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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Twingey Hinges -- Arthritis Aquatics Classes

Since my creaky knee served as the genesis for this blog, I thought I'd start with information about specialized classes for arthritis in Manhattan.  Most of these classes take place in warmer pools, which create a comfortable environment for alleviating arthritis pain through exercise.  I haven't tried all of these, but the classes are generally a bit gentler than some of the other classes I've tried. 
Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Alliance
The Arthritis Foundation website provides a motherlode of useful information on Arthritis.  The site includes a nationwide searchable index of fitness facilities that participate in the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Alliance (you can search by city, state, and zip code).  The classes are specifically designed for people with arthritis and focus on stretching and strengthening muscles without stress to the joints. The following sites in Manhattan offer classes under the Alliance:
Asphalt Green
555 East 90th Street
New York, NY 10128
(212) 369.8890 ext. 2246 
Asphalt Green is a gorgeous bright clean facility on East 90th between York and East End (reachable by the M86 and M57 bus). Going there will make you feel like a professional athlete.  They offer a range of programs, which I'll cover in a subsequent post.   Their Arthritis Exercise classes are held in the heated T/E Pool. The schedule varies, but there are mid-day classes on Tuesdays-Fridays (check the website for the schedule) and a Friday evening class.  Classes are open to members and you can also buy class passes (which vary in price).  Individual classes are currently $35 for non-members and $20 for seniors.  They offer 15 and 30 class passes at a discounted rate.  For downtown New Yorkers, a Battery Park branch is slated to open in June (after a long delay). I will update the blog with information about the Battery Park branch once it's open.
JCC Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10023
(646) 505-5708
The JCC, located at 76th and Amsterdam has a gorgeous aquatics center on one of the upper floors.  The pool is one of the prettiest I have tried in the city -- it has a nice view of neighboring buildings and bright sunlight from huge floor to ceiling windows.  I am not a huge fan of the training pool, where the Arthritis Exercise classes are held.  It is kept at a nice warm temperature and the depth is adjustable.  Unlike the main pool, the training pool is small (smaller than the living room in my Manhattan apartment).  I took an aerobics class there and found it a little cramped (but it should be fine for less active classes).  The people in the class were very friendly and the JCC offers a range of cultural programs for members.  Most of the classes are held in the late morning or early afternoon, so check the schedule. There is one class for Seniors (60+) that is offered for FREE (call the JCC for details).  The other classes are offered at different rates for member and non-members (the prices are reasonable).  You need to register for classes.
McBurney YMCA
125 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 912-2323
The search functionality on the McBurney YMCA seems a little bit off but I found the information in the program guide.  They offer Aquatic Exercise for Arthritis on Tuesday/Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.  It's free for members.  For non-members, classes are about $10/class for an 8-week session (it's a little cheaper if you go 2 or 3 times/week).  
Vanderbilt YMCA
224 East 47th Street
New York, NY 10017
(212) 912-2500
The Vanderbilt Y has two great pools and is super convenient if you work in the Grand Central area.  Again -- call and check the schedule before going.  During the spring they offer Arthritis Exercise classes in the pool at 11 a.m. on M-F, with after work classes on Monday and Wednesday at 6:50 (getting applause from the Mermaid for offering after work classes for those of us with day jobs!!).  I would call them for the summer schedule.  I would also call them for the fees (the YMCA websites have really uneven search functionality).  
Westside YMCA
5 West 63rd
New York, NY 10023
(212) 912-2675
I belonged to the Westside Y years ago when I was in law school.  It is a beautiful old building and the pool is nice, big and clean (with good locker facilities).  It's close to Columbus Circle so it's convenient to transport (and you can go to Lincoln Center or shop/eat at Time Warner Center after you work out).  Classes are held daily M-F (early morning or mid-day) but -- unfortunately -- are open to Members Only.  Call the Westside Y for membership information. 
Other Aqua Arthritis Classes
In addition to the Arthritis Foundation classes, Riverbank State Park (679 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10031, Phone: (212) 694-3600) offers a Senior/Adaptive Aqua Arthritis Class on Thursday and Friday Mornings.  It is reasonable ($10/class).  I have not been to Riverbank, but my neighbor takes a lot of exercise classes there and loves it.  
Back to Sport Physical Therapy offers Aquatic Therapy in the pool at the 92nd Street Y (which is a great pool -- I will review it in a future post).  Participation requires a prescription and is expensive (around $120/visit).  
For The Dogs....
Finally, since the Mermaid loves her four legged friends, it warmed the cockles of my lawyerly heart to discover that in New York, even doggies can do water exercise for arthritis.  Water 4 Dogs in lower Manhattan will let you exercise with your dog.  The photos alone are worth a look.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Splash and the City

I start out walking at a fast pace.  After a few minutes, I break into an easy run, imagining I’m racing through Central Park, as the coach tells me to pick up my cadence.  I hit a hill and pump my arms a little harder to get up to the top and then I speed up to a nice downhill clip, racing to the finish line, until I slowly drift into the person in the next lane, and accidentally inhale a little pool water.  Welcome to the world of deep water running.  How, you may ask, did a girl like me end up “running” through a pool in the basement of St. Bartholomew's Church, in the middle of midtown Manhattan?

My fitness journey began with a splash or, more accurately, a thud.  

I am a harried urban professional 40-something who finds it challenging to build daily exercise into my life.  I have always struggled with starting and maintaining a regular fitness routine, but I have also been fairly active - I love to swim and especially to walk – and in the past even walked a marathon and several half marathons.

A little more than two years ago, I went through a health crisis, a year of extreme and unpredictable dizziness (dubbed the "wobbles" by a doctor friend), followed by brain surgery to remove a benign tumor, which cured said wobbles, followed by a prolonged recovery and a long course of antibiotics that completely knocked me flat.  I “self-medicated” my way through my convalescence on a steady diet of French pastries from my local bakery.  I am now healthy, for which I am extremely thankful every day, but I gained weight as I healed and was out of condition.  So last autumn, I started a weight loss plan (for the nth time) and decided to start walking again and promptly twisted my ankle on a crack in the pavement, landing squarely on my knee.  Thud.  My mishap left me with a truly enormous aubergine colored bruise (I looked like Barney the dinosaur from the knee down) and the unwelcome revelation that I had arthritis, which I finally believed and accepted only after looking at an MRI.   

How could I have arthritis?  I survived a brain tumor.  I am young, active and fabulous.  My favorite thing in the world is to hop a plane to London or Paris or Hong Kong or really anywhere, and explore on foot until I’m exhausted.  Arthritis is decidedly un-fabulous and made me feel firmly middle aged and quite grumpy.  I have many adventures ahead of me and I am not ready to let a creaky knee slow me down.  The silver lining in all of this is that I finally decided that I love myself more than I love cinnamon brioche.  I needed to take better care of myself, and I actually found a way.

To help me recover from the knee injury and avoid surgery, my kind, savvy and sensible knee doctor suggested water exercise, which I actually enjoy, once I got past having to don a bathing suit when I felt like a marshmallow.  In the process, I've reacquainted myself with my abs and glutes and am well on my way to having upper arms like Michele Obama’s.  Someday.  After four months back in the pool, I am down two dress sizes and I feel great, and I’ve met some interesting characters along the way.  Water exercise is a great way to get a cardio and strength training workout without putting additional pressure on my knee.  One  challenge is that most water exercise classes are geared to people who don't work during the day.  So I’m on a mission to find challenging classes for busy urbanites of all ages.  Hence this blog.

Metropolitan Mermaid will give readers information on health clubs and pools, as well as profiles and reviews of classes and a little bit of medical and nutritional information for water athletes.

A few notes/rules of the pool:

  • My initial scope is limited to New York City (mostly Manhattan, to start) but I hope to expand my reach.
  • I will do my best to stay up-to-date, but I also have a day job.  If you notice that any information is out of date, please let me know.
  • I am not a fitness professional or a doctor.  Please check with your doctor before jumping into the pool.
  • I welcome comments, but please be respectful of your fellow mermaids and mer-men, and avoid making comments that are confidential, proprietary, false, fraudulent, libelous, defamatory, obscene, threatening, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, infringing on intellectual property rights, abusive, harassing, illegal or otherwise objectionable. (Can you tell I'm a lawyer by day?).  Comments will be screened before posting, and I reserve the right to make you exit the pool.  
  • If you are interested in writing a guest post about a class or activity, please email me.  

I hope you enjoy the blog and the journey.  Come on in.  The water's fine.

- MM