Unemployed in LA

Sep 21

My First Time: Cycle House

It always makes me feel old when I describe a restaurant or bar as “You know, the place that used to be [insert restaurant that was the place to be for six months and then it died but the new place at which we’re about to totally overpay for drinks and mediocre food totally won’t follow that same path.]”  Especially when I have to insert cringe-worthy names like “Privilege,” “Area-then-Industry” or “Guys?  Guys and Dolls…I don’t remember: the one we typically walked by on our way to stuffing our face at Dominick’s.”

Interestingly enough, however, my first time having to do this for a gym just made me feel really athletic.

In what used to be the uber-run down cycling studio at Train, the brand spanking new Cycle House has emerged.  And no, this is not just a fresh coat of paint, new sign, call it a day takeover: this is a full renovation into a completely new studio.

The place is beautiful.  From the shoes, to the bikes, to the decor - everything is brand new, and they spared no expenses in making it a luxury fitness destination.  If you are using the studio’s shoes - as I did - they are waiting for you at your reserved bike when you arrive with a fresh towel.  It’s those details that really add to the experience.

The class is 45 minutes, and starts off with a statement from the instructor that makes me realize I’ve probably been spinning wrong for years: In order to get the workout benefit of riding along a FLAT road, the resistance pads need to at least be touching the wheel.  Not a hill…a flat road.  Take a look the next time you’re spinning…just touching the wheel is more resistance than you would expect.

There is nowhere to hide, as my fitness friend Lauren has us in the front row center (bless her, probably for the best).  That means that every time the instructor has us turn the resistance up, I’m turning it up - and no sneaking any decrease resistance turns.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: spinning, when you’re really following the “turn the resistance up” commands from the instructor, is the most intense workout there is.

The 45-minute spin is mostly out of the saddle, a lot of hills, and just a few sprints toward the end.  The music is well-suited for the ride, and can best be described as the playlist your hip, music-aficionado friend would make for you knowing you like pop music, but hoping you can appreciate some more quality jams in there.  In addition to a mix of hills and some runs, we do five minutes of light (2lb) weights, but that really serve to fatigue the arms for some decent toning.

Between the music and the variation on challenges, the class really flies by and I’m surprised when it’s over.


I will say one thing:  the whole look, feel and routine is a little - shall we say - derived from SoulCycle. The lighting, the motivational signs, the light weight workout at exactly the same time it’s done at Soul Cycle, the instructor-turned-DJ running a playlist of a laptop in the front - everything right down to the LED candles around the instructor platform screams “We’re not messing with a formula that works.”  As I have no monetary investment in SoulCycle, I’m fine with this.

The first class is discounted 50%, which makes trying it totally worthwhile.  The prices, however, were also ripped off from Soul Cycle - as in super ‘spensive. The 45 minute classes start at $26, and go down to $22.60 if you purchase 25 of them.  Granted, this is all inclusive of the shoes, the parking, towel service…but the pricing is the one thing I miss from Train.

The rusty bikes, not so much.

The deets:

Cycle House

624 North La Cienega Blvd

West Hollywood

(310) 358-0888

http://www.cyclehousela.com

The instructor: Jason

Key Takeaways: If you like SoulCycle, you’ll like Cycle House, if you don’t like the SoulCycle prices, you won’t like Cycle House prices

Sep 19

My First Time: Antigravity Wings Yoga

               

If I learned anything from Antigravity Wings Yoga, it is that the bathroom floors at Crunch fitness are very nice, and impeccably kept up.

Let me rewind for a moment to the night before this ridiculous exercise.  I may have had a few glasses of champagne while out celebrating…life.  Not enough to cause college-style hangover puking, but certainly enough to have me dragging a little on the way to the gym.  What happens next could be construed as partially my fault.  Ten percent at the most.

And we’re back.

A few weeks back, I saw an ad for ‘Antigravity Yoga,” which essentially looked like doing yoga while suspended in mid air by a silk hammock.  Being that this was the most ridiculous looking exercise I had seen in…ever, I had to try it.  Being that it was all the way in the South Bay, it wasn’t looking likely.  I then, however, found that the same class was offered at the Mecca of group fitness classes in my area: Crunch Fitness.

I’ve been off gyms for a few years, because mine was not the greatest, and I don’t have a house to mortgage in order to join Equinox.  Crunch has been on my radar for awhile, because the number and variety of group classes they offer is phenomenal, and it’s less than half the price of Equinox.  This was the perfect time to try their free week trial, and Gravity Free Yoga.

I grab my most fitness fearless gal pal Amanda, and head to Crunch early for an obligatory orientation and tour.  I’m super impressed by the spinning studio and amount of group fitness classes, though less impressed that the in-house reformer Pilates is not included in membership.  According to our tour guide, we should really act now, because prices are going up in 3 days.  I’ll hear a similar pitch in the e-mails and texts that come in in the weeks that follow - only with lower prices and tighter deadlines.  First lesson: don’t put your cell phone on the information sheet.

We enter the yoga studio, and take seats in the back.  We are then moved up to the front, because the back spaces are at risk of swinging into the back wall.  Oh good: immediate injury risks!  After the silk hammocks are set up, we get in them and just sort of hang for a few minutes.

I feel weird.  It’s going to get weirder.

We then go through some standard yoga poses - such as Warrior 1 and 2, half lotus tree pose, standing big toe pose, and crow pose…but with some or all of our bodies in that silk sling.  The more we go along, the less the poses resemble anything having to do with yoga, and more girl wrestles hammock in the ultimate battle for least graceful.  There may be people in the class really feeling a benefit, but the gimmicky hammock does more to throw off my pose than to alleviate the usual pressure of gravity.  Also - it’s typically the gravity that’s helping with the strength aspect - so that’s been cut down greatly.

Second lesson of the day: in Gravity Free Yoga, fear is your enemy.  After a series of twisting the fabric of the hammock around arms or ankles, we’re told to just flip upside down and the hammock will hold us.  I have zero interest in doing this, and negative a million interest in doing this for the first time without a spotter, but I’m getting called out by the instructor on the other side of the room.  I believe I yell “I HATE THIS” as I’m flipping over, which I imagine disrupts the relaxation the other hanging butterflies are feeling.  Sorry. But I do.

Maybe I just don’t like the feeling of hanging upside down with no clue as to how to get back up. But this is when I decide that I truly, truly do not like this exercise.  I keep it up though, through some more stretching and lunging and upside down hanging that I struggle to keep up with, and make it to the very end.

And that’s when it happens.

As a first time student, swinging around - sometimes upside down - in the hammock causes some dizziness and nausea (confirmed with other first time students in that class).  In the final “inversion” (read: hanging upside down by my ankles in another terrifying pose), the instructor swings me around in a circle to show me how fun this class is.  This immediately sets me over the edge of definitely going to vomit now.

So I do.  Luckily, it’s not immediate, as I spend the final meditation curled up in the fetal position on my mat (all the other butterflies are curling back up and swinging from their cocoons).  After I manage to wipe the nausea sweat off and slink out of class doubled over, I do completely unload that morning’s Jamba Juice in the (very clean) Crunch toilets.

So - Anti-Gravity Yoga: not for me. In addition to the nausea, it just wasn’t challenging (other than in the technical aspect).  I did get that weight loss benefit from post-yoga vomiting, but I’d like to think that is not what they’re going for.  Maybe it gets better over time, but I am not going to find out. 

And, come on, Crunch.  On my way out, I told you that I threw up.  Does that sound like someone who is going to join the gym (I can’t even drive past it without flashbacks, illness and shame). Cut Your Losses, right?  Wrong.  Not only have I received e-mails, but texts!  More than one! Cell phones are sacred.  A line in promotion has been crossed.

The deets:

Antigravity Wings Yoga at Crunch Fitness

8000 Sunset Blvd - Los Angeles

(323) 654-4550

www.crunch.com

Key Takeaways: No champagne before, not for weak stomachs, another fitness gimmick.


Sep 07

My First Time: Swerve Studio Vinyasa Flow

You know what does a number on your body?  Running a half marathon at 5 AM…and then spending the rest of the day at Disneyland.  I truly can’t tell which destroyed my body more, but that back to back body breaking action on Sunday had me down for the count on Monday and Tuesday, and ready for some yoga on Wednesday.


Enter Swerve Studio.  I previously reviewed their signature class - Yoga Booty Ballet - and found it fun, but very soft.  After aforementioned weekend, I was down with some sort of soft workout, so off to Swerve I go.

I bring along the boyfriend, who you might remember from the Pop Physique incident of 2012 (yes, dear, pink weights ARE heavy).  He experienced the same running/Disney mashup on Sunday, and is similarly ready to stretch.  So ready to stretch that he could be seen doing downward dog at the hotel bar days earlier.  We are both relatively-novice when it comes to yoga, and he, in particular, is about as flexible as the GOP (what up political zinger!?).

Swerve offers a 12:30 Vinyasa Flow community class, which is $10 instead of the regular class price of $18.  Love it.

Being an Unemployed Angeleno, I’ve hit my fair share of midday workout classes.  They are generally surprisingly full, especially if they are offered at a discount.  Not the case with this particular class: it is just the two of us.  For a mere $10/each, we get a private yoga lesson.  You just don’t find deals like that on Groupon.

The instructor, Susannah, is very attentive, and doesn’t have that “Yoga is so serious you better be thinking about world peace the whole time” attitude that makes me so uncomfortable with some other instructors.  Sure, yoga is for the soul, but I’m primarily into it for the physical benefits.  I would much rather have an instructor discussing the nuts and bolts of a pose than leading the group in a chant.  But that’s just me.

We focus on breathing at the beginning of the class, but it is not heavily guided through the rest of class.  Instead, form and pose correction are paramount.  The more I practice yoga, the more I realize that seemingly simple poses like upward and downward dog, in fact, have a whole lot of nuances to them that change the whole workout.  With this in mind, this class’s attentive correction will benefit future yoga practice.

Being that we are, again, the only two people in the class - we get a lot of personal attention, but not so much that it seems overboard.  She focuses on the safety of the more advanced moves, which my finicky shoulder and tight hamstring muscles are grateful for. 

Although the class doesn’t have a designated level, I would rate it at early intermediate (I am making up levels now).  We ran through most of the same poses as an intermediate/advanced class, but held the poses for less time - fatigue didn’t set in until toward the end of class.  The sweat factor was moderate.  I’m sure if the two of us had been stumbling over ourselves, or (less likely) jumping into headstands, the class would have been adjusted accordingly.

The majority of the class is set to Bon Iver - which is a total win in my mind.  I leave the class uber-relaxed, with the pain of Disneyland almost faded.  Almost.

The Deets:

Vinyasa Flow Yoga at Swerve Studio

8250 West 3rd Street, #205

Los Angeles

http://www.swervestudio.com 

The Instructor: Susannah Hall


Key takeaways: Yoga mats/blankets/blocks all provided, towel service available, allot time to find street parking, small mid-day class size, not for the spiritual yogi, don’t go to Disneyland for 10 hours after a 13.1 mile race.

Sep 05

A return to school for everyone

Summer vacation is over today, which you probably gathered from the super disappointed “my way-too-short 2+ month vacation is over” teachers on your Facebook feed.  There aren’t enough tiny violins in the world.*

Chalk it up to 18 years of education and teacher parents, but regardless of where I’m working (or not working), June - August will always be summer vacation.  Even going into an office every day, or staying until way past the time the summer sun has gone down, those months will forever be reserved for slacking off, chilling out, drinking on patios, eating full-fat ice cream and attending weekly bar-be-cues.  This, despite the fact that my current geography is 365-ish days a year of summer weather conducive to aforementioned activities.  It’s just ingrained.

While I didn’t go to the beach once this summer  (inexcusable, but I’m guessing common, for an Angeleno living east of the 405), I gave myself half day summer Fridays (and some Thursdays) and spent enough time outside to refill my freckle quota.  I took arguably too many trips to get in any sort of productive flow, I ate dinners on my back deck, I watched every episode of Bravo summer programming and my work ethic was “meh” at best.  Except my work-out ethic: it was bikini season, after all.

I should probably be mourning the end of such a delightful summer “vacation” right now, but now that it’s over, I’m actually kind of relieved.

Whatever we’re doing, we need a break in our pattern.  A deep breath, if you will.  But just as important, we need an end to the break, and to settle back into a real-life productive pattern. It can be different than the one we left, but it’s gotta be there - and it probably needs to include more than 6 hours of work 5 days/week.  The weeks of low accomplishment garnished with episodes of The Real Housewives really can lead to a state of abject depression.

So welcome back to school - whatever your school may be.  Mine will hopefully include an end to a downward spiraling bank account and “semi-employed” status.  At the very least, a return to the importance of weekends, and a cleansing of Bravo from my DVR.

*Ok angry teachers, I get it: being a teacher is very challenging and you’re way underpaid for the role you play in molding society.  That said, your vacation time is rivaled only by the Funemployed and Europeans.



Aug 31

My First Time: Yoga Booty Ballet

                            

I enter Swerve Studio on a particularly hot Thursday afternoon, and they score immediate points for ample air conditioning.  I have been training for a half marathon - coming up this weekend - but as it’s time to taper the distance, I have some time and energy to sneak a class into the schedule. Everyone in the reception area is just so nice - and when they hear it’s my first time taking this class, they are incredibly welcoming.  So far, so good.

The studio offers a variety of fitness classes, from highly aerobic dance classes, to Rock N Roll Pilates, to Vinyasa Yoga and many in between.  There is also a gym club and private training available, so it’s a one stop shop for West 3rd Street fitness.  Yoga Booty Ballet is their signature offering, and what was recommended to me as a first time student.

Swerve Studio is in a dangerous area, in my world.  It is above Plancha tacos, which are delicious, within eyeshot of D’Amore’s pizza, which puts most LA pizza to shame (not that this says much), and right next door to a place called “Hair Fairies."  Hair Fairies is not a salon, rather it is an establishment where people who MUST hate their jobs remove lice from children’s heads.  That is all they do.  Listen - I’m sure Hair Fairies has some solid ways of making sure those lice don’t scatter, but its presence alone is enough to keep me away from the seating area the businesses share. And I’m still imagining an itchy scalp. But I digress.

Before I took the class, I thought “Yoga Booty Ballet” was one specific dance/exercise that gave you a butt that looks like you do yoga all the time through some ballet movements.  Upon further reflection, this makes no sense at all and I worry about my brain.  What would that even look like?  Yoga Booty Ballet is a workout that encompasses (separately) Yoga, some Booty dancing, and Ballet.

We start with five minutes of relaxing yoga breathing and stretching, setting our intention for the class.  I always like this because it reminds me to actively NOT think about my diminishing bank account, freelance jobs who haven’t called me back, or how I’m not where I should be in life with 30 creeping around the corner.  Don’t worry, I can - and will - go back to those thoughts immediately after the class.

We then move into the booty dancing section of class.  Oh, how I wish there were not mirrors surrounding the room.  For the next 30 minutes, we run through some dances set to hip hop and R&B.  The instructor is amazing at both choreographing something that even a beginner can (sort of) keep up with, and continuing to shout out steps as we go along. She must exercise her vocal chords on the regular.

I can’t even begin to tell you how uncool I look.  There are women in the class who are really into it, and really good.  They should be in music videos.  I, on the other hand, while also really into it, have no rhythm.  I have never had any rhythm.  Unfortunately, I’m lacking the social anxiety that comes with lack of rhythm and have no problem dancing, no matter how silly it looks.  I’m that wedding guest.  At weddings, however, it’s darker, there are no mirrors, and I’ve had my share of champagne. It’s broad daylight, with no alcohol and lots of mirrors in Yoga Booty.  I had no idea my legs moved like that.  Terrifying.

All that said, I keep moving throughout the dancing section, and work up quite a sweat.  I like that even though I don’t have the perfect form, I am burning calories as I go along.

After the 30 minute cardio dance, we move on to 10 minutes of ballet.  The plies and bends do a little to strengthen, but I am used to the more hardcore Bar Method/Cardio Barre/Pop Physique workout.  This ballet is a very soft in comparison, but good for beginners.

The 10 minutes of ballet are followed by 10 minutes of yoga.  The stretch is nice, but again, it feels soft compared to YogaWorks.  The downward facing dogs are held for shorter periods of time, and 10 minutes can only get you so far with yoga.

Overall, the class was a fun time, and the perfect workout to bring your mom to when she visits LA. The 55 minutes of mixed movement had me sweating mid-way into the workout (and it was air conditioned), which is the basis by which I judge calorie burn.  But it was just really…soft.  Exercise is my addiction (to balance out my other addiction: wine), and going from some of the toughest classes offered to a nice workout for everyone leaves me wanting a bit more.  I acknowledge that not everyone has this addiction, and for non-workout enthusiasts, this class is a great way to get into fitness and keep healthy.  For fellow fitness extremists, stick to Sweat Garage, YogaWorks, Bar Method, Pop Physique - or any other workout that has you wanting to quit halfway through.

And then really sit down and think about what is going wrong in your life that you need your workout to feel so terrible.  Once we all get our lives together, we’ll go back to Yoga Booty Ballet.

All types of classes at Swerve are $18, and go down to $13.50/class with a 20 class package purchase.   First time students can purchase the $100 one month unlimited, and there are different types of monthly packages priced fairly, if you visit regularly.  Big kudos to the number of $10 community classes offered, which may not fit into the schedule of the “fully employed” folk, but certainly fit the schedule (and budget) of the funemployed set.

The Deets:

Yoga Booty Ballet at Swerve Studio

8250 West 3rd Street, #205

Los Angeles

http://www.swervestudio.com/

The Instructor: Conisha Wade

Parking - there are a 16 spaces in the lot, shared by all businesses in the plaza - your best best is to meter park on 3rd street.  Don’t worry - the meters accept credit cards.

Key Takeaways: Plan time for parking, sneakers optional (but advised if you have any sort of foot/leg issues), a good fun intro back into working out, or a workout for non-workout enthusiasts.



Aug 24

Give me…my blender…now

                    


At this time in my life, just about every weekend that isn’t a 30th birthday party is a wedding.  It’s a constant validation for all of the “investment” dresses I purchased along the line, and incentive to continue purchasing said dresses.  Lord knows that the bride and groom are very specifically focused on what I’m wearing as I congratulate them on their upcoming lifetimes of happiness.

Somewhere along the line, however, “congratulations on your lifetime of happiness” translated into “here’s the blender you registered for.”  And I’m happy to buy the blender. I’m likely one of the guests that tallied up the hefty catering and bar costs at your wedding, so the blender is the least I can do.  And you probably need a blender, because - for better or worse - margaritas can only help life after “I do,” right?  So here’s your blender.

But where’s my fucking blender?

There’s quite a growing list of home items I would like, that I am currently not able to afford re: seeking my lifetime of happiness as a writer.  I think asking me to get married to get these items is a little extreme.  It’s a reverse dowry situation, and I’m simply not comfortable with it.* 

I really want a better set of knives. I want the food processor AND the extension that rolls out pasta. I could use a new vacuum. A juicer? I would love a juicer. And yeah: I want a state of the art blender.  But - from what I’ve heard - these are probably the wrong reasons to get married.**

So I have a proposal (no…not that kind). Let’s just agree it’s not tacky for everyone to have ongoing registries. Do you know how much easier this would make birthdays and Christmas?  Granted, this is coming from a particularly bad gift giver.  I often get confused between “gifts that you would like” and “gifts that I would like” or “gifts that will amuse me when you open them.”  I do try, but I’ve seen the harsh disappointment in someone’s eyes when they open a themed Snuggie that only I would really enjoy. Everyone I’ve ever gifted a present wishes that ongoing registries were socially acceptable.

So married, single, engaged - whatever: make a registry for yourself this weekend.  Whatever your relationship status, a nice blender will bring us all one step closer to a lifetime of happiness.

*When I do get married, I would immediately like to redact all of the above statements.  It’s officially time to get me a blender.

**Although…a really nice wine fridge. I might get married if someone promises me a really nice wine fridge. If it’s filled with nice wine, it completely warrants matrimony.


                    

Aug 16

My First Time: Park Slope Yoga Center


Fully bracing for the eye rolls and “yeah rights,” I enjoy working out on vacation. It balances out the excess of eating and drinking that I perform on vacay (sort of), there is way more time to fit in a good workout, and it feels like a field trip when you work out at a studio in a new town. It’s  also the best time to try a new class that will potentially make you look like an idiot, because you have way less of a chance of running into these people again.

YogaWorks in Los Angeles had reinvigorated my long-dormant yoga phase, so I decided to continue this that during a trip to New York.  Whereas I generally hit up a class I’m terrified to try on my home turf, the Zumba class was offered at 7PM, and that’s prime food and alcohol consumption time in my world.

I enter the studio pre-blissed due to being on vacation, which was only enhanced by the two hours I just spent at the tea shop downstairs writing and sipping on herbal. Yeah - it was a Brooklyn sort of morning. I’m only mildly hungover from the dirty martinis that marked a mini-college reunion the night before, so all in all, I’m as ready to work out as I will ever be on vacation.

I select a Vinyasa Flow class, because if it isn’t already clear, I don’t have the attention span to hold long poses during Hatha. Deal finder that I am, I find a “try a class for $5” promotion. Listen, I generally feel bad about taking a discount class that is supposed to be a marketing play for locals, but A.) Make that a condition of the discount and B.) I’m sure I’ll move to New York at some point soon/be back visiting and come to a class. Or so I tell myself to sleep at night.

The studio is small, and there are mirrors that help immensely with form. From all angles, you can see the instructor’s demonstrations.

The women in this class are ser-i-ous. We’re talking Lulu Lemon wearing, water bottle toting, organic diaper using, in better shape at 40 than I was at 20 moms who yoga. My Target yoga gear and mild martini hangover feel incredibly out of place, so I find a place closest to the fan in the back.

Nope. No hiding here in the mid-day class of 8. While this is not the class to take for just some relaxing stretching and strengthening, it is the perfect class to take for a boot-camp on form. Often times with the flow, it’s easy to cheat the moves a bit, or inadvertently get out of form because bodies aren’t built to twist like that. Sasha was on her feet correcting poses throughout the whole class, and offering modifications when needed. She even paused the class briefly between flows to point out a mild overall form problem that was common in the room, and that little tweak made all the difference.

An interesting fact about me is that I once dislocated my shoulder running.  More accurately, I dislocated my shoulder when I tripped over a dog while I was running, and it required an emergency room visit, surgery, and physical therapy.  As I didn’t quite place ample importance on physical therapy at the age of 17, the shoulder never really healed, and it has limited rotation and pops out every now and then.  Damn dog.

Anyway, I bring this story up not just for your amusement, but also because I think it’s what differentiates good fitness instructors from great fitness instructors. Generally when I bring this up in a new class, I’m told to go easy or just not try certain exercises.  That’s fine - way better than an arm popping out and ruining everyone’s class.  But when I tell Sasha this, she not only remembers during the full 90 minute class, but she offers me comparable poses that keep my shoulder in socket while accomplishing the same results. Congrats, lady: you’ve moved on to greatness on my scale.

The music selection has a rhythm that keeps the class going, with increased volumes during the flow sessions between instructions.  It helps distract from the intense burning and fatiguing arms and legs, and from the fact that I am easily the least flexible person with the highest percentage of body fat in class.

Park Slope Yoga certainly incentivizes snap purchase decisions, as class packages are discounted 10% if you commit right after your first class. I get it, but the last thing anyone wants to deal with after Yoga is rushed decisions, so they are losing a point there. I have not, however, received any e-mail spam since taking the class, despite signing in with my e-mail address, so I’ll award a bonus point for respecting my inbox.

The class is challenging, but doable, and I leave profusely sweating (despite positioning myself next to the fan). It certainly justifies the large Italian meal/bottles of wine/craft beer I will consume later that evening, which is the definition of a perfect vacation workout.

The Deets:

Park Slope Yoga Center at Devi

837 Union Street, 2nd Floor - Brooklyn

718-789-2288

http://parkslopeyoga.com 

The Instructor: Sasha

Takeaways: $5 first class with coupon (on website)/$10 without, better for intermediate to advanced students, small classes ideal for form improvement, tea shop downstairs has free WiFi, be prepared to commit to purchase after class for discount.

Aug 09

Success vs. Happiness

Earlier today, I found myself walking through Park Slope with a yoga mat slung over one shoulder, Longchamp bag over the other, drinking coconut water I bought at a natural foods market, talking on my iPhone on my way to a nearby Tea shop to write (for free) as I waited for Yoga to begin. Because I’m “finding” myself.

When I have moments like this, I am not sure whether to think/shout “what is wrong with my life!?!?!” or “Everything is right with my life!”

There was a time, not too very long ago, where I served a purpose in a professional setting. It was, very naturally, how I measured my life’s success and contributions to the world.

I popped by my old office yesterday to say hello to former co-workers/current awesome people. Whereas the tangible stress reminded me of the premature graying I left behind, the updates of the smart, creative, and all around amazing campaigns for global brands the team was working on evoked more than a tinge of jealousy. Here were all these people, working (their asses off) together, and accomplishing huge results. Because that’s what hard working grownups do. They contribute.

I used to be one of those people, and now I sit in my home “office” writing all day, finding my own path, finding happiness, and tracking down the next day laborer paycheck. And with only a few real deadlines and no one on my ass, I’m working through very few lunches, and very infrequently past 6PM. Is this even close to be considered contributing? If not, where does satisfaction come from?

I have no doubt that I contribute to the small world that surrounds me in as many non-professional ways as I can.  I hesitate to say I work to improve my bubble, but I don’t think The Atlantic would have such hesitation, and I always strive to use language that The Atlantic would understand. So I work to have the best bubble I can have.  I’m there for my friends and my family. I’m a pretty decent girlfriend, and I even do most of the laundry with only sporadic complaints. I make people laugh when they are having a bad day. I clean up my dog’s poop each and every time, and sometimes even adjacent poop that less considerate neighbors leave behind (and before you scoff at this as contribution, think about the last time you stepped in poop. Right. I’m practically saving the world on that one.). I know where I stand politically, and I’m up to date with world conflicts. I over donate at donation yoga, and I leave tips in coffee shop tip jars, all with frequent overdraft notices from the bank. And I don’t like Mitt Romney on Facebook.

Basically: I am happy.  It feels like a good thing. But, does happiness or success lead to a greater long-term sense of life satisfaction? 

I don’t know, and, for the moment, I’m happy to keep exploring that question. It’s important to have strong opinions on healthcare, immigration, and the resurgence of neon, but I’m wary of people who just KNOW the answer to the happiness vs. success battle. You know these people. They smile brightly and give the holier-than-thou “I can remember when I worked 12-hours a day, but my life is just so much BETTER now,” or the holier-and-richer-than-thou “My life is my work, and I couldn’t be happier.” 

I hope someday I can fall in the middle of the Venn Diagram of those people to the area I call “Genuine Life Satisfaction” (alternatively “Unlikely Scenario”). Until then, it’s clear I need to spend a little less time in the self help section.

Aug 03

My First Time: YogaWorks (Larchmont)

I had that momentary panic a few weeks ago when I checked the number of purchased exercise classes that expire at the end of the year, added in the YogaWorks number of days I need to run each week to train for a marathon, and compared it against the number of days actually left in the year.  These numbers favored 2-a-day workouts if I didn’t use up some of those classes quickly, and I’m no Olympian.  In any case, I’ve been at Bar Method more than usual (which is great, because it’s still the best workout I have yet to try), but haven’t been to a new workout class in weeks. 

It was time to change that.

A few weeks ago, gal pal Erika suggested I feature in My First Time. I was into it, but a bit hesitant. I have been to some bad yoga classes in my day.  Real bad. I once sat through 15 minutes of sitting cross legged alternating breathing out of my right and left nostrils while the sounds of the Amazon screeched on in the background, after which we moved on to what I can best define as Yoga Eye Rolling (no lie). Maybe some people find this beneficial, but I personally need to sweat and hurt in order for it to be considered a workout. Oh, and use muscles that aren’t limited to my face.

Erika assured me YogaWorks was down to accommodate my need for pain and discomfort.  Great. Bring it.

I head to the Larchmont studio for a Vinyasa Flow class after downloading a free week of classes coupon that is offered via Yelp. Parking is easy on Gower - just a block east of Larchmont - so I don’t start the class with the anxiety of running late and searching my car seats for meter change. The energy as the reception area fills up is strong and positive. There isn’t that quiet dread or sussing out the “competition” that is so common in some studios. The class is a level 2-3 class, which I may come to regret, but I’m confident it will be enough of a challenge.

The classroom fills up quickly, but seems to expand to fit everyone that walks in the door. The instructor is phenomenal at adjusting where everyone positions themselves to make room for all the students, which I love.  The room itself has just enough lighting so that we’re not maneuvering in the dark, but is dim enough to relax. And the soundtrack is not based in jungle sounds; it’s just the right amount of background music.

After a quick guided meditation, the class starts, and my need for a challenging workout is met immediately. While I have a decent time following the flow of the positions, the strength required to hold said positions is intense. Arm and core shaking, buckets of sweat dripping intense. I love it.  I am lucky enough to have pro-yogi (progi? mmm…pierogi) Erika next to me, giving me a pointer here or there on the yoga positions I do struggle to remember.

After going through each sequence one or two times with the instructor, the class “flows”  through the sequence a few times at varying paces. The sequences are short enough to remember after a couple run throughs, though I definitely take a peak up every now and then to follow the more experienced students on either side of me.

During the class I push myself to jump into positions when instructed, and to hold one legged planks and upward dogs, one armed planks and tree positions, but I never feel forced to try anything I’m not ready for (like handstands. I never see those happening in my life). This speaks to the instructor’s ability to facilitate an environment that is both motivational and low pressure.

I find the workout to be hardest on my arms and core, but this could just be my experience. My legs are really strong from running, and I’ve always had natural Olive Oil arms (to clarify - the skinny chick on Popeye, not pertaining to the type of Olive Oil I slather on everything I eat that makes everything but my arms un-Olive Oily). There are a lot of plank-variations  that have my arms shaking, and I will feel the overall workout in my core the next day. A huge benefit was an immediately short-term improvement on my posture, which will still hold strong a day later.

The 80-minute class flies by; I am surprised when it ends because I didn’t longingly glance up at the clock once. By the end of class, my muscles are warm enough that I can fold myself right in half. This will come in handy the next time I need to pack myself in someone’s luggage to save plane fare, so I am very grateful for that. My arms are shaking and my core feels strong, and I am just as drenched in sweat as I was after Sweat Garage on Tuesday.   I am also both relaxed and invigorated, which gives me just enough energy to drive myself home, stuff my face, shower, and fall asleep immediately.

After a hiatus from yoga after the eye-rolling-as-exercise incident, YogaWorks has roped me back in. The monthly membership is an excellent deal for regular practice ($100/month). For more sporadic practice, individual classes are $22, 10 class packages are $195 ($19.50/class) and 20 class packages are $270 ($13.50/class).

I have been hesitant to call out specific instructor for each workout, as the quality should be consistent across each fitness studio. To start with, I’m finding that couldn’t be any farther from the truth in some studios - so I’ll start mentioning who’s instructing. In yoga, specifically, so much of the workout is finding an instructor that you gel with, so while this class worked for me, it’s all about what works for you.

The Deets:

YogaWorks - Larchmont

230 N. Larchmont Blvd

323-464-1276

http://www.yogaworks.com 

The Instructor: Sarah Ezrin

Take aways: Easy street parking east of Larchmont, bring a workout towel for the profuse sweating, free week trial on Yelp OR $30 2 week trial from YogaWorks.


Jul 27

Time to Cut Back on Cutting Back

   

I am a sale shopping, coupon clipping, freelancing-but-unemployed-ish lady. I like finding deals, and I’ve been pretty decent at cutting back (depending on who you ask) since I quit my job.

Slowly but surely, I’m realizing that there are certain lines I need to draw regarding how much I’m willing to sacrifice to save a few bucks.

I won’t go into the $20 bikini wax, as I finally put the trauma of receiving an intimate aesthetic service in the back room of a beauty supply store from someone in the middle of dying her own hair behind me. But we’re going to add “any heavily discounted-all-the-time spa service” to the list of discounts to avoid:

It came in my Super Saver - you know, that envelope of wildly useless coupons for carpet cleaning and car washes that are 30 miles away.  I look through it because you never do know when a coupon for Chipotle might find itself in the mix. While there was no coupon for Chipotle, there WAS a coupon advertising a $15 mani-pedi, WITH a free bottle of OPI nail polish…and only a mile and a half away from my house! It was at a beauty school, so the technician wouldn’t be exactly “trained,” but when I subtracted the cost of the OPI, that’s a $7 mani-pedi. What luck!

How often must I learn the life lesson you get what you pay for?

The…establishment(?) was location directly next to the 99 cent store.  Initially, the door was blocked by a…local(?) with a 99 cent store shopping cart(!). Once I got past her and waited in the…reception area(?), I was seated next to perspective students filling out applications…one promising candidate(?) was eating a full sized bag of Lays potato chips(!) as she applied. Crumbs. Everywhere. TLC’s “Unpretty” crackled on in the background. An instructor(?) got on the mic (yes…there was a PA system that was used throughout…no need to go to the back to call someone up front…just do it factory style) and invited the senior students to join her for the seminar on how to present yourself in an interview. When no one responded, it got super Jerry McGuire (“Who’s with me?! Who’s with me?”) until a number of the students hollered from wherever they were conducting services “NO ONE!”

At that point, I believe most people would have left. At this point, I now regret not being most people.

When my manicurist(?)-with-blue-braces and my pedicurist(?) with Beauty School imposed uneven blue streaks in her hair sat me down in a plastic chair, I really do think they sort of tried their best. At the very least, I got caught up on beauty school gossip (In case you were wondering, everyone is thinking of walking out of this school because whoever heads it up plays favorites - and Michael’s not even that great - AND limits them to one locker - how are they supposed to keep all their supplies in one locker?! - and while they’ve heard the new Inglewood location is supposed to be great, there are a lot of rides that need to be figured out before the mass walk out occurs. I’ll update you after my next appointment). My manicure is sort of in the lines, and my pedicure looks fine from afar…in the dark. Whatever, at least I have the free bottle of nail polish to correct the pedicure errors.

All in all, I wasn’t about to complain. At this point I had gotten my $7+nail polish worth.

And then I saw this:

Jesus effing Christ. My feet were in there. My just showered feet were in there.  My just showered no callous removing there should be none of my skin - and DEFINITELY none of my hair - in there feet were in there.

Upon stating THAT complaint,  I was told that it was probably just towel lint (are we looking at the same hair and skin in the same bowl?), but they’ll definitely clean it out to make it look nicer for the next client. Would I like to leave a tip?

After bathing in disinfectant for the rest of the afternoon, I’m 80% sure I might not have a diseased foot…and I’m 100% sure that will be my last time at beauty school.