Yoga

February 29, 2012

Well, it’s happened. Yesterday, I took my first yoga class. Tavi, the “friend” who recently tried to murder me in the Hollywood Hills, has been pushing me to try yoga off and on for a while. He’s not the only one: yoga has been suggested by a number of people over the past couple years, but I’ve never had much interest.

It’s been my experience that yoga enthusiasts (and Tavi is a big one – he even teaches it) are very passionate about yoga, much in the same way, I find, that runners can be very passionate about running. More often than not, when people hear that I’m a (very) occasional runner, they assume I’m hooked, that I must love it as much as them, and that I can’t wait to start training for a marathon. That’s when I smile and nod and politely explain that I have no interest in a marathon, and, a lot of the time, I barely tolerate running at all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that exact conversation with one of my very good friends who shall remain nameless because he reads this blog (*cough* *Collin* *cough*).

I’ve had similar conversations with yoga fans, who all make clear that once I try yoga, I’ll be immediately be hooked and love everything about it and it will change my life and it’s the best thing ever and seriously I’ll fall instantly in love and how did I go for so long without it and I’ll want to take a class every single day and there’s a great teacher at their local yoga studio and what the fuck am I waiting for?

To all those people out there (and you know who you are), this post is for you. Because, did you hear? I finally took a yoga class. I met Tavi for a 9am class at our local Bikram Yoga studio:

I’m no expert, so correct me if I’m wrong, but Bikram is a specific type of yoga, developed by a guy named Bikram, that’s comprised of a certain number of yoga poses, which are performed in a specific order, for a specific amount of time. A defining characteristic of Bikram yoga is that it’s done in a hot room. Our room today was 108 degrees, and humid – two humidifiers on full blast. Exercising in that climate is not completely foreign to me – it’s routinely above 100 degrees around here in the summer (although it’s very dry heat), and I once went running on a 105-degree day (I don’t recommend it). That’s not to say that I’m comfortable in an 108-degree room, because I’m not. But it makes you sweat – oh, how you sweat – and that’s one of the goals: to draw out toxins. Also, heat increases your flexibility, which is a key component of yoga of any kind.

I don’t own a yoga mat, so I rented one for a buck. Plus, I paid $18 for the class – they tried to sell me on a week for $30, but I wouldn’t commit to that until I tried it once.

The class had 20 or so people in it, and even though Tavi billed it as a class for beginners, I was the only first-timer. I positioned myself behind two people who knew what they were doing, so I could watch them, which was helpful, because our teacher, Mary, didn’t actually demonstrate any of the poses. Tavi, in turn, was behind me, because he didn’t arrive until just as the class was starting.

I kept an open mind going into the class, mainly because I didn’t really have any expectations. I don’t consider myself an incredibly flexible person, and my balance is questionable at best (which recently led to a hilarious first attempt on ice skates and a downright unpleasant first attempt at stand-up paddleboarding). But I’m down for trying new things and trying them as best as I can, so I felt ready.

Throughout the class, I found myself holding the positions better and longer that I thought I’d be able to. Mary was adept at describing the positions and how get in and out of them, and she very kindly paid attention to what I was doing and pointed out adjustments so I’d feel more impact. Generally speaking, she spoke a lot, and at a very rapid clip:

“Knees together, heels planted, back straight, chest up, shoulders back, neck straight, chin forward, palms up, hips in a straight line, bring your leg up, hold it, push through, push up, push further, push harder, feel it in your foot, through to your knee, to your hip, your core, your muscles, your digestive tract, push more, push beyond, keep pushing, mind over matter, push longer, and change.”

Mary would rattle that off in about 8 seconds.

I modified some positions that I couldn’t execute, and held others for a little less than the rest of the class, but for the most part, I did it all. The class was almost 90 minutes, and by the end, I was drenched with sweat. Sopping wet. I’m certain it was the sweatiest workout I’ve ever had. You can’t see the sweat marks on my clothes, because there are absolutely no dry parts whatsoever.

My towel was soaked.

I could wring sweat from my bandanna.

I created an even bigger puddle when I wrang out my t-shirt.

Who knows how much of that sweat could be attributed to my exertion, and how much could be attributed to the climate, but the class was certainly an exhausting workout. My muscles burned and quivered throughout the class. It was almost bizarre how tired I felt: never had I moved so little and sweated so much. As I right this, late Tuesday night, I’m still a little sore in my arms, shoulders, and quads.

Right now, I’m envisioning all you yoga fans at the edge of your seat, or perhaps you’re in the Tuladandasana pose (balancing stick), pondering the big question, which is whether or not I liked the class. The answer is… more than I thought I would, but not enough to go rushing back. I’m glad I gave it a whirl, and it wasn’t a miserable experience, but… I don’t know… The peace and quiet of yoga was a nice change of pace, but I think I prefer more exuberant forms of exercise. I’d rather clear my mind, let off steam and burn some calories by jumping or dancing or pedaling or otherwise being more vigorous, and with my favorite music in my ear. But maybe I’ll try another yoga class at some point. Never say never, right?

Tomorrow I start my marathon training.

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!

PS. I’m kidding about the marathon.


Eleven Random Things…

February 28, 2012

…and a bunch of silly questions.

Remember those email chain letter forwards you used to get, where you were supposed to answer all sorts of questions and then forward them to all your friends?

Yeah, I never participated in them either. But unfortunately they still exist, and there’s one currently circulating amongst bloggers, and in the past 24 hours I’ve been tagged twice. Imagine my excitement!

My gut instinct is to ignore and walk away while whistling innocently, but I’m not going to, for two reasons: 1) Participating could be a good way for readers (like you!) to learn more about me (and if that doesn’t make you a hit at cocktail parties, I don’t know what will), and 2) The two guys that tagged me, Scott (who blogs at Your Inner Skinny) and Steve (who blogs at Running on Awesome) are both good Twitter friends and dudes I admire, and I don’t want to be a party pooper.

Here’s how it works. First, I share Eleven Random Things about Myself:

  1. I have all 50 state quarters.
  2. When I was a teenager, I met Dr. Jack Kervorkian, and learned that he had spent lots of time in my house. He was good friends with the people who lived there before us!
  3. I hate the word ‘yummy.’ I’ve never used it in this blog, and never will. When readers use it in a comment on one of my food-related posts, I appreciate their enthusiastic reaction, but cringe a little on the inside.
  4. My preferred method of M&M consumption is to empty a bag on a table and sort them by color before eating any of them.
  5. I’m not a fan of tucking my shirt into my pants, although that’s slowly changing.
  6. In college, I wrote a weekly email newsletter about my then-favorite show, “The Simpsons.” It grew to have over 5,000 subscribers, in every state and 50 countries.
  7. I used to have a pet ferret and a pet betta fish, until the ferret murdered the betta when I wasn’t in the room.
  8. I’m good at predicting the Oscars. On Sunday, I won $90 in an Oscar pool, and a few years ago I won $300.
  9. I love strawberries, and I love cake, but don’t care for strawberry shortcake.
  10. I think watching snakes eat is absolutely riveting. I’d love the ability to unhinge my jaw, although I have no idea how it could benefit me.
  11. My very first career aspiration, when I was a toddler, was to be a mommy, because mommies went grocery shopping, and I LOVED grocery shopping (and I still do!).

Am I fascinating, or what? Next up, Answering Questions from Scott:

  1. What’s the worst pick up line you’ve heard? “Pardon me, do you have any raisins? No? How about a date?” Thankfully, it wasn’t used on me.
  2. What’s the worst pick up line you’ve used? All mine are gems.
  3. Where do you see yourself in five years? I don’t have a 5-year plan right now, and it’s simultaneously terrifying and exciting.
  4. Do you pick your nose? Yep. So do you.
  5. How awesome am I? You’re pretty awesome, although your tagging me with this game is making me reconsider…
  6. Who is someone you admire greatly? This is a long list, but the first person to come to mind is my friend Katherine. She’s brave, intelligent, poised, hilarious, and I’m lucky to have her in my life.
  7. Do you think that Tony the Tiger is sexy? He’s sexier than Cap’n Crunch, but not as sexy as the Brawny paper towel dude.
  8. Favorite place to eat? Hugo’s in Studio City, CA; or a chipati at Pizza House in Ann Arbor, MI.
  9. David Hasselhoff or Tom Selleck? I met Tom Selleck, briefly, so he gets my vote.
  10. What is the furthest you have traveled from home? Sweden.
  11. Do you like me? Sure do!

And now, Questions from Steve:

  1. What is something that you have done, or would like to do, that most would consider to be out of character for you? Haven’t done it yet, but I’m considering rocking a mohawk of some kind.
  2. What is your favorite movie? I have a top 5, and I can’t narrow it down beyond that: “Edward Scissorhands,” “Fargo,” “Paper Moon,” “Babe,” and “Marvin’s Room.”
  3. What is a fitnessy/athletic/sporty type thing that you’d like to try, but haven’t yet? Dog Sledding. It’s not that popular in southern California for some reason.
  4. If you won a million dollars today, what is the first thing you would buy that costs less than $10,000? A new TV.
  5. If you won a million dollars today, what is the first thing you would buy that costs over $100,000? I’d pay off the rest of my mortgage.
  6. Do you prefer beer, wine, or liquor? I drink very rarely nowadays, but I prefer white wine and liquor.
  7. Favorite restaurant? See above.
  8. Favorite thing to order from said restaurant? See above.
  9. What is the first song in your iTunes (or whatever you use) “Top 25 Most Played” playlist? “Push That Knot Away” by KT Tunstall.
  10. What was your first cell phone? A big ol’ Samsung dealie that I got in 1998/1999.
  11. Favorite quote? RuPaul: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

Ok, I just spent waaaaaay too much time answering those questions. There are rules to this whole thing, and I’m supposed to tag eleven people and give them eleven questions to answer, but screw it. I’ve had enough. I’m going to open this up to everyone. If you’d like to share eleven random things about yourself (or just one or two), or answer Scott or Steve’s questions, than go for it! You can do it in the comments section, or you can do it on your own blog or Facebook page (or G+ page, if that’s your social network of choice), and post a link to it in the comments section here. Knock yourself out!

Time for me to do some laundry. I’ve been on a good exercise streak lately, and I’m completely out of clean workout clothes. That’s a good problem to have!

Keep it up, David!


Weight Capacity

February 27, 2012

I tend to notice weight capacities. I lived for so many years with a body that exceeded a lot of them, and even though I’m 163 pounds lighter, I still pay attention. When I was on the cruise with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, and the idea of going horseback riding arose, my first question was whether or not there was a weight capacity (for the record, there was a 250 pound capacity, so I was about 15 pounds in the clear, and I ended up having an amazing timesee pictures here). I’d really like to go skydiving at some point in my life, but that has a weight capacity too. Right now, I’m close – some companies will allow me to skydive, but with an added weight surcharge – but I’d rather hold off until I’ve lost more pounds and can go at the same rate as my friends. I often look at posted elevator weight capacities, out of curiosity, and note what percentage of that capacity I take up now, versus what I would have taken up two years ago – and on smaller elevators, it’s a notable difference!

Weight capacities can be cruel things. Ultimately they’re there for a good reason – safety first! – but I sure did feel terrible when I would learn that activities I wanted to participate in were completely and undeniably off-limits to me. My self esteem was already low, but when I had to back out of a group outing because of my weight, it felt like dozens of flashing neon arrows where pointing at me and a carnival barker was gathering crowds to laugh at me.

The most recent time I saw a weight capacity sign was the other day, in my own building. Downstairs, next to the lobby, there’s a little gym. I’ve written about it before (most recently here) – it’s not much, but it’ll do the trick when I can’t make it to the real gym. There’s been a few times in the past when the equipment has broken, requiring servicemen to come out and fix them. After the most recent repair (of the elliptical machine), a new sign got posted:

The 275-pound weight capacity is not an issue for me, and I absolutely love it! It was in 2009, when I first moved into my building and weighed 400 pounds (and it really irked me, because my dues were paying for the maintenance of gym equipment that I wasn’t allowed to use), but not anymore! No longer am I excluded because of my weight.

Keep it up, David!

PS. In case anyone’s counting, this is my 501st post. Did you read my 500th?


F I V E H U N D R E D !

February 26, 2012

This is my 500th blog post. FIVE HUNDRED! Holy crap!

Back in September 2010, when I started this blog, I had no expectations. I was hoping to create an outlet that I could use as a way to hold myself accountable and keep myself motivated. I didn’t know how long I’d do it, and I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested enough to read it.

This blog is a success. It’s a success because it has helped me, immeasurably, stay on track and stay honest. It has given me a place to celebrate, a place to share, a place to vent, and a place to process the swirl of thoughts that kick around in my noggin.

Then there’s all the wonderful things that I wasn’t expecting: that this blog would be the catalyst for me connecting with people across the country and world – amazing, talented, funny, perceptive people (like you!) who are quick to jump in with advice, suggestions, and their own experiences. I’ve learned a lot as a result of this blog, and I look forward to learning a helluva lot more!

Thank you, readers, for continuing to come back, time and time again, to check in with me. This journey is a tough one, but it is so helpful and comforting to know there are so many people that have my back and are rooting for me. Your time is valuable, and it means so much that you’re willing to give up a few minutes to visit this site. I appreciate it!

I’m not going anywhere. My quest for a healthier life is never-ending. So, I’ll wrap this up the same way I’ve wrapped up the 499 posts that came before it. For the five hundredth time…

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!

Now I’m off to the gym!


Chart Update & Chart Thoughts

February 24, 2012

It’s been three and a half weeks since I’ve updated my weight loss chart. The last time I posted an update, it was a completely different month! My 2012 plan was to weigh myself every 2 weeks – often enough to keep tabs on my progress, but infrequently enough so I don’t become obsessed with the scale and weigh myself a ridiculous amount of times, forcing myself to move the scale to the trunk of my car.

So how did three and a half weeks pass with me stepping foot on the scale? Good question. I can honestly say that the scale slipped my mind last week, when I was due for a weigh-in. I think that because my weigh-ins are spaced further apart, I feel less pressure, and am thinking about the scale less often.

This is a good thing. I’ve been torn the past few weeks months half a year, because I don’t want the results of my weigh-ins to dictate my week or my life. On the other hand, I want to continue losing weight, and I’m trying to continue losing weight, and I want the progress reports that only a scale can provide. Yes, yes, there are lots of ways to measure success, and I embrace them, but I will always need a scale.

The past three and a half weeks are the perfect example why. February has been kind of up and down for me. I’ve been in a bit of a rut – there have been stretches where I’ve let depression get the better of me, and periods where I’ve really worked hard on eating well and exercising. As I was stepping on the scale yesterday morning, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a prediction for what the outcome would be. A lot happens in three and a half weeks, and while this week I’ve felt pretty good about my choices, it hasn’t been that way all month long.

The outcome ended up being this:

Up 2 Pounds. I’m not distraught over 2 pounds. But it confirmed something that I pretty much already knew, which is that if I don’t pay attention to my scale, the pounds will return. They’ll creep back, slowly but surely, and before I know it, I’ll be 25 pounds heavier… 35 pounds heavier… 50 pounds heavier… I’ve dieted enough in my life, and gained back enough weight to know this is FACT. I suspect many of you have had similar experiences.

Do you wanna know my first reaction when 239 popped up on the scale display? My mind went to this blog, and my readers, and I thought, I’m a fraud. I’m a weight loss blogger that isn’t losing weight. I’m going to lose my credibility and people will think less of me.

I KNOW that’s complete bullshit, but I thought it anyway. I KNOW my readers are a group of incredibly supportive, loving, wonderful people who come here for a ton of reasons, and can relate to what I share and how I share it. I KNOW it’s human to make mistakes. I KNOW I’m brave to write about mine. I KNOW I shouldn’t hold myself to a higher standard than anyone else in my shoes just because I made the decision to share, very publicly, how I’m succeeding and how I’m struggling.

Furthermore, I KNOW that there’s not much I can do that would cause people to think less of me. I KNOW I’m loving, smart, handsome, funny, giving, insightful, clever, unique, special. I KNOW I can count, on one hand, the number of negative comments I’ve gotten, and still have fingers left over for nose-picking and bird-flipping. I also KNOW that what other people think of me is none of my business (to paraphrase RuPaul), and that it should be the least of my concerns.

But I still think it. I wish it was the positives that flooded my brain, but more often than not, it’s the negatives. And I’m really tired of it.

So I’m going to go into this weekend reminding myself of the positives. I’m going to remind myself of all my extraordinary qualities I mentioned above. I’m going to talk to the people in my life that I care about and love so much, that make my life so full of light and laughter. And at the top of that list is the guy I see in the mirror.

KEEP IT UP, DAVID.

PS. My current weight loss is 163 pounds, and that’s FUCKING AMAZING!


A New Spin on Salad

February 23, 2012

I don’t own a salad spinner, and I don’t want one. It’s not because I don’t like them. In fact, the opposite it true – I think they’re nifty, fantastic gadgets. Who doesn’t love a hand-powered gizmo that uses centrifugal force (yep, I remember something from my high school physics class) to separate water from lettuce? It’s a great little party trick: just put soaking wet salad greens in this ordinary-looking device, put this ordinary-looking lid on it, turn a ordinary-looking crank, and SHAZAM! Your greens are dry and ready for any salad you could possibly dream up!

Unfortunately, I have a kitchen with very limited space, and I wouldn’t use a salad spinner nearly enough to justify the storage space it would take up (waffle irons and immersion blenders fall in the same category). I’ve lived on my own for over a decade now, and have never even considered buying a salad spinner. Granted, for most of those years, I wasn’t making many salads at home. But salads have been a dietary staple during the past two years, and even now, I don’t ever walk by a salad spinner display at the store and get tempted, with lust in my eyes, to pick one out for purchase.

I can thank the supermarket for squashing any desire I might have for salad spinner possession, because pre-washed, pre-chopped greens are so readily available, and in so many varieties. Even my favorite greens vendor at the farmers market pre-washes their merchandise – according to their signage, they triple-wash it (which I think is excessive, but I still buy it). Any type of lettuce or lettuce mix I could want is available ready-to-eat.

Even though a salad spinner just doesn’t fit into my life, I still enjoy a gadget, and I had a little ‘drop-everything’ moment when I came across this product a few weeks ago:

What’s this? A bag that spins salad? I was instantly hooked. I bought a package. Here’s what a Spin’n Stor bag looks like:

Yesterday, I tried out one of the bags for the first time. On Tuesday, I bought some lettuce as part of my produce haul from Whole Foods. What I learned, as I perused the lettuce section at Whole Foods, is that I know jackshit about lettuce. The problem with eating pre-washed “mixed baby greens” or “spring mix” is that I never bothered to learn what the individual greens were. I know a few varieties, like iceberg, romaine, and spinach, but there’s a whole world of lettuces out there, with names like escarole, Boston, mache, and frisee, that I know I’ve eaten hundreds of times but couldn’t pick out of a line-up if my life depended on it. Further complicating matters was that the lettuce section at Whole Foods was terribly confusing. I wasn’t certain if the signs were referring to the lettuces on the shelf above or below, and some piles of lettuce had two signs. I’m not exactly sure what I came home with, but here it is – I picked it out because it was pretty, and if you can identify it, please do so in the comments section:

I cut out the core, gave it a rough chop and washed it in my sink:

Then I loaded the lettuce into the bag:

And then I spun it. I spun it like a crazy person, in big loops with my arm fully extended, like a softball pitcher. The bag worked! The water drained into a reservoir at the bottom. Look how much water it collected!

(Yep, I’m watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire while making lunch)

The cool thing about the bag is that there’s another panel, called the turbo drain, that allows you to drain the water out of the reservoir without it touching the lettuce. Then, you can twist-tie the bag, and store the lettuce until you’re ready to use it, or, if you’re like me and have no patience, you can make a salad immediately:

I added tomato, scallion, zucchini, green pepper, cucumber, and some fake bacon bits. I also used a nonfat vinaigrette, but I didn’t add that until after I photographed it.

Oh, and the bags are reusable. The package contained 4 of them, and each can be used 8-10 times. I foresee a lot of salad in my future!

Keep it up, David!


Produce, Produce, Produce!

February 22, 2012

Yesterday, I had a fruits and veggies situation – I was running out of them. It wasn’t quite as dire for veggies, but I was precariously low on fruit. I was down to two oranges in my fruit bowl, and I picked one up yesterday and discovered this on the underside:

GROSS. I hate throwing away food, but I had no other option. That left me 1 other orange, which looks mold-free, but I will examine it thoroughly tomorrow morning before I make it part of my breakfast.

It was time to go to the store. In recent months, I’ve begun frequenting the Whole Foods in Beverly Hills. There are three or four other Whole Foods (at least) that are technically closer to my house, but this location is literally blocks from Slimmons, and I’ve gotten in the habit of stopping by after leaving Richard Simmons’ classes. And that’s what I did last night.

My produce procurement actually started at Slimmons. Before class started, my friend Joanne offered me a couple oranges from the tree in her backyard. I love backyard produce! She had brought in a big bag of oranges to share, and I got the last two (next time I’ll have to arrive earlier, I guess!):

Thanks, Joanne!

It was a fun class – my dear friend Vikki, whom I haven’t seen in forever, came for the first time and had a ball. Afterward, I threw a hoodie over my sweaty workout clothes and went to market. Curious what a Richard Simmons’ aerobics class is like? Read this recent post.

I kinda like the Beverly Hills Whole Foods. It’s not a huge store, but their produce section (my favorite section) is sizable. Plus, it’s never that crowded, and parking is a breeze (maybe because I’ve only gone on Tuesday or Thursday night around 8pm).

Sometimes I breeze through the produce section, filling my cart and moving on, and sometimes I linger and really examine the offerings. I’m not afraid to fondle the melons, stroke a banana, caress a peach, or tickle some plums. Sorry, couldn’t resist! (But please note I’m an equal opportunity molester.) Today I must have wandered around each display 2 or 3 times, because it seemed like I was in that produce section forever – and that’s a feeling that I don’t mind at all!

Here’s what I came home with:

  • Top Row: mushrooms, bananas, baby carrots, blackberries, green beans.
  • Middle Row: lettuce (more on this in tomorrow’s post), zucchini, a container of pre-cut celery, yellow cherry tomatoes, comice pears, black seedless grapes, kiwis, apples (a variety called Lady Alice, which I’ve heard of before).
  • Bottow Row: pineapple, baby bell peppers, broccoli florets.

This is where this post will sound like an informercial, because that’s not all! I also picked up a few other things, including…

Rainbow Carrots! I’ve bought them a few times before – here’s my favorite post about them – but I’ve never bought them with the greens attached. Pretty, aren’t they? They makes me want to eat them Bugs-Bunny-style, which I suppose would be pulling them out of my pocket, chewing with my mouth open, and asking “What’s up, Doc?”

I also bought…

Starfruit! It’s been nearly a year since I’ve had one of these suckers, and even though they weren’t my favorite fruit, I thought I’d give it another go.

Lastly, I stumbled upon a vegetable that is so stunning that it quite literally makes me weak in the knees. I’ve seen them before, at farmers markets, but I’m pretty sure I never bought one before. Ladies and gentlemen, take a look at this:

It’s called romanesco broccoli, and I could stare at it all day. It looks like it shouldn’t belong on this planet – like aliens left it behind when they left behind E.T., or built the pyramids, or covered the planet with all those thetans. I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with it, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy looking at it. Is it not the coolest produce item you’ve ever seen?

I seriously can’t stop looking at it. I’ve opened my fridge twice in the past half hour just to stare! Once I do eat it, I’ll be sure to share the pictures with you.

And, in my next post, I’m going to be quite literally putting a new spin on salad!

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!


An Iconic Addition to My Collection

February 21, 2012

I had a red banner gym weekend, although it got off to a shaky start. I wasn’t intending last Friday to be a rest day, but I never made it to the gym. I was a little bummed by my failure to exercise, since I had taken a planned (and deserved) rest day just two days prior, but I didn’t dwell on it. Instead, I decided to make the most of my Saturday and Sunday workouts, and that’s exactly what I did.

My Saturday and Sunday workouts had additional significance, because my gym membership expired on Sunday. I wrote a few posts last month about my decision to switch gyms, and now that transition is complete (there’s more to this story, and I promise to share it soon!). Buh-bye, Burbank Athletic Club, and thank you for 4 wonderful years, and hello, Crunch! Since Burbank Athletic Club has two locations, I thought I’d spend my final weekend as a member hitting both of them – a little farewell tour.

On Sunday, I hit the downtown location, and had a great workout: after warming up, I did 35 minutes of weights, 5 minutes of rowing, and 17 minutes on an elliptical. But my Saturday workout at the northwest location is the momentous one, because it was during that workout that I reached TWO big milestones.

Milestone #1. For the first time ever, I did a full set (3 x 10 reps) of bench presses with over 100 pounds of weight. It was 105 pounds, to be precise – 30 pounds on each end of the bar, and the bar itself is 45. Woo-hoo!

Milestone #2. For the first time ever, I climbed over 100 stories on the StairMaster! I wish there was more of a story to go along with this, but there isn’t. I got on the StairMaster, threw a towel over the display, and started climbing. I had some great music, and before I knew it, I had climbed 75 stories, and I decided in that moment to that I’d push myself to get over 100. I had been close before – my last outing on a StairMaster resulted in a 98-story climb – but today I went 104. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, I CLIMBED 104 STORIES! It took 22 minutes and I burned 375 calories.

Time to add a new building to My Skyscraper Collection! Unfortunately for me, nowhere on the planet is there a building that’s exactly 104 stories tall, so, instead, I’m adding a 102-story building, and it just happens to be one of the most recognizable buildings ever constructed:

THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!

The Empire State Building is a landmark and an icon for New York City, and was the tallest building in the world from its completion in 1931 until the World Trade Center was completed in 1972. It’s currently the tallest building in New York City, the third tallest building in the U.S. – after Willis (Sears) Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower (which I added to my collection last week) – and the 19th tallest building in the world.

I’ve been inside the Empire State Building, but only the lobby – the line for the observation deck was way too long. I’ve read a lot about the building – a few years ago, I read a fantastic book called “Higher” by Neal Bascomb, which is the nonfiction account of the two rival architects who raced, in the 1920s, to build the tallest building in the world. While they were pushing to outdo each other, and creating the Chrysler Building and Manhattan Company Building in the process, a third architect and developer entered the fray, announcing plans for an even bigger and taller building – the Empire State Building.

“Higher” is an absorbing read – meticulously researched and hard to put down. It goes into detail about how the Empire State Building was built – it “went up like a rocket ship” in under 14 months, and the statistics surrounding its construction are jaw-dropping: Over 3,400 workers clocked in daily. An average of 10,000 tons of steel erected each month. 500 truckloads of material delivered every day – that’s 1 truck a minute. 10 million bricks were laid. 6,500 windows were installed.

Some other Empire State Building fun facts:

  • On a clear day, you can see five different states from the observation deck: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
  • The 102nd floor was originally intended to be the landing platform for blimps that would be moored to the building’s spire, but after a couple failed attempts (it was way too windy), this idea was abandoned.
  • In the early 70s, after the World Trade Center was completed, it was proposed that 11 additional stories be added to the Empire State Building, to once again make it the tallest building in the world. The idea was rejected.

Yep, I climbed that!

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!


And Now for Something Completely Different

February 20, 2012

My apologies to Monty Python for stealing borrowing their catchphrase to use as a title for this post. My gratitude also goes to Monty Python, for creating such hilarious comedy – I just procrastinated for 20 wonderful minutes watching online clips, including one of my favorite scenes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Happy Monday! I hope you had a good weekend, because I did. I hit two big milestones at the gym, and kept busy otherwise… but I’m going to get into all that tomorrow. Today, I’m introducing a new feature to Keep It Up, David!

This is kinda sorta completely random, but I have a strange little talent that’s has nothing to do with anything else that I blog about. Lately, though, this talent has really come in handy. About a week ago, I mentioned in a post that I sometimes draw as a mental distraction. There are times when I’m relaxing or watching TV, and all I seem to think about is snacking. It happens most frequently at night – I’ve had a good dinner, and I’m not actually hungry, but I get an overwhelming desire to keep eating, and I start fixating on the food I have in the house. Sometimes I’ll give in, and rustle up some fruit or carrot sticks, but sometimes I try to fight it. And one of the best tools I have in my arsenal is a pencil.

My parents will vouch that once I learned how to use a pencil, I was hooked. A lot of my doodling, even at a young age, was design-based: creating floor plans for houses, designing golf courses and shopping malls, things like that. But I also developed a keen ability to create puzzles. My grandfather taught me how to create word searches when I was about 6 years old, and I can still make a mean word search to this day, ones on par with Wonderword, my favorite word search puzzle out there.

I’m don’t remember when my fascination with mazes began, but it was also early on, and I became quite good at solving them, and then drawing them. I’ve been able to draw them for as long as I can remember (I used to submit them to be included in my elementary school newsletter), and lately I’ve been drawing them a lot. My nephews are now old enough to solve mazes (they’re 5, 6, and 7), so for the past two Christmases, I’ve made maze books for them – a collection of mazes that I bind together at an office supply store.

Mazes are fun for me to draw. I like brainstorming and creating the theme or look of the maze, and keeping track of the dead ends and correct path is a nifty little challenge. The ability to solve a maze is important – all of my mazes have exactly one path from start to finish.

Lately, whenever I’ve needed to distract my own brain from a food fixation, I’ve drawn a maze. And since they’re no fun for me to solve, I’m gonna turn my own little form of therapy into a blog feature, and give YOU the opportunity to solve them! Are you ready?

To download a PDF of Maze #1, CLICK HERE. Here’s what you’ll be downloading:

This maze is the result of my playing around with concentric circles. The directions are simple: CONNECT THE TWO STARS. There is only one path between them. The maze is hand-drawn, by me, using a black pen and a Sharpie, and the original is on a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

This is the first PDF I’ve posted on this blog, so please let me know if there are issues. I chose the PDF format so you could easily download and print it. I did a trial run, and I was able to print it without a problem, so hopefully you’ll be able to as well.

Good luck and have fun!

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!


Zara

February 18, 2012

I’ve really come to love clothes shopping over the past year or so. For most of my adult life, shopping was a mandatory but embarrassing experience: I was way too large for most retailers, so my shopping was done at two nearby big & tall stores, and that wardrobe was complimented by catalog purchases.

Things started changing when the pounds started coming off. Once I no longer needed to shop at big & tall stores (an epiphany I celebrate in this blog post), the whole mall opened up to me, and now I have fun checking out stores and seeing what fits me and what I like. I’ve learned a lot, and they’re still tons to figure out. I already know that I tend to have good luck at Macy’s (most of the time), and that my favorite type of Levi’s are their 514s (slim straight). I’m still on the hunt for a good basic t-shirt with a flattering cut, a heavier fabric, and a reasonable price tag. I’ve also discovered what doesn’t work for me, and that information is just as valuable: I know some brands and labels that run short or are too narrow for my shoulders. And there are stores I used to frequent, like Gap (which I wore a lot of in high school), that just don’t interest me anymore.

What’s most fun, however, is walking into a store that I know nothing about and checking it out for the first time. I did this last summer in Seattle with a store called AllSaints Spitelfield, and it was a complete bust, but still fun. The other day, I did it again, with a store called Zara.

The first time I heard about Zara was a few weeks ago, when I met up with my friends Paul and Court at the Getty Center (an outing which yielded kickass ‘before’ and ‘current’ pictures that you can check out here). I complimented Paul on his shirt, which came from Zara, which is one of Paul’s go-to stores. Then, about a week ago, I complimented Tavi (ugh, yes, this is yet another blog post that Tavi figures into) on a sweater he was wearing, and that, too, came from Zara. It was time to check out Zara.

Zara is a Spanish retailer that only has about 25 stores in the US (and about a 1/4 of them are in southern California), but they’re all over Europe – actually, they’re in over 70 countries on 6 continents. They’re huge. The other day, Tavi and I went to the one in Pasadena, which is housed in an festively festooned storefront on Colorado Boulevard:

The men’s section is large, clean, and well organized:

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so I wandered, and ended up pulling two large armloads of clothes to try on: pants, jeans, sweaters, t-shirts (maybe they’ll have the perfect basic T for me!). I picked up things at Tavi’s suggestion that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. Generally, I liked the aesthetic: a nice mix between clean lines and fun details, with a lot of neutral colors and bold pops of color. I was reminded of the description Paul initially gave me of the store, which turned out to be pretty spot-on: H&M style at a Banana Republic price point. I also noticed, from the get-go, that a lot of their offerings were slouchy and lacking in structure, which is not a flattering look on my body, but I reserved judgment until the dressing room.

The dressing room was illuminating. I learned, really quickly, that Zara is not the store for me. The textiles were a little thin and the European sizing was a little different, resulting in tops that, much to my chagrin, proudly showcased every roll of fat on my body. It was laughable how unflattering these clothes were: they clung like saran wrap, and I felt and looked like a sausage. I fared a little better with the pants – there was a pair of jeans that looked good. They were size 38″ (the largest size Zara makes), although they were the tightest 38″ I’ve ever tried on. They cost $80, and I’m not gonna spent that much on anything that I don’t absolutely love, and these jeans didn’t quite fall into the “love” category.

I was fine with completely striking out at Zara. I was curious about the store, and now I have my answer. I’ve since done a little reading about Zara, and their business model is kinda fascinating. They do no advertising whatsoever, and focus on clothes that are already trendy and popular, as opposed to trying to establish trends of their own. They can design a knock-off and have it in stores in 2 weeks, and if that item doesn’t sell within a week or two, they’ll yank it from the shelves. As a result, they’ll sell 10,000 unique items during a year-long span, compared to 2,000-4,000 items for their competitors. They’ve resisted outsourcing more than other companies, and claim that 75% of their clothes are made in Europe (mostly Spain). I recommend the Zara page on Wikipedia for an interesting primer on fashion retailing.

Zara’s not for me. Big deal. I’m not in the market at the moment for any clothes anyway, except workout pants, which I should be able to find easily at a discount store or on the sale rack at a sporting goods store.

Do you have any ideas for retailers that I can investigate next?

Keep it up, David!


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