Thursday, April 04, 2013

I Like Numbers. Why Do I Hate Math?

Photo: snailbooty, Flickr Creative Commons

I know. I know. I said my next post would be about the bike, and it actually is out for delivery right now as we speak. I even got the shock pump and tools I ordered from yesterday. Can't say I have any complaints about their order processing speed, but that's not what this post is about.

I went on a diet Tuesday. I've mentioned in the past that last year was a bit of a plateau in my training. I peaked at my fastest back in early spring of 2012 and no matter how much I trained, I never got any faster. In fact, my fastest 5k time later that year is still about ten seconds per mile slower than my peak. Even at the peak of my marathon training when I couldn't have been in better cardio shape, I couldn't get back to that 7:09 pace. Not coincidentally, that was also me at my lightest. In other words, I don't think I can get any faster without getting lighter. And, unlike 2010 and 2011 when my weight was in a steady decline just from my suddenly increased levels of regular activity, I can't seem to drop below 204 lbs. Running 40 miles a month? About 208. Run about 100 miles a month? 206. Obviously, I can't be trusted to manage my diet just by feel because I always feel hungry and you may not realize how awesome an entire family-sized bag of Doritos sounds when you've been running and riding a lot.

This makes sense. I also suck at intuiting numbers in other contexts. Don't ask me to measure something by feel unless it's something I'm ridiculously familiar with. I do, on the other hand, really like looking at stats. I have no idea why statistics fascinate me so when I hated all of my math classes. I don't really care for watching baseball games, but I really get into keeping track of the stats and playing fantasy baseball. The only thing that could make my love of football more complete would be a rich statistical universe like baseball. (And the constant flow of rugby. Could you imagine how great football would be if the players were required to always play no huddle and commercials were relegated to halftime and before and after games?)

That fascination with statistics was why Weight Watchers worked for me back in 2003 when I was the lightest I'd been as an adult until until recently. I had numbers to obsess over. For some reason, having those numbers to look out and that puzzle of how to make sure I had enough of them left at the end of the day to eat supper made it incredibly easy for me to turn down the temptation of the aforementioned giant bags of Doritos. The only problem is that Weight Watchers costs money and I'm cheap (except rare occasions like that bike). Telling myself that I couldn't buy more beer until I got myself under 200 lbs really gave me a bit of incentive to finally get serious about my diet and I remembered MyFitnessPal. I had heard that this was a pretty good resource and in using it that last three days it's a lot like my experience using the Weight Watchers website. They've got a really complete listing of foods, and the ability to put in your own recipes and be able to plug servings of that recipe into your daily food log. You also plug in your exercise and get calories back to your pool for the day. The numbers are a bit more complex than that (you're also given goal totals for stuff like sodium, total carbs, and sugar, which are also adjusted for your exercise), but you get the idea. So far, I'm starving constantly, which I usually was before. It's just that I'm doing better about what I do to stop that feeling and so far I haven't had any problems keeping within my stat goals. Today is going to be the real challenge. I overslept this morning and missed my chance to ride the bike before school and between the rain and tennis practice, I likely won't be able to get in a good run unless I get on the treadmill at my parents' house. I did at least jump in the pond and get in my first third of a mile swim of the season. Despite that frigid March we had, the water temperature wasn't bad. I've swum in worse. It's just three weeks later in the year than when I usually get started.


CjW said...

So I know you are doing the My Fittness Pal thing, but I thought I'd share this app that I use. It is basically WW without recurring fees.

Julie said...

I think once you know the WW system, you don't really need to pay. Google makes it easy enough to find out how many points are in new foods. I'm proud of you for doing it, though. I like to eat and that's basically the only reason I work out (not nearly as much as you).