Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Being Fit and Lithe for Agility

Running agility is hard work. Especially if you have a fast dog with whom you can barely keep up. And training is work. Usually involves lots of tug of war and quite a bit of running. Making sure your dog is pumped before each run is physical and mental exertion (well, you need to make sure that *you're* pumped, too). Walking courses in class and in competition, several times each to get the lay of the land, is work.

It surely helps if one is a healthy weight. What with various stresses in my life and a back injury that kept me pretty much immobile for months on end back around 2000-2001, my weight--always a challenge to manage anyway--zoomed up. When I finally had the mental and emotional energy for it, I started going to Weight Watchers meetings again and it really helped in keeping my focus on eating properly.

I mean, I do like to eat fruits and vegetables. And I've cut out so much from my diet over the years already--drink nonfat milk, diet sodas, avoid 1000-calorie frozen dinners, stuff like that. And I usually watch my portions and have always measured or weighed most of my food since I first started with weight watchers back in 1990. The challenge for me are things like the bag of mellowcreme pumpkins at Halloween; they won't last more than a couple of hours. The bag of candy hearts at Valentine's Day. Those wonderful candy-coated marshmallow eggs at Easter. A lovely bag of orange-flavored-and-shaped gel candies. A bag of dinner mints. I have, I've always admitted, a sweet tooth. And if I can't keep those out of my life, things go all to pieces.

And I did indeed lose almost 40 pounds. To celebrate, I took a couple of packs filled with 40 pounds of flour up to my agility class and challenged classmates to run a loop around the course carrying the extra weight. Really opens everyone's eyes to realize how much extra weight that really is.

But things go to pieces gradually, so you always feel as if you're really almost in control and can get it back together at any time. Here's a graph showing how much control I've been in for the last 4 years.
Goal weight range is roughly between 140 and 145.

You can see that I wrestle with it constantly. Sometimes make progress. The bad thing, though, is that one's body tends to have set points that you can adjust only slowly. So after you lose weight, you work carefully to try to maintain it at exactly that weight for at least 6 weeks because your body kind of gets comfortable in that range and stops panicking about losing weight and thinking that it has to reserve fat. I've found that, after that, it's a little bit harder to gain or lose weight unconsciously.

But you have the same problem when you gradually gain weight--body is never feeling like it's overfed or has too much weight on because it's always within a comfortable range from where it was yesterday or last week or last month. So when you've put on 5 pounds gradually, even if you manage to have a couple of really good weeks where you cut back a bit to a weight-losing amount of food and drop some pounds, it seems to go back on really easily when you let up again. (OK, when you start cramming down those mellowcreme pumpkins.)

I mention this because I am trying very hard again to drop those nasty extra 10 pounds that have crept on gradually over the last 3 and a half years. I'm about halfway there. I'm at the lowest weight I've been since the end of '03 (with a couple of brief exceptions).

I figure that if I'm going off to Nationals with Tika and I want to run and feel my best, I don't need to be hauling an extra 10-pound bag of flour around with me everywhere I go.

And, after 3 weeks on my carefully controlled food intake, I don't have those hourly cravings for sugar that I had to beat back with a large stick the first week or so. Now maybe only daily. If only I can keep at it, I know from experience that it'll drop back even more.

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