Pop Physique aka Pain Incarnate: A Review

What weighs more: a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks?

Trick question. They weigh the same. But you know what weighs a million times more? The one-pound weights at Pop Physique. Don’t be fooled by appearances: these itty bitty hand weights are somehow the heaviest thing you’ll ever touch.

Are my hands enormous or is this weight too small? Maybe both. Maybe both is happening at the same time. -Forrest Gump

I took my first Pop Physique class two weeks ago (why yes, I DID have a free promo code. How’d you guess?), and when I spotted these little purple barbells, I nearly laughed out loud. In BodyPump class, I pack on additional tonnage in five and ten pound increments. When I saw these baby things, I couldn’t help but channel my inner Derek Zoolander: “What is this? A workout class for ants?”

Oh, how could I have been so wrong?

Pop Physique, a ballet-inspired stretching and strengthening routine, does what barre classes do best: focus on tiny, nearly imperceptible movements that somehow make your muscles hurt so bad the next day you can’t sneeze without wincing. The idea of using one-pound weights to tone your upper arms may sound futile, but pulse along with the instructor for all the reps and you’ll be crying for your mommy. It’s tougher than it sounds.

But do I?

Don’t believe me? Believe this: Since there are no clocks in the studio, I literally spent 95 percent of my first class stealing glances at my mat neighbor’s wrist watch every time we went into downward dog just to get an estimate of how many more minutes of squatting and pliéing torture lie ahead.

Wait a second. Did I just describe a workout as torture, and then casually throw in the fact that I did something during my “first class,” thereby signifying I actually went back for more? Good sleuthing, you. Because that’s exactly what I did.

Yes, this class is insanely hard, and I found myself collapsing to the floor after too many planks and shaking uncontrollably after so many leg raises that never. seem. to. end. But I also finished the class feeling like I’d reversed several miles of running damage by stretching my hamstrings and hips deeper than I’d ever do on my own.

So after my first (free) class, I did something nearly unthinkable for me: I signed up for 10 more. Of course, I got the 10-class pack on Gilt with a coupon, because that’s my style, but I still shelled over my credit card number for a workout. That’s rare for me, and a testament maybe to just how good this class made me feel — once I was done, that is. Because mid-class, I can assure you there were no smiles of this magnitude:


I have nine more classes to take between now and my November wedding. I’m taking bets: Will one-pound weights be enough to bring out my inner Michelle Obama arms? Time will tell. Time, and my daily shortbread intake.

Any other runners find relief at the barre? Not to be confused with the bar, where my friends and I of course went after.

Recovery sports drink

I Love the Nineties

Measuring one’s health, much like measuring the size of Donald Trump’s hands, is very much up to interpretation.

Really: what is it that makes someone “healthy” anyways? Is it their weight? Their BMI? Their pant size? Is it the number of miles they can run (26.2, baby) or the number of push-ups they can complete (no comment)?

From “carbs consumed a day” to “gluten consumed an era,” people measure health in all sorts of different ways, and those yardsticks continue to evolve each time we learn something new about science. Seriously: can you imagine telling your 1998 self she’d be trading in her Olestra-laden potato chips for full-fat coconut milk in 2016? (Or telling her about the 2016 election cycle, for that matter? She’d have thought you crazy on both accounts.)

There’s at least one measurement of health, however, that hasn’t been proven obsolete by some new report or study. The most surefire measure of whether someone’s healthy: can they live to 90?

Well, I know someone who has: my grandmother Marie. (Also, the queen.)

And in case you’d like to live to 90, too, I’ve got her tips for healthy living right here. Step on up, folks, and see the future.

I sat down with my grandmother earlier this month ahead of her epic birthday bash that, no joke, had more guests than my wedding will, and asked her what’s her secret to nine decades and counting on this fine earth.

Gin,” she told me over the breakfast table on her backporch, before laughing and redacting her statement. “Don’t write that! Ok fine, you can write that. Everyone will think it anyways.”

And you wonder why I love this woman.

But it’s not just her 5 p.m. cocktail that keeps my grandmother spritely and sharp. Although she said she has no special regimen that explains her continued health, I still quizzed my favorite nonagenarian on her habits and have compiled a useful list for all of your personal betterment. Enjoy:

  • “Always eat breakfast.” During this specific conversation, my grandmother was having yogurt, orange juice, decaf coffee and sliced bananas in milk, and she says that’s a pretty typical morning meal for her. Even if something else is on the menu, she always works in fruit — a practice we could all pick-up.
  • “Sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” In our modern world, it’s easy to inhale fast meals standing over the kitchen sink or straight out of the refrigerator, but sitting down makes the process slower and more deliberate. My grandmother doesn’t just sit; she also always uses a placemat. Classing it up at mealtime can never be a bad thing.
  • “Have an activity every day.” At 90, you may not be running ’round town or uni-cycling down the street, but my grandmother still has something on her to-do list every single day. Maybe it’s cleaning the windows, maybe it’s lunch at her favorite restaurant, maybe it’s bridge with friends. Having something to look forward to (or maybe not, if we’re talking window cleaning…) is a great motivator that keeps us from staying in our pajamas every day — a great temptation for yours truly some mornings.
  • “Surround yourself by super amazing grandchildren.” Ok, ok, so my grandmother didn’t actually say this one, but I’d like to believe having 14 grandchildren (plus kids, spouses, great grandkids, and granddogs) helps keep her extra busy. Selfies don’t hurt, either. 

So here’s to a happy birthday (month) to my lovely grandmother. May we all learn from her healthy habits, but may we also remember it’s not worth being healthy if you can’t celebrate from time to time with a splash of gin. 

Running Training

Joining the Mile High Club (Well, Kind Of)

New York City may a hotbed of chic, on-trend fitness classes, but you’d be hard pressed to find me at any of them. While the masses may be flocking to SoulCycle or FlyWheel or some other combination of two fancy words without a space, I’ve largely avoided them, and for plenty of reasons:

  • These classes tend to be full of beautiful, flexible people in swanky outfits and I spend all 55 minutes unhealthily comparing myself to them
  • The flashing lights and electronica dance music are hellish on my country-western-trained ears
  • The idea of spending $30+ for a single class seems obscene to me when I already have A) a monthly gym membership and B) two legs that can run for free

That said, every now and then I stumble across a promo code for a free class, and usually my experience goes a little something like this: 1. I attend for free because who doesn’t like free things, 2. I suffer through an excoriating workout, and 3. I ultimately solidify my belief that everything I thought was terrible about chichi NYC studios is, in fact, terrible.

So that’s exactly what I expected to happen at Mile High Run Club last week when I signed up for a free group workout using the promo code RUNRIGHT, which may or may not still be usable (good luck). For those of you unfamiliar, Mile High Run Club is a treadmill-based running class where dozens of runners, all facing the same direction, work their way through intervals of speed work and hill training from the comfort of their own machine. In case that doesn’t sound elegant enough to you, I’ll note that the studios, located in annoying named neighborhoods NOHO and NOMAD, sport Ionized Kangen water filling stations or bottles of water for sale. Hello, fancy.

I signed up with two friends to HIGH 45, an endurance class that said it was good for any skill level. We booked treadmills in the very back in hopes that we wouldn’t be seen as we suffered through, changed into our gear in a comically small locker room and prepared for the worst.

But the worst never came.

In fact, this group workout class was downright delightful. Ohmygod, who have I become? (Someone who wants this shirt, that’s who.)

The thing that makes this workout so great is that everyone sets their own treadmill speeds based on their perceived levels of “easy” and “hard.” Unlike in other workout classes, where it’s obvious to the whole room if you can’t do a shoulder stand, here everyone is really, truly free to go at their own speed. Between hard sessions, some of us slowed to a jog and others came down to a walk, and the room wasn’t dripping with judgment as a result. I also liked that 1. It forced me to do speedwork I might not otherwise want to do, 2. I never got to a point that I felt like giving up because I couldn’t do it and 3. The instructor, Scott, didn’t shy away from the country music. Yeehaw.

I also liked that my friends and I went out for a class of wine afterwards under the Flatioron Building, but I’m not sure that’s mandatory practice.

Heck, I’m even playing with the idea of buying a 5-class series for the weeks leading up to the Bronx 10-miler. I know I could do free speed work at my home gym instead, but I’m much more likely to actually do it if I’ve paid $26 a class to attend. I guess that’s the same argument SoulCyclers use to justify their addiction. Ah well: call me converted.

Have you tried a group treadmill class?

Running Travel

Run If By Land 

When you like two things separately, it only makes sense you’ll love them doubly together.

You know what I mean: Like peanut butter and chocolate? You’ll love Reese’s cups. Like animals and football? You’ll love the Puppy Bowl. Like Muppets and Apple products? You’ll love FaceTiming with your niece in Hawaii, even if she doesn’t feel the same way.

Given that so many good things are made great through the act of sheer combination — wine & cheese, pizza & beer, Chris Pine & shirtless scenes — it’s amazing that it took me so long to try what was such an obvious and inevitable combination: running and the beach.

I’ve liked the beach as long as I can remember — from riding the waves to walking the coastline to soaking in the sun for more hours than my Irish-heritage skin should have allowed. And I’ve liked running for years and years, as you should have gleaned from this blog unless you’re terrible at context clues.

So why then did it take me 30 years to put those two things together and go for my first run ON the beach? Maybe because I was afraid of getting sand in my shoes, or because I tend to sleep in on vacation, or because I was nervous that running in sand would feel like being in that awful slow-motion dream where you can’t pick up any speed despite your enemy nipping at your heels. Whatever the reason, I’d never been for a beach run, and this past weekend in Long Island I vowed to change that.

And, wow, I loved it, but wow, it wasn’t easy. Running in sand takes about 1.6 times more energy than running on a hard surface, according to, and believe me, my glutes and core could tell. I had less bounce than on the roads and had to work different stabilizing muscles to keep propelling forward. Unlike on a normal run where I could just tune out and go, I had to keep hyper aware to avoid stepping in holes or getting my feet wet when a wave came up further than usual.

Still, the pros outweighed the cons. By running on the beach instead of the asphalt on a hot summer morning, I was able to take advantage of the cool breeze and go longer without overheating, a major plus for summer training. And whenever I wanted to stop and splash water on my face, there wasn’t any shortage of ocean to choose from. Add on top of that a gorgeous backdrop, accidental resistance training and more dog sightings than I’d ever imagined, and the experience was a net positive one.

I’m not near a beach in the city, so I doubt this will become part of my normal routine, but I think it will inspire me to seek out other surfaces besides pavement for a few of my runs each month. Whether that’s the bridal path in Central Park (I miss you, my friend!) or some other yet-to-be-discovered-by-me alternative in Queens, something tells me you’ll be seeing me offroading a bit more going forward. Especially if that offroading leads to friends and a vineyard, another winning combination.

Do you run on the beach? Any tips for a burgeoning Hasselhoff?