You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Section's About You
So, you’ve just barely survived the season of sloth, booze and food, and you’re still clinging to your last ounce of New Year’s resolve: you are not going to die fat, alone and housebound. We interviewed six New York City fitness professionals to find out the best way to solve six particular problems faced by us regular, amateur out-of-shape types. Read, learn and don’t ignore us once you get into shape
Too Much of You To Love
Obviously, it’s not easy to be fat in New York — this city is deeply (or superficially, as the case may be) self-conscious about its look, and it doesn’t take kindly to plus-size Midwestern interlopers. And while we’re happy to say “fuck that” to the sparrow-headed minions of Condé Nast and their body-image problems, the fact remains that being overweight does put you at risk of health problems like hypertension, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease and sleep apnea. All of which suck.
WHO HAS IT: Ninety percent of the now unemployable former cast of The Sopranos.
WHERE TO BEGIN:Crunch Fitness
Crunch and New York Sports Club are kind of like the McDonald’s and Burger King of this city: they’re everywhere, you can generally expect the same thing from any given location, and they have really good milkshakes. Crunch can handle any of your fitness needs, but if there’s a little too much “zaft” in your, uh, “ig,” they can definitely take care of you.
THE SPECIALIST: Chantelle Geathers, Personal Training Manager, Crunch Fitness, Fort Greene
“When trying to lose weight, group-fitness classes and cardio machines can be very helpful. Adding resistance training will increase lean muscle mass and speed up your metabolism, which facilitates more-rapid weight loss. Ultimately, maintaining a consistent training program and a proper diet are essential.
To keep it interesting, I recommend working out with a partner, changing your routine every four to six weeks and focusing on sport-specific training — but that’s just a few ideas. Trying new group fitness classes will also help keep you from getting bored, and Crunch has some pretty entertaining classes available at our fitness facilities [Crunch’s group classes include, among many others, Beach Body Boot Camp, Hip Hop Cowgirl, Stiletto Strength and Cardio Striptease].”
THE PROBLEM: From Picked First to Picked Last
Captain of your freshman intramural volleyball team? Once won the summer camp mini-tennis tournament? Used to enjoy actually playing competitive sports? It hurts (both physically and emotionally) to realize the intervening years of office/collegiate drudgery and barroom lassitude have drained you of every last shred of the athletic vitality you once possessed — and that’s just sad. You used to love playing football at recess, so don’t give up, sports can still be fun, you just have to work a little harder at it.
WHO HAS IT: Anyone who refuses to throw out his or her college sports uniform; those who secretly look back at their high school lives and compare themselves to characters on Friday Night Lights — nice try, pal.
WHERE TO BEGIN: Gleason’s Boxing Gym
One might think a legendary boxing gym is not the place for out-of-shape ex-jocks, but one would be wrong. Gleason’s white-collar boxing training is great for fitness, agility, footwork, confidence and all the other things that are important for the sporting life. And it’s a completely unpretentious, no-bullshit environment.
THE SPECIALIST: Bruce Silverglade, Gleason’s longtime owner
“You can have a good support group, a good economic base, a good educational base — and it means nothing when you get into the ring. Boxing is 60% mental, 30% physical and 10% ability. It’s up to the individual: how much drive he has, how much character he has and how badly he wants to become a boxer.
The length of time [it takes to get into good shape] will vary, but I’d say we shouldn’t let a person go into the ring and spar for at least 3 months or 90 to 100 days. Boxing is probably the most grueling sport, and a professional fighter is in better condition than any other type of athlete. None of the other sports gets you in condition to have someone standing two feet away from you, throwing punches at you, trying to give you a concussion. It takes a certain type of mentality that we train you to have: to be focused and concentrated, which can also be used in your everyday life. Whatever you do, we will train your mind to be completely focused on and dedicated to what you’re doing. We’re going to build your mental outlook as well as your physical outlook.
We do have a number of business people who come in here with no intentions of boxing or becoming a white-collar fighter, but then they get bitten by the bug. No matter what you do, boxing is good cross training. We’re going to get you in better physical condition than you were before you started.
But I never boxed a day in my life. It’s a violent sport, who wants to box?”
Stress and the Void
You’re one year older. You work too much. You haven’t had a full night’s sleep in 14 months. You yell at the TV and the radio all the time. Your exercise regimen involves running to catch an F train transfer and jostling at the bar to get another drink. You haven’t had a moment’s peace since you were stuck in the elevator for three hours on Arbor Day. You’re too busy to realize you’re depressed: New York is slowly killing you. You need some endorphins, stat — let yoga save your life.
WHO HAS IT: Well, most working grownups in the city have it, so... Hey everybody, you need to calm down a little! [grins broadly, gets punched in face]
WHERE TO BEGIN: Yoga
If you’ve never tried yoga, you either just really don’t want to, or you assume you don't stand a chance catching up to those self-satisfied attractive young women in loose pants carrying special tube-shaped backpacks. Or both. But for relaxing and feeling better about yourself and pretty much everything else, B Yoga’s a good place to start. For instance, starting January 16, they’re running a program called New Bs, a $120 six-week course for wary yoga beginners who worry they’re too out of shape or that they might suck at it. You can be a backpack-carrier yet.
THE SPECIALIST: Elizabeth Neuse, yoga instructor, owner of B Yoga
“When you’re practicing yoga, your mind is fully engaged, so you can’t get stressed about anything, and after class you’re relaxed enough to handle things that would normally upset you.
It’s a total body workout that uses your own body’s weight to strengthen it. Plus it helps you learn proper breathing, and it improves your balance and flexibility. It also tones your body in a natural-looking way, unlike weightlifting, which can just bulk you up in one area. Yoga can help you lose weight if that’s your goal, not just by reducing calories but by reducing stress, which helps you make better choices in terms of what you put in your body. You gain lean muscle, not bulky muscle, and the exercises incorporate all muscle groups.
The best thing about vinyasa yoga, I think, is that the teachers create their own sequences for each class. So you can go to different teachers at the same level and have a completely different experience with each one. Boredom is prevented by the way you practice, by being mindful of your body throughout class. Even if you were to do the same postures during class you would have a unique experience based on your energy level and how your body feels that particular day.”
THE PROBLEM: Unable to Lift a Laptop Without Using Two Hands
Sure, for some people, being mistaken for a 12-year-old Norwegian of indeterminate gender is really cool, but maybe this year it would be nice to add some muscle to the frame. Not only does it help in situations involving non-papier-mâché objects, but a little bit of tone and substance on the body is actually sexually attractive! Also, bullies are terrified of muscular nerds.
WHO HAS IT: Anyone who’s ever appeared on a NYC party photo website, children, models, child models, people who slip too easily through doors that are swinging shut and about to close.
WHERE TO BEGIN: York Sports Clubs
With dozens of locations around the city, it’s hard to not pass a NYSC on your way to work, to the bar or to the thrift store where you buy your uniforms. Weight-work can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, how many pounds you should be lifting or where to strap your feet into the machine, but trainers patrolling the floor at all hours are happy to help. And on the bright side, there’s probably always someone there who’s worse off than you. You’ll know him from his starched cargo jeans and black dress shoes.
THE SPECIALIST: Amie Hoff, personal trainer at New York Sports Clubs
“Muscle size is increased when stimulated and challenged. Therefore, lifting weights, using your body weight as resistance and engaging in repetitive movements will all get the job done. If you’re looking to increase the size of the muscle, lift enough weight (barbell, dumbbells or machines) so that you can only complete about 6 to 8 repetitions of each exercise. The last few reps should be difficult — the last one should be really hard, but not impossible. If you’re simply looking to tone and not build up the muscles, choose a weight that you can be challenged with for 12 to 18 repetitions. Be sure to give your muscles a day or two to recover before working the same body part again.
You know those people in the gym who always do the same routines but their bodies never change? That’s because they’re not stimulating lots of muscles, only the same ones over and over again. Not only will your body not change, you can get burned out, which leads to lost motivation. Not good. Shake up your routine by trying new machines, new classes or working out body parts differently. For instance, change your cardio machines mid workout; try the elliptical for 20 minutes, then move to the treadmill and walk on a steep incline (works your heart, burns calories as well as tones the glutes). The variety will be more motivating and you’ll be working different muscle groups. A personal trainer is a great motivator — and can teach you new exercises you may not be aware of.”
THE PROBLEM Trick Knee + Flat Feet + Asthma = Too Many Excuses
Look, no one’s going to make you go to gym class, so getting a note from your doctor excusing you from serious exertion is really just lame (also, absurd and meaningless, unless you’re 14 years old). Just because you have old aches or pains doesn’t mean that regular exercise is out of the question — in fact, a little more physical fitness in your life might actually remedy what ails you.
WHO HAS IT: The clumsy, the aged, the delicate, the recklessly intoxicated and the recklessly sober. Also people intimidated by machines.
WHERE TO BEING: Sixth Street Pilates
THE SPECIALIST: Jeremy Laverdure, owner and instructor at Sixth Street Pilates
“Helping to retrain how a client uses her body in daily life is a major part of a Pilates teacher’s job. Pilates works to strengthen the musculature around the joints in a balanced way. It trains good use of the postural muscles, helping prevent injuries and providing a foundation from which to develop power, flexibility and coordination through the whole body. The common perception of Pilates as a bunch of abdominal exercises, and of the abdominal muscles as the ‘core’ of the body, is misguided. Stability and power in the ‘core’ (a word I think should be retired) is a function of coordination throughout the whole body and strength, in particular, in the muscles surrounding the pelvis, the shoulder girdle and the front and back of the whole torso, not just the abdomen.
Pilates is great for recovery because it’s adaptable enough to work around most injuries, allowing clients to get exercise in spite of whatever else they have going on, and the exercises themselves can be immensely helpful as part of a rehabilitative program. Most people with stress- or posture-related back, neck or shoulder complaints get some relief immediately if they have a good teacher.
If folks feel they need to lose weight, I really encourage them to do cardio in addition to Pilates. If my clients are concerned about looking hot, I tell them to go for a run, lift some weights and eat less. Now, I run and I lift weights and I watch what I eat because I want to look hot, too. But I do Pilates because I need my body to work well and I want to feel good. Pilates is great for the easily bored and for those who dislike working out because there are tons of different exercises, you do few repetitions of each exercise, and it requires your total concentration, which makes the time fly by.
Sixth Street is small and pretty private, which allows the clients and trainers to go deeply into the work they’re doing. Especially when folks have injuries or haven’t exercised a lot before, they need to be able to concentrate, and they need to not feel embarrassed or intimidated. The studio has a great, peaceful, laid-back vibe, even in the group classes.”
Exercise Is Mind-Numbingly Boring (and You Need a Shower) To be honest, you’ve never, ever liked exercising — it’s tedious and dull. Wasn’t jogging around a track going nowhere one of Dante’s bonus rings of hell? But your shower hasn’t worked properly in seven months, and when it does, one of your three roommates always seems to be in there and it’s driving you crazy. You need a little alone time, a little pampering and it can’t be boring — man you’re picky.
WHO HAS IT: People who love a good bell, a good whistle. Anyone who’d rather swim laps or climb a rock wall than jog in place while staring at the cellulite of the woman at 12 o’clock and glancing at Maury on mute.
WHERE TO BEGIN: Manhattan Plaza Health Club
Though they have the usual row of treadmills and rowing machines (that, admittedly, lead nowhere) they also offer all kinds of other interesting sporting activities that will make you forget you’re actually getting in shape. Plus, they have the kind of special touches (clean towels!) you can’t get at home. Read on.
THE SPECIALIST: Natasha Ali, Fitness Director of MPHC
“At Manhattan Plaza Health Club we have a private Pilates studio, an Atrium pool, a rock-climbing gym, massage services and trainers all under one roof. Plus classes that everyone can take—for instance, belly dancing and restorative yoga (which isn’t taught at many other health clubs), to name a couple.
I’ve been a trainer for 6 years, and the most fun part about my job is designing creative programs for clients and witnessing their bodies develop. In terms of weight loss there’s no singular way to do it: it’s a combination of consistent change in diet, cardiovascular exercise and, absolutely, resistance training. The more lean muscle present, the greater the effects on a person’s metabolism, because at rest the body will still work to maintain muscle mass. In short, more muscle equals faster metabolism. Muscle requires energy and therefore the body constantly needs to fuel up. Ultimately, in order to be consistent you have to find things you love to do, whether it’s spin classes, aerobics classes, dance classes or cross-training with resistance training.
I encourage people to have a focus for every workout. Usually, people choose body parts to work out on particular days. So, for instance, Monday will be leg day and Wednesday is chest day. But you should also have a particular goal for that body part. If you’re going to do legs you might say ‘I’m going to focus on endurance, power, strength or agility today.’ It’s best to change your routine and focus each time you come to the gym. In fitness lingo we refer to this as the F.I.T.T. principle: frequency, intensity, time and type. One of these components must be altered each time in order to continue making progress and keep your routine fun and challenging.”