Archive for December, 2012

The Ballet Physique DVD Collection – A review

Who doesn’t want to look like THAT?

While recovering from surgery, my Mom and I watched First Position, a documentary about child ballerinas (male and female) who are striving, with every little muscle in their bodies, to become professional ballerinas. Watching this from my couch made me want to move. I craved action. I craved some time at the barre. In particular I wanted to try the second of two workouts in the  new DVD series by The Ballet Physique.

Before the operation, I had tried Signature Sculpt and loved it. So after just 3-days of resting, I was ready for Amped Up, the second DVD.  At the urging of my mom and husband, however, I decided to take more time to heal (though surprisingly I felt fine!). Instead, I stuck to long walks with the dogs, patiently waiting until I could try the rest of The Ballet Physique DVD Collection.

Arms section from Amped Up.

Amped Up

At exactly 10-days post surgery,  I was ready to rock. I fired up Ballet Physique’s Amped Up DVD in my parent’s living room where I was visiting for Christmas. I wouldn’t let the holiday cookie tray stand in my way of a great workout (and you shouldn’t either!).  I was prepared with light (5 lbs.) weights, a chair as my barre, and also the knowledge that I should stop to rest as needed.  I truly believe my pre-surgery healthy living (exercise 5-days a week for at least 45 minutes) helped me heal faster and prepared me for what turned out to be an awesome workout.

Amped Up proved to be an excellent 45-minute barre regime that focused on building strength and boosting the metabolism through the use of heavier weights and fast-paced exercises. The gorgeous Kristin Skordahl, Ballet Physique’s director of training at the Colorado Studio, infused this workout with energy and easy to follow instruction. Intense arms, shake inducing thighs/buns, and a challenging abs series, make this the perfect workout to maximize calorie burn when you’re in a time crunch.

Though doing this DVD was no problem for me, a seasoned barrebirina, I did ask for my doc’s permission first before engaging in any exercise after surgery (even walking the dog). You should too if you have any injuries or concerns about how your health will fare during barre, or any activity.

Me doing The Ballet Physique Amped Up DVD in my Mama’s living room.

Signature Sculpt

It was The Ballet Physique’ s intense Signature Sculpt DVD that made me want to try Amped Up, so it too deserves some attention. After all, Signature Sculpt was my last pre-surgery workout. I literally did it the night before after downing two dark chocolate saltine cookies. I’m pretty sure I burned those cookies right off though. One hour at the barre (or the back of a chair) can burn up to 500 calories!

Signature Sculpt is lead by the founder of The Ballet Physique, Kristen Zurek. This lovely little ballerina studied dance in New York City and performed professionally in Colorado before opening the studio. Her petite, but solid frame, bright blond hair, and up beat instruction make her reminiscent of Mari Windsor. Though Signature Sculpt does draw from Pilates and other barre workouts based on The Lotte Berk Method, Zurek includes some interesting twists. She incorporates real ballet terminology with other interesting variations to the typical barre workout format. For example, before moving on to the other side of seat, Kristen works out other muscles so that the buns are rejuvenated and ready to meet her demands.


The Ballet Physique DVD collection is a high quality, fast moving, but easy to follow barre based workout that will bring you that much closer to the ballerina body of your dreams. The DVDs are available for purchase on The Ballet Physique website or via the links below.

Realigning the Barre: The Dailey Method Venice

Get alignment, balance and results at The Dailey Method Venice.

There’s something different about The Dailey Method.

I first heard about it from a girlfriend who lives in San Francisco. Like me she’s tried various other barre fitness regimes, including Pure Barre and The Bar Method, so I assumed her passion for The Dailey Method had to do with proximity or convenient class times. Yet when I asked her what was unique about this barre studio, she was more than happy to explain. She told me that she had gone to University of California San Francisco (UCSF) runner’s clinic around the same time she discovered The Dailey Method in her neighborhood. At the clinic she learned that all the exercises UCSF clinician’s recommended to improve her running and prevent injury were the same ones she had just started doing at The Dailey Method. I was impressed and intrigued. She promised she’d take me to a class next time I was in San Francisco, but I couldn’t wait for a road trip north. I scoured the net for Dailey Method locations in Los Angeles and happily found that one had recently opened up in Venice. I signed up immediately and wondered, would doing it “Dailey” be for me?

What is The Dailey Method?

The Dailey Method was founded by Jill Dailey of San Francisco in 2000. According to the method’s website, this regime differs from other barre based workouts in that it strives to provide a system of movements that support client’s fitness goals while potentially preventing injuries and supporting recovery for those that have them. Exercise science and continued research help the method to continuously improve so that clients get the safest and most effective instruction.

“Founded on kinesiology and core alignment principles, The Dailey Method® is a full body workout that combines ballet barre work, core conditioning, yoga, and orthopedic exercises designed to strengthen, tone, and lengthen the entire body to produce quick physical results and balance in the body.”

The Dailey Method offers a “hands-on-approach”  to assure that clients are properly executing each movement. Words like “balance” and “grounding methods” are also used to distinguish The Dailey Method from competitors. Additionally, Jill Dailey, its founder, has an actual degree in kinesiology! What’s kinesiology, you ask? Wikipedia explains: “Kinesiology, also known as human kinetics, is the scientific study of human movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, mechanical, and psychological mechanisms.”

The fact that the founder spent years studying the body, what works for it and what doesn’t, definitely excited me. Would The Dailey Method help alleviate some of the back pain I’d been experiencing from sitting at the computer writing all day? Would it provide the same results and challenges as the other awesome barre studious out there? I’ll admit I had high hopes after my girlfriend’s insistence that The Dailey Method had improved her running. So after acknowledging my biases and my high expectations, I headed to the studio.

The Dailey Method Venice

After two classes I can confidently answers YES! to the questions I posed above. I am heals high in love with The Dailey Method as taught at The Dailey Method Venice location and here’s why.

1. Location, location, LOCATION!

Because the address listed Abbot Kinney I assumed that I’d be entering the studio from the street. Gleefully, I was wrong. Rather than trying to fight for street parking with a coffee crazed hipster (Intelligentsia is The Dailey Method Venice’s neighbor), there is a whole world of parking behind the building which can be accessed by turning on Santa Clara Avenue OR California Avenue. If you do find yourself lucky enough to score a spot out front, just cut through the coffee shop and you’ll find The Dailey Method Venice next door. After class treat yourself to a delicious chai latte or stroll Abbot Kinney. You’ll be in the heart of Venice after all and can literally go from the Barre to the Bar in seconds. The Other Room and The Brig are just a block or so away, not to mention a bevy of yummy restaurants.

2. Smiles and Sunlight.

I almost wonder if the owners of this studio are Feng-Shui masters. They managed to transform a small basement-like room into a bright, warm, inviting, and SPACIOUS studio with high ceilings, keyed lockers, two bathrooms, and a loft for child care. Child care! (Moms have no excuse not to belly up to this barre!). The white rafters and California light spilling in are natural motivators. Best of all, you won’t encounter any snobbery at The Dailey Method Venice. Everyone I’ve met so far has been gracious and full of good energy. In fact, if they keep being so nice to me I might move in!

3. Hands-on = Never wrong.

During my first class with instructor Tenaya I noticed several things immediately that have made The Dailey Method stand out for ME. Tenaya adjusted every single participant throughout the entire 60-minute class. She was ALWAYS watching, adjusting, and instructing so that it almost felt like I was in a personal training session. I also noticed the use of a term I haven’t encountered at the barre – neutral spine. I’ve heard this used in Yoga, but most barre classes seem tuck obsessed. In my second session, Amie demonstrated. A neutral spine is one in which the back and hips are positioned naturally. I found this, along with tons of amazing, specific, and focused instruction to be refreshing. My body did too. My back pain really did lessen after just one class. No joke.

4. Sequence, stretching, and safety.

Because I haven’t studied Kinesiology like The Dailey Method’s founder, I’ll try my best to explain how totally awesome the entire program is. Yes, you get a killer workout, but there’s something about it that feels therapeutic. My thighs shook. I steamed up the mirror with my light perspiration during the flat back portion. But there were little adjustments made to each exercise in general and tailored adjustments made to me throughout class, during stretching too, that truly made the entire thing feel safer, just as they claim. In my second class I had the pleasure of sharing the barre with a pregnant woman. She was able to do 90% of the exercises without a problem.

The Overall Verdict

You won’t find any drill sergeants at The Dailey Method Venice which makes this an excellent workout for anyone recovering from injury or stepping up to the barre for the first time. But don’t expect it to be easy. You’ll be encouraged to push yourself, but in a way that works with your body instead of against it. Since I’m having surgery next week and will need to avoid the barre and the treadmill while I heal, I plan to sign-up for The Dailey Method Venice’s January Challenge with my doctor’s approval. I imagine I’ll feel like a barre beginner after that much time away (gulp). Regardless, I’ve already set a goal – 30 classes in 30 days! It looks like I will be doing it Dailey (or trying to) after all.

If you can’t make it to The Dailey Method near you, check out this DVD for a safe, but effective, Barre workout you can do from your living room:

Fertility Journey – Part 4 (My Alien Baby)

Because you want the world to know that you just left the fertility clinic!

What I like most about Dr. Chang is that she doesn’t waste any time. The day we arrived for our consultation she was counting egg follicles and taking blood.

Of the tests she ran I was most curious about the CA-125. I hoped the blood test would confirm whether or not my years of suffering from painful menstruation were due to endometriosis. The scary thing about this test is that  “CA” stands for Cancer Antigen. Putting me and Cancer in the same sentence is an unsettling and uncomfortable combination, but a necessary evil all the same. This test is primarily used to determine the likelihood that a woman might have any of the following cancers: ovarian, endometrial, peritoneal and fallopian tube. But it’s also used to pre-diagnose uterine fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and cirrhosis.

Is the CA-125 test accurate?

There are confusing aspects of the CA-125, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“A CA 125 test isn’t accurate enough to use for cancer screening in all women — especially premenopausal women — because many benign conditions can increase the CA 125 level. What’s more, CA 125 levels are normal in many women with early-stage ovarian cancer.”

Furthermore, when used to diagnose endometriosis some studies claim that the test seems to be most accurate in identifying women with severe endometriosis rather than those with less advanced forms. CA level ranges vary as well. Some medical professionals set the limit at 20ml, some 30, and some 35. This is interesting because my level was 34.

“We can almost assume,” Dr. Chang said when reading me the results, “That you have endometriosis because a 34, combined with your history of severely painful periods, can lead us to that conclusion.”

There was more. Not only did Dr. Chang nearly corroborate my hunch that years of suffering and elevated Cancer Antigens almost guaranteed that I had endometeriosis, a condition that can contribute to, if not cause infertility, but she also found something growing inside me. I had landed on planet subfertility with a thud and it appeared that I wouldn’t be visiting baby country any time soon, at least not until these issues were addressed and resolved.

Sonohysterography & That thing growing inside me

After reviewing the slides from my HSG, Dr. Chang noticed what might be a polyp or fibroid in my uterus. To be sure she decided that a Sonohysterography could help her get a better view. This would also help her determine whether or not we could proceed with egg stimulation and IVF.  Additionally, she planned to conduct an endometrial biopsy for two reasons, 1. to determine whether or not my endometrial lining was developed enough to support embryo implantation and 2. To stimulate new cell growth in the uterus which improves IVF success rates.

While I was interested in the sono results, I was, and still am, terrified of the endometrial biopsy. I waited for Dr. Chang and poked around the office for clues of what to expect. I saw a bevy of torture tools laid out (pictured here). As a result, I began praying that I indeed had a polyp. If so I’d need surgery instead and would be sparred the biopsy. Surgery meant I’d be asleep in dreamland when any slicing and dicing of my uterus occurred.


The Results

Not only is my tube blocked and it’s likely that I have endometriosis, but we did indeed confirm the presence of a rather large polyp, or my very own alien baby, growing inside me right where a fetus should be.

During the ultrasound I remarked, “It looks huge!”

At first Dr. Chang disagreed. “It’s not THAT big” she said, until capturing more angles of the weird looking growth, “Oh wait. Maybe you’re right. It is pretty big.”

She proceeded to ask if she could use the aforementioned images at an upcoming medical conference. The bad news is that my alien is acting as an Inter Uterine Device (IUD), another obstacle on the road of our fertility journey. The good news is that my uterus is a perfectly shaped specimen as if drawn by an artist. Dr. Chang was pretty impressed. There is nothing like a female anatomy compliment when you’re stirrup-ed in and half-naked with a wand up your cooch. I might start telling people that I’m a uterus model.

What next?

I was then  instructed to schedule a surgery with Dr. Collins to remove the pesky polyp. Dr. Chang also prescribed birth control pills. This seemed weird. Wasn’t I trying to HAVE a baby, not stop one before it started? I learned that birth control pills are used to prevent hyperstimulation of the ovaries during an IVF cycle. Also, according to Science Daily, birth control can help time egg retrieval.

Additionally, Dr. Chang said that I might be a good candidate for a two month cycle of Lupron which increases IVF success rates for women with endometriosis. She gave me a run down of the side affects and they didn’t sound good. Lupron would shut down my reproductive system sending me into a temporary menopausal state. A glimpse into menopause at 32 didn’t sound like an exciting way to spend the beginning of 2013.

I went home that night and read the numerous Lupron horror stories out there. Weight gain, acne, and anxiety to the point of needing a sedative, were listed by people who had used it for just a short amount of time. I could hardly imagine what longer term use could do. There had to be another way.

Endometriosis & Laparoscopy

I’ve been told by many doctors over the years that the only positive way to diagnose endometriosis is though laparoscopic surgery. So, after speaking with Dr. Chang about my polyp and the possibility of Lupron, a light went on. What if Dr. Collins could perform a laparoscopy while she was removing the polyp? I’d already be under anyway I surmised. And after years of suffering I wanted to know for sure.

Dr. Collins agreed she could use the surgery to further explore my abdomen and remove any adhesions. She cautioned, however, that Dr. Chang might still recommend Lupron depending on the severity and prevalence of the adhesions or endometriomas.

I then discussed my Dr. Collins conversation with Dr. Chang. She too liked the idea. In fact, she asked to assist Dr. Collins so that she could get a first hand look at the inner workings of my reproductive system. I would have two gorgeous and brilliant female doctors working together to help heal me. I felt and feel lucky, especially because my husband and I have insurance that will cover most of the costs of all of these procedures. I can’t imagine what we’d do otherwise. Save up for a laparoscopy? IVF? Pray for a miracle?

Surgery Countdown

As my surgery countdown begins (7 days!), my heart goes out to the women all over the world who suffer from painful periods every month, the kind that leave them vomiting and moaning in pain. Endometriosis can be a debilitating and life altering condition and I wish more funds were allocated to researching its causes and cures. My heart also goes out to the women who can’t afford fertility treatments, but desperately want children. When treatable medical conditions prevent one from realizing the dream of motherhood, insurance companies should do their part and pony up the funds.

Luckily my heart is gigantic (because of all the cardio) and so I have one more very large piece to give away… for my husband, family, and friends who have been amazing through all of this. I’d tear out the rest of my heart and let you eat it if you really wanted to, because without you I’d be a manic mess (without my heart I’d be even worse off, but you get my point). Thank you for being there with encouragement and kind words, for listening and loving me. Baby or no baby, pain or no pain, you make life worth living and then some :).

Fertility Journey – Part 3 (Not So Traditional Chinese Medicine)

“First of all,” Dr. Chang of Southern California Reproductive Center said to us a few months ago, “We’ll need to improve hubby’s sperm quality.”

We sat in a luxurious office in Beverly Hills. This is where the wealthy and powerful come to make babies and I’ll be honest, I was intimidated. The lobby was like a fashion show, full of beautiful, well-dressed women of all sizes of skinny eying any new addition to the waiting circle like she was a cart of free handbags. The stares went beyond outfit and jewelry assessment, however. They were obvious attempts to determine the most important questions: “What is wrong with this woman’s fertility profile? How is she any different from me?”

Despite the glances from these perfectly polished ladies, ages ranging from 25 to 45, there was a silent solidarity. We were all in this together. We were here because we wanted a baby. We were here because we hadn’t been able to make one on our own. Any judgments passed would cycle back to that truth. No one was better or worse than anyone else.

“How do we do improve his sperm?” I asked the lovely Dr. Chang, who sat behind a monstrous wooden desk, morning light streaming in from a wall-sized window. Dr. Chang’s office was almost as large as our bedroom. Yeah. Books on pregnancy and prenatal nutrition sat on side tables and lined shelves. Pictures of babies, smiling happy success stories, were everywhere.

“There are many, many ways to do that,” Dr. Chang said smiling, “Some of which, will also apply to you wifey.” This stunning Chinese woman with flawless skin and Tori Burch pumps, higher than I’d ever seen a doctor wear, was about to begin her treatise on Sperm and Fertility Health 101.

1. Proxceed. Though she gave us a list of sperm specific supplements we could buy including Vitamin C and L-Carnitine, she highly recommended a supplement called Proxceed. She said it would dramatically improve hubby’s stuff, but that the process would take time. We’d see some improvement after the first month, then three months, but major improvement would come after six. Six months! It would take half a year to rejuvenate the little swimmers? Dr. Chang explained that sperm take 71 days to regenerate. This was especially disappointing because when I visited Amazon to locate this Proxceed business, I discovered that the sperm juice doesn’t come cheap. While individual boxes were available for around $40 a pop, I took heed to Dr. Chang’s advice. Real improvement would take time, so I ordered a 6-month supply.

2.Little to no alcohol. For working adults in a metropolitan city, I am convinced that drinking is as much a part of life as breathing is, only much more fun. You drink margaritas at beach birthday parties. You drink bottled beer, draft beer, imported beer while watching games. You drink Bloody Marys and Mimosas at brunch on Sundays. You drink Martinis or mixed drinks at subdued work happy hours. You have a glass of wine or three with dinner, never astounded when you’ve polished off a whole bottle.  We may sound like alcoholics, but the truth was, until 3-months ago, we drank. A lot. Few weekends were escaped without some semblance of a hangover, some worse than others. If the man of the house needed to quit, I would too. After all, how could self-induced headaches, dehydration, and day after nausea, the kind where even drinking water makes you gag, be good for anybody? At 30 and 31 respectively, it was time to stop partying like college kids.

So why exactly was alcohol that bad, aside from the obvious?

Drinking for me:

A 2009 Daily Mail article claims that “Giving up alcohol and caffeine [for women] is as good as IVF.” Whoa there, Daily Mail. Really? I read on.”Dr. Derbyshire said the odds of conceiving fall from 60 per cent in women who have one to five alcoholic drinks a week to 30 per cent for those consuming more than ten.”

Then there was the Danish study of 430 couples that found a decrease in pregnancy rates for those consuming just 1 to 5 drinks per week. Because this research was from 1998, I googled on.
I found a startling article on Pubmed titled Alcohol’s Effects on Female Reproductive Function that said the following:
“Mild–to–moderate alcohol use affects female reproductive function at several stages of life. It has been shown to have a detrimental effect on puberty, to disrupt normal menstrual cycling and reproductive function, and to alter hormonal levels in postmenopausal women. In addition, alcohol use can have implications for bone health.”
While fertility and conception were not directly mentioned in this study, I made a connection. If mild-to-moderate alcohol use could disrupt the menstrual cycle then it could disrupt any number of factors necessary for conception (which include a healthy cycle). Overall, I decided to take Dr. Chang’s advice, little to no drinking could help us both.

Drinking for him:

Research on how alcohol’s affects sperm quality come in a mixed bag. Some say not so bad, but most recommend that men who are trying to conceive starkly reduce their alcohol intake.

One study, which evaluated the effect of alcoholic consumption on IVF success, said that for every additional drink the man consumed, the risk of conception not leading to a live birth increased by 2 to 8 times. This was true for beer drinking as well. Since it was looking more and more likely that we’d need IVF, this just further corroborated Dr. Chang’s advice.

“Are you sure he has to quit drinking?” I asked her, seeing the look on hubby’s face in the chair next to me. He looked like someone had just told him his childhood dog had been run over by a car. Whiskey and/or Scotch, up to a few glasses a night at least four evenings a week, had been quit the obedient pet. It didn’t snarl or bite  at Mr. Business Man, it just helped him forget the troubles of loan closings and interest rates. Luckily, hubby never got out of control, or neglected his responsibilities as the result of drinking, but regardless it would have to go.

“Absolutely sure,” she said, “I’m going to be the mean Chinese mom here and say it loud and clear. No drinking!” It was easier for her to impose an all or nothing rule, she explained later.

3. No bike rides, hot tubs, or tight shorts. Basically anything that heats up the testicles or applies pressure can damage sperm quality. We’d been hot tubing it up AND going for long bike rides all in the same day. Luckily, however, the tight shorts weren’t a problem. My hubby’s more of a boxer kind of guy. But of course we’d miss our long treks to the beach along the Los Angeles river bike trail. I had faith that soon enough we’d be back at it, hopefully towing a kid behind in one of those awesome stroller things.

4. Exercise. Because Scotch and Whiskey would no longer be in the picture, Dr. Change agreed with me that exercise would be the most ideal from of stress release. But she cautioned hubby not to over do it, a recommendation that many online sources corroborate. Livestrong says that, “Medium intensity is the key when you’re trying to conceive. If you approach it like training for the Olympics, you’ll make the problem worse. Pick an exercise like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or running and do it for 30 minutes, three to five days out of the week.”

5. Diet. While my husband has a fairly diverse palette, his tastes usually gravitate to burgers, steaks, and mashed potatoes. It’s rare to see him order a salad when we’re eating out. It’s like an act of God to see him eating fruit. But, of course, this was another thing we’d have to change. “Eat lots of fruits and veggies,” Dr. Chang instructed. I had told him all this before, and he’d certainly improved since we got married, but there was still work to be done. I have since learned that the key is ranch dressing. It makes every salad better as far as the Hubster is concerned. 

6. No smoking. Just about everyone on planet earth, except for maybe some remote places in Africa and South America and mountainous China, knows that smoking with kill you. What we didn’t realize is that its poison reaches far beyond the cardiovascular system.

Smoking for me:

When Dr. Chang was counting my egg follicles (8 on the left and 11 to 12 on the right) she was astounded that I had so many. Why the surprise? I had admitted to her that for about three years I smoked cigarettes, then for many after I smoked socially. She made me promise I’d never let my daughter do the same. “Absolutely horrible for your fertility,” she said.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in their fertility fact sheet says:

“Components in cigarette smoke have been shown to
interfere with the ability of cells in the ovary to make
estrogen and to cause a woman’s eggs (oocytes) to be
more prone to genetic abnormalities.”

My follicle counts and hormones actually looked pretty normal (a very positive thing in helping determine IVF success rates) despite the Newport Lights of my youth. She surmised that my healthy eating habits and lifelong commitment to exercise, combine with genetics, had helped offset the damage that smoking caused.

Smoking for him:

Dr. Chang was clear on the subject of smoking. “No more cigars,” she said, “Sorry.” While the ASRM puts forth this startling, but pretty well-known, statistic:

“Men who smoke cigarettes have a lower sperm count and
motility and increased abnormalities in sperm shape and


About a month ago, we decided it was time to test his sperm again. He’d been drinking Proxceed twice a day for about 35-days along with the other lifestyle changes mentioned above. I am THRILLED to announce that his motility and morphology improved from 5% healthy sperm overall to 20%! He’s just 10% away from the normal range. Woohoo! We also found out that his counts are some of the highest that Dr. Chang has ever seen! We hope that by the time we either start trying again or proceed with IVF in January, that the additional months of the magic juice, combined with healthy living, will make us that much more fertile.

Not drinking was hard at first (much harder for hubby) because most social situations involved our hard partying friends and old habits die-hard. We were forced to gravitate toward mellow Sunday dinners, rather than Saturday nights of bar hoping. But since then we’ve both enjoyed better sleep, better skin, and less fat around the middle. I’m enjoying eating my calories, rather than drinking them (baked apples are my favorite!). All the while I’ve been my husband’s exercise and healthy eating coach (he still loves his burgers though). And of course hot tubs and bike rides are a thing of the past.

Whether it’s the Proxceed, the sobriety, the exercise, or all three, I’m pleased that Dr. Chang’s advice has already gotten us results. Though there’s no baby (yet), we’re both feeling happier and healthier than ever.