It's been 19 days since my last post, and you're probably wondering what happened.
No, I haven't fallen off the wagon again -- in fact, I'm down to 185. And, no, I haven't been hit by a bout of writer's block or a crazy New York City taxi driver.
It's nothing that dramatic or dire. Two weeks ago, after a conversation with my daughters, who are my biggest fans but also my toughest critics, I decided to take a step back from this blog and re-think it. Oh, Mom, Julia told me, you're making it look too easy. Everybody knows that exercise is boring and painful and that most people can't stick to a diet. You've got to tell it like it is, Caroline said. But I want to inspire people, I retorted, to motivate them to keep going when they feel like they're ready to quit.
But, looking back on my postings, I saw they had a point. There was clearly another side of the story, a side that I wasn't telling. If diet and exercise were fun, everybody would be doing it -- and they're not.
So, starting today, I'm not going to sugar-coat it anymore. (Unless I can do it with Splenda.) I'm going to lay it on the line and show you the good, the bad and the ugly of what it takes to try to get in shape.
Let's start with personal trainers. Five years ago, I joined a top-rated health club near my apartment in the Village. Like most clubs, they gave me a free session with a personal trainer. My trainer was an energetic 25-year-old guy who radiated fitness and health. Do you have any medical conditions I should know about?, I remember him asking me. I told him about the lower back problems I'd had since I'd picked up Julia from her crib 14 years earlier and spent the next three days on the floor. I also told him about the soreness I had in my neck and shoulders after spending way too many years in front of a computer.
The first day, we started off slow, working the circuit of machines to strengthen my flabby muscles. After a session or two, I was feeling more confident. Then my trainer started increasing the weights, spurring me on to even greater athletic challenges. One morning, as I was doing squats in front of the bench, he handed me a barbell. Hold this behind your shoulders, he told me, then do 10 more squats. A little hesitant, I reminded him that I was 45, not 25, and that I didn't want to injure myself. He shot me a look that said, "Wimp!," so, like an idiot, I did what he said.
The next day, I woke up sore. I don't know what I pulled, but my neck, shoulders and back muscles felt like they were on fire. The next day was even worse. Finally, I broke down and went to an anesthesiologist who gave me muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs and later to a physical therapist who put heating pads on my back. Eventually, I stopped going to the physical therapist (too busy with work) and quit taking the meds (didn't want to be dependent on drugs) and, over time, I began to feel better.
But I never went back to the gym -- until I started the Eat and Run Diet two months ago. And, while I briefly worked out with a trainer at my apartment last year, I was careful never to do anything that I thought would hurt my back.
But, yesterday, when my trainer, Gina, handed me a barbell to balance on my shoulders while doing squats, I decided to take the leap of faith. After two months of working out with machines and free weights, I felt that I was ready. But first I wanted to know how much the barbell weighed. Fifteen pounds, she told me. I'll try it, I said. And I did -- without breaking a sweat.
Today, the day before my 50th birthday, I woke up feeling fine. The only pain I feel in my back and shoulders is a little soreness from having spent the better part of an hour writing this blog post.
And, now, I'm off to the gym!