When I wrote these goals on January 1 or 2020, they felt audacious. My mindset at the time was one of “journey before destination*” and thus, even though it seemed highly unlikely I’d be able to achieve and maintain these goals, I felt the act of setting such ambitious targets would inspire me to make healthy dietary choices and would help motivate me to choose sweating over sitting more often than not.
*yeah I’m a Sanderson fan.
It is now November 12, 2020. So we have another month and a half to go before I can do a proper post-mortem of these goals. However, as of today:
January 1 Speed Goal: Beat 7:00/mile splits at the distances of 5k, 10, 12k)
Most Recent Race Pace Run: 6:38/mile average pace over 12k for Virtual Bloomsday 2020.
January 1 Activity Goal: Keep Running Weekly: So far so good! For nearly all my life I could only find motivation to run if I had a friend to run with, or if I’d paid a race registration fee and thus had that external source of motivation and accountability. Knowing this about myself, I registered for at least 1 running event in every month of the year. Then the pandemic hit and every event from March onward was postponed or cancelled. At any other point in my life this would likely have sent me straight to my lazy boy recliner. Instead, I’ve discovered a way to keep moving and keep training, even without anything to train for.
January 1 Weight Goal: Maintain a weight of between 190-180 pounds. I have been maintaining 170-175 for the past several months.
On to the how, why, and what now. But first, on mindset:
You don’t have to spend very much time online to discover there are just as many cults, thinking errors, and wild-eyed fanatics in the world of health and fitness as there are in the realms of politics and religion. When we delude ourselves into believing we may escape the aspects of politics & religion that we don’t prefer, we simply become more vulnerable to falling under the sway of a charismatic “leader” whose message happens to align with our desires and prejudices. Whether it be about how and what to eat, how and when to move, or how and why to vote or pray, I believe it is essential to become ruthlessly reflective in identifying our own biases, intellectually rigorous in learning to identify the use and purpose of rhetorical strategies, and humbly curious about what we may learn from credible sources outside of our current paradigm. I say this as a fellow learner. I am by no means a master of any of this, and am uncertain I ever will be!
All that to say, I am writing to share about this part of my evolution over the past year in the hope it may inspire you to embark upon / resume / keep going on your own journey of change. Some of the choices that have worked spectacularly well for my body may not have the same results for yours. You may find solutions that work spectacularly well for your body, but not so much for mine. If you’re looking for a simple, fast-acting fix for your health and fitness, you’re likely to waste your time and money with a health/fitness quick fix scammer. The scammers are legion. If you’re willing to learn to become a better learner, you will find, as I have, that valid information is freely available. You’ll learn to distrust anybody trying to make a buck off your desire to improve your fitness. You’ll learn to block/unfollow friends and acquaintances offering to coach you in the same way you learned to block/unfollow friends and acquaintances who’ve tried to sell you essential oils, Amway, Avon, baskets, or Tupperware. If you haven’t been turned off by my slagging of your favorite multi-level-marketing scam, I’m hoping you may find something edifying about what’s to come.
Movement and Diet
Movement: I have no patience for advertisements interrupting my workouts, so I ruled out the free-on-YouTube options. But that’s just me, as I know many people find great success using free content on YouTube. While I no longer subscribe to either, I found the monthly subscriptions to these services to be well worth it. My near-daily use of one or both of these content providers taught me a lot about the kind of indoor spin workout structure I like and need most. So the fact I no longer subscribe is an example of how a quality resource can teach you to fish if you’re so inclined.
Studio Sweat OnDemand https://www.studiosweatondemand.com/
You don’t need to buy an expensive spin bike to get a great workout. If you have a bicycle, find a magnetic or fluid resistance trainer for $50 or even less if you don’t mind used. Because of the popularity of spin bikes/add-ons that measure your power output, you can find a really high quality “dumb” spin bike for $200 or less. If you’re local, I have an old (but still functional) magnetic resistance on-wheel trainer that I’d be happy to gift to you if you promise to use it.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I did my best to get at least 30 minutes of exercise (elevated heart rate into aerobic zone for at least 30 minutes) every day. I was running just 1x-2x a week during this period, but was very faithful to my spin bike on days I ran as well as days I didn’t. Spin was great for my goals at this time as its low impact nature prevented any risk of injury yet it was intense enough to yield good gains in my cardiovascular fitness.
Before I share more specifics of training from January 1 onwards, let’s talk about diet.
Diet: We can divide the past 365-or-so days into three distinct phases.
November 2019-February 2020: Strict Ketogenic diet with daily tracking of every single calorie I consumed. I do not believe this is a sustainable diet, at least for me. I can only go so long without consuming a single bite of rice or bread. I have comprehensive metabolic and lipid panels that I was intending to use as “before keto” data, but wasn’t able to get those panels done in March 2020 due to the pandemic. So all I have to share is anecdotal: a strictly ketogenic diet with rigorous daily caloric tracking was highly effective for my short term goal of weight loss. Big huge disclaimer: be wary of the online “Keto” community as there is more than a small amount of cult-like behavior (they’re worse than certain CrossFitters!) and there are a bunch of snakeoil companies that try to con you into buying their extra expensive MCT and related products.
With that disclaimer in mind, the Keto Reddit has some useful information amidst the cult like noise: https://www.reddit.com/r/keto/wiki/keto_in_a_nutshell
February 2020-April 2020: Introduced Intermittent Fasting and phased out of strictly Ketogenic diet into a hybrid of Whole Food Plant Based with 1-2 days/week of meat eating. I highly recommend a critical reading of each of the following:
David Sinclair’s Lifespan (he’s actually a lot better via podcost/audio than he is with his co-writer in the book): https://lifespanbook.com/
Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code (be dismayed by and suspicious of all of the subscription-based “support” on his website. That said, this book is solid): https://thefastingmethod.com/book/the-obesity-code/
Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones (this is a link to a good NPR article about it): https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91274144
May 2020 – Present: I want to write more about this in upcoming posts. This is the heart of what I’m calling the gospel of Rhythm. Each week is a little different, depending on what we have going on socially. I’ve overcome what I believe is a popular myth/misunderstanding of “fueling” for physical activity. I strive to have each week break down into the following ratio (not necessarily in this order):
Feasting (consume as much as I want): 2 days/week
18:6 Intermittent Fasting (consume as much as I want within a daily 6 hour window): 4-5 days/week
36 Hour Fast (consume zero calories for a period of 36 hours): once or twice a month
Plan, Revise, Revise
I have found it tremendously helpful to create training plans based on a goal activity, and then diligently annotating each time I make a change to the plan. Often the changes are due to priorities of a social/family nature. The point is, we can both prioritize participating in unscheduled social/family activities AND maintaining training volume when we build rest into a weekly schedule and are willing to swap days. I’m unsure if this example from the month of January will be as illuminating as desired, but I hope it’s an example of a simplistic way to plot out a month’s training in pencil and then reflect/revise in pen.
You may note I have a few self-diagnosis post-it notes on this example. That reminds me to give a recommend for a resource I’ve found tremendously helpful. He has a bunch of free information on his site and a helpful email newsletter. https://www.precisionmovement.coach/about-eric/
Here are some decent free online resources which may be used as the skeleton for a personal training plan. Understanding and following the precepts these plans build from will free you up in making your own. At first, simply copy. Then, as you witness your body’s response to the training, you’ll gain increasing confidence to customize for your needs and goals.
Nike Plans: I had a 5 month base of 1x-2x running and daily cardio before I began my variation upon Nike’s 15k plan in January. You can find freely downloadable plans for a variety of distances here: https://www.nike.com/running/training-plans
You’ll find Jeff Galloway’s methodology to be highly controversial amongst the snobbiest of runners. That’s because they either never knew or they forgot what it’s like to feel hopelessly incapable of ever running without being chased by a hungry bear. I’m not keen on all aspects of his stuff, but want to link to it here as my August 2019-December 2019 efforts were based upon his principles: http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/5k-10k-training/
I realize this post has run a bit long. So I’m going to save my philosophizing about all of this for an upcoming post, in which I share the shifts in thinking, feeling, and doing that I’ve discovered over this past year to be helpful for my mental health, motivation to train, and enjoyment of food and drink.