I've recently reignited my love affair with the gym. I used to be a member at Equinox in Soho and when I moved to LA, I experimented with yoga studios, Soulcycle and most recently Body By Simone. Through this process I have weeded out the good and the bad of the fitness industry and figured out what type of workout gives me the best results and keeps me motivated to wake up early.
As far as yoga goes, I think it's a great way to learn about your mind (following your intuition) and your body. It led me to meditation and improved flexibility, and the 7 pillars of the Bhagavad Gita are definitely great rules to live your life by. However, it is not stimulating enough for me to get all of my energy out - even a 90 minute vinyasa flow at Yogaworks. It also left me kind of hungry and in a weird limbo of knowing I worked out but not feeling it. I like to be sore after a workout - not every day - but a couple of times a week, to know I am working different muscles in my body and to measure my fitness level.
As far as Soulcycle goes, I think it's great to incorporate into your routine a couple of times a month for the fun of it- the soul tribe - as it is called by insiders, is a great environment and really motivates you to work out. The group setting is really inviting, however the workout lacks a personal touch as both men and women - 30+ people in a class - of all ages and sizes are doing the exact same thing.
Dance cardio mixed with HIIT and body strength exercises seem to be the best combination for me, as a woman. I think that certain workouts are effective for certain people depending on their personality, workout style and their fitness and body goals. I wouldn't necessarily recommend men to focus on body strength training as they probably want to add more muscle mass with gym equipment and heavier weights, but as far as a women's body goes - to have long, lean muscles and to look "in shape" while keeping your curves, you can do most of the work with your own body and the possible addition of some wrist weights, resistance bands and 3 pound weights.
The reason I am sharing all this is because I have a love hate relationship with the gym afters years of following a static routine prescribed to me by a personal trainer who prepares bodybuilders for competitions. Granted, every experience is a learning experience, but it made me detest gyms, equipment and weights so much that I cancelled my gym membership for over two years.
Now that I am working full time, my schedule doesn't allow me to attend my favorite workout classes like Lekfit, Body By Simone, ModelFIT and Tracy Anderson during the week and paying for extra classes on top of a monthly gym membership isn't worth it. That's why I went back to Equinox! I am still following the routines and circuits I was doing previously in all of these classes, but now I am doing them on my own.
The advantage to the gym membership - only speaking for Equinox - is that I can follow my own schedule. I am not tied down to the boutique studio's schedule which caters to moms and let's be honest - people without jobs who can luxuriously roll into a dance class at 10:30 AM on a Tuesday. Maybe if I lived somewhere else - like New York, or even West Hollywood - I could take a 6:30 AM class. But having the freedom to not worry about being late or someone taking "my" spot makes the morning routine go a lot smoother. Not to mention, having 24/7 access to a steam room is great.
My gym is also really big, so I have plenty of room to do all of the dance cardio I want - albeit with a number of onlookers questioning whether I am on something - no, I am not. Dance cardio is also a lot of fun and listening to good playlists makes the time go by crazy fast. It's also a lot less boring than a tedious treadmill run or an hour on the elliptical.
Some basic things I keep in my gym bag to vary my routines and keep my body guessing - working on different muscle groups at every workout include the following list bellow. For some inspiration on what to pack in your own gym bag, scroll through!
Thumblock Wrist Weights by SPRI
This brand is great because they are easily washable, and unlike most wrist weights, you have to stick your thumb in so that they won't slide around as you do your arm exercises. I use the 2 pound set which is just heavy enough to feel my muscles burning and work great in combination with 3 pound hand weights.
Adjustable Ankle Weights by Theraband
The best way to tone your glutes, butt and legs is with a 1- 2 pound ankle weight. These Velcro ankle weights are perfect for donkey kicks, kick backs and other leg exercises. I prefer them to a resistance band because I don't have to worry about it shooting off somewhere and hitting me mid workout.
While I don't use a resistance band for legs, I think they are the ultimate tool for shaping your butt. I guess resistance bands had a moment back in the 90s during the Jane Fonda era, but they are actually perfect for sculpting and toning. Pair resistance band exercises with a Stairmaster three times a week for the perfect workout.
Don't let the price tag scare you, these headphones are the best on the market in terms of utility and quality. You can charge them remotely through a USB cable for up to 12 hours and they play music loud enough to tune out the person working out next to you as well as other background noise. Their ease of use is what makes them so irreplaceable, because they connect to your phone through Bluetooth, allowing you to do HIIT and other movements without having your phone attached to you in any way. Worth the investment, I promise!
Newton Running Shoes
These sneakers are under the radar because they are not fashionable or have Kanye West advertising them, but they have the thickest soles allowing you to bounce, jump and run with abandon. If you suffer from shin splints or leg cramps after your workouts, it's not because you are doing something wrong in your technique, it's because you aren't wearing the right shoes!