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Secrets of Rejuvenation: Incremental Growth

June 16th, 2010 No comments

When we try to make changes in our lives, we often become frustrated at the lack of progress, especially as we approach our target. In my quest to improve my health, I’ve found it to be a slow, steady march toward a healthy weight, diet and level of activity. However, after being at it seriously for about a year, I’ve gotten used to this pace of progress. If I gain some weight over the weekend, I know that by eating properly the next week and exercising, I’ll get back down in a couple of days: no big deal.

I think that’s the key. We expect that something will happen quickly, but if we stick with it and don’t give up, we’ll find a pace, or a rhythm that we can maintain. We’ll get used to that, letting it form our new set of expectations. If we wish, we can then push them a bit more to see if we can pick up the pace.

As for incremental growth, I’ve now realized it’s the key to lasting change. The body is trying to adapt to new circumstances, but there are limits to the pace of this adaptation. If we try to ram too much change in at once, the body knows that something’s not right, and it tries to return to the previous steady state, whatever that was. However, if we make small changes, give the body a chance to adjust and create a new steady state, then previous habits won’t seem normal any more. For example, my previous portion size seems too big now, I don’t like Coke very much any more, and I can handle much more physical activity as a matter of course.

In other words, each incremental gain creates a “new normal”.

Keeping Track

June 8th, 2010 No comments

I recently purchased a pedometer to keep track of distances on runs outside of the gym … once I get out of the gym, of course. Until then, I thought I’d see how many steps I take in a day, possibly approaching the 10,000-step recommendation popular nowadays. Well, it ain’t so easy, either because my normal day is rather slug-like, or 10,000 is a little high.

Monday was a normal day, where the walking about could be divided into six segments: 1) morning shower/breakfast stuff, 2) stopping off at bank, 3) walking about in office, 4) at the gym, ┬ábefore/during/after five games of squash with stretching, 5) zhan zhuang class, 6) evening wind-down at home.┬áBasically, I walked about 7900 steps that day, with about 5000 at the gym, 2900 outside the gym, give or take, and this happened over a combined span of an hour and 24 minutes. I don’t believe that data for its own sake isn’t very useful (wow! 7900 steps!), but it can give quantitative values where none had existed, and allow comparison to a perceived standard, in this case, 10,000 steps as an indication of appropriate physical activity. To make the comparison:

– Without going to the gym, an average day for me takes about 2900 steps … if I run an errand. I work at a computer.
– Squash and stretching yields only 5000 steps. However, it could be said that a squash step trumps a walking step, since I really sweated during those games. In fact, according to 10000steps.org.au , 25 minutes of squash equals 5000 steps of activity. So, adding whatever steps took place outside the game, maybe it’s more like 6,000. You can see where this kind of calculations would just get rather silly.
– It’s not a good idea to try to rack up steps during a Zhan Zhuang class where you stand for 45 minutes. I kind of expected that.
Apparently a sedentary person may only average 1000 to 3000 steps each day. Now I know what a “sedentary” day feels like.

There must be a lot of ways to improve and measure physical health — this is just one, and I’ve just gotten a taste of it. I don’t expect to monitor my steps with the same rigor as I’ve monitored my weight (more on that later), and it’s said that a weekly tally might be better than a daily one. However, I did get some value from this exercise, and it will encourage me to raise the level of activity on non-squash days by walking more, running more, or biking to work.

Update: I’ve had bad luck with pedometers, and this one’s no exception. It doesn’t take kindly to being dropped, and reacts by shutting down, then resetting everything to zero and erasing all user data. (sigh) But I’m not going to buy one of those $250 GPS things for runners any time soon — I’d just drop it.

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Single-tasking?

June 7th, 2010 No comments

Busy consultant Peter Bregman thought he’d try a break from multi-tasking. Here’s what he had to say about it.

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Please stand by …

June 5th, 2010 No comments

I’ve been busy with work, teaching and an annoying little cold. Will return shortly.

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