Category Archives: Diet and Exercise

Gym Rules

File this under the “I wish I had written it” category: Jason Gay from the Wall Street Journal’s “funny because it’s true” 27 rules for being successful for all the New Year gym warriors.

Now, I am still relatively new to the fitness world and I am probably guilty of breaking several of these rules. At any minute I could make the decision to stay in bed instead of working out on a Saturday morning, and the next thing I know I haven’t seen the inside of the gym in six months and my membership fee is now just a monthly donation to the Jewish Community Center.

But this article is great no matter where you fall on the gym spectrum. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read it, below are some of my favorites of his “rules.”

4. No one in the history of gyms has ever lost a pound while reading “The New Yorker” and slowly pedaling a recumbent bicycle. No one.

8. There’s also the Strange Guy Who is Always at the Gym. Just when you think he isn’t here today…there he is, lurking by the barbells.

11. Gyms have two types of members: Members who wipe down the machines after using them, and the worst people in the universe.

12. Nope, that’s not a “recovery energy bar with antioxidant dark chocolate.” That’s a chocolate bar.

14. You can take 10 Minute Abs, 20 Minute Abs, and 30 Minute Abs. There is also Stop Eating Pizza and Eating Sheet Cake Abs—but that’s super tough!

19. If a gym class is going to be effective, it’s hard. If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, you’re at brunch.

27. There is no secret. Exercise and lay off the fries. The end.

I would like to add my own as well: Either join the Zumba class or walk on by. Peering into the class while a bunch of Jewish women between the ages of 30- to 75-years-old (it’s the JCC people!) are doing their best Shakira is creepy.

Onlookers aside, Zumba has been a great way for me to balance my personal training sessions and other resistance/weights-focused workouts with some fun cardio. I’m not a runner and more than 10 minutes on the elliptical machine has me bored to sweat tears.

As anyone who has done Zumba will tell you, don’t worry if you’re slow to pick up the choreography. Zumba is all about staying in motion. More often than not, I’m on the wrong foot, the wrong hip, or even the wrong song. But it doesn’t matter. I’m still moving. I’m sweaty at the end of it and I barely notice an hour has gone by.

But whatever it is you choose to do to get in shape, just remember rule No. 22 from the article: Fancy gyms can be seductive, but once you get past the modern couches and fresh flowers and the water with lemon slices, you’re basically paying for a boutique hotel with B.O.

What are your fitness goals for the new year? Any gym rules you think should be added to the list?


Is Starting An Exercise Program After You Get Engaged Cliche?

It’s not just because I’m getting married! At least that is what I felt compelled to keep saying to my new personal trainer. It’s not as if she ever asked or judged or made any indication that she believed my motivation was anything but genuine or sustainable. But still, I eagerly convinced her, an upcoming wedding was just an incentive for a long-term lifestyle change!

When I started this blog, I stated that one area of balance I wanted to focus on was incorporating more exercise and fitness into my life. I wrote one post about it. And that was about the last time I worked out. A comeback it was not.

Admittedly, becoming engaged has inspired me to re-commit to get in better shape. I am not trying to lose weight as much as tone, be healthy, develop fitness habits and get arms like Jennifer Aniston (okay, that’s mainly just for the wedding).

To help, I signed up with a personal trainer at the university where I work. I’m hoping a trainer can help mitigate the circumstances that usually lead to me failing miserably at a workout regime: accountability; gym intimidation; no idea how to do anything properly; and an intense case of “I don’t feel like it.” Even though I will only meet with her once a week, just knowing I will have to tell her what I did the other days motivates me to press pause on the DVR (during season premiere week people!!) and get active.

My first session was this past Monday and I had to do stuff like this:

Did not smile like this. Or get my knees up that high.

I hope my students were watching me do this. Professionalism at its best!

It’s called a “fully body workout.” This morning, when it took me 15 minutes to put pants on, I had some other names for it. But I know the hurting is good and it will get easier. Sure, I had to stop eating my soup at lunch today because it was too painful to lift the spoon from the bowl to my mouth (I mean, have I NEVER used my triceps in 33 years? They sure are acting like it.), but when I have Jennifer Aniston’s arms feel healthier and stronger, I know it will be worth it.

My biggest hope is that by investing in a personal trainer, I will finally get past my most significant barrier to a sustainable exercise program: time. I mentioned this in my original post about working out, but I’m selfish with my time. It’s not that I don’t have enough time because I know everyone does, it’s that I don’t prioritize exercise enough to make the time for it.

Already I feel overwhelmed with commitments. I cancel one set of plans to make room for a time-sensitive engagement. And then reschedule the original commitment for a later date, so that the calendar fills up quickly. I call this my Ponzi scheme of making plans. To which JB replied that I don’t know what a Ponzi scheme is. To which I replied that he doesn’t know what a Ponzi scheme is. To which we both conceded that we don’t watch the news enough to know who is right.

But my point is, for this to work, I must think about exercise as one of those time-sensitive types of plans. I must schedule around it instead of trying to work it in whenever I have “time “(similar to what I need to do about blogging). So that is my pledge as of right this second. I will keep you posted and share any fitness advice that my trainer passes on that I think might be helpful.

Now if you will excuse me, I’ll likely need to use the restroom in the next hour so I should probably start making my way there now.

What are your fitness goals? How do you stick to them? Or what gets you in trouble?

Dear 23-Year-Old Self…

Last week, WordPress’s Daily Post posed the blog topic: If you could have a 5 minute conversation with yourself 10 years ago, what would you say? I’m game, so let’s set the scene: I am 23 and it is February of 2001. I’m about six months into my first job at a public relations agency. I’m still at home after moving back from college, but it’s cool. The economy rocks and I’m pretty much just rolling along. In my 5 minutes, here are the 6 pieces of advice I would impart to my younger, dapper self:

1. In 7 years, you will turn 30. About four minutes into your 30th year, your metabolism will pack a bag and joyfully head south to live out its days in retirement on a beach. It won’t even leave a note.

There will be no major visible change to the outside eye, but you will have to start making conscious efforts to stay healthy and maintain your weight. I implore you, start these habits now! Modify your diet, learn to cook, and above all, start exercising. The earlier you make these changes, the easier it will be to carry them out throughout your life. Otherwise, at 33, you’ll be the queen of excuses to skip the gym.

2. Circles don’t fit into squares. Stop trying so hard to convince yourself otherwise.  In a few years, your best friend will give you a card with Buddha’s quote: “Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness.” You will keep it on your counter for years and years (still do). You will even quote it at social gatherings, pretending you are a cultural scholar of sorts.  But you won’t really believe it for a long time. Believe it.

3. Save your money. Not because of an uncertain economy or the rising costs of higher education, but because around 2008, I want you to invest in a self-serve frozen yogurt franchise. People will think you are crazy. They will say, “but we already have TCBY.” Ignore them. And soon, over a cup of red velvet cupcake yogurt mixed with a little bit of cake batter topped with sprinkles, they will apologize for doubting you.

4. Travel abroad! We already regret not studying abroad in college, don’t make the same mistake during this early part in your adult life while you are still living at home and have few expenses.

5. Take a graphic or website design type of class at a community college. Actually, I probably didn’t need to tell myself that 10 years ago. I need to tell myself that now.

6. You know that voice (which sometimes manifests itself as stomach pains on Sunday nights) that keeps telling you that you don’t really like your current job or the industry you chose? Listen to it. You eventually will, but you could do it a lot sooner. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. And one day you will make a living out of telling people that it’s okay to change their mind about career decisions.

I don’t mean to present these as regrets (besides not studying abroad in college, I meant that one) because they are not. And I suspect that in 10 years, I will look back at my 33-year-old self and have plenty of “if I knew then what I know now” wisdom to share as well. But it wouldn’t be life without figuring it out for yourself. Your current self, that is.

What would you share with yourself 10 years ago? Would you even want to talk to yourself? I’m kind of afraid of what my hair would look like. I don’t think I bought a CHI until 2004.

My Perfect Sunday

I wrote about Blue Monday earlier this week, but I’ve been prompted to move to Sunday. One of the Daily Post topics this week asked readers to describe their idea for a perfect Sunday. I like thinking about perfect days, so here it goes.

Naturally, it would begin with brunch. A wondrous meal because it does not involve getting out of bed early like its more ambitious sibling, breakfast. And on a perfect Sunday, I would definitely not use an alarm clock. Also since it’s perfect, I’m in Austin. Or at least they have opened a Kerbey Lane in Dallas.

Following brunch, I spend the afternoon at a coffee shop reading my book, clearing out the Google Reader and blogging.

After the coffee shop and possibly some loafing on the couch with the past week’s DVR lineup, I meet up with the family for our regular Sunday night dinners. I use the word “dinner” loosely seeing as we eat at about 5 p.m. due to young children and old(er) grandparents with a bedtime.

This is not my family. We're not quite so L.L. Bean.

Finally, I head home and JB comes over. Because I’m already starving again and because it’s a perfect Sunday, we have one last adventure before the work week commences — frozen yogurt. Our strategy: sample all the sugary delicious flavors, but only load your cup up with the no sugar added kinds. I can usually refrain from the candy toppings and stick to granola and yogurt chips. A perfect way to wind down!

And so it ends, my perfect Sunday. But the good news? This isn’t a fantasy day, this is my normal Sunday! There are exceptions of course. At least a couple of Sundays per month, I am showering a friend for a bridal or baby milestone. And this Sunday, for example, I will be taking my nephew to Chuck E. Cheese’s for his birthday. *Waiting for panic attack to pass* Ok, I’m back.

But for the most part, ensuring there is some part of “perfect” in the Sunday is essential for starting the week off balanced and refreshed.

So the obvious question to you — what makes your Sunday perfect? And perhaps the not as obvious — how do you NOT lose a child at Chuck E. Cheese’s?

Oh Happy Place!

I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing holiday season that hopefully includes some time off work. And if you are at your office this week, I hope you are wearing jeans and keeping your Internet browser busy. I won’t judge you if you didn’t even shower.

I’m back in Dallas, but have spent most of my break so far in Ohio visiting JB’s family. Ohio happens to be home to the latest infraction in college football, so there was much discussion (some calm, some not) during our trip about what exactly goes through the minds of these players (and coaches and parents and boosters and…) that gets them in so much trouble when they otherwise have so much to gain. I found myself getting downright angry about all of it and my feelings were snowballing — I couldn’t even get through a simple episode of “Two and a Half Men” with the family without espousing on the injustice of Charlie Sheen making millions despite his off-camera alleged criminal activity.

My plan was to channel these feelings into my next blog post because after all, I can’t think of an entity that needs balance restoration more than the college athletics system, but as I listened to myself rant and rave, I wondered why anyone would want to hear, much less read, this negativity.

So I as I sat here thinking about a happier topic, I looked around and realized I was in it — my Happy Place! I think everyone should have a happy place that you can go to physically and, if nothing else, mentally. We need surroundings that restore our sense of calm and equilibrium. We all have different needs in this area, but I want to share a little about my own, Cafe Brazil.

It’s just a local chain of restaurants in Dallas, nothing fancy — a coffee house, but so much more. Let me share a little bit of what my senses are experiencing right now to get me to this feeling of peace and happiness:

Sight: I’m at a location that mixes North Dallas hipsters (um yes, there are some!) with families with professionals. People eating alone, people at a table of 10. A woman is working on her laptop, a man is reading some papers, and others are just chatting. You can make this place whatever you need it to be. I like coming with friends or alone, like today, to read and write.

Taste: Oh, the taste! Like I said, it’s definitely more than a coffee house. The food here ranges from breakfast to dinner, from pancakes to crepes to salads. Since I basically ate cookies and pasta for five days straight in Ohio, I opted for one of their healthy options today, the Wine Country Salad — a delicious mix of greens, apples, strawberries, grilled chicken, and walnuts. My picture below doesn’t do it justice.

Smell: It’s more than a coffee house, but my favorite thing about Cafe Brazil remains the coffee and it’s aroma fills the air. They have a self-serve, bottomless coffee bar with different flavors of java, including my flavor of choice below. I love being able to just get up and refill my mug; it’s that comforting feeling of being at home (with no clean-up required).

Sound: Today the music has been mostly 80’s rock, including some “Sweet Child of Mine.” Enough said.

Touch: Well, if my hand touches something in the restroom here, I don’t freak out. That’s pretty much a bare minimum for a happy place.

The Intangibles: The biggest reason that Cafe Brazil is my happy place is just the vibe I feel when I’m here. I feel like I’m in Austin. I feel independent and empowered as I sit and eat and write by myself — yet being surrounded by others doing the same. I feel balanced.

I’m not anti-corporate by any means. I can, and do, all of these things at Starbucks too (well, except the bottomless coffee — yeah right!). But for me, Cafe Brazil is all I need. In 2011, I am committing myself to spending more time in my happy place. I mean, as long as they don’t start airing college sports, why wouldn’t I?

So… what is your happy place? What makes it so happy for you?

Don’t Call It A Comeback (Yet)

In my first post, I wrote about the four goals I had set for myself, one of them being to get serious about eating healthy and exercise. Over the last couple of months, I have been doing alright when it comes to making or trying to make better diet decisions (two bowls of chips at the Mexican restaurant last night notwithstanding), but that whole “physical exertion to burn calories, tone the muscles, strengthen the heart, and clear the mind” thing has been pretty much nonexistent.

Until this week.

I found myself on a treadmill at a real gym (35 minutes). And also back at my favorite gym — my living room. I don’t mind saying it, I love Exercise TV. Perhaps that automatically ages me 20 years, but last year, it rejuvenated — maybe even sparked for the first time — actual enjoyment in exercise.

On Demand exercise is like having a personal trainer in your living room. When left to my own devices to figure out a workout, I do things like, you know, stop. And my physical gym is at work. Which is a university. Which means I share it with university students in the best shape of their lives. Sometimes it’s all just a little much.

I flipped through the Exercise TV programs and here are some ones that I am excited to try, and others that I’m ready to get back to. I like to mix and match:

  • Cardio Strength Interval (21 minutes) – Denise Austin (she’s eerily positive, but it’s eerily effective)
  • Boot Camp Calorie Burn (33 minutes) – Kendall Hogan
  • Cardioke (25 minutes) – Billy Blanks, Jr. (definitely would file this in the “never in front of other people” category, but it’s fun!)
  • Disco Abs (30 minutes) – Cheryl Burke (from Dancing with the Stars)
  • Kendra Wilkinson’s Be a Knockout series (7-10 minutes each) – This one is more about Kendra’s trainer than Kendra, but honestly this former bunny-turned-mother comes off as fairly relatable and a fun training partner.

The biggest self-imposed obstacle for me as it pertains to exercising regularly is making time for it. I won’t ever use the excuse “I don’t have time” because that’s lame, but feeling motivated to make time is my challenge. Hopefully this is the beginning of my full-on exercise comeback. Based on my upcoming holiday events and travels, I’m going to need it.

How do you stay motivated to maintain a regular exercise routine? What are some ways to adjust for busy holiday plans?

Source for photo

Time to Start

If you are reading this, it means I actually posted a blog. It also means you’re probably my mom because I can’t believe I would have the nerve to tell anyone else.

I have talked about blogging for a while, but it was not until I received a postcard in the mail of a note I had written to myself about what I wanted to be doing in six months that I felt spurred to action. I can’t remember where I wrote it and I had no recollection of writing it at all when I curiously opened the envelope the day I received it (I’m assuming about six months after writing it). My colleague received one too, so as much as I would like to think it was a mysterious paranormal happening of my subconscious finding a way to reach me by way of lined index card, it was probably just a “live your dream” exercise at a conference.

And it worked. I started to seriously think about this blog, what I wanted to write about and why.

I always knew I wanted to write about balance, but it’s not a blog about simplifying. Simplicity is not really for me. I’ve tried different simplifying strategies (and if you’re looking for a blog that shares some, Zen Habits

The mysterious postcard reminder - transferred to refrigerator immediately.

is probably the best there is), but they don’t work for me because as it turns out, I like things a little complicated and over-scheduled… and frenetic… and neurotic. My moments of zen are nothing more than Daily Show segments and I’m okay with that.

So I strive to find balance without stripping things away. Is it possible? Sometimes. Is it sustainable? I hope so. I’ll be using this blog to talk about the ways I am learning to create this equilibrium in four main areas of my life related to four goals I set for myself last year. I hope I can share some helpful tips along the way, attempt to make you laugh, or at least provide a place for commiseration. The four areas I’ll be focusing on are:

·         Developing and maintaining a healthy romantic relationship
·         Getting serious about being healthy in terms of diet and exercise
·         Strengthening relationships with friends and family by being better at keeping in touch
·         Keeping a work/life balance (I probably won’t write too much on this. It’s covered. And when I write about it, I feel like I’m working.)

The first blog post is titled Time to Start. It’s a song from a Blue Man Group’s performance. I have never seen said performance mind you, but a friend of mine played it for me as I was recovering from a tough break-up. For the blue performers, it is just about starting the concert, but I was a different type of blue and for me, it was a reminder that my time living in (as well as weeping in, obsessing in, being angry in) the past was over and it was time to start moving on. It’s now a little bit of an anthem for me and for anytime I am embarking on a new adventure. I would call this an adventure.

I hope you will come along on the adventure. And don’t worry, I promise not all posts will be this long. If you are actually still reading this, thanks Mom.