Why I Pay For SoulCycle

Why I Pay For SoulCycle - Sarrandipity Blog

For those who have been friends with me on any sort of social media for long enough, you know that I. Love. SoulCycle. I love it more than a fat kid loves cake; more than Kanye loves Kanye…all of that. I got hooked while living in New York, and have been looking forward to the Chicago studio openings since before they were even planned (the power of positive thinking). Yes, I understand that it’s expensive. And yes, it’s true I probably wouldn’t have tried it if I didn’t get to take my first classes for free through work. But I did try it, and quickly went from only going to SoulCycle when someone else paid, to sacrificing funds from my own bank account for a seat in the dimly lit studio. But why?

1. It’s cheaper than therapy. We all know that exercise in general causes the body to produce endorphins, which in turn make you feel good. SoulCycle adds on to that natural high with, well, soul. Though some teachers definitely tap into the inspirational aspects more than others, I usually leave class with at least one reminder to put things in perspective, or give myself a break, or just let shit go. A few months ago, I underwent a minor surgery and couldn’t exercise for two weeks, during which I fell into a bit of a funk, feeling lethargic and glum. My first workout after that break was a SoulCycle class. When I arrived, I was definitely in a “mood,” not thrilled to have had to leave my cozy condo and navigate rush hour crowds for a workout. By the time I left, I felt all at once energized, relaxed, and motivated. The combination of the dim lighting, killer playlist, and (not-too-over-the-top) affirmations from the instructor, plus the endorphin-producing moves, acted as a 45-minute, calorie-burning therapy session.

2. I save money in other places.  Countless people have flat-out told me I’m crazy to spend my money on SoulCycle. It’s not worth it, they say. It’s a waste of money, they say. It’s frivolous, they say. But, how do they qualify these things? See, I’m not a big drinker, so I rarely buy multiple rounds of $7-$15 cocktails every weekend, and my at-home stash won’t need replenishing for many months. (Though, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to drink more wine.) I don’t habitually go out to boozy brunches and high-end dinners, and seeing a movie in a theatre is a rare treat. (I realize this is painting a rather lame picture of me: I swear I’m fun and social, but I’m all for chill nights in, or Sundays on the beach instead of in a bar.) I see nothing wrong with people spending their money however they want to spend it, whether that be on movies, bars, restaurants, or in-app purchases for iPhone games—which is why I refrain from judging. I’ll spend my money in my way, you spend your money your way, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

3. The ambiance is amazing. And I’m not just talking about the low-lighting, candles, and aspirational wall-decals inside the studios themselves. Despite the fact that people exit each class dripping in sweat, the common areas are generally clean, bright, and fresh-smelling. They lack the dinginess of many other gyms. The air doesn’t reek of stale sweat and excessive B.O. And that’s nice.

Why I Pay For SoulCycle - Sarrandipity Blog

4. It increases my chances of becoming best friends with a celebrity. I’ve never been lucky enough to see perfect-specimen Jake Gyllenhaal in an NYC class (even though I’m told he goes ALL THE TIME and when I lived in New York I went A LOT), BUT in one class, Bradley Cooper was on the bike right behind me, which was almost equally amazing. Never before and never since have I worked so hard in a Soul class. (I mean, he was obviously watching me the whole time, right?) Bradley and I didn’t actually interact—it’d be uncool to bother a celeb when he’s trying to just be normal—but some day I’m bound to have a natural interaction with a celebrity at a studio and become best friends. (And I really hope said celebrity is Kelly Ripa, who I’m also told goes often. I love her.)

5. It’s fun. Boredom is probably the biggest reason I skip going to the gym, or half-ass it when I’m there. I have trouble staying motivated to start, or continue, a cardio workout when it’s just 45 minutes (give or take) of the same thing. People roll their eyes when they hear SoulCycle entails “choreography,” but regardless of what it’s called, the variety of moves within one class—from push-ups and crunches to “tap-backs” and weight-lifting—keeps me focused and invested in the workout.

6. It offers a workout I can’t get anywhere else. I’ve been on the receiving end of the sarcastic, “It’s too bad you can’t ride a bike for free outside!” anti-SoulCycle comments more times than I can count. Listen, I love riding my bike along the Chicago lakeshore. It’s good exercise in a beautiful environment, but it’s a completely different type of workout. As for other, cheaper spinning classes? Typically, I don’t feel like they go above and beyond anything I can do on my own. SoulCycle’s distinction isn’t just in its unique choreography. It’s in the fact that the choreography is done to the beat of the music. And that the instructors carefully craft playlists that ebb and flow with the sprints and climbs in the class, so whether you’re cranking the resistance or spinning the pedals at warp-speed, you’re doing it to a clear rhythm, with guidance from a teacher who could probably keep the beat while posting an Instagram, chugging a glass of wine, and arguing with Comcast customer service. And the teachers don’t just demonstrate what you should be doing; they actively push you to do it better, constantly reminding you not to cheat yourself out of a ($30) workout. They’ll emphasize proper form, repeatedly stressing the importance of keeping your butt back and knees in. They’ll turn up the resistance on your bike if they think you can handle it. They’ll make you hold your arm weights in the air for way more time than you think you can. In my first class at Chicago’s new Old Town studio, the instructor, Anthony, hit the nail on the head with one sentence: “It’s about how you move, not that you move.” Anyone can sit on a bike on a platform and play a few tunes while you somewhat aimlessly ride along, but SoulCycle classes take it to the next level, giving me a fantastic return on my investment.

7. I want to. I just wrote a whole blog post justifying why I pay $30 for SoulCycle classes now and then, but the bottom line is, I do it because I like it and I want to. Sue me. (Just leave me with at least $30 a month.)

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The Pros and Cons of Being a Freelancer

Pros & Cons of Being A Freelancer

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Contrary to what it may seem, I haven’t given up on this here blog. Rather, I let wedding planning (3 weeks to go!) and freelancing get the best of me and my time. I can’t say how much I admire bloggers who publish beautiful, entertaining, and consistent content, all while managing full-time jobs, families, and whole lot of other stuff. It’s no easy task, and one I haven’t quite mastered yet—but I will keep trying. Starting now.

I can hardly believe it, but it’s been eight months since I quit my job and went full-time freelance. It’s been a challenging and amazing experience thus far, and I couldn’t be happier. Every day brings something different, but in a nutshell, here are some pros and cons of this new career path I’ve chosen:

Pro: I make my own schedule. There’s no doubt about it: The flexibility of being a freelancer is amazing. Ultimately, I have to get my work done and put in tons of hours pitching, writing, editing, and networking. But how I arrange those hours is mostly up to me. I can sleep later in the morning and make up for it by working later into the night. I can go grocery shopping at 2PM when the Iines are nonexistent. I can go to master’s swimming practices at noon on Thursdays. I can take a Friday off if I plan ahead and front-load my work for the week. It’s nice.

Con: No one keeps tabs on me but me. It’s certainly liberating being my own boss, but it also means the motivating, decision-making, and scheduling falls squarely on my shoulders. No one is going to tell me it’s a bad idea to take that Friday off. No one is going to tell me whether or not to accept an assignment, and how much I should get paid for it. No one is going make me sit down and send pitches until 5PM. And no one is going to stop me when I take on too many projects, or help me with the work when I’m scrambling to get them all done.

Pro: I get to change it up. Because I’m not tied to any one company or publication, I’m able to keep my work varied and explore all different opportunities. One day I may be writing an article about wedding planning, and the next I’m interviewing a singer on tour or researching beauty trends. Some days I write all day, while others are more editing-heavy. The variety keeps me motivated and inspired.

Con: I have to keep track of it all. Once upon a time, I completed one W9 and watched money appear in my bank account twice a month, and that was that. Not so much with freelancing. Every time I add a new company to my roster—even if just for a small, one-off project—I have to submit a new W9, and sign a new contract. I have an insane spreadsheet of all my assignments, and it’s up to me to adhere to the deadlines, send invoices (per each company’s guidelines) in a timely manner, and keep track of if and when the checks roll in. I’ll spare you any discussion of tax season.

Pro: I don’t have to leave home to work. I can wake up in the morning and five minutes later be sending emails on my computer while eating cereal, still in my pajamas—and I often do. If it’s freezing outside, I may just spend the whole work day in an oversized hoodie and slippers. And if it’s hot, I may throw on a bathing suit and bring my computer out to my back deck for simultaneous working and sunning. No commute necessary.

Pros & Cons of Being A Freelancer

My only coworkers can get a little creepy.

Con: I don’t have to leave home to work. Working from home is awesome, but it can also get lonely. Without the camaraderie of an office (and I had the best coworkers in my old office), it’s not unusual for me to go an entire workday without speaking out loud (or only speaking out loud to my cats, which is probably not better…). Though it’s easier for me to just sit down in my makeshift home office and get crackin, I sometimes make myself go to coffee shops, or buy lunch somewhere, just to get some human interaction.

Pro: Every dollar I make feels like success. I’m not saying I didn’t earn my salary when I was working for another company; I did, and I know everyone else does, too. But there’s an extra special sweetness to cashing my checks now, knowing each one of them is a direct result of something I did: an article I wrote, a blog post I edited, an idea I pitched. It feels good.

Con: There’s no such thing as paid time off. Or paid “lazy days,” for that matter. When I had a salary and I was having an off day—maybe I was up late the night before, maybe last week was insane and I was burnt out, or maybe it was the third Polar Vortex of the year and I was just over it—I could sometimes get away with slacking off just a tad, or doing the minimum for that day, and still get paid just the same. Sure, if I’m not on deadline, I can take some easy days for myself (Yes, I love what I’m doing, but there are days when even work I love is still just work)…it just directly affects my paycheck. Case in point: I’m taking a couple weeks off for my wedding in July, which means turning down some assignments, in turn minimizing my income for the month. If I want to make up that lost cash, I’m going to have to really hustle in August. 

Pro: I’m doing what I want to do. Even on the days so busy I feel like pulling out my hair; even on the days so dead I feel like I’ve hit a wall; even when I’m agonizing over tough assignments; even when I go weeks without getting a check in the mail…it’s worth it, because I’m in the career I want, and doing something I love.

Fellow freelancers: Anything to add?

Cooking for the Anti-Chef: Crock Pot Quinoa Chili

Quinoa-Chili-Title

Cooking is, without question, one of my least favorite activities. I’m not a natural in the kitchen, I’m not creative when it comes to meal concepts, and I certainly don’t enjoy the process. My mom is a fantastic chef, and can seemingly pull recipes out of thin air, make them, and the end results are always delicious. But that gene was not passed down to me. I wish it was, really. Because then, maybe dinner wouldn’t loom over me like a very dark cloud every. single. night. But it does. And I’m left perpetually hunting for non-boring meals that won’t exhaust my patience and don’t have, on average, more than say, five ingredients. I finally bought a Crock Pots last year thinking it was magic: Just toss a bunch of random ingredients in there, turn it on, and you have a meal. Unfortunately, I discovered that’s not quite how it works, but it is slightly less painful than “regular” cooking.

In an attempt to help others out there like me, I will share recipes from time-to-time that I’ve actually found manageable. This one, for a black-bean-and-chicken-sausage-and-quinoa chili, is one I adapted from the blog Queen Bee Coupons (Thank you, Pinterest), with some changes motivated either by laziness or personal taste. Enjoy!

Quinoa-Chili-Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
  • One 28oz can of diced (or crushed) tomatoes
  • One 14oz can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • Two 16oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained
  • One 15oz can of corn, drained
  • 3 cups of chicken stock (can use vegetable broth, too–I’ve done both. Can’t even tell the difference)
  • 2-3 chicken sausages, cut into pieces (We used these instead of plain chicken, because we already had them and it seemed easier. The types of chicken sausage out there are endless–just use one you like. Or, leave the meat out altogether to make this vegetarian.)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Can also add 2 tsp chili powder if you like spicy. I do not, so I left this out. 
  • Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt (This is in place of sour cream. Seriously, it works. We use Fage Total, 0%)

Quinoa-Chili-in-Pot

Instructions
1. Put everything but the cheese and greek yogurt in the Crock Pot.

2. Turn the Crock Pot on.

3. Cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4-7 hours on high.

4. Add shredded cheese and yogurt on top as desired. I typically pile the cheese on; my fiancé is healthier and does just a “sprinkle.” To each his own.

Do you know any other easy winter recipes? Share in the comments. Seriously, I need help. 

Packing List: NYC In The Fall

packing-list-nyc-title

This week, I get the pleasure of working from New York City. My fiancé had to be here for work, so I decided to hitch a ride (one of my favorite perks of freelancing). We both lived in New York for three years, and anytime we can get back for a visit, to hang out in the city and catch up with friends, we jump at the chance. We’re lucky enough, on this trip, to be getting some killer fall weather—but, as is the trend these days, it’s a bit all over the place. Trying to pack for a week when one day it will be 70 degrees and another it’ll be 55 is a tad tricky (especially when you’re trying to pack light, which I consistently fail at), but I did my best. Here, some of the key pieces I brought:

packing-list-nyc---numbered

1. Statement Necklace: I love this necklace for two reasons: It automatically elevates the style of any casual top I packed, and the combo of materials (gold, clear gemstones, and faux pearls) means it goes with pretty much everything. LOFT – grab a similar one here

2. Comfy Pullover: Soft pullovers are my kryptonite, especially when the weather cools down. I just got this one and I’m already obsessed. I love the ribbon neckline, because it makes me feel less lazy for walking around in what is basically a sweatshirt. (Plus, it can be dressed ‘up’ with the above necklace. Boom.) Ace Delivery 

3. Small Pendant: I never go sans necklace; if I’m wearing a busier shirt, or big earrings, I still don a small pendant. Even when I wear a big necklace, I usually keep the small one on; I love the layered look. This one, a simple evil eye design, is one of my all-time faves. Alexandra Beth Designs – get it in silver here

4. Versatile Tee: Even though the weather may get up to 70 this week, I still feel kind of weird wearing a tank in October. Solution: A tee with sheer sleeves; It looks fall, but feels summer. Pleione from Nordstrom – grab a similar one here.

5. Compact Computer Bag: Sometimes when traveling, I push the limits with the size of my ‘personal item’ that I bring on the plane—I blur the line between ‘purse’ and ‘second suitcase.’ But for this trip, I knew I’d be carrying my computer around to coffee shops and whatnot, so I wanted to bring a bag that wasn’t quite so cumbersome. This one fits my computer, but it’s relatively compact, so I don’t feel completely ridiculous lugging it around NYC. Plus, it’s made of nylon, so no harm if the week’s fall weather includes some rain. Banana Republic 

6. Lightweight Jacket: This military jacket is light enough for the warmer days, and loose enough that I can layer underneath for the cooler ones. It’s got a cinched waist to give it some shape, and is just the right shade of grey to go with everything. LOFT – grab a similar one here

7. Cuffable Jeans: (I may have made up the word ‘cuffable;’ let’s all agree to move past that.) Being that I’m short, and often too lazy busy to get things hemmed, my closet is full of many jeans that are slightly too long. But, I do have this one pair that’s the perfect length for ever-changing fall weather. They stop right at the ankle, so if I want to go full-length, I can, but I can also do an easy cuff for the warmer temps. Paige Denim – grab a similar pair here

8. Polarized Shades: I’m somewhat obsessed with sunglasses, but I try to only bring one pair when I travel, and because I have annoyingly sensitive eyes, I like to play it safe with a polarized pair. Never know when that NYC sun will hit! Spy Optic

9. Two-Tone Watch: Classic, versatile and lightweight for traveling—what more could you want? Michael Kors

10. Ballet Flats: I actually thought we were squarely in boot season the past few weeks, but the temperatures in Chicago and New York have taken an up-turn, hence the need for flats. I packed these ones because the suede is fall-ish, the black is versatile and the studs add personality. Halogen from Nordstrom – grab a similar pair here

11. Chunky-Heeled Ankle Boots: Chunky-heeled boots are my favorite for fall and winter. They can be dressed up or down, and they’re perfect for walking around the city without wanting to rip your feet off. It’s a win-win, really. BP for Nordstrom

I quit my job and started a blog.

http://fyeahfriendsgifs.tumblr.com/

It’s going to be a pivotal year. Yesterday, I turned 29. Today, I started my blog. And a few days ago, I quit my full-time job in advertising. Now, before you start to think I’m some insanely delusional millennial (that’s only partially true), let me do some explaining. I like to think of myself as a bit of a mind-reader (okay, not really–but today, go with it), so I’m just going to go ahead and answer the questions you’re probably thinking.

1. So you quit your job to start a blog? 
No. Er, not quite. I quit my job because it no longer made sense for me. Long story short (ish): My passion has always been writing. I went to school for it, did some awesome internships at some awesome magazines & websites, and got some fantastic freelance gigs. I moved to New York four years ago with only a freelance writing and editing job to support me, and a cooler as my desk chair and a yoga mat as my office. But I wanted (and needed–see previous sentence about the cooler & yoga mat) a full-time job, and decided to try my hand at advertising. I got a job at an agency doing media planning and buying and, well, hated it.The people were amazing; the work itself was too much business and too little creativity. Less than a year later, I made the move to a digital publisher, in an Account Manager role.

During my three years at that company (partially in New York and partially in Chicago, after I moved back), I managed lots of cool, custom campaigns. I went to shoots, worked with designers and was there when our websites launched some pretty amazing things (like this, this & this). I gained invaluable knowledge and became friends with amazing people (Really, one thing I’ve always loved about the ad industry is that it’s full of outrageous-in-a-good-way, bold and hilarious people. Some of my best friends now are ones I met through both of my ad jobs.) The problem was I wasn’t being creative; I was a liaison, and a manager, but not a writer, or an editor, or a producer. Throughout my time in advertising, I also freelanced on the side, and it was the perfect creative outlet. And over time, it became clear that I needed to turn that creative outlet into my full-time career. So, here I am. Out of advertising and corporate America, and into the life of full-time freelancing. And because sometimes, websites don’t want to buy random articles I write about myself and my oft-eccentric life, I’m also blogging.

Never underestimate the power of a cooler chair. Photo Credit: Mallory Kinley

Never underestimate the power of a cooler chair.

2. If you just started the blog, why are there already a bunch of old posts on here? 
I’ve had a website for several months now, but it was purely a home for my professional portfolio. Rather than create an entirely new site for the blog, I just gave this one a face-lift, shifted some things around, and now emmasarran.com is a home for both my blog, Sarrandipity, and my portfolio.

3. Why Sarrandipity? 
I can’t take credit for this one. I tried for ages to think of the perfect blog name: something catchy, easy to remember, and fitting for me, and what this blog would represent. But I came up short. Insert my lovely friend, Lauren. I exasperatedly shared with her my lack of ideas and, within minutes, she said the magic word: Sarrandipity. I’ve always loved ‘serendipity’—and not just the movie. The word, defined by Merriam Webster, means ‘luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for,’ is such a great reminder that goodness and good things are everywhere, and we just need to keep our eyes open. And the fact that my last name, Sarran, fits so perfectly into the word? That, in itself, is serendipitous.

Serendipity really is an awesome movie.

Serendipity really is an awesome movie.

4. So what is this blog going to be about? 
It’s going to be eclectic, that’s for sure. I don’t want to limit myself to writing about just one thing. I have such varied interests, from style, to music, to fitness, traveling, cats, and more—and all of that will be represented here. The blog itself is a work in progress. I spent so much time not creating this blog because I wanted to wait until I had everything perfectly figured out: the right name, the right categories, the right design. But, I got tired of waiting for perfection and instead decided to take a leap of faith and start this damn thing. Probably related to that leap of faith I took to quit my job.

5. Why should I follow you? 
If the promise of cat photos and Friends references (if you recognize the gif at the top of my post, you have my heart) isn’t enough, I hope to provide you with entertainment, inspiration, and the occasional laugh (at my own expense, of course).

gif via fyeahfriendsgifs.tumblr.com; photo by mallory kinley