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Van-i-ty is such a lonely word.

01/31/2010

Beautiful Readers,

 You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little confused about the whole vanity thing. On the one hand it seems to me that it’s natural to feel uneasy spending time, energy, and God forbid, money on how you look, instead of, let’s say, helping the old lady down the hall figure out how to use Microsoft Office, teaching your kids Urdu, or writing checks to charities. Vanity is a sin, right?

 But then if you leave your house, ignoring that dollop of shaving cream on your face you’ll feel embarrassed. Or if you go out wearing your pajamas, with coffee on your shirt, or with yogurt or toothpaste visible anywhere on your body– someone is likely to notice you, and not in a good way.

The way you look gives a certain impression to people who see you, and whether we like it or not (mostly, not, frankly) it affects, in no small way, how we are handled by strangers and acquaintances (though hopefully not so much by friends). It is not a secret that overweight people are often treated poorly, taller men get better jobs, people  act dismissively with people who look ‘old’ to them, and cute girls get a lot of perks overall.

And then, just to keep things interesting, there are totally different levels of social expectation for appearance depending on where you are and who you are percieved  to be-that’s right, powerful stereotypes, whatever you may think of that.

Who wants to be the only schlumpy gay man in midtown ? And yes, I see all five un-coiffed gay men raising your hands to tell me I’m wrong–well you can just tuck that Barneys tag back into your distressed sweatpants and admit that you’d be waiting a long time on 57th street before you saw one gay male who shops at Target.

And isn’t it great to be a mom in Park Slope, Brooklyn (my delightfully un-glamerous, family oriented, neighborhood)  and to still be wearing your favorite Lands End jeans 10 years later,  knowing that there are women just on the other side of the bridge who have been pondering how back pocket embellishments visibly affect tush shape? And while the Park Slope mom’s beauty ritual may involve wrestling her hair into a ponytail in the morning–not three miles away, some must have a perpetual blow-out, as if their hair naturally grew an inch away from their scalp before submitting to gravity.

The trouble with appearances is that you can’t hide ‘em, and our deep (and totally natural) need to create order in a very complicated world means your appearance can make decisions for you. Why are yoga instructors, on the whole, a fair bit better looking than your average citizen in ways that have very little to do with yoga? 

I’m guessing it’s because ‘Yoga Teacher’ has become a social signifier in our heads, like ‘Gay man in midtown’  and suggests a look we all expect. I strongly suspect that less attractive people with an interest in yoga are not getting certified because they don’t feel they look enough like the ‘yoga instructor’ in their mind. Which is a pity. But I’m pretty sure it’s true.

 As you can imagine, the complexity of emotions surrounding the looking-good/feeling-good continuum within the fitness and health world is enormous. To say the least. And it’s no wonder, because at the core of the ‘it’s all about how you feel, take care of your health’ wellness industry is this one very dirty little secret: Living an optimally ‘well’ life makes you look great. 

In fact all the things we think of as ‘beautiful or handsome’ are just signs of superior health and metabolic youthfulness. Shiny hair? Nutritive rich diet plus relaxed lifestyle;  Smaller waist? Enough sleep, less fat on your organs. Glowing skin? Nutritive rich diet, adequate exercise, less stress. You see where this is going. There is not one thing that people try to do to themselves cosmetically that does not have it roots in superior health. And who doesn’t want people to percieve them as healthy? No one doesn’t, whatever they may tell you.

Of course, in absolute terms of goodlookingness, there’s genetics too–things like height, hair type, and body part proportions, are pretty much unaffected by lifestyle, and aging does bring certain inevitable realities that take a toll on most superficial kinds of beauty. But all the rest is just health.

So who can resist  boosting their appearance of health some in order to reap the benefits unfairly distributed to those fortunate enough to live, since birth, in an atmosphere  that  is stress free, nutritiously catered, with plenty of time for regular exercise, water drinking, and sleep! So maybe a certain essential vanity is OK (you decide how much that is based on your lifestyle or social group) as long as it doesn’t preoccupy you when you are getting on with things, and doesn’t take time away from things that affect the quality of your life more.

Having said all this about vanity– I’ve done very little about mine lately, and spring is a time of year when I naturally tend to think more about how I look. Look out for honest reviews of services and products you may, or may not, want to try!

Lucky Readers!: Beautiful Fitness will be offering Fitness Tours for visitors to New York City starting in May!

 Look out for upcoming details of our, benefit-packed, BFNYC Fitness Tours and get to know the city like a wellness insider. Enjoy some great exercise (we’re thinking 6 miles of walking) through some of the most famous parts of the city with knowledgeable Beautiful Fitness staff, get some terrific free loot,  tuck into a great healthy lunch with us, and learn about New York as you enjoy a chance to visit some of the best studios and wellness spas the city has to offer! Bring your sneakers! Bring your camera! Bring your desire to get (or stay) fit in NYC!

Thanks for reading!,

Alix Florio;  President, Beautiful Fitness

www.beautifulfitness.com

In Ambitious Pursuit of a Type B Personality

01/15/2010

Beautiful Readers,

So it struck me like a bolt of lightening the other day in yoga class that I have no problem doing all the things I was taught to do as I came of age in the Reagan-era souped-up rat-race that was New York City of the 1980s. I dream big dreams, I head fearlessly towards my goals, I pursue the things I want, I speak out when I feel I should. What I can not do, however, is, um, shut up and take a back seat, even when maybe I ought to.

Newsflash: Passivity and submission are worthwhile skills when appropriate. Powerful even. So if I believe in the power of passivity then why do I feel afraid I’m owed a wedgie from Gloria Steinem as I write?

Seriously though. As I work actively on meditation and relaxation techniques these days, I can’t help but notice what a bad attitude my subconscious has about letting go of control. Of anything. Of breathing. Of how far my hands should be from my body when I lie in corpse pose after yoga class (aka Savasana-the yoga pose of total relaxation where you lie on your back, with your palms turned upwards)

 In the past, when I saw personal training clients, I used to be amazed by how many of our, typically, rather professionally successful clients, really had a hard time lying in a relaxed Savasana position for a mere three minutes after they had worked out. It was kind of adorable really, Masters and Mistresses of the Universe, nervously fidgeting on the floor after only 30 seconds, blinking their eyes open and closed as every minute went by, to ask me if their three minutes was over yet. Once you believe that the sun has risen upon you and that you should seize every moment–it can be really hard to stop seizing and let a couple of those minutes get away free.

I mean, I understand why passivity is not more popular. After all, it’s a very hard sell. The rewards of passivity are not so obvious–mostly because a passive postion is all about what it is not. And in the fast paced and flashy world of thrill-a-minute, subtlety-less, fast-is-sexy, bold-is-beautiful– making a case for the absence of stuff, well,  just seems kind of boring. And all those things you may have heard about how ”there is no light without the dark”, “there is no form without emptiness”, just seem like fancy language used to impress college kids, or worse, by power mongers trying to get over on someone. 

But I would like to propose that being able to be electively passive is just as powerful as being supurbly active. It is the thing that can take you from sprint to marathon–or from sprint to really long sprint if sprinting is your thing. It can also mean the difference between having an ordinary successful life or a deeper capital-S Successful life.

The garden variety successful life would be an existance where you actively hit all the societal “marks” for success adequately, work, family, home…etc. without really knowing why you are doing these things and whether or not they are increasing your contentment overall. The capital S Successful life, in contrast would be one that embraces taking the time to retreat from time to time into yourself, feel your properly humble and grateful place in the universe,  to make sure you are hitting your own marks adequately–with the goal being contentment–society, and your learned expectations, be damned.

Now, before you quit your job, leave your spouse, and send the kids to boarding school–there does seem to be a correlation between conventional kinds of success, and real happiness, for most people. We’re social animals, and that’s OK–but with a little passive (read: judgementless) reflection on your day to day package–a little stepping back and seeing things as they really are as opposed to the way we project them to be–couldn’t life be richer?

Thanks for reading!

Alix Florio CEO Beautiful Fitness

www.beautifulfitness.com

And The Beat Goes On…

01/01/2010

Beautiful Readers,

After years of exercising and thinking about exercise, I am increasingly sure that any fitness challenge goes off much easier with good music on your ipod. And it just so happens that almost every fitness professional I know thinks so too.

Long before I became the fitness maven that I am today I used to carry my walkman around in my hand when I enjoyed my occasional .3 mile run in the park (yes, that’s a decimal point before the 3– I was much more nerd than jock) but way back then I really didn’t understand the power of music in making sure exercise stays a regular, evolving, part of life.

The right playlist can be the magic ingredient that makes intolerable workouts, tolerable, gets you up and out of the house on dreary days, helps you get through 40 minutes of cardio when you’d rather spend 4 minutes on cardio, and adds sexiness to even the most uninspiring workout environments.

I have been known to turn around and go home to get my i-pod when I forget to bring it to the gym.  I definitely can’t imagine going running without one (unless you have a great coach full of helpful advice (www.beautifulfitness.com ), and working out at home with only the sound of street noise, or my kids fighting over the t.v. remote for ambiance—is inconceivable.

There’s so much great music to choose from too. But be aware that even objectively awesome music is not all equal when you are using it for fitness purposes. Here are some tips on successfully using music to keep your workouts grooving:

***Rock is king. I love classical music, and have occasionally tried working out to jazz, and while you might think mellower music would keep you cool while you sweat—most people who have tried it seem to find quieter music more pacifying than motivating. Stick with rock. The driving beat really helps.

***Although, after many years of wrinkling my nose at most music played in most gyms, I have come to accept that even a pop beat I don’t love can equal a fun, pumped-up, cardio workout. Having said that, why listen to bad music when good music can offer such great motivation? Don’t listen to music you don’t like just because it has “cardio workout” written all over it.  Keep shopping long enough to find upbeat music that gets your heart rate up while it thrills you with its brilliance.

***Experiment. I have discovered that there is certain music I particularly love to work-out to, that I don’t normally listen to at home. For me, classic rock, seems perfect for exercise, but is generally a little ‘deep’ for regular background listening at home. I also really like to work-out to certain techno tracks to which I would never subject my family.

***If you have a family (or roommates) to whom you must cater your music tastes while at home, it can be really fun to listen to something more raucous with a lot of swear words in it when it’s just you and your i-pod.

I hope you are all looking forward to a bright and exciting 2010. A lot of change is coming this year. I promise. Some bad things will happen and some good things will happen too. And I bet if you look back, honestly, on 2009, you’ll find the same was true. Everything changes. And the more things change, the more they stay the same, as they say. So stay focused, healthy and sane in the New Year! and get ready for whatever is coming your way.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading,

Alix Florio               president; Beautiful Fitness