New Gear

I’d been thinking about it for a few weeks now and when that happens, it usually follows with about 20 hours of homework for options.  It doesn’t matter what it is that I have my mind on, I am thorough.  This time it was replacing my home gym equipment.

Swapping from this

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It was far from useless, in fact I was using it every other day for quite a while.  It just limited my movements and isolated muscle groups.  Even though I was getting better at the exercises on the machine I felt I was losing in regular day to day activities.  Compound exercises are the way to go, and you need free-weights.  So I’m selling the above and swapping to the below.

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That’s a power rack and bench I got from Treadmill Express.  Buying fitness equipment in Canada is not the easiest…holy cow.  There are at least 10x the providers in the states and usually the shipping is included.  Anyhow, I bought on Sunday, it shipped out on Monday and was at my door Tuesday.  That’s impressive.

I spent about 2 hours Wednesday putting it all together.  That was a workout in itself.  Now I need to go and get an Olympic weight bar and some plates to complete the gear swap.  That’s also something that’s not the easiest to come by, since you know, shipping 300+ lbs isn’t cheap.  Thankfully there’s a store in town I can get a set for a good enough deal.  Then I can enjoy squats, lunges, benches and lifts galore.  And unless my math is wonky, all for under $1000.  That’s about 15 months of a gym membership.  Or half a gaming PC, hah!

That should set me up for this weekend and getting really into the stronglifts 5×5 program.  I’m much to rusty to lift anything more complicated.  It’ll be sore but it’ll be fun.

Health Update – Pushing and Pulling da Heavy Tings

Aside from family, work and gaming, I also play hockey.  I find that sports are a great stress relief, whether it’s competitive or just pickup.  But 5 years on since my first daughter was born, I was feeling a little pudgy.  Apparently, beer gives you a belly.  I think they should have a warning on the label.

6 weeks ago I started getting back into an exercise routine.  Nothing too fancy, just some dumbbells, a pull-up bar (or rather a pull down bar) and a yoga mat.  I live in Canada.  Running works for about 4 months of the year and who runs in the dark?  I had previously done the original P90X routine before I had kids and that was quite an effective exercise routine.  You’ll lose weight and built some muscle for sure, but you’ll never be as big as the guys on the TV doing high intensity workouts.  Tony H is a great instructor and has a good rapport with the other folks in the video.  If you’re going to pop in a DVD every day for 3 months, you don’t want them to be annoying.

Later on, I tried the Insanity workout, which is borderline stupid if you ask me.  It is a pure cardio exercise, with a large helping of plyometrics.  It’s not possible to do the routine completely, and on schedule unless you are already fairly close to fitness.  I mean, the people on the video can’t even complete them without dropping.  Shaun T is an ok instructor but the people in the video are the type you’d want to punch in the face.  Tonya in particular.

I’ve tried the Jillian Michaels stuff my sister had passed me.  The Ripped in 30 is the better of the bunch and a decent way to start a program.  The pace is solid, but the workouts are very repetitive.  Plus, she’s all hell annoying.

So I went back looking and found the P90X3 program.  Yes, a 3rd one.  Actually, the 2nd one was the sequel with some new workouts but this one is a different beast.  It’s 90X in 30 minutes.  Imagine taking a 1 hour workout, rests and all, and then crushing it down to 30 minutes.  There’s one workout, The Challenge, where my sheet afterwards indicated I did about 200 pushups and nearly 100 pullups in 30 minutes – including warmup time.  Nutbar.  But the results are great and the relationship between Tony and the workout folks is even better than in the first set.

Exercise doesn’t mean much if you’re not eating well.  A recent article stated that obese Americans outnumber overweight.  The only way to put on weight is to eat more calories than you burn and that can be an extremely easy thing to do.  The bad news is that in North America, most foods are empty calories due to the abundance of corn and artificial filler in everything we eat.  The good news is that I have a rather severe intolerance to animal fat and artificial preservatives (specifically nitrates), better news is that my wife is intolerant to corn.  I am absolutely incapable of eating fast food and most food in a restaurant doesn’t jive.  My shopping is on the outside of a grocery store, rarely in the aisles aside from some cereal, pasta and baking goods.  So calorie management is pretty easy for me, aside from the beer.  I will say that the food portion of weight management is the hardest part.  Exercise is easy, you only do it 30-60 minutes a day.  Food is around you 24/7.  Its own long topic…

Finally, I being a tech guy, I have a few gadgets to help out.  A FitBit One to measure steps taken and sleep (which the wife has appropriated), an Amiigo for workout tracking (with so-so results so far) and a smart scale that measured weight, BMI, body fat and water ratio.   Well, that scale took a data dump.  One day I was 270, the other 190, the next I was weightless.  So we bought a FitBit Aria, which works with the FitBit app (score) and on wifi.  Well, let me tell you that this scale is something else altogether to setup.  First, it only works in an 802b network.  You know, the one that’s been out the door for 10 years?  Plus the security only works with WEP/WPA.  In a day and age of “push to connect” this is like an ancient relic.  It took me 3 hours to complete the setup, searching the bowels of the interwebs.  I had to reset nearly ever setting on the router to get it to work, and now I need to reconfigure all my other appliances to connect back.  Well, the good news is that it works at least… but for $150, I would recommend everyone stay away until it undergoes a big engineering redesign.

That really long post to say that I’m down over half my weight goal so far.  My eldest daughter is interested in fitness (always a plus) and I’m slowly pulling my wife into a more active lifestyle, given the ease of tools and quite obvious results.  Results are certainly motivating and since I’ve past the 1 month mark, I’m in more of a habit than anything else now.  And once you’re in that groove, you start looking forward to the next time.

My Cup Runneth Emtpy

Long story short, which will probably be long anyhow, the month of February is my busiest month of the year for 3 years running. It seems losing those 2 days doesn’t equate to actually doing 2 days less work.

So while I’m fortunate to have a position that not only pays well and pays overtime, my family/sanity is my bartering price. And that is a very steep price to pay.

I’m still popping in a game here and there but nowhere near enough to actually decompress. My bus commute is about 45m each way, so I read my RSS feeds to keep abreast. Twitter is useless really, since it’s too fast and I have no time to digest.

The good news is that next week I’m on another vacation – a cruise once again. No internet, just the sea and a gin (or 3). Maybe the month of April will bring some more room to breathe again.

Health and Nutrition

Flip side to gaming today!  I’ve had ups and downs with weight and health.  It took me a while to figure out what types of foods made me sick and I’ve done my best to eliminate them from my diet.  When I cheat (like chips or cheese) I can feel the effects pretty quickly.  But that’s me!  Everyone has their own tolerances.

The above picture is the typical food pyramid.  I would be willing to bet 100$ that the majority of the western world does not follow it.  Many skip out the fruits and vegetables, stack up on sugar/filler and eat too much meat/dairy.  People then get freaked out about their size and start some crazy diet where they cut out entire sections or focus on a particular one to absurdity.  Everyone is different and there really isn’t a single 100% recipe that works for everyone.  Best you can have are guidelines.

A friend and his wife are taking on a 1 year paleo diet challenge and blogging about it.  As a concept, the idea is that you eat what our ancestors 10,000 years ago ate.  Grass fed animal meats, fish, wild plants.  Hunter-gatherer stuff.  The diet itself isn’t so much controversial as it is unknown and inapplicable in today’s environment.

Grass-fed animal meat?  That’s near impossible to find in the western world, where everything is grain fed.  You’d need to know a farmer.  Heck, the entire western world is run on grain, has been since the industrial revolution.  I won’t even go into the chemicals they put on everything.

Still though, there are some larger issues when we talk about this diet.

  1. We have no idea what proportions our ancestors ate in their meals, nor are we direct descendants from their stock.  I have european ancestors but my friends have asian, native, african and so on, as their background.  They had different diets.
  2. Though studies show they didn’t suffer from diseases such as cardiovascular, osteoporosis or diabetes, they also didn’t live long enough to get them.  The average life expectancy was ~30.  How many 25 year olds do you know who have had heart attacks?
  3. Compared to today’s values, their diets were low in salt (half), high in potassium (3x higher), low in Calcium (half), high fibre (8x higher), high vitamins (though low Vitamin D).  Those first 3 have a direct impact on chronic diseases that affect older people, which paleo people simply didn’t live long enough to reach.
  4. Casein (or dairy products) and gluten (wheat products) were not introduced until we moved from hunter gatherer to agricultural/settler societies.  Of note, life expectancy increases dramatically at this point – for various reasons.

As the blog I linked to shows, they are not following a true paleo diet.  Here’s an example of their recent Fish Tacos.  Items that are bolded are not permitted in the “true” diet.

  • Olive oil
  • Ancho Chilli Powder
  • Lime
  • Cumin
  • Wild caught fish (we used sole)
  • Avocado or cococut oil
  • Iceberg or romaine lettuce

Here’s another example.

  • 3 breakfast egg muffins (p.222 of the book Paleo Comfort foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield)
  • 1 banana with 2 tbsp almond butter
  • raw carrots
  • 3 portobello mushroom cap burgers with garlic, tomatoes, onions and lettuce (~7 ounces of beef in total)
  • Sweet potato fries and zuchini
  • 2 scoops of Egg Protein in 500 ml water
  • 4 ounces of salmon (wet rub: fresh dill, dijon mustard, and old fashioned mustard)
  • 3 ounces of ribs
  • Mixed green salad with herbs dressing and avocado
  • Spaghetti Squash Pesto to satiety (P.212 from the Paleo Confort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield)

This isn’t to squash their idea to eat healthier, it’s to show that they are using the wrong words to show their healthier choices.  This isn’t a paleo diet – it’s a diet free of casein (dairy) and gluten (wheat) and legumes (beans).  I’ll talk about those first 2 in a different post, they are quite interesting.

Personally, I know that I cannot eat anything with preservatives – namely potassium nitrates.  I can’t eat anything that’s been fried, or any saturated fats – my wife can attest to this!  I have trouble digesting casein (all dairy products).  I’ve cut down on the amount of gluten I consume (minus beer) simply because of the lack of nutritional value.  But that’s me.  You have to find your own path.