Murray Hill’s Studio 360

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Ventured all the way to Murray Hill to hit another cycling studio, Studio 360. The quick summary is that if I lived nearby, I’d probably go back, but it’s not worth traveling for. I signed up for their Signature Series class which they say is 40 minutes of cycling and 20 minutes of Yoga. I got there just in time, only to find out that you don’t automatically get to do the Yoga part. There’s not enough space in the Yoga studio to accommodate all the riders. I was put on the wait list, and luckily I was the last person admitted.

360 yogaRather than a long rant, I’ll just get straight to it.

PROS: Good, accurate metrics (you can input your gender, age, and weight for more accurate calorie burn count) and a light on every bike so you can see the readout; a teacher that seemed to really know what she was doing; if you put in your own effort, it was a great burn; decent music; lockers with locks and cycling shoes provided.

CONS: The mic was broken so the teacher had to shout at us off her bike; the whole ride was in the seat (unless you chose to stand) and that can get boring, not to mention uncomfortable since the bikes were by far the least comfortable I’ve experienced; no showers, dry shampoo, or deodorant so don’t plan on going anywhere but home right after your workout; have to get there early if you want in on the Yoga part of the Signature Series.

WHAT TO WEAR: Cycling pants, and any kind of shoes because cycling shoes are provided.

One little rant: I take issue with the fact that their website says they are the only studio in Manhattan dedicated exclusively to Cycling and Yoga, because Monster Cycle also offers Cycling and Yoga exclusively, unless you count that Monster Cycle has an awesome juice bar and Studio 360 does not.

Day 25: Brick by Brick at BRICK New York

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Have your abs ever been so sore that it hurts when you laugh? That’s me today after the Friday Abs B/X class at Brick New York in Chelsea. If there’s anything that’s clear after 25 days of my ClassPass adventure, it’s that there is no shortage of awesome gyms and boutique studios, especially in Chelsea. Brick New York was another great find.

I flew into the studio one minute before my scheduled class, and the girl at the front desk checked me in, and assured me that all was fine– that I should change and go on in. Downstairs, it took me a minute to figure out which locker room was the women’s as the two doors facing me read, “Squat” and “Jerk,” a little CrossFit inside humor perhaps? While not huge, the locker room space was well-planned for minimal traffic jams. The lockers (bring your own lock) are outside the locker rooms, so that inside there’s space to change, hang your coat, use the bathroom, and shower. They have all the little amenities you need like the hair ties and complimentary razors, deodorant, and tampons. I so appreciate the gyms and studios that provide these things for forgetful me.

The workout was equally well-planned and efficient. CrossFit gyms or boxes, as their known, don’t mess around. I sidled past an actual CrossFit class into my own B/X class which, like the EVF 360 classes at EVF Performance, seems to be a class reminiscent in style to CrossFit, but a bit more accessible. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s gonna be in any way easy. I thought maybe I was in the wrong place when the first thing I saw the instructor demonstrate (as a part of the warm-up, no less) was a move called a “Wall Walk” in which, basically you start in push-up position an then literally walk your feet up the wall and your hands backwards until you are in a hand stand against the wall.

“What?” I yelped. The class laughed, and the instructor gave us an example for a modification that still involved walking up the wall as far as we could, and surprisingly, I was able to get much straighter than I thought I’d be able to. I couldn’t do all of the exercises without modifications (the Toes to Bar, for example), but I did more than I ever thought I was capable of. We were in constant motion going through 5 stations of 3 exercises each. The music was spot on, cranking me through my Plank Jacks (on the rings!) when I wanted to quit.

brick lobbyAfter the workout, I enjoyed a large free sample of a protein shake in the lounge. You can also purchase all kinds of Paleo salads and snacks as well as coconut water and protein bars. I feel inspired to go back, and perhaps even try out the Academy classes which are a series of 8 classes that you’re required to take at Brick before beginning the CrossFit classes. I love that, because I’ve been completely intimidated by CrossFit, and frankly worried that I might injure myself. The Academy is designed to make sure you know proper form and technique so you don’t get hurt. This is a studio that will help you become an athlete, brick by brick.

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LOCATIONS: Chelsea, Grand Central, Brooklyn, L.A, Chicago, Boston

PROS: Challenging, efficient workout. Classes are not tiny, but small enough for instructors to pay attention to your form and push you to our max; good music; plenty of amenities including showers, towels, shampoo, lockers (bring your own lock), and a protein smoothie bar.

CONS: They should make the towels and water available in more places than the front as it’s a big space, and you will need extra water. Towels and a water cooler in back workout room would rock. There was no stretching after the workout, and I could’ve really used a stretch.

WHAT TO WEAR: Regular workout clothes and sneakers. Bring water and a lock.

MY BRICK GOAL: Toes to the Bar

Day 21: Bollywood Boogie with Booya Fitness

The blizzard was a bust, and with my son home from school on a snow day I thought maybe I could call it a snow day from my 100 days of classes too. Then, my conscious got the best of me when I saw that Booya Fitness was offering a Blizzard of 2015 promo code on their Facebook page. Booya Fitness promises boutique workouts without the crowd. That’s because you’re at home watching videos of the classes. They charge $10 a month or $100 a year which seems reasonable, but I’ve only committed to my free first month so far.

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After registering, I clicked on the box that said “Dance (Ethnic),” because are people seriously using the word ethnic to describe things other than what they’re used to? I had a friend in college from Kentucky who called pizza and tacos “ethnic food.” Is Zumba “ethnic?” Yoga?

(FYI, the founder of Booya Fitness is Harvard Business grad Prita Kumar, also not a name I’d feel comfortable describing as ethnic.) Turns out this “Dance (Ethnic)” workout was a 30-minute video of the Bolly X workout which is also a studio class offered on ClassPass. It’s a lot like Zumba, Bollywood style. I’ve enjoyed Zumba workouts in the past, but usually feel like the girl in the back with two left feet. So this Booya Fitness chance to practice Bollywood dancing in the privacy of my own home was especially appealing. The only problem is, I live in NYC and my neighbors can see directly into my apartment, so I had an audience anyway.

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It was a fun way to sneak in a quick workout, and maybe after I practice 3 or 4 or 10 times, I’ll be able to stand at the front of the Bolly X line-up. In the meantime, I’ll keep dancing for my neighbors.

It would have been a decent workout too, a little on the easier side (I’m not one to complain), but I walked away from the video several times to get water or check my e-mail. I didn’t hit pause. Yes, I could have paused it. But, I didn’t. That’s why I go to in-person classes: lack of willpower without the mandate to save face. On-line college classes are the same. I’ll take a C in an on-line class, no sweat. Have a professor look me in the eye though, and I’m the one sitting in front, batting my eyelashes, and turning in all the extra credit.

PROS: Don’t have to leave your house; good filtering options; fun workout

CONS: No teacher feedback or personal attention; workout was on the easy side

If you have a friend who’ll come over and do it with you, or if you are that motivated, Booya Fitness offers more than “Dance (Ethnic).” They also have Yoga (with Zander Gladish), Pilates, HIIT, bootcamps, and circuit training to name a few, and you can filter workouts by your energy level, your goal, or the equipment you have available. It certainly comes in handy on snow days. Here’s a shout out to my NYC friends: if someone wants to come over and help me give it another shot, you can pick the class.

Or for those of you who are a little more adventurous, I’d also like to try this new Reggae/Dancehall fitness class: Brukwine.

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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.

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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

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 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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Running in Jeans

This post is just to say: Go ahead and run in your jeans.

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When you get a moment to escape the house, you might not have time to change into gym clothes. Stop caring what the neighbors think. Run in your jeans. I’d avoid running in heels though as I once broke my foot that way, and ended up watching 5 seasons of Lost in two weeks.

But seriously, especially as a parent, there are times when it is really hard for me to get out the door. (Like times when my son wraps himself around my calf begging me in his wounded-animal cry.) But sometimes, after my partner gets home from work, I just need even a 10-minute walk around the block to shake off the mania of preschooler drama. And sometimes, breaking into a run helps even more, even if I’m in my jeans.

One of the reasons fewer people get more exercise is that they feel they have to gear-up, be at a gym, and have their game face on. That’s why so many people make a big deal about New Years and feel the need to make resolutions to get more exercise, when really, even 10 minutes, even in jeans counts.