Reflections • November 9, 2009, at 6:13 pm
Rest Week Reflections
At the moment I am thinking about all the measurements that I have made in an effort to assess what all this “training” amounts to, for me. As I enter into this week, it is the 12th week of my “never on a school night” plan, which involves seven major commitments or rules which guide my actions. I have had little trouble following those rules, and I don’t see the need to enumerate them and discuss them at the present time. I may do that during a rest day next week, as I begin my third six-week cycle in the plan.
I can say that some of the goals I have been seeking to accomplish remain elusive. In spite of my efforts to be conscious and deliberate in the way I train, eat, and pursue health and fitness, measurable progress has sometimes not manifested itself. And I can also say that reflection, conversation, and the always progressive nature of the pursuit of excellence has led me to think quite seriously about, and commit to, some new approaches to my goals. I am quite excited about these ideas, such as the incorporation of a periodic day long meditation and fast into my six-week training cycle. I will blog further about these additional tools as I implement them.
Strength and Power: My PRs
On the front of my Personal Records I demonstrate almost an unbroken track record of improvement. Looking at the period of August 23rd to the present (Nov. 8th), I see a large number of new personal benchmarks in tests of strength. If you examine the list of weightlifting PRs you will see that in almost all benchmarks my personal record has been been achieved in the period since August 23rd, 2009. I count well over 25 individual areas in which I have measured improvement since late August. The improvement in my athletic ability and strength is rather unambiguous and is worth being happy about. But as Coach Glassman has said, “the better part of measurement may lie in knowing what we are doing, so that we can do something different,” so for me, the question is, do I know what I am doing? Clearly something I am doing at present is working. But what is it. Is it my nutrition? Or my training schedule? Or what?
Measurements of Body Composition
11 weeks ago, on August 23rd, at the start of the first week of my “Never on a School Night” plan, I weighed in at 182.0 lbs, and measured 13% body fat. Yesterday, on Nov. 8th, at the start of my 12th week on the plan, I weighed in at 178.5 lbs, and also measured 13% body fat.
Analysis: the results of my body composition measurements are inconclusive. Overall, the data suggests that my body composition is stable, at a level right below 13%. It is important to note in this regard that that my weigh-in of August 16th, a week before this arbitrarily designated period, was identical to my weigh in of Nov. 8th: 178.5, 13%.
Thus, although I appear to have lost some weight in the past 11 weeks, while keeping the same body fat percentage — not a desirable result since it would mean that I have lost more lean mass than body fat — other conclusions are possible.
For example: a variation of -3.5 lbs in mass over 12 weeks is not very significant, especially when you consider that during the course of a single day, one can observe measurable variations in one’s body weight of 2 to 3 pounds. Moreover, during this past week, as recently as Saturday night, I measured my own mass at 181, only one pound less than the 182 measured on Aug. 23rd.
Additionally, because of the way that my body fat scale works, it does not register changes in body fat levels below a full percentage; the scale rounds its measure of your body fat up or down to the nearest full percent. In other words, there is a standard error of at least +/- 0.5%. And again, during the course of a single day, one can observe variation in the reported body fat percent, often as much as +/- 2%.
Because I have, during these weeks, registered as low as 12% on several occasions, I suspect that my actual body fat percentage is probably below 13% (possibly as low as somewhere between 12.6 and 12.9%). What I don’t know is whether or by how much it was below 13% on August 23rd, or whether it was possibly as high as somewhere between 13.1 and 13.5%.
The bottom line is that I don’t know, at this point, whether my body composition has in fact improved in this time frame. I could have lost almost 2 pounds of fat, and gained 2 pounds of muscle, and the damn scale would give me the same reading. So, I must report: status quo; the numbers are inconclusive.
Measurements of Food Intake, Calories, etc.
My average calorie intake during this entire 11 week period is (my spreadsheet indicates with a false assurance of accuracy) about “3158.44 calories/day” and on this level of caloric intake I appear to have lost a very small amount of weight. But if you extend the data set by only one week, to a 12 week period going back to August 16th, then my average calories per day is listed as 3182, and I haven’t lost a thing, no lean or fat mass. To me this suggests that I can comfortably eat somewhere between 3100 and 3200 calories per day and, if anything, I will lose weight.
My intent has been to practice calorie cycling, in which my average daily calorie intake has cycled up and down. Two weeks of building followed by 1 week of cutting. Ideally, I should be entering into my fourth week of “cutting” in this 12 week plan. However, in actual practice, my average calories have been remarkably consistent. I just completed my fourth week in a row where calories hovered at, on average, over 3250 calories per day, and my fifth week in a row with calories at this level or above. So I haven’t been true to my intentions there. Has this failure to implement a key provision of my plan resulted in a failure to attain my goals? No, we can’t conclude that, because it shows only correlation, not causation. There was never any real evidence that my calorie cycling plan would work in the first place.
I am still committed to calorie cycling. But I am not sure that it will really work for me. I am going to try to be more disciplined in weeks to come. Let’s see if that works! Unplanned cheat days have thrown off my averages. Also, eating to satiety rather than eating on a plan has on numerous days thrown off a week’s averages, although, as you can see, not with disastrous consequences.
At present, although I have expended a lot of energy examining my calorie intake, and keeping track of my food, and monitoring and taking quite seriously the quality and the quantity of my food, it appears not to be making much of a difference. Things have been remarkably stable through a lot of different moments and eating phases.
After all, I first weighed in at 13% body fat on June 21st, 2009, and at the time I weighed in at 179.5. Statistically this not very much different than my current 178.5 / 13% body fat. Moreover, I have not, in the entire four and a half month period since late June, ever weighed in at more than 182 or less than 175.5 lbs. Is it coincidental that the average weight between these two extremes, 178.75, is right where I weighed in yesterday?
Moving off the Plateau
My sense is that I need to take some more radical steps to get off of the weight and body-composition plateau on which I have been perched for so many months. I need to do something to move my body fat “set-point” a bit lower, before I can see substantial progress in my lean mass.
The thing is that I refuse to do this by reducing my overall weight below 175. Why? Why have I drawn this arbitrary line in the sand? Partly, because I know that once you reach past age 40, it is important to maintain your lean mass. There is a tendency of lean mass to decrease as we age, and weight loss that causes a decrease in lean mass could be irreversible. I don’t need to lose any more weight. I am plenty skinny. What I want is to lose additional fat, which, yes, will make me more skinny, but hopefully, will also let me achieve a higher strength/body weight ratio, i.e. improve my performance and fitness.
Who am I kidding? This goal is entirely arbitrary. I want to achieve it because I want to see if I can do it. In truth, I am pretty happy where I am right now. And if I keep achieving new strength and fitness records in the near future, I’ll be even happier.
So, what else should I do? I will quote the great hymn, “it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
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