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"To begin, begin"

Posted Aug 31 2010 8:00am
-- William Wordsworth

Ask for Shelly Gramza's advice on how to get started on a fitness activity and she'll be quick to say, that as cheesy as it may sound, to "just do it!".  This is not Shelly endorsing a particular sports apparel company, simply put, Shelly walks her talk. 

Couch Potato Land, been there?
I have not always been active! I played sports as a kid (but wasn't any good at any of them) and was a cheerleader up to the 11th grade, but never really stayed active after that except for using fitness videos here and there. But that wouldn't last long, and then I'd just fall back into couch potato land.

Shelly doing a Spiral
"I only wish I hadn't waited so long!"
I'd always wanted to take figure skating lessons but due to being busy, being afraid to do it and several other excuses, never got around to it. Three and half years ago I decided to sign up for group lessons at Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline. I could barely move forward at that point without falling, so it was so much harder than I ever thought! But I soon "graduated" to individual lessons and now I can do jumps and spins and some intermediate footwork. I have friends I skate with twice a week who help me too, and it's a lot of fun.

As if figure skating wasn't challenging enough...
I started taking dance classes about 2 1/2 years ago. The type of dance I do is called Appalachian Flatfoot Dancing, sometimes known as Buckdancing, sometimes known as Clogging. It's an improvisational percussive-style dance that is done as an accompaniment to old-time Appalachain mountain music or sometimes to Bluegrass music. Now, you may have seen the team-style clogging where everyone wears square dance skirts and there is a lot of complicated choreography. That's very cool, but that is not the style I do. Team clogging is a modernization of the more traditional style that I am learning. Traditional Flatfoot dancing comes from a variety of influences, including African, Native American, and Irish dance. It heavily influenced American tap dancing and it in turn was influenced by tap and modern style clogging.

Appalachian Flatfoot Dancing
And, no I don't dance in clogs! Just regular tap shoes.  I attend classes with my teacher Charmaine Slaven and I practice every Tuesday night with the old time jam at Conor Byrne's Pub in Ballard. The dancing comes a lot easier to me than skating, I think because of the loose improvisational manner of it. I guess I've gotten good enough at it to perform, because my teacher just asked me to perform with her at the Northwest Folklife Festival this year!

A true believer in cross-training
I go to Mieko's Fitness  for yoga, Pilates and weight lifting. I try to work out 6 days a week. Three of those days, between all the different activities I do, I actually work out twice. For example, on Tuesdays I go from yoga to dance practice. I hear spinning classes are great, but I haven't tried it yet because I'm not sure where I'd squeeze it in! I also try to swim as much as possible in the summer. I love Colman Pool in West Seattle; they use filtered water from the Sound, so, no chlorine!

One for the bucket list
Waltz Jump!
A big challenge for me is to actually perform a skating program in front of a crowd. The thought of that scares me to death, but I feel like I should do it sometime before I die!

As an athlete, I am ...
Determined, consistent, and eclectic. I'm also very hard on myself, which sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn't!

"After I've worked out, I'm never sorry I did it."
I once heard a running friend say that and that is the truth! My workout mantra is "Just go, and you'll be glad you did." Sometimes I'm really tired, or headachey, or just plain can't get motivated.

Inspired to do better
My workout friends and the people in my classes inspire me to be a better skater, dancer, and yoga practitioner. That's one of the reasons I think it's better to get out of the house and work out with others.

Shelly, on running
You might be surprised to know that I really hate running, distance running in particular! But I stuck with it because I wanted to see if I could do it, and I had good friends that I was running with in the program. And I still do short runs because it 's a good cardio workout and it gives my body something different from all the other stuff, which is mostly strength training.

I don't distance run anymore.  I trained for the Seattle half from 2004-07 with Seattle Fit, but distance running just took up so much of my time and I wanted to diversify. So I just do a half hour run each week. I also do a weekly circuit training program (running plus resistance), which I learned from Beth Baker of Running Evolution .

To begin, begin.
The only way to get started on any fitness activity is to get up off your butt and just do it! Take it slow and be patient with yourself. Particularly with activities like yoga and skating, it takes years to get to where you are really good at it (I'm not even there yet), so give yourself time. Also, really try to find something you love, and put it on your calendar as a date with yourself. Find a workout buddy or group if you can.

If I have regular classes to go to, I will put them on my calendar and that somehow gives me accountability. I go straight from work so I don't have a chance to go home and laze around first. Also, having skating and dance lessons and friends who are expecting me there keeps me accountable as well.

Other sites Shelley recommends:
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