Life Time Westchester makeover

The White Plains-based facility takes on WAG’s editor as she takes on a mini version of its “60day Challenge.”

I like to think of myself as healthy and vigorous. But years of writing, eating — sheer living — have taken their toll.

One day on my lunchtime walk around Westchester Park Center in White Plains, I saw a sign for the “60day Challenge” at Life Time Westchester, a neighbor of WAG’s, and thought, Why not? My modest goal — to turn my Mediterranean diet and walking/yoga/weightlifting routine up a notch and drop 10 to 15 pounds. 

A lifetime ago, I worked in a building that occupied the Life Time footprint, that of The Journal News. Going there, even for a walk, makes me feel like Charles Ryder, the protagonist in “Brideshead Revisited,” who returns in wartime to the estate of his youth where he discovered love and where he kindles faith through the memory of that love. 

So, complex emotions. But Susan Mistri, general manager of Life Time Athletic Westchester in White Plains, and her staff have always been so gracious to me and WAG that I felt less trepidatious. Besides, the fortune I got recently at the Chinese restaurant where I write each Sunday quoted Lao Tzu’s famous saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

So I take that step. 


I arrive at 7 a.m. on a day off for my Active Metabolic Assessment with onboarding specialist Samantha Sciavillo, who works with new members under the supervision of group training coordinator Myrna Brady and metabolic specialist Dan Guanzon. The first thing I do is step on the InBody Scale. Good news:  I’ve already dropped 2 ½ pounds, and I haven’t even begun the program. Unfortunately, my muscle mass is not as good as it should be, while my body fat and water retention percentages are too high.

Time to get on the treadmill for the Active Metabolic Assessment. I wear a mask to breathe into, which will gauge my target heart rate for fat burning. Having elected to trade some speed for incline — mimicking my brisk daily walk around the hilly office park — I’m pleased to challenge myself but not overdo it the first time out. Plus, the pace gives me a chance to observe my surroundings — a vast room filled with exercise machines and, at this early hour, plenty of exercisers. In front of me, a Life Time instructor puts a class through its paces on the treadmill and on a step using weights. On a far wall, a bank of TVs broadcasts Wimbledon and the news, but everyone seems too focused on his workout to notice.

Walking on the treadmill while wearing the mask is like walking fast with a heavy cold. Still, I do what I have to do. Samantha says she herself finds it hard to do this as well, so I don’t feel too bad.

With the test done, it’s time to cool off and stop by the front desk to chat with Donnie Lambert, one of the many lovely employees I’ve gotten to know from my regular coffee runs at the Life Time Café. He advises me to write a good article and lay off chocolate. 

Work with me, Donnie.


Active Metabolic Assessment results day. Samantha goes over the findings, which seem only slightly more complicated than the stock market. My brain is doing that hamster on a wheel thing that Homer does on “The Simpsons.” Bottom line:  I have a good fat burning percentage, “which is not surprising, because you don’t eat a lot of processed foods,” Samantha says. But I have a poor volume of oxygen from not pushing myself enough on my walks. To address this, I will be in the Team Burn class at 7 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for a month, doing a half-hour of cardio on the treadmill and a half hour of strength training and core work each day. Plus, I’ll be sampling other classes in disciplines I’m more familiar with, like ballet and yoga. 

What am I getting into? Still, I think if I can operate a washing machine, I should be able to handle a treadmill, right?


Day one of my mini, one-month Challenge, and it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. (Yes, I tend to overthink.) Trainer Natalia Pagni and the class are friendly and welcoming and I keep up, making a few adjustments for my Rafael Nadal knees. (Ah, if only the rest of Rafa came with them.) I have to do baby pushups on my knees, though, as I am not strong enough to hold plank pose (on your toes and hands) while raising one hand. (Grrr.) I’m assigning myself plank pose for homework.

Plus, there’s rowing. No one told me about the rowing. I love rowing. On the machine, I am one with every team that ever crewed, along with galley slaves Ramon Novarro and Charlton Heston in the 1925 and 1959 versions of “Ben-Hur” respectively. 

“Row well and live.”


Day two and a challenge because Life Time Westchester is undergoing renovations. But a true champion perseveres despite obstacles, so I hit my weigh-in — I’ve dropped another pound — and the treadmill. On a screen on the far wall, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic — the extremely thin and fit Murray and Djokovic — are warming up at Wimbledon. Wonder how many times a week they hit the treadmill?

Next month:  The quest continues with a food journal – and me at the barre. Meanwhile, the “60day Challenge” – a kind of “The Biggest Loser” competition with prizes in weight loss and transformation categories — revs up again Aug. 12. A single membership at Life Time is $189 a month.

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