Friday, March 25, 2011

How rugby relates to weight-loss

I'd been really discouraged lately in the rugby practice and triathlon training and general life exercise departments. It seemed that everything was hopeless and impossible to achieve. There are some really good girls on the team that I wouldn't be able to edge out for a position in the starting side. I didn't have enough hours in the day to get in all the swims, bike rides, runs, lifting, plyometrics, and HIITs that are necessary for triathloning and playing rugby. And that doesn't even include work and school. And lastly, 80 pounds is a lot to lose.

But then I had an unexpected talk with my rugby coach and all became clear. She doesn't think I'm too short to play a few of the positions I was worried about being competitive for (now I can play 3 positions, instead of just 1 that I previously thought). She also thinks I'm doing really well and improving steadily. And I got the roster for Saturday's game and I'm subbing in for a very important game. So instead of being completely discouraged about rugby, I am now hopeful that with enough hard work, I can make accomplish all of my dreams.

How does this relate to weight-loss, you ask? Well, part of the reason my skills aren't where they used to be is because I'm not fast enough to get to where I need to be to demonstrate my knowledge of rugby. I don't have the strength or endurance to hit as hard as I'd like to because I also have to run for 80 minutes. So it becomes a trade-off: don't hit as hard so I can run a bit longer. And a lot of these problems have to do with carrying too much weight on my gut, thighs, back, you name it.

After the talk with my coach, I had a huge epiphany and my hope was restored in this whole losing weight process. If I could commit to running/exercising and losing weight like I would like/need to, it would benefit so many different aspects of my life. I could run faster in rugby and therefore be better. I could keep up with all the fast people in triathlons. And I would be much more confident in my appearance, which would increase my self-esteem exponentially.

I don't know why I thought losing weight was stupid, impossible, and pointless. Obviously it's not going to happen overnight, but the benefits of it are numerous and the hard work is totally worth it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A little recap of the past month, mostly rugby-related

Since I've been away from the blog so long, I figure a recap is in order. Last I wrote, I was on my way to San Diego to play in my first rugby tournament in two years. It was an absolute blast and I realized how much I've missed the sport during my time off. I also realized how horribly out of shape I really am and how much I totally suck. The most frustrating thing is knowing that I used to be good and fit and strong, and those last two things are preventing me from being the first thing.

Prior to that tournament and the beginning of the season, my goal was to start on the D1 side on April 2nd against one of the best rugby teams in the nation. But the more I played and practiced, the more I realized that that's not a possibility and my priorities have since changed. The only way I could be good again is if I became faster, stronger, and fitter, and obviously that wasn't going to happen overnight.

So my new priorities for this season are to get fit and strong for rugby, and in the process, shed all this weight. I can't possibly be fast and carry over 200 pounds on my 5'4" frame. At my peak rugby awesomeness, I weighed 165-ish (I don't remember exactly) and even then I had weight to lose.

One of the awesome things about this rugby team is that it's got lots of support from the town we play in, with regards to money for travel and trainers for injuries and such. But they also have a training staff that gives us workouts depending on the stage of our season. For example, winter was very lifting-heavy and the spring is more agility and speed-based. I'm not sure what the summer will bring, but I'm excited to use that time to get stronger and ready for our competitive fall season.

And about my weight-loss, eh? I'm not sure where I stand. I think I haven't gained or lost any weight since I last blogged, which is a good thing. I've started riding my bike at least a couple times a week and running about as much. Between rugby practice and school and work, I don't know where to fit in the extra lifting, plyometrics, and interval training that's been added to the bi-weekly rugby practices. I've started cooking again instead of eating out as much, which is always great for the gut and the wallet.

However, I haven't been to swimming in over 3 weeks. I've tried going to other workout times since 6 am is a bit early for me, but I didn't like them nearly as much as the Tuesday/Thursday ones I'd been attending. I think a lot of the dislike for other sessions had to do with my attitude towards being slow (entirely my fault for not maintaining my fitness) so that may've factored into it, but I also miss having my weekly routine and the accountability of a set session. I'm going to start going again tomorrow, I think. It has to begin somewhere.

So that's that!

Lastly, here's a photo from a game a couple of weeks ago. I'm #3 on the right.

Lordosis, another problem I have due to excessive couch sitting

My lower back has been hurting a lot lately, especially when I read on my stomach in bed, or spend a long time sitting on the couch. I asked our trainer for the rugby team what the deal was and she says I have lordosis, which is an excessive inward curve of the spine. She gave me some stretches to do and I'm not sure if they've helped, probably because I haven't been doing them as often as I need to.

Here are the causes:

  • Tight hip flexors
  • Weak core muscles
  • Poor exercise form (or no exercise form)
  • Weak gluteal muscles
  • Obesity (of course)

I have noticed lately that my core muscles have gotten noticeably weaker and also that my hip flexors are sometimes pretty tight. So those seem to be relatively easily fixed problems, and they would aid in my overall goal of getting stronger and fitter this rugby season.

I've found some good stretches/exercises to incorporate into my life while I'm watching the daily TV show. They're not unpleasant like running while watching TV (which I can never seem to do) so I think I'm more likely to get them done.

And they are the following (from

  • Bridges. Glute activation & strengthening exercise. Raise your glutes off the floor by squeezing them as hard as you can. 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Birddogs. Single leg glute activation exercise. Brace your abs & keep your spine neutral. Push back with your heels. 3 sets of 10 reps both sides.
  • Hip Flexor Stretches. Use padding for your knees. Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor & your lower back neutral. Think upper leg back, not going down. Squeeze the glute of the back leg. 3 sets of 10 secs each side.
  • Hamstring Stretches. Leg Swings. Chest forward, shoulders back, lower back straight & knees unlocked. Look forward. Move your legs, keep your pelvis still. If you can’t get high: keep working at it. Flexibility will come. 3 sets of 10 reps each side.
  • Strengthen Abs. Turkish Get-ups are my favorite. 5×5, increasing the weight every session.

And some more from Livestrong:

  • Hip Flexor Stretches. You can also manually stretch your hip flexors by standing up, bending your knee and holding on to your ankle. Tilt your pelvis forward as you pull the leg back. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • The Pelvic Tilt. The pelvic tilt position is the opposite of an arched back. If practiced daily, it can help correct a lordotic posture. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, tilt the lower part of your pelvis from the floor, forming a hollow bowl between your pelvis and your navel. Perform about 20 repetitions daily.
  • Stability Ball Bridge. The stability ball bridge strengthens your gluteal muscles. Since the ball is an unstable object, it requires deep core activation. As such, this exercise will work your butt and your deep abdominal muscles. Lie on your back with your calves draped over the ball. Begin with the pelvic tilt. Then, squeeze your butt until you are in a bridge position. As you roll down, try to feel each vertebra touch the floor. Make sure that the lower back touches the floor before the pelvis. Perform 12 repetitions every day.
  • Stability Ball Crunch. Strengthening your abdominal muscles is essential for correcting spinal lordosis. Performing your crunches on a stability ball will make use of your deeper abdominal muscles. Position yourself on the ball so that you butt, lower back and mid-back are against the ball's surface. Rest your fingers at the edge of your head. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, curl your upper torso so that your rib cage moves toward your pelvis. Perform 20 repetitions daily.
  • Knees to Chest Stretch and Heel Slide. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift both legs from the floor, and draw your knees to your chest. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Then, lower one heel to the floor. Keep the opposite knee close to your chest. Slide the other heel along the floor until the leg is straight. Keep your back flat on the floor the entire time. Perform eight repetitions on each leg.

So I think the plan will be to do a combination of these every day as well as some general strength and endurance training. More on that later.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A compromise, or not really

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I'm going to continue losing weight if I can't stick with any sort of food accountability program. I need to know what's going into my mouth so I don't go overboard and undo all the work I've been putting in with exercising and all that. I've also stopped wearing my GoWear Fit that measures how many calories I burn daily. It just got annoying trying to hide it depending on the clothes I was wearing that day and dealing with the inaccuracies of putting it somewhere else that wasn't my arm (part of the reason calorie-counting was driving me mad...knowing that no matter how hard I tried, my numbers weren't exactly right).

Anywhos, I figured since neither calorie counting nor the GWF were totally accurate, I may as well stop driving myself crazy trying to be perfect and go with estimates. At this point, I have a pretty good idea of the amount of calories I would burn daily if I were to sit on the couch all day and do nothing (about 1900). And I know I can't be happy eating less than 1500-1600 calories a day currently (taking baby steps here) so any form of exercise, including biking to school, will get me at least a 500 calorie daily deficit, amounting to about 1 pound lost weekly on average. And that's how I have my goals set up right now.

And how will I know if I'm eating 1500-1600 calories a day if I'm not going to be calorie counting? Well, I don't plan on stopping that completely, but rather will lay off the details and relax a bit about putting things into SparkPeople. I generally know how much I'm eating since I eat the same things all the time, and the things I don't know I can easily look up or put into the Recipe Calculator on SparkPeople to figure out if I'm within my limits.

I really think not wearing the GWF is going to be enough to allow me to relax about knowing my exact numbers and deficits, which is a shame since I got it because I wanted to know exactly how much I'm burning daily to take out the guess factor of this weight-loss journey. I also really don't like the way it sits on my super fatty arms and sticks to my skin way too much so not having to deal with that has already made me much happier. I may rethink all that shortly, but for now that's the plan.

And in a case where I stop losing weight or am unhappy with how things are going, I plan on going back to the GWF to see if I'm estimating my burn correctly and if perhaps I'm not burning as much as I used to be burning. Same goes for calorie counting. If I do hit a plateau, I'm probably going to go back to diligently writing down everything that goes into my mouth to try to figure out why I'm stalling.

I'm hoping this plan will work. I'm not trying to lose everything super quickly, but I would like to see a steady decline.

In other news, it looks like my recent unintentional weight-loss is for real and not some kind of fluke. For the most part I've held steady since I stopped calorie counting and have somewhat gone down, which is nice to see.

Here's the most recent graph, including today's weight of 207.5, which is the lowest I've been since at least college graduation in June 2007 (not counting earlier this week, which I didn't believe so I'm discounting it). That's an almost 4 year low!

P.S. The red line is my goal of losing 1 lb. per week and the dashed black line is my real progress, which right now looks to be about 0.5 lb. per week. Not stellar, but considering I haven't been exercising much and eating a lot, it's not too bad.