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!
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.
Last night I decided to amp up the pain factor of my workout by hitting up a class at Physique 57. This was my first time at the (um, gorgeous) UWS Physique studio, and only my third Physique class ever. I hadn’t been to a class in a couple of months, and just like the first two times, the Beginner class kicked my ass.
My teacher, Sarah M., was adorable and perky, as Physique instructors are wont to be. She was also wearing those Blake Brody in-studio flats that I’m loath to acknowledge I completely covet even though I think they’re fairly ridiculous and unnecessary. She asked if there were any n00bs to the class, if there were any of us who had taken five or fewer classes, and if there were any injuries– score! She also went around the room and took all of our names.
The class itself proceeded pretty much the way I suppose all P57 Beginner classes do: warmup with arms, followed by thighs, seat work, and abs, with stretches and pushups thrown in the mix. I experienced a minor success when at one point in the warmup Sarah shouted out, “If you feel like you could go for another 30 seconds, you need heavier weights!” I took a quick scan and realized that I did indeed feel like I could keep going…I guess the weakling 4-pounders I picked up weren’t doing it for me anymore. Hooray for getting stronger! Next time I’ll be sure to grab the standard 5-pound dumbbells.
However, moving onto thighs and seat quickly erased any delusions of badassery on my part. My quads achieved the requisite burning effect within 10 seconds of starting the thigh section. I had to take more breaks than I would have liked, and during the “curl” portion of abs the assistant came over a couple of times to encourage me to get lower. Sigh. Still, I definitely need to work on my form, so I appreciated all of the corrections I got during the seat and abs sections.
One gripe I have with P57 is the quickness of the class. I know that that’s kind of a selling point of the class- that it maximizes every second of the 57-minute class and keeps your heart rate up by moving quickly from exercise to exercise– but I’m strangely prone to muscle tweaks/cramps and if I don’t move mindfully I tend to do stupid things and hurt myself. My neck suffered a little from rushing from one position to the next (not sure what exactly I did). And due to either dehydration, a form error, plain old weakness, or some other weird reason, my left triceps muscle spasmed pretty badly during the warmup, and I tweaked it again during the last round of tricep dips. Blerg. I also wish we held stretches for longer; it always feels like we’re only doing each stretch for about 2 seconds before moving on. To be honest, a slower barre class might be better for me (perhaps Core Fusion or Bar Method?), but I’m going to stick with Physique for at least a few more classes and see how it goes.
Despite silently cursing my way through basically the entire workout, I liked the class. I thought Sarah’s verbal descriptions and cueing were strong. She came off as genuinely concerned with our form and performance, so that was far better than the slightly fake-nice instructor I had for my second class back in March. We also had an assistant in the room, and this was a boon for sure as both she and Sarah were able to make their way around the room to watch us like hawks and correct our sad beginner’s form as necessary.
Something unfortunate about tonight, unrelated to the class itself, was that I forgot my damn socks again. This happened for my first class as well. So now I’m the slightly-ashamed owner of two pairs of grippy P57 socks– one black, and one gray. (I have to admit, though, the grip is nice.)
Next week I’m aiming high and going for a double dose of Physique: I’m signed up for another class next Tuesday, and then one that Saturday. With any luck I’ll survive.