Fit Chic NYC’s Blog

Life Lessons I Learned In The Bikram Studio

Balancing Stick Pose

Despite my initial whining, during my 25 days at Bikram Yoga NYC (I had guests in town the last five days of my month Groupon pass) I was able to take a total of 15 classes.

Obsessed doesn’t begin to describe my passion for the practice. Here’s why:

1. I believe sweat is a strong indicator of a good workout. In Bikram, you’ll start sweating before class even begins.

2. In other forms of yoga there can be a lot of down time while holding poses; and, being the competitive person I am I like to look around at other people. That isn’t great for my meditation nor is it polite when they awkwardly catch me starring at them. In Bikram, moving your eyeballs is energy you can’t afford to waste.

3. The group mentality of the class is incredible. Yogis in general tend to foster a sense of comradeship with each other but there’s just something about dripping sweat in front of each other in as little clothes as possible for an hour and a half that makes you feel so…. Connected.

4. Bikram is a moving mediation. While I’ve never been able to fully “zone out” in other forms of yoga (see number 2) in Bikram I find that I’m completely concentrated on my practice.

5. I like to control my schedule and plan it out to the very last details so if you’re like me (very Type A) Bikram is the yoga style for you. Every class is performed exactly the same way and while you might think that performing the 26 postures in the same sequence every time would become monotonous, each class feels entirely different

6. The first class or two is miserable. But that moment when it all just clicks makes the initial suffering entirely worth it.

7. I get bored when I hold a posture for too long – even if it’s tough. In Bikram, no posture is held for more than a minute and I know exactly what’s coming next (see number 5). Knowing when it’s going to end allows me to judge my effort level.

8. I semi-jokingly told my friend that I’d consider a breast reduction so my practice would be better. Personally, I feel that a having a naturally (or unnaturally if that’s your style) large chest hinders some of the postures because they just get in the way.

9. Bikram has a strong cardio component. I wanted to wear my heart monitor during class but I couldn’t get it to stay completely silent so I left it at home. One instructor said that the Balancing Stick Pose pose was comparable to 30 minutes on the treadmill. While that might be a stretch, it gets your heart rate up.

10. You can do anything for 10 seconds. Suck it up and push through.


My Bikram Science Experiment

I’m still on my Bikram high from last night – I totally kicked ass in class. It seems that the third class was the charm for me and it’s funny how I went from “I’m about to die, why did I sign-up to do this” to “I want to do this everyday” in a matter of four days. But consider me converted.

That being said, I wouldn’t be a New Yorker if I weren’t skeptical of my new-found “enlightenment,” hence my Bikram Science Experiment.

So here’s the deal: I bought a month pass to Bikram Yoga NYC from Groupon. My initial goal was to (1) shock my body and try to reap the benefits of Bikram practice. I’m strong, but at 5’1” my muscular frame tends to look a little bulky so (2) I’m seeking the much envied, strong, lean bodies of hipster yogis. And since I enjoy a workout challenge I (3) wanted to give Bikram another shot (if you remember, my first try – and my first FitChicNYC post! – wasn’t exactly encouraging). But now, I’m on a mission to determine whether I actually reached a Bikram high in my third class, or if it was a fluke thanks to a few variable factors.

Let’s examine the facts, class by class.

First Class: Saturday, April 10, Noon
I braced myself for this. I knew it was going to be rough. I hadn’t done Bikram yoga in over a year, and no matter how in shape I am, I was going to have to go through a readjustment period in acclimating to the heated room. The heat was brutal, and when the sun started creeping in around 1pm (30 more minutes to go), and my mat just so happened to be in the spot where it shined through. Joy. My concentration was on breathing and I had to sit down during the last few standing poses. Overall, I felt horrible and I didn’t reach my full potential during the poses.

Second Class: Sunday, April 11, 11AM
I showed up – which was already an accomplishment. The sun wasn’t as strong (and I changed my mat location slightly) so I thought I was going to rock this class. While I admit my breathing was much more controlled, I still just wasn’t getting it during certain postures and much to my dismay, I had to sit down during the end of the standing sequence. Once again the heat got to me and I left feeling a little better than I did the day before, but was wondering why I signed up for this insanity – I wasn’t getting the most out of my practice, I was totally wiped out for the rest of the day and quite honestly I hate staring at myself for 90 minutes while I drip sweat.

Third Class: Tuesday, April 13, 7PM
Okay so here is where I reached my Bikram high. Not only did I complete the 26 posture sequence without taking any breaks, I was also able to move into poses that I had to modify for the first two classes and believe it or not, I actually kind of enjoyed the heat. As I mentioned, I’m skeptical. I think that the time of day had EVERYTHING to do with my new-found enlightenment because (1) since it was a night class, the sun wasn’t shining, so it wasn’t as hot in the room and (2) I know my body and I am stronger at night.

So if my hypothesis is correct, I will reach my maximum potential in Bikram yoga if I practice at night. I have 25 more days to test my theory but I’d love for you to weigh in on my little workout experiment.

5 Tips for Avoiding Winter Weight Gain
My snow art during NYC's February blizzard

My snow art during NYC's February blizzard

SnowmanWe are not bears, or squirrels and unlike our animal friends who require excess food storage to survive winter, we do not go into hibernation mode for a few months and will have access to food year-round.

But that doesn’t stop the majority of Americans from gaining that extra seasonal padding.

“Your body may be working against you to hang on to it so you stay warm,” Lawrence Cheskin, MD, founder of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center told Prevention magazine.

While you can blame your lack of exercise motivation on the chilly weather or sparse rays of sunshine, we no longer have a physiological need to add an insulating layer to our frames because unlike our caveman ancestors (or animal friends), our risk of freezing to death is made basically non-existent thanks to space heaters and North Face.

The extra poundage typically starts to accumulate with the holiday overindulgence and “the weight-gain cycle can easily continue throughout the winter months, and by spring you can have 5-10 lbs. to lose. Hold that pace for a decade and you will have gained 50-60 lbs.,” Stew Smith, CSCS and former Navy SEAL says.

Here are 5 tips and tricks you can do to help beach-ready body year-round:

  1. Find comfort in fruits and vegetables: Instead of turning to mashed potatoes, pasta, macaroni and cheese, stuffing and other hearty foods for comfort from the chilly weather, take advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season such as bok choy, kale, kiwi, pomegranates, parsnips, pears squash and especially those that are a good source of fiber (which makes your feel full longer) such as artichokes and avocados.
  2. Stay active: No hibernating! Keep up those New Year resolutions and stay in shape. If you usually take your workouts outdoor, the snow isn’t an excuse to forgo fitness. Try winter sports like skiing, snowboarding or ice skating, or invest in a temporary gym membership. NYSC offers two weeks for $20, or consider trying a month at a yoga studio – @Tarastiles recommends checking out Strala Yoga! (I’m going to start a month at Bikram Yoga NYC after I get back from my friend’s wedding in a week!)
  3. Bring the workout to your apartment: In the case of a horrible snow storm, or the “snowpocalypse” that the North East has been hit with this week, where traveling to the gym just isn’t safe, workout at home – No excuses, play like a champ! Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, dips (off the edge of your bed/couch), lunges, squats and of course, the dreaded burpees are perfect for small spaces. Here’s a list of no-equipment workouts you can keep in your snow day activity arsenal. My favorites: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 rep rounds for time of burpees, push-ups and sit-ups, OR, 4 rounds for time of 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups and 50 squats.
  4. Break out the bikini: Well, sort of. In the winter we tend to pile on the clothing and our figure gets lost under all those layers, allowing that extra weight to hide easily. Wear form-fitting clothes under your coats or try on summer outfits and bathing suits every few weeks to serve as a constant reminder of how your body looks.
  5. Don’t drink your calories: Winter drinks such as hot chocolate and eggnog are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Avoid these empty calorie and sip on hot tea instead. And watch your booze intake; most of the fancy cocktails have lots of hidden calories and are be high in sugar content.

Spring is only a few months away!

Twitter To Get Fitter

A round-up of a few of my favorite fitness Tweets from experts, celebrities and health fanatics!

@BodyForWife Fitness Fashion: How to Dress for Success –

@NerdFitness Who wins in the Fat Loss Royal Rumble? cardio vs. interval training vs. weight-lifting –

@WomensHealthMag Are your friends a fat influence? Having a buddy who packs on pounds makes you 57% more likely to do so yourself.

@FitSugar How and When to Fuel Your Workouts

@neversaydiet Is Whole Foods’ BMI For Bucks Program Discriminatory?: One day, when I make lots and lots of money and shed my tig…

@GalsGuide New on GG: “How can I get motivated to go to the gym… especially in this cold?”

@lululemon Curious to know which yoga is right for you? Here a guide to different styles of yoga: (via @MindBodyGreen)

@LaceyStoneFIT “Short Cut Story” and Motivation Lacey Stone Fitness Style!

@neversaydiet What’s your favorite workout? Find out what your workout says about your personality.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @FitChicNYC

Tale of the hot spin instructor and his loyal minions

What: Tight, short, black workout shorts that emphasize my muscular legs

Function: To grab the attention of the hot spin instructor at 6:30 in the morning

Form: Suffered immensely in position 2 and 3 due to constant readjustments to avoid creeping hemlines

Mission: Failed, with chaffed thighs

I walked into the new spin class on the first week wearing my usual attire, capris and an old college shirt – heck I rolled out of bed about 20 minutes before it started and I may still have had pillow marks on my face.

Then I saw him in his toned, muscular, already sweaty from his pre-class workout glory.

For teaching at 6:30am on Mondays he had quite a large group (mainly women of course). He led a hard workout and I sweat a lot, but to my dismay I wasn’t overly thrilled with his class or teaching method – he allowed no recovery and constantly instructed to increase the resistance to the point where I was lucky if I could push 10rpm. But that didn’t matter. Oh, I should have known better.

The second week is when I showed up in my boy shorts, and I’ll admit, my legs looked good! Too bad I was constantly pulling the shorts down when in the standing positions to prevent them from riding up entirely. Lesson learned.

The third week I reverted to my capris but decided to ditch my normal T-Shirt for a sexier scoop neck long tank that just-so-happened to show a little décolletage. Again, bad idea, I felt uncomfortable and over-exposed when we moved into position 3. Sadly on week four I slept in and missed spinning. Considering I wasn’t even a fan of the actual class I was a lot angrier than I should have been. And then my gifted month to Equniox (thanks to an innocent Tweet) was over as was my romance-from-afar with my spin instructor.

You don’t even need to live here to know that New York City’s dating scene can be rough (thank you Sex and the City), and I can see the appeal of meeting someone at the gym, at least you know you have at least one (healthy) common interest, but there are boundaries… right? (No meeting someone at a bar doesn’t mean you should endorse the fact that you both share a pastime of drinking!) Now I’m not saying I’d necessarily go there, but in a Jan. 2009 Time Out New York survey of personal trainers around the big apple, 16 percent admitted they’ve had sex with a client, 37 percent said no and 47 percent said “no comment.” Hmmmm no comment about sex? Sounds like someone didn’t want to fess up… but I won’t entirely jump the gun by drawing my own conclusion!

While I’ve never crossed a line with my trainers, nor have I crossed any lines with my clients when I worked as a trainer, I can see where one can fall down a slippery slope. So trainers, clients here’s your chance to come clean!

Poor Judgment on Workout Wear

I’ve seen some weird things inside the ladies’ locker room but yesterday’s sighting was just frightening – a woman wore Spanx under her workout leggings.

My reaction was something similar to Amy Poehler and Seth MeyersSNL Weekend Update skit REALLY? No, but seriously, she did.

Now I’m all about wanting to look good while working up a sweat – that’s half the appeal of wearing Lululemons – but Spanx to the gym? She’s gone too far. Maybe I’m behind the times (is wearing Spanx under workout attire the new trend?!). Because I think that wearing shapewear underneath seems not only uncomfortable but also constricting. The only support needed will be the paramedics after you pass out from shortness of breath while running.

And sadly even Hollywood’s hottest starlets aren’t immune to workout attire gaffes. Ashley Olsen was spotted jogging with her boyfriend (The Hangover hunk) Justin Bartha on Jan. 4 sporting an oversized button down shirt and her trademark oversized sunglasses, and pop princess Britney Spears was reportedly hitting the treadmill at the Mondrian Hotel in Hollywood with a full face of makeup. Page Six reports that an onlooker said, “she looked like Heath Ledger as the Joker.” Sexy.

** Note to celebs – I’ll save you the embarrassment and am accepting applications to serve as your workout stylist!

With New Year Resolution gym-goers in full gear let the absurd gym sightings commence – what’s the weirdest workout outfit you’ve seen recently?

Fit Peeve – Cankle Awareness
July 28, 2009, 11:20 AM
Filed under: Fitness News, Gym | Tags: , ,

Apparently Gold’s Gym deemed July Cankle Awareness month – gag me. If our body conscious society didn’t have enough to fret over, we can now add cankles (when the calf merges with an obese or swollen ankle) to the growing list of saddlebags, muffin tops, flabby arms, thunder thighs, cellulite and more.

I salute gyms that make an effort to raise awareness about health issues and try to motivate the population to become more active, but doing so through a marketing campaign designed to destroy one’s body image, disgusts me.

What is even more shocking is the mainstream media coverage this “aesthetic affliction” has received – a front page story in the Wall Street Journal and even a segment on The Today Show.

To be completely upfront, I’ve had a grudge against Gold’s Gym for awhile when I tried to help a friend cancel their membership and encountered the world’s most rude, dense and unhelpful staff/management. But that aside, I’m still completely and utterly appalled with this supposedly “tongue-in-cheek” campaign.

In Gold’s Gym Say No To Cankles campaign they describe the three probable causes of cankles – heredity, obesity and pregnancy. Great, let’s make 2/3 of the population who suffers from cankles even more self-conscious over something they can’t change (genes and pregnancy).

“Even if you’re in great shape, fatty deposits around the ankles are difficult to shrink, says Corry Matthews, a Virginia-based trainer and member of Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute.”

So then Gold’s Gym, tell me, what’s the point?