Propel Co:Labs NYC – The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly

Last Saturday, I attended Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival at South Street Seaport in NYC. If you aren’t familiar with Co:Labs, here’s the skinny: Powerhouse water brand Propel creates an epic experiential mashup of fitness studios, musical talent, and wellness in a large event space. Your (current) $50 ticket price gets you in the door, into up to four workout classes (which you register for in advance), and access to the first-come, first-serve massages/facials etc. Now available in four major cities across the U.S. (one time per year in each city), it’s where fitness influencers are both seen and heard.

$50 is a solid price for four classes, but you’ve got to remember that hundreds of people are going to be working out in the space with you, so the class experience is def diluted.  That said, I think $50 is a FAIR price, instead of “solid”.

The other benefit is many of the classes are taught by fitness “celebrities” that own workouts and studios. This absolutely brings the value up, as you get to take from some pretty amazing people. More so, you’re going to be spending the day with other fitness fanatics, so it’s super fun to be in good company.

So that’s the synopsis. Let’s move on.

Starting with the good.

The studios and instructors selected to attend were amazing. I got to take class with Gunnar Peterson, Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen, and try out Box + Flow . I also made sure to show up at 9 a.m. ON THE DOT to get my hair braided at the braid station and sign up for a massage at the wellness station (massage slots were all booked by 10 a.m. so…yeah, there were lots of disappointed peeps. For such a large-scale event, you need more than two massage therapists. Which is how many there were).

Other amazing workout options for the day included NW Method, PVolve, ToneHouse, MNDFL, Mile High Run Club, CorePower Yoga, Fhitting Room, Yoga For Bad People (which I was supposed to take, but went home instead. What can I tell ya? I was over it), and Akin’s Army. Additionally, Harvey Pasternak gave a (reservation only) talk, so between him and Gunnar, we basically had the William and Harry of fitness at our fingertips.

As for other celebs, I def saw a few, but mostly recognized by face instead of name. Lo Bosworth was the only name I could put with a face the entire day. ANYWAY, the classes (themselves) were great, the instructors were even better, and it was fab to network with so many incredible people from the industry.

Although I didn’t stay for the musical event (as mentioned, I didn’t even stay for my last class), Icona Pop was a cool addition to the day. Any time you can get a big name at your event is call for props. But, I do think it was a missed opportunity to kick off the event with the headliner instead of closing. There was like, no one there by the end of the day. If that energy was exuded from the start, I think it would have done wonders. Even a group stretch would have been nice.

The free hair ties, Propel water, and towels were also checks in the good column.

Let’s move to the bad.

  1. There wasn’t enough to do: South Street Seaport is a beautiful place. Know what makes it less beautiful? A dingy, unlit warehouse where there happens to be a fitness event. There were two immobile photo opp areas (rings and a word sign), but otherwise….nothing. No decorations. No sample stations. Lots of seating…with nothing else. Where were the fitness magazines to read? The influencer books to start? Recipe ideas to peruse through?  How about brand info or something to tie back to the hashtag? Where was the photo booth? Like…CMON. So boring.
  2. Classes ran late: There is nothing more annoying than lateness, especially when it comes to scheduled classes. That’s why mindfulness of time is incredibly important. Also, one class I took cut almost seven minutes early because it was 15 minutes late getting started, which is just as annoying. I paid for an experience. Please give it to me. In full.
  3. Refresh station: I’ve worked a lot of fitness events in my time. One of the first things we think about is how people can “freshen up” between classes, or after. I was severely disappointed that Propel expected us to take up to four classes between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and the only “freshen up” items available were ONE pack of makeup remover wipes, ONE can of hairspray, and a bunch of branded hair ties (all located in the bathroom). Hi. What about deodorant? Or body spray? Or face wash? These are things people need. It’s what sponsors/samples are for!
  4. Food: Speaking of sponsors….oooooooooo….child I’m about to go IN. While I can understand food vendors for bigger meals, I can’t – for the life of me – understand why there wasn’t any free food for attendees. Not even a granola bar in site. It’s just not cute. Email a protein bar company and ask for a barter. Buy a whole bunch of fruit. It’s not that hard. We are at a fitness festival. Give us fuel.

Drum roll, please: Let’s move to the downright ugly. The things that made me say “Seriously? WTF people?”

  1. They ran out of water: If a brand is sponsoring an event, there is absolutely no way in Hell they should run out of product. Especially when that product is water and it’s 90 freaking degrees out. Not to mention many of the workouts being located on a roof deck. Those bins of water should have been repeatedly stocked and full. Period.
  2. Trash: Trash was overflowing inside the venue, as well as in the bathrooms. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Chargers: It’s 2018. Events have charging stations now. Especially for long events. With lots of people. There were no plugs inside the venue. The few that were available were located in the lobby, where NOTHING WAS HAPPENING EXCEPT CHECK IN. No one wanted to sit out there…alone. Pay attention, Propel: If you want people to hashtag and tag the shiz out of things, they need phones. And phones die. You do the hypothetical math. Also, free Wifi? Anyone? No?
  4. Class locations: While the class schedules were sent individually a few days prior – as was a map of the studio – what was missing was which “studios” our classes would be held in. Attendees found out upon arrival. Meaning me – a girl with a history of passing out and heat stroke – discovered at arrival I had three classes on the roof. In the sun. 120 minutes of working out in the sun. Are you fucking kidding me? I would have NEVER chosen those classes if I knew. And, because so many of the classes were close to full, I certainly wasn’t going to try to switch my whole schedule around on site. #fail.
  5. The employees: No one knew what they were doing. If you went to the escalator, a dude said you needed a gold sticker. You tried to get the gold sticker, someone said you needed purple. One girl even said – to an attendee who was worried the late start of a class would run into her next one – that they were pushing the classes back to accommodate the lateness (which absolutely wasn’t true; she made it up). Bye.

If a brand is going to put its name on an event, it needs to take the extra step to ensure it thinks of everything that may have a consumer touch point. Nothing will ever go perfectly, but there needs to be effort to try. While this event had many benefits (previously described), I measure the success of an event by how excited I am to talk about it afterwards. For this particular event, I had more negatives than positives. Hopefully this post will take on a different tone next year.

Dear Propel: If you’re reading this…I was also told I had two tickets under my name. One free and one I paid for. Refund pls. K thanks!

Follow me on Instagram @kerryleeinthecityfit.

Thoughts? Please share!

How to Get the Most Out of Classpass

As most of you know, I am in serious money conservation mode. After getting into my doctoral program (and needing to pay for it), my priorities shifted. All extra money goes to a “school fund”. This means I can’t be as…flexible…with my fitness spending. In fact, I no longer have any flexibility. I have to be strategic.

I take a lot of classes. And yes, I pay for many of them (spoiler: I’m not a blogger that takes a lot for free; I personally don’t think it’s right). This said, Classpass (CP) has been both a friend and a foe over the years. My first dabble with CP was in 2015, while I was working at Women’s Health magazine. Because of my work schedule, I was paying more in cancellation fees than I was for my actual class package. So, after a year, I cancelled. I didn’t come back to CP until they switched to the new-found “credit” system, which I found so intriguing I had to give it a go (for all of you, duh).

What is Classpass? 

I could give you the website jargon (but I won’t). In short, CP is a member-based workout service where you buy a package of “credits” for your geographic area, and those credits can be used for either a variety of fitness classes or “wellness” activities (like massages, cryofuel, or even blowouts). The credit system didn’t always exist. CP revised to this business model in January 2018 (note: before, it was a certain number of classes per month depending on your package). The current credit programs for purchase are $135 for 90 credits, $75 for 45 credits, and $45 for 27 credits (all costs are per month). CP Live (an online subscription program) is also available for purchase. According to the website, you can (approximately) get 6-10 classes a month on the $135 package; 3-5 classes on the $75 package, and 2-3 classes on the $45 package.

The Low-Down:

K, stay with me here. While choosing and booking your classes, you can narrow it down by cities/towns/neighborhoods in your geographic area. Once you do that, you’ll be offered all the available classes for that specific day, up until one week out (you can not book further than that. Slightly annoying). Each class option has a credit number “cost” associated, as well as any caveats such as “you can visit this studio twice per month for  more credits” (some studios only let you visit one time per month) or “first time only”. Depending on the studio (how “fancy” it is, or exclusive, or #bizzy), your allocated credit “cost” will differ. Usually, credit costs are between 6-12 per class, with some being higher or lower depending on the time of day, how many times you’ve already visited, or how “boutique” the studio is (who want their members to get first dibs on the class, and you get the leftovers).

The Experience: 

At the start of my CP rebirth, I kicked off with 45 credits, because I wasn’t sure if 27 was too few for this (what I hoped) would be a solid three-month study. I quickly realized after a month, I was not wealthy and needed to cut down to 27. I will say, for the one-month I was on the 45 credits, I stayed away from anything super boutique, and took 5-6 classes between 6-9 credits. Some of the classes were good; others, not so much. So, I didn’t love it yet. I didn’t hate it yet. I was neutral.

Once I dropped to 27 credits, my frustrated began to grow. I felt like I could do NOTHING with this package. At one point, I was like, k, this entire package is a freaking bag of tricks just to get people to buy the bigger package. I took three classes at 9 credits and called it a day.

By the next month, I remembered how much I loved challenges and was going to work the shiz out of this for not only my benefit, but all of yours.

By the end of this little “study”, I realized CP is basically the same as online dating. If you put in the time and effort, eventually, you’ll find the perfect match of classes and credits (as well as the tricks to weed out the lame; ya know what I mean?). It CAN be totally worth it, but you need to have both patience and determination to win the damn game (and tbh, it is just that: A game). Fast forward to the end of May, as this bish came out victorious with nine classes for 27 credits. Now, this can’t happen every month for reasons to be revealed shortly. What it does prove, however, is that CP hopes you’ll get lazy and not maximize your credits to the fullest extent. And I’m here to prove you can absolutely live your best #fitlife.

Tip 1: Budget your credits.

No matter what credit level you’re on, budget out how many classes, and for how many credits each, you’re striving for. This will prevent you from simply “scrolling” and taking any class that looks good. For example, for 27 credits, if I want to make sure I use them all before the end of the month and have a goal of five classes, my budget may look like this:

1 six-credit class, 2 five-credit classes, 2 four-credit classes, and 1 three-credit class.

Or, maybe you want to check out a wellness option, which are usually more credits than classes and need to budget 20 for that. You’ll choose a 20-credit wellness option and then have seven left over for a class.

Tip 2: Don’t be picky. 

The beauty of CP is variety. Yet, it’s curious why people who have CP like to go to the same studios every month. When you go outside your comfort zone, you have more opportunities to use your class credits at different allocations at different studios (which means, more workouts).

Tip 3: Get up early or stay out late. 

Any classes between 7 a.m. – 9 a.m.; 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. are more credits because they are prime time (the most popular). Also, the more well-known studios cost more credits. Anything before 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. gives you a credit break, so keep that in mind. If your work schedule is a bit flexible, lunchtime sweat sessions are awesome and super cost effective, as well. Also, give unknown studios a try. Sometimes you can snag an intro class for zero credits (one-time)! Finally, outside early and late studio classes, gym time slots are my absolute fav. I can head to a gym for two hours for lower than a day rate, versus getting a membership. Hollaaaaa.

Tip 4: Use filters.

Don’t feel like scrolling? I don’t blame you. Plus, you’re more inclined to get frustrated and just “pick” something that way (and you’re trying to be strategic, remember?). The CP filter feature is pretty kick ass. Right next to the “map” icon at the top right of the app, click to choose how many credits you want a class for (along with geographic area, etc.) and see what’s available.

Tip 5: Videos are your friend.

Sure, CP has a subscription-based “Live” feature (that’s super cool), but if you don’t feel like paying the $10 up charge for it, head to the “videos” icon in the bottom center of the app. You can get your workout on for FREE with some of them from like, the hottest studios. All you need is to be a CP member. I’ve gotta be honest, I never liked at-home workouts until my injury, but now I’m totally into the quality and convenience (and cost savings).

Have CP questions for me? Or comments on this post? Leave a comment or message me on Instagram @kerryleeinthecityfit

 

#FEARLESSFRIDAY: I Tried It – Ice Skating

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I have no problem admitting the things I’m good at. I’m a good teacher. I’m a good writer. I’m a good listener. I’m a good friend. I have good style. And, I can crush most fitness classes.

On the other hand, I also have no problem admitting things I’m terrible at. This include driving, math, relaxing, making Excel spreadsheets, and remaining calm in stressful situations (you don’t want me next to you on a plane. Promise).

Additionally, there are things in life I simply avoid (falling into neither the good or bad category). This is either because I have no interest in trying these things, or I’m just scared. Things that fall into this bucket include swimming, watching any scary movie with my eyes open, trying on clothes before I buy them, or – the subject of today’s post – ice skating.

Let me give you a little BTS on this fitness queen: I HATE the outdoors. In fact, I’ll go so far to say I hate weather, in general. Rain, snow, wind, mugginess. I’m simply not the type of girl who appreciates seasons or enjoys a hot day at the beach. When I was little, my Mom tried to force me to play outside and I would cry until she’d let me back in. Sure, I like warm weather, but that doesn’t mean I like to play any outdoor SPORTS like volleyball or…whatever else you play in nature. This is especially true for anything I have to do in cold weather circumstances, so skiing is completely out (as is anything related to skiing). I don’t even like “a walk in the snow” (miserable). Which brings me to the ONE TIME my parents tried to put me in ice skates, I was five years old and lasted five minutes (and that didn’t include getting ON the ice).

I have a confession to make. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had some serious regret about things I never learned (or avoided). Life is too damn short and there’s no time like the present.

Enter the lovely Sarah Kamenetz (or Coach Sarah, if you’re nasty). I met Sarah while taking a class at Power Studios (check out her schedule) and while we were chatting, she mentioned she has a full-time gig as a professional ice skating coach at City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City. I laughed and told her I’d never tried skating. Before I knew it, I was on my way to Queens to give it a go.

Let’s get real for a second: Learning to do something as an adult is hard. There are numerous articles to back me up on this, but in short, it’s all about how our brains are more malleable to new information when we’re young, and not so much as we get older. So, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a bit of anxiety going into this. But, once I laced myself into the skates (with Sarah’s help) and hit the ice, something changed.

I suddenly didn’t care.

Sure, little kids were whizzing by me and I looked like a gorilla attempting not to step on ants, but in 30 short minutes, Sarah taught me how to glide forwards and backwards, stop, and make a little figure eight. I mean, I wasn’t good by any standards. I was awkward and sloppy, and certainly not graceful like Sarah, but it didn’t matter. I did something new. At 34 years old. And I gotta tell you something. I was damn proud of myself.

It’s funny. When we’re kids, we want to try everything (unless you’re me, because well, read above). We are fearless. As we age, even though we may consider ourselves “adventurous”, we are more fearful than our younger selves. We are more hesitant to break free from our comfort zone because we may fail or look silly. We don’t try new things because we are unsure and self conscious. This is especially true with workouts. I hear from so many people about how they could “never” do a workout I tried. Well, I didn’t think I could skate without falling on my face, either. And it happened. Trying out new classes or workouts shouldn’t be scary. It should be a welcome challenge to become stronger, better versions of ourselves. So, next time you’re hesitant, just say yes. Trying something once will never hurt you, it will only help you grow. And plus, who knows? You may end up having a Nancy Kerrigan moment, like me.

Follow all my fitness adventures on Instagram @kerryleeinthecityfit

 

 

2017: The Best (and Worst) Year of My Life

Every December 31st morning, I make a handwritten list of resolutions. Don’t ask why – possibly because of my Type-A, perfectionist personality – the list must be on construction paper and in colored marker. Once satisfied with the finished product, I keep the list on my fridge for the next 365 days and cross them off when accomplished.

This morning, I find myself staring at this list like it’s public enemy number one. It’s approximately 360 days since I made this list and not one thing is crossed off. In fact, not one was attempted. Now, before you all start with the “but you’ve done so much this year!” talk, allow me to explain why this particular list is such a big deal.

I’m staring at this list in anger not because I didn’t achieve anything on it. I’m staring at it in anger because this year, I realized I’m 34 years old and haven’t begun to reach my potential, because I’ve been letting so many things hold me back. Things no one sees, but can absolutely relate to.

On the last day of last year, this list was created with grotesque assumptions that I would be the same person I was in 2016. It assumed I’d still be a people pleaser, fake happy when I truly felt no joy, and putting everyone else’s needs above mine. Additionally, the list assumed I would still have Fear of Missing Out Syndrome (FOMO), care about what everyone thought of me, and a possess a truly stifled voice (this began in elementary-school, by the way. With three mean girls who will remain unnamed but hope #karma gave it to them). This list also assumed I’d still be the person to always be reaching out to friends to hang out, making the plans, or giving 3,000 percent when I’m only getting 10 in return.

The title of this post couldn’t be truer: This year has been the best and worst year of my life. Pre-blog, the bubble I’d been living in – holding it all together – finally popped. The beginning of 2017 was spent at a variety of doctor’s offices, trying to figure out why I was having debilitating panic attacks in public for no apparent reason (one of which happened while teaching a class; that was fun). I then spent the next few months trying (and erroring) cocktails of medication to get it all under control, which left me weak and super sick.  All the while, I was suffering in silence, carefully sucking it up to be the best teacher possible, the best writer possible, the best friend possible, and the best multitasker possible. I had a reputation to uphold: Thou must always look like they have it together. It was not only exhausting, but lonely.

This time of internal pain was compounded by life events. I lost friends I should have lost years ago. I also lost friends I thought I’d have for the rest of my life. I was used and taken for granted, so hurt and disappointed by others I sometimes couldn’t get out of bed. I experienced the awful trifecta of sexism, ageism, and harassment; being knocked down so hard I didn’t know if I could get back up. I became so afraid of conflict, it was simply easier to remain silent. I started telling people what they wanted to hear, instead of what was in my heart. I became unable to make decisions for myself, so I began to look to others to make them for me.  I never felt heard, so sometimes, I just cried.

You may have experienced similar feelings at some point in your own lives. Maybe you’ve experienced them all. It’s funny: We have all these friends and/or family members, but when shit hits the fan, we sometimes don’t know who to call, or “bother” with our problems. More importantly, we feel like no one will understand, so we just bury it deeper. Or, that no one will truly listen. Or care. So, we just push through. We keep moving.

I am not writing this to make anyone feel bad. In fact, We all are guilty of getting wrapped up in our own lives and not checking in with those we love. We’ve even started relying on social media to tell us how people are, so we don’t feel so guilty about not putting in the effort (i.e., oh, look at how happy they are in that pic! They are fine!). But, I don’t think it was until this year I realized just how wrong this whole thought process is.  We – as humans – take so much for granted. We take the people in our lives for granted. We take ourselves for granted.

And it’s got. to. stop.

Enter fitness. Fitness has always been a huge part of my life. I was a dancer for 15 years (competitive for 10). All through high school, I was captain of the cross country, winter, and spring track teams. I’ve been a lover of the gym for as long as I can remember. But, halfway through this year, fitness took a different role: It became a job. And in this job, I produce content. And this content gave me a renewed sense of purpose; a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Sure, I was always big into exercise before, but now, I’m part of a community of people who lift me up and in turn, I take that energy to lift others.

Thanks to all of you, I have this amazing platform to help others become their best selves. But what you may not see on the other side of the Instagram handle is that I’m still trying to become my best self along the way. I’m learning how to love myself unconditionally, be my own best friend, the art of self care, and making decisions that put me first, even if it doesn’t make me popular. Telling my readers to do all these things has suddenly held me accountable – in the best way possible – to keep working on myself.

And, #realtalk, it’s fucking hard. But, just like foam rolling, sometimes you must sit on that spot of pain until you want to cry before it starts feeling better (ya’ll KNEW I’d throw in a fitness metaphor. CMON).

I have big thoughts for 2018. I purposely did not use the word resolutions because I no longer believe in them. “Resolutions” have a finality to them; if you don’t achieve them, you feel like you let yourself down. You failed. You’re mad at YOU. If you have big thoughts, however, you can’t fall short. You can’t fail. You can’t be disappointed. Because thoughts, unlike resolutions, are fluid; they are in progress. Just like all of us.

Here are my big thoughts for the New Year. I hope some of them inspire you, too.

  • Make Your Own Decisions: You may think you need to ask 20 different opinions on a matter before you decide on it, but honestly, it’s a waste of your time. You are the only person who can hear that tiny voice inside, telling you what’s right. Listen to it. It will never steer you wrong.
  • One Day a Week is “You” Day: Choose one half or one full day every week dedicated to celebrating you, and everything you love. Turn off your phone. Order only Seamless. Don’t get out of your PJs. Read a book. Binge on Netflix. Take a few fitness classes alone. Stretch. Meditate. Whatever it is, you need the time to not only rest and rejuvenate, but to hear your own thoughts (letting them marinate, grow, and eventually, hatch).
  • Be Your Own Best Friend: You can’t depend on others to make you happy. You also can’t expect everyone to act like you do, or meet your needs and wants like you’d like them to be met. Once you finally realize this, you are immediately less sensitive to how people act towards you, because you are hit over the head with the fact you can’t control other people’s actions; you can only control your own. People are unpredictable. You know yourself. You are the only one that can truly make you happy. Pause. Repeat.
  • Let It Go: When you spend so much time being angry about something, it consumes you. It takes over any positive energy you have. Life is unpredictable, and in this, you can’t always understand why things happen to you. You can’t always have closure (or think you deserve it). You also can’t always understand why you fight with people you love or why relationships change for the better or worse. Sure, you can spend time thinking you’re right, or being stubborn. But how much nicer would your life be if you can replace those feelings with all the love you have to give? Fights are moments in time, and anger only takes over when someone truly wasn’t meant to be in your life to begin with. Otherwise, you’d let it go and move on, because all the good outweighs the bad. Being angry or upset doesn’t do anything except hurt you. Life is way too short to take any day for granted, or spend it being anything but grateful and happy for something; anything and anyone who matters.
  • Find Your Happy Place(s): You don’t need to be everywhere and be everything (to everybody). You need to live and breathe in spaces where you feel safe, confident, and secure; and with people who make you feel the same way. You don’t have to go to every party. You don’t have to go to every wedding. You don’t need to remember every birthday. You don’t have to hang out with anyone you don’t genuinely enjoy sharing time with. Your time is valuable. And there’s no time to spread yourself thin with those who don’t make you better, simply by being around them.
  • Be the Bigger Person: Did you know being the bigger person isn’t just about saying “I’m sorry” first? It also means being the human who’s nice when someone else isn’t; staying calm when someone is angry; being empathetic when someone is being irrational. It means getting out of your own head and putting your feelings aside to truly understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. Let me be clear: This doesn’t mean allowing people to walk all over you, or not sticking up for what you know to be right. It means spending arguments and drama like money: Sparingly and with purpose. If it’s really worth it to you bring an issue up with someone, by all means. But I challenge you to take a moment and think about if it’s worth it. If you decide it is, you need to understand you can’t expect the recipient to not feel a certain way about it. It may alter your relationship; or you may say something you can’t take back (or the other person can’t forget). Remember, it takes a lot more effort to let someone else react than it does for you to match the reaction. Be the better human. You’ll win in the end; I promise.
  • Live Your Own Life: This is easier said than done. It seems everyone has an opinion about how you should be living your life. You either are doing too much of something, too little of something, or should be doing something else all together. Remember this: Unless you specifically ask for an opinion from someone who’s advice you’re going to take, it means nothing. Zero. At the end of the day, you’re the only person you need to answer to, so live your own life. Also, living your own life doesn’t mean following one path. Through the years, you’ll need different things at different times. Your personality will change. You’ll grow and morph. Not everyone is going to be along for the ride; in fact, only a few will stay aboard. And that’s OK. As you move through, you’ll slowly but shirley see who your true friends are. True friends are those who morph with you, accept you for who you are (in whatever stage), and put in the effort along the way. The friends that don’t? Well, maybe they weren’t supposed to be in your life for the long term to begin with.
  • Move Every Day: The problem with making a fitness “resolution” is all the pressure you put on yourself to achieve it (and typically, you’ve been overly ambitious in setting). Instead, think about how you enjoy exercise – in any way – and focus on how you can fit that type of moment into your daily routine. Whether it be a yoga class twice a week and the rest of the days, a 15-minute walk; or a dance party in the kitchen plus a few tap lessons at a studio, you need to make your fitness regimen work for YOU, not the other way around. And for goodness sake, do not let someone else’s fitness goals influence you. Everyone is different and every BODY is different. Sign up for things that don’t feel like work, and make your heart happy, as well as your health. Movement is a form of me time, and even if you hate exercise, you need to change your mindset to how it will benefit you long term.

Happy Holidays, #fitfam. I look forward to so many more adventures with you all in the New Year. Thanks for being along for my ride.

I love your feedback. Please leave a comment and follow me on Instagram @kerryleeinthecityfit.

#FridayFeels – Holiday Help from Laura Hopkins, @LivesandForks

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Oh, the holidays. So many pies, so little time. Not to mention the cookies, stuffing, appetizers, cocktails…the list goes on. This may sound exciting and amazing for some, but for people like me (who battled anorexia for almost 10 years…and almost lost twice), the holidays bring about food anxiety not many can understand. But, you don’t have to be recovering from anything to have food anxiety. Whether it’s a fear of eating too much or eating the wrong things, or having too many choices, the feelings are real and can sometimes hinder what’s supposed to be merry and bright.

Laura Hopkins, an NYC and Southampton-based health coach, is the founder of @livesandforks, an on-and-offline platform dedicated to helping use food and cooking to get healthier. Believing one of the best ways to get healthy is know your way around a kitchen, Hopkins is passionate about people’s relationship with food, and creating an alliance instead of an enemy.

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, I had the chance to chat with this amazing human about choosing wisely, stocking the kitchen better, and forgiving yourself.

Kerry: Laura, thanks so much for taking the time. What you do is so important, and I’m thrilled you can help us get set up for success without the stress. So, let’s get this show on the road! The holidays are synonymous with poor eating choices. Why do you think most of us have this sense of…hopelessness that we can eat mindfully over the holidays?

Laura: I think that most people get a little nervous thinking about their food consumption over the holidays, which is totally normal! Lots of traditional families center celebrations around food almost more than the occasion itself, which is daunting to those of us trying to make conscious eating choices. I mean, let’s be real: No one wants to get yelled at by their Aunt Linda for not eating the food she spent a week preparing. Some of us might think it is hopeless to eat mindfully over the holidays because maybe it’s never been something we have been able to do. But with the right tools and a good attitude it can be a piece of cake (did someone just say cake??).

Kerry: I see what you did there. Yes tools! We are ready. To that point, what steps can we make during the holidays to make ‘better choices’, yet not feel deprived?

Laura: One of the best tips I can give you before going into a big holiday meal is…. EAT BEFORE. Now, don’t ruin your whole appetite because where’s the fun in that? But, it’s never good to go into a holiday meal famished; similar to grocery shopping, right? Portion size is also really important. If you want to try everything, great! Just make sure to serve yourself smaller portions of the unhealthier foods and big portions of salads and veggies to fill up on first. Same thing with dessert. Serve yourself a small sliver of cake instead of everyone else’s serving size. This way, no one will give you a hard time about missing out on dessert and you can satisfy that sweet tooth without overdoing it. In terms of alcohol, steer clear of the sugary cocktails. Instead, sip on some red wine (high in antioxidants) or a vodka/tequila with club soda with fresh fruit to flavor it.

Kerry: That alcohol tip is everything, especially because my family is big on the sangria (hellooooo sugar). Now, many of us do the cooking and entertaining (blogger’s note: And those that don’t…lucky you). What’s one piece of advice you can give to help stock our kitchens better, so we use the best ingredients, instead of the easiest?

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Laura: Two words. Whole Foods (blogger’s note: Organic endorsement). Try to stock your pantry and refrigerator with things that actually resemble food; not packets, boxes, and cans. If you take pride in entertaining (which I totally do!), take the time to prepare. If you try to do everything at once, you can overwhelm yourself. Make a list of what you will need in terms of ingredients, beverages etc. Leading up to the occasion, chip away at a few things at a time; evaluate what food you can wash/cut/prep before hand. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put some music on, and get cooking! If you look at cooking as something therapeutic, you won’t be searching for the quick and easy option.

Kerry: That is such good advice! I have one more, and it’s a big one. I don’t know about my readers, but I beat myself up pretty hard when I overindulge. Any tips on how to forgive yourself, move on, and reset?

Laura: Even if we put everything in place perfectly, we are only human and overindulging can definitely still happen. A big part of being healthy is not just what you eat but HOW. I mean how you feel when you are eating something, where you are eating it, and who you are eating it with. If you indulged on a special occasion on some homemade food shared with loved ones, good for you! I personally think that is a healthier meal than eating a salad at your desk. It has been shown that eating with others is actually highly beneficial to our health. And, if you feel like crap the next day, start fresh. Wake up, enjoy some warm water with lemon to kick start your digestion, eat something packed with fresh veggies, read something that inspires you, and RESET. There will always be a new day to start over and remember, stressing out about it can actually be worse for you than the food itself!

I don’t know about you guys, but I feel better already.

Follow all of Laura’s food adventures @livesandforks on Instagram, and learn about her customized programs, retreats, and cooking classes here. 

I love your feedback! Leave a comment and follow me on Instagram @kerryleeinthecityfit.

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#FollowFriday – Symone Gates

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She’s feisty. She’s cute. And she’s a beauty guru, to boot. She’s Symone Gates, basically the triple threat of fitness. Not only is she an inspiration when it comes to strength and conditioning through her personal brand, @bodyambitions (Instagram), but she’s also a 305 Fitness instructor and the CEO BOSS-ASS BITCH of post-workout body care line, The Bade Collection. I mean, nbd, right? Just conquering the universe, one day at a time. I had the chance to chat with this Wonder Woman-like creature about health, wellness, food, and what keeps her dancing.

Kerry: Girl, YES! I’m so excited for this! You know how we start: How do you live your #fitlife?

Symone: YES! OK, so I’m a trainer @305 Fitness. I’m also a trainer with @Exuberancy, which allows me to serve as a personal trainer at the @spotify headquarters. I’m also a NY liasion for a personal concierge company @chloejohnston Experiences, and the founder and CEO of Bädé Collection, a post-workout body care line.

Kerry: I seriously can’t with you. We’ll talk about how you keep all that energy up in a bit. My sleeping bag at 305 Fitness is no secret, so we’ll start there. How did you start out at 305 Fitness? How did that magic happen?

Symone: I had just moved to NYC and was perusing craigslist for fitness jobs. I stumbled upon the 305 audition and had to take a class beforehand. I was in love from the moment the lights went out and the warm-up began!

Kerry: What do you love most about teaching at 305?

Symone: I’m blessed to be in a position of motivating others to push themselves. I work out because I enjoy the feeling of strength, and I think that’s a healthier focus then simply weight loss. I try to instill messages of strength into each person who takes my classes. I love the opportunity to inspire and teach clients ways to challenge and strengthen their bodies.

Kerry: Um. And you do, because your class is no joke (I can say that from experience). So, #realtalk: You ain’t just a fitness queen. Tell me about Bädé Collection. What’s it all about and how did it come to fruition?

Symone: Bädé Collection is my newly launched post-workout body care line. When I started thinking about it a year ago, I was teaching 20 classes a week and suffering horrible insomnia because my legs were so inflammed from all the training. I couldn’t find anything pampering that was completely natural, organic, AND convenient that relieved my post-workout aches. I had always been interested in natural remedies and after doing extensive research, I found many plant-based ingredients that can be safely used on the body. My experiments eventually led me to the current Bädé product line.

Kerry: That’s so amazing. The whole concept is amazing. What product are you most proud of (and why should everyone try it)?

Symone: I’m most proud of my Bädé melts. They’re moisturizing body scrub in solid form. It’s a game changer because you can exfoliate and moisturize your body while also tending to sore muscles all within a quick five-minute shower. It’s no mess and convenient. I made it with the post-workout shower in mind.

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Kerry: They are also aesthetically beautiful, so let’s not forget that part. Where do you get your love of fitness and beauty? Does it come from somewhere special?

Symone: I’ve always been active, I’m slightly competitive, so pushing my body physically is a healthy way for me to challenge myself. My love for beauty stems from my interest in self-care. Since moving to the city, it’s become so crucial for me to slow down and practice more self-care or it affects all aspects of my life. Creating beauty products is oddly relaxing and stimulating for me. I love being able to share my self-care remedies with others who may live a similarly crazy lifestyle.

Kerry: Which brings me to my next question. You know more than most, it’s all about the NYC HUSTLE. What’s your top tip to keep it moving?

Symone: EAT! I end every single training session by reminding my clients to eat. I’m so happy when I’m eating, especially after an intense workout. Our bodies get us through so much — think about how much we push it daily just by living in this crazy city! We’re constantly running somewhere, staying up late, and working too much. But, the one thing we can all do to keep it going is by feeding it good food and enjoying a few quiet moments throughout the day.

Kerry: We’ll end with a fun one. What song can you not stop dancing to right now?

Symone: I LITERALLY fell in love with a new song today, “Don’t Sleep On Me” by Ty Dolla $ign. It embodies my current #HustlethenChill mentality I’m going through right now, trying to grow the business!

Learn more about Symone’s fit life at @bodyambitions and @thebadecollection, and check out her blog thebadecollection.com for extended content.
ATTENTION NYC: Symone’s will be at the Gap 34th Fitness Meet-and-Greet on Saturday, November 11 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.! Check her out and snatch up some amazing holiday gifts for your friends and family. Check out my Instagram for deets: @kerryleeinthecityfit.

Girl, You Mad? Because You’re Acting a Fool in this Fitness Studio

About six months ago, I hit up a 305 Fitness class during a snowstorm. A girl approached me and asked why I always stand in the same spot. Surprised (and annoyed), I told her I didn’t. Her response: “I go to both the Village and Midtown locations and I see you all the time. You def always stand in the same spot.”

Over the summer, I took a Y7 class where it quickly became clear no one appreciated I have no yoga talent (yielding lots of evil looks at my flailing arms and lack of flow coordination).

Three weeks ago, I finished a Rumble Boxing class, only to be greeted by a line 15 deep waiting for the shower. I had no idea it wasn’t common knowledge that taking a long lather in communal places is a pretty asshole move (I was late for work and have non-normal hours; I can’t imagine what it did to the schedules of others).

Last week, I booked a spot at Crunch’s SweatShed. My friend booked the spot next to me; 12 and 13. When we arrived, 13 was taken…by someone else. I gently tapped the offender on the shoulder: “Hey! Just wondering if you had 13? My friend was sup—“. Girl cuts me off, with a look to kill: “It doesn’t matter what spot you have. I take this class every week.”

The same girl, a 30 minutes later, during a circuit transition, asked if my weights were 10 pounds and could she have them. I said sure; but they were 7.5 each. An exaggerated “ugh” and a stank face followed.

There is not a week that goes by that I don’t enter a fitness class where someone’s put their water bottle, phone, or towel to hold a spot while they go change, primp, or pull up their laptop.

I’m sorry. But, WTF?

I’m going to coin a term, and it’s not going to make me popular: #entitlefit.

Definition: Just because you pay (sometimes a lot) of money for a membership somewhere, and you go often, you believe you are above all others who attend the same facility. I’m going to take that one step further (because it’s my blog, and I can): You think you’re beyond rules and/or common courtesy or etiquette. In fact, you’re pretty judgmental of others, too.

Taking a look in the mirror RN? Yeah. I would, too.

Here’s the deal: NYC is expensive. Rent is expensive. Food is expensive. Your social life is expensive. This, of course, means how you live your #fitlife is expensive.

I get it. I really do (writers don’t get everything for free. I know. I just blew your mind). When you pay money for something, you want to feel like royalty. You want to be able to act and do whatever you want. You want to complain about every single thing that makes you unhappy. You want to be the exception to every rule.

Here’s reality, tho: You’re not a Kardashian. You’re not even Kathy Griffin (on the D-List). You’re a regular NYC Joe or Joanna, taking a fitness class. And, I don’t really care how much you’re paying. We all pay or we wouldn’t be here (if you take for free, I’m not talking to you). You need to take yourself down a notch and realize a fitness class isn’t your kingdom; it’s a community. And in that, you are an equal, whether you like it, or not. You’re the only one who thinks you’re doing amazing, sweetie. No one else does. Here are some common behavioral patters you may need to check yourself with:

  • Need to always be in the front? No one’s watching you, boo. Everyone’s focused on their own workout. Go as hard as you want, but no one’s impressed. Prom.
  • Calling every instructor your “friend” or “bestie”? Newsflash: Good instructors engage with their clients – especially their regulars – because you’re a reason their class runs, and that’s huge for them. They appreciate you. This doesn’t mean you’re besties and it certainly doesn’t mean you are privileged in that class just because you think the instructor is “friends” with you. If your fitness instructor turns into an actual friend of yours, that’s fab, but that would mean you have a relationship outside of class. Otherwise, calm down.
  • You have a designated “Spot”?: No one has a spot. If you had a spot, it would have your name on it. They are all up for grabs. This isn’t City rent: Your monthly bill doesn’t include a parking space.
  • Pissed Someone Doesn’t “Get It?” (isn’t on the right count, beat, rep): Do you remember your first time in this class? Do you remember what a hot mess you were? Probably not, because you’re so obsessed with where you are now. I highly encourage you take a walk down memory lane and think about how you would have felt if someone acted a fool towards you.
  • Taking your time in the locker room? Sorry, sister, but everybody’s got somewhere to go, and this isn’t your apartment. Get in and out of the shower, be quick with the blow-dryer, and share the freakin’ mirror space. I literally can’t with your 20-minute showers, 12-plug take-ups for all electronic devices, and needing SPECIFIC lighting for your eyeliner application.

Now, I’m going to take some of the blame off the #entitlefit for a second and put it on the studios, because much of the time, they help encourage this kind of behavior (#realtalk). Specifically, I mean giving cute little nicknames to those who complete a certain number of classes, “ambassadorships” if you know someone is obsessed with your brand (especially bad if you have some sort of audition process to accompany; there’s nothing that says “I’m better than other people” than being “chosen” for something based on your loyalty. If you want people to work for you, pay them, or at least comp their classes), and achieving certain levels of distinction after so many years at one place.  Listen – I get it. You want to “honor” your loyal customers. You want to make them feel special. You want these people to be your word-of-mouth. I totally support that. But, you don’t need to push exclusivity to accomplish this. What gets you ahead is to be inclusive.

I’m not one for feedback without solutions, so allow me to present some examples:

  • Why not send a personal email (not by your assistant or front desk staff)? Let us know how much you appreciate our business? (generic emails or passing us off to others does not a happy customer make).
  • Why not reach out every once in a while just to see how our experience is? Just to say hey?
  • Why not send discounts or special offers on future packages or memberships? Not all the time, but a wow, you’ve been with us a few years now: Let me throw you a bone because we heart you.
  • Why not engage with us on social media and make us feel like real humans you care about, not just a headcount to keep your doors open? Answer us when we tag you (and NOT with an emoji. Good Lord). Say hey girl (or guy), I see you and appreciate you.
  • Why not call loyalists first to test out new classes, and provide candid feedback based on our experience (because we’ve been with you for a bit and you value our opinion?)
  • Why not do a rotation with regulars in marketing materials or promotions to speak (organically) about your brand (or feature them on your social media so other people can learn about you from them?)

These are all meaningful, resonating ways to engage, without the exclusiveness that encourages bad behavior.

I’d also like to talk about complaints from this top tier. You know what I’m talking about: They’re mad because there’s a sub. It was too hot in the room. They didn’t like the class today and want a refund. You made a change to the schedule and it’s not OK with them. The #entitlefits complain A LOT because they feel like they can “for the money and time they’re spending.” Here’s an idea: Instead of thinking the customer is always right, put your foot down. Put a limit on that shower time, make a case for raising your prices, and explain why that sub is so amazing, instead of simply giving them an out to cancel if they aren’t happy with the replacement instructor. And, for goodness sake, make rules about holding spots, taking multiple classes per day (taking space from others who haven’t had the chance to take the class yet), and overall sneers, glares, and judgement. Making these changes will not only create a more amicable environment, but will put the self-nominated elite back in their place (and trust me, they need it).

I love your feedback; please leave a comment. Also, follow all my fitness adventures on Instagram @kerryleeinthecityfit