Health Check: 2018

Fair warning: this post is going to be pretty personal, and if you don’t care about my struggles with my weight and food, then you should probably just skip it and move on to the next post.

In fact, I’ll add a cut link here to encourage it unless you really do care about me, in which case, please proceed.

Yes, I want to know this stuff.

Open 17.2

Well, this was definitely a thing.

The Workout (Scaled)

12-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible):

  • 2 rounds of:
    • 50-ft. weighted walking lunge
    • 16 hanging knee-raises
    • 8 power cleans
  • Then, 2 rounds of:
    • 50-ft. weighted walking lunge
    • 16 chin-over-bar pull-ups
    • 8 power cleans

Alternate between hanging knee-raises and chin-over-bar pull-ups every 2 rounds.

Dumbbell weight is 35 pounds.

Results

39 reps, which is only halfway through the second round’s worth of lunges.

This was a pretty bad one for me just because of the lunges. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be horrible and I was just thinking that I would get to the pull-ups and then have to stop scoring at that mark because I still can’t manage a single pull-up.

But instead, I had neglected to realize that doing lunges with a 290-pound frame while putting two 35-pound dumbbells on your shoulders is not easy. I had to psych myself up for almost every one of them, twice forgot which lead leg was next, and a few times got down in the lunge and then just couldn’t get back out of it. I might have done better if I had thought more about the lunges and less about hating the pull-up requirement.

Apply the same weight-based knowledge to my knee raise grip and that’s a decent start. At least my power cleans were unbroken? And I didn’t tap out.

I’m not sure I’m happy with myself this week. I gave it a lot of fight, especially at the end, so maybe this is just not a workout I can get much further in. My legs are sure feeling it right now. (I hate stairs.)

Progress

I mentioned last week that I was upping my activity to every day; here’s how it’s going:

Attendance: I missed this past Thursday because I didn’t have the car for most of the day and couldn’t get up early enough after going to see a concert the night before. It was active recovery day, so I got out and moved a bunch instead and so today when it came time for the Open workout, I didn’t feel too bad. Hit every other day, though.

Muscles: Holy crap, uh, this is a new level of soreness. Sunday morning after 17.1 was the worst. The interesting thing is that it’s not the “I don’t want to get out of bed” level of soreness I was seeing when I was going two days a week. This is more just soreness distributed more evenly throughout my body, and at a low level but it’s always there. I will say that in general, I feel better than I did when I was not going as much in a given week.

Stats: One new PR (2-rep power snatch). Weight is actually up a bit, which you know, whatever, I guess?

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 15.50.39

I was hoping to see at least some weight loss in the first couple of weeks after making this change, but so far that’s not panning out, which (at least for my state of mind) sucks. But my Withings body fat mass measurement is doing this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 15.50.59

So you know, whatever? The human body is weird.

Getting Things Done

Last week, I splurged and bought an Apple Watch. I’m writing out some thoughts about it for a longer post in a month or two, but I have to say that I love the progress-tracking aspects of it as someone who sometimes struggles with organizing his day properly.

It feels great when my default watch face has closed circles all around the bottom:

img_1600

The left one is for Activity, which I manage to fill on days I go to the gym (and not so much on days I don’t). I won’t lie; I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I finish that last standing goal and the watch pings me with this:

img_1598

And the app and complication for Things (in the lower-right) have somewhat resurrected my use of the Things as a platform. I’m now organizing the things I have to do and scheduling things like ticket follow-ups and daily mundanity that just needs to get done. Again, it feels great when I tick off that last to-do:

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The other benefits of the watch so far have mostly been a lot less glancing at my phone throughout the day. My early take on it is that doing that alone has made it worth the investment.

I’ll write more another time.

Hard at Work, Part 2

My daughter tagged along to CrossFit with me on Tuesday. She ended up snapping pictures with my phone; I suppose this is the least embarrassing-looking one.

My body has a great sense of humor in that my legs have slimmed down a good bit but my belly fat stubbornly refuses to go away.

Six Months of CrossFit

It’s been a touch over six months since I crawled my way out of my first workout at CrossFit Nucleus. (Picture and one-word blog post here.) I thought I might put down some thoughts about my experience there and what it’s done for me, so if you are looking at doing the CrossFit thing in the future, it might be useful.

So here are some things about it I’ve noticed in my six months’ worth:

The first workout made me feel like a total chump.

The first day I tried was high-intensity cardio day. Bear crawls, ball slams, rows, jump rope, battle ropes—that sort of thing. All-out for short periods of time. What I got through felt like not a lot, but not all that bad. I remember having a hard time catching my breath and feeling really overheated.

This did not prepare me for the quad cramps I would have for the next week. I had a hard time standing and sitting, going up stairs, even getting out of bed. It was a couple of weeks of super-scaled back workouts before I was even close to doing the normal routine.

The good news is that I was not alone in that first workout surprise. I’ve seen a handful of people show up and just get wrecked by that first day or even first week.

Workouts will still make me feel like a total chump.

still have days where I wake up and am really feeling it from the previous day’s workout. They are probably more common than they should be. Missing a few days at the gym is like asking for cramps.

When I check the board at the end of the day, I’m usually way at the back of the pack. I’m doing scaled workouts and I’m having the kind of trouble that you would expect a 290-pound man who hasn’t done this kind of physical activity ever before in his life to have.

The challenge has been learning that being the last-place finisher most days is perfectly fine.

Change is slow.

It’s a big barge of health trouble that I’m trying to course-correct with increasing my physical activity. It’s hard to turn that ship. There are days where it feels I haven’t moved the needle at all. Here’s my weight chart for the last six months:

(Ignore the gap at the end there.)

You can see some plateauing in that chart. It’s been in a very narrow range of about seven to ten pounds. I’m not losing weight like crazy, probably due to a lack of diet changes.

But take into account my body fat percentage, taken with electrical testing:

There is a very slow but perceptible change in that reading over the last six months.

If you go into an exercise regimen expecting immediate change, you are probably not going to see it. It’s more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Things other than my weight were the first to change.

In the last six months, if you were to ask me what the main thing was that’s improved in my physical fitness, I would have said stamina up until about a month ago.

Today, I’d tell you it’s my flexibility.

Six months in, the biggest change has been to my form when performing exercises. I can squat deeper, rack a barbell higher, and keep my back straighter than I could at any time before. Being 35 and having been significantly overweight for most of that time eroded my joint flexibility. Today I front squatted 165 pounds, and I got that squat down past 90º.

There is no way I could have done that before I started this thing. None. And I can tell that it’s only going to get better if I keep at it—as long as I’m maintaining form and doing things properly.

I’m still having problems with anything that’s a body weight exercise, and who wouldn’t at my age and my weight? I’ve had to temper my expectations a lot. But it sounds like I’m lucky to have coaches who are willing to help me with the process.

I found a gym and coaches who emphasize form over weight or speed.

Since starting this, a good number of friends have reached out to me out of concern that I was going to go too far and get hurt, or do some kind of crazy exercise that is an accident waiting to happen. Lots of people have seen YouTube clips of stupid people doing stupid things.

I have no doubt many of these things happen at CrossFit gyms. In fact, I have heard from people joining our gym that there is at least one other gym out there in my area that pushes people to move too much weight before they are ready to do so.

The only person who knows what your body is saying is you. If you feel like you can’t do it anymore, that you have to tap out of a workout because you can’t get air or you feel light-headed, you need to say something to the coach. And your coach should respect that you are finding your limits and not push you to the point of complete exhaustion or vomiting. When working with weights, your coach should be helping you find your proper form and know what you are doing wrong to correct it if needed.

If you try out a gym and you don’t find this is the case, I would urge you to try another one. There are good gyms out there. Mine seems to be one of them. Where I’m going, there’s no macho crap, no pushing people to lift more than they are ready for. I didn’t get to put weight on a bar until I proved that I knew the form for the exercises we were doing and that I could consistently repeat that form and do it right.

If I weren’t doing that, I could hurt myself (rather easily in some cases), and that helps no one. It certainly isn’t going to get my health better than it was before I walked in the door. In fact, I’m still being discouraged from using a barbell for overhead squats and thrusters because I don’t have the form or the stamina to do those things consistently and at a good rhythm.

I am learning my limits.

Every day I’m in there, I push myself as hard as I can. The goal is to be better than last time. A bit more weight than last time. A few more reps than last time.

I know there are going to be days where I’m not going to do any better than that previous day. There will be days when my sugar crashes in the middle of a workout and I just need to sit down and call it. There are going to be days where giving it my all the previous workout means I’m in the back, rowing my ass off for an hour instead of lifting weight. And those days are just fine, as long as I know I’m doing the best I can.

I know where my limits are and I make a conscious commitment to reaching them as often as I can.

I’m learning how to find that extra bit of effort.

Once in a while, when I hit up against my limit, I say to myself “I’m not done with this yet” and pull one more rep, five more pounds, five seconds faster than I thought I could do.

It doesn’t always happen—nor should it—but when it does I know how to find it.

It’s about improving myself.

Yeah, there’s a leaderboard at the gym. But in the end, the only person I can compare myself to is me. Am I bettering myself? Am I doing things now that I couldn’t do six months ago? Will I be able to do more in another six months?

That’s the challenge in front of me. To find the next level and to do it safely, carefully, and intentionally.

That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Keeping Things Moving

As an Automattician, I spend the vast majority of my time working from home. This has its advantages and disadvantages, like anything else, but I didn’t think of my physical activity (or lack thereof) in quite the right way until I saw this tweet from my colleague Beau:

http://twitter.com/#!/beaulebens/status/113780084149719040

For reasons that I plan to write about soon, I have been taking a long-overdue look at my habits throughout the day in an effort to improve them and their effects on my overall health. It’s no secret that it’s not a great thing for you to be sitting down all day long.

I know this because the best shape I’ve been in for the last 10 years or so was when I was working retail at Circuit City. Being on your feet for 10 hours at a stretch and walking a store floor will do that to you. Once I shifted to a desk job, I quickly ballooned to over 300 pounds until I hit a high of around 325 in the last couple of years.

(I have since dropped a good amount of weight but that will need to wait for that other post I was talking about.)

What I have been using for about the last year or so to keep myself from getting leg cramps is a little utility called AntiRSI. It sits in your dock (and with the newest version, can sit in your menu bar instead) and has a configurable set of controls for taking breaks.

The options are pretty straightforward:

I don’t use it for the micro breaks as I don’t have any issues with strain (yet) and they were interrupting my flow a bit. Instead, I use it to force myself to take an eight-minute break every 50 minutes (so about every hour). When the 50 minutes of work are up, this appears and won’t go away unless I dismiss it, which I try very hard not to do:

When that appears, I do exactly what it says. The important part is that I stand up when prompted for a work break and walk around a bit. I check on how the kids are doing in school, take a biobreak, refill my water, or any one of a number of things, but (a) don’t work and (2) stay standing and moving as much as possible. Sometimes I will set an eight minute timer on my iPhone and take a walk outside. I walk past the desk every so often to see if the break is up, and when it is I sit back down and get to it.

Now I read tonight that I might not be getting up enough. And it’s possible that using a standing desk (which I have considered) is getting up too much. This is of course only one source of information on this, and you can always find a study or paper that agrees with you, but:

Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes.  Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day).

You can read the original text here.

So maybe I will give 30 minute intervals with smaller breaks a shot and see how it goes for a while. I’m thinking 5 minutes’ break every 30 minutes or so.

Do you have a method that works for you? Something you do to stay active throughout the day? I would love to hear about it.