August 06, 2013

Calculating PointsPlus

Since starting the Hansons' method for my marathon training, I surprisingly haven't minded running six days a week. I never thought I'd be a 6x/week person, but it feels so routine that my rest day is what feels strange! However, the one day a week that I do dread is Tuesday. Tuesday = speed work.

Speed work is tough! And it's not fun while I'm doing it. However, it's almost a guarantee that I'll feel awesome once I'm done. And I know it's good for my training, so I do it, even though I could come up with a thousand excuses not to. Today, I had to do 3 x 1 mile with 660 yards recovery. The 660 "yards" threw me off; I don't know a single runner who measures distances in yards! But I got this workout here, as part of the Hansons' training. I used Google to find out that 660 yards equals 0.375 miles.

I chose to do the run on the treadmill, because it's much easier to choose a pace and stick with it. I set the incline on 1.5%, to make it feel more like outdoor running. I ran at an easy pace for a mile to warm-up, and then started my first interval at 7.8 mph (according to the speed work chart, I should run my mile intervals between 7:40-7:50/mi). At first, I thought, "Oh, this isn't so bad!" but after about a half-mile, I was already wishing the interval would be over. I really started doubting whether I could even finish the workout.

But, like always, I pushed myself to get it done. I watched episode six of Orange is the New Black, which was pretty entertaining. For the last interval, I told myself I could lower the incline by 0.5% every quarter mile, just to "reward" myself for pushing through ;)  Once the incline got to 0.5%, though, it felt weird on my knees. I always run with a minimum 1% incline, so the 0.5% felt like I was running downhill. I increased it back to 1% for the finish.

And I did it!
I love how uniform these look!

When I posted about the cookies/brownie a couple of days ago, a few people asked me what I meant by how I calculated PointsPlus by weighing the goods. It's not very scientific ;)  Obviously, those were bigger than "normal" cookies/brownies, so I weighed them to determine the serving size when I looked up cookies/brownies in the Weight Watchers e-Tools.

For example, I weighed the chocolate chip cookie, and it was exactly 4 ounces. So then I looked up "chocolate chip cookies" in the database on WW e-tools (this could be done on calorie counting sites, also, if you count calories instead of PP). Then, where the default serving size is, I switched it to 4 ounces. That listed the PointsPlus value at 14.

Of course, that's not going to be 100% accurate; everybody makes their cookies differently! But because I don't have the recipe that was used for these cookies, I just do the best I can with what I have. It's a good estimate, and since I only eat them at most once a week, it's not going to be a problem when I count my PointsPlus.

I do something similar when I go out to eat at a restaurant where I don't know the PP values of the food. For example, when I go to La Pita, I might have the chicken kabob with rice pilaf, hummus, garlic sauce, and pita bread. I just look up chicken (boneless, skinless) and estimate the portion size (I'm good at estimating, from all the years of calorie/points counting). I look up "rice pilaf" and "hummus" and estimate those as well. The garlic sauce is very similar to mayonnaise, so I just count it as mayonnaise.

For more complex meals at restaurants, with a lot of ingredients, I look up a similar dish at a chain restaurant. For example, if I were to order chicken marsala at a local Italian restaurant, I would just look up chicken marsala at, say, Olive Garden. Again, it's not 100% accurate, but it'll do in a pinch.

Another question I've been asked recently is how I manually calculate my activity PointsPlus earned. At first, I just plugged the exercise into e-Tools, and used the number it gave me. But my heart rate (and calorie burn) was sometimes very different for the same amount of distance or time. For example, one day I might have run three miles, burning 280 calories, and the next day, run three miles, burning just 210 calories. But e-Tools would give me the same amount of PP for each of those, which didn't make sense to me.

I can't, for the life of me, remember where I read this, but I read that to calculate activity PP, you can just take the calories burned and divide by 80. That made much more sense to me, so that's is what I do. I divide my calories burned (based on my heart rate monitor) by 80, and then round UP to the next round number. During today's run, I burned 449 calories; divide that by 80, and it's 5.61. I rounded that up to 6, and counted 6 activity PP. So, I hope that makes sense :)  If you don't use a heart rate monitor, there is nothing wrong with using the e-Tools calculator, however!

I almost forgot about Taste Test Tuesday again this week! I didn't find anything too exciting at the grocery store this time, but I did see this cereal on Manager's Special, so I picked it up to give it a try:

If you've been reading my blog for a long time, then you know I'm a little obsessed with Cascadian Farm Cinnamon Raisin Granola. It has a million calories per miniscule serving, so I don't buy it very often. But this cereal looked like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and has just 110 calories per serving, so I thought it'd be worth giving it a try.

It's pretty good! It's not as sweet as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and it's a little denser. But the flavor is a nice cinnamon-sugar flavor. It's not exactly a "health food", but if you're looking for a healthier alternative to the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, this will definitely do the trick. Sometimes I like to have a lower calorie cereal like this (with milk) for an afternoon snack. This one was good!


  1. As always, I admire your commitment when it comes to running! :)

  2. Thanks so much for the detailed explanation! That is one of the many reasons I love to read your blog.

  3. I have always had a soft spot for Cascadian Farm since I used to live near their farm in the early 90s before they made it big. :)

  4. Thanks so much for the explanation, I know it takes a lot of effort to keep up with people's questions. We appreciate your dedication.

  5. I ran 7:30 1/4 mile intervals last night at my track workout. I can NOT imagine holding that pace for a mile! Great job!

  6. Wow. I am in awe with your workout - what a great pace to keep for a WHOLE mile!! Way to go - so inspiring!

  7. Awesome job! I am marathon training (my first one!) and finding that I am really more hungry than the points allot for! And I eat every point I can get!

    Do you feel that way during training? What do you do? More fruit or do you change the foods to heavier ones?

    1. Congrats on training for your first marathon! I was feeling really hungry with my allotted 26 PP per day (plus my activity and weekly PP); so I switched over to "maintenance mode" last week, which gave me an extra 6 PP per day. It certainly can't hurt to add a few PP to your day and see how it affects your weight. Best wishes on the race!

    2. Thanks!!

  8. Katie, I just signed up for WW online yesterday (I normally use Spark People but I wanted to compare counting calories vs. points so I did the 3 month plan). I was trying to figure out how to accurately add my workout from this morning since it was a gym workout of strength training mixed with bursts of cardio. This site,, (not sure how legit it is), explains exactly what you said about 75-80 Calories burned during a workout is equal to 1 PP. That seems to be more reasonable when I use what my HR monitor says I burned, rather than entering each weight exercise individually because it doesn't give you any PP unless you lifted for 10 min and who does one strength move for that long! :) Thanks for all the info, I'm interested to see how this goes!

  9. Thank you! This is so helpful and really appreciate it. You are amazing!

  10. Don't you just love manager's specials at Kroger! I got some Pop Chips for 75 cents the other day and I was so excited. If you like Orange is the New Black, you should watch Weeds (if you haven't already). They are both created, written, and produced by Jenji Kohan. We finished OTNB in two days! We loved it so much we decided to check out some of the other Netflix series and just finished House of Cards. I love Kevin Spacey so I loved it!


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