Baseline: cardio & strength

History. When I made my permanent dietary changes two years ago, I also began exercising pretty consistently. I started with dancing, because I enjoy it. I would simply stick the earbuds of my iPod in my ear, put on a playlist of music I like, & dance — often working up a sweat. Later, my workplace started a “Start Walking” program, encouraging us to walk and/or do other exercise to the equivalent of 10,000 steps per day. So I started carrying a pedometer & did a lot of walking; some of my step equivalents were also from dancing, bike riding, & sometimes (but not enough) weights.

I of course knew the importance of strength training, but somehow didn’t pay sufficient attention to it. Perhaps because the Start Walking program, like so many similar workplace programs, put much more emphasis on aerobics. But around June or July of that year, I learned about Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training program & settled on it as the way I needed to go: high intensity interval training plus high weight/low rep strength training & bodyweight exercises. However, first we had to move apartments, which we accomplished around the end of that July, & then other things happened… mainly a slump into the grey, one of the several forms that my old demon depression takes with me. And even after it kinda sorta dissolved, I found myself still in some kind of energy-less limbo, another of depression’s manifestations in my life.

And so I kinda sat around on my couch a lot, feeling the dark of an Anchorage winter close all around me, along with all the looming huge crapload of boxes from the move we had just made, that for awhile there I was the only person present to deal with. Or not deal with. And even after my mood picked up a bit, I didn’t pick my body up & do much exercising of it. Plus, I found these really tasty pistachios seasoned with rosemary & garlic sold at the Natural Pantry (the store I do most of my grocery shopping at), & ate way too many of ’em, ate too much of the tasty raw cheddar cheese there too, & occasionally had a pizza or one of the refined-carb-heavy snacks someone brought in to work, & managed thereby to gain back all the 18 lbs. I’d lost over the course of my 2006 activities.

But there was good news too.

I didn’t gain back more than that 18 lbs. Gaining back more than you lost is pretty typical with a lot of “diets,” but that didn’t happen with me. That’s because of the second piece of good news:

I didn’t go back to my old, pre-2006 style of eating. Sure, a few more pistachios or pieces of cheese than I should have had (both healthy foods, but too much of a good thing); sure, the occasional pizza with it’s refined carb crust & greasy pepperoni — but overall I lived by what I’d learned about how to eat. I didn’t return to the vending machines (haven’t eaten anything out of one in over two years now), I didn’t go back to boxed cereals & other heavily refined carbs as a daily part of my diet. I continued to eat lots & lots of veggies, low glycemic index carbs, lean meats, coldwater fish, nuts & seeds, etc., just as I’d learned.

I didn’t lose my knowledge of what works. I know how to lose fat: I just have to do the work.

I made some good gains in the interim, too. For example, last October, with my Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, I bought myself an erg — a Concept 2 Model D indoor rower — something I’d had my eyes on since the year before. I even got myself going on it quickly enough that I was able to meet the first of the online rowing challenges that Concept 2 sponsors every year, to row 31,000 meters over the week leading up to Hallowe’en.

And I started making some really good kick-ass soups, full of legume & vegetable goodness, like the lentil soup I posted about in January. Nowadays I typically make a big enough pot on Sunday evenings to cover maybe half my meals from Sunday night through Wednesday lunch — & all low-GI & healthy.

But came time to be a bit more organized about it all. Fat loss, exercise, nutrition, diabetes prevention — & yeah, given I’ve had a couple of bad bouts in the past year with old demon depression, that too.

So three weeks ago I broke out my iPod & started dancing in the morning again. And I broke out my old Excel spreadsheet (now done in OpenOffice Calc) that I used to use for keeping track of my Start Walking stuff, updated it to 2008, & started keeping track again of my walking, rowing, dancing, strength training, & come spring probably biking too. Started participating in another workplace health program that, come March 31, will also include Start Walking round 4 (I missed round 3 altogether). And dusted off my Turbulence Training program materials that I had barely started tapping a year & a half ago, to pursue it in earnest this time.

Restart & progress since February 18. I started up again on getting exercise again just two & a half weeks ago, on Monday, February 18, doing about 30 minutes dancing with my iPod each morning before I went to work.

Incredible how even that little bitty bit improved things. I felt more energy throughout the day — even though I had to get up earlier in the morning to do it. I even lost some weight: 1 pound by that Friday (Feb. 22) &, incredibly, another 3 lbs. by two days after that. A lot of that was water weight, I’m thinking — because I’d been having ongoing problems with edema, & all of a sudden it was gone: I could see the veins in my feet again! A sign that my circulation is improving as a result of exercise — I had a similar experience in 2006. So it was a very good kind of water weight loss, that.

Last week (March 4) I kicked things up a notch or two by hopping back on my erg to do some daily rowing. It helps to have a challenge — in this case, Concept 2’s March Madness challenge to see how many days in the month of March I can row 5000 meters or more.

On top of that, I’ve at long last started on Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training program, starting with his 14-week Turbulence Training for Fat Loss workouts. This involves three 45-minute workouts per week combining high-weight/low-rep strength training with interval training — in my case, done on my rower. Because I’m still on the lower end of fitness, I’ve chosen to start with the “introductory” workouts even in advance of the beginner level, so my program will be a couple of weeks longer. Last week (Tuesday March 4 and Thursday March 6) I did only the warmup exercises plus the “beginner intervals”: this amounted to

  • 2 circuits of prisoner squats (10 reps per circuit), kneeling pushups (10 reps), and split squats (10 reps)
  • intervals on the erg. In both cases, I began by rowing a 5-minute warmup & rowed another 5 minutes of cooldown after the intervals themselves (usually about 830-840 meters per 5 mins.) The intervals on Tuesday were 4×1:00/2:00r, which got me 904 meters at high intensity & 1278 meters “resting.” On Thursday, the routine I followed was 3×2:00/2:00r, which got me 1277m + 947m rest.

This amount of exercise, in combination with tightening up my nutrition (i.e., excluding all cheats) has me now supposedly 8 pounds down from when I started three weeks ago, according to my not-completely-accurate-but-internally-consistent scale (down to 192 from 200). (For those of you who think in kilograms, that’s a 3.6 kilo loss — 87.1 kilos down from 90.7.)

Today I did my first full Turbulence Training for Fat Loss workout: Workout A of the Introductory Level, for anyone familiar with that program. That means the warmup bodyweight exercise, plus four supersets mostly of bodyweight, plus beginner intervals on the erg (this time 3×1:00/2:00r), with warmup before & cooldown after, a total of 3356m for the entire erg workout. (Earlier in the day I had done a lighter rowing workout totaling 2042m so I could reach my daily “March Madness Challenge” distance of 5000m. I also danced for 15 minutes just cuz it’s fun).

So, I have now officially begun Turbulence Training, which is right now the most important of the cardio & strength training legs of my overall fat-burning program.

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