Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes (with photos)

Today is New Year's Eve, which means that I have survived another full year of working out and eating well.  In the past 12 months I have missed only 2 planned workouts, but added several incremental workouts, so on balance, I am probably ahead of the game, all things considered. 

It's been a difficult Q4, so I am going to look back on all the wins that I have achieved this year. 

First and most motivating, I have lost 51.5 pounds over the last year.  Although this is less than I had hoped in the summer, considering how badly things fell off the rails in Q4, I will take this result, thank you very much.  About a pound a week is nothing to sneeze at. 

Let's look at the measurements, shall we?

I am down more than 2.5 feet in girthiness compared to last year at this time, and more than 5' in lost inches since I have started working out.  That means a change from a size 26 when I started, down to a size 20 last year, and now down to a size 12. 

In the past year I have really settled into my elliptical routine, but I have added more weights and, recently, a treadmill for running training.  Today I had my 5th C25K session, and although I still don't think I am actually running, I am shuffling much faster than I ever would have thought. 

I an creeping ever closer to my goals:

Still recouping past losses, but I finished the year strong.  Let's hope I can keep these positive trends going. 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

In Shocking News...

... sticking to one's food and exercise plan = weight loss.  Who knew?

I will admit that this is not the most mind-blowing of insights, especially after spending so long at this particular rodeo, but it is very gratifying to see positive results from my first disciplined week back from the wilds of Snackville.

This week I stuck to my guns, more or less, and kept the hitherto rampant snacking under control.  I also upped my workouts back to their previous level to dial up the challenge.  The result: 1.7 pounds down this week to 197.4 pounds.

Depressingly, I am still around 8.7 pounds higher than my previous low weight, but on the good side I am down from my recent high of 199.1 pounds.  1.7 pounds down is right on track for where I want to be after the week I have had, and to get this result during the Christmas week (or as I like to call it, Food-a-palooza), is a major triumph.

I have to stop thinking those "if only..." thoughts, and focus on the good results I am having now.  The plan for this week will be to try and stay focused on my plan, and build on my loss of this week.

Onward and downward!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas was Tryptophan-tastic!

A few events of note happened this week.

The first is that I once again dusted myself off and got back on track for healthy eating and challenging workouts, just in time for the orgy of food that is Christmas.  Ah well, my timing has never been what we can call "good". 

This week I also began a new upper body focused weight routine, as well as a couch to 5K program with the intention of learning how to run.

As for the eating portion of my healthy lifestyle, I have been doing pretty well.  I managed to control my hitherto unbridled snacking when we had both sides of the family over to the Palatial Estate on Christmas Eve for a cocktail party, and I ended up staying on track for the most part.  At one point I caught my hand diving into a dish of cashews before the party and I turned the motion into an elaborate swoop and moved the dish into a cupboard to keep it out of my eye line and that seemed to work - - my snacking was kept at a minimum and I stayed on track for my daily calories. 

Yesterday on Christmas Day we had the full turkey dinner experience at the Nerd's sister's house, with all the tryptophan that comes with it.  The dinner was one of the best turkey dinners I have ever had, and I enjoyed every bite of it.  And the Mexican wedding cookies.  And the peanut brittle.  And the candy cane brittle.  And the chocolate letter "M" (for "Magniloquent", natch).  OK, so I went a little bananas yesterday with the food.  But I got it out of my system, and today had the usual breakfast and no cravings for illicit chocolate (or licit chocolate, for that matter), which is good. 

I have completed week 1 of the "5K Runner" C25K program using the iPad app.  Like most C25K apps, this one sets a warm-up period, then intervals of running alternating with walking, followed by a final cool down period.  The first day was a 25 minute workout involving a 5 minute warm-up followed by 6 intervals of 1 minute running + 1.5 minutes walking, followed by a 5 minute cool down.  Days 2 and 3 still involved the same warm-up and cool down, but with 8 intervals of 1 minute running + 1.5 minutes walking.  All in all this week I "ran" 6 minutes on day 1, then 8 minutes each on days 2 and 3, for a total "run" of 22 minutes this week. 

Am I actually running?  Probably not, but I am going 4.5 mph on the treadmill and I am making an awful lot of noise.  It could actually look like running, if you squint.  The point is to get my body used to the mechanics of what could eventually turn into running, and this is what the app appears to be good for.

Interestingly, for someone who has done 30 minutes to 90 minutes on the elliptical machine for months now, the cardio of the treadmill is very different and much more challenging.  I barely break a sweat after 30 minutes on the elliptical, whereas on the treadmill I am sweating up a storm after the first running interval.  I feel the treadmill more in my hamstrings and glutes than I feel the elliptical, too.  Overall, it's a very different cardio workout.

Right now I am still having to really push to complete the C25K workout, because: i) it is difficult; and ii) running is still not a natural motion for me.  But the emotional reward I feel for completing a C25K workout is still very positive and is helping to keep me on track, which is good.  I don't get a "runner's high", but I get a "stubborn woman's glow", which is almost as good.  The other nice thing about the C25K workout days is that I "only" do 45 minutes on the elliptical, which feels like I am getting away with something. 

On weight days I have been doing 3 sets of 10 reps of my various upper body exercises, which takes between 30 and 40 minutes, depending on how much I futz with the weight bench.  Overall the workout is very challenging, and I am definitely spent after it is done.  I have been following those weight workouts with 60 minutes on the elliptical machine, and each day this week I have really had to push myself not to stop early.  But I did it, and I feel the smug feeling one gets from pushing through to accomplish something one really doesn't want to do. 

Next week I will be doing week 2 of the C25K app, and it already looks a little intimidating to me - - 4 intervals of 1.5 min run + 2 min walking, followed by 2 intervals of 1 minute running + 1 minute walking, for a total run time of 8 minutes.  It's good for me to see that it is the same "run" time as I did this morning, just packaged a little differently.  We'll see how it goes...

This week I had a moral win by getting up at 3.15 am (!) to do my usual weight + elliptical workout on Christmas morning so that we could get out to my parent's house in Brampton around 6.40 am to open stockings with the family.  Driving back to town from the Nerd's sister's place at 10.30 pm I was initially puzzled that the CN Tower was still displaying the same festive green-white-red stripes as on Christmas morning, until I realized that it was still Christmas Day ... just an incredibly long day.  Whew!

Today (Boxing Day) the Nerd and I slept in to 8 am, and although we both did full workouts (he did 90 minutes on the elliptical and I did 30 minutes of C25K and 45 minutes on the elliptical), we were in no rush and it was a very relaxing morning, all things considered.

Tomorrow is Friday, and a normal day.  It's weigh-in day, too, so we'll see how virtuous I *really* have been able to be this week.  I will also be back to the office and back to 60 minutes on the elliptical, according to the plan. 

The balance of today is scheduled to be the day of a thousand naps, so I should get to it.  Those naps won't have themselves, after all...

Monday, 23 December 2013

It's not pretty, but it's not as bad as I feared...

Photo courtesy Emma V Valentine, licensed CC-BY-NC-ND
It was with a considerable degree of trepidation that I faced my nemesis the scale this morning.  After 2 months of eating like a barbarian, I knew there were consequences to be faced.  This was not going to be a quick little blip that was easily overcome.  Nope.  This time I am going to have to face the music and accept the fact that I have backslid and given up literally months of progress.

Yesterday was the first day back on track, and I had a great workout on the treadmill and elliptical machine, followed by a day of excellent healthy food.  I even managed to get my 8 cups of water in.  So far, so good. 

This morning I got up early and faced my new upper body focused weight program.  We had a few rough edges figuring out where to put the weight bench so that there was enough space to do the lifts whilst avoiding knocking the Nerd off the elliptical with the barbell.  I am pleased to report that there were no serious incidents, and we were both able to complete our workouts without major injury. 

This morning I did 3 sets of 10 reps of each of the following: i) military press (30 pounds); ii) barbell upright row (30 pounds); iii) barbell bench press (30 pounds); iv) dumbbell flyes (10 pounds each); v) modified pushups; vi) barbell bent over row (30 pounds); vii) barbell side bend (30 pounds); and viii) situps.  I will do this plan for a week, and then will see about adding reps and/or sets. 

After the weight training I did an hour on the elliptical machine, followed by a nice 5 minute cool-down on the treadmill at a relaxed 2.5 mph pace.  All in all, I felt great after doing what was a pretty intense workout, especially after having been such a slacker for a while.  I am definitely feeling the effects of my C25K workout yesterday, and I expect I will feel this upper body workout tomorrow.  I love the feeling I get when I work out hard - - the muscle soreness tells me that my workouts are shaking my body out of its complacency. 

With the workout finished, it was time for me to step onto the scale and face the music.  And you know what?  It was bad.  But not as bad as I expected.  I thought I was up around 15 pounds, measured after the sodium-tastic craft hot dogs of Saturday night's dinner.  This morning I was "only" up 10.6 pounds, to 199.1 pounds (of course, the word "only" is relative here).  This is still in onederland, still overweight (rather than obese), and not as bad as it could have been.  But it is still 10.6 pounds up from my lowest weight. 

To put it into perspective, I last weighed this much around the end of August.  That's right, I set myself back 4 months with 2 months of poor eating decisions.  In fairness, that's 2 months of creeping up, and 2 months of fighting a holding battle, but it's still 4 months behind where I had been.  So frustrating.

But I have a plan, I have the equipment, and I have run out of patience with my own excuses.  I have recorded this weight on my Fitbit and MyFitnessPal so I am not hiding the fact that I have lost ground.  The good news is that I know I can regain that ground.  It will just take time.  Here's where thing stand as of this morning:

I have 14.1 pounds to go to hit middleweight.  Let's go!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Ugh - backsliding over the holidays is no fun...

So there have been some changes in the Nerd-Sassy Advocate household this fall, not all of them for the better. 

First, and most frustratingly, we both have been bad little backsliders this fall, and have taken every opportunity to snack, indulge, and ease off on the workouts.  Between business trips (2 x 4 days of hotel food each), family visits out of town (2 x 3 days each), holiday parties (2), festive lunches, dinners, or cocktail parties (4), both the Nerd and I have put back on some of the weight that we collectively fought so hard to lose.  In my case, it's around 15 or so pounds up from my lowest recorded weight, although the scale is so horrifyingly high that I can't bear to record my weight right now.  Give me a day or so back on plan and I will record the new (higher) baseline, but for now, all I can say is "yikes!".  And "f---, f---, f---, f---, f---, f---" (you will have to extrapolate the missing letters). 

So it turns out that working out less than usual, eating much more than usual, and eating out much, much more than usual (with the associated sodium hit) has a negative impact on weight loss.  No one could have predicted that.  Oh, wait, EVERYONE could have predicted that.  Sheesh.  Right now I am not so much ashamed as chagrined at myself and my utter lack of discipline.  Dogs have more discipline than I have had this Q4.

On the positive side, it will be relatively easy to stay in a maintenance zone once I actually reach my target, as I have been (up until last week when I blew my brains out with food) cycling around the same 5 pounds over and over.  Maintenance defined.  So that's encouraging.

Discouraging is the fact that I will need to lose those damn 15 pounds that I have lost and lost and lost again.  But really, I have only myself and my unbridled eating to blame, so I have to own it, get back on track, and move on.  At Christmas.  Geez - - I don't make it easy for myself, do I?

In the spirit of kicking my own ass, and as a gift to myself for Christmas, I purchased a newish treadmill.  While I cannot afford one of these things at $1,500+ new, I was able to pick up this AFG 3.1 AT treadmill at half price second-hand from a nice couple that is moving to Calgary. 

This is a very solid treadmill, barely used (as so many treadmills are) and just what I need to begin my C25K program.  And by solid, I mean "incredibly heavy".  That thing is not going anywhere now that it is in the workout room - - it is too damn heavy to move. 

As an aside, I have set myself a couple of fitness objectives for Q1 2014 including being able to do 25 standard pushups in a row (I can currently only do 3 sets of 12 modified pushups), and to be able to run 5K comfortably.  The treadmill will help me deliver on the running goal, which is helpful because this weekend, coincidentally, Toronto had an ice storm and it's not fit outside for people to walk, let alone run.

Yesterday the Nerd and one of our lovely neighbours wrestled the treadmill into the workout room, and the Nerd assembled it for me last night.  The treadmill is Very Large, and Very Heavy, as the Nerd discovered to the dismay of one of his toes (now slightly less broken than it was this time last week - oops!). 

I did my first C25K program this morning, and the treadmill worked great.  It will take a while for me to learn how to run like a normal person, but the C25K app I am using was very useful in giving me the required walk-run intervals.  While I am not sure that you could call the shuffling thing I was doing "running", per se, it was faster than a walk, and eventually may settle into something resembling running.  My goal is just to be able to keep up with a pack of people jogging 5 km, without stopping to walk or pray for death.  It's a simple objective, and one I hope to achieve.  Fortunately, after a year and a half of using the elliptical, my cardio is very strong.  Unfortunately, it turns out that running on a treadmill is an entirely different kind of cardio, so it is still very challenging. 

I completed stage 1 of the New Rules of Lifting for Women, and definitely saw strength improvements, but I stopped stage 2 prematurely - - it is heavily lunge and reverse lunge and modified lunge focused, and my knees were starting to fall apart under the demand.  Since I need my knees to be in as good condition as possible in the spring, I made the executive decision to pull the plug on that program.  I will continue with weight training as I enjoy it and think it is very helpful,  but I am going to focus more on upper body for now.  That will help me with my pushups, too, especially since I have feeble girl arms.  A T-Rex is better at pushups than I am, which is a cry for help if ever I saw one.

So yesterday was not so good a day for discpline, what with me taking (yet another) unplanned rest day, and with the Nerd and I going out for craft hot dogs for dinner.  Today, however, everything is back on track.  I worked out in the morning for 75 minutes (between the treadmill and the elliptical), and we have eaten sensibly today, with no snacking. 

Getting my snacking behaviour back under control will take a few days of sticking to my routine, but I know I can do it.  Christmas Eve-Christmas Day will be challenging, but the Nerd and I are planning a variety of healthy food options as snacks at our family party on Tuesday, and I know I can stick to portions on Christmas Day with the various families.  Getting up at 3am on Christmas Day to workout will be ... challenging ... but we can do it. 

The plan works when we stick to it.  We know it works, as we have both seen fantastic results.  At home, both the Nerd and I are pretty disciplined.  It's out of the house when we go bananas.  That ends this week.  Sadly, I expect it will take me at least until mid-February to get back down to where I once was, but that's the consequences of undisciplined eating.  That'll teach me!

So, it is once more into the breach, with the objective of being back on plan during one of the more social weeks of the year.  Wish us luck!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Sparkle Dress Action Shot and Holiday Party Debrief

So tonight was my firm's Festive Non-Denominational Holiday Party at the Trump tower here in town.  I can't speak for most of the venue, but the staff were friendly on our floor, the food was adequate, and the washrooms were nicer than my first two apartments.  Bigger, too, now that I think about it.

Tonight was the debut of the cocktail length sparkle dress and the return engagement of the sparkle shoes of pain and the sparkle purse of glamour.  Any night that is three levels deep in sparkles is made for fabulousness, if you ask me.

I have learned since the IPIC annual general meeting in September at which I wore a beautiful long formal dress and the sparkle shoes of pain - - I had better pack some flats, or suffer the consequences of trying to gnaw my feet off at the ankles all night.  So I went out and picked up some cute ballet flats, and brought them with me to the party to change into before the dinner. 

The plan worked perfectly - - just when my 4" heels were starting to feel like a Really Bad Idea, I swapped them for the flats, and my feet were immediately more comfortable.  Good thinking ahead (*pats self on back*).  Glamour is all very well and good, but dragging myself home by my elbows because I have crippled my feet with incredibly sparkly and virtually unwearable shoes seems like a bad idea.  Disaster averted!

Anyhoo, the new sparkle dress was extremely well received.  Combine the sparkle dress with the updo that I had done in the morning (for added fabulosity), and I was a force of nature.  I had no less than a dozen people at the party say "Oh my god, I didn't recognize you at all!  You look amazing!"  Score!

I noticed a few things this evening.

For one thing, I felt fabulous, and that made me much more outgoing and social and confident than usual.  Rather than hanging back and watching the crowd, I worked the room much more than I normally do.  It helps that every time I saw someone they were telling me how fabulous I looked, but I was also carrying myself taller and more confidently in a way that was noticeable, even to people with whom I work regularly.

I also noticed that I was smiling much more than usual.  I just looked happier and friendlier, and that made me much more approachable to other people than perhaps is generally the case.  People like spending time with happy people, and tonight, that included me.  Was it the dress?  The updo?  I think it was just the complete package - - I was wearing a dress I felt comfortable and confident in, and I owned more of the room as a result. 

Now it is time for me to go home and go to bed, and hope that I don't impale myself on one of the 800 bobby pins in my hair during the night. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Sparkle Dress Redux - Photos

12 months ago I made a blog posting asking people whether I should wear a gold and black dress or a purple dress to my firm's annual Festive Non-Denominational Holiday Party.  The response was, overwhelmingly, the purple dress, and I wore it and felt fabulous.

Well, it's that time of year again. 

This year I got all bold and went ahead and bought a dress without crowd-sourcing input.  It's a lovely cocktail length navy thing, with sheer shoulders and, yes, sparkles.  It looks very nice with the sparkle shoes of pain, as well as the sparkle clutch of elegance. 

And, because a picture paints a thousand words, here you go:

Forgive the hair and lack of makeup, but it is Sunday morning and I did not pretty myself all up before taking the picture. 

I am now tottering around my apartment in the sparkle shoes of pain trying to encourage my feet to simply give up and accept the fabulosity without making me pray for death by the end of the evening.  Girlie's gotta sparkle at the party, after all!  Suck it up, buttercup, I am telling my feet.  We'll see how that works.