Entries in fitness (20)
I said I wasn’t going to write about writing for a while, so I guess I’ll write about fitness instead.
There are certain things that I like a lot of structure around; exercising is one of them. I mentioned yesterday that I have a deck of Strength and Toning cards. Gwen gave these to me for Christmas a few years ago, and I’ve gotten good use out of them. Each card has single exercise or stretch on it. The front side has illustration of a person performing the exercise, and the back has instructions. The design works really well. The first time or two I tried a new exercise, I looked at the back to figure out how to do it. After that, I just looked at the front to spur my memory. The illustration was the key part, as just reading the name wouldn’t have worked as well.
The idea with these cards is that you assemble them into a set of exercises and stretches for a workout. The included booklet has a few different suggested sets, depending on how long you have or what you want to focus on. I’ve built a few of my own, and I’m happy with my current one, in no small part because of the soundtrack.
I really enjoying working out to music. It helps put me in the right frame of mind for whatever it is I’m doing. Last summer I was putting together playlist for the 5K races I was doing, based in part on where on the course I expected to be at a given time. My running workouts aren’t nearly so structured; I have a large playlist of songs with the right rhythmic structures that put on shuffle.1
For my card-based workouts, I have synchronization points, where each song on the playlist should start and stop. This ensures that I don’t go to slowly or quickly through the set, and it lends and overall structure to the workout. What’s it like? Have a look (and listen):
Don’t Stop the Pop by DJ Earworm [5:10]
- Calf raises (x12 each side, 10 lbs.)
- Toe raises (x12 each side)
- Standing calf stretch (10-15 sec each side)
- Standing quad stretch (10-15 sec each side)
- Lunges (x12 each side, 10 lbs. x2)
Just Stop Believing (Lady Gaga vs. Journey) by DJ Tripp[4:37]
- Seated leg extensions (x12 each side, 10 lbs.)
- Foot presses (10-15 sec each side, 5 sets)
- Push-ups (x12)
Black Sabotage (Led Zeppelin vs. The Beastie Boys) by DJ Moule [2:32]
- Chest flies (x12, 10 lbs. x2)
- Bicep curls (x12 each side, 10 lbs.)
- Upright rows (x12, 10 lbs. x2)
- Lateral raises (x12, 10 lbs. x2)
- Outer-thigh Leg Lifts (x12 each side)
- Inner-thigh Leg Lifts (x12 each side)
- Leg-press bridges (x12)
- Foot turns (10-15 sec each way, 3 sets)
- Crunches (x24)
- Oblique crunches (x12 each side)
Dynamite Pressure (Taio Cruz vs. Queen and David Bowie) by DJ Tripp [4:11]
- Heel dips (x12 each side, alternating)
- Plank (60 sec)
- Back extensions (x12)
- Lying hamstring stretch (15-20 sec each side)
- Lying inner-thigh stretch (15-20 sec each side)
Fireflies by Owl City [3:48]
- Lying outer-thigh stretch (15-20 sec each side)
- Full-length torso stretch (15-20 sec each side + both)
- Deep buttocks stretch (15-20 sec each side)
- Lying knee-hug stretch (15-20 sec each side)
All together that gives me about half an hour of a good mix of upper-body, lower-body, and core exercises. Plus it’s got a good beat.
Fitness: Ran 2.25 miles
Writing: 264 words
1 The rhythm is important. Think about trying to run to Take Five.
2 By rule, this must be included in every workout playlist I make.
It’s time to make some promises to myself.
I sit down at the beginning of every month to look at what I’m doing, what I want to keep doing, and what I want to change. Monthly is about the right interval for this, as weeks are too short for patterns to emerge and quarters are just long enough for them to disappear. I started noodling on this last week, and yesterday I put together some commitments for April. Here are the big ones.
I’ve been slacking recently. I’d told myself that this was because I was letting my knee heal. The knee is fine now, so it’s time to get back on track. April last year was when I got serious about running — with results I was exceptionally pleased with — so I know that it’s a time of year that works well for me. I’m about fifteen pounds lighter than I was last April1 and I can run four miles without really thinking about it. It’s time to build on that base. I know that I’m most likely to stick with a program if I have a specific goal, i.e. a race, in mind. There are one or two coming up in early July that I’m thinking about. At this point, training for any of them is about the same, so it’s time to get started.
I’ve been writing a lot about writing recently. It’s time to stop doing that. This story has enough juice with me that I want to see where it goes. I’m setting aside thirty minutes a day to work on it. At the end of the month, we’ll see what I’ve got.
To keep myself honest, each post this month will include a brief update on what I’ve done since the last one. There’s nothing like making promises to myself in public to hold up the mirror of accountability.
Fitness: 30 minute workout from my Strength and Toning Deck
Writing: 439 words
1 My historical data doesn’t start until May, but I’m pretty close on this one.
I wrote yesterday about how my attitudes towards food and exercise had changed in the last nine months. Today, I’m going to take a more details look at how I gathered and visualized the data that nudged me towards those attitudinal changes.
As I said, the first step I took was logging what I ate. I don’t do anything fancy here. Every morning, I take a few minutes to write down everything I ate the previous day.1 Here’s what that looks like:
After a few weeks of doing this, I started paying more attention to what ate, knowing that if I ate it, I’d have to write it down. Nudge.
After a month or two, I made some concrete decisions about what I wanted to be eating what I wanted to be avoiding. So now, my second step each morning is looking at what I ate the previous day and seeing where I get to put an “X” on the checklist.
This gets me thinking about what I’m going to eat that day. Nudge again.
By now, I can hold the daily list in my head, so it’s easy for me to make mealtime choices based on where I do and don’t have Xs that day or week.2
The last thing I do is enter my weight. I weigh myself every morning when I’m at home. By and large, I ignore the reading. What I care about is the trend.
And that’s it. It takes me five minutes each day. Every so often, usually at the end of every month, I look at how I did. I can see easily what my eating habits were and what effect that had on my weight.3 Nudge, nudge, nudge.
1 I used to do this in a Google Spreadsheet, but I find it much easier to work with as an Excel document kept in my Dropbox.
2 It’s so uncommon that I want to eat the “no more than 1x monthly” foods that they almost don’t need to be there.
3 In prior months I looked at running mileage too, but since I’m not running much right now, I’m leaving that out.
This is an update of sorts on something that I don’t think I’ve said that I’ve been working on. It’s inspired by Darya Pino’s post on 9 Surefire Ways To Sabotage Your Weight Loss.
If you followed me on Twitter for much of last year, you’ll know that I was running. A lot. From the beginning April until the end of November, I ran more than five hundred miles. By the end, I was averaging twenty miles a week, and I was loving it. Being that active not only did good things for my body, it did great things for my mind. I’ve often said that one of the reasons I ran great roleplaying games back in 2003-2005 was because I was doing triathlons.
There was another change that went along with the running. In early 2010, I had a conversation with a friend who mentioned that whenever she started tracking what she ate, she’d lose weight. I’d had a similar experience when I was in training: the simple act of tracking caused me to think more about what I was eating and to make better choices. So I started doing it again.
As I started to be mindful of the sorts of things I was eating, I began thinking about what I should be eating. Right about then, I ran into Alton Brown’s explanation of how he had lost sixty pounds. I realized that his rules were simple and were easily compiled into a checklist. As a result, I added that as a component to my food tracking. Each day, if ate something that fell into any of these categories, I marked that column with an X: fruits, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, carrots, green tea, oily fish, yogurt, broccoli, sweet potato, avocado, red meat, dessert, pasta, alcohol, fast food, soda, processed meals, canned soups, and “diet” anything.
Let me be clear: I’m not tracking any sort of nutritional information or counting calories. I’m just writing down what I eat during the day and whether or not I’m eating something in each of my defined categories. Over time, of course, I’ve been trying to align what I’m eating with my ideal; just knowing that eating something is going to put an X into a given column has been nudging me that way. I hardly even look back at the data, except when I notice that the scale isn’t moving the way I want it to. In that case, I usually notice that I haven’t been following my plans, which reaffirms in my head how much making these choices matters.
The result of these two things (increased exercise and simple food tracking) has been a profound change in my attitudes. Over the course of nine months, I’ve dramatically increased the quantity and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables I eat; reduced the amount of red meat I consume; and virtually eliminated soda, fast food, and sweets from my lifestyle. I didn’t go cold turkey on any of these things, and I did it with minimal cravings. My appetite for those things I was trying to avoid gradually waned as I consumed them less. I’m sure that was connected to my developing awareness of how different I felt when I did and didn’t eat them, particularly how much better I felt when I didn’t. Similarly, I became very aware of how much better I felt when I ran than when I didn’t.
It’s that attitudinal shift that has fueled external changes. I’ve lost twenty pounds and needed to replace my belt and jeans in the process. That’s not a huge amount, and I like to lose at least that much again; the critical part of is that it’s been gradual and sustainable. The proof of that pudding has been in the last two months. Near the end of November, I developed runner’s knee, an inflammation of the cartilage in my right knee. The only effective treatment is to cut back or stop running until the knee can heal. So I did. I didn’t run at all in December. I started again at the beginning of January, and I’m slowly adding mileage as my knees permit. Despite this, today I weigh the same as I did on December 1.
So that’s where I am now. The way I think about food and exercise has changed in ways that look to be permanent. I’m working to get back to running again, in part because it’s the most effective way I’ve found to drive weight loss, and in part because I love it. I’ve started supplementing my runs with a simple strengthing and toning workout I can do at home in half an hour and that’s helping prevent a reoccurance of my knee injury.. I’ve committed to eating well and being active every day. We’ll see where that takes me in the next nine months.