Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spinning at The Studio

New York city is the battleground for the intense rivalry that exists between its two power-house indoor cycling studios, Soul Cycle and Flywheel Sports. Both studios have established their presence within and outside of New York, each with its own unique upper body toning sequence and additional proprietary classes (Soul Cycle has Soul Bands while Flywheel Sports has FlyBarre), and each has garnered a loyal horde of followers that support it with a cult-like devotion.

Located on the second floor of a beautiful townhouse on a tree-lined street on the Upper East side is a third spin studio, one which largely stays under the radar, simply named The Studio. The Studio has been around for a few years and I have been wanting to try it for the longest time as it's a mere 10 minute walk from my apartment. I recently had the opportunity to take a few classes there. Here are my thoughts:

Image from the Studio's website

The Space:
The Studio is owned by James Park, a former spin instructor at Equinox and Zonehampton, who is also certified in ashtanga and vinyasa yoga. The yogic influence is clear when you first walk into the studio which is permeated by a zen-like atmosphere. The actual spin studio is full of sunlight which streams in through a large window that overlooks 72nd street (see picture), something unusual from standard spin studios which are almost always in dark, windowless rooms, but nonetheless, something that I appreciated. There are 21 bikes (there are an additional 4 spin bikes on the "instructor's podium" which I am assuming are also utilized when the class is full), each compatible with Look (Delta) clips but baskets may be attached if you choose to spin with sneakers. Cycling shoes are available for rent ($5). The bikes are positioned with a good amount of space between each other so you do not feel like you are brushing elbows with your neighbor. The limited number of bikes also ensures that all bikes are 'good' and provide a clear view of your instructor.

Image from The Studio's website

The Class:
I have tried 4 different instructors thus far (James, Trish, Nicky and Maggie). All four instructors were down-to-earth, friendly, helpful with bike set-up and taught a challenging class. While I enjoyed each instructor's class, my favorite was James. James leads an inspiring class with fun music, peppered with motivational quotes to encourage you to keep going. His spin style is very old-school with plenty of hills and sprints (seated and standing), and without push-ups or oblique crunches on the bike. Again, this is something I appreciated. I am not a fan of doing push-ups or oblique crunches on the spin bike. I find it hard to position myself properly on a bike in order to perform those two exercises effectively. Anyhow, James' class is challenging but he is not pushy. The vibe is unpretentious and non-competitive. The other spinners ranged in age and level of ability and everyone seemed to be comfortably doing their own thing. A lot of the spinners in James' class appeared to be regulars and it's clear that he obviously has a following.

Classes cost $32 but decrease if you purchase a package. The changing room is small and has no lockers, just cubby holes. Towels are provided free of charge and as mentioned before spin shoes may be rented. Gel seats for the bike are available to borrow. A small boutique at the reception sells water and fitness apparel. Class sign-up may be done online but the same thing cannot be done with regards to choosing a bike, that is first-come first-served.

The Good:
1. Challenging class
2. Beautiful studio
3. Friendly and motivating instructors

The Not-so-Good:
1. Music: For me, the music is the main thing which determines which instructor's spin class I take. While the music here was good, I think energetic remixes or mash-ups and maybe even a collaboration with a DJ could bring the rides to a whole different level.
2. Bike selection: While all the bikes are good, at $32 a ride, I prefer choosing my own bike beforehand and not having to get a class too much advance to secure my bike.
3. Receptionist: Some classes I took had no receptionist and the instructor had to leave class to buzz in the late-comers. While the interruption was brief, having a receptionist would ensure the instructor would provide a seamless ride experience.
4. Time: The classes are 45 minutes long but some of the classes I took started 5 minutes late. In these cases the instructors acknowledged that fact and made up for it at the end. While this did not bother me it may be a deterrent to some.

Definitely a challenging, no-gimmicks spin class, and worth trying. With a few tweaks as far as music goes, it can add energy exponentially and be a fantastic experience. If you can only try one class try James'.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Meatloaf!

Hello all. Well, first I think I should acknowledge this glorious weather we are having. Eighty degrees is crazy! The sun is shining, the skies are clear, women have dug out their summer dresses from the depths of their closets and I have finally stripped the Bundle Me from my baby's stroller-he deserves to get some sun too! (For those without babies, see image below). While we are anticipating a few rainy days (maybe even later tonight) this weekend is supposed to give us some more stellar weather. Looking forward.

JJ Cole Bundle Me via Google Images

I am getting ready for a spin class tonight at The Studio (stay tuned for my review later this week) and so I decided to be efficient and cook dinner beforehand. I must preface this with the fact that I am one of those people who learned how to boil an egg.... last year from ...wait for it.....the internet! Yes, I was that useless in the kitchen. Thankfully, "how to boil an egg" brings up many many web entries and even a  few YouTube videos with step-by-step direction for those of us more visually-inclined!

Since having a child I have felt the need to improve my culinary skills, not just because I myself want to eat healthier but also because I want to instill healthy eating habits in my own child. I have experimented with various types of fish, dozens of vegetables and have even discovered my love for baking pies! On the menu today is a favorite of my husband and myself:  Greek Meatloaf. Disclaimer: I did obtain this recipe from the website but have made some tweaks!


1. 2 lbs ground beef
2. 1 small can of tomato paste
3. 2 tablespoons of oregano
4. 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
5. 1/2 teaspoon of salt
6. 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
7. 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
8. 2 eggs
9. 1/2 cup of crushed crackers (I used Carr's table water crackers)
9. Feta cheese (although today I used shredded mozzarella instead because I was out of feta but feta is definitely more Greek!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix ground beef, spices and tomato paste in a mixing bowl.
3. In a separate mixing bowl whisk the eggs and add the shredded crackers. Mix this into the beef mixture.
4. If using feta, mix this into the beef mixture and press into a baking pan
   (If using shredded mozzarella, as I did in copious quantity,as can be witnessed in the image below, then place the mixture into a baking pan and spread a layer of shredded cheese on the top based on how cheesy you want it to be).
5. Bake for 30 minutes, drain the oil, and then bake for another 15 minutes.

Final outcome (my version)

I took a few bites before heading out to spin class and it was de-lish! Enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

To Run or Not To Run

I have a love/hate relationship with running. I am one of those people that loves to work out. I plan my workouts at the beginning of the week and constantly mix things up with Physique 57, spin classes, sports conditioning classes and running. Admittedly, I am least excited on the days that I schedule a run. Why do I do this to myself, you may ask? A reasonable question, sure. Each time I commence a run I am constantly cursing myself out for having enforced this upon myself but after a few miles, suddenly, a shift occurs. The pain and anger turn into cool sense of euphoria. The adrenaline pumps through my body and I actually start to enjoy myself, and upon completing the run I feel absolutely phenomenal. It's as if I have conquered mind over matter-I had a goal and I persevered to achieve that goal. It is precisely that feeling that keeps me running. So much so that two years ago, I decided that I would like to run the New York City marathon once in my lifetime. 

Me (in the green) at the finish line of last week's 4-miler. Though this picture begs to differ, I promise I was feeling euphoric!
The New York Road Runners has a program where if you run 9 races with them as a NYRR member and volunteer at one race during one calendar year, you will be eligible to run the NYC marathon the following year. I have been trying to complete my 9 races for the past 2 years to no avail. Last year, I became pregnant and chose to stop running since I was not doing it regularly prior to my pregnancy. And the year before that I just got lazy. So hopefully this will be the year where I shall complete my 9 races. Last month, I enthusiastically signed up for most of the NYRR races in April and May. I ran the Scotland Run 10k two weeks ago and then  the Run for the Parks 4-miler last week. I was signed up for the NYRR 4-miler today but upon waking up bright and early this morning (much earlier than planned since baby boy is a very early morning person!) and seeing the gloomy and wet weather, I started a little "pros and cons of doing the run" in my mind. Pro: I have never run in the rain before and it will be an adventure. Con: It is cold and rainy. Pro: It will train me to be resilient and hence make be a better runner. Con: It is cold and rainy. I did this for about a half hour before the cons prevailed and I retreated back under the covers of my warm bed. Oh well, there will be other races!

My t-shirt and race number from today's race

Friday, April 22, 2011

Flybarre- a new Contender in the NYC Barre scene

Since opening its doors early last year Flywheel Sports quickly established itself as a mecca for hard-core spin enthusiasts. When I heard that Flywheel was debuting its barre class, appropriately named FlyBarre, I was highly intrigued. I am a confessed barre class junkie and utilize any opportunity I can to take one. Variations of the Lotte Berk Method, these classes differ from other conventional forms of exercise in the emphasis they place on holding your core, the controlled, repetitive, isometric movements and the fact that you are using your own body weight for resistance.

Earlier this week I called the studio to see if they had any availability in their evening classes and found myself speaking directly with Kate Bohner, the creator of the class. She inquired if it was my first class and enthusiastically welcomed me to the 530pm class she was teaching that evening. So off I went to the Flywheel studio at the Flatiron location. FlyBarre classes are currently only offered at the Flatiron location.

The FlyBarre studio is in the back of the location, past the spin studio, the shelves lined with free bottles of water, and the digitized lockers. Upon entering the mirror-lined studio, 16 settings are in place, each with a mat, a blue ball, and a resistance band hanging off the attached ballet barre. Kate came up to each student, introduced herself and asked each student their name. She then asked everyone to get a set of light weights, recommending 2 or 3 lbs. I followed her instructions and then took my place on a mat.

The class started with a typical warm up after which, I kid you not, the 55 minutes of class time whizzed by in an intense frenzy of activity. Right after the warm up we held a few plank poses and performed push-ups and then dove head-first into the first (and hardest) of the three abdominal series. In this series the abdominal work was done lying on our backs with our feet raised up to the bar. I have done a similar exercise in the advanced Physique 57 class and while it is not my favorite, if done correctly can give great results. The "dynamic arm series" was next where we stood back up, grabbed our hand weights and did a choreographed sequence of punching and jabbing arm movements. After this were three sets of back-to-back thigh sections. This was one of the most challenging part as thighs are the hardest part of a barre class and to do three sets without stopping requires some stamina! A long well-deserved stretch came next at which point I collapsed into a small heap onto the barre. It was pointless in getting too comfortable as Kate then proceeded onto the next section: gluteal work. Three more abdominal series followed, the first in a "curl" position using the resistance band stretched behind us, targeting the upper abdominals; the second, lying down with our feet on the mirrored wall while doing crunches and reaching from side to side, targeting the obliques, and the third  performed  with our legs stretched out, raising and lowering them many many times, targetting the lower abdominals. As you can see, no area was left un-worked! One final stretch and the class was over. Phew! Definitely an intensive workout. I spoke with Kate after class and she spoke about her athletic background (she was a former co-captain of the women's Lacrosse team at the University of Pennsylvania) and her "barre" and yoga training and how this class is designed to be a "barre class for athletes."

The Good:
1. The class: Fast-paced, fun, and also highly challenging. You are getting your money's worth!
2. The teacher: Kate is an enthusiastic and energetic instructor and her passion for the class she has created shines through.
3. The space: Nice, clean facility. Not too crowded as only 16 people can take class at one time.

The Not-so-Good.
1. The class: I am a creature of habit and I had a hard time following the choreography in the 'dynamic arm series,' having never done it before. I am sure I will be more proficient in it the next time around. Having said that I did feel sore in my arms the next day so we must have been doing something right.
2. The teacher: The fast-paced nature of the class made it hard for Kate to check and correct our forms as she also had to demonstrate the exercise. Perhaps future classes can have two instructors, one to demonstrate the exercise and the other to check on the forms to make sure the exercise is being properly performed.

I loved this class. I left feeling invigorated and on an endorphin-high, The next day I felt very sore! I will definitely be back and hopefully will be more coordinated next time around. FlyBarre is definitely a serious contender in the ever-burgeoning NYC barre scene so do check it out. Classes are $30 and are lower if you purchase a package.

And we're live!

Finally! My first post! This blog has been 'in the works' for months.  When you decide to create a blog, the first thing you need is a name for said blog. A name that will aptly describe the flavor of the blog and yet also be witty, smart, and original. A tall order indeed. This was the part that stumped me. For weeks I pondered over different possibilities and experimented with varying permutations of certain key words that my blog would exemplify: Mom, fitness, food and New York city. Being a late entry to the world of blogging, all of my top choices were already taken. I finally decided on "momatthebarre" as it captures two of the main themes my blog entries will be about: my adventures as a first-time mom and my passion for fitness (especially barre workouts). 

So now that the name is chosen, the domain secured, one would think that the rest would be smooth sailing, right? Not so much for someone who has not had to use the creative part of her brain for the last 10 years. The first version of my blog resembled a power-point presentation slide that would not have been out of place from my medical school days. Read: boring! Overwhelmed by font sizes, font colors, layouts and gadgets, I turned to my uber-creative and highly talented friend Naomi who gave me an art director's condensed tutorial on the dos and don'ts of a blog layout. My blog was magically transformed! So a big shout-out to Naomi!

Now that this milestone (my first post) has been reached I can relax a little and start writing about the things I am most passionate about. I plan to write posts a few times a week, hoping to inspire someone to try a new restaurant or give a new workout a shot or read a particular book. If that does not happen for you then hopefully this blog will just be entertaining enough for you to return!