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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There are so many things in the world to be happy for. To be grateful for. Left to see and accomplish. We can spend our lives comparing. I think that’s how I spent a lot of my early twenties. How am I doing against my peers? Where am I? Am I keeping up? Oh gosh, I’m a complete failure because I’m not _______. Am I ever going to make it?

My mid to late twenties, I’m less concerned with these things. I don’t see the point of arguments, I’ve always tried to avoid those (with a variable success rate). But I see the merit of having uncomfortable conversations and moments without sweeping things under the rug. Mostly, I’ve been more concerned with living in the moment (while still planning for the future and appreciating the past) and enjoying as much of any given day as possible.

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One of my main joys in life is food. Albany John made these potato patties – mashed potato with overly smoked ham and mozzarella cheese. Holy crap, these were amazing. He is so creative in the kitchen.
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Even our cat was intrigued by the hammy smells. Sadly, she will no longer run through the house. She suffered a few seizures starting and ending in April. I’m getting used to her being gone. I secretly hope the creaks on the second floor are her rustling through the attic crawlspace and bedroom closets. I hope she’ll just slink out from underneath the futon, or from around a couch. It seems like she was with us so briefly, and yet for so long. 10 years is a long time for someone my age, and yet it still feels like the blink of an eye.

Once we moved into the house last fall she really took a shine to me. Before that, she was always more of Albany John’s girl. She’d follow me everywhere, and every night I went to bed she’d follow me and gently paw at the blanket to be let under the covers and snuggle up with me. Nearer to the end, she affected a the most adorable way of hinting that she wanted to crawl under the covers – two fake sneezes while standing around my head. I didn’t even know cats could fake sneezing, but she quickly learned what got her attention and what she wanted.

But I realize that there was nothing more we could have done, and she lived a fantastic life. After moving in the house, she also started showing an interest in human food. I’m glad that I spoiled her and gave her food basically whenever she showed interest.

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Like pieces of ribeye steak. I still have my sad moments, but they are out-shined by the years of memories of her that bring a smile to my face. From skittish, shy, sneaky feral kitten to snuggly shadow. I’ll miss that nub-tacular kitty.

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Happy New Year!

This year I hope to accomplish a lot. Food-wise, there are a few restaurants that I really want to make the effort to try, as I know I tend to stick to old favorites.

In Schenectady, NY:
Tara Kitchen
More Perreca’s

In Latham, NY:Philly Bar & Grill

In Saratoga Springs, NY:
Comfort Kitchen (I went for their media event, but haven’t made it back up)

Au Pied Du Cochon, Montreal, QC  – I have been trying to eat at APDC for years now, and I always managed to go up when they were closed. But this might be my year. Maybe. June might be a good time to check them out. Possibly with a small group of friends, because I want to try most of that menu.
There are a bunch of other restaurants on this list, but these are my top picks to try out the next time I go out.

I predict 2014 will also be a big year of Latham dining, trying out the various joints in my new hamlet.

Do you have any restaurants or dishes you want to try this year? What are they?

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I’ve had this KitchenAid Digital Probe thermometer for years. It’s great for grilling/smoking because it’s tolerant of high temperatures and has a temperature alarm in addition to a normal timer. But then one year my probe broke. Bummer. I kind of figured it was a loss, but then after ordering another one from Amazon, I saw there was an 800 number on the back and decided to see if they sold just the probe.

They don’t sell the probe, BUT the probe is evidently guaranteed for life as a gizmo/gadget associated with the themometer/timer. So they sent a new entire unit for free! I was really surprised by that customer service, so now I have another thermometer/timer. I’ll probably give it to my brother in law the next time I see him, since he also loves to grill.

Any way, if you have a griller in your life, this thing is awesome. I love it, and I’m sharing it because I love the customer service even more.

YehYeh

我爱你, 爺爺.

I love you, Yeh-Yeh.

YehYeh passed away this past Thursday.

This guy – he was always up for an adventure. I still can’t really process that he’s gone, although my dad’s been making funeral arrangements. It was fairly quick, so most of my family is glad that he didn’t suffer for too long. I don’t quite know what I feel, other than that I miss him. We’re all glad we got to celebrate his 80th birthday as a big bash two years ago. There pictures are from that party. The one above really captures his spirit – smiling and always looking to have a good time.

But the one below is my favorite:

YehYeh Face

Now I know where I got my facial expressions from. I know I’ve made this one a bunch. Excitement, emotion = exaggerated face. I’m hoping inside that it will kind of be a big joke and he’ll be all better and be like “Ah ha! Got you!!” when everyone gets there for his funeral next weekend.

YehYeh & Me

I miss you, Yeh-Yeh.

CLA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like candy. I like desserts. I love sweets. I like being able to chose the sweets I eat, and when I eat a massive amount of sugar.

I don’t like all of the sugar in so many of the foods on our shelves now. Albany John already has me reading ingredient labels for high-fructose corn syrup (a no-no in our household on his request). I have some foods I don’t consider “sweet” (nut butters, yogurt, cottage cheese…), so I’ve been checking the labels for their sugar content lately, too. I’ve found I don’t really like to eat too much sugar at night (at least not regularly) because I process it way quickly, get a ton of unnecessary energy (the “sugar high”) and have trouble getting to sleep when I want to. Well, scratch that. I like to eat that much sugar, especially at night, but the after effects lately have made me not want to deal with it. Is this what aging is like?
I generally have trouble sleeping/staying asleep, and the nights I sleep entirely through the night without waking or getting up are few and far between (like, maybe 10 days a year, tops). The past few months I’ve been fairly decent about not snacking at night, and not eating foods that are quickly processed. I’ve noticed that when I do eat highly-processed and/or sugary foods at night, ugh, it is just not that great for me.

So, in the desire to eat a bit healthier, while nodding to my after-dinner snacking tendencies, I try to eat foods that digest slowly overnight instead of foods that the body processes quickly. Think: sweet potatoes, yogurt, cottage cheese. The diary is great for casein, which will feed your muscles slowly overnight and potentially help curb massive hunger cravings in the morning. Sweet potatoes are also great for slowly feeding the body, and have a fantastic amount of potassium to help keep muscle cramps at bay.

This brings me to yogurt. I was at Hannaford one night (thank goodness they are open 24/7, ’cause it’s great for my anti-crowd self), perusing their store-brand greek yogurt section. I like greek yogurt at night because it feels fairly substantial, but also really creamy, so I can barely eat a pot of greek yogurt at a time. I usually opt for plain yogurt, but on this night I was thinking “Hey, why not get one of the flavors. Go a little crazy.” (har har)

Well, crazy is the sugar content of the flavored yogurts. Hannaford’s plain greek yogurt has a sugar content of 4 grams. That’s respectable. Dairy does have some sugar in it, after all. Hmm, maybe Raspberry would be good. Not with 19 grams of sugar, it’s not. Peach? 20 grams. Honey came in with a respectable 15 grams of sugar. For some reason I thought honey would have topped the sugar content.

So, skip the flavors, go for plain. And top it with some pecans from Hannaford’s bulk/Organic aisle which retail for $7.99/lb, one of the lowest prices in the area (if not the lowest).

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