Keeping lifestyle constant through transition is one of the hardest things.

One pattern I’ve noticed over the years is that it is extremely hard to keep up with healthy lifestyle choices when I go through a transition period in my life.

Sometimes I count on the transition as motivation – if I can just make it to the end of school, I will work out and get fit all summer / if I can just make it through the summer I will work out and get fit while I’m at school… I’ve been on both ends, starting off a new chapter with the best of intentions each time.

I’m at a new chapter in my life yet again.  This time I’ve been doing it right.  I’ve been watching my eating, exercising lots, and even losing weight.  Now I’m at another transition.  This time I’m graduating school, moving on from academia for the foreseeable future, and I’m not sure how to incorporate fitness/healthy living into my new routine.  I know that I have to, but I don’t know what that looks like.

So looking forward, I have to remember: fitness right now is a top priority, and there are no excuses for not keeping it up.

Here’s the plan so far:

  • Bike to work at least 3 times per week!  Make exercise part of the commute.  Soon enough it will be routine requiring almost no will power.  My only concern is I’ll be really hungry after the 25km ride (one way) and it’s really hard not to over eat when I’m really hungry!  It also means being intentional about meals and planning ahead for grocery shopping.  Any tips for meal planning?
  • Swim at least once a week!  If I can make time for a 2 hour swim each week and get 5km in the water, I would feel great about that.  I love to swim, and I really want to keep my “in-water” fitness up.
  • Start a strength training program by May 13 (my 24th birthday!).  I’m not sure what this means yet, but maybe I can hit up a core class at my gym, or maybe I’ll get into a weight-lifting schedule, or maybe I’ll do P90X or sign up for Cross Fit or something.  I don’t know yet (suggestions?). But I have to have started by my birthday.

What are your strategies for sticking to the program when your life/routine changes?

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Last week in review

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Last week was a good week that ended poorly.

I got on the scale at the end of the day and it was not encouraging. I generally weigh myself every day in the morning. I find this the most encouraging practice since I tend to weigh less first thing in the morning.

Anyway, yesterday was a busy day. I was performing out of town in the morning and I didn’t get up in time to make breakfast. I swung by a McDonalds drive through for the first time since I started calorie counting. I was proud of myself to make the healthy choice and get my breakfast sandwich without cheese. Hah! All in I consumed 700 calories. I was off to a bad start.

After the performance I had a day planned. Marriage prep followed by family time with the in-laws to be. Marriage prep made for a late lunch at Dairy Queen while we picked up the ice cream cake for Aunt Shelley’s birthday. Fast food twice in a day! I did exercise control just eating one 99 cent burger. Just enough to hold me over to dinner. What I didn’t realize was that little seemingly innocuous burger had 350 calories!! Yikes. So I had about 550 calories remaining for dinner. Factor in plans to eat ice cream cake later? I knew I was out of luck.

So yeah with one poorly planned day I felt like my week was out of control. In reality I didn’t do too bad but it is an indicator that I eat too much fast food and poor planning shouldn’t be a good enough excuse to do so.

I also drank 5 cups of coffee in the evening in order to stay awake for the drive home. I hope that’s what caused my surprising weight reading on the scale last night. Who knows. I’ll weigh in officially tomorrow first thing tomorrow to get back on track.

Here’s to this week being a better one! Goals:

  • Make better nutrition choices
  • Take steps towards starting strength training

Happy weight loss!

Strength training. When to start, what to do… ?

I’ve been thinking a lot about strength training lately.

The old conventional wisdom is that it’s not possible to lose fat and build muscly at the same time.  Honestly, I mostly buy in to this wisdom.

It makes sense to me that in order to lose fat the body must be experiencing a calorie deficit each day, in order to seek its required energy from the fat deposits stored in the body, thereby “burning” fat.

It also makes sense that after strength training wherein muscle tissue is torn that for the body to build muscle in the healing process it requires more energy, and it requires protein in order to create new muscle.

What I don’t know is if the body is equipped to use energy from fat stores in the body to build that muscle, as long as there is available protein to use.  Further education is required on that front.

I also have heard that building muscle increases the body’s metabolism, by as much as increasing natural calorie consumption by as many as 50 calories per day for each pound of muscle added.  Some cursory research on the inter webs suggests that this theory is highly contested.  However, it is known that strength training does help to decrease fat composition, and has many other positive effects as well.  It’s just not certain how quantifiable it is.

I have not been focusing on strength.  In my fitness regimen I’ve noticed strength improving as a result of the cardio activities I have been doing, but I know this isn’t the same as weight training.

I want to get in to strength, but I’m not sure how, and I’m not sure when.

Right now my priority is calorie deficit. The most efficient way to achieve calorie deficit is to spend my gym time sweating my butt off doing cardio… right?  I love the feeling of working until I feel like I can’t stand, sweat streaming from my pores, and best of all registering a calorie burn session in my calorie tracker that totals in the region of 400-700 calories burned.  It’s super gratifying and it allows me a little more wiggle room in my diet.

My plan right now is to get down to 189lbs (where my BMI will be considered “normal” for the first time since 1997) and then focus on a strength regime while trying to maintain a relatively low fat body composition.  Optimistically I can hit 189lbs in September of 2013. Is that too long to wait to start doing serious strength training?

And what’s the best strength program out there?  Simple weights? Power lifting? Cross-fit? TRX?

Fitness Tip #4. Use a weekly calorie goal to help offset bad days with good days.

It is commonly noted that it takes a 3500 calorie deficit to burn 1 lb of fat.

The best way to achieve those deficits is to spread them over the course of a week. I want to lose 2 lbs per week so I need to attain a weekly deficit of 7000 calories. That translates to a goal of a 1000 calorie deficit per day.

But looking day to day isn’t always helpful. As I discovered in my plateau post, I would be over my goal most days though still under my 1000 calorie daily deficit.

In response to the plateau I am looking at my calorie goal a bit differently. Sometimes you can’t avoid going over your daily calorie goal.

On Wednesday I was up late studying and my fiancé desperately needed a late night snack (she dances up to 4 hours per day so definitely earned the calories!!) and we opted for Dominos pizza for the cinnamon sticks as well as their 50% off student discount. I had planned to abstain but when it arrived and the aromas filled my house and I just couldn’t resist. I was over my calorie goal by about 900 calories by the time I went to bed. With pizza it doesn’t take much to add up!!

Instead of worrying about it or beating myself up, I decided to make up the difference on Thursday. I swam Thursday morning which helped a lot on gaining a jump on my daily calorie deficit. By the end of the day I was almost 850 calories under my goal, nearly offsetting all of my dominoes pizza from the day prior.

The best part is I didn’t really feel deprived.

Averaging your calorie goal over the week really helps take the pressure off day to day.

You can sin today as long as you atone tomorrow!

My Fitness Pal, which I mention a lot, has a great weekly summary tool on their iPhone app. It makes it very easy to look at “over days” and “under days” and how close you are to reaching your weekly goal.

In summary: don’t sweat the over days. Just use them as a guide for your week so you can make up for your overages on another day.

Happy weight loss!