Wellness Weekend: How I Supported Black Businesses While Getting Fit In Philly
There are two things it’s pretty safe to bet are on the resolution list of most Black millennials these days: get healthier and support more Black businesses. Both goals are easier said than done, but during a weekend trip to Philly I found out it’s not as hard as you might think to kill those two birds with one stone in the city of Brotherly Love.
From Northern Liberties to the Historic District, I found a few groundbreaking Black-owned businesses that are making fitness and healthy eating accessible and affordable for the community, as well amber of other restaurants and spas that are taking the guilt out of eating out and self-pampering. Here’s a look at my wellness weekend.
I arrived in Philly around 7:45 pm Friday after a quick Amtrak train ride from New York City on the Acela Express. I checked into my room at the Logan Hotel which had an amazing view of the Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle and then my friend and I made our way to Square 1682 which was just a 15 minute walk from the hotel.
Located in downtown Philly’s Rittenhouse Square, Square 1682 is Philadelphia’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified green eatery and bar. Before you do anything, I suggest you ask for Kito, a server who makes it his business to make sure patrons feel more than welcome at the establishment. He’ll also give you an amazing rundown of the menu, which you might need when faced with choosing between Braised Pork Cheeks, Grilled Baby Octopus, and Barruta. My suggestion: The Bacon-wrapped Dates are a must, along with the winter salad which is made up of baby kale, quinoa, baby beets, whipped goat cheese, and a blood orange vinaigrette. Both dishes go nicely with a Pimm’s Cup or Aviation Cocktail from the bar.
When it comes to dessert, Uriah is your man. The pastry chef insisted we leave room for dessert and made a delicious sampling of treats for us to choose from which included cheesecake, a gluten-free bittersweet chocolate cake, cheesecake, macaroons, and raspberry and mango sorbets. The only thing that stopped me from completely devouring that chocolate cake, which tasted amazing with the sorbet, was the fact that I was already three cocktails in and we had two workouts planned the next day. My girl fell in love with the cheesecake.
Inside of The Logan Hotel is Urban Farmer, a “rural chic” steakhouse that prepares cuisine with fresh, local ingredients. Because we had a 10 am workout scheduled I wanted to keep my breakfast light so I opted for the house-made granola with yogurt which was easily one of my better breakfast choices of 2017 — not just because it was healthy but because it tasted so good. The granola was sweet and crunchy and had an earthy freshness to it that the store-bought granola I usually eat just doesn’t compare to, and the yogurt was light with just the right balance of sweetness and tartness to really complement the almonds and cinnamon in the granola as well as the strawberries and blueberries. It was also extremely filling but not heavy on my stomach.
Our day of wellness began at Grey Dolphin, an African American-owned boutique fitness studio in the Northern Liberties section of Philly. The facility offers classes of no more than 6 to 8 people to ensure a one-on-one personalized experience which was exactly what I needed for the barre class we took with Becca.
Barre is a workout centered on flexibility, balance, and strength training that involves multiple reps of movements with a small range of motion, using the barre for balance and correct posture. Your quads, glutes, and hamstrings will most definitely feel the burn from various forms of Pliés and Pulses, and despite the small movements, you will break a swear! If barre’s not your thing, opt for a yoga, kickboxing, or circuit training class at one of Grey Dolphin’s Philadelphia or Brooklyn locations.
After a challenging morning workout, my friend and I headed over to Stripp’d, a Black-owned juice bar in the Historic District of town, for a post-workout drink.
Like Urban Farmer, Stripp’d only uses local produce and ingredients for its menu items, all of which are organically grown and non-GMO. Jala at Ya Boy is the juice that caught my eye — and my taste buds. The beverage is made from Tuscan kale, apple, grapefruit, lemon, orange, and jalapeno which gave it a nice kick. And we fueled up on the bar’s chipotle guacamole toast served on brioche before heading to our next workout. I suggest you do the same as soon as possible.
If anyone in Philadelphia tells you they can’t afford to get fit, they’re lying — or they just haven’t heard about Push U Training yet.
Started by Troy Hayward, Justin Taylor, Meagan Ruddy, and Joseph Opare, Push U is well on its way to achieving its vision of becoming a staple in the community for health and fitness, offering affordable personal training for as low as $30/session as well as group fitness classes for as little as $15.
While in town, we took a kickboxing class that was free for the community and was followed by a free nutrition class. The owners are truly making it possible for everyone to have the tools they need to be their healthiest and they also partner with other local Black business owners to recycle the Black dollar every chance they get. Oh, and don’t let the price trick you into thinking the quality isn’t there. Kickboxing kicked by butt.
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After a workout, there’s nothing better than a massage (except maybe a protein shake, but you can get that on your own) and that’s exactly what we had at 3000BC WellMed Spa in Chestnut Hill, PA. I don’t know much about massages, except that I need to get them more often, but I’d advise you to ask for Marquis when booking. He applied the perfect amount of pressure to relieve the tension in my upper back and alleviate the tightness in my hamstrings from that barre workout earlier in the day. You’ll definitely leave 3000BC feeling like a new woman after an hour with him inside this tranquil facility.
Our last stop of the day Saturday was Bar Bombon, an all-vegan Latin restaurant back in downtown Philly inspired by the owner’s Puerto Rican roots.
When I first saw the menu for Bar Bombon, I knew I had to have the yucca frites and I’d figure out the rest later. Thankfully, the menu is based on small bites, so I was able to try nearly one of everything, from the restaurant’s delicious guacamole picante to rice and beans, nachos made with seitan, buffalo cauliflower tacos, and my favorite, a cubano club sandwich. If you’re not vegan, you might be as intimidated by the thought of a sandwich with Blackend chick’n and smoked tempeh as I was, but I promise you’ll love it — I ate it so quickly I forgot to even take a picture. And, if you’re going to treat yourself, I suggest you shake it up with the Puerto Rican punch or save room for the coconut custard or tres leche as dessert. This is a healthy restaurant that will leave you feeling full but not weighed down.
Our final stop during our wellness weekend was The Parlour in Fishtown where we enjoyed Ayurvedic facials Sunday morning.
I truly didn’t think it could get better than the massage I had the night before, but judging by the time my aesthetician spent extracting all of the blackheads I had, it’s clear I haven’t been showing my face as much love as it needs. But that’s exactly what my skin got during the facial where I was treated to a soothing wash with a cleansing oil made by The Parlour’s owner, using only natural ingredients for cleansing and exfoliating. Because I mentioned some issues with acne scaring, the cleanse was followed by a vitamin C peel to aid in lessening hyperpigmentation, and that was followed by a calming peel of chamomile and lavender before my extraction. I was told I would notice a change in the texture of my skin following the various treatments and that was immediately true. My skin felt smoother without all those clogged pores on the surface and the mask and tinted moisturizer applied at the end left me with a radiant glow. I was also given tips on how to maintain that glow and keep my pores clean in between facials.
By the time I hopped on the train back to New York Sunday night, I felt refreshed rather than filled with dread at the coming work week. It’s amazing what a weekend of treating myself, taking care of myself, and patronizing Black businesses that make it easy to do so can do for the mind and body.