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!