Archive for exercise

Day 9 – fitness goals and benchmarking thoughts

Posted in fitness with tags , , , , on February 8, 2012 by healthordeath

I have done a lot of different fitness routines over the years, and most of them were, ultimately, bad. I wasn’t necessarily stupid, but rather I was ignorant of what to do. The second problem I ran into was tracking progress; I didn’t know how to tell if my routines were working. I have stumbled my way into a better idea of what works.

I’ll start with benchmarking. If your goals include trimming some fat, get off the scale! The scale is an ineffective measure of success, since weight changes with gains and losses in both fat and muscle and fluctuates based on eating, drinking, and bowel movements. If you must use the scale limit yourself to measuring at the same time of day each time and don’t measure more than once a week. No one gains or loses a pound or more of body fat overnight without surgery. So what to measure instead? A mirror is a good start since you know what you want to look like. Another good tool is a measuring tape. Finally, you can spring for a body fat calculation (most home tools are inaccurate).

If your goals are to get stronger, then my advice is to track both body weight exercises and weight exercises. Log your exercises in the same place on the same equipment, and make sure that you havent done other workouts beforehand. I do a lot of different body weight exercises, but I only track standard push-ups, pull-ups, and squats and I only do so in my exercise room. Also, I will track a couple rounds of this to help track muscle recovery. For weight tracking, I pick one exercise per workout and do that one first after my warm-up, otherwise you may be mistaking a lack of progress with muscle fatigue. Finally, don’t stretch, it decreases performance.

Today I logged a new PR on my deadlift: 275

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Day 6 – healthy, fit, strong, and in-shape: not the same thing

Posted in about, fitness with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2012 by healthordeath

I wrote on my day 1 post that I am a fitness nut, and I meant the nut part quite literally. Who else would willingly sign up to run the Tough Mudder 10 mile obstacle course – with water events – in late Fall? (proof coming)

Fitness became one of my passions around the time I entered the third decade of my life, when I saw – much as I do now – two roads: die slowly from poor health and weakness, or take control of my life and get better. I took to watching what I ate and started exercising, though at first I had no real idea what I was doing. I more of ate what everyone tells you is healthy food, I started running 2 miles a day, and I went to the gym and used every machine I saw. It worked, for the most part, and I lost around 60 pounds while building muscle. I wasn’t trim, though, because I was limited in my healthy eating by being stuck on a college campus. I was strong.

The problem came when my “progress” slowed. A lot of people get to their target weight and still end up unhappy in part, I think, because us scale junkies get addicted to seeing that number go down. I know I was, and in my case I went off the deep end. I progressively increased my exercise volume and decreased my food intake. When that didn’t work, I figured it must be what I’m eating (which was partly true) and started obsessing over food. I checked labels neurotically, I put stuff into and out of my cart more than once, and took forever to shop. I have taken an hour to buy peanut butter.

I hit a wall when I was trying to bike 30 miles every couple of days and lift weights daily and attend intense martial arts classes 2-3 times a week. I tried to fuel this with a couple of pieces of bread with peanut butter, a banana, and a homemade protein bar. I felt like death every night but, surprisingly, I also had trouble sleeping. I knew I needed to eat more, but I could not make myself do it. I did, however, lean out to single digit body fat. I was in-shape.

My solution to this was an accidental revelation. One night, out of a strong desire to not feel like death I cracked open the liquor drawer and poured myself a strong beverage. Within minutes, the strangest thing happened: I wanted to eat! With my inhibitions suppressed, I could slam down all the calories I needed, then sleep off the buzz. And this is how I fueled my fad workouts for a while. I did P90X; I did Insanity; I did them together (with weight-training too); I bought into kettlebells; I practiced yoga. I was fit.

Unsurprisingly, that lifestyle was unsustainable, and I have crashed hard. What gives me hope is that I no longer have the problem that caused me to start drinking regularly. As it turns out, when you cut out processed junk, eat when you are hungry, focus on nutrient dense foods, and learn not to fear fat, the body does a pretty good job of aligning how much you want to eat with how much you need to eat. I’m also over being a scale junky and a calorie counter (I am convinced that calories in/calories out is bunk, but more on that later). My only obstacle between me and health is my addiction.