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Vegan in Paris

Before I post about my last day in Paris, I wanted to take a brief moment to share all the research I did prior to visiting this gorgeous city. 

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Paris, oh Paris, where to begin.  With your ham and cheese filled cuisine and head-strong chefs, it’s no wonder vegans find themselves in deep water when dining in your fair city.   

There are a few exceptions though…you just have to do your research. [And be with fellow travelers that are ok with doing the veggie thing] 

While I personally didn’t go out of my way to track down these vegan gems, I did do a considerable amount of research that I feel obligated to share…to any fellow vegans traveling to Paris in the future, here are some places you may consider trying:

*Warning: unlike in the US, most traditional restaurants are not keen on changing dishes on the menu.  Altering preparations of an item is frowned upon, so unless you are dining at one of the following vegan restaurants, don’t expect a non-vegan restaurant to be able to accommodate your dietary needs.  Seriously.  They won’t.  Consider this my one piece of advice: order a dish as it is, and make adjustments to it after the plate arrives.  In my weakest moment, I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and then removed both the ham and cheese.  And trust me, it was better than arguing with the chef about just getting a plain baguette. 

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Restaurants

Saveurs Végét’Halles
41, Rue des Bourdonnais, Paris 75001
Métro: Chatelet or Les Halles
01 40 41 93 95
This restaurant is almost exclusively vegan with only one non-vegan item on the menu, the lasagna.  Situated in the former location of La Victoire Suprême du Coeur.  Great crispy fried tofu.  Plenty of vegan desserts.  Oriental feel.  Food is well presented. 95% vegan food.  70% organic.  Gluten-free available. Wheelchair accessible.  Open 10.00-15.00 and 18.00-23.00

Le Potager du Marais
22, Rue Rambuteau, Paris 75003
Métro: Rambuteau
01 42 74 24 66
Organic, with all-day long service.  Small, cozy, rustic and charming ambience.  Gets busy weekend evenings (so call for a reservation).  Serves traditional French cuisine made vegetarian with one page of vegan selections (vegan soups, tarte, pate, patty, gratin, moussaka, desserts, and more).  The pastry chef prepares all vegan desserts including lemon bars, carrot cake and blueberry bundt.  3-course dinner menu available for about 25 euro.  Accepts credit cards. Open Mon-Fri 6-10pm, Sat-Sun lunch and dinner.

Pousse-Pousse
7, rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, 75009
Métro: Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
01 53 16 10 81
World-class raw cuisine in the heart of Paris in a small and friendly location. Offers raw food as well as cooked using ingredients including sprouts, seaweeds, fresh pollens, mixed herbs. Also has organic bread and raw dried crackers, hot chocolate cake, panna cotta made with agar-agar and rice milk, fresh fruit salad with lucuma cream, one cooked soup and one raw soup each day. Gluten free and mostly vegan. Has outdoor seating. Open 11.00-15.30 and 16.30-19.30.

Au Grain de Folie
24, Rue la Vieuville, Paris 75018
Métro: Abesses
01 42 58 15 57
Closed Monday mornings.  A little nook of a place with helpful service and standard macrobiotic fare. 

Piccolo Teatro
6, rue des Ecouffes, 4th arrondissement
01 42721779
Metro: St-Paul 
Combine good vegetarian food with romance in Piccolo Teatro.  This place is hidden away on Rue des Ecouffes in the Marais district.  Intimate setting with Italian and Indonesian cuisine.  The menu provides a mix of hot soups, salads, curries, pasta, and organic red wine.  Main courses cost 10-15 € (special tasting menu for first-timers).  Reservations are recommended.

Le Paradis du Fruit
1 Rue des Tournelles, 75006
01 40279479
Metro: Bastille
Part of a chain of restaurants, this French cafe offers a tropical atmosphere and an innovative menu. While not exclusively vegetarian, it’s worth a mention as there are plenty of healthy, meatless options to choose from, including soybean salads, skewered tofu and pineapple, and Indian vegetable curry. Main courses range from €10-€15. Inventive ice creams, juices and smoothies average at €7, and are a must for any visit here. Great for a refreshing spring or summer meal.

****The Gentle Gourmet ****
21 Rue Duret, Paris 75016 (at Ave de la Grande Armee, Ave Foch, near Arc de Triomphe)
33-01-45004655
Vegan, International, Western, Organic, Beer/Wine

This is actually an entirely vegan B&B.  They offer private dining experiences and even have a cooking school located above their store in a pretty courtyard.  They serve set menu bistro and gourmet meals.  Menus are made from changing seasonal foods available and are as organic and local as possible.  Dishes include traditional and contemporary vegan fusion cuisine from across the globe.  All special diets (non-gluten, low-salt, nut-free, etc.) can be catered to.  Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat are gourmet vegan meals (40 euros without wine, 50 euros with wine) with an optional hands-on cooking class beforehand (45 euros). Tue, Thur, Sun are the 25/30 euro bistro meal. Reservations must be made before 2pm the day of the meal but preferably earlier as only a maximum of 10 people will be served per night.  Many other cooking classes are offered during the day, and the entire program and calendar can be seen on their website.  Accepts credit cards.

Loving Hut
92, Boulevard de Beaumarchais, Paris 75011 (at Train: Saint-Sébastien Froissard / Line 8)
0148064384
Vegan Chinese infused French cuisine.  Part of international chain of vegan restaurants opened by followers of Supreme Master Ching Hai, an advocate for vegetarian living (there are several US locations in Nor Cal but I’ve hear it is kind of like a cult?).  Accepts credit cards.  Open Mon-Thur 12noon-3pm and 6:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 12noon-3pm and 7pm-10:30pm, closed Sun.

Voy Alimento 
23 Rue des Vinaigriers (75010)
0142010344
Vegan, Organic, South American juice bar and plant shop.  The juice bar features hot and cold beverages made from the plants and products sold in the shop, such as purple corn, urucum, cocoa, acerola, klamath.  At lunchtime it is also a vegan restaurant wherein a large range of the plants and micro-algae are represented in the recipes.  Vegan brunch on weekends.  Location is on a street next to Canal Saint Martin with outdoor seating available. Wheelchair accessible.  Accepts credit cards.  Open Mon-Sun.

Oh! Bio 
58 Rue Rambuteau (75003) (at Métro : Rambuteau / Square des Halles)
0144611967
Vegan-friendly, organic take-away with French food and beer/wine.  Everything is 100% organic. Located in front of the Georges Pompidou Centre, in the heart of Paris.  Has outdoor seating.  Accepts credit cards.  Open daily 10am-9pm.

Saravana Bhavan
170 Rue Du Faubourg, Saint Denis (75010)
0667281313
Metro: Gare de l’Est.  Paris Indian restaurant serving vegetarian cuisine.  Accepts credit cards. Open Mon-Sun 8am-10:30pm.

Soya  
20, rue de la Pierre Levée (75010)
01-48-06-33-02
Vegan-friendly and 100% organic.  Offering mezzé and couscous.  Saturday brunch costs around 28€.  For vegan dessert options phone ahead. Outdoor seating.  Open Mon-Sun 1200-1530 and 1900-2300.

Tien Hiang 
92 Rue du Chemin Vert (75011) (at Rue St. Maur, between Metro Voltaire and St. Maur)
0143558388
Vegan-friendly, Chinese, Buddhist vegetarian restaurant.  Menu is in English and includes mock-meat options.  No eggs or alcohol used.  Average price per dish is around 5.5-7 euro, or around 7.5-10 euros for a 3-course. Accepts credit cards. Open Tue-Sun 11.30am-3pm, 6.30-10.30pm, closed Mon.

Tien Hiang 2 (second location) 
14 Rue Bichat (75010)
0142000823
The second Tien Hiang location (also Asian vegan food). They offer vegetarian cuisine with dishes from Thailand, China, Malaysia.  The chef is very experienced in vegetarian cooking.  Accepts credit cards. Open 11.30am-3.30pm, 6.30-10.30pm, closed Tue.

Le Végétarien
65, rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, Paris 75003
Métro: Poissonnière
06 60 97 16 12
Small restaurant serving simple, hearty meals like falafel, lasagna, quiche, soups.  Food can be eaten in the restaurant or be taken out. Service is quick.  Full menu with drinks for under 10 euro.  Caters mainly to the people working in the area.  Accepts credit cards. Open Mon-Fri from 12pm, closed Sat-Sun.

Le Grand Appétit
9, Rue la Cerisaie, Paris 75004
Métro: Bastille
01 40 27 04 95
All vegan restaurant.  Macrobiotic and hippie with a no frills experience.  They serve soups, veggie sushi, vegetable platters, lemon tart, and other vegan foods.  Great grocery store next door.  Open Mon-Thur 12-9pm, Fri 12-2.30pm.

La Victoire Suprême du Coeur
27-31, rue du Bourg Tibourg, Paris 75004
Métro: Hôtel de Ville
01 40 41 95 03
All vegan restaurant.  Run by devotees of Sri Chinmoy.  Recently introduced a wine list.  Sunday’s lunch buffet is very popular.  Great location for people watching.

Les Cinq Saveurs d’Anada
72, Rue Cardinal-Lemoine, Paris 75005
Métro: Place Monge
01 43 29 58 54
Great macrobiotic plates. Very friendly staff and in a charming part of the Latin Quarter.

Le Grenier de Notre-Dame
18, Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris 75005
Métro: Saint-Michel
01 43 29 98 29
or
Rue des Deux-Ponts, Paris 75004
Métro: Pont Marie
100% vegetarian.  Welcoming, macrobiotic oriented, Paris institution.  Serves vegetarian versions of French peasant food (ie vegetarian paella).  Nice atmosphere.  English spoken.  Prices moderate to expensive.  Outdoor seating available.  Accepts credit cards. Open daily lunch and dinner 12-14.30 and 19-23.0

Maoz Vegetarian
8, Rue Xavier Privas, Paris 75005
Métro: Saint Michel
01 43 26 36 00
or
36, Rue Saint-Andre des Arts, Paris 75005 (at Rue Seguier)
Small falafel place (part of a chain). Close to vegan except for a few cheesy items and the mayonnaise in the coleslaw.  Order at the counter, fight for one of the three tables or walk to the Seine with your sandwich.

Guen Mai
6, Rue Cardinale, Paris 75006
Métro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
01 43 26 03 24
Name means “brown rice” in Japanese.  Macrobiotic.  Counter service and dining.  Tucked behind St.-Germain-des-Prés with sidewalk café tables.

Bob’s Juice Bar
15, Rue Lucien Sampaix, Paris 75010
Métro: Jacques Bonsergent
09 50 06 36 18
A lovely juice bar that also does green juices.  Vegan salad and soup options everyday. Deemed “the best juice bar in town”.

Bob’s Kitchen 
74, Rue des Gravilliers, Paris 75003 (at Rue de Turbigo)
0144556677
Métro: Gare du Nord or La Chapelle
Ovo, Lacto, Western, Juice bar, Take-out.  More vegetarian than vegan selections.  They offer lunch and Sunday brunch options.  Super friendly staff.  Two long communal tables for seating. Fast service. Cash only. Open Mon-Fri 8am-3pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm.

Krishna Bhavan
24, Rue Cail, Paris 75010 
01 42 05 78 43
Southern Indian/Sri Lankan, vegan friendly with great prices (be sure to ask for dishes without milk dips or yoghurt dips).  Open Tue-Sun 11.00-23.00, closed Monday. Accepts credit cards. 

Green Garden
20, Rue Nationale, Paris 75013
Métro: Porte d’Ivry
01 45 82 99 54
Another Buddhist Chinese restaurant with a big menu.  It’s right in Chinatown.

Aquarius
40, Rue Gergovie, 75014 Paris
Métro: Pernety
01 45 41 36 88
Vegetarian with basically nothing for vegans. *Now may be replaced by Le Marais (see below).

Le Marais
54 Rue Ste-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, 75004
01 48874871
Metro: Hôtel de Ville or St-Paul
Formerly Aquarius, this restaurant is one of the best-known among the Paris vegetarian community. The menu is a combination of salads, wheat pancakes and savory tarts, with fish dishes also a feature (puritans beware!). Organic wine is on the menu but smoking is not, making it one of the few restaurants to offer a smoke-free environment pre-2008. Vegans should check with wait staff before ordering. There have been some reports of unfriendly service here.

Joy in Food
2, Rue Truffaut, Paris 75017
Métro: Place Clichy or Rome
01 43 87 96 79
Hole in the wall place open for lunch on weekdays only.  A popular restaurant with a small but varied menu of salads, soups, vegetable tarts, ragouts over rice, desserts, and organic wine (vegan option for each course).  Home-style cooking.  Open Mon-Fri lunch only, weekend dinner by appointment.

Veggie 
38, rue de Verneuil
0142612861
Vegan-friendly, Ovo, Lacto, Organic, Western, Mediterranean, Beer/Wine.  Take-out and delivery vegetarian food made with all organic products.  Seasonal and daily changing menu.  Specialties are vegetables pies, risotto, and curry.  Also offers apple pies, crumbles, and chocolate cakes.  Accepts credit cards. Open Mon-Fri.

Abyssinia  
5 Rue Martin Garat (75020) (at Rue Belgrand)
0140316642
Vegan-friendly Ethiopian/African food with non-veg (meat) options, but has veg courses available.  Reservations required. Wheelchair accessible.  Accepts credit cards. Open Mon-Sun 12-2pm, 7-11pm.

Cojean
Many locations (see link above)
Offering take-away or dine-in options of soups, salads, wraps, etc. 

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Groceries

Naturalia organic food stores are located all over the city and they have a good range of lentils, quinoa, and veggie salads already prepared, which are convenient for take-away.  Unfortunately, it is semi-pricey. 

There are also many organic food co-ops around town, but you have to keep your eye out for those.  Prices are a bit better, they have lots of bulk options, and more interesting variety. 

Izrael
30 rue Francois-Miron
Metro: Pont Marie
Bulk bins of nuts, dried fruit, olives, spices, etc.  Spices spices spices.

Rendez-Vous de La Nature
Organic food store on Rue Mouffetard with a wide variety of soy based yogurts, as well as non-dairy milks (almond, soy), plus tofu.  They also have bulk bins of oats, nuts and muesli. Moderately priced.

Le Bon Marche Epicerie  (La Grande Epicerie)
38, Rue Sèvres
75007 Paris, France
+33 1 42 22 10 12
Touted as “the” best gourmet grocery store in Paris with a selection of everything, including organic and vegan treats.

Monoprix has vegan options too (they sell food now?  who knew?).  I got a seaweed salad there, but they have many many other pre-packaged eats and basic groceries (see below). 

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[Pasta, salads, lentils, wraps, soups, sandwiches, sushi, etc.]

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Be sure to check when stores are open!  We found this out the hard way when we tried to get some basics on a Monday and found all the main grocery stores were closed. 

Markets

Marché Biologique Raspail on Sundays is said to be the best but has a reputation of being the most expensive as well.  It runs from Rue de Rennes to Rue du Cherche Midi from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.  Metro: Rennes/Sevres-Babylone

Marché Bastille is also on Sundays and at the Bastille end there’s a Lebanese stand selling hot-off-the-grill food. 

Marche des Enfants Rouges (take the Metro Filles du Calvaire to 39 Rue de Bretagne) to get to this open-air market.  It has stands selling everything from juices to salad bars to Moroccan vegetable tangines and couscous.

There are many corner markets off the main streets of Paris with fruit, veggies, and basic groceries, too (good for those Mondays when the main places are closed).

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All this is info I accumulated from online research alone, so I’m sure there are many many more vegan places to be discovered!!

You see, as much trouble as I personally had eating in the land of butter and fried food, there were definitely vegan restaurants available.  It’s just the unfortunate reality when you are (a) traveling in a group, (b) have limited days, and (c) a packed itinerary, all the research in the world doesn’t mean you will make it to the restaurants you’ve bookmarked. 

I’m not trying to blame my lack of veg-friendly dining on my fellow travelers, because it’s not their fault we have differing diets.  However, as far as menu options are concerned in Parisian restaurants, there is little overlap in the vegan world and non-vegan world.  Unlike in the US, where you can find restaurants that can accommodate any diet, in Paris, vegan restaurants are vegan and non-vegan restaurants are non-vegan.  Chefs prepare their cuisine one way (their way) and that’s that. 

As a result of this trip, one thing that I have come to realize is how lucky I am to live in a city that is able to please my palate while also delighting my non-veggie dining mates.  In fact, all the places I’ve lived have been similarly veg-friendly.  I promise to never ever take this for granted.

So, to future vegans visiting Paris, if you want to eat well, my advice is to pick vegan places from the above list and go there.  If your companions want to join you, fabulous. 

Hope this is helpful!  Bon appétit!

Tal Ronnen

I just read this article and I think it’s fantastic.  Tal Ronnen is a chef, dubbed “the best vegan chef in America” by Oprah.  And let’s be real, she knows America.  He also catered Ellen’s wedding.  And designed the vegan meals for all 22 of the Wynn and Encore restaurants in Vegas. 

Some favorite quotes:

"If I could get one point across, it would be this: Being a vegan is not about depriving yourself. If you sit around eating lettuce and carrots all day because that’s what you think vegans are doing, you’re doing it wrong."

This is fabulous because it addresses the root of being vegan.  It’s great for your health, and that’s important to me.  But the food also better be effing delicious. 

Another excerpt from the article:

"So many people tell me, ‘I could be a vegan if it weren’t for bacon,’ and I tell them, ‘Be a "vegan" who eats bacon,’  Ronnen says with a shrug…  Wha? Isn’t that sacrilegious?   Ronnen sighs. "Real militant vegans hate when I say that. But if you are cutting back on the amount of meat that you eat, you’re still doing something great for your health, for the planet and for the animal."

The reason this is perfect is simple: it is inclusive.  I’m all about veganism, but I think at times non-vegans are scared off because they only see the extremes.  For instance, if you aren’t 100% vegan, you are failing.  This is a sad message.  What I try to get across with my blog is how easy it is to incorporate plant-based meals into your diet.  My husband isn’t vegan or vegetarian, but he is a prime example of a successful conversion case.  He eats tofu, but that doesn’t mean he has to give up cheese.  For the non-vegans who read my blog, thank you for letting me share my meals with you.  I don’t think labels need to be so black and white.  If you’re doing your best to improve your health and the environment, then that’s all you can do.  And that’s good enough.  I’m a vegan who eats greek yogurt and occasionally has eggs and I’m ok with that. 

What are your thoughts? 

day trois, part deux

This post turned out to be mostly anecdotes, and really only covered a few hours of the day (oops!).  I have writing ADHD.  Enjoy!

Based on the title (and previous Paris posts), I’m sure you’ve gotten the sense of how awful my French is.  And so the fun continued…with a post-lunch tour through Notre Dame.

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What I’m pointing to above is how Eglise minus the “g” is Elise…I realize I’m a dork for being thrilled over this, but I still get excited when I see my name on things.  I guess that’s because I was denied stickers and keychains monogrammed with my name growing up, while all the Jennifers and Laurens in my class got personalized crap.  These are very important things when you’re 7.

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Back to the cathedral. 

I actually have rather traumatic Notre Dame memories from my first trip to Paris.  For some reason my parents felt it necessary to completely immerse the family in the French lifestyle (how and why they came to this decision I’ll never know), which meant attending Sunday mass at Notre Dame.  I was raised Catholic, so attending church on Sundays was nothing new.  I wasn’t exactly stoked to be going while we were on vacation, but I figured there were worse things.  As it turns out, there aren’t worse things. 

First of all, the mass was in French.  Not Latin.  Not English.  French.  A language none of us spoke, understood, or even cared for. 

Second, it lasted for hours.  HOURS.  I mean, it went on, and on, and on.  And on.  After well over two hours we finally started communion, at which point we made a family decision to bounce the eff outta there.

And that was my first time in Notre Dame. 

I can promise you, after 120+ minutes of sitting on a hard wooden pew, unable to speak, unable to comprehend what’s going on, there’s little else to do but stare at the stained glass, the altar, the Archbishop’s chair, the sculptures, the choir, the nave, the organ…you get the idea.  It’s safe to say I know the Cathedral very well.

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Still, I had never been to the top.  Since we had free admission included in our museum passes, we decided to go for it.  Why not?!  Plus, I really wanted to see those cute gargoyles.  We didn’t anticipate the 30 minute wait to climb up (while freezing in the shade of the cathedral), but we still did it.

The good news was we had the most entertaining street performer to distract us while we waited.  I’m not joking he was almost the highlight of the day (that sounds bad, but it was really hilarious). 

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He snuck up behind innocent people walking by (usually in a group – see above), and then pretended to be their friend or significant other.  Hilariously, he would put an arm on their should or around their neck… 

And the funniest part was how the poor unsuspecting person simply went with it…until he/she looked over and shrieked when they realized they were holding hands with some creep!!  Oh, did I forget to mention he had a crazy mask on?  Some people screamed really loud.  The entire line of people waiting to climb Notre Dame was watching and cracking up. 

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Here’s one sequence of events I caught on film… 

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How awesome is that reaction!  Hahaha.  The thing is, the street performer was really nice about it and for some reason everyone was cool with the prank after they got over the initial shock. 

I doubt I would have had the same reaction.  I probably would have thought I was being mugged and socked the guy in the jaw. 

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Eventually we reached the front of the line and it was time to get climbing.  The organization of the stair sitch was pretty lame if you ask me.  We had to stop at several points to let the descending folk get by.  One pit-stop was ever so strategically located in the gift shop.  Seriously Paris, you’re going to have to do better than that to get me to buy a snow globe with the Eiffel Tower in it.  I hate trinkets. 

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As you can see, we did finally make it to the top.  And inched our way around the perimeter to check out the flying buttresses and city views.  I enjoyed the buttresses.  I also enjoy saying the word buttresses. 

It was all absolutely beautiful, minus the douchebag who dropped his LIT CIGARETTE onto the crowd below.   Yeah.  Who does that?  I don’t even know where to begin to describe all the things wrong with the scene: 

(1)  Who smokes on top of a Cathedral, especially one as famous as Notre Dame?  Is nothing sacred?!

(2)  Then there’s the issue of health.  I mean seriously, you huff and puff up several flights of stairs and that’s the first thing you think to do?  Light up?

(3)  Beyond all that, is it really acceptable to chuck a lit cigarette over the side rail hundreds of feet in the air?  The answer is no. 

(4)  Provided someone wasn’t lit on fire, it’s still littering!

After we made it back down, we returned to the hotel for some siesta time.  Ethel, Laura and I ended up leaving the napping members behind to explore on our own because we wanted to see the Pantheon.

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FYI This is NOT the Pantheon.  We thought it was, and then tried to go in, and discovered it was not the correct building.  ;)  Dorks. 

IMG_8721 

This, however, is the Pantheon.  We found our way there after a quick 10 minute map intervention. 

To be continued…

Readers request: Finding fitness

How to find an exercise/fitness routine that’s right for you?

Trial & error is the long (and unfortunately time consuming) answer.

I know lots of lifestyle factors and personal preferences come into play here, but more than anything else variety is definitely key in keeping yourself stimulated mentally and physically.  At least that’s my personal work-out philosophy.  Bodies plateau when a fitness routine becomes…well…routine.  So it’s critical to keep your muscles guessing.

Another thing to bear in mind, is that our bodies change over the course of our lives.  So what interested and worked for me in my teenage years may not do it for me now.  However, what’s not to say years down the road I pick that hobby back up again?  In other words, what you enjoy at one point in your life may be different later on, so don’t give up on an activity.  Just keep it on the sidelines until you’re ready for a change.

Things to consider:

  • Are you motivated by group exercise?  Team sports?  Or do you prefer to sweat solo?
  • How much time in the day/week do you have to devote to exercise?
  • When is your energy level at it’s peak?  AM?  PM?
  • How much are you willing to spend on workout equipment, gym memberships, etc?

Workout classes

Most gyms have a wide variety of classes for people who like group exercise.  Sure, gym memberships cost $$ but if you’re the kind of person who wants options this is a worthwhile investment.  And once you’ve joined, you don’t have to spend money on much else.  The equipment is all there for you, all you need to do it show up.

Pick a gym after a trial period…try classes, machines, personal trainers, anything and everything you’d like to take advantage of once you’ve joined.  Test various hours and make sure you have access to what you want, when you want…and then do it!

Make your membership fees worth it.  Body pump, spinning, zumba…whatever.  You can go to as many classes as you want, which means you have unlimited choices in finding a good fit.

I’m a total klutz so I steer clear of group classes, especially ones that involve choreography.  But if that’s your scene, I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun and a great workout.  The only part of not having a gym membership that I miss is spinning classes.  Fortunately, the West Coast weather allows for the real deal…which brings me to the next form of exercise.

Cycling

Before I moved to NYC I did a ton of biking…to school, to work…the streets of West LA are bike-friendly if you know which ones to take.

After moving to the East Coast I was without my wheels, which was fine since the weather was rarely between 40 and 90 degree anyway.  Snow and bike don’t mix.  Neither do swampy summer days with humidity that gives you an afro.  But none of that mattered since it wasn’t deemed safe enough of a commute by Kyle.  Or my mom.  I’m getting off subject.  My point was, moving back to CA meant I got to ride my bike again.

This is one of my very favorite forms of exercise.  I ride 1-2 times a week (more if I’m commuting to work) and it always leaves me on cloud nine.

Group exercise with bikes is more difficult as it relies on your friends to own bikes too.  But if they do, it’s a great weekend activity if you’re friends are into it – combining fun hang-out time with fitness.  Two birds!

Obviously price is an issue in cycling because bikes aren’t free…and you need a helmet, a lock, and (probably) a velcro-pack to carry small items in.  So yeah, this is definitely a more pricey form of exercise.  Upkeep on a bike can cost quite a bit too.

There’s also the matter of storage space.  If you’re in a house..lucky you.  If you’re in an apartment building, make sure any public bike rack is safe and secure.  If not, you’re looking at a new balcony accessory.

Another factor in determining if biking is a good fit for you is where you live.  Like I mentioned above, some cities and some seasons aren’t ideal (even winters in LA aren’t great for biking).  But if you already have the gear and the weather on your side, pedaling into the sunset is one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise.

Running

Ah running…my life long love.  I’ll never truly be anything but a runner because it’s something I’ve always done.  When I try to think back I can’t recall a time I didn’t run.  Then I got into racing and those became a hobby too.  My phases of competitively training and running fluctuate depending on my mood.  Currently I’m in a relaxed and leisurely relationship with the sport, and I’m ok with it.

In any event, don’t think that a lack of experience/background means you’re not cut out to be a runner.  The best thing about it is anyone CAN do it.  Speed doesn’t matter because it’s an individual activity.  The only person you’re up “against” is yourself.  Go fast, go slow, go far, go around the block.  It’s impossible to fail.

Also, it’s the cheapest activity you’ll ever try.  All you need are shoes.  And you can do it anywhere.  If you’re a solo type of person, here’s your me-time.
Getting started with running is as simple as jogging around the neighborhood.  It sounds stupid, but seriously, go as far as you can go…and then try and go further the next day.  If you tire easily, don’t be discouraged.  Endurance takes time and running will always be waiting for you.

If you need help staying motivated, create a reward system for yourself, set goals, and recruit others to hold you accountable.

Examples:

  • Buy yourself a new sports bra if you run x times this week/month
  • Make gym dates with a trainer
  • Make a chart and cross off mileage as you do it
  • Log times/distances/activities on the computer or journal to see your progress
  • Arrange to meet a friend at group classes
  • Schedule classes into your day ahead of time
  • Enter races in the future
  • Meet friends for lunch at a place you can bike to
  • Set out your shoes/clothes/gear in the PM so it’s ready when you wake up

Yoga

I’m less of an expert in this category so I’d like to invite all you yogis to leave comments chiming in with your knowledge on ways to get into yoga and stay inspired.

I’m still in the beginner stages of practicing yoga, but what I have come to realize is how much it spills over into all aspects of your life.  Having good posture and holding your core together are just the physical effects (and they’re no small feat either).  The calm and inner peace that I feel each time I leave the studio are some of the other invaluable benefits.

The kinds of yoga vary greatly, from Ashtanga and Power yoga, to Iyengar, to Vinyasa, to Bikram, and everything in between.  I still have so many to try myself!

To the other beginners out there, let me reassure you…people have always been so inviting and supportive.  Nobody is perfect.  Everyone has some part of their practice to work on – great or small – so you’re never alone in your quest to get better.  Similar to running, you just focus on you.  Nobody else cares because each person is too busy focusing on him/herself.

Like strength training, yoga gets you strong.  Your muscles may not feel worked in the moment, but you’ll notice them eventually.  Hell, it may even add peace to your life due to the introspective nature of it.  Physical, mental, and spiritual exercise all in one.  Now that’s a good workout!

Strength Training

I’ve posted about my love for Jillian Michaels before.  I never believed in anything but cardio before I discovered her DVDs.  Now I think twice before knocking a 20 minute workout.  You can see my thoughts on those workouts here.

As far as strength training goes, I pretty much stick to Jillian’s videos (1-2 times a week).  Occasionally I’ll do Jackie Warner’s arm and abs routines if they are available on demand.  But I still haven’t found anything else that comes close in comparison to Jillian’s workouts.  I sweat and feel sore the next day, which makes me know it’s working.

As for equipment, my home set-up is as follows: 5 lb weights x2, 10 lb weights x2 (mostly for Kyle), yoga mat, balance board, resistance bands x2, large inflatable ball, wii (kidding).

I don’t always use everything listed, but I only mentioned what I personally like.

Miscellaneous

Don’t forget about checking your area for community sports leagues…like soccer, kickball, and/or dodgeball.  I know Santa Monica even has lawn bowling!  Are there places to go on hikes in your area?  Is there a swimming pool nearby?  Go for it!  Or for the cooler climate crowds, maybe look into ice skating or skiiing?

You won’t know if an exercise is a good fit for you until you try it.  And be sure to give each activity a few tries before you dismiss it.  Like a toddler trying new foods, sometimes it doesn’t connect until the 10th time!

Have an exercise to add?  Leave a comment below sharing how to get started and stay motivated.

I tried Krav Maga and if I had the $ to go regularly I would do it in a heartbeat.  It’s one of the most grueling and intense exercise sessions I’ve ever had to date.

Hope this helps!

52 - Elise LMYA Soccer Fall 1989

[The start of a lifetime of sports and fitness]