Feeling Post-Election Blues? Here are Top 10 Stress Relievers

Meditative Yoga

Feeling Post-Election Stress?

With the surprising turn of events last night, I woke up today feeling anxious, sad, and heartbroken. I underestimated how many people would brush aside Donald Trump’s misogynist, racist, bigoted, and greedy comments and behavior and STILL vote for him.

This past summer, I remember being at a bar at Rockaway Beach and seeing a normal looking guy wearing a Trump supporter t-shirt. I thought he was joking. Or that it was sarcasm. Maybe he was using it as a conversation starter that would ultimately lead to a “yeah right who would believe this clown is in a presidential race” conversation?  I certainly did not even think his support for someone like Trump could be genuine. However, after questioning it and receiving the “let’s not get into politics” serious response, I closed my gaping mouth and took a second for it to sink in. There are actual normal looking people voting for this person?


Soon after, I began to realize that there were actual Trump supporters living among us and that this sh**was real. However, I was still 100% confident that Hillary Clinton would win the election. Hence, last night the realization of the type of people living in the United States sank in. Plus, the realization that this inexperienced man who perpetuated such hatred was now the President of the United States.

Top 10 Stress Relievers

As much as I was in a trance-like state of disbelief this morning, I still had to go to work and resume my daily activities. So, I gathered 10 ways to calm my nerves and anxiousness and not let the election results completely ruin my day. AND affect my outlook on life and my beliefs that there are good people in this world. So if you’re freaking out about the future of our country, read on to breath a little easier.

  1. Make time to hit the gym or take a fitness class. Exercise will only improve your mood and outlook. When you exercise you dedicate time to yourself and your needs only. This little bit of selfish time to focus on you and to treat yourself is always important. As an added bonus, try a boutique fitness studio that also has a spa such as exhale. After taking a barre class, where you only focus on your muscle endurance and on getting stronger, you can visit the steam room, sauna room, and you can book a massage or facial.Post-Election Stress
  2. Drink a calming tea or coffee and add an herbal supplement or adaptogenic tonic. Adaptogens are natural substances that work with a person’s body and help them adapt; most notably, to stress. Adaptogens are a natural ally in dealing with persistent stress and fatigue because they work with regulating important hormones. There are loads of stress-reducing tonics that have calming effects for your body and mind. I recently bought the Ashwagandha tonic from Moon Juice. Ashwagandha is a potent root that calms the body’s physiological and nervous systems. Moon Juice states that this mineral dense adaptogen aids the thyroid, soothes anxiety, and improves sleep. Post-Election stress
  3. Take a meditative or restorative yoga class. You will experience deep relaxation. This type of yoga class can center your breath and body. You will align the physical and mental by practicing stillness or flowing through movements for extended periods of time. You get the added bonus of stretching and clearing your mind. Stress Relievers
  4. Get in touch with nature. Maybe take a walk in the park? Or simply take a breath of fresh air while looking up at the sky? Maybe go for a run and kill two birds with one stone? Connecting with nature can bring you inner peace as you try not to think about “everyday life” and simply appreciate what nature provides.Stress Relievers
  5. Use a mantra. Mantras can quiet frustrating or distracting thoughts. The repetition of the mantra—either out loud or in writing—shifts your mind from what’s causing it to panic to something more positive and caring. The words serve as a reminder that you will get through whatever is making you anxious and uncomfortable. A new study in Brain and Behavior shows that silently repeating a single word to yourself quiets the system responsible for your mind wandering, thinking about your past, or planning your future. Here are seven stress-busting mantras to keep you relaxed.Stress Relievers
  6. Find time to curl up with a good book or listen to music. These relaxation methods can be a great and healthy way to escape from the stress of everyday life. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68% and listening to music can reduce stress by 61%.stress relievers
  7. Channel your anxious energy into something productive like de-cluttering your personal space. Many people have read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and have tested out its validity by re-organizing their closets. I think there is a lot of truth behind the belief that de-cluttering your personal space can lead to a de-cluttered mind. Clutter can add to feelings of tension and a clean, clear home allows a clearer, more peaceful mind. “I think tidying up can be life changing,” Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, stated when asked if Kondo was on to something. “When people are organized and tidy, they feel more powerful…If you build that into your life, that helps you in everything.”stress relievers
  8. Practice deep breathing techniques. When you focus on your breathing, your mind’s attention is drawn to the life-enhancing process of drawing in air and exhaling. Take five long, deep breaths and focus on your lungs and diaphragm as you do this. This is a quick and easy way to instantly feel calm. Try these 6 Breathing Exercises to relax in 10 minutes or less.stress relievers
  9. Watch something funny. An episode of Friends always works! Laughter is the best medicine. Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. It reduces the level of stress hormones while increasing the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins. Laughter also provides physical and emotional release. Have you ever felt like you “have to laugh or I’ll cry”? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter brings the focus away from anger,  stress and negative emotions.Stress Relievers
  10. Eat some healthy comfort food! Stressful events and even the daily hassles of life, cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol causes food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet foods, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. You can satisfy your cravings with healthier alternatives. Here is a list of healthy foods that reduce stress. Stress Relievers
    Stress Relievers
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Life After ClassPass: 4 Alternatives

ClassPass Alternatives

All good things must come to an end. To the dismay of many, ClassPass announced this past week that it has discontinued its wildly famous Unlimited plan. Many can attribute ClassPass to their newfound love of fitness. For others, it played a huge role in their fitness lifestyle. Sadly, its Unlimited plan was what made ClassPass worth it. If you are like me, you might be considering having the difficult “It’s not me, it’s you” conversation with ClassPass. You might be wondering what life after ClassPass looks like. Is it true that there are plenty of fish in the sea? Or is it a matter of the grass isn’t always greener on the other side?

Be what it may, now is the time to look at the menu and try some sampling. I’ve come up with four main alternatives that might be worth trying in NYC (although other cities have some similar alternatives): Fitreserve, the gym, Gilt City, and New Client Specials.

ClassPass Alternatives

 Photo: Angelito Jusay Photography

FITRESERVE

It calls itself the premier multi-studio fitness membership. This is the option that most closely resembles ClassPass. For a monthly membership fee, you can attend different classes all over the city. There are certainly some pros over ClassPass. Such as the ability to take 4 classes per studio instead of 3, or the fact that you have access to all the studios’ entire schedules instead of only the off-peak or unpopular classes. However, it comes with some cons. Fitreserve does not have as many studios on its roster as ClassPass and it is not necessarily a better deal than ClassPass’s $135 for 10 classes plan. However, given the unpredictability of ClassPass, who knows if Fitreserve might soon be our only option.

Fitreserve

THE GYM ROUTE

There are countless gyms all over NYC and of course all over the world. Some are incredibly cheap such as New York Sports Club. Others are at the higher end such as Equinox. And there are many more in between.

Equinox

This gym can be a good alternative to ClassPass, given that it has group classes that can rival many boutique studio classes. For example, it has spinning, Pilates, and yoga classes with top instructors that also teach at boutique studios. Additionally, it has unique classes such as Barre + Band (its take on barre class), The Cut (which is a boxing workout), and Ropes and Rowers (an HIIT circuit class). In addition to the intense classes, you have access to the state-of-the art gym equipment and luxurious amenities. It features Kiehl’s products, eucalyptus towels, and steam rooms. NYC rates start at $168 per month and vary by location, going up to $230 if you choose an all-access pass.

ClassPass Alternatives: Equinox

Crunch

Another option is Crunch. The gym that wants to “make fitness fun.” If you like group classes over hitting the weights this might be an option for you. It has endless classes. And I do mean endless. You can find endless variations of a typical workout, such as Cardio Kickboxing, Kickboxing, Cardio Tai Box, Boxing Bootcamp, Contact Boxing, Knockout Boxing, etc. If you need a 30 minute workout, it has a roster of classes for you as well. If you want action sports classes, it has AEROROPES (battle rope training), TRX, SURFSET® & SAND, POUND®, TRAPFIT™ etc. It also has many different barre, spinning, Pilates, and yoga classes. There are loads of unique classes that can only be found at Crunch. Examples are below:

BOING WITH POWER
Strap on a pair of Kangoo® Jump Boots, for a total-body workout. You will have your core engaged throughout the entire class, as you balance through strengthening and conditioning exercises like jump squats, leg lifts and lunges. Watch video here. 

TABURA
Tabura is a Swahili name for training used to improve military endurance and strength in Africa. This intensely fun class uses kickboxing combinations and basic West African dance moves set to hot Tribal House music and a live drummer. Get ready to burn massive calories and become a true powerhouse warrior. Watch video here. 

X-TREME FIREFIGHTERS WORKOUT
Train like firefighters do, as their lives depend on it! The Extreme Firefighters’ Workout will take you through physical drills that simulate activities performed by firemen like handling hoses, swinging axes, climbing stairs, racing up a pole and carrying victims to safety. This total body, circuit-based workout will test your fitness level and teach you to survive under the extreme conditions our firefighters do every day. Watch video here.

BRAZILIAN BURN N’ FIRM PILATES

We’re taking it to Brazil in this unique Pilates inspired workout that will shimmy your waistline and tighten your boom boom. Feel the burn while you firm as you work your muscles more efficiently by combining Pilates-inspired standing moves with light hand weights and traditional Pilates mat exercises on the floor. Watch video here. 

Rates vary by location, but run around $95.99 for access to a single gym. Some gyms are newer and nicer than others so scouting is necessary.
ClassPass Alternatives: Crunch

GILT CITY 

Sometimes, you can find extremely good deals at Gilt.

Pure Yoga

One of the top vouchers that can be found is the invaluable voucher for one month of unlimited classes at Pure Yoga for $225. As some may know, Pure Yoga is New York’s Yoga Mecca. It is a membership based studio that offers the widest range of yoga classes possible and has the best instructors. You have to be a member to take a yoga class there. They also offer barre classes and cross training classes, which are available to nonmembers. Pure Yoga is owned by Equinox which accounts for its 4 star hotel design and luxurious amenities. It is a true oasis for yogis.

I wanted to have the experience of immersing in Pure Yoga, without making the yearlong commitment and of course without paying the exorbitant monthly fees. Oh and also the exorbitant initiation fee. Like a gym, Pure is evasive about membership prices. They start at $250 per month, and can “change drastically” depending on the month. Ditto on an initiation fee. The Gilt voucher is the only way to try their 350 weekly yoga classes, have the option to take barre and cross-training, have access to premium amenities, and steam room. If money was not an issue, Pure Yoga would be my first pick!

exhale

Another top voucher normally offered through Gilt is 10 classes at exhale for $225. The drop-in price for a Core Fusion Barre Class at exhale is $37. This deal is beyond worth it, given that the barre classes at exhale are the best in the city. They focus on form and alignment first and have amazing teachers. They also have Core Fusion Cardio, Core Fusion Sport, Core Fusion Bootcamp, and Core Fusion Extreme which are all geared towards instilling a strong mind + body connection.

A personal favorite class of mine is Core Fusion Sport. The class was designed by professional ballet dancer Tyler Ingram.  The class is not just another Lotte Berk-style barre class. It puts isolation-focused core work into motion with the promise of amping up your athleticism (and further chiseling your abs, shoulders, arms, and butt). “Any sport done well requires knowledge of your core, which is not easy to get to in various mediums,” says Ingram. It is a true treat to be able to take this class with the designer. Further, the studios also offer luxurious amenities and access to their spas.

Here are some Gilt vouchers available now which provide a glimpse into the possibilities: Broadway Bodies, Pop Physique, sweat yoga, and the Tracy Anderson Method.
ClassPass Alternative

NEW CLIENT DEALS

This is my last and favorite option. Most boutique fitness studios offer new client deals. Lucky for us ClassPass users, even though we might have visited a studio through ClassPass, we still count as new clients. So, if you tried a class and really liked it, this is the time to go back. You can explore many studios that offer two for one deals and many that offer unlimited months for a discounted price. With these introductory offers, you can immerse yourself in a studio for a full month, you can test new studios, find out the type of workout you most enjoy, and decide which studios are worth the full price. My top recommendations for boutique fitness studios in Manhattan are below.

Strength Training

Circuit of Change $39 (1 week unlimited) or $99 (1 month unlimited)

Uplift Studios $20 (1 class offer)

High Intensity Interval Training

The Fhitting Room  $38 (buy 1, get 1 free!)

Kore $20 (1 class offer) or $150 (per month for 3 months unlimited)

Refine Method $34 (buy 1, get 1 free!) *I highly recommend this class.

Barre Classes

The Bar Method $129 (1 month unlimited)

exhale $37 (buy 1, get 1 free!)

Physique 57 $36 (buy 1, get 1 free!) or $175 (8 classes) or $250 (1 month unlimited)

Studios with more than one focus:

Flex Studios $25 (1 class offer) or $75 (3 classes) or $250 (1 month unlimited)

Flywheel & Flybarre $15 (1 class offer) *Checkout my Flybarre review.

Spinning

The Monster Cycle $15 (1 class offer)

Revolve Fitness $33 (buy 1, get 1 free!) or $20 (1 class offer) *Checkout my review.

Swerve Fitness $34 (buy 1, get 1 free!)

Yoga

Earth Yoga $39 (1 week unlimited)

Lyons Den Power Yoga $89 (1 month unlimited)

New York Yoga $99 (1 month unlimited)

Yoga Vida $20 (2 weeks unlimited)

Y7  $45 (2 weeks unlimited) or $99 (1 month unlimited)

Pilates

Core Pilates NYC $85 (5 classes in 7 days) or $225 (3 private sessions)

New York Pilates $ 70 (3 reformer classes) or $180 (3 private sessions)

Plank Pilates $89 (1 private session & 2 tower sessions)

ClassPass Alternatives

 

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The End of my Love Affair with ClassPass

A little over a year ago I discovered something so great that it was too good to be true. It was unbelievable, incredible, beyond belief, inconceivable, unthinkable, and unimaginable. However, it turned out to be true—while it lasted. One year. Today I find out that it was indeed too good to be true. I am talking about ClassPass. Today, the fitness world can mourn the death of ClassPass’s Unlimited plan. People–time to start looking for other alternatives.

Mourn ClassPass

The Beginning

I joined ClassPass on October 30, 2015. And I couldn’t stop raving about it. I recommended it to anyone that would listen. As someone that loves group fitness and loves many different types of exercise classes, ClassPass was a dream come true. I got the best out of all the fitness opportunities New York City had to offer. My week consisted of going to a yoga class three times a week, a barre class twice a week, a spinning class and strength training class each once a week, and occasionally mixed it up with Pilates or even kickboxing. I took around five to seven classes a week and sometimes two classes a day. In total, I took over 240 classes in a year through ClassPass.

The Romantic Stage

ClassPass was perfect for my fitness lifestyle. I took class based on how I was feeling on a particular day and on what I needed for my mind or body.

If I was feeling stressed I took yoga. When I wanted to work on my technique I took Tyler Ingram’s Core Fusion Sport class at exhale. If I was feeling feisty and wanted to lift weights, I took HIIT at the Fhitting Room. In the mood to hear cool music? I headed to any of Y7‘s five locations. When I wanted to work on my thighs, I took Physique 57. When I wanted to meditate, I took yoga at Laughing Lotus. In the morning I could visit a bootcamp class like Kore. The same day at lunchtime I could relieve my tight muscles at the yoga studio a block from my work. In the winter I did hot yoga at New York Yoga and in the summer I took Circuit of Change at Pier 46.

There were no limits. I had truly embraced fitness as lifestyle and had unlimited options that suited my moods and muscles. And I happily paid $125. I couldn’t believe the monthly unlimited fee was once $99!

classpass

The Power Struggle/Hangover Stage

Then in April 27, 2016 ClassPass increased their unlimited membership from $125 to $190. This meant ClassPass users like me witnessed a fee increase of more than 90% in less than a year. This price increase sparked social media outrage with users vowing to cancel the service.

This was a huge increase but I had no choice. This was still the best option for me. You see, my fitness lifestyle is not feasible in a city where classes can cost up to $35 each and unlimited class packages can cost up to $375 a month. So, I agreed to pay $190. Even though many refused out of principle.

The Break-up

Now, November 2, 2016, I receive the earth shattering news that ClassPass will discontinue its Unlimited plan. Why? According to a blog released by ClassPass CEO Payal Kadakia, the unlimited model was never meant to last forever.

What started as a promotion to offer unlimited classes all summer in May 2014 turned into what Kadakia called a move that “helped ignite something truly successful in our community. I was so taken aback by the promotion’s success I focused on nurturing that spark, assuming we’d figure out the business model as the company continued to scale.”

Kadakia explained that while the boost in membership was exciting, they always knew the model was unsustainable based on sheer cost alone. Kadakia explained that as more and more classes started to book, the more they paid and business costs increased dramatically. “We simply couldn’t make the plan work for our business.”

Acceptance

I can see why ClassPass could not make the Unlimited plan work. I was able to take classes in luxurious spaces such as exhale and Pure Yoga. Classes that cost $37 were unlimited for me. My lifestyle was in an advantage when it came to ClassPass in a huge degree when I paid $125 and even with the rate of $190. Now members like me will suffer the most from this news. ClassPass’s only options now are a five-class plan that costs $75 in New York, or Core, a ten-class plan that costs $135.

ClassPass also announced its new add-on pack option, which allows users to add three classes to their plan for a one-time fee between $25-$40. It’s a nice perk, but I foresee another social media outrage. This one much worse.

Goodbye ClassPass

 

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Yes, You Can Relax during Exercise, in Fact It’s Encouraged

relaxation in fitness

It’s time to relax…

Relaxation in a spin class?

Unheard of? Nope. Monday’s spin class instructor at Revolve Fitness in Union Square kept encouraging us to relax. Throughout the class, I could hear relax your shoulders, relax your arms, relax your fingers. One would think that the word relax in a cycling room with dark lighting and pumping music don’t mix. Add to that the typical shouted words of encouragement “don’t give up” and the dreaded “ACCELERATE.” Safe to say, the word relax was unusual but very well received.

 

Union Square at Dusk

 

At the beginning of the class, the instructor stated: “put your shoulders up, then drop them and relax, you are off work.” I hadn’t even realized how far up my ears my shoulders were, until I directed my attention span there. I took a deep breath. I began to disconnect myself from the day and focus on the energy in the room. This was exactly what I needed. I thought about my daily life and how I go through the motions with a lot of unnecessary tension.  Since I never pay attention to it, it just keeps building and brewing.

 

The Importance of Relaxation

No one doubts the importance of relaxation. You can see a pretty comprehensive list here. To that list I would add that learning to relax improves posture and overall workout performance.

It is no coincidence that in all workout forms, from spinning to the other end of the spectrum yoga, we are always told to relax one muscle, while deeply engaging another. Click To Tweet This is because there is always one muscle that is supposed to be targeted. The others need to relax and let that targeted part (and of course the core) provide all the strength and do all the work. As we approach muscle failure and start to get tired, tension creeps up in unwanted areas in reaction to the target muscles fatiguing. Consequently, we lose our form. Hence, learning to relax is important for posture in order to have a better form while exercising.

 

working-hard-resized

Using the Right Amount of Effort

In exercise, just like in life, learning to use just the amount of effort needed for a particular task without developing unnecessary tension is an important concept. We often think that working out should require a lot of tension and effort. However, it does not need to be an all out effort of every muscle with every exercise. Looking back at all exercise classes, just like instructors point out which muscles should work to the point of exhaustion, they also point out certain body parts that should relax.

At Spinning

As stated, in spinning we are reminded to let go of the tension in our upper body and even soften the fingers on the handlebars.  Our legs and core muscles should be the ones getting us up that hill.

At Yoga

We not only move with our breath but teachers constantly remind us to pull the shoulders away from the ears. By relaxing the shoulders, we engage the upper back muscles and let the back muscles, as opposed to hunched shoulders do the work.  My favorite yoga relaxation reminder is to soften the tongue. I didn’t even realize I tensed my tongue and even jaw, until I paid attention to this.

At the barre

In standing gluteal work at a barre class, teachers often repeat “relax the shoulders and put all the effort in the working gluteal muscle.” There are a lot of hands on adjustments and teachers place their hands on our shoulders reminding us to relax them. Sometimes, we do not even realize where we hold tension, until we are reminded and we instantly feel that body part relaxing.

At bootcamp

Bootcamp type classes like The Fhitting Room, Exceed Physical Culture, Kore, and Refine, typically involve weight lifting, kettlebell swings, and using the Korball or medicine ball. When performing these exercises, it is easy to engage the face, neck, and shoulders. We tense the jaw and shrug the shoulders up to the ears to help or even do all of the work while lifting. Hence, we’re encouraged to lift lighter or perform the movement slower so that the arms are the only ones making the effort.

At Pilates

Relaxation is the basis of correct alignment which is a Pilates principle. I would say that the entry-point of Pilates is to learn how to relax and release unwanted tension from the body. Specifically for Pilates, muscle balance is important. We must lengthen short tight muscles before attempting to strengthen the weak long muscles. We learn to tense only the muscles that are working.

 

Selective Relaxation

The “selective relaxation” we experience in fitness teaches us to use just the amount of effort needed to complete the exercise correctly, no more, no less.

It goes without saying that learning to release unnecessary tension in our bodies helps us find ease and flow in movement.

The relaxation of some muscles allows us to move more effectively and to use less energy. We can apply this to our everyday lives. Click To Tweet

 

relaxation in fitness

 

How do we do it though?

Of course it is way easier said than done. I was thinking a lot about the importance of relaxation and how it applies to all exercises, when less than a week later at Yogaworks in Lincoln Square, I had an epiphany. I was in Warrior II for an extended period of time and felt my muscles fatiguing. My thoughts immediately went to figuring out which body part I could relax. I did a body check of where I felt discomfort and directed my attention to my back leg glute muscle. I realized that I was clenching my glute and immediately unclenched it. The pose felt better and I realized that of course I did not need that body part to sustain me in the pose. I grounded my legs and engaged my thighs further and all I did was feel my core instead.

So all I need to do is pay more attention to my body!

Just like I was able to soften a muscle by giving attention to it, I could learn to relax in my everyday life by directing attention to a body part that I know holds a lot of tension. My shoulders! This is another reason I love fitness. You discover things that can apply to your daily life. If you are able to give more attention to your body, you can discover ways to let go of stress in this way.

At my office job, I typically hunch over my computer. A lot of unwanted tension frequently creeps up. I have to periodically take moments in which I pull my shoulders up while taking a deep breath and exhale while lowering them. This helps dissolve the tension.

The importance of mindfulness comes into play here. If we go through exercises or through our day just going through the motions, a lot of unnecessary tension will be present. If we exercise and are conscious of the fact that tension is held somewhere, it is easy to let go. The same applies to everyday habits.

Next time you are practicing a sport or exercising, notice where your body is tense and ask yourself if you can release even a little of that tension. You may find that your movements become smoother; the right muscles are getting stronger. This is relaxation at work!

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