Barry's Bootcamp with Melanie of Get Real With Mel

Ever since they opened a Barry's Bootcamp here in Chicago, the fitness community has been obsessed. It reminds me of when SoulCycle opened up in Old Town and people peered through the glass anxiously on a daily basis trying to figure out when it was going to open so they could be among the first to cash in on blood, sweat and tears. 

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OTG Bootcamp with Erin of Loop Looks

Having been an active member of SWEAT Chicago for a year, I was no stranger to using a kettlebell in my workouts. That being said, no matter how many times I did swings or squats in those classes, I had never devoted a block of time to perfecting my form, which is surprising since I obsess over things like that. When Erin of Loop Looks suggested we meet up at OTG Bootcamp for some kettlebell work, I jumped right on that idea.

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SWEAT with Erin of Erin's Inside Job

This session is a bit different than my others. The workout I'm covering was a class at SWEAT Chicago. Not only have I been here before, but I'm a monthly unlimited member so I frequent it 4-5 times a week. On top of that, Erin is an instructor there! To switch things up, instead of us taking a class together, I made sure to sign up for a time when Erin would be leading the class. 

WORKIN' ON OUR FITNESS:

When I attended my first class at SWEAT, I had no idea what I was in for. I left the class with tired muscles and a disgustingly sweaty shirt. A year later, nothing has changed. Which is probably why I love this studio so much.

Each 60 minute high intensity interval class is led by one of SWEAT's certified trainers. They start off the class by showing you every move and going over technique. Then, they get down to business. Throughout the entire class, they motivate you, push you and (inevitably) provide you with some great karaoke. Because SWEAT only allows a certain number of students, there is plenty of room for each movement and the trainers are able to with their students on proper form and technique. At SWEAT, you get to know the other students and the trainers and become part of a whole new community of people! One big, huge, amazing community of people who like to get really, really sweaty together. 

The classes at SWEAT are intent driven, so each day they focus on a different group of muscles. If you want to work on your arms, go on Mondays. Needing some extra cardio? Fridays will wear you out. In search of a J.Lo booty? Go for the notoriously hard workout on a Wednesday. Aside from constantly working different muscles, each day has a different format, uses different equipment and incorporates new movements. Whether you are a beginner or a long-time student, you can make it through a class and have it be challenging (but do-able) for you. If needed, the instructors will provide modifications for movements to accommodate preference or injury, so you can always participate. There's also constant room for advancement and improvement so you won't max out of a class. Increase your weight, speed or your reps for a bigger challenge. If you don't, the instructors will be sure to do it for you (trust me!)

One of my favorite days of the week at SWEAT is Tuesday and I make a habit of going to Erin's 7am class. The workout format is Tabata, which consists of eight rounds of 20 seconds on then 10 seconds rest of each movement before moving on to the next set. I like this format because once you finish a movement, you never see it again. I might dread the incline sprints or the burpees, but I know that once I get through it I never, ever have to do it again. Well, at least not until the next class. Whether it's my favorite day or not, 7am classes suck when you know you could be sleeping. It takes a great trainer to make me want to leave my warm bed to go work out. Luckily, Erin fits the bill. She constantly encourages you and reminds you that it's "only 20 seconds." It can be easy to get a bit lost during newer movements or during transitions, but Erin does a great job of guiding you and correcting your form. She's also a solid DJ so you'll have a no lack of upbeat songs.

Have I gone on long enough about how much I love this place and have I convinced you to go now? If so, sign up for your first class for only $15! 

THE INSIDE SCOOP:

Even before meeting Erin, I followed Erin's Inside Job pretty regularly. If you have a serious love for food (like Erin) you will want to follow her. Aside from the occasional recipe or product post, you can enjoy recaps of her food missions, like scouring the city for the best smoothie bowls. It's that kind of dedication that really draws you in. Don't worry, these drool worthy indulgent foods are balanced out with clean eating recipes, a healthy amount of fitness and life lessons.

Originally from Maryland, Erin moved to Virginia with her husband before they made their way to Chicago. Most of her work had been in the administrative field while working to become a pharmacist. Although she had been working hard to reach her goal of becoming a pharmacist, her world was shaken up when her drug and alcohol addiction was discovered. As a result, she lost her job and started on the difficult road to recovery. This recovery is what led to Erin's Inside Job. Erin started her blog in September 2013 when she was inspired by other blogs she was reading. She felt she had a significant story to tell and that blogging was a way she could give back to others while learning more about herself. You can read more on Erin's addiction here.

One of the topics Erin enjoys writing about most is self-esteem and emotional wellness because that was something she struggled with for a long time. Playing on this topic, one of my favorite posts from Erin was titled "My Anti-Goals List for 2016." I'm a firm believer that focusing on negative aspects of yourself is one of the worst things you can do, so I love that Erin took the "what I won't do" route. Another love of Erin's is anything food related. She enjoys when companies reach out to her and give her the opportunity to test out new products and recipes. 

In the beginning, Erin's Inside Job was a healthy living blog focused on food and fitness. Erin realized that while she kept trying to make the outside look good, she needed to focus on the inside and overall wellness too. She began encompassing more emotional and mental wellness into her site. The more I read Erin's Inside Job, the more I can see it's a reflection of Erin and her growth as a person, as a blogger, as a trainer and as an almond milk latte aficionado. Erin plans to continue to work on producing good, helpful content for her blog. She is looking to post recipes and tutorials that will forever remain relevant to her readers (known in the blogging world as "evergreen.") Erin's Inside Job will keep it's the personal touch with her weekend recaps and her Friday Five posts, which really give you a glimpse into her day-to-day life. Bonus - Erin is writing a book which will talk about her personal story and also what she wishes she had known growing up about being a healthy, emotional person!

Between personal training, freelance writing, public speaking, teaching at SWEAT and working on her blog, I have no idea how Erin fits her day into 24 hours, but she does it. She works out, eats killer food, tries out new products, comes up with tips and tricks relevant to everyone and THEN she shares it with the world. 

TIDBITS OF TRUTH:

Favorite blogs to follow? SuzlyfePinch of YumOh She GlowsHello to FitPumps & Iron and Katy Widrick
What's your ultimate meal? Chicken with lots of veggies like spaghetti squash and sweet potato. Or Pizza Mac n' Cheese at Dimo's.
How do you take your coffee? No regular coffee. Decaf doppio espresso or an almond milk latte.

BOTTOM LINE:

Erin's Inside Job shows a way for people to live their best lives by improving their physical, emotional and mental selves.


Erin is a personal trainer, fitness instructor and blogger in Chicago. When she's not training others, she's busy focusing on her own fitness and exploring the city to find the best foods and share them on Instagram. That obsession led her to nab the Director of Social Media position at Sweat Chicago, so you can basically always find her on her phone. Her blog, Erin's Inside Job, focuses on helping others discover that true wellness comes from within and from balancing not only physical health, but mental, emotional, and spiritual as well. Her work can also be found in such publications as The Huffington Post and Refinery29.

Stay motivated with Erin on TwitterInstagramFacebook or Pinterest

Full Psycle with Rachel of Wayfaring Rachel

WORKIN' ON OUR FITNESS:

After having gone to a couple cycling classes, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from Full Psycle. Yeah, well I was pretty wrong. From the start, this studio is unlike any of the others I have gone too. In a great way. Neomi was the instructor for my 45 minute Full Psycle class. She was friendly and pumped up. Similar to SoulCycle, the studio is darker when you walk in and get set up on your bike. It has upbeat music playing throughout the class, but is much, much more interactive. Each bike is numbered, which corresponds to your stats on the board. Starting with blue, up to green, yellow, orange and then finally, red, the color your bike is at any given moment corresponds to what effort "zone" you are in. Initially, this can seem a bit intimidating because people aren't always at the same level, but Full Psycle takes care of that! The beginning starts with a 3 minute push. Your efforts and pace at that time are averaged out to determine your own personal zones and what it takes to get you there. These zones are yours and yours alone for the rest of the class.  

WORKIN' ON OUR FITNESS:

Throughout the 45 minutes, you participate in mileage races, timed pushes and other various activities and you can see your progress on the board the whole time. You'll be able to see your individual mileage for the class, speed and the amount of energy you have created. Weights are incorporated into this class as well, but in my opinion, in a better manner than at SoulCycle. At various points throughout the class you are doing weight work, then a push, then more weight work, another push, etc. It felt much more cohesive than just small weights at the end.

Overall, I found the atmosphere at Full Psycle to be super friendly and less intimidating. It allows you to push yourself harder and keeps you accountable. More than just the workout, the customer service here is top notch. Included with your class, your shoes are free, you are provided a towel and you can even grab a water out of the cooler at no charge. Walk into the classroom and there are employees who are willing and eager to help you get your bike set up correctly. Push your way through your class and at the cool down for the end of class, you'll fall in love with whichever Full Psycle staff member is carrying around the tray of cool towels for you to grab. If you're into cycling, looking to push yourself, hold yourself accountable or just want to try something new I can't recommend this place enough!

Your entire first week is FREE! Check out Full Psycle Lincoln Park to reserve a class now!

IT'S WHO YOU KNOW:

If you ask Rachel where she's from, you're going to get about 100 answers. Most recently, she moved from Chicago to Cincinnati, but her love for exploring, has also given her opportunity to live in several other states, like Texas and Kentucky. In Chicago, she spends her time blogging primarily, but also works as a marketing consultant. You wouldn't really know that a couple years ago she was in college for pre-veterinary medicine.
 
It was during that time that she realized she didn't want to spend every day inside of a lab, so she ditched that idea and took off on a European backpacking trip. She found her love for traveling and after that trip ended, she just kept on going. Part of what Rachel loves most about traveling is how you don't just learn more about other cultures, but you learn more about yourself. Some people are born, raised and remain in the same city their whole lives (which Rachel insists there is nothing wrong with) but she wants to spend her time immersing herself all over the world. 
 
Italy is one of Rachel's favorite trips. She took an Italian class before going, which allowed her to experience it a bit more authentically. Aside from vacation destinations, if she could move anywhere that she has visited, it would be Budapest. You can even read a bit about her love affair with Budapest's Ruin Pubs! With all of the great places around the world, where should you go first? Rachel says that all of Southeast Asia is a great travel option.

GOOD READS:

In college, Rachel had a lifestyle blog, but she realized she didn't love it and left it behind. Instead, in May 2015, encouraged by her love of travel, she started Wayfaring Rachel.
 
Travel can take a toll on people and it can be stressful. Aside from the physical demands that the actual act of traveling requires, there's all the mental stimulation when trying to decide where to go, what to do, how much to spend, etc. Wayfaring Rachel is designed to lighten this process. As an overall guide on "how to travel," this blog will introduce you to new destinations and what is a "can't miss" experience there. You'll even get an idea on what to bring with you to really ease the process. 
 
Wayfaring Rachel's information will continue to expand as Rachel hits more destinations (like Greece!) and expands the topics she covers. An avid yogi, she would love to dabble in health and fitness, especially how it relates to travel. It's important to stay healthy while traveling and not get sidetracked with the experiences and all of the food. ALL. OF. THE. FOOD. This blog may soon cover food to eat and ways to stay fit while on vacation. Not to mention having the right type of clothing with you. You can also expect to see some vegan recipe posts. Being plant based herself, Rachel wants to share some healthy ideas and travel options with her followers.

TIDBITS OF TRUTH:

Favorite blogs to follow? World of Wanderlust and The Blonde Abroad
What's your ultimate meal? Really, really good oatmeal. Favorite is steel cut oats, a bit of water, cashew milk, almond butter, blueberries and some cinnamon. 
How do you take your coffee? Black and lots of it. No cream and no sugar.

BOTTOM LINE:

Wayfaring Rachel is a blog for 20 something women who are interested in traveling to new places. It's a place for people always looking for new destinations to inspire them and help them discover new places.


Rachel Medlock blogs about travel, fashion, and fitness at Wayfaring Rachel, while also spreading the love by contributing to sites like The Culture Trip and Mogul. As a lifelong nomad, she jumps on a plane (or train…or automobile) as often as possible. She has a penchant for Audrey Hepburn movies, bourbon, trying to master handstands, rescuing animals, and anywhere there's sunshine. 

Explore with Rachel on InstagramFacebookTwitter & Pinterest

SoulCycle with Maddy of Chicago Cheap Ass

WORKIN' ON OUR FITNESS:

I got my second cycling experience, with the help of Chicago Cheap Ass' Maddy Osman, at SoulCycle Old Town. My first class had been at their Chicago Loop location, in a  Hip Hop themed class. You can read more on that here. This time, our class was the "regular" SoulCycle hour. I say it like that because let's be honest, SoulCycle is anything but normal. The atmosphere is intimate but upbeat and the instructors are all full of pep and fun. The hour speeds by and at the end, if (like me) you aren't used to spinning your legs feel like jelly. 

I've mentioned it before, but I'm a perfectionist when it comes to fitness classes. Especially ones like this because I always want to be on beat with the instructor/music, moving when I'm supposed to, etc. If I'm not, I panic that I'm not getting the good workout I should be getting. That being said, I struggled through this class more than I did my original. The beat in the hip-hop class was so pronounced it was hard to miss. This original session had a mash up of music from some hip-hop to some rock to Ryan Adam's cover of Taylor Swift. The music is always top notch, but for someone like me, it was harder to pedal along like I was supposed to. I ended up doing my own thing have the time if I fell off beat, but still had a lot of fun. I think a few more hip-hop classes and a bit more spin experience and this wouldn't be a problem for me! 

Remember, SoulCycle charges only $20 for your first ride, including shoe rental! Check out their studio locations to find one near you!

IT'S WHO YOU KNOW:

Maddy originally started blogging as part of her college portfolio. Once she finished school she continued on as a means of portfolio and creative outlet. This helped her to gain a position at a social media company and then branch out to freelance on her own. She maintains her blog and stays active in influencer networks so she can continue on in a creative outlet and expand her portfolio.In conjunction with being a social media guru, Maddy seems to have a constant dose of excitement and curiosity to her. She's fun to be around and always keeps it real. 

Get a feel for Maddy & her personality at Cupid's Undie Run on February 13 in Chicago. Working as a Race Director for the program, she'll be among the best of them running a mile in her fanciest undies all while raising money for the Children's Tumor Foundation!

GOOD READS:

Chicago Cheap Ass formed in March 2015 as frugality tips for those living in Chicago. It developed into much more. While Maddy still writes 3/4 or so of the posts, she has expanded to feature more contributors who focus on certain topics within the blog. The main topic remains good deals within Chicago. but there are posts regarding events, restaurants, open houses throughout the city & more. 

Overall, Chicago Cheap Ass has developed into a guide on how to live a well rounded life in Chicago.  Whether it be through activities Chicago Cheap Ass is contacted about or events that they seem to stumble upon, this is a well rounded guide for all things city related.

TIDBITS OF TRUTH:

Favorite blogs to follow? Digital marketing blogs (since the industry is constantly changing) like: Seth GodinConvince and ConvertMarketingProfs and Buffer
What's your ultimate meal? Bacon 5-Cheese Mac n'Cheese with onions, Tacos al Pastor or Lava cake. 
How do you take your coffee? No coffee. Instead, basic green tea with honey. Or lemon. Or both.

BOTTOM LINE:

Chicago Cheap Ass is a 20-something's guide to living on a budget, specifically in Chicago.


Maddy is a Lifestyle blogger who shares her tips for finding the best deals and values in the city at Chicago Cheap Ass. On a professional level, she helps businesses use digital marketing to accomplish different business objectives at The Blogsmith. She loves exploring Chicago and finding out more about it every day!

Explore cheap life with Maddy on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest Google+!

SoulCycle with Kathryn of FoodieGirlChicago

WORKIN' ON OUR FITNESS:

I've been talking about wanting to try a spin/cycling class for a long time. I finally got my opportunity with Kathryn of FoodieGirlChicago and I stopped by SoulCycle Loop. All I can say is, I get it now. I get the huge following behind SoulCycle. It's fun and upbeat. The Hip Hop theme made it super easy to follow along and it was great music. I appreciated the dark room because it made it feel more intimate and reassured me that everyone wasn't staring at me fumbling along. It was a fast pace but workable and really got me sweating. The end incorporates some arm weight movements, which was a nice change up and good for some total body fitness.

Usually, classes where I have to move to certain beat (like Zumba or spin) make me self conscious. I'm an uber perfectionist and if I'm not doing the moves exactly right I completely stop, stare at the instructor and then start going again. I come out feeling like I did everything wrong and didn't get a workout. My first experience at SoulCycle was anything but this for me. It's a fun atmosphere and a good workout. I don't see it being my primary fitness activity but a great opportunity for some cross-training.

SoulCycle charges only $20 for your first ride, including shoe rental. Check out the studio locations to find one near you!

IT'S WHO YOU KNOW:

Kathryn, a California girl and huge foodie, moved to Chicago and transplanted herself into a food haven. It's easy to get carried away with so many epic restaurants, but she manages to keep a nice balance between going out and cooking at home (both usually involve wine.) This balance also factors in her desire to get fit, so she takes some classic dishes and some favorite dishes and shares a healthy version. With so much love for food and trying new things, her friends were constantly looking to her for input on places and meals to try. FoodieGirlChicago is Kathryn's way of sharing this input with them and with the world! 

GOOD READS:

Visiting FoodieGirlChicago, you'll likely notice right off the bat something a bit unique. It focuses mostly on 2 serving recipes. Kathryn realized early on that there was a lack of recipes like this and sometimes it just isn't possible to cut one in half. Who can REALLY measure "half an egg." The recipes you'll find are inspired by restaurants, recipes she sees online, foods she loves or just what sound good at the moment, like her Stuffed Grilled Peppers. This is one of her recipes for 2, so it works perfect for you to have leftovers or to share with someone.

On top of original recipes, FoodieGirlChicago also offers sneek peeks into menus from local Chicago spots & Kathryn's opinions on them. There's also information on great wines, how-to guides and a series called "Monthly Musings." That's a series that features a list of places, peoples, blogs, really anything, that Kathryn is loving that month! A great read to discover something new, I highly recommend you check it out.

While FoodieGirlChicago may be a hobby for now, in a dream world it could be a full-time job. Until then, be on the look for more love on wine, foods, restaurants and more@

TIDBITS OF TRUTH:

Favorite blogs to follow? The Chunky ChefEngineering in StylePlatings & Pairings and RecipeTin Eats
What's your ultimate meal? A really great burger. Cheese is a favorite. A favorite food group is seafood - crab cakes, tuna, etc.
How do you take your coffee? Mocha with skim milk

BOTTOM LINE:

Kathryn constantly has a desire to try something new whether it's food, a new restaurant or a different type of wine. FoodieGirlChicago is here to inspire you to do something you haven't done before!


Kathryn is part of LinkedIn's Sales Solutions team, where she provides social selling expertise to her clients.  Kathryn also blogs at FoodieGirlChicago sharing her thoughts on food, wine and cooking, with a special focus on cooking for two.  Kathryn grew up in California and her love of food started at a young age.  She loves to cook and entertain, and also loves checking out the Chicago food scene, especially when good wine is involved!

Experience more of her food & wine adventures by following along on FacebookTwitterInstagram Pinterest!

Reformer Pilates with Fenique of Chic in Chocolate

WORKIN' ON OUR FITNESS:

I met Fenique on a blazin' hot day in September for a Reformer Pilates class at Body R+D in Lakeview. Let me tell you, before setting this up, I hadn't even heard of this type of workout. Yes, I know of pilates but even my knowledge of that is limited. By limited I mean, my description of it would have been "like yoga but with more strengthening." Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect. Also, any class that requires you to wear "grippy" socks totally throws me through a loop

What makes this class different from others is the use of a reformer machine that is used in conjunction with traditional pilates moves. The reformer uses pulleys, bars and straps to make each move a bit more challenging. As a newbie, I was a bit intimidated, but our instructor was extremely helpful and made an effort to get to know each of us (nice personal touch!) They say it takes 3 classes to pass the "learning curve" and I can see why. It takes a bit to get used to coordinating movements with the machine and it's different resistances. Either way, at the end of our session I was sweating and my muscles were shaking. The best part was feeling like I got a good workout without being super sore the next day.

PS - Body R+D offers your first class for only $10! Check out their website for more information.

IT'S WHO YOU KNOW:

Originally from Chicago, Fenqiue is a self-proclaimed fashion lover. She loves to tell people what to wear. I only spent a couple hours with her, but what you see is what you get. Fenique is extroverted, friendly and full of input on everything from fashion to beauty to being your best self. On top of that, have you seen her outfits? The girl is killin' it in fashion!

Before Chic in Chocolate, Fenique used to use Polyvore to show off different out varieties. She decided that blogging would be interesting and fun. It would allow her to get her opinion out there and share her ideas with friends. Last year, she revamped the blog into what you see today.

GOOD READS:

With Chic in Chocolate, you'll never get bored. This lifestyle blog covers just about everything you could dream of. Posts range from skin care to fall transition to Fenique's experience with a 22 day plant-based diet. Fenique also takes time to cover local events in Chicago that she attends. 

The variety given by Chic in Chocolate also extends from topics to types of posts. This favorite of Fenique's was a single post called Black & White Obsessed. For fall transition, you could get inspiration from not just one, but two different posts. Through her site, you can get a full glimpse into Fenique's evolving style and current obsessions to provide you just the inspiration you need!

Stay tuned! With the aspiration of a user channel on YouTube, Chic in Chocolate is a blog to keep your sights on for exciting current and future moves.

TIDBITS OF TRUTH:

Favorite blogs to follow? Karlas ClosetBrooklyn BlondeFashion Bomb DailyBambis Armoire and Damsel in Dior.
What's your ultimate meal? Healthy meal - vegan tacos. Corn tortilla browned in olive oil with asparagus, avocado/guac, pan seared black beans & lettuce. Or lemon roasted potato nuggets. If splurging on an unhealthy option - french fries or pizza (Home Run Inn sausage or cheese or Pequod's deep dish, half spinach/half sausage)
How do you take your coffee? No Coffee. Drinks tea or a double chocolately chip frappuccino with a pump of pepperment

BOTTOM LINE:

Chic in Chocolate provides style and beauty inspiration. It's about being fearless of being who you are. Never fear being yourself or who you want to be. Be fearless in fashion, your skin, what you wear, what you say. In all of that.


Fenique, the editor and chief of Chic In Chocolate, is also a social media professional at a Fortune 500 retail company. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Fashion Marketing & Merchandising. Fenique has coordinated photo shoots, contributed to various blogs, worked in retail for over 10 years and is a self proclaimed fashion lover. 

Her love of fashion, writing and being opinionated birthed Chic In Chocolate, a lifestyle blog that heavily features fashion and beauty. Any knowledge Fenique can share, she want to share. Dion Sanders said, "If you look good you feel good, you feel good you play good, you play good they pay good, they pay good you live good." Looking your best makes you feel your best and perform your best. Overall Chic In Chocolate is about being your best self in your truest form with no apologies. 

Indulge your fashion obsession &  Fenique on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!