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My Body Priorities for 2014

I can see myself with a MacBook
This is not to take the form of a set of premature New Year's Resolutions. Resolutions are code for promises to yourself that you will not keep, and I have never wanted any part of that.

This is to take the shape of what I want to change about myself, which will then lead to behaviors I want to develop or cease. The scheme for behavior modification will come, but it will not be "Starting January 1, I'l stop drinking caffeine and stop eating sugar and run 5 miles every day and lift weights and read a book a night and get to sleep before 10pm and wake up at 5am..." Willpower is a finite resource, and you can burn through it this way.

So, my priorities, in order of importance:
  1. My Feet
  2. My Brain
  3. Weight/Body Fat
  4. Stamina and/or Endurance
  5. Strength
Two years ago, I stopped drinking colas and lost over 40 lbs, started sleeping better and felt good enough to start a Couch-to-5K process that lead to me finishing a race. Almost five months ago, I moved to a standing desk, and while that really sucked for quite a while, I'm happy with the results. So, I think I'm past all the outstandingly stupid things I was doing to myself, which means I'm out of shortcuts. Doesn't mean there aren't efficient and smart ways of doing things, just that the no-brainers are done and I'll have to start burning willpower.

My Feet: Two years ago, my youngest participated in a hike with his Cub Scout pack to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Tippecanoe, and at the end of it, I noticed intense pain between the smaller toes and the outside of the ankle, which kept with me for several days after. I went through similar pains as a volunteer at an Independence Day 2012 celebration, and as part of my Couch-to-5K process. 

Eventually, the sharp pains in my foot lead me to a podiatrist, who told me had pronation in my left ankle and extreme pronation in my right. They're also pretty flat, to the point where I used to be able to make fart noises with my right foot coming out of the shower. Right now, my feet, mostly my right foot, are the limiting factor for most of my attempts at further fitness. It's one thing, for example, to keep running when you're sweaty, wheezing and tired, but it's another thing when each time you push off, it feels like someone's shoving a knife into your arch.

So, my goal here is to develop stretches and exercises that make my foot less flat, less pronated, and less painful. This is a primary things: I can't really do much with many of the later goals without making progress here.

My Brain: Exercise increases your brain power, and as a programmer, my brain is my most important feature. If I didn't believe that exercise helped my brain, I wouldn't be doing half of this or writing this. This article mentions benefits of both cardio and strength-based workouts, so more activity of whatever stripe is 

Weight/Body Fat: By memory, my top weight was 330-350 lbs. Top weight I recorded is 270 lbs, in Feb 2012. I am 217 lbs as of this morning. I no longer have a double chin. I wear a Large t-shirt (after 20+ years in XL) and 34x34 jeans.

But I still have a gut.

Teenage me could not imagine having six-pack abs. 30-year-old me was befuddled at how he could eat like he did and still be over 300 lbs, and couldn't even begin to imagine something like muscle tone or a lack of love handles. 43-year-old me is beginning to see it.

So, exercise plans will be chosen with an eye to fat burning as priority, but really, it seems to me that this is more a diet thing. Right now, I make breakfast and lunch decisions mostly based on economics and convenience, which means oatmeal for breakfast and microwave Banquet for lunch. My thought is to go with a Slow Carb diet, but I will need to work out how to make it work around my requirements.

A word on "diet": Popular usage has "diet" meaning a temporary change in food intake to achieve a certain outcome. This is not the correct meaning. When they say "A panda has a diet of shoots and leaves", they mean a panda only eats those things, all the time. When I say I'm considering the Slow Carb diet, I'm saying that I'll commit to it, the way I committed to not drinking sodas.

Stamina and/or Endurance: I mentioned running a 5K earlier. I'll add scare quotes and say "running", as I spent much of that race walking, giving me a 45-minute race time. My goal on this is to do at least one 5K this year, where I do a time of less than 40 minutes. I want to spend all that time running or at least jogging, with no energetic walking.

Endurance, as I understand it, relates to having enough to keep going through the race, while stamina relates to having enough to keep you going at maximum capacity. Endurance is for marathoners while stamina is for sprinters. I think what I have is neither and so could use a little bit of both.

Strength: At the previously-mentioned Independence Day celebration, one of my tasks was to move staging, including choir risers. These risers are built to stand the weight of several choir members, and are thus solidly built. I thought I had it in my to lift a riser to stage level, and I just didn't have it in me to do so. I had said that there was nothing in my life I didn't have the strength to handle, and this proved me wrong.

My goal is not bulk; I don't want to look like Mr. Universe. I just want to have reserves of strength when I need them, and I want that strength across my body, not just in my arms and upper body. This means squats and lunges in addition to curls and lifts.

My current objection to strength training is that it's hard to quantify like you can with endurance training.

From these priorities, I will develop plans, which I will put here and document my progress. Any ideas and suggestions, both on what to do and how to keep motivated in doing it, will be appreciated.

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