Home Gym Transformation

Do you have an unfinished basement or a spare bedroom that’s doing nothing but holding all your stuff? We did. After moving about a year ago, our basement became the repository of things we couldn’t find a place or a use for. It was also home to our sparse collection of workout gear: a pair of adjustable dumbbells, a Swiss ball, a few resistance bands, some exercise mats and a bench and barbell set we picked up on Craigslist. We definitely had enough equipment to get a decent workout, but we were less than motivated to trudge downstairs and workout amid the clutter.

Serious clutter in our basement!
A disjointed hodge-lodge of workout gear.
The old gym just wasn’t very inviting.

Then, one day, when I was downstairs working out, I had a vision.

A long time ago, I had taken a spin class at a gym downtown and at the end of the class, the instructor reminded everyone that there was a “cycle theater” night coming up – gym members could come and watch a movie on the big screen in the spin room while they pedaled the pounds away. Recalling that moment, I reimagined our basement as our own home exercise theater, and the transformation began.

A new use for an old TV; new cardio equipment.
Inexpensive gym flooring; quality weight equipment.
Our dream gym, free of clutter and ready for workouts!

Because we opted for brand new equipment, the transformation wasn’t cheap. But we did save money in a few key areas. We bought inexpensive, lock-together flooring at a local home improvement store, and used the old flooring and carpet remnants for the rest of the area. We got an Amazon Fire Stick for our old TV so that we could connect to Netflix, Amazon and YouTube and watch movies, shows and even free spin classes online while we workout. We hooked up an old speaker to an Echo Dot to provide great sound for our workout playlists.

As for the equipment, we kept a lot of the stuff we already had and only got rid of the Craigslist weight bench. For the new equipment, we sought out good-quality, mid-priced brands. The biggest improvement, though, was just getting organized and cleaning up all the clutter. That part was free, costing us only a few hours of our time.

In all, our transformation cost about the equivalent of two year’s-worth of gym memberships, which isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it for us.

Marathoners: How to Finish Strong

With the Twin Cities Marathon just a month away, thousands of runners are asking themselves one thing: “Will I be ready for 26.2 miles on race day?” There are a lot of factors that go into determining the answer to that question, but here are a few tips to help increase your chances of finishing strong, whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned marathon veteran.

Get to the Starting Line Healthy

Maybe you haven’t exactly stuck to your training plan. You haven’t hit your weekly mileage targets, your long run targets, or both. Maybe you’ve been battling a nagging little injury or two. If that’s the case then the best advice I can give you is to take it easy! Cramming more mileage into this last month isn’t going to do much at all for you fitness-wise, and if you make an injury worse or fail to finish a planned long run, it will decimate your confidence, too. The best way to finish a marathon strong is to start it strong. So keep running, but listen to your body now more than ever, and honor your rest days!

Stop Eating (and Drinking) Junk

When you’re putting in lots of hours training for a marathon you get hungry. Really hungry. In my case, it’s like 17 year-old football player hungry. This can lead to lots of rationalization for making poor food choices. Let’s face it, rarely are we presented with the opportunity to eat virtually whatever we want and not gain weight, but running 30 or 40 or 50 miles a week presents you with just such an opportunity. But if you are to be successful on race day, you must resist the urge to fill that calorie void with junk food. Pizza, burgers, beer, dessert, cheese on top of everything, fried whatever – it might all taste like heaven, but it’s hell on your body. Now is exactly when your body needs nutrition that will help it recover from your workouts and make the physiological adaptations necessary to get you through the upcoming 26.2 miles of pavement pounding. And that can’t happen on junk. You know what’s healthy and what isn’t, right? So eat lots and lots of that instead.

Avoid the Three Ts

Tightness, tension and being tired can cause major problems for runners, especially as race day draws nearer. If you think of your body as a machine, introducing any one of these negative elements can be like throwing sand into the works. At first you may not notice, but over time, the constant abrasive grinding wears down the critical small gears, eventually leading to a total system breakdown. Luckily, combating them is easy. All you need is 15 minutes a day and some discipline.

Dedicate 10 of those minutes to using a foam roller, massage stick, lacrosse ball or other implement to work out any areas of tightness you have. Spend about 20 – 30 seconds on each area, and work just up to the point of discomfort, never pain. The key to this is to do it consistently, every day. Using a foam roller to loosen up tight muscles and connective tissue before a run is a great idea, but know that it will be helpful whenever you can squeeze it in.

Spend the other 5 minutes practicing meditation, deep breathing, or some other stress-busting technique. If there is a time of day when you notice yourself feeling particularly tense or tired, try taking a break to consciously relax then. The more consistent you can make this habit, the better. Simply noticing when you are tense and taking a few deep breaths throughout the day will help, too, but it’s not a substitute for that small but dedicated chunk of time to disconnect from the demands of your day.

Most of us can improve the quality of our sleep without even addressing the amount of time we spend in bed each night. A few tips for getting more of the restorative deep sleep your body needs include: turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime; close curtains/blinds/shutters to make your bedroom as dark as possible; and turn down the thermostat (ideal sleeping temperature is around 60-65 degrees for men and 65-70 degrees for women).

If there’s a common thread running through all of these tips it’s to be kind to yourself. Listen to your body, give it what it needs, and protect it from what it doesn’t. And that includes the most important part of your body – your mind.

Training with Rashelle – A Journal Part 3: Badass Sculpting & Charlize Theron

By Gail Asche
In the 170’s…

Well, I did it.  I ran out of excuses and completed my first workout with Rashelle Brown of Full Steam Fitness!  I thought long and hard for a plausible reason not to have to.  My imagination ran dry.  I tried “my dog ate it…” – seems that one is situational.  Ho hum.  Nothing ventured and all of that.

I’m delighted to report that it doesn’t hurt to blink today and typing appears to be painless if I stay in one position so I’d say we had a successful workout!

Unlike other personal training and gym class experiences, Rashelle doesn’t drag her training sessions out for an hour.  She can inflict her special brand of ‘Badass Sculpting’ in half this time.  I think that’s the official name for my training now… “Badass Sculpting”.  We don’t have long pauses and rest periods that drift off into a conversation about this or that… although I’m proud of myself for being able to squeeze in a thorough critique of Charlize Theron’s new movie, Atomic Blonde, that I had seen the night before (I’ll come back to that).  Nope.  Nothing like that.  No, we focus.  FO-CUSS!  Lack of focus does result in extra reps.  I learned this yesterday.  Rashelle is perfectly capable of counting to ten, but if your form sucks or your effort is even slightly below 100, she’ll keep counting.

Accountability apparently.  She really is a delight though.

So, it turns out I know the cheat for most exercises, including where to position my gaze to make push-ups easier – yes, this is an actual thing.  I’ll rush to my own defense and share that I didn’t realize one’s eye position affected push-up intensity.  I know it now though.  Standing above me, with an almost vertical line of vision to the back of my head this woman knew where I was looking.  That’s a handy skill to have if you’re in the business of torturing training people.  I’m pretty sure the position of my head and neck didn’t change after she instructed me to look at a specific spot on the floor, so I’m not sure how the she-devil knew.  She figured it out quickly too – I’d only done about two and she was on it… bam!  Push-up form perfected.  Check!  Remember, she is a delight.

Jokes aside, I feel great today and I really am glad I couldn’t find a feasible excuse to skip my session again.  As Rashelle had previously told me, I was capable of more than I had imagined, certainly more than I gave myself credit for.  I have my ‘homework’ to complete between now and our next session which I will be diligent about.  I’m sure the ‘excuse machine’ will kick into production before the next one, but I’m going to do my best to shut it down!  I’m now focusing on attaining Charlize Theron’s form (from the Atomic Blonde movie – remember?), that’s the only reason I downloaded the picture.

Undoubtedly Ms. Theron has a trainer like Rashelle and she probably knows where to look for push-ups.  I’d suggest a little trip to the movies if you haven’t already seen Atomic Blonde – you too will be inspired to work out!

Training with Rashelle – A Journal Part 2

Part 2 – Still 180
By Gail Asche

A vital component to having a Personal Trainer is actually meeting up with them and completing the prescribed workouts.  I know this.  I understand this.  However, I have yet to complete one.  To be fair, (to me) I was genuinely unwell for two weeks.  This week I just used the last two weeks as an excuse, and one headache I legitimately had.  I am weak-willed.

I worked out on Monday on my own and decided to throw in three sets of lunges – with weights.  My thighs were screaming for the next two days and it was on the second of these days that I was supposed to workout with Rashelle.  I might actually be her worst client.  Probably.

In an attempt to show a modicum of enthusiasm (and avoid being fired as a client) I invited Rashelle on a bike ride with me.  We’ve ridden before, but just toodling around town with our wives visiting breweries, and one other time when I was trying to help her understand gear transitions.  You’ll remember from my last post, Part One, that I’m a cycling enthusiast.  I love cycling.  In my mind, I could ride in a peloton with Froome, Cavendish, Contador et al, in reality, of course, I would need a week to complete one stage of Le Tour – at least.

All out of excuses I agreed to ride with Rashelle today and I elected to ride the ‘slower’ of my two bikes “so that Rashelle could ‘keep up’ with me.”  That was a mistake.  It’s an ‘off-the-shelf’ bike, I believe it’s made of steel and the tubes may be reinforced with cement because that is how it feels to ride it.  It also doesn’t like hills.  I tell this to anyone I encounter on or near a hill when I am trying to ride up one… the bike doesn’t like hills.  If I have an audience for any length of time I’ll also point out that I’m wearing normal training shoes and using run-of-the-mill pedals instead of clipping-in as I would on my carbon fiber, butter-like-gear-shifting road bike.

Rashelle kicked my arse.  And stomped on it.  She beat me at my ‘own game’.  We were only going on a little nine-mile loop – nothing too intense, a couple of little inclines, a couple of hills… I lost sight of her twice.  On her lady-shopper bike – with every accessory imaginable including mudguards, panniers and a bell… a bloody bell!  Lost sight of her.  I even tried to ‘cash-in’ on the fact that she is probably unaware of the additional effort it takes to ‘pull’ a rider behind you but I couldn’t always keep-up enough to draft.  I was bouncing through gears like a woman possessed and I couldn’t even draft behind her!  If she wasn’t the super athlete that she is I would be devastated right now… I’m a little hurt, I’m not going to lie… but more than that – I’m motivated.  That was probably her plan all along. Rashelle knows I’d like my old cycling form back and that I would like to register double digit speeds on inclines.  It must have been her plan all along to ride her absolute hardest to spur me into action.  It worked!

Between now and my scheduled workout with Rashelle next Wednesday I commit to riding my big old clunky bike every day IN ADDITION to completing a workout.  No more excuses.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Training with Rashelle – A Journal Part 1

If you go to Google and type ‘new runner’ you’ll get more than nine million results. Yep, nine… yep, million. By now we all know that the list that Google gives us is either sponsored – paid to be on the list, or merit based results – on the list based on reviews and impressions (how many ‘clicks’). I started clicking and found some pretty interesting information – some tragic cliché’s like “remember to tie your shoes”, which quite frankly if you need reminding you hadn’t ought to be out in public, some tear-inducing stories of inspiration “running saved my marriage”, some self-deprecating “I ran from chubby” (these were my favorite) to some self-professed miracles “drink coconut water with a lychee and bulgar blend to increase stamina” – ok, I made that last one up, but you know what I’m talking about.

Like a lot of fitness bloggers (self-awarded title), I used to be fitter, thinner, faster… twenty – but no more. I hit my forties like the hippo from the Madagascar movies – overweight, sassy, drowning in denial, yet inexplicably flexible (it’s a mystery). When I was 41 years and one day old, I weighed 40 pounds more than I had when I was 39 years and one day old… I wanted to blame my metabolism, Minnesota winters, patellofemoral syndrome, and a bone spur on my hip (the last two were diagnosed by an actual physician). And, while each of these factors undoubtedly played a part, the change was a result of my over-eating and dramatic change in physical activity… i.e. I got lazy and ate too much.

Luckily for me, my good friend Rashelle Brown is a Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach, Fitness Guru and all-round Badass-maker, so instead of reading 9 million blogs of varying quality, I decided to ask Rashelle to help me back to fitness. I’ll be sharing my journey via Rashelle’s website, giving the entire world a weekly update of my progress – or lack thereof if I waiver in my commitment.

This is week 1 – I weigh 180 pounds, eat fairly well – I’m a sometimes vegan, can’t fit into any of my ‘regular clothes’, and silently argue and negotiate with myself about every physical activity I plan.
– I’ll run 2 miles will turn into I’ll run and walk for 30 minutes, and even that can be negotiated down to – that’s a mile and I’m only a block from home.

Every day I have the best intentions for tomorrow. Once an avid cyclist clocking up over 100 miles a week, I fell twice during my last ride and I hadn’t gone two miles from my house. So, I am putting my faith in Rashelle and working to restore confidence in myself – I’ll keep you posted.

This. Is. Spartan!!

Obstacle races continue to grow in popularity among fitness enthusiasts and after completing the Spartan Sprint at Welch Village in Minnesota last year I decided to become a certified SGX Instructor with the goal of training a previously sedentary group of individuals to finish their first Spartan race.

A couple of dozen people started the journey in January 2017, attending bi-weekly Spartan Training classes.  As the weeks passed the training got harder, the workouts more vigorous, the time commitment more arduous and thus, the number of attendees began to dwindle.  Two distinct groups emerged, so I decided to complete the race twice, once with each group (never again).
Race Day was this past Saturday.  A sunny, slightly overcast day with the threat of showers in the afternoon.  Team one consisted of 5 would-be Spartans (including me) with the expectation of completing every obstacle with the fewest number of forfeit burpees* necessary.  Team two was larger; all of the people that had persevered and finished the Spartan training we started together in January – 9 brave souls, including me – again!  We jumped walls, waded through trenches, crawled under barbed wire, did 30 burpees, ran, swung, 30 more burpees, carried, climbed, jumped again, another 30 darn burpees… 21 obstacles over nearly 4 miles before reaching the finish line, which could only be reached by taking a running jump over fire.

Demons were faced and overcome, negative inner voices silenced forever as everyone crossed the line with a smile, triumphantly bowing to receive the coveted 2017 Spartan finishers medal.  I’m proud of anyone who sets their mind to a challenge and succeeds, regardless of the complexity, but I am particularly proud of ‘my’ Spartans.  Capable of more than they could have previously imagined, committed to a more active and healthy lifestyle, and looking forward to the next race… wherever that may be… whatever that may look like.

Aroo, Spartans.  Aroo!

*”Spartan Small-print” – any obstacle not completed as prescribed results in a penalty of 30 burpee’s.


Spartan Vs. Tough Mudder, a Coach’s Perspective

This summer I had the opportunity to run both the MN Spartan Sprint and the Twin Cities Tough Mudder Full. I’ve been a certified Spartan SGX Coach since 2016 and I’ve run 3 Spartan Sprints and one Tough Mudder Full since that time. Here is my totally subjective comparison of the two races.

Course Length and Toughness

It would seem there should be no comparison here, because a Spartan Sprint is always only between 3 and 5 miles, and the Tough Mudder Full falls somewhere between 10 and 12 miles. This year’s Spartan was around 3.5, and the TM Full I ran was a hair over 10. However, my total course time for the two races was not that different – I finished the Spartan only about 20 minutes faster than the Tough Mudder.

How is this possible?


While the Tough Mudder course was situated on what I would call rolling terrain (at the Wild Wings of Oneka hunting preserve in Hugo, MN), the Spartan was, once again, held on the ski slopes at Welch Village. I know the hills in Minnesota can’t be called mountains, but it sure felt like it on race day. This is typical of all Spartan races (except Stadium Sprints) – the terrain is intended to be it’s own obstacle. I don’t know if other Tough Mudder races are typically held on steeper or more rugged terrain, but in the Minnesota comparison, the Spartan race course was definitely tougher, even though it was shorter. (Note to readers: My time at the Spartan race was a bit slower than it might have been because I was running with a team and we ended up walking up ALL of the hills. However, last year when I ran it by myself for time, I also did a LOT of walking up those hills.)

You Call Those Obstacles?

When I ran my first Tough Mudder, I realized that it’s a very different event than a Spartan race. I’m sure this is by design, since people don’t want to simply run the same race at different venues with different logos on the finisher’s shirts at the end. Here was my impression of the obstacles, as expressed to my brother (who ran both races with me this summer) in breathless gasps around mile 7 or 8 of the TM: “At the Spartan race, it felt like the running parts were a rest between obstacles, and here the obstacles feel like a rest between the runs.” Of course there are a couple of logical reasons for this. First, there was a lot more running at the Tough Mudder because it was a longer race, and second, there was actual running at the Tough Mudder because running was possible for me on that terrain. But those aren’t the only reasons. Read on to learn more.

A Race Vs. A Challenge

The Spartan Race is a race – look, it says so right in the name! The Tough Mudder, however, is a challenge. Unless you opt in to a special (and relatively new) competitive pool, you don’t even get a timing chip and official finish time, and that’s by design. Whereas the Spartan racecourse is filled with competitors (many of whom will be glad to give you a quick hand up and over a wall or even do a few burpees for you), the Tough Mudder course is filled with comrades, who are charged to help their fellow Mudders complete the course successfully. Indeed, before each starting wave, an incredibly buff guy with a microphone makes you raise your right hand and swear that you will do so. So the obstacles at a Tough Mudder are designed for you to need help. I’d love to see a TM competitive heat sometime, because I have no idea how one person could possibly get over the Block Ness Monster or up the Pyramid Scheme alone. (Perhaps even the competitive heats require one to run as part of a team?) By contrast, the Spartan obstacles are intended to be overcome on your own, yet they are made to be incredibly hard (probably because the race’s creator, Joe DeSena, is crazy and he wants you to think about quitting a hundred times during the race, but at some point you realize the only way out is through the finish line). Here’s a good anecdote to give you a sense of the two races: At several points during the Tough Mudder, I found myself thinking, “Wow, this is actually really fun!” By comparison, during my first Spartan race, at several points along the course I found myself thinking, “I think I’m actually going to finish this!” For me, the feeling of joy in each case was pretty much the same.

Burpees Vs. Electrocution

I think we all know the real difference between these two events, though, don’t we? It really just comes down to a question of what kind of masochist you are. Would you rather do 30 burpees for each obstacle you miss (and you will miss some, even the elites do), or would you rather get shocked with 10,000 volts of electricity, probably more than once? After running both races, I think I’d take the shocks over the burpees (and the most obstacles I’ve ever failed in a Spartan race is only 4). But that just tells you how much I hate burpees.

So, in Spartan and Tough Mudder we have two OCRs that are very different from one another, but that leave you with a similar feeling of accomplishment at the end. I had a great time running both races, and I’ll definitely run them both again next year.

5 Most Common Pitfalls for New Runners

Read my latest article “5 Most Common Pitfalls for New Runners” featured on Active.com.

If you are just getting started or your quest to become a runner has stalled, you will find my ‘tried and true’ solutions to the most commonly encountered road blocks.

Are you ready to become a running badass?  Contact me to learn more about my bespoke coaching programs for runners of all abilities.


Body Work by Full Steam Fitness

Introducing my latest large group class: Body Work!

This strength-focused class will teach you how to use your own body weight to build functional strength and achieve great muscle tone. We’ll spend each class focusing on a different functional exercise using the ground, a few basic pieces of exercise equipment, and/or every day objects to leverage your own body weight and create the perfect amount of resistance that’s right for you.

If you’ve been curious about how to get the most out of your stability ball, if you struggle to do push-ups or deep squats with perfect form, or if you’ve ever wondered what the heck a TRX is for, then come and check out Body Work by Full Steam Fitness!

Days/Times: Monday mornings 5:30 – 6:30 AM and Wednesday evenings 6:30 – 7:30 PM throughout the month of June.
Cost: Walk-in/Single Class Rate = $15
Monthly Package: $60 for all 8 Body Work classes. Monthly subscribers can bring drop-in guests for just $10 each.
Body Work classes are also eligible as part of the Monthly Unlimited package.
Where: The FIT Lab, 1583 N Hamline Ave, Falcon Heights, MN

Register now – just click “Book Online” in the righthand sidebar!

A Race Week Checklist for New Runners

For new runners, that last week leading up to your first race can give you the jitters. You’re excited, but you also don’t know exactly what to expect. Aside from wondering if you’ve trained well enough for the race, you worry about the logistics of getting to the starting line on time, with everything you need. You wonder what you should eat in the days and hours leading up to the race. In short, you’ve got a lot of unanswered questions.

While there’s no shortage of articles offering practical tips for new runners, I wanted to go a step further and give new runners (or those returning after a long hiatus) a practical, day-by-day checklist to follow the week leading up to your first race.

You can read my article at Active.com, and if you enjoy it or find it useful, please don’t forget to share it!