Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's been a while...

So I haven't written anything because it was a CRAZY week and I didn't get to go to any new exercise classes.  Which made me feel like I didn't have much to say.
I made a google calendar specifically for exercising to keep track of what I'm doing and also to provide myself with some accountability.  I have been awful about actually following the calendar, BUT this past week has shown me that the calendar does make me feel more accountable to exercising.
Sooo this past week I was supposed to do the following:
Monday: Run + weights at NYSC
Wednesday: Run + Total Body Conditioning at NYSC
Friday: Community Class at Soul Cycle

What I actually did this week:
Tuesday: Bike + weights at NYSC
Friday: Run + weights at NYSC
Saturday: Hot Vinyasa at Yoga to the People

I think if my calendar didn't already have 3 things on it, I wouldn't have exercised on Friday and Saturday.  Honestly... it seems really small and silly, but I guess if I say I'm going to do something, I have to make up for it if it doesn't happen.  But why didn't I work out when I said I was going to?
Work this week was absolutely crazy - my hours are 8:30-4:30, but I typically work 8:00-5:00ish, but this past week, I stayed until past 7:00 on Monday and Thursday.  It was just one of those weeks. Then on Wednesday, my mom and her best friend (my 2nd mother) came into the city for dinner to show me the mock-ups of mine and Cameron' wedding invitations.
Oh, and I exercised on Friday, but not the community class at soul cycle BECAUSE IT FILLS UP BEFORE YOU CAN EVER SIGN UP!!  Cameron and I have tried twice now to get into the Community Class at Soul Cycle, and it's been full as soon as you're able to sign up. I don't think we're meant to take this class at Soul Cycle.  We're going to try again in a couple of weeks.
Since I made the agreement that I would take a spin class if Cameron took yoga, this week was the week I brought him to a Hot Vinyasa yoga class so he can see what I actually do!
We went to Yoga to the People and what I noticed was that there were times where the instructor would tells us to move into a certain pose, and I'd want to add tips and hints to tell Cameron because she wasn't mentioning the best way to move into that pose or how your leg should be, or ways you can make it easier or harder based on your skill.  I don't know if its Yoga to the People's no-judgement attitude, or if the class was not targeted towards beginners, but I felt like that was really lacking.  How can you improve/do it correctly if you're not taught the right way??
At any rate, Cameron enjoyed this class more than the "Hot traditional yoga" (i.e. Bikram) class we took.  I also felt relaxed and invigorated.  I find Hot Vinyasa to be incredibly relaxing and focusing for me.  While in the class, I stop thinking about everything else and really focus on yoga and each individual pose.  After the class, and the immense amounts of sweating, I feel detoxified and fresh.  It was the perfect ending to a very long week.

What relaxes you? Are you able to follow a set schedule for exercising, or anything else? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stand up for yourself!

Since I've begun exercising, I've found that I'm a lot more comfortable with myself.  I don't mean with my body image, but more my self-esteem and perception of myself.  I've stepped outside my comfort zone in life, and guess what? I survived!
I could go on and on about all the different things I've done that have forced me outside of my little bubble, but I really just don't feel like it.  Plus, this post is about this past weekend, not about the last 6 months of my life, or everything I was afraid of before that.
So Cameron and I went to Florida and saw some of our dear friends and then drove to Red Sox spring training in Ft. Myers.  So on Saturday night, we get to fake Fenway and go watch BP from our favorite left field spot (where I once met the great Mariano Rivera).  I then realize I'm an idiot, and the map of the ballpark where it looks like you can sit on right field makes no sense and you can't sit on right field. If you look at this map... we're supposed to be standing in the little purple triangle on right field.  Except its actually standing room below the upper deck.  OK, fine, I'm an idiot, I make my peace with mis-reading the map.
So Cameron and I go over to that area and we're told that our tickets are not for that area... they are for the lawn.  OK.  Now look where the lawn is.  That kind of sucks, but we'll make the best of it... We get to the lawn, and the guy sends us to the back of the lawn, and then we are BEHIND the base of one of the lights.  We actually cannot see anything.  At this point, I went nuts.  I was so pissed off - I bought these tickets on stub hub and they were listed for "Right Field Picnic Area" and I paid over face value for them because it seemed cool to sit on the field!
Now in the past, I either would have done nothing and sulked the whole time, OR I would have called stubhub and raised hell and screamed at them.  I'm not exactly the best at letting things go.
I decided to call stubhub and talk to them calmly.  I very calmly explained to the representative what happened and how the seats were misrepresented and I felt that we deserved some kind of compensation.  She came back with 25% off the next tickets.  I explained that that was a very nice offer but I felt like it was not enough considering how much I paid to stand behind the base of a giant baseball stadium light.  So then she offered me 100% off the next tickets.  We got a complete refund for the tickets we were currently using, which we used to buy tickets for Monday's game.  I felt very vindicated.  I was calm and forceful, and explained the issue very clearly.  I felt like I was able to get what I wanted out of the conversation without having to be combative.  Overall, I was very proud of myself for tackling the issue head on so quickly and calmly.
After everything was resolved, we decided to get some yummy Fenway franks and walk around the stadium for a while before standing next to the lawn on the other side.
THEN some guy comes up to us, looks around, then stops and offers us seats on the Green Monster!!  Now for those of you who don't know anything about Fenway, the Green Monster is a giant wall in left field that is very unique to Fenway.  At the real Fenway you can sit on top of it.  At the fake Fenway, you can sit on top and also there are seats IN the Green Monster.  Sure, we'll take free tickets.
View from the green monster

Me and Cameron on top of the green monster
So all in all, the night turned out to be a huge success!  I'm not one for karma, but I do feel that having a good attitude helped us get the bonus Green Monster tickets.  If I had been my usual sourpuss, I don't know if that guy would have offered us tickets.  In the end, it made me realize that yes, I feel physical differences as a result of exercising, but I also feel some mental and emotional differences.  I feel more resilient.  If I can push myself for an extra 2 minutes on the treadmill past my breaking point, or run home 5 miles, I can do a lot of other things too outside of the exercise world.
Now to leave you with a few pictures of some real athletes we saw over the weekend.

Curtis Granderson running the bases

Brett Gardner at bat, Joe Mauer catching (one of my favorite non-Yankees!)
Saltalamacchia of the Red Sox

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Total Body Conditioning at NYSC

Yesterday I took a total body conditioning at my New York Sports Club.  Already a member, so it's free - that's a plus!
This was only my second class at the NYSC, which was a little nervewracking because the last class was a Hatha Yoga class that I was not a huge fan of.  When I got there, everyone else knew what equipment to get and how to setup.  While this can be intimidating because I'm clearly the only newbie, I decided to play it cool (after all, I'm going to have to get used to being the newbie in lots of classes) and follow everyone else's lead.
So the class began simply enough with some stretches.  The instructor gave pretty good directions and demonstrated everything. I'm a very uncoordinated person and I was able to do most of the movements after just watching 1-2 reps.
With the exception of Figure Four and yoga, this is the first exercise class I have taken since Tae-bo when I was in high school.  It was reminiscent of Tae-bo to me - obviously we were not kickboxing or doing any of those movements, but it was a similar pace and exercised similar muscles (theoretically my whole body based on the name)
Most of what we did was challenging, but honestly, I could do it, which surprised me. I am so used to not being able to follow exercise classes either because I'm not coordinated enough to follow that many movements or because I'm not strong enough.
The instructor does one part that she calls "cardio commercials" which are 4 30second intervals of different cardio work outs.  Basically, you don't stop moving as fast as you can for 2 minutes.  That was very difficult!
Overall, I enjoyed the class, but I did not feel as pushed as I expected.  I came to realize that I might get more out of a class if I do it a second time because I will be able to follow the class a little more fluidly.

Some pros:
1) There are some ways to customize the class - by using different size weights and occasionally the instructor gave different tips to make it harder or easier
2) My thighs and triceps are sore today so they clearly got a good work out.
3) It's at my gym, so it's free!!

Some cons:
1) I felt the ab portion of the class was not challenging enough.  I really want to focus on my abdominals and increasing my core strength, so that was a bummer for me.
2) I would have liked more feedback during the class about how I was doing specifically.  I used to hate when people corrected me, but now I've learned that it is very helpful and willingly look for feedback to help make me stronger.
3) I could see myself getting bored in this class very easily.  The instructor told me she does the same routine each week, which to me is very rote and uninteresting.

I would go back again, but probably not very many times or too often.  It's a good fall back if I want to get in a full body workout without the sweaty weightroom or traveling too far.

On another note, the instructor and I talked for a little bit after the class and I told her all about my blog and my goals.  She seemed interested and then gave me her business card and expressed interest in providing me with personal training to help.  While I think personal training can be a very useful tool and people rave about having personal trainers, I'd like to hold off for now because I want to try this my way to see how effective it actually is.  I appreciate the offer and effort, but if I start doing personal training sessions, it changes my little experiment here - of course I'm going to get into shape if I have a 1:1!!  Also, it's not going to be cheap, so that would negate that aspect as well.

Off to Florida to see one of my wonderful bridesmaids and then go to some spring training games (go Yankees!) So I will be taking the weekend off from exercising, and most likely from any sort of healthy diet.  What's a ballgame without a hot dog, some beer and a soft pretzel??

Monday, March 5, 2012

Exhausted? Go for a run

Yup.  That's right. I said it.  There are so many things I'm learning that I constantly surprise myself.
I will tell you that I am a coach potato.  I'm the first one to admit it.  I love my little corner of the couch (that I'm in now) with my fleece Martha Stewart blanket and the TV on some crappy show (right now, the Bachelor: the women tell all).  I also am a "bed potato".  My bed is probably my favorite place in the world.  All snuggled up under a big comforter with a couple pillows... yup... heaven.
Anyways, now that that moment is gone... I will also tell you that I am a bad sleeper.  I went to a sleep clinic when I was in college and found out that I have something called non-REM narcolepsy.  Essentially, I don't go into REM sleep at night for several hours, which causes my sleep to be less restful.  However, I fall into a deep stage of sleep within minutes, which is very impressive.  I do get tired during the day and I do occasionally fall asleep during the day (mostly in the evening when I'm just sitting watching TV very passively), but not like I used to (like when driving).  So I get sleepy easily... it's very easy for me to say "I'm sleepy", give into the sleepiness and take a nap.  Sometimes it happens by accident, but I also purposefully climb into my favorite place in the world, my bed, and take my nap.  
HOWEVER... naps are useless for me!  If I can't go into REM sleep, what benefit am I getting?? 
So fast forward to today, I am exxxxxxhhhhhaaaaaauuuuuussssstttteeddddd.  The whole work day dragged.  But my cute little google calendar says, "Run + abs/arms".  Oh gosh, conflict... nap or run??? 
I got off my butt and I went to the gym.  And I'm telling you, I would probably be asleep right now if I didn't go to the gym.  I feel like I've accomplished something.  Normally, I love naps, but I regret them because a nap is not restorative for me and I end up losing time I could have been doing something else (like exercising).
I went to the gym.  It was not the best workout I've ever had.  I did some interval training on the treadmill, and then I did 120 crunches and some free weights.  All in all, it was a productive gym visit.
I came home and cooked dinner!  For those of you who don't know me, I am no iron chef.  I don't love cooking, and enjoy the fact that Cameron cooks very well.  But I wanted stir fry, so I made us some stir fry.
The moral of the story is that I could have used the time to take an hour long nap, after which, I would have woken up cranky and eaten some garbage-y food and then felt groggy all night.  Instead, my body feels comfortably tired from my workout, but my brain feels energized and alert.
Try it.  Don't go run a marathon after the longest day ever, but get off your butt and do something.  It can make you feel so much better.  And at the very least, you know, you did something.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Oops! I did it again

When I first moved to NYC, I purchased a groupon for Bikram Yoga NYC.  Like I mentioned earlier, I used to take hot yoga (Inner Strength Studios) in Boston, and decided that I'd like to try in NYC. I bought the groupon, and then a couple months later, I finally got around to using it.
I hated it.  
What I loved about Inner Strength was that during the class I felt challenged and pushed myself, but afterwards, I felt relaxed and invigorated.  So I was looking for that feeling again at Bikram Yoga NYC.  

Why I did not like Bikram Yoga:
  1. The room is 5-10 degrees hotter than Hot Power Yoga and that makes a huge difference
  2. There were like 600 people crammed into a very narrow room, oh and the floor is carpeted which to me just felt unsanitary.  How do they clean it after each class?
  3. The structure is COMPLETELY different.  The class felt militaristic to me, with the instructor counting and then clapping to signal the end of a pose. 
  4. I felt woozy and exhausted, not challenged or invigorated.  And I sat for about 45% of the class, so it was really like I was in a sauna for waaay too long and that was it. 
So I never went back.  It was, essentially a $40 class, but I didn't think it as worth going back if I disliked it that much.

Today, I accidentally ended up in a very similar class at Yoga to the People.  I have been trying to convince my fiancee (Cameron) to come to a Yoga class with me.  Today was the day!!  He agreed to go!   We chose the Yoga to the People studio on 26th between 7th and 8th ave, since it is the closest to our apartment, therefore avoiding paying for the subway. 

We walk in, set up, etc.  And then the class starts and she tells us to stand up and start with a breathing exercise.  We start the breathing exercise and I realize, I've never done this at a Vinyasa yoga class.  Oh crap.  This is Bikram. (Note: I think there might be some copyright issues associated with Yoga to the People calling it a Bikram class, but I'm using the term to help differentiate between the two types of Yoga).  So now, I'm slightly panicked for a second because the last Bikram class I took was so miserable.  Relax, Nicole, just breathe.  I'm trying lots of new exercise classes, so lets just think of this one as a new exercise class to try.

OK.  With the new change in attitude that suddenly my relaxing Sunday afternoon yoga was going to be a grueling exercise class, I threw myself into the class. This class was better than the first Bikram yoga class I took. Here's why:

  1. The instructor was more nurturing.  While she did count and clap and do all those things I hated, she also provided praise and support when necessary.  She wasn't as abrasive.
  2. I took a different approach to it.  I think this class showed me that attitude is half of it. I was so pissed off last time that I was not in a relaxing yoga class, that I literally made no attempt to make the best of it, and instead just sat down and gave up. 
  3. I knew what I was getting into once I realized that it was not Hot Power, and was able to anticipate the class better, which made me feel more comfortable.  Your first Bikram Yoga class is not easy mostly because you have absolutely no idea what to expect.
  4. It was only $8 to change my attitude towards Bikram, not $40. 
I still do not like Bikram Yoga.  However that is an upgrade from hating it.  I still feel like half the challenge is not getting sick in the heat.  I also felt like if I'm looking it from the perspective of an exercise class, I don't feel like I got a good workout.  I sweat more than I've ever sweat before, but I don't feel like I was pushed cardiovascularly or that my muscles got a great workout.  I think that people who probably do Bikram regularly enjoy it and get more benefit out of it. However, my goal is to get into shape while switching up the activities I do, so one Bikram class did not really help me towards that goal. 

To sum up, I would not take Bikram, or a hot yoga class like Bikram, again.  I am glad I took it a second time because it did change my opinion of Bikram to a more positive one.  It's just not for me, but I can now see why people do it regularly.