Wednesday, October 14, 2009

the Blood Pressure Attack Plan

"Blood pressure attack" might qualify as infelicitous phrasing, but for those who are interested in seeing the goals I've charted out for myself, please follow this link.

You'll notice a few things right away:

1. No mention of calisthenics. While these are important, and will be part of my program, I'm not including them as goals. Some types of calisthenics might make their way into the categories listed-- e.g., doing X number of jumping jacks to earn a certain number of aerobic points-- but in the main, this won't happen.

2. Some goals will take less than a year to accomplish. Meditation is a case in point. Having plunged into seated meditation-- my first-ever session was for two hours, broken into three 40-minute segments-- I know that reaching the point where I can meditate for 60 minutes straight won't be a big deal. I haven't decided whether I want to make 60 minutes a daily goal, but I've heard of folks who do this. No matter what eventually happens, chamseon (Korean for zazen, i.e., seated Zen meditation) needs to become part of my daily practice, even if it's for just 10 minutes a day.

3. The "flexibility" category shows only two items. This is not because I plan to stretch only in the two ways mentioned, but because those two forms of stretching will be representative of the overall state in which I wish to be after one year. Flexibility is about range of motion; I hope to improve my overall range.

4. For someone who said that strength exercises will come later, you sure have listed a lot of strength exercises. Guilty as charged, but this is mainly to get those exercises out of my head and "on paper," if you will. The exercises I've chosen will help with arm strength, leg strength, upper body strength, and core stabilization (a concept popularized by Pilates). Most of the exercises engage multiple muscle groups; this isn't about achieving definition, but about strengthening the body more holistically. Pushups are a classic example of this: several muscle groups move in concert so that you perform what is basically a punching motion.

Anyway, the plan is to start most of the strength exercises later on-- not right away. I might do some pushups early on, but not many; I'll be going easy for a long while before ramping up the intensity. When you've fallen far, it's a long climb back to the top, and there are no shortcuts.

5. I don't get what you're talking about when you say "10-point week" in the "cardio" category. This is a reference to Ken Cooper's classic, Aerobics (1968), in which Cooper introduces the point system as a way for people to measure the cardiovascular payoff associated with any given aerobic activity. A person should be averaging a 30- to 35-point week, in Cooper's opinion. In The New Aerobics (which isn't so new anymore; the book was published in 1988), Cooper broke his point charts down further, taking age and sex into consideration in his calculations.

The basic wisdom of Cooper's books obtains today, though people tend to talk about cardio differently. Nowadays, what you'll generally hear is something like: "To calculate your maximum heart rate during training, subtract your age from 220. Establish training regimens that get your heart beating at 60% and 80% of that maximum, maintaining that rate for at least 30 minutes, at least 3-4 times per week." Following this plan leads, roughly, to about 30 points per week of cardio.

Heart rate is a good indicator of effort. Cooper's charts were laid out more in terms of time and distance, but the same basic idea-- that intensity counts in a workout-- is present in Cooper's formulation. For this reason, his charts show you earning more points if you cover the same distance in significantly less time.

For myself, I plan to bike and walk. Running is a possibility, but only after I shed a good bit of weight. As you see on my attack plan, the eventual goal is to reach 40 points per week after a year of training. When compared to the rigorous training that the folks on "The Biggest Loser" undergo, my schedule moves at a snail's pace. But setting realistic goals is important, and I know I'd give up pretty quickly were I to try a super-intense regimen right away. No "boot camp workouts" for me.

6. What's up with the "diet" category? I tried to keep the notation simple. As a friend of mine once noted, you need about 12 calories per pound per day to maintain your weight. In my case, weighing in at a beefy 300 pounds, that means I need at least 3600 calories per day to maintain my weight. I've been 300 for several months, so I'm guessing that my food intake averages out to about 3600 calories. That's a lot of snacking, and probably a lot of empty calories.

My attack plan shows a minimum of 2800 calories per day, which isn't much of a reduction-- at least at first. The goal, though, is to get consumption down to 1500 calories per day. It's possible that I'll revise this upward if/when I achieve my goal weight of 200 pounds. A 200-pound person really needs about 2400 calories per day to maintain that weight. But over the course of a year, while I'm on this program, I'll have to discipline myself. It's rare that I know true hunger, so this program offers me a golden opportunity to feel what normal folks feel.

The chart notes some general changes: avoidance of sodas (both regular and diet), decrease in carb intake, and an increase in the consumption of leafy greens. I'm not really looking forward to these changes; as a guy with a sweet tooth who also loves his pasta, bread, and cheese, I view any sort of diet as a nightmare. But numbers are numbers, and there's no getting around the need to cut a lot of junk out of my life.

I do, however, plan to fall off the wagon a few times per month. Sticking religiously to a strait path is, at least for me, the road to failure. Like those Canadian programs for alcoholics-- the ones that don't cut drinkers completely off from booze, the way so many US programs do-- I think that my approach will have a higher probability of success.

7. How do you measure balance? I have no idea, which is why I set my "minimum"-- if the word even applies here-- as "biking," and set my "maximum" as "rollerblading and skiing." I like biking, even though I don't do it much, but I actively fear rollerblading and skiing, because I'm always worried about falling.

There are balance exercises that I remember from taekwondo class, often involving slow kicking motions, but occasionally involving "chicken fighting," a game in which we kids stood on one leg, holding our other foot in our hands and hopping around, using the upraised knee to bash an opponent until he either keeled over or released his grip on his own foot. (Maybe I can persuade my brothers to chicken fight with me, but I doubt it.)

And I'm sure there are other balance exercises available online-- possibly some yoga asanas, or dance moves, or who knows what. Eventually, though, I'll need to apply those skills to a fluid situation, not just to movement over flat ground; both rollerblading and skiing offer precisely that sort of challenge. Learning those activities will also give me a chance to conquer some long-standing fears.

So now you've seen the general goals. The first nine prongs of the 10-prong attack plan are all in the service of Prong 10: reduction of blood pressure. I'm currently working on specifics, but this is, in some ways, easier than creating the big picture: now that I've established time frames, it's just a matter of cutting time up into intervals, and using simple arithmetic to map out the daily, weekly, and monthly goals. If I should be doing 60 pushups a year from now, for example, then I should be doing 30 pushups half a year from now. Easy math.

Sure, sure-- delays will likely occur due to sickness, backsliding, or something out of my control, but on the whole, I hope to follow whatever chart I make as faithfully as I can. I might alter the chart if I come to realize that a given goal is unrealistically harsh (or lax), but my hope is to stick to the basic program, to show some commitment and be-- for once-- as good as my word.

"When you fall down, get up," my dad likes to say. Good advice for living. I'm giving myself about a year to get back up after a very long fall.



Charles said...

Best of luck with this! It's great to see that you are tackling the issue head on.

Curtis S. said...

Been here, done this.

#1 Go to an Internal Medicine MD, not a family practicioner, for a check up. Important to build a relationhip with Doktor Dude.

#2 Take the pills you'll probably be prescribed for BP. Usually one a day.

#3 310 lbs! WTF!

#4 LTFW = Lose The F'in Weight!
Eat less, more often. Try 300 calories 5X a day. Yes that's 1500.

#5 Buy a scale and weigh in daily. Bow to it and ask foriveness one pound at a time.

#6 Exercise, exercise, exercise.

#7 Learn how to alter clothing or be prepared to buy new threads.

Worked for me.

BTW take your multi prong and use it to turn a boneless/skinless chicken breast on the grill. (200 calories). Everything looks good on paper till' you have to get off your ass and do it.

Kevin Kim said...

Yeah, yeah, Curtis... everyone's got their pet theory and pet method. It's a lot like discussing religion: "Sure, there are lots of ways, but MY WAY is the best!" Heh.

Anyway, thanks. Will definitely lose the f'in weight, but without the damn pills. Let's keep them as a last resort.

re: 310 pounds

Nope, just 300. I wrote "310" on my chart because I was guessing, and hadn't weighed myself. Had assumed I'd gained weight over the past five months, given all that's been going on. I've been plateaued at 300 since early this year.

re: Doktor Dude

You gonna send me the money to pay for this medical care? If so, fine, I'll go get looked at. Otherwise, I pretty much have to get a job first, and that's not happening until we know more about whether Mom's condition has stabilized (i.e., whether the Avastin is doing anything helpful). Until we know more, I pretty much have to be here 24/7 for both Mom and Dad. Neither Dad nor I can do this job alone.