Just Keep Going : The Aquaphor New York City Triathlon

I need to get one thing clear right off the bat. I didn’t “crush” or “kill” the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon, but what I did do was finish and I have never been prouder of anything in my entire life.

On Sunday morning, when my alarm went off at 3 am, I woke up feeling calm and ready that it was finally time for the big day. I felt just glad that it was actually time to do the race. I made my protein shake, drank some coffee and checked my bag one last time. The fella got up a few minutes later and by 3:50, we were in a car heading to the transition area. I had decided to spring for a car service since getting from Brooklyn to the UWS takes at least an hour –on a good day- and I thought being stuck underground in the subway would do my nerves in! It is so weird to be getting up to GO somewhere at that time in the morning since the streets were filled with people just wrapping up their Saturday night.  As we got closer to 72nd and Riverside drive, we started to see more people with their telltale numbers on their arms in the cars around us.

By 4:30, we were heading into the park with a huge swarm of athletes to the yellow transition area where I had left my bike the day before. The fella sat on the risers outside & I headed into the athletes-only bike transition to set up my stuff for the race at the front wheel of my bike. I grabbed my wetsuit, flagged the fella down, and we slowly made our way down to the swim start.  It was so amazing to be walking with so many others that early in the morning, dark when we started but as we neared the start, the sun was starting to rise behind the platform we would soon be jumping off of.  It was beautiful and inspiring to be surrounded by so many athletes of all ages, who had all come to test themselves. I shimmed into my wetsuit as we sat on the benches watching everyone arrive. At 5:30am, my phone buzzed in my hand with the calendar reminder “NYC TRI – oh my fucking god” which really about summed it all up.

The first wave was scheduled to start at 5:50, so by 5:40, most of us had moved into our corrals by the railing and were watching the very murky river and waiting so see the pros go. There had been a storm the night before that had really churned up the sediment in the river and that morning, the river had gone from the dark green of the day before to a muddy brown, with far too many dead fish in the river for comfort. I love the group of women I was surrounded by, most of whom had done this before and were ready to get this thing started, but even the veterans around me were slightly skivved out by all of the dead fish. During the hour it took from the moment the pros launched till my wave made it into the water, I heard for the first time the phrase that would define my day: “No matter what happens, just keep going.”

As we finally made our way down the launch ramp and stood at the pier, I was excited. I didn’t feel especially nervous, I felt strong and ready to swim hard and get out of that river as soon as humanly possible. As soon as I got in the water, I realized that the brown murk meant you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. I don’t need to see the bottom (I loved the open water swim I had done before) but a couple of inches of visibility apparently makes a world of difference. Then, I hit a dead fish with my hand and freaked. I did the sidestroke for a few minutes to calm myself down but unfortunately, after that, I couldn’t will myself to put my face back in the water no matter how hard I tried. As soon as I would feel calm and try for the crawl & sticking my face in the water, my back would spasm, arch and pop my face right back out. It would have been comical if it weren’t so annoyingly unhelpful! At every moment of the swim, we were surrounded by kayakers and people on surfboards asking us if we were ok, so I knew I wasn’t going to drown, but I also new that I had 1000m left to go so I damn well better figure out a solution. I wasn’t going to have jumped in the Hudson for nothing. My solution? I backstroked almost the whole thing. I would site something I could see on my back, go until I saw it, roll over, site again – over and over. At one point a kayaker asked me how I was doing – I told him that I knew I was the slowest person out there, but I was ok. His response? “Slow doesn’t matter. You are still moving and that is what counts. You just have to keep going.”  It wasn’t the fast solution but it worked and 27 minutes after I jumped in, I was out.

I ran part of the way between the swim exit and the bike transition but it hurt my feet so I ended up just walking there, determinedly. After spending a few (far too many really) minutes cleaning up and spraying myself with sunscreen, I hopped on my bike and was off. The first 8 miles felt great. I was ROLLING and making up time and feeling super strong. Apparently, a little too strong because midway up the final hill in Manhattan, my pedal twisted right out of the crank and fell off. For the life of me I couldn’t get it back in, I tried for 10 minutes before I was spotted by the amazing Toga bike mechanics that were zipping around the course on a moped– hollering up the hill at me “Do you need help?” – YES, please! After moving my bike and I to the middle lane to look it over, the driver who spoke English said “Ok, we don’t have the tool to fix this, but he says we can go back to his store on 79th and get it. Then, we will come back and fix it, ok?” I must have looked a little dumbfounded because he put his hand on my shoulder and said “it is that or you have about 14 miles on foot to do, I think that would take longer. We will be back. BUT this is important. YOU CAN’T move from here, any further up that hill and we can’t help you. That bridge up there is off limits to us. Ok?” I just nodded and sat down next to my flipped over bike and thanked them for helping me and offering to go so far out of their way for me. “That is why we are here! See you soon!” and they took off.

As I sat in the middle of the road, watching everyone whiz by me, the most amazing thing started to happen – hundreds of people asked me if I was ok, if I needed anything, if they could help… and all of them sincerely would have helped if they could. It was such an awe inspiring show of sportsmanship and I got pretty good at answering everyone quickly that help was coming back for me and I was ok. More often than not their response was: “Ok, once you are fixed, JUST KEEP GOING.” It took about 35-40 minutes for the mechanics to make their way back to me but I was so grateful when they got there. When I exclaimed on seeing them “OH MY GOD you came back! I LOVE you!” they just laughed.  Apparently, that isn’t the reaction they usually get during the race. Seriously though, I have never been more grateful and shocked to see someone. I didn’t really believe they would make it back. The mechanic got my pedal back on quickly and put some more air in my tire because it felt a little flat and pushed me off on my way. Five feet later my tire exploded. “SERIOUSLY??” and I just had to start laughing – I walked my bike back to the guys who were just staring at me trying not to laugh too. He whipped though changing my flat and a minute later I was off again, this time with a slightly less full tire! The thing I didn’t realize at the time was that I must have hit my derailleur when my pedal came off because from that moment on, my bike didn’t really want to stay in any mid-range gear, so for the rest of the ride I was a little over or under where I wanted to be. But I was moving, and if I had learned anything during that almost hour of downtime, it was that to keep moving is all I really wanted.  By that point, I was one of the few women left on the road. The guys who would pass me as I occasionally struggled up a hill when my gear would slip again, would yell: “Just keep going, you are doing good!” When I finally made it to the last mile of the ride with the awesome volunteers shouting out encouragement and directions, I was so proud of the fact that I had just kept going. I might have been one of the last back to the yellow transition, but I had made it. I stashed my bike in it’s spot and took off as quickly as possible. As I came out of transition there was a wall of volunteers, since the red transition was in full gear by that point and came through in the same direction. I was handed a cup of water  -which I slugged – then a stick with a big glob of Aquaphor with the instructions “don’t eat it! rub it!” – and I happily slathered it on under the leg seam of my bike shorts, which was starting to rub hard into my thighs. I had meant to do that in transition, but had forgotten in my desperate desire to keep moving. Once again that day, the race had taken care of me.

By the time I made it out onto the run course, my legs felt like lead, my back hurt and it was blazing hot. 6 miles sounded daunting but I tried to think about it in short stages. One mile to the park… and during that first mile, as I was slowly plugging along, the fella popped out of the crowd and into the middle of the street snapping pictures. I was so happy to see him, but also really confused as to why he wasn’t getting yelled at by the police. I told him about my bike drama and then was like “ok, bye” and ran off. Because really, you just have to keep moving. The next 4 miles consisted of me trying to keep going and talking to myself about needing to keep moving. It was so hot and there weren’t a lot of water stations, so at each one, I drank one electrolyte drink fast, then took two cups of water, walking and drinking them, then running again. The run was filled with such support and encouragement from the kick-ass amazing volunteers who would shout awesome supportive stuff at us as we passed – unlike some of the random Central Park runners who occasionally would shout at you to “pick up the pace! Don’t start slacking now!” Seriously, people. NOT ok. I really had to talk myself out of hitting people who said that stuff. Thankfully, those people were few and far between.

That last mile seemed the longest as I ran but as the volunteers began shouting at me how little was left to go, I got so amazed that I had almost made it to the end. As I approached the line, there was the fella, smack dab behind it and beaming. I think he was almost as proud of me as I was for crossing that line. First words out of his mouth: “Holy shit, you did it! You are a Triathlete!!!”

Turns out my actual time was 4:32 – when I went into the race I wanted a “good time”, by the end, I wanted nothing more than to finish. When I was on that bike course, actually finishing felt like it was slipping through my fingers but everyone was right, you just had to keep going. In some ways, I am glad it wasn’t a smooth race, because then I wouldn’t have gotten to experience the generous sportsmanship of my fellow Triathletes or seen firsthand how dedicated all of the volunteers of the NYC Triathlon are – or maybe most importantly, realized that I really can persevere when a race gets hard. One of my favorite sayings is “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful”.  My race was just that, not perfect but wonderful. When I finally crossed the line, I have never been prouder of any single thing in my life. It was a hard, challenging test but I did it and I really AM a Triathlete. I never thought I would be able to say that but it is truly AMAZING.  Every morning, I touch my finisher’s medal and remind myself that it wasn’t a dream.

All photos by Eric C Stafford.

Finding Comfort in a Wetsuit : Preparing for the NYC Triathlon

It is amazing how complicated getting ready for the swim leg of the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon seems because really, I have nothing to base it on. It has been my biggest worry and easily the thing that has caused me the most concern, even with all of the veteran’s advice about how it really isn’t so bad. Once I had the distance down in the pool, it was really the getting in the Hudson River portion that was my final stumbling block.

If you are going to jump in the Hudson River – on purpose – really, a wetsuit is necessary, even if it isn’t required. I haven’t ever worn a wetsuit so when I was originally looking for one, I was looking at the sleeveless versions, thinking that I would want the shoulder movement but was set straight by one of the NYCTri vets whose brains I have picked.  Her advice: “SLEEVES. Seriously. You want sleeves.  It is the Hudson after all, the more coverage the better.” After looking at all of the local shops, I ended up finding a great deal online at Wetsuitoutlet.com – which has deals on really nice suits & an awesome return policy if you end up hating the suit. For the week it took to arrive, I spent most of my time yelling at the fella “Where is my SUPER suit?!”.   Thankfully, he fully got The Incredibles reference and didn’t think I had just completely lost my marbles. When it finally arrived, I was excited and so glad it actually fit! Seriously though, I LOVE it and it really does make me feel like a super hero.  I kind of want to wear it all the time…

The first time I looked at JackRabbit’s class schedule, all of their swim sections were sold out, but when their June newsletter came out a week later, they had added a few extra open water workshops & I immediately signed up for one of them. I chose the final one they would be holding before the race, wanting to have time to get my distance up before I actually went out into the open water. Sunday, I finally got out into the open water and practiced in my wetsuit for the first time.

The workshop, which was held in Brighton Beach, was a 1.5-2 hour clinic described as an introduction for people with limited experience in “basic open water swim and tri race skills, including but not limited to sighting, getting into your wetsuit, drafting, dealing with waves, swimming straight, signaling for help and staying relaxed.  You will finish the class much more confident and comfortable in your ability to swim safely and continuously in the open water than when you began.” Which was exactly what I was looking for – plus, I was really excited to get to have some time with an actual Triathlon swim coach. On Friday, I got an instruction email about where to meet, with really clear, easy to follow directions for taking the subway out there, a picture of the structure we would be meeting at and the name and number of the woman who would be checking us in and watching our bags while we were out in the water. Seriously, JackRabbit won my heart with making it all so easy, comfortable and worry free because it let me focus on what I was really there for!

Our coach for the day was John Stewart, an USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and a veteran of triathlons from sprint to iron-distance. John was awesome – funny, very knowledgeable and calm. As soon as he arrived, he launched into the topic of the day. We spent a few minutes up on the boardwalk in the shade talking and getting pointers before heading down to the beach to get into our wetsuits. Our group was slightly smaller than scheduled because 7 people who where supposed to be there called out, so there were only about 11 of us. I fully expected the class to be filled with super serious type-A’s, obsessed with improving their time, who would not be fun to spend the morning with.  It turned out that this group wasn’t like that at all. Mostly, everyone was fun and relaxed and just wanting tips on being more comfortable in the water.  We only had one super serious woman who basically worried about every single thing, beginning with even getting her suit on. Which, while listening to her on the boardwalk I thought was strange, but turns out that I have a weirdly easy suit to get on. So, while everyone else shimmied, hopped and yanked their suits on, I stood there fully dressed and starting to bake in the hot sun. I started to wonder if I was going to overheat out in the water when I was moving. Once everyone had their wetsuits on and we made it out into the water, I realized right away that wasn’t going to be an issue at all. The water was chilly and I was so glad to have the suit on – the two members of our group who had decided not to wear suits for the race looked miserable!

The first order of business was getting used to being in the suit, IN the water. Since I hadn’t ever actually had a wetsuit on in the water, the fact that water actually does get IN the suit shocked me but I felt marginally better that I wasn’t the only one surprised! As we slowly made our way out into the water until we were just treading water, I was really happy to feel just how buoyant a wetsuit makes you. It was also during this portion that I learned my favorite thing of the whole day:

“You cannot sink in a wetsuit. You can drown if you are facedown, but if you start to panic or get tired, flip on your back and you will float. In fact, given the current, you really could just float all the way there, you would eventually make it.”

We practiced floating on our backs for a little bit and while our resident panic-er freaked out and couldn’t relax into it, I found it really, really comforting. You really do just bob there in your suit with absolutely no effort at all. Have I mentioned I love my super suit??

We spent a lot of time practicing sighting drills because it isn’t something you do in a pool. In a pool, the black line at the bottom tells you if you are straight or not.  Out in open water, you need to rely on landmarks. We practiced 3 different ways of sighting – before or after you breathe and then every few strokes. Mostly, I really, really want to look at where I am going, so pretty much the ones where you looked each time worked the best for me. I don’t think I ever did manage to not try and sneak a peak in at every stroke even when we weren’t supposed to. It was also great to get you used to swimming in a pack. It was nice that it was really easy to become accustomed to – weirdly, it was actually kind of comforting to be swimming in the midst of the pack.

We swam closing our eyes to see how straight we actually swam and learned how to correct if we tended to veer one way or the other.  Although I REALLY hated this exercise, it turns out in general, I go pretty straight even without looking! Who knew? Some people tend to really veer one way or the other and one lady in our group actually swam in almost a complete circle. It was funny because as straight as I would swim, that exercise completely and utterly freaked me out. The panic-er in our group LOVED it and it calmed her down not to look, but for me, it was the complete opposite. I really want to see where the hell I am going – always. Thank you, I will be keeping my eyes open the whole time!

It was so amazing to swim in open water and it is totally different. I loved the freedom of not being in the pool  and the feeling of the water stretched out around me. It was so liberating and really, the wetsuit makes me feel like anything is possible. After almost two hours in the water, we headed back into shore. I was tired but felt so much more comfortable about the swim portion of the NYC Triathlon…

Photos by Eric C Stafford & end quote just some internet goodness.

#MakeTheRules & Trust Your Magic: A Celebration of Title IX with Lacey Stone

When I originally heard that Lacey Stone would be returning to NYC to host a Nike event, my immediate reaction was I have to go. I mean seriously? How could it not be amazing? The event was part of a series that Nike was doing all over the country to celebrate the passage of Title IX and the effect it had on women in sports. As a former Division 1 player, a celebrated trainer who brings an infectious joy to every workout, it is no wonder that Nike asked Lacey Stone to return to her passionate New York fan base and lead that day’s event. The fact that Holly Rilinger, who is always joyous and inspiring herself, was going to be a support trainer as part of Lacey’s Nike event, made it seem seriously like a NYC Dream Team. I didn’t know the third trainer, Chelsey Pagana, but I was pretty sure if she was part of that team, she is someone who I should be keeping an eye out for.

My friend, SINworkouts, set about corralling a huge group of us to get together and attend the event. Everyone’s immediate answer was “Oh HELL yes, I’ll be there” and it turned out we were a rowdy, raucous group of women. The event itself was an all day thing but the crew I was with really came for Lacey’s workout, the one that was wrapping up the event. A few of the group made it to the workout before but I didn’t, since really, except for special exceptions, if it doesn’t relate to training for the Tri, it just isn’t happening right now. Because I was ridiculously excited about this event, I got there over an hour before Lacey and Holly were supposed to take the stage. I registered and was handed a #MakeTheRules tank top, which was awesome because I didn’t have any Nike gear on and at a Nike event, that just seemed wrong! I slipped on my rocking new tank and made my way into the event, which was taking place on Pier 46, a cool Astroturf workout space on the West Side Highway. The field was outfitted for the day with a huge stage and the event was filled with all sorts of kick-ass, fit people who had come to celebrate women in sports. Since I wasn’t remotely the only one who had showed up early, the hour flew by hanging out with the rowdy crew.

When it was finally time to head out to the field, our crew was first out and we made our way over to where Holly was and promptly formed a pre-game huddle around her. Holly was fully reveling in the magnitude of the Nike Women event and led us in a dancing, clapping celebration of the moment. People started flooding the field around us and the wave of joy had spread out like a wildfire.

Lacey was introduced and the crowd erupted and moved forward towards the stage. She talked about the idea of #MakeThe Rules and not letting anyone dictate what you are capable of and in total Lacey style, summarized it as “trust your magic” – which really is a pretty perfect statement (You can watch the video of that moment on her blog).   As Lacey took in the crowd, she also noticed how the crowd was now ahead of the platforms that Holly and Chelsea, her two teammates for the event, were stationed on and just wasn’t having it. Lacey, who easily could have kept that big Nike stage and spotlight for herself, yelled at them to get up there with her so everyone could see them. I imagine it never occurred to her that to do anything else. It was the right thing to do. However, when it boils down to it, the star player often forgets that and what she did in a split second was act as a TEAMMATE and during an event celebrating women’s sports, it was a beautiful thing to witness.

I have taken only a handful of classes with Lacey and while I have loved them all, she truly shined at this one. The workout was based on the Nike Training Club app and the images of famous athletes doing the same moves would flash on the side screens. But really, there was no way to take your eyes off the dynamos in front of us. I will say that for a 1/2 hour workout, it was REALLY hard! (I obviously will have to actually start using my NTC app because geeze, who knew it was really that good?). The fact that she made following along to a computer monitor workout feel like her own is such a crazy, impressive skill. It is hard enough to be challenging, fun and engaging with a crowd that large – which she is brilliant at – but to do it with an extra disconnecting step of following something else is stunning. Lacey made the workout fun and had fun with it. Holly and Chelsea, who were un-miked behind her, did the moves with a fierce energy and commitment, occasionally jumping out into the crowd to spur people on, which was awesome. It was hard to take your eyes off the three of them up there on that stage. They seriously killed it. As a crowd, we cheered almost continuously, even through the pushups and squats. It was just one of those days when the energy of the moment and the people assembled is just so special, you could practically see it vibrating. At the end of the workout, the electric energy had settled over everyone and we all knew that we had gotten the chance to participate in something that was truly epic.

All photos taken by Eric C Stafford for the FBS blog

The Only Possible Answer Was Yes: The Aquaphor Tri Team

About a month ago, I received an email that totally turned my life upside down – in the best possible way. The email was titled “Invitation: NYC Triathlon – Aquaphor Tri Team” and I gasped as I read it what it was offering me. I have wanted to do a Triathlon for YEARS – for me, it has always been that “I will really be an athlete if I can do that” thing. These days, I feel like an athlete but that thing in the back of my head has remained. To have the chance dropped in my lap to compete in one of the premiere Triathlons in the country, and one that I had completely written off because I couldn’t remotely afford the entry fee, was shockingly awesome. It honestly never occurred to me to not snap up the opportunity. I immediately wrote back to say yes.

In some ways, it is great to not have time to really freak out about it – really, because there is too much to make happen before the race that there isn’t a window of time to panic. Head down and get prepared -mostly what that has involved has been LOTS AND LOTS of swimming. It’s funny, when I was little, swimming was the one thing that I loved.  At every Navy base, there was always a large, magical place of escapism for me at the pool and I would swim laps forever, easily doing a mile a day. However, it has been years since I even had access to a pool, so the very first thing I did was figure out how to change that. To that end, I have been at the amazingly beautiful Reebok Sports Center/NY’s pool 3-4 times per week. The pool is amazing and seemingly never overrun but always filled with serious swimmers of all shape and stripe. There are a lot of people who are obviously training for the Tri too, which is inspiring to see… and has incidentally provided me with swimming tips.  I don’t think swimming is “like riding a bike”, but I have been shocked at how quickly it has come back to feeling natural. I am back up to mile swims and have loved every moment I have gotten to be back in the water. The swim was really the only part that worried me and while a mile swim in the Hudson still seems slightly scary, it no long sounds so daunting. Plus, my wetsuit has been ordered and really, how can you not feel like a superhero getting to race in one of those??

I really can’t wait for the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon and I almost can’t believe it is happening, but as everything starts to fall into place, it doesn’t just feel like a crazy dream. I am so grateful for the exciting and truly amazing opportunity to be part of something so special and when July 8th rolls around, I am going to be ready. Until then, I will be swimming as often as possible…and biking…and running….. so there may be a few weeks before I get back to lots of class reviews!

Top & bottom photos from Aquaphor New York City Triathlon’s Facebook page and the quote in the middle just a really good thing to remember.

Live Young, Get Fit Event with Jackie Warner & evian water

On Saturday, evian water sponsored an event as part of their “Live Young, Get Fit” campaign that brought Jackie Warner to NYC as part of a multi-city tour. From the moment I heard she was going to be in town leading a workout, I knew I had to go. What can I say? I loved her show on Bravo “Workout” and had seen her kick a lot of people’s asses in the gym and wanted to experience it first hand.

I was so excited about getting the chance to ask Jackie a few questions before the main event so I left really early to get there in time to meet with her before everyone else started to show up.  I arrived at South Street Seaport with plenty of time, settled onto one of the decks and just took in the amazing view of Brooklyn across the river. I never get down there so getting the chance to chill, to just marvel in the view before the hustle of being at the event, was a treat.

It was really interesting to get a chance to talk to Jackie Warner one on one about her 15 years of experience and the process of putting together the home based workouts that she teaches in her books and in her online platform Jackiewarner.com. Apparently, over the years, she has compiled a notebook of over a 1000 different exercise to pull from, which makes it easy for her to put together her effective home programs. I have to say, I would LOVE to see that masterlog of exercises that she has collect over her time working with different trainers and owning two separate gyms! Since classes are really my focus though, I asked Jackie about what kind of classes she recommends for people.

Jackie: “ No doubt about it, Barry’s Bootcamp – because Barry’s Bootcamp involves high intensity interval training with resistance training. If someone likes classes and they really want to lose weight, want to do it quickly, I ALWAYS put them on Barry’s Bootcamp. I believe it is a very sound program.”

Before I let her go though, I had to find out why she is so anti the modified pushup because after watching the first of the evian water events stream, that was the one thing I was really curious about. Her answer was pretty straightforward.  The pushup is about core strength and she would rather you do 5 regular ones than 20 modified ones to gain strength in your core. Interestingly, you are supposed to round your back slightly so that your core engages. Pretty sure I never do that normally but I certainly tried to when I finally got out the workout!

After my quick chat with Jackie, I join everyone else who had begun to show up for the day’s awesome event. It was such a kickass crew of people who where there and it was so fun to catch up with so many fitness friends. I swear, NYC has such an inspiring group of workout fanatics! The outdoor event was held in the sand at the beer garden and I had assumed that there would be mats on top of that. So I  was sort of surprised that there weren’t any mats out when I arrived but really, it hardly even mattered.  We were there to workout with Jackie. A little sand never killed anyone. Jackie, on the other hand, once she took the stage, was a little more blunt about it “Wait, there are no mats for them? Oh, you are going to get so dirty and you are going to HATE me. The first set called “The 300″, is 10 push ups, 20 situps and 10 squats, NOW GO!!” It was after that first set that we all knew just exactly how dirty were where going to get and we just had to go with it and have fun – at least that is what SINworkouts and I tried to do. We were distinctly the rowdy girls of the group, hooting and hollering and just having fun.

The workout was basically sets comprised of two different but complimenting movements, done twice. Jackie would explain & demonstrate the movement, then watch us as we did it – which made for a stop and go feeling in the class. SIN and I had way too much fun trying to sync our movements, though, and more than a few times, Jackie shot us a comical look. I don’t think she knew what to do with two people who were having so much fun while still doing the exercises. I think she is used to people looking like she is trying to kill them! Jackie’s style of instructing is very serious and really, there is a portion of the workout that felt more like a group personal training session than a group class – which isn’t a bad thing at all,  just different.

The workout was, at its core, a bootcamp style workout, which I always like. Working out in the sand was HARD though and it made a lot of the exercises and combos feel much harder than they should have. I seriously felt that workout the next day!  By the end, we were all really sweaty and the sand was plastered to our backs, arms and legs – we were also starting to dig little trenches around ourselves, turning up weird things in the sand – drinking straws, bottle caps, even a lemon at one point – but by the time that happened, it all just seemed funny. It was a great, challenging workout and I loved getting to finally workout with Jackie Warner, even if it was more than a little dirty!

After the workout, there was a Q&A with Jackie where she answered the audience questions about working out, food choices and supplements. A  couple of interesting facts came up – if you drink 3 liters of water a day, you burn 33% more calories a day (good to know!) and Jackie works out 6 times a week with one day of active rest. I wasn’t taking notes, though, because at that point, I was just sitting in the sand basking in the sun that had finally come out and had just completed a great workout!  Although, I do know no one asked my final question in the one on one: “what is your drink of choice?” Jackie’s answer, by the way, is a “Grey Goose Dirty Martini”.  So, if you see her out, you now know what to order! You can’t be healthy ALL of the time…

Photos taken by Eric C Stafford for the FBS blog.

A Little Tinkering is a Good Thing: Pilates ProMethod with Jenn Seracuse

On Tuesday afternoon, I finally made it over to Pilates ProWorks to take their signature “Pilates ProMethod” class with Jenn Seracuse, the head of their Pilates program. I had met Jenn briefly when I had gone to Steven Little’s TRX class and had immediately liked her, so I knew I would be in good hands. Plus, I have been SO curious about what their take is on the new trend to use “amped-up” versions of the classic Pilates’ Reformer. There was a time in my life when I was totally obsessed with Reformer classes and for about a year, I took at least 3 a week. Those classes were my gateway into working out at all, changed what I thought I was capable of and because of that, I am hard pressed to think that a great reformer class needs much tinkering with. Of course, those original classes were taken over 10 years ago and really, sometimes things need a little tinkering!

Pilates ProWorks’ take on the classic is called the FitFormer and damn, is it a pretty machine! According to their website, it is made from stainless steel, titanium and bamboo but it is also just an elegant, sturdy machine, with super cushy pads and basically just super swanky. Jenn went over the machine with me before class so I wouldn’t be lost, since really, the class was filled with a group of super strong regulars. I was immediately sorry that I hadn’t at least worn a pair of regular grippy socks since everyone had on special toe-socks – grippy on the bottom but open toes. It totally didn’t occur to me that we would wear socks during the class! It was also at that moment that I realized my socks that morning didn’t even match. Sigh… at least I remembered a towel! It is worth noting again, they don’t stock towels here, so if you are sweaty like I am, remember to bring your own.

The class started with a quick warm up, which I always miss when a class just launches straight into the workout. The music pumped in the room but Jenn was great about giving clear, helpful instructions on what we where supposed to be doing on each exercise. She roamed the room, demonstrating on different machines, so we were always able to see what the move was meant to look like and she was able to keep a keen eye on everyone’s form. The moves we did felt like Pilates moves, sometimes tweaked a little bit but always feeling grounded in that original practice.  We also got to do the Frog, a classic Reformer move that I swear hits a part of your inner thigh that no other exercise targets quite as effectively. It was always my favorite move and it was all l could do not to clap when she announced it.  Thankfully, I managed to not make a total ass of myself by doing that!  I was absolutely the worst in the room, so I got a lot of physical corrections (always ok with me!) but her cues to the whole class were really helpful and precise. They were very much Pilates cues, but for this kind of workout, that is really what you need. It was a class filled with regulars who were all so strong and graceful…I might have been the worst but I kept up and was totally inspired.

I always think the best sign of a Pilates based class is when it is challenging but never hurts as you are doing it, yet still makes you feel like someone sucker punched you in the stomach the next day. The day after my first Pilates ProMethod class, I winced every time I laughed – making every funny thing I heard just seem really mean. In my book, the sign of a great Pilates class…or perhaps just that I really need to do more of them!


Top image from Pilates ProWorks NYC’s Facebook page, image of Jenn from her Twitter profile @leanbodypilates

Punching & Pulsing: Flybarre for Men with Kara Liotta & Khori Petinaud

Last Saturday afternoon (after an amazing morning yoga class at I.AM.YOU studio) I made my way up to Flywheel Flatiron to try a class called “Flybarre for Men”. Given my non-male status, it was one of those classes I went to only because I was specifically asked to attend, by none other than the amazing Flybarre instructor Kara Liotta – who I basically can’t say no to. She called out my friend SINworkouts and I on twitter and it quickly became a big group of some of the toughest & most inspiring women around- Lacey Stone, SIN, Kindra from Peak Performance and Kate Hickle. Seriously, that is one fierce, fun group and if I could workout with them all the time, I would. When we all got there, from our various other workouts, SIN made quick work to rearrange us so that I got to be over by the group since apparently, I totally booked the wrong mat.  Kara just looked at me and said “So you want to be with the loud ones, huh?” The answer to that question is always a rousing “hell, yes!”

Kara Liotta and Khori Petinaud, who co-created the men’s Flybarre variation taught Saturday’s class. A powerhouse of a team, they are strong, skilled, and have an easy ability to take command of the room. Kara, who I have written about before (here) was amazing of course – but it was my first time taking a class with Khori. I immediately liked her – she has an infectious grin and didn’t allow anything to throw her off her game, plus, she was so obviously amused by my group’s loud enthusiasm that went along with our complete lack of skill, that it totally endeared her to me. Not the easiest thing to do when greeted by a room full of people who, for the most part, where complete newbies to the method, and who cheered at the end of each section. Kara and Khori are serious about what they do but both handled the rowdy group with a joyful ease that only the great instructors ever seem to be able to do – allowing fun to be had while still staying completely on task and never letting up about form. They were a brilliant pair!

I have taken a handful of Flybarre classes and am always left feeling like the most uncoordinated person on the planet. Seriously, while pulsing at Flybarre is always fun, I can’t follow a dance count to save my life. The men’s version of the class, however, was hands down my favorite version so far and not just because of the loud hooting and hollering of my cohorts.  This version includes lots of pushup variations, jumping jacks, a couple of killer ab sections but also less work actually AT the barre. My favorite change though was that the dynamic arms section was boxing move based – now THOSE are counts I can follow! I loved the change up of that and can totally see why they did it to appeal to guys but it also did wonders for my enjoyment of the section. Kara was totally right to call me out on coming in to try this version. it really was totally up my ally. So, although our class had 5 guys, which is definitely more than have ever been in any of the other Flybarre classes I have taken, I just wish it was called something else!

Top image from Flybarre’s Facebook page of Kara, Khori and Kate practicing the Flybarre for Men’s routine, middle image of Khori from Flywheel’s website, bottom image just an awesome bit of internet goodness.