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XPT is the first ever developed complete fitness lifestyle system containing exceptional workouts and tools for performance level results that extend beyond the physical efforts of calorie burning and strength building. It’s a program that includes the components of body, mind, and spirit. XPT has best in class workouts for fitness and sport developed by world class athletes Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reece.
That all sounds nice, but from the research I did, I understood it to mean running submerged under water with weights, high intensity interval training and breath work. Despite feeling comfortable only with the HIIT training, I traveled to Kauai last week for a three day Experience to move, breathe and recover (and get out of my comfort zone).
Day 1. When I first laid eyes on the group made up of 21 others, I sized them up. Male. Female. Fit. Young. Old (er than me). I made note of their confidence, or lack thereof, the strong handshakes, and the weak ones. Warm eyes. Comradery. Not one single person seemed egotistical or bigger than what we were about to experience. We were all in it together.
We traveled to a private home on a gorgeous Kauai, Hawaii cliff. Mesmerized by the beauty of the meeting space, thinking, “this can’t be all that scary. Look at that view!”
After the introduction of Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton, the Experience started with Breathing. I think, “I can do this. I breathe all. the. time.” Not that easy. I learned that I do it all wrong. It was literally the most effort and thought I had to put in throughout the three days. Belly breathing. Let the belly lift, fill the ribcage, hold. Six counts in. Hold. Seven counts out. Hold. Then a “scrub:” fast breaths in and out. I felt like I was hyperventilating. Light headed. Downright dizzy. Extremely uncomfortable. Overwhelmed with self-doubt. I wondered if anyone would notice if I just breathed normally. Then there was the ‘hold your breath for three whole minutes’ exercise. Yah, right. We did these types of drills for 30 minutes. Thirty of the most uncomfortable minutes of the morning.
Then we moved on to Mobility. This felt similar to yoga. Moving the joints, creating and connecting with body awareness. “I got this.” But quickly remembered my weaknesses… wrists included (which, along with my forearms, are sore as I type). Keep pushing, Sarah.
Next up… Pool Work. Based on Breathing and Mobility. Those who know me know I am NOT a pool person. I can swim, but I don’t like it. Especially not with weights (ok, so I never really tried to swim with weights before this Experience.) Hold your breath and swim four widths of the pool – “two big or four little,” as Gabby said it. OMG. Then, add a dumbbell cradled to your core, affectionately known as “The Ammo Box.” Use the opposite arm to stroke and your legs to frog kick; again, two big or four little trips across the pool. Under one breath. WTH? I didn’t make it. But, this ended up being the place I improved the most over the course of the three days. (How awesome is it that the other Experience participants noticed and commended me for this! Oh and Gabby did, too! The encouraging high fives and hugs from her seriously motivated me and pushed me to keep working.) Then there was “Down the Line.” 20, 25, 35, 45, 50 and 55 pound dumbbells placed on the bottom of the deep end of the pool. Swim down, grab the dumbbell, do four squat jumps from the pool’s bottom to the surface for air, place the dumbbell down, swim to the next heavier weight and repeat. Is it over yet?
Then came lunch. I wasn’t hungry. In fact, I was fearful to eat because I didn’t know what was ahead. On the other hand, I was fearful not to eat because I didn’t know what was ahead. Solution: light lunch. It was perfect because next on my schedule was Stand Up Paddle Boarding on a calm, beautiful winding river. It was very peaceful, but worked my core like you wouldn’t believe. I took the hour or so to think about what I had already done that day. How fortunate I was to be where I was, doing what I was doing, learning from Gabby and Laird and all the other participants there, as well. Thinking about how I can take what I had learned so far and apply it to everything else I do. These inspiring thoughts were rudely interrupted when I returned to the launching pad and had to prepare for…
…the last session of the day: Heat and Ice. Sit in a sauna at 220+ degrees until you can’t stand it any longer (approximately 12-15 minutes), then a fast sweat rinse from a shower head at the back of Laird’s barn, then, into a 33 degree ice bath, for three minutes. Rinse and repeat two more times.
I was clouded with doubt during my first stint in the sauna. I was light headed, couldn’t focus and was a little scared I was going to faint. After a few minutes, sweat began to dampen my skin, then it beaded up, started to trickle, then stream down my face, chest, torso, arms and legs. I was actually looking forward to “cooling off.” I wasn’t as nervous as the other people seemed. I figured I live in Chicago, I’m used to temperature swings.
Probably the most underestimated thought I’ve ever had. I took my first step into the ice tub, then my second. Plugged my nose and slid all the way under. Coming out to have only my head above the ice and water line. It felt like daggers stabbing into my feet, knees and hands. My thumbs were wrapped into my fists, fists held at my core. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was practically hyperventilating. Then I remembered those breathing drills I enjoyed so much earlier in the day (note the sarcasm). Within two breaths, I was breathing at a slow, normal pattern. Mind over matter. Next thing I knew, three minutes had passed and it was time for round two in the sauna. The second set of heat passed quickly, as we were all laughing and talking about the ridiculous ice bath we had just survived. Round two in the ice was a piece of cake (ice cream cake!). By round three it seemed like a habit. Then… done. Time for more breathing exercises. I was exhausted.
Days 2 and 3 were very similar, but also included a beach workout involving sprints, bear crawls, burpees, carioca, shuffles and skipping, a HIIT workout with 65 other people in a garage and a strength workout in a local Cross Fit gym. Aside from the environments being different, I felt prepared by my day-to-day routine (thanks CAC!) and was comfortable with and confident in those workouts. The aspect that was different was the confidence and improvements gained from persevering outside of my comfort zone, success from the hard work and the positive energy from those around me. I wasn’t the best at everything I did last week, but I did it and I put in tremendous effort. I am grateful for the opportunity and immensely inspired.
Sarah Ruhl is the Group Fitness Director for Chicago Athletic Clubs.