Making Progress Getting Healthy

It has recently come to my attention that over the past several weeks, I have been posting a short write-up on Facebook outlining my progress on getting healthy. I’m not sure why I haven’t just brought those posts here and given myself more freedom in writing (I always feel constrained on Facebook due to the format and my friend’s average attention span).

With that said, I’ll make an attempt to get you caught up on what has been going on with me. First and foremost, I’m not sick or anything, I just decided that getting healthy was something that I wanted to make a priority in my life.

Losing Weight

About 60 days ago, I decided that I was going to do something about living a healthier lifestyle. I knew that I could stand to loose a couple dozen pounds and that my physical fitness level was abysmal. Something as simple as a play session with my daughter would leave me breathing heavy within a few minutes.

I had success with the My Fitness Pal system in the past and opted to use it once again. It is an excellent tool that tracks calories in and out. You scan barcodes on food items (or look them up in a database) and the system keeps a food diary of the nutritional information. When you exercise, you log the activity and an estimated calories burned is deducted from your overall calorie goal.

The nuts and bolts of the system are very simple. If you eat fewer calories than your body requires for day to day activity (estimated based on initial data entry into the software), you lose weight. Having a running list of everything I’m eating and a list of activity that is outside the norm of day to day activity makes loosing weight a pretty simple process.

While I say losing weight is a pretty simple process, that doesn’t mean it is easy. The first few days of eating drastically fewer calories left me feeling hungry. After a few days the hunger subsided and maintaining my daily calorie goal was becoming easier. It helps a great deal when you realize that that pack of Peanut M&Ms that I enjoyed so much (250 Calories) could be replaced with a banana (~110 Calories), apple (~75 Calories), and a plum (~30 Calories) and I’d still come in at fewer calories and have much more food (not to mention the fruit provides a lot of other nutrients that the candy doesn’t).

On most days I’m under my calorie goal and don’t feel hungry at all. In fact, sometimes I eat a little something, when I’m not really hungry, just to pad my numbers a little. Sometimes I have a hard time getting enough protein or fiber and use these little snacks as a way to boost those nutrients.

Following this system, with the addition of exercise, I’ve dropped 22 pounds in about 60 days. I would have liked to have lost a little more than that but I’ll get to that later.

Healthy Lifestyle - My Fitness Pal - July 2013 - 1

Cardio

Losing weight is a pleasant side effect of getting healthy. While it was important that I lost several pounds, it wasn’t the most important aspect of getting healthy. I wanted to be able to play with my daughter for extended periods of time. I also wanted to be a bit faster and have more endurance during various IDPA and USPSA Matches.

In order to increase my stamina, I decided that I was going to start running. I knew that I would be a far cry from my abilities in high school (running 4-5 miles in the morning and again in the afternoon for wrestling practice). I wasn’t prepared for just how bad it would be.

My very first run was torture. I can’t imagine I went more than a quarter mile before I had to slow to a brisk walk and catch my breath. I selected an ambitious route and knew that it was going to be rough going, it wound up worse than I thought.

By the time I finished my roughly 2 mile long route, my legs ached and my lungs burned. Despite all that, I kept pushing and finished in about 35 minutes. I made running a part of my routine and kept at it. At first it was every day, eventually my legs became so sore that I had to take several days off to recover.

Once I was healed up, I was back on the trail. After a couple of weeks I settled into a rhythm. Before long I was able to run a mile, without stopping, in about 15 minutes. After a few more weeks I shaved that time down to about 12 minutes. I increased my distance and kept pushing, eventually hitting my first mile in just under 10 minutes and not stopping to walk until I reach about 1.25 miles.

Roughly 60 days into my new healthy lifestyle, I’m running about 1.3 miles before I begin walking. I walk for a minute or two then run for another half mile. I walk for a few seconds then pick up with more running. The tail end of my route is a mixture of walking and running. As of late I’m covering just over 2.5 miles in under 30 minutes.

In the beginning of July I decided that I also wanted to start strength training. After hitting the machines at the gym, I added in 30 minutes of cardio on the elliptical machines. In the beginning I was jumping on the machine and going. I slowly increased the resistance every few days. I’m currently running at a resistance of ’17’ for 30 minutes and by the end, my legs are beat.

Between running on the trail and running on the eliptical machine at the gym, I’m active for 6 days per week. Being pressed for time most days, I’m keeping the cardio to as close to 30 minutes as I can.

Runtastic – May & June 2013

  • Activities: 17
  • Distance: 38.78 mi
  • Duration: 09:20:05
  • Calories Burned: 8635 kcal

Runkeeper – July (Running)

  • Distance: 21.6 mi
  • Duration: 4hr 8min
  • Calories Burned: 3,827

Runkeeper – July (Elliptical)

  • Distance: 20.1 mi
  • Duration: 4hr 25min
  • Calories Burned: 4,095

While messing around with the Runkeeper Smartphone App, I discovered options to set goals. I set a date of January 1, 2014 with a distance of 125 miles. I do not include the elliptical distance in this goal and stick with outdoor running only.

Healthy Lifestyle - Runkeeper - All Cardio - July 2013 - 1

Strength

Cardio and Weight Loss would have been satisfying and allowed me to reach my goal but I wanted more. Hitting the gym 3 days per week would increase my activity level from 3-4 days of activity to a solid 6 days. In addition, I wanted a well rounded healthy lifestyle and strength training seemed necessary.

I joined a local Planet Fitness (not ideal but it is cheap and convenient) and jumped right in. I didn’t have a plan and thought I’d just go from machine to machine, hitting a variety of muscle groups.

This hodge-podge routine seems to be working for me although I do plan on adding more structure. Once I’m comfortable, I’m going to wade out of the machine area and use the power racks (if you can even call them that, they are some sort of Smith Machine) to incorporate at least squats.

I’ve only been working on strength training for a few weeks but I feel as though I am making progress. I’ve increased weight on virtually all of my current exercises and when I look into the mirror, I see some muscle definition.

When strength training is added to any routine there is an immediate weight gain. This isn’t a gain of muscle, it is water-weight. As I understand it, newly fatigued muscles retain water to repair themselves. I was expecting this so the initial 2.5 pound gain didn’t bother me. By the end of the first week I was down 0.5 pounds (as opposed to the usual ~2 pounds).

Strength Training seems to have slowed my weight loss but I’m seeing dimensions change in my body. My biceps are bigger, my chest is smaller, as are my waist and hips. While the same change may have occurred with cardio alone, adding weights seems to have sped up the process.

Healthy Lifestyle - Gym Hero - July 2013 - 1

Hitting a Wall

There comes a time in everyone’s new healthy lifestyle when they hit a wall. Some people experience this sooner than others and lose interest, sometimes they give up altogether. I hit my wall over the weekend and had a hard time with it.

Saturday was my birthday. Due to the excessive heat, I opted to go for a morning run and skip my usual 3rd Saturday USPSA Match at Southern Chester. I shot a few weeks prior and the heat was oppressive, I came home feeling miserable and didn’t bounce back until late the following day. I did not want to repeat that experience, so I stayed home.

Throughout the day I ate birthday cake and drank coffee. My diet was horrendous, even if I did keep my calories within my goal. I felt run down and was, simply put, down in the dumps. I wanted to be down 25 pounds as a birthday present to myself and I fell short by .4 pounds. The following day I planned to shoot an IDPA Match but had to cancel that as well. With the weather the way it was, Sunday was going to be the first cool day in some time and my lawn had grown to near-jungle proportions.

I mowed the lawn bright and early then spent the remainder of the day eating junk and laying around. I kept my calories in check but was wore out from mowing. I suspect my pedometer was off due to the vibrations of the lawn mower but it read out that I’d covered just over 6 miles, walking back and forth across my yard.

It felt like several weeks of pushing myself finally caught up with me. My legs ached something fierce and I was run down. I skipped my gym session the following day and was too sore to go running the day after that.

My morale was at an all time low and I worried that I’d struggle to bounce back. I pushed it all aside and hit the gym on my next scheduled day. I was tired but pushed through it and even managed to get in 15 minutes of cardio (on Wednesday I’m really pressed for time and have to get in and out in an hour). I felt good and my spirits were slowly rising.

The following day I hit the trail bright and early. An attractive woman jogging behind me on the trail made me push harder (c’mon, don’t tell me you wouldn’t have done the same). When I got back to my car I hurt all over and was slicked with sweat. Even so, I felt invigorated.

I hit a rough patch and was able to push through it. The scale has moved in the wrong direction so far this week but I’m not too worried. I’ll finish this week strong and be back on track next week.

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