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? )
Monday, April 15, 2013
(... and applying alliteration apparently.)
I've been really quiet on the blog front, I know. One of the things with participating actively in the BLC (Biggest Loser Challenge) is that most of my other Sparking activities were side-lined. Not for lack of things going on in my head or things going on in my life, but because I was already sharing things with my teammates and most of my time was spent tracking, reporting, and trying to keep up.
I'm not bashing the BLC by any means. It was a fabulous time, from round 20 through the break and round 21. It gives back in full measure what is put in -- in companionship, support, fun, good habits, and even weight loss/maintenance.
I have learned about myself through the process.
For whatever reason, I really CANNOT successfully make weight loss my goal. For some reason that gets a whole game going that I don't like. I start in with working out a little harder or eating a little less, just to encourage the scale along. That's been true for me all along, but it became more clear as week after week I reported a weigh-in on a specific day, with all challenges on a weekly basis sort of focused on the result on that day. It works fine for others. It just doesn't work well for me.
I have to want the habits to be part of my life just because. I don't drink water because it will help me lose weight. I don't eat reasonable portions to lose weight. I don't do cardio to lose weight. I don't do strength training to lose weight. I don't try to get enough sleep to lose weight.
All of those are good habits that can, indeed, help us to lose weight. But for me that can't be the reason I do them.
I drink water because I enjoy being well-hydrated (and get headaches when I'm dehydrated). I drink water because I credit it with my good health. I eat reasonable portions because I like being able to focus on and truly appreciate each bite. I do cardio for my heart and lungs and endurance. I do strength training for strong muscles and healthy joints, ligaments, and tendons. I try to get enough sleep because I make better decisions and am able to get things done more quickly.
More blogs to come since I don't want to clutter this too much with all the various side-routes. One of those relates to what I hope to achieve through strength training.
On the life stresses side, I'm not doing too bad though one situation does make me laugh at the same time it has its worries.
I'm living in a literal Chinese drama right now. Before anyone gets offended, I mean Chinese very literally -- that is their language and nationality. All I know is the couple I rent a room from aren't really married, he's in jail/prison, his brother lives next door and is taking over. His brother taking over equals kicking her out, demanding the rent from me, and not being willing to meet bail. (It gets even more fun than that, with an apparently forged signature on the rental agreement and a failure to provide any proof of the change of landlord other than service of a realty management company's information to pay to them as of next month.)
Sooooo, I will be moving probably by June. Rooms are a dime a dozen as summer break looms, and price-wise in the same range. I might be able to be pickier and get one with washer/dryer access or space so I can clear out storage or both. Which means that what could be a very stressful situation is actually more of a blessing in disguise.
Last comment for anyone who has noticed this -- other than the last weekend challenge of BLC#21, I have not been tracking my food. One of the things I burned out on was all the various things I had to keep track of for challenges. Some weeks it was hours of sleep or freggies eaten, other weeks it was CICO (calories in, calories out), every week it was ST on Thursday and intentional exercise minutes on Tuesday.
I intend to go without tracking for the rest of April. I might continue through May - or work on getting my meal planner software set up so I'm using that instead.
I do track my workouts -- both using a phone app and on SP. (I consider SP's phone app fitness tracker very unworkable for what I do, unfortunately.) That might drop to just the phone app by May, but we'll see.
I do NOT intend to let this be a free pass to overeat or "fall off the wagon". I'm eating normally for me. I pretty much maintained through BLC#21, with bounces up and down, and was eating at or just above a maintenance range. So I know I'm eating fine.
I do still weigh in daily. I don't do that to worry over weight loss or weight gain. It's just to keep track of the trend. Because I have that, I'm not worried about the food. I've set a cap at which point I know I'm not doing as well and need to reverse the trend (if I hit 180 on a spike) before it becomes a problem.
I do NOT intend to drop out any of my fitness. I'm working on making my cardio much more about physical fitness and endurance. I want to set goals for intensity levels, how quickly my HR goes back to normal, how much oxygen I get (how hard am I breathing) and use that to plan my activities. I'm working on making my strength training keep challenging me while not causing injury.
I'm not going to fill any goals in for April, though in a way the above defines the path I want to be taking.
On the not stressful side, at least for me, are taxes. I got them filed back in February. I got them paid today. (Total less than $50 for both, and I'm very happy to have owed and such a small amount. I'm the sort who dislikes getting a refund and feeling like the government got to hold my money interest-free. This way they got most of their money and I got to "hold" their money interest-free. Haha!)
Hope all the rest of you Americans (of the United States of America variety) have gotten through or are getting through yours with as little stress as possible.
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