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.
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. >.<
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.
Last Thursday I flew to Chicago with Boyfriend to attend his sister’s graduation from grad school at UIC. We stayed downtown, just north of the river, and in addition to the graduation the two of us enjoyed some amazing food, shopping, the Art Institute of Chicago, and a few high-stakes games of Yahtzee with Boyfriend’s family.
I bought new shoes, too.
The highlight of the trip, food-wise, was a dinner Boyfriend and I shared on Saturday at The Gage, a gastropub in the Loop. It was by no means healthy, but it was a delicious, special meal.
Our pre-dinner drinks (an Old Fashioned and a St. Germain cocktail) were excellent.
We started the meal with a Scotch egg, one of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers. For the uninitiated, a Scotch egg is a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage, covered in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. It unfortunately got demolished before I remembered to take a photo.
Next, we shared a green salad with cashews and dried cherries. The dried fruit added a nice chewy texture and sweetness to the salad to offset the greens.
Boyfriend’s and my entrées were a venison burger and house-made/local sausages, respectively. His came with a bucket of fries; mine came with crispy potatoes covered in Brie.
Oy, we were full afterward– so we took a much-needed walk and headed to a nearby Intelligentsia Coffee for some warm beverages. Boyfriend had manual pour-over, single-origin coffee, and I had a super-delicate sencha green tea.
After all of that food, I sure was glad to have worked out earlier that day. I had attended a Pilates mat class in the morning at The Yoga Boutique in Lakeview. This was actually my first mat class since the terrible one I took in college, and I had a fabulous time! The class had only 5 people in it and was taught by the lovely Dana, the studio’s owner and manager. I got a complete, deep workout and the 45 minutes flew by. It also reminded me that I’m super-tight in my hip flexors and that I cannot for the life of me do a Pilates rollup (sob). If I can find another class like this in the city, I’d potentially be willing to part ways with one of my weekly Reformer classes each month. Mat classes are typically far less expensive, after all…