Cathe Friedrich has been kicking my butt for years – in the privacy of my living room – when she announces her first Chicago-area Road Trip on Facebook. Two years in the making, Cathe’s beloved weekend of fitness, friendship and fun is finally coming to the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I’ve waited a long time for a Midwest Road Trip, so this is a no-brainer – I’m IN!
If you love fitness and are unfamiliar with Cathe Friedrich, you’re missing out on a Fitness Dynamo, and as I’ve recently learned, a remarkable person. For me, discovering Cathe was no fluke: In a world of vanishing health club step classes, I was a step junkie in need of a fix. My best friend Michele had the answer: “Check out Cathe Friedrich on Fit TV.”
Cathe WHO? I find her show on the cable grid and record “Rhythmic Step” – that looks promising! Half way through my first attempt, breathless and sweaty, I’m doing what all “Cathletes” do best: cursing at the TV. I’m barely keeping up with Cathe and her perky crew, who fly effortlessly over the Step, smiling through the “Advanced” routine Cathe describes in her introduction. After each new move, she chirps “Didya get it?” I bark “No!!!” in reply. The couch whispers, “Just come over here and sit for a minute. They’ll never know.” Instead, I hit rewind. And hit it again. Until finally, after several tries…
Success – Workout Complete! And like any true junkie, I’m hooked. I need another fix. I visit Cathe’s Web site and order the Rhythmic Step DVD, the first in a collection that gradually fills an entire shelf. My “Go-To” list currently includes all Step workouts; Maximum Intensity Cardio; the Interval Max series; Body Max; Drill Max; Intensity; High Reps; Cardio Core Circuit; Low Impact Circuit; and the entire Low Impact Series. Cathe developed the Low Impact Series in response to requests for “joint-friendly” workouts, but be warned: “Low Impact” does not mean “Less SWEAT”. Regardless of impact, Cathe’s workouts are intense. Each DVD is loaded with premixes, and Cathe publishes a monthly rotation to help you maximize results.
I’m excited, but also a bit nervous about the intensity factor as I review the schedule for the Road Trip. We’ll have six classes with Cathe over the weekend: two on Friday, three on Saturday, and one on Sunday. They’re 60 minutes each, but we’re not given class descriptions. I imagine the possibilities based on my workout collection and can only laugh. I make a mental Note to Self: Pack Advil.
It would be impossible to relay every detail of 3-day fitness Road Trip in one blog, so I’m sticking with highlights. Obviously, meeting Cathe tops the list. Next is being in a room full of Cathletes; truly an impressive group, including sisters, BFFs, mother-daughter pairs, and even a few husband-wife pairs – bring it boys! Finally, special mention goes to Cathe’s incredible traveling Superfans: these spirited ladies drop everything to attend Cathe Road Trips and have the bracelets to prove it.
As for the workouts, Cathe had the intensity factor covered. We completed some tough workouts, but she gauged our energy level well and made adjustments as needed. After years of listening to Cathe on DVD, hearing Cathe live was a real treat. Her unscripted comments were personal, humorous, inspiring – and definitely worth sharing.
First Class: After Burn. Cathe opens the weekend with guns blazing. The hardest workout in her Low Impact Series, After Burn is also the most popular. This metabolism-boosting blend of cardio and weight intervals works exactly how it sounds: long after completing the workout, you will burn, baby burn. Near the end, we’re pretty spent, and Cathe asks us for walking planks – groan! Cathe shouts: “Don’t quit!!! Just when you’re ready to quit, that’s when it works!” How often during a workout, or in life, are we exhausted and ready to quit because our efforts seem futile? Don’t quit!
Second Class: Yoga. It’s Q & A time with Cathe after yoga. Yoga has always been featured in Cathe’s cool- down segments, but the Low Impact Series contains two full-length yoga DVDs. Cathe explains why: “There was a time when I would never do a yoga class. Then I developed insomnia. I realized that at some point, your body will send you a signal that it’s time to slow down and restore balance.” Yoga is my favorite way to move, but like Cathe, this wasn’t always the case. I was way too busy to slow down, and besides, I didn’t consider yoga much of a workout.
As Cathe speaks, I am flooded with memories of sleepless nights in my own life, during a time plagued by crippling anxiety attacks. The first bit of wisdom is SLEEP. Without rest, nothing else works, including exercise. We must also make the time to move slowly, to listen to our bodies. Practicing yoga taught me to ask the question “What does my body need today?” When I honor that, I have a great workout. Finally: “Never say never.” Whatever you’re resisting, in workouts or in life, might be just the thing you need.
Third Class: Kick Box/Slide & Glide. First Saturday class – and we’re ready – sort of. I’ll be honest: I’m a kick boxing dork, with moves tragically unlike Jagger. Cathe invites us to join her on stage in groups of six. I watch several groups, swallow my pride and go, praying for something I can handle. Jump kicks – Yeah! Next up, “Slide & Glide”, a Low Impact workout built entirely around Sliding Discs. Any Exercise + Sliding Discs = Pure Agony. Which is exactly what we’re in when Cathe shouts: “This is what you paid for! Make it UGLY!!!” Sometimes we embark on a journey and realize it involves more work than we anticipated, or we’re outside our comfort zone – or both. When we dig deep, do the work, and step outside our comfort zone…Magic happens.
Fourth Class: Total Body Conditioning. Warming up for our fourth class in two days, we’re doing easy knee lifts. Well, they would be easy, if not for our screaming glutes. Cathe diverts us with humor: “My Silver Sneakers call this cardio.” She’s referring to the “Silver Sneakers” class she teaches at the gym. In this class the average age is 85; the oldest member just turned 92 – how inspiring! In our youth-obsessed culture, we often forget that ultimately, we’re “Training for old age” as my dad likes to say. When you feel like blowing off your workout, picture yourself as a “Silver Sneaker” – and get moving!
Final Class: Cardio Bootcamp. We arrive, fully caffeinated, for our final class. It’s 7:30 a.m. – on Sunday! Several times this weekend, Cathe has promised us butt-kicking cardio. Today, she delivers. As we finish, we should be exhausted, and yet we’re elated, giving each other High Fives and mugging for the cameras. During the cool down, an emotional Cathe says, “You may come to another Road Trip, but you will never get this moment back. Soak it in. Be proud.” She then makes a final request: Before we leave, she wants a big sweaty hug from every Cathlete. We happily oblige. Soak up each of the moments in your life, and hug the people you love. Is there a better way to end a fitness weekend, or a blog?