Friday, August 24, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 87

In the 10 years I was a member of Body Reserve, I never once visited the locker room. the gym, in a bank at the corner of 5th Avenue and Union Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, was on my block, so I exercised, then went home.

I recently tried the gym out again. Body Reserve is now 16 blocks from my house, so I finally saw the locker room, along with an exercise studio for spin classes, boot camp, Zumba and other fitness classes.

The locker room has extremely narrow, old metal lockers and showers with empty soap and shampoo dispensers. Postage stamp size towels are only available at the front desk. So I was not missing much.

But the gym has a great stretch room, with stability and bosu balls, a variety of hand weights, mats and plenty of room to do your own exercise routine. The room is also quiet; the music that plays on the main floor does not penetrate here.

Body Reserve has 2 loft areas, one with treadmills looking out over the street and one with recumbent bikes, elliptical trainers and step machines, overlooking the main gym area. Cardio machines are on the older side, with tiny screens, but a selection of magazines nearby.

The gym, an independent facility, has a friendly neighborhood feel. And while there are few amenities (the mints at check-in desk are a nice touch) it is a warm, welcoming gym. Just bring your own shampoo and towel.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 86

Travelers often say these want to meet REAL people, not other tourists. When you are sightseeing, this can be challenging. But one way to find the real people in another city is to work out in a gym there, or go for a run.

On a recent day in Philadelphia, I took advantage of a free trial at a downtown gym to work out. Weston Fitness is undergoing a huge renovation, adding several new classroom studios. i t already has a large studio where spin, Zumba and strength classes are held, and a temporary studio for kettlebells.

Although Philadelphia is quite close to NY, the city has a very different feel. But the gym attracted the same mix of casual exercisers and hard core gym rats that you find in NY.

Cardio machines were positioned to look out over the street, and weights, stability balls and bosu balls were plentiful.

But the women's locker room had an odd smell (it is not scheduled for a make over) with no or even hooks soap in the showers and old lockers.

The gym did have an interesting fitness program, M.A.P.P. (Metabolic. Analysis, Program, Planning) which calculates metabolic rate and fat in each person, and sets up an individualized fitness plan.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 85

A rose is a rose is a rose. But SoulCycle studios are not all alike.

I took a class at Soul Tribeca, which was no easy feat. With construction closing streets everywhere, I had to walk about 15 minutes out of my way just to reach the studio, which is in the same building as a Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble and Bed, Bath & Beyond. You can feed body and soul all in one location.

Unlike the Union Square SoulCycle, this one was not crowded; in fact, the class I took had mostly empty bikes. And while the bikes were crammed in, they weren't quite as claustrophobic.

The class featured the same full-body, high intensity cardio workout, but the music was not ear-splittingly loud. The changing room had the same amenities, plus face wash and organic body lotion, nice touches (and probably purchased from the adjacent Whole Foods). And there were 4 flavors of gum for getting rid of that post work out dry mouth.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 84

Having been a spin devotee for years, I finally reached the Holy Grail, SoulCycle. I had won a few free rides a long time ago, then lost my voucher, so I held it against the place.

I can see why people are addicted to SoulCycle. The high energy boutique studio gives you a full body workout in 45 minutes. I usually think the crunches on a bike are pointless, but when you do them for most of the class, followed by weights, you feel exhausted everywhere. In a good way.

SoulCycle requires you to wear bike shoes (free for the first class, $3 rental after). The advantage is you don't have to lug sneakers. But the disadvantage is it reminds you of bowling.

The place is definitely quirky. Hair bands and earplugs are thoughtfully provided. But lowering the music would actually be better for your ears.

The women's changing room had lots of amenities, from 2 kinds of tampons to razors and deodorant. But the studio is so crowded that it is impossible to actually use anything after a class. There was a huge line for the showers, and nowhere to change. Lockers are co-ed, so floor space in the tiny changing room is at a premium.

Just like in the class. More bikes than you would think possible are wedged in. When I crunched, my elbows knocked into the women next to me. When we put the weights behind us, I hit the bike behind me.

Yet an assistant came over to me before class to set my bike up, then emailed me the specs for my next class. As soon as class ended, cleaners returned the studio to its spotless state.

In the end, SoulCycle is a bit like working out on a rush hour subway. You complain about it, but you do it anyway.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Family Travel Down Under

One of the most daunting aspects of taking a family vacation to Australia is the flight. Both the cost, and the length of the trip, can be overwhelming., based in Australia, offers a wealth of cheap flights, form the United States and worldwide, to Australia.

And you are not working with no-name airlines. They have relationships with Qantas, United Airlines, and Singapore Airlines.

Flying a major airline means you can get frequent flier miles towards your next trip. also has deals on hotels and car rentals (car hire in Aussie speak) all through Australia, making it a one-stop website.

Now I just have to figure out how to entertain the kids the long flight.

Fitness Challenge: Day 83

The Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel didn't hide its gym away in the basement. The decent sized gym, ith an Exhale Spa studio down the hall, has large windows overlooking the street. You can even keep an eye on the corner Starbucks and time your workout to end when the line winds down.

The well-appointed, impeccably clean gym offers free weights, cardio machines and weight benches, plus mats and room to use them. Amenities are limited to soft towels and cold filtered water, but if you use the bathroom in the attached spa, you can help yourself to hair spray, or a rain head shower.

The bold face names who frequent the hotel generally head all the way upstairs, to the rooftop pool, but the day I was at the gym, a few well-toned people made good use of the space.