Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | June 29, 2013

Mind-blowing video: Adrenalin Junkies In Motion

Check out this inspiring video of bodies in motion. Wo. Some of the magic comes from editing, no doubt, but this definitely makes me want to get up and move.  Gravity seems not to apply to these folks – they (I) believe they can fly.  Side note: I hope they have good insurance :)

Just do it…(!)

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | June 23, 2013

Magical Morocco

The lush colors of the textiles of Marrakesh. Eye candy at every turn.

The lush colors of the textiles of Marrakech. Eye candy at every turn.

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beautiful inlaid enamel spoons sold on the street in the market for $1

beautiful inlaid enamel spoons sold on the street in the market for $1

Melanie and I have our faces painted with kohl in an apothecary

Melanie and I have our faces painted with kohl in an apothecary. We bought buckets of local Moroccan Oil!

I just returned from my second trip with Escape To Shape, an adventure travel/fitness company  I LOVE. The first time I traveled with them was to Istanbul last summer and in June, I went to Marrakech. To make things extra wonderful,  my dear friend, the lovely and excellent Alex McKay, came along.

So Marrakech. WOW. The colors were so bright, the beauty so lush, the scent of roses lingered in the air  – I’m not sure words will do the trick in describing the sensory overload of being in the ancient city. It’s a place I always wanted to visit as the aesthetic so appeals to me, and it did not disappoint.  I may just let some photos tell the story.  In keeping with this blog, we did more than just explore –  we also exercised about two hours a day – one yoga  class and one fitness class (somewhere between bootcamp and sculpting) lead by the excellent Kiya Knight (Kiya Fiya, if must know…and she made us burn!) We stayed in Marrakech mostly and spent one day hiking in the Atlas Mountains.  Escape’s Erica Gragg did another fantastic job picking fabulous/amazing hidden spots to visit and we all felt simultaneously out-of-our element (in a thrilling way) and totally taken care of. Was rather a perma-grin week for us all. Thank you, Erica, Kiya, Francesco and thank you to new pals I met who were so generous with their stories and their hearts. Ah travel, it does a body – and soul – good.

Where’s your next adventure? xxxooSteph

Kiya's workouts are no joke.

Kiya’s workouts are no joke. This was one stop on her make-you-cry circuit.

Handmade crafts are everywhere in the market. Alex and spent an hour in here. Heaven.

Handmade crafts are everywhere in the market. Alex bought three lamps in this store…and surprised me with one! A treasure. Heaven.

Erica outside a restaurant in the walled city. The streets are narrow and the world opens up behind beautiful doors. Homes and restaurants have gardens and atriums and you eat outside

Erica outside a restaurant in the walled city. The streets are narrow and the world opens up behind beautiful doors. Homes and restaurants have gardens and atriums and you eat outside

Bellydancing with my friend Lusann in a riad. Zumba comes in handy...

Belly dancing with my friend Lusan in a riad. Zumba comes in handy…

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | April 27, 2013

Montauk Bike Ride: From Here to Eternity

It’s a tale as old as time. Us humans love epic journeys to push ourselves to really see what we’re about, from Jason and the Argonauts traipsing through a wacky Greek-Mythology All Star obstacle course to Italian trader Marco Polo chilling with the Mongols in the Steppes, way back in the day. Well friends, my time has come. Montauk. By bike. Join me.

Minstrels will write songs about us.

Hazardsoftheroad

Wackiness from last year’s Ride To Montauk. The fish are biting!

On June 1, rain or shine, I’ll be joining some hearty (crazy?) friends and doing the Ride to Montauk. There are a few distances available, and we’re doing the 108 mile option (if you’re totally nuts, there’s a 150 mile route.)  Along the route, organizers feed you pie, healthier snacks and plenty of water and everyone meets at the end for a great big party by the lighthouse in Montauk which I can image is not very happening as most riders will be nearly comatose by then. The organizers truck your bike back to the city, riders take the train home, you sleep for a few days, and you’re done. Viola. Epic.

Say hello to my little friend, or should I say  new GIANT friend. Gotta take 'er out and let her do her thing!

New toy alert. Say hello to my little friend, or should I say my GIANT friend. Gotta take ‘er out and let her do her thing!

I’ll let you know how it goes…or better still, sign up and say hi! xxoo Steph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | April 16, 2013

Heartbreak and Hope at the Boston Marathon

Please help me by sharing this!</p><br /><p>As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with @[100003790924961:2048:Bryan] and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn't hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded "no." He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me "you are a finisher in my eyes." I was barely able to choke out a "thank you" between my tears.</p><br /><p>Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I'm reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

A friend of mine from Boston, Fred Harrington, shared this story from his cousin, Laura Wellington, who ran the Boston Marathon yesterday.  I’m posting her story here as it made me feel a tiny bit better.  The horror of the bombs, and the violence and suffering they imparted, is hard to process and hard to withstand.   Please help share this story if it moves you – it did me.  xxoo Steph

—————————————————————————————————

As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears.

Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.  -Laura Wellington

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | April 4, 2013

31 Excellent Cycling Tips

31 Biking Tips from Elite Female Cyclists

A gal and her trusty steed

My excellent athlete friend, Cristina Goyanes, just wrote a great story for Shape, 31 Biking Tips from Elite Female Cyclists ,   and I  had to share it with you. I pick up my new chariot on Saturday, a Giant Avail Composite 3,  and I’m about to embark in the world of all things bike, so this excellent advice comes perfectly on time for me.

Cristina pretty much has access to all the top bikers, so this compilation of the best from the best is insider gold. From the right tire pressure to the best seat height, from a weekend joyride to a competitive race, click  here to ensure happy trails.  See you out there soon, pedal pushers!  xxoo Steph

Woman hoisting bike overhead in triumph.
Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | March 31, 2013

Powerfood: Ch-Ch-Chi Chia Pudding, a Tasty No-Cook Treat

Your just desserts!   Here’s a recipe I’ve road tested every day this week and have officially embraced: chia seed “tapioca” pudding. Yum!

Yeah, I know it sounds scary and I felt the same way  before I tasted it – it won’t win any beauty pageants –  but it is a three ingredient, no-cook recipe that yields a great 4 pm POWER snack filled with protein, fiber, Omega 3 oil, iron and more. And c’mon, PUDDING?! What’s not to love?  [Can't lie, as I wrote this I have Bill Cosby's jello pudding voice in my head.]  Here’s the recipe:

Tony Soto’s Chia Seed Pudding

  • 2 tablespoons Chia Seeds (Trader Joe sells them, as does Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla flavored Almond Milk
  • dash of agave to taste

Mix the chia seeds with the almond milk in a small Tupperware container or small bowl and stir. Add a teaspoon or less of agave and stir again. Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour or two. If the spirit moves you, when it’s setting stir again and break up clumps that will form. The chia seeds will expand and absorb the almond milk, forming a thick pudding that will stick to a spoon, even upside down. It tastes like tapioca.  Zhuzh it up with berries when you serve and sprinkle on a dash of cinnamon.

This will make 1 serving and is approximately 200 calories. It is a great pre-workout snack,  light breakfast, or a perfect mid-afternoon energy booster. I’ve been bring it to work with me. It really sates my appetite before I train after work and doesn’t make me feel heavy. 1 tablespoon of chia seeds is 70 calories and  has more Omega 3 than any plant food. It’s also gluten-free, vegan approved and (best part)  easy as pie (actually, way easier than pie.)  It’s part of the treasure trove of recipes my trainer Tony shared with me last week and now I’m passing it on to you. Let me know what you think! xxoo Steph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | March 24, 2013

Powerfoods – The Secret to Workout Success

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quinoa and sauteed chicken and veggies. YUM

I have a problem with food. I train after work twice a week at 7 pm and often (too often) I get to the gym a panting, stressed out mess having sprinted there directly from my office, arriving with about 30 seconds to spare. Unfortunately, about 100% of the time I have not made time to eat before my sessions. I have lunch around 1 pm and have jam-packed days and working out 6 hours after eating is plain and simple DUM.  My workouts often play out like this: Here I go! Here I go! Heeere I  goooo…why am I so tired?…this stinks! ….grrrr!!!!…fail.

Not only does not eating for such a long stretch lead to hideously grumpy moods, low energy and overall poor performance, it slows my metabolism as I am, essentially, starving myself. Whatever good I am striving for with my intense workouts is nullified by the stress I am putting on my body by not feeding my engine and then asking it to go full throttle. And did I mention my mood? (Yeah, that bad…)

And so, enter my hero, vegan athlete superstar trainer, Tony Soto. Perhaps it was self-preservation on his part, but he came up with a plan for me to cook healthy meals that are ideal for training and can be prepared in bulk.  Let’s turn that frown upside down, shall we? Training is supposed to be fun.

Sweet potato chips about to go in the oven to bake. YUM

Sweet potato chips with sea salt and a bit of olive oil about to go in the oven to bake.

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Tony gives my kitchen a workout.

Tony came over today armed with groceries and we cooked and cooked. Thanks to him,  when the clock strikes 4 pm at work now, I’ll have great, balanced energy-rich meals packed in Tupperware and ready to go so that 3 hours later all will be well in Equinox.  Tony and I made kale chips, sweet potato chips,  a ton of quinoa (it freezes beautifully), sautéed seiten and a saute of veggies (kale, pepper, onions, carrots, tomatoes) with chicken breast (that was for me –  Tony politely declined the chicken.)  He even made a chia seed/almond milk mash that doubles as dessert (I’ll post that recipe this week.) Viola – snacks/small meals for DAYS.

The fact is, exercise is great, but food impacts how you fit in your jeans more than any pullup ever will. Food is the key, and I can tend to forget that. It takes planning, prep, and attention – but it’s worth it. I can’t thank Tony enough. The bottom line is,  eat up before you exercise and you’ll feel and look better. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you need to eat to lose or even to maintain.  xxxooo Steph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | February 21, 2013

Gym Rules, Part Deux

Last year, a hilarious Wall Street Journal writer, Jason Gay, came up with a list of rules for successfully deciphering the battlefield we call the gym, and it cracked me up. I wrote about it, of course, so you guys would see it, too.  I’m happy to say, Jason is back, in all his glory, calling out more of the absurdity and silliness many of us exhibit when working out. Pure comedy. Check out his new WSJ story below, and don’t forget, laughing is truly great for the abs and sure beats crunches.   xxoo Steph

25 More Rules for Conquering the Gym by Jason Gay

[image] Scott Pollack

This is our second Journal installment of Rules for Conquering the Gym, because let’s be honest: You probably have yet to conquer the gym. It’s OK. Gyms are tricky relationships. You fall in and out of love. Commitment fades. Maybe you have a torrid affair with ice cream sandwiches. All you know is that you used to go to that gym five times a week, and suddenly it becomes two, and then two becomes one, and one becomes none, and none becomes a brand new size of jeans.

Don’t give up! Exercise will keep you healthy and vibrant, happier than any shopping spree or Netflix frenzy, and you don’t need to chase a quick fix or run to a dodgy plastic surgeon. But you can use some encouragement. Here are our latest rules:

1. The first three months at the gym, you will not lose a drastic amount of weight. However, you will learn an amazing amount about Drew Barrymore while watching “Access Hollywood” on the elliptical trainer.

2. Focus on technique. Have an instructor teach you proper form. If you lift a barbell like a 129-year-old man bending over to pick up a turtle, you need some help.

3. No, you’re not getting a six-pack. You’re just trying to take off your shirt at the beach without people running to their cars.

4. Avoid gyms next to liquor stores and Cinnabons.

5. Consider investing in one of those fancy computer wristbands that measures how many calories you burn walking between birthday cake parties in the office.

 6. Here’s a helpful rule on gym clothing. If you’re not sure your shirt smells? Your shirt smells.

7. Everyone’s accidentally thrown a gym towel into the trash barrel. Everyone.

8. The scale in the locker room weighs everything seven pounds heavier. Do NOT dispute this. The psychological stability of the entire gym membership depends on this.

9. Every gym in the U.S. has an indestructible issue of People magazine with Katie Holmes on the cover. You can throw it into the recycling, and two weeks later, it will be there, sitting on a treadmill, open to the Katie Holmes article.

10. It’s fun to take an exotic gym class. But be careful: If you talk too much about your “Extreme Javelin” class to your co-workers, pretty soon your nickname behind your back in the office is going to be “Extreme Javelin.” Hey did you talk to Extreme Javelin about that report? Is Extreme Javelin coming to the 3 p.m. meeting?

11. Squat! You hear people say this and it’s true. If you’re not doing squats, just stop going to the gym and take $100 and set it on fire in a garbage barrel once a month.

12. The most intimate, personal thing on anyone’s phone is the WORKOUT JAM TUNES MIX. That’s where the Ace of Base and Men Without Hats hides.

13. The Clint Eastwood move in any gym is to walk up to the TV in a packed room full of ellipticals and treadmills, change it over to The History Channel, and light a cigar.

14. Nutrition is a half of the exercise battle. For real. Do not conquer the gym and then conquer The Cheesecake Factory.

15. Everybody has Gym Friends, people they know only from the gym. This is important and humanizing. You may have accomplished great and sophisticated things in the outside world, but to them, you’re just The Weird Guy Who Jumps Rope Like A Goat.

16. Someone really needs to start a gym chain called Bench Press and Stare at the Wall for people who just go to the gym and Bench Press and Stare at the Wall.

17. Wow you really just took a phone call in spinning class? Amazing.

1 8. Make sure to read every gym contract carefully. That gym you signed up for in 1989, in the city where you used to live? Check your credit card statement. You’re still paying $12.99 a month through 2092.

19. Every yoga class has a few show-offs who can’t wait to get to the handstands. Just let them do their handstands and get it over with.

20. Most hotels do not have gyms. They have a busted treadmill, a dusty exercise ball, and a sad TV that only gets Dr. Phil.

21. You know that CEO who claims to be working out every morning at 3:45 a. m.? Ha! The CEO just said that to a reporter once to sound tough. Totally wakes up at 8:30 a.m. and eats a huge pile of pancakes.

22. The best gym on earth is outside, and it’s totally free.

23. Everyone looks good doing dumbbell curls in the mirror. That’s why people do dumbbell curls in the mirror. But do other stuff, too, Narcissus.

24. Always end every gym class by shouting “I win! I win! I win!” at the top of your lungs, grabbing your stuff, and running out the door, laughing maniacally.

25. A visit to the gym is always better than nachos and margaritas. OK that’s a total lie. Nachos and margaritas rule. But go to the gym the next day, OK?

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | December 31, 2012

New Year, New You? It’s All In The Diet

new-years-hat-752x483It’s Dec. 31 and  when the ball drops tonight, pretty much everyone will vow that they will lose weight next year. (In fact, the Journal of Clinical Psychology says it is the most popular New Year’s resolution.) The gym is always packed in January as people try to start their year off right and when I worked at Men’s Health, the January/February issue always sold an astonishing 250,000 more copies  than other months as folks scramble to learn the best/fastest/most effective/easiest ways to trim their middle, stat. What is the secret? There must be one, right?
I love working out as much as the next guy (or gal), but when it comes to weight loss, the most important thing you will lift is not a free weight or a kettle bell but rather the fork you raise to your mouth. Yup, kill it in the gym all you want but nothing will help you slim down like a proper diet. In fact, serious cardio can sometimes backfire as people think they are burning a ton of calories and proceed to treat themselves to, say, a few extra slices of pizza or a lovely huge ice cream after a run. Nope, it doesn’t work like that. Exercise is crucial for keeping your heart, lungs and muscles fit, and it does wonders for the body when it comes to fighting disease and staying healthy, but if you want to get rid of a muffin top, well, the first thing you need to do is stop eating muffins.  Oh, did I mention it kills me to write this? :) Say it with me, everyone — waaaaaaaaaa!
Now that you’ve dried your tears, check out the excellent piece below from the NY Times about how exercise does not equal weight loss. Exercise PLUS diet is a great combo, but a healthy balanced diet really is the key to putting the skinny back in your jeans.  Stay away from crazy fads and fasts and stick to the basics and you’ll see results – lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber, some multi-grains, complex carbs, good fats and proteins,  and steer clear of processed foods and empty calories  (Milanos! How I love thee! I’m so sorry to call you “empty”!) We all know this – the hard part is putting your knowledge into practice, that’s the challenge. So, next year,  look for me at the fruit stand if you don’t see me in the gym. Here’s to 2013, and good friends, good health, good food and lots of joy. xxxooooo Steph
For Weight Loss, Less Exercise May Be More
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Most people who start working out in hopes of shedding pounds wind up disappointed, a lamentable circumstance familiar to both exercisers and scientists. Multiple studies, many of them covered in this column, have found that without major changes to diet, exercise typically results in only modest weight loss at best (although it generally makes people much healthier). Quite a few exercisers lose no weight. Some gain.

But there is encouraging news about physical activity and weight loss in a new study by researchers at the University of Copenhagen. It found that exercise does seem to contribute to waist-tightening, provided that the amount of exercise is neither too little nor, more strikingly, too much.

To reach that conclusion, the Danish scientists rounded up a group of pudgy and sedentary young men, a segment of the population increasingly common in Denmark, as elsewhere in the world. The volunteers, most in their 20s or early 30s, visited the scientists’ lab to undergo baseline measurements of their aerobic fitness, body fat, metabolic rates and general health. None had diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease and, while heavy, they were not obese.

The men were then randomly assigned to exercise or not. The non-exercisers, who served as controls, returned to their former routines, with no change to their diets or sedentary ways.

A second group began 13 weeks of almost daily moderate workouts, consisting of jogging, cycling or otherwise sweating for about 30 minutes, or until each man had burned 300 calories (based on his individual metabolic rate).

A third group tackled a more strenuous routine of almost hourlong workouts, during which each man burned 600 calories.

The men were asked not to consciously change their diets, either by eating more or less, and to keep detailed daily food diaries throughout the 13 weeks.

On certain designated days, they also were asked to don sophisticated motion sensors that would measure how active they were in the hours before and after exercise.

At the end of the 13 weeks, the members of the control group weighed the same as they had at the start, and their body fat percentages were unchanged, which is hardly surprising.

On the other hand, the men who had exercised the most, working out for 60 minutes a day, had managed to drop some flab, losing an average of five pounds each. The scientists calculated that that weight loss, while by no means negligible, was still about 20 percent less than would have been expected given the number of calories the men were expending each day during exercise, if food intake and other aspects of their life had held steady.

Meanwhile, the volunteers who’d worked out for only 30 minutes a day did considerably better, shedding about seven pounds each, a total that, given the smaller number of calories that they were burning during exercise, represents a hefty 83 percent “bonus” beyond what would have been expected, says Mads Rosenkilde, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Copenhagen who led the study.

That impressive weight-loss windfall for the light-duty exercisers “was a bit of a shock,” he says.

And it’s not completely clear from the experiment’s additional data just why participants in that group were so much more successful at dropping pounds than the other men.

But there are hints, Mr. Rosenkilde says. Food diaries for the group burning 600 calories a day reveal that they subsequently were increasing the size of their meals and snacks, although the additional caloric intake wasn’t enough to explain the difference in their results. “They probably were eating more” than they jotted down, Mr. Rosenkilde speculates.

They also were resolutely inactive in the hours outside of exercise, the motion sensors show. When they weren’t working out, they were, for the most part, sitting. “I think they were fatigued,” Mr. Rosenkilde says.

The men exercising half as much, however, seemed to grow energized and inspired. Their motion sensors show that, compared with the men in the other two groups, they were active in the time apart from exercise. “It looks like they were taking the stairs now, not the elevators, and just moving around more,” Mr. Rosenkilde says. “It was little things, but they add up.”

The overall message, he says, is that the shorter exercise sessions seem to have allowed the men “to burn calories without wanting to replace them so much.” The hourlong sessions were more draining and prompted a stronger and largely unconscious desire to replenish the lost energy stores.

Of course, the study involved only young men, whose metabolisms and weight-loss motivations may be quite different from those of other groups, including women.

The study also was short-term, and the results might shift over the course of, say, a year of continued exercise, Mr. Rosenkilde says. The men working out for 60 minutes were, after all, packing on some muscle, while the 30-minute exercisers were not. That extra muscle offset some of the vigorous exercisers’ weight loss in the short term — they sloughed off fat but added muscle, decreasing their net loss — but over the longer term it could amp up their metabolism, aiding in weight control.

Still, if the relationship between working out and losing weight remains complicated and tangled, one point is unequivocal. The men who were sedentary “lost no weight at all,” Mr. Rosenkilde says, so if you hope to shed pounds, “any amount of exercise is better than none.”

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | September 4, 2012

The best way to travel…fitness luxe, Istanbul edition

We all know travel is a delight and feeds the soul and expands one’s world, but amid all of these romantic benefits, well, it’s hard to get a good workout in when you’re on the road. I generally do one of two kind of trips: I go serious fitness and climb Kilimanjaro or go to surf camp or hike in Nepal, or I go for a different kind of stimulation and visit a city like Paris (ah, Paris) or Jerusalem and tour museums and eat until my head and tummy are (happily) overstuffed.

The Hagia Sophia, first a church then a mosque, always breathtaking

The Hagia Sophia, first a church then a mosque, always breathtaking

The Blue Mosque at night. The nights in Istanbul were over the top gorgeous. You could almost touch the moon.

The Blue Mosque at night. The sleeveless summer nights nights in Istanbul were over-the-top gorgeous. You could almost touch the moon.

Well…I’ve seen a new light. Take a look at this – wow. The Hagia Sophia (right) built by Constantine in 360 AD and one of the most beautiful places in Istanbul, was just another stop on my fantastic week in the ancient city with Escape to Shape.  I was there at the end of August this year and I can’t say enough great things about the trip. Erica Gragg, the woman who co-owns and runs Escape to Shape with great care and attention to detail,  scouts out some of the most interesting places on earth and puts together week-long, highly considered itineraries that combine cultural highs, food fantasies, local secret and stylish finds, a touch of pampering, and daily get-your heart pumping exercise.  From daily 90 minute (excellent) Jivamukti yoga, to morning jogs along the Bosphorus,  to swimming in the Sea of Marmara and hiking on Prince’s Island, I think my feet touched the ground maybe maybe once when I was there.   Yes, Istanbul is a richly spiritual place – maybe that’s why I kept thinking, is this heaven? Or perhaps it was the Turkish Bath that made me find religion…

Escape to Shape focuses on a healthy approach to soaking up a culture.   Yes, we drank lovely wine at dinner, but the food was generally “clean” (no rich creamy sauces, no fried foods) and it was always, always fresh. Erica takes care of everything, and reservations and menus are pre-set. And she has great taste.

Basically, from the time I was picked up at the airport to the time I was dropped off a week later, my only decisions were what to wear and what to buy in the famous sensory overloading bazaars. Yup – I can handle that.

The Grand Bazaar made my head spin with choices.

Escape to Shape has about 12-15 guests per week. Depending on the location, Erica rents a villa or an entire small boutique hotel for the group, so you truly feel at home and relaxed wherever you go. The folks on my trip were great – I went with my fabulous friend Elsa, but I would have been fine and happy solo, too – basically, the people who sign up are a self-selecting group of adventurous types who like to stay fit, be healthy, and are curious about the world. If this sounds like you, I’d recommend signing up. Escape to Shape goes to Cambodia, Croatia, Cartagena, Guatemala, Morocco, Puglia Italy, and other must-experience, soul-rocking places, and they just started a Detox/Renewal spa-ish program in Hudson NY.  Wherever you go, bring good walking shoes – in Istanbul, we  explored for many miles and hours every day with our top-notch guide Resa, who explained the history of the ancient city. Every “Escape” spot has  it’s own story that you’ll want to learn about and touch and experience. Heels? Not so much. Save ‘em for dinner.  During the day you’ll want to Indiana Jones it up – by night, however, Scheherazade or Jezebel may appear. Hah, you never know, so just say yes and go, and if you reach out, please say hi to Erica for me, and tell her I’ll be back :)   xxoo Steph   What’s that? More pictures? Of course!

Happy Escape-To-Shapers outside one of the massive iron doors of the Hagia Sophia

Inside a hidden mosque near the Spice Market

Yup, they really do sell Turkish Delight!

Yoga every day. Thank you, fabulous Kari Zabel, for the great teaching and insightful adjustments. With 20 years more practice, I’ll be like you!

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