A bad 2 months for success in fitness goals

fitness.jpg Since joining LifeTime Fitness in late October, I’ve been very good about getting to the gym and working out 4 or 5 days a week, lifting weights and running. And I feel that I’ve been getting some good feedback from my body in terms of increased strength, more endurance, and more energy in general. However, as far as actual measurable improvements, according to my fitness assessment last week, I’ve only made the tiniest step toward my goals.

The fact that I made any progress at all is something that I should be happy about, all things considered. The truth is that I’ve had a few pretty significant obstacles in my way these first few months. So I can’t be too hard on myself for lack of forward progress.

Lack of sleep

Under normal circumstances, the amount of sleep I get a night is under my control. It’s just a matter of being personally responsible. Go to bed at a reasonable time that would ensure I get 7 or 8 hours. However, with an infant in the house and a crabby 18 month-old light-sleeper going through an improbable sequence of teething, barfing, bad colds, and teething again for weeks on end, sleep became something of a rare and precious commodity.

I have never been as exhausted as I was during the stretch from late October to late December. 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night was a good night, but 4 non-sequential hours was a more common experience. And while that’s okay for a short stretch, only getting that much sleep over 2 months will wear a guy down to the nub. I wandered around in a daze for days. I forgot stuff. I lost my vocabulary, my once vast array of nouns shrunk to the universally applied “thingy”. I was truly afraid to drive because my attention would wander. I’m still hesitant to play any Guitar Hero-esque game because my reflexes and reaction time is still that of a baked sloth. I’d embarrass myself.

During this period, I still went to the gym regularly, but because I wasn’t getting the sleep I needed, my workouts weren’t optimal. Sleep obviously affects energy level and recovery time for muscles. But apparently, it’s also linked to the perception of exhaustion. So it was possible that I was feeling more tired than I actually was, and therefore stopped running too early.

And on top of that, lack of sleep causes the hormones that control appetite to make people actually feel hungrier. So if you’re not sleeping enough, you’re body compels you to eat too much. And for me, the problem of increased appetite was only aggravated because of our lack of a functioning fridge.

Refrigerator Issues

To regular readers of the Q-Blog, my struggles with refrigerators are nothing new. But there was a definite impact on my life, both financially and physiologically, because I was unable to keep healthy foods like produce on hand to prepare meals. Throughout October and into November, because of the lack of a fridge, Erin and I ate out much more frequently than usual. And everyone knows that restaurant foods have more calories and other bad stuff than similar foods prepared at home.

Couple this high-calorie, high-fat, high-carb diet with the increased appetite from working out and lack of sleep, and I was just eating way way too much bad stuff. Admittedly, this was still somewhat under my control, and a stronger willed person may have been able to fare better than I did, but my situation during this time definitely slowed my progress toward fitness goals.

The holidays

The holidays nearly killed me. Due to just crazy scheduling and bad weather, I didn’t get to the gym more than 3 times between 12/22 and 1/4. That’s 2 weeks where I didn’t work out; the same two weeks where there are more culinary and beveragical temptations than at any point in the year. This was a huge setback in my cardio fitness statistic. Marathon runners (people who are actually in shape) lost 25% or more of their endurance after 15 days of not training. I can only imagine that I lost more than that during my two weeks of non-exercise. I know that my muscles complained a lot the day after my first strength-training session.

But I’m back on track now, and there shouldn’t be any long interruptions again for several months. And I have no reason to believe that I’ll just stop going to the gym

It’s not from lack of motivation to get to the gym

A lot of people have the most trouble with simply getting to the gym. Fortunately, this is not a problem for me. I have the best motivation to get to the gym and exercise I could ever ask for: I get a 2 hour break from kids in the middle of the day. This break in the day was enough to get me to the gym even on the days when I didn’t really feel like exercising. Not to say that I don’t like my kids, but when my day consists of 10 or even 12 hours a day just me and them, any break is welcome.

The danger of me not going to the gym is pretty minimal. And since this most challenging of obstacles doesn’t exist for me, there’s no real reason why I shouldn’t be able to achieve what I’ve set out to accomplish.

The next 2 months will be better

I have no reason to believe that the next 2 months will be anything but all forward progress. But I have to take control of a couple of things:

  1. Diet: I need to keep my caloric intake to 2500 calories. This has proved surprisingly challenging for a guy who enjoys his eating, but do-able. I do okay on my fruit and veg intake, and I’m pretty good at eating 5 smaller meals through out the day. I’m going to try to eat less meat and cook more with beans. Stuff that will fill me up more but not with calories and fat.

  2. Sleep: With Torbin’s bedtime now at 7pm, same as Thessaly’s, I should be able to both get work done in the evenings AND get to bed at a decent hour. It might be tempting to stay up later, but my goal is to catch up on my sleep debt and regain my words.

And while I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, here’s to less of me in 2009.