Day 15: Back and Forth at Row House

With my shin splints in full bloom on day 10 of my challenge, I decided to opt out of EVF and Barry’s Bootcamp and attempt an indoor rowing class at EVF’s sister studio, Row House, located in the same building. I’ve always liked the rowing machine. That’s probabrowhouse11ly because I’ve never done it for more than 5-10 minutes in all of my gym wandering. A 50-minute class was a bit more intense, and it turns out my form was all wrong before.

I attended the Full Body class (they also offer Core, Endurance, and Express classes), and between sets of power bursts on the rower, we did bootcamp-style exercises like push-ups, squats, burpees, and weight work. The class is reminiscent of an indoor cycling classes in that the instructor starts you off with an explanation of proper form and technique, leads you through a warm-up, and then has students sprint to faster music in intervals.

I found it a great balance of cardio and strength, and it challenged me without bothering my shins. I did take issue with a couple of things though. I wasn’t always sure I was doing the conditioning exercises correctly, and in some cases I wanted a modification, but the teacher (who was very nice), didn’t do much technique correcting. I was also a little miffed that she would often call out that we were “lookin’ good” while she was looking at her watch. The music was meh, and the transition between songs was often choppy. That said, we all have our lackluster days. So I’m heading back today, DAY 15 to give it another go, or should I say row.

13493053095_2ef5db44c4_zPROS: Good total body workout that’s not hard on knees or shins; nice space; friendly staff

CONS: Teacher was great at explaining moves, but didn’t do a lot of correcting or modification; music was so-so; they need more bathrooms and showers are located in the bathrooms of which there are only two.

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.

Feeling Like Bridget Jones at Yoga Vida

I thought today would be a run-of-the -mill, stretch-out-my-sore-muscles Yoga day, always needed after an EVF 360 class (which I took on Monday and am still feeling 2 days later!). I’d never been to Yoga Vida before, but it’s near the school where I teach Lego Robotics so I figured I’d give it a try.

As I set up my mat ($2 rental) and looked around, I noticed the usual yoga crowd: 90% female, slim and trim up front (by the way, for more on the whole front row crowd, here’s an interesting NY Times article), pregnant yogi in the back along with those of us who need lots of blocks and blankets to stay comfy in our poses. However, this class also had several preening pre-class stretch-ers already down like dogs, one of whom had on a long-sleeved, bare-midriff top. (This is an item of clothing that really makes no functional sense as you’d never find yourself in a situation in which your arms were cold, but your belly wasn’t. But hot she looked.) And just as I was wondering why this class seemed unusually heavy on the lipgloss-wearing showboat types, in walked our instructor.

10597382_1447585792189484_341146290_n zander_altimages

His name is Zander (“with a Z”) Gladish. In addition to being a heartthrob yoga instructor, he’s an actor, a board certified Heath and Wellness coach, and an EFT or “emotional freedom technique” specialist (sounds liberating). He does Reiki and Thai massage too. You can even find his workouts on an on-line workout platform called Booya Fitness (looks like an interesting way to squeeze in a fitness class when it’s too cold, rainy, or snowy to make it out of the house this winter.)

The class was fast-paced, and I think it was good, but really it’s hard to say. I was much more interested in catching glimpses of Zander and his interactions with the students whose poses he chose to correct as he circulated the room. I found myself, in a very Bridget Jones-like way, bending deeper into my twist as he walked by. Then, as I looked up at him in hopes of some correcting, I toppled to the ground, and he moved on to the deeply tanned, flat-bellied, Lululemoned Asian girl. I swear he corrected the 6-foot blonde waif two or three times, but he never made it to the three dudes in the back nor to me.

So then I moved on from ogling to amusement making Shavasana pose an impossibility. I mean, it was starting to feel more like an episode of The Bachelor than a yoga class. Could these girls act more like peacocks? After class they loitered. I think I even saw him exchange numbers with one. Me, I scurried out to change. I’d never stoop to fawning over an instructor. But then, as I was putting on my hat and coat, there he was behind the counter, tucking his long strands past his glasses behind his ear. And as another girl passed by gushing at him about how great his class was, I suddenly found myself walking over to him too.

“I really liked the music you played in class. Do you have a list of the songs?”

But, really, I did like the music, I swear.

You can find the playlist on Spotify by searching Zander Gladish by the way.

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.

Confessions of a Class Skipper

1510879842_3983a9c7d0_oToday is Day 4 of my 100 Days of classes. I did go to class, but it wasn’t the original 9:15 am class I’d reserved on ClassPass which was a Real Ryders indoor cycling class at Flow Cycle (which has a very unimpressive website) down on Rector Street. I plan to try it some time soon so I can finish up my Tour de Spin NYC, but this morning I woke up late after getting to see Louis C. K. at Madison Square Garden last night.

Long story short, I skipped a class I booked on ClassPass, and that could mean I’ll get charged $20. But here’s a secret that I’m almost afraid to share. I’ve skipped two other classes as well. I didn’t cancel the reservation (which definitely incurs the $20 charge less than 24 hours before the class starts). After all booked classes, Class Pass has a little box pop up on your screen asking you to rate the class from 1-5 stars or click on a box that says, “I didn’t make it.” For the two other classes I’ve skipped, I lied and rated the class in fear of the $20 fee. But today, I went ahead and clicked, “I didn’t make it,” just to see what would happen. Nothing. (So far, at least.)

I’m not sure why this is, and I certainly don’t plan on making a habit out of it, but it is a relief to know that should something come up at the last minute, I’m not going to rack up charges which seem to be a deterrent for some people from joining ClassPass. Again, when you book a class, if you try to cancel it within 24 hours of the class, you will get charged $20. However, I did write to ClassPass and ask them what would happen if I woke up sick and couldn’t make a class. They promptly replied that I should simply let them know and they would try to work with me.

So, while it’s all a little vague, the $20 fee seems to be in place for people who might abuse the system by trying to book a bunch of classes and then only show up when they want to or perhaps it’s a way ClassPass ensures the studios that they contract with that their clients won’t be no-shows. I’m going to do my best to make every class I book from now on, just to stay on the safe side. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on whether or not I get charged!

Day 3: Barry’s Bootcamp or How I Almost Died

Yesterday I tried the trendy, A-list, $35 per class, “best workout in the world,” Barry’s Bootcamp. It was started in L.A. by Hollywood fitness guru, Barry Jay.

barrysIt was indeed a killer workout and it might be an injury lawsuit waiting to happen. But I guess not, since they make you sign the typical waiver before you can set foot inside the studio which consists of treadmills and benches where you alternate between running and weight work. It is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I was going to faint or throw-up as I tried to push myself to reach what the instructor proclaimed I should be doing. When she said 7.5-9.5 MPH on the treadmill, my eyes bugged out of my head. Only when I saw that my neighbor was wisely sticking within her own limits of 6.0-6.5, did I give myself permission to stay within a range that wouldn’t have ended me up flat on my face.

Just as I was thinking to myself that there was very little demonstration of technique or attention paid to our form, the instructor did come over and correct me once. But there were about 40 people there, so there’s no way she could watch us all. (Which also made it easier to take a break every now and then without getting called out on it, which they will do!) It felt a little on the dangerous side, but I’m going to go back. I guess I like to live on the edge, or at least try to push myself to my own edges.

Also, I want to try the showers and the smoothie bar. If you time your locker room entrance just right, you can get to the lockers without getting squished. They put the coat rack right behind the locker room door though, so it’s also possible you’ll get injured as you hang up your coat and get whacked in the head.

I’m tempted to buy some of the cute sportswear they sell, just so I can pretend to be part of the Barry’s Bootcamp set. It’s a buff set. I’ve never seen so much muscle in one room before. I DSC_0310want a few of those in my next set of after photos. But right now, since I’m so sore I can barely move, I’m going to check out Exhale Yoga for day 4.

Day 2: Gyrotonics at Living Room SoHo

No, that’s not a medieval4991518713_23f0272b20_z torture bed you see. Nor is it a Steampunk contraption. It’s specialized equipment designed by Juliu Horvath, the founder of the Gyrotonic Method.

I had never heard of this until, on a whim, I signed up for a class called First Time Movers in Gyrotonics at Living Room SoHo through ClassPass. I picked it because it was a convenient time, and it claimed to help lengthen and strengthen, and was good for those who move in other modalities. I figured it might be a nice compliment to all the cycling I’ve been doing lately.

The studio itself was lovely, mostly white and soft with vases of fresh flowers and complimentary chocolate truffles on theliving room coffee table. The teacher was equally warm and graceful, walking us through the basics of the Gyrotonic Method. She adjusted dials, strapped our feet to the contraption of pulleys and weights, and had us move our spines into various C curves in all directions. It felt nice, but I’m not sure what the point was. Granted she had a lot of technical and breath work to talk us through, but she never once explained what the real purpose of each movement was. She did say at one point that we were working our hamstrings or our arms, but I wasn’t sure if I was or not. I’m assuming at a regular rather than intro class, I might get a workout that’s similar to Pilates on the Reformer.

In fact the two methods, Gyrotonics and Pilates were both founded by men who were in search of ways to work the body through either illness or injury. Both, (Gyrotonics more so), feel dance-inspired with fluid movements and particular attention to alignment and posture. For more on the similarities and differences of the two methods, click here. Personally, I’m more partial to Pilates. I took many classes both mat and Reformer when I lived in Argentina, and the Reformer is much less complicated than the Gyrotonics equipment seemed. I also didn’t like that so much of the Gyrotonics class was done in a seated position on the bench. For instance, we started with curving our spines back and forth in the same way you do with Cat and Cow in Yoga, but we were sitting on our bottoms, which I think we all do enough of these days.

It was a beautiful studio though with cubbies and coatracks just outside the door, one bathroom (that had a shower, but I don’t think it’s really ever used), complimentary water and snacks, and a cozy couch to rest on. And just because of those yummy truffles, I may go back to try it out one more time.

living room 2

Day 1 of 100 Days of Classes: Cyc Fitness

Yesterday kicked off my 100 days of classes! Continuing my Tour de Spin NYC, I tried another indoor cycling class: Cyc. It’s located in the David Barton Gym down in Astor Place, and once again, I’m amazed at exactly how different all these cycling classes can be.

This is starting to feel cyc drumlike going out on 100 first dates. As I go to each new cycling studio, I find myself trying to analyze the experience based on appearance, upkeep, fun-factor, the little gifts they give me, and of course, how well they can work me out. And, just like when I was dating, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to the money factor as I should.

Also, like dating, so much of it really comes down to a gut feeling and a personality match. I’ll be making a spreadsheet with a list of cost, amenities, metrics, music, and burn-factor, but ultimately it comes down to who I click with. And that seems to come down to the teacher. So far, my favorite teacher has been Leah at Cyc.

I think I tend toward the bubbly type, in fitness instructors (not so much with romance). Leah was practically on crack, and she must have attended an evangelical church as a kid because she made first-timers raise their hands and get welcomed by the congregation. Despite this, she won me over with her constant switch-it-up-to-distract-them-from-the-pain technique. I was genuinely surprised when the class was over. She’d made us cycle-box with our sandbag weights, as well as swim with them, row with them, and race up hill standing in between. At one point she even became an orchestra conductor, dividing the class in half and having us rise up and down in harmony as she pointed her giant drumstick at us or beat it against the big-ass bass drum on the stage. I was impressed that she did all this, plus worked the lights from dim to black-light glow to pitch black depending on our simulated activity and the music.

The music was pretty pop-y, and there were no metrics in sight, not even RPMs, yet my legs found the rhythm, and maybe that’s part of what made the class go faster too. I wasn’t caught up in the numbers. I tend to choose artists over accountants. There’s this part of me that feels like people who understand spreadsheets and numbers must know more, but when it comes to really winning me over, I like drama and metaphor.

A location within the David Barton Gym doesn’t hurt either. Spacious locker room replete with big towels and fancy bath products? Check. Cubbies for your shoes and lots of benches to change them on? Check. Coat check? Check. Of all the studios I’ve been to, this one has the most space which is a precious thing in Manhattan. Oh God, this is another way it’s just like dating for me. I totally fell for the guy with the big loft in Chinatown, so big a hammock stretched across his living room. The same hammock that started his now going on 10-year lesson for me to close my eyes and enjoy the ride with him.

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