Fall 52DC Objectives:

88 Clean eats (out of 104 possible)
20 Resistance training sessions
20 Cardio workouts
Lose 10.5 lbs (5% body weight)

The starting stats on this phase of my personal workout challenge are in.

Starting weight is 233 lbs.  Goal is to lose 1-2 lbs per week.  Objective is 180 lbs, eventually.  Let the games begin!

I am ashamed to admit that the fitness program has been off the rails for quite some time now, and I need to ramp things back up.  I am not feeling as strong or energetic as I was, and my sleep, eating and exercise habits all need to be tuned up again.  So, it is back to basics for me.

My objectives are weight loss (one to two pounds per week), strength increase, and stamina improvement.  

1)  Working out
I am going to back to the original program that gave me quite good results a few years ago - the Men's Health Hard Body Plan.  It is a few years old now (originally published in 2000) but the exercise programs are still sound.  I am going to do the beginner's program, three days a week, and evaluate after six-to-eight weeks whether I am seeing results and-or should move up to the intermediate program.  

Cardio will be three times per week - 20-30 minutes at a reasonable intensity level.  I have a pass for cycling  classes at a local fitness studio - I will start mixing these in once I get my base cardio fitness level re-established.

I am going totally old school - logging all my workouts with weights and reps in a cheap notebook.
My Mens Health Big Book of Exercises is lurking in the background if I need to change things up some.  
*** A note on schedule *** 
One of the difficulties for me has been scheduling in my workouts with all the external draws on my time (including kids activities four to five times a week).  Following the old-school approach, every workout will be scheduled and posted in a conspicuous place in the kitchen so there is no excuse NOT to make it happen.

2)  Food
Less beer, wheat and red meat, more vegetables and low-fat protein sums things up.  I will start by logging food for a week then making some strategic decisions on what needs to change.  As a family, we are addicted to high-quality red meat, so this will be tough.  Our bread counter is overflowing with way too much  white flour products as well.  (I cannot believe we even have a bread counter...)

At this point, I am not planning to track every calorie, but I will be doing a reality check every few days to ensure I am keeping things at about 1800 calories or below.  If the weight is not coming off, I may have to revisit this approach.

3)  Sleep
Healthy sleep patterns are well-documented as a key component of wellness.  Staying up to midnight every night, surfing the internet, is not doing me any good.  7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and out of bed (not just awake) by 6:30am, are my two goals.  My experience has been that, as my cardio fitness improves, my sleep requirement will drop.  Time will tell.

The act of logging and posting is one form of accountability on this commitment, even if nobody reads.  (This is well-documented, and worked for me before...)  I am going to snap some week zero pictures, which may or may not get posted.  

I am also considering doing a public event or two this year - I have been challenged to do the Badass Dash in October by a family friend... and I cannot do it in the condition I am now!

If When I get down to 180 lbs, a new guitar may be the right way to commemorate it.  I have wanted a Fender Telecaster for, oh, about thirty years!  


There is no shortage of opinion on the "proper" level of training exertion to achieve during work-outs.  The Crossfit approach - hit it as hard as you can, to the point of exhaustion - is at odds with the conventional wisdom to maintain a reasonable, sustainable pace and "leave some in the tank" during workouts.

A Canadian distance runner, Reid Coolsaet, spent some time training in Kenya and was blown away by their approach to training - running as hard as possible to the point of surrender.  This is at odds with the training approach most common in North America for distance runners.

Is it time to factor in this thinking into my workouts... aim to work to failure more frequently and quickly, and achieve more rapid results in terms of endurance and strength?  Hmmmm.....

It is time for me to get moving again on those fitness goals...

So says a report in the New York Times as reported by Alex Hutchison at sweatscience.com.  The theory says that the brain needs downtime to function properly, and overloading it with TV's, loud music, and text messaging at the gym really suboptimizes the potential benefits of a focused workout when it comes to brainpower.

I am not sure if the people listening to iPods at the gym are any more or less intelligent than those luddites without them.  (I've seen some pretty stupid behaviour by the iPod group, but the cause-effect relationship is unclear!)  However, I can say that I tossed the iPod for working out long ago, and only use it occasionally for treadmill runs (which I find incredibly boring otherwise.)  During weight training and interval-type cardio, I find the distraction of messing around with my music is a serious distraction that extends my rest times, encourages bad form , and just generally gets in the way.

On the other hand, loud music during cardio (like spin classes) does seem to raise my performance to a higher level.  The beat and the volume are great at encouraging me to keep a steady pace and give maximum effort - the strange part is, at the end of the class, I can't even remember what the tunes were.  I'm apparently not even giving any conscious thought to the music, I'm just reacting to it at a subconscious level and it seems to work.

So, I agree with the article on a strictly empirical basis.  Background music = good; actively working the touchwheel on an iPod during workouts = bad, and texting on their BlackBerry during spin class = you should really think about going next door to Starbucks instead. 


The 52-day challenge is rapidly closing in on the half-way point, and I am having a relatively good challenge.  I thought it miht be time to summarize where things stand and what changes I need to make to achieve all my goals.

The Good:
My circuit training sessions are keeping me right on track when it comes to hitting my resistance training goals.  I am doing 1-hour circuits every Monday and Wednesday, consisting of five rounds of rapid-fire (1-minute sets) of seven different exercises, plus a minute of hard cardio and a minute of rest.  A session lasts about an hour, and I usually hit total exhaustion by the end.  Since starting, I've upped my weight on most of the exercises, and have been using two 40-lb kettlebells for split squats and a 60-lb dumbbell for a swiss ball pullover move.  I'm thinking that most of my body parts are getting hit well; the one area that could use a bit more is the back.

I am supplementing the circuit training with a full-body workout on Friday or Saturday, typically including two sets of front squats, bench press, shoulder press, leg curls, pull-down or seated row, dips, pull-ups, and some sort of abs exercise alternated with back extensions.

My cardio is clustered around the weekend -spin or cycling on Saturday or Sunday, plus a run on Friday or Monday.  If I'm lucky, some other sort of cross-training cardio thing will happen during the week as well.  

All in all, if I keep up this schedule I'll hit or surpass my workout goals by the end of the challenge.

The Bad
My food intake has not been ideal, with too many cheat meals and stops at the pub.  I have learned that I am an impulsive eater/drinker, and among the things that trigger the impulse are stressful gatherings.  Having started a new job, and had far too many big family-type gatherings lately, I have not been sticking strictly to my dietary targets.  As a result, my weight loss has stalled completely.  I have the next four weeks or so to correct that and kick-start some weight loss.

I am pretty pumped (no pun intended) about some of the physical changes I'm seeing.  My chest feels stronger, and my arms (bi's and tri's) are noticeably better-defined compared to even three weeks ago.  I've noticed my thighs are much tighter-looking too, when I'm lying flat on my back doing some sort of weird swiss-ball ab exercise mandated in the circuit training... 

Friday's are usually tough days for me to get in a workout - regular working days, my gym closes early, and I want to spend the last day of the week having a relaxed dinner with my family rather than the usual hustle and bustle during the week. 

Today was different, though.  On the way to pick up my daughter from her day camp, I arrived 45 minutes early and stopped at the affiliate gym two blocks from the camp location downtown.  I did 2.5 miles on the treadmill, doing three phases of shorter runs while varying the speed to get a more intense workout in.  I'm trying to increase my speed, and shorter bursts seems to be a recommended way to do it rather than a half-hour of steady state.

It felt like a great workout!  I set a PB for one mile at 9:49 at 1% incline (I don't track this stat too often but it's still a good thing!) and maintained a 7mph pace for quarter-mile segments, so that's progress over my usual 5.8mph slogging!  Next stop - a 30-minute 5k!  (I need to pare about 4 minutes off my current pace to accomplish that.)

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