was so strong that he took class #24 and #25 mere hours before a long-haul flight across the world.

IMG_2337Death by Bosu

Friends who Bosu together stay together. Well, not on the same continent per se, but you know what I mean.

No More Burpees Please,
Kbank and Friends

#23 Free Dance

Free Dance / with Co Co / 8:30 p.m. June 15, 2016 / 60 minutes

OK, we’ve already established that the dance classes have been the best part of #EVAFCC.

Free Dance with Co Co was the best of the best.

We learned one routine the whole class, so for the first time, I nailed memorizing all the moves.

o2lgrxOK, maybe not all the moves

Then we spent the second half of class dance battling each other.

First, the left side of the room versus the right. I can imagine our gym rivals TBank and the Gang were part of the other half of the room as Dan, Rob and I sent extra sass in their direction.

Then, we dance battled men vs. women. This dance class also featured the largest male population of any we’ve attended, and their ages appeared to range from 19 to 55.

freedanceCo Co told us to pose like supermodels. This is what happened.

Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic under Co Co’s lead. He was funny (from what I gathered, a lot of his jokes were in Thai), great at teaching, and he had a killer music selection featuring remixes of “Baby, One More Time,” “Black Magic” and “Jenny From the Block.”

The soundtrack from class

The best part was I felt like Co Co was proud of me. Proud of all of us. I just wanted to do his choreography justice.

When I spied him coming down the stairs as I was leaving the gym, he with a posse from class, me in my street clothes, backpack on, I busted out a few moves he taught us.

“Yasss!” he yelled.

Yas, indeed. Yas forever, Co Co.

Don’t Be Fooled By The Rocks That We Got,
KBank and Friends

#22 Climbing Induction

Climbing Induction / with Champ / 7:30 p.m. June 15, 2016 / 30 minutes

Before they let you use the rock climbing wall on your own, you have to get trained on it — inducted, rather.

And yes, use it on your own. No belayer. No belaying on. Because your support harness is basically a retractable dog leash hanging from the ceiling.

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I have never liked rock climbing, as when you’re four feet of the ground, it can feel like 20.  At least to me. But especially when the only thing supporting you is a nylon dog leash.

13453837_10100738548834016_1307153506_nI’m probably freaked out by how high I am here

wpw1prDan and Rob crushed it like spiders

And how do you get down in the dog leash system? Just jump!

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OK, it wasn’t that bad, after all. I have a goal to reach the top before leaving Bangkok. I’ll be back, rock wall.

After rock climbing and before class #23 we hit up the Himalayan Salt Room, which I guess is supposed to be good for you, but I believe that about as much as the Power Plate science.

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People mostly use the Salt Room for napping, as the actual Nap Pod that you can book for 20-minute intervals is super loud, Dan says.

The “Himalayan salt” is basically just the Aggro Crag from Nickelodean “Guts:”

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Am I right or am I right? Not mad about it, I can chill with some Aggro Crag for a solid 20-minute nap.

Belay On,
Kbank and Friends

#21 Power Plate Cardio

Power Plate Cardio / with Jane / 6:00 p.m. June 14, 2016 / 30 minutes

So you know what I’m talking about if I ask you to picture those old-timey, vibrating-belt exercise machines you’d see in a black-and-white educational film about women’s exercise from the 1940s, yeah?

giphy…Or color home movie footage from 1993, apparently.

Would you believe me if I told you this technology was alive and well, and readily available to you, at your nearest Virgin Active Fitness Club?

Meet Power Plate, aka the Assisted Bum Twerking machine.

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There are rumors floating around the Internet that 10 minutes on a Power Plate is equivalent to 60 minutes of traditional, non-vibrating exercise, but I have yet to see the science on that.

A series of rotations of push-ups, squats, bicep curls and (PTSDinducing) step exercises did have our heart rates through the roof after just one rotation.

But was it because of a plate moving up and down a distance of 1 to 2 millimeters, at a rate of between 25 and 50 times per second? Or because Rob, Dan and I have taken 21 fitness classes in 15 days?

82nndlThis gif is a lie. I’m just shaking my phone.

I’ll never know the answer to that question, because my brain feels a little jumbled.

Ten minutes on the Power Plate may or may not be equivalent to 60 minutes of regular exercise, but 30 minutes on the Power Plate is definitely equivalent to one lobotomy surgery.

Destroying Our Bodies and Minds,
KBank and Friends