The Life of Riley

a quest for the good life in New York City and beyond



Total Ellipse of the Heart

are-you-readyThe elliptical machine and I have a complicated relationship. Days go by without so much as a passing glance between the two of us. And when we do “share a moment,” it’s hard to gauge how things will end up at the end of the date. I want to love it, but I’m afraid of commitment.

What can I say? I’m a player. I’m guilty of yo-yo exercising. One week I’m hot and heavy, working out, feeling the burn, and loving every minute of it. The next week . . . well, not so much. An old knee injury makes running, another past love interest, a true challenge. I do run occasionally, but I’m unable to give it my all the way I’d like to. So I alternate exercises, trying to push past the monotony of same old same old. I’m not a one exercise kind of girl. And that’s where the elliptical came into my life.

The first time I tried it, my teenage daughter, Jordan, actually introduced us, and walked me through the steps of setting up a basic workout. I couldn’t help noticing how comfortable she was with her elliptical–taking breaks to adjust her iPhone settings, brush hair out of her eyes or grab a sip of water. She and her elliptical were a team. Jealousy grew as I watched their ease with one another. Too much pressure. I swore I’d never double date again.

I almost fell twice, trying to adjust my feet just right, because, well, I didn’t want to fall off. As sweat pulsed through my pores so did the worry over fainting or crumbling into a heap on the gym floor, my spaghetti noodle legs dangling over the side of the machine, a true metaphor for defeat. All of the other people in the gym looked compatible with their machines. Was it just me? When the workout ended, I strolled out of the gym, playing it cool, without even a second glance at my machine.

The next day I jumped back on. Steady, steady, I whispered to myself, trying to gain my balance and composure while maneuvering the beast. Although the work out felt harder than the first time, I assumed it was normal for the second day. My legs burned, my entire body trembled but I continued on, remembering “no pain no gain.” Nearing the end of my workout, Jordan walked in and hopped on the machine next to me but stopped and stared. I knew the look on her face well–that embarrassed look she’d get whenever I did something she thought was totally uncool, like singing all of the words to “Ice Ice Baby” in front of her friends.

“Have you been working out like this the entire time?” She asked in amazement.

“Yes,” I answered, “Why?” I looked down to where she pointed, recognizing the awkward movement of my feet.

She leaned in to me. “You’ve been doing the elliptical backwards.”

Explaining later that the pain I felt while working out meant that I wasn’t doing something right–”it should never hurt,” she said–Jordan gave me some tips on working through the awkwardness of learning a new piece of equipment, especially one so complex as the Elliptical.

For a time, I did everything to avoid meeting up with the elliptical. I wasn’t ready. I ran stairs, walked and jogged my neighborhood, worked out with weights and if I’m putting it all out there, did nothing on many days. All the while, longing for one more chance to make it right.

I’m back in the game again. It’s only been a few days, and I’m still 100% awkward and uncomfortable on the elliptical. I continue to watch others with their ellipticals, hoping for pointers in making my relationship better, stronger. This time I’m in with both feet, feet that are moving forwards not backwards. And when I play our song–yes, we have a song–I forget about all of the baggage, the missteps, the awkwardness, and simply hold on, enjoying the bumpy ride and anticipating another day of discovering the nuances of the elliptical and myself. After all, isn’t that how love begins?


A League of Their Own: ZogSports Plays It Forward

ZogSports on Roosevelt Island

During the weekends, especially spring and summer, Roosevelt Island’s Fire Fighters Field, Octagon Field and Pony Field come to life courtesy of the Zoggers. Like a rare breed of exotic bird descending the fields in their colorful sneakers and occasional old-school knee-high socks, Zoggers congregate, strategize and ultimately play ball—be it kickball, dodgeball, football, or baseball. Styling team colored tee shirts with cool names like Catchers in the Rye and Purple Reign, the Zoggers, whether on the field or in the local Bar & Grill afterwards, make their presence known. They’re loud, really loud—laughing, talking, and cheering . . . nonstop. And it makes you feel good just being around it, little snippets of laughter sneaking in through open windows or tapping you on the shoulder while walking by on a sunny day. You begin to look for your favorite player or the most engaging team, high-fivers, and talk about the games later, as if you were a part of it all. I had to know more about this phenomenon. I asked around, did a little research, and discovered a wonderful back story as motivational as the Zoggers themselves.

Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, ZogSports remains true to its original mission. “When I conceived ZogSports post 9/11 everyone was asking what they could do to give back,” says founder and CEO Robert Herzog. “I predicted that the whole kumbaya feeling wouldn’t last so I decided to integrate charity and social good into something people wanted to do anyway – play team sports, hang with their friends and meet new people. It worked. Getting teams to think about what charity they will play for and raising awareness is much more important than the $1.4MM we’ve donated. We strive to encourage social good and feel great about what we’ve accomplished so far.” Here’s a copy of Herzog’s letter to the ZogSports family on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th which tells his moving story.

ZogSports offers an impressive sports sampling with 4 different competition levels, creating an appealing and diverse community for everyone from the ex-college athlete to the New York artist. “Zoggers are fun, social New Yorkers,” explains Ali Chanin, Director of Marketing at ZogSports. “Most people that play in our leagues are young professionals in their 20s and 30s.”

And Zog takes care of everything. They find appropriate fields and provide the refs and the equipment, allowing teams to concentrate on the game at hand. Each team selects a charity of choice to play for and ZogSports donates a percentage of league profits to the winning teams’ charities each season. The final piece to the ZogSports puzzle is the social element. “We get the party started,” Ali declares. All of the leagues have organized happy hours after every game. Participants are able to not only hang out with their own team but have the opportunity to mingle with the other team as well—Zog’s version of the end of game handshake.

“Everyone loves Zog,” says Sophie Gorson.” I love the energy, the people, and playing a team sport. Sophie missed playing team sports and heard about Zog from a friend already in a league. Her experience allowed her the opportunity to get in a much-needed workout while becoming a part of a fun community. Favorite Zog sport? “I am particularly fond of dodgeball . . . great way to get some stress out after a long day at the office.”

Sophie and her fellow Zoggers

Jonathan Sosis needed a workout that didn’t include the same old boring gym routine. “I absolutely hate the gym so it made me feel better about having the diet of a nine-year-old.” His sports include football and kickball. The sense of community also drew Jonathan to Zog as he wanted to expand his circle of friends. “Everyone just relies on one another to show up and play each game,” explains Jonathan, “and then win or lose, we go off to the bars to just hang out and have fun.”

Because ZogSports is co-ed, the organization has seen its share of romances too. Zog believes that co-ed teams make the leagues more social. “While everyone likes to win, having co-ed leagues takes some of the emphasis off winning vs. losing and promotes people to play for the fun of the game,” says Ali, acknowledging that it also increases happy hour attendance. “I’ve overheard quite a few guys and girls encouraging their teams/opponents to go to happy hour because they wanted to meet someone they found attractive on the other team.” You might say that they’re the Love Connection of New York sports. Over 50 married couples have found love while playing on a ZogSports team.

With locations in New Jersey, DC, Hartford, Atlanta, and  soon Minneapolis, ZogSports is spreading the love. If you’re pumped and ready to join a team or sitting on the sidelines but interested in learning more about this inspiring organization, you can visit their website at Be sure to connect with them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for updates, cool photos, videos, and all things Zog.

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