Measuring Up

I love to know how far I run every day.  I also enjoy discovering that I have increased my speed.  It’s not really something I am able to guess, though.  Before my sister bought me the Nike+iPod last Christmas, I used  to burst into my house at the end of a run and head right to the computer to Google Maps and trace my route that day.  I had to remember every turn I took, and to find my pace, I had to keep track of the  minutes on my watch.  Not really a big deal, probably not all that accurate, but I always felt a certain satisfaction in knowing how my progress was coming along.  There were plenty of days when I spaced out on my run and could not remember what time I left my house.  There were even a few times,  (I hate to admit this) that I forgot the exact roads I chose and could only guess my distance.

I do know, because I wrote it down in a fitness journal, that my first run was about 2.5 miles, and that it took me about 32 minutes.  Because I measured and kept track, I have been able to see my progress. I now know that my time and speed have increased considerably.  I am now running at a speed of about 8 mph and have been able to run more than 13 miles in one run.  I also know that I have lost about 20 pounds since I began to run.  I wrote that down, too.   I fell in love with running and the calories burned one day at a time.

I didn’t start running to lose weight.  I did it to exhaust myself so that I could fall asleep at night— to keep the nightmares associated with my father-in-law’s death at bay.  It seemed important to write it all down— the running, the distance, the time, my weight— and so I was able to really see what happened.  After a few weeks, I decided to measure my hips and waist, and since then, my waist is only about an inch smaller, but I lost seven inches from my hips.  Although exercise was only about stress relief and trying to sleep better, it became a big enough focus in my life that I went back to school to become a personal trainer.  I feel better than I ever have before in my life!  I wanted to learn how to share that with other people.

Fitness rule for today:  measure and keep track.

This is another one of those double-meaning fitness rules.  The first aspect is about taking measurements at the start of a fitness and/or weight loss program.  Without taking specific measurements, like body weight, waist, hip, arm, calf, and thigh circumferences, body mass index, or any combination of these, it is impossible to measure and assess progress.  Sure, there might be a little bit more room in your pants after you have been watching what you eat and exercising, but knowing exactly how far you have come is an intrinsic reward that cannot be either matched or assumed without having a starting point to go by.  Saying “I lost 10 pounds!” or “My waist measure two inches less than it did a month ago!” feels much more concrete than “I think I may have lost some weight” or “I think I might need to wear a belt with these jeans.”

The other meaning is about measuring food to get a general idea of calorie consumption.  I attempted to explain measuring to one of my clients the other day.  She is pretty resistant to measuring anything.  I made an analogy to money.  When in a store,  let’s say what you want to buy an item that costs $15. You hand the clerk a hundred dollar bill.  The clerk gives you your change.  You count your change.  You want the right amount back.  $85 is a lot of money!  You also have more shopping to do, and you need to plan how you are going to spend what is left.  You need to make sure you have enough to get what you need.  (No, there are no credit cards in this analogy!)  Maybe if you had a couple of pennies coming back you might not be so careful, but when it comes to dollars, knowing what you have spent and what you have left to spend makes or breaks your shopping trip.

That’s how I think about calories.  I don’t believe in measuring everything consumed— in fact, I think of vegetables and fruits as pennies.  But unless you know whether you ate a serving of rice— that’s a 1/2 cup cooked— you just remember that you ate rice.  You could easily consume a double portion.  “So what”, says my client, who wants to lose twenty pounds.  “It’s whole grain.  It’s good for me.  I like it.”   It’s just like counting your change.   1 lb. is equal to 3500 calories.  If you want to lose that pound, you must create a deficit of 3500 calories.  Easily done— eat less or burn them.  A combination of each is most efficient.  But, you will never know how many calories you have “spent” unless you pay attention to them and figure out how many you have left over for later.

I don’t think anyone should go around every day of their life measuring each morsel they are going to pop into their mouth.   I do believe, though, that measuring cereal, rice, pasta, oils, and meat, fish or nuts for a few days will give a good general idea of what a serving actually looks like.  Seeing one cup of cereal in a bowl for a few days lets your eye get the idea.  Soon, pouring the right amount becomes second nature.  Everything we buy at the grocery store has a portion size and calorie count.  It’s a simple step.  Look at the package.  Pay attention to how much you eat.

There are all kinds of little tips for assessing amounts.  A palmful of nuts is a serving.  A piece of meat or fish the size of your palm is about one serving.  (3-4 ounces.)  A cup is about the size of a tennis ball.  2 tablespoons of peanut butter is about the size of a ping-pong ball.  After just a few days, you will be able to eyeball a serving and know how many calories are in that portion.  When you add up your calories and deduct the number you have burned during exercise, you can closely estimate how long it will take to lose a couple of pounds, or twenty.

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5 Comments on “Measuring Up”

  1. Craig Says:

    Speaking of measuring: Does 2X the sunscreen = 2X the SPF?

    According to The Straight Dope, it does. Skip to the second entry on this page for more. I was surprised to see how ineffective the stuff is if you do not use the prescribed amount.

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2934/is-the-gps-satellite-system-collapsing-plus


  2. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

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    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv


  3. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net


  4. Very helpful tips. I had no idea of that at all.

  5. iPod rip Says:

    Yes, really. I agree with told all above. We can communicate on this theme.


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