My weigh-in this weekend presented an unexpected surprise. I have been very consistently maintaining somewhere between 182 and 184 pounds for weeks now. So imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scale yesterday and saw “180.0” blinking at me. This represents a 3-pound loss since my last weeks weigh in. I had sorta thought my extreme weight loss days were behind me now. Maybe not.
The Fitbit Badge Experience
Along with me being surprised came my Fitbit’s excitement about the whole situation. Apparently, when I began using the Fitbit back in November I was at 211 pounds. Now that I suddenly reached 180 I have earned a 30-pound weight loss “badge”. These virtual pats on the back seem to exist mainly to have something to share with friends on Twitter and Facebook, rather than having any real use in the Fitbit app.
Earning this badge didn’t really strike me as important initially. I had already earned my “Weight Loss Goal” badge a few weeks back when I hit 185 pounds, after all. When one has lost over 120 pounds, 30 of that total doesn’t seem like a whole lot.
But, on the further reflection, 30 pounds is actually quite a bit. For a “normal” person, 30 pounds might represent their entire weight loss goal! After all, 30 pounds might represent a decade and a half of creeping weight gain. Gain two pounds a year for 15 years, and suddenly you are 30 pounds overweight. 30 pounds lost, to that person, might represent returning to their previously healthy weight.
For a different example, another 30 pounds of weight loss would move me from “overweight” to “normal” in the eyes of the evil overlord of weight loss: the BMI chart.
The Terrible Tyranny of BMI
Now, let me be clear: I have no real interest in dropping another 30 pounds at this point.
I am already down to size Medium tops and a 36-inch waistline. For someone who started at XXLs and a 50-inch circumference, this seems like a pretty good place to be.
Also, in one of the more annoying side effects of bariatric surgery, the more I lose, the worse I look. I am already swimming in a sack of empty skin. Dropping another 30 pounds would only make that situation worse. Every day I look in the mirror and contemplate the possibility of another round of surgery. It would take four different surgical procedures just to remove all this flopping skin hanging off my body everywhere.
But, still, the temptation remains. The fact that I hate the BMI chart does not change the fact that, deep down, I want to defeat it. It has denigrated me my entire adult life. Why wouldn’t I want to strike back against it?
So, what am I going to do about weight loss moving forward?
Nothing much that I am not doing already.
I am already exercising 6 days a week, especially since I have renewed my love/hate relationship with the Fitbit. I did fail to log activity last week on Friday and Saturday, but that is due to my involvement with our new puppy. The steps are accumulating, let me tell you.
I am already eating 1,000 – 1,200 calories a day on a low-carb diet. I have no intention of trying to reduce that amount any more. That way lies madness. Not to mention potential malnutrition.
And, the simple fact is that I am about as healthy as I have ever been at this point. I can do things today, at almost 47 years old, that I couldn’t do at 17. Run two miles, for instance. I will probably never be a power-lifter again, but I am much more interested in functional muscle development at this point anyway. I would rather be able to hike for 4 – 6 hours, rather than bench press 250 pounds.
So, if more weight loss comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I intend to just keep doing what I am doing and see what comes of it.
I am tired of constantly replacing clothing anyway.
Chasing Puppies Is High-Intensity Aerobic Exercise,
First, thanks for all the support and encouragement from last Friday’s post! There has been quite a bit of positive feedback, for which I thank you all. On Friday itself, I literally had to walk a bit around the neighborhood before bed in order to drag myself across the 8,000 step line for the day. I silently committed to myself that I would do better on Saturday as I fell asleep that night.
Except, I didn’t. Saturday, as it turns out, was full of stuff. The kind of stuff that totally ruins exercise planning. I spent hours visiting with my family across town. Then, even more hours hanging out in a marathon online gaming session with my brother. By the time bedtime rolled around I had managed only 5,000 steps for the day, with no reasonable way to recover.
Well, I thought, there’s always tomorrow…
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Sunday is supposed to be our “free day” for the week. You know, we relax our dietary restrictions a bit, don’t hit the gym, give ourselves time to recover from the previous week.
Well, my recovery had been performed the previous day, so Sunday was going to have to be spent picking up the slack. I began to plan our assault on the wilderness as soon as I woke up Sunday morning.
I have probably failed to mention, but we’ve begun to amass a collection of “day hiking” gear since our last foray. In a previous post I mentioned the items that I thought we needed for future day hikes. Since then, we have been getting buried in donated gear. Not one but two hydration packs. A GPS unit. An emergency locator for when I get lost in the woods. Even a pack size first-aid kit. Other than shoes, we now have just about everything we need for day hiking trips.
But we hadn’t had a chance to try out all this nifty new gear yet. I woke up Sunday morning and began prepping all our cool new stuff. When Lor got up a few hours later, she was also ready to head out the door and into the woods. We gathered up our stuff, patted Vixen on the head, and locked the door behind us, then drove over to the Tijeras Canyon.
What Is Your Definition Of “Moderate?”
Again, I used the Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide to pick our destination. I selected “Hawk Watch Trail” for our day’s excursion. Hawk Watch Trail is an offshoot of Three Guns Trail, which winds through the Southern end of the Sandias from the Tijeras Canyon until it meets the Embudo Trail in the foothills above central Albuquerque. Hawk Watch sounded interesting, terminating at a point where researchers studied raptors in the area. It was listed at 4 miles in length and “Moderate” in difficulty.
Someday, I need to meet the person that writes the Hiking Guide. As it turns out, their definition of “moderate” involves steep switchbacks ascending 1,500 feet from the base of the canyon to a plateau 7,400 feet in elevation, overlooking the Tijeras Canyon and the plains South of Albuquequrque. Visibility was pretty awesome, though – we were able to see all the way to the Polvadera Mountain near Socorro:
“Moderate” difficulty notwithstanding, we were not up to the task of making it all the way to the top. We should have started our hike much earlier in the day. Two miles up the trail we were sun-blasted, drenched, and wobbling. We were finally forced to admit that one of us was going to wind up plunging downhill into a cactus if we kept this up. Being stubborn, we didn’t return back down the trail. Instead, we followed an unmarked trail that sort-of looked like it would wind up back at the trailhead.
Two hours later we finally made it back to the car.
The After-Action Report
The bad news, of course, is that we didn’t finish the trail. The whole canyon area is very dry, with almost no cover, and by mid-day it gets totally sun-blasted. We may need to consider moving our hikes further up into the Sandias, past the tree line.
That or hike indoors, which sort of defeats the purpose.
The good news was that, by the time we had hit the bottom of the trail, I had already dinged over my 8,000 step goal for the day. The GPS unit worked great, the hydration packs were a life-saver, and I didn’t have to use the emergency beacon or the first aid kit. So, overall, a win for our little expedition.
But I have some serious doubts now about tackling any of the Sandia Hiking Guide trails that are listed as “Difficult”.
A couple of days ago I mentioned to someone that I sort of missed my Fitbit Flex. You may remember that, back in March, it stopped recharging, needing to be slapped onto the charger every hour or so. The person I was chatting with recommended that I contact Fitbit support. I was hesitant, given that the unit is three years old and I am the third owner. However, I took the plunge, figuring that all I had to lose was time.
Two hours later, my Fitbit was back up and running, thanks to a patient tech, a system reboot, and an alcohol swab. I was delighted.
That is, until I checked out my numbers for the last few days.
Not Exactly What I Expected
The numbers were…discouraging, to say the least. At no point since the Fitbit sprang back to life have I hit my step goal for the day.
I thought I was actually maintaining a high level of activity. We haven’t managed regular gym attendance for two weeks now, thanks to scheduling conflicts and Real Life. But I was under the impression that I was getting my activity in via daily activities like walking the dog, working around the house, etc. That impression has now gone the way of all fantasies – vanished in a puff of rainbow-colored smoke.
Instead, I have been managing a mere 6,000 or so steps a day. Before the Fitbit died I would hit my step goal of 8,000 regularly. Now, I am coming in 25% short every single day.
For the sake of reference, a 5K race like the one we completed a month ago is a little over 4,000 steps. We did that in less than an hour. And now, I suddenly can’t make 8,000 steps in an entire day.
That was discouraging enough. Then I received my most recent copy of Men’s Health and got a real eye-opener.
15K or Bust
Turns out the magic number for improving health in men is not a mere 8,000 steps a day.
No, the International Journal of Obesity (referenced by Men’s Health) states that the number of daily steps taken by men with zero reported metabolic issues is…15,000.
The number I should be aiming for is almost twice my current step goal for the day (8,000 steps.)
Which, as I mentioned, I am no longer hitting. The 3-month absence of the coach on my wrist has brought my daily activity down by 25%.
So, now what?
Eyes on The Prize
It isn’t as though I have retired to a life of indolent luxury. I am not lying around the house in a toga, power-eating carbohydrates.
The things I have been doing are important. Working on my novel. Dealing with issues from my other disability. Communicating with Senators and Representatives about potential changes to SSDI. Studying for my Personal Trainer certification test (now only 45 days away.)
But, none of that is really going to matter if I backslide into bad eating habits and low activity. The fact that we got through the 5K has created a certain lassitude in me. My current physical goals are not as pressing as the 5K was.
Apparently, I need to address that.
First things first: I need to get back over my minimum required activity level for the day.
So, here is what I am going to do:
For 6 out of the next 7 days, I will post on Facebook when I get over my 8,000 steps for the day. (Sunday will not count, as I give myself one day off a week.)
Feel free to call me out if I do not post for the day. Facebook messages, Tweets, emails, whatever.
Once I get back on track…well, then we will start talking about that 15K number.
Initially, I was exercising my self-flagellation skills. I had a lousy week last week and wanted everyone to know it.
Then, about 250 words in, I realized something: No one wants to read this.
So I started over.
The Life Reset Button
You must understand, starting over represents a moral victory, for me.
My usual reaction to failure is not a healthy one: I get frustrated, decide that I can’t succeed, and quit.
I am not a good forward thinker. I am forever second-guessing my past decisions instead of planning new approaches. Lor refers to this phenomenon as “getting stuck.” I mentally chase my tail, trying to figure out what I did wrong, afraid to act again for fear of a second failure. So I end up not doing anything.
Well, that isn’t really the whole story. Actually, I used to think about my failure while over-eating comfort food and drinking beer. But, that isn’t really an option anymore, is it? Due to the whole “6-ounce stomach pouch” thing.
The hardest thing I am having to learn post-surgery is to let failures go.
If I have already blown it, I am no longer in a position to retrieve my failure. I have to accept it, try to learn from it, and do better next time. Just mash down that “reset” button, and head back the way I came, trying to figure out just where I went off the rails.
C.S Lewis said it best: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.”
So, what can I do in response to a week where I didn’t write, barely went to the gym, and made some pretty shaky dietary choices?
Nothing. Nada. Not a darn thing.
But, today is Monday. And today I can write my blog post, cook a healthy set of meals, and head back to the gym. And then I can set my sights on Tuesday.
It seems simplistic, but analyzing failure will only take you so far. At some point, you actually have to put yourself back in traffic and start doing again.
So, that is what I am going to do. No clever observations, no folksy words of wisdom today. Just get back on that horse and wait until the next time it throws me off. All I can hope for is that I go a little further before the next time I come crashing to the ground.
Our nutritionist, Patti, said it like this: “You are going to have good days and bad days. Just make sure that your good days outnumber the bad ones.”
Guess I need to start stringing together some good days, then. I am in a bit of a bad day deficit.
When I started this weight loss journey last year, I had a goal in mind. Come hell or high water, I was finally going to be a part of the Albuquerque Run For The Zoo 5K. Lor got caught up in the current of my excitement and agreed to come too, which made it a joint goal, which was even better.
I thought I had fairly sensible goals. This being our first 5K, we wouldn’t enter the timed, competitive section of the race. We would do the Fitness Walk section instead. This would allow us to take it easy, and not overdo. While at the gym we tend to average right around 3 mph on our treadmills and ellipticals, so I thought we could manage that in the Real World. Since a 5K is actually 3.1 miles, that gave me a goal of finishing our first 5K in about 1 hour and 5 minutes or so.
We got through it in 48 minutes and 4 seconds.
Here’s how it all went down…
Though our portion of the race didn’t start until 10:15, my excitement was just too much to handle on Saturday morning. I got Lor up at 6:00 AM sharp and essentially chased her around the house until we made it out the door.
An unfortunate side effect of my rushing us through the process was that we left without collecting Lor’s FitBit. This was intended to be our timing device during our untimed “Fitness Walk.” Oops.
When we arrived at the park and ride around 7 AM, I could not help but notice that there were only a few cars. Apparently only the seriously hard-core runners were out this early – those participating in the half-marathon and the 10K. Most of those running the 5K were still home asleep.
I get excited, I can’t help it.
While waiting for the bus, a gentleman in his 60s came storming up to us, wanting to know where the bus was. We informed him that one had just left. He then started on a 5-minute long, expletive-laden diatribe about how the “idiots” at race registration had not informed him that the Park and Ride location had been moved. He had gone to the wrong location, apparently, and been directed here. Now he was going to miss his entry into the 10K.
Now, Lor and I both knew the location had moved. The website stated the location had moved. And a parking lot already filled with dozens of cars seemed to indicate that the half-marathon runners knew. I am not entirely sure what this gentleman was expecting. A personal phone call maybe?
Once winding down, he asked us if we were running the 10K or a 5K.
“Oh, neither,” I told him. “We’re in the Fitness Walk.”
“Huh,” he replied. Then literally turned his back on us and walked away.
So…class consciousness among runners. I had never realized that was a thing. Good to know.
Aint No Party Like a 5K Party
We were too pumped up to let an encounter with a stuck-up, angry runner have too much of an impact on us. We hopped on the bus and took the short drive over to the Zoo.
The setup was interesting. A large park sits directly in front of the Zoo. On the East side of the park was the starting area for the various races. The West side of the park, directly in front of the Zoo entrance, was the Finish Line. The various routes ran all along the river and through the high-end Country Club residential area until looping back around to the Finish Line. Streets were cordoned off, street lights were covered, and police were everywhere.
When over 12,000 people participate in an event, apparently the city government takes it pretty seriously.
The area by the finish line had been turned into a midway of sorts. There were food providers, information booths, and contests. Best of all, with the exception of the Run For The Zoo merchandise tent, everything was free. We collected free Keva Juice samples and coupons for future purchases. (Mmmm…wheat grass.) A local food company was providing fresh fruit – oranges and bananas. I got half a banana because… potassium, I think it is?
But best of all was the New Balance tent. They had a little “spin to win” game set up. You could win keychains, socks, or even a backpack. My poor old day pack is on its last legs. I needed that new pack. So, I signed up, stepped up, and took a whirl…
And won my first ever piece of New Balance gear:
I looked all around for Lor, to get her to try a spin, but she was nowhere around. I finally located her a few tents down…getting a free pre-race massage from the folks at Crystal Mountain Massage Institute.
These folks at the Run For The Zoo really know how to run a pre-race party.
Watching The Finishers
Having explored the “Midway” thoroughly, we went over to the finish line to join the crowd cheering for the initial finishers of the half-marathon, followed closely by the initial finishers of the 10K.
Those crossing the finish line first were what you would expect to see. Bodies composed of long ropes of muscle, covered head to toe in activewear and wearing running shoes that cost as much as I make in a month. But, as the number of finishers started to increase, we were treated to an awesome cross-section of Albuquerque demographics.
There was a senior citizen in her 70s, finishing a half-marathon well ahead of competitors 50 years younger than her. A family of four, including an 8-year old boy, finishing the 10K together. I saw people almost as large as I was last year competing – huffing and puffing, for sure, but finishing.
The number of costumes was surprising. A large number of women were wearing tutus, for some reason. I kept asking Lor to go find out why, but she loftily ignored me. There were people wearing Halloween costumes, silly hats, and message t-shirts galore.
In fact, let me repeat the shirt whose message had the greatest impact on me. The caption read: “I Run. I’m slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter. But I Run.”
Yup, I thought. That’s me.
At last, the time had arrived. It was time to go get ourselves lined up for the 5K.
The timed 5K is so popular that it has to be started in waves, each wave based on how fast you estimate your speed per mile to be. How popular, you ask? Oh, about this popular:
At the point where we arrived, Wave 1 had just left. The churning sea of humanity in front of us was Waves 2 – 4. The operation ran like clockwork. Every 4 minutes, another wave would launch, apparently designed to create safe space between the runners of differing speeds.
We cheered and waved as we watched each wave depart. Once the area had cleared out, it was time for the “Fitness Walkers” to take our positions.
As we pulled into position half an hour early, I was still kicking myself for rushing Lor out of the house this morning and forgetting her Fitbit on the charger. However, pulling my phone out to send out an incoherent Tweet gave me an idea. “I can just use this, right?” I loaded up Map My Walk, and we were ready to roll. As the crowd counted down the final 10 seconds, I waited until the count of 5, then pressed the Start button and tossed my phone into my pack.
Turns out those extra five seconds would be significant later.
On The Road
The race designers had cleverly divided the road into “walking” and “running” halves, walkers on the left, runners on the right. We placed ourselves firmly in the “walk” position. The air horn blew, and we were off.
There was some initial chaos as the runners and a few of the walkers surged past us, but after that, things thinned out nicely. We made it about a quarter of a mile down the road before Lor looked over at me.
“Want to run for a bit?”
I nodded, not wanting to waste oxygen, and followed as she started running up the course for about a quarter of a mile. She then slowed to allow me to catch my breath.
This set our course for the rest of the race. Lor would patiently wait as long as she could, getting further and further ahead of me until I was forced to run to keep up with her. She would then start running herself, for a short distance. We weren’t exactly 5K race-worthy, but we sure as heck weren’t walking, either.
Our first mile was spent running behind the Zoo. People around me kept commenting to their children on the various zoo animals they could see. (Tons of children in the Fitness Walk.) I never saw any of the critters, being too focused on not running into the walkers and runners ahead of me.
The second and third miles wound their way through the “Country Club” residential area. All around us were nice houses, lush lawns, and tall trees. This is not at all common in Albuquerque, so the contrast was nice.
Even nicer was the fact that, all along the route, people were standing and clapping and cheering as if we were in the Tour de France or something. Many of these “cheerleaders” were race volunteers. But quite a few were just folks – residents standing in their front yards, encouraging us to push hard and to finish strong.
By the end of mile 3, I was ready to stop. However, Lor had stepped wrong and had actually hurt her hip during mile 2, and was dramatically slowing down. I found myself in the curious position of being her encourager for once.
“C’mon babe!” I told her. “You can do it! Two-tenths of a mile to go – that is the same as to the end of our block and back! Let’s finish strong!”
And I’ll be darned if she didn’t do just that. She picked her head up, pumped her arms, and we ran from Mile 3 all the way across the finish line.
We finished in 48 minutes and 4 seconds. I couldn’t help but think of the “extra” 5 seconds I spent putting the phone into my pack at the front end of the race. If I had not pressed Start until the air horn went off, we would have come in under 48 minutes.
Of course, if I had waited to put the phone away until after the race started, I might have dropped it and it would have been stomped flat by 6,000 runners. So I probably made the right choice.
I learned that my second-hand Asics cross-trainers were not the appropriate shoes for a 5K. Today my arthritic knees feel great, but my feet are killing me. Time to start saving pennies for “real” shoes.
And, most importantly, I learned that any goal is achievable if you have someone who believes in you. After the race, I thanked Lor for supporting me every step of the way. Running a 5K was not originally her dream. But she adopted it, and made it her own, in the name of supporting her husband.
Yes, I know I am the luckiest man on the planet.
Oh, and a little perspective. As we were leaving, awards were being handed out. The medal for the 70-74 bracket of the 5K was being handed out to a 73-year-old woman. Her finishing time?