journey to buff: flex studios + some thoughts on age {long read}

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When I look back on this week, I think about an old Duras quote: I’ve known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you’re more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged. I’m beginning to feel the weight of things — my age and experience — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A co worker says, “I love the instas [Instagrams] of your home. It’s so beautiful and put together. It’s so grown up.” In response, I laugh and say, “I hope so, I’m 38.” A good friend gives me a first crack at a highly-covered social media position relating to food, and I bow out gracefully because the job is the sort of thing I would’ve leaped at ten years ago. So instead I recommend a few brilliant friends who would be better suited, a few friends who are prime for this leap. I guest-lecture on the subject of structure in writing, namely, how to be an architect of prose, and I tell a room filled with students that although we live in an attention-deficit culture, no one is waiting for their book. There should be no rush or frenzy to publication, rather, it’s more important to focus on one’s art. Write a good book instead of writing a book fast, I say — advice I balked out ten years ago. Finally, I find myself succumbing to food poisoning and a cruel reaction to dairy for two days in succession, and instead of racing through my days as I used to do, I stay home and rest.

Funny how time sorts things.

We live in an era of the perpetually young. We celebrate the newness of things; we desire a sheen to our objects. We want fast, we want now, we want perfection. The accumulation of hours spent in front of a laptop has become a badge of honor, something worthy of showing off. The desire to emulate a body we see sprawled across the pages of a glossy magazine {get that elusive dancer’s body! covet these abs! juice your way to joy!} propels us beyond our own personal velocity. Suddenly we power through our workouts and are confounded when we get injured or don’t get the body we were promised. We’re emphatic in our wails: Where are my taut abs? Where is my six-figure paycheck? Where is my VP title?

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As I get older I’m starting to appreciate the end game. I’ve become a tortoise advocate when I’ve lived my life as the valiant hare. I’ve been a master of the part rather than a tackler of the whole. Years ago, I was frustrated with my handstand practice, and my teacher told me that I had my whole life to figure it out, that each day was an accumulation of knowledge that will invariably get me to a place, yet the notion of place is elusive in and of itself, because the place keeps changing and the constant is our work. The metronome is our journey. So why not take the days as they come and commit ourselves to creating something new and cultivating mindfulness? This is not to say that I don’t have goals, I do. Surely I want to publish a novel but instead of focusing on getting a book deal on X date, I think about writing a certain amount of pages per week {and don’t admonish myself if I don’t meet that goal}, and if I complete the book and it doesn’t sell, I’m not a failure because of lack of finding a publisher, rather I’ve succeeded because I’ve written something completely new. A book I’m proud of. That’s the difference between Felicia of 2004 and Felicia of 2014.

Naturally, this sort of thinking has dovetailed into my fitness routine, where there are days when I’m absolutely killing it and there are days when I fall down or fall off machines. There are days when my once miniscule waist balloons, and there are days when I look slightly less pregnant. What I’m getting at is that there will always be flux, but the constant is how we manage the frenzy, how we keep our eye toward the long haul. It’s that eye to the journey that gets me through every new experience.

Enter Flex Studios. I invited my sweet friend Persia to accompany me {translation: provide psychological support and copious amounts of laughter with the promise of an apres-workout chow-fest} to Flex Barre. As soon as we entered the space in New York’s Union Square district, we were smitten. From the very pert and warm front desk staff to the piles of magazines that festooned the coffee table to the clean, minimalist surroundings, we knew Flex was the business. The studio hosts three class types: Barre, Pilates {reformer}, and TRX, and we took Barre, which was a fusion of traditional barre work {core, arms, thighs, seat and closing ab work/stretches} with bursts of HIIT cardio. For those who have taken Core Fusion, think of this as Core + cardio. For sixty minutes we pulsed, lunged, squatted, curtsied, lifted, and performed tricep dips and crunches with that cruel little medicine ball. Our teacher, Lanae Rhodes, an energy typhoon, provided constant, deft corrections to our form and provided endless motivation. Just when I thought I was going to collapse onto Persia, Lanae came over and gave me modifications, which reminded me, Oh, Felicia, this is a journey. I don’t need to out-squat the woman next to me; I don’t need to kill it.

I just need to do the very best I can on that particular day. Clearly I’ll need to remind myself of that when I tackle TRX at Flex next week.

It should be said that energy has a tremendous impact on whether I patron a space. Not only do I look for instructors who understand and appreciate varying fitness levels, but I also need to feel as if I’m part of a community. I’ve been to studios that felt cultish (cough, SoulCycle, cough), where fitness was a comparative and competitive act and women tend to ignore one another, and I’ve been to studios where women quickly chat and exchange tips. Flex fell in the latter, and not only did I meet a bunch of women who loved the space and gave me some feedback on which classes to take, we also got to gossiping about one of my favorite spots, Brooklyn Body Burn. Energy is so terribly important to me because I take group fitness classes to not only receive personalized attention from instructors, but to also get motivated by the folks around me. So the ebb and flow of positivity is tantamount.

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