Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 70

If you are a runner and traveling to Philadelphia, one of the things you will want to do is run up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These steps, made famous by Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky," lead up to one of the great art museums in country, with paintings, sculpture, textiles and costumes.

And a statue of Rocky, where every visitor with a smartphone poses.

I ran here, sans iPhone, from my hotel all the way at the other end of the city. Philadelphia is a rather small city, and residents tout its walkability, but from the Sheraton Society Hill nearly at Penn's Landing to the museum is 2.7 miles each way.

But those grand stairs inspire you. I sang the theme from "Rocky" to myself as I sprinted up and down the steps, then slogged my way back to the hotel.

On the way, I sang "The Streets of Philadelphia" since I had just seen the Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the National Constitution Center.

If you are traveling with teens, plan another trip to the museum for Art After 5, on Friday evenings. The museum is open late, with cocktails and food, plus music and dance performances. There are also free guided tours of the museum, and select galleries are open.

On the Lookout: Funny Road Signs

Visitors to New York are probably confused about many of our street signs. There are alternate sign street parking signs, no standing signs, and no parking on school days signs (does this apply in summer? After private school lets out if the sign is near a private school or do you have to wait till NYC public schools are out?).

We like to look for funny traffic signs when we are traveling. In New York, we are unlikely to see a duck crossing or tractor crossing sign, both of which we’ve seen.

In London, a sign warms us the ‘Mind the Gap.” I really don’t mind it.

Other unusual road signs include turtle crossing and the grammatically incorrect Stop Men Working. Should we stop the men we see from working? Allow the women to continue working?
Brought to you by your friends at SafetySign.com

Fitness Challenge: Day 69

When you travel for business, you don't always have time to exercise, but you can easily incorporate a short room workout into your day. If you have more time, you can hit the hotel's gym.

At the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia, you can get a cardio workout in one room, filled with elliptical trainers, treadmills and stationary bicycles, and go next door for weights, stretching and stability balls.

If you have lots of time, head upstairs to the glass enclosed pool, where you can swim laps, or soothe tired muscles in the hot tub. The pool also has a family-friendly wading area and lounges.

Although the gym could use a bosu ball, it did have a couple of nice touches; foam rollers to get out knots, a jump rope, and chilled towels in a mini fridge. The work out ares were also bright and cheerful; sometimes hotel gyms are relegated to dark, uninviting spaces.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 68

Almost every day, websites like Groupon, Living Social and Bloomspot offer bargain-hunting New Yorkers discount fitness classes. You can get yourself a nice assortment of gym passes and classes.

I just sampled NYC Boot Camp, an outdoor boot camp that meets in Coney Island, Battery Park City, and down the street from me in Prospect Park.

The founder, Alan, uses playground equipment, hills and steps in the hour long workouts.

My favorite exercise was a TRX-style chest pull, using the playground swings. Without kids on them. We also did pull ups on the climbing equipment, burpees and triceps dips from the benches, and walking lunges through the park.

The partner exercises get you invested in someone else’s success. In one innovative exercise, one person did crunches; the other,
holding her feet down, held a plank.

Your face was basically stuck in someone else’s sneakers, but since you are bear crawling across the playground and running in park where animals defecate, the smell of your partner’s feet is the least of your worries.

We got wet, (it was raining) dirty and winded. It was a great workout.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fitness & Health in the Mail

Despite the prevalence of Amazon, Zappos and Netflix, getting a package in the mail is still exciting.

And for a mom, getting her own package – not one addressed to the kids, or for them – is even more exciting.

Klutchclub also adds the element of surprise.

This new subscription service sends out a monthly box ($16 a month if you sign up for the whole year) packed with goodies worth over $100.

The boxes contain a mixture of health, fitness and beauty products.

In the inaugural April box, members got a Kind bar, coconut water, a yoga DVD, fish oil and an organic face scrub. The May box contained another One coconut water, a reusable water bottle, delicious low sugar/high proteinThink Thin nutrition bars and Hydroxatone wrinkle reducer.

There were also 2 coupons for $25 off workout clothes at Moving Comfort, so you could order yourself another package.

You can save 10% off membership with the discount code BrightPink; KltuchClub also donates 10% to BrightPink, a non-profit focusing on prevention & early detection of breast & ovarian cancer.

Fitness Challenge: Day 67

Gyms in New York City can be so crowded you can't find a locker, or an elliptical machine. Or you have to wait 15 minutes for the 10 lb. weights.

Not so at the West End Sports Club, which is in a new part of NYC that many people haven't even heard of. Across West End Avenue in the 60s, before riverside Blvd even starts, new buildings and parks have sprouted up, and one luxury building houses this gym.

It has a large pool, with aqua fitness classes, a studio for land-based exercise, and plenty of floor space for treadmills, stair climbers and free weights.

What is doesn't have is crowds, which is nice for those who like to exercise in isolation.

Although most of the gym is new, the locker rooms have metal lockers and the old-fashioned look of a Y.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 66

Just getting into spin class in New York City can be a workout in itself. At my old Park Slope gym, you had to sign up a day in advance, but sometimes extra people would just show up. Then the spin instructor would have to delay class while she called attendance.

At another NYC gym I tried, spin enthusiasts huddled at the door, bolting inside when the studio was unlocked and they could choose their favorite bike.

I would usually wind up on some rickety bike where the height couldn't be adjusted.

But this blood sport doesn't appeal to everyone. For those people, Pedal NYC beckons. This boutique gym on the far far west side - any further, it would be in New Jersey - had a virtually empty spin class run by the enthusiastic, muscular and tough Mr. Ray.

Even better, the brand new bikes could easily be adjusted, gearing up or down was effortless, and monitors gave us exact readings of our RPMs.

The gym has state-of-the-art air conditioning, which was at a perfect temperature, and a gigantic ceiling fan circulated the air so you didn't have to toil in the stink of your own sweat.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 65

When New York City has a 'top 10' day, it can be hard to head inside to a sweaty gym. Luckily, Captain Quinn's Fitness Boot Camp offers outdoor boot camps at J.J. Byrne Playground in Park Slope.

When my oldest daughter started 6th grade at the adjacent William Alexander Middle School, the park was a neglected, dispiriting place that we avoided at all costs. But a dynamic new Executive Director at the Old Stone House transformed the park into a glittering neighborhood jewel.

The field behind the Old Stone House was a dusty, ill-used patch of depression that was carpeted with turf and enjoys near round the clock use. A couple of boot camps start there at 6am, the middle school uses the space for outdoor gym and soccer and baseball leagues take over in the afternoon and evening.

The playground in front of The Old Stone House reopened last week, with innovative climbing equipment, swings for big and little kids, and gardens of flowering plants and shrubs.

All in all, the park is an extremely pleasant place to get your butt kicked into shape.

For the outdoor boot camp, we used resistance bands to work our arms, shoulders and backs, sprinting to cones to get our heart rates up.

The middle schoolers at gym giggled as we did frog jumps or held planks with one foot raised, but they might have been envious of our fitness levels.

My youngest daughter graduated from the school last year. She would have been mortified to see me with a bunch of sweaty adults, counting off jumping jacks.

But I was as happy as a kid at a brand new playground.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Veggie Burgers in New York City

A restaurant specializing in burgers, with bison, elk, wild boar and ostrich among the protein choices may not seem like the obvious choice for a vegetarian, but Bareburger, a mini New York City chain, has extensive vegetarian, and gluten-free options.

And since I chose a vegetarian diet as an environmental choice, how can I not support a place that has all organic produce and dairy, made its tables from reclaimed wood, and sevres organic beer and wine?

Bareburger offers 11 burger choices, and vegetarians can have the vegan patty, or portabella, with any of the vegetarian toppings.

The California, with avocado and cheddar, is a classic choice, as is the classic itself, with pickle relish, smoked onions and ketchup.

If you like spicy food, try the Jalapeno Express, with pepperj ack cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, jalapeno relish, horseradish mayo and chipotle ketchup.

My faves are the Pesto Red Pepper, with the portabella option, and the Mediterranean, with either veggie choice. The Pesto burger comes with smoked mozzarella, roasted red peppers, baby spinach and pesto mayo; the Mediterranean has cucumber mint yogurt, lettuce, cucumber, tomato and smoked onions.

You can also customize a burger, or add an or more cheese, for extra protein.

Bun options include a multigrain roll, brioche, or the gluten-free tapioca rice bun. There are also diet-friendly wheat or lettuce wraps.

The only vegetarian sandwich is the portabella with blue cheese; there are also salads.

I do wish you could get a baked potato instead of French fries; the fries, cooked in peanut oil, are delicious, but even our family of 5 can't finish the huge basket.

And $7 for a side of pickles is a bit steep for a place where the entrees run $10 or $11. Granted, the pickles are Rick's Pick's, and you get adorable little jars of 4 kinds, plus mediocre cole slaw (admittedly, I am not a cole slaw fan) but unless you have a pickle fetish or are eating with 7 others, you are unlikely to come close to finishing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 64

Going to different places to work out has made me realize that you don't need a fancy gym to stay in shape. In fact, you don't need a gym at all.

This Saturday, SELF Magazine hosts a Workout in the Park, in Central Park. The day includes exercising with trainers from Crunch and The Biggest Loser trainer Dolvett Quince. You can learn exercises to do at home, without equipment, or do them in your local park.

There will be stretching, ab work, yoga, kickboxing and Tabura, plus CrossFit by Reebok.

To make the day more fun, there are also mini make-overs and spa treatments, plus goody bags.

So don't sleep in on May 12 (that's for Mother's Day) - get to Rumsey Playfield. And if you can't make it to the outdoor fun, play the game online.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cooking for Kids

Once kids learn to say “no, they often direct their negativity towards food. Anything that has a funny look, smell or feel may be rejected.

Then the parents spend hour between meal times figuring out what their picky kids can eat.

And it doesn’t necessarily go away when they grow up. My teens make sudden, random statements like “you know I don’t eat lentils,” (Really? Since when) and “Now I’m vegan” (sorry, kid, we’re vegetarians and I’m still using cheese and eggs).

But I still appreciate cookbooks designed for families, especially ones like Parents Magazine Quick & Easy Kid-Friendly Meals, which has some pretty healthy and tasty dishes.

Take the banana quinoa waffles. One of my kids loves pancakes and waffles, but has been on an anti-banana kick lately, probably from a microscopic brown spot that she spied on a seemingly ideal banana.

These, waffles, made with whole whet flour and quinoa, are even better if your banana is covered with brown spots. The banana is mashed in, so if you hide offending skin, you can easily sneak a little banana back into your kid’s diet.

Other recipes include an easy black bean soup (made with canned beans) that has undetectable sweet potato (and if you swap out the chicken broth for vegetable, the soup is vegetarian).

I’m looking forward to watermelon season and the cold watermelon soup. You serve it with raisins to look like watermelon seeds – inspired!

Corn & edamame salad and cauliflower “popcorn” roasted with olive oil and topped with Parmesan cheese will please fussy kids and adults.

Friday, May 4, 2012

De Luxe Coffee ups the ante in Brooklyn

Being rude has a certain cachet in New York. We are brusque because we can be.

Yet, places like De Luxe, a new coffee bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn, belie that rudeness. See, under this facade, we really are nice. Ok, maybe not you, gross seat hogger on the F train, but certainly the owners of De Luxe.

Everyone is greeted warmly at this small coffee shop, and if you stay, you can sip coffee from an aqua cup - and get a free refill. The coffee is rich and delicious. No chemist perfectly calibrating the bean to water ratio, just an honest cup of joe.

There is a small selection of pastries and donuts. And if you come at lunch, you can have a delicious, reasonably priced sandwich. To go, the sandwiches are wrapped in brown butcher paper and you feel like you're in a small shop in France. In 1948.

Although I'm not a hard-bolied egg fan, the sandwich with cheddar and arugula sounded interesting, and for only $5, it was a true bargain to boot. There is also a hummus sandwich, sparked with pickle and arugula ($7) and tuna, also with pickles and roasted red peppers ($9).

But the hands-down winner is a ricotta, fig and truffled honey sandwich, for $6. A perfect vegetarian lunch

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 63

My fitness challenge has hit a snafu; a back injury pretty much eliminating all physical activity. Just for fun, though, I go to the McBurney YMCA, in Chelsea, to float around in the pool. The threadbare towels are doled out sparingly, which is good for the environment, but not for showering or covering up. The cognescenti bring beach towels to the pool. The pool is quite spotless and pleasant, but the grim locker rooms almost make me turn around and skip the water.
I wasn't expecting a country club, but the locker rooms are what I imagine you would find in a prison. The workout areas of the gym aren't much more inspiring. This is industrial chic, without the chic.