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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!

Categories
Travel

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. ❤