Tag Archives: Applies Behavior Analysis

New pub-trivia facts about Annabelle, and a 5k you should check out

I can't share a running photo, because I haven't been racing! But this is proof positive for you that all else is still in order.

I can’t share a running photo, because I haven’t been racing! But this is proof positive for you that all else is still in order.

Please forgive me the fact that most of this post is a duplicate of what you’ll find on another blog, one that I hope you’ll have an interest in after reading this. I’ve been on a long slow road to getting my blogger mojo back after a rough 2014 in terms of training, racing, and running culture in general. I’ll begin elaborating on these things, as well as the typical over-indulgent posts you subscribe here for, in the near future. In the meantime here are a few “Annabelle Trivia” bits for you to enjoy:

  1. I rarely untie/retie my shoes. My mother has scolded me for this since the day I learned to tie laces in the first place. My running shoes get re-tied maybe once a month on average, and my non-running sneakers maybe twice in their lifetime, if that. *note: sometimes before a race, if I’m nervous, I’ll tie and retie my laces upwards of 15 times – a life lived in extremes.
  2. I AM running the Boston Marathon this year, my 4th shot at the course. I WILL NOT be anywhere near PR shape.
  3. I am still working on being OK with #2
  4. I really enjoy the boxed wine from Target
  5. My favorite foods, in random order are: apples, lasagna, pie (apple, blueberry), single-malt scotch, pickles, Classic Lays potato chips, Skittles, Goat cheese … you can see why I’ve never seen 10lbs within range of my racing weight.
  6. I recently traded in the 1999 Chevy S10 Pickup that I’ve been commuting over 300 miles a week in for 4 years. My spiffy new ride has lots of bells and whistles, and now I have all kinds of data to illustrate that I spend, on average, 15-20 hours per week in my car…no more mystery about my injuries!
  7. I am a race director (mostly self-appointed and title)! I’ve always wanted to be at the helm of an event, and here we go, I’m feverishly trying to expand my skill-set to ensure success (yes, this is me asking if any of you want to join my planning committee).

Why you should register for the Super Sunny 5k today!

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and I hope your 2015 is off to a great start! For me, a few notable things come to mind when I check in with my personal goals (in no particular order):

  1. I have created some energizing momentum toward my professional
  2. goals in just the first 5 weeks of the year.
  3. I am, thankfully, 7 weeks into training for the Boston Marathon!
  4. I’m struggling with a couple of health related resolutions I made for 2015…time to find a different motivation!
  5. I’ve witnessed more than a dozen breakthrough moments as GCS staff members and people receiving services work toward their goals!
  6. My job is sometimes hard to understand, sometimes challenging, and always important. I think everyone who works at GCS could say the same, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  7. I’ve developed a deeper understanding of just how much of a turning-point 2015 might be for the work we do at GCS, both as employees and people receiving services.

Let me elaborate on this last points MILLION dollars, 70 of them. SEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS! For me, this is such a large figure, that it doesn’t seem real, yet at the same time, it sort of terrifies me.

For me, this is such a large figure that it doesn’t seem real—but it does seem terrifying. If you are like me and this figure seems too big to touch, let me bring it closer to home. With the end of the tax increase of 2011, your personal paychecks will increase by a few dollars. Multiply that by all the income-earners in Illinois, and you have over a billion dollars! A portion of this tax money is allocated to providing crucial services to adults with developmental disabilities. More of your paycheck in your pocket means tax revenue decreases. When the tax money decreases, the funding thus decreases.

Currently, GCS sees an annual gap of $300,000 for day-program services alone. That is to say, after financial support from the state and federal departments is exhausted, we need to raise $300K in order to continue to provide quality, progressive, and inclusive support.

Overwhelming, isn’t it? I sure think so! Take a deep breath, because you can make a real impact very easily! Here are two ways to help:

1.)  Contact your legislative leaders! They are the play-makers, and they can’t know what is important to us if we don’t tell them! Use the links below to advocate for those we support, and for that which we believe in, and strive for.

Senate

House

2.)  REGISTER TODAY for the Super Sunny 5k. Your $25 registration fee goes right into filling these funding gaps, and you’ll also have to opportunity to help us raise additional funds in the registration process. Click here to go to our registration page.

With hope and aspiration,

*AB

Forget the misses (not yet’s), celebrate every hit.

I don’t know how she does it, but Jen can always find the perfect ecard to brighten my day (thanks lady!).

A note on the title of this post: In some behavior analytic based teaching strategies, we call correct responses “hit” and incorrect one “misses” and “not yets”. Which I think, is a pretty positive and motivating way to look at all our own self-change projects. It’s just hard to remember to frame things that way when you feel frustrated.

This morning and then again during lunch today I was talking with two of my co-workers about the tendency people have of focusing on challenges and set-backs as opposed to success.

Often, in my professional experience, people focus on pitfalls to the exclusion of taking note of progress.

Sadly, people often give up on something because they don’t see the outcome goal after a very short time. Which of course, brings us all right back to square one, or even further than that from the goal.

This applies marathon training too. I was feeling really bad about my training on Sunday, and as a testament to that, I barely moved all day. (Re-activating my Netflix account was perhaps not a very good idea.)

Irrefutable math

I am trying to carefully build my mileage up to a 65 miles per week peak during this training cycle. 12 weeks to go. So I was annoyed with myself that I logged just 40.5 last week.

Now, with my Monday lense on I can see that even with an unplanned “step back” week, I am still making progress. And that is what I should be focused on, not the stupid 10-miler I skipped (3 times).

If you look at Portland (bottom) compared to Chicago (top) it’s a HUGE improvement. (also, I need to change the range of the vertical axis)

I chose to spend the whole day yesterday feeling bad for myself and crying over some silly Australian adolescent TV show. Why? Because I have been struggling to get in cross training and strength training sessions, and my weight keeps dancing around the same 3 pounds. Logical response, right?

Well, I should consider the following:

I have maintained my weight loss from the Boston 2012 training cycle (6 pounds!), I am consistently doing at least one strength session and one cross training session per week.

That’s progress!

Of course I am not closing in on my long-term goals! Silly woman! I have years to go!

Also a “hit” I should have been looking are was that I had a great long run on Saturday. I ran 18 miles on the Waterfall Glen trail with another Boston Bound veteran that I hadn’t run with before. She’s a lot more experienced than I am and has clocked some much faster races, but for a smart and effective long run we were a great match!

I haven’t been satisfied with any of my longs runs since my redemption marathon in May. Turns out that’s because I’ve been pressuring myself to run too fast.

I certainly did feel fatigued the last 2 miles on Saturday, but for the rest of it, things were great.

So, below is my new template for long runs.

Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary 2:29:17.4 18.01 8:17
1 8:27.3 1.00 8:27
2 8:12.6 1.00 8:13
3 8:04.7 1.00 8:05
4 8:17.7 1.00 8:18
5 8:13.6 1.00 8:14
6 8:10.0 1.00 8:10
7 8:25.0 1.00 8:25
8 8:02.6 1.00 8:03
9 7:57.9 1.00 7:58
10 8:11.6 1.00 8:12
11 8:27.1 1.00 8:27
12 8:18.2 1.00 8:18
13 8:06.7 1.00 8:07
14 8:04.7 1.00 8:05
15 8:32.5 1.00 8:33
16 8:49.5 1.00 8:50
17 8:33.1 1.00 8:33
18 8:16.2 1.00 8:16
19 :06.3 0.01 7:20

I felt pretty well recovered only a few hours (and a big salad) post run.

This morning I started the week off with a  fresh (as in, moving on from the one I skipped last week) 10 mile run. Right in the first mile and until the end I had pain in my left lower shin. Weird. I could put my finger on the spot:

please excuse the ace bandage lines

I iced it, took some naproxen, and kept it wrapped all day at work…except of course to sent a Tweet asking for diagnostic support.

After work I went to the gym to wait out rush hour traffic. I kept the bandage one and was pain-free for a leg and core session.

I documented as much. I was totally smiling, and then I heard someone coming and panicked and took the photo really fast. It’s hilarious that I am totally embarrassed to get caught taking a picture of myself in the locker room, and then I go and post that picture on the internet.

Looking graceful

Anyway, it’s tender but much improved tonight. I haven’t been stretching at all the past few weeks, so I am sure that’s the culprit. Jorgie and I have a stretch date right now actually, so I am going to wrap this up! Phew!

Take home: give yourself credit for any and all improvements! Let go of the rest.

*AB

A Training Target (and maybe a little balance)

I still haven’t finished making my training plan and I am nearly two weeks into training for the Chicago Marathon! I actually might continue filling in two weeks at a time. If nothing else should be comfortable making data-based decisions! I have a lot of goals for this training cycle outside of just a marathon time goal, here is a sample of that goal list:

  • increase training load by rising average weekly mileage by 20%
  • strength train at the gym 3 times a week
  • Eat clean
  • Ride (outside or at home)  3 times per week
  • Swim twice per week
  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours per night
  • Blog 3 times per week or more

Brace yourself for some shocking news;

Running marathons is hard, as evidenced by this glamour shot from last month.

What’s even harder, is accepting your limits and making sure you leave adequate energy and mental focus for other things in life.

Like snuggling and watching the Olympic Swimming trials:

Going out for FroYo on a school night.

And, feeling like I am giving 100% at work.

Yah, big surprise that I have totally fallen short of that goal list.

I am really trying to learn as much as possible from each training run, and set goals for every workout.

My long run was 15 miles last Saturday, and it took me until today to realize that it was a really solid workout. My legs have felt sluggish since running in Midland last month, but I think I am finally getting acclimated to the heat, and they are coming back around. On Saturday, I let my self sleep in (see the “sleep” goal above) I usually get up just as early on the weekends as I do during the work week to stay in the routine (I have always been hard to wake up!). But I was dragging all week so I decided not to even set and alarm for this morning. I got up at about 9.

This weekend I am planning 18 miles on a dirt trail with hills, so my times will be slower, but I hope they keep the same relative pacing.

Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary 1:57:46.6 14.94 7:53
1 8:11.3 1.00 8:11
2 8:03.7 1.00 8:04
3 7:55.7 1.00 7:56
4 7:54.5 1.00 7:55
5 7:57.3 1.00 7:57
6 7:44.8 1.00 7:45
7 7:46.5 1.00 7:47
8 7:41.9 1.00 7:42
9 7:40.3 1.00 7:40
10 7:57.6 1.00 7:58
11 7:31.8 1.00 7:32
12 7:47.9 1.00 7:48
13 7:49.5 1.00 7:50
14 7:56.6 1.00 7:57
15 7:47.3 0.95 8:13

So, now that I have made it almost 2 weeks into this 16 weeks cycle, and I have missed the mark on maybe 70% of my ba-zillion goals, I am going to make smaller, more specific training targets to aim for along the way.

First up, by August 15th I want to nail a 15 mile progression run as follows:

Miles 1-3: warm up 8:00 pace

Mile 3 & 4: 7:45

Miles 5 -10: Progressively move from 7:40 to 7:30 pace

Miles 5 -8: Move to 7:20 and 7:15 pace

Miles 9 & 10: cool down at 8:15 pace

I have a couple of running/nerd/charitable friends in mind to pace me through it. Is that cheating?

I don’t know that I have ever done a bonafide “tempo” run, so there is another training goal for ya. I’ll be giving it a shot tomorrow night when my very kind and patient, 2:49 marathon running friend, paces me through a workout.

Pray I don’t hurl, or cry. Crying would be less acceptable than hurling I think…

*AB

Motivation (it’s what comes before you act) often confused with GOALS.

(I seem to be on a blogging binge this week…can’t image why!?!?! -insert sarcasm)

The following is re-posted from the healthy living site my sister-in-law and I have been working on since the first of this year.

Motivation (lack there of) is such a common excuse for not getting fit and healthy that I thought the following should be repeated. I sent this content out as an email way back in January. Also, as I have been preparing for the Boston Marathon (this Monday!), I have struggled to control my diet the last couple of weeks. You could say I have lacked the motivation, which seems preposterous, because, what bigger motivation can there be for a runner than running the Boston Marathon! The fact is that it’s a lack of setting up motivators that has led my diet to be less than a runners’ ideal. The consequence? Feeling bloated and marshmallow-y at the starting line.

What is motivation, anyway? 

Again and again people lament about not being able to find the motivation to do the things they want to do, or think they should be doing.

People often say things like, “I want to exercise more, but I’m just not motivated” or “I need to lose 10 pounds but I don’t have any motivation”.

Embedded in those thoughts and statements is the idea that motivation is this enigmatic thing, that it is either a quality that resides within a person, or it is some ephemeral entity that visits people and pushes them along.

I am happy to share with you that motivation is neither of these things. Motivation is simply something in your environment that evokes a particular response. For example, a whistling tea-kettle motivates you to turn off the stove. Being hungry (or your stomach growling) motivates you to find something to eat.

What’s great about knowing this is that now you can set-up your environment so that you take action toward your goals! A lot of people who want to lose weight put pictures of models and celebrities in places where they will often see them. I very much caution against this practice! I equally caution against placing your own “before” pictures on the fridge to stop you from reaching for snacks. Don’t put things around your environment that might lead you to criticize yourself, or make you feel like your goals are too big to conquer. That is the opposite of motivation.

Instead, put signals in your environment that remind you of the progress you are making, and that make you feel great about whatever stage in the journey you are at now.

For example, I may not be a 3-hour marathoner now, but that is my goal. So within my line of sight when I wake up in the morning is a collage of race bibs and photos from my best races so far. If I wake up and am having a hard time getting out of bed to go for a training run, that collage reminds me of how far I have already come, from running a 10 minute mile to under 7. That usually lifts my spirits, gets me excited about running, and before I can think anymore I am out of bed and lacing up my trainers. That, is motivation. A signal in my environment saying to me, “you can do it, go on, do it!”

Another common (misguided) practice in motivation is buying or keeping clothes that are too small. If your jeans don’t fit, or your clothes are uncomfortable, go get ones that fit! Buy clothing that makes you feel good, that feels good on you, and that you are not self-conscious about! Respect your body, LOVE your body. A great side-effect of this practice, rather than punishing your size 12 body with size 6 jeans, is that your overall stress level will be lower, because you aren’t constantly uncomfortable or thinking about how you need to lose weight. If you are less stressed, you’ll make better choices, and likely eat healthier, or less, or both. That is motivation!

Now, go on, set yourself up for success!

*Annabelle

For more healthy living tips, recipes, and exercise programs check out AT: Your Life !

A few things I know about motivation.

Again and again people lament about not being able to find the motivation to do the things they want to do, or think they should be doing.

People often say things like, “I want to exercise more, but I’m just not motivated” or “I need to lose 10 pounds but I don’t have any motivation”.

Embedded in those thoughts and statements is the idea that motivation is this enigmatic thing, that it is either quality that resides within a person, or it is some ephemeral entity that visits people and pushes them along.

Well, I am happy to share with you that motivation is neither of these things. Motivation is simply something in your environment that evokes a particular response. For example, a whistling tea-kettle motivates you to turn off the stove. Being hungry (or your stomach growling) motivates you to find something to eat.

What’s great about knowing this is that now you can set-up your environment so that you take action toward your goals! A lot of people who want to lose weight put pictures of models and celebrities in places where they will often see them. I very much caution against this practice! I equally caution against placing your own “before” pictures on the fridge to stop you from reaching for snacks. Don’t put things around your environment that might lead you to criticize yourself, or make you feel like your goals are too big to conquer. That is the opposite of motivation.

Instead, put signals in your environment that remind you of the progress you are making, and that make you feel great about whatever stage in the journey you are at now.

For example, I may not be a 3-hour marathoner now, but that is my goal. So within my line of sight when I wake up in the morning is a collage of race bibs and photos from my best races so far. If I wake up and am having a hard time getting out of bed to go for a training run, that collage reminds me of how far I have already come, from running a 10 minute mile to under 7. That usually lifts my spirits, gets me excited about running, and before I can think anymore I am out of bed and lacing up my trainers. That, is motivation. A signal in my environment saying to me, “you can do it, go on, do it!”

Another common (misguided) practice in motivation is buying or keeping clothes that are too small. If your jeans don’t fit, or your clothes are uncomfortable, go get ones that fit! Buy clothing that makes you feel good, that feels good on you, and that you are not self-conscious about! Respect your body, LOVE your body. A great side-effect of this practice, rather than punishing your size 12 body with size 6 jeans, is that your overall stress level will be lower, because you aren’t constantly uncomfortable or thinking about how you need to lose weight. If you are less stressed, you’ll make better choices, and likely eat healthier, or less, or both. That is motivation!

*AB


Sometimes your heart rate monitor DOES lie to you, also, Philosophic Doubt, yaaaay!

If this seems like a rant, I apologize. The problem with blogging, I am learning, is that in many ways it is like poetry, you strive to illustrate revelations and other large ideas in a small space. But, unlike poetry, you don’t revise, delete, and edit, slavish, for months, before you share.

One of the underlying principles of ABA, all of Science, in fact, is philosophic doubt. What is it? Well, you might be tempted to whittle it down to skepticism, and though a healthy dose of skepticism is a great platform for progress, philosophic doubt reaches a little beyond that.

Without philosophic doubt we’d still think that the world was round, cavemen lived harmony with the dinosaurs, and that smoking does not cause cancer.

People tend to exaggerate, inflate, and generally over generalize things. Interestingly, right in tandem with that, people are constantly over-simplifying things so that they can, I don’t know, make themselves sound smarter (ok, I admit I probably do this ALL THE TIME), to win an argument (also guilty), or because they think they are going to motivate someone, or otherwise make things easier on that person (I try really hard NOT to do this, but still, sometimes, guilty).

Good intentions, however, we all know, can lead you down the wrong path. You know paving the way….

So, where am I going with this. I have a long list of pet peeves when it comes to “fitness professionals” spewing out information that sounds just fine, but is often, in fact. Hogwash.

I will, for now, spare you my rather pretentious, arrogant, and, well, exhaustive, list.

But I will share this annoying bit of dogma with you:

Point of fact, you are not guaranteed to burn 600 calories in a Spin class. I for one, have never burned 600 calories ever, in a spin class. I have been a certified Spin Instructor for almost 7 years, I have never had more than 2 weeks off a Spin bike in all that time, and still never a 600 calorie ride. I am of average height (5’5″), athletic build (132lbs, fairly muscular), and I work hard.  A few times, I have taught a 75 minute class and burned 550-ish but that doesn’t count, I have on many occasions taught 2, 50 minute classes back-to-back, and burned almost 800 calories, this also doesn’t count.

As I have mentioned before, I have a moderate fascination with heart-rate based training, in fact this subject played a major part in my master’s thesis. I don’t often wear my monitor when I run (too much else to focus on), but I wear it for most other workouts.

Heart-rate monitors are actually pretty accurate and reliable. They do, however, have a larger margin of error when you are working out at lower intensities. Which means if you spend a long time warming up, recovering, and in the (totally mythical, by the way) “fat burning zone”, the readout may very likely be inflated.

Additionally, most research done on measuring and monitoring heart rate during exercise (and nearly all other performance related research) seems to be conducted with participants from two very different groups; elite athletes, and individuals who are obese, largely de-conditioned, and or diabetic.

Most of the people being sold the idea that you can walk into a Spin class, hang out for 45-60 minutes and walk out 600 calories poorer, do not belong to the above populations.

I got an email (er, via Facebook), a couple of weeks ago from a friend you used to come to my group exercise classes every week, but has moved out of state. I am going to copy and paste the exchange below because it highlights this discussion. I am copying the text largely unedited, and my response wasn’t premeditated, so surely I am guilty to some degree of simplifying and generalizing the facts. But the underlying points stand.

Enjoy. Learn. Think.

“Heart rate situation/calorie burn

So I have this spin instructor who I like her class but she is the one who told me the wrong info about the calorie counting with the heart rate monitor. The other day I took her 60 min class. I burned just over 600 calories. She came over and asked about the number of calories I burned and I told her and she said there was no way the reading was correct. She said she burned about 750 cal. My heart rate was btwn 160 and 180 for the whole class. What do you think?”

My response

“I applaud you for being suspicious, I wish more people were like you!

I would say that the instructors read-out is wacky, not yours. To burn more than an average of 100calories per 10mins is VERY difficult. In fact I would suggest that yours might be a reading a little high as well.

Let me put it this way, in order for a 150lb person of average fitness to burn 100 calories per 10 minutes they would need to keep their heart rate between 165 and 180bpm, that is very difficult to do!

I would venture to say that the only two types of people who would burn over 700 calories in 60 minutes (mind you, that includes a warm up) is A) Michael Phelps, or someone else of insanely high level of cardiovascular fitness and who has, like, 2% bodyfat and a shit-ton of maturely developed muscle and, B)B) a person who is obese and out of shape, their heart rate would get high and stay high with minimal physical exertion…that would not actually equate to actual calorie burn but the hr monitor would read it as such…also it is unlikely that someone who is obese and out of shape could maintain that high rate for 60 minutes….

So, if your instructor fits into option A, then yes, perhaps she burns that much, but I really suspect not.

I hope my responses aren’t too frank, but inaccurate reporting is why a lot of people give up on their fitness goals, and why they deny the truth when they hear it!

It get annoyed by articles and ad’s that state that this or that workout burns 500 to 1,000 calories, because, honestly that is such an inflation of fact!

In reality, a person should expect to burn between 300 and 450 calories in a good spin class. This is because you have to account for warm up, cool down, and those dips in effort when you have an easy song, an interval recovery, or need to drink some water.

Let’s be clear, though, 300-450 calories burned is a great workout!!!

Overall, I am glad you are finding some classes you like! Just ignore the bull.”

I should add that we’d had previous conversations about the importance of setting the monitor up to meets your needs. Like, make sure it is recording all the time, not just within certain “zones”, to make sure you enter your age, height, and weight….things like that.

So, practice philosophic doubt. If something conflicts with your experience, investigate. Ask questions, even if the information is from an expert.

-AB

 

Don’t call it a come back ( I prefer “end of hiatus”).

Hello!

I am back! I never left, I just didn’t post because I have been generally overwhelmed for the past 6 months. After many failures, and many “incompletes” in my life, I have finally learned that in order to succeed, one MUST prioritize. Actually, I have been using the term “triage” a lot because it’s a lot more accurate. Speaking of more accurate terminology, let’s call my failures and incompletes “not yets”, like we do in ABA.

I have, however, during this blog-intermission, been following blogs and reading books on running, fitness, and nutrition, as well as continuing my own little experiments with my own. Also, many of the goals I have discussed here, remain unchanged: I still want to change the world with ABA, I still want to run, and run well, at the Boston Marathon, I still want to lose 5-10 pounds, I still want to learn to manage my health (read: auto-immune disease be gone!) optimally, and I still want my goal list to grow and grow.

I’ve had  experiences since my last post (in March!) that I really want to share , they will come, one at a time. Right now, my plan is to post approximately once per week. I will supplement those posts with training updates for those of you who are also training for Boston, or for a BQ, or who are just plain interested in following along. Welcome!

Here is a brief run down of the aforementioned “experiences”:

  • Completed my Master’s Degree
  • Finished and defended my Thesis (as a part of above)
  • Got a job as a Behavior Analyst on an amazing grant funded crisis team (I am sure I will post lots about this)
  • Took the BACB exam (behavior analysis certification board), results posted in November (eek).
  • I re-applied, and was accepted to the Boston Marathon 2012!!!
  • My foot has healed nicely, still sleeping with a splint, but I can run-run-run.
Now that I have written that out, it seems like there should be more bullet points! Just trust me, it feels like I haven’t taken a breath since my last post. 

I think I wore the hat wrong.

In running news, I did the Bucktown 5k, here in Chicago, this morning. I felt OK, not great, but right about how I expected. I finished in 21:06, about 30 seconds behind my performance last year. I am starting my Boston training NOW. I want a solid base before it’s time for a steep build in mileage. I am taking as few risks as possible this time around. I realized this week that I have started training, or trained for, 5 marathons! I have only completed 1. I am done messing around, I want follow-through!  (ok, I will back off the exclamation points)
I cannot post a full training schedule here yet, as i am still working on it. I can’t decided when to switch from base training to building; 30 weeks, 24 weeks, 16 weeks? Argh. In the mean time, enjoy the cutest runner ever (I am referring to the one on the left):
July 4th 10k finish
Until my next post:
Tell me about how you triage your goals, responsibilities, and commitments.
Are you running Boston?
How many weeks long do you think a marathon training plan should be?
It feels good to be cyber-present again!
AB

Plans and Contingency plans: seat-belting yourself into the healthy and fit wagon.

Reinforcement is great, and can be effective to increase how often you workout or make good food choices. But arranging your environment for success is about more than consequences (rewards, punishment, results), it involves antecedent interventions. What’s that? Planning, my friends, planning. In other words take time to set yourself up for success and the rewards will follow naturally.

This post is a long one, so here are the steps to planning and sticking to a successful health and fitness plan. I will be covering some points very briefly, others with more depth. Mostly using myself as an example.

  1. List your goals
  2. Outline your current obstacles as well as motivators
  3. Figure out how much time per day and days per weeks you have to workout, grocery shop, and prepare food
  4. Create a workout schedule
  5. Create the workouts (or ask a fitness professional to help you)
  6. Take baseline measures
  7. Self-monitor as you go
  8. Adjust the plan based on how you perform/stick to it
  9. If you fade or fall off, look at what went wrong and pick it right back up
  10. Repeat your measurements periodically
  11. ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I spent some time last weekend creating a 9 week plan for myself. I have spent sufficient time grieving over bowing out of Boston, and am ready to set my eyes on being able to run happily through the summer. I made a short list of my fitness and healthy living goals and then looked at them through the figurative lens I would use when developing a plan for a client. The end result is a 9 week plan of resistance training, cardio workouts, dietary goals and guidelines, measurable variables, and contingency plans for when things don’t work or I fall off the wagon.

I have some baseline measures for comparison and will share weekly updates here for those of you who decide you might want to follow along with a similar plan. Within those updates I will report any data-based decisions I make, what I am measuring, and how I measure it.

Below, I will outline my 9 week plan, please let me know if you want to join in on the challenge, I would love to compare our data collection effort to further illustrate the importance of selecting the best variables for YOU, as an individual!

Laying out an individualized plan, that is doable, capitalizes on your strengths and preferences, and will give you the results you want is not an easy thing to do. It is important to begin your plan based on where you are currently, your current health concerns, fitness level, schedule, energy level, and motivations MUST be taken into account. This takes experience, insight, and a candid look at yourself. It is totally doable, but it really needs to be done right.

In fact, even if you have hired a personal trainer this may not be a service they provide. Not really. Because it takes time, attention, and it needs to be updated frequently. That said, it IS a service you should feel totally comfortable requesting of your trainer, and if they cannot provide it to your satisfaction: hire a new trainer. I realize this may sound harsh, but I have worked a lot as a trainer, so I can say it.

If you ask your personal trainer to make a plan for you to follow outside of session, please be prepared to compensate them for the time they spend working on  your plans and analyzing your data and progress. That does not mean handing them a wad of cash under the table. Please keep things legitimate and professional, perhaps by suggesting that you use one of your sessions, bi-weekly (or whatever suits your needs), to write, edit, and review your program and progress. If your trainer is a real cracker-jack they will be able to work these tasks right into your normal appointments.

Here is my plan for the next 9 weeks. I am including the rationale behind many of my choices and other tips to help you in your own planning.

I will doing my resistance training via a split schedule. That means that each day of the week is assigned a different muscle group. I do not recommend jumping into a split schedule regimen if you have not been resistance training consistently 2 or 3 times per week for the past 3 months. If you do not have a resistance training foundation currently and want to start, begin with 2 or 3 sessions per week of circuit training or split upper and lower body workouts.

Split Weeks 1-4

  • Monday: Shoulders/Abs, Cardio 30-60 mins
  • Tuesday: Chest/Biceps, Cardio 60 mins
  • Wednesday: Abs and Flexibility, Spin (instructor) 50mins
  • Thursday: Legs, Cardio 30-45 mins (easy)
  • Friday: Back/Triceps
  • Saturday: Rest or Pool workout (e.g. water jogging or lap swimming)
  • Sunday: Spin and Body Blast (instructor), Flexibility

Each day in the split has an assigned workout. They all have between 6 and 10 exercises, and I am not performing the workouts as circuits, but rather each exercise on it’s own (typically 15, 12, and 10 reps) so that I can work more accurately and effectivelyto exhaustion and build muscle and strength while in the weight room. The endurance will come because I have bunches of cardio scheduled as well. Each resistance workout should take between 30 and 40 minutes to complete.

It’s really not as complicated as this might seem. I simply repeat the same workout every Monday, Tuesday and so on, for 4 weeks. Each workout has a “card”, I haven’t laminated (yup, I have a laminator, I love crafts!) my split cards yet so here is a picture of a “workout card” I made for a friend ages ago:

Custom made, discrete, and reusable.

Week 5: Based on past experience with working out on a split schedule I will most likely struggle to get through the workouts on week 4. I should be stronger, but will probably be bored with the routine. So week 5 is meant to be a vacation from the super-structured routine. It will also be a step-back or recovery week.  The workouts are as of yet to be determined but the main focus is to have fun!  Here’s the basic structure:

  • Monday: 45 mins Step mill & Fun core workout
  • Tuesday: Rest, Flexibility training
  • Wednesday: Spin (instructor)
  • Thursday: Swim 2,000 yds  🙂
  • Friday: Rest, Flexibility Training
  • Saturday: Total body circuit training: 60 mins
  • Sunday: Spin and Blast (instructor)

Split Weeks 6-9

  • Monday: Back/Abs, 60 mins Cardio
  • Tuesday: Chest, 60 mins Cardio
  • Wednesday: Spin (instructor), Legs
  • Thursday: Flexibility, Swim or Rest
  • Friday: Shoulders/Abs, 60 mins Cardio
  • Saturday: Biceps/Triceps
  • Sunday: Spin, Blast (instructor)

This is much like the first four weeks but with a different distribution. The workouts are made already, but depending on how I feel and how my progress is going they may be tweaked. Also, I hope to be use running as most of my cardio for weeks 6-9.

I have a chart to check off each day what I have accomplished (Printed at the start of each week and slapped up on the fridge). I am wearing my hear rate monitor during all workouts and record in an excel chart (and an iPad app that I am playing with) how many calories I burn through exercise each day.

Date Resistance Cardio Weight Calories
3/21/11
3/22/11
3/23/11
3/24/11
3/25/11
3/26/11
3/27/11

Baseline (comparison) Measures

This Monday morning before working out I recorded my:

  • Weight
  • Body fat %
  • Muscle %

I kept a complete food log Monday and Tuesday that will serve as baseline for my average calorie intake per day. I likely will not record my food every day over the next nine weeks. For two reasons 1)  calories BURNED is a far more accurate measure because it is from my HR monitor based on my performance and my metrics 2) in order to keep the calorie count calibrated it is tedious and time consuming.

In retrospect, I wish I had performed some 1 minute timings of several exercises, a heart rate recovery test, and a timed challenge workout to provide some comparison measures for fitness. Time permitting I will do the timings tomorrow before my schedule workout. Then, if I have the energy on Saturday I will do the challenge workout.

Ongoing measures:

Resistance training: I am not keeping track of exactly how many reps and at what weights I do the exercises each day. That said, I will typically follow the prescribed 3 sets (15,12, and 10 reps) of each exercise. The tedious nature of recording every weight I use and any extra or missed reps takes away from the overall enjoyment and flow of workouts, so I won’t be doing it. Additionally, to do so post-workout is likely inaccurate. For the most part I (and you) remember what weight I use one week to the next and will progress pretty intuitively.

Body Weight: I am weighing myself every morning (at least, that’s the plan). No, I would not recommend this to anyone else, it’s overkill and not necessarily meaningful. I am doing it to follow the fluctuations associated with having colitis (I have seen my weight go up or down 6lbs over the course of a day because of responses to food). Additionally, tracking the eb and flow of weight will make a great looking graph to share, I suspect.

Fat and Muscle Percentages: I will be measuring these (with my awesome scale), each week on Monday morning to monitor whether any weight loss or gain is due to a change in body composition rather than hydration/dehydration or inflammation.

Fitness measures: The tests I mentioned above (that I have yet to collect baseline for), will be repeated at the start of week 5, and at the conclusion of week 9.

Nutrition: I don’t have a real concrete plan here. I don’t have any faith in the fidelity of calorie counting and to be honest don’t subscribe to the law of thermodynamics when it comes to training. AND my focus here isn’t totally on weight loss, but rather, on fitness and improving athletic performance. I will be setting weekly nutrition goals based on how my digestive system, energy levels, sleeping patterns, and mood are. For now, I am keeping a food log with calories to illustrate my point about accuracy and reliability.

Caloric Expenditure: I will wear a HR monitor for all (hopefully) workouts, both resistance and cardio, and record calories burned via exercise each day. Should my weight change, I will change the settings on the monitor to reflect it (for accuracy of calorie burn).

The Contingency Plan

Please forgive my confusing terminology here. I don’t mean a plan of contingencies (if I do this, then I get this, or this happens), I mean a backup plan for when/if I “fall off the wagon”.

I like to think of a fitness plan a little bit in the way you would plan a persons recovery from addiction (no, I am not saying we are all food or laziness addicts). What I mean is a plan for relapse. In this case relapse equates to anything that leads to missing workouts and/or not recording data (as outlined above). These things could be stress, boredom, eating poorly, not sleeping enough or anything else that knocks me (or you) off the plan.

So what to do if workouts are missed. This is why I am keeping the tracking sheet (checklist) on the fridge. If I miss one or even three days of scheduled workouts, the plan just shifts down and I continue to do the “cards” in order. Clearly, this will get confusing and hard to manage if I miss a lot of workouts. If more than 3 workouts are missed for 2 or more weeks in a row, then that is cause to review the plan and revise, because it was likely not realistic.

The beauty of keeping all this data is that you can then make, say it with me: data based decisions! That means that if the plan isn’t working it will be visibly reflected in the data, and you can adjust your plans to get things going back in the right direction.

Still with me? If you have read this far then I have confidence that you have what it takes to plan, self-monitor, adjust, and succeed!

To recap, here are the steps to creating and sticking with a fitness regimen:

  1. List your goals
  2. Outline your current obstacles as well as motivators
  3. Figure out how much time per day and days per weeks you have to workout, grocery shop, and prepare food
  4. Create a workout schedule
  5. Create the workouts (or ask a fitness professional to help you)
  6. Take baseline measures
  7. Self-monitor as you go
  8. Adjust the plan based on how you perform/stick to it
  9. If you fade or fall off, look at what went wrong and pick it right back up
  10. Repeat your measurements periodically
  11. ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I look forward to hearing some of your goals, plans, and outcomes!!!

-AB

A lesson in mindful measurement.

It occurred to me this week that in order to get into a steady training routine that will be consistent, rehabilitative, fat burning, mood enhancing, and also provide a strong foundation to begin a new round of marathon training in late May or early June, I need set up an environment that supports enjoying exercise and training. I have been speeding along in the wrong direction and am looking for a U-turn permitted sign.

When working out, I usually try to maintain a focus on my body, the in-session goals, and my performance. I typically do not employ distraction techniques unless I am really crunched for time and need to multitask during cardio (usually this involves reading articles for school). In which case I usually use a gym-boss to keep my intensity high (it vibrates every 2 minutes and I check and correct my performance, based on HR).

This morning I decided to set no workout session goals other than to enjoy the act of moving, sweating, and breathing. I cued up “Stranger Than Fiction” on my DVR and hopped on my spin bike. While watching the movie I rode for about 30mins, then did 12 sets of lower body exercises, got back on the bike for another 25 or 40 minutes, then did a short core circuit, then stretched as the movie finished.

I did indeed use my HR monitor, but my target was to stay BELOW 145 bpm. Typically my goal is to warm up in the 130’s, then remain ABOVE 145 for the duration of the session. My calorie burn for 90 minutes of activity was 550. In a typical spin class (50mins) I burn around 500. So in term of efficiency, this would be a terrible workout. But, I enjoyed myself. I feel refreshed, and I am looking forward to the next time I can workout again.

Can you really ask for more?

clicking the image will take you to amazon.com (I am not affiliated)

The idea to maintain an element of joy in training is not something that struck me from nowhere. I began reading Ryan Hall’s book about 5 weeks ago but stopped about half way through and likely won’t finish it (exuberant religiousity really turns me away). His main point is that to be successful an element of pleasure (joy) and passion is crucial and fundamental. I recommend the book, and I admire the work he and his wife are doing to supply clean water sources to those who lack access.

The lesson I would like to share with you all is that selecting when to focus on a particular goal is an underestimated element of success. There is a time to focus on strength and power, on speed, on form and accuracy, on weight loss, on further goal setting, on intensity, and there is a time to focus on the moment and yourself and on the joy of action. The pleasure of having a body that can do so many different things, and a mind that can wander or be wholly present, and that can create.

For the past year I have been working on creating systematic ways to help people select what to measure and how to measure it in their fitness and healthy living programs. My own experience today only further encourages my drive to continue working toward my dream of opening and operating a behavior analytic training facility. Because without that perspective I would never have realized that for the last three weeks I have been selecting the wrong measures. I have been under the impression that I was failing because I was gaining some weight back and losing fitness and motivation, but what I was gaining and should be measuring is a renewal in my love of sport, my love of working out, the joy of movement, and that my injured foot is growing stronger each day, even if I am not able to plug high mileage numbers into my charts.

Running in the woods always makes me smile, so as soon as my foot is strong enough I am going to sign up for some of the Chicago Trail Series races. Is there an exercise that brings you joy?

-AB

Where art thou motivation? (how to get off your ass)

We all are. Even if you don't know it. (shirt from zazzle.com)

As emails have begun coming in with topic suggestions, a few themes are becoming visible. First up: motivation.

If you are having a hard time getting started on a workout program, a healthier diet, or simply in making progress toward any goal check out the different types of motivation ruts and ways to stir up some action below.

The curse of the can’t get started

What is motivation anyway? I believe, strongly, that motivation is a product of action and not the other way around.

Did you ever notice that when your schedule is wide open, you get nothing done. Why is that? It might be because you think, “hey, I have tons of free time, so  I will just relax for a while”. In other words, you sit around and rely on the mood to strike you to get up and be productive.

Conversely, during those times when you have several appointments or deadlines, or a long to-do list, you seem to manage to get your dishes done too and you make it to the gym for a class or to lift weights. In other words, you already up and moving so you might as well keep going. Behavior is like dominoes.

Does that sounds familiar to you?

Given the example above, you remain inactive until something makes you take action.

Enter: Behavioral momentum , you probably have a good sense of what it is just by its name. It’s not much different from its physics counterpart. Something in motion stays in motion until something stops it. Behavioral momentum is also a technique used by behavior analysts, teachers, coaches, and parents. You’ve probably employed it yourself without even knowing it. When someone is noncompliant, you ask them to do something that you are sure they will do, you repeat this a few times and then ask them to do what you really wanted them to do in the first place, and chances are they do! (for my behaviorist readers. Yes: Hi-P, Low-P)

Remember tired old sitcom bit of two people fighting? One says “yes” and the other says “no”, they do this rapidly back and forth until the first switches what they say to “no” and in response the other person says “yes”, to which person one inevitably shrieks “ha!” and the duped one says “heeeey! you tricked me!” — I think it is fair to consider this behavioral momentum.

Need a starting point? Do you have between 10 and 30 minutes right now? Try one of my minimalist workouts and see if it gets you motivated to do more!

Perhaps you notice something is missing from this section so far: you ARE really busy, and you can’t seem to get started toward your health, fitness, and personal goals. Well sure, we’ve all been there. You’re in a routine, and it seems like there is no time for anything else to be added. Or you are too tired to add more (we’ll address this topic in a future post). Remember the second part of the definition of “momentum”: an object will stay in motion until something gets in the way (yes, I can rephrase laws of physics).

Interrupt your routine. Make it small and enjoyable and you’ll likely find that the time and energy is there. Want to start going to the gym after work? Have a friend meet you there, not just any friend, a friend who you really enjoy being around, one that you laugh with, one that you have wanted to catch up with for a while. Set the duration of your workout short, just 15mins to start.

Momentus Interruptus

You were doing really well, you were making progress and feeling great. Then you went on vacation, or got sick, or got bored with your workouts or recipes or piano sonatas. Or perhaps you feel as though you aren’t making progress or enough progress an give up.

Now you want back in, but you feel stuck. You lack the motivation. If you were keeping a training log/journal, or were charting your progress or routines, then the solution is right there! Take a look at those records, be your own inspiration. Very often people are making progress but haven’t revisited their goals is so long that they don’t even notice how far they have come.

Here is an example I came across this week. A girl wrote into Oxygen Magazine, she said they were “frauds” and that she was going to burn her clean eating book and all their magazines because in the past 11 months she has lost only 84 pounds. I don’t know about you, but I think that kind of progress is amazing, and moreover, it is proof that what she is doing is working! I also understand her frustration, based on other information she provided she still has a way to go to reach her final goal, and is disappointment by some of the unintended side-effects of weight loss (i.e. the routine, loose skin).

If you have your training records, or are working on a project (like a quilt, or writing), and your interruption has been brief, look at where you fell off pace and see if you can achieve a level just below that today, and just keep going.

If you don’t have records, no worries, be your own competition. Challenge yourself to start today, and whatever you do, do more tomorrow, and more than that the next day. Set a few milestones and when you achieve them reap a reward!

If you are tired of the gym, not making the progress you want, or your training (or work toward some other personal goal) was interrupted, make some smaller goals and get some momentum back (yup, back to the dominoes). Start really small, and reward yourself! As you accomplish small goals, move on to bigger or longer term goals. Repeat each goal as many times as you need to, and don’t punish yourself for backsliding, it’s OK to move back from step 4 to step 1 if that’s what keeps you moving.

Here is an example of a hierarchy of my personal workout goals (and reinforcers) when I was recently having a visit from Captain Colitis, which typically lasts between 48hrs and 2 weeks.

  1. Focus on each minute of a workout class (mini-mini goals), tell the instructor I might leave early. (watch 1 hr of junk on my DVR, guilt free)
  2. Workout at 75% for 20 mins (= eat something awesome)
  3. Complete 8 high intensity intervals within a 45-60min cardio workout (= usually I feel so good I don’t need a contrived reinforcer)
  4. Complete a personal strength workout after a spin class (where I am the instructor) (=Staaaaaarbucks coffee)
  5. Complete 2-4 strength sessions in one week (= buy a new fitness magazine)
  6. Stay on track for a month (= buy an item at Lululemon, or register for a road race)

My priority list gets stuck on repeat at number 3!

If this describes you, then you may fall into the “I am so busy, I have no time to exercise/cook/shop healthy/practice my violin/weed my garden…” When your commitments do not allow you the time to take care of yourself, this may be a case of altered reality.

If you like lists like I do you probably have tried to come up with “priotirites” You know, like:

  1. family
  2. work
  3. workout every day
  4. friends
  5. practice guitar (or whatever)
  6. etc….

Here is the problem with a list like this, it is not realistic! At 2pm, when you have a 4pm presentation deadline set by your boss, your number one priority is probably not your kids….and that is OK, stop worrying about them and focus 100% on that presentation!

If one of your top priorities is to run 5 miles everyday, but you have been working overtime, have a cold, and have no healthy food in the house, it is totally acceptable to slide food shopping and a nap into the number 1 or 2 priority slot.

Here is a suggestion on how to do that: write a list of your 5, 10, or 15 priorities. Cut then out (strips). Then, each night before bed, lay then out in the order that is appropriate for the next day. Don’t be afraid to re-prioritize once the day gets going!

Be realistic and focus on what you are doing. I am not a fan of multitasking, for me, I know it slows me down and I get nothing completed. If I make a list of priorities based on that day, how I feel, and what my commitments are, then focus on one thing at a time, I get a lot more done!

There are certainly more motivation road blocks to cover. I think I will give procrastination it’s one post :). So please, comment, email me (annabellewinters@me.com), and let me know: what do you do to stay motivated? What inspires you do set goals and go after them?

Go on – get focused!

–AB