What I read on the way to the gym: the Skimm

If you haven’t discovered The Skimm yet, it’s a great way to get your daily news brief without having to flick through FlipBoard or Facebook. You get the skinny on major headlines delivered to your e-mail every weekday. I find it an enjoyable way to stay on top of important news stories and get caught up on anything I missed while I was watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt instead. The often have cool book and wine recs too.

Sign-up using this referral code: http://www.theskimm.com/?r=f0363e7f

It’s  easy train-time reading! Leaves me more time to sign up for new, fun classes like this one at Titan Total Body in Chelsea.

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How to Workout instead of Grocery Shopping

plated 2I’ve been meaning to share this for a while, because it’s been a life-saver as far as time goes. When I was single if there was no food in the house, I ordered take-out without thinking twice. But ordering food comes along with the double whammy of expense and unhealthiness. I actually prefer home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients. But between searching for interesting recipes, hunting down the right ingredients which sometimes include lemongrass and fresh thyme (you’ll need 2 sprigs by the way, but they’re sold by the bundle), food prep and cooking, creating healthy meals at home can be a real time suck.

Enter Plated. And now I have time not only to exercise but to constantly search for new classes, make and change reservations, and generally be obsessed with ClassPass. Plated is a subscription service that delivers weekly menus of fresh, pre-portioned ingredients to your door in a box. You still have to prepare and cook the food. But you don’t have to shop! I love to get messy in the kitchen, but I do not love dragging myself home from the store, my Whole Foods paper bags starting to tear (because I forgot to bring my own bags, AGAIN) in the ice and snow for six blocks that felt so easy on the way there, but are now torture, only to realize once I get home that I forgot to buy the Miso paste that the recipe calls for even though I spent twice as much as I’d planned to.

Plated meals cost $12 per person per meal for most meals, and you have to buy at least 2 portions of every meal. You can choose from a list of recipes for the week and there are always several vegetarian options, including at least one vegan option as well as gluten-free options. I love this, because while I’m not a vegetarian, my partner is, and I try to cut back when I can, and they give you interesting tasty non-meat choices.

hello freshblue apron

I first tried Plated not just to save time, but because I was in a cooking rut, sick of my own cooking and uninspired by the row of cookbooks growing dust on the shelf. I also tried two other comparable services called HelloFresh and BlueApron, both of which are slightly cheaper. But I went with Plated because I liked their website, customer service, choice of menu, ease of cooking steps, packaging and overall tastiness better.

HelloFresh is only $9 per plate for the veggie box and $10.75 per plate for the omnivore box, but you can’t pick and choose between the two. That didn’t work as well for us, because we do eat fish and we don’t eat soy which many of the veggie recipes included. BlueApron also allows you to pick and choose from their entire menu for only $10 per plate per person (family plans are even a little less), but I wasn’t as excited by how their meals came out or as impressed with their packaging. But they were a close second, and would be a great budget friendly option.

My latest Plated box just arrived with its recipes and ingredients, including tonight’s Braised Cod with Swiss Chard, White Beans, and Almonds, so I’m off to get cooking!

The Not-a-class Class: Yabla for Language Learning

My shin splints are on the mend thanks to ice, Arnica cream, and the couch. And while that ice is icing, I can take an on-line language learning class with Yabla. It’s not actually a class though. In fact if you’re a total beginner or someone looking for a traditional grammar-centered approach, it’s probably not what you’re looking for. Those of you who know me personally might think this is a shameless plug (I will admit I’m a friend of the founder). Think what you will, I use this website and count it as a class on the days that my body needs a rest from working out and/or something happens, like I get to class and realize that I forgot my sneakers. (This might have happened today. Yet another reason why classes in which you don’t need shoes– Yoga and Pilates or studios that provide you with shoes for indoor cycling are on my list of favs.)

fr_screenshot_enYabla is an on-line collection of videos with captions in the language you’re learning with an English translation (both of which can be hidden if you want). Its most helpful feature is the slow player which allows you to hear the audio clearly. Video segments are 3-5 minutes long so you can practice even when you only have a few free minutes. There are interviews, news shows, dramas, documentaries, and music from various Spanish speaking countries, all with authentic, native speakers. You can also play a listening game that tracks your points as well as review flashcards that are personally chosen for you based on words you’ve clicked on or looked up.

I first started using it as a beginner before I went on a trip to Spain 10 years ago. The music videos (especially the ones that had repetitive lyrics or Juanes) were my favorites. Yabla paired with a beginner’s book for learning Spanish had me on my way to a basic conversation. I’ve since taken several classroom classes and then private lessons while I lived in Argentina. Now that I’m more conversant, I still use Yabla Spanish to practice because it’s a fun way to improve my vocabulary and catch up on current events and music. I’m also now starting to use Yabla French in hopes of a trip to Paris, although I’d settle for Montreal too. I tried out a site called The Mimic Method for French which was amazing for learning pronunciation, especially since French spelling is so whacky.

Yabla (which comes in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Mandarin flavors) will run you about $10 a month or $100 a year, but with more and more research pointing out the benefits of learning a language (here’s on of my favorites) besides not looking like a stupid American when you travel, it seems worth it to me. It’s also a lot more fun than some of the free sites out there like DuoLingo which makes me feel like a grade school kid earning stars and getting nowhere fast, and it’s way less expensive than something like Rosetta Stone that makes impossible promises about language learning. The bottom line is that learning a language as an adult is REALLY, REALLY hard. The only real way to learn is to go total immersion. You might as well have fun and get to watch some cool videos on Yabla which is pretty close to immersion, in the meantime.

yablaLogo

Spacing Out

headspace_meditation_app_image2Being the kind of person who’s often on the go, mind a-buzz with things that must get done, scrolling through my phone as I wait for the subway, or wait for anything, I realize that I’m not so good at stillness. Listening to this recent NPR piece about how our minds need time to be bored and wander, I was reminded once again that in order to keep myself from spacing out when I need to be focused, I can space out on purpose with Headspace.

I’ve been using Headspace for about 6 months (both the app and website), and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that with just 10-20 minutes of guided meditation, I can feel a huge difference in my anxiety levels and focus.

andy headspaceFounded by the British former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe, Headspace takes the new-agey, hard-to-grasp idea of “Meditation” with a capital M to a more accessible, tech-friendly, everyday place. Andy uses simple, bubbly cartoon videos to illustrate metaphors for how to shift our attention. For example, in one he compares our thoughts to traffic on the road and suggests that rather than chase after the cars or ride along with them, we could sit on the side of the road and watch them. These metaphors along with his no-pressure approach and soothing voice help ease the listener to shift perspective. Almost like magic some space is created between our attention and our thoughts: headspace!

I try to get some headspace everyday, but it actually happens 2-3 days a week, and on those days that I can’t make it to a class, I try to spend some extra time with my Headspace app. There are even some exercises you can do while commuting (not driving!), walking, running, or eating. There are also 3-minute S.O.S meditations that are perfect for when you’re about to blow your top. As I get older, and especially as a parent with less and less time to myself, I am embracing the chances I get to space out, to exercise my mind as well as my body.

headspace get some

Checkin’-in: 10 days out of 100

I’m ten days into my 100 days of classes.

The good news: I’ve lost 3 pounds! (Wasn’t even my main goal.) I’m also sleeping better (according to my FitBit I’m averaging 8 hours a night). I feel more energetic and happy. It’s sometimes hard to squeeze in the classes, but mostly I find that I’m using my time more efficiently. That said, I think it’s a pace that I won’t be able to continue after the intial 100 days.

The bad news: I have shin splints. I’m not sure how I got them, but probably it was sprinting in my EVF 360 class because I’m not that used to running fast. Then again, it could be a lot of walking around in my snow boots. Either way, they hurt like an explicative. I’m icing my shin as I write. And from what I can see on-line, there’s not much I can do except avoid running for a while. No Barry’s Bootcamp next week.

Here’s a list of the classes I’ve taken so far (almost all through Class Pass) with a quick overview of my thoughts:

1. Cyc Fitness Indoor Cycling Class with Lauren, non-ClassPass price: $25

Located at the Astor Place David Barton Gym, this was my favorite of all the cycling classes I’ve tried so far. It was a thorough workout, fun music, awesome space, and nice amenities.

2. Gyrotonics at the Living Room SoHo with Paula, non-ClassPass price: $35

Meh. Too much strange equipment for my liking, but probably great for people with injuries, or a day when you feel the need to work on your posture.

3. Barry’s Bootcamp Abs, Chest and Back with Alycia, non-ClassPass price: $34

Not for beginners, this is a super intense workout that includes both cardio and strength. They push you hard, and the instructors do very little explaining, correcting or coddling, and the classes are big. But the space and the music are great; the workout feels very efficient. (Just go at your own pace!)

4. Exhale Spa Power Yoga with Lauren, non-ClassPass price: $26

Very solid yoga class with a fun, engaging instructor. Super posh place. I’d go back, but so far my favorite yoga place in NYC is Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness.

5. Harlem Yoga Studio Family Yoga with Rena, non-ClassPass price: $5 w/coupon for 1st class, then $14

Fun kids class; clean inviting space. I’m going back this Sunday to do adult yoga and paying for my son to go to the drop-off kids yoga.

6. RIP Ride at Revolve with Jonathan, non-ClassPass price: $29 

Basic ride with good music and clip-in shoes ($2 rental). I liked that there were 2 upper body segments and the ride was a full hour. Otherwise, it wasn’t as impressive as places like Peloton, FlyWheel, Monster, and Cyc.

7. EVF 360 at EVF Performance with Farouk, non-ClassPass price: $20 first visit, then $35.

I really love this gym, or box as the regulars probably call it since they do a lot of Cross-Fit. Very positive vibe and personal feeling. The workouts feel intense, efficient, but also safe. One of my all time favs.

8. Headspace On-line Meditation with Andy, price: Free for 10 minute meditations, $8-12/month

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this site. I have wanted to throw my iPod out the window during guided meditations I’ve tried in the past, but this one is phenomenal. I have learned to still my mind and be in the moment for up to 20 minutes at a time so far. One day I will write a full post about this.

9. Flow at Yoga Vida with Zander, non-ClassPass price: $18 (30% discount for students, teachers and seniors)

Faster paced than many open level classes I’ve experienced. I’d say it’s definitely not for beginners. In all fairness though, I was very distracted by the teacher (see post) and my own thoughts during this class. Very nice studio space.

10. Core Fusion Barre at Exhale Spa with Kevin (on UES), non-ClassPass price: $38

I plan to do more research on these Barre classes. It was definitely hard, but very different than high-intensity workouts like EVF or Barry’s Bootcamp that are designed to efficiently burn fat and grow muscle. This class felt more like Jane Fonda meets ballet and Pilates. There was a burn, but not a lot of sweat. I’m not sold on the method, but I enjoyed showering there, using the sauna, and wearing the complimentary robe and flip-flops even though I was surrounded by Uptown Abbey blue-bloods dabbing their dewey faces with handkerchiefs.

Tonight I’m icing my shins because tomorrow I’m trying out Row-House! And stay-tuned, because I hope to give this blog a bit of a face-lift over the weekend.

Confessions of a Class Skipper Part 2: Down the Rabbit Hole

An update on the class skipping situation:

As I mentioned in my first Class Skipping post, I’ve missed some ClassPass classes, and I’ve lied about it. When you log back into ClassPass after a scheduled class, a window pops up asking you to rate the class out of 5 starts or click that you missed the class. After lying twice to avoid the $20 penalty fee, I finally fessed up and clicked on the “I missed class” button just to see what would happen.

At first, nothing, but last night I got an e-mail from ClassPass that said:

Hi Karla,

According to our records, you missed the following class:

FlowCycle at FlowCycle on 01/08/2015 at 9:15 AM

This missed class is subject to a $20 late cancel fee.

As a reminder, all reservations must be canceled at least 24 hours before the class time. Reservations may be canceled directly in your ClassPass account or by emailing info@classpass.com.

We appreciate your help in canceling all future reservations before the 24 hour cut off. Doing so makes our class providers happy and gives fellow ClassPass users a chance to book the spot!

Thanks.
The ClassPass Team

p.s. We know that technology is not always perfect! If you did attend this class, please email us back to let us know and we will follow up with FlowCycle.

So I got my first $20 penalty. Now it’s up to me and my conscience as to how to deal with any future slip-ups.

Today, I missed another class, but this time I really did try to go. I genuinely couldn’t find it. Instead I found myself down the rabbit hole in one of those where-the-hell-am-I-? moments that NYC likes to throw at you every so often. These moments always seem to include a receptionist or bouncer that serves as a portal protector between you and the secret world you are entering. I was at Stepping Out Studios (“home to world champions, celebrities and you”) in search of a class called BoCo Power 45. This particular receptionist had a thick Russian accent. With a vague nod of her head, she said something about Studio C. I didn’t see any sign marked Studio C, so I went to the bathroom (located inside a studio in which several leotard-clad cabaret dancers were shimmying all over, under, and around their chairs). After changing, and watching a class of clearly professional level dancers plié en masse wearing only lacy bras and black pantyhose in the only other studio I saw, I tried again to ask where Studio C was.

“Tru dere. Second door to da right.”

Hmmm, back through the chair-dancing room, I found another door. Inside this one were heavily made-up women and men in suit vests rehearsing the tango next to a grand piano. That didn’t seem quite right either. Just before they stopped to stare at me, I slipped out and chickened out, finding my way back to the elevator.

Body Conceptions is a method founded by Mahri Relin, a former modern dancer and theater performer who was the Creative Director of FlyWheel’s Fly Barre. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect of the class because the description was vague: “Body Conceptions is a full-body lengthening and sculpting method that combines the principles of dynamic movement and muscle exhaustion.” I imagined a bit of dancing though considering the founder and that it’s located in a dance studio. I thought it would be a nice compliment to the EVF 360 class that I went back to yesterday (and was happy to have Farouk again as my trainer there!).

I promise to go back to BoCo and try again, but for today, I’m taking an on-line meditation class through Headspace instead. Hopefully that will help me work up the courage to open up more mysterious dance studio doors.

Days 4-6: Yoga Power and Robots, Oh My!

One of the ExhaleSignagebest parts of ClassPass is that it gives me access to the ritzy parts of NYC that I might not otherwise be a part of, like the Exhale Mind Body Spa on Madison and 77th Street where I took a Power Yoga class. I could’ve stayed there all day. Not only do they give you plush towels for your shower in the day spa locker room, you can even use a complimentary robe and head into the sauna. This was by far the plushest of my excursions. And the yoga class was fun too! (Warning: UES locals wear lots of bling to yoga class. Sparkly pants, flashy watches, and movie star tans there were a plenty.) I’m sure I didn’t exactly fit in in my wife beater and Costco yoga pants, but no matter.yoga-crow-pose

I’ll be back to try out other classes. This one was called Power Yoga and was a bit more vigorous than your average Hatha class, but only 60 minutes and most of the “power” poses were optional. The teacher was very friendly and peppy, taking the time to learn all of our names and use them as she encouraged and adjusted us. I got into crow pose for the first time ever!

So that concluded a 4 day sprint of fitness classes, because the next day I had to go to a training class for work, and I’m totally counting that as one of my 100 classes. I work for a company called RoboFun, where I teach Lego Robotics. I learned how to use the newer EV3 technology and was reminded that as a teacher, I really need to be a student as often as I can. Having to fumble, experimlego-ev3-IMG_0994ent, and troubleshoot are things that often feel foreign for adults who experienced traditional school learning where there were right and wrong answers, and you didn’t want to be caught making mistakes. What I love about doing robotics with Legos is that there are lots of ways to get to similar end results and you get there by playing with Legos and programming tools.

Then, I ended this week with a Family Yoga class at Harlem Yoga Studio. I was super psyched to see that there was a class I could take my son to through Class Pass too! The teacher, Rena was warm and clearly experienced with children. We did some group yoga songs and sun salutations and then she set up a yoga obstacle course for the kids. They also offer a 90 minute drop-off class on Saturdays for the kids while the parents can go practice at an adult class in the yoga room next door. She gave me a coupon to try that out next week for $5. Loving ClassPass!

Fitting in 100 classes in 100 days and writing about it is definitely taking it’s toll on my schedule and my house. Something’s gotta give and in this case it’s the cleaning. Oh well.