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.



How to increase burpee speed

Reader Mark B. is working on his burpee challenge and asks:

I’m up to 22 in one minute. I’m going for 30. Anyone have advice to increase speed?

First off, 22 is great! So let’s talk about how to get over your speed roadblock. The science behind a minute of burpees – it’s considered anaerobic exercise, meaning it doesn’t use oxygen as its main source of energy.

To increase speed I suggest training in intervals, using the Tabata protocol. Tabata works by performing eight non-stop rounds of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest totaling four minutes. So pump out as many burpees as you can in 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds then go straight into 20 seconds of burpee action, rest for 10 seconds etc., completing the 20/10 cycle a total of eight times.

For the next week don’t perform a minute of burpees straight, train with the 20/10 intervals.

When you only have a minute of work, speed is king (assuming form is already correct) and by using Tabata’s repeated short intervals, you are conditioning your body to work without a full recovery.

Good luck!



Magazine Recap (in 426 words): Men’s Health March 2010

Working in the magazine industry, I’m all to familiar with the blood, sweat and tears that go into making each issue. That being said, I can also appreciate the sometimes-ridiculous advice that is doled out. So in case you haven’t been able to pick up your March 2010 copy of Men’s Health magazine yet (and please do, my industry needs all the help it can get!), here are some of the issue’s highlights in 426 words:

Paul Walker on Men's Health March 2010

The ideal protein amount for muscle building is 20 grams, half before and half after your workout. Good sources include eggs (19 grams) and Greek yogurt (15 grams). Stand up to annoying coworkers to lower risk of a heart attack. Women find hypermasculine features unfriendly. The BMI scale doesn’t hold much weight for muscular guys. Don’t use your mother’s maiden name as a password. Peanut butter can last 3 months once opened. There’s an ad for the Warrior Dash, which looks like a blast. For recreational cyclers, lower-cadence training is better because of the muscle-building boost in testosterone it provides.  Free weights work your muscles harder (vs. machine assistance). People who train in groups can boost their pain tolerance more than those who work out alone. Front lat pulldowns are better at working back/chest muscle where behind-the-shoulder pulldowns are better for rear shoulder/bicep activation.  Athletes aren’t born; their built – build leg power, size and strength and build NFL muscles with moves like the box jump. Want strong pecs, develop your upper back muscles as well. Frensno, CA is the drunkest city. Upgrade your workout by focusing on details in form. Take a cue from Paul Walker and build an arsenal of training options. First impressions count but it’s the follow-through that really matters – after the first date, sending a text the following day, mid-morning shows interest but allows the girl to reply on her own time (which we like). When deadlifting, imagine shaving your legs with the bar (bruises and cuts on shines is a sign of good form). Roughly half of doctors’ appointments last less than 15 minutes so prioritize your questions. Successful people lack cynicism. The thermic effect of food proves that consuming several small protein meals over the day can help keep your metabolism elevated. The modern gentleman needs at least two watches. Research shows that a single weight-training session can spike your calorie burn for up to 39 hours after you lift. Teriyaki scallops and spiced sweet potato chips are healthy snack options. Want to add some spice to your sex life – kink starts with communication and too much intimacy can de-eroticize your romance. Reduce your risk of prostate cancer by drinking more coffee, having lots of sex (seriously), eating tomatoes and exercising. Guys think Brad Pitt is the luckiest man. When front squatting with a barbell, make sure your upper arms/elbows do not drop, I know someone who broke her wrist when her elbow accidentally slammed into her knee — form is key! Avoid brass buttons on navy blazers.



My Open Letter to John Durant

Dear John,

The way you spoke about your caveman diet and lifestyle on The Colbert Report was positively dreamy. For you, exercise isn’t isolated to a gym; instead, you replicate the natural movements hunter-gatherers had to perform to survive. And while you lift logs and throw stones you shun processed foods and share the diet that kept our ancestors strong.

And since today is Valentine’s Day I thought I would answer your uniquely primal personal.

“I’m really looking for a healthy woman who is a meat-eater and ideally if she were lactose intolerant (no dairy) that would be good… if she had Celiac Disease (no wheat), it’s my dream woman!”

John, you are a modern-day hunter-gatherer, and I could be your prehistoric partner. I am lactose intolerant and while I do not officially have Celiac Disease, I’ve found that I am sensitive to most grain products. In the summer we could run through Central Park in Vibram Five Fingers and then snack on a Paleo picnic full of meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts.

We’re a match made in Paleolithic heaven!

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Hot Off the Bench Press – Bring Your Sexy Back With This Exercise, Use Kettlebells To Blast Calories, Get Jennifer Aniston’s Bikini Body and More!

Hot fitness news you don’t want to miss!

Slimmer Doesn’t Always Mean Fitter – NYTimes.com – See how bodyweight affects sport performance.

How to Get Jennifer Aniston’s Bikini Bod
– UsMagazine.com – Marco Borges (who has whipped Beyonce Knowles and Gwen Stefani into shape) and trainer Joy Di Palma (creator of Core Conditioning Cross Fit) gives UsMagazine.com the step-by-step.

Motivations, Affirmations and Mantras – Oh My! –  Cranky Fitness –Keep up your New Year resolutions to stay in shape by developing these healthy habits.

Was Bethenny Frankel Wearing Spanx on the Runway? – The StyleList – Marissa Gold gets the skinny on whether the NYC Housewife had extra support during New York Fashion Week.

The Best Back Exercise You’ve Never Done – Men’s Health – Get your sexy back.

Back.the.EFF.up.dude – Fired ‘n’ Fabulous – See what happens when personal trainers creep at the gym.

Kettlebell Workouts Burn Calories Fast – WebMD – Study backs up claims that swinging kettlebells pays fitness dividends



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!