The Egg & Cheese Maneuver

January 31, 2014

I always tell the same story to my clients about how I went from eating a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich in the mornings to vegan oatmeal.  Let me tell you, it didn’t happen overnight.  First I removed the bacon from my sandwich order.  The first few times I missed it, but after that I forgot that it was no longer there.  Then, after a year, I removed the cheese from the sandwich.  I added peppers to the eggs (classic Italian combination: peppers and eggs).  Finally, I switched from eating eggs entirely to making myself a vegan oatmeal in the morning or a green juice.  This entire process took 2 YEARS!  To make lasting habitual changes takes time and efforts every day.  Despite what you see on television, health and weight loss are not “overnight sensations.”

This is the same way I built my exercise routine.  In November of 2011, I was 4 months postpartum and knew it was time to get my body in shape.  Inspired by watching a friend run the NYC marathon, I went to a Bikram yoga class the very next day. It was tough to get through that first time.  There were poses where I couldn’t even touch my toes and that was a little embarrassing.  What little yoga practice I’d had before having my son was long LONG gone.  But the feeling of accomplishing a 90 minute class was euphoric and definitely out-weighed a little bit of “out of shape” embarrassment.  I went to another class, then another.  Then decided to do a 30 day challenge.  Once the challenge was over I settled into a regular 3x a week practice.  This was the first time IN MY LIFE that I’d done any kind of regular exercise.  In the past any regular exercise had been a dance class I was enrolled in or dance rehearsals for a show I was doing.  It was never something truly self-motivated.  I was able to keep up this pace for a year, which as a new mom and working full time, I saw as a huge accomplishment.

The next November, in 2012, I had recently become a stay at home mom (SAHM) and thought (quite wrongly) that finally, I’d have more time to get to yoga!  Quite by accident, one morning on my way to yoga I stepped on a small piece of glass in my living room.  I’m still convinced it came in the house on my dog walker’s shoe.  I was in agony and had to run to the LICH emergency room (when it was still open).  My trip to the ER revealed nothing.  But I knew there was something in my foot because it HURT LIKE HELL.  No X-ray was needed for me to know that much.  I was distraught.  I could barely walk, let alone take a 90 minute yoga class.  But what about all my goals of getting to yoga daily and having one of those bodies that people envy?  How would I do this with a damn piece of glass in my foot??  I started to plummet deep into despair.  Don’t forget, I was a new SAHM who was grasping at some type of routine to fill the hole left by working full time.  The ER suggested I soak the foot to coax out the glass.  Then I realized, if I could get to the gym I could swim without hurting my foot.  Soak the foot, indeed.  I pulled out a bathing suit and some goggles and headed over there.

I really enjoyed swimming.  It’s low impact but a great full body workout.  It took a few trips to find a rhythm again, but soon I was gliding through the water!  Eventually (4 days later), the glass came out of my foot!  Thanks ER for telling me there was nothing on the X-Ray.

Now I’d accidentally started swimming in addition to my yoga.  It felt good, so I kept it up!  I continued this way – swimming & yoga – for a year.

Rich Joseph, Personal Trainer and Nice Guy

Rich Joseph, Personal Trainer and Nice Guy

Then as November 2013 approached, I started to think about what I could layer in (on purpose this time) to my exercise routine.  Luckily, in my networking circle for my health coaching practice I met a personal trainer named Richard Joseph.  A very friendly, warm, personal trainer (read: not intimidating), who was knowledgeable and accustomed to working with people who are just starting personal training.  Rich and I both come from an artistic background – me as an actor and he as a film maker.  We hit it off pretty easily.  I told him I was interested in personal training, but that I’d never done it because it seemed intense and scary.  He suggested we have a session to assess where I was and that didn’t seem to intimidating, so I went for it.  I figured, I’m in better shape than I was before I was pregnant, so I won’t embarrass myself at least.  First, he put me on a treadmill to see how fast and how hard I could run.  I was pleasantly surprised by how manageable it was to jog on the treadmill. Then he jacked up the incline and I realized, “Hell I am running on this thing!”

Sidenote: I HATE RUNNING.  I hated it in high school when we had to do the damn NY state test and I struggled to do the 13 minute mile.  I would run the straight-away and walk the curves of the track just so I could catch my breath.  I never had the lung capacity for running even as a teenager.  If Zombie’s are ever chasing me, I’m in trouble – like ‘Marie Becomes a Fellow Zombie” kind of trouble.

Next we did the plank position.  I’ve actually never done it before and despite looking easy, it is not.

plank cropped

It’s positions like this that scare me away from other types of yoga!  Then we did push-ups (I’m rubbish at these) and some squats (I felt the burn the next day!).  Overall, Rich said I was in good shape but had some areas to improve.  I was in an average place with my cardio – which I saw as a complete WIN.  The girl with the crappy lung capacity is average, yay!  Rich suggested we do some circuit training together combining free weights, machines and resistance exercises.  I told him my goal was “Michelle Obama arms” and the stomach of a woman who hasn’t had kids yet.  Lofty goals indeed!
Now that we’ve begun training once a week, I’m already seeing improvements.  I can hold plank position longer, I can run further, and I feel challenged in a new way.  It’s very helpful to have a coach guiding you, motivating you and tracking your progress.  I don’t quite have the Michelle Obama arms, but in terms of exercise, I’ve taken the bacon off my sandwich. It’s a start!
Rich has a fabulous website called Fitness Ladies where you can get information on workouts and diet plans. Plus you can read articles by me!

Bucket List Item #14…Check!

November 24, 2013

So my mother’s response to my bucket list item was, “Yoga in Israel? On the List? Really???!!!!” (I may have added some punctuation here but otherwise it’s a direct quote).

Well, yeah, yoga in Israel, On the List. Really.

I started practicing Bikram Yoga in 2008 on the recommendation of a dear friend of mine who is a dancer and definitely more in shape than I am. She suggested I try it in advance of my trip to Israel so I’d feel my best on my trip. I barely made it through my first class (almost passed out 2x), but I did make it, and I went back for more. When we left for Israel, I had done some google searching and found out that there were 2 places to do Bikram yoga in Tel Aviv and there were even classes in English! I definitely was going to go.


If ONLY my head touched the floor this easily!

But then, you know, LIFE happened. I got scared and I chickened out. I had no idea how knowing absolutely ZERO Hebrew was going to kind of be a problem. I was to scared to go alone and my husband (and travel partner) was not yet ready for the challenge. So I packed the yoga clothes for nothing. Oh well.

In 2009, I had another trip to Israel and though for sure THIS time I would make a trip to the yoga studio, but it never happened. I was too busy socializing and eating and shopping to fit in a 90 minute class. Another dusty pair of yoga shorts went unused.

Now, four years later, we are finally back in Israel. I have a regular yoga practice and my travelling companion (read: reluctant Ran) had PROMISED to go with me. This time it was much harder to find any information on the internet, and the phone numbers were out of service. What had happened to Bikram yoga in Israel? Was it gone? Had it failed to gain traction here just like Starbucks? I was starting to panic! I thought, “I had 2 chances to go to yoga and I squandered them!”. Luckily, Ran remembered an acquaintance on Facebook who often posted things about going to Bikram yoga. So through the magic of the internet, Ran messaged her and was able to get all the details on where/when and which teachers could speak enough English so I could get through the class. She was a God-send! She told us that at 10am Sunday she would be going to class with one of the best teachers and we could meet her there. It sounded like a great plan on Saturday night.

But on Sunday morning at 8:20 as my MIL tried to wake me, I was seriously having second thoughts. It went something like this…

“Ugh. I couldn’t sleep last night. Jet lag till 3am. I’m tired, I want to sleep rather than go to yoga. I can always go another time. It’s so nice and warm in bed, and hell, I’M ON VACATION, I don’t want to do yoga! (I just want to eat and chillax, dude)”

So I woke Ran and told him we gotta make a decision pronto! Because we need to leave in 20 minutes if we are doing this thing. He said, “I’d rather go now than later today.” And with that I decided, “Let’s go man!” We dressed and got out of the house as quickly as possible and go ton the road. We drove as fast as we could, and even still we were cutting it very close. We got there with about 10 minutes to spare, so I jumped out of the car to go do our paperwork and reserve our places in class while Ran searched for parking. Parking in Tel Aviv is on par with parking in NYC, so there is none. So Ran had to park in a business high-rise where the Israeli KPMG offices were (to the tune of 67 sheckels – about $25). He also parked several blocks away and had to run the streets of Tel Aviv to make it in time for 10am class. Bikram classes are notorious for being punctual and they do not allow late comers.

While Ran was parking, I went into the building and realized, I didn’t know what floor the studio was on, and the signs were only in Hebrew so I was He-screwed. My plan was to take the elevator up to each floor and investigate but then someone came in behind me. I asked him to read the sign for me, but he said, “No yoga.” I was sure I was in the right place, but honestly, I had no idea! The second man who came in after me totally had a “yogi-vibe” and he told me yes there was yoga and I could follow him there. Whew! I was in, finally! I was finally going to take my first international Bikram yoga class! I just kicked my yoga practice up a notch.

The class was great. I was able to understand most of what was happening (even though it was in Hebrew) because Bikram yoga is the same 26 posture the world ’round. I could even kinda figure out what the teacher was saying because I know the dialogue so well. I decoded the words for “lock the knee” and “breath in”/”breath out.” I felt worldly!

I’ve gone to yoga on vacation once before, but that was in Florida. It was still fun and felt great to be exercising on vacation. Vacations can be sinkholes for calories. You just eat out so much and really let loose. It can be great fun but really hard to come back from once the vacation is over. I find that fitting in a little exercise makes me feel like I am just thatmuch more on top of things than I would have been in the past. Taking this practice International was truly one of the things on my bucket list. I wanted to experience a class in another language and also be out of my element a little bit. It freshens things up! Especially when you take the same class for 5 years!

If you get the chance to exercise on vacation, I highly recommend it. In this case I treated it as touristy thing to do because I got to take a class overlooking Tel Aviv and observe how Israelis did Bikram yoga. Instead of chickening out and being afraid, I just went for it. And believe me, during that first breathing pose, I was cursing myself. Why am I here? Why do I do this to myself? I hate this pose, blah blah blah.

But then I reminding myself (as I do at every class), that is its a privilege to be there and I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be in the class on that day and that moment. So just breath in and breath out and enjoy.

Clearing some space

October 7, 2012

As you know, I’ve been attempting to get to a Bikram yoga class with little success for the past 2 months.  I was moving house, packing, then unpacking, and came up with every excuse in the book to avoid the yoga studio. (My favorite was, “It’s too hot outside to go do HOT YOGA)

Thankfully, 2 weeks ago a friend invited me to a “Rock n Roll” yoga class.  It wasn’t a form on yoga that I was familiar with, but I like music and figured I had nothing to lose.  So I went to my first yoga class in a long long while.  It was fun!  I really liked the idea of yoga to music, though I felt like I didn’t really get the type of workout I am used to at Bikram Yoga.  There were several poses that I didn’t know and more than a few times that I was cursing “downward dog” and my ridiculously weak wrists.  All in all, I got myself in the door and that is success in it’s self.  Plus I tried something new and scary.

The following week, I went again.  Still a bit rusty and I still didn’t know what was going on half of the time.  But it was perfect for me because it really worked well in my schedule since it starts at 8:55pm at night (after my little one’s bedtime).  After 2 of these (what I like to call) “pansy” yoga classes (compared to  Bikram!), I finally got up the courage to get back to Bikram today.  My in-laws babysat and I made sure to go to my favorite studio with my favorite teacher.  I was hemming and hawing (sp?) all morning about going.  Thinking of 100 other things I could be doing with that time.  But no, I lined up the babysitters, so I’m going.  I have to admit I thought about taking a nap in my car rather than going to yoga but decided that I’d NEVER feel better after that.  Especially if I’m woken by a cop! (Why is this yuppie girl asleep in her Honda Accord at 3 in the afternoon??).

Once I finally got to my mat and entered Savasana, I had a thought, “I’m home.”  The minds says amazing things when you clear space for it to breath.  I cleared the space by getting an early start and committing to completing my grocery shopping and starting on my weekly cooking before yoga, and it worked!  I had less excuses to make to myself and I felt like at 3pm, I’d already accomplished a lot.  Plus, my son was able to spend time with his family while I was at class.  A true win-win.

Class was great, it was tough and satisfying and even easy at some points.  It makes me realize that I’m not starting from scratch just because I haven’t been there in 2 months.  I still have the skills and the knowledge that I need to be successful.  I guess the same is true of Weight Watchers.  I’m not “starting over, yet again” every time I go back.  I’m just hitting the play button instead of pause.

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