And now, the moment of truth

Staff writerApril 10, 2011 

Judgment day wasn't as nerve racking as I expected.

I watched confidently as trainer Jesse Ewell punched numbers into his calculator.

My goal during the two-month weight loss challenge at his Fircrest gym, Innovative Fitness, was to shed 10 pounds of fat, improve my physical performance and not scare small children when I took off my shirt at the pool.

The numbers Ewell was crunching were going to tell me my body fat percentage.

The goal was 10 percent but, really, I felt like I’d met all my goals.

I felt healthy and fit, I was picking up my intensity in my favorite sport – cycling – and when I looked in the mirror I had the clearest view of my abs since my last MRI.

What I was thinking about more than the number was now that my two months of hard work were over, what’s next?

Maintenance?

“There’s no such thing as maintenance,” Ewell said. “You’re either getting stronger or you’re getting weaker.”

In other words, when you reach your fitness goals it’s time to set new ones.

When Ewell looked up from his calculator and showed me the numbers he scribbled on a sheet of paper, he confirmed it was time for new goals.

By his calculations I’d lost 10.72 pounds of fat and gained 2.86 pounds of lean muscle for a body fat percentage of 10.1 percent. Additionally, a hydrostatic body composition test, widely regarded as the most accurate form of testing, showed my body fat percentage was 5.1 percent. (I should probably point out that even though the hydrostatic test was run twice, Ewell and I remain skeptical of the result even though I really want to believe it.)

Either way, if I continue to use the number on the scale to set my fitness goals, I’m likely to be unsuccessful.

That was the case with Adam Ulrich of Auburn when he dropped from 278 pounds to 180. When he reached his ideal weight, he shifted his goals from the scale to his performance.

He started running and setting goals. Now he’s running as many as 25 miles per week and signed up to run last year’s 187-mile Ragnar Relay last year. Not only did he help his team finish but his performance coupled with his dramatic weight loss earned him a spot on one of this month’s “Biggest Loser” Ragnar Relay teams.

On April 15-16, Ulrich will run three legs of the 200-mile race in Southern California with contestants from the NBC weight loss TV show.

After that he’s planning to run a half marathon and his first triathlon.

“Having goals and setting new goals is motivation to stay disciplined, keep working out and to make healthy choices when I’m eating,” Ulrich said. “It makes a big difference.”

Continually setting new goals is a good way to condition yourself to lead a healthy lifestyle, Ewell said.

Chuck Carone, one of Ewell’s trainers, recently started racing in 5-kilometer runs to inspire himself to keep training hard.

“It’s about leading a healthy lifestyle,” said Carone, who says the scale is rarely good motivation.

“I told one woman to imagine me sitting in her bathroom every morning and when she comes in I tell her ‘You’re fat,’ ” Carone said. “That’s what you’re getting from the scale.”

This particular client now keeps a picture of Carone on her scale.

It’s better, Carone said, to measure success based on your progress toward a performance goal.

Kelly Norton of Tacoma says continually setting new goals was paramount in her journey from 40 pounds overweight five years ago to the toned All-Star Fitness instructor she is today. Her current goals are to eat cleaner and to improve her balance and flexibility.

“You have to keep pushing yourself,” she said. “It’s inspiring.”

Of course, when you reach a goal you might deserve a little celebration. For Ulrich this means relaxing on his food diary for a day or two.

Ewell usually doesn’t recommend rewarding yourself with food, but says it’s important not to be a slave to your fitness goals.

“Are we going to go through life and be boring all the time and never eat a cookie or a piece of cake on somebody’s birthday? No,” Ewell said. “But 90 percent of the time you are going to be on (working toward your goal).”

As he said this, my mind drifted to a box of Girl Scout Cookies my wife bought me a month ago as a reward for finishing this two-month stretch of training.

If they’d been Thin Mints or Do-Si-Dos I’d probably have been able to get them out of mind, but these were Samoas. So, when I got home I broke open the purple box, thought again about what’s next – a summer of challenging bicycle tours – and I knew the best place to eat my celebratory cookies.

I walked to the garage and hopped on my bike. It was time to get back to work.

Craig Hill’s column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig.hill@ thenewstribune.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys. Get more fitness coverage at blog.thenews tribune.com/adventure, thenewstribune.com/fitness and theolympian.com/getfit.

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