Hello Endorphins, My Old Friends

I used to work out all the time. And compete in races. (And dye my hair blond.)
I used to work out all the time. And compete in races. (And dye my hair blond.)

In keeping with my positive outlook for 2014, I’ve made a concerted effort to work out more. (Read: at all). Last week, I did two kickboxing classes and an aquacycling class. This week, I have big dreams of doing yoga and finding some crazy, cool new cardio class to try out. Though I’ve come up with many excuses, both clever and lame, as to why I can’t get into a good workout routine in the past couple of years, there really is no reason why I shouldn’t be working out at least three times a week. I’m not a lazy person and I used to be an athlete!

College swimming!
College swimming!

Speaking of being an athlete, while home for Christmas, I came across an old college swimming schedule that I had pasted to my dorm room wall (what can I say, I love mementos). In addition to the five two-and-a-half hour evening practices we had, there were three mandatory morning practices at 6am. Missing those AM practices was not an option. In fact, once I slept in just to see what would happen and you better believe my swim coach called me up and yelled into my answering machine until I got out of bed and over to the pool.  You see, I used to be incredibly physically active! Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine what working out 8-9 times a week would feel like.

Getting pumped up to swim at a swim meet in 2005.
Getting pumped up to swim at a swim meet in 2005.

I truly miss the days of swimming all the time and it wasn’t until I got back into the gym the other day for an old-fashioned ass-whooping (thanks Anne and Melissa), that I realize what I truly miss and crave is the release of endorphins. I love that natural high that comes when you push your body to its limits and then out of nowhere, you find the strength for just a couple more reps or to sprint across that finish line. Thanks, endorphins!

There are so many benefits to working out regularly and I was certainly reminded of that last week. It was the release of those endorphins that put me in an overall better mood despite the ridiculously cold temperatures brought on by the polar vortex.

The moral of the story is work out. There’s no excuse. Quit whining. Get off the couch and get that endorphin high. You’ll be glad you did.

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Aquacycling, My New Favorite Workout

Aqua Studio NYCI’ve never been one for workout fads. You won’t find me sweating in my living room to a Jane Fonda tape, rollerblading through Central Park accompanied by Sparky, doing whatever it is you do with a Thighmaster, or defending my opinion on Soul Cycle vs. Flywheel. I attribute my lackadaisical attitude toward exercise trends to the fact that I spent 14 years of my life as a swimmer, putting in roughly 7000 yards a day in the pool. I was too busy staring at the bottom of the pool perfecting my butterfly to try to consider any other type of workout. While I focused on setting personal records, I ate whatever I wanted (think Michael Phelps diet), found myself in the best shape and not worrying about burning calories or how toned my shoulders were. To me, that defined “working out.”

Aside from swimming laps, I’ve yet to find another workout regime that rivals my swimming training. Until last Wednesday when I had the pleasure of attending my first aquacycling class at Aqua Studio NY in Tribeca. Yes, that’s cycling in a pool! Called “aquabiking” in Europe, the trend started in Italy as a way to treat knee injuries for athletes. The water helps build endurance and recovery and also provides great cross training opportunities for athletes. Aqua Studio NY founder and Paris-native Esther Gauthier took an aquabiking class while her hometown 3 years ago and fell in love with it. It was then she decided to bring this trend to the United States and open her own studio.

Anne and me in our swim team days!
Anne and me in our swim team days!

I’ve never been a big fan of plain old spinning classes because I get bored easily and I’ve never found the spinning environment to be that welcoming. We all know working out in New York is serious and competitive, but Aqua Studio NY was a nice break from that. The aquacycling class was taught by one of my former swim team mates, Anne, and it was probably the most physically rewarding class I’ve taken to date. From the moment I set foot in the Tribeca studio, I was hooked. The studio itself has a very intimate feel. With its dim lighting, exposed wood floors, and candles offering most of the light in the locker room, I felt like I had walked into a friend’s apartment. According to Esther, that’s exactly the point. The space was designed to give you the feeling that you’re walking into a friend’s house to cycle with some friends. Contributing to this feeling of intimacy is the fact that there are only about 15 stationary bikes in the pool. That meant more personal attention from our teacher and we weren’t biking on top of one another.

Aquacycling with Anne!
Aquacycling with Anne!

As soon as Anne put on the first song and we started our first few cycles, I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy workout. Since the water is your only form of resistance, there’s no way to give yourself a break by adjusting your bike to a lower setting. Anne certainly pushed us to our limits and she reminded us to focus on what we can take from the water and also what the water can give to you.

Another one of my favorite aspects of the class was the ability to get a great arm workout while also focusing on legs. Because the water can hold your body weight, we were able to do some cool moves where we leaned off the back of the bike and treaded water while cycling with our feet. I’ve definitely felt that sort of resistance in an arms workout since my swimming days!

This workout was a treat for the whole body. As Esther mentioned when I sat down with her after class, “you don’t have to suffer to get a good work out.” She couldn’t be more spot on. I felt rejuvenated after class, but I also could tell that I’d worked hard. My muscles tingled and I immediately chugged a bottle of water.

As someone who loves the water, I like that aquacycling gives access to the water to a wider audience. For those of you who don’t know how to swim, have no fear! The pool is only 4 feet deep and your head is above the water the entire time. I highly recommend aquacycling to anyone who’s looking for a new challenge or wants to switch up their workout routine.

If you decide to go take a class at Aqua Studio NY, definitely take one of Anne’s! Let me know what you think!

How Do I Love Thee, Green Bay Packers? Let Me Count the Ways.

As a lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers, I was obviously ecstatic about the outcome of Super Bowl 45 this past Sunday. The last time the Packers made it to the Super Bowl, I was 13 years-old and when the Packers won their last Super Bowl title, I was 12 years-old. That was such a long time ago that I actually still played with Barbies. In fact, I think I played Barbies instead of watching the half-time show. (We can keep that fact between us. I wouldn’t want my middle school friends to find out about that I played Barbies up until the 8th grade. They won’t think I’m cool anymore.)

Anyways, it’s easy to say you love your favorite team when they win a world championship, but I’d like to say that I would still love the Green Bay Packers if they went 0-16 this season. Obviously, it would be more painful, but I am not a fair-weathered fan by any means. There have been some painful seasons to watch in the last 6 years,  including the 2005 season when they went 4-12 and in 2008 when they went 6-10. I don’t remember them doing so poorly that season, in fact, it wasn’t until Aaron Rodgers mentioned that fact on Letterman the other evening that I remembered they had a losing record in his first season as starting quarterback. Ah well, I guess you really can’t win ‘em all.

I don’t just love the Packers for their athleticism and winning records (and good looks), but I like what they represent. To me, they represent something more than just football. Here’s what I mean:

1) The Packers are the only non-profit team in the NFL and they can still win championships. Imagine that! A team in the National Football League that is not for profit. The Green Bay Packers are the only team that is publicly owned and they are also the smallest franchise in the league. They have stayed true to their roots and they can still win the Super Bowl. 

2) The Green Bay Packers are all about teamwork. With 15 starters on the Injured Reserve, they had to be! This season was all about stepping up to the challenge and filling in the shoes of key players. Even during the Super Bowl, the Packers lost Donald Driver and Charles Woodson to injuries. These guys were instrumental both on the field and in the locker room. During all the post-Super Bowl hoopla, every player that was interviewed gave credit to their fellow teammates for their hard work and skill. No one took personal credit for the Super Bowl win and they easily could have (*cough* Aaron Rodgers).

3) The Green Bay Packers are dedicated. With so many injuries each week, the Packers could have easily thrown in the towel and no one would have blamed them. However, each week rookies, undrafted players, and back-ups stepped up their game, allowing the Packers to pull off wins in unexpected places. My favorite story is the story of undrafted rookie Frank Zombo. During the preseason, he was given the chance to play due to other player’s injuries. However, after he sprained his ankle, he had to miss practice. He realized that his chances of playing were already slim, so he simply taped up his ankle as tight as possible, went out there and proved himself. Zombo earned himself a spot on the squad and played all season long. Now he has a Super Bowl ring. That is the kind of attitude I admire.

4) The Green Bay Packers have the best fan base in the league. If you’ve ever been to a game, you will see what I mean. Green Bay Packers fans love their team more than any team in the league and the feelings are mutual.  It takes a special kind of person to sit through countless games in sub-zero weather with cheese on their head. In addition, did you know that all of the people who work the concession stands at Lambeau Field during games are volunteers? Talk about devotion. Packers players always reference the excellent fan base and even crotchety old Brett Favre will attest to the fact that his Green Bay fans were unlike any fans in the league. 

5) The Green Bay Packers have a dreamy starting quarterback. Have you ever seen Aaron Rodgers? Very kind on the eyes. Not to mention an outstanding athlete, a stellar team leader, and a charitable guy off the field. A real class-act.

What makes the Packers so loveable is that they embody qualities that are successful both on and off the playing field.  Being a Green Bay Packers fan is a true delight.  I don’t see how anyone could not love a publicly owned, professional football team from Small Town, USA, whose fan base adores them and will wait in long lines to help shovel out the home field on snowy days before games. I understand that people have their allegiances to their hometown teams, but when it comes to the Green Bay Packers other teams pale in comparison.

Everybody loves the Green Bay Packers.

Brett Favre Teaches Us to Quit While We’re Still Ahead

Me, in happier Brett Favre times.

As a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan, I was in love Brett Favre for a very, very long time.  When I moved to Boston in the winter of 2007, I brought my love for Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers along with me.  I made sure that everyone I met knew of my deep passion for all things Favre and Packers.  My roommate and I even threw a birthday party for Brett at our apartment on Comm. Ave. on October 10th (his actual birthday).  We decorated our apartment with

A poster from our Favre birthday party.

newspaper collages and Favre facts.  All of our friends wore green and gold, despite the fact that most of them were New England Patriots fans.  At other parties when the topic turned to football, I would spew out facts about Brett Favre followed by, “I bet your quarterback never did that!

My passion for Favre became so well-known among my circle of Bostonian friends, that when the Packers suffered a devastating loss during the NFC Championship game, I received sympathy texts and voicemail as if I had lost a relative or something.

The Brett Favre award I received.

Even my middle school students knew of my love for Favre.  When my students were upset over an assignment I had given them they would mutter under their breath, “Brett Favre sucks” as if that was the all-time worst insult they could imagine.  When I competed in The Ultimate Grind, a grueling physical competition devised by my athletic trainer friends and carried out in a foot of snow, I was given “The Brett Favre Award” for my passion for competition.  In fact, my name pretty much became synonymous with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

Needless to say, I was a freaking Brett Favre fan if there ever was one. So it might come as a shock that, today, I am still hoarse from booing Brett Favre at Lambeau Field during Sunday night’s Packers/Vikings game.  I booed for Brett Favre during his every play of the game, screamed for joy at his interceptions and even flashed a few thumbs down signs in his direction (Since I was sitting near children, I refrained from giving the finger.)

Amidst my public displays of Favre-hate, something dawned on me.  How could it be that the 71,000 other fans and I were shouting at the top of our longs for the demise of someone who we had drooled over only two short years ago?  How had it come to this? Favre played a terrible game while receiving boos for his every move.  On top of that, he is injury-laden, the punchline of dick jokes,  and his own wife didn’t even bother to attend Sunday’s game.  Brett Favre had taken his legend and dragged it through the mud.  It became crystal clear to me: Brett Favre should have quit when he was still ahead.

If he had quit after 16 seasons in Green Bay, Favre would’ve been remembered for his dedication, passion, and talent instead of as a spiteful, selfish prima donna with a sexting problem.  His jersey probably would have been retired by now and he could be spending his days filming Wranglers commercials in peace.  Let Brett Favre’s shenanigans be a lesson to all of us: quit while you’re still ahead.

I still have a framed poster of Favre in my bedroom from the Monday Night game he played after his father died unexpectedly. The poster now serves as a visual reminder to me to quit while I’m still ahead.  I’m not involved in anything that I want to quit, but when the moment arrives, I will be sure to make a timely exit.

August is the Sunday Night of Summer

It has been a great summer. I have had the good fortune to attend many concerts, baseball games, and take several trips.  For the most part, the weather has been agreeable (aside from the extreme humidity and the flash floods) and I have been able to enjoy some quality time basking in the sun and dipping in various lakes. 

As we approach the middle of August, I cannot help but get that sinking feeling that I get on Sunday evenings after a great weekend as I mentally prepare to face another work week.  Even though I am not a student and do not work in a school, I still feel like the days of summer are numbered.  The college kids are already returning to their campuses and school-aged children are dragging their parents to Target to get the school supplies off the list and perhaps a  Optimus Prime lunch box.  Sometimes I wish I, too, could partake in back-to-school shopping as I love the smell of fresh notebooks and pencils.  However, I am no longer in need of such an abundance of office supplies at one time.

Of course, when I mention to people the fact that I feel summer coming to a close, I am met with confused looks and choruses of, “You’re crazy! Stop being so negative!” It’s not that I am negative, it is just that I start to feel the passing of summer as I complete the major milestones of summer.  For me, the major milestones of summer are my early June birthday, Milwaukee’s Summerfest (which spans the last week in June and first week of July), the Fourth of July, the annual family vacation to New Hampshire in early August, and attending the final concert of the summer season at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI.  I guess there is still Labor Day, but its passing marks the official end summer (in my mind at least).

Summer’s end can feel so tragic because  it is more than just the end of a season; it is the end to a carefree way of living.  Everything feels more laid back  in the summer and because of that, I take life less seriously during this time of year.  In summer, I am more likely to take a weekend trip on a whim, more likely to have that extra beer in the 7th inning of a Brewers game, and more likely to go to a concert on a Tuesday night when I have to work early the next morning.   My justification for doing such things is always, “It’s summer! Who cares?!”  However, that justification is not so effective when the weather begins to cool and the first leaves begin to fall.  It seems nonsensical to stay out late on a work night in November, the way I might in June or July.  There is no eleven day music festival in January that I can use as an excuse to blow off going to the gym and getting enough sleep.

Just because the warmth of summer will eventually end, does not mean the carefree living of summer has to end.  The key is keeping the summer spirit alive in the coldest, darkest moments of December, January, and February.  I can still take risks and be laid back; I simply have to wear a few extra layers and remember to my hat and gloves.  Maybe even secure a pair of snowshoes.

If You’re Going to Write a Passionate Letter, Don’t Write it in Comic Sans

Unless you’re a fourth-grader, or being ironic, or the author of a comic book, or on vacation from the 1990s, never use [Comic Sans]. – John D. Sutter, CNN

[Comic Sans is] probably the worst font ever to grace the computer screen. – MG Siegler, TechCrunch

Last night, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers took a lot of heat (no pun intended) for the manner in which he sharply criticized LeBron James’s Brett Favre-esque announcement of his decision to play for the Miami Heat.  It wasn’t so much the fact that owner Dan Gilbert used the words “narcissistic” and “self-promotional” to describe LeBron James, it was how he made the announcement.

In Comic Sans font.

Shortly after the world got wind of Dan Gilbert’s discovery, Comic Sans became a trending topic on Twitter.  My curiosity of the source of this trending topic led me to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ website where I read the letter with my own eyes. The letter looked like it was on one of those GeoCities websites, you know the ones that were so popular right after the internet went mainstream? Not only did the letter look completely unprofessional, I had to check the web address several times to make sure that I was in fact on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ official website and not a phony one.

Dan Gilbert’s letter was pretty passionate and said what a lot of people were undoubtedly thinking, but the fact that it was written in Comic Sans completely negated the power of his statements.  How can I take someone seriously when they write in Comic Sans?  That’s the font that elementary school children use to write tall tales!  In fact, the only time I’ve ever used Comic Sans font was to simulate kid handwriting when I’d make writing samples for my English students to edit. If I ever applied for a job with a resume and cover letter in Comic Sans font, my potential employer would rip up the documents upon arrival and I’d be laughed off the stage, so to speak.

My disbelief at the fact that the owner of a professional sports team would write a public letter to his fans in Comic Sans led me to seek more information on this hideous looking font (my apologies to you, Vincent Connare.  I’m sure you’re a really great guy).  Wikipedia defines Comic Sans as “a casual, non-connecting script, and was designed to imitate comic book lettering, for use in informal documents.”  According to Vincent Connare, the creator of Comic Sans, the font was not intended to be used by the public.  Just by comic book creators.  However, comic books creators and readers don’t like the font either.

Ban Comic Sans, who according to their website is “putting the sans in comic sans”  agrees that this font should not be used by anyone for any reason.  The movement to ban Comic Sans, which has been going strong since 1999, argues that font should match the purpose and tone of the intended message and that Comic Sans often contradicts the tone of its message.

Ban Comic Sans makes an excellent point about tone and font and this was the major problem with Gilbert’s letter.  The font Gilbert used to write his letter for the ages negated the seriousness and passion of his message.  Unfortunately, Gilbert’s open letter to his fans will be remembered not for its message, but for the font in which it was written.  This undermining of a person’s credibility due to their decision to write in Comic Sans needs to be stopped for once and for all.  Ban Comic Sans! You can thank me later, comic book lovers and NBA team owners.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

“We are inclined that if we watch a football game or baseball game, we have taken part in it.”  ~John F. Kennedy

“Root, root, root for the home team.  If they don’t win it’s a shame.” – “Take me Out to the Ballgame

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As an avid sports fan, I attend as many sporting events as time and my wallet will permit.  I do not discriminate between basketball, football, baseball, hockey, college, professional, high school, little league, etc.  Rooting for the home team brings some of the sweetest joys and the bitterest sorrows.  When it comes to the local sports team, a win or loss represents more than just the team’s performance; it is a reflection of the home city, its fans, and way of life. Until of course, a couple hours after the game, the weight of the outcome settles in, and people move on to the next task.

Here’s a look at some of the highs and lows of being an avid sports spectator.

The Best of Times…

“When you win, everybody shines, everybody wins.” -Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

Throughout the course of a game, especially at the end of the season, it is not uncommon for a spectator to experience a complete range of emotions.   There is nothing quite like the high that comes from watching your team win, especially when it is a come-from-behind win, an unexpected win, a win against a famous rival, a high-stakes win such as the Super Bowl, or your team is just that good.

When the home team wins big, fans instantly feel incredibly good about themselves, their team, their lives, their city, the planet!  People who were once strangers become united by the sweet victory of their local sports team. If your local sports team is lucky enough to win the big game, it becomes more than just a win; it becomes good triumphing over evil.

The clip below exemplifies the idea of how when the local sports team wins, it is not just a reflection of strong athleticism, but also a reflection of the superior cultural mores of that particular city.  Boston Celtics player Kevin Garnett meets with local teens, takes them into the city and declares that “this isn’t about basketball; it’s about your way of life and how you live.”  Basketball is beyond a game.  It is a brotherhood, a way of life.

The Worst of Times…

“No one knows what to say in the loser’s locker room.” – Muhammad Ali

Nothing feels worse than witnessing your team take a beating by the opposing team. Especially at the home court or field.  The only thing worse than watching your team get destroyed is watching it happen repeatedly. Unfortunately, that is currently the case with my Milwaukee Brewers.  The Brewers have the worst home record in the league, only winning four of their home games (I attended two of them).  The other day, after exiting my sixth home Brewers game of the season, I asked myself, “Why are you paying to experience emotional pain?!”  What’s that saying about how you can tell the most about a person by how he or she handles adversity?  The same goes for sports fans after their home team loses.  Most sports fans don’t handle a loss very well; cursing, crying, excessive drinking, boxing matches are several ways fans deal with the bitter taste of defeat.

The Bottom Line…

“If you make every game a life-and-death thing, you’re going to have problems.  You’ll be dead a lot.”  ~Dean Smith

Relish in your favorite team’s victories. Buy your friends a celebratory round of drinks. Don a pair of goggles and sprinkle yourself with the finest champagne, but don’t get too comfortable.  Every team can’t win every game, every year and some years just are not going to be the time for your favorite teams to win.  Accept defeat gracefully and don’t let it stop you from attending games! Teams need the support of their fans the most during tough times to boost their morale.  You wouldn’t leave your lover just because he or she was going through a rough time; the same goes for your local sports team.  You don’t want to be a fair-weathered fan! Don’t let your team’s losing record steer you away from attending home games.  You can still enjoy the atmosphere, the stadium beers, and the company you keep.  Just be realistic about the fact that your team probably won’t win! And if they do, well, what a nice surprise!