Drainspotting

I had planned to go for a walk today as part of my month of daily exercise, but two things made that difficult. I woke up with a migraine and it’s been pouring rain all day. I took my migraine pill, which makes me tired and lethargic, although I’m not complaining because it takes the headache away.
Luckily, I received email from the local library saying that a book I had reserved (about Japanese gardens) had come in. I told myself I’d walk down there to get it, first circling past the library into a more hilly neighborhood to lengthen the walk a bit. I told myself I’d walk to a certain point, no matter how slowly and lazily, and then turn back for the library and go home. So I put on my hiking pants (of some nonabsorbent material) and went out. I was heading south, right into the rain. My pants stuck to my thighs, then my knees, then my shins. Then they stretched a bit and started to drench the tops of my shoes and skim the ground at my heels. I passed loads of schoolkids being released for the day and they must have thought I had something wrong with me to be wandering in the rain soaked to the skin.
By the time I got to the library, even the money in my pocket was wet. I had to hand over $1.70 in overdue fines though I can’t remember what for.
One thing I love about being out in the rain is seeing the water charging down the gutters into the street drains. I saw a lot that were partly blocked by matted dead leaves, but none were totally clogged. I also like walking around and looking in people’s yards in winter when everything is wet and a mess. I like to see what the rain does to things and how outdoor surfaces and stuff left outside look when they’re wet. Also now bulbs and irises are coming up so it is fun to look out for them among the dead brown stems from last year.
Tomorrow, another walk, maybe a little drier. Saturday, boxing. Sunday? Maybe a snowshoeing trip to the mountains.

A Short-Term Goal

I’ve decided to try to exercise every day for a month. So far I’ve exercised every day since January 10.
Today: Bike ride—nine miles, one long hill.
Yesterday: Boxing.
Sunday Jan. 25: Thirty-mile bike ride. Ouch!
Saturday Jan. 24: Boxing.
Friday Jan. 23: One-hour walk with hills. In the rain—does that add anything?
Thursday Jan. 22: Long walk for several errands, carrying groceries part of the way.
Today’s bike ride, though fun and not very long, made me tired. Also I have cramps—yes, those cramps. It’s good that I have to go to my writing class tonight or who knows what I’d end up eating. I’m going to take a green tea bag and my coffee mug with me so I can enjoy that in class, and a Luna bar for a snack. Hmm. Maybe I’ll eat it now.
Tomorrow I’ll go to boxing, and if it makes me more tired than usual, I’ll only do a short walk the next day. I have jury duty next week, which will take up at least two days. I’ll have to figure out a way to fit in some exercise on the Tuesday, especially, when I’ll have my class after sitting in court or in the waiting area all day.

Beef: It’s What’s for Breakfast

I don’t feel bad about having a big breakfast if I’m hungry in the morning, but I don’t want it to consist of a ridiculous amount of calories from a single, sugary source. After I realized the other day how much granola I eat, I wanted to add some variety to breakfast—not only to cut calories, but to add more protein. I bought some thin-sliced roast beef from the deli and I’m experimenting with having one slice for breakfast, with or without following it up with a small portion of granola. That may sound like a weird combination, but I think of it as a much healthier version of having a couple of slices of bacon.
Next week, I might try skipping cereal altogether and having a piece of fruit with my slice of roast beef. That would be lower in calories and would be one less meal of highly processed food. Granola has connotations of “health food,” but it’s probably just as processed and sugary as Cap’n Crunch.

Fine-Tuning Always Required

Since I lost the weight I wanted to lose three and a half years ago, my eating habits have slipped. They’re not as bad as they were before 2000, but I know I’ve gone back to eating too many high-calorie foods and not enough fruit and vegetables. Also I eat too large a portion of granola in the mornings—my goodness, I looked on the box and it says you’re supposed to eat a half cup for about 200 calories. I measured my actual portion: a cup and a half! Sheesh! But I’m so hungry first thing in the morning that it seems impossible not to fill my small bowl all the way up.
I’ve reined myself in a bit, although obviously not at breakfast. Throughout the rest of the day, I usually (emphasis on usually) make conscious food choices based on a quick mental tally of how many calories I’ve had so far. The thing is, I’m not really sure how many calories I should be eating in relation to my activity level, which had decreased around Christmas and afterward when I was sick for about two weeks.
So what I’m trying to do to keep my weight where I want it is to increase my activity. I do a very strenuous boxing workout three times a week, and for the past ten days or so I’ve also exercised on all of the other days as well, often doing something additional on the days that I go to boxing.
For example:
Today: Yard work and boxing.
Tuesday Jan. 20: Seven-mile bike ride with two hills.
Monday Jan. 19: Fifty-minute walk and boxing.
Sunday Jan. 18: Tiring 27-mile bike ride.
Sat. Jan. 17: Boxing.
Fri. Jan. 16: Bike ride with two or three hills.
Thurs. Jan. 15: One-hour fast walk.
Weds. Jan. 14: Boxing.
Tues. Jan. 13: Jog, jumprope, walk—45 minutes total.
Mon. Jan. 12: Boxing.
Sunday Jan. 11: Tons of yard work.
Sat. Jan. 10: Boxing and a walk.
Tomorrow I have an appointment to donate blood. Yuck! But when the blood center goes so far as to call me and say my blood type is down to a one-day supply, I can’t say no. I don’t like giving blood because it throws off my workout routine. If I donate blood and, during the following two days, if I work out using my largest (lower-body) muscles at all—apparently they are the most oxygen-guzzling ones—I get dizzy.
I’ll walk to the blood center and back tomorrow, and I’ll probably stop for a haircut along the way (just think, 200 years ago I could have done both in the same place), then do a long fast walk or yard work on Friday. Then I’ll have to decide whether to go to boxing on Saturday, knowing I will have to watch out for creeping dizziness.

A Reasonable 45 Minutes

I was at a giant bookstore today, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, to sell some books. While the book buyer went through my books, I crossed the road and exercised on the bike path. I jogged for 15 minutes, jumped rope for 15 minutes, and walked for 15 minutes. It was a pleasant setting with tall trees and a creek running alongside the path, so I was in no hurry to leave. Occasionally someone went by on a bike or walking a dog.
Jumping rope and jogging are strange, to me, because I can’t figure out why jogging is so much harder. When we first started going to boxing and jumping rope, it seemed so hard that I wondered if I’d ever get good at it. I was never good at jogging either, and I’m still not. And I go slowly. I can jump rope much more easily, even if I mix in more difficult patterns like crossovers and doubles. Maybe it’s easier than jogging because I get a small break every three minutes—but it’s a really small break, maybe 15 or 20 seconds. Or maybe it’s because I do it more often. If I went jogging as often as I jump rope, maybe it would get easier.
The difficulty of jogging seems like a stamina problem, not a cardio problem. Jumping rope gets my heart beating much faster than jogging does—or seems to, anyway. Maybe jogging is harder because I’m propelling myself forward, not just up and down.
While I was out there, I found a beautiful park I hadn’t seen before, and I explored it during my walk.
Here’s a link to a blog post and conversation about high carb and low carb diets. I found it via Reflections in D Minor.

An Ounce of Prevention Is Sorely Needed

Tom and I watched a Dateline show the other night that tracked six overweight people of the same age who tried various means of losing weight. They all succeeded, though they did not all meet their target weight by the end of the experiment. At the end, the show’s host congratulated them and asked how many of them expected to keep the weight off. Only one did not raise his hand. He said he had just wanted to try to meet the challenge of losing weight by the deadline and had not thought further than that.
I wondered to what extent their weight loss efforts would have succeeded if they had not been followed by the cameras during the process. It will be interesting to see, next year, if the weight has crept back up on some people.
This made me think again about how hard it is to lose weight and how much harder still to maintain a new, healthy weight for a lifetime. It seems to my unscientific view to be almost as hard as curing cancer. How many people are diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer, only to have it eventually return and kill them? How many people lose a significant amount of weight and eventually gain it back? Statistics for both of these tend to be stated in terms of five-year or ten-year success, but really, if it’s YOUR life, you want the disease or the weight gone for good. Five years might as well be five minutes.
It seems to me that along with trying to help overweight people lose weight and keep it off, it is at least as important for science and social institutions to develop more effective prevention. The best way to be at a healthy weight is never to have gone very far above it. It is so much easier to stay thin than to get thin. If you’ve gained weight as an adult, think back to when you were a slim teenager. Doesn’t it seem that if you had only done a few things differently along the way, you would never have gained the extra weight? I know it seemed that way to me. Now I’m very concerned with maintaining my weight and just as I wasn’t sure how to lose—and it took me years to figure out—I’m not sure how to maintain.
We need classes in grade school, high school, college, and even refresher courses in the workplace to teach us, and remind us, how to keep our weight down. In school, these could be conveniently scheduled, required classes. In the workplace, they could be similar to a blood drive, a CPR class, or a safe-driving refresher in taking little time, but they should be required.
Imagine if as a high school or college student, you had been alerted to the approaching dangers of the shrinking adult metabolism. I would have loved to be told the facts about how I could, as a teen, eat everything I wanted and stay skinny, and how as a young adult to start trimming the calories and upping the exercise. These wouldn’t have to be drastic changes at that point in life. Small changes then, if we knew how to make them, could save so much anguish later in life. When I started gaining slowly at age 25, I didn’t know it was the start of a trend that would become a problem. If I thought about it, I hadn’t the slightest idea how to stop it. If someone had presented a list of painless ways to cut calories and add exercise, it would have given me some valuable tools.
P.S. Here’s a site with loads of calorie, exercise, and weight loss information and calculators. I found it via DB’s Medical Rants (in the linked article).