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Week 9: The numbers game

March 7, 2012

When I started this journey, I said that I did not want to make it about weight loss, and I still don’t.
(Well, maybe a little.)
If you’ve been reading this column, you’ve already heard more than enough about what I’ve been giving up lately. However, judging by the dreaded scale –– who invented that torture device, anyway? –– I’m obviously not giving up enough of something. The scale, which seemed to be on my side in the beginning, has turned against me like the mafia on a rat. It is not my friend anymore. In fact, it seems to hate me, and I’m well into the throes of hating it back.
So what’s up, other than that despised number? Haven’t I suffered enough to at least be down a pants size? It turns out the answer is simple. I’m just not burning off as many calories as I’m taking in.
A little bit of research from friends, family and the experts and I kept hearing the same thing: Up the intensity of your workouts. Count your calories. (Wait, isn’t there a pill for this or something? A magic potion? A prayer circle?)
Begrudgingly, I looked for the next best thing. I found an app for it.
I have not, in all of the other counting I’ve been doing, included counting my calories. I must have thought that if I was controlling my sodium intake then calories would naturally be low, too. It seems that is not the case.
I was happy to find a app that allowed me to count both calories and sodium at the same time, with an option to add in my daily workouts and water intake. It is called “Sodium1,” and it was only 99 cents. I began keeping track over the weekend, and much to my chagrin, I found that low-sodium does not always equal low-calorie. For someone who always hated math, the amount of numbers that have entered my daily life lately are disheartening. However, if I want that “number-that-shall-not-be-named” to go down I’m just going to have to get used to it.
On the subject of increasing the intensity of my workouts without reigniting my recent case of shin splints, I consulted the American Council on Exercise. It turns out high-intensity interval training is all the rage these days, but there are some important things to consider.
According to http://www.acefitness.org, from popular fitness DVDs to group fitness classes to personal training sessions, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is being used by athletes and everyday exercise enthusiasts alike to add new challenge and variety to workouts. HIIT is a cardiorespiratory training technique that increases the overall intensity of a workout by alternating between brief speed and recovery intervals to maximize your training sessions in a short amount of time. This is great since lack of time is one of the most commonly cited reasons why people don’t exercise regularly. Aside from being time-efficient, HIIT has been shown to increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness, decrease body fat percentage and burn some serious calories. However, one of the most important components of HIIT is the active recovery intervals, which are often overlooked or aren’t very active.
The ACE said when getting started with HIIT, first complete a five minute warm-up. Begin with a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of speed intervals to active recovery intervals. For example, if I’m on the treadmill, I can jog or run for one minute and then walk briskly for two minutes to allow my body to recover. Avoid the temptation to shorten the recovery intervals, or to let the recovery periods be less than active. These recover intervals are when the body produces more energy for the next bout of high-intensity exercise and also removes metabolic waste from the muscles. Remember, active recovery periods should always be as long –– if not longer –– than the high-intensity intervals. And in terms of perceived exertion, high-intensity intervals should be about a seven or higher (on a scale of 0-10) while active recovery intervals should be at about a four or five.
All of this information in its simplest terms means more sweating and less snacking. Easy as low-calorie pie, right?
Five Minute Low Calorie Fruit and Cream Pie 
2 (8 oz.) flavored yogurts - blueberry, strawberry (or whatever you like)
1 lg. container Cool Whip
1 graham cracker crust
1/2 c. fruit, strawberries or blueberries
In large bowl mix Cool Whip and yogurt together. Fold in fruit. Pour into crust, and chill 30 minutes. Serve.

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