From diet to pregnancy to oral and mental health, the Office of Women’s Health hosts a week filled with events and education initiatives to get women proactive about their well-being.
There are many aspects of health to consider when working towards optimal living. Daily pressures coupled with busy schedules often means that we’re putting our health last on the priority list.
This week offers the perfect opportunity to put a spotlight on your health and well-being, to hopefully learn something new that will inspire you to embrace a healthier lifestyle.
Here are 5 things you need to know about women’s health to start:
Nearly 2 out of 3 women 20yrs and older are overweight or obese. Studies with Mexican-American women show that they are 40% more likely to be obese than their white counterparts.
Less than half of US women are getting enough aerobic exercise and only 20% are doing muscle-strengthening activity, making women more likely to develop heart disease and cancer (along with contributing to obesity and diabetes). Latinos are 30% less likely to engage in exercise than their white counterparts.
Smoking causes 80% of lung cancer deaths among women in the US. On the plus side, Latinas have lower smoking rates comparably, and they’re less likely to smoke during pregnancy.
Women are much more likely than men to be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. According to the CDC, Latina teens are the most likely group to consider suicide.
Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the US, with over 75% of women 40-60 yrs old having at least one risk factor. On average, Latinas are more likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than their white counterparts.
Did any of these facts surprise you? What will you change to lead a healthier life?
The Office of Women’s Health also put together these great infographics with helpful tips on how to take care of yourself in all aspects of health.
Let me begin with an admission: I have never gone to a spinning class. I’ll take it one step further and say that I don’t get on any bikes at all, stationary or not. You’ll usually find me by a squat rack or bench press in the weight room, powerlifting my way through a workout. Spinning, like many other cardio-intensive classes, just never called out to me. I prefer to lift heavy and workout alone. That’s just me.
I’ve spent the last couple of years listening to people wax poetic about the amazing workouts they’ve had at Soul Cycle, the premier spinning studio in New York City (with additional studios in California and most of New England). The trainers, their heart-pumping music playlists, and the party-like atmosphere were among the most popular comments I heard from Soul Cycle devotees. It all sounded pretty great, but I wasn’t convinced.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year and I found myself reconsidering my strict strength-training routine in favor of new fitness challenges, especially the fast-paced, heart-pumping kind. I took the ongoing construction of a spin studio in my gym as a sign that maybe I should broaden my horizons, namely on a bike.
Soul Cycle: me and you? A date? Okay, let’s go for it!
My first stop was on Soul Cycle’s website to pick my class and to find an instructor. Instead of offering a typical membership plan with monthly or annual coverage, Soul Cycle has a pay-as-you-go model with an option to pre-purchase any number of classes you want. The only fine print is that you must use those classes within a certain amount of time. Just keep that in mind, if you decide to buy several classes at once.
After spending a few hours perusing Soul Cycle’s excellent website and reading online reviews, I decided to pick Akin as my instructor. Each instructor gets their own page with a running feed of their social media networks and a current playlist of their favorite music. I like to know what I’m getting into before I sign up for anything, especially if it’s fitness related, so I really enjoyed the fact that I could compare different instructors to figure out who would be a good fit. Akin had a lot of thumbs up from both beginners and advanced spinners, and his mix of hip-hop, r&b, and pop was right up my musical alley. I suggest you take some time to do this for yourself. You also get to pick which bike you want to reserve, so if you want to hide out in the back, sit next to a friend, or burn it up with the pros up front, you have that option.
Arriving late to a Soul Cycle class should be avoided, especially if it’s your first time. I got to the studio with about ten minutes to spare and I wish I had some more time to get settled. The front desk staff was very friendly and efficient, even offering me a complimentary water for class. Once I signed off on the forms and picked up my shoes, I headed to the locker room to store my stuff. The studio itself is beautifully designed with the white, yellow, and black theme running throughout the space. The locker room was fairly small and co-ed, although there are separate bathroom facilities for men and women if you prefer to change in privacy. No need for a lock either. Each locker has its own digital lock that you can configure with your own code.
Once my stuff was safely stored, I ran upstairs and put my shoes on outside the doors. I didn’t understand the need for a rental until I got to the studio. Each shoe has a special clamp that locks onto the pedals. This ensures your stability and keeps you safely on the bike as you transition from one move to the next. I didn’t really get it at first but I quickly saw the need for this as the class got started and silently thanked the genius who thought of this little invention. That said, it should be noted that the shoe rental is required for each class. First rental is free, thereafter rentals are $3.
Note: Let me get this out of the way now: Soul Cycle is pricey. It’s $20 for your first class, $34 thereafter. That’s a bit of a splurge, especially if you’re a New Yorker trying to balance a limited budget. Then again, I know people dropping hundreds of dollars on Crossfit boxes and personal trainers, so to each their own. I say this now to cover my bases, but let me tell you about my class before you write it off completely.
If it’s your first time at Soul Cycle, be sure to inform one of the staff so that they can help you get set up. They adjust the set height, ask about lower back issues, and explain how to lock your shoe on the pedals. There are small two-pound hand weights located underneath the seat and a knob that increases or decreases resistance by the handlebars. The class was completely full and the music was already streaming out of the speakers. It’s a bit cramped with each rider within inches of each other in the dimly lit room, but already there was a lot of buzzing energy coursing through the studio.
The doors close and the class starts at a running sprint. With the music pumping and my fellow riders spinning their wheels like maniacs, I felt a bit overwhelmed within the first five minutes. It gets hot, fast, and then to make matters worse, my towel fell to the ground with no easy way for me to pick it up. I had to leave it behind and just keep moving. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to dress appropriately, with a loose cotton tank and lightweight tights. This is NOT the class to wear sweats and a hoodie, Just a tip.
I’m not going to lie. I consider myself pretty fit so I thought I’d handle this class like a boss pretty well. It’s just a bike right? And I’ve got rhythm. I can dance. What’s so hard about doing a little shimmy to some awesome music while pedaling? I just squatted 125lbs the week before, so really, how could this be that tough?
This is where the date got kind of ugly.
You could tell who’s done this before as they expertly wove their bodies on the bike from side to side. I, on the other hand, spent most of my time trying to figure out how to move without losing pace on the pedals. Within the first fifteen minutes I thought there was no way I could ever get it and that this would be my first and last spinning experience. My heart was in my throat and my legs felt like they were on fire. I slammed headfirst into a wall and wanted nothing more than to collect my abandoned towel off the ground, wipe off the sweat, and head home with my tail between my legs.
I have to give a lot of credit to Akin. He led the charge with motivating speeches, encouraging us to let out great big yells to help release the tension. I’m a big believer in energy transference- sounds new-agey but I think that the tone of a room can be greatly influenced by the people in it, and that studio was no exception.
My bike was smack dab in the center, so I got to see all the riders around me, whenever I was able to tear my eyes away without losing my balance. Some were rocking it out, dancing like their lives depended on it. Others were just like me, figuring out their pace and struggling to get their coordination down. But the really awesome thing is that ALL of us were into it. There were no bored expressions and you got the sense that everyone was pushing it to the max throughout the workout.
Then came the breakthrough. Maybe it was Akin’s encouragement to dig a little deeper to beat back our fears that roused a familiar sensation deep inside. I am very familiar with the self-defeating talk that kept me from exercising so many times before. The person I am now, who embraces fitness and healthy living as a lifestyle, took years of soul-searching and half-hearted attempts at changing my habits.
Suddenly I found myself actually smiling. I even closed my eyes and let the rhythm wash over me, as silly as that sounds. I realized that it was a little ridiculous to walk in there expecting to be an expert without ever having tried it before. Even the 2lb weights I sneered at when he pulled them out during the workout, kicked my butt. I was utterly humbled.
I’d forgotten what it was like to be truly challenged during a workout. Powerlifting is not easy, but sometimes I get caught up in the routine of it all, mentally checking out along the way. Switching it up with an intense spinning class woke me up and got me truly jazzed about making it through the class. I felt proud of myself, which I hadn’t realized I’d been missing.
I can thank Akin and Soul Cycle for shaking me out of my fitness rut and reminding me that how important it is to test my boundaries.
That’s one of the reasons I started working out in the first place: to fall in love with how much my body is capable of, even when my head tries to throw me off stride.
Not too shabby for a first date. Trust me, I’ve had worse.
What did I take away from my date and what tips can I give you? Check your ego at the door. And please don’t drop your towel on the floor. You’ll need it.
Here’s more info on Soul Cycle and the studio I visited:
Soul Cycle Tribeca, 103 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007Classes: 1st class $20; Each class thereafter $34Shoe Rentals: 1st class FREE; Rentals thereafter $3www.soul-cycle.com
As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy. 🙂
Where the heck are those curtains? I thought to myself.
I was rushing through a department store one afternoon on my lunch break from work when I received the email.
I’m working with Latina Magazine and for our social media issue, February, we’re reaching out collecting images from Latina bloggers all across the web. We’d love to include you!
I stopped in my tracks, nearly bumping into another other harried lunchtime shopper, as I scanned the message that popped up on-screen.
Latina magazine? Really?!
Considering I was inconsistent at best with my blog and my workouts had petered out considerably, I felt both awed and somewhat embarrassed. How could I possibly be included in a social media issue when I’d taken such a huge step back from this world?
I’m reminded of how I felt when I started training with Natalie a little over a year ago. I had just gotten over some of my gym fear by stepping out of my apartment and joining my brother on some runs. Natalie was a professional powerlifter and personal trainer with years of experience handling heavy weights. I’d admired her from afar and I talked myself into giving it a shot. I figured I’d keep running and this would be a fun, new way to keep fit in the meantime.
The first two months of training were all about laying the foundation by building on my existing strength and layering on some of these new movements. I didn’t even touch a bar until several months of getting the basic movements down.
I can still remember how challenging it was to practice RDLs with a pvc pipe, awkwardly mimicking Natalie’s movements and completely embarrassed by what all the gawkers were thinking of my horrible form.
Of course there were no gawkers. There was no one there to criticize me or point fingers the way I scared myself into thinking would happen. Fear is a tricky and powerful thing.
I spent years before I started training, questioning who I was by equating my self-worth with what I didn’t have. I wasn’t thin. I wasn’t “successful”. I wasn’t a leader or inspirational. I wasn’t enough.
The baby steps I took with powerlifting a year ago opened up doors that I never thought I’d get through without a battering ram and maybe another decade of hemming and hawing. I found an outlet that showed me unequivocally what I could do with a bit of effort, and more importantly, with faith in myself to get it done.
It inspires me to talk to other women who are out there kicking butt in their gyms, their living rooms, and their communities by illustrating the way exercise and healthy eating have transformed their lives.
Reflecting on the last year of lifting highs and lows, I find myself still working on that foundation where I began. I may have traded in the pvc pipe for a weighted bar with plates but the work is still going on in my mind to get past the fears of what he might say or what she might think.
Battling back that fear in all my endeavors continues to be a major hurdle that trips me up sometimes. These days I’m choosing to focus on the rebound, because no matter how much my inner critic finds ways to hold me back, I always end up right where I need to be.
I stood there, in the aisle of a busy department store and allowed myself to hesitate for just a moment. I let the fear in and talk me in and out of a series of thoughts doubting who I was and all that I had accomplished a year after I started blogging and lifting. But only for a moment. And then I got back to the business of proving that I did in fact earn this, no matter where I was in my journey.
From healthy living to raising our kids to saving money, the thriving community of Latina bloggers is an ever-growing group that is not afraid to speak up about the issues that matter to us. In the February 2014 social media issue of Latina magazine, we featured some of our favorites–including our own Irina Gonzalez‘s punto on this virtual familia. Check out our full list of the 37 Latina bloggers that you should be following in 2014!
This sassy New Yorker is on a journey to find out what moves people to eat, how cultures shape relationships with food, and what they can do to improve the health of their communities.
Moral of the story?
Sometimes you’ll doubt yourself. Sometimes you’ll take a couple of steps back from the path leading you towards your goal. And sometimes it’ll be hard to find that path again. The important thing to remember is that this is all part of the journey. You need these moments to pause and catch your breath. It may feel like you’ve stopped dead in your tracks, but you haven’t. Maybe your goal needs to be reshaped to embody who you are now because we’re always changing, always evolving. All of this is valid, and all of this is vital to staying true to who you are.
I’m back at the gym with Natalie guiding me to new heights each week. I’m back here on the blog sharing it all with you. And the rest? I guess I’ll find out.
Have you found yourself having a hard time sticking to a goal?
How did you bounce back?
What inspires you to stay motivated?
Share your thoughts below!
Also, show some love to my fellow Latina bloggers who were recognized in the February social media issue of Latina magazine. These are all incredible women sharing their unique stories of health, food, style and culture. Congratulations to all of them and to all of you out there contributing in your own ways!
As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂