Wednesday, March 9, 2011

...Yep! I have a spreadsheet for that!

Sometimes I feel like I am in contention for being one of the biggest dorks walking planet earth… I sometimes get off on some of most seemingly stupid things that I’m sure would have a lot of people scratching their heads and thinking, that girl is just weird! 

I have just finished logging some of my daily numbers and the above thought occurred to me. Now, since most of you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, let me explain…

I am basically a chart-aholic. I love to chart stuff and make Excel spreadsheets full of data. Then, even beyond making the spreadsheets full of data, I like to make the spreadsheets ‘pretty.’ (Thank you to my former boss, Jennifer, for instilling this little bit of twisted compulsiveness in me!) I will add all kinds of colors to the charts, if I can make them visually easier to read and I’m always manipulating the data in some way or another in order to look at the trending of my charts. Finally, if I’m in a really adventurous mood… hold on to your hats everyone… I will actually GRAPH the data. Okay, everyone control your excitement… I know it’s hard to contain yourselves, but really, it’s in everyone’s best interest to remain calm.

I started this strange little habit of mine a little over two years ago, when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and a tendency toward pre-diabetes. At the time, I created the chart I use when several friends (including my doc) and I were going to get together to try to do a weekly support group for weight loss. My intention was to bring the chart to the meetings, to keep track of my blood pressure and be able to show it regularly to my doc, which she had requested in order to make sure the meds were doing their thing (at the time my unregulated BP was in the scary range… around 200/100). I had also intended to share the blank chart with anyone that wanted it, so we could all hold ourselves and each other accountable (assuming each of us would bring our weekly chart to the weekly meetings we were planning to hold).

Well, as groups like this are often so wont to do, the meetings fell apart before they even really began, but despite that, I knew that my doc/friend would still insist on seeing my BP records to make sure that she/we had it well regulated… thus, I kept the chart going for my own records… and I keep it going to this day. I think it has been one of the tools in my arsenal of successful weight loss. This chart tracks my DAILY (yes, daily) BP, resting heart rate, morning (fasting) blood glucose reading, weight, and then it auto-calculates my BMI. It also has a place for recording how many minutes of exercise I do each day… this element was much more important when I was really struggling to get my minimum amounts of exercise in each day. I still record the time for every day I work out, but I don’t worry about what the time is as much anymore as making sure that I’m getting my mileage in on run days and getting at least 60 minutes of hard aerobic exercise on three additional days a week.

I’m sure some of you out there are reading this and freaking out saying, you’re not supposed to weigh yourself every day… isn’t that’s just a fast-track to frustration? Well, I agree it can be frustrating… IF you let it be. Instead, I have chosen to use it as a tool for my own self discipline. I know that my weight can vary (sometimes even as much as a couple of pounds!) from day to day, but the idea with the daily weigh-ins is to maintain the mental discipline to NOT be afraid of the scale and to NOT let the number dictate my day. Most of the time I’m pretty successful at this maintaining this mindset. It has also taught me that as long as the general trend of the numbers is in a downward direction, then that means that the numbers are not going up (aka I’m not gaining weight)! I know, this seems so horribly obvious, but when you’re doing this over a number of years, and have lost the weight as slowly as I have, I have to keep this specific premise in the forefront of my mind. I really don’t recommend this practice for everyone… only you know if you will be helped or hinderd by a practice such as this.

Well, this has been such a successful means for disciplining my eating (and exercise and BP monitoring and glucose monitoring, etc.) over the last couple of years that I have started charting lots of other things. Most people do not know that I am an aspiring writer… and in order to be a good writer, you have to write often (ideally every day). Since I can be a little slack (ok, lazy)… even though I love to write once I get started… some days it’s just tough to even get out the gate if I’m not feeling particularly inspired. I have found that tracking and charting the number of words I write each day and each week (similar to my weight loss/BP chart) is also coming in handy. This way I can see what weeks I’m on track for my goal (around 1,000 words a day – and ideally this should NOT be the same word written 1,000 times over) and what weeks I’m woefully short. I manipulate the data in all kinds of ways to see what my daily averages are over time and what my weekly averages are and then I can even try to figure out how much I need to write this week to reach my average weekly goal, if I have slacked off for, say, the last three weeks. 

Finally, I have also started charting my grocery bills ever since Heather got me going on serious couponing back in August. I track the retail price, the sale price and the out-of-pocket expense. Boy, let me tell you, the opportunities for manipulating the data on this one are almost endless! A source of endless delight for the über-dork that rages inside of me!

Thinking about all the stuff I chart, one of the areas I have not started tracking on a chart yet is my actual running mileage. I’m starting to think that this might be a good idea… although I generally know approximately how much mileage I run each day, a chart would let me be specific (she rubs her hands together in anxious anticipation) about the fractions of a mile that tend to add up over time. It would allow me to see how I’m doing compared to the half-marathon training schedule to make sure I’m on track. The other benefit I see to this is that it would allow me to track the mileage on a pair of shoes… and this might be the most important piece of information derived from a chart like this… I pretty strictly adhere to the “running shoes are only to be used for running” rule so that I can sort of have an idea of the time/miles I’ve put on a pair of shoes and I make sure they’re replaced regularly… and for this reason alone, the new chart is sounding better and better. Yes, I know, I am truly an über dork, didn’t I tell ya?!?

So, after all this, you can see that my suspicions about my dorkiness are pretty well founded. So much so, that I think I will throw my hat in the ring for the prize of dorky woman of the year. What do ya think? (Oh yeah… 1,289 words to add to my writing chart for today… yea me!)

Today's Run
Miles: 7.21 (trying to make up some of my missed mileage from Monday)
Time: 1:26
Pace: 5.0 mph
Part Street / Part Treadmill Run

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