Aug. 3rd, 2012 01:03 pm
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
[personal profile] liv
At the beginning of 2012 I set myself three goals for the year:
  • Secure funding for research
  • Get married
  • Travel from Hobbiton to Rivendell, 458 miles on foot or nominally travelled on cardio machines.

    I got funding in spring [locked entry]. Getting married was in some ways fairly low hanging fruit, since I'd already been engaged for a year by New Year. But it did require me to organize a fairly sizeable and complicated event, and it wasn't absolutely a given that I'd succeed.

    And yesterday I completed my 458 miles, five months ahead of schedule. This is partly because I've been doing a lot of my cardio on exercise bikes recently, which easily lets me do 5 miles twice a week. But I've also been doing more walking than I would without the challenge, including quite often walking the whole 3½ miles from uni to home (downhill, admittedly, but that's still an hour or so of moderately brisk walking).

    So now I need some new goals / challenges. Workwise I pretty much know what I have to achieve; we have a performance review / appraisal system which is actually useful and not full of managerial bullshit. In my general life I'm not sure. Probably getting some work done on the house before the end of the year would be a meaningful and productive goal.

    But what about exercise goals? I have to admit, I'm getting in a bit of a rut with exercise at the moment. I've kind of reached a plateau, I'm not making the kind of rapid, tangible progress I was when I went from being totally sedentary to starting regular exercise. I'm pretty much doing the same things over and over and not really getting better. (But if I miss even a couple of sessions I lose what I've gained really rapidly.) Without [personal profile] mathcathy to encourage me and hold me to my commitment, I'm managing more like 8-10 gym sessions a month than 10-12. Well, I'm somewhat pleased that I have kept up the gym habit at all on my own, but it could be better. And I seem to have lost the habit of doing weights at home, I keep trying to restart it but it never lasts more than a couple of days.

    Fitocracy is helping a bit with motivation. Yay getting points and achievements and levelling up, I'm so easily manipulated by a bit of rudimentary gamifying. But the problem with Fitocracy is that the site basically assumes that the only exercise worth doing is running and weightlifting; it gives minimal credit for the sort of strength-building thing I'm trying to where I do 10 - 20 reps of medium-sized weights, rather than try to lift the heaviest weight I possibly can. Also, the levels are staggered, which is really sensible, each level requires more and more points as you progress. I've reached the stage where it takes me a month or more to level up, which I'm pretty sure is supposed to be pushing me towards doing tougher exercises, but what it's actually doing is making my rewards so infrequent that it's not really working any more.

    Part of my problem is that I've had to move to the council gym. The facilities are fine, but it's a lot less well set up than the more expensive private gym I used to belong to for providing training and advice. At the old gym, I could book a time with a trainer who would refresh my routine pretty much whenever suited me. The council gym does offer this, but only on Saturday afternoons and you have to book about 6 weeks in advance. I haven't yet got round to doing that, and I probably should, because just getting a new set of exercises even if they're along the same general lines as what I do at the moment would probably help me to feel less stuck. And similarly, although they do offer classes, you have to book and most of what's available looks rather aerobics-ish which doesn't really appeal. So I don't get a chance to vary my routine with a couple of classes, and I don't learn new techniques that I can build into my routine between classes, I'm stuck doing the same old thing.

    What I want is something that rewards perseverance, where I actually get something tangible out of sticking to my routine of gym at least twice a week, walking home at least once a week, and weights and abs stuff at home 2-3 times per week. At the moment Fito doesn't really care how often I do my exercise, so I keep being tempted to skip a session knowing that I can pick up exactly the same amount of points if I do it tomorrow or next week instead. And obviously objectively I don't care about how many points some arbitrary computer program assigns me, but emotionally, I need all the motivation help I can get. The Eowyn challenge helped with that because making progress along the imaginary route was sufficiently rewarding in the way that getting 500 more points but rarely levelling up isn't. There are other challenges on the site representing other Fellowship journeys, but I think doing the same thing again wouldn't keep me going, if I'm going to make that my goal I need to find some way to make it more challenging.

    Also, I want something where I can keep trying to do X task until I can do it, and then do X + δ and if that's too hard fall back to X. I've always found that structure motivates me really well, and it's real progress, not arbitrary rewards. I'm doing it a bit with weights, I do 3 x 10 reps at some reasonable starting weight, and when I can do that I do 3 x 12, 3 x 15, 3 x 18 and work up to 3 x 20, and if I fail at any level I drop back to the previous level, and if I do 3 x 20 with perfect form on three consecutive occasions, I add one more weight, the smallest increment available, to the stack and start again.

    I'm quite happy to fiddle with spreadsheets and / or Chorewars to set something up for myself so that the rewards part happens, but at very least I need a scheme I can use to decide what I should get rewards for. Maybe the perseverance thing I can tackle by setting up some kind of "combo" bonus which would increase exponentially with how many consecutive sessions I manage and fall back to zero if I miss one?

    Ideally I want a structured programme of some kind that will give me a mixture of short-term goals and a long-term target to aim for. I'm considering the Couch to 5K type of approach, but modifying it so that I only move on to the next week when I've mastered the current week and fall back if I can't do it. That would give me some of the back and forth structure that helps me to feel I'm making real progress. The downside of that is that I'm really, really scared of running, both for my lungs and for my knees. I don't know if it's possible to program the treadmills at the gym to do the interval type thing that C25K suggests.

    Another thought is to use an Android app of some kind. Those might help to provide a structured programme for me, and some kind of reward or at least recording what I have done so that I can give myself rewards! Especially if I can get the phone to auto-record what I'm doing and effectively act as a pedometer. Does anyone know of any apps that are a) not focused on weight-loss and b) don't require you to carry your phone with you all the time in your jeans pocket, because I don't wear jeans?

    I'm really reluctant to just go poking around on the internet because there is just so much bad advice out there. And a lot of advice that is reasonable for what it is but assumes that you want to lose fat and build muscle definition, whereas I really don't care about the shape of my body, I want to improve my cardiovascular fitness pure and simple. If fitness programs are bundled together with weight loss and body sculpting advice, it's hard for me just to ignore the bits that don't apply to me, because the whole context makes me a lot more liable to hate my body, and if I start hating my body I will feel extremely demotivated from doing things that are good for it like regular exercise. Also I'm a bit nervous of doing new exercises if I haven't been shown how to do them by a real person, because I'm starting to get to the point where I'm actually doing stuff that's challenging enough I could injure myself if I do it wrong (eg I'm up to 25 kg on some of my weights things). So I'm really looking for personal recommendations, if possible!
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