Sunday, May 31, 2009

Progress At Last!

Elliptical Mileage: 8.3 miles
MP3 Player: Turandot (Caballe, Carreras)

Okay, just when I needed some encouragement, my notoriously unfriendly bathroom scale finally threw me a bone: I'm down to 263 today, 10 pounds less than on May 20th. Clearly something about the Atkins Induction phase jarred my metabolism loose, so this is a good thing. I'll be interested to see on Thursday, after the full two weeks of Induction, where I'll stand then.

Also, on the exercise front, my streak is still going - I'm ridiculously proud of myself that I did something every single day this month, either the elliptical or the 5k loop around the lake. That is a lot better than the 14 days out of 30 when I exercised in April, let me tell you! On the other hand, I'm still having trouble making progress on the elliptical - my legs still feel heavy, and by the time I get to the 32-minute mark, I don't feel like I have enough gas in the tank to go for 36 or 40. My big goal is consistency - working out every day without fail is the most important thing - but I'd like to be upping my time/distance as well. Not sure what's going on with that ...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The First Week of Atkins

Elliptical Mileage: 8.3 miles
MP3 Player: One Touch of Venus (New Amsterdam Concert w/ Paige O'Hara)

The exercise streak almost ended today: after fast-walking the 5k lake loop yesterday morning, I ended up with this nasty pain in my left foot that had me limping all day and all evening; I was afraid I wouldn't even be able to do the elliptical today, and that would spoil the fun of using this Thai highway sign to mark Day 35! Fortunately, when I woke up this morning the foot felt well enough to climb onto the elliptical and keep my streak going.

Today also marks one whole week on Atkins. So far it's going well, though my cravings for sugars and starches still keep coming back every so often to nag at me - for instance, I never realized that I drank so much milk (the single guy's worst habit: drinking it straight out of the carton!) mainly for the sweetness. And let's not even talk about all the containers of fat-free, ultra-sweet black cherry yogurt I went through most evenings! I think I'd gotten myself into quite a loop of blood sugar spikes and drops; whatever the faults of the Atkins system, at least the carb restriction is keeping those kinds of foods out of my mouth.

As far as the weight goes, I've resisted climbing on the scale so far, but Sunday, being the last day of the month, is one of my official weigh-in days, so we'll see then what kind of progress I'm making.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Elliptical Mileage: 8.4 miles
MP3 Player: Mame (Original Broadway Cast)

That's right, today marks Day 30 of the exercise streak - for me, a very good sign of ongoing motivation. Also, the Atkins Diet Induction Phase is now in its third day, and so far the withdrawal symptoms I'd read about haven't put in an appearance. My legs do feel heavier than usual on the elliptical trainer, which might be due to my suddenly lower carb intake, and my dreams seem more vivid than usual (don't worry, I'm not going to start describing my dreams here!), but beyond that the diet shift seems relatively painless.

Music Note: Before today, I hadn't listened to the original cast recording of Mame since the last time I had a working turntable - in other words, a very long time ago now. It's a much better score than I remember, and Angela Lansbury is in great voice. And it was nostalgic to hear the inimitable and recently deceased Bea Arthur again - what a way with a line that woman had! No other Vera Charles can touch her in the role.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Atkins Diet - The First Day

Elliptical Mileage: 8.3 miles
MP3 Player: The King and I (1977 Broadway Revival Cast)

Okay, so today is what Charlie Hills would call my latest "Day One": the Atkins diet, Induction phase. So far it doesn't seem too traumatic: I had scrambled eggs and bacon for brunch, went to a Japanese restaurant for sashimi, and snacked at home on cheese and hot dogs. Right now it seems I could get to like this (I can't remember the last time I ate bacon without feeling guilty!), though I know that anything can get monotonous if I don't mix it up. I've also discovered as a useful site for keeping track of the daily carbs, which might be a big help.

No other news to post - but if you read this, wish me luck! I may need it over the next few days ...

Monday, May 18, 2009

And the beat goes on ...

Elliptical Mileage: 8.3 miles
MP3 Player: Sondheim - Merrily We Roll Along (Donmar Warehouse 2000-1, in-house recording)

I'm rather enjoying finding images to mark each new 5-day bloc of my exercise streak; it even gives me a little extra motivation not to give up before I can post the next one. As you can see, today was the 25-day mark. I haven't missed a day yet this month, in great contrast to last month's blobby laziness. And while this may not seem like much to you active, athletic types out there, this represents real effort on the part of a couch potato (or at least laptop potato!) like your faithful blogger here.

I've almost 100% decided to start Atkins later this week. I've been reading up on it, along with Gary Taubes's excellent Good Calories, Bad Calories, and I think I will give the Induction phase a whirl. I've been stocking up on the right stuff for that diet and not replacing foods like milk and yogurt that I won't be eating during Induction when they run out. I think Thursday will be what Charlie Hills so aptly calls another Day One!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

School is out! And Sancho has left the building.

Elliptical Mileage: 8.4 miles
MP3 Player: Cleo Laine Sings Sondheim

My final exams are corrected, my final grades are posted, and school is officially out! This is invariably one of the nicest days in the year - the pleasure of sleeping in with no responsibilities (if only for that one day) is enough to make even the most dedicated professor sympathize with the old joke: Q: What are the three best reasons for going into teaching? A: June, July, and August.

Nevertheless, I did climb back up on the elliptical trainer this morning, so as not to break my streak and deny myself the satisfaction of marking Day 20 here on the blog. Not only that, I mowed my lawn for the first time this spring, which at my house involves wrestling a push mower around for about 45 minutes, so that must have burned a few more calories. Actually, a couple days ago I went to the local lake instead of doing the elliptical: I ran/walked the 3-mile trail just to get outdoors for a change (miraculously, it had stopped raining), but that still definitely counts as part of the workout streak. Of course, my feet and knees didn't like it nearly as much as the rest of my body did; I should really consider going to a sports medicine doctor and getting a professional opinion. Maybe orthotics in the running shoes would be the ticket?

I'm also considering trying the Atkins Diet this summer. For whatever reason, my usual bag of low-fat, low-calorie diet tricks are just not working this time around, and it's starting to depress me. Yet another decision ...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Will Power. It's Good.

Elliptical Mileage: 8.3 miles
MP3 Player: Cats (Original London Cast)

Okay, at least I'm getting some will power flowing: today was my 15th consecutive day doing a first-thing-in-the-morning workout on the elliptical. And after today those morning sessions get easier to manage, since classes and exams are now officially over. The most important thing, though, has been breaking through the daily temptation to sleep an extra hour, take a day off, etc.

Hopefully I can build on this self-discipline over the summer!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Repeat after Me: Exercise burns calories. Exercise burns calories. Exercise burns calories.

Elliptical Mileage: 8.3 miles
MP3 Player: Cabaret (Original London Cast w/ Judi Dench)

Okay, maybe April wasn't the cruelest month, but it certainly wasn't a good one weight-wise: I managed to go in reverse and actually gain weight back. Part of this was due to post-Lent temptation, or at least to not resisting it, since I did a lousy job of saying no to some of the foods I wasn't eating for 40+ days prior to Easter. Heading straight for Applebee's to wolf down chicken wings as soon as Easter Vigil Mass ended at 10:30 Saturday evening certainly wasn't a good start, and that huge block of extra-sharp Vermont cheddar at the grocery store a couple days later was an incredibly bad idea - even as I was putting it into the shopping cart, I was thinking that the much smaller package right there in front of me would take care of my craving for the flavor just as well. (And let's not talk about the crackers and pretzels which had to accompany it.) Nor was the economy-sized bag of chocolate-covered raisins very smart, since I knew perfectly well that my idea of making it last at least a week by eating no more than an ounce or two at a time was just not a plan I'd manage to stick to for long.

Worse, though, was my blobby laziness when it came to working out. During April I used my elliptical machine only FOURTEEN times - less than half the days in the month. And most of that number came from a four-day streak in the middle of April and a seven-day streak right at the end - in other words, there were big stretches of the month where I was adding no exercise, no calorie burn, no metabolism boost, to high-fat eating. No wonder the scale started telling me numbers I didn't want to see! I simply have to use the machine more often; working out fewer than 50% of the days in any given month is not the way to be healthy.

On the plus side, I'm continuing the streak I started with that solid week at the end of April, so today was Day #9 (the photo above is evidence; you can even see the display numbers if you work at it!). This is a positive sign. I just need to build on that (especially since all the cheese and raisins are long gone from my kitchen!).

Music Note: Cabaret turns out to be another decent score for working out to, especially the songs for the cabaret act. And Judi Dench is a great Sally Bowles in the original London cast recording - I think I like her better than Liza Minnelli precisely because she's not a spectacular singer; it makes more sense that her Sally would be stuck in a third-rate Berlin dive, whereas Liza sang the songs so well that I always have to work to believe in her as a failed cabaret performer.