Math is Hard!

Ha! Just kidding, math isn’t hard. It’s logical and follows basic rules of operation. What is apparently hard is tracking days. I weighed myself Wednesday thinking it had been a week because 5 days back at work feels like a week on vacation I guess! And I found I’d only lost a pound and I railed and moaned because I was hoping for more. But reading back, I didn’t start out by weighing in last Wednesday (how could I? I woke up in an airplane over Cuba), I started weighing in on Friday.

So fine. I weighed in this morning. Down a pound and a half. That’s much better. I credit it to two things: 1) yesterday I finally felt up to my usual 3-mile run again after shaking that cold I had, and 2) Thursday night is my usual “cheat” meal, because I have dinner with some friends on Thursdays and relax my rules a little bit and also have wine. Actually the second one probably has more to do with why I didn’t drop more, but it’s a good mental health activity so I’ve refused to give it up.

This morning’s exercise was Jillian’s HardBody DVD, which is one of the harder workouts I do. I still have the occasional tickle in my throat and coughing fit, but I consider myself well enough to push hard. It’s better for me to work hard, it will clear out the dregs of the sickness better than anything else I know.

Speaking of Biggest Loser trainers (was I?  I guess I was), I’m sure you  heard about Bob Harper having a heart attack while working out. He’s ok, but in general it’s kind of a reminder that all the exercise in the world can’t really overcome genetics. Although, being in top physical shape probably had a lot to do with him actually surviving that rather than just dying on the spot (I am not a doctor so I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about and just made that up with zero evidence or knowledge to support it, just thought it sounded good but seriously this freaks me out that you can do everything right and still almost die if your heart just decides it can’t even).

Have a good weekend everyone. Remember to track your food choices, keep your portions reasonable, and work your body a bit every day.

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Benefits of Exercise That Aren’t Weight Loss

This morning as I prepared to head out for my run I started thinking about how every few months friends of mine discover exercise and put on a large show of posting every day about how hard they’re exercising and how far they have to go to their goal – be it weight loss, a certain distance run or biked or rowed, or something else. They charge hard for a few weeks or months and then I never hear about it again, until the next time they rediscover exercise.

Meanwhile I’ve been back here quietly exercising every day all along. There’s not much excitement or glory in it so I almost never post on social media about my workouts. How boring would that be? “Did my workout again today, just like yesterday and the day before and the day before.” And yet what I’m doing is what I hear people say they’d like to emulate – getting regular exercise. Why is it so hard to maintain year after year?

One of my theories is that people focus too hard on the weight-loss benefits of exercise, and that is not sustainable. There are basically two ways it can go when your only reason for exercising is weight loss:

  1. You reach your goal, and stop exercising. Not right away, of course, but over time skipping workouts seems fine because, hey, I reached my goal I should get to relax now! And that’s a slippery slope that leads to getting out of the habit and one day realizing you don’t exercise anymore and haven’t in months or years.
  2. Exercising doesn’t result in weight loss, so you give it up. If you started exercising, but didn’t change your diet, this is a very likely scenario. Losing weight is about 80% intake and maybe 20% exercise. If all you did was start running on the elliptical 20 minutes a day, but only lost 5 pounds before it stopped coming off, you’d probably stop bothering because it wasn’t giving you the results you were looking for.

In order to keep at it over time, one needs to come to an appreciation of the benefits of exercise apart from weight loss. That’s how I get my body out of bed on a Sunday and run 4 miles even when I don’t particularly want to. I’m long past exercising to lose weight – at my age I’m exercising to keep my weight stable and for the other benefits, such as:

My own personal top reason is pain management – my body hurts less when I exercise regularly. I consider exercise to be my regular talisman against the aches and pains of aging. Like brushing my teeth morning and night, it’s just something I need to get done so I can get on with my day. The other benefits are a nice bonus. What are your reasons for exercising?

Week 7 Results: BOOM! Milestone

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan, as I expect of myself. I had 55 servings of fruits/veggies. I had 41 meal replacements. I burned 3,454 calories in physical activity. I averaged a net caloric intake of ~1157 calories per day. These numbers are very similar to last week’s numbers (intentionally – I had a great result last week, why mess with success?).

Result: I was down 1.5 pounds at weigh-in last night.

When I started this push, my initial goal was to lose 10 pounds. Mission accomplished! I’m now officially down 10.8 pounds from when I started in March. YES! This stuff still works (with some experimentation and modification due to my aging infrastructure. Er, body). Feeling pretty good about things today. My next goal is my stretch goal – lose another 10 pounds then maintain that weight for the rest of forever. I have no timeline since I know I’ll be at this the rest of my life. What I mean is, I don’t care how long the next 10 takes me. I’ll get there eventually, the important thing is that I continue to focus on my goal and do the right things to support it and it will happen in due time through the natural course of events.

There’s one thing that still concerns me though, which I was reminded of this morning – why do the people in the Jillian Michaels workout DVDs not sweat? I’m usually melted into a puddle by the end, but everybody in those DVDs is fresh as a flower from start to finish. How does that happen? I wonder if that’s part of the casting process  – you have to come in and workout hard for 30 minutes, and if you break a sweat you’re out. Brutal. I’d be out after about 9 minutes. Which is exactly how long it takes for sweat to start dripping down my face when I exercise. Yes, I even have data on that. NERD ALERT.

Ok, I gotta get dressed in grown-up clothes and head into the office today for a meeting. My employer demands to see my face about once every month or so, and so I comply.

Motivation and Willpower: Similar Problems

In class this week we talked about motivation, and how you find it, nurture it, and boost it. These are all great things, because often when people fall off the wagon it’s because motivation has waned, and considering that we’re all going to be doing this for the rest of our lives…there’s a long, long road ahead to stay motivated.

But I put motivation in the same category as willpower, by and large. It’s a variable emotional state that can come and go at random. The problem is, you have to be able to execute whether or not you’re feeling particularly motivated every day. Just like you have to be able to execute your plan whether or not your willpower is feeling strong.

The thing to do, then, is to set up structures – routines, habits, and environments – that will make it easier to default to “getting it done” than not. That’s when you really need the motivation – use motivation to set up the on-going situation that you’ll need to make success the default action.

Environmental control is one of the biggest factors in this quest. If you’ve set up your environment for success, then failing takes extra work (you’d have to be motivated to self-sabotage! Don’t do that!). If there’s nothing in my kitchen but supportive foods, I would have to make a special trip to the store or a restaurant to go off course. I’d have to stop and think about whether I really wanted to screw up all my hard work badly enough to make a special trip to do it. I never do, because I am essentially lazy.

Same thing with pre-packing supportive foods to go to an event like last weekend. All my food was right there, and I would have had to make a special effort – such as asking somebody else (who knows I’m on a diet!) for some of their food – to get off track.

This is also why my current exercise regimen is so perfect for me. It takes almost zero effort for me to go downstairs and do a DVD or YouTube workout at the time I have allotted in my calendar for my workout. I don’t have to leave the house, I just have to put on a sports bra, shorts, and shoes. If I wanted to NOT do it I’d have to sit there staring at my calendar reminder and think up reasons for not doing it. Then I’d have to justify if those pathetically lame excuses are really worth screwing up my hard work so far. Almost never do they meet that bar. And since there’s such a wide variety of options out there on the web, if I’m feeling low-energy, I can always just pick something that matches my mood, while still getting in my exercise.

Pretty much none of this auto-pilot stuff requires motivation on my part. What it requires, mostly, is an understanding of how my own brain works, and how to use that to catch myself in a web of good habits and practices. Once those are set up, it practically runs itself.

I’m not saying you should set up a routine just like mine, I’m saying a good routine for you should do the thing for you that mine does – makes it easy to succeed.

My Workout Routine Right Now

I haven’t talked about my workouts in a while, because I’ve been focused on getting the food part right. But, rest assured, the workouts have continued apace (or rather, even more apace!). I’ve started doing a little extra activity most weekdays, since I’m on a push right now. Time will tell whether it’s sustainable long term, but for now my routine is to do at least 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise in the mornings first thing after breakfast, and then a walk in the evening, usually 30 to 50 minutes.

The walk is more for clearing my head after the work day and getting some fresh air, working the kinks out of my shoulders after hunching over my desk all day. If I can run some errands that are walking-distance at the same time (“destination exercise”) that’s a great bonus.

The morning workout is where the hard work gets done. Usually I do a DVD or YouTube workout with a trainer. This morning’s may have been a little too intense for me, actually, I did a Kickboxing Circuit Workout with my favorite trainer. There were a few too many points where I needed to just stop and march for a few seconds for my taste, which means I have room to improve next time.

Yesterday morning I went for a run, a little over 3 miles. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I was doing when I was happier with my body, and it was mostly cardio, to be honest – a lot of running. Strength training is great, but it doesn’t really do the things for me that I want – big pumped-up muscles aren’t a priority, since you can’t really see them anyway on my body type. I want to be strong enough to do the things I want to do, but anything more is unnecessary. So I’m trying to do more running and biking and fewer heavy weight-lifting workouts. I aim to maintain the muscle mass I’ve built over the last year, not build any more.

So that’s the rundown. Two sessions of cardio per day right now, high-intensity in the mornings,  and a walk in the evenings. Weekends are a different beast, usually I only have time for one or the other, but since I’ve got a solid routine during the week, I don’t need to push quite so hard on the weekends where physical activity is concerned.

Rewarded for Bad Behavior

First let me set it up: I bought a DVD workout program last week, because I’ve been following this trainer on YouTube for months, but not with any purpose, I’d just pick whatever seemed good each day. I thought it might be useful to follow a program, and if nothing else I’d know what to do each day and not have to figure it out on my own. I don’t expect a “transformation” because I know my body well enough at this point to know that ain’t gonna happen. Even when I’ve been at my slimmest and going balls-to-the-wall with strength training to build up big muscles, the results were subtle AT BEST. Probably best described as “not noticeable to anybody not named Laina.” Really what I wanted from it was to get some exercise every day, not be bored, and not spend all day at it. This is perfect for that. It’s ten new thirty minute workouts and a 6-week schedule telling you what to do when. Perfect! That’s the next 6 weeks sorted!

Anyway, I did the first workout on Sunday morning, and it was a basic cardio workout (“Cardio Party!”), nothing fancy, but it got the blood moving fine. Sunday afternoon I went for a three and a half mile hike, fairly level nothing extreme. And Sunday night my right knee was hurting like crazy.

Honestly, probably not “like crazy.” I don’t really know how to gauge it, because I’ve never had knee pain in my whole life. I’ve been a runner for 13+ years but my knees have never made a peep. I don’t know what caused it, and I don’t know how to treat it, but it hurt all night and Monday morning when I woke up. I took some Alleve, like you do, but it still hurt.

So Monday morning I just carried on with my next workout because 1) I didn’t want to miss one just a day after starting the program, and 2) I wanted to find out if it would get worse if I worked it (this was probably not my best idea). Day 2 was “Total Body Strength”, so basically a bunch of compound strength moves with weights that worked everything all at once. I liked it.

My knee continued to hurt throughout the day yesterday, but when I woke up this morning it was fine. I don’t even know, knee pain is a new one for me. I’m glad it’s all better, I don’t know what caused it, and I hope it doesn’t come back. Today’s workout was “Brain Fitness Fun,” a concept I really like! A moderate cardio workout with moves that work your brain as well as your body, and I’ll admit there were a few times I was confounded and had to really work to get the moves right – it’s good for my brain to be frustrated and work to figure it out.

I’m guessing one should not treat joint pain the way I did – by ignoring it. But it worked out. This time.

Vicious Circle!

The more strength training I do the easier and better my running gets! Love that vicious circle!

Yesterday I had a migraine most of the day. When it finally started to slacken off late in the evening I was left with excruciating shoulder and neck pain. Why? Because I exercise almost every day to ward off the pain, and when I have a migraine I can’t exercise. Hate that vicious circle!

The longer I blitz, the less I can eat even if I wanted to stray because my stomach has become more accustomed to smaller portions. Excellent vicious circle!

The longer I do strength training the more it becomes obvious that I have to pick the advanced moves in my workout DVDs. The better you get, the harder you have to work. I’m ok with this vicious circle.