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Harriet

Harriet’s Year of Transformation ACT X

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For the last challenge of my Year of Transformation, I shall pick things up and put them down, stop habit-eating chocolate, and record my energy and motivation levels.


Harriet’s Hypertrophy Hubris II

I will continue with lower intensity/higher volume lifting with a greater variety of exercises, in the hopes of addressing weaknesses and putting on a little muscle. My long term goal is still to hit "intermediate" numbers for all four lifts*. I’m still experimenting to figure out what the best exercises for me are, and how much volume I can manage alongside the taekwondo.


*I'm just using a website I found, "symmetric strength" for these standards. They may be arbitrary, but it's something to aim for. 
 

Intuitive Eating II
I’ve had a very refreshing period of eating what I want, getting over anxiety about “bad” foods and building up the expectation that I don’t have to go hungry and the feeling of abundance. Now I’d like to head more in the “gentle nutrition” direction and make some small changes. I'd love to get leaner but I no longer believe that restricting is going to get me there, and I don't want to focus too hard on it because it has proven to be harmful for me in the past. What I can do is make very slow changes to my food environment. So my only requirement for this challenge is “no everyday chocolate”. I’ve been buying chocolate as a grocery and eating it every day. Earlier, I really felt like I needed treats and didn’t want to do without. Now the fears of restriction and the obsession with food has calmed down and I’m just eating chocolate out of habit. I don’t really need it. So I’m just going to stop buying it. I can have a protein shake or fruit and yoghurt if I want something sweet. I’m starting this challenge at 71kg/156lb. I don’t expect to gain or lose, but it’s good to keep an eye on it. 

Colonising the Groggy Hours I
There are so many things I want to do more of - art, meditation, reading, writing, cleaning the darned house. But my energy and motivation tend to drop dramatically and stay low after my morning workout/grocery shopping. Some weeks I’m better, some weeks I’m worse, so it’s hard to make a plan I can stick to. The one thing I want to avoid is the cycle whereby I set low standards for myself in bad weeks and then allow the habit to keep me at low levels of activity even when my energy returns. I’m going to start by just recording my energy and motivation levels (EML) in the mornings and in the afternoons when I come home. If my EML are higher I shall invite myself to do the smallest amount of something useful. By writing down my EML, I might still do nothing much, but I’ll have to think about it and not just do nothing automatically. I know this is the tiniest, least ambitious goal you’ve ever seen. But I’ve been working on this thing forever and I keep going through this cycle of doing well for a bit then crashing. So, tiny is good. 

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My shoulders are still inflamed. I gave the seated cable rows and DB bench press a try today, but it was a nope. Still hurts. So I'm just doing legs for the whole week.

Deadlift day
190lb x 5*
180lb x 5

170lb x 5

160lb x 5
Glute Bridge 145lb: 12/12/12/12/12

Leg Press 298lb: 12/12/12/12/12


*This counts as intermediate according to the standards I chose. YEAH

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On 7/29/2019 at 5:00 PM, Harriet said:

I know this is the tiniest, least ambitious goal you’ve ever seen. But I’ve been working on this thing forever and I keep going through this cycle of doing well for a bit then crashing. So, tiny is good.

 

Tiny, but I like it. Maybe we can help each other with our EML? 

 

Rooting for you and hope your shoulders de-flame :).

 

Wolf

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1 hour ago, SheriffWolfpool said:

Tiny, but I like it. Maybe we can help each other with our EML? 


I've seen your challenge; from the looks of it your EML are already through the roof :D Though we have one thing in common: midday naps. 

 

On 7/30/2019 at 6:01 AM, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

Following, I hope your shoulder clears up soon.

 

1 hour ago, SheriffWolfpool said:

Rooting for you and hope your shoulders de-flame :).


Thank you kindly. :) 

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So I did a bunch of leg presses and squats on Monday because I couldn't do pulls and presses thanks to painful shoulders. This was a bad idea, because now my knees hurt, too. I think they might have been fine if I hadn't had taekwondo yesterday. But yeah, apparently I can't recover from as much lifting when I have taekwondo every other day.

Today I tried to bench 100lb. Over the last few bench sessions, my reps have gone from 4 to 3 to 2. Yep, I failed my third rep today. This has never happened before. I think the weights are trying to tell me something. My hypertrophy hubris has preceded a fall. Sigh. I think I have to deload properly for a week or two. I don't really know how to do a deload... both intensity and high reps could irritate my shoulders and knee. But the heavies make me feel happy. So I guess I could do a super minimal programme with only three sets of three exercises (instead of 4 sets of 5 exercises)? 

 

In any case, I should probably skip Friday lifting because I have a Taekwondo belt test on Saturday, and the last thing I want is an injury before then.  

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On 7/31/2019 at 9:26 AM, Harriet said:

I've seen your challenge; from the looks of it your EML are already through the roof :D Though we have one thing in common: midday naps.

 

Hahaha, yep! I found the right motivating factor in the Doom Slayer, because if not for him, I don't think my EML would be as high if I'm being honest. Hellz to the yeah on midday naps, though! I'm about to gear up for mine in about 20 min :D 

 

17 hours ago, Harriet said:

In any case, I should probably skip Friday lifting because I have a Taekwondo belt test on Saturday, and the last thing I want is an injury before then.

 

Swanky! What color belt? I have a good friend of mine who did TKD for yeaaars! I think he's a second degree black belt, but I could be wrong. I used to do TKD for the University of Texas.

 

Anywho, good luck on the belt test!! 

 

Image result for taekwondo gif

 

Wolf

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23 hours ago, SheriffWolfpool said:

Swanky! What color belt? I have a good friend of mine who did TKD for yeaaars! I think he's a second degree black belt, but I could be wrong. I used to do TKD for the University of Texas.

 

Anywho, good luck on the belt test!! 


Thanks :) I'm yellow now, and looking for some green stripes. It's only my second test as I started in February. I did do TKD as a teenager and get up to red belt, but it's all forgotten. 

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Disclaimer: the following is a long reflection on neurochemicals, mental health, habits and wellbeing. 


So recently I’ve been reading about the psychology of weight and overeating, and also about modern communication technology and its effects on society and individuals. And between these two apparently unrelated topics, something keeps coming up. The neurochemical, dopamine, and its role in motivation and habit formation. So apparently, different neurochemicals are associated with wanting (the anticipation of reward) and liking (the reward itself). Of course neurochemicals tend to have multiple jobs, but dopamine is strongly related to motivation, wanting and habit formation (not necessarily with pleasure itself). Rats with low dopamine put in less effort to get food rewards. Rats with no dopamine starve. And everything I’ve been reading says low dopamine causes fatigue and lack of motivation. 

So I have major depressive disorder (moderate). But it’s not typical depression because over the years I’ve done some work on it, and have had pretty good success managing my mood, and more recently I’ve been managing my anxiety a bit better. So I don’t have the extremely negative thoughts and moods that used to be the most important and devastating symptom. But I still have very low energy and motivation. I used to do basically nothing, but I found lifting and that was the gateway activity to doing more things. But for some reason my exercise habits have stuck well while other habits have not. Anyway, I was wondering if the reason that standard antidepressants didn’t help is that they act on serotonin, which helps with mood. My mood is adequate. But my energy and motivation are generally low, and get dramatically lower in the middle of the day. I read that people with low dopamine rely on sugar and caffeine to get them through the day, which also describes me. And exercise raises dopamine, which could be why it has stuck when other habits have not. I know I’m not qualified to diagnose myself, but this connection keeps coming up so I can’t help wondering if I have lower levels of dopamine.

Anyway, maybe instead of trying and trying to build habits when I’m low on motivation, I should target the motivation directly. I have collected some suggestions about what raises and lowers dopamine. It’s tricky, because intense or frequent dopamine spikes can cause one’s brain to adapt by lowering its baseline levels of production, which sucks. It’s also difficult to find reliable information, so I’m not 100% certain on these. But. Sugar, caffeine, music, video games and social media all apparently give temporary dopamine hits but then cause lower baseline levels. Exercise and meditation increase dopamine, as do cold showers and sunlight (allegedly). There was no mention of these lowering baseline levels. A diet high in saturated fat can disrupt the effect of dopamine, while high protein helps. Adequate magnesium and good gut microbiome are also important. There’s also a bean whose extract contains L-dopa, a chemical precursor to dopamine. But it’s potentially quite potent. And nothing I’ve read explains whether it would decrease baseline levels due to adaptation. And it’s probably a bad idea to take a potent, unregulated drug that just happens to come in a natural-looking package that you can buy at a herb shop. Probably the sensible thing to do would be to make an appointment with my therapist and ask her about it.

Anyway, the upshot is that I am going to try some things that should be good for me anyway. I’m going to start by taking a cold shower after my morning workout or grocery shopping, and sitting outside for an hour with no computer, some time each afternoon. Happily, it’s zero week, so I am updating my challenge. COLD SHOWER and ONE HOUR IN THE SUNLIGHT WITH NO COMPUTER.

 

I’m shouting because I tend to make excuses about doing anything in the afternoon peat mires. Long term, I really need to get away from the computer a lot more. It’s no wonder I’m drawn to it; it’s a really low-effort source of mini dopamine spikes. Humans evolved to seek new information the same way we do other, more material resources, so new information gives us little dopamine hits. That is why the internet can be so habit forming (regardless of whether or not you enjoy it). But it could also be lowering my baseline energy and motivation. I have to remind myself of this whenever I start thinking that change is too difficult, and that I’m having a bad week so it makes sense to chill and go easy on myself. IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO CHILL AND GO EASY ON MYSELF. Going easy on myself is not restorative, in this case, it’s sabotagical. Sabotagious? Sabotagiful?

It’s really hard because when my motivation and energy tank in the afternoon, it’s not as though I would feel content to sleep for hours. I still get bored, and there’s a limit to how much I can sleep. So the computer is hugely appealing because it’s something I can do even when exhausted. Not using it will feel like a real punishment. I have to try to keep in mind its connection to my long term wellbeing (or lack of it). Wish me luck.

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Cool information! So, I get S.A.D., never taking any medication for it, just experimented to see what works. Being outside for some of the day (even gray days are better than inside) is So important for me. I hadn't thought about how high protein might have helped too. That's interesting. I did the higher protein for weight control, but I wondered if it helps my energy level too.  I know it helps with the sugar cravings. And I take magnesium supplement too (too help with blood pressure) I wonder if that helps? I know that since I changed my eating, started exercising, and make a point of getting outside, my SAD is much less.

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9 minutes ago, Elastigirl said:

That's interesting. I did the higher protein for weight control, but I wondered if it helps my energy level too. I know it helps with the sugar cravings. And I take magnesium supplement too (too help with blood pressure) I wonder if that helps? I know that since I changed my eating, started exercising, and make a point of getting outside, my SAD is much less.


I'm glad your SAD has gotten better. It's hard to know about the protein and magnesium, because many of the things that are good for us work through multiple physical mechanisms. For example, exercise and meditation might work simultaneously on  seratonin, endorphins, dopamine, noradrenaline and cortisol. A quick google search suggests that low serotonin is implicated in SAD (as in other forms of depression) and that sunlight can increase serotonin, while magnesium deficiency can cause lower serotonin. So that could explain why those things helped you. But I didn't find anything so far to suggest that high protein is good for serotonin. But then again, since many good things work in multiple ways, maybe high protein could help you in ways we aren't aware of yet. Anyway, I don't want to suggest that anyone should be worried specifically about dopamine. Focusing on specific neurochemicals is probably less helpful than focusing on holistically beneficial things, and even if you were interested in neurochemicals, serotonin would probably be number one on the suspect list. The only reason I'm focused on dopamine is that my depression has atypical symptoms and is resistant to medication, and this link between motivation and dopamine kept popping up in my reading. 

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51 minutes ago, Harriet said:

<cut for post size>

WOW this is seriously one of the most well-thought-out, considered reflections I've read in a long time. And it really struck home as someone with an undiagnosed (still - I need to get on that) deficiency of dopamine leading to ADHD - some days I just don't wanna do things.

 

That, and I'm really glad to hear you're coming across a course of action that makes sense to you with what you've been reading, and that sounds like a generally pleasant way to spend your time anyhow (well, cold showers maybe aren't that pleasant, but time in the sunlight certainly is!). Excited to be with you on the journey!

 

Fingers crossed the ache-y joints go back to normal soon, too!

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2 hours ago, Mike Wazowski said:

WOW this is seriously one of the most well-thought-out, considered reflections I've read in a long time. And it really struck home as someone with an undiagnosed (still - I need to get on that) deficiency of dopamine leading to ADHD - some days I just don't wanna do things.

 

That, and I'm really glad to hear you're coming across a course of action that makes sense to you with what you've been reading, and that sounds like a generally pleasant way to spend your time anyhow (well, cold showers maybe aren't that pleasant, but time in the sunlight certainly is!). Excited to be with you on the journey!

 

Fingers crossed the ache-y joints go back to normal soon, too!


Thank you so much. I couldn't do it without the sounding board and support that is the 5-week challenges.

Do you mean your ADHD is undiagnosed, or just the low dopamine? It's hard to imagine because you work so hard and get so much done!

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1 hour ago, Harriet said:

Thank you so much. I couldn't do it without the sounding board and support that is the 5-week challenges.

<3 and we're happy to have you here!!

 

1 hour ago, Harriet said:

Do you mean your ADHD is undiagnosed, or just the low dopamine? It's hard to imagine because you work so hard and get so much done!

I think both, actually - I'm still in the process of hunting down a provider locally who can do a diagnosis, which is made harder by the joys of the US health system. I did call a counselor's office today though, which feels like a good first step. :D But I read a book on ADHD and I seem to tick off most of the symptoms (admittedly, I'm high-performing, but I think I still check most of the other boxes for diagnosis).

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1 hour ago, Mike Wazowski said:

I think both, actually - I'm still in the process of hunting down a provider locally who can do a diagnosis, which is made harder by the joys of the US health system. I did call a counselor's office today though, which feels like a good first step. :D But I read a book on ADHD and I seem to tick off most of the symptoms (admittedly, I'm high-performing, but I think I still check most of the other boxes for diagnosis).


That's great that you made the call. I think it's really worth pursuing that diagnosis. Sorry to hear the system is making it difficult. I've noticed it's a common theme around here :/ 

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Well, the belt test went just fine. I don't know if it's all the practice I've had at managing my anxiety with prayers to the fire spirits, but I was less nervous than last time. I think I showed some pretty decent kicks for my level, and I didn't mess anything up. I also yelled loudly which demonstrates the appropriate attitude. They're big on correct attitude. Now I have some time off taekwondo -- maybe four weeks or so -- so hopefully the lifting will ease back into place with no more pain. 

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7 hours ago, KaraDavar said:

Your post about dopamine was like looking in a mirror, and suddenly things with me make a whole heap more sense! 

 

Similar experiences, huh? Well I don't know if the cold showers will help, but they sure are unpleasant. They must be healthful.

 

7 hours ago, KaraDavar said:

EDIT: I'm super glad the belt test went well! :cheerful:

 

Thanks! 

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Zero Week Summary

 

71.6kg today. Interesting. After being within 0.1kg of the same weight every week for several weeks I’m half a kilo heavier today. After giving up chocolate for a week! It might be nothing, it might be the fact that we had pasta for dinner a couple of days in a row (I don’t usually make pasta, just occasionally). I’ll keep weighing once per week to keep an eye on it. Not much else to report for zero week. The last three days I took cold showers and spent an hour outside without internet to see if I can’t shake something out of the groggy afternoon hours. All my EMLs (energy and motivation levels) were 2 or 3 out of five. Neutral or low. Not exactly surprising, that’s what it’s always like. The five on this scale only exists for the purpose of, well, scale. Like showing a dinosaur next to a human.

 

Zero week lifting was sad and uninspiring. But my shoulders feel 90% back to normal, so I should be able to get started again on Monday. I think I realised I can no longer afford to do only the main lifts, because I’m developing some imbalances. My calves and the other little muscles in my lower legs seem to work extremely hard when I have to balance (and they feel hard, tense and muscular, not like the rest of me), so I think they may be working overtime to make up for weakness elsewhere - glute med and abductors? Also, like I said, my quads don’t seem to do anything and I have no deltoids. And I clearly need some more stability around the shoulder joints which I’m not getting from barbell presses. As much as I love my powerlifting moves, I think variety is more likely to address these problems than just doing more of the same thing. I absolutely don’t have the mental discipline to do endless exercises. So I’m trying to pick exercises that will cover everything as efficiently as possible while not hammering the same joints repeatedly on the same day. Maybe like this:

 

A:OHP/pull-up negative/lunge/front raise

B:Squat/glute bridge/seated cable row/DB bench

C:Bench/seated row/lunge/lateral raise

D:Deadlift/DB OHP?/inverted rows?/leg press

The lunges seem to be a bargain because they work a lot of things in the lower body at once, and they should help with balance and stability. I hate them, but that probably means they’re good for me.

 

I’m not completely sure about the the inverted rows. I’ve seen faster progress with the pull-up negatives, but they seem like they could put a lot of stress on the shoulder joints. Maybe I should downgrade to static hangs. I’m heavy with weak shoulders… not a great combo for pull-ups.

I’m also not sure about the dumbbell OHP… I guess this could help with shoulder stability and be safe if I keep the weights light. I was doing kettlebell bottom up presses, but the limiting factor was my grip and forearm strength, so I don’t think it was adequately challenging my shoulders.

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