Experiment #20: (Trying) to get a Six Pack

What my grocery load looked like before ab challenge... ! 
Goal setting for different people means very different things. For me, goal setting is kind of always an experiment - some I'll succeed, some I'll fail, but I'll pretty much always learn something new from the process. I've been slacking on writing up a lot of my self-experiments (i.e. I'm running one right now on wearing nail polish to strengthen my nails because they are constantly breaking and it's obnoxious).

 To be honest, I think it's because of the judgement. I am still working on this whole tougher skin thing and handling criticism thing. It only takes 1-2 negative comments to ruin someone's day (remember this: http://www.innocentheroine.com/2018/06/experiment-19-trying-to-handle-negative.html). I'm hard enough on myself, additional (unsolicited) input is generally unhelpful. I've seen this in other people I greatly admire - they keep their goals close to their chest well into their journey because it's safer if it's just between you and the mantra in your head. 

I'm guilty of both sides of this too (especially of late) - criticizing and being criticized. We criticize when we want to protect someone from some seemingly preventable unhappiness we see coming in their future. But I think at some point, we just have to let it go -- people are adults and make choices and we can only support or... not. And if you don't support, ask yourself if there is a good reason behind it (i.e. they have an eating disorder and are self destructive), otherwise you're probably a toxic person in their life.
Starting point

OK enough soapbox. Now onto what you all came for - pictures of my attempted six pack.

Premise of goal: Honestly, very little. I have never had defined abs, and I think they look amazing when people do have them (#abenvy). Back in highschool, I was very, very, very thin (~6'0 and 130 pounds) and very, very fit (playing volleyball, running, etc.) and guess what? I had no abs. NONE. Not even a two pack. Why? Because I wasn't actually all that strong, just very lean.

Cycling has brought me the best abs I've had since adulthood. I think it's because cycling allows me to run very "lean" for my body size while still maintaining the weight I need to stay healthy (body fat percentage is low even though I weigh 160ish). Even then, it's only been a two pack at best.

working on that fitness 
When the doldrums of the off season hit (mid November), I decided to try! I started with cleaning up my diet -- it was terrible. You can get away with everything when you bike 200 miles a week. I was probably eating 800-1000 calories a day in friend food and sugar ALONE. We have tater tots available for breakfast at work and I'd eat a plate of them everyday. I also ate chocolate, candy, etc. all day and then would go home and have ice cream before sleep.

Paring down the tater tots at breakfast
This was way harder than I expected. The first week was no problem - sure I "craved" sugar, but I was doing my ab workouts, seeing early results, and feeling good about myself. Easy peasy! But then the withdrawal bomb hit, and it was like a wall. Holy hell - I got a small taste of what it's like for people truly addicted to something to try to quit. I couldn't sleep, I was exhausted, I was a raging bitch to every unfortunate person who had to encounter me, and my whole body was acutely aware of where everything with 1g of sugar in it was. The sleeplessness really threw me off because I was grumpy, I was exhausted, and I'd lay down in bed and just stare at the ceiling and wonder why I couldn't sleep. Sugar.
Early progress 3 weeks in, looking good! 

It took about 2 weeks before I could sleep normally again, and by then I'd come down with a cold-> sinus infection that ended up lasting till... now (early February) on/off. But I kept pushing through - I kept the cardio workouts fairly light (off season anyway, it's for the best) and did my "hard" ab routine of ab wheel + 10 minutes of various planks/crunches/strength training 3x a week and a light ab workout 4x a week. I've been doing a plank a day for a minute since 2017, so my abs were at least used to planks!

I balanced sleep, recovery, ab-workouts, and trying to eat healthy while traveling and maintaining my job (..!) in a pretty challenging circle. I had other little set backs too, like getting a shard of glass stuck in my eye (so I couldn't sleep, again!). Oh, and fun set backs, like the holiday parties ;) I'll be square, the only reason I pursued the journey to six pack to January was because of the support I was receiving on Facebook with my update posts. To those who were positive or even just liked it, thank you, really (!) I wouldn't have made it as far without all you and that kind of a support network. I'm really grateful to have some amazing friends who will support me in whatever madness I'm trying for.

I would have loved to walk around like this,
but it was about 25 F in Michigan
By a month in, I pretty much plateaued at a 4 pack (!!!). It was incredible because I had never had a 4 pack before, but it was still frustrating to see this wall and not know how to punch through. I didn't want to do more weight training, I couldn't scale back at work, I was mildly sick, and I wanted to maintain my usual cycling load. Completing the Rapha500 was a choice of cycling over focusing on abs for the last week. I wanted the 6 pack but not enough to seize another great opportunity to achieve another goal I wanted to.

As we crested January, I was happy with the results and that I made it through Christmas cookie season without any damage (final weight 163, which was 1 pound more than I started). Unfortunately, I went on a bit of a bender after finishing this Self-Experiment. We're at a month post-experiment, and I'm up to 170 (!), recovering from a sinus infection, and back to my original abs. Sigh. But it's OK, I know it's all in reach now and just because you fall off the wagon doesn't mean you need to stay off the wagon :)

Thanks everyone who offered a hand in this journey. December was a much more exciting month than January has been because of all of your cheers. It's my turn now to offer support to others chasing their goals and to stay focused on the big goals. Looking forward to 2020.

Final Check in - January 2020

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