2014, or the Year Fink Beats the Stomach


A tradition since 2002, here are my resolutions for the year…

  1. Fitness: this is the big one. I’m going to be 40 in October, and I want to be able to take one of those “this is what 40 looks like” photos that make people jealous. I’ve got a spare tire around my gut that I’m weary of carrying. To that end, I resolve to…
    • walk/jog/run the neighborhood, every street, 3 times a week
    • go to the gym at least 1 time a week, I get up at 6am every weekday but don’t go to work until at least 8, so I figure I should be able to fit a gym visit in there somewhere, especially since I’m already paying for it, and when I don’t go to the gym I will be doing the 5BX, I bought the book last year and figure it is time to do it, I’d like to make it a habit
    • do 10 pushups, 10 situps and 10 squats for every TV show I watch, either I will watch less TV or exercise more, so it’s win-win
    • do random exercises while working, I already stand for 8 hours a day, so throwing in the occasional set of squats or dropping down for a few pushups should be easy to incorporate
    • eat better … I loath nebulous goals like this, it just isn’t S.M.A.R.T. but after a bout of buying veggies from the farmer’s market, I know it is something that can be done but can also waste a lot, so I need to spend some time educating myself on diet and figure out how best to change in a way that doesn’t result in so much compost
  2. Writing: I think I resolve this every year, but I don’t actually follow my own advice and make a plan that is capable of being followed, so this year I resolve to…
    • write in the mornings, I get up at 6am every weekday but don’t go to work until at least 8, so I figure on days that I don’t go to the gym I should be able to fit some writing time in there
    • blog about the fitness stuff, this is a good excuse to write, so as I walk and hit the gym and eat better I will write here about it, something I should be doing anyway
    • start using my phone, or buy a special device, to record things I think about in terms of writing, lots of times I have ideas when I am not in a position to write it down, and I need to solve that

I think that’s a good set of things to resolve to do. I wanted to include something about publishing a piece of writing, but I really need to just get down the habit of writing first. Perhaps at the mid-year 4th of July update on my progress and course correction I will feel like adding it in.

Three Week Rolling Average

graphOnce again I am back on the weight loss kick. This time we’ve joined a local co-op for a weekly fruit & vegetable basket so that we will have better foods to eat in the house. So far, this is working. We aren’t crazy, we aren’t trying to go vegan or anything, but we have eaten a few meals with little to no meat.

We are also giving juicing a shot. I’m not sure we are ready to go full on with a juice fast or anything, but it is interesting to make up a couple of glasses of vegetable/fruit juice and have it leave me feeling full for hours. If you know me, then you know I almost never feel full – I’m always hungry, except after juice. Weird.

Anyway, being that we are doing the eat better thing, and we also joined a gym, I’ve also started weighing myself. One of the things I hate most about weighing myself is the wild fluctuations you’ll see. According to the Hacker’s Diet, which I don’t recommend as an actual diet guideline but do recommend for learning some facts about how weight and weight-loss works, a lot of your weight change has to do with water, we are 80% water after all, and the odd thing is that people often increase their water intake when dieting. Take this example, you work out one day – running, lifting, etc – but drink a couple of gallons of water; then one day you sit on your ass playing video games and drink a glass of water. Chances are, the workout day may cause you to gain weight and the lazy day will cause you to lose weight. Crazy, right? That’s why you should never let a single day weight-in get you down.

To that end, I created a spreadsheet in Google Docs that will maintain a Three Week Rolling Average. Right out of the gate, let me say that this is only a “three week” thing if you put in a weight every day. If you skip days but don’t skip rows, it’s a 21 latest values average. But, if you don’t skip days on the sheet, and every day you don’t actually weigh yourself you just copy the weight from the previous day, you’ll get a nice running average. Bonus: the second sheet is a graph. Oh, and also, those numbers aren’t real, just an example.

The great thing about the rolling average is that it helps mentally negate a spike in weight. Once you get yourself in the mental space that the number on the scale doesn’t matter and what does matter is the current average once you’ve entered that number from the scale into the spreadsheet, it reduces the anxiety of stepping on the scale. Over time, the average helps smooth out the curve and you can get a picture of the real trend your weight is taking. As humans, we tend to remember bad things more acutely than we do good things, and so we’ll weigh ourselves every day but only remember the days we were disappointed in the number, leading us to feeling like the weight-loss isn’t working. With the average, however, you can see the spikes and valleys and where your real weight actually rests, and that one bad day isn’t the end of the world.

So, copy the document to your own Drive and start tracking. Let me know if you run into any problems with it.

Less of Me

Once again, I’m attempting to lose weight. It seems like I’m always trying to do that, but I suppose that will be the case until I finally get down to the weight I would like to be.

I bought a new scale. The old one, it seems, may have been broken. I weigh myself fairly often and noticed that I appeared stuck at 210 or there about. A little up, a little down, but not much. On a whim, I decided that I wanted a digital scale instead of the old non-digital one we had, plus it was only $12. Anyway, first time I step on – 217. My other scale had been lying to me. Oddly enough, the previous couple weeks I’d been doing the light eating again, so I suspect that I was at 220 or so. I’m down to 216 and trending downwards.

Trending… that’s another key this time around. I’ve got a Google Doc spreadsheet I’m using to track my weight. I’m weighing myself 3 times a day – morning, after work, before bed – and recording the lowest weight for the day (because it makes me feel better), but that weight is less important than the moving average. The average will give me a better picture of where my weight really is by smoothing out the fluctuations that occur from retaining water, the occasional big (heavy) meal, and more. Also, by adding “Science!” to my daily routine it feels more like a real project and not just “eat less, exercise more”.

Speaking of exercise, I have a 10k to run in under a month, so, you know, I should probably get to training a bit. The past year has been fairly shitty for me in regards to exercise and diet so I expect to do worse than I have in the previous two years. I did, however, download a Couch-to-5k program for the old Zune that I plan on beginning, maybe this weekend. Also, you know, Rule #1 of the Zombie Apocalypse: Cardio.

Another common element of my “I’m going to start a diet” plan is cutting out sodas, which I’m doing again. Consistently, I’m drinking less sodas now that I used to – there was a time where I was drinking a 6-pack of can sodas a day plus whatever I got out at meals. Now I drink mainly on the weekends and sometimes after hosting a party at our house I’ll have some left over hanging around, and I have little to no willpower, and I refuse to let things go to waste. Oddly enough, as I was thinking about cutting out sodas again, I ran across this wonderful little infographic.

CDC: The New (Ab)Normal

It really makes me not want to eat fast food anymore. Or at the very least, order the smalls and from the value menus. It would help my ego if they stopped calling them “junior” or “kid’s” sizes, but I think I’m just going to have to get over it. I may also start ordering food from the kid’s menu at other restaurants or trying to split a meal with the wife or something. Portions are really out of control.

Also, the CDC has some really awesome stuff about diet. Which makes sense, now that over-eating and obesity are being considered diseases. You can start with the source of that infographic here.

Anyway… enough about me being fat. I return you to your regularly scheduled Friday.

Insanity 2: Electric Boogaloo

Second week complete.  See the first week’s post here.

So how did it go?  This is probably the most cardio work I’ve done in a very long time.  There was a moment, more than a decade ago, where I joined a gym and went every day and ran about 5 miles per day.  That might have been more than the Insanity workout, but I don’t remember it being this exhausting.

The one thing I like most about this workout is that while I am very tired at the end of the workout, after a little rest, some water and food, I feel good.  I don’t feel wiped out.  I don’t hurt for days.

I’m still behind the experts.  I have to rest more often than the people on the DVD, and I’m seriously considering altering the program to repeat month 1 twice and then do month 2 twice in other to give myself more opportunity to progress, but I’ve got a couple of weeks before I need to make that decision.  For now, I just feel great that I’m able to complete it each day.

I will be running the Peachtree Road Race again this year, and one of the goals of all this is to beat my time from last year of 1:41:31.  Just for frame of reference for my time, the Peachtree is a 10k, or 6.2 miles, and the Boston Marathon is 26 miles.  The guy who won the Boston Marathon this year ran it in 2:03:02.  He ran an average of a 4.7 minute mile.  I ran a 16.37 minute mile.  I don’t expect to ever be quite that fast, but I’d obviously love to bring my time down a bit.  One day, I might even consider running a marathon, but not yet.

Onward to week three…


The last time I wrote in the Getting Fit category was back in October when I ran a 5k.  So here it is, almost 6 months later… what have I been up to?

Throughout the winter I (mostly) kept up with a simple workout.  100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats, 100 dips, 100 reverse sit ups.  Not all of them every just, just one per day, a 5 day program.  And occasionally I’d run for 30 minutes to an hour on the elliptical machine.  This has worked well for me.  I’ve built up a decent bit of strength in all those areas, but it was time to do something else.

Shaun T and the Insanity BunchEnter Insanity.

Now, before people go all off on commenting about how I should be careful and not hurt myself, allow me to state emphatically, I am not an idiot.  I am fully aware that I have only one body (until science advances far enough) and I have to take care of it (which, coincidently, is why I am exercising), and this is actually why I chose Insanity over other workouts (I actually watch the videos with a critical eye prior to ever attempting the exercises myself).  And throughout, while Shaun T is screaming things like “Work!”, “Faster!”, “Push it!” and all the other things instructors say to make you move, he’s also constantly saying “Know your limits.”, “You don’t have to keep up with me.”, “Take a break whenever you need to.” and this makes all the difference.  In other workouts that I’ve tried, they always made me feel like a failure when I couldn’t do their programs to their level, but here, I always feel like I’m doing my best, and my goal is to make my best better over time, and not to meet some arbitrary goal set by a guy who already has a perfect body.

Right now, my best is pretty pitiful.  Each day when I do it, I am winded and exhausted by the end of the warm up, and it is a struggle to get through the rest of the day’s program.  I attempt each exercise, do what I can, and then take a break.  However, after just the first week, I feel better.

I also know I’ve picked the right workout because doing it is hard work, but after I stop, shower and relax a little, I don’t feel like I’ve been dragged through the street behind a car.  A workout should work you out, not devastate you.

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind later.  I’m only one week into the program, but right now I feel great.

If I have any quibble about the Insanity program, it’s the same one I have for almost every workout program: perfect people.  They have a group of a dozen people doing the exercises, but none of the guys have guts or love handles and none of the women have hips or chests.  But that is minor and common, so it really isn’t worth being bothered by it.

One week down, seven to go.

I Came, I Saw, I Ran

This morning was the 3rd Annual Run Like Hell 5k at the Oakland Cemetary.

It isn’t fancy, so the times aren’t exact, but I crossed the like at exactly 53 minutes and 0 seconds, on the nose.  In fact, seeing the time tick toward 53 is what caused me to actually run across the finish instead of continuing to walk.

53 minutes is a decent time.  Not a good time.  Definitely not a great time.  It also happens to be roughly half my Peachtree Road Race, a 10k, time from July.  So, despite making little effort to train or exercise in the past few months, I haven’t backslid any.

I do want to bring down my time for next July, so today is the kicking off point of trying to get back into exercising.  No.  Forget the trying, I am back to exercising.

Anyway, I had a great time, and as you can see from the picture I ran dressed as Charlie Brown’s Evil Twin.  Really, that’s what makes the Run Like Hell a fun run: the costumes.  Batman, Supergirl, people with blue hair, painted faces, tutus and all manner of different things.  I look forward to next year.

The Road to Fit

I am no longer doing 100 push-ups a day. The reason I began doing them is because I recognized that the first step to getting fit is actually starting. Honestly, getting started is usually the hardest part of almost any project.  For me, anyway. I’m not an amatuercrastinator, I’m a procrastinator. So to get started on the road to fitness I needed an easy way to get into the habit.  Push-ups are simple in that practically anyone can do them, even if you have to start on your knees instead of your toes and it takes you all day to do the whole hundred. Eventually I did get myself down to being able to do the hundred, on my toes, in under ten minutes.  But the real achievement was that I was doing this (nearly) every day.

The second phase of my journey was portion control. One of the main issues many people face in getting thinner is that they overeat. And I’m not talking about sitting down with a bucket of chicken or a tub of ice cream and polishing it off. I’m talking about eating a little too much at every meal that adds up over time. Before starting this road to fitness for real, I wrote about cutting my morning cereal down to one cup. I started doing this again, and limiting my lunches, and watching out for sizes of dinners, and cutting out extra snacks. I also switched to drinking mainly water except for special occasions and sometimes for meals. And I also trained myself to order smaller when we eat out, or order with the expectation that half the meal is going home in a box for another time. Eating at restaurants is really bad for you when it comes to portion control because they often won’t let you control the portions, you just get the plate of food they serve and it is left to you to stop eating. Of course, having a spot of unemployment and being broke really helps here since eating out is one of the first things to go. Fast food is also a pain here since many places have eliminated their old “small” size and made “medium” the new small, “large” the new medium, and the bucket of soda with a barrel of fries the new large. If you are in the habit of ordering the large or medium combos, you might need to reevaluate and switch to the small, or even start ordering off the kid’s menu.

Following these two phases I was able to reach one of my big goals: 200lbs. Phase three is now in full effect.  What is phase three?  Realistic expectations.

Look, I didn’t get up to 250lbs overnight, or even in a couple months, not even a year.  It took a long time for the weight to creep up on me. With that in mind, I don’t expect to lose it all in a short period of time either. I’ve seen tons of propaganda for diets and exercise plans that claim I can shed thirty, fifty, even a hundred pounds in a matter of weeks or months, but the largest problem with losing weight fast is that you usually lack the discipline to keep the weight off. The “crash” in most crash diets isn’t the sudden loss of weight but the crash of depression when months later you find you’ve gained most or all of it back.  With that in mind, my current goal is to lose just one pound a week.  That seems very small, and it is, purposefully so. Each pound that goes away I am determined to keep gone.

I’ve stopped doing my push-ups and sit-ups routine. It served its purpose of getting me in the habit of exercising and now it is time to move on. I was a big fan of the idea of the Wii Fit, but the implementation was lacking. Since I already owned the balance board, buying Wii Fit Plus for under $20 was a no-brainer. Having used it for a month now, I can say that this sequel successfully fixed all the issues I had with the original. The main fix being that I can build a workout, not have to stop between exercises to choose another and also not have to see the scores and rankings which I really don’t care about. The best part being you can simply select an amount of time, select a type of workout (yoga, strength, or a mix of both) and hit start. I now do a random selection of yoga three days a week, and a random selection of strength exercises two days a week, each workout for thirty minutes. Of course, I continue to examine what I eat, making small changes as I see places to improve without throwing out all the foods I love just to see an improvement in my waste line.

If I can maintain my goal of one pound a week that is fifty-two pounds in a year.  148lbs is my new goal for October 2010. I’m looking forward to it…

Fitness Gaming

One of the hardest things for me about getting fit is just keeping at it.  Over the last year I forced myself into the habit of exercising every day, my push-ups and sit-ups plan has worked fairly well, but I know I need to incorporate more exercises in order to work the whole body and not leave things out.  Back when I bought a Wii, I was excited about Wii Sports and the coming Wii Fit.  Wii Fit turned out to be a disappointment because you couldn’t build a real workout, you had to do everything one exercise at a time and the constant stopping and starting was annoying.  That single feature is why I’ve pre-ordered and am eagerly awaiting Wii Fit Plus.

But as much as I like it, I do have to admit the Balance Board is kinda retarded.  I suppose that is why I saw Your Shape with its camera and was immediately intrigued.

I am tempted, but really want to see some honest reviews of the product before I buy in.  An exercise game without a board or hand held controllers would be awesome if it works.


It has been very close for a while now, but I finally hit the mark, and maintained it for a few days (maintaining is the key).  Two hundred pounds.

The best part about this is that I am doing it slow and steady.  I’m watching my diet, but I don’t feel like I’m starving or cheating myself.  I’m exercising, but I don’t feel like I’m “working out”.  I’m just getting leaner, and stronger, and feeling better.  I don’t think I would ever actually want to do one of those crash diet and exercise programs where you lose fifty pounds in two weeks because I don’t think I’d actually keep the weight off.  But the way I am approaching it, breaking one bad habit at a time and instilling one good habit at a time, it feels good and I doubt I’ll have trouble sticking with it.

I’m still doing my 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups daily (most of the time, some days I skip but I’d like to think I still hit 5 days a week).  Before spring got here I was doing a cardio step thing once a week, but I’ve since replaced it with mowing the lawn and other yard work.  I use a push reel mower for the lawn.  Look it up, you’ll think I’m crazy.  But crazy like a fox…  I’m to the point now where I’ll keep the yard work and try to add a cardio bit somewhere in the middle of the week.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now.  199, here I come…

Six Away

One of my goals when it came to working out and getting in shape was to see my weight fall south of two hundred pounds.  At my heaviest, I was probably close to 250.  I can only guess because once I crossed 240, weighing myself became too depressing.  Last week I finally decided to weigh myself for the first time since I started my new routines (Mid-December).  Previously I had weighed myself a couple of weeks after kicking caffeine and sodas, and I had been at 221.  Now I am down to 206.

In addition to dropping the weight, I also generally feel a whole lot better.  I have more energy and my back pain, which has been fairly constant for years, is much less, almost non-existent.

Currently, my workout goes like this:

  • First, I do some stretching.  This is a mixture of some straight muscle stretching and some yoga poses.  This, more than anything else, has led to me feeling a lot better.  Good stretching really opens you up.
  • Second, I do my push-ups.  I’m still doing them slow, and I have no expectation of speeding them up.  Fast isn’t the point.  Each one takes a little more than a second to complete, and I’m at the point now where I do five sets of twenty to make my 100.  A short (30 second to 1 minute) break between sets.
  • Thirds, I do my sit-ups.  Same at the push-ups.  Slow.  Sets of twenty.  Break between sets.  Five sets.
  • After that I do some more stretching and some breathing as a cool down.

I do want to put some leg work/cardio in my workout, but for the moment I’m happy because this is a workout that I can do anytime, anywhere.

Of course, I can’t attribute everything to the workout.  I’ve also been watching my diet.  One thing I’ve learned reading books and listening to trainers and specialists is that the most important element is portion control.  So I’ve been learning to eat leftovers and make sure I’m not stuffing myself at mealtimes.

All in all, I am very pleased so far and really looking forward to the day I get myself under two hundred for good.