Is Saint John ready to feel the burn?

3rd Degree Training set to open on Manawagonish Road Feb. 27

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Kevin McEachern is opening 3rd Degree Training, a body-weight boot camp fitness facility, in Saint John on Feb. 27. Submitted photo.

Kevin McEachern wasn’t entirely shocked when he got downsized from his business development job in the vacation industry. The timeshare exchange business wasn’t on an upswing, he says, and he knew it likely wasn’t a career that would take him to retirement.

Over his 10 years of meeting with clients — many of whom owned small businesses — he came to respect and admire their work.

“I was always the corporate guy on the other end of the desk trying to sell them a product,” says McEachern, 37, who is opening 3rd Degree Training in Saint John later this month.

As much as he thought about going into business on his own, the stats were a little daunting. According to Industry Canada, only half of small businesses last five years.

Nearly 80 per cent of franchises, on the other hand, continue to operate five years after opening their doors, he says, because businesses models and processes are already established and proven to work.

So when McEachern, of Quispamsis, lost his job and started considering his options, the idea of starting fresh and opening a franchise held real appeal.

“I became intrigued and thought it was the way to go,” he says.

McEachern has always had an interest in healthy living and took up running a few years ago, running his first marathon in 2015 and several Spartan obstacle course races in 2016. When he started looking through franchise opportunities, he soon stumbled across a PEI-based fitness franchise, 3rd Degree Training and Actual Nutrition. The required upfront investment was affordable, he says, and the idea of opening up a business he truly cared about was exciting.

“When you get moved out of a position not by your own choice – you realize you have an opportunity to make a decision,” he says. “I could get a regular old 9-to-5 day job and work for someone else, or I could have the opportunity to give something back to the community.”

McEachern knows the power of exercise and its ability to help one overcome life’s challenges first hand.

After separating from his wife a couple of years ago, instead of sinking into a depression, McEachern immersed himself in the world of fitness, nutrition and running.

“It became a way of stress management, and I realized it was very empowering for me,” he says. “Every time I went for a run or went to the gym, I felt like I was thinking more clearly.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could take that passion for exercise and healthy eating and turn that into a career to help others?’”

Now McEachern is turning that dream into a reality.

The Saint John location of 3rd Degree Training opens at 1490 Manawagonish Rd. on Feb. 27. Registration is Feb. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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The gym runs eight-week boot camps including unlimited classes and nutrition advice. Clients can also take advantage of before-and-after photos and measurements so they can track their progress.

Workouts completely consist of body weight movements — such as squats, burpees and planks — in a group atmosphere full of encouragement and motivation.

“Running is the backbone of my passion for fitness,” says McEachern, who is now a trained fitness instructor. “At the same time, I understand it’s not for everyone. At 3rd degree, you can still get that runner’s high. About 15 to 20 minutes into the workout, you feel like you’re elevating, and you get your body to a point you didn’t know was possible thanks to the group environment, the pumping music and the serotonin flowing through your body.”

Anyone who signs up for an eight-week boot camp also benefits from Actual Nutrition, which subscribes to a whole foods-based approach to eating. It’s about nutrient density and no gimmicks, McEachern says.

“It’s not points-based, it’s not calorie-counting, it’s not about making people feel guilty,” he says. “It’s getting back to basics.”

McEachern says the goal will be to help members stay accountable to healthy eating.

The Saint John location — which boasts an expansive space equipped with showers and change rooms — will be the fifth in the Maritimes, joining Stratford, Montague, Summerside, Dartmouth and Moncton. 3rd Degree Training is only the second franchise to come out of PEI — the first being a popular ice cream chain.

McEachern says he not only believes in the business, but he has seen the difference the program has already made in people’s lives across the region.

“You can see crazy results even after one eight-week boot camp,” he says. The body weight movements are effective because they are all ways humans are meant to move — no heavy weights required.

“It’s a welcoming environment and it’s meant for people of all shapes and sizes. Every person walks out of there feeling like, ‘Holy, that was tough. But wow, am I ever proud of myself.’”

For more information, join the Facebook group for 3rd Degree Training – Saint John. Be sure to like and share the post for a chance to win a spot in the first 8-week bootcamp!

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Facing the truth

It was the second day into my third trimester when I realized my pregnant running days were drawing to a close.

I had tried a brisk, 10-minute walk on the treadmill (on an incline) followed by a five-minute run at 5.7 mph. Repeated this twice to make a 30 minute workout. It was not exactly comfortable, but bearable.

But boy, did I ever feel it when I got home. My mid section was killing me. My hips and lower abdomen were tight and sore. The feeling lasted a couple days.

I always said I would keep running as long as I could through this pregnancy. And I guess just because it’s pretty uncomfortable to run now doesn’t mean I can’t. But I’ve decided to take a cue from my body (and my baby) and slow it down a notch. Time to turn those runs into walks. The last thing I want is to end up with an injury, or worse, to take a tumble that could hurt the baby.

But oh… how jealous I am of my friends who are feeling the joys of spring’s first lovely runs. I think about last year at this time, and how I was knee-deep in half-marathon training. I was in tip-top shape, and now I’m waddling around, breathless half the time.

I know that just because I’ve chosen not to run doesn’t mean I can’t stay in decent shape. I can still hit the elliptical, stair climber or bikes, and I can take spinning classes no problem. I have also thought about dropping in to the Aquatic Centre for some swims.

And there are walks in the fresh air through the neighbourhood. Tonight’s walk was a pleasant, 40-minute jaunt. After a brutal winter, it was so nice outside, and there’s nothing like a good walk to clear the mind. I can use this time to listen to some informative podcasts, I thought to myself tonight. (Not like running, which for me, demands spicy dance and/or pop music).

In my last 10 weeks of pregnancy, I hope to walk most days. The same group who joined me on a run streak last December have restarted the plan to coincide with the NHL playoffs, which should end just a couple weeks before my due date. I’ve decided to make mine a walk streak.

But going from running to walking is a little like taking the caffeine out of your coffee. Like taking the sugar out of your cookie. It’s just not the same.

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28 weeks as of April 2

Hot yoga

Yoga takes your mind to peaceful, beautiful places like Cape Croker, Ont. I took this photo on Aug. 17.

Hanging upside down and bent deeply into a downward dog stretch, I saw it: the first bead of sweat trickling down my sizzling arm. From there, it was like a tap turned on. My pores were seeping liquid, unrelentingly dripping on my sticky mat. At first. it felt disgusting. Then, strangely, good.

It was my first hot yoga class – or heated Vinyasa, to be precise. I have practised various forms of yoga in the past, but I haven’t taken a regular class for the last few years. Instead, I have been focusing on running and other forms of cardio. But, obviously, yoga has some major benefits – for runners, and for everyone.

After doing a yoga class with my mom and my sister last week (a couple days after my half-marathon), it was almost like a healing experience. Every sore or tight muscle was stretched and relaxed. Clearly I need to bring yoga back into my life.

Saint John blogger Barb Crawford has made practising yoga three times a week a goal for her #30in90 challenge. So I asked to hitch a ride with her to Rothesay this week to the Yoga Haus.

At first, the heat is uncomfortable. But after a while, it’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket.

Heated yoga has many supposed benefits, including allowing deeper and longer stretches, which in turn helps build muscle and burn more calories. The heavy sweating is also said to provide “detoxifying” effects, and the practice helps bring mental clarity and ease stress.

Hot yoga students are advised to avoid heavy meals before a class and drink as much water as possible.

But hot yoga – one popular kind is called Bikram yoga – is not without its critics.

Some scientists question the ability for the body to “detoxify” by sweating copiously.

“As a scientist, I wouldn’t say there’s a huge stock in sweating out your toxins,” Stephen Cheung, the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Ergonomics, told the Globe and Mail last year. The body only releases toxins through sweat to a very limited extent, he said.

The extreme temperature and humidity in hot yoga can be risky for those with heart conditions, or for people with high blood pressure. Cardiologists have raised concerns about dizziness or blackouts from the extreme heat.
This does worry me a bit, and I could see how it could happen if you were not prepared.

But as my friends advised me, I drank a ton of water (probably about three litres) leading up to the class. I ate a banana and nuts in the mid-afternoon so I wasn’t starving before the 7 p.m. class. And, I am in decent shape so the strenuousness of the increased heart rate in the heat didn’t shock my system.

For me, the most pleasant part of hot yoga was the after-effects. I went home feeling cool and calm, even though I was soaked right through my clothes. I felt pleasantly tired, and I really felt like I had a good workout (unlike some yoga classes that feel more like a nap). I had the best sleep in weeks, and woke up refreshed. My muscles felt worked, yet, good – tingly and happy almost, if that makes any sense. Most of the muscles (hips, knees, hamstrings) that often bug me from running felt excellent after the class.

I paid $20 for an unlimited pass for the next week, so I’m hoping to get in as many classes at the Yoga Haus as possible. I would definitely like to make hot yoga a regular part of my weekly routine. Who knew sweating could be so much fun.

Breathe

“Your breath is a gauge for how you’re living your life.”

It’s so simple, yet so easy to forget. Breathe in, and out, and that’s really all there is.

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Yoga in the White Room. That's me on the bottom left, with a black racer back top on.

This reminder came to me last week when I took part in a yoga class in Saint John’s ever-cool White Room, in the old post office on Prince William Street. Jay MacLean offered the class on Leap Day, Feb. 29 (his birthday), to raise money for National Anti-Bullying Day and the Boys and Girls Club of Saint John. It was also the same day I interviewed the still grieving mother of Jason Dow, a man who was brutally murdered in the street about a year ago. (Marina Dow says her son was bullied all his life, because he was gay.)

The feeling of doing yoga, breathing in and out deeply into stretches and poses with at least 100 other people that evening was incredible. It was grounding and strengthening. As the class began, it was bright and sunny. As the class progressed, the sun delicately set over the Saint John harbour.

The collective aura was so positive – one reason why I always enjoy group classes, whether it’s spinning at GoodLife or a boot camp class with the folks at Simply For Life on the west side.

In my drive to improve my health and fitness, which has actually become a fun challenge for myself, it’s easy to forget that part of that challenge involves taking a breath, and being in the moment. This simple necessity is so easily overlooked when I’m busy trying to burn as many calories as possible on the spin bike or on the treadmill, or planning my next meal (or treat).

I love how running and exercise can chase away the stresses of life, but sometimes, I think “breathing into” those stresses, as a yogi might suggest, is just as important.