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The Thinking Person’s Bathing Suit Bible

05/25/2009

Beautiful Readers,

So I just returned from this summer's first real visit to the beach…no kids…no older relatives…just me, the boyfriend, and no reason to wear a more demure bathing suit. I'll be honest, I try to keep most of my blogs sassy enough to be a little interesting, but adequately P.C. on the whole to keep me out of trouble. And I am quite careful not to write anything that makes Beautiful Fitness sound like a lot of other naughty fitness operations, as in the kind that make people feel critical about their bodies (hell, they are just bodies after all-it's not like a flabby stomach affects the quality of your soul or anything), but sometimes I think our readers might like a tiny dose of that good old fashioned, "What do I do about wearing a bathing suit so that all of me is not coming out of it?" advice from an expert. So here goes.

Issue? Stomach, butt, and thighs, right? Ever since they invented the elasticized bathing costume, these body parts have concerned men and women wherever there is sand.

Let's start with abs. There have been tomes written (mostly a waste of pixels and paper) about abs and ab exercises. Abdominal muscles come in two types that matter to people who are trying to make theirs look firmer. Don't worry about all the other kind of abdominal muscles unless you are a medical student, or a personal trainer.

There are the Rectus Abdominus, and the Obliques (yeah yeah there are internal andexternal obliques but don't worry about 'em, you do the same stuff to make them behave). Rectus abdominus-make your stomach look flatter, Obliques-make your waist look smaller. Rectus abdominus are in the front of your stomach, and Obliques are on the sides. Nuff said.

Two exercises:

Crunches: I like mine best on a big fitness ball which I find is more fun, more comfortable, and ultimately, once you figure out what's going on in there, can give you better control of the resistance you are using to work your abs. Don't have a ball? or just don't like them? No problem. Do them on the floor.

Lie on your back (or with your back pressed into a fitness ball balancing yourself with your feet on the floor) with your hands behind your head and your elbows out to either side. Looking at the ceiling, raise your head, neck, and shoulders slightly off the floor (or ball) continuing to look at the ceiling. Focus on engaging your stomach muscles to help press your torso up instead of using your neck and shoulders to pull you into position, also, attempt to keep your engaged abs pressed down towards your back instead of allowing them to stick out into the air (as they will want to do). Lower to floor or ball. Repeat a whole lot of times. Seriously. More reps equals more firm ab muscles. Feel free to quit at 80. If you are new at this, don't worry about doing 80 or even leaving the floor, raise your neck and head up to the ceiling slightly and just focus on engaging your abs very tightly on each raise. Try not to lift your shoulders while you do this exercise, it doesn't help, and it could give you very stiff shoulders or potentially a pinched nerve. 

Now for Obliques, then we're done with abs.

Bicycles: Remember these guys from gym class?!? They'll work your obliques in a very direct way, and really, they're kind of fun once you get the hang of them. Lie on your back with your hands placed behind your head, this time you'll be using your elbows, so don't worry about where they are positioned for now. Then bring your right knee in towards your chest while keeping your left leg extended and bringing it off the ground about a foot (or two, if you prefer), with your legs in the position I just described, rotate your torso to the right and bring your left elbow towards the bent knee (or touch it with your elbow if you can), then switch to perform the exercise the same way (right elbow to bent left knee with right leg extended about a foot of the ground). As with crunches, really focus on making sure you are doing this exercise with the right body part, namely your Obliques, instead of using your neck and shoulders. I also recommend actively engaging your obliques on each side as you use them (presuming you know where your's are–don't worry in time you will if you do this exercise)

Now for hips, thighs, and your butt. Let's cut to the chase. These muscle groups all cohabit in basically the same part of your body, and therefore, they find it best to work together too. That's good news for anyone who need to wear a bathing suit soon. The best exercise ever that puts all of these fine fellows to work, is squats. Two kinds.

Squats:  With or without holding a weight in your hands (call Beautiful Fitness if you want to talk about where to put a weight 212-380-1277), separate your feel approximately three feet apart and bend your knees while keeping your abs engaged. Keep your position like that of a skier by making sure that your weight is far back (so much so that you could lift your toes up) and your knees are always behind your toes. Raise to standing and squeeze your butt. Do endless reps without hurting yourself.

Plies: Ballet term. Comes from the french word Plier meaning to bend. It's a squat. With your knees out to the side. And your toes pointed away from each other. Same as Squats. Stay upright on both the up and down motion, and consciously engage your inner thighs to come up and your outer thighs to go down. Again, do tons.

And there you are. That's all you'll need to look pretty good in your Anne Cole black one-piece suit, your Missoni reversible triangle bikini (which, by the way, includes a warning that you can not, in fact, swim in it- tee hee!) or your favorite Speedo racing tank. And whatever your body may be doing these days–have fun on the beach!

Fondly,

Alix Florio   President   Beautiful Fitness

 www.beautifulfitness.com

Neurotic but with Nicer Nails

05/05/2009

Beautiful Readers,

Sometimes you just gotta have a nervous habit. Over the years some of mine have included, too much shopping, nervous eating, nervous eating of something in particular like chocolate or a hundred little teeny slices of cake, nail biting, undue fascination with being thin, obsessive split-end trimming, and recently, a mild obsession with fake nails, filing them down, prying them up a little, gluing them back down again, and sometimes replacing them. 

It all started out innocently enough. On a recent trip out to my mom's place in NJ, I visited a nail salon there, and was convinced by the 23 year old hipster Vietnamese male owner that my normally thin and short nails would look great with the application of UV gel. They'd be longer, stronger, and gee whiz, they'd look perfect for weeks, unlike the three day disappointment of most salon visits. 

He did a very good job applying coat upon coat of powder and gel over the polish I had selected. In between layers of goo, he placed my plastic coated fake talons inside the little UV light box next to me. An hour or so later, Voila, better nails than I have ever had in my life, a little thicker than my own, they didn't look entirely natural, but they were stuck to my fingers with a tenacity that felt like it would last. Buh-bye for two weeks nail salon!

So four days later I chipped one. Which might be explained by my wiggling the corner of it back and forth between my teeth all day. Hm mm….I couldn't get back to the place in NJ to ask them to fix it, so I tried my luck with a non-descript place in my Brooklyn neighborhood called Polish Nails. I love this name. For the longest time I believed it was a Polish owned nail salon. It seemed so exotic. But after going inside I discovered that it was Korean owned, and realized the Poh-lishPah-lish pronunciation thing had tripped me up, and that they were probably referring to the stuff that goes on nails.

In any case, after half an hour of being fast-talked by the desperate seeming owner (nearly empty salon)who quickly whisked away my raincoat so I couldn't escape so easily, I finally made out that UV gel was something that they didn't really do at Polish Nails, but that the eager owner was trying to sell me on some other kind of wrap or something that she was sure would be just as good. Better even, she explained animatedly, because it wouldn't make my nails all–I guess the word she used was messy, but not any ordinary kind of messy, the face she made conjured images of some combination of acid and sandpaper reeking havoc underneath my UV coated nails. 

But I was true to UV coating. Now that I had been initiated into the Cadillac of nail services (and had 9 perfect digits to prove it) I really couldn't go back to a more pedestrian kind of nail covering. So I left. I also left my Blackberry there because I was in such a hurry to get out.

After returning to get the Blackberry, I hung my head low and went to Dashing Diva. Dashing Diva for those of you who don't know is the Pretty Pretty Princess of nail salons. Everything is nicely designed and glassy pink inside-part Magic Kingdom, part 1950s fantasy salon (the staff wear white lab coats). Dashing Diva also charges twice as much for everything they do as other nail salons, and I have discovered very little difference in quality.

But they have UV gel. So I spent an hour with Angela, who after impressing me thoroughly with how realistic her own French Tipped UV gel nails looked, got me to have all my red ones removed and try UV french tips. Angela was a perfectionist. Really. It was great. If you have the time,  that's exactly what you want in a nail technician. I was amazed by her delicacy as she painted the gel so carefully again and again over the crescent moons of the french tips. All I could think was that after a long day of doing such precising work she must want to run around a lot once she gets home.

Then those nails began to come up on the edges. I returned to Angela three days later to have two replaced (which she did for free and with the same care with which she had put them on the first time) . The next day a fourth one fell off, so I decided to keep the detatched nail in my purse, and take matters into my own hands (so to speak). I would buy some nail glue and reapply it. If I was going to be a UV gel lifer, I should have all the necessary equipment at home.

CVS only carried nail glue in packages with fake nails. Aha! I thought, I could buy fake nails with french tips that looked just like the UV gel nails so that if one got broken or fell off I could temporarily replace it. The nail kit only cost $8 as opposed to the $60 I would be spending to get the UV nails done every two weeks–It would be great if I could extend that time a little just by applying the occasional fake nail at home!

And then it came to me… UV gel nails look exactly the same as fake nails. But it couldn't be so! There had to be something super special about having a coating that was set under a purple light, cost $60 and took an hour to apply! As much as I wanted to believe that the artistry involved in applying the UV gels and powders made for a more natural or elegant looking product–it just didn't. The fake nails looked exactly the same as the one hour to apply $60 UV nails.

So now I have fake nails. They look great. If one gets chipped I peel it off and in two minutes I have replaced it. They come in packs of, like,100. They protect my nails which seem to be growing remarkably well underneath. Not only do I feel virtuous in a recession-era kind of way by gluing my nails on at home instead of going to a salon, but I have got myself a fine new nervous habit that I am all in all quite satisfied with. I play around with the fake nails when I'm bored, I take them off it they are looking dull, I file them, and I replace them often.

Thanks for reading,

Alix Florio     President    

Beautiful Fitness