Annual Review 2021: Post-Vax Rumspringa Denting Progress

After the “Mulligan Year” of 2021 I was hoping that things in 2021 would get a bit less crazy and thus be able to focus a bit more. In many ways things did get less crazy. Vaccinations became available way earlier than I could have possibly hoped. The mind I had for my optimistic date was fourth quarter of the year. That meant I was able to do stuff like register for a race. It also meant that I made up for lost time in the socialization department, which had some knock on effects with my health statuses.

Goal Accountability

I began 2021 with some tweaked goals for each day, that are listed below. The main categories were the same but how I would hit it changed. It’s now the fifth year of me doing it and honestly by half way through the year I thought of giving up on it. The premise of measuring things for accountability is totally not working with this system. I have year after year of getting middling grades at best. This year is even a bit of a regression. So why still do it? Part of it is because at least for part of the year it does cause me to focus. It is easy to rationalize that I have just been slacking for a little while when it turned out to be much longer. None of these things are big dramatic asks for any given day either. They are essentially eating a balanced clean diet, get good rest, get some minimum modicum of exercise, and do some things for cognitive health reasons. This is not “run 20 miles a day”, “meditate an hour a day”, or anything like that. Over the long run not doing these things is a net negative. So I’ll sound like a broken record but will be trying to do better in the coming year. Back to this year the five goals were:

  • Goal 1: Eat a Blue Zones inspired plant dominant diet
  • Goal 2: Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Goal 3: Physical activity levels such that either get 10K or more steps in a day or burn more than 2800 calories. This translates into either moving more or working out or both.
  • Goal 4: Daily calisthenics or yoga in order to increase agility, muscle balance, and strength.
  • Goal 5: Brain exercises one or more of:
    • 15 minutes meditation
    • 10-15 minutes lumosity + one other exercise
    • 10-15 minutes non-dominant hand handwriting exercises + one other exercise
    • 30+ minutes musical instrument
    • 30+ minutes foreign language learning
    • 30+ minutes graphic arts learning
Per Phase Goal Grades
Figure 1: Accountability Grades Per 4-week Phase


What we have is the grade for each of the categories for each of the 4-week periods that make up a whole year (a total of 13). There is some good in here compared to last year, although the overall picture still doesn’t look great. First, I did have much better consistency on my Activity scores. That was definitely driven by my signed up for a 10K for November (hence the drop off once that was in the rear view mirror). Related to that once I was vaccinated I started seeing a physical therapist to be proactive about some muscle balance issues that cause some knee tracking issues while I was running. That lead to more consistency on training to a certain extent as well. Lastly brain exercises (formerly just meditation) was a lot stronger and more consistent thanks to me really getting into the groove re-learning Spnash (mostly with DuoLingo). Diet was more up oscillatory like previous years. Sleep was much worse overall too.

Daily Grades
Figure 2: Daily Goal Aggregated Grades


When we look at it from a daily total score perspective as in Figure 2 we can again see some good and bad. My highs were never as high as in 2020. I have no extended period above a 3.5. But I also had very little time below 2.0 as well. I also had no 0.0 days and far fewer below 1.5 days. What that looks like when we sum it all up though is mostly a bit of a down trend not an up trend:

2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
Goal 1 (Diet) 2.44 (C+) 2.49 (C+) 1.99 (C-) 3.05 (B) 2.94 (B-)
Goal 2 (Sleep) 3.65 (A-) 3.75 (B+) 3.23 (B) 3.60 (B+) 3.58 (B+)
Goal 3 (Activity) 2.98 (B-) 2.95 (B-) 3.13 (B) 2.98 (B-) 2.81 (B-)
Goal 4 (Training) 1.41 (D+) 2.13 (C) 0.85 (D-) 1.63 (D+) 1.27 (D)
Goal 5 (Brain Exercises) 2.91 (B-) 2.19 (C) 1.08 (D) 1.79 (C-) 1.52 (D+)
Total GPA 2.68 (C+) 2.70 (B-) 2.05 (C) 2.61 (C+) 2.42 (C+)

I’ll start with the good news then go to the bad. Good news is that I finally did pretty well with the brain exercises. Making it about more than just meditation allowed me to flex into doing that or Spanish. Both were getting my brain operating in ways out of the usual patterns which are good. I’m going to keep that broader scope for sure. On activity levels I improved very slightly but still am not up to 2019 levels. Diet wasn’t great but it was only slightly under last year. I did a bit worse on sleep this year. The big drop off from 2020 was on training. That was even with more steady training days for longer stretches. I just went too long with doing literally no calisthenics or weight exercises of any kind. That also means that my overall GPA dropped just slightly, but enough to drop from a B- to a C+. The glas sis half full view is that it was my second best annual GPA since I started doing this.

Nutrition

Nutrition was definitely the thing that took the biggest hit this year owing to the, as I call it, post-vaccination Rumspringa. During pre-vaccine COVID I was in a position to be able to fully isolate the entire time while still financially supporting local businesses I would normally patronize. I was also able to do it without feeling like I was losing my sanity, going into a depression, etc. However once my vaccination course was complete I definitely made up for lost time. That meant eating out a lot more and “celebrating” with eating lots of rich food and drinking a lot more out too. All that said though the numbers could be a lot worse. They still came in off target even more than in 2020.

Nutrition
Figure 3: Annual Daily Average Nutrition


Lets delve into these numbers a bit. First the Good, and there is not a lot of it:

  • I’m getting almost all of my macro/micro nutrients (except just under on Vitamin D and Vitamin E) in my diet. Vitamin E is a bit further off than last year but more than in range once vitamins are factored in.
  • I once again exceeded by Calcium and Potassium RDA levels unlike prior years
  • I had some improvement on the Omega-6/Omega-3 fatty acid and Calcium/Magnesium ratios
  • Sodium levels are still high but came down about 20%

The bad list gets worse though:

  • My calorie consumption is up slightly. Calories burned is up a bit too but bit of that is just from gaining weight over the year. Even with that it created an even bigger calorie surpluss, which was reflected in my weight and body fat gain.
  • Caffeine went from just under to just over 150 mg. This is an important threshold because it is about where dependency to caffeine begins. It’s not a huge emergency but it’s better if it is a bit lower.
  • Fiber was quite a bit lower. That was one of the numbers I’m tracking instead of cholesterol to determine how plant based my diet is. The fact that went down is not a good sign.
  • The Alkalinity ratio got worse by a lot. I went from being just on the good side of the curve (but never in range) to the the other side again. This is also a measure of how much whole food plant based my diet is and it is tracking in the wrong direction.
  • While I’m not directly tracking dietary cholestorol for “plantiness” of my diet since I was planning on eating more eggs and shellfish, I still want to keep that number below the RDA level, which I exceeded by a lot more than last year.

Body Composition

I had hoped to use a calmer 2021 and a potential for opening up to get in a bit better shape. While I did get a bit healthier by training up for a 10K the shape my body got into was more rotund:

Body Fat and Weight Graph
Figure 4: Annual Body Fat and Weight History


I did make some good progress in the pre-vaccine time. I did have a spike in fat and weight as the last of the 2020 election insanity wound down. The trends were going well until right before vaccination. After that it was a nearly continuous climb up until I reach all time peak weight (going back to records I have into the late-1990s). A silver lining is that my percent bodyfat is drastically lower than it was the last time I was at this weight fifteen years ago. It was still a bit of a wake up call so in mid-October I started hunkering down.Bodyfat started trending down a bit before that as my running and training ramped up. Through October and doing more calorie restrictions I pulled back a lot on the miles and training. I don’t like the overall up trend as my weight was going down over the last month and a half though. It goes back to the literal zero training I was doing. In fact I was getting more absorbed into doing some software stuff so my overall fitness stuff went out the window even as diet was getting dialed in.

Net Calories Graph
Figure 5: Annual Net Calories History


One thing that stands out with the net calorie graph in Figure 5 is how jagged it is compared to 2020. While 2020 had longer stretches of up or down, 2021 had very jagged patterns. There also weren’t any extended periods of net calorie loss either when you average it out. That would explain why the net calories per day were slightly higher too. This trend looks a lote more like 2019, my worst year on this front.

Mood

Last year I presented the graphs of my mood data. I’m only summarizing it here to say that after January my mood improved substantially across all metrics. I’m not going to present the graphs and not sure I’ll cover that again but I wanted to address it here directly.

Looking forward to 2022

So now it’s goal setting and assessment time for 2022. First the final assessment of 2021 is not great. The best news of all though was that my blood work in my physical near the end of the year was the best it has bene for a couple of years. That is not an excuse to slack off even more than I already am. I was still pleasantly surprised that even with a bit more wear and tear and not enough maintenance my body was still working well. It didn’t feel off, besides the usual tightness that a middle aged person (or older) gets from being too sedentary, but it was good to see numbers to that effect. So back to what to do for 2022.

I guess it will be more of the same but hopefully better. First thing is that I need to figure out which races I want to get registered for to give me some training focus. I still want to spend some time focusing on more muscle balance and overall fitness stuff before getting back into a running program. My knees were feeling it more than any year previously and I wasn’t thrilled about it. I still powered through the 10K even with a not so great time. The races give me fitness focus and that’s what I need. The goals for 2022 will be pretty much the same as 2021:

  • Goal 1: Eat a Blue Zones inspired plant dominant diet
  • Goal 2: Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Goal 3: Physical activity levels such that either get 10K or more steps in a day or burn more than 2800 calories. This translates into either moving more or working out or both.
  • Goal 4: Daily calisthenics or yoga in order to increase agility, muscle balance, and strength.
  • Goal 5: Brain exercises one or more of:
    • 15 minutes meditation
    • 30+ minutes musical instrument
    • 30+ minutes foreign language learning
    • Etc.

All of the items are really the bare minimum necessary for longevity. I’d love to one day say that I will give myself stretch goals, but since getting these to B+ or better hasn’t happened setting that at this point would be folly. Goals #1 through #4 are identical to last year. Goal #5 is slightly tweaked. I had a laundry list of items on the list last year. Practically I only did meditation or language learning. I’ve been itching to get practicing on the viola again so I’ll leave that. The others were never really a thing. If I come up with some brain exercises I’ll add them ad hoc to the list. Otherwise this is probably what it will be focused on.

Perhaps this relatively poor but not completely horrible level of effort I’ve sustained my whole life will be sufficient for getting me across the centenarian finish line. Just yesterday Betty White died weeks shy of her own 100th birthday. When I think of living that long it is in the style and quality of life that she had pretty much to the very end. She was not a fitness maven. Since genetics play a big part in this it is more about how we tweak things. Hypothetically I’d rather eat a little less crap now, exercise a bit more than I like, and do little things here and there that over the decades increase the length of my quality of life. Of course in practice that’s easier said than done. Will this be the year I finally crack into the high-B’s or low-A’s? I wouldn’t put money on that but I’m once again going to try to give it a college try. Either way I’ll be recording the good and the bad for another assessment next year.