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Maintenance - My Take

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Not sure if surrounded by people maintaining or if maintenance is getting a lot more attention these days, but I'd like to weigh in on the trending topic. I know I've been rather quiet lately and there are a lot of reasons for it, but none have to do with the fact that I haven't been thinking about maintenance and of course, doing a lot of experimenting. I've just spared you the boring details. Back to business ...

There are two basic premises to put forth. Maintenance is about doing less. Maintenance is about keeping your head in the game.

The first one may strike you as counterintuitive, but hear me out. Maintenance is about doing less. Probably a lot less than you're doing right now. My mission for the last 6-8 months has been figuring out what it takes to get by. I'm mostly referring to exercise, but this can also refer to diet to a smaller extent. Think of rate of return as a bell curve or an inverted U. You do 0, you get 0. But if you exercise 8 days a week, your rate of return declines sharply and risk of injury increases sharply. If exercising 5-7 days a week is your maintenance plan, you're destined to fail because mean ol' Mr. Injury will come get you … that is if mean ol' Mr. Motivation doesn't pack his bags and leave you first.

So lets find the sweet spot, the top part of the inverted U. What is the least amount I can do and still "maintain" my current level of fitness. In many cases, one heavy weight lifting session and one day of HIIT (sprints, hill runs, etc) is about enough to maintain. Two lift sessions and one HIIT session gets improvement (yes, one HIIT session per week has actually IMPROVED my aerobic capacity). I can complete a lift session in about 45 minutes, a HIIT session in about 20. So we're talking about strength and aerobic capacity maintenance in just over an hour a week. Nope, I'm not trying to sell you an infomercial product, just an hour, but it has to be effective exercise. I'm not talking about jogging, Jillian Michael videos or Zumba.

If you're in maintenance and you're not doing at least this much, you should be or I'd argue you're not in maintenance, you're in failure. If you're doing 5-7 days a week, I suggest you try working toward less because it's probably time for you to periodize anyway. You simply cannot do 5-7 days a week infinitum and you need to learn/understand a true maintenance routine that works for you. Of course, if you're training for something or you want a bit more than simple maintenance, turn it up. But to think maintenance means 5-7 days a week of intense exercise is a recipe for failure.

I saved the most important for last. Keeping your head in the game. Recently there have been all kinds of statistics related to maintenance. Maintenance folks watch less than 10 hours of TV, they have forbidden food, they track intake, they're invisible under ultraviolet light, etc. Well, that's all neat and everything but these really don't mean a thing. These wonderful stats are all byproducts of someone who has their head in the game. If your goals are byproducts, you will likely fail as most do. This is no different than folks who set a number on the scale as a goal. Weight is a byproduct of mental state, if your head is not in the game, you will fail.

So if you're still focused on the scale, setting random goals that are easy to jettison (because they don't have meaning), having constant "oopsies", your maintenance is likely in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, getting your head in the game is difficult. It is an individual and constantly evolving endeavor. You need to seriously discover what fuels your fire. I like excelling at team sports. I'm not good at them, but getting better at them fires me up. I play with a lot of 20 somethings and whipping their asses or even keeping up with them gives me pleasure. I also enjoy competing at various races and thoroughly enjoy spending time in the woods. Being weak and fat does not jibe with any of those goals. The thought of losing large amounts of strength and/or gaining large amounts of fat is scary. There is just no way I'm going back. The thought of it makes me ill. This level of disgust is my barometer for "head in the game". If I ever become ambivalent about being fat and weak, I need a head check. If your head check fails, get it back. That comes before anything else, ever. Without head in the game, you can watch less TV and still get hefty.

I will admit, this transition is very difficult. There are a lot of rewards and heartbreak on the scale. Getting away from the scale as a goal is very tough, but it is critical. It might be easier for the guys because we're not as emotionally attached to the scale and our seemingly natural wiring to be competitive with other cavemen helps us stay physically active. But it can be done. 4A-HEALTHY-BMI lurves her some kayaking. Being too fat to fit in the boat, not an option. Being too weak to where she cannot safely navigate the big boy class rapids, not acceptable. I may be wrong, but I don't think she particularly cares for lifting, but she does care to whoop some whitewater ass. 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 times a week is a small price to pay for excelling at her passion.

Maintenance has to last forever. I've received messages from people here that are truly inspiring. Folks in their 60's and 70's who still have fire and even started lifting again (and making gainz!). I aspire to this. Maintenance can be about improvement and can last a lifetime. You just have to be sensible and pay attention.

To summarize, maintenance is simple, but not easy. Head in the game, reasonable diet and exercise regimen that can be performed for life. The rest are byproducts.

Thanks for the feedback so far. I do appreciate it. I do want to clarify one point. I'm not saying that exercising 5-7 days a week is a strike against success, hell, I do it, but real life does not always permit it. Busy schedule, injuries, other commitments, emergencies, etc. can throw that routine off quickly. Learning to be efficient at exercise and maintain fitness levels when curveballs are thrown is a skill worth possessing. I know it took time for me to figure out what the minimum requirement was and it shocked me at how little I had to do.

Hope that makes sense.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post

    Enjoyed this blog! Found my way here via a reference to it from MobyCarp.

    I am very new to maintenance and found your thoughts helpful.

    1264 days ago
  • GABY1948
    EXCELLENT blog! I'm here a few years late but it is timeless! emoticon
    1264 days ago
    Saving this to read and re-read and re-read again as part of my "healthy marinade" as I prep for that thing called maintenance. Thanks for giving me a new angle I hadn't considered...less exercise.
    1836 days ago
  • CRISSA1669
    What a wonderful blog! I am within 10 pounds of my goal weight and have started to think...what's next. I am enjoying the exercise that I do but I do workout a lot and have recently started tapering down and it seems like the weight loss to goal has really started to pick up...who knew :)!! I also appreciate your thoughts about keeping my head in the game..I had planned a long time ago, once I got to goal to drop Spark like a hot, just meaning I was using it as a means to an end, for my specific purposes and thought I wouldn't need to use it once I got to my goal...I have re-thought that now and can see that some of the tools can still be useful as I maintain. Thank you so much for this blog, it is not only well written and informative, it is very helpful to me..and apparantly a lot of others too:)
    1983 days ago
    Thanks for the blog BrewmasterBill! I was glad to see that you weren't dissing my 4-5 day workouts. keep up the good work and I love your sense of humor!
    1989 days ago
    Thanks for the blog! emoticon
    1990 days ago
    llll True
    1993 days ago
    Thank you for this thoughtful approach to maintenance. I've had issues maintaining, and I see that becoming complacent is an important part. I need to "keep my head in the game!"
    1993 days ago
  • THEIS58
    1994 days ago
    Great points. I have a long way to go before I reach the maintain stage, but you've given me some things to think about. Have a great week, and thanks for sharing.

    1994 days ago
    Great summary! I bookmarked it in my browser, to be able to come back here later, too!
    Let's rock maintenance! :-)
    1994 days ago
    Bill excellent thoughts! You are so on target - it is about head in the game, being healthy and participating in fun exercise as well as "gym" type exercise.
    Thank you so much for your good words. Carol
    1994 days ago
    Thanks. I'm also trying to figure out what maintenance is all about. You've given me some practical things to think about.
    1994 days ago
    Good for you, Bill!

    Great point about the statistics (of successful maintainers) is a by product of having your head in the game.

    1995 days ago
  • NAVYMOM133
    Thanks, Bill. Great blog!!
    1996 days ago
  • -RUBIES-
    Great blog! I think I am going to start using your term "keep your head in the game". So absolutely true. That is why I'm on SP all of the time... it helps me "keep my head in the game".

    As for exercise, I've come to love it, however, I am not extreme about it and don't ever want to be. I could actutally do more and I do from time to time, however, I want to be realistic and I don't want to get burned out. I want to continue to love it. Afterall, maintenance has to last forever (your words, and again, so true).
    1997 days ago
    Thank you so much for this. I've been trying to figure this maintenance thing out, and I've been realizing that I may be doing too much exercise but I didn't know how to stop. You've given me stuff to think about, and for that I thank you.

    1997 days ago
    I definitely agree you have to have your head in the game.
    I also don't want to, or be expected to exercise as hard as I did in losing as in maintain. I agree it's not possible to live a normal life and put in 2,3 hours working out. Unless training for a race or something.
    I have been in maintenance for over a year, and am still working out the calories I need and the amount of exercise.
    One thing I believe you have to do, is weigh often and make any adjustments as soon as possible if there is a weight gain. Letting one depend on how they feel, or clothes fit for women is asking for 5, 8 lbs and not be noticed. Especially if they are wearing those hideous pants with stretch waistbands.
    I notice right away if my jeans are tight at the waist. It's usually bloat, but I weigh and make adjustments if over 2 lbs.
    The difference with weight loss now compared to former losses is this is not a start and stop diet. Its a permanent healthy way of eating and living out my life.
    I too am disgusted with the fat and gross way my body looked when I was obese. I never will be that person again.
    Congratulations on your achievements and continued success.
    Be strong, stay positive.
    Tisha emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1997 days ago
  • POPSY190
    Clear and to the point, especially on the need to work on what suits each individual and what will be feasible in the long term.
    1997 days ago
    Great reading material here (yours & the BMBFC) all true grit stuff!
    A "by product of mental state" ??? You can't make this stuff up!! Or can you??
    Thanks for sharing Bill!
    1997 days ago
    Straight and to the point. It's great to hear what maintenance entails distilled down to the essentials alone. Thank you for sharing and helping.
    1997 days ago
    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on maintenance. I am reading all I can so that I will be prepared.
    Spark On! We Got This! emoticon
    1997 days ago
    Great advice
    1997 days ago
    I loved your perspective and had so many good points. I was a bit confused by the not exercising 5-7 days thing too. Until I understood you mean high intensity. I am just starting maintenance and have decided to cut my workouts down in other ways. I LOVE to run and can't imagine not doing my runs weekly, but I realized too that I don't need to do such intense things during my off days. BUT I do like to be active each day and I find that when I do, I am able to head off stress better and have a better day all around, so I am not trying new things such as ST and Pilates on my off days from running, rather than walking/aerobic videos and such. I think you make a lot of excellent points and congrats on all your success.
    1997 days ago
    "Weight is a byproduct of mental state, if your head is not in the game, you will fail."

    That about sums it up for me. When my head's in the game, the necessary actions fall into place.
    1997 days ago
    emoticon Thanks for sharing your perspective with us all!
    1997 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Great blog! It just points out everyone has to find their own way in how they will lose the weight and then maintain it. Weight loss is a personal journey of one. I was never much a fan of the scale either. I just picked a random number when signing up with Sparks because they required it. I reached goal weight when I felt right with what I was doing. I am one of those every day exercisers because of my severe RA. To not move it is to lose mobility and stay mired in pain. Some of my exercise is high intensity exercise like Boxercise intervals and bootcamps, but unfortunately, I can't do the required ST because of my artificial elbows, I am limited to lifting 5 lb weights maximum :( But when it comes to cardio, I can outlast and perform the moves more intensly then most young people half my age. And I don't take 'breaks' like some of them do. All out intensity, all the time and it feels good!
    I do take some gentler exercises like Zumba, just for fun, because the bottom line it has to be fun for you to keep doing it (boxercise is my favorite though as I used to do martial arts in my healthy days)
    Here is to keeping your head in the game, for however it works for you!
    1997 days ago
    You almost got hate mail from me on the 5 to 7 days a week exercising, but then I read the line you can't do 5 to 7 days a week of intense exercise. AT that point I nodded. I do one day a week of a long bike ride, one day of a timed as fast as I can 10K, the rest is more pleasurable and less intense. Sometimes treadmill hill training, but not overly speedy, etc. Sometimes pleasure walks outside. Today will be a pleasure walk with camera. The colors are beautiful right now.
    1997 days ago
    Thanks, Bill, for sharing your perspective.
    1997 days ago
    Been doing this routine for the past five years: "You simply cannot do 5-7 days a week infinitum" is pretty well locked in, but the thought of being able to lighten up as a reward for maintenance is a nice perk to anticipate when I "get there."

    Now I've gotta catch my food management up with my rock solid workout routines. I know this is what will bring me into the home stretch for reaching my goals and maintaining.

    Great blog! A keeper! :-)

    1997 days ago
    That you've analyzed this and know this much about your own mind and body is fabulous! I only wish I could still do "one heavy weight lifting session and one day of HIIT (sprints, hill runs, etc)"!

    At my age, for me to avoid injury AND keep my head in the game, I have to maintain the exercise equivalent of LSD (long, slow distance) rather than all-out sprints and hour-long taekwon do sessions. So, I do an average 5 miles walking every day, pilates most days, and alternating upper- and lower-body routines 6 days a week. The nonnegotiable part of that routine is the walking. It clears my head, keeps the blood flowing, and starts/ends my days with beauty. I feel the same way about it that workaholics do about retiring--"When I stop, I'll probably drop dead."

    How does this keep my head in the game? If I weren't doing SOMETHING every day, pretty soon I wouldn't be doing anything at all. If I skipped, say, 3 or 5 days a week on purpose, pretty soon it would be a lot more, and then I wouldn't be moving my body at all.
    1997 days ago
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am just about ready to make the "transition" to maintenance and your overview is helping me wrap my mind around it.

    Truly wonderful!
    1997 days ago
    Great blog!!
    1997 days ago
    Thanks for the post and to TinaJane for asking us to read it. Sometimes we don't see the good ones. I needed this as my head has been out of the game! Gotta get it back in.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1997 days ago
  • NIKKIJ55
    Excellent blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    1997 days ago
  • KANOE10
    There is no doubt that if you do not keep your head in the game, you will not maintain!

    This is a very good inspirational blog. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
    1997 days ago
    Appreciate your perspective. I think maintenance for me, a 63 year old woman who spent 5 decades being obese, is very different. I need 6 days a week exercise, although I only run 3 days and lift 2-3 days per week. So maybe my doing 3 intense days and 3-4 easier days is what you are talking about. But even if not, that is one of the beauties of SparkPeople. There is room here for everyone. Congrats on all your success. So glad you have found what works for you. -Marsha
    1997 days ago
    Sage advice, Bill! I think I have been slowing down in the fitness arena lately and have let some things I don't enjoy (running) go, while doing things I do enjoy (long, brisk walks) more. The gentler forms of fitness work better for my inflamed SI joints and my sore (and getting sorer) hip.

    For keeping my head in the game, though, the scale is important to me. I continue my habit of weighing daily to spot trends that then trigger correction. One day of up weight usually is traceable to too much salt, one day of down weight to too little salt and dehydration. So the scale is important to my head game, but I know it's not critical for everyone.

    Hope you will blog more about maintenance in the future.
    1997 days ago
    Awesome comments. I've found HIIT really helps me, too, with maintenance.

    Also, where you call it 'head in the game.' I totally agreee. I just call it 'paying attention every day.'

    Continued success to you, Bill!! emoticon
    1997 days ago
    Good post. Similiar to what I'm doing now that I'm in maitenance. No more 6 mile runs on weekends. No more waking up at 5 am to run 3 miles before work. Awesome. Still lifting heavy and hard 3 days a week and doing Brazilian jiu jitsu 4-5. I get to eat more calories and know that if I slip up (I still have a binging problem), I can always go just a little harder in the gym without having to burn myself out.
    1997 days ago
    Great blog- Especially about keeping your head in the game. One way I do that is by reading everything I can get my hands on about diet and fitness. If I don't, I find myself backsliding.

    However, I know people in maintenance who are working out 5+ days a week and have been doing so for years. I am one of them- I simply love to lift. It's kinda my hobby. And I do it fairly heavy. If you are keeping good form and love what you are doing, it can be safely done.
    1997 days ago
    This was the best synopsis statement on maintenance I've read in a while:

    "Weight is a byproduct of mental state, if your head is not in the game, you will fail."

    It is a conclusion I had reached a while back, expressed in MobyCarp's tag line "Discipline is remembering what you want." (btw, I KNEW Moby would love the inverted U on the bell curve... it speaks to how he thinks! Woo-hoo!)

    1997 days ago
  • LAURIE5658
    Now those are words to live by. Outstanding!

    1997 days ago
  • DSJB9999
    emoticon emoticon for sharing

    I agree its moderation in everything even the exercise if its not sustainable.

    Super thoughts emoticon again
    1997 days ago
    Thanks for the well thought out and written blog - you really nailed it. While I can't say that I would be happy working out or getting fitness in on only 2 sessions a week, I no longer beat myself up or adopt the failure mentality if I don't do 5-6 sessions. Sometimes, I would LIKE to, but I also know that trying to accomplish that on a regular basis at this time in my life would be setting myself up for failure or injury. It is all about creating that balance in my life that I can embrace for life. Maintenance is as much of a learning experience as losing was! You have certainly helped to clarify some thoughts for me - now, about that ultra violet trick?!?!
    1997 days ago
    What a great blog. I really can relate to this.
    I have been in maintenance mode for almost 2 years but still do fitness 5 x's a week and my time for me and my kids and my family is nada...I have been thinking I need to chill on the gym at least one more day and go from 5 to 4 days but I like everything I do on these days...hmmm.
    You have given me food for thought and I am going to seriously go thru my options now. Thank you!!!
    1997 days ago
    Excellent blog! Thank you for offering some good advice on exercise. But most of all, thank you for pointing for once more that this is for life.
    So, let's keep our heads in the game!
    1997 days ago
    Good points, and really nothing to argue about as it is clearly stated that this is your take.
    And everybody will need to find their "take".

    Although you say it's about doing less, what you're describing is a more active lifestyle overall. It's not like you're saying lift once a week or whatever and then go sit on the couch. The team sport activities you enjoy but don't describe as working out are part of your more active life.

    To me that's what it's all about. It's not about having to go to the gym every day for the rest of my life, or pedaling my stationary bike every day for the rest of my life (gag me...). It's about finding fun things to do which get you moving.

    As far as food is concerned, that issue largely turned into a non-issue by now. Sometimes I count loosely in my head, sometimes I don't. I weigh in once a week and do an immediate correct if needed.

    My take. Keeping my head in the game.
    2000 days ago
    Please don't delete this blog, I'm going to need it after my half in November. From my low of 199 some time back, I let about 15 lbs creep back into my life. Getting back down now but I'll need to get into a much better maintenance mode soon. Apparently, watching MMA and drinking craft brews isn't good enough for me to maintain.
    2002 days ago
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