The background: I’ve always been athletic. As a teenager, I snowboarded, played soccer, basketball and water polo, and ran. I’ll admit I was the slowest on the cross-country team, a bit overweight and a frequent carb consumer.
I’ve always wanted to learn Turkish. (My dad is from Istanbul and I have family there.) In high school I took a Turkish class. The first thing I remember learning was “Ekmek var mı?” which means, “Is there any bread?” Little else stuck.
Now that I’m all grown up, I decided it was time to learn Turkish and drop a few pounds. With an app, a TV show and commitment, I found a way to do both.
My first effort: I tried a cross-fit class. It was too expensive and too cultish for me, but I didn’t want to weight-lift on my own. I tried listening to “Learn Turkish on Your Own” CDs, but it didn’t work. I felt like I would always be a little overweight, and unable to speak Turkish.
The solution: Then a fit friend recommended the Freeletics Bodyweight app by a German company. I downloaded it (in English). I also signed up for a beginning Turkish class at the Turkish American Society of Minnesota and started watching the Turkish romantic drama “Ezel” while doing the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.
The workout: The Freeletics app provides customized sessions that use your body weight, instead of any equipment, to target specific muscle groups (abs, core, glutes, upper body, legs or full body).
After a three- to five-minute warmup, you’re given a set or two of single exercises (pushups, burpees, squats) to practice the proper technique. Then you move on to interval training with a repetition of exercises such as Sphinx pushups, squats, jumps or plank leg lifts. With 166 exercises, there is a lot of variation in workout sessions. The app times you, encouraging you to keep track of progress and beat your personal best.
What happened first: I committed to four sessions a week, each of which typically took 45 to 60 minutes to complete. At first, I struggled to do a set of 10 burpees and 20 situps and was overjoyed when I managed five pushups.
What happened next: After two weeks, I got into the challenge of each workout. I even cut back on yoga to make time for Freeletics. During my workouts, I watched “Ezel” on my iPhone. The never-ending combination of burpees-situps-squats matched the endless cycle of love-jealousy-betrayal that pitted the “Ezel” characters against one another.
Eventually, I cut bread out of my diet and learned how to say “Ekmek yok,” which means, “There is no bread.” I also was able to turn off the English subtitles sometimes.
Where I am now: I’m 30 weeks into Freeletics and 50 episodes into “Ezel.” I have lost 20 pounds and my Turkish is improving. I feel much stronger, I run faster, and I also enjoy the rush I get from pushing myself to my physical limit. I am also addicted to a Turkish TV show.
Who Freeletics Bodyweight is for: People who are self-motivated. It helps if you also are interested in a dramatic, drawn-out TV series in another language.
Who it’s not for: People who need to work out in groups or at a gym and people who don’t like TV.
Details: Freeletics Bodyweight costs about $80 for a one-year subscription. The only other thing you’ll need is a good workout mat. Oh, and if you’re interested in “Ezel,” it’s available on Netflix.