IT STARTED OUT AWESOME: I pounded out 90 wall squats in two minutes, my bike-commuting quads propelling me through the first in a series of timed fitness tests at Studio X in Southeast Portland. Muffin top be dammed, I thought, I might just have this whole boot camp thing in the bag.
But after some sprints, modified pull-ups on hanging rings, and squat lifts with a 15-pound medicine ball, I was pink and sweaty—and seriously reconsidering my swagger. Then Studio X trainer Austin Amstutz placed a small orange cone on a mat, and told me to do as many push-ups as I could, lowering myself down to the cone. I lined up my shoulders just right, lowered my chest... and promptly collapsed onto the cone, breaking it. "So that's a zero," Amstutz said, reaching over to record my results on a laptop.
And that's how the next 10 weeks are going to be. Sorry in advance for my whimpering crankiness.
It must be done. In the two years I've been a food critic, eating as a public service in the country's best food town, I've gained about 25 pounds, despite my daily ride to the office. My penchant for foie gras and fried chicken has landed me at a new high—and societal pressure to be thin aside, I'm now 31 and have got to get myself in order before they use me as the anonymous jiggly belly in a TV news story about obesity.
For obvious job-related reasons, I can't go Paleo or even Whole30, and I'm also not about to become one of those "CrossFit people" (with all apologies to CrossFit people). So I started my hunt for a place that wasn't a cult, and would also allow me flexibility in my workouts and diet.
I landed at the much-beloved Studio X at 2839 SE Stark (of course I picked the gym that shares a wall with a pizza place). Studio X works with chefs and bartenders, including Nostrana's Cathy Whims, and even trains Mr. Fight Club himself, Chuck Palahniuk. Owner Tim Irwin told me I'd have to log everything I eat (and drink, ugh) into an app for review by him, but I wasn't going to have to stop drinking or eating what I love.
There's a catch, of course. Amstutz, in our first meeting, informed me that if I wanted to shed weight, I was also going to have to run a calorie deficit, which may be the two most horrifying words anyone has ever said to me.
Part of this will involve me attending personal training and group classes with names like "Drench," "Jacked," and "Burn," which are honestly words that I more closely associate with cheese than exercise. My first impression, without having yet taken a class: These classes will involve me and a small throng of very fit-looking people sweating profusely while a Jillian Michaels-esque instructor runs us through different, progressively excruciating circuits of squats, lifts, and ab exercises.
There are a few newbies who signed up for a 30-day program that can be started anytime in January, but the clientele seems to mostly be men and women who are already in great shape, which I guess must be a testament to the work they do at Studio X. It also has me petrified to bring my wobbly bits into a weights class.
But even more anxiety-inducing for me is having to watch what I eat. I've never had a problem with working out, really, but turning down a perfectly good office doughnut, or tumbler of whiskey, or even half-stale tortilla chips is an issue. Since becoming a food critic, this has gotten worse by a factor of 10: There's not just the average three-times-a-week restaurant dinners and lunches I have to eat for my work, but there's also countless food events—Feast, Wild About Game, media previews—and free samples of beer, chocolate, and cookies sent to my door.
Amstutz asked me to install the MyPlate app to log everything I eat and drink (no more bottle of wine on a Tuesday just because—someone is watching!), and then they'll tell me how to tweak my habits and portions. "I love hedonism!" I whined, to which Amstutz said, "Well, now it's hedonism in moderation."
I have no idea how this is going to work, but we'll find out. And doing this in such a public fashion will have to keep me accountable, right? Please?
As of press time, I haven't attended my first full class or been put on the correct dietary path, so I'll keep blogging my adventure over the next 10 weeks on the Mercury's blog, and I'll definitely write a wrap-up column to let you know how it goes.
Hopefully I can add one push-up for each week of this torture.
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