#AvengerinTraining – Captain America Week

Finishing Strong

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Entering the final week, I felt strong. Stronger than I’ve ever felt before. I discovered muscles I didn’t know could ache. I had better balance and control in my workouts. And since Captain America is my very favorite Avenger, I’d been looking forward to this week since the beginning of this challenge. And this week certainly did not disappoint!! It was an amazing finish to an amazing 6 weeks of focus and determination. I’m not an actress! And I’ll probably never be in a big budget action film. I’ll never have a crazy six pack or weigh 140 pounds. But I lost 15 pounds on this program and I have felt healthier than I ever have before! And that is success.

Week 6: Captain America Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

Steve Rogers, an average man with above average morals and a desire to do more than he was born to do. After joining the Army, Rogers was given a “Super Soldier Serum” that transformed him from a small town Brooklyn boy into the superhero known as Captain America.

To become what he needed to be to play the Super Soldier, Chris Evans packed on 30 pounds of muscle and spent a lot of time in the gym training as he never had before. Take a look over at BodyBuilding.com for the full report.

Inspiration

Movies

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Avengers, Age of Ultron, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are all obvious. And if there’s on other comic book hero that will bring that all-American spirit, it’s DC Comic’s Superman. The alien who started it all. Without Supes there might be no Cap. And just imagine that sad, sad world!!

Music

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap comes back the world but is out of his time and has missed decades of pop culture, music, movies, etc. To try and catch up, Cap keeps a running list of things that people suggest he see or do or listen to. I tried to add some of the music to this list that Cap might have missed in the decades he spent in the ice. Including Falcon’s suggestion, Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye.

Meals

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I really loved having steak back on my shopping list!! Thanks Chris Evans!! Take a look at Evans’ meal plan at BodyBuilding.com

Weekly Workout Challenge

I chose an army crawl challenge for Captain America Week for the obvious reason. Before becoming Captain America, puny Steve Rogers joins the army to try to make something more out of himself, not knowing at the time what that would mean for him in the long run. So army crawls it was!!

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 2 Army Crawls across living room (Hands and Feet)

Day 2: 3 Army Crawls across living room (Hands and Feet)

Day 3: 4 Army Crawls across living room (Hands and Feet)

Day 4: Rest Day

Day 5: 3 Army Crawls across living room (Elbows and Knees)

Day 6: 4 Army Crawls across living room (Elbows and Knees)

Day 7: 6 Army Crawls across living room (Elbows and Knees)

Extra Credit

Boxing @ Church Street Boxing Gym

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Photo from Church Street Boxing Gym

This was my favorite class of the entire 6 week program. I’d never taken a full on boxing class before. Church Street Boxing Gym is everything a boxing gym should be. It’s in the basement of a building in downtown Manhattan. There are pictures plastered on the walls, a giant ring in the middle of the gym and punching bags hanging around every corner. Church Street offers a free intro class and it was so great! Best workout of the entire series. I love that they allow you to start punching the bags right away. Halfway through the class we were hitting the bags. I gotta tell you, it’s addictive and after all the other classes I’ve taken, I would sign up to do this weekly!!

Parkour @ Brooklyn Zoo

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Photo from Brooklyn Zoo

Parkour, for those of you who don’t know this word, is a form of free running. You’ll often see it in high speed action chases in movies/ TV like: Casino Royale, Arrow and of course Captain America. It’s the art of being able to handle any challenge that comes in your path as you run. Jumping, swinging, ducking. Throwing your body into the movements needed to keep your momentum up. Brooklyn Zoo specializes in a lot of amazing high intensity classes. And their parkour class did not disappoint!!! If I thought the boxing class or the cirque class was intense, I was mistaken after taking this!!! Another class I would definitely try again sometime. And their gym is really cool!! Classes are $20 if you pre register online. Give it a try and stretch yourself far beyond what you think you can accomplish!

Check out Iron Man week,  Hulk weekBlack Widow WeekThor Week and Hawkeye Week in case you missed them.

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc! And let me know if you are trying any of these. I would love to hear from you!!

#AvengerinTraining – Thor Week

Hitting a Wall

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

By week 4, I was tired. I just wanted to sleep. Scheduling was getting difficult. The nice promising Spring weather had turned cold and my motivation almost left me completely this week. Morning runs were hard to come by (because I don’t like running in cold weather.) So I had to find other ways to stay energized in the morning. One particularly lazy morning, I forced myself up and out of bed and I started making a list of reasons why I was doing this. Why did I want to train to be an Avenger? Why did I want to get healthy? Why had I given up my beloved mint chocolate chip ice cream? Was it really worth it?

After writing down 2 pages of reasons why I should continue on with this journey, I found out that I did believe it was worth it and I went out and ran, in the rain no less. It was never going to be easy to do this. And if you take that step towards a healthier life, it won’t be easy for you either. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Chris Hemsworth who has children and a wife and a job and a lot of things that demand his attention. And the world will be against you. I pass by 3 Dunkin Donuts on my commute to work every morning. Giving me not 1, but 3 opportunities to cheat. But this week, despite hitting a wall… I refused to. Something about reaching a limitation really made me want to kick it down and press through. It won’t always be this way. But it was this week!!

Week 4: Thor Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

Thor Odinson, god of thunder, ruler of Asgard, wielder of Mjolnir. Thor was born into a privileged life. He was raised to be a king of Asgard, along with his adopted brother Loki. Stripped of his powers, he was sent to Earth by his father, Odin, to learn the true meaning of kingly responsibility. Upon his return he was welcomed back and was shown to be a worthy prince of Asgard. When Earth was once again threatened by his brother, Loki, Thor joined up with the team known as The Avengers to fight the threat to Earth, home of his beloved Jane.

Chris Hemsworth plays the mighty god of thunder. To prepare for the role, Hemsworth started training with former Navy seal, Duffy Gaver. Gaver applied an “old school bodybuilding approach” to train Hemsworth. Take a look at the full article and  workout over at MuscleandFitness.com

Inspiration

Movies

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Avengers and Age of Ultron, are on the list as usual. Adding in Thor and Thor: The Dark World for all kinds of Asgardian goodness!  Thor is a great figure of mythology so I added Clash of the Titans to the list because it’s all about the gods and demigods of Greek mythology, to keep with that mysthological theme. And for good measure I added in Star Trek, the JJ Abrams reboot, which stars none other than Chris Hemsworth himself, as James T. Kirk’s ill-fated father.

Music

The music used in Thor and Thor: The Dark World have that heavy epic feeling to them, so I also added a lot of Star Wars music and other epic movie themes. Along with Carmina Burana. Anything that makes you feel like you are in a sweeping epic. This music definitely made me run with purpose!

Meals

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I crafted my meal plan based on what Chris Hemsworth ate during training. Take a look at HealthyCeleb.com

Weekly Workout Challenge

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 5 Kettlebell Swings/ 5 Pushups

Day 2: 8 Kettlebell Swings/ 8 Pushups

Day 3: 11 Kettlebell Swings/ 11 Pushups

Day 4: 14 Kettlebell Swings/ 14 Pushups

Day 5: Rest Day

Day 6: 17 Kettlebell Swings/ 17 Pushups

Day 7: 20 Kettlebell Swings/ 20 Pushups

By now you should have layered on the final day’s workout from Iron Man Week, Hulk Week and Black Widow Week. Take the last day of Thor week with you into Hawkeye week. It should look like this:

-2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

-Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (25 reps)

-40 Squats (2 reps)

-20 Kettlebell Swings/ 20 Pushups

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Extra Credit

Kettlebell Kickboxing

Photo from Kettlebell Kickboxing

I chose kettlebell class because I thought the kettlebell could stand in for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. At Kettlebell Kickboxing they teach you a lot of different ways to utilize the kettlebell. They also incorporate some kickboxing and cardio into the routine as well. It made for a really great full-body workout! I brought a friend with me to this class and we were both smiling and sweating by the end. Intro class to Kettlebell Kickboxing is $20. A great class!!

Diesel Class @ Crunch Gym

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Photo from Crunch Gym

If there is one member of The Avengers who could be described as “diesel” it would be Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. So I decided to take Diesel Class at Crunch Gym for Thor Week. I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. It was an intense 60 minutes of weights, cardio and floor work. Cruch offers a free trial at their gym where you can take advantage of their gym equipment and/ or their classes. I’m a classes person myself and I really loved the group energy in this class as well as the unbridled enthusiasm of the instructor!! If you are a Crunch member or thinking of joining, definitely give this class a try!

Other options for Thor Week:

Weight Lifting

Other Kettlebell Classes

Helpful Tips

Here’s a list of tips that really helped me through this fitness plan. They are nothing new. They are nothing you couldn’t easily find online or in Shape magazine. But they are things that really worked for me and I hope will work for you, if you need that extra bit of motivation!

-Be honest with yourself – Try using a food tracker, I like My Fitness Pal. And make sure to be accurate in honest in your tracking. Lying only hinders your own progress. And unless you allow someone to be your accountability, you will be the only to know if you are creating a faithful accounting of your eating habits. But I truly believe that if you start being honest, even if it means tracking the 2 bowls of mint chocolate chips ice cream you ate one night, that you will start to change your habits because you want to see healthier stats. And because it will start to feel so good to make better choices. It did for me

-Stick to serving sizes – For dry goods and things that can be broken into portions, I tried to split up the portions way before meal time came around. For example, as soon as I got home from the grocery store I divided up the whole wheat pasta into ziploc bags with the correct portion size in each bag. Same with things like grapes or chips. Anything that would be easy to overeat in one sitting. That way when the time comes to eat the food you want, you can judge it based on an accurate portion and log it into your food tracker correctly. It’s ok if you need more that 1 portion of the food. But that’s where the honesty comes in.

-Shop the outer rim – When you go to the grocery store, try to stick to the fresh foods. Dairy, fruit, veggies, meat, eggs, etc. These can be found along the outer circle of more super markets. The aisles generally hold dry, preserved goods. Some of which you might need. But to eat cleaner, greener, healthier meals, the best things are the ones that might not survive a nuclear apocalypse (I’m looking at you Twinkie!)

-Keep what you like, ditch the rest – There’s nothing worse than a fitness plan that feels like it was meant for someone else. That’s why I want you to be able to take what you like from it. Sure, working out everyday, never losing focus and living only off the land is probably the healthiest way to live. But it’s not practical. I’m a firm believer that some effort is better than no effort. So even if you just do a weekly challenge or hit one class a week, it’s better than nothing. I went on Pinterest and just made a whole board of things that inspired me (after all, that’s what Pinterest is for!) This allowed me to visualize and then I went ahead and took the things I liked and ditched all the rest. Enjoyment is really half the battle!!

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Hawkeye and Captain America. Check out Iron Man week,  Hulk week and Black Widow Week in case you missed them.

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc! And let me know if you are trying any of these. I would love to hear from you!!

#AvengerinTraining – Black Widow Week

Going Strong

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

By week 3 I felt like I could take on the world. My muscles were aching  because I was constantly using them in new ways. My endurance was getting better. My eating was clean and really healthy!! It’s the healthiest I’d ever felt. And I loved it!! An added bonus, my skin was looking so great cause of all the water I was drinking. Food started to become fuel. I loved Week 3!!

Week 3: Black Widow Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Iron Man 2. Using the alias Natalie Rushman, she was placed in Stark’s circle of trust by none of than Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., himself.  Natasha was originally trained to be an assassin in the KGB, but after Hawkeye was sent to eliminate her, by Nick Fury, he saw her potential and convinced Fury to recruit her to S.H.I.E.L.D. instead. When Loki threatened Earth, she joined Earth’s mightiest heroes to stop the impending threat.

To prepare for the r0le of Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson turned to trainer Bobby Storm to get her in shape and able to fit into her signature catsuit. Check out the full breakdown over at HealthyCeleb.com

Inspiration

Movies

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Still keeping both Avengers and Age of Ultron on the list, because Black Widow really has a chance to shine in both films. Iron Man 2 is where she’s introduced to the franchise and while it’s an extremely weak entry into the MCU, ScarJo has a really kick ass scene that you can feel free to fast forward to (if fast forwarding were still a thing… clearly I’m old.) I’ve also added Lucy to the list, in which Scarlett plays… you guessed it, an extremely bad ass female! She’s really good at that! Speaking of ladies who kick butt… I’ve added Wanted and Mr. & Mrs. Smith to the list for Black Widow week because if there is another female actress out there who could be on the team with the rest of the Avengers, it would be Angelina Jolie. Let these movies also motivate you to get in shape!!

Music

This list is comprised of music from The Avengers and a lot of music that puts me in a bad ass female state of mind.

Meals

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Head back over to HealthyCeleb.com to see the full report of Scarlett’s weekly meal plan, I based my sh0pping list on hers and then, once again, just made up my own meals with the ingredients.

Weekly Workout Challenge

For Black Widow Week, I focused on the booty and did a Squat challenge.

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 20 Squats

Day 2: 30 Squats

Day 3: 20 Squats (2 reps)

Day 4: 25 Squats (2 reps)

Day 5: Rest Day

Day 6: 30 Squats (2 reps)

Day 7: 40 Squats (2 reps)

Extra Credit

Cirque Class @ The Art of Fitness

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Photo from The Art of Fitness

I fell head over heels in love with this class. I’d never tried any sort of class on the silks like Aerial Yoga or Cirque or anything of that nature before. And let me tell you… it was certainly a challenge! We started doing floor work to get the feel for the movements that would be employed while in the air on the silks. Once our muscles were loosened, we went up on the silks and started climbing. I made it to the ceiling a few times and felt so powerful when I got up there (coming back down was a little different experience.) But after a few climbs I really started to get the hang of it. And then the instructor had us do a flip which was really fun but super difficult. If you’ve never been on the silks before it’s a really humbling experience to watch a class full of people who have done this before and be one of 2 new people to the class. We all need a little humbling every once in a while. Cirque class at The Art of Fitness is $20 and after doing a lot of research, this is one of the more reasonable rates in the greater NYC area. So worth the money!! I will definitely try this class again!!

Muay Thai @ Sitan Gym

Photo from Sitan Gym
Photo from Sitan Gym

One of the crafts Black Widow has mastered is Mixed Martial Arts. In order to be considered proficient in MMA, one must study many different forms of martial arts. So I started with Muay Thai which is a form of Kickboxing. I took class at Sitan Gym in Astoria. It was a very full class and again, I was one of 2 new students to the class. I really liked how they managed the new students. They throw you in with everyone else, but then there is a secondary instructor to help newbs with the movements. I enjoyed this because I like to do workout movements correctly, as you can really injure yourself if you don’t do things the right way. Sitan offers a free introductory class. Give it a try!!!

Other options for Black Widow Week:

Kickboxing

Barre Class

Ballet

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. Check out Iron Man week and Hulk week in case you missed them.

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc! And let me know if you are trying any of these. I would love to hear from you!!

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

#AvengerinTraining – Iron Man Week

Introduction

I would consider myself a fairly fit person. I enjoy running and Soul Cycle and walking and when I’m vigilant, I eat marginally well. But then came the winter and I was discontent. Chilly weather caused my motivation to disappear. The running stopped. The Soul Cycle stopped. I still tried to walk and get at least my 10,000 steps a day. But I counteracted that by overeating fatty ‘comfort’ foods.

One day, I realized I had gained 20 pounds that I did not want on me (it may not sound like a lot of weight, but it sure felt like it.) Somehow I’d let the weight sneak up on me. And that wasn’t ok with me!! My sugar intake was at an all time high, due to eating a lot of macaroni and cheese and mint chocolate chip ice cream (my favorite comfort food!) And I am genetically at risk for diabetes, but I just didn’t seem to care. This was the heaviest I’d been in quite a while. All the previous progress I’d made in the fall was being wasted thanks to laziness and a complete lack of discipline.

One night, while watching Avengers (for the 19th time), I realized that if aliens did invade Earth or the zombie apocalypse finally happened or some other menacing force became reality, I’d be one of the first to go. And as I watched Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow kick serious ass on screen, I knew…that wasn’t gonna work for me!

So I embarked on a journey that would eventually become a transforming experience.

A lot of what I’ll share is not ground breaking. It’s not even new information. It’s constantly posted and reposted in many forms. You just have to tailor it to you. That’s what I did. I made something that would be fun, inspiring and made just for me!

Now, I prefer fantasy to reality sometimes…it’s true. But I know I’ll probably never be called on to fight for my life or to save another person’s. But if I ever was called upon, I wanted to be ready.

I delved into each of the 6 characters that make up the team known as The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. I researched what each individual actor did to prepare for their roles, then I went about crafting a 6 week fitness plan that I thought would be fun and that I knew I could accomplish. Most of the workouts I found online that were based on the Avengers, were mainly geared towards men. The meal plans too. I’m not about to start eating 2300 calories a day. That just wouldn’t work for me. This plan is meant to be tailored to individuals, men or women. If you like it, keep it in the plan. If you don’t, take it out. (Keep in mind I am not a fitness or medical professional. Just a nerdy fangirl who wanted to make a change.)

I do not have the money or the time to dedicate to actually looking like an Avenger. (and I am not being paid by Marvel to do this either.) But I knew that I wanted to do more than I was at the time and I decided to use the inspiration I felt while watching the Avengers to help transform my lazy habits into constructive discipline.

Below is the complete breakdown of Week 1, including the things I turned to for inspiration, the weekly challenges I made for myself, my food shopping list, and the amazing classes I took all in my endeavor to get healthy and become an #AvengerinTraining

Photo by Cristina Fowler
Photo by Cristina Fowler

Week 1: Iron Man Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

The first Avenger on my the list was Iron Man. I decided to go in order of their introduction to the franchise. And who better to start it off, than the Iron Avenger himself. Robert Downey Jr., at 50 years old, is in the best shape of his life. Physically and in his career (as of 2014, RDJ tops Forbes’ list of highest paid actors in Hollywood). His onscreen alter-ego is Tony Stark who, after getting kidnapped by terrorists, witnesses the damage of what has become a destructive legacy at Stark Industries. While incarcerated in an Afghanistan prison, Tony discovers himself to be more than just the “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” that he always had been and starts down the road to becoming so much more.

To prepare for the role of Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr, “started training using the Wing Chun technique, made famous by Bruce Lee.” (MensFitness.com) He also cut way back on the cardio in favor of increased weight training. By the time filming for Iron Man began, RDJ had backed on 25 extra pounds of muscle. Check out his full training regiment over at MensFitness.com

Inspiration

Sometimes the hardest part is taking that initial first step out the door. Being inspired is a fleeting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Movies and music are two of my favorite things to partake in. So while preparing to take on this 6 week challenge, I thought a lot about what would keep me moving towards my goals.

Movies

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Obviously, Avengers and Age of Ultron are on the movie list for each of the Avengers as they serve as inspiration for all 6 characters. For Iron Man Week, if I needed a little extra oomph of energy or motivation I watched some or all of the above movies. Iron Man and Iron Man 3 are also obvious choices. Spiderman may seem like an unlikely choice (Peter is a poor college kid, Tony is a wealthy man), but I think there are a lot of themes that overlap between Iron Man and Spiderman. And Casino Royale has billionaire, playboy written all over it. Plus I LOVE James Bond!!

Music

This list is comprised of music from Iron Man and music that makes me think of Iron Man. Anything to get me in the mindset while on a run in the morning. Hope it pushes you like it pushed me!

Meals

I created a meal plan (you won’t hear the word diet in this blog series, I don’t believe in them) based on the foods that Robert Downey Jr ate while training. Again, I’m not being paid by Marvel and I don’t have unlimited time on my hands. So I had the master list of items that I used to stock my refrigerator and pantry and then I made meals out of them that I knew I would enjoy and would be easy to make on a daily basis. I did a lot more cooking this week than I had been doing and I liked it!!

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Weekly Workout Challenge

For Iron Man week I chose a plank challenge. Here’s the daily breakdown:

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 hold second, rest in between)

Day 2: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

Day 3: 3 sets of Incline Side Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 4: 2 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 5: 3 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 6: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 7: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

When Iron Man week ended, I took the last day’s challenge activity and rolled it over into the next Avenger’s weekly workout schedule. So Day 7 of the above plan will be used for the rest of the 5 weeks of training.

Extra Credit

If you were to call me an overachiever, you might be right. Especially when it comes to doing things I love and enjoy. I’ll go the extra mile and I’ll run the whole way there. So when I came up with this idea for my time as an #AvengerinTraining I chose a couple different workout classes and gyms for each week that I thought might represent the Avenger of that particular week. For Iron Man week I did:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu @ Lifestyle MMA Academy

Photo from Lifestyle MMA Academy
Photo from Lifestyle MMA Academy

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not for the faint of heart or the shy wallflower. If you are squeamish about being up close and personal with complete strangers… this isn’t for you. If you find the prospect of hand to hand combat daunting… turn the other way. But if you want to be pulled out of your comfort zone and challenged beyond what you think you can do… find the closest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studio and give it a try. Channel your inner Iron Man. And if you live in the New York City area, head to Lifestyle MMA Academy in Astoria. They will kick your butt. They sure kicked mine and, bonus, the first trial class is free. So you have no excuses!!

Power Pilates @ The Art of Fitness

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I’ve done pilates before, it’s one of my favorite ways to workout, but Power Pilates at The Art of Fitness will take your practice to a whole new level. And at just $10 a class, it’s a really great deal for a whole lot of workout!

Other options for Iron Man Week:

Rock Climbing

MMA

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc!