Vent Fitness – Location Review & My Experience

Vent Fitness is a local chain of 4 gyms which used to be Gold’s Gym franchises. I’ve been a member since I moved to Latham last fall, and my overall take this far is that I am happy with my level two membership for $29.99/month.

The Level 1 membership just gets you access to the equipment at one gym, but it is significantly cheaper, so if you know you’re only going to go to one location and never take a class, then this is probably the deal for you.

The Level 2 & 3 membership grants you access to all 4 locations, group classes, tanning, a towel, and free coffee. The Level 3 is a whopping $80 now (I think it was $50 or $60 last year, but prices went up in the new year) and really the only difference for me is that you take more “exclusive”/smaller group classes/training sessions (IMO these seem primarily more like paying in to having a group trainer). You can read more about the memberships and benefits to each one, although most of the level 2-3 benefits currently listed are primarily at the Guilderland location (more on this later).

What I like about Level 2:
Flexibility. I can be all over the place, so it’s sweet to be able to pack a gym bag in my car everyday and being able to pick which Vent I want to go to. I also like the group classes for forced relaxation and stretching. I tend to do a yoga or bodyflow, and having the level 2 membership makes me at least try to get in one of those more restorative workouts a week. It’s also nice to change things up every now and then and try something new.
Free coffee is awesome. I don’t use any pre-workout supplements and am fairly distrustful of thermogenic pre-workouts as a whole. I’m also fairly sensitive to caffeine on its own, so a cup of coffee before a workout is usually all I need to really get in the swing of things.
Towel. I used to just sweat all over the place, but it’s nice to have something to mop your brow/neck before things get to a crazy-sweaty level.
Showers! All of the showers are clean and enjoyable to use.
Sauna. The good sweat. It was awesome to have somewhere to go where I could break a sweat in the icy cold winter.
I can bring a guest with me on the weekends to any location.

My customer service experience has been fantastic so far. Management is quick to address any issues, and everyone is generally very friendly and helpful. No “that’s not my job” and everyone on staff appear to be team players. This is probably one of the big draws for me. I really value good, effective customer service, and Vent excels at making the customer feel welcome without being overbearing or inattentive. Locations are also very clean and generally well maintained.

The locations! I have been to Latham, Clifton Park, and Guilderland. Can’t seem to get to the Niskayuna one. At least, not yet.

Latham Vent
This is the gym I go to most often since it’s close to home. The showers are fine, but probably the least private of the three Vents I’ve been to in that there is just a shower curtain and not another private little entry way before entering the shower in the stall to change and keep your stuff. So you either bring everything in the shower and maybe your bag gets wet, or you hang it on the hook outside the shower and occasionally flash a little boob or butt when you’re reaching in to your bag to grab clean clothes/ditch the dirty ones. This is more of an issue for anyone else in the locker room with me as I have almost zero shame about my body, but other ladies seem more squemish about seeing a boob. Whatever.
Equipment: They have a nice selection of ab machines. Probably my favorite of the three. This is also probably the most spacious Vent, and I also like that. I like my space. I don’t like equipment crammed next to each other. Cardio machines are on the 2nd floor and to the left when you walk in, so you can people watch your heart out at the folks lifting weights.
I really hope this is the next gym they renovate.

Clifton Park Vent
Surprisingly close to Latham. My secret confession is that the main draw for me here is the spray tanning, which I still have yet to master. I don’t do UV tanning, but hey, it’s included, and I want to try and get all coconutty every now and then. This is the only Vent location with spray (non-UV) tanning. I do pretty well until my knees. Below the knees it becomes splotch central with a hearty dose of Cheeto-colored soles of my feet. I wish I could tell you why I like doing the spray tanning, but I have no logical reason for liking it, especially since I kind of suck at it. I am like a moth drawn to the flame.
Showers have a little privacy screen/antechamber (?)  before the main shower. Any way, it’s nice to lotion up when you get out of the shower and change in one place. The actual lockers in this locker room are kind of oddly shaped. They can be up high, and I’m pretty tall, so that’s saying something. The lockers also seem too skinny, so it’s hard to fit a backpack in them.
The weights here are a little cramped for my liking and everything seems kind of circular. The cardio equipment is on the 2nd floor, and it’s shaped like a track/donut, which is an interesting way to peer at the people lifting weights below. They also have a punching bag upstairs near the stretching mats.

Guilderland VentThis is the flagship location – the one they are eventually going to use as the mold for remodeling the other Vents in the area. Holy cow, this place is awesome. Every time I go here I tell Albany John I’m going for a spa day and I’ll be there for at least three hours (BTW, their wifi kicks you off after 4 hours and you have to sign back in. Ask me how I know…). It’s got all of the bells and whistles. They have a hydro massage table, and while it won’t make me trade out my monthly massages, it’s a nice way to relax and soothe sore muscles ASAP.
Pool/hot tub. Albany John likes going here with me on the weekends for the pool He is a water guy. Meanwhile, I just look at a pool and get swimmer’s ear. I like hot tub. It’s another great way to try to ease out any kinks and stiffness after a long workout. It’s got a timed bubbler on it, too, or just go in without bubbles.
Sauna/steam room – there’s a steam room in addition to the sauna here, and it’s located in the same area as the pool/hot tub. At first I was psyched to have co-ed sauna/steam room because I thought it would be nice to have sauna time with Albany John. I don’t think we’ve ever been in it at the same time now that this is an option (of course, right?). And then I realized how used to a gender-specific sauna I got. But no one here really bothers you. I had an old guy letch on me (nothing bad, but he kept awkwardly interjecting how beautiful I was when we were chatting), but he was respectful once I told him what’s what and really, he was so old it was one of those “I’m so old, I’m going to say what I want,” moments. It was like seeing Albany John in the future.
Oxygen therapy. I don’t know if this really does anything, but you get to smell nice smells for a few minutes.

Overall, I like Vent. Peak times seem to be the after work crowd, M-F after 5 PM (people central). As with all social situations, I try to avoid this as often as possible. Mornings are pretty empty, as are Friday nights. There are plenty of things for me to lift at each location, and I can shower after every workout. I’m not much of a relaxer by nature, so having a membership with group classes included is great as an incentive to TRY to relax and stretch out.

Any way, this is just my brief synopsis of my experience to date. I know other folks who go for an entirely different experience, and there are bound to be annoyances at any gym location (for the love of goodness, don’t deadlift in the squat rack), but overall the pros at Vent far outweigh the cons. It hits me on price, perceived quality, and customer service.

Workout Attire

Some gyms have rigid rules on what you can and cannot wear, others are more lax about what you can wear in. When I first started working out I wanted to be as covered as possible, and my usual go-to outfits were shorts or loose capris paired with a cotton t-shirt (usually some sort of promotional tee). While I originally thought looser fitting clothing was more comfortable in the gym, I’ve come to learn that (for me) sometimes the snugger gym clothes are actually better for performance.

Let’s talk about support first (sorry men-folk, this will probably not apply to you, so feel free to skip to the next section). I was a bit more voluptuous when I started working out, and the Goddess sports bra was a cardio game-changer for me (they size C cups and higher). I got fitted for mine originally at Madame Pirie’s, but later ordered them from Amazon because of convenience (Mme Pirie’s prices are pretty on-par with internet prices). The Goddess bra kept everything in place with almost zero movement. It’s not an all-day bra, but when you’re doing intense activities, it’s great.
When my girls got smaller, I’ve since been using compression sports bras which also keep things in place and are usually comfy to wear all day, even. I really dislike sports bras that are little more than spandex with an elastic band – no support, and too much stretch (I’m looking at you, Target sports bras).

Tops/What You Wear to Cover Your Chesticles: If you’re going to sweat, cotton is not your friend. It will retain all of that sweat to keep you hotter during your workouts and eventually be come a bit funky-smelling. Material that wicks is great for keeping you cool and letting you work out longer. I don’t know about you, but when my internal thermostat goes beyond a certain temperature I can’t exercise as intensely as I’d like to and I get all sorts of tired and crankypants.
If you don’t have any shirts that are made from a non-cotton/wicking material, consider checking out your local thrift store (because, hey, restocking your exercise wardrobe can be a bit expensive). Do you know how many races give out free t-shirts, and how many of those t-shirts never get worn and donated? Plenty. I’m sure I seem way more athletic than I am because of all of these shirts. And hey, that anthropomorphic screen-printed jogging hot dog for the 5K for Pig Sweats race at least livens up your wardrobe a bit.
Bottoms: So guys, please wear something with a bit of stretch to it if you’re seriously going to work out. My gym is incredibly lax with their dress code (it’s basically “please wear some form of clothing over your bodies”), so a lot of guys will just work out in jeans or cargo shorts. “Well Albany Jane, what is wrong with that?” you might ask. “I happen to really like my cargo shorts, thank you very much, and I like that my gym doesn’t make me change out of them,”. Trust me, you want a little stretch in your clothes if you plan on doing squats or other leg exercise that require a bit of flexibility. I was doing barbell squats one day, and a chatty fellow asked if he could also try squatting the weight I was doing. He was wearing cargo shorts, and don’t you know it – the back of his shorts split as soon as he hit 90 degrees. If you’re trying to impress someone, you probably don’t want to split your pants within 5 minutes of meeting them. Just sayin’. Also, you just ruined a perfectly good pair of cargo shorts, so that’s a bummer.
Ladies, don’t automatically discount the skintight bottoms as too showy or racy. They are also quite useful when working out. It’s funny – you don’t really notice how fabric gets in the way, but when it’s gone, it’s amazing how much easier it is to move around. I’m not saying you should break out the skin tight booty shorts, but don’t discount the skin-tight capris or bike shorts, either. Sure, they’re snug, but they’ll keep you cooler than long yoga pants will.
I’ve had decent luck shopping at Marshall’s for exercise bottoms. They’re rather durable, and usually $12-25 per pair.

Shoes: Again, if you have a lax gym, you might wear your Timbs at the gym. But dude. Good footing is key! Your feet support your whole body, so you want to make sure you take care of your tootsies. I really like Fleet Feet on Wolf Road. They’re able to help me figure out what kind of sneaker I need for the activities I do. Oh, and worry more about how they function than how they look.
If you find yourself with some knee/back pain, I’d also suggest visiting a podiatrist to see if orthotic inserts could help. Since I started using orthotic inserts, my exercise stamina has increased significantly. Before using them, I would get knee and foot pain after about 45 minutes of cardio. But now I can pretty much go, go, go.

Excercising When You’re Sick

I’ve been sick for most of the summer. The most frustrating part about being sick (aside from being sick) for me is my lowered energy and inability to exercise like I’d normally want to. TLDR here is: Know your body, and don’t push yourself into discomfort.

One of your biggest strengths when you’re sick is knowing your body, and actually listening to it. I’m stubborn. I like to think I’m fairly strong, but my immune system puts up a very minimal defense against outside invaders. All it takes is for me to be around someone with a contagious illness, and I’ll pretty much get it.
I’ve learned that while I can go to the gym and lift weights, well, I probably shouldn’t because I’ll just end up running my immune system even lower and moving energy that should be used for trying to fend off illness into muscle repair.

Part of knowing your body is knowing when to throw in the towel and go to the doctor’s. However, I feel like way too many people take what their general practitioner says at face value without any challenge. And I feel like part of the problem is not having a personal rapport with the practitioner you see, since so many offices have a roster of doctors with varying areas of expertise. Challenge your doctor and medical staff. Once you find a doctor you have a good rapport with, boy does that make things a lot easier.
Sadly, my very much loved doctor recently left the practice, and this new doctor didn’t match his attention to detail. When I went in recently, I told the Dr how frustrated I was getting with being sick so often, as it was really messing up my workout schedule in addition to draining my energy and leaving me feeling crappy. I had spots on my throat, and was getting really fatigued shortly after working out to my desired intensity level. I had my tonsils out when I was a kid, and while I still tend to get a lot of reoccurring throat-related illnesses, I’ve been tested for strep plenty of times, and it has never been strep since my tonsillectomy. When they tried to get me to take a strep test, I firmly but politely told them not to run the test for the aforementioned reasons. This Dr wrote me an antibiotic prescription and mentioned that I should remember to wash my hands and keep up exercise on her way out, which I felt was fairly generic advice. I also think it’s important to know when to ignore your doctor’s advice, or know when the advice given doesn’t apply to you. If I were younger, I’d probably think “Hey, doctor said I should workout – more bicep curls and inverted sit ups for me!”

Instead, I’ve relegated myself to yoga and less intense exercise until I’ve fully recovered. Sigh. It’s boring, and good for my body, but something is better than nothing.

Ladies & The Gym

I am an exercise and gym enthusiast in addition to being fanatical about food. I’d like to dispel some myths and provide some tips for ladies who might be a bit hesitant to hit the gym, especially ones that are mostly populated by men training to become MMA fighters or boxers like my own very nearby and dear-to-my-heart gym.

  • Lift weights or do body weight exercises! Cardio forever is just boring. Plus lean muscle mass is awesome. You might weigh the same or even increase weight, but after lifting weights, you get smaller and more toned. Seriously. You won’t look like this.
  • Be a little greedy. With the equipment, that is. Aka – don’t be overly polite, otherwise you’ll never get your workout on. If you’re just doing a few sets, don’t worry about people eyeing the machine you’re one, or the equipment you’re using. You’ll be done in a few minutes and it’ll be their turn next. Or you can…
  • Share the equipment. Don’t be shy about asking someone if you can switch off between when they’re resting between sets and you see that you can do your sets within their rest period, and feel free to say okay to someone who asks the same of you. And no hard feelings if the answer is no.
  • Just because a guy talks to you, it doesn’t mean that he’s hitting on you. Look, I’m just as antisocial as the next person, but sometimes guys are just curious about what you’re doing and how to do it themselves. I always give people a shot – you never know who you might meet and the moves you might exchange.
  • That said… sometimes you need to be prepared to tell someone to back off. Some guys like to play the “helpful/know-it-all gym guy” card as a way to talk to you. And interfere with your workout. Do not let that happen. The other day I was at the gym doing some new chest exercises. When I haven’t done an exercise in a while (or ever) I like to do the motion with a small amount of weight to get a feel for it, then increase weight. When I was testing out a barbell exercise, this guy I’ve never seen before tells me that I’m doing it wrong. There was a mirror, and from what I saw, I wasn’t, but I figured, hey, maybe I did something small that I didn’t notice. Then he tells me to ask him for help for advice for any other moves or equipment that I’m going to use. Okay, creepy flag. Correcting form is one thing, but if some guy you’ve never noticed before says something like that… it’s weird and vaguely condescending/sexist to insinuate that I don’t know how to work any of these big scary things at the gym. Once I finished with that set, I moved on to an ol’ faithful piece of equipment, and this same guy came up to me again telling me that I had the wrong form. NO. Because I don’t. Because you are being really creepy. But hey, just use that weird rage to lift heavier weights. I feel like being blunt and fairly aggressive is necessary in these situations, so I responded “Dude. I appreciate the help and all, but I’ve got this machine and I know what I’m doing.” 
  • Your dietary cravings may change. I think you should go into the gym/exercise in general with the outlook of becoming a healthier person. With that said, you may notice yourself craving healthier foods after a few weeks hitting the weights.

My Bod Pod Experience

IMG_20130423_101925

I’ve been exercising lately, and I was getting frustrated with not knowing what my approximate daily caloric expenditure was per day. How do I know how many calories I really need to eat or burn every day? I tend to exercise a decent amount, and I wanted to make sure I was eating enough (or not too much) to achieve my fitness goals.

I went to Albany Medical Center for a Bod Pod test. A Bod Pod uses air displacement to check your resting metabolic rate, and an estimate of daily energy expenditure.

In order for the Bod Pod to get an accurate reading, you cannot eat or drink anything at least 2 hours before testing. I woke up early, had some whey protein, and then went about my day. I had scheduled my appointment for late morning, and had received an auto-confirm call a few days earlier from Albany Med with the time and date.

This is located in Albany Med’s Endocrinology/Metabolic/Diabetic department on 25 Hacket Blvd. When you first walk into the building, it just seems like you’re walking into a diabetes management clinic (in case you get worried that you’re in the wrong place, you’re not). There was a long line, and it took a while to get up there.
Once I made it to the desk a few minutes after my scheduled appointment time (yes, that’s how long the wait was), they informed me that no one scheduled the Bod Pod calendar with the technician’s calendar, so they were still waiting for the Bod Pod to warm up and calibrate, which takes about 45 minutes. I was fairly upset at this news, because I’d scheduled my morning around the Bod Pod test, and was REALLY freaking hungry by the time I’d gotten in. They didn’t call to let me know that they were running late even though they had my phone number, and the tech was fairly unapologetic about it at first “Well, you can reschedule and cancel it now or wait 20 or so minutes.”. The receptionist was rather apologetic and mentioned that it was unprofessional, yet seems to happen a lot. Don’t worry, they still charged me the $60 to get tested, though.

20 minutes turned into 40 (which seems like eons when all you’ve  was some whey protein and water four hours earlier), and then I was eventually called in to the Bod Pod room and to change. It’s just one small office room (pictured above). You put on your swimsuit and a swim cap (that they oh-so-generously provide) and step on the square scale on the left. Then you go in the Bod Pod, and it feels kind of like cabin pressure while the test is run. That’s about it. Nothing too fancy on the test subject’s end.

The technician was later a bit more apologetic after being fairly dismissive initially. She said she was upset by the scheduling error, and was telling her supervisors that it was a problem because this happens so often. The person who told me about her Bod Pod experience also said that she experienced a long delay/scheduling error, so it seems like this happens with some frequency.

My RMR was calculated at 1499. So if I just slept all day or laid in bed all day, then that is how many calories I would need to maintain my sexy physique.

So, I would recommend going to Albany Med’s Bod Pod if you would like to know exactly what your RMR is so you have a baseline idea. I was wondering if my metabolism was freakishly slow (it’s definitely not fast), so it was nice to have it checked so I have some inkling about how much I’m burning on a daily basis. HOWEVER, it turns out my measured $60 RMR was nearly identical to the one calculated by Calories Per Hour’s RMR calculator. For free. On the internet. In seconds. So if you aren’t as jazzed to know your own exact RMR, I’d save the $60 and time and just use the Calories Per Hour calculator.

At any rate, now that I have this info at hand, I have a better idea about how many calories per day I should eat.

Workout Routine Review: Five-Alarm Fat Burner

I’m pretty much done with the Five-Alarm Fat Burner from Reps Magazine. It was challenging, and a nice way to change up the rut I had gotten into at the gym. By the end, I was looking forward to the stuff I hated in the beginning and loathing the stuff I liked at the beginning. I was even looking forward to the HIIT cardio portion I did today. I KNOW. I hated that when I first started doing this routine.
Unlike the model doing the routines, I changed up the weights I used during the barbell circuit. I’m chalking that up to physiological differences between men and women, or just my own flimsy body. I just can’t press the same weight I deadlift or squat.
Only minor thing was that it was very ab-light.

And now it’s done, so if anyone has another 4/6/8 week workout plan they’d recommend,  I would totally appreciate it.

I kind of ate like a jerk (hello, dark chocolate Reese’s) for half of the time I was doing it (and I was sick for another week, yay), but despite that, I think I actually did lose a bit of fat and gained some muscle by week 4. I may have even added a few lbs, but my clothes are a bit looser, and I try not to obsess over the scale or other metrics, so that’s good enough for me.

My arms have different definition to them (esp in the forearm area), and my thighs are a lot more toned. My calves are even thinner and more defined, which really surprised me as they are prone to bulking up easily. I remember when I was into jogging when I was 18 – my calves were so big that flared jeans were snug on my calves!

I like their site – pretty minimal on the supplement taking compared to other fitness magazines, and easy to navigate. I would love to find a magazine like this geared to women, with routines like this geared toward women. Muscle & Fitness Hers is okay, but their site is kind of difficult to navigate sometimes.

CLA: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (aka, my fatty pills)

CLA

Conjugated Linoleic Acid is one of the few mainstay supplements in my diet. I affectionately call it my fatty pill, partially because it is all oil, and partially because it helps reduce fat.

I stumbled upon this supplement last year when I was researching something that might help me shed some pesky belly fat and tone up a bit more at the gym. I didn’t want to take anything with caffeine in it, so that eliminated a lot of options. I also wanted something simple that didn’t have 9,000 ingredients on the label.
Enter: CLA

There are mixed reviews and studies out on CLA and its benefits for weight loss and muscle growth. I have personally had a positive experience with it, specifically this brand:  Nature’s Way CLA 1300 mg softgel.
I get them from Amazon because the subscribe-and-save price is great, and I don’t have to actually go to a store and buy anything (or forget to buy anything). One bottle will last me about a month.

The CLA comes from safflower seed oil, which contains about 70-80% CLA. Since all 1300 mg is the safflower oil and not the CLA, the CLA from each pill is approximately 1000 mg. Many CLA bottles will list the mg of oil in them, and frustratingly, not the actual CLA mg content. This is important, because CLA only becomes effective at certain amounts, but from what I’ve read, it seems that for CLA to be effective, a person needs to take at least 3,000 mg per day (So, MRM brand might not be a bad pill to try either, when looking at the CLA per pill and cost per pill, I’ve just been using the Nature’s Way brand for a while and like my results on it. Hmm, maybe I will try this MRM brand, now…). At any rate, you can find studies for and against CLA, like pretty much any supplement out there.

I’ve been taking these steadily since about May/June of 2012. Albany John started taking them some time in the fall after we started noticing my results, and wow, his body really took to using CLA. He has a real mesomorph body type, though, and tends to react very quickly to exercise, diet changes, and supplements like this. Sadly, my body type leans more toward that of an endomorph and it takes me quite a while to see even minor changes in my body. Oh, and Albany John tends to take all of them at once instead of spacing them out during the day, and that hasn’t affected his progress. So I’m not so sure how much timing comes in to play with these supplements as opposed to, say, caffeine.

Ladies, CLA may have mixed results for you, so here are my experiences with CLA (in no particular order):

  • Take it for a month before you expect to see results. This isn’t a fast-acting supplement, but it helps curb appetite a bit and my muscles seem a bit more defined after using it. That said, if you forget a day or are too sick to take any supplements for a day or two during a month, that won’t set you back.  Just don’t take less than 3 g/day and don’t take them only a few times per week.
  • My first month or two I took 4 g of CLA per day (4 pills, usually 2 with/after lunch & 2 with/after dinner), but now I have cut down to 3 g of CLA per day (usually 1 with lunch & 2 after dinner).
  • My belly fat has been reduced a bit, and the definition in my muscles seems a bit clearer. I mainly started taking CLA after getting definition in my arms and legs, yet being frustrated with not being able to change the belly fat despite much gym-going and diet-changing. I still have some lower abdominal fat, but I’ve got a bit of definition up top, which I’m pretty happy with and wasn’t something I had really even considered within my realm of possibility before this. Now I want to see how much more I can define my abs.
  • CLA has helped me lose weight and belly fat. I want to stress that it is a supplement that has helped, but certainly has not been the sole cause of my weight/size loss. Diet and exercise to play a huge role in this, but it certainly helped me move from a plateau.
  • Do not take it at the same time you take echinacea/goldenseal. Oh my gosh, this will give you such horrible, burning burps.

Any way, I hope this may help you in your quest for looking and feeling great in the new year, and giving you a bit more insight on this supplement and my experiences with it. Other than the horrible burps I get when I take it at the same time as echinacea/goldenseal I have experience no negative effects when taking this supplement.

Have you tried any supplements that have made a difference in your life? Raspberry ketones? Green tea extract? African mango? I think whey protein has also helped my body, so that might be another later post.