five friends dedicating 100 days to getting into the best shape of their lives.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 21: It's working.

By far the toughest part of any workout is sticking with it long enough to see results that you deem satisfactory. But those results come in small bits. Despite those unsafe-but-incredibly-tempting commercials or pop-up ads, losing 15 pounds in a week is very unhealthy for your body, even though it perhaps provides temporary satisfaction.

The real workout, though, spoon feeds you rewards at indeterminate intervals. My first real one came today. I'm not yet seeing the 6-pack, or the well-define arms and chest. My body shape really isn't much different from what it was 3 weeks ago. But I can feel a physical transformation occurring, even if I can't yet see it.

And today was the proof that I'm becoming more physically fit than I was just 21 days ago. Today I ran 8 miles--8 miles!--which is the longest distance I've ever run at once (with a short break to walk for about 5 minutes at the halfway mark). I did it in 78 minutes, keeping my per-mile pace under 10 minutes, which is sort of a goal of mine if I can keep it up.

It's an incredible feeling to know that the work I'm putting in, the early mornings, the hour-and-a-half workouts, the eating plan, are all paying off. I'm barely 1/5 my way through this program and I feel really good about it.

This is an incredible motivator. Now I have comparatively easy runs--4 miles, 5, miles, 6 miles--for the next two weeks until my monster 9 mile test around day 35 or so.

Keep it here to see if I actually make it all the way to marathon shape. I don't know that I will, but given the progress and the payoff, I'm starting to think it might be possible.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Days 15 and 16: Solid and so-so (respectively)

Had a good run yesterday, Monday, Day 15. Four miles in just under 40 minutes. I have to get in the right mindset for this weekend; I have two more 4-mile runs before Saturday's 8-miler, which will be the longest I've ever run in my life. That is, until two weeks later, when I'll be supposed to run 9 (thankfully, the week between is a mere 6).

I've been working that bodyweight 100 workout and I like it, though it's admittedly shorter and somewhat less intense than the other one. It's alright, though, as this gives me more time in the morning and will be less likely to make me late to work. I'm thinking of finishing this week strong with the bodyweight 100 and instead of doing it for another week, bumping right up to the 150. I think I'm in good enough shape for it, and want to be challenging myself every day. As of now, the 100 is pretty good, but I'm left wanting, so I'll likely bump it next week and see where that puts me. (Also, I skipped a swim today, so no cardio, but I'll be sure to be back in the pool on Thursday.)

Also, today I switched out the close-grip pushups with 15 bodyweight shoulder presses. Basically I put my knees on the back of my couch and put my hands on the floor (or, to be precise, on a bar that I put on the floor, to accommodate my wrist, which has a limited range of motion). I lower myself down as vertically as I can and press back up. Here's hoping that doing these regularly will get me to my goal of doing those handstand pushups by the end of the 100 days. Oh, and uh, for the record, pull-ups are the hardest exercise you can do. Ugh.

So strange to think that Saturday's run will be Day 20, one fifth of the project will be over. Seems to be flying by.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My routine so far

Needless to say, I have definitely been the odd one out with regards to posting on this blog. My apologies.

Here's my deal: I've had a workout routine and diet routine for a while now. But I also have two problems: the first problem is finding the motivation to do it and do it well, and keeping up with it in a disciplined manner, and the second is actually building on my workout and improving on it, rather than getting stuck in a holding pattern.

I think the second problem is the more pervasive one, and it sort of feeds the first. I have a habit of running the same three and a half mile stretch every day, getting bored with it, becoming lazy about stretching, pulling a muscle, and then slacking off in general.

That's the situation I found myself in with this blog coming online. Last week was when I started getting back into my routine. Right now, it's a 3/3.5 mile run around the U.C. Berkeley campus. It's good because the terrain varies constantly, making a lot of it uphill and a good workout. It's bad because it's also crowded, and if I go too close to a Friday or Saturday night then the drunken undergrads are out and can be seriously irritating. But I basically ran all last week, except for Thursday, when my muscles just weren't responding. I think that this past week (minus yesterday and today) was a way of re-establishing my routine, and now that I've done that I'd like to build on that. I'd like to accomplish that by running longer distances on the days that I do run, and then alternating those days with bike rides on the other days so that I don't constantly wear down my joints and muscles.

My diet is, honestly speaking, a bit trickier. Long story short, my work schedule is a bit off-kilter due to two part-time jobs; nothing dramatic, but not 9-5 either. In fact, 5 is when I have to be at work, and I usually don't get home until at least quarter to nine. This is right during the dinner hours, and initially I dealt with it by eating something during the afternoon, always while out and doing something else, and then either coming home and cooking a big dinner or giving into hunger pangs and just getting something junky on the way back. Mondays are even worse: I leave before 9, stay at work all day, travel across the Bay and then go to my other job until 8 at night.

And yet, the big challenges also present big opportunities, right? Today was one such day, and I dealt with it consciously by packing fruit to tide me over during the day, a sandwich (spinach/cheese) for lunch, and leftover quinoa with zucchini and eggplant that I intentionally made a lot of the night before. And then...I went to my other job, at an Arabic school, where I encountered a tray of Kanafeh. Kanafeh is a dessert, popular in Egypt, Turkey and the Levant, made from cheese and a shredded wheat-type grain and drenched in syrup. As with many other desserts from the region, its relative lack of manufactured ingredients is more than compensated for by sheer fat and sugar content. So...up until then, I was eating pretty well.

But I think that's the point: I can get into the habit of not only improving what I eat, but really planning what I eat when, and the net result is that I feel better, have more energy, and don't feel quite as guilty (justifiably or not) indulging in a chunk of dairy which is literally basting in sugar. And, I can build a stable exercise routine that can itself be built on, feel great after, and take a day off knowing that I genuinely earned a day of recuperation.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 14: Good on everything except the posting.

...and the eating habits are much better, but can improve. For example, I ate a lot of ice cream today. A lot. I can't help but feel that it's setting me back somehow...

Shooting for a goal of 5 posts in 5 consecutive days. Expect one tomorrow. I'm sort of notorious for this--I start a blog and then leave it to wither and die. Well, not this one. I'm more than 10% done with my program timewise and I've really been slacking in commitment writingwise.

The good news, however, is that I've been pretty judicious about my workouts. This past week was somewhat screwed up because I took a rest day when I shouldn't have, so it wasn't Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday, it was Tuesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday, which meant I took an extra rest day on Monday and ran for 3 days in a row. Probably not great on my ankles and knees, but this week will be more on-track. I'm hitting the sack now--11pm where I am--and up at 5 tomorrow for my routine.

I'm also updating my routine. I've been doing the Men's Health Belly-Off! Classic routine for two weeks and, I gotta say, I'm not really feeling it. Maybe it's because it's every other day, but something about it just makes me feel like I'm not progressing at the rate I'd like to be. So, I'm changing things up (again... though, I guess it's best to change it up a few times early than late). I'd like to stick to the following progressive routine 6 days a week for the next 86 days. It's a modified Bodyweight 100 workout--that is, 100 total reps (divided amongst various exercises) each morning using only bodyweight. For the next 12 weeks, I plan on doing the 100 for 3 weeks, the 150 for 3 weeks, the 200 for 3 weeks, a 250 for 2 weeks, and finish with a bodyweight 300 for the last week. For the first week it will mean:

20 pushups
20 leg raises
20 lunges
5 chin-ups
5 pull-ups
15 prisoner squat-jumps
15 close-grip pushups

I will hope to modify this as the workout demands--i.e. the exercises will (hopefully) remain but the reps will increase in the next phase. Not sure yet if I'll do the next phases in circuits or simply add reps and do them all at once. Remains to be seen, I guess.

All of that said, running has been going really well. I ran 6 miles yesterday, first time in about a year, and I'm sore but it felt good. Check the specs:

Four miles tomorrow morning and then a swim day. Man, this stuff does feel pretty damn good.

More tomorrow! I still have to tell you guys about my awesome "shoes"...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 10: Catch-up.

Jeez, I didn't even last a week posting. I'm going to have to reaffirm my commitment.

It's been a good week, though. There are a couple of things I'll elaborate on tomorrow, but suffice to say that I've been eating well, sticking to my routine (though it's shifted somewhat this week), and enjoying it. I ran 4 miles on Friday, 5 miles on Saturday, and 4 miles again yesterday (Tuesday). Got runs lined up for the next 3 days--4, 4 and 6 miles, respectively--plus some good old-fashioned pushups and pull-ups.

Tomorrow I'll post on my new eating plan and a fantastic and useful app for iPhoners who run, RunKeeper.

Until then!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 4: Fish.

Another nice swim today. Er... I guess it was nice. The temperature was wonderful, the weather was clear and bright, but my heart was pounding and my lungs were screaming out by the end of my 10th lap (yes, i only did 10. and it's in a small pool. I'm working my way up!). Good cardio workout for the off-day. The jacuzzi was a welcome reprieve afterward.

Not to brag or belabor it, but quick tip about jacuzzis: they seem to be a great place for stretching. Must be the hot water loosening up the muscles, but man, I can really bend in there. The sore legs from yesterday's run turned to taffy and I could really work all of the stiffness and tension out of them. My advice (not yet corroborated by web research) is that, if you have access to a hot tub or even a sauna, stretch there. Completely worth it.

Quick question: I'm considering alternating my workout slightly. Right now my schedule is a full workout and full run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, a swim on Tuesday and Thursday, and a longer run on Saturday. I need to alternate days for the workouts so as to give my muscles time to recuperate, and need to alternate days for the runs for the same reason. Should I be working out MWF and running TTh? (Also, I don't work on Tuesdays or Thursdays, so maybe keep that in mind.) Any suggestions for improving the schedule would be appreciated down there in the comments section. And I'd like to keep the swimming a regular thing. I already feel like I'm getting better.

So, any input?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 3: Going strong.

Another early, killer workout today, including pull-ups (I'll get the hang of those, I swear). Capped it off with a 4-mile run. I don't think I've run that far at once since last summer, so it was nice to get there. And I'd better get used to it. According to my NYT tracker, that's pretty much going to be standard for the next few weeks--probably two 4-mile runs per week, plus a fiver, and then up from there. My first five-miler will be Saturday. Not entirely looking forward to that.

So far I'm happy with the bodyweight workout, but it's early yet. I'll give it another week or so and re-evaluate things. I think I'll be in it for the long haul, but if I have to tweak something here or there, it'll be for the better. I do like working out in the comfort of my own home, listening to what I want to listen to (so far it's been NPR during the workouts, Democracy Now! during the runs).

Sometimes the best part about the workout is the end of it, knowing you have a full 2 days for your body to recover. It feels like such reprieve, like it's Friday but for your muscles.

Goals/Daily Updates

I apologize, I've been severely lacking on my first post. I just started my second job (which happens to be full time) and have been balancing working with working out on top of getting enough sleep. Either way, no excuses. So I'll just update here.

  • I want to lose at least 15 pounds. This will put me at the weight I was at my senior year in high school and for a brief period of my college career.
  • Tone and build muscle, which seems weird for me to say I want to build muscle being a female but it will help tone overall
  • Be able to stick to a routine and a consistent workout schedule (now that I look at my work schedules I'm not sure about being able to go at least 5 days a week but I'm going to make a good attempt)
  • Eat healthier, food for me is comforting. I eat when I'm stressed and I usually over eat the majority of the time. I'm also bad at making healthy food decisions, I'd rather eat a slice of pizza than a healthy salad (but wouldn't we all?). This also may be a little tough for lunches because my full time job doesn't have a microwave. So any suggestions for healthy cold lunches, send them my way. I want to enjoy eating healthy foods.
I have a feeling I may develop more goals but for now, I'll stick with this.

DAY 1 (from 7/6)
I've been doing a workout routine that my mom's trainer designed for us. It's a good way to build muscle without spending a lot of time at the gym. Each workout you start at the heaviest weight and work your way down sets when you can't lift the heaviest anymore. I'm impressed at how much I can lift even doing it for a few weeks off and on now. The routine usually takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to get through. Then I follow it with 30 minutes of cardio. I'm due for a new routine soon so I'll post the new one once I start it. I may even post the one I'm doing with photos when I have more time.

As far as eating goes, I haven't been eating the healthiest. On Monday I was still at my grandma's so it was hard to resist a homemade cinnamon roll for breakfast. Lunch was a quesadilla (because we just got back from being out of town and needed groceries). Dinner I had some long grained wild rice mixed with chicken, a can of veg-all and a can of cream of mushroom soup. I'm bad at determining what's healthy or not and most times rely on my mom's cooking to be healthy (which it usually is) so we'll see how well it works for me in a few weeks. Overall I think I won't have a problem with results if I make smart food decisions (even when eating out) and stick to a consistent routine.

Today was a nice workout. I was still a bit sore from Monday and since I didn't make it to the gym yesterday my body did seem extra sore. I made it to the gyms after I got off of work, which tends to be my downfall since I just want to go home. Same workout as before and just hoping to get through these months. My problem with working out is needing instant results to keep me going, my hope is that after these 100 days working out will be a part of my routine and that there won't be days where I can easily talk myself out of working out.

Overall I'd say my food choices are better, it all takes time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 2: Swimmin' and chillin'.

Day off from work and from running/working out, but that swim was nice. Really loosened up my muscles and got my lungs working. Swimming, I'll say, is a good off-day activity. So strange that something can be so strenuous one moment and so relaxing the next.

Unfortunately, I didn't eat well today, and that will likely continue on into the evening. Though, I'll be sure to include a hearty salad with spinach and feta with my sinful, sinful pizza.

PS - Day 2 is looking good on the water-consumption front. Though, if I drink all 64 ounces between 7 and 10pm, does that still count? I hope so...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 1: And so it begins.

Day 1 of 100 and I was up early.

Though there are surely numerous words that would be appropriate to describe the hour of 5:45am, "unholy" is the only one that comes to mind. But there I was, awake and determined. Quick as I could this morning, I wolfed down an apple and some water and took care of some work for an hour. I read yesterday that this is a good way to get food into your muscles before you work out. It was this article from the New York Times Run Well blog that included the advice:

At what point before exercise should we be eating?

I like it to be an hour before exercise. We’re just talking about a fist-sized amount of food. That gives the body enough food to be available as an energy source but not so much that you’ll have an upset stomach. So if you’re going to exercise at 3 p.m., you need to start thinking about it at 2 p.m.
This turned out to be a good idea, though later on in the workout I was starting to taste that apple again. Maybe I should have waited a bit longer, but I did have the energy to complete everything I wanted to.

Another surprising bit from that blog was about drinking water while exercising. I had always thought sipping water was the best way to get it to your muscles without upsetting your stomach. Not so.

Should we keep sipping fluids while we’re exercising?

How we drink can make a difference in how optimally we hydrate our body. A lot of people sip liquids, but gulping is better. Gulps of fluid leave the stomach more rapidly. It’s important to do this. It seems counterintuitive, it seems like gulping would cause a cramp. People are more likely to have stomach cramps sipping because fluid stays in their gut too long.

When you take more fluid in, gulps as opposed to sips, you have a greater volume of fluid in the stomach. That stimulates the activity of the stretch receptors in the stomach, which then increase intra-gastric pressure and promote faster emptying. This is why gulping is preferred.

Aside from all of that, my workout itself is very simple. I'm using strictly bodyweight exercises to shape up and burn fat, in league with a running regimen that the NYT says will put me on par to complete my first marathon in November. I'm not running any marathons in November, but what better way to get into shape and burn any excess fat than running regularly?

The bodyweight workout I've chosen is called the "Belly Off! No Gym Classic" from Men's Health. I know, I know, it's our sex's Cosmopolitan. But this is a good workout to build and tone muscle while burning fat, and all it requires is a pull-up bar (another confession: a few weeks ago I picked up the as-seen-on-TV Iron Gym pull-up bar, and it's awesome). This is an 8-week plan, after which I'll move on to the Bodyweight 200, and perhaps then onto a more intense bodyweight workout (assuming BW200 is not intense enough).

On top of that is running. The New York Times has a great web application to help schedule your runs, determine how far you go, and log your time/distance. It's called the Run Well Tracker and it allows you to pick the type of running schedule you want, designed by various marathon runners and coaches, and track your progress online. Highly recommended.

So, at 7am, I did a good warm-up, some step-ups, some pushups, some horizontal rows, and some squats. Then it was off to the races for a 3 mile run. Back at 8:30 for a shower and quick breakfast and off to work I went.

I bet the toughest part about all of this will be getting up early enough to do this all before work. I do enjoy working out in the mornings, but man do I hate waking up early.

See you tomorrow!

UPDATE, June 7, 2009: Wow, my legs and back are pretty sore. Off for some stretching and then a good swim. Hoping to swim on my off-days, not only because it's a great workout, but because I'd like to become a better swimmer.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Goals for the next 100 days

This is really the first time I'm training with any end-goals in mind, so I thought it a good idea to lay them down right here to keep me on track.

  • Build and tone muscle for a strong body shape. I'd like to come out of this with some strong arms, a toned chest and a six-pack.
  • Marathon endurance. I've been more the sprinter-type all my life, and would like to be able to run 10-15 miles for a good workout. I'm not there yet, but I have 3 months.
  • Healthier eating habits. I don't think they're so bad now, but I want to be eating three squares and three supplementals each day, and I want this to become routine. This calorie calculator says that, for my goals, I should be eating 2,800-3,000 calories daily. I need them to be lean and healthy calories for any of this exercise to be meaningful.
Those are the end-goals. The more concrete ones are:

  • Drink 64 ounces of water a day. Doctors say this is ground-floor basic. But I have terrible water-drinking habits, so this is something I want to focus on. Eight 8 oz. glasses isn't that hard. Just gotta do it.
  • Stick to the schedule. Obviously a must, but it's not easy with traveling, working, etc. I don't want to miss a day.
  • 25 pull-ups, 10 handstand pushups. I know, sort of silly, but right now I can maybe do 3 or 4 pull-ups (probably 5 or 6 chin-ups) and don't have the core balance to do any handstand pushups. I want to be able to do these without giving it a second thought. That's when I'll know I'm as strong as I want to be.
  • 180 on the LSAT, 1500+ on the GRE. I know, not at all related to exercise. But while I tone my body I'll be toning my mind as well. Wish me luck on the September law school test, and the general grad school one.
100 days from now, we'll see where I am. All I ask is that you keep me honest, o faithful reader.

The beginning.

Hey, welcome to our fitness blog. Here a group of friends will be posting about progress toward our individual fitness goals, whether they be weight-loss, muscle toning, muscle building, healthier diet, feeling better, etc. We'll be posting often--hopefully daily--on our progress, our activities, our assessments and other relevant topics (e.g. articles, playlists, etc.).

Please follow our endeavor, and feel free to comment with encouraging words and helpful hints, suggestions, recipes, whatever you'd like to share. Part of the idea behind this blog is that we'll be putting ourselves out there for the world to see, and as such will be accountable to our readership, and to each other, to keep with the program until it's finished--100 days from tomorrow, July 6.

Initial posts will be coming soon, with introductions and goals. Welcome, and we hope you'll stick around.