Saturday, August 27, 2011
The theme for the Spark Diet Stage 2, Week 6 (which starts today for me) is finding the unexpected opportunities. The suggested action steps are a bit problematic:
1. "Batch cook a dish that can last 4-5 days." I live alone. I've spent 6 weeks or so learning to fix one meal at a time that fits into the diet. Batch cooking needs a whole different discipline. Batch cooking in general seems a bit silly for my situation, but I think I can do this. Pre-Spark, I made some tasty lentil & rice burritos. Part of the reason they were tasty was that I put on unmeasured amounts of sour cream and shredded cheese. I can measure the cheese with my trusty food scale, been doing that with BBQ chicken wraps and breakfast burritos anyway. And I can try substituting plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream, and measure that.
I envision doing one burrito at a time on the food scale, instead of my former assembly line of 8. But I'll be able to use the food scale to subdivide my lentil & rice stuffing more accurately. The stuffing is made, and I'll do assembly later this evening or tomorrow. We'll see how they turn out.
2. "Exercise entirely in 10-15 minute blocks of time this week." Ain't gonna happen. I understand the idea is to encourage people to do something instead of sitting; but I'm in week zero of training for a 5K. Coming up tomorrow is walk 1 minute, run 2 minutes times 9, which equals 27 minutes nonstop exercise. No way am I messing up the 5K training to fit a lame scheme that's supposed to make me think about fitting exercise into odd slots of time.
I do things like walk around the block on breaks at work; but I don't count that as exercise. And yesterday (end of week 5) I rearranged to fit 5K training into the lunch hour. I think I've got down what this is supposed to teach, and the action step just looks dumb.
3. "Exercise in one place that you normally wouldn’t (the office, the back yard, the garage)." I suppose I can look for some unusual place to exercise, just to get the 5 spark points. But it doesn't make much sense to me. Maybe take my kettlebells outside to the yard tomorrow, instead of using them inside, just to say I did it. Seems kind of silly.
One of the things I wrestle with is, what is exercise? I don't like to count mowing the lawn (though I did once, a few weeks ago) because I'd do that anyway. I don't count taking the stairs at work, because I did that all through the period when I was off the fitness wagon. I have counted my lunch walk at work, but I wonder. If "exercise" means getting the heart rate up to 60% - 85% of the max, I don't think those walks count. I don't have a heart rate monitor, but the last two times I stopped to check my pulse was 54% of the max while I was maintaining roughly a 15 minute mile pace.
Oh, and the exercise tracker keeps telling me to adjust my plan because I'm burning too many calories and need to eat more. I might do that, if I thought the calories burned calculation had any reasonable relationship to reality. But they don't really. They give either too many or too few for cardio exercises, and I can't tell which. They give no calories burned for strength training, when I know I burn more calories in a 30 minute weight lifting session than I would on a 30 minute walk. The basline metabolic rate is a guess based on some average. I'm seeing strength gains and weight loss on what I'm eating and doing; I think I'll keep it up for a while. Time enough to adjust calories if I stop losing weight or start losing it too fast.
Doing the batch cooking thing brought up another minor frustration. I made a recipe for ground beef substitute, which is lentils and brown rices cooked with beef bouillon. Pre-spark, this was a basic part of several things I did. It should be healthy enough to adapt for cooking on the SP diet. (Yes, the bouillon is high in sodium. I'm not particularly sensitive to sodium, so I don't care.)
I can't add an existing recipe to a new recipe, or to a food group. #!&^. Ended up adding the spices (which add some sodium) to the ground beef substitute to call it burrito stuffing. Then I took the recipe results, and hand entered them to create a food called burrito stuffing. I'll have to hand enter the results from the ground beef substitute recipe in order to use it to create a spaghetti sauce recipe.
Three decades ago I noticed the inefficiency of taking numbers generated by one computer and hand entering them into another computer. You'd think a site like SP would address this issue, and let me create a recipe of a type called "ingredient," which could then be included in other recipes.
Oh, well. For all the minor nuisances, the SP system is working for me. It has got me to eat better, and it has got me to get back on the fitness wagon. In the not too distant future, it's going to get me to move my 36" belts to the back of the closet and start using the 34" belts. I suppose I can work around a few things that don't make sense for results like that.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The 5K Your Way running program starts with walking 1 minutes, running 3 minutes, 8 times in a row. When I decided to start a running program, that was beyond me. So I started last Sunday at week minus one, walking one minute and running one minute.
Wednesday threw my schedule off. I had a prescription to pick up, so I did that after work. That killed the idea of the gym after work (normally Thursday, but I was feeling like I could handle weights a day early this week.) I didn't want to do the running, because I'd just done Day 2 on Tuesday. So I told myself I'd mow the lawn.
The lawn didn't get mowed on Wednesday. Instead, I sat inside and dealt with household paperwork. Then I went to bed early. That felt good. A light day was probably called for at that point.
But that put weights back on Thursday after work. Got home from the gym about 7, with nominally enough daylight to mow. But I was quite hungry, and by the time I'd fed the cat and myself, there wasn't enough daylight left. Summer is waning, even though the grass is growing almost like April.
That leaves Friday and Saturday. If I put off running till Saturday, I don't want to on Sunday and Monday will start the schedule conflicts with weight lifting all over. So it's run on Friday. But then there's the lawn. Dang, it's hard to get exercise and real life both in!
Tried something different. Packed my running clothes in a gym bag, and hauled it to the office. Went to the gym at noon, changed, and walked/ran where I normally walk. Did the walk 1, run 1 thing for 10 cycles, then walk 1, run 2 for 2 cycles. Total running, 14 mintues. That prepares for a ramp up to walk 1, run 2, times 9 (total running 18 minutes) for Day 1 of Week 0 on Sunday.
Came home after work, fed the cat and myself, and mowed the lawn. Without errands between work and dinner, there was enough daylight. We're definitely getting to the time of year when I get really tired of having the grass still grow; but now my weekend is free for other stuff. That's good, because I haven't done very well at getting both the mowing and the vacuuming done on the same Saturday!
Tomorrow is breakfast at 9 with daughter. I'm about ready to turn in now; if I wake up early, I may try some light running thrown in with walking my 5.2 mile circuit before breakfast. We'll see how it goes.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
We all know that hydration is important, both in general and in particular when exercising. SP makes tracking water part of the system.
Historically, I haven't taken a water bottle to the gym. The gym has drinking fountains, and it's been a ritual to walk to the drinking fountain between sets and take a sip. I really didn't know how much water I was getting during a workout, but I was definitely getting some. (A water bottle would be more important for using a treadmill than lifting weights, but mostly I lift weights.)
Monday I took a 24 oz. water bottle to the gym, and used that instead of migrating to the drinking fountain. The idea was to see how much water I was drinking during the workout. It was an adjustment. I had to figure out what to do with myself while waiting to start the next set. Ended up deciding to pace a little close to the station to use the time. At the end of Monday's workout, I had maybe a half cup of water left in the bottle.
Today I took the water bottle again. The routine without the drinking fountain is easier, and it allows for better control of the time interval between sets. There's no waiting for the occasional cardio fanatic to drink for 40 seconds, and distance from the weight station to the drinking fountain becomes a non-issue. At the end of the workout, I had maybe a half cup of water left. So I guess 20 ounces is about what I want to drink during a weight lifting session. I'd say that's what I was sipping from the drinking fountain, except for one thing.
I have a habit of weighing myself in my gym clothes before I go lift. When I'm done, I take off my sweatband, squeeze it out, and then go weigh myself again. Historically, the post-workout weight has been a half pound to two pounds lighter than the pre-workout weight, depending on how fit I am and how much I sweat.
Monday I chugged the last bit of water before weighing, and weighed a quarter pound more after working out than before. Today I weighed while leaving the last bit of water in the bottle, and was the same weight as before the workout. (Then I drank the rest of the water, so I could transport an empty bottle.)
I think I've achieved the right hydration level during workouts this week. Turns out that when it's more convenient to get the water, I'll drink more. But my instincts when it's convenient are pretty good. I wasn't loading up on water that I didn't need.
That water bottle is going to go to the gym with me a lot. If I become very fit and work so long that I run out, I can always refill it at the drinking fountain.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I'm on week 5 of stage 2 of the SP diet. One of the things I'm supposed to do this week is write down why I'm eating, every time I eat. One of the reasons is supposed to be hunger, every time. That sounds really lame, but I'm dutifully writing something in the notes section of the nutrition tracker.
Today's entry for dinner was, "OMG it's 7 PM and I need to eat 796 calories, 55g carbs, 20g fat, and 54g protein. Maybe I should be hungry?"
That kind of explains how I lost weight in 2009 and 2010. I wasn't tracking food at all, but I was making an effort to eat only when hungry, to avoid eating for boredom or stress, and to exercise (mostly lifting weights) enough to stay fit.
Exercise helps with food consumption a couple of ways. It burns calories, and it also suppresses appetite. Probably some of those days in 2009 and 2010 I was eating below what SP says is my minimum calorie requirement. Certainly other days in 2009 and 2010 I was eating well above what SP says is my maximum allowed calories. Let's not think about the macronutrient distribution of those calories. I probably wasn't getting enough protein unless I was also getting far too many total calories.
The second lesson I draw from this is, I can't trust how I feel about how much food I'm eating. Early on with SP, the diet felt doable but restrictive. I had to work to stay in the middle of the range. Then I set a weight loss goal, and the range shifted downward. It was trickier.
But over time, I figured out how to deal with things. Get the soda out of the house. Buy low fat cottage cheese and chicken breasts so I can get enough protein without blowing fat and total calories. Learn to eat salad, even if it means finding a salad dressing that I like.
Trimming the total calories did odd things to the calculations. Some days, I'd come in needing a few more grams of fat. That got rid of the bagels in the house, as cream cheese has fat. Later, it was toast and butter. Still later, I realized that it made more sense to eat almonds to make up deficient fat. It takes time, but I do get there.
Today was day 2 of week negative 1 of my 5K running program. (Negative 1 because I need two remedial weeks to get ready for the real program.) I came home from work planning to do the run 1 minute, walk 1 minute routine 12 times then walk home from wherever I ended up. Thought about eating something, maybe some whole wheat toast, before running. Then I thought again. Yesterday I lifted weights after work and before dinner; today I can walk/run after work and before dinner. It turned out not to be a problem.
Then there's that appetite suppression from exercise. All of a sudden, it was 7 PM. I wasn't hungry but need to get the daily requirements in. Got the job done, and I'll be fine.
But I do need to watch things. While it is more likely that failure to track food would result in overeating than undereating, I can't discount the possibility of undereating if I don't track. In fact, that would explain some rather poor performances in the gym in 2009 and 2010, which contributed to gym burnout.
I'm probably not going to keep writing down the reasons I eat after this week, but it was a worthwhile exercise. It showed me a side of mindless eating I hadn't thought of, mindless non-eating.
That's one more reason why I will need to track what I eat for the rest of my life. But that's okay. With tools like SP provides, tracking what I eat forever is nowhere near as dismal as it sounded six and a half weeks ago.
Monday, August 22, 2011
The day after I started training for running, my calves are a bit tight. Fair enough. I've seen this before, only worse, when I was trying to train but not doing it right. And I've seen it much worse after running a race without even bad training.
One of the things that seems to have helped with the calves, even without training to run, is strength training. After I started lifting weights, I'd still get sore calves the day following a race; but they didn't keep me from walking. I concluded that those lowly calf raises, which were mostly rests between major lifts, helped me out.
Besides being the day after I started a running program, today was a normal weight lifting day. By the time I get out of work, I've walked enough that my calves aren't bothering me. I've talked to a runner I work with, and confirmed that the calf raises are helpful. I realize that when I climbed back on the weight lifting band wagon, I did standing calf raises, which work the gastrocnemius; but I hadn't done seated calf raises, which work the soleus. If I'm going to run, both of those muscles are important. Today I'll add seated calf raises.
Had a nice session with the weights. Got my seated calf raises in along with the more major lifts. Give up after one set of walking lunges, because I don't have enough gas left in the tank to pull them off. I remember that I used to rotate through three workouts, with walking lunges being on the workout that had neither standing calf raises nor seated calf raises.
Run through my stretches. Pick a different hamstring stretch, hunting for the elusive hamstring stretch that I won't hate. Meh. I need to keep looking for that one. When I get to the calf stretches, I can feel my soleus.
It's been a long time since I've really felt my soleus when doing the bent leg calf stretch. I guess running yesterday really did work it. Too bad I didn't get the seated calf raises into my routine before deciding to run.
Oh, well. I've made some mistakes, but they aren't fatal. I can get the lifting routine arranged so that it supports the running as well as general strength. It is a bit of an eye-opener about the seated calf raises, though. The last time I was doing them, I couldn't tell that they were doing any good. Now, when I'm not doing them but ran a little anyway, I can tell. They're useful.
I guess this is one of the reasons I'm supposed to take the training to run slow. It's going to take a little time to build those calf muscles up to where they need to be for running continually for a half hour.
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