Motivation Monday: My Vision Board

Vision Boards are a way to maintain motivation and maintain focus on your life goals.  It’s one of those new-age semi-hokey things that I’m guilty of rolling my eyes at when I’ve read or heard of them, but I’m nothing if not open minded, and when I started making goals for this year, some of them loomed a little large, so a little extra help staying focused might be a good idea.

I made a Vision Board of the things I don’t want to lose sight of.

Let’s break this thing down

  1. Barrelman Triathlon – My first Half-Iron distance triathlon, and the biggest goal for the year.  It’ll be just after my 42nd birthday, and if you’re a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (like I am), you’ll know 42 is an auspicious number, so it feels good to commemorate that birthday with something big.  It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get ready for that race, so it’s important to keep it in the forefront of my thoughts.
  2. 187.  That’s my goal weight in pounds;  back in the 90’s it was passed around as a kind of gangsta symbol (let’s not go too deep into the darker meaning of it… it’s a good weight for me and it sounds badass).  I’ve kissed that line, and moved back up a pound or two only to return to close to it.  I need to hold to the principles of the Doctor’s Diet for the majority of the time.  I think my increasing training schedule will help me even travel below that line but I need to make sure that I don’t start burning muscle by not allowing my calorie deficit to get too big on bigger training days.  And those calories, of course, need to come from the right (i.e. healthy) sources.
  3. Monetizing the blog (or at least making it a little more professional). This is the least serious of my goals both in priority and in defining what the goal is. The truth (or at least what I tell myself) is, I just like writing and I would do this even if no-one read. Still, I do get a kick when I get engagement from readers, and I enjoy when the blog generates an opportunity to try new things, and I get a wee bit envious when I see other bloggers get opportunities that have passed me by. Because writing is the part of blogging I enjoy most, when I get time to devote to the blog, I write a post. If I want to capture more opportunities (reviews, events, sponsorship), I know things have to change a little. Self-hosting the blog (on its own domain) and re-design could potentially generate things like brand ambassadorship or other opportunities. The driver is more recognition and/or status than actual money, however, I do need to keep in mind the fact that this blog is a hobby about my hobby, and will always be prioritized as such; i.e. way down the line from some of the other items on this vision board.
  4. Bicycle. A half-iron is serious enough mileage that a new bike is called for. My old bike (with aero-bars I put on myself) is not going to cut it; it’s at least 14 years old and I’ll bet the frame is a bit fatigued – I can see lateral motion in the lower parts of the frame when I pedal on the trainer. The bike in the pic is a the Trek Speed Concept, and while I haven’t decided necessarily on that particular one, I do have to admit both the old steed I’m thinking of putting out to pasture and my mountain bike are by Trek, they’ve served me well, and the Speed Concept is available at price points in the kind of range I was imagining myself spending. Plus, there’s that whole ‘Trek’ name that gets a rise out of my inner geek, you’ve seen me show the Live Long and Prosper (RIP Leonard Nimoy) next to the Rock Devil Horns… I mean it ‘Live Long and Rock On”.
  5. Resolve. My word of the year. There are bound to be challenges to all these goals, so central to achieving them is RESOLVE. I can either find a way around an obstacle (RESOLVE the problem) or show grit and determination to power through it (using my RESOLVE).
  6. Reading. Shark Boy has learned to read independently (simple words, but he does get them on his own) and obviously we want him to progress. I’m reading him a few pages from The Hobbit every night too, and it’s great seeing him get engaged by longer form story-telling (and dragons and wizards etc. too). We need him to improve his printing, and I hope I can get him do to a little writing of his own. The Lightning Kid needs to work on letter recognition and some of the basic precursor skills that feed into reading; it’s early yet, but we know it will take him longer so it’s great if we can get a head start. I’m proud of how we get outside and active as a family (and looking back at the February goals, I know we rocked them), but the more academic stuff can’t get left behind either. I’m also happier myself if I can get at least a little book reading (sorry, blogs and articles on the web don’t count) done every day.
  7. Walk The Line. I’m proud of my kids, which means I’m proud of my family which means I’m proud of our marriage. For a marriage to withstand raising children, never mind rambunctious, dynamic ones like ours, never mind if one has special needs, never mind if you’re constantly out and about as a family, it needs resilience. Resilience is built into a marriage in a similar way to how it is built into a body: it takes a variety of factors. For the body, it’s the right mix of nutritional ingredients and varieties of exercise. A resilient marriage has a similar variety of necessary components – and I probably haven’t learned them all yet, to be honest. I know respect, time for meaningful communication, affection, quality time and actual adult date nights are in there for sure. I’m proud of how well we’ve been able to stick to those things during the past 7 years. Training for a longer distance triathlon will impact all those things, I can’t deny it. What is important is that I keep to that line as closely as I can, even if I wander off it a little. I mustn’t, as Joey Tribianni might put it, let the line become a dot to me. I was going to call it Holding the Line, but then I couldn’t make a Johnny Cash reference, and you should always make a Johnny Cash reference if you’re given the chance.

Have you ever made a Vision Board? If not, what other motivational focus tools would you recommend?

Tri-ed It Tuesday: The Doctor’s Diet (STAT and RESTORE plans)

As of this writing I weigh 193 lbs down from 207 on New Years Day for a loss of 14 pounds.  The credit goes to the Doctor’s Diet by Travis Stork.  While I’m not a nutritionist, dietitian or any kind of health professional, I could see that the “diet” (I don’t like the word, as it implies the fad, temporary/transient kind of change) wasn’t eliminating anything healthy or necessary, and would work for an omnivore like me who likes most kinds of food.

The Doctor’s Diet has 3 phases: STAT, RESTORE and MAINTAIN.  Obviously the MAINTAIN plan is not a diet but more of a way to install healthy eating habits for the rest of your life, and it uses the same principles, it’s just that the other two phases are more restrictive and have a weight loss goal.  STAT and RESTORE are 2 weeks each, and you’re supposed to alternate between them (STAT first) until you reach your goal weight.  N.B. all I’m doing is summarizing the general principles of the plans, to actually implement them, you’ll need the book.

The STAT plan defines foods you can eat by single portions (in general) of the following categories, though there are some cross-overs.  The list of examples is not exhaustive, but reflective of what we used.

  • Healthy Fats – Nut butters, Avocado, Hummus, Oils, Nuts
  • Protein – Lean Meats like chicken breast (though we sometimes used thighs), ground beef, eggs
  • Vegetables – Name a vegetable (except the high-density ones listed below)
  • High Density Vegetables – Sweet potato, Yam, Corn, Lima beans, black-eyed peas.
  • Fruit – Apples, Berries and Grapefruit
  • Whole Grains – whole wheat bread, whole wheat English muffins, oatmeal.

The tough parts of the first two weeks were probably getting used to smaller portions, even when eating healthy foods (no pigging out) and ditching sugar.  The STAT plan is restrictive in order to kick start the recovery process of being dependent on simple carbohydrates.  We used the meal plans provided and stuck to them fairly strictly, though we continued our practice of using the previous night’s dinner as the current day’s lunch.  I think we were able to do this without unbalancing any of the equations.  The equations are as follows:
  • Breakfast: 1 Breakfast Protein + 1 STAT Fruit
  • Lunch: 1 Main-Dish Protein + 2 or more Anytime Vegetables
  • Dinner: 1 Main-Dish Protein + 2 or more Anytime Vegetables
  • Snack: 1 Snack Protein + 1 STAT Fruit + 1 or more Anytime Vegetables. Have the snack when you need it – mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or after dinner
  • Daily flex-time foods: Each day (at the meal or snack of your choice ) enjoy these additional foods: 1 Healthy Fat, 1 Whole Grain, 1 High-Density Vegetable.
The RESTORE plan has an extra whole grain per day, and occasional alcoholic beverages allowed.  It also widens the selections of fruit.  I’m still getting familiar with the RESTORE plan, and I have to finish other chapters on “Food Prescriptions” where certain foods (and the nutrients they are rich in) are used to address needs that the general North American diet doesn’t cover well.
Here are some of my observations after using both the STAT and RESTORE plans –

  • Water.  The prescription is to drink a big glass of water before the meal.  We often used big pint glasses at home, though I don’t think they needed to be that big.  The benefits of staying hydrated are well documented, and habitually drinking before eating was a simple way to make sure we got more water into ourselves without having to remember to do it during the course of the day
  • Fruits and vegetables.  My wife likes fruit, but not vegetables and I’m the opposite.  Being on the structured plan forced us to get portions of each every day, so our shopping list ended up looking like a compromise of what we both would hold as the ideal.  The last time (before undertaking the Doctor’s Diet) I asked for vegetable snacks like peppers, cucumbers, etc. I would eat them once, then the rest would rot in the fridge.  Eating veggies (and similarly fruit) every day meant they got used up and didn’t spoil.
  • Rapid weight loss.  While losing weight quickly isn’t an ideal goal, it did help me stay motivated to weigh myself every day (also a general no-no) and see the numbers drop.  It reminded me that what I was doing was working.
  • Flavour.  Dr. Stork advocates food that tastes good, quite simply.  Salsa, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric  are  good examples of something he pushes as a way to keep food as tasty as possible, while adding nutritional value and without harmful stuff like sugars.  Making healthy fats a part of every day helps too.

  • I’m a little concerned about the lack of carbohydrates, especially going forward.  At first, my exercise regimen was more strength-based, with most cardio sessions being less than 45 minutes a day.  As I ramp up my training for the Half-Iron triathlon, I’m pretty sure my carb intake needs to go up.  In fact, maybe my calorie intake overall needs to go up so my body doesn’t start burning muscle.  It’s going to be a fine-tuning process, but it is notable that the book doesn’t discuss exercise much beyond encouraging people to get that 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily; this might not be an “athlete’s” diet, but it is a healthy one in principle, so it’s a great start.
  • Deprivation.  While Dr. Stork is anti-deprivation in terms of long term lifestyle, the STAT plan is pretty strict for 14 days.  I think 14 days of discipline is good for you, but in two weeks, it’s easy to have a day (or more) where you could really use a glass of w(h)ine, or a beer, or chocolate.  It does get better as you go along, and you break your dependence on sinful food as a reward system.  Bacon seems to be out altogether, and that’s hard (for a guy like me) too.

We’re moving forward with the Doctor’s Diet (although the Valentine’s Day/Family Day weekend cracked the foundation), as the guiding principle for healthy living.  I have a goal weight of 187 pounds, which I’m looking forward to meeting soon.

While a lifestyle with healthy eating with a general, long-term and sustainable implementation is always preferable, do you feel there is a place for a short-term “diet” go kick-start weight loss and good habits?

Fitness Friday – #WorkoutHack: Dumbbell Doubles For A Quick Getaway

Disclaimer: I am not a certified fitness professional.  Please consult your doctor before undertaking a new exercise program.  Workouts on Iron Rogue are provided for inspiration and discussion.

You may remember from 2 weeks ago that I’ve been emphasizing strength training in the last little while.  The workout I’ve been using is based on the Muscle Primer workout from Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto.

The Muscle Primer workout is a whole body workout that Mr. Venuto prescribes for beginners to get ready for more weight-lifting.  I thought I would do it for 3 weeks then move on to workouts that were divided up into back/arms, chest/shoulders, and leg days. Unfortunately, that’s not how Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is designed, and they recommend sticking with the Muscle Primer for 3 months (up to 6!) and that’s doing it 3 times a week, when I’ve been closer to twice for the last 6-8 weeks.

I do my workouts at lunchtime at work, and lately there have been training courses, meetings, and a heavier workload getting in the way of my workouts.  One of my pet-peeves with weight lifting is how it can take longer if a particular piece of equipment (even a bench) is occupied by someone else, and how setting up weights on bars etc. takes extra time.  A few times I’ve wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is all the rage for time-efficiency and effectiveness these days, but I’ve been guilty in the past of grabbing a workout from social media (Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs), doing it once for kicks, then doing something new the next time – I often say I have fitness ADD (which is great for triathlon), and it works well for diversity of training and muscle-confusion, but not so much for seeing progress in terms of strength/power and/or technique.  So when I wanted a quick workout a few weeks ago, I decided to try and build my own, based on the muscle primer workout with the following principles in mind:

  1. Stick generally to the same strength exercises of the Muscle Primer workout; build the same whole-body strength
  2. Pair exercises in such a way that they can be done back to back; with little overlap between muscle groups, one muscle group rests while the other is working.
  3. Pair exercises in such a way that the same dumbbells can be used for both exercises without having to go back to the rack and seek out different ones.
  4. Use as little extra equipment as possible.
Here are the individual exercises:
  • Deadlift/Romanian Deadlift – These are great for posterior chain (used for going up hills).  I do Romanian Deadlifts when I’m not confident about the weight I’m lifting, and I think they’re beginner-friendly for starting to lift.
  • Bench Press – OK, you need a piece of equipment here, but luckily between flat benches and adjustable benches, you can usually find something in a gym.
These two represent the exercises that I can do with the heaviest weight.  

  • Split Squats – These are like lunges without stepping forward (or back).  I’m not comfortable elevating my rear foot very much, but sometimes I’ll place it on a step or even the foot rest of a piece of equipment (bench, rack).
  • Bent-over Rows –  These can be done single arm with a bench, but I prefer to stand bent over with weights in both hands (see pic).  They take the place of the lat-pulldown which I’ve been using for back strength when I have time for longer workouts.
Bent-over Row

  • Shoulder Press – I confess, I like doing this one on a bench with a backrest to support me and heavier weight, but when I’m doing the dumbbell doubles, I go a little lighter, more reps, and stand to engage my core for good form
  • Bicep Curls – I generally alternate arms.
These complement each other from a push vs. pull perspective.  The triceps are being used in the press, but they get to rest during the bicep curls.

Two-handed Tricep Extension

  • Two-handed Tricep Extensions – Dumbbell tricep extensions come in a dozen different flavours, but this is the one they use in the book, so I had no reason to change it.  Using both hands means I can grab a heavier weight, which can come in handy for doing the other exercise in this pair (see pic)
  • Calf Extensions with a Dumbell – I’m not in love with this one as I find most calf-exercises a little awkward.  On days where I have time, I break my own rules and use a machine (leg press).  Still, you can mount a weight on your shoulder and put your foot on any raised surface (provided you feel good about your balance).  I’m using a spin bike in the pic, but the foot of a bench or a step would be fine too.  Notice I put the weight on the opposite shoulder to the leg I’m doing the calf raise with.
Calf Raises

Now, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so using the same dumbbells for each exercise might not make sense for everyone, however, I think I have a fairly typical build/strength profile (especially for a runner/triathlete) with more lower body strength than upper body strength, so I don’t think these pairings are too “out-there.”  Moreover, you can vary the reps you do as long as they stay between 6 and 15 (8 to 12 being even more ideal).

Here’s how the numbers shook out the last time I did this workout:

  • Deadlifts/Bench Press (two 45 lb dumbbells, 12 reps)
  • Split Squats/Bent Over Rows (two 35 lb dumbbells, 10 reps)
  • Shoulder Press/Bicep Curls (two 20 lb dumbbells, 15 and 12 reps respectively)
  • Overhead Tricep Extension/Calf Raises (one 30 lb dumbbell, 15 and 12 reps respectively)
I did two sets of each: each “double” or pair twice. I tried to not stop in the middle of a double, and also not too much between sets. I rested a little between doubles, but not too much, usually just enough to replace the weights and grab new ones. The good news is the major muscles fatigued by one exercise never stopped me from doing an exercise, the only thing holding me back was getting gassed cardiovascularly, or needing to rest my hands due to lack of grip endurance. So while I’m not going to label this a HIIT workout (I wouldn’t know the rules of what constitutes that exactly), you can see it will get your heart rate going well, while building muscle.

Official time from that “dress rehearsal”: 14 minutes 36 seconds. I did 3 minutes on an elliptical (though I prefer a rowing machine – it was occupied) as a warm-up, and a minute plank on my way to the change-room. Iron Rogue Out!

What do you think? Do you love dumbbells?

Why I Joined a DietBet

Dieting is generally decried as a method to lose weight.  The right way to do it is to adapt good nutritional principles and exercise regularly to avoid any ‘yo-yo’ effects.  Dieting generally tries to get desired results within a limited time frame, often by introducing extreme, dogmatic restrictions – no this, no that.  Smart lifestyle decisions are like financial investments – it’s best to take a long view.

Something called Dietbet came along a little while ago.  The premise was simple: put money down on the idea of you losing weight.  The goal is to lose 4% of your current body weight in 4 weeks.  Somebody smarter than me decided that was realistic and within healthy limits.  You can not ‘weigh out’ early, and there is a system to date-stamp the weigh-ins using pictures and ‘words-of-the-day’.  The pot, which is the sum total of everyone’s bet buy-in minus the administration fee is split by everyone who makes the goal.

The idea caught on like wild-fire; having cash on the line seems to be a great motivator, and it also taps into our social instincts like wanting to be part of a group and competitiveness.  I’ve had several opportunities to join Dietbets with other fitness bloggers, but I’ve always turned down the opportunity.  There’s the anti-diet reasons I mentioned above, there was the lack of real desire to lose weight and the knowledge that with life being as it is, I wouldn’t stick to all the restrictions I’d need to in order to achieve the goal.

I signed up for a bet that started April 17th.  Why?  Tell ‘Em Jerry!

Long story short (on details at least), I had an old friend let me know he felt I was letting myself go, and while I first accepted the message as heartfelt concern, the razzing and jokes that preceded that and followed it got on my nerves.  You can rib me, and I will let it roll off my back and laugh along, or you can speak earnestly and have me listen to what you have to say, not both.  So I’m going to let my annoyance be my motivation; the best revenge is, as they say, living well.

Furthermore, I know there’s going to be a period where I’m going to deviate from the nominally healthy long-term lifestyle in the other direction.  On vacation for example, there will be less workouts, less intensity, and more calories.  It’s a fact of life, so why not swing once to the skinny, then to the not-so-skinny.  My life just has a certain amount of variability, and while that can be stressful both mentally and physiologically, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can follow the bet here, but I won’t be posting about it on the blog that much – I simply don’t find the topic of weight loss to be that interesting.  If you’re thinking about joining a game, I can recommend Katy from Fit In Heels, hers is starting in a few days.

Looking Back on 2012: New Weight Categories

Earlier this year, the esteemable Swim Bike Mom helped draw my attention to the new rules for the weight categories (as dictated by the USA Triathlon).  As of 2013, Men weighing over 220 lbs could compete under a separate category ‘Clydesdales’ while women over 165 lbs could choose to compete as ‘Athenas’.  The old weight limits for these categories were 200 and 150 lbs respectively.

The purpose of these weight categories was to acknowledge that regardless of individual fitness, some people just don’t have the build to finish with times comparable to elites (even within age groups), and they should be recognized for their achievements relative to others with similar builds.  Which I found to be a noble sentiment.

Jan Frodeno in front; Simon Whitfield behind.  2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing

I’m just  “a few donuts away” from the old Clydesdale limit (in fact, thanks to the holidays, if they held a triathlon today, I could jump right in).  Yet, I never felt that tempted to enrol as one.  Regardless of how much I’m carrying around the middle, my build skeleton isn’t the one of a typical runner/triathlete; I’m broader in the shoulders for one thing.  Still, look at the difference between a Jan Frodeno and Simon Whitfield.  Frodeno’s a bigger guy too.

That’s probably a reasonable comparison to my build (minus plenty of body fat, of course), and Frodeno didn’t need a different weight class; he won the Gold!  The Clydesdale weight class should be more for men built like linebackers, and I think the 220 lb limit is more in line with that.  It could even be increased from my point of view.

Competing in these weight classes enables people to get a little closer to the top ten (albeit an arbitrary one) or even a podium spot.  That’s not really why I participate in triathlon though, and I doubt I’m alone in this sentiment.  I’ll be leaving the Clydesdale category alone; the donuts will have to wait.  Well, maybe just one…

Wetsuits and Weigh-ins

Remember when I won the free wet-suit from TYR?  Well it arrived and I’m stoked!  When I spoke to the rep, he told me to pick my size from the following chart and if I was between sizes I should pick the larger, as their suits tend to fit very tightly:

Size Height (ft/in) Weight (lbs) Height (cm) Weight (kg)
XS 4’9-5’4 118-142 146-160 54-65
S 5’3-5’9 138-166 158-170 62-75
S/M 5’7-6’0 146-173 165-181 66-78
M 5’8-6’1 155-188 172-184 71-85
M/L 5’10-6′-2 158-191 179-187 72-86
L 5’10-6’3 175-199 181-189 79-90
XL 5’10-6’4 191-220 183-194 86-100
XXL 6’0-6’8 208+ 185-201 94+

But here’s the thing:


So I guess I should pick the XL right? Especially because it’s the off-season, and I’m likely to only gain weight before next season… Well, I might be dumb but I ordered the large.  I guess, I want the wet-suit to be the stick (or the carrot, depending on your point of view) that will keep me policing my own weight, even when my life derails my training/dietary plans…

It (TYR Hurricane Cat 5) fits great, and I can’t wait to try (tri?) it in the water.  Thanks Multi-Sport Canada and TYR!