Flywheel: The Best Workout EVER (1st Ride Free!)

A fun fact about me: until around my 24th birthday, I’d never worked out. Well, that’s not completely true. I gained 20 or so pounds my freshman year of college (all-you-can-eat for 3 meals a day does apparently cause weight gain), and worked with a trainer that following summer to lose the weight before my second year of college. But besides those few sessions, fitness was just not my thing. I’m lucky to have a blazing-fast metabolism, and didn’t think it was much of an issue if I was happy with my weight.

But at some point a few years ago I decided my inability to run a mile was indeed a problem. I joined a gym, went 2-3 times a week, and did my best to get into shape. But I was finding myself pretty unmotivated; I would work up a sweat, but didn’t push myself nearly as hard as I knew I could. I tried a few of the classes at the gym and realized I was sweating a lot more when I was being told what to do, and wasn’t getting bored or stopping early.

Fast forward to a year or so later. My office (and therefore most convenient gym) had moved, and I had to decide on a new workout schedule. My roommate had tried Flywheel, an indoor cycling studio, and told me I had to give it a chance. I was terrified of spinning, and was convinced there was no way I’d make it through a class.

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Well, I did indeed make it through (though I nearly died, I’ll admit). And then I made it through 50 or so more classes. I honestly cannot say enough about Flywheel – it’s a fantastic cardio workout in 45 minutes – and has transformed me into someone who feels healthy and fit.

My favorite things about Flywheel:

  • the studios are fancy. typically I’m not into the over-the-top type of stuff, but for a spinning studio it just can’t be beat. they provide clip-in shoes (which is a huge thing for me; it lets you ride faster and stay steadier), towels, cold water, padded seats & ear plugs if you’d like them…the list goes on. there are also two amazingly nice showers in the Philly studio, with towels, deodorant, lotion and bliss spa shower products.
  • it’s competitive, but only in the best way. if you choose to do so, you can have your bike’s current power score listed on the TorqBoards throughout the class. you can see all other riders who have opted in as well, and it drives you to work even harder to up your ranking and overall power scores. while I don’t always participate on the board (really depends on how I feel before each class), I do watch it throughout the ride to see how I’m ranking. there’s no question in my mind that this motivates me and pushes me to work even harder throughout the classFlywheel
  • the app rules. Flywheel has an app that allows you to book classes, cancel, update your account info, etc. it also tracks all your metrics from every class, so you can open it up and see how you did afterwards. you’re shown your overall numbers as well as your rank in each class, which becomes addictive.unnamed-1_png_and_unnamed_png_and_Inbox_-_fralcole_gmail_com_-_Gmail
  • it’s not just cardio. one song of each ride is devoted to your arms. while you still pedal during it, you focus on working your arms with 2 and 4 pound bars. and trust me, these things get heavy.
  • the instructors are the best in the business. I definitely have my favorite instructors at my studio, but I would never hesitate to take a class with any of them. they’re friendly before and after class, motivational and super energetic. I’ve taken a lot of exercise classes, and never had such a consistent group of top-notch teachers.

Is there anything I don’t like about Flywheel? Well, it’s not cheap. At first I was spending about $20 per class, but when I started going 3-4 times a week I realized their monthly option would be much cheaper. So now I pay $180 a month for unlimited rides, which ends up costing me at most $15 per class (I’ve gotten it down to closer to $10 in some months). Not bad, but certainly not less than a typical gym membership.

Did I mention your first ride is FREE?! If you happen to live nearby a Flywheel studio, try it. Now.

Darby Smart Magnetic Terrariums Project: A Review

I’m back! Sorry it took a little longer than expected – moving really is the worst – but I’m excited to be back in the swing of things, and plan to post much more regularly going forward.

As many of you may know, I love a good D.I.Y. project. I also love the idea of greenery in my home & office, but can’t seem to keep plants alive for very long. A couple of weeks ago I ended up perusing the projects on Darby Smart’s website (can’t remember how I found it to begin with) when I saw a fantastic project for magnetic terrariums. Everything was included: the containers, moss, stones and, most importantly, the air plants. I’d been told air plants were ridiculously easy to keep alive – they survive on air after all! – so I figured I might as well give it a shot. And better yet, the offered me $10 off my first order! Nine dollars for three finished terrariums can’t be beat.

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Unfortunately I spaced out and didn’t take any photos of the crafting process, but I will tell you that it was extremely easy. I actually made them at work, and spent probably 5-7 minutes on each one. The instructions are all available online (they give you the code to enter for each specific project), and everything I needed was included in the box. I currently have all three attached to my space heater on my desk, since it’s magnetic and I have no need to run it during the summer. Check out my results:

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I love that you can customize the moss and pebbles, as well as the amount and angle of the plastic. They gave me tons of extra supplies too, so if I bought extra air plants and containers I could easily make more. Here’s a more detailed shot of my favorite one:

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So cute, right? I will note one thing: air plants are not zero maintenance. Darby Smart recommends lightly spritzing or soaking them in water for 5-7 minutes every 3-4 days. I’ve had them for a few weeks now, and have been soaking them every Tuesday and Friday and they look almost as good as new. Some of the ends look a little brown and dry, but I think that’s normal. The fact that they’re not completely dead already is pretty impressive for me.

Darby Smart has a ton of different craft options, all at super reasonable prices. I just ordered another project and can’t wait to complete it. Even if you’ve never done something like this, their projects are super simple and the instructions are clear and easily understood. Plus, if you sign up with this link you’ll also save $10 off your first project. Get crafting!

 

Sorry, I’ve Been Busy

Apologies for not posting the past week or so; I have been packing up all my belongings in a house I’ve shared with roommates for nearly five years, which apparently takes a loooooot of time. Man do you accumulate a million things in half a decade! Good news is I’ll be all settled in by the end of today (then I have to unpack – yay!) to my new one-bedroom apartment. I should be back to my regular posting schedule next week :)

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Up to $15 Free in August from American Express via Shop Small (select cities)!

For the past several years American Express has offered an awesome perk to their cardholders on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. They call the day Small Business Saturday, and offer up a statement credit of up to $25 (in 2013 the amount was $10) per American Express card. All you have to do is sign up online and shop at a “small business” (basically anywhere that isn’t a chain) that accepts Amex. You can even purchase a gift certificate to your favorite neighborhood store for the exact amount of the credit, essentially getting it absolutely free. It really is that easy!

Well, this year American Express is offering an additional Small Business promotion, this time in five select cities – Philadelphia (woo!), Sacramento, Houston, Miami / Ft. Lauderale & Minneapolis / St. Paul – and the promotion runs through the entire month of August. The offer is for $5 off up to three purchases on each of your enrolled American Express cards. I’ve got three cards, and since I live in Philadelphia that means I’ll be getting $45 total refunded as long as I shop nine times at local merchants this month. Easy peasy.

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Again, all you have to do is sign up each card here and go out shopping in any of the cities above. If you want to be sure your store is participating, there’s a great search feature at the bottom of the page. I’ve found that any local non-chain establishment will count, but it never hurts to double-check.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up and start shopping!

Coffee Stirrer Art

When it comes to DIY, I’m always looking for inexpensive and fun projects. After seeing this one on the Make & Do Girl I figured I’d give it a try. After work last Thursday I drove to AC Moore to pick up the supplies – 6 small bottles of acrylic paints ($.69 each), a few wooden frames ($1 each), some foam brushes (5 cents each!), a paint tray ($1 or so), glue (already had) and some fallback craft sticks if the coffee stirrers didn’t work ($1.50). The total came to about $12 after a coupon. Plus I had four of the frames, a few foam brushes & a ton of paint leftover.

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The first step was to paint the wooden frame white – I just thought it would be a better border than the natural wood. I also painted the backing of the frame since I knew it might be partially viewable in the end. Then I took coffee stirrers I picked up at a local coffee shop (and by picked up I mean stole. And yes, it was awkward when the barista saw me doing it) and used a pair of kitchen scissors to cut off one rounded edge. This project would have been much quicker and easier with falt-edge stirrers, by the way; but can’t exactly be picky when you aren’t paying. Next I set it in the frame and cut it to fit.

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After making sure the first stirrer was the right length, I used it as a guide and lined it up to the rest of the stirrers to cut them all to size.

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I definitely got a little impatient during the cutting stage – the stirrers were a little thicker than I had hoped (the craft sticks were way too thick to even cut, so they headed straight to my craft cabinet), and it was a pretty tedious process. Some sticks cracked halfway through cutting them and others were just super stubborn. But after almost a full episode of “House Hunters” I had enough for one frame.

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Once I had all the stirrers cut to size, I laid them out on an old magazine and, using the same foam brush from painting the frame, I started on the stirrers. There really wasn’t a method to it, I just dipped the foam brush in a color and swiped over a few at a time. After a while the foam brush got dirty, so I threw it out and moved onto a new one. At five pennies each it was easier than washing and reusing…sorry environment! I had to pick up the sticks sometimes to make sure I was getting them completely covered on each end, since they’d be fully visible. I purposely made them to look weathered and sort of watercolor-y because it was the look I was going for. It did get a little messy, but was tons of fun and realllllly easy. I have NO art skills whatsoever, so truly anyone can do it. Including young children, as long as the stirrers are pre-cut for them.

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I moved the painted stirrers to a paper towel to dry – I was afraid they might stick to the magazine and break. Why a paper towel seemed like a better option I couldn’t tell you. But seeing them laid out next to each other got me pretty excited for the final product.

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I waited less than 5 minutes for everything to dry – the stirrers seemed fine and I couldn’t wait to see the art all done. I spread out some glue on the back of the frame, started placing the sticks down & sliding them next to each other one by one. Note: the picture below is showing what turned out to be way too much glue. It was seeping out between the stirrers, so I wiped a lot of it off after the first two were in place.

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Drum roll please…

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I lurrrrrrv it. Like a lot. And don’t worry, I fixed that random blue dot on the 5th green stick. Here she is in her current spot on my bedroom dresser. Love how it blends in well with the color of my earrings and other jewelry:

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I’m SO proud of myself. I realize it’s only a tiny piece of art, but I’m not the artsy type and this project makes me motivated to do even bigger ones.