The Fat Chick Works Out – Week 2 (ish)

So, back in July, I started up with The Fat Chick Works Out, and blogged a bit about Week 1. I got a lot of good walking done that week, totally 6.65 miles and 2.68 hours.

And then life happened. The week of the 22nd, I only walked once, and got all of 2 miles in. And I didn’t crack the book at all. I was working a bunch of extra hours and trying to get ready for Pennsic.

Pennsic itself was a workout in and of itself, despite the fact that I didn’t fight this year. I wasn’t keeping track, but because of how spread out everything is, I’m pretty confident that I walked at least a mile every day.

This past week, after getting back from Pennsic, was also kind of “meh” workout-wise. I only got in an hour and a half, and 3.72 miles.

So, now, it’s time to get back on the horse, with Week 2, Chapter 4. This week, the focus is on ramping up gradually. Key word being “gradually.” The overarching metaphor for the book is a baby bird breaking out of its shell and learning to fly. Where last week was about “life in the egg,” that is, living completely in your head and needing to learn to focus on your body, this week is about cracking that shell open, slowly and steadily.

A real, live chick can take anywhere from 1 to 24 hours to emerge from its shell. It may peck at that shell hundreds or even thousands of times until it makes a small hole. The chick then gradually works its way up to making that hole bigger and bigger. The chick needs to rest from time to time in order to make it through the ordeal. The mama hen can’t intervene and break the baby chick out. There is no shortcut. The process itself is essential. The struggle to hatch allows the chick to develop strength in its muscles that eventually will allow it to fly. So we are going to talk about increasing your weekly exercise, but just a little bit at a time. We’re going to allow you to rest from time to time. We’re going to show you how to build up your muscles and gain the strength to fly.”

In this chapter, Jeanette talks about her two failed attempts to run a marathon, before she got it on the third try. Both those early attempts ended with injury after she started ramping up too fast. She explains the concept of ramping up by a *maximum* of ten percent a week (either in duration, intensity, or frequency), and includes a handy chart for calculating how to up your workout duration in 10% increments.

She recommends focusing on time rather than distance because it’s easier to measure in small increments, and because the amount of exertion it takes to go a particular distance isn’t actually a constant: “One mile may feel like a 5 on the sweat scale on Tuesday and an 8 on the sweat scale on Friday. This means that you are technically changing two parameters at once.” That does make a ton of sense, since lots of factors can affect your energy level and therefore your intensity level—stress, sleep, weather, illness, time of day, etc.

The flip side of that, and the issue I have, is that if you’re walking outside, distance is much more easily controllable than time. In theory, I can pick a duration for my workout, track my time, and turn around when I reach my halfway point. *But* that assumes I’ll do the second half as fast as the first, which usually doesn’t happen. If I reach my stopping time before I reach my house, I’ll end up overshooting that time goal because I still have to get home.

To use duration rather than distance, I think I’d need to use a shorter route and repeat it. So, instead of “Walk a mile and turn around,” it might be “Walk a quarter mile, turn around, get home, turn around, and lather, rinse, repeat until I hit my time goal.” I can see that getting frustrating, both because of the repetition of scenery and because it’ll make it harder to track my mileage, which I do still want to keep track of.

So, my current plan is to try to keep both my weekly time and mileage within 10% of the previous week—or, if the previous week was a slacker week, 10% of the best week in the past 2-3 weeks.

Another key point was that you only ramp up if you feel pretty good with your current level of exercise. If you’re exhausted and sore, then it’s not time to ramp up yet. So, I think I’m going to try to track how I feel after each workout to see if I should be pushing it harder the next week. That’s going to be hard to determine, because between the sciatica, the general pissiness of my ankle, and the hypothyroid, it’s sometimes hard to tell if I feel crappy because I pushed too hard or for completely unrelated reasons. And, for that matter, even if it *is* one of the other issues, whether it’d be better to take it easy or push through.

To make things even more exciting, there’s a distinct possibility that I have fibromyalgia, so my pain tolerance and how my brain processes pain may just be screwed up. I’m not sure what to do with that information, though, because it’s not like I can be in the middle of a workout and say, “Oh, yes, I can tell that my ankle is screaming *just because* and I totally have another mile in me,” or “Yep, this is screwing up my ankle—time to stop now.”

So, what I’m hoping is that keeping the 10% factor in mind and keeping track of how I feel after each workout will help me avoid overdoing it.