Day # 9 – Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Pilates Reformer)

I have long practiced yoga and have taken an occasional mat Pilates class, but I have never taken a Pilates reformer class. Day #9 of my challenge took me to Poway Pilates, a charming little Pilates studio in Old Town Poway.

A reformer is a machine that aids you in your Pilates’ workout, offering the user resistance to focus on core strength, posture and flexibility. In another setting, you may think it looks like something used in Fifty Shades of Grey!

Upon arrival at Poway Pilates, I was met by the instructor, Jill, a darling little woman, who apologized that the power was out in the neighborhood so class would involve no music or air conditioning. The class began with some off reformer exercises including lifting with weighted balls and a circular thigh master. We spent the majority of the class on the reformer, which is quick to buck you off if you aren’t using the right level of tension. Half way through, the lights, music and air conditioning turned back on. Thank goodness! The reformer does provide an all-over workout which I enjoyed.

The reformer adds a very different dimension to the workout. I found the class moved very quickly and offered a lot of variety; which is super important to me because my mind wonders.

All in all, I would certainly go back for another Pilates class. At Poway Pilates, new members can take unlimited classes for $29 for 2-weeks.

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Day #8: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Find the Bull’s Eye)

Taking advantage of a Living Social deal, I went to archery class on Sunday for Day #8 of my Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge. Located way down in Otay Mesa, adjacent to the Olympic Training Center, is the Roadrunner Archery Club. My Dad and I found our way to the range for an early morning lesson.

We were met with by our instructor, a slight woman who could clearly handle a bow and arrow, but had a no-nonsense approach to teaching a group of Living Social students. She was quick to remind us that any unsafe behavior would result in being kicked off the range. I can only refer to her as “she” because she never introduced herself to the class. She just started in with the fact that we had to sign the waiver, and we couldn’t touch anything without her direction. She gave us about 10 minutes of instruction on how to hold the bow, how to place the arrow and the best form for trying to hit the target. With that limited instruction, she invited us to the line to start our own practice. She never smiled during the class in spite of the fun-nature of the students.

My Dad and I, along with our fellow Living Social’s, enjoyed the experience in spite of the luke warm reception from the instructor, who apparently was put out for having to teach a class on a Sunday morning. Some shots would end up on the target, while others would sail far past. We hoped to not hit anyone on the walking trail behind the range.

Overall the experience was a lot of fun in spite of grumpy pants being our instructor. Highly recommend!

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Day #7: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Swing Dancing)

My great adventure around San Diego took me back to the San Diego Central Library yesterday but this time for a swing dance lesson under the dome. The very talented team from Swing Dance San Diego hosts free swing dance lessons at the Central Library a few times per month. In honor of the Library’s 1st anniversary, they hosted a special lesson under the dome on a Saturday morning.

I took along my parents, experienced dancers and graduates of Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion School, to help bridge the gap between my inexperience with swing and my dread of possibly dancing with a stranger. I have to give it to the instructors – they offer a very friendly and approachable process for learning the basic steps. They make all students rotate partners so I did have to endure a few wet fish hand shakes and beat-deficient dancers but all in all, the experience was a lot of fun. In just 30-minutes, they were able to teach us a few steps, in an entertaining and engaging manner. I was impressed that the 30 participants were all ages, shapes and sizes.  Like my parents, there were a few ringers in the group, but generally speaking, most attendees were new to the dance.

After 30-minutes of lessons, and a performance by the professionals, there was an open dance session where we could try out our new steps. Taking a swing lesson overlooking San Diego was an unique way to spend a morning!

 

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Day # 6: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (How Did I End Up in the Circus?)

On my schedule for today was an aerial yoga class, which I assumed meant a hearty yoga session using a silk hammock. It felt the perfect mix of working out, while dreaming of being in a swaying hammock on the beach in Mexico with a Corona in hand. I had researched aerial yoga classes online and seen the pictures of the flowing poses harnessed above the ground so thought I might be successful at this experience. Off to Aerial Revolution I went this morning.

I should have known I was in the wrong class when I didn’t see any silky hammocks suspended from the rafters. Instead, I found silks of fabric hanging from a rig point at least 30 feet in the air. I thought maybe part of the class was going to be tying off our own hammocks in the pools of silk – at this point I still have a zen mind. My fellow yogi’s were busy stretching and talking about the latest tricks they had tried in a previous class. Tricks? I don’t remember my yoga instructors referring to tricks, but rather poses. Maybe Aerial Revolution has their own lingo. The only other newbie in the class is an overly spirited flower child that was singing while she stretched. She announced how excited she was for the class after giving herself a round of applause. I’m giving myself a round of applause for just being there.

The warm-up solidified that I was indeed in the wrong class. The instructor asked us to run laps, do walking handstands and down dog worm stretches the length of the gym. At this point I’m longing for my Core Power yoga class, which always starts in child’s pose. After the grueling “warm up,” the fiercely  strong instructor, Megan, invited us to chose our silk. I felt virgin white was the right choice since I was clearly experiencing something new, and I felt divine intervention was going to be necessary. The first directive, given to the flower child, the aerial mermaids and me, was to climb the silk, Russian style. That required us to wrap our foot around the silk and then climb up using the wrapped foot as a base for the other. There was nothing Russian about my first attempt other than hoping I was a Russian doll, and my aerial rock star was deep inside waiting to be discovered. The flower child climbed her way to the top of the rafters on her first attempt. I’m now less enamored with her daisy-filled life. Moving on to more advanced techniques (which for me was simply learning how to tie the knot that was going to decide if I was going to survive or fall face-first onto the mat) came with instructions to hook both arms around the silks and then flip our legs over our head. It made me think back to days spent on the playground, where I had no fear and was thin enough to fling myself around the monkey bars without hesitation. The 41-year old version of myself wondered again if my knot was tight enough, if my feet could actually get over my head and how I would possibly try to keep up with the daisy chain that took to the silks like white on rice. With the instructors encouragement, and lots of help, I was after 12 attempts, able to get my feet to heave themselves over my head and invert myself like an airplane. The instructor commended my effort and I think secretly expressed her delight that the hippo did not kick her in the head during the inversion. The silks at this point were so wrapped up that it was like waking amongst tangled bed sheets after a bad dream. I wondered if I just lay down amongst the silks if anyone would notice.

Our final exercise was to do an elevated split, which required us to create a foot hold using the silks on both feet. The darn foot hold requires you to weave the silk around your calf and then zig zag back and forth with the silk. I can’t decide at this point if my legs are now longer or my arms have become shorter because I can’t seem to get my hands and feet to reach within the forest of silk. The teacher keeps offering positive affirmations and reminding me that all students have to start somewhere. Daisy child has mastered the technique and has already moved on to the splits. Her first timers luck is now getting on my nerves. The foot hold offers a new challenge – loss of circulation in your foot. I ask innocently if feeling like the silk is a tourniquet is normal and the instructor confirms that it is. How do these aerial stars not have missing toes since they surely must fall off without any blood circulation? I pretend at this point to be in such awe of my classmates that I would rather watch than participate – the truth being that I couldn’t feel my feet, I never mastered the right technique for wrapping the foot hold and I was too embarrassed to ask for the 40th time, nor did I have the upper body strength to suspend myself any longer. The only joy that comes over me is the fact that we only had 6 minutes left in the class. I decide striking up a conversation with the teacher is better for my shaking muscles and lack of coordination than trying the candy cane pose all the fancy yoga pants are attempting.

The instructor does confirm that I am indeed in the wrong class, that this is an introductory circus arts class and not the “om” yoga experience I was attempting to have. She reassures me that aerial yoga is much easier, which I know translates into her attempt to tell me that I will prefer the harness of the hammock more than the jaw clenching experience of Russian foot holds and candy canes. A more experienced student pipes in that aerial yoga is a better place for me to start – was this her way of saying that every circus has a clown and I was indeed the clown of this class? Well, someone has to feed the elephants in the circus!

If you have profound upper body strength, have every confidence in a 30 foot silk being your life line and you have no fear of heights, then Silks 1 at Aerial Revolution is for you! I think I might stick to a hammock on the beach, sipping a Corona! Namaste!

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Day #5: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Leo Carillo Ranch)

On the list for today’s experience, was a visit to the Leo Carillo Ranch in Carlsbad. I decided to combine my morning hike with the opportunity to explore this hidden gem in North County. Located smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood with cookie cutter homes and an elementary school across the ravine, Leo Carillo Rancho is a step back into time. Across the 27-acre historic park, visitors are invited to explore adobe buildings, antique farm equipment and blooming flora and fauna. The mascots for the Ranch are the strutting peacocks that meet you around every corner. I even had the joy of seeing a Mama peacock tend to her 4 little chicks.

It’s easy to see why so many photographers use Leo Carillo Ranch as the backdrop to their photo shoots. There is visual abundance every where you look.

I’ve always driven past Leo Carillo Ranch and mentally thought I should one day drive down the street to check out this piece of history (and beautiful event venue), but it was always on the “I should list!” Today, I made a point of making the drive and enjoying a morning hike in a unique, historic setting. Well worth the trip!

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Day #4: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Central Library)

I discovered one of San Diego’s greatest gems today – the new San Diego Central Library. I realize I’m a little late to the party given the Library celebrates its first anniversary this weekend, but until now my schedule just didn’t permit the formal tour.

I signed up on the Library website for a guided tour, which takes place on Wednesday’s at 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. I was met by a former librarian, and now volunteer, Mike, who was extremely knowledgeable of the facility. The hour-long tour had us tromping all over the 500,000 sq ft facility. The Central Library is a flurry of activity, and hardly resembles the libraries of my youth that required whispering like in a yoga studio. Across the 9 floors within the library (2 are dedicated to a charter high school), you find wonderful resources in every nook and cranny.  A few highlights:

1. The Central Library has a collection of over 10,000 rare books; which will be displayed in a dedicated book museum in the future.

2. Visitors can search their family lineage by visiting the genealogy department and using the free subscription to Ancestry.com.

3. Have something 3D you want printed? Head to the free 3D printers on the 8th floor.

4. Art lover? The docent’s give tours to highlight the on-site art museum and the collections spread throughout the building.

5. The dome covering the Library is the largest in North America.

6. They have a mini health clinic inside the Library for blood pressure checks, weight management and health-related workshops.

7. Are you a teenager and want space from your parents? Check out the Teens Only section where only visitors 12-18 can visit – no grown ups allowed!

8. The new Central Library is the most technologically advanced and largest public library in the country.

9. The event space at the Central Library makes me drool! The views are amazing!!!

I highly recommend you taking time to visit a great gift to the San Diego community. This weekend they will have a 1st anniversary celebration, Saturday, September 27th from 10:30 – 2:30 p.m. – the public is welcome.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without getting a new Library Card, which to my delight now comes in 6 different colors. Welcome to my wallet, pretty little teal-colored library card!

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Day #3: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Knitting)

Since I lost my grandmother, I’ve always been sorry I never had her teach me how to knit.  My grandmother would knit and crochet beautiful blankets and baby sweaters; many of which we still have to this day. In an attempt to channel my grandmother, for day #3 of my 30 day challenge, I attended a knitting circle at my local library.

Upon entering the community room, I found a glorious group of older women all working on beautiful masterpieces. My intimidation was quickly subsided when they partnered me with a saint named, Liz, who has been knitting for 50 years. She patiently taught me how to do the basic stitch and set me out to make a scarf. The women around me were finishing off shawls and sweater vests, or in the process of starting a new project that involved knitting lace. Their ability to chat and stitch was impressive – and chat they did!  I found myself trying to silence even my own thoughts because I found this required fierce concentration.

In the 2-hours I spent with the Knitting Ladies, I was able to complete something that looked nothing like the beginnings of a scarf but more like the bottom of a knitted bikini. Apparently when Liz sets you up with ten stitches and you keep adding ten every time you turn back around, your project starts to shape into a triangle. The Knitters were very supportive of my attempts and encouraged me to come back again on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday’s of the month. I promised them I would keep working on my triangle in an attempt to at least get something that looked close to a pot holder.

There is plenty to learn (all the women suggested I watch how-to videos on YouTube); but for a few hours I felt close to my grandma, and if nothing else, that was worth the exercise!

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