Tuesday, February 12, 2013

26.2 Update: Using The Buddy System

Not an accurate reflection of my personal training experience.

I pride myself of being pretty independent, not afraid to do thing by myself. The downside of that is that asking for help is sometimes really hard. And scary.

At the end of last year, I shared my latest goal to shed some of the pounds I've built up over the past year or so - 26.2 of them, to be exact. I likened the challenge to training for a marathon, knowing it was going to take time and effort and focus. Within the first week or so, I dropped about five pounds, mostly by watching my portion sizes and passing on a drink with dinner.

Then I got a bit stuck. Facing my virtual "marathon," I'd only gotten to a  point of being able to run five miles. 

That certainly wasn't going to cut it.

So I enlisted some help. I sought out a personal training program we have through my employer. Over the years, I'd toyed with the idea of hiring a personal trainer to help keep me on track and push me outside my comfort zone. But the cheapskate in me wouldn't pull the trigger to write the check. 

Realizing having an ally for the weight loss journey could be advantageous, I started asking about the personal training program. I'm still a bit of a penny-pincher so the money part still irked me. When a deal came up at the end of the year to get three free sessions with the purchase of 10, I seized the opportunity. 

I wasn't sure what to expect - something like the photo above or Jillian Michaels, in my face yelling? Definitely not what I got.

My trainer and I met to talk about my goals and fitness level, and take the dreaded measurements and weight. I did a food journal for a week, logging every thing I ate and drank, and what time I did so.  

I must admit a really dislike the food log exercise. I've avoided it for years now, despite knowing that the people who have the most success with weight loss and maintenance track what they eat. When I went in for my consultation about my food log, I dreaded the conversation. I mean, I eat relatively healthy (no soda, no fast food, minimal processed food), but I do like to eat out and I do like my glass(es!) of wine with dinner.

I didn't want to be told to change. But, I told myself, that's what this process is all about. If I stay the same, I will, well, stay the same.

Interestingly, the two people I met with about my food log didn't chastise me or tell me to cut this or that. Instead, they praised me for having a really good base. The problem, they said, is that I wasn't fueling my body enough. I had to eat more - more often, to be more precise.

My homework was to eat every two to three hours, which sounds like an easy task. I really struggled with it. I was shocked at how quickly a couple of hours went by, especially on busy work days filled with meetings and running around. I was also told to incorporate a bit of protein with each meal/snack. I've made some good progress with this, working in Greek yogurt, homemade hummus and other protein-rich foods.

I know this because I've kept up with the food log - and even suggested that I send a copy to the trainer each week. Just to keep me focused and on track. (I cannot believe I offered - and asked - to keep a food log and email it to someone.)

Over the weeks, it's been about four now, my trainer has asked the right questions to figure out what motivates me, and now that he understands more about what makes me tick. I think we've come up with a winning strategy.

I'm motivated by numbers, tracking and accountability. I like to see the progress. I like charts and graphs. I like to analyze what works and what doesn't. (It doesn't take a genius to figure this out - just look at my last post, cutting my stats this way and that.)

In addition to the weekly training sessions, monthly weigh-ins and measurements, we've agreed to have other numbers-based challenges. For the next two months, I'll log 100 miles of biking or running each month. Of that, 50 miles will be running. (There was a time when those numbers were the norm or even easy for me, but this will be a stretch given my recent history.) Two months from now, we'll come up with the next challenge. 

It would kill me to turn in a monthly report that didn't hit these numbers, and I've already found myself in the gym more. As much as I hated the exercise, I also  suggested that I submit a weekly food log - partly to just keep me honest and accountable, but also to keep nutrition in the forefront.

My trainer, while he whole-heartedly supports my goal and loves the personal nature of it, isn't as concerned about the pounds as I am. He's looking more at the other measurements, like body fat percentage and inches. He's looking to see how I improve my stamina and strength. 

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous at my first appointment. I didn't quite know what to expect. The trainer works me hard, focusing one session on upper body, then lower body the next. Each session involves some core work and, often, plyometrics (think lots of jumping and sweating). 

Having someone next to you, pushing you farther than you think you can do, definitely helps. When I think I can't do one more rep, he asks for two more. Sometimes three. Being a good student, I oblige. 

I also joined a Biggest Loser-style challenge at work. Participants are divided into teams (we don't know who else is participating) and given weekly challenges. This week's challenge was to ride 20 miles, cumulatively, during the week on the stationary bike, attend two spin classes, or ride 10 miles and attend one spin class.

For someone who's relatively active, it's not a far-reaching challenge. But it's still a good way to focus on getting the workouts in and stay motivated. That's probably why I found myself squeezing in my last five miles on the bike between meetings on Thursday before the snow.

I've often said that running is easier with a buddy. Seems like this 26.2 weight loss challenge will be easier - and more successful - with buddies, too.

Will keep you posted.