Cardio-Tone's Jenn Philpot Challenges Herself to Weekly Obstacle Courses

 Photo courtesy of Jenn Philpot

Photo courtesy of Jenn Philpot

There are a lot of active fitness instructors in San Francisco. There are very few who practice obstacle courses each week... in addition to teaching cycling, circuit, and TRX classes, taking more classes, and chasing after a toddler. It sounds exhausting, but Cardio-Tone general manager and instructor Jenn Philpot makes it look manageable; fun, even.

While she's always been athletic, a friend who taught bootcamp in Maui encouraged Jenn to consider teaching as well. Philpot returned home to San Francisco last year, and soon took over running Cardio-Tone. "I absolutely love the Cardio-Tone community," she says. "I love that we have people of varying ages, backgrounds, and abilities coming through the doors, and each one of them can leave having had a great workout. There are very few egos showing off, and a lot of down to earth instructors and members who are truly passionate about fitness and healthy living."

How does this ego-averse fitness phenom juggle clients and with her own training schedule? By facing obstacles head-on, and as frequently as possible.

Rockyt: How do you prepare for classes?

Jenn: I spend a lot of time on my playlists for cycling classes. Having a fun and motivating playlist that matches the ride is key. I plan my circuits to make people sweat. Most of my circuits are full body workouts with plenty of cardio. (I may make you run just a bit... ) I read fitness books and watch videos online, and I get some ideas from those for my classes. I especially love watching TRX videos for inspiration. And I always test out new exercises myself before teaching them. 

Rockyt: How do you cross train?

Jenn: Running is my therapy and my escape. I have a toddler, and some days she joins me on my runs, which makes them extra challenging. Pushing a 25-pound kid in a 25-pound stroller for 8 miles gets your body working. When I run without her, it feels like I'm flying!  I love working with kettlebells and TRX as well. Both have such focus on core strength, require attention to form, and are great ways to build strength without a ton of equipment. 

A few years ago, I got into obstacle course racing (OCR), and I like to train in a way that compliments that. Varied workouts prepare my body for anything it might encounter on the course. Some days, it's a long run, then kettlebell strength work; other days it's a fast running interval workout with sprints, then a killer circuit class in the afternoon. Even when I'm not prepping for a race I like to train like this. I'm constantly keeping my muscles guessing, and my workouts never get boring.  

 Post-OCR photo courtesy of Jenn Philpot

Post-OCR photo courtesy of Jenn Philpot

Rockyt: What are your favorite studios for cross-training?

Jenn: I spend a majority of my week trying to motivate my clients to reach their goals, and when it's my turn I want to feel the same energy I try to bring to my classes.  I like Barry's Bootcamp for a great running-based workout. I also enjoy Burn for springboard Pilates, and TRX Training Center.  I am dying to try Apex in Concord. They set up obstacles you find on Ninja Warrior, a show I would love to compete on that one day. I also love taking classes from the other instructors at Cardio-Tone. It's a lot of fun to be in a class with the members and work along side them and get to know them as peers, not only as their instructor. 

Rockyt: Are you training toward a particular fitness goal right now? 

Jenn: Right now, I am working towards running more OCRs. I took a little hiatus after having my daughter, but I've recently started competing again. I placed fifth in my last race, and I'm looking to get back on the podium again soon. I love that the competition is so varied and unpredictable at OCRs; it's anyone's game. An elite distance runner can be in the lead, but get passed by a CrossFit junkie because they were able to climb the rope faster. You have to go out there prepared for a lot. My goal is to be skilled and prepared for anything I might encounter. 

I'm also looking for my next half-marathon to run.  I have run a few full marathons and a bunch of halves, and realize the half-marathon distance is my favorite, (plus with a toddler at home training for halves is a bit easier). My all-time favorite is the Kahakuloa Half-Marathon in Maui, where I used to live: amazing views the entire run, killer hills, and the warmest welcome into the finish line from the Kahakuloa community. I'm hoping to get back there in 2018... and finish top three.

 Photo courtesy of Jenn Philpot

Photo courtesy of Jenn Philpot

Rockyt: What's your training regimen?

Jenn: I train to be strong and fast and prepared for anything, so I am always varying my workouts.  Right now I am more focused on interval runs and sprint work since you really aren't running more than a mile between obstacles in OCRs; usually less than half a mile. I need to be able to get from one obstacle to the next as quickly as possible without burning out.  I am training with kettlebells as much as possible for dynamic strength and flexibility.  At least once a week, I go for a long endurance run and once a week I do an "OCR run".  Not an actual race, but I will run for 5-7 miles, (ideally finding a few dirt trails), stopping every half-mile for burpees, squats, lunges, bear crawls, monkey bar work, and anything else I can find in my surroundings to challenge me.   

Rockyt: Do you take rest days? 

Jenn: I try to take rest days. Often times my rest days are spent teaching classes, usually on the bike, where I have a hard time holding back. I get into the energy of the class and can't restrain myself. I am getting better about taking true rest days to let my body and muscles recover though. On rest days, I like to do something restorative like yoga and lots of foam rolling and stretching. I have been trying to work on mobility on rest days, too.

If you want to check out Jenn's class—and get her tips for obstacle course racing—you can find her at Cardio-Tone on Church Street (1747 Church) or 3rd (360 3rd Street).