The 10 that got me to 100

On May 27th, 2013 I committed to Pure Barre for one month only, with their New Client Special.  A little over six months later (and with 6 inches less of me) on December 6th, 2013 I took my 100th class.  Here are the top 10 reasons/people/things that kept me shaking and burning to number 100.

1.  My husband.

Having a wife that sometimes works over 100 hours in a week isn’t easy for my husband, to put it mildly.  Then, to have him support me spending some of the little free time I do have taking these classes just exemplifies how selfless he is, and how lucky I am.

2. The workout.

I am officially ADD.  I fast forward movies because they move too slowly, I can’t fill out any sort of paperwork from start to finish, and if I’m not doing 3 things at once, I’m “bored”.  Pure Barre combines the perfect combination of both predictability and variability.  The overall structure and flow of the classes are the same: warmup, upper body weights, thigh section, seat work, abdominals, and cooldown.  The great thing about this predictability is that I can really focus on the muscles being worked instead of constantly wondering what is next.  On the flip side, the individual exercises within each section change each and every workout.  No two classes are exactly the same, I am constantly challenged and never bored.

3. Fun workout clothes.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can easily find a reason to buy new clothes.  But, buying barre workout clothes taps into my inner little girl who always wanted to be a ballerina.  In what other workout can you wear a fabulous draped top with a cutout in the back and a pair of leg warmers?

4.  My classmates.

I love it when you are in the middle of a killer thigh section, and you and your neighbor share that look of “oh my gosh, how much longer?!?!?”.  Any of you who have taken Pure Barre know what I’m talking about.  And if you haven’t taken a class yet, I encourage you to do so.  You will quickly find out …  and your thighs will thank me later ;).

5.  The 100 socks.

Seriously.  In my first class, I saw one of my classmates wearing socks with the big red 100 printed across them.  I asked her about them, and that is when I first heard about the 100 club.  And, as someone who feels the need to try and get into any and every club possible, I knew I had to have them.


6.  The music.

It’s loud, it’s fast and I can lose myself in it.  I hear Chris Brown and Lil Wayne sing, “I can transform you”, and I know that I am transforming myself, with Pure Barre’s help.  The music is current and fun.  It’s harder to dwell on how badly your abs are burning when you hear “What does the fox say?” come over the loudspeaker!

7.  The knowledge that I can do anything for 10 times.

When I was a resident, it was a pretty common sentiment that you can do anything for a month, which is how long many of our rotations were.  Annoying attending?  Terrible co-resident?  Didn’t matter, you can do anything for a month.  This same mantra is applicable to Pure Barre.  Your legs are burning?  Your seat is shaking?  No worries, I just heard “final ten”.  Those are the magic words.  Once I hear those two words of saving grace, I know I can’t quit, I know I am in the homestretch.  Because, I can do anything 10 times.

8.  Constantly updating my goals.

Another great aspect about Pure Barre for my ADD self is that there are so many components of the workout for me to improve upon.  A goal for one class may be to get my leg perfectly straight and closer to the barre during the abs section.  Or, it might be to not let my arms drop at all during the weights series.  Or, to get my upper leg off the ground during side planks.  The list goes on and on.  There are always to many points during the entire class to keep myself interested and challenged throughout.

9.  The instructors.

The instructors at Pure Barre Carmel are awesome.  They are supportive, encouraging and challenging.  They get to know your name, and give personal attention and technique advice during each class.  In the middle of a tough push-up series, it is so great to hear an instructor telling you personally, “Great Job” or when your thighs are shaking beyond what you thought was humanly possible to hear, “Beautiful technique, we are almost there, hang onto it!”.  Even outside of class, the instructors are equally friendly and enthusiastic.  I work in a field with almost entirely men.  I am the only full-time academic female surgeon in my large 1000 bed hospital.  I have begun to look forward to my time at Pure Barre, not just because of the incredibly effective workouts, but also for my “girl time”.  The chats about our husbands, our kids, what foods broke our diets the night before, etc probably don’t sound like a big deal, but to me this is much needed time with other females that my daily life usually lacks.

10.  The results.

I could come up with another 50 reasons as to why I love Pure Barre, but the bottom line is that the results are indisputable.  I have muscle definition I haven’t seen since high school.  And virtually for every month I have been taking classes, I have lost an inch off my body – from my hips, my waist, my arms, and my thighs.  This is by far the most effective exercise program in which I have participated.  You do the workout, you get results.  And, the best part is, because it is low impact, I can do this everyday without worrying about any overuse injuries.  I have had 3 knee surgeries, and when I started this, I was concerned about how frequently I would be able to take a class.  I can only run about 4 times a week because any more than that, my joints start to revolt.  Pure Barre, on the other hand, I have taken up to 6 times in a week with absolutely no joint pain.  In fact, all the strengthening of my core and thigh muscles have made my knees noticeably stronger during my runs.  These results have not only resulted in a smaller jean size, but a huge boost in body confidence.  Is my body perfect?  Absolutely not.  But it is smaller, toned, and most importantly, I’m proud of all the hard work that has gone into it.

I have now burned, shook, and tucked my way to 100 classes, thanks to reasons #1 through #10.  Now, the only question I have left is, is there a 500 club? 😉

of note, I have not been paid or reimbursed by Pure Barre in any way.  This was written purely out of appreciation for Pure Barre and how it has affected my life!


I lost 5 pounds…and grew half an inch

I had my annual primary care visit the other day. There are several reasons I am proud of this accomplishment.

1) I made it to the doctor. With my schedule, the first person I tend to neglect is myself. I have been known to go years at a time without seeing a physician unless I was incubating a human inside me. Given that I am heading toward that age where routine screenings begin to start, I compelled myself to make this visit. Turns out, I am in great health and added routine screenings (mammogram) are still a year away but still I felt pretty proud of myself to just getting there and having the patience to be examined.

2) Though I could still benefit from a few fewer pounds on my short frame, I have lost 5lbs since my last check-up. While I know that it is not about the numbers and the last two years have been about being fit and healthy, about shedding fat for muscle no matter what the scale shows, it was nice to be a little lighter. The total weight is 32lbs less than my highest in adulthood (10 years ago, just after having my first child) and 17lb more than my lowest in adulthood (on my wedding day, pre-babies and after 9 mos of anxious energy and weight watchers but very little in the way of fitness activities). If I can hold my own in this range give or TAKE a few while persisting in the running-pilates-zumba regimen I have crafted for myself, I will continue to be proud.

3) Speaking of short frame, turns out I am not as short as I thought. I have been 5’2 1/2″ since puberty–honestly, a pretty remarkable feat of western nutrition given that my immigrant parents are only 5’0” and 5’2”. Despite weight fluctuations as wide as 50lbs, my height has been unsurprisingly consistent because, hey, that’s what humans do. The hormones kick in and we stop growing. But it turns out that I measured in at 5’3” this year. It is a sure sign the the posture benefits of pilates have become a way of life for me. So I will continue to stand tall, stand proud and hit the reformer as often as I can.

4) I went all morning without a cup of coffee (and survived). I didn’t want the hassle of coming back for fasting blood work so I challenged my body. I did not have my typical 10 oz borne from the Keurig on my way out the door. Usually this is consumed by 7am at the latest. And, though it is my only cup of coffee of the day on a regular basis and I no longer consume other caffeinated beverages, I am addicted to my morning cup of coffee. But, for this 9am appointment, I bravely entered the outside world sans travel mug in hand. I did not have a raging headache by noon so I powered on. Lasted a whole 24 hours without caffeine. I haven’t done this in the two weeks since but I might try is again sometime. Just shedding the fear of a day without caffeine in a point of pride for me.

5) I managed to be less VitD deficient. At my last visit, I was deficient. I was told to take a ramp up supplement for 4 weeks followed by a daily supplement. Well, it took about seven weeks but I did the ramp up; however, I never managed to get onto a daily supplement. I live at the wrong latitude and so in general me and all of my neighbors are VitD deficient and so I really should be taking the supplement but I really suck at taking pills every day. I just cannot make it happen (which I might add as an aside is as good a motivation as any to work hard at being fit to avoid the diabetes, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, and coronary artery disease that ail the majority of my adult genetic kin). So that I was less VitD deficient this year to me is representative of the many more hours of sun exposure I incurred with the running. Granted a good month for me is still only 6-8 outdoor runs but that is 6-8 more than when I last got my VitD level measured and this added sunshine in my life is also a matter of pride.

I wish there was a #6 but I was a bit displeased by my LDL/HDL situation. My LDL had plummeted dramatic between my last two visits but was creeping up this time even though the HDL was better. This, at least, is motivation for future PCP visit related pride which will tie in well with desired weight loss goals as I doubt I can get much taller, don’t plan on relocating to a sunnier latitude, and imagine I will not become a daily pill popper anytime soon.

My spare tire injury, another troubling sign and symptom of weight loss

Last time I was on call, I apparently injured my spare tire with my pager clip. On my post-call day, I discovered this sore spot in a very soft area around my left waist-hip junction. It was red. The skin bore a 2cm abrasion. Five days later it still has not healed completely.

I know what you are thinking…..

….”Who on earth wears a pager? In 2013?”

While use of this now archaic communication device was obviously the greatest risk factor for sustaining such a work-related injury, I could have taken some preventative measures as well, say by losing the spare tire. This, however, is incredibly hard to do.

Everyone’s body picks its favorite spot to accumulate weight. That spot, then, is usually the very last one to shed weight when pounds are lost or muscles are toned. In most of my women friends, this spot happens to be the bottom and the hips. Not me though. I tend to pack my weight where middle aged men do.

These last several months, as I have worked towards a more powerful core and increased cardiovascular endurance through pilates, running, zumba, and now the occasional barre class, this trouble spot of mine has become more obvious. Almost paradoxically, the increased mass and tone of the gluteal muscles, the transversalis, rectus, and oblique abdominal muscles, and the lats have increased the prominence of this wheel of fat that envelops my lower anterior waist/lumbar triangle area. I am convinced it will only go away after I shed these last 15lbs. Now, to be sure, the tire has gone more from SUV to compact car due to my efforts at exercising and eating habitually well; but still, I’d like the deflate this thing once and for all.

Meanwhile, in addition to this persistent extra auto part around my waist, I do have other troubling signs and symptoms of weight loss. These are the things that create hassles despite the dial on the scale going in the desired direction. I will review just a few of these troubling signs and symptoms of weight loss below.

The watch that I have had going on 6 years now is too big. I am annoyed that it spins around on my wrist but it is just such a pain to remove the links that I have ignored this annoyance for some months now. Yesterday, I had a ring just fly off my hand because it is so loose. I don’t really want to wear my wedding ring on a different finger so I will have to put that on my list of things I will never get around to getting done. My thighs no longer touch when I wear yoga pants or running tights. Luckily, given the range of spandex and elastane, this sign and symptom of weight loss has not resulted in another item on my to-do list and therefore is not particularly troubling.

What is most troubling though are the signs and symptoms of weight loss evident in my slacks. Despite all my hard work, none of the slacks that I currently own are too big at the waist. Nope, not a single one. The spare tire (see above) does a fine job keeping these slacks on my waist but they are loose, really unflatteringly loose,  through the hips, thighs, and legs. The result, unfortunately, is what you might think is a growing obsession with palazzo pants. While some say that these are coming back into style, this is not a fashion trend I am willing to hold on to the spare tire for.

So I guess I will put buy ‘new pants’ right under ‘lose spare tire’ on the to-do list.

Buh Bye Spanx

The After. Maggy London "Mad Men" color block dress. November 2013

The After. Maggy London “Mad Men” color block dress. November 2013


The Before. Maggy London “Mad Men” color block dress. October 2011

I got a lot of compliments on my dress today. It is one of my favorite dresses. I call it my Mad Men dress.

While ordinarily the compliments alone would have been enough to make me feel good based only on fashion sense, what I really relished today was that it was my first time wearing this dress without Spanx on.

I know what they say on Fashion Police. Everyone one, including skinny megastars who workout 6 hours a day consuming only organic kale between workouts, should wear Spanx for that sleek red carpet look. But, for an ordinary day at work, are Spanx–at the expense of being able to breathe and with the added burden for peeing–necessary? Well for me, with my short frame, narrow hips, and all my excess weight crammed onto my waistline and love handles, that answer was until very recently “yes.”

I don’t remember when it started but for years now I haven’t worn a dress without Spanx on. The spare tire look was unflattering in basically every style of dress. One can only suck in so much. But now, after nearly a year and a half of Stott pilates (as irregular as I am with my workouts) with the occasional running, Zumba, and barre classes along with fits and spurts of eating well, I can wear all but my red carpet dresses without Spanx. My core feels strong and has a lot less fat enveloping it. My posture is so improved that I look at least an inch taller and taller is so much leaner even if all else is equal.

I can hardly express how much joy this brings me. For one thing, Spanx are damn expensive. For another, needing a crutch to feel good about how you look in an otherwise awesome dress is just plain demoralizing. Finally, I just enjoy breathing freely and being able to pee without a big production.

I still have a long way to go before I can go from Spanx-free to two-piece bathing suit wearing but I own that Trina Turk bikini with the tags still on (two years and counting now) and the bump up in self-esteem from this milestone is really motivating me to get my act together, be more consistent with the pilates, running, Zumba, and barre and maybe even up my intake of organic kale, maybe.

To the dark side and back…

I am not going to lie, I have pretty much been on the thinner side of the scale my whole life (with obnoxious amounts of dieting as previously mentioned), but it’s true.  I rarely needed to buy a size larger than a 4.


All of this changed, however, when my husband and I decided to start a family.  Two heartbreaking miscarriages and two fertility medications later, we were successfully pregnant.  And, about 25 pounds heavier than my usual weight….at the start of my pregnancy.  Well, add 22 pounds of pregnancy weight onto that over the next 9 months, and by the time I gave birth I had an overall weight gain of close to 50 pounds.  Now I know this may not sound like a lot to some people, but for the record, I am 5’ 1”.

Unfortunately some people were brutal to me about this weight gain.  I can absolutely sympathize with Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson.  I actually had one person poke me in my thigh and make the comment about how big my thighs had gotten.  Women would just look at me and make cruel comments about how you can never lose all the weight.

I dropped the 22 pregnancy pounds pretty easily, but at 4 months postpartum I was still with almost 30 extra pounds and I was depressed.  I was officially overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy. No, not post-partum I can’t get out of bed depressed.  It was a “I can’t stand the way I look or feel” depressed.  It really hit me when I looked back and realized that I had only ONE picture taken of my child and I together because of my insecurity.  That is when I knew I had to make a change.

My career continuously teaches me that life is too short, and that message never rang more true than at this point in my life.  Although I do believe that life is too short not to eat a piece of cake every once in awhile, life is also too short to not be happy with yourself…especially to the point that you won’t have your picture taken, even with your newborn child.

So, I talked to my wonderfully supportive husband who seriously is the best man on the planet.  I started to think about my life and wanted to set a goal… something that I never thought I could do in a million years.  I signed up for a 5K.  Again, this may not seem like much to some people, but even when I was young and thin and a cheerleader, I was Never a runner.  I hated it.  Running around the track in high school was my own personal 7th level of hell.  But I needed something, anything to help pull me out of the dark place I was in, and I was hoping those 3.1 miles would be it.

Let me tell you, getting back in shape and in the gym was tough.  I felt awkward, big, and quite frankly, ugly.  I didn’t have cute gym clothes and couldn’t find any that were flattering.  So I worked out in maternity t-shirts and baggy shorts.  And I started out slowly, working out 3 days a week and slowly increasing to now 6 days a week when my schedule allows.  I did the couch to 5K program and literally started by running in 1 minute increments.  I also slowly and steadily changed my diet.  I downloaded My Fitness Pal and began recording my food.

Six months after my first road race ever, and before my child’s first birthday, I ran a half-marathon.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment I can’t even begin to explain the depth of it.


I was now 20 pounds lighter, but not yet still at my goal.  That is when I found Pure Barre.  I had a girls’ weekend and saw my best friend since 3rd grade for the first time in over a year, and she looked great.  I mean, high school thin and fit great.  So I asked her what she had been doing and she replied, “Oh, this is all from Pure Barre.”  I had no idea what Pure Barre was, but took a class with her over that weekend.  And just like the prior post, it was brutal!  I actually flipped her the finger during my first class, told her she was crazy, and that I didn’t realize that extremity seizures were supposed to be a good thing!  Well, needless to say, that first class unveiled my next self-imposed fitness challenge.  I signed up for the New Client Special, and told myself I had to go to at least 10 classes that month for the price.  I haven’t looked back since, and that was 5 months ago.  In the first 2 months I lost 2 inches off my waist, and those aren’t the only changes I have enjoyed.  Besides the better posture and the beginnings of sculpted arms and abdominal definition, I have regained even more confidence.  Confidence not only in how I look, but also in appreciation for what my body can accomplish!  I am working my way towards the 100 club, and loving every minute of it.


I celebrated my “Run-niversary” last weekend.  I ran the same race, but instead of the 5K, I ran a 15K at a pace three minutes less per mile.  The past year has been a journey from a very dark place, but having had the “overweight” experience has been an enlightening one.  Having been subjected to all the negative comments and jokes has made me not only a more sympathetic person, but because of the determination it gave, a healthier one as well.

B!%#? you can take that barre and shove it!

Recently, a friend of mine convinced me to try a barre class with her. We were on a work-related trip together. Reunited after a year of not seeing each other. I was impressed by how she had reclaimed her body since I had last seen her when she was just 3 months post-partum, partly still bloated and partly still carrying the extra weight we all put on especially during our first pregnancies.

So as I admired her sheer awesomeness in getting back into shape (which she did despite taking 10 calls per month and having an under-one-year old at home), she told me about her new obsession, Pure Barre. No matter how busy she was, no matter how unbalanced her work-life situation felt, she so enjoyed these barre classes that she would make them work. It helped that her local Pure Barre had like a bazillion classes a day that gave her the kind of flexibility she needed with her schedule. But, let’s face it, if there wasn’t something to love–about the experience or the results–she obviously would not make the time in her 36 hour days to snuggle up to some barre when their was undoubtedly a hot bath, or a glass of wine, or a dvr’d episode of Homeland, or a box of sea salt dark chocolate caramels to be had.purebarre-threepics

Given the freedom from patient care and childcare and spousal interaction (see husbands I didn’t call this ‘care’!) the trip allowed, my friend had already signed up for 3 barre classes during the short 4 day meeting. I honestly hadn’t paid much attention to the barre offerings at my local pilates studio (more on that in a later blog because that place has literally changed my life) and had never heard of boutique barre studios like Pure Barre and Bar Method that it seemed to me were the Jazzercise of the 2010s. I was curious to see what this new (at least to me) fitness phenomenon, that has so engaged my friend, was all about.

The-Bar-MethodShe warned me that it would be challenging, that she had been going for months and still hadn’t perfected the individual moves that are altered for each month’s new routines. She told me how she had stumbled upon her own first Pure Barre class serendipitously during a girls’ weekend and had spent every minute of that class cursing those girls. She gave me a brief tutorial on all the very small moves that work the core and the seat before starting the class. I was confident.. I said, “Pshaw! I have been working my core, hips, and glutes with a year of Stott pilates on the mat and the reformer. I got this!”

Holy crap was I wrong. I thought I might die during the class the tetany got so severe (granted it was purposeful tetany but still…). While I could clearly see the parallels between the imprint and the in-joint movements of my dear pilates in every move at the barre or on the mat, the sustained, repetitive movements against my own body weight just detroyed me. They broke me down. I uttered every expletive I know and maybe even made up some new ones, cursing my friend under my breath (and occasionally even out loud) for a full 60 minutes. I felt like one of the interrogation victims I had seen in my most recent dvr’d episode of Homeland: defeated, ready to divulge state secrets.

Yup I loved it. It was so much fun. I wanted to wrap my sweaty, sore body around my friend in gratitude. I could totally see why she made the time to do this to herself at least a few times a week. Sure the end results were amazing as was evident by my friend’s fabulous post-baby physique, but I suspected there was something about the experience, living through it, that made it so addictive. Or, maybe it’s just the Stockholm Syndrome in effect.

I was crazy wanting to do it again. It inspired me to try the Total Barre offerings at my local studio which sadly are just 3-4 times a week and rarely mix with my schedule that I am already carving into pieces to fit in the pilates (more on why I won’t give that up on a later blog). Unfortunately, there are no dedicated barre chain outposts in my immediate vicinity. I was longing to do it again. I needed another hit.


On my next work-related trip, I was sadly without this dear, fit, barre obsessed friend. So, I sought out a Bar Method class of my own volition figuring it would be fun to compare (and, it was also walking distance whereas the Pure Barre class was not). I cursed a bit less, possibly because it’s harder to curse perfect strangers, but I still loved every torturous second of it. I am sure loyalists to one brand of barre or the other will be up in arms about this but I thought that the work outs were equally challenging and well taught.

For now, I am back to (or trying to get back to) my usual routine and sneaking in a local barre class if possible, eager for my next trip when I can hit a Bar Method or Pure Barre again, fondly remembering that first hour when I said to my friend “B!%#?, you can take that barre and shove it!”