Cycle For Curls: Soul Cycle Meets Charity In The Name Of Lost Hair

Curls For Girls

You may have noticed that I don’t talk much about cycling here. It’s because I struggle with cycling (cardio isn’t my strong suit, and my legs aren’t as strong as they may appear so pedaling can be a challenge), and I’ve only been to about three  classes. So, when I agreed to participate in the First Annual Cycle For Curls charity event (by Curls for Girls), I  questioned my sanity. However, I soon discovered that Soul Cycle is an entirely different experience, especially when you’re surrounded by positive energy in the name of charity.

Plus, progression doesn’t come from staying within your comfort zone, right? Exactly.

So, here’s the backstory: Curls for Girls  is a 501c3 organization founded by celebrity hairstylist and beauty expert, Pat Sumpter. Its goal is to provide age-appropriate wigs and mentoring to girls experiencing hair loss due to treatment for medical-related illnesses or other conditions at no out-of-pocket costs to their families.

Curls For Girls
With Pat Sumpter, the founder of Curls for Girls.

Sumpter partnered with the American Cancer Society, and tapped two time Emmy-winner Mara Schiavocampo, also known as, “the next Diane Sawyer,” to host the event at Soul Cycle on the Upper West Side. Yup, we piled into Soul Cycle and spun in the name of charity!

You should also know that Mara Schiavocampo is an avid fan of Soul Cycle. It helped her lose over 90 lbs post pregnancy with her first child (you can read all about that in her book, THINspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds–My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Self-Acceptance). Speaking of, she is currently about eight plus months pregnant and out-cycled all of us  (with the exception of our awesome instructor), and she was as sweet as pie.

Mara Schiavocampo, Good Morning America
With Mara, the Soul Cycle Slayer!

Our 45 minutes of cycling to everything from Beyonce to Mary J. Blige was lead by Liz Chestang, who made the experience enjoyable with good music and a great attitude. For the first time in history, I actually enjoyed a spin class because it seriously wasn’t just spin, it was Soul Cycle, which is an experience of it’s own (more detail on what Soul Cycle is actually like soon), and I was surrounded by positive vibes.

Liz Chestang, Soul Cycle
Post workout swelfie with Liz, our fearless Soul Cycle instructor.


Vegan Divas
We sure did indulge post workout. Vegan Divas provided the treats.


Nubian Heritage Gift Bags
We were spoiled!

I caught up with Pat Sumpter to chat about her inspiration for launching Curls For Girls two years ago, her reason for pushing forward, and how she personally keeps in shape. Keep reading for the good stuff!

Why is this cause so dear to your heart?

I’ve worked in the industry for many years. I actually had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and I’ve worked with a lot of women that were experiencing hair loss and over the years I would help them find wigs and have them fitted for wigs and just kind of teach them that it’s okay. You put your wig on and it’s all about your attitude and you just keep it moving. I know from working with these women over the years how traumatic it is to a woman to lose her hair. People say, “Well it’s just hair,” but it’s not just hair. That’s our identity. Then people started contacting me about younger family members that were experiencing hair loss and when I started doing research and trying to help them find wigs, I realize that there was really no place to go to buy wigs for young girls. I knew that I always wanted to do something to give back and at that moment I just thought you know what? That’s it.That’s basically how Curls for Girls came about.

What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself since launching Curls for Girls?

I never realized how rewarding and fulfilling Curls for Girls would be for me. I just can’t even explain how I felt when I provided the wig and the beauty day. I’d never felt anything like that before. To see them happy and wearing their wigs and styling it and feeling beautiful, it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world for me. I always say that I’m really proud of the things that I’ve done, but there’s nothing like Curls for Girls. The other thing is that spending time with these girls and what they’re going through, I think at that moment when we do the beauty day, I feel like everybody in the room feels like they need to express gratitude more often–because nine, ten, thirteen-years-old, going through this treatment, losing their hair and they miss years of school and everything–it just really makes you look at life differently. I feel like it just keeps me grounded and it makes me want to do more.
What’s next for Curls for Girls and yourself as a business woman in general?

What’s next for Curls for Girls? We’re based here in New York. I actually went to my hometown, St. Louis, and we have a base there as well. I partnered with two hospitals. We’ve partnered with the American Cancer Society, St. Jude, Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and we want to just try to reach more girls in the coming years and we also want to expand to other cities. I’m very, very happy and blessed and to be able to provide this service.

Tell me about your personal fitness habits. Do you soul cycle on a regular basis?

This was my first time doing Soul Cycle.  I was in the military years and years ago, and I think that was my introduction to staying fit, and after the military I was like, “I’m never working out again in life,” and then I realized I missed it and how much it had become a part of me. I just make sure I get some type of exercise in and so I always tell people, anything can be exercise so don’t look at it like, “Oh my god, I can’t do this class or I can’t run.” You can just walk. You can do anything that’s exercise. Parking far away from the store and walking. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator. I look at everything as exercise.

For more information for how you can get involved, visit


8 Common Mistakes To Avoid When You Are A Newbie Pole Dancer


Pole dancing is an addictive excellent workout. You build upper body and core strength, learn how to make incredibly difficult strength moves look graceful, and develop a sense of camaraderie with a unique group of people who understand what you go through. Newbies may find it hard or overwhelming to approach the sport. However, pole can be simplified by avoiding these 8 newbie mistakes when you start you are a newbie pole dancer.

Underestimating It

Sometimes people underestimate how hardcore pole dancing is. This is especially true for people who are athletic, or have an athletic background. Prior or current physical activity can be helpful, but pole is pole, and it requires a different approach than anything you’ve probably ever done. It requires a lot more strength and patience than you realize, so you are still going to have to work hard. You will also get bruises calluses, and be sore in places you didn’t even know could get sore. Check your ego, and be prepared to get your butt handed to you at some point. It’s all part of the process.

Underestimating Yourself

People often seem to think that they already have to be strong in order to do pole dancing, but nope! One of the major points of getting involved in pole dancing is to build up strength. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do pushups, or pull-ups, or that you don’t have a six-pack, or that you’re “too big.” Everyone has to start somewhere. For the record, there are plus sized pole dancers, petite pole dancers, deaf pole dancers, and pole dancers who are missing limbs (true story) all making it work! So, no more excuses!

Doing Too Much Too Soon

Pole newbies tend to be really eager to learn, which is good and bad. What’s bad about it is that newbies sometimes try to do moves that they may not have the muscle strength for just yet, like choppers, for example. Choppers are usually the first on-the-pole inversions that pole dancers work toward, but the right way to get into a chopper is to lift your knees with your core, not by kicking into it and haphazardly trying to throw yourself over. Some people may be able to chopper after only a few classes, while it may take others a full year. Pole dancing is not a race. It’s better to have correct form and strength than an injury so, be patient, cross train so that you can build up the appropriate strength for certain moves, and practice. Think about it this way: You have to crawl before you can walk, you have to walk before you can run, and you have to run before you can fly.

Not Getting A Spot

Get a spot anytime you feel unsure of a movement. Your instructor will be happy to assist you.

Using Incorrect Form

It’s important to have the proper amount of strength and know what your points of contact with the pole should be because this is what assists you with executing moves. If you practice with incorrect form, you won’t nail your tricks properly, or you could hurt yourself.

Comparing Yourself To Others

This is something all pole dancers struggle with at every level. Understand that what works for your body works for your body. Everyone progresses at different rates, people have different builds and flexibility that can affect a move so work on your own time, whatever that may be.

Not Checking The Pole Before Using It

How many YouTube and Vine compilations have you seen of pole dancing fails, probably a lot, right? So, yeah, be vigilant and check how secure that pole is every single time you get ready to practice. Give it a good yank!

Not Wearing The Right Clothes

Experienced pole dancers wear less clothes as they get more advanced because the skin is a point of contact, but newbies tend to overdo it. In the beginning, you can get away with wearing a shirt or longer shorts, but stay away from full on pants. You can wear your sweats for the warm up portion, but when class starts, make sure those pants are at least above the knee so that you can hook the pole with your knees without slipping.


Grunty Workouts: The Low Down on Gyrotronic


The picture you see above is not a torture device although every time I look at it, my mind drifts to this classic Method Man skit. Now that that’s out of the way, what you’re seeing is my feet inside of a gyrotronic machine. What the heck is gyrotronic, you ask?

Gyrotronic is an exercise method that combines swimming motions with Pilates techniques and it’s pretty darn cool.

According to, this is an exercise method developed by Juliu Horvath, a Hungarian professional dancer, that falls under the Gyrotronic Expansion System. Horvath suffered a series of debilitating injuries during his dance career, and began developing the Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis Methods as a way to heal himself and regain his strength and agility.

I’ve only taken one class with my friend (because we got Groupons) thus far but it was really cool and although my class was an intro to the system, I can tell that this is a method that is great for building strength, stretching and lengthening muscles and for preserving muscles and ligaments. I was extremely stiff and sore from pole the day that I tried gyrotronic and working myself out on these machines felt amazing. It’s not easy but you will get results if you’re consistent so I recommend giving it a shot. Keep in mind that you will feel absolutely awkward on these machines, but it’s because you’re a newbie and all newbies feel awkward when they start something. Plus, it’s not natural for your body to use machines so don’t panic.




I did my intro class at Body Evolutions on New York City’s Lower East Side. It is suggested that you take at least two intro classes before moving on the level one. Body Evolutions is a small studio that promotes a very zen like environment, which I love.





What are you waiting for? Grab your friends and go!

Chrissy K Fit Teaches You How to Breathe Through Workouts

Chrissy K Workouts

The headline here probably should have read something like, “Chrissy K Fit Teaches You How to Breathe Through the Pain.” You know how it is when it’s sometimes hard to keep up with a workout because you feel like your body is shirking its responsibility to supply you with oxygen. Part of that could be because you need to build stamina, or because you’re not breathing properly. I’m afflicted with both issues but I find that learning and remembering to breathe correctly helps, so here’s some good advice from Grunty Crush Chrissy K.

Get to know Chrissy K via her Grunts and Glam interview here.

What to Expect From Your First Pole Dancing Class

My first attempt at street pole in New Orleans, summer 2013.
My first attempt at street pole in New Orleans, summer 2013.

A lot of my curious girlfriends ask me what pole dancing is like, and I also have some who have tried it but stopped because it made them feel awkward. I often feel like a pole mother hen in these situations, as the one in our circle who has continually kept up a pole practice, often explaining to them that going to your first pole dancing class will most likely be intimidating, especially if it’s a mixed level class. I also encourage them to try again, if they weren’t completely mortified, because it can also be rewarding as long as you go in with an open mind, prepared for a real work out and understanding that it can be an amazing adventure. There are other good break downs about what to expect during your first pole dancing class floating around the web but here’s my take.

Finding a Studio

Finding pole dance classes can sometimes be a trial and error experience but most likely your first class will be a referral from a friend or through a Groupon type service. Go with the flow and see what happens. If you like it, don’t be afraid to continue to explore different places. I’ve found that various pole dancing studios can be good for different things depending on your personal goals. Some have a culture that fosters students to compete while others are more about empowerment, wellness and camaraderie, so it depends.


The Uniform

Ignore my sad attempts at foot pointing.
Ignore my sad attempt at foot pointing.

The basic beginner pole dancing uniform is short shorts and a tank top. Your teacher, however, will probably be wearing the community standard along the lines of a sports bra and boy shorts. If it’s a mixed level class, the more advanced students will also be wearing some variant of a bra and panties.

Ease Into it


You may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first but that is natural. Pole dancing isn’t natural. You’re asking your body to accomplish extremely hard feats of strength while also challenging gravity. It’s not going to happen overnight. People advance at different speeds and some moves may be easier than others based on strength level, body type and flexibility. Keep working at it until you figure out your style and what works for you.

What to Bring


Pole dancing can be an intense strength training and cardio workout (as a beginner you’ll probably do more spins and dancing on the ground) so bring water, shakes (if that’s your thing) and snacks like fruit and nut bars (I love bananas and Kind Bars). You’ll also potentially need grip. Finding the right grip is also a trial and error  experience that depends on a variety of things from how much you sweat to the room temperature. My favorite grips are iTac 4, Dry Hands and Tite Grip (I use the latter two the most). All of the above can be found at

Feeling Awkward


On top of feeling silly because you may not be able to execute moves fluidly, you may also find yourself uncomfortable with your body or seeing other people’s flesh. Keep in mind that various parts of your skin will serve as points of contact for the pole, which is why polerinas tend to wear skimpy clothing. There are also lots of moves involving flashes of crotch (like the vagina monster, for example). I felt awkward at first but the feeling faded after about a month of classes and after about six months of classes, I too felt completely ok with frolicking in a sports bra and boy shorts (initially I’d just wear cut off t-shirts and soccer shorts). If you are squeamish and can’t get over yourself or the ample bodies on display around you then pole dancing may not be for you.

The Warm Up

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 2.32.07 PM
Using the pole as support for working on my headstands.

Pre-pole warm ups are hard core. They are my least favorite part of the class but a necessary evil. Typically you can expect to do a combination of Pilates and yoga-inspired stretches and core conditioning. We also use the pole as a conditioning apparatus (pull ups, invert drills, aerial crunches etc).

Expectations Vs. Reality


The most common lament I hear from women is that they’re not strong enough.

Newsflash: Everyone starts with a blank slate. You have to crawl before you can walk. You have to jog before you can sprint. You have to spin before you can climb, and you have to build strength and confidence before you can truly become bad ass. Everything in pole is trial, error and gradual. You may have moments where you think you’re doing one thing but discover that what played out in your mind was not actually what you did and that’s why we practice–to get better, to be healthy and most importantly, to have fun. Be patient, don’t beat yourself up and understand that you are awesome simply for being brave enough to take the class.

Safety First

In my experience pole dancing hasn’t been any more or less dangerous than when I did more traditional dancing and sometimes tumbling (where I have sprained ankles, fingers and wrists several times). It’s important that you warm up properly and request a spotter when you are feeling insecure. Never attempt a trick, even if it’s a spin on the ground, if you don’t feel stable. Always ask for the proper points of contact and make sure you stretch and nourish yourself properly after class.

Prepare to be Amazed


Your body can do some awesome things. This is something you will learn with experience.




Andia Winslow’s Beautiful Black History Tribute Through Workouts

Andia Winslow Black History Workout

It’s safe to assume that Andia Winslow had a cool childhood. She is the granddaughter of a Tuskegee Airman who was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor but also had a passion for fitness that he shared with her. Winslow has carried that passion for fitness into her adult life in a way that is magic.

Today, Winslow works as a trainer and group instructor at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers and she she honors her grandfather’s and other ancestor’s hard work with The Legacy Workout, just in time for Black History Month. The Black History-inspired workout features moves that we’ve probably seen before, but with names like Tuskegee Fly Sit-Ups, Mae Jemison jump squats, and lateral raises inspired by Thurgood Marshall.

“I’m inspired by these people, and I’m honoring them,” Winslow tells Well and Good NYC. “I think the big thing is that we are always trying to get people to understand that being active is a wonderful gift to yourself, and these things can inspire you to move in ways that aren’t traditional.”

An excerpt from The Legacy Workout’s website reads:

Thurgood Marshall (b.1908 – d.1993) was a Civil Rights Pioneer, Presidential Medal of Freedom Awardee and, in 1967, he became the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court. He is most recognized for Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka) —the 1954 ruling that ended de jure (legal) racial segregation— in which he fought for equal protection under the law and challenged the precedent of “separate but equal” established in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

Enter Lateral Raises whose anatomical focus is the shoulder(s), one of the most mobile joints in the human body. Its range of motion makes the shoulder responsible for important functional movements —pushing, pulling and lifting— but also makes it highly unstable. But upon some shoulders balances the weight of the world as was the case with our contemporary Titan, Thurgood Marshall who stood at the borders of mobility and stability. His scales of justice helped to engineer one of the greatest social transformations in American history. Stand that ground.

There’s also a sweet video demonstration that opens with a popular quote from Audre Lorde about self-preservation. You know the one. Check it out:

This is how I like to learn!

And yes to Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman.” Yeeeeesssssssss!

Do yourself a favor and keep up with this woman @AndiaWinslow.

Don’t Sleep on Those Stability Ball Lower Back Workouts

Lower Back Workout Stability Ball

Do not neglect your back when you work out. I repeat, DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR BACK WHEN YOU WORK OUT. You back is the bridge, it supports your core which supports your entire body, therefore you need to strengthen it!

Most of us tend to workout without putting much thought to toning our backs but it’s extremely important. I learned this after a car accident where I hurt my lower back (which was already prone to being sore) and having to go to physical therapy. I slacked off once physical therapy was over and started ignoring my back again but got a swift kick in the butt once I later started working with a personal trainer. She was adamant about me doing supermans, which I absolutely hate but they’re worth it.

If you want to step it up a bit beyond the superman then get a stability ball (they sell them at places like Target for under $20) and put in that work. Here’s a demonstration from Chrissy K. Fit.

Quick Booty Work Out With Chrissy K Fit

Butt Workouts

Chrissy K aka Jaydin teaches various fitness classes, including pole dancing, at Flirty Girl Fitness in Chicago but now she’s embarking on branding herself via YouTube with the release of fitness tips and quick videos. Her latest video is a brief but workout you can do while watching TV…during commercial breaks. It’s that fast and simple (I’m looking at you ladies that hate working otu). Check it out:

I’ve taken class with Jaydin when I was living with Chicago. She is thorough!

Also, don’t forget to clean up your diet. Workouts only truly work if you’re mindful about how you eat.