An Unexpected Journey

"Health is the condition of wisdom, and the sign is cheerfulness — an open and noble temper." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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After a particularly gluttonous visit to H-Mart this past weekend, I knew I had to really get focused again.  Working out after work was the hardest.  I was mentally shot from a four hour meeting earlier in the day (followed by two other meetings) but I forced myself to go, and I’m glad I did!

Lunch Time Workout
Boot Camp class at NYSC Grand Central.  Today was a bit different.  Our instructor decided to give us a taste of another class he teaches called  “UXF”.  Previously I had taken two separate UXF classes and to be honest, they didn’t work for me.  One barely got my heartrate up, and the other not only didn’t get my heart rate up to where I wanted it, but the instructor lets the room get so crowded the class runs out of equipment and every time I tried to do a lunge I almost stepped on the woman in front of me.

This class was limited (you have to call the day before to get on a list) and the instructor knew how to get the class’ heart rate up while making it mentally challenging.  Exercise isn’t just about your body, it’s about your mind being willing to work hard and past that moment where every muscle is going “No mas!” and you’re like “One more dammit!”  I had a lot of those moments today!

After Work Exercise
I started off with cardio, continuing my mission to get back on the “Couch to 5K” track.  This was Week 1, Day 3 which honestly was quite easy.  Five minutes of a brisk walk to warm up, then one minute of running followed by one minute and thirty seconds of a brisk walk.  Repeat for about twenty minutes, then a five minute “cool down” walk.  I didn’t work up much of a sweat, but the program says not to skip so I’m following it through.

It’s interesting how machines by different companies almost seem to have different weights on them despite the numbers pasted on each weight plate.  I’ve been doing 110lb for the past couple weeks on a shoulder press machine at another branch, but today I tried two different shoulder press machines and the weight felt much heavier than that one.  My shoulder is bothering me again (seeing an orthopedist on Friday) so I went easy on that body part.  Always listen to your body, and do not “fight through the pain”.  You have to take care of your body when working out!

  • Chest Press (Machine): 115lb x 10 (2 sets)
  • Incline Chest Press (Machine): 115lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Shoulder Press:  80lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Pec Flyes:  110lb x 12 (2 Sets)
  • Shoulder Press: 80lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Lateral Raise: 25lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • French Press: 70lb x 12 (2 Sets)
  • Tricep Extension (Machine):  65lb x 12 (2 Sets)
  • Tricep Pushdowns:  80lb x 10 (2 Sets)

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Ben’s Workout / “On the Go” Shake Recipe

There are days when I’m on the go but I need what basically amounts to a meal in a cup (and no, I’m not talking Ramen).  Usually I’m off to my weekend Boot Camp classes or I’m going to be out for a good bit of time and have no time to cook a full meal.  In those cases, I prepare what I call my “workout shake”, a tasty, protein (and natural sugar) packed drink that fills me up and gives me the energy to tackle a long morning to afternoon or a killer workout.  I thought I’d share the recipe.  Just toss the “dry” ingredients together, add the liquids and frozen items in last and blend away to your desired consistency.  Here are the ingredients:

  • Fat Free Milk (or substitute such as Almond Milk): 10 oz
  • Whey Protein Powder (I prefer a chocolate flavor): 1 Scoop / serving
  • Oatmeal Oats (instant is fine, with no added sugars):  1/2 Cup
  • Peanut Butter Powder:  2 Tbsp
  • Chia Seeds: 1 Tbsp
  • Greek Yogurt: 2 Tbsp
  • Frozen Banana:  1 medium sized
  • Ice Cubes: If you desire more of a frozen smoothie consistency

On average, depending on brands and so on, this shake will come in around 5-600 calories (more if you use regular peanut butter instead of the powder).  Given that this is meant to be burned off in a workout or over the course of half a day that load isn’t too bad.  By no means is this recipe perfect.  I’m sure many improvements could be made on it, but this is what has worked for me, enjoy!

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“Operation Look, perform & Feel Better” October 16, 2012

Today was mostly a cardio day, so that meant two classes.  One during my lunch break and the other after work.  Since my gym recently screwed up one of my classes (read: they changed it to a format that is both dull and doesn’t get my heart rate up enough) I’ve had to rearrange my workout schedule for the week.  These two classes on the same day are part of that plan.

Lunch Time Workout
“Pre-Season Sports Conditioning” at NYSC 41st and 3rd Avenue.  This session involved a good combination of strength and cardio, and by the end I was definitely worn out!  Among the tougher exercises were pike push ups into a reverse crunch), a one arm dumbbell lift from a plank position and constant vaulting over risers back and forth.  Still sore from my Monday workout, this one was particularly rough!

After Work Exercise
I’m officially hooked on a boxing class that takes place at NYSC in the Theater District.  The class is a combination of boxing and calisthenics.  Last week the class was split in two, with one half doing an exercise and the other half boxing.  This week there were several stations set up (four of which were boxing stations) with varying exercises including jumping over obstacles, a rope ladder you had to perform various foot movements on (single leg hop etc.) and the ol’ standby: running up and down stairs (the class takes place in a lower level studio).  This one was much more killer than the last, but I got to have a ton of fun (and burn cals) in the process!


You’ve got to be in it to win it: The awesomeness of trying something new

Several years ago when I started working out, exercise was a very solitary affair.  Sure I chatted with friends at the gym and hung out, but ultimately I was there to work out and that generally meant about forty minutes on a cardio machine watching TV or listening to music as I worked up a sweat.  After that I would do weights, again, on my own and that would be that.

Many of my friends would go on and on about the classes they took and how I should try them.  Whether it was Spinning or Zumba, all my friends each had “their thing” they liked to do.  Me?  I never wanted to take classes.  And for several years I stuck to my guns with the exceptions being super small classes given at my company, but a corporate gym is quite a different animal than a public gym.

So why the reluctance?  Frankly what it comes down to is not wanting to look silly in front of others.  There’s a certain degree of social pressure being in a class put on me that I wasn’t ready to confront.  “What if I screw up?” “What if I make an ass out of myself?”  “Will people laugh at me?”  All these questions ran through my head as I contemplated the 101 reason I would never take a class.

Then something curious happened.  I’m not sure why exactly, but at the beginning of the summer I became positively fixated on the idea of trying out a class – but what to pick?  I wasn’t coordinated, so Zumba was out.  Sculpting wasn’t what I was looking for (I wanted cardio) so finally I decided to try out a class called “Pre-Season Sports Conditioning”, a class that emphasized cardio combined with fast reaction exercises.  It wasn’t just about moving and sweating, it was moving and sweating with purpose!

I entered the class and stayed in the back.  As the instructor took us through a warm up, I seriously felt like I was going to die.  Then a few minutes later when we began the “real” workout, I started off feeling like “I can’t do this!” and then pushed myself to do it.  Being in class and looking like a fool is one thing, quitting and walking out was purely unacceptable!

After the class, I felt like hell.  Every muscle in my body was yelling at me like “What in the heck was THAT?!” and seriously, for two days I could barely get through my daily commute walk of two miles, no less work out more.  But something else happened at the same time – I became addicted to the class.  Far from being the judgemental jocks I imagined, the class was full of friendly folks, young and old.  They guided me, made sure I did what I was supposed to do and even encouraged me!  The class went from being a scary experience to a fun one that I looked forward to every week.

Several months later, I’m now taking several classes of this style every week, and I’ve even incorporated such exercises into my solo workouts.  Working with a group has become fun, and I’m much less reluctant to walk into a class environment.  Challenging myself brought a new level of self awareness (and fitness) and it’s something I encourage everyone to do.  Find your own challenge and tackle it.  The results may surprise you!

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“Operation Look, Perform & Feel Better” October 15, 2012

Today was a bit rough.  After three very tiring days at New York Comic-Con and away from the gym, today was my first time back!  As with many of my listings, this workout is broken out between my lunch hour and after work.

Lunch Time Workout
Boot Camp Class @ NYSC Grand Central.  Today was a bit rough including push-ups on a Bosu ball, an “abs” station for leg raises, sit ups etc. and bear crawls.  The class was broken out into three groups and we rotated stations.  It was one kick butt workout, exactly what I needed to get back into the swing of things!

After Work Exercise

I decided to restart my “Couch to 5K” program.  After reinstalling the App on my iPhone, I decided to start at the beginning  and do the first jog which consists of one minute runs, followed by 1:30 brisk walks (rinse, repeat).  It also happened to be raining so I kept cool!

I wound up going a bit easy on my shoulders today due to some ongoing shoulder pain issues on my left side.  I’ve already set up an appointment with a doctor to have it examined.  Never ignore pain!  Sometimes taking care of yourself means going easy.

  • Chest Press: 110lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Incline Chest Press: 110lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Wide Shoulder Press: 95lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Dumbbell Pec Flyes: 30lb x 12 (2 Sets)
  • Close Grip Shoulder Press: 95lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Lateral Dumbbell Raise: 25lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Tricep Pulldown: 80lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • French Press: 80lb x 10 (2 Sets)
  • Ab Crunch Machine: 45lb x 10 (2 Sets)

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Survival Guide: New York Comic-Con (and similar events)

Every year around October, New York Comic-Con comes crashing into New York City with a Geek-borne force of the Death Star from Star Wars.  For a few days, midtown Manhatan gets invaded by fans of comic books, movies, science fiction, fantasy, horror, Anime and more.  If you are in town around that time and see Batman or Wonder Woman calmly strolling by you at Starbucks, they’re probably around for Comic-Con.

This convention takes place at a gigantic convention center known as the Jacob Javitz Convention Center.  It’s like a small city within New York City.  It has everything you need to hold an event.  Food vendors include a Korean food stand, Starbuck’s, a Hudson news, frozen treats and more.  The problem for someone trying to lead a healthy lifestyle however is eating healthy inside the convention center is near impossible.  Most of the food here primarily consiste of high fat, high sugar and mostly deep fried or oily items.  Knowing this, I prepared a “Survival Package” of sorts of items that could sustain me throughout the day as I went through the convention.  I thought I’d share some of these items here:

  • A bottle of water (the same reusable bottle I take to the gym) to keep hydrated
  • Hard boiled eggs for protein that’s filling
  • Blue Diamond 100 Calorie packs for a great crunch snack
  • Apples (they travel well and satisfy a sweet and crunchy craving)
  • Atkins Bars (a healthier substitute for candy bars)

In general, aim for the following:

  • Stay hydrated (water is ideal)
  • Make sure to have protein, it’s filling and good for you
  • If you need crunch or savory snacks, aim for “safer” items like nuts or even fat free pretzels
  • Fruit is ideal as it generally travels well and gives you something sweet
  • Packing a sandwich with healthy ingredients (low fat meats and cheese, vegetables etc.) and whole wheat bread is always welcome

Truth be told, these items and the concept of a “Survival Package” doesn’t just apply to Comic-Con.  There are plenty of times when we’re away from our normal food venues, and putting together a package such as this will definitely put you ahead of the game from eating some of the less healthy options that are so readily available at events away from home.

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“Operation Look, Perform & Feel Better” October 9, 2012

Like many days, I had to break up today’s working out ino two parts due to scheduling and meetings.  In a way this is a good thing as it allows me some rest from one to the other!

Lunch Time Workout

Pre-Season Sports Conditioning Class at NYSC 41st and 3rd Avenue.  Today was rough!  At first I was heartened to see many of the exercises set up in the room were basic.  Weighted reverse lunges, high knees inside boxes then jumping over cones, duck walks and so on.  However, there was one killer on the floor.  One station was a truck tire where each group of five people would put their feet up, perform a push up, then inch over in a direction.  What makes this hard is you’re counting on the guy next to you to move, and when he doesn’t, you’re stuck, and yes, this happened as the guy next to me completely stalled.

After a round at the stations, the instructor then went on to torture us with a series of body weight and dumbbell exercises.  Try doing a wall sit for 60 seconds, then go right into weighted jump squats.  Ouch doesn’t begin to cover it!

Bench Press (Machine): 120lb x 10 (2 Sets)
Incline Press: 120lb x 10 (2 Sets)
Shoulder Press: 110lb x 10 (2 Sets)
Pec Flyes: 110lb x 12 (2 Sets)
Shoulder Press: 110lb x 10 (2 Sets)

After Work Exercise

Boxing class at NYSC Theater District.  This wsa the first time I had taken this class and boy was it fun!  After some heart pumping warm ups including a ton of jumping jacks, the room was split into two.  one half would go at the bags while the other half performed an exercise (including bear crawls, squats, lunges, single leg hops and more).  Each student got one round with the instructor and it was nice to really let loose with him and have at it!  I’m definitely going to take this again!

Lateral Raises: 25lb x 10 (2 Sets)
Tricep Pushdowns: 90lb x 10 (2 Sets)
French Press: 90lb x 10 (2 Sets)