Life Time Fitness vs. XSport Fitness

November 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Exercise, Fitness, School's Out

from my Instagram @GradingGirl

I‘ve called Life Time Fitness my gym home since 2000 but last year I was swayed by a newer XSport Fitness in my area.  Now, I can thankfully say that I’ve been a pleased member from opening day at each location. 

Since I’m continually asked to offer my opinion by friends and since, in this past week, referred two people these gyms, I thought I’d take some time to compare the two.   Both individuals I referred told me my reviews of each were dead on so I’m offering them here.  

**Please note, these are my own observations based on my own experiences only .  Furthermore, I’ve kept my comparisons fairly general here to be as fair and objective as possible.   Come visit for yourself – you won’t be disappointed at either one.**

My Conclusion:   Both facilities offer their own special amenities and I will be keeping both memberships.  Here’s why:

LIFE TIME FITNESS:

– More family-oriented. (more organized kid activities, organized birthday parties, swim classes, etc)

– More pool. There is both an outdoor and indoor pool; both indoor and outdoor pools at Life Time offer water slides, a lounge area, and small cafes.  There is one indoor lap pool available at XSport.  A perk to the lap pool at XSport – it is more out-of-way from the rest of the club, allowing for more privacy and serious swim.

– More organized groups and team activities (running clubs, rock climbing classes, yoga events, yoga instructor courses, etc)

– More varied free-weights.  7lb, 12.5 and 17.5 are currently absent at my XSPort.  

– More cafe.  Life Time offers a full menu of shakes, breakfast, lunch and dinner items.  Very nice place to sit down and/or sneak in some work in-between workouts.

OVERALL:  Life Time Fitness seems to be geared toward both the serious, the want-to-be serious, and the weekend warriors alike.  I see more souls of all ages, shapes and sizes at Life Time.  It is a great place to meet like-minded fitness folks!!!  I’m lucky to say I’ve met a select few of my life-long friends there.

XSPORT FITNESS:

– More advanced equipment.  At the entry level gym facilities such as mine, for instance, the Power Plate is available.

– More one-on-one training sessions.  I see the personal trainers at my XSport working hard with individuals any hour – very late or very early.

More store.  XSport offers clothing, protein powders, accessories such as locks, headphones, etc. 

– More salon amenities.  Tanning beds and spray tans are offered at XSport.  

– Side Note:  The XSport that I frequent plays the BEST music – my all-time favorites included.  This may seem minor but music plays a significant motivator.  😉

OVERALL,  XSport seems to be geared toward the more serious fitness buff.  I notice more male and female clientele who compete regularly although there are folks of all fitness goals at the club.  Additionally, XSport is a great ‘get-in/get-out/get the workout done’ gym.  There literally is not as much room to roam – it’s not a social hour, it’s an exercise hour.  Gym class for adults!!!

BOTH FITNESS CLUBS:

– open 24 hours

– friendly, helpful staff

– ultra- clean facilities

– comprehensive, state-of-the-art cardio equipment

– great places to be!!

It doesn’t hurt to try both out and see what you think.  I believe that both offer  – at the very minimum – a one-day pass to check out the facilities.  🙂

 

Best Yoga Pants EVER!

January 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Fashion, Fitness, Reviews

I’ve been working out at the gym since college and have yet to come across a better piece of exercise apparel.    These yoga pants are universally body-friendly for women of varied shapes and sizes. Over the past few years, I’ve donned a couple pairs from other brands but I always come back to my go-to gear from Victoria’s Secret.

photo courtesy of Victoria’s Secret catalogue

I’m getting friends and family hooked on these!  Just tonight, two of my friends who asked me where I get them had on pairs of their own!  I love to share the wealth when I find something I can truly stand behind.

Where can one get these?! Order them by phone through the Victoria’s Secret catalog.  These are NOT exactly the same as those carried in the Victoria’s Secret store.  I’ve tried the store styles on and, while nice, not quite as many colors are offered; additionally, the store version fits me higher on the hips.

What is truly unique about these is that they are offered in 4 inseams: 30, 32, 34, and 36.  Additionally, they come in XS – XL.  One of my friends who just purchased her first pair is fairly tall and the other friend is rather short.  The pants flatter both equally well because of the different inseams.  I don’t like my pants too short, and having a few inseams to choose from ensure the length is just right.   To further my point, I convinced my choosy mother, my impeccably-fashioned sis-in-law and my hard-to-convince colleague to try these.  I can vouch that these pants flatter women of varied shapes and ages.  And did I mention how comfy these are?!

Let’s not forget what else makes these difficult to pass up:  they are priced modestly in comparison to the average workout pant, $29.50 or two for $50.00 (at times, on sale for as low as $14/pair).  New colors and styles are offered each season so many of these are placed on clearance fairly regularly.  Plus, Victoria’s Secret always offers money off with a minimum purchase . . . that alone offsets the shipping cost.   Despite this lower price, quality is not compromised.  I own some that I’ve had for years – the stretch still holds and the cotton maintains its durability.  Btw, these are officially called “yoga pants” but I wear them for both strength training and cardio.  Yes, they stretch seamlessly for yoga, but they definitely hold up for more rigorous exercise.

Grading Girl gives these pants an A+ for economical style, versatile color choice and flattering shape.

For the record, because I’ve been asked, 31 of these pants live in my closet.  Mind you, I’ve purchased them over the course of the past few years . . . and a girl needs her colors . . . . umm . . .  am I obsessed?!

Progression in Pam’s Pilates

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Exercise, Fitness, Reviews, School's Out

I am now enrolled in my second set of  Pilates classes at the LifeStudio of Life Time Fitness; I’m feeling stronger and learning something new with each class.  Please note:  the following is of my own experiences.  Pilates may or not be right for you.  Check with your own personal trainer and/or doctor before trying any new fitness adventure.

See a review of my first experiences with this Pilates class here:  Improve Posture and Poise with Pam’s Pilates

To perform this, begin stretched in the side plank.  With all movement coming from the lower abdominals, crunch them in as your hips rise and feet come in toward you.  At the same time, swing the arm down and under as you “thread” across your core.  Hard to perfect . . . but feels great once you do!

Contrology” – that’s what Pam Barich is teaching us in class!!  Proper Pilates technique means the body must remain in control.   Movement should not cause the body to misalign, shake, or protude.  That is easier said than done; but, Pam is showing us how to build that strong core – the Pilates powerhouse – that keeps those movements in check. The core is what connects the band of strength across our upper bodies to the band of strength across our lower bodies.  A strong core provides for the safe conduct of strain along our spines between our arms and legs. When we are connected in this basic Pilates manner, the muscles that support the spine are actually strengthened by the movement.

Pam poses perfectly

Pam poses perfectly

Pam uses fun, easy-to-remember techniques to help us progress through the movements.  For instance, when prompting us to lie in the preparatory Pilates position (shoulders pressed back on the reformer, lower back lifted and lower abdominals tucked in), she reminds us “not to kill the ladybug”. . . meaning hold the core tight that it doesn’t rest on the mat.  Or she might say “balance that glass of wine” so it doesn’t spill . . . meaning tighten those abs so that they are hard and flat as possible.  Fun!! My lower, inner abs never worked so hard!  You just can’t get this kind of workout with strength training alone.

To perform this, first position yourself into a bridge.  Next, raise one leg and hold, being sure not to let your glutes drop.

Along with progressing through these movements, Pam challenges us with new exercises during each and every class.  It amazes me how much varied stretching, pushing, pulling and strength movements that can be achieved on the Reformer.  Whether it’s leg circles, the hundred, extended arabesques . . .it’s impossible to get bored or tired. Pam’s repertoire includes classic Pilates positions along with her own productive inventions.  What’s great about Pam Barich’s classes from others is one never know what challenges and unique, fun sets Pam is going to surprise us with.  Students get the best of both worlds with Pam’s instructions:  continued progressions of the same movement for growth coupled with unique twists for challenges. Into the 7th week of classes, Grading Girl gives Pam Barich at Life Time Fitness an A+ for innovative exercise that provides more results in half the time.

Men Benefit from Pilates Too!

Men Benefit from Pilates Too!

Men, women, people of all ages and levels can benefit from a Pilates class.  In fact, a 50 year old gentleman just joined my class this past Tuesday.  He has some pains in his back and wishes to strenthen his legs.  After just one session, he exclaimed how much his muscles were shaking yet instantly felt less painful from when he walked into class.  Pilates is rehabilitation, it’s strength training, and it’s mental release all in one.  I walk out of class feeling like I’m floating – I’m that relaxed and limber after the stretches, pulls and balances we concentrate on.

Try a free 35 minute session with Pam to see for yourself!  Email her at pbarich@lifetimefitness.com

In the meantime, here is another video of Alejandra Randazzo, veteran Pilates instructor at Life Time Fitness so that you can catch a glimpse of some exercises on the Reformer:

Level 2 Exercise - This is my progression from the side plank

Level 2 Exercise – This is my progression from the side plank

Improve Posture and Poise with Pam’s Pilates

October 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Exercise, Fitness, Reviews, School's Out

Please note:  The following is of my own experiences only.  Check with your health care provider to see if Pilates is right for you.

I vowed this would be the summer of new experiences.  With only one week left of summer break, I can honestly write that I kept that vow!  One of the most impactful of those experiences is one I will continue long after summer is over ~ Pilates at Life Time Fitness’s LifeStudio with Pamela Barich.  I can’t say enough about Pam’s Pilates class.  My posture is more aligned.  I walk taller.  I look slimmer.  I am more toned.  I am more flexible.  In a word . . . I feel better.

Grading Girl on The Reformer - this is my first try with this move!

Grading Girl on The Reformer – this is my first try with this move!

At LifeStudio (a part of Lifetime Fitness), I am supervised by a specially trained instructor named Pam Barich.  Pam earned her Pilates certification in 2005 after a few years of teaching aerobic classes.  She was taking Pilates classes herself and found that it was the one practice that was enhancing all other aspects of her life.  As Pam explains, Pilates “develops core strength, giving overall strength.  .  . When that is strong, you can have strength all over.”   She advocates Joseph Pilates focus on concentration to achieve mind/body connection that “works the body from the inside out,” as Pam states.  Pilates gives you a work-in that makes other workouts that much more effective.

Pamela Barich on The Reformer at LifeStudio Schaumburg

Pamela Barich on The Reformer at LifeStudio

How and why did Pilates begin? As Medicine.Net defines, Pilates was created in the 1920s by the trainer Joseph Pilates for the purpose of rehabilitation. Pilates’ first clients were soldiers from war and dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine (to strengthen their bodies and heal their aches and pains). His techniques are maintained today as dancers, athletes and anyone looking to improve their overall physical and emotional fitness are utilizing the method.  I remember my dance teacher years ago recommending enrollment in a Pilates class to enhance poise and technique; but, back then Pilates classes were much harder to find in the suburbs. In fact, when I hunted for a class in the early ’90s, there was only one studio in downtown Chicago offering a few classes.  I would have had to travel to New York if I wanted to take any comprehensive Pilates sessions.  Today, Pilates is conveniently offered at my own gym with highly specialized instructors!  Very few health clubs are as comprehensive as Life Time Fitness . . . offering Pilates, yoga, aerobics, spin, marathon trainings, boot camps . . the list goes on.

What exactly is Pilates? Pilates is an exercise system focused on improving flexibility, strength, and body awareness, without building bulk. The method is a series of controlled (and I mean very controlled) movements performed on specially designed spring-resistant exercise apparatus (in our class, that is the Reformer) or on the floor (mat work).  Pilates is resistance exercise, not aerobic; although, the heart rate will certainly rise.  I sometimes wear my heart monitor and my heart does raise to my Zone 2 & 3 levels.  It’s closer to weight lifting than it is to aerobic activities, and so it should be considered resistance exercise.  As an avid strength trainer, I use Pilates to refine my posture and core strength – things that I can’t perfect with weight lifting alone. It actually makes me sit and stand more properly and comfortably!!!

Two of the key elements of Pilates are core muscle strength and spinal alignmentThere are movements in my Pilates class that work muscles I’ve never worked before!  Pilates is unique in that it truly targets the core, including the very hard to train lower abdominal muscles.  Everyone talks about using your “core” but what exactly is it???  The “core” consists of the spine, abdomen, pelvis, and hips. Some of the main core muscles are the erector spinae (located in your back along your spine), the internal and external obliques (the sides of your abdomen), the transverse abdominis (located deep in your gut, this muscle pulls your belly button in toward your spine), the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack”), and hip flexors (in your pelvis and upper leg). Now, who doesn’t want to tone those muscles?!?

During a Pilates session with Pam, whether it’s on the Reformer or on the mat, she continuously prompts us to concentrate deeply on those core muscles, as well as on our breath, the contraction of our muscles, and the quality (not quantity) of our movements. Practicing that coordinated concentration enhances our life outside of the studio as well as we carry the control through to our lives.  It helps us connect our body, mind and spirit to create peace withn.

Pam pushes you to stretch to your most optimal level without overstepping your limits.  As an example of her highly individualized instruction, on the first day of my small group class (there are 4 of us), Pam had us perform basic stretches on the Reformer and mat to identiy our current (or pre-Pilates) flexibilty and strength levels.  As she approached each of us throughout the hour, she demonstrated differentiated movements for each of us to tackle according to our own body’s abilities.  Now that we’re each acclimated to the Pilates fundamentals, every session consists of choreographed movements that push each of us at our own paces and alignments.  Individualized instruction at group pricing!

Pam demonstrating more moves

Pam demonstrating another finely balanced stretch

Grading Girl gives Pamela Barich’s Pilates class an A+ for  a healthful way to improve strength, balance, and flexibility. Men and women of various ages and fitness levels take Pilates.  I walk out of class feeling lithe and light with a super-straight posture.  I guarantee you will gain from it as well.

CHECK OUT MY SECOND POST IN THIS SERIES HERE:  Progression in Pam’s Pilates

** Try a class!!  Pam offers a FREE introductory session to anyone interested.  You don’t even have to be a Lifetime member for the free trial.  Email her at pbarich@lifetimefitness.com.    Don’t forget to tell her Grading Girl sent you! 🙂  **

Want more proof of how much Pilates can do for your strength and flexibility?  Here is a video of Alejandra Randazzo, a veteran Life Time Fitness (Schaumburg) Pilates Instructor, performing on the Reformer:

Come to Life Time Fitness to improve your fitness for a lifetime!

STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES ON GG’S PILATES PROGRESS.  GG WILL POST TO THIS SERIES EVERY FEW WEEKS.

“The Only Guaranteed Moment is This One”

July 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Fitness, Fun, Reviews, Spas

That is what one of the instructors at Tri Balance Yoga Studio regularly expresses at the end of my Hot Yoga class.  This statement mirrors one of the philosophies I try to live by – to live life in the moment.  There is no future, there is no past.  The future and the past only exist in our language, not in reality.  The only real moment is the present moment, yet too many people try to live for the future or re-live the past.  In doing so, they miss out on so much.   I wanted to start taking yoga to relax my body and help my mind live in this present.

Yoga offers countless benefits

Yoga offers countless benefits

I discovered Tri Balance Yoga Studio two weeks ago and I can honestly say I’m a better person for it.  As listed on the Tri Balance site, the many benefits of yoga include improved balance, relieved aches and pains, reduced stress, increased body strength, more flexibility, anti-aging effects, improved blood pressure, and more.  Being an avid strength and circuit trainer, I used to write off yoga as a good stretching activity but not much else.  I only wish I realized how wrong I was earlier.  I now believe yoga can accomplish all of those benefits and more.  I personally feel so lithe and light after each class that I’m glowing.  It could have to do with the fact that I literally drip sweat and melt skin during class.  In any event, you CANNOT walk out of Tri Balance in a bad mood.

The first week I joined, I participated in four hot yoga sessions and one fitness Pilates.  The first day I missed a session, I instantly felt it.  The second week (last week), I was unfortunately busier and was only able to partake in two hot yoga sessions.  I missed it terribly.  This week I vow to take five sessions.  Allow me to explain some of the reasons Tri Balance is such a soothing studio . . .

First, the people at Tri Balance – the instructors along with those behind the desk – create a welcoming, individualized environment.  I have had two hot yoga instructors so far and one fitness pilates instructor; all three of these experts constantly walk around the room, either helping to correct our body positions or challenging us to maneuver in more difficult positions.  I have received individual attention every single session as I noticed so has everyone else.   Classes always attract an impressive amount of people but because the room is fairly large, it never feels too cramped to move fully.  The entire studio is impeccably clean.  The women’s bathroom is inviting with extra towels, mats, soaps, etc. ready for members; plus, it always has that fresh just-been-cleaned smell each day.  The studio offers a variety of classes including Hot Yoga, Hot Core Yoga, Fitness Pilates, Ashtanga Yoga, Total Body Conditioning, and Core.  Classes are offered seven days a week.   Prices are very reasonable; and, you don’t have to sign a contract locking you in for a certain time.  Click here for current rates.

Along with the yoga studio, there is a hair stylist, massage therapist, nutritionist, and holistic doctor within the same walls – another attestment to Tri Balance helping the whole person . . . physically and mentally.  The studio also regularly offers workshops to enhance the yoga experience.  For instance, the next workshop is covering Gong Meditation, using our inter-vibratory system to de-stress.

Convinced yet?  Well, if you live, work or visit the northwest suburbs of Chicago, you should give Tri Balance studio a try.  Tell them Grading Girl sent you!  You will not be wasting your time.  People of every size, shape, gender, and age take classes here.  Everyone leaves his or her inhibitions at the door.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the room is set at 106° and the lights are very minimal during the hot yoga sessions.  Admittedly, I’ve fallen asleep momentarily after the Namaste because I’m so relaxed by the end.

An added benefit:  Tri Balance offers discounts to police officers, firemen, teachers, military personnel, and nurses.  Of course, they get extra credit from Grading Girl for that one! 🙂

Grading Girl gives Tri Balance Yoga Studio an A for providing the community with a soothing environment for very healthful classes.  The convenient schedule (hot yoga is offered at least four times a day) adds to the high grade.

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