Monday, August 30, 2010

There's an app for that...

So, the book talked about counting calories, and food journaling and figuring out how many calories you need to eat in order to lose, gain or maintain weight. Knowing that I would be needing to count calories, I wondered if there were any apps for the iphone (since basically, the phone seldom leaves my side!!). So, I searched "calorie counters" and of course, a whole bunch came up. One caught my eye though, called I thought this was the Lance Armstrong thing for cancer, so I checked out the reviews on it, and everything I read, was quite positive. I decided, for $3, I could download it and check it out. So I did, and I put in my data from that day. And I have put in my data every day, ever since!!

Basically, the tool is called Daily Plate, or MyPlate and can be used to input the foods you eat and the exercise you do. The database is incredible. There are over a million items in there. In the past, one of my complaints on some of these sites is the lack of Canadian content, however, in this case, the Canadian content is fantastic. Right down to the 12 grain alpine loaf from the local Bowness Bakery. It also has all sorts of restaurants including Canadian content when it is different from the US stuff (ie like blizzard flavours from the Dairy Queen, although I can happily say I have not had any sort of blizzard since I started using the app). And it bases your calories on your goals, either to maintain, lose or gain weight. It nets out so if you exercise, you have a few more calories at your disposal.

But, what if I don't have an iphone, you ask. Well, the online version is free. Yup, that's right. Totally free. It's fantastic. And the online version tracks your sources of calories, so you can check out graphs and stuff on how you are doing, and it let's you know if you are eating too many carbs, proteins, fat, sodium etc. It's great. Really. You can also add meals that you usually eat (like cereal with banana and milk), so that you don't have to input each item every time. And if you make a recipe, you can input it and it will calculate out the calories you ate etc, so even home cooking can be figured out. There is an upgrade to a version with no ads, but so far, I haven't been bothered much by the ads. I've just been so impressed at the program. They even have a diabetic version of myplate. I haven't checked it out at all, but if you are in this situation, I'm sure it's tailored more to the needs of someone tracking and dealing with blood sugars etc.

Basically, I couldn't be happier with the program. It's amazing. It's been fun to use, and now that I'm going on two weeks with it, it's nice to see the different trends emerging and seeing where I need to change my eating and what I'm doing well. My husband uses only the online version, and has been very happy with it as well. I like the iphone app, as it works for me at work, or wherever, but it's nice to get online as well to see some of the graphs and stuff. All in al, it's been a great find, and funny enough, as I got further into the book, it even suggested the exact same site. Funny, I found it before I read about it though!!

So, if you are wanting to keep track of your calories in and out, check it out. It's neat... and so far, it's keeping me in line, and my weight is down four pounds, so that is a good thing... next up, my Saturday adventure...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The book that got me going...

I love books. I love exercise books. I don't really like diet books very much. I like books that inspire me to want to adopt a healthy active lifestyle. Recently, my husband found one such book. It's called Racing Weight:How to Get Lean For Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald.

I'll be honest, I am not even done reading it yet, but got so motivated by the first five chapters, that it was worth the money, just for the motivation!! And seriously, I'm not quite in the target market for the book. In Chapter Two, you get to do a little math to figure out what your ideal racing weight might be. This is the best weight for your body to be, to perform your best in your races.

I race, but not really for times, more for staying in shape etc. Last year was the first time I actually started racing at a level that I never thought I'd reach (under 60 minutes for a 10km). In my eyes, this was what separated the men from the boys, the casual runner from the competitor. It was the golden standard for becoming more serious and less recreational. It took a lot of work to get to that point. Getting sidelined with an injury, after my best ever 10km and half marathon was frustrating, but I knew, that there was a competitor somewhere inside me.

I might never be the fastest in my age group, but I might improve on those times. It became apparent, while reading this book, that the less I weighed, the better I would perform. I mean, of course I already knew this, but suddenly I was presented with examples from the elite world. And if it is important to the elites, then it's important to me too!!

So there's the calculations. Figuring out approximately what percentage of your body is bones and muscle and water. If there was not one stitch of fat, what would your body weigh. In my case, about 117pounds. That's crazy!! Of course that's not ideal, but it's the portion of my body that exists without adding on the fat. From there, I could do various calculations to figure out what my optimum race weight would be based on adding in a percentage of body fat. So, in doing so, I would perform best if I weighed around 139lbs. It goes on to talk about how that's not necessarily the weight I should normally be, just the weight I would race best at. And since you don't race every day or even every season, the overall best weight for me, is about 150lbs. Wow, I remember when I used to way that. I even remember weighing 141lbs. That was when I started going out with Jeremy. Oh how times have changed!!

In understanding how this book is not really designed for me, at least for where I am right now, when consulting the chart on overall body fat, I'm in the very bottom row for my age, and even off the chart really, since according to the scale, my body fat currently registers around 40.3% and the chart only goes to 40%. See what I mean? This is simply not acceptable. The book suggests you move up 5 rows. For me, that means I'm aiming to be 28.1% body fat, or 163 pounds. At the moment, I'll celebrate if I simply move up one row, to 35.7% body fat, or 182pounds. So, I certainly have my work cut out for me, but it's nice to have done some number crunching and see where I actually stand and what my goals should be, both in the short run, and over the long run.

The book is nice in that it compares a bunch of different sports, since optimal weights aren't necessarily the same for a runner as they are for a skiier or rower for example. I've learned a lot, and I'm only about half way through!!

One of the best things I've learned though, is the importance of counting calories in and out. Food journalling has never been a strong suit for me, but I understand why it is important and finally found a tool that works for me... stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The moment of truth...

So, getting injured last year really derailed my plans. And, although the exercise has been spotty at best some months, I've gotten back on track with it. The eating though, was terrible, ever since the injury. I mean, it wasn't like I stuffed my face with huge amounts of anything, I just didn't eat proper portions and never denied myself a treat. So then treats became more commonplace, and a bigger part of my eating than really they should ever have been.

In the back of my mind, I knew what I was doing. I knew I shouldn't be eating as many treats as I did, but I still did. I kept thinking I'd start working on it next week, so have a few more treats. It was totally the wrong mentality and I knew it. But I just didn't care enough to worry too much. And treats were becoming more of staple than something special to enjoy now and then. More of an expectation than a one off enjoyable treat.

But then something happened. I didn't really notice it at first, but now, my work pants are tight. They are almost too tight. I can still wear them, but if I continue on the road I'm on, I'll need to get new pants, and that is simply not an option. In part, I'm too lazy to go down to the place I would be required to get them, then go to another place to get them altered, only to go back again a week later to pick them up. But mostly, because I don't want to need bigger pants. I'm happy in the pants I have now. I'd be happier if I needed to get smaller ones (although the lazy factor might again prevent me from caring so much!!).

Needless to say, my weight, which was down to about 179, slowly started creeping up, and most recently was back at 195.4lbs. I was angry at myself for letting this happen. Especially because I have been monitoring it, and know that it's a result primarily because of bad eating choices.

So, I have decided to do something about it. I was encouraged, in part, by my husband, who is basically in the exact same boat as I am. He decided to order a couple books on the subject to get us moving. And so we're on our way. I know it won't be a fast process but I am willing to do the work and take the time needed to work on it.

So, here I am, back in the saddle again. Yeah, yeah, I've said it before, but hey, maybe this time really will be different. I can hope and I can try, and if I fall down, well, that's okay, because I can always try again. I know I won't be perfect, but at least I'll be more aware of those imperfections...

Next up... the book that got me (well, us) inspired...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Strathmore Triathlon

So, initially I was telling a few friends about the Strathmore Triathlon as a perfect race for someone who wanted to give this sport a try in a friendly race atmosphere with like minded women. And then, registration opened, and a couple people I knew even registered. I tried registering one night at work, but it didn't work, and then I sort of forgot, and by the time I remembered, it was sold out. So there I was, convincing other people to do the race, but didn't even get signed up myself. I tried winning an entry at the tri diva tri event by bringing in old bras, but my ten, was nothing compared to the girl who brought in 200. And then, I also tried winning an entry, and even emailed the race director, but nothing. Finally, in about May, there was a chance to sign up again, once they knew who had dropped from the race. And so, my awesome husband got me all signed up. Yippee!!

Fast forward to Sunday, August 15th. Race day had arrived. I was ready, I was excited and although I might have trained a little harder, I knew I would finish. Two days before, I bought clip shoes and pedals. I didn't like the shoes and clips Jeremy had, and knew I wanted something different, something more rugged. Jeremy installed the new pedals and also changed out the water bottle holder as I didn't really want to use his fancy aerodynamic one. The day before, I decided that it wasn't clip shoes I wanted, but clip sandals. So, I went to MEC and bought the Keen biking sandals. The souls were a lot stiffer than regular keens, but they fit, and I knew it was the right choice for me. Of course I had to return the shoes, and then I actually needed to try them out. So I did, in the backyard. Oh, and keep in mind, I was deciding between using my mountain bike, and borrowing my husband's triathlon bike. The shifters are all different on a triathlon bike, so if I wanted to use it, I needed to make sure I could go between gears. So, I headed out into the neighbourhood, and rode about 2km, practicing shifting and getting the pedals clipped in and released. And, it went okay, so I made the decision to use Jeremy's bike for the race.

I got all my stuff together the night before. There's a lot of stuff you need. It's not nearly as simple as running. You need an outfit for the pool, ideally something you'd also bike and run in. You need goggles. And a towel to dry your feet off before putting on your bike shoes (or sandals in my case), a helmet, sunglasses (have no desire to get a rock in the eye), bike jersey, bike gloves (yes, I'm a bit of a princess), and of course your race number and belt. Then, there's the running shoes, and a hat, and let's not forget some fuel. For me, it was some gels (clif ones I think), and some water with Jeremy's magical nuun stuff or whatever it was. Here's what my transition area sort of looked like:

Race morning, Jody picked me up and off we went to Strathmore. First hurdle was the bike rack. The bars were too far apart on the bike rack for the bike to fit, so it got thrown inside (and Jeremy, if you are reading this, by thrown, I mean very gently placed with loving care inside the back of the vehicle). We get there and get our stuff set up in transition. It's a bit of a process. You lay everything out, thinking of how you can do so, so that you are in and out of transition as quickly as possible. After that, it was time to get body marked. This is the process where they use a permanent marker to write your number on your arms and legs, thus ensuring that nobody else could secretly take your place or do a part of the race for you. Then, the race meeting and finally things got underway.

One of the interesting things about pool triathlons is how athletes are ranked for their position. It's all based on swim time. And the slowest swimmers are first. This is nice for them as it is reassuring to know that you likely won't finish last. Faster swimmers, on the other hand swim last. This is a bit daunting to those people who are proficient at swimming, yet not as good at biking or running. Because now, you start last, and the feeling is that everyone around you is even faster, and you just might finish last. Jody was in the first heat, I was in heat J, so it took over two hours before I even started the race!! You really are on your own, with no idea of where you stand because of this. You might be near someone on the bike, or pass someone on the run, but they may have been faster elsewhere, and unless you know them personally, you likely won't remember their number to know how you placed in relation to them.

My swim went well. I was happy with it. I passed a person twice, and another person once. But, for the most part, was totally on my own. In transition I got to give my boys a kiss and then headed out on the bike. I worked hard. I pedalled hard, and passed about 7 people over the course of my bike. Then back to transition, chatted with Jody, who by this time, was done. Then off on the run. It was slow. I felt sluggish and I was hot and tired. Even though I had an energy gel at both transitions, I just wasn't all there for the run. And, I got passed by about 5 people. I hate getting passed. I had managed to avoid it on the swim and the bike, but was just too tired on the run. Plus, the people who started swimming after me were faster and it made sense that at some point some of them should catch up to me!! I did run the whole thing though, only breaking at the water stations.

And, how did I do, you might be wondering? Well, it goes a little something like this. My finishing time was 1hour 37minutes and 56seconds. What did that time get me? Well 1:37:56.4 was good enough for 131st place out of 281. In my age group, I was 25th out of 52. And to break it down a little further, my swim time was 13:26 (ranked 128th in the swim), my bike time with both transitions was 50:03 (ranked 122nd in the bike), and my sluggish run was 34:29 (ranked 159th in the run). So, my run wasn't my strong suit that day!! Guess those clip sandals and triathlon bike really helped (last year in my first triathlon, my bike was the weakest of the three disciplines, on the mountain bike). So, I am a solid middle of the pack triathlete. I'm happy with that.

Super Team Awesome... we both finished!! Here's us showing off our body marking... cause that's what it's all about ya know!!

I'd like to get better, but I need to put more time into training and eating better. And that is next up... stay tuned, for the moment of truth, part 2, since I've taken a few steps back since last fall....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The beginning...

So, I think I might finally be making changes to my eating. I ate well today. As in, no crappy yucky stuff for me. I had decent portions and even though I went to Starbucks twice, I asked for light whip. I know I should have said no whip, but hey, it was a step. And the running, although short, has been going well. I ran 4 times last week, and so far 2 times this week. I meant to swim today, but it just didn't happen. Mostly though, I'm just really glad the eating went well today. Especially the night time snacking. I had some grapefruit, and that was it. Well, and some water. And instead of watching television, we played on the wii fit plus. It was fun. There's some silly yet really fun games on that one!! It's not too fun though being on the cusp of being obese. When I look back, last year I was weighing close to 179, and now I'm up to almost 196. It's not pleasant at all. And it will slow down the running, quite obviously. But hey. It's coming together again and I'm even encouraging people at work to run with me!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is this healthy mom?

So, I have a four-year-old. And somewhere along the way, he has learned about eating healthy. Part of this he learned at home, but I think it was reinforced at preschool. As a result of all this, I hear, daily, several times a day, "mom, is this healthy?". He will ask this about everything, and he is now well aware of what is healthy and what is not. He will still want some cookies, but knows he needs to eat healthy meals if he wants to have a treat sometimes.

He also asks to exercise quite often. Usually, he wants to go running, but sometimes it's biking or swimming. He says it's important to move your body and that exercise is healthy for your body. He's four. These concepts are very elementary. Somehow though, as adults, we try to complicate the issues. I don't know why. There's no reason to make things more complicated than they are. I will simplify it just like he does.

Eating healthy is important. Include in your diet, a variety of foods. Fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins. Basically, follow the Canada Food Guide. It's actually quite amazing how the body will eat what it needs to, when the mind doesn't get involved. I watch my kids and am blown away with how they eat. Granted, their eating is not always perfect, but it's amazing how if you put a variety of foods in front of your child, they will eat to fill their needs. Some days my kids pack away the protein, but other days it's red fruit they crave, and the next time, it's grains. Left to their own devices, they eat what they need. They have yet to develop a psychological relationship to food. So far, they are driven purely by need!!

And exercise. The body needs to move. It's good for us. It feels good. And it keeps us healthy.

It's time to apply his principles to my daily life. And to add in the extra bit of math that applies to weight loss. Eat less calories than you burn, and your body will have to find the calories it needs internally. So, I need to eat less calories than I currently am and exercise more than I currently do, and weight loss should follow.

My husband bought a scale this weekend that measures body fat as well as weight etc. The results aren't so pretty. Currently I am sitting around 193.2lbs, and my body fat is approximately 40.3% of my body weight. Less than ideal. I have about 40 pounds to lose. Compared to this time last year, I'm about 15 pounds heavier than I was. This is very not so good. But, I have some events coming up and a plan for them, so hopefully I can get things in motion.

To start that effort, I've been running on my night shifts. And, not only running, trying to find people to run with... and the other night, I ran with two people!! Tonight though, nobody wanted to run. I nearly skipped it, but decided to go out and run laps of our parking lot. And, I did. I got in 5km in just under 33 minutes. So, there is hope.