Is a Luxury Gym Right for You?

IMG_5428-0.PNG

IMG_5464.JPG
Like my dream of being in a bell ensemble, my goal of going to the gym five straight days during my trial at Equinox remains unrealized. I managed to get there Monday through Wednesday, attending classes each day.

The classes at Equinox are on another level to anything I’d ever taken. The instructors were all very good. (I should also note that I rarely take classes that don’t involve food). I have a “get in/get out” mentality toward the gym. Equinox made me linger. That was mostly connected to trying to get the most out of my trial week.

This approach backfired since my body was prepared more for Thanksgiving than a fitness assault from encouraging instructors. My legs are almost back to 100% from the plyometrics class Tuesday and Wednesday’s Pilates session. I hobbled around the past few days and my quads still feel like they have rocks in them.

During my initial tour, I was told the biggest differentiator from other gyms was the classes.

When you compare gyms head-to-head there are a few main criteria:

  • Quality/Functioning of machines
  • Cleanliness
  • Clientele
  • Classes

Weights are weights. There should be no distinction for core uses of a gym. Weights and benches should be available, with some exceptions for peak usage hours. I went at lunch and after work. While I went straight to classes, the gym wasn’t packed so there wouldn’t have been an issue getting the weights I needed (5 pounders). Equinox had increments I didn’t know existed. They started at 5 pounds, then went up by 2 1/2 pounds. So there was a 7 1/2 pound dumbbell all the way up to a 27 1/2 pound. Then they normalized and increased by 5 pound increments. And a true move of differentiation, they had gear I’d never seen, like a series of pipes called ViPR. I didn’t have time to check those out.

Equinox is a luxury gym and nailed it on every category. They had staff walking around cleaning all the machines. The clientele didn’t give the gym rat vibe. If anything, I feared I was scaring the regulars with my non-branded athletic apparel.

The staff was incredibly friendly, whether or not that was because I am a prospective member or they give that personal touch to everyone, I don’t know. As of this writing, my feet display no signs of fungus. Decision time looms. I anticipate a call from the membership staff asking if I’m ready to join and I don’t know what to say.

How much do you pay for your gym? What’s the maximum you would spend?

Can I start a Kickstarter for my fitness?

IMG_5428.PNG

Finding Your Fitness Limits

Despite seeing three classes I wanted to take on tonight’s schedule, I opted to pause my training and take the train home. I do not think my legs have ever been this sore. Walking has proven laborious. I know the tin man’s pain.

I tried to improve my posture at work today. Shoulders back. Core in. I still am not sure what my sit bones are, but I tried to tilt them back. Or forward? I walked around like a stick man trying to hula hoop.

Instead of lifting weights and sweating, I joined my coworkers for happy hour and fried foods. Only one way to achieve those fitness goals! Onion rings are protein, right?

Last night, I attempted to foam roll my noodles of legs and the pain was equivalent to when I went to physical therapy to have my shin splints treated. The foam felt more like steel cutting into my leg bones.

Once I find my car in the garage, I’ll cruise home and apply some icy hot to hopefully soothe the muscles.

Everyone has their breaking point. Mine appears to be three straight days of fitness classes at Equinox.

Irresistible Abs

I have no qualms admitting that Todd is a well-made man.

Todd was the instructor in today’s episode of masochism. You know you have a problem when you struggle getting out of your office chair to walk.

My goal during my trial at Equinox is to sample the gym. So far that has meant taking classes and an occasional shower. I apologize to my coworkers for Monday. I didn’t have time to scrub off my grime and shame before returning to the office.

I have gone to three classes in three days: vinyasa flow on Monday, Stacked! yesterday, and today I dropped in on a Pilates class.

The only other time I attempted Pilates was at my former gym. That class was more of a variation on yoga than Pilates movements. Today’s class included a block, weights and a magic circle.

Similar to Monday’s yoga class, the instructor began by asking if anyone wanted to focus on certain areas or had injuries. I neglected to share that my everything was sore from living at the gym for the past few days. During my silence a woman urged for “glute work.” Then another chimed in “abs!” Have you women no decency? Did you not see me shuffle in the room like a roomba with a low battery?

Todd put on some acoustic music and guided us through some stretches and warm-up activities. Pilates is given a tarnished reputation as being a feminine activity. It was established to keep a man for while in a POW camp. Fitness is an everyone activity. Male/female. Young/old. Just stay active. Whatever motivates you or excites you beats inactivity.

Pilates deviates from standard cardio that elevates your heart rate through movement. Instead, the goal is slow and controlled movement. I still sweat profusely and raised my resting heart rate. Pilates also includes pulsing, a term I had only encountered with ab work. Pulsing are micro movements that isolate a muscle group, seemingly all abdominal.

The class was predominantly geared toward irresistible abs and leg work. Two areas I seldom work out. The hour went quickly and the instructor was very good. Unlike my experience with yoga, where I have comparisons, I don’t have other teachers as measurement aids. He was extremely enthusiastic and inspiring from a strength perspective.

I have a no-win situation with in-class adjustments. When I don’t get corrected, I assume I’m doing everything correctly. But I like some level of personal attention and guidance. Todd was one of the best I’ve seen at giving personalized feedback on improving a movement, while encouraging everyone. He helped me with a few exercises to properly align and target the correct muscle groups. After today’s class, I would argue those areas are missing from my anatomy.

When someone can do a pose with no seeming distress and instruct a class, I’m in awe. He held what looked like variations of boat pose and instructed the class on the desired movement. He wasn’t winded. He didn’t even struggle. His flexibility and core strength was incredible. My legs quaked trying to hold the foam block in between them. If I were able to move my arms, I would have applauded Todd.

Each style of fitness has an end goal. Body builders chase bulk. Marathon/cardio nuts tend to be lean with little muscle definition. Yoga, no homogeneity. If the instructor is the poster child for a Pilates body, which I’d argue Todd was, Pilates builds great posture, functional strength and flexibility. Coincidentally, three areas I need to develop.

If I am able to walk in the near future, I’ll be finding my way to more Pilates classes. Off to foam roll what once were my legs and whimper before passing out and repeating tomorrow.

Equinox Review: Day 2

IMG_5393.JPG

I love a countdown.

I don’t love sweating.

Tonight’s class at Equinox was called “Stacked!” I’m usually critical of anything that utilizes an exclamation mark. The description outlined a “high density” class that uses sandbells, plyometrics and building sequences.

I don’t recall much from biology, but I’m nearly certain “density” is not an accurate adjective to describe a fitness class. The bigger issue was figuring out what a sandbell was. Is this a music class? Will my lifelong dream of playing in a bells-only ensemble finally come to fruition?

Any class that uses a weight I’ve never heard of promises to be worthwhile. And the class did not disappoint, aside from not including bells of sand and subsequently leaving my dream unrealized.

I followed the throng of people into the studio and grabbed a sandbell. If you were curious, sandbells are neoprene sacks filled with sand. Like kettlebells, they come in several different weights. I hid in the back row so I could watch the instructor and others get their stack on.

The instructor wrote sequences on the mirror in the front of the studio. She turned on the music and it was go time. She was not dense, but she was very high energy. Each exercise was demoed, then she counted us down. 5…4…3…2…1. Then she stacked another exercise onto the previous until there was a set of 5.

The first stack was:
Squat tosses
A speed skater-esque move
Plank/knee to chest
Rainbow (throw sandbell on the ground)
Burpee

Each exercise was 30 seconds. She would count off the last 7 seconds and shout what was next. Once the stack was assembled, we did all 5 with little to no break in between. That stack took about 12 minutes and I started to sweat out the sugar and sprinkles from the first cupcake I ate today.

There was a minute break for water. I took that break to catch my breath. The second half of the class was a different stack targeting core and back. Throwing a sand bag is oddly therapeutic. Toward the end I started losing steam and sugar to burn off. My workouts are like the train in Back to the Future. I burn off burritos or sugar instead of coal.

The instructor apologized for making a mistake calling out a sequence and shared that she had a 4-month old child at home. Kudos to her for being so fit after birthing a child. I usually go into deep hibernation after eating at chipotle or pass out at my desk after lunch.

“Go home and eat something healthy,” she advised as she ended the class.

I showered, power walked to the train station, ambled down the stairs like an elephant who discovered they have knees, then purchased this:
IMG_5393.JPG
It’ll be gone in 5…4…3…2…1.

A Bachelor’s Quest for a New Gym

Finding a new gym is like finding a new girlfriend.

When my office finalized the move downtown a few weeks ago I had to end my two year relationship with my gym. We never fought. Some weeks we’d see each other 3-4 times a week. Others not at all. And that was the beauty of our relationship. I didn’t feel obligated to go every day. A few times I splurged on massages, but other than one Pilates class, I saw her for all the basic reasons: cardio and weights.

We shared some special moments. About halfway into our courtship, I achieved something I never had or thought I would: 12 unassisted chin-ups in a row. She was non-plussed. Instead she challenged me to do more. The same thing happened when I bench pressed 77% of my weight. “Do more,” she said.

For $20 a month I could bring a friend and take classes, think of it as the Mormon clause. In the two years I was a member I did this less than 3 times. Apparently no one ever has their workout gear with them.

Bachelor tip: always have your gym gear in your car or stashed in your desk.

I ended our relationship in writing. I tried to do it in person, but was told via letter was best. The last Thursday in the suburban office ended not with raising of beers, but with raising of dumbbells.

Despite our open relationship, I never caught anything from her and I risked it in the showers. No flip flops for this rebel with anti-fungal creams.

Now nestled high in the clouds in Chicago’s loop, I have started my quest for my next sweat house.

Today was my first day of a week-long trial at Equinox, a high-end gym in the loop. Monthly dues run about $140 a month. As soon as you scan in, you’re greeted by name. Despite being the Duke on Yelp of my last gym, no one ever addressed me by name. It’s like she didn’t even know me! It’s such a little thing, but makes you feel welcome and fortifies that sense of belonging.

I joined a vinyasa flow yoga class on my lunch hour. There were no-slip, rubberized yoga mats in the storage space of the studio. About a dozen others clustered around the room in their yoga gear. Some ladies were sporting Lululemon threads. The instructor was knowledgable and sought suggestions on what areas the class wanted to target. Some fool suggested “hips” and so our practice began. She also paced the class more for yogic meditation than cardio/yoga. After several practices at CorePower, this fresh sequence was a reprieve.

Equinox, I fear, is that impeccably dressed lady with designer handbags for every day in the crook of her arm. Damn, she looks amazing(ly expensive).

Stay tuned for more gym courtship reports this week.

A Bachelor's Quest for a New Gym

Finding a new gym is like finding a new girlfriend.

When my office finalized the move downtown a few weeks ago I had to end my two year relationship with my gym. We never fought. Some weeks we’d see each other 3-4 times a week. Others not at all. And that was the beauty of our relationship. I didn’t feel obligated to go every day. A few times I splurged on massages, but other than one Pilates class, I saw her for all the basic reasons: cardio and weights.

We shared some special moments. About halfway into our courtship, I achieved something I never had or thought I would: 12 unassisted chin-ups in a row. She was non-plussed. Instead she challenged me to do more. The same thing happened when I bench pressed 77% of my weight. “Do more,” she said.

For $20 a month I could bring a friend and take classes, think of it as the Mormon clause. In the two years I was a member I did this less than 3 times. Apparently no one ever has their workout gear with them.

Bachelor tip: always have your gym gear in your car or stashed in your desk.

I ended our relationship in writing. I tried to do it in person, but was told via letter was best. The last Thursday in the suburban office ended not with raising of beers, but with raising of dumbbells.

Despite our open relationship, I never caught anything from her and I risked it in the showers. No flip flops for this rebel with anti-fungal creams. Continue reading A Bachelor's Quest for a New Gym

Hot Yoga: The 11th Circle of Hell

There’s a moment when you look down and discover every part of your body is glistening. In all my years on this earth, I can safely say that I have never had sweat emanate from the top of my knees.

As I embark on my December staycation, I decided to do some things that I don’t prioritize while working. Sadly, yoga is one of those activities. I’ve always enjoyed yoga as a stress reliever and flexibility booster. Plus, I’m often one of two guys in a class. Should any of those women need someone to clean their pool or cook them delicious meals on a semi-nightly basis…

Last night I started an unlimited, one-week trial at CorePower Yoga. I exited my car and briskly braved the 15-degree temperature as I walked into the studio. After reading a sign about shoe karma, I put my shoes in a cubby hole, then signed up with the two young women at the front desk.

I changed into my gym clothes and entered Studio 2. I was greeted with a warm bitch slap to the face. It was more than warm. It was more than just humid. It was sultry. I rolled out my mat and started to stretch. So we are all clear, when I say stretch, I mean I flailed my arms around gingerly and reminded myself just how far my toes are. When I practiced regularly I could get the heels of my palms on the ground. Now, I’m like a little kid desperately wiggling to reach the candy on the shelf just out of reach. I looked into the mirror and saw that most of my forehead was moist. I apologize to the ladies reading this post. I know how most of you feel about words like “moist.”

“How am I sweating and I haven’t really exerted myself in any capacity? This doesn’t bode well.” I cracked the seal on one of two water bottles I brought to class. I toweled off before we started our practice. I’m not entirely sure if calling this class a “practice” is appropriate. At no point in my life do I want this degree of perspiration to be acceptable.

We started class with some cat/cow poses before some basic salutations/flow moves: forward fold, forward bend, plank, lunge, warrior, Chaturanga.

I’ve done these before. This isn’t so bad,” I thought. This would be one of the last moments I could form coherent thoughts.

The instructor, who was a great motivator, picked up the pace and intensity of the class. Yoga Sculpt incorporates free weights to the session. So, a warrior pose would include a shoulder press, bicep curl or tricep extension. At first I did the poses without any weights, then I grabbed the dumbbells for a few.

After one of the series, she asked the class if she should pump up the heat. The masochists and sadists loudly shouted “YES!” Could no one see I was wasting away on my blue mat that was quickly turning into a Slip ‘N Slide?

It was at this moment that I discovered I was standing directly under an air duct connected to hell’s furnace.

“And let’s bump up the humidity!” she exclaimed from the thermostat.

I swear on all things holy…Lord, I’ll do whatever you ask of me. Or any god, saint or deity. Can anyone hear me over the bumping Top 40 jams?

I made it about 45 minutes through the class before visions of the sweet, flexible baby Jesus doing downward dog started popping into my head. Then I had to sit down for a spell. It was at this moment that I observed that every inch of my body was soaked. I looked in the mirror and, like Mulan, wasn’t really sure who was looking back at me.

The last minutes of class, and potentially my life, were burpees and squats before stretches.

While laying in Savasana waiting for my heart to find its way back into my chest, I bid adieu to baby Jesus the showoff. The instructor came around with cool, lemon-scented rags. I’ve never valued anything so much in my life.

Eventually I peeled myself off of what once was a yoga mat and gathered my things to exit. In the locker room, I observed that my sleeveless, navy gym shirt transformed from a Rorschach of sweat to one continuous, soaked rag of all impurities I’ve ever ingested. I rang it out, got in the shower and dry sobbed. I left all my fluids on the mat.

In my life, I have treated Dante’s Circles of Hell as a checklist, reserving the secret 10th circle for myself. I learned last night that there’s an 11th for hot yoga.

On my way out they asked how I liked it. I shared that it was quite warm. “Oh, that wasn’t even the hot class. Hot Power gets up to 103.”

Namaste.

arrested development, sobbing