Thursday, July 19, 2012
"Maybe the secret of choosing to lose weight is as simple as remembering that you are in charge... "
In my weight loss phase, when I was seeing an unexpected level of success, I commented that I didn't think I could have done this before I became an empty nester. Living alone gives me the flexibility to eat what I choose, for good or ill. It gives me the flexibility to only have good stuff sitting around.
But I still choose what I put in my mouth, and how much of it I put there. I'm in charge.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that I'm in charge, or hard to exercise my authority. A couple days ago, there was a JDRF fundraiser at work. For $5, you got a sundae. While I was aware of the irony displayed by serving ice cream and traditional toppings to support diabetes research, I talked myself into buying a sundae. I had $5 to spare in the "other charity" line of my budget.
I don't eat ice cream very often these days, so I stared at the list of flavors for a few minutes before settling on Muddy Sneakers. I've always liked the gooey, fudge or caramel flavors. The fellow doing the scooping dished out a generous scoop . . . then added to it. I estimated he put a cup and a half of ice cream in that bowl. That was a bit much, but with the bowl mostly filled I didn't have room for very much butterscotch and chocolate syrup.
I ate the whole thing. I made my tracking estimate, and it came in around 500 calories. I felt a sugar rush. It wasn't a good feeling. I hadn't really acted like I was in charge.
In 20-20 hindsight, I realized I could have done a couple of things. I could have told the server to stop . . . but I didn't think of that. I could have stopped without eating the whole thing . . . but I didn't think of that, either. I could have just given $5 to JDRF research and passed on the sundae . . . nah. I wouldn't have done that.
After I did some things wrong, I did a few things right. I skipped 300 calories of my normal afternoon snack. I had a light supper, and came in within calorie range for the day. I was a bit lighter on protein than I'd prefer, but above the minimum. And I managed to stay below the max for both fat and carbs.
More importantly, that sundae was a one-time thing. The next day, I ate normally. Ditto for the day after, which is today.
I guess I really am in charge. I messed up a little, and recovered as well as I could. More importantly, I didn't let that mistake turn into eating like I used to before SP.
The secret of losing weight is remembering that you are in charge. And, I might add, the secret of maintaining a stable weight is pretty much the same. The details are different, but the theme of controlling diet and exercise still plays when I choose to make the weight to go sideway.
I am not controlled by ice cream, or by political pressure to support fund raisers. I am in charge. The JDRF did not shove that ice cream into my mouth or force me to swallow. I managed that on my own. And I managed to not turn it into a bigger disaster on my own, too.
The same lesson no doubt applies to fitness, and to getting enough sleep. Bearing in mind that I'm in charge, what I need to do right now is wind down for bed. It's a whole lot easier to make good food and exercise choices when I get enough sleep.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
It's been a tough few weeks on the motivation front. Getting my foot hurt to where I couldn't run, and at first couldn't walk 10K steps per day, knocked me out of my rhythm with fitness. This happened right about when I wanted to pick up the running a bit because the crazy busy time at work was past peak.
Unlike the last time I had a foot injury, I wasn't particularly motivated to do other exercise in the morning. It was really hard to get myself to do stuff. I still managed to do pullups and pushups every morning, but the kettlebell exercises didn't always get done. At first, I told myself it was because of warmer weather. But I became acclimated to the warmth, and the Idonwannas didn't go away.
I muddled through. I controlled the diet, and my weight stayed stable. Eventually it occurred to me that I was getting too little sleep too often. So I made an effort to enforce bedtime. It didn't go smoothly at first, but it improved. Then it became more consistent.
Friday I woke before the alarm. I used the extra time to go through my morning routine in a more leisurely fashion. To my surprise, when I got to the point of simmering the steel cut oats I felt like doing my kettlebell TGU/windmill combos. And then the KB snatches. I was actually done with them before I realized that my motivation level had improved.
Saturday and Sunday it was easier to do the morning exercise. Saturday I took a nice bike ride, about 20.9 miles. I turned around before I got tired, and I dealt with the up and down slopes on the Erie Canal trail headed west. I could have gone further, but I was conserving time because this is a working weekend.
Today was church in the morning and work in the afternoon, so not much exercise fit in. But I got in the pullups, pushups, and kettlebell exercises. I didn't have time for a 5K walk before church, so I only walked about 2 miles. That's a motivational improvement; a week ago, I would have skipped the walk for not having time to do the "standard" 5K distance.
I'm still not motivated to be active in the morning like I was the first time past on the foot injury. Then, I kept moving through various exercises for the full 15 minutes the steel cut oats simmered, and sometimes came back to do a little more during the subsequent 8 minute simmer. Now, I'm getting the TGU/windmill combos done, and the snatches, and sometimes something else. Today, the something else was a 30 minute walk after eating the steel cut oats. Yesterday, it was dumbbell renegade rows. Friday, it was actually bringing a pair of 30 lb. dumbbells upstairs from the basement so I'd have them when I thought about renegade rows.
In hindsight, I think getting enough sleep was the key. That has enabled me to find a piece of my motivation, and that piece might be big enough. It's certainly big enough that I've got reasonable exercise this weekend in spite of needing to do sedentary stuff for my paid job.
I'm feeling better about where I'm headed now than I did a few days ago. The diet is under control. I'm not as worried about letting the fitness slide. I'm getting enough sleep, at least for now. And the foot has improved to where I can walk, though not as fast and far as I'd like. Some mornings it lets me do a little light running up and down the hallway, but it's still clearly not ready for real running.
The next puzzle to address is two sided. On the one side, the puzzle is how much exercise is enough to maintain my fitness while I wait for the foot to get better. On th other side, the puzzle is how much walking and later running can I add back in, and when can I add it. Unfortunately, it looks like I'll have to figure both sides out by trial and error.
I just hope I'm done with the "error" part. Re-injury is kind of demoralizing.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
One year ago today, I joined SparkPeople. I wasn't at my heaviest weight, but I was heavier than I had been, and I reluctantly admitted I needed to track and control what I ate.
That decision started me on a trend to weigh less and be more fit. This morning, I weighed in at 161, or 35 pounds less than a year ago. I've been nominally in maintenance for 9 months, though I slowly lost more weigh at first. The weight trend has been sideways for about 3 months now.
I'm definitely in a better place than I was a year ago. I may not be headed in as good a direction. Lately my motivation for fitness has been sketchy. Yesterday work blew up again, with a long hours project that nominally gets complete a week from today; but in practice, it's likely one of a series of fire drills that will want a lot of sedentary time. Fire drills like this plus weak motivation to start with is not a good combination. Throw in an injured foot that doesn't let me run, or walk as fast and far as I'd like to for stress relief, and I'm a little concerned.
The bright spot is the diet. I've done really well at staying within range, and if I need to I can adjust the range. A year ago I never would have predicted that controlling what I eat would become the easy side of the fitness equation to keep up with.
I've also learned in the past year that diet and exercise aren't the whole picture. The third major piece of the fitness puzzle is getting enough sleep. I didn't do well with that for years, and I didn't even know I was doing poorly. Fairly early in my SP membership, I set a goal of getting to bed by 10:30 six nights a week. I've met that goal most of the time, and turned myself into a synthetic morning person. This is great when I'm getting to bed on time, but not so great when I don't because I still wake up early. This is an area that still needs some attention, but it's easier to be motivated about getting sleep than about getting exercise.
That's kind of where I am, a year later. I'm at a healthy weight. I'm eating right. I can do pullups, and I can do pushups. Right now I can't run, bummer. I'm mostly getting enough sleep, though that needs attention. I'm wimping out on exercise more than I should.
And now I should be off to bed . . . but I think I'll squeeze in a few more keystrokes for the paid job before I head that way.
Sunday, July 08, 2012
Between an injured foot and lack of motivation to exercise, I've got onto the bike quite a bit this week. The nice thing about bike rides is that I can tell myself I'm not exercising, I'm just riding for pleasure. What this means is, I don't make any particular effort to ride fast. At my normal pace, I blow past the casual weekend bike riders, including some who are dressed like they think they're out exercising. The occasional serious cyclist blows right past me.
Today I took a familiar ride on local bike paths. This gave me an opportunity to observe how I was doing in comparison to past rides that direction, and to reflect on why things might be a little different. That reflection took me down memory lane.
I learned to ride a bike about 5 decades ago, when I was a kid in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln is a town built on rolling hills, and when I was a kid it did not yet have the nice network of bike trails it has now. (What is now the Mo-Pac trail was still an active railroad track then.) Back then, most people had bikes with only one gear. A few people had three speed bikes (woo-hoo), but I didn't. That affected the way I learned to ride distances, as I got old enough to use my bike for independent transportation.
With a one-speed bike in an area of rolling hills, your cadence changes. The cadence is slower uphill, when it's more difficult. You stand up to make it up the hills. You pedal to gain speed at the start of a downslope, then you coast. You pedal like crazy to gain or maintain speed going into an uphill stretch, hoping to be able to make it to the top without walking the bike. I learned all that without any formal instruction; it was just what was natural to do, getting around town.
When I turned 16, I got a part time job at minimum wage. One of my first major (to me) purchases was a 10-speed derailleur Schwinn. Mom thought I was wasting my money spending $175 for a bicycle when I could have got one for $60, but I was young and foolish and wanted that high end bike. (It turned out not to be that foolish a purchase; I still have that bike 40 years later and I rode it 21.7 miles today.)
At first, I hardly used the gears. I found the gear that was comfortable, close to the gear ratio of the old one speed bikes I'd ridden, and did most of my riding in that gear. I'd shift up for the downhills to better gather speed, but I wasn't very good at shifting down before stalling out on the uphills. Over time, this improved; but I never really used the gears as they're designed to be used.
Maybe a decade ago, I got that bike out and started riding it around the bike paths in the Rochester, NY area. Bike paths built from former railroad rights of way or from the former Erie Canal towpath are a lot flatter than the the rolling hills I grew up with. It became natural to maintain a steady cadence on long stretches. I read some stuff online about biking, and learned how the serious cyclists thought about things. I tried to incorporate some of that into how I rode, but still didn't use all the gears terribly effectively. I had a tendency to wait too long to downshift.
I didn't ride much in the summer of 2011. I'd just joined SparkPeople. Biking was reputed to be good exercise, but it didn't generate steps. I was maintaining a streak of 10K steps per day, so walking became the cardio of choice. Later, I learned to be a runner. The bike gathered dust.
Summer 2012. The winter foot injury came back. Out comes the bicycle, because I can ride it without bothering the foot. I already blogged about the difference between my July 4, 2011 and July 4, 2012 rides on much the same route. Today was a different familiar route, with the main portion along the Erie Canal Trail instead of the Genesee River Trail. The Erie Canal Trail is flatter and an easier ride than the July 4 ride, and in fact easier than the shorter rides along the Genesee River that I'd taken on Thursday and Saturday; but the distance I was going had in the past had me close to wiped out by the time I got home.
Not today. Today I got to the Port of Pittsford, sat down for 5 minutes to finish my first water bottle and have a piece of hard candy, and turned around to come home. (In the past, I'd have spent 15 minutes and maybe bought an ice cream cone or a sundae.) I noticed a few changes on the way home.
I wasn't as tired as on return trips in the past, even though I haven't really been training for biking this year. After the July 4 ride, that wasn't much of a surprise. I'm lighter and fitter than I was a year ago. The interesting thing was that I was using the gearshift more effectively than I have in the past.
It seems that running has taught me to notice small changes in inclination/declination of the path that I wouldn't have noticed at all walking, and didn't notice biking until I felt the difficulty of pedaling in my legs. Now, I'm seeing those changes ahead and actually downshifting when I should most of the time. My cadence is steadier than it was, at least on the relatively flat Canal Trail. Between being more fit and not wiping myself out powering up small hills in too high a gear, I was ready to actively pedal all the way home. In the past, I would have been loafing as much as practical for the last 4 miles.
Okay, there is another factor. There have been some additions and improvements to the trail system since last year. The most important of these is a better connecting path from the Lehigh Valley Trail to the Erie Canal Trail. That makes the ride easier, and a bit shorter. But I think that effect is small compared to my learning to anticipate slope changes and shift appropriately. I find it amusing to notice that I'm learning to ride a bicycle better, half a century after learning to ride one at all.
Granted, my cadence still isn't as regular as the serious cyclists would have it be. It's also slower that the serious cyclists. But at this point, I'm not trying to be a serious cyclist. I'm just out to enjoy the ride, and get a little exercise while doing so.
And maybe I'm out to have a bit of a trip down memory lane when the conditions are right and I can meditate in motion.
Thursday, July 05, 2012
It's July 5. I took the day off work, anticipating that I'd be up too late on the 4th. I managed to sleep in till 6:25. Sigh.
Today was mostly a relaxing day of down time and taking care of odds and ends. Got the car in for an oil change and safety inspection. Got over to daughter's apartment to change some light bulbs that she's too short to reach. Got to the local bike shop to buy stuff that yesterday's ride showed I really want: Real biking gloves. A headsweats wicking cap designed to go under a bike helmet. And funny-looking padded biking shorts.
Yes, I'm in better shape than a year ago. Yes, wearing breathable clothing probably helped. But you don't ride 30 miles on no training buildup and escape without a sore posterior. In the past year, I've learned that the runners really knew what they were talking about when they said things like, "Cotton is rotten." Today I took the leap of fait that maybe the cyclist know what they're talking about when they advocate padded shorts.
Of course, I had to try out my purchases. Hitting the road at 4:19 pm on a work day, I wasn't going to attempt as long a ride as yesterday. I rode a planned route along (mostly) bike paths, crossing the Genesee River at all the bridges. This is a route I had in my mind as about 15 miles; it mapped out closer to 16.5.
Yes, the padded shorts made a difference. The bike path still had bumps. My feet and ankles felt the bumps the same way they did yesterday. But the message of the bumpy path was not transmitted as forcefully to my buttocks as it was yesterday. The funny padded shorts are here to stay.
I've found a form of cardio I can do when I can't run and can't walk briskly for long distances. At least, I can do this in good weather. The range of "good weather" for cycling is considerably narrower than the range of good weather for running or walking; but at least I have something for nice days.
Now I just hope that pesky foot will heal up before the weather gets too cold or too wet for cycling.
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