Friday, 20 July 2012

Finally, some progress!

Photo credit: Maggie Q. Magniloquent, Some Rights Reserved

It's the first full week of the new program, where I have worked out for 30 minutes on the elliptical, 6 days a week.  Technically, I did 6 days a week last week, too, but it feels like this is the first full week with the new routine, mainly because it was the first full week with the heart rate monitor and blood pressure readings. 

And the results?  Down 2.9 pounds from last week, and 1.6 pounds down from my previous lowest weight.  I weighted in at 295.3 pounds, with 48.8% body fat.  The body fat percentage varies by day, but hovers in this 48%-49% zone.  My objective is to bring it down to around 30%, eventually.  But for now, we can consider me to be "well marbled". 

For the last 3 days I have been trying out an elliptical workout app called BeatBurn Elliptical, by lolo.  The idea behind this app is that it uses your own music from your iPod to create a variety of interval based workouts, adjusting the speed of the beat to desired strides per minute, from 80 to 160.  I have been playing a little bit with the tension, but not to the extent required by the program, because I can't do the math on the fly to know when I am at 15% or 35% when my tension goes from 1-20.  For now, I have been counting each as a single unit, so when the app instructs me to put the tension at 20%, I choose '2' on the resistance scale.  Primitive, I know, but it does result in me changing up the tension from 1-5 during each workout, with the result that the heart rate goes up and down, with each interval period (as shown in the graph, above, showing my heart rate during today's workout).

I have used the BeatBurn app 3 full days, and the workout has been a little different each day.  Throughout each workout the app gives vocal instructions as well as encouragement and tips (like remembering to use good posture).  At the end of each workout the voiceover gives a little pat on the back for making the time to workout, and this is also surprisingly effective.  I would hate to be doing all of this for nothing!

So, now, 25 weeks into my exercise program, here's my thoughts on some of the machines and apps I have been using.

The Elliptical Machine
The Precor EFX 5.33 elliptical machine is a piece of work.  But a good piece of work.  I have found it consistently easier to complete a 30 minute workout on this machine than a 20 minute workout on the old recumbent bike, and the elliptical is more efficient at getting (and keeping) my heart rate in the training zone, too.  I am finding the machine easy on my knees and back, and I certainly feel like I have had a workout when I get off the machine.  This model is pricey, around CAD$4,000 - $5,000, but if you can find it in your budget, or pick one up secondhand, it is well worth it.  [whispers] I don't absolutely loathe exercising on the elliptical machine [/stops whispering]. 

The Fitbit Activity Tracker
 The Fitbit Ultra is a 3-D motion sensor that tracks your day down to details a pedometer can't catch, showing your exact steps taken, calories burned, and distance traveled. The altimeter tracks floors climbed, which encourages me to take the stairs at home or work, or walk to the office/home instead of taking the streetcar.  The Fitbit Ultra also has a sleep sensor that  lets you see how long it takes to get to sleep, and how often you are awakened.  I sleep like a log, so I do not often use this feature, but it is interesting to put it on occasionally to see what quality of sleep I am getting. 

What I love most about the Fitbit Ultra is that I can wear it all the time, and then see my activity levels on the convenient web-based dashboard.  The Fitbit Ultra works with an app for iPad and iPhone, so I can track the amount of water I drink, or the meals I eat each day, which are then compared to my fitness goals.  Fitbit Ultra also works with other apps such as LoseIt!, DigiFit, and MyFitnessPal. 

DigiFit is a multi-purpose app.  With the required upgrades (available at a nominal price), it will speak with other devices, such as a Garmin ANT+ heart rate monitor, a Fitbit Ultra tracker, a Withings blood pressure monitor and Withings scale. 

Put all that together and you have a real snapshot of your health and fitness.  Each day's workout can be tracked to show your heart rate, intensity, and duration.  Sleep cycles can be recorded, either with a partner sleep monitor (which I don't use), or manually.  I use the DigiFit app every morning during my workout, then synch the app with the Withings app for my weight and blood pressure measurements.  I find it instructive to see how the measurements change over time, permitting me to make more informed fitness decisions. 

LoseIt! is another multi-purpose tracking app, which tracks weight, exercise, and food taken in.  I particularly like it for the food tracker, and for the fact that it synchs with my Fitbit Ultra and Withings scale.  Apparently studies have shown that people who keep track of what they eat are more successful at both losing weight and keeping the weight off, I suppose because they are more aware of what they are actually putting into their body.  I have only been tracking my food intake for a few days, but I am already much more sensitive to portion size and food type.  I have found it easy to find the foods I eat in the large database of foods, and I have found it just as easy to add new foods, when required. 

The premise behind Gym-Pact is simple: commit to working out a set number of times a week, and pay money for every missed workout.  For those paying for a gym membership, there is an easy way to calculate the cost of each workout - - it's the pro-rated value of each workout, based on the number of workouts you do and the cost of your gym membership.  For example, for me, it is worth $10 for each missed workout.  I have committed to do 5 workouts a week (I am giving myself a buffer in there, since I actually have 6 workouts each week in my plan).  At the end of each week, the number of workouts I miss (and therefore the amount of money I owe) is calculated.  For every workout I make, I get a pro-rated share of the pool of funds generated by peoples' missed workouts.  So far, since joining Gym-Pact, I have not missed a single workout (and have therefore paid nothing), and I have "earned" $14.50.  The total earnings usually work out to $3/week, on average.  I remain highly skeptical that I will ever see any money from this program, which feels a lot like a pyramid scheme to me (for now, all my "earnings" are electronic), but it's an incredible motivator, which is why I keep doing it. 

Withings produces a series of wireless tools, including a blood pressure monitor and digital scale.  I purchased both, because these are all metrics that I wanted to track.  The products have each delivered to my expectations - after a brief working in period - and now form an integral part of my daily monitoring program. 

Each morning I get up and take my blood pressure, along with my resting heart rate, and then I do my 30 minute workout on the elliptical.  After the workout, and after I hose myself off, I hop onto the digital scale, and I can see each figure appear on the Withings app on my iPad, as well as the DigiFit app, and LoseIt! app.  It has made record keeping much more streamlined and simple, and it has removed a lot of the anxiety about my Friday morning weigh ins. 

So, net net, I am slightly more tracked and monitored than a space shuttle launch.  But it all helps give me little wins along the way that keep me motivated.  It's week 25 of working out, and I have lost 38.6 pounds, or a little over 1.5 pounds per week.  I can't think about how long it will take me to reach 50 pounds lost, or 100 pounds lost, so I focus on the little wins.  This week was full of little wins, which is why I will be back on the elliptical on Sunday, right on schedule.

1 comment:

  1. You are amazing. I just found your blog and have been reading your posts starting fromt he beginning. I too am 5ft 9 and around 320lbs. I have a goal of losing 150lbs and you are truly a motivation. I love the fact that you are real and you are a true testament that hard work indeed pays off (per your most recent post). I just had to comment here real fast to tell you how great your blog is and I look forward to reading the rest of it. Don't stop! Ever!!!!!