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Get Stronger and Leaner

(Geez, this ended up being pretty long.  I ramble a lot.  TL;DR: I started lifting and eating "right" about a year ago.  I've seen progress, but it's been slow.  I'm going to keep working!  I'm also going to make a few other changes that will help me to be healthier and will hopefully be sustainable in the long run.)

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As a kid, I always had fairly low self-confidence, and my body was definitely a key factor in that.  I’ve never been particularly overweight, but I’ve spent the majority of my life on the upper end of the “normal” range, coupled with a complete lack of muscle.  A year ago, I decided to do something about that, so I started weightlifting in October 2011.  15 months in, I’ve seen some progress, but it’s been pretty slow-going.

I also started intermittent fasting (8-hour daily feeding window) a year ago and started monitoring my caloric intake and macros.  I also went on a Leangains-style cut: approx. BMR+10% on workout days (high-carb, low-fat), BMR-30% on rest days (low(er)-carb, high(er)-fat).  There’s no question that I’m eating healthier than I ever have before, and the lifestyle change is definitely a good thing.  Progress, though?  I’m a bit leaner than I started, but not at the level you’d expect for someone who a) didn’t have very far to go to begin with, and b) has adhered to the program.

My weight on the scale hasn’t changed significantly in the past year, but that doesn’t bug me too much; what bugs me is that, a year after making all these changes in my exercise and eating habits, I’m not seeing much of a difference in the mirror.  In short: I have no idea why I haven’t seen the progress that a lot of others seem to.

That said, I’m going to keep going.  Dedication is important, and that’s one thing that I have.  So my first two goals for the year are to keep doing what I’m doing:

  1. Keep Lifting:  The lifting program might change, but I will keep going to the gym three times per week (whenever possible).  I will keep progressively overloading when I can, and I will see progress throughout the year.  It’s hard, but I will try not to compare my progress to others’.
  2. Keep Eating (Fairly) Well:  I will continue to track calories and macros.  I will keep focusing on healthy foods – meat, vegetables, etc.  I will let myself indulge when it fits my macros, because not doing so isn’t sustainable in the long run.

Beyond that, there are a few other changes that I’d like to make in the coming year:

  1. Read Starting Strength (by March 31):  I’ve gone through lots of form stuff online, but never actually picked up this book.  If I’m doing anything majorly wrong on my big three lifts, I’ll hopefully get an idea of what.
  2. Sprint Every Week (starting immediately)I will add cycling/swimming “wind sprints” to my exercise regimen, at least once a week.  5-10 minute warm up and cool down with 10-12 minutes of wind sprints (i.e. 20 sec at max speed, 40 sec at 50-60% speed).
  3. Start Running Again (starting... well, read on)Last summer, I got a minor running injury that I’ve been in physio for since.  Turns out there’s a developmental problem in my medial hamstring that’s causing my knee joints to be unstable.  I have some pretty difficult exercises that I’m doing regularly, and my physiotherapist is tentatively hopeful.  If/when possible, I will restart “steady-state” running once a week.  I will start slow and progress slowly, and I will stop if I get pain again.  I will try to work my way back up to a 5km run by the end of the year.
  4. Walk Places (starting immediately)I’ve actually been more-or-less doing this for the past year.  Let’s just make it official now – I will walk wherever I go as long as a) it’s not ridiculously far, b) it’s not ridiculously hot/cold outside, and c) I’m not in such a hurry that I would be late by walking.
  5. Get Enough Sleep (starting immediately)I will get 8+ hours of sleep a night, at least four days per week.  I accept that this will probably not always be possible, but I’ll try.  In particular, any night that I’m not out with friends or doing work, I will be in bed by midnight.

The goals I’d actually like to make are “getting leaner” and “getting stronger”, but they’re not actionable.  My hope is that the seven above goals (which are all specific and actionable) will lead to these two over the coming year and beyond.

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