So, a new era is starting for me. My plan for this writeup was to do a summary review of my blog-to-date and characterize a group of posts as comprising a certain “era” and thus to fit this new start into that context. Then I realized that this effort is at once somewhat daunting and a little depressing.

Therefore, I’m simply starting again. My mom passed away 9 months ago today and I’m only now, I believe, able to battle my way out of the depression and apathy, the searching for motivation and purpose, that followed.

Yesterday I got out and rode the bike. An 11.5 mile ride; it was my first in a week or so and only my 5th ride in 8 weeks. I’ve lost an incredible amount of fitness and bike ability, and correspondingly, gained a pretty amazing amount of weight. I’ve put myself through 9 months of hell, and really put off a good friend in the process.

This is a good segue to the new era, though. Succinctly, I’m not (currently) able to do on a bike what I could last summer/autumn. It’s hard work for me to ride a fraction of the distance I did. Coming to grips with my own past potential is what’s been keeping me off the bike for months, a vicious cycle that reinforces itself. More time passes, I lose still more fitness, and become still more discouraged about the growing gap between “what I could do” and “what I can do” – so I stay off the bike.

But I finally realized I need to simply break that cycle. *I am here*, right now; it doesn’t matter what I could do before. The title of this blog post is a reflection of my determination to basically start over from scratch, rediscovering the joys (experienced in 2011, 2012, 2013) of being able to extend my abilities, ride a little further, a little faster, expanding my options, and falling in love once more with this pursuit.

To that end, during yesterday’s ride I identified with two key concepts which I believe I’ll find useful as I progress. Viewing physical prowess in financial terms, I will start being aware of my “spending limit” and of “leverage”.

With RE to a given bike ride – my “spending limit” is the total work output I can reasonably put forth before I’m burning the candle too aggressively. This output is shaped by distance but also by terrain (hills, flats), wind, etc. It’s a general idea of “how difficult” of a ride I’m capable of doing, more or less on demand, and without undue repercussion, such that I could repeat the same exertion the following day, and the day after. At various times in the past (which now I’m deliberately forgetting exists at all), my “spending limit” was pretty high, for a mortal. That is, compared to some of my bicycling friends, I was a pauper; but relative to the man on the street, I could do a lot. I could reasonably jump on a bike in most conditions and go ride X miles, day after day. Well, my current spending limit is pretty low. But that’s ok. I will start where I am and, through my efforts – through consistent riding, healthy eating and drinking, diligent weight training at gym, etc, I will gradually extend my spending limit.

Lest the reader think I am being OVERLY analytical/precise, I make no effort here to actually quantify this “spending limit”, either now or in future. I am merely aware of a fuzzy probability space that it occupies. My spending limit now is not what it was in September, but it’s also not what it will be 3 weeks from now, or 2 months from now, or 4 months from now. The goal is to gradually but consistently, and unceasingly, expand the “spending limit”.

The concept of “leverage” is closely related, in fact maybe indistinguishable. It refers to the “micro level” of effort within a given ride. In other words, as a general statement, to the speed I can maintain over X distance, over Y terrain, etc. It refers to the range of freedom I have to kick it up a notch or two, and still be able to complete that ride reasonably comfortably. My “leverage” capacity is also not what it was last year. Within a given ride now, I have to be much more wary of exertion, of wind and hills, etc. My options aren’t as wide as in the past. But, as with the above concept, the idea is to expand this over time, back to where it previously was, and then much beyond.

All of this within the context of simply accepting that “this is where I am now” and attempting to rediscover the simple joys of being able gradually to do more and more on the bike. If I catch myself comparing “now” with “back then” – and I inevitably do sometimes – it can be discouraging. The key will be to forget that and simply focus on inexorable improvement NOW.

I still have some major bike-related goals – a lot but not all of them centered around randonneuring – which I am going to work hard to bring back into my grasp. When all is said and done, I will have lost over a year’s worth of time in terms of bike fitness and options. But taking the long view, that’s not as huge and smarting a penalty as it certainly seems right now. I expect to be able to ride, at distance, for decades more – and if so, I have lost only a small amount, perhaps 3%, of that time, to this period of depression and searching for motivation.

We ride forward now into the future, gradually expanding what is possible.

12 weeks till weigh-in!

September 10, 2014

Subject says it all.  Twelve weeks to go till I again allow the scales to indicate my progress (or lack thereof) since I resumed working very hard to get into shape.  I can already feel in all kinds of ways that I am losing weight and getting into better shape, but I’ve stayed faithful to my original plan and not stepped on the scales.  Nor will I for another 12 full weeks.

“…and I hope I never do.” So sings Bono in an impromptu lyric change for a live performance of the well-known u2 song. This phrase “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…and I hope I never do” is a very interesting one to me, with myriad layers of meaning- one of which, I can overlay on the quest to get into better shape.

Sorry in advance for the self-centered musing and internal talk. A part of the reason for this blog is to capture things for myself for future reference, and also potentially, in some way, to influence others. This post will accomplish at least one, maybe both.

Like almost everyone who is trying to lose large amounts of weight, I have a real love-hate relationship with the scale.

On the one hand, it’s easily the most objective + accessible means to gauge progress in fitness. Note the word “fitness”. Those who are trying simply to “lose weight” have it wrong, in my view. The goal is to get into better SHAPE – to improve FITNESS – to promote LONGEVITY – and to adopt a permanently healthy lifestyle. Again, though, to that end, the number on the scale is the quickest, easiest objective report card available.

On the other, though, focus on the scale introduces a variety of complications in your mission. Simplest is, in fact, that watching the scale does risk putting the emphasis on watching that number move – not on the proper things, i.e. fitness, health. Other complicating factors can arise tied to quirks in one’s own personality.

For me personally, I SOMETIMES feel almost like scale-watching is a lose-lose proposition. Let’s say I weigh in and am down what I hoped or even further. Great!, you say. Yes, great – but now, I tend to feel like I’ve earned a “reward”. “Rewards” can easily become a slippery slope to lower vigilance. Also a tendency to think, “Ok, great, I got this in the bag” – and to, even entirely subconsciously, take your foot off the accelerator a little. Become a little cavalier. Become less driven, less motivated. Say instead that I weigh in and am not down what I hoped – maybe I miss it big, in fact. This is even worse. Now there’s a big risk of a tailspin of despair. “Man, I worked my BUTT off the last X days since last weigh-in. And all it got me was THIS?!” I begin to doubt my system. I begin to doubt myself. Demons of doubt creep in: “Maybe I can’t do this.” Nothing is more toxic, truly.

In my roughly 5-year journey since I started losing weight (which has decidedly not been a straight line, as several of my friends who have been there to encourage me will attest), I have suffered both of these effects, more than a couple times.

All of this has been on my mind the last couple days as I approach my next weigh-in. Readers may recall that I last weighed in 2 weeks ago, at which point I was down big – some 4.3 pounds in 2 weeks. The plan then became to weigh in every other Wednesday.

Fast forward the intervening two weeks. I’ve been doing great, and I mean GREAT. I have not been THIS dialed in, with all aspects of my fitness, for over a year – probably 14 months. I am seeing progress in so many ways – on the bike, with the fit of clothes, with the face in the mirror, with my day-to-day feeling, etc. There’s really no question at all that I am moving in the right direction, and rapidly.

That then begs the question: Why weigh in this Wednesday? If the goal is improved fitness, and weight loss as a consequence of that – and it surely seems both are coming along fine – then what is to be gained by stepping on a scale? I already KNOW I’m doing well. I don’t need a scale to tell me that. The scale can only complicate things. I can either be as far along or farther, than I think, which can introduce some slothfulness; or I can be well less far along, which can only generate confusion.

I have been thinking to myself recently that if I hit X weight this Wednesday, I’d give myself a little reward. What reward? I didn’t yet decide. But the point here is, in my internal dialog about whether to weigh in or not, I find that this reward is a factor. “I WANT to weigh in, because I feel confident the number will be good, and thus I’ll get a little treat”. But at the same time I recognize that this is risky, for all the reasons given above.

The last day or two, the thought occurred to me to not weigh in at all until X date – something several weeks off. I like this idea in principle, although I find that it will test my willpower and my curiousity to know just what I’ve accomplished. This, then, ultimately became THE deciding factor. I turned the question around on myself this morning. “Which path do I WANT to take, in the sense of it being the easiest? Which is the path of less resistance?” The answer was clear. Weighing in this week will be, in a way, bailing out on myself. One trait that I have – a gift – is that when I dedicate to something, I become very hungry and drive very hard. But this drive, applied to fitness, risks being dulled by objective confirmation of success. It’s hard to stay hungry (for me it is) when I feel like I have a little bit less to prove. I thrive on feeling like I have something to prove. And so, I think I am better served by keeping myself pushing hard, not allowing myself the simple pat on the back. I want to stay hungry to continue with my good habits, and deferring weighing in till a date certain, well into the future, is a good way for me to do that. Different folks tick in different ways. This is how I tick.

Therefore, I’ve decided. My birthday is exactly 100 days from today (counting today). In addition to the 12 days since I last weighed in, this gets us to 16 weeks. A nice round number; essentially (although not exactly) 4 months, etc. By that time, I expect to have blasted through my best-ever weight of 184. I anticipate being anywhere from 16-32 pounds down by then; 18 would find me back at 184. So, the plan is set. I’ll defer weighing in again – even once, even “just for a little sneak preview” – till my birthday, at which point I expect I’ll be in the best shape I’ve been in in many, many, many years. Till then, I will stay hungry and in the hunt.

Another update 100 days away……

Ample research has demonstrated that those with concise, clear, SPECIFIC goals are much more likely to attain them than those without. E.g. “I will have a net worth of $500k by my 30th birthday” not “I want to become rich and make lots of money”. “I will lose 10 pounds in the next 2 months” not “I want to lose weight”. Etc.

Accordingly, here are my rather specific fitness-related goals for 2014. In keeping with my intended timeline  outlined in a recent post, the initial goals are less bicycling-related but become more so as time progresses.

  1. Drink a gallon of water every day.
  2. Drink 1/2 a gallon of my green drink blend every day except during bike tour weeks e.g. RAGBRAI.
  3. Do 40 pushups per day, 6 days/week; and add 5 pushups/day every week. So week 1 = 40, week 2 = 45, week 3 = 50 etc.
  4. Ride bike at LEAST 3 miles/day, every day. Indoor stationary bike if circumstances dictate, but outside if at all possible.
  5. Go to gym 2.5 times per week through March 10th; do at least one interval workout (P90X and similar) per week through March 10th.
  6. Lose 15 pounds by March 10th. I’m currently 194, so this means a weight of 179 by March 10th.
  7. After March 10th, drop to gym 1.75 times/week; still one interval workout per week, for remainder of year (other than bike tour weeks and out of town vacations).
  8. Switch focus from losing weight, to the bike, adding bike fitness and bike miles, on March 10th. Ride a few times/week and gradually increase distance.
  9. Return to randonneuring by May or late April.
  10. Zero DNF’s (did not finish – referring to rando rides) for 2014 barring extraordinary circumstances.
  11. Ride every local 100k (62 mile) rando route at LEAST once in 2014.
  12. Be 8 months into the P-12 streak by 12/31/2014.
  13. Lose an additional 5 pounds by May 10th (so, weight of 174 by May 10th).
  14. Lose an additional 6 pounds by September 30th (so, weight of 168 by September 30th).
  15. Maintain weight at 173 pounds or below for remainder of 2014.
  16. Do at least one century ride (100+ miles) per month starting in July.
  17. Do at least one 200k (124 mile) rando ride by 12/31/2014.
  18. Ride RAGBRAI in July, and at least one other major “bike adventure” (to be determined) in 2014.

As the year moves forward I’ll keep the blog updated with my progress against these goals.