D.’s 2014 Resolutions

I love that because of LoH I can check my resolutions from last year. I did okay. I definitely walked a ton more because a. I stopped having two jobs and b. I signed up for Classpass which means I walk for 45 min. a day to get to and from my fitness classes. But the real lesson here is that working less for the same amount of money makes your life better. The dirty secret of self-improvement is that everyone who makes less than $40,000 a year would be happier if they made more money. Done, the end.

My other resolution was to wear more winged eyeliner. I have totally failed on this front because winged eyeliner is THE hardest. But, 2014 was the year I learned how to contour and that is good enough for me.

So in the spirit of LoH’s endless quest for self perfection (with reasonable qualifiers about the limitations of self reform in the long shadow of The Man), here are my 2015 resolutions:

1. I will put on clothes everyday. For many of you this might seem obvious, but I spend many days in my pajamas or in workout clothes. The workout clothes one is really pernicious, because it easy to feel like you got dressed when you have changed out of your pajamas and into a new outfit. But for the sake of my marriage, my dignity, and the cause of women everywhere, I commit to wearing a zipper or button everyday.

2. I will commit to dealing with my hair at least once a month. I don’t mean get a full-on haircut because those cost a million dollars. But even if it means walking into the terrifying russian barbershop (or the even more intimidating black barbershop in my neighborhood) to get my duck-tail trimmed once a month, I will do it. Because nothing makes me feel worse than ugly hair compounded by the feeling that I will have to wait for three months for it to be less ugly.

No resolutions for fitness or food because those are mostly self-hating. Also everyone eats healthier once Christmas ends anyway.

Oh also, 2014 is the year I discovered the power of glitter nail polish. This is not about looking professional, ladylike, or sexy. It is about having an ombre glitter spectacle on your hands to look at all day. So, more of that!

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-D

What I Miss About Tracy

I no longer spend $30 a month to receive her poorly edited and repetitive videos but I still lurk around her fan/and ex fan websites. When I get a promotional email (also poorly edited) I get a little rush. Will I finally go to ViTAlity Week? Spend $900 for three days of workouts and lectures? I’m not going to lie, I kind of want to. But I can’t–and it is not just because of the crazy amount of money this woman wants from me. It is because flapping your arms around with 2lb weights mostly just irritates your shoulders. It took me a good two years of Pilates to heal the shoulder wounds of flapping. And now that I have, I can’t stare into Tracy’s blank but soothingly-blue eyes and “follow her moves.”

When your bra strap snaps and the music is still going…yup! Thank you my TriBeCa fam! đź’š

A post shared by Tracy Anderson (@tracyandersonmethod) on

But this is still probably one of my top 10 life moments:

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And I miss things about her that nobody else seems to fulfill. Even as legions of her ex-trainers start their own classes in NYC (all of which I attend through the proletarian’s answer to NYC’s obscene fitness culture).

Here is what I miss about Tracy:

If you actually don’t care what you look like (or what muscles you are “working”) Tracy-style wiggling is un-paralled fun. So much fitness follows this hyper-rationalized form where you have to move in a very narrow way (because science). But not with Tracy. Wiggle your butt, “slide” you torso back and forth, pretend you are high-fiving a million little angels. And do it all to some Tracy-approved jams (TSwift, JLo). This form of movement is liberating because it is kind of silly but infused with command to “own it,” and I wish there was more fitness culture that embraced the idea that looking hot in your mind’s eye-is just as important as isolating particular muscles.

 

-D of course (C. doesn’t waste her time with this kind of crap)

 

Favorites

I failed summer this year. No barbeques, no picnics, no lakeside retreats. I think I ate tomatoes twice. There are still two weeks left, and maybe I’ll get it together and go to a farmers market. But really my summer favorites have been pretty un-Instgrammable.

First, things I do in dark rooms when it is nice out:

Summer continues to punish me with the lack of television but thank god for Married and Masters of Sex. If you are a fan of Judy Greer and Nat Faxon, the show is basically just a showcase for their charm. There are some cringe comedy elements but people fundamentally love each other on the show. Masters of Sex only gets better and better, and if you were bored by the first few episodes just push through. They are doing things on this show that rival Mad Men’s deft approach to history.

All I did this summer was go to movies. Guardians of the galaxy, Obvious Child, and Boyhood boyhood blew my mind while also delivering pure pleasure.

To be totally honest, the single greatest conveyor of pleasure has been Vivianna Does Makeup’s weekly vlogs on Youtube. The scenes of London, her perfect boyfriend, her delicious meals–so good.

For some reason August has been cool and lovely in New York, so I also have garnered some pleasure from leaving my house:

God answered my prayers and opened up a Kimchi Taco restaurant outside our closest subway stop.

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Pork, fish and fried chicken tacos.

 

Red Hook, our neighborhood, is just generally charming and calm.

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And, the nicest Pakastani family has opened up a Dunkin Donuts on the way to kickboxing. This place sparkles.

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Finally, I have found the ideal way to deal with the excess, heat, and general grossness of Manhattan. I go into the Soho Equinox gym and order an “Acai Bowl,” which is basically this genius thick smoothie in a bowl with toppings. And as I enjoy my cool treat I watch celebrities leave the gym looking sweaty and beautiful.

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So far Dom from “Looking” was the prettiest.

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-D

 

 

 

 

 

Travel

It is time for my summer holiday, and I am going to LA for a long weekend to stay with a friend.

My travel rules for vacations:

Bring nothing, buy everything.

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This amazing Patagonia luggage can have nothing or everything inside its magical compartments. It also has backpack straps.

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I did bring my running shoes so I can hike up that hill that celebrities get their photos taken on.

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Although it appears you can do it in clogs.

But I also plan on utilizing my time in Silverlake and taking this class:

A few other plans: try to buy this week’s US Weekly and last week’s in the airport, buy all the expensive airport food and don’t worry about it, put about a half lb. of duty-free designer hand lotion on my legs.

In LA, I plan on eating every taco in every food truck that GOOP suggested.

Finally, my travel outfit.

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I did it. I bought Birkenstocks. It is actually your fault and not mine. No one gave me enough points for not buying them, so I decided to go all in and get the loudest color available.

-D

 

Tracy Tested

Game of Sweat

In New York, when you don’t have anything to say to a person, your best bet is to engage them on the topic of SoulCycle. Isn’t it gross? Don’t you kind of love it? You have to try it! Etc. But when a person acknowledges that they also attend boutique fitness classes, you can get into more fine grained discussions about the schisms that generate a thousand new studios every year.

I have been so deep in the dance cardio feuds that I have been a little out of touch with the spinning drama. SoulCycle is the Robert Baratheon of spinning. Once there was a perfectly stable but crazy status quo called “Spinning,” which was actually a trademarked brand rather than a generic thing like running. Trademarked “Spinning” meant that an instructor yelled at you for 30-45 minutes while you moved your resistance up and down based on a sense of your own aerobic capacity. Very loud techno beats and the yelling were really the hallmark of this original form. In these kinds of classes (often offered at gyms), you could wear normal shoes.

When SoulCycle broke onto the scene in the early aughts, its hallmarks were: less yelling, more woo woo yoga-like talk about being present and riding the wave of energy created by one’s own heart.  The classes were only offered in special SoulCycle studios that were kind of like yoga studios (in that you paid per class). Also there are no lights, everyone wears clip-in bike shoes, the only light comes from heavily scented candles, and the instructors get off the bike and dance around to more expertly curated mixes of music (think the Black Keys and Aretha). They also had a signature color: yellow. Most importantly they charged $30 (not including the shoes).  No one knew you could charge this much for a fitness class and now everyone in NYC does charge this much. Celebrities and hedge fund managers loved this because it weeded out the poor people.

But then all hell broke loose! An instructor that founded SoulCycle became disenchanted with some of the core principles of SoulCycle and started Flywheel. In many ways SoulCycle had kept the inefficiencies of Spinning by having people change their resistance based on feel and cues like “half turn” and “full turn” and added some super dangerous elements like having people wiggle around on their bike seats (called “tap backs”) and lift small weights in a dance-ish choreography all while peddling fast.

Flywheel and SoulCycle are mortal enemies and their respective celebrities are very loyal (Chelsea Clinton is on team Flywheel, and Max Greenfield is on team SoulCycle). Now there are many studios vying for dominance in NYC. Revolve, Peloton, Cyc. They all claim to have original elements. For instance, Peloton makes you race in two packs.

Flywheel, however, is the Daenerys in this Game of Sweat. Because it is competent and pretty.

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Flywheel is the only spinning class that I have ever enjoyed. Their basic innovation is to have a little screen on your bike that shows you your resistance level and your RPM. Then the instructor can tell you to move your resistance knob into a certain numerical range and keep your RPM at a certain level, which is amazing because you actually know what you are doing or failing to do. Yelling and self-help mumbo jumbo is not their thing. They just kind of talk to you. For instance, at a recent class the instructor played various theme songs from Superman movies and talked us through his favorite scenes while adding little grunts mid sentence to keep us on the beat. The seating is stadium style so you can actually see the instructor, and their is a screen that you can opt into that shows where your effort ranks in the class. But most importantly: they give you free shoes, water, and BANANAS!

This is what I deserve: BANANAS!

And this makes me think Flywheel has what it takes to win: a solid understanding of the people’s need for reliable sustenance.

So Liberated

I touched the third rail of my own feminism this week. At S Factor studio in New York City I took a pole dancing and other sexy dancing fitness class. For long time I have drawn a bright red line between the varied and embarressing fitness trends I am willing to try and the scary world of sex meets exercise. I do not belly dance and I do not pole dance because there is enough pressure on women to be sexy in every other sphere of their lives. Do they really have to look sexy while they sweat too?

My friend has become a little obsessed with S Factor and convinced me to come, promising that it would resonate with my ecstatic dancing origins. I basically decided to do this so I could tell you about it, so let’s say it is my first attempt at stunt journalism.

At the studio I encountered enthusiastic women of all ages and shapes walking around in cheap lingerie. They adjusted their garter belts and stripper heels before class. I was shocked. Costumes!? No one told me there would be costumes. I thought this was very promising.

But then class started and we entered a very dark room with lots of ominous lazy boys around the edges and poles in the middle. We did a solid hour of what I can only describe as sex Pilates. Basically you do all the normal moves but you touch your hips a bunch while you do it and writhe around with your butt really stuck out as you transition between moves. This also was kind of great. Why shouldn’t you feel pleasure in your own body while it is doing amazing things like butt lifts?

When we got to the main event–the pole–I was mildly warmed up and ready for action. And I want you all to know I did a GREAT job. The teacher and my seasoned friend said so. I wrapped my legs around that alcohol-sanitized pole and spun around. I totally get why this is a trend. It is actually not that physically difficult and it is incredibly fun to move horizontally in the air. The instructor charmingly yelled “Woo PHYSICS!” Agreed.

Unfortunately we ended the two hour class with a strip tease dance (sans stripping because it was only an intro class) and a little talk about the “mission” of the studio. Here’s the thing, they kept emphasizing that this is all about how you feel about yourself and moving only for your own pleasure, but the entire form of this kind of dancing just evokes this absent but looming audience who is probably male. Is it worse if the implied audience is a stranger (ala sex work) or your husband? Probably the latter. And its not just for you, because the teacher is watching you and apparently at higher levels you classmates watch you. There is also an advanced lap dance class, and my friend and I were super curious whether the other ladies would be weirded out if some non heteros participated in this pantomime of sexuality.

This video pretty accurately captures the experience–dimmed lights, really soothing pep talks and lots of thigh stroking.

The strangest part of the whole experience is the length everyone went to to clarify that this is not like those real strippers. “We are not sex workers” might as well be their motto. Which is icky, because if you are going to steal a whole form of expression from a group you should at least admit your admiration for their work. I kept thinking, this is like when frat boys slap each other in the locker room (popular culture tells me this is a thing). The fake sex work dancing is actually a way to police the boundary between good and bad women. Good women do this kind of dancing for themselves, and ironically they pay a ton of money to do it for themselves. Not like those other women who get paid to do it.

But to be fair, if I had a ton of money I might take the eight week introductory session. I really liked spending two hours doing a kind of movement that was supposed to work on how you think about your body, rather than trying to change your body. Also I liked all the 50 year old women (including the teacher) talking about reclaiming their erotic selves while modeling Frederick’s of Hollywood-type lingerie. They all seemed like very liberated next level ladies of habit.

On a final note, the fitness/self-actualization idiom of pole dancing is actually very distinct from the growing competitive pole dancing world, which is about as sexy as rythmic gymnastics. At least the fitness version doesn’t neuter the whole thing.

-D

Pornography for Self-Improvement

It is almost summer and that means doubling down on our prettyness regimens. Fortunately it is now socially acceptable to watch porn as part of our “inspiration” routines. #Fitspo is the pernicious and wonderful trend of very fit people posting images of themselves on social media in order to inspire us fatties to workout more. I am generally anti this trend when it involves posting quotes on Pinterest or Instagram with such noxious quotes as:

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On the other hand, I am very pro this trend when it means that I am constantly being inundated with images and videos of naked bodies flexing.

AND IT IS NOT JUST LADIES!

 

-D

Do you think this man will adopt me?

The boots! The tights!

Tracy Anderson’s Ex-Trainers: a Review

There are a few things that make living in NYC really exciting: the cheap and excellent shoe repair, the prolific doughnut and cupcake bounty, and really fancy and expensive fitness classes. Lately, in the depth of winter, my ability to achieve an approximation of the Tracy Anderson fitness lifestyle has been really keeping me afloat. The tendency of Tracy Anderson’s trainers to leave and start their own businesses makes her despair for humanity, but it allows me to walk the Tracy path. A dream that was rekindled by my recent butt-grabbing experience. Especially now that many of these fitness outlets are part of my Classpass package (a model that is now spreading to Boston and will surely thrive everywhere else).

So here is what that the Tracy apostates have to offer (*updated):

Body by Simone: For non-fancy people Simone has a lot to offer because she lets normal people into her temple of celebrity and wealth. You can walk into her studio and sit with Matt Damon’s wife while you sip cucumber infused water and wait for your class. Then afterwards, they let you take a shower! Really smelly face and body products from Red Flower were strewn around the gorgeous counter top and the lady next to me watched in horror as I applied them ALL.

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Level of Tracy-ness: Simone’s workouts are mostly indistinguishable from Tracy’s except that you will do less repetitive leg lifts, take more breaks between movements and do more conventional movements (like pulsing your leg on your side). The dance is where they really shine. Like Tracy they do it separately from the strength training and the choreography is super basic with an emphasis on bouncing up and laterally while doing sassy hand movements. There is always a lot of skipping backward and forward, which in a class with a dance-crew of fellow ladies is possibly the most satisfying thing you will ever do. It is the Reservoir Dog walk of dance cardio. Simone also offers bands ala’ Tracy but they are hung on the walls instead of the ceiling, for which I deduct -5. It means you can’t really use them to support your body weight/de-stablize you while you do other movements.

DanceBody:

Katia Pryce doesn’t have her own dance studio, but she rents the most satisfyingly-FAME esque dance studio. It is completely lined with windows and thus has actual natural light. Katia is also pretty orthodox in her Tracy-ness: no quad or hamstring work at all, and she tells you to only focus on your butt and abs. She does the most Tracy-esque arm flapping of all ex-Tracy trainers. Her real strength is that she has different choreographed dances for every song, so that if you went all the time it would not be boring or repetitive. Her dances also range from low and funky, slinky and slow, and peppy and jazzy. I kept hoping we would transition to Modern Dance floor-work, but maybe that’s coming later. Do yourself a favor and follow her on Instagram where she posts videos of her dances.

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AKT in Motion:

AK in AKT is Anna Kaiser and she is the most successful of all the Tracy sectarians. She is also an original apostle of Tracy’s so she might have actually created all the Tracy moves in the first place.

AKT has a super fancy studio of her own, but alas unlike Simone she does not encourage normal people to enter, so I take the classes that are open to non-members at a rented Soho studio. Sarah Wolff is my trainer there. I say MY trainer because often people do not show up for my class and I am the only one there. This is intense because the AKT method is the most committed to SCIENCE, and that means that the class uses dance as part of a “High Intensity Interval Training” routine. Starting with 10 minutes of planks, then going to 5 minutes of dance cardio, then 5 minutes of arms, 5 minutes of dance etc. The dances themselves are complex, by the AKT method has perfected the art of keeping your heart rate super high while breaking down the steps.

Body Conceptions:

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Body Conceptions does not have its own studio, but Mahri Relin and her trainers work out of a nice dance studio in midtown. Their spin on the Tracy legacy seems to be the recognition of quads as a legitimate muscle. There are some barre-flavored pulses and lunges that really burn, which makes sense because Mahri also used to work for Flybarre. But the butt work is total Tracy ala’ Perfect Design and Meta (including no breaks!). The nice twist with this method is that the cardio is much more like Tracy’s Meta dvds with no choreography, so if you hate choreography, this is the class for you.

Bari Studio:

Apparently Brice Andrew Hall is the apostate here, but there are other ex-Tracy trainers that work here like Yin Yue who is almost TOO pretty.

Bari will satisfy many of your Tracy yearnings. They frame the studio as a “membership” studio, although you can take a la carte offerings, but that means if that if you love the all-encompassing Tracy cult experience Bari is ready to deliver it with nutritionists, blogs, constant supervision.

Bari emphasizes some of my favorite Tracy elements: bungees from the ceiling and rebounders.

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Although, if you have ever used the rebounders that Tracy sells at home or Body by Simone’s variety you are not prepared for the unbelievably difficult Bari rebounders. Unlike the Tracy variety they are super loose which means it takes more effort to jump.

Everything about Bari is like the ruthlessly efficient version of Tracy, with less choreography (which means less fun jazz hands) and more difficult jumping during dance cardio. More tricep pulses and less flapping.

But, like Body by Simone, you get lots of free towels, free water (in cool reusable water bottles) and showers.

MOVE at The Movement:

Katherine Greiner used to teach dance cardio at SLT, but she has now developed her own class at the confusingly named boutique studio The Movement. MOVE is their full-on Tracy approved dance cardio and toning workout. The studio does not have showers, but they have a pretty and open changing room and they are located next to City Bakery. So I will deduct 5 points for lack of fancy body products but add 8 for proximity to whole wheat croissants.

If you have been an at home client with Tracy, you have been training for this class for years and the sense of top-student-in-class will be so overwhelming that you might need to wipe the grin off your face. Or keep it while you do half an hour of totally reasonable dance cardio that is basically the perfect balance between choreography and follow along (think that elusive first Tracy DC video where she has the spangly green top). Then you go to the floor for totally Tracy-approved moves that, Tracy style, will ignore your quads and inner thighs. There are no intervals, and the cardio and toning are totally separate, which makes this both kind of easy but also reminds you why that aspect of Tracy is fun. By separating the two, you can really get your runner’s high dance cardio experience.

 

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I cannot emphasize enough that the greatest thing about this class is that it is heavily air-conditioned. If you are going to break with Tracy on one thing, have it be this.

 

-D

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