Process and Tools

What a boring-as-hell title for a post.  Even better? This post contains screenshots of Excel spreadsheets!

You’ve been warned.

I had a conversation this morning with a guy at the gym (box?  Nope … still can’t call it a box) that made me realize I’ve never talked about my thinking around how I structure the physical part of my weight loss, and the tools and processes I use for tracking that.  One of the tenets of a SMART goal, and really business in general, is that your progress and results be measurable.  A rule of thumb that I use in my career is that you get what you measure – if you are not measuring a particular outcome, and creating action items based on that measurement, you will not get the outcome you want. It just doesn’t happen.

Now – I’m a finance guy.  Which also means I’m a process and measurement guy.  That is what I do.  Exercise and weight loss is a very data-rich environment.  I’m a hammer, this is a nail.  So – I made some plans and built some tracking and measurement goals against them.

First, and most obvious, is that I have to measure the weight loss itself.  I talked about this in the Goals post that I did, but it is worth revisiting.  If I am not weighing myself regularly, then it is easy to backslide.  If I weigh myself too regularly, then I’m likely to be regularly disappointed by daily, water-based fluctuations in the number on the scale.  I also need to see long-term benchmarks, so that I can have some perspective if I have a bad week or a very good week.  So:

Measurement technique #1:  Weigh myself weekly.  Thursday or Friday (depends on which day I’m home after my workout).  I like to do it after a workout or run, because that helps cut down on water fluctuations.  Then track that weight.  This is what it looks like when I input the weight, starting from when I started Crossfit:

Weight Table

“Straight-Line” is my benchmark weight based on a pound-a-week weight loss

And this is what it looks like visually (updated with last week’s weigh-in):

Weight Chart

Next, it is time to start thinking about exercise.  I need to balance a few things here.  First, I want to exercise as much as I can without taking away from my family time at all.  I have a 4-year old and a 1-year old, and I see them for about an hour and a half a day on a weekday, and then weekends.  I don’t want to give that precious time up.  So, I work out in the mornings, and I work out during the week.  When I started a few weeks ago, I was working out Monday – Friday; beginning last week, I have also added a Saturday morning long run that usually finishes before the rest of the house wakes up.

I also need to balance the activities themselves.  Before, when I lost all of the weight, I was only running.  That’s fine to a point, but is not complete.  I want my body to be more efficient and have a kind of strength that is more broadly functional.  But I am not good at cross-training.  Enter Crossfit.  When I started a few weeks ago, the idea was to go to the gym Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Friday, and run on Thursdays.  Then add in the long run on Saturdays.  And then, as I got closer to goal races, swap out one of the gym days for running days.  That schedule is flexible for business travel & vacation, and has also changed around a bit since I’m not going into the gym on testing days for the new levels system.

The key here, though, is to plan this out as far in advance as I can.  There is a whole line of thought in economics about how to make the long-term planner in you commit the short-term do-er in you to do things it might not particularly want to at the time.  One trick is called a commitment device, and mine is a calendar that I have planned out all the way through any upcoming goal.  It looks like this:

Calendar

And this is planned out this way all the way through the Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon at the end of February.  I color code things – you can see when I mark something as having been completed – and generally use this to be able to mentally prepare for what is coming and also adjust for any changes in schedule.  Importantly, this keeps me tied to daily exercise.  As an example, my calendar shows that I have not missed a weekday workout in over 16 weeks.  That has reached a point that any blank space on this thing is going to be a glaring failure for me going forward – and so, when the alarm goes off, I get up.

So now what is left is tracking the exercise itself.  My spreadsheet has not yet evolved to track the numbers associated with Crossfit.  Two reasons for that – one is that they can be a touch hard to track, and another is that the gym uses a service called Wodify that does a lot of that for you.  As an example, this morning we did a 15 minute 3-rep Power Snatch EMOM at 70% (yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but it sure sounds hard).  When I log what I did for that, I get this – which I can refer to the next time it is time to do Power Snatches:

Power Snatch Performance

And then there are the runs.

I use a Garmin Forerunner 410 that I’ve had for a few years now – I like it; it works.  I use MapMyRun to plan out distances.  And I use training schedules from people like Hal Higdon to figure out a basic approach to training for things.  And then I do a couple of things.  Each time I run, I log it:

Run Log

I have this going all the way back to my first run in 2012. Sometimes it is fun to go back through and read the Notes…

This allows me to do several things.  First, it is a place to keep thoughts and look for patterns in terms of things like injury, etc.  Second, it allows me to track my weekly mileage and my speed improvement over time.  Third, it allows me to track total mileage on my shoes and just in general.  So, it allows me to do things like this:

running mileage chart

And this:

Shoes

So that I know where I am at any given time and can see patterns.

I know there are many other things that could be tracked here.  One of the reasons I have not gotten a heart rate monitor is that I know that an influx of data like that could be dangerous for my tendency to over-analyze.

There are downsides to all of this, of course.  Anymore I feel like I can’t go for a run if I don’t have my Garmin – it is almost like it doesn’t count.  That is a silly, but very real, consequence of wanting to have all of the data to crunch.  There is also a time element to this, though most of the time is spent in the initial setting-up of the spreadsheet.  Now that I have it, in general this is pretty seamless.

Anyway – that’s how I do it.  Would love to hear how you do it.  And also any suggestions for extending this kind of analysis and measurement to food.

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