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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Workin' the Pole

The holidays have flown by.  This has not been my favorite year, between a tidal wave of year-end work (thankfully completed, with a day to spare) and Christmas week emergency root canal (thankfully now finished but it lived up to its reputation - bleh).  I feel better, the work's done and I finally have a little time off to catch up with friends and family.  I've fallen off the nutrition/exercise wagon a little.  I guess it's good to remember that I'm not perfect.  I will get back to better habits after New Year's Day - I think I've earned a cocktail or three this week.  I'm working on a post on open water swimming, but in the meantime I came across a couple of fun aqua tidbits.

Aqua Pole

I have been fairly obsessed with the Acqua Pole, since I first heard about it.  I confess that I've been fascinated by pole dancing since watching the Sopranos.  Yes pole dancing is kinda (very) exploitative, but it seems like a great workout.  Several gyms in NYC offer classes, but I would never have the nerve to try it on dry land.  The water is another story.

An Italian company developed the Acqua Pole but it hasn't been available in the US until recently.  So I was really amused when I came across this video from USA Today, of all publications, promoting aqua pole dancing as exercise for seniors ("you want me to do WHAT?").  

Right now, aqua pole classes are only available in two locations in the US:

Hopefully it will catch on -- it looks like a really fun workout.


I've blogged about the fabulous Jenni Lynn's S'WET class (see The Mermaid S'Wets with the Boys (December 2013).  Jenni has had a great year, growing her fitness empire and getting engaged to her lovely boyfriend along the way.  She updated her website with an online booking system for her S'WET classes, which are held at a great pool on East 86th Street in Manhattan.  Her class is one of the few I've taken that has a lot of male students, and Jenni has even written an article on motivating men to get interested in aquatics.  She put together a really fun video of the S'WET experience, which is available below and on her Facebook page, S'WET by Jenni Lynn Fitness.

Happy New Year!  I'll be back with more adventures in 2015.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Giving Thanks and Resolutions

The holiday season is flying by.  December is my busiest month at work -- I have been getting to the pool at least a couple of times a week, but have been neglecting the blog.  Mea culpa.


I hosted my annual pre-Thanksgiving "prequel" for my friends the weekend before actual Thanksgiving.  I have it down to a science at this point.  The food was ready, my apartment was clean (ish) and I had a full 30 minutes to put my feet up before the mob descended.

We had quite a feast.

I remained relatively calm amidst the chaos.

The Angel (who normally makes the Mac and Cheese) had temporarily fled the country.  My friend Ah Q stepped into the breach to make the Mac and Cheese and got a rave review.

I was especially chuffed that my friend Magnolia came in from London and my friend Hulu brought her family up from Virginia for the party.  Everyone had fun.

I seemed to have used up my culinary good karma on the Thanksgiving prequel.  My attempt to make a bourbon pumpkin pecan pie for my family's Thanksgiving was uncharacteristically disastrous.  I used an untried recipe and managed to blow out the motor on my food processor on my first attempt at the pie crust (and the actual crust fell apart when I tried to roll it out -- the proportions were out of whack).  I almost caved and considered pulling the Pillsbury crust out of the freezer, but I was determined.  I consulted my baking go-tos (Rose Levy Bernbaum, Dorie Greenspan and the Barefoot Contessa).  My second attempt blew out the food processor again (I bought a new one on Cyber Monday) but the crust held together.  By this point it was fairly late on Thanksgiving Eve and I was covered with flour and somewhat rattled, so I abandoned the pie and cracked open the bourbon -- a smart call.  I made the pie the next morning -- not my best effort but my family enjoyed it.  The filling was tasty - bourbon is a nice accent to pumpkin.

I am thankful for good friends, my family (2-legged and 4-legged), good food, and my health.  I hope you all have many reasons to be thankful.


So, a few of my friends are swimmers/triathletes, and we had a good discussion about open water swimming after the crowd thinned out at the prequel.  My friend Jackie Blue has done a number of open water swims this year, and I'm going to interview her for an upcoming blog post - she had lots of helpful information.  I decided to get a head start on my mermaid-related resolutions for 2015, as follows:
  • Train for and complete an open water swim next summer (my knee has been behaving so I am determined to do a one-mile swim);
  • Start training to become a certified aqua fitness instructor -- I want to have a little more information for the blog and I might actually do some part time teaching.  The training involves courses and an exam, so it will take a little time; and 
  • Go to mermaid camp at Weeki Wachee in Florida.

Mermaid school is apparently becoming quite trendy.  In addition to Weeki Wachee, there are apparently programs in the Philippines, and Germany (as reported by NBC News):

Who knew?  Perhaps I'm onto a trend.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sale -- Aqua Studio

Just a quickie -- Gilt City NY is having a sale on Aqua Studio NY classes.  You can get three classes for $89, seven for $189 or fifteen for $375 (the 7 and 15 class deals are only for new Aqua Studio clients; the 3 class pass is open to new and existing clients).  Plus Gilt is having a 25% off friends and family sale if you use the code FORYOU25 (Friends and Family ends on November 6).  It is a good deal if you are an Aqua Studio fan or just want to try it.  Terms and conditions are available on the Gilt Website.  You need to redeem the voucher at Aqua Studio by Dec. 31, and take the classes by March 31, 2015.

- MM

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Underwater PKP

I haven't blogged in awhile.   My knees are happy and I've been sticking to my exercise (more or less).  For better or worse, my day job has required more of my attention in the past few months (again, all good, just insanely busy).  I am working on some new posts.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and one of the highlights is the annual pumpkin carving party (or "PKP") organized by the Gerples.  They have a fun group of friends, and -- being me -- rather than sticking to the commercial stencils, I always end up designing my own pumpkin.  One year I carved George W. Bush.  Another, I carved Obama.  And then there was 2010 (after attending the fantastic Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity), when I attempted to etch Stephen Colbert's face into a pumpkin using GKH's (Mr. Gerples') Dremel rotary tool.  Alcohol must have been involved.  In the process, I sprayed a fine mist of pumpkin pulp all over their kitchen, the windows, and myself.  Here is my attempt to clean the crime scene.

They must love me because they invited me back.

I was watching the news this week and stumbled across this story about an underwater pumpkin carving contest in Vermont. 

Underwater pumpkin carving is apparently a thing, as evidenced by these stories from South Carolina and London.

I will have to try it sometime.  In the meantime, Happy Halloween from the Mermaid.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pool Gizmos

Summer arrived in September this year in New York.  July and August were pleasantly mild.  It was 90 degrees and humid earlier today and it's still quite sultry this Saturday night.  I'm staying cool in the air con, watching Notre Dame trounce University of Michigan (the Fighting Irish are leading 21-0 at halftime).  It seems a little wrong to be eating a kale salad while I watch the game -- sigh.  Will work on my couch tailgate next time.  I like Notre Dame's gold helmets.

I finally went to see the brain doc this week.  My MRI was not the touchdown I had hoped for.  Nothing terrible/alarming (no recurrence and my brain is in great shape) but I have to go back for another scan in 6 months (rather than 3 years, as hoped).  They just want to keep a closer eye on things.  I am trying to think of it as the Fantastic Voyage (a favorite film from the 1960s -- I'll just pretend I'm Raquel Welch).

I'm grateful for my conscientious and menschy doctor (and for scans), and I always enjoy talking with him, but I had hoped not to see him for awhile.  At least I feel like I am in great hands.  Trying not to worry about it.  

Pool Toys

Once we got past the medical stuff, we talked swimming -- the brain doc is a fellow mer-man.  He had two cool pool technology recommendations.  Since he does laps regularly (and he likes to keep track of his distance, speed, etc.), he recommended the Garmin Swim, which keeps track of swim strokes, distance, time, etc.  So far, I have been using my Shine to keep track of my swimming, but I might invest in a Garmin as I continue to do laps and work toward my goal of doing an open water swim.  It would be helpful to have more detailed information as I train.  Garmin also makes fancier models that have heart monitors, GPS and other bells and whistles.  

I was more excited about the other gadget -- a waterproof iPod Shuffle from a company called Water Fi. 

I cherish my pool time because I can focus on my breathing and swim strokes.  But let's face it -- lap swimming can be a bit tedious and some music would make the workout more fun.  Water Fi has a process for waterproofing various electronics (including an Amazon Kindle -- not sure if I am going to read in the pool but it would be handy at the beach or on a boat -- or if you like to read in the shower).  The Shuffle clips onto your swim goggles and comes with waterproof head phones.  I might try it -- although I'm concerned I might start singing along (which could be a little dangerous).  I'll keep you posted.

Baby Aqua Spa

On a cheerier note, I came across this article about a Houston, Texas aqua spa for babies.  It's never to early to be fabulous in a pool. The photos are adorable.  

Notre Dame just scored again -- 28-0 as I am about to hit Publish.  Go Irish!


Mermaid Update -- Dramatic ending to the game -- Notre Dame shellacked Michigan 31-0 (dramatic ending with a touchdown and a defensive penalty).  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Mermaid Dumps Ice Water on Her Head

I've had brains on the brain this week.  I had my three-year follow up MRI on my brain a few days ago.  It's been 3 and a half years since my surgery.  In all honesty, I don't think about the surgery too often, but I was a bit stressed to be back in the MRI tube (and relieved when it was over).  I get the results next week -- fingers crossed.  And I get to visit my awesome brain doc (surgical genius and all-around mensch).

I thought I had escaped the ubiquitous Ice Bucket Challenge for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, but my friend Peggy Moss nominated me.  Peggy is a brilliant author and a good egg, and it's for a good cause, so here is my video (with gratitude to Ellis Peters for his camera work):

ALS claimed one of my father's friends nearly 20 years ago (one of the kindest people I've ever known).  Two of my friends also lost parents to ALS.  It's an awful disease.  If dumping some ice water on my head raises awareness, it's the least I can do.  You can also donate to the ALS Association  here.   

Deep Water Running at the Y

On a cheerier note, my fabulous teacher Robert Valentin will continue to teach Deep Water Running at the 92nd Street Y this fall.   Starting September 10, Robert will offer deep water running classes on Wednesday mornings from 6:30-7:30 and Friday evenings from 6:30-7:30.  The class is not on the 92nd Street Y website, so email Robert at for more information (you can pay by the class).  It's doubtful I'll make it to the Y for the morning class, unless the pool is filled with coffee.  The Friday evening class sounds like a healthy way to start the weekend -- and the Y pool is very nice.  

Labor Day Special at Aqua Studio

Aqua Studio is offering a special on classes over Labor Day weekend.  Classes are $36.  On Monday morning at 10, Ed (great teacher) is offering a Boy Band special interval class.  At 11 and 12 they are offering Interval Sing Along classes (my chance to combine my enthusiasm for aqua fitness with my secret guilty pleasure -- karaoke).  I will let you know how it is.  

Aqua Boot Camp in the News

Final tidbit ... Ellis Peters' Aqua Boot Camp class got a good writeup in the New York Times Urban Athlete column.  Ellis is an awesome teacher -- I'm very happy that he is getting good press.  The photo in the article is of the 92nd Street Y (I recognize one of my classmates from last summer's class, in the foreground).

- MM

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mermaid at Riverbank State Park

The summer is winding down, and I've been a little delinquent on my blogging.  I had grand plans to do an open water swim at the end of the summer.  I did manage one swim in a lake.  Unfortunately, my meniscus-challenged left knee remains uncooperative and I've taken a brief hiatus from the pool to let it calm down (and I squeezed in a trip to Calgary, Canada to catch up with the White Rabbit, the Pink Rabbit, and the Rabbit Grandparents -- lots of fun in the Canadian Rockies).  I'm on the mend and headed back to Deep Water Running and Boot Camp in the coming week.  In the meantime, here is some information about Riverbank State Park.

Riverbank State Park

I may have mentioned my fabulous neighbor M on previous occasions.  She is in her 70s and is a good role model for how to enjoy retirement.  She takes tons of classes (fitness, sculpture, music) and has a great lively group of friends and an incredible joie de vivre.  I took a day off for my birthday last month, and M invited me to come to her water exercise class at Riverbank State Park on the Upper West Side.  Riverbank was a bit controversial when it was built (it's built on top of a sewage plant) and I had never been inside.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  There is an ice skating rink, a nice gymnasium/fitness center, an outdoor track, a restaurant and -- of course -- a beautiful Olympic sized pool (as well as an outdoor pool).

The pool was huge and clean with beautiful views of the river (I could see the Palisades and George Washington Bridge as we exercised).  M treated me to the Senior/Adaptive Water Exercise Class, which meets several days a week (it's very affordable -- $10 for drop in and $2 for Seniors).  Our teacher, David, took us through a variety of exercises and stretches using noodles, buoyancy bells and kickboards.  Overall, the 45 minute class was a fairly gentle workout, but I loved the arm exercises using the kickboard for resistance.  There were about 50-60 students in the class, but the pool wasn't crowded.  I loved the people in the class -- I was one of the younger ones (which is a nice thing as I teeter towards 50).  There is a real sense of community at Riverbank (lots of chitchatting in the locker room after class).  My fellow students were lively and welcoming.  The locker and shower facilities are clean but I did see one roach in the locker room -- but hey, it's New York.  

Riverbank is easily reached by the M11 bus (which goes right to the park) and the 1 train.  Most of the aqua fitness classes are held in the morning, but the pool might be a good option for lap swimming later in the day.

What Not to Wear

I was flipping through New York Magazine and stumbled across this article on the latest swim fashion craze from China -- the facekini.

For once, I am speechless.  Suntans are not considered fashionable in China.  It is supposed to provide UV protection, but -- as one of my friends pointed out -- you would be rocking a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tan-line.  There really is no way to "Make it Work."

- MM

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Team Fox Update: Bret Completes a Triathlon

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my friend Bret Parker, who was training for his first open water swim.  While I was lolling around like a sloth this morning, drinking coffee and doing the New York Times Crossword, Bret (and his lovely wife Katharine) completed the Mighty North Fork Triathlon.  Katharine came in 8th overall for women in her age group.  

Katharine and Bret, and a mystery photo-bomber

Congrats to both of them.  Bret remarked, "Parts were harder than I expected, others easier. But I did it and never in my life imagined I could. Another upside to Parkinson's Disease."

Bret and Coach Lyon Marcus

Bret and Lyon in the home stretch

Bret is training for the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon in September. He is already well on his way to reaching his goal of raising $50,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.  Click here to support his efforts and donate to Team Fox.

Rock on, Bret!!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Deep Water Running at the 92nd Street Y

Metro Mermaid devotees -- apologies for the brief hiatus from the blog.  Having made peace with my right knee, my left knee got jealous and wanted in on the action.  An MRI revealed that I did -- in fact -- tear my left meniscus.  Not a fun experience but I learned a valuable lesson -- don't overdo it when you have a sports injury.  The other valuable lesson was that it illustrated how much the water exercise helps (physically and mentally).  I had to take a break from my classes for a couple of weeks, and my knees became a bit stiff and achy (and the Mermaid became uncharacteristically grumpy).  After a little recovery time (and thankfully no surgery), I am back in the pool and back in action -- and my knees and I are feeling happier, just in time for my upcoming birthday.  It's all about the water exercise.

Deep Water Running at the 92nd Street Y

To celebrate the return of the blog, I have great news.  For those of you on the Upper East Side, my wonderful Deep Water Running teacher Robert Valentin is teaching at the 92nd Street Y this summer.  A six-week session started on July 9 (I only just found out or I would have let you know earlier).  Although it is too late to sign up for the series, you can drop in.  Classes are offered at the following times:

Monday 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Tuesday 6-7 p.m.
Wednesday 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Robert was recently featured in an article in the Examiner about the benefits of Deep Water Running.  I have been taking Robert's classes since the beginning of last year, and reviewed them here.  They have been a godsend for my knees.  Seriously.  The Y has a gorgeous large swimming pool and spacious/immaculate locker facilities.  I am going to try Robert's class at the Y, both for the class and to check out the latest towel art creations in the locker room.

The classes at the 92nd Street Y run through mid-August.  Hopefully they will continue to offer them in the fall.  Drop-in classes are $20 for Y Fitness Center members and $30 for non-members.  For more information, see the Y website.  

Some new open water adventures are still in the works.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Queen Tunafish and Team Fox

I am relieved that winter is finally over.   It's still a little cool, but summer is on the way.  The cold weather took its toll on me this year -- at the end of March, I ended up with a prolonged case of flu and I appear to have torn a meniscus retrieving a cute (but really uncomfortable) pair of shoes from under my desk when we moved offices.  I rebounded from the flu and the favvulous knee doc appears to have sorted out the achy knee so I am back in the pool (and back to the blog and my lap swimming/training for an open water swim in September).  So it's all good (and summer is coming).

This past weekend, we had a mini family reunion with my cousins in Connecticut.  We hadn't gotten together in years.  My cousin "Ablets" and my sister-in-law came up with the idea for "Cousins Day" -- we hope to make it a regular event.  My dad and his cousin were both only children, so my brothers and I spent a lot of time with these cousins when we were younger.  I was the youngest kid of our generation (and am the only one still in my 40s).  With this crew, I will forever be known as Queen Tunafish.  At some point, when I was 4 or 5 years old, my much older brothers and slightly older girl cousins tied me to a tree in my cousins' back yard (don't ask) and I apparently declared myself "Queen Tunafish" -- because I loved tuna sandwiches.  I'm not sure if they tied me up before or after I declared myself the queen.  My cousin Risa also reminded me that I liked to read the encyclopedia as a kid (so I was a sea creature and a geek).  My nieces thought it was hilarious.  Ah, childhood memories.  I realized this weekend that I started as a tuna and grew up to be a Mermaid (and I'm still a geek).  It all makes sense now.

Team Fox

This trip down memory lane reminded me that I was afraid of swimming as a young kid, which brings me to Team Fox.  My law school friend Bret Parker was also afraid of the water when he was a child.  Bret is one of the most amazing and courageous people I know (he's simultaneously a mensch and a bad-ass).  We went to law school together and he was always smart, witty and supportive when I worked with him on our law journal.   He still is.

Several years ago, Bret was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (he wrote an amazing article about it in Forbes).  Rather than letting it slow him down, since his diagnosis he has run marathons, taken up skydiving, gone on safari, and is a one-man fund raising machine for Parkinson's research.  Bret set out to conquer his fear of the water this past year and -- in typical Bret style -- is doing a triathlon this summer.  He is attempting to raise $50,000 for Team Fox by completing the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon.  You can contribute to Team Fox and read about his inspiring journey here.  And I know he'll ace that swim -- go Bret!!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Return to Aqua Studio -- Restorative Cycling

After a long cold winter, spring has arrived (once we survive the predicted nor-easter/snow-bomb next week).  I generally enjoy winter, but I am really craving some warm weather and sunshine.  I started my lap swimming and I decided to do a more reasonable open water swim on the East Coast in September (slightly shorter and sans hypothermia, rip currents and sharks).  Details of my training will follow in future posts.  In the meantime, I decided to give aqua cycling another try.

Last September, I tried an interval class at Aqua Studio in Lower Manhattan (and blogged about it here).  I really liked the pool at Aqua Studio, and I felt great after that class, but standing up and pedaling on the bike kind of aggravated my knee.  I loved the idea of Aqua Studio, but I was a bit ambivalent to return (note -- if you enjoy spinning, you will love the interval classes).  I was really excited to see that Aqua Studio added some new classes, including a "Restorative" class.  According to their website:

The RESTORATIVE CLASS objectives are to restore physical and mental well-being by releasing stress, strengthening and realigning the body, as well as connecting it to the mind. This class combines aerobic endurance training with deep breathing, stretching and yoga. You will leave this class feeling calmer and rejuvenated.

I continue to be a little stressed out (for various reasons - mainly work-related) so I thought I'd give it a spin.  I loved it!  Since I work downtown, I opted for the Thursday 8 pm class.  I arrived a bit early, so I chatted with some of the other ladies in the class, some of whom were recovering from sports injuries.  

Ed, the teacher, appears to have a devoted following.  The Interval class before our class was packed with a lively bunch of students.  Ed is in great shape (very muscular) and very calm with a good sense of humor (he described the Restorative class as classical music, as compared to the "rock 'n roll" Interval class).  After he adjusted our cycles, we were off.  

I really liked two elements of this class:

  • No standing up -- We cycled the whole time but we didn't have to stand up.  We did do the vault-backwards-over-the-bike move a few times (which is apparently called "position 4").  If you watch this video news report, they do position 4 about 1 minute in.  Kudos to Ed for adjusting the foot straps on the bike so I didn't fly out of the pedals this time.  And I managed to let go of the seat for long stretches of time.  
  • Lots of arm movement -- Although we were sitting on the bike, we moved our arms for the entire class -- sweeping through the water, freestyle swimming, figure 8s, treading water, etc.
Ed was extremely attentive and walked around the pool making sure we were doing the exercises properly.  After the class, they put out a tray of lovely herbal tea in the locker room.  It was a really good class -- a decent amount of aerobic exercise, some good yoga and Pilates-like movement, and a total body workout.  As we were stretching after the class, I really felt like I had worked my thighs.  Later that night, I was acutely aware of EVERY muscle in my body -- I was a bit sore.  And once again, I slept like a rock after the class.  I felt calm and rejuvenated.  

I will definitely go back - I enjoyed the class and I felt GREAT afterwards, and it was a really nice group of women -- covering a good range of ages.

Aqua Studio is at 78 Franklin Street, between Broadway and Church.  You can register for classes on their website.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Mermaid Prepares to Swim With Sharks (literally...)

Over the holidays, I had a chance to reconnect with my high school friend the SF South Ender ("SFSE").  She and her family live on the west coast.  SFSE is a big fan of the blog.  We were talking about water exercise -- her dad is a fellow mer-man -- and she came up with a great challenge, an open water swim!

As I've dived into the aqua exercise scene, I've noticed the tension between the lap swimmers and the water exercise classes.  Many of the folks who swim at Equinox are training for triathlons, so there is always some friction when the club closes the pool for an hour for an aqua fitness class.  Years ago, I was one of the lap swimmers.  I conquered my fear of the deep water when I was about 12, and I swam laps intermittently until I was in my late 20s.  It was great exercise and it's very calming to swim back and forth in the pool.  I gave it up because I kept getting ear infections and my life got a little too busy.

So I've been sticking to my aqua fitness regime for more than a year, and I feel like I need a challenge.  My knee feels great.  The year I turned 40, I completed a marathon.  50 is looming on the (distant) horizon.  Since I don't think I can do another race on land just yet, I am going to train for an open water swim in September.  The first step was to purchase ear plugs and a good pair of goggles (blue, to match my eyes).

I just started swimming laps again, and I'm optimistic I will be able to do 1.5 miles by September (I have plenty of time to train), and then I have to psych myself up to put on a wetsuit (!) and deal with sharks (seriously), cross currents and possible hypothermia.  As much as I love the water, I am scared of swimming a long distance in open water, so this will be the real challenge for me.   Luckily I have the SFSE and all my friends to support me and cheer me on.  I'll keep you posted on my training as well as other aqua crimes against fashion.  I have some good swim coaches on hand to give me advice and I'm sure I'll have some adventures along the way.  And don't worry -- I will still devote equal blog time to other aqua fitness endeavors.

For inspiration, I recommend this New Yorker profile of Diana Nyad.  You need a subscription to read the whole article.  I was stuck in a tunnel on the #2 train for an hour last week so I had a chance to read the print version (as well as most of the magazine).


Aqua Tai Chi

We got a brief burst of spring-like weather this weekend (before the return of the dreaded polar vortex). It continues to be a bit of a struggle to get to the pool, but I tried a great class at Asphalt Green a few weeks ago -- Aqua Tai Chi -- taught by Andy Diaz (or Sensei Andy).

Tai chi is actually a defensive martial art, but it is practiced by many to promote balance (mental and physical), flexibility, and improved circulation.  I lived in China years ago, and I've always been fascinated by tai chi.   I taught at a college in Beijing for a year after I graduated from university.  Every morning at about 6 a.m., a group of my Chinese colleagues from the college would go out to practice tai chi in the little garden beneath my apartment.  Sometimes they would walk to class carrying swords -- to practice a variant of tai chi called taijijian.  It was a bit incongruous to see the foreign language faculty armed to the hilt at the crack of dawn.  I always wanted to join them but, alas, I've never been a morning person.  But I did manage to sit on my little balcony, clutching a large cup of coffee and watching the group practice their moves, before heading off to teach my English classes.  I found an old photo of one person practicing in the garden (taken from my balcony, coffee cup out of the frame).

I also found a random photo of me and my French neighbor Thierry (from my China days) next to a giant mountain of cabbage (which was basically the only vegetable available there during the freezing winters).

In the winter, people would stockpile cabbage on their balconies to last through the cold months.  I bought one and put it out on my balcony in a sign of solidarity.  Oh the things you find when you pull out the old photo albums....

Since I am still not a morning person, I was happy to find an Aqua Tai Chi class on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 in the lovely heated training pool at Asphalt Green (on the Upper East Side).  The teacher, Andy, has been practicing tai chi for nearly 40 years.  He was extremely friendly and interesting.  There was one other student in the class that night.  Luckily, she has been studying tai chi for years, so she was able to help me out. We started with a series of six poses, some of which had amazing names, including Parting the Wild Horse's Mane, White Crane Spreads its Wings, and Grasp the Bird's Tail.  Andy was extremely attentive to posture and position, and we repeated this sequence many times.  There was a nice flow between the slow graceful movements, and I really liked that I had to engage my mind (to memorize the sequence) in addition to moving my body.  Everything involved balancing two forces -- pushing and pulling, moving backwards and forwards -- yin and yang.  At the end of the class we went through a sequence of about 70 movements -- by that point I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun.  I will probably try the class again -- I felt really relaxed and focused afterwards, and I liked the whole mind-body aspect.  I need to read up on tai chi so I can understand it better.

Asphalt Green is located at 90th and York Avenue.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Return of the Polar Vortex

It's cold and snowy again in NYC.  I went to Aqua Bootcamp and had a good long walk yesterday while it was a balmy 40 degrees.  Today I hunkered down and worked from home with my helpful sidekick.

I love winter but I definitely need a week on a beach somewhere.

Here are some random Mermaid newsbits.

Aqua Trampolin

Jenni Lynn shared this great video of the Aqua Trampolin.  Just the thing to cheer me up on a blustery winter day.  Looks like lots of fun -- hopefully it will be available in NYC at some point.

Glam and Go

This has nothing to do with aqua fitness, but everything to do with looking fab after your workout.  Exhale Spa on Central Park South and on the Upper East Side now has an express blow dry bar, so you can work out and then re-beautify yourself on the go.  Glam and Go offers a menu of services from $20-40.  They have also opened a branch at Sports Club/LA on the Upper East Side.  They were profiled this week on GMA.

Enjoy, stay warm and be fab!


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Knee Redux -- Arthritis Exercise at Asphalt Green and Aqua Yoga Poetry Slam

I feel very middle aged this week -- my knee has been achy and stiff since New Year's (maybe because of the frigid weather or maybe because of a little holiday overindulgence).  It's not terrible, but it is definitely making its presence known (especially when I am going down steps), and I started refering to myself as Snap, Crackle, Pop.  

I mentioned in my first blog post that I did not embrace the fact that I have arthritic knees.  It's hard to accept that your body is working against you.  When I had my tumor a few years ago, I coped by imagining that the tumor was a separate entity (an unwanted squatter) inhabiting my head.  I even gave it a nickname (a really awful nickname known to only a few friends) so I could visualize evicting it.  It was very useful to imagine that it was not a part of my body, and it helped tremendously as I went through the surgery and recovery process.  I think that I have been seeing my creaky knee in the same way -- as this tetchy little tenant in my leg that I don't want to deal with.  This month, I decided that my knee and I need to find a way to co-exist more amicably.  I am not ready to replace it, as cool as it would be to be the bionic woman.

The Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Alliance has a lot of useful resources on their website, including a searchable directory of aqua fitness classes geared to folks with arthritis.  I finally bit the bullet and tried the Arthritis Exercise class at Asphalt Green (they offer one evening class and several daytime classes each week in the fantastic heated training pool).  I was worried that the class would not be challenging and pleasantly surprised to discover that it is an excellent workout.

The teacher who normally teaches the evening class was out for a couple of weeks, but I was thrilled to see Joni, who also teaches Aqua Yoga at Asphalt Green.  I was the only person in the class the first week (and there was a larger and very friendly group the second week). Joni is a great teacher -- she hops in the pool and exercises with her students and also jumps out occasionally to demonstrate certain exercises.  She explains the exercises clearly and makes sure you are doing them properly.  Teri, the teacher who normally does the evening class, has a very loyal following among my fellow students.

Aquatics for arthritis aims to increase strength, flexibility, range of motion and balance.  There is a little bit of aerobic exercise, but the class consists of various movements (utilizing buoyancy and resistance) to work out all the joints in the body.  The class started with walking (or jogging) around the pool forwards and backwards doing various arm exercises -- scooping up water, churning our arms, etc.  Once we had warmed up, we moved on to some arm and leg exercises -- chopping motions, figure eights with our arms, playing the piano, sweeping through the water with both arms, frog jumps, moving our arms and legs like hinges, various leg exercises, and some stretches.  There were some yoga moves (the flamingo, the plank, pushups against the wall and squatting as if we were sitting in a chair).  We also did a great leg exercise where you stand on one leg and move the other as if you are propelling yourself along on a skateboard.  When I had my private class, we did side planks standing against the side of the pool.  I feel like I've made some progress in the past year -- my core is much stronger.  

We were definitely moving for the entire hour.  After the first class, I felt good when I got out of the pool.  I woke up at 5 a.m. the next morning because every muscle in my body was sore (not bad pain - I obviously worked some muscles I hadn't used in awhile).  I had the same experience early this morning after yesterday's class.  My knee feels a little better.  Oddly enough, my neck and shoulders feel better than they've felt in ages (all the stretching and moving helped work out some of the tension from sitting at a desk all day).  

I still like my more active classes -- Aqua Boot Camp, Deep Water Running and S'Wet, but this is a good complement for some stretching and toning.  I will try to do this every couple of weeks.  You can pay by the class (or buy a series of classes).  The classes are free to members.  I just wish Asphalt Green was closer to my apartment -- it really is a bit of a schlep to get home from there (the bus is right there but it takes ages to get back across town).

On a related note, I tried another Aqua Yoga class at Asphalt Green -- this one was taught by Malissa (on Monday evening).  Malissa is a good teacher and it covered much of the same ground as Joni's class, but included one additional feature -- chanting.  I haven't totally embraced the spiritual side of yoga, and it felt a little odd to be standing in a pool in Asphalt Green chanting (attempting to chant) in Sanskrit.  When I got home I posted the following on Facebook:

Tonight I chanted in a pool.  Oy vey.

I have very creative (and zany friends), so I leave you with a mini aqua yoga poetry slam, with collaborative credit to my friends Todd and Stacy:

Tonight I chanted in a pool.  Oy vey.
My lane mate took me for a fool.  Oy vey.
She tried to stop my chant.  Not cool.  Oy vey.
I responded with: "Namaste."  Oy vey.

Until next time (oy vey).


Monday, January 6, 2014

Asphalt Green 10-day Guest Passes - Free

Just a quickie.  Asphalt Green is offering a special promotion until January 15 -- a free 10-day guest pass for either its Upper East Side location or Battery Park City.  You can activate either until January 15. The guest pass includes use of the pool and adult aqua fitness classes.