Friday, September 30, 2011
"For each individual, sport is a possible source for inner improvement."
-Pierre de Coubertin
Most sports have a pre-season during which athletes prepare their bodies for the tough task of their sport. Then there is "peak" training during the on-season. Many athletes try to maintain their "peak" throughout the season, although this is a physically unrealistic goal. A "peak" can only be maintained for a few weeks, after which the body will revert slightly and then maintain. Then athletes can let loose a little bit during the off-season. This doesn't mean they go to town and totally decondition themselves, but they lay off the really strict workout schedule and get a little more laid back about their diets. Most conditioned athletes focus on maintaining their weight within a few pounds, despite cycling through varying levels of activity.
My sport is kickboxing, and although there is not a particular season, kickboxers train harder at some times more than others. I go through phases where I focus intensely on technique and may not be focusing so much on endurance. At other times, I try to build my aerobic conditioning. Kickboxing is considered an anaerobic activity, in that there are 2-3 minute bursts of powerful activity, followed by a short rest, so kickboxers build power through drills and strength training. My training program is always varied, and workouts and even my diet will be different based on the particular goals I am trying to reach.
I have taken this idea of "cycling" from athletic training to my approach to weight loss. Rather than viewing weight loss as a single phase, I view it merely as a part of athletic training. I will have "peak training" phases, and I have "off-season" phases. I know I gained weight due to extreme behavior, so it is natural to transfer this all-or-none thinking to weight loss. I find the thought of losing over 100 pounds while being perfect all of the time to be impossible, unrealistic, and well, no fun. I have approached weight loss with "peak" and "off-peak" training, although it had taken a long time to find that balance.
I approach weight loss like a sport. Just like training for anything else, we can't peak all of the time. People who are losing weight seem to expect consistently high performance levels more than a lot of high-level athletes that I know. For some reason, those of us seeking to lose weight expect that we should be able to work out heavily and eat perfectly all the time. If we are perfect all of the time, our weight loss will be consistent and linear. I'm sure most of us have experienced that this is not the case, and the process becomes disheartening. It is also mentally taxing to constantly be in major weight loss mode. I am trying to minimize the guesswork, surprises, and mental anguish by creating plateaus myself, cycled around various fitness training goals.
I have several reasons for purposefully "cycling" my weight loss. Most people focus on "weight loss" first, and then on trying to "tone" muscles. I believe that building muscle mass first (yes, the dreaded "bulking up") helps prevent sagging skin and prepares the body to maintain weight. Weight cannot be maintained if we have the same metabolism we had when we were overweight. I have taken the past 2 months to build some major muscle mass, while primarily maintaining my body weight. Why the heck would anybody purposely bulk up? Granted, I am kind of my own experiment here, I think I'm better off building a bunch of muscle mass now to support fat loss. The body can't support a lot of weight loss while simultaneously building muscle, so I chose to focus on building muscle mass for a while. I can now feel rock-hard muscles in my arms, but of course, they are covered with a lot of fat. I have also been able to do more strength training with my legs and can see some nice muscle cuts coming out (albeit, again, covered with fat); I plan on returning to heavy lower body strength training and feel my knee can handle it. Interestingly, my measurements did not change over the last 2 months, but clothes fit better. I guess the change in my body shape and the changes in the muscles made a difference. I will do a few months of working on fat loss, and then return to maintaining for a couple of months while building up muscle mass again. I am working on a blog about muscle hypertrophy and will try to post in the next couple of weeks.
My line of thinking and long-held suspicion about "traditional" weight loss rules and metabolic flexibility is now finally backed up by some science. We see it all over SparkPeople all the time, "I'm eating like I should, I'm exercising, the scale isn't budging!" The old "3,500 calorie deficit=1 pound loss" line of thinking appears to be fairly flawed. I eat towards the high end of my calorie range, if not slightly above it, and I have either been having small losses or maintaining throughout this muscle-building process. I actually try to err of the side of overeating (not binging, though), because my muscles are better off dealing with a little extra fuel rather than not having enough fuel to recover. In any case, when I am in "weight loss mode," I eat towards the very high end of my calorie range, if not a little more, while burning about 5,000 calories a week through training and activity. If I ate too little while ripping up my muscles with kickboxing and weight lifting, my metabolism would slow down due to loss of muscle mass combined with inadequate nutrients for muscle recovery.
In any case, here is the article about the outdated "3,500 calorie deficit" rule (I realized I posted it to the second page of the article in my blog post last week):
Overall, these "purposeful plateaus" are intended to increase my metabolic flexibility, and while the process may take a bit longer, I think my weight loss will be healthier because I am avoiding losing a lot of muscle mass. Weight loss tends to slow down as people lose weight because they lose muscle mass, which causes the metabolism to be sluggish. Inefficiency in metabolizing fuel sources (carbs, fat, or glycogen stores) leads to metabolic inflexibility. Increased metabolic inflexibility leads to increased inflammation in the body, and when coupled with a loss in muscle mass, weight loss becomes very frustrating. Here is the blog I wrote a while ago talking about metabolic flexibility:
Well, my plateau is over, and I am about to bring it hard core with the fat loss. I am starting at a new kickboxing gym today, and I will be able to attend Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) training 3-4 days per week, not just 1 day. It will be intense, but nothing got me into shape faster.
Fifty pounds down is not that far out of my reach--I just need to bring it. This is my season.
"Sports do not build character. They reveal it."
Thursday, September 29, 2011
***WARNING: A couple o' swear words used in satirical fashion in this blog.***
"The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer."
I have a confession. I know I often come across as being very self-confident, and for the most part, I really am. But the sport of kickboxing brings out the self-conscious schoolgirl in me. I have been a kickboxer for almost 7 years, with a primary focus of Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). I blogged about my somewhat negative experiences at my current gym a while ago ( www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=4286111 ). At that point I was considering contacting my old coach, Kru Mike, to see if I could come back and train with him. So why didn't I call Kru Mike? Was it because I didn't know where he was? Was it because I couldn't get to his gym? Was there some actual barrier to picking up the phone and calling him?
The reason was simple, and I acknowledged it then as I am acknowledging it now: I was embarrassed to show up at my current weight. I was in the best shape of my life when I was training with Kru Mike, doing Muay Thai 3-4 days a week. I can't remember how much I weighed when I had started training with him, but it was less than I am now. But I had fun, and I shaped up fast. Kru Mike was one of those teachers who changed me as an entire person, and I still value the lessons I learned from him. There was great camaraderie amongst our small team, and we were governed by the rules of conduct in Muay Thai: respect and discipline.
I nearly reached my goal weight by doing Muay Thai, and then got injured by doing triathlon training on top of it. I stopped Muay Thai training at that point (about 5 years ago) with the intention of returning to training with Kru Mike at his new gym. But 4 years ago, I wasn't sure where he was, so I ended up going to my current kickboxing gym, where I am fairly unhappy. I love my instructors, but the disrespect from other members is palpable. I have realized more and more that I dread going to class, not because I don't feel like working out, but because of treatment from other members. Other members avoid eye contact or talking with anyone who is not in their clique (and this includes me, despite the fact that I have been a consistent member for 4 years). I almost always feel like other members feel like they are getting "stuck" with me as a partner, and have even seen eye-rolling. Sometimes I luck out and get one of the fight team members as a partner, and they make for a great, no B.S. workout. Unfortunately, these partners are few and far between. Fellow students have also tried to coach me, which is considered to be exceptionally rude to the instructor unless they have requested that you help a fellow student. Despite training there for 4 years, I am treated like an outsider. Since I had learned the basic tenets of Muay Thai, I am appalled that members behave this way. The ruder these people get, the more I have longed to return to training with Kru Mike.
I did run into Kru Mike at an event about a year and a half ago, and I don't know if he cared about my weight gain when he saw me then; of course he hadn't said anything about it. Seeing him in person made me miss him terribly, and I decided that I would stick it out at my current gym until I had lost more weight and wouldn't feel so embarrassed about my body. Well, one problem with that plan is that I don't enjoy my current gym. The other problem with that plan is that, well, it's really dumb. I have firmly decided that I would like to change gyms and return to more intense Muay Thai training.
The problem is, Kru Mike only trains in the evenings and I can't count on getting to training all of the time. However, one of his students, Eric, who is one of my old training buddies, has his own gym now and offers Muay Thai classes during the day 3 days a week and Saturdays. The class times are perfect. Once again, the thought entered my mind that I don't want Eric to see me this fat. But he probably doesn't really remember my body weight, and we weren't really friends, so he probably doesn't remember me particularly well after almost 4 years of not seeing me.
Anyways, what do I really think will happen if someone I haven't seen in a while sees me fat? That their head will explode? That they will point and laugh? That the world will come to an end?
You don't need to say it, because I already know what I would say to you if you told me about this:
Get over it. Get your ass to that gym.
I want to enjoy kickboxing again, so I have to make a change. I can't let an excuse as superficial as my weight stop me from going to a new gym. I have to say that I feel confident that I would enjoy myself so much more going to Eric's gym. Having also learned from Kru Mike, he would never tolerate exclusion or disrespect. The gym is a bit further from my house, but it will certainly be worth it to improve my Muay Thai skills and torch this body fat right off. So, no more excuses in the bag. I'm going to set them on fire instead. I've already contacted the gym and will be going for a free class tomorrow. My SparkPeeps bear witness that I shall be kicking ass at a new gym tomorrow morning.
"Bad excuses are worse than none."
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
CANNIE50 wrote a must-read blog about the difference between willpower and willingness. Her wisdom has been invaluable throughout my journey, and this blog shows one of the many reasons why she is an awesome SparkPeep.
A couple of snippets:
"Willingness is not to be confused with willpower."
"Willingness is the ability to not have the first bite because, as I was taught when I became sober all those years ago, 'it ain't the caboose that'll kill you, it's the engine' - there is no 4th or 5th drink or cigarette or cookie or handful or bowlful, if there is no first one."
"Willingness is the antidote to inertia so when I allow it to propel me to do one task, to do one set of reps, to run one block or one mile, it tends to knock the inertia aside."
Here it is:
Read it, love it, and "like" it.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
I had all sorts of ideas for blogs this week, but I didn't finish them. I had all sorts of ideas for my weekly review, but I didn't feel like expanding on them. So, I bring you a generic blog post reminiscent of my week: aimless and apathetic. There is no theme, there is no rhyme or rhythm. I felt like I sucked at everything this week, starting off with not tracking my food on several days. Oddly enough, I wasn't binging or anything, I just didn't track. I only went to kickboxing once, on Tuesday. I didn't send as much time Sparking as I usually do. I half-assed my way through my strength training workouts. I felt like I sucked at playing my sax.
When I went to my sax lesson on Tuesday, I apologized to my teacher Jeff, telling him that I sucked at everything this week. He told me to play anyways. I blasted my way through a couple of exercises, and then looked at him and cringed. He told me that I actually sounded better than I had the week before. I gave him a genuinely baffled look.
"How can that be? I feel like I suck."
He told me that because I'm getting better, I am just more aware of mistakes. I suppose that concept is true when we are making progress with anything. I could have binged every day. I could have chosen not to log on to SparkPeople at all. I could have skipped my strength training workouts all together, or not have gone to kickboxing at all. I could have chosen not to play my sax at all, rather than hear myself fumble through the music. But I chose to try anyways, even though I was far from perfect. Even though I didn't feel great about most things this week, I chose to try my hardest anyways. I still just felt very "blah" throughout the whole week.
The kicker happened yesterday, though. I was supposed to meet my best friend at her place at 4:00 and we were going to walk up to a music/beer festival. I already had paid for a ticket. We had just confirmed these plans over e-mail 2 days prior. I got to her place just a little after 4:00, and she wasn't home. I don't have a cell phone, so I drove home and called her. She told me she had been waiting for me to call her. I admit I got very snippy, and I told her I wasn't going back to downtown Minneapolis, and that I guess I had just wasted money. Then I hung up. Then I saw she had left a message on my answering machine some time in the prior couple of hours, saying she was calling about our plans, but since I had been running errands, I didn't hear the message until after I got home from her place.
I don't get many Saturdays off, so if I have plans, I'd rather not waste a bunch of time. I'm still a little sore after being ditched on my birthday by another girlfriend, so I guess I'm at the end of my rope with "hoping" that people will keep their plans, or at least give me enough advanced notice if they change their minds that I can plan something else. Perhaps I was wrong to snap at my good friend of nearly 20 years, for the first time ever. I certainly felt guilty about it and spent most of the rest of yesterday night either crying or choked up. I left a message at her home phone, apologizing for snapping, but that I was just disappointed with how the day panned out.
Am I really that old-fashioned? If people have plans set to meet at X place at X time on X day, is it really necessary to reconfirm those plans within a couple of hours of those plans? I'm seriously asking, because maybe I am missing something. I feel like last-minute plan-changing has become very commonplace, and I'm wondering if it's just me who is irritated by this or if it is just par for the course nowadays, and that I'm the one being too inflexible. Although it would be nice to have a cell phone again for emergencies (I don't currently have one due to finances), I don't want to have one just to be glued to it or to have to chase people down when they aren't where they said they were going to be. Maybe my anti-cell phone, anti-Smartphone, anti-Twitter, anti-Facebook attitude is catching up with me, and perhaps my friends don't have a tolerance for me not being glued to a technological device, prepared for last-minute changes or an easy way for them to tell me they will be late.
I feel kind of like I do when I am about to be hit with a depressive episode, but I believe I am more in a general funk than truly depressed. Please don't advise me to "go see somebody"--antidepressants have always made me worse and talking to a counselor has not been useful. I plan to just keep plugging away...I will "just go through the motions" for now, and I'm sure I'll start feelin' it again soon. This blog post was basically a random stream of thoughts as they came to me, which is probably the most that I have accomplished all week as far as being introspective. I wanted to be excited, I wanted to be proud this week, but it wasn't there. Hopefully this week will be better. Thanks for reading this rambling randomness.
After a week like this, perhaps I need to follow this philosophy more closely (***WARNING! Vulgar, with profanity and hilarity):
Thursday, September 22, 2011
In studying exercise physiology, I have suspected that the old formula of 3,500 calorie deficit=1 pound weight loss formula may not always work. A study done recently shows evidence that there are so many factors, including current body weight, body composition, and physical activity level, that must be taken into account with weight loss and body composition change.
Here is the article:
Here is the abstract of the study:
I have been kind of working on a blog on "calories in-calories out," and this information helps debunk the old thinking about the 3,500 calorie deficit formula.
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