Do This Workout To Lose Your Social Ineptitude & Build Stamina For Talking To Other People

After a year of pretending to enjoy Zoom happy hours and talking to our dogs as if they could respond, the world has slowly started to open up again. Back in March 2020, the thought of having to isolate from friends and family was anxiety-inducing, but now in 2021, seeing them again might actually be worse. In case you forgot, talking to other humans is absolutely exhausting. 

I for one would have been fine staying in my apartment forever, but after receiving my coveted second dose of Moderna, my best friend had the audacity to ask me to go to dinner. AT A RESTAURANT. As someone who has only received contactless delivery in brown bags at my front door for an entire year, the thought of having to sit near strangers and take my mask off immediately made me sweat. But I knew I had to rip the Band-aid off (literally off my arm and figuratively) and go to dinner. And I treated it like the only other self-inflicted, exhausting thing I do: as a workout. Now, I may not have any personal training certifications, but I am certified in overthinking (I certified myself). Do these moves to get you in shape to interact with other humans.

The Warmup

3 reps writing conversation topics on note cards
• 4 reps – talking to myself in the mirror
• 6 reps – outfit changes
• 1 rep – going to the grocery store to practice small talk
• 5 reps – check to make sure I brought hand sanitizer with me

Socializing is like a muscle, and a year of isolation led to major atrophy of my social butterfly muscles. Long story short, I forgot how to talk to people. And in case you’re in the same boat, here’s how I warmed up. I pulled a full Leslie Knope and wrote down some post-vax conversation topics on my phone, such as “OMG, how sore was your arm?” and “Are people eating indoors at restaurants now?” But I didn’t stop there—I got in some reps of legitimately practicing talking to myself in the mirror. Spoiler alert, I’ve still got it. Another hot warmup tip, hit up the grocery store instead of using Instacart, gotta get some small talk practice in.

And as if this all wasn’t enough to tire me out before the workout (the dinner), I hadn’t even gotten dressed yet. Naturally, I changed my outfit six times because after a year in sweats, I also forgot how to put an outfit together. There’s also a lot more to remember now when leaving your house. Before the pandemic, I could hardly remember my phone, keys, and wallet, but now, I also had to remember to bring a mask, hand sanitizer, and my own utensils (yes, I’m that kind of germaphobe). So for the final phase of the warm-up, set some reminders to grab everything you need before walking out the door. You’ll know you’re ready to go when your makeup has already completely sweat off onto the inside of your mask.

The Workout

• 1 rep – first hug in a year
• 3 reps – getting up from table to wash hands
• 2 reps – switching tables to get away from a sneezer
• 6 reps – trying to figure out how to work a QR code menu
• 5 reps – exercising small talk muscles (this isn’t easy, make sure to have a workout buddy spot you for this one)

While social interaction itself is exhausting, getting to the restaurant was also way more tiring than I remembered. Walking through crowded streets and having to get in an elevator with strangers will make you want to take a shower in hand sanitizer before even sitting down. And in case you’re like me and haven’t been touched by another human in a year, beware, your friends will probably hug you. But much to my surprise, hugging another person isn’t as scary as I thought it would be as a vaccinated queen. It’s kind of like how doing burpees isn’t as bad as you thi—okay, who am I kidding, burpees are always torture.

For the most part, I think I held my own at my first post-vax dinner (minus getting up to wash my hands three times). My friend was able guide me through how to access a menu on my phone with a QR code, she let us switch tables after the guy next to us had his fifth sneezing attack, and she didn’t think I was a total freak for bringing my own utensils or wiping down the table with Clorox wipes. 

The Cooldown

• 3 reps – remembering how lucky we are to be #vaccinated
• 1 rep – throwing all my clothes in the wash right away
• 2 reps accepting more plans to keep building stamina

Like most workouts, this one was challenging, I got sweaty, and there were moments when we wanted to give up and go back to doing nothing, but the discomfort was worth the endorphin high at the end. Now, like most workouts, I’m so exhausted from putting in effort one time that I need to take two weeks off.

Image: Arun Sharma / Unsplash

SoulCycle Knew Their Top Instructors Were Problematic—And Let It Slide

This just in: bougie fitness company offering classes geared at wealthy white people fostered a toxic environment full of gross behavior and intolerance. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are to hear that SoulCyle is not a very inclusive place to work! At least, that’s the picture a new report from Business Insider is painting after speaking with more than 30 SoulCycle insiders, from current and former riders to studio staff and corporate employees. Some of the company’s top instructors are accused of making fatphobic, homophobic, and racist comments; developing inappropriate relationships with riders; and more.

A SoulCycle spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement: “At SoulCycle, our priority has always been to build a community centered on our core values of diversity, inclusion, acceptance and love. When we receive complaints or allegations related to behavior within our community that does not align to our values, we take those very seriously and both investigate and address them.”

One key element of the SoulCycle business/culture that’s crucial to understand is that some instructors were not just your run-of-the-mill fitness instructors who would teach a few classes here or there. Some of these top instructors had built up cult-like followings. People would book classes specifically for these instructors; some of their classes would have waitlists within seconds of opening up for booking. This would earn SoulCycle more money. (Think of that scene in Parks and Rec when April is pretending to get along with Tynnyfer after Eagleton merges with Pawnee, and she’s like, “OMG who’s your spinning instructor, Gregory or Wynona? Wynona rocks my world” and then Tynnyfer is like, “I only go to Yonis, who are Gregory and Wynona? You need to get me in there, that’s a must, must, MUST.”)

Parks and Rec is a satirical show, but these types of people literally exist, and knowingly or not, they contributed to this lack-of-accountability culture. SoulCycle would reward their master instructors with perks such as Soho House memberships, thousands of dollars worth of birthday gifts, and even went so far as to establish a talent agency with WME specifically for their top-tier instructors, to give you an idea of how much air they pumped into these people’s egos. All of that is just to answer your first question right away, which any rational person would have, which is: how did these people not get fired for these offenses? The answer is money. As for your second question, which will be, “WTF is wrong with these people??” that I cannot answer.

So now that you understand the why, let’s break down the who. There are four major instructors implicated in this story. Let’s get to know them.

Conor Kelly

I imagine that all SoulCycle instructors are hot, but Conor is apparently especially attractive: with his “chiseled abs and sleeve of tattoos” (again, I would think all SoulCycle instructors have chiseled abs and many have tattoos, given that it’s 2020, but Business Insider made a point to note these characteristics, so I will do the same), he attracted a dedicated group of riders who were dubbed the “Conz Crew” (inventive). Like the Doc Antle of SoulCycle, Kelly taught classes that were likened to “a sex dungeon” and once led class in neon women’s shorts and no underwear. (SoulCycle apparently has a policy that forbids instructors from showing their nipples, but I guess nothing on d*ck outlines.) It was supposedly common knowledge that he would have sex with riders and send them nudes. This apparently caused problems both with other riders and people’s spouses. While it’s not clear what, if any, policy SoulCycle has on instructors having sex with clients, as one rider said to Business Insider, “in any other type of work environment, no one would tolerate that.”

Kelly also reportedly once called a Black employee “Aunt Jemima” because she put a bandana on her head. The employee told a few other instructors about the comment, but didn’t report it because she didn’t think anyone would have cared.

Kelly’s schedule was cut back in 2019 and he was relocated to mainly NYC studios so corporate could keep an eye on him, according to a former corporate staff member.

Laurie Cole

According to accounts by a former rider and SoulCycle employees, Cole treated her classes like an Abercrombie & Fitch store in 2004, only letting the fittest and most attractive riders have the privilege of being stationed in the front row. One woman alleged that she was pregnant and Cole kicked her out of her front row spot and stationed her in the back. (She sent an email to SoulCycle’s lawyers but as far as the woman knew, Cole was never disciplined.) Cole would even take pictures of staff members and order studio managers to remove ones from her shift that she didn’t deem to be in good enough shape. And it worked, because Cole would threaten to not teach if she didn’t get her way.

Also disturbingly, Cole used homophobic language, once saying in 2017, “Well, they better not hire a bunch of twinks to work there” when discussing a new studio opening in Park Slope. The manager Cole said this to reported it to someone at corporate, who said they would escalate the complaint to HR. Nothing ever happened.

She would also berate people who got her green juice order wrong, because of course she would.

Cole was reprimanded and on several occasions, she met with the company’s chief people officer and chief talent officer. She was also taken off the schedule several times. 

Janet Fitzgerald

SoulCycle’s senior training officer would sometimes call riders “little sluts” and, according to one longtime instructor, asked candidates about their sexual orientation during training. The instructor in question told Business Insider that she found the question to be “super bizarre and unnecessary.” It is also super illegal!

Another senior instructor said Fitzgerald would make weird sexual comments during training, such as “Do you want to get f*cked? You’re never getting f*cked if you look like that. Let your hair down. Put on some lipstick or something.” Despite having a very warped view of what will make a straight man turn down sex (which in my experience is next to nothing), these comments are also incredibly strange and inappropriate. And they’re coming from the senior training officer!

Fitzgerald is still listed as an instructor on the SoulCycle website.

Mike Press

Press, who taught in New York pre-pandemic but is now teaching in Westchester and Greenwich, was accused of sexual impropriety by multiple women. One former rider and one high-up employee claim he sent them inappropriate Instagram DMs, and he would tell the employee not to tell HR. He also began dating one rider when he was 31 and she was 20. The two had an on-again, off-again relationship until she says he pressured her into giving her a blow job in her dorm room. Her emails to SoulCycle about the incident went unanswered, as did the email of one of her friends who wrote to SoulCycle about the incident (another one of her friends who emailed got a response that the email had been “elevated to the proper internal teams”). Another woman who wrote to sound the alarm about Press’s treatment of women did not receive a response from SoulCycle.

SoulCycle also said to Business Insider, We are committed to continuing to make improvements and ensuring that we live up to the values that our teams and riders expect of us.” No word yet on what those improvements might be, and as of now, all of the instructors are still employed by SoulCycle.

Images: Noam Galai/Getty Images; Tenor

Yoga Shouldn’t Be About Achieving ‘Hotness’: A Beginner’s Guide To Spiritual Yoga

Do you hate spin class, CrossFit, and workouts that involve people with conventionally “perfect” bodies yelling at you? Are you a millennial having an existential crisis? If you answered yes to both or either of these questions, I highly recommend spiritual yoga. 

When I hear the term “yoga,” I automatically think of girls with perky butts doing the splits. The truth is, though, yoga was never meant to turn into what it is now. Many people forget, or just flat-out don’t know, that yoga was around looooong before Lululemon started charging $125 for stretchy fabric. Yoga originated in India all the way back in 3,000 BCE (Boomers hadn’t even been born yet). Its original purpose was to serve as a practice to help people achieve Samadhi, a state of pure awareness. Since its creation, yoga has branched off into a ton of different forms. They all maintained the common goal of connecting the mind and the body, just in different ways. 

The thing is that the kind of fitness yoga that is so popular now tends to take the mind out of the equation and focuses on just the body. Basically, Americans did what we do best: we commercialized something meaningful and rebranded it into a way to achieve “hotness.” A spiritual yoga class probably won’t get you much closer to achieving Michelle Obama’s toned arms or Rihanna’s phenomenal ~cake~ but that’s kind of the whole point. It hangs on to the dangling thread of the mind-body connection. One of the best things you can do going into a spiritual yoga class is drop the CorePower Yoga mindset of “I’m paying $150 a month for this, so I better look bomb in a bikini.” If anything, just don’t overthink the experience. That being said though, here are some things I probably should’ve thought about before my first spiritual yoga class.  

Finding A Spiritual Yoga Class

“Yoga” has turned into such a broad term that it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting into when you sign up for a yoga class. Here are a few signs that a class involves fitness yoga: the class uses the words “burn” or “sculpt” in its name, your friend suggests you take the class as a way to get over a hangover, or the studio the class is held in has floor-to-ceiling windows so the public can watch you like some sort of zoo animal in spandex. Spiritual yoga classes will usually reference specific types of yoga in their names/descriptions. The type of class I did involved hatha yoga. Some other common types of spiritual yoga include ashtanga and vinyasa yoga. The website YogiApproved offers a quiz to help you decide which form of spiritual yoga best fits you. So, take a break from BuzzFeed quizzes on what type of cheese matches your zodiac sign and try it out.

Once you’ve figured out what type of spiritual yoga you’re interested in, the obvious next step is to turn to the almighty Google. Include the name of the specific type of spiritual yoga you are looking for in your area, and, depending on where you live, you should find a decent amount of studios that offer these classes. Keep in mind that just by typing in the word “yoga” your search page will also include some of the big-name yoga studios like CorePower or YogaWorks. The likelihood of you finding traditional spiritual yoga classes at one of these studios is slim to none. Your best bet is to stick to the smaller studios. Think of the big-name studios as Olive Garden, and the smaller studios as a family owned Italian restaurant. While Olive Garden can offer you a great deal on an endless amount of breadsticks and salads, you can’t go in there expecting nonna in the back cooking her baked ziti recipe that’s been passed down in the family for generations. 

Attire

It’s okay if you don’t own a $200 matching spandex outfit. In my opinion, nobody should. For spiritual yoga, throw on your $30 leggings, and I guarantee you’ll feel a little money saver’s high when you tell the woman who pulled up to class in a Range Rover that they’re from Target. Do NOT wear a loose T-shirt, though. It will expose your boobs during a majority of the positions, and you might feel the urge to say “oopsies” each time you pull it back down. Also, keep in mind that the people in these classes are usually the type who own multiple shirts that have different plays on the phrase “namaste” written on them. So, avoid wearing tops that say things like “I swear to drunk I’m not God” (totally random example…I didn’t definitely do this).

Essential Oils

Before the class begins, you might be offered the opportunity to choose from essential oils with names that sound more like titles of Enya songs than actual fragrances. The scents are supposed to evoke different emotions/states of mind. Lavender is meant to calm you, peppermint helps with focus, tea tree makes you flashback to drinking too much vodka then throwing up in a Pizza Hut, etc. So, if you’re unsure of what emotion “myrrh” is supposed to bring out, just ask the instructor. When you pick one, remember that these oils are not poppers. Do not stick the vile directly under your nose and huff it like you are in a bathroom stall at a night club. Just rub one on the inside of your wrists and pretend that “sandalwood” doesn’t actually smell like a cedar closet that someone has been chain-smoking in.  

The Poses

One thing that really separates spiritual yoga from your typical fitness yoga is that the poses go beyond butt sculpting. Each of the poses have a different story and meaning behind them. My personal favorite pose was the “corpse pose” which consists of one of my biggest passions, lying on the ground. The corpse pose has a pretty literal meaning—you’re mimicking death in order to prepare yourself for it, which is actually very millennial for an ancient practice.

The “warrior pose” is a deep lunge accompanied by what essentially looks like pointing a finger gun in the air. This pose symbolizes the God, Shiva, who created a warrior, Virabhadra when she got pissed and ripped out another God’s hair (not in a Jersey Shore way, but in a dignified way). I respect the hell out of Shiva, and I suggest you look her up if you’re in need of some “I am woman, hear me roar” energy. The overall meaning behind the warrior pose is to overcome our ego and ignorance, and, if social media has shown us anything, it’s that most people are stupid and full of themselves.

The “tree pose” has to do with an epic poem (epic meaning a type of poem, not how people described skateboard tricks in the mid-2000s) about a woman named Sita who waited out in the woods for her exiled husband to return. Sita isn’t waiting for her man in the toxic Disney princess kind of way. She is using waiting for him as a time to practice patience, and this pose is your chance to practice this very important life skill for dealing with people’s BS. The tree pose is basically standing as firmly as you can with your arms by your side.

Some of you might be thinking that these poses sound nothing like the type of workout positions that will make you feel sore the next day. Once again, remember that you are not there for abs. You are there for something way more meaningful than 300 likes on a bikini pic. This is only a brief rundown on a few of the poses. Take some time to learn about the stories and meanings behind the poses you can expect during a spiritual yoga class. You will get so much more out of it. 

Farts

At one point, the instructor was helping me get into a position that I’m pretty sure I saw a Russian gymnast do during the Olympics, and… how can I put this delicately… I “ripped ass.” I braced myself for the middle school moment when the earth stops turning, and everyone in class turns around so they can really punch in the humiliation. But, something amazing happened. The teacher patted me on the shoulder like the kind of mother I’ve always wanted and said, “Goooood. Let it out.” I was receiving praise for performing a bodily function, which is the kind of energy I’ve been searching for my entire life. This is what true self-acceptance must feel like. So, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t be alarmed. That’s just the sound of your unhealthy lifestyle leaving your body. 

The Singing Bowl

No, that is not a pill crusher your instructor just whipped out. It’s a “singing bowl.” 

The singing bowl started in ancient Tibet. It’s basically a metal bowl that emits a sound when you circle the top of it with a mallet. This is not like when people wet their fingers and play “Viva La Vida” on wine glasses. The sounds that the bowl produces are frequencies that target different mind vibrations. Before you start rolling your eyes, hear me out. I won’t go deep into the science behind it because I’m the type of person who hears “beta” and thinks of a fraternity, not the brainwaves. Essentially, the sound frequencies stabilize different parts of your brain, which results in a calming effect. When the instructor first started using the singing bowl, I started peeking around to see if everyone else was buying into this. They were. Even Range Rover Lady seemed at a higher level of peace. So, I accepted that, as a person who could receive a medal for excellence in paranoid thinking, I’m not above giving vibrations a try. It felt like three years of therapy within five minutes. So, GIVE IN TO THE VIBRATIONS! Give in to every part of the spiritual yoga experience. 

If you’re living in an area that doesn’t offer any in-person spiritual yoga classes, or you’re trying to be COVID-conscious, online classes are a superb option. YouTube has taught us about everything from the electoral college, to algebra, to making guacamole, to perfecting the smokey eye, etc. So, why shouldn’t we give it a shot to teach us spiritual yoga? There are soooo many classes on YouTube that can offer you an authentic experience for whatever type of spiritual yoga you are interested in. There are also yoga-specific websites that offer online spiritual yoga classes. These sites usually require you to pay for classes or for a subscription, but they are great for keeping you on a schedule. Whatever type or way you choose to practice spiritual yoga, I encourage you to give in to the full experience. If you do, you WILL thank me and feel free to send me an Edible Arrangement. Namaste, Betches!

Images: Dane Wetton / Unsplash; Giphy (3)

4 Exercises You Should Do Every Hour If You Work From The Couch

When quarantine first began, working from the couch felt like a much-needed break from the discomforts of office life. Nothing was more appealing than rolling out of bed, grabbing your laptop, and rolling straight back onto the couch. No shower, no shoes, no problem. However, the excitement of working from the couch can start to wane once the aches and pains of too much sitting start to set in. From your neck to your lower back to your hips, sitting on a soft surface with limited back support for a full work day is considerably less comfortable than it seems. And as it turns out, working from the couch for too long is bad for you, both physically and mentally. The good news? You don’t have to give up working from the couch completely just to get a bit more healthy.

The Problems

Sitting all day can have a number of negative effects on the body, but sitting slumped on a couch can be even more detrimental. “Sitting allows your muscles to become extremely tight and dysfunctional, which will compromise your posture and increase your risk of pain and injury,” says Jeff Brannigan, Program Director at Stretch*d (a New York-based dynamic assisted stretching studio). Furthermore, Brannigan goes on to explain that “working from the couch makes it very easy to sit in a not-so-great position. Many people quickly begin to slouch or slide down the couch.”

The problem? “Sitting in a compromised position drastically speeds up the onset of muscle dysfunction. You’re far more likely to feel muscle tightness, tension, and pain due to an increased likelihood of developing imbalance throughout the body.” In fact, in a 2018 study, the CDC went so far as to say that “high amounts of sedentary behavior and low levels of physical activity are associated with increased risk of premature mortality and some chronic diseases”. Yikes.

The good news is that even if you work in an industry that requires you to be sedentary for most of the day, small changes to your routine can make a big impact. Better yet, new work-from-home policies make it even easier to get up and move. Eve Lynn Chrust, a New York City-based fitness and yoga instructor (you can find her classes at Obé, SoulCycle, and Athleta) says that exercise doesn’t have to be something you force yourself to do at the end of a long work day. “Make it cumulative,” says Chrust. “If you do a little something every hour of the work day, by the end of the day you’ll have gotten more done than you might’ve expected.” Chrust says that a few exercises coupled with a few laps around your apartment every hour are enough to counteract some of the negative effects of working slumped down on the couch all day. Her advice? Set a timer on your phone to dedicate four (yes, just four) minutes of every hour to getting off the couch and moving. By the end of a standard work day, you’ll have already gotten a half hour workout in.

Here are some moves you should be doing to counteract the effects of sitting all day:

1. Walk It Out

The first one-minute move in your four-minute set? A lap around your house, a walk up and down a set of stairs or a stroll down the block! Chrust says, “there’s a mental component of getting off the couch. When you sit for too long, things can feel stagnant and repetitive and you tend to get stuck. Getting off the couch even for just a minute helps you to feel motivated, it gives you energy and might improve your focus.”

2. Squats

Chrust recommends doing 10 squats every hour to open your hips, stretch out your legs, and work your booty. “Doing just ten squats every hour throughout the workday is totally accessible, and by the end of an eight-hour work day you’ll have done 80 squats!” she says.

3. Planks

Next up is a one-minute plank. Planks are a favorite of most yogis, and with good reason. They’re an efficient way to work your entire core, front and back, says Chrust. “Abs are fundamental for posture. If you’re hunching on a couch all day, you need core strength to lengthen out your spine.”

4. Cat Cow

After you’ve completed the one-minute plank, move directly into a tabletop position, with your knees on the ground directly in line with your hips, and your hands on the ground directly in line with your shoulders. Flow through one minute of cat cow to create space in your spine, chest and neck, three spaces that are compromised when sitting on a couch for too long, says Chrust.

Images: GIPHY; Maryjoy Caballero / Unsplash

How Much Can You Actually Work Out While Pregnant?

As someone who gets 75% of her sanity from regular exercise, when I found out I was pregnant last February, I suddenly started thinking twice about lacing up my running sneakers. Would my regular four-mile runs hurt the baby or me? What about the yoga classes I went to three or four times a week? 

While I was lucky enough to have an easy first trimester without any nausea or energy dips, I did have a little bit of spotting. That only made my anxiety about exercise worse, which made me want to exercise more… and so the cycle continued. 

What I wish I’d had back then was an expert-approved guide to how much I could actually exercise while pregnant. And while you should always consult your doctor with any specific questions, here’s a roadmap to help you get started. 

Is It Safe To Exercise While You’re Pregnant?

The answer to this, according to OB/GYN and sexual health advisor Angela Jones, is a resounding yes. “Exercise during pregnancy does a body good and a pregnancy even better,” she explains. “Exercise helps expectant moms feel better and it gives them more energy. Exercise also helps stave off certain medical conditions such as gestational diabetes or hypertensive disorders that may occur during pregnancy.”

Another major perk of exercising during pregnancy? An easier labor and delivery. “Exercise helps moms get ‘fit’ for labor,” Jones says. “Labor means work. A more fit body is able to perform better during the labor and delivery aspect of the pregnancy.”

But how much exercise should you be getting, exactly? “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly,” Jones notes. “If you are active enough to raise your heart rate, break a sweat, and still speak in complete sentences, you’re probably hitting the mark.” 

That said, some people do need to be more careful than others when it comes to exercising while pregnant. When my doctor investigated my particular spotting issue (which unfortunately continued until the 20-week mark), she said that while the baby was fine, the intensity of my exercise was probably causing irritation, which was what was leading to the spotting. She recommended shifting from running to walking and light yoga.

While my situation was mild, there are other more serious cases when exercise should be put on hold for a while. “In the case of certain types of heart or lung disease, cervical insufficiency (or if you have a cervical cerclage in place) or placenta previa, you should back off the exercise,” says Jones. “Other reasons could include hypertensive disorders such as preeclampsia, risks of preterm labor, or if your water has broken, or you’re anemic. These are all situations where exercise would not be recommended during pregnancy.”

Everyone’s situation is different, though, so the most important thing you can do is chat with your doctor to get exercise recommendations based on your specific pregnancy. 

Pregnancy-Friendly Workouts

In most cases, working out while pregnant is totally fine. But not all workouts are created equal, especially because as your belly grows, some forms of exercise will just get uncomfortable. “Many women enjoy dancing, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, biking, or walking,” says Jamie Hickey, a personal trainer and nutritionist. “Swimming is especially appealing, as it gives you the welcome buoyancy of floatability or the feeling of weightlessness. Try for a combination of cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises.”

And then there’s the “workout” that was recommended to me: walking. “Many experts recommend walking because it’s easy to vary the pace, add hills, and add distance,” says Hickey. “If you’re just starting, begin with a moderately brisk pace for a mile, three days a week. Add a couple of minutes every week, pick up the pace a bit, and eventually add hills to your route. Whether you’re a pro or a novice, go slowly for the first five minutes to warm up and use the last five minutes to cool down.”

There are also some moves that you should flat-out avoid while you’re pregnant, according to Hickey. These include bouncing, anything that requires you to lie flat on your back (after the first trimester), leaping, or sudden changes of direction. And if you’re a yogi like I am, avoid doing closed twists as they put a lot of pressure on the abdomen. 

Long story short: For most people, exercise is a very good idea when you’re pregnant and comes with endless benefits. If you’re concerned, chat with your doctor so you can find the right pregnancy workout regimen for you. 

Images: 4 PM production / Shutterstock.com

A High-Intensity Home Workout That Won’t Piss Off Your Downstairs Neighbors

By now, most of us have probably tried at least a few home workouts. With gyms still closed in several states, the art of working out from the comfort of your own home is still essential. But can you still feel the burn with limited or no equipment? Incorporating plyometrics (aka plyos or jump training) can be an easy solution, but if you live in an apartment, that can also be a problem. Your neighbors probably won’t be too happy with you if it sounds like a herd of elephants is about to fall through their ceiling once a day.

The answer to all your problems is HILIT, or high intensity, low impact training. HILIT workouts use short intense bursts of activity followed by brief rest periods that never require jumping movements. You read that right: no jumping.

I’ve been an athlete my whole life and a personal trainer and fitness competitor for several years, and this is the method I’ve used during all of quarantine to maintain my fitness level. HILIT uses little to no equipment, increases your metabolism, and is also gentle on your joints. If you ask me, it’s a win-win-win. If you’re looking for a home workout that burns fat while toning your body, this is it! Here are a few moves you can do for a full at-home HILIT workout.

Low To High Wood Choppers

This is a dynamic exercise that works your obliques and shoulders. To begin, squat, twist your torso to the right, and hold your hands to the outside of your right leg. If you have a dumbbell at home, you can hold that as well. Exhale and swing your arms diagonally across your body so that you end with your arms above your left shoulder. Return back to your starting position to complete one rep. Continue the movement on this side for 30 seconds, then switch.

Standing Supermans

Standing Supermans strengthen your upper back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Stand on one leg and extend both your arms out to the side as you bend forward. Let your raised leg stretch all the way behind you as you bring your back to a table-top position. Squeeze your glutes and pull yourself back to a standing position. Repeat the Superman on this side for 30 seconds.

Iguana Press-Ups

Start in plank position, then bring your left knee up to your left elbow. While holding this position, do a push-up. Alternate your legs back and forth for 30 seconds. Iguana press-ups require more stabilization than traditional push-ups and are excellent for building core stability in addition to working out your chest.

Standing Knee Drive

Stand with your hands behind your head and forcefully drive each knee in towards your chest. For maximum results, move as quickly as you can for 30 seconds straight. 

Reverse Plank Leg Lift

Begin by sitting on the ground with your legs bent and your arms behind you—your fingertips should be facing towards your toes. Push your butt up off the ground and begin raising one leg at a time up towards your chest. Keep your movements controlled, squeeze your abs at the top of each leg raise, and always keep your hips lifted.

Squat Hold To Calf Raise

Stand in sumo position (feet outside your hips and shoulders) and sit into a squat. Hold this position for 30 seconds while you raise your heels up and down off of the floor. You should keep your weight in the balls of your feet throughout the movement. Prepare to feel an intense burn in your thighs and calves!

Hip Bridge with Hamstring Curl

You’re going to need to wear a pair of socks for this one! Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet placed hip-width apart. Bridge your hips up into the air and slide your feet forward as far as you can without dropping your hips down. Then pull your feet back in towards your glutes and repeat the movement for 30 seconds. Don’t lower your hips for the entire 30 seconds.

Images: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

How To Run Safely Outside Without Being A Jerk About It

Apparently, I had no idea what being “stir-crazy” actually meant until we entered this indefinite solitary confinement they call quarantine. Even as a proud introvert, it feels like the universe is shoving all the plans I’ve ever canceled in my face and screaming, “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?” This is absolutely not what any of us wanted—as any introvert will tell you, part of the thrill is canceling plans. With no plans to cancel, this endless abyss of plans that could have been (canceled) feels like a discount version of Groundhog Day. Not only are we mourning the closures of our favorite restaurants, stores, and bars, but many of the activities that kept us sane are no longer an option. One of the most difficult aspects of my quarantine has been the closure of my gym, and not only because of the sense of community it provided. Physical activity has been one of the only things I’ve found in over a decade of pretty severe anxiety that actually helped keep it in check. According to the CDC, reduced anxiety isn’t the only noticeable benefit of regular physical activity. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week (that’s like 7 episodes of Schitt’s Creek which, realistically, you’ve done in one day) can improve both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. So yeah, TL;DR, exercise is good for you and I’m sorry for all the times I pretended I had cramps to get out of gym in high school. 

During this time of incredible stress and uncertainty, the anxiety-reducing aspects of physical activity are more important than ever. Being trapped inside a small space with no end in sight is stressful, to say the least. Exercise is definitely helpful, and nothing makes me feel quite as calm as the aftermath of a heart-pounding sweat session. There are plenty of workouts that can be done from the comfort of your own home, but when running is your go-to, working out while quarantined can be a little more complicated (unless you have your own treadmill, you lucky b*tch).

At the beginning of quarantine I was running four miles a day ….. Now I’m proud because I did a single squat

— Donese (@donese22) July 9, 2020

It’s SO tempting—outside is literally right there. You can see it and hear it screaming at you to lace up and get out there. So what’s stopping you? If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ve seen countless people jog by, headphones in, totally oblivious to the fact that we’re in the middle of a freaking pandemic. If they can do it, why not the rest of us? Well, because we both know we’re smarter than that. Yes, it’s tempting to squeeze in a quick 3-miler and be back inside before the coronavirus even has a chance to notice we left our bubble. Unfortunately, this isn’t some high-risk game of tag and we really can’t afford to take any chances. Here’s the great news, though—experts say that it is fairly safe to run outside, as long as we take the proper precautions. Family Medicine Physician Doctor Mike Varshavski—or as he’s known on Instagram, Dr. Mike—tells Betches that running “is considered a low to moderate-low risk activity based on the new chart put out by the Texas Medical Association” and notes that “throughout this pandemic, almost all shelter at home orders have continued to allow and encourage solo exercise like hiking, walking, and running.”

So that’s the good news! And as long as you follow these pretty easy guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that you put your safety and the safety of others first.

1. Jog Alone Or In Small Groups, But Make Sure You Maintain A Safe Distance

I get it, running with your best friend or your running group like you’ve done for years is a blast. However, just because you have been extremely cautious about protecting yourself from the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean your running partners have done the same. Make sure whoever you’re running with is also taking the proper precautions, and continue to practice social distancing even when running outside.  Dr. Mike tells Betches, “any time you are exposing yourself to other individuals, it raises the risk of catching the virus,” reminding us, “those who look healthy can still be spreading COVID-19. If you have to go with a group (for safety reasons, perhaps), try and be with the smallest group possible.”

Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas told Runners World, “If you deem running with a small group is something you’re comfortable with, you’ll want to ensure that these few people have been properly careful over the past few months, same as if you’re running with one other person. Additionally, your small group should run somewhere you know you won’t come in close contact with others.” 

Labus also emphasizes that if you live with someone in the at-risk age group (over 65) or someone who is immunocompromised, extra precautions are necessary, and running with a partner may not be the best idea. He explains, “There have been over 182,000 cases (as of June 10) and over 77,000 COVID-19 deaths (as of June 6) in those age 65 and over since February 1, according to provisional data from the CDC. It is safer to run solo until disease transmission is low in your community.”

2. Bring A Mask With You When You Run

It’s probably not necessary to wear a mask while you run outdoors (and realistically, it would be really tough to wear a mask during any exercise that leaves you gasping for air) as long as you maintain the proper distance between you and anyone you encounter outside. Indeed, Dr. Mike tells Betches that “a mask should not be worn while running as sweat will make the mask wet and create other problems.” He advises, “The best protection is to wear the mask until you’re ready to exercise, take it off, and stay at least six feet away from others as best as possible.”

 

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What do you think I have a compass

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That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to bring a mask with you when you run just in case. You may end up lost and needing to grab an Uber back, you could desperately need to run into Walgreens for a drink of water, or you might end up running into your ex and needing a disguise. Point is, there are a lot of reasons you may need a mask when leaving your house, so make sure you have one with you at all times. 

Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health explained to the New York Times, “Outdoors is relatively safe, and masks would only be important if you are exercising in crowded areas or indoors in space shared with other people.” According to Milton, as long as you’re keeping your distance, you should be pretty fine running outside with your mask at the ready in case of an emergency.

3. Scope Out Your Street During Different Times Throughout The Day, Or Find A Different Street Altogether

Please withhold all “duh”s, because from what I’ve seen firsthand it apparently needs to be said—the easiest way to keep your distance when running outside is to run in a less crowded area. Now, this doesn’t mean driving 38 miles to the middle of the forest to knock out your run. This honestly may be as simple as spending a few days looking out your window every hour or two to see how many people are out and about. Peak hours in your neighborhood may also vary between weekdays and weekends, so also take that into account when planning your run. Ideally, you want to find both a time when not too many people are out, and a place where you have plenty of “escape routes.” This means not running next to a busy street that you can’t cross if you see a group of people on the sidewalk. If you’re running on a forest path, it means being able to step way off to the side if someone else is approaching (and, see #2, don’t forget your mask in case this isn’t an option). 

Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, explained to NPR the importance of keeping an even greater distance when exercising outside. He advises, “The greater volume and rate of breathing that occurs during exercise has the risk of spreading droplets farther. I think it’s reasonable based on the known changes in breathing during exercise.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve been out walking and out of absolutely nowhere, a jogger runs by me so close that I feel a small gust of potential plague-wind as they pass. This isn’t okay, guys. First and foremost, if we can’t be considerate to other people who have just as much of a right to use the sidewalk as we do, we shouldn’t be out running in the first place.

That said, if you’ve been keeping an eye on your street and it really doesn’t seem like there’s much of a break in the constant stream of people passing by, check out some other side streets nearby. Chances are, within a mile or so of where you live, there are some quieter residential streets that will be far less congested. 

4. Make Sure That It’s Actually Okay To Run Outside In Your Area

 

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now everyone else can hear me heavy breathing too? cool. credit/permission: @itslaurentbtw

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As we’ve discussed, it is more than tempting to grab your shoes and just GTFO. But even if you’ve thoroughly read through these important tips and feel confident in your ability to run outside safely, please hit pause for just a hot second. Because of the constantly evolving nature of how we’re handling this pandemic, running outside without a mask may not even be allowed in your area. Make sure you’re constantly checking mandates from your state health departments to ensure you’re adhering to your area’s current requirements. These mandates are changing fairly regularly in some areas, so it’s a good idea to check them daily before your planned run. Your state will most likely have a dedicated coronavirus page with all of the latest information, from things like the number of confirmed cases to reopening guidelines.

Dr. Mike emphasizes, “Know that there is no such thing as absolute safety when outdoors. The guidelines of wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands will certainly reduce risk but not eliminate it. Know what is an acceptable risk for you.”

If you’re still hyped up to go for an outdoor run, more power to you. Just remember the four M’s, and you should be good to go. Maintain your distance, Mask (in your pocket/bra/around your neck/whatever), find tiMes of the day that are less crowded (ok that was a stretch, who cares), and Mandates (check your local mandates to see what rules are in place in your area). Happy running!

Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels; donese22 / Twitter; notskinnybutnotfat, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram

Equinox Is Reopening, But How Much Will Your Bougie Gym Protect You?

I don’t need to tell you all that these are unprecedented times. Many of us have been worrying about keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy. Healthcare workers have been preoccupied with having adequate access to PPE. Millions have been filing for unemployment. And, apparently, rich people have been itching to get back to their luxury gyms, because Equinox announced over the weekend their plan to reopen facilities—excuse me, I mean clubs. 

Equinox detailed the plan to reopen in an Instagram post, writing, “The past several weeks proved something we knew all along: Equinox is not just a place – it’s a mindset. It’s in our hearts. It’s in our homes. It’s who we are.” Maybe I’m just jealous because I can’t afford Equinox, and the human petri dish of a Planet Fitness to which I belong probably started coronavirus, but no, I’m pretty sure Equinox is just a place. 

But, okay, the post broke down Equinox’s plan for reopening, which they called The Equinox Standard (or what Murray Hill bros will adopt as their new system for rating women’s appearances). The plan features a number of elements. First, members must complete a “self-health check” in the Equinox app before visiting. That description is vague, but thankfully, members won’t have to put blind trust in their fellow club members to stay home if they are feeling sick. “Body temperatures will be taken via touchless thermometers,” the Instagram post explains, and members must register under 100.4° to come in. 

 

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We believe that our brand promise, It’s not fitness. It’s life., is more relevant today than ever. It represents what we stand for, how we engage with our members and teams, and the significant role we play in their lives – especially in these uncertain times. Over the years you have placed great trust in us, and we take that responsibility very seriously.⁣ ⁣ The health and safety of our community is our number one priority. That is why we are introducing The Equinox Standard, our answer to the challenge of creating not only the safest environment for our community – but one where our community feels safe. Some of the measures below are temporary and others will be permanent. Our measures align with CDC and local guidelines and are informed by our medical and infectious disease experts. ⁣⁣ We are one community, one team, and one family—we are so grateful that you are a part of it. We’re in this together. Let’s keep on keeping each other strong and safe. Swipe through to see some of the measures we’re taking, and click the link in our bio for the full list. #ItsNotFitnessItsLife

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But is that enough? Dr. Purvi Parikh, immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, told Betches that taking temperature “can help identify people who may not realize they are sick who have a high temperature,” but warned, “since fever is a symptom it doesn’t cover all asymptomatic carriers, as many will have a normal temperature.” 

Dr. Melanie Graber, an internal medicine resident at the University of Connecticut, echoed, “Temperature screening is a good tool to catch people who are having a fever, but it isn’t necessarily effective at identifying people who are infected with coronavirus.” She also said, “Temperature checking would not screen out people who are infected but asymptomatic,” whom she said can be “highly infectious”. But, even though checking temperatures may not control for all potential infections, it probably beats the Florida method of “open and pray”.

Probably the biggest change is that gone are the days of just rolling up to the gym and lying down on the mats for two hours; now, members will be required to book a club visit in advance using the Equinox app. They can schedule three 90-minute “appointments” in any seven-day period (I too use the same terminology for my workouts as for my doctor’s visits), “with additional visits subject to club capacity.” 

A source close to the company told Betches, “Members are not limited to visiting the club three times per week, rather they can have up to three appointments booked at one time,” adding, “members can book up to 7 days in advance or as soon as 15 minutes before visiting if space is available.” Same day drop-ins are also permitted, but subject to availability. 

Some members worry that the new booking system, combined with modified club hours to make time for thorough cleaning and disinfecting, will not allow sufficient time to get all their workouts in. And with Equinox memberships starting at $185 per month in New York City, they don’t think they’ll get their money’s worth. 

One member commented on Instagram, “Is this permanent? Will membership fees be reduced due to these restrictions?” Equinox replied on Instagram that, while the restrictions are temporary, “we are not amending membership dues at this time.” The source confirmed to Betches, “We are not reducing membership rates and are confident that members will be able to continue their normal routine and that many of our measures are temporary.”

Despite the company’s confidence that workouts will not be impacted, a few members are not so thrilled about taking a $200-ish gamble with the new system. Hunter Duplisse, an Equinox member in Vancouver, had a bone to pick in a post in Betches’ Diet Starts Tomorrow’ers Facebook group. While she acknowledged the necessity of booking workout spots in advance to maintain distancing, she said, “it’s really frustrating that we’re not receiving a reduction of fees considering our access to the gym is extremely limited.” 

Another aspect of the new policies that drew confusion had to do with the PPE requirements for members, which allow room for ambiguities. The post states, “Members will be required to wear face coverings at all times in the club, except while vigorously training.” Why they’re making an exception for intense exercise is unclear, and Dr. Parikh told Betches, “I actually would recommend wearing masks or face covering  at all times if possible,” not just when not-vigorously training, because “we know it reduces spread of droplets by 70 percent if all people are masked. 

Further, you don’t know who has been in that area training or walking or running before you—we know the virus can stay in the air even for a few hours. If it is uncomfortable to exercise vigorously with a mask, it may be better to exercise in your home if possible.”

Also ambiguous is exactly constitutes “vigorous training” and who will make that call. Margaret Doherty, another member of the Diet Starts Tomorrow’ers Facebook group, asked, “How does one know what each person’s ‘vigorous training’ looks like?” Equinox’s source didn’t clarify, telling us, “We are continuing to define what constitutes vigorous training in coordination with our team of medical experts and will update our members prior to opening so they can make the decision that is best for them.” 

On top of that, Equinox’s Instagram post stated, “It is recommended but not required that members wear gloves during their visit.” Considering Americans’ track record of abiding by gentle suggestions, I predict that we will see more gloves in an Alabama sex ed class than in any given Equinox club. 

Still, if you’re looking for your fancy gym to protect you from coronavirus, you may want to look elsewhere. As Dr. Graber put it, “when people go to a public space, they assume the risk that someone else who is there may be infected and contagious.” Guess the founding fathers fought for your right to decide for yourself whether you want to risk catching coronavirus from the guy with a six pack running on the treadmill six feet away from you. 

Some are praising the new measures, though. @swoleengineer commented, “This makes me so proud to be an Equinox member. I’ve been missing the gym, but more importantly very hesitant about showing up again if you guys reopen without any safety measures. All of this is more than good enough for me…” @scottfishman echoed, “You guys are AMAZING – great stuff providing so many awesome safety protocols!” And, despite her dissatisfaction with the membership costs not being adjusted, Duplisse admitted she’s not actually that concerned with sanitation, writing, “I do trust that they will be able to keep locations clean because I’ve always been incredibly impressed with the cleanliness of my club.” 

The post did not specify when Equinox will be reopening, or which markets will see these new policies in effect first. Their rep explained, “We will evaluate each city’s situation in coordination with health officials and our team of medical and infectious disease experts to determine when it is best to reopen.” 

Sorry, New York members, I have a feeling that means you’re just going to have to do at-home workouts for a little while longer—though your apartments probably have the space. And, the source assured us, not all of the measures are permanent. “This is a dynamic and fluid situation and we will continue to adapt and evaluate existing and new protocols with the safety of our teams and members in mind,” they said, echoing the one thing we all really can say with conviction: nobody is totally sure of anything right now, and we’re all just kind of making it up as we go.

Images: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com; Equinox / Instagram