Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To Infinity... And Beyond: Abs BLAST!

I didn't have it in me to stay away from NDG Wellness for very long. Even though I have said from the get-go here that I fully intend on being honest and giving accurate accounts of my workout experiences, I felt a little guilty for slamming NDG in my last post. Well, "slamming" may be too strong a word to use but I definitely felt a little guilty for my critique. I think this all harkens back to the childhood lesson, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". However, a quote from one of my favorite movies is "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me!" So, I stand by my earlier criticisms as they were only reflective of what I encountered at the studio on visit number two.

Can you identify the movie? Another favorite quote of mine from it is, "I like pink- Pink is my signauh culuh!"

Anyway, I went back for a third time to take a new class and I am happy (and a bit relieved) to report it was a much better experience than last week!

I chose to take "Abs Blast" which is a 45 minute class that claims to "tighten your abs for that tight sexy midsection you always wanted!" It promises to help you achieve abdominals that are neither too thick or muscular but also not soft or untoned. Need I remind you that my core is my very favorite area to work on so I had my eye on this class for awhile and was definitely looking forward to it!


Though feeling a little under the weather earlier in the day, I summoned the energy to throw on my workout gear and head north to the Chelsea studio on Tuesday afternoon. I arrived a little early, as usual, but this time for a reason. Remember that my last visit left me with a bad taste in my mouth as far as their customer service was concerned and I was ready to test them. As soon as I was buzzed upstairs and entered the studio, I was greeted warmly by a smiling woman I have never met there before. No one else had arrived yet so after asking her a quick question about the class, I settled in on the sofa in the waiting area. A few minutes later, the adorable pup I introduced you to before came screeching out of a back room straight for me. She is just so adorable. As I was petting and cooing at her, the receptionist remarked that, "She always finds a favorite!" She also informed me that her name is Hubby. Plus one for making small talk with me- Nice move, NDG. My fellow classmates then began arriving as well as Nicole, the owner and part-time teacher. She said hello to everyone and mentioned we'd probably start class five minutes late to accommodate those who were rushing over from work. I didn't mind at all and appreciated the heads-up. I was also happy to hear she'd be teaching us.

As we got started, Nicole instructed us all to grab two five-pound dumbbells and a workout mat. We started out stretching (Yay! Do you think she read my gripe in the first post about not stretching? Or maybe the workout gods whispered a little something in her ear... Either way, I was happy we got in a good five minutes of stretching before our workout!) We then did a series of exercises that involved holding the weights and kicking our legs up in front of us but with the real focus on contracting our abdominals. We continued doing this but added twists as well which targeted our obliques. Nicole is the queen of reps and had us all breaking a sweat almost straight away! After the first twenty or so minutes of doing these types of moves, she had us unroll our mats and lie down. I was excited because I was dang tired (Remember, I was under the weather! And, kicking up your legs for twenty minutes straight with few breaks is no joke!)

We continued using our legs to work our core by extending them straight out, horizontal with the body, holding them that way for several seconds and then kicking them out slowly only to repeat the process (again and again and again- Thanks, Nicole!). We did several variants of sit-ups, some with twists, some while holding weights. I love how she mixes things up because you're too busy learning the new moves to get bored. After we finished that, Nicole had us stretch again which felt fabulous after contracting our muscles (and not just our abs- between the kicks and holding the dumbbells, our legs and arms got a pretty great workout, too!) Then she released us, high on endorphins, to go out and conquer! Or, you know, just grab a water and our towel to wipe the buckets of sweat we'd produced.

Would I Do It Again? AB-solutely! (Heh heh heh...) It was a great class and as with all of the classes at NDG, I felt the effects immediately.

Pros: Well, as I mentioned, the experience overall was better this time. The receptionist was friendly and Nicole did a great job teaching. She's very professional and you can tell she's paying attention to each class participant because she makes comments or gives directions to each person. It makes me feel good to know that if my form is off or if I'm not doing a move correctly, she's got me. Additionally, the music was great! Nicole has an ear for what works not only for each class she teaches but even for each move she has us perform. At one point during class, she paused to make a quick song change because, "That song was too fast for what I'm going to have you all do." I didn't mind the brief interruption as she was ensuring that the vibe was just right for each sequence we did.

Cons: It was still a little hot in the studio. It's safe to say it wasn't nearly as bad as the "Diva Kickboxing" class I told you about in "Sweat, Schvitz, Steam- I Did It All!" but that's most likely because we did less cardio work today than we did then. Also, I noticed that despite starting a few minutes later, we still ended class according to the original schedule which shaved a little time off our class. It was probably an honest mistake... But still, I noticed.

So tell me, do you like working on your core as much as I do? Why or why not? Do you think NDG made up for their failures mentioned in my last post?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sweat, Schvitz, Steam- I Did It All!

Yep, I did.

I spent an hour back over at NDG Wellness this afternoon for another heart-racing, sweaty, exhausting workout! Operative word being "sweaty".

If you will recall, I took the Stiletto Workout offered by the Chelsea-based NDG Wellness Center earlier this summer. Also recall, I loved it!

Well, folks, it's finally happened. After months of attending fitness class after fitness class, I now report to you with less than stellar results.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't hate the workout. No, in fact, I can already feel the hint of soreness that I will bask in tomorrow morning- the sure sign that I in fact worked out my muscles well. What I hated this go around was the experience and for two main reasons.

Like last time, I arrived at NDG Wellness about 15 minutes earlier. After taking the elevator up to the 5th floor studio, I came across the owner, Nicole. She was on the phone at the front desk so I quickly smiled and waved and headed to the reception area. There was already another girl sitting there and she asked me what time the class started. I informed her that it started at 11:30 and she mentioned that she'd rushed over because she thought it started at 11. Ok, no big deal but as I sat there with her, and Nicole continued her conversation on the phone for the following 15 minutes leading up to the class, I realized this paying customer had been sitting here for at least a few minutes (I'm guessing ten) and Nicole hadn't even spoken to her yet (which is why she had to ask me when the class started as soon as I sat down). Hm, no bueno. 

I realized I was just being harsh. I didn't know the situation and perhaps Nicole's phone call was of dire importance (which is why each of the other five class participants who arrived after me also did not receive a warm reception). Ok, fine whatever. Time for class to start and besides, a different instructor was teaching it.

I cannot say this with absolute certainty because I have never taken a kickboxing class before but I'm guessing that "Diva Kickboxing" is actually the exact same as other kickboxing classes, except set to music. Remember from the Stiletto Workout post that the music Nicole played was one of my favorite things about the whole experience. Sadly, that wasn't the case today. The music wasn't awful but it wasn't that great and there was often a lag between songs- Not good at all for a fast-paced cardio class like this one! But again, perhaps I'm just being really picky. It's possible.

The instructor, Layla, was gorgeous. Like, "Hi girls, I'm a model but I also happen to enjoy teaching kickboxing" gorgeous. I was pleasantly surprised that she started us off with several stretching exercises. Again, referring back to my Stiletto Workout post, the lack of stretching was one of my only gripes about that day. For the next 50 minutes, Layla then had us do a series of jabs and lunges and kicks and elbows and twists! It was all very fast-paced and a very good workout. True to character, I was right up in the front so I could watch my form as I performed the dozens of moves Layla taught us but I realized quickly how UNcoordinated I became if I watched myself so I stopped and just went with it. Layla said all the right things ("Good job!", "One more set!" "Keep your abs tightened!", etc.) but she seemed a little bit disengaged. I don't know, just something I noticed from time to time during the hour.

One HUGE distraction was the heat in the studio. Oh. My. Sweet Lord! I honestly can't remember the last time I sweated so much. I understand it's a workout class and sweating comes with the territory but it was waaaaay too hot to be working out during the summer in a smallish studio with seven other women and no air conditioning. Give me a break. I had to stop a few times just to wipe the sweat out of my eyes! I watched in the mirror as my light blue shirt turned navy and I started to wonder if this was an element of the class. You know how some people really enjoy Bikram yoga because it has the added intensity of being hot as hell? I thought maybe that's what this was. I finally convinced myself it was and that is the ONLY way I managed to make it through the class. Just out of curiosity, I asked Layla about this after class and she confirmed my earlier suspicions- Something was wrong with their air conditioner. (And they're "working on it".)

So, alllllll of this complaining aside, I will tell you that I did have a good workout. I would've preferred for the whole experience to be a bit more friendly (staff-wise) and comfortable (temperature-wise) but the bottom line is I got what I went in for: A kick-ass workout.

Would I do it again? Begrudgingly, yes. I don't have it out for NDG Wellness so I will definitely return and would encourage my friends in the City to try out one of their classes. So far, workouts-wise, they are two for two. Ambiance-wise, they're one for two. Based on my first experience there, I know that they have it in them to provide an outstanding workout experience and I want to give them that opportunity to prove that this less than stellar visit was just a fluke.

Pros: Consistently (can I say "consistently" after just two visits?), they provide intense workouts that really give me the feeling that my time and money there was well-spent. Despite the below-par attitudes I witnessed today, I know Nicole is cool and I suspect Layla is as well. Hopefully I don't ever catch them on their "off" days again. Price-wise, this was a great deal as it is one of the five classes I bought for 25 buckaroos in my Lifebooker Loot deal. Hurrah for $5 classes!

I almost forgot to include a picture of this little cutie! She's Nicole's pup and, while I didn't get her name (again, Nicole on the phone = No time to ask), I did have a chance to play with her for the few minutes leading up to class- So Sweet!!! 

Cons: I already mentioned everything- No need to rehash, right?

So what do you think? Can you empathize with my complaints or am I being hyper critical? What little things have bothered you in the past about fitness classes? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A San Francisco Treat

Hey everyone! Sorry for the silence on my end since posting about my white water rafting trip- Hopefully you enjoyed that!

Since then, I’ve been spending some time on my other favorite coast with my good friend A (who you all may recall from my Puerto Rico kayaking “workout” post). A and I know each other from home (Georgia) and she even used to live in NYC with me but last year she moved to San Francisco for a job. Horrible friend that I am, it’s taken me this long to get out here! Well, joke’s on me because I’ve been having a lot of fun since I arrived last Thursday and I should’ve visited sooner.

While A works at said job, I’ve taken the opportunity to explore her cute little neighborhood of Glen Park and lo and behold, lookit what I found on my first day just one block away from her apartment:

                                              Need a closer look? Here ya go: 

I was super excited to find Centered Body Pilates because I’ve been meaning to try this both for LaFemmeFITalle and just because I’ve heard it’s an excellent workout for toning and lengthening. (I build muscle easily and it’s always been a fear of mine that I’ll start to look too muscular/bulky… probably mostly in my head but still.)

I’m pretty sure I have bought pilates classes back home (via Groupon, LivingSocial, etc.) but have yet to use them so this seemed like a perfectly suitable way to spend my solo Monday morning in San Francisco. Besides, my six hour flight just a couple of days before and the hiking A and I did around the vineyards had me feeling wound up tight. I signed up online the night before for a mat pilates class and headed over bright and early the next day.

When I arrived (a bit early), the instructor, Avenne, was still finishing up with the class before mine. I took the time to check out the studio and observe her teaching style. The studio is small, about 600 square feet and it has five pilates machines along the wall. Its all natural wood finish and huge window in the front that allowed light to cascade in gave the space a calming yet energizing feel. Avenne had all of the characteristics I love to see in a teacher- First of all, she looked healthy (I always scratch my head when I see unhealthy- looking teachers leading a class or working in a gym), she kept up the pace of the class, and she got down on the floor to show the proper way to do the moves she wanted her students to do.

As the first class finished up, other people arrived for our 11 o’clock class. Most of us, as it turned out, were newbies. Avenne instructed each of us to grab a mat and a roller (a large foam cylinder) and head over in front of one of the pilates machines on the wall. We started out by finding our “natural spine”, that is, how our spine lays when we were lying on our backs with no tension anywhere. Some people have a “flat back” while others have a little space between the end of their spine and the floor. Avenne explained that, as we performed each exercise in the day’s class, we needed to be aware that this is where our back should be to avoid injury and guarantee proper form. We then did some breathing exercises and got started.

Because our class was “Mat Pilates” we didn’t use the aforementioned machines. Instead, we used the weight of our own limbs for resistance. The key to getting in a good workout this way is to focus on inhaling and exhaling at the right times and to be sure that each and every movement is slow and controlled (including your breathing). Most of the control comes from your core so this is a GREAT class if you’re looking to tighten up that area; Avenne made sure that we targeted both our abs and our oblique muscles and bless her for that! The elongating element of pilates comes from all the stretching you do. With every contraction you make (for example, a crunch), you come out of it in a somewhat dramatized (though still very much controlled!) stretch to ensure that your muscles really have a chance to “breathe”.

Again, I think Avenne was a great teacher because she not only explained what movements she wanted us to do but she demonstrated most of them and walked around the classroom correcting our form when we needed it. She also used a lot of positive reinforcement and encouraged questions throughout the class. It was a very comfortable atmosphere and I am jealous that A has this little mecca of relaxation so close by.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN: Yep. While I won’t be able to visit Centered Body Glen Park again anytime soon, I have searched for and located the pilates classes I have already purchased back in the City. I’m especially psyched because the classes I bought are held outside, on a pier at the Hudson River, and I can just imagine the zenning out that’s sure to come!

PROS: Avenne was a great teacher, as I said. I’m also really glad, as a newbie, that I took this fundamentals class. Realizing the importance of focusing on my breathing and form will no doubt be helpful when I take more advanced classes in the future. Financially, this class was a reasonable $17. More than a few of the other women I met in class bought a package deal on bloomspot; I was a little jealous because, though I’m not sure what they paid exactly, I’ll bet they got a great deal. Kudos to Centered Body Pilates for giving their customers a great opportunity to take advantage of!

CONS: None. Seriously. I almost wrote here that the Centered Body Pilates studio was a bit on the small side for my liking but actually, I think that works in favor of the clients because it means they can only accommodate small groups, ensuring that we each got plenty of personal attention.

Pilates has definitely become mainstream over the past few years so I’m sure a lot of you have done it at least once which begs the question: What do you think? 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Splishing & Splashing in the Poconos

Have you ever been whitewater rafting? I never had been and now, like after every cool thing I try out, I'm asking WHYYYYYY did I wait so long?!?!

My two good friends from high school, K and R, came up for a visit this past weekend and I was so excited. We planned all the stuff you usually would for a NYC visit (dinner, partying... yeah, that about covers it) but also decided to partake in a completely out of the ordinary (k, for us) adventure. Best decision we could've made!

                                               Meet my girls!
On top, R and me in D.C.  ringing in 2010. Below, me and K visiting Paris in early 2010. 
(Sorry for the blurriness- K, we need more pics together!)

The discount website LivingSocial has recently introduced "LivingSocial Adventures" which are group deals on day-trip getaways (not to be confused with their "LivingSocial Escapes" which are actual vacations). They tend to be outdoorsy type things like rafting, tubing, and kayaking with the occasional wine-tasting offer mixed in. For just $69 each, we received roundtrip transportation to LeHigh River, a guided trip down the river, and lunch. Having now completed this adventure, I can tell you it was completely worth it!

Following a late dinner and catch-up session at Cuba on Friday night, K, R, and I rose early Saturday morning to prepare for our adventure. R had been rafting before but K and I weren't quite sure what to expect. Coffee in hand, we hopped in a cab to take us to Midtown where we were to be picked up on a chartered bus and driven out to the river which is located in Pennsylvania.

Initially, I was a little worried because I hadn't realized it would take approximately 2-and-a-half hours to reach our destination and... I tend to get very bus-sick. Like, BAD. Luckily for me our two guides, Josh and Olivia, were very cool and let me ride in the front seat so I could look out the front window versus watching the scenery flash by on the side window. If you've ever gotten nauseated on a bus or in a car (etc.), you can understand my appreciation! This gave us the chance not only to get to know Josh and Olivia but also Marshall, our super cool bus driver who seemed very concerned about me (though I think more for the sake of his bus than anything!)

Seriously??? Look at this VIEW!

After watching the film
"Old School" and chatting with everyone for a couple hours, we arrived at Whitewater Challengers in Pennsylvania's Poconos Mountains. We were actually running a tad late so Josh and Olivia urged us to hurry to be fitted for our life jackets, hit the restrooms, and meet on a second bus that would drive us to the actual location where we would board our rafts. Like good students, we did but not before taking in the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. It was just green, green, green everywhere! So beautiful (little did I know how much MORE beautiful it'd get). The second bus ride took about 20 minutes and allowed us to take in more great views. I was a little nervous on the roads because we seemed to be on the very edge of the mountains but, obviously, we made it safely. Yay for that.

We broke up into groups and hopped into our inflatable boats. Having already become friendly with the guides while on the bus ride in, K, R, and I got in one with Josh and off we went!

Now, I didn't expect this but our rafting experience was a COMPETITIVE one- and you know I love competition! Every boat had a name (ours was "Sex Boat"... don't ask...) and not only were we all trying to race but the second, if not primary, objective was to splash everyone else. There were buckets and water guns handy to accomplish this and I'd say we were all drenched within ten minutes! So. Much. Fun!

This isn't our boat but it gives you the idea of how we spent our day. 

Our trip down the LeHigh River was approximately 10 miles and took us about four hours to complete (with a 45 minute lunch break). I can't even begin to articulate how gorgeous it was! The temperature was only in the low 80's and though the sun was out some of the time, a cool breeze (... and being drenched) kept us from getting too warm. Shortly after lunch, it did begin to rain but it just added to the bad-assness that comes along with rowing down a river and (water) fighting all day long with a bunch of strangers and two great friends!

As for the workout, I think I underestimated how much work we were actually doing because of all the fun we were having. We each had an oar and sat on one side of the raft to aid in propelling us forward (with the help of Josh sitting in the back to guide us and, of course, the LeHigh waters pushing us forward!) A little past half-way through, I switched to the right side of the boat. I swear, I felt a little tenderness in my hands from holding my oar but I did NOT see the incapacitation that followed. But more on that in a minute.

Except for an unfortunate incident where Miss R fell backwards out of our raft (still LOL-ing, but WITH you R!) and the slight freak out (and subsequent paranoia) after finding a GIGANTIC white spider in our boat, everything was (wait-for-it...) smooth sailing. Even at the end our our tour, as we exhaustedly paddled through the rain and wind, the laughs continued and I was so GLAD we three chicas did it- Truly a great memory with both K and R. :)

The bus ride home was, as you might expect, much quieter than the one in. Most people fell asleep to the sound of "Super Troopers" playing on the TVs overhead and the rain falling against our windows. I took the time to get to know Josh and Marshall a little better and make notes for you guys here at LaFemmeFITalle- it was just a perfect end to a perfect day.

What was not so perfect, though, is the fact that I was practically bed-ridden the following day! I cannot remember the last time I was so wiped out from a workout! Now, to be fair, we did party until mid-morning Sunday which was not the smartest thing to do after such a journey but hey, my two friends were only here for a limited time- Carpe diem! And anyway, I can tell you that it was the river workout that got me- not the partying! I managed to eat lunch and shower on Sunday before hitting the sack for the night at 2:30 PM! Three days later, I'm up and at 'em but can definitely still feel the effects of that workout- Love That!

Would I do it again? Do I really have to ask? YES! I want to do it asap! I'm not sure when (if?) there is a cut-off point as the weather cools down but I'd love to get out there again- The pictures and my words just don't do it justice. If there is a similar deal in your area, I suggest you do it. I don't work for LivingSocial (or any other company I might mention here) so just trust me on this one.

PROS: The workout aspect of this trip is unparalleled compared to everything I've written about here so far. I expected my obliques and arms to be sore but was surprised by how much I was (apparently) using my legs at the time because they are sorer than any other body part! The social aspect of this workout trip was also so great- Having K and R there truly made the trip. I probably would have had fun even if I'd gone solo but everything is more fun with your girlfriends.
Lastly, Josh and Olivia plus all of the other tour guides were so friendly and helpful- I'm not sure what the hiring process is at LivingSocial for these types of things but whatever it is, it works!

CONS: Hmmm... I think the bus ride might have been an issue for me if the location hadn't been so breathtaking. I'm not the most patient person and two- and- a- half hours on a bus is enough to make anyone want to hurl but the Poconos- which I'd never seen before- were definitely worth the trip there and back.

So what do you think? Would you ever take a mini getaway like this one (even knowing you might end up sore for a week?!) What other types of adventure trips do you think would be fun?


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"My First Grown-Up Summer" by B. at ThreeYearsDown

This summer marked the first time I did not experience a “summer break.”  It was also a rather emotional one. 

My summer started off with the death of an uncle who had battled cancer for several years.  The news was rough, but it gave the family an opportunity to reunite.  My father’s side of the family knows how to throw a party, and the reception – which was supposed to last two hours – didn’t end until 8 hours later.  My hometown is about 4 hours away from where I live now.  My dad sister and I didn’t get a hotel because we thought we’d be on the road by 4.  It was a good bonding time with my dad while my sister slept in the back seat, and without anyone on the road, we pulled into the city in record time.

The summer, obviously, went up from there.

I have spent most of my summer locked up in an office, drafting memos and motions.  For some reason, I thought it would be fun to be a lawyer when I grew up.  Now I mostly get to enjoy the sun by watching it move through the sky through my office windows.  Because my Monday – Friday is so mundane, I made sure to go out on weekends and hang out with friends.  I tried an outdoor concert at a local pool with some girlfriends and my sister.  We learned very quickly that outdoor concerts that start at 7:00 are for old people, but we still had a blast laughing with each other while a man in his late 60s gave his wife a lap dance (This image will forever be ingrained in my head).

In April I had to move back to where I graduated from high school.  So right now I’m smack dab in the middle of a long distance relationship.  In true summer fashion, this has required several road trips.  Luckily, I just bought a new car and get almost 40 MPG.  I tried to do several things to make the time pass by quickly.  Nothing seemed to work, and I’m not sure it would since I’ve never wanted to travel any faster than when I’m on my way to see my love.  The most failed idea I’ve had so far is audiobooks.  I got through the first five chapters in one, gave up, and turned on my iPod.  My roadtrip playlist includes the cool and embarrassing combination of Adele, Florence + The Machines, Taylor Swift, Britney, Ke$ha, and Tenth Avenue North.

I drove up to Small Town for Fourth of July with the Boyfriend.  We celebrated by watching a parade with his family and drinking mimosas with expensive champagne.  There is nothing like being outside, soaking up the sun, laughing with loved ones, and drinking champagne mixed with orange juice.

Then, when he came to visit me, we drove to the beach and took a stroll at the Santa Monica Pier. (Don’t worry, I have nagged him like crazy for this bizarre “I’m kind of a bachelor” rebellion facial hair he has right now.)

I also rediscovered my local library.  I checked out all kinds of cheesy, summer, chick-lit reads and spent time on outdoor patios and next to my apartment complex’s pool.  I drank a lot of wine by myself, and went to a lot of happy hours.  I cleaned out my DVR.  I started taking my dad and sister to church with me.  I caught up on baking some recipes I’d really wanted to try. 

All in all, my first summer as an adult was, by far, the most boring I’d ever had.  At the same time, it made me soak up every ounce of sun I could get.  I think I’d still like three months off of school with a summer internship, but I’ll take actually having money to buy wine over credit card bills listing every bar I went to and all the clothes I bought.

I hope your summer was amazing! I must confess, with L’s gracious hosting of my post I’ve been guilt-motivated into activating that yoga membership I bought on Groupon.  Not only did I have a pretty good summer, I gained seven pounds. Sick.  Off to the gym for me!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Heads Up, Friends!

Hey Everyone,

I'm still recuperating from a crazy (and I mean CRAZY!) workout experience I had with my two great friends over the weekend. Here's a hint: It involved another state, a paddle, some rain followed by me being laid up in bed most of yesterday! Totally worth it, though!

I'm busy writing that post for you but I just want to give you all a heads up on what will most likely be my next post. Here on Google's blogspot, I'm a member of a group called "Twenty-Something Bloggers". It's a cool way to network and get to know other twenty-somethings around the world who contribute to the blogosphere! A couple weeks back, they announced they'd be hosting their annual "Blog Swap".

Bloggers simply signed up and they matched you to a partner who you have some things in common with. I was matched up to Ms B at ThreeYearsDown. I'm excited to contribute something to her page and I can't wait to see what she has in store for mine! We'll be swapping blogs on Wednesday the 17th and the topic will be "Summer".

(On another note, can you buh-lieve summer is winding down?! Noooooooooooooo......!)

I (and, I'm sure, B) would love to hear your feedback about her post so be sure to check it out Wednesday!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Quick FAST Update

I wanted to fill you in on how my fasting experience went!

If you remember, I started fasting on Saturday night and was planning to do it until late Tuesday night. Operative words: “Planning to”. I did not last…. But probably not for the reason you think!
Most would probably think I broke fast because I was hungry. Not true! I swear, I never was starving even up until the moment I had my first bite of food.  I broke fast because I found it virtually impossible to do anything with friends that did not involve ingesting food and drink. For the record, I made it until Monday night, around 11 PM (so approximately 53 hours total and 24 hours short of my plan).
Here’s a list of what I found to be the most difficult:
 - The socialization aspect or, really, lack thereof. Since I usually meet up with friends for lunch, dinner, or drinks, this whole juicing thing put a bit of a damper on my social life.
The smell of food. Oh man! Having a roomie who was not juice fasting with me (this time) and who cooks at home occasionally made this tough. On Sunday afternoon, before I even walked into my apartment, I could smell the pizza she was making from the hall. Sweet, garlicky goodness…. Sigh. Oh yeah, and living in NYC surrounded by amazing restaurants, in a word, SUCKED.
It’s a labor intensive. Or, maybe it just feels that way. Vegetables (particularly leafy greens) do not go far when juiced. I felt like I was always headed out to stock up on more veggies. Then again, maybe it’s just because I needed them fresh. I think I spent a little under $40 total, which is actually much less than I’d spend if I had eaten out as much as I usually do in the same time frame but made trips to the grocer/market every day.
-  Having to explain my fast and my reasons for fasting. Again and again and again. No, for the upteenth time, I’m not trying to lose weight!  I started referring people here and avoiding convo altogether- Lol…

Physically, I felt really great! I worked out and went about my daily routine just fine. Except for the social aspect, which is obviously the most difficult for me, I could have done this for much longer I think!
The jolt of nutrients I shot back each “meal” could literally be felt in mere minutes! I felt so energized and light on my feet. I could see myself fasting for three-five days once a month easily. Even today, after having been eating “normal” for the past 24 hours, there is still a difference I can feel in my body. And it feels good!
As I pointed out, the toughest part for me was the socializing aspect. When (yes when, not if) I do this again, I’ll have to plan ahead and do it during a span of days when I know I won’t be going out much… Going on a solo vacay somewhere relaxing where I could incorporate lots of yoga and meditation while doing this actually sounds like a great idea to me (though I’d have a hard time packing my juicer…)

So tell me, is fasting something you’d ever give a try? Why or why not? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fly What? FlyWheel, of course!

I finally got around to trying a spin class last week! I chose to spin at FlyWheel in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. Here's how they describe their classes:

"high- intensity cardio workout!"                           
          "energetic atmosphere!"
          "most effective and safe!"       

Here's how this LaFemmeFITalle describes it: Super intense, loud, and just a bit much to take on a Wednesday morning.

A quick re-cap of my visit: I arrived for a 9 o'clock class last Wednesday morning. The place was easy to find and I arrived in plenty of time to get settled in. The woman at the front desk was nice enough, though not overly helpful. She showed me where the riding shoes that I'd reserved (at no additional charge!) were waiting for me and gave me a quick tutorial on how to use the lockers they provide. FlyWheel's facilities are not very big but they are adequate; I grabbed a bench in the small seating area as I waited for the class before mine to end. Here's a quick shot of my snazzy riding shoes:
Do you like?
The bottoms of the shoes clip onto the pedals of the bike so that your feet don't slip off when you're riding fast!

As people from the 8 o'clock class piled out, I got a little nervous. Now that the door was open, I could see inside to the dark studio that held about 40 stationary bikes all packed in like sardines and I was thankful my class did not appear to be a full one. True to form, I went in and grabbed a bike in the front row. I wanted to be able to see the teacher clearly and, well, I wanted to watch myself in the mirror! Form is important, ya know?

One of the staff members who was inside cleaning up was super friendly and showed me how to "clip" my shoes onto my bike. When Stephanie, our instructor came in, she introduced herself and quickly explained how to adjust the intensity of my ride (the Torque on my bike). She gave me a friendly warning that her class is a lot to take, especially the first time, and not to feel like I had to keep up with her or anyone else. She said to just challenge myself to MY limit. Game on, Steph.

Well, she was not kidding. Two minutes in, I was glad I'd grabbed an extra one these:

  As I mentioned, the studio was dark and it stayed that way most of the time, save for the neon lights going on around us. Actually, it looked a lot like this site. The music was LOUD.... Stephanie, apparently a fan of Shakira, the theme song from "Rocky", Bob Marley, and Survivor (think "Eye of the Tiger")  definitely kept the energy HIGH as she barked out orders "Go faster! You can do it! Turn that torque UP- higher, Higher, HIGHER!") She'd always slow us back down just when I thought I was going to pass out. Great instructor.

I think my favorite part of the class is this cool competition you can sign up to participate in when you reserve your class online. At the front of the studio, there are two televisions hanging from the ceiling and, if you sign up (using any nickname or initials you please), every so often names and bike numbers of competition participants are listed, ranked from best to worst.  The ranking is based on your torque (intensity level) and your speed. I was shocked to see I usually placed second out of about six people who were participating.... It's not a big deal but it definitely did make me work harder. What can I say? I'm competitive.

Towards the end of the 45 minute class, Stephanie had us pick up short, weighted bars to get in some arm exercises while we pedaled. It was tough, not because the bars were so heavy but because we'd been riding intensely for about 30 minutes and she was alllllll about reps. Again, I thought I was going to pass out. (But in a good way!)  

Finally, finally, FINALLY it was time to cool down and stretch. After forgetting my shoes were "locked" into the pedals, I embarrassed myself by nearly falling off the bike but regained my composure and stretched for 10 minutes with Stephanie and my classmates before heading out.

I was a schvitzing, shaky-legged, smiling mess when I walked out.

Would I do it again? Hmmmm.... Maybe. It wasn't my very favorite class but if I had a friend who really wanted me to tag along, I probably would. Or if it was on GroupOnHINT, HINT, KNUDGE, KNUDGE FlyWheel!

PROS: It was an intense class- and I love that. It was also an easy location for me to get to. There are other locations around the city. I also really like the built-in competition component.

CONS: The price. It costs $30 for a single session. Of course, as with most gyms, they offer incentives to buy in bulk but I don't think their deals are very impressive (for example, 10 rides for $275... Hurray! Not.) Also, while there are plenty of spin class fanatics out there (maybe you're one of them!) and the fact that FlyWheel does well at its job, I am just not one of them. If I'm on a bike, I prefer to be out in the open air (at least for now- ask me again when it's winter here.)

What is your take on Spinning? 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

So Juicy!

I’ve always been curious about juicing. From time to time, I’d even try a shot of wheat grass when I stopped by my neighborhood health food store, feeling good about myself as I walked out the door. However, it was not until I recently saw the documentary film “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead” that I feel really gung-ho about this.

In the documentary, an overweight, over-medicated Australian by the name of Joe Cross explores attitudes in the US about food and juicing while at the same time embarking on a 60-day juice fast. That’s right- No eating. Except for the fruits and (mostly) veggies he can stuff in his Breville juicer and as much water as he can consume, Mr. Cross forgoes everything else in a quest to lose weight and be healthier. As you might expect, he is successful and his transformation is awe-inspiring. Even as someone who is at a healthy weight and takes no medicine (except for the occasional Excedrin), it really made me think about my own diet.

How many of us are guilty of putting absolute trash in our body?
(If your hand isn’t raised, you’re kidding yourself.)

 After a late night out imbibing, nothing satisfies like a Five Guys burger! I think it’s totally fine to enjoy life and eat foods that make us happy but I also think it’s a great idea to occasionally re-boot our systems.
So last night, I trekked to Macy’s on 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan (on another note, Ohmygod, that place is INSANE!) and bought my very first juicer. Already, I wonder how I’ve gotten this far in life without one. Not only is it an impressive machine to look at but it’s super simple to use. You wash your veggies and fruit thoroughly then push it down into the juicer (using the piece for doing that, NOT your hand!) and it produces juice instantly. Very cool. Obviously, I’m just getting started. I’ve made three different juices. Here’s my beet/broccoli/squash concoction along with the pulp that was left:

So there you have it. This is the type of stuff I'll be feasting on for the next couple of days. I’m not going to tell you this is for everyone. If you don’t like vegetables, I can’t imagine how you’d make it through a day on this juice fast, much less three, five, or 60! (Note: Of course you can use fruits, too, but they contain more sugar so the vegetables are the best to use). I happen to LOVE vegetables so I’m having a ball! My very favorite is carrot juice

My plan is to juice fast for three days BUT allow myself some fruits to snack on as well as coffee. I’m not attempting a weight loss or anything like that with this- Just a way to partially detox and learn more. I can say I’m almost at the end of day one and I feel FANTASTIC! I really thought I’d feel like poo (low energy, hungry, headaches, irritability, etc.) but I have been running errands and doing chores around the apartment all day and I feel so energized and definitely not hungry at all. If you’d like an idea of what a true juice fast (no hard foods at all), my good friend Rachel will be writing lot about her five day experience! (I'll link you there when it's up!)
Again, it’s not for everyone. Even though it’s worth it to me, I have already noticed how much more time and energy go into this type of diet. I went out of my way to pick up organic, locally-grown veggies from a Farmer’s Market in a nearby neighborhood. I then spent about 45 minutes washing and chopping some of my produce. (Even though the Breville allows you to put full, un-chopped vegetables and fruit into it, for storing purposes, it makes more sense for me to chop and store it in Tupperware.) The cleaning of the machine, while easy, takes about 15 minutes each time I use it (I’m guessing I’ll use it about 4 times/day so that’s an hour a day cleaning it!) I also have to decide what to do with all the pulp that is left over (Should I compost it?! Throw it in a recipe?! Just eat it in pulp-form?! Big decisions.

To me, this time spent to get my food is not only worth it but I enjoy it. With each decision (to buy organic & local produce, to wash and cut it, to have to clean the machine after each use, to make a decision about the pulp) comes time to reflect on my food and appreciate it. Maybe it’s just the effect of all the nutrients going to my head but isn’t this better than simply throwing whatever’s convenient into your system?
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this. Like I said, right now I’m loving it but maybe by tomorrow I’ll be going insane. Hopefully not. 

In the meantime, tell me about your own juice fasting experiences! Throw your questions and comments on the board or just suggest the craziest recipe you can think of- I promise I’ll at least try it! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Do You Blink?

I Blinked this week and it felt AMAZING!

Mind you, I gave up my gym over a month ago and it’s tough to go cold turkey, am I right or am I right?

So WTH am I talking about with this “blink” talk? Lemmie explain:

Blink is a newish gym located in NoHo, Paramus, and Yonkers. The message they declare is that everyone deserves to work out because, like blinking, it is only natural. Their super affordable rates ($20/month) allow even the most broke to work up a sweat within the confines of a clean, spacious gym with great equipment!

I was so excited to get started on my workout routine for the first time in months (seriously felt like I was on my way to visit with an old friend) as I walked the five or so blocks from my apartment to Blink. Before I could hop on the treadmill, however, I made a quick stop by the front desk to sign up for the month. I was using a Groupon deal I’d bought in July so my first month’s dues were just 10 bucks! Sweet. The attendants at the front desk were not only efficient but also incredibly friendly and cleared me to use their gym in a few short minutes. 

I took a look around the large, open room and saw that most of the free weights and machines are located on the left side of the gym and most of the cardio equipment is located on the right. I made a quick pit stop in the women’s locker room (Note to Self: Bring a lock next time!) and headed out to one of the many rows of treadmills. The treadmills, like the rest of Blink, are new models and equipped to allow you to plug in your headphones to watch tv (there are about 15 tvs hanging from the ceiling) or to hook your iPod up. I picked one closest to the window because I wanted a bird’s eye view of the street (Blink is on the second floor of the building) as I clocked my miles (…. Ok, my 1.5 mile…).

Following my run, I jumped on an elliptical and continued my cardio conditioning for another 20 minutes. By then, glistening and loving it, I was ready for the weights! Blink has a TON of weight machines, all obviously well-maintained. I tried out the thigh abductor machines and then grabbed a couple of free weights to work on my arms. Then it was time for (drumroll, please……..) my core session! You KNOW how obsessed I am. Unfortunately for me, a gym employee was mopping the padded area designated for floor workouts so I had to wait a bit before I could begin (I’m glad they keep it so clean, though!) The gym offers plenty of exercise balls so I grabbed one and got started on my 30 minutes of ab bliss (I know- I’m a weirdo for loving it). You know what’s funny? Despite all of the classes I’ve taken and physical activity I’ve been doing lately, after completing my own ab routine on the exercise ball, I could DEFINITELY feel myself working muscles I guess I’ve been missing. This led me to purchase my own exercise ball for my apartment on the way home.


Would I do it again? Yep, after finishing up my workout and stretching all my muscles out, I left Blink one happy camper. I have my one-month membership and at $20/month, who wouldn’t sign up?

PROS: Obviously, the price. Also, for me, the location works. It’s right at Broadway and West 4th. The facilities are nice and the employees are even nicer.

CONS: The gym is a bare-bones gym; there are no classes offered and I didn’t notice personal trainers standing around (though, again, the staff was super helpful and friendly).
I also have a sneaking suspicion that, due to the affordability, this place gets PACKED during peak hours (weekends & before and after work). I’m not the most patient person so I don’t think it’d work for me if I couldn’t go during non-peak hours.

I’d definitely recommend this place to most people who need little to no guidance when working out. 
                                      Hey, maybe I’ll see you around!