Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Figure 4 (a.k.a. When I Realized I Could Never Be a Rockette)

Lululemon is smart. Too damn smart.

Let's back-up. I am the person who shops at Modell's. I am the person who wears the free race shirt and an old sports bra to run. (And pants. I usually put on pants.) I am the person who wears a Gap sweatshirt circa 1999 to do my errands. That's me.

And as a thrifty consumer, I want to hate everything about Lululemon. I want -- very much -- to rant against the fact that we are all basically wearing the exact same thing when we shop there, and therefore Lulu is ruining individualism.

I'd like to say that the clothes are too overpriced and the styles aren't even that great. I'd like to say that the shopping experience is super annoying and makes you feel bad about yourself.

But....I can say no such thing.

As I've written about in the past, I have a few pieces of clothing from Lululemon and -- frankly -- they are delightful. In particular, a few pairs of non-chafing running shorts that really are a game-changer for a chafe-prone, classy lady like myself. Yes, it's expensive...but the quality does really render (much) of it worth it. 

Also, their stuff is cute. It just is. 

I want to go to there

And the staff? Well they are simply just gems of human beings. There's no way around that either.

But here's the straw that breaks the camel's back in regards to my Lululemon frenemy situation: Turns out the stores offer free classes. You just sign up and go. No obligation, no purchase, just a great service for you.

[Here's the link to the "community events"at the Madison Avenue Upper East Side store. I'm sure your local branch has awesome calendars like these that you can check out too.]

You clever bastards and your clever Marketing. 

My friend Nicole and I decided to try out a Figure 4 class last Thursday night. 

If you've ever tried Core Fusion or Bar Method, Figure 4 is just Pure Yoga's version of these type of ballet barre format classes. (Remember last time I took a bar class??)

The description from the website:

Created by professional ballet dancer Kate Albarelli, Figure 4 combines elements of classic dance training, yoga, and free weights. This combination is part of a high energy class that works the heart and the limbs in tandem for faster, more effective results, helping to create a long, toned and flexible body.  
Figure 4 derives its name from the well-known ballet stretch where dancers cross the ankle over the other knee and bend forward, creating a “four” with their legs. The number also denotes the four areas of the body that are sculpted within the hour-long class: abs, arms, glutes and thighs.

Considering I can not touch my toes (true story), this seemed toooootally up my alley.


My understanding is that Figure 4 (like all barre format classes) strengthens AND promotes flexibility, which is exactly what I need. Plus it was $0. So...why not!?

Nicole and I arrived at Lulu as they were closing. We were greeted at the door as the floor was cleared and mats were placed out for our use, free of charge. Although we had reserved in advance, the place certainly was NOT packed, so there was plenty of room to spread out (and a walk-in definitely would have been welcome!)

The instructor, Elisabeth, went to the front of the room and was introduced. I think it's best I show you an image of her so you can see...what her deal is.

Yes, yes you are seeing that right. We were being taught by a live, in-person Rockette.

And so at this juncture I thought to myself, "Hey can't touch your toes. And she's a Rockette. Carry on."

Normally Figure 4 classes are taught at the Pure Yoga studios where there is a lot more equipment. At Lululemon we had no actual bars as well as no weights or other doo-dads, so Elisabeth did a great job improvising.

We warmed up with some stretches and then went into some ballet style plies and squats using the wall or clothes-racks for balance. They. Hurt.

In between sets of exercises, we did some stretches to ensure the muscles healed normally and could "carry on." During one of such stretches we bent one knee on the ground and then extended forward the opposite leg to go as deeply as possible into a hamstring stretch. Well, my hammies are basically two bricks attacked to my hips. Not good.

While everyone else was like this:

I was like this:

So then the Rockette just up and goes into a full on split.


I see this in my yoga classes and I'm always like,

Image source
The Rockette then says to us, "You know, splits aren't really that big of a deal."

Oh. No? Well that's coming from someone who does this for a living:

Next up was some push ups and planks for arms and abs. I guess normally there is different arm work using the bar, but as now bar was to be had? We made due.

This was followed by some additional ab work and last up was some lying down side leg lift thing-a-ma-jigs which targeted the thighs, hips and butt.

I found the entire class incredibly challenging, but definitely not completely un-do-able. To Elisabeth's credit, as much as I joked about the split thing, she was very encouraging and I didn't feel at any point that I was making a fool of myself. That said, self-awareness and self-perception are funny things, so I can't promise that this was actually true.

I would definitely try Figure 4 again as well as other bar method classes. They target such different muscle groups than running so -- just like yoga --I imagine this would be a great type of thing to add to my fitness repertoire.

Considering -- again for emphasis -- that I can not do this:

But this old man can....
Image source

Thanks to Lululemon for the free class. But know this, sir. I am on to you.

Yes, I am on to you, Lululemon. Your "free classes" and your "happy employees" and your "responding to me all the time on Twitter and making me super duper excited." I have an MBA in marketing so I get what you're up to. I'm smart like that. I know your end game.

Bravo, sir. Bravo. :::slow clap:::

(Also...I'll see you soon to buy a TON of clothes. And Sunday for free yoga. And your website looks marvelous. SMOOCHES!!!)

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Didn't Even Watch Last Night's Mad Men...

I mentioned a couple of entries ago that the famous Betsy has started a funny blog where she sets weekly goals for herself. 

I love the idea of small, attainable goals. It works well in life and -- yes -- for the runnin'.

I bought this journal from a company called Believe I Am after Miami. It's a training journal that's set up for just that: small goals. Thought I'd share some of them with you now and give a little check-in on how I'm doing.

They have a brainstorming page for you to organize your thoughts and then you are supposed to set three main arching goals that span multiple areas of your life (mind, body, and soul). My goals I set back in February were:

1. Live in the present.
2. Be a great friend.
3. Be stronger.

You know. Just little things.

Let's focus for a moment on the "be stronger" (which I literally meant opposed to in the Britney Spears or Kelly Clarkson way).

The journal asks you to set sub-goals for how you are going to reach your over-arching one. My steps to achieve "Be Stronger" were:
  • Change up the routine
  • Run two marathons (bold...)
  • Increase flexibility
  • Build and tone muscles
  • PR in a Half Marathon


So how am I doing so far on these? Mixed results. I have run a marathon already this year [booyah!] and am signed up for New York this November. I am trying to PR for Brooklyn in a few weeks (we'll give it a qualified "maybe" that this will actually happen) by trying to change up the routine.


It's hard enough -- for me -- to fit in friends and fun and me time [read: TV time] and workouts without also trying to "change it up." You're telling me I have to strength train...and get in long runs...and rest days...and stretch...and build in flexibility work...and hills and speed....

WHEN do you propose I do all of this?

It's tough.

There are two things that I have managed to accomplish in the past month in particular, however, that I am quite proud of.

First, after my incredible feat of watching the entire first season of Game of Thrones in one hungover day of glory, I have managed catch up completely. That's right, folks. In just three weeks I managed to watch two full seasons as well as the three episodes that already aired, making me READY to be "LIVE" (i.e. on the stolen HBO Go from my parents) for last night's Season 3, Episode 4.

I don't know if I've ever felt so accomplished. I was like...
[Sourcin' like a boss]

Darn right. Fire cannot kill a dragon, and Meredith cannot stop watching GoT. I also have a new mascot in life. Daenerys Targaryen is baller and I love everything about her.

I think Donna -- in one of last Thursday's Parks & Recs episodes -- said it best:
"Everyone on that show can get it."


Side note: check out this amazingness from the Huffington Post (yes, I just said that phrase) in which a GoT / Parks & Recs crossover is discussed. It's amazing. I'll say no more.

Well, actually I'll just say this:

Now really no more.

To recap and clarify, I've watched 24 hours of Game of Thrones in three weeks. A full day of my life. Doing the math on that, there were 504 hours spanning three weeks. I spent literally 5% of my time OF TOTAL BEING watching Game of Thrones. Want to make it more horrifying? Let's assume a conservative 7 hours of sleep a night and remove that from the potential 504 hours of time. This allowed me only 357 hours of awake time...of which I spent 7% of it watching a singular television show [and don't think for a second I let my other shows go by the wayside. No sir.]

3 weeks of my life in pictorial terms.

Upon reflection I'm now an odd combination of horrified and super proud.  

.....So that's the first thing I've done since I turned 30 years old that I'm really excited about.

My second accomplishment of late is that I have kept my hashtag #OnceAWeekYoga promise for FOUR STRAIGHT WEEKS. Yoga power!!!! I am like the freakin' She-Ra of Yoga right now.

Now, I'll have a lot more to say about Yoga in future entries. I've attended NYSC Yoga....Exhale Yoga...YogaWorks Yoga...Pure Yoga Yoga....and they are all very different. But a few fundamental observations:


FACT. Especially the ones that look all pretty and awesome doing headstands in yoga.

2) I think I have an issue with imperfection. For example, if you try to correct me, I'm all like....
check it. sourcin' all LEGAL.

3) I don't do well when the spirituality / hippy-ness goes into overboard mode. I like to be a lil' zen, but I'm really going to need you to take it down a notch. We're not in an Ashram here, we're at the horrible 76th and 1st NYSC. Come on. Have some perspective.

I feel like I sound really negative, and I don't intend to. I am finding out what I like (and what I don't) and -- I suppose -- this is part of the journey. I've left some classes border-line angry. Don't TELL me to cleanse my Karma. My Karma is JUST FINE. But I've left other classes totally happy and blissful.

To recap: Since I've turned 30, I have spent 7% of my time watching Game of Thrones. And I've also attended a few yoga classes. And this makes me delighted.

Image source

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


What can I write that hasn't been written? What to say in words that hasn't already been said? Felt? Shared? 

I went to Boston to support heroes. To support the heroics of the runner who worked for months..years..decades to push themselves to the brink to qualify for this most prestigious and challenging of Marathons. 

To support the military heroes, defying logic by running 26.2 miles with full gear on. 

To support the heroics of the everyday runner, who could not qualify but raised thousands of dollars for a deserving charity in order to gain the right to spend months of their lives pushing their bodies. Training for a few hours on one day in April. In Boston. Those amazing men and women included three of my near and dear friends.

I watched with my childhood best friend, Diane. If it looks like my grin is falling out of my face, it's because of how happy I was to be supporting those heroes, in Boston, with her. She has lived in Korea the last few years and moved home a week ago.

I have been [not so secretly] happy that Diane moved home from Korea, and not just because I missed her terribly. Despite the nay-saying of political analysts, I didn't like the idea of her living there. The threat of attack didn't make it seem safe. Her proximity to a perceived enemy and to potential violence made me uncomfortable.

I never imagined she would come home and move closer to danger.

So my friend of twenty years and I positioned ourselves at Heartbreak Hill, the end of miles of rolling inclines, where I thought we could best support the heroes. It wasn't the finish line, but I knew there would be a lot of people there.

It's always the most crowded portion of a race.

Meghan ran by first.

This is what the day should have looked like. Meghan has battled injury and has truly been a model of grace, dedication and strength throughout her training. Seeing her looking strong at Mile 21 after those hills, and knowing at that point she could [can't say would] reach the finish was emotional because I felt her joy. This should have been what I blogged about today.

It should have also been about my amazing friend Ashley who ran by just moments after Meghan passed, leaving my phone and I incapable of taking a picture quickly enough. Ashley was running her 6th marathon in support of Boston Medical Center. She has raised over these past six Boston Marathons over $60,000 and was recently profiled in the BU News Service. I should be blogging about that today.

Or perhaps my High School friend, Katherine. A friend with whom I've been in touch with and followed only online through Facebook, but with whom I feel this enormous connection due to our mutual goal to run a Marathon. This was her first, and I should be blogging about that.

But instead, just minutes after we saw Katherine, it all crashed down. The streets were cleared, and the utter shock and confusion began as news poured through our phones.

My heart is broken for the runners and for the families and for my city. It's broken for one more piece of innocence lost. 

Marathons are about camaraderie. They're about volunteers giving water to a thirsty runner or aiding someone who needs assistance on the side of the course. They're about total strangers cheering for other total strangers to help get them through a tough time. They're about runners pumping each other up and pushing one another to keep going. They're a shared experience between people that can say to themselves -- and the world -- look what I am capable of. 

Without the spectators, without the volunteers, without the medal, it's just a training run. The Marathon is not about only the runners then, really. It's about everyone together.

Shocked and scared, Diane and I walked many miles yesterday trying to figure out where to go. There was no where to go. Thank God for social media, which allowed us to communicate with our families and friends, let our loved ones know that we were safe, and to find out about the safety of everyone we knew in the area. [Will we ever run a major race without phones again? I know I won't...]

And just as we had nothing really to say to each other then, I can't offer any more profound thoughts now. Other than to say that I remain -- as I'm sure do we all -- disgusted, confused, and in pain. No explanations. No logic. Just senseless, senseless tragedy that does nothing exept make us ask: Why?
I went to support the heroes and instead found myself truly in the midst of them in a way I could never have fathomed. You have heard the stories by now, to be sure. Runners donating blood...physicians rushing into action...people opening homes to strangers...people supporting people. 

And the heroes I came to support remain heroes in my eyes. The training is not in vain. The money raised will do so much good. And the spirit of the day --I know with all my broken heart -- will only grow stronger. 

I am thankful tonight for the safety and health tonight of my friends and family. I am thankful for my healthy body that will allow me to go tomorrow for a long, pensive run. I am thankful for the good I've seen in people that extended far beyond the race course the past two days.

Marathons are about camaraderie. I love this crazy sport. And I love my city. Even though I'm writing this from New York, my heart joins the rest of the world in Boston tonight.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring > Not Spring

Spring -- it appears -- is officially here.

It's about damn time.

Honestly, the treadmill thing is done. And this comes from one of the few non-treadmill haters in the world. I just can't anymore. 

I. Just. Can't. 

Even the awkwardness of the Today Show's implosion can't make those morning indoor runs pleasant for me any longer. 

My New York Sports Club branch also isn't making things any easier by slowly but surely replacing all the "good" treadmills once they need maintenance with cheap, horrible machines. 

Old treadmills. Did the trick.
The new equipment is lacking a bit

But now that it is warm enough and is light enough before and after work, I can end my hibernation and plan outdoor runs exclusively. Ta-ta until November, NYSC!

The next big running milestone for MeriG is the Brooklyn Half this May. This will be my 4th time running this particular race (2008, 2009, 2012) and I love it, love it, love it. As you may recall, it was this race where last year I finally broke the 2:00 mark and PRed like a Kenyan. The course is flat and the weather tends to be great, and so -- this year -- I would love to PR again. In order to do so, I'll need to run faster than a 9:05 pace which, honestly, is going to be a tough task. 

So in order to take things to the next level, I'm attempting to mix up my typical training schedule just a bit. What I've been doing for Marathon and Half marathon training the last few years is basically the following:

Mon - Easy Run
Tues - Conditioning
Wed - Slightly harder run
Thurs - Conditioning or a short easy run
Fri - Rest
Sat - Long Run (increases each week leading up to race until taper)
Sun - Rest

Something like that. It changes week to week, but that's the general gist.

For the "next level," I've done a lot of reading on the matter and am basically altering the schedule to as follows:

Mon - Easy Run
Tues - Conditioning
Wed - Quality Run (hills, speed work, etc.)
Thurs - Conditioning and/or a short easy run
Fri - Rest 
Sat - Long Run -- but paying more attention to pace
Sun - Yoga (part of #OnceAWeekYoga I've started with my friend Eleanora...if you make it into a hash-tag it's a real thing, we decided)

I also have a schedule that actually has me running up to 14-15 miles in the weeks leading up to the half and then backing down to 13.1 miles for the race. I believe this officially puts me into "Intermediate" training territory now, and I can no longer pretend I'm a Novice. Sigh. That was so much more fun and interesting.

So as part of this training, this past Sunday I ran the Colon Cancer 15K (9.3 miles). Sometimes it's nice to have little "non-race" races to help break up training. 

You may say, but wait, hold up a sec. Couldn't you, like, run for free? As opposed to paying to run?

A solid point you make. But in order to break up training monotony, I find that it can be nice to occasionally have the starting line and the finish line and the water and the fellow runners to make the run a little more fun and special.

I stole some pictures of myself from the Internet (which is why they look stretched...thievery will give you horizontally stretched pictures as punishment). 

Making funny faces at the starting line. Also wearing my favorite Bondi Band: I Run So I Can Eat. YES.
Have lost the long sleeves because I get too sweaty. Shuffling along!

Not gonna lie. See the woman in all black to my left? I saw her at the last stretch and irrationally decided I would BEAT her and I did. And that is why I am smiling. I WON, SUCKA!!!

Posing for the camera after the finish line

The best part of Sunday, however, was not my little 15K. It was the fact that the famed Betsy of past-blog entry fame entered and completed her first 4 mile race. And she completed that race under her goal. It's great to see other people "getting" my running thing a little bit. Running races and having these goals isn't the easiest -- I think -- to understand unless want to do it yourself. It's nice being a part of Betsy's experience and she makes goals for herself and makes them into reality.

B also has started a great blog on the topic of life changes and goal-making (and breaking?) It's called "Clean Fonts and Dirty Jokes" (which I love) and what I love most about it is that it is so real. I read a lot of blogs and sometimes I want to punch some people in the face. Just saying. [Side bar: When you want to punch me in the face, you are honestly welcome and encouraged to post about it in the comments. Sometimes I want to punch myself in the face. Running. Marathons. Pshhhhhhh.]

B is a hilarious writer and has a very authentic voice about how difficult it really, truly is to make changes. 

So congrats to Betsy and congrats to YOU on it being Spring! I think we all deserve a pat on the back for riding out that long, rough winter. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Best. Weekend. Ever.

A card from my co-workers. Ah the memories....

So, this past Saturday, MeriG turned the big 3-0. But this weekend -- from beginning to end -- was simply delightful, delicious and divine.

Friday I worked from home. The day turned out to be sunny and warm, and I was able to slip out for a lunch-break run along the East River.

No filter, SON!

I'm so excited that it's finally (finally?) Spring so I can emerge from the treadmill and gym and go out into the sun and the world! While I love watching some Food Network while I run (the more unhealthy the cooking show the better...more butter, Paula??) outside is always better.

My parents arrived in the late afternoon and after some straight chillin' the three of us headed up to Harlem to dine at the one and only Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

DEVIL Eyes!! (As always)

Will I have the ribs? Or the pulled pork? Or the brisket? Can't decide. Combo meal, please.
[Also entitled: Why I don't write a Healthy Living Blog.]

They had my Dad's favorite beer -- Yueng Ling -- on draft. You can't get the goods in Massachusetts.
Beer > Birthday Girl daughter in photo.

Fiiiiine. Beer is EQUAL to Birthday Girl Daughter.
Thanks Mom and Dad!!!

I went to bed my last night of my 20s with a belly full of pork and a mind full of dreams.

In the morning, my parents and I joined my aunt, uncle and cousins for a really fun (and delicious!) birthday brunch. With my hunger once again satiated by a large meal, I headed off to my day of pampering. Beginning with mani/pedis with some lovely ladies:

Next up, I treated myself to a faaaaabulous Deep Tissue Massage at Exhale. Listen, I don't need to be a fancy girl. A no frills spa to just get a decent massage will do fine. But there is really nothing like going to a nice place with the robe and the lemon water and the candles and the music to make you feel truly pampered. 

The masseuse was fantastic. I told her when I walked in that she may want to focus more on the legs and lower back. She asked if any muscles in particular were tight, and I replied, "Yes. All." When she got to my hamstrings and calves she literally broke the room's silent zen and was like, "Wow. What did you do." It hurt, but she got out some tension and knots that I'm convinced have remained there since Miami.

That evening, my cousin Marge treated me to a Mexican birthday dinner in the East Village at La Palapa. The food was great and the company couldn't be beat. Marge is more of a sister than a cousin to me, and it meant a lot to get to spend those few hours with her. 

After the meal, we walked to a bar a few blocks down called Dream Baby where I had a little "shindig."  Upon arrival, I was greeted with a bottle of Proseco that my friend Andrea had called in from home. 

So cool
An amazing crowd showed up, representing all cross-sections of my life. It was so cool. So so cool. I have a lot of amazing pictures from the night, but here are a couple (more appropriate) ones:
I'm a lady. You're a lady. WE'RE the ladies!

My running girls! I had to include them in Run, MeriG Run!

Betsy and I remain not impressed.

The night ended as all good nights should end. Like this:

Not a Healthy Living Blog

The next day I awoke feeling SO GOOD!  like I needed to order an egg sandwich and Gatorade on Seamless web and have it delivered to me. 

I then proceeded to use my day incredibly wisely. Archie and I snuggled on the couch and watched not one hour, not two hours, but ten hours of Game of Thrones. The entirety of Season One.

I'm not even mad....I'm just impressed.

ENTHRALLED by the plot more could you want from 30? At moments over this weekend, I was truly overwhelmed with just true, unadulterated gratitude for the many amazing people I have in my life. From the Facebooking to the cards to the gifts to the flowers at was nice to feel the love. 

At other times I was overwhelmed by the feeling of true, unadulterated overeating and over-imbibing. Sometimes both. But always happy and grateful.

I'll leave you with this awesome article on other things that are turning 30 this year. You really should read them all to give you some perspective on your age (however young or old that may be). My personal three favorites are:

Sweet Valley High (THAT was literature)

And....of course, Reading Rainbow. The show with the greatest theme song of any show that has, does, and will ever exist.

Here's to the next thirty!