Friday, March 30, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 52

The gym pass failed today. Tried to go to Tribeca Health & Fitness but was told I needed an appointment to use the gym. According to the pass, appointments are not required, but the woman at the juice bar/check in desk refused me access.

I asked if I could make an appointment, for right then, but she told me "no one was in the gym." The gym that bills itself as the largest in Tribeca apparently had only one person working there, and she could not leave her post.

This woman told me no one could use the gym without first getting a tour.

She did offer to sell me a day pass, for $20, granting me access. Apparently, when you pay $20, you no longer require said tour.


So I ran home. Tribeca to Park Slope, via the Brooklyn Bridge - about 6 miles. A perfect destination run.

Just not the workout I expected.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 51

Although the Disney Fantasy cruise ship makes it easy for a vegetarian to eat well, with menus at sit down restaurants offering several vegetarian choices, (and lighter fare) the cruise ship is concurrently offering more fitness choices.

When you get to the private Bahamian island, Castawy Cay, inaugurate your visit with a 5K run. This is a new fun run through the island, and while you don't get a t-shirt, you do get an official bib. And every entrant gets a medal.

But I am all about the run shirt. So I opted for yoga on the beach. This is a particular treat for those of us who don't live next to the ocean. Coney Island is a mere 8 miles from me, but it's not a beach that screams serentiy.

In fact, the yoga here is at the adults-only beach, Serenity Bay. Some cruisers relax with a massage en plein air, but I find yoga both relaxing and invigorating.

You can also exercise by snorkeling or swimming, or riding a bike (snorkeling and biking cost extra; yoga is included).

Back on the boat, I took the spin class, with the same affable South African who led the yoga class. Instead of the pounding of the surf I listened to the pounding of my heart and calculated which dessert I'd earn at dinner.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 50

What better place to be, at the half-way point of the 100 day fitness challenge: aboard the new Disney Fantasy cruise ship. The ship, the largest in the Disney fleet, has a dcent size gym, with a dozen stat-of-the-art spinning bikes and a daily spin class. There is also an early abs class, so you can work off that extra trip to the buffet.

Aerobic machines have their own TV screens, or you can listen to music and watch the ocean.

The gym
The gym, inside the ship's spa, also has a few bosu balls and a full selection of hand weights. I like to lift weights, then run outside, and the Fantasy helps here, too, with a running track 7 levels below the gym. Do yourself a favor and run those 7 flights of stairs.

In fact, even if you are gym averse, you can combat cruise overeating by avoiding the elevators and always taking the stairs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 49

Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World wows visitors with its recreated African environment. You see giraffes glide by on your way to your room. kudu and antelope with night vision goggles and African birds throughout the resort.

While your kids are at the playground or zipping down a slide into the pool, you can work off a South African feast (courtesy of the signature resaturant, Jiko, which has plenty of vegetarian options) at the gym.

The gyms
There are two at Animal Kingdom Lodge, one at Jambo House, the main part of the hotel, and one at Kidani Village. I used the Jambo House gym, where the treadmills ovelook the lush vegetation and the main pool, so if our spouse is at the pool with the kids, you can keep an extra eye on them while you run. I was pleased by the selection of free weights and the stretching area, with mats and stability balls.

All day access
I've been to Animal Kingdom Lodge 3 or 4 times, and I see little kids late at night, in the wading pool or searching for animals. Not sure when they sleep. But if you have spent the day at Disney parks and still have the energy to work out, you can use the fitness center at Jambo House 24 hours a day.

Hakuna Matata

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New York: Bronx

Written by Fermin Washington

When I decided to move to New York several years ago I was thinking about any of the neighborhoods in Manhattan. To my surprise I ended up living in the Bronx and I absolutely love it. It was not my first choice as I mentioned but it has turned out to be my most favorite borough out of all of them. I have lots of places to walk to from my apartment and can get pretty much anything I want within a block of my place. The other thing that is cool about where I live is I started a business in the building next door. I can wake up right before I have to be there and then just stroll on over to open up shop. I wanted to start an internet café that would a place for local small business owners to gather and be a part of a community instead of cooped up in their home offices all day long with no outside interaction. I got hooked up with T1 Bronx for my internet and the rest, as they say, is history.

Park Slope Throw Back

Before Park Slope was the home of the multi-million dollar brownstone, it had a reputation as a Brooklyn hippie haven. And Naidre's cafe fit right in. It offered vegan and gluten-free food before they were in vogue, and extras like agave to sweeten your coffee.

This low-key place, which serves breakfast and lunch, has just a few tables; you can also eat on the bench out front, or take your food to go.

Naidre's is one of the few places where you can have a vegan breakfast; steel-cut oats, coffee with soy milk, and tofu or tempeh scramble.

Unfortunately, our tofu and tempeh were cool; they would have been much better hot. And they needed a jolt of spice.

Much better choices, though not vegan, are the breakfast burrito, with eggs, or the egg sandwich. You can have this with veggie sausage for a filling breakfast.

And you can still get in touch with your inner hippie, scanning the cafe copy of Mother Jones.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 48

Living in a brownstone is ideal in many ways. You have space, different floors, a garden. But if you live in a luxury high-rise, you can have a gym in your building.

Many Upper East Side luxury buildings have their own gyms, and my fitness pass gave me access to the one at the Monterey.

The amenities in this building are fantastic. The gym includes a pool, a small work out area, and a room that doubles as an exercise studio and children's playroom.

Health club members also have access to a private outdoor area, with lounges and a grill.

I came when there was no class and the gym was literally empty. A couple of kids were swimming, but I had all the aerobic equipment and weights to myself. I set up stations around the gym; chest flies with a ball over here, mountain climbers over there, and tricep dips off a weight bench. The Sirius radio was playing good workout tunes, so I didn't have to use headphones.

I could get used to this.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 47

Yoga doesn't always seem like the greatest exercise to me. Maybe because I have take a lot of yoga classes in gym that don't specialize in it, it never seems like that great a work out.

But then you see a fit yogi and take a class in a real yoga studio and it hits you. This stuff is for real. Lululemon, which sells great yoga clothes, offers free classes at most of its stores.

In Park Slope, Brooklyn, the local Lululemon store has free yoga Saturday mornings. Shelves are pushed to the side, yoga mats are available free and an instructor from Dou Yoga offers an invigorating hour-long workout.

I learned the difference between warrior 1 and 2, and how to do warrior 3.

This class was not billed as hot yoga, but the heat was working overtime in the store and by the end everyone was dripping with sweat.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 46

24 Hour Fitness Midtown has a huge subterranean space with such high ceilings that you don't feel like you are underground. On the street level entry floor, there is a cafe and a small area with a TRX station.

The 4 foot deep pool is appealing; little danger of going underwater here. And there is a large studio next to a spin room, bright, clean locker rooms and plenty of space to do whatever exercise floats your boat.

I check out a class called 30-60-90. It has nothing to do with right angles. We do a series of exercises for 30 seconds: push-ups, squats, bicep curls. Then again for 60 seconds.

And then, yes, for 90 seconds.

The only problem with the intense, hour-long class; it ends just as spin gets out, and there's a line for showers.

And Derek Jeter is the spokesperson for the club; painful for a New York Mets fan.

But not as painful as 90 seconds of burpees.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 45

Today I hit the 14th Street Y, a Jewish community center on the lower east side. This has a very bare bones gym; aerobic machines without individual televisions are on a hardwood floor in an interior room and the locker room has no amenities.

Including towels.

Had I known in advance, I would have brought a towel, but I didn't bother to check the website. Oops.

There are rough paper towels to wipe up your sweat; after running on a treadmill, I need a couple. Luckily I have a shirt and can just run in my sports bra (and shorts).

Then, a quick wipe down in the shower with my t-shirt, and a more thorough drying in the sauna.

I'd like to think that my immigrant grandparents sweat in the same place, but I doubt they ever did formal exercise a day in their lives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 44

The stripper pole alerted me that this gym was different. While my fellow Brooklynites filed into a Crunch conditioning class, a pair of young women contorted themselves on a pole in the middle of the room.

While we looked on warily, they spun and gyrated. Then they took the pole down, our instructor came in and we started lifting weights.

I didn't see pole dancing on the class schedule, which had the usual mix of spin classes, yoga and weight training.

The large Park Slope gym has two floors and plenty of space to stretch to exercise, but a few quirks.

Towels are only at the front desk, not in the locker room. And some classes have assigned spots; you sign up and have to look for the little number on the floor.

But the class was exhausting, the equipment up to date and the locker rooms clean.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 43

Another day, another Y. The Vanderbilt YMCA, on the east side of midtown, has 2 huge pools, a large cardio room and classes throughout the day.

The spin class is strictly self-serve. You go into a caged off area of a room and drag out your own bike, calculating how close you want to be someone else's flying sweat. New York City spin classes attract a lot of men who are often the sweat slingers.

After dragging out a non-working bike and then getting another, I settle into the class, which offers an intense cardio burn.

The instructor keeps hopping off his bike and offering tissues to class members. I wish he would run around with a hose; my water bottle is empty after 45 minutes, but we still have 15 minutes to go.

I am parched and spent at the end of class. A great feeling.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 42

One problem with being a gym gypsy is not knowing what is happening at a particular gym. You could call, or go online, but if you forget and just show up, you can waste a pass at a gym where a class is canceled.

This happened at the Doge YMCA in Brooklyn Heights, where the spin room was closed.

But the Y has so much else going on: a huge, beautiful pool, basketball courts, and several floors with cardio machines and weights.

There was another class going on, a total body conditioning that had a rather odd instructor. I lasted about 10 minutes, listening to her regale her regulars with tales of her weekend exploits, then left to exercise on my own.

Since I rode my bike to the gym, I didn't use the locker rooms, but I peeked in and the women's room was clean, if spartan.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 41

There are days you just don't want to go to the gym: too hot, too cold, too windy. Or maybe you're too busy.

But if you have a DVD player and a couple of light weights, you can get an excellent workout at home.

One I've found compatible with my fitness goals is Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred. There are 3 intense 20 minute workouts, followed by a 4 minute cool down. Even on your busiest day, you can probably squeeze one in.

Jillian has you work several muscles at once; e.,g, bicep curl while lifting a leg and engaging your core, so you work very hard.

If you have the time, you can do 2 (or even all 3) routines; just skip the cool down and go on to the next one.

I find it helpful to have a mirror so I can check my form.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 40

On a day of record warmth in NYC, it is criminal to be inside. Go to a gym when it is sunny and almost 70?

I have my early morning power walk, then a run in Prospect Park.

The crocuses are struggling to break free in this early spring. almost summer. Sidewalk tables are also sprouting.

Everyone is smiling. Can this really be New York City?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 39

What a difference a few blocks makes.

New York Health & Racquet Club
on West 56th St is a thoroughly modern gym, unlike its more dated sibling just a few blocks downtown.

Same basic set-up, with a glorious, large pool in the basement. Same attended locker rooms and amenities.

But upstairs - state-of-the-art equipment, from elliptical machines with individual screens to my personal fave, bosu balls.

And a huge variety of classes. This may be why, at the same time as the New York Health & Racquet Club I went to yesterday, this club was packed, and the other nearly empty.

But not too crowded. Just minutes before a noon-time spin or boot camp, you could get a spot in either. I'd forgotten my water bottle, so I decided boot camp would be easier.

And more like the Marines, who can train for over 45 minutes without needing to hydrate.

I soaked my tired muscles afterward in the hot tub, then used that cool little spinner to extract the water from my bathing suit.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 38

New York Health & Racquet Club offers squash and racquetball at many of its Manhattan gyms. You can also stay fit through swimming, or one of the aqua exercise classes.

The gym on East 50th St has a pool, hot tub, and eucalyptus shower. Not usual amenities at NY gyms.

The gym feels a bit claustrophobic, with spiral staircases in the locker rooms leading to the shower and pool.

And the workout spaces are hardly state of the art. No bosu balls or rows of free weights here. The cardio machines don't have individual screens, nor do they connect to the large hanging TVs. If you want to watch TV, you just read the captions.

Staffed locker rooms offer deodorant, mouthwash and both tampons and pads.

But the clean, serene, and empty pool make this a worthy mid-town gym.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 37

Equinox may be both the nicest and meanest gym in New York City.

The facilities, at least in the one in Soho, are unparalleled. You enter a beautiful loft building, with a fitness shop and healthy cafe on the ground level. There are couches and tables on the mezzanine level, where you can hang out, then a coat check, friendly check-in, and fantastic locker room.

Soft, thick towels, still warm. Glass-doored showers stocked with Kiehl's products, and razors and shaving cream.

The gym is fine, too. The elliptical machines don't have individual TVs; you plug into one of the huge, hanging screens. Environmentally correct, plus you can catch up on trash TV (and pretend to be watching the MacNeil-Lehrer report).


The spin instructor yelled at several people in the class. She scolded those who were late and wouldn't help adjust a bike for a person who came just before the class began. She said that would make everyone late. Really? How long would that take?

At the end of class, when we were supposed to be off our bikes stretching, she yelled at the 2 people who continued to ride. Admittedly, they were being rude. But they were also listening to iPods, so they didn't even hear her ranting. Those of us who complied were yelled at.

Then, I went to do some weights and couldn't find the 5 pound barbells I need for a particular exercise. There were none of the floor, and a trainer suggested I go into one of studios and take a pair.

There was a class going on, but I quietly walked to the back where there were about 30 5 pound hand weights.

Then the instructor started yelling at me for interrupting her class. It was not a yoga class, I hadn't destroyed the serenity, and she was downright rude.

But at least after I showered, my hair shone with Kiehl's Formula 13.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 36

Triomph Fitness, in a converted warehouse in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn has a small strength area with machines and weights, plus a studio for a variety of classes.

If you are an early riser, you can take boot camp most mornings. On Sundays, a 'body blaze' class is similar to an hour-long boot camp. We did jumping jacks, squats, burpees, reverse push-ups (going from lying on the floor into push up position) and lunges, sometimes with weights.

Classes are an unbelievably cheap $5 each.

The bare-bones gym offers little in the way of amenities, though it does have a cafe.

For the weekend class, since the rest of the building was empty, we run down halls, and up and down stairs.

The entertaining instructor demonstrated exercises and exhorted us to work harder and faster. He made the time pass quickly.

I was both surprised, and relieved, when class ended.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 35

Another day, another boot camp. Captain Quinn's Fitness Boot Camp is an indoor/outdoor boot camp in Brooklyn parks, wintering in a rather forlorn building.

But if the location is bare-bones, (in 25 years in nearby Park Slope, I'd never even heard of the street it's on) the class is not.

Our energetic instructor emphasized the 'camp' part, having us introduce ourselves whie running and tossing a medicine ball. We did partner exercises, like suicide runs and resistance bands, all while talking in different accents.

You lookin' at me?

In one exercise, one person held a plank while the other jumped over him or her. So the camp inspired trust.

The 45 minutes flew by, with sprints, burpees, push ups and squats.

And I found, to no surprise, that I can tawk most easily in a deep Brooklyn accent.