The one about goals…

If you remember, a few posts ago I outlined what my short term (6 month) and long term (12 month) goals are.

I was recently chatting with a friend about the post and they wondered why it was that I didn’t have any weight loss related goals on my list.

The answer is simple: I don’t believe in goals based on weight loss.

In fact, they make me kind of annoyed. I don’t hold it against anyone who makes those kinds of goals and I think from time to time they can (perhaps) have a purpose but let’s get real – they’re not realistic most of the time.

I won’t deny that I have been on “diets” in the past. It was my experience with LA Weight Loss and Weight Watchers when I was in my early 20s that ultimately taught me how to eat properly so I can’t really slag them off. I have learned a lot since then though and I really feel now as though focusing on a number is a sure fire way to derail your efforts.

It’s really no surprise that most people are obsessed with achieving a specific (arbitrary) number that is supposedly an “ideal” for every body type imaginable. How could they not when flipping the pages of ONE magazine and these are the ads you see:

All of these ads were within 15 pages of each other.

Fat burners are pushed on us in every women’s magazine.

The average person will burn about 100 extra calories a day while taking a fat burner (which is pretty much a banana). Generally, they’re geared more towards models and fitness competitors who are trying to get the last little bit of body fat off before they get in front of a camera. The spokeswomen in the advertisements look the way they do thanks to a combination of good genes, good food and good exercise habits. As for the “before and after” photos that are featured in many of the ads… some of these businesses (won’t name which ones) will hire fit people and pay them to GAIN weight and just reverse the photos.

Think about it this way, what kind of successful business model would have the consumer buy your product once and never need to buy it again? They want you to buy it again because they know you’re going to need to buy it again.

Weight loss is a positive side effect of living a healthy lifestyle. When I think about the long term I set my goals based on fitness and eating clean (a full, unrestricted diet granted). If, through both those things, I happen to lose pounds or inches then so be it. Obviously that is how my body is meant to be! I have been the same weight for almost a year, no yo-yo’s here. I don’t have to watch the scale go up and down because 1. I rarely weigh myself (I generally go by body fat percentage) and 2. I’m achieving the goals I set because they’re healthy and attainable. Ideal weights don’t take into account your genetics, body type, or musculature.

Do whatever is right for you, and your body. Hopefully that means setting goals based on eating well and being active rather than fighting against your own body to achieve a number that may or may not be meant for you.

The one with the nap…

It’s a pretty familiar tale; “I don’t have time to workout on work days”. That’s not really my problem per se, it has more to do with motivation. Right now since I am a full-time student I’m only working once or twice a week… with a catch. When I go to work the alarm goes off anywhere between 2 and 4 a.m. and I am done my day before most people have even thought about lunch. This usually leaves me in a position of being home and incredibly tired around noon, wondering whether I should grab some lunch and workout in the afternoon or do what I really want to do and fall into bed for a siesta.

This is completely different from the days when I only have school. I get up at 6 a.m. and go to class and I’m downright anxious to get to the gym. I can’t wait to exercise! It’s only a couple hours of difference in when I get up but I’m getting the same amount of sleep overall. When I need to get up at 2 a.m. I might go to bed at 7 p.m. so I’m still getting 7-8 hours of sleep, much the same as when I rise at 6. I needed to know more about the reasons for my sleepiness so I turned to my trusty friend Google in the hopes of finding some answers!

The first thing I realized upon reading a bunch of articles is that I needed to stop thinking negatively about taking naps. I’ve always pushed myself to power through on those days when I feel fatigued from getting up early but I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t. Many scientists actually recommend naps for restoring mental alertness. An article about napping on the National Sleep Foundation website cites a study done by NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. A 40-minute nap was able to improve their performance by 34 per cent and alertness by 100 per cent!

What’s key in that sentence though (for me anyway) is the “40-minute nap” part. I have a tendency, when I do nap, to not set an alarm but rather sleep until my body decides to wake up. Inevitably this results in a 90-minute to 3-hour nap which leaves me feeling groggy and disoriented, which I now know thanks to the National Sleep Foundation is called sleep inertia:

A recent study in the research journal Sleep examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia. (Source)

The sleep article also touches on my particular situation and essentially says that even with a full night’s sleep people who work on strange schedules (night shifts, evenings, early mornings, etc) will feel groggy because your body only knows that when it’s dark you sleep. It doesn’t care that you went to bed before the sun went down. It’s dark = you sleep! Researchers at the Sleep Medicine and Research Centre in St. Louis, MO recommended something as simple as having a caffeinated drink while on the job and a quick nap after the shift.

As it turns out there are some very famous nappers out there, too! Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known for their love of the mid-afternoon snooze.

I guess I should take back all those times I made fun of my Dad for lying on the couch “resting his eyes”. That, apparently, is what I need to start doing to keep my batteries juiced. Time to stop pushing myself to stay awake, drinking tea or fighting to get to a second wind and start letting my body decide what I need. Now to convince my school to get cots… for the nap club I’m going to start, of course! 😛

— Sunday’s post will feature new guest blogger, Gina! Be nice to her… — 

Old man winter bringing me down…

I’m finding the cold is really putting a damper on my motivation to run.

My alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, I had all of my gear out and ready for me to jump out of bed, into track pants, and head out for a brisk run. Unfortunately the reasonable side of me thought to check the weather. When I saw the -20° wind chill though I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. All I could imagine was how painful it would be to breath, how my muscles would hate me, how COLD it was.

Go away cold and let me enjoy my exercise again!