Tagged: exercise

Happy 2013!

Here's to 52 more!

Here’s to 52 more!

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!

Stay classy: Barre Essentials at Pilates Proworks

Barre Pro

Unlike this lady, everyone in my class was wearing pants. [Source: Pilates ProWorks]

Despite my recent moratorium on Lotte Berk-based barre classes, I decided to use the last class of my FITIST 4-pack on a “Barre Essentials” workout at Pilates ProWorks on 14th Street. I’d recently read some enthusiastic reviews of Barre Pro– the PPW version of Lotte Berk– which raved about how different it was from the usual suspects, thus piquing my curiosity. I had been to this studio once before for their Pilates Pro class and enjoyed it, but felt kind of like I was going to fall off and die the whole time…my balance kinda sucks, and I don’t do that well on elevated Reformers even in non-Pilates-on-crack classes, so in Pilates Pro my flailing truly reached new heights. Anyway, I was wary of going all-out with Barre Pro  since I hadn’t taken barre since August. Also, I feel more Amateur than Pro in basically everything fitness-related, so Essentials felt right for me.

Looking back, I definitely made a good choice. There was only a small group of us in the studio, half of whom were attending the class for the first time. The moves were all familiar, and a few felt a tad easy-ish, but overall I got a much needed ass-kicking in a way that eased me back into barre mode.

The teacher, Jackie, did a great job of cueing and explaining the moves, and it felt like I was really under the care of a bona fide Pilates instructor (which she is!) rather than some rando dancer.

My favorite part about the class was the dance-y warmup, which made it feel like I was in a jazz class and got my heart rate up. The warmup was followed by arms, thighs (sometimes WITH arms), glutes/seat (I muddled through the standing seatwork because of a hip injury but relished the extreme side-butt fire during the floor section), and abs with the squishy ball under the small of our back (also had some trouble with abs because of my bum hip, but I did my best). Each section was also punctuated by planks: regular-flavor, spiderman planks, mountain climbers, etc. There was definitely more of a cardio aspect to the class, and I found that both terrifying and delightful. One thing I’m glad that we didn’t do is “round-back” abs under the barre, which have felt gimmicky and potentially injurious in nearly every other Berk-based class I’ve done.

The class as a whole felt like an awesome hybrid of mat Pilates, sports conditioning, and Lotte Berk. This might have been a result of the class being beginner-level, but I also liked the slightly shorter sets…most barre classes I feel like I’m putting myself at risk for an overuse injury from all the reps, but this felt a lot safer.

Verdict: I’ll be back! Excited to try Barre Pro, 30/30, and Barre X (barre + TRX combo, what!!) in the future, too.

Back on the wagon

Today I joined one of my lovely lady friends for a dance class at DNA, which marked my fifth workout of the week, following Pilates on Monday, dance on Tuesday, a surprisingly awesome barre class– yes, after swearing off of barre I went back “one last time,” but more on that later– on Thursday, and another Pilates class yesterday. Most weeks, it’s so hard to get to that second dance class…I’m not sure why, though. Maybe because it’s 90 minutes long? I somehow have a much easier time to committing to hour-long classes…

Anyway, I haven’t gone five-for-five in an embarrassingly long time. Here’s to sticking to fitness commitments! [Cheers! It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?]

Monday also marked my 47th week of working out, according to Foursquare. One of my Foursquare friends, by the way, has gone to the gym every week for 70+ weeks. HOW WILL I EVER CATCH UP??

47 weeks at the gym

Workout failure, blerg

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!

An evolving routine

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. >.<

Pulsing and shaking at The Bar Method

Playground balls, when can we use you?!

On a sweltering day in late June I made my way over to the sole NYC location of The Bar Method on Spring Street in SoHo. When I got out of the elevator on the second floor and entered the ridiculously gorgeous space, I was immediately and warmly welcomed by the front desk staff and Amy, my instructor and co-owner of the studio, who had one of her staffers show me around. I chose a locker, changed, and carried my key with me into the studio to hang on a hook.

I was the only first-timer in Amy’s class that day, and she watched me like a hawk throughout the hour. She had the special talent of making me feel welcome and noticed, but not unfairly singled out. New students definitely get called out at Bar way more than at Physique 57, where I’d heretofore taken all of my barre classes. In fact, there are way more callouts over the mic than corrections given with the mic off, and after reading others’ reviews it seems to be somewhat of a signature feature of Bar. Some people may be really turned off by that, but I personally like hearing corrections given to others because I can use them to adjust my own positioning. Usually I’m making the exact same mistake, or some variation thereof, of the student getting corrected. I also appreciate corrections given to me. In a dance class, corrections mean that the teacher sees potential in you and knows you can do better, so my inner teacher’s pet loves this shizz.

I was a little nervous about the class because it was labeled Mixed (Bar actually only offers Mixed and Level 2 classes at the NYC studio) and I’m still firmly in Beginner land at P57. I needn’t have worried too much, though, because the class proceeded at a manageable pace and Amy’s verbal instructions were superb. The class was definitely doable, albeit very challenging. Amy was always there to make sure we were working as deep as possible, and her firm, confident adjustments to my form, especially during arms and seatwork, were amazing. At one point she also murmured “nice tuck” in a surprised tone (then proceeded to adjust me even more).

Now, moving on to the class itself.

The class began with standard leg lifts, then we moved into assorted triceps exercises, bicep curls, and did a ton of pushups and some dips. Even though I only used 2 & 3 pound weights, the section felt NUTS and I wanted to cry, especially when Amy came around and correct my form during the isometric triceps extensions. Talk about burning.

The stretch on the barre after the warmup kinda hurt my ankle, but I adjusted my position and it felt better; I liked how ballet-y it was, with the quarter turn and side stretch.

The thigh section was incredibly slow and rough while it lasted, but actually ended pretty fast; I was honestly expecting more, even though I shook and trembled like whoa. I missed having the playground ball to squeeze between my thighs. (I’ve since gone to two more classes and none of the teachers have ever used the basket of playground balls sitting in the corner…what’s up with that? I need a little inner thigh playground ball action in my life!)

Seat work was less varied than at P57; we only did sets at the barre and no floor work, but it was totally killer. My glute medius shriveled up and died. There was more of an emphasis on an aggressive tuck, it seemed. One annoying thing– during seat work, when we were standing with a hip against the bar and our arms crossed in “seatbelt,” my supporting leg and hip started aching and my foot actually got pins and needles. Something was off with my alignment for sure. I wished I had the playground ball wedged between my body and the barre, like some P57 teachers tell us to do, because my alignment felt off. (However, I was able to adjust myself in subsequent classes and it’s since gotten better. I think. We’ll see.)

The abs section was kind of frustrating for me; I couldn’t feel my transverse abdominis connection during flat back or round back, but I know that I need to work on my breathing in order to really turn on the muscles. My neck also ached during curl because I was having trouble supporting my head. (I’ve since started to put extra foam under my back during curl and have been totally fine. Phew.)

We did some back dancing before the final stretch, and it was especially brutal after all the other work we’d done. When we got to stretching at the end I wanted to weep with joy. Speaking of stretching: something I liked way more at Bar vs. P57 was that all of the stretching in the class seemed wayyyy less rushed in this class. At P57, even in Beginner classes, I sometimes feel like I’m just throwing myself from position to position, and I worry that I’ll injure myself with all of the super-fast transitions. I felt like Amy really respected the importance of stretches between sets and didn’t just blow through them in two seconds apiece.

One tiny logistical complaint: While I majorly appreciate not having to bring my own lock, the key system seems clunky. The only possible upgrade to the incredibly lush locker room would be to install programmable combination locks! I say this because a girl walked away with my key by accident, so I was just standing by the board of keys looking dumb as the next class came in until she ran back in to return it. Blerg.

Overall, Bar felt more like a really strict, focused ballet conditioning class to me, whereas P57 kinda feels like a sorostitute workout party. And I actually think I liked both, but my dance nerd self likes anything that feels more ballet-esque. At Bar I loved the heavy emphasis on form, and I was really motivated to go inside myself and find the strength to push through the exercises. I think that because of this, I ended up taking far fewer breaks than I usually do at P57. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did kinda miss my quasi-cheerleadery P57 instructors’ positive, chatty banter, but I appreciated Amy’s awesome cueing and on-the-beat counting.

Amy also knew everyone and clearly cares about her students. I overheard her asking people about their vacations, talking with a monthly unlimited member about her progress, etc. It definitely seems like they invest a lot of energy in their clients. That stuff gives me the warm fuzzies inside. After class, Amy asked if I’d enjoyed myself and if I could see myself coming back, and then offered me a great deal on the newcomer’s unlimited package. Of COURSE, in my dreamy and self-congratulatory post-workout state, I immediately took her up on the offer.

I took a couple of weeks off after that first class because I was super-busy and bopping in and out of town for the following weeks, but I recently went back and took two classes with Kristin, whose classes I also loved. After tonight’s class, I’m finishing my first week of the package (Wednesday-Tuesday) with three classes under my belt. I hope to hit it 3 times per week for the rest of this trial month. After that, I’ll reevaluate. Right now I can see myself continuing to attend classes at both Bar and P57, depending on whether I’m feeling more disciplined or in more need of cheerleading. But who knows? By that time I could potentially fall even more in love with the lush Bar studios and super-caring teachers, drink the rest of the Kool-Aid, and buy a membership. I’ve increasingly enjoyed myself as I’ve become more accustomed to what’s going on, so that’s definitely a possibility.

How about y’all– has anyone else been pulsing/shaking/sweating/crying lately, too?

A long overdue update

I would like to say that I’ve been so busy working out and practicing my home cooking that I haven’t had a single minute to update the blog, but we all know that’s not true. However, summer is in full swing, and with all of the moving, birthday-ing, and yes, workouts, I just haven’t been in writing mode… I’m hoping to get back into posting regularly, though, especially since I’m in the middle of a new fitness challenge and have so much to share.

The half-year milestone

I achieved my goal to work out 26 weeks straight (with affirmation coming by way of foursquare checkins) a couple of weeks ago when I checked into a Pilates class. Tonight will probably give me my 28 week shootout when I check into the Bar Method tonight–but more on that later! It feels great to have dedicated a full half year to sweating at least once a week– and usually more like 3, 4, or 5 times every week.

June workout goals

I vowed to work out 20 times in the month of June, 5 of which would be barre classes. Of course, life got in the way, so I didn’t quite make my 20-workout mark– stopped short at 16. However, that still works out to about 4 per week, so I’m satisfied. I did make it to 5 barre classes, including four at Physique 57 and one at the Bar Method. I discovered a favorite P57 teacher, but she unfortunately moved out of the city (I’ve since found a couple of other faves, though).

Try something new (and scary)

I ventured out of my usual habits and attended my very first Flywheel class in June, followed quickly by my first Bar Method class. These made for two very different, but equally positive experiences. Flywheel was first on the docket, and I showed up over half an hour early to a Friday night class with Ryan Makely. The front desk staffers hadn’t even finished setting up the shoes yet– yikes! As such, I didn’t get as warm a welcome as I’d come to expect from reading others’ reviews, since the staff was busy, but it was fine. Had a weird interaction with a fellow student waiting for class; as I took a couple of puffs on my albuterol inhaler, which I take prior to cardio workouts for my exercise-induced asthma, she asked me if the inhaler “helped.” I was puzzled and answered, “Yes, in that it lets me keep breathing…” Her friend jumped in and explained what albuterol and asthma were. I guess she thought I was taking some kind of performance-enhancing substance? Anyway, I started to get a little nervous when the door to the classroom opened and I saw that all of the students in the prior class were utterly soaked with sweat. It was a little comforting that there was a variety of ages and body types represented in the previous class, but on the whole I was a little terrified. When I got into the room, an assistant helped me adjust my bike, but I totally zoned out when he was explaining the settings to me. If I go back, I’m going to have to get more assistance with setting up.

As for the class itself, I have NEVER experienced anything like it. It totally blew me away. I was dripping with sweat 2 minutes in, and my quads were on fire at the 5 minute mark. Ryan had amazing energy, even though the crowd was pretty quiet, and I found myself letting out a couple of whoops along the way. He taught on the bike, which was really nice as a first-timer– I was able to see what first, second, and third position were, as well as proper form, even from the back row. Ryan incorporated a lot of jumps, tap backs, and hills in the class, which kept things varied. Even though I was always about 10 below the torque range he said, and 5 RPMs behind (and my stats afterward were super-pathetic), I got an amazing workout.

It definitely took some getting used to– I had a tough time balancing myself on the bike seat when I needed to sip my water, which was often. However, once I started engaging my core more, I was able to find my balance. I also had some difficulty figuring out how to stand during our first standing sprint, but I quickly got a hang of it. By the midpoint of class, I was looking forward to the standing parts! As I mentioned, my power, RPM, and other numbers were seriously pathetic (we’re talking 5th or less percentile) and I think I made a huge mistake in letting myself kind of stop pedaling during each transition. I think that’s something that I could improve with more practice.

All in all, I had a fabulous time at Flywheel, I conquered my fear of spin class, and even though I almost had two asthma attacks during class, my lungs and legs survived! I doubt my knees would like all the repetitive motion if I were to go regularly, and I think I might actually need to put some kind of orthotic in the cycling shoes for my wonky feet, but I would not hesitate to throw this into my workout routine for another change of pace in the future.

Stay tuned for my review of my first Bar Method class, and some thoughts on the couple of classes I’ve taken since then.