2014 Challenge

2014 Challenge: Oct. – Rocky Horror, Nov. – Trapeze, Dec. – Cross Stitch

This is it! The last of the 2014 Challenge. Were you sick of it yet? Don’t answer that.

rocky horror

October – Rocky Horror Picture Show

Oh man, oh man. This was an experience to say the least. For the first time, I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show both the movie and the live performance. If you need a visual just think of the clip from The Perks of Being a Wallflower plus some intense heckling. The audience was dressed up, the characters were… characters, and the whole thing included crowd involvement from tossing toilet paper, to throwing playing cards to standing up and doing the Time Warp. The ultimate Halloween spectacular.

To do: Dress up! Enjoy the fun and the costume competitions.

To avoid: We made the mistake of sitting in the seat next to the assigned heckler. It was hilarious. And then it got old real quick. Stick towards the middle, if possible.

Price: $15

Website: Varies – there are several shows per city.


November – Trapeze Lessons

One of my closest gal pals and I have a knack for saying we’re going to take a trapeze class and then never going. We did this about every month for two years. Until now! A Living Social deal came around for TSNY Chicago and we jumped at the chance to attend. We lucked out because our class size was very small (6) when they normally sell out (30). This gave us extra chances to do just about everything – from learning an entire silks routine, to learning to control our flailing bodies on the trampoline, to mastering trapeze catches. If it weren’t so spendy, I would definitely consider going back again!

To do: Wear comfortable, but tight, workout clothes. You will work up a sweat and also be flying through the air.

To avoid: … Don’t pay the full price (sorry, TSNY). Wait for a Groupon/Living Social deal to come around. You’ll save 40-50%.

Price: $70 on LivingSocial, $110 through TSNY Chicago

Website: www.chicago.trapezeschool.com


December – Cross Stitch

This one is kind of cheating. Oh well! My game, my rules. December proved another very busy month with lots of things keeping me away from new and fun classes (although, I did try to sign up for knife-throwing. It was sold out). Christmas presents weren’t complete until about Dec. 23, but there’s one I finished just in time for the holidays. As one of my sister’s gifts, I finished my very first cross-stitch. While I’ve started several throughout my life… this is the only one I’ve ever finished. Still working on that whole “follow-through” thing. The simple rectangle said, “You rule, never change” an inside joke I won’t begin to try and explain. The process was much more math-oriented than I’d imagined but I was quite happy with the result. Onto the next! (Apologies for forgetting to take a photo. Doh!)

To do: Multi-task! Cross-stitching is a great time to re-watch all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls.

To avoid: Stabbing yourself isn’t always the best. Pay attention to your phalanges.

Price: Varies. Plain cross-stich fabric is about $2-4 plus the cost of thread.

Website: I buy all my crafting supplies at www.joann.com

And there you have it, a year full of crazy activities and firsts. Now for the 2015 Challenge…

Source: jillianbraun on Instagram

2014 Challenge: August – Acting Class, September – Rock Climbing

Alright, guys. We’re two months into 2015 so I am going to rapid-fire review the rest of the 2014 Challenge this week. We’re moving on!

acting studio

August – Acting Class

As a part of my improvisational coursework and pre-requisite for The Second City’s Conservatory program, I took an acting class downtown. The 8-week course took place at The Acting Studio, which I highly recommend. We explored several different plays, deconstructed scenes and learned all about “the biz.” It helped me experience a wide-range of emotions (which I am no good at) and be more comfortable not always being funny.

To do: Take notes. I don’t mean on a pen and paper, although that works, too. Listen to your teacher and take their notes seriously and then give it a try. If you feel stupid, you’re probably doing it right.

To avoid: This is a serious acting school. If you’re looking for a “just for fun” class, I’d start somewhere else.

Price: $375

Website: www.actingstudiochicago.com

rock climbing

September – Rock Climbing Certification

This summer I played in a beach volleyball league through Chicago Sport and Social Club and it was great. So, when the e-mails rolled around for the next round of intramurals I decided to sign up for rock climbing with the roommate. The six-week class schedule perfectly fit in to our pre-existing hectic schedules so we went for it! Fitness Formula hosted the classes and the teachers were amazing and hilarious and extremely helpful. After the first week we were able to get certified so we could belay and climb on our own, which was helpful to utilize the free gym space during your program. The course was physically and mentally challenging and the perfect thing to get your blood flowing after a long day at work. Highly recommend!

To do: Bring/make a buddy. You can utilize extra gym time, come in for extra classes, stay late, etc. but you need a partner to belay if you are using the ropes. Find a buddy or sign up with a friend to make this easier on yourself.

To avoid: My hands were the sweatiest sweat monsters and no amount of chalk could help. Avoid applying lotion/moisturizer on the days you’re climbing to avoid falls.

Price: $175

Website: www.ffc.com


2014 Challenge: July – Lollapalooza

It happened. I finally caved. I spent a silly amount of money and headed to Lollapalooza, my first multi-day music festival here in the heart of Chicago. Chalk that up as July’s activity in the 2014 Challenge. Day 1, I ventured via red line to Grant Park with my sweet “baby” cousin and her friends, Day 2 hung out with my improv friends and Day 3 sold my ticket and opted for a sail on Lake Michigan. This girl knows her limits.

The best part of Lolla was not only seeing more than a dozen bands I might not ever see perform live, but coming to discover and love bands you never knew existed. Enter, Lucius.  I could have cried listening to these two look-alikes harmonizing. It was seriously bone-chillingly amazing. Actual icicles were forming on my marrow-filled bones despite the 90 degree heat, they were that good. 

The other end of the scale, of course, is stopping to see the “must-see” bands. The ones that whether or not you like the band, you know every single one of their songs from that lovely thing called the radio that shoves “Top 40” in your face and walks away with a smirk. Enter, Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Eminem, and Outkast. (Although to be fair to the radio stations, I wanted to see all of these.)

Over the course of two days I saw Lucius, Iggy Azalea, Lorde, The Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, Enimem, Vance Joy, Kate Nash, The Temper Trap, Fitz & The Tantrums, Manchester Orchestra, Foster the People, The Head and the Heart and Outkast. A pretty successful first-time if I do say so myself!

To Do: Bring an empty water bottle and stay hydrated! That heat is no joke. Between hiking your pretty behind from one end of Grant Park to the next, jumping up and down like an idiot and melting in the hot sun, you’re going to sweat like a maniac. Bring a water bottle and take advantage of the free water stations.

To Avoid: I thought I looked so cute in my overall shorts (yes, those exist) until I had to venture to a porta potty. Dress wisely, friends.

Price: 3 day ticket – $250, 1 day ticket – $100.

Website: www.lollapalooza.com/

2014 Challenge: June – Bike to Work

June was another physical endeavor in the year of the 2014 Challenge. With a new job and new apartment under my belt, I decided to check out a new mode of transportation – bicycle. I dusted the cobwebs off my grandma’s old Schwinn, had the “bike doctor” come over and fix up the tires, somehow managed to fit her in the back of my little Toyota Corolla and transferred the red beauty back to the city.

bike to work

My goal was to ride my bike to work every day for a month but rainy days and sweltering heat are REAL, you guys. So, I opted for 30 work days over the course of six-ish weeks. Super scientific. But, I did it! Perks also include working right next to the wondrous Lake Michigan as pictured above.

To Do: Invest in a solid method of carrying your clothes, locks, belongings, etc. I have a U-Lock carrier on my bike which takes weight off my back and have a biking-specific backpack ready to go at any time containing my quick tools, spare lights and helmet. Speaking of clothes, it’s good to have an extra outfit in your pack – I’ve hit one too many mud puddles and learned my lesson.

To Avoid: Aside from the obvious – cars, puddles, oncoming traffic…. Be smart and know the rules of the road. The car always wins. Be defensive, not aggressive.

Price: Assuming you already have a bike, lock and helmet – Free!

Website: Check out Time Out Chicago’s list of best bike shops in the city. BFF Bikes kindly supplied me with lots of advice, a new helmet and helped me adjust my seat and gears to match my preferences.

 Source: jillianbraun on Instagram 

2014 Challenge: May – Tough Mudder

We’re chugging right along with the 2014 Challenge! (Note to self: Next year post these in real time, lesson learned.)

May came with a lot of new challenges, but the most physically challenging was definitely the Tough Mudder. My cousins, brother and I geared up and decided to run eleven miles of grueling, torturous (but fun!) hell. On top of that, dozens of obstacles stood in our way,  including jumping into a pit of freezing water, climbing “Mount Everest,” and after getting soaking wet and covered in mud, running through a field of live wires. And yes, this was my idea.

tough mudder collage

I was very grateful to have these guys by my side as almost half the obstacles you can’t physically accomplish by yourself so it’s good to have some muscles on your team! My proudest parts of the race were managing to make it across the Funky Monkey obstacle and carrying a 250 lb man on my back for 50 yards. You don’t know what you can do until you try, apparently.

To Do: It sounds stupid and it feels weird, but duct tape your shoelaces and then duct tape your shoes to your ankles otherwise say goodbye to your favorite sneakers as they get lost in a) a pile of mud b) a 12-ft deep muddy river c) an ice bath d) anywhere but your feet. Also, register in advance to save some $$.

To Avoid: Avoid not training. In other words, train, train, train. Don’t be like me.

Price: $79-$149/person

Website: www.toughmudder.com 

Source: my own 

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