As I checked into my first workout of the year at Physique 57 today, I hit my major milestone of 52 straight weeks of exercising! Looking back, some of said weeks were a tad light (read: I barely got to class once), but I’m crazy excited that I managed to show up to sweat at least once a week, every week, for the whole year.
This year marks the first time since college that I’ve sustained a consistent exercise program for more than a few months. In fact, I experienced many fitness “firsts” in 2012…these were some of the highlights:
- PILATES! I actually took my first Reformer class on New Year’s Eve in 2011, but I had my first-ever private session with my favorite teacher in January 2012 and started taking class every week after that. Boyfriend and I go to her class in Brooklyn every week, and I never want to give it up. My core strength has improved like whoa, and most of my old nagging sports injuries have faded. Meanwhile, Boyfriend’s back never bothers him anymore, and he has all sorts of arm muscles now. Thanks, Joe!
- Taking my first Lotte Berk-based barre class at P57 in February under the guidance of the amazing Holly. I am still not sure if barre is the best workout for me, but it’s true that there’s nothing else like it.
- My first experience with truly athletic yoga– FLOW with Erin Jacques and Amanda Murdock at SLT Yoga. I left a sweaty, melty mess. I really need to take this class more.
- Finding, and becoming obsessed with, fitness review blog/platform RateYourBurn. I am a RYB fiend and will talk the site up to anyone who will listen to me, as it’s hilarious AND useful.
- Trying my first-ever spinning class at Flywheel. I was saddle-sore for like a week afterward (tmi?), I almost had two asthma attacks, and my wonky knees don’t take well to cycling, so I haven’t been back. But it was an adrenaline rush I’ll never forget.
- Trying Reinvention Chair at Chaise23. My arms were sore for days afterward from pulling on those bungees!
Other firsts included The Bar Method, Pure Barre, Barre3, Pilates ProWorks, aerial vinyasa at Om Factory, Refine Method, a whole bunch of new-to-me yoga studios, Gaga, and some Pilates mat and tower classes. I don’t even want to think about how many MindBody accounts I’m currently juggling.
Perhaps the most meaningful “first,” however, was finding Simonson Technique dance classes, initially at the Joffrey Ballet School and then at Dance New Amsterdam, its real home. Every teacher I’ve had has been phenomenal, and I always leave class feeling limber, inspired, and excited to return. Dance (excluding Zumba) isn’t a calorie-torcher like Refine, spinning, or SPX, but it is my very favorite way to move.
With my injuries and exercise-induced asthma, not every workout spells rainbows and unicorns for my body, so I had some serious fitness ADD this year as I tried to figure out what worked best for me. I am trying to be more focused now, but I’m still going to keep experimenting with my schedule and trying new classes. (I’m especially excited for Lithe to come to town.) Let’s see if I can keep this fitness streak going for another 52 weeks…
Cheers to good health, friends, food, and sweat in 2013!
From last night, when I took a lovely modern class at Dance New Amsterdam. I’m almost at the year mark– double my original goal. YES.
I have begun to think that Foursquare is not the best, most accurate way to track my workouts. Despite feeling good each time I receive a new “N weeks at the gym! That’s a new record!” notification, I’m craving something more accurate and robust that actually acknowledges the individual sweat sessions I put in.
The Nike Fuelband intrigues me, but I have heard that the activities I mainly do, like yoga and Pilates, don’t register well on the device. Sad.
However, I am a sucker for anything else that employs game mechanics, so I’m starting to play around with SlimKicker, which lets me track my workouts and food, complete challenges, earn badges, and level up via a website and an iOS app. It seems kind of like a Fitocracy and MyFitnessPal hybrid, although unlike Fitocracy (which uses a “freemium” business model), I can access everything for free.
I’m not super-interested in keeping a food diary, as I am more focused on building and maintaining a consistent fitness routine rather than losing weight, so I’ve mostly just logged some workouts, which is a fairly simple process; you can search for a type of workout or use a parametric filtering system to drill down into specific exercise types and body parts. I had some trouble finding Pilates until I realized that it was findable using search, but didn’t live in any of the filter categories (at least not the ones I checked). HOWEVER, now that I’ve entered Pilates and yoga into my workout, I do see them pop up in my default list of “Recent Exercises.” Awesome!
From my initial explorations I can see, with my UX-professional hat on, a few other design issues– for instance, when I double-logged my Pilates class from Monday, it was hard for me to find the individual day for me to edit my entries; it would be great to see just a really simple log of every piece of activity I’ve entered lately. The graphing/data visualization is still pretty light, as I can only see how many calories I’ve burned, and filter down by activity type. However, it seems like a pretty new service, and I’m sure the team is always rolling out new enhancements and features, so I really look forward to seeing how the platform evolves!
My favorite from the list:
“Fountain of youth: Growing evidence suggests that telomere shortening (the DNA at the end of your chromosomes) can inhibit stem cell function and cellular regeneration, which then leads to unhealthy aging. A 2010 study (http://www.theheart.org/article/1041013.do) in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) uncovered an inverse association between blood levels of fish oil and the rate of telomere shortening over five years, suggesting a possible explanation for the protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco studied over 600 patients and found that the higher the blood levels of fish-derived omega-3 acids in patients with coronary heart disease, the longer the telomeres.”
Take THAT, telomere-shortening!
I sooo meant to go to a modern dance class tonight at DNA…I even wore an exercise tank top as a base layer under my sweater at work today in order to minimize my changing time! Alas, after getting sucked into a conversation with my boss at the very end of the day I totally missed my window to get to the studio on time. Gah.
One thing I’ve really been slacking on lately is following through with the workouts I put on my calendar. Jess at Fit Chick in the City really inspires me with her “Say It, Do It!” feature, so in the name of accountability, I’m going to list out my plans here with the intent of ACTUALLY completing them.
My next 7 days will go as follows:
Wednesday – 90-minute yoga class @ Mala
Thursday – REST (not by choice, have a work commitment!)
Friday – 75-minute yoga class @ Strala
Saturday – 50-minute Intro to Megaformer @ SLT (eep!)
Sunday – REST
Monday – 60-minute Yoga FLOW @ SLT
Tuesday – 90-minute dance class @ DNA
And then…it’s home for Thanksgiving for turkey and veggies (bringing our CSA box home to share with Mom) and maybe some Black Friday yoga. Namaste, y’all!
See? I didn’t stop working out between July, i.e. my last fitness-related post, and November, I swear! However, the hurricane two weeks ago DID have me stuck inside for almost a whole week and I have to admit, I wasn’t at all proactive when it came to seeking out opportunities to take class. I didn’t even bust out my Tara Stiles yoga DVDs. It was basically laziness central in my apartment. As such, I was surprised that Foursquare gave me a 43 weeks-at-the-gym shoutout when I checked into my first post-storm Pilates class at Ellie Herman Pilates. EHP is Boyfriend’s and my new favorite Pilates studio as it is gorgeous, offers tiny classes, and is about a 10-minute walk from our apartment. Anyway, it felt amazing to stretch, move, and sweat away some of the Halloween candy I shoved in my face while trapped inside. (I REGRET NOTHING.)
What I actually mean to write about, though, is how a few months ago I abandoned the never-ending stream of Lotte Berk-based barre classes that I took all summer, and my workout-of-choice mostly shifted to yoga– a mix of both vigorous vinyasa and slower alignment-based classes.
I made the change in my routine for two main reasons: one, I was starting to experience knee pain after taking Bar Method classes, even with modifications for my injury, and two, the expense of attending class even once a week was becoming unsustainable when added onto my dance and Pilates classes, which always take priority. Oh, and I also just plain fell back in love with yoga! I took a literally breathtaking Flow class with Erin Jacques at SLT Yoga, which totally kicked my ass and reminded me why I got into yoga in the first place. Since that class in August I’ve also found some great teachers in two of my neighborhood yoga studios, Mala Yoga and Area Yoga. (I’m making a serious effort to fall in love with Brooklyn studios…I have spent the past 11 months going into Manhattan for workouts several times a week, and really, what’s the point of both living and working in the better borough if I’m always trekking into the city?)
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m ever going to go back to barre class. In my time as a barre devotee I noticed my quads, calves, hip flexors, and IT bands getting tighter, all of which I need like an extra hole in the head. My arms got way toned, but my triceps muscles got super-tight, like to the extent that I started experiencing nerve entrapment. And I honestly can’t stomach the thought of the crazy muscle burn anymore. For now I’m looking for a better balance of strength and stretching, and I feel like I get enough of both from yoga and Pilates. Barre-based workouts have worked wonders for many ladies, including some of my friends, but I guess my weird body can only handle so much isometric work.
And that kinda sucks. Because seriously, guys, my arms were looking AWESOME. >.<
It is no secret to those who know me that I turn into an annoying, grumpy ball of complaints when the temp spikes above 85 Fahrenheit, which has kept me far, far away from hot yoga and the like over the years. I’ve always assumed it’s because I’m a wimpy loser, but it looks like this Well + Good NYC post has provided some more rational explanations for my inability to handle the heat.
My main takeaways after reading the article are:
1) I probably have too much insulation/padding/[insert body fat euphemism here] to effectively disperse heat. Well, duh. I could’ve told you that.
2) Being a lady makes it harder for you to handle hot conditions– which explains why Boyfriend can’t get outside fast enough during heat waves, but DOESN’T account for the superhuman ladies filling Hot Figure 4, hot Pilates, and Bikram studios around this city…
3) My preemie lungs strike again! Well, really, its my whole respiratory system– I probably don’t have enough cardiovascular fitness to get the heat out of me. Body, start cooling me more efficiently!
I can’t do much about the second factor, but I suppose as I work on my overall fitness, 1 and 3 might improve. Hey, if I work out enough, next year I might not need to glue myself to the AC all summer!
As the year goes on it becomes more and more apparent– and amazing to me– that exercise is once again assuming a prominent place in my life. I look forward to my workouts and miss them when I skip them (although an extra rest day here and there is quite welcome). After being a devout indoor kid and couch potato for the first 15 years of my life, overtraining an under-conditioned indoor kid body for 7 seasons as a high school and college fencer, getting way too obsessive about diet and exercise after college, undergoing multiple rounds of physical therapy for various old injuries, and hopping on/off the yoga bandwagon more times than I can count, I’m taking great pains to make sure that my newfound exercise habit is varied, safe, and sustainable in the long term.
Now that I’m close to my goal of a full half-year of weekly workouts, I’m also becoming more sure of what kinds of workouts I like, so that I can make sure that I keep up the fitness thing for the second half of the year. So far, I have learned that I thrive in thoughtful, high-energy, and non-competitive group classes, especially those with an emphasis on linking breath to movement– or at least those with instructors who REMIND me to breathe. My winter/early spring obsession with ballet has faded, and I’ve discovered an intense love for Simonson Technique, which allows me to work within the limits of my body type and bone structure. I love Pilates more than ever and look forward to my weekly class (especially with Boyfriend at my side). I’m finding that with the right instructor, I kind of secretly heart barre classes. I even found my way back to the yoga mat a handful of times in the past 2 months. And as I mentioned recently, this week Boyfriend and I are heading to our first Flywheel class ever.
With all of these endeavors going on, I have begun to worry that I am too much of a dilettante/dabbler. I have been going to one barre class, one Pilates class, one or two dance classes, and sometimes a yoga class every week. Is this too random for me to see results? Would it be better for me to take, say, 2-3 barre classes and drop Pilates and yoga? I hesitate to say yes, because I feel great. My clothes are fitting way better than they have in recent memor, I can see visible biceps muscles upon flexing for the first time ever, and my calves look damn good. I also think my workouts complement each other. The strengthening of barre and Pilates finds a nice counterpoint in the movement of dance and stretching of yoga, and I have read too many exercise physiology articles at this point to in good conscience sign myself up for a regimen of 100% isometric training. Still, I can’t help but wonder whether I’m missing out in comparison to my friend who hits up Physique 57 every day, or the coworkers who alternate thrice-weekly spinning with twice-a-week power yoga.
The other drawback that comes along with this variety of boutique fitness classes is the overwhelming cost. I really need to get a handle on my fitness budget– I know it would be more responsible to just commit to a membership somewhere or maybe drop the more expensive classes *cough*Physique*cough* in favor of relatively budget-friendly yoga. I briefly considered, but ultimately decided against joining Equinox, because I just can’t stand the gym vibe, and refusing to give up my Pilates and dance classes renders the financial incentive nil. I also sometimes entertain the idea of joining the SoHo location of Exhale, but I worry that I wouldn’t go enough, or that I’d incur an overuse injury from only doing Core Fusion (although I know there are several varieties therein). Whyyyy do I not have a trust fund earmarked solely for overpriced boutique workouts?!? 😛
Today I also found myself wishing that I had a consistent workout buddy. Even though I’ve been doing all of these group classes, the vibe at some studios can be pretty cold, and I’m naturally shy– introducing myself to the girl next to me is never easy for me. Most of my friends either work out in the morning at studios far away from me, belong to full-service gyms, or don’t exercise at all. I have been talking Physique up to some of my coworkers, but none have taken the bait yet. A friend to grimace at from across the studio would be really nice. However, it’s clear that most people are there to get in and get out. I suppose I’d better get used to it…or grow some balls and start introducing myself to the ladies sitting/standing/shaking next to me.
This first month of summer has really been flying by– mostly because life has been so damn busy during the past few weeks. Boyfriend and I moved to a larger apartment last weekend– a real, live one-bedroom, woo! I’ve also been hard at work in class, although though this moving business has thrown a real wrench into my whole “20 workouts per month” plan. As of June 15th I’d only worked out a measly six times: 2 barre classes, 2 yoga classes, a dance class, and a Pilates class. LAME! (However, I did spend the entire weekend of June 8th packing, lifting, and unpacking giant plastic boxes of my belongings, so I’m inclined to count that as exercise as well.)
Luckily, last week I managed to claw my way back onto the wagon and completed 5 workouts almost by accident. At this rate, the end of the month will see me almost catch up to my stated goal of 20 workouts, as opposed to having the goal fly by, untouched. So that’s better than nothing.
First, I enjoyed a great, sweaty Simonson Technique class on Tuesday at DNA. On Friday I attended a great second class with Sarah G. at Physique 57 SoHo, but was crushed to hear her say that she”ll be moving out of the city soon. I suppose this will be my chance to branch out and try the classes with Lindi, Antonietta, Emily T., Cassie…all the instructors I keep hearing great things about but haven’t yet tried. Saturday brought me my weekly wonderful dose of Pilates with the equally wonderful Karina Michaels at Reforming New York. I sweated the hour out with Boyfriend and a former co-worker, after which we rewarded ourselves with ‘wichcraft in the park. Mmm.
Now, if you possess rudimentary counting skills, you’ll notice that I only worked out 3 times between Tuesday and Saturday. This brings me to my final 2 workouts of the week– two surprise bike rides on Saturday and Sunday afternoons! After lunch on Saturday, Boyfriend and I headed up north to visit my mom’s place. When we arrived, she brought out a couple of old hybrid bikes that had been sitting in the garage for 10+ years, and said we should try them out. If we liked them, she’d have them tuned up and would bring them to the city for us the following week.
The bikes seemed to be generally the right size for us, so we brought them to the gas station and filled the tires, before (at my behest) walking the bikes to a quiet-ish street to begin the ride. My cycling skills are, to put it lightly, MAJORLY WEAK. I can barely manage a hand signal without losing my balance. But after warming up for a few minutes in an empty church parking lot, I rode about 5 miles that afternoon. Not all at once, mind you…we kept stopping to check Google Maps. It’d been a long time since I’d navigated the side streets of my hometown by car, let alone bike. The following day, I defied my aching sitz bones to do another quick 3-miler to and from the beach. While I’m still a little shaky alongside cars, especially at intersections, I think with some practice I’ll be more confident on the bike. I’m definitely going to start out on the park bike paths and greenways in Brooklyn before attempting to ride on the street. It’ll be a work in progress.
My new bike is only an entry-level hybrid from 1997, so it’s going to need some modifications in order to be fit for even light city riding. I need to put a bell and lights on it just to make it legal, and I definitely want fenders and a rear rack. If I start riding the bike to the office, I’ll probably get some puncture-resistant tires (cream ones!) swept-back/North Road/townie bars instead of the standard riser bars, so I can sit more upright, and perhaps a nicer saddle. And in terms of theft-prevention, I’ll need to replace the quick-release levers on the wheels and saddle with locking hex nuts or something similar. Oh, look…now I have something new to obsess over in addition to my boutique fitness class schedule.
In other news, Boyfriend graciously agreed to sign up alongside me for our very first Flywheel Sports class. We’re taking a Friday evening class with Ryan, since every weekday evening class with Jesse, about whom I’ve heard so many great things, filled up so fast once the booking window opened. If it goes well, this summer may well be filled with more indoor and outdoor cycling than I originally anticipated. And if this is the case, I’m going to have to invest in multiple pairs of padded shorts. Or one of those donut pillows to sit on.
The heat wave over Memorial Day weekend did nothing if not remind me that 1) summer is just around the corner, and she’s going to be a bitch, and 2) I will probably have to wrestle my way into a bathing suit at least once over the next few months. Blerg. However, Well + Good NYC recently posted a piece on “how to design your perfect summer,” and since I blindly follow all advice I read on the Internet, I’m obeying life coach Laurie Gerber’s first tip:
“Write it down. The most important thing is to actually create a detailed plan, says Gerber, and put it in writing. Start with the tips below. “Extra credit if you read what you wrote, post it somewhere, and/or tell people!””
I’m willing to bet that Laurie’s already designed her perfect summer, and probably knows her stuff, because she looks really happy in her headshot– like she’s laughing at a really clever joke that we can’t hear. So here I go, writing it down.
In the months of June, July, and August this year, I hereby pledge to:
- Complete 20 workouts each month (an average of 5 per week).
- Of those 20 monthly workouts, at least five will consist of trembling and grunting my way through a Physique 57 or other barre class (Core Fusion, Pure Barre, Bar Method, etc.)
- Try something new/scary every month. So in June, I plan to take my very first spinning class at Flywheel. (Will my exercise-induced asthma and wonky knees be able to handle it? We’ll find out!) July may see me attempting taking on a hardcore session of metabolic resistance training with the Refine Method, and in August I’d like to make an ass of myself at Brooklyn Boulders or something else completely different from my usual dance-yoga-Pilates-barre routine.
- And of course, I promise to rest on two non-consecutive days every week to let my body recover. That part’s easy.
- Turn 27 without whining about how I’m getting “so old” (but really guys, I’m getting sooo old omgzwtf)
- Drink cocktails– preferably fruity ones with a gin base– on rooftops, as often as possible.
- Take advantage of the spacious kitchen in our new apartment with some serious hot-weather-friendly home cooking.
- Obtain the necessary appliances to blend and juice to my heart’s content.
I’ll be sharing stories about my workouts and eats the whole way through. Stay tuned.