Sunday, May 29, 2005

Well, I was born in the sign of water...

Yes, the title is taken from the song "Cool Change" by the Little River Band, and in my case, it happens to be true. I was born in February, which makes me an Aquarius, the water bringer. While I was on the exercise bike this morning, I was thinking about how my morning seemed to revolve around water.

First, there was the sound that woke me up, that being our pool's filter pump sucking air. I figured it was just the skimmer inlet jammed with pine needles again which blocks the incoming water and lets air into the pipes. But the pool was actually pretty low. So I turned on the hose to add some water and let it run during my workout. (I hope we don't have a leak. Our pool liner is pretty well shot and will have to be replaced, but I was hoping to get it through this summer.)

I got to use my new (replacement) water bottle this morning for my workout. I had forgotten how much of a difference the insulated bottle makes. The water was still ice cold through the whole workout. If you're a biker, I highly recommend this bottle, although it's $13 price tag might seem a little high at first. If you're tired of warm water that tastes like plastic when you're biking, try one of these. It's call a polar bottle and it has a logo with a polar bear on it, just in case you didn't get the point from the name. No, this is not a paid endorsement.

During my workout, I noticed that the humidity was a little high in our basement gym. Then I remembered that I turned off the dehumidifier last night during my weight workout and forgot to turn it back on. And, of course, in higher humidity, you're body's natural cooling mechanisms (sweat and evaporation) aren't as efficient. I hadn't noticed the humidity being higher when I first started, but I was sure feeling it by the time I finished. I turned the unit back on when I finished.

Then, there's the massive amount of water I'm drinking as a part of the Body for Life program. The meal planning sheet suggests ten cups a day. I don't actually count glasses of water. I judge my hydration level by how often my body has to deal with the excess. If I have to explain that any further to you, I'm sorry. I don't think those details are appropriate. Seriously, as a singer and a person who used to talk on the phone all day for a living (I did computer phone support before I started doing most of my calls in person), I got in the habit of drinking water constantly to keep my voice from getting tired. I found out that it had a number of other benefits, including a drastic improvement in the symptoms of my lactose intolerance.

And then there's the fact that I'm sitting on the porch swing by the pool while I'm writing this. Wireless laptops really are a wonderful thing! The pool is still pretty cold for swimming, but I'm looking forward to adding that to my aerobic activities. Maybe it will play a larger role in the next challenge.

So, it's all about water. Water is basic. Our bodies are made up of more water than anything else. If you're going to improve your body, you can't neglect water. This planet's surface is over three quarters water. And where that water meets the land, there are beaches. And you can take your new improved body to one of those beaches and display it with new-found pride and confidence. So, you see, it really is all about water!

Just a quick injury report: I had to reduce my abdominal workout last night, including leaving out the oblique exercises completely. I don't know exactly what this injury is yet, but I don't think it's a rib fracture (I've had those before and I know what they feel like). So I think it's more likely a muscle injury. I thought for awhile that it might have been a ruptured organ, like the spleen or the appendix, but I haven't developed any other symptoms and I'm only in pain when I move a certain way. Those kind of injuries a usually painful to pressure or touch. Paranoid? Maybe. But I try to listen to my body. And speaking of that, I need to eat something. Don't forget to drink your water!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

It hasn't been a day filled with wonderful things...

Okay, don't panic. This isn't going to be an overly negative post. As a matter of fact, today did have it's wonderful moments. But a few minutes ago, Cheryl said she was sorry I wasn't feeling well, and I said, "It's not that I'm not feeling well. It just hasn't been a day filled with wonderful things."

Let's backtrack. I went to my tae kwon do workout this morning and forgot my water bottle. "No problem," thought I, since I left my good insulated water bottle at the school several weeks ago. I'll just get that back and use it today. Well, it turns out my instructor didn't know who's it was and threw it away. Um, I gotta say, this was not some old ratty water bottle. Cheryl bought it for me this Christmas for biking. It's, to me anyway, very expensive looking. So, I was shocked that anyone would just toss it. It didn't put me in a good mood.

Today, my instructor decided to put us through a more advanced pushup workout, involving holding stressed positions for ten to fifteen seconds at a time. I've been breezing through the pushups lately, so I figured I was up to something more advanced. Well, I was too busy straining to do a lot of looking around, but I think he dropped everyone else in the class except me. Then we got to partner up for abdominals (leg raises) and my partner, Mike, was in a sadistic mood. The instructor announced that if your feet hit the floor, you get to go an additional fifteen seconds. Well, my feet didn't hit the floor, although my partner didn't make it easy. Then it was his turn. But I was relatively nice to him.

Then we sparred. I fought three people, and the third one is an orange belt that doesn't seem to know any control. I might add that he's in his fifties, so you'd think I could handle him. Well, less than a minute into the round, he brushed my eye and my contact slipped out of place. Suddenly, I couldn't see him. I put my hands up to tell him to stop, but he came in swinging anyway. Somehow, I managed to avoid getting clocked while I yelled at him to stop. I got my vision back and we resumed the round. I decided to stay away from him. This seemed to just make him more determined to hit me. I threw some flurries at him, got his hands out of position and backfisted him in the side of the head, twice. Most fighters, when you show you can hit them, will back off and be more cautious. But he kept coming after me. And literally two seconds before the bell, he hit me in the stomach so hard that my diaphragm spasmed and, without any air, my vision tunnelled in and I went down on my knees to keep from falling. So, there I was, the second degree blackbelt, on the ground with the whole school gathered around me, waiting for my breathing to resume. It was not a good moment. Strangely enough, I'm not bruised where he hit me, but I have an injury on my left side in a place I don't remember getting hit. It's sore enough that it I had to change my workout tonight. I hope it's not going to hold me back. Time will tell.

So, on the way home, I stopped at the bicycle shop and bought a new water bottle to replace the one that got thrown away, and I stopped at Sports Authority to buy a new pocket knife to replace the one that got confiscated at a concert I went to last night ( as if I would ever use a two inch swiss army knife to defend myself). I got home just in time to save a squirrel that fell in our swimming pool. For ten years, I've been fishing drowned animals out of that pool (usually one or two a year). This is the first time I've ever managed to save one. So I felt pretty good about that.

So, today is upper body workout day, but I really just wanted to go lay out in the sun. I decided to do my workout later and indulge myself a little (and give myself some time to recover from the tae kwon do insanity). I decided to wear my posing suit, which is, if you can believe it, even skimpier than my speedo (it's what bodybuilders wear in competition, I bought it on a whim). No, there are no pictures and don't expect to see any anytime soon. Anyway, I wore it because it doesn't leave any tan lines anywhere that is going to show in anything that I will allow myself to be photographed in.

That brings up the other good news. Cheryl got the camera back from the shop, so we are going to do our photo shoot after all. I have to arrange to get the lights from the camera shop and I might have one piece to get from the hardware store to put our backdrop up. We're going to see if we can do the shoot on Monday.

Anyway, I did my workout and pushed pretty hard to get those tens. I extended some of my final sets to fourteen reps if I was feeling able. I've been plateaued on some of my lifts lately, so I'm trying to shake things up a little. I couldn't do some of my abdominal work because of my injury. Abs are my primary goal in this challenge, so I was a little annoyed about that, The good news is that I won't be back in martial arts class for two weeks, so I might have a chance to recover.

So that was my wonderful day. I plan to do some updates to the web site tonight, adding body fat data for the last couple of weeks. A friend of mine emailed me today to say he liked our web site, was impressed with Body for Life and wondered if I wanted to join him on a two day 150 mile bike ride this Fall. So add that to the list of things I'm working towards.

Okay, I guess there were some wonderful things today. But I'm leaving the title unchanged because I like it.

Friday, May 27, 2005

I am "High Intensity Man"!

This morning, I managed to get up a little earlier than usual for my aerobic workout. I was worried that my twenty minutes of high intensity cardio was becoming thirty minutes of medium intensity cardio. This is, on some level, patently ridiculous considering the resistance levels I've been using and the number of calories I'm burning, but that didn't lessen my concern. Yesterday, I was reading about the dangers of doing too much cardio in Body for Life, and then Cheryl mentioned the same thing. It had me thinking about changing my program.

When it comes to burning fat and building muscle, there are three primary body types, ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Ectomorph's are those perpetually thin people that can eat anything and never gain any fat, but they have a real challenge building muscle. Endomorphs, on the other hand, can build muscle, but they gain fat very easily. Then there are the lucky ones, mesomorphs, who's bodies are not pre-programmed and who build muscle when they do resistance training and lose fat when their caloric output exceeds caloric intake (in other words, when they control their diet and get sufficient exercise).

Most of us are not pure ectomorph or endomorph. For instance, I lean towards ectomorph, but I will gain fat if my diet is high enough in the wrong things, so I am at least part mesomorph. Where I am particularly challenged is in gaining muscle. I have to work extra hard to get even modest gains.

Well, excessive cardio can compromise muscle gains. So I was thinking I needed to shorten my cardio workouts to be closer to the "by the book" program. So I went for higher intensity this morning by picking up the speed. I still did a longer cooldown than specified, but the core part of the workout was pretty much by the book. I was pretty happy with the results. I burned as many calories as before with a much shorter workout!

We won't be able to do the studio quality photos this weekend as planned. The camera is still in the shop. We are probably going to do pictures anyway (with the other camera), but we won't be putting up the backdrop or using the studio lights. The full blown photo shoot will have to wait for the final pictures.

My sister saw me yesterday for the first time in several weeks and mentioned that it looked like I've lost weight. I tried to explain that I've actually lost weight and gained muscle. It's amazing how may people have asked, "How much weight have you lost?" Really, ten pounds in nine weeks is not impressive to anyone. And most people are not capable of understanding that you can lose body fat without losing a pound on the scale if you are adding lean weight (muscle) at the same time (and that you can lose weight on the scale without losing body fat!!!). If I've gained nothing else from this process, at least I now have a better understanding of how my body works.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Is there a point? You decide...

I'm sitting here trying to condense my thoughts into something that resembles a point and I'm not finding one. Usually, when I get ready to write my blog entries, a theme emerges in my mind and the various current events seem to magically come together to support that theme. So, for once, I'll just throw some random thoughts down and you can decide if there is any point to any of them.

I've been working on the swimming pool for almost a week now. As of tonight, there is actually water going into it. It's a frustrating process. You start with a mess of a pool that's been un-covered all Winter. You drain out all the water with the pump, but that quits as you get down to the last few gallons. So you bail by hand. Might I mention that the last few gallons of water contain all the dirt and debris that was originally contained in 22,000 gallons of water. It's not pleasant. So, once the pool is completely empty, then you can refill it. Hmmm...I bet some sort of analogy can be made to body transformation. How about.... Nah, nevermind. Moving on.

I have been trying out different CD's for my stationary bike workouts. The Ataris "So Long Astoria" has turned out to be a good choice if you skip the slow songs. I also like Van Halen, particularly "5150" and "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge". For weight workouts, I can listen to almost anything, but on the bike I need something that moves.

I kicked off this week (week nine, can you believe it?) with a couple of good workouts. I think I did one of my best upper body workouts on Tuesday, and I had a pretty good ride on the bike this morning. I need to work on getting more sleep though. I'm really dragging this week. Thankfully, we have a three day weekend coming up.

We're supposed to take nine week pictures this weekend, with a backdrop and studio lighting and everything, but we don't know if we'll have a camera. It's still in the shop. I hope we can get it back in time. We've already delayed this a week.

According to the Tanita body fat scale, my body fat is up. According to the calipers, it's down. I tend to trust the calipers, since they are measuring the fat directly. But the Tanita has been pretty consistent until now. Ah well, I knew it was unreliable when I bought it. It was just for fun.

Okay, I haven't come up with a central theme yet, except to say tha a lot is going on right now. The real trick is to stay focused. We're so close to finishing this thing. I'm starting to feel the excitement finally!

But first, some sleep...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

How much are you willing to suffer?

I got on the exercise bike this morning and, from the first pedal stroke, I knew I was in trouble. My lower body workout was delayed yesterday by an audition I attended. So I worked out late in the day and I worked out pretty intensely. So today my legs are sore. On the bike, I was already in pain at resistance level three and my workout takes me to level eight. Honestly, I didn't know if my muscles would keep functioning at that level, but the bigger question was whether I could endure that much pain for twenty minutes.

Pain is an interesting thing. Our tendency in life is to avoid it. Our society really pushes us hard to take the easy way in everything, the painless way. But, when you think about it, the best things in life come with a cost. An effort is required. Some pain is necessary. I think the best philosophy is to avoid "needless pain" or, to put it another way, pain that doesn't lead to any kind of pleasure. The odd truth is, when I'm working out, I like it to hurt. That's how I can tell I'm accomplishing something.

But today was another matter. I kept pushing, for one minute and then another and then another. I kept waiting for the burn to lessen, but it didn't through the first ten minutes. I hit the fourth interval, the one where I hit resistance level eight at the end, and I knew I could finish. At level eight, I just closed my eyes and counted my breaths (you can't do that on a real bike!) and tried to relax into the effort. On the weekends, I do a longer cooldown, so I dropped the resistance level to three and just pedaled for about twenty minutes.

So, I get to chalk up another small victory, mind over muscle, determination over pain. I'm finding that the Body for Life Challenge is made up of moments like that, moments where you reach for your limits and find that there's more powerful stuff inside you than you thought.

Today is the day we were going to do our eight week pictures, but it's going to be next Sunday instead. So instead of two thirds of the way through, which we are today, the pictures will show us three fourths of the way through. That's one reason to use the number twelve in your workouts, as in twelve reps, twelve minutes, twelve days, or twelve weeks. It can be divided into either thirds, fourths or halves, so you always have a milestone handy (i.e., I'm halfway there, a third of the way there, three fourths of the way there) which can make the difference when your inner voice is telling you that you can't make it.

I'm thinking about doing a light upper body workout today. With all the bike time and the walking that I've been doing, my lower body seems to be a little ahead of my upper. Other than that, I'm trying to cut down on breads (they've been creeping into my diet lately) and go easy on the bad foods on my off day. I want to have it all going right for the photo shoot next week.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Live Strong, Midnight workouts, Dancing Fool

Well, I was a little concerned about my weigh-in this week. It showed my weight dropping while my body fat percentage didn't change much. This could mean that I lost some lean body mass (in other words, muscle) since the last measurements. What it probably means is that the measurements are questionable. I guess we'll see what direction they go next week. I wasn't too happy with my level of activity or my eating plan last week. But things are still moving forward, so I won't obsess about it yet.

I love European bicycle racing! I'm the only person I know who does. Cheryl endures my endless ranting about it during the Tour de France. Most people think that racing a bike is simply going faster than everyone else, but it's much more complicated than that. It involves teamwork, politics, rivalries, individual heroics, timing and amazing athletic ability. The reason Lance Armstrong does so well in the European cycling community is that he's from Texas, so he already has the bizarre combination of humility and bravado that the cycling fans demand.

Well, Wednesday morning on the exercise bike, I decided I was Lance Armstrong in the mountains of France. I raised most of my resistance levels and held the higher ones longer. I burned more calories in 30 minutes than I ever have and kept my heart rate in the training zone for much longer. It was exhausting, but it was fun!

Last night was the third night of auditions for the summer musical that I'm trying to get into. I decided to go early and do the dancing part of the audition, although I'm not really a dancer. When they asked if anyone could do any gymnastics, I turned a pretty good cartwheel/round-off for a forty-one year old. I worked late and couldn't get my workout in before I had to be there. When I finally got home and got ready to the workout, it was midnight. So, I hefted the weights and waded into my upper body workout despite the strong urge to forget about it and go to bed. Some of my lifts were pretty weak, but I felt better for having done it after I finished.

Incidentally, I got the part. I hope keeping up with my exercise program doesn't get too crazy. I'm going to have some busy times ahead.

Ah well, I have things to do. Although sleep seems like an attractive option. More later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A pain in the...shoulder

Today, I woke up with a muscle knotted up underneath my left shoulder blade. I don't know if this is from hitting golf balls after work yesterday, mowing the grass the day before, or just sleeping funny last night. Whatever the cause, I've been in pain all day. Even now, it's starting to loosen up a little, but other parts of my back have begun to hurt, probably from the way I've been sitting all day to try to take pressure off the sore spot. I'm supposed to do weights tonight. Even though it's the lower body, I don't know if I'm going to be able to. I guess we'll see.

Other than that, I feel pretty good. I have an audition tonight for the musical "The Music Man". If I get into that show, it will be a real test of my resolve to stay with Body for Life since I will have to work my workouts around both my work schedule and my rehearsal schedule. I knew this was coming though, so I have planned for it as much as possible. The biggest trick will be getting enough sleep, although that's already a problem, so maybe this will actually help.

Today, I'm feeling sort of like I'm in the "no man's land" of my Body for Life challenge. I'm far enough in that the newness has worn off and far enough from the end that I'm not really seeing that as a motivator yet. I'm trying to keep my interest up with research on the internet and with some minor tweaks to the program, but, mostly, I'm just a little bored right now. We've put off our eight week pictures to nine weeks, and I really want to look good in them. But even that seems to be in the distant future.

Well, there's nothing to do about it but keep working and keep looking for inspiration. For today, I have a workout to try to do, despite some serious soreness, and then I have to rush off to an audition. No time for sulking. Gotta run!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Let me tell you about Bob

I've been hesitating over writing this since it first came to me on Saturday. I just don't know if it's appropriate to use this man's life as an example, but I can't seem to move past this until I write it down, so here goes...

I participated in a tribute concert for a friend on Saturday. The truth is, he and I were never close, more associates than friends. This man, Bob, is the music director at Cheryl's church. He also spent many years in community theater. The local community theater groups came together this past weekend to perform this tribute concert in Bob's honor because...Bob has cancer. He's been fighting it for about four years now. Worst of all, it's a cancer of the throat, so Bob's singing voice, which was wonderful and which he used to entertain countless people, is gone.

There's two lessons that stand out in this for me. One is that, through this whole ordeal, Bob has remained positive. He continues to direct his choir, despite the fact that he has to rest often. Many people who had been deprived of something important to them, such as the ability to sing, would distance themselves from it, but Bob continues to seek other avenues for his music. And if Bob can carry on in spite of what he is facing, I guess I really have no excuses. Somehow, "I don't feel like working out today", or "My legs hurt too much to ride the exercise bike," seem like pretty wimpy excuses after what I've seen this man go through.

The second lesson is the one I'm conflicted about. But I'll say it anyway. You just don't know how much time you have. Bob had been avidly following his passion for music for a number of years. He never had any reason to suspect that he would lose a large portion of his ability to make and perform music. He just naturally pursued it as if every day that he did it was important. It's a gift to him and to all of us that benefitted from his talents that he was able to accomplish so much before his cancer set in. If Bob had been someone who didn't take every chance to pursue his passion or if he'd been a person who made excuses about not having time or not being good enough or doing it "some day when I have the time", this disease might have struck him down before he ever took the first steps, much less made the amazing journey that he has made.

If you're like me, you probably have been thinking for years that you would get into shape "some day". You might even believe, as I did, that your best years are gone and that your future holds only sore knees, aching muscles, increasing body fat and decreasing muscle. Unfortunately, there is some truth to that. There is a moment when your number comes up. Heart disease, cancer, joint deterioration, alzheimers, diabetes, glaucoma, and any number of other things can suddenly put your "some day" out of reach.

When is "some day"? I'll tell you, it's not some vague future time. It's either now or it's never.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Halfway there!

Well, I finally posted an update today and the blog site went down just as I punched the "publish" button. So, all the witty prose from earlier today is lost. Honestly, it was not one of my better entries anyway, so this one's bound to be an improvement.

Well, Sunday was the end of week six of our Body for Life challenge. So, we are really and truly past the halfway point. A lot happened this week, both in the program and out, hence the lack of entries in this blog.

Cheryl decided to discontinue creatine this week. She was unhappy with the extra weight that it tends to cause. She told me she is already seeing changes in scale weight and body fat percentage even after only a few days of cycling off the stuff. I think it is a good choice for her, since her biggest goals in the program involve slimming down. I may discontinue it myself towards the end of the twelve weeks. For one thing, I consider using it to boost your stamina and workout effectiveness to be okay, but I don't want to use it to enhance my appearance in the final pictures. It just seems dishonest.

Speaking of pictures, Cheryl asked me to take some six week pictures of her. She opted out of the four week photos because she wasn't happy with her appearance, but, at six weeks, she was seeing some gains. We also did some new pictures of me in both my infamous swimsuit and some spandex shorts (my biking shorts were in the wash). I didn't see a huge difference from the pictures that were taken two weeks earlier, but I think the new pictures show off my leg muscles better. I don't think I'll be doing any body building competitions or Abercrombie and Fitch ads anytime soon, but I'm happy with how far I've come.

If you must see for yourself, here are my pictures:

Here is Cheryl's page:

I've also added the six week numbers to the bottom of my page. I was sure that I had plateaued last week. I couldn't see a visible difference and I just wasn't feeling the progress like I usually do. But the scale and the calipers both showed a significant improvement last week. I was surprised and pleased. I'm trying to keep the momentum this week. I think all my goals are within reach if I stay on track.

We still plan to attempt a real studio photo shoot for the eight week photos. We might actually make it nine weeks since we just did pictures and one of our cameras is in the shop. We ordered a seamless backdrop which arrived this past week. I've always wanted to work with one, but never really had a reason to spend the time or the money until now. I guess we'll see if I retained anything I learned in my photography classes.

So, there's most of what's new. We introduced several friends to the Body for Life program this week. Some of them are interested in trying it, although the money we've poured into this intimidates some people. Really, you can do it a lot cheaper than we have. You don't have to have thirty dumbells and two weight benches and an exercise bike and hundreds of dollars worth of supplements. But....when you have those things, you'll feel really dumb if you quit, which is why we decided to make this a financial priority.

Even though we are now more than halfway through the challenge, I really haven't taken the time to reflect on that. I'm excited about my progress, and I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can get in only twelve weeks. But, in a larger sense, I'm not stopping at twelve weeks. There's the next twelve week challenge, getting my third degree blackbelt, becoming a personal trainer, and all the stuff that comes after. So it's not really "halfway" except in the sense that it's halfway through the first twelve weeks of the rest of my life!

Well, it's time to walk and give that metabolic rate one more kick in the pants. More soon...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Can you keep a secret?

There are things one is not supposed to talk about. They make people uncomfortable, even if they are true. What I'm about to say is one of those things. It's supposed to be a secret, but I'm in a secret-busting mood tonight, so read on at your own peril.

Simply put, and this is particularly true for men, a large amount of weight is a sign of power. You may be appalled by how your body looks, but, secretly, being heavy means you are stable, immovable, and impossible to ignore. You may not be able to move fast, but just let anyone or anything try to move you. It's a form of dominance, a kind of constant self-advertisement. A large man walks into a room and everyone looks.

And it's easy. You don't have to put a lot of energy into gaining weight. Quite the opposite, actually. Every other change that you can effect in your body requires some effort, but becoming heavy is as easy as body transformation gets.

I know about this because I've fallen into this trap myself. I was involved in a fitness study when I was in my late twenties. At the time, I was biking a minimum of 100 miles a month, I was training for and running in 10K's and some longer distances. I was lifting weights two or three times a week. I weighed in at 155 pounds. Over the years, I've gained and lost, but I've never returned to that sub-160 weight range, even though I know it's an absolutely healthy weight for me. Why? Because I always got razzed about my slim build and lack of any visible body fat. The "real men" gave me stupid nicknames like "skinny" and "little guy". People discounted all the hard work I did on my health and fitness, telling me I must have a high metabolism.

Fast forward to the last three years or so. I got on the scale one day and found that I was at 190 pounds for the first time in my life. I was shocked, but I must confess I was a little thrilled that I had so much mass. I was now "significant". I hated the way I looked, but the number "190 pounds" was somehow exciting.

So, in one of my earlier posts, I did some calculations about what I would weigh if I lost 17 pounds of body fat. I think the final number was 166 pounds. Well, my first reaction when I saw that number was, "I can't weigh 166 pounds. It's too light." Of course, I will probably gain a few pounds of lean mass from all the work I've been doing (at least I hope so), so my final weight will probably be higher than that. But the fact that seeing that number in print affected me so tells me that I've been "seduced by the fat side". In other words, I've somehow decided I need to weigh some minimum amount or I will be inadequate.

One of the heaviest men I ever met is also the one I recall talking about his weight the most. He was a co-worker in my previous job and he always said he needed to lose some weight, but he never seemed to. He was a weight lifter. One day, someone came into the office and asked his advice about doing some distance running along with their weight lifting. He said that distance running would make one look old before their time and that people with extremely low body fat, like distance runners, were usually bony and unattractive looking. Keep in mind he said this while I was sitting there!

So, there it is, the dirty secret. Some people weigh more than they should because it's the only way they can achieve significance, to stand out from the crowd, to feel powerful.

If I knew then, what I know now, I never would have let that 155 pound body slip away. Whatever else comes of this Body for Life challenge, I know my attitude about myself and my body has been changed forever.

Good lower body workout today! I don't think I officially hit any tens, but my form was good and I felt the reps a lot more than usual. I also fixed the exercise bike tonight, so I am ready to ride again tomorrow.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Off the bike and on the streets

This morning, I went downstairs to do my aerobic workout and found out the seat adjustment on the exercise bike was jammed. I couldn't get it to move and I couldn't use the bike with the seat in the position it was in. (I'm six inches taller than Cheryl and I'm have long legs for my height, so her height setting is way way way too low for me.)

I messed with it for awhile, but I couldn't get it to move. I thought about using the jogging trampoline instead, but I can never get a good workout on that thing. So, I grabbed a jacket and headed out the door.

Our house is half a mile from the Missouri river in a very hilly area. We are at the top of a hill that's not quite half a mile long. From the bottom, it starts out steep, then levels off to a shallow uphill, and then gets steep again. So I warmed up by heading down the hill at a fast walk and, after two minutes, I started jogging. I turned around at four minutes and jogged up the hill. At six minutes, I turned back downhill. I did the next three intervals the same way. Then I did a short cool down. I removed the jacket about half way through and I was sweating by the time I was done even though the air temperature wasn't even 50 degrees F. I feel like I got a good workout, although I didn't have control of the various levels like I would on the bike. I must say, the twenty minutes went by a lot faster than they do on the stationary bike.

After years as a distance runner and recreational jogger, I quit because my knees were giving me problems. So I was concerned that my legs might not be up to a hill workout. But I was able to do the whole twenty minutes with no joint pain. But by far the best thing about taking my new slimmer body out on the street was that there's no stomach shaking up and down like ziploc bag of pudding. What little abdominal fat I have mostly stays put. Likewise, my legs and (dare I say it) my butt have much less extra material to jiggle around than they used to. And I wasn't even embarassed that I was running in biking shorts.

The halfway point in the challenge is this coming Monday. We'll be doing our eight week pictures two weeks from this Sunday. We're going to try to do a real photo shoot for the eight week pictures to get ready for the final photo shoot at twelve weeks. It seems like it's going by fast. But I'm having fun, which was part of my plan from the beginning.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The eye of the beholder

It's funny how your perceptions can change. Several times today, I've seen myself in the mirror, or glanced down at my stomach while sitting at my desk, or otherwise got a glimpse of myself and thought, "Geez, I still have so much abdominal fat to lose." In those moments, I feel a little discouraged. I know that the gains I've made so far are significant, maybe even remarkable, but I sometimes feel like there's just no way I'm going to get to where I want to be in the less-than-seven-weeks that I have left in the challenge. I set loss of abdominal fat and/or washboard abs as my primary goal in this challenge. Well, I've gained abdominal muscle, but it won't show until I lose the layer of fat that I have there. So, it's hard to be this far away from achieving that as I approach the halfway point.

On the other hand, I've had the opposite experience as well today. I've caught my reflection in the elevator doors or glanced down at my stomach while on the phone and thought, "Wow, I really have slimmed down." And I have. There are any number of objective measurements that prove that I'm thinner than I was five weeks ago and there's ample evidence that I have a healthier body fat ratio than I've had in over five years. Reversing five years of weight gain and lost fitness in a little over five weeks; I can't help but feel pretty good about that.

The truth is, if I finish these twelve weeks and I don't have a washboard stomach and narrow waist, it's not the end of the world. I have NEVER had those things. I'm not saying I'm giving up. I hope I'm going to make it and I plan to do whatever I can to make that happen. But if I get even close, it will be a huge achievement for me. And if I'm close, I'll be poised to achieve it in the next challenge.

I did measurements tonight. According to the scale, I'm down not quite five pounds from my starting weight. Also, all three body fat measurements were lower than in any of the previous four weeks. As usual, the one-site caliper test gave me the lowest measurement (17.8%), while the four-site caliper test gave the highest (24.6%) with the Tanita body fat scale splitting the difference at 20.6%.

Now, my original goal was to lose 15 to 17 pounds of body fat. I've lost less than 5 pounds of scale weight in just under six weeks. However, I want to run some numbers real quick. So work with me here and please excuse the math. I'll use the Tanita figures since they are the middle ones. In the beginning, I was at 183.4 pounds with 22.7% body fat. This means that 41.6 pounds of my body weight was fat (and that my lean weight was 141.8 pounds). In this last set of measurements, I was at 178.8 pounds with 20.6% body fat. So 36.8 pounds of my body weight is fat which is a 5 pound decrease in body fat and my lean weight is actually up slightly to 142.0 pounds. In reality, there are many factors that influence these numbers, both for better and for worse, but the trend indicates that I am losing body fat while maintaining and even increasing lean weight (i.e. muscle).

Now I really shouldn't do this, but suppose I make my goal and lose 17 pounds of body fat. That would mean that, starting from 183.4 pounds, assuming my lean weight doesn't increase, I would be at 166.4 lbs. Subtract the lean weight of 142.0 pounds and you have 24.4 pounds of body fat which would make my body fat percentage 14.6%.

Once again, numbers and trends are almost meaningless at this stage in the challenge, but the trend is that my goals appear to be attainable. Would a body fat percentage of less than 15% be good enough to reach my appearance goals. From the pictures I've seen of men in that body fat range, yes, I think I would be very close to what I want to achieve.

Time will tell, but I feel good about where I'm at right now.

While I was posting my current numbers to my progress page on the web site (, I added a few pictures to Cheryl's goals page ( Scroll all the way to the bottom and you'll see a really cool sunset picture. The silhouette is Cheryl!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Size does matter

Cheryl and I went to a wedding on Friday. I rushed home from work and changed to a dress shirt and tie. Almost as a afterthought, I grabbed my suit jacket and put it on. It was later that I realized that the suit jacket was one of the main reasons I started Body for Life.

I don't wear a suit very often. I only have one. The last time I wore it was for a musical performance somewhere. I noticed that, although I could button it, the jacket was tight around my mid-section and the lapels gapped open instead of laying flat across my chest. At the time, I was so embarassed that I didn't button it the rest of the night.

Well, it fits now. It fits like it did when Cheryl bought it for me, probably at least five years ago. I was so amazed by this fact that I'm still a little in shock. It seems you really can have the body you used to have and wear the clothes you used to wear. I told Cheryl that I'm very close to the same fitness level I had four or five years ago (in only five weeks). So now, my goal is to achieve a fitness level I never had!

I was thinking about my post-challenge life on Sunday (while I was on the exercise bike, I might add). First of all, I plan to turn right around and do another 12 week challenge after this one. I have until July 5 to start the second challenge, and that gives me about two weeks after I finish the first one, so I intend to actually formally enter the challenge again. But, what about after that? Well, Cheryl and I are already taking a beach vacation late this Summer. I was thinking that next year, we could go to some resort in the tropics where they have workout and spa facilities, activities like hiking or biking, a beach to lounge around on, good food, etc. In other words, a vacation for active people.

I also want to hike the trail up Tom Sauk mountain this fall. It's the highest point in Missouri (I know, big deal) and I've wanted to hike it for years and have been putting it off. Sometime later, I want to hike some real mountains.

Down the road, I'm thinking about becoming a personal trainer. I want to maintain my fitness lifestyle and help other people do what I've done.

But all that is in the future. For now, I have seven weeks to go in my first Body for Life challenge. Today is my off day. Tomorrow, I have to hustle to get in my workout before a concert I'm singing in. After that, I'm getting up early for aerobic day. After that, well....gotta keep moving. Almost halfway there!