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?