But I’ll bet you’re wondering what I got up to when I finally made it over there.
Before I even left for Paris, I created a very tentative list of things I wanted to do, along with a vague outline of when I might cross each thing off my list. Traveling with a strict schedule is just not how I do things. I wanted to leave a lot of space to change my mind, add new things to the list and choose days I thought would be best for each item.
Here’s the Master List:
I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at about 1:30pm on Friday afternoon, December 29th. I opted to rely on wifi in places and turn my phone on airport mode to avoid roaming charges while in Paris. This meant that simple tools like my GPS and the internet were not available to me, except when I was in my hotel or at a cafe that had wifi. It also meant that I had to rely on my scrappy travel skills (of which I have many!)
An excerpt from my travel journal upon arriving in Paris after finding my way to my hotel:
“Finding my bearings in Paris makes me feel like it’s my first time in New York City all over again. There’s a feeling that I truly have no clue where I’m going or what I’m doing. I don’t speak this language and maybe I’ve been out of the big city game for too long.
But, there’s also the absolute knowledge and confidence that I am capable of mastering this. Flying solo can be a little scary initially, but also exciting and energizing! I’d forgotten that feeling. It’s not something I feel very often in Winter Park, Florida.
On the plane, I sat next to Max, a very kind, young guy, probably a bit younger than me in age if not in spirit. He gave me some recommendations and we shared laughs throughout the flight. I was reminded that there are new friends waiting around every corner, if you’re open enough to look for them. Brave enough to talk to them.”
Interjection: This was the start of a flood of writing that began the moment I landed in Paris and has not stopped since I’ve returned home! And I was certainly grateful to be reintroduced to the writer in me, all over again!
“My hotel, Libertel Gare du Nord Suede on Boulevard Magenta in the 10th Arrondissement, is so charming and tiny. It’s the absolute perfect size for me and my solo adventures! It’s cozy and has the right number of hangars for the Paris wardrobe I brought with me. More than just coincidence, I think!
I laid down to take a quick 30 minute cat nap, here on Day 1 of my adventure, and woke up an hour and a half later than anticipated. Apparently my body had other plans. Once I finally woke up, I felt rested and ready to walk and see and EAT. Above all…EAT!!
Interjection: I just sat down to my first dinner in Paris and I’m implementing a new rule…wine and dessert will be ordered at every meal! No exceptions!
My neighborhood is charming! I think I’ll be using that word a lot in Paris. There’s a lot to see. Plenty of hustle and bustle and I find it surprisingly easy to navigate, given the language barrier. As I took the opportunity to get the lay of the land in my Arrondissement, I passed my hotel 3 separate times without meaning to. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding my way around. It really does feel somehow like I’m back in New York, but maybe all big cities have this energy and I’ve just forgotten what it felt like.
Also…I feel like I’ve found a familiar part of myself, long forgotten and abandoned.
In Week 2 I really felt like I was in the zone. My morning runs were really strong. And coming out of Iron Man week I was ready for the next challenges. The foods I ate during Iron Man week really helped me reboot my eating habits and eat clean and healthier meals! Heading into week 2 it was time to up the ante. Check out the plan for Hulk Week below:
Week 2: Hulk Week
The next Avenger to be introduced to the franchise was, The Hulk. After an accident in the lab and exposure to toxic amounts of Gamma radiation, mild-mannered scientist, Bruce Banner, was transformed into the green behemoth known as The Hulk. When angered Bruce goes green and starts smashing.
Originally played by Edward Norton, the role of the Hulk was recast for The Avengers. Mark Ruffalo took over the role. Obviously the muscle mass that The Hulk has onscreen is a creation of the magicians of the CGI department at Marvel. Ruffalo himself did do some training for the role, but maintained a scientists’ physique. He also reportedly gave up meat and dairy to prepare for the role of The Hulk. Read Mark’s interview with Paste Magazine here. And check out The Incredible Hulk fitness plan from MensFitness.com which is where I got some inspiration for this week’s plan.
Again, Avengers and Age of Ultron are on the list for the obvious reasons. I also watched The Incredible Hulk for inspiration, which is the least successful movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I actually really like it. And I think Norton makes an excellent Hulk! (I tried to watch Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’… but that was a mistake. It’s a really terrible movie.) Besides the Avengers, there’s another group of super beings that might be able to relate to Hulk’s mutation…the X-Men. X-Men 1 and 2 are both great films and keep with the theme of being a little different than the average human. And then I added Fight Club to the list for good measure because 1: it has Edward Norton so…there’s that. and 2: it’s just a really phenomenal movie.
This list is comprised of music from The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers as well as music that reminded me of the Hulk. Anything to get me in the mindset while pumping iron every morning. Hope you pump up the jam with this playlist!
For Hulk week’s meal planning, I took a lot of suggestions from The Incredible Hulk fitness plan from MuscleandFitness.com and just tweaked it by removing dairy and meat from the list. A lot of greens (obviously) but mixed with some of the leftover items from Iron Man week, it made for a great week of eating!
Weekly Workout Challenge
Day 1: Dumbbell Chest Presses and Flys (2 sets of 15)
Day 2: Dumbbell Chest Presses and Flys (2 sets of 25)
Day 3: Rest Day
Day 4: Standing Shoulder Presses and Arm Curls (2 sets of 15)
Day 5: Standing Shoulder Presses and Arm Curls (2 sets of 25)
Day 6: Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (15 reps)
Day 7: Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (25 reps)
Remember to add in Day 7 (2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)) from Iron Man week before each day’s challenge in Hulk Week. We are building up to a full body workout by the time we hit the end of the 6 weeks.
Here are the extra classes I took for Hulk Week to keep thinking Hulk-y thoughts:
This is a relatively new cycling studio in Manhattan. Right off the bat I was told that this was different than any cycling class I had previously took, but most specifically from Soul Cycle (which I told them I was used to doing.) Monster has great music, good energy and no tap backs. I have to be honest and tell you that Soul Cycle is my jam. But Monster was definitely my jelly!! I really enjoyed this class. And their first time rate is only $13, while their single class rate is $33. Definitely a class worth trying!
I chose to do yoga for Hulk week because keeping the heart rate in check is one of the ways that Edward Norton’s Banner keeps from transforming into The Hulk. Every Sunday at stores around the country, Lululemon closes down it’s shop and makes room for the yoga mats. They offer free yoga in their stores and even provide mats if you need one. It’s a wonderful, free weekly workout and they feature different instructors from local yoga studios each week. So you can get a sneak preview of different studios in case you are looking for more than just once a week. The instructor I took from during Hulk week came from Jivamukti Yoga and it was a really amazing practice! I have never been able to do a full bridge, and the instructor really pulled me out of my comfort zone…literally!!
I would consider myself a fairly fit person. I enjoy running and Soul Cycle and walking and when I’m vigilant, I eat marginally well. But then came the winter and I was discontent. Chilly weather caused my motivation to disappear. The running stopped. The Soul Cycle stopped. I still tried to walk and get at least my 10,000 steps a day. But I counteracted that by overeating fatty ‘comfort’ foods.
One day, I realized I had gained 20 pounds that I did not want on me (it may not sound like a lot of weight, but it sure felt like it.) Somehow I’d let the weight sneak up on me. And that wasn’t ok with me!! My sugar intake was at an all time high, due to eating a lot of macaroni and cheese and mint chocolate chip ice cream (my favorite comfort food!) And I am genetically at risk for diabetes, but I just didn’t seem to care. This was the heaviest I’d been in quite a while. All the previous progress I’d made in the fall was being wasted thanks to laziness and a complete lack of discipline.
One night, while watching Avengers (for the 19th time), I realized that if aliens did invade Earth or the zombie apocalypse finally happened or some other menacing force became reality, I’d be one of the first to go. And as I watched Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow kick serious ass on screen, I knew…that wasn’t gonna work for me!
So I embarked on a journey that would eventually become a transforming experience.
A lot of what I’ll share is not ground breaking. It’s not even new information. It’s constantly posted and reposted in many forms. You just have to tailor it to you. That’s what I did. I made something that would be fun, inspiring and made just for me!
Now, I prefer fantasy to reality sometimes…it’s true. But I know I’ll probably never be called on to fight for my life or to save another person’s. But if I ever was called upon, I wanted to be ready.
I delved into each of the 6 characters that make up the team known as The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. I researched what each individual actor did to prepare for their roles, then I went about crafting a 6 week fitness plan that I thought would be fun and that I knew I could accomplish. Most of the workouts I found online that were based on the Avengers, were mainly geared towards men. The meal plans too. I’m not about to start eating 2300 calories a day. That just wouldn’t work for me. This plan is meant to be tailored to individuals, men or women. If you like it, keep it in the plan. If you don’t, take it out. (Keep in mind I am not a fitness or medical professional. Just a nerdy fangirl who wanted to make a change.)
I do not have the money or the time to dedicate to actually looking like an Avenger. (and I am not being paid by Marvel to do this either.) But I knew that I wanted to do more than I was at the time and I decided to use the inspiration I felt while watching the Avengers to help transform my lazy habits into constructive discipline.
Below is the complete breakdown of Week 1, including the things I turned to for inspiration, the weekly challenges I made for myself, my food shopping list, and the amazing classes I took all in my endeavor to get healthy and become an #AvengerinTraining
Week 1: Iron Man Week
The first Avenger on my the list was Iron Man. I decided to go in order of their introduction to the franchise. And who better to start it off, than the Iron Avenger himself. Robert Downey Jr., at 50 years old, is in the best shape of his life. Physically and in his career (as of 2014, RDJ tops Forbes’ list of highest paid actors in Hollywood). His onscreen alter-ego is Tony Stark who, after getting kidnapped by terrorists, witnesses the damage of what has become a destructive legacy at Stark Industries. While incarcerated in an Afghanistan prison, Tony discovers himself to be more than just the “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” that he always had been and starts down the road to becoming so much more.
To prepare for the role of Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr, “started training using the Wing Chun technique, made famous by Bruce Lee.” (MensFitness.com) He also cut way back on the cardio in favor of increased weight training. By the time filming for Iron Man began, RDJ had backed on 25 extra pounds of muscle. Check out his full training regiment over at MensFitness.com
Sometimes the hardest part is taking that initial first step out the door. Being inspired is a fleeting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Movies and music are two of my favorite things to partake in. So while preparing to take on this 6 week challenge, I thought a lot about what would keep me moving towards my goals.
Obviously, Avengers and Age of Ultron are on the movie list for each of the Avengers as they serve as inspiration for all 6 characters. For Iron Man Week, if I needed a little extra oomph of energy or motivation I watched some or all of the above movies. Iron Man and Iron Man 3 are also obvious choices. Spiderman may seem like an unlikely choice (Peter is a poor college kid, Tony is a wealthy man), but I think there are a lot of themes that overlap between Iron Man and Spiderman. And Casino Royale has billionaire, playboy written all over it. Plus I LOVE James Bond!!
This list is comprised of music from Iron Man and music that makes me think of Iron Man. Anything to get me in the mindset while on a run in the morning. Hope it pushes you like it pushed me!
I created a meal plan (you won’t hear the word diet in this blog series, I don’t believe in them) based on the foods that Robert Downey Jr ate while training. Again, I’m not being paid by Marvel and I don’t have unlimited time on my hands. So I had the master list of items that I used to stock my refrigerator and pantry and then I made meals out of them that I knew I would enjoy and would be easy to make on a daily basis. I did a lot more cooking this week than I had been doing and I liked it!!
Weekly Workout Challenge
For Iron Man week I chose a plank challenge. Here’s the daily breakdown:
Day 1: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 hold second, rest in between)
Day 2: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)
Day 3: 3 sets of Incline Side Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)
Day 4: 2 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)
Day 5: 3 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)
Day 6: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)
Day 7: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)
When Iron Man week ended, I took the last day’s challenge activity and rolled it over into the next Avenger’s weekly workout schedule. So Day 7 of the above plan will be used for the rest of the 5 weeks of training.
If you were to call me an overachiever, you might be right. Especially when it comes to doing things I love and enjoy. I’ll go the extra mile and I’ll run the whole way there. So when I came up with this idea for my time as an #AvengerinTraining I chose a couple different workout classes and gyms for each week that I thought might represent the Avenger of that particular week. For Iron Man week I did:
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not for the faint of heart or the shy wallflower. If you are squeamish about being up close and personal with complete strangers… this isn’t for you. If you find the prospect of hand to hand combat daunting… turn the other way. But if you want to be pulled out of your comfort zone and challenged beyond what you think you can do… find the closest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studio and give it a try. Channel your inner Iron Man. And if you live in the New York City area, head to Lifestyle MMA Academy in Astoria. They will kick your butt. They sure kicked mine and, bonus, the first trial class is free. So you have no excuses!!
I’ve done pilates before, it’s one of my favorite ways to workout, but Power Pilates at The Art of Fitness will take your practice to a whole new level. And at just $10 a class, it’s a really great deal for a whole lot of workout!
Other options for Iron Man Week:
Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America
And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc!
So…I’ve been a bridesmaid a couple of times. And by a couple, I mean a lot. And by a lot, I mean 14. I have been a bridesmaid for 14 different brides and grooms. I’ve worn a lot of dresses and none have been white and poufy.
Yes, the words “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” come to mind. But do you know where that phrase comes from? Check it out:
So it was Listerine who decided that a woman’s worth was based on her hygiene and her appearance and her ability to catch a husband. Sure, it was 1924 and women weren’t quite liberated from the stereotypes yet (are we now?) But advertising tactics like this definitely didn’t help things move in the right direction.
And inevitably when I tell people I’ve been a bridesmaid 14 times, they almost always say this phrase to me. And I really hate it. It’s basically the worst. Being a bridesmaid has nothing to do with romantic relationships and whether or not you can find someone to marry and everything to do with great friendships and finding people who care about you! Being a bridesmaid really means that you are someone’s friend. A friend who they want to share their big moments with. A friend they want to stand with them on a big day like that.
I’ve decided we need to change the phrase. Out with the old and in with the new!! Spread the word. Tell your friends. The new phrase is “Often a bridesmaid, not yet a bride!” Say it with pride. Say it with confidence. And know that if you are a perpetual bridesmaid, like me, then it’s only because you are wanted and you are loved and you are someone’s friend. And that is a wonderful thing.