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One Month Assessment!

I’ve been doing this training blog for one month (started on April 6, 2008) and I thought now would be as good a time as any to assess my goals and progress.

First, I’d just like to say thank you to all of you readers who have read my daily progress reports, have given me encouragement and motivation and feedback and valuable advice. I couldn’t have made it this far without you.

OK, let’s take a look at my goals from a month ago, and the progress I’ve made on each:

My overall goal is just to get myself in good shape for my honeymoon in late June, and then after that to prepare for my 3rd marathon in December. Progress: I’ve been exercising almost every single day and eating pretty healthy in the last month. I’ve added triathlon training to my running and weight lifting and feel fitter than ever. I’ve lost an inch or two on my waist and about 5 lbs so far, though my weight has plateaued a bit. I really feel fitter than I was a month ago and feel like I’ll be seeing even more results in the next few weeks.

My sub-goals:

1. Start and stick to a regular strength training routine. I’m going to do 2 full-body workouts a week, just 6 exercises: bench press, standing rows, shoulder presses, pullups, bicep curls and squats. I might add deadlifts and dips later, and maybe a 3rd day per week once I’ve gotten into the habit (after 3 weeks maybe). Progress: I’ve stuck to this strength training routine extremely well so far, doing more than 4 weeks of this schedule. I’ve gone from one set per exercise to four (starting today) and have increased the weights for each exercise. I also feel stronger than ever. This is my longest ever to stick with a weight routine!

2. Build my running back up to a decent level. My focus won’t be on running, but I’d like to have a decent base (maybe 30 miles per week eventually) before I start my marathon training. I’ll also do a faster workout once a week, to increase fat burning and to get me in good shape for some shorter races I’ll be doing for the next few months. Progress: I’ve not only built my running back up to a decent level (20+ miles per week and still increasing), but have started doing hills/speedwork once a week and am feeling strong on the run. Also, not in the original plan, but I’ve begun triathlon training and am doing more cardio than ever before. I feel amazing!

3. Eat lightly. I’ll go into more detail on this in a future post, but I’ve created my own meal plan, and will be eating 4-5 times per day, about 300-400 calories per meal. Sometimes a little more. Eat when I’m lightly hungry (instead of ravenous), eat slowly, eat until I’m lightly full (not stuffed), eat light foods (not heavy). Allow myself to cheat a couple meals per week. Progress: I have definitely been eating more often, and eating less per meal, and eating healthy foods for the most part. The cheat meals haven’t been too bad, and while I haven’t stuck exactly to the meal plan, I think my eating has been really good in the last month. I eat when I’m hungry and don’t starve myself, but don’t stuff myself either — very healthy eating style.

4. Stay accountable. I will be trying to post daily (or so) here on this training blog, as well as keeping a public training and eating log on FitDay. Progress: I’ve posted reports each day (though I was late on a couple) so I’ve been pretty much perfect here. And while I don’t use FitDay anymore, I’ve switched to the much better The Daily Plate (see my diary) and have been logging faithfully every day. The accountability of this log and this blog have really helped keep me on track. Thanks everyone!

Overall Assessment

As you can see from my progress on each sub-goal above, I’ve been doing great on every account — overall fitness, strength training, running, eating healthy, and staying accountable. I’ve also added swimming and biking and am having a blast!

A few indicators:

  1. Weight: Started at 189.5 and have dropped to 185.5. While my weight loss has leveled off, I think the overall loss is decent and the plateau is probably temporary.
  2. Waist: Started at 38 inches, down to 36 inches as of today. Hooray!
  3. Strength: Went from 1 set of light weights to 4 sets of heavier weights.
  4. Running: Went from running 4x a week, 13 miles a week (my first week) to running 5x a week and 21 miles a week (last week).
  5. Overall exercise: Went from 6 workouts in a week the first week, total of 2 hrs 40 mins, to 11 workouts last week for a total of 8 hours and 20 minutes! That’s an increase of more than 3 times my total exercise minutes!

I’m obviously very happy with the last month and hope to just continue the exercise I’ve been doing and continue my healthy eating. I will continue to progress gradually with all four sports (weights, running, cycling, swimming) but will obviously not make the same kind of increases in total exercise time. If I just continue my schedule, I should do well over the next month.

Thanks everyone for your encouragement!

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This is a story of success from one reader of this blog, Mike of the Strong Links blog. I asked him to share his story and I’m reposting it here for inspiration for us all! Here it is, in Mike’s words:

April of 2007 I was 240 lbs and about 23% body fat. I’m in the Navy so those numbers just won’t cut it. I would have failed my body composition test.

I went to the gym one day for my unit PT and nobody was there (I was at the wrong gym, I was new to the command). So I decided to go into the weight room and lift some weights. For some reason I was addicted after that. It wasn’t my first time lifting, so it wasn’t something new, I don’t know what it was.

So I started looking for routines on line to follow and found some great websites. I pretty much became a “student of the game” so to speak. I started reading more about nutrition and exercise and trying to apply the things I was learning. The more I learned the more I tweaked things until I got everything dialed in just how I wanted it.

The progress was slow but was steady for the most part. There were a few times when I got discouraged and wanted to quit after not seeing progress for a couple of weeks, but I just had to keep reminding myself that health and fitness is a marathon not a sprint. Eventually I got to the point where I was pretty happy with my body and the way I felt.

In December 07 when I finished dieting down I was 195 lbs. and about 12% body fat. From then I’ve been trying to put on some more muscle. I’ve realized that I muffed the gaining muscle thing so I’m going to try to lose the extra fat I’ve gained and kind of reboot. Plus it won’t hurt to drop a little fat for summer. So that’s my story. Nothing amazing, and nothing that isn’t attainable but anybody else.

I’ve enjoyed reading the blog. Keep up the good work. I’m going to try to launch my personal blog to keep track of my own fitness journey soon. So keep an eye out for that. Have a great weekend.

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In the comments of yesterday’s post, reader Ben asked about how to get started getting in shape if you’re overweight, sedentary, and not eating often enough. I thought I’d turn my response into a post for those who might miss it but might be interested:

My advice for you, Ben? It’s weird because I was recently where you are — a bit overweight (I was actually at 220, just under 6 feet), sedentary, not eating often enough. The thing that started my improvement was exercise. Start there, and the healthy eating will follow.

Here’s how:

  1. Start small — just 10 minutes of walking/jogging or cycling at a time, 3 times a week.
  2. Get a workout partner who will be as committed as you will be.
  3. Tell as many people about it as possible, and stay accountable to them, either through email or on a blog or on an online forum (or all three).
  4. Stick with this program as long as possible, slowly increasing the amount of time you exercise. After awhile, increase the number of days you exercise to 4 and then 5.
  5. Soon you’ll want to eat better — do that in small, gradual steps. It’s a lifestyle change, and it feels amazing!

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In the comments of yesterday’s post, Jacqui asked the excellent question, wondering if I am undereating:

Isn’t your average man supposed to take in about 2,500 calories? And then if you are running a whole lot on top of that, then surely around 1,700 is a pretty serious calorie deficit.

That’s a great question, because it’s a real problem with people who are trying to lose weight, especially runners and people doing other types of sports and cutting back on calories. It’s also a question I can’t answer definitively, and will have to monitor myself closely every day to really answer.

First, the caloric requirements: while it’s true that many men need 2,500 calories, every calorie calculator I’ve used says that a 34-year-old man who is 5’11” (I’m actually in between 5’11” and 6’0″ I think) and 190 lbs (I’m 186.6 this morning!) needs 1900 calories, just living everyday life. That’s the level I’d have to eat to maintain my current weight. Edit: I should add that when I started losing weight, my caloric requirement was actually 2,500, as I was more than 30 lbs. heavier at the time.

If you add running and other exercise, that number goes up. If I run three miles (my level this week, as I’m recovering from the marathon), you can add nearly 400 calories to that number — let’s say 2280 for that day. Strength training is less, especially as I’m starting really light. When I start to run more, I will need more calories to maintain my weight — some days I burn off 1,000-2,000 calories in a run.

However, as I’m looking not to maintain my weight but lose weight, I am aiming for a calorie deficit. It’s the only way to lose weight. More specifically, I’m looking to lose fat, but you can’t lose only fat — you always lose some combination of fat, muscle, and other tissue. I hope it’ll be mostly fat, and I’m hoping that my strength training will help ensure that I’m retaining muscle and losing fat, but it’s never 100% fat.

How big of a calorie deficit should I have? Every article I’ve read says that you should aim for 1-2 lbs. a week if you’re trying to lose weight, and no more. There might be an exception for people who are really large, but in general you shouldn’t lose to much as that can be unsafe and unhealthy. So 1-2 lbs. a week averages out to a deficit of about 500-1,000 calories each day (you need to have a deficit of 3,500 calories to burn a pound of fat, so 3,500 for one week would be 500 per day). That’s my goal.

So if I don’t exercise, I would try to only eat 900-1,400 per day, as my non-exercise maintenance requirement is 1,900, right? Well, not really. Experts say that men need to take in a minimum of 1,500 calories a day, or they probably aren’t getting enough nutrients (for women, the minimum is 1,200 per day). So I can’t drop below that number. I’m aiming for about 1,600-1,800 on non-exercise days. On days when I run, I can eat a little more, and when I run a lot, I need to eat more. Yesterday, I took in 1,700 calories but only burned like 50 in exercise for a total of 1,950 — that’s a deficit of 250, or a little less than my goal, but that’s OK. I don’t have to hit the goal every single day.

But we should also remember that most of these numbers are generalizations. Two people of the same calorie requirements can eat exactly the same foods and do exactly the same exercise and not lose weight the same way. So I need to really monitor myself to make sure that I’m not undereating. I also am monitoring my protein intake and fat intake to ensure that they’re adequate.

How will I monitor myself to make sure I’m not undereating? Several ways:

  • Make sure my calorie intake isn’t below 1,600 each day.
  • See how my energy is during the day — logs are good for this.
  • Monitor myself closely during exercise for fatigue, sluggishness, etc.
  • Monitor my weight loss — not daily, but weekly — ensure that I’m not losing more than 2 lbs. a week on average. I may lose more than 2 lbs. in one week, but if that trend continues for more than a week, I’m probably undereating.

If I notice any problems with any of the above, I’ll make adjustments. That’s the benefit of having a log.

And another key: I have you guys! People who show concern, like Jacqui, will keep me honest and make sure that I remember to monitor myself. Thanks Jacqui and everyone else who’s helping me along the way!

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