Free Real World Training with North Face

Are you ready for a challenge?!  North Face, maker of the crazy lightweight jacket that somehow keeps you warm in the windy city (magic, we say!),  is putting Chicago’s fittest and finest to the test with their new and FREE Mountain Athletics training program.  We are pumped to get pumped for a few reasons:

1) The invite says “rain or shine”.  This is serious business, people.

2) Workouts are held on Tuesdays by the Lincoln Park Monument and Thursdays at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion, both gorgeous locations in case of “shine!!”

And the most essential one-

3) Your body changes when it’s challenged!  Stop doing the same ol’ treadmill tread and take these 6 weeks to learn how to train your body and excel at outdoor running, climbing or skiing.  You can review all the particulars here and follow along online with sport-specific training programs, a Mountain Athletics App, hard core athlete exercise tutorials, and chances to earn badges for making your goals.

Sign up and come join us next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Lincoln Park.  Don’t be scured, athletes at all levels are welcome!
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Move your Bolly-licious Body with Doonya

It’s Move It March!  Yeah, March is making us mad so we are reclaiming the month in efforts to leap off our comatose couch-bound status.  Sadly, there is snow AGAIN on the ground and, with the irresponsible nature of Chicago Spring, indoor workouts are a must.  As we all need variety (or vari-itay as one could say), we jumped at a recent invite to sample a unique world dance inspired fitness class, Doonya.  Khushboo Rami, our fearless instructor and 1 of 2 Doonya instructors in the whole Chicago area, warmly welcomed us to the River North Gym for our first Doonya experience.

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Some of you probably have an inkling of what Doonya is all about from some alluring TV commercials.  Seriously, we had our debit card in one hand and the remote in the other debating on whether to buy their streaming online classes.  Doonya has actually been around since 2005 when innovator and super fit co-founders, Priya and Kajal, aspired to develop what they were doing in their Indian dance troupe to a replicable dance fitness method.  Khushboo was the 4th trained instructor in D.C. and carried the brand with her when she moved to the Chi.  So, what can you expect when you lace on your Reeboks and get ready for your flash dance moment?

Khushboo explained that Doonya has some major components that are present in every class, no matter where you attend.  There is always a mix of high and low energy cardio and 4 major dance styles are weaved throughout the class: Indian folk, Bhangra, Classical Indian dance/conditioning, and Bollypop (Indian popular dance sometimes mixed with mainstream Western pop/rap).  The signature moves, like the Bollytap, glute lifts and knee lifts, crunchy standing ab moves and the heel flick, you will be able to catch the rhythm after a few songs.  Once you have a few favorite numbers, you can request your best Bolly-shaking tunes on Facebook or directly to your amicable Doonya instructor.

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So how did our first class go?  Well, although we both work out (yoga, running, dance), our bodies were still challenged by Doonya’s high impact cardio sections.  Khushboo broke down basic moves before beginning routines which made it less intimidating for us newbies.  Near the middle, we found our sweaty spot but weren’t too concerned as the infectious dance music keeps you moving.  We really loved the M.I.A. “Bad Girls” remix and were super surprised by the challenging nature of the classical moves at the end.  Your thighs will shake!

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Ready to throw on a kurti and give it a try?  Khushboo teaches on Thursdays at 5:30 pm and drop in classes are only $15.  You can also sign up for a free 3 day pass for River North Gym and try your first Doonya class for nuthin’.  The gym is hiding on the 10th floor of the Merchandise Mart so take the Brown or Purple line if you don’t wanna mess with parking.  We can’t wait to go back to work on our shoulder shimmies.

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Here are a few of our fave Bollywood jams to get you in the bollymood for Doonya.  Do you have a secret Bolly-jam?  Let us know so we can expand our collection!

Dilli Wali Girlfriend

High Heels

1, 2, 3, 4 from Chennai Express

YogaWorks Guest Post: 5 Yoga Poses for Jump-starting a Home Practice Sequence yoga

We’ve had this lingering intention…the intention of rising with the sun and doing yoga to get the day started right.  This intention turns into slapping the snooze button for 30 minutes and then grumbling out of bed.  As the sun’s coming out a little more these days, we thought we’d seek some expert advice on a sequence that might give us the structure we need to make daily yoga a habit!  Enter Sarah Ezrin, a Los Angeles based yoga teacher,  Lululemon brand ambassador, purveyor of joy, and our guest yogi!  Sarah also teaches for YogaWorks and the online MyYogaWorks platform which offers over 500 online classes and 24 hour access so you can get that at home yoga guidance.

Sarah offers 5 starter poses to help us and you build your home practice!  Pictures are courtesy of photographer, Julia Heredia, are were taken during Sarah’s Costa Rica retreat (jealous….).

5 Yoga Poses for Jump-starting a Home Practice Sequence by Sarah Ezrin

  1. Child’s Pose – Child’s pose is no child’s play.  A great posture for grounding one’s energy, it creates a conscious shift inward as one is literally folded in upon themselves.  Come to kneeling on the floor big toes together, knees slightly apart and sink the hips back toward the heels, laying your belly over the top thighs.  This pose can be restful with the arms relaxed by your sides or made more active with arms forward reaching energetically.  Elevate the head with a block or even stacked fists is as it will align the spine and create space for the neck and shoulders.  Feel free to repeat throughout the sequence as needed.

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  1. Cat/Cow Breath – Open the heart and awaken the core with this pair of postures.  Practiced dynamically (meaning moving with breath) this set warms up the spine.  Start in a table top position, aligning wrists under and shoulders and knees below hips.  On an inhalation, create a backbend by lifting the chest bone up towards the ceiling and gently taking the gaze up, back of the neck long.  Exhale round the back tremendously by pushing the palms into the floor and hollowing the bellybutton.  Gaze toward the naval.  Repeat five times (with an inhale/exhale counting as a single rep) following the natural flow of breath.

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  1. Downward Facing Dog – Probably the most notorious of yoga poses, no practice is complete without a down dog!  Lengthen the spine and release the entire back body, which gets stiff from hunching over those iPhones.  Start in a table top position, pressing the hands evenly into the floor.  Tighter shoulders will benefit from having the hands slightly wider than shoulder’s width.  Curl the toes underneath and begin to lift the knees off the floor while extending the hips up and back.  Start with the knees slightly bent and work lengthening the spine.  Straighten the legs and press the heels toward the floor.  You are looking to create an inverted “V” with your body.  If the spine feels rounded, the lower back or hamstrings (muscles at the back of the legs) may be tight, so keep the knees slightly bent to get more length.  Make a long spine priority over straight legs.  Beginners may experience wrist pain.  Be sure the entire hand is pressed into the floor at the knuckles and fingers lengthen forward actively.

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  1. Reverse Warrior – Feel both beautiful and strong with this expansive standing pose.  Tone the outer hips and lengthen the inner legs, while the added side stretch expands the lateral body improving breath. Start in a wide stance, arms out shoulder’s height and feet as wide as the wrist (about a leg’s distance).  Turn the right leg out from deep within the hip and the back leg and hip facing inward slightly.  Bend the front knee until the thigh is level to the floor, tracking the front knee and ankle.  This is Warrior 2.  On an inhalation, lean back placing the left hand lightly outside the left leg and stretching the top arm overhead.  Hold for eight full breaths or play with the pose dynamically moving in and out from Warrior 2 with breath.

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  1. Supta Baddha Konasana – Often, the most potent poses in yoga are the quietest.  Soothe the mind and nervous system, while also releasing the hips.  Start lying on the back with the knees bent and feet flat onto the floor.  Allow the inner knees to fall open like the wings of a butterfly and gently place the soles of the feet together.  Pulling the heels inward toward the groin will create a stronger release of the inner thigh.  Rest one hand on the heart and the second on the belly for more grounding or take the arms overhead and grab elbows to stretch the side body.

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Just for the record, #5 is a Chi Organic Girls go-to pose for relaxation.  Check out this sequence to find your zen (and maybe find a reason to get out of bed earlier) or share your favorite yoga sequence with us.

Cooked: Your Best Veggie Pre-Cooked Meal Delivery Service

We have ambitions of getting in touch with our inner culinary geniuses every week when we head to the grocery store…and then we end up passed out on the couch with a half eaten Morning Star Burger falling out of our hands after work.  Like it or not (who really likes it), American culture is one of the most overworked cultures in the world.  We need a break!  Don’t you often muse about have your own personal chef?  Chicagoans, rejoice!  There is a pretty fantastic option for you to get your personal chef wishes fulfilled, even without a genie!

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We were so excited when Erin Winston Silva, the co-founder of Cooked, reached out to us to sample their pre-cooked meal delivery options.  Cooked promises “Nourishing Meals for Busy Folks” and we are 2 very busy ladies so we jumped on the opportunity.  We were particularly intrigued as Cooked seemed to have more veggie options than many delivery services that we’ve seen.  We also love the values of the organization.  Chef Jona Silva’s own health journey inspired him to create local and nutritionally rich (not calorie rich) foods to promote wellness in others.  One can tell from menu offers, which change weekly, as well as Silva’s transparency in where ingredients come from.  The focus is local partnerships and he is also sensitive to food allergies like gluten or dietary preferences like vegan, vegetarian and T-Rexian. Ok, enough blabbing, we know you wanna know what you get to eat!

For $76 (tax and delivery included) dollars, we got ALL the foods below!!  Delivery was timely and Erin was available throughout to deal with a multitude of blogger questions like: “What about Monica’s chickpea allergy” and “Can you change our delivery date?  We forgot, we won’t be home!”.

Freshly Pressed Juice: Pineapple Cooler

Loved it!  It was refreshing and green-licious with kale, romaine, spinach, coconut water and a sweet touch of pineapple.

Lunch Bowl #2: Organic POWER grains with black beans and salsa ranchera

We split this, yet there was enough for a full lunch for both of us.  This puppy is only $5 and is rich in superfoods like quinoa, amaranth and other ancient grains with mysterious origins.  The salsa added a nice kick to the mix.

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Lunch: Kale, Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad

Again, the portion was plentiful.  We enjoyed the sweet touch of cranberry and the kale and rice mix was tender and garlicky with a rich balsamic dressing.

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Dinners:

Soup: Kabocha Squash and Apple Soup

Admittedly, we had to google what the heck a kabocha was.  Turns out it’s an Asian winter squash!  Last week’s weather was considerably still miserable so this warm rich soup hit the spot.  It reminded us of a sweet potato bisque with light creamy touches of spices and cinnamon.

Sesame Crusted Tofu

The 2 tofu cutlets came with zuccini noodles and vibrant red and yellow peppers, dressed with a light a soy sauce.

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Cauliflower Tacos with Roasted Poblano Salsa

Cauliflower is a vegetarian delight as it has a chunky texture.  The taco mix also included cilantro, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds with a side of fresh salsa.

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Walnut loaf with Roasted Squash and Broccolini

The squash and broccolini looked ultra fresh and colorful with bright orange and green hues and they were both cooked to perfection.  The walnut loaf was a gray meat like color and was hearty for those of you who are familiar with the texture of meatloaf.  We really liked the dressing that was provided and it seemed like it had a tahini base.

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The meals are supposed to stay fresh for 3 days but we stretched them out until Thursday and basically had enough deliciousness to stave off any grocery shopping for 2 people for the work week.  It was like a cooking vacay!  We highly recommend Cooked.  Meals change weekly to provide variety.  This week features a tantalizing coconut dal (aka lentils) and chickpea zuccini fritters.  Ready to order?  All Chi Organic Girl readers can get 10% off their first order with the promo code: chiorganicgirls so skip the shopping this week and eat cooked!

*We were not compensated for our opinions but were provided with a gift card to try Cooked meals.

Eat Local: Burger Point Restaurant Review

Do you ever wonder where your McDonald’s cheeseburger meat came from?  Unless you’re subjected to some kind of food coma induced nightmare, you probably have avoided being “in the know” on fast food meat origins.  “But burgers are so delicious”, you say.  Yeah we get you, (well the dabbling meat eater one of us, aka Kate, does and the veggie burger fiend one of us, aka Monica, may have an inkling too).  Burgers, in all their glorious forms, are special sammiches.  But as we are grown people, we like grown and sexy sammiches with ingredients we can name…and we LOVE food that’s locally sourced and not only tastes fresh but is fresh.

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Recently, we visited the South Loop to try a locally owned burger slinging business, Burger Point (with no creepy clowns, bonus!).  Owners, co-founders and couple, Asha Mathew and David Esterline, pride themselves in providing consumers with grass fed beef as well as organic chicken, turkey and veggie burgers.  Asha and David started Burger Point about 3 years ago and used to gaze at the space across from their condo and dream of opening their own business.  They often craved a juicy organic burger a ala North side DMK burger so they snatched up the corner spot on State and Archer and started their own burger revolution.  Local sourcing is their priority and many produce items come from David’s produce shop.  95% of the menu is house made.  Meat is ground, formed into fresh patties in the restaurant and meals are made to order (take that, Burger King!)

The menu hosts 17 specialty burgers, wangs (or wings as some might call them) with house made sassy sauces, and side options like house cut sweet potato fries.  We started our culinary experience with hearty samples of the vegetarian chili.  A toasty bowl of chili is definitely the thing for a Chicago arctic winter.  It had a healthy amount of cooked “just right” beans, a perfectly thick consistency and a nice kick of spice.  We liked the bits of tofu floating around in the mix as it added to the filling nature of the chili.  This dish could make your meal and Burger Point gives you free toppings like cheese, sour cream, olives and onions to boost it’s fill factor.

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For the main event, Kate got a little meaty and tried the #7 hamburger, called the Dirty South, with aged cheddar cheese, double smoked crisp bacon and BBQ sauce on a homemade pretzel roll.  The flavor of the bacon and burger was juicy, not greasy, and Kate noticed a markedly higher meat quality than chain restaurants.  Kate’s fave part was the PRETZEL BUN!! “I know me and gluten are iffy but this was a homemade pretzel bun”

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Monica tried the #14 with the moniker the Best Damn Veggie Burger Ever, which sports a homemade veggie patty with chipotle aioli, havarti cheese and avocado on a sesame seed bun.  She liked the balance of beans and rice, simplicity combined, but needed more kick from the chipotle aioli to counterbalance.

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Becoming a Burger Point Superfan can have perks.  Customers can use the delivery ease of Grubhub or Ordersnap to ensure no leaving of one’s bed is necessary, crumbs be damned.  If you do choose to wear pants and leave the house, Burger Point is located on the quiet corner of Archer and State.  Frequent Feeders can join a rewards endeavor called the 5 Star Program.  Every $5 spent gives the user a point which can eventually lead to free point earned foods.  One customer even racked up so many points that there is a burger named after him, the #17 Saigon Johnny, featuring fresh ground chicken, sliced cucumber, jalapeno and cilantro with sriracha aioli and soy sauce.  The couple and their manager, Ryan, like to let their minds run wild with new monthly recipes.  Their salmon burger is very popular for the Lenten season and now they are working on the aptly named Heart Attack consist of 5 different types of bacons. We are guessing it features pork, beef, turkey, chicken and tempeh bacon (haha we actually have no idea.  Is there such a thing as chicken bacon?  Chicky bake for short?)

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The South Loop neighborhood is close to popular Chicago locales like Soldier Field, the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium in addition to public transportation making it an accessible choice for tourists and locals alike.  If you want a relatively quick and tasty meal that doesn’t challenge your moral meat values, leave those golden arches behind and taste Burger Point!