Celebrating 30 years old: 1 year on Classpass, 30 pounds lighter, and way stronger

One year ago yesterday, I joined Classpass. It has truly changed my life. I originally joined as a gift to myself. I had just turned 29 years old and felt like I should be in better shape. I swore I’d look better at 30 than I did at 29.

In the past year, I have become a fitness addict, and now feel younger at 30 than I did when I was 21. I realized that physical limitations I thought I had because I was an uncoordinated kid from the suburbs are meaningless. Today, I rock fitness classes and feel like I can compete with anyone, regardless of age.

I wish I’d known when I was 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years old that I had it in me to be an excellent athlete. That said, watching people around me age, I recognize that the combination of eating well and participating in physical activity on a regular basis are the keys to healthy living. When I look at my 85-year-old grandfather, who has always been a fitness buff, and watch as he does his daily routine of situps and walks, I know that I’ve got at least 55 amazing years ahead of me.

Classpass, built for the ADHD-millennial lifestyle, allowed me to try tons of new fitness classes. I’m not sure why it worked, but it did, perhaps because I’m cheap and wanted to get the most out of the unlimited plan, just like I like to get the most out of all-you-can-eat sushi binges.

Now, as I head to England for a new adventure, I know that it is my own responsibility to stay fit. I plan to teach spin classes at Oxford, row on the River Thames, and continue to kickbox. I’m sure I’ll play some soccer, tennis, and run too.I know my most fit years are ahead of me, and fitness is as much about the mind as it is the body. I believe that I have now sent many of the ills I did my body during my first 29 years into reverse.

And of course, I must thank all of the amazing fitness instructors who made my mind and body transformations happen — losing 30 pounds while building tons of muscle. From cross-training to Aqua cycle to spin to kickboxing, thank you Melissa, Anne, Halston, Tarek, Kevin, Moses… the list can go on and on… for both correcting my form and pushing me to work harder every single day.

My sister and I, after we became Schwinn certified spin instructors.
My sister and I, after we became Schwinn certified spin instructors.

The New York City War on Tennis: Mayor Bloomberg Bans Smoking and Sodas, But Taxes Those Who Want to Stay Fit

While everyone’s talking about the War in Iraq and the War on Women, I want to shed light on another war: New York City’s War on Tennis Players.

While it may be more of a European past-time than an American one, tennis has always been my most beloved sport to play: The workout, the intensity, the one-on-one (or two-on-two) components … I could go on and on.

With pride, I estimate that 98% of my playing has been done on public courts. After failing to make it to any local New York City courts this summer, a friend and I decided to play a game for fun. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.

In New York, you cannot just play tennis on a whim. Nope, you need a permit. And there are two options: A $200 permit valid from April through November, or a one-hour, $15 permit.

Then, you have two more options: either purchase permits at the one or two locations in each borough that sells them — they’re not at the courts — or order one online and wait for a week while it’s mailed to you.

If you ever dreamed to experience a life like that of Kafka’s Josef K. in the 21st Century, then attempting to play tennis on New York’s public courts is surely your best option.

There aren’t any mobile apps for booking courts. Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson wrote me over e-mail, “We have launched a pilot program for online tennis reservations. It is in its early phases of development and we hope to further enhance it with additional services in the future. We don’t have any developments to speak of at this time regarding a mobile app.”

So much for New York being a technology hub or having a “Chief Digital Officer” to make life easier. Blah!

Tennis fees are up 100% since 2010. The New York City Parks Department’s First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh told me, “Prior to 2011, tennis fees had not seen an increase since 2003 … While we recognize that this increase may be unpopular to some, we believe it is fair and necessary. The increase in permit fees goes towards the city’s general fund which helps pay for services such as teachers, police, and sanitation, as well as our parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, ball-fields and tennis courts.” Because of the aforementioned 100% price increases, far fewer people are playing tennis, even though Mayor Bloomberg wants us all to be healthy and fit while not smoking anywhere and never drinking XXL sodas.

In 2010, when a full season tennis permit was sold for $100 for those aged 18-64, and $10 for anyone older than 64, the city sold 12,416 adult permits, 4,2032 senior permits, and 40,778 single play permits.

Yet in 2011, when the fees were massively increased to $200 for those aged 18-64, and $20 for anyone older than 64, only 7,411 adults and 5,202 senior sought permits.

This amounts first to a tax on working-age people, who are paying substantially higher prices for the same services. A 90% senior discount? That’s ludicrous. If diners or movie theaters and theme parks offered 90% off year-round, they’d be out of business. Plus, retirees presumably have a lot more time to play tennis (ahem, 9-5 Monday through Friday), so they also have way more access to facilities than working people and students.

Therefore, to presumably appeal to older voters, who vote at much higher rates than young people, Michael Bloomberg has created a de facto young person’s and working person’s tax on tennis. Per capita income in New York state only changed from $35,448 to $41,108 between 2003 and 2011, yet Bloomberg raised fees on tennis players by 100%. (Of course this is not a problem that a member of the 1% would deal with, as he and his chums just pay the $60-$120 hourly fees that are charged at private courts.)

This makes me wonder: Why doesn’t New York charge people each and every time they play basketball or handball on public courts? Volleyball? Football? Why is there only a tennis tax?

Abramson explained, “Parks has a long tradition of charging for tennis permits to raise revenue for the city, just as there is a fee for leagues to play on ball-fields and for members of the public to use our indoor recreation centers.”

Well, some traditions, like this one, should die. The Parks Department did not answer my repeated attempts for comment about why non-league play in other sports is free while tennis courts are always charged for. And what about low income people who want to play tennis?

“There is no discount based on income but we do have the free and low cost programs for children,” said Abramson, referring to $10 per year access permits.

So while other sports are egalitarian, tennis is still a sport of the elite in New York, but for no good reason. The middle class, working class, student class, and impoverished class of New York —  I’m talking about the 99% here — should rise up against this punishing tax that prevents people from playing one of the greatest games on earth.