The OG Workout

The secret to actually working out is to be prepared. Having my gym bag packed and by the door is half the battle. The other preparation I make is to plan out my workouts in advance so I know what I’m going to do at the gym. I’ve been discovering apps to help me with this, which I’ll blog about in the future – I’m still trying them out. In the meantime, I’ve created a workout that I call the OG workout. OG because the exercises are old school and classic but can also be customized for my energy level and to avoid boredom.

Here’s the crux of the workout and then I’ll tell you my variations. Push-ups, “pull-ups,” goblet squats, single leg deadlifts with kettlebell, burpees, step-ups with dumbells, low plank and side plank. I do eight reps of everything (except 30 seconds of plank and 15 seconds each of side plank) and try to get through the workout three times. Doing the whole workout straight through was exhausting so I’m messing around with blocks, e.g. block 1 is three sets of push-ups and “pull-ups,” block 2 is three sets of squats and deadlifts, etc.

Here are my variations:

  • Push-ups: sometimes I do them from my knees.
  • “Pull-ups:” I can’t even say pull-ups without quotation marks, because I couldn’t do a pull-up to save my life. I’ve been doing jumping pull-ups, where I put the bar on the Smith machine as high as it goes, put my hands on it like I’m going to do a pull-up, and jump up trying to pull myself a little higher. I can also substitute a lat pull from a standing position.
  • Goblet squats: I’ve been doing it with a 15 lb. kettlebell but there are so many squat variations. Have a field day.
  • Single leg deadlifts: I love/hate this exercise. I hate it because it requires balance, which I suck at, but I also love it because it improves my balance. Plus I can see myself getting better at it over time. I do this with a 15 lb. kettlebell.
  • Burpees: Yeah, I put burpees in my routine that I MADE UP MYSELF. No one assigned me burpees but me. I hate burpees more than anything, but they’re good for mobility. Getting up and down off the floor is a life skill that I want to maintain into old age. Although sometimes I do my burpees off a bench which does not do much for mobility but it gets my heart rate up because I’m jumping my legs front and back instead of stepping.
  • Step-ups: I do this with 10 lb. dumbells.
  • Plank and side plank: I’m a pretty good planker, but by the end of this workout, I’m exhausted and three sets of 30 second low plank and three sets of 15 second side plank on each side is all I can handle.

Feel free to steal or customize this workout. I’ve been doing it about once a week, interspersed with other things on other days. It’s great because you can make it as hard or easy as you want, and believe me, I feel it afterwards.

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Balance Checks

I was doing Bulgarian split squats…..PAUSE. I bet you never thought you’d read, and I never thought I’d write, a blog entry that starts this way. For a Bulgarian split squat, one leg is in front of the other, with the back foot resting on a box, and then you squat as low as you can go which in my case is not very low. Bulgarian split squats are HARD. But they’re also very good for me for the sole reason that I suck at them. They require balance, which is not my strong suit. I can barely maintain the starting position, let alone squat in that position.

And so I was flailing around like crazy when my trainer said to me, “all those balance checks are good, it means you’re improving.” That seemed like a profound statement to me, not just with regard to Bulgarian split squats but to life. Balance checks are the little corrections we make along the way when we’re doing something hard. 

One example is in meditation when you start worrying about work instead of clearing your mind, you can make a conscious effort to notice the negative feelings and refocus on your breath. This may happen many times during a meditation session but that’s ok. Balance checks. Another example is when I have to do public speaking, which I’m not the greatest at, I try to read the room and make corrections as I’m going along. Things like avoiding filler words like um and like, skipping over material if I’m losing the crowd, talking faster or slower, and my favorite – throwing in a funny remark.

Don’t avoid doing something just because it’s hard. Don’t avoid doing something you suck at. Balance checks might feel like you’re flailing around trying to avoid falling on your face. And in fact, that IS exactly what they are. But balance checks are also the things that are keeping you from falling. Don’t focus on the flailing, focus on the not falling.

A Good Sulk

I was in a mood.

It started when I stepped on the scale in the morning. To be fair, I weighed the same as I had the day before, which was in the range of what I’ve weighed the past few months although edging toward the higher side. And also to be fair, my husband and I have been having “happy hour” since he returned from his trip a few days ago, which involves beer, brie and crackers and chips and salsa. And also I had cast iron skillet pizza for dinner in honor of Anthony Bourdain. Don’t ask what the connection is between Anthony Bourdain and cast iron skillet pizza – there really isn’t one, except reclaiming food that I love — and I make a mean cast iron skillet pizza.

I had no business even checking my weight, let along being upset about it. But geez, do I have to pay the price for every little splurge? It wasn’t just the weight. My house was a mess and my bills were unpaid and we were about to have houseguests and I had no desire to remedy the situation.

And then my husband and I had words. Not to worry, nothing serious. I took my frustration out on him and he responded in kind. I bolted from the table and went outside, slamming the door on the way out. Problem #1: I had my bathrobe on. There’s only so long you can stay outside in your bathrobe. Problem #2: I hadn’t read the paper yet. Reading the paper with breakfast is one of life’s pleasures. Still, after a good door slam and a little frustration cry, I felt better. But I still had to save face. So I snuck back into the house, got dressed, and planned to be out of my husband’s sight all day.

And do you know what I did? I paid the bills, picked up my dry cleaning, went to the grocery store, returned my library books, went to Marshall’s but did not buy anything, went to a gym class, did the laundry, made up the beds in the guest room (aka the now empty kids’ room), and made dinner. By the time I was done with all that, things were back to normal. My husband and I ate dinner and watched a movie on Netflix and all was forgotten.

It’s amazing what a good sulk can do. It’s so cathartic, letting out the bad feelings and making room for the good energy to move forward. I don’t recommend it as a regular practice but every once in a while, it has its charms.

RIP Anthony Bourdain

How can I possibly diet when my celebrity crush is dead?

Yes, Anthony Bourdain was my celebrity crush. I read his article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” in the New Yorker when it first came out in 1999 and I still remember it because it was so funny and eye-opening about what goes on behind the scenes in restaurants. I loved Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Toor (the book about the TV series). I also read Medium Raw, which was sort of a sequel and semi-apology for the angry tone of Kitchen Confidential – but there was no need — Kitchen Confidential was great because of its attitude, not in spite of it. I also read his latest cookbook and follow him on Instagram. Following someone on social media makes you feel like you know someone even when you don’t.

I loved Anthony Bourdain for the same reasons that everyone else did – he was honest, curious, and open-minded about people, cultures and food. And funny. My daughter put it well in a text to me: “He was really imperfect and sometimes an asshole, but was also someone who spoke the truth without apologizing to anyone for doing so.” And I’m the one who writes a blog?

There were other reasons that Bourdain was my celebrity crush. He was so handsome. But the crux of it is that Anthony Bourdain was totally opposite of me but everything I secretly want to be. He was fearless, or if he were afraid of something, he’d do it anyway. It seemed like he did dangerous things in every episode. I happen to be risk-averse, which is a nice way of saying that I’m afraid of everything. Anthony Bourdain was also open and comfortable talking to strangers, often with a language barrier. I know that he had all kinds of production people in the background helping him out but he came across as genuine. I, on the other hand, am shy and often feel awkward talking to people I don’t know well. He was also a bad boy, with tattoos and a history of drug use and he practiced martial arts and embodied toxic masculinity until he realized that wasn’t cool. I have always been a good girl and a rule follower, at least most of the time!

So for an hour here and there, I could join Anthony Bourdain on his adventures, learning about the history and everyday culture of countries across the world. And that, in addition to his being extremely attractive, is why he was my celebrity crush.

But I’m leaving out something essential. Food. Like Anthony Bourdain, I like to eat and cook. I love exploring ethnic neighborhoods and finding holes in the wall with amazing food. I love going for Korean food with my Korean-American friend and not knowing what we’re eating but enjoying it all anyway. I was happy to see that I was familiar with many of the restaurants that Anthony Bourdain profiled in his L.A episodes or articles. I love real, authentic, unfussy, unfetishized food. And that’s what Anthony Bourdain gave us with every episode and book. 

And so in his honor, I’m going to focus a little less on my recent diet obsession and a little more on what makes life great – simple food prepared well and people to share it with.

When the Cat’s Away…

My husband’s out of town, and I cheated. On my diet, that is.

For those of you who are married or have long-term partners, do you ever make mental lists of things you’d do if your partner was away? My list used to have things on it like play rock and roll, loud. Now my list pretty much contains one item – eat ice cream.

We do eat ice cream together, but it’s not the same. I’m talking about getting a pint of high-end ice cream and eating as much as I want straight from the container. I can’t do that with him around because he’d treat the high-end ice cream just like supermarket ice cream – taking a big scoop and not savoring it. Plus the ridiculous cost of the high-end ice cream would diminish his enjoyment of it…IF I decided to tell him how much it cost. But the bottom line is that I want a whole pint of premium ice cream ALL TO MYSELF.

I haven’t bought ice cream in months and months. Which actually made me feel guilty that I’ve deprived my husband of ice cream all this time but as soon as he leaves town…what diet? And so I bought some ice cream for us to eat together the night before he left. Plus a pint just for myself. We ate the ice cream, this on top of having his favorite Trader Joe’s lasagne for dinner. Not great for the diet, but hey, you have to make compromises to keep a marriage going.

I’ve been enjoying my secret pint of ice cream while he’s been gone. Check one off the bucket list.

The Scale – Yes or No?

When I told a few trusted friends that I was weighing myself regularly, they gave me skeptical looks. If you look and feel fine, what difference does the number on the scale make? And another friend told me something that sounded profound at the time, “I don’t use my weight as a measurement to beat myself up with.” So to weigh or not to weigh? This blog entry will explore whether you should weigh yourself at all and if so, whether you should weigh yourself every day.

Should You Weigh Yourself at All?

I listened to a podcast recently that discussed alternatives to weight as a way to measure fitness. Alternative #1: how do your clothes fit? Crap. First alternative and I’m in trouble already. My clothes not fitting is the single biggest signal that I want to lose weight. I had to give one of my favorite pairs of pants – I call them my rock-n-roll pants – they’re plaid flannel and have lots of cool zippers – to my sister because I could no longer get them on EVEN WITH SPANX. When I finally asked her whether she ever wears them, she sheepishly told me that they’re too big on her. Bitch.

So my clothes don’t fit, but I’m ok on the other measures of fitness. I recently had a physical and all my numbers — cholesterol, blood sugar and the like — were good. I feel good, I have energy, I’m exercising and eating well. So does weight really matter?

It matters to me, only because when I wasn’t paying attention to weight, I’d weigh myself occasionally at the gym and my weight went up every time. When I looked at my electronic medical record, the weight gain in a short time was significant. I’m not saying that weighing yourself is important for everyone, but it is important to me right now because it gives me regular feedback that I can act on. I’m a data geek and am motivated by numbers. Just like I wear a Fitbit even though I already know when I’m not getting enough steps (always), weighing myself is the same principle.

That being said, if you’re the type to obsess over the number on the scale, then maybe weighing is not for you. Why be miserable?

Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day?

If you are going to weigh yourself, I recommend doing it every day, at the same time (first thing in the morning after you pee) on the same scale. Our weight fluctuates daily and within the day and scales are calibrated differently. Weighing yourself under the same conditions controls for this variation. 

Being a data geek, I know that recording my weight daily provides more data on which to show trends. If you only weigh yourself once a week or once a month, there’s a chance that you might pick the day after you just had a cheeseburger or skipped lunch, giving you an artificially high or low reading that doesn’t reflect your average weight. Weighing yourself every day solves that.

The down side of weighing yourself every day is that it’s easy to allow the weight loss or gain to affect your mood – elated when you’ve lost a pound or two and depressed when you’ve gained even a few ounces. THESE ARE NATURAL FLUCTUATIONS, PEOPLE, and by people, I mean myself. Please, please do not judge your progress by the day, but rather by the weekly or monthly trend, or sometimes I even look at the trend over six months, just to make myself feel good. I enter my daily weight into a fitness app (MyFitnessPal, but there are jillions of others) which calculates the trends for me. 

The only good thing about looking at the daily fluctuations is that you can remember what you ate and/or how much you exercised the day before and make adjustments. Like in my case, damn I really can’t eat any ice cream, can I? But hopefully it will even out by the end of the week.

Bottom Line

There is no right answer for everyone. Not owning a scale is a perfectly acceptable option, and probably the healthiest. But if you’re trying to lose weight and need feedback on your progress, then go for it but don’t get hung up on it. As my friend says, don’t use your weight as a measurement to beat yourself up with.

Gratitude

I’m diverging from my usual posts about my weight loss obsession to blog about something more important – gratitude. 

There’s so much in life to bring us down, whether it’s large scale bad in the world or the petty annoyances of everyday life. To put things into perspective, I like to counter petty annoyances with expressions of gratitude. It sounds corny, but it works. 

Examples:

Petty annoyance: There’s been construction around my work building FOREVER and I have to cross three streets instead of one because the sidewalk is closed on my side of the street. Gratitude: I’m fortunate to have two strong legs and that I’m healthy enough to cross three streets. Imagine how hard it would be in a wheelchair or walker. Plus think of all the extra steps I’m getting.

Petty annoyance: The newspaper has been delivered to the bottom of the driveway instead of the stoop outside the front door FOR THE THIRD DAY IN A ROW. Gratitude: I’m fortunate to have a house to have the paper delivered to, I’m grateful to be living in a city that still has a good newspaper, and I’m grateful to the person who makes it possible for me to walk outside and get the paper every day and that I don’t have the job of waking up early and doing the strenuous work of delivering papers for most likely not much money.

Petty annoyance: I was taken aback to see a homeless person washing up in a fountain outside my work building. Gratitude: I am so lucky to own a home with a bathroom and shower and that I never have to suffer the indignity of washing up in public. Upon closer look, I realized that it might not be a homeless person after all since she had a pretty nice backpack and was with another guy with a nice backpack and a bike. It was probably a tourist who was trying to cool down.

Another thing I do to counter annoyance and impatience is that I do breathing exercises at red lights and while waiting for the elevator. I hate waiting, mostly because I’m so often running late and I take out my annoyance with myself for not having left earlier on the elevator or traffic light. So I do breathing exercises to calm down. Breathe in for four, hold for seven, and out for eight. The in breath is silent but the out breath should be a whoosh with tongue touching the back of your upper front teeth. This might not be possible if you’re waiting for an elevator with other people around but I’ve gotten good at modifying to meet the situation. Usually the elevator comes or the light changes before I can get to four breaths. This is also a good exercise to do in bed when you’re trying to fall asleep. 

And that, dear readers, is how Good Enough Life Coach remains (or appears to remain) so chill.