Living in NYC, I see a ton of cyclists biking to work every morning, and home again every night. Since the launch of citibike, I have noticed even more. I see bikers do lots of risky things, like go the wrong way down one way streets, text while biking, and swerve in and out of traffic, but the most dangerous thing? Most of them don’t have helmets on. I’m too scared to ride with traffic in a big city, so I only bike on the paths closed to car traffic, and I know that when I do that I always feel pretty nerdy putting on a helmet. It’s not the cutest look, and it really messes up your hair. But it seems pretty risky to go without one when there are so many hazards (I’m talking cab doors here) that can pop out of the crosswalk, into your bike lane, and toss you from your bicycle. If we’re being serious here, messed up hair is no good reason to skip it – my hair gets pretty tousled by the wind even when I walk to work sans helmet. That’s what purse sized fold-up brushes are for.
Now (in Europe at least), there is a solution for the vain cyclist that will protect the coif and the noggin in case of an accident. It’s called the Hövding device, and it’s an inflatable nylon collar that bikers can wear inconspicuously. It only pops open when it senses an accident, similar to the air bags in your car (the future is here, guys!). The device has been in development since 2005, and has tested simulations of all types of accidents from icy roads to being hit by a vehicle. When the accident occurs a tiny gas canister at the back of the collar pops the collar open into a full-coverage helmet in milliseconds. It even stays inflated for several seconds before deflating to cushion any additional impacts. It retails online for 399 euros (about $536), and is available in several colors and designs to make the collar even more fashionable. More expensive than your average helmet? Sure, but can you really put a price on staying safe, feeling cool, and having good hair? Currently it’s only available in Europe, so now you know what to buy on a souvenir on your next vacation!
Everyone has that thing that they envision will happen when the future is here. For some, it’s flying cars. For me, it’s gyms that create electricity. I mean, there are all of those people sitting in one place, pedaling away on stationary bikes, wouldn’t it be cool if they powered the lights? While I haven’t seen any of those popping up, I did hear about gyms driven by charity that sound pretty cool in the meantime. It takes philanthropy out of the distant future, and makes it a part of everyday life. There are a variety of options to choose from, but most gyms getting on the fund-raising bandwagon donate $1 per student per class to a different charity. In NYC, Studio 360 and The Movement yoga studio offer donations built into the price of your class. Here’s to hoping that more pop up soon, because sweating for a good cause makes it a lot more difficult to come up with an excuse to skip your workout.
I am not a big cereal person. Ever since my mom told me I couldn’t eat Fruity Pebbles or Corn Pops because they were too unhealthy for breakfast, I kind of gave up the cereal game. I did develop quite a fondness for granola, but abandoned that too, when I found that most of it was loaded with sugar and waaaaay too many raisins for my taste. And, it left me hungry after a couple hours. The closest I come to cereal for breakfast is plain oatmeal that I mix with peanut butter, shaved coconut, chopped nuts, maybe a little jelly, or really anything I have in my pantry that seems good in combination. I prefer this breakfast because I can choose what, and how much I add in. Now there’s a website that will let you do just that, with your cold cereal options.
It’s called MixMyOwn, and it lets you create your own cereal blend. You can choose from 8 different bases ranging from flakes to grains, or mueseli. There are low sugar and gluten free options – removing two of the most common obstacles to good, healthy cereal. Then after you select the base, you can add as many fruits, nuts and seeds as you like, choosing anything from macadamia nuts and chia seeds to dried mulberries and blackberries. You can even add quinoa or kamut puffs for an extra crunch. Then if that’s a little too healthy for you, you can choose to throw in some candies. Or if it’s not healthy enough, add some nutrition enhancing powders.
The boxes come in 12oz or 16oz sizes, and are delivered directly to your door. I love the concept because it’s like make your own trail mix. You can choose your own combinations, and avoid too much sugar or an overload of the things you don’t like. And if you’re not feeling creative, you can select their healthy mix of the month sent to you each month or view popular pre-mixes for ideas on what to include. Genius!
Over the past couple days, I have noticed several posts about women’s only gyms (here and here and here for example!). They note that there’s a common perception that women’s only gyms are for the older ladies, or a relic from the Richard Simmon’s jazzercise era. While I don’t necessary understand why either of these would be negatives (I mean, Richard Simmon’s is amazing, amirite?), the articles note an upswing in the popularity of exclusively female gyms, and ask readers if they would join one. For me, the answer is yes. I am a member of a ladies-only gym, and I love it. While I do miss being able to oogle cute boys from there treadmill, there are many many more things that I enjoy.
I don’t have to compete with grunting meat heads for the free weights. Instead of racks on racks of bench press equipment, there are big bins of free weights, weighted balls, and body bars – all things geared toward lady-fitness. When I take a Zumba class, I don’t have to worry that my crazy moves and tattered college tees aren’t impressing the potential boyfriends in the row behind me and I haven’t had anyone creepily hit on me while I’m stretching yet. And if people think that all-girls classes are easier, I can say from personal experience that they are not. Last time I went to boot camp, I almost threw up from all of the burpees, pushups, and planks the instructor called out. I don’t remember that ever happening at my coed classes. Then there’s the spirit of team work that reminds me of my days playing high school soccer. People actually cheer during the group classes (and even though this gets on my nerves sometimes), it’s kind of nice to be with a bunch of girls acting like girls while getting fit.
When I set my alarm to get up early before work to go for a run, or to go to the gym, there are many times that I don’t feel like going. As I make the preparations the night before, laying out my outfit, packing my workout bag, I often think how much nicer it would be to sleep a little longer instead. When the alarm goes off, sometimes it’s a tough battle to get out from under the covers rather than rolling over. On one of these mornings, I walked into the gym feeling all sorts of cranky, and wishing I had decided not to come. I was tired and unmotivated, but I got on the elliptical anyhow because I was there. Then I looked to my left, and I saw an old woman, so white-haired and frail that she had parked her walker next the elliptical three down from me. She was going slow, but she was going. If that’s not inspiration to work out as an able bodied young woman, I don’t know what is. She needed assistance walking, but still put in the effort to get in her daily exercise. I can walk just fine, and I was grumbling about being there. It reminded me of a blog post I read a long time ago about being thankful for being tired and sore muscles because it meant you had an active body that had carried you around all day, and keep you mobile- something you might realize you had taken for granted if it’s capabilities are ever taken away from you.
Then I saw The Huffington Post’s article on Olga Kotelko, the 90 year old track star. After she retired from her teaching job, she started competing in track and field in her 70s, and now she has 26 world record in her 90-94 age group as of today- an impressive record at any age, and especially so at hers. Olga doled out a few tips on staying healthy and active that included eating fresh, natural, unprocessed, and unrefined foods, while getting lots of sleep. She also sites keeping a balanced fitness routine that challenges cardio, flexibility, and muscles while training your brain by learning new things. Then finally she plans for the future, is looking forward to joining the 95-99 age bracket next, and keeps an optimistic outlook, saying, “You’re never too old to chase your dream!” Take a page from her book next time you are dreading a workout, and remember – if Olga can do it, you probably can too.
I have one pair of Lululemon running tights. They’re definitely the nicest piece of workout gear I own, and I could only justify their absurd expense because first, I had my last pair of running tights so long they became transparent from over wearing them (not because they were the defective lululemons), and second because I received them as a gift. Also, they do truly fabulous things for my butt. The rest of my gym clothes are, if you put it nicely, somewhat shabby. I have great sneakers and awesome ear buds, because those are the accessories that really matter to me-the tunes that keep me moving, and the sneakers that keep me from getting extreme shin splints. While I tried to fancy things up with some new t-shirts and stretch pants, the majority of my exercise gear consists of a bunch of beat up t-shirts I got for free at college events and some tank tops I used to wear in public until they got an irremovable stain.
When I read this piece on The Cut unapologetically defending gross gym clothes, all I could think was, “Preach sister!” Gyms in NYC can be scary, intimidating places (see this article on Gymtimidation). In this city they are full of attractive thin people (who are strangely muscular for their size), in extremely trendy clothes that somehow don’t sweat. For someone who is there because they want to get in shape (and thus may not be 100% loving the way they look), the feeling of competition to look hot while trying to get fitter to look hot can be a lot of pressure. If investing in cute gym-wear makes you more motivated just so you get to wear it, more power to you. But I am just going to second Maggie Lange’s notion, and say I’d rather wear my faded Ram Fan t-shirt and some mismatched socks any day because by the time I finish my butt and gut class I am just going to be a dirty sweaty mess anyhow.
During the holiday season, it can be tough to find a reason not to have that third cookie. After all, your bathing suit isn’t threatening to reveal that extra jelly roll around your middle, and it’s all part of the seasonal fun, right? Well, recent research might just give you a more convincing way to turn down all of the sweets sitting around the house in December, and the added bonus is maintaining your figure come January. Australian research found that rats who were fed a diet high in sugar and fat exhibited symptoms of memory impairment when compared with a group fed a healthy diet. The sugar had caused swelling in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus – where memories are maintained. This inflammation kept it from functioning (read: remembering things) at its typical level. And the swelling didn’t automatically go down when the rats cut it out with the cookies. It took about three weeks for the brain activity to return to normal. Just remember that fact when you’re reaching for another slice of cheesecake this Christmas.
Are you one of those people who would love to practice yoga, but just can’t manage to find the time? Now there is a site catering especially to people like you. It’s called Dirty Yoga, and it’s for people who make shit happen, but can’t seem to make it to the studio on time for class. The idea is that the people who would benefit the most from yoga’s de-stressing benefits are the ones who aren’t able to fit it into their busy schedules. Now all you need is a mat and a laptop to take a class. Two Brooklyn-based yogis, Susi Rajah and Jess Gronholm created a virtual studio where you can take 20-45 minute courses. There’s also “quickie” 5-8 minutes from when your day is really packed. The goal is to give yoga with flexibility, categorized by length and intensity that let you pick the workout best matching what you’re looking for without chanting, meditating, or exposing those see-through Lululemon pants to a whole room of strangers.
It’s yoga that’s not too expensive, and geared toward exercise for people who want the lean body benefits without the spiritual side. You can try it out for a week for only $10, or hit the mat for a month for $20. Then after you’ve decided if you like it, prices range from $15-$25 depending on how advanced you are. And if it’s not for you? It’s less money down the drain than a round of cocktails. Why not check it out?
One of my favorite things about crisp fall days is that I can get up and go for a run in the morning before work, logging some outdoor time and getting my workout out of the way before I even really start my day. Since the temps have dropped drastically in the past couple days in NYC, I have been logging more time on the elliptical, and missing jogs along the water. The cold weather has scared me indoors, but with Popsugar Fitness’s tips on running outside (that I read about on Self), I’ll be back out before the end of the week. If you like exercising outdoors, here’s how to do it in the chilly temps.
- Stock up on warmer gear: I have an adidas fleece lined hoodie, lululemon running tights, earmuffs and gloves that I wear out, with a longsleeved tee layered underneath for really cold days. The muffs keep my ear buds in place, and if it’s really cold, I have fleece lined leggings I put on instead.
- Motivate with good tunes: If it’s still dark when you get out running, make a get-pumped playlist to blare while you’re getting geared up. I also like to chug a cup of iced coffee to give me a little boost once I get out there.
- Put out the close you’ll wear before bed: I don’t go as far as sleeping in my running clothes, but I do make a little pile right down to my socks so I can roll out of bed and into the outfit before my snooze alarm goes off again.
- Heat Up First: Do some light warm-ups inside before you head out into the chill.
- Reward yourself with a warm breakfast when you get home: I make mini quiches in my muffin tins that I can pop in the microwave for a fancy meal before work that only takes about a minute to heat up
- Buddy up: If your friend is waiting for you at the running path, you won’t leave them hanging out there all alone in the cold.
Then just mix this in with your regular gym routine to keep from getting bored all fall/winter long.
The latest in a string of public health campaigns spearheaded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (see anti-soda, and anti-salt foods), now the NYC public figure is exhorting people to take the stairs in an effort to fight obesity. He proposes that any new buildings or buildings undergoing renovations would be required to post signs encouraging people to take the stairs, and leaving stairwells open (unlocked) all the time except in case of emergency. He hopes to start a non-profit to help foster building designs that encourage physical activity – read: creating stairwells that are appealing with are on walls and well lit, not dark sketchy places where predators lurk. Experts quoted by The Scoop recommend starting with 2 flights of stairs and then upping the ante when those start to feel easy. Or, if you want to mix things up, start taking every other step to strengthen glutes, hamstrings, and quads and increase your heart rate.
As someone who works on the 12th floor, I could probably lop off a gym session a week if I went up and down the stairs on foot every day! What do you think of Bloomberg’s latest tack to fight obesity?