Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fit by Fitbloggin' update: Getting real

Last night I had guest speakers in my class, a married couple. One partner is a creative writer who works with a nonprofit to bring writing to inner-city classrooms, and the other is a high-level corporate executive. The wife was the corporate exec, and she brought her husband in to a team meeting to help her work with her team to set goals for the year.

Being aware of the shape of story -- beginning, encounters with challenges in the middle, peak action or goal, falling action, and conclusion -- can help set more realistic goals and also plan for problems. Because the exec's team had planned for potential hiccups and even written them into their story for the year, it was easier for the team to keep working together productively instead of looking for someone to blame when a setback occurred.

Why yes, that IS a Passion Planner...Thanks Fitbloggin' Secret Santa!
It wasn't new information to me, but in weight-loss blog land, everyone rushes in to scold a blogger who has a setback as if it indicates a personal failing. Including the blogger herself.  Sure, controlling the environment is a great strategy. I do it most of the time. Sometimes, though, it isn't that easy. 

No one would read a story like this: "I decided I wanted a pack of gum, so I went to the store and bought one. I'm so happy now. The End." Why do we expect goal-setting and achievement to work like that? Intellectually, we know that obstacles are going to come up, but it seems like a lot of people think that if they really had determination and persistence, everything would be like a Pinterest quote.

I'm hitting a predictably bumpy part of the story -- the end of the semester -- along with some challenges I didn't anticipate -- excessive drama and unpredictable extra hours at work -- and it has affected me. I had a bad Weight Watchers weigh-in last week, and as usual I blamed myself for it and let it drag me down further, even though it's not surprising that I would be having issues. I have barely had time to go to the grocery store to make sure I have food to pack with me, and I haven't been eating on schedule. Both of these have contributed to what I have been calling "A Case of the F--- Its" -- to riff on the "Case of the Mondays" line in Office Space

I think I have held it together fairly well, considering. I'm still tracking, still sticking to my training schedule, and still trying to get regular sleep. 

I'm over being mad at myself. This is part of my story.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fit by Fitbloggin' detour: Biometric screenings and a Mad Men fan question

I didn't weigh in at home this morning -- I had fasting tests this morning for our insurance company instead. They did weigh me, but since I was clothed and it was a different scale, I'm not going to try to compare the results with my home scale weights.

If I had gotten up a little earlier, I could have weighed in here too, but as it was, I was glad I remembered the appointment and managed to make it there on time. I am still feeling a little tired and groggy after my race yesterday, especially because I had to stay up to watch the newest Mad Men.

Mad Men fan question: Have any other Mad Men fans noticed that Peggy's wardrobe colors often relate to the account she's working on? When she was working on Burger Chef, her clothes had the colors of the logo. Last night she had a peanut butter account, and her dress was a brown print in one scene and in the next, she had a suit with a tan stripe in it. She is looking very pretty and soft lately -- they let her harsh cut grow out a little and she has been wearing more luminous makeup. When things are going bad for Peggy, they seem to use more powder to make her look tired.

Okay, now back to our regularly-scheduled program.

My numbers at these things are always good except for weight and, as a result, BMI.

Here are today's numbers with desirable target numbers in parentheses:

Total cholesterol: 133 mg/dL (less than 200)
HDL cholesterol: 73 mg/dL (greater than or equal to 60)
LDL cholesterol: 45 mg/dL (less than 130)
Triglycerides: 77 mg/dL ( less than 150)
Glucose: 85 mg/dL (less than 100)
Blood pressure: 109/81
BMI: 29.7 (18.5-24.9)
Waist circumference: 32 (less than 35 for women)

Overall, pretty good. I'm working on weight loss and stress management, which will hopefully take care of the BMI and the higher diastolic blood pressure number.

Our health care plan gave us a free Fitbit Charge for participating in this assessment, so soon I'll have a review of that gadget. It's amazing to think that they believe they will save enough money through this intervention to pay for the screening personnel and the Fitbit devices for everyone who agrees to take part.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A racy weekend

I have been just a little active lately. Once I was fully recovered from my hike into the Grand Canyon, it was time to get a little more activity.

I have the great fortune to be part of a really fun triathlon training group, Team Endurance Fusion.  On Friday we had a Spaceballs Prediction 5K (a few of our team members registered for a virtual 5K and got cool medals, but I just ran). I wasn't sure whether to predict 34:00 or 35:00, so I split the difference and said 34:30. I ran most of the race with a team member who had predicted 33:00, and surprised myself by finishing in just over 33:00.

I wore my Enell gear for this race and even had a chance to evangelize a bit with a team member who didn't like her current sports bra. We had a fun party afterward with lots of healthy food and a dunk tank. It was too cold for me to dunk but I happily tried (and missed all my throws) to dunk another team member.

The problem with race photos is you see the problems with your form. Look at that arm!
The party was to celebrate the opening of multisport season in Toledo, which kicked off with the Dooby Du today. This event is more than a double duathlon and goes Run-Bike-Run-Bike-Run. I wasn't going to do the race, because of the heavy emphasis on running, but I let myself get peer-pressured into it. It's a small race and attracts mostly serious multisport athletes. I was seriously worried about finishing last.

The start of the race. I am hidden behind the woman in gray.
I had never done or even considered doing the race before, and had no idea what to predict for a time. I decided my goals for the race were, in order of importance:
  1. To finish
  2. Not to puke
  3. Not to finish last
Another run-form nightmare. I need to be more upright.

I found the runs very challenging. They were only 2 miles each, but they felt long to me. I think I might have been a little sore from Friday's race, but I also was alone for most of the course because almost everyone was faster than me. I would always start to wonder if I had gone the wrong way. 

The biking was better, since I am so much stronger on the bike, but there were 30 mph wind gusts and there were times when I was going into the wind and really struggling.  I did manage to catch a couple of people on the bike and close the gap that had opened up during the run a bit. The first bike loop was pretty cold, but the second one was warmer. Even though the bike loops were only 6.3 miles, they felt long because of that wind.

I got lapped by the first-place man when I was finishing my second run loop. The biggest thing I had to fight was the mental challenge of feeling so far behind everyone else. It helped to know I had other team members there. There were three or four people behind me, and one was close enough to make me worry that she would pass me if I let up too much. I walked a few times because one of my feet hurt but I didn't let myself walk for very long, just a few steps. 

I wouldn't say I look happy in this finish photo, but I was relieved.
I didn't have a spectacular time -- I took longer than the two hours I threw out as a rough goal, finishing in 2:13:15. My transitions were horrible. My splits, for the geeky:

Leg Activity Distance Time Pace
1 Run 2 24:06 12:03 per mile
trans 01:45
2 Bike 6.5 23:41 16.47 mph
trans 02:27
3 Run 2 25:46 12:53 per mile
trans 01:54
4 Bike 6.5 24:26 15.96 mph
trans 02:15
5 Run 2 26:55 13:28 per mile
TOTAL 2:13:15

I did, however, manage to score second place in the 45-49 women's age group, since there were only two of us (I'm 44 but I have a birthday in December, and in triathlon, you race as the age you will be on December 31).

I was so far behind the other finishers that they hadn't printed my results before handing out awards, so I had to ask for my medal. The race organizers were really nice about it. This was a tough race for me, so I think I earned it! Our team had one third-place finisher and four second-place finishers, so I think we are going to have a great season.

Will I do this race again? Maybe, especially if I can improve that pesky running form.

Friday, April 17, 2015

LoseIt! Premium's new Patterns feature

I have been using LoseIt! to log my calories lately instead of the Weight Watchers app. I'm still technically a Weight Watchers member, mostly because I like my leader, but I have been having trouble getting to meetings lately since my class schedule changed.

Anyway, when I logged in today, I noticed that the app seemed to be suggesting that I eat more crackers.

Since I think of crackers as a bad habit, I had to investigate, and it turns out that LoseIt! has a new premium feature that notices and reports on patterns in users' calorie consumption.  I have quite a few positive patterns, according to LoseIt!, and only two negative ones: I tend to go over my calories on days I consume chocolate or pasta. 

Of course it's not a perfect feature. I am more likely to log pasta and chocolate on weekends, which are always harder for me anyway. The "cereal bars" it is suggesting help me stay on track are  actually KIND bars, which have no cereal at all in them, but the ones I choose often do have chocolate. Despite what the FDA seems to be saying, the nutty snack seems to help keep me on track, so I plan to keep them as my go-to work snack.

This is just one of the features of LoseIt! Premium. I did a full review when I first became a premium member. Since then they have added even more features and extras.

How do you track your calories? 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fit by Fibloggin' Week 6: Into the Grand Canyon

This update is a little late because I was tired from our trip yesterday and didn't even think about posting. My husband and I took a long-weekend trip to the Grand Canyon, flying into Phoenix and driving into the park. 

In the photo above, you can see the Bright Angel Trail, which descends into the canyon.  We did the 6-mile roundtrip hike, which sounds easy if you don't think about how steep it is. Honestly, the three-mile roundtrip hike would have been challenging.  Going straight downhill for three miles was tough on my knees. And then climbing back up was exhausting. 

I did really well until the last hour, and then I was needing to stop frequently to rest. The air is very thin compared to home, which is roughly at sea level. We also didn't bring quite enough water, which had a huge effect on my mental state.  There was supposedly a place to refill at the three-mile turnaround, but we didn't find it. I am definitely not a desert animal. 

Weight change from last week: down 0.4 pounds
Days tracked last week: All 7
Average hours of sleep: 6 hr 40 m
Average steps: 15,432
Hours of training: Roughly 11, including the hiking.

I'm glad we did the hike. Supposedly 80% of people who visit the Grand Canyon never drop below the rim.  Even so, I'm still a little sore today. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

Fit by Fitbloggin': Week 5, there was no Week 4

Working with my weight coach has really helped me to get back on the tracking without getting down on myself. I am loving working just with Lose It! and not bothering with the Weight Watchers app. The only thing really keeping me in WW are the meetings with my leader.

I lost 0.4 from last week, which is not too shabby after an indulgent weekend with lots of food around.

Weight change from last week: down 0.4 pounds
Days tracked last week: All 7
Average hours of sleep: 6 hr 44 m (I need to work on this)
Average steps: 11,699 (better than last week)
Hours of training: 6h, 32 minutes (rest week)

Training is going really well and I'm enjoying it. It adds provide a strong sense of accomplishment that I'm not getting elsewhere right now. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Hopeful signs

Last Saturday, I was feeling stuck. This week, things are looking up. After I posted, a friend reached out to me and offered to coach me. This friend is someone I know I can trust to be helpful, nonjudgmental, and to tell me what I need to hear.  I have been following her suggestion to ignore Weight Watchers points for now and just focus on logging everything every day (I'm using LoseIt). I was down 1.8 at my last Weight Watchers meeting and more importantly, I feel more positive.

After finishing Better than Before, I decided to give The Willpower Instinct a second listen. I remembered that it had lots of practical strategies for facing challenges.  The most helpful, for me, was ditching the idea of willpower challenges as a battle of good vs. evil -- I tend to get stuck in self-judgment, and it does me no good at all. That was the problem I was running into with the Weight Watchers points -- I'd get into the negatives and then I would start to feel negative. The plan is designed to create big deficits but that seems counterproductive for me while I'm training.

Things are looking up, and spring is finally here. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Book review: Better than Before

Note: This review is unsolicited and unpaid. The views expressed are my own. This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Because I enjoyed Gretchen Rubin's  so much, I pre-ordered  when I saw it available on Audible (Audible, unfortunately, does not sponsor this blog). I thought that I could use some support for the healthy habits I am trying to create. This seemed to be the perfect audiobook to listen to while I was puttering around the house tidying things up.

I was very happy that Gretchen herself narrated this audiobook, because it was such a disappointment to me when I bought  and found that Gretchen's little experiments didn't sound quite as fun when read by someone who didn't share her goofy sense of humor.  That book always felt kind of grim and self-righteous to me because of the narrator's voice, and I didn't enjoy it much. 

This newest book contains a lot of useful insights on why some habits, even the habits that we really enjoy and want to cultivate, don't stick.  There are helpful strategies, like the strategy of pairing -- tying a habit you want to cultivate, like exercise, to something that makes it more fun, like binge-watching your favorite TV shows. There are great insights, like the fact that once you stop a habit, it's much harder to re-start it because you don't have the fun of starting something new to keep it fresh. My marriage even made more sense once I realized that I am a Questioner and my husband is an Obliger.

However, and maybe this is an artifact of listening to the book rather than reading it -- I began to find Gretchen's lawyerly tendency to classify and codify everything a little dull by the middle of my first time reading the book.  I got tired of the long strings of questions, especially in the chapter on Distinctions.  I understand and appreciate her perspective that habits will stick better if they are tailored to the individual, but some of the distinctions "Are you an Opener, or a Finisher?" seemed a little bit trivial.

What I missed was the element of story that made  fun for me to read. As a midwesterner living in the suburbs, I enjoyed hearing about the life of a Manhattan apartment-dweller and her family.  It was more interesting to learn about one person's individual way of applying the strategy of resolutions to her own unique experience than it would have been to hear a more general discourse on happiness and resolutions. I would have liked to see the same approach applied to habits.

There are a few great anecdotes in this new book, like Gretchen's sister Elizabeth using the treadmill desk while writing for TV shows. Those made the book fun for me, and I wish that there were a lot more. Other than her conversion to low-carb and her use of the  to track activity and sleep, there isn't as much focus on Gretchen's own habits as on the changes she helped others make. It's understandable that as someone who writes about her own experience, Gretchen might be desperate for a little privacy.

Even with these limitations, I'd recommend this book to anyone trying to change break a bad habit or adopt a good one. On the second listen, I enjoyed it more (probably because I skipped through part of the Distinctions chapter). There's plenty of help here for people who want insights on why some habits are hard to keep and others are hard to break.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07