Progress on the Body – June 2012

Good progress on the body goals this first half of the year. Around 60% of the way to the goal. Certain tools and thinking patterns have helped along the way. Really only got started in March and by April had figured out a plan that I was able to make work for me.

Not Me

GYM rAt

Tools

  • Bathroom Scale
  • Heartrate Monitor (Polar FT4)
  • Ipod Nano 6th Gen (Music, pace tracking)
  • NorthFace Sentinal Boa running shoes
  • Thai massage

Workout Patterns

I have to get up early for this workout. I started by doing afternoons, but there are many obstacles, so I moved the workout to very early morning (wake up at 3:30am or 4:00am). This allows me to have run at the coolest time of the day (I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so this is important). Also it is less likely to rain at this time. I run on a track at the nearby stadium (Sanam Gila Tessaban), which is free and very conducive to running, and close by (5 minutes on the motorbike). Also, a great local market is halfway between the stadium track and my home, for getting breakfast/produce for the day. I try and workout as many times per week as possible, which is about 60% of the time currently. Would like to get in the habit of 3 days on, 1 day off, as the next goal.

I began with both running and bicycling (in the afternoon), which I like and I really like the bike ride up Doi Suthep. It is beautiful up there and friendly riders along the route. However, I was experiencing a chronic injury in my shoulder/upper-back from the ride, combined with my standing desk. In addition, the bike ride is simply not physically demanding (though it is a hard ride, I cannot maintain the heart rate in the same way as running. Also, there is the problem of traffic, etc. to deal with, whereas my run on the track is extremely easy to deal with some slower runners/walkers, or the stray bird.

I slowly began walking/running around the track and after four months had advanced to 90 minute run (of 10-11 minute miles, a bit slow but steady). The heart rate monitor made sure I was in the correct zone (not too slow, not too fast) and the iPod played the music and kept track of the time. I do use the ipod/nike+ feature that tells me my distance based on pace X size and the calories based on weight x distance, though both of those are not necessarily accurate. The same goes for the bathroom scale, not necessarily accurate but a trend does appear over time, and it is good to remind myself about the eating pattern.

Eating Patterns

Besides changing my sleeping pattern (I used to wake up early, but not that early before), I've changed my eating patterns (I used to not have breakfast, only a lot of coffee). Now I eat voraciously for breakfast, and try and temper my eating (but eat if feeling very hungry) for lunch, and then eat a moderate amount of dinner. What is nice for me, is that I eat what I want, though try and make sure there is plenty of protein. I eat Thai food all the time, and also foreign (faring) food that I buy and cook from local foreign food markets. I also eat out occasionally, and don't really restrict myself from what I like and want (except I do avoid sweets most of the time, except for in my tea and coffee). I also used to have the habit of eating late at night before bed, and have tried to avoid that. I now mostly avoid alcohol, except for the occasional beer or glass of wine. Now that I am clear on the concept, I stick with the health guidelines for drinking alcohol which for men is no more than 2 standard beers or glasses of wine or shots of alcohol. Who wants to be a problem drinker?

Standing vs. Siting Desk

I now realize that a standing desk doesn't solve my problem (of lower back pain) but displaces it (to upper back pain/tired legs) and the real solution is a golden mean between sitting and standing. Kind of funny, as that of course does make a lot of sense.

Thai Massage

Two hours of Thai massage about 60% of the time (six days out of 10). I too would also like to increase this to 75%, with some more variance on the treatment modalities (add in some oil massage, tok sen, herbal sauna, etc.). This is vigorous and very therapeutic for me, where I otherwise start to experience chronic pain in my back, shoulders and neck, as well as the leg muscles becoming tighter and increasing pain in an injured knee.

Upper Body/ Back Workout

I've added yoga/stretching/dumbbells to my routine as an afternoon, 30 minute workout. I do that at about the 60% mark as well (with 75% the goal). It really helps and complements the kind of relief I get from the Thai massage.

Balance and Progress

At the age of 46, the idea of progress is tied intimately to the idea of balance, because frankly there are much narrower tolerances to deal with. The 46-year old body simply has less energy and elasticity, and recovers more slowly, not to mention the various injuries and chronic physical discomforts that accrue.

Pace of Change

The pace of change with these fitness patterns is, from a weight perspective, about 1kg/10 days (there is a decrease in fat and an increase in muscle, so the net loss in size is less than that of weight). The changes to the sense of physical well-being and experience less pain is likely something like 1-3% per week or so. This includes things like flexibility, strength and stamina. Of course the mind adjusts to the body changes, and I can still push myself to the point of discomfort (for example, running too fast or too much, or not eating enough). Since the goal really is a sustainable, but improving, condition, and not some kind of he-man heroics or feelings of invincibility, I've been remarkably on target. Human, all-too-human, but improving steadily.