Working out is getting to be a habit for me. I don’t really know when it happened, but I do not miss them unless my body tells me I need a break. No I don’t ask it within the last 10 minutes before I leave! It must tell me the day before for a morning workout or the morning of for a night time workout. It can always walk instead of run if it really has a problem but tells me too late, but the block of time is already spoken for.
I think the best thing I have done is to use all that I have learned about sports periodization and applied it for use. It helps with the mental aspect of working out. Periodization is the idea that you need to give the body a stress to improve it and the stress needs to increase for your body to keep adapting to it. If you keep giving it the same stress it will improve less and less. But, it also needs a break. You can’t just increase it forever. So if you graphed it’s like a sine wave (wavy line) plus a sloped line to tilt it upward. (Yeah I know, us engineers and our demented ways of thinking.)
So there are micro cycles which are more like a weekly plan. It doesn’t have to be a week, but let’s face it is there anyone that doesn’t use the week to organize their time? The macro cycle which is usually 3 or 4 weeks, then there is the year plan and the life plan, all these cycles come together to look like a stock market chart. The plan is like the simple examples of how stocks move in patterns as you might find in a book, and recording what you actually do looks like the stock market.
Back to the mental aspect I wanted to explain. If I sat down after the triathlon season was over and planned my whole season for the next year and had it all on paper, it would be daunting. It would be like coming into an operation that was half done and taking it over right in the thick of things. Hello Brian, this here is the half completed pyramid, here is the quarry and the forest and the farms and the workers, enjoy finishing it. A tad bit overwhelming! But then there is the cliché to take things one step at a time and such. This is too small but to keep your mind focused on the one thing at hand, the living in the moment, the zen of it all. I like the macro-cycle. I can plan it out easily, I can commit to it without feeling like I am giving away too much, I can have an idea about what is behind the corner for the next one, but I don’t actually have to plan it until this one is over and I am in the resting phase. It is easy to plan something when you feel like you are not doing much and are proud of any progress you made. That is what I mean by mental aspect.
A review of my last 6 weeks. It was a macro cycle because I had to start out slower and wanted to hit 200 pounds before I took a break. If you look close it is actually two macro-cycles that are 3 weeks long. My darn knee of mine had me lay off a bit. I am now in a week that has not been planned except for key workouts during the week. For example, I got this bike workout on Wednesday that I am working on building my power, it is set up for the next 8 weeks, I have done 4 of 12 so far. I can easily add on or back off the week by adjusting another workout that is more flexible. Just don’t mess with the key workouts! Now have a look at my chart of the last 6 weeks.
First, I must confess this is a hard to read chart. All the units are different. I could have scaled them based on calories burned which might be more appropriate to show the equal efforts, but I didn’t. Instead I will give you samples: The peak run week 5. I burned about 2680 calories running and walking each day: 2.1, 3.8, 3.1, 1.3, 0, 5, and 2.5 miles. I basically just stick a short treadmill workout, or a long one on the end of my other workouts, I never actually went for a run on it’s own, that is how I managed to get so much. The peak bike week 5 I burned about 2410 calories riding : 17, 0, 15.5, 0, 8, 16, and 0 miles. On the chart so these don’t spike upward I divided by 5 so the total is 56.5 miles but is just about 11, according to calories burned it should be close to the run line peak but I do not want to redo the chart. The swim peak was week 5, I swam 0, 3600, 0, 4200, 0, 1850, and 0 yards for a total of 9600 yards which is about 5.5 miles and burned 2020 calories. It is interesting to note that I burn about 12 to 13 calories a minute over the week on all the sports so I could just as easily chart by time instead of calories. The 12 to 13 is the average, each entry is recorded as best as possible based on my effort and ranges from 10-15.
The last number is the calories total. This is all calories burned and saved. By saved I mean that to maintain my weight I need to eat about 2500 calories a day, so if I eat less those are added in the total. So with week 5 as an example, I burned 7300 working out 619 minutes and saved 5900 by eating 1655 calories a day average. The main point was to look over the chart as relative values and see the macro-cycle period climb up and drop off. I am proud of how well I did these six weeks.
A note about the calories burned: we are all told that 3500 calories is a pound, but then to accurately measure them, especially regarding workouts, is nearly impossible. The total calories burned and saved that I recorded is 49,300 and that divided by 3500 estimates 14.1 pounds. The weight I dropped was from 212.6 to 198.8, or 12.8 pounds. Close enough! If I really wanted to I could test which is off by doing the same workout times or by eating the same amount of food and vary the other side. But like I said it is close enough for me.
Anyone that wants to figure out these for themselves I had some posts about basal metabolic rate and METS that should get you started. Just remember it is all relative, if you are bigger it is easier to get the deficits. My wife cannot eat nearly as much as me and must then work out for more minutes to get the same numbers, just not easy to do unless you got sent off to a ranch somewhere. So don’t worry about the size of the numbers if you are attempting the same goal, it takes a bit of time to get it down. There is no way I could have done this last year, I did not have a handle on the eating part. I am only barely starting to honestly.
Another benefit of the macro-cycle it the light at the end of the tunnel. You get to have a moment like I am having now as I look over all my progress. I keep a food log to track the calories, obviously, so I can go back over it and make some nice realizations. In the thick of things last year before triathlon race season, I was more worried about all of the nutrition that goes around working out and making sure the recovery period went well. I peeked back and found a week that I had a day I ate 3100 calories and averages 2200 for the week, the week of my first 10k race. Last week, the worst day I had was 2720 calories, and I averaged 2024 for the week. For the six weeks I averaged 1957 calories a day. I am improving.
I highlight my mistakes in yellow or red depending on if it was controlled or total all out neglect for the plan. I have red and yellow every single week. How well I could do if I was actually able to control myself for weeks at a time? About the best goal I have accomplished is making the 800+ calorie meal a rarity. Last year I made it a goal to not eat out as much and if I do don’t eat more than 800 calories in the meal. I ate 1000+ calories in one meal 10 times in the last 6 weeks, 7 of which while out of town for work. The reason I have been doing so well in spite of this is to not worry about it as it happens, once it is going to happen there is only extra stress to worry. Instead I pledge to remember how full my belly is over the rest of the day and the next day if it was for dinner. I frequently have a big day now followed by a little day when this happens. Examples: 3260-1250, 2400-1390, 2720-1200. Each of these second days was easy because of the full belly from the day before coupled with reminding myself to only eat healthy filling foods so as not to get any empty calories that I had already used up from the day before.
I hope some of these comments help you in some way. I am now planning my race season and will share that next time. These races are what keeps me working out now, I do not want to show up this summer and collapse across the finish line after taking a good hour and 15 minutes longer than the winners and 30 minutes longer than the middle of the pack.