Be Careful What You Wish For…

Surprise! I didn’t expect to be posting again so soon – but it’s been a momentous week for me and I want to talk a little bit about that!

In addition, John and I have been writing what we hoped to be a short, concise explanation of how our diet works, in order to help my mom and Chris make their own changes at home. Alas, between all the explanations and personal tips on ways that we’ve found to manage certain aspects of the diet, “short and concise” has blossomed into twenty-six pages! As it turns out, there is no possible way to condense a year and change of learning, growth, and adjustment into a thirty-second read. It’s also impossible to condense the many factors that contribute to a healthy diet into “one little trick.” Sorry, internet advertisements. Reality is a harsh mistress.

For those that are still interested, though, we’ve opted to share our writings with everyone. As the opening will remind you, we are not doctors, and we are not here to be the food police for our friends and loved ones. You may disagree, disobey, or laugh as hard as you’d like, and we’ll still love you. What we’ve done, and what we’ve written, are the things that we learned and have worked for us – nothing more, and nothing less. Preaching and proselytizing are best left in church! That said, we know many people have been curious about how this works, and want to know what is/isn’t safe for us to eat, so we’re hopeful this can help.

How to Eat Without Going Insane (Bruce Edition)

With that shared… on to the rest of the post!

This week has been one of the hardest, and yet most rewarding, weeks I’ve experienced on the road to weight loss. After returning from Arizona, I found myself beset by headaches and migraines, with just enough of a break between them to make it to TRX. As it turns out, that class was my beloved trainer’s last for the next three weeks – Janelle is on a skiing trip with her family! Without her, the class is still challenging, but I miss the charm that she brings to it. (I’m still going though, as I’ll get to in a bit.) Our substitute spends most of her time teaching yoga classes at the Pro Club, so I was excited to see what that background would bring to her sessions. Janelle teaches cycling and weight-lifting classes in addition to TRX, and her unique combination of upbeat, high-energy pacing with difficult but rewarding moves is something that I think must come from that background.

Because of all the time I spent sick, I didn’t get back to my workouts with Erin (my personal trainer) until last Friday. As always, she was more than patient with me, listening to all of my crazy stories from Tucson while I poured sweat all over her equipment. I mentioned that I’d been considering learning to jog or run, which is something that she’s known about for awhile – she’s the one that helped me try it out on the final day of the program, albeit with lots of safety nets… holding onto the rails, use of dynamic mode* on the treadmill, etc. We’ve been working on lots of other things since then, and I haven’t bothered making a case for getting back to it because I trust her to tell me when I’m ready. The last few times I suggested I wasn’t working hard enough, she let me know that she could push me harder… if I wanted to burn out in two weeks. I took the hint.

*For those unfamiliar with the term, dynamic mode is a setting on some treadmills that allows you to disengage the treadmill’s power, allowing you to walk or run using only your own body to power the machine. It’s used for a lot of different things, depending on your level of fitness, but one of the things it can do is allow your trainer to observe what your natural, safe walking or running speed is. I had to use it a lot early in the program so that she knew what settings to start me on, but I don’t often use it now. Truthfully, it’s very awkward because most untrained humans don’t have a nice, even pace, and there’s a lot of jerkiness to the motions of using dynamic mode that result until you adjust. It’s supposed to be a way of adapting the pace to your needs, but I’ve repeatedly found it easier to adapt to a preset pace instead.

In general, I’ve wanted to learn to run because I’ve never been able to do it without suffering, even as a child. While I have no goals of completing a marathon right now, I want to know what it feels like to live in a body that DOES have the speed, strength, and endurance to run for pleasure and exercise. Fast is something I never thought I would or could be; now I’m viewing that as something to overcome because I want and choose to, not as an inarguable fact of the universe. That said, my current interest has more to do with necessity. If I’m going to be flying down to Tucson every month, I need ways of getting my workouts in without taking too much time out of my visits with family. I have and use my own TRX straps thanks to John, and Erin’s been kind enough to give me personalized instructions when I’ve asked for them, but being able to knock out my cardio requirements with a ten-minute jog around the neighborhood would be a huge load off my shoulders.

Expressing this to Erin last Friday, combined with my general (low-key, friendly, but still valid) annoyance at being behind John in progress, was all I needed to do. As it turns out, she was happy to let me give it another shot! After I was done with my usual walking, I ended up doing very short running sprints, just like I’d done on the final day of the program – for five minutes total, I spent 50 seconds walking, followed by 10 seconds of running. It was still hard as nails, but I did it, and I did it far better than the first time I’d tried. It was enough improved that Erin promised to start doing that kind of thing during each of our workouts. We haven’t added anything formal like that to our routine in months, ever since I got strong enough to stop using the weight machines and switch to using the equipment in the free weight room! I was thrilled…

…but little did I know that she was also preparing to bump up the difficulty on the OTHER parts of my workouts as well! This tends to happen on Fridays, as she knows that I’ll have the weekend to fully recover before she sees me again on Monday. It doesn’t happen every week – some weeks are just working on the same hard stuff I’ve been struggling with – but if I was threatening to start working on running myself, she knew I’d be receptive to an increase! Now is a good time for it too, since I’m no longer sick, I have a couple of weeks to buckle down and work hard before my next trip to Tucson, and I’m definitely eager to push myself to catch up.

So… by the end of the day on Friday, I was ready to come home and write my last will and testament. I didn’t just walk. I didn’t just run. I did 18-inch step-ups without dying for the first time. That’s more or less the equivalent of climbing a flight of stairs by taking two steps at a time. I did goblet squats down to the same 18-inch platform with a kettle bell, which I tend to struggle with. I did them so well that she had me do my next set with a weighted bar across my shoulders instead – I think that’s preparation for actual barbell lifting. I did THAT so well that she took the platform away for the last set, leaving me to try my best to keep good form without the safety net of something under me. I did full sit-ups. I did standing wall ball slams, which left me sore for days the first time I did them – a week and change prior. I did three rounds of all of it, with very minimal rest between.

And when Monday rolled around… I was still breathing.

So far this week, I’ve had two more insane but rewarding workout sessions. I’ve done more running with safety nets. I’ve done my first-ever running WITHOUT safety nets! Erin decided she had a good enough picture of my comfortable speed to start adjusting the motor for me on the fly, so she can toggle it back and forth as needed when I get tired. I managed two minutes without stopping, took a one-minute break, then ran for another minute before stopping and getting on to the rest of the workout. I’ve been doing all of the other stuff that kills me, and new variations on them that push me harder.

Outside of the running, my biggest accomplishment was on Wednesday. I’ve been doing something called a bear crawl hold throughout most of the time I’ve been in the program, but it’s still one of the hardest things I do, and we had to work for months to get me to hold the position for thirty seconds at a time. I’ve also known that John has been doing actual bear crawling without the hold, for a few months – the intended goal of practicing the hold version, when you get good at it. I was pretty convinced I would die without ever doing it. Then Erin got down on the floor, showed me how to do it, and stood up. Waiting. I kind of wish there’d been a camera present to record my expression. But… there we were, and she keeps a pretty quick pace like Janelle does, and I do so hate wasting her time by being slow unless I truly can’t help it…

We did three sets, as we usually do – it was one part of a four-part circuit, woven in with other exercises. The first set I did was miserable – I managed a few incorrect “steps” forward before falling back down to my knees, then struggled two correct “steps” at a time until I reached the (merciful) end. The second set, I managed to keep mostly good form and make it to the end after having to stop only once, halfway. The third and final set, I managed to make it two-thirds of the way without stopping – and that was the final thing I did for the session, which means I was already bone-tired and dripping sweat from all the other stuff I’d done that day.

And then there was the TRX class with a sub on Tuesday. Every time we’ve had a sub, the class has felt harder – not because the moves are all that different, but because other teachers don’t order their moves in the same way Janelle does. Most subs I’ve dealt with include moves in their warm-ups that Janelle would save for later in the class, and I tire out way faster as a result. They also often include harder things to challenge the veterans in the class, of which I can often do only one or two reps before waiting for the next move. (Janelle seems to prefer teaching the basic move, and then showing off variations for folks that need less/more challenge.) The end result is something that feels a lot more like the hardcore workouts I was told to expect from this exercise format.

On the one hand, this is GOOD because it forces me to work harder and push myself in new, unexpected ways. On the other, it means I end up struggling a lot more than I do in a class where I know what’s expected of me. That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday. I got a tough, challenging workout, but instead of looking like the veteran I am, I looked like a callow newbie again! I’m pretty sure we covered all of my weakest areas. Needed, perhaps… but not what I’d consider flattering! Such is life, though. I don’t show up to class to look pretty. I show up to get stronger. That said, I doubt I’ll have nearly as much fun, or work quite as efficiently, until Janelle returns. Until then, I’ll do my best to keep up and adapt to our sub’s personal style of teaching. And I’ve also made a good contact, should I want to someday take yoga classes! It’s still a strong interest for me, though I have yet to find any at the Pro Club that fit my schedule. We’ll see what happens.

As of today, Thursday… I’m pretty sore and exhausted from all of the hard work I’ve put in since last Friday. We had tickets to a show (Ride the Cyclone) last night, but I got in the car to come home after my workout and steps and just… couldn’t fathom the idea of rushing-in-to-shower-and-dress-and-eat-and-leave-and-sit. I hate to waste good tickets, and to miss good opportunities to see cool things, but the peace and quiet and relaxation of my own home was the only thing that was going to keep me functioning today. As it turned out, John was in need of rest himself, so neither of us were too broken up about sitting this one out. Tonight we have our usual DDR date, and tomorrow will be our final workout for the week. I can’t honestly express to you how thrilled I am to have a free weekend with no real exertion planned aside from step requirements!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled with the progress I’ve made. I feel like a superhero for doing all the stuff I’ve done this week! It’s phenomenal how far I’ve come, and how far I’m able to go when I give things my full effort and focus. I’m doing things now that I could never have done before at any point in my life, and there’s a joy that I’m still trying to learn how to define in that. I’m very used to enjoying the process of overcoming problems and challenges, but I’ve never been able to do that from a physical standpoint – just a mental or emotional one.

And all of this is my own choosing. All of the things I’m working on are going to help reinforce my TRX classes, teach me to run safely, help me to play DDR better and faster, and give me the chance to reject the weak, fragile, delicate lady stereotype that I’ve always wanted to avoid. While I still don’t ever see myself as a professional athlete, I’ve hit the point where I truly DO enjoy the self-competition of breaking down my own limitations, and I can’t imagine going back to life without that in some form. Erin and Janelle know the stepping stones that will get me to where I want to be, and I couldn’t ask for better partners on the road to that eventual end.

At the same time… I have to be real. And the real part of me is so. dang. tired. right. now.

It’ll get better. Someday, I’ll be crushing these things that are crushing me. It’s all cyclical, just as it’s been for all the days and weeks and months of this program. There’ll always be something new to crush me, because that’s how I get stronger – but it’s only this hard overall right after everything gets bumped up a tier of difficulty. If it’s anything like the last major milestone that almost killed me, by the time next week rolls around, I’ll be bear crawling like an actual bear! Sometimes all it takes is a few days to change everything.

Until then… showing up and doing your best, even if it hurts, and even if it’s exhausting, and even if you don’t think you can, is the best thing you can do. Even if you can’t, today… tomorrow is another day.


  1. Carolyn

    Amazing! Or Amy-azing!! You (and John) have done sooo much and come sooo far! I am tremendously proud of you! What discipline and dedication and perseverance you have both shown! I appreciate the links you included above, as I was not familiar with the various exercises you mentioned. I’m glad I could look them up and understand a bit more about all that you are doing. While I haven’t yet read your explanation of how your diet works, I fully intend to and I look forward to it. Thank you.

    Ah, I was about to write, “Keep up the good work!”, but I don’t really feel I need to. I know you will(!) because that is the other thing that so impresses me… how committed to this new lifestyle you and John are both remaining! One more time… Amy-azing!! and, as a take-off on phenomenal… Phen-John-menal!!

  2. Carolyn

    I have just read, “How to Eat Without Going Insane (Bruce Edition!)”, and it is marvelous! -filled with much helpful and sensible information. I really like how you have organized it, beginning with your informative introduction, followed by each food group, with each including “How does it work?” and (usually) “Tips from the Bruces”. Thank you! One area I am wondering about… Does 20/20 say anything about caffeine? I know I add too much cream and sugar to my coffee, but beyond that, what I’m wondering about is caffeine itself.-? Thanks!

    • DterminD

      We’re glad you enjoyed it! Organizing all of that was quite the ordeal, so it’s good to know you found it sensible. 🙂

      Thanks for asking – this is something we should add to the file. While caffeine isn’t necessarily harmful for health or weight loss by itself, 20/20 asks us to avoid it most of the time. Because this is a lifestyle-changes program and not just a diet, learning to sleep correctly so that your mind and body are prepared for the changes you are making is critical. Once you can get through most days (or nights) without using caffeine as a crutch, it’s absolutely possible to indulge once in awhile. We still have a cup of coffee or tea once in awhile, and I do use caffeinated electrolyte supplements sometimes when I know I didn’t sleep well for reasons outside my control, or I’m expecting a tough workout.

      Caffeine does hang around in the body for a LONG time, too. Timing is important since you don’t want all that keeping you up at night! 8 hours is the cutoff, so make sure you’re factoring your bedtime into your plans. Afternoon or late-evening nightcaps can be dicey.

      • Arashikou

        One other reason 20/20 Lifestyles asks patients to limit their caffeine is because they want to make sure that patients are well-hydrated. Thirst can trick the brain into feeling hunger because we also gain water by eating. And 20/20 patients in particular have to urinate a lot because of the high-protein diet and high level of exercise, so we have to stay extra-hydrated. Caffeine is a diuretic, so it dehydrates you instead. The program puts limits on caffeine to make sure patients aren’t hitting their minimum number of glasses of water a day by drinking cups of coffee and doing more harm than good. But even when you’re on the program, they allow a cup of coffee or two cups of tea a day.

  3. Carolyn

    Thank you for this additional helpful information, Amy. I appreciate it.

  4. Carolyn

    Thank you, John. I appreciate your additional information. Very helpful. -And this too, as with all that you’all have shared about 20/20, seems very sensible.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *