Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A New Look at Metrics

Today's blog post is about metrics, but before I continue, I want to make sure that you and I are on the same page, so I'm looking at a metric as a (ie, any) unit of measurement. Typically in the context of weight loss, the pound is the only metric that holds any merit, both to describe how many pounds one has lost, and how many pounds one still has to lose, as well as how many pounds one currently weighs. And it's a pretty damn effective metric for measuring and communicating the productivity of a weight loss plan. But it's not the only one.

Today I got on the scale before heading off to the gym for my morning workout (on week 4, no sign of dropoff, btw), and the results left me frowny-faced. 332.7 pounds. What the shit? Didn't I weigh that seven days ago? Shouldn't I be under the 330s and scratching my next small goal off my progress-o-meter?

Depressing, especially when one considers that last week I pushed hard and completed my elipitcal on Level 3 every day. I mean, I'm leaving my late-night fun-zone early Thursday nights, getting up at effing 6:30 am and busting my hump (and getting quite sore in the process) every day. Seems kind of like a waste, and not of the waist. More like of my lifestyle.


But as I stewed, then stepped off the scale, took a show, then stepped on the scale again (same result, much to my chagrin), I began to change my viewpoint in the context of other metrics.

Last Friday, I went to the preseason Vikings game. When I put my pants on as I got ready, I pulled my belt across my waist and... lost a notch on my belt. Hmm. My pants didn't droop down over the top of my ass, and the hem of my pants didn't go under my shoes, collecting dirt and grime as I walked. Not bad. Not noticable yet, but definately an improvement, and an important metric - inches of a waistline.

Also, I've started keeping a weight journal to mark progress and note needed improvements when lifting weights. Yesterday's shoulder exercise went better, and today's back exercise was harder as I made the adjustment and did a heavier weight. It's still using a pound as the metric, but not in the context of gaining or losing fat - rather in the improvement of muscule strength.

All last week I kicked up my elliptical from Level 2 to 3, and sustained it for the whole 20 minutes. I'm not sure how the machine's computer calculates the difference, but it's a strong metric to demonstrate improved production on the machine. Today I set it for Level 4, though after 10 minutes I had to downgrade it to Level 3 as my heartrate crept into the 180s (I try to keep it in the 170s) and I didn't want to go into cardiac arrest. I don't think my workout partner would be prepared to deal with it at that time of day.), and being able to kick it up a level is a definate measurable metric.

Another measurable metric is time. When I first started (my preseason if you will), I could bust out a mile in a not-too-quick 19 minutes. Last week I was pumped to get it down to 16, then 15 minutes. Today I finished a mile at 14 minutes on the elliptical. No doubt much is due to the faster speed of Lvl 4, and that's what I'm looking for - pushing it harder and getting more distance/better time. Soon I'll be down to 10 minute miles and getting 2 full miles in during my morning walk/hustle/jog/run/thing/don't judge me.

When I put my work pants on today, they were in my hamper as I'd just done laundry the night previous. My cotton pants typically are a bit tight when first going on in the morning, both in the leg and the waist. In fact, I often rewear the pants because they get a little looser after a wearing and feel better than 'fresh' pants. There was no tightness in my pants this morning. I'm really wishing that I'd taken measurements of my thighs when I committed to this change in lifestyle 4ish weeks ago, because I believe that my body is slowly shrinking. I'm actually thinking of pulling an older shirt out of the closet, trying it on and taking a photo of fat me in it, then working to put it on again some months in the future and show the improvements. Thoughts?

Have any of you readers found that even though the scale isn't necessarily showing improvement in the 'important' metric, things are changing for you? Is this something that's common as a weight lifting newbie starts putting on muscle? I know muscle weighs more than fat, but how much more? Could I be losing fat and gaining muscle at the same rate? That seems unlikely, but I'm not an expert. Google might be though, I'll bust out some search-fu as I ruminate on this.

In the meantime, what alternative metric are you measuring your productivity by?

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