Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not Just Practice

I recently commented on Ryan's blog about still struggling to do one chin-up. I think the obvious answer that most people would give is - just keep practicing.

His response reminded me that it's actually about so much more than just practice. This was his reply:

Keep working at those chin ups and they will happen! :-) It took me more than 3 months of serious commitment, eating very well, exercising hard, just to be able to do 1… After you get that first one, they start to come a lot faster! :-)
1. Keep practicing
2. Be seriously committed
3. Eat very well
4. Exercise hard

I wish that just one component was the key to success, but that's not reality.

I know I workout hard. I'm definitely committed to that though I think I need to take it up a notch (i.e. complete all my scheduled workouts each week) to display serious commitment. I've been faltering a bit - partly coz' of travel, partly coz' of illness, and partly coz' things have just happened (excuses). I want to focus on minimizing/eliminating that faltering. The plan has been set, now I just need to follow through.

I'm not too worried about the exercise; my biggest worry is FOOD.

I'm just still struggling with the eating part. I've really cleaned up my eating over the past 2 years. I'm not doing horribly, as I've steadily been dropping tiny fractions of weight each day ... but I know I could be doing better. I know I could be eating cleaner. I should be eating cleaner.

Ryan's comment just reinforced what I already knew but needed to hear again -- all these components work together. My workouts won't improve unless I eat better, and I do want them to improve. Having a fitness goal has actually been great motivation to be more vigilant about what I'm eating. I have to think - If I eat that, will in make doing a pull up easier or harder?

Asking that type of question helps, but I'll be honest, it's doesn't always guarantee the right decision. An extra tablespoon of cottage cheese, another handful of almonds, a second or third square of chocolate ... they creep in. As one off incidents, they're not disastrous ... but they add up. Anyway. In preparation of the Whole Life Challenge I've been a lot more careful. I haven't made all the changes yet, but I'm gearing up for it - slowly cutting out or at the very least minimizing my sugar, dairy, and wheat/starch intake. The whole premise of this challenge is vigilance, and it's coming at the perfect time for me (but more on that in another post).

While things are starting to fall into place, it's still not anywhere near second nature yet. I'm constantly evaluating, reassessing, and planning. Now I've got to focus on implementing!

- Today's exercise: 
Today my goal was to get ease back into cardio. I wanted to finish 5km within 50 minutes and not stop because of my bronchitis. I'd throw in a jog or two if I felt up to it.

Result: 5 km in 47 min - it included a few 1-minute jogs, 1 3-min jog, and 1 4-min jog. Plus, no coughing fit or breathing difficulty! Yay! I'm relieved because next week I'll be continuing the C25K program and I did not want to redo any of the previous sessions. I'll definitely pick up from Week 4. A few more cardio sessions to warm-up and I should be good to go!

- Today's dinner:
Poached plaice (my first time poaching fish) with a side of a vegetable stew (made with sweet potato, tomato, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and chick peas + a few raisins). Will post the recipe later.


  1. great advice from Ryan. and you are doing great btw, keep up the GREAT work!

    1. Thanks Deanna. It's taking some time to put it all together - slowly but surely!

  2. Food looks so delicious and healthy. I'm happy that you are able to exercise now without the coughing. I've never ever done a chin up so I'm happily anticipating when you do it and let us know. :)

    1. The meal was really good! I'm looking forward to leftovers for tonight's dinner :) Will keep practicing (and everything else) in hopes I reach that chin-up!

  3. It's funny how perspective changes from person to person... From my perspective, a PhD is crazy amount of work and commitment, and a chin up (at least nowadays) isn't really a big deal! ;-) For you, PhD is a reality, and the chin up is on the horizon...

    If it's something you really want and commit yourself to, you will get there! There are actually some tips/techniques that can help, like strengthening your forearms, practicing activating your proper muscles (it's your back as much as your biceps, lots of people's forms focus more on biceps) and things like clenching your butt as you lift, even crossing your legs sometimes can help... Here's an interesting site that might give you some help in working your way to #1 chin up! :-)

    1. That's true Ryan. Working out in a group has shown me that each one of us has strengths and weaknesses. I think it makes us feel good about what we can do and positive about learning things that we need to work on.

      Thanks so much for the chin-up link. It looks great and I intend on starting some of those drills from today! :)

  4. Keep in mind that I also cannot do a single chin-up, nor have I ever dared to attempt poaching fish. ;)

    1. The poached fish was really good and so much easier to make than I expected! As for the chin-up, stay tuned - I'll be working towards it!

  5. Hi PlumPetals! Well, currently, I cannot do a chin-up. I go up half way and just hang there with my elbows bent but my head under the bar. I've done them before, 3 in a row, so I do know what the problem is.

    My problem: I need to be at least 15 less pounds and a little bit stronger in the arms, chest, and back to do chin-ups again.<<I know this from the stats of my previous fitness journals.

    The answer: Stick to a stricter diet. Do more and more pushups, bench press at my max weight amounts. Do many many many (!) sets of the hardest reverse grip lat pull downs I can do. That's what worked in previous years.

    FYI: It is twice as easy for men for do chin-ups than women because men are at least twice as strong for upper body strength. So do not compare yourself to a guy because it isn't fair to you. :D

    :-) Marion

    1. Thanks Marion. That's great advice. I know that I really need to drop my weight in order to get that pull-up, but as I work on that I'll keep doing strengthening exercises. I'll get there one day! :)

  6. I just started the P90X workouts yesterday, and I am so far away from doing a chin-up that it's almost laughable. At this point the negative part of me thinks I will never be able to do one - but I know that's not true. Just like you, if I apply all four of those rules to my workouts, I will one day be able to do an unassisted chin up.

    As for the eating, I know how hard it is. I self-sabotage. I'd love to drop another 10 pounds, and I know I have more than enough body fat to do it safely! But I continue to cover around that comfortable 140 pound mark. Getting lower is "too much work". Bah!

    Good luck, and keep eating meals like that fish. Yummy!

    1. Kris, I feel like I'm lucky if I can just hang on to the bar for a few seconds! Still, I remember a few months ago when I couldn't hang on to the bar at all - and now I can hold on for longer ... just gotta keep trying and implementing good habits.


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I can use all the support I can get :)