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Posts Tagged ‘Fitocracy’

A lot is going to happen in my life in the next 90 days. I will complete my internship year at Coatesville. I will be extremely close, if not finished with my dissertation. I will almost be graduated with my PsyD. Maggie and I will be packing to move or have already moved to…somewhere. I will tackle P90X.

Internship has been a great experience overall. I have grown so much this year and learned a lot about myself professionally. Admittedly I was slow to adapt to the program and had to relearn a couple of things, but my professional confidence continues to grow and I feel like I’m making a difference in the lives of many veterans.

My dissertation is stressing me out. I need 4 more participants and I am working to find them wherever I can. If you are yourself or know a gay male college student in the Philly area who might be interested in participating in my research on the coming out process, send me an email (jschwenker@spalding.edu) for details. Once I have the last 4 I can pull all my data together, analyze it, write it up, and get on defending to my committee. I’m ready to move this process along since my proposal was accepted by ISTSS for discussion at the 2012 conference in Los Angeles. Yay!!!

I’m not sure what our future holds. Everything is once again up in the air (or perhaps it has always been there). We’re currently stuck in PA paying really high rent while I scour the nation for a job or post doc that will take me ABD. Looking forward to a time when I can count on just a little bit more stability.

Finally, I have decided to tackle P90X. After 2 years of consideration and a lot of procrastination, I will begin the program next week. I’ve been auditioning the workouts the past couple of weeks, doing one to the best of my ability and taking a day or 2 off to recover. They’re difficult. No question. And I don’t think I would have made it through Plyo without having spent the last 90 days running and building up my stamina and leg strength. Plyo was rough, but I think the real challenges for me are going to be Abs, pull ups, and yoga.

I plan to approach this the same way that I did my running and, to borrow a phrase from Tony Horton, “do my best and forget the rest.” My goal is to complete the program. Do each routine from start to finish. Do all of the exercises. There are some exercises where I can keep up with Tony and the gang. There are others where I absolutely cannot, and that’s fine. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I may not be able to do 25 of each type of crunch, but I am sure I can manage 10 and work my way up. The same goes for other exercises. I can do more than half of what they’re doing and work toward matching for the moment.

I plan on tracking my progress here for each of the phases (tracking my measurements anyway and maybe a few pics). I will be tracking my daily progress on Fitocracy now that I’ve managed to translate the P90X exercises into Fitocracy’s language. I have my calendar marked and my worksheets printed. I take my initial measurements tomorrow (Sunday) morning and I start fresh on Monday after work. All that is left is to do the work and stay focused, which applies to more than just my exercise.

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I completed my goal today of running 30+ minutes a day for 90 consecutive days. It has done exactly what I expected it to do: make fitness a priority. I had to change lots of behaviors in order for this to work and I kept it going even on days when I felt I couldn’t. Regardless of how the numbers come out, that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

As part of making running and exercise a habit, I had to first claim about an hour a day for those purposes. When I sleep for (ideally) 8 hours and work for 8 hours and drive for ~1 hour, that leaves me with ~7 hours to fill. Many things compete for those hours including work and school responsibilities, chores, leisure, additional travel, hygiene, and food. It was also very hard for me to get started on a workout when I don’t begin immediately upon returning home from work. I don’t have the discipline to do a workout before work, so after work was good. When it comes down to it, there was no excuse as long as I planned accordingly.

Stretching is also important. I have a brief routine now, but when I began I didn’t stretch enough and later I did a lot of extraneous stretching that took up more time (which I later converted into actual workouts by adding weights). Now I have about 6 standard stretches that I do before and after a run that take up about 5 minutes of time.

I met with some setbacks as well. Due to the nature of this goal, I left myself no off days. I augmented my running with time on the elliptical so that I could “run” without the footstrike. This helped me battle shinsplints and rest up between actual runs. As shinsplints got worse, I used the elliptical more. This was mixed blessing because I can run faster and longer on this machine, which gives me a false sense of accomplishment. Still, there’s something to be said for the confidence I got–false or otherwise.

The community on Fitocracy has been wonderfully supportive. Getting props and encouragement from people who are also working on fitness and running was very helpful. I learned a lot about stretching, running, barefoot running, training, resting, etc. It was also very humbling knowing that my personal best on any given day is someone else’s warmup.

I’m also very happy about the support I received from friends/family on Facebook. My RunKeeper app updates to FB automatically, so people see my progress each day and comment there as well. Between Fitocracy and Facebook, that’s about as close as I’ve gotten to having a running buddy, though I’m sure one day I’ll share the road with a dog 🙂

I started this goal to make fitness a weekly part of my life. Research shows that doing an activity daily for 90 days helps to change your behavior and instill a new habit or routine. Most exercise programs capitalize on this and Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous encourage attending 90 meetings in 90 days when first beginning to maintain sobriety. Now that I’ve completed this goal, it is time to consider my next goal(s).

I have yet to complete a trufax 5K or 10K. Those are definitely on my list. I also want to complete P90X, but I have a ways to go for that. I plan to take a week off to rest my legs before I do anything. During that week I’ll give some thought to what I’d like to do next. Once my legs are better and I can get 2-3 good runs in at a consistent 30 minutes without too much injury (still working on form) I’ll sign up and do my first 5K.

As for P90X, I need to meet the minimum requirements before I begin. I’ve finished P90 and done several weeks of P90M, but that was over 2 years ago. I plan to push myself with the Ab Ripper routines and do an amalgamation of P90 and P90M exercises over the course of 1-2 months to work my way up to the P90X minimum on the fit test (see below). I’m still out of shape, but I’m better off than I was 90 days ago 🙂

So, for now, rest and recuperation. Starting in about a week I will alternate running with general workouts at our local gym to build up strength with the goal of passing the P90X fit test. From there, I’ll start P90X for reals and run as often as time (and my body) allows.

I’ll take any/all advice and well wishing in the comments section (for the half dozen of you who read my blog). I’m excited about completing my goal, but I’m also excited about starting a new one.

STATS:

Running total from 90 day goal:

231.46 miles | 49:20 h:m | 13:15 avg pace | 35,829 calories | 12.0 lbs lost

Past measurements from P90/P90M exercise (circa 5/31/10)

  • Weight = 207 lbs
  • Waist = 39.5 in
  • Neck = 16 in
  • Thighs = 24 in
  • Biceps = 14.5 in
Current measurements (7/7/12):
  • Weight = 200.0 lbs
  • Body Fat = 26.4%
  • Waist = 38.5 in
  • Belly = 45.0 in
  • Hips = 42.0 in
  • Neck = 16.0 in
  • Chest = 43.0 in
  • Thighs =21.0 in
  • Calves = 16.0 in
  • Biceps = 13.75 in

P90X Fit Test goals:

  • Pull ups = 3
  • Push ups = 15
  • Wall Squat = 1 minute
  • Bicep Curls = 10 reps x 20 lbs
  • In and Outs = 25
  • Jumping Jacks (heart rate) = 90 sec @ steady; 30 sec @ sprint
  • Vertical leap = 5 inches 
  • Toe touch = 6 inches from toes 

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One Month

I have finished one month of running 30+ minutes daily. I keep daily/weekly/overall updates on my running tab at the top of the page if you want to follow along with my progress.

Here’s the results for 1 month:

Miles Run | Total Time | Average Pace | Calories Burned | Overall Weight Loss

70.21 miles | 15:39 h:m | 14.10 avg pace | 10,701 calories | 6.2 lbs lost

Not too shabby. I’ve lost over 8lbs but I gained some back this week. I’m not sure what to think of that. My “fat %” as calculated by my scale says I’ve gone from 30% to 27% in the last month (I’ve been keeping an eye on it, but not tracking it per se). Maggie says my calves are looking bigger, so maybe I’ve gained some muscle? Also, I only track my weight on Sunday mornings, not daily.

Also, also, I kinda ate like crap this week. Gonna work on that.

So what have I learned in the first month (28 days)?

Be Flexible

Stretching is of course important. I’ve added several stretches to my routine since I started and they seem to be helping. But stretching is not the only way to be flexible. Some days when I want to run outside the weather is bad. Some days people are hogging all the machines in the gym. Some days I just don’t have enough energy to do the run I set out to do. I used to sweat this sort of thing, but that’s why I set such a simple goal of 30 minutes. The how doesn’t matter to me so much as the how long.

Run Early

The later in the day it gets, the less I feel like running. I haven’t tried to run in the mornings before work, but I try to do earlier runs on the weekends and I usually run as soon as I get home from work. It keeps me from waiting too long. In the past, if I waited too long, I didn’t do my workout. That’s still the case, though I’m committed to this goal.

Hills, hills, hills

As much as hills sound like no fun, I’m having fun with them. Weird, right? I see hills as a challenge when I’m running in the park. I run up them at a steady pace. If I’ve been walking a bit, I run up the next hill. Downhill is less fun. I feel like I’m getting away from myself and my shins hurt more when I descend than when I ascend. I’ve gotten some tips from other runners on this, but mostly I’m trying to increase my leg strength and manage leg fatigue. That’s where I get myself in trouble.

On the elliptical it is a different matter. The elliptical I run on has hill settings that go from 1-25. So far, for me, anything 12+ is a workout. I always set the elliptical to either random or hills to try to simulate actual elevation changes. Lately I’ve been using the elliptical less for running and more for strength training and low intensity. I can get in 30 minutes easy. It is nice because of the lack of footstrike and since I’m running daily (rather than taking a day off here and there) I can use the low intensity to still get a workout without tiring myself out or injuring myself.

What Next?

I have about 2 months to go. From here I’m going to start looking into more strength training for my legs through exercises and stretches. I’m going to pay more attention to my appetite/food portions and continue to eat more veggies. I am also going to look into alternate routes to mix things up a bit.

So that’s my first month. Wish me luck in the weeks to come. I’m thankfully injury free and I’ve gotten past much of my shin pain. Looking forward to 2 more months of good running.

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Several personal bests this week and the week isn’t even over.

First of all, I ran a 5K on Wednesday. Not an official 5K, mind you, but 3.11+ miles consecutively. I did it in about 45 minutes. I ran about 1.5 miles consecutively at around a 13 minute pace. To some that might not sound all that great, but for me that was fantastic. My usual pace is around a 17 minute mile (running at around a 10 minute pace followed by walking at about a 20 minute pace with more walking than running). My inner monologue went something like this:

Ok, just a little bit farther. Man my shins are doing great today. Why is everyone running faster than me? That doesn’t matter. Here comes a hill. Speed up and get it over with. Feeling good. I should keep going. Pet the dog. That’s a cute dog. Here comes the stretch. I miss playing baseball. I remember when I was that age. Watch out for the stroller. Almost there. Seriously?!?! A zombie chase NOW? You’ve got to be kidding me! On a hill when I’m already tired! Not gonna catch me this time. Whew, that sucked but it felt good. Slowing down a bit, but I can still do it. No need to walk when I feel like I can run. Aaaannnd there. That’s the longest I’ve run in one stretch before. New record. Feels good. I can do better than that. I bet I can make a full lap without stopping…

It went on like that. Lots of ADHD mental comments and lots of looking for landmarks to run to for little goals. Lamp post here. Mile marker there. Catch up to the lady and the tiny dog… You get the picture.

So, my second accomplishment was perseverance. My shins hurt at first, a bit like they usually did, but I ran through it. Little accomplishments felt good so I kept on going. Eventually the shins stopped hurting and I got more of a warm ache out of them. That lasted on and off through the run. I made a point of speeding up on the hills and my shins ached more at the top, but it was totally worth it. While it was a personal best for me, Fitocracy seemed to think it wasn’t worth as many points as my usual elliptical run. If I relied on a computer to pat me on the back I’d be waiting a long time.

Finally, I did a lot of zombie evading this week. I’m really enjoying the Zombies, Run! app for my phone and I’m happy with the update that uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to monitor your speed, thus allowing for zombie chases with exercise equipment (before it was only through GPS). I take them seriously, especially on the elliptical. When I hear zombies approaching, I make a point to run a lot faster on the elliptical, especially since the elliptical seems like a walk in the park (pun intended) to my other running. I’ve been playing around with hill settings and resistance and have essentially turned my time on the elliptical into strength training for legs. I’m trying to find a good match between resistance and pace to mimic my usual run as close as I can.

In closing, I’m feeling good about this goal. I’m nearly 3 weeks done and I’ve lost 8 lbs (prolly more once I weigh in on Sunday). I have 3 goals going on RunKeeper: 1) lose 20 lbs by Dec 1st, 2) complete a 5 mile run by July 31st, and 3) run 100 miles by July 9th. I’m making good progress on all 3.

Sending a good luck shout out to friend and fellow runner Bethney who is running a half marathon tomorrow. She’s been quite inspirational to me, even if I haven’t told her so personally.

Good luck Bethney!!!

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What music do you listen to when you run? What motivates you? I want to add to my Zombie Running Tunes playlist, so let me hear what you listen to (feel free to post a reply on FB since this gets published there and that’s prolly how a number of you got to reading this now).

A friend of mine led me to a runner’s site with several interesting articles (see my blogroll for a link to No Meat Athlete). Two of the articles are particularly pertinent to me and I thought I would take a moment to share.

10 Best Running Songs Ever

I know most of these and have a few on CD already. I tend to like rock music or something with a bit of a driving beat. Guitar is fun too and I’m giving serious thought to tracking down my Joe Satriani CDs to add them to iTunes. I’ve had good luck with my music so far. Certain songs have played at just the right time to motivate me. I’m sure there’s some research out there to support how motivating music is to exercise, but I’m too lazy (ha!) to track it down right now.

How to Avoid Shin Splints and Stress Fractures

As you likely know by now, I’m currently plagued with shin pain. I ran the elliptical today, rather than run in the gorgeous weather outside, because my shins started whining while I was at work. The elliptical is a good way for me to have a low impact (i.e., no footstrike) variable intensity workout and still get in my 30 minutes.

Anyway, this article gives some good tips on how to minimize shin pain from experience. Listed are 6 tips, of which I already do 3 regularly (the three that are the least effective, according to the author). I run on a paved track at the park when I’m not on the elliptical or treadmill. Perhaps I should consider running on the grass by the track for a little while and see how that goes. My only concern is that it is a less consistent surface, but hey, I’ve been running for a few months, so what do I know.

Minimizing hard workouts is something I started doing more regularly more recently. Being gung ho about exercising can make you ignore little things like safety and overworking your body. It is doubly important for me to pay attention to this since I’m committed to doing daily exercising, rather than taking a day off here and there.

As for pacing, that’s something I plan on starting as soon as I get back to running (prolly tomorrow or Saturday). It makes sense, but it might be a while before I can really run at that pace. I’m mostly going for run far, not too fast, rest occasionally.

Which is a great segue to food. I am trying to eat more healthily by cutting my portions down, eating snacks, and trying to eat stuff that’s food. Maggie turned me on to a simple phrase by Michael Pollan: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. He has talked about these “food rules” just about everywhere. If you didn’t already notice, I tried to adopt a similar idea to my running (more succinctly written above than in my last post). I don’t see the point in dieting by complicated rules and paying close attention to caloric intake. Too much hassle. Seven words is enough for me. He does go into more detail, like what constitutes food, but the gist is in those 7 words.

I am making steady progress on my goal. I’ve been getting encouragement and tips from friends on Facebook and from lots of people on Fitocracy. I’m feeling a lot better about stretching and have learned a few more exercises. I’ve also lengthened each exercise and/or added a rep to my stretch routine. It’s amazing what a difference a few more seconds makes.

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Week One

I have finished my first week of consecutive running. I have a bit of a system down now and it is looking more and more like a routine. I’ve been running with both Zombies, Run! and RunKeeper apps going simultaneously. Zombies runs for the game content and music (it’s quite motivational and fun) and RunKeeper tracks my stats (which you can see on my “Running” page by clicking on the tab at the top of my blog’s homepage).

Some things I’ve noticed this week are as follows. My shins are not happy with me, but I have learned a few extra stretches to calm them. I’m also taking aspirin before my runs (instead of after) and I’m icing them after my post-run stretch for about 5 minutes. It seems to be the foot strike that fires them up, as they don’t bother me at all on the elliptical. I ran 1/3 mile before walking today. That’s about as far as I can go before the shins become almost unbearable. I’m new to all of this so I’m not sure where the line between pain and injury is drawn. I feel like my calves and shins are getting stronger, but there are times after running, and occasionally in the mornings out of bed, that they ache. I’m calling it an adjustment period and plan to go on my way.

I’ve also noticed that I can run longer and harder on the elliptical than on foot. My legs don’t tire as quickly and I can keep my heart rate up for longer periods of time. Running outside is my primary goal, especially with the weather so nice, but I think I can make good use of the elliptical as a way to “rest” my shins a bit while still getting a good cardio workout.

Setting my own pace is crucial. I am not competing with anyone directly, which is admittedly an opportunity for me to slack off, but I am adamant about improving from week to week and I’ll be damned if those zombies catch me! While my runs are currently a combination of short bursts of running with longer periods of walking recovery, I am working on increasing the frequency and length of my runs. Right now I consider everything to be practice. This month is a baseline. Whatever happens happens since I am just starting back up and letting my body adjust to this change. Since I’m already doing burst running, I might break out the ol’ Couch to 10K app and add a bit of structure in the weeks to come. For now, my goal is very simple: Run as often as I can for as long as I can stopping only when I need to.

Even now I’m looking ahead to future challenges. I want to run a 5K and a 10K and some day a half and full marathon. At this point I am confident I could finish a 5K if I entered one tomorrow, but I want to be able to run most of it, so that is still a future milestone. Reading posts on Fitocracy and other runner blogs I know I will need to consider nutrition, pacing, and other long-distance running strategies. For now though, I’m happy to run 1.5-3 miles a day. That puts me at running a marathon (26.2 miles) in just over 2 weeks (!). I will see progress as my average weekly mileage goes up and my average weekly pace goes down.

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It takes the average person 90 days to implement a new habit. I talk about this process twice a week in the Biofeedback Clinic at work. We talk about stress management, relaxation training, breathing retraining, anger management, etc. “Skills not pills.” That sort of thing.

Research suggests that it takes about 3 months of consecutive effort to change a habit and/or replace it with something new. Research also says that we can change our brains and grow new neurons. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is a good way to do this. Meditation is also. Exercise programs do 90 days (P90, etc.). Alcoholics Anonymous has a 90 meetings in 90 days program. This stuff works people.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to quote research here or provide links or references. I don’t feel like finding such things at the moment and my supervisor wouldn’t have built a career and a government funded program around something that didn’t have research support. Trust me on this one.

I have yet again fallen off the wagon, which is funny, because I was never really on a wagon so much as running down the street–literally. I started up P90 again and failed to be consistent. I have been mostly consistent with running on a weekly basis, but I got shin splints a couple weeks back and decided to rest up, which has made it hard to start back up again.

My strategy for running has been wildly variable. Some days I run for distance, other days for duration, and still others for speed. It mostly seemed like I was doing so on a whim, though I fed myself some logical exercisey reason that sounded like I knew what I was talking about. All it really did was add to my inconsistency.

And so, I submit to you here today my very simple plan to get back to being consistent…and staying that way:

Starting Monday, April 9th, I will run 30 minutes each day, for 90 consecutive days. My only rules are that I will run a minimum of 30 minutes each day. I can run outside, on the treadmill, on the elliptical, or whatever, but I have to do 30 minutes. It is tough to find an hour to run, this much I have found. Or at least it is easy to say an hour is too much of a commitment. Regardless, 30 minutes a day for 90 days. I met my last running goal, but it took me a lot longer to do than I had intended. I think this one is straightforward enough to work.

So that’s that. I will update a bit more regularly to keep my progress public and to hold myself accountable. It will also encourage me to write on my blog more, which I’ve been sorely neglecting. Which sucks really, since I had intended for the blog to be a way to communicate to everyone at home (read: friends and family) to know what I’m up to and how I’m progressing on lots of different things. That being said, here is a quick update on the things from my last post from January (/facepalm):

  • Update on my workout and running progress
See above.
  • Update on post docs
Struck out so far. Looking at other options and jobs. Post on this in the future.
  • Update on internship experience
Going well. One more month on my current rotations and ~5 months total left. Post on this in the future.
  • A post about living in PA
Wow. I need to get going on this. I also need to get out of the house.
  • Update on my dissertation
In denial. Don’t wanna talk about it. Future post.
  • Fantasy Football season post
Won some and lost some. If you’re really interested in this, comment below and I’ll post about it later.
  • Prolly a rant in there somewhere
You bet.
  • A post about food/cooking

Actually, I do want to post about this. I have been cooking a bit more lately. Expect a future post.

That’s all. Wish me well for my 90 day challenge. Let me know if you want to play along. Feel free to check in and follow my progress. I’m also posting on Runkeeper and Fitocracy. Message me on Facebook if you want to know my username(s), or click on links as they get posted to Facebook to follow my progress.

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