Week One Report: Ass badder, no narrower

Okay, let’s break it down by the numbers:

  • Starting weight: 225 pounds
  • Current weight: 225 pounds
  • Number of brunches consumed yesterday: two
  • Time spent looking at fecking hipster in introductory video for nike+, reading FAQs and reviews: 45 minutes
  • Workouts last week: Four (including inaugural “why bother?” session on treadmill: “Fitness test, level five, twenty minutes: ‘Can you handle a short stroll to the cafeteria and back?‘”)

Yesterday was Kate’s birthday (hurrah!), so a night spent at the Hotel DuPont, plus a noble Kate-and-John Extended Date tradition of having one early brunch and one late brunch (I mean, really breakfast and lunch, but on Sundays it’s all one long Vale of Brunch from six AM to two PM), plus a birthday dinner where I cooked for the family means that I ended yesterday happy, contented, and stuffed like Templeton the rat, offsetting any ass-narrowing progress I may have made last week with all the yuppie lunches sourced from Ashby’s.

Not that I’m complaining. I managed two early-morning workouts last week. Well, let’s say I managed two early-morning trips to the gym last week; calling what I was doing “working out” is a little enthusiastic. I made up for it with two thirty-minute runs on the weekend with the maharani in her jog stroller (“run faster, daddy! Faster!” — I am not kidding.)

So being a card-carrying member of The Order of Men Who Expect to Lose Seven Pounds a Week if the Just Reduce the Amount of Gravy on Their Chicken-Fried Steak By Half, it’s a little discouraging to not at least see one pound drop. But that’s silly, of course, and I’m telling you about it so I can stick to my guns this week and post some improvement. I’ve got work to do if I’m gonna hit 185 by April, which leaves me six months for actual, by-god marathon training at that point!

PS. to Will Ronco: Thanks very much for the advice that if I ran from home, instead of the gym, I could run for a whole hour. I appreciate the advice, Will, but it occurs to me that you may have forgotten what it was like to be a Human Man, back before you had to make sure to change directions halfway through your workout so you do not alter the rotation of the earth. I’ll get there 🙂

Week One Report: Ass badder, no narrower

Ass-baddening commences! Day one report!

Now that I’m, you know… a marathon runner [see previous post, re: the Portland Marathon], my schedule looks like this:
Monday and Wednesday Nights:

  • Feed cat at night, so he won’t scream bloody murder all morning.
  • Pick out work clothes, fold them and put them in a bag.
  • Hey, look! I found my watch! It must have been in the bag since the last time I worked out at a gym. Like, two years ago.
  • Leave bag and clean shirt on a hanger by the door to my closet.
  • Put a pair of sneakers, socks, and shorts by the door to my closet.
  • Try to remember to put deodorant and a razor in the bag.
  • Forget that my padlock is in the garage; go get it. Don’t bother to put on shoes, step in cold cat poop on the lawn. Cat poop goes between toes. Hop inside, wash foot. Put padlock in bag.
  • Remember that I’ll need a towel, if I don’t want to do a Comedy Fig Leaf impression in the gym shower. Go get one; put it on the bag.
  • Set the alarm clock for 5AM.

Tuesday and Thursday Mornings:

  • Alarm goes off at 5AM; roll out of bed, go put on socks, shoes, and shirt. Brush teeth. Admire punk-rock bed head.
  • Grab bag, shirt. Walk out front door into dark, still morning. Feel surge of marathon-runner-itude. Try to remember why I’m not just going for a run; remember it has something to do with not taking a noisy shower after six, when LBY is liable to take any excuse to wake up.
  • Get in car, drive to Mitch’s Market Street Gym. Park car, walk inside. Swipe entry card three times in scanner, proclaiming myself to be a newbie. Guy behind desk looks like Creed, looks at me tolerantly. Locker room is sixty-five degrees
  • Open locker, put in bag and shirt, close padlock.
  • Twenty minutes of treadmill (“Fitness test, level five”.) Longest phase of treadmill setup: “Set Weight”. Leave finger on plus button for what seems like an hour, as the numbers rack up. I’m first one on treadmill, so my brontosaurus-like stomping echoes loudly through the space.
  • Back downstairs at 5:45AM; open padlock, take out towel, put in gym clothes, lock padlock.
  • Take shower (ugh, forgot flip-flops!), back to locker. Open locker, take padlock, put in bag.
  • Listen to two guys in locker room bantering about when they get to go to the gym, and how one guy’s wife just started going (probably to Curves, since he mentions that it’s ten bucks a month:) “She really needs to work out.” “Hey, as long as you’re the fat slob!” Both guy #2 and guy #1 were pretty ripped, so I’m not sure where to place this conversation on the Big Internet Numberline of Offensiveness, as of course all conversations must be so graded.
  • Put on work clothes, shave, pat pockets one thousand times
  • Get in car, drive to Dunkin Donuts, buy iced coffee (marathon runners don’t drink lattes!) and a plain bagel.
  • Get on train, blog about a marathon runner’s typical morning. You know, because at this point I have a sample of… one.

So as you can see, with all the ancillary tasks to the twenty minutes of treadmill, it seems that I’m in training to be a marathon valet, rather than a marathon runner. However, I’m hoping that as I gain more practice (TODO: buy a bigger gym bag, flip-flops, get a second set of toiletries, look for padlocks that are easier to open, develop complicated relationship with spaghetti dinners) the actual, you know, workout part will become more prominent and the fumbling with padlocks, less.

And I’m hoping to avoid cat poop. I could do without the cat poop part.

Ass-baddening commences! Day one report!

I’ve blogged about this before.

looks kind of like a meat hand-puppet
I can understand why Weight Watchers decided to put a bemused-looking avatar next to the message that you’ve gained weight since the last time you plugged your digits into the site. (Last time I plugged my digits into the site was about a month ago, and I’ve been going up and down since then.) I mean, sure, you can’t show a picture of a ham, or a cartoon plate of turkey bones, right? A bemused avatar seems like a good choice.

Why, in god’s name, they had to give that avatar a puffy 3D effect — to make it look like five pounds of smiley-face avatar in a two-pound bag — I can’t understand. “Oh dear lord, fatty! Your inability to stay away from delicious strawberry rhubarb pie is bending the very fabric of the universe, and as a result, EVEN THE VERY ELECTRONS USED TO MAKE THIS AVATAR are becoming overweight! Stop, before your love of butter changes the coefficient of the electroweak force and destroys us all!”

Anyhow, the news isn’t all bad — I’ve been exercising a fair amount, and when I do that, I don’t watch what I eat as carefully. Lydia’s starting to see the jog stroller as a regular feature. She spreads a towel on her lap like she’s the czarina out for a sleigh ride, and waves to the squirrels.

And asks questions:
“What are you doing, daddy?”
“I’m… “[pant, gasp] “pushing you, “[pant, gasp] “baby!”
“oh.” [pause] “Is it hard?

I’ve blogged about this before.

Picking a gym in West Chester

So Kate and I have been looking for a gym that we can go to in our copious spare time. We’ve been evaluating two of them:

  1. West Chester ACAC (“Ay-See-Ay-See?” “Ack-Ack?”) Ten minutes away by car, colossal facility, includes family changing rooms for the pool, a magical centrifugal bathing-suit dryer, and a Starbucks inside the facility. Before we visited, I was envisioning banks of treadmills arranged next to cunning artifical brooks, with carefully-tended rubber trees all around and massage cabanas hidden amongst the palm trees, all under a high-arched air-conditioned roof. To my complete amazement, I WAS EXACTLY RIGHT. Oddly, there were not as many SUVs with “Bush 2004” stickers in the parking lot as we were expecting. The ACAC just opened a forty thousand foot facility just for childcare, with a separate entrance.
  2. Mitch’s Market Street Gym, also in West Chester. Ten minutes away, but on foot — it’s just around the corner. Mitch’s is a local gym inside an old laundry facility, with cool skylights, big windows, and an old, scarred, but polished hardwood floor. No pool. Fewer treadmills, no cunning mountain streams, no cafe, and child care consists of a big room packed to the rafters with battle-scarred Fisher-Price toys.

Now, usually at least a part of the decision is made on whether or not the club is intimidating, and believe me I hate to give up any chance to work the “scrappy band of misfits” angle, but both gyms seemed friendly and unintimidating, full of regular people doing regular workouts. (I used to belong to the New York Sports Club in Soho, but even there the population was only about 40% cyborg. Maybe it’s an east-coast thing.) Also, the personal trainers seemed about the same in both places (West Chester University has a really good phys-ed program. That and early childhood education, so it’s a good place to live if you want babysitters and someone to spot your reverse curls, or whatever.)

So in the end we chose Mitch’s because it’s closer and it feels more local. Plus, running to the gym with a jog-stroller seems a little more Rocky, and driving to the gym with the air-conditioner on seems a little more Ivan Drago. On Saturday, Lydia spent her first twenty minutes ever in a multi-child childcare environment happily banging away on an old Fisher-Price cobbler’s bench, and I spent the same twenty minutes upstairs remembering that a ten-minute pace is not my baseline speed any more. Gasp, gasp, gasp.

Picking a gym in West Chester


Last week’s weight: 220 lbs.
This week’s weight: 220 lbs.
De-bigulation stalled at 22% complete, due to 48-hour Taco Bell/Ben&Jerrys incident.

I’ve got a bad habit of not really eating anything (a cup of coffee, an Odwalla bar) up until it’s time to get on the train and go home at 3:10PM. By then I’m a highly-tuned eating machine and I’m ready to start yelling when I eat, like Cookie Monster: “HOMF! HOMF! AAAAARGH!” Thursday, I hadn’t really had anything at all until afternoon (dumb idea, I know), and I had 24 points to burn. Six hours later, I was on the far side of 66 points, groaning like Templeton the Rat after a trip through the fairgrounds.

Now, I’m not really ashamed of myself — I wasn’t, like, sitting in my car and crying while I ate three supersized number ten meals, or anything — but I’m starting to realize that one of the main reasons I was skinny in college was that I didn’t have any money. Now that I’m a Rich White Man with a wallet stuffed with oof, I’d better not have my eat on when I walk past Taco Bell, or I’m gonna do some damage.

Okay, my wallet isn’t really STUFFED with spondulix (except compared to college), but ten bucks is enough to halt your Weight Watchers progress for the day, and then when you bring home Ben&Jerry’s for your beautiful wife who has a cold and needs a treat — and you don’t have the iron willpower that comes from a couple days’ momentum — why then, you eat the other half of that pint of mint chocolate chip, don’t you? Yeah. Yeah, you do. And you go ahead and go for the tuna melt the next day, with the fudge brownie afterwards.

I’m reminding myself that this is a long-term project, and that these will just be blips unless I let them derail me for good. Which I hope doesn’t happen; looking at all that camping equipment that’s gone unused since 2003 makes me want to get outdoors more, and not in a puffy, sweaty, my-waistband-gets-tight-when-I-tie-my-shoes kind of way!


Andale, mas pequeno!

Starting weight: 230 lbs
Current weight: 220 lbs
Target weight: 185 lbs
Re-de-bigulation complete
Overall debigulation: 22% complete

Okay, so far so good, I guess: I’m back on track, having reached the lowest weight I hit last year, the lowest (for me) since college. Which is definitely a qualified measure of success, since the highest weight I hit in college (216) caused me to have conniptions and embark on a three-month stairmaster crusade in order to get back to 185 then. Which I was able to do, mostly because Earlham had one of those stairmasters that looks like a pulpit where you’re actually climbing stairs and you’re up above everyone else, continually climbing climbing climbing (very evocative), which I did for 45 minutes a day for three months. So getting back to my “OMG CONNIPTION!” weight is not a bad thing, but definitely not time to start resting on my laurels yet, especially since there’s no stairmasters on Amtrak. Though I am looking for a DVD copy of the 1991 Tamilee Webb Abs of Steel video. Don’t laugh. Okay, fine, laugh, but that video was badass. Not that I’m going to do it on the train; I thought I might do it in the evening to get my metabolism up. Though the shrieks of pain might wake the baby.

Anyhow, the summer of, uh… 1994? I went to Newfoundland to help build a house with my brother Sam. Over the course of that next year, I put on a lot of weight — when I went back to Trinity the next year, I walked through the front door and the Bellows exclaimed (imagine a rolling Newfie accent) “John, my son, you look like the old Elvis!” (It’s impossible to take offense in a Newfie kitchen: nobody gives a damn what your weight is, they’re just happy to see you; you could walk through the door with a second head on your shoulders and they’d simply clap you on the back and say “Ah, John! How are you? So, what’s that rig for then?”)

Anyhow, I’ve been at the “old Elvis” weight for over ten years now, and the Union Theological Seminary entrance photo (1994, young Elvis weight) — which is also on my Citibank credit card, so I see it often — was starting to look like a distant memory. Hopefully, no more!

Andale, mas pequeno!

The Voice of Binky as philosophical muffin arbiter

The Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, which was part of the very air I breathed during my childhood, classifies personality into four binaries: (I)ntrovert and (E)xtrovert, i(N)tuitive and (S)ensing, (T)hinking and (F)eeling, (P)ercieving and (J)udging. (I’m a fairly strong INTP, which is news to nobody.)

The process of dividing things into binaries, then assigning things placements on that scale, of course, is already a pretty rationalist way of thinking about things. Like the goofy philosophy-major T-shirt: “There are two kinds of people in the world: those that think there are two people in the world, and those that don’t.” (Obligatory ThinkGeek reference)

My own philosophical schism — and by philosophical, I suppose I mean the inner framework that I use to decide what’s important to me, and how I’m going to weigh values when making choices — is kind of hung up between two places, which I’ll oversimplify here (not that I could get it right if I had the space):
The Stoics (Seneca, Marcus Aurelius): “You must control your desires! Control your desires, and you won’t live in a state of frustration and disappointment!”
The Epicureans (Epictetus) “Your desire for pleasure and tranquility is good! Arrange your life so that you can achieve this state of happiness.”

When I have a choice to make, I usually hear from both camps.

To this, I’ll add a third incredibly important formative influence from my childhood, a Roz Chast cartoon from the New Yorker (click to zoom, new window):

Okay, here’s how Binky is applied in my case. I’M HUNGRY A LOT OF THE TIME, which causes you to rethink your values. WHY am I not eating that 10-point Au Bon Pain cranberry muffin, the one right there by stairway 3? Right, so I won’t cringe when I see pictures of myself (yes, I know I am not a ham beast, but I’m not skinny, either.) But… aren’t I really being unrealistic about this weight-loss project?

“Stick to your 26 points for victory!” says my inner stoic, appearing in miniature on my right shoulder dressed like a narrow spinster in a Salvation Army uniform. “By controlling your intake of food, you control your weight, and therefore your destiny! It’s simple!” But then, in a small puff of smoke on my left shoulder comes my inner epicurean, played by Socrates from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, except he’s wearing wraparound shades and a turned-up collar like the cool kids from an eighties movie (hey, I can’t explain it either):
“Come on, you know, if you’re too hard on yourself now, you’ll just quit after a few weeks. Just eat the muffin” he says, his eyes turning into spinning whirlpools superimposed over the terminator shades: “Eat it, you know that the idea of mastery over desire is the product of an overly neoplatonic interpretation of the stoic agenda introduced by that rotter Descartes, John, and it doesn’t take into account the realities of being human.”
I start to weaken, thinking of the three dollars in my wallet that could buy that there cranberry muffin, and Socrates presses his advantage: “Haven’t I seen you reading the phenomenological work of Alison Jaggar, pointing out the dangers of nonmaterialistic dualities that don’t value or respect the needs of the corporeal body? E-e-e-e-e-at the muf-f-f-f-innn. Heidegger is here, and he says ‘eat the muffin’ too.”

Then I just think of Binky, and go “fuck it, I’m not eating that muffin.” Whew! Thanks, clown.

The Voice of Binky as philosophical muffin arbiter