Category Archives: Work It Out

Find Your Soul

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As a former Sociology major and someone who tends to over-analyze things, I’ve always been interested in trends, social expectations, and why people do the things they do. Living in New York City you see some pretty weird things that are subject to question (i.e. public defecation or waiting in line at Shake Shack for 2 hours). One such “New York” thing is SoulCycle (though it’s not just in NYC anymore). Why is SoulCycle so popular? Why are people willing to pay so much for it? Why did it take off exponentially? So I took to Facebook to enlist people to answer a brief survey in search of these answers.

What I found is probably not surprising on the surface. The number 1 reason people said they go to SoulCycle is that it’s a good workout (I can attest to that) and the number 1 reason people said they don’t go to SoulCycle is that it’s too expensive (I can definitely attest to that). What was interesting though were the contradictions in people’s depictions of the brand. Many people said they love SoulCycle because of the feeling of community, yet they also described it as elitist. Lots of people said it’s trendy, but then said it’s #basic – wouldn’t that make it not trendy anymore? Others called it spiritual or “zen”, but then called out the loud music and sweaty room – not your typical idea of zen. And finally, many people associated SoulCycle with celebs or rich New Yorkers, but yet (to my knowledge) none of the survey takers were celebrities or of Gossip Girl wealth and they still pay the hefty fee for the class. I did have a fair share of celeb sightings back in the day, but on the outside, most people were seemingly normal like me, barely making enough money to pay for a 250-square foot studio let alone fund their daily SoulCycle habit.

So what’s up with all the contradictions? My guess is that SoulCycle is at this tension point where it’s no longer for the elite or just a trend, it’s part of today’s zeitgeist. It’s helped to form this new “health as wealth” culture. As much as SoulCyle seems like it’s for the rich and famous, more and more “regular” people are buying into it – despite the steep price – along with other boutique cycling chains or Barry’s Bootcamp and crossfit. Now, saying you do crossfit or carrying a SoulCycle bag is as much of a statement as carrying a Birkin Bag. These fitness crazes have become more than a trend, they are brands; they are a symbol of status. By carrying that SoulCycle bag you’re making a statement to the world that says, “I workout. I take care of myself. I’m healthy.”

But what does “healthy” even mean anymore. Pretty much every workout, recipe, beauty product has been tied to the word “healthy” or promises to make us “healthier” that the word is rendered meaningless. What we’re really talking about when we say we want to be healthy is that we’re aspiring to be better than we are now. To be thinner, faster, cleaner, more environmentally conscious. Not that those are bad things, but healthy is no longer just about a good BMI or cholesterol, it’s about an entire aspirational lifestyle. And that’s why we’re shelling out $35 a class for SoulCycle even though we can’t afford it or think it’s for the elite: because we too want to be better, thinner, faster, cleaner.

Social media – Pinterest and Instagram in particular – are also part of this “health as wealth” culture. How many pictures of green juices and avocado toast do you see in your feed every day? But how many people actually post a picture of the bag of Doritos or Coke they ate later because let’s be honest, no one gets full from a green juice. These channels are all about sharing your best moments, creating an aspirational brand of yourself on your best days, not your worst, or even mediocre moments.

I think us Milliennials are especially susceptible to this aspirational culture. We were raised being told you can be anything you want to be, you can be the best at anything if you just try hard enough. We’ve also grown up with social media and constantly hear about the seemingly overnight success stories of start-ups and bloggers. Millennials are constantly seeking this better, more successful life/career/clothes/body/etc., but if we’re constantly striving and seeking, how do we know when we’re there?

This aspirational culture that the whole boutique health and fitness movement is part of definitely has its benefits. By constantly pushing ourselves to better ourselves, we in turn better the world and people around us. More and more great ideas and businesses are starting up everywhere. And I don’t think there’s a negative side to people exercising more, regardless if they paid $35 for it or not.

But I think what we need to be aware of – or at least I do – is are we running ourselves into the ground trying to be perfect and be the best at everything? We think being fit and having the perfectly decorated living room will make us happy, but in an aspirational culture like ours, once you have those things, there will always be something new to want. In a generation and culture that’s so ingrained in social media and success, we need to learn to take a step back, live in the moment, cut out the noise, do what works for YOU, be honest with yourself. After all, isn’t that what SoulCycle so famously preaches? Find Your Soul.

image via healthybex.com

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Running in Winter

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Kevin Cooks is taking a break this week as Kevin is sick with the flu and can’t eat much, let alone cook. ‘Tis the season for the flu and it’s also the season for abandoning your workout New Year’s Resolutions because it’s just SO. DAMN. COLD. OUT. So today I’m going to share a few things that help me stick out a regular workout routine even when it’s 12 degrees outside and all I want to do is bathe in a bowl of mac & cheese.

Layer up. If you don’t like running inside on a treadmill – like me – the best way to brace the cold is to add on layers as much as possible. Even if you look ridiculous, you can always take off a layer if you get too hot along the way, but there’s nothing worse than running for 30 minutes and feeling just as cold at the end as you did when you started.

Shine on. I feel a bit hypocritical with this one, because I don’t actually own any reflective gear yet, but it is DARK out there at 6AM or even 5PM. I get annoyed when I’m driving and just barely see a runner with no reflectors on, and then I realize, I am that annoying runner. So splurge with me and get one of these.

Switch it up. For when the roads are too icy to run or if you just can’t bear the cold, take it to the “dreadmill” as my mom calls it. But rather than slogging along at the same pace for 30 minutes, switch it up with speed intervals or hills. An easy one we like to do is this: 5 minutes walking at 4.0 mph, 4 minutes at 6.0, 3 minutes at 6.5, 2 minutes at 7.0, 1 minute at 8.0, repeat again for a 30 minute workout.

DIAH. No, this is not an abbreviation for those kinda runs. Do It At Home. If running outside or trekking to the gym in the snow just isn’t going to happen, you can always do something at home. Whether it’s a workout DVD (I like this circuit-based Jillian Michaels DVD and just tried Ballet Beautiful for the first time and enjoyed it!) or doing some jumping jacks and sit-ups while you watch TV. Here’s a quickie that doesn’t require much space: 15 push-ups, 15 burpees, 15 jump squats, 15 jumping lunges, 15 tricep dips (on a chair or bench), 60 seconds plank hold, repeat 3 times.

Image via Pinterest

My Journey to the Finish Line(s)

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Today I write with tired eyes and sore legs. My sister Emma, Kevin, and I ran the Newport Half Marathon yesterday! It was my fourth half marathon and Emma’s first (go Emma!), and it was the most beautiful race I’ve done to date. We will definitely be back next year!

If you had told my high school self that I would someday run 4 half marathons and the NYC marathon I probably would have laughed or ran away in fear. I HAAATED running. I hated most physical activity that wasn’t dancing to Britney Spears in my bedroom, making bizarre music videos with my friends, or heating up corndogs in the microwave after school. I’m not a natural runner or athlete, and I would dread the day we had to run “the mile” in gym class like the plague. When I went to college, I started going to the gym with my friend Hayley more as a social thing at first, but eventually it turned into more of an obsession. I went through a bit of an identity crisis in college, trying to find my place within the vast and structure-less NYU (and NYC), and this anxiety manifested itself through my exercise and eating habits. These were things I could control; how I fit in to the millions of people in NYC as an 18-year-old was not (at least that’s how it felt at the time). So even though I was working out and watching my diet constantly, I still HAAATED working out. It was something I had to do. Calories in, calories out. There’s nothing enjoyable about that.

It wasn’t until I started doing road races through New York Road Runners after college that my mentality with running and working out started to change. With races, I felt like I was running towards a goal, not just running to burn calories. Also, the time I would spend alone, pounding the pavement, started to act as therapy for me. Running became a release. For 30 minutes or an hour (or 3+ when training for the marathon!), I could think about all the crazy things that go through my head, uninterrupted, and not be judged. Not to mention how great it feels when you finish a run. Endorphins are a real thing!

Now several years and miles later, I can’t imagine my life without running. Sure there are days when I don’t want to do it, or days when I don’t do it and then usually feel worse that I didn’t just go out, but I think that’s just part of the love-hate relationship everyone has with running. It is not an easy or fun thing to do. It takes discipline and hard work, but if you stick to do it, I promise you will feel the rewards (both mentally and physically). I know that’s a lot easier said than done, so I’ll also be sharing some of my running tips, favorite gear, and experiences on this blog. I mean, we’ve got to do something to offset the Salted Caramel Cookie Bars and Spicy Cocktail Meatballs  we’re making over here, right?!

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