Monthly Archives: June 2012

FlyBarre with Kara Liotta

If you didn’t catch my post about last week’s Summer of Fitness workout, here’s a little rundown of the program: Every Tuesday in June, July, and August, LOLË and FITiST are offering free outdoor fitness classes. Each week spotlights a different (stellar) NYC fitness studio and instructor, and classes are taught outdoors in Tribeca. It’s a magical NYC thing.

Speaking of magical NYC things, walking down Pier 25, I caught a glimpse of Freedom Tower. It feels like it was so slow to go up, and then BOOM, it’s suddenly there.

It has been two days since I attended the FlyBarre workout in Hudson River Park, and my obliques are STILL. SO. SORE. Kara Liotta is no joke, man. She’s fun and upbeat, plays great music, and she loooves planks. And obliques as well, if you didn’t catch that already.

FlyBarre is a great barre method class which utilizes light weights for an upper body workout, and a ballet barre + mat for legs, tush, and ab work. The class format is very similar to other barre method classes in the city (like Core Fusion, Physique 57, Figure 4), and like the others, it has its own unique features that set it apart from the crowd. One of FlyBarre’s most unique quirks is the “dynamic arms” section which is sort of a dance routine done while holding up light weights, choreographed to a super upbeat song. The routine changes monthly, and it’s a funky little way to jam out a little while toning up. I dig, but that’s me.

While we didn’t have a ballet barre out in the park, we still had a tough workout. We started with a plank that felt like it was held for 10 minutes. Maybe it was. Likely I’m exaggerating. But it really did feel super long. (Even my friend Christine, who has abs of steel, gave me a wide-eyed look of despair during the plank- signaling that I’m not as much of a wuss as I thought.) We were given light dumbbells for the class, which we used for an arm series, then the dynamic arms dance, and THEN an oblique push. Weighted side bends get me every time, especially when they’re done in a wide plie. Makes me want to stretch just thinking about it… The rest of class flowed from an intense thigh section (lots of pulses and plies), to a seat section performed down on the floor. And then there were more abs. I quickly forgot about my burning obliques, however, when Kara cued us to “point your knees toward the Statue of Liberty and look up at the sky.” Really cool New York fitness moment.

Then, finally, my favorite part: stretching. The sun was going down, the weather was perfect, I was so in the endorphin zone. Love that.

Summer of Fitness is taking a break this week for the July 4th holiday, but will resume the following Tuesday. I’m off on my Turkey and Greece adventure tomorrow (SQUEEEE!), so will have lots of fun things to share with you upon my return. 

I hope you all have a FABULOUS week. What are your plans for the holiday week/weekend?

Summer of Fitness: Nalini Method

How cool is this? Every Tuesday in June, July, and August, LOLË and FITiST are teaming up to offer FREE outdoor fitness classes. Each week is a different NYC fitness studio and instructor, and the line-up is freaking stellar. The last meet-up was cancelled due to torrential downpour (get with the program, weather!), so this week’s workout was led by Rupa Mehta, the founder of Nalini Method. So cool!

It was a beautiful evening at Hudson River Park, and Pier 25 was the perfect setting for an outdoor workout. I mean, look at that scenery. It’s the polar opposite of claustrophobia.

Perfect backdrop for a summer workout

Did you know there’s a beach volleyball court in NYC? Tribeca has all kinds of hidden treasure

I got down to the end of the pier, where I signed my waiver and unfurled my yoga mat next to my lovely friend Vanessa. The Nalini Method is a unique workout that combines elements of yoga, pilates, and strength training. Our outdoor class was unique in that there was no barre, nor weights, nor props. Just a yoga mat and good old-fashioned body weight. Given that, I thought the class would be pretty easy. I was pretty wrong.

Rupa led us through an hour of arm lifts, plank poses, lunges, and push-ups. The Nalini Method focuses on sculpting long arms and a firm, high seat. By the end of the class, I was a believer in that promise. The workout definitely targeted my arms, abs, and tush, making me grateful for the generous amount of stretching at the end of class. Rupa’s a fireball of an instructor, and her energy made me really want to try out a “real” class at the UWS studio.

Next week’s meet-up will be led by Kara Liotta from FlyBarre. I’ve taken class with her before, so I know we’re in for a treat. Sounds like fun, right? You should join me! Did I mention it’s FREE?

Any NYC-ers want to join in the fun next time around? Tuesdays, 6:30, Pier 25 in Tribeca. Let me know if you’ll be there!

Greenmarket Strawberry Chia Jam

See these gorgeous strawberries from the greenmarket?

They were delicious. And I tried to eat them all before they took a turn for a moldy, seriously. But alas, it didn’t work. So i turned to the blogosphere for inspiration and remembered a post I’d recently read from Itz Linz about chia jam. YES!!! Here’s the easiest recipe you’ll see all day, adapted from the original recipe by Kasey at PowerCakes.

Measure out about a cup of chopped fruit. Fresh or frozen are both fine. Add 2 tbs of chia seeds and a little water (a little more if using fresh fruit).

Add in a touch of some sweetener. I used the opportunity to test out my new bottle of Stevia. I added in 8 drops, because 8 is my favorite number. (Fact: OCD makes for more fun in the kitchen. )

Microwave for 2 minutes. You can always add more chia/water to thicken/thin the jam. It won’t be beautiful at first:

Refrigerate for a few hours (I left mine overnight), and viola! Chia jam! I enjoyed/devoured mine as a post gym snack paired with peanut butter on quinoa corn cakes. Chia seeds + summer fruits go together like ramalamadingdong.

I also added some leftover jam into this morning’s overnight oats breakfast, and it was more awesome than expected. So awesome that I ate the whole thing before I stopped to think that a photo would have been nice. #oopsbloggerfail.

What are your favorite (easy) recipes involving summer fruit? 

RW Running Streak Bummer

Remember that time I committed to running at least a mile a day for 38 days? I had the best intentions. I even made an Excel chart to keep track of my days and miles. (Of course I did…) About a week into the RW Summer Running Streak, my ankles started to hurt. Though I iced, elevated, and Bengay-Zero Degree-d (thanks, Laura!), they continued to get worse rather than better. I thought to myself, “Self, this is not good.” Running had become painful rather than enjoyable, so, I gave the old ankles a rest from daily running. With a heavy heart, I even gave up my spot at the Lu-athalon since it involved running a 5k. (I can’t even describe to you how annoyed, disappointed, and generally surly I was about having to miss that workout!)

However, even after those sacrifices, the pain wouldn’t go away- it just lingered! I became aware of every step, which, for a person who walks a few miles to and from work each day, was exactly zero fun. I made a trip to Jack Rabbit and had my stride analyzed. Conclusions: Slight overpronation, but not enough to cause the hurt that I was in. So, I decided to be a big girl and go see a doctor.

It’s a funny thing when you fill out the paperwork to see a Rehabilitation Medicine specialist. Circling the itty bitty ankles on the “where does it hurt” diagram, you realize that you’re insanely lucky to be walking, let alone running, and that it could be much, much worse. (Or, perhaps I’m just getting existential in my 30s…) But anyway, back to the issue at hand.

My doctor was fabulous. (Side note: If anyone in the NYC area is looking for a recommendation for a sports medicine specialist who takes most insurance, please shoot me a message so I can give you her name.) She was hesitant to perform unnecessary x-rays or scans so as not to subject me to avoidable radiation, but did a really thorough physical exam, concluding with the following diagnosis: Slight overpronation + low arches + weak ankle/foot muscles + overuse = ankle instability and tendonitis. She wrote me a prescription for physical therapy 2x a week, and suggested that I swap some of my high impact exercise (aka running) with low impact replacements. Sigh. Could be worse, but what a bummer, man.

I’ve only just started physical therapy, and so far so good. It’s pretty educational, too. I’ve never really thought about stretching my big toe to help elongate my stride, or strengthening the miniscule lower calf muscles that attach to my inner foot, but now I’m totally focused on those bad boys. I’m looking forward to resuming my normal amount of high impact exercise soon, but for now, I’m trying oh so very hard to take it easy. I’m reuniting with the bike and the elliptical, and continuing to take pilates and barre method classes, modifying when I need to.

My goal is to be in much better shape for my Turkey and Greece vacation THAT’S COMING UP IN LESS THAN 2 WEEKS (Yes! Yes! Yes!), so I can walk and hike and play tourist to my heart’s content. I’m incredibly bummed that the RW Summer Running Streak had to be cut short, but I’m not giving up on my long term intentions to embrace running. I’ll just wait until after the physical therapist says it’s a good idea to do so. I intend to have a lot of miles left in these ankles.

How have you managed listening to your body, even when it means slowing down? I’m finding it to be a tough commitment and would love to hear others’ coping strategies. Any favorite low impact exercises?


Feelin’ Fine with Refine Method

Refine Method is one of those studios that’s been getting a huge amount of buzz of late, and I now understand why. Simply put, it’s an awesome class that leaves you in a sweaty shaky pile of endorphins every time. Refine’s original studio is located on the Upper East Side, and they recently opened a brand-spanking new second location in Union Square, which happens to be a super convenient location for me. (Yay!) Since I just finished my new client intro 8-pack of classes (a sweet little deal that ends up being $16 per class), I thought now would be a great time to write a review from the perspective of a newbie.

Refine’s downtown studio is an intimate spot, with a cozy lounge-like waiting room that doubles as a locker room. There unfortunately are not showers (though the uptown location does have them), but there are 2 private changing rooms for those of us who need to shed our suits and pencil skirts before class. (I always feel so Clark Kent/Superman-like during this change. It’s like a mad dash to get the office off of me and let the inner superhero out so she can kick some ass.) The studio itself has a U-shaped setup, where everyone has a mat that juts out from the wall space. The wall houses Refine’s secret weapon: a pulley system consisting of 2 height adjustable handles that are weighted by bungee cords of various resistances. I think the pulley system is brilliant. Not only does it allow you to target various muscles by customizing weight load and position, but it also lends itself to more fluid, challenging movements since the resistance increases in proportion to your strength, unlike the constant level of resistance that free weights provide.

The 60 minute class is built around a series of circuits that provide both strength training and cardiovascular benefits. While the exercises vary from class to class, the basic format is always the same: stretch, power section, and then multiple sets of circuits punctuated by intervals to keep the heart rate up. Class typically includes zillions of squats (really, zillions), and often uses kettle bells for additional challenges. There are targeted plank-heavy ab routines folded in there, and a deliberate lack of traditional crunches. According to Brynn Jinnett, Refine’s founder, traditional crunches performed with a rounded back are ineffective ab exercises. Her theory is that if you spend your entire day hunched over a desk (which, sadly, I do), then you need to counter that position in order to strengthen core muscles. Makes sense. (On a related note, I wholeheartedly agree with Brynn’s sentiments that abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym. But that’s a different post for a different day.)

Refine Method’s techniques are very different from other boutique fitness studios- and represent a drastic departure from barre method types of classes like Physique 57 or Core Fusion. I personally enjoy both types of workouts, and will continue to spread the love across all. However, there are a few things I really love about Refine that are different from the other studios that I frequent:

  1. Classes are not scheduled back to back each hour. Rather, there’s a zen-tastic 10 minutes or so between classes in which you can stretch, chat with the instructor, and generally ease in/out of the workout mindframe. I love that there isn’t a mad dash in or out of the studio, which is what inevitably happens when classes are scheduled on top of one another. There’s enough harried frenzy in NYC; I’d prefer to leave it out of my workouts.
  2. Refine workouts are bookended by a perfect amount of stretching. Furthermore, foam rollers live at the head of each mat, and are encouraged to be used before and after class. (Side note: I’ve now become obsessed with foam rolling- how has nobody told me about this glorious invention before?!?!)
  3. Class size is capped at 12 people, so you are always guaranteed personal attention and correction from the instructors.
  4. Speaking of instructors, Refine’s are fab. Sweet, energetic, clearly loving what they are doing, and always remember your name. Also, they take the time to personally modify exercises to accommodate injuries or sensitivities, and correct. For example, my lower back apparently has a tendency to wiggle during squats, a point which Brynn noticed during an early circuit and made a point to coach me about throughout class, as well as afterward. I was really grateful for her not letting this go unnoticed, and I’ve been cognizant of correcting my wiggly back during my workouts ever since.
  5. The weight bearing aspect of each class makes me feel so hardcore. I leave class feeling stronger each and every time.

While I love my barre method classes, I also think that variety in workouts keeps me interested, engaged, and challenged. I’m excited to have found Refine, and that its new location in Union Square will allow me to add it into my regular exercise rotation. Refine is now launching a semi-private outdoor class, ReGroup just in time for summer. My thoughts (perhaps unsurprisingly): Yes, please.

Have you tried Refine Method or a similar class? Check out these workout programs to sculpt your abs.

What are your thoughts on the crunch vs. plank debate? I continue to do both depending on my mood, but am curious as to what others do.


The Fitness Cell Personal Training

This past weekend I was invited to attend a Health and Wellness event in which The Fitness Cell, a New York City based private training gym, was offering specialty classes with their team of instructors. The Fitness Cell bills itself as ”the Upper East Side’s best-kept secret,” which may explain why I had never heard of it before. (Well, that, and I don’t visit the UES all that often.) Prior to the event, I did a little digging, and found that the fitness center offers a pretty unique spin on personal training. According to the team, “Clients work 1-on-1 with several coaches, rotating on a per-session basis to avoid stagnation and plateaus.” The workouts have a strong focus on kinesiology, and the trainers take into account clients’ abilities and goals to create a customized fitness program for them. As a person who really appreciates personal attention and correction while workout out, this sounded pretty cool. So I went. And it was.

The 2pm class was small. (Tiny, actually. There were 3 students, 2 of which were me and Hubs. Yes, I dragged him along for the ride. He had fun, for the record.) We started with a floor-based pilates series taught by The Fitness Cell’s pilates instructor Heather Culton. Though I’ve taken pilates classes in small group settings in the past, 3 on 1 was an all-together different experience. Heather asked if we were feeling each exercise in the proper muscle group, and if we weren’t she provided a modification immediately. I loved her energy and her hardcore-ness- she really made us work.

For the last 20 minutes of class, we were passed along to one of The Fitness Cell’s three founders, Larry Twohig, for a calisthenics push. Lunges, squats, jump squats, push-ups, and lots and lots of plank-based exercises were thrown at us in rapid-fire succession. We were left huffing and puffing by the end. I found myself thinking that many of the exercises we performed would be perfect for a discreet office/gym-less workout, since the only props used in the class were a chair and our own body weight. If your normal work day is anything like mine and consists of sitting followed by some more sitting, then this workout may be for you. Larry was kind enough to email me the circuit so that I could share it with you:

  • 20 chair squats
  • 20 jump squats
  • 20 push-ups (either on the floor or against a chair/desk)
  • Walking lunges across the room and back
  • 30 second plank
  • 15 “plank pointers” on each side (extend opposite arm and leg)
  • 20 burpees/squat thrusts
  • 1-legged balance deadlifts (15 per leg)

I’m a fan of the roundtable approach to fitness. I think it keeps a person engaged, and allows you to experience different styles of trainers who each have specialties in various methodologies. If you are an Upper East Sider who is looking for this type of personal training experience, you may want to check these guys out.

While I was offered a free class, I was not obligated to write about my experience at the Health & Wellness event. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Brunch at Locanda Verde

As a New Yorker who claims that brunch is her favorite meal, I’m embarrassed to admit that my first visit to Locanda Verde was this weekend. What was I thinking by not trekking over to Tribeca sooner? Clearly, I was not thinking at all. Lesson learned.

By noon on a Sunday the place was hopping. (Sidenote: Is everyone who lives in Tribeca really that good looking?) Despite all the tables being occupied and wait lines being formed at the bar, I found the service to be wonderful. Our waitress even took the time to run down the entire menu and detail which dishes could and could not be made vegetarian. It seemed like she’d gotten that question once or twice before. The menu appeared pretty pork-heavy at first glance, but it turns out that many of the dishes can be made veg with 1 or 2 easy tweaks.

sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey & burnt orange toast

We immediately ordered the item I was most excited to try, the sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast, as an appetizer for the table to share. It was as glorious as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe even better. And 100% worth the dairy consumption. (Turns out my stomach was in the mood to tolerate dairy on this particular Sunday Funday. Had I known this ahead of time, further gluttony certainly would have ensued.) As an aside, if any reader has figured out how to replicate elements of this dish, please do share!

zucchini egg white frittata

For my main, I had the zucchini frittata with roasted tomato, goat cheese and basil, made with egg whites. Nothing to complain about here. Light, fluffy, super fresh. This was pretty much the egg dish you always hope will be presented to you at brunch and seldom is. I was a happy camper, though the frittata was so big I actually couldn’t finish it on my own.

hazelnut-crusted french toast with sour cherries

Also ordered at our table was the hazelnut-crusted french toast with sour cherries and mint. Hello, decadence! I only sampled a couple of bites of this, but whoa- such an awesome flavor and texture combo with the soft bread, crunchy hazelnuts, sweet syrup, and sour cherries. I mean, look at that photo! (Embarrassingly, I’m salivating typing this. Macbook, meet drool. Drool, meet Macbook.)

breakfast stromboli

Carnivorous Hubs got the breakfast stromboli with fennel sausage, spinach, strachiatelle, and a runny egg mixed in there. He reported that there was a little more bread in this dish than he had hoped for, but then realized that’s what a stromboli is supposed to be (second lesson of the day learned). Bread notwithstanding, Hubs found the dish to be great comfort food, and the innards to be warm, tasty and indulgent.

Final thoughts: Don’t be a silly person like me; go to Locanda Verde at your earliest convenience. And please get the ricotta appetizer. It’s that incredible.

I think I need to go back immediately.

What was the last game-changing meal/dish you had- brunch or otherwise?