I got kinda lazy at the end of the semester. The week of debauchery (mainly drinking & eating yummy, but bad for you, bar food) was the week leading up to graduation. Then I spent the next two weeks at my mom’s, which means I did okay in the eating department, but hardly any exercise, except the walking around the outlets in Pigeon Forge, TN. So, a bit of weight gain, but nothing impossible to fix. I came back to PA resolved to work out like a maniac – not only to continue my getting in shape journey, but as a major stress relief for all this bar studying.

But to back up a bit… before graduation, my friends Rachel & Sarah got me to go to a spin class at the gym. (For non-gym folks, spin class is basically stationary bicycling with an instructor who tells you what to do.) Prior to them dragging me, I had always been afraid of spin classes. I would always see the most in shape people go in and the few times I peeked in, it looked really intense. I was intimidated. But one class & I was hooked. When I got back I started hitting the 6am Mon/Wed/Fri spin class, plus going at least once on either Saturday or Sunday. Like Dennis says in Run Fat Boy, Run, spin class is a life changing experience. And boy, oh boy, how it has upped my fitness.

So, I hit spin class at least 4-5 times a week. It’s a 50 minute class and you burn around 700 calories. Amazing. Then I’ve been lifting weights 3-4 times per week for 30 minutes. On strength training days, I usually aim for 60-75 minutes of cardio. On non-strength days, I aim for 75-90 minutes of cardio.

Another thing I’ve been religious about is tracking calories. I was doing just the food journal, but not really keeping a calorie count. That all changed with the free LoseIt app for iPhones & Touches (http://www.loseit.com/). It’s such an easy way to keep track of both your calories & exercise. Similar to the WeightWatchers program, except instead of points, you actually track calories. You set up your goal – where you are now & where you want to be, and then you select how fast you want to get there (no more than 2 pounds per week). Every day, I enter my current weight, then throughout the day I enter my food & exercise. My goal is 40 pounds, so I can eat approximately 1284 calories per day. Oh but wait, if you exercise, that’s negative calories, so that’s more you can eat! Here’s a typical day for me:

268 calories for breakfast
+ 584 calories for lunch
+ 311 calories for dinner
+ 790 calories in snacks
Total 1952 calories for the day

Yep, that’s well over the 1284 budget for the day (went a little overboard on snacks), but wait! I did 50 minutes of spinning that day. So.

1952 total food calories
– 675 calories burned during spin class
Total 1277 – which means I was under budget by 7 calories.

Awesome, huh? You can also track fat, carbs & protein. Right now, I only track protein, because I’ve noticed on days I feel hungry more often, those are days I haven’t had a lot of protein. It’d be smart to track fats & carbs too, but that’s just a bit too much data for me right now. You can also go on LoseIt’s website (see above) and do all sorts of reports & graphs.

A couple things to note. 1) Calorie budgets will change based on your current weight. 2) I use LoseIt’s approximation of calories burned during exercise, but from what I’ve researched, I think they’re a little low – but rather low than too high. 3) The exercise calories burned do not take extraneous things into account. For instance, did you know that you burn MORE calories doing cardio AFTER a strength training session? Yep. The best time to do cardio is the 90 minutes AFTER doing strength. So on strength days, I warm up for 10-15 minutes, do strength, THEN do the bulk of my cardio. Plus, for every pound of muscle you build, you burn 400 more calories just sitting. So many reasons to strength train.

Anyway, back to my original purpose of this post – spinning. I highly recommend it. Not only does it burn an incredible amount of calories, it has been most beneficial in my marathon training. My endurance has definitely increased and my legs are looking much leaner – always a good thing.

So, my challenge to you for the month – try something you’ve never done before. Whether that be a new class, like spinning, or a new machine. Remember, mixing it up is the way to counteract plateaus.