Howdy folks. I don’t think I’m 100% better yet, but I’m feeling like this cold is definitely on its way out. Time to fill you in on my holiday adventures! As I mentioned in my last post (with much excitement and perhaps an exclamation point or two), I managed to make it through my holiday travels without gaining any weight. I made a concerted effort to make healthy choices and stay active, while still enjoying some of the pleasures of the season.
I’ll start with exercise. No, on second thought, I’ll start with what I was most hoping for: A white Christmas! There wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground when I landed in Michigan on the 23rd, but it started snowing in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, and by Christmas morning, there was a nice white blanket covering everything in sight.
It snowed more the next couple days, and I loved being back in winter weather, if only for a little while!
Moving on to exercise! In total, I was away from Los Angeles for 9 days, and I worked out during 8 of them. The first thing I did the day after I landed in Michigan was go to the local gym, which I joined for one week. A one-week membership costs $25 (I’ve done it before, on previous visits), but since they were going to be closed on Christmas Day, they sold it to me for $20. My sister Laura, who was also in town for Christmas, did the same thing, and we had a good Christmas Eve Day workout. I ended up going back to that gym to do a mix of cardio and weights 3 more times (it was great having Laura as a gym buddy!), so I got my money’s worth.
On Christmas Day, the gym wasn’t an option, so I did a new workout DVD that I brought with me: Jillian Michael’s Killer Abs.
The DVD has three 30-minute workouts on it, and I did the easiest one, but it definitely wasn’t easy. There were lots of fun and not-so-fun moves that I’ve never done before, and I felt it in my core, my abs, and in my legs, too. I’m haven’t watched much of “The Biggest Loser,” so this was a big introduction for me to Jillian, and I thought she was a good teacher, imparted good information, and I liked that she had folks onstage that were modifying the moves in both beginner and advanced ways.
A few days after Christmas, Laura and I drove to her home in Chicago, where I stayed through New Years Day. The morning after we arrived, I went with Laura to her gym, where we took a spin class. I’ve taken this spin class before when I’ve visited Laura, and it’s a fun and brutal workout. James, the instructor, always has great music, and I love that he says what’s coming up, so we know what to expect (“We’re going to do a slow climb for 5 minutes, and then start a series of sprints”).
After those six days of workouts, I was due for a rest day. Then, the day after, Laura and I did one of Laura’s pilates DVDs:
This was my first-ever attempt at pilates. And while Lynne Robinson, the lady on the DVD, was full of useful information and adept at describing the positions, I don’t think pilates is for me. Hopefully this won’t break the heart of my dear friend Natalie, who is a pilates instructor! I know there are benefits and it’s fantastic that so many people love pilates and do it regularly, but I prefer something a little more energetic. After we finished a routine (roughly 50 minutes, it seemed), Laura turned to me and said, “I bet you feel like that wasn’t a workout at all.” I couldn’t disagree with her, but I did feel sore in my midsection later in the day, so it did more good than I initially thought.
On January 1st, the day I left Chicago, I started my morning with good ol’ “Sweatin’ to the Oldies 5.” I haven’t done this Richard Simmons DVD in months, but I know it like the back of my hand, and it’s a good workout for me, especially after I modify some of the moves to be a bit more difficult.
There you have it: 8 workouts in 9 days!
Let’s move on to food, shall we? Like a lot of families, we have our Christmas traditions, and we kept many of them alive this year. It was the smallest Christmas I’ve ever had – just my parents, Laura, and me – so we pared back on how many Christmas cookies we baked (2 or 3 batches instead of 6-8, at least). I probably ate 2 Christmas cookies a day, but I tried to wait until after dinner. I made super healthy choices for breakfast and lunch (salads, egg whites, lots of fruit, wraps made with lean meat, mustard, and veggies) so I could allow for a few indulgences later on.
For Christmas dinner, we stuck to our family’s tradition of having tenderloin, but we skipped another tradition, a casserole made of potatoes, cheese, sour cream, cream-based soup, butter, and more cheese. I took the lead on all the Christmas dinner sides, and whipped up roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes and a roasted veggie medley of broccoli, yellow squash, and brussel sprouts. I didn’t use a drop of oil in any of it – just sprayed them all with a little Pam so the various herbs and seasonings would stick. I also sauteed some mushrooms to go on the beef (to which I did add about 2 pats of butter). The end result:
The beef (about 4-5 ounces of it) is at 4 o’clock in the picture, under a little horseradish sauce (from a jar) and a few of the mushrooms. Everything was delicious! I got seconds of the veggies and potatoes.
My mom must be on some sort of pyromania kick, because both the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day desserts she planned involved lighting things on fire. She made creme brulee on Christmas Eve (although I got the pleasure of using her kitchen torch to caramelize the tops), and on Christmas Day, I helped her assemble a baked Alaska, which is a pound cake, ice cream, and meringue concoction that gets doused in brandy and set aflame just before serving. I enjoyed a serving of each dessert (although I didn’t photograph them), but didn’t go nuts.
When Laura and I got to Chicago, one of the first things we did was go grocery shopping. Laura took me to this awesome fruit and vegetable market called Stanley’s, which is a beautiful store: piles of produce everywhere, and really great prices, too!
We stocked up on fruits and veggies to last us the next few days, with more for Laura to eat into the coming week:
Top row: carrots, shallots, strawberries, spinach, plum tomatoes, a zucchini, a tomato and a grapefruit. Bottom row: mini yellow bell peppers, 2 apples, cucumber, seckel pears, green grapes, clementines, and mixed greens.
I was so envious, because the clementines were cost 10 cents apiece, and you could pick out as many, or as few, as you want. I only ever see clementines in 5-pound bags, which is a lot of clementines for one person! I don’t understand why clementines aren’t sold loose here, like they are at Stanley’s.
The only time I did really go nutso with food was on New Year’s Eve. I decided, a long time ago, that I would drink on New Year’s Eve, which is an indulgence I rarely give myself. I can count on one hand the number of occasions in the past few years where I’ve consumed alcohol, mainly because I prefer to eat my calories, instead of drink them. But I drank on New Year’s Eve – about 4 drinks over the course of the evening – and by the time Laura and I (and a couple friends) got to the house party where we were actually going to ring in the new year, I was definitely buzzed and seemed to only have eyes for the cookies, nuts, candy, and other snacks that were laid out. I ate waaaaaay too much, and regretted it in the morning. It was a good reminder that alcohol lowers my self-control.
But one night of uncontrolled binging isn’t the end of the world, and I was back on track the very next day.
A few more pictures before I wrap this up. One of the highlights of the Chicago portion of my travels was definitely going, for the first time, to the top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). A few years ago, they installed plexiglass boxes on the 103rd story observation deck that extend outside of the building, so you can stand and only have glass between you and the sidewalk about 1400 feet below. See?
I’ve written about the Willis Tower on this blog before. Last March, when I was in training for my Burj Khalifa stair climb, I was able to add the Willis Tower to my Skyscraper Collection after a record-smashing workout, so it was fun to be at the top of a building I’ve hypothetically climbed in the past. It’s a long way up to the top of the Willis Tower!
I know there’s a stair climb event every year in the Willis Tower, so who knows? Maybe at some point in the future I’ll be in that Skydeck again, after racing up the stairwell!
Final picture: Laura and in one of the plexiglass cubes:
And there you have it folks, the secrets to how I didn’t gain weight over my holiday travels. I hope you’re all starting off the new year by staying active and eating well. I’ve hit the gym the past three days in a row, with a couple more trips planned for this week.
Keep it up, David!