Thursday, August 29, 2013
So, back from a nice vacation, been super busy at work and in life, and am looking forward to catching up tomorrow with all you amazing spark friends. The response to my last post left me so incredibly touched! That so many of you care enough to walk beside me, it's really an incredible feeling - one that I'm sure so many of you feel as well with this incredible support site, and a favor I love returning. One of the comments asked me to perhaps shed some light on what I do that's been so effective, me having mentioned that in my head I feel like I'm not doing anything particularly special. She mentioned that maybe I AM doing something special, something that people might be able to pick up on, and learn from. It struck me that if there IS anything I can offer from my daily journey, then I should. So, here's my life for the last almost three months...
It started as a simple plan. Every new adventure needs merely a pair of shoes, a rough idea of where you want to go and how to get there, a path before your feet, and the courage to walk it. Maybe a fresh pair of underwear too. My plan was to start eating within my recommended caloric range as given to me by Spark People, and work out three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work and before dinner). I dedicate at least 30 minutes to the treadmill, and after that, I rotate strength training exercises between the three days.
In the beginning, I could only run for 7.5 minutes straight at a speed I had to dramatically lower from what I thought I might be capable of doing. I didn't feel defeated though, since I knew starting would be the hardest part. Feeling fat, looking fat, wondering if there were eyes on me thinking I might have a heart attack, my dark passenger was at his strongest then. I knew that I would have to hold my hands steady, and trust in my legs to keep going. I ran 7.5 minutes that first day, then walked 7.5 minutes on a slight incline, then ran for five, then walked for five, and then ran for two before having to walk the last minutes. It was a sobering experience for someone who once could run 10k in close to 45 minutes. Instead of taking it as a negative though, I took it as a starting point, and simply told myself "you're gonna do 10 minutes straight next time... then 15... then 20... then one day, 30 minutes straight. Don't give up on yourself... this is the most important thing you will ever do in your life." I'm a good personal trainer. ;-)
My shins were killing me... my calves were on fire... but I've been there before, I know the only way to get past the pain, is to pound it into submission (within reason of course). On my second run that week, I ran 12.5 minutes straight. :-) On this journey, we need to take pride in every little accomplishment. We need to use that for fuel to keep the fire of our determination burning strong and powerfully. The joy on my face at having increased my flat out running by 5 minutes was, well, yeah, you'd have thought I just finished a marathon, lol. By Friday I was at 15 minutes straight, and within five weeks, I not only could run 30 minutes straight, but had steadily upped my pace along the way. The treadmill is a great way to challenge your running ability, because it allows you to slowly increase your speed - as opposed to letting your body dictate speed. My body would have me run at a much more leisurely pace, so it's been very helpful for me. I'm now able to run 5k in a solid 32.5 minutes, and am starting to press into running flat out for 30 minutes at 6mph. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting close. Once I can run that straight out, I'll be able to start pushing below 30 minutes per 5k, and that's exciting as heck for me! :-D Again, every accomplishment, fuel to keep going, to not stop, and to not let my dark passenger have a say in things any longer. So that's my running, once I reach my running goals, I'm going to start "brick training", which is what triathletes do to help their muscles, and blood flow, adjust to the sudden and different demands that biking or swimming put onto their bodies. You can read about it online, sounds intense... sounds exciting. ;-) I think one of my new goals will be to participate in a triathlon in the next couple of years, but I'm a lousy swimmer - I can swim, I just don't do any of the strokes all that effectively. So another thing to master, cool, let's do it! :-D
Strength training is a similar type of story. Whereas I once was strong, I now was weak. Dreadfully weak. I figured on doing one leg exercise each workout day, two upper body exercises, and then abs. Day one: I do leg presses to focus on my thighs and ass muscles; chest presses to work my pecs, biceps, and my shoulders a little; use a machine that focuses on the upper back muscles; and then do ab exercises to end it off. Day two: I do hip abduction to work my outer thighs; tricep pulldowns; bicep curls; and again abs. Day three: I do hip adduction to work my inner thighs; and then I repeat day one for the rest. The following week, the leg routine stays the same, but then I start with triceps and biceps for upper body, doing them twice that week instead, and then back and forth that way each week. All said, I'm probably at the gym for about an hour and 15 minutes. I rest a bit longer in between sets than I need to, but I just like to enjoy my time at the gym. I do three sets for each exercise, and 10 repetitions (except with abs, where it varies between 10 and 30 reps depending on which ab exercise I choose to do on that particular day). I started by picking lower weights that would allow me to easily complete my sets, and then challenged myself every week by adding 5lbs here and there. Some weeks I can't go any heavier now, but again, baby steps, it doesn't get me down. While on vacation, I did simple push-ups and ab crunches to keep my muscles ready for the gym, and was impressed at how many more I could do of each as each workout day passed. When you push your body to become strong, it only gets stronger. Kind of like the simplest math you'll ever do. Muscle growth also has the added benefit of burning more calories each day - both by repairing and through sustaining them.
So that's the workout part, the other is the dietary aspect. At first I took the easy road, I bought subway for lunch every day (a six inch turkey and ham with swiss cheese, no chips, water) and portioned out my cereal better in the morning. My wife, who's on mat leave until December, has been taking care of the dinner end of things, and has been making tonnes of fish and white meat, and rice, and veggies, and yeah, without her none of my success would have been possible. Before long, I was able to find myself in the position of being under my suggested calories every day. I started to work more snacks into my day - fibre bars, popcorn, fruit, and other healthy things. Even the odd kid size sundae from Dairy Queen! And it wasn't a cheat! A bit higher in saturated fat, but still within my daily limits. Those were exciting days, lol. As my weight has dropped, I've been very careful to keep Spark People updated, as to continue giving me my caloric goals. I always meet the minimum carb suggestion, and the minimum fat suggestion, but then I focus on getting more of my calories through protein. I did work out percentages once, can't remember now, but anyways, low-carb, low-fat, high-protein. Not no carb, and no fat - far from it - just low in terms of keeping at the minimum numbers that spark people suggests.
As my firm grasp on my diet increased, I began to track everything that goes into my body - from fatty acids to cholesterol to vitamins to sodium. I love numbers, and I love the challenge of working my daily diet to fit into those holes. I spend a fair amount of time each week reading articles on so many different topics now as well. I've read about fat, and how we 'lose' it, where it goes. I've read about alcohol and how it gets metabolized, slowing our primary metabolic processes to simply get rid of what our body considers a poison (lovely). I've read about how to maximize the conversion of our fat cells into energy, enhancing what's called ketosis - our bodies depletion of glycogen (energy) and the resulting response of fat conversion to keep our bodies energized. I've read about sodium and water weight and how the average north american diet consumes over 6000 mg of sodium daily - which results in a state of pretty much constant water retention as your body struggles to maintain it's necessary balance of water to salt. I've read so much. Knowledge is power. It's everything. It transports us from a fairy tale world of wondering why we can't lose weight, to a world where we have all the tools necessary to see the enemy for what he/she truly is, and the weapons with which to attack.
But none of this would have happened if not for one crucial moment. A point of convergence in my mind, and in my life, and deep inside my soul. Where all of the years of built-up intentions, like a room filled with propane, were sparked by a moment of deep emotion. I'm gonna try to do my video blog tonight, where I plan to share with you guys that moment. It's the single thing that turned me from my path of self-loathing and destruction, and placed me firmly onto one where I feel invincible, determined, and yeah, just a heck of a lot better about myself. Until then, see y'all on your blogs! :-D