Studio Review: Vital Cycle, Saugus, MA

I love spinning, but I’ve struggled with finding a studio that is conveniently located and close to home. For a few years I kept my membership at Boston Sports Club to take advantage of their spin classes, but I didn’t really love the instructors and over time I realized that I preferred small, locally owned studios instead of the large chain gym experience. I’ve bounced around to a few studios scattered across the North Shore of Massachusetts but either found that they were too far away to be convenient or that they were too expensive to stick with for the long term.

Luckily, I recently discovered Vital Cycle, located on Route 1 South in Saugus, MA. This location is super convenient to my house, and also only about 10 minutes away from my home-away-from-home, Studio Poise. The studio is tucked out of sight and doesn’t have prominent signage, so I didn’t notice it when it first opened. For locals, it’s in the same building as Roller World – you can’t really see the studio from the highway, but it’s very easy to spot once you pull into the parking lot.

Vital Cycle logo, from the Vital Cycle website

 

I’ve taken a handful of classes at the studio, so it felt like a good time to share a review.

The pros…

  • Large, roomy studio space. I cannot stand when spinning studios try to cram too many bikes into a small room. There’s nothing I hate more than being too close to my neighbors when I’m trying to get my sweat on – I really value my personal space! The spinning studio here is a large space and there’s plenty of room between bikes. I can stretch my arms out between rides without worrying that I’m going to smack a neighbor. There’s a mirror that runs the width of the room so you can check your form, which I appreciate, and the lighting is great – instructors have the ability to change the lighting levels through the class and there are specialty colored lights to help keep the energy levels up.
  • Ability to reserve a specific bike. When you go for your first ride, the instructor helps to get your bike set up for you and notes your settings on a small client card. For future visits, you reserve a specific bike and the Vital Cycle staff has the bike set up and ready to go when you get there for class. This is such a great perk! I like being able to reserve placement in the class (let’s be real, we all have our favorite spots!) and I appreciate that the bike is ready to go for me in case I hit traffic or am running late.
  • New bikes. Vital Cycle uses the Spinner Blade ION bikes. Each bike is outfitted with a monitor that tells your your RPM and your power, which brings me to my next point…
  • SpinPower system. Vital Cycle tracks SpinPower throughout the class and shows the group’s output on monitors at the front of the room. The instructors use these monitors throughout the class to make sure the group is hitting the appropriate RPM and pushing hard enough. The monitors can also show how each individual ranks against the rest of the class, a feature that I first experienced when I took a class at Flywheel. I’m a super competitive individual, so I love that extra incentive to push harder and beat the rest of the class. Vital Cycle also sends you an email at the end of each class with your stats, and you can log into your account on their website to track your progress over time.
  • Excellent promotional offerings. Vital Cycle currently offers the first week of rides free to new customers, which is a great way to try out the studio risk-free. The studio also offers free rides when you bring a friend to try a class, so I’ve been coaxing my friends into fit dates with me! They also are currently offering a Groupon deal, but I’m not sure how long that will last, so snap it up now – it’s an excellent price! I bought the 5 class option because I hadn’t yet tried the studio, and now I’m kicking myself for not getting the 10 class option instead.
  • Fun themed rides and special offerings. Periodically the studio offers special classes. I took a 90s themed ride which was a blast, and I also loved the Thanksgiving morning class offerings. It’s an extra little bonus that helps to keep customers engaged.

The cons…

  • Limited class options. There are anywhere from 2 to 4 classes offered on any given day. There aren’t a ton of early morning classes, so I haven’t been able to fit in a class before work. I’ve stuck mostly with evening classes, but I do wish there were more late evening options. At present, the latest class begins at 6:30. Since the studio is still so new, I’m hoping their class offerings expand as classes get busier.
  • Parking can be tricky in the evenings. As I mentioned, the studio shares a parking lot with the Roller World facility next door. Depending on what’s happening at the rink, parking can be a little bit nuts.
  • Water for purchase only. I have gotten really spoiled by studios that have water filters so that clients can refill their reusable water bottles with cold, filtered water. Vital Cycle does have water for purchase, but I try not to drink bottled water, so I’d love to see them invest in a filter at some point.
  • No monthly class options. At present, Vital Cycle only offers a pay-by-ride system. Since spinning is a supplementary workout for me, this isn’t really a huge negative for me, but the current pricing wouldn’t be sustainable for me personally if I wanted to make this studio my primary workout location.
  • Still working out the technology kinks. My first class at the studio, there were recurring problems with the SpinPower displays at the front of the class. The displays would periodically lose connection to our bikes and stop displaying statistics, and the owner ended up coming into the studio to try to sort out the issue while the instructor continued teaching the class. It was really distracting! Since then, the displays have faltered one or two other times, but not to the same extent as I experienced in my first class, so they do seem to be working out the problems.

Overall, I’m really glad I found Vital Cycle. It’s still a relatively new studio, so I can overlook some of the cons listed above – I trust that as this studio grows and more people learn about it, they’ll continue to make improvements. The location really can’t be beat, and I’m so grateful to finally have an affordable spinning option that’s conveniently located to both my home and my office. I hope more people discover this studio so that it can continue to succeed!

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Friday Favorites 12/12

Did anyone else notice the subject line of J. Crew’s promo email yesterday morning? “News Flash: You have 2 weeks to get gifts.” Great, thanks very much for that reminder, kind folks at J. Crew. I definitely wasn’t already stressed out about how quickly time is flying by or anything like that. Nope, no panic to be seen here.

I confess, I’m having a hard time really embracing the holiday vibe this year. I’m hoping that all changes this weekend, though. I’ve got plans to bake Christmas cookies tomorrow with some family, and on Sunday my mom and I are taking my grandmother to Wayside Inn to celebrate her 91st birthday. We spent a lot of holidays there when I was growing up, but it’s been well over ten years since I’ve been out there, so I’m looking forward to it.

To help me get into the spirit, I’m making today’s Friday Favorites holiday-themed and sharing all of my favorite ways to get into the Christmas spirit. Once again, I’m joining with Heather @ Housewife Glamour, Katie @ Running4Cupcakes, and Clare @Fitting It All In for today’s link up. Make sure to check out these awesome hosts and show some love to the other bloggers joining in this link up!

Favorite Christmas Song

It’s not Christmas until I hear this song for the first time… and then proceed to play it every day, sometimes multiple times a day, until the tree comes down and I concede that the season has past. Few things bring a smile to my face like this version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Favorite Christmas Cookie

Pizzelles were the very first cookie I ever learned how to make. My grandmother had the iron pictured in this recipe, and we would make stacks and stacks of these cookies every Christmas. I don’t have the faintest idea why my grandmother, who came from 100% Irish stock, owned a pizzelle iron, or why she started making these cookies, but she passed the tradition along to me. When I was in high school, our heavy iron cookie press broke, and we bought one of the nonstick versions, but the cookies were never the same. The nonstick cookie iron couldn’t get the cookies thin and crunchy enough for my taste, so I stopped making them. Earlier this year, though, a mysterious package arrived without warning at our doorstep; my uncle had found a replacement for our original, amazing pizzelle iron. I scoured the internet to find the original recipe we followed and I cannot wait to make these this weekend!

Favorite Christmas Movie

This is a tough one – White Christmas came in a close second. But I have loved A Christmas Carol ever since I first read it as a child, and the Muppet version is second to none in my book when it comes to holiday movie entertainment. I knew I had found friends for life when my Mudderella teammates and dear friends confessed to sharing my deep, undying love for Gonzo as Charles Dickens, and last week we gathered together to kick off the season with wine, brie, and a laughter-filled showing of this holiday classic.

Favorite Homemade Christmas Treat

I can’t remember how I first stumbled across this recipe for bourbon spiced pecans, but they’ve become my go-to homemade holiday treat. I have been known to buy out the entire stock of pecans at my local Whole Foods in order to make these nuts, and I give them out to friends, coworkers, and as hostess gifts when attending holiday parties. I like to add more spices than what’s called for in the recipe – I particularly like ginger and nutmeg as well as cinnamon – and the easiest method is to make a huge batch of the spiced sugar at the outset, rather than measuring everything out for each batch. Pour a tasty bourbon cocktail to sip while you’re cooking and you’re good to go!

What are some of your favorite things at this time of year? How are you getting in the spirit? 

 

Emotional Eating: Why Can’t I Quit You?

Emotional eating has always been my biggest nemesis in the battle to improve my diet. Food has seemingly always been tied to how I’m feeling. Birthday celebrations centered around decadent cakes covered in sugary icing from the local Italian bakery. Stressful periods meant that stopping for fast food could be excused away by my busy schedule. When someone in my family was sick, or after a death, friends and neighbors would come bearing gifts of food – bags of bagels and cream cheese, trays of lasagna, deli platters to feed an army.

Weight Watchers is capitalizing on this right now with their current ad campaign. I have tried their programs in the past and it didn’t work for me, but I know there are a lot of people who swear by the company. Sharing this video is in no way an endorsement of their methods; it is, however, a great piece of advertising and one that hits home with today’s topic.

I’ve mentioned this a few times recently, but my family’s been going through a rough patch lately. My father had surgery last week, and it’s been difficult to keep up with a sense of normalcy with everything that’s been going on. I tend to internalize things like this, which is not to say that there haven’t been incredible displays of support and friendship from the people I care about; I just tend not to talk much about things like this when they’re going on. So, instead, I go to war with the grocery store. Ice cream? Chips? Homemade chocolate chip cookies? All things that were on the patient’s wish list for recovery snacks, and I had zero mental energy to find the willpower to resist adding my own treats to the cart when shopping last week.

So here we are. It’s been a week since the surgery, and I feel gross. I haven’t been eating well, I’ve been drinking way too much wine, and my body is letting me know that it is displeased. My pants are feeling tight, I have no energy, and I can’t find the willpower to get back to my normal healthy eating and exercising routine.

This latest incidence of emotional eating has helped me to see that I need to focus more on the mental side of all of this. I know what I need to do to lose weight and get in better physical shape, and I am totally capable of doing all of those things. What I need to figure out know is how to maintain those habits and not let outside forces shake me to the core. Life happens and I need to learn that turning to comfort foods not only won’t comfort me, but it will make me feel worse in the long run.

I’m making this one of my priorities for the coming year and I’d love suggestions from others who have dealt with this in the past. Any books that particularly worked for you? Techniques to try? Should I just suck it up and try therapy? Advice is welcome, and much appreciated!

Fitnasty for Life
I’m teaming up with Carolyn over at Fitnasty for Life to get #Fit4Fifteen – check out the linkup!

Do you battle with emotional eating? What has worked for you?

Festive Starbucks Swaps

Confession time: I am a sucker for the Starbucks red cups.

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I anxiously await the rollout of the holiday cups every year, because they signify the return of my favorite indulgences – gingerbread and eggnog lattes. I love these coffee options, but I also know that they are so unspeakably bad for me. This year, I set out to find a way to enjoy the flavors of the season without completely destroying my healthy eating habits.

I always order my gingerbread latte with nonfat milk and request no whipped cream, but the gingerbread syrup still packs a wallop. A grande nonfat, no-whip gingerbread latte clocks in at 200 calories and an insane 36 grams of sugar. WHAT?! My Fitness Pal recommends no more than 50g  of sugar on a daily basis, and I try to avoid anything with added sugar – usually my sugar macros come from natural sources, like fruit.

The good news? The gingerbread syrup is so strongly flavored that you don’t need the full amount to get the flavor of the drink. If you’re at Starbucks, you can request one or two pumps of syrup instead of the full amount, which will dramatically reduce the sugar content. OR, you can ask about buying a bottle of the syrup to take home! The bottles retail for $12.95 and will last you all season. Stores aren’t always able to sell the syrup to customers, as it depends on how much they have in stock, but you can also order the bottles through Starbucks’ online store. I own a Verismo, the Starbucks-branded at-home latte machine, and I make my latte using half a tablespoon of gingerbread syrup. Along with the milk and espresso pods, my latte comes in at only 9 grams of sugar – 75% less than the in-store version, and just as satisfying.

I’m also a huge sucker for the eggnog latte. Starbucks tried to remove these from the menu this year, and the backlash was so strong that they re-added this drink to the holiday options after only a few days. Starbucks makes this drink with a ratio of 2/3 eggnog and 1/3 skim milk; this recipe results in a drink that clocks in at 460 calories and 48 grams of sugar for a grande. Ouch. When I order the drink in the store, I ask them for 1/3 eggnog and 2/3 skim milk, which helps, but the reality is that eggnog is such an unhealthy treat that the drink is still a calorie and sugar bomb. I limit myself to one a season, and enjoy it for all it’s worth.

To enjoy eggnog options at home with less guilt, I turn to So Delicious Vegan Eggnog. I love So Delicious products; their unsweetened coconut milk is a staple in my pantry. This eggnog is coconut milk based. It’s still in the treat category, with 14 grams of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving, but at 90 calories per serving and 3 grams of fat, it’s a significantly better choice than the average dairy-based eggnog. I like to use a splash of this in my coffee and top with a grating of fresh nutmeg to get that holiday vibe without the full indulgence of the Starbucks version.

What are some of your favorite holiday treats? Any other tips for enjoying a holiday indulgence with less guilt? 

Disclaimer: I did not receive payment for any of the products mentioned here – they’re things I love, but no one asked me to write about them!

‘Tis the season for giving back

Full disclosure – this post should have gone up earlier this week, but things in real life have been a bit nuts. My father had surgery yesterday and it has thrown my whole week out of whack. Thanks for sticking with me as I get through this!

Thanksgiving has come and gone, the leftovers have been consumed, and you finally threw out the last slice of pecan pie that has been testing your temptation all weekend. You’ve survived both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and you’re ready to bask in the holiday season. Not so fast!

The first Tuesday in December is known as #GivingTuesday or #GivingDay. It’s a day dedicated to giving back – either through donating to your favorite charity or taking time out of your day to serve your community. In the spirit of the day, I wanted to take a short break from the normal fitness/wellness content. Volunteer work is a huge part of my life, and I wanted to share some of my favorite gifts that keep on giving. When you’re thinking about buying gifts this year, perhaps think outside the box – yes, those prettily wrapped gifts under the tree do add a festive air to the season, but there are some wonderful gift ideas that will continue to give back long after the decorations have come down.

Kiva Gift Cards

Kiva is a nonprofit microfinance organization. This organization makes it possible for people in areas without access to traditional banks or loaning bodies to receive the money necessary to accomplish their goals – from starting small businesses to furthering their education. You can learn more about how the process works by clicking here. Kiva loans are paid back, so giving a Kiva gift card can help establish a long-standing relationship between the gift recipient and the Kiva organization. As the funds from your gift are repaid, they can be reloaned to other causes. Through this process, just one small gift can be a positive force for change in countless lives.

Give the Gift of Health with Watsi

Watsi is a nonprofit that connects donors with individuals requiring medical treatment who cannot afford the care necessary to restore them to health. The website allows donors to choose where their funds will be allocated, and if you make a donation as a gift, the gift recipient will receive regular updates on the progress of the treatment that their gift funded. I learned about Watsi this past spring, when a dear friend of mine made a donation in my name for my birthday to help fund surgery and treatment for Nary, a Cambodian woman with a broken arm. I received a photo and information on Nary’s progress at the time of the donation, and an update about a month later confirming that her treatment had been successful. Watsi’s a relatively new nonprofit – they were founded in 2012 – so chances are your gift will introduce a new audience to this excellent cause.

Support small farms through Rent Mother Nature

Rent Mother Nature is another awesome gift-that-gives-back cause that a friend recommended to me. This organization is committed to supporting small, family-run farms, and to pursuing sustainable agriculture practices. Gifts purchased through this organization are referred to as “leases.” You can rent a goat, and receive a gift of fresh chevre; you can rent a maple tree, and receive a gift of maple syrup; you can rent a honeybell tree, and receive a gift of fresh oranges. The site offers customization options for your gifts, and provides information on when the various gifts will be harvested and delivered to the recipients. This is a great idea for foodie friends, or for friends who would be interested in learning more about farming practices in the United States. I especially love the idea of giving this gift to a family with younger kids who would benefit from a better understanding of where their foods come from!

Support your favorite nonprofit

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Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion! When I’m not blogging, I volunteer with the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation, a MA-based 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to providing leadership training (free of charge!) to high school students from across the state. I currently serve as the president of our Board of Directors, and previously spent four years as the Director of our flagship event, the MassSTAR Citizenship Conference. Community service, volunteering, and charitable giving has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.

December is a key time for many nonprofits; if their fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, this is their chance to make a final push for donations before launching a new year. However, giving back does not need to take a monetary form – there are so many ways to make a difference without spending a dime.

This is a great opportunity to open up a conversation with someone in your life about giving back. Growing up, my family would “adopt” a family in need through our local church; my parents prioritized teaching me that not everyone was as fortunate as I was. We shopped together for gifts that would help the family to have a happier Christmas – warm clothing; food essentials; basic necessities like shampoo and toothpaste – and it really helped to open my eyes up to how lucky I was to have a roof over my head and plenty of food on the table. I’m grateful that my parents made it a priority to instill these values in me from a young age, and I like to try to do the same for my own family members now. When some of my younger family members hit an appropriate age – usually high school – I like to discuss with them what causes matter to them. It’s important to instill values of charity and service from a young age, so we discuss how they can make a difference. This doesn’t always have to be a monetary gift. If they say they like animals and would like to help in that way, I might look into volunteering at a local animal shelter together, or make a donation to the local ASPCA. It’s a great bonding experience and I can’t recommend it enough!

Do you take time out of your holiday season to give back? What are some of your favorite causes to support?