Fitness Landscaping: Me and My Dirt Spot

Most folks get right frustrated with dead spots in their lawn. I, on the other hand, have really been working at one, nurturing it. I’ve been pouring fitness into it. In the past 33 days I’ve fed it:
  • 355 Arm Curls @ 20lbs
  • 460 Arm Scissors
  • 200 Back Extensions
  • 150 Back Stretches
  • 440 Basic Burpees
  • 870 Butt Kicks
  • 130 Climbers
  • 50 Close Grip Push Ups
  • 1095 Crunches
  • 100 Dead Bugs
  • 260 Elbow Plank
  • 200 Flutter Kicks
  • 1680 Half Jacks
  • 50 Half Wipers
  • 5920 High Knees
  • 210 Hops on the Spot
  • 36 Jump Knee Tucks
  • 2550 Jumping Jacks
  • 320 Knee to Elbows
  • 50 Leg Raise Hold
  • 100 Leg Raises
  • 2620 March Steps
  • 100 Modified Leg Scissors
  • 200 Overhead Punches
  • 80 Plank Jacks
  • 2660 Punches
  • 160 Push Up to Back Extension
  • 340 Pushup Planks
  • 565 Pushups
  • 820 Raised Arm Circles
  • 260 Raised Leg Planks
  • 200 Reverse Crunches
  • 240 Scissor Chops
  • 100 Side Leg Raises
  • 260 Side Planks
  • 1680 Side to Side Hops
  • 210 Side to Side Steps
  • 300 Sit Up Punches
  • 300 Sitting Punches
  • 210 Step Jacks
  • 140 Tendon Leg Holds
  • 140 Tendon Leg Raises
  • 140 Tendon Raised Leg Swings
  • 140 Tendon Side Leg Holds
  • 140 Tendon Side Leg Raises
  • 140 Tendon Side to Side Legs
  • 55 Wide Grip Push Ups

My Fitness Program

I’ve been working for quite some time on losing weight with my target being getting to 200lbs. I lost almost 20 lbs during a stint last year but for quite some time now, I’d plateaued and even with an increase in exercise, I wasn’t losing, I was just maintaining. In addition to wanting to lose weight, I wanted to feel better and be stronger. I was also having some stomach issues and wanted to address that. After talking to my doc and doing some research I decided to change two things. One, I wanted to introduce more strength/conditioning elements to my lifestyle and two, I would finally have to get serious and honest about my diet and what I was and wasn’t eating something I’ve danced around for years.

33 days ago I kicked in the strength element. I started the DareBee 30 Day CardioTrim program. I dig the DareBee ideal and ethos. I don’t have the time or money to join a gym or do Crossfit, as much as I’d like to. DareBee is the poor man’s Crossfit. Literally hundreds of weight/equipment-free exercises and demos, plans, nutrition advice, a support community. Fun stuff. It’s great  – check it out if you’re looking for that kind of thing. I can’t recommend it enough. I know what you’re saying. 30 day program, started 33 days ago? Um, that math doesn’t add up. You’d be right. I took a day off here and there when I felt my body was saying to. I was tired. Listen to your body.

At the same time I started using My Fitness Pal to track everything I was eating. Actually I’d been using it a month before as well. This has given me great data on what fuel (or lack thereof) I’m putting into the tank as well as allow me to correlate that to how I’m feeling and how workouts are going. As a bonus it syncs with my Garmin Vivoactive activity tracker and keeps track of calories burned etc. There’s a great iPhone app (and prolly Android as well) that makes it easy to enter food or even scan barcodes anywhere, anytime. I’ve found that having a data stack to refer to both motivates and excites the geek in me to stick with the program and also keep me honest.

I’ve changed up my diet pretty radically. For the past month and a half or so, I’ve been on a – don’t laugh – shake program, and finding it works pretty well for me. One of the huge hurdles initially for me was trying to teach myself how to eat properly after literally decades of not doing so. After reading and some advice from a buddy, I’ve been using GNC Lean Protein shakes for breakfast and lunch and then eating sensible, whole food dinners. Dinners had always been pretty good at our house, Lyn is a great cook and I’ve become more involved and so have the kids. We’ve always pretty much made everything from scratch trying to use the least amount of processed crap as we can. In addition, we’re using more white meat instead of red, more fresh veggies and even trying out a vegetarian recipe here and there.

Workdays have always been the hardest for me as the temptation to get crap for lunch and/or snack on junk food all day while hammering on a computer was pretty much the norm. Having the shake routine set – in combination with smart, healthy snacks has taken the heavy lifting out of trying to figure out what to eat, was well as eliminated the temptation to fall off the deep end into the deep fat fryer. It’s not my intention to use these shakes forever, but for me they’ve been a great tool for re-learning how to eat as well as managing diet. Overall the shakes in combination with the change in diet have alleviated some persistent stomach issues I’ve been having as well.

Other small things I’ve done that everyone always talks about but do make a huge difference are drinking lots of water (I usually get about 3L a day) and not eating after 7ish at night.

Finally, I’ve continued to strive for something I set out over a year ago and that is to run or ride the bike every day. Doesn’t have to be a monster workout – sometimes it’s just a half-hour cruise, but do something. Every. Day. I’ve missed days for sure, but only 2 in a row at most.

The Progress – Has It All Been Working?

In the first week or so I lost 4lbs. That’s a lot, and I think mostly due to water weight. It was encouraging, but I realize unrealistic to think that trend would continue. Over the remainder of the month, I didn’t lose or gain, just maintained. I think this is pretty much due to diet and touch on that later. I did read an interesting article on why you shouldn’t exercise to lose weight that I found very informative. Thanks to Gewilli for the link.

My fitness is improving radically. Everyone has their own definition of what fitness is. I feel better physically and mentally. I have more energy. I feel stronger. I have less fatigue. The Mojo Tank is full.

I gots all kinds-o-progress, yo.

Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail

What’s important is that you keep driving.

Repeatedly I have to remind myself:

  1. Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. It took 30 years to put the weight on, it’s not going to come off in a week.
  2. Fitness and strength is as important as the weight loss. What you’re doing will not always have immediately tangible benefits.
  3. See #1.
  4. See #1. Again.

In this world of instant downloads, one day shipping and live streaming, I too have become impatient. Expecting to see significant weight loss returns in a matter of days is unrealistic. Keep focused. Keep with the program. Keep going. It will come.

There have been days when the last thing I wanted to do was the workout. Sometimes I would forget until almost bedtime. It would be dark. Cold. Raining. Sometimes I was able to do Level III reps and all the extra credit. Sometimes I could barely manage Level I and  be whimpering. What matters is that I did it. And I also proved to myself that I could both handle it physically AND establish it/fit it into the daily routine/schedule, the latter being something I always was skeptical about or used as an excuse.

Remember. The Spot isn’t going anywhere. The Spot is hungry. The Spot wants sweat and reps.

The Takeaways So Far: What I’ve Learned

  • Be patient. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Nothing does.
  • I’m still eating too many calories. Though I’ve definitely changed what I’m eating for the better, my snacks and meals are still too calorie-heavy. I need more green veggies and protein and less calorie/carb/fat heavy snacks. Working on it.
  • I’ve cheated on food for sure over the past month. But I’ve learned to be more conscious of what I’m eating and why. Do you really need something to eat? Or are you just bored, distracted or stressed and circling the kitchen, one of my major traps. Stay busy, stay focused on the goal. When I have urges or cravings I’m learning to stop and take a second and ask if I really need anything, and if I do, to make a smarter choice vs. acting impulsively. I’ve learned to enjoy ‘treats’ more – like a Blizzard with the Fam at DQ, but I can be ok with the mini-I don’t need the medium with extra stuff. When people want to go to Wendy’s, they have salads there too (who knew?) not just Baconator combos. An online buddy of mine, Paul told me once: “One salad doesn’t make you skinny just like one piece of pie doesn’t make you fat.” You’re trying to change habit and routine, and if you fall (or intentionally get off) the horse, don’t beat yourself up, just get back on.
  • Just because you rode 100km, doesn’t mean you should eat that many calories worth of crap.
  • Keep a journal. Don’t feel like you have to write everything in it or everyday, but have one. Maybe not for everyone, but working for me.

One Day at a Time

It really is just that ridiculously simple. I’ve realized there is no ‘end’. There is no ‘fail’. What I’m trying to do is perpetual. Organic and ever-growing. It’s now a process that will end, really, only when I finally check out. So time to keep doing it. Today.

Gotta go pick out the next DareBee 30 day program. #feedthespot

#SpringThawChallenge : Halfway

An appropriate day as any for an update. 45 days down. 45 to go. Halfway to Spring, March 20 and I’ll not lie, I’ve been slacking.

We’ve been pounded with multiple snowstorms and brutal cold temps and keeping up, let alone finding the time and motivation to exercise has been challenging. I’m still managing to squeak in a run here and there, but diet is suffering. I find the more I hibernate inside, the greater my desire to eat all the things, specifically the bad ones. Things like 3 storms’ worth of #stormchips aren’t helping. Still not drinking as much water as I should either, but on the plus side I’ve had hardly any pop.

I did have a stint awhile back where I ran every day for a week and was feeling good but then the first of 3 snowmaggedons hit and derailed me. I tell myself I could hit the elliptical inside and that would be better than nothing, but I hate it. Would so much rather get outside, even if it’s cold. I’m really enjoying running when I can get out, even more so than the bike in some cases, just ’cause there’s less work/kitting up involved. Also with as much snow as we’ve had, I can run places I can’t go with the bike, even the fatbike. I’d like to get a set of running snowshoes. Maybe next winter.

I keep telling myself to get up early (which would mean around 5am) and run in the mornings, but damn it’s cold and dark then. It’s a psychological killer. Sometimes the voices in my head get the better of me.

“Go run outside in sub freezing temps in the dark? That’s nuts man. People will think you’ve lost it. It’s borderline irresponsible.”

I’m holding steady at 217lbs which is still down from the start, but not where I wanted to be at this point and really, seems to be my average/comfort zone, so not much accomplished. This seems to be the weight I always plateau at and I’m pretty sure that food is gonna make the difference at this point, but it’s hard to break bad habits and start eating like a rabbit. Never been my thing. I’ve always been a meat and potatoes (and cheetos) guy, so switching to ‘eat food, mostly plants, not too much’ is the hardest part for me.

Will get back on the exercise horse. I actually miss it and find myself looking for it each day I don’t squeak it in somewhere.

Half way. Days are getting longer now. I’m recommitted to kicking some ass and taking names.

Some Thoughts on Layering & Kit for Winter Running

You can do it too.

In an article at Gear Junkie that I posted earlier on Facebook and Google+ this week, Eric Larsen said something that really resonated with me. People are always commenting how I’m nuts to be out in such cold or that it’s weird that I like being out in it. What he said particularly was:

“People say they hate the cold. I think what they mean is they hate being cold. I agree, being cold sucks. It’s painful. I like being warm in very cold environments; you can do it, too.

Same here. This morning I got up to go for a run and it was -17ºC/1.4ºF. That’s pretty f’n cold. Not arctic polar cold, but cold enough for most of us non-explorers. Most of these mornings I lay in bed, contemplating if I want to face the cold or not, I also am mentally figuring out what I’m going to wear if I do. I’ll check the temperature and conditions outside and then in my head, compare that with other times I’ve been out in same conditions and what I wore and what worked and what didn’t – i.e. did I freeze my ass off or overheat. Another factor will be what kind of activity I’m doing and how long I anticipate doing it for.

So along those lines I thought I’d share what I wore today as maybe it will help some of you sort your own kit:

Feet
1. Thin cotton sock – most people, including me, will tell you that cotton next to skin is a no-no, and that’s true, but I don’t have any thin/liner weight wool socks. I hope to remedy that in the near future. I put these on today and rolled the dice. I won.
2. Grocery bags – yup, you read that right. Low tech, but never fails. Cheap vapor barrier.
3. Medium weight Smartwool sock.
4. Salomon Speed Cross shoes – while not a winter shoe specifically, these do have some tech and materials designed to keep water and cold out. More of a ‘fall/muck’ shoe.

Legs
5. Synthetic long underwear – cheapie stuff from Walmart.
6. Fleece/thermal cycling tights – these are Performance house brand ones I’ve had for at least 10 years. Still in great shape. Right leg has broken zipper pull replaced with a paper clip. I’m punk rock.

Torso
7. Under Armor ‘Cold’ base layer – wicking/thermal
8. Merino Wool Cycling jersey – wicking/thermal – added bonus doesn’t collect stink!
9. MEC Derecho Cycling Jacket – shell/wind – nice because it has full zippers up the sides/armpits that allow you to vent easily if you start to heat up.

Misc
10. Buff – This provides a nice ‘gasket’ at the neck to keep out drafts – something I hate. It’s also great ’cause if it’s too cold once you get out you can pull it up over your nose/mouth. I don’t even have the wool/winter version, just the basic one.
11. Trusty wool RandiJoFab cycling cap – this one’s got built in flip down earflaps if needed. I like it vs. a normal winter cap too, ’cause it has a brim.
12. Salomon running vest – this is the first time I’ve run with this even though I got it some time ago. I don’t normally take water with me on short runs, but lately when it’s cold I find I get thirsty sooner. Maybe it’s the cold air or my mouth dries out faster, I dunno. Perhaps, my body’s using up more water for heating so it’s telling me to drink. After reading again in the article the importance of eating/drinking, I decided at the last minute to throw some water in it and take it along. I’m glad I did. I didn’t actually end up drinking anything, but it was a great trial run. The pack is comfortable, streamlined and fit great underneath my shell layer. I actually sorta forgot I was even wearing it.

Hands
13. Some thin Head gloves from Costco – while not meant to be a liner glove, these are the closest thing I have. Also nice is they have the pads on the fingers that let you use them with a smartphone.
14. Pearl Izumi Amfib Cycling Gloves – as an outer glove.

Today I probably could have just gone with one pair of gloves, the Pearl Izumis, but it’s always nice to be able to take off the bulky outer glove to adjust snowshoe bindings or access zippers/pockets, without exposing your hands to the cold.

I wore all this too, bearing in mind that I wasn’t going to be stopping anywhere for any great length of time and would keep my body temp up with activity. If I had planned anything like that, I would have brought extra layers to add on for those times of inactivity, as Eric mentioned in his article.

Overall, I had a great time and wasn’t too cold or hot – BAM – nailed it! Nothing is better than getting outside any time of year and getting your kit selection just right.

#SpringThawChallenge Post-Holiday Weigh In

So the Holidays – and time of unlimited consumption – are now behind us and time to get back to the task at hand. I did enjoy some treats over the Holidays, I will not lie, but tried to do so in moderation. In addition, I tried – and was relatively successful – in continuing with my exercise every day endeavor. Looking back, since Dec 23rd, there’s only been 4 days that I didn’t complete either a bike ride, a run or a Neila Rey workout. So without further ado, this morning’s weigh in result: 218 lbs.

So, 4 lbs up from last weigh in, but still down from the original. I’m ok with that. I’ll take it. I’m feeling good moving forward into January and it’s unobstructed-by-holidays-that-involve-eating status. To celebrate making it through the Holidays without a total derailment, I’m 5 – and only these 5 – gumdrops. You may enjoy them with me vicariously.

#SpringThawChallenge Update: Merry New Year Beef Jerky Time

I’ll dispense with the trivialities. First weigh in since the beginning of the Challenge. We’re 20 days in. For those not paying attention – or too lazy to go back a few posts – I initially clocked in at 223 lbs with the goal being to maintain or lose weight over the winter towards a target of +/- 200 lbs.

Today’s Tale of the Scale: 214.8 lbs. It’s the .8 that’s really holding me back.

You’ll recall – or you may not if you weren’t playing along then – that the first weigh in was fully clothed – this one was done right though, nekkid. So there’s that discrepancy. Also, you’re welcome for that mental image. Far too early to declare any sort of victory as over my adult life I’ve noticed I’ll fluctuate 7-8 pounds over a month without even really doing anything, but certainly data points to movement in the right direction.

Save two days of slip-ups, my endeavour to do some activity every day has remained successful be it a walk, a ride, a run, playing hockey or a muscle workout. On some days I’ve even managed to fit 2 or more in. I had started out on the Fit Christmas challenge, and I’m keeping at it though there have been one or two days I wasn’t able to complete the workout. My consolation was that on those days I did do something else – in both cases a run (one of 10k) so I figure I’m ok.

Efforts to improve eating habits are additionally going well. At the beginning of the challenge I started writing down what I eat/drink every day and it’s helped me to ID what was good and bad about my diet as well as drink more water. I also tend to have a little more willpower to avoid the bad stuff if I know I’m gonna have to write it down later. Overall feeling real good and motivated to keep going which is good as I now stand at the precipice of the culinary abyss that is Christmas Vacation Week.