My Health and Fitness Plans (Including Successes!)
A while back, I bought a BowFlex off some friends who couldn’t get what they wanted out of it on CraigsList, and wanted to reclaim some space in their basement. Originally, I wasn’t going to buy it, but had quipped that if they let me pay it off at $50 a month I’d probably do it. Well, I got a call the next week to the equivalent of “Sold, now get it out of our house.” 😉
It took me something like six months to pay it off, but it was well worth it.
See, in the middle of all the other stuff going on in life (you know, getting married, getting a house with my wife Kat, just little things… 😉 I also had decided to quit smoking, thanks to a smoking cessation study. Which, well, was a great idea, but really didn’t pan out. One of the bennies of having done it is kind of cool – they did the usual blood tests for cholesterol, weekly (then later, monthly) blood pressure tests, EEGs, and a few other things I’m sure I forgot.
My cholesterol came back as just barely high. My EEGs were fine, but my blood pressure was running a little high. Fortunately, all of that’s pretty curable.
Before we got married, Kat started trying to loose weight, which meant I modified how I cooked for her. Yes, I’m the cook of the house – in fact, not only do I cook, I pack a lunch for her to take to work and to classes at night. Which means, well, her health and weight loss depends a great deal on how I cook. Slowly, I eliminated things like Hamburger Helper and cooked more fresh or frozen veggies (instead of canned, or just going without a veggie dish).
Over time, I’ve gotten tighter and tighter on my cooking restrictions. As we find things that are healthier for her to eat, I find ways of making it at home from scratch. For instance – tortillas can be healthy, but they have fairly high sodium for her diet (she’s got some blood pressure issues), so I learned to make a low-sodium (and extremely tasty!) tortilla at home. Instead of turkey lunchmeat, I just cook up some turkey. We have salads with nearly every meal.
And, off and on, I’d go have a good love affair with the BowFlex. Usually it only lasted 4 – 5 weeks at a time – something would come up, and I’d take two or three weeks off from it. But I kept coming back. And, since I cooked healthy for her, it meant I ate healthy too, though often too much of it.
I started using Fitocracy to keep track of my progress (hey, if you use it, look me up – I’m MidnightRyder, as usual). My weight remains pretty constant, unfortunately. However, my body changes a lot dependent on my workouts. Go three weeks without one, and suddenly I end up with my spare tire inflating again. Get back on track again, and it deflates. Well… I guess I know how to solve that problem! 😉
It’s partially activity levels, and partially how much I eat that’s the source of that tire, of course. If I slip on the workout portion of things, I fall back quickly because of the extra calories. Hmm… I guess I know how to solve that problem, too ! 🙂
Two weeks ago I began experimenting: we had an old jug of protein powder from probably a year ago or so when we experimented with starting her day with one instead of a standard breakfast. I tried ’em, and they aren’t too bad. I had been eating either two eggs for breakfast, or an egg, rice, meat combo. Nutritionally, they were a bit more complete, decent amount of protein (for weight loss, studies show you should probably take in at least 20g of protein in the morning), have a good amount of the other stuff I look for in a workout enhancer (glutamine, for instance.) The taste is a bit… off. So I started adding just a little honey and cinnamon to mine when I fix it in the morning. Not bad. I follow it up with a celery stick to give it a little extra bulk in my stomach.
After a week of drinking them, I noticed I wasn’t particularly hungry at lunch – about 10 oz. of shake and a celery stick was enough, even when I was pretty active during the day. Not bad at all. But, I like to experiment, so, I wanted to find out if it was something else – maybe a metabolic change, etc. that kept me from feeling hungry.
I ate a slice of pizza (more calories than my usual breakfast) instead of the shake, and by 10:30 AM I was already hungry. I think I found a winner for controlling my breakfast portions 🙂
I’m still playing with the rest of it here and there, but I think I’ve got the plan down to a workable system. That last part being important, of course – I can make all the plans I want, but if they aren’t something I can stick to, there’s no reason to bother 🙂
As for the workouts themselves, even if my stomach gets bigger and smaller, the overall amount of weight I can push up continues to increase. (I’ll get into that a bit more in a minute… 🙂
And the rest of my health? My blood pressure is way down, my resting heart rate is excellent, and my HDL & LDL cholesterol is in the norms (my triglicerides are still a bit high). OK, well, I didn’t manage to quit smoking though… 😛
Along the way, I also take some pictures from time to time – it’s a good way to get an idea how much my body changes. Overall, I go off of “how I feel”, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to have other metrics to go by. So, I present to you one seriously ugly picture of myself mid-workout. I’m neither a doughboy, nor am I seriously muscle bound, but, it’s still nice to see slow progress 🙂
How to Add Extra Weight to a BowFlex
I’ve got a BowFlex Ultimate, which is pretty groovy overall. Now, right off the bat, a BowFlex is a different beast than working real weights. It’s resistance, which means at the beginning of a motion you end up with less weight, and reach maximum weight at full extension. This has an impact on how it works the muscles, along with being a part of the whole “Machine -vs- Free Weights” debate (which there’s much validity to – free weights work more than just the primary muscle group your’re working, since you have to keep balance.)
And, then there’s the fact a BowFlex does NOT provide the actual amount of tension it says it does. This particular one maxes out at 310 lbs. Truth is, whatever weight you have it set at, take about 75% off of that number to get the “real” amount of weight provided (but only when the rods are fully flexed.) Still, it’s a workout, and I continued to progress through to the 310 lbs max over time.
Which brings up the problem… what now? I could go for more reps, for instance, but that provides a completely different workout.
Then I started looking at an old concrete weight set I had laying around… hmmm… I wonder. Yep, those suckers fit on the bar for BowFlex! I had to remove the caps on the end of the bar, but after that I can slide as many on there as I want (well, until I’ve filled up the bar.) Now I have a “Hybrid BowFlex” that does both the power rods and real weight! It also means my bench press was lifted from a max of 310 lbs to 370 lbs (which means I’m probably actually pushing up something like 170lbs at the start of motion, and maybe somewhere between 230 and 270 lbs. Not exactly stellar, really, but heck, it’s better than someone who doesn’t work out 😉 Maybe some day I’ll visit somewhere I can see what my real max press is, just to give me a gage for it.
I’ve restructured part of my workout on the BowFlex to utilize the extra weight when possible – I’m not maxing out the 310 lbs on everything it does, but there’s enough that it was a worthwhile idea.
Of course… eventually, reality will set in. I’ll have to sell the BowFlex and pick up a weight set on CraigsList. Sometimes you can find some really kick butt deals there on some nice real iron weights (no more concrete weights – sure, you feel like a “real man” when you use ’em because of their size, but they become unweildy after a while!)
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