Thursday, August 30, 2012

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Will Run this Marathon - Yes I Will

I just realized that I have not posted since May when I wrote about getting yelled at at Soul Cycle. I was floored by all the comments I received, both on the blog and off-line. People felt very strongly, whether they were for or against the 'newbie in the front row' concept. Anyhow, loved reading all the comments!

But back to why I have been MIA. I do feel bad. I tried out a ton of great classes over the last few months, and went to a few fitness events but have not gotten around to writing about them. I will over the next few weeks but today I want to write about the three new developments in my life that have been all-consuming.

1. New Job:
In June I went back to work. Granted it's only for the summer (I still have a semester of grad school left) but I am working which means not a lot of free time galavanting around time trying fitness classes. This job is different from anything I have done before and was a little out of my comfort zone when I first started. But I'm already a few weeks into it and I'm loving it. The learning curve has been steep, the people have been amazing and it's a reminder that it's never too late to make a switch in one's career. Having said that, I am now a working mom and it is tiring. Which brings me to development number two.

2. My Child is a Toddler:
My son is now 18-months old. This means that he is constantly "discovering" things. This has involved turning on our stove, rummaging through the cleaning supply closet, or attempting to lock himself in our walk-in closet. We have survived one instance of a partial hand burn when he immersed his hand into a boiling hot cup of coffee, as well as a more recent trip to the ER after he caught his hand between the elevator door and the adjoining wall. Every day is an adventure! The weekends are a constant quest to keep him entertained. Which also means that I am exhausted. And finally...

3. The NYC Marathon:
For those of you that do not know, I will be running the marathon this Fall. I caught the running bug three years ago and decided that I really wanted to run the NYC marathon once in my life. I applied for the lottery that year and was rejected. The next year I attempted the New York road runners 9+1 program, which guarantees automatic entry for the following year. However, I got pregnant and since I was not running regularly decided to hold off it for a while. Last year I ran my 9 races, volunteered for one and now I'm in. Which is great. Except that my life is completely different now than when it was three years ago. Career, child, family-there are too many variables and I cannot plan things in advance the way I used to. Which can make training for this race challenging. I contemplated deferring it or just bowing out. But what if I regret it? A switch went off in my head and I decided that I was going to do this. I bought the Nike sportswatch to keep track of my miles and pace, an armband for my Ipod. Now all I needed was a plan. I did not want to invest time running 4-5 days/week. I love Physique 57, Refine Method and Flywheel Sports and really want the option to be able to mix them into my training plan. Dori, a blogger and runner I admire a great deal was kind enough to share her marathon training plan from which consisted of three runs a week. Works for me.

I completed week 2 of training today. It hasn't been easy. I tried setting my alarm for 530am so that I can get a run in before work and also before it gets too hot. The snooze button and I have become way too familiar and so runs have been pushed to after-work when it's a little cooler. I ran 10 miles yesterday, the most I have ever run. After 7 miles an overwhelming sense of fatigue came over me. My feet began to hurt, my calves started to cramp and my head started to pound. I remembered a tweet I read from Katherine earlier in the day: 

                                              "If it was easy everyone would do it"

And so I pushed on. Thank you, Katherine! I walked a good portion of the last mile but I did it and collapsed in a heap by the time I got home.

NYC 2012, it's on!

Question: If you have run a marathon or even a half, I would love to hear your number one training tip for first-time marathoners, be it fueling, pacing, speed training.

Monday, May 28, 2012

No Newbies in the Front Row! - Janet Fitzgerald at Soul Cycle

I've known it to happen but it had never happened to me. Until this particular class. Where I was reprimanded for being out of sync in my spin class. Let me back-track.

Janet Fitzgerald is one of Soul Cycle's most popular instructors and has a devoted following on both coasts. Her classes are booked solid so when I stumbled upon a lone front row bike in one of her classes I jumped on the chance. In hindsight I should have done my homework where I would have learned that Janet does not like first-timers to her class to sit in the front row. Regardless, I was too pumped to think twice about it.

When I got to the Tribeca studio and started bike set-up Janet came up to me and warmly introduced herself. She then introduced me to my fellow riders to my right and left. Nice gesture! After that she asked if I was going to be okay up front with the rhythm. "Sure thing, I have been spinning for years!" I replied, thinking how sweet she was for coming up and introducing herself.  Later, I realized that I was probably the only one in the front row whom she did not recognize, and so my 'newbie to Janet's class' status was plastered all over my face!

Janet Fitzgerald Source

I'm all about rhythm and I respect that if synchrony is not your forte then you shouldn't be sitting up front. In this class the pace was very fast, faster than what I was used. So yes, I was soon out of sync. Everyone's right foot had to hit the pedal at the exact moment. No exceptions. A few minutes into class and I was called out for being out of sync. My left foot was pedaling when my right foot should have. Crap. I managed to sync up but it happened again. And I was called out again. Oh dear. In my defense, I was syncing up with the person sitting next to me, not realizing he was going on his own beat. But alas, being the newbie, the focus was on me.

Nevertheless, the class was fun. Really tough. Janet is disciplined and so it makes you want to focus all your energy on the ride. The music was cool, and different from the more recent Soul classes I have taken - there was some Alanis, some heavy metal, not a lot of remixed dance tunes. There was a good amount of the upper body choreography that is typical of a Soul class. And as I mentioned above, the pace, for the majority of the class was very fast.

After class Janet told me that I needed a little bit more practice to ride up in the front. She said it with a big smile and twinkle in her eye, and it made me chuckle. A part of me was thinking, "It's JUST exercise!" But the other part of me got it. Janet's front row is the equivalent of an advanced Soul Cycle class. You have to work your way to it. It's her class and those are her rules and I respect that. Janet, I'll be back, and next time I promise I'll be in sync!

Question: Do you ever notice if the front-row riders are out of sync in a spin class? Does it affect your energy levels when the people around you in an exercise class are taking it easy?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Body By Simone: A Review

Boutique fitness studio, Body By Simone opened up late last year but I only recently read about it on a Well + Good NYC article. Intrigued, I did some research and learned that its creator, Simone de la Rue, is a former dancer from Australia who has been building up quite the fitness presence among celebrities as well as the ladies-that-lunch. She's been called the "new Tracy Anderson" because of her focus on dance-based fitness and the utilization of light hand weights, and celeb-cachet (similar to Ms Anderson).

Body By Simone is located close to the west side highway, in west Chelsea - not incredibly convenient to get to but once you see that the creator of the method looks like this it's inspiration enough to trek cross-town!


The studio is surprisingly large, considering the limited number of classes on the group fitness schedule. There is a main studio, a loft-like space lined by mirrors, and two smaller studios, one containing a number of trampolines. After observing for a few minutes it suddenly made sense why the space was so large. It is to accommodate the private clients, of which there are many. In fact, the studio caters mainly to its private clientele and I saw private classes taking place before, during and after my group class.

There is a beautiful locker room, very boudoir-red, with lockers (bring your own lock though) and showers. There are also large posters of a very fit-looking Simone and other equally fit instructors plastered all around the studio.

Dance Cardio is the studio's signature class and is the one I signed up for. My instructor was Alison, a petite blonde who is also a professional dancer. There were four other women in the class, two of whom were brand new so I was glad not to be the only newbie.

The class was 45 minutes of dance cardio, and 15-minutes of floor work targeting the arms, and abs.

The dance cardio portion consisted of many different sequences that were repeated throughout in different variations. There was a lot of jumping, skipping, foot tapping. At the same time we were doing pulling, punching and jabbing motions with the arms. We skipped with high knees, did jumping jacks, and essentially kept moving for the 45 minutes. With the exception of two short cool-downs that were embedded within the dance cardio portion of the class.


The class is very high impact, fast-paced and choreography-based. So if you have bad knees, hip injuries or do not enjoy synchronized choreography, this may not be the class for you.  For everyone else, this class will be great fun. I was drenched. I will emphasize that this class is pure cardio, a similar feeling as going for a run. I also want to emphasize that the dance sequences were repeated many times so even if you don't get it the first couple of times, you will eventually get the hang of them.

For the last 15 minutes we grabbed a mat and set of 3lb hand weights and did a short arm series followed by an abdominal curl section. I was not a fan of this section. It felt too short and left me wanting a bit more.

Overall, this class was great fun. The only issue I had was that I couldn't hear the instructor at all due to a lack of a microphone. I had my eyes glued onto her so that I could follow along, since I could not hear any of her verbal cues. This led to some frustration. I brought this upto Alison after class and she explained that the lack of a microphone is a conscious decision. The routines follow the same sequence and are repeated again and again, and most clients soon become familiar after which they follow along without any issue.

Worth checking out? Absolultely! Classes are $35 but the first class is complimentary. The schedule is currently limited but the studio expects to add more classes soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Modern Jewish-American Deli: Kutsher's Tribeca

On our most recent date night the hubby and I decided to try Kutsher's Tribeca, the newly opened outpost of the famed Kutsher's Country Club resort in the Catskills. The menu includes delectable traditional Jewish American fare albeit with a contemporary twist, such as wild halibut gefilte fish with beet and horseradish tartare. Being lovers of Jewish cuisine and always excited about restaurants with creative concepts, we headed on over.

The space is really interesting. Modern with recessed lighting and curious configurations of blond wood panels positioned around the restaurant.


Being that we were at a modern Jewish deli, we decided to start off with the charcuterie platter, aptly named the Delicatessen.

There are 6 types of meat to choose from but we decided on the Kutsher's pastrami (succulent and absolutely amazing!), the chopped liver (rich and delicious) and the smoked veal tongue (good but not as phenomenal as its other two counterparts). Served with rye bread, mustard and horseradish aioli, this is not to be missed!

We then moved on to our individual appetizers. The hubby decided on borscht but I chose to get the Pickled Herring Two Ways. One serving was dressed with pickled onions and cream, and the other with wasabi, yuzu and pepper. Suffice it to say I am still thinking about this appetizer. It was that good!

At this point we were stuffed. Which would have been fine but we had an order of the Grilled Roumanian steak to share coming up! I really wanted to save room for dessert and so I had a few nibbles of the steak before having it wrapped to go. I am not a huge fan of steak but this one was pretty special. Tender and flavorful.

The dessert was a toss-up between the chocolate babka bread pudding and the strawberry shortcake and on our server's suggestion that the latter option would be a tad lighter we chose the strawberry shortcake. We were not disappointed. It was light and fluffy served with whipped cream and a strawberry compote.

If you're looking for an upscale downtown spot with great food I highly recommend Kutsher's Tribeca!

Question: Does the modern Jewish American deli concept interest you? Would you pay $11 for a bowl of matzo ball soup?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review of Chaise 23: Home of the Reinvention Method

Chaise 23 is the latest addition to a new crop of fitness studios, which also include the likes of SLT and Pilates Proworks NY, that are modernizing classic Pilates by updating traditional Pilates apparatus, and creating a signature class around said apparatus. Lauren Piskin, the mind behind Chaise 23 ("chaise" is "chair" in French), has created a workout based around a modified Wunda chair, called the Reinvention Chair. The chair in question has a resistance pedal which adjusts to four different resistances, and is positioned directly underneath a set of "bungees" which are essentially resistance-laden overhead pulleys.

The studio's signature class is the Reinvention Chair, a high intensity cardio workout performed exclusively on the chair. Other classes include Cardio Chair, Butt-Blaster Cardio Chair, Chair Challenge and TRX. Being a bit of a cardio junkie I decided to try Cardio Chair, which was described as "combing high intensity cardio bursts with the defining characteristics of the Reinvention Chair"

Before class, my instructor and former ballerina, Sarah Taylor, gave me a run-down of the class, demonstrating some of the moves we would be doing and describing how to correctly hold the bungees. This was super helpful as it familiarized me with how to maneuver the chair and led to seamless in-class transitions.

The class was non-stop. We pulled onto the bungees for most of the class while doing lunges, wide plies, running in place and jumping jacks. A typical sequence for an exercise would involve doing some slower repetitions, followed by some fast pulsing action and then holding the position for 10 seconds. I'm a big fan of composite exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once, and this was class full of those. The class was spent partly on the floor (the cardio bursts) and partly on the chair. The chair was certainly humbling. We did one legged lunges with one foot on the chair and the other foot pushing against the pedal. Then there was the pike where he held onto the chair with our hands, both feet placed on the pedal, and hoisted our hips up into the air. Pure core strength involved here. We ended the class lying on the chair on our backs and did target abdominal work including leg lifts, teasers, and the one hundred.

The one-legged lunge. Source

I was dripping with sweat within 10 minutes of the class. Despite it being a mid-day (11am) class during the week, all spots were taken. After class I learned that they were all regulars, which is always a testament to a great class. I loved that it was a small class. Classes with equipment need to be in order for the instructor to watch over and correct form. And this class was no exception. Sarah was amazing. She gave clear instructions, radiated such positive energy and moved around gently adjusting the clients. I must talk about the music in this class, which felt like Sarah had specifically tailored to my musical taste. 80s and 90s hits galore! Think "Love Shack", " U Can't Touch This", "Walking on Sunshine." Talk about fun! When "Come on Eileen" came on it took all my strength not to break out into a dance.

Overall, I loved this class! The Cardio Chair class with its high energy cardio and solid strength training, is up there as one of my favorite of the new classes I have tried this year. And Chaise 23 will be added to my list of new favorite studios. I highly recommend checking out this studio. I, for one, cannot wait to go back!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary class from the team at Chaise 23 but was not obligated to provide a review. I was not compensated for this post. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Indulging My Sweet Tooth on the Lower East Side

The Lower East Side houses some of the most funkiest shops, most eclectic restaurants and provides some of the most interesting people-watching in the city. Sadly, I don't make it down there as much I used to anymore. Which is a shame because it is home to two phenomenal NYC bakeries.

I was in that neighborhood last week and as I was walking over to my destination I stopped in my tracks when I saw this...

Baked goods are one of my weaknesses and doughnuts are at the top of the list! Doughnut Plant keeps winning accolades for "best NYC doughnut" and in all my years of living here I had yet to stop by. Thrilled, I sauntered in...

Ah, so many choices! I went a bit overboard and picked up a two yeast doughnuts (pistachio and strawberry), two caked doughnuts (tres leches and chocolate chip cookie) and one peanut-butter and banana cream dough seed (kind of like a big doughnut hole).

Feeling quite pleased with my purchase, I decided to continue exploring the Lower east side, stopping in my tracks when I found myself facing Babycakes NYC. Yes, bakeries have that effect on me. Babycakes is another legendary NYC bakery, although this one is known to cater to vegans, in addition to creating doughnuts, cupcakes and brownies that are free of refined sugar, gluten, wheat and soy.

I picked up an agave brownie, a red velvet spelt cupcake and a vanilla sprinkle doughnut.

Let's just say I spend the weekend in a dessert-induced coma. My recommendation is to stick to the caked doughnuts at the Doughnut Plant. The caked flavors (especially tres leches) are heavenly! Also Babycakes is definitely worth the hype. I am a purist when it comes to baked goods, and sugar, butter and all that good stuff are part and parcel of the perfect cake/brownie/doughnut. I must say that Babcakes blew my mind and I will even concede in saying that my favorite of all my purchases was Babycakes vanilla sprinkle doughnut!

The indulgence continued onto this morning. I was asked my Mother's day plans on Well + Good NYC and thankfully the hubby read them. So this morning I was treated to this...

Challah French toast! Delish!

Question: What's your favorite place to buy baked goods? Have you tried Babycakes NYC?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Surfset Fitness: Riptide with Chanelle Lagace

I had so much fun at my first Surfset Fitness class that I came back home and immediately signed up for another one. This time I chose to take class with Chanelle Lagace. Chanelle is one of Physique 57's star instructors. Her classes are one of those where if you don't sign up fast enough you must endure agonizingly long wait-lists. She is always upping the ante in her workouts and so I was curious to see what tricks she had up her sleeve for a class on a surfboard.

Chanelle is the creator of Formula 57, a more advanced version of Physique 57's signature barre class with a dedicated 30-minute abdominal section, and one of my picks for the best of NYC fitness for 2011. This Surfset Fitness class was a medley of the toughest moves from Formula 57 mixed in with some even tougher new exercises.

Chanelle on the RipSurfer X

Before class started Chanelle instructed us to pick up a set of light weights. I chose a set of 3lbs weights, my standard for a Formula 57 class. You don't need anything heavier because once Chanelle is done your arms will feel like lead. We then hopped onto the surfboard and began the sequence. The RipSurfer X board is a mighty unstable beast and I had to summon every ounce of core strength to ensure that I stayed on the board for the entirety of the class. This was difficult considering we were doing pulsing lunges (many, many of these), wide-plie pulses while alternating our heels up and down, and jump squats. Yes, all on the board. There was even a balance series where we balanced on one leg while tracing a half-circle in the air with the opposite leg. We then repeated this while pulsing the standing leg. Talk about sore legs!

Once we were done with legs, I sighed a huge breath of relief. This was premature. As we then did a killer upper body section. Full form push-ups, mountain climbers, a never-ending arm series with the light weights (which really didn't feel so light!), and paddling with the weighted pulleys attached to the surfboard. Can we say sore arms?

Sufficiently spent, we then moved onto the ab section. This was similar to an ab series in Formula 57 with us doing classic Pilates moves like the Full Teaser and the One Hundred, except here we were doing these while balancing on the board on our tailbones. Sore abs. The trifecta was complete!

At the end of it I collapsed into a heap. Despite not being able to move, it had been a wickedly fun experience! The surfboard had ruled me once again. Although it was obvious that Chanelle was the reason this class had been so much fun. The lady obviously knows fitness, and knows how to push the fitness envelope. Surfset Fitness'  pop-up event at Chelsea Market is over but you can still catch Chanelle at Physique 57. In addition she's doing a 90-day Health Challenge. Details of the challenge can be found on her website.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

MPG Sport: Dance-inspired fitness apparel

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend the launch party for the new collection of MPG Sport, a new (to me) activewear company. I'm in workout clothes most of the day and so learning about new fitness brands is always of great interest to me. This event was hosted by Bianca of MizzFit, and if anyone knows fitness fashion it's MizzFit! She is a wealth of information when it comes to fitness style trends and so I knew this line was going to be something worth checking out.

MPG stands for Mondetta Performance Gear and is a Canadian-based activewear company whose creation was inspired by the owner's wife, who's a ballerina.

The line features a dizzying array of bright pinks, oranges and blues. New Yorkers need not despair-there is plenty of their ubiquitous black also!

Details like color blocking, panels and hidden zippers give the clothes a playfulness.

Comfort is always something to consider with activewear and MPG delivers on that front. I've worn my Cadence top to death and am thrilled with how comfortable and flattering it is!

Cadence top. Source
MPG does not currently have a US store but the line is available on their website as well as at select New York fitness studios including at Physique 57.

Disclaimer: I was invited to preview MPG Sport's new collection but was not obligated to provide a review. I received a gift bag at the event and was not compensated for this post. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Question: What is more important for you when purchasing fitness-wear? Comfort or Style?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Surfset Fitness: Bootcamp Surf Under The Brooklyn Bridge

Surfset Fitness is a wildly fun new way to workout. It uses the RipSurfer X, a surfboard attached atop three inflated discs. All this month Surfset Fitness has been running a pop-up studio at Chelsea Market with classes taught by popular NYC fitness instructors chosen by the team at Rate Your Burn. The roster of instructors has ranged the who's who of the NYC celebrity fitness scene, including Flywheel Sport's Holly Rilinger, Joey Gonzalez from Barry's Bootcamp and Physique 57's Chanelle Lagace. Choosing between all these phenomenal instructors was no easy feat. Ultimately I decided on Ariane Hundt and her cleverly titled "Bootcamp Surf Under the Brooklyn Bridge" class. Ariane runs the popular Brooklyn Bridge Bootcamp, a rigorous bootcamp that takes you from Manhattan, over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn and back. She came out with a DVD last year which I love, and even reviewed for Well + Good NYC, and so I really wanted to see how she would tweak her signature class by incorporating a surfboard into it.

We warmed up with jumping hacks, squats and high knees and then quickly moved onto doing step-ups on the surf board. Now, the RipSurfer X is an unstable surface so the sensation was quite different from a typical step-up, with a lot more core strength being activated. Honestly,it was much harder than I had anticipated and I literally spent the first 10 minutes maneuvering around so as to best distribute my weight over the board to prevent myself from falling off! Once I figured it out though it was incredibly fun! Ariane had us do push-ups, mountain climbers and squats on the board. We then did triceps dips while holding onto the board. For arm work we grabbed onto two pulleys that were attached to the foot of the board and used their resistance to do biceps curls, chest and shoulder presses. At one point we lay on the board on our fronts, grabbed the pulleys and "paddled." An effective way to raise one's heart rate! We ended the class with one of my favorite moves from her DVD-donkey kicks. Again, much harder when done on the RipSurfer X.

Ariane Hundt. Source

"This is going to be non-stop," Ariane had warned prior to class and she was right. I loved Ariane's style of teaching. She was enthusiastic with boundless amounts of energy, and would be motivational precisely at those moments when she sensed the class was tiring out . It was over before I knew it and I had had a blast!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Front-Row Center: Soul Cycle with Charlee Atkins

Front-row center. The most clamored-after spot in a spin studio. When I first started spinning years ago at my local Crunch, I wasted many an hour as I would jet over to the gym right after work, elbowing slow-moving pedestrians out of the way, in order to sign up for my favorite bike an hour prior to class. I would then spend the next hour leafing through a magazine while speed-walking on the treadmill, patiently waiting for my class to start.  It was a colossal waste of time.

Much time has passed and I am now much less rigid about where I sit in the spin studio. However, over the past week, I have ventured away from my comfortable spot in the back and made my way to the front. Not just front, but front-row center and I can tell you, that I kind of like it again! It is, without a doubt, the best spot. You have a clear view of the instructor. Knowing that the energy of the front-row riders disseminates through the class keeps you on track. And pedaling in front of the mirror and seeing how bad-ass you look can only make you want to push yourself harder!


This afternoon I made my way down to Union square to take a front-row center class with Charlee Atkins at Soul Cycle. Charlee is one of Soul's newer instructors but the word on the spin circuit is that she's a fierce contender for soon-to-be rock-star status. After taking this class I can see why. The girl is a petite dynamo who worked the packed room like it was nobody's business. While on the bike she was spinning as hard as she was demanding her followers to do so. When off the bike she fluidly moved around, at times dancing wildly, and at other times coming straight up to riders to individually motivate them. The collective energy in the room propelled us all on and it was no doubt that it all diffused from Charlee.

The music was great. Lots of remixes. She played some Kanye. She played the Prodigy's "Firestarter" (probably one of my all-time  favorite songs to spin to). At one point she made us sprint to Crazy Town's "Butterfly" on a double beat which gets challenging, to say the least. "It's only temporary," she championed us on, "It's always temporary." Pedaling away in Charlee's line of vision pushed me to stick to the beat. Soul Cycle is all about the beat and I certainly did not want to to disappoint her! Before I knew it class was over and I have yet another amazing instructor to somehow fit into my workout schedule.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dance Party on the Upper East Side: Soul Cycle with Danny Kopel

Ah, Soul Cycle. I have such a love/hate relationship with you. I hate that a class series expires in one month. I hate having to pay for cycling shoes every time. And most of all, I hate the ridiculously competitive Monday noon sign-up process. Why do I keep coming back then? Because I love the amazingly talented instructors. I had been hearing great things about Danny Kopel, who has amassed quite a following in the past few months. Everyone seems to be clamoring to get into his weekend dance party classes at the Union square location. This weekend he was subbing for a regular instructor up in my 'hood on the Upper east side and I was shocked that I was able to nab a front row-center bike!

 The Upper east side Soul studio is undergoing a much-needed expansion. Currently there is very little room to stand around and wait. The cramped feeling intensifies once the earlier class lets out and the later class waits around for the bikes to be cleaned. Sweaty shoulders brush past you. Shoes and jackets are being put on in the entrance. Luckily this will soon change (renovation starts this weekend) so the check-in/waiting process will be much smoother than I experienced.

UES Studio; Source

Now, Danny. What a ridiculously fun ride and what an absolute show-man. He walked in and commanded the attention of the entire room immediately with a flick of his bleached blond hair. We started the class by warming up off the bike, in second position. That caught me by surprise but I loved it. "Get in rhythm with your neighbor," he  hollered. "It's sexier that way!" I'm all about the riding to a beat and this was one fun synchronized class. Danny would get on and off his bike throughout the class, and a few times he gracefully jumped up and landed perfectly perched onto the handlebars in a swan-dive! I could not stop smiling!  The class itself was non-stop, and was a lot more challenging than the other classes I have taken at Soul Cycle. He had us sprinting, doing intervals and threw in plenty of those bike push-ups and oblique crunches. Personally I am not a fan of the bike push-ups and I don't believe I am going to get chiseled abs with those oblique crunches but in this class it did not matter. I was just having too much fun, and those moves are actually more fun if the beat is just right. I was at a dance party! Twenty minutes in and we were drenched. On seeing that Danny opened his water bottled and lightly sprayed the front row.

The music was amazing. I don't know what most of it was and a lot of it was remixed but the music was synchronized to perfection. At the end we even stretched to a beat! Also Danny kept up the dance party atmosphere by flickering the lights on and off. It worked.

 In sum, this class was wildly fun! Danny is one of the most charismatic group class instructors I have taken class with, AND he's such a sweetheart in person! Rate your Burn recently listed him as one of the most charismatic NYC spin instructors so it's not just me. I've already booked my bike with Danny for Monday while he's still subbing on the upper east side. 83rd street Soul Cycle Studio, please take note: We want more Danny!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Get Into The Groove: Madonna-themed Physique 57 class

Are you getting sick of my themed-fitness class posts yet? I promise I'll stop after this! I had no intention of writing about the Madonna-themed Physique 57 class but upon seeing Physique 57 instructor Stephanie Fagen's amazing get-up I decided that this had to be shared outside of the class!

Class was held at the Upper west side studio on 73rd and there was not an empty barre in sight. Madonna has that effect, it seems!

At the beginning of class Stephanie sauntered in channeling her inner "Desperately Seeking Susan" complete with patterned black tights, a mesh top, finger-less gloves and arm jewelry galore. The class broke into applause and the mood was set! We pulsed to 'Lucky Star", oblique-crunched to "Papa Don't Preach" but the highlight was definitely doing the "Vogue" dance while thigh dancing. The crowd went wild!


I am thrilled that themed classes are on an upward trend these days. Soul Cycle's been doing it for a while and Flywheel has started having themed rides on a regular basis (read about my two themed class experiences here and here). A recent New York Times article wrote about the recent surge in popularity of 'dance party workouts", which in a sense, is a themed class also, and also included Barry's Bootcamp and Kiwi Sweat in the ranks of studios adding special themed classes. Will this be a new trend?

Post-class group shot! Photo is courtesy Stephanie Fagen

Coming back to the class, I can't imagine a more fitting instructor than Stephanie for the Madonna-themed class. The girl is a tiny firecracker with boundless energy and a wicked sense of humor. Plus you can tell that she loves Madonna. For Madonna fans that missed this class there is another Madonna-themed Physique 57 class next week (Friday March 16th at 630pm) at the Spring Street studio.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pilates ProWorks Opens in NYC!

Pilates ProWorks is a popular San Francisco-based Pilates studio that recently opened its first New York city location. Its signature class, Pilates Pro, is taught on an updated, more versatile Pilates reformer called the FitFormer (think more pulleys and springs) and is designed to integrate both cardio and resistance training into a single one-hour session. I had tried a similar class at SLT (see my review here) and so I was excited to check this class out to see how it would differ.

The Studio: The space is bright, airy and has a cool down-town vibe. Its central location off Union square makes it easily accessible. There are two studios - one for Pilates and the other for barre classes. A wall of lockers with attached keys (always a nice touch) is present down the hall form the two main studios.

The Class: I took the Pilates Pro class a  few days after the studio's opening and so the class size was small. It suited me fine because that meant more personalized attention. My instructor and also the NYC studio's Head of Pilates, Jenn Seracuse, gave us a quick but thorough overview of the FitFormer. We then jumped straight in. The exercises were similar to the ones I had done at SLT, including lunges performed with with one leg on a moving platform (it may sound easy in principle but the core strength required for this is beyond what I expected!) and the plank-to-pike (holding onto the handlebars in a plank and rising upto a pike position-again, much harder to do with the added instability of the moving platform).

There were some differences to the class I took at SLT.  Firstly there was more actual cardio. The sets on the FitFormer were broken up by a set of jumping jacks and another set of jumping over the FitFormer's elevated platform. Also, there was some use of props including a Pilates magic circle, which we used for simultaneous inner thigh work while doing triceps dips, as well as light hand weights which we used concurrently while working our lower body. I am a big fan of compound exercises and loved how every exercise was working different parts of the body at the same time.

The Instructor: Instructors are always key to a great class and Jenn was no exception. She gave expert direction and this resulted in my seamlessly transitioning from one exercise to the next while dexterously manipulating the FitFormer accordingly. I recalled my frustration at my last encounter with this machine when  I couldn't even lift the handlebars correctly, and so I was struck by how easy Jenn made it appear. She was very hands-on with adjustments which is so important in classes with apparatus and their potential for injury.

Overall: I really enjoyed this class. It was fast-paced with fun and energetic music. The instructors (I also met Ella-who is heading up the studio's barre program) are friendly and enthusiastic. The studio has such a warm and inviting way about it. Currently the class schedule offers are Pilates Pro and Barre Pro but TRX is on the horizon also. Totally worth checking out. I know I'll be back to try the barre class! Thanks so much to Jenn for inviting me!

Disclaimer: I was invited to try a class free of charge but was not obligated to provide a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Madonna Vs Gaga ride at Flywheel Sports

One of the most fun spin classes I ever took was last year at Flywheel's inaugural Michael Jackson Vs Prince ride. Tonight's Madonna Vs Lady Gaga themed ride now joins that class in those hallowed ranks of "my most fun fitness experiences"!

When I heard the class was being taught by Alison Cohen and Ryan Makely, I knew I had to sign up. I have written about Alison before-she teaches a killer class and is such a sweetheart. I took Ryan's class for the first time last week and was instantly charmed by his positive energy, the enthusiasm he puts into his class, and our shared love for music from the 80s. He told me he was going to be Gaga to Alison's Madonna so I had a feeling they were going to dress the part. They did not disappoint!

The class was packed. There's something about the energy in these themed classes. You know that people are there because they love the music and so the collective energy really drives everyone in the room.  Alison set the mood by playing "Like A Virgin" as we filed into the room and began clipping ourselves in. A colorful disco ball rotated on the instructors podium. All my Madonna favorites (circa 80s and 90s) were played. "Like A Prayer" - check. "Holiday" -  check. "Material Girl" - check. I learned that "La Isla Bonita" is a surprisingly good "climb" song! Ryan played a great selection of the best-of-Lady Gaga.

What I loved was that even though it was a fun themed class, Alison and Ryan kept us challenged. The resistance was always high (the torq hovered in the late 20s for the majority of the ride and both instructors gently encouraged us to go higher into the 30s) and there were plenty of sprints and jumps to keep us on our toes. For the first time ever, I hit and then surpassed a total power of 300! Note: for the sake of comparison, my "power" at Flywheel usually hovers around 210. For me that's a testament to the power of music, and of course, two excellent instructors.

I know a lot of readers are Madonna fans. What's your favorite Madonna song? Are you Team Madonna or Team Gaga?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"The Physique 57 Solution" Book Event

Physique 57 is my obsession. It changed my body and instilled in me a love for exercise. Something that no other workout had done prior to that. I have followed its meteoric rise from its humble origins as a single studio with a handful of teachers to its current status with multiple studios along the coasts and over 40 teachers on their roster. The DVDs were the first step in spreading the benefits of this method beyond NYC and LA, and were soon followed-up by the sold-out retreats. Now, Physique 57 has launched its first book, The Physique 57 Solution: The Groundbreaking 2-Week Plan for a Lean, Beautiful Body.

The book is broken up into 4 parts: The Method - which describes what Physique 57 is and what differentiates it from other workouts; The Moves - which provides detailed instructions of all the exercises with pictures; The Workout - two complete whole body workouts with different exercise sequences, (complete with a suggested music playlist- nice touch!); The Menu - a 2-week meal plan with many additional, easy-to-make, healthy recipes.

I went its book-signing event at Norma Kamali's Wellness Cafe earlier this week.

The lovely Tanya Becker, the creator of Physique 57, and co-author of the book was signing copies of the book. Currently pregnant with twins, she was looking positively radiant and was a walking testament to the effectiveness of this method!

I chatted with Natasha, Physique's social media guru.

with Natasha

Physique's Director of Training, Alicia Weihl was at hand to give P57 demonstrations. Norma Kamali's Wellness Cafe provided healthy snacks: popcorn with olive oil and sea salt, along with refreshing green tea.

l-r: My friend Janice, Tanya, Alicia and myself

Not being able to make it to the earlier book launch party, I was glad I could attend this. For those in NYC, there is another book signing event at Lululemon Lincoln Square on Wednesday February 8th, from 8-9pm.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review of Stoked 360 with Kira Stokes

A few weeks ago I got a pass to check out the Reebok Sports Club/NY.  Reebok has a group class roster that includes fitness superstars like Kira Stokes, Ilaria Montagnani and Kristin McGee. Not too shabby. I chose to go on a day when Kira Stokes was teaching her signature total body conditioning class, Stoked 360.


The Gym: Gorgeous! Six floors of state-of-the-art equipment. Two Basketball courts. A pool. A running track. Cycling studio.

The Scene: The class was held in one of the 2 group exercise studios and it was packed! I chatted with some regulars as we waited outside and it's clear that Kira has a following. There were lots of regulars and it was obvious that these ladies (and a few gentlemen) came every week. In fact, there were way too many people and I constantly had to watch out for neighbors to ensure that I would not crash into them.

The Class: Required a lot of props including two sets of weights, a jump rope, a stepper, and a medicine ball. This is a total body workout and is described as "combining elements of traditional and functional conditioning, with high intensity cardiovascular intervals and body weight exercises." Compound movements are the theme here. Exercises included forward lunges with overhead presses, pushups with alternating dumb-bell rows, pushups with burpees, to name a few. Each set contained 3 exercises and sets were repeated before moving onto a new set of exersies. In between sets we had to jump rope, do jumping jacks or jog in place as Kira would demonstrate the next set of exercises. The class is high-intensity and very fast-paced. As soon as you get the hang of one set of exercises Kira has moved you onto the next set.


The Instructor: Kira pays a colossal amount of attention to form.  A couple of times she stopped the flow of the class to demonstrate what the class' overall (incorrect) form looked like and how it should be corrected. I did see her give a few individual form corrections but that is hard to do in a class as large and fast-paced as this. If you are hoping for a warm and fuzzy instructor then this is not the class for you. She's the type of instructor who wants to make sure you worked as hard as you possibly could. I was hoping to talk to her after class but she walked away from me while I was go talk to one of her regulars! Rude? Or just flaky? I will never know, but either way, not the ideal last impression I would have wanted to be left with.

Overall: Great class. 75-minutes of high-intensity cardio and strength training in a fast-paced setting. Gym classes always pack in too many people, as did this one, and it would be interesting to try a class with fewer clients just to experience the brunt of Kira's intensity. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Figure 4 Event for Mom At The Barre readers

This weekend some fellow bloggers and readers braved our first snowstorm of 2012 to make their way to Pure Yoga's east side location for a special Figure 4 class that I hosted. It was a full house with not a single open barre spot in sight!

We pulsed and plied till our thighs were shaking...

We did arm raises while in a wide plie....

Here we are doing core work on the floor as Kate demonstrates proper alignment for the exercise...

All in all, it was a resounding success and I want to thank everyone for coming. It was the first barre class ever for a lot of participants and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did! Many thanks to Pure Yoga and Kate for helping to arrange this awesome class!

with Kate

For those interested, there are a few  Hot Figure 4 workshops taking place on February 11th and March 3rd, where this class takes place in a heated room. Details are here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Complimentary Figure 4 Class on 1/21!!

Figure 4, Pure Yoga's signature barre class, was one my list of top 5 NYC workout classes for 2011. I first tried a class earlier this year at Pure's west side location as part of a Well + Good NYC event. Check out my review here.


Figure 4 is now also on the east side and the wonderful folks at Pure Yoga have offered a complimentary Figure 4 class for readers of Mom At The Barre!

Here are the Details:
Date: Saturday, January 21st, 2012
Time: 4-5pm
Location: Pure Yoga East, 203 East 86th Street (@Third Avenue), New York, NY

I can't gush about this class enough! This one will be special because the fabulous Kate Albarelli (the creator) will be teaching it! I'd love for everyone to try this great workout!

Bonus: We will be raffling off a 1-week Figure 4 pass  to one lucky class participant!

If interested please email me your full name at:

Sign-up is limited to 24 participants, and is open till Thursday January 19th,2012.

See you at the barre!

Monday, January 9, 2012

My First Intensati Experience

I have been hearing rave reviews about Intensati over the past few years. Created by Patricia Moreno, it is described as a high energy workout which fuses aerobics, martial arts, dance, yoga and strength conditioning, all performed in combination with spoken affirmations. Truth be told, the spoken affirmation aspect never appealed to me and I always shied away from trying it out. Last month, however, personal trainer and Intensati leader Jolynn Baca invited me to come and try out a new class she has created called Intensati for Mommies.

Patricia Moreno; Source

This class stems from Jolynn's passion for creating a community for moms, dads, and Intensati lovers in general. While this class has "Mommies" in its title it is open to all. In fact, at the class I attended there was even a new daddy in attendance. She has collaborated with Lucky Lil Darlings who provide childcare while the parents workout. Classes take place weekly and at the end of every month are followed by a 30-minute talk by invited guests. Acupuncturist Alyssa Proujansky, L.Ac. was present at the class I attended and she spoke about the benefits of acupuncture for increased fertility, ease of delivery and recovery. A representative from Blue Print Cleanse was also in attendance and distributed juice samples after the class.

But coming back to the actual workout. The main question I always had was whether this was a good workout or not. The verdict? Absolutely! The exercises were very aerobic. There was a lot of jumping, squatting, side shuffling, and punching, so my heart rate was elevated throughout. Spoken affirmations like "I will release the old and I will embrace the new" and "When I radiate I attract" punctuated each exercise. At first I felt odd reciting them but as I got into the swing of the class my up-tightness started to wear off a little and I started to enjoy myself. We practiced each move with its associated affirmation and then pieced the whole sequence together at the end. 

Overall, it was a lot of fun. Jolynn is a petite bundle of energy and it was precisely that energy that charged the rest of the class. As I watched her I couldn't help but think how important an instructor is for a class such as this. The goal is to integrate body and mind and create your most empowered self. You certainly cannot be shy and teach Intensati. Music choice was great. There was a good amount of instrumental music which flowed well with the exercises.

Ripley Grier Studio

Classes currently take place at the Ripley Grier Studio on the Upper west side but check out Jolynn's blog for the most up-to-date schedule. 

Dislaimer: I was not compensated for this post. I received a complimentary class and a gift bag from Jolynn Baca and samples from Blueprint Cleanse but was not obligated to provide a review

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Weekend Warrior Flywheel Sports Experience

Happy New Year all! Hope everyone had did something fun to ring in the new year! This year, like every year, I sat curled up on my couch, watched the ball drop, kissed my husband while whispering "Happy New Year" (the baby was finally asleep, hence the whispering this year), and then promptly fell asleep. I'm boring and I'll be the first to admit it.

I did start off 2012 with a bang though. The 60-minute Weekend Warrior spin class with Alison Cohen at Flywheel Sports was how I started my day today. Do you think you are a strong spinner? Well, take this class and then we'll chat! I certainly thought I was strong going in. I went in thinking that it was going to be like a regular spin class, just 15 minutes longer, and so I also dragged in my newbie spinner husband, eager to utilize that additional quarter hour to burn off those extra holiday calories.

Each bike at Flywheel has an attached torqboard that riders can use to control their resistance and speed. Alison was relentless. When she had us wind our resistance upto 30 (note: a regular class usually hovers around 20 or below) and asked us to sprint to 100 rotations per minute (close to impossible for me!) within the first few minutes I thought she was crazy and it dawned on me that I had clearly misunderstood what this class was going to be about. The name of the class couldn't be clearer. This was a spin class for warriors! For the next hour I panted and puffed my way through those endless climbs and near-impossible sprints. Once it was over though, as is always the case, I felt great. Alison was sweet beyond words and I shall be back. The best part? Alison had mini-prizes for the riders that "won" the torqboard challenge (who racked up the highest numbers) but then also gave out Luna Bars to the rest of us mere mortals! A classy touch! Was fun finally meeting fellow blogger Maggie also!

Question: Did you workout today? What was your first workout of 2012?