Monday, June 17, 2013

Pumping Iron in Paradise

As some of you know, I recently vacationed in Kauai with these fine people.
The initial crew included, in order of appearance: Joey (brother), Kat (future sister-in-law), moi, Mama bear, Jeff (stepdad), Jean (Jeff's sister), and Mike (Jean's husband). 
My muffin man, Justin, joined us halfway through the trip! 
For anyone who has been to Kauai, you know that this adventure-packed island offers lots of opportunities for physical activity. My goal was to do some type of working out everyday, however mild or intense, to combat my less-than-ideal diet while there. Even though I missed a couple days, I was pretty successful at making up for those lazy days on more active days. Rather than describe in-depth every workout I attempted, I'll give a photo-story of my attempts at "Pumping Iron in Paradise."
Saturday
Surprisingly, I convinced Joey and Kat to take a jog with me along the bay bright and early on our first day. What team players they both proved to be!
I have been wanting to try paddle-boarding for so long. The bay at our hotel provided the perfect opportunity and backdrop for this balancing act. Thankfully, I didn't get caught in the rain while out on the board (just Joey and Kat did).
Sunday
Kauai is known for their beautiful hikes. What a treat it was to see the Na'pali Coast from a birds-eye view. I would have to say that I preferred this viewing of the Na'pali Coast compared to our later boat ride around the coast in the roughest waters I've ever braved! Can you spot the members of our crew?
To diversify the hiking workout, I tried to find picturesque places to bust out some classic exercises. I found a couple great spots to pull out some sets of dips.
Dip, baby, dip!
After passing several trees, I finally found an appropriate branch to do some pull-ups. The girth (what a great word) of the branch was a little too big, though, for me to do my usual 40 reps....just kidding....like 2 sets of 5.
Tuesday
At a neighboring resort, the ladies hit the pool for a water aerobics class. Obviously, the best part was wearing webbed gloves and feeling like a frog. In all seriousness, though, the teacher was fantastic, and I thought the class was a unique way to get some cardio and strength training while staying cool in the water. Kat and I also had an exciting time going down the 2 foot slide!


Look at that form! Perfect 10.
While the wahines worked out in the water, the gentlemen played some golf at this scenic course. 
Thursday
Finally we found some turquoise waters for snorkeling! 
Unfortunately, the rip tides kept us from snorkeling. The lifeguards were not letting people swim near the reef. Instead, Justin and I braved the waves for some swimming with the sea turtles. 
Friday
On the last day, Justin and I trekked out on our own to Secret Falls. First, we kayaked out to a hiking spot. We parked our kayaks and looked for the trail. We hiked to Secret Falls, where Justin splashed around in the waterfall. At the end of the hike, we kayaked over to the beautiful Fern Grotto. And yes, as suggested by this photo, I like to kayak topless.
This gem of an excursion was Justin's favorite in Kauai! 
After reviewing my own photo-story, I think I was pretty successful staying active on vacation! I'm not sure my physical exertion actually outweighed my caloric intake, but I sure did prevent myself from feeling like a whale of a wahine! 

Acknowledgments: Thanks, mom, for an amazing trip to Kauai! Thanks, Jeff, for making us take an obscene amount of photographs; thanks again to mom for touching up all of those photographs! Thanks, Joey and Kat, for letting me third-wheel it up until Justin showed up. Thanks, Jean and Mike, for just being you! I feel so blessed to have been able to go on this wonderful vacation with such wonderful people. 

A penny for your thoughts?
  • How do you stay in shape while out of your normal routine on vacation? 
  • What other fun and physically activity excursions have you tried in exotic or tropical places?



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Mother's Day Hike!

As you may have noticed, I do lots of physical activities with my mom. This past Mother's Day was no different. She wanted to go on one of her favorite hikes. In Los Angeles (and many other places), hiking offers such an affordable outdoor activity. Depending on the actual hike and your own intensity level, you can get a great workout from this nearly free activity!
Happy Mother's Day, mom! I can't believe you even got Vic out of bed for an 8:30 am hike!
To celebrate Mother's Day, we ventured on the Temescal Canyon Loop located in Temescal Gateway Park. This hike has a special significance in our family because when I went off to UCLA for college as an undergraduate, my mom and brother would drive up many Saturday mornings to pick me up, go on the hike, and treat me to lunch. While that tradition has long passed, my mom still frequents this hike with other friends and family. Over the years, we have changed our route on this hike, but the following website gives a good description of the different trailheads and trail lengths.


Based on my past experience, I recommend going early in the morning before the crowds arrive. I also prefer to hike in slightly cooler weather (less bugs); so this hike is perfect in our Southern California "winters" or super early mornings in the summer before the fog burns off. Since this hike features a waterfall, I would suggest checking it out after we've had some rain! 
Action shot!
Strength Factor
We tend to do the hike in the opposite direction of many others (we pass by the waterfall towards the beginning rather than the end of the hike). So, in the direction we hike, you will definitely feel those leg muscles burning on the way up. Even once you pass the half-way point, you're still going up an incline. 

Stamina Factor
If you're in decent shape, semi-active, or on the younger side of the spectrum, this hike shouldn't pose a threat to you in terms of stamina. We usually take about an hour and a half to do the full loop, which includes some water breaks, an apple/nut snack sesh, and time for my mom to snap some photos. As we tackle the incline, frequent conversations, and keeping a good pace, this hike does take a little bit of endurance!
The fog was making for some interesting snapshots of the views!
Check out those clouds in the background...the ocean is under there, I swear!
Stretch Factor
There is not stretching built into this hike by any means, but I always recommend some pre- and/or post-hiking stretching of the legs. I'm not up on the latest exercise research to know whether you should preference the before or after stretching, but I usually do whatever suits the crowd. If people are using the bathroom before the hike, I'll do my stretching then. If we're standing around the cars chatting at the end of the hike, I'll do some stretching then. I've also tried a "Hiking Yoga" class in Temescal where you do the hike with a group; the instructor then leads stretching before the hike as well as incorporates some basic yoga positions at various points along the hike. You can check out their classes here:


What's the deal?
Well, the hike is technically FREE! The only cost includes $7 to park in the lots closest to the trailhead. For LA $7 parking is pretty typical, and the proceeds go towards upkeep of the park. They accept cash and checks! However, there is lots of free parking available before entering the park on Sunset Blvd. if you need a cheaper option!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

Need I say more? If, like me, one of your main goals while working out is to "have fun," I've got an energetic class with a spunky instructor you've just got to try! Whenever I need to just let loose or blow off some steam, I always head straight to "Amy's class" as my friends and I affectionally call it. Depending on what studio you visit her, "Amy's class" has a couple different names. She teaches these classes at the following studios:


Moore Dancing: Cardio Dance Studio
Hip Hop Follow Along

LA DanceFit
Rockin' the House

This class uses a similar follow-along format like Zumba but instead of those sexy Latin ballroom steps, Amy keeps us going with some booty shaking, grapevines, jumping, pony-ing, cartwheel-ing around the room, and some more traditional dance/jazz steps that I have no idea the names. Replace those salsa and cha-cha tunes with the greatest of girl power, 80's wedding songs, top 40 hits, and some classic rap songs....oh and who can forget the occasional head banging, arm flailing rock song she throws into the mix. From the very first minute of class, you will absolutely love Amy's positive energy and enthusiasm for motivating others to just dance freely and 100%. This class is definitely super fun to go to with a girlfriend! Here are my go-to dance buddies for Amy's class:

Sweat Factor
Amy's amazing class definitely emphasizes the cardio aspect of a workout. She keeps you moving for an hour straight full of running, jumping, and all sorts of dancing! My friends and I always get a good sweat on in this class, so be sure to bring your towel and plenty of water to re-hydrate. In lieu of a towel, I'm sure Amy would be a fan of bringing some sweet wrist or head sweatbands. 

Swag Factor
This class tops the charts on my swag factor. While there are moments of pure silliness in this class (e.g., running around the room "Phoebe-style" where it is perfectly acceptable to bust out a cartwheel or two), Amy mostly keeps us grinding, shaking that booty, thrusting our hips, or attempting some other sexy moves! Think Rihanna's "Rude Boy" or Prince's "Kiss."

Strength Factor
While this class doesn't focus on pumping iron, Amy does a great job of incorporating some isolations on certain muscle groups. She will get those legs burning using a series of squats and getting low on some dance moves. She also includes at least one song focusing exclusively on arms and another focusing on abs. I would say it's 50/50 whether I wake up sore the next day from her class. 

What's the deal?
The two studios offer Amy's class at different prices. I tend to find LA DanceFit more affordable than Moore Dancing, but both studios offer a wide selection of dance classes. Depending on where you live and what kinds of classes you prefer, you might find the best deal for you at either studio! Here's the breakdown:

Moore Dancing offers first-time clients their first class at just $5. After that, their prices are as follows: 

LA DanceFit offers first time clients their first class FREE! After that, their prices are as follows:

A penny for your thoughts...

  • What are your favorite girl power workouts? 
  • What kind of music gets you motivated to do great workout? 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Buff Girl on a Business Trip

Let's just be honest...it's been a while! I was overwhelmed by a series of 3 quick trips in the last month, and I definitely dropped the ball on blogging. However, my recent travels have given me some new writing material for this post: how to maintain my buff-ness while traveling. I love to travel and see new places, but I must admit that I'm always ready to come back home to my regular eating and exercise routines by the end of a business trip (or even a vacation). 

My most recent adventures (yes, I totally call business trips "adventures") have included Washington D.C., Seattle, and Palm Springs. I'd say with each trip, I focused progressively more on weaving workouts into my travel routines. While I had a lovely business meeting in Washington D.C., my body did not appreciate the 5 hour direct flight of sitting in a middle seat nor did my body approve of the one-and-a-half days of pure sitting. In addition to all that sitting, I did my fair share of eating unhealthy food and drinks. For my next conference in Seattle and my mini relax-cation in Palm Springs, I tried to treat my body a little better. I didn't succeed on all fronts, but here are my traveling tips for staying in shape while far from home: 

                            Workout before you go!
In preparation for my week of travels, I diligently worked out three days in a row prior to leaving for Seattle and Palm Springs.

                           Hit up those hotel gyms!
I ALWAYS pack my sneakers and 1 workout outfit everywhere I go; yet, there are SO many times when I fail to actually use them. However, at my Seattle conference, I vowed that I would use them at least once since they took up so much space in my carry-on luggage. My beautiful Renaissance Marriott Hotel in downtown Seattle had a penthouse gym. With views like this, I could get used to working out at hotels: 
Source
Sightsee by foot!
In addition to the gym, our hotel was (in)conveniently located about a mile from the Convention Center. When the rain was not ruining my life, I definitely got some good walking to and from my conference. Additionally, my hotel was located a good mile from this little gem of the city: 
Source
I can proudly say that I trekked those Seattle hills (reminded me of San Francisco) daily to see the sights. They gave my already-sore glutes a run for their money! 


Don't underestimate resort activities!
After Seattle, I made my way to Palm Springs for a quick girl's weekend with my mom and cousin. We stayed at a resort that offered several "activities." These activities ranged from making wine charms to making sangria in mason jars to....wait for it....poolside tai chi! While we never made it to adult arts and crafts, we woke up early to catch tai chi. It definitely wasn't a very difficult workout, but I did love the instructor's focus on breathing exercises!  

Check out the local hiking scene!
My mom is an avid hiker, and she had quite the hike in store for us atop the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Rather than sit at the pool all day as one might expect, we did a four-hour hike! Here are some of the memorable scenes of the day!


Um, yes, apparently there is snow in Palm Springs at an altitude of 9700 feet.
Amy is stoked that we finally made it to Wellman's Divide! We thought we'd never get there. I must give a shout-out to Amy's new blog, 2 Blonde Cooks and a Cookbook with her best friend/my step sister-in-law, Alex; they inspired me to post again!
Did someone say photo shoot? I'm ready for my closeup :)


Thanks, mom, for pushing us along the entire hike (despite Amy's our incessant complaining) and documenting the gorgeous scenery!

So there you have it, folks! It's totally possible to stay in shape while traveling. I'm no where near as dedicated as I'd like to be yet, but I'm trying to live up to my friend, Julie's (A Better Life with Burgers), motto of "No excuses!" 

A penny for your thoughts...
  • What sorts of workouts do you manage to squeeze into business trips or vacations?
  • How do you maintain a healthy diet while eating out in restaurants every meal?


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Feeling Momentum at "Momentum by Iron"


Last week, Paula and I took advantage of a great promotion: 1 free week of classes at Momentum by Iron. Paula was my go-to buddy to attend classes at our local dance studio because we lived in the same apartment building. Unfortunately, she recently moved to Santa Monica, and I no longer have my ride to dance classes with her. But, I promised her that I would try out some classes in her neck of the woods (and, yes, she still meets me at our old dance studio occasionally). She stumbled upon this little studio that offers dance, yoga, and other boot camp classes in Santa Monica. As much as I was dreading the traffic, it usually only took me about 22 minutes to get there even during peak traffic time (as I learned on the first day when I forgot my sneakers and had to drive all the way home to get them!).

Over the course of the week, we tried out Momentum’s Groov3 classes with 2 different instructors, cardio hip hop, and a sad attempt at a yoga class. Rather than review this studio and these classes using my traditional factor approach, I think I will go over them class by class as they each were unique experiences. I would say that overall the classes I tried would fit mostly into my Sweat Factor, but I know they offer boot camp and TRX classes that I didn't try that would surely fit into my Strength Factor.

Groov3
While looking for an innocent bystander to take our photo in front of the studio, I was shocked to run into an old friend from college. I hadn’t seen him in probably 8 years, and I definitely had to do a double take. Once I realized who he was, my stomach turned in knots as I put 2 and 2 together. We had worked together during a summer job, and he choreographed a hip hop routine for a cabaret show that we did. Crap! He’s a legit dancer coming to this “Groov3” class; I was definitely WAY more nervous about the class! He happily snapped this little photo for us:


Those nerves slowly eased as the class progressed because this community of dancers was so welcoming and chill. At the beginning of both Groov3 classes we tried, the instructors came up to introduce themselves to us, ask us our dance background, and reassure us that everyone is here to have a good time. Surrounded by former dancers, I still felt somewhat uneasy at times, and we had to do what I dread most…divide the room in half and dance in front of the other half of the class – barf! Aside from the knots in my stomach from time to time, I really enjoyed the dance environment…the choreography was appropriate for multiple levels as it was open-ended enough to let the real dancers add their own flare and simple enough that my uncoordinated self could at least manage to hit most of the moves. I looked like a stiff, uptight, nervous robot doing it…but hey at least I was able to get through it!

Added bonus: they usually have a live DJ who provides the music for the class! I had never taken a class with a live DJ, and that made the dance environment all the more exciting.

My only gripe with the Groov3 classes were that they did not stick to their schedule too closely. Both classes started 15-20 minutes late, and if I were to make a habit of going, I would plan accordingly. It already can be such a hassle to drive in LA traffic to make it to a class, so when the studio doesn’t follow the schedule, I don’t appreciate feeling like I could have stayed at work a half hour longer or feeling bad because my boyfriend had dinner ready on the table a half hour before I came home since the class ran over.

Cardio Hip Hop
While I did enjoy the unique experience of Groov3, I would have to say that I enjoyed this class the most at Momentum. The instructor, Ginger, who was injured and not feeling well…showed up on time, pushed us hard in the conditioning warm-up, and gave us such fun choreography with great Top 40 hits to give us a sweaty, strength building workout. She provided us with interesting conditioning exercises I had never done that left my arms and core sore the next morning. My favorite part of her dance choreography was that she would repeat each move 2 to 4x…this was perfect for me because sometimes I miss the transitions or forget the next move, but the repetition made sure I smoothly made it through the entire routine even when I missed a beat (which is like every other beat).

Power Flow Yoga
I was super excited to try out this class because I was missing yoga for the past few weeks. You know I was determined to get this yoga workout because I woke up at 6:10 am after going to bed after midnight the night before. For those of you who do not know me personally, I usually get to bed around 10 pm to comfortably wake up at 6:30 or 7 am. I know, it’s ridiculous. I’m just stocking up on my sleep while I’m pre-children and enjoying the flexible student schedule! Anyhow, Paula and I show up bright-eyed and chipper (one of us more than the other, I won’t say who) right as the class should be beginning around 7:15 am. We’re chatting and met the other student trying to take the class. Lo and behold, now it’s 7:35 am. Paula is getting antsy because she has to be at work by 9ish. Finally the instructor arrives around 7:40 am, and on top of being late, she declares that she must end class by 8:10 am because there is somewhere else she needed to be. She promised to give us a good workout in 30 minutes, and I must say that did not happen. I didn’t feel like I got stretched or worked out at all. Waking up at 6:10 am and then making it to school later than I had wanted without even getting a workout….I felt incredibly gipped. In addition, the teacher wasn’t even that nice or apologetic about the whole debacle of a class.  

What’s the deal?
As I mentioned before, Momentum by Iron offers 1 week free of classes. I took four classes divided by $0 is exactly $0 per class. Especially if you live or work in the area, I would recommend trying out these classes at that price. Just go to www.momentumbyiron.com and fill out this form to earn your week of free classes!
Source
Individual class prices range from about $13 to $17 per class depending on the package you purchase. I'm also attaching the exact package prices below.
Source

All and all, I'd have to say my momentum from taking classes at "Momentum" ebbed and flowed. Different classes were better than others, and different aspects of each class were better than others. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fitness Fashion on a Budget


As easy, peasy, lemon squeezy that I thought attending new workout classes every week would be, turns out that's not so simple. I had good intentions of starting a boot camp or aerial arts package, but I just never worked it into my schedule. Despite my failure to attend an exciting new class, I still managed to do some decent workouts. Here's what I pulled out:

     Monday: 45-minute Nike Training Club workout courtesy of my iPhone app
     Tuesday: 30-minute Pyramid Workout in the park courtesy of 
     Julie @ A Better Life with Burgers
     Wednesday: 30-minute stretch sesh' to ease the pain of my sore legs
     Thursday: 60-minute dance class
     Sunday: Walk (and cartwheels) in the park and golfing at the range
From these workouts, you can see 2 fabulous outlets for staying in shape on a budget: iPhone apps and other fitness blogs. Based on recommendations from friends, I have tried Nike Training Club, I Map My Run, and My Fitness Pal. These were all free apps that at various times have motivated me to focus on my health. Secondly, I'm still branching out to read new fitness blogs, but I can always count on Julie's A Better Life with Burgers to detail some challenging in-home workouts. 

As promised last week, though, the rest of this post will be about finding cute workout clothes...on a budget of course! Last weekend, I went on a little shopping spree with Julie. We both wanted some new workout clothes to spruce up our wardrobes. In particular, as the days are getting warmer and longer, I really wanted some more knee or calf-length workout leggings. I already have 2 full length workout leggings: LuLuLemon and Gap Body....and 2 shorter leggings: Avia and Old Navy, which now that I'm writing all this down seems like a lot. However, I can go through all of those in 1 week, especially when you factor in that we do laundry about once every 3 weeks!


I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. I LOVE coming home with new clothes, but I hate that I can never afford everything I want! Historically, I tend to shop either alone (terrible idea), with my mom, or with my boyfriend. Let's just say I'm entirely too indecisive to ever be trusted to shop alone. Then, I have the competing ideas of my mother and my boyfriend like the iconic angel or devil on my shoulder whether they're with me or not.

Mom: Do you really need that? Only buy that if you absolutely love it!
Justin: Stay focused. Come on, let's go. Yeah, that looks good. Buy 2 of them so we don't have to come back here anymore.

So Julie brings me to TJ Maxx, and I'm thinking, "Great! Stuff is cheap there..." True, but not when you try to buy 25 things. The woman in the dressing room had to give me some jinky, hand-written "16" items to bring with me in the fitting room. It was so fun watching her count the items on the way in....and out. Trust me. Then, Julie is a terrible influence when it comes to saving money, "Jenn, you should totally get that dress, tennis skirt, and highlighter yellow tank!" 

Thankfully, I came home to my voice of reason (sometimes) boyfriend who helped me decide what to return! He often reminds me to focus while shopping, and since I lost sight of that without him, I am returning the extra impulse buys. At the end of the trip, I scored 2 new spandex leggings (mission accomplished) and 2 new flowy tops (and a super cute knit, mesh sweater not featured below). 

The bill: 
Kyodan leggings with pink accents: $19.99
Avia leggings with purple accents: $14.99
Marika flowy workout tops: $9.99 each
Looking good while working out: Priceless

My boyfriend and I tried to capture the magic of my new workout clothes in the park. Here are some highlights:
I know what you're thinking, "Why is her left bicep so much smaller than her right?" I'm working on it, people! Focus on the cute pink waistband of these pants!
Notice more cute little pink accents on the calf of the leggings! 
I wasn't lying about those cartwheels.
Yes, you caught me, I tried color-coordinating with the flowers behind me.
I wore this last outfit golfing today, and it was super comfortable! I already have $14.99 Avia pants that I've had for over a year, and I'm still loving them. So I know I will be happy with those. I'm looking forward to wearing the other items to some dance classes this week. My guidelines for purchasing workout clothes:
  1. Leggings should not be see-through.
  2. Leggings should not cut off my circulation.
  3. Leggings should be sleek and not bunch up...anywhere.
  4. Workout shirts must be sleeveless (even short sleeves make me claustrophobic).
  5. Workout shirts should be breathable.
That's all she wrote! You'll be the first to know if any of my fitness fashion items on a budget let me down! Until next week, keep that booty movin' and a groovin'.

A penny for your thoughts...
  • What are your favorite workout leggings? Seriously, I want to know what they are, why you love them, and where you bought them! 
  • Where are your favorite places to buy workout clothes?
  • Do you like to buy cute, new workout clothes or use old clothes you don't like anymore? My workout wardrobe is a mix of both! 



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Barre Class? I Just Prefer the Bar


I’ve been avoiding writing about the series of barre classes that I tried for 2 straight weeks…I almost bumped it again to next week because I went on a fun, bargain-hunting shopping spree for workout clothes this weekend, and I really would much rather blog about cute fitness clothes (including photos from my personal fashion show). Oh well, you all have that to look forward to next weekend. Get excited.

Alas! I must write about these barre classes while they are fresh in my mind. I took my last class in my 3-pack series this week, and the memory of the workout will surely whither away with another week. I bring up this avoidance because I think it really signals that I just wasn’t too jazz-ed about these classes. In the past, there has been such a buzz surrounding barre workouts. I tried one a couple years ago, and I really disliked it. However, I’m all about 2nd chances, and I bought a Groupon for 3 barre classes at Pop Physique for $29.

So what are these barre classes all about? As a seasoned veteran of many types of workout classes, I thought that barre workouts really fused together elements from pilates, yoga, and ballet. All of the quick repetitions of the exercises were done simultaneously with short exhalations that reminded me of mat pilates classes. Between the quick repetitions of exercises, we often cooled down in yoga poses such as child’s pose, downward dog, spinal twists, happy baby, or planks. Much to my dismay that I lack personal experience doing ballet, the exercises at the barre and doing splits align with my vision of things that happen in ballet. This fusion has the potential to create an effective workout, but overall these barre classes did not meet my high bar.

On a positive note, I will say that the studio I tried out, Pop Physique, has done an excellent job of branding themselves into their own fitness entity. Anytime I see this butt in scrunchy underwear, I think of Pop Physique (or a creepy American Apparel billboard). 

Butt seriously, this marketing logo bewilders me. Is this what I should wear to class? Underwear that scrunches up my butt crack with sweat wristbands? Or is this what I should pose in my before and after barre photos? I’m not really sure. They are clearly marketing primarily to women…once women inquire into their studio, they are also targeting women with some mula. As you’ll read below, I don’t think Pop Physique passes my cost-benefit analysis, but it must for lots of women as this chain seems to be growing!

Strength Factor
I would say that barre workouts primarily build strength through their quick bursts of repetitive exercises that focus on the various parts of the body. At Pop Physique, the classes seemed to start with some planks for abs and exercises using lightweight dumbbell for arms. Then, we would move to the bar for an ounce of stretching and tons of exercises focusing on legs and butt. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced my legs uncontrollably shaking quite so much. I figured this was partly due to the new kinds of exercises, and the teacher reassured me that it’s “good” if my legs are shaking. I get that to a certain point, but I felt like I was having a seizure on the lower half of my body. After the exercises at the barre, we rounded out the class with another burst of abs, which were super awkward positions. I expected to be trying new things, but typically I can naturally ease into whatever the teacher directs since I’ve been to so many classes before….not the case here! For me, aside from the shaky legs, I felt like as soon as I was starting to feel my muscles get a little tired, the exercise would be over, and we’d move on. However, right when my muscles start to fatigue slightly, that’s when I would like someone to push me a little harder. That’s why I pay to take a class: to have that extra external push when I would likely give up at home.

Soreness Factor
Even though I didn’t feel like I was pushed as hard as I would have liked in terms of strength, I did wake up sore the following day after my first two classes. However, my body must have already started adapting to this new workout because I did not get the morning-after soreness after my 3rd class.

Stretch Factor
I think I had higher expectations for the stretch factor since I had always assumed that barre workouts stemmed somewhat from ballet, and all ballerinas I know are freaking flexible! The stretches we did were super short, and therefore I felt like I couldn’t fully sink into any particular stretch (e.g., folding over raised leg on ballet barre, splits, happy baby).

Sweat Factor
Because of the format of the class, I did not get sweaty at all. There would be quick bursts of repetitive exercises, then a cool down stretch, rinse, and repeat. As soon as I would start to heat up, we would cool down. I could actually just cruise into work after that class because I really did not get sweaty or gross.

What’s the deal?
Source
Um what’s that you see in the background? It’s missing the scrunchy butt underwear, but do you see their branding in full effect again?!

As you can see the regular prices at this particular barre studio range from  $20 for drop-in and $180 for 10 one-hour classes. Being on a budget, if I’m going to pay $20 for a one-hour workout, that workout better kick my butt (in or out of scrunchy butt underwear)!! These barre classes did not cut it for me, especially because this workout would need to be heavily supplemented with other stretching and cardio activities.

A penny for your thoughts…
  • How would you describe barre classes?
  • What are some of the strengths of barre classes?
  • What other studios have you tried barre classes?
  • Do you think I should give barre workouts another chance?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Better Life on a Bike: Spinning @ SoulCycle


Hello there! I’m Julie, author of A Better Life with Burgers. I’m thrilled to be guest posting on Jenn’s amazing new blog.

Our main hobbies are eating, drinking, and working out together.
Last weekend, our mutual friend Fay came into town for a quick visit and invited us to join her at SoulCycle, an innovative spin class only available in LA and New York. I hadn’t heard of it until Fay’s invitation, but the website’s description is:
Each SoulCycle ride delivers an intense FULL-BODY workout with a fun and energizing atmosphere. Not only do riders burn calories and get their hearts pumping, but using the SoulCycle® Method, riders also work their core and use hand weights to tone their upper bodies. In all of our studios, we ensure that SoulCyclists are treated to the country's best instructors and staff, trained to deliver unique services and personal attention to all levels of riders.
We called ahead to reserve our spots (we had to create an online account first) and to ensure that we got the beginner discount. Normally, the classes are around $30, but first-timers can try for $15. We were even able to choose our bike location (the woman I spoke with on the phone suggested either the third or fourth row for a newbie, and I chose the back). Luckily, on the phone, we could even request to be next to each other.


The best part about signing up ahead of time was that we didn’t have to stress about fighting for a seat. A lot of the time when I take yoga or dance classes, I find it awkward to figure out where to put my mat or where to stand. Perhaps this isn’t a problem for you, but I may or may not be the world’s most insecure person at new fitness classes. But this way, I walked in and found my bike number with no problem.

Okay, so upon arrival we checked in at the desk and the incredibly friendly ladies behind the counter helped us out with shoes (you have to wear the clip-in kind, which feel like cleats but are actually nothing like cleats—first-timers get shoes for free; otherwise the shoes are $3 or you can bring your own) and offered us water. (You get free Smartwater if you don’t bring your own—although if they notice you have your own they won’t give you a bottle. Perhaps that justifies the $30 per class price tag?) The studio also provided lockers, showers, towels during class, and gum.

Gum?

Yeah, I thought that was so strange. But a TON of other people were chewing gum, so I thought I’d give it a try. Honestly, it had absolutely no impact on my workout, so I still don’t get it, but hey, free gum.

Before class, we chatted with one of the regulars and asked him what to expect. He just said we would have a lot of fun. Okay! We were still nervous as the previous class poured out of the room dripping sweat.

The room was tiny, hot, and still humid from the last group of riders. The bikes filled almost every corner of the room, and the back row, raised on a platform, didn’t really allow us to hide our newness too successfully. Thank goodness the girl next to me was experienced and told me how to clip my shoes in and how to lower the seat. Jenn, however, could NOT get her shoes clipped in for the first few minutes! We were definitely a little frustrated about the quick turnover time between classes, because we didn’t have a chance to ask the instructor for help. Once Jenn’s feet were secure, though, we were off!

The class was 45 minutes of loud, energetic music (oh! SoulCycle also provides ear plugs to tone down the volume), sprints, hills, and what I call butt-off-the-bike riding (I’m sure there’s a technical term, like standing, but I’ll claim ignorance here). Our instructor, who actually teaches in New York regularly, was gorgeous, entertaining, and super into it—what more can I ask of an instructor? At first, she was head-banging to the music, and we were nervous that she expected us to follow; thankfully, no.

Class ended with some light arm work with one- or two-pound weights while still moving our legs. It was perfect for a little fatigue and to make me feel like I got a full-body workout. And I sweat A LOT, but I feel as though a significant portion of the sweat was sauna-induced. Like hot yoga, but for biking.

Post-class sweatiness...sexy!
In general, I really liked the high-energy atmosphere and the instructor’s pacing; I felt the class moved quickly and kept me engaged. But I wish that the workout had been a little more intense. Next time, I would know that I can push myself a little harder to get my heart rate up more and feel more of a burn in my legs. Then again, at $30 per class, I’m not sure there will be a next time. It was good, but perhaps not $30 good.

The guy we spoke to who said it was his sixth class in a week would beg to differ, however, so you should at least check it out. There are studios in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Brentwood (the one we went to), and New York. Also, SoulCycle has several new studios opening soon, including two in the Bay Area!

Look at how adventurous she is...riding a spinning bike with out her feet clipped into the pedals!
I plan to continue joining Jenn on her fitness adventures, so I like to think that you might be hearing from me again soon. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll stop by my little blog sometime for healthy recipes, fun workouts, and stories about Jenn. Have a great week!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Heaven on Earth: Stretching on the Shore

I was all geared up to write about the barre classes I've been taking for the past week, but then I had an incredible experience working out with my mom yesterday. After a full week of barre workouts and dance classes, my body was aching! I really didn't feel like waking up early and driving down South to my mom's neck of the woods for a yoga class on the beach, but I'm so glad I made the extra effort. We stepped out of the car and onto the sandy beach...
"This is heaven on earth!" the yoga teacher exclaimed.
Um, hello natural beauty. To make matters even better, within the first five minutes of sitting on the beach, we saw multiple dolphins leaping out of the water and several sea birds diving into the ocean looking for their morning meal. And check...my day was already made as I absolutely adore dolphins.* 


Natural beauty meets me, another natural beauty...
especially in the early morning hours with dark glowing circles under my eyes.
Stretch Factor
Yoga on the Beach with Sue started much like other yoga classes with focusing on our breathing. I had flashbacks to my primal yoga class where Liz always begins class telling us to breathe deeply in and out through the nose making that ocean sound; it has never felt so natural to make that ocean sound with the waves crashing into the shore right in front of me. We began class sitting cross-legged, which felt effortless to sit up straight as the wind was blowing on my back almost supporting my posture. The class had a slow pace at the beginning as we moved through several stretches, but anyone who lives in a beach town can attest...life just moves slower on the beach. With my achy muscles and my affinity for the glorious sunshine, I just reveled in the deep stretching. 

Shavanasa Factor
As you can already tell by my flowery description, I clearly was feeling relaxed and at peace during this entire yoga class. At one point, I remember arching back into Reverse Warrior 2 and just feeling the sun beating down on my closed eyelids. Along these same lines, it was absolutely stunning to do a sun salutation with the rising sun. When you open your chest and offer your heart up to the universe (I don't usually talk like that, but this is what yoga teachers always seem to be saying), there was just an undeniable spiritual connection with nature underneath the gorgeous blue sky with perfectly placed clouds. These are sensations that can never be fully experienced within the walls of a yoga studio.
I wish I could bring my aspiring and talented photographer mother 
with me to all of my workout adventures!
Support Factor
During one of the spinal twists, I gazed behind us noticing that we were practically on a private beach. Even though it was a gorgeous morning, the only other people out and about were those choosing their own beach workouts. There were volleyball players on a sand court; there were people walking and biking down the strand; there were runners dashing along the shore. What an inspiring ambience between the natural beauty and the invisible support felt from the others who chose to start their day in a similar way. 

Satisfaction Factor
Clearly, I was super satisfied, but you may ask, "Was there anything you didn't like about this experience?!" Not really, but there were some challenging aspects about practicing yoga on the beach. While the wind was helpful in making me sit up straight at times, it definitely provided an element of challenge during any of the poses that require balancing such as Tree Pose or Warrior 3. Thankfully, the sand where we were practicing had just been driven over by a ginormous truck, but again certain balancing poses were difficult with sand underneath your feet rather than a hardwood floor.

What's the deal?
Sue teaches her fantastic beach yoga almost every Saturday in Hermosa Beach (you can sign up on her e-mail listing for exact dates: yogabysue@aol.com). The class lasts between 1 hour and 15 minutes up to 1 hour and a half for only $10! 

A penny for your thoughts...
As you have probably noticed, I'm all about spicing up my yoga routine. Perhaps you don't live in a warm climate and can't take advantage of beautiful sunny days for yoga on the beach in the middle of the winter. Keep your eyes and ears open, though, for other unique places to try out yoga. Maybe you have to wait until the summer, but I've heard of people trying yoga in local parks, in yoga clothing stores, or on the roofs of hotels! 
  • What are other cool places you've tried yoga?
  • What are other active workouts you can try on the beach?
  • What are other workouts that make you one with nature?



*My Aunt Michele still loves to tell this story about my obsession with dolphins...I am blessed with an aunt who loves to travel (and better yet, take us with her on her travels), and she promised each of her nieces and nephews a 16-year-old birthday trip anywhere in the world. Most of them chose to go to some far-off place in Europe, but I was all about the tropical getaway. I chose to go on a Caribbean cruise. When picking out our excursions, I immediately selected "Swimming with Dolphins" in Curacao, which coincidentally was the most expensive excursion. My aunt wasn't so thrilled about the price tag, but I begged, "Aunt Michele, this is a lifelong dream of mine to swim with the dolphins" (ever since I saw the Stefanie and Michelle doing it on Full House). To which she responded, "Jennifer, I've talked with you multiple times a week since you could talk, and I've never heard you mention this so-called 'lifelong dream.'" But Aunt Michele, always wanting to make her nieces and nephews happy, obviously splurged, and we did it! She also learned that when you swim with the dolphins, you don't ride them like a horse :)

The priceless face of a teenage girl living out one of her lifelong dreams circa 2004. Thanks, Aunt Michele!