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I started training with MM Team Fitness at the beginning of 2011 as part of the Climb for the Cure training event, doing legs only once a week. In October of 2010 I ran my first half-marathon. While training for that race, I developed plantar fasciitis. I also gained weight during training and I knew it wasn't just muscle mass. When I ran the race, I felt heavier and less in shape than I had six months before. I knew I had to change my approach to training and include strength and conditioning.

When I started training with MM Team Fitness, I was surprised what I couldn't do. I found out that most things I thought I knew how to do, I was doing incorrectly. I couldn't squat below parallel without bending over -- just didn't have the hip flexibility. I didn't know how to power clean a bar or work with kettlebells without bruising myself up. I made progress, slowly. With MM Team Fitness training, I often felt like I took two steps forward and one step back. It’s hard mentally and physically, but I appreciate that Mark demands proper form and technique because it's important to avoid injury and to translate what we do in the gym to real life.

Following my first Pelotonia century ride in 2011, I added a second day of team training. In early 2012 I came on board with the full 3d/wk program.

I started training with Mark because of his knowledge and expertise. What I didn't expect when I started was how much I would enjoy the team aspect of our training. Mark tends to draw high-caliber clients to his groups, not in the sense that they are highly fit to start, but they are all passionate and committed to living better lives, like minded driven professionals as others have described his teams.

I am inspired and motivated by my teammates and the improvement I've seen in others. The energy of team training brings out my “A Game” for every session.

This year, during the 100 mile Pelotonia ride, the people I passed were averaging about 12-14 mph, and I was easily passing them at 18-20. I realized at that point how much I have improved in 2 years and how important strength and conditioning is to endurance sports. When I started cycling in 2011, I was one of those people everyone else was passing.

Interestingly, my performance has improved significantly by riding only two days a week (one interval ride and one long ride), in addition to my three-days-a-week of team training. Moreover, I'm not spending near the amount of time on my bike that most of my friends are, but I have steadily improved with them.

As many other competitive MM Team Fitness endurance athletes are finding, improved performance comes with less total miles, more interval/speed/hill work, and strength and conditioning. Two years ago I would have never thought that. – Heidi Griesmer (age 42)

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Last Saturday, Audrey and I were discussing her running prep for the Fall 1/2 and at one point in the discussion the topic of our current training format came up. It started with, "I hated this stuff when we first started." From there she was off on a 5 min rant. When she was done I told her to put what she said in few paragraphs for a blog piece as it's important for both current and future clients. Here it is.

About 3 years ago we transitioned from old school body building style lifting to the current Cross Fit based training system. I wasn’t happy about it, in fact I hated it, I mean really hated it. It was everything I couldn’t do.

I am not a coordinated person and suddenly I was asked to perform these moves that required core strength and stability, speed, eye/hand coordination, mobility, use of my whole body, balance and mental discipline. I no longer just stood there and moved a weight up and down or back and forth. The focus wasn’t just one body part, it was everything at once and if I didn’t do something right especially with a kettlebell, it hurt.

Functional high intensity power training took me out of my comfort zone and what I knew. Now I had to actually think about what I was doing. Gone were the days when I could come in, sit on the lat pull down machine and feel good about just doing a set or moving more weight.

I struggled from day one and I would leave many times feeling like a failure because I couldn’t get my head wrapped around a movement or I ended up on my butt trying to clean the bar. Words like clean and jerk were foreign, and how many different foot and hand positions are there anyway? I couldn’t do a headstand, I would fall over trying to get my 2nd leg rested on my elbow because I was inflexible. I couldn’t get a foot off the ground trying the climb the rope because I was fat and uncoordinated. I couldn’t grasp the concept of how my feet were supposed to wrap around the bottom of the rope or how I could use my legs to climb. Worst of all, I was constantly being reminded about correct form and technique. Gone were the days of, “give me 10 reps” and that was it, nothing else to consider, didn’t matter how I did it, just get it done.

Despite all of this, I believed in my trainer and the new system. I was told this would get me in the best shape of my life, so I kept working on what I couldn’t do until I could do it.

No accomplishment was too small because each accomplishment is a stepping stone toward continued improvement. Now I can easily climb the rope while wearing a weight vest and I can do handstand pushups. I know the proper grip and stance for bar cleans, and I understand the difference between a push press and a jerk. I am elated that I can finally do things I once thought were impossible. It took me 3 years to get to this point.

Now, I can’t imagine going back to the way we used to lift, I’d be bored out of my mind performing brainless exercises. For as many struggles as I had in the beginning and still face, the progress and the results keep me moving forward. My flexibility is far better than it’s been in years. I carry more lean muscle than I ever have in my life, and my overall energy and endurance is greatly improved.

I’ve lost almost 50 lbs of fat since Feb 2012, ran the Cap City ½ marathon on May 4th, 2013 in 2:09 min, about 20 minutes faster than the COL ½ in October 2012, total miles of run training for the event, 6 miles, yes just 6 miles. One short run the weekend before. I ran faster than others I know who followed traditional running programs. I can row 500 m on the C2 Rower in 1:37, push a 200 lb plate stack up and down a 60’ isle in less than 22 seconds, and I bench 135 lbs for 12 reps. I can do handstands with my 12-year-old’s cheerleading troop while other parents just sit and stare.

I am far better off physically and mentally because of my training, yet far from where I want to be. There is always a move I struggle to get or something new that requires multiple attempts to execute reasonably well.

This hasn’t been at all easy. I am not genetically gifted nor am I athletic by nature. I work full time, live a distance from the gym and have a family and real life. Just getting to the session 3 days a week is a task in itself. I added in two days a week of run training, one interval and one longer run consistently since June 2013. In October of 2013 I ran the COL 1/2 marathon in 1:52:46. Regardless of the outcomes going forward, I continue to enjoy the journey.

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