Physique 57 Review

I have no idea what took me so long to write this review. Maybe I just assumed it was too obvious. Maybe not talking it up was a futile attempt to keep my beloved 6:30pm classes from getting filled up. Whatever it was, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Part of the reason I write this blog is because I want to share my love of health and fitness- and hopefully inspire others to love it a little more too. Physique 57 is the kind of workout that gets you hooked. And although it’s by no means a newbie on the fitness scene, it still rocks my (grippy) socks, and deserves a shout-out on any blog I sign my name to.

Physique 57 is a barre method class with studios in both NY and LA, as well as a growing DVD series. Hopefully if I write a glowing enough review, they’ll open one in San Francisco in the near future. (HA! Look at my jokes. But seriously, please guys?) Physique has streamlined its class offerings to focus on what it does best: hardcore barre workouts offered in 4 flavors depending on experience level: Beginner, Mixed, Intermediate, and Advanced. They also offer a handful of other classes including Physique Mat (a barre/Pilates hybrid), Yoga, Formula 57 (a great class with a focus on core stability), Prenatal, and a new Cardio class that I’m dying to take. I’m going to stick to the bread and butter barre workouts here, because a) I love them, and b) I’ve taken like 500 of them so I feel like if there’s anything that I’m qualified to talk about, it’s this.

About 2 years ago I set out to get in tip top shape for my wedding. (You can never be too fit while wearing a tight white dress. Never.) My friend Christine suggested I try out her beloved studio, Physique 57. It was expensive, but I figured I could justify it as a short-term wedding expense and then go back to my dank but free basement gym in a couple of months. WRONG. I got hooked. And I’m not even a little sorry for it. Not only does it give me a fabulous workout every time, but I also leave class practically euphoric- giggly from the endorphins, great music, and satisfaction that I get from conquering round-back chair.

Ok, enough jibber jabber. Onto the workout.

Though the specific exercises performed in each class vary a little, they follow a strict formula that keeps all your major muscle groups engaged throughout the 57 minute workout. First, arms. Using 5-8 pound weights, each major arm and shoulder muscle is worked to the point of fatigue. It’s a fast and furious segment that ensures arm jiggle is a thing of the past.

No matter how strong I think I am, the thigh section of Physique 57 class murders me every time. Typically performed facing into the bar in various chair, water ski, or curtsy positions, this section is dedicated to pulsing in small movements to take your thigh muscles to the point of total decimation. Pulsing “up an inch, down an inch” is excruciating, but the personal satisfaction that comes from staying in the exercise through the entire series without breaking is really empowering. (An epic love/hate relationship…) The section ends with a sassy little exercise called thigh dancing: propped up on your shins, you use quad and core strength to pulse/dance through a 60-second burst of calorie torching. After that, you’ve definitely earned your stretch. Savor it, however brief it may be. And foam roll when you get home. Your quads will thank you.

Playground ball + foam roller = BFF

A seat workout comes next, in which various tush muscles are isolated and pulsed to the point of fatigue. This is often the segment in which I really appreciate the instructors’ corrections, as little shifts in your positioning and posture go a long way to working the correct muscle group. As with all exercise, form is critical, and can mean the difference between a super effective workout and injuring yourself. P57 instructors are really wonderful about making gentle corrections, too. They lovingly shame you into lifting your leg higher, pointing or flexing a little harder, and eliminating that last bit of bend from your knee. My personal favorite seat exercise is the pretzel. My attempt at an explanation will likely make it sound like cirque de soleil, but easy this tutorial will get you pretzel-ing like a pro.

Final push: abs, which is choreographed in 3 parts to ensure all parts of the core are hit. Part 1: you lie flat on the floor under the barre, arms holding onto opposite ends of a stretching strap, legs in the air and lifted in various toe taps, scissor kicks, and bicycle curls. This segment targets the deep lower abs. (AKA my arch nemesis since around the age of 13.) Part 2: round-back. The standard position in this exercise is with your upper back up against the wall, lower back slouched in a c-curve, arms pressed up against the bar, legs held up by your ab muscles. This position has never felt good or effective for me or my hip flexors, so I (along with nearly half of the class) perform this section flat on my back, head propped up by a playground ball, hands gripping the sides of the mat for extra core engagement. More foot shuffles, taps, and scissor kicks ensue. It doesn’t get easier over time. Sorry. Part 3: With the aid of a yoga mat, a squishy pad for lower back support, and sometimes the playground ball and stretching band, the final abs segment of class is an intense pulsing marathon made up of modified crunches, kicks and turns. Class ends with some back exercises, a few rounds of hip thrusts, and a lovely final stretch.

How the Physique 57 instructors keep a smile on their faces through the entire class is beyond me. They are upbeat, encouraging, and SERIOUSLY impressive. I don’t care about the fact that they all have careers as dancers and fitness instructors- when I’m in class I want to be as good as them.  If only there weren’t mirrors everywhere proving otherwise, I’d swear I’m almost there. (I’m not. Not even close. In fact, the woman in her third trimester next to me in a recent class put me to leg-lift shame. I should just stop talking now.)

One final note- The NYC instructors are all top notch, but I highly recommend taking classes with Lindi, Cassie, Alexander, Antonietta, and Brigitte  if you have the opportunity to do so. Also, P57 recently launched new online workouts, available on demand. I’ll miss the helpful in-person correction, but am really excited to give this a try.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, a steady rotation of a barre method class (like Physique 57), an interval/strength based workout (like Refine Method), and good old fashioned cardio (like running or elliptical-ing) makes up my exercise sweet spot. What’s yours? 

Link-Happy Friday

I thought it would be fun to share with you the few blog posts, articles, and other interweb gems that I come across over the course of the week. I’ll stick with it for a while and see how you like it.


Health & Fitness
Food and Recipes
  • I recently made Anjali’s Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup, and it made me look forward to lunchtime leftovers for days. She just revamped the recipe and I can’t wait to try it.
  • What do you do with baggies full of frozen ripe bananas? Make chocolate chip banana bread, duh. This recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie was gobbled in a day.
 Hysterical Time Waster du jour
  • For context, goats.
  • Then, this. It was sent to me from a very intelligent person with the subject line “holy amazeballs awesome.” Accurate.

One final link to share. Yesterday. Groupon’s CEO, Andrew Mason, stepped down. His goodbye email to the company was fantastic.

Happy Friday!

Life, Lately

You know when bloggers are all like “I’m so sorry for not blogging lately!”? I’m not going to do that. I think it’s silly. I am, however, excited to say that I’m back in action. I’ve missed writing. However, life, lately, has been pretty fantastic. Aside from the blog-centric ones, I’ve been rocking and rolling on my resolutions. Here’s what I’ve been up to as of late that’s distracted me from my lovely little slice of the internet.

1. I’m learning to ski. Actually, dare I say that I’ve learned how to ski. Lake Tahoe is only a 3-4 hour drive from SF, so it’s not uncommon for big groups of people to rent a ski house together for the season. It’s like the SF version of a Fire Island share house, I think.

Lake Tahoe, you’re pretty.

This being our first winter on the west coast, we carpe diem-ed the decision and went in on a share with some friends and friends-of-friends. I have also had the amazing good fortune of being married to an incredible skier with supernatural amounts of patience. So he’s been teaching me to ski, and it’s actually working! I still totally suck, but at least I can get down the blue slopes in one piece. And with the help of 800 layers, I haven’t even been that cold. Also, apres ski is the best.

Grinning like a fool because I can stay upright  long enough for a photo.

Grinning like a fool because I can stay upright long enough for a photo.

2. We officially handed in our MetroCard and bought our very first car. His name is Jasper, which totally suits him. Proper, yet handsome, like the silver fox that he is. Having a car has opened up the entire Bay Area to us. I love NYC through and through, but California is a stunning place, and Jaspie and his sidekick Google Maps have been excellent tour guides.

what a handsome devil

3. I’ve been drinking wine. Really good wine. In Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Pinch me.

I've used this photo before. Don't care. I heart it and Napa Valley.

I’ve used this Napa photo before. Don’t care. I love it.

4. I’ve been doing super California-esq things. Like ride a bike (outdoors). And eat oysters straight from the shucker-folk in Tomales Bay. And hike. And go to dinner parties at people’s homes, because it’s no longer an anomaly for people to have enough space to house a dining table.

Just a Saturday cliff-side hike. NBD.

5. I’ve traveled back to the east coast a couple of times. First, to NYC for a work/family/friends visit trip. It made me homesick, but in a good way. If that makes sense. Then, to Florida for a wedding and to visit my family. And to hang out with this backyard view. Home is the best.

Home sweet home.

You know how you’re supposed to save the top layer of your wedding cake and eat it on your one year anniversary? Well it turns out that when your wedding cake is sitting in your mom’s freezer a few thousand miles away, one year and nine months can also be the winning wedding cake anniversary date. It was still delish. Freezer burn is underrated.

Freezer burn, schmeezer burn

6. I’ve been on a quest to try out as many fitness studios and gyms in SF as possible to find a new and fun routine. 1 was meh, 3 were fine, 2 were awesome, and 1 was awful but then awesome. More to come on that. Ah, what a cliffhanger, right? :)

So that’s me. What about you? What’s new/exciting/distracting in a good way your life?

The one where I tell you my 2013 resolutions

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Quirky factoid: I don’t normally do New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I usually make my resolutions/goals/whatevers in the fall during Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It always made sense to me- because what else do you have to do while you sit in synagogue for days on end reflecting on your past year and what kind of person you want to be in the new one? It’s one of my favorite parts about being Jewish, even though I get that it’s not the norm.

This year things went a little haywire around the time of the High Holidays, since I was packing up my NYC life and moving across the country to SF. (No big deal.) So unfortunately I was more of a Frazzled Freida than an Introspective Ina during my annual attempt at meditation and didn’t quite get the resolutions job done. Now that I’m settled in my new coast, it seems like the perfect time to set some goals for the year. And (spoiler alert) since one of the goals is to be a better blogger, I’m going to start right now by writing ‘em down and publishing ‘em out.

Goal 1: (Duh.) Be a better blogger. I’m never going to be the type to post every day, but that’s fine. You really don’t want to read that many run-on sentences anyway. But I do want to be more consistent, because I actually love the writing process, I love talking about the health and fitness things I’m excited about, and most importantly, I love interacting with you. And on that note, I’ll fix up this bootleg website, because you deserve to read something that’s a bit more visually awesome.

Goal 2: Plan meals better. I’m kind of sick of cobbling together a kitchen sink salad and calling it dinner for 2. That’s fine for a day or so a week, but I want to make real meals come out of my kitchen on a regular basis. Step 1 of this was getting a Cuisinart. Nailed it. (Thanks Mom!) Next up: use it to prep foods I’ve bought in advance. I’m working on it.

Monster salad, you’re great, but I need more.

Goal 3: Figure out my gym situation. Since moving to SF I haven’t been enamored with the gyms and fitness studios that I’ve sampled thus far. (As part of Goal 1 I swear I’ll write about these soon.) That’s gotta change. The aggressive hunt for a regimen that I can be excited about is on.

TRX

TRX is on the short list.

Goal 4: Stop hating on my body. This is on my list every year. I just needs to stay as a reminder to myself and everyone who may be reading this that self-hate talk is a dumb waste of emotional energy. Keep exercising and keep your healthypantz on as much as possible. That is all.

Healdsburg

At the top of this pole is a sign that says Welcome to Healdsburg! It’s supposed to be an “I’m happy with myself and with my new city” photo. Go with me on this one.

Goal 5: Be Social! I’m in a new city and I want to keep exploring it with both new friends and dear old friends. The biggest challenge for me is to be social on weekdays, since I’m 85 years old and need my beauty rest. But I’m going to be proactive about this one, because a social Mariell is a happy Mariell. Nobody likes a crab-apple.

Linds n Mar

Did I mention that Linds moved to SF too?? SHE DID! And it’s the most fab thing ever.

Goal 6: Travel. This is a 2-part goal. Part 1 is focused on the west coast, which is AWESOME and I want to see/hike/drive/visit all of it. Northern Cali alone is going to take a long time to explore. Part 2 is the bigger travel goal: I want to go to Southeast Asia. Thailand is calling my name. I will go. And I will ride an elephant. And it will be so very cool.

My favorite vineyard in Napa. I think I should spend more time here in 2013, don’t you?

6 feels like a good round number. I feel good about these goals. I feel good in general. Reflecting is fun! Yay for the new year! I hope you’re feeling similarly.

Ok, your turn. What’s on tap for you in 2013? I’m excited to hear! Ready set go.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

Pumpkin season is over, you say? Not true, my friends. So not true. October and November are simply the months when you get to stock up on TJ’s pumpkin puree so that the baking fun can continue throughout the seasons to come. Then when there are gloomy/wintery days, you can bust out a can of orange delight and whip up something healthy and sweet and warming. Much like I did today on a rainy, chilly San Francisco day.

Enter, pumpkin oatmeal cranberry pistachio cookies. The name’s a mouthful, but a delicious mouthful.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies (yields 36 cookies)
Inspired by Lindsay’s recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 of a ripe banana
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2.5 cups oats
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • A sprinkling of salt
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries (Dried cherries are also awesome.)
  • 1/2 c (shelled, halved) pistachios (Feel free to sub with your nut of choice.)

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, mash the banana (If it’s frozen, just nuke it in a microwave safe bowl.)
  2. Mix the banana, pumpkin, eggs, applesauce and vanilla.
  3. Add the flour, oats, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Combine.
  4. Mix in the dried cranberries and pistachios.
  5. Scoop onto greased baking sheets.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

I’m pretty sure you’re going to like them.

Manicure fail. Cookie win. It evens out.

But just in case my taste test wasn’t enough, I recruited the Hubs for a super official second opinion. The verdict: 2 thumbs up. He even “suggested” that I make more when the first batch was gobbled up.  I swear it isn’t just because he loves me. But even if it is, I’ll take it. :)

Happy prolonged pumpkin season!