Is a Luxury Gym Right for You?

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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?

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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.

My Fat Weekend (and assorted tales)

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In my defense, I went to the gym Friday after work, successfully bookend-ing the week with visits to the meathead factory. That may have been the last healthy life choice in the decadence that was Saturday and Sunday. The weekend included a visit to my aunt’s, Walmart, Taco Bell and the un-mapped region known as Aurora.

The culinary highlights were numerous. After driving to pickup our ceramic creations at Terra Incognito, Leann and I wandered the street (yes, singular) of Forest Park. Not in the mood to day drink or buy antiques, we ventured to Taco Bell. After uttering “I don’t know the last time i’ve been to Taco Bell,” I educated Leann on the many wonders of their menu. The lesson concluded with the dictum “You can’t go wrong.”

What did I have you ask? Those that know me, know my order when ringing the bell. But this particular Saturday I deviated from my standard order to try the quesarito. I had read numerous descriptions but had to see how they repackaged their core ingredients into a new package. The only real difference from any other items on the menu is the black foil wrapper. The contents are beef, beans, rice, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream and a spicy sauce. It’s essentially a grilled beefy five-layer burrito.

We rolled to Aurora to sample Leann’s first attempt at making tiramisu. I had my reservations, not for her ability to bake, which has yet to be matched, but for the effect of the espresso granules and coffee-soaked lady fingers on my fickle body clock. I don’t drink coffee. Bold statement. I know. But I just pass out occasionally at my desk and blame our nation’s reliance on carbs. So when I was spooned a small portion at 7PM, I hoped the morsel wouldn’t impact me the same way that the coffee-laced desserts in Roma had. Fast forward a few hours when I kept waking up every 45 minutes and we can give this victory to caffeine.

Today started with making my favorite breakfast: french toast. We added a splash of Kahlua to the batter for a little extra coffee zip. I snagged a recipe from All Recipes.

  • 6 thick slices bread

  • 2 eggs

  • 2/3 cup milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Giving up on life

The weekend wrapped up meeting mi amigo at the driving range to hit a bucket. The weather was ideal. After spraying balls in every possible direction, we grabbed lunch at the course’s restaurant. Then I made another stellar decision: BBQ Chicken Nachos.

If you’re giving up on your life, why stop at french toast?

After everything I ate this weekend, I fear this may be the only tent that fits me.IMG_4464

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.

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Confessions of a Carbivore – A Day Without Carbs

“Is there anything you don’t eat on a tortilla?” a friend commented on a recent food pic.

Looking through my food-heavy feed on instagram I realized the common theme: tortillas and carbs.

I recall learning about the food pyramid but my journalism background may have led me to invert it and consume an ungodly amount of carbs and whole grains. Thankfully my Italian metabolism destroys them like pac-man chomps ghouls.

Previously, I claimed there were only three things preventing me from being the next Bachelor:

  • larger pecs
  • abs
  • being a douche

Continue reading Confessions of a Carbivore – A Day Without Carbs