Monday, May 30, 2016


by Judy Hubbard


12 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 oz. cooked beets, drained
5 oz. smoked salmon
1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
ground pepper

Put in Vitamin in order.
Turn machine to Variable 1.
Increase to Variable 5
15 seconds
Best consumed within 24 hrs.

by Mary Lee Stein



  1. For crust
    • 1-1/2 cupes finely ground blue corn chips (from a 9-oz bag)
    • 1 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  2. For filling
    • 8 fresh green chiles such as Anaheim or poblano
    • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 4 ounces)
    • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar (about 6 ounces)
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1/2 tsp sale
  3. For salsa
    • 1 (1-lb) papaya, firm but ripe
    • 2 minced garlic cloves
    • 1 medium  finely chopped red onion
    • 1 cored, seeded and finely chopped red bell pepper
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • Preparation

      Preheat oven to 350°F.

    • Make crust:
    • (Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350)
      1. Stir together corn chip crumbs and butter in a bowl until evenly moistened.  Press mixture onto bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.  Bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Cool on a rack.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 F
    • Make filling:
      1. In a food processor blend sour cream and eggs. Add cream cheese and butter and blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in chiles, cheeses, dill, cilantro, and salt to taste. Pour filling over crust and bake in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until center is just set. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on a rack.
    • Make salsa:
      1. Peel and seed papaya and coarsely chop (you will have about 2 cups). Stir together papaya with remaining ingredients in a bowl.  
      2. Serve cheesecake with salsa.

      Chiles can be roasted and peeled up to one day ahead.  Refrigerate, covered.
      The Cheesecake can be made up to one day ahead.  Cool completely, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered, and bring to room temperature before serving.

      by Dega Schembri


      1 can of Adzuki beans, well rinsed in a strainer
      1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I use ¾ c white/regular and ¼ c red quinoa - it's prettier)
      1-1/4 cup water (or a mix of  1 c OJ or tangerine juice mix +1/4 c water)
      Generous pinch of salt
      Grated rind and juice of 1 tangerine or orange (I use this mainly for the dressing. Rind can be bitter, so I use it to taste, I don't always use all of the rind)
      1 tsp curry powder or Garam Nasala (I do a mix of the 2 if I have them both)
      1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
      1 tsp apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
      Salt to taste
      2 Tbsp golden raisins and currants or dried cranberries (I use ½ c golden raisins and 2 TB currants)
      2 carrots, peeled and diced
      1 small fresh zucchini diced
      2 scallions minced
      2 Tbsp minced parsley or more to taste
      2 Tbsp minced basil or more to taste
      ¼ cup lightly toasted sliced or slivered almonds or pistachios or pine nuts

      1.      Bring water, half the tangerine juice and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
      2.      Fluff up the quinoa with a fork. Scoop it into a larger bowl.
      3.      In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, remaining tangerine juice, curry powder, olive oil and salt to taste. Drizzle over quinoa, tossing gently.
      4.      Add adzuki beans, tangerine zest, raisins, carrots, zukes, scallions, parsley, basil, nuts and adjust seasonings as needed.

      by Rebecca Milliken


      3 pounds fresh or 2 packages frozen spinach, cooked and drained well
      12 ounces small curd cottage cheese
      1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
      2 eggs, beaten
      2 tablespoons flour

      4 tablespoons butter, melted
      salt, pepper

      Preheat oven - 300 degrees. grease 1-quart casserole
      Mix together all ingredients and put in casserole. Freeze at this point if you wish
      bake an hour ( longer if frozen). 

      Easiest dish in the world!!!! My go-to comfort food and good side or even main course for a dinner.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Uninteded Benefits of Exercise - by Jenni Falconer

The benefits of exercise are well known. By doing as little as 15 minutes
of physical activity per day, you’ll be getting your body into shape, build
muscle, lose weight, and also limit your risk of developing a whole host of
serious diseases later on in life.

And if that’s not enough, then don’t fear, because exercise can do much,
much more for you, in ways you will have never have thought of before. In
this article, we’re going to do over some of the more subtle rewards
regular exercise can bring.

More Energy
For those people who don’t do exercise, you might think you have a point
when you question how exerting energy can actually result in ultimately
having *more* energy
But make no mistake: spend a few hours in a gym each week and you’ll be
zipping around. Studies have shown that regular exercise is one of the best
ways to beat fatigue, and can be even more effective than caffeine and
energy drinks for waking people up. The next time you’re struggling to wake
up in the morning, don’t think an extra half hour of sleep will do it: head
down to the gym for a quick routine and you’ll be raring to go in no time.

Feel Happier
Who doesn’t want to feel a little happier in life? Though the reasons why
aren’t yet fully understood, it’s known that exercise improves mood and can
also be used to treat conditions such as depression and anxiety. Scientists
believe that it’s to do with the feel good chemicals
<> that are created when
we’re physically active. So when you’re using the treadmill or rowing
machines, know that you’re not just making sure your body is in tip-top
condition - you’re also taking care of your mental health, too, and
improving your happiness along the way.

Boost Ignored Areas Of Your Health
Our modern lifestyles are great for some things, and not so great for
others. One of the biggest factors is the food we eat, which all too often
fails to deliver the crucial vitamins and minerals we need. If our days
consist of driving to and from work and then sitting at home, we’re liable
to suffer deficiencies in crucial vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin C,
which can have real health problems
<> if they go untreated. The
rise in vitamin D deficiency is getting so bad that it’s becoming an
epidemic in the United States.

But never fear, because the gym is here to help! The Harvard School of
Public Health found that those who exercised regularly typically have higher
levels of vitamin D than those who don’t
and also had better cholesterol, while other studies have shown that those
who hit the gym are less likely to be struck down by common colds and
illnesses. Why? Nobody is quite sure yet, but somehow those hours in the
gym make your body better prepared to ward off niggling illnesses. In all,
these studies are giving exercise a pretty big thumbs up!

Improve Concentration
How far along in a book do you usually get before you toss it aside? How
about those long tasks in front of a computer - do you usually find
yourself taking more breaks than you’d like? And how about those long

Again, no one is quite sure why, but studies have shown that exercise can
give us a major concentration boost. It’s so effective, in fact, that some
schools actually use aerobic cardio in order to boost academic performance
and behavior. After a few weeks of regular exercise, you’ll notice that
you’re able to focus on the important tasks for longer and do them to a
higher standard.

And The Rest
As you can tell, there’s plenty of unintended benefits to exercise, far too
many to list here. To list just a few more: your skin will look better
you’ll have a better handle on your life (especially if you’re battling
addiction), and even your memory will improve.

In many ways, building muscle and getting the body you want are just a
small fraction of the benefits of joining a gym. Not will you look great,
but you’ll feel fantastic and develop traits that can be invaluable in your
day-to-day life. Now that’s special!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Fit and Festive - by Jenni Falconer

With Christmas and New Year's just behind us, many of us will still be in a festive spirit. And with shopping, socializing and snowy evenings in front of the fire on the agenda, it's easy to see how going to the gym can start to take a back seat. During the winter months many of us start to eat more and exercise less which can have a damaging effect on our weight and fitness levels. Research indicates that the average American will gain 2lbs during the Christmas holidays alone and more worryingly, they will fail to lose this come new year. Although you will be busy celebrating, there are still plenty of ways to keep fit and healthy over the Christmas holidays while still having a great time.
Winter exercise
Although the prospect of going out into the cold can seem unappealing, exercising in lower temperatures can actually enable you to burn more calories as the body works harder to keep you warm. You can also exercise for longer periods of time in cooler weather which also adds to your calorie loss. From ice skating to snowboarding, there are a lot of great winter exercises you can do during the colder months. Even going for a brisk walk in the snow can get your blood pumping and those feel good endorphins circulating – this can be good for mental health as well as physical health with many experts recommending light exercise as a good natural mood enhancer to fend off the winter blues.
Eat well and bank calories
It will come as no surprise that one of the main causes of Christmas weight gain is over indulgence of fatty foods and calorific beverages. Although Christmas is a time for celebration and enjoying meals and drinks with the family, it is important to do so thoughtfully if you want to battle the bulge. Be mindful of what you are eating – turkey, vegetables and Christmas pudding are fine but do you really need all of the accompanying trimmings, lashings of gravy and double cream as well? Similarly, choose your drinks wisely as drinking heavily can also contribute significantly to your calorie intake. Opt for spirits and slimline tonics over beers and liqueurs and remember to keep hydrated with plenty of water. It can also be beneficial to 'bank' some calories in the weeks leading up to Christmas with a little extra workout time per day and some short circuit training in preparation for those extra festive treats.
Yoga and meditation
Christmas is a notoriously stressful time of year. Whether it's last minute shopping, cooking preparations or entertaining the family, even the most relaxed person can start to feel the pressure when the big day arrives. Yoga and meditation are great workouts to start the day with over the Christmas period. On a physical level, power yoga in particular can be fast paced and strenuous enough to help burn off calories but any type of yoga will improve immunity and strengthen muscles. Mentally, the time out to focus on your breathing and just relax will give you chance to unwind, decompress and find calmness within. During this hectic time of year it can really make a difference to how well you cope under pressure and thus enhance your overall enjoyment.
Tis the season to be jolly and why not get into the party spirit by dancing along to your favorite Christmas songs. Aerobic dance is thought to burn over 400 calories an hour so whether you are at the office party or simply bopping along in your own kitchen, it is a great way to keep fit. With technology and exercise going hand in hand these days, you could add a dance mat or game to your Christmas list and enlist the whole family in the fun. Not only will it encourage them to exercise without even leaving the house, but it will bring everyone together in the spirit of Christmas.
Strength workouts
If you do manage to get to the gym over the holidays then it's important to prioritise your workout. One area you definitely shouldn't neglect is strength training as your muscle mass is usually the first thing to decline when you stop exercising. Over the holidays you might find you put a little weight on but this can easily be fixed with plenty of cardio in the new year. Once you've lost that muscle mass you will need to work hard to build it back up again.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sweat Inequity and the Evolution of Group Fitness - by Lucinda LaRee

As Co-Owner of City Fitness Gym, Cleveland Park’s neighborhood gym, I take issue with the statement “Gyms suggest a lack of structure, intensity and discipline” in the article Sweat Equity in the December 3, 2015 Style section.

Workouts should have structure – the right variety of fitness classes, personal trainers, and tailored workouts provide that in a gym setting. Workouts should provide intensity – and that means different things to different participants, some want to feel the burn and scream, others find pain to be long-lasting and negative. Workouts do need discipline to be effective – trainers provide that for some; group fitness classes bring a social accountability to others.

The Council of the District of Columbia gave us a Resolution as the Longest-Standing Woman owned Fitness business in the District.  We have been in the fitness business for 33 years. We have survived all the fitness trends and continue in our commitment to improve the health and fitness of the community. We did not accomplish this longevity by promoting an elitist attitude, unrealistic physical appearance or a cult like atmosphere with short-term “Killer Workouts” that promise quick results and end in long-term overuse injury from unbalanced programming. Maybe our unique position of being a neighborhood “boutique” gym allows us to offer more attention and promotes adherence.

The article suggests that the Type-A personality is new to DC and that what they seek more stress and pressure. Type-A’s have been here from the beginning. Some thrive off of more stress, but many crave a haven from the storm. When 9-11 occurred, when the Wall Street collapse occurred, when other large stressors have affected our community, our attendance has gone up. What activities were busier? Yoga, group strength, and other mind-body modalities. People did not seek torture, they wanted nurturing and peace. We have many members, Type-A’s and not, who have been exercising in our friendly community for 25-30 years who could not have made it to their Silver years healthy and strong if they focused only on High-Intensity Training Trends.

Don’t get me started on some of the statements or words in this article that I found offensive: HURTS LIKE HELL.  HURTS SO GOOD.  POUNDING.  BODY-NUMBING. HATE IT OR HATE IT YOGA.  MISERABLE.  INSTURMENTS OF TORTURE.   S & M.   FIRE. SCREAMING, FIENDS, BLACK OUT, OBSESSION. These words belong in the article below RUN, HIDE, FIGHT. AND GET USED TO IT, about 355 mass shootings this year in the United States. This is an interesting juxtaposing of articles to say the least. This attitude is not a recipe for longevity but a set up for exercise burnout.

There is nothing new under the sun. What many of these programs have done is to rename and amp up already existing exercise practices. You can take Pilates and yoga, combine them (which has been done for decades) and “Power” market them with a new name…and they are still Pilates and yoga, but not necessarily safer or better. Add a celebrity smile to your marketing and suddenly you have a sensation. Kudos to their marketing teams, but one wonders if their safety guidelines and teacher training can properly keep up with the demand.

An interesting article to write might be the evolution of group exercise and what it does for people. In my 52 years, I have been in a Sports Illustrated workout video, I brought Ashtanga Yoga into the DC gym market, I have taught step, strength, slide, hi/lo, circuit classes, interval training, Pilates and now pole dancing. I get the need for variety and challenge the mind and the body. Our gym offers a huge variety of classes and types of trainers to provide that variety and structure to our clientele. We encourage everyone to work on all fitness components – cardio-respiratory, body composition, muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility. We also encourage balance – physical and mental. I personally use the Medicine Wheel as a guide for wholeness and wellness and we use these same principles to guide our members.

I end this with words that I feel would benefit the Type-A, work-obsessed people of this city and world at large:

How we journey there may be the most interesting story of all.

Lucinda LaRee
Co-Owner City Fitness Gym

Monday, August 24, 2015

Embracing the Wild on the John Muir Trail, by Lucinda LaRee

Four years ago I read the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Her story touched my soul.  I told my sister about the book, and after reading it she felt the same.  This was the beginning of our dream to hike the John Muir Trail. we grew up on the outskirts of the trail with our father, a miner, who worked the area and loved to explore the mountains. What a better way for us to explore the same mountains, honor our father, and embrace our inner “wild” than to hike in the High Sierra, the range of light.

Every morning since the New Year I read the John MuirTrail Guide by Elizabeth Wenk.    To make this dream a reality we had to secure a permit at the end of January through a confusing lottery system put in place to limit the amount of hikers in the back-country.  We won our date and entrance location: the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows, our Dad’s favorite place to hike due to it’s unique beauty and geological evidence of glacier activity.

The John Muir Trail totals 210.4 miles. It has 10 passes that are above 10,000 feet, it is meant to be scenic (and therefore long), has many snow-covered areas that can impede progress, and therefore takes an obsessive amount of planning, visualizing and physical preparation.

There are many times in my life that I am grateful for being in the profession that I am. Co-owning and operating City Fitness Gym gives me a daily workout boost. In addition to my normal workouts that include yoga, pole fitness, step aerobics and hiking, I added more squats, assisted pull-ups, and higher intensity core exercises. Hiking up and down mountains is a very different challenge than a 5-mile hike through a city park.  In addition to the elevation challenge, the trail is not manicured and can be quite unstable, and you are carrying your supplies at all times.

In researching a hike of this magnitude, it was advised to keep our packs at 35 pounds or less. Because we had done some backpacking in the past, we already had what we thought was appropriate equipment. We just needed to add a few items and some provisions. We were required to carry a bear canister (which prevents bears from smelling your food), which added weight and took up precious cargo space. Other items included rope, tent, stove, propane, cup, spoon, matches, lighter, sleeping bag and air mattress, buff, bandannas, camp shirt, underwear, long underwear, rain jacket, rain pants, puffy down jacket, socks, gloves, fleece hat, sun hat, sun glasses, eye glasses, knife, compass, whistle, map, wilderness first aid kit and emergency handbook, sun screen, tooth paste and tooth brush, wipes, water treatment tablets, and of course bear spray.  Our food included coffee, chocolate, trail mix, protein bars, mac-n-cheese, tofu jerky, shot blocks, refried beans, string cheese, tortillas, miso soup, oatmeal, peanut butter, butter, olive oil, ramen noodles, protein powder. Much to our chagrin, the packs ended up weighing 45 pounds including water.

As we were entering the trail 17 miles in, we planned to hike 10 miles a day to complete the trail including the mileage to exit the mountains to Whitney Portal. We allowed 25 days including time for rest days and emergency weather conditions. So much for the best-laid plans… 

Day one: We hiked through beautiful Tuolumne Meadows enjoying a gradual climb along the river up Lyell Canyon.  Little did we know this would be our only easy day.  Our first interaction was with a very cute ranger who checked our permit. Of course, he told us it was illegal to use bear spray in Yosemite National Park, which happens to be the bears’ favorite hangout!  We kept the spray, crossing our fingers that the bears would allow us safe passage.

With 1500 through-hiking attempts each year, it is common to engage with other hikers throughout your trip. Some you may see once at a watering hole, some in passing. Others may keep a similar pace, and you may see them frequently throughout your trek. On our second day, we stopped to re-fill our water bottles at a bridge crossing at the end of the canyon where hikers frequently gather. There, we met a group of hikers from all over the world. One hiker, Adam from North Carolina, was hiking alone as the rest of his party quit.  He recognized my sister, as he had lived previously in Bakersfield, from eating at the counter of the 24thStreet Café  where she works as a waitress.  At the same time I met an 18-year-old woman who just graduated from National Cathedral School, which happens to be here in DC, and worked out at City Fitness with her aunt.  It IS a small world after all.

From there, we started our climb to Donohue Pass, the first of many passes to come. We felt every one of the 45 pounds on our backs. A hard lesson learned on the trail was that our backpacking equipment from previous trips was not exactly right for this longer distance. Most hikers are now using ultra-light versions of what we were carrying. One thing we were happy not to have skimped on was our bear canister. On our third night, we set camp at Garnet Lake, on the edge of Yosemite, an area where there were other campers, and a bear paid us a visit. We could hear it sniffing and snorting around the perimeter of our tent. We lay perfectly still except to whisper, “Is that a bear?”  It did not smell any food, and thankfully no food = no problem. It moved on to our neighbor’s tent to be scared off by a flashlight.  A very frightening experience was safely out of the way.

Daily we woke up naturally at sunrise, had coffee, breakfast and packed up our camp.  I was surprised how long a mountain mile really is.  We hiked up switch –backs, down switch- backs over varied terrain; shale, rolling round rocks, granite slabs, pumice, big stone steps, and wet slippery rocks and many water crossings, even past a waterfall going down a cliff.  It took us all day to travel between 7 and 14 miles, climbing up, up, up to 10,000 feet and higher, over a pass and down the other side trying our best to get below 9000 before dark where we could camp near water and make a nice warm fire. Many days we were running away from the inclement weather, doing our best to get over the pass before the afternoon thunderstorm, rain, sleet, hail or snow arrived.

It was so great to spend three whole weeks with my sister Shara, laughing and enjoying the expected muscle pain and soreness but well worth it to see Mother Nature at her best.  We made new friends; Fiona, from North Carolina who founded an active ladies of the JMT facebook group, and Legia from the bay area that gave me my trail name, Squaw who stops to talks a lot.  I loved hearing about where everyone I met was from, why he or she was on the trail and where he or she was headed.  The funniest line I got from many tired hikers when I asked where they were going…Canada is all they replied.    Those skinny PCT hikers could be spotted a mile away!  And the joke when asking how far it is to here or there, ‘Mile, Mile and a half.” never got old.  We meet people from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, and Mexico and all over the United States. It was refreshing to see many young people on the trail and a hand full of women my age inspired by the book Wild.

Despite our best planning, food became an issue on the trail. It is hard to pack with enough variety; we packed a lot of similarly flavored white foods. In addition to getting a taste aversion to them, food trash had to be packed in the lower portion of the bear canister causing quite a smell each time we opened it. It is also impossible to carry enough provisions for your whole trip in a light enough pack, so there are re-supply stations along the way. These allowed us to refill our food stores and to have moments of what you might call “normalcy” in our eating. Often, there are free giveaway items left out and we found a few treasures. We even shipped ourselves a bottle of hooch. We did not know until we picked it up that it was illegal to send it in the mail. Oops…but it helped us make friends.

About 80 miles in we made it to the Muir Trail Ranch and our second re-supply.  We had run out of food and seeing our bucket was a sight for sore eyes.  We rummaged through all leftover buckets, finding homemade strawberry jam, whole-wheat tortillas and luxury items like grapefruit scented wipes and apricot face wash!  That afternoon we set up our camp early at the ranch in a common area, jumped in the San Joaquin river, soaked in the natural hot springs and shared our contraband Bowen’sWhiskey  with our fellows campers around the camp fire.

The next four days we made our way with up the very hot Piute Canyon toward Evolution Basin, a place behind our childhood home where there are 10,000-year-old glaciers.  This beautiful, rugged, in an “other worldly way” place was my favorite. Clear, clean ice blue water flows out of granite, down green tarns, into high mountain lakes, one stacked on top of the other surrounded by boulder fields all the way to Muir Pass.

The weather began a turn for the worse and we decided to change our plans.  At this point, our energy was drained, our food supplies were almost depleted, and two hikers had joined our party and one was having major knee trouble. We did not want to risk going another 80 miles over 5 more passes over 12,000 feet, so we decided to exit over Bishop Pass saving the goal of Mt. Whitney for a future trip. This was the toughest day of all.  Starting at 7 am we hiked 7 miles up steep switchbacks in weather that changed every half hour.  We made it to Bishop pass 12,000 feet at 4:00p.m. totally exhausted and out of food.  We hiked another 7 miles down very steep switch- backs then up and down past 5 lakes until we reached the parking lot at 8:00p.m.

We planned to hitch a ride to Bishop but saw no one around. Earlier that day we meet a packer with his mules who told us we could use the phone at the pack station a mile/mile and a half down the road from the parking lot.  We left our friends and backpacks, only taking our bear spray, as it was getting dark and headed to find help. As we walked we noticed headlights coming down the road so we stuck out our thumbs and a sweet family, forgiving our stench, gave us a ride.  They had talked with our friends who asked them to be on the look out for us.   They did not have room in their car for all four of us but surprised us by going back to pick up our friends and packs and hauling them to the pack station. 

The phone did not work!  So Squaw who stops and talks a lot was appointed the task of asking a guest in one of the log cabins to give us a ride to where we could get cell phone reception and call my local family to pick us up.  Instead, the kind man with a very big truck and his teenage son took us the whole 30 miles to town and dropped us off at a restaurant.  Thank god for small and large miracles.  As he was driving the sky opened up and it rained cats and dogs.  Thanks to these warm hearted souls we made it out of the WILD and to our small hometown safe and warm.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, feet on the ground, spiraling up to our higher self to vibrate at a higher frequency. We learned to respect nature in both its beauty and its harshness. I have a deeper appreciation for fries and milk shakes, as that meal I had waiting for my niece Holly to pick us up tasted amazing. Our warm and comfortable bed in Mammoth Lakes was so soothing. And we awakened the next day to sunshine and fresh food including a kale and brussel sprout salad with an ice-cold beer at Mammoth Brewing Company.  A great ending to a wonderful adventure!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Giving Community: The City Fitness Crowdfunding Campaign, by Dega Schembri

Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign is a bit daunting for so many reasons.  For me, however, the biggest challenge, plain and simple, was the sheer fact that we would be asking for donations.   Asking for anything is particularly hard for me unless it is for a donation to a charity that I believe in, and this was a little different.  Although City Fitness is a community, we are also a business, and we are asking people to show their support for it by making donations.

Before we even launched our campaign, the first step I had to take was going out into the Cleveland Park Community to ask for donations from our area merchants.  As part of our Crowdfunding Campaign, we wanted to offer “perks” for anyone that made a financial donation.  For example, if you donate $50.00 you will receive a 20% discount from an area merchant.  In the past, we have received tremendous support from these businesses when we hold our annual Fitness Fiesta Fundraisers to support various non-profit charities, such as Girls On The Run DC.  This time, we are asking them to support our business.  These are other small businesses, like us, struggling to keep afloat. 

My first stop was Weygandt Wines, our downstairs neighbor in the Park-n-Shop.  Without hesitation, they agreed to offer a 20% discount on any wine purchases.  I was met with success again and again right in our own center with Ibhana’s, the new woman’s clothing shop that just opened, Parcel Plus DC and Paragon Thai.   From that point on, I would say that 99% of the merchants that I approached readily agreed to very generous “perks” - discounts on services, discounts on meals, free eye exams – it was simply unbelievable.  Our own trainers offered discounts on their training packages.   A member offered a discount on acupuncture and our staff massage therapist offered a discount on massages. In less than two days, we accumulated so many perks that the Indiegogo site could not handle the volume.  We had to combine some of the perks to fit into the site’s template to fit them all!

This was just the beginning of my being overwhelmed with the amount of generosity shown.  We launched the campaign and as of right now we are almost at 50% of our goal.  We received two very generous donations of $1,000.00 and another of $500.00.  Unbelievable.  Many of the women who are students of mine at our corporate site, the US Supreme Court, who do not even and will probably never come to City Fitness Gym donated.  We had one member who is struggling financially and offered to help in any other way than with a monetary donation and then ended up donating anyways!  Another member not only donated, but is offering to buy a drink to the first 25 folks that show up to our public Crowdfunding event, the date and location to be determined.

I understand the expression, “my cup runneth over”.  It is with a very full and grateful heart that I offer my deepest thanks to everyone that has participated so far.  It does indeed take a village to create and continue our special City Fitness community.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Small Business – The Roots of a Community, by Lucinda LaRee

I come from working class roots, as does my business partner, Dega.  I grew up at the base of a 13,688-foot Mt. Tom in the Eastern High Sierra.  My father worked for Union Carbide, The Mine in the Sky.   One of the most productive tungsten mines during WW2.  We lived in a little mining village called Rovana.  At the heart of the community was the gymnasium and in close second, the baseball field.  It was here we gathered as a community to watch our father’s train with old leather boxing gloves and medicine balls and our fathers and our mothers play ball. It was here boys and girls alike learned to play basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, football, as well as cheerleading and gymnastics.  It was here we gathered for the Halloween Carnival and the company Christmas party to sit on Santa’s Lap and Vacation Bible camp.  Because I grew up in a close-knit community that valued exercise and sports it was a natural fit for me, coming of age during the fitness boom to dream up a future in fitness.  I just wanted to continue running, dancing and “cheering” people on!

This past summer I visited Rovana on my way into the backcountry for a backpacking trip.  The mine closed over 20 years ago and the village has found itself populated with a different community. Since its back yard consists of some of the best rock climbing and mountain climbing in the world, you can find mountain and rock climbers from all over the world.  I was heart broken when I saw the little gym had been torn down. 

The fitness business has changed so much over the past 31 years (the lifetime of our business). The industry started out primarily as small independently owned fitness studios, offering aerobics “Jane Fonda” style and gyms for weight training, in the style of bodybuilding like Arnold Swartzneger.   The studio trend is making a comeback in the yoga and specialty class world although their fiscal wellness is being compromised by the name brand/elite celebrity sponsored fitness trend businesses like Soul Cycle and Balanced Core. 

The health and fitness business has grown into large, corporate, impersonal box gyms that are doing their best to not only gobble up the market share of memberships and personal training, but are now going after the yoga and specialty market too.  These gyms focus on quantity of membership over quality of member service.
We are “The Little Gym That Could.”   Our roots go deep.  We got our start as a business offering fitness at the work site, grew into a fitness studio and then a neighborhood gym.
We have keep our doors open despite the competition because we focus on the people first.  We believe in paying a living wage and want to help our employees grow their fitness careers and be successful. We believe in our members and we want to see them in the gym, working out and getting stronger. We believe in relationships.  In a world that promotes isolation and individualism we go against the grain.    We have purposefully resisted some of the tech trends like TVs everywhere in the gym, and key cards to check members in by sliding their card through a scanner.  We check everyone in by their name, we want to get to know you and we want to create a community where people can come and feel welcome and make friends. 

This can’t happen if everyone is into himself or herself and their own technology just tuned out with their headphones or watching TV or IPADS.  We hope to continue to be a place neighbors want to gather and motivate each other to stay strong mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Many studies show that friendship makes people happier and happy people live longer!

But the truth is that staying vibrant in this business means keeping up with the trends, staying innovative in training methods and fitness class offerings as well as equipment.  We have been doing business in Cleveland Park for 21 years and our business needs a facelift.   We are grateful recipients of the Great Streets Grant and this has allowed us to make some much needed faculty upgrades from our locker room renovations, to new very expensive HVAC units.  Not so glamorous but necessary.  Now we need working capital to upgrade our weight equipment and other facility needs.

To do this, we have become a part of this DC Crowd Funding Challenge. This is an exciting fundraising program allowing staff, members and friends of City Fitness Gym to give us that little extra financial help to reach our goals as we continue to go the extra mile to help them reach theirs. Check out our Crowdfunding website and please consider being a part of maintaining our special community.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Perspective about Physicality, by City Fitness member Neil Proto

I just returned from the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic,€“ a National Geographic expedition. Twenty-four days. Departing from Ushuia, Argentina, through the Beagle Channel once explored by Charles Darwin. My imperative for going was the journey of Sir Ernest Shackleton; what he and other Antarctic explorers saw, in part, even though I’d see it through the 21st century prism of better gear and an obvious safety net. We did not avoid risk, and often could not avoid the radical, often abrupt changes in the weather, ice conditions, the rough sea and wind currents in the Drake Passage, and the potential for the accident, including in the places Shackleton journeyed with his men during his failed expedition in 1914. It's been 100 years since his expedition began. 

Many elements of the trip resonated with me: one was the way National Geographic managed risk, the other was how physical preparation - training of a deliberate, intense kind over decades - made a difference. I include in that a range of outdoor activities - snowshoeing, hiking, kayaking, and sailing (as the crew) among them, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, and with friends who taught me the meaning of safety, preparation, weather, and the value of camaraderie at hard moments. There also was running, playing tennis, standing on the METRO, and walking, not riding the escalator. Consistently throughout all of that, at times daily, certainly regularly, were workouts and the occasional expert training lessons and very particularized guidance at CityFitness. It has been, and was on this expedition, of imminent value to know my body, what muscles to use and what to call upon at different times. Perhaps most surprising to me were the few moments when the "accident" loomed or happened, including once when I slipped on wet tussock grass coming down a steep incline, and found that I "fell" into a position that I'd learned in yoga! It was the first thought I had when I stood up, and then continued, unharmed, down the hillside. 

The ultimate benefit was that I got to see more, walk higher and longer, cross rapidly moving streams coming off melting glaciers, and embrace every physically demanding opportunity. I did it with a very clear understanding of my physical limitations. It also meant, I got to see yet broader, stunning vistas, experience harsher winds and cold, and see penguins walk confidently up thousands of feet in snow and ice to reach their colony. Neil Thomas Proto CityFitness member for 15 years. (anyone interested in more narrative, photos, and videos can go to FACEBOOK; 7 posts, all of which are "public" (not confined to Friends) or to

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Join City Fitness' Crowdfunding Project!

Click to See Our Indiegogo Crowdfunding Project!

Just like many of you, City Fitness has goals for the New Year. To expand on our 2014 renovations, the next round of the Great Streets Grant will help us with some further modernization and equipment upgrades. But we want to do more…a lot more. 

City Fitness is a small business founded in 1983 with the simple beginning of providing on-site fitness instructors to places of business. Considered cutting edge at the time, work site fitness is now considered a mainstay and we have persevered. We provide fitness classes to the US Supreme Court, National Gallery of Art, World Bank, the Holocaust Museum, and the National Zoo to this day.

Our gym has been serving the fitness needs of the Cleveland Park community in Washington, DC for over 21 years. We have awesome long-term members, some of who have been with us since we opened, and this stability and co-support has created a thriving community where we serve people of all ages and abilities. We are a home-away-from-home where members feel safe, connected and welcome.  We maintain a quality member service mindset in an era where customer service has diminished, priding ourselves on providing personal attention.  City Fitness is the "Cheers" of Fitness because, unlike other gyms, we actually “know your name.”

Being small in a world of big box facilities, a woman-owned gym in a male-dominated field, and a friendly, neighborhood business in an ever- growing isolated world, we face the challenge of staying competitive. We have invested in our physical space constantly through the years with new equipment, new floors, painting, updating our accessories, and improving our customer service and staff education. In 2014, we began a major capital improvement campaign: with assistance from the Great Streets Grant we partially refurbished our locker rooms and replaced our aged fitness floor A/V equipment. In 2015, we are poised to finish the locker room upgrades, replace our HVAC system, upgrade our cardiovascular machines and more. The Great Streets Grant will help us with some of this, but we want to do so much more.

Our budget does not allow for the upgrades to our weight room equipment and other parts of our A/V systems. There are 4 weight room pieces that could be more user-friendly - especially for our more mature members while, at the same time, still serving our elite athletes.  Our televisions are very old and are difficult to see on some cardio machines. Our campaign to raise $10,000.00 will allow us to begin the effort of replacing these items. Help us achieve this goal while still allowing us to optimally service the diverse demographics that our gym proudly attracts. If we don't reach our goal, we will purchase as many pieces of equipment as we can with the money we raise. So, no amount is too small to help and every bit of it will help with working capital toward our upgrades.

We are very happy to provide wonderful perks from the local neighborhood businesses of Cleveland Park as well as from our own staff. As a “Thank You” for your contribution, we are offering discounted personal training packages, massage specials, and much more. Or, give the gift of fitness with a discounted membership! City Fitness Gym is proud to continue to be your neighborhood gym. Lift Locally, Think Globally.

Thank you,
Dega and Lucinda

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Positive Influence of Physical Training During Recovery, by Jennifer Elson

Substance abuse is a growing concern, with close to 24 million Americans misusing drugs each month. While drugs such as marijuana, crystal meth and heroin may come to mind when you think of substances that people are likely to become dependent on, this is only part of the issue as increasing numbers of people are becoming hooked on prescription drugs. Indeed, one-third of people who took drugs for the first time reported taking a prescribed product recreationally. Opiate based painkillers are among those most commonly abused, with increased demand for specialist opiate recovery programs. However, there is growing evidence that besides the traditional medical and psychological approach to drug treatment, exercise offers significant benefits during the recovery process.

Working out to achieve better mental health
One way in which getting active can help addicts is by promoting good mental wellness. It is acknowledged that poor mental health is a risk factor for taking prescription medications and illegal drugs. That’s not all though, as conditions such as depression and anxiety can also make it much harder for addicts to successfully quit. The ability of physically training to boost your mood and relieve anxiety is therefore beneficial for anyone in recovery who is already affected by these mental health problems, but how does working out improve your well-being?

Exercise is certainly a useful treatment for mild to moderate depression, though no particular form of training seems to offer benefits over another, so whether you prefer a gym session or fitness classes, either can potentially lift your spirits. This is partly thanks to the endorphins released when you work out. Endorphins are chemical messengers in your brain, which promote positive feelings and you can feel euphoric after intense exercise, which is what a “runner’s high” refers to. These aren’t the only mood-boosting chemicals released on activity, as you also produce more serotonin and dopamine. At the same time as these positive chemicals rise, those that induce stress, such as cortisol, fall, which helps you to relax. However, changes in your brain chemistry and your blood work only go some of the way to explaining the mental boost you get from exerting yourself.
For instance, exercise is a great distraction, helping you to forget your troubles. Even if this gives you just temporary relief from anxious thoughts, this is still a welcome opportunity for some respite. Another benefit is that when you set yourself achievable fitness goals and you meet them, this enhances your self-esteem, so you feel better about yourself. A further plus point for physical activity is that it promotes healthier sleep patterns, so you find it easier to drop off and are less inclined to wake up during the night. This is good news, as low mood and anxiety can stop you sleeping, but a lack of sleep can also make the conditions worse, so a vicious circle develops. Finally, when you join a fitness center, it is another opportunity to engage socially, which itself is known to improve the way you feel.

Fitness training as part of rehab
There is certainly evidence in relation to cocaine, amphetamine and crystal meth that regular exercise has a positive influence on drug taking. For instance, when someone works out experimentation is less likely to become a regular habit, you consume less overall, your habit is less likely to spiral out of control or lead to binges, and when it comes to getting clean you are at lower risk of a relapse. So how can physical training have such a positive influence on drug use?
Firstly, as already mentioned exercise helps to reduce depressive and anxious symptoms, with users often taking drugs to mask these or to offer a form of escape. The positive changes that occur in your brain when you work out can also trigger its reward center, resulting in feelings of pleasure similar to those that you might achieve from drug taking. In the same way that focusing on a training session can help to distract you from your problems, this additionally allows you to better cope with your cravings. Similarly, knowing that you have met your exercise goals gives you the confidence that you can achieve a life free from drugs, so spurs you on to do just that. Then if that isn’t enough, the chance to meet new people is helpful when you are trying to avoid old acquaintances that you associate with your previous habit.
Although making the gym a regular part of your week can potentially help you to overcome problems with substance abuse, you should always seek professional help if you are struggling to free yourself from the hold of drugs.

Jennifer Elson is a writer who contributes to a number of health and wellness sites on various topics. Prior to taking a career break to bring up her two children, she worked in the healthcare sector helping people achieve better diets and fitness.