on facing your age, the gray hairs, and oh the shredding!

April 25, 2013 |  Category:   life me


So, this whole “Pay Yourself First” thing that I posted about a few weeks ago isn’t really happening in the way I expected. I wish I could tell you that I’ve made some progress on the art front, but that hasn’t happened…yet. But something else did that I didn’t quite expect.

Friends, I am exercising.

Oh you know, whenever my doctors ask me if I’m exercising, I nod and say, “yes, not as often as I should, but I do”. But what this actually means is that I do some half-assed yoga and stretches at home once, maaaaybe twice a week if I can get around to it. I’ve never really been an exercising type of person and I hated gym in school. I was always that skinny kid who the opposite team would choose to break through during that stupid childhood game, Red Rover, and I was an easy target during dodgeball. I did, however, have a brief 6 month affair around 2001-2002 with running. I was all serious about it too. I bought running clothes and proper sneakers and I’d load up my minidisc player (remember those? I bet some of you don’t, so here) and walk up to Prospect Park to run the loop. But then my back started hurting and and my knees felt all sore and one day I even heard a popping sound around the knees, so I stopped. After I had babies, it was all downhill from there (though I will say that pushing a double stroller of 2 kids worth 50 pounds up a hill almost daily was a lot more exercise than I’ve gotten in the last 3+ years since we’ve been stroller-free).


Now, I’m also not the type of person who weighs myself either, but when you go to the doctor they want to know what you weigh. I actually had no idea what my weight was and to be honest, I was a little surprised at the number that came up when I stepped on that scale last Friday.
{insert disclaimer here}
Because I know that weight can be a touchy subject, let me just say that I am fully aware that I am currently at a healthy weight for my height and frame and I fully acknowledge that I am still a thin person. This is not commentary on any other body type or weight but my own. The mention about my weight comes not from any fear that I am gaining weight, it comes from the fact that my body has changed, my metabolism has slowed down and some of the pregnancy weight that I never lost is my new normal. But can I just say, what is with the vanity sizing on all these clothing brands? Because there is NO WAY I am the same size or SMALLER than I was when I weighed 10-15 pounds less. And what is it with Asian mothers who ask if you’ve gained weight when most of your life they’ve been hounding you to gain weight as they try to stuff your face with food? Whatever, I know that nothing is off limits with Asian families and the weight thing is just so typical, but come on.
{/end disclaimer/tangent}

When I left the doctor’s office, I walked out determined to exercise. It wasn’t about the weight – I didn’t care about the weight, but I did care that I wasn’t in better shape. Maybe it was the discussions about mammograms and fun, wacky perimenopausal hormones, coupled with my general feelings of meh and looking at the mirror and seeing signs of aging like the gray hairs that are growing in abundance like weeds (I am at about 50% gray now) that finally made me reach some kind of breaking point. My GP doc said something to me last year too that was sort of like a “duh” moment, but one that I had not really considered before. When asked about my newly diagnosed herniated discs, I responded that I knew what I needed to do in order to keep it in check: I just avoid situations where I’m on my feet for long periods of time and I don’t pick up and carry anything more than 10 pounds ever. He told me that avoidance was one way to deal with it, but a better way to deal with is was to strengthen my body so that I didn’t have to avoid those situations. Super obvious, right?
Which leads me back to exercise. I’m not sure how I found it, but I did and now I’m doing it. Don’t laugh at me, but I am doing the 30 Day Shred. I’m only on day 3, but I haven’t skipped a day yet (I mean, I am only on day 3, 4 now! So we’ll see…). And yeah, you know what? IT’S HARD. You know, you sit there on the couch and watch the video first because you want to see what it’s all about, but when you get up and actually do it you feel like you’re dying, especially because the only hand weights I have are 5 pounders and even the people in the video don’t look like they’re using 5 pounders. Also, I can’t really do a proper push-up, nope.
So I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. I’m scared of Level 2, but I’m fairly motivated to do this because I’ve read enough reviews that convinces me this works. I will make the time; it is only 20 minutes a day after all. I have never really challenged myself physically in any capacity, except for maybe my short running stint (oh! And pushing 2 babies out of my body), so this is sort of new. And now, since I have blogged all about it here, I will be too ashamed to quit.
PS. I realize the hilarity of posting a photo of myself and writing all about me right after my post raising questions about blogging and narcissism. I am now officially ridiculous.

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  • Sisilia April 25, 2013 at 5:19 am

    Wow…. I haven’t heard about 30 Day Shred before but it sounds like a good exercise. Hmmm… I shall start doing it tomorrow!

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Give it a try!

  • Alex April 25, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I’ve done the 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30. They are hard! But it pays off and my husband and I are both much stronger now. Good luck!

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 11:55 am

      That is good to hear!

  • Angela Walley April 25, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Jillian Michaels’ workouts are great. I’ve done them off and on along with 5k jogs. Whenever I get busy with projects the first thing I stop doing is exercising, then cleaning, then sleeping. Good luck with Level 2, I need to get back to it too!

  • Gia April 25, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Fabulous! As a woman with back issues myself, strengthening my abs, side abs and back is hugely important in my life to feel in alignment. Also, rest is important, don’t go hard everyday…

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Yeah, I finally get that. I mean I think I’ve managed not to aggravate any back issues I have with avoidance, but being proactive about it is a much better way to deal with it.

  • Emma April 25, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I love the 30 Day Shred! When you move on to level 2 if you’re feeling stressed about being able to complete it, do the first day without weights (or hold water bottles). You still get a great workout and learn all the moves, but it’s a way to ease into the harder level a little bit.

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Oh, water bottles is a good idea. The 5 pound hand weights really are a bit too hard, but I’m trying to stick with it.

  • unha engels April 25, 2013 at 10:16 am

    hehe.. go jenna!
    yeah, i’m thinking of trying dance.
    i did some 20-30min catch with J the other day, and I was sore for days afterward.. pathetic!!

  • Sharon @ Currently Coveting April 25, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Good for you Jenna! I had never been consistent with exercise over the long term until about a year and a half ago. I’ve done the 30 Day Shred and I totally agree, it’s hard. But once you master Level 1 I promise Level 2 is not that bad. Level 3 however…

    Also, you may be interested in looking at High Intensity Interval Training. It’s changed how I think about exercise and it’s perfect for someone who has limited time but wants to get the most out of a short workout. Most of these workouts that I did were only 12 minutes (50 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest) but I seriously kicked my own ass every single time. I would suggest looking up Bodyrock and Zuzka Light. They are my go to sites when I need a quick workout. If you have any questions or would like any other suggestions feel free to contact me.

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Thanks! I will look into those after I finish this workout.

  • Liz April 25, 2013 at 10:44 am

    ha! I love the juxtaposition of this post next to last one on why blog.

    I’m 41 and have had back problems for 19 years. A couple of accidents left me with a prolapsed lumbar disc and a less easily defined neck problem. I also hate exercise. I swam as a kid and through college but since leaving full time education I’ve had a frosty relationship with exercise.

    Another accident almost two years ago scared me into rethinking things. For a short period it looked really bad and the sense of helplessness kicked me into doing something. I’m still learning to love exercise. Pilates (intensive, one to one then small group classes and all focused on rehabilitation) was my initial step. I try to do 3 hours of classes a week and am now approaching about 150 hours of taught work. It’s made me strong and flexible. I’m in better control of my body – both when static and when moving – and I’ve been free of back pain for over a year.

    The crazy bit is I’m going to visit a gym tomorrow. I hate gyms and have never stayed a member of one for long. But I think I might give it another go. Being stronger and pain free is such a liberating experience I find myself tempted to try things I wouldn’t have considered before.

    I’ve not heard of the shred but if it works for you, do it. I wonder whether many of us are poor at taking exercise because we don’t make time for ourselves and don’t find something we enjoy. The former should be easy to challenge – what would you say to a friend who told you they didn’t make time for themselves – but the latter is trial and error. Hopefully not too much error. Good luck!

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      I know. I feel sort of ridiculous that I posted this right after that post. I think you are right on about the sense of helplessness. Right now I do have to rely on Mark to do a lot of the heavy lifting, literally. But this affects every day stuff too – like I can’t take out the garbage or go grocery shopping. If I move 3 books I almost immediately get sciatica pains. This is no way to live.
      Good luck at the gym. I’m also not a gym person even though we have a gym in our building (ugh, I know!). Maybe someday…

  • gabs April 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    i agree with the others – level 2 was actually better for me (not easier, just easier to deal with lol). i think you may have inspired me to dig thru my stuff to find my copy.

  • Elisabeth April 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I’m also the kind of person who isn’t ruled by the weight number, but after not knowing my weight for a year and finally checking it recently…whoa, talk about a shocker. At 36 with a small business that leaves me in a chair all day, the body responds differently to me than it did at 25 with a job where I was on my feet all day. Thanks for the 30 Day Shred link. It looks surprisingly approachable with little accessories to buy and no overly convoluted movements. *big gulp* I’m gonna try it. And good luck with day 5. 🙂

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Let me know what you think! Good luck.

  • chatti April 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    you’ll get even better if you keep at it. I remembered when I first started working out. could barely do a 2 pound weight…i know, i know…but have progressed to a five pound weight (i just do more reps).

    You know what my Asian father said to me a long time ago when I was heavy (and I was an unhealthy heavy)…”You look short cause you got fatter” Blah! Blah! Blah!

    Haven’t done the Shred but corepower yoga has done wonders for my body in keeping me lean and strong! Best of luck!

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      What is with Asian parents? Hahaha. Yeah, the 5 pound weights are pretty hard to begin with, but that’s all I have so I’m gonna push through with it.

  • cindy April 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Good for you for making steps to take care of yourself! The Shred is hard! I’m trying to muster up the courage for P90X… but it just sits there laughing at me. Maybe I should watch one like you did to see what I’m in for before I jump right in. haha.

    And I’ll say it again and again on your blog.. it’s YOUR blog. You should write whatever you want because it’s a peek at your life. The haters have nothing better to do and should just spend their time elsewhere. It’s been so encouraging to read your entries… even though I post very seldom.

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      What is P90X????

  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag April 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I’ve been meaning to comment for the past few days and I’ll just lump both my thoughts on both of your recent posts in this one comment. Loved these posts. Something happened recently in my personal life that really caused me to question why I blog, or why I’m online at all. And I’ve been depressed ever since. But I think I’ll remain with it largely because I do feel like the good kid books of the world need sharing. Re the exercise, I feel (like I so often do here) that your words mirrored what’s been going on inside my head. The scale at the doc’s office last fall was an eye opener. My husband and I have been walking as many days during the wk as we can. I have back issues too and I’ve let my core go. The aging thing…I don’t love it. I do feel like it’s as hard or harder than the teen yrs, like you mentioned. But what can we do right? No way through but through. There’s no going around it.

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Sorry you are feeling depressed Melissa. I can relate! And I hope that whatever is happening in your life will get better. Hang in there.

  • Rachel April 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I tried out 30 Day Shred a couple of years ago, but I had to stop doing it because my apartment floors were so hollow and echo-y, and doing any kind of jumping jacks or hard movement made the whole floor/room rattle. True story. Then I moved to a new apartment, and SAME PROBLEM. It really was a shame, because I actually think I could have done that program long term, as much as it sucked because it was such hard work. Someday I’ll get a better living space and be able to try it again…until then, pretty much the only DVD workouts I can do in my living room are yoga ones. Ah, well, at least Los Angeles has lots of hills =]

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      Ahhh apartment living! We live in an apartment too, but we do have concrete subfloors in between every floor in addition to wood subfloors so noise isn’t really so much of an issue here. So far, no complaints…but yeah, I do admit I am not jumping as hard as I probably could because I am being mindful of the neighbors.

  • suz April 25, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    The Shred was my gateway drug into becoming a total fitness and running addict. I did ballet growing up, then yoga starting in college. Then around age 36 I decided I needed to take it up a notch from yoga and walking. I started with the Shred, graduated to No More Trouble Zones, and within 6 months was running for the first time in my life. Since then I’ve done 3 half marathons, 3 10ks, 2 12ks, and run 3 times a week without fail. I just turned 40 and I’m in my best shape since high school (when I danced 4 days a week). Congrats! good luck!

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      Wow, that is so great to hear! Happy 4oth birthday!!

  • Renita April 25, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Bikram Yoga …. I think body alignment/awareness is just as equally important as weight loss. With this practice you use your own body weight as resistance to build strength, balance and range of motion. You practice in a hot room that warms up your body for movement, you sweat and feel a ‘juicy’ inside. Not underestimating Jillian, but Bikram (most Yoga) are great techniques to instill good body/mind discipline … can you tell I’m Nothern Cali

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      I’m not trying to lose weight – I definitely don’t need to lose weight – but just strengthen and tone down. I can’t wrap my head around bikram yoga. Sadly, I can’t focus on something like that for 90 minutes and the heated room part? Yikes. Saunas freak me out. I did a sweat lodge once and I passed out. I am not generally claustrophic, except in spaces that are hot and humid. I don’t even like to take baths! I’m sure it is great and some of my friends love it, but it’s not for me.

      • sylvï April 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm

        yikes — sweat lodges done wrong can be a dangerous thing once the carbon monoxide levels rise too high. finnish saunas are very different and a great deal of care is put into ventilation. also, when heated with wood (instead of electricity) the heat and moisture combo stays mellow, and the negative ions make you feel good instead of run down. i hope your bad experiences won’t keep you from trying it if you get a chance… i’m pretty sure NY has a public finnish sauna somewhere. (-:

        • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

          I’m not sure there was anything wrong with the sweat lodge. I think it’s just my reaction to those particular conditions. Like I mentioned, I don’t particularly like baths for the same reasons. I mean I passed out when I was working as an elf at Macys Santaland because the place was so hot from being crowded! But this was way back 20 years ago or so. I think I was fairly anemic then too.

          • sylvï April 25, 2013 at 4:30 pm

            well, i can totally relate to that, yet somehow (by being finnish most likely) i really love a good sauna. especially by the sea where you can dip in in between. ah…

            i was just reminded of a sweat lodge incident where a girl started to lose consciousness and vomit, and the ‘sweatmaster’ claimed it was just a part of the purification process. had my friend not pulled her out, she could have easily died from carbon monoxide poisoning. i’m not saying sweat lodges are all bad either, if people actually know what they’re doing.

  • sylvï April 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    someone mentioned jillian michaels — she’s also written a really good book about hormones and how what you eat affects them. interesting stuff.
    i used to have really bad back and hip (and knee and…) problems, possibly due to a soft ligament tissue type or something, things would not stay in place and i was at times on my knees on the floor, crying from the pain and the fact i could not stand up. you know, fun stuff. all of it went away in less than a month after i started taking a supplement called MSM, it’s some sort of sulphur compound that’s one of the building blocks of body tissue, or so i’ve gathered. i just call it my little miracle powder. i’m really into all kinds of health food and whatnot, but this stuff is in a league of its own — for me at least. of course everyone is different, but i wanted to mention it just in case. it’s worth trying.
    also, i understand about the weight/body thing. i’m in my early thirties, very tiny, and all of a sudden put on two kilograms, which is nothing and i’m actually glad to have some ‘stuffing’ but it can be a big deal even for a skinny person to feel the familiar body changing, albeit for the better. although i’d rather have the two kilos in muscle than fluff… just to keep everything together and to be able to do more.
    i want to send all kinds of sympathetic and reassuring and encouraging vibes, since i’m not very articulate today. you write well and about things that resonate, you ought not feel so much doubt.

  • katie April 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    i admittedly haven’t done the 30 day shred in quite some time, but i still swear it’s one of the best workouts you can do in 20 minutes. i found level 2 to be the hardest of the 3, and level 3 was my favorite – but that just may be what plays to my own particular strengths / weaknesses best.

  • Jeni April 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Good for you!! I completely understand how you feel. I feel like my age has caught up with me and my metabolism is definitely what it used to be. So I have just recently been determined to get in better shape and lose some weight in the process (hopefully). I have been going to spin class and LOVE it. I think it is important to find what you really enjoy. I should check out the 30 day shred, I could use some more strength building exercises.
    Good luck 🙂

  • Dee April 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Good luck with the 30 day shred! I lasted two days, hehe. I’ve heard it can be hard on the knees, so be careful!

  • Rachel April 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Your comment on Asians and their complete lack of diplomacy when it comes to weight brought this post to mind: http://www.buzzfeed.com/daozers/27-signs-you-were-raised-by-asian-immigrant-parents


    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      Ha, I saw that! This is when I realized that my dad’s neurosis about not having the fan on while sleeping was not just a quirk of his! Weird!

  • T.J. April 25, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I don’t think you are ridiculous at all. I’m right there with you. Funny thing, I never really gave much thought to getting older, but in the past couple of years, I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, “Gosh, where the heck did those wrinkles come from?” I’ve always considered myself to be very young at heart, but that can only carry one so far – the mirror doesn’t lie. I’m not one for major upkeep, anyway. – minimal make-up, not too into hair-do’s, etc.., so where does one start? I applaud you for wanting to strengthen your body and feel better. Don’t know if I’m ready for anything with “Shred” in the title, but I want to thank you for helping me feel like I’m not alone. You have inspired me to start doing more to take care of myself.

    • Jenna April 25, 2013 at 11:33 pm

      Good luck TJ. Yes, do take care of yourself!

  • jen April 26, 2013 at 2:55 am

    omg, i am in the same boat and i started 30 day shred, although i haven’t done it in awhile. the problem is finding the time in the am to do it. once the day gets started forget about it, exercise is just not going to happen. but you’ve motivated to start it up again….we’ll see….and good luck. i know you might not feel fabulous all the time, you definitely look it!

  • Leo April 26, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Hi Jenna,

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now, big fan of your honesty and talent.

    If you are interested in “free workout ideas” check out the Nike Training Club app for iphone or android, it’s free and although I have only been using it for a couple of weeks, I find it really motivating and there’s enough variety on it to keep you interested.

    Best of luck! Keep it up!

  • maja April 26, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I started a super simple exercise regimen last year that has been easy to keep up with. Just 10-15 minutes most days. I bought a used stair machine 10 years ago, and just work out on high for 10 minutes, more on days when I have more time. I don’t even work up a sweat in 10 minutes, but it gives me enough cardio to manage stress and I sleep *way* better at night. I’ve also been adding about 5 minutes of ab work and it’s done a good job of toning post babies. I’ve been thinking of stepping it up too, but I’m not sure if I could manage the shred. Keep up posted on how it goes- I’m curious!

  • Michele O. April 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    My family (also Korean) is the same way! I get slack for not eating enough and then questioned why I’ve gained a pound. HAHA!

  • Pink Ronnie April 26, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Oh, that is SO true about Asian mothers…
    Can you believe my own mother commented on my belly the day AFTER I just gave birth? Like seriously, mum?
    Ronnie xo

    • Jenna April 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm


  • G. April 27, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Just so you know, you got me started on the 30 day shred. I, too, know that I need to work out for health reasons. Add vanity to that- I want to look good when I hit the big 4-0 – and here I am on day 2! I hope I can last through this, at least for 30 days. Good luck to us!

    • Jenna April 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

      good luck! Just finished Day 7

  • lori April 28, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    That’s so great you are exercising. So many designer & computer friends have bad backs, pain, or have had back surgery for disc issues. I heard that swimming can really help too. And massage therapist suggested building core strength & pilates to my partner. Anyway, this past year I had some seriously intense computer hours and my back was in super pain for the first time (I think we’re really close in age)… so I’ve started lap swimming / exercising too. I don’t care either about the weight, but I think it really helps avoid pain, which is great! Anyway, good luck! Don’t give up 🙂

  • rifferaff April 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

    I like 30 Day Shred but when I want something lower impact that still makes me work just as hard, I really like Core Fusion: Exhale. It’s a pilates/yoga/cardio fusion thing. Because of all the yoga-style work, I feel it actually improves my posture. And it’s in 10 minute segments so you can do the whole hour’s worth or just 20 or 30 mins.

    I just bought myself some new sneakers to motivate me to get back in a routine. Now that it’s not pitch black and freezing in the mornings, it’s a little easier to get up and exercise before work. Good luck!

    • Jenna April 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Thanks for the tip into Core Fusion Exhale – I’ll have to look into it!

  • Jossie May 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Where do you download/buy the Shred? I need it!

    • Jenna May 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

      I’m just watching it on youtube from that link posted in the post. I do need to find level 2, but I’m sure you can buy it from amazon or maybe itunes. I haven’t looked yet.