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Core Value

Kicking it up a notch in the quest for flat abs



Raisfeld tried Orange Theory in Mt Kisco, an intense one-hour session that works from the inside out. “I’m not ready to give in to slack or gravity,” she says. Workout attire by NUX Active USA, represented by Jodi Campbell, Pound Ridge

Photo by Rana Faure

Full disclosure: I see no reason to suffer for fitness. For me, physical vigor is a happy by-product of the way I live—energetically enjoying the world outside, whether on a hike, a run, a ride, snowboard, snowshoes, skis, paddleboard, or rollerblades. There is pleasure inherent in strenuous activity, and the result, a generally good level of cardio and tone. But comes a time when we all need to kick it up a notch. My long history of daily pushups and sit-ups wasn’t cutting it (or my abs) any longer. I feared a creeping weight gain or muscular slackness that comes from aging and a desire to re-shape the reflection in the mirror. It was time for a new regimen. 

I turned to some local experts to see where to begin. “The core is the center of your universe,” says Bedford Hills chiropractor and tri-athlete Stuart Weitzman. “Everything else branches out from that.” And it’s simple, he insists, and all about consistency. Five minutes a day. To show his clients how simple, he’ll get down on the floor and go through his routine—a series of abdominal lifts, bridges, rotations, side crunches, planks, cat/cows, and threading the needle. Not only are these familiar exercises good for the abs, they are good for the opposing force, the back. It is a given, he says, that if “you’re not able to stabilize in the center, you’re going to breakdown somewhere else.”

Amy Peck, a personal trainer and nutritionist in Katonah also preaches that “small and simple changes can change the long term trajectory towards a healthier, stronger, and more attractive future.” Hers is a three-pronged approach involving nutrition (focus on protein plus produce, and eating less starch and sugar); daily energy output (with shorter, harder workouts, aka high-intensity interval training at least three times a week), and stress management (something as achievable as a minute of deep breathing several times a day).

Janielle Rodriguez, a ball of energy who teaches at Anytime Fitness (and they mean anytime, it’s open 24 hours a day) in Bedford Hills, believes in the importance of making a strong core a way of life. “Train yourself to have your abs engaged at all times. When you practice good posture, abs engaged, it’s a workout in itself,” she says. The class I took was made up of one-minute cycles of standing, sitting, and laying down movements, using both weights and gravity to up the metabolism and strengthen the 29 muscles that make up the core. She promised I’d be sore the next day. She was right.

The program at Orange Theory Fitness in Mt Kisco employs heart monitors to track the intensity. Stacy Geisinger, local blogger and fan of the Orange Theory regimen says, “I’m obsessed with the numbers. The numbers actually push me.” Following the directions of the head-set-wearing and stopwatch-holding coach, I found myself working harder than I would ever push myself, my efforts flashing in digits on a big screen at the front of the class. Moving from a baseline pace to an all-out push, I ran through a series of exercises from treadmill to rowing machine to various floor exercises, some with weights, all for a set period of time. “Each and every day the workout is totally different,” enthused my OTF host, “though it’s always total body.” A mantra painted on the wall says “Good things come to those who sweat.” Walking out, shaking, and just a little nauseated, I hoped that that was true.

Clients of Shawn Mallon, owner of Shawn’s Fitness in Katonah, get their one-on-one workouts in 30-minute doses. His goal: “How can I get your core fit—that’s shoulders to knees and everything in between—to function for life and longevity?” Shawn believes the most effective recipe over the long term is twice a week visits of 30 minutes. “Too hard, too quick, no good,” says Shawn. Under his watchful eye, you move through that day’s workout with correct posture and abs engaged. It’s consistent workouts over time, he says, that equal success.

My final visit in my quest towards greater fitness was to Corelab in Katonah, a storefront space with eight black workout platforms known as Megaformers and one superfit teacher talking her students through contortions that make use of the machine’s features to yield benefits in cardio, strength, balance, and flexibility all at once. The tag line of Corelab is “SHAKE SWEAT SMILE.” Watching the women reflected in the mirrors, I could see why the smile comes last. This is a hard workout, but you get out what you put in. And isn’t that true of just about anything in life?


UNDERCOVER- Your “six pack” may be hiding below a layer of belly fat. Finding it is more than just about looking good. Amy Peck, a nutritional therapist in Katonah, says that while fat on the thighs is a cosmetic issue, fat around the midsection is not a good indicator for long-term health and aging.

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