Body for Life, the Universe, and Everything

Being a description of the author's thoughts on the experience of participating in the "Body for Life" Challenge, questions of great philosophical import, and randomly selected topics of no significance whatsoever

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Location: Missouri, United States

In no particular order, I'm a professional lettering artist, a yoga practitioner, a cat lover, a vegetarian, a reader of everything from books to cereal boxes, married to a very attractive guy named Tom (nope, no kids), an exercise enthusiast, and a lot of other things I don't care to admit in a public forum. I have a BS in applied math that I haven't used in over 10 years, and I can put both feet behind my head. What else would you like to know?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Cross-Training Experiment, and, On Being Vegan

The other day, I spent half the evening (the later half!) reading through John Hussman's excellent site (, and among other things, was struck by some of the things he said about the importance/benefits of cross-training. So today, instead of doing my BFL "20-minute aerobics solution" on the stationary bike, the way I have for every aerobics HIIT (that's "High-Intensity Interval Training," for you non-muscleheads) workout in the previous nine weeks of doing BFL, I decided to switch to the mini-trampoline (rebounder).

I do NOT like to run. To me, running is something you do to avoid being caught by something larger than you are that has sharp teeth. But the rebounder is okay. When I was using it pre-BFL, I would put Fantasia on the VCR to keep me distracted (why Fantasia? it's interesting, but you can stop anywhere and not feel like you're missing part of a story), and just jog and do arm exercises until the timer went off. Not today. Today I was on a mission to do my HIIT workout, and distraction was not what I needed. I set myself up with my timer in front of me, water bottle on a chair to the left of the rebounder, daily workout plan/report, and pen, on a chair to the right, 5-pound dumbbell in each hand, Styx blasting from the surround sound. And we were off.

Initially, it wasn't too bad. But pretty soon, I came to several conclusions: first, that my arms would fall off if I waved them around as much as I normally do while on the mini-tramp (doing various arm exercises), while holding that much weight, for 20 minutes without a break. (Never mind that in my upper-body weight workout, five-pound dumbbells are, at most, a starter weight for my various exercises, assuming I don't start considerably higher.) That problem mostly solved itself, because I needed to put down the weights to take my pulse rate after each interval, and that gave me enough of a rest. The second conclusion was that it was much harder to take my pulse while continuing to jog than it was while riding the bike, because with the bike there's no significant foot-pounding rhythm to interfere with counting the pulse. I was forced to resort to just lifting and lowering my heels as fast as I could to keep things moving while I counted. The third conclusion was that it was hard to jog fast enough on the rebounder to get to the higher intensity levels, because it can only spring back so fast from each step, and that makes for a rough ride if you try to go faster than the rate at which it can spring back. The fourth and final conclusion was that it is much harder to stick to the prescribed intensities when you don't have some objective controls/measurements for things like resistance levels and speed. You are forced to resort to saying to yourself, "Well, this feels like about a seven," and then thirty seconds later you realize either that you have slowed down a lot and you're now at about a six, or that you're going the same speed but it's no longer a seven, it's pushing a ten, and you don't think you can make the last fifteen seconds without slowing down. Whereas on the stationary bike it is much more cut-and-dried: Set the resistance level at two here, and then increase it by one step each minute until the end of the interval, then drop it back to two and repeat, and keep it above such-and-such a speed the entire time. So then when you feel you can't do it, you can remind yourself, "Yes I can, I did it with these exact settings two days ago." But the rebounder routine is much more nebulous. Sooooo...with all those disadvantages, I don't think I will use the rebounder for my "aerobics solution" again, but I'm glad I did it once. And it does have the advantage of having given my arms a workout as well as my legs, which doesn't happen nearly so much on the bike.

And now for the second part of this post: the diet part.

Reading John Hussman's extensive information and comments on diet for people on BFL convinced me that I needed to be more diligent about my meals. Not that I was eating the wrong things, or in the wrong proportions, but I was having a hard time converting myself to small portions, six times a day. You see, pre-BFL, if I ate three times a day, it was an unusual event. Mostly I had one big meal, late in the evening, and then nibbled until I went to bed. Yes, I know, I should have had all my hair fall out and should have sprouted limbs in odd places for such dietary outrage. But what I ate was *extremely* healthy 98% of the time, so that apparently made up for it. I have a tendency to forget to eat, especially when I get busy. (Tom was always saying, "How can anyone forget to eat??" I think there are people who sometimes forget to eat, and people who never do, and the second type will never understand the first.) I have even been known to go without food, or even much thought about it, for as long as about 36 hours, although eventually it would catch up with me and I would be about ready to chew off my own arm.

Fast-forward to reading all this stuff the other night on John Hussman's site. I decided that I needed to go back to planning my meals, the way I had for just a few days at the beginning of the Challenge. While I was reading through the site, I was looking for any info he might have about vegan sources of protein, since there aren't many I know of. He did have some information on it, but it wasn't good news for me, since he basically says soy is about the only non-animal source...and I am not particularly fond of soy. A lot of people say it doesn't have any taste, but to me it does, and I don't care for that taste, so I try to only use it in things that are strongly flavored to disguise the taste of the soy. Yes, it has a bazillion forms, but I think I have had every one, and several times a day, too, since starting BFL, and I am pretty sick of it. Incidentally, I am always vegetarian, but I will relax my preference for being vegan if I feel it is necessary, and it has been necessary a lot more since starting BFL. I have been eating a lot of cottage cheese, and a few things with whey, and Morningstar "bacon" and "sausage"--the truly vegan bacon/sausage substitutes I have found taste like shoe leather to me, and one of my firm rules is that I won't eat anything I don't like. I restrict myself to a certain (large!) extent about eating things I do like, but I absolutely refuse to eat anything I don't like. That is also why I stopped using Myoplex shakes very early on (like, after half a glass and a few tastes of other flavors)--I can't stand them! (Sorry, EAS!) I liked some of the Myoplex bars, but I found out when I was experimenting with them, and with some of the other protein bars on the market, that some of the brands taste chalky to me (so they're out), some taste too sweet to me, like the particular Myoplex bars I was using (keep in mind that I have been mostly off refined sugar for several years, so my idea of "too sweet" is not the same as the average person's), and *all* of them that I have tried make me a bit sick, and significantly more so if I have more than one in a I try not to use them unless the alternatives are truly unacceptable. The Luna lemon-zest-flavor bars are really the only ones that I *really* like (I don't care much for chocolate--yes, I know that makes me un-American and totally weird to boot!), and even those still make me sick, just like the others. I think it might be the whey protein that is found in most of these bars that is a problem for me.

All of this--the limitations on what I can/will eat, especially since there's not much in the way of "pre-prepared" foodstuffs left on the possibilities list--means I have to spend a *lot* of time cooking. Fortunately, I was already doing a lot of that. But it does mean I have had to change the way I cook, and what I cook; I now have to look for ways to get that protein in there somehow. It has been a challenge, and has used a lot of mental and physical energy in the last nine weeks that we have been on BFL. I would like to think that is why I can't seem to get anything else done...!


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