Meet Stephanie Tran, a photo editor at Bloomberg Businessweek and the co-founder of The New Jock, one of our favorite lifestyle outlets an exploration of fitness, sport and athleticism.
She has watched Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in White Knights more often than Dirty Dancing. Her idea of romance is Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov skating together. And she says that The Nike+ run club once saved her life in Rome! She describes herself as a creature of habit but sounds pretty unique to us.
Inside/Out: What’s the first sport you ever practiced?
Stephanie Tran: I know there is debate on whether this is a sport or or an art, but I consider it both: ballet.
I/O: And the first one that made you feel confident?
S: Track, and then soccer.
I/O: Was physical education a central element of your identity at school when you were a kid?
S: Not at all. I was terrible in gym class; maybe more just disinterested...But I did enjoy extracurricular physical activity, whether it was ballet with my troupe or track and soccer with my school. Looking back it doesn’t make any sense, but I guess I just had a strong disinterest in feeling forced to participate…?
I/O: Are you a sports fan? If so, which team/athlete?
S: I wouldn’t say I am a huge fan in the sense that I know what’s going on at any given moment or that I’ll stop my day to watch something on my own. But I do enjoy the camaraderie of watching the major events with friends (World Cup, Super Bowl, US Open, etc). I appreciate the talent, skill, and hard work that goes into being an athlete whether it’s a solo or a team sport, but I’m often more interested in the individual person, at the end of the day. Who they are, outside the game.
I/O: What sports heroes do you remember from childhood?
S: I loved Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in White Knights and watching it over and over and over again is probably is what got me into ballet. Runners Flo Jo and Jackie Joyner-Kersee piqued my interest in track and figure skater Ekaterina Gordeeva was just so stunning - I LOVED watching her and Sergei Grinkov skate together. That was my idea of romance and pure, beautiful talent. And being from Buffalo, New York, I also have to mention that I was a fan of Jim Kelly. Making it to the Super Bowl 4 years in a row was and still is major, even though they lost each time! He was a hometown hero and I remember going to the rallies after those losses. So much heartache and love all at once.
I/O: Do you ever feel intense emotions during your workouts?
S: Of course. Especially during these last few years. My father passed away 5 years ago exact to the date I am writing this (May 5th, 2012). Let’s just say he left a major mess that is still being cleaned up, and at first I worked through it with adrenaline. Because I had to. But I was running on empty for about 3 years and I finally crashed. Up until then, fitness was just part of me. A daily run was like eating or breathing – life’s necessities. I could just run out my door for hours, with no real path in mind. But it got to a point where I may have done it a little too much, as an escape from my reality – running…away, as they say…and rather than just take in what I was seeing, I’d start to think negatively asking myself questions like, “Why am I doing this?”, “Who am I doing this for?”, “What am I trying to prove?” and “When is this over?” I’d get angry with myself and with the world. It was really my body and mind just telling me to slow the fuck down. Now I make time for myself. Even if that means doing…absolutely nothing. These days, while I will still go for a run and go to Soul Cycle and Sky Ting Yoga, it is harder to get me out the door and I make more excuses. But I don’t feel bad. As long as I feel ok, I’ll be ok. But when an 8-mile run 3-4 times a week feels like it’s too short and never enough, that’s when I’ll know I’m fully back. I’m not worried.
I/O: Favorite sports moments of the last 20 years?
S: Well, personally, running my “fastest mile” at Icahn Stadium, through Nike, was pretty amazing. I’ll just keep it at personal...
I/O: Do you have a mantra?
S: Same as my motto – Pay to Play; It went from meaning “Work hard, play hard,” to more like “Work Hard, and enjoy life, and eat and drink what you want and don’t feel guilty.”
I/O: How would you define the relationship that New Yorkers have with the active lifestyle? Do you feel it always been this way? If not, what have you seen change/develop?
S: New Yorkers are definitely fitness-obsessed, now more than ever. It was not always this way. I think of old, fun New York as going out, drinking, smoking cigarettes, going to bed, and then repeating. No one worked out. Or if they did, hey didn’t talk about it. Of course, I have also gotten older, but even when I was in my 20’s and found running, it wasn’t really part of the vocabulary. Friends and colleagues marveled at my running a few miles once or twice a week – now, it’s normal for people to run every day for miles and travel for races and talk about it all the time. In the past, one would never socialize with their trainers because the gym culture was fundamentally so different, and now trainers are celebrities, so everyone wants to be friends with theirs. In the short time since we started talking about The New Jock, meetings with people went from drinks or coffee, to a workout and a juice. It’s an addiction. Social media has made it one. None of this is bad, but it’s certainly different.
I/O: What is your ideal performance garment or product?
S: I’m a creature of habit. I like what I like and I know what I feel good in. And it’s important for me to feel good in what I am wearing when I am vulnerable working out or running a race, but ultimately I look for things that don’t make me think about what I am wearing. So that means, no front or back wedgies, no uncomfortable riding up, nothing too tight, and if it’s tight, it doesn’t make me feel like a sausage. I don’t need new or “innovative”–all those things are fun, but I’m fine in last year’s clothing too. If it works, it works.
I/O: Your favorite activewear brands?
S: I’m super boring and loyal in that I only wear Nike and sometimes Outdoor Voices. I get apparel from a lot of brands, and I’ll definitely try them out for a bit, but nothing has come close to making me feel as good, or feel like myself, as those two brands.
I/O: What rituals or routines do you do before or after working out?
S: I often hope that I won’t have a bad workout or run. Meaning, the intense emotions you asked me about earlier. After, I usually shower and then eat a big meal. And maybe have a drink.
I/O: What about beauty: the perfect hairstyle for training?
S: I’m minimal. Just a tight bun and some hairpins.
I/O: From street to studio, define your style.
S: Versatile. Casual. High and Low. Uncomplicated.
I/O: Favorite studio and class?
S: I love Soul Cycle, I love Sky Ting Yoga, and I live Bikram Yoga. I will go super hard on one and then move on to the other for a time, but these are the three that are in my repertoire, alongside running. For me, because of Jock, it is important to try a lot – because there is so much out there - and getting to know the community is important, but at the end of the day, I’d rather be good at fewer things, then all over the place. That is just what works best for me.
I/O: In the city that never sleeps where does mind/body training fit into your life?
S: Good question. It’s a daily struggle. Part of why we started Jock – to learn how others do it.I don’t sleep as much as I want or need to, and finding a work/life/fitness balance is still really difficult! I guess this is an ongoing quest. Check back in 3 months?
I/O: Have you ever traveled for wellness?
S: Yes, I’ve traveled for races (marathon, half-marathons, 10Ks), and I’ve traveled for a yoga, and often times I’ve just traveled and found wellness wherever I was.
I/O: If so, is it something you do on your own or with a friend, some friends?
Usually prefer on my own, but not opposed to traveling with others. The races were with friends.
I/O: If you travel alone, are you likely to connect with some sort of community?
S: The Nike+ run club in Rome saved me a few years ago after a really unfortunate (but mostly beautiful) running experience in Istanbul a few days before. Nothing like showing up to a foreign city and being welcomed and shown around by a local.
I/O: When do you feel that you are part of a sports or wellness physical or digital community?
S: Both. Because I’ve been running for a long time in NYC, I have felt for quite a while to be part of many running communities that exist here. Training for the NYC marathon opened up a whole new world for me as I started running with Bridgerunners. I don’t run with them now, but I will always consider myself part of the group, or the group part of me. I made so many friendships and connections through that time. These days I might only see those people on social, but we are always connected in life.
I/O: What destinations are on your wish list?
S: My friend is trying to convince me to go to Bali for a yoga retreat, which isn’t so much convincing as it is me being able to get away. And basically anywhere with sun and sand, and a safe road to run.
I/O: What role does music play in your practice(s)?
S: Not much, actually. I mean, I still run to the same mixes – "Half-Marathon 2009", "Half Marathon 2010", "Half Marathon 2011", and so on. It can help with tempo and motivation, but I’ve listened to all my old music so much and haven’t really bought anything new since 2012, so lately I’ve been running to either nothing, or, because I just got Bluetooth sport headphones from Jabra, audiobooks.
I/O: How did sports of physical activities impact your eating habits?
S: I guess it changes. But right now, the more I workout, the more I eat; and the more license I give myself to eat what I want. Of course I say that because aging has definitely changed my metabolism, so I am more aware of how my diet is effecting my body…but I’ll never deprive myself of what I want. I guess this is where Pay to Play comes into play!
I/O: Does your wellness practices give you a sense of community? Is this a motivating factor or a secondary effect?
S: Sometimes it does give me a sense of community, sure. If I am going to group fitness classes or when I was seeing my trainer 2x a week But I don’t see him right now, and I don’t regularly go to a class. But oftentimes when I do, I am usually in and out trying to get somewhere else. It just depends on the time. I guess as a rule though I try to not let outside factors motivate me, and I prefer to find it within.
TIPS AND ADRESSES
1 tip to improve performance: focus
1 trainer: Jason Lee at Mendez or Joe Holder at S10
1 power song: "Last Caress" or "Hybrid Moments" by Misfits
1 app: Nike+
1 site: The New Jock
1 podcast: s*town
1 food address: food52.com never does me wrong and the first place I look to for a recipe
1 beverage: Vodka Gimlet on the rocks
1 inspiration: Karen Wong, Deputy Director of New Museum
1 woman we should interview: Same answer!