Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Double Meh

I'm only really sore in my biceps today, and I don't know that my biceps were one of my target zones, really. Today is a rest day for me, which is convenient because it's really cold and rainy out and not conducive to working out. Oh well, better luck tomorrow.

The only thing I really looked at is the Eating Plan today, and I'm not sure I'm getting enough calories:

"Every day, have breakfast (about 450 calories), lunch (400 calories), a calcium snack (100 calories), dinner (another 550 calories) and a 120-calorie treat."
This is based on my current weight, I guess. However, I'm really bad at calorie counting. I'll have to make sure I'm eating enough. It doesn't feel like I am...

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Meh Challenge

That's right, I said meh. The Self Challenge sure does try to build up all this excitement about its program, now doesn't it? I mean, a countdown? emails going out weeks in advance? No sneak previews of what the program entails until the first day??

Well, I must say, it let me down. The day arrived, I looked up the challenge page first thing this morning and read through the requirements and, well, meh.

Alright, I admit, maybe this program is aimed at a different audience than me? Perhaps I'm already more athletic than most of the Self challengees. I don't know but that seems unlikely. I mean, the challenge has been around, as far as I know, since 1998. In these nine years since the first challenge I saw, it really changed very little. I mean, sure, the online log that tracks your workouts instead of the magazine rip out schedule is great! And the ability to do the whole challenge through the website without even having to buy the magazine is nice. And yes, even the nutrition diary online (which I still don't use) is a great addition. But aside from removing the flexibility workouts (as I'd mentioned before), the challenge itself doesn't seem to have changed.

Is that bad? Not necessarily. For example, perhaps every year they hope to attract new challengees to whom this whole thing would be new anyway and so there would be no need for much in the way of changes. I could see that. But what about all their dedicated readers? The Self subscribers who've been reading the magazine for year? Don't we deserve some attention?

And especially since the Challenge claims that the 90 day program is designed so that you're training yourself to adopt a routine that will become part of you life, doesn't that mean that by the time the Challenge rolls around the next year, you'll have been keeping up and you'll need something perhaps a tad more challenging? How about giving intermediate or advanced options?

I know, I know, part of the whole thing I like about this workout regime is that it is so tailorable. I can do whatever cardio or strength workouts I want and have them count towards the end goal. But I have to say, when I logged on today to see what was required of me, I was a bit disappointed. For the first month, I have to do three 30-min cardio workouts a week, and two 25-min. strength workouts. I did three 30-min cardio workouts yesterday, when I went for a 2-hour run!

Maybe this challenge isn't really the one for me? Well, regardless, I'm going to find a way to make it work. So maybe the cardio section for this month will be easy, I'll just keep it up and make sure I get everything done.

So, today, I did this month's strength workout and.... I hated it. It made me angry. It's really funny, I don't really get angry much, but I was steaming. Part of it was that the text parts of the workout did not describe the movements well enough for me. But then, Self has been advertising its "Challenge on the Go!" free downloadable videos. Handy, I thought.

But no, not so much. The videos don't have any audio and only show the incredibly skinny model doing 3 or so reps of the movement so you can see how it goes, not so you can do the workout along with her. So between every move, I had to go back, read the description, find out how many I had to do, then go back, start the video, watch a couple of reps, then pause it. So annoying.

The second thing that annoyed is probably for my own good. The moves were so complicated and elaborate, because:

"[The] multitasking exercises (...) require balance, you'll get a great ab workout without having to do a single crunch. Instead, take a victory lap!"
I have to admit, they were quite difficult (I tend to be a bit of a klutz) and I definitely felt the worked muscles burn, but by the 7th move (out of 8 total), I threw in the towel and decided instead to do a whole bunch of crunches and bicycles. I guess I'm an old dog.

Lastly, the meal plan is not at all catered for people who cook all that much, like I do, so I totally bypassed their meal recommendations and did my own thing:

For breakfast, I had one of the lovely blueberry power muffins that Tamsen and I made yesterday and then a bowl of Maple Nut oatmeal once I got to the office.

Then for lunch, I had some lovely vegetarian Thai food: some tofu and sauteed vegetables with rice, some Pad Se Eu (I love broccoli) and a little bit of vegetarian Tom Ka soup. Perfect for the cold rainy day.

It was dinner that I really focused on, though. Since I was all frustrated from my annoying first workout, I decided to cook something nice. I also had a bunch of CSA box vegetables to finish. So I made us mashed potatoes and turnips with sauteed onions, kale and spinach topping (from Deborah Madison's lovely Vegetarian Suppers cookbook) and the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook's simmered red cabbage with grated apple and onions. It was delicious!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sick to Fit

sara and i, on a rainy run last night, discussed the differences in our programs. we've both done the Self Challenge, but the P90X is new to both of us. (you know that voice they always use for monster truck rallies? use it here: P90X FITNESS! it's kind of like that.) the photos of bulging musclemen is offputting, but the program itself is well thought-out and well planned. so is the Self Challenge...

we decided that while Self is more targeted to someone in my state (just now recovering from a 6-week flu, no significant workout since october, 10lb weight gain) and P90X is great for someone super hyper motivated (sara: determination personified), Self's more flexible scheduling combines well with super motivation while P90X will have a more scheduled and disciplined approach for me, miss "my pillow is my best friend."

the P90 nutrition program is another matter. reviewing the foods and portions last night, i was aghast at the amount of food i will be eating in phase I. a sample breakfast calls for 6 egg whites scrambled with 3/4 cup mushrooms, cheese, scallions and half a roma tomato, then 8 oz of cottage cheese and a cup of strawberries (my normal pre-workout breakfast is one whole egg with half an english muffin). during the first week of phase I, i will consume 24 eggs worth of egg whites.

at which point, sara's fiance ethan promptly nicknamed the program the EGGPOUNDER 4000.

goals, other than helping chicken farmers send their kids to harvard: a solid 10-minute mile for 4 miles, a fitness foundation for relay training and a hill-shredding PR for the nike half in october. we start monday and i can't wait. (which means we're running this weekend! are you coming?)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It's the Final Countdown

First, I'd like to apologize for the cheesy 80s title reference, but hey, growing up in Tunisia, that song was very important to me as I jumped around my bedroom, singing along to it. Which sort of counts as a cardio workout, so that almost excuses the use of the title. Almost.

More importantly, the time is almost here: 5 days till the Self Challenge begins. I figured I'd take these moments to reflect upon what the challenge promises, how it works and my current workout program.

The Self Body Makeover has 3 parts: Cardio, Strength and Nutrition. Back when it first started, it had 4, including a flexibility section. I'm not sure why they got rid of that, it was something I was (and probably still am) desperately in need of. The website doesn't say much about what the program entails this year (that is to say, beyond the promise of getting a great bikini-ready body... colour me skeptical: Really? bikini-ready in 3 months? That does seem like a bit of a stretch. I was merely going for "happier in my one-piece")

Last year, the way it worked was there was an online log where you could keep track of every workout you did, and it would tell you when you'd fulfilled that week's goals. The first month had a 3 cardio, 3 strength workouts requirement, and that was slowly increased
over the next two months. Then there was the food diary where you were supposed to log everything you ate. Yeah, I never did that part more than once or twice and have trouble believing I will keep track of that this year, but I'll try.

Lately, I've already been working out quite a bit, so it won't be difficult for me to fulfill the initial requirements. I've been running 3-4 times a week, for at least 30 minutes and occasionally as much as two and a half hours. I've been doing occasional strength workouts, about one or two a week, so that is something that the challenge should helpfully improve upon.

And remember how I said I didn't have a Playstation 2 for the Yourself Fitness program? Well, since I wrote that, I was so kindly bequeathed a Playstation 2 and ordered the program, although I probably won't have it to start until several weeks into the challenge.

My goal ultimately really is to look good in a bathing suit as well as in my wedding dress, since I'm getting married this summer, and going on a fun beach trip with our family and wedding party. But I'm also training for a half marathon or two and Tamsen and I are doing this crazy, intense relay. I'm looking forward to the challenge going live this coming Monday and hope to have others join me! Are you ready?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Here we go again!

Well, folks, it's that time of year again - The Self Challenge. Let's see - the first time I did the self challenge was in 1998. Have I ever lost any weight while doing it? Hmm... It's doubtful. Have I ever really completed the entire challenge? Also doubtful. But I keep coming back every year.

What I like about it is it's accessibility. I can easily fit in the number of cardio workouts it requires per week. I have a bit of a harder time doing the strength workouts, but I'm hoping to be better at that this year. What I've never been able to do is keep a food diary.

Will that change this year? That remains to be seen. So why am I doing this? This year has already kicked off as my highest motivation level ever - I've been working about 5-6 days a week already! and the challenge hasn't even begun yet. I've already run my first race of the year, the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon in San Francisco, and did my best time yet - a whole 15 minutes faster than my previous PR!!! (I'm still a bit giddy about that). If ever there was a good year for me to take on and complete this challenge, 2007 seems to be it.

I do like the strength workouts the challenge provides, since I don't have a gym membership and prefer to use free weights at home. And while I would love to do a Yourself! fitness challenge instead (having discovered the program when visiting my parents this past december), I don't own a playstation or xbox and don't plan to buy one any time soon.

So when Tamsen told me about her Tiny in 90 plan, I decided to join her. Well, to be honest, first I snickered at the thought that I could ever be "tiny", seeing as that I'm a broad-shouldered, wide-hipped 5'9"-er. And then, I agreed.

So here we go - let's get this fitness challenge started!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Damn the box

P90X arrived this week, in a white box marked up like a tabloid confessional: EXTREME FITNESS! BEST BODY! ALIEN BOOTY! (ok maybe not that one.) I got a sly upraised eyebrow from the sleek, trim woman who delivered the box to my desk. For some reason I would have been more comfortable if the box had been labeled WU-HOO, VIBRATORS AND LUBE!

that's because i am, like most skeptics, dismissive of the miriad weight loss and fitness regimes offered via every possible media outlet. call 'em FastBuck Fitness for Suckers, because anyone with a half-assed or big-assed idea can sell a weight loss program.

why did i plunk down the dough for P90X? this big-assed idea: muscle confusion. i am fit enough to have experienced fast physical development leveling off in a frustrating plateau. P90X is designed to mix it up, keeping the muscles as confused as Monty Python's cat, preventing the muscle-memory plateau.

sucker or savant? either way, i think this is gonna hurt.