Sunday, January 27, 2013

Embrace Your Inner Warrior: Primal Yoga

I first stumbled upon Liz at a Mixed Martial Arts studio close to my old apartment that I lived in during my first year of graduate school. The studio advertised yoga classes in the window, and even though I was never that much of a yoga fan, my roommate and I couldn't resist the walking-distance, affordable yoga classes! I have immense respect for all of the yogis in the world, but the few classes I had tried in college were just entirely too slow and cheesy. After taking many more yoga classes now, I can say confidently that my former dislike of "yoga" was more a reflection of the "instructors" and my own limited understanding of personal "practice." With that said, Liz definitely flipped my notion of what "yoga" meant entirely on its head, figuratively and literally! 

Liz has taken her diverse experiences and created Primal Yoga. While the foundation of her classes includes the more traditional yoga poses, she also incorporates several different kinds of martial arts. As I myself have earned a black belt in tae kwon do, Liz's blend of yoga and martial arts piqued my interest from the get-go. As hypothesized (forgive me, I'm a researcher, and sometimes I talk like that), Liz's classes definitely give me the healthy dose of challenges that can create an unbelievably positive energy on even my worst days. This class challenges my mind, as Liz constantly incorporates different transitions between poses and completely revamps traditional yoga flows from time to time. This class challenges my muscles, as they are shaking in the strenuous warrior poses, kicks, horse stances, and balancing acts. This class challenges my stamina, as Liz pushes you hard for an entire 90 minutes (hey, that's long even for this Buff Girl)! This class challenges me to take risks, as she often offers playful headstands, handstands, or other crazy arm balances that I'm still far away from achieving.

I recently visited Liz at one of the studios she teaches, The Yoga Collective. I purchased an AmazonLocal deal for this studio for unlimited yoga classes for 1 month for $25. I'm hoping to go at least six times during the month (~ 6 times for $25 averages out to $4.17 per class). Be on the lookout for when I review some other classes offered at this studio in the near future!

Sweat Factor
During my most recent visit to Liz's Primal Yoga class, I realized I'm not the only fan of Liz and her style of yoga. The class was jam-packed, and let's just say we were all a hot, sweaty mess within the first 20 minutes of her 90-minute class. From a combination of the room temperature, number of warm bodies, and the intense workout, I have NEVER sweat as much as I sweat in this class...EVER. I may or may not have soaked through 2 sports bras and a tank top. [I'm guessing your next logical thought is, "Why was she wearing 2 sports bras?" No, my friends, not because I need the extra support, but because both of those sports bras are the flimsiest and thinnest sports bras ever made. Once I get more into product reviews, this issue will be discussed in much further detail!] Even though I do not usually associate yoga with being a cardio workout, Liz adds little bursts of cardio into our practice with series of kicks, punches, animal moves (I know you're curious; you'll just have to try her class and hope she does them that day!), or other inventive moves. For all of these reasons, Liz's Primal Yoga tops the charts on Sweat Factor.

Strength Factor
As the title of this post suggests, I always feel like a warrior by the end of this class. Even though I still can't do some of the poses or moves that Liz teaches in class, I can't help but feel strong and powerful when we go through all of the ninja-esque moves. We are throwing punches; we are dodging from the opponent; we are releasing strong blocks; we are launching kicks; we are even launching upside-down for handstands and matter what your current strength level, this class will definitely boost your Strength Factor! 

Stretch Factor
"Wait a second, Buff Girl. I thought you were talking about a yoga class. How come you haven't even discussed the Stretch Factor??" I bet you're all thinking. Well, guess what? During and after all that intensity, you'll get to chill out in some happy baby and pigeon as well! I guess Liz's class is sort of a trifecta of all of my factors. You get a little bit (usually quite a lot actually) of everything. Through the typical yoga twists, balances, warriors, and Liz's amazing ability to help move your body deeper into the stretches, I usually leave this class a little more Gumby-like than when I walked in. Ha, that is quite an image I've conjured up here...a sweaty, strong as steel, yet pliable Gumby Buff Girl leaving the studio. 

What's the deal?
I've already told you the deal I secured for The Yoga Collective on AmazonLocal deals. You can keep your eyes out for more deals on any of the popular online discount websites for studios that offer Liz's unbeatable Primal Yoga class. 

I picked up this handy flier on the way out of class the other day that shows the promotions for new clients at The Yoga Collective. As you can see, they offer some deals for new students, and on top of that, their regular class packages are quite affordable if you want to continue practicing in this yoga studio. 

A penny for your thoughts?
  • What other interesting twists on yoga have you tried? 
  • What's your favorite aspect of yoga?
  • How do you keep your yoga practice sacred (personally meaningful) and/or spicy (making it new and different)?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Zumba: Hips Don't Lie

As promised, my first few posts will be about some of my favorite classes that I already attend. Don't worry, though, these classes have fab deals to get you in the door for your first time, and the dynamic teachers and classes will keep you coming back for more! 

Where better to start than one of the trendiest workouts these days...Zumba! Whether you live in a big city or a small suburb, I'm sure you've heard some hype about the high energy workout of Zumba (hopefully more than just the Zumba scandal in Maine). You may have heard about it when your gym started offering Zumba classes; you may have seen an intriguing infomercial; or you may have heard about it from your peppy friend who always seems do be doing something exciting in life. Seriously, though, if you haven’t heard of Zumba, you must be living under a rock. I’d consider putting up a video of me doing Zumba, but as this is only my 2nd post, I don’t think we’re on that level yet. Oddly enough, I first heard about Zumba in a statistics class from one of my classmates.

As you all know from my first post, I’m a workout class junkie. My classmates didn’t need to do much convincing for me to hop on board the Zumba train, but they still did, “Oh, it’s so fun! Our teacher, Wil, is amazing. You will probably be terrible at it your first few times, but you have to keep coming! First class is free…” Obviously, that last line had me completely sold, and I experienced my first Zumba class with Wil, who now teaches at LA DanceFit. Little did I know that I would be spoiled with my very first taste of this fun dance workout.

Sweat Factor
Zumba with Wil definitely rates highly on my Sweat Factor. While I would never go running for an hour straight, Wil keeps my booty and hips moving for an hour straight. What's great about Wil's class is that he does a fantastic mix of the Latin steps interspersed with some high intensity hip hop moves. With that combination, he has a great playlist of songs that include the more Latin-y flare as well as some Top 40 hits. 

Stretch Factor
Generally speaking, stretching is not a major focus of Zumba. In most of his classes, Wil either starts and/or ends with some basic stretching. This stretching might include some forward bends, lunges, pliƩs, or side stretches. To increase the stretch factor, I try to arrive early and stretch a little in the back of the studio or round out my workout with some stretching at home after the class. Since my body is already warmed up after the class, the latter strategy usually works better.

Swag Factor
On one of my favorite shows, So You Think You Can Dance, a judge once observed one of the contestants, "You don't just dance. You have to dance." Maybe those weren't the exact words, but I feel that this sentiment directly applies to Wil. He was born to dance. Even the simplest or most basic of moves, he has such animation and tons of swag. While I look no where near as good as him when I'm following along in class (because unfortunately and much unlike Shakira, my hips do lie), for those of you with the "moves like Jagger," you will definitely enjoy the high Swag Factor this class offers!

What's the deal?
Wil offers his swag-tastic Zumba class at LA DanceFit multiple times a week. I started going to LA DanceFit on a Groupon that included 4 classes for $29 ($7.25 per class...not too shabby for my budget!). I've seen this studio on Groupon multiple times; so keep your eyes peeled if you're interested!

If you can't wait for another Groupon...there's still hope! Like several other local dance studios, LA DanceFit offers a first class free promotion to new clients. I live for these first class free offers because a.) I’m frugal and b.) it makes my blind date with a daring new class much less intimidating. If I have a terrible time on this blind date, at least I don't have to pay the bill at the end of it. If you end up falling in love with Wil's class (or some other great class selections at this studio), the prices for class packages at this studio are very affordable, especially for the West Side. Check their website for their specific prices! 

And there's more...they offer free classes of the month for people who have a class package. So you may have a 10-pack of classes, which equates to $13 per class, but if you take advantage of the free classes of the month (usually a couple offered each month), you could potentially drop that $13 per class even lower!

A penny for your thoughts?
  • Have you tried out Zumba here or somewhere else? What was your experience like?
  • What do you love about Zumba?
  • What do you think is missing from this workout?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Buff Girl on a Budget

On New Year’s Day, as my boyfriend and I were driving to one of my best friend’s home for a spontaneous dinner date, I noticed a sign hanging in the window on a second floor storefront that read, “Free Yoga Classes for 1 Week!” I casually mentioned to my boyfriend, “You know, with all the free classes studios offer, I could probably take only free or discounted workout classes for the next year and write a blog about it.” And so it began.

Welcome to my blog, Buff Girl on a Budget! My name is Jenn, and I’m a self-acclaimed buff girl; although, my coworker (and dear friend) will attest to my freakish strength as she once saw me bend a solid copper key in half with the mere touch of my delicate hand. Sure, some dude who is twice my size will probably beat me in an arm wrestle challenge, but for my size, I’m freakishly strong. I’m also a self-acclaimed and ridiculously proud Buff girl because I hail from Buffalo, NY. Because I’m currently a poor, starving graduate student, I’m ALWAYS on a budget. Ok, I’m not really poor or starving. I live in West LA and order an organic farmbox to be delivered each week to my doorstep. I will have you know, though, that the farmbox is in the yearly budget! And so I diverge.

I’m just going to be honest from the beginning: I’m a workout class junkie. I’ve had this conversation over and over (and over) again with friends, family, coworkers, classmates:

Friend: Oh, what are you up to tonight?
Me: I’m going to an aerial arts class.
Friend: Aw that sounds so cool* and unique and such a great workout. You’re so good about exercising.
Me: You should try it. It’s the best workout I’ve ever had, and classes are mixed levels.
Friend: Yeah, it sounds fun. How much is it?
Me: $25** for a 2 hour class.
Friend (jaw dropping, gasp): Wow! That’s really expensive.

Yeah, $25 a pop sounds pricey, but then I always need to go into my spiel about how we all go out in LA and pay $12 for a drink. After 1 round of drinks for you and a friend, which you probably down in half hour or less, you’ve already reached the price of my “expensive” class, liquored yourself up to need to buy multiple more drinks, and consumed useless calories rather than burn them. Don’t get me wrong; I love me a nice $12 drink, but don’t judge me for paying to workout if it gets me working out! I firmly believe that our health is something that is worth spending money on, hence the organic farmbox and the workout classes on a graduate student budget no less.

This blog is about finding a workout routine and possibly a new workout home from something that is already a personal hobby for me. I started taking regular workout classes when I graduated from college (the first time). I was working at my first full-time job; my college friends had moved away; I moved back home with my mom; I had just broken up with the college boyfriend. Let’s be real, I had lots of spare time and needed something to do in lieu of an actual social life (don’t worry my social life soon returned to it’s booming nature in no time). I found a local dance studio that was offering an “All You Can Dance Weekend” for $15. I had no friends or boyfriend to swindle into doing this “Dance Day” with me, so my amazing younger brother came with me to the studio for the Saturday classes to try breakdancing and hip hop. The next day, I went back solo to try out jazz, krump, and two aerial arts classes. That’s 6 one-hour classes for $15 for an average of $2.50. You can’t beat that! Even if you add in the fact that I had to pay for my brother’s classes as well, I paid $30 for 8 classes for a whopping $3.75 per class. In Los Angeles, people, that’s an absolute steal for anything. Let’s just say that jazz and krump didn’t really work out for me, but I discovered one love of my adult life: aerial arts*.

I continued going to this studio for about a month when I realized, I’m terrible at dancing. I have no rhythm nor do I look as sexy as the teacher doing any of the moves. I blame my mother for not putting me in dance classes when I was younger (because that obviously makes you look sexier when you take dance classes as an adult). Just kidding, mom, I know you probably saw me trying to dance as a toddler and knew right away, there wasn’t a future in dance for me. Thankfully, there were piano lessons, voice lessons, softball, tae kwon do, and whatnot to keep me distracted from realizing my lack of physical coordination until adulthood. Alas, I worked out at this dance studio for about a year thanks to their amazing introductory aerial arts classes in tissu and hoop. Then, I moved on to taking classes at another hot workout spot that focuses exclusively on aerial arts for the next year. Since I was working full-time and living rent-free with my mother at the time, I wasn’t as “on a budget” as I am now. After the initial “All You Can Dance Weekend,” I paid full price for classes for about 2 years, but once I became very busy and resources became more scarce during graduate school, I started be-bopping around to any and every studio that offered a promo on an appealing workout.

From this latter strategy on working out, I’ve been to quite the array of places including dance, yoga, pilates, and aerial arts studios. When I tell you workout classes on a budget is my hobby, in numbers, I mean that I’ve been to about 20 different studios in less than 4 years! I’d say I’ve become quite an expert in finding great workout classes on a budget (hopefully my “expertise” will inspire some grain of confidence in my abilities to keep you reading). So, how will this blog work? I’m going to detail my adventures out in the world of your everyday workout class junkie. My first posts will be about some of the classes and studios I regularly attend. These places do have discounts and promos (if anyone wants to check them out), and these teachers are some of my standouts that help get me motivated to workout! After I get myself situated in the world of blogging over the next couple weeks, I will start on my goal of trying out as many new workout places in LA “on a budget.” I hope this blog becomes a forum for discussing ideas about what kinds of traditional and trendy workouts (e.g., aerial arts, barre, spinning, crossfit) actually work you out and in what ways, some examples of studios to try out these methods for local readers, and anything else that comes up along the way such as the ideal workout leggings (ideal = not see-through among other things) or where to buy the cute new sneakers everyone in your zumba class is wearing. Trust me, looking good while working out improves results***.

*This typically comes after the “What the heck is that?” comment. For those of you who don’t know what an aerial arts class is, fear not, you will learn about it on this blog. If you’re daring enough to venture out and find an aerial class to try out, you will also discover tons of muscles in your body that you never even knew existed.

**The price has recently gone up which makes jaws drops even farther and louder gasps (it can actually be kind of uncomfortable listening to people’s reactions in public sometimes), but it’s still worth every penny (and a pretty good deal relative to the competition).

***Disclaimer: I haven’t actually done any research on this exact topic, but anecdotally it makes sense. If you walk into a workout class wearing an oversized T-shirt down to your knees, dusty sneakers you wore on countless hikes, and sweat pants with holes in them, you will not even be remotely paying attention in class as you will be constantly thinking, “OMG why did I wear this? How did that girl possibly manage to get the soles of her shoes to match the logo on her schmancy, perfectly-fitted LuLuLemon shirt? I don’t belong here. Oh gosh, am I doing the moves right? Who cares? Because even if I am, I still look like a trainwreck!” I’m not saying you have to wear name-brand workout clothes that match your sneakers…I personally only have 1 pair of sneakers. Sometimes they match; sometimes they don’t. All I’m saying is, logically speaking, looking good (whatever that means to you) while working out can only help your chances of success!