Act Right: Noah Neiman Takes On Fit & Fearless Fitness

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This weekend, Union Square Park was taken over by Fit & Fearless Fitness, an event that celebrated working out hard and the empowerment that you get from exercise and healthier life choices. I loved the mission and the people involved in this awesome event, so even though I couldn’t stay for the whole thing, I knew I had to go. The event took over the northern side of Union Square with the “class” space immediately after you got through the gates that had been set up. I got there early, which worked out in my favor since I got the chance to hit up one of the event’s sponsors, Champion’s fit truck, before class and score a free sports bra!

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For Fit & Fearless Fitness, the first class up was led by the always awesome, Noah Neiman, billed as “Combat Fitness”.  I had no idea what that entailed but I adore Noah and never doubt his ability to teach a fun, challenging class. Noah, best known for his ridiculously popular classes at Barry’s Bootcamp, has come up with a take on a traditional bodyweight high intensity interval class that includes a lot of boxing moves, tons of squats and a million jumping jacks. We kept going back to the “boxing” jumping jacks, where you would whack the back of your hands together to help open up your shoulders. I both loved them and started to really hate them after about the fourth time we went back to them. Through the whole workout, Noah made his way in through the crowd, high-fiving people, cracking jokes and encouraging people to keep going.

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We did squats with punches, lunges with punches and even burpees with a punch combo in the middle. The first time he had us go down to the ground, you could feel everyone pause…like, wait…you want me to touch the ground at Union Square?? To which Noah yelled: “You aren’t scared of a little dirt! You are tough! You are New Yorkers! Purell is killing you!” To which the entire group laughed and promptly threw themselves to the ground. But I mean really though, there are VERY few people who could get me to actually touch that ground. Noah just happens to be one of them.

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The weather was so perfect for this event, a clear, warm day but it got hot FAST out there working out on the paving stones of Union Square! Thankfully, there was a lot of water to be had and Noah took pity on us, giving us a few more water breaks than I know he would have normally done. After one of them, he called us all over to a huddle and as we gathered he asked me: “What is my phrase?” Which of course I knew the answer to: ACT RIGHT. Noah then launched into what that means to him. That really, it is about working hard, about not praying for someone to help you but for the strength to do it yourself and that REALLY all of us are capable of so much more than we think. He told us we were going to do a couple of times of yelling “Act right” to set the tone for the second half of the workout but on the very first try, we all roared “ACT RIGHT!” at the top of our lungs. We didn’t need a second take – we were all 100% there with him. His response? “That was perfect. THAT is how it’s done! Now lets get back to WORK.”

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I was so sorry I couldn’t stay for the rest of the event but that class was the perfect, inspiring, challenging workout and I am so glad I got to go support this amazing cause. This Inaugural event raised over $170,000 for City of Hope, an organization that believes fitness is a key factor in helping to boost self-esteem, promote confidence and preventing certain cancers – which definitely is a mission that exemplifies “Acting Right!”

Photos by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media for FatBottomSlim

The Brooklyn Half 2014: Spurred On By The Back Of The Pack

This weekend, I crossed the finish line at the Brooklyn Half Marathon after not running more than a mile since December – which is ridiculous. The only running I’d done in months was during CrossFit workouts, which normally were more like running around the block. I had such good intentions to train, really I did, but I just hate running so any excuse to not run,I am all over and this winter’s crazy weather was all I needed to just not run at all. 

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I was planning on scrapping it but then it seemed like a waste since I had a bib to this sold-out race. So, I started playing with the idea of just starting it and seeing what happened. Some of my friends were all “You have to run it! You are fit, you’ll be fine!” the other half were “That is NUTS. You have to drop out! What are you thinking?” To both groups, I said the exact same thing: “I’m just going to start. Run a few miles and just see. There are a lot of subway options on that route!”  I didn’t really think I would run the whole thing… mostly, I just didn’t talk about it.

I ran the Brooklyn Half in 2011, the last race they did where you didn’t get a medal for completing it.  I’ve always been salty about that fact – I like medals!  When I ran it before I wasn’t as fit as I am now, but I had at least tried to train, which, as it turns out, really makes a difference.  I love to race but just don’t love running for running’s sake. I think my exact words after my first Brooklyn Half were: “That’s awesome but now that I’ve done it, I never have to do that again!” Triathlons are more my speed… but I thought since the 70.3 Ironman will end in a Half, starting to train early for that piece of it seemed like a swell plan and I could finally get that damn medal.  Except that intended training never happened.

On Saturday morning I bundled up in old layers, stashed my metrocard, some cash, my id and insurance card (I was worried it might be needed) in a wrist pouch and headed out the door. It felt strange leaving for the race with basically nothing but the bag check sounded like a huge pain in the ass.  I was in the very last corral and we didn’t get started until a little after 8am so I had about 45 minutes of just waiting around.  I loved listening to people chatting away about the upcoming race, all of the training they’d been doing and the plan for the race… but I felt like an impostor.

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As we started to run,  I realized that while I knew where the race began and ended, I really hadn’t paid that much attention to what the course was actually like.  When I ran it before, we looped around the park before heading down the straight shot to Coney Island.  The new route had a lot more twists and turns and was overall just more fun since there was more to be distracted by but I did really wish that I’d looked at the map because I was constantly like …wait… where are we going NOW? I was so slow and pokey, with a running loop in my head saying: “Maybe you should stop. This is ridiculous. People TRAIN for this.”  The thing, though, about being in the back was that I was surrounded by people who were not so fit but had trained for the Half and were killing it by just slogging through. As one of them would pass me, that running loop in my head would be interrupted by an even louder one that said “If they can keep going, so can you.” And so, mile after mile, I kept going.  By mile 8, I was fully in it and knew that I would have to complete the thing but was so miserable by then that the five mile trek from Prospect Park to Coney Island, although straight and flat, seemed unbearably long.  Every few minutes that “So can you“ voice popped up and I just kept going. At mile 11, one of my friends, who was there cheering with Lululemon, screamed my name and grabbed me in a fierce hug.  It was just what I needed. The next 2 miles was fueled on that alone.

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I crossed the line with a terrible time, but DID cross and was just so damn proud of myself for pushing through. I grabbed my medal, popped it on and headed back to the train. I didn’t really belong at the end party with everyone celebrating crushing their goal – I didn’t crush a goal by any stretch but what I did do was not let a race crush me. I was slow as dirt but finished and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I came home and took a nap, then chilled out for the rest of the day. I was wiped out but really not sore and the following day when I woke up was shocked that I felt totally fine. I learned a lot about how fit I really am at the Brooklyn Half, which is awesome, but I also learned that training is REALLY important. I need to get on that – I have a 70.3 to prepare for!

Photos from the NYRR Brooklyn Half site

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The LBC & SinWorkouts Throwdown at Peak Performance

Sin Workouts and FBS

I hadn’t planned to go to the LBC/Sin Workouts Event at Peak Performance, but when I got a text from Vanessa of SinWorkouts the night before the event asking if I still wanted to come, my immediate answer was “HELL YES!”.   Any event that Sin was going to be throwing at Peak was bound to be an awesome, fun and kick-ass time and I had already regretting the fact that I hadn’t signed up.

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Lauren Goldberg, or L Boogie as she is called, has been a trainer at Peak Performance for the last 10 years.  The LBC (L Boogie Club) this time was a team competition, with teams of 4 moving through 9 stations set up throughout the loft-like space, that allowed us to play with some of their fun tools. Peak Performance is an amazing private training treasure in NYC, so the chance to get a workout there in a group setting is a rare treat, although, there is talk that the LBC might become a monthly occurrence…which would be awesome.
Dynamic Mode Treadmill
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When we walked in we were given numbers and a name tag – I was in group #7. Each station was numbered and the goal was to  do as many reps as possible in 4 minutes.  I was a little sore going into it (since I had done B|X at Brick just a few hours before) but was committed to giving it my all. Each station was manned with someone taking count of how many reps your team managed to get in during the 4 minute rounds. The stations, which needed a little explanation, were  also staffed with some of Peak’s kickass trainers.
The workout was broken into two sections, with a short break in the middle. My group’s first section was made up of situps, treadmill runs in “Dynamic Mode” (which I was surprisingly strong at), stair running, and a plank-off that one of my teammates crushed with a full 4 minute plank, which was insanely impressive. Then there was that short, blissful break….
FBS & the Prowler
When we came back my team was on my favorite tool, the Prowler. I seriously love it. I can’t help myself! The power and concentration and sheer will that it takes to move that heavy sled across the floor always make me push myself to be the best I can be. Then it was on to the rope-pull machine – which I’d never done.  While in a seated position in front of a rope, the rope is pulled along using hand over hand. I zoned out and just pulled – apparently beating every other woman that day!  Whoop!  It was also awesome to finally get to try my hand at the Jacobs Ladder but  mostly the next few rounds were a little bit of a blur. By the final round of wall sits, I had to tap out early – because at that point, my legs where just completely fried.
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At the end, when Lauren blew the final whistle, everyone rallied around –clapping and hollering. It was a ridiculously good time.  The workout was capped with awesome goody bags, mimosas, mingling and even some massages. Seriously, is there a better way to end an event?
LBC & Sin Workouts at Peak Performance
Check out this short video about this awesome event:
Photos and Video by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media

The Perfect Combo: Noah Neiman & The Workout On The Pier

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Every Tuesday this Summer, FITiST and Lole have hosted an outdoor workout with some of the best trainers and studios in the city on Pier 25 in Tribeca. My schedule has been a little nuts and I haven’t made it to one, but I was hell bent on making it to Noah Neiman’s this week. Noah, whose class I’ve taken a Barry’s Bootcamp a handful of times, is just an awesome, positive force in the New York Fitness community. He teaches a hard, challenging class while still keeping the positivity and fun going through even the hardest sections. Noah is, of course, ridiculously handsome (I don’t think they let anyone teach at Barry’s who isn’t) but once you know the sweet, supportive person he is, you tend to forget about that part.

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When I woke up on Tuesday, it was POURING and I was bummed that the workout would be cancelled. Turns out the weather gods thought a workout was needed because by 3pm the rain stopped and the call was made that the workout was still a go! I headed over to the Pier at 6pm thinking that I was late but it turns out,it actually started at 6:30, so after chatting with Noah for a little bit and filling out a waiver, I sat down on the sidelines to wait for everyone else to start gathering.

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Pier 25 on the West Side Highway is really such an awesome spot in the city. The beautifully maintained Astroturf field is just a gem overlooking the water, hidden away from the city bustle. I loved that I had actually gotten there early enough to enjoy the treat of just being there. By the time the class was starting there were probably 50-60 people gathered to enjoy getting our asses kicked by Noah. My favorite part of these kind of free events is seeing people get to experience awesome instructors for the first time. Still, I was surprised by how many people there had never been to one of Noah’s classes. I had sort of assumed it would be packed with his regulars! While we were warming up, Noah gave us the brief rundown of his history.

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As we started the actual workout with jumping jacks, he said “this is your holding place. When I am explaining the next move you will be doing this. GO!” I knew then that I was going to get my ass-kicked. The workout was a pretty straight up bootcamp: lunges, squats (so many, many variations) pushups and situps, but he also managed to throw in some boxing and fast feet football moves that kept you guessing what would come next. Noah kept the pace high and the mood light as we all started to sweat buckets. Thank god for the free towels that Team in Training had dropped off! A few times, he would demo a move from the back of the crowd and I would turn around and see the entire group, totally captivated by Noah’s charm and self-deprecating humor. There is a reason that Noah’s classes are always packed, his workouts are challenging but fun. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and even as he was kicking our asses, Noah managed to get people to laugh.

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Noah really is one of the most supportive, positive trainers in the city and it is hard for me not to just have a smile plastered on my face while working out with him. By the end of the class, I was totally wiped out and while Noah had us do all standing stretches for the cool down, I took the time to look around me and revel in what had turned out to be a completely awesome workout on a beautiful evening in NYC.  Everyone, seemed to know how special that evening had turned out to be….

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photos for FBS by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media