Tag Archives: workout

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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Finding a Workout Groove

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Even though I write about running or working out on this blog, doesn’t mean that it comes easily to me. I know that I’ll almost always feel better after working out than if I don’t, but there are some days I just DON’T WANNAAAA (said in a whiny kid voice). Especially with nicer weather on its way, the only heavy lifting I want to do after work is emptying a bottle of rose.

For the past couple years, Kevin and I have really struggled to find a workout routine that we semi-enjoy, is affordable, and can stick to in the long run. I was totally spoiled when I first lived in NYC: a brand new Crunch gym was on my block, I was 3 avenues from the best running path in the city (the West Side Highway), and I didn’t have to be at work until 9:30-10AM, so I had ample time to workout and get ready without having to wake up at 5AM. I was also much less financially responsible than I am now and would indulge myself in a $35 SoulCycle class all too often.

Then we moved to Astoria. I had a different job where I had to be at work earlier and went from having a 10 minute commute to an hour and 10 minute commute. Not surprisingly, it became a lot harder to find the time and motivation to workout. I also missed the convenience of having a fancy gym and a beautiful running path at a stone’s throw. We went through a brief stint with Crossfit, which I really enjoyed, but we were getting up at 5AM in the dead of winter to make it work, and I just grew to resent that too (not to mention it was pretty darn expensive).

When we moved out of the city, I assumed and hoped that working out would magically be easier again. No longer working “New York hours” we’d have more time and we’d have the convenience of driving to a gym or running path. While that’s partly true, it still doesn’t make up the other half of the battle: being motivated enough to actually go. In an ideal world, I’d just pay for a personal trainer to tell me what to do every day. But since that’s not going to happen any time soon, I recently thought about what I have enjoyed in my exercise history (or as close to enjoyment as possible) and what I need to help me stick to it. Here’s what I came up with:

No frills. Besides the scented candles and meditative coaching at SoulCycle, I like my workouts to be simple and efficient. Take running or Crossfit, for example, it’s just you and the road or you and the barbell.

Convenient. As evident throughout this post, if it’s not easy to get to, I am not gonna go. I want to enjoy working out, but I want to enjoy life pre and post workout even more.

Affordable. Like I said, I would totally have a personal trainer if I could afford one, but for now, if it’s not something I can do on my own, I don’t want to have to pay extra for it. I do enjoy Crossfit, but most of those workouts I could do at home or on my own at a gym.

Accountability. Whether it’s training for a race or signing up for a class, I like having the structure of a schedule or even a no-show fee to hold me a accountable. This also takes the thinking out of it a little bit – as long as I can get myself to a spin class, I can leave it up to the instructor to make the workout happen.

Being honest with myself in what I do and more importantly don’t like about working out has helped us get into more of a workout groove lately. Depending on what your goals are, I always think it’s best to do what works for you and what you like, otherwise you’ll never get into that groove and stick to it. And if some days rose wins out over that run, that’s okay too 😉

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My Go-To Gym Machines

If you had asked me in high school, I never would have thought I would have willingly set foot in a gym outside of P.E. When we had to go to the school fitness center in gym class, I would strategically go to the bathroom and hang out in the locker room for 10 minutes or do “sit-ups” – a.k.a. lie on the mats until a teacher came around and then fake a sweat. I was never a physically active kid and I especially hated gyms: sweaty people cramped into one room grunting, flexing, and watching you try (and fail) to do one pull-up. Well in college, something changed. I think I realized that I couldn’t continue to eat Ellio’s pizza and corndogs (a frequent after school snack of mine) and not blow up like a balloon eventually. Also, the NYU gym was one of less intimidating places to work out – it was either empty or I was bigger and stronger than half of the guys there. Since then, I’ve tried all sorts of different fitness classes, paid for personal trainers, and now with Kevin by my side I have a life-long workout partner, so I no longer feel the need to fake my sit-ups. Still though, navigating a busy gym floor can be intimidating and overwhelming. But when armed with the know-how of a few essentials, you can go in there looking like a pro. Here are my 5 go-to gym machines that are effective, efficient, and can get you out of the gym in about 30 minutes if you blast through them!

leg pressIncline Leg Press: This machine ups the intensity from the standard leg press. Start with no weight on the machine just to get the feel for it. Keep your feet about hip-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward. Press up through your heels and hamstrings (the back of your thighs) and use the handles on the sides to unlock the press. Now continue the same motion you would on a regular leg press, continuing to engage your hamstrings and glutes. When you’re ready to add weight, I use 45 lbs on each side and do 3 sets of 12.

pull downLat Pull-Down: This machine replicates the motion of doing a pull-up, but obviously is less intense. Adjust the seat as needed, sit up straight, and pull straight down using your core and back to help you. This will work your biceps and triceps, but your back and core are what really power this movement. For more of a challenge, try the assisted pull-up machine (or go for full-on pull-ups) – our Planet Fitness just doesn’t have one. For weight, I usually do 50-65 lbs, 3 sets of 12.

squat

Smith Machine Squat: Start out with no weight to get the feel for this machine because it can feel a little awkward at first. Set the bar to a height where you can comfortably rest it across the back of your shoulders without having to get on your tip-toes. Keep legs hip-widith apart, toes pointing slightly outward. Unhook the bar and start to squat – you’ll feel the bar is assisted so its full weight is not resting on you. Be sure to keep your butt back and use your glutes to power you back up to standing position. Make sure your knees don’t cave in either – I struggle with this when my legs are tired. When you’re ready for weight, I add 25 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.

deadliftSmith Machine Deadlift: Again start without any weight. Keep your legs hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing outwards. Come towards the bar so that it’s almost touching your shins. Bend down, keeping your back straight and sticking your butt out (your thighs should be parallel to the ground) and grip the bar just wider than shoulder-width. Use your glutes, hamstrings, and core to stand up straight still holding the bar. It may feel like a small movement, but trust me, your hamstrings WILL be sore the next day. When ready to add weight, I do 25-35 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.

chest press

Smith Machine Chest Press: Place a bench under the bar. Lower the bar so you can comfortably unlock it without having to reach. You want to position yourself so the bar is directly over your chest. With hands wider than your shoulders, push up to unhook the bar and slowly lower until it’s just a few inches above your chest. Your arms should be on the same plane as your torso, not lower than the rest of your body. Use your chest, biceps, and core to push up the bar to starting position. For weight, I use 10-15 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.

Bon Week-end!

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Friiiiday! Since today is my only day off between this week and next, I plan to enjoy it. Tonight we’re living it up in the burbs with a night at the movies – thinking American Sniper – and dinner at P.F. Changs (I have been dying to go since we moved. After living in NYC, there’s something nostalgic and comforting about a good ol’ chain restaurant). Here are some fun links to get you ready for the weekend while you procrastinate at work today – you’ve earned it! It’s Friday after all!

In light of my post on finding your meal template earlier this week, I’m loving this no-fail lunch planning formula.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, this book that Kevin’s mom gifted us is a fun way to break away from mindless TV watching with that special someone.

haaate being hungry while working out. Fuel up with the best snacks for your workout.

Once you’re fueled up, break a sweat with one of these vintage workout videos. I “ironically” did the Paula Abdul Get Up & Dance in high school, but secretly loved it.

Allie’s post on honeymoons has me itching for a trip to the tropics with this in hand.

Will be trying this tip for all those half-finished bottles of bubbly piling up after last month’s news.

Image via Pinterest

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