Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Forging Through the Furnace

The temperature yesterday was record breaking - 103 degrees! Today is supposed to smash records too!

I went into Dante's Inferno, otherwise known as the New York City subway, and took the N train down to Union Square. Usually bustling, even without the great Farmer's Market which is only open M,W,F, Union Square was quiet - the oppressive heat curtailed mid-day strolls. For lunch I had the vegan wrap at the Coffee Shop, and it could not hold a candle to the one I made on the 4th of July. Still delicious of course, but I prefer my freshly grilled concoction. I was still hungry, but I made myself wait, and sure enough :20 minutes later I was fine. Plus, I didn't want to feel overly full before my workout in the Park - I needed that room for all the water I needed to drink!

Walking to Central park in my gym clothes is a great feeling of accomplishment because I was tired from the weekend, and my knees were sore - it would have been quite easy to beg off. But I didn't and I think I got a few looks of health envy from passing sweat-stained businessmen. I would always feel guilty walking home from work or to the bar and see people in their workout gear; now I was one of them.

My trainer and friend Chris, who has 20 years in the business and teaches around the world, wanted to try some things out with me before the class that would cater to my painful knees. These are not aches, mind you, but significant pain exacerbated when walking up steps or, of course, doing any strenuous running activity. Through trial and error we found what exercises were too painful on my knees, and which ones weren't. This is significant because of how many people who say, "I can't exercise because I have bad knees." If you can get a good trainer that knows movement, and knows the body, he can find ample exercises that works out muscles and spares the joints.

The team was smaller last night, just 5 of us. Most of the things we do that are not on the TRX are, as I mentioned, stuff you did in Physical Education class or on a sports team. Some of it not too strenuous in and of itself, but we are always moving. That is the key - none of this is called exercise, it is called movement. There are no "reps" and "sets" -- it is all about the quality of the movement over the quantity. After an hour of doing routines that work out your entire body I was exhausted. Chris wants to make me a project, so you may see video of me doing these exercises on my blog. Last summer out in the Hamptons while socializing, I was complaining about my knees (also holding up a 290 lb body at the time) and told Chris about the exercises my Physical Trainer had me doing after my knee surgery. Squats were still excruciating for me so Chris took a 2"x4" piece of wood and placed it under my heels and it alleviated much of the pain. The guy really knows how to get the maximum amount of success from your body. Check out his website:

After a circuit of various movements that look simple but are quite effective at burning your muscles and getting your heart rate up, and then some more work on the TRX, we jogged over to two iconic places in the Park. We ran past the famed bandshell, which has been entertaining audiences in the Park since the 1920's {see New Yorker, 1927} with everyone from Duke Ellington, to Irving Berlin, to even The Grateful Dead, and then on to Bethesda Fountain. Jogging past the bandshell there was a classical music concert going on and I was reminded yet again how lucky I am that Central Park is my playground. We then ran up and down the steps, then push-ups around the beautiful Bethesda Fountain. We took plenty of water breaks because of the heat and humidity, but I was drenched from head to toe when the hour was up.

Part of their tradition after a hard workout in 100 degree weather, I learned, was a trip to Harry's Burritos to sit outside and sip frozen margaritas. For those of you wondering how it is possible for one man to have so much temptation and alcohol around him, walk a mile in my, nay, walk seven steps in my shoes!

As we sat outside in the heat, already drenched to our socks, the discussion was all about diet, and the confusion around it. Chris talked about someone who heard that vegetables should be eaten raw, others say steamed, and others say that when they are boiled they lose all their nutrients. So this person said that
because there is so much confusion she doesn’t eat any vegetables anymore. This, obviously, is a cop-out. In fact all statements above have truth to them, so the answer is EAT VEGETABLES regardless! Yes, if you boil your vegetables like my Grandmother to the point of mush, you will lose most of the nutrients, but that does not mean popping a cracker with some Cheez Whiz is going to be better for you! Yes, there is confusion, and way too many books, but when in doubt use common sense! Or look at it this way, eat more like a gorilla, and less like a 12 year old at Coney Island with a $50 bill in his pocket!

I had another unlucky incident with food (remember the kidney beans in the cafeteria?). While at Harry's I munched on some chips and guacamole (it's terrible. For good guac in the city go to Rosa Mexicana, for great guac, come to my apartment). Everyone was eating a meal, and I was not that hungry - filled up on water and chips. But I decided to join the group. Somewhere between my pontificating on the importance of Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live, and a story by the woman in the group about finding a spider in her bra at work, I bit into my vegetable burrito only to find a 2 inch twisty-tie, or whatever their name is. The thin, pliable tie that goes around plastic bags of bread. I was pretty upset - I mean, how hard is it to keep foreign objects out of food in a restaurant?! Yes, folks, that's Harry's Burrito on 71st and Columbus. The manager asked if I was, "hurt," -- read: injured, thus involving litigious behavior on my part. I said I was fine, and reading her real concern said I was not going to sue, but I was not happy about it! So she comped my half-eaten meal. I also had ordered a side of asparagus, but they were drenched in oil and not good, but what do you expect from a Mexican restaurant - I should have just waited while the team ate, and had a salad at home.

Really, I am much better off making my own fresh food!

1 comment:

Vegan Epicurean said...

We are having that same scorching heat here. Lovely no?

Sounds like a great workout and less than great meal out. Sorry to hear about the twist tie in your food. *shakes head* You would have expected someone to see that. Food made at home does seem to be safer, most of the time. ;-)