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Amanda Polk shares how she got into the sport, and why she loves exercise tights so much. By Caroline Cunningham
Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

“My world revolved around my daughter and her schedule. When she left for college, I thought, ‘What now?’ ” That’s when Amanda Polk of Potomac discovered bodybuilding. Bikini bodybuilding.

“Don’t let the name fool you,” Polk says. “It’s a tough sport.”

Last March, she attended a friend’s bikini-bodybuilding competition and was hooked. Unlike traditional bodybuilding, which aims for extreme bulk, the bikini version highlights leaner muscles to create a toned hourglass shape. Polk joined a team coached by Michelle Johnson, a renowned competitor who lives in Washington.

Polk placed fifth at the national championship last July. To transform her body, she completely changed her diet and exercise regimens: “I thought all you needed for a great shape was cardio and light weights a few days a week. Boy, was I wrong.” She focuses on heavy lifting and high-intensity interval training, also trading alcohol and empty carbs for protein-packed foods.

To Polk, all the sweating is worth it. “Watching your gluteus improve is a huge motivator,” she says, adding that she bought more tights from Better Bodies so she could see her muscles during workouts. “When you look in the mirror and like what you see, it changes your whole outlook on life.”

Sweat in style with these eight trendy finds:

Vera Wang Simple Breathe mesh sweatshirt, $68

Speedform Gemini running shoes, $129.99

Athleta Pacifica UPF Tee 2, $49

Text Active Tee, $16

Adidas by Stella McCartney gym tote, $170

Withings Activité activity tracker, $450

Contrast short top in aqua and lime, $59

Revitalize watercolor tights, $58

This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 04/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A May exhibit invites women to submit very personal art and artifacts. By Jenny Rough
"Crib with Meditation Boxes" displays empty pill bottles and other painful memories of a baby that never came to be. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Walker.

After my miscarriage, I wrote a poem. Even though I'm a writer, I'd never written poetry before. But as I faced a barrel of mixed emotions--pain, sadness, shock, grief, fear, shame--I felt drawn to a freer form of expression. In the mysterious way that art works, poetry, like other forms of writing and creative expression, helped me heal.

Elizabeth Walker knows the feeling. When she was unable to conceive, she tried nine cycles of various infertility treatments, which included injectable drugs and artificial insemination. When nothing worked, she opted to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF), an invasive procedure where a woman's eggs are surgically retrieved from her body and mixed with sperm in a lab. The resulting embryo is then transferred back into the woman's uterus.

The procedure went awry, and Walker wound up at the hospital for emergency surgery. The entire ordeal left her in excruciating pain. “I couldn’t pick up my camera,” says Walker, a professional photographer. “The equipment was too heavy.”

In bed during her recovery, she picked up something lightweight instead: paper. She ripped up solid-colored paper and handmade paper with flowers and pasted the shreds to a canvas. Then she painted the paper to make a collage of images that expressed her disappointment. "I wanted to make a visual representation of what I was going through," she says. "Art was a creative way to make a historical record."

Walker's artwork resonated with others. Infertility is overwhelming and hard to explain, she says, but when she showed her art to friends and family, they seemed to understand what she was going through in a way they hadn’t before. It helped her open up as well. It had taken her two years before she could tell her mom what she was going through, but her artwork eased the lines of communication. "My art served as a conversation piece to share my story," she says.

It didn't take long for Walker to realize that she could not only use her art to help her personal relationships, but to educate entire communities and raise awareness about infertility. She began to encourage other women who were struggling to conceive to paint, write, use mixed media—anything that helped them maintain their well-being. The idea garnered so much positive feedback, Walker held an exhibit, "The ART of IF," at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan, where she lives. The exhibit is now traveling the country, and it's coming to Busboys & Poets (5th and K streets, DC) on May 15.The exhibit is open to the public from 3 to 7 p.m. with workshops from 3 to 5 (including a workshop I'm voluntarily offering called Journaling Your Fertility Journey; workshops are free but you must preregister).

Here are a few examples of the powerful work various women have contributed:

Crib with Medication Boxes: a crib full of needles, empty medication boxes, and pill bottles, representing the remnants of drugs for a baby who never came to be.

IVF Journal by Sarah Clark Davis: thoughts, drawings, and quotes from a woman who recorded her fertility process in a series of journal entries. At first, only a few selected pages were exhibited behind a glass case, but Davis has since decided that she's willing to share her journal with the world, and an entire reproduction is being made for others to browse through.

Lady in Waiting: a display of tubes and eggs that express the potential for life.

Necklace and Bracelet: jewelry where each bead represents a hormone shot taken during an in vitro fertilization procedure.

The Contribution Tree: a tree that features the different sort of legacies childless women are leaving behind as they contribute to society.

Walker is accepting submissions from Washingtonians for the upcoming exhibit through May 5. She will also be participating in RESOLVE's Advocacy Day on May 13(an event where the infertility community comes together to talk with Congress) where she will feature portraits, hold interviews, and provide facts and figures on infertility.

"You don't have to be a professional artist or even an amateur artist to contribute," Walker says. She simply hopes those who are experiencing infertility will make--and share--anything that is helping them through it.

Posted at 09:53 AM/ET, 04/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Think running would be better if it involved more drinking? There's a sport for you. By Hannah Lauterback
Photographs courtesy Jim Howard.

The first rule of hashing is there aren’t really any rules.

Enthusiasts of the alternate-universe running clubs insist there’s no one correct way to hash. There are, however, some constants: crude nicknames, invented terminology, devoted friendships, and a healthy dose of debauchery.

But the basics go something like this:

A lead runner—known as a “hare”—lays out a trail in flour or chalk. Participants then run, jog, and sometimes crawl along this trail until they reach their ultimate destination—typically a local pub, street corner, or private residence—where drinking ensues. One hasher described a trail that required the group to swim across the Potomac. Twice.

No two hashes are alike. Some are punctuated by mid-run pitstops at a “check,” a spot to drink (beer or water), catch your breath, and figure out the trail. Others require unusual dress or themes. All require uninhibited revelry. Male runners are called harriers; female runners, harriettes.

Though it may sound a bit fratlike, hashing is intended to be inclusive. “We don’t care what you do or what car you drive,” says Jim Howard, a member of two DC kennels, or hashing clubs, including the White House Hash House Harriers. “What we care about is that you’re genuine and have a good sense of humor.”

Suitably for an athletic activity that involves drinking, you can take part even if you’re not in top shape. There’s always a walking trail along with the running route, and the hares take great care to plan trails so that the two intersect at end at similar times. Because of this, the walking route is usually shorter than the running route, or the running route is more complicated and keeps the hashers running around in circles longer.

Hashing in DC has been around for decades. Though it has roots in Kuala Lumpur, the American version was pioneered by William “Tumbling Bill” Panton, a hashing legend who founded the DC Hash House Harriers in 1972 and still participates today in his 80s.

There are hashes most days of the year. (Here's a full schedule.) If you’re interested in trying out hashing, get in touch one of the dozen-plus clubs scattered throughout the city. Make sure to wear sneakers and bring a change of clothes (and shoes), as well as a little cash.

Howard has been hashing since 2001. He first learned about hashing while stationed abroad with the Navy, but he didn’t end up experiencing his first race until he had moved back to the States and was looking for a 5k run while training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

What he got instead was 14 years worth of friendships and rollicking memories. His favorite? A hash through Great Falls during a “driving rain” that ended with a splash in one of his fellow runner’s swimming pools.

One local runner who asked to be identified by her hashing name, Little Spermaid, said one of the most appealing aspects of hashing is the ability to assume a new identity. What you do and where you live doesn’t matter, what matters is who you are.

"Hashing is kind of democratic,” Little Spermaid says. “You could be running next to a guy who just bought a one million dollar apartment in Arlington and you're a student, and you'll be side by side sharing a beer. It's just a great way to go outside your usual social circle." 
Like many DC newcomers, she moved to the area and joined a social kickball league to make friends. A teammate introduced her to hashing, and she described her initial hash as magical. “I tried it and immediately fell in love. It was just this moment of 'where have you people been all my life.' We're just strangely dependable, or dependably strange.”

Posted at 08:01 AM/ET, 04/15/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Starbucks made news with their new healthy menu offering—here’s how you can whip one up at home. By Rebecca Scritchfield
Photograph by Shutterstock/Magdanatka.

Did you hear the news? The “it girl” of leafy greens, kale, has hit the masses thanks to Starbucks smoothies, made in strawberry, mango carrot, and sweet greens flavors.

These new smoothies are made with Starbucks’ cold pressed Evolution Fresh juices and Dannon Greek yogurt. At home, you can use these same two ingredients and customize your smoothie by adding protein powder, more fruit, and everyone’s beloved green—kale.

Want to try these Starbucks-inspired smoothies at home and save some “green” in your wallet? Try these variations.

Super Simple Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

No juicer? No problem! Pick up your favorite Evolution Fresh juice from Starbucks or a local retailer. Blend with your favorite plain yogurt—Siggi’s or plain Chobani adds protein. Toss in some kale, ice, and voilà, a Starbucks-inspired smoothie.


1 cup juice

1 cup yogurt

3 kale leaves, stems removed

½ cup ice cubes

With all the varieties of Evolution Fresh juices, you can make any of these flavors: carrot orange mango, essential greens with lime, essential vegetable, organic avocado greens, orange, mango, organic grapefruit, and organic strawberry lemonade.

Whole Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

If you have a good blender or juicer, you can certainly use your own combination of fresh fruit and veggies to make even more varieties. A juicer will help remove fiber and pulp from vegetables and fruits, but if you don’t mind them in your smoothie, a blender can do the job too.

Basic Ingredients:

About 1 cup whole fruits and vegetables

1 cup yogurt

½-1 cup water, coconut water, milk, or soymilk

Blueberry Avocado Smoothie Ingredients:

½ cup blueberries, ½ avocado, ½ cup baby spinach

1 cup yogurt

½ cup water, coconut water, milk, or soymilk

Orange Banana Carrot Ingredients:

1 orange, segmented

½ banana

3 baby carrots, chopped to assist with blending

1 cup yogurt

½ cup water, coconut water, milk, or soymilk

Rebecca Scritchfield is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and founder of Capitol Nutrition Group in Washington, DC.

Want to share a healthy recipe with Well Being? Email details to

Posted at 11:43 AM/ET, 04/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Three of the biggest players on the spinning scene cater to different kinds of people. By Caroline Cunningham
Photograph of cyclist and SoulCycle courtesy of SoulCycle; Flywheel by Audrey Amelie Rudolf; Zengo Cycle by Greg Powers.


Although it’s new on Washington’s spinning scene, Flywheel has already made a name for itself in New York as SoulCycle’s archrival, and it’s guaranteed to bring out your competitive side as well. Perfect for Washington’s type-A crowd, Flywheel broadcasts the top 20 spinners’ stats on a screen during the class, so everyone knows who’s pedaling fastest and whose resistance is cranked up the highest. The Dupont Circle studio, which opened in March, also offers barre classes so patrons can mix up their sweat sessions with some low-impact workouts.

Individual classes are $28. 1927 Florida Ave., NW; 202-830-0755.

Zengo Cycle

For those who are serious about spinning but who still want a hip studio setting, Zengo is the rock ’n’ roll to all the Top 40 studios out there. It’s an intense routine that’s more about calories burned than it is about looking cool. You’ll find the same low lights, motivational playlists, and full-body workout, but without any kitschy catch phrases such as “tap it back” or “find your soul.”

Individual classes are $22. 4866 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 301-312-6658; 1508 14th St., NW, 202-588-1600; 215 Kentlands Blvd., Gaithersburg, 301-330-8333.


This popular studio from New York has built a cult following—and we mean cult. Group sessions are referred to as “riding with the pack,” and classes target empowerment almost as much as improving your physical fitness. Expect to find strongly scented candles, a slew of inspirational slogans, and many SoulCycle-swag-clad ladies. If you’ve always been “the hot girl,” these are your people. If you’ve always wanted to be one, you have your chance at the two area studios.

Individual classes are $30. 2301 M St., NW, 202-659-7685; 4931 Elm St., Bethesda, 301-803-7685.

This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 06:00 AM/ET, 04/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Take advantage of warmer temps at these alfresco sweat sessions. By Caroline Cunningham
Image courtesy CityCenterDC.

Ready to get in shape for your summer vacations? Now that spring is officially here bringing milder temperatures with it, there’s no excuse not to ramp up your workout routine. And CityCenterDC wants to help, hosting free yoga classes on their outdoor pavilion, The Park.

The classes will run every Tuesday night April 21 through May 26 at 6:30 PM, with instruction by VIDA Fitness trainers. From power yoga to vinyasa to hatha, each week’s class will focus on a different yoga variety, except for May 5, when they’ll run a special Cinco de Mayo Zumba fiesta.

Swing by on your way home for a workout, and take a swag bag filled with CityCenterDC, VIDA Fitness, and City Sports goodies home with you.

CityCenterDC, 825 10th St., NW; 202-289-9000.

Posted at 05:13 PM/ET, 04/07/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The interesting thing about going deaf is you don’t realize it’s happening. By Mary Louise Kelly
Photograph by Marek Brzezinski/iStock Photo

The interesting thing about going deaf is you don’t realize it’s happening. It’s impossible to pinpoint when everyone began to mumble, when you ceased hearing your own footsteps clicking down a hall.

“Is it the accents?” my husband asked when I complained that the actors on Downton Abbey spoke too fast. We started watching with subtitles. At the theater, I focused on the beauty of the sets and costumes because—though I would have denied this—I couldn’t follow the dialogue. Meanwhile, car horns and sirens dimmed. Packages didn’t arrive, yet the UPS man insisted he’d rung the bell three times. “Impossible,” I shot back. “I was home.”

My lowest moment came last spring at a reading to promote my first novel. A woman rose and recounted what I later learned was a risqué tale about a CIA spy (the book was an espionage thriller), then asked a question that had the audience in stitches. I squirmed, laughed along, and responded with what was surely a non sequitur, as I’d caught barely a word of what she’d said. In the taxi home, I thought: Enough.

Still, none of this prepared me for sitting in an audiologist’s office at age 43, being told that I suffered severe hearing loss. How severe? In one test, he stood across the room, spoke a series of words in a normal voice, and asked me to repeat them.

“Void,” he said.

“Void,” I repeated.

“Ditch,” he said.


Out of 20, I got 16. “Not perfect,” I sniffed, “but hardly severe.”

He repeated the test, now holding a sheet of paper before his face.

“Mumble,” he said.

“Um . . . repeat that one?”

“Mumble mumble.”


“Nope. Mumbledy mumble.”

This time, I got 6 out of 20. When I couldn’t see his lips move, I missed 70 percent of what he said.

“How are you even functioning?” he inquired, genuinely mystified.

As a reporter, I’ve spent time on aircraft carriers, in helicopters, in war zones. For two decades, I’ve edited stories on deadline through headphones cranked too loud. But the most likely explanation for my hearing loss? Genetics. My father is hard of hearing. So are his sisters and 96-year-old mother. I’ve long known what loomed in my future—I just hadn’t expected it so early.

My first day with hearing aids, I went about my routine with a sense of wonder. It was astonishing to rediscover that pop songs had words I could sing along to. “Have been bopping to an ’80s dance mix all morning,” I posted on Facebook. “I challenge anyone to deny Debbie Gibson was a genius ahead of her time.” (To which came the inevitable reply: “You need to get your hearing checked.”)

By day two, I was on sensory overload. Starbucks left me near tears—I’d had no idea frothing milk made such a racket. I jogged in Rock Creek Park and for the first time in years didn’t jump every time cyclists whizzed past, because I could hear them coming.

The doctors can’t say whether my hearing has stabilized or will worsen. And hearing aids are an imperfect solution. The experience is different from, say, getting glasses and instantly being able to see. It takes time for the brain to adjust, to relearn the pathways it once knew. You almost never recover all that has been lost.

But you do learn to savor small triumphs. The other day, the UPS driver rang my doorbell and I heard him—and tipped big. I still can’t watch TV without subtitles. But at a play recently, the curtain rose and I slumped in sheer relief at being able to follow the words. Not every line, but enough. I’m holding onto that theater program, a memento of a pleasure once dimmed, now mine once more.

Mary Louise Kelly is a former NPR intelligence correspondent. Her latest novel, "The Bullet," was just published.

This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:30 PM/ET, 04/07/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Here are the worst afternoon pick-me-ups at coffee chains in DC. By Caroline Cunningham
weedezign /

If you’ve hit that 3 PM slump and you’re reaching for your wallet to hit up the coffee shop on your block, be forewarned: you may be packing in a meal’s worth of calories and fat in those 16 ounces. While any drink that’s more cream and sugar than coffee isn’t a healthy choice, these drinks and pastries are particularly deadly.

With the help of local registered dietician and nutritionist Rima Kleiner, we got the skinny on the worst drinks and pastries from Starbucks, Corner Bakery, Dunkin’ Donuts, Peet’s, and Au Bon Pain.

Here’s a spoiler: anything with “chocolate” or “donut” in the name is likely a no-no.


Worst Drink

White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream (Grande, 16 oz., 2% milk)

The name sounds delicious, but the whipped cream alone packs a calorie-laden punch. “(This drink) contains nearly 500 calories, which is equivalent to the maximum amount of calories most of us (particularly women) need at a meal,” says Kleiner. “With 18 g total fat and 63 g carbohydrate, this drink isn't the worst of the offenders, but you won't be doing your waist any favors by sipping this drink.”

Worst Pastry

Old-Fashioned Glaze Doughnut

Just like your grandma’s cooking, this old fashioned treat is packed with sugary, fatty, when-did-these-pants-get-so-tight goodness. “This doughnut contains nearly 500 calories, with 27 g of fat and 1 measly gram of dietary fiber, which means that you can bet most of the 56 g of carbohydrates come from sugar,” says Kleiner.


Worst Drink

Truffle Hot Chocolate with whipped cream (Medium, 16 oz., whole milk)

If you’re going to drink something with “truffle” in the description, you might as well just go straight for a Big Mac. “This drink contains nearly 500 calories and contained by far the highest amounts of saturated fat (12 g) and sugar (a whopping 72 g) of all the medium drinks,” say Kleiner.

Worst Pastry

Cinnamon Crumb Muffin

Have you ever seen a fit-looking Muffin Man illustration? Neither have we. “This muffin took the cake for the least healthy numbers--650 calories (260 of those from fat) and 90 g of carbohydrate (more than half of those carbohydrates from sugar), with only 1 g of dietary fiber,” says Kleiner. “In other words, this muffin will bulk up your calorie intake without filling you up.”


Worst Drink

Frozen Caramel Coffee Coolatta with Cream (Medium)

As the temps warm up outside, sugary, frozen beverages get all the more tempting. “This is by fat the worst drink of all the offenders with more than 700 calories, 35 g of total fat (mostly saturated) and 97 g of sugar,” says Kleiner. “This sweet splurge supplies nearly four times the amount of sugar most adults should eat in one day with zero nutrients.”

Worst Pastry

Butternut Donut and the Blueberry Crumb Donut

We have a tie! “The only nutrition prize these donuts will win is ‘highest in empty calories.’ Each of these donuts contain about 500 calories and about 50 g of sugar,” says Kleiner.


Worst Drink

Coffee Free Caramel Javiva (Medium, 16 oz, 2% milk)

Go ahead and drink this if you want all of your teeth to rot. “Even without the whipped cream, this drink contains nearly 450 calories,” says Kleiner. “While other drinks at this coffee shop contained more calories and fat, this drink contained almost twice as much sugar (90 g) as the other drinks.”

Worst Pastry

Apple Cinnamon Chip Muffin

Just because it has apples in it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. “This muffin contains a whopping 780 calories (with 230 of those calories from fat) and only 1 g of dietary fiber, meaning you'll feel hungry soon after eating a meal and half's worth of calories,” says Kleiner.


Worst Drink

Hot Chocolate (medium)

You may need to think your winter warm-up go-to. “A plain hot chocolate sounds innocent enough, but this long-time favorite topped this coffee shop's worst offenders at 360 calories, 14 g total fat, 46 g of sugar and no dietary fiber,” says Kleiner.

Worst Pastry

Pecan Roll

If you’re trying to eat a couple ounces of nuts a day, don’t start here. “This list's second worst option tops out at 740 calories and a whopping 43 g of total fat. While this pastry provides a little fiber (due to the nuts), it contains 48 g of sugar and little nutritional value,” says Kleiner.


“Best picks at a coffee shop? Stick with a nonfat latte or cappuccino. If you're hungry, share a treat with a group of friends or opt for a carton of yogurt or a bag of trail mix,” says Kleiner.

Posted at 11:34 AM/ET, 04/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
See inside the New York-based spinning and barre studio’s first District spot. By Caroline Cunningham
All photographs courtesy Flywheel.

I should never have eaten a cheeseburger for dinner the night before—that was the last thing I wanted to think about while trying out FlyBarre and Flywheel, on the same day. The new Dupont fitness boutique doubles as a spin and a barre studio, and both workouts are intense enough in their own way that you’ll hope the only thing in your stomach is water, and lots of it.

Read More

Posted at 11:33 AM/ET, 03/31/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
These leggings are practically works of art. By Caroline Cunningham

Whether you’re a runner, a yogi, a cyclist, or a HIIT fanatic, leggings are likely a staple of your athletic wardrobe. If you’re none of these, then these 10 pairs of funky printed, pattered, and stand-out-even-in-a-dark-spin-studio tights are going to make you wish you worked out.

These aren’t your basic black leggings that are all function without the fun—these are the tights you buy to inspire yourself to get out of the winter rut and into a new sweat routine.

Rag & Bone athletic leggings? Yes, and they’re beautiful and available through Intermix’s new fitness apparel and accessories collection. Rag & Bone jean chevron print leggings, $228 at Intermix.

We’re not totally sure what’s going on here—maybe a window with a tree branch?—but like a good piece of abstract art, we think these are pretty cool. Revitalize leggings in Geo Run Print, $58 at MPG.

Swashes of bright colors and a cloud-like pattern across the waistband on these leggings will get your workout off on the right foot. Foreverun running tights, $150 at Nike.

This scaly pattern in shades of pink and purple is anything but boring. HeatGear Armour 29” print legging in aubergine, $49.99 at Under Armour.

If you’re not ready to go full-on neon at your next yoga class, try on these black and white floral leggings for size. Floral cropped active legging, $19 at Joe Fresh.

Not only does the blue swirl remind of us of a Van Gogh painting, the mesh calves will help make sure you don’t overheat in your next spin class. If You’re Lucky Pant, $108 at Lululemon.

If Lululemon is borrowing from Van Gogh, then Lucas Hugh must have Picasso on the brain. Bonus: there’s a built-in pocket for your cell phone. Lucas Hugh Leadlight printed stretch leggings, $410 at Net-A-Porter.

Take a trip somewhere tropical in these Hawaiian-print inspired tights. Floral Fade Sonar capri, $74 at Athleta.

These tights are an inverse mullet—a pattern party in the front with matte navy business in the back. Zella Adrenaline running tights, $64 at Nordstrom.

Every woman should feel like a superhero when she works out, even if it’s just the endorphins talking. Super logo graphic leggings, $45 at Adidas.

Posted at 01:23 PM/ET, 03/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()