Running makes me feel like an athlete but it doesn’t make me look like one.
In related news, weights are the only thing that noticeably change my body.
I do not like indoor cycling. I specifically begrudge SoulCycle for making their spin rooms sweltering. That said, cults have been using sweat lodges for years, so I support their use of data-driven solutions and outside-industry research.
Eating bread makes me feel sluggish but also happy.
I had a whole post drafted reviewing a new studio called BFX in Chelsea. But I decided instead of sharing it, I would tell you to click here and get a free class during their opening week, and decide for yourself if you like it. (I did). Teach a man to fish and what not. They use a fancy technology with a heart rate monitor and public shaming accountability, like the Torque board in a Flywheel class.
Let’s talk about what you’re really here to read. Nicole + Bike = <3?
I’ll get real with you. I had a setback. After not riding for a few weeks I got back on a bike this weekend in the Berkshires and lost my mojo. I forgot how to brake like a gentle giant. Instead I squeezed the brake latch with the expediency that – well that I do a lot of things. I freaked out about cars. I freaked out in general. Luckily my biking instructor (Matt) has experience teaching two year olds and was able to get me back on track by having my repeat some early lessons. But we didn’t make any forward progress.
A bit frustrated, when I got back to the city I searched the internet for “Adult Biking lessons.” Shockingly, while many existed, all were full. But fate has a funny way of working, I checked again later that night and boom: one spot opened up in the next day’s class at Bike New York.
I signed up for the most primary level class: Learn to Ride- Adults. The class cost $0, but is not funded by the city. Bike New York is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate bike riding in the five boroughs. I am not entirely sure that the whole thing isn’t a bogus project set up by Matt’s mom to get me to learn to ride a bike.
Everything about this experience was wonderful and so extremely weird. What is the strangest place to teach a 30 year old to ride a bike? If “a community center gym in Roosevelt Island” was your guess, please pick up your prize at the end of the post.
The class was led by an incredible instructor named Barry. Barry looks like a bike rider. He is in his 50s, tall and lanky and has a healthy tan. His speech is calm and even paced. Joining Barry were seven volunteers who had all been trained for this very purpose. Everyone was kind and non-judgmental.
My 15 classmates varied in age from early 20s to senior citizen. When we entered the gym we were fitted for helmets. One of the walls was lined with bikes in size order. We were prompted to organize ourselves up in height order and find an appropriate bike. Fun fact: I was the tallest person in the class.
Then we stood next to our bikes and Barry gave us the 411. He taught us about the ABCs which I think means Air Pressure, Brake, and Chain – the list of things to check before cycling off into the sunset. Barry started talking about the kickstand when I looked down and saw my bike didn’t have pedals. Oh. Then I noticed none of the bikes had pedals.
Extolling the importance of balance, Barry explained we were going to learn how to move sans pedaling. So the lot of us kicked ever-so-gracefully around the Roosevelt Island SportsPark gymnasium attempting to propel ourselves forward and keep our feet floating. Not to brag, but I was a total ringer in this motley crew, having done this exercise ad nauseam before. My fellow student, Vincenzo (a grandfather and spinning instructor – stationary bikes only, obviously) yelled “there’s always one in every class!” when I pushed off the ground and flew my legs into the air.
Max, the oldest of the bunch and also the second tallest, was next to me in formation. He was having trouble lifting his leg over the bike in order to sit on it. “Nicole, can we switch bikes?” he asked but when I turned around from a few paces ahead one of the volunteers was lowering his seat.
Eventually a glorious icecapade-esque dance formed. A circle of 16 grown up misfits kicking their feet while gliding on pedal-free bikes in a gymnasium in Roosevelt Island, or Tuesday at 1pm as we call it in biking school.
Now I was not named Prom Queen, but I was the first to “earn” my pedals in adult bike school. This was both a blessing and a curse. You move a lot faster on a bike when pedaling and all of my classmates were still kicking. This made doing any actual riding a bit tough. But I broke formation and kept going, working on braking gently.
Eventually more people earned pedals. Such a bizarre and heartwarming sight. Full-grown humans who no less than 90 minutes ago could not ride a bike were pedaling and swerving around the gym. Yes there were collisions. Yes it was hysterical. But my big takeaway was I’m glad this exists. I think I am ready for the next level class which focuses on stopping and starting and gears. I was probably already ready for that class but I can’t say it wasn’t a fun way to spend 2 hours.
Watch me ride. (You’ll see me stopping a number of times. That’s because the goal here was to stop gracefully using the 100% the brakes and 0% my feet. I get it right, eventually.)
A few years ago when I was living in DC, I attempted one run with my local Lululemon run club. I made it three blocks before hiding behind a building and running off on my own (the Great Escape of Lululemon Logan Circle). At the time, running was a space for me to mentally check out. I’d pick a route ad hoc, listen to my tunes and do very much my own thing. I thought a run club would make me a stronger runner, but I wasn’t ready for the discipline that running by someone else’s rules required. (I also didn’t want to wait at a red light, a courtesy you have to extend when running in a city with a group.)
Older, wiser and more into running, I gave it another go last week with the Lincoln Square Lululemon run club. Runners met at the store and we jogged together to the West Side Highway. Each run club is lead by a Lulu Ambassador. I’m not totally sure on the running background of each of the ambassadors, but Abby (the leader of the Lulu Lincoln Center club) was more laid back than drill sergeant. She made sure we worked at a level that everyone could keep up. We did sprints up and down Pier by Pier i cafe. In between the sprints we did burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers. Then we finished off with a 2-mile run up the WSH.
The workout changes each week. I’m on the list for the Lincoln Center group and they send an email out the day before with the prescribed run (though it can change day of) so you have a sense of what you’re in for (ie: long run, hill sprints, West Side Highway/Central Park)
I really loved it. I’ll definitely be back.
A run club can help to diversify your running routine and it also encourages accountability ( I mean probably, right?) Below I aggregated a list of all of the free run clubs in NYC I know about for your running pleasure. What am I missing?
Free Run Clubs in New York City (Manhattan)
All links go directly to running group information and not promotional store stuff so click away for more deets.
Most Lululemon stores have one. They let you leave your belongings in a fitting room. You can also change in one of their changing rooms if you’re coming straight from work.
Jack Rabbit(the sneaker store) has a few locations and a few different clubs. They also let you leave your bags in the store and change in a fitting room.
The UWS store (140 W. 72nd Street) does a long run (10+ miles) at 8am on Sunday am and a shorter run Wednesday at 6:30am.
The UES Store (1255 Lexington Avenue) does a group run on Mondays at 7pm.
The Union Square Store (42 W. 14th Street ) does what is described as a fun run (conversational pace) Tuesdays at 7pm and a more hardcore run on Thursdays at 7pm (Runs are 7-10 miles at 9-10 min/mile pace). The Thursday run is informal and no Jack Rabbit staff are involved but they still let you leave your belongings in the store.
New York Running Company stores unsurprisingly also have runs clubs. You can leave your belongings in the store while you run. They also have events where you can test out new sneakers on your run.
Columbus Circle Store (Time Warning Building) hosts a more casual run Monday at 6:30pm, on Tuesdays at 6:30pm the run is more of a workout (says the lady on the phone) and Wednesdays at 6:30pm is “Ladies Night”, which while co-ed is I think NYRC code for more of a party.
November Project:Every Wednesday at 6:28 am at Gracie Mansion. This is more than just a run, it’s a free workout with some running involved. Ali on the Run wrote about it, so read that for more information.) November Project meets on Mondays and Fridays at different spots around the city.
Paragon (18th and Broadway) hosts a running group Tuesdays at 6:30pm.
Nike (welcome to NIKETOWN)
Flatiron Store(20th and 5th) hosts a number of runs each week. Tuesdays and Thursdays they run at 6:30pm. Fridays at 6:30am, Saturdays at 8am and Sunday beginner runs and info session at 10am
Niketown(Flagship store: 6 East 57th Street) meets every Tuesday at 6:30 pm (There is also a run and info session option for beginners and first timers on Tuesday only at 6:00 pm), Thursday at 6:30 pm, and Saturday at 9:00 am (Starting in June, Saturday long runs will begin at 8 am through the summer months).
Upper East Side Store (67th Street and 3rd) runs every Monday & Wednesday at 6:30pm and Saturdays at 8:00am
Athleta (Gap’s athletic clothes spin off stand-alone stores)
I went back to Riverside Park and CRUSHED riding in a circle on flat land. I scooted gracefully around all of the little children. I turned, I glided. I did ALL THE THINGS. So when Matt and I made plans to go to the Berkshires I was pretty excited to put my bike riding skills to use.
As my more-experienced-bike rider readers already know: All bike rides are not created equal.
First: cycling topography lesson: riding on hills is different than riding on a flat path. Riding down and up slopes required that I engage the gears of the bike. Let’s talk about a bike’s gears shall we? It’s the least perfect mechanical engineering I’ve ever learned about. I can’t believe in 2014 this is as far as bike riding technology has gotten. You twist a lever, the bike jerks as it connects with a chain and sometimes resistance increases and other times it lessens. But its not an exact science and I found it startling (gut wrenching). Riding downhill I feared the bike would flip, and more than once attempting to go up hill I found myself slipping down.
Bike riding 101 took place in Riverside Park. For non-New Yorkers, it’s the park where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet at the end of You’ve Got Mail.
What’s not pictured in the culminating scene of the film is Tom Hanks’ ferocious beast of a golden retriever whizzing around, taunting me as I wobble precariously on Matt’s mom’s bike.
But I’ll back up.
I was really nervous for my first lesson. A good chunk of the nerves stemmed from the fact Matt was teaching me and I didn’t want to throw the same hissy fit I threw in the early 90’s that got me out of bike riding in the first place. And my concern was: did I have enough material for an entirely new hissy fit about biking?
But seriously. I wasn’t sure I could handle failure graciously. I was worried I’d have a hard time learning and that I’d get really embarrassed and frustrated at my failed attempts. But that didn’t stop me from trying.
I met Matt at the park and coincidentally we wore matching outfits. #YOLO