Kick Your Butt into Shape at the YMCA’s Advanced Cross Training Class

After losing her regular exercise routine, our managing editor found a grueling new workout addiction not for the faint of heart: Advanced Cross Training at the Pat Jones YMCA.

By Claire Porter | Photos by Brandon Alms

Dec 2017

Digital Assistant Krysten Maloney (left) and Managing Editor Claire Porter (center) race back to the gym during AXT at the Pat Jones YMCA.

One year ago, my physique could best be compared to that of an overcooked noodle: soft, doughy, carbo-laden. As someone who had always been athletic, without the regimen of high school and college sports, I dissolved into a rather blobby form. Although I had lost my edge, I never lost my competitive drive. My co-workers Digital Director Dayle Duggins and Digital Assistant Krysten Maloney (let me tell you, our digital team is ripped) encouraged me to put my YMCA membership to good use and join them in their favorite class: Advanced Cross Training (AXT). 

Dear reader, I will not lie to you. When I first tried this class, it was horrible. I wanted to slink my fettuccine noodle doughy butt right out that door, and I spent every minute of the hour-long class in agony. There were weights, sprints, jumps, burpees, push-ups, pull-ups and every horror in-between. It left me sore, exhausted and exhilarated. Finally, here was a workout that was going to whip me back into shape and get me feeling like an athlete again. That was more than a year ago, and I’m still going to class, and I’m still feeling the burn. I love it so much that I want you to join me. Here’s what you need to know.

The Venue
If you’ve never been to the Pat Jones YMCA on Republic Road (1901 E. Republic Road, Springfield, 417-881-1599), just know that you’re going to feel a little bit like an animal on display. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s kind of a good thing. The workout room is open on two sides to the rest of the YMCA’s second floor, so anyone walking by can see you. Meaning they can see you being a badass, or they can see you being the wimp trying to leave early. The shame of having witnesses see me chicken out was the only thing keeping me in that room during my first classes. 

The YMCA has all the workout gear you could ever imagine needing, and AXT uses almost all of it. Free weights, stability balls, battle ropes, tires, sandbags (or the class’s unique SandBells), TRX bands, jump ropes, BOSU balls and benches make an appearance most classes. 

This class is the YMCA’s most popular course, and on Mondays, attendance often exceeds 60. The room gets crowded, and equipment becomes scarce, so the instructors make use of every amenity to spread things out. You’ll often see hordes of AXTers climbing hills in the soccer basin outside, hopping across the baseball fields or sprinting down Republic Road to Farmers Park or Walt Disney Elementary School.

Digital Director Dayle Duggins and Claire Porter knock out the ab portion of their workout using stability balls.

The Workout
As the name implies, Advanced Cross Training involves a mix of cardio and strength. Mondays, Wednesdays and alternate Fridays are taught by Brooke Henderson, who has been a runner since she joined AXT 8 years ago. Her workouts involve a lot of running—usually in the 2- to 3-mile range. Laura Kovach teaches alternate Fridays and every Saturday, and she balances out the running workouts with a mix of ab- or weight-focused sessions. No matter what day you come, you’ll get a full-body butt-kicking. 

The best part about AXT is the element of surprise. Rarely do you know what you’re in for when you show up. Again, this is one of those that-sounds-horrible-but-it’s-actually-a-perk things. I had tried classes like Les Mills’ BODYPUMP but found myself bored by the repetition, and, because I could anticipate the next moves, I wouldn’t push myself to try for heavier weights. In AXT, if you pick a 15-pound dumbbell for a farmers walk to Disney Elementary, well, you make it work. Not only do you never get bored, but you can also push yourself further than you realized you could.

At a recent workout, Henderson wanted to make the most of the beautiful weather and the YMCA’s workout equipment. Krysten and I are roughly the same speed—okay, she graciously slows herself down to my pace because she’s a good friend—so we partnered up. We started by warming up outside on the soccer basin hill. Between exercises like jumping jacks and plank holds, we ran up and down the hill to get our blood pumping. 

When we headed back inside, one of us started a weight and cardio ladder series, while the other started a core workout. After each set of exercises, we would swap places, making use of stability balls, benches, medicine balls and SandBells as we went. At random intervals, Henderson would call out for us to run laps for an added cardio burst. We ended the workout by running a few more hills outside before coming together for a stretch session at the end of class. This wasn’t the hardest workout Henderson had ever concocted, but it definitely had me working up a sweat. 

The Results
Even after coming to this class for more than a year, it still challenges me. As Henderson likes to say, “It never gets any easier; you just get faster.” And I have. I’ve gotten stronger and faster, and, despite a lot of ravioli trying to do otherwise, my abs are looking more defined. And as for that noodle physique? These days I’m happy to be looking a little less doughy and a little more al dente. 

Advanced Cross Training (AXT) at Pat Jones YMCA

Full-body cross-training including cardio, running, bodyweight training and weight training

Classes are free for members and for first-time guests. Membership rates vary, but a single adult membership starts at $42 per month with a one-time fee.

The hour-long class starts at 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at 10:15 a.m. on Saturdays

A water bottle. All other equipment you need is provided.

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