Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Shredding Summary and a New Challenge

When I signed up to complete the 30 Day Shred challenge I didn't exactly commit to it wholeheartedly. I knew that committing to do something 30 days in a row would be difficult, so I gave myself some outs. I set a personal goal to do the Shred at least 4 days a week instead of committing to a straight 30 days. I doubted that I would succeed at completing the challenge, and my altered goal seemed much more do-able with my schedule.

The first two and a half weeks were near-perfect. I was motivated and energized, excited to be doing so well. I shredded 10 out of the first 15 days of the month. But then things started going down hill. In the last half of March my schedule became a bit more hectic and I only shredded 5 of 15 days. Unfortunately, I lived up to my own expectations and failed to complete the challenge (using the official "rules" or my own), and my results reflect that. The changes I can see from the 30 Day Shred Challenge were minimal. I lost 4 pounds and my measurements barely changed. In fact, I think any changes in my measurements were probably due to differences in where I took the measurements rather than actual changes in size.

I'm disappointed in my performance, but I'm not surprised at the results. I have a tendency to give myself too much flexibility when it comes to goal setting. I think this comes from a desire to avoid failure. If my requirements are lax, then I can't fail to reach my goal. If I don't really care about the results, then it doesn't matter so much when I don't see any. But I want to change this. I want to be able to make a commitment to myself and stick with it. I want to be realistic in my goals, but I want to challenge myself, as well. I want to recognize that so long as I make an effort (a REAL effort), I can be satisfied with whatever results I see in the end.

Despite my limited participation in the challenge, I was able to see some clear indicators that I'm stronger and fitter: both the cardio and strength portions of Levels 1 are much easier than they were on March 1st; I've been able to increase the weight I use during most of the strength exercises from 2 lbs. to 5 lbs.; my muscles are a bit more visible; my waist has a bit more definition. While I didn't shed the pounds and inches I was hoping to, these results encourage me to keep trying, to keep challenging myself.

So with that, I'm starting a new personal challenge for the month of April. I am committing to...

  • Shred OR 
  • Do some other form of moderate cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes OR
  • Practice yoga for at least 45 minutes
...on at least 25 of the next 30 days.

It's going to take planning and purposeful dedication, but I want to prove to myself that I can set a goal and achieve it. I can do this. I'm going to have an active April! Anyone want to join me?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gettin' My Gruve On

I came home from FitBloggin' with some awesome things, but so far my favorite bit of techie swag has been my Gruve. A tiny little gadget that I clip on my waistband every day, it's like a pedometer only oh-so-much cooler.

The Gruve was developed by Muve, Inc., a company co-founded by Mayo Clinic researcher, Dr. James Levine, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Levine and his team of researchers demonstrated that our normal daily activity (or lack thereof) can affect our ability lose and maintain weight, and the Gruve was developed to encourage wearers to increase their NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Instead of simply measuring steps like a pedometer, the Gruve measures subtle movements like standing and walking, allowing it to track the calories we burn during normal activities. And while they're not necessarily burning hundreds of calories in an hour, over the course of the day, the calories burned by those movements add up.

As you move throughout the day, the Gruve's "halo" changes colors when pressed, going from red (0-24% of your calorie goal), to orange (25-49%), to yellow (50-74%), to blue (75-99%), and finally to green (100%). Unlike a pedometer, you get real-time reinforcement and motivation for burning more calories. And if you're being sedentary for too long, your Gruve gives you a little electric shock (OK, it's really just a short burst of vibrations) to get you moving again. Talk about a reminder to get off your butt!

I've been wearing my Gruve for a full week now and I've totally seen a difference in how I go about my everyday activity. I've stopped circling parking lots for the closest spot and started seeking out those farthest from the door. I don't mind walking the aisles of the grocery store. I'm walking from office to office at work instead of sending emails or picking up the phone. I've taken to making multiple trips up and down the stairs at home, even if it's unnecessary.

Getting to green has become a fun little game I play with myself. How early can I get to yellow today? How many days in a row can I make it to green? What activities can I do inside my house to burn more calories? Is it possible to pace while doing the dishes? What about folding clothes on the move?

The thing that I love most about Gruve is that, as person who loves graphs and charts, I can see my progress throughout the day, not just with the changing halo colors, but also by synching my Gruve online. I just plug the gadget into the computer and log into my Gruve Dashboard to see my calorie burn so far, over a course of the week, during a specific day or even by the hour.

As I start incorporating more NEAT activity into my days, my Green Goal will increase, so that I'll continue to be challenged as I lose weight. When I'm ready to maintain, I can indicate that in my Gruve Dashboard and my Green Goal will adjust accordingly.

As you can see, I'm a total fan of the Gruve. I've been spreading the word about it since day one. It's perfect for anyone who needs a little extra motivation to add more movement throughout their day. And it's especially perfect for those of us who find ourselves sitting at a desk or in front of a computer most of the day. Speaking of which, there's that buzz. Time to climb the stairs a few times and get my Gruve to green!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beyond FitBloggin' (Or What I Learned This Weekend)

I wanted to write this post yesterday, but it took me most of the day Sunday to really digest what I learned while I was at FitBloggin' this weekend. Not to mention that I was mentally spent from all the social interaction and networking.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting about the great products I get to try thanks to the FitBloggin' Sponsors and vendors. I'll also write about some of the things I learned during the sessions I attended, including ways to monetize a blog (and why I might want to consider it); options for navigating the path from blog to book; and the importance of evaluating the science behind health and fitness research studies. But the reality is that I learned a lot more about ME than I did about blogging at FitBloggin'10.

I attend writing conferences pretty regularly, but I had never been to a blogging conference before (and now that I have I'm totally kicking myself in the butt for not registering for BlogHer). Being surrounded by so many health and fitness bloggers invigorated me in a way that other conferences never have. Not only do I feel inspired to keep working toward a healthier life, but I also feel inspired as a blogger and writer. Something about FitBloggin' has lit my blogging flame again.

I'd venture to say that the thing that has inspired me most is that I've rediscovered the passion that got me blogging in the first place. I love writing in general, but I particularly love writing about health, fitness and food. (That's how I started, after all.) In trying to follow the advice I read all over the place that blogs should be in a niche rather than general, I tried to separate my interests. Which meant creating multiple blogs and blogging for other people in order to keep my health-and-fitness side happy -- and creating multiple blog personalities in the process. I was taking it to the extreme, and frankly, I couldn't keep up with all the "niche-ing". I started getting frustrated with blogging in general and found myself struggling to keep up with posting on any of the blogs I'd created or started writing for. 

Because of that frustration, I've let some of my extracurricular blogging gigs go and I've been considering merging Writing: My Life with Write Out Loud for a while now. I think that FitBloggin' was the opportunity I needed to really evaluate what I want from blogging and where I want to take my blogs.

All of that being said, while I'll be shifting the focus of this blog a bit, I don't plan to limit myself to posts about how many calories I ate or what I weighed-in at. In fact, I don't really want to blog about those things at all (though I might, occasionally). What I will be writing about is my life and all that it entails: staying healthy while working full time and trying to build a freelance writing and editing business; being creative in the kitchen as well as in my writing; exploring yoga and its benefits; other things that inspire me (or bring me down); and whatever else I might feel passionate about.

I love the community I've built here and I appreciate all the support and encouragement you've given to me over the years (despite my multiple personalities and lack of focus at times). I hope you're open to tagging along during this transition in my blogging life. I'm excited to share this transformation with you!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Secrets to Success

Outliers: The Story of SuccessI've been listening to Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell during my commute this week. If you haven't heard of it, it's about the deeper truth behind why some people are successful and others are not. Gladwell argues that, though we in America like to believe success is dependent on an individual's talent, drive and dedication, there's a lot more that goes into a person's success (or lack thereof).

Using case studies of individuals and groups of people, Gladwell attempts to demonstrate that a person's culture, family history, and even birthday may be just as important to an individual's success as her own abilities. In fact, he goes so far as to argue that if we changed the way we think about success (that the best will rise to the top, no matter what their circumstances), more people would have the opportunity to become successful.

At first, Gladwell's arguments gave me pause. It was depressing to think we might not have control over our own fate. For example, if you are born in December, the chances that you will become a Canadian hockey star are next to zero. The chance occurrence of being born at the end of the year means that no matter how hard you work, how talented you are on the ice, you will never become a professional hockey player. Gladwell explains the reason for this unfair disadvantage in detail, ultimately coming to the conclusion that if scouting efforts in Canada were to occur multiple times per year, instead of just once, kids born in December would have just as much of a chance to become professional hockey players as those born in January or February.

But then Gladwell got to the crux of the matter. Over and over again, he encouraged readers to rethink the secrets of success. Sure, successful people have talent and drive and dedication. But there are plenty of people with talent and drive and dedication that never receive the opportunities necessary to nurture and support that talent. Without those opportunities to practice and pursue their goals, those individuals will never see success.

If we start to approach success as something everyone can achieve with the right supports and resources, and we then start investing in those resources, we could see many more success stories. If we level the playing field, so to speak, all kids could have similar opportunities to succeed in school (or sports or music or whatever it is they are interested in succeeding at), and therefore in future careers and life in general.

According to Gladwell, success doesn't have to be elusive. The only secret to success is being afforded the opportunity to pursue it. And that's an argument I can agree with.

What do you think? Do you feel success is a product solely of talent, hard work and dedication? Or do you think success is a product of chance, the result of lucky breaks?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I'm Shredding, and I Don't Mean Paper

Last week I mentioned that I entered to win a 30 Day Shred exercise DVD. If you didn't catch my update, I actually won the thing. I was so excited that when the video arrived last Friday, I tore off the cellophane and slipped the DVD into my player in preparation for a Saturday morning workout.

I got up at 7 AM the next day (What? I'm a morning person.) and promptly got to shredding. The video has three levels and at first I thought I'd just shoot straight to Level 3. It couldn't be that hard, right? I decided I should probably start with Level 1, though, and I'm glad I did. The 30 Day Shred kicked my @&&, people!

I was limping down the stairs on Sunday. But that didn't stop me from doing the Shred. And I even joined the 30 Day Shred Challenge over at Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans, so I shredded again on Monday when I got home from work. I skipped Tuesday in favor of an hour-long yoga class, and then missed shredding again on Wednesday because I was feeling under the weather. But I was back at it bright and early on Thursday morning and again on Friday morning, even though I was taking another hour-long yoga class later that day.

I haven't been this excited about working out in a long time. As far as exercise videos go, this one really isn't anything special. But the moves are tough enough that I feel challenged, and the circuits give me enough variety that the 25 minutes goes by quickly. I'm sweating buckets and my muscles are screaming by the time it's over -- all clear indications that I'm getting a good workout.

This morning I gave Level 2 a try because I was a little bored with Level 1 (NOT because I had mastered it and didn't feel challenged anymore). Level 2 was definitely harder, especially on my weak shoulder muscles. But I can't say it wasn't any harder than Level 1 was the first time I tried it.

If you're looking for a new and challenging workout, I'd highly recommend you give the 30 Day Shred a try. Even if you're not much of a Jillian Michaels fan, it's worth it.

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