Mile High Run Club: Training Every Runner To Aim Higher

It should be mentioned upfront, that I am NOT a runner.  The fact that I recently fell during a run and actually injured myself had upped my “not really a fan of running” to an almost shocking level of active avoidance. I really needed to get over it, so when I was invited to check out Mile High Run Club, the new runner’s boutique studio, I knew I had and needed to go.

MHRC logo

Mile High Run club is a boutique fitness studio geared at both advanced runners and those just looking to improve. The studio opened in the newly happening NoHo fitness hub – just around the corner from Soul Cycle and Barry’s Bootcamp. It is a beautiful, clean, modern studio, with a bank of small lockers in front. Thankfully, in the gorgeous changing room, there were a handful of larger lockers and I managed to snag one, since my huge backpack was just comically too big for the small ones in the communal space. I stashed my stuff, left my ego at the door and made my way into the studio.

MHRC TreadmillsDecked out with awesome Woodway Treadmills, which more closely mimic the road and just feel better under your feet, MHRC classes are split in two different versions “Dash 28” and “The Distance.”  The class that I took was “Dash 28” with Debora Warner, the founder and program director of Mile High Run Club. For the last several years, Debora has coached hundreds of runners independently through her private training business.  Debora’s goal with MHRC classes? “You’re not alone on the treadmill anymore. My class will educate you and inspire you to aim higher.” I love the idea of getting true run coaching while in a group class setting because really, I need all the coaching I can get!

Dash 28 is a 45-minute class for runners of all levels.  The name comes from the fact that it consists of about 28 minutes of structured intervals followed by 10 minutes of strength training on the floor. Our class did a short warm-up jog on the treadmill while Debora checked in on injuries and levels of experience. Then it was on to the floor for some squats, lunges and some plyometric moves to get our bodies ready for the next 28 minutes. On all of the treadmills, there was a small laminated guide for what ranges you should be within if you are a beginner or if you are advanced – I obviously knew I would fall in the beginner category. I followed along and struggled with every bit. I was distinctly the slowest in the room but was never, ever made to feel bad about it. I did what my hill run was. I did what my sprint was. The goal of MHRC isn’t to just teach to the highest level in the room, or call out crazy numbers to hit on the treadmill, but to give everyone in the room the tools to be their best – whatever that is. At the end of the 28 minutes, we hopped off the treadmills for some kettle bell and core work.

MHRC kettlebellsAt the end of Dash 28, I was spent, but with a new desire to get my running, at the very least, back to a respectable level. Mile High Run Club is a safe, supportive studio where you can just work on getting better – in a group setting. Watching the good runners of the room that night, I wanted to be them. I can’t wait to go back and work on getting better. The best part though about my first session at MHRC, was that it was the first time in months that I actually wanted to run again and that is just an amazing thing….

dreams dont work unless you do


Photos & logo courtesy of Mile High Run Club. End quote just a little bit of internet goodness.

No Rest For The Motivated: Kira Stokes Joins BFX Studios

Kira Stokes has taught a killer “Stoked” series of classes for years at Reebok Sports Club/LA, the super swanky and expensive UWS gym, developing loyal and rabid fans of workouts that kick your ass from head to toe. The problem was that really only the people at Reebok had access to that awesomeness on a weekly basis – this week that all changed.  Kira joined the new Boutique fitness venture BFX, which offers both monthly membership options and single classes.  This is a VERY good thing.

Kira Stokes BFXInvited to preview week, I didn’t even think twice & signed up immediately for both of her Monday night classes. It’s been ages since I’ve taken even one of Kira’s classes and even longer since I’d tried a double – I don’t know what I was thinking! On Monday nights she’ll be teaching her C3 Barre Max class and her signature Stoked 360.  I’d taken 360 (and loved it) but her Barre class was the wild card, so I knew I had to try it.  In my head I figured it would be just a lot of barre with Kira’s spin on it but that I would be fine.  I was wrong – those 3 C’s stand for Core, Cardio and Conditioning.  In the first few minutes of class, she told us that this class used to be 75 minutes, so really, she just had to make sure that we thoroughly felt it in 60.  10 minutes in, when we were still on planks and pushups, I knew that this double would be much harder then I’d anticipated.  My recent Pilates work made the roll-up/c-curve portions of the class my strongest part. We planked, did multiple variations on push-ups, did mountain climbers on sliders, c-curve pulses with weight, and did a few plyometrics for good measure. It was about at the halfway mark before we even touched the barre, and I knew I was in trouble with this double.  The barre work really consisted of maybe 6-10 minutes, because really, Kira didn’t need that prop to get to every tiny little muscle in your body. I was sweating buckets by the end of that Barre class.

1623678_1494765160740176_5429448453707692703_n I steeled myself for the next class, Stoked 360, and tried hard to regroup. There were a group of us doing the double, mostly Kira’s diehards who would follow her anywhere and trained with for years, and then me, who hadn’t been to a class in ages.  I’d taken it before and knew that on it’s own it is tough, but with all of my training recently, assumed I’d be fine. The idea of 360, is to hit all of your muscle groups with compound movements done in sets, then repeat it three times before moving on. One: first to learn the move, two: to understand it and three:  perfect it.  As Kira would explain each new set, we would jump rope. It was that cardio spike that made it so there were absolutely no breaks built into the workout.  As Kira said in the middle of class “I don’t cue rest breaks”- if you needed one, you had to take it yourself, she wasn’t going to give you the permission.  Stoked 360 is awesome because it hits everything – and is constantly changing so that you are always challenged. Half an hour in, Kira announced, “We have 45 minutes left and we have a lot to get done. Don’t stop now.” I must have looked visibly stunned, since she looked directly at me and said “YES, this class is 1 hour and 15 minutes and I expect you to give it your all.” Everyone hooted and hollered but I literally wondered if I would just fall over before that full 75 minutes ticked down. It was amazing how many people had followed her to her new spot… but really, considering how good Kira is at challenging you in a way few can, it isn’t THAT surprising.

She's Mad but she's magic

Kira’s BFX classes are going to be capped out at about half of the size of some of largest Reebox classes.  They are going to be hard to get into because Kira’s crew will follow her there. That said, now there is at least FINALLY a chance of training with this master in her field – and really is there better fitness news than that?


Top photo from Kira’s Facebook page and bottom just a little internet goodness.

Really Listening: I.AM.YOU’s Live DJ Class With Lauren Imparato


Things go wrong when you think you know an address…so on my way to Lauren Imparato’s I.AM.YOU, I took one of those random street elevators to a super sketchy second floor of an entirely different building, that instead of offering me a yoga sanctuary, offered massage services by the minute.  I thought, for a brief second, this is how a horror film would start and backed out quickly. Once I was back on the street, a quick Google search gave me the right address (I was two doors down) and moments later, I was finally in the right elevator and headed to I.AM.YOU.  I was running late, like class is about to start late, and I almost bagged out completely since I HATE being that person rushing in at the last minute.  But when I got to the floor, the door was still open and people were still being checked in, so I threw my stuff in my bag, ditched my shoes in the hallway and checked in. I walked into the darkened, stunning loft with its black mats carefully laid out and was grateful that I had actually made it.

The room was packed – of course. I had a momentary panic that my normal hide-in-the-corner-of-the-room spot wasn’t an option, and I thought about fleeing. Lauren saw me freeze, gave me a fierce hug and said without flinching, “You are going THERE” and pointed at an open mat in the middle of the room.  I paused. “GO”, Lauren said firmly and then was off to someone else.  I poked my way over to the mat and tried to settle in but with only a sliver of space between each mat, I also start praying that I didn’t take someone out during this class with my non-yogi ways.


Once all thirty mats were filled and everyone was settled in, Lauren told us the focus of the practice.  In most I.AM.YOU classes, Lauren has everything completely planned out, but during the live DJ class, there is an improv to music that is played.  So that night’s focus was all about really listening. That if, for one moment of your night, you were truly able to tune everything out and just really listen to yourself and the moment– that was success. That night, Jennifer, another of the I.AM.YOU teachers, was assisting and as we went through the athletic flow of the evening, it seemed like there was always someone there guiding and correcting my movement. Lauren and Jennifer seamlessly moved around the room, adjusting people, working as a team to get everyone in the room.  Sigh. Have I ever mentioned HOW much I love adjustments? I.AM.YOU instructors, for how amazing, challenging and athletic the practice is, are really just masterful at making sure everyone is in the right position.

Lauren Imparato

Lauren’s flow that night made us work with each other to get a little bit of space to fling ourselves around on the mat but because of the vibe of the night, everyone would just smile and shift. As the songs would change, the flow would morph and you had to really listen to the cues Lauren was giving. I strained to follow but occasionally would just peek at the girl on my left who was a regular and seemed grasp what the next thing was immediately. I never felt totally lost but occasionally my mind would drift off to the great music and cool vibe of the room and I’d suddenly realize I’d missed a cue or two. The hour and 15 minute practice flew by and at the end, as we lay in Savasana, I was totally blissed out. When Lauren made it to me to rub my temple to seal the practice, I melted. At the end of class, as I threw on my clothes and made my way out into the night, I wondered why I wasn’t at I.AM.YOU every single week… it really is just a magical spot in the world.

Photos from I.AM.YOU’s Facebook page. Top photo is from the actual class, if you look very closely you can spot me!

Training With The “World’s Fittest Woman”: Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet Showing Us How It’s Done At EVF Performance

When I heard that Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet, 2014’s CrossFit champ, would be doing a few days of training at EVF Performance, I knew I had to go. The fact that I hadn’t actually done a CrossFit class since I sprained my ring finger 6 weeks ago? A slight wrinkle but not a complete deterrent because I just can’t say no to the chance to workout with the greats.

Camille LeBlanc-BaznekCamille is tiny height-wise but ridiculously ripped – I mean she is the newly crowned “2014 World’s Fittest Woman.”  The class I was supposed to take was the final of the evening and they were running late – “Cami”, as they call her, likes to talk! The best part about that was that we got to watch the WOD that was ahead of us – and for me to snap a picture of Cami in action because I promptly forgot as soon as we were up. The first part of the night was hearing how she went from newbie to Champ in 5 years… which is just insane to me. Cami’s point: have a goal, then break it up into short and long term sections. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she had innate talent but I do think that breaking bigger goals down into pieces is a really good plan. The thing that I really needed to hear (and work on) is the idea that you have to work on your weakness, because your strength will still be there. Whatever that strength happens to be, it will still be there if you spend time on your weakness. All that happens is that you get balanced and more importantly, get better all around.

FBS - Camille Leblanc-Bazinet Demo

Although Cami was obviously the draw to the event, her husband, Dave Lispson, was there to coach too. Dave is one of the CrossFit Headquarters Level 1 coaches and was such an amazing resource for us to get to experience during the skill drills. He might not be the champ but he was awesome, concerned, helpful and thorough. The fact that he’s helping to train the next generation of CrossFit coaches I think is a very good thing. The section was exactly what I needed – a long, detailed breakdown of the clean and all of its various forms. We spent a long time with the PVC pipe and as we did it, Cami and Dave made their way through the room correcting us all. It was awesome to get tips from some of the best, who were both shockingly engrossed in helping us all get better.

FBS Camille Leblanc-Bazinet coachingThe tip that resonated hard with me was exactly how far back I was supposed to push my hips in any clean that started from the ground. Dave said it to me a LOT until I finally got that what I needed to feel – your hamstrings should be on fire before you go. “Push your knees back” really needs to be my mantra. It didn’t matter where people were (I was one of the worst, out of practice and sloppy) both of them were just in it when they were in front of us. We progressed to the bar, then weights, and in each round they were right there. As Cami said at the end, it doesn’t matter if you are throwing up huge weight, it matters if you are doing your best – whatever that is.

The WOD was pretty straightforward a seven minute partner cycle of 5 Squat Cleans while your partner did burpees – evil but straightforward. The score? Your total burpees. My partner was focused on a good score, so I sucked it up and listened to her plan. To get a good score, 75+, we had to do at least 5 burpees for every 5 cleans. It sucked ass but at the end, we’d done a 106 – totally solid.

Here is the thing…I expected a good workout and it was. I knew I’d learn something and I did. The thing that floored me though, was how much I LIKED her. She was sweet, kind and effacing- while still knowing that she is a complete badass. That is an absolutely amazing, special thing. After we’d all peeled ourselves off the floor and told our score we did pictures – because seriously, if you are going to work out with the Champ, you really DO need a picture.

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and FBS

Gotham Archery: Finding Your Inner Bad Ass

mags aiming

When I first heard that an archery range would be opening in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn, I didn’t really know what to expect but I was just so curious to find out. The space is in one of the industrial spaces that still exist in Gowanus – and even though I had checked the address a million times before heading there, I was sure I must have gotten the street wrong. Until actually standing in front of Gotham Archery, there are no big signs – only a small beautiful wooden placard on a non-descript door.

Gotham Archery -sign

I haven’t shot a bow since I was a little kid and didn’t know what to expect, so decided I needed a partner in crime for this adventure. I decided Eric needed to TAKE the class too, not just take pictures and so I booked us into Gotham Archery’s introductory class – required of everyone who wants to shoot on their range.  Since we got there a little early, I got to hang out and check out the space. Gotham is a large open space with the ability to adjust how far away the targets are. For newbies like my group, that is pretty close but for the more advanced people, they could be MUCH further away. There were two guys who were shooting the length of the building but my favorite pair was the mother and son practicing together. His mom was good and he was talking about wanting to be like Katniss Everdeen and shoot a traditional bow…which I just loved. The little boy wanting to be the female hero is a win in my book.

Gotham Archery -Frank

On this rainy Saturday at 2pm, there were 14 of us in the intro class, most in pairs and then one large group of 6. We were broken up into 2 groups, our group of pairs went with Frank.  He went over the basics of stance, of lane etiquette and how to stay safe on the archery range. Then it was off to get fitted for quivers, arm guards and finally, our bows.


all bows


There are two different types– the Olympic style “Recurve” and the “Compound” bow. The tall guys in the group had to use the “Recurve” but everyone else got to choose.  Everyone chose the fancy compound bow, but just like the little boy earlier, I wanted the traditional bow. I mean, if it is good enough for Katniss and Olympians, that is the one I want.

Gotham Archery -say what

The class is filled with a huge variety of skill level… from those who’ve never picked up a bow to those who had a LOT of experience.  There were 2 guys in our group who were really experienced with shooting and were annoyed at having to listen to all of Frank’s awesome tips and guidance before actually firing an arrow but for the rest of us, it was exactly what we needed.  After a half hour of instruction and set up, we were off.

mags prep


For the next hour, we practiced trying to hit the bullseye. Frank said our goal was less the bullseye than to be able to group the arrows we did shoot. Eric, though, was a natural and could from the very beginning group his shots. I was bad at that part but towards the end got much more consistent! Improvement, is the goal always… but in the finally knockout round game, I was out immediately.

mags side

Best random Saturday adventure that I’ve had in a long time – I can’t wait to go back and shoot again…

But really, my favorite part of shooting at Gotham Archery? It made me feel like a total bad ass.

mags full aiming

Photos by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media for FBS

Brooklyn Bodyburn’s Second Location: The Sweaty New Fitness Destination

It’s not exactly like I’ve been avoiding going to check out Brooklyn Bodyburn but until it opened in Cobble Hill last week, I’d never made it to a class. The original studio opened in Williamsburg last year to rave reviews but it was a pain to get to from my part of Brooklyn. However, the new studio is super convenient and finally, all of my excuses for not getting my butt over to check out Tracy Carlinksy’s studio flew out of the window.


The studio is a Lagree Fitness™studio and Tracy was quick to point out that this was NOT a Pilates class…which, I appreciated. The new Cobble Hill studio is equipped with the very latest version of the machine, the M3S, which is the newest, extra large souped-up version of the Megaformer.


For the opening weekend, the new studio hosted a special Lululemon and friends Bodyburn class. The basics of the workout is that the movements are slow but the transitions are fast and as Tracy went over the M3S at the beginning of class, I could already tell this class was going to be a lot more challenging than I had anticipated –there were a lot of moving parts to contend with!


I have a bunch of friends who’ve been raving about it and I finally get why. 10 minutes into this class, my muscles were shaking and I was dripping in sweat. Our crew was filled with fitness fiends – CrossFitters, Dancers, Barre addicts and Triathletes and not one of us had an easy time with this one… which was slightly comforting, considering I was dying. Tracy’s cues were spot-on and she gave a lot of hands-on corrections that were really helpful – especially for a class filled with people who had almost no experience on the Megaformers.


The machine is made up of a large main platform that is spring loaded with two stationary platforms on either end to change how you balance on your weight while making the carriage move. The biggest surprise for me given my experience on the traditional Pilates Reformer, is that on the Megaformer there weren’t any moves where you are on your back – at several points during the class this was a fact that made me very sad. There were planks, pikes and pushups – sometimes with your hand on the stationary platforms, sometimes with your hands out on the moving carriage.


The twisting pikes were my favorite – awesome and super challenging but I could see getting good at them. The series that made me want to cry, though, was the leg section in the middle. Occasionally, the lunges would be done with the front foot planted on the solid platform and the back foot pushing out the moving carriage to pulse. Then, we ran to the back of the machine so that our front foot was the one pushing out to pulse.


In both positions, Tracy ran around grabbing our knees to make sure that they were held in the right position and didn’t launch over our toes, which would be a recipe for knee disaster. She was a stickler for form, which I love… but occasionally, as she held my knee, I really wanted to burst out crying because it was so damn hard. At one point, I had to hop off my machine and grab a towel since I thought I was going to slide off the platform because I was so very, very sweaty.  Note to self: next time, grab the towel before heading to the machine!


The following day, sitting was comically painful. I don’t think I’ve gotten my ass handed to me that badly in a long time… I can’t wait to go back.


photos by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media for FBS

I Can’t Believe It’s Been A Year: Finding A Community At Brick NYC

Last week I got an email from Brick New York that simply read “Happy Anniversary! Glad you decided to spend the last year with us!” I immediately was like…that can’t be true! I took my very first intro to CrossFit class last year at Brick NYC.  After years of swearing I would never do CrossFit because it was too dangerous, I decided I needed to try it for myself.  I’d heard good things about Brick and loved the attitude that they fostered in their space. You train safely and with attention to form at all times but it was still important to keep things fun.


Brick CrossFit NYC 9 copy

After that first intro class, I talked to Will Lenier, Brick’s General Manager and knew that I would be safe there.  A few weeks later and after several BX classes, I finally took my very first Academy class. It took me a million years to finish my Academy classes since I could never seem to get to the ones I needed to get to because of my whacky schedule.  It got to the point of being comical but each coach reminded me it didn’t matter how long it took, that I would get there.  I didn’t even take my very first proper CrossFit class until the very end of September– almost 2 months after that first intro class.


Around the time that I was still trying to get through Academy, when I still didn’t know anyone, I ended up doing the Civilian Military Combine (CMC) event. The team I was supposed to do it with fell apart before the competition was supposed to happen so I reached out to Will to see if I could maybe join the Brick team. His response was an immediate “Hell YES” and no one ever batted an eye at the interloper in their mix, they just welcomed me as one of their own – even though I didn’t know anyone. CrossFit is about community and it was that day that I really got that.

14.4 Heidi Coaching SSM

My misconceived notions of what CrossFit was about had very little to do with what I found at Brick. I found an amazing group of supportive coaches who were always focused on form and making you feel like family as well as an unwavering group of fellow fitness fiends who just wanted to see each other get better. I don’t write about CrossFit very often because mostly the tiny gains in weights I can lift aren’t that interesting and because really, I love every single class at Brick and it would just get ridiculous. I often find myself on bad days heading to Brick knowing I will walk out feeling better. I can’t think of any more I could ask for.

photos and video by Eric Stafford for FBS

Give More: The Unrelentingly Solid Grant Belton

Grant Belton is just unrelentingly solid. He is so consistent, I sometimes forget how incredibly special that is. The other day, when my workout schedule had gotten completely out of whack, I saw Grant’s name on Flywheel Tribeca’s roster the following day and knew it was exactly what I needed to get me back on track.  Grant’s classes are always just a completely focused, challenging ride but they aren’t showy. He’s not going to distract you from pushing harder and expecting more from yourself, he just calmly asks you “Are you feeling strong? Then give more.

I’ve taken quite a few of Grant Belton’s classes at Flywheel and always walk out completely satisfied and almost always with a new highest score. The other day during class, it suddenly occurred to me that I’d never actually written about one of Grant’s classes. It made me feel like a complete asshole – for one simple reason. I write about the best of the best of the classes I’ve taken and Grant is hands-down one of the best of the best. If you talk to almost any of the other Flywheel instructors, Grant is always on the top of their list of instructors THEY take.

Grant Belton Flywheel Last week, my workout plans were getting crushed right and left. I needed a class to get me back on track and I knew that Grant’s would be the ticket. I snuck out of the office and made my way to that awesomeFriday treat that had popped up on Flywheel’s Tribeca schedule. I checked in and for some reason it wouldn’t let me choose to be on the torque board. I finally shrugged, grabbed my shoes and decided it was a sign, that today I wasn’t going to worry about the board at all. As I walked into the class, Grant looked at me and said “Well this is a nice surprise.” I grinned and made my way to my bike.

There were a few new riders in the classes and Grant went over the foundations of a Flywheel class – the torque numbers, rpm and how to get your best ride. As we started the ride, I listened to his awesome queues – “Bap, bap, bap” or hard clapping to the rhythm of the song – those always work for me. I just focused in and rode hard. At some point he said “I want you to look at your number and double it –THAT is what you are going for as your final number.”  I looked down, was at 160 and thought well that isn’t possible. In 45 minutes, I’ve never even gotten close to 300 and was pretty sure my first ride back in weeks wasn’t going to be the time for it to happen! Then, about 3 songs later, after arms, I realized that 300 really was close.  For those last 2 songs, I just focused, rode hard and fast and hit 295. Which is so insanely huge for me! I’ve always seen people who hit 300 and thought, that just is NEVER going to be possible for me. Grant proved me wrong by calmly expecting more. When I went to clip out of the bike I realized that I’d pushed myself so hard my legs were actually shaking.

chalkboard-art-typography-illustrated-quotes-32__605The weird thing about 295? It’s so close to that magical 300 that I was almost pissed that I didn’t get there. Then I remembered that it was like 30 points more then I’d EVER scored in 45 minutes, grinned hard and high fived Grant on my way out the door.

I SO have to take more of Grant’s classes. I’ve been half-stepping.


Photo of Grant from Flywheel’s website and bottom quote a little bit of internet goodness.

Pretending To Be Graceful: Absolute Beginner Ballet With Finis Jhung


When I was little I loved ballet classes. I was never good but I did LOVE being at a barre and pretending to be a beautiful ballerina. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time until a few weeks ago, when I got a card in the mail from my mom with one of my old dance pictures on it. Then while watching So You Think You Can Dance last week, I decided taking an Absolute Beginner Ballet class was an awesome plan.

Ballet with FJ1-930

Having taken an Absolute Beginner Hip Hop class at Alvin Ailey a few months ago, I was on their website looking immediately for something that would fulfill my ballerina itch. I signed up for Absolute Beginner Ballet with Finis Jhung since it was on Monday night at 7pm and given that the classes are 90 minutes, it was the only option that worked with my schedule. The Pilates studio I work at is filled to the brim with former dancers and when I told them about the class after I signed up for it they all gasped at the fact that Finis Jhung was teaching it. Reason? Since 1972, he has been a mainstay of the New York dance scene. Finis has taught at all the major New York studios and was a Soloist with The San Francisco and Joffrey Ballet Companies. “His life-long love of theatre and dance has led him to re-evaluate ballet teaching and to develop innovative teaching methods which make ballet easier to understand and more enjoyable to learn, while preserving the essential qualities that make ballet a great performing art.” As a non-dancer, I had no idea but I was suddenly a little nervous about what this class would actually be like.

ringer dancer at absolute beginner

In the description, it says “for your first time you are allowed to wear socks” but everyone else should have ballet shoes. After checking in, I went to wait by the big, main classroom and got my first peak at my classmates… who all were obviously dancers. There was one other lone sock-er but everyone else was not only sporting the shoes but doing very dramatic dancer stretches in the hall while waiting. I immediately steeled myself that this was going to be a much more advanced class than I was prepared for. As we moved the free standing silver barres into the center of the room, I snagged a spot in the middle corner, so hopefully I could follow along with the people in front of me but not so far back that I couldn’t see Finis in the front of the room. Even though the class was filled to the brim with almost 40 dancers and me, Finis thankfully taught what really was an “Absolute Beginner” class. We stood at the barre for most of the class, learning hold ourselves like a dancer, how to shift our weight so that our movements with the out stretched leg could be more graceful. I loved being at the barre and going through the movements to the classical music. He mostly called out the names of the footwork we were going to be doing, gave a quick demo and then we were off. Since I don’t know the names of any of the positions, it was completely lost on me when Finis said the proper names but it was easy enough to follow along. I got scolded a few times with a very firm “chin up!” since I was almost always staring at the feet of the ringer of a dancer who always seemed to be at the front barre.

I mostly didn’t talk to anyone, but during the short break we took in the middle of class, an older woman decked out in a beautiful flowered dancer’s skirt, glasses and grey hair in braids came over to me “I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.” My response “No, it’s my first class, nice to meet you though!” She clapped her hands together and exclaimed “Do you like it? It really is just the best isn’t it?” I responded with “Yes. It really is great, I’m so glad I came. How long have you been coming?” She shyly replied, “It’s embarrassing but I’ve been coming for three years. I love dance so much but I really have NO aptitude for it!” Relieved to have a kindred spirit in the class, I smiled and said “I think that is awesome. I LOVE that you keep coming because you adore it! Being good at something isn’t the important part, it’s the doing something you love even if you aren’t good at it that matters!” She beemed and walked back to the barre, we were about to get started again.

maggie ballet


The first hour of class is all at the barre but when he had us clear the floor for the last chunk of class I had a momentary panic that there would be some big grand runs across the floor. I was fully prepared to just run out of class if that happened. It turned out the final 30 minutes would be spent doing a little floor stretching and then trying to master gracefully gliding across the floor with a few short combo steps. In Absolute Beginner Ballet there were no big moves across the floor but for a full 90 minutes, I felt graceful. I seriously couldn’t have asked for more and I would totally go back. But I would still wear the socks since really… I don’t want to give anyone any ideas that I know what I’m doing!


Photo of Finis Jhung teaching from the Alvin Ailey website.

BFX Studio: Amanda Butler & Eli Ingram Build A New Option for NYC


Last week, I got the chance to go check out BFX studio in Chelsea, the new boutique concept from TSI, the company behind New York Sports Club.  BFX is broken up into 3 distinctive sections – “Master Classes”, Spinning and Private Training. They recruited some impressive talent, including Amanda Butler, formerly of the Fhitting Room, and the moment I saw her on the list, I knew it was her class that I wanted to check out.  The classes at BFX are available either individually, in a package or there is an unlimited class option. I chose the  “BFX Build” since it was a class Amanda was teaching and was at a time I could make, even though I really didn’t know what it might entail – my guess, though, was that it would be a HIIT class of some stripe.

It was not.

BFX Instructors

As we entered the studio, a beautiful room with instructor platform and TRX straps hanging from the ceiling, we were told to grab two kettle bells and park ourselves at the TRX station. The kettle bells at BFX are different than the ones I’ve used most places – they are heavy  but look like a playground ball with a handle. My desire to use them like a dodge ball was intense! Thankfully, I kept that under wraps and made my way to my station without incident.  The class was led by Eli Ingram and Amanda – Eli took the lead, explaining the structure of the class and the moves while Amanda demonstrated. The Build class turned out to be a straight-up strength class.

Our “BFX Build” was 3 circuits, each done 5 times through. Eli told us that each TRX move was supposed to be held for a three second count. Before we started, Eli asked if anyone had any knee or shoulder injuries – I tentatively raised my hand since my shoulder has been wonky lately and Amanda noticed right away, miming “which one?” at me. As I pointed at my shoulder she just nodded and from that moment on, she was all over giving me modifications and checking in on me during each move that might be an issue. That kind of injury attention makes me swoon. I was mostly fine on the various TRX moves but it was awesome to be checked on so much. The class FLEW by. When we got to a pushup move on the kettle bell that made my shoulder scream, Amanda was quick to offer up a straight plank on the Kettlebell that was challenging but ok on the wonky shoulder.  We did Kettlebell swings, thrusters with them and overhead squats in between the TRX moves. My favorite set, though, was the last circuit which included a bridge move with our feet in the straps, then we flipped over and did a Pike move with our feet still in the straps.  As someone who is always working on getting better at handstands, the Pike move seemed like an awesome strength prep! We wrapped up with a quick AB section and then it was done. I was tired but felt that killer all body ache that you want from a Strength class.

Amanda and Eli

After class, I went down to the locker room where I had stashed my stuff in one of their lockers. Sadly, I am terrible at those spinning combo lockers so I had to have the front desk lady help me out… but I wasn’t the only one –she was already down there with the master key when I got there!

This first BFX studio is seriously pretty, with a shiny newness and lots of cool “Master Class” options, awesome teachers, a nice spin studio (although you have to bring your own shoes or wear sneakers –eek) and fully loaded personal training studio. BFX offers HIIT classes too but I loved that they also had just a straight up Strength class – those are rare these days!


Images from BFX’s Facebook page and their site.