Studio X, the small gym on SE Stark tucked next to the Bonfire, is a place I've revisited intermittently since I first profiled it when it opened in 2009. They have a variety of boot camp-style classes (as well as yoga and Pilates) that feature circuit training heavily (one thing I really like is that they have lots of water breaks built into their programs, which helps save some pain on the sports-massage table), all the instructors are cool, and the space itself is clean and modern.

I've been under a pretty steady grind of stress since about March, segueing from producing a big event (Open Season, if that's not obvious) immediately into the emotional/financial roller coaster of first-time home buying, and I'm getting married in two scant months. Sometimes when I'm stressed out I lose my appetite, but lately it's had the opposite effect, making me crave comfort foods (mostly cheese, which I've been caving on, despite having been non-dairy for the past few years), plus I've been cultivating a disturbing capacity for chardonnay. I've never stopped working out—I run 10-20 miles a week, plus biking and walking a lot—but I need a shot in the arm, especially in the face of mounting pressure to look "my best" at the wedding. It really, really doesn't help that I'm five pounds over what I was six months ago (thanks, CHEESE), which totally pisses me off.

And so, on the suggestion of a friend, I signed up for Studio X's X-Press Boot Camp, reintroducing things like, oh, upper-body exercise to my life, as well as making a so-far valiant attempt at calorie counting, something I've always doubted the accuracy of and shunned as too much hassle.

  • Studio X

There are two tiers of participation in the X-Press program, 30 days or 90 days. I signed up early enough to snag the early bird pricing on the 30-day, which was $130 for up to three boot camp classes a week, the scary sounding "Nutritional Coaching and Dietary Accountability," and progress reports that involve calipers and measuring tape. I'm less than a week in, with two boot camp classes under my belt. I started Friday with an initial measuring session and discussion of my goals with Studio X owner Tim Irwin (a former bartender who swears like a sailor: qualities that put me at ease).

I like exercise, and I enjoy the soreness and compromised mobility that peaks exactly 48 hours after a good workout, so that's not necessarily the hardest part for me (remind me I said that next time I need a break from doing a million "mountain climbers" in the instructor they call "Arms'" class). In addition to the boot camps I did Friday and Saturday, I ran five miles on Thursday and again on Monday. I think that's pretty decent, and I go back for boot camp #3 this evening (Arms again—ack!).

Harder for me is the food thing. Not that I eat like shit. I have plenty of dietary rules for myself, but I tend to do better with general guidelines like "no meat" or "no carbs after 4 pm" or whatever than with cataloging everything that passes my lips. X-Press, however, recommends an online program called MyNetDiary, which is actually pretty handy. When you start typing in a food item, it brings up a bunch of suggestions generated by both the site itself and other users, which helps with accuracy. (You have to keep an eye on it sometimes, though: I was impressed that my semi-obscure brand of coffee substitute—basically just granulated barley—was already an option, but when I selected it, whichever moron had plugged it in had it listed as 56 calories per cup! Um, no. Try five.) You can always just go ahead and make a new entry too, and the program will automatically calculate the calories left in your daily plan (determined by how much you want to lose, and by when), granting them back in exchange for the exercise you enter on a given day.

I still think these things are by their very nature pretty inaccurate, given the variables of individual composition and metabolism (to say nothing of the variety of what a "serving size" is—one thing I dislike about these things is that they make eating packaged shit appealing because it's easier to track accurately, when avoiding packaged foods is actually the healthier choice, but almost impossible to record accurately—and do not even say "food scale" to me. I have a life, you know.) But I've taken to leaving that tab open on my desktop all the time, adding food and beverage items (including, reluctantly, guilty glasses of chardonnay) to it as I go, and it's weirdly kind of fun to obsess over.

Needless to say, I haven't had any weight loss. I'm still in the phase of information gathering (Tim has my food-journal log-in so he can spy on my consumption), so I haven't been making any particular dietary adjustments, and I've been around the workout block enough times to know that what I've added to my exercise regimen is as likely to add pounds of muscle as it is to shed those of fat. At the end of the day, though, a lot of this is psychological: I'm going to feel 100% better on my wedding day (and on any day) knowing I made an effort, regardless of how my body decides to respond. That, to me, is well worth four bucks and change per day.