A year in review

A year has passed since I literally changed my life. On August 19, 2004 I decided to give Body for Life a try. At that time EAS had a 4 week kick-start challenge that was integrated into their normal 12 week challenge. I promised myself that I would give the program 4 weeks exactly as written. Here I am, a year later, still following Body for Life. I have modified the program a bit to incorporate a marathon training plan. I have also increased the number of meals I eat per day to stay at maintenance, but at the core is still Body for Life.

I do no know precisely what it was that caused that day to be the day that I decided to change course and chart a new one. I suppose I just one day looked up from my lifestyle rut and extrapolated my future health 10 or 15 years out. There were so many possibilities, none good: type II diabetes, heart disease, macular degeneration, and potentially alcoholism. It was time for a change. I solicited my hubby’s support and warned him that I would likely be hungry, sore and grumpy as my body and mind adjusted to this new program. Unlikely many of the dramatic changes you can find on the Body for Life website, my progress was slow but steady. This time was not a “diet”. I had gotten smaller in the past through extreme calorie restriction and increased activity. In the past, once I reached my goal, I would revert to my old ways and balloon up again over the following months. I suppose that I finally realized that we only get one body and it was time to take better care of mine.

I did two sequential 12 week challenge cycles. This reduced my weight from 149 (35% body fat) to 128 pounds (19% body fat). While I could still easily lose another 5 or 10 pounds to create a more aesthetically pleasing physique, I purposefully have been maintaining at around 128 pounds and 19% body fat since February.  I needed to learn how to eat for health and weight maintenance. I needed to learn how to focus on the good things that my body could do, not the areas of my body that I’d like to change a little bit more. I needed time to experience my body at a normal healthy weight for an extended period of time. I needed time to get comfortable in my skin and frankly my skin needed some time to adjust to covering less surface area. My current marathon training evolved from this period of maintenance. When I first started Body for Life, I could not even run a block I was so badly out of shape. This past year, I ran 740 miles. I ran my first half-marathon in May and expect to complete a full marathon at the end of September. A year ago I could not have imagined doing this. I would have sworn that I would NEVER be able to do these things. Not me, not this body. It is amazing how quickly things can change. What else is possible that I would have never previously considered? I find this question spilling over into my life both personally and professionally.

Looking back & looking forward

So many people fail at Body for Life or other lifestyle change programs. Why have I been able to stick with it? I wish I had an answer for those people for whom it just doesn’t work. For me, it was just time. I was ready. I initially made a specific commitment that I was going to give myself and this plan an hour a day. I put me and regaining my health first. I finally kept a promise to myself. I found that this process enabled me to better manage my time and efforts in all other aspects of my life. Committing an hour a day actually created more time or at least more efficiency on my part since I had to plan my days better. Another thing that helped was being patient. I hadn’t become a Pillsbury dough person over night and did not expect immediate and dramatic changes. I set small achievable short term (2-4 week) goals and created new ones each time I succeeded.

I do not yet have a specific goal or plan for after the marathon. I definitely plan to do less running and more weight lifting. It may be time to focus on aesthetics and reducing my body fat percentage a bit more.

While this post, and my blog in general, tends to focus upon the physical changes and improvements I am making these efforts are part of a larger on-going process. Until relatively recently, my view of how life should be and reality did not mesh well. In my ideal world, deep in the realm of academic research, only ideas, the quality of the research and work ethic mattered. For the longest time, I truly believed it was possible to be successful just by doing excellent work. About two years ago, reality hit hard. Excellent work was not enough. I could no longer pretend to myself that being outstanding at one thing and not very good at or knowledgeable about many other things (essentially anything not science: management, motivation, finance, interpersonal skills, making good first impressions, politics, marketing, organizational structure and function, negotiation, small talk, physical activity, work-life balance, etc.) was acceptable. This led in part to starting an MBA program to help fill in some gaps in my skills and knowledge base. My hope is to lose many of my liabilities. I believe I will have a lot more value, personally and professionally, if I can achieve this. Like with fitness, I suspect this will be an on-going process. It’s not always easy to try to develop aptitude for a skill for which you feel you have utterly no natural ability. The learning curve is slower. Other people will excel more easily and more quickly. However, in some ways, I am finding that the process of overcoming the “I could never do X” feeling to be very fulfilling. Now, I might never be outstanding at “X” but at least it’s no longer a liability.

Week 52

Marathon Training: It was a week of knee and tendon/ligament/nerve unhappiness. The 11 mile run turned into a 10 mile run. The first 6 miles were great at a 10 minute mile pace. I cut out the last mile due to some very odd and sharp pains both inside my knee and up and down my leg. My five mile run with speed intervals was similarly cut short. However, my four mile (39 minutes) run was terrific. I tossed in a number of speed intervals which changed my gait and made my joints rejoice. If only I could maintain that pace and stride over long distances. I experimented with a 90 minute beginner’s Ashtanga Yoga video. I worked through the tape two times this week. This is something I am going to add three to four times a week, time permitting. I have ordered some shorter videos as well. I developed some interesting delayed onset muscle soreness, mostly along my rib cage & sides (core strength building I guess). Most importantly, all of my various joint aches and pains were completely abolished for about 12 hours following a Yoga series. I am hoping to time this correctly for pain free running.

Nutrition was at maintenance this week. I averaged 2068 calories a day with 38% Protein, 23% Fat, 39% Carbohydrate. According to my Polar M61 HR monitor, the three short runs only burned 1472 calories. No major change in body weight (128.2) or body fat percentage (19.2%) at my weekly weigh-in.

Plan for the next week

Running: Week 11 of 16 week beginner marathon training plan: 16 mile run (Sun), 5 mile run with 8 minutes of uphill time (Tues), 9 mile run (Thurs). This week begins three weeks of intensive mileage ramping. Hopefully my knees will endure.

Nutrition: Shooting for maintenance at about 2200 (perhaps higher with the longer runs) calories a day with my usual 40:40:20 to 40:30:30 ratios for most meals.

Other Training schedule: Ashtanga Yoga Videos on non-running days.