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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

HealthQuest 2008 - January

I've settled into a great 3-day per week exercise routine over the month of January, and I've been trying to manage what, when, and how much I eat. So far, I'm having lots of success with the exercise, but I think I have some tweaking to do with my eating. Here's the January breakdown:

Exercise

Cycling 2wice per week
At first, it was frustrating trying to hit the gym because the parking situation at the fieldhouse is ridiculous unless you pay the ungodly amount for a parking pass. Instead, I try to get one of the dozen or so parking meters. I've found that it usually isn't problematic to get a meter on Mondays - my first cycling session of the week -, but on Thursdays, it's nigh impossible to get a spot unless you happen to enter the lot just as someone else is leaving. I think everyone is trying to fit in their exercise before the weekend. On two separate Thursdays, I found myself vulturing over a couple pedestrians headed to their cars. Both times, the peds got in their car and shuffled around a bit only to exit a minute later and return to the fieldhouse, but not before giving me one of those Nelson Ha-Ha looks. Jerks. So I've finally resigned myself to getting dropped off and picked up on Thursdays instead of irritating myself in the parking lot. I look forward to spring so that I can dispense with the parking charade altogether and walk to the gym instead. The 12-minute walk is a great warm-up and cool-down.

On the bikes, I've been doing 30-minute manual resistance sessions, instead of the pre-programmed sessions. I prefer to have control over the routine, and be able to mix it up based on how I'm feeling. But I still try to push myself, either by turning up the resistance slowly over several minutes, or by keeping the resistance stable but increasing my cadence every 20 or 40 seconds. I've also tried to do a few standing routines, but I haven't figured out if the bikes can go to a resistance higher than 21, which is only just barely comfortable for standing. If I can figure out how to increase the resistance even more, I'll start doing jumps (rapidly alternating between standing an sitting for a number of pedal rotations) and standing climbs (slowly increasing the resistance while standing). And I'm finally feeling comfortable enough at 30 minutes, that I think I'll start increasing my sessions in 5-minute increments. So I'll go up to 35-minutes tomorrow.

Yoga 1nce per week
I'm taking an awesome yoga class through the community education in my area. If you've never taken advantage of community education classes, I suggest you do so. My class is only $45 for 8 weekly 1-hour sessions - a great price for yoga - and luckily I have a very good instructor, who tries to challenge you but let you go at your own level at the same time. My flexibility is getting better, and I'm strengthening muscles I didn't even know I had. Yoga is great for balancing, breathing, strengthening, stretching, and it really does make you feel a little more zen when it's over. I bought an inexpensive illustrated book called Om Yoga that provides a week's worth of daily routines, complete with explanations of what to focus on during a particular pose. I plan to study the book, which is already somewhat familiar to me since I've been doing this class, and then implement the routines over the summer, once my yoga class is over.

Exercise Results
Since I'm no longer weighing myself, I have to gauge my progress in different ways. I have noticed a definite increase in energy over the month, and while I don't think I have lost too much fat yet, I have noticed a small difference in the way my clothes are fitting, and I've definitely noticed increased tone in my muscles, particularly in my legs and abs. I should probably try adding a little weight lifting to give my arms a chance to get stronger, although yoga is helping with that.

The same time last year, I'd already stopped going to the gym, but now I look forward to going. Last year, I was making things harder on myself by trying to go to the gym every day before I went to work. This was suicide for two reasons: (1) I am SOOO not a morning person, and (2) going everyday is unrealistic, especially in the beginning. This year, I go after work, which is actually a great stress reliever, and I know that I get a few days to rest in between visits, so it's much easier to feel ready to go back. So right now, my motivation is high, and my attitude is very positive.


Eating

Small lunch, long lunchtime
Planning ahead on your meals is very important. My best strategy so far has been to bring a small, healthy lunch to work. That way I don't have to decide on the fly what to eat each day, and therefore I'm not as tempted to make unhealthy choices. If my lunch is already prepared, then that is what I eat, no questions asked. That's a good start, but there's more to it: I eat my lunch throughout the workday, bit by bit. So maybe I'll have a granola bar with my tea in the morning, and then two hours or so later I'll have an apple, then a yogurt, some cheese, and maybe some jerky. The idea is to stave off hunger - not to achieve fullness. As long as I don't feel hungry, I have no reason to ravenously stuff my face. If I happen to eat all the items of my lunch and still feel hungry, then I've sometimes walked to the gas station to get something else. But most of the time, I actually don't finish everything. I know that I'd be more likely to finish everything if I ate it all at once, because there is a delay between eating and feeling full. So if you look for that feeling of fullness, you will probably eat too much.

This has been a great technique, but the only roadblock for me has been that sometimes I don't get my grocery shopping done in time to have everything I need, and then I'm left with having to decide on the fly, and not being able to eat throughout the day. So my goal is to make sure Sunday nights that I have my lunch items prepared for the week.

Not shunning my guilty pleasures, just reducing them
You are just asking to fail if you completely deny yourself of your vices. My main vices are chocolate, Coca-Cola, and candy. So the goal is to allow myself to have these things, but to try to say no to them more often than not. I could probably do better on saying no to the chocolate and candy, but I've made terrific progress on the Coke front. I used to be an at-least-one-coke-a-day kind of girl. Now I will have maybe 1 or 2 per week, and only in the evening. One day I had one at work, and it completely ruined my appetite for my healthy lunch items. So I sacrificed the nutrition of my lunch for the empty calories of my coke. Since then, I've stayed away from coke during the day, and only have my tea in the morning and water in the afternoon. At night, I will sometimes have a coke, but oftentimes I will have more tea, milk, or some beer.


Eating Results
My appetite is definitely more under control. I don't feel ravenously hungry all day, and I've been able to feel satisfied with smaller portion sizes. I still have a mighty sweet tooth, though, so my goal for the next month is to reign that in some more. I also need to do more to make sure I'm making healthy choices in the evening, and not just at work.




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