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Triathlon (Aquabike) training

Saturday, March 27, 2010

So I'm registered for a local half-iron "Aquabike" event on July 11.

That's 1.2 mi (2000m) swimming in open water, followed by 56 mi (90 km) on a bike.

We won't get into the fact that I've never done a triathlon before, let alone the advisability of jumping into a half-iron. Or that I haven't done any chip- timed event before. It's all good, though, because all I want to do is finish.

I registered to scare myself into staying in shape. And boy, howdy! is it ever working as far as getting me to exercise. Because I'm finding out that the half-iron is actually kind of a big deal.

The training calendar I'm using was free and came from beginnertriathlete.com

It's designed for 20 weeks. I got a late start because I slacked off for what I thought was the first week and turned out to be the second week because I'd counted wrong, so I had to jump in on the third week of training... Good thing I've been doing spin class 2-3x/week and swimming 1000-1500m 2x/week all along.

Since I'm not going to be running (knee arthritis) I'm crossing out the running parts of the schedule and putting in my other activities like weight lifting and kayaking.

Even so, now the activity, especially the swimming, has kicked into high gear. This is what I've done so far this week:

Mon - OFF
Tue - Personal trainer kicking my butt lifting followed by 1 hrspinning
Wed - 2250 m of swimming (sprint intervals, pant pant)
Thu - 1 hr spin, 30 min lift, 1 hr spin
Fri - 2300 m of swimming (long & steady)

There was originally scheduled a group ride leaving from the local bike shop at 8am on Saturday (20 mi, 15mph) and I was planning on riding the 14 miles from my house to it, and the 14 miles home. They canceled it due to weather so instead I'll do an extended elliptical & lifting session in my basement.

I'm finding it sort of challenging to schedule the recommended trainings for the week around the available activities. I try to put the bike rides on Tuesday or Thursday (spin days) or Saturday (long outside ride day) and the swimming on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

This coming Sunday is the last kayak pool rolling session in Syracuse and after that Sundays will be available for biking (outside or a spin class) or swimming.

Speaking of the swimming, it's my weak link. Although I learned very young and swam recreationally for years, my stroke is really inefficient. I'm slow and I'm really tense. And now that I've lost all this fat and gained all this muscle, my buoyancy has really changed, as well.

I stumbled onto these videos over at beginnertriathlete.com and they really made sense:


Work less to swim better. Part one of this video series covers the philosophy of Total Immersion swimming and looks at some common freestyle swimming misconceptions.


Work less to swim better. Part two of this video series covers the principles of active streamlining to swim faster with less effort.


In this third part, Terry Laughlin discusses how to achieve an optimal freestyle stroke and what drills go into developing a good stroke.

They have a free downloadable "Easy Freestyle" book at the TI website:

So I tried it last night and really emphasized the relaxing and the glide just to see how it felt. I definitely found a difference in letting my head hang in the water and by the end of the 2300m it already felt so much more comfortable to try his method over what I've been doing. So I'm going to slow down my stroke and work on this kind of form and see how it goes.

I also found a local coach in this method so I'm going to investigate getting a few sessions with her to see if I can fix whatever I haven't picked up from the book and DVD I ordered at Amazon...

Easy Freestyle Swimming by Terry Laughlin

Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier

I hope the DVD and book have more information that what I've already gotten for free!

As far as the cycling, I think I'm in pretty good shape for that. I've got a lot more experience with distance riding than swimming - I used to ride 100-mile centuries in high school and college with my big brother and rode with the college team on their "easy" days - this is the same college team that Eric Heiden had been on a few years before I arrived at the school.

I've got a nice new ultra light racing bike and as soon as the weather warms up will be out on it. And I actually LIVE along the race route, so it's really easy for me to train on the exact course I'll be racing on. LOL

Based on how I did on the group ride last Saturday, I'm actually in better cycling shape than ever, thanks to the spinning. And I can say this without any doubt, because my old bike is the exact same one I bought in 1981 with babysitting money - the exact same (and only) bike I've ever owned, that I rode those centuries on and all those 20-mile training rides in college. And I've never been able to keep a pace like I did on Saturday, nor feel as fresh and ready to go again when it was over.

So that's what I've been up to, mostly. I am fortunate that my schedule is so flexible, with no one else to consider in my food and exercise plans. I can't imagine how people with families fit something like this in.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    I'm training for a tri, just did a duathlon yesterday - enjoyed your blog!

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BNSPIRD 5/4/2010 11:00AM

    I just found your blog and page by doing a search for total immersion swimming... and your page came up! WTG for training for a tri! I did my first about 3 years ago. I knew I wouldn't be able to just run, so decided to train for a tri... and loved it! My body didn't ever really hurt because of the cross training... and sitting in the hot tub after my swims! emoticon I was planning for some more the next year, then found out we were expecting twins, and had to stop everything! I was quite sad... but have been thinking about training for another this summer! I have been doing lots of running and found a trainer who teaches total immersion, so got to even take lessons, instead of just doing it on my own! Although... even doing it on my own was a complete difference! I'm trying to get her to teach my kids now, instead of regular swim lessons! Anyway... good luck with your training... when is your race?

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FISHING88 3/28/2010 4:12PM

    What a fun challenge to keep yourself in shape! You are doing a great job of researching and keeping up with the workouts. You will be well-prepared when your event comes. Enjoy!

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RAINBOWFALLS 3/28/2010 8:35AM

    Wow, you are on a great path. Best of luck to you.

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JCWATL 3/27/2010 11:40AM

    You ROCK! I am super impressed with your varied fitness achievements.

My mom grew up in Corning, NY and I know the bike rides in that area are tough and gorgeous.

If my mom hadn't moved to Atlanta you two would be peas in a pod! She passed on her love of fitness to me and I am sure you are doing the same for others!


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OTTAWABOUND 3/27/2010 11:13AM

    Great information. Thank you for posting it. And I wish you strength and good breathing rhythms as you push for your event.

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GRACEFULIFE 3/27/2010 10:58AM

    Wow, sounds awesome!

Can you drop in a comment here when you decide what you think of the books vs. videos? I'm pretty sure you have chosen some of the classic training materials for triathletes, so they probably won't disappoint, though I wouldn't be surprised if most of the same information was available on the Internets these days. Anyway I'm interested in triathlon, or maybe just duathlon like you are doing (oh, my crunchy knees on the way up the stairs after my plyo-ish workout last night). I've had decades off serious swimming now, and I don't think my freestyle was all that great back in the day anyway.

Also, your new bike is a time trial geometry bike, right? I'm interested to hear how well it works on group rides, since I've read they aren't so good in them. But if they are manageable, then I may still consider a tri bike for my next.

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LRUFAM 3/27/2010 10:02AM

    I did my first sprint triathlon three years ago.

Although I am a strong swimmer my mantra was "You don't win from the swim". Trust me I was closer to the bottom overall, but, what a great feeling to finish!

Good luck and have FUN!! emoticon emoticon

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 3/27/2010 8:19AM

    Sounds good!

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CARRIE1948 3/27/2010 7:45AM

    After Easter, let's think about cycling together on weekends. I will be sorting out a bike when I get back from CT and seeing my nephew

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How are Biggest Loser contestants doing, on maintenance?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Last autumn there was a "where are they now" Biggest Loser show that featured past contestants and caught up with how they're doing. Many said they'd gained some weight back.

In my latest Second Helping Online column I take a look at how much weight, over how long, and where they sort out according to various research definitions of "successful" maintenance.

The results just might surprise you!

Column here:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GRACEFULIFE 4/4/2010 1:06AM

    I didn't realize that Venuto had a blog post about The Biggest Loser:


I think he does a pretty good job by discussing pros and cons (for the English speaking world, not the participants) of the show. Here's the key part: "What’s most alarming to me is that because the show is judged on weight loss, not body composition, contestants are penalized for gaining muscle and actually rewarded for losing muscle. Think about that one for a while." Ahhh, Venuto, always winding up at the "don't lose weight, lose fat!" mantra. Also, the stories he dug up on what these people do to themselves to win are horrifying.

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ELISADEL 4/2/2010 5:36PM

    I really like the work that you do on researching how weight maintenance works. It's an area that deserves a lot more attention. Keep it up! :)

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AMBUDMAN 3/27/2010 10:08AM

    Very interesting!!

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GRACEFULIFE 3/27/2010 12:06AM

    I'm not very familiar with this show, so can you point me at where I can discover what "bells and whistles" with which these people are provided and for how long? I'm interested to know how many of the tools they are provided with during their participation they still have access to and how many are lost. It seems to me that losing access to gyms, trainers, higher quality diet, etc would easily lead to regain - regardless of education. Someone can be taught what healthy habits are, but if they don't actually gain the healthy habits and even more learn how to fit the healthy habits into their normal life, I'd almost expect some backsliding.

I'm also interested to know whether any data exists regarding maintenance vs. loss rate. You often hear that it's healthiest to lose slowly or that it's easier to keep off weight that is lost slowly. I'm interested to know if there is any real data to back up that assertion.

Personally, I suspect there is a correlation of successful maintenance vs. rate of loss in the last, say, three months - particularly under normal circumstances. If so, then perhaps one way to better lead people into successful maintenance would be to recommend decreasing rates of loss with reducing BMI - or with improvement of some other measure.

I really like your idea of "BMI under 30 = healthy". It's got that feel of "close enough" - it seems like it wouldn't make extremists on either side of the argument happy - a sure sign of a reasonable/moderate solution. I'd probably prefer a definition of "BMI under 30 or BF% below top of acceptable range" but you obviously have to deal with the data available.

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46SHADOW 3/26/2010 5:01PM

    read EDWARDS1311? blog today. the theory she was telling us was that new research says that if one was obese 1hour of cardio /daily is needed to maintain healthy body weight. This corresponds with my kinesiologist/setpoint theory. Good luck to us all.

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OTTAWABOUND 3/26/2010 4:46PM

    A very interesting and rather sobering breakdown of the numbers. Just reiterates how much I will need to stay conscious on a daily basis if I am to avoid regaining my weight.

Thanks for doing the research and presenting it so clearly.

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JAY75REY 3/26/2010 2:32PM

    enjoyed your insights on The Biggest Loser. Thanks for doing the critique and analysis of the concept of "success" in weight loss maintenance.

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STEVIECAT4 3/26/2010 9:34AM

    Looks like no matter what the incentive to maintain, it is very easy to let the pressure of even that make us over eat. We have simply just GOT to keep trying and to get it under control fast once we start falling off the wagon. But, this is much easier said than done or else none of us would have put back all of our weight 3, 4 and 5 times or more. Seems like the only thing I know how to maintain is the knowledge of how to diet.

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TRABOLD8567 3/26/2010 7:26AM

  Thanks for sharing all the data! Very interesting!

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DDOORN 3/26/2010 6:26AM

    Ah...as I suspected...even with all the bells & whistles at their disposal, the silver lining is just as elusive for these folks as anyone else struggling to maintain...!


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SUNQWEEN21 3/25/2010 10:54PM

    I read the article you linked too. Very well written with some great ideas.

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Join or Support us in the Tour de Cure?

Monday, March 22, 2010

There is a diabetes fund raising ride coming up on June 26 in Watkins Glen, NY that I've registered for:

If you live in the area and would like to ride in it too, I've created a team for us Spark people. See the red "Join My Team" button.

If you don't live nearby or the date doesn't work for you, would you consider donating a small amount to support diabetes research? Even five dollars would be awesome!
(See the red "support me" button)

Here's the team page listing current members:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JAY75REY 3/22/2010 3:53PM

    Hi...I'm glad you're supporting the Tour de Cure. A local friend in the Sacramento area usually gets involved with it here so I donate through her, but if she doesn't ask I'll keep you in mind! have fun at the event, too!

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STEVIECAT4 3/22/2010 3:27PM

    Done! I went online and made a donation. Wish it could have been more, but I wanted to at least do something.

Good luck and thank you for doing this.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gearing up for that triathlon swim-bike coming up in July...

Started the swim workouts on Wednesday, and you know what? Going 100% in intervals kicked my @$$ big-time. At first I felt bad about that because it made me realize how far I have to go. Then a light went off in my head - if just a lap of freestyle all-out killed me like that, then I have hit the MOTHER LODE of calorie-burning. Because even spinning doesn't wipe me like that.

So, BRING IT ON, baby! I am thrilled to have found something that will work me so hard in a short period of time.

And on the cycling front, I did my first outdoor ride this morning with the local bike shop "women's" ride (20 miles, ~15mph) and did it on my old Peugeot U-O9 which is steel and weighs half a ton. And aside from falling over THREE times because I'm still not used to stopping in the clip-in pedals, it was too slow and too short.

I could have gone faster, and I could have gone farther. I think I'm ready for their Tuesday night 30-mile rides (with -gasp- MEN! LOL) www.genevabikes.com/new/news.html

Afterward I went into the bike store where we'd met and dropped lots of ca$h: leg warmers, a gore-tex jacket, new lycra shorts (I'm shrinking out of the current ones), and a NEW BIKE.

I'll shower, take a nap with the kitties, and then I think I'll go back out again this afternoon and see how it goes. This new ride is very very very light and sweet.

I'll continue to train on the old heavy bike since it's good practice, and possibly start commuting the 15 miles each way to work on it. I've got a rack and panniers so I could even do my shopping if I need to.


UPDATE: Here are pictures of me on the old bike on Saturday taken by the ride leader and employee at the shop, Suzanne:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CCKELLY3 3/25/2010 5:40AM

    wow, you're a step ahead of me on water and now land, too! LOL. I'm waiting for the bike I ordered to come in sometime this week or next. Not that it's anything compared to the beauty you got. But I'll just be happy if I can ride it and sit later...had issues long time ago, could never find a seat that worked for me. So we'll have to swap war wound stories sometime soon. Let me know when you'll be out Rochester way :)

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STEVIECAT4 3/22/2010 3:21PM

    The bike is GORGEOUS!!!!

You are the epitome of success! Congratulations!!!

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FISHING88 3/21/2010 2:22PM

    Wishing you the best as you train and go for your goal in the triathlon! What a fun excuse to get a new bike and gear!

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WALKWITME 3/21/2010 2:17PM

    emoticon still making Strides !

Hmmm! Go Figure knew you were up to something Miss Skinny Minnie !

Pedal right on to Va...lol

That way I can Give you A Great Big Hug in person.

emoticon emoticon

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S318830 3/21/2010 10:36AM

    Oh man! I have total bike envy! I have a mountain bike from 10 years ago that I put road tires on. Still heavy and clunky but I can't justify the cost to get a new bike since I'm not biking enough.

I love that your reaction to the difficult swimming workout was elation that you found something that kicks your butt. I get so tired of seeing people at the gym not putting out any real effort.

Woo hoo on the new shorts!

And very cool on moving up to the Tuesday night coed ride. That's awesome. My local bike shop has similar rides, but I can't do them because of the kids and my schedule. I can't wait til the kids are older and more self-sufficient.

Comment edited on: 3/21/2010 10:38:33 AM

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GRACEFULIFE 3/21/2010 10:22AM

    Awesome. I'd love to eventually do a tri, and I lust over the sweet trials bikes. Although I think not until recently would it have been comfortable to get into their position, and it will only get more comfortable...

Also, kickass about the swimming. Certainly triathlon improves your general fitness a lot due to the variety!

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CARRIE1948 3/21/2010 8:08AM

    Good for you. You really are turning into one bad ass

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DDOORN 3/21/2010 1:19AM

    My son has a Giant and has been happy with it. I rented a Giant last summer when I rode 45 miles down the Kal-Haven trail in MI and found it to be a great bike. I went with the Specialized as it was my local bike shop's brand and recommendation...along with a buddy of mine who owns THREE of 'em...!

Had an awesome ride of around 24 miles today myself...reclaiming my bicycle legs and posterior...lol!

Your Giant looks very similarly designed to my Specialized.


Comment edited on: 3/21/2010 1:21:42 AM

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GEE-KNEE 3/20/2010 6:51PM

    Good luck on that triathlon. That sounds like fun. I have a beach cruisers, and 15 miles an hour seems so fast to me. I think if I peddled with all my might, i can get up to maybe 12 mph. I guess that is why it is called a beach cruiser, it's made for cruising.

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LALMEIDA 3/20/2010 6:22PM


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DOLLIE6 3/20/2010 2:11PM

    emoticon Look at her go!! Good for you.

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4MYBOYSANDSELF 3/20/2010 1:13PM

    Awesome! Way to go!

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GRANDMAAMIE 3/20/2010 12:59PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

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How is weight maintenance even defined?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

...turns out there isn't a universal definition out there, even for the scientists studying it!


Next column: taking a look at the past Biggest Loser contestants to see how they've done on maintenance.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GRACEFULIFE 3/17/2010 11:05AM

    I don't like the idea that NWCR loosened the standard. I mean, I'm all for even moderate losses that are significant in terms of health benefits, but lowering standards to meet what people achieve doesn't seem like a good answer. And as far as I'm concerned, losses have little to do with maintenance. But me, I'm not really a "yay let me celebrate what I've done so far" sort of person, I'm more of a "I'm getting to X by hook or by crook" person (even if it often takes longer than initially expected or hoped for).

I'm going to take the Hacker's Diet standpoint and say that maintenance should just be for stabilization. At that rate it's more useful to say "body weight varies by no more than 5%". If one exceeds 105% of goal weight (or goes below 95%) then one has not successfully maintained. If you exceed but then lose it again, then you failed at maintenance but successfully lost again. Yes, I just pulled a number from the air but I kind of like 5% because it gives the smallest people what feels like a reasonable margin to me (100lb person gets +/-5lb). Also, I don't especially like the "one year", I like the "forever". Obviously a study will have to be over a certain period of time, but a year of maintenance, while perhaps correlated in the aggregate to likelihood of longer-term success, is useless if in an individual case the weight is then immediately regained over, say, a 3-month period. That's not successful maintenance.

Defining goal weight is a bit of a trick, but then that's a discussion for elsewhere.

For me, though, maintenance may be measured with BF% rather than weight or BMI (since I hope to lose down to a BF%). However I could see a definition based on weight being useful in the future also, if at some point I become less able to maintain my fitness, or as I age. I could also see the lower sensitivity of BF% making this less useful, so we will see. Let's put it this way, if I could gain 5lb of muscle I wouldn't turn it down. I wrote a long rant here on BMI before but deleted it...

Academically, I think terms should be fairly precise, and "loss" should not be confused with "maintenance". The loss-maintenance confusion is automatic in any definition that includes "keeping off x% or Xlb of starting body weight", and that doesn't strike me as a useful universal measure. So a term like "weight loss maintenance" seems a bit unsure of its meaning to me.

I guess I don't really like any of the cited measures, though the "within 5 lbs of goal" one is close. That one does not include one of the two basic parameters "The amount of weight lost" - which is good since I think none should.

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LEELYNN2 3/17/2010 9:39AM

    wow good stuff! I've been working toward the "within 5 lbs" goal for the last year and will keep up that momentum, but I never even thought to ask how other people define it.

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DDOORN 3/16/2010 9:59PM

    I'm betting with all the props pulled out from under those Biggest Loser folks don't fare so well afterwards...their set up is so artificial and lacking in the reality of day-to-day life!

Looking forward to what you've dug up! :-)


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    I take it One day at a time - the same way I lost the weight.

For me the defining is in how my jeans fit!

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JAY75REY 3/16/2010 4:07PM

    I liked your article on maintenance; very informative.

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1_AMAZING_WOMAN 3/16/2010 3:33PM

    I think what Rena says is very true. However I would like to elaborate on that. There are people who reach goal and APPEAR to remain thin, but aren't exercising to any great extent, and over the years actually lose muscle and gain fat. Their weight may stay the same on the scale, but their clothes get tighter. They are thin/fat. Looks ok, but as the years go by their metabolism gets slower and slower due to the muscle loss, and eventually they will gain weight on few calories - won't be able to stop the weight gain, unless and until they exercise and build muscle to boost their metabolism back up.


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RENA1965 3/16/2010 2:46PM

    Hi 4A,
I have a buffer zone I have a max high weight and low weight.. If my weight is to high in the morning when I weigh in no extra food I eat my basic food- if I am too low I eat more.. I am now up around the 2000 calories- we have to be active to do this.. I weight train 3 times a week and powerwalk my resthome circit of clients... I go for slow gentle swings on the scales..
I also watch which foods I can use as extras- fatty food makes the scales smack me in the chops.. I can better eat a little sweet now and again it burns off easier than heavy fatty food..
I eat to the high side the days I exercise hard and eat to the low end when not doing the exercise to warrant eating extra..
When on holiday I have to be careful I am out walking each day- or am down around 1500 calories in the lossing phase.. I have lost 176lbs and kept it off 3 years..
Good luck..

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