Why Nina?

Nina Simone

If you know me or follow me on social media, you know that I often have Nina Simone moments. Mood swings when only Nina Simone’s music will do.  I’ve had more than a few of you ask, why Nina?  What’s the obsession?  It is usually a time when I am somber, mellow and reflective.  Getting lost in Nina’s voice is effortless.  It’s rich and complex.  It warms me like a favorite blanket.  Comforts me like a mother’s embrace.  Carries me like a river.  Today happens to be a Nina Simone kind of day.

One could argue that somber moments call for uplifting music.  That’s not true in my case.  For me, somber moments, reflective moments call for contemplative music.  Nina Simone’s music, whether a heartfelt ballad or funky blues, is contemplative and it is so because her voice is seductive and hypnotic.  Feeling somber?  Listen to “My Man’s Gone Now” or “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and Nina will share the moment with you.  She let’s you know that she indeed understands what you are going through.


Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933, Nina Simone is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated vocalist in jazz history.  She didn’t have the technically flawless voice of Sarah Vaughan or the swing of Ella Fitzgerald.  What she did posses was an uncanny ability to tell and sell a story.  An ability rivaled only by Billie Holiday.  As a musical griot, the High Priestess of Soul understood the pain of being misunderstood, unloved and uncomfortable and parlayed the bitterness of life into a song.  On stage and through song, Nina Simone represented the pride and soul of a people.


Most music fans under a certain age today attribute the song “Feeling Good” to Michael Buble.  There is no comparison, in my opinion, between the two.  Buble’s performance is technically sound.  There is no denying his talent as vocalist.  But when Nina sings “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me” you understand the pain, the hurt and sorrow of an old world that makes the new world so much sweeter.  The proclamation of freedom is immediately clear.  Feeling good having risen from a place of misery.  That song was successful because of Nina’s ability to sell the pain.

Nina is good company when I’m down.  Nina makes the sweet moments sweeter.  Nina puts me in touch with my own wretchedness.  Makes me feel sexy…  Makes me feel proud…  Makes me feel soulful.  And that is Why Nina.

The 30 Minute HIT

You’ve seen my Facebook posts and numerous gym selfies posted via Instagram.  And if you track me, you know that I make an effort to stay fit.  I believe that it is a cornerstone of stability and happiness.  Unbeknownst to me, my workouts have been lacking.  Somewhere along the line in mid-winter I slowly begin to slack off.  The sessions are shorter, less intense and less focused.  But I’m there and that’s all that counts, right?  That’s what I tell myself anyway.  It wasn’t until I signed up for the Les Mills Grit series that I discovered just how out of shape I was.  At least as far as cardiovascular health is concerned.

I saw the signs at my local YMCA announcing the 6 week series and thought…this could be fun.  He (i.e. me) scoffed at the $125 price tag when I made an inquiry with the front desk folk.  So I continued my lame workouts and started to ignore the posters on the walls and the big cardboard stand up outside the cardio room.  Yet is kept calling me.  “Do it Joe.  It’ll be fun”.  “You’re in shape, it will be a breeze.”  I’m a consumer.  I consume things.  It’s in my nature.  $125 check in hand, I ventured back to the front desk and signed up for the twice per week, 6 week class and thought no more about it.

At the end of class 1 I was shocked, devastated, perplexed, angry and nearly dead.  How could I have fooled myself into thinking I was fit.  I’ve competed in triathlons for Pete’s sake! Sure it’s been 2 years but I did them damn it!  This program had me heaving like a run-away slave with hounds at my heels.  And it was only 30 minutes long!  Time out.  Before you call me a pussy, let’s take a look at this thing.

Les Mills Grit is a trade marked 30 minute high intensity interval training program.  It is part of a growing trend of programs designed to deliver maximum effort in a condensed format.  For the record, I am not an employee of this program and I received no consideration, monetary or otherwise, for this review.

The program that I am enrolled in mixes three unique workouts:  strength, plyo and cardio.  My program is scheduled for twice a week for six weeks.  I am in week two.  Aside from actual triathlon competition, it is the most intensive workout I have ever done.

The Strength program uses barbells, weight plates and leverages body weight to work all major muscle groups.  I lift weights so no problem for me, right?  Wrong.  Mixing the weight with cardio and providing very few recovery periods made for an intense training session.  In fact, I pooped out on parts of the last two exercises.

The Plyo program is a plyometric based workout.  Plyometric is also known as jump training.  Jump training are exercises based around having muscles exert maximum force in as short a time period as possible to increase speed and power.  Lots of burpees, squats, jump-tucks and the like.  It too was so intense that I didn’t quite finish parts of the last two sets.  My legs were like jelly at the end of the session and a clear indication that I have neglected them during my workouts.

The Cardio workout utilizes high-impact body weight exercises and uses no equipment.  There is a goofy warm up at the beginning where you run around the room and dodge each other.  It felt a little like kindergarten recess but, once past that point, things get intense with sprints, front-back lunges, jumps, side-to-side lunges, push-ups and more with very short recovery periods.  My heart rate was elevated for almost the entire 30 minutes.

I am completely exhausted after each class and it is the most intensive workout I’ve ever done.  Three classes in and I already feel quicker and stronger.  I think, for once, that I just might get my summer body back long before the start of summer.  I have mad respect and appreciation for my trainer Lindsey Blair who pushes me for maximum effort.

Here’s a look at the Les Mills Grit cardio workout: