Reflections on Reaching My Goals

The new field goal posts at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Sunday was a monumental day in terms of a fitness goal I had set for myself. Those who follow my blog know that 7 weeks ago I joined a weight-loss program (Noom) in order to take off the weight I had put on during the pandemic; I had tried unsuccessfully to do that on my own for about 2 months.

Sunday, I met my overall goal–losing 15 pounds in 7 weeks; not only did the pandemic weight come off, but it also brought me to the middle range of the ideal weight for an adult male 5’10” tall. I have wanted to get to this spot for several years and am finally there! I love the way I feel; I am way less exhausted after my workouts and I feel like I have more energy. I love the way I look; my clothes fit better, I can see my obliques and abs, and I had to get a new belt to hold up my pants! Two things I am thrilled about: eliminating the visceral fat around my waist (which is an indicator of better health) and reaching a goal that I worked hard to accomplish.

What was different this time? Two things.

  1. In the past I just tried to watch what I ate and monitor physical activity but not in a “casual” way. Several times, I used My Fitness Pal to track those, but I was never really consistent about it, nor did I have a sense of what my calorie intake should be in order to achieve success. Additionally, although I may have lowered my calorie count, I was not necessarily eating the right kinds of foods–too much processed stuff and not enough greens and whole grains. This time around I used Noom. It is not inexpensive, but I know that if I put my resources into something I am not going to let it go to waste; who wants to spend money on something and then simply let it go down the tubes? The fact that I was invested financially meant that I was invested emotionally and physically. Noom also has coaches, a kind of support group (that I only joined when I was almost at my goal), as well as regular educational tidbits on the app that are informative and motivating. Bottom line: to get results, get invested.
  2. I had a partner supporting me. My wife (who is close to her goal as well) is doing Noom as well. We both support each other and hold each other accountable. We know that one of us slips, the other one will slip as well…and when one shows discipline the other one will too! I honestly think this was a more important factor than the first point above. I do not know how folks lose weight on their own when others around them are eating a less healthy diet with larger portions. The beginning was hard as we both adjusted to a greatly reduced calorie counts, but then we put our heads together and found recipes and foods that would fill us up with as little a dent in the calorie budget as possible. It became like a kind of game and we were a team! This journey has even brought us closer together!

What is next? Obviously, I must now maintain the progress that I have made. Noom has adjusted already now that I am not in the “weight loss mode;” my calorie budget has increased a little. It is now up to me, though, to stick with the program–even with the upcoming Passover holiday–tracking the food I eat and physical activity. I suppose a time will come when I won’t need to do all the tracking, when I am so used to how and how much to eat that it will no longer be necessary. That is still in the future.

For now, I celebrate reaching a goal…and get ready to set my next one!

Let My Diet Go? Planning for Passover

Olives, Matzoh, Radishes, Liver Pate, and Sweet Pickled Peppers

The holiday of Passover is about 10 days away and for most Jewish people across the globe, preparation is in full swing. Why is this Passover different than all other Passovers?

You might think the reason is because of the pandemic, but by Passover last year we were already in “lockdown” mode and most Seder meals were done with only a few people and/or virtually with family and friends. The real difference this year has to do with the changes that I have made in my diet over the last five weeks or so. As I have noted in previous posts, I have been tracking all my exercise and all my calorie consumption; as of this morning, not only have I taken off all my COVID weight, but I am also 2 pounds away from my goal weight. It is an amazing feeling; I like the way I feel and the way I look!

This year, my wife and I are approaching Passover in a different way when it comes to food. For those not familiar, during the 8 days (7 in Israel), we eat no leavened foods: no bread, no pasta, no cake, etc. Over the years, however, many substitutes have been produced so that now it is possible to make Passover “bagels,” brownies, noodles, etc. They use ingredients that are permitted on Passover, but from the standpoint of being healthy…well, let us just say, that maybe they should not be permitted. It is still a carb nightmare. We are planning ahead so as not to lose all the progress we have made since we began this journey.

Typically, we make lots of recipes that use Matzoh (unleavened bread); recipes call for using it in “lasagna,” desserts, and even (the ever-popular) Fried Matzoh. This year we mapped out EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. You read correctly. For the entire 8 days, we have charted out what we will eat, and it involve as little Matzoh as possible (which clocks in at 140 calories/piece). We are going heavy on vegetables and lean proteins (lots of fish since we do not eat meat or poultry). During the Seders, we are supposed to drink 4 cups of wine; we will not use such big cups this time around. Most years, Passover seems like a lost cause when it comes to eating healthy…and when it comes to the Passover Seders, think Thanksgiving-sized feasts two nights is a row. This year will be different from all other years. We have planned for it to be different.

Of course, it will not be easy. We are only shopping, though, for what we will eat (as listed on our menu) so that we do not have the temptation of lots of junk food to snack on. We are also going to drink LOTS of water to combat the famously constipating effects of many foods served on the holiday.

I will keep you posted on how it goes during the holiday, but I am actually looking forward to not feeling bloated and stuffed for much of the week. It will be worth the effort for that reason alone. Continuing to make progress toward my health goals will be icing on the (Kosher-for-Passover) cake!

Is Weight Loss your New Year’s Resolution?

Day 2/365 - New Years Resolution

2021 is just over two weeks away. Have you considered your New Year’s Resolutions? Is weight loss on the list (again)?

As a regular gym-goer (pre-COVID-19), I used to find it annoying when all the “Resolutionaries” would show up after New Years. The gym would be packed for the first week or two of the new year; by the end of January it would be back to normal. Year after year it was the same thing. Humorous on one level, sad on another.

How is it that so many of us make these resolutions each year and yet we have so little success? Mostly, I think it is because we do not spend enough time considering how we will be successful. We set a goal but do not really strategize about how to get there. This is the key to reaching any objective.

I remember when I ran my first Half Marathon. I set the goal and signed up; having put that money up was part of my incentive. I then consulted with friends and did some research to find the best app to help me train. I settled on Hal Higden’s app and followed the plan. It was not easy, but the feeling of satisfaction of crossing the Finish Line after 13.1 miles was worth it. And it would not have been possible had I not put the planning time in–not to mention the hard work on my part.

There is no one-size-fits-all for New Year’s Resolutions, just like there is no one-size-fits-all way to lose weight. Several things to consider as you set your goals:

  1. What goals have you set in the past and found success? What contributed to reaching your objective? Can it be replicated?
  2. When you have failed in the past, what were the reasons? What are the obstacles you faced then and what obstacles do you face now? How will you overcome them this time?
  3. Who can help you to reach your goal? It is often more fun and effective to be on the journey with someone else. Often it is that companionship and added accountability that leads to success.
  4. Be realistic. Do not set a goal that is unattainable or unhealthy. For example, losing 25 pounds in a year; losing 25 pounds in a month would not be. On a related note, the more specific the goal is the easier it is to plan for it.
  5. Know thyself. Accomplishing what you want first depends on you understanding (or admitting) who you are and how you work best. Here is an interesting article published yesterday: https://www.cnn.com/2015/12/28/health/weight-loss-resolution-wisdom-project/index.html. The author touches on this topic and explains how he found success.
  6. When it comes to fitness, it is helpful (and healthier) to think in more general terms. A number on the scale is only one measure. What would it be like to have a resolution that says: “I will go to the gym three times each week for 30 minutes,” rather than focusing on a number? Building a healthier lifestyle will lead to the other good things.

This has been a rough year for all of us. COVID-19 has disrupted many of our health/fitness routines. Hopefully, 2021 will be a better year. Let’s do our part by doing the hard work and planning so that it is not just wishful thinking but a serious path to success.

The High Priest’s Grandson and Your Workout

Jewish-calendar-plate

Thought for Shabbat

The end of this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, outlines the offerings to brought to the Tabernacle and later to the Temple.  It begins with the daily offerings, the weekly Shabbat offerings, and is then followed by the various festivals.

It is noteworthy that there was an offering presented by the priests every morning and every afternoon.  Sacrifices were seen by the ancients as a way to connect with God; during a sacrifice, the boundary between life and death was crossed and that mysterious and powerful act was thought to bring God’s presence nearer.  The Torah legislates that this does not happen only at special occasions or even just weekly, but rather every single day.

As a personal trainer, I can relate to this.  In ancient times, the goal of sacrifice was to draw near to God.  This could not be done in a haphazard way; it had to be done on a regular basis if there was any hope of achieving this aim.  The same is true for almost any goal we set for ourselves.  Whether in business, education or physical fitness, we need a regular program to help us get where we want to be.

I tell my clients that it is good that they see me on a (mostly) regular basis, but once or twice weekly may not be enough to lose the weight, tone up, build strength and endurance, etc.  The effort needs to be daily, lest we miss a day…and another…and another.  

Parashat Pinchas reminds us that this approach is valid not just in our earthly pursuits, but in our quest for the Divine as well.

Shabbat Shalom!

Start your Spiritual Warm-Up Now…

Shana Tova

Thought for Shabbat

It is well known that going to the gym and starting to work out without some kind of warm-up is not the best idea.  The same is true with relationships; when you meet someone, it is best not to propose marriage on the first date!  

Now that Shavuot is in the rear-view mirror, I am feeling the same way about the high holidays that are just a few months away.  (I know!?!?)  While it is true that the month of Elul is really the time to gear up for the Ten Days of Repentance, summer gives us a bit of a longer runway.

If we think about it, when we are listening to your GPS and get off course, it is best to try to make a correction as soon as possible.  The further we keep driving on the wrong path, the more difficult it will be to get back on track and to our final destination.  Think back to the High Holidays last year.  Do we remember the goals we set and the changes we wanted to make?

We should not wait until Elul to take this walk down memory lane.  If we set our hearts, minds and souls to it, we can arrive at Elul already well back on track.

We often think of summer as a relaxing time.  (It should be that too!)  From a Jewish standpoint, however, it is time to orient ourselves to the task of meeting our goals and making the necessary changes.  

So…enjoy the weather, let’s not forget what lies ahead as the days begin to shorten.

Shabbat Shalom!

Getting back to the Gym after Surgery

The cast finally comes off!

Surgery was just over three weeks ago. I have one more week of non-weight-bearing, and three more weeks wearing the boot.

This means that next week I can get back to training others at the JCC. Last night I taught a small group class, but could not participate–it was a weird feeling.

Since I began my fitness journey I have had a few surgeries: Bunionectomy, double-hernia correction, emergency appendectomy (this past January) and now the surgery on my foot.

What I have learned from my past experiences:

  1. Listen to your doctor…but also listen to your body. Doctors set guidelines for how we should “ease” back into our fitness routine, but that does not work for everyone. I have seen people have the same surgery performed by the same doctor for the same condition; one was back to work in 2 days, the other was out for 3 weeks. We all respond differently; some have surgery that is 100% successful, while others experience less success. So while a doctor may tell us that we should be able to do something (run, lift weights, etc.) we must listen to our body too. If we feel that we are nowhere near the progress we and/or the doctor expected, we must be sure to communicate with him/her.
  2. Go slow. I do not expect to be running long distances for a while (even a mile). I will start with walking on the track, then little by little adding a couple of laps on the track (1/12 of a mile) each time. When I had my hernia surgery, I had completed a half-marathon 10 days earlier; I was in tip-top shape. I tried to hop back into running with both feet and it was big mistake. I actually pushed myself too hard and too quickly, setting me back further and causing greater pain. It was about a year until I felt full recovered. This does not mean that we shouldn’t push ourselves (see point 1), but caution is our ally.
  3. Try to have some goals and a plan about how to get there. This is true with any kind of fitness plan, but all the more so after an enforced break. Before heading back to the gym, have a plan of how frequently and for what duration it makes sense to be doing which exercises (what weight, how many reps, how many sets, cardio or resistance). Putting it on paper gives perspective; does it look like too much, or not enough?
  4. Don’t get impatient or give up hope. I remember after my hernia surgery thinking that I was washed up and would never recover. The reality is that I did my best work after that surgery; easily beat my half-marathon time, ran obstacle course races, won to 5ks, and became a personal trainer. Keeping a positive outlook and knowing that we are on a journey (that isn’t necessarily linear) helps our sense of progress.
  5. Do some research. I’ve been poking around the internet and found several good articles on recovery after surgery. They all contain several common themes. Best of all, they help to set appropriate expectations. The more we set appropriate expectations, the less likely we are to be disappointed. The less we are disappointed, the more positive we are. The more positive we are, the more progress we make.

I will keep you posted on my recovery with insights I develop through the process. Let’s see how the 5 points above really play out.

In the meantime, glad the cast is off!

When a Trainer needs a Trainer

Last week I went to Columbus and signed up for a training session with my long-time personal trainer. It had been 8 months since my move, and frankly I was a little nervous. I’ve had some health setbacks and was worried that I had atrophied while I was gone.

It was a tough workout but I made it through. What it made me realize–which is kind of like a “duh”–is that there really is a benefit to working with a trainer. Of course, as a personal trainer myself, I see the results in my clients. So many of them are reaching their fitness goals, have greater stamina, improved balance, and have taken control of their health. Sometimes it takes a trainer–not a doctor or family member or friend–to push you beyond what you think is your capability. As I said in a recent blog post: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

I left Columbus knowing that I may not need to hire a personal trainer, but that it makes sense for me to ask one of my fellow trainers (which I did) if we could work out together. We had a short 20 minute session today. He told me that he pushed himself because I was there, and I certainly went beyond my usual. It felt great!

I know this sounds self-serving, but if you feel like you are in a rut, not getting the results you want, and that you are continually playing out the same fitness drama…seek professional help. I did. You can too! 🙂 Personal Trainers make a difference.