For one year, I will be training to get myself in peak physical condition using diet and trainers. And it will be part of my journey to write a book and instill habits I hope will remain with me for a lifetime.
January 29th, 2012: MUSCLE-BOUND #17: THE NEW SWING
This is Lisa.
Me & Lisa
A few things you should know about her, in no particular order:
- She’s a kook.
- She’s got a raucous tavern laugh that you can hear across the gym, one that generally puts a smile on people’s faces.
- She runs Triathlons and Iron Man Competitions.
- She wears Bert & Ernie or Oscar the Grouch mittens and taunts her gym clients with them.
- She used to play Dungeons & Dragons with her brother, she loves Bugs Bunny, she gives toy dragons to her niece, she knows enough about comics to be dangerous, and she’s a geek at heart.
- Finally… she’s my trainer.
When I decided I was going to run the Spartan Race, I knew that my current program just wasn’t going to cut it. Traditional weightlifting targets specific muscles but it does little to help the supporting muscle groups. It also does little to boost long-term endurance.
I already knew this going into training years ago. I knew that the body was divided along a 50/50 split into slow-twitch muscles and fast-twitch muscles. I knew that slow-twitch muscle fibers fired more slowly, but for longer periods, making them ideal for distance. I knew that fast-twitch muscle fibers fired rapidly, giving athletes bursts of energy for immediate short-term needs. Short-twitch vs. fast-twitch—think marathon runner versus 50-meter sprinter. Think gymnast versus Olympic weight lifter.
Staying in that Position - 30 seconds
I knew this, but at the time I focused on working the fast-twitch muscles through weightlifting and satisfying the slow-twitch muscles through a bit of cardio. I wanted the muscle bulk… I wanted the sweeping chest and wide shoulders.
The Spartan Race, however, was a healthy dose of both and I remember what one athlete said when he ran the Spartan… it taught him where he was lacking in his training despite being in great shape.
I needed to switch things up, and I knew my endurance sucked. I knew it from when I was Scuba diving and came out of the water panting. I knew it from running short sprints. I also worried that I’d lose the muscle bulk I’d built up so far. But I needed more endurance and better 360 degree performance. So I asked around the gym for a good trainer, and one of two names kept coming up… someone who fit my needs… Lisa.
I met with Lisa to decide on a program, and I was sold on her almost immediately. She’d studied and graduated in Phys. Ed/Kinesiology from McGill University, and she wanted to test me on our first workout to evaluate my physical fitness before building a program for me. In an age where trainers were handing out cookie-cutter programs, Lisa was tailoring my needs according to her evaluation workout. And man, did she put me through a hell of a program that morning. My strength was okay, but my endurance sucked rocks. I had the power, but none of the follow through.
More so, she could tell where I needed work. By the way I moved my legs on certain exercises, she knew that my hip flexors needed to be strengthened, or that the pain I experienced on one part of the knee versus another part indicated this weakness or that. And she based my program on her observations and my feedback.
Because Kinesiology is human kinetics and how muscles and joints interplay, essentially, all the exercises and training are built around working the body as a whole. So there are no exercises that target a specific muscle group. They will target the major muscle groups and all the supporting branches at the same time. It won’t be just my biceps, for example, but my forearms and my shoulders and my upper back. She targets my balance and she works to strengthen my core. She uses some free weights, but I work more on balance balls, bosus (dome-like balance balls on which you see me doing push-ups), medicine balls and floor mats.
In the coming blogs, I’ll go into the exercises she’s giving me and their results, but here’s an example of the exercise she makes me do and its progression of difficulty.
Pushups: She started with simple pushups, but given I could churn out about 30-35 in one go, she made me go slower and at the apex of each pushup, I had to tap my shoulder with one hand. I knew where this was headed, so I decided to move to double taps immediately… tapping both shoulders (one at a time naturally) at the apex of the pushup. That brought my core into the workout. When she saw I could do 10-16 of those after a few weeks, she raised the stakes. At the apex of each pushup, she made me shift into a side-plank (resting on one arm, facing sideways, raising the other arm above my body). That brought my balance into the exercise. When I could do 10 easily, she made me incorporate a leg raise from that side plank position. I now brought my groin and hip flexors into what started out as a chest and shoulder exercise.
More to come in the weeks ahead, but I will say this to round out the issue. If I was afraid of losing muscle mass, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I feel stronger, more powerful than before, and across the body rather than at specific parts. The muscle fibers also feel denser, and my balance has improved 100%. I won’t be as large as my gym peers who stick to weights, but my joints are actually less stressed and I’m gaining the long term endurance and short term power I need if I hope to do things like the Spartan Race.
Happy with the Results
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January 22nd, 2012: MUSCLE-BOUND: THIS IS SPARTAN!
MUSCLE-BOUND: THIS IS SPARTAN!
So in last week’s issue, I mentioned taking my health and fitness in a new direction for 2012, and that my goal was to participate in the Spartan Race. Well… the Spartan Sprint to be precise. What’s the difference, you ask? Well I’m glad I asked on your behalf, but we’ll get to that in a sec.
Like many people in this age of viral awareness, I first heard about the Spartan Race through my friend and former Ubi coworker, Geiger. Now, Geiger is a fun and creative soul who makes social ADD look hip. He’s always scary a pleasure to talk to and the only person I know who does a hysterical impersonation of Christopher Schwarzenegger Walken. That’s right… he knows how to do an impersonation of their unholy lovechild who sounds like them both. It’s truly frightening.
So the pics you see in this blog are courtesy of Geiger and his 2011 run through the Spartan Sprint in Ottawa, with his consent, of course.
The Spartan Race began in 2005 when Joseph DeSena, Richard Lee and Selica Sevigny organized a 48 hour “Death Race” that would serve as the launch platform for the international Spartan Races a few years later. It included running, jumping, swimming, crawling through obstacles and what I can only assume was a lot of crying. Take one part SEAL Training, one part American Gladiators, two parts the Book of Revelations, and you get the idea. It was a test of endurance and strength, and the point wasn’t to win… it was to finish.
Fast-forward to 2010, when the smaller, supposedly less gruelling Spartan Race is held in Vermont, drawing 500 competitors, and a fitness event is born. Wait, event or experience? Well, whichever is more 2012, that’s what you have. Now, 36-50 Spartan events are held across North America and in England, each for one of four categories. Anyone who completes the race gets a Spartan medal, a t-shirt, a beer and bragging rights. The top placers get free admittance to the bigger races. Everyone gets to celebrate at the BBQ and party afterwards.
This is GEIGER!
The Spartan Race itself is the blanket term for the four individual events. So… what are the four events?
> Spartan Sprint: Depending on which horizon of the Americas you live on, the sprint is a 3-mile or 5-6K race, with about 10 obstacles. The top placers in this category get free admittance into a Super Spartan of their choice and the website promises that 99% of participants will finish the race. See… being in the 1% still isn’t hip, but I digress.
> Super Spartan: This 8-mile/13K run takes you through 15 mud-soaked obstacles. This is not for the weak, and the top three men and the top three women earn the additional prize of free entry into the Death Race. Hold on, wait… that’s a prize?
> Spartan Beast: This is a 10-12-mile/16K race with numerous obstacles and a promise to winnow the fit from the insane.
> Death Race: This 48-hour marathon is a test of endurance that promises a 90% fail rate. There is no set mileage or obstacle count. There is only survival and, I surmise, cannibalism.
GEIGER: THE RUNNING MAN
Now, I know what you want to ask… just what sort of obstacles are they promising, Lucien? The obstacles vary and are only revealed on the day of the race. With heats running every half-hour to handle the number of participants, you can arrive early and watch others go through the experience first, or sign up for an early heat and enjoy the mayhem after from the comforts of the finish line.
According to friends of mine who participated, and from what I’ve read, the obstacles can include:
- Crawling under barbed wire in mud
- Cross mud pits
- Carrying heavy rocks a small distance
- Running past men with padded poles who are trying to trip you
- Jumping a fire pit
- Climbing a sloped wall
- Climbing a rope
- Scaling cargo netting
Getting the picture? It’s boot camp, but without the attempt to humiliate you. If you can’t complete an obstacle, they make you do 10 or 20 burpies from what my coworker Mateo Lopez told me (Burpies are dropping down into a pushup position, doing a pushup, vaulting to your feet, jumping up and then dropping back down).
How many participate in this thing? Last year, New England saw 2,000 racers and Montreal over 3,200. Globally, we’re talking over 100,000 racers anticipated for 2012, and the number is growing. Most people hear about it through word of mouth but the website offers you locations, dates, sign-up sheets and videos, so I encourage you to visit: http://www.spartanrace.com/.
And thus we come full circle except for one last question I can hear some of you asking…
…why are you doing this?
Because it’s scary. And because I needed a new goal. Training without goals can turn exercise into a tedious experience. Thing is, my weight-training program wasn’t going to be enough, and the Spartan Race offered me the opportunity to reboot my program and give me a new direction. I jumped at the chance and interviewed a trainer who graduated in Kinestheology from university. Her credentials? She runs marathons, triathlons and Iron Man competitions….
Next week, we’ll get into my new program and I’ll introduce you to my trainer, Lisa.
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January 15th, 2012: MUSCLE-BOUND #15
It was 2008 when I began reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Well, sorry, Mr. Covey, I’ll admit that I haven’t finished your book yet, but it did start me on the road to better health among other things.
The book framed the question of productivity this way: If you run a factory at full tilt, caring only for output, your equipment will break, bringing production to a standstill for long periods of time. But if you spend time maintaining the equipment, your output will not be as high in the short-term, but you will continue producing over the long term.
The idea struck me like a bolt from the blue. In translating this lesson to my writing, I was effectively ruining myself by focusing on writing (output) while I ran my body into the ground (the machinery or production). That’s when I decided to get into shape. If I was serious about writing for the rest of my life, my mind and body were as important to the process as my computers and word processors.
In 2009, I decided that I would lose weight and get in shape. At the beginning of 2009, I was 292 pounds (definitely in the frigid north above obesity if obesity was the equator of my mid-section). I was heavier than Homer Simpson and 8 pounds away from being a live performance of that episode where Homer gains weight to work from home. Only, I wouldn’t be able to stop the release of nuclear gases with my ass.
I started hitting the gym 4 days a week. By the time April rolled around, I’d turned the effort into a habit, and I’d dropped to 282 pounds. Not bad, but I wanted better results.
So I turned to a trainer and decided to catalog the experience.
By the time December 2009 rolled around, I managed to reach 210 pounds through diet and exercise. I was happy. I kept up with the trainer for a while after that, but I soon dropped my trainer in favor of saving some money. Forty-five dollars a session was expensive. Besides I knew what I needed to do and how to maintain it.
Now, usually in weight loss stories, this is the part where you’d expect the other shoe to drop, or me to have fallen off the wagon, or maybe taken the gravy express train back to 300 pounds plus. No such doing, I’m happy to say, though maintaining the diet and exercise hasn’t been easy either.
We are now January 2012, two years after I stopped blogging about weight loss. I will admit that I have gained back about 10 pounds, putting me at 220, but my weight’s been stable for over 6 months and the exercise has remained steady except for a two-week period when a cold knocked me on my back like Homer Simpson fighting Drederick Tatum.
Maybe I watch The Simpsons a bit much.
Problem is, especially in exercise, maintaining can be a dangerous thing. Maintaining leads to boredom and boredom leads to diminished results…
…so I decided to shake things up a bit. I decided to set my eyes on a goal and to pursue that goal much as I had with the first Muscle-Bound log. So, in the following months, you will see a new series of articles about my quest to improve my health in order to participate in a 5K marathon with 10 Obstacles called “The Spartan Race” this summer.
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January 2nd, 2010: Muscle-Bound Log 14: A Shift in Perspective
I was ready to discount 2009. It was a bad year professionally. I’d made little to no forward movement on my novels, and was spending every day waiting for responses. That was 52 weeks of holding my breath day in and out for some news… any news so long as it was positive. And what was worse than nothing? The rejections. They were mostly positive in their “thanks, no thanks,” but each one hit harder than the last and each felt like a setback measured in months… years. By the end of it, I couldn’t see myself getting published… ever. I’d lost sight of my dream and as much as I hated to admit it, the success of some of my friends was burning a hole in my stomach.
I was very ready to bury 2009. Preferably with a double tap to the back of its head.
Then I went for my fitness assessment.
They measured me, pinching skin with cold callipers and girding me with measuring tape. They rattled off numbers and handed me the verdict.
I was… stunned. Flabbergasted in fact. I was at 16.8% Body Fat. I’d begun this program back in April with nearly 36% Body Fat, and since then, I’d lost nearly 20% of my fat.
I’d set 16% as a goal several months ago, but I didn’t think I was anywhere near that. More so, that put me at 1.8% away from being in the category of a pro-athlete. And I was undergoing advanced weight training now, so my Fat Ratio goals suddenly shifted from 16% down to about 12-13%.
With that single moment, 2009 turned around. It wasn’t any less rough, but I suddenly realized that I’d accomplished something I never thought I’d see. I was so focused on my success as a writer that I’d almost overlooked my accomplishments in my health.
That brought me to the second realization — that I’d allowed things to coast by, with no real drive toward a stated goal. My triumphs this year came from me taking an active hand in my affairs. If I wanted to see results, then, for 2010 or whatever came after that, I’d have to work with a goal in mind and not just fire off something and hope for the best.
What does this all mean? Epiphanies are fine, after all, but there has to be carry through, right? Honestly, I’m not sure yet. But I’m happy for 2010, because whatever 2009 turned out to be, for better or worse, I contributed to my circumstances. Like they say about computers and technology… Garbage in, Garbage out. Now let’s see what I can apply from my diet to the rest of my life. Because I don’t plan to sit on the sidelines anymore. I plan on turning hope into ambition.
So, to date, this is where I stand:
April 6 December 31
Weight: 282 lbs 210 lbs
Fat %: 36% 16.80%
And where would we be without some pictures?
And two more!
Happy New Year, everyone. I know I plan to have one.
August 19th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log 13: Keep the Path Lit
It was a rough two weeks for me at the end of July… probably the roughest of the year so far. I can go to some pretty dark places in my head, which is why I guess I’m a horror writer first and foremost. But that dark place is filled with cannibal sensibilities, and it’s all too easy to devour the better parts of myself and leave behind the nasty, unsavoury bits.
In the past, in the grip of these moods, I’d indulge one of my vices to excess as a form of escape. Over the years, I’ve evolved by adapting my coping mechanisms and eschewing certain forms of stress relief until only a couple remain. The one germane to today’s log is the vice of food.
For two weeks, I wanted to drown my sorrows in food. To eat until the rough edges got smoothed away. I didn’t, though, and while I’m happy that I dealt directly with the issues instead of using food as a passive-aggressive proxy, it wasn’t a “yay me” moment either. At least, I’m not looking for that reaction.
Instead, I noticed another benefit to maintaining a routine (diet and exercise in my case): Good habits become a coping mechanism for the stress. Huh… who knew? I’m always worried that I’ll “fall off the wagon,” but I’ve discovered that the things I used to crave before have diminished and it’s no longer a matter of falling off the wagon as wanting to stay on.
While attending World Con a couple of weekends ago, I spent the evening at various room parties surrounded by chips and chocolates. I even sat down next to them, feeling a détente cordial had been reached. They wouldn’t woo me with their sweet and salty voices and I wouldn’t devour them hand over fist like Godzilla eating his way through Tokyo. The urge was gone, and while I can sometimes feel it crop up, it’s nothing more than a pang now. Easily ignorable, the short-term promise of taste easily overcome for the longer benefits of health.
So, between World Con and an angry end of July, I survived. My diet and my exercise remained intact because they were good, positive routines in my life that I wanted to maintain. And I came out from the storm feeling more accomplished and in better control.
My reward came in the form of my latest fitness assessment. So, to date I’ve seen the following results:
April 6 July 15 August 18
Weight: 282 lbs 245 lbs 235 lbs
Fat %: 36% 25.20% 23.40%
Lean Body Mass (lbs)
180.48 183.26 185.76 lbs
Fat Body Mass (lbs)
101.52 61.74 49.24 lbs
And next week, new pictures of my progress. Stay tuned.
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July 22nd, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log 12: Failure by a Thousand Cuts
Last Wednesday, I was left feeling ambivalent by the results of my regimen and mystified by my reaction. I’d undergone my fourth fitness assessment at the gym, which marked a little over three months of my new direction in health and conditioning.
The overall results included millimetres lost from all different angles, and a drop of 2% body fat, putting me at 25%. That’s down from my original 36%. Mentally, I was hoping for 24%, which would have put me at below (or healthier than) the average. Then, I discovered that I’d also lost 1.8 pounds of muscle.
That robbed my sails of wind. A month ago, my trainer warned me that I was entering a phase where I’d be fighting to retain my muscle mass. We’d changed the program to increase the fat burning, but that muscle loss represented two-thirds of the previous month’s hard training.
“People would kill for your results,” Matt, my trainer, said as a consolation. Yet, I still couldn’t shirk the feeling that I’d somehow failed. And then, Matt hit me with the next bombshell… a drop of forty grams of carbs from my diet (but an additional protein-exclusive meal), increased cardio and the warning that this was going to fatigue me. It was the end of the honeymoon period in my relationship with the diet, he warned, as we would ride this new program to my target weight.
“Great,” I thought. All the feelings of energy and wellness, the muscle growth, were going to vanish. Instead, I’d be more tired and I’d be trying to squeeze in a 7th meal each day into a diet that was already disrupting my schedule.
Mentally, I’d started setting myself up for unhappiness and grousing about it. Worse, I started vocalizing those complaints, and a strange thing happens when we bitch about things… we get ourselves worked into a greater frenzy over something, often, without dealing with the problem itself.
Over the last few years, I’ve realized that it is within my nature that when faced with an obstacle or obligation, I complain or manufacture excuses ahead of the problem to feel less guilty about backing down. I pre-justify failure and do so in the use of language. Someone invites me to a party, and I say “I’ll try” to avoid making a commitment. “Let me think about it,” “Maybe, we’ll see,” “I’m not sure,” are all a part of my vocabulary to offset responsibility and they are words I want eliminated when used to avoid commitment.
When I complain, I also set myself up to be the victim. “I am a casualty of circumstance,” or so I’d like to believe, because it’s a way to bow out from under the weight of accountability. And I get pity, which is a terrible attention getter and a lousy way to score in bars.
I realized my approach to the loss of muscle mass and the news of a change in my routine was enough to trigger a need to seed my language and approach with escape clauses. And while they might seem like inconsequential things, every avalanche is a culmination of billions of tiny snowflakes. A process of failure through a thousand small cuts.
When I’m faced with these situations, when the challenge is frightening and the effort to surmount it is taxing (even if just in anticipation), I remember something from The Last Lecture’s Randy Pausch:
The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!
Some folks may consider it an unfair adage, but the fact is, I know which side of the brick wall I want to be on, and complaining about it or establishing a pattern of defeatist language to protect my ego isn’t going to get me there. That’s not to say it won’t be hard going, or that I don’t miss pizza and snacking casually on junk food… and chocolate. I miss eating tomatoes and I miss sweets and I miss cheeses and butter. But I don’t need them. What I need more is to prove I can do this. My health demands it, and so does my ego.
And frankly, I’m looking forward to the inevitable: “You lost how much?!? How did you do it?”
Because I can’t wait to tell them: “Through hard work.” I deserve to be on the other side of that brick wall and I’m willing to put in the effort to prove it.
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July 19th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log 11: Let Me Paint You a Thousand Words
This week’s instalment of Muscle-Bound is late because I wanted it to correspond with my birthday. Today, at 11:25 AM, I hit 43, and the impact wasn’t as bad as I expected. Allow me to explain. When I was younger, my aspirations were as follows:
1) Publish my own novels/fiction
2) Lose weight
3) Get in shape
Sure, there were more things than that, but they were on the forefront of my thoughts. The “write my own novels” was always there, burning a hole in my ambitions and marking the line where I distinguished success from failure. When I was in my 30s, I swore I was going to get my own novel published by 40. Now I’m 43, and surprisingly, I feel nothing remotely close to failure for not having done that yet.
I suppose I’ve skirted my mid-life crisis, but I’ve remade myself and changed my attitudes so often that I’m not who I was a year ago, five years ago, a decade ago. I’ve had mini-crises, and in those years, I made promises to myself that I’ve kept:
1) I stopped making jokes at the expense of my friends.
2) I brought my temper under control and get less frustrated at matters.
Two simple changes have made me like myself more, and while weight loss and weight training remain an ongoing process, I’ve managed to keep this promise of a healthier me so far as well. And I’m happy with it, which is one of the reasons why I’m content to be 43.
But getting back to being published by 40 (and then 41, 42 and 43), there’s a realization that came this past year. An internal cease-fire, if you will, between id, ego and super-ego. Some people could say I hit my goal by getting five novels published for Vampire, Warhammer 40K and Dragonlance, but that isn’t the reason for my sense of… peace. While I’m happy for what I wrote and what those novels taught me, I still have my own stories to tell.
See, 43 has become an arbitrary figure in terms of my career and my path. Previously, I saw my early 40s as an indication of personal failure if I didn’t get novels sold, but against what milestones was I measuring that assessment? My friend Joe Rose was murdered for being gay and he was in his 20s. My friends Eric, Emru and Dean, and my mother all died of cancer before their time. I have seen friends failing to health issues at a young age and, conversely, spoken over the Internet to my 92 year old grandmother in Cairo. So why am I assigning an arbitrary year and an arbitrary age to my success? I may die tomorrow, or I may be around to see what life in 2060 is like.
The fact is, I’m a healthier 43 year-old than I was a 35 year-old. I don’t know what the future brings just like 6 months ago I didn’t know I’d be 40-pounds lighter. My age is subject to what comes next… to what I do next.
In the 43 years that I have lived, I have been inside the Pyramids, Petra and Pompeii. I dove for my Scuba exam, 35 feet down and without a tank to rescue a diver. I have walked through locust swarms and seen albino cockroaches swarm a man. I watched a lake of oil burn. I have stood in the middle of Ste-Catherine’s Street, a snowstorm blotting out a blacked-out and near abandoned Montreal at night, the snow piling dunes of white against the ghostly buildings… and felt my breath stolen at its beauty.
Forty-three years. That’s one hell of a prelude… I can’t wait to see what the rest of the show brings. So, for my birthday, I offer you all the following piece of advice:
Live today like you have a tomorrow.
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July 8th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #10: The Milestone
“So what would you do if you hit 250 pounds?” Jean asked. It was a hypothetical question, but for reasons that surprised me, I smiled. Not at what I would do, but at the notion of being 250 pounds. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I really wanted to lose weight. I’d accepted being 285, but acceptance wasn’t happiness and the thought of 250 pounds cheered me up.
Now I’m not saying that sometimes in life we don’t make due with what we have, but in this instance, that wasn’t good enough. I was smiling at the hint of 250 pounds, and that hit me harder than I expected. It felt much like someone with an addiction who finally admits to the problem. A light goes on, and it burns and soothes in that same moment. It’s relief and it’s struggle alike. It is epiphany, and I hadn’t realized I was that unhappy about my health, about who I was, until the moment articulated it for me.
But let me backtrack a sec. If you don’t know who Jean Carrieres is or why I mention him often, let me fill you in. Jean gave me my first gaming contracts for roleplaying games when he worked for Dreampod 9. He gave me my first videogame contracts too, and he’s been one of my most ardent supporters. He’s also my best friend, and has tolerated me in my lows and at my heights. And he’s always been honest with his opinions, delighting often in playing Devil’s Advocate. You’ll never get away with much in his company.
Before Jean moved to Chile for work (which I keep spelling with an “i” instead of an “e” for some strange reason), we had a candid conversation over dinner. I was talking about all the things I wanted to do if I was in better shape, waxing whiny you might say, and he confided in me that he was worried about my weight. It was the first time he’d ever admitted his concerns over it. I wasn’t a happy person either; I used to be more optimistic and upbeat. Less neutral as my friend Rebecca once pointed out to me. But that part of me had gone away, forever it seemed, and I wanted it back. I wanted to feel happy, satisfied in what I was doing and in myself. That’s when Jean asked the question, and it became part of the inspiration behind this move to improve my diet.
The 250 milestone itself wasn’t as important a target as the sense that I could be thinner and healthier. And happier. Make no mistake, I will never use terms like better-looking or more attractive when it comes to my weight, because I’ve been loved through thick and thin, literally. And I find beauty in people who are heavier, so my decision was one of health and not vanity. With that tangent out of the way, last week (after being on this program for three months), I hit 249 lbs and I’ve been set to wondering… how should I celebrate this milestone? And not in a way that’s typical to me. In other words: Let’s go out and eat! Or I’ll throw a party. I always do those things. It’s time to change that up and to keep some of those promises I made to myself. I am happier and I am feeling much healthier. Now it’s time to apply that energy in a direction to celebrate… and celebrate in some fashion before the end of July. So let’s hear it:
If you hit your ideal weight to be active, what would you do to celebrate?
I want to hear what you have in mind and hopefully, I’ll have a story to share myself before month’s end.
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July 1st, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #9: Production vs. Productive Capacity
When I unwrapped Jean Carrieres’ Christmas gift to me, I shouldn’t have been surprised. He’d been talking about “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and when Jean believes in something, he brings his friends along for the ride. Now I’m not much of a fan of self-help books, but there were some elements of Stephen R. Covey’s work with which I agreed. There was also something that struck a chord with me, the notion that you had to balance production with productive capacity.
In other words, it wasn’t just about producing results, which is how we live our lives (always about the outcome). It was about finding a way to produce while maintaining the machines on that production line… in other words, how we care for ourselves. Focus your output on producing all the time and, eventually, the machine breaks down from neglect. There has to be a balance or the entire operation crashes to a halt.
This became a significant epiphany for me, because I felt that if I were a factory, I was indeed faltering. My foundations were cracking, my support beams were rusting, my machines were breaking down, and my production would soon dwindle and evaporate. As a writer, I was so focused on getting the words written that I was grinding my engines to dust. What then? I burn out? I wait to repair the damage and feel like I’ve fallen behind? I heal and stumble into familiar routines and bad habits?
Something had to change, and I knew that if I wanted to continue writing (producing), I had to take care of my body and my mind (productive capacity).
It was at that point that I reached a decision. I’d been going to the gym sporadically, my three times dwindling to two or even not at all for weeks in a row. Already 6 months had lapsed on my year-long membership and I was no closer to healthier or happier. That’s when I decided that exercise was no longer something I’d “try” to fit in, which usually meant when it was convenient (and which meant it was usually inconvenient). I changed my habit so that the morning belonged to the gym. That’s when I normally wrote, but now, I was splitting my time between production and my productive capacity. My sometimes-a-week-habit became four times a week… for ten weeks in a row from January to April. That was when I decided I had it in me to go full bore and hire a trainer.
It took a while to get over the guilt of sacrificing what I considered critical writing time for exercise. We writers can be a masochistic lot, delighting in our personal negligence, but the gym was every bit as important as my work. Actually, I now consider it a part of my workday. My job is to write and that means ensuring my muscles get the exercise I need and that my brain is vital and active. An assembly line doesn’t run on its product alone, but on the maintenance of its machines and employees as well. That’s part of the job.
I’ll admit, though, that it hasn’t been completely smooth. Before, I’d write in the morning and procrastinate on the gym until it was too late to go. Now, since I’ve allotted the morning for exercise, I’ve fought to retrain myself to write in the afternoons. After all, I did it with the gym, so I can do it with writing. Some days are good and some are a struggle, but then I suppose that’s the balancing act that comes with any full work day.
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June 24th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #8: Dieting Dangers
We had houseguests for the last two weeks, family I haven’t seen in ages, and my diet was thrown into a bit of turmoil. I didn’t cheat, but something happened that was perhaps worse. I ended up by missing meals here or there out of the six daily meals I’m supposed to eat.
The result? I went down from 255 last week to 251 this morning. That’s not good. That’s about four pounds in a week, and the body’s reaction to that is to hoard your fat, leading to weight loss plateaus. The body believes it’s in crisis, and it saves fat until the crisis is over. In addition, the body will cannibalize your muscles, meaning I’m in danger of undermining my efforts to be healthier, fitter. And this morning, I was feeling rundown and tired. As someone dieting, my job isn’t to shirk responsibility, but to accept more of it to ensure I lose the weight properly.
That’s the key that diets should be stressing… the responsibility of losing weight smartly, not quickly or by “any means necessary.”
I mentioned in the previous Muscle-Bound log how dieting and exercise were normally about the results and not the process. This is one of those times when the process is critical, because how you get from A to B is often more important than just reaching it. Unfortunately, many diets today prey on the results and not on the journey.
I believe the Cookie Diet is one of these culprits. One of the gym trainers told me about a woman who was on a Cookie Diet; she came into the gym to train and fainted… because the diet she was on barely left her with enough to function. She had no reserves or strength to go through a work-out. The cookies only allot you a maximum of 800 calories a day, followed by a single meal of lean meat and a cup of vegetables. Your minimum is supposed to be 1200 calories a day. There’re also no exercise guidelines for cookie diets because you’re already shocking the body through deprivation. And that could lead to the ever-feared rebound effect that most of us suffer through when losing weight… gaining your pounds back plus interest.
Diets that promise quick results may sound enticing, and me losing 4 pounds in a week may seem appealing, but it isn’t. I screwed up. It’s a short-term, short-sighted method that does more damage than good. I swore to myself that this change in my lifestyle was a change for the better. I want to hit the point where I can maintain this food program with two cheat meals a week to eat with friends or family. But the minute I swore to make this a lifetime initiative, I had to remove the need for short-term success, and weight loss on its own is a short-term goal. Even if it’s only losing a pound a week, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.
The current plan I’m on has worked well, but not if I undermine it. I eat six times a day, with all six including 30 grams of protein, four of them with 50 grams of carbs and two of them with 5 grams of fat. I don’t mix the fat and the carbs, but I can throw in as many vegetables as I want. Excluding, of course, high sugar veggies and fruits like tomatoes, carrots, peas and corn. I eat fruits in the morning after my work out for a quick sugar boost, but that’s it. The diet is designed to feed my lean muscle mass, to help me accelerate my metabolism so that I’m burning fat through activity. More importantly, muscles still burn calories at rest, and today my 8 pounds of added muscle burnt an additional 800 calories while I sat in front of the computer. That’s not even counting the pre-existing muscle mass I’ve strengthened.
But this works only if I feed my body the proper fuels and combine it with exercise. If I short-change myself on either diet or exercise, I’ve effectively thrown a monkey wrench into the works. Worse, I’m in danger of having taken a step back.
I spent today eating what I should. Turns out that cutting certain foods isn’t difficult… it’s including the six meals into my day that takes effort. But I have to do better, for my own sake, because I can’t turn back and I won’t fail. That’s all there is to it and I’m tired of starting all over again.
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