Unemployed in LA

Jun 08

My Open Letter to Game Shows

   

Dear Game Shows,

So I’m sure you get this a lot, but I’m your biggest fan.  I know I’m under 50 and all, but I Tivo Jeopardy every night, and now that I’m unemployed, I have plenty of time to play all the mid-day games along with the television.  I try to keep my blood pressure in check during Lingo, but it really stresses me out how much better I am than the contestants.  Do they even practice?  I sure do. 

I love that you have an entire network dedicated to you, and I love that their website is pretty much dedicated to my need to be playing games instead of working at all times.  Thanks for that!

So I’ve been thinking: I’m pretty free these days with that whole “pursuing a career in writing” thing, and I’d love to offer up my services.  I would be the best game show contestant you’ve ever had.  In addition to being a fiercely competitive individual, I’ve got that intangible charisma that so many contestants are sorely lacking (no offense, Every Middle Contestant on Jeopardy and Wheel). I’ve seen the competition, and I’m much more attractive, better dressed, and would rehearse my back story so that audiences nationwide would get a satisfying chuckle over my antidote during “meet the contestants.”

I’m smart, but not like 12-time Jeopardy Champion smart: no one likes that.  I’m witty with just the right amount of snark that audiences will know they’re watching a hip program, but I have an endearing self-deprecation about me.  Audiences will eat it up.

And my game face.  Oh lord. My intense game face is bound to be a meme that will live on and amplify the social media success of your show.  Take Real Housewives Ramona’s lack of working eye lids, and add it to Taylor Swift’s excitement for…anything, and add in just a dash of James Van der Beek’s tears: that’s my game face.  My eyes have always been just a little disproportionately large for my face (not so much as to freak people out, don’t worry), and they would be a huge advantage in crowd pleasing expressions.

Best of all: no matter what it is, I get really into it.  Don’t get me wrong - I prefer shows like Password Plus, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and 1 vs. 100 where there is skill and knowledge involved, but if I must play Deal or No Deal, I’ll have audiences convinced I’m really using powerful logic to decide how much money is in the suitcase.

I’m going to draw the line at group competition, though.  I love my family, but I just don’t think we could be a good team. I want to love them after.  If we were playing Family Feud, and they responded with something clearly off mark, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t talk to them for at least a year.  And they would - we’ve played Scattegories together, and like - you can just tell. If I get married, just know that The Newlywed Game is not for me.  If we lost, the marriage would be over faster than a Showcase Showdown, and I certainly would not be at fault.

No, no.  I’m more of an individual player.  Depending on the categories, I could probably win a round of Jeopardy, but there is a solid chance I’d eff it up by betting it all to make it a true Daily Double (it’s the crowd pleaser in me).  If we could loophole my way into College Jeopardy, I would definitely win (this is a great time to bring up that I always found it ironic that the Jeopardy aimed at college educated people was dumbed down from regular Jeopardy.  If that’s not enough to question going to college, I don’t know what is).  I’d prefer to keep it classic, but I’ll experiment in noveau-competition. Minute to Win It borders on “is this really a game show?” but I’d be up for it.  I’ve dabbled in the “do it at home” games from the show, but you never do know how good you are at balancing cotton balls on your nose and doing jumping jacks until you’re on stage, so it would be a risk.  

So anyway, I’m sure you’re super busy coming up with hilarious puns for categories (that is not sarcasm…and I’m always happy to help with that too), but thanks for taking the time to read this.  Lingo’s on at 12:30 so I should really wrap this up.

Please do consider me as your go to contestant, but if worse comes to worst, I’ll just continue trying to hail the Cash Cab.

Have your pets spayed and neutered!

Caila

P.S. Do you also agree that Alex Trebek lost some of his magical powers when he shaved his mustache?  Not all of them - he still possesses the power to invisibly mock contestants without their knowledge, but I don’t think he can fly anymore.  And is Vanna White a robot?

      

Jun 06

My First Time: Circuit Works

    


My workout buddies and I venture to Brentwood for an evening Circuit Works class. Knowing very little about the class, other than that the first session is comped, we wonder if this will be like Curves, the gym that most moms have tried at some point or another.

During the safety orientation, it becomes clear that this place is nothing like Curves.  The treadmills stay moving in between circuits, and the weight machines are the real deal.  Workouts are just as scary on this side of the 405, it seems.

We are branded with yellow bracelets, indicating we are first timers.  It turns out that everyone wears a bracelet based on their experience level (four different levels), and it helps the trainers cater modifications toward each individual, and corresponds to suggested settings on the treadmills.  I don’t mind branding with a purpose.

Walking into the room is like walking into a gym in the future: very stylish, and just a little technologically intimidating.  The instructors are dressed in black, and are built like perfect, lean, muscly trainer robots.  Our instructors for the night, Raphael and Scott, look like male models for a catalogue I am not cool enough to receive, but their charm lowers the intimidation factor.

A row of flat screens in the middle of the room have trainers (the same ones teaching the class) demonstrating the proper form for the floor exercises.  They really are just so pretty (the trainers, obvi).  The flat screens in the middle correspond to flat screens at numbered workout stations around the room.

Tonight’s workout is circuit burn, and alternates in 90 second intervals between the 10 numbered stations and treadmills and stationary bikes.  Our stations included hammer curls, perfect pushups, calf raises, hamstring curls, leg press, fly curls, lunges, squats, woodchoppers and alternating arm machine cable rows.

Here we go!  My first station is squats, which I haven’t done with a weighted bar since high school cross country.  It was hard then, and it’s much harder now. Facing a mirror, I see that the physical struggle is manifesting itself on my face, which is like watching scenes from The Ring.  I look over at one of the workout buddies who joined me for this class - she is doing reverse lunges, and has a similar horror movie face. After 45 seconds, everyone at a weight station cuts down to a lower weight and keep the burn going.  There’s my normal face again.

Treadmills are next, and the suggested first timer workout - 3 MPH at a 3 incline - is much too easy.  I wait for another couple rotations to increase the speed to a challenging level; I would recommend increasing this sooner for first timers in otherwise good shape to maximize the results of the workout.

After the second - equally challenging - weight station, we rotate to the stationary spinning bikes for 90 seconds of guided spinning.  This is great, in theory, but unfortunately the bikes were incredibly jolty at low resistance levels, so sprints were out of the question.

The circuits continue as so, with “commercial breaks” for the advanced students that are 90 second plyometric bursts.  The newbies stay on the treadmills or bikes while these are happening.

The instructors keep the class high energy throughout.  Raphael on the mic (pictured below in all of his glory) feels more like a really good party MC than anything; this man has found his calling.  Both trainers leading the class keep a steady eye on form and make corrections throughout, and even force us to do 90 seconds high knees as punishment for not hustling enough between stations.  This is not a passive workout.

The class ends on abs, and it also goes about 15 minutes over. It’s worth it to note that the hour is not a hard limit when you schedule this class.

There is no question that this class is a fun and fantastic full-body workout, but I have two main issues:

Weights: The heavy weights were often a bit too heavy to get an effective workout, and while were were allowed to scale them down, 90 seconds goes by very fast when some of that time is spent finding a correct weight.  This issue is more for beginners, but keep track of what weights work for you to make the second class more effective.

Hard sell: I understand this was a free class, but the hard sell after left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. During the final crunches of class, “anyone who wants to keep burning fat” was offered the opportunity to buy a protein shake. Orders were taken as we did crunches.  Innovative idea for fresh smoothies right after class, but the “are you sure??” sell went on a little longer than was comfortable.

Then, they tried to sell us classes on the way out the door.  Having not purchased a fat burning shake, I was pretty starving by our late dismissal and just wanted to get home. Just hand out the info, make yourself available, and don’t play “let’s make a deal” when I’m still sweating profusely.

Two days later, it’s still going on.  Day one, I received not one, but two e-mails. The first was from the general manager (e-mail address: automatedemail@mindbodyonline.com).  20 people in the class - and only 5 first timers to e-mail. The e-mail was just two lines.  Don’t go automated.

What I’m less than pleased about is that the second e-mail was from a third party website. Perkville e-mailed me, letting me know that Circuit Works LA sent me reward points.  Remains to be seen if I now have another regular groupon-esque spam mail - if I do, Circuit Works is off the list. Today (two days later) I received an e-mail offering a free class if I take a survey.  I can’t complain about that, but the overall feeling of getting added to a mailing list I didn’t (wittingly) sign up for is a bit annoying.

The deets:

Circuit Works Brentwood (second location in Venice)

11677 San Vicente Blvd

Los Angeles - 90049

310.826.4100

www.circuitworksla.com/

The takeaway: Charming instructors, fun class, read the fine print about how your e-mail address will be used, free towel service available, valet parking in adjacent garage $1/hour with validation.

          

Jun 04

Buying a house is the new losing your virginity

     

I am a property virgin.  Also, if my mother is reading this, an actual virgin.

I attended a housewarming party this weekend for some friends who recently lost their property virginity.  It was very exciting, and much like when it happened with friends’  actual virginity, they just seemed a little more grown up than they did a few weeks back.  There were a couple other people at the party who also lost their PV card, but other than that: huge group of virgins.

If 30 is the new 16 (I’m trying to make that a thing before I turn 30), then buying a house is the new losing your virginity.  From my very outsider property virgin perspective, here are the 10 reasons why:

1. When you buy a house, all of your friends are genuinely happy for you, but also a little jealous and find your new found responsibility pretty frightening.

They’re also super worried this means you’re going to have a baby soon.

2. You probably shouldn’t just settle on something just because it’s available and everyone else is doing it.

So as much fun as that ranch in Iowa looks, if it’s not going to work out long term, probably best to wait for something else.

3. Most people wait until they’re married.

Wait - did I say this was how it’s similar?  Disregard.

4. Those who haven’t lost their property virginity are going to exaggerate their understanding of what’s involved, but when it comes down to it, they are not going to know what they’re doing when the big moment arrives.

I’m just going to say it: I don’t fully understand what escrow is.  I have pretended in no less than seven conversations that I do know what it means.  I’ve heard it’s better if it’s short. Any other property term also falls in this category. I don’t even know what I don’t know.

5. Almost doesn’t count

Having a realtor is like going to second base, and putting in a bid is a clear third base, but until that paperwork is signed, you’re still a virgin.

6. If you wait too long, you’re going to become the property virgin minority.  And that’s totally normal and no one is judging you or anything…renting is a really mature choice.

At one point, everyone you knew was a property virgin (except that one friend who developed an income faster than the rest of us).  Even couples who would move in together never went the whole way.  Now, slowly but surely, the pure of mortgage numbers are waning.  And it’s not like you can’t be mature if you’re still renting, but you’re going to have to grow up at some point.

7. Property virgins are going to ask property owners their age all the questions they’re too afraid to ask their parents in the cafeteria…or brunch.

Wait…so how is the bank involved again? Does it hurt…your credit if you miss a mortgage payment?  What type of protection are you using…homeowners insurance, right? Did you talk to your mom about it first? And what IS escrow, anyway?

8. It’s only a big deal if you haven’t done it yet.

At least, that’s what I hear.

9. You are secretly terrified.

I get that people have been doing this since the first cave estate broker showed the first cave couple their starter cave, but there’s just something so terrifying about it.  And there’s no turning back once you’ve done it.  Once it’s gone, your (money) is gone.  Even if you regret it, you’ll never have that back.

10. You should really understand all the risks before diving in.

One of those risks includes “not being able to afford the house.”  I don’t really know the rest of them, so it’s clear I should wait.


     

Jun 01

Hit the Road: Sedona

     


There are few things I love more in this world than road trips (namely: plane trips).  This past week, we hit the road to Sedona, with a stop in Scottsdale along the way.  Part Griswold, part Sideways and very little Into The Wild, the trip was a perfect LA hiatus.

Bringing the kids:

We brought our little canine son, Sammy, along for the ride: his first road trip!  I regularly compare being a dog parent to being an actual parent (which I’m sure annoys the bejeezus out of actual parents).  I think there are similarities when it comes to the road trip, though.

Is it weird that I need a diaper bag for my dog?  The amount of stuff that one needs to pack to travel with their dog is a little ridiculous.  Toys, food, the crate, blankets, wipes, cleaning spray, treats, leash, blankets, food bowls - good lord, the little prince is quite high maintenance.  

Although we had to schedule a few more stops along the way than if it had been just adult humans, he was a well behaved snuggler the whole time (other than some mild separation anxiety). I didn’t quite realize this until after the trip, but I’m approximating that out of the 300 photos we took, 260 of them were of the dog.  He was kind of like our Flat Stanley, but a living version that barked more.  Every picture is just cuter with a dog doing vacation actions.  Drinking a poolside margarita?  Cuter with a dog.  Watching a Red Rocks sunset?  Way cuter with a dog.  Taking a video of said sunset? 100% cuter if a dog is the AD on the shoot.

(We’ve become those people - or if I’m being very honest, we always were those people and just had less backdrops).

Choice of car tunes:

While we could have gone with Spotify or an iTunes playlist for the 8 hour drive, that’s not really going “full road trip.”  Full road trip dictates that you listen to what the locals are listening to - and for much of the non-Beverly Hills adjacent drive on the 10, that appears to be country.

The only stations that are completely resistant of static are country and JTR: Jesus Talk Radio.  JTR is boring/creepy, so the mutual decision was made to listen to country the entire time in Arizona.

Who decided that country was inherently uncool? It’s widely accepted, and even though my upbringing allows me to relate more to country lyrics than rap, I NEVER would have been caught dead blasting Garth Brooks. I was conditioned at an early age to respond to the idea of country with “Ugh - REDNECKS,” but you know what?  Country really isn’t that bad. It’s actually pretty great. Wholesome lyrics that are easy to sing along to? Crooning about beer drinking without irony? Perfect road trip music! I was kind of sad when we crossed back into California and non-country Spotify playlists were back on.

But I’m still cool.

Hotels:

I love everything about hotels.  I love the cucumber water at the check in desk, and I love the mini bottles of shampoo that are designed to only ever get halfway empty (the physics of their design is mind boggling!).  I love room service - even the $20+ bagels. If The Suite Life of Zack and Cody was on when I was a kid, I’d be all about that show.  I’m still trying to finagle my way into living in a hotel full time.

I love hotels.

We stayed at the new Saguaro Resort in Scottsdale, and this bizarre-but-pet-friendly Bell Rock Inn timeshare property in Sedona (there was a Groupon).  I’m going to give the Saguaro 4 stars for affordability ($90/night? What?), a fantastic Mexican restaurant on property (Distrito), the Old Town Whiskey bar (GREAT whiskey sour), interesting take on desert colors zoning (desert flowers - brilliant!), friendly staff and two nice pools.  Conde Nast Traveler agrees. The Bell Rock Inn gets 2.5 stars, primarily because they tried to get us to sit through a timeshare presentation, the pool was just meh, and they did not have a restaurant on property.  At $70/night, though, I can’t complain, and Conde Nast Traveler was not available for comment.

Food:

…was just ok.  With the exception of Distrito, everything was not as good as average meals in LA.  Every restaurant in Sedona stopped serving food after 9PM, except one bar that kept the deep frier on. Note that this did not stop us from eating non-stop the entire trip.  And those deep fried chicken wings weren’t half bad.

The thing with timeshare presentations:

I am not a sucker, except when it comes to over-investing in dog items, but I do like the idea of free things.  This is why, 10 minutes after accidentally wandering into what we thought was a visitor information center, we found ourselves signed up for a timeshare presentation the next day.  Just two hours!  And we would get two nights hotel for another trip AND an helicopter ride!  No need to buy anything!  And that was going to be in addition to the OTHER time share presentation our hotel talked us into (with 2 more hotel nights and resort credit).

Yeah. They both got skipped. The thing with timeshare presentations is that you are investing time in a future vacation instead of enjoying the current vacation.  That’s what work is for (I’ve heard).

Seeing the sights:

I’m all for international travel, but there is SO much to see in the United States.  There are places in the US that feel more like a foreign country to me than places I’ve been abroad, namely small towns in middle America.

Who knew that on the way from LA to Sedona, there were National Parks and Monuments?  There are: I have the passport stamps in my National Parks Passport to prove it (Yes, that exists and yes, I have it.  Nerd alert.).  We saw Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde, AZ and Tuzigoot National Monument in Clarkdale, AZ.  While I recommend short trips to both, let me summarize with: really smart groups of people built dwellings in mountainsides in the 11th and 12th centuries…and then mysteriously disappeared!  No one knows how they died!  Isn’t that super creepy/worth a look? I will note that our dog peed at both so, in his mind, he owns them. He gives all of my blog readers permission to visit.

In Sedona, we went to check out Cathedral Rock Vortex, which is one of these vortexes in Sedona that is supposed to exude some sort of mysterious energy that I don’t understand.  This vortex was supposed to enhance all things feminine.  I didn’t feel it, but the dog freaked out a little, so maybe there’s something there.  We also played in a natural water slide at Slide Rock (super fun, but not dog friendly), watched a sunset at Airport Mesa and got in touch with our spiritual side at the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  Add that to a little wine tasting and drive by touring, and I say we did pretty good for two days.

And doing nothing:

Sometimes it’s just great to do nothing.  Sometimes it’s ok to not fit everything there is to do in a location into your trip, because the importance of relaxation is paramount. Sometimes it’s ok to choose a mid day wine tasting over a historic off road tour of ruins. Sometimes it’s satisfying to turn the phone off and go to bed at 11, just because you can.  Sometimes reapplying sunscreen should be life’s only worry.  

Sunscreen:

I just always like to mention that everyone should wear SPF 50 every day, and reapply often.  It’s the ginger in me.  Even the dog wore sunscreen.  That’s great that you tan, but I’m going to have Nicole Kidman-looking cancer free skin when I’m 50.*  What’s up?

*Realistically my complexion will lead to some form of skin cancer.  But I’ll try.


     



May 31

My First Time: Sweat Garage

        

The mission to lose 5 pounds has been upgraded to 10 pounds thanks to a “oh forget health” road trip this past week.  At least my fat is tanned.

So off to Sweat Garage we go.  

My workout buddy and I have hit up all things unhealthy in that plaza (shots of the day at Fat Dog, pretentious coffee at Commissary, fatty meat at Lindy & Grundy, om nom pizza at Pitfire).  Although we’re regulars for Bada Bing juice,  oddly enough, we had yet to attend Sweat Garage.  Since it opened in July, we’ve been trying to ignore that guilty feeling when we catch a glimpse of Sweat Garage on our way to hot dogs and rock shrimp, so it was only a matter of time before we surrendered.

And surrender we did, thanks to a free first class from our friends at Broke Girls Guide!

Generally pumped for a workout, I am mourning my third (THIRD!) parking ticket of the month, and really not in the mood to bring it.  What sets me off further is Sweat Garage’s lack of towel service, which I maintain should be provided when towels are mandatory (Yes - I am bitching about spending $7 on a towel when the class is free.  I know, I know)*.  This aside, I don’t think Ryan Gosling can relieve me of this mood if he handed me a stack of towels wearing only a towel.  I am just exuding negative energy this morning.

Sweat Garage to the rescue: the next hour will strip me of any energy I could possibly put toward negative thoughts.  I guess that’s what happens when you burn up to 600 calories in a one-hour class.

Sweat Garage runs off of the DECABODY workout, which essentially means using 10 different types of exercise to achieve body-improving results.  Those 10 workouts are listed as running, weight training, resistance training, plyometrics, jump rope, endurance training, kettlebells, core conditioning, interval training and Tabata training.  Each individual workout varies (which keeps it fresh); we used all but kettlebells in this class.

The class du jour is Max Out.  It is exactly as it sounds. We picked quite the day to start.

The garage door goes down, indicating the start of class.  I’m sure there is an exit, but something about the garage door being shut as class starts really solidifies that we aren’t going anywhere until this is through. 

Owner and trainer Christopher Slevin heads up the class.  I have to say, he is a refreshing change from a lot of the “explore what feels right for your body today” subscribing trainers I’ve had in the past.  If giving up or slowing down feel right for my body today, they are still not options.  This is not to say that he doesn’t provide individual attention and modifications to each person in the 20-person class, it just means that those modifications are still going to reach the max of what each individual can physically achieve.

The class starts with a four minute warmup on the treadmill.  The first minute is a jog, and moves up 1MPH each minute.  For me, this is 5MPH - 8MPH; I believe there are people who doing 4-7 and 6-9.

After this, we switch places with the other half of the class, and continue the warmup on the floor.  For this section, we complete two minutes jumping rope and two minutes of ab bicycles.  That damn jump rope still trips me up, but I am improving (not quite as good as when I was 10, but we’ll say I’m back at age 7 level of dexterity).

My workout buddy and I give each other a look after this.  That was the warmup?  We’re already soaked with sweat.  This is going to be rough.

The body of the Max Out class is broken into 90 second intervals, switching back and forth from the treadmill to the floor with weights.  We do seven treadmill intervals and seven weight intervals.

The 90 second treadmill intervals are set at the fastest pace we reached during the warm up, or the fastest each of us think we can maintain.  Incidentally, this is the only area where you can choose your own adventure.  Once you have committed to a speed (which Christopher surveys on the first sprint), that’s it.  You are committed to this.  Love the accountability**.  As we know, I revere fitness instructors as godlike beings for the duration of classes, so I stick to the 8, even when I think I’m going to be flung off the back of the treadmill, and even increase each interval by .1.  This makes me feel pretty proud, but also (unfortunately), intensely nauseas.  I think that means it’s working.

The one element I am too terrified to try is jumping on the treadmill from the sides at the max sprint pace, and jumping off when the sprint is over.  I fell off a treadmill on a cruise ship once (true story), and this risk is just not worth it to me.  To ensure I still sprint for the full 90 seconds, I bring myself up to the sprint during the brief rest, and bring myself back down after it’s stopped.  This extra running is motivation to learn how to jump on and off of the treadmill at some point soon.

The 90 second weight workouts bring the body to total fatigue.  Trust - 90 seconds lasts longer than it sounds when you are committed to one weight workout at a time.  Using 10 pound weights, we do seven different weight intervals: bicep curls, skull crushers, boxing, shoulder presses, chest presses, overhead tricep extensions and burpees.  I am at the point at 60 seconds into the later intervals where I can’t will my arms to move.  Christopher gives me a couple modifications after I told him I have a bad shoulder from when I tripped over a dog running (another true story), and I somehow make it through.

By the end of the intervals, my body is truly maxed out.  This seems to be the case for everyone else in the class as well.


The class prices start at $20 for an individual class, and work down to $12/class if you buy a 50 class series.  If you can make the 50 class commitment, it’s quite a steal for the individual attention and intense workout.  There is also a current special (on sale until June 8th) for 30 days unlimited at $175.  My body couldn’t handle more than a couple classes each week, but if yours can, this is another great deal.

Unrelated to anything exercise (other than, ya know, creating an environmentally sound planet where we can safely exercise outside), Sweat Garage incorporates a number of green/environmental initiatives in the gym.  Respect on that front, for sure - take note greenies.

The deets:

Sweat Garage

801 N. Fairfax Ave

Los Angeles - 90046

323-852-9800

www.sweatgarage.com

The takeaways:  Free parking!  Bring water and a towel.  Don’t throw up.

*The towel was absolutely necessary (and in the policies listed in the pricing page on the website).  You win this one, Sweat Garage.

**If we’re being real, I hate it at the time but love it when it’s done.


        

May 23

My First Time: Boxing

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am incapable of turning down an invitation for a free workout.

This was tested when the caveat was that this free workout would be one-on-one boxing training (no hiding in the back row!), and that I would be filmed for a promotional video while the workout was happening.  Excessive sweating plus camera shy blogger does not a good video make, but ultimately my dedication to fitness on a budget, and the charmers at Skilloop, won this battle.

After applying enough make up to withstand fluorescent gym lights on camera, but not so much that I would appear so shallow that I put make up on to work out, I was off to Culver City.

Tucked into a particularly industrial corner of Culver City is The Gym@Hayden.  It’s housed in the same building as a dance studio that I promise to check out if a free workout is ever offered to me there, or, ya know, when I get a job.  On this midmorning weekday session, the gym is virtually empty, save a few folks meeting their trainers (and not a crew of videographers).

I am a boxing virgin.  I’ve made it to third base with boxing activities on several occasions, including a stint with cardio kickboxing in high school (our crush on the instructor kept us going 4 days/week), complemented with my mom’s Tae Bo VHS tapes (Billy Blank motivates like no other). It turns out, however, that borderline-boxing a decade (plus) ago is not enough to prepare me for the real thing.

Nick hands me a jump rope, which I stare at quizzically.  This thing looks familiar, although I don’t think I’ve jumped rope since age 10.  A couple minutes into the jumping, I realize that both the coordination and cardio-challenge of jumping rope are harder than I remember it being in 5th grade.  I think my legs were shorter then - definitely thinner - and my ability to jump without tripping over the rope was much higher.

Already worn out by this brief stint of cardio, it is time for Nick to teach me a few combinations, but not before wrapping up my hands and putting on boxing gloves.

Having my hands wrapped up by a trainer makes me feel truly bad ass for no real reason (other than mentally retained scenes from Million Dollar Baby and The Fighter).  I already look much tougher.  The boxing gloves really add to the intimidation factor, although I can tell Nick is only humoring me when he admits that he is intimidated.

Boxing. Is. Hard.  Nick is very patient with me as I continuously forget even the simplest of punching combinations, and promises that I will be ready to win a bar fight when all is said and done.  He also says that the key to staying youthful is chocolate, wine and coffee - this is my type of trainer.

I practice my new moves on Nick (and his protective gloves), and really go to town on the punching bag. I’m, perhaps, not THE most coordinated boxer, but I can confidently say that I’m not the least coordinated either.

As you will see in this video, I did improve throughout the class, and the cardio was a killer.  I don’t know if I’m quite ready to face off with Mark Wahlberg’s fighter, but I think I could definitely kick Hilary Swank’s ass after that (to clarify: the 90210 years when she was dating Steve Sanders, not the Million Dollar Baby years when she had been trained by Clint Eastwood…give me time on that one).

Regardless, I’m loving Skilloop.  Although I’m going to mainly hit it up for the one-on-one fitness training sessions with experts, they’ve got everything (cue SNL Stefon voice).  Instructors for surfing, guitar, Adobe, cooking, styling and even authoring a book.  Seriously, everything.  I debated a private fire breathing lesson (no lie, it’s on there), but I super value my face.  

The deets:

Skilloop.com - specifically Boxing with Nick

The Gym@Hayden

3625 Hayden Avenue, Culver City 90232

(310) 202-0003



     

May 22

My First Time: Soul Cycle

       


An east coast transplant, I get excited when anything comes west.  Granted, this was mostly true about the Dunkin Donuts that recently opened at Camp Pendleton, but, to a lesser degree, applies to Soul Cycle in West Hollywood.

Soul Cycle, for those of you who don’t follow the fitness preferences of Lady Gaga, Tom Cruise and all of my New York Facebook friends, is a full-body workout that revolves around spinning.  Because intense bursts of cardio do not make riders sore enough the next morning, there are also elements of core strengthening, and arm weight exercises involved so you can burn out your muscles while simultaneously spinning the calories away (not the easiest feat for the uncoordinated).  It’s the it-est work out in New York right now, and recently opened in West Hollywood in the shadow of Equinox and H&M.  Of course: I needed to try this.

Armed with a “First Class Free” coupon, my two workout buddies and I walk into Soul Cycle on a Monday evening.  It is a free ride for SoHo House members (which I am not) and their guests (thank gawd for friends in high places).

The lobby is bright, the locker room clean, and the staff could not be nicer.  It’s things like this that make a brutally tough workout manageable.  The only (huge) concern comes up when the class before us exits.  I have never seen such in shape people have redder faces or more sweat.  It is too late to turn back, but we take this as a sign of what was to come.

We are given new-looking spinning shoe loaners, which make all the difference in the world.  The friendly staff help us into our bikes (in the back row, natch), the lights are lowered (probably so no one has to look at the amount of sweat on their neighbor) and off we go.

Anytime a fitness instructor gets all spiritual on me, I completely buy into it - especially if they are on an elevated platform surrounded by a religious-looking candle display.  Yes, I will leave my worries outside of this room (in one of the digital lockers, no less!)!  Yes, I will contribute to and feed off of the energy in this room!  Yes, I can push myself to the limit!

I am totally buying into the hype: it’s so much more than a stationary bike ride.  Soul Cycle is a mind-clearing, calorie-burning, body-changing experience.  Maybe it’s the lighting, maybe it’s the candles, maybe it’s the (at times deafening) music.  Whatever it is, I just keep upping the resistance of that bike anytime the motivational fitness teacher tells me to. I am at one with the pedaling mass in the darkened room, and I am reaching a new plane of consciousness…

…Then 10 minutes go by and I’m done being spiritual, and the only function my body can accomplish is to sweat profusely.

Up and down the hills we go (actually - I don’t think there are any downhills on this course…), and in and out of the saddle we ride.  There are bursts of pushups along the ride (which seem super dangerous, but again, I do whatever fitness instructors tell me to do), and there is even a Carly Rae Jespen mashup.  It’s far enough into the ride that it just feels right, which indicates the exercise-induced delirium we are experiencing.

Balancing during the arm weights is a challenge for us beginners, but not as much of a challenge as the actual arm weights.  It’s amazing how heavy a two-pound weight can feel during isometric holds.  Magic weight…dark magic.

The class sections are broken up very well, and for that reason seems shorter than 45 minutes.  What feels like the beginning of a cool down is actually the beginning of a 10 minute slow climb, but I don’t mind being fooled during a workout class if it distracts from the pain.

By the time we get out of the saddles, we are as sweaty and red-faced as the class before us.  But we made it.

I read on a decorative napkin once that calories don’t count if you share food with friends.  I followed that advice and unfortunately it turned out to be incredibly untrue.  What is true, however, is that working out with friends burns double calories.  Go with me on this for a second.  The way I see it, when you work out with friends, you are not only burning calories during the workout, but you are saving the calories you would have consumed partaking in usual activities with said friends eating and drinking.  Undeniable benefit, right? This is especially true if the workout happens during happy hour, which, in this case, it did.  AND we were too sweaty to even get a celebratory marg at Rosa Mexicana after, so the calorie benefits were exponential.

I’m going to voice my one Soul Cycle complaint (other than the pain): the class pricing math is kind of ridic.  A single class is $25, which makes sense in this market.  But the class “packages” advertised are the same price per class - no discount for Soul Cycle (or apparent benefit of buying more than one class at a time).  The 50 class “supersoul” package for $3,000 actually prices the classes at $60/class.  Apparently this package includes priority sign ups and a concierge service, but I’m just going to throw out there that this concierge service seems like a really expensive bottle of Smart Water with every ride.  I wonder if Anderson Cooper buys that package.

Regardless, the class is totally thin-inducing, and bans cell phone usage in the studio (respect).  I’m pretty pumped at the thought of their theme rides (Robyn! Britney! Steve Jobs? Broadway!), so we’ll consider adding this to the mix if the next day butt pain fades in a reasonable amount of time.

The deets:  

Soul Cycle

8570 Sunset Blvd

West Hollywood, CA 90069

310-657-7685

Takeaways:  Spinning shoes are required but available for rent, bring water


       

May 17

Jeal-spired

          

I can’t tell if I am inspired or jealous by people my age who are incredibly successful.  If we’re being honest, I can tell and the verdict is “jealous,” but if we’re trying to be a better person, we’re attempting to be inspired.

It’s somewhat easier to look back on historical figures who were successful at a young age, because I figure with the lifespan what it was, they were basically well into their 40s before experiencing success, in relative terms.  Adolescents was not a thing observed by society as an excuse to take longer in “finding yourself,” and the times were just different.  Right?  

But young people who are successful right now: completely different beast.

Let’s just take Mark Zuckerberg, shall we?  A current day version of someone roughly my age (fine: slightly younger than me) who is more successful than I will ever be, ever.  We’ve been hearing about Facebook going public since tagging photos became a thing.  It’s finally happening this week, and Facebook has priced its IPO at $38/share, which means it will raise $16 billion.  Billion.  Then I read something on CNN about it’s “market capitalization” (do not care to look up what this means) equaling $81 billion (billion!), the company actually being worth $107 billion (billion!!), and Mark Zuckerberg’s share in the company being worth about $19 billion (BILLION!!!).  

Let’s be real - I only have a cursory understanding of how the stock market works - but I do know that all the information above means that Mark Zuckerberg, who turned 28 this week (HBD MZ!!!), is worth more now than I will ever be, ever.  

This, I will admit, is an extreme example.  The guy is an actual genius.  With my genetic makeup (sorry mom and dad!), this was never in the cards for me.  I can barely keep up with slight changes to my profile layout: I was never meant to be a technology innovator.

But then there’s Lena Dunham. (Ok, ok - calm down.  Not an open call for your opinions on “Girls.”  Which I know you have.  Because everyone - inexplicably - does.)  Lena Dunham turned 26 this week (HBD LD!!!) (I wonder if she and Mark had a joint birthday party).  Before creating and starring in that hit HBO series we’re all tweeting about (which I would deem enough to declare my life successful), she wrote, directed and starred in an Independent Spirit Award winning film, Tiny Furniture.  That was when she was 23ish.  Yes, when the rest of us were assistants, and the truly successful were coordinators.

I will continue to repeat to myself that life’s not a sprint, or a marathon, but a journey - and you can’t lose at being on a journey, right?  Ugh, leave it to our generation to build in a failsafe excuse for mediocrity.


          

May 11

10 items that my parents had in the house at my age that I do not that prove they were way more responsible than me at my age

         

Mother’s Day is this weekend, which is always a good time for some of us 20-somethings (and 30-somethings…) to reflect on how we would be unfit parents at the moment.

The list could go on, but off the top of my head I came up with 10 items that my parents owned at my age that I do not.  Most of these items (mortgage being the exception) are not cost-prohibitive, there just too grown up for me to think about purchasing.

1.) A thermometer:

I never know when I’m actually sick.  I know when I’m feeling under the weather, but if I’ve had an abnormal temperature in the past 11 years since leaving home, the first person to inform me has been a doctor.  Thermometers cost, what, 10 bucks? (No seriously, I’m asking because I don’t think I’ve ever purchased one).  So easy to buy at CVS, and I truly have no excuse for my lack of thermometer.

2.) Pots that match lids (and vice versa)

I don’t think my parents moved as much as I did, or rather I don’t think they had as many roommates as I have had.  In our kitchen, we have an (almost) ample supply of pots, and a matching NUMBER of lids, but all of the lids are just a slightly different size than the pots.  My friend Lisa always says that every pot has it’s lid (as a metaphor for relationships), but if we take that out of the metaphorical and into my kitchen, it’s anything but true.

3.) Children:

I’m still going through the math in my head, but at my age, my parents had not one, but two children.  At the same time!  That can’t be right.  Am I really that much less responsible than my parents at this age?  Whereas “children” aren’t exactly “items,”  I’m going to count child-related items as one, or this list would be in the billions.  High chairs, car seats, cribs, playpens…

(For the record, I ended that last sentence with…because I truly cannot think of other child-related items.  Happy Thank God I’m Not A Mother’s Day to me!)

4.) An electric egg beater:

When my mom made brownies, I always got to lick the beaters.  It just occurred to me that I’ve never owned one of those things.  I bet I’d make more brownies if I had the right supplies.

5.) 3 bedrooms:

Well - check one of those off the list, anyway.

6.) A mortgage:

Whereas I’d love items 1-5, I’m ok without having the mortgage.  The only thing I’m jealous about is that my parents were in their “starter home” at my age.  The real estate market is a bit different than it was back then (or so I read), and the prices are a bit steeper in the LA area than in Baldwinsville, NY - but I can’t even imagine a “starter home.”  Isn’t that “my apartment?”  If ever I end up with a house and a mortgage, we’re going to call that my “ender home” or “the miracle no one saw coming.”

7.) A garden:

Granted, they had the whole lawn advantage, but my parents were always growing flowers and tomatoes.  There were bulbs, and seeds, and they knew the difference between perennial and annual and everything.  I remember a substance called “peat moss” - but I have had no contact with it since moving out of my parents’ house.

8.) A dining room table that is different than the kitchen table:

We have one table.  Sometimes I call it the kitchen table, sometimes I call it the dining room table.  Really depends on how fancy I’m feeling at the time.  More accurately, it is the “living room - west” table.  

My parents always had the kitchen table, where we ate the majority of our meals, and the dining room table, where we ate fancy meals, like Thanksgiving.  These were also used for the distinction between the kids table and the grown up table at large family gatherings, where (obviously) the fancy dining room table was the adults table.  I guess it’s appropriate that I don’t own an adult’s table.

9.) A Landline:

I have terrible cell reception in my apartment.  I had AT&T send me one of those signal boosters, but it intermittently disconnects with my phone.  Just about a third of every call I am on involves the sentence “Sorry, you cut out for a second there, what did you say?”  Landlines are just about as dirt cheap as you can get, and I’ve seen phones at CVS for less than $20.  It’s just a little too grown up for me

10.) A newspaper subscription

I’m sure there’s the argument that “all the news that’s fit to print” - and then some - is all online.  What is not covered online, however, is circulars for what’s on sale at grocery stores, the crossword and coupons.  Though I’m sure my parents cared about the news, I venture to say that the crossword and coupons were equally valued in my household.


    

May 08

My First Time: Fitmix

I’m always on a mission to lose five pounds.

This has been true since junior high, and is true whether I should really lose 10 pounds, or really gain 2 pounds (note: I think there’s been once when the latter has been the case, and it was after a bout with pneumonia).  Losing five pounds just sounds like a general good thing to have in the back of my mind when I am making eating, drinking and exercising decisions.

I also have the attention span of a small child.  I run long distances, but really as a form of self-punishment for whatever calories I’ve consumed that week. 

Add my constant mission and attention span together, and it equals my real exercise thrill: signing up for a class or activity that I’ve never tried before and will probably injure myself doing.  Does that make me masochistic?  I’m not sure.  I can never remember which is which between sadism and masochism, which I suppose means i need to read 50 Shades of Grey.

It also means that we have a new blog column:  My First Time - a beginner’s account of all the crazy things we will try to lose those five pounds (other than eating in moderation and exercising consistently).


       

My First Time: Fitmix Studio - The Mashup

Anytime I receive an e-mail that mentions a free exercise class, I’m in.  One of my employed friends sent me such an e-mail about this new Fitmix Studio that had opened on La Brea.  There was this workout called “The Mashup,” which at the very least reminded me of mashed potatoes, so I signed up.  I was even coaxed into the early class (when I workout with employed people, they are usually busy about 8 hours of the day - I try to accommodate this as I worked once, too).

We got there way early in case there was the “sign this in case you die” paperwork (there wasn’t), and waited in the lounge upstairs while the earlier class finished.  There’s something really cacophonous enjoying a relaxing cup of green tea while overlooking humans being tortured by exercise.  And something really terrifying about knowing you’re next.

The instructor has one of those perfect bodies and wore an outfit that doesn’t show it off excessively.  It’s a nice break from the neon sports bra/shirt optional instructors who weren’t held enough as infants.  She also totally pulls off a pixie haircut and no makeup, which is supremely annoying.  I want to hate her.  Unfortunately, she is really nice and not annoyingly peppy, so hating her is off the table.  I am just going to have to respect her as someone who gets paid to put me through torture.

There are seven people in the class total, so there’s nowhere for my friend and I to hide with our inexperience.  The room is divided between these bed looking things that I’m really interested in (because I’d rather be sleeping), and treadmills.  Of course we start with treadmills. Mine is closest to the door…just in case, and for better or worse, my view is the mirror directly in front of my face.  Yes, I can watch my form, but there are few faces uglier than running face (in order: yawn face, sneeze face, vomit face).

The class starts with 30 minutes of what I’ve heard defined as “Shredmill.”  Just the name evokes a P90X commercial in my brain.  We start  at a moderate jog pace (customized for experience level at 4.5MPH - 6MPH), and add in intervals with speed, hills, speed and hills, and jogging.  I run regularly, but avoid any sort of running challenge (only flat courses, change sides of the road to stay in the shade, stay at a consistent jog pace).  While the short fast runs (building up to a 7MPH - 9MHP) aren’t too much of a killer, even the five percent incline we start with feels like it is leading me toward a certain death.  When that eventually is built up to a 12 percent incline at a 7MPH run, I have the epiphany moment that living life slightly pudgy wouldn’t be that bad.

Inclines on a treadmill give me the feeling that I’m going to fall backwards into an endless abyss (or concrete floor).  And slowing down is not an option without actively pressing buttons (that my brain is too tired to do correctly).  I contemplate what would happen if I were to fall off of the treadmill, and think about how they should really print off some of those “sign this in case you die” papers.  This thought stream takes me through the final interval of running.  Ultimately, I do not fall into an abyss.  Good for me.

I am feeling pretty cocky about this walking over to those bed looking things, or “reformers” as people who work out call them.  This should be a wonderful 30 minutes to rest, do yoga-ish things and congratulate myself on waking up to work out.  We’ll just do some stretching, maybe a sit up…

Oh no.  Oh no no.  This isn’t a bed.  This isn’t a bed at all.  This is a medieval torture device.

The 30 minute reformer Pilates workout is anything but restful.  We’re talking resistance arm workouts from every angle, and ab workouts that really highlight how half-assed my regular sit ups are.  Legs are skipped re: shredding them to pieces during the 30 minutes on the treadmills, but everywhere else is worked intensely.

My one serious health concern here is that I am truly drenched with sweat on these reformers.  Like…ran through a sprinkler with my clothes on and then jumped in a pool drenched.  Because of this (and my general lack of coordination), I have to make some modifications to ensure I don’t take a nosedive during planks, or slip off kneeling during arm workouts.  My workout buddy (yes, she’s still there and suffering through it with me), is suffering the same affliction, which makes me happy, at least, that I’m not an excessive sweater, relatively speaking.

We both survive the class, and it will be added to the workout agenda, pending our bodies recover from the first class, and (for me) that I can budget it into my funemployment (first class is free, stand alone classes start at $30, and go down with packages).  We’ll bring towels next time, and never will I ever underestimate the power of those non-beds again.

The deets:

Fitmix Studio

601 N. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036

323-800-7715

http://www.fitmixstudio.com/

Takeaway advice:  Bring a towel or risk death by reformer slip