Monday, 29 December 2014

*dusts self off*

Photo by Patrick Dockens, licensed CC-BY-NC-ND
As I always say, it's not how many times you fall down, it's how many times you get back up.  Consider this me getting up and dusting myself off.  Again.

December well and truly kicked my progress in its proverbial ass.  The combination of 5 lunches out, 6 dinner parties, 3 large family festive meals, numerous cocktail hours, and eating approximately all of the sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolates, and bourbon balls (i.e. literally dozens of these damn things) have led to me being a full 17.1 pounds higher than I was at my lowest before the holidays.  This puts me essentially where I was last year at this time strangely enough, so in a twisted way it's a kind of maintenance.  Bad maintenance, but maintenance nonetheless.

Let that be a lesson for me.  As if I didn't already know this (duh!), December's debauchery has taught me that if I simply eat whatever I want whenever I want, and if I combine this with skipping workouts for a week and a half in a row, I will put on weight.  I know, I know, this is not exactly earth shattering news.  Some would call it "glaringly obvious".  Some would also ask "didn't you learn this the last time you went off the plan"?  Sometimes it's nice to be reminded, however, especially when one is a slow learner.

Simply put, I allowed myself to get lazy and undisciplined this month, and I gave myself permission to break routine.  By doing so, I also gave myself permission to gain 17 pounds.  That's my choice, and now I get to deal with the consequences of my choice. 

I am not despondent about this little setback.  I know it's hard to look at 17 pounds as a "setback", but it's really only that.  Now that the holidays are over I have Mr. Fitness coming over to kick my ass tomorrow night in a return to my weekly sessions with the personal trainer.  The Nerd and I have recommitted to eating healthy and have thrown out all the leftover holiday chocolates that we received at Christmas.  I worked out this morning (for the first time in more than a week - gack!), and I received wonderful new workout clothes and 2 kettle bells (20 lb and 25 lb) for Christmas.  I feel reinvigorated and ready to get back into my healthy routine.  As part of this recommitment, I have restarted my MyFitnessPal calculator to my current weight (!) and reset my "days logged in" tracker to 1 - - although I was logging in during December, I was barely tracking a fraction of all the food I was consuming, so it's really day 1 of the new routine.

The key to success of course is to shut my piehole.  As in, to stop snacking on all the things.  We have cleared out all of the junk food from the house and by the time I next set foot in the office I will have 4 days of healthy balanced eating and workouts under my belt to help get me over the initial craving stage while my body readjusts to healthy calorie levels.

I am actually quite looking forward to seeing how my body changes and gets stronger with the personal trainer.  I will take a "before" photo tomorrow and do measurements to set the starting baseline, and over the coming months I will see what happens as I push myself and improve my fitness with the new routines Mr. Fitness will show me.

My objective is simple: lose the final 40 pounds by this time next year.  Since I am setting this goal before New Year's Eve it does not count as a resolution - - it is merely a redefined goal.   The distinction may seem a fine one, but it is critical because most people do not follow through on their resolutions.  Goals, however, are a different story.  And this one is totally attainable - - I have a great support network and a solid plan along with the resources to accomplish it.

So let's face 2015 recharged and ready for the challenge!  Bring it on!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Breaking new territory - - had my first session with a personal trainer

A few things combined for this new step in my fitness training. 

The first is that this month I have been systematically eating all the bad (yet delicious!) foods, like the Nerd's bourbon balls and sugar cookies, and all the baking that people have been bringing into the office.  When you combine the holiday baking with the sheer volume of social engagements - - festive lunches, dinners with friends, coffee dates, and potlucks, it's a wonder that I can still fit into any of my clothes. 

Now that I have released the Kraken, as it were, it will take about a week of eating properly without snacking to get my cravings back under control.  One day at a time will be the key. 

The second and bigger step is that I have hired a personal trainer.  I received a small inheritance from my grandmother, and rather than blowing it all on hookers and cocaine I thought I would actually turn it into a long term positive by taking the next step in my fitness and hiring a trainer. 

I have been working out on my own for almost 3 years now and I have lost 144 pounds (well, at least I had before blowing my brains out on cookies and lunches this month!).  But it is too easy for me to get settled into comfortable routines, and even tools like the heart rate monitor that are intended to help me push myself only can go so far.  Plus, as a self-taught exerciser, I have all the bad technique of the amateur, and no one to correct me.

As it happens, one of the marketers here at the Company is married to a personal trainer.  I looked him up and he seemed reasonable, so I booked him to come in and meet me last week at my office.  He was just as reasonable in person, so I booked a session. 

I was terrified about the whole thing, because what if he asked me to do things I couldn't physically do?  What if he pushed me so hard I threw up?  What if we just didn't work together well?  And, most concerning for me and my dark subconscious, what if he laughed at me?

Of course those of you who have trainers will know that all of my concerns were groundless - - the trainer (aka "Mr. Fitness") listened when I was having problems with a particular exercise and changed up the routine, he worked within my limits and pushed me, but not to the point of injury or projectile vomiting, and he did not laugh even a little bit.  The Nerd laughed at my struggles to do sit-ups whilst punching Mr. Fitness' hands, but I only found out about that this morning, and anyways, the Nerd is entitled to tease me. 

Mr. Fitness and I had discussed my cardio workouts last week and he recommended that I try high intensity interval training, which I began incorporating into my routine this week.  My pattern right now is a 5 minute gentle warm up followed by 10 sets of 30 seconds at high intensity (going around 220-230 strides/minute "as if being chased by a lion") followed by 60 seconds of low intensity.  These workouts are shorter - around 20-25 minutes rather than 30-45 - so  I don't get the same calorie burn as my previous elliptical work, but they certainly get my heart rate up and push my body. 

I did a HIIT session on the elliptical right before Mr. Fitness arrived, so I was warmed up and ready to go when he got there.  While that worked pretty well as far as a warm up, my legs did get wobbly later in my session so I might not go full HIIT on my personal trainer days in the future, just to make sure I have legs left for the actual training bit. 

We did pushing work last night, with bench presses, nose crushers, and shoulder raises alternated with swinging a kettle bell between my legs and up to chest height along with some squats.  We finished with some core work on the Swiss ball, sit-ups where I hit Mr. Trainer's hands as I came up, and then some jab/cross/duck routines (my favourite part of the whole night) with the boxing gloves and target pads. 

I was well and truly thrashed after my workout and I learned a lot about technique (especially on the squats and shoulder raises which I have apparently been doing completely wrong for years), and overall I had a good time so I consider it money well spent.  With the holidays we won't be able to meet again until the 30th, but that may be the interval I need to recover from last night's ass kicking!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Broke 190 for the first time in a year

It has been a hard-fought past 12 months.  I battled depression and crippling job stress and reverted to all my negative eating behaviours along the way.  It was only when I got my new job that I was able to muster the determination to say: "It stops here.  I can't change the past 12 months, but I can change the next 12".

And I did.  I went back to first principles of what I know worked for me - - tracking my food and pushing my workouts.  Along the way I got back in touch with this whole lifestyle change that I was supposed to be doing (rather than merely losing weight).  That has been perhaps the most profound thing I have discovered in this journey - - it really is all about the lifestyle, stupid.  There ain't no such thing as a quick fix, and negative habits will always generate negative consequences. 

The results have been just what I had hoped - - and more, and less.

The weight is coming off again, and this morning after my workout I weighed in at 189.8 pounds, a number on the scale I have not seen for about a year.  I have also noticed that as I continue along this path (and as I get older) the weight takes more work to lose.  I used to see relatively consistent losses every month.  Now I am seeing punctuated equilibrium: I stay relatively the same for a week or so, then have one week of surprisingly easy losses, then "girl time" adds 4 pounds of gratuitous bloating, then I spend 2 weeks trying to get back to where I was before nature's awesome majesty took my hormones on a ride.  Over the past few months I have seen this pattern repeated over and over again, and I am slowly starting to change my mindset from disappointment if a given week is not lower on the scale to focusing on the longer window of a month.  So although the individual days or weeks (depending on the week) may see frustratingly little weight loss, overall the months are still showing losses, and I am still moving in the right direction.

On an even more positive side, the Nerd and I are slowly starting to transition into more of a maintenance mode rather than a hard core weight loss mode.  I say this not because we do not have weight to lose - - we do - - but because we are starting to make adjustments to make our lifestyle more sustainable in the long term.

For me that means a step change reduction in calories from an average of 1,600 - 1,800 calories per day to trying to keep under my 1,430 calories per day objective (!) without having to eat back all of my exercise calories.  I usually come in somewhere between 1,400 and 1,600 calories a day, and even the difference of 200 calories (on average) per day has had profound results.

Staying under my calorie target organically has allowed me to do things like take additional rest days, or to use long walks as exercise rather than brutally exhausting elliptical workouts, while still losing weight.  I have a more normal life, and that is kind of nice.  As I age I also find it a bit tougher to maintain the intensity of the workout schedule that I used to - - after almost 3 years that kind of work takes its toll on a body.  Mine, in particular.

All of this is in aid of changing me into a person who eats sensibly more often than I do not, and who works out to feel good rather than because she has to.  Don't get me wrong, I still use workouts as a way to enable a good day of food when I know I am going out, but I am trying to focus more on the every day consumption levels as well.  It certainly seems to be working for now.

It is more difficult in many ways than simply jumping on the elliptical, because I have to be so diligent about what is going into my mouth every day, all day.  But in aggregate this approach seems to be working, and even the bake sale day of a thousand rice krispie squares and gingerbread men (omnomnom) did not set me back for long.

I know I am prone to wild mood swings about my weight loss journey, and I am always more optimistic when the weight is coming off easily as it has been this week rather than those weeks when I am doing exactly the same things and the scale is not moving at all, or worse, moves only upwards. 

However I have noticed over the last few months as I have been starting to discover my body's new rhythms that I am more relaxed about the tough weeks because I am more confident that the good weeks will come.  I am gradually becoming more disciplined in my routine, and I am able to be more zen about my progress as a result.

Not that I am zen, exactly, I am only zen-er than previously.  But I will take it, just as I take this new (revisited) milestone of breaking into the 180s.  I have worked hard for this, and I am feeling good.  

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Bake Sales Plus Pizza = 3 pounds

I am frustrated with myself this week.  I had been seeing some great progress by sticking to my no-snacking plan and working out diligently, and then the company fundraising bakesale raised its ugly, delicious, chocolate covered head. 

I volunteered to bake (read: the Nerd was voluntold to bake, and I swanned in at the finish to add decorative icing) for the United Way fundraising bakesale. 

I was strong like a rock initially, but we had several items to prepare and each day was a fresh temptation.  By Thursday, the actual day of the bakesale, my defences had almost entirely crumbled away like so many gingerbread crumbs.  Yes, it is true - - I eat like a dog.  Gingerbread Coke bottle mummies, gingerbread skeletons, rice krispie square pumpkins, monster eyeballs (aka chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls) - - nothing escaped me.  And to top it off last night I had pizza for dinner with an old school friend.  Sheesh!

This morning the scale just made laughing noises at me while showing a number a full 3 pounds higher than before the icing-stavaganza.  Ah well.  I am still well below my previous high, and even below 200 pounds, so I have not eaten away all of my hard-fought losses, precisely. 

Today I got right back on the discipline bandwagon and ate sensibly.  Baby steps, people.  1 bad week doesn't set me back entirely.  It is, however, a proper kick in the nuts.  Delicious, chocolate coated nuts though they may be. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Birthdays always make me take stock

The Earth has traveled around the Sun one more time and I am another year older.  Although it feels as if I aged up all at once, I realize that I have been aging a little bit every day - - the laws of physics will do that.  It just feels like I got old all of a sudden.  I am sure this is due to the Matriarch's not at all endearing habit of considering me the next year's age every year in January.  This could also be why I am so bad at math, now that I think of it.  To add insult to injury all of my fitness trackers now give me credit for burning fewer calories for the same exercise on account of my advanced decrepitude. 

Anyhoo, I am now 47 years old (almost 48, according to the Matriarch).  I have been working out more than 2 and a three-quarter years now and I have lost just over 140 pounds.  Not bad for an old woman.

Looking back on the past year I recognize that this has been a tough one, what with all the job stress and unhappiness at my old firm, my job hunt, the possibility that we would have to move, and quitting my job.  It has also been a very rewarding year, with a wonderful new job, being able to stay in our apartment, doing things I never thought possible, like walking 20 miles for charity in a single day, and my wonderful partner, The Nerd, who was unflinchingly supportive through thick and thin and thinner and thicker.

Taking the long view that I am working on a lifestyle change, I am only marginally upset about being essentially in exactly the same place from a weight point of view as I was 12 months ago.  After all, on the plus side, I am not really heavier than last year, and if I am not any lighter, then I am still successfully keeping my weight loss intact.  This is a major accomplishment considering that the first time that I lost weight I started gaining back almost immediately thanks to reverting back to a sedentary lifestyle and horrible eating habits.

And although I am mathematically 47 years old (to anyone who is not my mother, at any rate), on most days I only feel like I am 36, so I'll take that as a win.  36 was a good year - - it was the year I got into law school, after all.

So here's what a year looks like: not quite 40 miles of hard road yet, I dare say.

Yes, I understand that I am giving my equivalent of the Zoolander "Blue Steel" look in each of my selfies - - I never know how to smile properly.  Deal with it.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Heart Rate Training - 3 week recap

I started using the Polar H7 heart rate monitor about 3 weeks ago to better track my workouts, and boy howdy was it eye opening!  As you may recall, I was shocked and dismayed to see that my cardio health meant that I was not burning anything near what I thought during my usual workout sessions - - whether doing weights, elliptical, or zumba. 

I always knew that the MyFitnessPal app had a rather - shall we say - generous definition of calories burned from various activities.  According to that app I should be constantly in deep calorie deficits with few results.  Clearly the app was inaccurate.  Flattering, yes, because it made me look like a superwoman in my calorie burns, but not so useful as a way of tracking calories in versus calories out.

I trusted the readings on the elliptical because they relied on my actual weight and a calculation of effort based on a combination of my incline, tension and strides per minute.  Should be accurate, right?  Erm...not so much.  The elliptical is just as generous in its own way when compared to the heart rate monitor as the MyFitnessPal app is when compared to the elliptical.

All of which is a long way of saying that for the past 3 weeks I have been preferentially tracking with the heart rate monitor as an indicator of my true work.  This has had a side effect of kicking me out of my comfortable easy workouts (not that I appreciated this at the time!) into a place where I am pushing it for the duration of the workout in an attempt to keep my heart rate in the training zone.

What is the training zone I am looking for?  Well, for my age (46 - - at least for now) I should shoot for an average of 121 bpm - 148 bpm to keep my heart rate in the 70%-85% maximum heart rate range, which qualifies as vigorous activity.  I should call it vigorous!  I am positively knackered every time I finish a workout but I am very happy to finish and really feel like I've accomplished something. 

Taking a look at my chart, above, I had one workout in the past three weeks where I was below the heart rate for moderate or vigorous workouts (the little red bar on the left - a zumba workout), and two workouts in which my average heart rate was higher than 85% of my maximum (a little too high - elliptical workouts both of them). 

I found it interesting to look at these workouts on the chart because while the easy workout had a perhaps understandably low level of overall calories burned and calories/minute burned, the two where my heart rate was a little high did not have the highest overall calorie burns in absolute terms (they were both 46 minute workouts), but the calories burned per minute were greater than 10 cals/minute each time.  I have no idea what this means, but I certainly found it interesting.

Anyhoo, the heart rate training is showing me that by and large I am using the heart rate monitor to help keep my workouts in the vigorous zone, which is good.  These are helping to improve my endurance and overall fitness, which is also good.  It's hard work completing a vigorous workout every time, but I suppose that's kind of the point, isn't it?

On somewhat related news, in a very high risk move the Matriarch bought me a couple of pairs of yoga pants from Lululemon.  You know, the place famous for their see-through yoga pants and its refusal to stock anything larger than a size 12 because "Frankly, some women's bodies just actually don't work [for the yoga pants]."  I am not a fan of their business model for the obvious reasons, and I had never considered shopping at Lululemon because I am normally a size 14 for bottoms, not a size they normally carry.

The Matriarch looked at the size 12 yoga pants and thought they looked "a little big" so she bought me a size 8 and a size 10, both in tall lengths.  Hahahahahahaha.  In her defence, the Matriarch is 5'2" so everyone seems like an amazon to her, but at 5'9" I don't really qualify for tall clothes (I'm too short).  The one pair was so long that they puddled on the ground completely hiding my feet.  The other pair, the capris, came down to my ankles in a most un-capri-like manner. 

Here's where the bizarre part came in - - I could put both of the pants on!  (not at the same time, of course)  The 10 fit perfectly except for the length and the size 8 capris were a little too form fitting, but they were on with no muffin top to be seen.  I wouldn't want to do any actual yoga in them, just in case (see comment re. see-through yoga pants, above), but they were on, and I still had feeling in my legs and everything.  Crazy!

So today the Nerd and I went to the Lululemon store in the Eaton Centre (which was open on Thanksgiving Day because it is a tourist zone) and exchanged the 8s for a 10 and the talls for normal sizes.  And both pairs fit perfectly.  Holy shit.  I know yoga pants are stretchy and all, but this is a step change for me.

I still wouldn't buy anything from Lululemon myself, but I am perfectly happy to wear these gifted yoga pants.  Yes, I understand that I have a certain degree of moral flexibility.  But hey - size 10s! 


Sunday, 12 October 2014

On Motivation and Discipline

I have been noodling over the question of motivation for some time now.  I first began working out (most recently) more than two and a half years ago, and when I started I was, to put it mildly, extremely motivated to lose weight.  Breaking a chair in front of your closest friends and their partners will do that.

A little more than a year ago, however, my motivation started to flag and my eating habits began to revert to their prior state.  My unhappiness with my job led me to rationalize all sorts of destructive emotional eating, and although I was still working out 6 days a week, those workouts became less intense over time, and more pro forma.  We all know that you can't outrun your fork, yes?  And I was carrying a BIG fork.

Time passed and I got a wonderful new job and I finally stopped giving myself excuses for slacking.  Somewhere in the spring of this year I stopped being merely motivated, and I started returning to being disciplined.  It wasn't enough to simply check the boxes, I needed to actually push myself one way or another, every day.  I had to push the workouts or push the eating habits to be healthier, or both, preferably daily, or at least much more often than not.

Discipline means getting up in the dark and the rain to go for a training walk because it's on the schedule.  Discipline means getting up early to get in a full workout before a family dinner rather than sleeping in.  Discipline means doing things you don't want to do because they're the right thing to do. 

Here's the thing that blows my mind - - if you are disciplined, it doesn't matter if you're motivated or not - - you will still see the results.  And the nice thing about being disciplined is that if you do happen to be motivated, it feels easier to be disciplined.  But if you're disciplined it won't matter if the motivation is there or not, because you will kick your ass to the gym and watch what you eat regardless.

I am not perfect, god knows.  I still struggle with emotional eating habits that I have built up over decades, so I know they're not going to break overnight or even over a year or two.  I will have to fight to stay disciplined every day for the rest of my life, which is a somewhat depressing thought.  And yet...that's not so depressing.  I know that I can be disciplined a day at a time, which is all that it takes.  Motivation was always a more slippery concept for me - - sometimes it was there, and sometimes it wasn't.  In contrast, discipline is more of a habit that can be nurtured and strengthened over time.  I know that for all my failings I am much more disciplined now than I was when I first started workout out, and some of those healthy habits - - working out 6 days a week, eating more vegetables - - are easier to do now that they are more ingrained.

Several of my MyFitnessPal friends have been struggling with motivation lately (as I was before I started my new job) and I have been giving a lot of thought to the distinction between motivation and discipline.  I know there will be those who disagree with me, but I really do think that it's easier to be disciplined than it is to stay motivated, because you can take it one day at a time.  For me, I really don't care how I get there if I see results as long as the way is healthy and sustainable.  If being disciplined is the way I am going to hit my goals, then being disciplined is the way things will have to be. 

This is all boldly stated by the woman who will be faced with 2 birthday cakes and a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner today, so we'll see how disciplined I really am!

Saturday, 27 September 2014


This new heart-rate based workout is a killer.  It is apparently much more intense than that candy-ass (!) workout I had previously been doing, because I have been positively dragging ass all week.  By this morning I could barely get myself out of bed, although some of that may have had to do with the ride-along with a merchandiser I did yesterday, putting product on shelves for 8 hours. 

Amusingly, I wore my Polar H7 heart rate monitor yesterday while merchandising, just to see how hard I was working.  Which was, it turns out, barely at all - - my average heart rate for the 4 hours until my phone died was 84 beats a minute, which qualifies as "awake" but is not anything near a workout. 

It felt like a workout, though, what with stomping around on concrete grocery store floors in my steel-toed boots for 8 hours.  My legs ached from all the walking so that it was hard to fall asleep last night, even though I was exhausted. 

I had to actually have a nap this afternoon because I was falling asleep on my feet this morning at shopping and coffee with the Matriarch, and even after my nap it was all I could do to finish the 60 minutes on the elliptical at a decent heart rate.  I was able to keep an average heart rate of 132 bpm for the workout (mostly zone 2 with a little zone 3), which, although not the most intense workout I have ever done, feels like about the most I could have survived today.  And even after dinner I am still feeling my legs.  They're not painful, exactly, but I am noticing that they are there, which is a strange feeling.

I am hoping that next week is a bit better, and that my body will get used to this new and improved workout so that I do not feel exhausted all the time.  When I am tired I want to snack and sleep, and while one of those impulses is good, the other is counterproductive. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Well THAT was a workout...!

I may have just experienced my first real endorphin, because hot damn that workout felt great, even though I was pushing myself more than I have done in years, apparently.

Today was the first day of the new experiment with the heart rate monitor and trying to get into a proper training zone.  My previous workouts on the elliptical were done on an incline of 10 (out of 20) and at a tension of 5 (out of 20).  I had briefly flirted with a tension of 6 for about 2 minutes about a year ago, but it was hard so I quickly went back to 5 (hangs head in shame).

Yesterday when I wore the new heart rate monitor for the first time to properly see how I was doing vis a vis training zones, I was properly mortified to see how easily I had actually been taking things (albeit unintentionally).  Although my elliptical workouts felt tough to me (in my head, anyways), that was just an illusion - - my body was so accustomed to the workouts that they were just not challenging enough any more (challenging, that is, physically). 

Today I resolved to push the tension up until my heart rate went into a proper training zone.  No more baby tension for me - - today I started at a tension of 6...then 7, but after 25 minutes my heart rate was only begrudgingly above 121 bpm.  It was clear that drastic measures were required.  That's right - - it was time for tension 8

It turns out that 8 was the magic number, for me at least.  You can see in the above chart exactly where I kicked it up to 8, because it's where my heart rate went into the green zone (121-139) and stayed there pretty consistently until the end. 

I can really feel this workout in my legs right now, which is the first time in a long time that I have noticed my legs after an elliptical workout, so maybe there is something to this heart rate zone training after all.

All I know is that I felt great throughout my workout, and I felt super great after it finished - - full of energy and ready to tackle the world.  Fortunately I was able to have a rye and Diet Coke and sit and read for a bit until the feeling passed, but wow, it felt great while it lasted! (grin)

It looks like heart rate zone training will continue to be part of my ongoing workout routine.  Level 8 - - I'll be back for you tomorrow!

Friday, 19 September 2014

The good news and the bad news

I have tried three new things in the past week, and today has been the first day that everything has been tried together.

First off, the good news is that I have EXCELLENT cardio health.  How do I know this?  Aside from the fact that my resting heart rate is usually 40-45 bpm, I recently started using a heart rate monitor again and it is very difficult for me to get out of the "mild workout" zone.  Damn cardio fitness.  It wasn't too long ago that merely turning over in bed would have pushed my heart rate to 220 bpm and walking down the hallway was considered a vigorous cardio workout.  Those days are gone.

Let me take a step back to give some context. 

As you know, I started a new job 4 months ago, and among many other positive qualities my company places a strong emphasis on personal fitness.  The company fielded a corporate team in the recent Weekend to End Women's Cancers 32 km charity walk, and they encourage employees to wear pedometers to become aware of their activity levels.  The company also has a partnership with Virgin Pulse, an online and app-based fitness tracker that gives members points for performing and recording physical activity. 

Although I have been working at the company for 4 months, it took Virgin Pulse 3.75 months to recognize me as an employee of said company, and so I was only able to register my account last week ... two days after the big 32 km walk.  Curses and shakings of fists were had in my office, to no avail.  But I am registered now, which is what counts.

One of the elements of the Virgin Pulse program is that users can get points for manually entering workouts, but users can get more points for validated workouts confirmed by a pedometer and a heart rate monitor.  In my case I have been wearing a Fitbit for years - - although the poor little guys die out regularly, Fitbit customer service is excellent about replacing the units- - and Virgin Pulse syncs my Fitbit steps. Score one for Virgin Pulse and wearing a Fitbit all day.

But it has been more than a year since I have worn a heart rate monitor.  I used to wear one when I used the Digifit app, but the app was very hinky and kept crashing so often that I just stopped using it - - and I also stopped using the heart rate monitor.  This Virgin Pulse program was a new opportunity to try the whole heart rate monitor thing again.

In the intervening year and a half since I last wore a heart rate monitor my cardio has significantly improved.  Imagine my disappointment last night when I did a quick test spin on the elliptical trainer for 14 minutes and I could not get my heart rate above 120 bpm for more than 10 bloody seconds.  WTF??  When did this happen?  Sheesh (yes, yes, I fully understand the irony of being disappointed that my heart health is good).

This morning I did my usual 45 minute elliptical session with the machine at a ramp of 10 and a tension of 5, and I was stunned to see that what I had always thought of as an intense exercise (judged purely by the amount I was sweating, which may not be scientifically accurate) was in fact really a "light" exercise, with 63% of the time spent in training zone 2 (104 bpm - 121 bpm), and a mere 4% spent in zone 3 (122 bpm - 139 bpm).  What an eye-opener.  Apparently in my case the "sweat of the brow" scale of effort does not correlate to heart rate, much. 

Needless to say, the calorie burn recorded by the heart rate monitor mirrored these results, giving me a burn of about 252 calories over the 45 minutes rather than the 450 calories that the elliptical gave me credit for, or the 500+ calories that MyFitnessPal thinks I should have burned.  Ouch!

Things only got worse when I turned to my new Zumba Dance workout.  I say Zumba Dance rather than merely Zumba because I am using the Zumba Dance app (the officially sanctioned Zumba app), to get a Zumba workout at home.  I quite enjoy it, actually, although it is pricy to purchase all of the different dance packages (around $30 all-in), but all the reviews I read recommended the variety to avoid wearout and boredom.  So far, so fun.

As it turns out, I am completely uncoordinated when it comes to moving my hands and feet at the same time, so most of the time I am shuffling around and waving my arms (apparently randomly, but in reality almost-but-not-quite mirroring the instructor) looking the opposite of graceful.  Kind of like a dancing zombie ... a dancing zombie in yoga pants and sports bra.  I am starting to get used to the Zumba-type movements over time, and ever so slowly I am starting to be able to shuffle my feet in more of a dance-like way, but it's still a loooonnnnggg way from proper Zumba technique.   

This morning marks my third Zumba Dance workout, and I have found it an enjoyable way to work out, and certainly it is a nice change from grim death marches or the elliptical.  Judging from the amount I was sweating (again, I understand this is not a scientific measure, even if it feels scientific), it sure felt like a good workout.  "Not so!" says my heart rate monitor - - 70% of my 30 minute workout was in Zone 1, or at a heart rate below 104 bpm.  Ack!

Soooooo.... it looks like I am going to have to take up the resistance on the elliptical to try and bump up my heart rate. Not sure what to do with the Zumba Dance app, but I do note that I am using the short intro class, which is probably easier than the more advanced stuff.

I don't mind my low heart rate too much, actually, because knowledge is power, and it's nice to know that my cardio is so good after two and half years of working out that I need to really push things to increase the challenge.  I won't say that I got complacent, exactly (*ahem*), I will just say that it was easy to push what I felt was a good amount - - when it turns out that I was barely pushing at all. 

So this is really a good news/bad news kind of thing.  The good news is that my cardio is great, and the bad news is that I have been overcounting my calorie burn for, well, years.  But back to the good news, I now have the tools to try and break out of this little rut and stretch myself again, which makes me happy.

So once again it is time to kick things up a notch.  Bring it on!  But this time I am bringing it on armed with better data, just like the numbers geek I am.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Trying to get this zen thing down

One of my biggest challenges whenever I have worked to lose weight (both back in 2000 and more recently over the past couple of years), is that I am impatient.  I want to lose weight, and I want to lose it now.  I am sure that this is because somewhere in the dinosaur part of the back of my mind is the idea that if I just lose the weight, I can go back to "eating normally" and stop working out.

Of course you and I both know that this thinking is based on an inherently faulty premise, namely, that one can ever really "stop" eating healthy and working out if one wants to stay healthy. 

I am starting to discover that lifestyle change is just that - - a change in one's overall lifestyle.  This is something that continues on and on and on, no matter what one's weight.  Viewed through the lens of lifestyle change, it really doesn't matter whether I am overweight (as I currently am), or morbidly obese (as I once was), or a normal BMI (as I once was, ever so briefly) - - the lifestyle does not change. 

I am slowly, over time, coming to realize (and more importantly, to accept), that being vigilant about what I eat and working out 6 days a week are just part of my life from now on.  Like a recovering alcoholic, a recovering "foodaholic" like me needs to be constantly aware of the opportunities for backsliding as well as aware of coping mechanisms to deal with the addiction. 

In my case, my most successful coping mechanisms have involved regular exercise and logging my food consumption in a food diary.  I will likely need to keep a food diary for years no matter what my weight is, because I am still working through my tendency to overeat and binge.  Emotional eating is never more than arm's length away for me, and I need to keep tracking to keep myself accountable. 

Surprisingly, the exercise has been easier for me this time (compared to back in 2000).  Back in 2000, I was doing 60 minutes a day with a combination of recumbent bike (boring!), NordicTrac ski machine (too challenging), and weight machine every other day (super fun).  I learned that consistency is critical, and the key to consistency is finding a workout routine that you can maintain.  For me now this means elliptical machine (a true godsend), free weights, and walking, along with opportunistic exercise like swimming or kayaking on occasion. 

This time I am not so desperate to hit my goal weight just so that I can stop working out, because I know that working out will be a part of my life even after I reach my goal weight - - perhaps not to the same intensity, but it will still be a part of every day.  I hate to admit it, but perhaps I have started to experience endorphins.  In other words, working out makes me feel good.  More accurately, perhaps, finishing a workout makes me feel good, but I do love that feeling of accomplishment that comes from pushing myself and getting a good sweat on. 

I would not say that I have reached a Zen-like state of perfect acceptance.  But I am getting there.  I am focusing less on "when will I hit my goal weight?" and more on "what can I do as part of my healthy lifestyle today?" I still would love to hit a normal BMI, but I am beginning to recognize that it is the journey, and the mental changes I am making along the way, that is important. 

So not quite Zen, then, but Zen-in-progress.  I'll take that.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Achievement unlocked - 20 mile charity walk and 50,000 steps in one day!

After months of training and lots of pre-event jitters, I am pleased to announce that the Nerd and I completed the Weekend to End Women's Cancers 1-day charity walk here in Toronto, along with the rest of our Coca-Cola Canada team and more than 3,000 other walkers. 
The walk training schedule that got us to the end intact

Let's start off with the training.  A good friend recommended that we follow a training schedule to get our bodies (and especially our feet) in condition for the Walk, and I have to say that this is a definite key to our success and enjoyment of the event.  Sore feet are no fun at all from what we could see from other walkers, and we were blissfully free of any blisters or chafing to speak of.  Physically, aside from being tired and sweaty (in other words, super glamorous), we had absolutely no sequellae from the Walk.  In fact, we were basically back to normal the very next day, something I did not expect. 

The next day, both the Nerd and I felt fine, albeit a little more tired in the legs than usual during our normal workouts.  We slept great the evening of the walk, and had no significant leg pain to speak of.  And this morning it was back to my normal elliptical routine with 60 minutes on the elliptical, and I felt great (other than the fact that I was on the elliptical machine for 60 minutes, that is!).  Although I did begrudge the time spent doing the training walks when we were doing them, the training and preparation sure paid off.  I know it is possible to do the Walk without training at all, but we had more fun than some of the people who did not prepare simply because our conditioning was exactly what we needed and because we felt fine all the way through. 

Before the Walk - a little nervous...and damp
The walk to the Skydome from our place was rainy, and although we had completed numerous training walks in everything from high humidity to drizzles to torrential downpours, a rainy day would have promised to make a long walk feel just that much longer. 

Fortunately for us though, although it started off grey and drizzly, the day quickly cleared up into intermittent sun and clouds, not too hot, and with a nice breeze.  Perfect walking conditions, in other words.
Waiting for the start
Before the walk we met with the rest of the Coca-Cola team, listened to bursts of almost entirely incomprehensible noise from the loudspeakers (apparently these were motivational speeches, but between distortion and echoes from loud noise in a largely empty stadium, I could barely understand a word) and avoided doing any of the stretching that our other Walkers engaged in. 

Traffic jam
We did not train with stretching and had no problems along the way, and I didn't want to change things up at the 11th hour.  I was comforted in this decision by thinking back on dinner with friends the night before where one was espousing the benefits of being a "supple leopard" - - after all, leopards do not stretch before chasing down prey, so why do we?  I won't claim to be anything close to "supple" (I'm more of a stiff plank, myself), but we are none the worse for having not stretched at all during the day.  I noticed that other walkers were stretching at almost every rest stop, and it allowed us to get ahead of a lot of people simply because we did not stop other than for lunch, and once to eat some fruit at a pit stop.

With the speeches done it was time to hit the road...only to get caught up in the mother of all traffic jams made up of literally thousands of walkers.  Toronto traffic is bad at the best of times, and it is good to know that sidewalk traffic can be just as messed up.  It was worst at the start, but equally bad on some of the small neighborhood streets we were traversing, simply because the sidewalks there were never designed for foot traffic in our numbers. 

Although our team wanted to walk together, we were pretty far back in the pack and the Nerd and I are impatient people by nature so he and I tried to follow our natural pace that quickly took us closer to the front.  It turns out that we finished reasonably far ahead of the rest of our team, but as everyone had fun and made it to the end, I think it still counts as mission accomplished for us all.

One of the more moving moments of the Walk was when we passed Princess Margaret Hospital (the recipient of our fundraising dollars) and ran a veritable gauntlet of doctors and patients cheering us all on.  I am not ashamed to admit that I got a little misty eyed at that point, which I am blaming on air pollution or someone cutting onions in the vicinity rather than the attack of the feels which it really was.  Very moving, to say the least, especially when you consider that all we were doing was spending one day taking rather a longer walk than usual, and those people are fighting the battle against cancer every single day.  I tried to clap and cheer them, but I do not know if they could hear me over the general cacophony.
The 2014 Walk to End Women's Cancers Walk Route - Day 1
Our route took us all over the midtown and west areas of Toronto, generally no further north than Bloor Street and out past High Park (the big green bit in the map above) to the Humber River valley.  We did not go into High Park itself which I found surprising, but it probably would have resulted in shorter mileage, given its location relative to downtown.  Although much of our walk was familiar, we got to discover some new bits too, like the Humber River valley south of our walk last weekend.  Once we hit the Waterfront Trail after lunch I knew we were within 6 miles of home, because this had been part of our first long training walk, the one that saw me almost crippled at 8 miles.  Now here I was at 14+ miles feeling fine and passing people.  Yay for training and gradually building up distances.

The very final stretch was through another gauntlet of cheering volunteers into the Skydome itself with our arrival announced via the PA system to all in the area and our faces on the jumbotron.  Well, the Nerd's face and the top of my head, probably, as I kept looking down at the stairs we had to descend to make sure I did not wipe out in front of all and sundry (I remained trip free on the day, yipee, although I did get stepped on once and elbowed once in the chest - ouch!). 
After the walk, glad to be done!

Once we arrived we took stock and were pleased to note that our only physical symptoms after our long walk was a little stiffness and tiredness in the legs.  We were feeling so fine that we walked the mile and a half home and even did a little grocery shopping, although we perhaps looked a little more bedraggled than usual.  Understand me when I say that bedraggled is probably being kind. 

We had one additional win for the day, as if doing a good deed, pushing our limits, and discovering hidden strengths was not enough - - both the Nerd and I topped out at more than 50,000 steps during the day, the first time either of us have done that. 

And to think, all it took was spending 6 hours walking 22 miles (give or take, including the walks to and from the Skydome).  Trust me when I say that this feat will not soon be replicated, at least not by me!

Would I do it again?  Very likely, if I am still at my current company.  After all, now they know I can do it, so there's no excuse not to do it again...but we don't need to worry about that right now.  All that matters is that there are no training walks for me in the near future - - any walks I take will be for fun...and maybe for fitness.

Back to the normal routine tomorrow!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Phyllis Cora Langley Feb 9, 1922 - August 31, 2014

My grandmother died today.  That sounds a little dramatic, when it was actually quite anticlimactic - - she had a massive thrombotic stroke on August 26 and although it is likely that whatever consciousness it was that made her her disappeared then, it took her body a few days to follow suit.  I fervently hope that she did not suffer and that she had no awareness of these last few days. 

This all happened a continent away, in Victoria.  I am not certain what arrangements will be made, or if any formal celebration will take place.  The plan as I understand it right now is to cremate her remains and put her urn in the same niche as my grandfather, who died in 2007.  When and how that will happen, I do not know.

July 2007

My grandmother was 92 years old when she died, which is very old for anyone, and especially old for my family.  She had a life full of hardship and joys, frustration and love.  I think she was proud of me, but we had a complicated relationship exacerbated by distance and time.  Looking back I see many of her qualities reflected in me - - her strength, her capacity for taking joy in the little things, and her perseverance in adversity, and I delight in this.

My grandmother fancied herself an author and made several little books, one a genealogy, one a book of her mother's recipes (including the infamous family pie crust recipe of legend), and one a book of stories and musings about her life.

To my shame I never really did more than skim these when my grandmother gave them to me, but I spent the afternoon today reading them all from cover to cover.   My father is doing the same with his copies, likely for the same reason. 

My grandmother was a complicated woman, and reading her history some of her personality makes more sense to me now.  She had a somewhat hardscrabble youth, coming of age through the tough times of the Depression and World War II, and those leave their marks on a person.  I learned a lot about her feelings about her family (conflicted), her favourite colour (red), and her thoughts about her patients when she was a nurse (both protective and judgmental).  I learned that she loved each of her grandchildren of whom I was the first, but that she saw much more of my cousins, and consequently had a much stronger bond with each of them (this much I knew already).

I knew from conversations with her that when my grandparents first married they initially lived in a small trailer - she once even got her photo in the Winnipeg paper preparing dinner in the minuscule trailer kitchenette.  What I did not know was that my grandfather had been a patient in the hospital where she worked, and that they met in the hospital.

My fondest memories of my grandmother are of going on nature walks with her at my grandparents' farm when I was 5-9 years old.  My grandmother introduced me to their local beaver pond and to cattails and Indian Paintbrushes and to frogs.  I only today learned that she didn't like snakes because one once went over her foot when she walked barefoot as a child.  That explains why the local garter snakes never featured in our walks, I suppose (me, I like snakes, so I did not inherit everything from my grandmother).


I also have a vivid memory of how practical my grandmother was when she killed a chicken for dinner one day, smacking the chicken onto an old stump and chopping its head off with a hatchet with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth, red with her usual bright lipstick.  When my grandmother kissed you with that lipstick you stayed kissed - - it took a lot of scrubbing to get the lip marks off your face. 

I never saw how she coped when all her hard purchased supplies were stolen right before a long rainy weekend with my four cousins, but cope she did and they had a wonderful time without ever seeing the struggle she had to feed them all until the roads opened up. 

Apparently those memories were fond ones for my grandmother as well, because she wrote about one of our nature walks in her book of stories.  I don't remember the specific instance that she was writing about, but it was evocative of so many of our discovery walks around the farm.  I cherished and continue to cherish those memories, especially once I became an adult and moved out east and we drifted apart.

The farm will likely be sold, and it isn't the same anyways since the oil company began pumping oil on the place years ago and it hasn't been a productive farm for decades as a result.  No, the farm will have to live on only in photographs and my memories, and in my grandmother's book of stories.  Perhaps that is the best, as those do not fade and collapse the way the real structures likely have.

So this is a eulogy of sorts for my grandmother, Phyllis Cora, that daughter of homesteaders and migrants, who loved art and family.  Sleep well, grandma, you deserve the rest.  I love you.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

New party dress

Yesterday the family went out for dinner at a fancy local restaurant and I finally got the chance to break out a party dress that I had bought months ago in an overabundance of enthusiasm.

Why do I say that I was overly enthusiastic?  Well, the dress is a non-stretchy size 12 for one thing (a tailored satin fabric), and my badonkadonk is only grudgingly contained in that size - - I comfortably wear a size 12 for tops, a 14 for jackets (big shoulders, natch) and a 14 on the bottom for skirts and pants.  I am perfectly happy with this situation, but I fell in love with this dress and it was only available in size 12, alas. 

So I bought the dress anyways (!) and it was relegated to my closet with the "maybe it will fit one day" clothes.  I know we all have these sections in our closets - - the "aspirational" outfits, or the clothes that used to fit that no longer fit, or the hand-me downs...  Done wrong this section can be a depressing memorial to pounds not lost.  I didn't even take the tag off, that's how certain I was that I would never really wear the dress.

Until last night, that is. 

It was the Matriarch's birthday celebration and all my other dresses were various combinations of black*.  I wanted to bust out some colour for a change and thought I would give the dress a chance.  It went on and even zipped up relatively easily**.  I could move and walk and sit down in it.  It did not explode when I attempted any of these manoeveurs, so I brought it upstairs for the big test ... the Nerd.  His reaction would determine whether I wore the Festive Delft Dress.

His reaction was ... extremely gratifying.  That's all I'm going to say about that, other than to note that I wore the dress to dinner last night.  Aside from trying to keep exquisite posture all evening, I was completely comfortable and felt great.

Here is the Festive Delft Dress in all its glory for your viewing pleasure:

I was glad to have had the opportunity to wear the dress out to dinner last night.  The Nerd also dressed up and we both looked rather sharp, if I do say so myself.  A good time was had by all. 

* I completely forgot about the Sparkle Party Dress from last November's Festive Non-Denominational Holiday Party, but as it is a midnight navy that is easily mistaken for black, this dress falls into the same category as the black dresses

** In that it required no additional tools or a team of experts

Saturday, 16 August 2014

This is what 12.5 miles looks like...

This morning was our last "official" long training walk for the upcoming Weekend to End Women's Cancers charity walk, in that all the training walks from now until September 6 will be shorter than 12.5 miles.  Today was 12.5 miles and tomorrow will be 8.5 miles - - together they amount to pretty much what we will be walking in one day at the event.  Next week are a couple of 6 milers on the weekend, and then it's down to 1.5 mile walks and 3 mile walks as we taper down.  It will be back to the elliptical for sure. 

This morning we left at our customary ungodly hour (we were on the road before 5 am), and we headed east along Queen Street, but instead of following Queen until the Neville Park Loop and coming back by way of the waterfront trail like we did last weekend, we went up Kingston Road to Victoria Park avenue (the old border between Toronto/East York and Scarborough), and then headed up Victoria Park to the Danforth, which we took all the way back to our stomping ground. 

I must confess that I struggled more with this walk than I did with the walk last weekend, mainly because I was trying to push the pace more this week.  And it worked - - we shaved a whole 15 minutes off our walk time for the distance, going down from 3 hr 40 min to 3 hr 25 min this morning over the same distance.  That's a full 15 minutes we did not need to walk compared to last week, which is great.

But the pace was probably an issue, because I was much more tired and sore at the tail end of this walk than I was last week, and I am sure the fact that we were pushing the pace even on the long uphill stretch up Kingston Road had something to do with it.

Nevertheless, we were able to finish the 12.5 miles in much better form than the first time we tried that distance to be sure, and I am feeling pretty good about our chances on the day of the walk. 

All these steps are doing wonders for my Fitbit rankings.  Month to date August I am ranked #60 among 1,100 Redditors who Fitbit, which puts me in the top 5-10% of that group.  Yay!

And did I mention that all this walking is good for weight loss?  Even with rehydrating throughout the walk I was down another pound this morning, for a total of 15.6 pounds lost since I started the new job and recommitted myself to my workout and eating plan.  Sweet. 

I am still above my lowest previous weight, of course, but every additional pound lost puts some distance between me and the dreaded 200 pound mark.  I now have 33 pounds to go until my goal weight, which sounds like a much more reasonable number than it feels like some mornings. 

Today the Nerd and I are going to bake some "proof of concept" Share a Coke (R) gingerbread cookies for the charity bakesale my company is having on Tuesday.  After the cookies, perhaps a much deserved nap.  I love weekends since starting my new job.

Friday, 15 August 2014

The downside of losing weight

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled with the progress I have made since recommitting myself to my workout and healthy eating plan.  But there's definitely a downside.  My workouts burn fewer calories.  And my body requires fewer calories to function.  It's like a metabolism double whammy!

With this week's loss I am down to a base of 1,500 calories per day on a rest day.  It's no 1,200 calories, to be sure, but it's a tough target to crack when a meal can easily run 600-700 calories. 

Although it is a little depressing to see my workout burns steadily decreasing and my baseline calories falling, I know it's because my metabolism is changing, which is all to the good (at least I keep telling myself that it's good!).

It just makes it tough on a rest day like today - - I have to be super vigilant and cannot snack even the slightest bit, what with my lavish 5 calorie buffer on the books today. 

It also makes it almost impossible to eat out on a rest day, what with some restaurant meals starting at 1,500 + calories - - not to mention all the sodium.

If I keep making progress and losing weight as I have been, though, I will not complain (too much).  The results are worth it.  I loved how my jeans and blazer fit today.  So what if it's challenging to keep under the 1,500 calorie target - - I need to get used to it sometime, since this will eventually be the "new normal". 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Walking works...134.8 pounds down

It has been a while since I have posted, mostly because my routine has been quite uneventful, mostly.  The Nerd and I have continued on our training plan for the Weekend to End Women's Cancers charity walk coming up in 23 days, and I have been trying (and for the most part, succeeding) to eat well and avoid snacking. 

The net of all this activity is that I am down another 2.5 pounds since my last weigh-in, for a total of 134.8 pounds down.  This brings me back down below 200 pounds once again to 199.1 pounds.  Yay, me!  Since I have started my new job I am down 14.5 pounds, which tells you something about the health benefits of working for a major beverage manufacturer.

I am really really really trying to be patient and sensible with my program and to not get too hung up on the scale or the calendar.  Lifestyle change is supposed to cover the rest of one's life, after all, so there's no real rush to lose weight. 

For all that zen-like attitude, however, it's still very gratifying and reassuring to see that when I do the things that have worked in the past - like strong workouts and consistently eating fewer calories than I burn (including not eating back all my workout calories) - I eventually lose weight.  I am trying to be more patient with this and let my body take off the weight on its own schedule (rather than my own mental timetable), but it can be frustrating. Patience is not my strong suit.  Neither is impulse control, so you can see what I am up against here.

All in all, though, my walking workouts have been doing the trick.  On non-walking days I do weights and the elliptical, and that seems to be keeping the weight headed in the right direction.  That, and the cutting back on snacking, of course. 

Speaking of walking, the Nerd and I hit our first "official" 12.5 mile (20 km) walk last weekend.  As you might remember, the first time I tried to walk 12.5 miles (after accidentally working the training plan backwards (!)), I was in agony for the last 4.5 miles.  The following weekend when I walked 12.5 miles I was only very sore for the last mile and a half, and in agony for the last half mile - - a big improvement.  You can imagine my trepidation, though, at trying that distance against last weekend.  Would it be like the first time, or would it be more like our recent walks, tiring but manageable?

And the answer is: tiring but manageable!  What a win! 

Sunrise in the Beach, August 2014
We were walking back to those tall buildings way off in the distance...
... and actually almost pleasant.  Note that I said "almost".  It was still 3 hours and 40 minutes of walking to hit 12.5 miles, but by keeping the pace to a relatively sedate 3.5 mph I was able to get through the walk with energy to spare.  Not only that, I was able to go out shopping with my mom shortly after getting home, and had no problems wandering around the Market. 

I felt very tired after this walk, but not as tired as I expected, and aside from a little chaffing in the bra area, I made it through the walk without any physical discomfort. 

Here's all of the walks we have done so far in August:

The big red line heading out to the right is our 12.5 mile walk along Queen Street until the Neville Park streetcar turnaround, then back along the waterfront trail to the Market neighborhood.  We've also got a few of our favourite walks up and down Church Street and around the Bloor/Broadview loop overlooking the Don Valley (very pretty, if one ignores the highway, prison, and defunct strip club). 

Don't tell anyone, but I am actually quite enjoying our walking training and will miss it when we are not doing so many walks once the event is over.  Perhaps I will even keep going on walks after the charity walk, provided that I can trick the Nerd into joining me.  I probably won't do any more 12.5 mile walks, though. 

Today we had a fire drill at the office, and I had fun walking up and down 4 flights of stairs with my knapsack full of purse debris and my computer bag.  Actually, I did have fun - - it was a nice break from routine, and I had no problem going down the stairs or even back up, despite all my gear.  It's at times like this that I am reminded of how far I have come, and I cherish my increasing levels of fitness even more. 

Tomorrow is another weight + elliptical day, since we are done our walks until another 12.5 miler on Saturday.  Better rest up the old feet while I can!

Monday, 4 August 2014

132.3 pounds down - and another size

It's the beginning of a new month and you know what that means - - summary time!

As you know I have been working out and trying to eat better for about the last two months or so (coincidentally right around the time that I started my fabulous new job).  At the end of June I saw some positive results, but July was really the first full month back on the program.  The program is a bit different than before - - with the training we have been doing for the Weekend to End Women's Cancers 32 km charity walk on September 6, my workouts have shifted from mostly elliptical workouts with some weights to mostly walking outside, with weights and elliptical thrown in on non-walking days. 

I could tell I was doing a lot of walking, because I finished the month at #65 on the total list of steps taken for the Redditors who Fitbit group, out of more than 1,000 people.  That's right, yours truly was in the top 10% of all Redditors who Fitbit according to my steps taken.  Go me!  If you want to friend me on Fitbit I am user #22LQKV.

I was very curious to see the results of all that walking, and the results are now in. 

As for my weight, I lost 12 pounds in July, for a total of 132.3 pounds lost overall.  I am still chipping away at the weight that I had gained as a result of my uncontrolled emotional binge eating during my job search and job change, but I am very happy with my progress now that I have gotten back into my healthy routine.

Put simply, all of the emotional eating and slacking off put me behind by about a full year in that I was around my current weight about this time last year.  And you know what?  That's OK.  I am not in a time-limited contest to beat anyone to a healthy weight, and as long as I am making progress in either my eating habits or my workouts I am not going to beat myself up for past poor decisions.

It's not that the past is past, it's that belabouring past errors doesn't accomplish anything and it only serves to frustrate me in the here and now.  Instead of focusing on that big leap from 185 pounds to 213+ pounds and how fast I can get back down to 185, I am focusing on the steady whittling down from 213+ pounds to where I am now, at 201.6 pounds.   I am not as focused this year about how quickly I can lose the weight since I have found that for me, that leads to unhealthy obsessiveness and general discontent about how slowly the weight comes off.  Rather, I try and make better decisions each day and look to see the weight come off in its own time.  Very zen of me, I know.  I am more and less successful at this kind of laissez-faire attitude depending on the day, but overall I am better at being patient than I was last year, so I will take this as a win.

This time around I try and celebrate the wins more and don't obsess over the minor gains if I am generally sticking to my plan.  As a result, my attitude is much more positive overall, and I feel better about myself and am generally very content with my renewed progress to date.

The measurements show the progress I have made since my May-June reboot (all measurements in inches):

I am not as focused on hitting a particular size as I am to see the positive changes in my body, however going down a size or two, as I have, is still very motivating.  Everything is coming down with the walks, except my calves.  Sheesh - - my Little Lulu cankles are destined to stay with me forever, alas. 

I am pleased to see the measurements come down to a proper size 14, which is well within the zone of being able to shop anywhere I want.  I suspect that my body is actually built to be a natural 14, even though according to my measurements I have gone down to a 12 or even a 10 in some styles (last year, before eating my way back to a 16-18).  Right now I am not going to fuss too much about the sizes and just pay attention to my body and try and wear things that are comfortable regardless of their size.  I tend to favour slightly larger size shorts, jeans and skirts, given that I have a decent badonkadonk, while I can wear smaller sweaters now that the girls are smaller.  Yes, I understand that the previous sentence is full of colourful metaphors for various parts of my anatomy - - deal with it. 

The Nerd and I went down to Columbus Ohio this weekend to visit his parents in their new home.  I spent a lot of time trying to be sensible in the face of all the delicious food - - his family has a delightful tradition of pre-dinner cocktails (complete with snacks) and it is all too easy to eat 300-400 calories just in rye and crackers and cheese and hummus and veggies before the meal even starts.  Yum!  I also tried to make a point of drinking lots of water, since I find that generally American food is higher in sodium than the Nerd and I are used to consuming in the average day.

On a side note, I discovered that I am a rye snob, because our "well" rye at home is Crown Royal, while our "nice" rye is s special edition Crown Royal.  Apparently normal people consider Crown Royal to be their upmarket rye, so it turns out that I have been very spoiled in the Canadian Whiskey department. 

Although the Nerd's mom does engage in short post-meal walks, they are nothing like the multi-mile marches that the Nerd and I have been doing as part of training for our big walk.  But at least it was some physical activity while we were visiting, which is better than sitting on my butt for the entire time.  I remember when I couldn't keep up with the Nerd's parents on their walks, and now I find them to be more of a stroll than a proper walk - - how times have changed!  All in all, it was a wonderful visit and I can't wait to go back.

Speaking of training walks, here is a map of where we have been walking so far, with the coloured lines indicating our walks:

A few points of note regarding the above map.  First, the big triangle is not where the Nerd and I discovered the power of flight, but it is where the GPS extrapolated the subway ride we took from Lawrence West subway station back downtown to finish off one of our walks. 

We also did one walk in which we drove out to the Leslie and Lawrence East area to walk through one of Toronto's many park systems.  You can see this 3.75 mile loop (for 7.5 miles total) all by itself in the top right hand side of the map.  Interestingly, we did another 5.5 mile walk up the Don Valley trail (for an 11 mile round trip) last weekend, and we almost met up with the southern end of our previous park walk.  Perhaps next weekend we will close the loop, as we have a 12.5 mile walk on the schedule for Saturday morning. 

On an personal note, I felt absolutely fine after our 11 mile walk - - a little tired, but in no obvious discomfort.  This is a big improvement over our last 12.5 mile walks and shows the benefit of doing the training plan the right way around. (!)

Finally, I am not sure if I have officially debuted my haircut, which I got just before the third interview for my current job.  I decided that growing out curly hair is just too frustrating, so I went short, as can be seen in this photo of me and my sister from her birthday in June:

I'm the one on the right

When telling each other about the dresses we were wearing we initially thought we had brought the same dress for dinner out, but we were both simply au courant with the current black and white trend.   

August has more of the same on tap - - the Nerd and I will continue our training walks, and expect to walk around 26 miles a week for the next couple of weeks, in preparation for the big charity walk at the beginning of September.  I will try and keep integrating free weights into my workouts 2-3 times a week, keeping the recent additions of reverse crunches and standing calf raises.  And of course, there's the old standby of the elliptical for those days when walks are not planned. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

159 miles down, plus a day at the races

Another week down, another 5 training walks and 26 miles in the books, for a total of 159.2 miles walked in total so far.  To put that in perspective if I walked 159 miles from Toronto I would have walked all the way to Bothwell, Ontario, a 2 and a half hour drive along the way to London.  Never heard of Bothwell, have you?  Neither have I.  But I do know that it is 159 miles from Toronto. 

All this walking is having a good effect - - I am down 2.1 pounds from last week.  This brings me back into overweight territory from obese, a huge improvement from where I re-started at the beginning of June.  I am 10.7 pounds down from my re-start, and on the way to my previous low.  Ever so slowly, of course, but that's the way these things work. 

In an interesting testament to the depression and work stress that I had been going through at my old job, my weight now, 7 weeks after recommitting to working out and eating properly, is right back to around what I was a year ago at this time. 

I can look at this in a couple of ways.  I can get all depressed about all the time I have lost and wasted over the past year just to end up in the same place that I was a year ago.  Or I can take the fact that I am fighting my way back as a positive thing.  All of my good habits that I have developed over the past couple of years, and my increasing levels of fitness are allowing me to take back control of my weight even though I let it get out of control.  I refuse to give up all the progress that I have made over the past 2 and a half years, even though I have slipped back behind some of the goals I had achieved.  And it is happening slowly, to be sure, but I am winning back those goals one by one again. 

Since I recommitted myself to working out and eating well 7 weeks ago I have broken into the light-heavyweight class, and, this week, I made it back into the overweight category (from being obese).  Next on the list is to break the 200 pound mark again, and then it will be to break 190 pounds.  From that, it will be just a hop and a skip to my previous low weight.

I know that a huge percentage of people gain the weight back within a year after they lose a large amount of weight.  I certainly did the first time I lost weight - - within a couple of years I was well on my way to my new highest weight of all time. 

This time, I like to focus on the fact that when my weight started creeping back up once my job situation resolved itself I took back control over my eating.  7 weeks in, I am feeling almost back to my old healthy self, and I love it.  It is still one day at a time, but those days get easier and easier. 

On a completely unrelated point, a couple of weekends ago the Nerd and I went to the races, which was the genesis of the hat post a couple of posts back.  Due to popular demand, here are some pictures from the event:

We were in the last row of our section, so the Very Large Hat did not block anyone's view, thank goodness.  It was very windy at the race, so the hat did go airborne once, I have to admit.  That being said, it was the perfect hat for the event, and overall we both had a great time. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Walking training update - 133.2 miles down

This week was a relatively easy week (!) in that we only had 16.5 miles on the schedule with a 5 miler on Monday, 4 miles on Wednesday, and 7.5 miles this morning.  Monday's walk was hellishly uncomfortable due to groin and foot pain combined with crowded sidewalks.  But Wednesday's walk and this morning's walk were both very nice now that I have tried to slow down a bit and take it a bit easier on the groin.  Yes, the irony of having a sports injury is not lost on me.

All this walking is having a couple of result.  First is that I am actually in the top 100 out of 921 Redditors who also Fitbit, at #71.    So far in July I have taken more than 160,000 steps, which is pretty neat considering how few steps I ever took before I started working out (less than 2,000 a day). 

The other fortunate side effect is that I am back to losing weight.  Although I am still (far) above my lowest from last summer, I have lost 8.6 pounds since I recommitted myself last month to working out and eating healthy and reducing snacking.  The food side of things is really the bigger key to success, but I have been diligently working out and trying to keep my activity levels up as well, much more so than I had been doing previously. 

If I can keep focused on taking things one day at a time and avoid seriously injuring myself in the next few months, I may even get back to where I had been.  The big picture is still too far away to really look at since I still have 40 pounds to lose, but  pretty soon I will be able to re-start that countdown to my final goal.