The New One-Minute Exercise Program!

Have you guys seen this article yet? The one about how only one minute of all-out exercise is as good as 45 minutes of moderate exercise? Is everyone planning to ditch their gym memberships and find new uses for the time you currently set aside for working out?

If you are I’d recommend you look closer at the article and what it calls out as benefits. And what it doesn’t.

The big benefit touted is an improvement in “fitness and health.” I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t exercise to improve my fitness and health. It’s not a driver for me. For me it’s a fantastic side effect, but it’s absolutely not my top motivator. I exercise to keep off 200 pounds. End of story. Every bit of my exercise regimen is focused on one and only one thing: maintaining my 200 pound weight loss. I absolutely benefit from the increased fitness and health that also happen to ride along with all of my exercise efforts, but it’s not my primary purpose.

Reading that article closely, you’ll see that nowhere does it mention that any of the study participants lost any weight at all. They may have increased their fitness, but that doesn’t mean they burned enough calories to lose weight or maintain a loss. That’s because exercising (no matter how “all out”) for one minute a day can’t possibly produce that result. Let me break it down:

The absolute maximum number of calories I can burn in one minute, pushing myself to the absolute limit of my abilities, is about 20. That’s…not much. When I run I burn about 13 calories per minute. If I up it to all-out sprinting I might get to 20 or maybe 22. That means in a week of exercising for one minute per day in this fashion, I might burn 140 or maybe 150 calories.

As I’ve mentioned before, to maintain my weight loss I need to burn 3500 to 4000 calories per week in exercise, or pull those out of my system in some other way. If I’m only exercising for a minute a day, that leaves me with 3350 calories I still have to deal with. And frankly, I don’t have that kind of wiggle room in my diet plan.

They didn’t specifically mention weight loss or weight maintenance in the study, but I’m going to assume that was implied by “It depends on who you are and why you exercise,” a quote attributed to one of the people who ran the study. If who you are is someone who needs to lose or maintain a loss, I’m extremely dubious that this would be an effective exercise routine.

All that being said, high-intensity intervals are a fantastic tool and a solid addition to any well-rounded exercise program, and I highly recommend incorporating them to anybody who isn’t already doing them!


Working Through Depression

You guys. I don’t often talk about emotional stuff, you know I’m very “by the numbers, do the thing, write it down, math it out.” But this week, boy.

I’m suffering from some epic-level depression this week. I won’t even begin to go into what kicked it off, because in the end, this is a chemical thing that’s happening in my brain and it doesn’t matter what my brain is telling me – they’re lies. Depression is a lying liar who lies. It will tell you it’s there because nobody likes you, or people you thought were friends don’t even consider you an afterthought, or because you aren’t good enough, don’t work hard enough, are useless, or whatever. Does it matter? Yes, because it hurts, but no because it’s lies that are the result of a chemical imbalance.

I’ve suffered from depression on and off since forever. I’ve tried treating it with anti-depressants but that doesn’t work for me (I’ve tried almost all of them). CBT has worked for me in the past, and sometimes can work for me when I remember to do it. But honestly…it has to pass. For me, it’s episodic. It runs its course and eventually passes. I try not to do anything that will cause lasting damage in the meantime. Either to me, or my relationships with my loved ones.

I also continue exercising and eating right. Seems like a tall order, huh? But I continue exercising for two reasons. One: I hope that it will help to lift my mood with endorphins or some shit. Science doesn’t seem to have agreement on whether that works. My hope springs eternal that it might. And two: I’ll feel worse if I don’t do it.

Also it gives me something to focus on for an hour or so that isn’t lies in my head.

As for eating right, well, I don’t need the guilt and mental recriminations that come from making poor food choices. That would absolutely make the depression worse. Plus, my usual eating patterns (the healthy ones) are so habitual and routine that I can do them without thinking, on auto pilot.

So…that’s what’s going on. I’m having a chemical imbalance in my brain. I’m doing everything I can to counter it and keep on doing the right things for my body. Hoping my brain will get in line soon.

Week 4 Numbers: More Data Acquired. Dammit.

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan, as I expect of myself. I had 50 servings of fruits/veggies. I had 37 meal replacements. I burned 5,540 (!) calories in physical activity. I averaged a net caloric intake of ~614 calories per day. As you can see, I met my exercise goal and exceeded it (goal was to burn 5000 calories this week).

You might expect that I had a fantastic result on the scale this week. If you do you either haven’t been coming around here long, or haven’t been paying attention. I lost a half pound. The math says I should have lost 2 at the very least. So, I stand by my previous statement about a slow metabolism and my disparaging comments about the Mayo Clinic (wankers). That brings my total this push to 7.5 pounds down. Woohoo I guess.

My coach says it’s probably a case of “the check is in the mail” and it’ll show up next week. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. The thing is, when it is, I usually don’t get both weeks worth of payoff next week. And that’s some frustrating BS let me tell you.

To work SO HARD this week for so very little to show for it would normally be massively depressing were I not already battling some epic level depression this week. As it is, there really wasn’t much further for things to drop emotionally, so I was like, “Mmm hmm. Sure, why not?” when I stepped off the scale.

My plan for the coming week is to scale it back a bit. Obviously reaching new highs on the exercise portion of the equation is not helpful, so I will reel it back a bit to a level that has worked before. I think that 3500 to 4000 calories per week is really my “sweet spot” where exercise is concerned. It’s the level where my body needs to be to maintain or lose. Going much higher hasn’t produced desirable results so that’s an experiment I don’t need to repeat.

Other than that – please send cute pictures of kittens. Bunnies or puppies would also be acceptable.

New (to me) Gear – Running Earbuds

I don’t want to talk about how incredibly socially isolating it can be when you’re working on losing weight. I don’t want to talk about it because today it really hurts. Maybe I’ll post about it later when it’s not so raw.

I plotted a five mile run today, and then I ran it. There’s a steep hill in the middle of this route, and I’ll admit that I dropped out of a run and power-walked up it. There was a time when I didn’t have to do that, and I intend to get back to that.

New gear is great though. Getting new gear makes a run feel interesting and new. I’ve been experimenting with music delivery lately. For the last 13 years I’ve been running with big clunky over-ear headphones. Even once earbuds came out and you got a pair of them with every electronic item you bought, I couldn’t run with them because they’d fall out or feel like they were about to fall out the whole time. So I stuck with the big over-ear ones from the ’80s. With my Walkman.

Ha! Just kidding. I don’t use a Walkman. I use a 10 year old iPod. Really. I’m the last person who still uses an iPod and not my cell phone! Because I’m a Luddite. But this Luddite finally had it with over-ear headphones. The problem is that, for me, more than about 3 miles and they started rubbing raw spots on my ears where they made contact if I was using regular ones like you get at the gym for free at fancier places (that’s where I got my last pair). That hurts. So I ordered some over-ear headphones with more padding that were described as being good for running in the keywords. HA! They looked ridiculous. Entirely too big and bulky for running, and with summer coming, too hot and heavy.earbud

So I finally got with the most recent decade and bought some new-style running ear buds that looked like they’d stay in place securely. Got them yesterday and took them out this morning on my 5-miler. That works. They came with three different size earpieces. The large and the medium didn’t work because while they were great for noise cancellation due to filling the whole ear canal, the last thing I want when I’m out running on a lonely trail or sidewalk is to not be able to hear what’s going on around me. The smallest ones were perfect, I could hear my music clearly and also the noises around me. They didn’t hurt at all, even at my new longer distance.

Here’s a pic of them sitting securely in my ears after five miles. Oh and a little bug stuck to my face. It happens. And my freckles. They get darker when I exert myself. Basically I’m a giant sweaty mess when I finish a run.

And I definitely met my exercise goal this week – exceeded it even!

Exercise Challenge Speedbump

I set myself a challenge to reach 5000 calories burned in exercise this week. Actually, the class I attend had a challenge for everyone to push themselves at physical activity. Since I’ve been hitting 4000 the last couple of weeks, I figured a stretch would be to aim for 5000. Then I did something that could have derailed me.

Tuesday morning I did the Straight Up Strength workout, because strong muscles are important. If you watch this video the deadlifts start about 16:20 and they’re paired with some rows using the heavier set of weights. I used 15 lbs. I hadn’t done deadlifts recently, and certainly not with 15s, but of course I did the full sets because I’m not a shirker! You maybe see my error. I woke up Wednesday morning and the back half of my legs were in agony. So sore! Much DOMS. Oh my glutes and hammies were shrieking. They settled down a bit as I got moving, but not a lot.

I was determined to get the run in that I’d planned for Wednesday though, since I googled about running when sore and it said it’s fine if you don’t plan to push distance or speed, and it doesn’t hurt more after the first mile. So I plotted a 3.5 mile distance instead of the 4.5 I’d hoped for and went anyway. I can’t say that was my best call, or that it felt nice, but it didn’t hurt more after the first mile. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about soreness, it’s that there’s virtually nothing I can do to make it run its course any faster than it will so I should get on with things despite it. But, I didn’t get the long run that I’d hoped to add to my numbers for my challenge this week.

Thursday morning I woke up just as sore as Wednesday if not more so (you know it’s bad when the sitting motion hurts so much you’d rather stand, and when  you do sit it hurts because you’re sitting on those muscles!), I went out for a walk to try to loosen things up, instead of the usual intense workout session I do in the mornings. It was ok, but yesterday was more sore than I’d like to be. I called it a rest day and my morning walk was all I did for physical activity. I even took a nap in the afternoon after work.

This morning I finally got my longer run, and it felt so good! There’s something about a rest day that really works. Everything felt good. Sometimes when you run it’s a slog and you spend the whole time looking forward to the end. And some days everything lines up and your body is ok with the running and you feel like you could keep on going forever. Today was one of those good days. I’m still a little sore in my legs from Tuesday, but only very mildly so.

Right now I’m up to 4050 calories burned this so far week (Monday through Sunday). I have 950 to go, which is easily doable as long as I stick to my usual habits this weekend. I’m on track to meet my goal!


Wait, stop the presses!

I just realized that if you take my loss on this push (7 lbs so far) and averaged it across the entire time period (three and a half weeks so far), I am, actually, getting a two-pounds-per-week loss on average.

This means I guess I need to take back the disparaging comments I made regarding the Mayo Clinic calling me a lazy excuse-making fatso. Perhaps they are right, and I have a normal metabolism, I just don’t like the fact that at my age I have to work THIS hard to see only THIS much loss. Which is slower than what I used to see when I was a younger person. I mean, I’m working really hard! But also over the entire period I’m getting exactly the rate of loss I should expect. Jeez now I feel dumb about my last post. I can’t math today! Or rather, it took me a while to take a longer view than just one week’s results.

Dammit. I need more data. See you next Tuesday, BMR…and every week after that.

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Week 3 Results: BMR and Me

It seems like the older I get the less satisfied I am with my results. And that’s because the older I get the slower I drop. But that’s not really what’s going on.

What’s really going on is that the closer you get to your goal weight, the slower the loss will be because your Base Metabolic Rate is lower. When I was at my highest, I could drop 9 pounds in a week the first week because the difference between how many calories my metabolism needed to burn just to keep the lights on, and how many calories I was consuming in a VLCD, was astonishing. The basic weight math is straightforward.

Right now, the difference between how many calories my body burns and what I’m consuming is not so astonishing. I’m much closer to my goal now than when I was dropping huge wodges of weight each week, and I’m not doing a VLCD, so I’m working with a much narrower margin. Also, and this is an important compounding factor, I have a slower metabolism than the average bear. There’s no online BMR calculator that accurately reflects my reality – they all greatly overestimate how many calories I have to play with because they’re basing it on an average across humans and every body is its own laboratory. Due to 13+ years of consistent attention and data collection, I have a very good grasp on just what my burn rate is. And it’s lower than the average reflected in online BMR calculators. If my BMR were truly 1727 as those sites claim, I should be losing 2 pounds a week right now based on the caloric deficit I am creating through diet and exercise. I am not.

I naturally have a more efficient system than most (ie, my burn rate is lower – I like to call it an efficient system because that sounds better than “genetic booby prize”). This is why I was 400 pounds to begin with when I started this whole journey – eating the same foods as the people around me who were only 10 or 20 pounds overweight. I don’t burn up calories as fast as I should, or might like to expect I could. And losing a lot of weight slowed my metabolism further. I mean, obviously, losing a lot of weight slows your metabolism – that’s basic physics. But I think I got more than the normal effect because my system was more efficient (metabolic booby prize!) to begin with. Discouraging, true, but that’s life.

When I put all those factors together, any loss at all is a victory. Last night I weighed in and was down 1.5 pounds, bringing me to 7 pounds total this push. I am very happy with this result! I’d be ecstatic to get this result every week until I get to my goal.

They say (who? the internet!) that weight fluctuations less than about 8 pounds aren’t noticeable on most people, so I’m almost there, I can almost see progres! I think I can see it a little right now, in the curve of my waist, it’s leaner and slightly less padded. I think. Maybe? Give it another week! My clothes already fit better, anyway.

Slight side rant: I edited and agonized over this post for a long time today because I keep reading how “rare” a thing it is to have a slow metabolism, clearly the consensus is that anybody who claims to have a slow metabolism is really just a lazy junk-food junkie (thanks Mayo Clinic – now fuck off) who needs to man up and go on a diet like for reals. I feel that considering my long experience, my years of record-keeping, and consistent mathematical calculations, I can make this claim because the numbers back me up. That’s the thing about weight math. It’s a fact whether the Mayo Clinic things I’m a lazy excuse-making fatso or not. (In their defense, they are writing for the general population. My experience is not a common one to find out in the wild). Ok. Rant off.