Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: A First-Timer's Visit to SoulCycle

On Sunday I tried SoulCycle with my friend -- and SoulCycle enthusiast -- Nicole. The studio has an Upper East Side location very convenient to my apartment so I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity to potentially find a new cross-training method.

SoulCycle offers a first-timer's offer of $20 including shoes. But word to the wise, subsequent classes will cost you and I a whopping $35. Yikes.

The shoes -- courtesy pbfingers

You have to sign up for the classes in advance and you pick the exact bike you'll be riding. What I liked about that is the lack of stress of having to arrive super early and bolt into the room for a bike. Rather, you can calmly make over to your assigned seat and get started.

I got to the studio a bit early, per the instructions from the chipper person on the phone who took my reservation. I had to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about trying this as I really freaking hate spinning. But everyone said to me, "Oh, but Meredith, SoulCycle is different. It's like, so not just spinning." So, I decided to go for it.

I went to my bike and a helpful employee helped me figure out how to adjust the different settings and clip in. She then turned to me on her way out of the room and said, "Have fun and take this at your own pace. Don't worry if you don't get all the choreography."


Nicole was being a pal and telling me what to do, and I'm glad I went with her for my first time. She was also so cute because she would tell people it was my first time but then follow-up by saying, "But she runs maaarratthons." You got my back, N.

Class began. What's different about Soul than "regular" spinning are several key elements. First and foremost, the lighting and music are crazy. It honestly is more of a club atmosphere than a class atmosphere at points with the instructor not only playing the role of teacher, but also lighting designer, DJ, and motivational speaker.

The first couple of "rides" were series of different positions of sitting and standing, mixing in basically push-ups on the bike bars as you ride. They really preach working from your core, which is great, but I did feel that as a first-timer I was having a bit of trouble getting the right postures and movement.

With all the lighting changes (it's dark, and now it's light, and now it's more red...) and the up and the down and the back and the forth, I was a bit skeptical at first.

And often I couldn't hear the instructor over the loud music, which is my only real critique of her performance. I felt like grandma at the disco-tech. "Excuse me...the music is a bit loud....I can't quite hear you..." And she was saying stuff that bordered -- for me -- between motivational and cheesy. At first.  

But then, about midway through class, there was a shift.

I was literally dripping sweat (moi? so hard to believe I know), and I knew I was getting a killer workout. And after a few really intense, and -- yes -- rather choreographed rides to some great dance party songs, the instructor changed the tone. She turned the lights down, turned U2's Beautiful Day on, and basically just had us stand and run/ride with the beat jamming it out.

At first I didn't know how to feel. So, we're just going to like, ride fast? With the music? "Together?" How do you want us to be together? We're like, on these different bikes?

And I don't know if it was my delirium from losing so much sweat so quickly, or if it was the lighting changes (really nicely orchestrated by the way), or just U2 jamming out to not let that beautiful day get away.... but suddenly I found myself riding somewhat together with this room of strangers. I too was letting my head bop to the beat. And was just giving my all to riding a bike...which I HATE. But I didn't hate it that day.

I can see why people call it a cult. Because in the course of 50 minutes they changed this:

To this:

We ended with some arm work with light weights (but a ton of reps) on the bikes, which I really liked. Because unlike some other spinning classes I've taken, the focus on upper body and core really makes this a true full body workout and something I could see myself occasionally doing to supplement the running that mixes cardio and muscle toning.

SoulCycle is definitely not for the faint of heart (or the meager of wallet). The cardio workout I got from this was out of control...and, yes, I do run marathons. So beginners should absolutely feel they can do it, but should also expect to take breaks and hate all the skinny girls around them that aren't breaking a sweat (yep, they were there). I have a personal learning that although there will be a fresh towel waiting for you on the bike, I will need to grab a second next time.

I absolutely do recommend taking advantage of the first-timer's $20 discount if you haven't, but be careful. You may find yourself addicted to this crazy community. But an addiction like that? Well, it's definitely certain to have you shed some pounds and add a little positive energy to your day.

So, if you're going to get addicted to something, I would absolutely recommend SoulCycle. Especially if you're choosing between SoulCycle and crack. SoulCycle for sure.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My World Today: Bonjour et le Mandy Patinkin.

There are a few key things in my world I felt you should be aware of as you peruse the internet and this fine piece of it.

I am 33% of way for Dana-Farber!
Absolutely amazing. I don't even start officially training for Boston until Jan 1, but I am 33% of the way towards my goal of raising $10,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. So cool! Thank you so much to those reading this who have already contributed. It means so much to me and gives me a much needed boost as I embark on winter running (ugh) to know that you're behind me. And that you want your money's worth.

If you want to help me kick off training with a bang, here's the link to donate:

I Have Been Super Sick.
Just a cold, but it's been lingering. Mostly because I refuse to acknowledge it and keep working, socializing and drinking as normal. Except with a lot more soup (more on that later).

There really is nothing worse than that first day of being sick, though. I was so under the weather that I was forced to call into work (which I rarely do) last Tuesday. I went to bed Monday night all like:

By morning I was a full on mess. I called my mom at 6 am as soon as I called into work just so she would know I felt bad. I'm not sure what it is about being sick that makes you regress from an independent, take-charge woman to a six-year old obnoxious version of yourself.

Because of my plague I had to take a full week off from exercise which I never do. Although I feel a little grotesque now, I think it's actually a good thing in the long run. You should take off a week from exercise now and again, and perhaps this is just my body's way of saying, Hey gurl. You want to stay compulsive? Then I will destroy I will destroy myself. Until you stop.

Ultimately, no harm done and because training isn't underway yet, nothing lost in that front either. In the end, I think really I just have to give thanks for Seamless web because I'm not sure how single people got sick and survived before that point.

Homeland is everything.
No spoilers here. Just wanted to

The Homeland season finale was last Sunday and I really enjoyed it. Others didn't, but I? I thought it was pretty darn good. I'm excited for the direction it's going and can't believe I have to wait so long for it's return. Thank god for Game of Thrones coming back in March or who knows what would become of me.

Relax, Carrie.

Also, can we take a moment and just talk about Mandy freaking Patinkin? Honestly I love him so much and it still astounds me that this:

Is this!!!!!!

Princess Bride is still my all time favorite movie and I am just delighted each time I watch Homeland and think that Inigo Montoya is still being baller after all this year.

Mandy Patinkin has had such an awesome career on TV, on Broadway...he's just great! Claire Danes definitely said it best when she articulately stated:

I am attempting to learn French.
You may or may not know that April is not just about the Boston Marathon for me. No, the month gets even more exciting as I am leaving the day after the race for a week trip to Paris (with day trips to Brussels and Bruges mixed in!) with my long-time friend Andrea. Although I've traveled extensively, I've never actually been to Paris and I am basically giddy already despite it being four months -- and a full marathon training season -- away.

It's an ambitious April to say the least.

In order to maximize my experience, I've decided to learn some basic French. It's really hard and slow going because I keep mixing up words with Spanish (of which I have just peripheral knowledge). I also have a quite horrific accent, only made more delightful with the lovely nasal sound I am rocking at the moment.

The phrases I know and plan on using so far, for those of your Francophiles, are as follows:

Oui, merci beaucoup.
J'ai un chat orange.
Chats oranges sont belles.
L'homme est riche.

Translate that and enjoy.

Soup may be my saving grace.
Due to my meager kitchen and single lifestyles, I've come to rely on soups more and more, particularly in the winter (and with this pesky cold!)

I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite recipes that are both easy, simple, and pretty darn cheap that have been keeping me through. I made the top one last night (with chipotle peppers added in for a bit more heat) and have made the top three of them. The bottom two are on my list for upcoming weeks.

Easy, quick, freezable, and minimal dishes. That's my kind of cooking. Enjoy!

And that's my world. What's goin' on with you?!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jingle All The Way

I've been a bit lax about running -- and rightly so -- since completing the NYC Marathon about a month back. So when my friend Jazmin approached me and asked if I'd run a race in Brooklyn I was like...meh....

But then she said she was providing costumes. And I was like,

And THEN she said there would be hot chocolate at the end and that we could go to brunch after! And then I was like,

Last Friday, the night before the race, Jazmin and I met up to get our bibs at the New York Road Runners' office in my neighborhood so she could get me my costume which -- until that moment -- was a surprise.

And it was everything I hoped it would be. And more.

So on a crisp, but sunny and lovely, Saturday morning I woke up, met another runner friend Amanda, and made the long trek to Brooklyn.

The race was to be 4-miles and start in Prospect Park, one of my favorite places in the city. I lived in Brooklyn briefly and actually got my running roots by starting to run around that park. It's about 3 miles all the way around, and I remember so clearly the accomplishment of being able to make it all the way around -- including one massive hill -- without stopping. It's always fun to go back (even if it does involve the F train on a Saturday morning).

There was a slight jingle in my step as I walked. A holiday spirit about me, as it were. And as I removed my jacket to check it with my belongings at the starting line, I revealed the greatest running outfit of all time.

Excellent. But not nearly as excellent as what happened when I was paired with my friends.

Elf Amanda, Jazmin the tree, and Elf me
At this point we made a scene. A SCENE. Random people were coming over to us to take our photograph. Children were pointing. There was merriment abounding.

The NYRR staff were giddy with delight. This is what we had been dreaming would happen when we created a Jingle Ball Run, you could all but hear them say. We got a professional photo taken which -- of course -- ended up on the NYRR homepage that afternoon.

Hand on hip 'cuz I look like a super model
Just when everyone had taken a breath and calmed down, the last two members of our party joined us. And then basically all hell broke loose as Christmas Spirit EXPLODED from our vicinity.

Hand on the hip and leg up like Captain Morgan. Class Act.

And then Christmas ended forever, because nothing gets better than this. The end.

Just kidding, then we all ran 4 miles. Dressed like this.

We were a spectacle to behold. 

I ran the entire race with Christmas Tree Jazmin at a lovely 12-minute mile pace. We stopped for selfies with strangers and high-fived volunteers. We smiled at children and brought cheer to all around us. It was such an amazing feeling running a race purely for fun without a worry in the world about distance or pace. It's something I think we as runners can loose sight of. Just running for the sake of running. Dressed like an elf.

At the finish line -- as promised -- there was hot chocolate as well as red and green colored bagels. And it was glorious.

At this point there was more fame and paparazzi-style photos taken of our small costumed group. A NYRR reporter even interviewed a few of us for the official race recap. Famous. Boom.

Let me quote directly from this recap, if I may:
Their friend Meredith Glanzberg, who completed the ING New York City Marathon last month, calls the Jingle Bell Jog her favorite race of the year for the same reason the rookies love it. "The kids, the hot chocolate, everyone is in a great mood—it's just fun!" she said.
 A few comments about this.

1) Although you may think my name is spelled wrong, actually, it is possible that this reporter is the only one who is right because the spelling may have been changed at Ellis Island. You really did your homework, sir!

2) I did say it was my favorite of the year despite the fact that the NYC Marathon was, indeed, an achievement of a lifetime. So, a bit inaccurate to say that this 4-mile race that I did not prepare for and quite frankly made a mockery of was better....but in the moment the elf costume and the hot chocolate had gone to my head and I simply was overcome with positivity.

3) I did, in fact, go against my usual Grinch-esque attitude and list children as a "pro" for this race. Normally you know that I don't always like being around masses of children. I'm the person who went to Disney World after reading a website entitled "How to Avoid Children At Disney World." But in this case, the kids were adorable and they made the race. There was a 1/2 mile "Reindeer Run" (antlers for all the kids!) beforehand and some kids did the full 4-miles, so there was family fun abounding. Parents: take note. This might be a fun winter activity for you next year!

After the race we stumbled upon a restaurant that had been on the top of my "To Eat" list, Talde. It's by Dale from Top Chef and was super good, creative, Asian-fusion brunch food. And one [read: two] of the best Bloody Marys I've ever had.

We continued our run of fame and fortune not only on the Jingle Bell photos page but also all over the Internets with social media. See this screenshot from The Facebook, as an example

Famous, full, and a little drunk, we made our way back to Manhattan in civilian clothing. Our work was done.

Whether you are a beginner runner or a Marathoner, I would implore you to sign up for something like this. Three are Diva Dashes where you were tutus and Disney runs where people dress as princesses and color runs like what I did with Betsy last summer. Find something fun and sign up for it with no goal except just to finish and laugh. 

Fellow Elf wisdom