Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Year in Review: Best of NYC Fitness

The fitness scene in 2011 really exploded in NYC with many new studios opening all over the city. I was lucky enough to try many new classes, including some of the best in NYC. Here are  my top 5 for this year:

Soul Bands

5.  Soul Bands class at Soul Cycle with Laurie Cole:
-Yes, I know Soul Cycle is great and all that jazz. But have you tried Soul Bands? Now that's a really fun class! The stars must have been shining down on me when I found that I was able to get into uber-popular instructor Laurie Cole's Soul Bands class (I did eventually make it to her, rather awesome, regular Soul Cycle class too afterwards but I'll leave that for a future review). Laurie = great energy and great music! This is a spin class with simultaneous upper body work, courtesy of the two sets of resistance bands. I felt almost every single upper body muscle work as I pulled down at the bands, in perfectly synchronized unison with the rest of the class. The synchrony is a trademark of a Soul Cycle class so don't bother sitting in the front row if you choose not to follow the choreography!

Figure 4. Source: NY Times

4. Figure 4 at Pure Yoga  with Kate Albarelli:
- So many barre classes hit NYC this year but Figure 4 stands out thanks to its bubbly and energetic creator Kate Albarelli. Once she steps into the studio the sweet demeanor fades and she is there to make sure you work! The class throws you off with the intense thigh work at the beginning of the class. Then are the number of repetitions. Those killed me in this class. I love the class' fast-pace and the different props Kate has added into the mix of this class, such as the Pilates magic circle. Classes now take place at both Pure Yoga locations so east-siders no longer need to make the trek across the park.

3. Flywheel Sports with Jessie Alexander/Danielle Devine (Tie):
-I have been spinning for years but taking my first Flywheel class was humbling, to say the least. Each bike has an attached monitor and the instructor informs you what resistance and speed you should be at so there's little room to cheat. Throw in some amazing remixes courtesy of Scott Melker, resident DJ, and you will have more than just a spin class. You will have an all-out experience. I have tried a few of the instructors (all of whom are excellent) but I always find that I gravitate towards either Jessie or Danielle. Each has their own particular brand of music (Jessie-hip hop; Danielle- pop with some blasts from the past) but both lead incredibly inspirational rides that push you without it ever getting annoying. I can't pick a favorite here. Love both! I have to add that my husband, who has always hated group exercise classes, is a total spin-convert thanks to Danielle, and now cannot wait for his weekly spin class!

Source: Physique 57

2. Formula 57 at Physique 57 with Chanelle Lagace/Alicia Weihl (Tie):
- Physique 57 really upped the ante with this class. The brainchild of Chanelle Lagace, this class packs the core strengthening work of Mat 57 (Physique 57's pilates class) with a more fast-paced version of the signature Physique 57 class. "Compound movements" are the theme here with each exercise hitting at least two different muscle groups. Think shoulder presses with oblique crunches and a leg extension thrown in for good measure. Both Chanelle and Alicia give the class their own unique spin so it feels like a completely different class, all the while keeping it fresh and fun. Both teach a fantastic class and so this will also be an instructor tie. Be warned: you will be sweating bucket-loads!

Refine Method. Source: Well + Good

1. Refine Method with Brynn Jinnett:
-Refine Method burst onto the scene late last year with its high-intensity circuit training classes. The anti-barre class! Despite being a barre aficionado it completely won me over and it gets my number 1 slot for the best of 2011 NYC fitness. I leave each class feeling a little bit stronger, whether it's because of those extra ten seconds I held a plank or because I substituted the heavier kettlebell for part of the lunge series. Classes are small at 12 people and that allows enough personal attention to make sure all exercises are performed correctly and without any injury. In this one short year Refine has built up a fiercely devoted following and won a New York magazine award. No small feat. All due to its innovative creator, Brynn, who is constantly improving and further honing her method.

Honorable Mentions: Warrior Fitness Bootcamp, Core Fusion Cardio, Ki Power Vinyasa Yoga 

Question: What were your favorite fitness classes this year? Any recommendations for me to hit next year?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Laduree in NYC: Macaron Heaven!

When I heard that Laduree, the famous Parisian patisserie, was opening shop a few blocks north of my apartment I was thrilled to bits! Their macarons (not to be confused with macaroons), the little cakes made by compressing two soft macaron shells with gooey ganache in between are heavenly! After trying them in Paris many years ago I have searched high and low for the perfect macaron in New York and have always felt like there's something missing.

I waltzed over to Laduree the week it opened and the line extended out of the store and onto Madison Avenue! I begrudgingly stared at all those people and decided upon Plan B: Wait a couple of weeks and come back.

I gave it more than a few weeks and went by again recently. The 12-person deep line was not as intimidating so I joined in. Fifteen minutes later I was in front of the colorful counter and making the rather difficult decision of picking flavors. One of each please?

Standards like vanilla, chocolate and pistachio were joined by the more exotic salted caramel and rose petal. So many choices! Interesting tid-bit: The macarons come in directly from Paris once every two days.

After much going back and forth I narrowed it done to eight different flavors.

The hubby and I have since been slowly nibbling our way through this box. My favorites, I have to say, were coconut and vanilla!

Question: Have you ever tried macarons? Ever been to Laduree?