The Crossfit Open: Friday Night Lights at Brick NYC Made Me Believe…

When the CrossFit Open was first announced at Brick NYC, I completely discounted it. Having watched the Open on ESPN, I knew the kind of amazing athletes that compete and didn’t really see a reason for joining the competition even if it only cost $20. I’ve been doing CrossFit for only a few months, a few times a week and have always been a scaling champ when it comes to the Daily Workouts. I was sure I had no business doing the competition. Then Heidi Jones, one of Brick’s awesome head coaches, told me in no uncertain terms “You will be sorry if you don’t. The Open is an amazing, exciting experience and you HAVE to do it. You will do things you never thought you could do.” When she said that to me, I smiled, nodded and internally rolled my eyes, imagining how comically inadequate I just knew I would be at those Open workouts but I went home and signed up that night. Here is the thing, Heidi wasn’t wrong, but I was.

They told us before the Open started that Brick started Friday Night Lights in LA and made it an event and that was going to happen here in NY too. I didn’t get how awesome that was going to be. Brick shuts down on Friday nights during the Open, setting up heats for their athletes to compete in while a DJ’s cranking up the vibe and making it a full-out, happening event. People come to watch, everyone cheers each other on and the athletes
competing work HARD, pushed on by all of that unwavering support.

14.4 Heidi Coaching SSM

The first workout, 14.1 was a 30 Double Unders/10 Overhead press combo. I’d never gotten one Double Under in class and thought the idea of getting 30 was ridiculous. I told Heidi this before my round and she told me to try her rope. That very first Open night, I got60 Double Unders– and completed 2 full rounds. I walked out that night giddy, having knocked out one of the CrossFit moves “I’d never be able to do.” Then, 14.2 was an Over Head Squat/ Chest to Bar combo. That night, I spent the evening desperately trying for the Chest to Bar but never got it. I had some amazing coaching from Erica and the effort and belief that I might make it made that night feel like a win. 14.3 was a Deadlift Ladder/box-jump combo. I was in the last round of people, the only girl, and as soon as I started, Heidi moved into my line of vision and coached me through every single rep. That night, I managed to get all the way to the 155lb round and lifted it 16 times. I walked out that night feeling like a total badass.

14.4 FBS Rowing SSM

When 14.4 was announced, I laughed out loud. A 14 minute AMRAP (As-Many-Rounds-As-Possible) workout referred to as a “Chipper” was a 60 calorie row, 50 toes to bar, 40 wall balls, 30 hang cleans and 20 muscle ups. The idea is that you have to fully complete each movement before going on to the next. I knew I had the rowing part down, everything else? Not a chance in hell. In class, I’ve never even gotten one Toes to Bar. Not one single time, not even close. I went early to cheer people on. This was a workout for all super badass awesome athletes at Brick and after three weeks of being at every FNL event, they truly felt like family. I yelled loudly for a couple of hours and ignored the fact that my heat was coming up. Between rounds, we all talked about the craziness of the 14.4. I would just laugh and say “Well after that row, I am just going to be hanging on that bar for the next 10 minutes, Toes To Bars is so not in my bag of tricks.” When it was finally my turn, I hopped on the rower and Heidi came to judge my attempt. She asked me how I felt about Toes to Bar and I said the same thing I’d been saying all night. Her response? Well, that is going to change tonight. We are going to get you your first one.” She was just so VERY sure, that I just nodded and said ok. It’s a little hard for me not to believe her when she tells me anything. The row flew by and then at the bar, I tried and with each attempt, Heidi would go over where I was going wrong in the movement and I would try again. It seemed like it was never going to happen.

14.4 FBS T2B 2 SSM

14.4 FBS T2B Contact SSM

Then after what seemed like a very long time, suddenly it all started to come together. I got close a couple of times and each time she’d tell what to focus on and say “now get back up there.” Then it happened. I swung two times and pulled my abs in like I was doing the hardest situp in my life and my feet made contact. Heidi let out a huge holler and I came down from it. I saw across the way all the people I’d spent the evening rooting with suddenly rooting and hollering for me. It was a huge accomplishment for me and it was celebrated as loudly as people celebrated the amazing athletes who completed the whole workout.

14.4 FBS T2B 3 SSM

The awesome thing I’ve found in CrossFit is that when you try and finally get something, even if it is something small, it is a cause for celebration – everyone there with you remembers that first time they got that thing that was eluding them and KNOWS how hard you worked to get it. Before the Open, I would always choose to scale the workouts but I’ve come out of it knowing that I have so much more in me. Heidi was so right, during the Open, you do things you never thought you could do. That alone was worth the $20 (and more) – I did belong there; we all did.

After spending every week at FNL, I’m glad that the Open is wrapping up but I can’t wait to see where I am at next year when it comes around again…

Videos and photos by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media

Row House: Rowing Done Right

I am always excited when any workout that includes rowing is in the mix but I haven’t been able to find a rowing-focused spot that got me giddy before winding up at Row House on Saturday afternoon.  Row House is a new studio on 59th, between 10th and 11th street, opened by Eric Von Frohlich and his wife Debra Frohlich, who have been in the fitness industry for over a combined 35 years. Rowing studios seem to be popping up all over recently but most have had a hard time figuring out how to be a killer cardio workout without trying to be a spin class on rowers.

Row House Logo

I dragged the fella with me to this class because it was on a Saturday, in a neighborhood we never go to, and I really do so love a weekend adventure. I mapped it out but when we were actually walking there from the Subway, it seemed like I must have gotten it wrong but it really is almost to the Hudson on 59th! The space is on the ground floor of a large apartment building and is very minimal but pretty. We got all checked in and plopped down on a bench to strip down our layers to get ready for class. The studio doesn’t have locker rooms or separate changing rooms, but there are two big bathrooms and a huge storage rack to store your stuff. Since we had come fully prepared, we dropped our stuff and headed into class. There are about 12 rowers in the studio that are flanked by a cool Row House logo wall on one side, a black and white cityscape opposite and mirrors in the front.

Row House

Debra was leading the class but Eric was there too and joined in the fun. We went through and introduced ourselves before the class started. Our group was apparently surprising because we all had experience on the rowers.  I’ve used the Concept 2 Rowers a lot in CrossFit recently but it was SO helpful to hear the smart form cues  – where our feet should be in the holders, body position, and how to be seamless in movement.  The first few minutes were spent with a slow stroke build, so that Debra could get us all on the same rhythm, and then launched into interval counts that ramped up the intensity of the strokes.

Debra-Strougo

With the music going, the first 10 minute chunk flew by. Then, it was off the rower for squats, planks and sit-ups using the ab mats CrossFit loves so much. Then, back on the rower for another 10 minute session.  This time, instead of going by stroke counts for the intervals, they were timed. These ten minute pushes were brutal and left me gasping by the end (in the best possible way). It always amazes me how hard rowing can be for such a low impact activity! At the end of the second push, the fella looked over at me and shook a fist at me for bringing him to class but then grinned and mouthed “This is AWESOME!”. Then, it was back on the floor for another ten minute section of lunges, sandbell slams (I loved this squat–throwing-the-weight combo), more planks and finishing off with burpees. Debra was awesome but for me would occasionally give us a few too many options for variations on the floor– but then again I tend to like fewer options so I don’t get confused! It was about the only thing I would have changed about this kickass, challenging and fun class.  The last rowing segment was a 5 minute all-out push. Debra warned us: “I’m just going to let you row and at the 2 ½ minute mark, I want you to look at your number and double it. GO!”. That last push left me absolutely gasping and so giddy. I’d found the rowing class I had been hoping for!

I liked it so much that I would totally trek over there from Brooklyn again… and that is saying a lot!

Always Believe

 

 

Row House Logo, studio shot, image of Debra from Row House NYC and bottom image just a little bit of internet goodness.

Nike’s #UnleashSpeed With The Brick NYC Crew

Last week, Will Lanier sent out an announcement that he would be leading one of the special #UnleashSpeed events that Nike NYC was throwing for the lead-up to the SuperBowl. I didn’t even finish reading the email before sending in my RSVP to what I knew was going to be a ridiculously fun event. NikeTown on 57th has turned their roof space into a tented astroturf playground of fitness fanatics dreams and then turned it over to some of the best trainers in the city to have fun with…

UnleashSpeed at NikeTown

Since weekend trains from Brooklyn can be a dicey prospect, I left myself plenty of time to get there and ended up arriving so early that I was the very first person up to the roof. Even though it was a 14 degree day, inside the tent it was not nearly as cold as I thought it would be. The Brick team – Will, Erica and Sherry, were all going over the plan for the day so while they were busy with that, I got a few minutes to take in what fun was being set up for us. There were rowers, kettlebells, battle ropes and agility ladders but the thing I was most excited to see was the tire & sledgehammers. I’d heard they were going to be a part of the event but until I actually saw them, I hadn’t really believed it.  As people –mostly the Brick New York crew – started pouring in, the energy began to rise. Everyone knew this was going to be fun and from the second they entered, the energy in the tent was palpable.

UnleashSpeed OverviewUp on stage, Will put on a microphone and put us through a warm up before breaking down the workout ahead of us. It sounded like Brick’s class with some extra bits of awesomeness thrown in and I knew from the get-go this was going to be amazing. HARD but amazing. The 5 stations that had been set up for us mostly had 4 different moves that we would be doing over the course of two rounds. Erica and Sherry, two of Brick’s awesome coaches, showed us what each move should look like at the 5 different stations as he described them. Then, we were divided into groups.

UnleashSpeed Tire Flipping I lucked out…my first station was the Tire Station and I was giddy. First up was flipping a tire, then hopping through it to the other side where my partner then flipped it the other way. I loved flipping the tire but hopping through it was hard! Every minute Will would call out that we had to move, so after one minute, we were on to whacking another tire with a sledgehammer – with each person taking turns hitting it. There is nothing about that station that wasn’t fun.  I mean really, how often do you get to flip a tire or wield a sledgehammer on a rooftop in NYC?

UnleashSpeed Rowing and Plates The next station flew by, then it was off to a rowing/evil station combo. Will had actually told us it was evil before the rounds even started and he didn’t lie. 3 from my group grabbed the rowers, so 2 of us ended up doing the evil part – 6 lunges with a 25lb plate held over our heads and 6 Squat jumps clutching the plate to our chests followed by 6 weighted sit-ups. I had a deep fear that I was going to drop the plate at any second.  At that station, we stayed put and did all 3 minutes where we started. It really was evil.  But Will and crew shouted encouragement at us and kept us going.

Then, it was off to the Battle Ropes, Squats, Box Jumps and Burpee Station. Ugh. The Box Jump Burpee combo always seems so mean but I was glad to be forced to do it the first round so that by the next round, I would have the Battle Rope fun to look forward to.  The final station was the Agility Station, which is really never my strong suit, but I’m working on getting better! Will, Erica and Sherry constantly made the rounds, correcting form, giving encouragement and being the supportive and amazing coaches that they always are.

Round 2 just flew by and as we went through the stations, we bonded over the awesomeness of the experience and the camaraderie from challenging ourselves. We cheered and high-fived when all the rounds were over – knowing we were part of something special in the playground Nike had created in the heart of the city!

UnleashSpeed Brick Crew

 

Photos by Nike NYC

Running on Walls : Grounded Aerial’s Amazing Workshop

Grounded Aerial Running on Walls

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine put up an announcement on Facebook about an upcoming workshop run by one of her former cast mates, Karen Fuhrman, from De La Guarda, that sounded amazing –“Grounded Aerial: Running on Walls.” It sounded awesome but I wasn’t really considering doing it since my aerial experience is limited at best, but then I got a note that said “M, You will LOSE. YOUR. MIND! It’s so much FUN!!!” which, obviously, changed my “oh-that-sounds-cool-for-other-people” attitude to “I HAVE to go try that.”

Grounded Aerial is a performance art/dance group, mixing modern dance with specially rigged aerial elements, created by and starring veterans of such acclaimed shows and troupes as Stomp, De La Guarda, Momix, Blue Man Group,Cirque du Soleil and Pilobolus Dance Theater.  While rehearsing for their upcoming show Grounded Aerial, they decided to hold a few workshops during their rehearsal week. With so much experience between them, I knew I would be in good hands!

Grounded Aerial Karen Demo

I love the Brooklyn Lyceum – old and run down but still beautiful and I was excited to get to really see inside. It felt a little like breaking into the empty space and making my way down into the basement but then there it was…the huge white panel suspended from the ceiling that was going to be our playground for the next few hours.  The class was tiny – an aerialist, a former gymnast, Karen’s friend from college and her son (his very cool birthday present) and then me.  We did a few character/movement drills on the floor that my non-actory self was very bad at but that I found interesting because it was really about knowing where everyone was at all times – which, when running on the wall is important…

GA FBS Floating

We all were given harnesses and I put mine on way too low and was immediately fixed by one of the riggers. Then, Karen gave us all a few tips on how the clip should sit – a wider u shape than the tighter v it naturally sits at when you put on your harness.  After a little yanking and pulling to make that happen, we were all set to go. We went up in pairs. The aerialist and gymnast were together, the mom and son, and then I was paired with a new member of the troupe. The aerialist and gymnast went first and made it look so easy but I knew that it wouldn’t be… then the mom and son.  By the time it was my turn, I was both dying to get up there and just completely anxious.

Grounded Aerial Helping Turn As I was clipped on to the rope in front of me, there were a few minutes while the rigging weight was reset from the son – I got a few breaths in and then quickly I was up on the wall. Since my partner on the wall was a troupe member, Karen could focus on helping me get used to being in the harness and how the moves should feel.   She was a kind and gracious guide.  What was both the most amazing feeling and the weirdest – leaning back and pushing off the wall. The move looks so easy but was so hard! I never did get the full arch back that she was looking for, so I could have audience “face time” but it was amazing to fly out and feel that weightlessness for a brief, shiny moment. Then, we moved on to running on the wall, a challenging move that was a core killer but made more sense in my brain since I could keep one hand on the rope.  I have no idea how long I was up there but it was amazing, and by the time I came down, I was wiped and giddy.

Grounded Aerial FBS Flipping

The next section was shorter but included more challenging moves. Keren went up on the wall to demonstrate and I was reminded of a very important fact.  Aerialists make every move look easy and beautiful but doing even the most basic move takes an incredible amount of very specific strength. The backflips and upside down moves were gorgeous when she did them but I knew it was going to be brutally hard to actually do. As the groups before me went and did an amazing job,  I wondered if she had any idea how impossible those moves looked to me.  Apparently she did.  From the moment my turn came, Karen was with me, helping me try and get in the right position and feel how the moves should be done.  I was so grateful. I tried and I tried with her help to get my flip done and when I finally managed to make it happen on my own the room erupted into applause and I was beaming. It wasn’t pretty, but it happened and I was SO proud! Then we moved on to inversions. I was better at those but by the end, I was completely wiped out -more tired than I’ve been at the end of any class in ages. I swung myself up and called it a day – an amazing, giddy, spectacular day.

Grounded Aerial FBS upside down

Grounded Aerial will be performing at the Lehman Center For The Performing Arts in the Bronx this weekend.  If you are interested in going and seeing this amazing group perform, tickets are available here.

 

Photos by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media 

Goals Not Resolutions

I don’t really believe in resolutions. I think they are almost always coming from the wrong place for me. They are usually about things to fix, things that are wrong, trying to be some version of perfect… so a few years ago, I gave them up. Fuck it. I just wasn’t doing them any more.

What I DO believe in is setting goals. Things that excite you. Now that is something I can get behind. Some goals are BIG some are small.

Princeton Quote

One big one that has been hanging out on my goal list since the NYC Triathlon was doing an Ironman 70.3.  Originally I was planning on doing another Olympic distance race like the NYC Tri but I just wasn’t excited – so 2013 passed without a race. Then a few weeks before Christmas, a random Ironman post on Facebook got me practically giddy – 2014 was going to be the inaugural Princeton 70.3. I wanted in.

Princeton is close enough that it wasn’t going to add a crazy extra expense to what is already a pricey venture but the course also just sounded nice.  It is also in September – plenty of time to train. Gulp.  I’m planning on doing the Brooklyn Half again this year so hopefully, that will help kick my running into gear again. The fact that the 70.3 ends with a half marathon is weirdly the only part that worries me!

So, after a few days of debating if it was just nuts to sign up for a 70.3 freaking Ironman, I bit the bullet and signed up. It’s really been the ONLY thing I’ve been able to think about since I did it but it has finally settled in that this is happening.  2014 is going to rock.

Making big goals happen sometimes takes a big leap of faith.

Next week though I’ll be back to trying new classes and checking out some of the ridiculously exciting studios that are popping up here in NYC! But, if you have any NYC Tri based classes that should be on my list to try or suggestions on how to learn to LIKE running, I’m all ears…

Image: The Princeton lake where the 70.3′s swim leg will be happening & one of my favorite quotes.

Flywheel Tribeca: A Beautiful, Awesome Addition To The Neighborhood

I’ve been EAGERLY waiting for the new Tribeca Flywheel location to open since it was first announced months ago. For no good reason, I was expecting a smaller studio than their most recent UWS location, however, I was SO wrong.  The new Tribeca location is a huge, open, stunning space that is easily my favorite Fly in the city.  The studio on Greenwich, between Hubert and Laight Streets, is a short walk from work and it isn’t far from Soho either.

Flywheel Tribeca

Last weekend, Flywheel had a weekend of free classes to say “hello” to the neighborhood. The permanent schedule is chock full of some of the best of the best at Flywheel and the preview rides were no exception. I scored rides with both Alison Cohen and Jessie Alexander.

Alison’s class was great – as it ALWAYS is since she is just ridiculously good. It was, however, one of those classes that had some technical issues. The AC wasn’t working so it was brutally hot but Alison handled it like a champ and gave an incredible ride that never let on that anything was out of the ordinary. I was sweating buckets but Alison still managed to motivate the room to some huge numbers. She is just a champ at leading a challenging, athletic ride, which is why so often when I am jonesing for a Flywheel class, I end up in front of her.

Side note here:  after that sweaty, awesome class, I took a shower before heading to work. Normally, I try to avoid gym showers like the plague but after that class, it just wasn’t an option, so I got the chance to experience their silly luxurious showers. The individual rooms are more like a hotel’s shower than a regular gym which before work is a treat.  Tons of towels, all the tolietries you could need, killer hot water and massive water pressure. It is like the boutique gym version of hitting the shower jackpot.

Do More

Jesse’s class was the next night and by then the AC was fixed, thankfully. I’ve written about Jesse a ton (favorite post here) but it’s funny, I realized it’s been almost a year since I’ve taken a class with him. It was fun to get to ride with him again – he’s all swagger and confidence these days and just rocks the hell out of the room. It was awesome to watch. My out of practice indoor cycling legs were wiped after the class and by the end, I was just hoping to break a reasonable number. It was right before the last song and Jesse made his way around the room – as he got to me, he covered my torque board and whispered a number in my head that seemed impossible and said “you’ve got that – GO.” Momentarily, I was pissed at the big jump he’d put out there but then almost magically, I realized it made me work three times harder as I hit the number before the last beat of the song. There is a reason Jesse is one of the best…he helps people rise to be their very best – even when they don’t believe it themselves.

The new Tribeca studio is beautiful and has a kick-ass line up of my favorites – I couldn’t ask for more!

Photo of Studio from Flywheel’s Facebook page, bottom image just a little bit of internet goodness.

Yoga For Runners (and Non-Running Athletes) at Mala Yoga

Mala Yoga recovery-runners_calf_with-text

I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I DO have super tight hips and hamstrings so I’ve been dying to try Mala Yoga’s “Yoga for Runners” class designed by Stephanie Creaturo.

“Yoga for Runners is a class designed for runners by a lifelong runner who happens to be a yoga teacher. We strengthen muscles that runners need for stability and support, we stretch what gets tight, and learn manual release work to give our muscles and joints some relief.” The last line of the class description really got me.  It said that the class was designed for runners but any athlete was welcome!  I am pretty much always looking for yoga classes that are designed to open you up so when I read this class description, I knew I had to try it.

Mala Yoga studio

Mala Yoga is one of those studios that just shouldn’t feel as awesome as it does.  A simple one room space with very minimal decorations on the second floor of a busy Brooklyn street, it is one of the warmest, most welcoming studios I’ve ever been to. After checking in and setting up my mat, I snuck a peek at the people who looked like they came to the class alot and grabbed the same props that they had gotten. I am always excited by classes with yoga props, since I figure I need all of the help I can get! For this one, we got a tennis and golf ball, 2 blocks, 2 blankets and a strap. Before the class started, Steph made her way around the room to check in with everyone. As she stopped by my mat, I sheepishly told her I didn’t really run at all, mostly did CrossFit and Spinning but that I have a case of Planter Fasciitis. I felt a little like I had snuck into a class I didn’t belong in, but as she talked to me she rubbed my foot and told me where I should start rolling on the golf ball that I had gotten and told me that ALL athletes were welcome. Tight hips are tight hips. I immediately relaxed and was completely smitten with Steph for her openness and caring for helping everyone – even us non-runners.

mala_yoga_window

As the class started, Steph told us that this is NOT a Vinyasa class, and it so isn’t. One of my very favorite moves happened right away – rolling our calves out on a tennis ball that was placed on a block. It was ridiculously yummy. I knew from that first moment that I was in the right place. We did hip openers, side stretches, hamstring releases and as we went through, Steph would call out what different issues each pose would help with… all based on what people in the class had said were things they were dealing with. In each pose, she was also amazing about adjusting people into the right spot so that they could get the most out of the move. A good adjustment means the world and a couple of times, I almost cried with joy as she moved me gently into the right spot. The class FLEW by and honestly, by the time we hit the last pose, a shavasana twist with our legs up the wall, I was blissed out and more open then I’d been in MONTHS.

Mala Yoga-sc_tennis-ball-hip-w-text

I would recommend this class for any athlete but runners should be there EVERY single week. It was seriously heavenly and I can’t wait to go back -Steph has really created something magical…

Photos from Mala Yoga’s Blog , photos of Steph taken from a great post she wrote on restorative work you can do at home.