Adventure training

My story

As a kid I loved summer camp. The 1, then 2 and finally 4 weeks spent at my state Girl Scout camp were the highlight of my summers growing up. I loved living in those old platform tents with the canvas sides, making new friends, and singing. I was introduced to canoeing my first summer at 7 years old and fell instantly in love with the magical silent gliding craft. By the time I was 15 I was teaching canoeing and old Maine guide style camping. No ultra-light bs here, we cooked with reflector overs and made 4 course dinners from scratch, including steak. It's a good thing canoes can carry a lot of weight and there aren't many portages in Maine!

During the rest of the year I was a math geek who evolved into a programmer as I grew older. I finally got too old to be a camper and realized, after 5 seasons, that I actually wasn't a terribly good coucelor.  I got a degree in math and started working as a computer programmer. I would try to get out hiking or canoeing  but couldn't really find the time to do so regularly. And it got physically harder to go out and paddle for 2 weeks straight.

I hit a low point in 2008. I was heading out to start graduate school in Southern California but 'threatening' my husband with making a bee-line for the woods. On our road trip moving out here I gained weight, 190 lbs and contemplating the necessity of purchasing size 18 jeans. I needed to get out to the woods more and knew that would be a lot more fun/easier the more fit I was.

Before we moved a boyfriend had introduced me to cycling (I know, typical chick story). While the motions were very different from canoeing there was a similar zen to it. I bought a decent bike and managed to get out on the local bike paths a few times before the move. Once in SoCal I discovered that I had ended up in a very bike friendly community with broad bike lanes and great bike paths going from the ocean to the mountains. I joined a local low key bike club and started to learn how to on the streets.

This was also about the time when I started trying to 'get fit'. I joined the university gym and got a personal trainer, that lasted about 3 months. I started swimming, nice but only lasted 6 months before I lost interest. I pestered my nutritionist cousin to overhaul my diet and hit my lowest weight EVER of 160 lbs, a 20 lb drop at the time; only to bounce back up to 170 once I let up. Nothing really stuck. But that didn't stop me!

In 2010, desperate to get back to the woods somehow, I made a rash suggestion to an old college friend that we should bike the Pacific Coast. I figured 100 miles a day we could do mid coast Oregon to SoCal in 2 weeks. She, unexpectedly, said yes. Keep in mind that at this point my longest ride was 30 miles and I had never handled a loaded bike; I knew I was in trouble but it was the good kind. We only made it to San Francisco (~50 miles/day) and the trip was pure physical torture, but it gave me the fix I was looking for. I was hooked.

Sadly being hooked didn’t mean I could head out for multi-week tours whenever I felt like it. Finishing my PhD meant that I could only get out on maybe one trip a year, if things were going well. I knew that to get the most of that those annual trips I had to get into better shape. But I was starting to run out of things to try. And then we moved.

We had been living on campus, but in 2011 we moved 14 miles off campus and I decided not to get a car. My husband would keep his car for work but I would do that commute by bike or bus. In the beginning I was ‘rescued’ a lot by my wonderful husband who would pick me up and load my bike into the back of the car. I finished the Pacific Coast with my friend later that year, riding from San Francisco to SoCal over 2 weeks, with much less pain. In 2012 I wasn’t able to get out for a trip but I was commuting 2-4 days a week and logging just under 3000 miles on the bike.

This hasn’t been a dramatic physical transformation. I didn’t go from blubber girl to rock hard abs over the past 4 years, I have no before/after photos to make you go “WOW!”. This has been a story of figuring out what makes me happy and doing it, even though it took years. In the fall of 2008 I was 185 lbs with 38-31.5-42 measurements; this fall (2012) I was 175 lbs with 36-29-40 fitting into size 12 for the first time since high school. More impressively to me I had my resting pulse down from around 85-90 to 65-70.

(Update 1/24/2013) The graph below is solid proof that I'm a geek... and that 2012 was a fairly bad fitness year for me.

The challenge

And then my dissertation really started hitting. I started writing at home more and more these past few months until November-December I only road a handful of times. I let my diet run loose in celebration of the winter holidays. And, to top it all off, I was spending upwards of 10 hours a day 6 days a week in front of the computer working. No surprise my weight skyrocketed up to 185 by the new year and my new resting pulse is around 70-75, but my measurements only went up to 36-30.5-40.5; not all was lost! I need to start figuring out how to incorporate exercise into my new writing schedule. I’m planning on doing another adventure this summer (bike tour? backpacking? a canoe trip? Akido intensive? sailing? We shall see!) and want to get maximal enjoyment out of it!

The goals

1)     Loose the 10 lbs I gained over the winter. Adventuring is easier when you are carrying less weight. 175 seems to be a good balance for me. But I’m curious to see if I can push it down to 160, which would give me a ‘normal’ BMI for my height (5 ft 7in).

2)     Get fit; lower my resting pulse to 60-65. This is beyond where it was so is a bit of a push goal. A lot of the adventuring options in Southern California are at altitude so having a good cardio system is going to be critical. I also need to strengthen my back which has been giving me trouble from time to time recently.

The plan

1)     Log my food.

I’m going to start by just writing everything down and move on up to weighing if it looks like I need that level of detail. After tweaking my diet so much I have a good idea of what works for me, it’s just a question of sticking to it. Baked goods are my main weakness. I can eat an entire loaf of fresh bread without thinking twice with lots of butter of course! And I like making cakes and cookies, which of course means I have to eat them! So one baked good a week for me (ie a cookie or brownie, and it better be damn good!). Otherwise it’s oatmeal, fruit/veggies, tofu, cottage cheese, yogurt, rice/pasta/potato, chicken/pork/sausage and gobs of hot black tea (lightly sweet); all in reasonable portion sizes.

2)     Run/bike 10/100 miles a week.

Since I’m home so much now I need an equivalent alternative to my bike commute. I know the running is a light if I want an equivalent caloric mileage, but I’m new to running and frankly I’m not nearly as good at it. I picked running because I don’t like cycling in loops and my dogs are great at guilt-ing me into a run in the morning. Right now I’m running 2 miles in 20+ minutes. I’m working my way up 10% at a time but I’m not quite sure where the upper bound on things are. If I’m home two days in a row I walk the second day instead of run (I do NOT want to get injured since I need to bike into school 1-2x a week).

3)     Core exercises after runs (maybe more?)

I’d like to get up to at least 100 sit-ups, 2 minutes of planks, and 20 push ups total after each run. Right now I’m at 3x25 sit-ups and 2x30sec planks and slowing working my way up. Focusing on these three will give a good foundation and once I’m comfortable/bored with this I’ll add others.

Status (15 January 2013)

I started my food log January 6th and weight in this morning at 181lbs. Last week I got in 60 miles of cycling, 4 miles of running, 3x25 sit-ups and 2x30sec planks. I’m on track for the same this week. So far so good.

Update (22 January 2013)

Weight seems to be bouncing around 180-182, Given how things were going I was hoping to break 180 but that doesn't seem to be happening right now. I've upped my running for the third week in a row and it was a weird mental thing to go past my usual mile turn around point. I'm noticing that I'm less hungry in the morning after I go for my run, not sure what that says about my hunger motivation. Food log has been falling down this week. I think I'm doing ok food wise but it's a pain to write it down. My resting pulse is down in the low 60's! I did NOT expect to reach this point so quickly, in fact I'm not sure it's physically possible. Maybe my inital starting point was too high or I was able to recover my old state quickly once I started exercising regularlly again.


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