For page one of this weight loss and fitness journey, please click here.
Diet and Weight Loss Journal Page 2
Let’s start off with a brief recap.
I’m a 51 year old male who has fought a lifelong battle with weight. Most of the time it was a pretty one-sided battle. I’ve never been a fast food junkie, in fact I’ve always eaten pretty well. But I’ve always eaten too much, exercised too little, and consumed too much alcohol to ever sustain a successful lifestyle change.
I gave up alcohol January 1 2014 and slowly….read VERY slowly, started to implement some basic lifestyle changes with a view to losing weight and keeping it off.
I’ve been quite successful and hit a 242 lb milestone on May 1. (A 38LB loss in weight with fairly minimal effort and sacrifice).
At the end of May I was still very much struggling to stay physically active. My knees and hips, particularly on my left side, were extremely sore and prone to collapsing under my bulk! – a consequence of carrying around too much weight for too long.
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June for me presented my second real psychological challenge. The first had been to make a sacrifice, which I talked about towards the start of this journey.
I’d wanted to make a commitment by removing something from my life which had been an ever-present, something which was also an impediment to getting my heath and fitness in order. I chose alcohol. It could’ve been chocolates, bread or something else. But I really wanted to kill several birds with the same stone. Alcohol, when consumed in sufficient quantities, diminishes your capacity for rational thought and reduces your willpower. It changes your body chemistry physically to were you demand certain post-drinking fixes which are not good for you. The morning after a few drinks my body would demand that I soften the effects of over-indulgence by feeding my system with carbs and fried foods.
Boy does a fried egg and bacon sandwich taste good after a night on the town.
So I quit, it was easy, and I’ve never looked back.
My second hurdle was the frail state of my joints, specifically my left side hip an knee, but also a left side shoulder which seemed perpetually painful whenever I lifted anything heavier than a pint glass of beer. I’d convinced myself, and remain true to this conviction, that my aches and pains were all weight related. But since exercise was key to my progress, these more serious joint problems became a serious hurdle that I had to overcome.
I was sure that if I could relieve the pressure on my knee and hip by reducing my body mass, they would repair themselves and become non-issues.
So I needed to quit the power-walking and short-distance jogging, and replace them both with something low-impact. I chose cycling.
Cycling has been a blessing. I started out riding a few miles per day on reasonably flat roads. I’m fortunate that my area has a number of quiet lanes and routes which don’t involve dealing with cars, pedestrians and other wannabe cyclists.
Not only is cycling good exercise it’s good for the soul. And of course, it’s good for weight loss too. It’s a good way to burn up calories quickly, build leg muscle, improve fitness and stamina, raise your metabolism (at work and at rest), and get air into your lungs and oxygen into your system.
Fitness / Working Out / Exercise
I want to spend time going over some fitness basics and hopefully equipping you with some ideas and motivation on how to embrace exercise more comprehensively into your lifestyle.
Exercise is important in so many ways. It isn’t just about burning calories for weight loss, it’s about feeling good, feeling healthy and functioning properly both mentally and physically.
The first thing you should give thought to is differentiating between exercise and working out. The two are very different and should be approached differently.
Exercise is simply moving around at a higher rate than your normal activity would have you move at, it is NOT the same thing as ‘working out’. It isn’t necessary to go out of your way to exercise, whereas a ‘workout’ requires a change in schedule. This is an important differentiation.
There needn’t be anything particularly difficult or strenuous about exercise, that’s not to say that it’s any less important than a workout.
Exercise should be something you do each day, regardless of how you feel. On the days you are recovering from a workout, you should still take the time to exercise.
Here’s a few obvious ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine –
- Park the car 3 miles from the office and walk the final leg of the journey. Walk back to the car after work.
- Need a quart of milk from the grocery store? Walk and get it.
- Forget the elevator at work and at the mall, walk the stairs.
- Need a new mower? Forget the riding mowers, buy a push mower and haul some ass.
- Car looking a bit sad? Forget the drive-through car wash, buy a bucket and wash / wax the thing yourself.
Can you see a pattern forming? Just examine things you do on a daily basis and work out ways of modifying them slightly to incorporate exercise. If you want to formalize things so they become over and above what you might consider normal activities, then they become workouts.
You can do whatever you prefer to do, to workout. I recommend you think carefully about an approach that suits your specific needs, and consult with a personal trainer if that’s something you have access to.
We all come in different sizes, shapes and physical conditions, so I dislike trying to impose a training regimen on a person who I’ve never met.
Of course, whatever you do you need to be sure that you’re healthy enough to do it first, so involve your health practitioner before signing up for something that might end in disaster!
As a rule of thumb your workouts should involve a good blend of cardio work and strength building. At the start you might be tempted to do more cardio than strength in a effort to burn calories and lose weight. But you need to make sure that you don’t burn off too much muscle, balancing strength training with cardio workouts will help you retain and ultimately develop muscle mass.
Obviously with cardio workouts I’m referencing things like jogging, power-walking, cycling, treadmills, swimming etc, and with strength training things like weights and floor exercises.
I chose cycling because that’s what I felt most comfortable with. Cycling is a great way to get fit and healthy and lose weight. It’s something that crosses the line from a workout to a recreational pastime, so mentally it doesn’t require special efforts and forces to get you into the saddle. It becomes a pleasure to ride.
A few tips about cycling.
Find yourself a bike that fits. Choose a bike suited to the type of riding you intend to do. Maintain it well and you’ll ride problem-free and at little recurring cost. [For a good blog on a novice approach to cycling – Fat Bikes / Mountain Bikes / Road Bikes and more]
I made do with a woman’s mountain bike for the first few weeks, and it was just fine. But as my distances increased and I passed the point where this was merely a fad, I knew an investment into a good bicycle was in order.
Since 95% of my riding was on the road, I considered a road / touring bike as a replacement for the MTB (Mountain Bike). I decided against it for a few good reasons.
1 – MTB’s are harder to pedal, they require more physical effort than a road bike. The difference can be as much as 30%, depending on the effects of wind resistance. With a road bike you have a more crouched riding position and are more aerodynamic. Also, road bike tires are narrower in profile than MTB tires and run with less friction and resistance. So surely this is making the case for a road bike? NO! I didn’t want an easy ride, I wanted a workout. I didn’t want to get from A to B in the fastest possible time, I wanted to get there having burned the most calories.
Additionally, MTB’s are less prone to pick up flats and are generally more comfortable and more durable.
So I bought a nice GT Timberline 2.0 with 24 gears and 29″ wheels, a good fit for my 6′ 4″ size.
Lesson learned – don’t be deterred if you can’t afford one of those fancy carbon fiber lightweight cycles from the local bike shop. My wife’s Schwinn was $129 for K-Mart and worked great! It’s really all you need to get started. When you get to the point where you want to start to enter local charity rides and events, you can think about a more ‘stylish’ ride. Until then, get yourself down to the store, or get on Craigslist, and buy yourself a well-fitting bike!
2 – Carry what you need, even on shorter rides. I bought a small zipper bag that attaches to the underside of the seat, and invested in a spare tube, repair kit, tire lever etc. I added a rear-view handlebar mirror, which I deem to be essential for riding safely, a water bottle and a support for my iPhone.
That’s really all you need to know. For the more enthusiastic riders, which I have become, there’s a great iPhone app called ‘MapMyWalk’, which works via GPS and record your cycle routes. It will show you distance traveled, time riding, average speed, split speeds and calories burned.
During the entire month of June and through the first couple weeks of July, I was somewhat disappointed in the progress in my fitness. I’d started out riding around 10 miles per day, around a 45 minute ride duration, and over a period of a few weeks, got my average distance up to around 18 miles. I was riding 5 or 6 days per week. I felt I should be doing more, riding longer, faster, feeling less tired etc.
The key to taking my fitness levels higher was taking adequate rest-days between rides. If you’re riding hard, you need to give your muscles time to recover. I was pushing hard, trying for improved circuit times and pushing the distance. My muscles felt fine the day after a ride, but it wasn’t until I took four consecutive days as rest days that my muscle aches and pains actually kicked-in! After which I felt better, was able to ride longer and harder and recover quicker.
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