Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reforming Habits

It's been a little while since I posted an entry, but I've noticed that seems to happen to me during the winter season.  I have less going on as the weather closes in and less to write about. But there have been some things happening, so I'll try to fill in the blanks.

Trying to ride the new fat bike around town in 10" of snow.

I took a week of vacation at Christmas so that I could spend some time with Kenny while he was off school.  There were all sorts of plans being considered, but I got hit with a nasty cold the very first day of vacation, and spent the next ten days being sick.  I recovered just in time for my birthday on December 28, but picked up the flu two days later.  This flu hung on for waaay too long, bringing a bout of walking pneumonia with it.  So I managed to use up my whole year of sick days on the first week of the new year.  It was at least two weeks before I was feeling like myself again.

Of course I had to go to the doctor a couple of times during this period.  And that brought bad news to the forefront when I was weighed during my appointment.  I'm not a tall guy, and I got over an inch shorter a couple of years ago when I crashed my bike and landed on my head, fracturing my skull.  And I do tend towards fat, so I have to keep an eye on my calorie intake and exercise level.  But it was a disappointing surprise to find out that I weighed more than I have since I was a teen.  Of course part of it was the intake of holiday calories, though I thought I'd been fairly judicious about snacking on my wife's amazing Christmas cookies.  And another factor was the marked decrease in outdoors exercise due to the weather and being sick.  But the real story is depressingly familiar - too many bad habits, and not enough good ones.

So I decided that I was going to try to change my diet and fitness during 2015.  I'm not a big fan of the spur-of-the-moment New Years resolution, since it seems like jumping into a big difficult project without a plan isn't that good of an idea.  Instead I started thinking about what I thought I could change, where my weakest points were, and what I want my goal to be.  And then I started to try to bring my bad habits under control.

My plan for the year is two-fold:  better diet and more consistent exercise.  As far as diet, I'm not as bad off as I could be, but there is definitely room for improvement.  My typical day had me start with a small breakfast, a reasonable lunch, and then a good, home cooked supper.  Where it fell apart was the evening snacking, when I was winding down before bed.  Harnessing that urge to snack in the evening is not easy for me, and it's taken me a month of self-discipline to get it back in control.  There are other diet changes as well - mainly my efforts to cut my processed sugar intake by 90%.  That means no soda (which I don't usually drink anyway) but it also means no candy or pastries.  I am definitely making progress towards this 90% reduction.

The second part of the plan is to increase my exercise levels.  Usually that would mean riding the bike more, but that doesn't work when we've had 70 days straight of snow cover.  After thinking it over I decided that going back to weight lifting would be a good idea.  In my younger days I used to have a weight program that I followed for years.  I wasn't interested in big, body builder type muscles - just in being strong enough to let me do the fun stuff that I like.  And with my 14 year old son Ken now measuring in at 6 feet tall (that's 7 inches taller than me) it seemed like a good time to get him involved as well.


We're not going to use the Weider gym that my mom gave us when we moved, but are going back to the good old days of free weights.   It's been over a month since we started a three day a week program that takes us about an hour to complete.  I know that I'm already noticing a difference and I think Ken is starting to firm up a bit as well.  And I know that this extra boost in strength will only help my mountain biking this summer, so I'm determined to keep up with it.

But I know from past experience how easy it is to procrastinate, make exceptions to the rule, and take days off from exercise or dieting.  After thinking about it for a while I decided that I would grade my will power every day.  I start out with 100% every day and then deduct 10% for each lapse in will power - i.e. evening snacking, eating sugar packed foods, missing workouts, etc etc.  For me keeping a concrete record where I make myself declare my failures at the end of each day seems to help keep my goals at the forefront of my consciousness, so that I'm less likely to have a spontaneous weakness and break my 'rules'.  So far this has worked very well for me, as my diet and exercise have been remarkable consistent since I started.

I don't like to make the whole goal of the process to be just 'weight loss'.  There's a lot more to it than that - the establishment of more good habits and the discarding of bad ones.  I don't even like to use the scale we have at the house (those damned electronic scales are so inaccurate). But at the end of the year I'd really like to see a weight loss of at least 25 pounds.  Yeah, that's not that much right?  Right now I'm at about 195# - an amount that makes me feel fat and clumsy.  If I were to be able to get down to 170# it would make a huge difference.  If I was able to get down to my best weight that I had in my 20's it would take another 25# loss after that...

I'll keep tabs on my progress through the year as I post here, and we'll see how this turns out.  So far it seems to be working, but we'll see how it plays out as the year unwinds.

Snowscape along the farm roads north of Warren.

As far as bicycling goes it's been pretty sparse so far this year.  Even though I am now a proud fat bike owner, the snow cover has been consistent since the beginning of the year, and mountain biking has been pretty much out of the question.  I've made a couple of very difficult rail trail rides, over packed snow and ice, but not many.  There have been several rides on the empty back roads of northern Trumbull county, but with the cold, wind and ice they haven't been as long as I'd like.  Every little bit counts though, so I'll keep on getting out when I can and wait for the snow to finish melting off so that my riding horizons can open up again.

Started out as a road ride, but ended up with a nice long hike a bike through 16" of snow.

One nice thing on the horizon is that Ken and I are planning a week long bicycle tour on the Greenbrier Trail in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest.  Diana can't take a big vacation this year since she started the new job in November and won't have vacation time accumulated till this November.  So Kenny and I plan to head out on our own and spend a week riding the rail trails and mtb trails in West Virginia.  That's meant spending some extra cash outfitting the bikes, but we already had a bunch of gear so the process is moving along pretty well.

Riding on the ice in northern Trumbull county.

Our spring thaw started about ten days ago, so much of the snow cover is gone.  I'm hoping that the ice will be off the Western Reserve Greenway Trail by this weekend, and I can get back in the habit of pushing out some paved miles within a week or so.  One thing - with better weather coming it seems unlikely that I'll go another three months without a blog post!


  1. Welcome back to the blogosphere! Glad to hear you are doing well and getting in some riding. I feel like a real wimp no considering the little I have ridden so far this year. I think its time I start getting up at 4:00 am again and start seriously putting in some miles!

    Love the pictures and my hat's off to you for riding in those conditions.

    The bike tours sounds awesome! Can't wait to read all about it. :)

    1. Dan,

      Yeah, I'm really itching to start getting in some regular miles again. Struggling to keep up 6 mph on the snowy roads is one thing - but that thing isn't 'fun'.

      Also - considering getting a skinny tire bike. Been only fat tires for me since forever, but if I'm going to be putting miles on the rail trail like last year it would be nice to have a quick and light bike.

  2. Steve, Great to see a new post from you. I know right where you are at with the winter slack-off this year. I quit the health club I went to last summer to save a few bucks each month and was going to make up the difference with an indoor trainer this winter. I rode it but just did not really push myself. It has been nice with some improving weather to get out for some early spring rides. It seems I am starting from further back compared to last year but my goal as always in the spring is being ready for The Santa Fe Century ride on May 17th. Got a ways to go but I am determined!!
    I also wanted to join the fatbike club. I ordered one up but my bike got caught up in that container ship/freight labor dispute that happened on the dock at Long Beach. So...still waiting on my bike to arrive. Good luck with your tour!! Look forward to see pics and the story posted up.

    1. Jim,

      My sympathies on the delay in getting your new bike. That must be driving you nuts - waiting with no idea when it will be resolved. Hope they settle up and it gets out that way SOON.

      We all know how easy it is to slack off, and how hard it is to earn it back. I'm hoping that this will be the start of some new habits that will serve me well as I get deeper into my 50's. Don't wanna be one of these old guys sitting on the couch (the horror).