1,000 Days of MyFitnessPal

Crazy milestone.  I’ve logged into myfitnesspal.com (MFP) every single day for the past 1,000 days.  I’m not sure if that’s dedication or insanity but there it is.  Here are some things I’ve learned through my experiences the past 1,000 days.

423138_3535858271992_186671321_n

Before MFP in March 2012

Let’s first paint the picture:  Rewind to June 2012.  I had previously tried tracking calories using SparkPeople.com with little success.  I would use it, not use it, use it, not use it – you get the idea.  I was visiting my sisters in Virginia when my youngest sister suggested myfitnesspal.com.  She said her (now) husband started her on it and liked the

My first day logged on MFP.

June 3rd – My first day logged on MFP.

usability.  At first I was a bit skeptical since I already had SparkPeople but figured I’d check it out.  Loved it.  When I found out there was a streak counter for days logged in, one thought came to mind “oh it’s on like Donkey Kong!”.  I’ve logged in every day since.  When I first started using the app I wasn’t very active.  I hated working out and just figured if I ate less I didn’t have to exercise.  I was a busy mom, chasing my kids, playing with them in the yard etc. and figured that was enough.  Looking at my diet now, I ate pretty poorly back then.  Lots of pizza, convenience foods (think EZ cheese, pop tarts, mountains of girl scout cookies).  Whatever was easy and whatever I wanted.

I started using the app to just see what I was eating.  From there I started slowly reducing my calories and did my best to stay within about 1,200 daily since that was what MFP recommended for my height.  It wasn’t easy and I often had “cheat” days where I didn’t feel like logging all my food.  But I did continue to log in.  Every. Single. Day.

January or February of 2013 I realized I needed to start exercising.  I realized I liked the MFP app so much I might as well see if there is anything that rewards consistent exercise the same way.  Enter Nexercise.  I don’t use this app anymore but I can’t tell you how big of a part this app played in my journey to health and wellness.  You get virtual badges for doing different kinds of activities or more minutes of an activity.  It counts everything from house cleaning to badminton to swimming.  It even listed specific brand exercises like those found on BeachBody.com.  There were weekly points where you could compete with strangers or your friends.  And boy did I!  I told myself that it didn’t matter what exercise I did, I needed to do something every day.  And I did.  And I discovered a whole world of new activities I love.  I jumped rope, I logged seemingly endless hours on the elliptical, I played baseball with my kids, I did yoga, I walked (I walked a lot), I biked, I took fitness classes for the first time in my life.  I was so excited to see my Nexercise steak continue and rack up the points.  I also noticed that MFP gave you extra calories for eating with all of this activity.  Now we’re talking. 🙂  I started logging my food more consistently.

941706_10201093004824110_281198166_n

First 5K – May 10th, 2013

Enter (my now very best running) friend.  I saw on her Facebook page that she had registered for a night time glowed up 5k.  It looked super cool.  She invited me to come.  My thought was I could never run for 3 miles.  She was super encouraging and said it was okay to walk and some of the others who were going would be walking too.  I remember this vividly: I was at a hotel in Wichita Kansas for work and wanted to see if I could do it.  I got on the hotel treadmill and huffed and puffed for about 46 minutes.  I walked, I jogged, walked some more, cursed a little.  But I survived 3 miles.  I registered for the race that night.  I kept up with my other activities but didn’t really train for the 5k.  When race day came around I some how ran (okay, slowly jogged) the whole darn thing.  I was on such a high, within the week I was asking her when we could do another race.  I was hooked.  I registered for a 10K, but knew I needed a training plan.  I completed every day of the couch to 10K program sometime during that Summer in preparation for the race at the end of August.  In total I ran 9 races in 2013, including my first half marathon.

With my boys after finishing my second 1/2 marathon - September 2014.

With my boys after finishing my second 1/2 marathon – September 2014.

I kept up with running and eventually didn’t need Nexercise anymore to motivate me to exercise.  I continued to log everything into MyFitnessPal.  I took a couple months off in Winter for a surgery but jumped back in with my first race of 2014 in March.  Eventually after much research I realized I need to start strength training.  I discovered that endless Capture2hours of cardio are not going to get me to where I want to be in regards to my physique, strength and endurance goals.  In May I began the ChaLean Extreme program from BeachBody but abandoned it after about a month when I joined LA Fitness and started working with a trainer instead.  My sister also helped me get started with eating IIFYM-style after I saw her using it with great results.  Increased calories to support my fitness was great.  Additional muscles and strength were also an added bonus.  I kept running.  I racked up a total of 467 miles in 2014 and finished 20 races. I continued to log into MFP.

January 2015

January 2015

MFP has changed my life in a gradual yet wonderful way.  I wake up, I shut off the alarm, I log in.  Every day.  I’m the most in shape I’ve ever been in my life.  I love trying new things and being active with my family.  I have discovered a love of racing and am excited to start training for my first marathon in June.

And that, my friends, is how I’ve spent my first 1,000 days on MyFitnessPal.

Pick a lane? No thanks.

We’ve all seen that driver on the interstate, weaving all over the place, always trying to get in a faster, better lane.  This has pretty much been my approach to exercise from day one of my journey.  I’ve changed my training plan several times to the point where I rarely actually finish a training program.  There’s always something bigger, brighter, shinier around the corner.  After numerous attempts to complete as seen on TV type workout plans and failing, I one day told myself it didn’t matter what I did as long as I did something for exercise every day.  And the freedom in that variety is what got me going and hooked on fitness.  I did the elliptical, I did YouTube videos, I walked my dog, I jumped rope, I swam with my kids, rode my bike, did yoga, took classes etc.

In almost everything else I crave routine.  My mornings are coffee and talk radio in my car.  Every week day.  I buy the same running shoes when my old ones wear out.  I have a 16 year supply of perfume (same one I’ve been wearing since I turned 15).  Exercise for me has been the healthy dose of variety my life needs.10535615_10204454717304821_5735394766138690464_o

Through my trial and error process of fitness I’ve found that I truly enjoy running, paddle boarding, cycling and weight lifting.  I love the strength and physique I get from lifting.  There is no better feeling than the pride and glow of finishing a long distance run or race.  And paddle boarding and cycling are just fun for fun’s sake.  SUP and cycling for me don’t even feel like exercise. I would do them if there were zero physical benefits.  (Lucky for me there are though!)

Yay!  Exercise!  Healthy and wellness!  Where’s the problem?  I’m starting to get more serious about my lifting and my running (26.2 on 10/4/15).  After last week’s sickness and subsequent gym hiatus, I’ve been so happy to be back in the gym and making progress.  I’m getting stronger on my lifts, and I’m really enjoying it.  I’m also starting to look at marathon training programs since Spring will be here before we know it and I know I’ll need approximately 18 weeks of solid training.  Unfortunately some of my 1621786_10204793492373986_702821337161782815_nrunning acquaintances have questioned my low mileage and have made mention that I will need to stop lifting once I start actual marathon training, else I risk losing endurance. There is the concern that the additional bulk of muscles could cause running slowness.  On the other side, my lifting acquaintances have said that excess endurance running will ruin the coveted strength and muscle gains.

I don’t want to be spinning my wheels, putting in a lot of extra work just to have everything cancel itself out.  So are these my choices?  Option A.) Give up the heavy lifting, focus on a textbook marathon plan with some occasional body weight movements, or Option B.) Give up on the marathon and commit to a serious lifting routine with occasional high intensity interval sessions for cardio.  I have never been a rebellious individual.  I pride myself on doing most things by the book.  But when faced with these two scenarios I say “nope”.   Through the magic of wpid-wp-1424402190800.jpegGoogle I am finding there are is a super secret Option C.) – Hybrid training.  This page actually explains it very well.  I can have the best of both worlds without risking exhaustion or stalled progress!  Hybrid training combines specific training runs with heavy lifting.  What I love about this is that there is a way to do it and still have rest days and make improvements. I can have my cake and eat it too (and boy do I love cake!).

What does this hybrid training look like for me and my goals and fitness level specifically?  I’m not exactly sure yet.  More to come on that later.  But again, that’s the magic of the internet.  I know I’m not the first person to want the best of both worlds.  I’m embracing my lane changing habits to find what will work for me.  It may be a little risky, but that’s part of the fun. 🙂

 

A Weekend of Fun & Games

Weekends full of errands, hockey, date nights, and homework are so much fun.  But what’s more fun?  Slow relaxing weekends full of nothing.  They are like gold these days.  I was sick all last week.  Thought I was coming out of it on Wednesday only to find myself worse on Thursday.  Decided not to work out on Thursday and instead spent the extra time finishing my homework for the week.  For Friday’s exercise I just did weight lifting without pushing too hard.  Focused on a balanced full body work out since I didn’t do much the rest of the week.

wpid-wp-1424052909292.jpegSaturday was Valentine’s day.  It was also 0 degrees out with a wind chill of -25ish so all of the kids’ outdoor hockey practices and games for Saturday were cancelled.  I didn’t clean or catch up on projects around the house, I didn’t have to work on homework, I didn’t work out (nope, not at all).  I just enjoyed not being sick and not having an agenda.  I usually love being busy and having a list of things to accomplish but yesterday we all literally just did nothing.  We went to IHOP in the morning, we played video games (Sims

Got this water bottle from Target.  Love it.  Doesn't leak, holds 32 oz, easy to wash, $7.

Got this water bottle from Target this weekend. Love it. Doesn’t leak, holds 32 oz, easy to wash, $7.

4 for me!), we had Jimmy John’s for dinner, we napped.  It was amazing.  Today I got in a short run (first one in about a week), did some laundry, turned in my homework, focused on drinking extra water.  We went out for lunch, had some fun at the arcade, picked up some cupcakes.  Later in the evening we all went to our 8 year old’s hockey game followed by dinner at Pizza Ranch.

So happy for the time at home with family.  Sometimes it’s just nice to do nothing at all.  I’m now feeling fully refreshed and ready to kick butt in the gym this week! 🙂

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Smoothies

Yesterday I was sick as a dog.  Picture death warmed over.  I’ll spare you the details.  Let’s just say I was super sick.  Got some work done in the morning then spent the rest of the day trying to recuperate.  Yesterday was also Hubby’s birthday – I felt terrible that we couldn’t have the celebration he deserves.  (Sorry Honey, I will make it up to you!)

Despite still feeling nowhere near 100% today, after not working out at all yesterday I resolved to at least get myself back in gear today.  Got my gym bag ready, packed a healthy lunch and a bunch of Dayquil gel tabs.  As I’m at work on conference call #1, it starts sleeting.  Yuck.  As I’m on conference call #2 it starts snowing.  By the time I’m off conference call #2 it’s snowing… snowing hard.  Several projects and another conference call down and I realize it’s stopped snowing all together.  Yes!  Going to the gym on the lunch hour will be that much simpler.  I’ll get to the gym, get in that workout I should have yesterday, get a quick shower, post workout smoothie and back to work – easy peasy.  Popped another couple Dayquil, grabbed a few tissues and was out the door.

I would like to say I pranced to my car but it was more like a lumbering shuffle.  Turned on the car and started dusting off the snow only to discover a layer of ice.   A thick layer of ice (remember that sleet?).  So I started scraping, and scraping and scraping.  By the time I was done I was covered in sweat, dizzy and nauseous beyond belief.  At this point I felt like clearing the car was the workout.  But I wanted to get that workout darn it!  I didn’t come out to the parking lot just to dig out my car and go back inside!  I told myself I had to at least drive the short distance to the gym and scan my key tag to get my check-in for the day.  If I felt up to it by the time I got there, I’d do the workout.  If I was still feeling like crap I would reward my puny efforts with my smoothie anyway and go back to work.

So what happened?  I finished the work out.  I hit a PR on my bench press of 50 lbs!  (Let’s not get too excited folks, the 2.5 lb plates were about the size of my hand – and I have small hands – but they were plates none the less.)  After that I pretty much phoned in the rest of it because I wasn’t feeling great but a half assed workout is better than none at all.  A little exercise did rejuvenate me and that post workout protein smoothie tasted all the better because of it.

Got to scrape the car again before heading back to work.

After work I had to scrape the car again.  Oh joy.

Went to my 8 year old’s hockey game.  They lost but he skated hard and played well.

Then I got to scrape the car again.  Yippee.

Home now, and the car is in the garage.  No more scraping for me today.  I think I may have earned myself another smoothie. 🙂

Simply Shredded (weeks 1-4) Results & Review

Here we are at the end of week 4 of Simply Shredded.  I won’t write out the entire workout but I am including a link to my training plan and updated training plan.  As I got started with the Simply Shredded program I needed to change some things to continue to incorporate my running.  So how did it really go?  Did I stick to my exact diet the entire time?  Did I really drink a gallon of water every single day?  Did I run as much as I wanted to?  The answer to all of those is no.  No, no, no.  Nope, not at all.  I’m a human being after all, not a machine (contrary to popular belief, and not in a good way) but I did keep track of everything; good and bad.  As it turns out, I’m a documenting freak so it was fun for me to keep track of all of these nuances.  I also put a heck of a lot of work in this month.  Hope you find it helpful.  Otherwise, it’s just more documenting for me to keep to review later – win/win. 🙂

wpid-wp-1423370852046.jpeg

Starting picture on the left through to the end of week 4 pic on the right.

The Goal: Reduce fat/lose weight

Results – Pics & Stats
Yay!  All this hard work seems to be paying off.  I lost 4.5 inches and 4.5 lbs these last 4 weeks.  Not too bad!  I’ve included a chart with measurements taken after each week along with some pics.  I did my measurements, weigh ins, and progress pics every Saturday morning before breakfast to stay consistent.  (The “starting” picture is a bit dark as I had to take them earlier than usual that day.)
measurements

Workouts
I followed the Simply Shredded program for my strength training.  I worked on increasing my weekly running mileage and made sure to include some HIIT to get my heart rate really going at least a couple times a week.  I didn’t always do the ab exercises that Simply Shredded recommends on Fridays.  No real excuse for that other than I work abs pretty regularly with my trainer and just didn’t feel like doing abs those days. 🙂  The calf exercises were also hit and miss.  I go to multiple locations of my gym chain and some of the locations don’t have those machines.  I also figured my running worked my calves pretty well.  I would say I did those about 75% of the time or so.  I did increase an inch in both calves which I was pretty excited about.
workouts

Nutrition
Followed IIFYM as best as I could (see other post on nutrition).  I wanted to cut (lose weight/fat as apposed to gaining or maintaining) but decided to first start with maintenance calories since I wasn’t sure how my running would affect my goals.  I calculated maintenance macros for the 4 days of lifting the Simply Shredded program calls for.  I also added in additional calories in the form of carbs for my runs.  For my runs I used this formula: (75 calories x miles ran)/4 = carbs in grams extra that day.  I only ate these additional calories if I felt I needed them.  I usually did use some or most of them on those run days but usually not all.  I did not add any additional calories for my HIIT sessions.  My hope was that this would contribute to my weight loss instead of maintenance.  It seemed to work as I was seeing results each week.  Had I not seen results I would have reduced my intake.

macros

A bit about this chart: The red bolded days are those I did not stick to macros exactly with everything weighed out.  On those days I got as close as I could, focusing on eating lean protein throughout the day but an event or special scenario came up that I wanted

Typical day of eating.

Typical day of eating.

to enjoy without being the kill-joy with the food scale.  I know I was close those days but not spot-on.  I didn’t do any full “cheat” days, just a specific meal on those days highlighted in red.  I thought it was important to note those though.  If wasn’t seeing progress I could look back and evaluate those more closely.

Hydration
I made sure to drink about a gallon of water a day.  There were probably some days I missed by a few ounces but am pretty happy to be close most of the time.

Overall Summary
I’ve really enjoyed the workouts in Simply Shredded.  I love that they are so short I can fit them in over my lunch hour without issue.  I can tell I’m getting stronger with each session.  My struggle now has been coping without rest days.  I have taken rest days here and there by doubling up on workouts the day before or after.  It’s been okay but definitely more effort than my body is used to.  I think it is getting easier though and I am pretty excited about my results!  🙂

Kettlebell Hell!

Met with my trainer today for another circuit workout.  Wow.  I feel like these sessions are somehow getting more challenging yet easier to accomplish.  That may not even make sense and I’m not sure if I even understand it.  Today we did a workout with just one kettle bell.  That’s it.  One tiny little piece of equipment + one awesome personal trainer = one heck of a workout.  The thing I learned about the kettlebell is that it is incredibly versatile.  Did a couple variations on swings, crunches, and my personal favorite (NOT) rows followed by hip raises (ouch).  Powered through it like a champ.  I thought we were using a 10lb kettlebell until I looked at my journal just now.  The thing was 20lbs!  Yay, go me!  I truly feel that these sessions are improving my fitness and are a nice compliment to the lifting and running.  And they’re fun.  Well, at least now looking back at it I can say it was fun. Toward the end of the last circuit I can tell you I would have had something else to say about it. 🙂 Maybe I should rename the post to “Kettlebell Superhappyfuntime” but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Now to round out the week with one more 5 mile run!

In other news I’ve registered for 2 more races since I thought about cutting back.  I may need to seek professional help. 

Channeling the Energizer Bunny

Some of you may remember those old battery commercials about the Energizer Bunny featuring the rabbit with the drum who would “Just keep going and going and going and going…”.  (I don’t watch much TV anymore – is that guy still around?)

The bunny had his pros and cons.  At face value it looks pretty darn awesome to have that much energy!  To just keep going!  (And going!) Forever!  I’ve had a week of doing my best to emulate that rabbit.  Get the kids to school (just keep going…), get to work (and going…), work all morning/workout over lunch/resume work (and going…), get the kids/make dinner/clean up/hockeyhockeyhockey/check homework (and going…), kids in bed/Ph.D. studies (and going…), chat with the hubs/pack snacks & lunch & water gallon for the next day (and going…), wake up and do it all the next day! (and going…)

I know I’m not the only one with this type of nutty crazy schedule – we’re all so busy!  It’s great to feel so productive and accomplish so many wonderful things in the day.  That said, the Energizer Bunny also seemed a little boring.  All he did was bang that dang Energizer drum all day.  I truly believe it’s so important to work as hard as you can but then also play as hard as you can.  This weekend is Superbowl Sunday.  I don’t necessarily enjoy football but I love the eating and commercials.  I truly believe that having something fun to look forward to is super important for mental health and overall well being.  So this weekend, I’m seriously looking forward to playing hard (and eating mountains of greasy food).  🙂

Until then, I’ll just keep going and going and going and going…