Remaking the Body

Wow. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and making changes these past few weeks. I’ve falling far behind on what I planned for this site, but it is time to take a breather and try to catch up, and set the stage for what is coming next.

The “Good Calories, Bad Calories” book set off a tidal wave of change, along with the book “Born to Run”, which has been a recent bestseller. Both my diet and my exercise habits have changed in the process – and more than once! Born to Run got me running for the first time in 15 years, but a different book has since made me question the wisdom of doing so. Still, its the journey, not the destination, right? And so I will try to share the journey so far.

In this post I’ll summarize the last few weeks activity, and in subsequent posts I’ll expand on various themes I visited along the way.

Some time back I bought the book “The New Rules of Lifting”. I don’t remember why exactly I decided on this book, but I had seen some recommendations and I bought and read it. It advocated against aerobic exercise in favor of weight lifting. I’ve always believed both are good and necessary, although I’ve always done a poor job of aerobic exercise and been utterly useless at getting to the gym to do weights. I bought a Total Trainer at some point to redress this, and used it for a couple of months quite regularly, but it too gathers dust now, along with the treadmill in the garage.

I should mention that I am reasonably fit as I cycle regularly during the warmer 8 months of the year, but I am overweight. A month ago I was at about 28% body fat, and by my estimation about 15% heavier than I should be.

Anyway, “The New Rules of Lifting” prompted me to purchase a workout tracking app for my iPhone but I never actually went to the gym! I’m great at theory but awful at practice!

Going back even further, about six months ago I read about Total Immersion swimming on Tim Ferris’ blog.  This was fascinating to me; I used to scuba dive in my twenties and thirties (too cold where I live now) but was never a good swimmer. I’ve always wanted to be a better swimmer so I started teaching myself the technique in the book. It definitely works and my swimming started improving – however I got frustrated by never being able to get a lane to myself at the gym and eventually gave up trying. But around the same time I heard people talk about Chi Running. Again this sounded interesting; I used to do Tai Chi in my twenties and thirties (yeah, I seem to have given up a lot since coming to the USA and becoming a parent), and used to run (badly) when a grad student until I got unrelenting shin splints, so an injury free approach to running seemed appealing. I mentioned this to a friend who was a runner, and he told me to read “Born to Run”, which I’d seen around but hadn’t looked at closely. In the end I devoured it; it was a great book, and I liked the idea of running barefoot. I had heard of the Vibram Five Fingers shoes before; inspired, I bought myself a pair and started to run. By the 5th run I had reached 5km and was quite pleased with myself. I had no shin splint pain either!

At the same time I started exploring low carb diets after reading Good Calories Bad Calories. I first latched on to Atkins and did about 4 days of Atkins style “induction”, before I decided it was too extreme for me. I liked the Protein Power diet better, and read the book by the Eades’. Then I found and read the “Living the Low Carb Life” book, and am currently interested in the Go! diet. Regardless, I have cut my carbs back considerably, although not nearly enough to be in a serious “induction” phase anymore – despite this, in the past twenty days I’ve lost about 5 pounds and my body fat percentage has dropped to 25%.

About the time of the 5km run, I read the book “Body by Science”, which like “The New Rules of Lifting” argued against aerobic exercise and in favor of weights. I liked the program it suggested – here it seemed was a gym based program that I could actually handle in terms of frequency (once a week) and I did the first session. I found it very effective, but have since injured my hand and gym is out for me for about a week. But I’m actually looking forward to going! I expect I will still run, but very moderately; 5km is probably about as far as I need to take it. And so the journey continues; I will continue reporting on my results and actions, and what I have learned about low-carb dieting and food along the way (the “low-carb” label is not FDA regulated and subject to a lot of abuse I have discovered).

So that is the big picture of the past month; in the next few posts I will go into more detail on each of the books I mentioned and what I learned from each one.


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