Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Everybody Heals With Love

I don't believe in anything but myself

I don't believe in anything but myself

But then you opened up a door

You opened up a door

Now I start to believe in something else

And so it goes, this soldier knows

The battle with the heart isn't easily won

But it can be won.

Ingrid Michaelson

So no mention of Fitness Ridge in this blog, this one is all about the past weekend where Sunshine Daydream helped sponsor the Ingrid Michaelson show in town. We turned it into a festive weekend complete with a pre-show party to raise money for The Barrymore Theater Restoration Fund, an in-store signing by Ingrid, and the sold-out show at the Barrymore.

The night kicked off with a two hour set from the Madison band Letter 8, seen here cranking a little Petty's American Girl. They played originals and covered some fabulous tunes, They also brought a big crowd of fans with them.

Next up was The Sarah Pray Band. Sarah just wrapped up an east coast tour including a gig at New York's world famous Bitter End that has hosted such stars as Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne. She has a mesmerizing voice and just entertained the crowd til past 1am. I can not thank both bands enough for donating their time to us and helping to make the night so successful.

Your hosts for the night

Two of my favorite volleyball players Tanya and Leah enjoying the inside of Club Tavern without being covered in sand.

My good friend Ryan Rammer who coaches the Verona High School football team currently making their way through the Wisconsin state football playoffs.

Ingrid Michaelson in my car. How cool is that. She worried on the way over that it would be a "Spinal Tap moment when no one showed up for her signing" but she was way wrong. She had all sorts of fans that couldn't have been happier to spend a little time with her. She was sweet and made sure she signed everything that people brought and posed for pictures with all the people as well. Look closely and you can see the signature sweat on my brow :)

Everybody wants to be loved. If you haven't gotten her new cd Everbody please buy it or download it is so good.

The marquee lighting up the Madison night with the news that sorry no more tickets were available for her show. 3rd appearance at the Barrymore and first sell-out. Over 1,000 happy fans in attendance.

On stage at The Barrymore.

The whole six piece band. The current traveling party on one bus includes 13 people. They had one room the previous night in a local hotel where they could shower and clean up. But it was another night on the bus for most of them when it came time to bunk down. Not the glamorous touring life that young rockstars dream of.

It was quite the week for Ingrid as she spent Monday morning performing on Good Morning America and Saturday afternoon at Sunshine Daydream. You can see her performance on GMA by clicking on the link below.

It was a truly amazing weekend. Thanks again to Ingrid and her band, the bands from Friday, Club Tavern for hosting the pre-party, and all my friends who chipped in to make it a successful event. Peace, Love and female singer-songwriters, Jim

Monday, October 26, 2009

Laugh often, Dream big, Reach for the stars!

Yeah, he's big and dumb as a man can come
But he's stronger than a country hoss
And when the bad folks all get together at night
You know they all call big Jim "boss", just because
And they say
You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
Jim Croce

As the name change has happened, and so many new people are finding out about The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge, I have been getting emails, and facebook inquiries about a day at the ridge and plenty of questions about how the Ridge is equipped to handle people of substantial size, with lots of weight to lose. I wanted to do a blog addressing this topic and hopefully alleviate any fears anyone and particularly bigger people have about the place.

When I stepped into the lobby of the Ridge for the first time in February of 2008 it was one of the scarier moments of my life. I was way out of shape and way is an understatement. I expected to see lots of other people like me but I didn't. The scale they were using at the time didn't hit my happy number. I was intimidated, petrified, and wondering dear lord what have I gotten myself into.

I have said it 100's of times but the people went out of their way to make me feel like I was in the right place. They will do the same for you. But even with the encouragement I struggled at first. It is a diverse group of people but really big people are still a minority. The other guests were as encouraging and understanding as you would hope them to be. They were then and they still are the rock I lean on.

So what's a day like and what issues may someone of size or with some limitations expect.
The day starts with a hike. You climb in a van. Sit in the front seat if it makes you happy, I know I do most of the time. There are varying levels of hikes but there is always one on flat ground and pavement. The stop sign hike is every Monday and most people complete the 4.5 miles to the top. Some do it in an hour some take as long as two and a half. My first time... not even close. I may have been the worst ever I don't know. Let me quell any fears you may have of this hike. You do the best you can, and you improve everyday. There are 4 benches along the route and believe me my butt has been on every single one. They are at the 3/4 mile mark, 1.5 mile mark, 2 mile mark, and just past the 2.5 mile mark. There are none once you get on the road for the last 1.5 miles, and I wish there were. There are some ass-sized rocks available if you need a break. You are never far from the road, there are plenty of guides to help you and you really should start by doing this as often as possible. If you are not comfortable hiking at all the gym is also open during this time. The gym has elliptical machines, treadmills, recumbent bikes, and spinning bikes available for cardio work.

When you get back from your hike you have your choice of a stretching/yoga class or a pool class. I choose the pool class without fail. My aching joints and muscles enjoy the pool. No one cares what you look like in your swimsuit. You want to wear shorts and a t-shirt? Do it. No one will give you a second look. If you have a fear of deep water, no problem stay in the shallow end. The pool is heated and the water usually fairly warm. And if it's cool the hot tub is a welcome joy after class. The hot tub is large, in ground, and something I really miss.

Lunch comes next. Big sturdy chairs with plenty of room in the dining room. I have raved about the food. You will be full. Will you have cravings? Oh yeah. But you're active, there's things to do and there is no drive thru at the kitchen. If you're a first weeker there is always a post lunch lecture. If you have been on this train your whole life you will know most of what they speak about. But you will learn, and you will realize, and you will have an "a ha" moment.

There are 3 afternoon classes. Some are very hard. I won't lie. There were some classes I felt unable to do when I started and even now there are some classes that I am not comfortable in. If you are in a class and you don't feel comfortable there are chairs you can sit on and do the class. There are always fitness balls you can use. Classes that will be tough are Step and Pump, Kickboxing, Total Toning, and the Friday dance class. You can always take a break if you want to. Again no one is judging you there.

There is always a cardio class every afternoon. Their names are Circuit, Mountain, Treading, and Cardio Circuit. These classes are done in a group but they are done at your own pace. Push yourself for sure, but you will have no problems in any of these classes. Have people barfed? yeah, fallen off treadmills? yeah, but not because they were big or out of shape but because they pushed too hard.

The last class of the day is usually again a stretch or yoga or a pool class. If you're not comfortable doing anything or feel like a class is not for you, find Sharon or one of the other trainers, they will make accommodations for you. Don't let your size or current lack of exercise keep you from signing up. I used my size as a crutch for so long, I let years of my life slip by because I was afraid that I had let it slip too far to bring it back. Don't feel that way. If you are searching for an answer this place can point you towards that goal.

There are without a doubt a myriad of reasons to come or stay home. It is an expensive undertaking without a doubt. Is it worth it? I would not have done it without their help. Am I cured or over the hump? Not by a long shot. I have bad days, make horrendous food choices, daydream about pizza, hop off the treadmill when I should keep going. Am I better today than I was that first day I stepped into lobby? Yes way better, way, way better. I'm off all the meds I was on. I don't stop and rest when I'm walking around malls and casinos and airports. I play sports, jump and jog ( not high or fast mind you), and like life better.

So why all this? It's not to make you say I want to go to the Ridge. I love the place. Not everyone does. There's lots of information out there, plenty of reviews, and blogs. I have wanted to write this particular entry for one reason. I don't want anyone to think they are too big, too out of shape, or too sedentary to go to the resort. Don't use your size as an excuse for this. Maybe the roller coaster at Disney isn't the place for you, possibly you get anxious around other people, possibly your size restricts what you are comfortable doing. Do not let it stop you from coming to The Resort. It's not a viable excuse. If you're still apprehensive email me I will tell you when I will be there next and I will personally make sure you can do this. I will see that you are 100% comfortable. That's my promise to anyone who thinks they are too big for this.

Next blog is about my awesome weekend and the fact that the fabulous Ingrid Michaelson was riding around Madison in my she was not duct taped :) As always Peace and Big, Big Love, Jim

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,

Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.
Oh!Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee
Peter, Paul, and Mary

Wow, I love these pictures so much that I am giving it it's own blog entry. As you get to the zenith of the Camelback hike you come upon a currently dry hole called The Vortex. This is me climbing in and out of it. New experiences, things you never believed you could do, setting the bar higher, scaring the hell out of the guides; all in one morning hike at the Resort.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back In Madison

But time is short

And the road is long

In the blinking of an eye

Ah, that moment's gone

And when it's done

Win or lose

You always did your best

Cuz inside you knew...

(that) one shining moment you reached deep inside

One shining moment, you knew you were alive

David Barrett

As a fan of Maryland Terp football and the Washington Redskins, I have only one thing to say... thank heavens that college basketball got under way with midnight madness this past weekend. Only 150 days until March Madness and one shining moment.

I wanted to wrap up my most recent trip to the Ridge which I am now going to abbreviate as The Resort or BLR. Began in the 110's and ended with mornings in the 40's. Not a bad 7 week transition. It is not going to come as much of a surprise to anyone who reads this but give me the 110's any day. I like the warm, like sweating, and love being in shorts which is remarkable because I went a good 5-7 years without wearing them out of the house. Not that 40's in the morning and 70's in the afternoons was bad either. I did see some snow driving through the peaks of the Rockies.

Speaking of the Rockies,and this is not a picture of them, I found myself doing a very strange thing. Certainly something I had never done previously and never imagined silly thoughts like these would ever creep into my head. As I drove through the Rockies and stared out the window at these majestic mountains, do you know what entered my head? How would I attack these mountains, what looked like the most accessible path to the top, and Could I actually climb that sucker? Wow, what have I become?

Paige loves to stress how each of the hikes is a fitness hike. She's correct, but do not let her scare you into not bringing your camera. The sights are amazing and you will want to have a record of your time in this beautiful part of the world. The guides all have cameras to record your journey for the week ending dvd and they will listen to you when you ask them to stop for a moment.

This will be repetitive but it is so important. Do not be afraid to go on any of the hikes. If I can do this anyone can. There is enough guides to help you. You will never be holding others back!! It is part of the experience and part of pushing yourself. That's why everyone is there. You took the hardest step when you signed up. Don't baby yourself when you get there. I know, I did, and I used every excuse in my head to avoid doing these. Mostly because of the fear of the unknown, but don't let it hold you back, nothing you do at BLR will give you the sense of satisfaction that comes from standing on top of Camelback or climbing atop Piano Rock. That being said. Cathy and I are merely posing with the advanced hike sign. We all know our limitations :)

I want to talk a bit about the training staff. Some of you may be expecting a Bob and Jillian experience and I don't want you to be disappointed that the trainers at the Ridge don't feel the need to break you down, cuss at you, and make you cry. Will they push you? Of course they will make you work hard. They will make sure you show up to class. They will try to get you to do things you didn't know you could. They want you to succeed and they will give you the tools to do so. It is up to you however. I need to thank the trainers and all the fitness staff. It starts with the top of the fitness ladder at the Ridge and that is Paige. Congrats on winning the award from Spafinder, no doubt you earned it. This program is hers and she has made it so that it works for everyone willing to give it a go. Sharon is simply wonderful. I love her to death. She teaches, she consoles and she is there for you. She was there when I wanted to die a half mile into my first hike and she is there pushing me to increase my speed up the last 1/2 mile of the 4.5 stop sign hike now. I owe her an awful lot.

John and Micheline oversee the afternoon and morning portions of the workouts. They both are great at seeing that you adhere to why you are at the Ridge. Both have energy, both are in amazing shape, and both inspire me in their own ways. The instructors are also awesome Tiffany, with John and I in the picture, along with Robin, Shayla, and a now expanding group of others teach the way you would want to be taught. Tough, inspiring but with enough compassion that you do know they care. I want to bottle these people up and bring them home with me 'cause I struggle when they are not making me run faster on the treadmill, or catching 100's of medicine balls I throw to them doing sit-ups. I miss you guys already.

The "Campers" at the BLR. They come in every size, every fitness level, some are extremely self motivated, some need to be pushed extra hard, some used their life savings to book a week, some come for two months and don't bat an eye at what it costs. They come from every state in the Union, They come from the Far East, Africa, Europe, and a lot come from Canada. And every single one of them is at the Ridge for a reason that is right for them. No one is too skinny, although some may think they are :) None are too fat, or slow or old, or beat up. I have seen 100 lbs women throwing up from working hard. And I have seen 500lb men swimming laps around other campers. I have watched grandmothers run past 20 year olds heading up that mountain, and I have seen teenagers inspire their parents to work harder.

The campers will make you laugh and make you cry. You'll hear stories of their kids and their
families, and their pets. You will get to know these people. They will become your friends. You will struggle together, you will ache together, you will sweat together and each day you will look to see that they are back at it. When they are missing you will notice and be worried. When they are around they will inspire you and make you want to work harder for them. It is a community to like no other I have been a part of. It changes each week. The personality of the group is always different, but always good. It is the single most important aspect of your time there.

I just can not say enough about the love and friendships I see at the Resort. It's the unexpected bonus that you don't really know awaits you. You're part of a team, part of a group, and you're not sitting on your ass in front of a tv. You are living, and seeing new things and being a better person and right next to you is someone doing the exact same thing. Thank You to all of you. You continue to inspire me, make me proud, and help me understand my life. I miss you all.

Someone sent me a question about leaving campus for activities. Would I recommend it? Sure if you are there more than a week or two it is necessary for your sanity. Should you use it as a license to go crazy? That's up to you. But being at the Ridge is living in a cocoon and you will be expected to be a butterfly one day. Is there temptation out there? Of course, just like in real life. You don't have to run to Vegas. There are amazing hikes within a few hours. There is all sorts of local sports, amazing golf, and bike trails. Tuacahn is a beautiful theater with concerts and plays. There is shopping from cute and quaint to outlets within ten miles of the ridge. There are a handful of movie theaters as well. I think ten of us went to the movies together on this trip and it took all 18 of those other eyes staring at me to keep me from wandering into the popcorn line. But it worked.
I also want to thank the great people in the housekeeping department and the kitchen staff. Be prepared to tip these people when you leave, they earn it. I can't imagine how much sand the housekeepers vacuum up off my floor, or just how many towels the scoop and wash for me and everyday they smile and sing and say hello. The kitchen staff is wonderful. They prepare and serve wonderful healthy meals. If you have allergies or problems with certain foods they work with you. If you're not feeling well they will wrap up your food to go. And if you really can't stomach a particular meal let them know and they will find you an alternative. You will not go hungry if you eat the food they serve you, that I promise.

So we all know that Fitness Ridge has hopped into bed with The Biggest Loser. Will there be changes to the place? Of course, aesthetically the place is already changing with posters and new signs, and new t-shirts. Will the core of the program change. I do not think so. This program was built by the owners and they have too much invested to let the name of the place dictate the program. I think you will continue to find that camaraderie, that sense of purpose and caring that made the Ridge what it is today. It's a family and it feels like one when you are there. Was it a good decision to team up. Only time will tell. But I have an awful lot of faith in the management at the Ridge and I think they will continue to make it work for the campers.

So I am going to leave you with my favorite picture from this trip. A sweaty camper having just finished some sprint intervals getting a fist bump from a trainer. We're not always happy in the middle of those workouts but we always feel good at the end. And I need to again thank my main man at BLR at Fitness Ridge, my morning workout partner, my ear at the ridge, and my very good friend Eric Jackson. I feel like part of the family there and I have you to thank. Peace and Love, Jim

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Last Days

Well I know it wasn't you who held me down
Heaven knows it wasn't you who set me free
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key
But me, I'm already gone
And I'm feelin' strong
The Eagles

I finished up my 7 week run at the Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge on Friday and I will give a full wrap-up on my next entry. Today I wanted to tie up my last week at the Ridge. I feel like I didn't do as good a job posting food pictures on this trip, but wanted to show the french toast with peaches that was a breakfast. I will say this about the food, no one is going to like it all but most everyone is going to like most of it. And everyone likes that 1200 calories is delivered right to the place mat in front of them. The food is delicious and the rotation has changed dramatically since I began. You will get no complaints from me, except the onions`which are prolific.

Here's my group from my last hike on Thursday. We did Hidden Pinyon which includes scaling Piano Rock. I had been up to Piano rock before but not up the much steeper front path we took this time. Here we are in the pond from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I spoke of it in an earlier entry but damn I love hanging where the stars of my 2 favorite movies of all time spent some time.

Well here is why it is called Piano Rock. And Elton has nothing on me. Thankfully I thought better of the original plan that was going to be Michelle Pfeifer in the Fabulous Baker Boys.

You cant really get the true perspective here, but I was literally on the top of the mountain. I knew I had survived my final climb of this trip. I had conquered fears, not of heights, not of falling, but of being unable to do these hikes and my biggest fear which was holding back the others on the hike. I know other people have these fears, especially the last one but they always send enough guides, the group can not be more supportive, and you can go at your pace with no shame. Never skip a hike because you are afraid you will be too slow, you are only lying to yourself.

I'm not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling from those heights. This was way up. And the look on our guide Kami's face when she tried to brace me coming down off this rock was similar to the look of terror that you would see if the current President were allowed to dictate policy in Utah.
Dragged the Ridge General Manager Eric out on my last hike with me, and, of course, made him stand proudly next to the Biggest Loser sign.

My last lunch outing was at Applebee's. Paige tried a new approach in that she wanted us to choose healthy without the aid of a calorie list. It made picking easier, but I think I ended up slightly higher than the 400 calorie goal. And I didn't reach over to the next table and grab the leftover onion rings and ribs, even though the thought entered my mind.

Thanks to Sharon and her father-in-law I got my initiation into a fun game called pickleball. It's played on a shrunken tennis court with paddles and whiffle balls. It was real fun, although the lack of actual pickles was slightly disappointing. And as usual I was the sweatiest person around. I am about 3/4 done with my trip, spending the night in Des Moines with 5 hours left of driving in the morning. Beside the joy of getting home I get the added bonus of a 4pm sand volleyball game. I have a feeling that the sand in Madison is going to be way colder than the dunes in Utah. But I don't care it's certainly where I belong. Peace, Love, and Home, Jim

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lemon. Lemon. Orange

And it's a winding road
I've been walking for a long time
I still don't know
Where it goes
And it's a long way home
I've been searching for a long time
I still have hope
I'm gonna find my way home
Bonnie Sommerville

I spent a really fun afternoon last week playing tennis at Green Valley tennis academy. It is home of the Vic Braden tennis club and a swimming complex that is damn impressive. Got to hit a grocery cart full of balls with Jim from Omaha who played at Georgetown university back in the day. Again exercise while having fun, a constant theme :)

So I got talked into doing a hike called "slots" I wasn't quite sure what the hike entailed and my hopes that somehow this hike was up and down the aisles of slot machines at the Bellagio came to a halt when we arrived at our destination. I saw a short walk in and a big drop off.

Slots turned out to be a really cool hike and Paige has said that it is usually the guests favorite. It is a lot of climbing and a whole lot of up and down. You spend a good deal of time deciding where to take that next step. But you are rewarded with great views and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing this thing. Rae, Marissa and Karen on top of one of our summits.

Jim, looking particularly excited that I dragged him on his first off road hike. It didn't take him long to figure out the danger in the hike was being behind me going up. Because if I go down I am a bowling ball and the people behind me pins.

The moon setting in the morning sky.

A couple solo shirts including one of this week's birthday girl Marissa:

The entire slots expedition team posing before some Indian carvings which I may or may not have rubbed off with my sweaty butt pressed against the rock. Jamie, Marissa, me, Rae, Karen and Jim

The 7th week starts now and my body is in need of a little down time. 6-8 hours a day of exercise and these more advanced hikes have started to take their toll on my joints and these days are starting to wear on my mind as well. Reality awaits around the corner and it's wearing a parka. Peace, Love and Leaves, Jim