Weight Loss

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Tonight I changed my workout a bit, and decided to swim instead of run. I've always enjoyed swimming, and technically I've always been a strong swimmer, but for most of my adult life I haven't been cardiovascularly fit enough to swim for long enough to call it a workout. So I started looking into swim fins. I always thought that swimming with fins would make me a wuss. But it turns out that the shorter, firmer fins they sell for lap swimming are designed to improve your workout and train for sprinting (among other things). So I got some Zoomers Z2 fins.

According to the literature that comes with the fins, these things were designed to load more of the workout onto the legs--when swimming, the arms are the most efficient source of propulsion but have only a small percentage of the body's muscle mass, while the legs are about 60% of the body's muscle mass but contribute very little to propulsion. The solution (according to the developer) is the short, firm swim fin: they improve the efficiency of the leg kick but because they are short, they do not overload the leg muscles. This should allow for use of a higher percentage of body mass in the workout, a higher level of intensity, and a longer workout. Working the legs a little more and the arms a little less allows the swimmer to be more deliberate about upper body form, have more time to breathe and get enough oxygen to sustain the exertion, and decrease shoulder strain (due to swimming in a higher position in the water, because of the additional propulsion)

My first run with the Z2 fins seemed to support these claims. I was able to swim 30 laps in 30 minutes, including all the pauses I had to take to catch my breath and let my heart rate recover. (Those are 25 yard laps, so I swam 750 yards; not bad for the first time swimming in about 6 months.) My legs are going to be SORE, I can already tell. Getting more propulsion and moving more efficiently through the water makes the workout more enjoyable, and I was definitely working out in the Zone--in fact I had to swim slower to keep my heart rate low enough to sustain it. I think these are a good investment for anyone who has similar problems that I had with swimming--simply unable to sustain a long enough workout, and feeling sluggish and slow in the water. My legs definitely did more of the work--I usually feel like I am sort of dragging my lower body along the pool, despite putting a lot of concentration and effort into my kick.

My weight loss plateau ended; I lost 2 lbs after the 12 days of no change. 3 changes were made just prior to the end of the plateau:
  1. My husband came to Spokane, after about 2 weeks apart.
  2. I stopped drinking coffee
  3. I stopped working out.

I have no way of knowing if any or all, or none, of these things were related to ending the plateau. But I suppose all of them probably had something to do with it. I definitely was happier, more relaxed and less stressed with hubby here. The coffee thing, I still can't really find any actual literature addressing coffee and weight loss (caffeine has an appetite suppresant effect, but I don't know why coffee could make one retain or gain weight, although I could make some guesses, including the sustained high blood sugar finding.) Working out? I had been working out 5-6 days a week for a long time. Over the last 2 months, that has included increasing amounts of running. So perhaps I have been overtraining? It's been suggested to me before, but I've never seen it reflected in a plateau. (Let me say for the record that I know 12 days isn't really much of a plateau. But that was 12 days of the exact same weight, down to the 0.1 lb. The plateau lasted much longer than that, a bit over a month of being the same weight or higher, up and down in a 3 lb range.) With this in mind, I plan on (A) varying my workout more, and (B) reducing the frequency a bit. 2 days a week of weights, and 3-4 days a week of cardio. At least one of those days has to be something other than running on the treadmill. I also need to start bike commuting, but that means I have to get access to the bike lockup at the hospital, and so far I haven't been able to do that. Anyway, we'll see how this all goes.

Today we had an airway day in the OR. I was in ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) today. Yes, it is still done today. No, it is not barbaric. For one thing, the patients are anesthetized for the electrical impulse and subsequent seizure that is induced. That's why I was there, to learn how to do this, and manage the patients' airways while they were being treated. The patients do not feel the treatment, and have no memory of it. For another thing, it is very helpful for people who either can't tolerate antidepressant drugs or for whom they don't work. It's also voluntary; patients are only mandated to get ECT in extremely rare situations, when the patient is so debilitated that their life is in danger and they cannot consent to it themselves. They have patients who have been coming for years to get periodic ECT treatment, and they have gone from being institutionalized and completely debilitated by their depression to being productive, even happy members of society. It's unclear how the seizures help treat depression, but it has been known to work for a long time, and for some people it's the only thing that works. Google electroconvulsive therapy, you'll find some interesting information out there. There's a lot of misinformation that was spread by popular culture, particularly by the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

So, anyway, the ECTs we did today were voluntary, of course, and it was quite interesting and not barbaric at all. We anesthetize the patients and then bag-mask ventilate them for the entire treatment (i.e. no breathing tube is inserted) which is about 10 minutes of masking, including the 1 minute for the actual treatment. It's not easy on the hands, but it's great experience for new people like me. When we were done, I still had a bit of time, so I was given a case to intubate (a gallbladder removal, or lap chole) and intubated my 5th patient. This one wasn't as easy or clear as most of them have been, but luckily I was able to get it without too much trouble. It was a long day--in the OR from 0630 to 1100, then in class until 1630. Then I went to study for a few hours, then home for a little bit, off to the gym, and now here I am blogging. All in a day's work.

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