If you’re interested to read about my journey, the first two parts are here:
Losing weight was never my intention when I started this fitness journey. When it happened, it was a happy by-the-way. Now that I have lost the weight, I’d like to keep it off. Shopping for new clothes is tedious and I’d like to keep it down to a minimum.
Eighteen months on and I have discovered that losing weight is not the hard part. Keeping it off after you lose it is. I wasn’t going to write another update until the 2-year mark, but I’ve noticed a few things lately that I felt were worth mentioning.
But First… What Happened…
In early August, I took a trip Down Under so the kids could spend time with their grandparents. Like all my other holiday plans, it was two weeks of unrestrained indulgence and a minimalist workout regime. The most physical thing we did was a bit of running and a lot of walking for sight-seeing. It was no surprise to me that the weighing scales had shifted by the time I got home.
The last time I went on holiday (one year before this trip), I’d done exactly the same thing. After resuming my usual workout routine, the weight returned to normal and all was good. I expected the same thing to happen again this time, but it didn’t. I tried to ramp up the workout and ended up hurting my knee from overuse.
Scratching my head over what was happening, I started checking my workout stats (which I hadn’t been paying attention to for some time now). I noticed that my heart rate was down and my calories burnt was also down (even though the workouts were at the same intensity as before). Initially, I thought there was some error. I changed the batteries, I re-adjusted the straps, I recorded several more workouts – same deal. What was happening?
My Body had Adapted
As it turns out, my body had adjusted to my workout. Do anything for long enough – apparently, 6 months would do it – and the body adapts. Isn’t the body amazing? Sometimes, it would be nice if it wasn’t this amazing, though.
When you do the same activity all the time, your body gets used it and becomes very efficient. Eventually, that adaptation will mean that you burn fewer calories even when you’re doing the same amount of exercise.Arnold Lee, MD.
I’d read about it before but I thought I was getting in enough variety in my workouts to keep my body guessing. Apparently not. Or maybe the body will eventually adjust no matter what curveball you throw at it. The worst thing about adapting is that it’s not like the workouts have been feeling easy or anything. I still struggle through them and ramping up the activity levels to increase the burn is killing me. Why doesn’t my body adjust to that part?
The Middle-Age Spread
The other thing working against me is the middle-aged spread. It is a gradual weight gain that occurs even if your diet and activity levels remain the same. This is a phenomenon that affects everyone 30 years and over. When you hit 50, it gets even worse.
“Middle–aged spread” is weight gain that tends to appear as we move into our thirties, forties and beyond. And it’s usually obvious as extra fat around the belly.ABC Health and Well-being
What’s happening? Once we hit our 30’s, the hormones that maintain muscle mass begin to drop off. If we take no action, our muscle mass gradually decreases every year. I didn’t realise how bad it could get until my 70-year-old father told me he was struggling with the elliptical cycle on zero resistance.
Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss.WebMD
Why do we gain weight? Muscle is active tissue and it burns more energy at rest. The more muscles you have, the more energy your body burns at rest. If we start to lose muscle, our resting energy expenditure drops. It can be as much as 100 calories a day or more. That doesn’t sound like much, but over a week, that’s an extra 700 calories. With every additional year, there is more muscle loss, and, well, you can see where that’s going.
I’ve been thinking about what I should do and this is what I’ve come up with…
Changing Up Workouts
The general recommendation is to change up our workouts every 4 to 6 weeks. The easiest way to do this is by using the F.I.T.T. principle – frequency, intensity, time, and type. We should change two of these every 4 to 6 weeks. It is also recommended that we make minor changes within those 4 to 6 weeks. For instance, if weight training, we could add more reps, add more weight, or add new moves. If it’s running, we could do sprints one day, and a long, steady run the next.
From the advice given, it doesn’t sound like I have to deviate too much from my existing workout routine. That’s good because I really like what I’m currently doing. It’s my special time with the girls. Working out with them is as much social engagement as it is fitness. Not to mention that they also keep me accountable and committed to the routine. If it weren’t for them, I would never have lasted this long.
Doing Personal Training with Fitness Achievers is also a change-up to the workout. I know it pushes my body harder than my other workouts because the DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) is worse after these sessions. As my body adjusts to a workout, I find that the DOMS diminishes. After the Spartan Beast, we dropped our PT sessions from twice weekly to once weekly. That was a mistake, especially since I no longer had Cirque workouts to fill the gaps.
With the Christmas break coming up, I will have the opportunity to really shake things up for a few weeks. The plan is running, hiking, swimming, rowing, yoga, and rock climbing. Hopefully, by the time we hit the new year, my body will have reset itself.
Increase Strength Training
Since the natural order is to lose muscle mass with age, the best thing to do is to counter it with strength training. The goal is to build muscle mass or, at the very least, prevent or minimise muscle loss. An added advantage of this type of workout is that it will also build bone mass. As a person with a family history of osteoporosis, this is an important plus for me.
I can’t say I have much love strength training but what must be done, must be done.
Long-term Dietary Changes
Finally, the topic I try not to think about – diet. I confess that there is a part of me that wonders if shopping for new clothes might not be as bad as altering my diet. Yes, it’s that bad. The thought of having to behave when it comes to dessert? Somebody stab me already. Let’s only consider this as a last resort.