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WISE BODY WORKS

Fitness

How Berkshire Running Center Became Leader Of The Pack

By Lisa Green

Runners, like any other athletes, are used to pushing themselves. In 2011, when master runners Kent and Shiobbean Lemme opened the Berkshire Running Center in Pittsfield, Mass., their goal was to become the Grand Central Station for runners in the Berkshires. Just five years later — in record time, it seems to me — they didn’t just make it to the finish line: they blew right past it. Their “tribe” of runners has grown, and they’re growing with it.

What began as a retail operation in a corner of Berkshire Nautilus became a training and coaching center, and producer of most of the 25 road races in the Berkshires each year. The BRC also serves as official timer for many others. With a nearly daily schedule of trainings and classes, and new running products joining the store’s inventory, it had outgrown its cramped first space.

In November, the center moved to larger quarters on Depot Street, off of Pittsfield’s main drag. In this new inviting space, with multiple windows, brick walls and hardwood floors (designed by Great Barrington interior designer William Caligari), there’s room for a fitness studio for cardio strength classes, 16 brand-new Keiser indoor cycles, changing rooms and cubbies. Kent and Shiobbean teach the RunFit Cardio Strength and the indoor cycling classes. (And if you don’t think they get a crowd for the 5:30 a.m. class, you don’t know serious runners.)

Ramblefest training run.

“There were little groups of runners spread all over the Berkshires,” Kent says, “but we needed a an outlet where we could run together and play together.” And they were just the couple to make that happen.

“We knew that Kent’s elite status brought validity to a running store,” says Shiobbean, a Pittsfield native. “Anyone would ask him which shoes to buy. I already had my personal training business.”

Shiobbean has completed 16 marathons and qualified three times for the Boston Marathon. She’s also been the outdoor sports guide at Canyon Ranch for more than 20 years. Kent, who was the superintendent at Taconic Golf Course for almost two decades, has won races ranging from one mile to marathons, and just last fall bested the Ironman category in the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon (he turned in the sixth fastest time overall in the field of 417 teams and individuals). In his late forties, he’s still setting personal records.

So they built the center, and runners did come. The Lemmes sought a way to expand their Grand Central Station vision. “We said, ‘what works?’” Kent explains. “Trainings work. Races work. And it’s better to have people race here, locally, so people don’t have to travel or spend their money somewhere else.”

They’re particularly proud of the Steel Rail Half Marathon (“our baby,” Shiobbean calls it), an annual race held in May that starts at the Berkshire Mall and follows the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail into Adams. It sold out in the first year, and the two started a training program based around it. Now there are specific trainings for many other races, plus group and personal training classes, and the Lemme Run Program, a six-week “how to run” session for beginners of any age.

“We feel strongly about giving back to the community,” says Shiobbean. Over the years, BRC has donated more than $33,000 to the Department of Conservation and Recreation from sponsor donations that will go to the maintenance and repair of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

The couple have taken their expertise outside of the store, too. Kent coaches track and field at Taconic High School. Realizing that there was no middle school running program in Pittsfield, the Lemmes started one at Herberg Middle School. They hold free clinics for the Josh Billings and organize Saturday group runs that anyone can join, at no charge. Recently, they’ve begun partnering with local restaurants; on Wednesday evenings, runners meet at Hotel on North, go for a sprint and gather together at the bar for drinks and camaraderie. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Runners gather for the Jingle Bell Run.

In the beginning, Shiobbean says, they had to figure out how many pairs of shoes they needed to sell each day to keep the business going. They’ve obviously figured that out, but what they’ve really done is create a community. The secret sauce is the couple’s warmth, generosity of spirit and, of course, knowledge. The Lemmes seem to know everyone in the tribe by name (and each person’s backstory, too). Have any questions about the mechanics of running? Kent’s your man. Shiobbean, an Amy Schumer lookalike (and just as funny, minus the blue talk) greets everyone with a hug, and mixes standup comedy with motivation for both mind and body.

And while runners take their sport seriously, the Lemmes aren’t above being a little goofy. Witness the Jingle Bell Run — this year they ran through a snowstorm dressed as Santas and elves — or the Dash and Splash on The Common, where runners sprint through sprinklers. They know that motivation in the form of awards ceremonies, or beer and pizza, after a race series is just as important as mentoring and encouragement. “We want everyone to be successful,” Kent says.

Now that they’ve made it to five years, there’s a new five-year plan in the works. They’d like, in time, to expand the space and become a larger fitness venue. But whatever they offer, it’ll be done so under Kent’s rubric: Stay healthy, stay injury free, stay motivated.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/09/17 at 03:55 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Aikido

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

I wish I could remember the name of the movie in which an actor (Martin Short, I think) outwitted his captors by giving into his full weight, therefore making it impossible for his foes to lift him. I’m mentally replaying this scene because it proved to be more than goofy shtick; it’s actually the philosophy of the century-old martial art Aikido. I learned this from Fourth Degree Aikido Black Belt Kim Rivers as I researched her upcoming five-week “Introduction to Aikido” class.

What It Is
Ai (Harmony) + (Ki) Spirit + Do (Way) = Way of Harmony. But Sensei Kim explained it in simpler (and funnier) terms: Aikido strives to leave your foe in “peace — not pieces.” This is accomplished by letting your rival go where he wants, but — here’s the important part — you get out of the way. Generally speaking, the movements used to accomplish this are turns, falls and pivots. It may take years to master such techniques, but you know what they say about every journey. Your Aikido journey can start November 12, 9:25 a.m. at Berkshire Community College. 

Activity Level
All Levels: Kim herself is legally blind and when her assistant, Third Degree Aikido Black Belt Cher Mindermann, began her practice she walked with a cane and back brace. It’s not just that Aikido can be adapted for anyone but Kim said that her limited vision actually helped increase her awareness. “It’s like being a mom who’s aware of her kids even if she can’t see them,” she says. 

As familiar as Kim’s analogy is, so is the structure of her class. After a traditional bow to welcome students and honor past teachers, you’re led in centering and breathing exercises and then learn beginning techniques, including one of the most important moves in Aikido — falling and recovering. Then, as Cher says, “The moves change as you do,” becoming more complex and perhaps incorporating weapons. Don’t let the term “weapon“ disturb you; in keeping with Aikido’s peaceful way, these “weapons” were developed to settle matches without leaving opponents in a bloody mess. From my perspective, their contemporary application is to develop coordination, control and acute awareness, all with no expectation of being a leader or follower, winner or loser. 

Benefits
Aikido’s “controlled relaxation” (as in the aforementioned comical kidnapping scene) is not reserved for just great physical comedians. I was utterly amazed that in one brief lesson I was able to resist “attackers” simply by relaxing. Before doing so, Kim and Cher could lift me — no easy task. Yet, after I relaxed my body and visualized my connection to the earth, they couldn’t budge me!

It’s interesting that Aikido doesn’t promote working on specific muscle groups. Instead, it teaches coordinated, whole-body movements resulting in an increased body-mind connection, quicker reactions and improved balance — all of which help keep us safe not only from evildoers, but icy patches, steep stairwells and uneven pavements. Indirectly, however, muscle tone develops. You can’t help but notice this immediately; there’s just no way you can practicing falling and getting up without working your leg and core muscles. And you will break a sweat and increase your heart rate, so, as Kim suggests, dress in layers.

Instructor Info
After studying Aikido and T’ai chi for nearly 20 years, Kim still has the soul of a beginner. Her black belt doesn’t stop her from continuously training. “I am discovering abilities that continue to unfold. As an instructor this has helped me guide students. At the heart of this is a deep passion to grow,“ she says.

Along with her black belt, Kim wears a traditional hakama that was originally worn to hide leg movements and enhance a flowing feeling. That graceful flow is still present; watching Kim practice is like watching a powerful yet peaceful dancer. 

Facility/Ambience
BCC’s Patterson Field House is a large and bright traditional gym. A curtain dividing the large space creates a more private setting, extra-thick mats guard against injuries and Kim and Cher’s delightful personalities and infectious friendship create a supportive and fun environment.   

Cost
$199 for Massachusetts residents; $212 for New England and New York residents. This is a one-credit course open to the public. There is no pre-requisite.

Introduction To Aikido
Patterson Field House at Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield, MA
(413) 499-4660

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/05/15 at 03:22 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Embodyoga

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

With all due respect to the great Nat King Cole, I take umbrage to the lyrics “Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer.” After taking in countless plays and concerts; keeping track of openings and benefits; and, of course, entertaining houseguests, it’s the fall that affords more laid-back days. To help in this transition, may I suggest an Embodyoga® class at Millbrook Yoga . This style of yoga that encourages us to slow down can also tone muscles, better our posture and poise, and rejuvenate that calm, strong center within us all.

What It Is
Simply put, Embodyoga, is “yoga from the inside out.” As easy as it sounds, it actually requires deep concentration and precise movement. For instance, you just don’t breathe into the lungs, but into each lobe of the lungs. These small changes reap big results; by following Nancy’s instructions during a pelvic tilt, I worked my core more than I had doing this exercise before. Her instructions are based on compassionate self-exploration. As Nancy said, “So much about this is about your own experience.” And clearly many people have enjoyed their experience – this is the only yoga class that I’ve seen the men-to-women ratio at almost 50/50! 

Activity Level
All Levels – Nancy uses Sanskrit terms throughout the class, so if you’re new to yoga, there may be a bit of confusion at first. But with Nancy’s finely detailed step-by-step instructions, it soon becomes clear what to do. And there’s always the obvious solution: just tell Nancy you’re a beginner and you’ll be in good hands. Whether she’s offering verbal modifications to someone across the room, physically assisting a gentleman to sit taller or removing a blanket to make someone’s neck more comfortable, Nancy is as hyper-aware of what’s going on with our bodies as she hopes we will become.   

Benefits
By comparing how I felt before class to after, I can say that the benefits from Embodyoga are amazing and burrow deep into the toned body. My breath flowed stronger and more smoothly during our concluding “om” than our initial sounding. And I humbly state that this yoga instructor’s form was off during a couple of asanas. Thanks to Nancy, when I now do Happy Baby, my neck doesn’t hurt. 

As I closed my eyes for final relaxation, I noticed the knots in the wood ceiling and laughed thinking, “You were knotted up on your drive and now the only knots are in the wood.” 

Instructor Info
Twenty years ago, Nancy began practicing yoga to cope with the stress of being a NYC business owner. After a couple years, she decided to teach and eventually studied with Embodyoga founder Patty Townsend. Nancy is professional yet warm and generous; she knows each student’s name and needs, and displays great humor throughout the class.

But her generosity doesn’t end with her students; she was quick to ask me to write about the entire Millbrook Studio, not just her class. It’s probably this genuine caring that keeps people returning. As I tried to enter the space, I ran into a cluster of folks chatting enthusiastically. Nancy piped up, “Coming into class is like coming to a cocktail party!” 

Facility/Ambience
I was convinced that my WAZE app was wrong, as it directed me along winding roads and past a waterfall, but before I knew it I found Millbrook Yoga — a beautifully restored blacksmith’s studio. Wide-plank floors, a deep chestnut ceiling and wispy white curtains dancing in the evening breeze create a serene space. Not one detail is overlooked; amber lights warm the room as the sun dips, and props are kept in rustic-looking baskets. Even the hardware of the light fixtures and door handles are perfectly matched — which dovetails nicely with Embodyoga’s philosophy of noticing. 

Cost
Drop in classes, $20; 5-class series, $75; 10 classes, $140

Embodyoga at Millbrook Yoga
5 Merritt Ave., Millbrook, NY
(845) 304-2208

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/16/15 at 09:38 AM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Bellyfit

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

Are you like me and shy away from “free” offers: the baker’s complimentary samples that aren’t quite fresh; the TV announcer promising a second item at no cost – except for shipping? Well, the notion “you get what you pay for” has been altered for me after taking a free Bellyfit class at Great Barrington’s Renaissance Arts & Wellness Center. The class was offered as part of instructor Lynn Chiavacci’s final certification process and will be included in RAWC’s September “Boutique Fitness” lineup. So belly up to the center’s registration desk and sign up for this invigorating and inspiring class.

What It Is
Created by a Canadian, Alice Bracegirdle, Bellyfit is a class designed for a woman’s body. It combines worldwide dance traditions like belly dancing, Bollywood and African dance with contemporary exercise. Instructor Lynn Chiavacci explained that Canadian healthcare providers are more mindful of women’s unique needs. Bellyfit dovetails with this approach by providing a holistic way for women to move, rediscover themselves and enjoy being in their bodies. The result is a calorie-burning, sweat-inducing routine that celebrates women’s strength and wisdom. There’s no pressure to be a model-type here; in fact, Lynn said, “The hardest part of the class may be when we just let our bellies really hang out.” And that’s because Bellyfit doesn’t just welcome but celebrates women of varying body types.

Instructor Lynn Chiavacci and Pat Navarino.

Activity Level
All Levels. Philosophically speaking, it seems that excluding any woman who wanted to try Bellyfit would be in direct opposition to its tenets. Practically speaking, the routines can be followed by beginners since Lynn’s cuing is excellent. She starts us off with a very still, centering exercise and a gentle warmup follows. When the “dancey” part begins, one movement is introduced at a time. Following your own wisdom, doing what you can and what you enjoy is the governing principal. 

Benefits
Much like a traditional aerobics class, you can burn lots of calories and sweat up a storm. Unlike a traditional class, you achieve this through recognizable exercises and exotic moves that make you feel like you’re in the closing scene of Slumdog Millionaire. So while you target body parts, you also feel enchanting and graceful. You may not even notice that you’re spot toning. For instance, during a belly-dance hip bump you’re working your obliques. As in all dance styles, ideally your upper and lower body move together so you have to focus, coordinate moves and balance. If you’re not already focused, coordinated and balanced, you will be after Bellyfit. 

Instructor Info
Although Lynn is just being certified as a Bellyfit instructor, she graduated from college with a degree in Health Education (her minor was Athletic Training). After several years teaching and training high school students, she gave birth to daughter Alessandra and decided to leave behind a hectic, inflexible schedule. Lynn’s teaching skills, sense of humor and respect for her students remain strong — not to mention her incredible attention to detail. While doing a pelvic tilt she clarified that the movement comes from the pelvis and abs, not the buttocks — a small change that made a big difference in what muscles I could feel working. Throughout the class, Lynn offers options for beginners and experienced alike. Between my knowledge of my body and Lynn’s expertise, I challenged myself without risk of injury or morning-after aches.

Facility/Ambience
The center’s founder and director, Pat Navarino, is proud to say what you may have heard lots of employers say: her staff is like a family. But at RAWC, it’s true and it shows. The exquisite desk, armoires and flower arrangements in the check-in area make it feel like you’re walking into a country home. The first floor buzzes with artists at work and a small gallery boasts art by locals. This creative, supportive energy wafts to the second floor where there’s a new massage space, yoga room and the studio where Bellyfit takes place.

Cost
One drop-in class is $20; an eight-week class is $150. Monthly punch cards are available for $120.

Bellyfit at Renaissance Arts Center
420 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington, MA 

(413) 528-9600


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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/26/15 at 01:25 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Kobudo

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a helpful lesson for children, but as an adult, it’s interesting to know that some sticks can actually help save your bones — that is, if the stick is a “Bō.” Visit Zenquest Martial Arts Center in Lenox and discover how this and other Kobudo props can benefit body and mind. 

What It Is
“Kobudo” is Okinawan for “old martial way.” Its origin is unclear, but one story holds that Okinawan peasants were restricted from carrying traditional arms when the island became part of Japan. As a result, they used what they had — farm tools. Although the original intention was self-defense and can still be used as such, today the focus is on bettering the mind and body while cultivating respect for one’s classmates.

Activity Level
ALL LEVELS:  I was equally excited and apprehensive to try Kobudo simply because I had never experienced anything like it. But as soon as I met Sensei Mark and Sensei Michele I felt safe, welcomed and encouraged to just be myself. After the warm-up, which got me comfortable with the staff, we were led in individual drills, then expanded into partner work. Routines are repeated until you feel comfortable, questions are encouraged and if you mess up, honestly, no one even cares. In fact, Sensei Michele mentioned that the only prerequisite is a good sense of humor. Not to mention, Sensei Mark seems to have eyes in the back of his head; at any given time he would stop demonstrating to correct a student, all in the name of safety. 

Benefits
I’ll start with what makes Kobudo unique and empowering: the weapons. Although they’re not very heavy,  you hold them throughout the class so they end up as a resistance tool. Drills are usually done in a low stance, helping to strengthen legs and buttocks. Other benefits include body awareness, coordination and balance as well as concentration and memory. I even got a sweat going and I wasn’t wearing a gi — the uniform. Speaking of which, the gi provides another benefit I wouldn’t have thought of: because its fabric doesn’t breathe well, your increased temperature aids in flexibility. The uniform also helps your practice carry over into everyday life; when you’re wearing a coat, you’re used to moving within a restriction and when you’re not, moving is easier. Another intriguing thing about the gi is the snapping sound that emanates when a prop hits the material, which Sensei Mark explained, informs you about your movements.

Instructor Info
Mark Flynn [in top photo, with Michelle Moreau], who co-owns Zenquest with wife Connie, is a Certified Shihan (Master Instructor) through the Okinawa Karatedo Association and holds several other impressive titles and belts. Just trying to pronounce them can be intimidating but there’s nothing intimidating about the man. He is gentle, down-to-earth and even funny. He mentioned that he used to teach at the mirrored end of the room until he realized that standing in front of the bay window allows more space before he might break any glass. As class started, he suggested I stand in the middle so I could be surrounded by good energy and that included Sensei Michele, who has a 4th degree black belt in Karatedo and is as warm as she is strong. The heart of the studio is best represented by Sensei Mark’s response to my thanking him for making me feel so welcomed; he simply said, “That’s what we do.”

Facility/Ambience
Much like Kobudo today, Zenquest is a mix of the old and new; the lobby has WiFi, there are traditional locker rooms and a soon-to-be expanded fitness room. Large and bright practice rooms are lined with pictures of those who made it possible for us to practice, including Mark’s teacher. I was taken by a particular scroll, which is traditionally presented when teachers feel a student is truly ready to teach. Sensei Mark’s scroll is aptly geared to teaching in the Berkshires: “Master martial arts…to gain awareness as deep as the ocean as rich as the forest!”

Cost
Day passes: $20; 3-month unlimited class card: $169.

Zenquest Martial Arts Center
55 Pittsfield-Lenox Road, Lenox, MA
(413) 637-0656

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/10/15 at 09:02 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Kayaking On The Hudson

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

Long ago, I kayaked with my then-boyfriend whose sunscreen failed him. Because of his patchy sunburned skin, I jokingly said his Native American name would be “Chief of the Blotchy Sun Nation.” He then dubbed me “Paddles with Joy.” I recount this story because I proudly reclaimed this title while kayaking the Hudson with Atlantic Kayak Tours in Staatsburg, NY.

What It Is
Atlantic Kayak Tours, in Norrie State Park, offers several tours. The “Short Tour” I took covers 3 to 6 miles and takes 2½ to 3 hours depending on water and wind conditions. I arrived early and got fitted to a kayak and life jacket. Our leader, Jack, then circled us up and began orientation. This was informal and fun as he asked us to state our name and favorite breakfast — a nice way to build the convivial atmosphere so important for a harmonious trip. 

At this time, it’s made clear that anything you bring must be able to get wet. Not wanting to risk it, I waved good-bye to my beloved camera and phone. One guide, Joe, assured me that he would take pictures that he kindly allowed me to use with this article. I was delighted to be tech-free and before I knew it I was winding around wooden pylons making my way to the river. We paused to find a partner and learn to maneuver around other kayaks, and then down river we went!  After a trip that was both exhilarating and soul-soothing, we reformed our circle on land and congratulated each other on a job well done.

Activity Level
MODERATE TO ADVANCED: You must be able to swim since there’s a chance you could fall into the water. Also, this may be named “Short Tour,” but you do paddle for about two-and-a-half hours. You don’t need be an experienced kayaker per se — there were participants who had never stepped into a kayak and the last time I did was almost 15 years ago — but you should be in overall good health, have a moderate degree of flexibility and be able to sit in one position for an hour at a time. 

Benefits
I joked with friends saying that my biceps would soon be like Popeye’s, but I was so wrong to think kayaking is all about arms. As my knuckles began to twinge and a blister develop, I recalled Jack’s instructions to use your whole body, to twist at the waist and push into the foot braces with each stroke. With proper technique, you work your entire body. On the return trip, my movements became smoother, which brings me to other benefits: mind-body connection and coordination. 

Instructor Info
With 30 years’ experience running kayak tours along the Hudson and a 1:4 ratio of participants to experienced guides/Certified Kayak Instructors, kayakers can paddle worry free, and enjoy their surroundings and the team’s engaging sense of humor. They impart instructions bit-by-bit in easy-to-remember ways (such as this ditty: paddle goes in at your feet and out at your seat). We didn’t waste time on land; we learned while in the water with at least one guide always easy to spot. More importantly, they were always spotting us, giving individual pointers and enthusiastic praise. 

Facility/Ambience
Atlantic Kayak Tours has an adorable wooden building in a lovely state park, but the real setting is the Hudson River and its majestic coast with both natural and man-made wonders. At our turnaround point, we took a break and had a chance stretch and swim. There, we spotted a hawk and on the way back we were entertained by jumping fish. Since, for the most part, Mother Nature is the designer, there’s no telling what wildlife or foliage you will come across, but be assured it will be awe inspiring.

I was silly enough to think I would be cold so I wore jeans, but in these warm months, shorts and a tank top or bathing suit are appropriate. Before getting in the kayak, shoes are a must since there are stones, branches and insects everywhere; however, while kayaking, shoes are optional. Sunscreen, bug spray, hat, sunglasses and water are strongly recommended.

Cost: $50

Atlantic Kayak Tours
Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park
Staatsburg, NY
(845) 246-2187

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/27/15 at 02:41 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Swimming At Sand Springs

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

I was lucky to grow up just a quick drive from beaches and bayside pools. Having chosen to settle in the Berkshires, I obviously cherish its beauty, but in summer months I long for a place to put my feet up, drink in the sun and even work off some calories by swimming in a pool. Little did I know that just such a place has existed in Williamstown, Mass. since 1827, when Sand Springs first advertised the curative properties of its water. To this day, the spring produces bottled water, as well as a most picturesque place for adults, couples and families to splash, laugh and play.

What It Is
History has it that five Native American nations treasured Sand Springs for the medicinal properties of its thermal spring, which bubbles out at a pleasant 73 degrees. In 1907, when tourism began thriving, the Wampanaug Inn and Bath House was built on the site. In 1950, The George family purchased the property and developed the beloved family recreation center. In 2003, the Redstone group bought the Springs and, only five years later, planned to close it. Luckily, local residents banded together and raised enough money to save the landmark location.

Executive Director Geraldine Shen says, “It can only get better from here.” For instance, they’re planning Friday night dinners (during which cocktails can be purchased). The pool – which is still filled directly from the spring – is going to be heated to make children and older folk more comfortable. Offering a variety of snacks and items that we often forget to bring (like sunblock) available for sale helps Sand Springs meet its goal of “creating a sustainable community place where residents and visitors gather in an historic and bucolic setting for relaxation, outdoor recreation, and fitness.”

Activity Level
Any. From napping on a lounge chair, to building up a sweat playing volleyball or getting a non-impact aerobic workout in the pool, there is something for everyone. Two of the pool lanes are always corded off for adults; on Tuesdays and Thursdays (7–10 a.m.) and Saturdays (8-11 a.m.) the entire pool is set up for adult lap swimmers. There is also “adult only” time in the hot tub. For the young — or young-at-heart — there’s a basketball court, cornhole boards (a bean bag game that develops concentration) and a gaga pit. (Not to be confused with Lady Gaga; it’s also known as Israeli dodgeball.)

Benefits
The choice is yours: get your heart going and build muscle by swimming, let your cares melt away in the hot tub or jump around while playing any of the provided games. Whatever you choose, you’ll join a long lineage of those who have used the Springs for exercise and relaxation.

Instructor Info
Five Red Cross lifeguards keep attendees safe. Some, who are trained by Purple Valley Aquatics, also lead children’s swimming classes. 

Facility/Ambience
When you looked up “bucolic” in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Sand Springs — it’s the epitome of country charm. Despite it being a stone’s throw from Williams College and many restaurants and pubs, the only sound you hear is that of the spring itself. The largest pool is crystal clear, the hot tub inviting and clean and the kiddie pool full of colorful toys. There’s a wide choice of seating, from pool-side tables with umbrellas to covered picnic tables and lounge chairs set on a rolling green lawn. While there is a concession stand, picnicking also is allowed. Clean changing rooms and a sauna are available to members and day visitors alike. 

Cost
Adult day passes are $10; two-week memberships start at $55; a full-season individual membership is $175; for a family, $495.

Sand Springs
158 Sand Springs Road, Williamstown, MA
(413) 458-6026

HOURS* June 24—September 7
Sunday—Thursday 11 a.m.—7 p.m.
Friday—Saturday 11 a.m.—8 p.m.

*Call or check the website in case of inclement weather and for event information.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/14/15 at 01:59 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Lenox Fit

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

As the saying goes, life is full of surprises. With Zumba in mind because — speaking of surprises — I’ve never Zumba-ed, I arrived at Lenox Fit (formerly Lenox Fitness) and learned that there would not only be a substitute teacher, but a different class. I ended up having a great time with instructor Holly Wroldson, who led a frolicking class that provided a sampling of what her other classes are like.

What It Is
Officially. Holly teaches Step, Hi-Lo Aerobics, On the Move and Latin Sculpt, but as new owner Suzanne Merritt says, Holly uses “dancey stuff” in her classes. The class I took started with belly dancing and ended with line dancing. While you may think the two go together like tabouli and barbecue sauce, they both yielded exceptionally sweaty workouts, required acute attention to keep up with the choreography and were just whole lot of fun. Before we began Holly offered exotic belly dancing skirts — complete with jangly coins — and when we were line dancing I couldn’t help thinking that I can finally do the Electric Slide at weddings — yee-haw! 

Activity Level
Moderate: The class moved swiftly but with optional hops, there was very little impact, leaving it open to almost anyone with a regular fitness practice. Keep in mind that the dance routine rotated us in such a way that at times the student is the leader. Even though you’d never confuse me with Bob Fosse, I didn’t mind this. However, if you’re shy or prefer seeing the teacher at all times, you may be a bit put off. 

Benefits
Embracing change rewarded us with a super cardio workout. Additionally, as Holly said, “Throughout the class you are working specific muscles” — which was apparent starting with the warmup that included isolation exercises and the dance segments incorporating concentrated ab pulses and sexy leg lifts that worked thighs and buttocks.  When arm movements came into play, we held vibrantly colored scarves that acted like fashionable resistance straps and added grace and beauty to our routine. I spied one gal who previously wore a very intent expression now glowing with an open smile. I also noticed that my mind-body connection was awakened; I learned to do a hip shimmy by just moving my heels, not my hips as I assumed.  The musical coins on your skirt do help you control the correct speed and range you’re moving. 

And did I mention it’s fun? While line dancing, I heard another student, Myrna Estes, singing.  She says she loves “anything with music. You don’t realize how much exercise you’re getting in and it’s a social thing — it keeps me young.”

Instructor Info
Holly, a certified group fitness instructor, has been teaching for 20 years. Eight years ago, her work brought her to Virginia. Now retired, she’s back in the Berkshires. She shared that her “only problem is that when the music starts I forget where I am. It never gets old!”  Owner Suzanne doesn’t see any problem with Holly though. “She’s great, very reliable and fun and remarkably fit!”



Facility/Ambience
Rolling into Lenox Fit’s parking lot feels like going to a friend’s home who’s having a big party. The building itself is an inviting house with a superbly landscaped walkway.  As I opened the door, the aroma of coffee kissed my nose. I poured a steaming cup and took in the inspiring view of strength and cardio equipment along side the sleek check-in desk. It includes the latest treadmills, ellipticals, rowers and bikes. Within moments, front desk attendant Ethan raced over and directed me upstairs for class. This room has two large windows:  one overlooking the workout area and the other granting views of the Berkshires tress and flora. With soft-gray walls and subdued violet doors, the room is attractive and contemporary, as are the locker rooms that have plenty of lockers, changing space, spotless showers and a comforting sauna. 

Cost
Walk-in class is $12. Lenox Fit offers many membership options from one-month ($99) to yearly plans ($545). Student and senior discounts and six-month punch cards (which can be shared among family members or friends) are available.

Lenox Fit, Inc.
90 Pittsfield Road. Lenox, MA
(413) 637-9893

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 06/29/15 at 03:44 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Yoga At Ashintully Gardens

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

I feared having trouble writing about yoga class with Tracy Remelius since I’ve been taught a good story contains conflict. But with Tracy’s classes set in Tyringham’s glorious Ashintully Gardens, her calming voice guiding us while gentle Libby (Tracy’s dog) meditates on tiny creatures inhabiting a glistening pond, I just can’t think of one discord. Oh wait…you won’t want to leave. 

What Is It?
Hatha yoga practiced in the Ashintully Gardens — so beautiful and well proportioned that it earned The Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Hunnewell Medal. The class is similarly balanced, following the classic pattern of starting with centering breath work, followed by invigorating poses and closing with relaxation. Tracy also incorporates mudras — hand positions that evoke particular qualities. She asks us to decide which to use by noticing what we need: to stabilize, unify or energize.

Tracy reminds us to be aware of all our senses lest we miss the garden’s incredible gifts:  birds serenading, breezes gently massaging skin and sweet grass inviting deep inhalations. She also urges us to be open to different perspectives — even look through our legs during a standing stretch – which made me smile; the upside down trees reminded me of a Mass MOCA exhibit.

Activity Level
Moderate. The class I took was categorized as such, because, in my opinion, Tracy doesn’t define each asana so you may be more comfortable if you’re not familiar with yoga terms.  However, she is fully focused on her students’ safety and continually offers modifications for every level.

Benefits
Many of us are aware of yoga’s benefits: toned muscles, increased flexibility, improved balance and body awareness — all of which you’ll gain from Tracy’s class. However, what I found most rewarding was the final relaxation or “savasana”. This Sanskrit word means “to surrender” — but not as some Westerners may think. It doesn’t mean to give up, instead it means to give in to the moment without changing anything. And as you lie under a blissful blue sky polka-dotted with cotton ball clouds, feeling the trusty earth beneath you, why would you want anything different? As Tracy’s suggested mantra states, “In absolute stillness I experience complete serenity.” 

Instructor Info
A peaches-and-cream complexion and a sincere smile; a wicker basket holding a small notebook to keep track of students, Tracy is the real deal, embracing yoga not only as a physical exercise but as a complete lifestyle. Her voice is encouraging and soothing without a lick of judgment or expectation, perhaps because of her own path.
 
In 2009, she said good-bye to a fulltime teaching job because she was “stressed-out, over-caffeinated, overtired (and) overweight.” She saw similar issues in her students and coworkers. Through yoga, she hopes to help people take care of themselves and bring them to a better place from where they can make a positive impact in the world.

Her training (including Certification at Mama Nirvana’s New Yoga, Change the World Teacher Training and Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra YTT) allows her to offer Health Coaching and Yoga Adventures that combine outdoor sports like hiking with yoga.

Facility/Ambiance
When Tracy says Ashintully Gardens is the most beautiful place for yoga, you may take it with a grain of salt since it is her classroom, but I agree 100 percent. The garden is exquisite, but as if to gild the lily, surrounding it are majestic stone staircases, welcoming benches, delightful footbridges and urns overflowing with greenery.  When weather precludes outdoor classes, the barn provides is an equally awe-inspiring experience being both rustic and elegant, with distressed beams bearing crystal chandeliers and a stone fireplace topped by an opulent mirror. 

Cost
$10 per class for Trustee members, $12 for nonmembers.
Tracy offers peppermint oil to help keep away bugs; please bring a mat.

Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - moderate; Mondays, 7-8 p.m. — vigorous with optional Nidra Sleep Practice, 8-8:30 p.m.; the fourth Thursday of the month, 7–9:30 p.m. - Restorative Yoga and Yoga Nidra Workshops.

Ashintully Gardens
Sodem Road
. Tyringham, MA
Since there are special events at the Garden, check Tracy’s website to confirm class.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 06/08/15 at 04:12 PM • Permalink

Fitness From The Field: Berkcirque Circus School

The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.

Writing about my experience at Berkcirque: Circus School of the Berkshires, I am tempted to quote “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” Putting aside how corny and lazy that would be, it would also be inaccurate. The lyrics tell a sad tale of someone losing his love to a daring gent, but at the Great Barrington location there is not an ounce of melancholy. Instead, as co-owner and yoga instructor Jill Fleming says, “We want to share the joy of movement — there’s not enough joy out there!” 

What Is It?
Intro to Aerial is a 75-minute class offered on Wednesday evenings. There’s a cardio and stretching warmup before you attempt the trapeze, aerial hoop and silks — enormous pieces of fabric that hang from the ceiling. As the classes progress, so does the complexity of the moves. So you may start with simply sitting on the trapeze, then progress to hanging upside down and holding a split.

In Aerial Yoga, held Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons, the silks are called hammocks or slings and provide support that help deepen both your practice and relaxation. Despite the unconventional prop, the class follows a traditional sequence, starting with centering, then moving into active postures and ending with relaxation done right in the hammock that envelops you like a big cocoon. 

Activity Level
Intermediate. Aerial classes can be intimidating, but with an instructor’s constant spotting, the silks’ varying levels of flexibility and the trapeze and rings’ adjustable height, you can rise above your fear. I would recommend being comfortable with exercise and movement though, since a moderate degree of strength and coordination is necessary just to get on and off the equipment. The Intro class is limited to ten people and the yoga class to six, so everyone receives individualized attention, support and a bit of rest between moves.

Benefits
I attended an open house where I enjoyed watching several people sit, flip and balance on the trapeze, silks and hammocks. Yet in truth, perhaps being an audience member helped me procrastinate; I was a bit nervous. After my turn — which I not only survived but truly enjoyed — the next gal said, “I’m so afraid.” I resisted preaching because it’s only through direct experience that you realize leaving your comfort zone allows you to enjoy a full physical workout and a carefree, victorious feeling. However, I would be amiss if I didn’t list its many physical benefits. Core muscles, flexibility, body awareness, balance, upper body strength and coordination all are increased. Intro instructor Annie Macrae Rosenberg recounted that some folks think they can’t try aerial classes because they lack upper body strength but says that’s exactly why you should do it. “Every time you get on the trapeze you do a pull up!”

Instructor Info
In addition to holding a BA in Special Ed. and an MS in Exercise Physiology and Phys. Ed., Fleming (center photo) is a Kripalu-trained yoga instructor and certified personal trainer. For more than 20 years she has been taught PE, acrobatics and aerial arts to children of all ages and produced 10 youth circus performances. She hopes that BerkCirque is a place where everyone of every age and body type can interact in a positive, healthy way. 

Rosenberg (near right) began flying trapeze at the wee age of four and has trained at places such as Circus Smirkus, Trapeze School of NY and Aircraft Aerial Arts. She’s living proof of aerial arts’ physical and emotional benefits; as she moves on and between the trapeze and silks with strength, grace and joy it’s difficult to believe she had her baby girl Dylan just four months ago.

Facility/Ambience
The atmosphere is fun and lively, with the trapeze, aerial hoop and brightly colored silks and hammocks filling the large, open space. You can try these and other circus art props like unicycles and a low tightrope during the next open house on Saturday, June 13. It’s helpful to wear fitted clothing and tie up long hair with a band.

Cost
Intro to Aerial: $185/10 weeks or $25/class
Aerial Yoga: $24/class

Berkcirque
115 Gas House Lane, Great Barrington, MA
(413) 429-4215

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/19/15 at 09:01 AM • Permalink