Men, ever been bean dipped? There is nothing on Earth that will motivate you more to work out than a good old fashioned bean dipping. Let me explain.
I’ve got a nephew who can’t weigh 150 pounds soaking wet. He’s a sample sized lacrosse player with a single digit body fat percentage, well defined abs, and attitude to match. You know the type. Every once in a while, usually when I’m feeling particularly good about myself, he “helps” me see that there is still work to be done. How, you ask? Well, imagine, if you will, a hand with an invisible tortilla chip in it (his). Now imagine that “chip”, being placed strategically under the pectoral muscle of an unsuspecting victim (me), and then imagine that hand “scooping” (flicking) said pec (bean dip) so that it wobbles like a king-sized jello salad. A good bean dipping is done publicly so that others can enjoy the experience. Bonus points are rewarded if completed after swimming when the victim is shirtless.
I’ve had day dreams where he sprains his wrist, hyper-extends fingers, and even cries a little.
So, using bean dip for fuel, I find myself once again making a run at it. The past two weeks have been extremely rewarding. Take a look:
In addition to starting the second four week interval of P90X and spinning to my heart’s delight, spring has sprung and I was able to get out for my inaugural ride before I had to build an ark. The weather has not cooperated since, water wise, but on the bright side, I have been able to de-winterize the “gym”. No more heater, no more moving blankets, and no more layers, gloves, or hat. It’s so refreshing to just go workout!
In a moment of clarity, I have also come to realize that I am skipping what is perhaps the most important aspect of P90X for an old guy like me. In order to get the cardio I want (I am planning an extended bike trip later this spring), I only use the P90X program for strength training. On the other days, my spin/bike days, I do the ab routines and a super modified version of the stretching. So, it’s not that I’m not getting any flexibility work, it’s just that I know I could benefit from more.
Case in point. Earlier this year some friends of mine, (very young friends of mine!) brought up the sit to stand challenge as a way to test longevity. If you are not familiar with it take a peek at the video below.
So, on top of being almost 6’7”, a recovered knee surgery patient, and as flexible as sheet-rock, I decided to give it a try. It wasn’t even the fact that I hat to cheat to do it that bothered me, it was the simple fact that sitting cross legged with no shoes on forced the outsides of my feet into the floor with such force I was convinced they would leave impressions.
New Goal: Flexibility training must be added to the routine.
With the new goal comes the new dilemma. How do I NOT make being in the garage the center of my universe and still cover all my bases? Maybe I can figure out a way to get paid to workout. This stuff is important to me, but it’s not everything to me.
After a month of recovery from a back strain and limited indoor exercise due to the arctic blast that was February, I finally was able to get back in the garage gym. I know enough about my body to know that if I had picked up where I left off in January I’d find myself right back on the injury wagon. So, I decided to do one super light weight cycle through the P90 routines as sort of a lead in. Then, two weeks ago, my daughter and I hit it again.
The first week was brutal! We both agreed it was as if we had never worked out all before this. I can’t believe how fast it all goes away! Thankfully, I’m equally amazed by how fast it all comes back!
I should note that there are a couple of workouts that aren’t on here because I forgot my watch in the house(garage not attached!). I would also add, we were buried in snow on multiple occasions. If 30 minutes of shoveling doesn’t count as a cardio workout, then we need to discuss what a cardio workout is!
This entry is merely to knock the rust off. It’s almost four in the afternoon so the idea of hopping on a scale would only be made more depressing by all the delicious food I’ve consumed. I promise a full, detailed, and accurate report late next week. Stay tuned.
And do you know what the worst part is? I let it dam my flow! I’ve come to learn that it is so much more fun to write when things are going well. I’ve also learned that I need to publish immediately, even if I’m not proud of the contents, because that’s what blogs are for. Who’s to say that posts about honest struggle carry less value to the reader or the writer than brag posts?
A quick recap: I am in the middle of a massive self-reconstruction project. (It’s massive to me, but I don’t think anyone outside the audience of this blog would have any idea that I’m doing anything out of the ordinary.) My goal is to take this Covid time-out and use it to completely change. My goal is to be a better person physically, mentally, and professionally, and in any other way that occurs to me. It occurred to me early on that this really is an opportunity like no other, like a caterpillar in the cocoon, I’m leaning into the voluntary social distancing required to stay healthy.
So, even though you, the reader, are probably only interested in parts of this post, I thought I would use it to do a general check-in on all plates I have spinning around me all at once. Yes, that’s clunky, but I’ve fallen behind. Good luck readers!
I might as well start here and get the disappointment out of the way. Unlike other posts you will find no graphs or tables here today. The injury I sustained to my back two Sundays ago has proven to be persistent. That said, I have 5 days of extremely light resistance and gentle stretching under my belt. I’m close to getting back to it, but it has taken a complete fortnight to get to this point.
I have learned that there are limitations to my garage gym. I was able to deal with humidity and melting snow from the cars, but the weather forecasted above is only a continuation of the weather we have already endured. January was jungle hot compared to February. So my new gym is literally a 6’ X 7’ landing near my basement stairs-literally the only place in the house where I can lay without stacking couches or beds. And you know what? It’s perfect! I’m absolutely prevented from undertaking anything that could further injure me. It seems I’m being instructed from above to ease my way back(pun intended).
My “Dry January” turned into “Dry Close Enough!” Yep, tripped at the finish. On a positive note this has become a bi-annual undertaking, as I take Septembers off too.(If I have successfully completed two January and one September liquor fast am I allowed to talk about it like this is a thing I do?) I think it was my frustration at not being able to work out as much as anything that was responsible for my falter.
I am also not using Fitness Pal to track my eating at this time. This was never meant to be a long term intervention, rather a mental calibration to get a feel for what portion control should feel like. As I stated in earlier blogs, I’m not out to lose weight. If anything I probably need to gain some. My ultimate goal is to maintain mass as I traipse through time.
What is really helping me most is that, as a family, we are extremely motivated to eat well right now. My current belief is that rather than restrict the amount eaten we should add fresh vegetables to every meal. A salad or a soup, when added to a meal, fills in the cracks before the naughty foods can.
This is the view from my Rosetta Stone progress plan. I have completed 4 weeks, and have one more lesson in week five. As I mentioned earlier, for me this program is best used in conjunction with Duolingo as it focuses way more on pronunciation. However, I find myself counting the seconds for each lesson to be over. In the program’s defense I usually do it after I have already completed an hour or two of Duolingo. How fair is that?
On January 3rd, when I last posted about Spanish I was at 19500 XP, so as you can see, I’ve earned almost 4000 points since then(with corrections that’s like 5000 questions!) Check out the streak of days!
I’d like to start by mentioning this very blog. This was new to me. I’m going to give myself a pat on the back here. No, this isn’t Catcher In The Rye, but I do try to put a little thought into what I produce here. Also, putting yourself out there publicly has to be worth something too. So there it is. Another 10 posts during the month of January. Not terrible.
In addition to blogging I have completed 5 online education classes for my teaching licensure to date(Digital Literacy and The Connected Classroom from Eduro, and Cultural Competency(2 parts) and Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents from EQ Learn.
For the record, this is not the only place I record my thoughts. I have a journal I have kept on and off for almost 30 years(mostly on!). I mention this because, in looking over what I have written so far, there are some pretty major omissions that I’m still not at the point I want to share publicly. My spiritual journey and future plans make up a large portion of what goes into it my hand written journal(incidentally, there is nothing better than a fountain pen and a good journal to coax out the most stubborn thinking!) Perhaps, in the future, I’ll pull back the curtain on some of this growth as well. For now you’ll just have to be satisfied with that Duolingo streak. Whoa!
Rest, that period of time when going forward feels a lot like a going backward…It’s extremely hard not to judge myself too harshly when my well laid plans go awry. However, I realize that even when I am at my most careful, I am not perfect, and therefore open myself up to injury. The irony of my last health and fitness post being titled “Bulletproof” is not lost on me. To think, I expounded on how I was using exercise as a means to make my body injury proof…sheesh!
This has always been my history. Even when I was lifting weights that were much heavier than I was, I could still bend over to tie my shoe the wrong way and experience the electric jolt my spine makes when it decides to go on vacation. This time around it was more like a slow leak. If I had been ice skating alone on Sunday I probably would have taken my skates at the first, low level pinch. However, as I was with friends I hadn’t seen in ages, I pushed on, hoping my back would loosen. All I can say is that it’s a good thing no one was watching when I finally took my skates off because I’m sure it looked like there were invisible magnets preventing my upper torso from getting anywhere near my lower torso. I pretty much had to kick my skates off.
The other day, I was flipping through the news when I came across an article on this guy, Ed Whitlock. Ed was able to, at the age of 74, run a marathon in under three hours. I HAVE to cling to the memory of Ed, and athletes like him, during weeks like this. There will be setbacks! As long as I can continue to take the long view I’m all set. At the risk of sounding like I’m just making excuses for progress not made during my lifetime to date, I have always adhered to the idea that life is not a sprint. I didn’t play professional sports or go to the olympics, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to develop type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, or morbid obesity by embracing a sedentary lifestyle, eating in a way I know to be counter to my long-term goals, or by GIVING UP!
I have a poster hanging in my garage that I use to help motivate me for this long-term view of health. The photo is taken from a book entitled, Growing Old Is Not For Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes– by Etta Clark. The grizzled man in the photo almost looks photo shopped. His craggy, weathered head sits upon the chiseled body of a man who has known deprivation, work, and drive. Were it not for the Rocky Balboa’s sweatpants, one would be tempted to search for evidence of a seam at the neckline.
I choose to believe that both Ed and this guy looked upon fitness with an eye for the long run. In the clip above Ed states, “Everyone has to find their own recipe for success…you never know…you always have to be kind of tweaking things and trying to figure out what is best. You never really know if you’ve got the best recipe for success. All you can do is keep trying to find it.” Would it be ok if I take tweaking to mean rest this week?
I found this interesting, according to Healthline, “In addition to heavy lifting, any activity that puts excessive strain on the muscles and ligaments in the lower back can cause an injury. Sports such as football and golf can lead to back spasms because they demand that the back turn suddenly and repeatedly.” The one thing that I did both Sunday and the day that I last experienced back joy was shoveling. Turning the back repeatedly sounds a lot like moving snow. Maybe I’ll have my wife film me so I can analyze my form. It never hurts during the snow flurry, only when I attempt to do something immediately after. Wouldn’t shoveling warm up the back?
So, without any more stalling, I proudly present my abhorrent data for week 4.
I’m not going to lie. I thought this would be much worse. I’ve crept up a bit here this last week, but I think when you look at this next chart you will understand why.
If you look closely you will see that after Sunday’s skating fun, I have done nothing to jeopardize the hard work Dr. Bob puts in to get my back into alignment. I was given some mild stretching exercises and a lower back strengthening move to practice. That was the extent of my physical work this week. On a positive note, I’m feeling like I can probably get back to it in the morning.
I don’t know the secret to avoiding all setbacks. I seem to find new and unique ways to injure myself on a weekly basis. For the record, I’m being very careful to warm-up before any resistance training, I lift light weights or use my own body weight when possible, and I cool down. I also try to stretch or do some light yoga here and there too. the bottom line is that injuries are going to hit. Successful individuals taking the long view of fitness “tweak” themselves back to health and get back to it. If you need me tomorrow I’ll be in the garage.
Clark, Etta. Growing Old Is Not for Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes. Pomegranate Calendars & Books, 1993.
We all age, but there are ways to age gracefully. To be “bulletproof” is to work to improve your health in ways that will offer you protection from illness and injury, while at the same time extending your ability to do the things you love.
Am I a little ready for a beer? I’m not even waiting until tomorrow to publish this week’s results. I think I can be excused under the circumstances. How many times is there an insurrection in the halls of congress during a pandemic the week before a new president is inaugurated?
I titled this week bulletproof precisely because that is so exactly what I am not! Oh sure, vanity plays a role in my motivation to carry on this experiment, but if I’m honest, it pales in comparison to my desire to eliminate as much weakness from my system as is possible. I don’t necessarily mean I need to be strong, I mean I need system wide protection. I am starting to have quite a collection of what I call, “nicks and dings.” I like to tell others that the engine is running fine, it’s the tires that continue to need fixing. Take a look:
Inguinal hernia repair both right(2020) and left(2008)
Torn cartilage micro-fracture repair left knee(2014)(no walking 3 months, crutches 3 months)
Torn right bicep repair(2015)
Torn right rotator cuff repair(2015)(no use of arm for months)
CIV(Chronic Venous Insufficiency) repair-complete with leg ulcers(2018-19)repair
Chronic back issues(in my view chronic back weakness)-(2008-2018)
When taking in that list it would be fair to assume I probably look a bit like Frankenstein and played professional hockey with no equipment. I don’t and I didn’t. What I find interesting is that it wasn’t until I was 42, in 2008, that I ever had any problems whatsoever.
Here’s the thing, I was indoctrinated into extreme exercise at age 6. That’s when I started competitive swimming. Five nights of two hour practices followed by meets on weekends, year round. By the time I “retired” to play basketball in high school I was doing two-a-days with weight training and light swimming in the mornings, and full on practice in the afternoons. I have never been able to let that go. Make no mistake I’m no athlete, but I am athletic.
My wife likes to joke that everyone should lay down on the floor every day and get back up to a standing position because you don’t ever want to lose that. We say the same thing about stairs. If you buy a house without stairs then you run the risk of losing the ability to climb and descend them. I know this from experience. I have already lost running. With the cartilage injury and repair I could risk running, but why? I’ve replaced my love of running with the lower impact joys of cycling, skating, and swimming. My attempt at making myself bulletproof is just another version of getting up off the floor.
If you look at the literature that is out there the best way to make yourself bulletproof is to maintain a healthy weight by eating in a healthy manner(I did not use the word DIET-that’s a 4 letter word!), to exercise in ways that maintains and improves strength, flexibility, and cardio-vascular health, to limit your intake of naughty stuff(you don’t need me to tell you what that naughty stuff is!), to sleep, to laugh, to have good friends, and to find joy in what you do. There are probably others, but you get the gist. Knowing this, here’s my progress for week 3:
As I write this I’m chuckling to myself because my right knee hurts-not the bad one. I’ve taken to wearing a compression sleeve when I workout or skate. Just another ding. Maybe in 10 days when I crack that first beer, I’ll put it up and relax, but not today.
Featured Image Free for commercial use. No attribution required.
In this post I will get you up to speed on how I’m doing in this, the second week of my fitness challenge.
UPDATE!: I decided that the math just wasn’t working out. How could such a drastic change in my diet and lifestyle not have more dramatic results? So I decided to weigh myself again today. This time I moved the scale a few times to make sure it was sitting flat on our stone tile floor, the result was three measures all at the same 212 pounds- a significant difference from the previous day.
There you have it. The world’s most boring graph. I don’t see the value in weighing myself everyday, hence the flatline with a drop at the end. I have to admit that I’m surprised at the relatively slow rate that I’m losing weight. Think about it, I dropped all alcohol, all sugar(not something I ate much of anyway) and most all processed food. The loss of alcohol alone should be having a much bigger impact. It is even more surprising when you add in the next piece of evidence.
As you can see on my RunGap Chart, the addition of ice skating has really upped my game. I chose to call it High Intensity Interval Training because that is how I used it. After reacquainting myself with ice skating, I used the 30-40 minutes I typically can endure skating(it is way harder than I remember!) to skate laps in groups of four at my local rink. I’m not sprinting or anything but I don’t have to either. My heart rate jumped from about a 100 to 150 and above in that short time. It’s hard to differentiate the skating from the P90X workouts above, but I always skate in the afternoon so skating is always listed as the second HIIT workout on each day.
Here’s a peek at a typical skating day as seen by a heart rate chart:
I think you can see from the chart why I choose to label it high intensity interval training, lot’s of peaks and valleys. In effect, I’m doing two workouts a day. However, the weather has not cooperated lately, it’s actually raining outside, more like a freezing rain on top of snow. I didn’t think to use the iwatch to gauge it, but in the last three days I’ve probably shoveled for a total of 2 hours. I’m usually bathed in sweat when I’m done, so there’s definitely work being done. Also, when I cycle the iwatch asks when I’m done-it can tell when my heart rate drops. It doesn’t do that when on the HIIT setting. So on January 13th’s morning P90 I forgot to turn it off, to make up for it I only counted a few minutes of the afternoon skate.
Diet, Sleep, and Miscellaneous
Last night we had burgers and fries from a local restaurant. It was an impossible burger, but I’d have to say it was my first real cheat. For two solid weeks I’ve eaten completely vegetarian, non processed, no sugar, heavily fresh fruit and vegetable meals. I have stayed beneath the 2660 calorie ceiling that My Fitness Pal has calculated for me to reach my goal. However, as I stated in an earlier post, I’m not necessarily looking to lose weight. I’d rather gain lean mass, or at my age, not lose anymore.
Sleep has been better than when I was drinking, but I still wake up. I get at least 8 hours every night now, but there is often a one or two hour gap in the very middle of the night that I have chosen to use for writing in my journal. Nobody is better at mentally regurgitating a day or a problem like I can. I have found that rather than worrying about not sleeping I’m in a better place if I accomplish something that I would otherwise need to do when I woke up. This way, if I sleep later than I normally do I’ve merely juggled when things are done rather than fallen behind.
The Home Gym
So, you are welcome to go back and read in depth about how I have set up my home gym, and also the problems I’m having with it. I think I have found some tweaks that work. I’m leaving the attic steps down completely to give the water vapor that accumulates on the windows and doors an “escape hatch.” I’ve also gotten smart about lifting the insulated moving blankets off the floor when I’m not exercising. This has kept them damp at most. Finally, I have become king of the squeegee. I have found that if I vacuum the absorbent mat, and squeegee the bare floor when the cars are out, it stays pretty darn dry. We have had very mild temperatures lately so stay tuned to see if these are truly workable solutions.
Man, I feel like this is some kind of super scientific approach to my well being. For one thing, I have never used so many apps and extensions to chart my progress. Some of them are necessary just for the ability to consolidate data in a way that I can share, RunGap for example. Others are just an easier way to track things, like MyfitnessPal and Strava. I will attempt to explain as I go along…
A few days before launch I tweaked my back really good. I was spinning and felt a twinge. I’ve had enough experience with myself to know that the best way to lose 3 weeks of training is to continue doing whatever it is I am doing at the time. So, I got off the bike, laid on the floor, stretched, took some ibuprofen, iced, and proceeded to lose the ability to lift my leg high enough to put on my underwear. Two trips to Dr. Bob(Avenues of Health Chiropractic) and some rest, and I was able to launch the physical part of my plan on Monday, the 4th(Diet changes started on the 1st as planned).
I typically use Strava to track my progress on outdoor bicycle rides. It is an absolute video game for biking and will get it’s own page here in the future. It maps your rides, allows you to compare yourself with others who have ridden any part of the route, and let’s you know how you did against your greatest rival, you. Unfortunately, it is not ideal for stationary bikes. So, when I spin in the winter, because it’s so much harder to wipe out on a 150 pound spin bike, traffic is always light in the garage, and I know exactly when I’m going to get home-when I swing my leg back over the seat- I use my apple watch and my Garmin to track my levels. I use the Garmin, as mentioned in my “Forward to the Past” to track my effort while spinning. I use the Apple watch for the data after spinning. Why, you ask? Simple…I lost the cord to attach the Garmin to my computer, duh.
Anyway, Apple doesn’t have a way to view aggregate data so I found RunGap, which takes all the data from my apple account and puts it in one place.
You can see that I have gotten two cardio workouts this week. I would add that Covid has made me stir crazy, so I have also added ice skating to my repertoire because if I don’t get outside I will go insane. Turns out I miss it, and love it, and it’s just about twice as hard as I remember. I’m not removing anything, I’m just adding 30 minutes of skating when I can.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my garage is my gym. This has presented many issues, not the least of which is a lack of real resistance equipment. I have secured a set of Powerblock adjustable dumbbells to go with the bands I had been using.
First of all, let me just say that in my opinion elasticity is a mediocre substitute for gravity. So, in terms of the workout rendered, the blocks delivered! In addition, with bands I felt like I was continually adjusting something to get the right “feel” for each exercise, not to mention, the right tug. By this I mean that decreasing the amount of band available (by stepping on it, or creating a loop to step on) tension is increased. There is a real lack of precision in that method. What exactly is the tension delivered if I have a 40 pound resistance band with a loop of a 3”diameter under my foot? The blocks are quick to adjust and precise. I think the only real drawback is aesthetics. I feel like I have a couple of steampunk bear traps attached to my arms when I use them. I also have dainty XX large hands. When I wear gloves, because that garage takes a little time to warm up, it is tricky getting my hands inside them.
So I’m down to 216 pounds from 217.6. I’m actually surprised it is not more. I knew going into this that dropping alcohol was going to have a major impact, both in terms of difficulty in not having it, the subsequent drop in caloric intake. What I was not prepared for was how difficult eating zero prepared food has been. I do great in the morning with my shakes, or do I? Does protein powder count as a prepared food? What about tofu? I’ve decided that if the thing I’m adding is not a meal in and of itself I’m ok. Store bought spaghetti sauce and peanut butter- okey dokey. Vegetarian chicken patties and burritos-no go.
I’m sleeping much differently already. Not necessarily any more, just more soundly. Extra water intake may have supplanted beer as my reason for getting up in the middle of the night, but I’m getting up just the same. However, the quality of sleep I do get is noticeably better as I haven’t felt the need to sneak naps in this week. I’m averaging pretty close to 8 hours per night too.
Thinking of converting your garage into a home gym? Live in a cold climate? Learn from me! In this post I will take you on a short tour of the trials and tribulation of my unheated garage gym.
I’m not one who knows much about Greek Mythology, but I did watch the Disney Hercules cartoon. In a particularly relevant part of the movie our hero, Hercules, cuts the three heads off of the hydra. Apparently this isn’t the way to kill a hydra because two heads grew back in each place there was one, and each additional beheading produced a similar result. That’s my garage gym in a nutshell.
If my garage were in a warm climate I would be bragging about my ingenious use of unused space. Unfortunately, I live about as far as one can get from a warm climate without having a Canadian passport.
To review: Because Covid has closed the gyms, and wanting to err on the careful side any way, and because my house is only a step up from a tiny home, I chose to turn my unheated, detached garage into a workout space. I insulated the walls and ceiling, putting a vapor barrier over both. I bought insulated moving blankets and punched grommets into them so I could hang them from the ceiling on hooks, the idea being I could move them to reduce the size of the space to be used. I bought absorbent mats for the floor to catch all the snow melt that would inevitably drop off the cars I still had to park there at night. And I bought a small heater. This process is all detailed in full on my “The Set Up” post.
From the day I started using it in September to just before Christmas I couldn’t have been happier with the space. I had my music on as loud as I wanted, I never had to wait for a piece of equipment, and the only time I got self-conscious was when my wife, not knowing I was in there, opened the garage door to park the car.
Turns out, cars and trucks tend to pick up more snow than a person would think. Then that snow melts. Then the mats on the floor hold on to that moisture. Then it evaporates. Then the highly effective vapor barrier holds it in the garage. Then it congregates on anything cold, like garage doors and windows, for example.(see images below)
The really ingenious blankets I designed with the help of my wife, the ones we made extra long so they would drape to the floor to keep the heat in, well they have become pancake shaped sponges that need to be clamped to the shelves to keep them off the floor. In addition, they are easily rolled over by truck tires which are popping the grommets out left and right.
The garage mats are amazing right up until there is a significant amount of liquid in them. It’s not that they don’t perform as advertised, they hold even more water than I think is advertised. That’s the problem. Once soaked they are extremely hard to dry. When I attempt to use a wet/dry vac on them it counts as my workout!
Now that I’ve turned my garage into, what amounts to, a huge ziplock bag with nowhere for water vapor to go I’ve had to rethink my plan. I have a trap attic door that I have tried keeping propped open, I have even used a fan in that opening to suck air up and out the attic vents, but either my fan is too small, or the vapor isn’t interested in leaving because there was no noticeable improvement. I have rolled up one of the mats and used a squeegee on that half of the garage in the hopes that less trapped water will equal less vapor. The jury is still out on this idea.
I’m not ready to give up yet, but I did find myself kneeling on a rubber glove today to keep my knees dry. I never had to do that at the Y. If you have a suggestion for me spill it. As you can see I’m willing to try just about anything.
Can I just start by saying that the more I search for images to capture the spirit of what I’m writing about the more I realize I have to start taking my own pictures! That means I have to start living in a way that I have something worth photographing. That is not my bike, but someday maybe it will be!
In that vein today is the big day. I “officially” start the physical portion of my self improvement plan today. I know, what was I doing up until now, right? Well, everything up to this point has been about getting the pieces into place. This isn’t a new year’s resolution. It’s more a lifelong resolution that just happened to launch on New Year’s Day. The gym has been set up, the equipment purchased, and the baseline data has been secured.
To review: Starting today, and for the next 30 days, I will eat and drink clean. For me, that means no alcohol, no sugar, and no commercially prepared food. I will attempt to eat a fresh, organic, and plant based diet. In addition, I will increase my intake of water. In short, I’m going to drive my family nuts.
I will use my fitness pal to track meals, and I will try to stay within the caloric guidelines for my goals, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. With no alcohol, sugar, or ready to eat foods in my diet I’ll have my work cut out for me just to eat enough calories. Especially if I’m working out as much as I plan.
In terms of exercise, I will work out at least 6 days a week. I will alternate P90X with spinning(See “Forward to the Past” post for details). My goal is to also add at least two stretching or yoga sessions per week to my routine. I’ve been through the P90X cycle once thus far this year, but it was, admittedly, a very disjointed effort. I did not track my gains, I did not have access to actual weights (I used bands only), and because of a hernia surgery(not related to the workout program!) and some minor back issues, I was not consistent. I’m choosing to do my own cardio instead of the Kempo(kicking) and Plyometric(jumping) offerings in the program. This is just a personal preference
(I should note here that I purchased two Powerblocks (pictured below). Now that I have tried the bands for an entire P90X cycle I just don’t trust that they offer workouts of the same intensity as true weights. The advantage of an adjustable dumbbell like a Powerblock is that it takes up a fraction of the space as a set of traditional dumbbells at a fraction of the cost. Plus, for me, Powerblock is a local company and I’m all about supporting Minnesota made. In addition, it seems like every retail outlet, and many online equipment providers are completely wiped out of inventory because of Covid.
Here are some baseline measures from P90X so that there is something to compare to at the end of this experiment. Again, the use of weights is going to seriously affect my performance on many of these exercises. When I go through my first series with the blocks I may need to discard this initial data, but for the sake of a blog with the motto, “An Attempt at Transparency” I feel like I need to put it out there.
I weighed myself one last time before the start of this experiment. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I have only put on 0.6 pounds over the holidays. Beginning weight: 217.6. With a goal of losing a pound a week(not really, because I’m also trying to maintain muscle mass) I’m allowed 2660 calories per day. Here is evidence from My Fitness Pal that the ball is rolling. That’s my breakfast smoothie below.
So, all that remains is to actually do the work. As this is not a fitness only blog I will check back in a week to let you know how it is going.
In this post I will attempt to explain how I use my 2nd generation Apple watch, an ancient Garmin Edge 705 bike computer, equally ancient videos from Sufferfest, and a Star Trac spinning bike to make my garage into a cardio wonderland. This is my way of avoiding the extravagant cost of the new home workout systems that are out there. (This is a work around, and I understand not everyone has this kind of stuff laying around, but covid forces us to think outside the box, and this is old tech-cheaply found used on the web, or freely streamed.)
Before we begin, a commercial came on the other day for some medicine, I don’t remember which, and the list of side effects was at least ten times longer and twice as terrifying as the medical condition itself. However, it did remind me that before I say another thing about health I better put out a disclaimer. So here it is:
Disclaimer: I am just some guy. You are welcome to my advice, but it’s up to you to decide for yourself if I’m full of crap. By acting on any of the suggestions I make here you are accepting responsibility for any and all consequences.
Let’s talk about cardio today. According to the Mayo Clinic:
You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you’re 45 years old, subtract 45 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 175. This is the average maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.
Admittedly, this is not the most precise way to measure your maximum heart rate, but then I’m not trying out for the olympic bobsled team either. It is important, however, to have at least a ballpark idea of your max heart rate for some key reasons. First of all, in order to know if you are working out with intensity your workouts will need to be based off of this number. Secondly, for safety’s sake you need to keep yourself in your zones. This is especially important for aging farts like myself who like to pretend we still have all the vim and vigor of the young whippersnappers. Thirdly, you need this number to set up your devices if you’re interested in using a modicum of precision in your training. Let me explain.
As I stated in earlier, the Covid pandemic has forced me to find new and interesting ways to challenge my body. No, that’s not exactly right. It has actually forced me to dust off some old technology that was pretty cutting edge a decade or so ago and combine it with some newer tech, like my Apple watch, to get a more complete picture. Speaking of “edge”, one of those pieces of technology is the Garmin Edge 705 bike computer.
(I can’t find a Creative Commons image for this elderly piece of technology. Hopefully, because I’m so positive about it, Garmin will be ok with my using this image!)
Now, you could simply use any heart rate monitor to make sure you are staying in your zones, but that requires thinking, which I don’t know about you, but is not my favorite thing to do while working out. I kind of like my workouts to be the time I don’t have to think!
Let me explain what I mean. You can see from the photo above that a rider can have up to 8 data windows on a single screen. Most of these are irrelevant for a person riding a stationary bike in a garage, especially since many activity trackers have an activity function that will track a bunch of statistics like workout time, intensity, etc. It’s the heart rate window that I use this for. Using the Mayo formula above I can set up zones for intensity.
You can see in the photo above that I have set my max heart rate based on the Mayo formula. I then set five zones, with trial and error, to fit how hard I like to spin(initially, I set them to end at 100% of max, but never felt like I was pushing it- that’s why my zone five goes above 100%). Once your device is set you’re ready for the next step. (Incidentally, there are apps for this that you can put on your phone, but then you would need a different device for the next step, I used to use my laptop set on a table in front of me.)
Sufferfest is a company that I guess was recently acquired by Wahoo, the fitness trainer manufacturer. Back in the day sufferfest made cycling videos with footage from actual tour events. That’s what I have saved in a google drive folder and use for my training. (Sufferfest is currently offering a streaming app. It’s free for 14 days so you can get a taste.)
The older videos look like this(use your imagination-this is a still from streaming video!):
All the work done setting up your zones has been for this! The text in the middle of the screen appears only periodically, but the numbers in the upper right corner are always visible. The newer videos have even more information like watts, or work, or power, but my old spinner bike doesn’t have a way to track those anyway. Besides, I have found that cadence and heart rate are all I need to get destroyed. 8.0 / 10 – that means 80% of my max heart rate. At a cadence of 80 rpm’s I need to peddle at a resistance level that raises my heart rate to 80% of max. It takes a little practice to find those levels, but it’s doable.
To make it more realistic the videos will change the numbers to match terrain, or race conditions. For example, another rider might attack, and you will be instructed to peddle at level 10 for a bit, or to stand. That’s why having your zones planned out ahead and on the computer one the handlebars in front of you makes life so much easier. No trying to determine what 8.25% of 166 is. No having to look at your wrist while peddling from a standing position.
I found a six dollar phone clamp at the hardware store that attaches to my spin bike handle. I use it to watch my Sufferfest videos that are all uploaded to a google drive folder. I use wireless headphones to further streamline the process.
That’s it. There you have it, the poor man’s workaround to the super expensive training hardware/software “solutions” that are out there. Incidentally, there are some free videos on Youtube that use much of the same type of content as Sufferfest. The Vegan Cyclist, and CTXC Videos are two that come to mind, but there are others.
A final benefit to think about is that if you stream the video portion to say a laptop or TV, then multiple people can train at once. My friend Tim and I used to train together, even though he was ten years younger. Because his max heart rate was ten points higher than mine, and he personalized his workouts to his zones on his own device, we could ride at different levels and get workouts tailored to ourselves.