I completed my first notebook of workout + eating data this morning and thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I’ve done since focusing on health & fitness after New Year’s Day.
Why I Did It
Coming off the delicious and baccanalia-esque Lawman/Peapods Wedding Extravadanza I decided to get down and get healthy. I’d gradually gained back a ton of weight after slimming down to 190-ish for our own wedding in August 2010, and I wanted to shed the weight and go for an all-time low. My first step was getting a book recommended by some people in California: The 4 Hour Body. I really liked the experimental style espoused by Tim Ferriss and got excited about trying different combinations of diet, supplements, and exercise to find what worked for me.
How I Started
An important aspect of losing weight that’s explained at the beginning of the book is that there are three levers you can use to lose weight: your diet, your exercise, and dietary supplements. It’s so much easier to lose weight if you regulate what you put into your body, as opposed to eating what you want and then ‘working it off.’ I decided to put much of my initial effort into eating right, and only working out three times a week max.
My starting routine was to go on the Slow-Carb diet detailed in Chapter 7 (The Slow Carb Diet I: How to Lose 20 pounds in 30 Days Without Exercise). It exphasizes no “white” carbohydrates (ex: all bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas, and fried food with breading), eating the same meals over and over again, not drinking calories, no fruit, and taking one day off a week from the diet to eat what you want (sensibly). Along with that I concentrated on hitting the gym two to three times a week (mostly two) and used a vitamin stack called PAGG that, INHO, the jury is still out on (see the link for one opinion that I basically agree with).
Where and When I Had Trouble
It was super easy to keep to the diet/exercise/supplements the first two months, including when we were in Saint Martin for our honeymoon. However, I started to falter in March as I went off the diet little by little, while upping my workouts. As I continue to preach, however, diet is more important; I found that I could not offset eating badly by working out more. The math just wasn’t there.
It turned out that I was also making huge mistakes while lifting that were slowly hurting me. By late April my shoulders hurt 24 hours a day due to lifting incorrectly, and I felt that I had really sprained my rotator cuffs in both shoulders. Just as I was switching my routine to be more lower body-focused to give my shoulders time to heal I made a mistake while doing a leg press and cracked my rib cartilage. At that point I couldn’t do anything with my shoulders, nor anything with my core. I was relegated to running pretty slowly as my only activity from late April until early June.
Sometime in the spring I also scaled back the amount of water I was drinking, which was a huge mistake. I should be drinking roughly twice as much water as I am on any given day.
Once summer hit I also hit diet problems in that I just started drinking a ton at cookouts and eating lots of brats, etc. By degrees I was eating well (grilled veggies instead of chips, for example) but it didn’t help that I was just eating so often.
While I continued to record my food consumed, vitamins consumed, weight data, body fat data, and workout data in my Workout Notebook (at right) from Day One until today I also started using some great data collection/data interpretation tools over the last six months. I’ll list them below, along with what they do and what my opinion is of them.
- Withings W-fi Scale: In late February I purchased the Withings wi-fi scale; a digital scale that does body fat and BMI measurements that will save the data to a web site where you can see graphs and such over time. More importantly, the withings web site is OAuth enabled so that other fitness web sites can suck in your body measurements to chart against various activities. My Opinion: this is my number one favorite tool; it’s great to have easy storage of my daily weight and BF% so that I can go back later and see progress. Can you do this with a notebook? Yes. Is it 100 times easier to have it automatically saved? Yes.
- Fitbit Tracker/fitbit.com:The Fitbit tracker is a little device you attach to yourself that measures your daily activity. It’s basically a souped-up pedometer that records intensity as well as steps taken/distance traveled. You can then log activities that will overlay on top of the gathered data. It also does sleep tracking to show you how much sleep you actually get per night. My Opinion: nice to have; it was interesting to see my sleep patterns at first but I lost the band during our house move. I also paid $49 for a year of advanced analytics just to see what they were all about. You can slice your data a skrillion ways, but none of them actually help me work out better.
- Runkeeper.com/iPhone App: I used the runkeeper app a while back and was unimpressed. Their new versions are great, however. It mixes in iPod playlist suypport, GPS route tracking, and auto-announces customized stats (ex: every 5 minutes tell me total distance, total time, and current pace. The basic tools are free, and it makes activity tracking a lot easier and more fun. My Opinion: Great, free, and when used alongside the Fitbit tracker is a great data collection tool.
By The Numbers
First off, click here to see my complete weight graph over the last 3 months.
On January 8th, 2011 I started at 199lbs and 30% body fat. As of today, June 20th, 2011 I weigh 184.6lbs with 19.1% body fat. My goal (pretty much pulled out of thin air) was a body weight of 165lbs and a body fat percentage target of 15% or under.
My lowest points for each statistic was a weight of 177.5lbs on May 4th, and a low body fat percentage of 18.6% on June 2nd.
I feel I’ve definitely created a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle since January. The trap is continually falling into the trap where you let your diet slide and think you can make it up by running an extra time this week. That sort of mentality really steamrolls until you’re at the point where you could run all day every day and not offset the absolutely unhealthy food you’re eating regularly.
I’m on the upswing when it comes to my workouts (back from injury!) but I stalled on the diet a long time ago. My plan is to pivot on this report and reflection and get back into better eating habits in order to take advantage of my overall healthier lifestyle.
We will continue!
Appendix 1: My Workouts
Over the course of six months I used two clear lifting programs (and started a third today, which I’ll also include). I would have transitioned to a third sooner, but the pain in my shoulder made me take a month and a half off from lifting while I healed up.
I prefer to follow a two-day split on lifting; I have an “A” workout and a “B” workout that I will alternate during the week. My target (as of today) is to get one “A” day per week, one “B” day per week, and one day of personal training where I do a mix of many different activities (including short, hard cardio).
First Program (2/18/2011 – 4/2/2011)
- Flat Bench Press (4 sets of 12)
- Keiser machine Fly (3 sets of 12)
- Leg extension (3 sets of 12)
- Step Mill (3 times at 90 secs each)
- Front Squat ( 4 sets of 12)
- Medicine ball pushup (3 sets of 15)
- Biceps exercise (I choose/variable) (3 sets of 10)
- Triceps exercise (I choose/variable) (3 sets of 10)
- Incline/decline Bench Press (4 sets of 12)
- Cable pulldown (3 sets of 12)
- Cable column row (3 sets of 12)
- Jump rope (3 times at 90 – 120 secs)
- Deadlift (4 sets of 12)
- Reverse fly (3 sets of 12)
- Calf raises (3 sets of 15)
- Ball rollout (3 sets of 12)
- Plank (3 times at 60 secs)
Second Program (4/2/2011 – 4/15/2011)
- Back Squat (4 sets of 10)
- Medicine ball pushup (3 sets of 15/20)
- Leg extension (3 sets of 10)
- Step Mill (3 or 4 times at 90 – 120 secs)
- Flat bench (4 sets of 10)
- Keiser machine Fly (3 sets of 10)
- Pull over (3 sets of 10)
- Chin ups (3 sets of 10)
- Shaman w/keiser (3 sets of 8 each side)
- Deadlift (4 sets of 10)
- Cable pulldown (3 sets of 10)
- Cable row (3 sets of 10)
- Jump rope (3 times at 90 – 120 secs)
- Incline/decline Bench Press (4 sets of 10)
- Reverse fly (3 sets of 10)
- Calf raises (3 sets of 12)
- Plank (3 times at 45 – 60 secs)
Third Program (6/20/2011 – ???)
- DB Military Press (4 sets of 10)
- Calf raises (3 sets of 12)
- High rows (3 sets of 10)
- Shoulder shrugs (3 sets of 10)
- Treadmill sprints (4 times at 90-180 secs)
- Pull ups (3 sets of 10)
- Leg press (3 sets of 10)
- Cable column row (3 sets of 10)
- Double leg lowering (4 sets of 10)
- Flat bench press (4 sets of 10)
- Glut/ham press (3 sets of 10)
- Fly (DB or keiser) (3 sets of 10)
- Step Mill (4 times at 90 – 120 secs)
- Walking lunges (3 sets of 16)
- BOSU pushups (3 sets of 15)
- Front raise (3 sets of 10)
- V-press (3 sets of 10)
- Ball rollout (4 sets of 10)