My Koko Fitclub Experience

When it comes to Five Towns fitness, I’ve tried it all!

I was a member at some point of Club Central, New York Sportsclub and Life Fitness where I had to motivate myself 3-4 times a week to hit the treadmill and take classes. Often I found after a month or two boredom set in and my motivation drop. The classes, some were great, others made me feel like a number and always less fit, less flexible, less in shape than everyone else. But the monthly fee was low and it was better than nothing.

One year I was lucky enough to join PTI, a personal training center where for a high monthly fee you get 3 30 minute one-on-one sessions. I justified the extra cost by quitting my regular gym and telling my husband all this working out will keep me from lunching and spending in other areas. I loved that I had no choice but to show up those 3 days a week, or else I had a trainer waiting and mad. And you didn’t want to mess with some of these trainers.

Then I discovered Warren Levi Karate. I heard their bootcamp classes were insane and since they needed a website, and PTI was closing, I worked out a deal and gave Warren a shot. This move eventually turned into a 3 year (and counting) addiction that has changed my body and my life. The intimate small classes that marry cardio and strength in creative and entertaining ways has kept my Fitness ADD in line. You get to know your Sensei  and he gets to know you. It’s the best of both worlds for me since not showing up feels like not showing up to a personal training session. When my husband started doing Insanity at home, a popular intense fitness video, I told him that Bootcamp is exactly like Insanity.  The only drawback is the lack of cardio equipment for the days I don’t do classes, and of course it’s not cheap. (However I heard that they plan on getting cardio equipment  in their new location, a move I think is brilliant.)

So when Koko Fitclub, a new local fitness center that claims they have new technical twist on fitness, offered to hook me up with a 3 months trial, I decided to try it out. (In conjunction of course with Warren Levi) I was curious about what makes this different than a regular gym and can it really take the place of a personal trainer since they have something called “smart training”  which eliminates trainers but still gives you a personalized experience.


My first impression the day I signed up was how modern and pretty the place was. I loved the bamboo decor and the colors (orange and brown) felt very natural. The place isn’t so big, but since each machine does dozens of exercises  it doesn’t have to be. I got my welcome package which included a water bottle, t-shirt, set of headphones and Koko Key in a bright orange Koko bag.


The Koko key is literally the key everything here. You use it to enter the facility when they are closed, a concept I found extremely appealing. I can go workout at 3am, or midnight if I please, with this key! In fact my very first session I arrived at 7:30am, before opening. I loved waving that key and unlocking the door. It felt like my own private club.

The key is used for the FitCheck machine, the strength machines and the cardio. It automatically tracks and reports your progress and performance during and after each session, plus it controls the strength training  programs you are on. (Flashback of my New York Sportsclub days, trying to scribble the weight amount and how many reps I did myself, always losing motivation after 2-3 weeks.) So after telling them my goals they downloaded the right program for me onto my key and I was ready to go.

The first thing I did was remove my shoes and go on the FitcCheck machine. It does not weigh you…at least not in the traditional sense. Koko is very anti being focused on your weight. Instead it measures your EBMI which is your Enhanced Body Mass measurement. (Which means it calculates and tracks your body’s lean muscle level.) So it gives you a number and if your goal is to lose weight, you want to get that EBMI number down and your muscle weight up.

I started my first session with the strength machine.
I plugged in my key and it downloaded my program. There’s a pivoting screen that walks you through each exercise. It tells you how much weight you need and will beep if you mistakingly choose the wrong weight. It has an image that shows your movement and the goal is to stay within a certain point and it grades you based on how well you did. It even gives you koko points at the end of each session, a very good motivator for someone like me. Overall my session was much less intense than what I’m used to at bootcamp, but nevertheless, it was enjoyable, interesting and easy to follow. It wasn’t exactly like having a human personal trainer but it was a close second, plus I didn’t have to make boring small talk.


I then tried the cardio portion which did not impress me. For such an advanced fitness program, the cardio part is lacking. After you plug in your key it gives you instructions to plug in your headphones to an ipod that is Velcro’d onto the machine and you have to manually pick a program and listen to a voice give you instructions on what to do on your treadmill or elliptical. There’s no music, only a voice that tells you when to go faster and higher and gives you tips in between. I found myself daydreaming and then missing his instructions. Meanwhile the screen, wich has such potential…only shows exactly what the machine shows, how fast you are going and the time. After my first session I opted to use the cardio machines the traditional way, listening to music on my iphone and doing my own program. I’m still getting a great workout. I complained about this and was told Koko is very soon unrolling a cardio program equivalent to their fantastic strength program, utilizing that screen and allowing you to listen to music. I’m glad to hear that!

As of today I have been doing Koko in conjunction with Warren Levi for 3 weeks.  I love the personalized website I got that tracks my progress. My EBMI has actually gone down 1 point too! And the strength sessions are getting more and more intense so much so that I actually feel sore. I’m loving the fact that I can come in at all hours. I’m loving how quiet it is there though as it gets more members that can change. I’m not impressed with the cardio portion, but I’m thrilled to have access to a treadmill since with Warren Levi I currently don’t.  So far I think it’s the second best thing to getting a personal trainer and for under $100 a month, way way more affordable. For someone who loses motivation easily, who loves keeping track of progress and seeing results written out and who needs to have each exercise walked through, it’s a great solution.

I forgot to mention the Kokofuel part which is another cool service they just unrolled. Based on your program they create a customized meal plan to properly FUEL your body with proper nutrition. I printed out my plan and it looked doable and actually delicious, except I’m not in the mood right now to follow a meal plan. But I think it’s a great feature and saves you on nutritionist bills if you were the type to go to one.

So I have 2 more months to go and I’m really curious if my motivation remains, if my EBMI goes down further, if I get stronger, if this works for me. Will keep you posted as I progress!

Check out their Facebook page here.



Mar 3, 2013 / Musings

Tribute to SABRAS

url-2Standing on my tippy toes so he could see me behind the counter.

“One slice please ” I call out above the loud chatter emanating from the crowds. My Mom and Sister  are sitting a few feet away enjoying a pizza lunch and I’m on slice number 2.

“One dollar” he says, giving me a wink.


It’s the 1980’s and this is the only game in the Five Towns, at least as far as I know.


We went there every Sunday and sometimes Thursday followed by Baskin Robbins next door. Those were the days when my stomach (and waist line) could handle 2 slices, french fries and a sundae.

Fast forward 6th grade. I’m old enough to go to town by myself. Old enough to notice the boys my age hanging out there. We catch a bus from Far Rockaway, or we bike, or walk and SABRAS is always our first stop. We grab a table and glance at the boys we know from the hood. They glance back. 7th grade, the boys say hi. 8th grade, they walk over and join. We feel cool. (We are TAG girls after all)

Saturday night. SABRAS is the place to see and be seen.

I always make sure to look “cool” before stepping in. It’s jam-packed with teens. It’s the place to be.

I like that I know him, the guy behind the counter and that he knows me. He’s always nice and sometimes forgives me if I’m short a dollar. “Bring it next time.”

Saturday nights. The lines are out the door. But the Spinach pizza is unparalleled. It’s worth the wait.

I move to Brooklyn. I go to Israel for the year. College. Upper West Side. SABRAS is a distant memory.

One day I see him at a pizza store not far from my Upper West side digs. He looks the same but he’s older. He left SABRAS for another pizza job. I find it funny. He followed me to NYC.

Marriage. Riverdale. Then back to the good ole’ Five Towns.
Sabras still standing but now pizza is $2. But there are others now. The neighborhood has exploded. Still, SABRAS is the best.

Kids. I bring them there because where else should I go? He’s back now (couldn’t stay away) and I show off my babies. He chuckles recalling me pretty close to that age.

But I’m so so busy now and  I never ever carry cash, and he won’t take credit.

So I go a few doors down. No guilt. There’s enough business for all.

Occasionally I go back saturday nights with my husband. He’ll only eat there and he only gets Spinach with Tehina on the side.

My kids grow up on the other pizza and won’t eat anywhere else. I beg them when I have cash to go to SABRAS, but they refuse. So except for the rare Saturday night, I stop seeing him.  I take it for granted that SABRAS will always be there and that we 70’s and 80’s kids will always have SABRAS, rickety sign and all.

Then I hear the sad news. SABRAS is closing it’s doors.

Like the death of an old movie star, one that has not been in the news for decades,  the memories of  the glory days come rushing in.
In the same graveyard that holds KING DAVID, BURGER NOSH, BASKIN ROBBINS and all the other mainstays of our Youth, SABRAS now joins. Another childhood destination gone, existing only in our collective memories. Nothing lasts forever.

Central Avenue. Constantly evolving to suit the times. To survive one must go with the times. It’s not good enough to be good. You need facebook, e-marketing, pintrest, instagram and above all, you need to accept credit cards….in other words, you need to reach out to your demographic.

SABRAS pizza, the best, but who has time to pop into the bank each time my kids crave pizza. And as a grown up watching my weight, I need a salad bar. It was being cashless and weight conscientious that converted me.

But what about him? The man who has been there since I was in diapers.

He’ll have to find something new. So is life.

SABRAS, we’ll miss you, your Spinach Slices and Cabbage Soup and mot of all the good times.



Feb 17, 2013 / Musings

Day 3-The End!

They say that if your kid hates a certain food you should just keep serving it until the kid acquires a taste for it. I think there are even grown up foods like coffee, sushi, wine that you need to try several times until you get accustomed to the taste and then you can’t live without it.

I think that this held true for me with both the green juice and spicy lemonade.

The morning of day 3 I woke another 1/2 pound lighter making it a total of 3 lbs lost in 3 days. You can argue that it’s water weight but who cares…my Jeans fit better so it’s real to me. I now understand why celebs and those who have an event coming up do these crazy diets. They work…the question is how long will it last?

I remember a friend of mine who was always bone thin had a few pounds to lose after her baby. She got a stomach virus and off came her last 5 lbs in one week. A few months later I saw her and she looked amazing. I asked her if she ever gained those 5 lbs back after her virus and she said no. Every time one of our kids have a stomach bug we joke about coming over to catch it.

So my conclusion about Juicing is that it’s an excellent, albeit extreme way to
A) Kick start a diet
B) Lose a few pounds for a simcha or beach vacation
C) Rid yourself of cravings for bad things like sugar, bread, white flour, fried food etc.

After 3 days of eating only Juice and the occasional broccoli, string beans I now only have a craving for a big salad with grilled chicken. Not to say the next time I’m faced with a Nutella whipped cream banana pizza (which they serve at Upper Crust) I won’t be dying!  I guess keeping weight off  (in your 30’s) really comes down to being hyper aware of what you put in your mouth all the time.

Now, summary of my last day….

Slept great! No hunger at all. The Chunky Monkey really filled me up.
7am: Woke up with so much energy
I almost felt manic….I was talking faster, moving faster…felt like I chugged an energy drink but all I had was a bit of coffee and my green drink.
I actually didn’t mind the green drink. I’ve grown used to the taste and it kept me going till….

10am: I had done my bootcamp. I felt just as strong (or weak) as usual during bootcamp. It was time for my (ugh) lemonade which I discovered if you chug it down fast, like vodka, you barely taste the cayenne and it’s actually good.

I needed to chew on something so I had a bowl of roasted broccoli with pepper and garlic powder and lemon. It was Heaven. Right now broccoli is just as satisfying as a bowl of pasta. This is what it has come to…but that’s a good thing.


12pm: Had my green drink (the 2nd to last one I’m probably ever having unless I decide to  Juice again) and it kept me full till

The smell of the challah baking in my oven nearly did me in.

but I survived till my 3pm drink which was my least fave because I hate beets. But if you like beets and pineapples…you would probably enjoy this.

Now I had made plans before I decided to Juice to see Evita and stay overnight in the city with my husband. We also had plans to go out for dinner at a fancy restaurant but I nixed that one.  Instead we quickly stopped by Mr. Broadway to grab a quick bite before the show.  And being that I am allowed egg whites and broccoli I gave myself permission to order that. (told waiter to hold the salt and oil)
It tasted bland.

My final green drink was a new twist..spinach and pineapple juice.
I couldn’t finish it since I was full from the eggs.
I couldn’t even finish the last almond date drink.

Evita was fun!

And that was the end of my 3 day juicing! 3 lbs lighter. Not missing bread, sugar or junkfood even a little…

The next morning I could have anything I please! I stopped by a coffe shop on my way back home from the hotel and whaddaya know…instead of the mocha frappacino with a nice yummy muffin I was craving for….

I got myself another juice.


Jan 11, 2013 / Musings

Day 2 Juicing-Almost there!

Okay, last night was hard.

After drinking my 9pm almond date mixture I went to sleep full only to feel that aching gnawing hunger pain at 3am.
But when I woke 2.5 lbs lighter (I know, I know, it’s water weight) I was very pleased.
In fact I felt quite energetic.
8am-Had coffee and my Green Juice. I can see myself getting sick of this juice.
I made it to Bootcamp (late as usual) and afterwards Warren Levi, our instructor, went around asking everyone what they plan on eating today.
When it was my turn I said “I’m Juicing” and he made me do 10 pushups. I didn’t get why he punished me for Juicing until I realized he thought I was talking about steroids. Oh well!
At 10am I was STARVING! Like in it’s yom kippur and there’s 1 hour left till I can break the fast starving. So I went to Gourmet and got the foods I am allowed on this diet. Broccoli, green beans, lemon and celery.
I ran home and quickly microwaved the string beans, threw on some garlic powder and pepper and they seriously tasted like heaven. It’s funny when you deprive yourself of crap the good stuff tastes amazing! I enjoyed every bite and had some of the nasty lemon drink with cayenne that I’m supposed to have with it.

12pm: Lunch. Same ole’ green drink. Yawn! But it kept me full till…

3pm: Starting to feel hungry again. Thank G-d for the Acai drink. Heading towards the hardest time of the day when the kids are home and they need to eat….

4pm: I am greeted by the smell of fresh baked cookies that my amazing housekeeper whipped up.  It smells heavenly but I did not stray. Nope. Not even a bite.
But it did make me kinda cranky. My poor kids can attest.

6pm: Ahhhh…green drink again. This time I didn’t make it into soup.

8:45pm: Finally I get to taste the famous “Chunky Monkey” made with Peanut butter and bananas. Surprisingly only 1 gram of fat…I do not know how they do it.
It tastes…like Peanut butter and bananas. It’s like a thick smoothie. It’s actually really good and I can see myself drinking it even after I stop Juicing.
Now, aside from my 2.5 weight loss in one day…which real or not, feels great, I found I was much sharper today. It’s like my concentration is better. I’m more focused. I don’t know if I can attribute it to Juicing…but I definitely feel different in a good way.

Just need to get through tomorrow and I can cross Juicing off my bucket list.

Oh yeah, 6 more people (that I know of) were inspired and are going to Juice too. Pretty cool!.

Jan 10, 2013 / Musings

Day One Juicing-I survived

So after a month long binge fest at some of the finest Kosher establishments in NY, I needed to detox.
Juicing is all the rage so naturally I turned to facebook to ask for guidance which led me to this brooklyn local called “The Jus Bar” (coming soon to the Five Towns) where they specialize in just that. They are not my client (not yet at least) and I am not getting paid to do this. I simply want to share my experience for any of you interested.

For $150…not a small price…you get 3 days worth of Juicing plus the cell phone of the owner, Julie Maleh, who is ready to help you through this 3 day challenge.

So myself and 2 other brave friends decided to do it and here’s how my day went.

7am- I wake and weigh myself. A true lady will never reveal her weight so let’s just say I would love to go down 3-4 lbs by Day 3.
8am- Breakfast! It’s called the Morning Glow and it is made with Romaine, Spinach, Celery, Kale, Apple, Pear, banana, berries and filtered water. It also is surprisingly good. It’s kinda sweet. Thick but not too thick. Kinda refreshing. And I actually skipped my coffee and still had energy after I drank this. However I’m not a big coffee addict so I assume most will still need their morning drug. Which is allowed on this diet with a natural sweetener. I made it to Bootcamp and felt no better or worst.

10am- Time for the Spicy Lemonade. Honestly, I didn’t love this. It was too spicy for my taste. I nursed it for an hour and gave up when I was 2/3rd done. Supposedly the cayenne in it boosts your metabolism causing you to burn calories faster. My two Juicing buddies actually loved this drink.

12pm- My first challenge of the day. I had a birthday lunch for a friend at local restaurant filled with temptations…but no way would I cancel or break my Juicing diet. I brought my lunch with me, which was the same Morning Glory drink I had at 8am.  Tried to sneak it under my scarf but got caught anyway…Kudos to the Mashkiach.  So I ordered a plate of steamed broccoli ..which is allowed on this diet.  Let’s just say as I sat eating my broccoli while my friends had real food, I felt quite the caricature of a Five Towns Lady. But at least I can laugh at myself.  On another note shame on this restaurant for charging me $9.95 for a plate of broccoli! After lunch I was able to have the rest of my green juice.

3pm: I’m starting to feel hungry, as in I need something sweet now!!!! Thank G-d my 3pm juice was the Acai blend. It’s super sweet and tastes like a really good fresh smoothie. It kept me going until…..


5pm: My house is filled with the smells of fried fish, mac and cheese and homemade blintzes. I’m starving! I wish I had a cold where I couldn’t smell because I just discovered that the sense of smell is what is responsible for most sabotaged diets. But I held strong…did not give in. But as I write this I’m still dreaming of that fried fish….
What I did discover is that there should be a warning label not to do anything that requires patience while juicing. Case in point, homework….it was not fun.


6pm: So I’m bored of the green drink already but that’s my din din…so I decide to be creative and heat it up. Why not feel like I’m having soup. Bad idea…it tastes like I’m drinking a watery juice from a bowl. I ended up not even finishing it.

8:30:  So there’s one more drink to go…I’m going to have it at 9pm. It’s called Almond Breeze and it’s made with almonds and dates. This one sounds yum…maybe I’ll have it in bed while I watch The Carrie Diaries…(I just took a taste so I can share it with you…it’s as yum as it sounds…kinda grainy, sweet as anything, milky tasting. I love this one!)

Summary: So Day 1 was a real challenge. Not yet sure if I’ll wake up tomorrow ravenous, weaker, lighter….
They say Juicing helps clean out your system and kickstart a healthier lifestyle. We shall see…..

Jan 9, 2013 / Musings

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