Best of the East Bay - Health & Fitness
Get in shape with the best spin instructor, nutritionist, and butt-kicking workout.
Courtesy of Contra Costa Boot Camp
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+ About to turn 50, John Jeha didn’t buy a sports car or get an eye lift. Instead, the Alamo weekend warrior is celebrating the big five-oh by doing 50 marathons and other endurance races in 50 weeks. By July, he was to have completed 27 events, including the Boston Marathon. It’s all for a good cause: to raise money through sponsorships for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helps paraplegic athletes.
What are some of the challenges you face in making this happen?
Trying to find events. During the summer months, there’s stuff every weekend, and sometimes I can double up on events. The other hard thing is making sure I qualify for all the events, like the Boston Marathon.
What about balancing your sports and family life?
My family has been very supportive, and I work full-time. Not only do I have to race each weekend, but I have to fit in my training between things like my son’s tennis tournaments and family commitments. Usually, I get up every morning at 4:15 and run at 5 to get it all in. I kind of have to juggle it all.
Are there any surprising rewards of what you’re doing?
I work out with a group of friends, and when I first told them I was doing this, everybody thought I was setting a really large goal for myself. And they were probably thinking, “I don’t think you can do this.” But, after I kept on completing races, things changed, and one of the people I work out with told me, “Your enthusiasm has energized all of us.” Sharing what I’ve learned and giving back to the community is just amazing.
Follow Jeha’s progress at johnjeha.com. —Jason Shueh
+ After hearing about the great workouts you get on a Pilates Reformer, I finally got a chance to try one out with Steven Smith, owner of IM=X Pilates Studio in San Ramon. You need a guide such as Smith to introduce you to the Reformer, a complicated machine of springs, straps, pulleys, and a gliding platform, on which you sit, kneel, stand, or lie to perform more than 100 exercises. Smith got me working up a sweat by making sure I maintained proper body alignment and inhaled and exhaled at certain points through a move. These directives focused my attention on specific muscle groups, and I knew I'd be sore—in a good way—the next morning.
2211-B San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 838-9900, imxbayarea.com. —Martha Ross
+ Walnut Creek’s Renaissance ClubSport continues to rake in the most votes for best fitness center. That’s probably because it keeps adding interesting new programs and equipment more commonly found in big-city gyms. This year, it added TRX boot camp, which uses your own body weight and straps for a resistance workout, and it brought in high-tech Power Plate machines on which you stand, sit, or lunge. The plate vibrates while you exercise to increase your muscle contractions—and the results of your workout.
2805 Jones Rd., Walnut Creek, (925) 938-8700, clubsports.com. —Susan Safipour
+ Leena St. Michael admits that she can’t fully flatten her feet in a Downward Dog, unlike the figures of yoga perfection you might see on the cover of Yoga Journal. “One fine day,” she says brightly, explaining that in yoga you shouldn’t worry about what you can’t do, but be joyous about what you can.
St. Michael, who has taught yoga for 15 years, repeats such encouraging words to her students in her Saturday morning classes at Danville’s Oak Hill Park Community Center.
St. Michael has a warm smile that eases me into a practice that is physically challenging but will also connect me to a quiet inner place. “You all look so beautiful!” she says to her 20 students.
In keeping with her view that yoga shouldn't require superhuman struggle, she shows me a simple way to rotate my elbows as I hold myself in a “plank,” then how to hug those elbows in close as I lower my body straight down in a Chaturanga Dandasana. Her tip allows me to perform my most graceful Chaturanga ever.
ompeace.com. —Martha Ross
+ You’ve gotta love a spin instructor who gives clear cues, plays Prince, and gets you to burn at least 350 calories in an hour. Shelly Valerio does all that in her spin classes at Oakwood Athletic Club in Lafayette. Valerio pegs her workout to the rpms on the bike computer so it’s easy to follow, yet she constantly urges her students to adjust the resistance to go at their own pace. And, when she asked who wanted to “race” her, it was fun to see just how fast the students could get those stationary bikes to spin.
4000 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-4000, oakwoodathleticclub.com. —Susan Safipour
+ For the fourth year in a row, the Bar Method is the killer workout of choice among Diablo readers. Here's how it works: You spend one hour pulling in your gut until it practically touches your backbone, as you strengthen, tone, and stretch every part of your body. If you’re looking to get your butt kicked, yep, this would do it.
The close runner-up in this category was the Dailey Method, a similar workout to the Bar Method. In fact, teachers at the Dailey Method studio promise a “round, tight butt,” which is another way of saying they’re going to rough you up. Still, the combination of strengthening and stretching ultimately leaves your body feeling great. It can even relieve chronic pain.
The Bar Method, 3211 Crow Canyon Place, San Ramon, (925) 830-8825; 1946-A Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 933-1946; barmethod.com.The Dailey Method, 406 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 362-4836; 3471 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-5400; 4409 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, (510) 985-1955; thedaileymethod.com. —Michaela Jarvis