A Barre Class Built for Two

Friends, remember how, at the onset of summer, I had just joined a barre studio and was extolling its virtues? (I’ll remind you: I wrote about it here, before going MIA for pretty much the remainder of the season. My bad. And here I thought my ghosting days were behind me.)

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Me! In the past!

Well, I’ve now been a card carrying member at Barre 3 for SIX months, and boy, has my body changed.

Although Barre 3 is adamant you won’t find a scale inside — it preaches balance and strength instead of inches and pounds — I imagine a lot of members still go into a cardio/free weights/pilates class like this hoping for some serious toning — or at least better fitting jeans. And who can blame them?

Since joining in April, I’ve religiously suited up two to three three times a week for these 60-minute workout classes, including more 5 a.m. wakeup calls that I can count. I estimate I’ve done dozens of planks, hundreds of crescent lunges and thousands of sumo squats in the past two quarters, hands down. And let’s not forget those hours and hours of ab work.

You saw the before photo above.

Now brace yourself for the after photo:

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Me! This morning!

SURPRISE! I’m having a baby.

If I haven’t told you yet in person, you might have pieced it together from the fact that we just moved apartments or from my suspicious May confession that the idea of vegetables made me want to puke. But mostly, no one would blame you for having no idea, because, let’s be honest, I’ve kept it really, really quiet online.

Why, you ask? Maybe because I’m terrified of jinxing things. Or maybe because I’m a pretty private person, blog be damned. Or maybe because I wanted to tell Lucille before the rest of you, and despite ALL my attempts to spell it out for her, she’s remained blissfully oblivious to the big change that’s coming her way.

Seriously, though. I’ve tried everything.

I’ve tried showing her all the puppy, I mean baby, sized clothing we’re collecting:

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I’ve tried introducing her to the other puppies, I mean babies, in our life:

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I’ve tried putting her in charge of puppy, I mean baby, kick counts:

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But no matter what I do, something tells me eight weeks from now, she’s going to be very, very surprised to realize how much her life has changed.

Then again, so are we. 

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A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

Given the chance for a do-over in life, I’d probably take it.

Now I’m not talking about the big stuff, like who I’d choose to marry or what profession to pursue or whether to stream Queer Eye Season 4 as slowly as humanly possible to savor every last corgi scene. But there are literally hundreds of little things I didn’t do right the first time around that just nag at me, and I’d love the chance to start over with a clean slate.

Stuff like investing fully in my 401K as a 22 year old, or collecting airline miles consistently, or making exercise part of my routine decades before I did. From wearing my retainer at night (R.I.P. American smile) to maintaining my language skills after a semester in Madrid, it wouldn’t have been that hard at the time, but at this point, change just feels like a lost cause. 

“What’s the point of it all?”

Of course, I know that’s not a healthy way to think. Just because you haven’t been, say, eating well in recent months doesn’t mean there’s no point in starting now. I mean, you wouldn’t refuse to go to a doctor just because you haven’t been before, right? But for the littlest stuff – the habits it SHOULD be easiest to tweak – it’s easy to see change as futile. As Barney Stinson tells his father in a 2011 episode of How I Met Your Mother, I’m too far gone.

But lo, sometimes life DOES throw you a do-over. Welcome to our new apartment.

I’m a sucker for a good arch.

Our old apartment, where we nested for three view-filled years, was great for a lot of reasons, but I felt like I never got it set up quite right. The closets were deep (which should be a good thing) but it meant I could never reach the things I’d stored in the back. Same in the kitchen – bakeware stacked high in deep cabinets isn’t that accessible, and I found myself shying away from home-cooked meals if I knew the recipe called for any tools not on the top of the stack. I suppose I could have taken everything out and done a massive reorganization, but the task just felt so daunting that I sucked up, left things unchanged and ordered a lot of saag paneer take-out. (Thank you, Raj’s Indian Kitchen, for sustaining us those 1,095 nights.)

But last week, our lease expired and we opted to move to a charming new apartment, and GUESS WHAT THAT MEANS, FOLKS: a clean slate. That’s right: a rare chance to do it all over again, from the start. And I’ve taken it to heart.

    I’ve Marie Kondo-ed my drawers. OK, probably not well, given I’ve never seen the show and didn’t get rid of enough joyless stuff, but I did stack my clothes vertically so I can always see what’s there without digging.

Oh shirt, I have a lot of stuff.

    I’ve stored my tupperware and lids together, like god intended. Why have I never done this before? Right, because I’ve lacked space and, fine, patience.

Please tell them at my funeral someday I once lived like this.

    I’ve found a place for everything inside my closets [yes, you read that right, I have two], and I’m committed to always putting things back where I got them, even if it seems like more work now. And if I mess up, I have this vicious closet enforcer to remind me.

Reporting for duty!

Is there a chance in two months, I revisit this post and realize it’s all gone to hell in a handbasket? Yes, that’s a very distinct possibility. But a little organization sure feels nice right now. And hey, if it gets messed up, we can always move again, right?

What are your tricks for keeping organized that don’t involve, you know, having less stuff?

 

 

 

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Raising the Barre

Whether or not you know her, it’s time I lay it out there: I trust my friend Rogan’s opinion on just about everything. Not only does she have excellent taste in NYC roommates and undergrad liberal arts colleges, but I also defer to her on all red wine selection, white wine selection and Irish fiddle etiquette. And let’s not forget her burgeoning political career. Yessiree, (Sheriff) Rogan’s going places.

I generally trust Rogan’s good judgement without question, which is why I was so startled when she revealed to me several years ago that she traveled most weekends ALL THE WAY TO THE WEST VILLAGE to take her favorite barre class, Barre 3. “But there are studios literally 45 minutes closer to the Upper East Side,” I said to myself, and likely, also directly (and full of judgement) to my friend’s face. “Why would you ever take yourself out of the city’s grid structure voluntarily for some workout that can’t possibly be better than other barre classes?”

And then I took a Barre 3 class. Dear reader, I was wrong.

Unlike other barre classes I’ve taken, which tend to make me feel inflexible (when the instructors say things like “and now everyone do your version of a split!”) or weak (when I can’t hold 2-pound weights for the duration of strength training) or furious (when my grippy socks make it hard to plank on carpet), Barre 3 classes do for me exactly what I want: they make me feel sweaty and energized and empowered.

And like taking super awkward photos.

So what makes it better for me? I’ve been trying to put into words what I like about this specific workout, which in theory isn’t all that different than other ball/barre-based pilates-like classes out there. I think it comes down to these things (but, let’s be honest, it also may come down to the fact that a gorgeous new studio just opened a 7 minute walk from my apartment):

  1. There’s a lot less tucking. In other barre classes, I’ve found there’s a lot of emphasis on the pelvis and whether it’s tucked correctly. But here’s the problem – how can you possibly tell if your pelvis tilt is right when it’s nothing you can see? I find it insanely frustrating to spend so much of a class doing an invisible exercise and not even know if I’m doing it correctly. In Barre 3, no one’s mentioned my pelvis once, and for that, I’m grateful.
  2. There’s more of a cardio focus. In addition to barre staples like glute and core work, there’s always a long section of combo work intended to get the heart rate up – think 80s aerobics class mixed with vinyasa flow. Mixing up the barre-staple “move small” movements like pulses with “move big” breaks like crescent lunges helps make the 60 minutes bearable.
  3. There’s a lot of body positivity and mindfulness. This class always ends with a few minutes of breath work in shavasana, which – let’s not lie to ourselves – is everyone’s favorite part of yoga. I’ve been in other barre classes where half the class sneaks out after core and skips stretching, but at Barre 3, it seems nearly everyone wants to stay through to the end to unwind and relax her mind. It’s a healthy mindset, and a good reminder that exercise isn’t just for the physical muscles.
  4. My studio is so damn cute. I like succulents and exposed brick and natural wood like the good millennial I am – so sue me. But I’ve also now been to the equally adorable Toronto studio, and I can attest that the aesthetic is good everywhere – as is the friendly vibe. My studio also has free coffee. Win.

I am a studio member, at least until I move out of Long Island City when our lease is up (RIP view), meaning I can bring first time guests free, so hit me up if you want to see it for yourself. Or we can just meet at the bar.

Have you tried Barre 3? And does this sound like sponsored content? I swear it’s not!

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Oh, Canada: Toronto Vacation for the Win

I was standing on a busy street corner last week when a strange man I didn’t know leaned in from behind. “Nice sunglasses,” he crooned. Well-trained NYC women know not to engage with random weirdos offering compliments, so I murmured a sarcastic “thanks” – just shy of the “thanks, creep” I wanted to say – without turning around. As the light changed and I went to cross, I glanced back. Turns out he was a uniformed police officer, wearing the same exact sunglasses as me, which he’d wanted to point out. He smiled and waved. He wasn’t a creep at all.

He was Canadian.

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And he lived here!

I don’t know if you’ve recently traveled to our neighbors to the north with their charming apologies and their decade+ of marriage equality and their adherence to the Paris Agreement, but MAN there’s a lot to like about it.

Sure, they have a handsome president prime minister, but they offer so much more:

  • Their fast-foot joints sell delicious meat alternatives.

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    This is a Beyond Meat sausage egger and cheese from A&W and it’s amazing.

  • They’re all about reducing waste.

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    This friend of a friend’s store, Pretty Clean Shop, has refillable laundry detergent so you never have to throw away an empty container again.

  • You don’t have to give away your peanut butter cups if a guy names Reese comes asking.

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    They aren’t possessive here! No wonder Canadians don’t understand that Mitch Hedberg joke!

During a week in Toronto, we experienced so many delightful things: delicious Thai food, fantastic dim sum, barrels of Timbits, buckets of Caesars (i.e. a Bloody Mary with Clamato juice), and, oh yeah, some non-eating memories too. But hands down my favorite thing about the city was how damn active it allowed us to be.

While I never once put my running shoes to use while visiting “The 6ix” (thanks, Drake), I was still able to keep moving in this walkable, pedestrian-friendly metropolis. By trekking around the waterfront, hiking over to Kensington Market, and exploring the islands on foot, we were able to log 8 or 9 miles a day most days, making me feel slightly less bad about all the pineapple pizza I was eating (don’t @ me).

AND I was able to supplement that walking with some other forms of exercise (plus wedding dancing!), which may sound like vacation torture to some other people, but to me, it was a perfect way to relax on a week off from work:

  • BARRE: I belong to a Barre 3 studio in Queens, so I emailed the Toronto franchise to ask if I could pop in, and they offered me a free class! Huzzah! The moves were essentially the same, but the 80s and 90s inspired playlist was to die for.
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Show Me Love! Though I’ll admit the American Beauty soundtrack during stretches DID creep me out a bit.

  • YOGA: It’s hard to call a restorative class a workout, but considering I fell asleep in every single posture, it seems I really needed it. I went to two different sessions at Toronto’s Yoga Tree studio, and those naps were worth every Canadian penny (which don’t exist anymore, but you know what I mean.)
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I’ll give you ZZZZZen.

  • BIKES: Is a 4-seater bike ride still a workout? Unclear, but it was super fun cruising around Toronto Island with my friends, especially when the journey ended at a lakeside bar.
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EYES ON THE ROAD, BOYS.

Well done, Canada. Until we meet again. ❤

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Art of Disguise: Sneaking Vegetables Into a Carb-Lover’s Diet

I might as well be watching Game of Thrones, blasting EDM and owning a cat I so hardly recognize myself: for the last several months, I’ve eaten ZERO vegetables. (Fine, zero may be an overstatement, but it’s been capped at, like, six total bites.)

Once a staple of my diet – I’ve literally been known to call kale chips my favorite food – vegetables have totally lost their luster for me this winter. And you can’t really blame me: New York City isn’t particularly known for its farm-fresh produce this time of year.

The farmers’ markets have been hawking nothing but cabbage, onions and last fall’s potatoes, and the perfect summer tomato is still a full fiscal quarter away. (Don’t @ me. I know its actually a fruit.) I even asked my west coast bestie to stop sending me salad recipes calling for “fresh spring greens” out of crippling jealousy. Bib lettuce may be paving the streets of San Francisco but it’s still an unattainable luxury in this concrete jungle where it definitely doesn’t yet feel like May.

But I’m wearing my spring bandana!

But (wo)man cannot live on carbs/meat/dairy/fruit alone, and I know I’ve got to find a way to add more veggies into my diet whether or not the arugula seeds I planted in my upstate garden ever poke through. Even if the off-season variety is boring as all heck, they’re still crucial for the fiber, nutrients and reduced risk of chronic diseases they provide, and I’ve got to convince myself to eat some.

So I’ve been doing everything I can to add more vegetables into my diet, or — let’s be honest — treating myself like a four year old in a bid to disguise all the healthy stuff I’m sneaking past my lips. For example:

  • To trick myself into eating carrots, I made this “carrot cake” smoothie, which, weirdly, was surprisingly good.

  • To trick myself into eating cauliflower, I made this cauliflower-crust pizza, which would have been better covered in pepperoni and/or build on top of a real pizza crust.

  • To trick myself into eating kale and sweet potatoes, I doused my Dig Inn “salad” in mac and cheese (no regrets.) 

Fortunately, my local upstate farmers’ market reopens on Sunday after a dark four-month hiatus, and hopefully it inspires me to love green things all over again. But in the meantime, at least I’ve been getting my green in other ways…

How do YOU sneak more vegetables into your meals?

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Pouring One Out for the OG Blog Dog

Before Lucille — or even Ben — graced these pages, about 85% of my posts were dedicated to a certain goldendoodle with great hair, a sunny personality and immediate star power that probably warranted its own spin-off blog but then what would I have written about here? Oh yeah, running. Forgot that’s what I founded this thing on back in 2012.

If you felt a disturbance in the force yesterday, you weren’t imagining it: Keira, my original muse and the poodle mix voted most likely to play Joe Biden in a musical, passed away at the far too young age of seven. I know I owe her perfect prose and a eugoogaly to make Derek Zoolander proud, but I’m too profoundly sad to be funny or thoughtful tonight. So instead, I bring you six life lessons that my brother’s very special pup taught me, complete with — of course — photos. Because, let’s be honest, Keira would have wanted it that way.

Without further ado, I present to you a pictorial recap of everything Keira taught me as a runner, not least of which was that time she ate an entire crockpot of gravy until she nearly burst, making her, quite clearly, my self-control spirit animal.

Keira Life Lesson No. 1: ALWAYS BE PREPARED. 

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Whether you’re training for a long run with an emergency $20 in your pocket or donning a pair of goggles before your aunt Anne forces you to complete the ice bucket challenge, it’s good to be prepared.

Keira Life Lesson No. 2: DRESS FOR THE ELEMENTS.

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Running 12 miles is hard anyways. Don’t make it harder by forgetting your warmest spandex or leaving your gloves behind.

Keira Life Lesson No. 3: DON’T RACE HUNGRY.

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I’ll run 5-6 miles on an empty stomach, but any more than that and you’ll be swooning your way to the finish line. Try some peanut butter toast or a banana several hours before you toe the starting line — or your aunt’s delicious arm in a pinch.

Keira Life Lesson No. 4: DON’T SWEAT A BAD HAIR DAY.

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Or a bad training day. Some days you’re on top of the world, some days you feel like scum, but it all averages out if you let it. Shake off the bad days.

Keira Life Lesson No. 5: GET GOOD SLEEP.

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Eight hours a day isn’t just for babies and mattress models like Keira. Go to bed early, and stop scrolling through social media from the comfort of your pillow. (If you can figure out how to pull that off, please tell me.)

Keira Life Lesson No. 6: ENJOY IT.

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Move to Hawaii. Have a best friend. Be nice to strangers. Smile. Life’s too short for anything else.

Rest in peace, K. 

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Party Like It’s 1997

I might be biased by the fact that I was a very impressionable twelve years old, but 1997 was a true golden age of music.

The world gave us so many hits that year: Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping, the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony and Backstreet Boys’ Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), to name a few. We got P. Diddy’s I’ll Be Missing You, Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life and Hanson’s MMMBop, and yes, I’ve seen two out of three of those musical acts in concert (and no, one of them wasn’t Sean Combs.)  And let’s not forget that five minute and eleven second long soundtrack version of My Heart Will Go On that graced airwaves, my family’s communal CD player and pre-teen piano music recitals for months on end as we imagined life aboard the Titanic and debated why Leo didn’t try at least one more time to get on that extremely buoyant door.

I believe I’m 11 in this photo, not 12, but 1. you get the picture and 2. what I wouldn’t give to still own that amazing velvet, pink headband.

But while billboard-topping hits including Spice Girl’s Wannabe and R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly Aqua’s Barbie Girl still sometimes find their way onto my upstate dance party play lists, the piece of 1997 poetry that I probably think about most often is that hypothetical commencement speech Wear Sunscreen.

Written as an essay for the Chicago Tribune in 1997 and recorded two years later as a spoken-word radio hit produced by none other than Romeo+Juliet director Baz Luhrmann, it gave listeners unsolicited advice like “do one thing every day that scares you” and “keep your old love letters; throw away your old bank statements.”

It’s chock full of wisdom, but the line that pops into my head on a nearly daily basis is this one: “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” Last spring, when I was considering applying for a job that would require a cross-country move (to Southern California, but still), I wondered quite a bit whether my more than a decade in NYC had made me, as they say, “hard.”

It’s certainly made me an excellent photographer.

And in some ways, I it has: I have no patience for families walking three-abreast down a city street, I jaywalk like it’s my job and I secretly plot to destroy anyone standing still on the left side of an escalator. I’m not a monster: I’ll always try to help a perplexed tourist reading a subway map upside down. But I also once mashed a baby cockroach with my bare fist while drunkenly making post-bar grilled cheese in my cousin’s Brooklyn apartment, so yeah, you could say I’ve toughened up.

That is, I THOUGHT I’d toughened up. And then the temperature dropped to negative 9 degrees this past week, and I realized just how soft I really am.

Normally, Mongolian-like winter temperatures wouldn’t be a big deal: bundle up, stay indoors and binge watch Sex Education, which is so, so good but (public service announcement) too full of nudity to watch on an airplane or with your dad. But I made the mistake last fall of entering a game of chance I never expected to win — the NYC Half Marathon lottery – and accidentally secured myself a spot in the March 17 event.

WHAT HAVE I DONE

Or in other words, not running in this frigid, cruel February isn’t really an option, at least not if I want to try for my 14th (?) sub-2:00 finish.

So I’ve made myself a deal: when it’s so cold that frostbite is a real possibility, I’m doing the unthinkable and churning out my workout on my robot nemesis, the treadmill. But when it’s 25 degrees and up, I’m layering on the Spandex, channeling my inner Bernese mountain dog, and getting outside for my miles, icicles and all.

“The Bernese mountain dogs of the world have voted and we’re never coming inside again. Please leave our kibbles in the snow.”

And yes, I’m wearing sunscreen while I do it.

How is your arctic training going?

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