Saturday, July 12, 2008

30x40: Week of 7/7 Progress

THE FIRST WEEK OF MEASURING my progress in the 30x40 challenge has concluded. Though I didn't lose the pound I'd hoped to drop, I did overcome the birthday–July 4th week of celebratory consumption, and I met most of the goals I set for myself this past week. If you're willing to sit through a shitload of solipsistic fitness minutiae, read on.

Last weekend, I wrote these goals on the whiteboard on my front door:
  • Perfect gym attendance from 7/7 through 7/12
  • 7/8: Begin tracking meals and calories
  • Weigh self daily
  • Improve dinner choices
  • Fish oil every day
  • TARGET WEIGHT 7/12: 227
  • Blog progress + KEEP WRITING!
Here's how I did:

Gym attendance: The only day on which I didn't go was Monday, 7/7. I had that day off, and I was slated to volunteer down at WFMU with a shipment of Marathon prizes. My plan had been to wake up very early, then either hit the gym and cruise down to Jersey City at leisure, or head straight down to Hoboken, walk around Manhattan for a few early-morning hours, then PATH to Exchange Place and nearby WFMU.

As it turned out, Sunday night ran past my usual bedtime, and the combination of the late, large meal at my parents', and the next day being a day off, led me to stay up longer than I'd planned. I slept fitfully due to the heat, and when I arose, dawn was a grim smear of sun wanly struggling through thick haze. I ditched both plans to catch up on sleep and set my sights on the last train to Hoboken. Walking to that train through the soupy air was a challenge. I'd gained a couple of fat pounds between my birthday and July 4th, and I felt them in my breathing and pace, which — when I'd been a regular NYC commuter and did this walk twice a day — was more peppy. FMU's volunteer room was very stuffy, so hitting the gym upon my return to a nightmarishly hot apartment was out of the question.

For the rest of the week, I was on target. The Monday skip pushed my workout schedule forward, so I got muscle workouts in on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, with a night visit for 40 minutes of cardio on Thursday. The heat during the week peaked on Wednesday, and once again it took some time for my apartment that night to cool down to a sleep-friendly level. So I bumped the Thursday morning cardio to the evening. Today will be the second half of the total two-day muscle routine that is usually scheduled for Friday. I'll go in the late afternoon when the foot traffic is thinner and I have a couple of healthful meals in me. Flexibility and consistency trump guilt when these sorts of diversions occur, and my failure in the past was to let such diversions discourage me long enough for progress to unravel.

Tracking meals and calories: Easier than last time. When I ate at home, I entered the information right into Excel, relying on several pre-typed lines of caloric and nutritional info to speed the job. Because I bring my meals to work, on two mornings, I was able to cue up the info for those meals even before leaving the apartment. The rest of the days, I kept notes at work.

Wednesday and Friday nights, and Friday afternoon, involved meals not so easy to parse into their component elements. My mom invited me over for stir-fry Wednesday night, from which I knew I'd be taking home leftovers, which became Friday's lunch. In both cases, I made note in my Excel chart of the food I'd eaten, but — as will be the case for Sunday night dinners — didn't knock myself out trying to match calories and nutrients to the food. Ditto with the wonderfully generous spread Dave and Julia offered their guests last night. No way I'm missing that. It was enough to know what I'd eaten, and to keep myself accountable to what I'd need to do the next day at the gym to counteract the off-program eating. This way there's no looking back and saying, "Why did I feel so slow and fat Thursday morning?" The answer is right there on the weekly menu and the exercise log.

I learned that I was going to have to eat more, if you can believe it. I mentioned earlier this week only hitting 1477 out of the planned 2200 calories. I think the first two days of planned eating cost me some muscle, because my weight bottomed out at 225.5 on 7/11/08, to rebound to 228 after a weightlifting day and considerably more protein. Those seeking to control body fat by mixing cardiovascular exercise and weight training are best served by not starving themselves. Muscles need clean protein, though the challenge is to get enough of it while controlling bad fats. That will be one of next week's goals.

Weigh self daily: No problem there. Also thinking about adding a weekly waist:hip ratio measure to assess body fat. Perhaps another good goal for next week.

Improve dinner choices: Much better this time around. Sunday night dinner had the benefit of putting two roast chicken breast halves in my fridge, so I had clean protein for dinner two nights of the week, which I paired with broccoli and salad. I also made chili Thursday night for next week and beyond, for which I wrote down the nutritional values so I can make a quick entry on the chart for each measured serving I pull out of the freezer. Might pair them with brown rice, but I have to find one that reheats well; I'd make four servings' worth and store it in the fridge to apportion over the week.

I'm also thinking of grilling meat at my parents' house Sunday afternoons and using them over the week for dinner. I do have a Foreman grill, but even with the specially designed sponges, cleaning it is a bitch, and nothing matches real charcoal grilling. (Though I admit I'm a wood man.) If I can get over there earlier, grill three or four nights' worth of lean meat (maybe even throw this in marinade on Saturday), I'd preplan a big chunk of the week's dinner choices and only have to worry about the veggies.

Fish oil every day: Missed two days. It's tougher to remember this one, because I take the capsule right before bed (unlike my vitamins, which go down with the morning smoothie), and I store them in the freezer (a tip: by the time they melt, they're past the point of repeating on you and giving you "fish burps"). Will put up a reminder next to my alarm clock.

Target weight: 227: At 228 this morning, down from 232.5 last Monday, I give myself partial credit for at least dropping the extra fat I'd gained the week prior. I just need to monitor the good protein, especially on weight-training days, to keep my body from cannibalizing itself. The goal is to lose .57 lb./week. My scale is only sensitive to the half-pound, so if I'm really somewhere between 228 and 227.5 right now, and I watch the food numbers and keep hitting the gym on schedule, perhaps I will meet that goal come next Saturday. Anything extra will be a bonus unless, as with early this week, it's traceable to low calories or protein in particular.

Log progress and keep writing: Res ipsa loquitur.

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