Fitness Goals for 2009
More in the realm of minutiae from our hero’s blog today..
I’ve been playing squash competitively for four years now. I love the sport, and it’s nice to have something that is both a very good method for maintaining fitness, and also a very fun sport.
On top of all that, the game has a very strong strategic component to it, and it is an extremely social sport. These are all aspects that bode well for my particular character, and help motivate me to stay focused and develop drive to continue improving.
However, I’ve never really approached squash with particular fitness goals in mind. The aim for me has always been to improve, but always with the main focus being that I wanted my shots to improve.
This past season I saw some reasonable improvement, though I wasn’t improving quite as quickly as I would have liked. That being said, the higher up in level you improve, the more you start to see the phenomenon of diminishing returns. Greater effort for less improvement.
This year I’m taking a new approach. My goals are certainly to see an increase in my squash game, but also to set some tangible fitness goals that I can drive towards. I would consider myself a very fit person for my age. I play squash four to five times a week, I jog, I lift weights, and I also make an effort to walk or bike instead of driving whenever I can. I try to eat healthy, I don’t smoke, and I drink a lot of water throughout the day.
K, that was pretty obnoxious, but necessary. Here are the areas that I would like to make some improvements towards this squash season:
- Less regular drinking
- Cut back on excess calories and trim off some extra weight
- Build more fast-twitch muscle
Boy, do I love beer. It tastes delicious, I love drinking it with friends, and yup, sometimes I love drinking too much of it. I’m comfortable with this, it’s good to have some vices. However, if I can cut back on the amount of beer that I’m drinking on a regular basis, I will be able to cut back on the number of excess calories that I’m dumping into my system on a weekly basis.
How do I intend to do this? Easy – just being mindful of when I crack a beer, and thinking about the number of calories that each beer has. This doesn’t mean that I intend to stress about every single beer that I crack – just that I’m aware and mindful of them.
Summer was good to me, and filled with lots of decadent eating. I’m anything but overweight, but I would like to trim down for the season and minimize the amount of extra weight that I’m carrying around. Actually, I should rephrase that. My goal isn’t to lose weight. It’s to turn any extra fatty tissue that I’m carrying into muscle.
To accomplish this goal, the first thing I’m doing is just taking note of the number of calories I eat every day. A little while back I posted the number of calories, on an average day, that my body is burning through. The next step is to figure out how close I am actually coming to this goal. I signed up for an account at www.livestrong.com, and their calorie calculator has a large database that you can search through (and, as an added bonus, can also suggest lower calorie substitutes if you’re interested). On top of that, you can also add in exercises and have it automatically calculate the amount of calories that you are burning based on this exercise.
This a good tool. The most important thing to be careful of with something like this is to make sure that you don’t take being mindful of what you’re eating into the realm of neurosis. It’s easy to become neurotic about the number of calories you’re consuming every day, and things go downhill fast from that point.
Update: After using livestrong’s daily plate calculator for a few days, I’m really impressed. They have taken a wiki-like approach to their database of foods, allowing users to manually enter an item that they have consumed, along with its nutritional information, and that information then becomes available to everyone out. I was amazed last night when I finished my glass of skim milk, and on a whim typed in “Islander Skim Milk” and saw “Comox Valley Islander Skim Milk” popup in the search results. That’s a pretty obscure brand that’s already been logged. Very handy.
The most important point I want to make here, from my own point of view, is that if at any point I reach a state where I’ve eaten more calories than I need, and I’m still feeling peckish, I’m not going to stop myself from eating some ice cream as a treat. It is important to reward yourself when you think you deserve it. All work and no play makes for a habit that won’t stay.
Fast-twitch muscle is the muscle fiber that helps your body make fast explosive movements. Squash requires both high endurance and explosive movements (think doing shuttle runs for 45 mintues), and I would like to continue to build on my legs to develop more of this kind of muscle.
Weight lifting is one way to achieve this goal, but I’m only willing to go so far, and I want to take a varied approach to exercise so that I don’t get burnt out focusing on goals that are too focused. Training on the squash court is, at least in my opinion, roughly equivalent to a full session of leg workout anyhow, and so this will be act as my main way of training for this goal.
Probably most important is just to make sure that lessons don’t drop off as time goes on. Although Brendan and I have a pretty good routine set up, it’s easily to let things slip if you don’t remain diligent.
Going to the gym is boring for me, and I generally hate the sort of people that go to them. About two years back, I bought a set of spin-lock weights. Essentially just a bunch of ten pound weights, and two dumbbell handles. I can’t go much higher than fifty pounds on either side, but, I’m not really interested in going much higher. My goal isn’t to be huge, it’s just to suplement my fitness regime with some weight training. The other benefit of doing this workout at home is that it integrates perfectly with my other hobbies – do a set of reps, play a game of Virtua Fighter, do a set of reps, work on some design for my blog. For me, the key to maintaining a workout regime is to introduce it in a way that minimizes its disruptiveness. If working out every night means that I no longer have enough time to play squash, or hang out with Bay, guess which one I’m going to drop? I’m hoping that this approach will allow me to continue on with these goals.
So I think that’s mainly it. It’s interesting calculating calories. I’ve never bothered to do this before, and its funny to see how I stack up against the figures that are recommended by the various health authorities out there. In general, I try to eat when I’m hungry, and avoid eating simply for the pleasure of it (I really do enjoy eating, but also recognize the danger of giving into this impulse). Since the first step is simply to record what I’m eating, and not bother making any changes, I’ve discovered that I hit the mark pretty close (it’ll be interesting to see how that changes on pizza day at work), but that my diet is definitely carb-heavy, and low on protein and, get this, fat. Weird hey? I’m still trying to figure out ways to alter this balance, but I’ll definitely start to turn my eyes towards things like peanut butter instead of toast and margarine when I’m looking for a snack.
Oh yeah, and least shocking revelation of all, I’m getting too much sodium. Is there anyway for a human being these days to not consume too much sodium? This little bastard is everywhere!