Friday, May 17, 2013
It would have been 608 days with Thursday's spin. Instead, at the time I chose to make my spin, just as it finished and went to submit, SP took a critical dump. Next thing I knew, the status page was saying it would be around 4 hours for them to get it back up. Didn't check before leaving work, didn't check from my phone, and didn't get home until after midnight ... resulting in no Thursday spin.
End of SparkStreak ... and really what I feel is a sense of relief.
The SparkStreak is broken, through no real fault of my own. I was logged on. I did hit Spin. Now that it is broken, I have no need or desire to start it back up again. In fact, I'm perfectly content to let the water tracking one die off as well. (Mind you, I ~ALWAYS~ drink 8-16 glasses of water. The streak isn't really whether I drank them -- it's whether I tracked that I drank them. And it doesn't block going back days and tracking to get the streak back.)
I'm free of feeling like I ~need~ to click Spin every day.
Then again, I've already been migrating away from SP in a number of ways. Somehow keeping that SparkStreak and the water one going had become more a ritual than a "healthy habit". I generally stay logged on both at work and home. In fact, SP tends to log me off more often than I've ever logged myself off. In fact, I think I only ever logged off once ... when some goofup with cookies resulted in my being logged into someone else's account.
But the online time spent on SP easily starts to take over. And underlying that takeover was a very simple obsession with keeping a pointless (to me, at this time) SparkStreak alive. I don't need SparkPoints. I realized that a while back, after months of working hours daily to get 100+ points. (It's not as hard as you'd think. I don't have to actually make a recipe to get the points, just click a button. I don't have to read an article, just click a button. The quizzes probably took me the longest.) Even after I recognized that I really didn't need to spend that time that way, I still spun that wheel daily because I couldn't pick a good point to say "No more."
I'm doing my food tracking in Living Cookbook - which is a recipe, ingredient, inventory, menu planner, and tracker software all in one. I track my weights workouts with JEFit Pro, which is an app on my Android phone. I track my cardio there as well, but SP has been my fallback to get total calorie burn .... so I manually copy over data every day. Finding an alternative has been on my mind, and one option I keep coming back to is a spreadsheet in Google Docs. Simple enough and I could access it on my phone at the gym.
Which basically brings me to the fact that the ONLY reason I'm still here on SP, trying to be active at all, is ... you fellow Sparkers. Community is what really makes the difference. All the rest, the information, the trackers, the streaks, the points, the goodies ... they're just icing on the cake that is a community of individuals who generally have a common purpose:
Living a healthier life (and losing weight and getting fit in the process)
I'm still going to be showing up for now. I'm just not going to spin that wheel or track my water. Because I don't need those streaks to say 600+ to know I'm active and healthy and maintaining some good habits. And I don't need those streaks to say:
Let's do it s!
Edit to add
The Rave Run was fun, but being the first time they'd done it, there were issues. They filled up completely for the Saturday run and created a Friday one for the spillover (which is why I got the Friday thing confused for a while).
There were 20,000 registered runners. Many of us were unable to get to the packet pickups on earlier days due to location and time, so the line was horrendous to do so. In fact, it and other things added up to the starting time being delayed, and delayed, and delayed. Over half an hour.
Here was an early look at the crowd with the starting gate in the distance. This was over an hour before the scheduled start time, and most people were spread out in an area behind me or still working on getting their packets.
An hour later, as the starting time approached then passed, I took multiple pictures turning a bit each time trying to capture the sheer mass of people, but bear in mind this is night and everyone is wearing lights. (Only uploading three of the six or seven.)
I did like this picture. It looks like a carnival ride.
What is it? A lit up hula hoop being held up by someone very close to me.
Once they finally got people going, their corral system pretty predictably collapsed. (They started with the fastest corral, but everyone was so eager to go that the fencing between got pushed sideways and people just crammed in and ahead.)
Even worse ... imagine 20,000 people, even very spread out over the whole length of the course, finishing here:
That's right ... a Rave tunnel, at best allowing about 10 wide, probably less, that most people stopped to take pictures in. MAJOR traffic jam.
To top that off, once we got out of that, the actual rave was in a build that required we cross the route through those still running. To leave requires crossing the route through those still running.
I'm sure they'll do better next year. It WAS a very cool concept. It WAS obviously very popular, even if a good percentage were more about the rave than the run.
Oh, the only other thing I didn't mention -- the "track". Most of this was run on a dirt track through the fields that are part of our county fairgrounds. A short portion at the end brought us onto the paved main area. This was run at night, in the dark, with mostly rave style lighting. Forget running for best time. The important thing was stepping carefully to avoid twisting an ankle on a loose clod. (Any running / jogging meant going around people, which often meant getting into the less flattened grass.)
I thought I started my watch at the start, only to discover at the end that it only went into "Pending" mode and never started. So I have no idea how long I took. I'm going to look for a race that is timed and smooth. (I'm thinking the Packard Summer Scamper ... the one that takes me over an hour to get to, but runs through Stanford University.) Right now I don't know what my 5k time is like. I did throw in periodic jogging and felt I could have done more if I'd trusted my footing more.
Ending with two final pictures. These are just random shots taken with my phone.
It was a wet winter, so the cacti in front of a nearby business have been gorgeously covered with blooms.
On Google+ there are groups that do photography themes. I took this one of the stairs at work to post, and really liked the result. Shrunk like this, it's easy to mistake for the keys on a piano keyboard.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
As I set my goal to do, I started tracking again as of 4 May. I am using a software called Living Cookbook rather than SP. The key reason for that is the software does a bit more including kitchen inventory (helping me keep track of what I have and what recipes will work from that) and pricing (I record what ingredients costs when I buy them, and it gives a cost for recipes or quantities of the ingredient.)
I haven't yet met my goal of bringing my calories down to 2050 so I can get back to losing. Instead, as I mentioned in one of my feed statuses, I've been eating over my maintenance range by around 600 calories (at a guesstimate).
Now, one week later, I thought it was interesting to look at the numbers.
My weight has bounced up and down, all below my "hard cap" of 180, but too close for comfort. End result? No change. Meanwhile, my calories daily have averaged 3140.
... DATE ....... WEIGHT ......... ATE
5/4/13 Sa ...... 178.0 .......... 2817
5/5/13 Su ...... 177.5 .......... 3278
5/6/13 M ....... 178.5 .......... 3097
5/7/13 Tu ...... 178.5 .......... 3029
5/8/13 W ....... 178.5 .......... 3547
5/9/13 Th ...... 179.5 .......... 3477
5/10/13 F ...... 179.0 .......... 2738
5/11/13 Sa ,...178.0
Given those numbers, I'm actually not sure I'm going to need to drop all the way to 2050 calories, but for now I'm not changing that goal so much as moving toward it progressively rather than abruptly.
One thing about tracking with the software that has been a little more challenging is that I do it at the end of the day, when it is too late to change what I've eaten. It is built to be a menu planner, and as I get the inventory set up and begin planning the main meals, it will sort that out.
On the flip side, I knew before I tracked which of those days were going to be highest and lowest. I just didn't know what the number would end up being. I also knew and know that I've been eating too much. Something like string cheese in the morning, I've been eating two sticks instead of one ... for no obvious reason I can think of. I think maybe I started that to boost my protein, but with my protein over 100 all but one of those days, that's not really an issue.
In fact, nutrients are all doing pretty well. Averaged over the seven days, all the nutrients I pay attention to were well within acceptable ranges (not too high, not too low). Even with calories higher, my sodium averaged 2320mg and my fiber averaged 27g.
Feels so good to get back to tracking. It is a bit of work, but I love having those kinds of numbers in review.
My Rave Run 5k is tonight. I don't know how well it is set up for speed (the Color Me Rad run wasn't, but the Firefly Run was). I am going to be throwing in some jogging here and there, which I've done on the Adventure Runs, and just see how it works out.
In the meantime, I'd better go eat then head grocery shopping, and get a few chores done. Ah the joys of a Saturday.
Have a most marvelous day!
Thursday, May 02, 2013
It is May. (Yes, you MAY have already known that.) Today is May Day / Mayday, which to my memory was often pictured with a maypole, girls in spring dresses and flowered crowns dancing and weaving ribbons around it. Not that I ever actually saw anyone DO that.
Some fun little May factoids about me. My middle name is May. I've always liked it, as well as how it flows with Jennifer. In fact, I often sign off things as Jennifer May and fill that in as my first name rather than put M. as the initial. I've also been called Jenny May in the past, including in a song written by my grandmother when I was a newborn, though these days I do my best to discourage people shortening my name to Jen or Jenny or Jenni or Jenn.
I was given my middle name in honor of my great-great-grandmother, Jessie May. (Amusingly, though it had nothing to do with the choice in names, I was born on May Lane. I was not, however, born in the month of May. That was reserved for one of my brothers, who just happened to be born on Mother's Day that year.)
I like the word "may" as well. What comes to mind whenever I hear it is a child asking "Mom, can I go outside and play?" and the mother correcting his grammar with "May I ..."
The word "can" was used to imply physical ability to perform an action. I can change my habits. I can get stronger and more able. The word "may" was used when requesting permission or denoting that permission was granted. May I use your pen for a moment? The doctor said I may perform all my normal activities.
"Yes, I may" means I have the ability and the willingness, even if it is not quite as committed and certain as "Yes, I will."
I may be able to do an unassisted pull-up by the end of the year if I work hard at it. I may change my eating habits to include more lean protein and less pasta. I may change my schedule to get to sleep by 11:30 pm. Those have always been things I *can* do, but by saying I may, I put them more into the realm of planning, ideas of what I want to actually do, not just what I am capable of.
I might (past tense of may) have been slacking more than I planned during April. Today, for the first day in a while, I chose to walk from work to a light rail station rather than wait for and catch one of the close buses. This was part of why I had to take a mental breather. I'd gotten so burned out on feeling like I had to get all these cardio minutes that I was doing 13-35 minutes of walking before and after work many days out of a sense of obligation rather than enjoyment of the activity.
Today was a return to doing it simply because I enjoy walking. The weather certainly helped. We had a beautiful spring day (predicted high was 88F, but I don't get out into it until around 5:30 pm so it is a little cooler then.) Perfectly comfortable for walking.
I'm going to keep walking when I want to, but not tracking it. The only time I'll track my walks is when I head out to the track or make a deliberate effort to manage my speed and distance and time.
Speaking of tracking ...
I've been sampling alternatives. I already track during my workout using JEFit Pro, but I never really liked the way their website works. That means I use the phone during my workout, then come home and copy data to SP then copy the calories burned to my spreadsheet. The last few days I've tried to track my workouts on Bodybuilding.com. I do NOT like that at all; I find it painful to navigate. I'm not particularly keen about SP's fitness tracker either, but at least I eventually got everything I do added to the Favorites page and it is just a chore of scrolling up and down to find what I want to track.
What I'm actually leaning most toward is building my own spreadsheet tracking method, something that allows me to keep ALL the data I want in one place. (Calories is not the only thing I care about. I want to see my progress in areas like time, resistance setting, speed, incline setting, distance, HR range, or whatever I feel is most useful for a particular exercise.) If I do it right, I might even be able to make a simple version I can access on my phone during my workout to enter the data, then a more complex one I can simply copy that to once I'm home. Simplifying like that would make my inner geek squee.
Food tracking I haven't been doing, but starting Saturday I plan to get a lot of my entered data about nutrition copied over to my Living Cookbook software and begin tracking there. That was always the plan, but for the past year and a half I had been focused on getting as many SparkPoints as possible ... and each food tracked earns points, as did verifying nutrition info. Now that I took a break, I'm finding I don't want to get back into that pattern. I do, however, want to track what I eat, get myself back down to 2000-2100 calories daily, -and- get closer to a point where I track my kitchen inventory and plan meals based on what I have and what I put on a shopping list.
Those tracking changes, in fact, are my biggest goal for May.
And, yes, it's time for some monthly goals again. I'm ready.
1) Track all my food, meals and snacks, starting Saturday, 4 May, getting back to 100% tracking daily. Plan is to do this in Living Cookbook, but if that doesn't go well, fall back to SP's tracker rather than not track.
2) Bring my average daily calories down to 2050 daily. (I calculated this to include a moderate deficit and allow for my actual calorie burn. I've updated my goals a little on SP, but I'm setting this number myself and will adjust next month if needed.)
3) Decide how I'm going to keep tracking my workouts to make it both as simple and detailed as possible. Ideally, eliminate the duplicate tracking as much as possible.
4) Get back to writing. I did spend 30 minutes one night in April working on my novel, but I'm realizing I have other ideas percolating that are distracting me. My plan for May is to start multiple documents and get those ideas out of my head for later consideration (after all, I'll need a new novel to work on when November 2013 gets here) so I can get back to Dev and his dreams of death.
5) Continue expanding my social activities, but make sure to include very deliberate refresh time. (I'm a natural introvert / loner who recharges on solitude, so the more social I am, the more critical that away time becomes.)
6) Be more active in a couple of my Spark Teams and with my SparkFriends while keeping the time spent reasonable.
That should be enough.
Yes, I left weight out of it completely. My primary goal is to not hit / go over 180. Given the way my body responds, I rather expect to see adding a deficit back in start my weight back downward - but that is very deliberately not something I'm looking for.
I'll end with a few fun pics.
Dead Puppies aren't much fun -- Buster making absolutely sure there is no way I could sneak out Saturday without walking him. ((Haha, whoops. I cropped it without realizing that means you can't see that he's lying right in my open door.))
Flower that intrigued me more by its leaves than the flowers. The first picture includes the flowers (little yellow ones at the top of a long stem). The second is a closer in look at the leafy portion of the plant.
I don't know how easy he is to see, but this crow put me in mind of a little kid walking along a track saying "chugga chugga woo woo". He was moving fast, so it was a bit hard to keep him in the picture.
And ending with a peek at the creek while out walking the trail.
Have a MARVELOUS MAY!
Monday, April 29, 2013
I've been slacking for over a month now on food, eating more than I should, eating a lot more sweets than I need, being really lazy about cooking anything. On Friday I got a wakeup call of sorts.
See ... I am definitely a food lover. Not a food lover in the sense that I feel that gives me an excuse to eat anything and everything in absurd quantities. No, a food lover in the idea of the sensory experience. Food can appeal to all our senses.
Obviously we taste it, the keynotes there being sweet (oh, yes), sour (um, not so much), salty (okay if I need sodium), and bitter (gak, ew, ptoooie!). Your taste experience may vary, of course.
We certainly smell it. In fact, without our sense of smell, our taste buds alone don't tell us much about a food's flavor. A whiff can make all the difference between a sudden onset of hunger or a complete loss of appetite.
We absolutely enjoy the visual aspect. I think one of my absolute favorites in this past year was a "flourless chocolate dome" at P.F. Chang's. The presentation is this smooth dark chocolate half-sphere on a white plate, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries artfully scattered around, and a drizzle of bright red sauce. Gorgeous. Almost too beautiful to eat and sully the appearance.
Texture (touch) is important. Improperly mixed foods with chunks or a grainy texture are a put-off while crisp raw vegetables are a delight.
Texture also plays into sound, with those crisp raw vegetables crunching. Some people find some sounds immensely irritating, such as slurping soup or masticating with the mouth open, but other sounds are a natural part of the eating process. Try eating any sort of cracker, chip, or nut without any crunch and it won't feel right.
The wakeup call I got Friday was this. I went to a social gathering at a local coffee shop with visions of being something special (compared to a Starbuck's, for example). I spent almost $20 on a hot chocolate, a spinach quiche and a side salad, and a chocolate eclair. I expected, for that price, some real quality food. I got a semi-soggy quiche I mostly finished off because I'd come directly from the gym and needed to eat, a salad that was overly drowned in a vinaigrette that I didn't bother with, a hot chocolate that I could have made myself with a packet and hot water, and an eclair I ate less than half of. I love GOOD chocolate. This was not. It was thin and barely notable. The custard was thick, but bland. The pastry was not light and airy.
I've been less satisfied with food lately. As a food lover, when the food is less satisfying, there's a bad tendency to have more as if that will make up for the lack. In truth, more mediocre chocolate is not going to be satisfying if some mediocre chocolate was not.
I have absolutely zero intention of ever going obsessive about clean eating. That is not the lifestyle I want. That means I don't expect to ever get down to 8% body fat and enter a figure (or even bikini) competition. Which is fine because that has never been my goal.
That does not mean I want to eat poorly made trash pretending to be food, stuffing two or three times as much in my mouth hoping a few more bites will satisfy the food lover in me.
I want food that satisfies the food lover from bite one, the kind that makes me close my eyes, let it rest on my tongue, and savor. I do that with my protein shakes. It took me weeks to find the "perfect" combinations, but every time I have one I delight in the smooth, the chill, the fruity flavors.
So I'm back on track as of today with being picky about the food I eat. (Next ... I just need to learn how to cook steaks properly. I love a properly seared medium rare steak, but so completely fail at cooking it right myself.)
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I said this in my previous blog, but wanted to expand on it more: "I do strength training for strong muscles and healthy joints, ligaments, and tendons."
I rarely do things for just one reason. I love when I can live the cliche “two birds with one stone” and get a single action to have multiple benefits. Strength training, particularly in the form of weight training, gives me the ability to do that.
A few months ago, I read a BodyBuilding.com article that was about common lifting terms. In the way they defined the term “bodybuilding”, one thing stood out to me:
“... anyone who exercises with an emphasis on aesthetics ...”
Aesthetics -- the look, the appearance, having to do with being visually appealing.
The goal isn’t to lift the most weight. The goal isn’t to be the most physically fit and capable. The goal is to be able to pose, showing off a body that has more or less defined muscle. The different categories (bikini, figure, physique) are often differentiated by the amount of body fat
That is certainly not my emphasis. I actually find the look of competitive bodybuilders rather unappealing, especially at the physique level. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for sure.
A little side jaunt related to the physique look in bodybuilding -- the most musculature focused appearance in the various competitions. We often hear that women don’t have to worry (normally) about getting bulging muscles. We also hear the occasional “she must use steroids” comments, which I don’t think are fair in many cases. There’s one other factor that prevents us from getting that look without very deliberate intent (male or female, in fact).
No matter how predisposed to developing muscles easily we are, that particular look requires an extreme loss of body fat. When we see a chest where the grooves (striations) in the pectoral muscles are visible, we’re likely looking at a man with less than 5% body fat and a woman with less than 10%. No amount of weight training alone gets that result.
Something I really hadn’t understood before, but those competitors don’t look like that all the time. It would be immensely damaging to their health to stay at such low extremes consistently, so it is usually done in a way that is timed for the show(s). Most go through a cycle of bulking (eating more while heavily working the muscles) and cutting (very strict diets to eliminate body fat and a lot more cardio). There are then techniques to eliminate as much water as possible right before a show to maximize the visibility as well as the use of tanning/bronzing products, body hair removal, an entire process involved in getting “the look” that has very little to do with lifting weight.
This is why I can talk about how much I love seeing my bicep or tricep or calf without having the slightest bit of concern about my genetic predisposition for muscle development leading me to look unnaturally bulked up.
Back to strength training. That definition of bodybuilding, the “emphasis on aesthetics” made me think about the other reasons for strength training such as raw strength.
A different sport that focuses on strength training is weightlifting, specifically the Olympic sport, and the closely related powerlifting. The emphasis is not on appearance; it is on the physical conditioning to perform a particular set of lifts with proper form while maximizing the amount lifted through development of raw strength.
Closer, but again not my emphasis. I don’t honestly care if I never out-lift others. I’m not trying to eventually bench press 400 pounds or barbell squat 900 pounds. I can find numbers like that (or even half that) impressive, but it’s too much like watching the circus strongman. I don’t have any personal desire to be that strong. I would add that when watching others at the gym, I’m far more impressed by someone with superior form and grace than someone who lifts the heaviest possible weights -- and that rubs off on me as being what I want.
Another aspect / focus of weight training is fitness. This comes up in fitness tests, such as crunches or pullups or pushups or squats either to exhaustion or as many as possible in a minute. There are bodybuilding competitions that have a fitness focus in addition to the level (bikini, figure, physique). Some activities like Cross-fit or runs that include an obstacle element might fall into this category as well.
This is definitely a part of my reasons for doing strength training, though it doesn’t seem to be my emphasis. I find I use fitness tests more as a general guideline for my progress rather than as an ultimate goal I’m striving for. I’ve made goals in the past that were things like doing a full military pushup, but didn’t immediately turn around and make the next goal to do some standard number that would put me in an average fitness range.
Yet another aspect are the benefits when losing weight. It can tone body areas, improve the metabolism, and slow the burning of muscle tissue that can happen on a calorie deficit.
None of these has a sport involved with them as a focus. Instead, they are more the motivation we often find in articles here and on other sites talking about weight loss and encouraging people to do strength training in addition to their cardio and reduced calorie intake.
I personally tend to look on all of these as beneficial side-effects (going back to the “two birds with one stone” concept - it is very cool to know I’m getting this result too, but I don’t do strength training hoping for this result.
Next are the “anti-aging” effects. The weight stresses help improve bone density, which can prevent or delay or slow diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis or reduce the severity of the symptoms. Full range motion moves lead to more limber joints, less stiffness, and encourages our body to keep our tendons and ligaments in good repair. Much of physical therapy after injuries is made up of variations on strength training because of its ability to target weaker points to help them become stronger. Healthy knees depend on strong quads, hamstrings, and calves that work with each other.
This is definitely important and comes closest to matching my own stated emphasis. I am 44, after all. I may be in good condition, but I won’t stay that way if I don’t put effort into it. (I compare it to a car. As a car starts getting older, how well it continues to run often has a lot to do with the level of maintenance done earlier. Skimping on fuel and spark plugs and oil changes and other work when it is newer may not show ill effects until years later, when it is too late to do more than try to keep up with the needed repairs.
So, really, there’s quite a number of different things we can make our focus or emphasis when we turn to strength training or weight trainin. (For the record, strength training tends to include all the variations that can provide resistance - body weight, elastic bands, pilates rings, water resistance, etc. Weight training is a sub-category of strength training that uses weighted objects such as dumbbells, barbells, stones, jugs of water, and more.)
We each individually pick which of these appeal to us and nothing says our focus or emphasis can’t change later.
Defining my own at the current moment:
1) The health of my musculoskeletal system.
2) Symmetry / balance of muscular strength.
3) Avoiding and preventing injury.
But guess what? I like the toning, I like the fitness, I like getting stronger, I do like the basic look of the muscles, I like having more muscle rather than less, I like my metabolism being normal to fast. I'm killing a dozen birds with one stone.
What my chosen emphases lead to is a different approach to weight lifting routines than someone else. For me, proper form and ability to do a lift without causing pain or injury trumps lifting heavier weight and/or doing the “best” exercise according to some random Top 10 list. If I don’t yet have the strength to do a free weight lift with proper form, or I’m going to overcompensate with my one arm or leg over the other, then I'll do an allegedly less effective lift at a lower weight and build up gradually.
My way won’t work for others because my results aren’t what they are working for. At the same time, my way isn’t wrong because it doesn’t offer the bigger, better, faster results. It is the right way for me.
When you do strength training or weight lifting, what is your emphasis or emphases (fun with plurals)?
Do you have an emphasis or focus I didn't mention? (Like ... earning points for a BLC challenge known as TnT? )
Get An Email Alert Each Time BLUE42DOWN Posts