An Affair of Character

A Chicago Fitness Blog by Meg Schneider

Getting Back Into the Groove

My exercise program got a huge wrench it when I got sick with the flu…and then bronchitis. All in all, I was sick for about a month! I could barely get my packages, let alone do a HIIT cycle class!

Here are some of the tips I’ve learned in the past week:

1)Make sure you are fully recovered: I am a big believer in positive thinking but it is actually not possible to “will” yourself into feeling better. Even if you have leftover Classpasses or expiring packages! This was hard for me, as I like to get the most bang for my exercise buck. I had to keep thinking that any overexertion would only delay me further.

2) Give yourself some grace: I may or may not have dramatically thudded to the floor in my first aerial class back. I had to make the mental decision to do the best I could in that class, rather than beating myself up.

3) Use healthy food to fuel you: It is cliche, but healthy food really does your body good. Don’t let a few slipups in class set off a spiral of bad eating choices! Think of this time as a “restart” instead of “the beginning of the end”.

Overall, I am excited to get back to my regularly scheduled programming of aerial, spinning, and boxing! I can’t wait to try the Pilates megareformer and take another Krav Maga class. Let me know what you are looking forward to this week!


Exercising While Sick? What I Learned

The past two weeks, I’ve been really under the weather. A driving cough and now a cold have really thrown off my normal routine. My first reaction when I’m sick is to dive under the covers, sleep, and eat takeout. Here are a few things I have learned:

Resting can be just as important as exercise. I’ve really changed my entire approach to fitness since June of this year, so it was hard to not go to my normal routine of aerial and pilates classes. It had taken me so much to go to those classes, and I was worried that it would be just as hard to get back into the routine. This led me to pushing myself too much at the beginning stages of being sick; it’s important to give yourself permission to rest and recover.

-Diet is still important. Even if your throat hurts, it’s not a great idea to throw out everything you normally do to prepare healthy meals. I went from daily healthy green smoothies to salty, heavy soups. Even if it’s not as “fun”, I am now making and eating healthier, vegetable-based soups to recover.

Don’t go back full-hog. We all have some exercises/exercise classses that are easier than others. I made the mistake of trying to go to a challenging spin class on Thursday, and my body immediately told me I had the wrong idea. An aerial yoga class based on stretching would have been a better way to ease back into exercising daily.

I hope to be back exercising at full force by the end of next week. Until then, good luck!

Studio Three Theme Rides

I LOVE distraction when it comes to exercise. Flashing lights? Loud music? Lots of instruction? Yes, Yes, YES!

Studio Three’s theme rides are a fun twist on a normal cycling workout. (Ok – not actually fun fun but more fun than it normally is).

I went to my first theme workout with a friend for Tupac vs Biggie with Sho Pettaway. This workout was KILLER. We were going high on resistance and my legs could not take it. The music was also not especially inspiring to me as it was on the slower side.

The next theme workout I tried was One Hit Wonders with Andrea. I love old songs from the 80’s like “Twisted Love” and “Come On Eileen” so I was grooving the whole time. I came in after a long day and left with a huge smile on my face.

The last has been a dual ride with Erin Schirack and Bobby Gouse. I’ve liked Bobby’s rides before, but hadn’t been in Erin’s class before. It was so fun as both instructors tried their best to make the experience as over the top as possible. At one point, we had flashing rainbow lights, strobe lights, a loud Christina/Camila Cabello remix AND twerking. Wow. All this was enough to get me a Personal Best for Output!

Overall, I think theme rides are a great way to reinvigorate a solid schedule of cycling classes. It’s an easier way to try a new instructor, as they are putting on their best behavior. That said, if you are used to a routine (ex. always taking the Thursday at 7:30), I can see how a theme ride can be a little annoying. Not for me though! I’ll be on that bike with a huge smile!

Soulcycle Friday Night Out Review

I’ve always heard that Soulcycle is one of those things you have to experience for yourself. This past Friday, I took advantage of an introductory promotion to join the “Soulcycle Friday night out” event. So, instead of the usual ~$34+shoes, I paid $20 with a free shoe rental. Add in the fact that Devin was named one of the best instructors of Soulcycle nationwide, and it seemed like the perfect time to try!

I’ve gone to a few other spinning studios in Chicago, but Soulcycle was always hyped up in my brain as something super different or unique. I had even been to Dynamo three times in Paris this past spring, which I now realize basically a more chic “knockoff version” of Soulcycle!

The class process was similar to any other on Classpass or Mind and Body – you check in online, sign in when you get there, and then prepare for the class. I flagged down a staff member and was able to get set up.

The first big difference I noticed was that the bikes at Soulcycle are CLOSE! I’ve been going to Studio Three in River North, which has stadium seating (and some breathing room) between the bikes. If the girl in front of me leaned back while I leaned forward (which unfortunately happened a lot), we were basically hitting each other!

Another big difference was the arm section. A lot of times, the arm section can feel very “tacked on” to a spinning workout, ex. “now, we’re doing arms for 5.5 minutes”. At Soulcycle, we were encouraged to move our shoulders and do more “dance-type” moves throughout the entire class. It felt a teensy bit more organic to me.

I will say that I liked the fact that there are no metrics or “metric boards” at Soulcycle. I was able to focus on my own pace of exercise. As there are no metrics on the bike itself, you have to control what resistance feels good and feels challenging.

The instructor was great and had really good music, although the music at the Soulcycle Loop location was LOUD. The girl next to me even brought earplugs! One of the most surprising things to me was the length of the class. It felt like we were in and out so quickly compared to other spinning classes! More than half the class seemed to be gone before the stretch even began.

As part of the Friday night out event, I got a goody bag full of treats. My favorite was the Alex and Ani Charity by Design Bike Bangle with charm. We also got a Tarte reusable water bottle, protein bars, Soulcycle sunglasses, a small mirror and a Soulcycle cellphone card case. (Plus, I love the shiny metallic silver Soulcycle bag it came in! My groceries never felt so exclusive!) There also were opportunities for hair braiding and makeup application.

Overall, I prefer Studio Three’s spinning as there is more breathing room between bikes, and the Peloton bikes are a teeny bit more comfortable. I would highly recommend checking out Soulcycle for one of its special events though – the Friday night out was well worth it for $20! Good luck in your spinning endeavors!

Sweatworking Review (Betina Gozo for Hurricane Relief)

Last night, I attended a great fitness event at the Lakewood! Women’s Health Next Fitness Star Betina Gozo led us through a series of grueling bodyweight and partner exercises, and the money raised went to hurricane relief. This sweatworking review will give you a glimpse into one of their events!

Sweatworking is “sweating” + “networking”. It’s been a fun way to meet new people in Chicago in my first few months here! The women are really open to meeting others, and are usually really open about other cool fitness events in Chicago. I first went after winning an Instagram giveaway to the really awesome “Sweat to Inspire Event”. The event always starts by introducing yourself to someone you don’t know.

This event also had bubble braids and free samples from Fit Foodie, Luna Bars, and other vendors. Although I didn’t get a chance, there were also free massages!

As for the workout, I’m not the biggest fan of intervals yet (I much prefer pilates or…just about anything really). Betina’s workout was killer! I’m excited to read about and see more of her workouts in Women’s Health!

No sweatworking review would be complete without mentioning the goody bag at the end. There’s protein bars, protein shakes, and tons of snacks. I especially liked the Luna Protein Bar in Chocolate Salted Caramel. I can’t wait to try the rest of the items in the bag.

All in all, it was a great event and I can’t wait for the next sweatworking event in Chicago!

Brunch x Burn Review: The Knockout

I decided to do a Brunch x Burn review because it is one of my favorite fitness events in Chicago! Whether you’re new to fitness or an old pro, it’s a fun way to break yourself out of your fitness comfort zone.

Each month is a different workout: Soulcycle, Corepower, and this month’s Title Boxing (Lincoln Park). The best part is that all the money raised from the event and raffles goes to charity.

The event at Title started with some hair braiding by Blowdry Junkie. Although I always see hair braiding at events, this was the first I was able to do it! I loved the french braid style! The music by DJ 3 Snaps was great too.

As for the workout, Courtney led the 12:30 today. The first 15 minute “warmup” was more like an excruciating bodyweight workout of jumping jacks, burpees, and more. Right as you are about to give up completely, we switched to the boxing. I liked how Courtney was low-key and positive throughout. I never felt spoken down to or intimidated.

Afterwards, there were raffles, cocktails, and brunch from Orange. The raffles had prizes ranging from a 5 pack of classes at Soulcycle to Coola products and BXB gear. I ended up entering a lot of the raffles last minute, and ended up winning a 10 pack of classes to Title, with gloves, wrap, and a bag! So, I feel like the universe is telling me I need to go back!

Throughout, I was impressed by the organization. The founders do a great job communicating all the details! I can’t wait to go to the next Brunch x Burn event next month! I will do another Brunch x Burn review so you will get the scoop!

BENDER Chicago Sunset Skyline Yoga Review

Chicago. Rooftops. A match made in heaven, no?

Bender (part of Funderground Wellness) takes this to the next level with the Bender Chicago Yoga series. For $20-30 (depending on time of signup), yogis can see the sun set as they go into their downward facing dog.

I was lucky enough to attend two full moon events in the past two months. It all starts with a very smooth check in process at the basement of Energi gym in River North. There are changing facilities and bathrooms available, but only on the ground level. Then, there’s a “warm up” with a climb up 6 flights up stairs! I’m already reaching for my water at this point…

Both yoga teachers made a point to introduce themselves to as many students as possible before the class, which I appreciated. It is those small touches that make any exercise event more fun and personal. Before long, we put on our glowing headsets, listened to the DJ, and got started!

One thing I would say for these events is that the yoga is more challenging than the average fun pop-up yoga event – there are handstands and other complex poses. Still, as a beginner, I felt like I was in a safe space to take my own adjustments.

Afterwards, there are always (of course) goodies to fuel up. The event sponsors were KeVita Kombucha, RXBar, and Kind Bar.

For the full moon event tonight, Wade Gotwals, Katy H + DJ Alissa Jo of Bender Chicago Yoga really created a fun atmosphere. I hope I can go to another next month! If you (or a friend) wants an easy way to get into yoga, I’d highly recommend the Bender series in Chicago!

How to Get Excited about Meal Prep

Meal prep conjures up images of plastic black containers filled with small portions of broccoli and chicken. I’m not surprised that meal prep isn’t always that popular. As an MBA student, it’s also really tempting to order takeout after a long day of classes and networking. Here’s what helped me go from sad desk lunches to food I look forward to eating:

Search out DIY versions of the takeout you love. It may seem obvious, but spending 5-10 hours finding and testing recipes can completely change the game. I love ordered drunken noodles from Thai restaurants, and actually look forward to cooking it on my own. Even if the sauces and special ingredients cost an extra ~$10 or so, this was spread over the many non-takeout meals I ate.

Find cute containers. A glass or metal bento box can really make your meal prep seem more appealing. You’ll feel less awkwardness turning down food from the cafeteria.

Use big enough portions. A lot of people try to dramatically change everything at once: going from large portions of calorie-rich food to super healthy portions and ingredients. If you don’t already eat super healthy, consider taking it slower. Start by packing up what you would normally eat for dinner – rather than optimistically hoping to only need half of that portion.

Bring a treat for yourself. Even the best-laid plans for meal prep can fall apart when it comes to beverages and desserts. If you have a box of cookies or candies, portion out a small amount for each day. If you love fancy beverages with your lunch, buy in bulk and have one a day.

Create tangible reminders of the money you are saving. Create a new account and fill it with the money you would have spent on lunch. Depending on you, you may want to digitally transfer this money from your account everyday or use another kind of tracking system. This basically reframes your thinking from a sacrifice (all the delicious food you are NOT eating) to an upcoming treat (a vacation? designer purse? the options are endless…)

The other tip I frequently see is to create a strict schedule of meal prep – ex. always cooking 6 meals on Sunday night. As a student, this kind of rigid schedule doesn’t really work. I would suggest trying to plan 2-3 days of meals out, and looking for pockets of flexibility (~2 hours or so) when you can cook up those meals. This also helps you not get bored as quickly.

I hope these tips help you!

How to Speak Up More in Class

I was talking to a first-year today when she mentioned she never speaks in class. She admitted she felt intimidated and that she always “need more time to think through everything” before she speaks. It wasn’t until my internship that I really learned how to speak more effectively on the spot. Here are a few tips I have learned on how to speak up more in class:

  • Prepare for questions that will be asked. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to focus on the questions asked of you on a recurring assignment. During your first case discussion, write down the questions your professor asks about the case. This will be your “cheat sheet” for the next cases in that class. Make sure to come up with 2-3 points for at least half of those questions.
  • Don’t wait for your comment to be “perfect”. It probably won’t happen! Since the other people in your class are not perfect, this is more likely about your perception/self-confidence than reality. Try to imitate the best parts of their comments- are there certain words or strategic issues that seem to keep coming up? I also make a mental note any time somebody says what i had planned to say – this shows that I was on target for the case.
  • Participate early in the class. Ever notice how there’s a lot of silence at the beginning of class and then a ton of people throwing in their comments at the end? One of the biggest tips I have for speaking up more is to answer those initial questions. This will make it easier to speak again in that class and your point is more likely to be remembered.
  • Answer every question (in your head!). Cold calling can be super painful if you aren’t doing this already. Stay engaged the entire class. I also like to think about my comments in relation to others- do I agree with this person? If not, at what point do I disagree?
  • Challenge yourself to speak up at least once. My final tip would be to reward yourself for speaking up. If you have a class where you feel intimidated, bust out your good tea and treat your self! Even if it wasn’t the most insightful comment, it’s important to create that habit feedback loop.

I hope this helps you speak more in class! Good luck!

What I Learned From My First Hike

I’m a city girl at heart. I have never camped. I don’t have hiking equipment.

But your 20’s are for experimentation, right?

When I saw that Rice was hosting a trip out to McKinney Falls near Austin, I jumped at the chance. Since I am not an avid hiker, I was hoping I would survive!

The first part started off with packing. I had a synthetic long-sleeved shirt from a corporate event, so I decided to wear that. My pale pasty arm skin could remain untouched by the sun. To complete the look, I got a baseball cap and my best shades. It was go time.

We started off by hiking without a map. As you might expect, our group almost immediately took a wrong turn. What looked like the loop trail was actually a rock interpretative trail. Or so we thought!

After some talking, we went back to get a map. We found Onion Creek, and the main waterfalls, as well as a much longer trail (~5 miles). We saw a ton of spiders, caterpillars, and butterflies, and a whole lot of brush. I can’t say it was too scenic. Still, we had a lot of fun talking about school and travelling.

By the end of the day, my feet were HURTING. Reading my mind, the group leader said, “Everybody’s feet hurt after a hike. Everybody gets blisters. Nobody is unique in that aspect.” All I kept thinking was: I can’t wait for dinner!

Overall, it was really great to be out in the sun for a day. I don’t know if I will ever become a master hiker, but it definitely took me out of my comfort zone. To more adventures!

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