A New City

For most of the summer I’ve been in the hot California desert working at camp, hence my long blogging hiatus. I’m back to real life now…but real life looks totally different than before.

Goodbye Minnesota.

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Hello Boston!

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The jump from the Midwest to the East Coast has resulted in – if nothing else – a much classier stairwell.

Minnesota

Minnesota

Boston

Boston

Although I’m not in Boston for very long (only a couple weeks before a much bigger move to Israel!), there were a few things that I was looking forward to doing during my time in Boston.

First and foremost, exploring the new area! I love finding and trying new cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants, and while there was certainly more exploration to be done in Minneapolis, moving to Boston provides a whole new crop of activities. During one of our first days in Boston, Noah and I got coffee at Crema Cafe in Harvard Square.

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I got an iced Americano and thought it was amazing! I’ve been back a handful of times since. In addition to coffee, they also have a nice selection of baked goods and a small menu of sandwiches, soups, salads, and breakfast items. The drinks definitely shine more than the food, but the food is still good. Be warned, however, that Crema does NOT have wifi. A clever trick indeed for a coffee shop!

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I was also really excited to try the November Project during my time in Boston. I first read about The November Project in a Runner’s World Magazine article from November 2013. The November Project is a free fitness/social group that meets in the wee hours of the morning (ie, 6:30am). It was started in 2011 by two friends who committed to working out together every morning during the month of November. To increase motivation, they started posting about their workouts on Facebook and other social media, inviting others to join. Incredibly, people started coming, and today, as many as 600 Bostonians meet on any given Monday, Wednesday, or Friday to work out with the November Project. The group has also spread to 16 other cities! The iconic November Project workout is running the Harvard Stadium stairs (yes, all of them!), and the group continues to do the stadium workout every Wednesday. Monday workouts are held at traveling locations and Friday workouts are running Corey Hill in Brookline.

On Monday, I went to the traveling workout – this week at Old Morse Park in Cambridgeport. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but when I arrived at the park I immediately found a large group already gathered.

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Even though I knew a lot of people go to November Project, it was still surprising to actually see so many people! The November Project cofounders, Brogan and Bojan, still lead the group each meeting. Monday workouts are usually shorter because the assumption is that people run to and from the workout, so after a brief warm up, the workout was seven minutes of nonstop burpies. It was definitely tough and my chest was sore for the rest of the day!

After going once, I could tell that the social aspects of the group are really emphasized. The ‘warm-up’ was more about hugging the people around you (no one shakes hands at November Project – only big bear hugs), learning the names of a few others, and high fiving with awesomeness-affirming “f*** yeahs.”

After the workout, Brogan and Bojan take a photo of the group, give out the ‘positivity award’ to one lucky participant, and ‘Happy Birthday’ is sung to anyone who has a birthday that day. After the Monday workout, a group of regulars had breakfast together at a nearby apartment. Since I knew one of the regulars from Minneapolis, I tagged along!

After Monday, I was a little hooked and wanted to see what all the fuss was about for the Harvard Stadium steps. So, Wednesday morning, I woke up bright and early again and took a short jog over to Harvard Stadium.

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There were a lot more people there for the stadium workout than the Monday meeting, and the crowd was a lot more diverse (ie, not only young people).

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There was one older man (probably in his mid-late 60s) who was there with a trombone that he played during the workout for added motivation!

Harvard Stadium has 37 sections, and the workout is to run up the big steps and walk down the small ones.

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For me, running quickly turned into walking about halfway up each section. To complete all 37 sections is called ‘a tour,’ and Brogan told the newbies (people who had never done the steps before) to aim to complete a half tour. I completed the half tour plus three additional sections. Holy cow, it was SO difficult! I thought it would be tough, but it far exceeded my expectations. My legs were shaking by the end, and I have been incredibly sore since! The stadium steps definitely had a little bit of an addictive quality to them, and I’m already looking forward to going next Wednesday and trying to complete a full tour!

This weekend, Noah and I are taking a bike trip to Martha’s Vineyard, so I hope to be able to post soon about that adventure!

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How to ____ in the winter

Minnesota winters are often among the coldest in the country. This year’s winter, however, has really outdone itself. This is my seventh winter in Minnesota and by far the worst. Schools have been cancelled five times (often on government order) due to extreme temperatures, and there were 36 consecutive days where Minneapolites woke up to sub-zero temps. I’ve managed to still keep biking on some days when it’s above zero, but those days have been few and far between. What’s worse, we’re now into March and spring seems far from around the corner.

Having such a prolonged and extremely frigid winter has been a challenge to several typically-enjoyed activities. How can we Minnesotans keep up when it looks like this outside?!

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How to exercise in the winter

I have run less this winter since any time since I started running (about six years ago). Normally, I continue to run outside a few days a week during the winter and head inside to the gym for the occasional treadmill run on an especially cold day. This winter, however, I have only run outside once since December! I’ve been logging a few miles on the treadmill, but it’s also started to feel a little too much like the dreadmill…

The solution? Find new activities! Fortunately, introductory free weeks to fitness facilities abound, and I recently tried out an awesome gym called The Shed Fitness in Uptown (I know, it just sounds hardcore, right?!). The Shed offers a variety of classes including spin, circuit training, body pump, TRX, and yoga sculpt. I tried five classes during my intro week, and I definitely hope to go back for more!

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How to stay busy inside in the winter

Normally, if I’m not at work or another scheduled activity, I like to spend a lot of time outside – walking, exploring, biking, visiting friends, etc. The severity of this winter has meant a lot more time cooped up indoors in my apartment, needing to fill long periods of time. The best solution I’ve found is to do more cooking! Plus, the extra time means I can put more effort into elaborate recipes and dishes that require extra prep time. Some favorites from the last couple weeks include:

homemade ice cream

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roasted kabocha squash

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chickpea and red pepper soup with quinoa (recipe from Women’s Day magazine)

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and chilean squash (from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook)

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How to smile big in the winter

It’s no secret that weather is a large determinant of mood for many people. I’ve never considered myself to be highly impacted in this regard, but there have definitely been a few times where I feel a bit down or blue and think sunshine sure would help! In this long winter abyss, it’s been nice to take special notice of ‘the little things’ and to make an effort to do something fun/goofy every day.

feeling positive after finding this note stuck to a bathroom mirror

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enjoying an impromtu photo shoot

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It’s a Deal

As evidenced by my past enthusiasm for Groupons and free stuff, I am a sucker for a good deal. Is it necessary to receive multiple emails daily from Living Social and Groupon? No. Is it necessary to treasure my Costco membership as though it were the last water bottle on a deserted island? No. But I do, because I love getting a deal. Costco, here I come!

But in all seriousness, I do not feel guilty about the $$$ I spend through Living Social and Groupon. One might think I am encouraged to spend more money by receiving these tempting deals direct to my inbox multiple times each day, but it is my firm belief that they both save me money and provide me with experiences I might not otherwise pursue.

For example, I am going to take my super cute bf on a date once in a while, AND I love finding fun new places for us to try/explore. Online deals make it easier to do the former on a budget and the latter without putting in a ton of time researching. I don’t just buy any deal that comes my way, but when I see something that looks good or I’ve been wanting to do, you can bet I scoop it up right away!

Over the summer, these are my deal highlights:

1. Eat Street Social

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Noah and I had wanted to try this place after reading about their specialty cocktails on a number of occasions. As fate would have it, Living Social was offering a deal for a three-course meal for two plus a bottle of wine for the low price of $30. I’ll take it! We chose a chardonnay for the wine…

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…and the meal included a caprese salad:

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mushroom risotto (this was my favorite course!):

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and steak with mashed potatoes and asparagus:

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Unfortunately, dessert was not one of the three courses provided (a clever trick indeed), so we ordered our own – an ‘oreo’ sandwich and chocolate torte:

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2. Barre Bliss

I first tried barre classes last spring as part of a different deal (I don’t think I blogged about it unfortunately) and was immediately intrigued. Barre is a group fitness class that is fast and furiously gaining popularity. The workout has its foundation in yoga and dance conditioning. It targets muscles through isometric movements common in ballet. The classes are called ‘barre’ because they are done with a mat at a ballet barre.

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I don’t think these classes are high-impact enough to be a sole form of exercise (you will work hard and sweat a little, but it doesn’t give that post-run/spin class feeling). I will admit, though, that they really work your muscles. I might not be covered in sweat head to toe and heaving for breath after barre, but my legs start doing that crazy shake thing when you can just.barely.hold.on.

Anyway, Groupon was offering a deal for 10 barre classes at a place called Barre Bliss a mere 6 blocks from my house. Full price classes can be anywhere from $12-20 for a drop in, and this deal was 10 classes for $49. What a steal!

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3. Minneapolis Bike Tour

Noah and I were already interested in participating in this Minneapolis bike event before a Living Social deal came out offering registration at two for the price of one. Perfect!

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The Minneapolis Bike Tour is a recreational ride for people of all ages around the Grand Rounds. There is the option for a 14-mile ride or a 36-mile ride, and proceeds were used for bike safety, education events, and trail improvement.

Riders needed to start the bike tour between 7:30-8am, so we got there bright and early! The start was on Kenwood Parkway, very near the sculpture garden, and there were A TON of people!

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We milled around the various vendors to kill time before the start. There were free bananas, so we couldn’t complain:
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Once the riders got going we spaced out almost immediately. About 5 miles in was the first rest stop, located on the shores of the scenic Lake Harriet:

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I don’t know how many participants there were, but people kept pouring in our whole time at the rest stop – and we were there for a good amount of time considering how many snacks we had to choose from:

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Due to time constraints, we were only able to do the 14-mile ride this year, but it was a great route and I would love to do the longer route in the future! Plus, they gave us cool bike lights:

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As you can see, these daily-deal purchases have done little to deplete my savings and allowed me a number of fun activities throughout the summer. Moral of the story is, get your groupon on.*

*disclaimer: this advice only applies to people with a healthy level of self-restraint and no history of shopping addictions. 

Kosama

A few weekends ago I participated in the Minneapolis City Solve race. One of the stops was at Kosama, a group fitness facility that offers a variety of classes. Since I’m always interested in trying new fitness experiences (especially free ones!), I decided to take advantage of a free introductory class at Kosama.

Kosama has an intriguing structure to their classes. Each day they offer either kettlebells:

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Kickboxing:

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TRX:

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Or Kosama Strong, which is a combination of kettlebells, TRX, and plyometrics.

These class offerings are consistent throughout the week (e.g., Mondays are Kettlebells, Tuesdays are Kickboxing, etc.), and each month has a specific set of exercises done for each workout. At the beginning of each month the set of exercises are changed. So, the kettlebell workout for January is different from the kettlebell workout for February. The idea is that your body won’t be able to adapt and plateau because you are changing the specific exercises every 4 weeks.

I decided to try a Kosama strong class to get a taste of everything (besides kickboxing…I’ve never become a big fan). The inside of the studio was clean and spacious, and the staff were incredibly friendly. A major downside is that there are no real locker rooms though. There are only a couple single-person bathrooms that have a shower inside:

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The class I attended was small (only 6 people), so it wasn’t an issue after class when I needed to change, but I imagine in larger classes it would be inconvenient to need to wait for a space to change/shower.

The class itself included a warm-up, cool-down, and about 15 minutes each of kettlebells, TRX, and plyometrics. Exercises are done for about 45-60 seconds each and then you move on to the next one. Exercises are never repeated.

I enjoyed the fast pace and trying new things (especially TRX which I had never used before!). During and immediately after class I didn’t feel too tired, but later in the day my arms felt sore which made me think I had used some muscles I don’t generally get to in my typical weight lifting.

Overall, Kosama was fun to try, but I’m definitely not planning on shelling out another $100/month or so to join. I don’t think I get enough added benefit to my own workouts – plus the location is not too convenient (it’s downtown and I’m uptown). Still, if you’re looking for motivation and a personalized approach, I think this might pay off more than hiring a personal trainer at the gym since the class moves so quickly and you never stop moving.

Do you know of any other unique fitness experiences to try around the Twin Cities or in general?

 

Free Birthday Fitness

Great things about having a birthday:

1. People you haven’t talked to in years will write on your facebook wall to wish you well

2. People you talk to regularly will do something nice to reinforce your mutual affection for one another

3. FREE STUFF

Lots of restaurants give you a free dessert (and haven’t we all misused this perk to surprise an unsuspecting friend on their non-birthday…or just to get a free dessert? nope…just me?), a lovely sandwich shop in Northfield, MN will give you a free hoagie sandwich, and right here in Minneapolis you get the gift of fitness. Gym rats, yogis, and cross fit addicts everywhere know that fitness doesn’t come cheap. Just a few examples…

Cross Fit monthly membership: $170

Yoga Studio Monthly membership: $120

Pilates/Barre Monthly membership: $160

So, the birthday gift of free fitness is really a gift. Instead of paying $38 for drop-in class rates, I received a free class at Corepower Yoga and a free class at Allign Pilatesjust for being born.

I’ll take it! Naturally, I knew right away the only Corepower class I could even consider was sculpt.

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Corepower sculpt, I love you. If only our relationship depended on more than money…

At Allign Pilates, I took a barre class. Holy cow, this was a tough class! Although I wasn’t quite as fatigued as after a sculpt session at corepower, the exercises at a barre class are more unique and make me feel like I’m using totally new muscles (or at least using them a lot more than I’m used to). If your legs don’t shake at a barre class..hats off to you!

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And, since I can’t justify doing another birthday post more than a week after my birthday, the last b-day related pics are from a lovely dinner with friends. Featured dishes: cheese and crackers, sauteed summer squash, and rosemary flatbread from Smitten Kitchen (topped with caramelized onions and blue cheese).

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