Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What I’ve Been Up To

And now, time for my apology for disappearing for a while.

So, what happened? Well, a little of everything. I think some burnout. Last year was my most prolific blogging year by far. And there’s my sports ratings app, that I’ve mentioned previously. I’m still working hard on it. It’s closer to my vision of it than it’s ever been, but probably still a year away. I never did get around to modifying it to project polls and votes. It’s possible, but unlikely that I’ll have something ready there for the November elections. Most likely I’m looking at 2014.

Also, had a lot going on with the family, some illnesses and whatnot to deal with that have kept my mind and spirit focused elsewhere. And, while I love blogging and tweeting, and love CJB Ratings, I don’t get pad for either of those. The job I do get paid for has been a bit busier than usual as well.

But these are only part of the reason. There’s one more that’s far more significant than most of the above. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I’m diabetic. It’s Type II and manageable with medication, but I’ve always had this pseudo-goal in my mind to get off the medication and just manage it through diet and exercise.

Well, last fall I had an epiphany, a long overdue one. I realized just how artificial it is to manage my blood sugar through the medication, and what an enabler of bad behavior that it is. I had noticed that if I’m taking my meds consistently and my sugars are good consistently, that my weight goes up. In short, I get fat. The reason I get fat is because I know with the meds that I can eat pretty much what I want, and I don’t have to push myself to be good.  But getting fat actually makes it harder to manage my sugar, and makes me more dependent on the meds.

However, if my blood glucose (bg) is out of control for a little bit, then I lose weight, because that’s what happens. Your body is starved for carbs, and it eats up whatever fat or anything else it can find. The point is though, that you’re losing weight because your body is smarter than you are, and it’s trying to get you back into balance.

So, I realized last fall that I need to pay attention to my body when that happens. So, when my bg went a little crazy for a while, instead of bumping up the meds a little bit, I worked with my body rather than against it. I went on a weight loss and exercise plan. And I really kicked it into high gear starting at Christmas, 2011. I have now worked out 87 consecutive days.

The result? My bg is fine, and I could be in one of those commercials where the guy says “I’m 45 years old and in the best shape of my life”. And it’s all natural, for once, not artificial. I feel better than I have in years. I have an appointment with my doc soon, and I expect that this time I will actually be able to achieve my long time goal and get off the meds completely. I am, at this point, for all practical purposes, no longer diabetic.

Some hard numbers for you? As of today, I’m 65 pounds down from my all-time high weight, about 35 pounds down from last summer, and a whopping 17.5 pounds down since Christmas. There’s actual tapering from my chest to my waist for the first time in my life, and I actually have discovered that I have biceps. Not that my biceps are going to scare anyone, but they’re there, at least. I can do 100 push ups (and the way my “trainer” makes me do them is pretty hard) now. I’m not sure if before last Christmas if I’d done 100 push ups total in my entire life.

So that’s what’s been keeping my focus. Plenty have asked for more specifics on the how, and if you’re interested in that, read on, otherwise, thanks for reading so far. I warn you, though, that it may start to sound like an infomercial from here on out, as I’m going to name specific products that I have used.

But, first, the bad news. There is no magic routine or magic diet that will do it for you. It’s all about a state of mind. If you have that state of mind (and can keep it), then you’ll get in better shape. If you don’t, you won’t.

Now, the first thing for me is that I had to find something I could do that wouldn’t allow me to make excuses. I’m terrific at wimping out and rationalizing. Going to a gym just wouldn’t work for me. I don’t know how to use hardly any of the equipment. I don’t know the appropriate settings are for me, or how many reps of anything I should try to do. And I don’t know what kind of sequencing I should do, or what kind of pace I should set. I know that everyone starts at square one, and you can learn all these things. But I also know myself, and know that I would feel incredibly self-conscious about everything I’d be doing, and I’d use the above as an excuse to wimp out and not go.

Yes, I know I could get a personal trainer to help me learn all that, but I’m not exactly rolling in dough, either. Smile

So, the gym’s out.

A home gym would be out for a lot of the same reasons. I could get a nice weightlifting set, but I wouldn’t know where to begin with one. I could get a Bowflex or something similar, but they’re rather expensive, and I don’t really have the room for it.

So, forget the home gym.

I love to ride my bike, and at one time was an avid bike rider. I’ve also done a lot of walking and running in my life. But, there’s that whole excuse thing. “It’s raining. It’s cold. My knee’s bothering me. My allergies are bugging me. I got up too late. It’s too dark. It’s too late. I have a cold. I have a headache.” And so on. As I indicated before, I’m a master at excuses.

And, while running, walking, bike riding are all good for you, I really need some strength training stuff to build some muscle mass. That’s what will help long term in managing my diabetes.

How about videos? Sweatin’ to the Oldies, Abs of Steel, that sort of thing? Not enough feedback, and generally too repetitive for me. I’d get lazy, not do the stuff right, or I’d get bored, followed by annoyed, or possibly all three.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re either incredibly curious or much like me and you’re wondering what in the world helped, when I’ve already said that none of the above were good options (at least for me).

So, what worked?

Now the infomercial part. Smile

For Christmas, I got my kids the Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board. And I’ve ended up using it much more than they have. I do recommend the Wii Fit Plus, as opposed to just the Wii Fit. It has more exercises, and more and better games. If you already have the Wii Fit, you don’t have to buy a new balance board. You can get the Wii Fit Plus software only. It’s relatively cheap.

The exercises and games on the Wii Fit are fun and challenging. Especially if you’re completely out of shape like I was. And even I can’t make excuses. I can do everything in the living room. There’s enough variety of exercises and games that it doesn’t get boring. And the variety in intensity means that as long as you’re strong enough to get out of bed, you can do a 30 minute workout. I get feedback if I’m doing something wrong. If I get up late and don’t have time in the morning, I can do it in the evening. It’s inside, so no weather or allergy worries.

But after about a month,  I felt like it was starting to get a little easy for me, and I wasn’t pushing myself as hard as I’d like. Don’t get me wrong. I still do something on the Wii Fit every day. A few of the yoga poses still kick my butt, and I have to work to do the advanced strength training exercises. But most things had gotten routine for me.

So, after 42 days, I added the EA Sports Active: More Workouts.EA has three exergames in this series, Workouts, More Workouts, and Workouts II. More Workouts is the middle one, and from everything I’ve seen and read, is the best. YMMV. I like this game quite a bit. It has entire exercise routines set up for you, and a six week challenge, where you go through a pre-set series of workouts. However, EA for some reason didn’t think anyone would be buying More Workouts who didn’t already have Workouts, so they neglected to include some of the accessories you’ll need. I purchased the EA Sports Active Wireless Workout Kit For Wii, but I think I actually would have been better off with the EA Sports Active Training Kit for Wii, as I found the wireless stuff didn’t work very well. After a few weeks, I also ended up purchasing the Wii Activ3 Workout Kit because I wanted the flexibility of having multiple resistance bands of different strength. I use the leg strap from the Wireless Workout kit, because the one from the Activ3 Workout kit sucks. And the resistance bands from the Wireless Workout Kit are more comfortable and easier to use as well. So, if you don’t want the Activ3, it’s no big deal.

I did 42 days with More Workouts at medium intensity. Or, in other words, I completed the six week challenge. There’s actually only 24 workouts in the challenge, as you get three off days every week. I did the More Workouts in the mornings, and then some lighter Wii Fit stuff in the afternoon/evenings. Not because I wanted to do two workouts a day, but because my lifestyle is very sedentary, particularly in the winter. Both the Wii Fit and the EA stuff expect you to have some daily physical activity outside of their program, so I used my afternoon “workout” to simulate some actual physical activity like golf, or basketball, bowling, etc. My one complaint with the More Workouts is that at the beginning, I didn’t feel like it was pushing me very hard. And by the end, I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of my afternoon sessions on the Wii Fit, either. In other words, I was getting in better shape, and needed to move on again.

One other thing that helped is that after the first week or so of this six week challenge, I also started using MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is a website that helps you track your calories and exercise. They also have apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The website and the apps are free. It’s just like most other calorie counters you’ve seen, but what sets them apart are three things, their extensive database (had the Dos Enchiladas meal at Don Pablo’s, or a half dozen Oreos? they’re in there), and the ability to add in your own recipes. You input the ingredients you use in your recipe, and how many it serves, and it spits out the nutrition information per serving. Finally, it shows more than just calorie intake, but also protein, carbs, fat, fiber, sodium, etc.

And where am I now?

I’m now still doing the More Workouts, but I’ve upgraded to the high intensity workout, and I’m using the red resistance band from the Activ3. Make no mistake about it, this is hard. And I’ve only done the first two workouts out of the 24 so far. They get harder as you move on, so I can’t imagine what the last two weeks will be like. For my afternoon “workout”, I’ve mostly moved on from the Wii Fit, finally, although I still do just a few from yoga and strength training, for variety. In it’s place, I’ve added cardio boxing from Gold's Gym Cardio Workout. The two of these together are kicking my butt. I feel like I did the day after Christmas again. Every workout makes me sore, and I know at the end that I’ve pushed myself. Hard.

And that’s the story. Sorry so long, and if you read the whole thing, I congratulate you.

I don’t know what I’ll do at the end of this 42 days. Maybe repeat. Maybe move on to something else. But I know I’ll be in even better shape than I am now.

One final note: Nintendo does not recommend the Wii Balance Board if you’re over 250 pounds. But you can do the EA Sports Active stuff, as well as the Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout without it. There are other good exergames out there as well, and for other platforms, not just the Wii. Go to Amazon and read the reviews to try to find something that you think might work best for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I admit ... I enjoy our Wii Fit, too! Don't tell our grandkids. :). Congratuations, Chris!

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