Monthly Archives: July 2010

Making the Gym Work For Me

My downfall in working out is that if it’s not running, I have no idea what I’m doing. Lifting weights? Yeah I know bicep curls. That’s it. Compound cardio moves? I got lunges.. that’s about it there. What I love so much about workout DVD’s is that the instructor tells you what to do, and you get your butt kicked simply by following directions.

When instructional workout DVD’s are not possible in your own home due to whatever circumstances–not enough space, too many people around, anal neighbors, you don’t have any DVD’s, you don’t even like workout DVD’s–the gym is a great option. Not the whole treadmill free-weight machine part of it, but the classes.

I realized that my gym is doing all the work for me. The way their morning class schedules are set up, all I need to do is show up at 6:30 or 6:45 everyday and have someone kick my ass for an hour. How did I never realize this before? Just show up! And someone will tell me what to do! Glory!

Here’s the available classes:

I need the classes to start before 9am if I’m going to get to work on time, so the ones in green circles are what works for me. This week I did Total Body Conditioning on Tuesday and Ultimate Conditioning on Thursday (Wednesday was spinning fail, and my realization happened on Monday :)).

On a side note, I know a lot of people don’t like group exercise because it can be embarrassing if you feel insecure about what you’re doing. Trust me, I always look like an idiot. I also make weird faces when they make me do shoulder exercises. It’s like my lip is attached to my shoulder, and whenever I lift it I snarl like Elvis. This is not attractive. Not at all. But I don’t know anyone in the class and therefore I don’t care. I will be Elvis, and I will get buff.

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Walking Makes a Difference

Before I reacquainted myself with the gym, oh, say, 2 days ago, I was in a bind. I couldn’t workout to DVD’s in my apartment, and I was averse to running due to scares about ruining my knees, and also a pulled groin muscle (that’s a whole different story I won’t even get into). With nowhere to turn, I was waking myself at 6am anyway with an urge to do something, anything, to get my blood flowing and stop the mel-ooze from taking over my body.

I thought, what about walking?

I’ve read in countless articles over time that the simplicity of walking is actually a very underrated tool in our arsenals. When the NY Times wrote a recent article about how French women stay so thin, the #2 reason was because they walk everywhere (#1 reason was portion control). People who preach the primal lifestyle –great article here–talk about sustaining man’s naturally fit frame through simple, yet impactful long walks (mixed with the occasional sprint in this case). These are just two great examples of many.

not knockin you, footlocker. just sayin.

If I think about my mindset a year ago or more, I would’ve never subscribed to the idea of walking as true exercise. At the end of a workout, my face had to turn bright red and I had to be so out of breath that I only wanted to collapse and yell mercy, or else it was a crock (when’s the last time you said the word crock? Just now.). But I guess I’ve opened my eyes a little bit, and relaxed my idea of what it means to get exercise. It doesn’t have to mean all or nothing. In fact, something is always better than nothing, which I find myself saying a lot in my posts these days.

Last week I woke up and went walking almost everyday. It felt glorious! Walking is a whole different way to experience being active. I was able to breathe the air in fully, and hold it in for a second before letting it out. My lungs weren’t under serious attack like they are during a run, they (my lungs) were enjoying themselves. I saw my environment in more detail–noticed restaurants and stores, the architecture of buildings, whole streets I would’ve run right past and not even known they existed. I got home so excited some days I had to call my boyfriend to rant about “the great walk I just went on.”

And you know what, I felt just as accomplished and fresh for the rest of the day as I do when I run. Walking is like a bottomless stack of get-out-of-jail-free and collect $200 cards.

Ever try it?

Gym Time Hath Cometh

This morning I did it.

I ran on a treadmill.

For the first time in six months.

But it wasn’t my original plan.

The goal this morning was to get to the gym for a 6:30am spinning class. At 5:45 my alarm went off, and I dutifully got my ass out of bed and jumped into my workout clothes. La ti da, pull my hair back in a ponytail, la ti da, throw today’s clothes in my gym back. As I pick up my bag to leave my apartment, I catch a glimpse of the clock on my microwave, and it’s 6:07. Aah! Two La-ti-da’s and I’m late?! I realized there’s no way I would make it.

I booked it out the door regardless, speedwalked to the train, and arrived only to see the next 6 train wasn’t coming for another six minutes. The time at that point was 6:26. FAIL. What a bummer. Besides the fact that I wasn’t going to the make the class, I was also exhausted from such an early wake-up. I debated “if I go back home now, I can go back to sleep til 8!”. But why waste how far I’ve come (note: I didn’t really come that far)? Why throw away my butt-crack-o-dawn action, when that extra 45 minutes of sleep won’t even really refresh me?

So, I went to the gym anyway. I told myself that something is always better than nothing, and accepted the fact that this meant I would be on… cough… coughcoughcough… the treadmill. DREADMILL.

Boldly going nowhere. Good shirt.

I got to the gym, threw my bag in a locker, and headed downstairs to the cardio room. As I reached the bottom step, I saw the sad souls running in place on their machines. Watching TV to make the time pass. I hesitated as I started to walk toward them. Kind of like when you force yourself to take Robitussin when you’re sick, but you have an instant gag reflex even before you put the spoon in your mouth.

Working past the gag, I chose a machine and got on it. Besides being repulsed, I was scared, too. I haven’t run in a month, and I believed all my ability was probably gone. So I started walking. I walked for maybe 3 minutes, and then started jogging at 5.0. Honestly, it didn’t feel so bad. I decided on an old trick I used to do to make treadmill workouts feel like they go fast, and keep things challenging: intervals. Any kind of intervals. 2 minutes on, 1 minute off. For example: 2 minutes at a faster pace, 1 minute at regular pace. 2 minutes at an incline of 4, 1 minute flat. And so on. And so forthe. And so it is written. So it was done.

Victory.

Eating Tons of Plants All Day

Hello.

As I have not been running, working out, or doing anything remotely interesting in the exercise world, I decided to share with you a standard day of meals for mel. I know a lot of you read blogs that focus solely on healthy eating, cooking, and creative meals, so this might fit in, eh?

The first thing you should know is that my meals are usually very uncreative. I am the kind of person who can eat the same thing everyday and be cool with it. Even more scary specifically, I go to the same deli near my office for both breakfast and lunch daily. And then I eat the same dinner once I get home (unless I go out to eat, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately :)). In all of these meals I try to eat either fruit or vegetables. Lots of them. TONS of them. Hugemassiveamountsofthem.

Why do I put such little thought into my meals? Because I generally don’t care what I eat. That takes too much time. As long as it’s healthy and it tastes good I’m good to go. It’s actually probably a bad thing that I keep eating the same foods because I’m not varying the nutrients my body gets, but… eh.. we can worry about that another time.

Standard day of eats:

BREAKFAST:

I've eaten greek yogurt everyday for maybe 1 year

Notes about bfast: That is a commercial bran muffin behind a container of Greek yogurt and mixed berries. I have a muffin obsession, and generally only eat the muffin top and then chuck it. Yes, this is a waste of muffin bottom.

LUNCH:

whatthehellisinthis

Lunch notes: Attempted list of what’s in this huge salad. Go! spinach base, avocado and sunflower seeds (for a dose o’ healthy fat), carrots, sprouts, mushrooms, and chick peas. All in plain balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Try putting salt and pepper on a salad–it actually rocks and there’s no turning back for me now.

INSERT AFTERNOON SNACK HERE: generally it would be one of those single serving packs of almonds that you find in the deli (if you’re from NYC, i’m talking about those beige and orange bags), an apple or some other fruit, and a ton of random pretzels throughout the day that we keep in the office.

DINNER:

that's IT?

Dinner notes: Here’s the deal with dinner. By the time I get home from work, I am the most ravenous monster you have ever met. I need to eat food immediately, and there is NO TIME to think about it. Thus I give you: a microwaved veggie burger ( really awesome tasting from MorningStar Farms) and leftover roasted brussel sprouts. I never eat these with a bun. I think it’s because I envision it more as a side of tasty protein (weird way to put it?) and less like a hamburger shaped thing that needs a bun.

INSERT NIGHT TIME SNACK HERE: something chocolate. everytime. or else I turn back into a frog.

You might’ve noticed (or maybe you didn’t; then allow me to point this out for you) that there is no meat in this day. Without thinking about it, it’s very easy to me to skip meat for days in a row. My mind just doesn’t gravitate to it at all, I’m not sure why. I have no problem with eating meat, just sayin’. It’s not as frequent for me as it might be for other people. I also noticed there’s no bread up there. Bread’s great. I eat it all the time. Just not most of the time apparently.

Pretty accurate. Pretty boring. Pretty excellent in my eyes. Does this seem weird to you?

Lost In Action

I feel so unlike myself when I’m not active. It’s been about two weeks since I last did any workout within my strength training plan (okay, we all know it was not real strength training, but I’m going to give it a B for effort), and it’s been maybe three weeks since I ran.

Three weeks since I ran!

It’s a very strange feeling to me when my body is not in use. It feels like I’m slowly melting away, becoming a trail of gooey mel that drags behind me when I walk, picking up small pebbles and street debris. And no matter how many times I shower, I never feel clean.

Okay, that was a little over the top. But you get the point.

I haven’t known what to do since Gonzo messed with me. The thought of going to the gym pissed me off for a while because summer is my chance to NOT run on a treadmill and feel like a hamster on a wheel. Now that I’m at the point of restlessness though, I think that’s what it’s going to be. The gym. I am going to take advantage of the classes offered, and I think start with spinning in the mornings if I can manage the 5:30am wake-up call (ouch). Buttcrack o’ dawn wake-ups like that also require early bed times. Which means less night time fun time..

… wtf Gonz. Couldn’t just let me be, huh?

No You Cannot Workout In Your Apartment

Here I am, going about my weeks pumping up with my new workout regime, feeling self-motivated and mildly proud of my transition away from running when BAM, the world conspires against me.

By the world, I mean my neighbor. Let’s call him Gonzo. Tuesday night, I got home from work to find a note under my door. My first thought was “How quaint, a note from someone, slipped under my door. Kinda cute.” Then I read the letter, and it was not cute. Although it wasn’t altogether mean, it was disconcerting.

Hi Melanie,

I realize I may be reaching the wrong apartment as you are almost always super quiet, but this morning there was a loud thumping noise (as if someone was jumping in their apartment) from 7am to about 8:15. This cost me a couple hours of sleep. My apology again if this wasn’t you. I hope all is quiet on my end.

All Best,

Gonzo

Gonzo@hotmail.com

212.555.gonzo

I am Gonzo, you will not workout.

Hm. What to do? My plan was to be honest, and slip a note under his door in response.

Hey Gonzo,

The only thing I can think of is that I did a workout DVD this morning, but I didn’t start until 7:30, and I’ve been doing it for weeks without disturbing you. Regardless, hope you still had a good day.

Best,

Melanie

P.S. You are fantastic on the muppets.

P.P.S. I will not requite you with my phone number and email address because clearly this system of dropping notes under doors is much more efficient.

Okay cool, no big deal, a day goes by, Gonzo doesn’t write back, and one day at 11am I break out Jillian Michael’s DVD for a mid-morning butt-kick sesh. I’ve yet to be able to finish this workout and have skipped the last 2 circuits everytime, but this time was looking like a victory!

Until… KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.  KNOCK KNOCK.

There it was. Gonzo, furiously knocking on my door, ready to be all muppety in my face. I opened the door and received a grown-man-but-really-i’m-six-years-old-and-no-you-can’t-use-my-green-crayon tantrum.

“This is soo inconsiderate, it’s just, it’s just inconsiderate. Can’t you join a gym? Can’t you workout on the roof?”

Well, wow. I haven’t been confronted like that in a long time. I listened, I sympathized, and I made an attempt to reconcile with compromise. (that is a kickass rhyming sentence). We ended with the notion of my trying to keep my workouts to the evenings only. Certainly NOT early in the day according to Gonzo, and I would certainly not entertain the idea of working out on the roof. (But really, when it’s not so hot out, I could try it out?).

Since this confrontation, I haven’t done any workouts in my apartment. I’m actually scared to. And while I wish I had a stronger backbone to stick to my routine despite the Gonzo attack, maybe I am shaking his world upside down with my jumping jacks?

I need to find a solution. What to do… what to do…

The Beginning of Strength Training, Kind Of

So when I said I was focusing on strength training, I really had no legitimate plan to make that happen. My knowledge on how to “strength train” is somewhat limited. I’m that guy who walks into a gym, runs 30 minutes (okay, 25, treadmills are possibly the most boring experience in the world), and then plays with free weights wondering if I’m actually doing anything productive. Usually that means a few reps of bicep curls, and then standing there thinking for another five minutes before I give up and tell myself I did the best I could.

I guess technically that is not doing the best I can, is it. No mel, it’s not. To solve for this lack of expertise without spending a trillion dollars on a personal trainer, I bought a few workout DVD’s that focus on strength and toning. To me, the beauty of a DVD is that someone tells you what to do for an hour. There’s also the side bonus of being able to workout in your underwear without ever leaving your house. Yeah.

For the past two weeks I’ve been switching between these two workouts:

lady #1

lady #2

I might be fooling myself, but after the first week I noticed slight differences. For example, I was more aware of my lower abs and that alone affected my posture in a good way. I don’t know if I actually toned anything, but I was holding myself differently and it made me feel stronger. My ability to do certain strength moves like the walking plank have also improved with time, and that’s sweet.

I should also note that I haven’t been this sore since I once took a kickboxing class four years ago at a gym and then never went back because it hurt too much.

I am going to keep going with this semi-plan of strength training and see what else happens. Have I been running at all? Maybe two miles stints two days a week, but that’s it. Scary for me? Uh, very. But what the hell. Enter cliche: Thus is life.