Friday, April 29, 2005

Bring it on

When I work out, there are two aspects of my personality, two conflicting characters, that struggle for my attention. In my own mind, I have named them "I can't do that" and "Bring it on". This goes back to my days as a distance runner when I would be at mile eighteen of a twenty mile race, my knees screaming with every step and my brain telling me to quit. At that point, something else would keep me going. Chalk it up to pride, fear of failure, desire for affirmation or simple stubbornness, but I never dropped out of a race.

This morning, after a late lower body workout last night, my quads were burning during my warmup on the exercise bike. In the first three minutes, I was considering quitting. "I can't do that" was throwing out every reason that I might just hang it up. "It hurts too much." "You'll never make it twenty minutes." "You're still too dehydrated." Meanwhile, "Bring it on" was saying, "This is going to be a great workout because you're already suffering."

Well, not only did I finish the workout, but when I finished my high point with the bike on resistance level 7, I punched the up button and did and extra minute at level 8 (the highest the bike will go). I read somewhere that it's that minute at the highest intensity that makes the difference between good results and great results. And that's what I was thinking of as I punched the button for more resistance after almost twenty minutes of hell.

I got off the bike after my cool down and my muscles were spent. I thought, "Wow, that was a great workout!" It was then that I realized that "Bring it on" had taken over and "I can't do that" was totally shut down.

Bring it on!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

If you fall down, get right back up

It was a low point in my Body for Life Challenge today. Last night, after work, I went for a walk, stopped by the tanning place and did a quick tan, came home and did my weigh-in and body fat measurements, and then did another quick walk with Cheryl. At that point, everything was great. I had a really nice talk with the owner of the tanning place. I got to try out one of the cooler tanning units (it's a stand up unit instead of a bed). My weight and body fat were much improved.

I went out with some friends, planning to avoid drinking anything but water and maybe a diet cola. But, I figured a beer or two would be okay and that I deserved a little reward. Well, it turned out to be three beers and a glass of scotch and a shot of tequila and then ice cream at Steak n' Shake afterwards. I got home late. I took a ten minute stroll to try to metabolize some of the bad stuff, but I knew it wouldn't be enough. During the stroll, I realized my tanning session had left me with a burn on the outsides of my legs. I must have missed a spot with my lotion. I put some lotion on the red areas. Then, I drank a huge glass of water and went to bed.

Today, I was running on less than four hours sleep, fought to re-hydrate all day, and I decided to skip my thermogenic since my metabolism was still dealing with the alcohol, sunburn, and the corresponding imbalances. I stuck to my eating plan, but I didn't have any energy when I got home and finally gave in and fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up, I had missed a meal and I was feeling pretty low about all the stuff I had done wrong in less than 24 hours.

So, I got ready to do my lower body workout, about four hours behind schedule. I changed from my soccer shorts to my running shorts so I could see my muscles flex. I put on some rock music, opened my Body for Life book to the inside cover, so I could look at the before and after pictures between sets, and then I hit the weights. I hit several personal bests, including a set of six dead lifts with 100 lbs. My abdominal work really felt good.

So, I feel like I'm back on track. I'll trade off some of the excesses yesterday by cutting back on my off day a little. I'll go back on my thermogenic tomorrow and do an extra day of it over the weekend (I usually don't take it on the weekends since I'm pretty active compared to during the week). It's amazing what one good workout can do.

When I posted my four week pictures, I added some shots of me in my swimsuit. I thought they showed my progress a lot better and, although I was a little shy about how little I'm wearing in them, I figured very few people would see them. Well, unbeknownst to me, Cheryl put out an email to all our friends the same day that I posted the pictures, telling everyone about our web site and our Body for Life challenge info! So, suddenly, half the world has the address for this photo montage of me 90% unclothed!

I went back to it tonight and made a few changes, but I left all the pictures out there. I just decided not to worry about it. Looking them over, I felt inspired. I don't know what other people will think of them, but that just doesn't matter to me as much as it used to. So what if I don't look like a fitness model. This is all about improvement. I'm improving, feeling better, trying new things. I like my life right now and that hasn't always been true in the recent past. If I can muster the courage to change my lifestyle, I can certainly handle having a few revealing pictures posted on a web site.

Speaking of lifestyle changes, I need to sleep. Oddly enough, I feel like I had a good day after all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What was I thinking???

I got my four week pictures back today. I decided to post them on our web site next to my before pictures right away. Well, I did my original pictures in biking shorts because that is probably the worst case garment for a guy to wear. If you can get lean enough that you can wear biking shorts without looking like a small whale, you really have arrived.

So I posted my biking shorts pictures from four weeks. Although I could see some improvement, particularly in the side view pictures, I noticed that the pictures of me in my swimming suit showed a much bigger change. Since I was going to re-arrange the page to show "week four" side by side with "before" anyway, I decided to post the front, side and back pictures in my suit from both photo shoots. And then, I put some silly flexing pictures out there too.

I thought the change looked much more dramatic in the swimsuit pictures. But even more dramatic was the fact that I posted the pictures of me in that swimsuit at all. I've always been pretty modest. Just two months ago, if you had told me that there would be pictures of me on the internet in a Speedo (actually the suit is by Tyr which I prefer to Speedo), I would have laughed. But some of the biggest changes during the last four weeks have been in my attitude. I've actually started liking my body. I don't have to hide so much of it to keep people from seeing what terrible shape I'm in. And it's only going to get better.

Okay, if you just have to see what I'm talking about, go here:

I was particularly happy with the fact that my stomach is flatter and my hips are narrower. The side views (both of them) also show a noticable reduction in the size of my posterior. And if you look really close, you'll notice some new muscle mass here and there (look right above my knees). Keep in mind that I didn't do any "pumping up" before these pictures because I really didn't have time. So my muscles don't have a lot of bulk to them in these shots. But when I lift these days, they really respond. I'll try to show more of this in the eight week pictures. Maybe by then you'll also be able to see the results of all my abdominal work.

Well, one of my goals is to get more sleep, something that I'm failing at right now, so...more later. Good night.

Monday, April 25, 2005

It's good to have a friend...and a tan

It's been five days since my last blog entry and I'm feeling deprived, so I'm rushing to write this before I leave for my bowling league. I guess blogging, like exercising, diet planning and supplementation, becomes a habit after awhile.

I went to Sports Authority on Saturday to buy some more dumbells. They had hex dumbells on sale for $0.49 a pound, so I bought the 45's and 50's that I needed to complete our dumbell collection. I bought a mat for the exercise bike and some puzzle-piece foam tiles to create a scuff-free surface to put all those dumbells on. When I got up to the checkout, the cashier was talking to two young guys who wanted a job application. They left and she said, "I'm so embarassed. I told him he had to be 18 to apply and he is actually 19. He looked about 14." I told her that I also thought he was much younger than 18 and we played the age-guessing game. She leaned over the counter with her scanner and scanned the dumbells, while I maneuvered the cart so she could reach them. I told her about Body for Life and our home gym. When she rang up the total, she whistled softly and showed it to me. Geez, this stuff adds up fast. Then she smiled and said, "You're my friend today," and proceeded to whip out her "friends and family discount" card and take 25% off the entire purchase! I was dumbfounded, but she explained that the friendly customers are worth keeping. So I thanked her for letting me be her friend and went on my way with a decidedly better mood.

Now, I've been agonizing over the subject of tanning for a long time. I see all the pictures in Body for Life books, videos, web sites, etc. , and the after pictures usually use the tan to good effect. Well, I haven't tanned since I was in college and I haven't been really dark since I was in gradeschool and lived at the pool all summer. Due to the French blood buried in my Irish-German background, I do tan once I get past the initial burn. But it's so unhealthy and I have a scar on my face that I'm still pretty careful about tanning or burning. For me, one good tan would certainly be a guilty pleasure. I look good tan, but I don't want to die young (of course, it's probably too late for dying "young" anyway). So maybe this one time.

Well, a new tanning place just opened down the street from my house. It's the only business (besides the carwash) in a tiny business district about five minutes walk from my house. As I drove by the place on the way home from my 25% discount adventure, I saw they were having a grand opening at the tanning salon. They had a grill going, a small Corvette and classic car show in one corner of the parking lot, a jumparound for the kids, and a lot of streamers and balloons. So I pulled in. I went inside and there were very few customers, so they greeted me like royalty. I had a coupon for a month of free tanning on their most basic tanning bed. But they had a deal (which I took) to use any of their tanning beds, from the highest to the lowest, for a month, for $30.00. Because I was signing up during their grand opening, they gave me a t-shirt, can cooler, free lotion and other stuff. Then, they set me up with the highest level tanning bed and let me try it out. I have to admit that my modesty kicked in while I was lying there practically naked on this tanning bed with a whole bunch of people right outside the door. But I just decided that it was one more BFL adventure to add to the rest of the new experiences that have come my way in these four short weeks. Plus, now I can probably tan without burning since they are being super careful with me due to my quick-burn skin type. I still feel guilty about tanning, but just this once, it's too tempting to resist.

Other than that, week four was a blast. I had some great workouts and learned many new things. I'm actually kicking my calories up a notch, but not too much. Some days, I've been down to 1000 calories, which is just too low. I'm going to try to stay closer to 1500. Cheryl too some four week shots of me which should show up on our web site later this week. She decided she didn't want pictures at this stage and I didn't push the issue. We are doing a full blown photo shoot at eight weeks to get ready for the final photos. We are going to do them ourselves. Studio photography is something I've studied for years, so we're going to give it a shot. Between the two of us, we make a pretty good photographer, so I think we should do okay.

I promise I'll blog sooner than five days this time. Ciao!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Week Four - Gotta Keep Moving

Week three of my Body for Life Challenge seemed to go by in a flash. I got in some good workouts, was hit and miss on my diet plan, took thermogenics for the first time, got mixed results on my body fat and scale weight, but, in general, felt pretty good about the program. Week four is off to a good start. I'm trying to be patient about results. I realize that gains tend to be exponential in a program like this. In other words, the first gains are slow and then, as every success builds on the previous one, things start to happen faster and faster. I also know I'm walking a very fine line between my primary goal of fat loss and my desire to build muscle. I'm already thinking, if I can lose enough fat in the first eight weeks, I might emphasize muscle gain more in the last four. Honestly, I'm seeing results and I don't want to make any drastic changes. Just gotta keep moving forward.

I was at WalMart last night, buying some more protein bars, and I sat down at the blood pressure machine to check my stats. I know this is silly, but whenever I put my arm through the cuff on that thing, I start to tense up. This is partly because I get nervous about the results of the test and partly because the machine has to reach a starting point of something like 250mm to allow for the worst case person that might sit down there. So it pressurizes way higher than is really necessary for me. Well, even though I had the usual nervous reaction when the test started, I still clocked in at 119/79 with a heart rate of 56. I was happy with both those results, although the blood pressure is still a little high. I was amazed to see my pulse that low. I know my resting heart rate is getting better, but usually it's in the 60's once I get up and start moving. This was at the end of the day, after a lower body workout, a two mile walk at lunch, and a full dose of thermogenics.

On the bike this morning, I noticed that my fabled rest and recovery ability is back. After the first interval, my heart rate was barely 130. At the end of the second interval, I clocked in at more like 150 and I probably hit 170 at my high point. Three minutes later, during my cooldown, I was back down to 130. It was this cardiovascular efficiency that made me such a good distance runner and long distance athlete. My CV system never goes harder than it needs to. I wonder if this is holding me back a little. Part of the reason for the high intensity cardio is to kick your metabolism up a notch for the rest of the day. I'm wondering if mine responds less than other people's does. I took my workout to another level this morning, but I think my strengh and endurance is increasing faster than I thought, because this measurably harder workout seemed easier than the last one. I guess it's a nice problem to have.

I want to do four week pictures this Sunday. I don't think the results will be spectacular at this point, but I think they will be visible. I'll post them on the web site when they are done.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

If you do what you always did...

Today, I was about halfway through my upper body weight training when I thought to myself, "what sadistic bastard designed this workout?" Then I remembered it was me. I was reading online last night about the practices of various Body for Lifers, including a fellow BFL blogger named Skwigg (she's very funny and inspirational), and I decided I needed to push harder in my weight training. So I designed today's workout with that thought running loose in my brain. The end result was several personal bests and a great workout that I can already tell is going to come back to haunt me tomorrow. But it felt great! I got some sun after gulping down some Myoplex. I saw myself in the mirror right after that. I had a slight flush from being out in the sunlight and all the upper body muscles were still pretty taut from the workout. Hey, I looked pretty good! It makes me want to work even harder. I look good. I want to look and feel great!!

If you do what you always did, you'll get what you always got.

I can't recall who really said this first. But it's one of the things that I've really come to understand and refer back to throughout this process. I've never really made a serious attempt to get in shape before and I've always been a little unhappy with my body. I never realized how much it's been holding me back until now, when I'm trying to change it.

Another thing that's stuck with me is from the song "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen" by Baz Luhrman. This was based on an email that was supposedly a graduation speech given by some famous person. The details change depending on who's telling the story. But one of the things in the song(?) is the statement. "Take good care of your body. It's the most precious instrument you'll ever own. Use it whenever and where ever you can." I've probably got the words all mixed up, but the intent is there. You can't leave your body (unless you're Yoda), so you should make of it what you can and enjoy it as much as you can. Today, I really enjoyed being a living human being who could lift weights, eat sensibly and then lie in the sun for awhile.

I'm sitting outside right now. Wireless laptops are a really great thing. My neighbor is out mowing his grass right now. He's one of my inspirations. Let me tell you why. He's overweight, he smokes, and he's mowing about a quarter acre of ground with a riding lawnmower. He has small children that he may not get to see grow up. He's avoiding all the pain in life, taking every momentary pleasure, and missing out on the best part. I don't want to be like him. I have a lot I want to do before I leave this life. This challenge and the lifestyle changes that come with it are one of the things I always wanted to accomplish and I think it will help to accomplish at least some of those other goals as well.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A greater yes...

In the book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey says that the secret to saying no to a given temptation is to have a "greater yes" burning inside you. This past week, even while flirting on the edges of burnout, I've had no problems saying "no", particularly to food. In the course of a normal day, I always have people offering me snacks because I'm usually sitting at their desk working on their computer and this makes them think of me as a guest. This week, I've turned them all down, except the office that had a plate of fresh strawberries. I knew I could get away with two or three of those. But the endless stream of donuts and cookies, those I resisted. The girlscout cookies in a box under my desk, those I resisted. The M&M's that seem to be in a bowl at every second or third desk I come to, resisted. The extra Mountain Dew that someone got out of the vending machine and offered to me, resisted.

So, what is the greater yes? Why am I able to resist? First, there's those before pictures. Honestly, my underlying goal is to never look like that in a picture ever again. Second, there's my martial arts classes, where I don't want to just wear a black belt, I want to feel worthy of a black belt. I just don't feel right about teaching people who are in better shape than I am. I feel like developing martial arts skills without developing the body that can deliver them effectively is a waste of time. Third, there's my mother, who suffers from alzheimers. Seeing her go through that has shown me that you just never know how much time you have. At 41, I hope the best years of my life are still ahead of me, but I can't assume that any longer. Think about it. If you had only a few months to live, what kind of shape would you want to be in to spend them effectively?

Today, I overdid my cardio. I did my stationary bike workout before work, I walked at lunch time, I did a short mid-afternoon walk, and then I walked again later in the evening for about 25 minutes. I felt good about it at the time, but after doing some reading online tonight, I'm wondering if my daily calorie intake is too low and my daily calorie burn is too high. I'm also wondering if I should divide the challenge into two parts, concentrating on weight/fat loss for now and then working to add muscle later. It's something I will have to research further.

I laid out in the sun a for a little while after work today. I didn't get very good light because it was late in the day, but I enjoyed it none-the-less. While I was out there, stretched out on a towel in my lap swimming suit (the skimpiest one I own), my neighbors came out on their back deck. I was tempted to cover up with the towel or put my soccer shorts on, but then I decided "to hell with it". I don't have a perfect body or much of a tan, but I'm getting there, so why hide this thing I've been working so hard on?

Every day, I'm trying to learn new things in this challenge and to add new ideas and practices whenever I can. I've been reading, looking at pictures of past champions, etc. Today, I joined the St. Louis Body for Life Yahoo group. I haven't really spent any time there, but I liked some of the stuff I've seen so far.

One of the things I could probably work on is sleeping enough. I tend to run on about six hours of sleep a night and I think I need more than that now. And on that note, good night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

And the beat goes on...

I feel like I might be getting into a rut. I'm still staying on top of my meal plan and I'm getting in all my workouts. I'm still working pretty hard and I have plans to keep things interesting. But, I'm just a little weary right now. I'm probably going too hard at this whole Body for Life thing. I want this to be a huge success for me. My expectations are enormous. So I keep refining my program. I feel good about the whole experience, but the spector of burnout seems to be lurking around the corner. It's probably just other things in my life interfering, like a crazy day at work, a down day in the stock market, the fact that our taxes aren't done and the deadline is in two days. Well, I've been here before. I've faced more discouragement than that and I've never quit. Plus, I'm going out tonight to a karaoke bar to let loose for a little bit. Don't worry, I'm not going to blow my meal plan!

So, I thought I might catch some sun after work this week. I figured I could get home and do a half hour or so before the sun got too low. But it's been raining all week. It's sunny today, but cool and windy. Sorry, not going to happen. I would prefer to get a natural tan, but I always have the tanning salon to fall back on.

I've had some good workouts this week. I'm increasing weight on all my lifts. Today, I pushed my aerobic workout to a new level. I had the exercise bike up to resistance level seven (it only goes to eight) at the end of my workout. I haven't been able to do as much walking as I'd like because of the weather, but I feel pretty good otherwise.

I was on the bodychangers website on Sunday. It's not devoted exclusively to Body for Life, but many of the stories on the website are about BFL'ers. It also tells what supplements they use and almost all the really impressive "after" pictures, the people that were really ripped, were people that listed some thermogenic as part of their supplement regimen. So I went to GNC and asked about Phen Free. The sales person, a former BFL'er herself, said that they hadn't carried it for a few years and recommended Thermo DynamX. Well, it was on sale, so I bought some and brought it home. I researched it on the internet for awhile before deciding to ease into it and see how I felt. The first day I took it, I felt a little jittery, but I'm on the third day now and I'm feeling fine. But I'm starting to feel like a walking drug store. I'm taking creatine, glutamine, vitamin C, Cal-Mag and now Thermo DymanX, not to mention Myoplex. But I did notice that most of the people on the web site took at least that many supplements. Some took as many as a dozen.

We're supposed to weigh in and do measurements tonight. I'm pretty sure I have some solid results. I want to do pictures again at four weeks. I found out that the camera store that I have a discount membership at has lighting equipment for rent, so we might be able to do our final pictures ourselves. I was thinking about renting the equipment for the eight week pictures and seeing how that goes. We still might book a professional phtographer. We'll just have to see.

I had someone drop off six boxes of girl scout cookies at my desk yesterday. I ordered them before I even knew about Body for Life, and way before I had any idea I would actually do it. I laughed when I saw them because, under my current diet, I will take over a year to eat six boxes of cookies. I know I could give them to other people, but I feel guilty about contributing to the general unhealthiness of the people around me. I will probably save them and use them as an occasional reward.

I was in the mall on Sunday, going to GNC, and I noticed that most of the people I saw were overweight. Of course, I was inside a mall on a sunny day. Probably all the healthy people were outside enjoying the day. Anyway, maybe it's just like when you buy a car and you start seeing cars like it everywhere. Now that I'm trying to do something about my body and my fitness, I seem to notice people's bodies a lot more. Most of them are not in good shape. For some reason, even though I don't know any of them, it makes me sad. I hope I can finish this challenge and maybe influence one other person (besides Cheryl, who's already on board) to come along on this journey. I don't know if I will ever serve as an example that other people will want to follow, but I hope to. It's one of the things that keeps me going.

The other thing is that horrible picture of me in my biking shorts...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mirror mirror on the wall

Today, I had a 9AM tae kwon do class. When I got there, I was told that, because of the warm weather, we weren't wearing uniform tops today, just t-shirts. Keep in mind that a martial arts dojo is room with mirrors on the walls. Well I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had actual biceps. I also looked thinner and my jawline looked stronger. Now, all of this might have been wishful thinking, but usually the first t-shirt workout of the Spring is not a pleasant experience for me and I go home and start doing crunches. This time, I'm ahead of the game. Plus, I was really strong in my workout this morning. In sparring, I landed a crescent kick to my opponent's head....twice. I've been trying to get that kick to land for a very long time. Granted this was against a lower-ranking student, but he was a very hard hitting lower-ranking student. So, I'm getting benefits in my martial arts after only two weeks on Body for Life and I'm noticing some visible improvements to my appearance (at least I think I am). For the record, one reason I'm doing this program (and I haven't mentioned this to anyone or recorded it anywhere) is that I want to be in really superior shape if and when I test for my third degree black belt. When I tested for my second degree, I passed the test, but I wasn't happy with my performance, especially my lack of cardio endurance. I don't want that to happen again.

Cheryl and I laid out in the sun for awhile today. I've been wondering if I could tan up for my final pictures without using a tanning salon, but I wasn't too sure if I could get the color or the coverage I wanted. I hope the neighbors weren't too offended by my speedo. Of course, in another ten weeks, maybe they'll not mind at all. (Cheryl, by the way, looks just fine in her bikini.)

I've been kicking around the idea of professional pictures for our after photos. I know it's recommended, but I really didn't expect it would make much of a difference. For one thing, Cheryl and I are both photographers, so we are capable of doing some decent pictures. Unfortunately, we don't have studio lighting and a backdrop. We could probably take them outdoors. The other thing is that I would like to place in the challenge, but I know that there are thousands of people competing with us. You'll notice I said "with", not "against"; I don't consider other BFL'ers the enemy. The enemy is our unhealthy society and the corporations that encourage us to take the easy way on everything including food. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. Anyway, I love the great studio pictures that so many people submitted. I don't know how many of the photos of the champions might have been reshot at a later date, but they are really good. Anyway, I told Cheryl that at some point when we were both slender and muscular and tan, I would like to have a picture done of us and put it up on the house. It's one of the many things I've come up with to keep us both going

I did a lot of extra ab work today. I've been unhappy with my abs for as long as I can remember, so building them up and slimming down around my waist is one of my primary goals. I also ended my workout with about fifteen minutes of stretching and yoga poses. After finally getting my crescent kick working, I don't want to lose flexibility while I'm (hopefully) gaining all this muscle.

I was looking at last night. I like this site because it shows some of the non-champions in Body for Life. These are people who have done sometimes three and four challenges and have achieved remarkable things. And many of them, if they passed you on the street, would not attract your attention like Kelly Adair or Porter Freeman would. But they have an attitude and a drive that impresses none the less. I don't think I'll ever be on the inside jacket of a Body for Life book or on the web site as a success story. But I'll have my own success story and my own achievements and there'll be a picture of a fit and happy couple hanging on the wall of this house to let everyone know that this program really works.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A box of donuts

Note: In the following story, the word "donuts" will be used instead of the more cumbersome but more correct "doughnuts". Culinary language purists are advised to go read some other blog.

Today was my office's breakfast day. We take turns bringing breakfast every Friday. There are five of us in the club. Today, my co-worker brought a breakfast casserole, of which I had a small portion. When I'm unsure about the caloric content of something, I limit myself to a very small portion. That way, if it turns out to be ultra-high in calories or fat, I've kept the damage to a minimum. Said co-worker also brough in a box of donuts. I was a little embarassed because...she brought them for me. You see, I've had a history of eating sweet unhealthy foods and she often brings donuts to "supplement" the healthier food she makes herself. She told me she almost couldn't find them and had to go all over the store and even got a store clerk to help her search. I felt guilty as hell. Very few people in my office know I'm doing Body for Life. I might have to tell them soon, before any more donuts show up.

I might add that I didn't have any donuts and the box was empty by the end of the day anyway.

So, I did a really good upper body workout last night and a pretty solid aerobic workout this morning. Robin and I walked at lunch again today. The only set back is that I missed my mid-morning meal today. I was involved in a meeting at work and was unable to get it in. This is particularly bad the day after a weight workout.

I'm feeling impatient. I look at how far I have to go and I wonder if I can really get there in twelve weeks. I'm working the system as hard as I can. I don't think I'm doing anything bad, even with the extra supplements and the additional walking. So, I'm staying calm for the moment. I know that some of these processes start slowly and pick up speed as they go, so the bulk of the visible changes will be towards the second half of the program. Also, I feel good about the exercise, the diet, the fact that I haven't had a soft drink or any chocolate in two weeks. So I'm not really hanging on for dear life. I just have some small doubts right now. I'm determined to finish. I will finish! And I'll feel good about whatever I achieve.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Week Two Begins

Well, I survived my first off day. I ate pretty sensibly, as I knew I would. I did have two beers at bowling and some ice cream afterwards. On the other hand, I walked two miles at lunch with my friend Robin. Way back when I started reading the book Body for Life, Robin told me she had read it and decided the Body for Life program was too complicated for her. She doesn't know that I'm doing it now. I wonder what she'd think if she knew she was helping me with the challenge. As for the program being too complicated, I don't think I could imagine anything simpler. I've even complicated the process by actually counting calories instead of portions and taking supplements instead of just drinking nutrition shakes, but I still see this as an elegantly simple program. Aerobic exercise, weight training, diet control...what could be simpler.

I did a lot of reading about creatine over the weekend. I wanted to make sure Cheryl and I were not overdoing it. I found out that, if anything, we were under the standard dosage. We've avoided the loading phase, preferring to spread out the buildup over weeks (and hopefully avoiding digestive problems that can develope during loading). I'm still very apprehensive about supplements, but I will say that my lower body workout yesterday was just about perfect. I was able to do more reps with more weight. This morning on the stationary bike, I actually extended some of my intervals because they weren't challenging enough. I don't know how much of that is the supplementation and how much is just due to having been working hard for a week. As this program goes on, I keep on researching the things we're doing. Even if I don't see any other positive results, I'll have gained so much knowledge about exercise, diet and physiology.

On Monday, we booked a beach house in Florida for a week in August. Cheryl and I thought after spending the Spring working on our bodies, we should go somewhere warm and show them off. It's our first vacation in several years and it just feels right to incorporate it into the challenge. Plus, the house is less expensive than staying at a resort hotel and gives us a kitchen to prepare healthy meals in.

Today, I heard a co-worker make the comment, "It's raining out, it's a good day to sit inside and eat." I almost laughed out loud because, less than a month ago, I might have agreed with her. But after one week of Body for Life, I recognize that statement for what it really excuse. Yes, I know all about excuses. I've been making them my whole life. "It's okay if I eat that fattening dessert, I ran today." "I don't have time to exercise, I have too many other things going on right now." "It's okay if I gain a little weight over the Winter, I'll lose it in the Spring when the weather's nice." When I rode my first century ride (100 miles on a bike in one day, in my case, about six hours and eighteen minutes), one of my co-workers at the time was going to do the same ride. He spent the two weeks before the ride "carbo-loading" with pasta and bread and then didn't actually do the ride.

An interesting exercise is to restate those excuses as choices. "It's raining out so I've decided to sit inside and eat." "I've chosen not to exercise today because I have too many other things to do." "I've chosen to gain weight this Winter and then lose it in the Spring." They sound a lot different when you phrase them that way, don't they? Well, this is what many people say by their actions. In their language, these things are just happening to them, but in reality they are making choices.

Well, today, I chose to get up 45 minutes early and spend 33 minutes doing intervals on my exercise bike. I chose to avoid unhealthy food for breakfast when it was offered. I chose to have my Subway sandwich made as a wrap instead of on wheat bread, saving myself about 80 calories. I feel pretty good about those choices.

Monday, April 04, 2005

First Off Day

This is my first off day in the Body for Life Challenge. I still took my vitamin C and Calcium supplements this morning and I drank a glass of water and ate a banana before I left for work. This is a change for me. Usually, I go from the shower to getting dressed and out the door in one seamless rush, without pausing for contemplation or repast. I don't plan to indulge myself too much, but I forced myself to leave my meal planning sheets at home. I'll probably track calories in my head anyway, but I'm really trying to take the day off. As I've said before, my biggest danger is burnout and the off day is one way to fight it. So I'm sticking with the plan.

I met some friends for lunch on Saturday. We went to a sub sandwich place and a friend of mine gave me a look of utter contempt when I ordered my chicken sub as a tortilla wrap. I just couldn't see consuming almost 200 calories of bread, but my friend seemed offended that I was making a healthy choice. I've run into several interesting reactions to my new lifestyle. People at work have noticed that I'm tracking my meals, but they haven't asked me about it. Some of my friends are pulling for us to complete the program, but don't think they could ever commit to such a thing. And then there's a small group of people that just seem offended by the whole idea. I guess they don't want anyone else to improve because it highlights their own lack of ambition.

Cheryl and I went to the park yesterday. Since she was still sore from the lower body workout earlier in the week, she decided to sit and crochet while I went walking. It was the first day of daylight savings time and one of the nicest Spring days we've had so far, so the park was full of people, but there were very few on the walking trail. I guess everyone's been working out all Winter and didn't need the exercise.

When I walk, I tend to let my mind wander. I read this article in Rolling Stone magazine about the decline of the petroleum culture. According to the article, in forty years or so, all the oil will be gone and our society will change drastically due to the lack of cheap energy, cheap transportation and cheap consumer goods. I also read an article last week about the future of the stock market as interest rates rise to keep inflation in check. Apparently, the US economy has been out of balance for some time and something had to give. As interest rates go up, the stock market tends to decline. Right now, economists can't predict how high interest rates will have to go to keep inflation from rising out of control. Which means stock market investors (of which I am one) face an uncertain future. Rising petroleum costs are part of this process and only make it that much worse.

So, the question is, why should one invest in an economy with an uncertain future? And the answer is that you really don't have a lot of alternatives. You can't control the world economy, so you just have to make the best choices you can. In fact, you have to make better choices now than when the economy was good. And why should someone invest the time to do Body for Life when there's terrorism, rising crime, rising levels of toxins, and so many other things that could cut your life short? The same reason. With the prevailing conditions in our society, it's more important than ever to make healthy choices. When fewer and fewer things are in our control, it's critical to make the best choices we can with the things we can control.

Yes, you might be hit by a bus tomorrow, but the odds are you are going to live another twelve weeks and hopefully a lot more. So why not spend twelve weeks tweaking your lifestyle, making good choices, and increasing your chances for happiness?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

And one more thing...

I guess it's the height of arrogance to post to one's blog twice in one day, but I've just been out for a walk and I had some time to contemplate. I found myself composing things to put in this journal, so here they are.

I try to walk in the evening most every day. Usually, Cheryl goes with me, but she's working right now and her calves are too sore to walk anyway. So I was out walking by myself and I noticed a tightness in my abdomen. I was actually concerned about it until I realized that it was just my body reacting to all the new activity. This is how this works. You ask more of your body and it adapts. I know this intellectually, but it was still a little startling. I guess deep down I've been afraid that I would make all these lifestyle changes and nothing would happen. Well, it's happening.

I went to my tae kwon do class this morning. Today, my instructor had us do a rather brutal abdominal workout. I basically blew right through it. My instructor was my workout partner for this torture, and I must have impressed him because he mentioned it to the rest of the school when we were finished. Later, after I landed a couple of backfists during a sparring match against one of the green belts, he told her that it was no dishonor to have me land a backfist on her because I had even landed one on him once or twice. He went on to say I had backfisted most of the school at one time or another. I'm pretty humble about my martial arts. I don't do it for egotistical reasons. But I felt pretty good about being given a few props. By the way, we also did a pretty intense pushup workout, including the dreaded wheelbarrow pushups (someone holds your legs like the handles of a wheelbarrow and you do pushups). Once again, I did better than usual. I guess I am making progress even if it doesn't show in the mirror yet.

This is my danger. I'm impatient. I want things now. I'm worried about burnout. Not real worried because I'm having fun and that will keep me going. But, ultimately, I want results. I'm planning on doing photos again at four weeks. I will be dissappointed if there is not a visible change from my before pictures.

While I was walking, I strolled by the new tanning salon that just opened up the street. It's very classy looking inside. I thought about going in and seeing what plans were available, but I felt sort of apprehensive. I've never been in a tanning salon before and I was worried I might give myself away as a newbie or that they would look at this middle-aged guy and think, "why would this guy bother getting a tan." After a minute of thinking this, I stopped and started laughing. Omigod, I've run a marathon, I have a second degree blackbelt in tae kwon do, I've been an engineer on combat helicopters for the army, I've acted and sung in front of thousands of people, and I'm scared of a tanning salon. Geez...

Oh, and for the record, the Myoplex tropical flavors are not what I would call great. I was only going to use them on weight training days anyway and I have no plans to deviate from that idea. But Cheryl bought a whole bunch of new food items yesterday, including some veggie hot dogs that are actually pretty good (and very high in protein and low in fat). So things are coming together and I'm having fun. I'm impatient for those four week photos though!

Saturday Workout...

Cheryl started the Body for Life Challenge a day late, so today was her first upper body workout. I was a little worried about her, since her first lower body workout, combined with her two aerobic workouts on the stationary bike, left her too sore to walk. We did the workout together, so it took 87 minutes instead of 49. Cheryl weight trains like she does everything else, that is, with great intensity and an almost obsessive attention to detail. She works at getting every position perfect. I can see a lot of yoga in her weight training (she's been doing yoga for ten years).

Yesterday, we got our shipment from EAS of Myoplex and Myoplex Lite bars. Thankfully, unlike many of the protein bars, the Myoplex ones are pretty tasty. When I opened the box and saw how many were there, I was more than a little panicked. I wondered what one does with $50 worth of protein bars if they turn out to taste like garbage. I guess I could put chocolate icing on them....

Cheryl brought home a bunch of supplements from the health food store, so we've both taken our post-workout glutamine and we're going to do some creatine and a Myoplex shake in about half an hour. The whole supplement thing makes me a little nervous. I've always been an all natural athlete. In fact, I've never eaten like an athlete at all, and maybe that's the problem. But putting things into my body that aren't in my food concerns me a little. I'm trusting in the scientists and nutritionists to not steer me the wrong way. I've probably been deficient in a lot of my body's basic requirements for a long time. Like anything else I've ever tried, I'm going on gut feeling more than anything.

I just read that Pope John Paul II passed away. I haven't always agreed with everything he's said, but I've always admired him and I've always appreciated the discipline it takes to be consistent and unflinching in a world that changes it's morality at the drop of a hat. There aren't a lot of people that can exhibit leadership and compassion together, but this man was one of those rare few.

Well, it's time to mix up some Myoplex. Hopefully that will prove to be a good investment also (in other words, it won't taste like stale milk). I'm wondering what I'll feel like tomorrow. Today was one hard workout. But I'm enjoying the challenge.