ClassPass: Barry’s Boot Camp Review

I was very nervous for Barry’s Bootcamp. Very very very nervous. Everything I had heard going into this class made it sound like hell, but also those same people gave if the most rave reviews and kept going back for more. Still, I was nervous and willingly expressed such directly to BBC.

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Their tweet response actually DID make me feel a little better, you know, if I felt like puking on the treadmill then I could always just take it down a notch.

Their Promise: The best workout in the world

The Experience: Upon arrival, the front desk staff was SUPER helpful and before swinging into the lockerroom I noticed none other than a JUICE BAR where you place your order before headed into the gym so that it’s ready when you come out. I ordered up some sort of Vegan shake with a HUGE dose of protein and a healthy amount of calories. I knew I was going to need it after a sprints on a minimal breakfast.

I started off on a treadmill. The flow of the class is that you alternate between treadmill time and floor work. On the treadmills you’re going between runs and sprints, sometimes at an incline. Your recoveries are done at pace, which means you’re still running at about a 6.

I’ve always been a decent sprinter and over the past couple years I found myself enjoying a run here and there, however nothing and I mean NOTHING could have prepared me for this experience. It’s one thing to go for a 4 mile run, quite another to be sprinting at a 10 on an incline followed by calisthenics that involve a step and weights. It was the most difficult workout I’ve had to recent memory, but in one of those ways that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment.

There’s something about working out in a dark, sexily lit room that really gets you in the zone. I honestly don’t think I could have sprinted my ass off if there were lights on. It’s kinda like “what happens in Barry’s stays in Barry’s” and I left it all on that treadmill. 60 minutes later, I was worked out, worked in, worked down and even diagonally.

Chris, the instructor was 6’9” or something and SUPER awesome. I loved his energy and enthusiasm for getting us to MOVE. The weight sessions were hella tough. Nothing was ever a simple bicep curl, everything was layered on top of one and other for max muscle workage. BBC is NOT fucking around when they say it’s the best workout in the world.

Because I worked out before work, I used the facilities to shower and was *delighted* to come face to face with a suite of Malin + Goetz products, towels, and dryers on hand. Paired with that smoothie that was waiting for me, it was a perfect experience start to finish. I mean, save for that part where I almost yuked on a treadmill, but that’s part of it too. I loved that there were a lot of guys in the class too. It’s refreshing to see a gender balance in a group fitness studio

I get while people are addicted to this place. I’ll be back. Specifically 7:50pm next Thursday. EEK!

BBC gets a 10 out of 10 for sure.

ClassPass Review: Mighty Pilates

As I mentioned in my Mint Studio Review, I’m really interested in expanding my pilates repertoire beyond my springboard exposure at BURN. I decided to hit up Mighty Pilates for the sole purpose that it’s incredibly close to my house so a 6:30am class was NBD.

Their Promise: Mighty Pilates offers energetic group classes so you get fit quickly and feel empowered. Be Mighty in Laurel Heights with classes that combine stretching, cardio, and core.

You’ll work out your whole bod head to toe on a mix of the Reformers and the Towers. Power up your powerhouse in this vigorous class that mixes it up. Appropriate for students familiar with the Tower and Reformer.

The Experience: Gorgeous studio. Just gorgeous. Reformers up front, towers in the back. Wish I had given myself more time to explore the space. The instructor Sabrina, was very throrough in asking about my injury (like what vertebrae is my injury on and shame on me for not remembering). I appreciated that. We began the class doing a series of core and arm exercises on the reformers. Since I have some basic knowledge of pilates, it was easy enough to follow along, execution on these tired muscles was a whollllle other story. At first blush, pilates equipment looks straight up like torture equipment (and I guess in a way it is), but Sabrina had excellent cueing and kept us in our exercises for the perfect amount of time. I never felt like anything was *too* hard.

After the reformers, we went into the tower room and began our work there. One thing I did find impossible was our planks on an un-sprung bar. I just could not hang there. Nothing in this class was, easy. At all. But I really appreciated the pace, instruction and flow of this studio.

I give this class a 10 out 10 ten for it’s instruction, experience and space.

Next Up: Barry’s Boot Camp

ClassPass Review: Mint Studios

It’s been years since I’ve taken a classic pilates mat class, but more importantly I have not taken one since I myself became an instructor at BURN, a studio that combines cardio, weights and pilates into one hella hard, but sweattastic 55 minutes. I was particularly excited to check out this genre of class with my more trained eye on pilates and fitness instruction. Mint Studios fell into my lap of course because of ClassPass, but also because it’s one block from the CalTrain, what I use to commute every day.

The Gist: With some of the hardest and most effective classes in San Francisco, Mint’s beautifully designed space is reminiscent of a spa, offering clients an escape from the hustle and bustle of busy city life. Take a Reformer, Mat Pilates, or Barre class and you’ll laugh, shake, and maybe even cry a little! Take a vinyasa flow Yoga class to center your body and mind.

San Franciso’s SOMA neighborhood is definitely not known for its aesthetic charms, so imagine my delight when I open the door of a nondescript building in a block of warehouses and enter into this gorgeous, pristine, refined and welcoming studio space.

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I’m not sure what else to say except for: OMFG THAT CLASS WAS TOUGH. We began with what felt like 5 minutes (and i’m actually pretty sure it was 5 minutes) of planking and plank variations. Enough planking to feel the rumble through my core up into my shoulders and down my legs. Following planking we did a variety of floor work involving balls and resistance bands. While most of the exercises focused on the core muscles, I was surprised to discover how the work extended into my arms as well. For example, while holding a V shape (read: CORE WORK), we would wrap a resistance band around our feet and do a shoulder press or bicep curl at the same time, working two different sets of muscles.

The class was only 45 minutes long, but it was more than enough in terms of strengthening exercises. The instructor, Gaby, was very good and provided sufficient cuing, instruction and encouragement. There was one particularly difficult moment in which I’m she caught me silently screaming an expletive that starts with an F. I didn’t break a Yoga Flow-esque sweat or anything, but I certainly felt the workout in every fiber of my soul. It was great.

I give Mint Studios a 9 out of 10 and actively look forward to going back soon!

Next Up: DOONYA a cardio bollywood dance class

Yoga Flow, SF • ClassPass Review

Decided to make an audible today and register for a yoga class after teaching my couple classes at BURN. I told my roommate, a practiced yogini, where I was going and she casually mentioned “oh man…that’s a hot yoga class.”

Welp. Guess I missed that in the fine print.

I tend to avoid hot classes like the g-d plague. I can’t even sleep in hotel rooms that don’t have air circulating within them because I get so sweaty. Considering hot yoga is like that times that by about a million and add in physical exertion, I knew I was just going to be a mess.

But let’s get back to the experience, not my speculation of what it was going to be like.

Their Claim: Flow classes are typically fast paced and set to great music! Our instructors are skilled at catering to all level practitioners by offering modifications for different levels of students. Be prepared to sweat and get a great workout! This class is sometimes set to rock, reggae, hip-hop, blues and worldbeats.

I was able to walk to the studio from my house and was welcomed by a friendly bro at the counter who graciously comped my mat and towel since it was my first class–much appreciated! The studio was already warm upon entering so I braced myself…I was delighted to walk into a gorgeous space complete with skylights and floor to ceiling windows. Looking back I now realize it is basically set up as a yoga green house.

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Continue reading

The toll it took on me.

If you know me, you know that I love to travel.  Flying to new places away from home and immersing myself in new cultures has been a wonderfully enriching experience, one that has given me perspective, growth and inspired not just creativity, but understanding, patience and flexibility as I engage with people across geographic boundaries.   For the last year, I found myself not home, but ELSEWHERE almost 2 weeks out of every month.  Looking back, that was a lot of time, but  I was blessed with the opportunity to return to Europe for the first time since studying abroad seven years ago, take my first trip to Africa, make extended stays at home in Minneapolis with my family.  I also sprinkled in visits to New Orleans(thrice), Chicago (twice), Los Angeles (thrice), Florida, New York (twice), Las Vegas, DC, the Virgin Islands and Honolulu in there as well.

However, after I returned home from Dakar last December, I was just tired.  Tired of security lines, red eyes, hotel rooms, delays, airport food and schlepping 75-pounds of luggage for two weeks at a time.  And more than tired, I felt unrooted, disconnected and out of balance.  Turns out when I made my home an airplane, my REAL home–the one in San Francisco where I sleep in my big pink bed, host my beloved dinner parties, eat with roommates and shoot the shit with neighbors on my stoop–had become as foreign as the places to which I was jetting.  Coming home to hibernate away from the world only to leave six days later is no way to maintain a home, friendships or personal sense of equilibrium.

I haven’t been on a plane since December 4th, 2012 and that’s the longest span of time I’ve been on the ground in the past two years!  Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am very fortunate to be able to travel so much.  But now that I’ve been home, I’ve realized the the toll it took on the things I truly value that make me a whole person. In a way, it became easier to be away than home; now that I’ve nestled back into my routines, committed to community (hell-O Team In Training!) and re-established focus on my work, I very much appreciate the stability that a non-flying routine affords.  In a word, I just feel mentally and spiritually healthier and it shows: my skin is clear and I’ve lost 20 pounds!  

Aside from a trip to Chicago in early March, I’m going to be keeping my wheels on the ground for the next few months and I’m looking forward to rebalancing, refocusing and recharging.  What it means in terms of NaturalSelectionBlog is that I HAVE A LOT OF EXCITING STUFF ON THE HORIZON!!!!  All of the travel time (read: no WiFi and just a journal) have left me with a lot of ideas that are starting to sprout and come to life!  So trust, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Now that said, you can take the girl off the plane, but you can’t take the plane off the girl.  No really, you can’t because I’ve got one tattooed on my arm.
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I definitely still have my eyes set on those distant far off horizons.  But for now, I’m going to zip my desires to experience the rhythms of Brasil, flavors of India and  vibrant metropolises of Morocco safely into my suitcase and pack them away until later.

 

Why I Hate[d] Running. (Repost from Carol’s Daughter)

I’m a frequent contributor over on Carol’s Daughter Transitioning Movement where I write about a wide variety of things ranging from hair care to fitness.  As you know, I’ve just started training for my first triathlon and my latest post over there is what really pushed me over the edge and inspired me to sign up so I thought I’d share with you.  It’s the story about how I got over my hate/fear of running and did the damm thang!  

 

The Story of a Reluctant Runner

Cassidy-Post-RunBefore the holidays, I achieved what I consider to be one of the greatest goals of my life: running a 6:38 mile.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be able to rapidly place one foot in front of the other for 5,280 consecutive feet in under seven minutes, I would have looked at you straight in the eye and laughed.  Really hard.  Like, really hard.

You see, it’s not that I disliked running, it’s more that I just hated it.  Always had.  From my days in lower school when we used to have to run The Mile (I walked) to upper school when I decided to join the track team (as a discus thrower) I developed a knack for avoiding all things running.  I carried this aversion through to adulthood and joined dance classes, pursed cycling, and took up pilates.

I was very successful in this endeavor until a persuasive friend of mine (we’ll call him Stephen, because his name is Stephen) applied a bit of pressure.   As an avid runner, Stephen sat me down and told me all of the benefits of running and I retorted with all of the expertly crafted excuses I had come up with throughout the years.

Me: I’ve got a bad knee.
Stephen: It will probably strengthen your knee.

Me:  I don’t enjoy it.
Stephen: You’ll learn to.  It comes with time.

Me: I belong to a gym instead.
Stephen: Running doesn’t cost $80 a month.

I had to admit, he had me on that “running is free” bit.  So the next week laced up my tennis shoes and took myself out for a spin.  I found myself settling into a pace where I alternated running and walking while fighting an internal battle as my mind reeled between “this sucks!” and “keep going!”  Finally I made it a mile and found myself feeling….great! Sure it was hard and it took me over 15 minutes, but my body felt good and strong.

That day I made two important realizations:

  1. Other than the fact that it’s difficult to get started doing, I really have no reason to dislike running.
  2. If channel all of the energy that I spent avoiding running into actually getting better at it, then I can probably find joy in the activity.

Since then, I have consistently run 2-4 times a week and it has become a steady part of my workout regimen.  I just a few months have whittled down my run-walk mile time from 12:00 to a run-only mile time in just under 7:00.  When I see my pace and time, I can barely believe that it’s my own!  Aside from saving me those $80 each month at the gym, running has provided me with good cardiovascular health, a perky derriere, and, most importantly, the resolve that I can truly take on anything I set my mind to; in 2013 maybe, just maybe, that means a triathlon!

Here are a few of my tips to start—and keep!—you running this year:

  1. Start slowly: if you’re just beginning to run, set realistic expectations for yourself in terms of distance and time.  You might not make it a whole mile right away- and that’s okay!  Start like I did and run for two minutes, walk for a minute until you reach your desired distance.  Eventually those walking intervals will become fewer and farther between until they’re non-existent!
  2. Find a beat: running to music allows me gets me amped and I find myself jogging to the beat.  Make yourself a special running playlist of upbeat tunes and find your own rhythm.
  3. Get an app: I really like Map My Run, which tracks your distance and pace.  With the coaching featured enabled, it also chimes in to let you know your time as you’re running.  It’s also nice to have a log of your progress.
  4. Keep doing it: even if it’s hard.  Even if you hate it.  Even if you just want to sit down and quit- KEEP GOING.  Pushing yourself will keep you on track and encourage you to get better.
  5. Stretch: running is super high impact so after every session make sure you take the time to stretch it out and keep your muscles limber and loose.  Trust me, your body will thank me in the morning.

Oui Oui! We’re headed back to Paris!

Ah the City of Lights, there’s nothing like it. Especially now that the natural hair movement has hit it in full force! The Paris Natural Hair Academy is back for it’s second year coming up in March! It was such an awesome and informative event last year when we did it and this next event is taking it to the next level. I heard a rumor that there were only a handful of tickets left, so if you’re reading in France (or anywhere in Europe really), check out the ticket deets on the flyer below and make sure you get your natural (or soon-to-be-natural) self to this event!

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Here’s a few select snaps from last year’s Paris event! Can’t wait for the next one!

Lessons from Africa

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] I [/dropcap] came home from Africa and capital C, Crashed. Well that’s not entirely true, I got the flu and wrote my stories about the trip for Black Is Global and then the holidays came around, so I never really got to share my experiences with you on the ol blog! Which may be all for the best because by now, my memories have had 4 weeks to marinate and you’re getting the stuff that really stuck with me. Here are my lessons and thoughts I gleaned from my trip with the Black Is Global team to Senegal!

1. We need a new narrative.

Years of reading National Geographic, heck even Google News, had given me the life in Africa was filled with immense suffering, poverty, violence, unrest and the idea that AIDS is so rampant that you can catch it by simply walking down the street.

Well, my trip to Dakar couldn’t have been further from this experience. Of course this heartbreaking side of humanity DOES exist, but there is also a whole other culture that is less talked about. There are posh lounges, sunny resorts, shopping malls, French cafes, comfortable homes and stretches of sandy beaches. Beyond material comforts, there is a well-educated populace, individuals concerned with environmental and social causes, and a network of globally invested citizens. In other words, life in Dakar is remarkably similar to our lives heres.

As much as it’s important to be aware of the world’s struggles, it’s equally important to celebrate and be aware of it’s successes and triumphs.

With the students of the Senegalese – American Bilingual School

2. THINGS FIT!

So you know how you’ll walk into a store here and try on a pair of jeans in “your size”, but they’re too tight in the rear, too narrow in the thigh and somehow way too large in the waist? Even after trying on dozens of pairs you walk out empty handed and frustrated. Le sigh.

Well NO SUCH THING WAS HAPPENING IN DAKAR MY DEARIES!

I walked into one shop in the local mall, pulled an [awesome] one-piece pantsuit off the rack, tried it on and it FIT PERFECTLY. My fellow traveler Miss Felicia Leatherwood did the same with a couple dresses and other pieces. Never would this happen in the states, we thought and realized that these clothes were made and designed by people with bodies more similar to our own! Pretty cool.

Even cooler was that so my piece happened to be a little big in the chest area and the on-site tailor took it in within a matter of minutes for free . Very very cool.

And while we’re here, I might as well mention the abundance of beautifully patterned fabrics Dakar is known for. Sold in stores and markets, you can take a fabric of your choosing and have the outfit of your dreams created. It took me awhile to figure out that this was REALLY how a majority of the amazing outfits were created that I saw and I missed my boat. But you heard it hear first: custom tailored African garb—- I will be back for you.

 

3. H-U-S-T-L-E

There’s hustle and then there is HUSTLE and as far as I’m concerned, Dakar wrote the book on it. The tenacity of the sales people I encountered was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life before. “NO” is not taken quickly or easily as an answer. People are selling anything and everything–EVERYWHERE and at all times. It was truly impressive.

4. Natural has a long way to go

Weaves and relaxers are beyond dominant in Dakar. I knew this would be the case based on what I had heard, but I was truly surprised to see how few naturalistas we encountered. Felicia attributed this not just to lack of access to products, but also a lack of education about what to do with one’s hair once natural. As a result, out of the handful of natural styles we saw, a majority were loose naturals or simply braided. There were no two-strand twists, coil outs, or flat twist updo’s we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. That said, there were a few naturals to be found and thankfully Felicia was there to give advice to those who were looking!

 

5. We are all connected

It all comes back to Africa. Everything.

From the theories of human evolution that place the birthplace of mankind in Subsaharan Africa to slavery the subsequent diaspora of black people around the world, Africa is the origin of human life and all civilization. As such, all humans on this planet are related to one and other, regardless of color, religion or ethnic heritage. I touched on this earlier, but we are truly more alike than we are different.

Dakar is a former French colony with a 94% Muslim population, even with these differences I still saw similarities in culture and lifestyle, values and traditions.

I interviewed a very prominent Senegalese doctor who had some very important words of advice for the children of the African diaspora about our need to come together and guide the rest of the world back to a place of balance and shared understanding. Idealistic indeed, but still something for which to hope and aspire!

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All in all, my experience in Dakar was fabulous. The people and their unparalleled Teranga (hospitality in English) made me feel oh-so welcome. It was not only a beautiful country, rich with cultural history and heritage, but also a beautiful people. I’ve written several articles exploring Dakar in greater depth over on Black Is Global, so please go check out the site and like the Facebook page to support the movement!

Now without further ado, I’d like to share some of my photographs from my trip with you! Enjoy!

No need to freak out… it’s just my FIRST TRIP TO AFRICA

Yes, that’s right peeps— I’m making my maiden voyage to the continent!!! When, you ask???

Um…today.

When this opportunity first came across my plate, everyone was extremely surprised by my reaction: complete and utter silence. “Cass, why aren’t you excited!?,” they asked. “Oh, I’m excited alright. In fact I’m a little too excited I can’t even react.” So I stuffed this amazing trip to the back of my mind, an easy thing to do when you can pile a 5 week jaunt to Chicago, NOLA, Virgin Islands, Los Angeles, Hawaii and Thanksgiving in San Francisco on top of it.

But then last Saturday it hit me when I saw this shirt:

Of all places, I was with friends at a Dead Prez concert. Upon seeing this shirt, I realized the magnitude of this experience of traveling to Africa for the first time. The colonization and subsequent enslavement of millions of African people is a gruesome and painful history we share, but most of us live pretty far removed from it. However, it came smacking me in the face that I would be traveling to one of the main ports of where people were captured, shipped, and sold into generations of forced and brutal labor. It was a powerful and necessary realization to have.

So I did what any girl would do: I ran out of the concert and onto the street and called my mom sobbing at 2am. After she calmed me down, then I called Felicia, also joining me on this trip, who also calmed me down. She explained “Cassidy, my gift is to teach people about natural hair. Yours is to write about your experiences and share them with the world.” With that I dried my tears and put my “Holy-F-This-Is-Going-To-Be-An-Amazing-Trip-And-I-Can’t-Wait-To-Write-About-It Hat back on! And then I went back into the concert and enjoyed the rest of the show. Dead Prez and crying. Go figure.

So let me tell you a bit about this trip. I’m going with an amazing new multi-media project called Black Is Global (B.I.G). The purpose of Black Is Global is to create an online platform to share stories and experience of black people all around the world. Black culture in the United States is very different than the black culture in Brasil, which is different than the black culture in Ghana, which is different than the black culture in France. So as you see, blackness IS global and through the diaspora we have created a multitude of international black identities. Very cool, right? Make sure to check out the site because this is going to be BIG (pun intended).

The inaugural trip will be to Dakar, Senegal, located on a beach lined peninsula on the Western Coast of Africa. I can’t give away the details yet, but we’re going to be seeing, visiting, tasting and exploring some very exciting and noteworthy places and experience.

Besides myself, the B.I.G. team is made up of Felicia Leatherwood, who will be speaking at the Natural Hair Expo we’re headed to; Elton Anderson, a phenomenal photographer whose work I’ve been following for years (featured once here on NSB!); and the two Black Is Global owners, Chimole Williams and Amber Patton.

We’ll be documenting our entire journey and sharing on BlackisGlobal.com, but for quick updates be sure to follow the Black Is Global Facebook Page and Twitter (@blackisglobal).

I’m amazingly excited for this trip and I know it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime! I’m really floored by the fact that I’m not just going to a new country, but one that is perhaps the homeland and birthplace of my ancestors. It’s truly a powerful thought. Stay tuned for more FROM THE CONTINENT!!

Xoxoxo

US Virgin Islands — St. Croix I AM BEAUTIFUL: event wrap + gallery

On the heels of the St. Thomas event, we all got up early in the morning and boarded a seaplane to hop over to St. Croix, which is another island just 20 minutes away.  We were welcomed by a delicious home-cooked island meal (and yes, I’ll be doing a post just of the island sights, flights and flavors!) before heading to the hotel to get ready.

If you follow me on Instagram (@cassiroll), then you know I was particularly excited about the dress I picked out for this event.  I cannot recall a time when I have ever worn just BLACK for a natural hair event, usually opting for something bright, colorful and loud.  But when I saw this dress in New Orleans, I had to have it.  The sheer lace was just too haute to pass up!  I paired it with my funky wooden earrings, winged liner and bold red lip to create the picture perfect ensemble.

Anywho, enough about me, I wanna talk about the Cruzan naturalistas!  They came out in full force to enjoy the presentations and shop around the vendors at the event.  I truly enjoyed getting to speak with them, especially one teenage attendee with a long relaxer named Kari.

 

The conversation went something like this:

Kari: “I don’t want this anymore!” [pointing to her long ponytail]

Cassidy: “Soooooo….you want to transition?”

Kari: “No, I just want to cut it all off. And I want to know how”

Cassidy: “Um.  Like you want just chop it????”

Kari: “YEP!”

Cassidy: “Heck yes.  Go to a barber and do it!”

I absolutely LOVED that this young girl had zero attachment to her long hair (which was about bra strap length) and was just ready to cut it short and go for the natural!  If only I had been so courageous…

All in all, the St. Thomas and St. Croix I AM BEAUTIFUL events did a wonderful job of exposing Caribbean women (and their families!) to natural hair education and empowerment.  A virtual round of applause for the organizer and the Miss Naturalista Team (y’all know who you are buuuuut: DENISE, EMMET, BEN, ZAHRA, KIM, and WAYNE to name a few) for making this all happen.

As always, I took lot’n’lots of pix so here’s some of my favorites from the St. Croix event!

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