Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘healthy’ Category

Web Zen

In blog, healthy, inspiration, list, website, website wednesday on March 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Spring has sprung! Pastel color schemes invade every SoHo storefront. The food trucks burst from hibernation, trailing cupcakes and gay ice cream in their wake. Children fete tortuous tales of chocolate bunnies laying eggs and raising a zombie Jesus from the grave. Now is the season of new beginnings and spring cleaning, both physical and mental. Here are three sites that will help you realign and rejuvenate your fabulous self.

Zen Habits

Blogger Leo Babauta can be infuriating at first. He’s so calm and happy! Keep calm and carry on reading, though; Leo has some great insights to share. Will you rise at 4:30 am like him to experience the calm of the morning, or spiritually connect with centuries of tea drinkers as you sip your morning cup of oolong? Maybe not, but his simplicity and minimalism are great reminders to slow down and rethink how you go about your day.

The Daily Love

Mastin Kipp wants you to love yourself! Really, really love yourself! His Twitter feeds, @TheDailyLove and @MastinKipp, are chock full of positive energy and incorrigible enthusiasm. Have them delivered to your phone only if you accept that your cheek muscles will ache by day’s end from smiling so much. His site often features guest bloggers who carry the same joyous message.

holistic fitness for the real girl

Leanne Shear, a personal trainer in New York, focuses her writing on physical fitness, but her message extends to mental well-being as well. She uses her personal slip-ups (we’re on vacation! margaritas all round!) as teachable moments, in a voice that’s equal parts girlfriend and guru. With her self-challenging, can-do attitude, her blog is a gym bunny’s inspiration.

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Recess

In american, food, greenwich village, healthy, nyu on September 28, 2010 at 7:26 pm

When you need a respite from your frustrating, pedantic, work-a-day life, don’t just take a coffee break; go to Recess.

Recess, squatting on University Place at 10th Street, is a throwback to elementary school, with all the perks of adulthood thrown in. The walls and ceiling are modern, jagged, like pieces of a geometric puzzle. Mismatched striations of wood, blond and brunette, are sutured together at awkward angles and cover every surface. Zebra-striped ceiling panels, angled spotlights, and trapezoidal wall posts add to the Picasso-esque feel of the interior. A long central table is reminiscent of elementary school cafeteria tables, though this one is scattered with copies of the Wall Street Journal and the Daily News. The front wall is floor-to-ceiling glass, making it one of the best indoor people-watching spots in the Village.

The menu concept, as the cafe’s name suggests, is a grown-up twist on grade school. The sandwich menu is scant yet solid. The Mac Daddy, hearty toasted whole wheat bread smeared with macadamia-almond butter, raspberry preserves and sliced banana, is way better than any Wonderbread concoction you munched as a kid. The Say Cheese is slathered with four types of cheese and leaves your fingers greasy; pair it with the TnT Tomato Soup for a piquant match. My favorite, the Can’t Beet It, is stuffed with beets, hummus, sprouts and avocado; it practically announces how healthy it is with every bite. (Protip: when choosing a side dish, get the marinated cucumber salad.)

If you’re looking for an excuse to wake up early, a variety of breakfast toasts (including one called The Wonka- I’ll let your imagination run wild) and $2-a-cup coffee should do the trick. Recess also whips up smoothies and frozen yogurt concoctions, good for any hour of the day.

Just like Mom used to say, use the bathroom before you go. No, seriously. Recess’s restroom is decked out in wall-to-wall mirrors and a super-cool faucet system that descends from the ceiling, reminiscent of a California miner’s panning chute. This bathroom pass is almost as fun as Recess itself.

New Amsterdam Market

In event, festival, financial district, food, healthy, nyc, treasure trove on September 23, 2010 at 7:57 am

The New Amsterdam Market is lower Manhattan’s answer to the Union Square Greenmarket. With more space, fewer vendors and lower prices, the Market is a great spot to mill about, sample some rich foods, and pick up absurdly cheap groceries.

Trains and traffic rattle above the old Fulton Fish Market, now replete with rows of stalls, each backed by a chalkboard advertising its wares. A few fresh produce stands, manned by gentlemen with lined faces and cracked hands, stand at the edges of the market. Local restaurants, including Jimmy’s 43 and Porchetta, have also set up shop, offering $5 sandwiches and sliders. Make your way inward, though, and there are much richer treasures to uncover. You may find yourself tearing indelicately at pizza Bianca, an oily foccaccia caked with goat cheese, or indulging in the thick, smoky and intensely flavorful bacon from Brooklyn Cured. A few tables down, you might lick prize-winning ricotta or a fun, grainy duck confit from wooden ice cream spoons. (The duck is prepared three other ways: smoked breast meat, prosciutto, and a strong salami). You can cleanse your palate with delicious agua fresca, squeezed from fresh cantaloupe and watermelon and sprinkled with chopped mint, or a surprisingly hoppy probiotic tea called Kombucha.

The more obscure foods are worth a taste test as well. Nettle butter, a pea green paste, is lemony and fresh. A flat, doughnut-shaped Ruis bread, crumbly and nutty, pairs beautifully with thinly-sliced Cheddar and cucumbers at the Nordic Breads stand. Sweet hot mustards from School House Kitchen are zestfully kicky (and they’re launching in Whole Foods this week!) Last weekend, the Anthony Road Wine Company held a grape-stomping demonstration in wooden vats, and invited patrons to get their feet dirty. (This writer’s opinion? Feels like stepping in a lot of seaweed.)

The best part of the New Amsterdam Market (after the food, of course) is the people. Since the Market is a bit of a hike from the nearest subway, the crowds are enthusiastic but not oppressive. The merchants are eager to engage, unlike the Union Square Greenmarket, where cramped space and forced expediency can press you to pay for your nasturtiums and get the hell out. Through pick-up conversations with New Amsterdam vendors, I learned how to process and harvest cocoa beans, where to take classes on killing pigs, and a few neat descriptors for cheese (Cabo is sweet and nutty, Landaff is sour and rustic). I’ll be back for the conversations, and to try a bit more of that bacon.

Crunch

In gym, healthy, nyc on February 19, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Crunch is a man’s man’s man’s gym. At its location on Lafayette Street, just south of Astor Place, the gym gets the job done without trying to look pretty. The walls are broad swaths of dusty rose and violet, teal and silver, like an grown-up plastic play set. This promising start for an 80s-inspired decor soon falls apart, though, in a jumble of clear plastic chairs, cartoony art deco rugs and empty cardboard boxes littered in corners. The rough-and-tough melting pot of clientele match the decor: the men have huge muscles, the women have no breasts, and the only dress code is sweat.

A mashup of cardio machines dominates the front half of the main floor. Choosing a machine is like playing ChatRoulette: sort of fun but annoying too, and ultimately nonsensical. Would you rather listen to the radio or check your email while you cycle? Which is better, the treadmill with a personal TV or the tricked-out elliptical with a large flat screen overhead? What about the bike with the Sims-esque video game that lets you choose which type of route to follow? (No, you can’t ride off the highway or crash into the redwoods. I tried.) The high-tech mixing and matching makes it difficult to get a good workout without experimenting with the technology first.

Beyond the cardio, the weights are laid out on the open plan, a giant warehouse with rows and rows of black, hulking machines. The benches and machines aren’t organized in a particularly logical pattern, which makes it easy to spot the new gym members, scanning the room timidly for their next exercise. (All I want is a leg press, man!) Long racks of free weights line opposite walls, with mirrors that declare, “You look gooood. REAL GOOD.” Similar quips are ubiquitous around the gym, all written with a cocky-but-funny tone, like a high school jock with a dry wit. Upstairs, a smattering of cardio and weight machines and a stretching area with stability balls jockey for place with an imposing boxing ring. Downstairs, a glass-walled studio hosts all of Crunch’s classes, with a dungeon of a spin room in the back. The class listings are inventive (my eye was caught by one that involves a balance beam), but the lack of studio space means that many classes are only held once a week, often at odd hours.

Crunch seems to realize that its bright main floor, where you can’t help but stare at others around you, combined with the lack of logic in the layout of the equipment, can lead to a lot of angst for newbies. Thus, the gym very cleverly offers two free personal training sessions with its free two-week trial period. Trainers are even more ubiquitous here than at David Barton Gym, if that’s possible: when they’re not on the floor with a client, they’re chilling at their desks, right next to the check-in counter. You can’t miss these guys.

My first session with a trainer was challenging, engaging and motivating; I walked away feeling like a million bucks. The second session, unfortunately, wasn’t even a session. After awkwardly pitching a Crunch membership to me multiple times, my trainer admitted that he wasn’t allowed to keep me on the floor for more than half an hour if I didn’t purchase something; management’s orders. Not only did I feel lousy for getting half a workout, but I was left questioning the pep and praise of my trainer at our first session. Was it all just a sales pitch? If I can’t trust my trainer with my body, why would I trust him with my money? I would have been happy with one solid session and a discussion of membership options afterward, but that’s not what Crunch promised.

The frustrating disorganization of Crunch’s facility and the patronizing dishonesty of its advertising make me question whether Crunch should be trusted with my health, much less anyone else’s.

David Barton Goes Viral!

In gym, healthy, nyc on February 3, 2010 at 11:47 am

My article “David Barton Gym” was picked up by Yoga Bin!

Check it out here.

Many thanks to Anthony Zillmer for making this review possible!

David Barton Gym

In gym, healthy, nyc on February 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

The Barnes and Noble on Astor Place is no more. Today, if you push through its heavy wooden double doors, you’ll know immediately that you’re not in Kansas. The new front lounge could be from a neo-Gothic, swanky hotel or an exclusive nightclub, with large candelabras stuffed with dozens of long black tapers. A gift shop to your right hawks chopped-up couture fashion on consignment from London, hard plastic Gummi Bear backpacks, chunky Chanel jewelry, coffee table books and silver absinthe fountains. A bass-bumping electronica soundtrack matches the jewel-toned lighting. You half expect to turn around and see a model or TV celebrity with drink in hand.

Congratulations! You’ve found the David Barton Gym, the gym that thinks it’s a club, where dedicated, rich people come to work as hard as they play. The clientele is fit and fabulous, sporting tight yoga pants and muscle tanks to show off those rippling biceps. On one visit, I saw a tall, lanky man in tight jeans picking up his giant fur coat from the cloakroom. You don’t want to mess around with poor fashion choices here; other David Barton locations are iconic gay hot spots, and I know boys who’ve met their boyfriends at the new location. Moral? No baggy T-shirts.

The decor is dark and would please any club bunny. Slate grey walls are transformed by David Barton’s trippy post-80s lighting design: omnipresent orange spotlights, splashes of magenta and chartreuse across columns and glinting machines, a glowing aubergine ceiling. Mirrors abound, concealing long stretches of wall, interspersed among weight machines, stretching long and thin on stairwell landings, and lurking in a tarnished and oh so bohemian way in the bowels of the 40,000 square foot facility.

Funky display pieces act as road signs in case you get lost. Face to face with a lifesize Chinese dragon costume lurking in the shadows? You’re in the Hall of Cardio on the ground floor. Lounging on a purple crushed velvet Victorian fainting couch? That’s downstairs by the glass-walled Pilates studio. Wandering past a curtain of oversized Chinese throwing stars toward a three-story-tall skull with a dumbbell in its teeth? Well… you could be anywhere; that’s over the main stairwell, carved in relief into the clay-coated wall. The pièce de résistance, a floor-to-ceiling disco ball that can house a DJ and turntable, nestles behind the bright upstairs studio, like a miniature Death Star on coke. (The ball was apocryphally salvaged from a club favored by David Barton and kept in storage for ten years, waiting for just such a purpose as this one.)

Like its clients, the David Barton Gym both looks good and feels good. A fleet of state-of-the-art stationary bikes, ellipticals, steppers and treadmills gleams on the second floor, facing floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Astor Place. Behind the cardio armada lie long racks of free weights, with adjoining high-ceilinged rooms dedicated to weight machines and benches. A large stretching area with stability balls and yoga mats is tucked away in back. Three yoga studios are floored with burnt wood imported from Milan and lined with rows of fat, flickering luminaries. David Barton offers a full schedule of yoga and Pilates classes, taught by tough  yet loving instructors; you want to hate them for kicking your ass so hard, but you just can’t. If you’re more of a one-on-0ne guy or gal, ripped personal trainers abound.

The women’s changing rooms (I can’t speak for the men’s) are carpeted and spacious, with cherry-colored walls, fuchsia fluorescent lights, and five or six alcoves of dark wooden lockers and gleaming silver accents. Rows of roomy showers stand next to an inviting Russian bath, opaque with vapor. Large magnifying mirrors are great for checking out how hot your naked self is, and for enjoying all the freebies David Barton provides its clients: body wash, shampoo, conditioner, disposable razors, Q-tips, cotton balls, body lotion, mouthwash, blow dryers, and hair products by Bumble and bumble. Other occasional perks include after-hours cocktail parties and free Perrier in the lobby, so you can sip in style all day long.

The biggest drawback to David Barton is the high membership fees, even if you take advantage of their student rates ($89/month after initiation fee) or one of their aggressive sign-up campaigns ($0 initiation fee for the month of January.) If you can afford it, though, I can’t think of a gym where I’d rather be.