Friday, March 31, 2006

Sunny Friday

I could see clear upward movement on the pullups last night. I'm beginning to believe that they will happen before I leave here. I ran out of time last night and didn't finish the last cable wrist curls, but the rest of the workout went fine. This mornng I had planned to go out for an Israeli breakfast at a nearby cafe, but I woke up later than I wanted to. Daylight Savings Time began so I was short an hour of sleep. Instead I went to the neighbourhood kiosk and got my newspapers, and then went to the gym again. Lying cable rows and upright rows were fine, no complaints from the right shoulder. The squats were solid, and the lunges were fine until the 2nd last set, when man-in-charge asked me to do the last two sets on the Smith machine.


The question marks represent me looking flabbergasted. He said that on my final sets I have a tendency to let the hips move back, as opposed to going straight up and down, and doing the last sets on the Smith is a way to keep the technique in mind. So I did the last two sets on the Smith, and he has a point. After one set I understood what I was doing wrong, and more importantly, I can now tell when the tendency begins during the movement. So for the next 2-3 sessions the first four sets of lunges will be at the rack and the last two on the Smith, and once things look perfectly solid again we'll go back to using the rack exclusively. So it seems the Smith does have a use, who knew?

After the gym I went to the market. The weather was sunny and it was very busy. While I waited at the bus stop for my bus home. a security guard with an adorable Pups for Peace dog came by several times. We had 85 terror warnings prior to the elections and we're two weeks away from Pesach, and even though two bombings were thwarted this week, there was one last night that left four Israelis dead (aged 63, 59, 20 and 16). And to make life that much more interesting, we also have avian flu, but Israel is dealing with it efficiently, unlike its neighbours.

I got red peppers, cucumbers, persimmons and apples, and a bunch of fruit juices/drinks. I've been invited for Shabbat dinner at the home of one of my vegan classmates tonight, and the drinks are for the dinner. There'll be 7-9 people there, and everyone brings something. I always say that I can bring anything as long as it's store-bought. I prefer to not spend my Friday cooking, and I don't think my hosts would appreciate 3 Kg / 7 lbs of cottage cheese or 10 cans of tuna (even if they were not vegan). I usually end up bringing drinks or dessert. :-)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Second Lunch Woes

The fridge at my non-Hebrew U school has had a sign posted on it this week saying that the fridges will be cleaned next week in preparation for Pesach. Well and good, except that unbeknownst to me "next week" apparently became "today", and sometime in the past two hours, the over-enthusiastic fridge cleaners went through the fridge and threw out everything, including my lunch: I'm out a container full of chopped red peppers, a can of tuna, two kiwis and 200g 0% yogurt. I wonder if I can channel this annoyance into an extra centimeter upward movement on my pullups tonight... :-)

In Brief

Of course I worked out on Monday night. Since when is getting only 3 hours and 47 minutes of sleep the night before a good reason to not deadlift? Tuesday night the gym was closed because of election day, and I hosted a little party for my classmates celebrating the completion of the Talmud chapter we've been studying (the 8th chapter of Tractate Bava Kama). Last night, still sleep-deprived, I had a good Day I session (Chest). I stayed with the modifications from the last Day I, so no flat bench, but the decline bench was fine. 42.5Kg went up smoothly, with nary an objection from my right shoulder.

Eating has been reasonably clean, even Tuesday. Because I was hosting the party I could control the majority of the food, but people brought a lot of yummy things. Still, I limited the damage to honey cookies; 5g fat per 100g, and I ate four cookies, or 50g. I took a single bite from a heath bar brownie that my study partner made, but it was too intense for me. Some things I can't eat anymore. The apartment is free of leftovers; flatmate #2 and I took all the remaining goodies school with us and put them on the hefqer table. Hefqer is a Hebrew word that means 'ownerless' or 'has no legal owner' and the hefqer table is where we put food that anyone is welcome to take. Since Pesach is just over a week a way, people have been enthusiastically getting rid of their leavened foods, and the hefker table has been full of assorted cakes, cookies, candies, breads....

I've been remiss in blogging the food, but I've been swamped with school work. I'm spending my entire Pesach vacation working on papers, and hope to find myself less stressed at the end of the vacation.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Food Tracking

Before I get to the food, I am going to link to this sexism-skewering post at View from the Porch. One day ABC News might get a clue, but I'm not holding my breath.

Here are today's first two meals, which also happen to be my favourite choices for meal 1 and meal 2. The fruit and veg components change based on what's in season, and if I'm out of fruit and veg I stir 30g of dry oatmeal into the eggs. Cottage cheese comes in 250g containers here, so meal #2 is not only extremely portable, but can easily be assembled at the corner grocery or supermarket. Neither of these will change when Pesach arrives (no oatmeal, of course).

7:00am Meal 1: 6x1 Omelette
1 whole egg: 75/6.3/0.6/ 5
5 egg whites: 85/17.5/1.5/0
1/2 tsp olive oil: 20/0/0/2.3
1/3 cup 1% milk in coffee: 34/2.7/4.1/0.8
100g red pepper: 26 /1/6/0.3
100g persimmon:70/0.6/18.59/0.2
Total: 310/28.1/30.8/8.6

1030am Meal 2: Cottage and Yogurt
250g 0.5% cottage cheese: 146.3/30/3.8/1.3
150g 0% yogurt: 57/6.5/7.8/0.3
100g banana: 89/1.1/22.8/0
100g apple: 52/0.3/13.8/0.2
Total: 344/37.9/48.2/1.8

Lunch at the university was too carb intensive, but nothing really bad. The salad was a mix of greens, tomato, cucumber, corn, red cabbage, green beans and bean sprounts dressed with balsamic vinegar. I had a whole wheat roll, as well as ff plain yogurt, and a bag of chocolate milk. (It's an Israeli thing, chocolate milk in a little bag.) Bag contains 225ml and the stats are 167/5.9/25.4/4.5.

I had slightly under 4 hours of sleep last night, which is not a good thing. I was trying to write a short paper and I should have given up at 11:00pm, gone to sleep and tried again this morning. Instead I was up till 2am accomplishing little. I'd like to go to sleep early tonight, but I also want to get a workout in as the gym will be closed tomorrow due to Election Day.

Friday, March 24, 2006

One Summer Day

Beautiful warm day in Jerusalem today. 27C/80F. The rest of the week is going to be 15C/59F straight through, but it was nice while it lasted. Lots of security about: elections are on Tuesday and there are over 50 terror warnings. According to the news on the radio last week, 13 of the warnings are considered concrete. I wouldn't be surprised if the alert remains through the holidays. Pesach begins in two weeks and the terror groups would love a repeat of Pesach 2002. At my non-Hebrew U school we were advised to avoid buses and crowded areas till March 29, but I don't live my life that way, so I went to the market this afternoon (took the bus even though I usually walk) and got persimmons, Granny Smith apples, red peppers and strawberries.

Last night's session started off with the pullups. Scott had a good point about avoiding them, but I'm beginning to think that what's annoying my shoulder is not what I do in the gym, but what I do out of the gym, for example, working on my computer in a non-ergonomic position without taking breaks, or hunching over a book to study for hours at a time. Bud suggested glucosamine, and I will look into it.

It seemed to me that the pullups were better than last time, but I wanted empirical proof, so I asked man-in-charge how to note them in my log. He suggested bringing in a measuring tape and attaching it so it hangs down from the bar. Then I can note the distance I actually move upwards, until I am finally able to do full pullups. Nice and simple. He thinks it is doable within a few months. I didn't ask what "few" was. I'm just going to keep going until they happen. The shoulder was fine through the pullups and both sets of pull downs, but decided to make itself known on the cable wrist curls, so we experimented with different arm and hand positions until we found one that worked. Gym was very quiet. By mid-workout there were only two people left.

Woke up bright and early this morning, drank a litre of water before I left the house and went to the post office to pay a phone bill (not an error - you pay bills at the post office here). I then had a lovely breakfast with my former Maimonides study partner at a local cafe and was back in the gym at 11:00am this morning. In contrast to last night, the gym was swamped, and didn't quiet down till after 1:00pm. Again everything went well - cable rows, upright rows, squats, lunges. I had to wait a bit to get into the rack, but I didn't mind having a break between the upper and lower body work. Lunges are still not my favourite exercise, but I love the impact they have on my legs.

Mar!a asked if I have a specific method in mind for losing the 12 lbs. I'm going back to my old Nutrition post, and adjusting slightly. The Harris-Benedict formula for women (655 + [9.6 X weight in kg] + [1.8 X height in cm] - [4.7 X age in years]) gives me a BMR of 1400. I then use the 1.2 activity factor (sedentary) to get 1677 calories needed per day. So I plan to take in 5 meals of 335 calories per day and let the exercise take care of the rest. If I get any cravings I'll adjust the calories upwards. I'll be drinking 3 litres of water and a litre of green tea per day and avoiding food that comes out of colourful boxes. Cottage cheese, 6 whites/1 yolk omelettes and canned tuna figure heavily as protein sources because I have neither time nor inclination to cook. Rye or whole wheat bread (whole wheat matza when Pesach gets here), lots of fruit and veggies, 0% fat yogurt, small amounts of nuts for healthy fats, the usual stuff. I'll blog the first week's intake starting Monday, and I might go straight through if no one expires of boredom. :-) I haven't decided how frequent the weigh-ins will be.

My friend K brought me the promised Nalgene bottle yesterday. It is a widemouth bottle, bright orange with a yellow cap. I think the bright colour makes it even easier to remember to drink. It's a small thing but it helps.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Regardless of any delays the shoulder issue might cause, I am going ahead with the plan to drop another 10-12 lbs to help the pullups become a reality. Today's weight was 64.7 Kg or 142.6lbs. I'm actually very pleased that with all the disruptions, I've stayed at the same weight for three full months and it was pretty effortless. I happen to think that one should build plateaus into one's weight loss efforts, just to give one's body a chance to get used to the new situation.


My dismissal of the soreness in my right arm was a bit premature. Things came to a screeching halt yesterday evening. I went in to do Day I: Chest, and right from the warm-up set of bench presses I realised that this evening was not going to go as planned. I was being super-careful about my position, but I felt a sort of weakness/discomfort in my right shoulder right from the warm up. I started off with the bench press and cautiously did the two warm-up sets, 6 x 20 Kg and 6 x 32.5 Kg. I think I knew at this point that there was no way I would be doing the max set for this evening, which was supposed to be 8 x 40Kg.

Man-in-charge saw me looking hesitant and asked me what was wrong. I never look hesitant before bench press; it's the exercise where I try to get as psyched as possible. So I told him that the arm was sore and I was feeling something but not exactly pain at the shoulder and wrist, but that I can still give it a try. Absolutely not, says man-in-charge, and told me to switch to decline bench. I went to the decline bench and did the 8 x 40 Kg with no problems, then 8 x 35 Kg and then 8 x 30 Kg before finishing with 12 x 20 Kg.

The next question was what exercise should follow the decline bp. I tried close grip bench presses, but that was not working either. Looks like flat benching is out until the shoulder and arm are back to normal. Instead I moved over to the pec deck and did a strange single arm flye variation while sitting sideways on the pec deck seat. The third exercise was db incline presses, and these were modified by removing the twist at the end and just pressing straight up instead. Finished off with skull crushers, and those were no problem at all, thank goodness. At least my triceps still work. I was pretty discouraged through most of the workout, which was hardly useful. Man-in-charge also gave me some rotator cuff exercises. I'm annoyed at myself for not doing these earlier. Did I know about them? Yup. Have I read at least a dozen articles about shoulder maintenance? Yup. Did I implement any regular preventive measures? Nope. *sighs at own stupidity*

I spent today developing my ambidexterity by using my left arm instead of my right whenever possible. This is harder than it sounds. Tonight is a rest night, excepting the rotator cuff stuff. Tomorrow I go back to the gym and see what impact this shoulder/arm thing is going to have on the pull-up endeavour.

I'm going to end with a quote from Cressey's Debunking Exercise Myths I article: "If you live your life the right way, you'll likely find yourself in an orthopedist's office at some point. If you live it the wrong way, you'll likely end up in cardiologist's office instead." (Anderson, 2003) I don't intend to end up in either office, but when I read this yesterday it was a much needed bit of good cheer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sunday and Monday

My regular Sunday evening appointment was cancelled so I went in to train Sunday night. The exercises for Day III are Lying Cable Rows, Upright Rows, Squats and Lunges. The squats are supersetted with a minute of non-stop as-many-as-possible bicycle crunches, and the lunges are supersetted with a minute of scissor crunches (like the bicycles, except you keep your legs straight). By the second set of lunges my legs felt incredibly heavy and I was fighting for every one of these scissor things.

I recently re-read Eric Cressy's article about Debunking Exercise Myths II. He's not fond of upright rows (see Adage #9). I don't intend to get rid of them, but as a result of reading the article I started paying a lot more attention to the path of the bar and making sure I don't bring it closer to my body to try and move more weight.

Yesterday after school I went to the Machane Yehuda market and stocked up on peppers - red, orange, green. I also got artichokes, which I intend to boil tonight, and Granny Smith apples. After putting everything away I went to the gym a little earlier than usual. Day IV is bb bicep curls, lying cable curls, deadlifts and hamstring curls. Between sets of deads there's a minute of interval cardio that consists of rapid shuffling forwards and backwards over a very low step. Between ham curls the drill is sideways shuffling. Let's just say that if you were not aware of your abductors and adductors before doing these shuffles, you'll be very aware of them the day after doing the shuffles.

My right arm is still sore, but it hasn't been an issue in any of the exercises thus far. The only pain I've felt has been when reaching for a falling book in attempt to catch it before it hit the ground.

Friday, March 17, 2006

This Blog is One Year Old

Happy Blogiversary to me! Today marks one year since I started Maspik Teruzim. These past 12 months have encompassed the greatest health and fitness change I have ever made in my life, and I can't wait to see what the next 12 months bring. Thank you to everyone who dropped by, read, commented or e-mailed, and a special mention to Scott, Liz and Marla.

Ok, enough celebrating. Back to work. :-) Gym last night was great, despite the nutritionally average day that preceded it. It is not the first time that I've had a great gym session on the heels of a lousy nutrition day. I wonder if it is because I am channelling my anger at myself into the exercises, and I am that much more focused. Not that I plan on making it a habit, obviously.

The new program is the same general format as the previous one. Four exercises per session, the first two supersetted with ab work, the last two supersetted with a minute of high intensity cardio. Six sets per exercise as follows:
Warm up:
1 x 6 @ 50% of max
1 x 6 @ 80% of max
Work sets are at 10 reps, and decrease to 8, 7 and 6 reps on subsequent microcycles.
1 x 10 @ max
2 x 10 @ whatever man-in-charge tells you to drop the weight down to depending on how your form was on the previous set.
Cool down:
1 x 12 @ 50% of max at a 1-0-5-0 tempo

Last night was the new Day I: Chest. Started with flat bench press and moved on to decline bench press. This is the first time I've done decline work, and it was more comfortable than I expected. After this I did db incline presses, but mine look a bit different than the ones in the link. They have a bit of a twist at the end. I finished off with tricep bar incline tricep extension, or more simply put, a skull crusher done on an incline.

Today was the new Day II: Back. The first exercise was a feeble attempt at failed embryonic pullups. I managed approximately an inch of upward movement, which is better than hanging there like wet laundry. Also, the left side went up higher than the right side. My right tricep and right lateral deltoid were not cooperating with the general pull up efforts. I was very excited about finally making the attempts and so I may possibly perhaps have pushed things a little harder than I should have (ahem). My right arm is still sore, but I hope (she said blithely) that it will all be ok by morning.

I think that it is fitting that I am trying these for the first time on my blogiversary. After the first set I told the guy-in-charge that I will do these before I leave Israel this summer. Add "pull ups by July" to my list of goals. This is exactly the motivation I needed to get my nutrition back on track. I think dropping another 10-12lbs and getting to 130 lbs or so should help the pull up effort, so weight loss is back on the agenda.

After the embryonic pullups I did two types of lat pulldowns. First, wide grip lat pulldowns, palms facing away from me, head back, bar down to chin. Second, lat pull downs to chest, palms facing each other. I didn't realise how much energy I had expended during the miniscule pullup attempts until I got to lat pulldowns and could only do a max of 35Kg. I've done 50Kg for reps on these, so I was working hard, even if I wasn't moving much... :-) The last exercise of the day was cable wrist curls. It is fascinating how intricate one's forearm is.

Looks like a Nalgene bottle is coming my way. My newly-engaged friend K saw me drinking cola in school the other day and raised an eyebrow. I acknowledged that this was not like me, and told her about the bottle I lost in Atlanta. She said that she has an extra bottle; her brother came to visit and left his here, and by the time she found it he had already bought himself another one. So I am welcome to his old bottle. Sometimes the universe just smiles.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Out with the Old

The old program is over. I did my last day III on Tuesday night and the last day IV yesterday night. The new program has already been written; it was filed with the old program, so I looked it over before I left last night. I don't remember all of it: bench and squats and deads are still there and there's something at the pullup bar. The program has little drawings rather than exercise names or descriptions, so I'm not sure yet what the something is. I'm be starting tonight with Day I, which is still Chest. I think that incline bench has been replaced by decline bench. I haven't done these before so it should be interesting.

I spent most of my holiday on school work. I have to read Soloveitchik's Halakhic Man and Taylor's A Catholic Modernity by Friday, and I also have a number of other assignments. Yesterday afternoon I took a break and went walking downtown. Despite the terror warnings which we have before every holiday, the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall was packed with revellers, many in costume, and it was wonderful to see. I went to the mall to have a very late lunch with my classmates K and E, as well as K's fiance H. K & H are an adorable couple. They are getting married in August.

Nutrition and hydration took a dip over Purim. First, I lost my Nalgene bottle in Atlanta and didn't buy a new one before I came back here. As far as I know you can't get these in Israel. I hadn't realised how important this bottle has become in my water consumption. Second, as a result of staying in other people's houses during my trip, I started drinking soft drinks again. (No, I'm not blaming anyone except me. Obviously no one held me down and poured carbonated sugar water down my throat.) However, now that I'm back in my normal environment I need to kick this stupid habit all over again. Today was the worst. I think I had close to a litre of cola in small increments between 1:30pm and 4:00pm. Third, I was doing so well re-gifting or throwing out the junk I received, and then a friend of flatmate #2 who stays over at the apartment quite frequently decided to give us a gift to show her appreciation for our hosting. This gift consisted of two types of cookies, a basket of dried fruit and a bouquet of flowers, all left on our dining room table. I've had three cookies thus far, and while they are very intense, high quality chocolate cookies from a small and pricey bakery, they are not conducive to me doing a pull up this year... The annoying thing is that since they are not exclusively mine, I can't throw them out or re-gift them. Maybe I'll suggest to flatmate #1 and #2 that these cookies are so special they really should be shared with their friends and family. :-)

Personally, I've stopped giving junk food as gifts. I prefer cds, books, flowers... or food gifts such as a bottle of high quality olive oil or a basket of organic fruit. The exception is when the recipient has made it clear that there's a specific type of food they would love to receive (like these).

And while I'm on the subject of focus and motivation, I like this story about US Secretary of State Rice. (via Stumpblog)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gym Last Night

There was no gym session on Sunday and there will be no gym on Sundays for the rest of the semester, as the evening will be taken up by regular meetings with one of my Hebrew U profs. I'm doing a tutorial this semester; basically an individual research project that allows me to research something of interest to me and produce a 40+ page paper. To that end, I have to meet with the supervising professor 12 times during the semester.

I went to the gym last night and did the modified Day II: Quad Dom. The squats, leg extensions and calf raises were fine. The lunges, which I do right after squats, are where the layoff really showed, with a significant deterioration of form and strength. Lunges are not my favourite exercise by any stretch of the imagination but I intend to keep them in the next program. First, I need single leg work, and second, they are a gut-check sort of exercise, because the tendency is to ease off a little after the squats are done, and if I have to stay in the rack and do the lunges there will be no easing off. The music was Rammstein, which was very useful.

No school tomorrow due to the Jewish holiday of Purim (link via Kesher Talk). I'm going to catch up and get ahead on my readings, then meet friends for a festive meal. Purim is a holiday where you send your friends mishloach manot, or a gift consisting of at least two yummy foodstuffs, so there are assorted chocolates and candies coming my way. I am thinking of reciprocating with organic granola bars, dark chocolate and fruit. :-)

Gyms in Jerusalem

Alan's comment on the Jetlagged post made me realise that I should create a post about the gym possibilities in this city. Other people might be visiting looking for a gym, and several gyms now have web sites. Caveat emptor, obviously: I haven't been to all of these, and for the ones I have been to, I don't think the web sites do a great job of showing off the actual gym. Moral of the story: if you are interested in any of these, go check them out for yourself. If you know of a Jerusalem gym I haven't listed here, send me an e-mail with their url and I'll update the post.

  • Iron Gym (formerly Yarim) This is the one I go to. Serious coaching, nice people, and no attitude.

  • Giraffe has no web site yet. It opened two weeks ago on Luntz Street in the middle of the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall. I stopped by today just to see what their weights area was like. There is a squat rack. The equipment is by Matrix, and the weight plates have handles, which made me smile.

  • Jump Recently renovated, large, with lots of equipment. Last I checked they had a squat rack tucked away in the corner of their free weights area. The sales pressure was intense. An annoying sales guy called me at least five times, even though I told him that I would call him if I was interested. Mind you, this was over a year ago, so he might be gone by now.

  • BodyLine

  • I saw the ads for Kosher Gym on an outdoor billboard. Since they cater to the ultra-Orthodox market, they have separate hours for men and women. Their martial arts classes (capoeira, tkd, etc.) are for men only, and they have pilates and "toning" classes for women.

  • Great Shape / YMCA

Friday, March 10, 2006


Last night was my first gym session since I landed. It was a very light workout: four exercises, three sets each at 50%-60%. This morning I went in to do a more serious session, Day I of my normal program, but at about 80% of the weight and only four sets per exercise (50%, 80%, max, 50%). So, not the full workout quite yet. I'm going to be building up to that over the next few days (modified Day II on Sunday, III on Monday, IV on Tuesday). Then on Wednesday I'm going to start a new program, which I hope will look like the old program with a couple of minor modifications. I'm not impatient - the last thing I need is some stupid injury to derail my last few months in Jerusalem. I would like to incorporate pullups now, even if they will be assisted for a few more months, and do them unassisted before I leave here (them=at least two).

During the Toronto part of my trip I saw a lot of friends and family whom I haven't seen for a year or more. Their reactions were varied. My oldest friends just told me I looked happy, and made no mention of the size change. Other people told me I looked like half a person. More than one told me that I didn't need to lose any more weight. A number of older members of my extended family asked me what I did or what Diet (it's always said with a capital D, isn't it?) I was on. When I said that all I do is lift heavy weights 5-6 days a week and eat 5-6 meals a day they instantly lost interest.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with my academic advisor at the University. She told me that it was remarkable how much I had changed since the first time she met me a year and a half ago. She said I look smaller every time we meet. To her credit, she did not change the conversation when I told her what I was doing. She did ask me how I find the time to go to the gym 5 days a week, and I told her I don't watch tv, I limit social engagements, and I don't cook anything more complex than a 6x1 omelette. She also was surprised when I told her the project was not finished. She didn't think I had any more weight to lose either. Out of the blue, I asked her how much she thought I weighed. She said 55Kg, and was stunned when I told her it was more like 65Kg (143 lbs). Gad I love what lifting does to one's body. :-) And it is not about the suitcase full of new clothes (yay Target). I taught all my classes moving around and never sitting down, and felt incredibly energetic all the while.

So I have approximately four months left in Israel. If all goes according to plan, I will leave in late July or early August to work in a Jewish Day School somewhere in North America. Don't know where yet, but wherever it is, there will be a gym with a squat rack nearby. :-)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I'm back in Jerusalem, fighting to stay awake until the evening so that I can get 12 hours of sleep and kick this jetlag. Between Feb 23 and today I went from Atlanta to Houston to Phoenix to Kansas City to Toronto, back to Atlanta, and then to Newark and finally Tel Aviv.

I am looking forward to going back to the gym tomorrow night and getting back to my routine. I'm also happy to be back to making my own food in my own kitchen.