Fitness District, Fun & Games, Get Out & About, Life in the Capital, The Great Outdoors

On Running and Falling In Love Again

I am a runner. It feels a bit weird to say that, because only 8 months ago, I couldn’t even run a mile.

It started last August. I had been a bridesmaid in a wedding for an entire weekend, you know the drill – bridesmaids luncheon, rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception. All weekend long I had been wearing the tallest of high heels, and the Sunday after the wedding I set out for a short jog, stepped off a curb and pulled my IT Band. Something about extending it and contracting it, and whatever. It ended in pain. I played tough guy for about a month, but after limping around the office for too long, my boss yelled at me and made me go into the doctor. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and I wound up in the good care of Alyssa White at PhysioTherapy Associates. (She is amazing. So is her colleague Sarah, if you’re looking for a good physical therapist.)

Somewhere in my first few weeks of PT, I got the bright idea that I should enter the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile lottery. Just on a whim. One afternoon at work, I decided that it was a brilliant idea and so I just did it. Everyone asks why, especially when the longest I’d ever run was a 5k, and I had no real explanation.  I wanted a goal. I wanted to show up each week and exercise my discipline. I wanted to do it because I knew I could.

So I set about creating a team of people and DC small businesses who would help, and the first step was Alyssa and getting my ITB back in shape. The second was finding a decent training program.

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Fitness District

A perfect April Sunday. Well, for some.

This is the sort of weather baseball is meant to be played in.  

A gentle breeze sweeps through the outfield, the sun is pleasantly beaming, and some high clouds trundle across the sky far to the north. This is the sort of weekend you long to spend at the ballpark. You want a hotdog in the sun, and a cold beer to go with it. These are the dreams of a winter sleeper, these perfect days.

Unless that was this weekend, and you were a Nationals fan.

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Fitness District, The Features

Fitness District: Bellydance

“Image_1165.jpg” by VelvetJAM on Flickr

Part of our ongoing series about different ways to get fit in the District…

In our last edition of Fitness District, Samantha ventured into the world of dance with a trip to B. Fit to try the Barre Method, a system based in part off of ballet. This week, we explore another form of dance that’s recently taken off in DC as a fantastic way to stay fit and challenge your body – bellydance, also known as oriental dance or raqs al sharqi.

Most people’s experience of bellydance in DC is probably relegated to a cabaret performance at a Moroccan restaurant like Marrakesh or Casablanca, or maybe even a show at Palace of Wonders or DC Tribal’s monthly nights at venues like Asylum, but increasingly dance companies are also performing in grand productions on local stages. I got hooked both ways, by watching a performance of Bellydance Superstars in a large theater, and being privileged to have local American Tribal Style troupe Sammati Dance perform for a small party at my house. Inspired by the vibrant joy and sensuality, I wasn’t convinced I could actually get that kind of isolated control over my muscles, but I was sure going to try!

It seems like every gym is adding a bellydance class these days, but I urge you to make sure you are learning a properly constructed curriculum from an experienced dancer to avoid injury. There are many fine dance studios teaching bellydance in the DC area – Joy of Motion, Sahara Dance, and Saffron Dance (where I study) are consistently mentioned as the best. Also, with a thriving community of professional dancers here, you have the opportunity to take private lessons as well, which is a real boon if you choose to advance.

Now it may not seem like it at first, but it takes a lot of control to shake your booty. My very first class had me a sweaty red-faced mess by the end – and that was just a beginners class! As you advance – traveling combination steps, layering shimmies, undulations – it’s hardcore. But every single person I’ve asked about their experience learning bellydance has said the same thing – that it restored their confidence in their bodies and self-esteem.

I asked two professional dancers and instructors, Kostana and Asharah, to talk more about how bellydance impacted their fitness and body image.
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