Categories
Running Training

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?

Categories
Training

Barre-Hopping

If your loved one went to the bar three days a week, would you hold an intervention? What if she only went in skin-tight clothes? What if she bar-hopped before work? What if she rolled out afterwards with a crippling case of the sweats, the shakes, and an always-broken vow to never return?

It’s time I come clean, everyone: I’ve developed a bar problem. Oh shoot, I think I misspelled that. I mean a *barre* problem. As in I’ve been taking so many barre classes recently, it’s bananas — especially for this runner whose usual idea of flexibility is ordering a California red when there’s nothing French on the wine list.

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Or Swiss!

Now I’ve dabbled in barre before, including about a dozen sessions in the weeks leading up to Ben & my wedding day. (The right to bear Michelle Obama arms will never go out of style.) But never before have I taken so many classes in the span of a single week. (Spoiler alert: I’ve been getting some REALLY good deals. Come on, now: you know I’d never pay full price for a workout.)

For those of you new to the concept, the ballet-inspired fitness class involves high reps of small range-of-motion movements, like squat pulses while in relevé or slow, controlled bird-dog planks, plus some light weight work and stretching. For someone as stiff as me, the graceful-appearing workout can be downright brutal, but I know it’s a great counterbalance to all the hours I usually spend in forward motion.

After visiting three different studios in nearly as many days this week, it’s become clear that not all barre classes are the same. Physique 57, for example, is hell on earth in my opinion, while others are more tolerable, or even — dare I say — semi enjoyable. Here’s a rundown of the three distinct classes I took this week, with my own subjective opinion of each:

  • Workout: Barre3
  • Location: Long Island City pop-up class at the Foundry
  • Cost: Free!
  • Signature phrase: “Move small, then move big.”
  • Review: Barre3 usually takes place in a studio, I’ve been told, but since the Queens location is still under construction, they’ve been holding pop-up classes at different locations around the neighborhood, from apartment buildings to hotel conference rooms. This class was in a restored factory turned wedding venue, and HOLY HELL it was gorgeous. I understand a normal Barre3 class uses props like balls and bars, but since this is a pop-up, we just use our mats and bodyweight, which I prefer since it means you can choose the challenge level. This class incorporated more cardio than other barre classes I’ve taken, meaning I left feeling extra sweaty — a sign of a worthwhile workout in my book.
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  • Workout: Pop Physique
  • Location: Pop Chateau, the new Upper East Side location
  • Cost: $13.50 a class as part of a 10-pack Gilt promotion
  • Signature phrase: “Curl in. Curl hold. Curl squeeze. Curl stay.”
  • Review: I love the vibe of this studio — it’s cool but not pretentious, friendly but not cloying, cool but not unwelcoming. Pop’s signature workout flows through several stages — mat work, arm work, glute work, quad work, etc. — and the moves change so frequently that the class flies by. This class involves a little more stretching, which is probably good for this stiff runner’s body. I’d worried a 7 a.m. class would be a jarring wake-up call, but instead I left feeling limber and energized, and not too sweaty to go straight to work with just a wet-wipe shower.
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  • Workout: Hottilattes Barre
  • Location: M Dance & Fitness on 8th Ave.
  • Cost: Free, for me at least, since this was a bridal shower activity gifted by the mother of the bride (thanks, Mama Ngai!)
  • Signature phrase: I was too busy listening to the excellent early 2000s playlist to remember anything specific. 
  • Review: This private barre class to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding was fun for its own reason — a room full of friendly faces and no one taking it too seriously. We used resistance bands, which are new to my barre routine, and they definitely toned my arms more than I’m used to. At the same time, working in a dance practice room without a physical bar meant we did WAY more floor exercises, aka significantly more core work than I prefer. I can only hold a V-shape for so long (i.e. 6 seconds), and ooh my abs are feeling it tonight.
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Of course, these three are just a drop in the bucket of possible barre classes in the city. Some of my friends are Fly Barre advocates and others Bar Method fans, with my best girl Sarah practically a Pure Barre spokeswoman. 🙂 I’m down to try any of them with you, as long as they offer the first class free, of course.

Or if barre isn’t your thing but you still want to hang, I’m always down for the three-letter bar instead. Cheers.

Categories
Running Training Travel

Runner’s High: An Elevation Guide

You know that sinking feeling when – despite thinking you’re in pretty good shape – you go for a quick little run and can barely catch your breath?

We’ve all been there: you lace up all excited, expecting to knock your workout out of the park, but then you find yourself huffing and puffing with muscles and lungs who clearly decided not to show up to practice.

At least for me, it’s disheartening, discouraging and downright demoralizing. (This sentence brought to you by the letter D.)

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Like me! The dog!

Well, that’s how I felt the last two weeks while vacationing with my siblings. I’d wake up early each morning to churn out a few easy miles with my brother, and within the first five minutes, find myself feigning a loose shoelace or side cramp in order to stop and catch my breath, which Simply. Couldn’t. Be. Caught.

So I was feeling pretty darned bad about myself and my clearly out-of-shape physique. But then we got back into wifi range and googled the elevation of our host country, and – guess what, folks: Mongolia is as high up in the sky as Denver. VINDICATION! (Also, surprise! I’ve been vacationing in the land of Genghis Khan. No big deal.)

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Doing my best Lt. Dan impression.

Why does Mongolia’s elevation matter, you ask? Because the drop in barometric pressure at high altitudes decreases the amount of oxygen intake in each breath, which in turn lowers the amount of oxygen making its way to your muscles, which in turn makes working out super-duper tough (I believe that’s the medical term).

So what’s one to do if you find yourself in high elevation with legs itching to exercise? Plenty! Without further ado, here’s my guide to working out at high elevations in Mongolia, which maaaaay be slightly less useful than my guides to hydrating during races or training in the cold or literally anything else I’ve ever published ever.

But you can also apply these tips to non-Mongol movement, so maybe not so niche after all. Here’s some tips for staying fit when flying high:

  • Choose quality over quantity. You may want to log the 10-miler on your schedule, but if you find yourself in high elevation without time to get acclimated, better to check your expectations. For example, my first morning in Ulaanbaatar, my brother and I warmed up and then ran sprints in Sukhbaatar Square. Speed work’s a great workout anyways, but because of the built-in recovery breaks, it let us catch our breaths before the next 50-meter dash.
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Not pictured: my empty lungs.
  • Stay hydrated. Evaporation occurs more quickly at higher altitudes (according to the internet – I have not independently factchecked this) so you’ll need to drink extra liquid to replenish what you lose. That’s doubly the case if you’re in the Gobi Desert. Might I recommend some freshly squeezed goat milk?
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I’d say no goats were harmed in the taking of this photo but, let’s be honest, that can’t feel so good.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you find yourself short of breath, stop and catch it. While it’s tempting to power through, it’s safer to take a few minutes and do some light stretching or yoga while your muscles get a chance to refill their oxygen stores. No one’s timing you.

 

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Taking a breather? Or staring longingly across the world in Ben’s direction?
  • Cross train instead. If running isn’t in the cards, there are plenty of other ways to keep fit while on the road. Do some body-weight squats and pushups, go for a hike, climb a mountain, dive into your ger headfirst when a dust storm hits, ride a camel. As long as you’re using your muscles in some shape or form, they won’t atrophy during a forced vacation from long runs. Trust me.
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Also trust me that camels don’t like when you scratch their butts and make them think it’s a fly. Tom.

So there you have it: how to vacation in Mongolia without letting all fitness go by the wayside.

That said, it’s vacation, and if all you want to do on vacation is hang up your running shoes, sit back and smoke a cigar, I’m certainly not gonna stop you.

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Christmas card?

Any more tips for running in high altitudes to share, friends?

Categories
Training

Well, I’m Soul-ed

I finally did something I said I’d never do.

  • No, I didn’t voluntarily enter a haunted house.
  • No, I didn’t go to Times Square for fun.
  • No, I didn’t fly to Hawaii so these FaceTiming first cousins could finally meet snout-to-snout.
(And you thought Keira wasn’t going to get any billing on this blog once Lucille came into the picture.)

No, friends. I did something far more shocking: this morning, I went to SoulCycle.

And here’s the M. Night Shyamalan twist ending you weren’t expecting: I loved it. (Also, the Village takes place in modern-day Pennsylvania. There, I just saved you an hour and 48 minutes of your life. You’re welcome.)


For those of you living under a rock (whatup slugs of the world!), SoulCycle is a boutique indoor cycling class where riders spin and move to the beat of very loud music while a guru-like instructor shouts affirmations while surrounded by candlelight. These classes have been mocked as being trendy, elitist and that most hated of words — basic — and for years, I believed them.

Until 7 a.m. this morning, when I did a 45-minute ride at the 54th Street location in Manhattan and spent most of the class grinning ear to ear.

Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t smiling because I was physically enjoying it — I was sweating bullets and silently cursing the resistance nob under my breath the entire time. But for a spinning class, I found myself surprisingly entertained and the ¾ hour session flew by, something I can’t say’s been the case in other group cycling classes I’ve slogged through.

Key to my kept attention were several things: great music (dance-remix Whitney and Duran Duran), a break from the intense cycling about 30 minutes in to focus on hand weights, a hypnotic atmosphere and an upbeat instructor saying just enough positive things to keep me motivated.

My favorite: “You’re fierce, you’re beautiful, you’re strong, you’re here.” Turns out I eat that sh*t up.

Now SoulCycle certainly has its downsides. It’s expensive ($34 a class + $3 shoe rentals), it’s apparently hard to book spots in the most popular classes, it’s impossible to unclip your special shoes if you’re me and the shower lines were long before work. And, fine, they used words like “tribe” and “pack” and “aspirational lifestyle brand” in their IPO filings, which is pretty damn annoying.

But it was still a great workout that left me feeling energized and motivated and, above all, sweat-drenched. And maybe it’s basic, but if loving workout classes and spandex pants and rosé wine and almond milk lattes is basic, then count me in.

I realize SoulCycle is polarizing. What do you think of it?

Categories
Training

Counter-Intuitive Fitness

A lot of what we now know to be true about fitness and weight loss appears at first counter-intuitive:

  • To lose fat, eat more of it.
  • To look slimmer, gain muscle weight.
  • To feel more awake, exhaust yourself with a workout.

And here’s one more: to exercise more frequently, cancel your gym membership.

(At least, I’m hoping that’s the case. Ask me in a month whether my pants still button.)

I’ve belonged to a gym in New York City for almost nine years — first New York Sports Club, then the 92 St. Y, then back to NYSC where they amazingly grandfathered me back in at the same cheap rate I was paying in 2008 following the Lehman Brothers crash. Thanks, subprime mortgage crisis!

And during each of those years, I used the gym differently. As an unhealthy college grad, I’d plug into the elliptical for 20 minutes then call it a day. During my four marathon training cycles, I’d churn out treadmill workouts then recover with a yoga class. In the months before our wedding, I’d sweat my way through two Body Pump classes a week, toning my arms primarily so I could dance to Shout and look good doing it. #priorities

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But recently, I’ve found it harder and harder to make it to the gym. If I had a personal trainer, I’m sure she’d tell me there’s always an excuse, but I swear my reasons are legit: I started a job with significantly longer hours, I uncovered my bike after a winter in storage, I moved to a building with an in-house fitness room and I got a dog who’s not so good at the rowing machine. Why race to a 7 p.m. pilates class in Manhattan when I can be at home snuggling this gorgeous face in Queens? I rest my case.

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This is my boating hat.

In fact, not only was I paying a monthly membership for a gym I wasn’t going to, I found that knowing I wasn’t getting my money’s worth at NYSC was actually discouraging me from taking advantage of other workout opportunities, too. Why go to a friend’s $25 barre class if I am already paying for NYSC? Why buy a climbing session if I am already paying for NYSC? Why cough up $40 for a 5K race entry if am already paying for NYSC?

So I did something in April that may appear counter-intuitive: I walked into NYSC, took a final Body Pump class, and canceled my gym membership once and for all.

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Goodbye forever, Dan, my favorite Body Pump instructor. 😦

And then I signed up for a $10 yoga class at my apartment building next week, because the burden had been lifted!

So who knows if quitting my gym will help me stop turning down other classes and increase my fitness levels, but it’s worth a try, even if it seems counter-intuitive. Because, hey, some counter-intuitive things really do work: like how giant dogs actually thrive in a tiny apartment. I swear.

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I’m not big. You’re big.

What surprising things have you done in the name of fitness?

Categories
Training

Runner Vs. Team Sports

My parents encouraged team sports all childhood long, but like wearing my retainer and eating less butter, the pastime never really stuck.

Sure, I chased soccer balls in the fall and struck out looking each spring, but it became clear pretty early on that I wasn’t really of the team sport variety: I wasn’t a natural-born athlete, ducked when pop-flies came my way and happily spent most of my time warming the bench and/or eating orange slices at halftime without having even broken a sweat.

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Androgyny is the new cool.
They say team sports have all sorts of benefits for youth — they teach collaboration, boost self-esteem, foster clear communication — but I never loved the pressure of performing athletic feats in front of my peers the way some of my friends did. I tended to think exercise was best completed in solitude — plugged into an elliptical with headphones, say, or running five miles to the sound of my own footsteps — and that’s the position I’ve largely maintained these past 31 years.

So it came as a surprise to everyone — primarily me — when I accepted a friend’s invitation to join her indoor volleyball team this winter. It helped her case that she classified it as “very casual” and “likely to involve a decent amount of post-game drinking,” but mostly I said yes because I’d resolved at New Years to be more active this year in non-traditional ways. I’d expected that would mean trying new gym routines (success!) or walking more dogs (success!), but when the opportunity presented itself in the form of organized team sports, it felt like a sign from the universe that it was time to expand my comfort zone.

So I signed up, and — in a semi state of panic — arrived at my first match last month ready to embarrass everyone.

And you know what? I wasn’t as god awful terrible as I expected! I may not have a lot of hand-eye coordination and my erratic bumps tend to send the ball flying in any number of directions, but at least my serves score points and my 70″ frame means I can block a hit as it’s coming over the (arguably extremely low) net. Better yet, I’m getting fit in a new kind of way AND being social doing it, a win-win for this solitary runner.

Let’s pretend this wasn’t taken immediately after I lost the game for everyone. Cool, thanks.

So is volleyball my new sport of choice, and will I be forgoing my weekend long runs for spiking practice and King of the Court? Heck no. But am I excited it looks like we might possibly eke out the final spot in the playoffs? You betcha. The funny thing about stepping out of your comfort zone is once you’re there, it’s tempting to stay. 

Go Team Gary. 

Categories
Training

Goals Just Want to Have Fun (Ouch. That hurt me, too.)

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty excellent at squeezing in five to six workouts a week when I have a real, tangible goal on the radar.

  • Training for a marathon? I’ll pop out of bed before the sun every workday for an easy three to thirteen miles.
  • Looking to lose a few pounds? I’ll recruit a friend and pulse away at Pop Physique, sore quads be damned.
  • Trying to tone my wedding arms? I’ll hit the gym for BodyPump twice a week for the better part of a year so that I can “shout” my way all the way to the dancefloor showing off more skin than I’d usually dare to bare.
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“A little bit softer now” does NOT apply to these Michelle Obama arms. Boom.

If there’s a finish line on the horizon, my objective-oriented mind doesn’t have any problem putting in the work. Sure, I might prefer to sleep in or have an extra glass of wine the night before a scheduled workout, but I’m achievement-driven and can generally push any nay-saying to the back of my brain while I focus on my just-within-reach goal instead.

Once that goal’s over, though, all bets are off. In other words, without a goal on my radar, I get so lazy you wouldn’t believe it.

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“Fetch? No thanks.”

Seriously, folks. Even though November started strong — I raced a half marathon, I finished a 10 pack of Pop Physique classes, I took BodyPump at my mom’s sweet Maryland YMCA — in the weeks since the wedding, my discipline has fallen off more rapidly than Congress’ approval rating. I’ve signed up for and canceled more gym classes than I’d care to admit, hit snooze instead of logging my morning miles, and the only significant walking I’ve done is back and forth to the waffle station four times at our annual Mohonk Mountain House brunch.

Now I know from experience one way to get myself out of this lethargic rut is to simply pick a new goal — sign up for a new distance, perhaps, or find a triathlon to force me out of my comfort zone. But the truth is I SHOULDN’T need a goal like speed or weight loss to pressure me to workout. Exercise brings with it a vast number of other amazing benefits, and they should be reason enough to work up a sweat even when there’s nothing tangible on my horizon pulling to toward a finish line.

For example:

  • Sleep: Exercise improves quality of sleep and helps people feel less exhausted during daytime hours.
  • Digestion: Exercise keeps everything moving and helps reduce the cramping and bloating that our processed diet inevitably brings.
  • Disease: Exercise reduces the duration and severity of colds, and longer term has major impacts on things like dementia and heart disease.
  • Stress: Exercise keeps me from getting overwhelmed at yelling at my husband, even when he’s clearly yelling at me.
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OK, fine, this is clearly also Shout.

I’m trying to remember that even when I’m not working toward a goal, exercise is a worthy endeavor, and keeping that in mind helped motivate me to pull myself out of a warm bed at 6 a.m. to run six foggy miles this morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up that motivation during the holiday season.

(And if that doesn’t work, knowing I’ll be in a bikini on an Australian beach in two weeks’ time ought to do it! Warning: said flight takes us via Hawaii, where there is a goldendoodle waiting to make up for a years’ worth of missing photo shoots. Prepare yourselves.)

How do you keep motivated when there isn’t an immediate goal on your horizon?

Categories
Training

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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Recovery sports drink
Categories
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?

Categories
Training

AG6 Review, or Working Out in Marioland 

I was raised in a strictly no video game household — at least, until the baby boy of the family asked for leniency — and I’ve mostly appreciated the fact that my childhood was spent in libraries and swingsets and pools instead of in front of a screen. Sure, I loved visiting my best friend with Sega because who can resist that delightful blue hedgehog, but I never really understood the fuss about Street Fighter and Super Mario and whatever other cultural institutions of the 90s I happened to miss.
 
So when a NYC friend suggested we try a new high-tech workout likened to stepping into a video game, I was a little skeptical. What I love about my brand of fitness is it’s undeniably low-tech: a pair of shoes, a casual run, a pacing watch only on those rare days I remembered to charge it. The idea of an electricity-fueled, LED-light studded workout seemed about as foreign to be as Saipan — a U.S. commonwealth I only learned about two weeks ago when watching Beachfront Bargain Hunt. And who says HGTV isn’t educational?
 
The high-intensity, circuit-based program didn’t exactly pull at my heartstrings, but the gym was located two blocks from my apartment and the first class was free, so I didn’t have much of an excuse. I signed up, met my friend in the lobby, and we headed up to the recently remastered studio, not knowing what we’d find.

The class, called AG6 and offered by the Upper East Side’s Asphalt Green, only began last month, and it was clear from a show of hands that we weren’t the only newbies in the room. Still, the very energetic and neon-clad instructor didn’t take it easy on us. After a quick warm up, she introduced us to the seven stations we’d be rotating through in 30 second and one minute intervals. Many were cross-fit staples (or so I believe as a person who has never actually done crossfit): burpees, box jumps, mountain climbers, ladders, etc.
 
But other exercises weren’t your regular run-of-the-mill gymnasium stuff. Two of the exercises involved bounding from one light-up floor panel to another, which would trigger a sensor and activate the next panel, keeping us on our toes and making it feel like we were in a real-live video game.
 

 
It’s hard to describe, but I felt like an honest-to-god wackamole in a blinking, Bieber-filled sweat dungeon. It was manic and challenging and nearly vomit-inducing … but it was also strangely satisfying. I finished the class despite all my body’s best efforts to fail on me, and promptly high-fived everyone I could reach. For as hard as it was, I was practically euphoric when I got home to tell my fiancé about it, and today my abs are definitely feeling the burn. (Or feeling the Hillary, as I prefer to say. 🙂

So would I take AG6 again? Not at the $35 a class price point, but if they want to entice me in with more free offers, I might not be opposed. Of course, the Yorkville location becomes significantly less attractive once I move out of the neighborhood in five short days. Asphalt Green, can you throw in a free promo code AND a free cab ride home next time? 🙂

Anyone interested in trying it out? No guarantees, but the promo code I used (code: AG6WG) came from this wonderful freebie website. As the quality folks at Fit for Free NYC described it: To get your free class, register here, scroll down and click “view all,” and add an AG6 session to your cart. Apply the promo code AG6WG to get your workout for free. The code expires on May 31st, so do it now! Shout-out to Well + Good for providing us with this awesome free code.
 
Also, note that once you get the free class, you need to sign up for a specific session, with signup starting 7 days before the actual class. It sold out fast, as one of the friends who wanted to join can attest to, so you’ll want to act decisively. Do it, video-game lovers, for Sonic!