Have you ever wondered what it’s like to consistently stay active in NYC?
Michelle Park of michelleparks&rec, a fitness blogger and social media maven, knows all about that life.
Michelle started her blog last November, and writes about the different studios she visits and her experiences there.
I got the chance to sit down with her for a Q&A about her fitness journey all over Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Stephanie Jade Wong: What sparked the inspiration for your blog, michelleparks&rec?
Michelle Park: There are so many ways to get fit in the city. As someone who constantly wants to do research before a class, I look for reviews to try to get as much info as possible on studios and instructors. With my blog, I thought it would be helpful to others if I wrote more in-depth and personal reviews. I like reading other people’s experiences, so I try to be as informative as possible. Is it worth it? Was the instructor good? Was the workout good? I just want to spread the knowledge.
SJW: What are your favorite types of workouts?
MP: That’s always changing. Before my injury, I’d say HIIT and running. Now I want to focus on strength training. I like to mix it up, because I get bored if I do the same thing over and over.
SJW: Tell me about your injury.
MP: I developed peroneal tendonitis in my right foot from over-use. I was pushing myself too hard while training for the NYC Half Marathon this past March. I was running too fast and too much without resting when I needed it. I even worked out every day for two weeks without taking a break. I was putting too much stress on my body, and I wasn’t really stretching or taking care of my body properly. It got to a point where my body couldn’t take all that activity anymore.
SJW: Why do you work out?
MP: I like feeling accomplished and feeling strong. For example, a few years ago, I couldn’t do one push-up. Now I can do a bunch. Before my injury, I couldn’t do a Chaturanga properly. During my injury, I turned to yoga, so I built up the strength to do it, which felt really good. For me, it’s not just about how much weight I can lift, but more about having the patience as well as mental and physical strength to be able to hold challenging poses. I know people say they work out to lose weight, but for me, it’s so I can feel good about what I can do with my body.
SJW: How has exercise changed for you over the years?
MP: I didn’t have that much knowledge about the aspect of working out before. I thought I could just run, but I didn’t really learn proper technique, form and recovery. I’ve definitely evolved in terms of understanding form and when to take a break. I used to be around people who didn’t have that much knowledge about fitness either, but now I feel like there’s a community of people who love to share their passion and knowledge for health and wellness. It’s helpful to have that community of people who are interested in the same types of workouts so you can really bond over it.
SJW: How has blogging and being part of the NYC fitness community changed the way you socialize with instructors/class attendees?
MP: I now feel like I can strike up a conversation with a stranger easily. I tend to ask instructors and other attendees questions to get a sense of what they do and why. I’m genuinely interested in everyone’s story about how they got into fitness. I think it’s easy to be intimidated by fitness instructors here because they’re ripped, but they’re all super friendly and just want to share their passion for health and fitness.
SJW: Has social media changed your life in regards to your fitness journey and/or your blog?
MP: Social media has made me more aware of what’s going on around me. I’m thankful for social media because I’ve met people I wouldn’t have met before and discovered different activities and studios. I like reading about others’ experiences and various fitness activities. It’s also nice to get a glimpse of what’s going on in someone else’s life. We all go through similar things and to know we have something in common in this giant city reminds you that there are others who understand you.
SJW: How has fitness shaped your life?
MP: Exercising is a good escape. You need to make time for yourself because your body is important. It’s helped me de-stress. In order to take care of your relationships, job and have a sense of happiness, you need to feel good about your body and what it’s capable of.
SJW: You run a lot of races. Tell me about how that started.
MP: I got into healthy eating and exercising in 2013. I started running on the treadmill, then I slowly began to take it outside. I was only running a couple miles each time, but then I heard about the Brooklyn Half Marathon and wanted to attempt my first race. I asked my roommates to run with me, and we signed up a week before the race. We didn’t train and we thought that since we exercised regularly, we’d be fine. Oddly enough, that was the fastest half marathon I’ve run. It was a fun and memorable experience and I definitely caught the running bug.
SJW: What goes on in your mind during races?
MP: I think about what I’m going to eat after, or I plan my route to end wherever I’m going to eat.
SJW: What do you eat?
MP:To be honest, I eat whatever I want. This is a bad idea, please don’t follow my example. I love Mexican food. It’s probably the Californian in me that loves burritos. I’ll reward myself with one after a long run. I’m bad at cooking, but I’ve been trying to improve, and I hope it’ll make me a healthier person. Up until now, I’ve been eating out a lot. With that, you don’t know what goes into your food all the time, and portions are a big concern.
SJW: You’re a Bay Area native, but have lived in NYC for years. How would you say the fitness classes in the Bay compare to ones in NYC?
MP: I’m from the South Bay, which is very suburban. There’s not a ton of options for classes, but I think that’s changed since I moved to NY. There are classes everywhere in NYC. I was still able to find classes in CA, but the thing I really liked about CA classes was that since there aren’t many studios and they’re smaller, you get a sense of community at each place. You build relationships with people. In NY, I pop in and out of so many different studios, so it’s hard to get close to people. I like that there are more class options in NY, but it’s hard to meet a lot of people and maintain relationships.
SJW: What motivates you to stay active so often?
MP: For the last year, I’ve been training for races. Since my injury, my focus shifted to recovery. But I can’t just sit around and not exercise, I have to fix my body. I’ll find ways to do stay in shape without injuring myself further. Now that I’m better, my focus is on finishing the NYC Marathon. I’ve always had a goal or event I need to be ready for, which is how I keep myself motivated.
Words of wisdom from Michelle: Move any way you want. Please don’t think you’re limited to traditional forms of exercise. It’s important to try different things and find out what works and doesn’t work for your body. I know people who don’t want to try something because they think they’re not good at it. The only way to get better is to not give up and keep at it.
(Join me on ClassPass through this link & we’ll both get $40!)