Dinner parties are rarely life changing events. Usually, you sit around a table with friends, drink wine, eat cheese, and talk about light subjects like abortion and torture and then you all head home. At least, that’s always how it’s been for me until this past weekend when our friends Dara and Kieran–who’ve kindly hosted us before— invited us to dinner.
Things began innocently enough. We sat in their living room first, sipping wine and eating cheese (excellent cheese, actually, from Blue Apron Foods on Union Street and 7th Ave.) Then we moved to the dining room where we ate apricot lentil soup (a beguilingly good combination), a salad with pomegranates and blood orange segments, and, finally, a pasta with crab and asparagus. We were pretty stuffed, even before Kieran delivered his individual chocolate cakes, and it was before the dessert and after the dinner that I spied the Wii Fit in the corner.
In case you don’t know, Nintendo Wii released a fitness device last year that looks like a simple white scale. And though it is indeed white, it is anything but simple: it’s the most sensitive, perceptive white scale in human history.
I didn’t know that at the time. I innocently said, “Oooh, is that Wii Fit? Can I try it out?”
“Sure,” said Kieran and he led us all over to the TV where the Wii Fit was set up.
He created a new profile for me, letting me choose my own avatar (I chose Conan O’Brien). He asked me how tall I was, I said “5’9” (though I think I’m actually 5’10) and he entered that into my profile. Then he told me to step on to the Wii.
Folks, can you imagine going to a dinner party, eating a huge meal, and then standing on a scale in front of all the congregated guests? That’s exactly what I was doing only I didn’t know I was doing that. I still thought this was some kind of video game.
A high-pitched female voice said, “Calculating data.”
Before I knew it, the Wii was asking me to balance by tilting my body back and forth and trying to place the on-screen pink squares into the on-screen blue squares. At first the squares were big and it was easy; then the squares got smaller and before I knew it I had failed, complete with the buzzer noise you hear on “Family Feud” when someone guesses wrong.
Then the true mortification began. “Calculating your Wii age,” said the high-pitched voice.
A drumroll. Conan O’Brian walked sheeplishly on to a dark stage, spotlight illuminating him, as the Wii Fit announced: “You have the body of….
A 49 YEAR OLD!”
Embarrassment! Terror! Outrage! (Note: I’m only 29 years old.) I was like one of the subjects of A&E’s intervention, led naively into a room for their final interview only to find their whole family sitting there telling them they need help. And though, to their credit, my dinner party hosts and friends all assured me that the Wii was off–“way off!!”–I took this as a much needed wake-up call that maybe it was time to join a gym again.
The last time I joined a gym was in April and I went for a few weeks but stopped. I just felt directionless there, and unmotivated.
But several years ago, my friend Ricky turned me on to “Body For life” which is a book by Bill Phillips with a very specific program: 12 weeks to ultimate fitness.
When I did the 12 weeks all those years ago, all my friends commented that I was looking really fit and I definitely felt really good too. What I liked about it then and what I like about it again now is that it’s a very specific program. It tells you EXACTLY what to do every day at the gym for those 12 weeks: there’s no confusion, it’s a strict plan.
If you want to know the plan, I’ll type it out at the bottom of this post. But suffice it to say two days after the dinner party, on Tuesday–right after the inauguration–I marched over to the gym and re-joined. (Funny story: the guy working there said it’d be $65 for one month or $225 for 3 months. I said, “Why would anyone choose 3 months if they could go month to month and spend $195 for 3 months?” His response was: “Exactly!”)
Now I’m on Day 3 of building my Body For Life (note: you’ve gotta read that sarcastically, because the book says it so sincerely). I’m not necessarily doing the diet (which cuts out ALL fat and has you eating 6 small meals a day), but, after looking at the posts below this–my bacon/cream chicken and the gloppy sausage carb-bomb pizza–I will certainly make more of an effort to eat healthier (today: sushi for lunch, for example.) I’ve also built incentives into the program, so if I stick with it for 3 weeks I can get myself a new pair of headphones; 6 weeks, maybe a massage, and if I do all 12 weeks, a celebratory dinner, which you’ll all get to read about.
I don’t plan to blog my progress, though, because that might get a bit tedious after a while. All I’ll say is that if you need your own private intervention to motivate you to join a gym again, I recommend eating dinner at Dara & Kieran’s and trying their Wii Fit afterwards. It might seem like good fun at first but before you know it, you’ll be an emotional wreck and ready to start life again anew. So thanks Dara & Kieran for an excellent dinner and, even more importantly, changing my life. Here’s to 12 weeks of ultimate fitness.
* * * * *
Ok, so here’s the program–and feel free to do it with me, if you’re so motivated.
You go to the gym 6 days a week. 3 of those days are cardio days, 3 of those days are muscle-building days.
On the cardio days, you only have to do 20 minutes of cardio, preferably on a treadmill. Here’s the Body for Life technique: you start out on the treadmill at your personal 5 on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is sitting on a couch and 10 is the most you could possibly exert yourself. You do your personal 5 for 2 minutes and then you bump it up to 6 for one minute then to 7 for another minute then to 8 then to 9 and then you go back to your 5 again. You repeat three times until you’re in your 18th minute and then you go to your personal 10 (which, for me, was a 6.5 speed.) In your last minute (the 19th minute) you go back down to your personal 5 and you’re done.
It may seem crazy, but I find that not only am I a sweaty mess when it’s over, I feel fully exercised and–more importantly–while I’m doing it, I’m really engaged in what’s happening. When I did the elliptical back in April, I just swung my legs indifferently for 30 minutes and didn’t really have a strong agenda. Here, I know what I’m there for, what I have to do, and 20 minutes later I’m done.
Now, on the muscle-building days, you alternate upper body and lower body. So, for example, this week it was: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday cardio; Monday lower body, Wednesday upper body, Friday lower body. Then next week it’ll alternate: Monday upper body, Wednesday lower body, Friday upper body.
When working your upper body, just look for Nautilus machines that allow you to exercise your chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps. You just have to do one machine for each muscle group and you’re done.
On the machine, you start with 12 repetitions of an easy weight. Then you do 10 repetitions of a slightly harder weight. Then 8 of a weight that’s even harder. And then 6 of a really challenging weight. Finally, you do 24 of your easy weight again (though the book tells you to do 12 of that machine and then 12 of another that exercises the same muscle but that’s too confusing.)
You rest for 1 minute between each set and then for 2 minutes between each machine.
You’ll easily find machines for your chest, shoulders and back at most gyms; for biceps and triceps, you should use free weights and look online for techniques. I just do a simple curl for biceps; I haven’t figured out triceps yet.
As for lower body, you want to work quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and abdominal muscles. Again, you should find machines pretty easily for those, except for abs which you can simply do crunches for.
I realize that the fitness gurus among you might read this and have very strong reactions–everyone has an opinion about how to work out. But for someone like me, who hates hates HATES going to the gym, I really like this program because it’s purposeful, specific and logical. I also like that it splits the week up between cardio, upper body and lower body so it doesn’t get too repetitive or boring too fast.
Anyone who’s seriously considering doing this along with me should probably check out the Body for Life book before proceeding, just so you can get the specifics down. Even I plan to flip through it before going to the gym tomorrow to make sure I have the formula down right (especially for some of those muscle exercises.)
I’ll certainly let you know after the 12 weeks how it all worked out; and if any of you seriously do this along with me, maybe we’ll have a celebration of sorts. But, til then, this is your ever-loving Amateur Gourmet about to head to the gym for another day of cardio. I promise to wipe down the machine when I’m done.