Category Archives: City Reviews

Get the most out of your RealWorld Experience!!

realworld

Yep, it is that time again already, the annual RealPage User Conference aka REALWORLD 2016!!!

Now this is going to be my 6th RealWorld Conference (how can that possibly be?).  For those not in the know, RealWorld is the conference specifically dedicated to RealPage and their partners where we showcase the latest developments in the industry, the product improvements being delivered/developed and most important, thank our partners for their continued partnership.  It is 3 days of networking, learning, previews and fun but let’s face it, it is also long days, longer evenings and tight schedules.  In order to make the most of the sessions and travel fit, you have to have a strategy to thrive.

This is also my 3rd year of providing a few of my tips and tricks to not just surviving the conference but really making the most of it for both education and fintess.  So here are my RealWorld rules to live by:

Tip #1: Plan ahead:

I know I say this every year but I cannot over emphasize this one enough; Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.  If your plan is showing up at the conference and “figure it out” you are in for a rough time.……not going to happen.  There are just too many great options of sessions to attend and fellow RealPage users to meet.  If you don’t plan ahead you are guaranteed to miss a ‘can’t miss’ session and for sure your workout is not going to get done.

Realworldapp

So if you haven’t already, go download the RealWorld App right now.  Seriously, I’ll wait.

Now, immediately start adding your must attend sessions to your calendar.  Might I suggest ‘Stack the Deck with Business Intelligence’ on Tuesday morning as a starting point?  I hear the speaker for that one is sub-par but the material should be great!!

Once you know when your ‘Can’t miss’ sessions are, you can fill in the rest of the time slots for meetings, networking, product demos and down time.

Tip #2: Stay hydrated:

water bottle refill

You know you should normally be drinking 8 glasses of water a day.  Well , this year we are at the beautiful Wynn hotel.  If you have never been to a conference at this hotel, I will give you fair warning, it is a long way from the rooms to the conference center.  A LONG WAY!!  So you are going to be walking more than you normally do and potentially imbibing on an alcoholic drink or two in the evening, and oh yeah, this is all happening in the middle of the dessert.  I am going to recommend you up your water intake from the standard 8 glasses.  Trust me, you will thank me when you are waking up on days 2 & 3 of the conference.  Now this is where planning comes in again.  I find that it is a very rare thing to find a conference center that keeps the water pitchers/bottles full throughout the conference.

SO BRING YOUR OWN!!

You may not always be able to find a nice chilled bottle of FIJI but you can usually find a water fountain to fill up your own bottle.  And if you are anything like me, you find an empty water bottle strangely motivational.

Tip #3: Recharge:

weary traveler

This will look different for each of us but I find I need a point in my day to recharge more than just my phone.  For me, it is time in the gym.   I can get my head on straight and work all the kinks out that I am feeling from standing all day.  For others it is a power nap in the room, others it is 15 minutes in the sun out by the pool.  Whatever it is that recharges and helps your re-center your mindset, make sure you have time built in each day to accomplish it.

Now we also need to think about that phone, so don’t forget your mobile charger!  We want to hear your thoughts throughout the day (follow the hashtag #RWconf2016 to join the conversation).

Tip #4: Eat well & Eat often:

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Make sure you take the time to eat like you should.  Do not sacrifice the quality of your diet because you need to rush somewhere.  Stop by the store on the way to the hotel and grab some snacks for the room (don’t get me started on the mini-bar options for $10 bucks each).  Put a bar in your purse.  Throw an apple in your bag for later in the day.  Your body needs fuel to thrive vs. survive.  Give it what it needs.

Bonus Tip:  Most hotels that host conferences have pretty good gyms.  Gyms where they actual stock fruit for the taking.

Tip #5: Have fun:

If this is your first RealWorld Conference, you are in for a treat.  It is a blast, especially the party on Monday night.  Although not themed this year, in the past we have celebrated the lives of people like Dr. Seuss or given our best superhero impersonation.

wolverine ABDr. Seuss

The party is a celebration of our partnership with all of you and we pull out all of the stops.  This year promises to be a lavish affair….even if Wolverine will not be showing up.

Bonus Tip #6:

For those of you who are runners (or are even thinking about running), I cannot recommend skipping the treadmill in the morning enough.  Running the Las Vegas strip in the early morning is in my top 5 runs in the country.

Seriously, the people watching is unbelievable!!!

In fact, even if you don’t run, wake up a bit early on Monday or Tuesday and head out for a walk.  I promise that not only will you feel better but you will have conversation topics for the rest of the day!!

Time for me to go pack and finish my presentations but hopefully I will see you at RealWorld!!

Have Gi – Will Travel : North Broadway JiuJitsu, Bryan Guidry Fitness Training

In researching for a trip to St. Louis, all of the opinions, reviews and most importantly for me, operating hours (they were open later than all the rest) were pointing me to North Broadway Jiu Jitsu – Bryan Guidry Training.

I happened to attend on a day that the focus was No-Gi so I should probably call this one “No-Gi : Will Travel”.   I also had the good fortune to be able to attend on a night when both traditional class and all rank sparring sessions were being held so I got to roll with folks of all belt ranks and experience a great deal of what NBJJ has to offer.

To summarize, the instruction was great.  Although the group was a bit slow to warm up to the outsiders in the room (they were never cold), once we started going, the atmosphere was one of encouragement and support.  The rolling was strong and intense but without ego or intent to harm.  All in all, I had a great experience.

Instructor:  

Bryan Guidry

Professor Bryan was one of the best teachers I have experienced in a while.   My first class was all about technique and drills.  We were specifically working on sweeps from Butterfly Guard.   He was detailed in his explanations, clear in his demonstrations and then most importantly, followed up with specific instructions/corrections to each of us as he observed us working the techniques.  This last step is one that I have seen several instructors skip.  Even with the outsiders, Professor Bryan was observing and providing the feedback necessary to get the technique right.

I was also fortunate enough to get to roll with him in the sparring class.  Like any good instructor, he would let me get in trouble, attempt to work out of it and then show me that everything I was doing was futile.  Six minutes of attempted survival.

Attitude towards outsiders:

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Bryan Guidry has developed a reputation as the place to train in St. Louis.  With this reputation comes a lot of folks that are in just for a session or a week.  In fact, on the evening I visited there was another guy who was in from upstate Missouri looking for a place to train when he is in St. Louis 3-4 days a week.  All this to say, this group is very used to visitors.

The guys were obviously tight knit with a great deal of pre-class conversation around who was rolling in the upcoming submission only tournament, how people’s jobs were progressing, etc.  There was not a lot of pleasantries with the two ‘newbies’ before class but once Professor Guidry got class going, the group was warm and welcoming.  Truth be told, this may also be my introverted nature coming through as well.

Once we got rolling, the guys were great.  No egos, lots of diverse styles and a great willingness to help each other.  Great culture.

Facilities:

OK, this is a gym you are going to want to map out to get to.  If Professor Bryan ever has someone say they were ‘just driving by’ – they are full of it.  It is off the beaten path however the facility itself is definitely put together to train.  Located in a converted warehouse building, it has a large mat space (there were close 20 of us rolling at any one time), a full weight/cardio room and sauna.

Both men’s and women’s locker rooms and showers are available.  Bonus was the ”member lounge” that doubled as a spot for the kids of those rolling to hang out in.  Only downfall to the space was the pillars in the middle of the mat.  Completely avoidable as you roll but could get in the way when Professor was demonstrating a technique.

Overall Experience:

I really enjoyed my time at North Broadway Jiu Jitsu.  I have definitely been to better facilities but the skill of Professor Bryan both on the mat and more importantly, as an instructor, as well as the guys who were rolling make up for any short comings that the facility may present.  My only regret was I was not able to train in the Gi but that was all about timing, besides, Professor Bryan has a whole series on the internet so I can study with him while I am at home or on the road.

One final note, you will notice I didn’t mention anything about the kids program or women on the mat.  I am 100% sure this was just due to the timing of my visit but I did not see either while at NBJJ.  The only reason I mention it here is it is normally a big part of my assessment of a gym.  In this case, there were no kids classes offered on the Tuesday I had the opportunity to roll.  As for women, none showed for the classes I took but one scroll through their Facebook page clearly shows that women regularly attend (at least) Gi classes.

So if you are in the market for a training facility in St. Louis, North Broadway Jiu Jitsu is worth the visit.

Have Gi – Will Travel: Kaizen BJJ in Detroit, MI

I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this review.  When I first decided to start this series, my biggest fear was that the first review was going to be of a program that was sub-par.  Nothing could be further from sub-par than the experience I had while visiting Kaizen BJJ in Plymouth, MI.  I truly could not have asked for a better experience as a visitor.

Let’s start with the Instructor:  

Ali

For me, the vast majority of whether an experience is going to be good or not lies in the hands of the instructor.  When I visited Kaizen, I took a beginner’s Gi class that was led by a Purple Belt, Ali Makhlouf.  He ran a well-organized class that smoothly went from basic drills, to position specific techniques to rolling with specific intent to sparring.  He was sure to move through the class (about 20 students) to give individual attention and instruction to each student.  Great experience.

Ryan

Now the school is owned and run by 4th Degree Black Belt Ryan Fiorenzi, who was at the gym while I was there but not rolling that evening.   He provided me with the experience that impressed me the most while I was at Kaizen.  At one point when we were working butterfly sweeps, he was invested enough in me (an outsider) to call me by name and give me specific feedback that I could apply immediately.  If he shows that much interest in an outsider, who is there for only one class, a class he was not teaching no less….I can only imagine how much he helps his own full time students.

Next – The attitude towards outsiders:

I was not on the mat for more than 2 minutes before I had people coming up and introducing themselves to me.  I have done back to back classes at schools where no one talks to me other than if we are drilling together.  I felt completely welcomed, didn’t sense any animosity at all and really felt like this group was there to get better.  Loved it.

Culture – What am I getting into?

If you look on the www.kaizenbjj.com website, they preach that they train “Leaving your ego at the door”.  I can tell you they practice what they preach.  Remember, I took a white belt class.  During that class I rolled with 2 Blue Belts, a Purple Belt and a Brown Belt.  As the higher belt ranks came in before open mat, they were quick to work with the White Belts.  Not destroy them….work with them.  It was awesome.

Additionally, Kaizen BJJ focuses on real world Jujitsu, not tournament Jujitsu.  Everything they did had a self-defense bent.  Nothing against tournament BJJ but I prefer the more self-defense oriented approach.

Facilities:

The mat was huge, in great shape and clean.  For those interested,  the facility is dual purpose with not only the mat but also a CrossFit gym next door.  The only thing I would improve if they had the opportunity is to have a locker room.  I arrived straight from the airport and changed in the restroom.  Really not a big thing but if I get a magic wand, I am adding a locker room.

Overall Experience:

From my initial contact with the owner Ryan over email, to my arrival, to the training everything was handled with professionalism and efficiency.  I can honestly say that if I was relocated to Detroit, I would make the commute to make this my home gym.

Thanks to Ryan and everyone at Kaizen BJJ for a wonderful experience.  If you are in the Detroit area, I highly recommend you make a trip out there.

Make the time!!

Every once in a while when I am traveling across the country, I land in a spot that is truly unique and when I do, I always try and dedicate the time to enjoy the uniqueness of the area.  Recently, that trip brought me to Buffalo, New York.  You see, Buffalo is a ‘stone’s throw’ from Niagra Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world.

So as this trip originally got booked, I started the researching where I could fit a visit to this natural wonder in.  The spot was obvious – morning before my appointment in the early afternoon.  Of course between when I first planned the whole thing out and the morning of, all that empty time got filled by all kinds of assignments, calls and follow-ups being scheduled (it is amazing what looks good on a calendar).  By the time I went to bed last night, the only way a visit was going to happen was if I got up early and headed up that way.

That morning was one of those ‘Steinbeck Mornings’ – you know, the kind with the best laid plans of mice and men.  Plans that I immediately wanted to ditch.

When that alarm went off at 6 AM – I immediately turned it off.  I had arrived after midnight the night prior, was tired and idea that I could sleep an extra hour was really enticing.  For whatever reason though, I could not go back to sleep.  I knew that if I did not take this opportunity to see the falls, I probably never would.  So begrudgingly, I arose, got dressed, had coffee and headed out on my 20 minute “stones throw” drive to Niagra, NY.

I am so glad I did!!

The falls are amazing.  To see that much unadulterated power falling over the precipice is simply breath taking.

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Was getting up early worth it, unquestionably, yes.

So much so that it is really questioning one of my “Guardrails”.  When I am on the road, I try and pack as much work in as I can.  The thought process is if I get it done on the road, I am not doing it at home.  But at some point there needs to be a balance of effort vs. spirit.  Seeing something like Niagra Falls did more for my spirit and productivity than the extra hour of sleep (or email) ever would have.  It was awe inspiring, humbling, rejuvenating and uplifting.

It also reminded me we have to make the time to revitalize the spirit.

So make the time to recharge.  Will it always be in the overspray of one of the 8 natural wonders of the world?  Probably not but it is still important.

It also reminded me we have to make the time to revitalize the spirit.

So make the time to recharge.  Will it always be in the overspray of one of the 8 natural wonders of the world?  Probably not but it is still important.

A Tale of Two Lists – What makes a good RoadWarrior Restuarant

Earlier this week my wife forwarded me a great list that Men’s Health had put together listing the “Coolest, Healthiest Restaurants in America”, a summary of the top 18 restaurants around the country that are not only dishing healthy eats but food worthy of top praise.   You can read their recommendations here

Suddenly – I have a new To-Do List!!

I am a sucker for lists like this.  Give me the top 20 or so ‘place experience here’ and I am all about trying to get them checked off as done.  This latest list reminded me of another that at one time I had the goal of working my way through and just how much things have changed over the last 6 years.  That old list?  The top 50 burgers in the State of Texas (you can find that one here and I really cannot recommend Dutch’s burger highly enough – it was phenomenal).

I used to be so bad about eating burgers that my boss stopped checking my expense reports:

“Andrew – why would I check your report?  Wait – let me guess.  Cheeseburger and a beer at Pappa’s Burgers in the airport for $18.68.   Shocking.”

It was one of those wake-up call moments in life.  I think I made it about ½ way through the burger list before getting serious about my health and focusing on what I put in my body when I am traveling.  It has become such a focal point that I made it Rule #5 of getting and staying RoadWarriorFit.

Finding the local burger joint is easy –the good, healthy and appealing alternative is usually not quite as ubiquitous.  This new list makes me ask the question – what makes a good RoadWarrior restaurant?

Local Flair:

One of the very few perks to traveling across the country every week is I do get to experience some great food.  With a little preparation and/or a trip to the concierge desk of the local full service hotel (you know you don’t have to stay there to ask a question, right?) you can find fantastic options to meet every taste preference.   Skip the familiar chains and head to a locally owned treasure to support the local economy.   Most of the time you can practically taste the love in the food in the local hot spots.  Oh, and don’t forget to ask the wait/bar staff of your hotel where they eat after getting off shift, I have found some of my favorite dining eating experiences that way.

The smell of smoke:

Grilled is always better.  Period.  (Says the guy who grills just about every day I am home).  Yes, there can be arguments made for specific dishes as to their health benefits vs. grilled but in general, grilling is a safe way to go with your meals.  So if you are standing at a crossroads and one way smells like smoke – head that way.

A bent towards whole foods:

We all know that the less processed the food, the more likely it is to be better for you.  We focus on buying the best for our families when we are at home, why would you change on the road?  Check the menu for the preparations and techniques (you know how I feel about fried foods on the road already).  Heck – take a walk through the restaurant real quick and just glance at people’s plates.  See lots of brown and white?  Keep looking.  Plates look like rainbows?  Time to have a seat.

So there you go.  That is what I look for when I am evaluating restaurants on the road.  Hope it helps and look forward to seeing you on the road.

Sometimes you have to let your subconscious win

On my travels this week I found myself staying in a wonderful Marriott hotel in Hartford, CT.   I won’t even try and hide it, I am a hotel snob and will try and stay in a full service hotel any chance I get.

Yes the rooms are wonderful.  Yes, the concierge lounge is a great amenity but what I really look forward to is the gym.  I know if I am staying full service, there will be a full service gym as well.  I get legitimately excited knowing that I have all of my gym options available to me.

Full service gyms make me a happy traveler.

As my cab pulled in under the portico at “oh My God’ early this morning, I caught a quick glimpse of the stairs leading up to the Connecticut Convention Center next door.  Stairs that were clearly and loudly calling my name.  I have no idea why but I had an inkling then that I would be skipping the gym the following morning and heading up those stairs.  Again and again and again.

Stairs 2

Even though I was arriving late I made sure the alarm was set for enough time to do the workout in the gym that my heart was heart set against.  As I was appropriately adjusting my phone’s settings, I kept telling myself I could always sleep in and hit the great gym on the 22nd floor.  When the alarm finally went off at 7:00 AM I was already awake.  Time to get moving.

I promptly got dressed, had my coffee, checked emails and eventually headed up to the 22nd floor to check out the gym.  It was a great gym.  Cardio, weights, kettle bells, stretching space….the works but it was not enough.  No stairs.  No stares from the other travelers and folks walking to work wondering;

“Who is that guy and why does he hate himself so much to put himself through that!?!”

So after fully surveying the scene, I got back in the elevator and headed down to the lobby level and out the front door, walked next door and stared up at the stairs.

Then I started running.

Up 100 stairs.  Push up or dips at the top.  Run back down 100 stairs.  Squats or pistol squats at the bottom.  Up and down 20 times.  This was a workout I did alone.  There were no others there to lend that non-verbal supportive head nod like you get in San Diego (read about that run here).  Just me, 100 stairs and a goal – 2000 stairs and it was awesome.

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Sometimes the subconscious has to win.  Sometimes you have to skip the gym in order to hit the stairs.  Sometimes you just have to crush it.

My top 5 runs across the country……

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I am fan of combining sightseeing with fitness through running.  I absolutely love running in cities across the country as a way to get both my workout in and see more of the city.  I recently had the opportunity to run Central Park in NYC for the first time and had several followers who commented that it was their favorite run.  That got me to thinking….

What are my top 5 runs across the country?

To me, a run has to have a few key elements in order to make the top 5.  After all, you can run anywhere but there are only certain places where I am going out of my way to make sure I get a run in.  So what makes a top 5 run for me?

The distance:  This is actually a tricky one as I want a route that can be flexible enough to accommodate routes between 3-6 miles.  If I don’t have much time, I need to keep it short and sweet but in order to be top 5, it still has to have the other elements below.

The sights:  Looking at the same thing for 30-60 minutes is incredibly boring to me.  I have a special kind of envy for those who can do long runs on a treadmill but I am unfortunately not among them.  I love running but I need to have something to keep my mind going through the run.  All of the runs below differ in the scenery but all of them have incredible scenery.

The challenge:  On my ideal run, we don’t just run.  Each of the runs below also include the opportunity to include an additional physical challenge unique to that run.

Soldier Field

#5 Lake Front – Chicago:

‘Da Bears!!  Running by Soldier Field, the Convention Center and Navy Pier?  Sign me up!!!  However with that said, I will only do this one between May and October.  Outside of those dates, forget it.  Otherwise Minneapolis probably would have made the list.

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#4 Fort Lauderdale Beach, FL:

I probably do this run more than any other next to #1 below.  Every time I am in South Florida with extra time on my hands, you can find me here.  With courses of various lengths and a fitness challenge park near the south side of Fort Lauderdale beach, this really does have it all.  Add to it the ocean and great dining al fresco once you are done with your run and you can understand why I will shower in the Admirals Club just to be able to get one of these runs in.

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#3 San Diego Convention Center:

Great views, challenging course and great weather year round, you really cannot go wrong here.  I like to run the waterfront first, especially by the USS Midway where World War II ended and finish with the stairs at the convention center itself.  I have never run this course alone as there are always folks getting their workout in at the Convention Center.  The constant hum of helicopters ferrying around training Navy SEALs is only added inspiration for normal folk like me.

strip 2 Strip

#2 Las Vegas Strip:

The strip has morphed over the last decade or so to allow for all of the pedestrian traffic to never have to stop for a stoplight.  All you have to do is go hit the escalator and take the sky bridge.  What this means for runners is that you can do between 3 – 10 miles on the strip easily without ever having to wait for a stoplight to change and you get the challenge of constantly running stairs.  However you have to do this one early in the morning and not just to avoid the heat and crowds.  No, the people watching provided by the strip in the early morning hours cannot be matched anywhere else.  Where else in the world can you see folks who are stumbling home from a night out, workers heading home from all kinds of professions and the families heading out with their kids to show them the sights?  There is no better people watching in the world.

WWII  DSC_0065  White house

#1 The Capital Mall – Washington DC:

Hands down my number 1 run in the country.  If I want a short run, it is from Lincoln to Washington and back.  More time?  Start at Arlington, head across the Memorial Bridge and hit the Capital Cross.  Want something more physically challenging?  Run the mall and Potomac Stairs with interval exercises in between.  Best part of this run is you cannot go more than 4 steps without seeing history, literally (and dodging tourists is always entertaining).  I have run this path in all kinds of weather and conditions (I think the Korean War Memorial is best seen in the snow) but if you can time your trip to coordinate with the Cherry Blossoms, it is absolutely stunning.

So there it is, my top 5.  Now there were a whole bunch of others that came close (Huntington Beach, The Parthenon in Nashville, Seattle Center, Palm Beach and Central Park amongst others) but they all were missing at least one of the elements above.  So let me hear from you RoadWarrior Nation…what are your top runs across the US?