Tag Archives: healthy-living

Dallas Yoga Throwdown

9 Sep

So I’ve made it no secret that I’m on a big yoga kick these days.   Given my background in dance and fitness, yoga is something that comes naturally.   I’ve been practicing yoga sporadically and informally for about 8 years, taking classes at the gym and teaching Les Mills BODYFLOW, which is a fusion of yoga, tai chi and pilates that builds strength, balance and flexibility.  In the 6 months leading up to my wedding I started taking Bikram Yoga and LOVED IT.   It really helped me obtain the physical goals that I wanted for my wedding (in fact I lost so much weight… a lot of it water weight… that I had to have my dress altered significantly right before the wedding).  And then I stopped.   Cold turkey.  Got out of the habit, hot weather set in, and I was feeling turned off by the cost and time commitment of practicing the same thing 3-5 times a week for 90 minutes.

Then I moved to Dallas.   I’ve mentioned before that I live one block from an amazing yoga studio called Uptown Yoga (www.uptownyoga.com).   When I first moved in I immediately noticed lots of folks just like me walking around with yoga mats and decked out in Lululemon (I have an addiction people — let’s move on).  I knew I had to give it a try and I was hooked.   I’d never really experienced a Vinyasa Flow practice in this setting: a beautiful airy studio with exposed brick and beams and lots of light.  Fantastic friendly instructors and a real sense of community.   I’ve been taking classes at Uptown usually 3 times a week, and Kevin has also taken a huge interest in yoga as well.  We practice together at least once a week and it’s one of my favorite things to do together.

So why was I itching recently to get back into Bikram yoga?   No idea really.   It’s hot as hell outside.   I’ve become accustomed to enjoying variety in class with a soundtrack of music.   I like wearing pants to class.

Let’s contrast Bikram.   105 degree room.  No music.  Same series (26 postures, performed twice, and 2 breathing exercises) every time.  Wearing as little clothing as possible, no pants allowed (we wear shorts people — very very short ones — get your mind out of the gutter).

Considering everything I love about Vinyasa Flow, the idea of Bikram hasn’t been all that appealing.   But I wanted to sweat.   I wanted to be forced into brutal honestly with my body.  I wanted to lose a few pounds.   So I gave it a go again, this time at Bikram Yoga Dallas (www.yogadallas.com).

My first class back after 16 months was awful.  Terrible.   I was miserable and spent the whole class dizzy, nauseated and felt like my heart might explode.   I sat out several postures and couldn’t wait for it to end.   I felt defeated.   And then I resolved to go back the very next day.

That is the key to Bikram — each practice builds on the one before it.  And the more often you practice, the better.  There will be good days and bad days.   So much of it is mental toughness and commitment.   So I went back.   And it sucked.  Again.   I decided to seek out the instructor after class to find out what might be the problem and explained how I had just re-started my practice.  One word stuck out in his response:  EGO.   (Boom!)   Remember my post “Working Out Your Ego?”   Yep.    A lightbulb went off.   I have made huge strides in enjoying my Vinyasa practice with no agenda, no competitive drive, just accepting each class as it is and it’s been amazing.   But with Bikram, I was pushing myself so hard in every pose, picking up where I left off last April 2011 and expecting the same results.   This was clearly not practical and I knew he was right.

So I decided to take a day off, go to Uptown with Kevin (had an AMAZING class), and then went back to Bikram this morning.   What a difference!   I told myself to just relax.   Focus on backing off on the poses a bit to pace myself.   And I ended up getting deeper into many of them than normal.   I didn’t have to sit out any postures.   My heart didn’t feel like it was about to beat out of my chest.  And I felt amazing when class was over.

So… will I keep it up?   I’m dedicated to a consistent Bikram practice for the rest of this month.   But can I balance 3-5 Bikram classes, my 3-4 Vinyasa classes, and teaching my regular Gold’s classes?  Heck no.   I’d have to say I enjoy Vinyasa practice a lot more and I’ll probably stick with it long-term, whereas I see more short-term results with Bikram.  Time will tell.

So here’s my rundown on the 2 studios, “Watering Hole Wednesday” style:

Studio:  Uptown Yoga

Cost: Drop-in $15.  Monthly unlimited if you auto-pay is $108/month.

Beginners:  $10 for 10 days is the promotion for first timers who live in the area.  They also have classes twice a week strictly for beginners.

Feel/Ambiance: As stated earlier, the studio is warm and inviting, with exposed brick walls and just a few mirrors for those who chose to place their mat in front of them.  Instructors chose their own music which varies from ambient to Top 40.   A little for everyone.   The lighting is soft, you feel a bit like you’re outdoors.

Heat: The room is set to 85 degrees.  Moderate humidity.   Warm enough to sweat and get deeply into postures but not so bad that you could wring out your clothes afterwards.

Frequency of classes and Instructors: 6 classes a day on weekdays and 4 on weekends.   60 minutes each.   You can see who is teaching online, and they hold pretty regular schedules, always announcing online when there is a sub.

Attire and Accessories:  Lots of Lululemon (I fit right in).   Participants are encouraged to wear fitted clothing and dress “modestly.”   Mostly capris and tanks.   Most folks bring their own mat and lots use yoga towels (I don’t, but I have Lululemon’s The Mat, which is amazing and you don’t slip.).   Mats are always available to borrow for class and they sell a wide selection of yoga towels and clothing.

Location:  3 locations.  Uptown, Lakewood and The Colony.  I’ve only been to the Uptown location, but it’s clearly UBER convenient for me.

Attendees: At the Uptown location it’s mostly young professionals like me.   Skews pretty young and hot.  But definitely not intimidating.   An impressive ratio of women to men (I’d call is 60:40).   I love seeing so many men practicing yoga, and they are among some of the most dedicated.

Studio: Bikram Yoga Dallas

Cost: Drop in for $20.  Monthly unlimited if you auto-pay (3 month commitment) is $99.

Beginners:  Promotion is $49 for monthly unlimited your first month.  Every class is considered a beginners series.  They also have a monthly workshop for beginners only with Q&A.

Feel/Ambiance:  Apparently the studio is recently renovated.  It’s located on the second floor of a Tom Thumb anchored shopping center.  But you would never know it from the inside.   Lots of natural light, feels very open and loft/industrial style.   The room is quite large.   Classes are held with the lights on and they are quite bright.  It’s part of Bikram’s practice.   Be honest with what you see in the mirror.   Mirrors are on 2 full walls.   You have to focus on yourself — Bikram says you are your best teacher.  Outside the studio is lots of concrete and hard surfaces… usually dripping with sweat!  No music.   Just the rhythmic set of  instructions being spouted out by the instructor.

Heat:  Minimum 105 degrees.   50-60% humidity.   Hot as Hades, no lie.   You will lose a few pounds in water weight each class (don’t worry… it come back.  :/ )

Frequency of classes and instructors: 5-7 classes per day, 90 minutes each.   As far as I can tell, they don’t post who’s teaching what classes.  Since I’ve only been a few times, not sure if instructors hold permanent/regular time slots, but I recall from other Bikram studios that they like to rotate the schedule pretty often.  Not sure how I feel about this.  As an instructor, I know that preferences for certain instructors really drives attendance and keeps people coming back.

Attire and Accessories:  Wear as little as possible.   Booty shorts, tiny sports bras.  No shirts for men.  Breathable fabrics.   You have to expose it all, for practical reasons (it’s too damn hot) and to allow your body to grip skin to skin.   No one is checking you out.   It’s pretty benign for all the skin that’s showing.   You can rent mats and towels.  Most people bring their own.  A yoga towel or big bath/beach towel is a must to go over your mat.   And it will be drenched.  Water or other hydrating beverages (coconut water, Gatorade, etc) are also required accessories and are available for purchase.

Locations: Currently just one, at Mockingbird and Abrams near SMU.  But they are planning another location in the West Village part of Uptown for this Fall.   That would definitely be more convenient!

Attendees: A little bit of everything.   Newbies, hard core yogis.  Young, middle age.  Fit and de-conditioned.   Men and women.  Yoga is for everyone here.

That’s my quick rundown.   As my old teacher in Arlington used to say, All Yoga is Good Yoga.   Just find what works for you!

Baby, I’ma Be Your Motivation

15 Jul

Motivation, not just the name of a nasty, yet super hot, song by the lovely Keri Hilson.   I’m feeling super motivated these days.  As in, kicking ass and taking names motivated.   So many people close to me are in Rockstar mode and well, I’m on the same train.

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since my last blog post (guess I haven’t been motivated enough to do EVERYTHING), but that’s because I’ve been absolutely slammed at work.   Like working long days, late nights and weekends slammed.   But the motivation to win is keeping me going.   See I’ve been working on several proposals.  Proposals are interesting because they have a firm deadline that spins lots of people into panic mode, and they require very focused organization and management.   Sometimes I act as Proposal Manager, and often I write, edit, format and help produce proposals.  But mostly my job function is to provide the win strategy, and ensure that we’re selling what the client is buying.

Understanding your client and what their key needs are is crucial to producing a winning proposal, and really that’s the result of all the work I do in sales.  That’s my big girl job.   But most of you know that I take my “fun girl job” just as seriously, and in this concept, they really aren’t all that different.

So for my gym friends, this is Silly Season.   You all know what I’m talking about.  It’s Launch time at the gym, which means we are debuting new moves and music in all our classes, and our heads are spinning in choreography, and we’re going to a ton of extra practices, and wearing silly costumes, and basically losing our minds.   We’re selling a unique brand of “exertainment” to keep our members interested in coming to class.

The Les Mills (www.lesmills.com) education focus this quarter is on exercise motivators, as in why do people keep coming back to your class.    They divide exercise motivators into 3 categories: 1) Maintaining/Achieving Good Health, 2) Improving Quality of Life and 3) Weight Loss and Physical Appearance.

Fact is, 50% of all people quit a new exercise routine within the first 6 months.  And of those 50%, the highest percentage of people who quit are the ones motivated by Weight Loss and Physical Appearance.   It makes sense– you don’t get instant results to your appearance or the number on the scale the second you walk out of a class.   But where people receive instant gratification is in quality of life.   Reduction in stress.  Increased energy.  Social engagement.  Pride in accomplishing the short term goal (Getting there is the hardest part).   I think that hot yoga and Bikram yoga are incredibly popular b/c they sell all 3 on a short term level.  Great health by keeping the body’s key systems in order, renewal/stress reduction, and due to the sheer amount of sweat involved, you often walk out looking and feeling 4 lbs. lighter (hello, water weight!).  Plus the level of improvement from class to class is quite remarkable if you go on a very regular basis.

Too often we sell physical benefits of rock hard abs, sexy legs, big guns, etc.   As a society, we are obsessed with these things, and they’re all key benefits of working out.   But they take work.   Lots of work.  Over an extended period of time.  And they aren’t achieved in the gym alone (ahem… abs are made in the kitchen).   But we want INSTANT results.   Frankly, many people just don’t want to work that hard for that long, knowing that it will eventually happen if they stick with it.   But if we keep people focused on those concepts they can achieve in just 30-55 minutes (fun, energy, levity, relaxation, or simply doing one more push-up, pull-up, lunge or squat jump than they did last week), they will be motivated enough to come back next class, and the next, and the next.

It’s not that different with proposals… just meeting the deadline and submitting the proposal feels like a WIN.  But the real win, in the form of a contract, may not come for several months (or years, in some cases).

So to keep that motivation alive, let’s focus on short term goals.   You’ve heard it a million times… work one day at a time.  Put one foot in front of the other.   Otherwise, you may end up having a Jessie Spano moment.   Life’s throwing a lot at me at one time, but I’ll get it done.  And I’ll take joy in every accomplishment, no matter how small.   :)

If you’re in the Dallas area, come check out a launch class this week at Gold’s Gym’s all over the area.  Bring a friend for free.  And come find out why we keep you coming back.  Here’s where I’ll be this week:

Monday- 6:00 BODYPUMP Launch, 7:00 BODYJAM Launch at Gold’s Gym Uptown

Wednesday- 6:00 BODYPUMP Launch, 7:00 BODYJAM Launch at Gold’s Gym Arapaho, AND 8:00 BODYFLOW launch at Uptown (I’ll only be there for half of JAM).

Otherwise, I’ll be at work.   Kicking ass and taking names!

A gym’s a gym’s a gym… right??

5 Jun

With so many gyms and workout options in large cities, what makes you choose one over another?

There are the obvious decision points:

  • Price/Contract Terms
  • Location/Parking
  • Size/Good Selection of equipment
  • Availability of classes, personal training, etc.
  • Amenities (locker rooms, pool, etc)

There are also some less tangible factors:

  • Brand loyalty
  • The gym’s feel/appeal (bare bones, high-end, body-builders, average Joe, women-friendly, etc)

I’ve had the privilege to teach for Gold’s Gym for nearly 7 years, in 3 major metropolitan areas (Richmond, DC/NOVA, and now Dallas).   Gold’s has both corporate and franchise locations in each of these areas and often instructors teach at multiple facilities.   I’ve probably taught at least semi-regularly in 9-10 different Gold’s.   They all look relatively alike… Gold’s has a pretty standard modus operandi for their facilities and branding, and all of them offer a wide selection of Les Mills classes (BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, RPM, etc).

But for me, every location and experience can be radically different!  And ultimately, it comes down to demographics and the resulting culture of each.  I’m going to make a bold generalization, but all things equal, gyms seem to fall into 3 categories:

  1. Meat Market.   It’s young, it’s hip, it’s hot.  It’s close to the city center and generally has a high income level.  It has a ton of traffic, and after work, you’ll be hard pressed to get close to a free treadmill.  The BODYPUMP classes run out of equipment.  Lots of people work with personal trainers.  But it’s also uber image-conscious (see last post on Working Out Your Ego).  It’s somewhat sterile (and not because of the steroid use).   As an instructor, you are willing people to stop looking in the mirror and react when you try to engage them.  But you have a room full of fit people and you will make them work!
  2. No-Man’s Land.   These gyms puzzle me a bit.  Maybe it’s the location, which is kind of close to the action but not in the suburbs.  The group exercise classes are hit or miss.   It’s transient, people don’t talk much.  They probably come in, run on the treadmill for 30 minutes and do their circuit and leave.  It’s just lacking character.   These are my least favorite locations to attend or instruct.   But if you put in the work, you can develop very dedicated followings and be content with smaller classes.
  3. The Burbs Phenomenon.  These gyms are often newer.  The chain has expanded with the population.  The rent is cheap, so the locations are large.  All this makes sense.   What defines these gyms for me though is a RABID group exercise following.  They have some of the highest GGX usages in the country (percentage of people who attend classes when they come to the gym).  The population skews a bit older, but you see it all… young, old, incredibly fit, overweight, moms, college kids.    When you get everyone together, it’s not about ego or checking out the hot chick on the hip adductor machine (come on… you know what I’m talking about… LOVE this post about it http://fit-geek.com/tag/hip-adductors/).  It’s about camaraderie.  Everyone wants to succeed together.   This is a place where you meet great friends (I’m looking at you, Merrifield) and get fit together.   It’s a different kind of social.  The instructors know your name because you introduce yourself and ask questions.  People aren’t afraid to sing-along, smile, and even shout out a WOO!!! when they’re really feeling it.   I love these gyms, and I’m willing to sit in traffic, spend my money on gas and give up most of my evening to teach at them.

I’ve subbed a few classes here in Dallas lately, at gym type #1 and gym type #3 and wow, what a difference.   The difference wasn’t just in who was standing in front of me, but also in how I taught the class.   Same format, same exact music and choreography.  But good instructors react to what’s in front of them.   Having a variety of skill levels and participants that are open to you brings out the best in me… and I got some of the best class reviews I’ve ever had at gym #3.

I’ll often pick convenience over some of those intangibles, but it’s hard to match that feeling where you connect with members and feel like you made a difference to them.   That’s why we do what we do!

What is the personality of your gym?   Is there a gym out there that fits all of these needs?

A big shout out to my NOVA Gold’s folks… I miss you!!!

Working Out Your Ego

31 May

I know that many of the readers here are part of the fitness community, so I thought I’d blog today on a topic that’s come into the forefront for me lately:  What role does your EGO play in your workout?

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been taking a lot of  yoga classes lately.   Specifically Vinyasa flow, but I’ve also had experience with Bikram and other types of yoga.   Lately, I’ve heard many instructors say to let go of your ego in your yoga practice.   In other words, focus less on being perfect and more on what is perfect for you.   Focus less on pleasing the teacher.   Focus less on what everyone around you is doing and how you compare to them.

The classes I’ve been taking are considered all-level, and that’s a fair statement.   Folks are definitely working at their own level.  But I can’t help but notice the 4 people right next to me doing some crazy arm balance or inversion while I’m hanging out in downward facing dog.  And guess what?   It arouses my ego and I immediately want to be doing it with them (or at least going home to practice so that I don’t fall on my face in front of everyone).   Helloooooo ego!

By nature I’m type A (some call me A+), and I don’t like to settle for average in anything I do.   So how do I reconcile this with practicing yoga?   I’ve been in the dance and fitness communities most of my life, and we strive for perfection, or at least continuous improvement.   Last night I taught a BODYPUMP class (group-based barbell training, for those of you not in the know) and I came home thinking how it’s our ego that pushes us to lift more weight, finish each rep and generally not phone-in the workout.

But can ego also harm our workouts?   Too much ego can result in injury, sure.  But I’m looking at this from another viewpoint.   In some of the classes I’ve observed, the ego is what is hindering us from achieving our goals.   The gym (and yes, even the yoga studio) is a very image conscious environment.  Just take a look at the ocean of Lululemon clothing (guilty as charged!!!) and the hair and makeup and spray tans.   I think the ego is causing us to NOT work as hard.   No one wants to fail in front of others.   God forbid we sweat too much.  Women don’t want to lift more weights than those around them (OMG… I might bulk up!!!  WRONG).   Dudes pile on the weights for chest and biceps, but fail to push themselves in squats and lunges because guess what… chicks only notice how big my chest and arms are (again… WRONG… I’m talking to you Mr. Chicken Legs).

Instead of listening to my ego, I’m definitely going to try to focus more on listening in all my classes.  Listening to the instructor’s directions and teachings.  Listening to my body.  How am I feeling today?   Everyday is different in the studio, and no workout is the same.   Confession… I do yoga for the workout.  Not for the spiritual experience.  Not to relax or de-stress, though I appreciate those benefits that come along.   But for my hour in class, I want to start giving myself a break.   It’s hard to be “on” all the time.   Sure, I’ll continue to work hard, but as yogi gurus will remind you, it’s often the INTENTION that gets you to your goal.   Not the end result.

So here’s my challenge:  EGO OUT! Get rid of it. Bow your head in humility, ignore the other people, they don’t count, you do.

What role does your ego play in your workout?  Is it aiding or slowing your progress?   Or are you just there for the experience?

Discuss!   Comment!!


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