Archive for May, 2009

May the Force be with you. Study hard, Barnard.


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I rarely spend more than 30 minutes on a cardio machine.  After around 25 minutes, I get bored of my playlist, my feet start to hurt, I start thinking about all my homework or the groceries I have to buy for dinner, and before I know it, I’m out of the gym and in the library or the shower or Morton Williams.  Last weekend at Equinox, however, I spent (cue drumming please) 1 hour and 15 minutes on an elliptical machine!  What caused this miraculous transformation in my concentration, stamina, and dedication to my cardio health?  The short, and slightly guilty, answer is television.  In front of the rows of ellipticals, arc trainers, bicycles, and tread mills on the second floor of Equinox are 12 flat screen televisions, each stationed to a different channel, from CNN to ESPN to the Food Network. (You just plug your headphones into the machine to get sound).  I got hooked on a Bobby Flay “Throwdown,” an episode of Law and Order, and a couple of breaking news stories, and before long, I’d more than doubled my usual time spent raising my heart rate.  Other factors that influenced my increased gym time? The state-of-the- art equipment, the comfortable temperature, my interest in spying on personal training sessions, and a desire to take full advantage of my free pass to such a ritzy gym.  Pumped and energized by my workout experience, I took a brisk and pleasant walk home from 92nd street.

A few days later, I returned to Equinox for my free 30-minute stretching session.  I had never been “stretched-out” before, but had watched a few people lie on cushioned tables as trainers lifted and pushed their legs the other day while on my elliptical, so I had an idea of what to expect.  My trainer Jemiah greeted me at the door, and led me down to the lowest level of the gym right outside of the “pilates room.” Jemiah asked me about any injuries or health concerns, and we chatted for a bit before I hit the table.  My session was relaxing and pleasant.  The focus was on gently stretching my legs, chest, and arms, and Jemiah was very careful not to cause any strain.  I left feeling limber and pumped to hop back on a cardio machine upstairs.  I chose a dual arc trainer this time and watched an episode of the Ellen Degeneres show.  I stretched again afterwards, and was impressed by how loose and flexible my body felt.

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I enjoyed one of Equinox’s private 50-minute pilates classes a few weeks ago. The pilates method is centered about strengthening the core. I had taken mat pilates before, but had never used the pilates machines. I was introduced to the reformer, the chair, and the barrel, among others. The session was mostly strength training, as opposed to cardio. I found it strenuous: frequently during the session, I struggled to complete the exercises, and my abs felt sore for days thereafter. My instructor was nice and often reminded me that one’s first foray into the world of pilates machines is not nearly as good of a workout as those that come with continued pilates training. I think that I would have enjoyed the session more if my instructor were warmer. Overall, though, the class was excellent, and it was a great opportunity for individual attention.

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Despite having worked in a gym and founded a Fitness magazine and blog, until I went to Equinox, I had never had a personal training session. I went in thinking I was going to get my butt kicked and learn a few new exercises–and indeed I was sore for the following week. Most valuable, however, was my trainer’s ability to pinpoint some bad fitness habits I had acquired. Unbeknownst to me, I had begun to lean much too far forward in my squats and lunges, stressing my vulnerable knees. My trainer’s trained eyes–pun intended–were able to isolate my weaknesses, which I found an incredibly valuable service. If you decide to join Equinox for the summer, I recommend accepting their offer of a complimentary Equifit Evaluation and Personal Training session. While the fit-savvy may not want to splurge for the motivation and instruction, it certainly is a great tool for the less knowledgeable exerciser , and regardless of skill level, the session provides a great way to pick out any problems of which you may be unaware.

What I most appreciated about my week at Equinox was the variety of group fitness classes, especially dance and yoga classes. My favorite, by far, was Abby Goldenberg’s NYC Dance Project class. Even with my very limited dance background (1 year of beginning ballet) I was able to follow (well, even!) her funky, improvised routine. The hour-long class focuses solely on preparing one piece of choreography, which I enjoyed because, by the end, I felt I had enough of a grasp on the motions that I could really begin to dance.

Of the yoga classes I took, Ellen Bain’s early morning Vinyasa class was a great way to get moving before work. Having mostly done Hatha in the past, I found the flow of vinyasa to be a much more pleasant way to start my morning. Rather than holding poses, she emphasized the constant flow between them. I sweat through my clothes and felt strong and limber by the time I walked out at 8 am, which was quite the accomplishment.

I also tried a Core Cuts class, which I highly recommend because it was challenging without leaving me unable to laugh for days thereafter. The class is structured so that each movement can be made more difficult depending on your fitness level. It also incorporated an interesting variety of movements with weighted balls, so that you didn’t just alternate between crunches and planks.

I regrettably was unable to try a vast majority of Equinox’s classes, but the 5 I did try were all expertly taught. I felt comforatable approaching each instructor afterwards, and they all made me feel incredibly welcome in their classes. To me, this is the real value of Equinox. While I love their fancy locker rooms (especially the eucalyptus steam room), I do not mind showering in Barnard’s old dirty locker room. And though Barnard does offer a variety of interesting and very well-instructed group fitness classes, they are less frequent and I often find I narrowly miss one and then have to work out on my own. I really enjoyed showing up at Equinox knowing that, even if I missed the class I’d planned to do, because of the volume of classes offered, I would certainly be able find an interesting group fitness option that fit in my schedule.

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If you’re fed up with Dodge, and know you’ll want to get off campus a few days a week, why not sign up for a summer membership at Equinox? While $450 bucks for 3 months may sound a little steep–considering that the Barnard Weight Room is free–if you feel like splurging for beautiful locker rooms, blasting A/C, TV’s, and group fitness classes,  Equinox is well worth the money.

A few Barbellinas were recently invited to review the Equinox club at 92nd St. and Broadway, so stay tuned this week for their reflections!

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At Equinox, I was lucky enough to undergo an Equifit Evaluation.  It’s a service that the gym offers to each new member. It involves around 5 different tests that test your overall fitness.  They also ask you questions about the amount that you exercise, how healthily you eat, and your physical fitness goals..  Finally, they test some things while you sit there, including your VO2 rate, which measures how well your muscles take in oxygen.  It’s on a scale of 10 to 92, and the higher it is, the better your muscles recover and the more muscular endurance you have. Finally, they take your blood pressure, and measure your body fat percentage.

The evaluation was really interesting.  It’s a real treat to have a professional tell you exactly how well you are doing fitness-wise, and how you can do to improve.  They even give you a little sheet at the end with recommendations of things you should work on. My only problem is that since I’m not actually joining the gym, and I’m a struggling college student, it’s not like I can afford to hire a personal trainer to work with me on those specific things.  (That’s what they recommend, which reminded me that Equinox is, after all, a business.) However, there ARE great resources available on the internet or elsewhere, it just means I have to put in a little energy to find them. And if you do actually join, you can do another test a month or two later and see what you have, or haven’t improved.
Overall, I’d say my Equinox experience was definitely positive.  Especially the TVs.  There’s nothing I like more than watching TV while I work out, it makes the time really fly by during my cardio.  And these TVs are super nice and fancy, and there are a lot of them in front of the cardio machines playing different channels.  My only gripe is the way the cardio machines are set up.  Each in its own row.  So if you want to get on the elliptical, you have to be toward the back, and then your view is a little blocked.  I guess they do that by height (bikes in front, stair masters in back).  But I couldn’t help thinking that maybe they could find some way to stagger them so that if you wanted to get on an elliptical, you could be near the front and have an unobstructed view. Also, if it’s crowded, you can’t always pick a machine that’s in front of the show you want.  But that’s gonna be true anywhere, and now I’m just being picky. That being said, having the option to go out and exercise at a quality gym such as Equinox, even if just for a week, was a real treat.  I already love exercising, but Equinox offered some extra incentives that put a spring in my step.

I was also fortunate enough to receive an INCREDIBLE massage.  It’s weird for me to think of a spa inside a gym, but this spa was perfect.  The whole thing is off to the side, and the lights are dimmed in the waiting room and there are big comfy seats, so it really feels relaxing as soon as you step in.  Plus, the staff there was super friendly and made me feel completely comfortable.  And I am the kind of person who would normally be uncomfortable in that kind of situation, so I was pleasantly surprised.  Since it was my first massage ever, the masseuse even gave me a little taste of the different kinds of massages they offer.  She did a bit with hot stone, and a bit with aroma therapy.  For the aroma therapy, she used a citrusy kind of scent in honor of spring approaching.  Again, citrus is a scent I don’t normally enjoy – but in the context of the massage it was completely, and surprisingly pleasant.  The only downside to the massage experience is that I now want another one always, and they are a bit expensive for someone on a college budget.

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It’s that time of year.  The end of classes has arrived, and you can breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate.  Really, you should do that! At least for a little bit.  However, of course school’s not over yet, and papers and tests are coming up.  This can be a stressful time.  You might be tempted to pull a bunch of all nighters in a row to help you get your work done, but most people know that’s not the best idea.  One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself right now is try to get a good night’s sleep so that you can be refreshed the next day when you have to start all over again.  I personally really believe in the power of sleep, and try to get a good night’s worth every night.  But I have a couple of problems: 1.  There are some nights where I just can’t seem to fall asleep.  2. I’m always hungry at night, so I often eat right before I go to bed, and I think that’s keeping me up.   Well, here’s a cool solution I found on webmd.com: sleep slideshow. It’s a slideshow with a listing of foods that are good to eat right before bed, and foods that aren’t.  So, if you’re like me and you get the nighttime munchies, follow those guidelines of what to eat that will help, instead of hurt when you try to go to sleep.  And try not to get stuck pulling those all nighters!  You’ll feel better during the day be way more productive.

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