Posts filed under ‘It’s A Group Thing’

Unsavory

Bikram yoga posesHot yoga and running are alike in so many ways. They can make you feel like you’re dying. They make you leak sweat like a faulty garden hose. They cause you to seriously reconsider the Mexican food you had for dinner the night before. And when you’re smack in the middle of doing them, it can take all of your will not to puke on yourself.

The way you feel at the end is always worth it. But this isn’t one of those inspirational posts. This is really just about how, a few minutes into my Bikram yoga class this morning, I had to mind-over-matter it hard core when I realized that someone around me smelled like fried onions and garlic.

The offenders

You guys know what I’m talking about. You get a whiff of it when you’re sitting next to a stranger on the bus or when someone’s standing too close to you in the grocery store check-out line. It’s not the fresh, savory bouquet that wafts out from the kitchen when you’re visiting your favorite Italian restaurant. It’s the stale odor that you first smelled lingering in your elderly Aunt Trudy’s curtains and upholstery. It’s a smell that has notes of body odor and airless rooms. It’s a smell of good stuff gone wrong. I’m so sensitive to it that I make a point of keeping the windows in our very small apartment wide open and the fans going while I’m cooking.

Anyway, that’s what was making its way into my nostrils at approximately 6:25 this morning, as I was trying to get into standing-head-to-knee pose. Keep in mind that Bikram yoga is practiced in a room that’s heated to a humid 105 degrees Farenheit and filled with people—if something stinks, it has to compete with about 300 other foul smells for dominance. This one had eaten its Wheaties.

I know that one of yoga’s biggest tenets is to just accept what is—especially if it’s annoying—and persevere without letting it affect you. Let’s just say that this morning, I wasn’t the best yogi I could be. As we moved through the sequence of poses, I furtively tried to sniff my hair, my hands, my clothing. Nothing. Sure that I was in the clear, I darted quick glances around the room at my classmates, trying to narrow down who the culprit might be.

I was fairly certain the stinker was the chick a row ahead of me with all of her hair gathered in a tight topknot. I mentally focused my disgust on her. By the time we finished the standing poses, I was having a hard time. I was tired. I was a little dehydrated. And this smell was killing me. No one else seemed bothered, but I was unable to concentrate on anything other than not wretching. Some enlightenment, eh?

Then we moved to the floor, where I realized the terrible truth: THE STINKER WAS ME. My towel, which I’d brought from home to cover my mat, smelled like someone’s grandma’s housecoat. And in a sickening flash I realized that the towel had been hanging up to dry in our bathroom—our windowless bathroom!—when I was making vegetarian mole over the weekend. I was mortified. It was like that old horror story when the heroine realizes that the threatening calls are coming from inside the house!

The second half of a Bikram class is spent on the floor, much of it with your belly to the mat. That means I repeatedly had to face-plant myself into the very odor I’d angrily pinned on my fellow yoga-goers moments before. For about 45 minutes.

Did I mention it was really humid?

And that, friends, is karma.

Kulae yoga towel

My chariot to funkytown

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March 7, 2012 at 11:16 pm Leave a comment

Haul you need is love

I was raised in a family that celebrated every holiday it could. I suspect that comes, in part, from the fact that Momma Buns is the queen of many things, including finding the perfect paper goods for any occasion — on sale — at Party City. As my sister and I grew up, she put that talent to the test as often as possible. I remember waking up to find that Momma Buns had decorated the kitchen with red foil hearts and made pancakes (a rare treat on a school morning). Other years, I remember her sitting with me while I scrawled my classmates’ names on Snoopy Valentine’s cards, or my whole family passing gifts wrapped in pink tissue paper around the dinner table. (As I grew older, mine was usually a romantic comedy or super-weeper newly out on video. Untamed Heart, anyone?)

So even though I know that many people think Valentine’s Day is manufactured, romantic silliness, for me, it brings to mind really great celebrations of the deep affection my family and I have for each other. So I love it. And I love you guys. In the spirit of that love-fest— even though the actual holiday was yesterday — I’m going to unabashedly share some fitness-related stuff (plus a few randoms) that makes my heart sing. Cool?

“Golden Years” by David Bowie

I first heard it in the movie A Knight’s Tale, which makes me uncool. But my adoration of choreographed dance scenes already makes me uncool, so whatever. Now, the song is on my running playlist—and it’s very useful as a workday afternoon mood-booster, too.

Love Your Muscles with Crunch

Love Your Muscles logoI joined Crunch gym just after I started my job in New York two years ago. Aside from the convenient locations (one near my job, another near my apartment) and really great classes (Marc Santa Maria’s Monday night hip-hop and Dave Norfleet’s iRide Spinning are FANTASTIC), the vibe there is a little bit funkier and more accepting than many other New York gyms I’ve visited. The gym’s motto, after all, is No Judgments. This month, they’re holding workshops and offering training specials to raise money for Augie’s Quest, a Muscular Dystrophy Association initiative to find a cure for the degenerative muscle disease ALS. This month, the gym will give Augie’s Quest $5 for every new membership and $10 for every new personal training package. “Love Your Muscles” refers to the signs they put your name on when you donate: You can choose a muscle you love — I picked the heart — and your name goes up alongside a cute cartoon drawing of that muscle. If you’re interested in more information or want to donate, go here.

Savasana

Toward the end of every yoga class, the instructor asks everyone to lay on their backs, heels together, toes flopped apart, arms by their sides, palms open. Sometimes our eyes are open; often, they’re closed. We lay in this position, known as savasana (suh-VAH-snah) or “corpse pose”, and relax everything. Sounds like sleeping, you say. It’s seriously close, but so much better. Often, the  poses right before savasana are challenging, and laying down and focusing only on breathing and relaxing seems like a reward. In Bikram yoga, sometimes the only thing that gets me through a rough class is the thought of how sweet the savasana will be at the end. I lay on my mat and think about how the ground is supporting me, holding me up, and how I don’t have to do anything except find little snarls of tension in my body and then let them go. Even if you’re not into yoga, try giving yourself a few minutes of motionless chill-out time after a tough workout sometime. It’s pretty awesome.

Puma’s Dizzy Barrel Bag

When my old gym bag bit it, I tried to make do with tote bags and backpacks and the like. No good. I resisted buying a new one because I didn’t want something huge and clunky, but I needed something big enough to fit a change of clothes, my sneakers, and toys like my interval timer, my iPod, a magazine, my weight gloves, etc. Behold, Puma’s Dizzy Barrel Bag. It’s pretty great, kind of stylish, and (right now) on sale! Gym bag woes, cured.

Puma Dizzy Barrel Bag

So cute, right?

I’d love to hear what gets your heart pumping, too. Gadgets and gear? Workouts? Instructors? Personal accomplishments? Something completely unrelated to fitness but awesome nonetheless? Tell us about it in the comments section. 

February 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

So, that was my Saturday . . .

I accidentally signed up for two fitness events on the same day planned a huge day of fitness fun this past Saturday, starting with New York Road Runners’ Fitness Body, Mind, Spirit Games in Central Park. As Steph and I were walking along Central Park West to the race, a couple in an old-school sedan pulled up alongside us and asked for directions to 67th and Madison. I crouched down next to the car and told them how they were going to cross Central Park at the 72nd Street transverse. They asked if there were any bridges to go under. Only then did I realize what they were towing behind them.

As it turns out, I was giving directions to Harry and Barbara, two members of the Waterloo German Band, who had driven their car and freaking awesome float all the way from Illinois to Manhattan for this year’s German-American Steuben Parade. (Check them out in action; pretty impressive.) Once I routed the couple around the park — and away from any low-hanging overpasses — they thanked me. As then as we were walking away, they honked, beckoned me back, and very sweetly asked me to mail some postcards for them. Why the heck not? They had literally hauled a larger-than-life cuckoo clock replica behind them across six states; it was the least I could do.

Much later in the day, Steph and I were lamenting the fact that we hadn’t taken a picture of the float before the clock rolled away. As we were telling Mr. Haul Buns (or, The Artist Formerly Known as The Fiancé Formerly Known as The Boyfriend—whichever you prefer, because I’m fairly certain he doesn’t prefer either) about our day, I pulled out the postcards to show him and bam! They were Waterloo German Band postcards! Harry and Barbara, you guys rock — mostly because your cards proved to the skeptical Mr. HB that the float actually WAS festooned with a stuffed deer head.

Anyway, after our Good Samaritan stint, Steph and I ran the Fitness 4-miler. The Biggest Loser‘s Bob Harper was there on behalf of Quaker, and TBL‘s season 11 winner Olivia Ward and her sister and teammate, Hannah Curlee, were on hand to cheer for all of the runners. Steph got thisclose to meeting Bob, but his press person scuttled him away from fans just before the start of the race. This photo is all we have to remember our almost-encounter with The Blonde One.

Maybe he ran away from us because I was yelling, "Believe in yourself, trust the process, change forever!"

Happy with our times, and with me gingerly nursing the knee I’d scraped when I took a header getting into the start corral — sigh — Steph and I took the 2 train down to South Street Seaport for Women’s Health magazine’s Are You Game?

This pretty awesome day of (relatively) free group fitness classes and swag giveaways was so much fun. TBL‘s season 11 trainer Cara Castronuova was there to teach a boxing class; during a Q&A, she told us all that women should be able to throw a nice, clean punch. Seems like good advice.

(Photo: Stephanie Pinsdorf)

 

Though we got shut out of a few classes because we hadn’t reserved spots (a definite must for next year), we took part in two really great sessions: Rock Yoga, a vinyasa class set to songs like Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience” and Aerosmith’s “Dream On” — it shouldn’t have worked, but it totally did — and La Blast, a cardio ballroom class developed by Dancing with the Stars’ pro Louis Van Amstel. Amstel was even there to teach the class; from the moment he told us to shake our boobs and think with our pelvic regions, I knew I’d have a pretty great time. Afterward, Steph and I weren’t about to let this blonde, male reality TV personality get away without taking a photo with us.

Harper, this coulda been you.

September 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Spinning Tunes

To be a good instructor, you have to take classes. It keeps you fit, it gives you great ideas that you can steal use for inspiration, and it opens you up to ways that other instructors communicate with clients. I took a great Spinning class last week in New York, and I have to thank the teacher for kicking my butt hard-core (and for giving me a few notions about this playlist and how to teach to it). Enjoy!

1. Hurt (Deeper-Mindset Tight Mix) — Christina Aguilera (7:04)

2. Commander (feat. David Guetta) — Kelly Rowland (3:38)

3. Born This Way — Lady GaGa (4:20)

4. Lose Yourself — Eminem (5:21)

5. Keep Hope Alive — The Crystal Method (6:12)

6. Mr. Brightside — The Killers (3:54)

7. Forget You — Cee Lo Green (3:43)

8. My Life Would Suck Without You — Kelly Clarkson (3:32)

9. Teenage Love Affair — Alicia Keys (3:10)

10. Thank U — Alanis Morissette (4:18)

11. Marry Me — Train (3:25)

February 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Spinning Tunes

If the time change is making you groggy, this playlist may be the kick you need to get you out the door. My classes this week did a lot of sore-buns, in-the-saddle riding to these songs. Good work, everyone! It should be noted that The Fiancé went to France in the spring and downloaded the Edward Maya tune right after he got back—it was on the radio 24/7 there. Now that Maya’s got a hit in the U.S., as well, TF has deemed himself a talented arbiter of pop hits. I’ll let you know what he comes up with next.

  1. Take My Picture — Filter (6:03)
  2. Firework — Katy Perry (3:47)
  3. Take It Off — Ke$ha (3:35)
  4. Hot Tottie — Usher (feat. Jay-Z) (4:59)
  5. Love and Wonder — DJ Earworm (5:50)
  6. Human — The Killers (4:05)
  7. This Is My Life — Edward Maya (3:49)
  8. Paper Planes — M.I.A. (3:23)
  9. Last Nite — The Strokes (3:13)
  10. Hallelujah — Justin Timberlake (feat. Charlie Sexton) (4:15)

November 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm Leave a comment

Does this mean every instructor is going to start screaming at me?

The American College of Sports Medicine recently released its annual forecast of workout trends: Boot camps are big, Pilates is passé. Read more here.

In the piece, a Pilates studio owner says that money is a huge factor.

“Pilates is perceived as more expensive than bootcamp,”  Lara Hudson, owner of the Mercury Fitness Pilates studio in San Francisco, California, told Reuters. “In this tough economy people look for less expensive workouts.”

Do you think she’s right? How much does cost affect your workout routine?

November 10, 2010 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

It doesn’t have to suck, people

Yeah, not so much.

On Tuesday, I tried out a new-to-me yoga studio in the Flatiron Distrcit of Manhattan. The place I’d been practicing, Laughing Lotus, was great. But my month-long card expired there, and I got a deal on a month of unlimited classes at this new joint, so I switched.

The minute I walked in, I wasn’t sure I liked the vibe of the place. It felt kind of corporate. Everyone was speaking in hushed tones. And a quick glance at the ladies clustered in the corner and sipping tea as they waited for the 7:15 vinyasa class gave me pause; they were near-carbon copies of each other, right down to their lean torsos, bored expressions, white tank tops and black Lululemon pants. I seriously thought there might have been a dress-code notice I’d missed. I only relaxed a little bit when some equally toned and joyless-looking individuals showed up. At least their shirts were different colors.

I know you’re supposed to leave all of your preconceived notions outside the door, but dude, these chicks freaked me out a little. As the class progressed, it became clear that many of them had quite lovely yoga practices. They could bend themselves into pretty little pretzels, seemingly with ease. But no one seemed excited about it.

The teacher was very good. The poses were challenging. I don’t know what was up; I don’t pretend to know what everyone else in the class was thinking or feeling, but it just didn’t seem like my classmates were having any kind of fun whatsoever. The only moment of levity I witnessed took place when I completely fell out of a side plank after grabbing my right big toe with my right hand and trying to extend both toward the ceiling. I landed on my mat and lamely said, “Well, that went well.” The chick to my left smiled.

It was a lot like the gym I worked out at in graduate school, a gorgeous facility populated by incredibly thin, incredibly fit women (and men). The women especially worked out with an intensity that was a little scary. I took a class at that gym a few weeks ago; the women were still thin, their faces still dead-set on wringing every last calorie out of their movements.

I much prefer the feel of places like Laughing Lotus, Feminine Fitness, and the New York Sports Club I teach at in Butler. There, you find people of all different body types and sizes who are trying to make something positive happen in their lives. They have varying degrees of success, but they show up and they try, and they usually have a good time.

I witnessed the same thing yesterday, when I volunteered at the New York City Marathon expo. My job was to greet people at the entrance and point them in the right direction. I talked with new runners and old runners, thin runners and fat runners, tall runners and short runners and in-between runners. Without fail, they were excited to be there and to be part of something so huge. I wished them a good run on Sunday, and they thanked me with huge grins — even the people who said they were freaked beyond belief.

I’ll keep going back to the new yoga place, at least for the month. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m not asking for much, but don’t you think there’s something to be said for enthusiasm?

After all, is there anyone who WON’T be pulling for Chilean miner Edison Pena at this Sunday’s marathon?

Vaya!

November 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm Leave a comment

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