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Just Did It

Embracing my inner athlete



The author, looking for a challenge, takes a spin at FitCycle Pound Ridge as part of her survey of local work-out options.

Photo by Rana Faure

 As a lifelong non-athlete, I decided at the age of 51 that it was finally time to get fit. I know, I know. What took me so long? 

My first step was to find something I didn’t hate—and maybe even liked—to do on a regular basis. So, I turned to local Facebook groups for suggestions. “Come work in the fields at Amawalk Farm!,” “Join Moms Boots & Mugs for a hike this Sunday!,”  “Westchester Adventure Boot Camp!,” my trusty advisors replied.

I should note that my family and friends were more than skeptical. But, once I determined that walking the dog 10,000 steps a day was not going to make up for a slowing metabolism, I publicly declared my intentions, and then I simply had to follow through.

In a Katonah Parents Facebook thread, Regina Cindrich told me “Crossfit Bedford Hills has a new on-ramp program. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.” So I reached out to owner Michael MacDowell, who called me an athlete in our first exchange, and I liked him right away. “I always use that term because everyone is capable of being athletic. Beginners of all kinds are welcome,” he explained. At my introductory session, he had me warm up and then drop and give him five burpees. The first one was easy. Let’s just say I’m glad there’s no video evidence of my fourth and fifth. Eleanor Hershey, a Katonah Mom, was just finishing a class and told me “I have tried it all. So far, the best results, the most challenging, rewarding, and the most fun has been CrossFit.” 

Each Work Out of the Day (WOD) includes squatting, weight lifting, pull ups, push ups, and sprints with your classmates. “A year ago, I couldn’t do a pull up,” recalls Hershey, “I just did 36!” I loved the energy and camaraderie and the potential of becoming an athlete at CrossFit, despite the fact that my body quivered for 24 hours after my first WOD. 

My next invitation came from Simone Gell, who teaches a barre class for equestrians and others interested in “strengthening, lengthening, and greater flexibility” at Mane Barre Studio in North Salem. Gell’s following is as enthusiastic as MacDowell’s. “Mane Barre is the best thing to have happened to me, fitness-wise, in a long time!” “Fierce and fun!” “I see my body transforming!” wrote her fans. With testimony like that, how could I not try? 

Gell trained in barre at Manhattan’s Exhale and designs her classes specifically for women. Fifty percent of her regulars are riders, but others come to her to complement their spinning or yoga regimes. Gell’s routine—half on the floor and half at the barre—was tough. She encouraged us all to push our personal limits in a safe way, and I liked her dedication to building a strong foundation for healthy living and her proven results.

Next, I headed to the luxurious Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco for a water exercise class—part of the adult aquatics program. With high hopes, I dove right in with about 20 other women and was not disappointed. Our super energetic teacher, Carol Migliorelli, started us out with a gentle warm up and quickly had us pushing and pulling, sliding, lifting, and lunging against the resistance of the water. My thighs burned as I worked to keep up with Migliorelli, my cheeks ached from smiling, and by the end of the hour, I’d collected invitations to try Zumba and Nia classes with my very social classmates. 

Week two started with a visit to The Yoga Loft at Bedford Post, a sun-drenched studio where classes ranging from restorative to vinyasa are held. Tricia Keane led us in a slow approach to yoga, making sure that we moved into our poses safely. Thanks to her cues, I didn’t lose my balance once. “My mission when I teach yoga is accessibility, to offer a practice that can be modified to make everyone feel welcome,” Keane noted. According to our post-class buzz, she had clearly succeeded.

Several members of Pound Ridge Working Mothers Group encouraged me to try spinning at FitCycle Pound Ridge, a boutique cycling and fitness center just around the corner from my home. Dawn Davidson wrote, “FitCycle’s Spin It Off program is inspiring and invigorating, combining fitness, health, and empowerment.” Owner Elizabeth Harrington added, “I can help you with your challenge!” So, I grabbed a water bottle, and took my first spin. It was tough at first, since my attention span allows me approximately 34 minutes of exercise before I start looking for an exit. 

But, I persevered and tried it again and again. The geographic convenience, the eight-week challenge that ramps up aerobic and strength training with healthy habits, and the supportive team made for a winning combination. At the end of the second week of sampling, I signed up to “spin it off” three days a week, leaving me plenty of time to revisit the other classes I enjoyed so much. 

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