Go with the flow

Trying yoga for the first time can be an intimidating experience. But that misses the point of this ancient practice that combines stretching, breath … and peace

Yoga instructor Petri Brill strikes a pose at her studio YogaSport, which provides beginners’ classes for the uninitiated. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Yoga instructor Petri Brill strikes a pose at her studio YogaSport, which provides beginners’ classes for the uninitiated. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

Some do it for their mind, some do it for their body, some do it for both. But all yoga students have one thing in common: Making the first step and taking up the practice. And while this age-old combination of stretching and breathing is meant to calm the mind and strengthen the muscles, a maiden voyage into a posterior-lifting position like downward-facing dog in a room full of strangers can send one’s heart racing. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

“People new to yoga should remember that everyone in class was a beginner at one point,” says Petri Brill, manager of YogaSport Dallas on Lemmon Avenue. “Yoga is a journey, not a destination. There is no perfect practice or perfect yogi or perfect yoga body. I think people worry about they’ll look [or] feel foolish in their first down-dog [and] that they’ll be judged. Our [yoga] community is diverse, encouraging and accepting: no judgment here!”

Mary Pierce Armstrong, who teaches at MarYoga, agrees that you should always look inward. “Yoga will come to meet you no matter where you are starting from. As long as you take the breath and the breaks you need, you will be doing awesome.”

For Wendy Moore, a 44-year-old yoga newbie, has taken these words of wisdom to the mat — literally. Moore recently completed her second MarYoga class as part of her new year regime. Any inhibitions she had about the experience were dispelled during her first visit.

“[I was] concerned about my general lack of bendy-ness, and not knowing where to put what arm and leg,” she says, “but if you look around you will figure out where your limbs are supposed to be by what others are doing.” Moore has continued to work on poses between classes with some slight variations mimicked by “what her cats are able to do.”

Keith Murray, a 37-year-old registered nurse, tried yoga for the first time more than eight years ago and was immediately hooked. He was taking classes three times a week before long. “I was a little intimidated about the whole thing at first,” he says, “but after my first couple of sessions my intimidation grew into excitement.”

A busy work schedule has kept Murray from his regular routine over the years, but he is trying to change that. “I still maintain a crazy life and work routine, but building yoga back into my life has really helped me to find balance again.”

According to yoga teacher Jennifer Lawson of SYNC Yoga & Wellbeing, it’s not just busy schedules and bundled nerves that keep people from the practice of yoga; it’s also our cultural fixation on success. “There tends to be so much emphasis on achievement and perfection that many of us are becoming accustomed to playing it safe in order to avoid the possibility of shame.”

Lawson recommends coming together as a group in a class with experienced and inexperienced yogis to create an environment that emphasizes the experience and process of yoga and not the destination or end result.

For Anisha Mandol, a 42-year-old business development manager who has been practicing yoga for about two years, these words ring true. “Once you understand your expectation from practicing, no one else’s matters. The benefits of yoga are fluid and dynamic, and each person has their own unique experience. Own yours,” she says.

And so it would seem that just as the journey of a million miles begins with one step, the journey toward a yoga-filled life begins with a single stretch on the matt (and maybe a little Namaste for good measure).

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SAY NAMASTE: WHERE TO GET YOUR YOGA FIX

Options are plentiful for the budding yogi looking for a class. Get your stretch on at these studios in and around the gayborhood. You can also find information on their class offerings and schedules on their websites.

Yoga Sport Dallas
4140 Lemmon Ave, Suite 280
214-520-YOGA
YogaSportDallas.com

SYNC Yoga & Wellbeing
611 N. Bishop Ave.
214-843-3372
SyncDallas.com

MarYoga at Chi Studio
807 Fletcher St.
ChiDallas.com

Sunstone Yoga
2907 Routh St. (and other locations)
214-764-2119
SunstoneYoga.com

Gaia Flow Yoga Uptown
3000 Blackburn St., Suite 140B
214-235-1153
GaiaFlowYoga.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Dynamic duo

Couple Jennifer Pickert and Kara Robinson pursue fitness goals together and apart

In most relationships, uttering phrases like “take a hike” or “just walk out that door” would be a telltale sign of discord. But for couple Kara Robinson and Jennifer Pickert, it’s a term of endearment. And while they may have separate workout routines, they come together to chat and cheer each other on and occasionally to show some true love on the tennis court.

— Jef Tingley

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Though Pickert and Robinson have different fitness interests — basketball versus tennis, for example — they motivate each other to do more. (Photo by Arnold Wayne Jones)

Though Pickert and Robinson have different fitness interests — basketball versus tennis, for example — they motivate each other to do more. (Photo by Arnold Wayne Jones)

Names and ages: Kara Robinson, 46, and Jennifer Pickert, 39.

Occupations: Robinson: editor; Pickert, consultant

Length of relationship: 12 years

Sports & activities you participate in: Tennis, walking, hiking, yoga, circuit training and riding bikes.

Exercise regimen: Robinson: I run three times per week, walk two times, and I take a yoga class two times a week (plus I do a little bit everyday on my own).

Pickert: I’m doing a self-designed circuit workout at home three or four times a week. It includes kettle bells, free weights, core exercises and cardio. I also play tennis at least once a week and ride my bike. Soon, I will be adding in hiking.

Fitness resolutions for 2012: Robinson: I want to lose 15 pounds this year. I’ve lost three in January, but not having the usual holiday meals and treats around has made that pretty easy.

Upcoming fitness goals: Robinson: I would like to run a 10K in March and a half-marathon in November.

Pickert: We are going to Colorado this summer, and I want to be able to do some challenging hikes. All the exercising I’m doing right now is about being ready to meet that challenge.

Greatest athletic achievement: Robinson: I finished the White Rock Marathon in 2009.

Pickert: In 2010, I walked in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. I didn’t want to be the one to slow my team down, so I really dedicated myself to the training. Having a team that was counting on me and establishing a fitness routine that helped achieve my goal was really an amazing experience. The 3-Day itself felt like a celebration of all the training and work that went into being able to accomplish it.

Workout: mornings or evenings?  Pickert: Mornings, without exception. If I don’t work out before 8 a.m. it’s not going to happen.

Ways you stay fit or workout together: Robinson: We play tennis and like to go kayaking and hiking. We don’t work out much together because of our schedules and our preferences. But we definitely support each other and celebrate our accomplishments together.

Pickert: We play tennis, and we enjoy taking long walks together. But more than that, we encourage each other to take whatever time necessary to do the things we enjoy doing to keep fit. Kara loves to run and do yoga, and I would much rather play basketball or go bike riding.

How do you motivate yourself to workout? Pickert: I set a significant goal, and I know that exercising is going to enable me to achieve that goal. Also, I have to have other people involved. When I trained for the 3-Day, my friend met me at the corner down the street every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 a.m. to walk with me. Knowing that she was going to be there, and that she was depending on me to be there just as much I was depending on her, made getting up at 5:30 a.m. super easy.

And words of advice for people trying to work fitness into their life? Robinson: I totally empathize with people who believe they are too busy to workout. I felt that way in 2010, which was the most stressful year ever. I didn’t workout because, with everything that was going on, I couldn’t justify spending an hour at the gym or going for a run. I wish now that I hadn’t bought in to this way of thinking, and instead just made even a little bit of time to go for a walk or do something physical. But now I know that exercise is a gift you give yourself, and you’re the last person you should be stingy with.

How does your partner motivate you to workout?  Robinson: Witnessing all the preparation and dedication she put into [the 60-mile 3-Day] and seeing her finish all three days of the event and seeing how happy she was snapped me out of my 2010 fitness funk.

Pickert: Kara sets a great example. In 2009, she ran a marathon, and I so admired her dedication and determination each and every day as she trained for the race. Seeing her cross the finish line and the joy she had in her accomplishment made me want to achieve more for myself in regard to fitness. It made me realize I need a significant goal to keep myself motivated.

Favorite healthy/low-cal snack? Pickert: Pickles totally satisfy that salty, crunchy craving.

Favorite song or play list for workout? Robinson: These three wind up on just about any playlist I make: Lupe Fiasco, the Roots and Mary J. Blige.

Pickert: Barbara Streisand singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” is my anthem. That song makes me want to conquer the world. Silly? Perhaps. But true nonetheless. (Kara is going to tell you her favorite singer to work out to is Lupe Fiasco, but the truth is, it’s Liza Minnelli.)

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why?  Robinson: Fencing. The outfits are fantastic, and there is no ball to catch or throw.

Which celebrity or athlete’s physique would you like to have and why? Robinson: She’s not really a celebrity, but I’d love to have a physique like Michelle Obama. Every time I see her in a sleeveless dress, it makes me want to do more push-ups.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Dynamic DUO

Whether running in the Turkey Trot or going for a swim, husbands Enrique McGregor and Mark Niermann make marriage (and exercise) look easy

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TAKING THE PLUNGE | McGregor, left, and Niermann have been together 15 years, marrying legally last month. For a slide show of their aquatic antics, visit DallasVoice.com. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Although they’ve been together for 15 years, it was only about a month ago that this month’s dynamic duo, Enrique Macgregor and Mark Niermann, officially got hitched. (Thanks, New York!)

Judging from their exercise regime and overall healthy lifestyle, they take those “sickness and health” and “for better or worse” vows pretty seriously. … Well that, plus margaritas, chocolate chip cookies and generous helping of motivation and support make up their recipe for a successful marriage.

— Jef Tingley

Names and ages:  Enrique MacGregor, 47, and Mark Niermann, 48 (just barely)

Occupations:  MacGregor: management consultant; Niermann; lawyer

Length of relationship:  15 years, but legally married on Sept. 28, 2011, in New York’s Supreme Court Building.

Sports & activities:  Members of Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM); occasionally play golf with Different Strokes Golf Association.

Exercise regimen:  MacGregor: I swim or run two or three times a week; I do weight training once or twice a week.
Niermann: Cardio (swimming or running) three times weekly; weights two times. I don’t have a rigid exercise schedule other than my objective to work out at least four times weekly. When we’re training for an event, like a biking or running race, we’ll do more running or biking.

Upcoming fitness goals:  Both: the 8-mile Turkey Trot race in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.

Most memorable athletic accomplishment:  MacGregor: I rode my bike right behind Lance Armstrong at a Livestrong event in Austin as we both crossed the finish line at the same time. Of course, I was finishing a 45-mile ride, and he was finishing a 90-mile ride.

Workout preference: mornings or evenings?  MacGregor: I don’t have a set workout time unless I’m working out with a group. I try to think about my work schedule a day ahead and then plan a workout time around that. I’m jealous of people who can get up at 5 a.m. to workout. I am not a morning person.
Niermann: Either, and lunch too — whenever I can fit it in depending on my schedule and the time of year (especially for running outside).

How do you motivate yourself to workout?  MacGregor: I sign up for an event, like a race. Then I know I have to make time to get ready for that event. I am much more engaged in a workout when I’m preparing for an event.

How does your partner motivate you to work out?  MacGregor: He offers options. For instance, he’ll say: “Do you want to go for a run today, or would you rather go for a swim?” Or, “Would you like to do our run before lunch or would you rather do it later in the afternoon?”

Words of advice for people trying to work fitness into their life?  Niermann: Enrique and I are not workout fanatics or super athletes. We try to get regular exercise and generally eat healthy food. (We include wine, margaritas and chocolate chip cookies in the category of “healthy food.”) We enjoy training for special athletic challenges, like running races, but we don’t always have a specific goal or race we’re training for. We also enjoy playing golf (aka “hacking”) and skiing, and like to stay in shape in ways to complement those sports.

Like everything in life, exercise is easiest and most effective if you can find a balance, both in terms of the kinds of working out you do and how often you do it. Working out doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) take over your life — you can pack a lot of good into a 30- or 45-minute workout of any kind.

Follow common sense rules of not overdoing it when or how you eat and exercise. Being healthy is more than how much weight you can lift or how fast you can run — it’s about achieving a good balance in life of healthy eating, regular exercise, healthy relationships with friends, family and partners and finding ways to minimize stress.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise outdoors:
MacGregor: Stevens Park Golf Course (and don’t tell me that golf doesn’t count as exercise).
Niermann: I don’t really have one, though I belong to the Baylor–Tom Landry Center. Though if I had to pick, I’d say Neiman’s Downtown – Last Call.

Favorite song or playlist for working out?  MacGregor: I like to run listening to Lance Armstrong’s “Run Longer” playlist. Aside from good music, Lance’s voice takes you through interval sets where you speed up and slow down in four-minute increments. This technique is supposed to improve your performance.

Which celebrity or athlete’s physique would you like to have and why:  MacGregor: Chris Evans. He has a nice athletic build, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Niermann: Any AussieBum model … have you seen their ads?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dynamic duo

Double-duty workouts turn regular guys Davis Kennedy and Graham Cauthorn into Ironmen

fitness

TRIPLE THREATS | Kennedy, left, and Cauthorn compete in Ironman competitions: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride followed by a full marathon. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

While some people consider it a milestone to get to the gym twice a week, Davis Kennedy and Graham Cauthorn have made a lifestyle of working out almost twice daily — sometimes more often. This sunrise, sunset fitness routine is vital for their Ironman training (a triathlon event consisting of long distances of swimming, biking and running), but it comes with the bonus effect: Bodies that look like chiseled marble, even though both are over 40.

With the Austin Ironman competition around the corner in October, don’t be too surprised if you come across these fit fellas pedaling, splashing or sweating their way around North Texas.                                   

— Jef Tingley

Names and ages: Davis Kennedy, 40, and Graham Cauthorn, 47.

Length of relationship: Three years

Sports & activities: DIVA Volleyball, Lonestar Masters Swimming, Go3sports Triathlon team, softball and Ironman

Exercise regimen:  Kennedy: I bike and run each four times per week, swim two to three times per week and weight/core train two times per week (if can fit them in), so 10-12 workouts weekly depending on the schedule.

Biggest “out of commission” moment: Kennedy: I switched from softball to triathlons after having broken my hand and leg playing softball, and realizing I hurt less after a six-hour triathlon than a one-hour softball game.

Upcoming fitness goals: Both: Ironman 70.3 Austin in October and another full Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in June 2012.

Most rewarding fitness accomplishment:  Cauthorn: Finishing my first full Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 2010. It was an amazing experience and really great fun. The finish line is one of the most exhilarating experiences I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.
Kennedy: Finishing my first full Ironman at St. George, Utah. The finish line at an Ironman is an unbelievable experience after a long day. It’s like being a rock star on stage with all the people yelling and cheering.

Workout preference: mornings or evenings? Kennedy: With triathlon training, it’s both to fit in all the workouts.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise indoors: Kennedy: Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center. The pool is awesome.

Least favorite workout activity: Cauthorn: Indoor cycling on the trainer!  During the winter months, keeping your cycling fitness requires indoor training, which to me is pure torture. Hate it!

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why:  Cauthorn: A swimmer, probably, because it is my strongest event in triathlon. I was not a swimmer in school, but joined Lone Star Masters when I first moved to Dallas in 1989, and turns out, I am pretty good at it.

How do you reward yourself for a great workout: Both: A big cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake at Fat Daddy’s Burgers in Casa Linda.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Drew’s clues

Our ‘Most Eligible’ gay gets real about reality TV

ON THE TOWN | Ginsburg, above left, attends DIFFA, showing Bravo audiences the gay side of Dallas.

Love it, hate it or maybe just love to hate it, reality television has put Dallas right in the middle of its crosshairs with shows like Big Rich Texas, the upcoming A-List: Dallas and Bravo’s newest beehive of bitchery, Most Eligible Dallas, filming around town in recent months.

Eligible promises a front row seat to the lives of six of our city’s most see-and-be-seen socialites (although popular opinion seems to question some of their pedigrees). We had a chance to visit with the lone gay member of this glitterati: Drew Ginsburg. As is boasted in his Bravo bio, the 29-year-old is “a proud gay man, [who] prefers cars to couture” and works for his family’s business of high-end automotive dealerships.

Ginsburg shared some local haunts that did not make it on camera, and how he felt Dallas’ reputation, and his own, were faring in the warmth of the Hollywood spotlight.

— Jef Tingley

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Dallas Voice: How did you get involved in the show to begin with? Ginsburg: I was actually approached on Facebook by producers.

What was your reaction to the first time you saw yourself on TV?  Was it the same as when you hear your own recorded voice and think, “I don’t sound like that?”  I was actually quite shocked. I thought I was going to come off funny. I didn’t know I was going to come out looking as good as I am. I really had no expectation of how I looked on camera.

The night the first show aired, we saw many Facebook posts about one of your first on-camera lines where you said you can “have everything you want at the push of a buddon.” You seemed to catch a lot of flack for that pronunciation, especially given the context. Anything you want to add in your defense? Well here’s a fact about the way that I said the word button: I’m dyslexic, I have ADD, and I was actually born with a speech impediment so some words just don’t come out right. And if you don’t like it, guess what? I’m lucky that I can even say “buddon.” If [people] are going to attack me on the way I say button, I think it’s kind of funny. Those are things I wear with honor and pride because they make me who I am. I was born this way, and if they don’t like it they can go complain somewhere else.

In the second episode, you went to a matchmaker — a very old-school one who relies strictly on index cards, no computers. How did you even find her?  My friend found her by Googling gay matchmaker Dallas. I was shocked to go to her house in Bluffview and meet her. For some reason, when I heard matchmaker, I was thinking like matzo balls and dates — my family’s Jewish. I was expecting Yiddish and Yenta… but I didn’t get Yenta.

Even though your date with J.P., a diminutive-statured redhead from Chihuahua, Mexico, whom you called an “endangered species” didn’t work out, would you recommend matchmaking for a friend? I’d recommend matchmaking to anyone. I mean, there’s nothing wrong in my mind in taking a shot in the dark sometimes…especially when it comes to love.

Who on the show would benefit the most from matchmaking? I think Courtney. I feel like sometimes you need to get your feathers ruffled and break out of your old routines.

How do you think Dallas comes across on the show? I think Dallas looks incredible. They got a picture of the new bridge. That was kind of cool.

Speaking of Dallas, we’ve seen you on the Katy Trail with cast mate Glenn Pakulak (and his dreamy washboard abs) and at other notable locations like Sfuzzi and Naan. Do you have any favorite local spots that didn’t end up on camera so far? The Grapevine has not ended up on camera. It’s one of my favorite hangouts. Same with Company Café and Bolsa.

Since you’re Most Eligible’s lone homo, where would you take your fellow cast mates to paint the town pink? [We’d] probably start at the Grapevine as a primer even though it’s not a gay bar. Then around 11 p.m., I would take them to the Round-Up. It’s fun and legendary… I got to meet Lady Gaga at my building after her performance at the Round-Up. She called me a “Little Monster,” but I explained to her that I was six foot four and not that little!

While we are on the subject of being “the only gay in the village,” were you out before the show aired? Did you just quote Little Britain to me? Yes, I was out before the show aired. But I have [heard from] a bunch of, like, high school friends … they were all shocked to find out. I was the one in high school who was caught drinking with all the cheerleaders. I was also on the football team, so everyone thought I was a playa. But I was just hanging out with them.

Weight loss seems to be a big catalyst in your life. How long has it been? And how did you go from gastric bypass to injecting yourself with HCG (a hormone produced during pregnancy that helps with weight loss)? I’m glad you brought that up. In 2002, after watching my grandma pass away I decided that I needed to do something. I was 420 lbs., and I realized dieting was not the path to do something drastic to jumpstart the process. I talked to several doctors who said my only option was gastric bypass.

I started that process and my alcoholism took into effect after my gastric bypass about two years later. I had to deal with that road bump, which I am glad I did because it helped me get to grips with my sexuality. Getting sober made me realize I had to be more honest with myself and come out of the closet.

When I came to Dallas, I did not have the same support system [as in California]. I went from 250 lbs. to 280 lbs. in 2010, and that’s when I started HCG and working with a trainer and on my nutrition. My weight still fluctuates. During filming, I jumped from 212 lbs. to 235 lbs. because of the stresses of filming, work and not getting to go to the gym. But I have not used HCG since April of this year.

One of your claims to fame is that you are a car fanatic. What are you driving right now? I’m in the 2012 Audi A6. It’s a brand new car. I’ve had every single model variation [of Audi] since I started driving. I’ve always loved this car: in my teens, in my 20s and now into my 30s.

Cast mate Tara Harper is very involved with Paws in the City, a North Texas animal charity. Do you have a favorite local charity you support? I support Legacy Counseling and Hospice and DIFFA. My family has been supporting DIFFA since I was 16 years old.

You mention that because of HCG, your pee will actually test positive during a pregnancy test. Have you ever been brave enough to waltz into the drugstore for your own box of EPT? Yes I did…and it did work!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dynamic duo

New partners Curtis Cook and Shane Friesenhahn shake their booty … camp

There’s the nursery rhyme that begins, “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean… .” But apparently if Jack Sprat were in a same-sex relationship, it would be a fat-free household all the way around. Such is the case with this month’s fitness profile: Curtis Cook and Shane Friesenhahn. The lads have been together for just three months, but the real number that caught our eye was their collective body fat: 19 percent and shrinking by the day. How do they do it? Diet, exercise and rewarding a great workout with a sexy new swimsuit rather than a hot fudge sundae.

— Jef Tingley

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Names and ages: Curtis James Cook, 24, and Shane Friesenhahn, 37.

Occupations: Cook: HAMP processor at Nationstar Mortgage; Friesenhahn: owner of Silk Sculptures, a floral design studio.

Length of relationship: Three months

Sports and activities: Pool volleyball and Dr. Peay’s Booty Camp

Exercise regime: Cook: I attend Dr. Peay’s Booty Camp two days a week and go to L.A. Fitness a couple times a week. When I go to the gym, I always do abs first, then either upper body or legs followed by 15 to 20 minutes of cardio. My workout usually totals around an hour to an hour and a half.  My goal is to go to the gym on my days off of [boot camp], but it doesn’t always happen.

Friesenhahn:  [Boot camp] five days a week, which consists of cardio, Plyometrics and light resistance training.

Upcoming fitness goals: Cook: I’m lean, but I want to be toned. My goal is a slightly bigger chest and defined mid section. I also want my body fat around 8 percent; as of the beginning of July it was 12 percent. I think my goal of toning up will automatically help me reach my body fat percentage goal.

Friesenhahn: I’m currently right below 8 percent body fat, but my new goal is to boast a “lean and mean” 6.5 percent — a little bones showing never looked so good! I will say that making better nutritional choices, mostly organic, really helps.

Best “eat this, not that” tip: Friesenhahn: Well, instead of Krispy Kreme donuts or a starchy cereal, I replace it with whole fruits such as blueberries, a Pink Lady apple or grapefruit. As for my sweet tooth, I am in love with organic crunchy peanut butter with a banana or a piece of gluten free bread that has live sprouted grains. I am also an avid believer in supplements including as astaxanthin, fish oil and many others.

Workout preference: mornings or evenings? Cook: I like both. I would like to work out in the mornings more, but it is just so hard to get up that early.

Friesenhahn: Evenings mostly, but just to mix it up I do like to attend the “crack of dawn” morning workouts as well.

How do you survive an outdoor workout in the Texas heat? Friesenhahn:  My exercise group works out in the shade, unless we are running the typical mile required. Everyone brings the essentials like water and Gatorade. Sometimes [our trainer] brings ice when it’s really hot. The main thing is to read your own body and take mini breaks to regroup. Other than that, I really enjoy sweating and releasing toxins.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise indoors: Cook: The L.A. Fitness by my work in Lewisville, because I don’t feel like I’m being cruised the entire time.

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why: Cook: I’ve always wanted to do gymnastics. The parallel bars and tumbling are my favorite. I even took tumbling private [lessons] for a month when I was 20 and learned a back handspring in only four sessions.

Friesenhahn: Ice figure skating. The blend of artistry and athleticism is super challenging. I used to roller skate my long drive as a kid and pretend I was practicing for the next Olympics!

How do you reward yourself for a great work out: Friesenhahn:  Two ways. First is a trip to Yumilicious. Then on to find an even more “skimpy” swimsuit to wear at the next pool get together.

Cook: I definitely don’t eat badly afterwards because then I feel guilty and it’s as if I just negated the entire work out. I reward myself by maybe buying something a little smaller and more fitting because I know I will look good in it. I also like to go lay out in my Speedo after a good week of working out because I feel confident with my body.  Basically I reward myself by showing it off.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dynamic duos

Anytime Fitness owners Renee Reed and Jacqui Bliss raise a son — and barbells — together

WORKIN’ IT | Reed, left, and Bliss stay fit and happy at their gym in Oak Cliff. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

As part of our recurring feature on Dynamic Duos, we talk with out couples in the community who might not work together, but who do workout together.

But in the case of Jacqui Bliss and Renee Reed, they actually do work together, as co-owners of Anytime Fitness in the Bishop Arts District. But in addition to running a gym, they also occupy themselves raising a child.

— Jef Tingley

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Names and ages: Jacqui Bliss, 34; and Renee Reed, 40.

Occupations: Co-owners, Anytime Fitness Club and personal trainers

Years together: 9

Exercise regimen:  Bliss: It varies. I mix it up with cycling, running, bodyweight intervals, kettle bell work, ViPR lifts and free weights. On an average week, I exercise six days and the time ranges from 30 minutes to two hours or more (if cycling).

Reed: I do strength training two to three times a week, mostly with free weights and cable machines. I like to run at least once a week and use cardio machines a couple of times, too. At home I do my own short, intense boot camp-style workouts, which were born out of the need to do a time-efficient workout while our son was napping.

Do you play sports or are you on any leagues? Reed: I don’t play any team sports now, although I played college basketball and rugby at Dartmouth and ran track and played basketball in high school.

Most memorable athletic goal accomplished:  Bliss: Competing in the USARA Championships in San Diego. Adventure racing is like no other sport and quite possibly is the most physically and mentally challenging endeavor I’ve participated in.

Reed: Crossing the finish line of the San Diego marathon with Jacqui was awesome (even if I made her slow down the last two miles so we could finish together). As an assistant basketball coach at the University of Illinois, we took an underdog team to the NCAA Sweet 16 against all the odds. We had a group of hardworking Midwest ladies that just played their hearts out. It was an amazing experience. And as a player, I remember hitting a 10-foot jumper for the win over Columbia.

Upcoming fitness goals: Bliss: To keep challenging myself and applying what I learn to my profession.

Reed: During this upcoming decade, I have to become a better swimmer and work swimming and yoga into my routine. I have to accept that in my 40s, my body has some different needs.

Workouts — mornings or evenings: Bliss: Whenever I can fit it in. Most of the time, it’s around lunchtime as I’m with clients in the mornings and evenings.

Reed: Morning.

Least favorite exercise or piece of gym equipment: Reed: There’s nothing in a gym that I actually dislike, but I’m not fond of swimming. As I mentioned, I need to learn to love it!

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise outdoors: Bliss: White Rock Lake and my backyard.

Reed: I like to run around Kessler Park and North Oak Cliff, going north of Colorado if I’m game for some hills. I love the trees and looking at all the different architecture.

Favorite spot in North Texas to exercise indoors: Anytime Fitness in the Bishop Arts District, of course!

If you could become an Olympian in any sport, what would it be and why: Bliss: Track and field. I still get goose bumps watching track meets. The nervous energy is unbelievable. Knowing you are going out and giving your all and that your body is on the line to perform.

Reed: Basketball. I love being part of a small team that performs together as a unit. With the seating down close to the court (as opposed to an open field), the energy of the crowd is electrifying!

How do you reward yourself after a great workout or an accomplished fitness goal: Bliss: I need to work on that. I don’t give myself a reward per se. I would say my greatest reward is in how I feel after a great workout: Unstoppable, and filled with positive energy.

Reed: After a good run or cardio workout, the endorphins are enough of a reward, so is a compliment from someone in the gym. But I believe in celebrating victories, whether big or small. When we were approaching a milestone with our membership base, I kept a bottle of champagne on ice.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Let’s get ready to rumba!

Rhumba
SO THEY KNOW THEY CAN DANCE | Lewis and Fridmanovich, who teamed up last year, bring professional ballroom to North Texas.

For fleet-footed Ryan Lewis and partner Natalia Fridmanovich, ballroom dancing is still an underground gay scene in Dallas

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

For those of us with two left feet, just the words “foxtrot” and “cha-cha” can induce panic attacks and sweaty palms. Dancing is like public speaking to a beat: It’s a deep fear, the kind that can’t be erased — even by images of a Dirty Dancing-era Patrick Swayze as your partner.
But according to professional gay rug cutter Ryan Lewis, ballroom dance doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be a place where you can find your inner Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers … or maybe a combination of both.

“The gay community has many outlets [for people] to participate in and express themselves whether it be sports, clubs, politics or the art scene,” says Lewis. “However, as a gay man, I realize that some of these opportunities are not well known. [My dance partner] Natalia and I feel that ballroom dance is a perfect fit…While the community has plenty for someone to feel comfortable with their sexuality on a Friday night, I wished, when I was coming out, there were more avenues for me to be comfortable in my own skin, as well as [to] participate in activities alongside the heterosexual world.”

Lewis has been training and competing for more than 13 years in international Latin and standard dance, specializing in international Latin for the past eight years. Last June, after trying out with other dancers on the competitive circuit, he made a visceral connection with Natalia Fridmanovich, a Russian native who began dancing in her father’s studio at age 11. Fridmanovich holds titles that include Eastern Russia ballroom champion. After she relocated to North Texas, she and Lewis started dancing together and have been a team ever since.

Last month, Lewis and Fridmanovich traveled to Italy for the Italian Open, an international ballroom dance competition, where they were the only couple representing North Texas; they had an impressive showing, making it to the semi-finals, putting them in the top six couples out of nearly 100 entered.

It’s not just competing that keeps them busy. The duo teaches classes in Latin and standard dance, which embraces favorites such as the waltz, foxtrot and tango. Although the classes aren’t specifically created for same-sex couples, Lewis welcomes them, and says it’s not uncommon for the pairings to occasionally end up that way anyhow.

“Each class is 45 minutes of warm-up followed by 45 minutes of partner work. Since we usually have more girls than guys in the class, you end up with girls dancing with girls — but it could be the same if there were more guys in the class, too,” he says.

Lewis credits the popularity of TV shows like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance with raising the visibility of ballroom, yet people still feel like they won’t have a chance to use it. Lewis claims that’s only true if they don’t know where to look.
“Most people don’t realize that in just one [dance] lesson, you can learn enough to go to social dances and be able to do one or two dances that evening,” he says.

For beginners, Fridmanovich recommends simple steps like the foxtrot and rumba. Once armed with a repertoire of moves, the couple suggests joining an organization like USA Dance Dallas, whose sole mission is to “promote social dancing throughout the city.” To do this, the group holds weekly dance classes and annual shows and workshops.

While Lewis ranks Dallas’ ballroom dance scene on the national scale as top 20, it’s not in the top 10, and still something seen as slightly underground. “If you don’t know it exists, you would never see it. But once you see it, you know it is everywhere.”

One example of these lesser-known dance hideouts is Gloria’s restaurant at Beltline and the Tollway. “On Saturdays at like 11, they clear all tables and chairs and until one or two in the morning it’s salsa and partner dancing like merengue,” says Lewis.

That’s certainly a different kind of salsa than you usually find at Gloria’s … but one that can be just as addictive.

For more, visit RyanNataliaDance.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Tripping on a budget

Recently, my boyfriend and I wanted to embark on a fun, easy and cheap getaway. Since I live in Rhode Island, we were sold on the idea of a short drive out to Provincetown, Mass. right on the tip of Cape Cod. We gave ourselves a budget of just $150 for the 24-hour adventure — and even with gas at four bucks a gallon, we made it happen. Here’s how we did it … and how you might on your next trip:

Call motels and inns directly. While booking online is super convenient, it’s always helpful to talk to a real person. They will know of any last-minute cancellations or special discounts.

Travel off-peak. Our motel room was just $87 on a Thursday night. The same room on Friday before Memorial Day goes for $150. We saved $63 by leaving a day early.

Travel locally. While the world is full of wonderful destinations, many great spots are in our own backyards. You don’t have to travel far to have a great time. And staying closer to home will help keep costs under control. By driving the two hours to P’town, we saved a potential boatload of transportation expenses (airfare, taxi, etc.).

Eat like a local. P’town’s downtown core, like many tourist spots, is full of great but pricey restaurants. By taking a short drive off the beaten path, we were able to find a local hangout with more reasonable prices — dinner cost $28 for the both of us.

Use your feet. While P’town has some convenient paid parking lots, we were able to find a free parking spot a short walk from downtown (a $10 savings). Some destinations also offer great public transit options, making for an affordable and fun way to experience a town and meet new people.

Take advantage of the free stuff. Some of the best things Provincetown has to offer — landscapes, beaches and nature trails, people-watching and architecture (like the Pilgrims Monument, pictured) — are free. Hanging out in the sand and getting a little sun charges the soul and doesn’t break the bank.

Pack your own beverages. For less than $10, we filled my trunk with bottled water and soft drinks so we didn’t waste money on motel vending machines. Even better, bring along a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and help save the environment. Cheers!

Hit up the grocery store. Since we were only staying for one night, stocking up on groceries didn’t make a lot of sense, but for longer trips, I love packing the mini fridge full of fresh food. It’s a lot cheaper than restaurant dining — and a lot healthier. Fruits, veggies and sandwiches bought at a local grocery store make for great food alternatives.

Take advantage of free food. Our motel offered a free continental breakfast. It wasn’t super fancy, but a quick croissant and coffee tided us over until the bigger meal of the day. Ask about any included meals when booking your room.

Talk to the locals. I try to befriend locals wherever I go. Natives can be a tremendous resource of recommendations and often know of free events (concerts, festivals, etc.). Be friendly and wear your smile.

— David “Davey Wavey” Jacques

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Dying’ onstage

Rhett Henckel plays twin brothers — one straight, one gay — in ‘Dying City’

It’s not unusual for an actor to play multiple roles in a single play, but that’s a position usually reserved for minor characters. But for Rhett Henckel, the two men he plays in Dying City — twin brothers —are the main characters. One, seen in flashbacks, is a straight man who may have killed himself in Iraq; the other is a gay actor who visits the dead man’s widow a year after his death.

Second Thought Theatre closes out its 10th season with Christopher Shinn’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play that touches on the Iraq War and the prickliness of family relations with a clipped, realistic style. Lee Trull makes his directorial debut.

We asked Henckel about playing two roles — and which one he identifies with more.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

…………………

DYING CITY
Studio Theatre, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Through July 2. $15–$20.
SecondThoughtTheatre.com

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Dallas Voice: One of your characters, Peter, is described as an “intimidatingly handsome actor.” Typecasting? Henckel: I’ve been self-described as that, but I don’t hear it all the time. I have to act a little for it — I have to earn it this time.

Peter has a promising career, but he seems to have slept his way there. Same question. [Laughs] That’s maybe some advice I should take! If I want to have as promising a career as him, I should be more promiscuous. I’ve never really had that opportunity to do that — maybe I should have initiated it more. Though in rehearsals, I have flirted with [director] Lee Trull much more than I expected to. I’m constantly trying to gauge my fuckability in Lee’s eyes.

The play jumps quickly between years, and requires you to go between Peter, who’s gay, and his twin brother Craig, who’s straight. How do you subtly convey which character you are? I hope that I am doing it subtly. I think Christopher Shinn is very intentional on that — he wants the audience to be confused for a bit, even though they are two distinct characters. I’m not working off myself because I don’t see that character; it’s been through the eyes of Kelly [Craig’s widow] that I find the characters. Peter and Craig have very distinct opinions of Kelly, so that has opened up a lot.

But I think they are really alike. There’s a reason you are supposed to be confused. They have a lot of the same psychology and grew up in the same household. I have a therapist I talk to who I shared this play with, and when I said they had been described as polar opposites, he looked at me strangely. He thought they weren’t at all opposite, but really two extremes of one person. We’re all sort of that complex.

Which character do you relate to more? When I first started I identified as Peter — his passive-aggressive way of dealing with people; being an actor; his rampant egoism. But once we got into rehearsal, it was Craig I found quicker. There’s a quiet fury in this man that I feel like I ended up relating to. A lot more things are going on in Peter; Craig is a little bit simpler.

Peter is kind of complicated, for one, pretending to be antiwar to his gay friends even though he could not escape his conservative upbringing: Midwest values, guns, hawkishness about spreading freedom. Did you get that contradiction in him? I’m not even sure that’s entirely true — that’s what Craig says Peter told him. It’s hard to get to the core of what Peter really believes. Getting to the core is what’s so devastating. Being really honest about how we feel, confronting ourselves.

If I had to label the main theme of the play I would say it’s about how difficult true honesty can be: to others, to one’s self. What’s your take on it? No, that’s absolutely correct. Lies in this play are a very core theme. As any great play, it confronts this idea of what is the absolute truth. I hadn’t thought of it before, but Brick [in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof] is a very similar character to Craig. And even Peter. What is a lie and what is full disclosure and what is truly at the core of ourselves? It’s really fucking messy when we get right down to it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens