We are so excited to be featuring fitpro, Leslie Greenwood, a lawyer and former dean at a New York City law school, who followed her life-long passion in dance and fitness to pursue a career doing what she loves. Now a seasoned instructor at NYC-based studio SLT, she teaches at their Manhattan, Hamptons and NYC suburb studios. She's also taken her passion on the road and has guest taught at megaformer studios in Sydney and Miami.
Leslie is a former neighbor of mine and she was always running around looking so chic in the latest workout gear! I was so interested to pick her brain and get her expert diet and fitness tips as well as the scoop on SLT, which has amassed a cult-following and was recently featured on Good Morning America. Of course, Leslie also knows a thing or two about where to find the most coveted athleisure designers. ;)
Tell us about SLT and Megaformer and what differentiates them from other workouts.
SLT stands for Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone. It is a 50-minute Lagree fitness-based workout done on a machine called a megaformer, which is basically an amped-up Pilates reformer with different straps, bands, bars, and handles than the traditional version. Because the workout requires quick transitions between very challenging moves that work your body in ways other workouts can’t, we say it combines cardio and strength training into one workout. Though the transitions are fast, the moves themselves are slow and are done to the beat of the music. These slow, controlled movements work your slow-twitch muscle fibers, which can help create the longer, leaner, and toned look many seek from their workouts. Because the workout is core-intensive, I’ve had many clients tell me they have abs for the first time at the age of 30, 40, or 50 and/or after having children from regularly doing SLT. Most people finish the workout feeling challenged, sweaty, shaky, and wanting to come back for more!
For those that cannot attend SLT or Megaformer classes, are there any moves you can do at home?
Well, nothing can truly recreate the megaformer! But, you can mimic the feeling of the machine at home for a few of our moves. One is the Spoon. On a slippery floor (like wood, marble, or tile), sit on the edge of a sturdy chair or bench, placing your hands on the edge of the chair or bench next to your hips with your fingertips facing you. Place a towel underneath your heels. Hover your seat off the chair and straighten your legs completely. Slowly drag your heels back toward your chair or bench keeping straight legs and rounding your spine, bringing chin to chest. Your hips should come back beyond your arms. Then, press the heels back out to the starting point keeping straight legs the entire time. Your lower abdominals are the target for this move; try to use them exclusively to draw the hips back and and through. It’s tough!
How do you stay fit while traveling?
This is a great question because my husband and I love to travel! It's challenging, and it depends largely on where I am. In the winters, we spend time in Miami Beach. Miami Beach also happens to be a fitness mecca with many of the same type of boutique fitness studios I frequent at home, so it's a rather seamless transition. Even when I'm not going to boutique fitness studios there, just playing a few rounds of paddle ball on the beach, taking a long walk down Ocean Drive after dinner, or swimming in the ocean are great ways to sneak in exercise.
Boutique fitness has become a widespread phenomenon. Because I'm so passionate about fitness, it's become part of my traveling experience to find boutique fitness studios I'd like to try when I'm in major cities within the US or around the world. For instance, last summer I guest taught and also took class at Sydney's megaformer studio while on vacation in Australia. It was so fun being halfway around the world and finding a fitness community that loves the megaformer the way I do. It gave me a different view of the culture there, which, by the way, is very fitness-oriented!
As I mention below, part of my fitness philosophy is achieving balance. One reason I work out is so that I can enjoy things like great food and wine and not feel like those things are setting me back in achieving my overall wellness goals. I feel that whatever time off I give myself from regular exercise regime and diet on vacation is well-deserved because I worked hard before I left and will work hard again when I get back to stay on track. Even on vacation, I stay active and still make relatively good diet decisions, but I'm not nearly as regimented as I am when I'm at home.
What are the biggest trends you have been seeing in workout gear lately?
The fashionistas out there are probably saying, “There are fitness fashion trends?” The answer is yes, especially now that athleisure wear expands into so much of many women’s daily lives! Generally, I’ve seen a huge shift over the last five years from women shopping for fitness clothing exclusively at bigger retail stores like Athleta and Lululemon to coveting more boutique brands like Michi, Varley, Alala, and Koral found online or at stores like Bandier (online or in NYC, Southampton, Manhasset, and Dallas) and Carbon38 (online or at their pop-up “beach house” in Bridgehampton this summer). Athleisure brands are also getting smart about branding. Just like in non-fitness wear, you can see trademark design elements, e.g. mesh detailing and thicker, high waist band leggings for Michi, the wet look Lustrous leggings for Koral, or the double gold zippers on Varley leggings, so only those who truly know their high-end athleisure wear will be savvy about which designer you’re wearing!
As far as specific trends, I think there’s a lot of play with mesh detailing in leggings, sports bras, and tops. The mesh detailing allows for a little bit of “functional sexiness,” i.e. you can show a bit of skin without feeling too exposed or uncomfortable when in motion. You can also find sophisticated yet fun black and white patterns in many brands right now, like Varley, HPE, Strut This, Prism Sport, and Vie Active. I think women feel comfortable and flattered in a black and white pattern, feel like it can be worn inside and outside the gym/studio without looking unsophisticated, and yet it provides a little bit of fun and variation to a uniform that used to be “all black everything” for so long. And, as becoming fit and being proud of physical progress has become more and more of a badge of honor for women, I’ve seen the embrace of the sports bra. For years, I think women felt the sports bra was reserved for fitness instructors or to be worn exclusively underneath something else. Now that women invest so much in their fitness and health and feel proud of their hard work, I see many more taking the plunge to bare (almost) all inside the gym/studio or for a post-workout selfie!
Who are your favorite workout wear/athleisure designers/brands?
I mentioned a number of my favorite brands and designers above, but because the market is expanding so quickly, there are new designers popping up every day, it seems! High fashion designers are doing "pop-up" collaborations, like Cushnie et Ochs with Bandier, or more permanent collaborations like Stella McCartney for Adidas. Two that I didn't mention above that I love are Splits59 and Outdoor Voices.
What is your go-to workout look? Also, is there anything else you throw on to go to and from the studio?
My go to workout look is a loose-fitting and/or cropped tank over a sports bra, then I’ll take the top layer off once things heat up. I’m a sucker for statement tanks because their messages keep me and my clients smiling throughout the day. I prefer ankle-length leggings to elongate my legs and typically only wear cropped leggings when I’m spinning. Because fitness fashion is so ubiquitous these days, I don’t put anything on over my outfit after taking or teaching class in the summertime, but when the weather gets cooler, I slide on No.6 high heeled shearling clogs and one of my favorite longer, flowy Athleta sweatshirts (their sweatshirts are made of the softest French terry fabric!).
Can you walk us through your typical daily diet?
I am a fanatic about eating cleanly and simply! And, this might sound strange to some, but I truly LOVE eating the same thing every day. I eat two organic, cage-free, pasture-raised eggs scrambled in organic coconut oil with avocado toast on a gluten-free English muffin. I have one cup of Nespresso with breakfast. Lunch usually consists of salmon with quinoa or farro and some vegetable, like cauliflower or asparagus, or maybe a salad and quinoa or mung bean noodles from Organic Pharmer (an organic, vegan, dairy-free, and soy-free take-out restaurant in Rye Brook, NY). I usually drink a GT's green kombucha with lunch for an extra probiotic boost. At night, I always eat organic oatmeal topped with organic blueberries, bananas, and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I drink an organic Forager green juice with that. I don’t always stick to that regimen on weekends because I love eating at restaurants, though I still try to make relatively smart decisions even when I’m out (i.e. maybe I won’t go for the three cheese white pizza, I’ll choose a pizza with spinach and artichokes instead with lots of tomato sauce).
Your hair and makeup look flawless even post-workout! What are your beauty essentials?
Wow, thank you! My daily hair and makeup regimen has to be very simple and long-lasting, as on a typical day I’m going from studio to studio or running errands after doing something fitness-related. One product I’m obsessed with right now is Elta MD’s tinted SPF 40 tinted moisturizer and daily sunscreen. It is so versatile. It moisturizes my skin without feeling heavy or oily, and it gives me a little bit of coverage without using actual makeup. This evens out my skin while looking natural and allows me to sweat a little without looking like I have makeup melting off of me!
Any other health & wellness tips you would like to share?
The main tip I would give would be to try to achieve health and wellness through moderation and balance. Try to fit a workout in most days of the week. They don’t have to be as intense as you think, but try to be active for at least 30 minutes five days a week. You can also find balance in the types of workouts you choose; I wouldn’t recommend doing HIIT workouts 5 days a week. Alternate intense workouts with less intense workouts like yoga or barre, and alternate more cardio-intensive workouts with strength training or toning workouts like SLT. You can’t do one type of workout over and over and expect to get well-rounded results. Plus, doing one type of workout will be more likely to eventually leave you bored and unmotivated. Finally, as I mentioned before, I’m very regimented during the week with my diet, but I also really love food, wine, and restaurants. But, I still consider myself “on track” and don’t beat myself up if I eat less than perfect foods on the weekends or on vacation. That is why I work hard!
Lastly, do you have any recommendations for a good workout playlist?
My general recommendation is to go with what you enjoy! What would make you dance around the house or sing out loud if it started playing on the radio, came up in your Pandora rotation, or popped up on your Spotify Discover Weekly? I started listening to music in the 90’s and 00’s, so I love hip hop and R&B from those years mixed in with pop artists like Britney Spears, Beyonce, or Rihanna. When I can find a great remix of an older song, I get really excited. Of course I use newer songs too, but it’s some of the older songs where I see clients get totally immersed in the song and keep pushing through their workout! Because it’s summer right now, I veer toward lighter, top 40 pop song remixes of summer anthems like Cake By the Ocean (Jumpsmokers Remix) by DNCE and Summer (Diplo & Grandtheft Remix) by Calvin Harris.