It’s been 13 weeks since I started my fitness plan, the Golden Triangle and 7 weeks since I introduced it to you guys. I thought it was a good time to give you an update!
For anyone who hasn’t read about it, the Golden Triangle is my three-point, daily fitness plan that I created to bring some long-term improvements to my mental and physical health. The three points I try to hit every day are steps (10,000 for me) and at least 10 minutes of cardio and training.
The inspiration behind this was to create a lifestyle rather than a burden or a ‘halve your body weight in an hour’ scheme. The focus was on consistency and reliability and, so far at least, it’s paid off. I’ve managed to earn my golden triangles almost every day since beginning in March and I’m handling those days when I don’t a lot better after taking my own advice- ‘don’t agonize’.
I’m going to chat to you guys honestly and openly about how the weeks after my last update have been: what I’ve struggled with, the changes that’ve occurred, the improvements I’ve noticed and what I’m looking forward to as I go ahead. Ooh! And the exciting stuff- this update’s milestone treat!
The changes I’m focusing on here will be the external stuff, rather than the changes I’ve made.
Fitbit– My 6 week benchmark reward has been an absolute godsend! After lots of deliberation, I eventually settled on buying Fitbit’s Charge 3 for its balance between simplicity and all that techy goodness. Other devices were a bit too complicated and athlete-focused for me, or they were too simple. The Charge 3 was my Goldilocks option.
Another perk- it’s not too similar to my own phone. I didn’t want to be scrolling Instagram from my wrist. In fact one of the main reasons I wanted a smart watch was to put some distance between me and the phone. Having the Charge 3 means that I don’t need to bring my phone and all the messages, comments and notifications that come with it, to count my steps.
Weather– The clear, light spring air that once propelled me forwards is now muggy summer humidity for me to trudge through. The higher temperatures (getting into the 30’s now) means being anywhere without air-conditioning makes me a sweaty mess. Then, Japanese rainy season has meant that exercising outside happens less often than I’d like, as my non-waterproof shoes are destroyed for a couple of days after a downpour. On the plus side, I’ve been making sure to up my water intake!
Workout Changes– This one is less external. The Golden Triangle becoming a lifestyle meant that I wanted more variety and so I made some workout changes. I’m running less often and mixing up my routes when I do run and trying out dance cardio workouts. I’m integrating the routine with my social life as much as possible from a weekly friend’s Zoom yoga session to screen-shared workouts with my sister to calling friends when I’m out on a walk around my hilly neighbourhood.
Back to School– Schools in my town opened a few weeks ago from their long corona-break and so instead of working from home or the office, I’m teaching again! While this means no more walks by the river at lunch, my day-to-day has gotten more active. Walking to-and-from class (and jumping around like an idiot to keep the kids interested) means that I get to focus more on training when I get home.
What begins simple often turns complicated. Think of a story. We usually meet our characters at a simple time in their lives, like Frodo chilling in the Shire. As we follow them into more complex situations there are times we empathise with their longing to turn back, we yearn for that simplicity. But in the end we know that these characters need to face the struggles that wait for them, to grow.
The Golden Triangle started simple too. It was effort in= progress out.
‘I’ve lost 7kg (15 pounds) so far, without major changes to my diet. I’ve got more energy, plus, I feel more confident and productive. Most importantly, despite the current corona-chaos, I’m managing my stress.’
The complexities of my Golden Triangle experience have, surprisingly, very little to do with the exercise. Focusing on consistency over intensity means that the DOMS (the muscle soreness you get after a heavy workout) haven’t been so bad. And keeping up a variety of exercises means I’m not getting fed up of working out- not yet at least! Instead, I feel like I’ve settled into an active, varied lifestyle that’s challenging enough to get my blood flowing but manageable enough to do every day.
So, where’s the complication?
My eating habits.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had some werewolf-level sweet-cravings and spells of binge-eating. My ‘need to feed’ on absolute rubbish is usual when I’m due on my period, but recently the cravings are stronger and lasting longer- like an unwanted Duracell battery.
It’s gotten to the point where I’ll slip chocolate bars into my own shopping basket without realising or be going into the kitchen for some water and leave with a second portion of dinner! And it isn’t just a magical insatiable scoffing desire, it comes alongside my first weight-loss plateau.
This terrible twosome has meant that since my last update I’ve lost 1.5kg (3 pounds) and been feeling pretty frustrated. While the weight loss is still a positive, I mean I’m surprised I lost any weight with all my scoffing, I was a little deflated when I saw the scales.
I compared this slowed weight loss and increased eating to the amazing success I had when I first started the Golden Triangle. This difference, alongside my seeming inability to shift these cravings, left me pretty stressed out. You know what frustration and stress lead to right? Stress eating!
I found myself a little lost facing problems I’d never encountered before. And while the struggle with sweet-cravings doesn’t correlate well to navigating Middle Earth, I could relate to Frodo in some sense. We both needed to keep going and put our thinking caps on.
For me, I needed to work out what was happening and think of some reasons why before I could find a solution. I’m still in the process of that, but I’ve already realised that this struggle, like all struggles, has a benefit.
I’ve been able to look critically at my diet and how I function to become more aware of patterns. I’ve also been able to learn; about nutrition, its links to fitness and about myself! Like, did you know that eating more protein and fats can help to curb sweet-cravings? Well it can, especially if you’re becoming more active! And I had no idea that a weight loss plateau is normal and something that most people will face?
This self-examination also showed me that there’s a correlation between the sweet-cravings and times of stress and sadness. A big change is coming in my life as I’m soon to be leaving Japan, I’m pretty clueless about what to expect from life in the UK and there are some sad anniversaries creeping ever closer. It seems so obvious now right? But at the time I think I was so focused on just ‘being fine’, I didn’t notice.
So it turns out my slowing weight-loss and growing cravings are in fact not a result of a mystical lycanthropic desire to gobble.
Keeping up my efforts has, and is continually, paying off, even if these improvements were difficult to spot recently. And it’s safe to say, some of them are more noticeable than others.
Mood– My biggest reason to get back into fitness was to manage my mental health. As I mentioned earlier, this is and will be an emotional time in my life. I know for a fact that this routine is essential in bringing some consistency and control back to my mood.
Fitness has become a regular remedy for stress relief. Where I would usually cry or buy a load of junk food on a bad day, I can feel myself yearning for a good run or walk to get the emotions out instead. With the stress of this and the upcoming months, I’m going to need my fitness! My mood is boosted after a run and I get the added bonus of being able to organise my thoughts.
Confidence– Confidence about my body, confidence about myself and the confidence to make changes to my routine are all getting stronger and stronger.
I’ve dropped a few dress sizes and my hard work is starting to show. I’m getting more comments about my weight-loss and people are asking me about my routine! The compliments are awesome on those days when I’m doubting the routine. Plus it feels amazing to able to motivate or help people on their own fitness journey, especially those who are thinking about starting.
On top of losing weight, I’ve gained strength in my body and so my mind too. Before I started, I felt like an ogre, and would actually call myself one almost every day. I felt uncomfortable in my big body and it showed in my contorted posture and awkwardness. I mean, I’m still a little awkward but who isn’t!?
The Golden Triangle has grown with me. She started out as a baby routine and now she’s a lifestyle. We’ve gotten closer and I’m now more confident to make whatever adjustments are necessary to make it work.
Habit– Exercise becoming habit means a massive drop in decision fatigue. Instead of deciding what exercise I’m going to do or even if I want to exercise, I know that it’s going to happen and what my options are. All my energy can go into cracking on and doing it!
I mentioned decision fatigue in my last post, and how cutting it out can help you when you’re struggling with low self-esteem. There are more tips for boosting self-esteem on that post, so if that’s something you’re struggling with at the minute, give it a read!
More Definition– Remember my excitement about the shadow of a bicep line settling onto my arms? It’s still here! In fact it’s cutting deeper and deeper into my arm and looking pretty bloody cool. I’ve also started to notice definition creeping in on my legs and abs. Watch this space!
Fitness– Whereas in my last post the star of the show was weight loss, this time it’s all in the subtleties. My fitness is definitely improving. I’m running faster and beating my personal bests, as well as being able to lift heavier weights, hold planks for longer and just generally endure harder physical tasks.
I feel stronger in my body and that has so many psychological benefits too. If my body can physically hold me up or together, then I feel strong enough to endure the more abstract challenges too.
The saga of the Golden Triangle will continue and so I’m ready to get serious. Any Mulan fans could say that I’m getting down to business to defeat… the buns! Tehehe. Going ahead I’m hoping to continue learning and use this knowledge to sculpt both the routine and myself.
Researching Fitness and Nutrition– The more I learn, the better my Golden Triangle will be and turning this fitness plan into a project will only increase the chances of it becoming a lifestyle- it’s on the mind more after all! I want this regime to be simple and effective, maybe even something for other people to try out.
Intermittent Fasting– This comes as a result of my initial research and an attempt to combat my gremlin-like cravings and kick the weight loss plateau. From the articles I’ve read, the people I’ve spoken to and the women’s fitness group I’ve joined and picked the brains of- intermittent fasting seems to be a popular method!
To see what the buzz is about I’m going to try out intermittent fasting. I’m starting with the 16/8 fasting regime for the next few weeks. As there seems to be a higher risk for women in fasting than men, I’ll be following the recommendations and fasting a few days a week.
For anyone who has tried it, what did you think? Is it worth a try?
Tracking– While I already started to fill in a fitness tracker, I want to up it and track my progress. I’m talking weights, reps and sets- I told you I was getting serious! This way I can see the progress I’m making. That said, I’m sure I’ll still have some auto-pilot YouTube workouts!
One idea I’m trying out right now is to include the weather forecast in my weekly plan and write a list of workouts to complete within the week. This lets me mentally plan out my running/ walking for days that are going to be clear and focus on training on the rainy days. That way I have the balance of structure and freedom to make sure I have the most effective workouts.
Intensity– Consistency over intensity. That said, I can feel my body urging me to up the game and so it’s time to listen. I’m planning to increase the level and intensity of my workouts. I think I’m ready for a step up!
Last milestone’s reward was my lovely new friend, the Fitbit. This update’s reward also involves friends!
This weekend I headed down to Kagoshima City to see my amazing friends. After a long time in isolation, Japan is now safe enough to open up prefectural travel. So Tofu-san brought me down, through torrential downpour, to some of the best people in the world. We had a Dungeons and Dragons session (don’t knock it till you try it) with pizza and even did a little shopping! It wasn’t very healthy, I slacked a little on the triangles but the benefits to my SOUL have been incalculable.
Always remember that a change to routine is essential.
How am I doing, any advice for me going forward? More importantly, how are you doing? Have you been losing steam or gaining momentum with your fitness lately? Make sure to let me know!
‘My Golden Triangle Fitness Routine’, Yōkina Living
‘19 Foods That Can Fight Sugar Cravings’, The Healthline
‘10 Tips to Overcome a Weigh-Loss Plateau’, My Fitness Pal
‘Intermittent Fasting for Women: A Beginner’s Guide‘, The Healthline