Friday, October 15, 2021

fitness insights and pensées

Well, here we are, you and me. I thought I'd be out walking to Bundang by now, but I'm not doing that because reasons. So I thought I might as well use the extra time to think out loud about some fitness-related insights I had while on the trail, as well as some thoughts that arose from teasing out the implications of certain notions.

Question: how did I succeed so well during my three months out of the hospital? I lost 27 kilos in that time frame, and according to the docs during my September appointment, my numbers had all radically improved. Triglycerides (fat in the blood, leading to stroke) were down by at least half; A1c (blood sugar, 3-month average) was down to 5.7 (practically non-diabetic); weight, at 101 kg, was way down (but still admittedly too high); BP was arguably down, although I had to argue the point with my diabetes doctor given that my home BP monitor showed a much better result than did the hospital BP monitor. How'd I succeed so well, despite all the various slips-ups I'd made along the way?

I think it's because I largely stayed the course, and I didn't let those slip-ups define me. We're all imperfect; we all slip up and backslide from time to time. The important thing, when you slip up, is not to give up. As with most things in life linked to success, perseverance—grit, determination, focus, sticktoitiveness—matters. When you fall down, get up: perhaps the best and only piece of worthwhile life-advice I ever got from my father. It's okay to fail; success happens through failure. The point, though, is not to lose your focus, not to drop your eyes from the prize, whatever your particular prize is. In my case, it's reaching 90 kg, which I obviously didn't do over the course of my walk to Busan. But that's fine: I've given myself a year, from this past summer, to reach that goal, so check back with me next June or July.

Among the discoveries I made during the walk was the notion of how important staircase training truly was. The east-coast walk proved to be hillier than I'd originally expected, but in every case but one, I was able to tackle the hills with relative ease (that one exceptional hill was pretty badass), never becoming exhausted, and that was thanks to the intensive staircase training I had done before the walk. Now that I'm back home, I'll be resuming that training, and by the end of the year, my goal is to be able to do three staircases' worth of climbing. Beyond that, I have no intention to do more than three staircases, but there are things I can do to make the staircase workout harder. I have a weight vest, for instance, and it can hold up to 20 kg. I can start at 5 kilos, do that for a few weeks, then work my way up to 10 kilos, then 15, and then finally 20. Staircase work is a combination of strength and cardio; it gets the heart pumping and the lungs working hard. And as I've discovered, it's absolutely invaluable as a way to prep for hills when hiking. I'll be very proud of myself if I can do three staircases' worth of climbing while wearing 20 kilos. Maybe that'll be one of my new goals for 2022.

Walking through that one nightmarish tunnel taught me something about the need for more strength training. Climbing onto that raised ledge took all my strength; I should have been able to just take a running leap and land gracefully atop the ledge. I might be able to walk long distances, but there are many ways in which I'm still quite weak, and that's something that needs fixing. Building muscle isn't merely about looking good, although I suppose that's a welcome side effect. No: building muscle is about having the strength to able to function independently both now and when I'm truly old. It's about avoiding falls and avoiding broken bones (resistance exercises slow the process of osteoporosis). Strength training should be thought of as an investment. And building muscle mass has the added benefit of revving up one's metabolism—always a good thing when you have a slow, lazy metabolism like mine, one that allows me to get fat at the drop of a hat. Muscles burn energy, so being muscular means more passive fat-burning when you're at rest—another reason to work on strength.

Right now, I'm not considering going to a gym, so my options are fairly limited. I have a pullup bar that fits in a doorway, but I can't use it, yet, because of my bum shoulder (which may have improved only a little during the east-coast walk). I do have resistance bands, a pair of 10-kg dumbbells, and the ability to engage in some bodyweight calisthenics. In time, I'll be adding some basic bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges to my repertoire, but not quite yet—that's something for next year, I think.

A coworker of mine once suggested looking into Pilates, which is great for core work. If there's a version of Pilates that doesn't require much or any equipment, then that might be something for me to look into, and assuming Pilates follows a kind of curriculum, I can easily set goals and chart out my progress according to that curriculum.

So I think developing strength is going to be the main priority for 2022, especially since I'm not going to be meeting my strength goals set for this year. I'll use the resistance bands and dumbbells to get around my shoulder problem as well as possible, but assuming the problem clears up, I'll want to focus more on bodyweight calisthenics.

For cardio, I can liven things up by adding jump rope into my routines. Some people, the crazy ones, do a super-intense version of a jump-rope workout as part of a HIIT regimen. I don't know whether I want to go that hard, and I'm not sure I'm even capable of going that hard, given my stroke-related balance issues. But I've got a nice jump rope that hasn't seen much use, and I can find a quiet space in a below-ground parking garage where I can blast out, say, a ten-minute workout.

For right now, though, I need to slip back into my pre-walk routines. Tomorrow, I'll definitely be doing a long walk, hopefully 35K, to Bundang and back. Starting Tuesday, I'll get back into staircase work, probably remedially at first, then quickly building back up to 1.5 staircases before progressing to 2 staircases, then 2.5, and then eventually 3 staircases. I'll finish out this year by trying to meet or exceed as many of my set goals as I can, then I'll create a new set of goals for next year. I'm committed to this process, now, and that's what it is: a process, not something that leads to and stops at a specific end. The improvement never stops. The fight against inertia and entropy goes ever on and on.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

Sounds like a solid plan. I totally agree with the strength building. I've noticed that anything that requires me to pull myself up these days is extremely difficult--my upper body muscles are practically non-existent. Build them up while you've got them!