Tuesday, July 24, 2012
I'm running short of time to blog most evenings these days. Today is no exception, but I wanted to jot down a couple of thoughts/events.
Thought: I need to be more consistent getting to bed. Two nights in a row, I was up toward the late end of my bedtime range, *and* kept the light on reading for a bit after going to bed. Less sleep makes me less motivated to exercise, and less inclined to move in general. I never knew that until tracking various stuff on SP got me to pay attention.
Event: I worked from home today, which makes it more difficult to get my 10K steps per day in. I set out to take a 3 mile walk at lunch, and it started to rain. Then it started to rain harder. I wimped out, and *ran* back to my front door. It wasn't a lengthy run, probably under 100 meters; but by the time I got home, the bad foot was complaining.
That's no surprise, because I already knew I wasn't ready for a real run. The surprise/nuisance was the foot reminding me of the abuse when I set out for a walk this evening to fill in those 10K steps. The short 10K step streak I had is getting broken today.
I'll make another stab at getting to bed a little early, and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for both rest and steps.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Once again, MARKSTIPANOVSKY is making me think. He says,
"If you start today and modify what you're doing then you've started to successfully become fitter, stronger and healthier...
It really is that simple. If you can only move for 1 minute and you choose to increase your exercise by another minute tomorrow and then exercise for 2 minutes every day this week you will be really successful...
Add one minute per week and in less than a year you will be exercising / moving and modifying for an hour every day... "
Somehow, it's not that simple for me. I get the part about starting with something I can do, and adding to it in small increments over time. Where I fall down is the question, "How much is enough?"
I've done the routine of starting an exercise, getting better at it, adding more, and ultimately burning out because it's too much. I've done that several times, with different forms of exercise. With some types of exercise, I've done it more than once. Enter SparkPeople, where one of the major things we are taught is that consistency is vitally important. It's better to follow a plan most of the time and get back on track after you slip a little, than to try to do everything and then end up doing nothing or very little.
Which leads me to the basic question: How much exercise is enough?
Exercise is the other side of the weight loss/weight maintenance equation. We all know that we need to eat in moderation, not in excess and not in starvation mode. So why would we think that we need to always keep adding more exercise? At some point, there won't be any more time to add and burnout will become a problem.
So, how much exercise is enough?
I don't have a good answer to that question. I suspect the answer will be different for different people, and it appears to vary over time for me. I have a few clues.
Last August, I set out to see if I could become a runner. I succeeded. I got to where I could run 3 days a week by following the 5K Your Way running program. Then I wanted to run 4 days a week. And I ran a competitive 5k. On Thanksgiving I ran a competitive 10K because I couldn't find a 5K. Then I wanted to run 5 days a week. Then I wanted to train for a half marathon.
It ended badly, with a foot injury that kept me from running at all between early February and late March. Just as I thought I was back, the foot got re-injured and I haven't run now since mid-June. I'll probably be back, and I'll do a few things differently.
But the important question is, how much running is enough? I was aiming for what looked like a modest 3 days a week at a 5K distance when I re-injured that foot. 20-20 hindsight says I came back too fast, and I can fix that by coming back more slowly this time. But still, however slowly I come back, I want to know: How much running is enough, and where do I need to stop adding?
Running and the foot injury is the most obvious cautionary tale in my life, but there are other examples. I've lifted weights and made progress, and burned out from thinking I should always be able to lift the most I've ever lifted. Intellectually, I know that isn't so; but males tend to believe it should be so. Call that a mild case of testosterone poisoning.
I have a couple of (so far) happy examples. Pre-spark, one of the exercises I did and burned out on was Turkish get-ups. Testosterone poisoning led me to favor doing the TGUs with a windmill at the top. I'd get pretty good, then miss a couple weeks, and be unable pick up where I left off, and then quit for a long time.
After finding SP, the TGU/Windmill combos became one of my standard exercises. I do one set of 5 on each side. That's it. Not two sets, not 6 or 7 or 10 TGUs. One set of 5. When I came back from the last burnout, I started with a 25 lb. kettlebell and alternated sides. Left, right, left, right . . . until done. By the time I found SP, I was using a 35 lb. KB most of the time, and going down to the 25 lb. on days when I felt weak.
I kept up the TGU/windmill combos daily for maybe 10 months (minus a couple weeks of doing partials when the injured foot didn't let me do the lunge motion) before missing a few days during a period of poor motivation. But I never missed a full week. I progressed from the 35 lb. KB to using a 45 lb. KB. I now mostly do 2 TGU/windmills on a side before switching. Left, right, right, left, left, right, right, left, left, right. On days when I feel strong I may try to do 3 in a row on the same side.
It's enough. I'm not stretching it to sets of 6, and I'm not out shopping for a 50 lb. kettlebell. Part of why I've kept it up is that I stopped with what was enough, and the incremental challenges after that were really small. That, and I allow myself to go backwards to alternating on days when I feel weak.
Then there are the pushups. These started during my first foot injury as 3 sets of 25 pushups on the swiss ball. I couldn't run for a long time, and it was a while before that foot would support a plank; and the sets of pushups got longer as I did more of them.
I stopped adding numbers when I got to 3 sets of 60 pushups. Yeah, I did a couple of tests where I did over 100 pushups. (Most recent endurance test, only 78.) But I've kept up the 3 sets of 60 pushups every day, even through the poor motivation. It's enough. Adding more risks burnout, and I don't want to go there.
Besides the cautionary tale and the good example, I have my puzzles. This year, I became able to do pullups. I was thrilled when I could do 3 neutral grip pullups in a row, because that meant I was really doing pullups and not just kidding myself with starting momentum. Right now, I can do 3 sets of 8 to 10 neutral grip, or three sets of 6 or 7 wide grip pronated pullups . . . and I can feel burnout creeping up on me if I push it to hard.
I really want to continue to be able to do pullups, which means I need to do them. But if I try to do too many, I'll burn out. So . . . how much is enough? I don't know here, and I'll have to find out by experiment. Maybe there will come a point where I can routinely do 3 sets of X pullups, and I need to go buy a dip belt to add challenge. (What a fantasy! Am I really thinking that's possible??) But I don't know what number X represents.
I have to respect the philosophy that MARKSTIPANOVSKY propounded. It's the way people who are just at the beginning of their fitness journey need to think. But I'm in a bit of a different place, and I need to think differently. The important question for me isn't how much should I add to my exercise routine. It's how much is enough, and where should I stop adding.
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.
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