Friday, January 23, 2015

ClassPass Chicago Reviews: Exhale Spa, Flirty Girl Fitness and More

Either you guys are actually interested in hearing about my group fitness class reviews or, more likely, you like tales of me embarrassing myself on the reg... either way, I'm here to deliver. This Friday I'm sharing snippets of my first five ClassPass experiences doing, well, a little bit of everything. Enjoy!

Andersonville Bikram - Intro to Bikram
$19 drop in rate

Ah, yoga. My first ClassPass experience. The staff was very welcoming, but the inside is very plain and a little stark. The locker rooms are simple and get the job done, but are a little congested. The room was HOT (duh, Carolyn, this is hot yoga) and fairly crowded, which was surprising for an 8am Saturday morning class (WHO AM I). 

When the guy at the front desk (who turned out to be the instructor and whose name I forgot... sorry!) asked if I’d done Bikram before, I told him yes. But I quickly realized when class started that no, self, you have most definitely not done Bikram before. Our instructor provided helpful guidance and called out corrections and reminders from the back of the room. He didn’t do any of the poses, and I would’ve appreciated a little more individual feedback because I could tell there were some other people in the class who were also struggling at times. Still, his verbal cues were really helpful for a newbie, and he was always mentioning reminders (drop the shoulders, make sure your weight is in your heels) just as soon as I realized I was doing something wrong. One thing that definitely stood out to me was the variety of students in class— there were men and women of all ages, all body types, and definitely all different yoga levels. I left the class feeling mostly sweaty, but also both relaxed and energized. Even though yoga isn’t my favorite form of working out, I would definitely return to this studio for another beginner-friendly Bikram class.

Flirty Girl Fitness - POUND (Lindy Cashdollar)
$25 drop in rate

I used to work with Lindy, POUND instructor, a few years back, during my Mexican restaurant days. Her base level of energy is like me on 6.5 Redbulls. That, combined with the fact that she was Racked's Chicago Trainer of the Year (2013), I knew I was in for a tough class. I’d never been to Flirty Girl before, and based on decor alone, I’ll be honest, I was prepared to kind of hate it. I’m not a girly girl, so the pink and purple and butterflies everywhere were… a little much. But, I have to admit, this gym nails all of the necessities of a studio for women. From the fruity shampoo and conditioners, to the array of blow dryers, flat irons and curling irons available for use in the locker room, it made going from a sweaty workout class to brunch a breeze (sorry for being a cliche of a person). 

And the class? I loved it! Lindy is a trained musician, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that her song choices throughout the class were so on point with our moves. We each got a pair of drumsticks, and the easiest way to describe the class is that it’s like the love child of STOMP (the musical where they drum on everything) and an aerobics class. There was lots of squatting and drumming, intermixed with ab work on our mats and drumming and twisting. Even for a choreography-challenged person, Lindy’s cues were really helpful, she kept us all pumped up the entire class, both with her personality and the music, and I didn’t have any issues keeping up. The 45 minutes flew by (okay, well except the ab work), and I would absolutely go back! I’m also interested in trying some of the other classed Flirty Girl offers.

Creative Motion - Piloxing (Erin Franklin)
$25 drop in rate

GUYS. Guys. I watched a video before Piloxing so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. The video looked like a combination of Kickboxing and pilates, so I figured I’d be able to keep up. Well, NOPE.

First, the studio is right on a semi-busy road, and the entire wall of the studio has windows at sidewalk-level. Which means exactly what you think it means: anyone who walks by (it's right near a train stop, BTW) can look directly in, which is kind of my worst fear. I have 0% desire to watch myself working out in a mirror, so my desire to let someone else watch is significantly less than that. Also, this is definitely a no-frills studio, with no locker room or anything. Still, I found Creative Motion to be very welcoming (Erin, the instructor, was very sweet), but not a place to go when you need to shower and head somewhere after.

And then we started. With body rolls. Like Beyonce’s backup dancers. Did I mention that choreography is not my strong suit? There was definitely more dancing than I was prepared for, but  Erin did a good job of breaking down the complicated moves before we started each song. That still wasn’t enough to help me look even remotely like a dancer, but I got a good workout nonetheless. I’d return to try another class at this studio, buuuuut I don’t think Piloxing is for me.

Exhale Spa - Barre Fusion (Holly Keskey-Koester)
$25 drop in rate

Located in the swanky Gold Coast is Exhale, a hybrid studio/spa that is every bit a luxury gym experience. At the recommendation of my co-worker and fellow ClassPass-er Erika, I went to Holly’s Tuesday morning Barre Fusion class. I was a little concerned about having time to shower before work after the 60-minute 7:05am class, but Erika assured me that it’s not that sweaty of a class. In hindsight: HAHAHAHA.

The employees of Exhale got me signed in and showed me back to the locker room, which is stocked with robes (!!) and flip flops (!!) for wearing around the very sleek (but slightly cramped) locker room. I made my way into the studio and Holly had us grab a variety of equipment and we got started. HOLY WOW, there’s no way around it: this class kicked my ass. As soon as we started with 2 minutes of planks, I knew I was in trouble, both because I hate planks and because I am terrible at them. With the exception of the arm workout, everything about this class was a challenge. Just when I thought I was properly positioned and surviving a set of poses, Holly came over, corrected me, made me sink it lower, AND made us hold it for 20 more pulses. She was a phenomenal instructor, and I kid you not, I could feel the trembling aftershocks in my legs for an hour after the class. 10/10 will definitely would go back.

Fat Shred - i.d. gym (Jennifer McGowan)
$24 drop in rate

Obviously I was a little worried about going to a class called Fat Shred, especially on the heels of the previous day’s killer barre class. i.d. gym is just down the street from my old apartment, and much larger inside than I expected. It looks to have pretty much all the equipment you’d need, but the locker rooms felt like the swim locker rooms of my high school. Also, they didn’t have blow dryers (suuuuuch a diva) so I opted to head to my office and shower at my office gym after class and before work. 

I was first to show up for the 6:15am class, so Jen, the instructor, gave me the runaround while the regulars trickled in. The class consisted of 11 stations: medicine ball squats, jump rope, TRX pull-ups, kettle bell squats, kettle bell rows, sandbag side lunges, burpees, ropes, russian twists, kettle bell swings, and bosu ball spidermans (I forget what the last one was actually called so I may have made that up). We did each station for 45 seconds and then switched, taking a 2 minute break at the end of each circuit and then repeating the whole circuit 3 times total. I’d never done anything TRX-related, so I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the TRX pull-ups. The rope and burpees on the other hand, woof. Jen was also a stickler for form, so I really appreciated her corrections on my kettle bell swings. Jillian Michaels taught me the complete wrong way to do them— who knew?! Overall, I enjoyed the class and got a good workout, but it was a little hard to really push myself hard for every single set, since we completed the stations individually. i.d. gym has a ton of other classes, (I’m really intrigued by the Caveman Workout!) so I’ll definitely return to try some of their other options. 

What should I try next week? Already on my agenda: Brawl at Barre Code, a spin class at FlyWheel (kill me now), and restorative yoga at Core Power. I think I'm going to look for a TRX class, but I'm open to suggestions.

What is your favorite group fitness class? Least favorite?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Let's Talk

As someone who is so interested in psychology, I've loved seeing this recent NY Times article going around: To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This. Essentially, a psychologist ran a study that found that answering this list of 36 questions can make two strangers fall in love, even in a place as romantic as a laboratory.

Lately, I've seen a few bloggers sharing their answers to some of the questions to give readers a better peek into who they are as a person. I don't share a tonnnn of information about my personal life on here (aside from my penchant for Law & Order SVU), so I thought I'd select a smattering of questions to give you a better glimpse at the girl behind the blog. Here goes!

Would you like to be famous? In what way?HECK no. I would enjoy gaining recognition for things like excelling in my field of work, or even for winning something, but I don't want the invasion of privacy that comes from being famous. I mean, I'd enjoy some of the free swag though ;)

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Growing up in a tiny town outside of Cleveland (population: 2,600) means I lived a pretty sheltered childhood. My town was basically all white, mostly Christian, and mostly middle class. I wish I would have had a more diverse base of friends and classmates, and I do wish we could have traveled more. I didn't leave the US (aside from Mexico and Canada) until my junior year of college.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
For work, sometimes I'll think through the hardball questions that might come my way so I'm prepared to answer them. In my real life, no, I don't rehearse. And my hatred of talking on the phone to anyone besides my mom is well documented.

How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
Close? Yes, definitely. Warm? Yes-ish. I mean, we're a hugging loving family and all of that, but nothing over the top. I feel like we're most in our element when all of us are giving each other a hard time, which was pretty typical behavior in our household growing up. We all have such crossover similarities, it's bound to happen. My youngest brother and I have the same sarcastic sense of humor, my mom and my middle brother are both the peacemakers, and my dad is just a goofball. I had a very happy childhood, and I'm lucky to have grown up in such a supportive and relatively functional family. 

Share with your partner readers an embarrassing moment in your life.
I have such a good one for this. So I was getting my senior pictures taken in high school, which was mortifying enough on its own. I'm wearing an elastic waist skirt and sitting on railroad ties that surround a tree planter. The photographer tells me to stand up and rotate my knees the opposite direction. I stood up on the hem of my skirt, yanking it down to my knees, completely mooning him (in my underwear). In hindsight, it was hilarious. In the moment, I wanted to die.

When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
In front of another person? I have no idea. I'm really not very much of a crier. By myself? Probably watching Undercover Boss or something. I have no explanation for it, but that show gets me.

Name three things you and your partner readers appear to have in common.
We are constantly in the pursuit of self-improvement. We love food. We love a good challenge.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Battling Gym Anxiety

Gym anxiety is a real thing, and something that stops a lot of people from working out. I'll be honest, the gym doesn't make me anxious, but group exercise classes do. At the gym, no one is paying much attention to you (unless you're hogging the leg press because your facebooking instead of pressing), but group fitness classes are a whole different ballgame. There are mirrors everywhere and, yeah, everyone is focusing on their own workout but you're lying if you say you've never compared your form to the girl next to you. Maybe this is a holdover from when I was a heavier, but I still feel very self conscious in group classes. 

So last week I got ClassPass, which means my entire workout regimen now revolves around group classes. I was so psyched to get started, but the more I pored over the class listings, the more anxiety and a little bit of dread started to set in: what if I'm the worst? What if I struggle? What if the instructor calls me out? What if I'm wearing the wrong clothes? What if I'm sweating more than everyone else? What if I can't keep up? 

I started small (hah!) with a 90-minute Beginners Bikram Yoga class. It was at a studio where I'd never been and knew no one, so at least if I was terrible I'd never have to see these people again. And you know what? I wasn't the worst. And no one cared that I had broken into a sweat before we even finished the warmup breathing. And no one cared when I had to do child's pose stead of standing one leg foot grab (that's the technical name) because I started to feel like I was dying a little bit from it being eleventy billion degrees in there ohmygoditwassohot. 

So then the next day I took a class at Flirty Girl Fitness, bracing myself for the worst. And guess what? Nothing bad happened (except to my booty - so much soreness). Sure there were some moments of awkward flailing, but everyone else was just as focused on trying to keep the beat as I was, and no one cared if I messed up. 

And then yesterday I went to a Piloxing class, which I thought would be pilates + kickboxing and which ended up being a lot more hip hop than the YouTube video I watched. Any combination of movements that is faster paced than yoga is a challenge for me, so you can imagine my horror when we started doing body rolls like hiphop dancers DURING THE WARMUP. I may never recover from watching myself dance in a full length mirror in the sober light of day. God bless the instructor for keeping a straight face throughout the class. But guess what? It still didn't suck! 


I'm not saying I've kicked group exercise class anxiety completely, but I'm saying that every time I sign up for a new class, I'm one step closer to shutting down those anxious voices entirely. There are times where I think I don't give myself enough credit with how far I've come fitness-wise. I'm not 230lbs anymore, but mentally I sometimes still struggle with that. I just keep reminding myself that if I want to reach my goals, I need to push myself, both mentally and physically. This is that push.

How do you push yourself out of your comfort zone?

Do you want to read (short) reviews of all the classes I try or is that boring?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Five


I am officially headed to the Dominican Republic in 68 days!!! I've never been on a REAL real vacation with friends, and I haven't been to the Caribbean since I was in middle school. We're going for 4 days at the end of March and holycowI'msoexcited. That said, this girl has some serious swimsuit-ready work to do in the next two months, which leads me to...


I'm buying a ClassPass! ClassPass is a monthly pass that allows you to go to as many classes as you want at participating studios/gyms/torture chambers around the city. The only catch is that you can't go to any one studio more than three times, but with over 100 options I'm pretty sure that won't be an issue. The pass is $100/month, which, for someone who isn't currently a paying gym member, seems like a lot. It is definitely less than the $150+/month to join a boutique studio here, though. I've found myself getting increasingly bored in the gym, and it's been getting harder to push myself. I figure I'll test out ClassPass at least until the trip, and see if it helps kick my ass harder than I've been on my own.


GUYS. I AM A TEA FIEND. I went to David's Tea last weekend, hoping to pick up a few new teas. I'm trying to curb my afternoon pop habit (usually a can of Diet Dr. Pepper about 3-4 days a week), and also my after-dinner snacking. So I picked up a bunch of different teas, as well as a cute little mug with an infuser basket. (I'm a sucker for a good post-holiday sale, clearly). I'm not sure if it's the novelty of the new infuser mug or what, but I've been having a cup of tea every night (and I even brought some tea to work), and I'm HOOKED.

The flavors I got are:
Snickerdoodle - LOVE
Maple Sugar - not as good as the name would suggest, but still good
Happy Kombucha - it's fruity, but has a hint of something strange that I can't place, not bad though
Pumpkin Chai - love love love love
Birthday Cake - tastes surprisingly birthday cake-y with almond(?) and vanilla. Very good.
Forever Nuts - definitely my favorite of the bunch. It tastes like the love child of pecan pie and angel dust


Someone left a random pineapple at my desk last week. I have no idea what this means or who did it, but it's finally ripe enough to eat so give me alllll of the pineapple!


I have almost no plans this weekend (my favorite kind of weekend) AND it's supposed to be in the 30's all weekend. That's practically summer! Therefore I plan to do some of this:

DEFINITELY some of this:

And, let's be real, some of this:

Have a great weekend friends! Any fun plans?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Day in the Life

I always love reading about these from other bloggers, so I thought it was high time I share my own. Brace yourself, it's pretty exciting. Here's what a day in my life looks like most weekdays:

5:30am - Alarm goes off. It may or may not be to the tune of "Fergalicious." I'll never tell.

hint: it's fergalicious. (source)
6:06am - [exactly four snoozes later] I actually get up. I pack my gym bag at night before I got to bed because ain't nobody got time for that in the morning. And it's WAY more annoying to have to unpack and repack a bag for an after-gym workout so this motivates me to stick to my plan. I throw on gym clothes, grab my lunch and I'm out the door around 6:30.

Got this beaut for Christmas (from REI).
You could probably sell me a cardboard box if it was painted in this color.

6:30-7ish - Commute to the gym. If I'm feeling lazy (and lucky with my timing), there's a bus that goes basically from door to door. If not, I walk 8-10 minutes to the train, and another 8 from the train to my office. I spend most of my ride people-watching and dreaming of coffee.

I'll take two. (source)

7-7:15am - Arrive at the gym. Ponder why in the hell anyone would ever wake up early to go to the gym.

7:15 - 8:15am - Workout death.

8:15-8:45am - Shower/change/blow dry hair/coverup my undereye bags/get ready for work. Make the long trek up 11 floors from the gym to my office.

One Kate Spade bag away from being a fashion blogger, I tell ya. 

8:46am - Arrive at work. Immediately make coffee and breakfast. I keep a stash of oatmeal in my desk and usually bring a piece of fruit. My office has fruit for grabs in the kitchen, but bananas are a hot commodity around here, so don't expect to get one of those after Monday.

Blueberry Almond Steel Cut Oats. It is just as Barney-colored as it looks.

8:50am - noonish - I rarely have time to take an actual lunch, but I do try to take a brain break around noon. I'll spend a few minutes checking blogs, Twitter, Instagram, etc., while I eat my lunch. I try to bring a lunch at least 4 days a week, but occasionally I'll head across the street to the BEST SALAD BAR KNOWN TO MAN.

This week's lunches! Shredded cream of mushroom chicken with
french cut green beans from a can. It's kindof like green bean casserole except
healthier and now I am really craving some crunchy fried onions YUM.
12:30 - 6:30ish - What time I leave work depends on what time my work is done. Sometimes (rarely) it's 5:30. Usually it's close to 6:30, and on some really busy weeks, I'm around much later that that. I really (really!) love my job, so I don't mind working long hours. But if you have a 9-5 and complain about being at work until 5:30, don't come to me for sympathy.

7ish - Arrive home. Immediately remove real person clothes and put on pajamas. Turn on the tube and contemplate dinner.

7:30/8pm - Dinnertime. I sometimes meal prep enough foods that I have dinners ready to go. More often, I rely on a "some assembly required" dinner. Chicken (leftover from lunches) and sautéed veggies. Sweet potato hash with fried eggs. Soup. Scrambled eggs and bacon. A frozen meal would be a last resort. I very very very rarely order takeout during the week (that's what weekends are for).

8-10:00pm - Watch reality TV. I won't even try to pretend I watch anything but reality TV (until Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder and Mad Men come back). You wanted a real account of my day, right? Mondays are for The Bachelor (marry me, Farmer Chris!), Tuesdays are Chopped, Wednesdays are Top Chef, Thursdays are Millionaire Matchmaker and Project Runway, and Fridays are Shark Tank. Did I mention I write/tweet for the largest Shark Tank fan blog on Friday nights (@SharkTankABC)? Now you know!

10:00-10:15pm - Pack my gym bag for the next morning. Debate any possible reason why I should work out after work instead of before. Surrender myself to the fact that that won't happen if I wait until after. Finish packing. Begrudgingly.

10:30pm - Tell myself it's time for bed.

10:45pm - Tell myself it's time for bed. SERIOUSLY SELF.

11:00pm - Okay but now I have to pee.

11:15pm - Set my alarm and goodnight!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Still Here

I am still here, I promise! Whew, a brief update on where I've been:

The week before Christmas I practically worked non-stop (we're talking dinner at the office every night kind of insanity). Then, Christmas was a blitzkrieg of family time and gift shopping and family time and all of that holiday fun stuff. My parents are hilarious and I loved getting to spend time with them and my brothers over a long week at home, away from the city and public transit and having to walk to the laundromat and the cold. I'm happy to report that I made to to the gym four times in the week I was home. And then I also ate 4x my weight in cookies. Ugh.

So here's where I'm at now: back from the holidays and not making a resolution because a) it's January 12th and b) I don't believe in resolutions. My two non-resolution goals for the year are to read more and to finally (FINALLY) reach my goal weight. I just finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed (yes, I realize I'm so far behind on that bandwagon) but it was SO good. When I was reading it I would occasionally spend a few moments about what it would be like to actually leave everything behind and become a badass Amazonian queen (Cheryl's words), until I remember:

I finished reading Wild during my haircut on Saturday. There's a movie theater in the same building as my salon, and Wild was playing 30 minutes after I finished, which I took as a sign I needed to see it immediately. From the haircut, to the movie, to lunch with a friend and afternoon spent (mostly) window-shopping and buying an amazing haul of tea from David's Tea, I turned it into a #treatyoself Saturday to celebrate my recent promotion :) Then I abandoned all plans on Saturday night to stay in, polish my nails, and drink tea. Yes, I am 25 going on 65 and it was GLORIOUS.

Anyway, now that some of the work craziness has subsided, I look forward to getting back to more regular blogging. I joined a dietbet and I have a desperate need to reign in my eating after doing more than a little damage over the holidays. My year-end #Fit4Fifteen challenge may technically be over, but there's nothing stopping me from still getting #Fit4Fifteen (there are still 11.5 months left to make a change!). 

So this is is me. Still in this thing. Still gunning for my finish line. Still getting Fitnasty for Life. Are you in?