Class Wars: the fight for exclusivity in modern gym culture.

How the gym industry is fighting for exclusivity.
Standard
How the gym industry is fighting for exclusivity.

How the gym industry is fighting for exclusivity.

A lay-person  waltzing into a gym class,  has no idea of the back room  wars being waged to earn their attendance. Think the world of fitness is only about making people feel better?  think again! There is a bucket of money being made from each euphoric sweat session and some of the industry’s biggest players are getting ferocious in making sure their golden buckets stay full. But is it worth if the end result is that fitness becomes less inclusive for both staff and member? Let’s see what is at stake. History Joseph Pilates (1883- 1967) : Joe Pilates was first in line to popularize a specific method of fitness in NYC during the early 1900s through the 1960s.  After Pilates and his wife opened their studio, the Contrology method became beloved by dancers and therefore exclusive in its limited access. Once wealthy NYC socialites learned about its benefits, the exclusivity factor rose and they flocked to Pilates for help. The current recognition of the Pilates name is based not just on the effectiveness of his core-centric method but also on his efforts to  preserve his method via instructor training many years ago. Jack Lalanne (1914-2011)A fitness story cannot be told without first mentioning the “GodFather of Fitness” . Back in his heyday, Jack was one of the first proponents of good nutrition and exercise as well as one of the 1st gym owners in the mid 1930s. Although his target market was female, he was also well-respected by men in the body building sphere and so his gyms were egalitarian. It would seem that Jack was more interested in educating and helping the masses to turn their lives around through healthy lifestyle choices as he did. Lotte Berk (1913-2003)Lotte Berk was a contemporary of Lalanne’s and like Joe Pilates, developed her own dance based, core focused method of exercise that shared her name. Berk licensed her method and a Lotte Berk studio opened in NY’s Upper East Side in 1970. The studio closed its doors in 2005 after competition increased namely by CoreFusion, Berk based method and studio opened after an epic “falling out” between Berk and former Lotte Berk students, Fred DeVito and Elizabeth Halfpapp. Fast forward to present day, 11 years in the future since CoreFusion & Exhale Spas began their sprawl, and we now have over 400 different types of boutique gyms in the NY area alone.

Present

Specific methodologies abound among cycling, interval training, dance based classes, and body/sports conditioning just to name a few! To some, this is the simple nature of fitness: an ever evolving beast built upon the imperfections of all who came before it. To others, especially those with the most dollars invested, this rise in competition is a call to batten down the hatches and protect what is theirs. This begs the question: what is “theirs” really? Doesn’t fitness belong to everyone and is it possible to harness its inherently volatile nature of change? That question becomes even more interesting when you consider that all modern fitness styles are derivative of the ones that preceded them or other modes of movement (dance). The human body does have a finite ability for movement and improvement, after all. So if you can’t control the public’s rampant need for change in fitness, their obvious need for a sense of  community or make them bionic through their workouts then what can you change? Well, you can (try to) control  access and your “people”  meaning your public and your staff…maybe. At the time of this post, SoulCycle, Equinox Gyms (SoulCycle’s owner), FlyWheel, and Barry’s Boot Camp have been the leaders in exclusivity marketing. Each cater to the same class of clients:  mostly white, well-heeled, well-connected, energetic and affluent – in short, the type that can afford and have come to expect access.  Since each offers complementary approaches to similar modalities,  it would seem that there would be room for all in the current market. Not all would agree, as the fight to retain the client and mystique of “specialness”  has heated up with this recent exchange proves. It has also become normal practice to expect reciprocal devotion from the instructors that these members are devoted to via non compete clauses.

So, is the answer to keep creating extremely specific workouts that target the fit and affluent few or to become more accessible to everyone else? Well, it depends on the end marketing goal. Community marketing by definition allows expansion and inclusion for all who see themselves reflected in said community. Built on a sense of belonging, it encourages loyalty from all included even through changes. Cults, however, are hyper-focused communities built on the premise that no one is special outside of that community and so emphasize exclusion of the “unspecial”. The danger in cult marketing is not that it happens, this is business after all and it does yield dollars. No, the real danger in cult marketing is its limitations for growth because, well,  if you continue to tell others they aren’t worthy and that you have all of the answers they will resent you.

Lastly, although client retention is the gold standard in the fitness club business so is client conversion, staff satisfaction and the rarely mentioned: word of mouth referral marketing. As such and in a predominantly service based industry like exercise delivery, public perception trumps current client perception. Why? because fitness is both aspirational and inspirational. The potential client becomes the real client based on their current socio-economic identity AND who they want to become; they want a tribe they are proud of and  can refer their loved ones to. In short: they want to belong and feel good about it. Change is inevitable especially now that pristine environments, skilled and beautiful staff, and the buzz of specialness are par for the course in fitness. Since the rate of change is becoming faster and more unpredictable it might be smarter for gyms to go back to the root of the thing, the effectiveness and feeling that fitness inspires. Aren’t those the 2 things that every member and  potential member chases?

Making people feel capable can be far more valuable in the long term than fleeting exclusivity. Love it or hate it, one brand that has done this well is CrossFit whose credo seems to be “yeah, but can you do it?”. CrossFit itself is a perfect example of an amalgamation of training with an open door policy AND cult marketing genius. There is a groundswell coming and I think it will be back to the basics of the overall fitness consumer very soon. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel” ` Maya Angelou

References

  1. NYObserver.com  “Lotte Berk in last stretch; http://observer.com/2005/04/lotte-berk-in-last-stretch/; 2005
  2. WellandGoodNyc.com ” SoulCycle bans fitness instructors from its classes”; http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2014/05/02/soulcycle-bans-fitness-instructors-from-its-cycling-classes/; 2014
Advertisements

It’s New York African Restaurant Week!

Standard

ImageImageImageImageLittle old me had the pleasure of being invited along as press to the Edible Bazaar Benefit,  the launch party for NY African Restaurant Week (#NYARW)! I knew I was in the right place when I opened the doors of Suite 36 only to be greeted with the most enticing aromas and music I’d experienced in awhile. Then there was the fashion! The textiles, patterns and bright colors were such a sight for sore eyes after such a hard, gray Winter, my friends! Upon entering I ran into Yolanda Sangweni, Entertainment Editor for Essence  Magazine and author of the AfriPop online magazine.  More on our conversation later but of note, she was one of 2 MC’s for the night. 

The Edible Bazaar Benefit was the kick-off event for the 2nd annual NYARW which is held in both Spring and Fall. In the spirit of community support, ticket sales benefited Keep A Child Alive and the Alliance of Hope for Lupus and the party was sponsored by Edible Communities, locally known for Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan magazines. While our palates were enticed with South African and West African flavors offered by restaurants Madiba and Accra respectively our ears were treated to the soulful sounds of Congolese songstress Rafiya. The owners of these restaurants also received awards for their positive impact in the African and African diaspora community.  

According to the NYARW website

“Most restaurants will be offering 3 course Prix Fixe meals at various prices (most restaurants offering at 28.95) visit BeUevents.com to buy tickets. Some restaurants will be offering the full menu at a 10% discount to all African Restaurant Week dinners” 

Un-Pasta Bolognese

Low Crab option to your favorite pasta!
Standard

Image Did you know that substituting grated/shredded carrots for bread crumbs and adding tomato paste in meat makes it perfect for a meatballs AND Bolognese? Yeah, me either until now! This recipe was born because my local market sells these awesome giant meatballs that I enjoyed until I found out they had rice and breadcrumbs in them. That and each if them costs about $2 a piece and who needs that when I can make them?? So I roasted some spaghetti squash and cooked this up fully intending to make my own Giant Bawls. Sheer laziness turned this into the Un-Pasta Bolognese you see here. Hey, at least I’m honest!

*Heat oven to 400 degrees, cut spaghetti squash in halves or quarter and sprinkle with salt, olive oil and maybe a tsp of vinegar (optional); roast in ben for up to 25 mins.

1Tbsp oil ( I used Olive)

1 Tbsp onion, chopped

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 4-6 p can of tomato paste

1 tsp garlic, minced or grated

1/2 grated carrot

sea salt & cayenne pepper to taste.

Heat oil in heavy skillet then add onion and sauté until onion is translucent. Season meat  and cook on medium to high heat until brown. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 mins, add carrots then cook another 3-5 minutes. Make sure meat is fully cooked and then add tomato paste and mix thoroughly. The paste will soak up all the liquid from the skillet so turn down heat to low so it doesn’t  burn.

* To make meat balls, add all ingredients together while meat is uncooked and cook from there.  When squash is finished roasting, scoop flesh out into a bowl and top with a hearty scoop of the meat mixture. Enjoy!

Do these 3 things to look tighter by May

Standard
Stay lean with StaceytheFabulous

Stay lean with StaceytheFabulous

They say Winter is ending. Not sure if I believe ’em but for positivity’s sake  let’s just say it is. That means your extremities will be making their big reveal in the next few weeks (yes, warm states, we know you’ve been sunbathing for ages)! For many of us,  Winter means heavier, more satisfying foods and hiding out at home more. In short, Winter can mean bigger backsides from less physical activity unless you take up Winter sports and train for something. Yada, yada, yada: what do we do about it and quickly? First, stop whining, we got ourselves here and 2nd:

Reduce/limit starchy foods. The grainy goodness that you pile your comfort foods on be they whole or refined (refined =  mass processed goods. No bueno) are giving you a belly. I know, I know, whole grains and beans ARE good for you but that big pot/or many sandwiches you feed on all day likely means you’re getting more than your share of starches. Replace some daily starchy meals with non-starchy vegetables and lean protein. You will not only look leaner but feel healthier with a balanced blood sugar level too. The American Diabetes Association has a handy list which I have excerpted at the end of this post.

Lift (heavier) weights.  Ladies, just how long do you intend to use those 5 lb dumb-bells?? Hello, your body has already adapted and is bored (also see below). Bored = no changes. As you age, lean muscle becomes your goldmine for looking fit and sleek. Build yours by adding 1-2 (then eventually 2-3)days of lifting moderately heavy weights ( moderately heavy means the 2nd of 3 sets of exercises is a challenge). Been using 5s? try 7s and 8s? been using 7s and 8s? try 10s and 12s and so on. The compliments you get will tell you how much your metabolism appreciates the boost.

Change up your routine. Kudos for exercising in the first place, by the way, it’s not easy for everyone. Still, your tried and true routine probably needs some tweaking if you have been doing it for awhile. First, change up your workout schedule then add more and less intense workouts throughout. If you’re over 30, you might have realized 2 days per week doesn’t really do as much as it used to and I’ve long since realized that this body needs a minimum of 4 to make and maintain changes. Personally, I find that a good barre class in between all the cycling and lifting I do really helps to lean me out AND as mentioned above, playing with my weight and intensity load does the trick. Find what you like it: forms of dance, zumba, swimming etc and add it to your regular routine.

Combine all 3 of these elements together now and you have a winning formula for looking Fabulously Healthy by Memorial Day, if not earlier. Get cracking and see you at the beach 🙂 

The following is a list of common non-starchy vegetables (ref. http://www.diabetes.org)

Amaranth or Chinese spinach

Artichoke

Artichoke hearts

Asparagus

Baby corn

Bamboo shoots

Beans (green, wax, Italian)

Bean sprouts

Beets

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celery

Chayote

Coleslaw (packaged, no dressing)

Cucumber

Daikon

Eggplant

Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)

Hearts of palm

Jicama

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Mushrooms

Okra

Onions

Pea pods

Peppers

Radishes

Rutabaga

Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)

Sprouts

Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)

Sugar snap peas

Swiss chard

Tomato

Turnips

Water chestnuts

Yard-long beans –

 

3 Types of Fats that will get you glowing by Spring

Fat is good for you!
Standard
Fat is good for you!

Fat is good for you!

Ever heard the saying: eat more fat to lose more fat? Yes, hopefully you have heard by now that a diet too low in fat can lead to overeating because you don’t feel full without fat. A diet too low in fat can also mean that your skin and hair don’t have that healthy glow you wish it had. I’m vain and like to eat far too much to not have plenty of healthy fats in my diet. Key word : healthy!

The Science

Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K; that’s why salad dressing was invented ( make your own or stick to oil and vinegar).  Antioxidant rich healthy fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated ones which provide omega 3s that support the body, brain, skin cell structure AND fight inflammation. Unsaturated fats are good in general because they lower cholesterol levels due to their structure: MUFAS have at least one double carbon bond  and PUFAS have more than one double carbon bond. Plus, ever notice how  when you cook certain meaty dishes there is a “skin” of fat on top? Yeah,  that is saturated fat and imagine globs of that in your arteries or clogging up your pores. Unsaturated fats don’t harden at room temperature and have less calories. * Some saturated fat is good for healthy cells but we’re talking minimal amounts. Not to mention, saturated fat is basically found in meat and animal by-products. At this point, we can’t dispute the science that a diet with too much meat and not enough vegetable is no bueno for long term health.

What to eat

MUFAs are found in avocados, nuts and seeds, olives and vegetable derived oils.

PUFAs are found in fish, seafood and vegetable derived oils.

Healthy sources of saturated fats are peanuts, coconut, palm oils and low fat dairy. 

If you read my blog then you know I advocate choosing real foods over fake  every time. That includes real fats over low fat versions of food too. My reasoning is that I stay satiated longer when I have the real thing than I do when I don’t which keeps me from over eating.  so no, I don’t believe in low fat as proven by my pantry filled with coconut and olive oil  and my snack of almonds, flaxseeds and walnuts. My advice? Use your vegetable oil sometimes but use the oils above liberally WITHIN A HEALTHY DIET and your skin and health will thank  you.

Check out the handy chart below from the University of Michigan’s website.

Selected Sources of MUFA with Serving Sizes
(Listed highest to lowest MUFA content)

Oils
(serving size:

1 tsp)

Nuts
(serving size)

Seeds
(serving size)

Butters (serving size)

Other 
(serving size)

Olive oil
Canola oil
Peanut oil
Sesame oil
Walnut oil
Soybean oil
Flaxseed oil
Grape seed oil
Mustard oil

Macadamias
(2-3)
Hazelnuts (5)
Pecans
(5 halves)
Almonds (7)
Cashews (6)
Pistachios (17)
Brazil nuts (2)
Peanuts (9)
Pine nuts (50)
Walnuts
(4 halves)

Sesame seeds
(1 Tbsp)
Pumpkin seeds
(47 seeds)
Ground flaxseed
(1 Tbsp)
Sunflower seeds
(3 Tbsp)

Almond butter
(½ Tbsp)
Cashew butter
(½ Tbsp)
Peanut butter
(½ Tbsp)
Tahini/sesame paste (2 tsp)
Sunflower seed butter
(2 tsp)

Avocado
(2 Tbsp or 1 oz)
Black olives (8)
Green olives (10)

Selected Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids 
(listed highest to lowest omega-3 content)

Oils
(serving size : 1 teaspoon)

Nuts and seeds
(serving size)

Flaxseed oil*

Flaxseeds (1 Tbsp)

Walnut oil

Walnuts (4 halves)

Canola oil

Pecans (5 halves)

Soybean oil

Pine nuts (50)

*Should be consumed raw and not used in cooking

5 Tricks to afford healthy living

Standard
Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

There seems to be a general consensus that a healthy  lifestyle is expensive. Sure, it can be since fresh produce seems to cost more than packaged foods and gym memberships can also be pricey. But what if I told you that it is less expensive than you think if you choose more selectively? Here are some tricks I use to afford being healthy and yes, I know that the opinion of  childless person might not be applicable to everyone and every situation but some might be.

  1. Reform your expense perspective: Gas is expensive (well, by U.S. standards), cable is expensive, your Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts habit is expensive, dining out adds up in more ways than one,  as does going out for drinks regularly or that 2 wine bottles per week to calm your nerves tendency. For me, at least half of those things can be done without or reduced to increase cash flow for other things. For example: I make my own coffee drink so that I can afford organic chicken and I don’t have cable so I can afford life ( cable is expensive!!)
  2. Be more active in your daily life so that the gym is just a bonus: Take more stairs, park farther away, bike, walk your kids to school, make after dinner walks and interactive video games a family time staple. Don’t just rely on getting to the gym to get moving. The local YMCA or recreation centers also have great rates if you want an indoor workout and there are often adult sporting leagues nearby. At the very least, find a couple of DVDs to get an at home workout.
  3. Avoid recipes provided by manufacturers: You’ve seen recipes on the side of containers like Pillsbury crescent rolls and even Velveeta cheese right? Understand that they simply want you to buy and use their products and could care less if they’re good for you. Avoid those products all together and opt for your grandma’s version ( minus the huge amounts of lard etc). Want dinner rolls? then try this recipe or this one;  they’re probably healthier store version AND you can substitute the types of flours you like. I’m not advocating you overindulging in sweets and baked goods (easiest way to pile on the pounds, folks) but I’d rather have you making your own cookies the old fashioned way than from pre-made dough.
  4. Plan ahead for weekly meals and make large batches to eat and freeze: Casseroles, stews and soups, slow cookers and one pot meals are your friends. Think about the flavors you want to taste and build up your “go-to” recipe list. Structure your plate to include protein (beans, fish or meats) , complex carbs (grains and vegetables), and heathy fats (avocados, olive, coconut, grape-seed oils). *Skip cured deli meats like hams etc and buy a rotisserie chicken for quick meals on the go. Personally, I really like knowing where my food comes from so I make 98% of my own meals knowing that I will have leftovers for days.
  5. For most fresh veggies, buy enough for the week and choose frozen for the rest. How many times have you had to toss veggies that went bad before you got to use them? Buy just enough for the meals you plan to make that week and FYI: to get the best vitamin benefit,  try not to chop them up until right before cooking. Canned veggies is the low man on the totem pole of vegetables because they (a)  use tons of salt to preserve them and (b) all of the nutrients can fade over time. If you do hav eto buy them then stick to canned beans.
  6. Learn to fuel yourself proactively instead of eating reactively: Eating for fuel and not just because you’re hungry can make  a huge difference on your energy levels, waistline and pocket book. When you’ve waited too long to eat, then the meal you eventually choose is one that is calorie heavy because your body is ravenous. Piling in so many calories at one time can cause weight gain because your body only processes so many at once and stores the rest for later. Don’t wait for that moment when you just can’t pass up that expensive take out and instead, have a decent sized breakfast and lunch with a couple snacks throughout the day. Fruit is a perfect snack because it comes pre-packaged so I toss some into my carry-all along with a boiled egg or 2 if I know it will be a long day. Oh and for those of who argue that takeout is cheap where you live: consider the one plate you buy probably costs 1/3 to make and has 2x the calories than if you made it yourself.

Easy Dinner Recipe Round up

Standard

Here are some recipe ideas that you can follow to the T or make your own for dinner tonight. All are highly nutritious and make multiple meals. Enjoy!!

Oven Baked Asian Sesame Chicken Wings from Primally Inspired

Sweet Potato Noodles with Tomato Sauce and Artichokes from The Lemon Bowl

Spicy Turkey Meat Balls fro The Crunchy Radish

Green Ginger Brown Fried Rice from The Crunchy Radish

Thai Ground Beef Spaghetti from MyHeartBeets

My version of Thom ka gai

yummy coconut milk and tumeric soup.
Standard

20140109-185641.jpg
Should I even mention the weather? It’s been C-c-cold EVERYWHERE! That, plus nursing a nasty respiratory infection, means only one thing in Casa Stacey : soup! To be honest, this coconut based soup is what happened after I chopped some root veggies, added come coconut milk and chicken broth and realized I had no chicken. It came out so fragrantly because I really sautéed the half cup of chopped onions and tsp of garlic in a couple tsps olive oil; then added a bay leaf and a tsp of turmeric. Brought it to a boil, let it simmer for 30 mins and then added a handful of chopped kale and voila! I love happy accidents!

The Scoop: What’s Hot & Not in Wellness

Hot on the trail of wellness news!
Standard
Hot on the trail of wellness news!

Hot on the trail of wellness news!

The latest on wellness news around the web!

  1. The FDA is phasing out antibiotics for weight gain in cattle? Wait, are they admitting they know something we don’t?
  2. Just in time for this huge meat recall.  Rats. Ew.
  3. Low meat turkey burgers?  Yep, and they sound delish (not dairy free).
  4. Vegetarian for beginners : Yay! I needed this to help me as I become mostly plant based.
  5. Your gut agrees about less meat/dairy
  6. Outdated “health” productsWe all fell for the marketing, yo.
  7. This news justifies my love of nuts

Savory Mini Chicken Pies

Gluten free high protein meat pies
Standard
Gluten free high protein meat pies

Gluten free high protein meat pies

These pretty little things were created to deal with my urge for baked carbs, my most troublesome feature of Seasonal Affected Disorder. I try to keep 2 days weekly for mostly cruciferous veggies but the weather is rainy and a bit on the dull side so that craving for something warm and chewy hit hard on one of those days. Usually my forays into baking are to bring you experiments with the recipes of other bloggers. That’s where I learned all about playing with low-carb and gluten-free flours ( NOT the same thing, btw) and getting the types of texture that soothe my chewy carb tooth. I figure now is a good time to start making more of my own recipes since we only have 3 weeks left in 2013, right? These mini meat pies use in a cupcake tin:

1 cup Almond flour

1/2 cup flax meal

2 egg whites

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1tsp thyme

black pepper to taste

2 tbsp COLD butter, coconut oil or ghee

1/4-1/2 lb of chicken

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt together. Crumble fat ( butter, coconut oil, ghee) into dry mixture with your fingers until you have pea and marble sized pieces throughout. Add egg white and mix into dough until sticky and cohesive. Spray cupcake openings with nonstick coconut oil. Press tbsps of dough into 4 cupcake openings then press indentation in middle for meat.

* Prepare chicken last to prevent cross contamination!

Place raw chicken in processor with 1/2 tsp of salt, thyme and black pepper. Pulse until well blended. Scoop into center of dough mixture. Sprinkle each with thyme if you like. Bake for 30 mins.

Review: These came out a bit dry so I will be refining the recipe even more to add moisture. Your comments and tips are welcome!