A blog about life after weight loss.

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Complexes and Intervals: Our 2012 Coup de Grace

After sleeping in for the last time this year, but not this week–thank goodness for days off, we took to the gym for our last workout of 2012. I received a handful of fitness and workout books for Christmas, and to send the year out in sweaty style, we did a workout from two of them.

We started with a dumbbell complex from Cardio Strength Training, a book full of useful information and workouts by Robert dos Remedios. A complex is similar to a circuit in that you move from one exercise to the next, but different in that you do not rest between exercises. You don’t even put the weights down. Dos Remedios, a strength and conditioning coach at College of the Canyons, explains that complexes not only help you tone your muscles and burn fat during the workout, but shakes up your metabolism so the benefits continue well after you leave the gym.


For this complex, we did three sets of seven reps. I used 25lb dumbbells and Liz used ten pounders. When it comes to complexes, you are only as strong as your weakest lift–even at seven reps, I wasn’t confident I could curl more than 25lbs, thus, I lifted that load for the whole complex.

  • Lunging Curl & Press
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Bent-over Row
  • Squat jumps

This complex didn’t take us very long to complete; we probably spent 8-12 minutes working, but like an action sequence in a guy move, when it comes to exercise, length takes a backseat to intensity. At the end of the first round, we didn’t feel too bad. We both thought moving from lift to lift without even setting the weight down added some novelty and fun to our workout, and the squat jumps were a great, heart-pumping finisher. During the second round the dumbbells felt a little heavier, making the curls a bit more of a challenge. By the end of the final round, my feet barely left the ground on the squat jumps, and we were debating whether complexes are best used as a way for busy people to stay fit or as a punitive measure for petty crimes like vandalism and littering.

Everyone finds themselves searching for the time to fit in a worthwhile workout from time to time. Some days, it feels like there is just not enough time for fitness. Complexes are a great way to get yourself out of this kind of a jam. As I type this, I can still feel the effects in my arms and quads.

mens health 15

We moved to the treadmills for an interval workout from The Men’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute Workouts by Selene Yeager and the editors of Men’s Health. The routine started with a three-minute warmup walk, and from alternated between sprints and brisk jogs. The sprint was defined by setting the treadmill speed to 8 or higher and the brisk jog at 5.5-6.5. These intervals were “ladder” style meaning they started at 45 seconds, worked their way up to 1:15 and came back down again. By the team we reached the top of the ladder, we wished we were climbing a step stool instead. After a couple of sprint intervals, the brisk jog was a bit too brisk, and our legs burned as hot as a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. By the time we reached the cool down walk, our chests were heaving. It was a great end to the year.

We will see you in 2013. Have a happy, healthy new year.



Snack On This!

One of our favorite bands is California-based quartet Cold War Kids, a band that layers its influences to create a moody, energetic sound. Their lyrics are eloquent and often metaphoric–think an anti-Taylor Swift–and open to interpretation. My favorite Cold War Kid lyrical diamond comes from “Golden Gate Jumpers,” the melodic tale of a man saving a woman from diving from the famous San Francisco bridge to a watery grave. The song changes from a choppy, disjointed barroom-piano heavy narrative to a dreamily serene musing on the thoughts of the suicidal.

This is the song’s final lyric, the one that will haunt you if you let it:

If shark’s don’t get you first, the crabs will have their way with you.”

In the context of the song, the sharks and crabs likely represent problems and crises–if the big ones don’t drag you down, little ones can add up and torment you. Naturally, I apply the sharks and crabs metaphor to food.

We all know to avoid the sharks: big, heavy meals rich with calories and trans fats. The crabs, in this metaphor I am twisting for my own purposes, represent snacks. Eat too many snacks, or just a little of the wrong ones, and your fitness suffers.

Photo via

Photo via

If you are trying to lose weight or stay fit, snacks can be your frienemy. The conventional fitness wisdom of our time is “eat little, eat often” and this axiom makes sense. Eating little and eating often keeps your metabolism revving without leaving you feeling stuffed and slow as you might after a big meal. To steal a line from ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, if you stay hungry, you stay fit. But the margin between healthy snacking and overeating is slim–if you aren’t judicious about your choices and your portions, snacking will impede your fitness goals.

We recently made a change in the way we approach snacking at work. Like most of you, a day at the office means being shackled to a desk, so we chose our snacks based on convenience. Our snack of choice was Balance Bars because they could be stored and accessed quickly. Plus, at 15 grams of protein per bar, we thought they were a better choice than say a sleeve of crackers. However, we found ourselves with nightly sweet tooths. (Sweet teeth?) As it turns out, Balance Bars are sweeter than a One Direction pop anthem, with 17 grams of sugar per serving.


So we made a swap. We ordered Ostrims, a combination of ostrich and beef jerky. Not only does the Ostrim have fewer calories, but also more protein. As an added bonus, it is fun to resurrect your Randy “Macho Man” Savage impersonation by taking a bite and exclaiming “Oooh yeah! Snap into it!” Trust me, your co-workers will love it.

We also bought instant oatA-bowl-of-oatmealmeal. Making oatmeal at work is far from a trouble, but it does require you to leave your desk. But, oatmeal is listed as a healthy food by every publication worth reading and makes you feel full despite being a low-calorie snack.

You can master your dietary sharks and crabs, but you have to take stock of the snacks you regularly eat. Be honest about how often you snack and how much you eat when you do. Spend a minute re-examining the nutrition labels and think of ways you can do better. I suggest listening to the Cold War Kids while you do.

Weigh In: What healthy snacks do you recommend?

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Where Good Health and Weight Loss Diverge

A couple weeks ago, Liz and I got sick. We weren’t SICK sick—we didn’t have anything serious, just the annual coughs, congested chests and noses, and general lousy feeling common to cold Midwest winters.

We spent all of our energy just being functional, responsible adults. We didn’t miss any time at work and still tended to household business like cleaning and running errands. But we had no energy to exercise. Hell, we had no energy to stay awake past eight o’clock.

We weren’t eating much at all either. I suppose our taste buds got sick too, because everything we ate tasted how cardboard looks—plain. Besides, when you can’t breathe through your nose, the last thing you want to do is shut your mouth for minutes at a time while you chew food. Needless to say, cereal was on the menu several nights that week.

But a funny thing happened. We each lost about five pounds. This isn’t gloating; it’s confusion. We weren’t healthy, but we had lost weight.

I have heard people—usually women on daytime talk shows—say, “Just because you are skinny doesn’t mean you are healthy.” These women were usually overweight and masking their disappointment with bravado. I could never make this comment compute; I would always roll my eyes out of cognitive dissonance. Isn’t that like saying “Just because you are tall doesn’t mean you can reach things on high shelves”?

But I guess there is something to it. Lethargy and weakness made it difficult for us to shower, let alone get our hearts pumping, but we shed a few pounds in spite of ourselves. This unintentional weight loss is not a good thing.

Good health is about more than the numbers on the scale, it is about a feeling. We would rather have those five pounds back (and we do. Merry Christmas.) and have the energy to workout, socialize with friends, and feel like human beings. Sure, dropping weight is nice, but we would prefer to do it on our terms.

Remember this on your own fitness journey. Being healthy is more important than hitting a number. Only you can decide on the happy medium between feeling good and reaching a goal weight, and maybe you don’t have to choose at all.

But consider this: What good is a fit body if you don’t have the energy to go out and show it off?