Monday, June 30, 2014

12 Weeks - Backsliding

So after last time, I finally had everything working right in week 11. I was running faster, getting stronger and dropping weight again. And I bought a much nicer car. Everything was good.

And then, week 12 hit. It started badly, with me not being able to do nearly as many push-ups as the week before. It was probably just fatigue, because I had been sleeping badly all week. But I panicked and figured the short workouts and long rests between were causing my muscles to atrophy. So I ended up having a huge binge day, eating around 900 calories over my maintenance level, to see if that might spur muscle growth.

Well, it spurred something, because I jumped up 3 pounds in 3 days and have been stuck there ever since. And the rest of my workouts for the week weren't much better. It was really hard to try to maintain my numbers on anything. So it seems as if my strength and endurance are slipping away. But on the other hand, the muscles look like they're getting bigger, so maybe next week I'll get back on track.

On the running side, Monday was my best pace so far, by a lot. But my other runs, coming after my leg workout days, I felt weak and slow. My calves, which had been feeling much stronger, seem to have lost their spring, especially my left. I'm wondering if it's partly because I bought a car wtih a stick shift and a tight clutch. I'm having to work that calf a lot more when I drive.

And of course, the big thing that's sticking in the back of my mind is that this is where I have traditionally run out of steam in the past. Three months usually ends up being my limit on workout/diet cycles like this. But less than halfway to my goals, I can't afford that this time. So I'm really hoping to maintain my motivation and discipline for at least another three months. We'll see.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

10 Weeks In

10 weeks in, and though my weight and body comp numbers remain pretty well stalled, my performance--run pace and numbers of reps in strength training--continues to improve.

I'm one mission away from the end of Season One of Zombies Run! and trying to decide if I want to buy Season Two right away or dawdle awhile with the side content I haven't tried yet, like Supply and Airdrop Missions. I did run a 5K Race Mission this week, which was both my longest and fastest run yet since starting this fitness cycle. I'm contemplating whether to attempt a 10K. I don't know if my legs will take it, but I kind of want to push myself and see.

Plus, the game itself really motivates me. I have pushed myself longer and harder since starting the game than I would have without it. And the proof of that is that three times since starting, I have done missions while away from home. When I was at my mother's house at the tail end of the injury, stranded at my ex-wife's house with car problems, and this past week, visiting my father in Eufaula. Normally, I would take such an event as an easy excuse to miss a run, but wanting to push on and hear more of the story, I made myself run there. So Zombies Run! has been a big win so far, well worth the money.

The other half of my plan is not working out so well. The new routine is difficult, because it consists of progressively harder exercises done at slow cadence with strict form, much different than my Army experience of "bust out as many reps as you can in two minutes" and "the only bad rep is the one they don't count." For some exercises, I feel frustratingly weak.

However, the routine itself is very short; it calls for only a couple of sets of mostly low reps. By the time I'm done, it almost feels as if I haven't worked out at all, although during the sets, I definitely feel the strain. But there's this weird tension between the program's two principles of "do low volume work at high intensity" and "don't work to failure and leave strength in the bank." I'm never sure if I'm working hard enough, or if pushing harder will be counter-productive.

Plus, the program advocates working each bodypart only one day a week, with a week's rest between, which goes against the conventional wisdom I've been taught for 25 years. So the workouts feel scanty and unfinished, and it seems as if I'm resting between training bouts way too much, which is not helping my motivation. And yet, I've been making progress on my reps. However, since I've just switched to a new style of training, that improvement may be due more to neuromuscular adaptation than actual strength increase. We'll have to see what happens in the next couple of weeks, once I've got this new slow style down.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

After 9 Weeks - Plateaus and Plummets

Something seriously weird is going on with this digital scale I splurged on. But first, an historical note: back in the day, when I would be on a diet & exercise cycle, I would sometimes hit plateaus where my weight wouldn't change for several days in a row. But I didn't sweat this, because A) weight by itself is not very meaningful, so even if my weight wasn't changing, that didn't mean my body wasn't and B) I was using an analog scale that wasn't very exact at the best of times.

But now I'm using this digital scale which measures down to the tenth of a pound and which also gives a fat/muscle measurement. I've mentioned before that the fat/muscle measurements aren't very precise. But here's the thing that's really giving me fits.

The scale keeps measuring me at exactly the same weight for several days in a row. In week 5/6, three days in a row. In week 7, 5 days in a row, followed by 2 days in a row at a different weight. In week 8, 2 days in a row, one small dip down, then back up to almost the previous weight for 5 days. A two-day dip, and now three days in a row. No matter how much or how little I eat or drink, what exercise I do or don't do, what time of day I weigh, I spend up to 5 days weighing exactly the same to within a tenth of a pound. It's almost as if the scale gets stuck on that number for a while.

And then there's the real anomaly. On Wednesday, after 5 days locked in at the same weight, I dropped three pounds overnight. I bounced back up almost immediately, but I can't think of any mechanism to explain it other than a bad reading. I ate normally the day before and didn't spend any extra time in the bathroom. I wasn't dehydrated. It's a mystery.

I'm thinking that I may need to do something radical if this plateau doesn't bust soon. I'm thinking at the end of Week 12, if I'm still not showing much progress, I'm going to up my calories and shift more emphasis to strength workouts. Try to pack on some muscle mass to up my metabolism. I have never in my life been especially muscular, partly because at the times I was working out the hardest, like now, I was also restricting calories to try to drop fat. It might be time to try another approach.