Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 33: The 2% Solution

It's possible to lose all the weight you want just by eating less, of course. The math is simple: Burn more calories than you consume. Exercise is a force multiplier, and if you do it right it won't lead to a bigger appetite (offsetting the benefit of burning more calories in the course of any given 24 hours) and will self-reinforce staying consistent.

Good news: The "bigger appetite" part almost takes care of itself: turns out that exercise is something of an appetite suppressant. Also, when you are actually doing it, it isn't possible to eat much of anything, so it is an opportunity suppressant as well. The best thing to eat to take the edge off, right after a workout, is protein, which goes directly to the muscles instead of the hips. The best kind of protein is up to you; before I was a vegan I had a ton of turkey bacon and eggs right after a run or bike ride. Now I have prepared tofu or a protein bar.

It's even more important to stay with it. For me, that is staying home to go to the gym (Rule #1) and committing to a particular time of day for one's main workout, which for me is before the workday begins.

Staying consistent also means not trying to do too much, or settling for too little (Rule #3). But how?

I call it the 2% solution. It's easy when you are hovering at that pain/discomfort point to simply stop, back off completely. But you don't have to, and dialing back just a little works wonders. I first learned of this technique during a boot camp class I used to take when we lived in Virginia and I actually was a member of a gym. The instructor would have us do something ridiculously strenuous for an insane amount of time, and then in between we'd jog or do jumping jacks — and she called this our rest/recovery period in what was essentially interval training.

So, rest/recovery isn't doing nothing. It's doing less. But how much less?

Why, 2% less, of course. I made up that number — make up any number you like. Ease back instead of stopping during an intense moment in your workout. Drop your cadence by 10 or 5 or 20 and listen carefully to your body as it recovers while you are still working out. You will feel the energy coming back, and the discomfort receding, when you make only minor adjustments.

I take the stairs at work and when I started had to rest, completely stop, at some point along the way. No more. Now I climb with some intensity and take four slow steps in between landings — that is my rest, my 2% solution, and it allows me to power through 15 flights.

Scaling back, in real time, helps prevent giving up.


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