Two Months (+One Week) in the Books

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
water
Having been on a vacation split over two weeks (Wednesday, March 12 through Tuesday, March 19), this is my first full work week in awhile. I continue to look at the above picture as a reminder of where I was not too long ago. Unfortunately, given the climate here in Philadelphia, I probably will not enjoy such waves until late May at the earliest…

A return to a full work week also means a return to simpler meals and nights at the gym. Gone are the long walks on the beach, the heartier meals, the swimming in the Gulf, and the promise of a reprieve from the Northeast cold. Instead, I get to enjoy this lovely struggle of Spring prying longer days and warmer evenings from the grasp of the most aggressive Winter in memory.

At this point, it has been over two months and a week since I started my fitness program on a cold Wednesday in January (the 15th). Looking back, I notice immediately several improvements to my health and daily routine. I also look forward to my intermediate goal for the Broad Street Run as something not too far into the future.

So, how have I done?

Officially, since January 15, 2014, I have lost 22.3 pounds and dropped 3.9 in my Body Mass Index (BMI). Unofficially, I had tipped the scales a few weeks prior to January 15 about five pounds heavier, which would increase my progress accordingly. I will stick to the official dates though, so I do not skew my results.

My step count has risen significantly, although I think it is worth separating weekends and vacation from weekdays. Weekdays are consistently around 12,000 steps, whereas weekends and vacation are somewhere in the low to mid 20,000’s. My resting heart rate is somewhere around 52-56 beats per minute and my caloric deficits are still in line with my goals. In general, during weekends and vacation, I tend to trend closer to 2,000 calories consumed and 3,000+ burned, whereas during the week I trend near around 1,400 to 1,700 consumed and 2,600 to 2,800 burned. I now run at least four to five times a week, for a minimum of 15 – 20 minutes a day, with one day above 30 minutes and another approaching an hour.

The weekday breakdown of my calories is much better than in the beginning, as I have increased my protein as a percentage of calories significantly, resting slightly under 30%, and I have accordingly decreased my fat as a percentage to 22%. Carbohydrates have lessened to around 48%. Weekend and holiday breakdowns are not nearly as positive, but I manage them as opportunities to eat a bit more and yet still maintain a caloric deficit equivalent to what I produce on a weekday.

My running has improved as I can run longer and faster than before. I try not to go all out on runs, as I am still mainly running on treadmills (minus during my vacation, where I refused to use the fitness center and instead would rather run in crazy wind on the beach). Physically, I feel less stress on my ankles, which used to be the very deterrent for me to get into running in the first place.

More aesthetically (but also important), I have noticed many changes to what I wear and how clothes fit. At the end of February, I had to buy a new belt which was four inches smaller than my previous belt, and I am at the moment on the second to last rung of this new belt. I fit into my old swim trunks that I had stored away in some “fingers-crossed” hope that I could someday use them again. I did the same with a bunch of suits I bought back at the start of my job in the late summer of 2010. They were lost causes (and expensive ones at that!) for the past three years. They fit now, although I am holding off on wearing them until the current suits get their worth out of them. I had bought them not too long ago, and while they have plenty of room at the moment, I probably have another couple of weeks max, before they are just too baggy to continue to wear.

Hitting another milestone is like a jolt of extra energy, as I really had struggled a few weeks before my vacation to feel excited for what I was doing. Even though the results were continuing to impress, I had gotten to a point where I wanted to achieve another milestone for the sake of feeling accomplished, and I was getting impatient. It is easier to look after a complete month and notice the weight loss than to incrementally feel good about a few pounds here or there. I got to a point where I was even frustrated with the fact February only has 28 days, and therefore two days less within the month to lose weight.

Of course my mind has consistently looked forward a couple months out, so I purposely use this blog to reset my perspective and appreciate my success to this point. As I had mentioned in  a previous post, my downfall the last time I lost significant weight (sophomore year of college) was that I had paid no attention to the successes I had and rather focused on the room to improve.

As I continue forward over the next month until I hit my next milestone (completing three successive months of this fitness program), I hope to continue the success I have had to date. In the process, I will need to adapt to some new variables at play such as rainy weather, potential travel, and a decreasing Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). At this point, my increased confidence welcomes these challenges.

Advertisements

Back from Clearwater

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
clearwater
I just returned early yesterday morning (2:00 AM) from a week of sun, waves, sand and baseball down in Clearwater, Florida. I already miss the high 70’s / low 80’s and constant walks on the beach. Spring training was fun, even with a team that has more than its fair share of critics. I am probably just the eternal optimist, but I think the Phillies may surprise some people. I could see them compete for the second wild card.

Given it has been awhile since any new posts, I do plan to update the site quite frequently over the next few weeks. As you may have already noticed, I changed up the theme and header image, given snow should hopefully be a thing of the past!

It helps that there are a number of topics of interest I want to discuss. It is a very different feeling than a few weeks ago, where I felt my posts were lacking. I have learned that it is very hard, when in between milestones, to come up with interesting premises on a consistent basis. It probably is 90% mental, as the grind can be very grueling and hard to justify at times.

Going into my third month of fitness training, I may try to better pace my posts, and save certain topics for when I’m not so close (in either direction – coming off of or about to achieve) to a given goal.

Below is a list of themes (in no particular order) I’d like to explore over the next month on the blog. (I am writing them here to remind myself):

Two Months in the Books – General fitness update. Even though I hit that mark this past Saturday, I want to wait a bit until I am back in a “steady” routine to weigh myself for official results. The variables of water weight, eating times, and general routines can create quite all kinds of noise around real results.

Fitness training when on Vacation – I’d like to take a look at all the data my watch collected (and yes, the instances where I finally went watch-free when swimming). I definitely had a different, but hopefully an equally successful approach over this past week to continuing my weight loss.

Recap of my Vacation – This will tie in the fun of the trip with both the difficulties (eating more, treating yourself) and positives (no sitting at a desk) I experienced.

A Busy Spring – Within the next three weeks I expect to be exercising outside in the evenings, which will present its own unique challenges and opportunities. I also will resume (for the final time) studying for the GMAT in the mornings, so I will have an even more packed day. My previous attitude was I couldn’t handle a consulting career, GMAT Prep, and substantial weight loss all at once. Now will be the test.

My Longer Term Goal – I’ve been pretty focused on the short term goal of the Broad Street Run, but to be honest, in the back of my mind I have been eyeing August and my target weight for awhile now.

My Workout Playlist – With the exception of activities outdoors, I rely heavily on a playlist to get me through what can be very monotonous exercise.

The Will To Continue – I try to capture the efforts and attitude needed to continue when I am between milestones grinding through another seemingly endless week of workouts.

Building New Habits – I explain the process in which I have fundamentally changed my routines to facilitate my weight loss.

Here’s to another successful month ahead!

Will I Miss the Snow?

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
So the easy answer is a resounding “No.”

Regardless, this past weekend I made it a point to continue the multi-week tradition of hiking a state park with my dog. It is one of the last holdouts of snow, as the area is not plowed and the lake keeps temperatures a bit cooler than surrounding communities. Even now, it is primarily a slush-filled hike, but I enjoy the effort for some uncommon reasons.

tree2

#1 – There are not many people at the state park during the colder months, especially when you are looking at multiple feet of snow on a hiking path. The less number of people the more desolate, but also the riper for exploring off trail and allowing my dog to roam without a leash. That last part is easily the most enticing for the both of us. I tend to walk at a steady pace, whereas my dog loves to start and stop, run ahead and lag behind, in a zig-zaggy fashion that is much more fun to observe than to battle against.

#2 – The packed snow makes for quite a hike for myself and a breeze for my dog. She is light enough to tread comfortably over the snow without much issue (aka falling through the snow), while I am going to take extra effort in planting each step through the powder. It also keeps the scenery from feeling recycled, in that we have done this hike more than ten times this winter, and each time it feels a bit mysterious given the conditions.

#3 – The cold air keeps the hike from feeling exhausting. I notice my dog does not want to drink that much water on such hikes, as her body temperature never really goes too high. In general, it keeps the activity from feeling difficult, even if the end result is a great workout.

#4 – More snow means less defined paths. The fact is each part of the park is carefully curated in the spring, summer, and fall seasons. During the winter, it feels a bit more like a wilderness. Animals are out, the trees are bare, and in general things are much more serene. Soon, these same hikes will become leisurely walks, which while fun, are not nearly adventurous (but ten times more populated).

#5 – We always want to look ahead. If it is the winter, we look towards spring. If it is spring, we are excited for the summer. Come late August, everyone starts thinking football season, then Halloween and finally the holidays. Sometimes it is worth it just to live life as it is and take in where you are and what you are doing as is.

#6 – Winter is underrated in the early months of a new year and overrated in December. It is romanticized for Christmas, but rarely delivers for the holiday itself. Then, like a flip of a switch, everyone hates the snow and the cold during the months it is most potent. January, February, and March are marked by people taking shelter and staying inside for most of the day. The fact is, these months can be more than just an early sunset if you find something constructive to do. Besides most people do not go to bed any earlier and instead just watch television later into the night.

#7 – The days are getting longer. Ever since the end of December, the days are getting longer, sunlight last a bit more, and yet we act pretty much through the start of March like the days are still ending by 4:30 PM. The reality is that the past two months the sun has been staying out longer even without the help of Daylight Savings. More to the point, by the end of June, the days begin to incrementally get shorter.

Now for the above seven reasons why I do not necessarily mind the weather now, I have to admit it is much easier to rattle off hundreds of reasons at the forefront of my brain as to why I am sick of snow and will be happy to wish it farewell for several months. Anyway, I figure I can at least tell myself those above reasons have kept me sane over the past few months of what has easily been one of the harshest winters I can remember.

Springing Forward

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.

We are a few days into March, and it appears winter still has some punches it wishes to deliver. I made it a point this past Sunday to do another seven mile hike in the snow with my dog, knowing that the days of winter must be limited. I also have had my fill of running on a treadmill to get through my workouts, as this weather really has kept me from doing anything outside during the weekdays.

springforwardIt got me thinking about my habits and how they will change over the next month, specifically as we spring forward and (hopefully) thaw. Typically in the past around March, I would start considering a bike ride or two, after many months of hibernation. Given that I already am very active and focused towards the Broad Street Run, I am not sure if I should switch to biking just yet. I have all the gear to do winter / early spring rides, but I know that I enjoy a bike ride much more than a run. In short, I am concerned that my progress in running, which now borderlines on semi-enjoyment, could be undermined by my true passion.

I go back and forth, as I would like to see how my Basis watch measures my typical biking activity, and yet I really do think the gains I have made in training for the Broad Street Run should only be enhanced, rather than paused. For example, I am able to sustain longer, faster runs during a workout, allowing for greater confidence in doing so for ten miles come the day of the race.

I also am curious how I will take to the longer evenings, especially as a result of turning our clocks forward. So far, during the weekdays, I focus on my fitness in the evenings, to allow for a rested and paced morning before work. If it starts to look nicer outside, but the cold remains, I may have cabin fever continuing in the gym each night. The remedy may be a bike ride or two outside, as I know I will not be up for running in the cold just yet.

Another point of uncertainty is where, in terms of geographical location, I will be working over the next month or so. There is a good chance I will continue to be local in Philly, but depending on projects my practice has, I may be off to NYC or some middle to northern part of New Jersey. This would be a big test, as I most definitely struggled with my weight when on traveling projects in the past. I think I have a strong fitness base now, with habits over the past 51 days that are going to be difficult to undo overnight. The good thing is that coworkers are acknowledging the results I have had so far, and therefore these results lend credibility to the seriousness of my commitment.

I have to think at this point I have enough established in terms of routines to weather any number of these concerns. Even then, over the course of this fitness plan, I already have made substantial changes (for the better) to my regimen, so by April I may have  a completely different approach to continue the weight loss.

Enjoying…Running?

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
runclub
Let’s get this straight: I have hated running for as long as I can remember having an opinion on the subject of running. It seems so pointless given there is no ball to catch, no opponent to tackle, no puck to chase. It is slow in the most literal sense. It is also clunky. A cyclist will whiz by and a hockey player will glide past even the most talented runners.

It is why I dislike soccer and field hockey. Clunky is the best word to describe something where running intersects with goal-oriented athletics. I would much rather watch an ice hockey game than see cleats stumbling around a grass field.

I have a history with running too, as I recall training for the basketball team in tenth grade, during “optional” (heh) pre-tryout workouts. It was all running, no ball. I got the concept and I appreciated the lesson being taught. But I despised the approach with a passion. To run three miles every day after doing sprints for most of the evening was tiresome and in many ways demoralizing.

Now it has not helped that over the past few years, my fitness level has declined, in so much that I was getting winded even during basketball pickup games. I have always relied on an ability to will myself into the play, given no real natural talent at the sport. To no longer have that extra gear was disheartening the past few years. There is no doubt in my mind that come this fall I will get back to playing basketball and potentially ice hockey too.

In the near term, however, I have but one focus: running. I have continuously been running during this fitness program, and at times I have found myself almost, dare I say, enjoying the activity. It’s a weird enjoyment, as I thoroughly enjoy cycling, in part for how it feels to bonk (completely be spent) and then recover, which is easy to do once you reach a summit. Running does not exactly have the same effect, but in a way there is a kindred spirit shared through that endurance that I have noticed.

Some of this new-found, shall we say, appreciation, for running comes in part from less stress on my joints through reduced weight on my frame. I will hold off on stating interim results until I reach the end of the second month of training (given I started on January 15, I will post an update similar to my “One Month in the Books” post probably the week of March 17). I can say though that the difference in weight has been substantial and steady, so much so that I have noticed an ease in extending my running times and speed.

I am unsure if it is purely my repetitive practice at running or the necessity of bearing such an activity that is creating at least a cease fire regarding my usual hatred of the sport. Whatever the case, I welcome it, as I have plenty of time left to continue this training…

 

Two Months To the Broad Street Run!

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
broadstreetrunbanner
It is hard to believe, but in two months, I will be lining up to run ten miles in the Broad Street Run. I hope to be in a position to complete the race in a respectable time without much difficulty. It will mark a significant accomplishment, given that when I signed up for the race I was in no condition to complete a ten mile run at anything more than a brisk walking pace, if that.

Given my progress to date,  I am actually excited for the race, as I have noticed significant gains in my fitness and overall running ability. If such gains extend the next two months, I will be light years from where I was in January. It may be that these gains level out, in my general running form, however the decreasing weight will relieve stress placed on my ankles during the run.

It will also be an important inflection point in my overall fitness plan. It is not the culmination of my program, rather the midway point. I will be in much better shape than prior to this program, but I will not be near my target weight for another two to three months. I do plan to continue past the Broad Street Run in my exercise and diet efforts, however I will probably change my exercise to reflect the more enjoyable activity of cycling.

I figure, as some perverse reward for completing the race, in opposed to a cheat day or desert, I will allow myself to really focus on cycling. It’s a true passion of mine, and something I can sink my teeth into, especially after a reduction in my weight. Some of me even wonders if it will be hard to give up running completely, as I have begrudgingly come around to it as a bearable form of exercise.

There will be some rides I will target following the BSR, but for now I should not get too far ahead of myself. I still have sixty days until I wear that runner’s bib and get to run through the greatest city in the world. It will be interesting to look back at this blog and my efforts at that point, but for now I have to just continue the grind.