Pivot Like an Irishman

Ask a Millennial: what else can I do for fitness?

If you’ve seen The Irishman, you were probably impressed with the CGI that makes Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci look younger throughout the movie. In the accompanying The Irishman In Conversation, director Martin Scorsese discusses how CGI was viewed as makeup to help create the age illusions, but that portraying the characters at different ages took much more than CGI. “Your whole body has to act,” Scorsese says. They had to stand straighter, talk a little higher, take the stairs with a spry step as their younger versions. “You can’t fix your acting in post,” Pesci says.

I definitely move like a heavy, middle aged woman. I walk, but I don’t walk fast. I take the stairs carefully for fear of falling, or I take an elevator or escalator. This feeds my perception that I’m old, past hope. Stuck.

Pivot! Think like a millennial. 10 years younger puts me in my 30s. If I’m thinking like a millennial, I’m acting like a millennial. Which means I’ve got to move like a millennial.

Goal: Pep in my step!

  1. Upbeat songs. I live in NYC and walk everywhere. Not knowing what millennials listen to (future post!) I made a peppy pop Gen-X friendly 80s/90s playlist. I defy anyone to not love Janet Jackson’s Alright. As a former marching band member, I’m programmed to step in time to any music I’m listening to, so the more upbeat the music, the faster I walk, the more I swing my arms, and – side benefit – the more I smile.
  2. Spry stair steps. My subway station is the 4th deepest in NYC, 100 feet below street level. (There’s a duplicate set of stairs and escalators at the top of the photo below.) Obviously, I normally take the escalators both ways. But now, Ms. Jackson-if-you’re-nasty and I take the 8 flights of the regular stairs down and I walk up both sets of escalators. I’m huffing quite a bit at the top, but it’s what a fit millennial would do.

These small changes have really helped. I have more energy! I feel younger, especially bouncing down those stairs. If I’m thinking and moving 10 years younger, can I look 10 years younger?

Welcome to 100 feet below Roosevelt Island! There’s another set of stairs and escalators at the top of the photo.

Snap! and PIVOT

Ask a Millennial: what should I do for fitness?

My millennial gurus, Alyssa and Freddie, count steps. I live in NYC and don’t own a car. I walk all the time. I hit 10K steps a day easily. My body is used to it. I’d have to increase my daily steps by at least 5K if I wanted to see any change, but I’m so bored with step-counting. I’ve also joined gyms (so sick of the elliptical) tap dancing (fun but not good cardio), couch to 5K apps (working out alone is a drag!), pilates (not my thing), on and on. I’m STUCK! I need something new.

To mix things up, I turned to another millennial for inspiration: Chandler Massey, a/k/a Will, the other half of the fabulous (sadly, now-defunct) Will and Sonny supercouple on DAYS. He recently posted on Instagram:

View this post on Instagram

LONG POST WARNING My weight has been an obstacle for 3 years. The left picture is me in 2016, 191 lbs & 30% body fat. I had been off Days for 2 years, and had utterly let myself go. I rationalized my lifestyle by telling myself that once I started working again, I could easily shed the weight & be “camera ready”. The next year, I got the chance to prove myself right. Will Horton was back baby, and he was going to be lean, mean, & better than ever. But there was a problem. The fat that I had assumed was going to melt off my body like butter on a hot pancake refused to leave. I tried everything to get my fat cells to f*** off. Fasting, paleo, whole30, cico, keto, juicing, low carb, no carb. I tried to appeal to my vanity, pride, anger, shame. None of it worked. If you watch Days I’m sure you noticed I looked different the 2nd time around. There was a reason they gave @mrchristophersean the shirtless scenes while I chilled in plaid flannels. Some nights after crushing a box of lucky charms I told myself that this was just the journey of getting older. I was never going to be fit again, so why continue this pattern starving & binging, of quietly throwing up in the kitchen sink after my roommates fell asleep & trying to slap some willpower into me. I gave up 100 times during those 3 years. I tried again 101 times. I can’t point to a specific moment that was a turning point. Rather I believe it was the gradual process of learning from each failure. Instead of clinging to a fad diet I began to critically examine my relationship to food. I realized that my crappy eating habits were tied to negative emotional states. When I learned to recognize & deal with those emotions, I saw food for what it really is: a tool, not a bandaid. This was not a smooth journey. Just last Sunday I ate a family size pack of Oreos bc I was upset about GoT. But after each step backward I manage to forgive myself and take 2 steps forward. The picture on the right is me yesterday. I now weigh 160 lbs & have 12% body fat, reaching a goal that I wrote on my bathroom mirror 3 years ago. I’m not ashamed of the person on the left anymore, but damn am I proud of the man on the right.

A post shared by Chandler Massey (@therealcmassey) on

Isn’t he a sweet pea? Baby bunnies fall out of his pockets all the time too. I swear, it’s true!

Chandler does CrossFit. Great! CrossFit it is.

I booked a Fundamentals class at CrossFit NYC on New Year’s Eve Day. I’d heard that CrossFitters can be on the cult-y side. Maybe it’ll be the cult for me!

There was only one other person in the class, and the trainer was super nice. He showed us the proper forms for squats and jerks and lifts. Then we moved on to the Push Jerk.

Trainer: You’re hinging your hips. That’ll make your arms swing out. You don’t want to do that. (Stands 4 inches away from me.) Try again.
Me: I might hit you.
Trainer: No you won’t. You’ll do the jerk properly, right through the space between us. Try again.
Me: I might hit me. (steps back)
Trainer: (steps towards me) Try again, you got this.
Me: (steps back again) You don’t understand. I just visualized popping myself in the chin.
Other Newbie: You visualize, you materialize. (also steps back)
Trainer: …

To his credit, he was creative: he got a PVC pipe and held it in front of me instead. To my credit, I didn’t hit it or me.

Overall, it was a good experience. The positives were attentive trainers who listened and adjusted to help me, and the space was really cool. The negatives were a lack of showers and class times that didn’t quite fit my schedule. I wasn’t totally sold on CrossFit yet.

A couple of Gen-X friends raved about OrangeTheory Fitness so I signed up for a January 2 class near my new office. It was called Run n’ Row (I think) and we spent 30 minutes either frantically running on treadmills or rowing on rowers. I wasted a lot of time trying to not kill myself starting and stopping the treadmill. The next 30 minutes were strength training, but using small weights and doing variations of planks. The music was fun and the coach was enthusiastic, which was contagious.

There have been many articles about CrossFit vs. OrangeTheory. Basically, if you want cardio, go with Orange. If you want mostly strength training, go with CrossFit. Orange classes are the same across all locations. CrossFit gyms tend to have their own personalities. Both gyms gave me pause because of my clumsiness.

I’m not clumsy in a cute rom-com-protagonist way. I’m bloody-nose, break-a-toe, shatter-a-jar-of-mayonnaise-on-the-kitchen-floor clumsy. I wasn’t comfortable with the Push Jerk, and I felt spastic bouncing between the treadmill and the rower. Both gyms had great trainers willing to help. CrossFit had a bro feel, and OrangeTheory had a cheerleader vibe. I could see myself making it work at either gym… but I didn’t want to “make it work.”

I wanted to join a place that I actually wanted to go to! Where I felt like I was with my people. Where it would be okay if I was a spaz while giving it my all.

I looked for a unicorn.

Five weeks later…

My unicorn, Mark Fisher Fitness! (photos courtesy of Mark Fisher Fitness)

They’re “CrossFit-adjacent.” (Thanks again, Chandler!) Their staff and clientele are mostly working actors, which are TOTALLY my people. As soon as I walked in, I felt at home. And not just for the cool Hey Janet welcome sign! Their silliness is the right vibe for me. Their dedication to fitness is what I’m looking for. And I haven’t laughed that much with a stranger-turned-friend in a long time. This was the cult for me!

I not only signed up for a year’s membership, I joined their bootcamp Snatched In Six Weeks, starting this March. Stay tuned.

Fitness goal: in motion!

And that is how ya PIVOT!

NBC, Saturday Night Live, 2016

The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.” Over and over it ran through my mind. My heart raced constantly. I couldn’t sleep. I was hot all the time. Food tasted awful. The power of Alyssa’s words took me over. I was like a frayed wire.

I lost 14 pounds in 12 days. My plus-sized body was Pivoting all on its own.

Well, I wasn’t going to avoid any more work. I wanted magic! I looked over the lists of goals I’d written and decided to tackle the new job goal first. This was the one goal I could wrap my brain around while my body freaked out.

I’d been job-hunting all year, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was unfocused, haphazard. I’d send my resume to companies that looked cool or posted a too-good-to-be-true job listing and never heard back.

I’m a dutiful student. I took Freddie’s advice to heart and wrote a detailed list of what I wanted.

Goal: New Job

  1. Must have a mission statement I can get behind. After years of working for law firms, I’d finally gotten my first in-house paralegal job with a non-profit news organization. What a change! I was so proud to work for a company whose mission is to inform the world, rather than to bill the client as much as possible. Wherever I went next, it had to be about more than making money. It had to be for a profit company that wanted to make a difference.
  2. Better salary. Non-profits do amazing work, but they usually don’t pay well. I loved where I worked, but I was severely underpaid. I live in NYC – I needed more money.
  3. Good fit with the new team. Personality mesh is an important part of the job process. Who you work with can make or break a place. I reminded myself that I’m interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing me. I’d know if we “clicked” and if we didn’t, I’d keep looking.

Once I was clear about what I wanted, I applied much more strategically than before. I researched the companies’ business filings. I checked sites like Glassdoor for employee POVs. Several applications and a few interviews later, this approach paid off. In December, I accepted an offer that hit every one of my requirements: A for-profit company whose focus is health. A salary that reflected my skills and experience. A team made me feel welcome and valued. I would start my new job at the beginning of 2020.

New job goal: check.

Holy sh#t. It worked.

What can I Pivot to next?

The Pivot Principle

November 16, 2019: I was two weeks into my new obsession with the Days of our Lives time jump story. It was soapy, sudsy awesomeness: Why is Sonny so sad? Why is Justin kissing Kayla? How did Adrienne die? Why is JJ on drugs? His girlfriend died?! WTF is Xander about? WHY IS WILL IN JAIL. WHY IS HE CELL MATES WITH THE GUY WHO MURDERED HIM A FEW YEARS AGO. Where’d that baby come from? What happened to the other baby? Kristen’s a nun? Why is Ciara a super sleuth? He’s the father of the alive baby and doesn’t know it, but she knows? Gabi is CEO!

It was such a blast because it was the perfect distraction from the sadness, and the rest of my life.

Generation X is well settled in to its midlife crisis, and so was I. My job depressed me. I was overweight and eating terribly. Worst of all, my writing was beyond stagnant. I fancy myself a scifi/fantasy writer (time travel’s my thing) and I hadn’t written much beyond a few short story drafts in a couple of years. Crappy job, crappy health, no creativity, and incredibly stuck. I wanted to change but I’d get paralyzed and overwhelmed and do nothing. So I threw myself into DAYS! Way more fun than throwing myself into me.

Back to November 16, 2019: As I wrote in my last entry, I was scouring the internet for DAYS spoilers. I found myself on Freddie and Alyssa’s YouTube page and stumbled on their audiobook The Pivot Principle. I clicked on “Chapter 10; Pivot Your Health.”

Both Alyssa and Freddie narrate the chapter but Freddie’s part got me. He talks about his issues with weight with a frankness and vulnerability that is brave and heartfelt. His quest for balance after following several “meal lifestyles” (I love this term) really got to me. He suggests writing out your goals and a detailed description of the outcome you want. Get specific about how to achieve them, and figure out your “why”.

I’d written out goals, but I’d never really thought about the details to achieve them. My goals are more like, “lose 30 lbs” or “exercise”, but I didn’t ever write down “log food every day” or “30 minutes of cardio 4 times a week.” I made a mental note to try it sometime soon, and moved on to “Introduction.”

There are a handful of times in my life when I’ve had an A-ha moment. When I recognize a truth that I feel in my heart and soul, this wave of tingles sweeps over my whole body. It’s how I know I’ve learned something important and I’m permanently changed. This happened to me when I heard Alyssa say at 2:42, “The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.”

The truth of her words literally changed me, right in that moment. My heart dropped. The tingles spread all over me. I had to catch my breath! How could someone so young be so wise? Alyssa and Freddie had an understanding of our world that eluded me.

I was ready to learn.

I grabbed my journal and started writing out my goals, and all the steps to achieve them.

Not just health/weight goals, but my career and my creative writing, too. It took several pages. I felt amazing when I finished. What else could I learn from the millennials?

Well? How did I get here?

I’m stuck. Generation X is the Jan Brady of generations. The baby boomers won’t give up their power. The millennials are so angry they are leapfrogging over us to shove the boomers aside. Generation X brags about not dressing like adults and still having good taste in music. No wonder CBS left us off of that infographic.

Vintage Dr. Martens. Yep, they're mine.
Vintage Dr. Martens. Yep, they’re mine.

This is not for me. I can’t shrug my shoulders and “whatever” my life away.

If Generation X is, indeed, fading from the cultural landscape, we can either be absorbed into the baby boomers or jump in with the millennials. My parents are baby boomers, so the choice is clear.

Join me as I pivot my entire life to follow the millennials.