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Finally – the denouement (11 weeks down, -1 weeks to go)

Last hike at Fitness Ridge

Can you believe I left you hanging like this? Inexcusable, so I will not attempt to offer excuses (though you can rest assured that I am very good at concocting excuses – witness Knock Knock’s oeuvre of excuse-themed product, currently this and that, not to mention year-over-year weight gain).

It was really hard to leave the Ridge. In fact, if it hadn’t been for (a) one of my closest childhood friends, Arielle, coming to visit on 12/18; and (b) the fact that I do need to return to my real life and job and home at some point, I would have chosen to stay at Fitness Ridge for another two months. As mentioned before, my super-power is mono-focus, and my kryptonite is balance. I have loved the opportunity to dedicate myself fully to exercise and nutrition, loved the feeling of rapidly increasing fitness, loved the sense of growing athleticism. Loved the lack of responsibilities, loved the focus only on myself, loved the love. What’s not to love? While I understand that some Ridgers begin to rebel against the structure and regimen, projecting parents and teachers onto the trainers and instructors, I felt so lucky, throughout the experience, to be there, that I think I could have kept on going for quite a while. And how wonderful it would have been to have left in maintenance mode, at my goal weight, vs. having to continue to lose as a civilian.

Not to mention that it was sad to leave all my new friends, staff and guests alike. Casual, daily, ambient socializing is something that’s missing from adulthood. We had it in dorms and school and maybe the bars and parties of our early twenties, but for the most part, it’s now dinner every six weeks from 7:00 to 9:00 for the newsletter conversation. And if you meet someone new who intrigues you, it’s straight to face-to-face getting to know each other. At Fitness Ridge, as with earlier stages in our lives, we got to know one another in side-by-side, rather than face-to-face, activities, and with prolonged, pressure-free exposure. Not to mention all the comraderie of the shared experience, and some of the bonding us-versus-them in reference to the non-workers, non-triers, and narcissistic, self-centered idiots (not that there were many of those, but they were present enough to bond us against them!).

Friday, December 11, was really my last day, my last hike (which, due in part to the weather, consisted of me and three guides – talk about personal attention!), my last fitness classes. I especially sad to boogie at my last Cardio Disco Jam, a class that I would never have taken before Fitness Ridge, but which John makes so accessible and fun – the perfect last-class-of-the-day Friday activity.

Bethany photographing Donna's visit with Santa

On Friday evening, Bethany, Claire, Genevieve, Donna, Tricia, and I went out for a celebratory dinner at Red Mountain Spa – all but Bethany were leaving Fitness Ridge, and all were multi-weekers. Then we went to the last two minutes of the live nativity (made Christianity seem to have appeared rather quickly) at the Tuacahn Amphitheater, right under the red rock, where the poor camel who lives behind Tuacahn high school year-round makes his or her appearance to add verisimilitude to the whole in-a-manger-with-wise-men-and-myrrh thing. Poor camel – we seem him bored and cooling his hoofs in a too-small pen when we hike Saddle.

Claire with her joking crush Trevor, and the picture of him she was going to steal from the Fitness Ridge hall walls

When I woke up Saturday morning, it was so cold and snowy that I just couldn’t fathom venturing to Stop Sign for that last hike. Slippery, freezing, and, on some level, unnecessary. I did my final weigh-in – 41.4 pounds lost total, with also gazillion inches and percentage points (body fat, BMI) shed, but I don’t have all those numbers at hand as I compose this over a soy chai at Peet’s. My stretch goal for the 10 weeks was 50 pounds, while I knew I would be overjoyed with 40. I would have hit 50, I think, were it not for the bouts of extracurricular bingeing – I’m guessing they cost me a pound a week. Will still have to manage to get those under control, darn them.

Can you blame me for not hiking on my last day?

So rather than go to the gym as an alternative to hiking in the blizzard, I realized I was kind of out-of-there in my mind already, so I switched modes to packing and closing up shop. I had been planning on driving halfway late on Saturday, halfway on Sunday morning, then spending the day and night with my grandmother in San Diego, but was able to leave earlier on Saturday and go the whole distance, then get back to LA on Sunday night. Unfortunately, it was a hellacious drive thanks to the weather.

I had a lovely visit with my grandmother, including a heartwarming trip to Nordstrom where I learned I’d dropped three sizes and am dangerously close to being able to wear non-plus-sized clothing. Hallelujah – fat shopping sucks.

Terrible iPhone picture of my beloved grandmother

I got back to LA on Sunday night and was greeted by very happy dogs, ah, I love them so, though I am feeling terribly guilty in noticing that I did not at all mind having responsibilities for no mammals whatsoever while I was at the Ridge.

Monday went on my favorite hike in the Palisades and was promptly reminded that I wasn’t in Utah anymore – honking, drivers cursing, not to mention a mean walking-in-the-street pedestrian when I was parking the car. Not only are Utahns (yes, that’s spelled correctly) pretty darn friendly, probably in no small part thanks  to the Mormon culture, but it’s a crushing truism that overcrowding begets crank. As in crankiness. But probably crank, also.

Then off to the hairdresser before my office reveal – which was s

o wonderful and heartwarming and delightful. It may be that I have very little personal life, but when you have such a good professional life, it’s not as bad as you’d think. I am so luck to love the people I work with, and they could not have welcomed me with more open and loving arms. They are genuinely happy for my success and rooting for the goals I have for myself. How many people can say that? They had flowers and champagne at the ready and we sat around drinking – I think I may have been the only one who got tipsy, in part because I’m now a cheap date, in part because, as the boss, I can drink as much as I want – until early evening.

Moment of walking in the door at work for the big reveal

Jim and Megan! Jim and Megan! (The only picture Carolyn took of me with anybody other than dogs.)

Puppy symmetry.

The previous week, I was informed that I was not needed at the office, except for a few miscellaneous things, until January 4 – can you believe the generosity of that? – which would allow me to make the transition back as well as spend time with my Arielle and work on her book. So over the last week I’ve been pretty flexible and relaxed, and trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to chart out my post-Fitness Ridge health plan.

I’m starting to ramble at this point, so I will conclude this posting – and I will keep posting, if erratically, and if off-topic – with a few notes.

  • It’s been disorienting to return home, to the lack of structure and fitness dedication.
  • It’s harder to work out vigorously when people aren’t pushing you.
  • I’ve exercised every day except one since I’ve been home, for at least an hour, but it doesn’t feel like enough, and it hasn’t been high-intensity (except one foray to an amazing, but expensive, circuit-training class – boy those people are in good shape, and I will tell you that the instructor said I was one of the best first-timers they’d ever had, and that really in-shape people – he specifically referenced triathletes – had their asses kicked by these classes).
  • I’ve been eating well, especially since Arielle arrived.
  • My goal these two weeks is to experiment with cooking and fitness so I have a good routine come January 4.
  • I may put my house on the market in April rather than January, when the plantings have come in and families are on the house hunt. And Russ did an amazing job with the landscaping while I was gone – perhaps I will post pictures one day.
  • My weight is still trending down – perhaps by two pounds – since I returned.
  • I love having Arielle here.

Exercise with dogs, Venice-style.

Note the lack of snow.

I am so grateful to everybody for the support and love and interest in this whole process. For the moment, I will plan to keep on posting – not sure how frequently, not sure on what topics, though for the near future, I think I will stick to fitness.
Wow. Life-changing.
Over and out.


Coda coming

Drove to San Diego in punishing rainstorm, 9 hours all told, on Saturday. Spent Sunday with my grandmother and sundry extended family. Returned to LA late Sunday night. Haven’t stopped running since – day and early evening full of appointments yesterday, all-day off-site meeting today. Will write conclusion and report on recent events very soon. Experiencing re-entry challenges, but good to see both people and canines.

And PS

It’s still really cold – 21 degrees as I type this. Not loving the hike concept.

No TV shoot

Found out late on Tuesday that Rachael Ray shoot was canceled. So much for my star turn, but at least I can focus on my last few days here at the Ridge, which are starting to get sentimental – my last kickboxing class! my last mountain class! I’m telling you, I don’t really want to leave! My comfy little exercise and weight-loss bubble, with easy socializing (except for the boarding-school drama) and people who cook and clean for me and no responsibilities and mono-focus and continued fitness improvements? Why go anywhere else? I do love it here. But I also know that I will be so happy to see all the loved ones and liked ones in LA, and be back in my house with my pups, and hang out with the peeps at the office, and start training with Megan for our March triathlon. Home again home again, jiggity jig. Over and out.

So much for the dry heat

I’m feeling really sorry for the one-weekers right about now. I don’t think they believe how seldom this occurs! Though last week was pretty darn cold, colder than today. There is actually a surprising degree of difference among the various weather forecasts. Some have the weather clearing up tomorrow; others have snow and rain all week. I am going to believe the former.

Over and out.

And me with no jacket

It’s been cold here. I’ve lived in Michigan and NYC, so I’ve handled some cold in my time, but proper equipment and wardrobe are all. Today it’s a high of 36 and low of 29, but what I can’t figure out about that is the same site says it’s currently 43.4. Wouldn’t that cause some sort of automatic revision of the high of 36?

Here’s the bad news:

Winter Storm Warning in effect until 6 am MST Tuesday.
Today: Rain in the morning…then rain and snow in the afternoon. Accumulation around 1 inch. Highs in the mid 40s. West winds 10 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent. Snow.
Tonight: Rain and snow. Accumulation 1 to 3 inches. Lows around 30. West winds 10 to 20 mph late. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent. Snow.
Tuesday: A 30 percent chance of rain and snow. Mostly cloudy in the morning then becoming partly cloudy. Highs around 40.

I was so psyched to do Stop Sign this morning and possibly break one hour. You should see me in all my layers – we’re talking like five, plus hat and gloves. I look like the ubiquitous Stay Puft or Michelin men (not the best showcase for weight loss, which by the way, is at about 40 pounds right now, with 24.75 total inches lost, 9.1 percentage points of body fat gone, and 5.8 down in BMI). The question now isn’t what I’m going to wear for TV – I’m going to wear all of it at once – it’s in what order I’m going to wear it.

Over and out.

Nine down, one to go

My name is Jen, and I’m not a blogaholic. For some reason over the last couple weeks, I have not felt like writing at all. While I’m walking or exercising or what have you, I’m composing all kinds of witty, incisive, publishable blog posts, then when I get to my room, it’s neither blog nor emails nor phone calls. Really, my name is Jen and I’m a TV-aholic. And now that I’ve discovered all the online TV resources (yes, the convergence is finally upon us), it won’t be enough to disconnect my cable when I get home!

Can you believe I only have one more week to go? I’ve been saying that on the one hand, it’s been slow and intense, and on the other, it’s flown, but in retrospect I’d just have to say that it’s flown. As mentioned previously, I’m torn about leaving. I love it here. I’ve made friends not only among the constantly-turning-over guest population but also among the staff and a guest who moved to St. George, my triathlon buddy Jen (AKA the other Jen). I’d love to be able to get to my goal weight while in this bubble. I like not having responsibilities. I’m a mono-focus kind of gal – life balance, what’s up with that? Also, I like being in college (or boarding school, depending on the day’s assessment of guest maturity level – including myself) again. I like hanging out impromptu. I like having almost all my social time be face to face, not via email or phone. I like having shared experience, where we’re essentially all doing the same thing as with school, vs. when our lives all diverged and got busy and responsibility-laden. And I love the intense friendships that can develop in this environment, vs. the month of Sundays that professional adult socializing entails, seeing each other for dinner every six weeks and whatnot. (On the other hand, I suck at long-distance relationships, seeing as I spend so much of my real life on email, and I am somewhat phobically telephone-avoidant. I apologize to all my new friends, and many of the old ones – it’s not you, it’s me, and you are not alone among those I love.)

Let’s go back a couple weeks and make up for lost time, shall we?

The Friday before Thanksgiving:

Yes, I’ve blogged since then, but I wanted to share with you a picture and a couple goofy videos from my third hike up Camelback. I love that Camelback, what with its two humps and all. On this particular instance, there was talk way too raunchy for Mormon ears – or at least way too curse-laden. I was a minor offender – there’s no way I could have kept up with Chris and Marissa, however, and that’s saying a lot. One of the things I like about Camelback is (a) it’s now not that difficult for me (indeed, I’m starting to notice that I have to work a lot harder to get a good workout, which strikes me as the ultimate injustice – if you work really hard to get into shape, you just have to work harder?); and (b) it’s like hikes I remember from my pre-Fitness Ridge civilian days, i.e., we actually stop and enjoy the view and play every once in a while. On Camelback, there are novelty activities that allow the guides to relax their enforcement of the “fitness” in “fitness hikes” (what the FR folks remind us these hikes are for in the morning announcements).

I'm not at my best in belly profile, but I'm going to share this with you nonetheless for its beauty and inclusion of our dearly departed Marissa and Stephane the Quebecois, and the not-yet-dearly-departed Chris.

There’s a delightful hole in the rock known as THE VORTEX, at the bottom of which countless youth have carved their initials into the sandstone. It’s slightly hairy climbing down, but I had that one covered. I took a new route up, however, and got stock, plastered flat up against the rock, enough spread-eagled to be sorry for those below me (what with the sweat and all), unable to move up or down. Stephane braved the below-decks view of my spandex and climbed up to put his hand beneath my foot and assure me of his strength with his fabulous French accent. In any case, the group of us made a silly video of running in a Ring Around the Posy formation. We decided it was a fertility dance, and since I was the only one with near-future hopes of fertility, everybody passed theirs on to me by proxy.

Moving up to the valley between THE HUMPS, we made a charming jumping video.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving:

I went with my friend Kate to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a totally amazing place which has recently come to fame through the TV show Dogtown about their dog facilities of the same name. Best Friends is a truly amazing, worthy, beautiful place. Apparently everybody who visits asks about working there, and I have to say, no knocks to Knock Knock, but I might consider taking the job (don’t worry, or don’t celebrate – they didn’t offer). It’s a no-kill animal rescue in a gorgeous Utah canyon, 33,000 acres of goodness.

In the morning, we took the tour (why is it that so many volunteer tour guides are annoying, bless their hearts? is it because they can’t get real jobs? and you know that the only reason to use the phrase “bless their hearts” is to slam people, right? kind of like “with all due respect”?), and in the afternoon we volunteered by walking dogs. If you’re an animal lover, your heart breaks when you visit shelters, but this place is so wonderful, the facilities so capacious, the staff so loving and dedicated and expert, that you don’t feel so bad. In fact, you start wondering why any of these animals would want to be adopted (I wouldn’t), but they say that companion animals always want homes – and people – of their own. I get that with dogs, certainly, and possibly pigs and cats, but not so sure about the horse and sheep. Their mission encompasses companion animals only, so there were no elephants or giraffes. They’re developing into a sort of Red Cross for animals, foraying beyond their property to rescue hundreds of Katrina animals and famously taking in the Michael Vicks fighting dogs, who have been renamed the Victory (Vicktory?) dogs. Just heartbreaking to see these scarred pitbulls wagging their tails, so happy to see you.

Here’s a slideshow of our time exploring and volunteering:

They also have this phenomenal pet cemetery called Angels Rest, with windchimes and tombstones with names like Mr. Mister Mister and Kitten II (and even Megan) and heartbreaking mementos such as a chewed retractable leash left on the grave. There was one headstone, complete with photograph, of a little girl, and while at first that seemed creepy and macabre, upon reconsideration, I invented a whole story whereby she’d been sick for a long time and was an animal lover and asked to be buried among the pets. The cemetery population includes both animals who die while at Best Friends and pets whose people want to bury them there.

Here’s the cemetery slideshow:

By the way – there’s an amazing, embarrassingly (and intentionally, by the filmmaker, Errol Morris) hilarious 1976 documentary on pet cemeteries called Gates of Heaven (available on Netflix right here). I could not recommend it more highly. Sadly for the people depicted, it’s definitely a comedy.

Best Friends has weeklong workshops on “How to Start an Animal Sanctuary.” I think I may have my retirement planned out.

In the meantime, you should donate to Best Friends.

Last Week:

Whatever did I do last week? I totally don’t remember. Let’s attempt to reconstruct. I know there was way too much off-the-reservation dining out and junk-food eating, and that I didn’t lose any weight. This will be rectified this week with perfect attendance and all onsite eating. Sometimes having a car is a curse.

Guess what? I’m an after, or at least as after as they have on campus right now. I’ve been selected to be a success story day-in-the-life on The Rachael Ray Show. The show is doing an hour-long special on Fitness Ridge, to air in January; they’ve already done some ambiance filming here, and a trainer flew out to NYC to be interviewed, as well as a success-story former guest. That guest was male, however, and the show wanted a female, so a couple staff-members at Fitness Ridge recommended me. While I am not necessarily inclined toward exhibitionism and never aspired to be a public before-and-after, it feels like an honor to have been selected, an affirmation of all the hard work I’ve done. On Thursday, I will be followed from the time I awaken (please don’t make me go to the 6:00 a.m. class) to the time I go to bed (please don’t show me flossing). It will also be a nice opportunity to mention Knock Knock, seeing as it’s a prime feature of my why-I’m-fat story. I will keep you posted as to when in January this will air, and I promise to tell you how the whole Thursday experience goes, if (most likely) belatedly.


Because I am a glutton for punishment and adore my friend the-other-Jen, I reenacted the triathlon yesterday. Jen wanted something else to train for, so we agreed to redo it 30 days after the original, with the ever amazing trainers Tiffany and Robin coaching us. It’s getting really cold here, and I don’t have the appropriate clothing, so the fact that we got on our bikes wet was problematic. Also, the fact that I was riding a Fitness Ridge hoopty bike was problematic. I improved my time by a lot, though we’re not sure of the exact figure because Robin’s watch died. I think it’s around 1:45 vs. the original 2:10. I also realized at some point on the run that I was in fact running, not walking, because Robin walks 5 MPH and I couldn’t walk fast enough to keep up with her without running. It was sort of a Charlie Chaplin shuffle run, given my frozen, sore ass and inner thighs, but it was running, and tomorrow I’m going to try to run the flat parts of Stop Sign to see if I can make it in under an hour.

Tiffany reenacting her heat-drier warmth tactic of the first triathlon (we huddled in our cars until the last possible second this time).

Jen looking really radiant and beautiful, if at artily askew.

The two Jens, with yours truly looking a little wacko; the two fingers are for the second triathlon the two of us have done. I'm bummed we don't have a picture of Robin from this day - she was my coach, at my side every second, and is an amazing person to boot!


My friend Linda, who was here for my first week, arrived for a week – my bookend, my friend who’s here to cheer on the before and the after! It was so great to see her, such a treat.


Another guest told me there are polygamy tours. How did she find it? She googled “polygamy tours.” I kind of wanted to go because I think it’s just capital to gawk at people as if they are zoo animals, and because I knew Matt would want me to (shout-out number 2), but it turns out that it’s surprisingly expensive to see polygamists if one wants to be guided by a former polygamist.

In conclusion:

Over and out.