Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 2 Complete

Another one bites the dust!  Week 2 is behind me.  I survived Thanksgiving without really overdoing it (although I'm still working me way through leftovers).

In fact, I decide this morning to re-dedicate myself to a clean diet.  The basic principles that I'm putting in place today (and of rest of my six-month challenge) are:

  • Meals every 4-6 hours
  • No snacks in between meals -- drink water/tea instead
  • Last meal by 7 p.m. every night and no food after that
  • Weekly 24-hour fast -- possibly two in later months
  • Most of my carbs in the morning and post-workout, less carbs in the evening
  • Focus on timing of slow-release and fast-release carbs -- fast in the morning and post-workout, slow in the mid-day and evening
  • No alcohol, except for the occasional glass of red wine with friends
  • No coffee, some tea -- especially herbal -- and lots of water
  • Emphasis on creating an alkaline digestive environment through focus on vegetables at each meal with lean meats and healthy carbs

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Customizing My Program

I'm halfway through Week 2 of my six-month program and I've taken stock of my starting point.  Assessing your starting point is an important step toward taking the most direct path to your goals.  Imagine mapping driving directions without having a point A to go with your point B!

My self-assessment tells me that I've maintained a fair amount of strength from last year's six-month stint in the gym.  Unfortunately, I've gained about 10-15 pounds of unwanted padding and have lost almost all muscle definition.  The silver lining?  The fact that I still have my strength means that I'll be able to build mass quickly and, with the proper diet, burn off the fat.  (Oftentimes, an initial lack of strength prevents early gains because I'm not strong enough to complete the training needed for growth.  Or I lack the supporting strength to complete heavy movements. For example, not having enough grip strength to crank out pull ups means my back can't grow because my forearms are weak!)  That's one important hurdle that I've cleared.

Pre-Turkey Day Fast

Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow.  Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a real challenge for people trying to eat healthy.  This year I"m being preemptive by choosing to do a 24-hour fast today as a counter-balance to any excess calories I consume tomorrow.

When I did my last "Six Months to Ryan Reynolds Challenge," I used intermittent fasting often to help me keep my diet in check.  It is also great for hydrating your muscles because you should be drinking a lot of water and herbal or detox teas on fast days.  Hydrating the muscles is important for muscle growth.  As you increase the water stored within muscle fibers, your muscles function more efficiently at a cellular level and you flush the toxins produced by the repair process that happens when you create micro tears in the muscle fiber through resistance training.

Another great result of fasting is that, even though you are drinking lots of water, your body naturally expels some of the water held between your muscle tissue and your skin (subcutaneous fluid).  Reducing this type of water retention can do amazing things for how lean you look.  Suddenly, you can see veins you didn't know you had and small muscle definitions that weren't visible before.  Some folks have designed elaborate systems of reducing water retention to look their best at bodybuilding contests or on beach vacations.  A 24-hour fast gives you a similar effect -- though not as dramatic, maybe -- without the risk of dehydration.

If you would like to read more about my experience with fasting, please read this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 1 Down!

It's always tough to jump back on the wagon, which is why the first ten days of any new diet or exercise commitment are so important.  Those first few days are painful.  My body might not be used to the strains of the new exercises.  My mind will need time to adjust its habits to fit my new diet and schedule.  But once I've cleared those early hurdles, momentum builds.  Pretty soon, I'm in full swing and the new regimen starts to feel natural.  Then I start to feel my strength come back and my clothes start to fit a little better.  After a month, I'm hooked and I can see the next several months stretching out in front of me like an open field with only a few, minor and unexpected obstacles.  By that point, though, these obstacle will be easily overcome and they can't stop me from roaring on towards my goals.

It might seem funny to start thinking about sunny summer days on the beach now in drizzly November. But I've learned over the years that I respond best to a long-term goal with a clearly defined plan.  Once I have that in place, I just follow the plan.  When I feel low motivation, I turn off my mind and just follow the plan.  When I'm too busy or stressed to think about my health, I get creative and figure out a way to simply follow the plan each and every day.

My first week is complete.  I made it to the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  I rested on Wednesday, played soccer on Thursday night for a healthy dose of fun, and spent quality time with friends on Saturday and Sunday.  I focused on eating more whole foods and keeping a solid balance to my meals.  I replaced most of my coffee with water and tried to reduce my snacking between meals.  These changes weren't drastic, just gently steering myself toward a healthier course.  The next few weeks I'll tighten the reigns a little more in an effort to prevent any major holiday binging.  By the new year, I'll already be well on my way to my goals!  Week 2, here I come.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Two Days Complete

I know it may not sound like much, but getting back into the gym for two days in a row feels like the start of a major shift.  I was pleased to see that, although I feel out of shape, I haven't lost a lot of strength.  That means that I'll be able to make even bigger gains this time around and progress even faster toward my goals.  It's day 3 today, so I'm taking a total rest day.  The only exercise I'll do is take a long walk at lunch (I really enjoy slipping on my iPod with some cool Miles Davis and walking through the fall leaves).  I'll post again near the end of the week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time for a New Six-Month Challenge

OK, so there's been radio silence on my blog here for a while.  Summer came and brought some amazing vacations and lots of time outdoors with friends and family.  Throughout all of it, I was eating well and exercising regularly, so I felt great and looked fit.  Then at the end of the summer I seriously sprained my ankle in a soccer game.  Suddenly I couldn't exercise, couldn't run, well I could barely walk!  That threw me off and I got to feeling pretty low.  I'm not used to coming home from work each day and sitting on the couch for the evening with my leg up and an ice pack.  I was miserable.  No soccer!  No gym!  What was I going to do?  Dive into some snacks, I guess.  Pretty soon my diet was slipping.  Not too badly, but with the lack of activity, my weight crept up.  I needed to bounce back!

So, a few weeks ago I started my recovery.  I started to sloooowly clean up my diet.  Nothing drastic, just a little more mindful eating.  Then I started to gradually work in some exercise.  First walking, then a lot of walking, then short runs.  Now I'm back to soccer and just got back into the gym.  So, what's next?  Well, I'm goal-oriented, so I think another six-month challenge like I did last year.  This time, I'm starting a little earlier so I'll really be in full swing when the warm weather hits.  Plus, having a goal will keep my (somewhat) under control when the holiday revelry begins.  Starting tomorrow (mid-November) I'm embarking on another six months to Ryan Reynolds.  Maybe I'll tweak the name this year...I'll have to think about that.  Your suggestions are welcome.  More updates coming soon!