Paris Survival Kit: Let's Get Physical
Exercise. Yes, I know it is an ugly word to most of the population. At least, I know it was (and some days is) for me. Don’t get me wrong — I used to LOVE the gym. I was such a gym rat in my early 20s and made it a priority — yoga at 7am, cardio class or a run in the evening followed by spot workouts, but as my career progressed I just had no more time. The gym was replaced with late hours at the office and to make matters worse, I ate food from whatever restaurants were open on seamless… you can imagine how healthy that was.
When I started consulting full time, I had a little more flexibility in my schedule and decided to try Class Pass and get back into fitness. Truth be told, I wasn’t initially going because I enjoyed it, but because I was in a wedding that summer and wanted to fit into my bridesmaid dress. I truly got back into working out when I moved to Paris. Yes, you are not hallucinating…and this is not a joke…THERE ARE GYMS IN PARIS. I too was shocked when I found out they had assembled group fitness classes. At first, I did it to meet new people, but then I got addicted because I was happier with my body and happier with myself. Exercise really makes me more focused and less stressed (YAY endorphins!)…added bonus, I look good too.
I know everyone is different and having experienced a couple of lifestyles, here are a few tips by fitness commitment (or mood you are in) for keeping in shape wherever you are.
Whether you are a nomad or a jetsetter, walking is a MUST. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to walk around and discover my surroundings. It is also way better than hitting the gym. I mean, why pay all that money to visit another city or country and spend it behind a treadmill or in gym class? I prefer spending it outdoors and taking in the sights, sounds and local culture. Also, depending on how far you walk, you can also treat yourself to a sweet treat, snack or if you are like me, a glass of vino! And if you are a competitive junkie, seeing how many steps you walked day after day is soooooo addicting. Trust me.
Pro-tip: If you are using walking as a complete substitute for hitting the gym, tighten your core muscles as you power-walk (walking at a super fast pace). Believe me, it works. You get more out of your walk as you are helping tone your muscles while getting some cardio in. You can also incorporate some arm movements into this if you are not shy. I mean, it’s not like these people will ever see you again. If you need motivation, see this short clip… but walk, don’t run…it’s just as effective and better for your knees, especially if you are a heel aficionado like me.
THE NON-COMMITTAL MULTI-TASKER
So you really don’t feel like committing to working out, or maybe you are just ALWAYS tired from a long day at work, or just traveling all the time. Whatever your reason you can still make most out of your time and create a routine that helps you keep fit.
I have a bunch of friends who are digital nomads and they always ask how I stay in shape when I travel. The answer is making the most of your routine. I don’t believe in spending time in a gym unless it is a group class and you get to be social. I also know that from moving from place to place, gym memberships get difficult. Here is what I mean by making the most of your routine… also known as the lazy girl’s guide to working out.
In addition to walking, take the stairs whenever possible. I am lucky to live in an elevator building here and as much as I want to take the elevator especially when I’m carrying a boatload of groceries, I climb those five flights up and down everyday AND every time I leave the apartment. This applies everywhere — stores, train stations, office buildings, airports, etc. Remember: Stairs > escalators + elevators. Want to know why the French are all so skinny? They have walk ups and don’t have a choice. You do. Choose wisely.
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to tighten your core as you climb!! Also, this can also be done at hotels, but if you are twenty-one flights up, you can probably do once a day unless you are a superstar.
So another life hack that I’m sure my body builder friends will laugh at when they read this is using bottled water as weights. If you are in France, I suggest you use wine bottles just for fun :). I have real weights at home, but I’m not buying a new pair everywhere I travel and I’ve already told you my thoughts on gyms. I don’t want huge muscles. I just like a slight definition and prefer a more feminine shape, so 1.5 liter bottles of Evian or Fiji usually do the trick for bicep curls, tricep curls and lateral raises or presses. I usually do this while I’m on the phone, lounging around the apartment or hotel, or watching TV — 5 different variations for each muscle with 10 repetitions of each.
If you are not a fan of my bottled water method, doing push-ups against a wall is another great alternative for partial arm toning.
Pro-Tip: I used to do push-ups against a wall at work during conference calls or while waiting for a meeting to start (use your judgment) — again, maximize your time. It is a great way to kill time and better your body while you are at it!
LEGS & BUTT
I usually do squats and leg lifts while I am brushing my teeth, washing my face and applying moisturizer. Talk about taking multi-tasking to a new level. This can pretty much be done anywhere and anytime, but I prefer to do them when I’m waking up and going to bed. As for variations and repetitions, I do double that of arms, but really depends on how toned you want those areas to get.
Pro-tip: If you are advanced and have good balance, I like doing 1-legged squats when I do my arm routine. Great for your core and overall balance.
The Model on The Go
Whether you are a workaholic or aspire to have the body of a supermodel, I highly recommend a customized routine. I know a lot of friends in NYC who have signed up for a personal trainer. Unfortunately, this does not work for me as I am mostly based in Paris and travel a lot so meeting someone every week is not an option for me. I need a routine that I can do easily anywhere, anytime and now that I have fully committed to working out, I needed something that would suit my schedule and lifestyle.
Luckily, I found an alternative that is nothing short of A-MAZING called the Vongova Bodylift. BODY BY VONGOVA provides customized routines based on what you are looking for. I had the pleasure of meeting the Founder, Brenda Vongova, at a networking lunch in New York and she has been my health and fitness guru ever since!
The routines range from a full body workout that only takes 20 minutes (Yes, ladies, you are not hallucinating — 20 freaking minutes!!!) to curated targeted area exercises. She offers personalized consultations and you leave your workout with a menu of your routine, which is usually 5 different workout routines with 5 different exercises for each routine. The best part for me is that Brenda doesn’t speak in workout jargon, so you understand what you are doing and will remember when you do it solo. For example, one of her exercises is called “the sexy” — not only is it effective, but it makes me laugh every time I do it, which equals more endorphins! Other exercises include the “flamingo” and the “pretzel”, inspired by her former background as a competitive synchronized swimmer.
If you are torn on which one to try, my favorite workout from her arsenal is the Vongova Bumbum Lift. I learned how to do 1000 butt exercises a day like it is no big deal!! I am in love with it so much I do this workout every single day!
If my word isn’t enough, she has been featured in the September issue of Vogue, and also has a roster of supermodel clients including Petra Nemcová, Madison Headrick, Herieth Paul and Alina Baikova. Talk about #bodygoals
Pro-Tip: You can do this workout ANYWHERE, literally. And with over 200+ variations on each workout, you can always add on if you get bored with your routine or want to excel to a new level of fitness.
Super Pro-Tip: It takes merely 20 minutes of efficient and specialized training each day to get a supermodel body with the Vongova Bodylift.
The Social Butterfly
If you like having the support of friends or just other people when you workout, there is one group routine I swear by and it is ballet barre.
My love for ballet barre is twofold — 1-It made me LOVE fitness again, 2-I really see a change in my body… hence my favorite hashtag #bodieslikeballerinas
I’m sure there are many barre classes out there, but my favorite is XTend Barre. If you like a group setting, I highly recommend this gym. If you can’t find an Xtend barre gym near you, just google search “barre classes near me” and some locations should come up. My favorite gym, if you are ever in Paris, is Studio Rituel. They offer a few different classes ranging from yoga to gyrotonics, but I am and forever will be a barre girl when it comes to group classes. If you are non-commital with your gym and want a little more variety, Paris finally has classpass, so try it out free for a month!
They have international locations if you travel a lot, but some of their workouts can also be done on your own with some modification . Just follow your ABC’s— Always Be Creative… where there is a will, there is a way.
Pro-tip: Combine one (or a few) of these classes with your normal Body by Vongova routine if you need rapid results. This is my new go-to power couple for important special occasion prep.