First Down and 9*

*For those of you unfamiliar with American football, when a team gets the ball, they have four chances (downs) to move forward 10 yards. I have gained one yard in my first chance. Still have nine to go.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve been struggling to get back to the routine I want, the one that, if I follow it, will lead to optimal health. (It’s only been a year since I was at the top of my game.) In the six weeks since that article, I have sporadically been following the plan I laid out for myself --simply re-starting my exercise routine and going to sleep on time -- but only sporadically. Definitely running backward a bit. My goals now are basically the same, but I have arranged things to give myself every advantage, as opposed to struggling against logistics that sometimes work against me.

First, I asked for flex time from my employer. This falls under the category of “reasonable accommodation,” something that we are legally entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because of my bouncing blood sugars, I was having real trouble exercising before work. I was either too high or too low or too tired (because of the too high/low), and would have to treat myself before I could run. That took time I didn’t have. So, I asked to start coming in to work at 6:00 or 6:30 since I was up anyway, and leaving at 2:30. This allows the commute time to be my treatment time, and I would be ready to get going as soon as I got home. I had to get it in sometime. Lack of exercise is one of two primary reasons my blood sugars are bouncing. It took a while due to the red tape provided by my company’s disabilities office, but my request was granted. (NOTE: Disabilities offices are there for your protection and your company’s. They are your official advocate in the workplace. Just because I don’t have the patience to deal with it doesn’t mean they don’t serve a useful purpose.)

Second, I elaborated on and expanded my goals. Slightly. Sleep on time is coming easily as exercise is wearing me out. But there are a few components to exercise. My new weekly tracker has four things on it: number of days my blood sugar stays under 200, number of days I do cardio, number of days I do weights, and number of days I hit my meal plan target. I am ignoring the latter for right now and the first one will come easily with the cardio and weights, so it’s only a little tiny bit more than before, mainly more frequent blood sugar monitoring.

Third, I enlisted friends to help. I know we are “supposed” to do these things for ourselves. To find the motivation within. The theory is that if we depend on external motivation, we will falter when it goes away. Maybe so. But there is a reason workout buddies increase the amount of exercise you do (there’s a study). Mine are not actually workout buddies per se, but they are checking in and I know I’m in trouble if there aren’t enough tick marks next to a goal.

But the hardest part? As my body adjusts, I will gain weight. It will take about two or three weeks for it to figure out that I'm not actually trying to starve it. If I want this plan to succeed, I have to make myself sit there and take it. Which I am, so far. 

All of this has led me to my first baby streak – three days of both cardio and weights/resistance training. I can already tell it’s going to exhaust me until I adjust, probably a couple of weeks, about the time I stop gaining weight. It’s a different exhaustion, though. Before it was sick exhaustion. Like when you have the flu. You’re kind of stewing in it. This is clean exhaustion that will send you to bed on time because you are actually tired and falling asleep.

Along those same lines, I confess I am proud of my baby streak, made up of just three baby steps, and that goes a long way. Right now, it’s solid. It feels like it will stick. I am a master of self-sabotage and an all-or-nothing kind of person, which is generally not healthy, but if it works in my favor here, I will take it. As I’ve said before, without a return to this plan, I will have nothing. You can walk around the world in baby steps, so yes, I will definitely take it.

Tip: Make it simple.

·        My tracker is a piece of paper tacked to a cork board. I’m keeping track with tick marks. You know, four little lines then one diagonally across for the fifth. Easy.

·        I also switched from a Fitbit to a Polar 10. Fitbit is great, but it allows my neuroses to run away with me – obsessing over every number in every category without focusing on the overall picture. The Polar is just a heart rate monitor that will keep track of calories burned during a workout. That’s all I really need to estimate what my intake should be.

Simple means something to me that it might not mean for you, so experiment to see what works for you while still giving you all the information you need/want.