Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What a sweet compliment (I think).

To my delight, people have been commenting on my loose clothing. I've safety-pinned some pants and skirts so they'll stay up. I've dug out some too-small clothing that was gathering dust. Often, the previously too-small clothing has already become too-big clothing. Sometimes it's still a bit too-small, but most often it fits about right. I also bit the bullet and went shopping, but didn't buy a lot. (I don't plan to stay this size for long.)

So, anyway, I'm in this weird place where my clothes are way too big or just a tiny bit too small. A couple of times, I've put on a shirt from the closet and instantly dropped it into our charity box, slightly irritated that it's already too loose. (In a gee, shucks sort of way, of course.) More often, though, I'll wear it baggy.

Today, in my mailbox, I found a card from a business not very close to our school. I thought it odd, so I asked around, and it seems that I'm the only person to receive this business card. I'll take it as a compliment that someone is giving me a "hint", and send out a silent "thank you" to the anonymous person who put it in my mailox.

The card? It's for an alterations shop.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Plan in a Nutshell (Part I)

A fellow Gyminee user asked what I was doing. Since Gyminee's posting leaves something to be desired, and since I'm doing this whole "blogging thing" anyway, it makes sense to describe what I'm doing here.

It's actually not a big thing, not really. At the most basic level, it's math. Once again, I should mention that when I try to lose weight, I succeed. The question is why, in the past, I've stopped trying. (We'll put aside the times I've stopped ridiculous diets like Atkins. That had to stop.) But, I think that what I'm doing now, the basics at least, provides the basis for a lifelong healthy diet.

On the other hand, if I can toot my own horn for a moment, I have lost about 37 pounds since November 15. That's one to two pound per week, consistently. (I'm also down 44 pounds from my all-time high weight.) Clearly, I'm doing something right (much to the likely chagrin of my physician who thinks I should be eating far fewer calories).

But I should note that my situation is just that: my situation. Everyone has their own mountain to climb, and they may need to take a different approach. Just because it works for me doesn't mean that I believe that it would work for everyone (well, actually, I do sort of, but you'll see why). More importantly, we all have particular hidden obstacles to face, whether we've put them up or allowed someone else to put them up, and there's no one fix for those.

So, anyway, here it goes. My "formula" for weight loss. With no particular organization:

  • Maintain a caloric deficit of 500-1000 calories per day. (This will be described in greater detail in another post. For now know that this means that you should burn about 500-1000 caloies more per day than you eat. This includes what you burn by simply existing.) Don't short yourself! I've been averaging 1900-2000 calories per day and losing weight. Food is fuel, and you won't get far without it.

  • Eat breakfast. Real food. Every day. Eat right after you get up (or within a reasonable period of time).

  • Eat five or six meals and snacks per day, splitting your calories fairly evenly across each meal/snack. Again, this should be real food.

  • Eat protein in nearly every meal. (I don't often have protein in nighttime snack, but I do try to have it in every other meal.)

  • Eat fruit and/or vegetables in nearly every meal. (My goal is every meal, but it doesn't happen.)

  • Eat healthy fats! There is no reason to avoid olive oil, nuts, or peanut butter. Heck, I also see nothing wrong with butter and some not-so-lean meat on ocassion! Just be sure to watch the calories and make sure that fats make up no more than 35% of your food by calories.

  • Exercise five times per week. You should sweat and breathe hard. This should include weight/resistance training at least twice per week. Find sports and activities you enjoy.

  • Keep yourself hydrated. Your urine should be light or clear. It actually doesn't matter (to me, at least) whether it's plain water or some other calorie-free beverage.

  • Don't deny yourself "real food". This leads to a good/bad food mentality. (Or, worse yet, a good/bad person mentality!) The key is moderation.

  • Realize that you're sometimes going to need to eat more (or less) depending on circumstances. Just rode your bike for an hour? You'll probably need to eat quite a bit more. Indulged a bit yesterday? You'll probably not be that hungry, and it's OK to eat light today.

  • Know that you are NOT on a diet. What you are doing now has to be what you're going to do for your entire life, with certain adjustments. If that doesn't seem do-able, then there's something that needs to change with what you're doing now. (I may make an exception to this later if/when I reach goal and do some "cutting" and "bulking" to efficiently gain muscle and lose fat. But it doesn't apply right now.)

Well, that's all I can think of right now. I will go more in depth about creating and maintaining a caloric deficit in an upcoming post. It just became too unwieldy to try to do it all in one post. Heck, it's a bit unwieldy NOW!

A Lesson in Preparedness

I embarked on a lovely ride yesterday. Southeast Reno. Lots of flat road, beautiful mountains, and even a significant amount of bike lanes. Other than realizing that I was a bit overdressed with my full leggings rather than shorts or knickers, it was set to be a lovely ride.

I kept admiring the beautiful sights and berating myself for being unwilling to stop to take some photographs, but let's face it: when you're cruising along on a beautiful day, the last thing you want to do is stop.

Nevertheless, I found myself in a dead-end parking lot with a beautiful view, so I forced myself to stop. Let's pause a moment and admire the photos, shall we?

Lovely, no? The "No Poaching" sign amuses me. You never know what you'll find in Reno! Oh, one more photo:

What's so special about that photo? I hear you exclaim. Well, if you look into about the center of the photo, you see where I stopped to fix a flat.

You see, after taking these photos, I hopped back on my bike (well, back on the bike seat) and rode off... only to notice an odd feel. Sure enough, I looked down and saw that my front tire was flat. Okiedokie.

So I found a patch of grass, and began the repair process. Right after I realized and corrected the fact that I rested my bike "expensive side down", a nice man in a truck pulled up and asked if I needed help. Since I already confirmed that I had a spare tube, my tire wrenches, a mini-pump, and a CO2 cartridge, I told him I was fine. Besides, if worse came to worst, I had a cell phone. He took another look at my bike and tools sprawled out, and hesitantly drove off.

All right, back to work. The tire came off relatively easily, the tube came out, the new tube went back in, and the tire went back on really easily. (A little too easily, actually. Putting the tire back on was always the hardest part for me.) Pumped it up a bit with the mini-pump and finished it off with the CO2. Propped up the bike and compared the pressure of the newly pumped front tire with the earlier perfectly pumped rear tire. (I always repump right before a ride.)

Wait a minute... Did you, by chance, think this was a happy story? Well, it's not a sad story, exactly, but it is a cautionary tale. Because what did I find when I reached back to feel the pressure of the rear tire? You guessed it: nothing. Flat as flat can be.


I only carry one spare tube. Well, make that carried. I shall carry two from this point forward.

It held a little bit of air, so I tried to pump it up and ride the flat. After stopping twice to repump, I gave up and walked back. Funny how you can ride out in only about 20 minutes, but it takes about an hour to walk back.

Oddly, no one stopped to offer help or a ride back (except for some cyclists, of course). I don't know whether I would have accepted a ride back, but it would have been nice to be asked. Plenty of people with trucks drove by, so it's not like they wouldn't have had space for the bike. Ah, well, no matter. I got in some good walking, and no longer was reluctant to stop to take pictures. You can go here to see the complete photo album.

I was grateful to cyclists who stopped to offer help, but it wasn't "help" I needed, it was a tube, and I wasn't going to make someone else ride with one less tube.

So, in any case, the moral of today's story: Don't believe that you'll only get one flat. Be prepared for more. The guy at the LBS (local bike shop) informed me that he even carries three on long rides. I'll be sure to take that under consideration!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to Boil Easy-to-Peel Eggs

OK, I made a batch of hard-boiled eggs for ready high-protein snacks and now have them sitting in my refrigerator, ready to go. So, for absolutely no reason, I'm going to give my recipe for the perfectly peelable hard-boiled egg.

Now, don't run away yet. Sure, you know how to boil an egg, but do you know how to prepare it so that the shell peels off in nearly one piece? How to make it so that you don't have to spend precious time picking off all the pieces, often losing some delicious egg meat in the process, and certainly making you think twice about gnoshing on hard-cooked eggs? If you do know, then you're excused and may run off to, perhaps, read the free online copy of Cycle California! Magazine (click the picture of the magazine). If you don't, though, stick around. It's worth it.

First, take out your eggs and let them warm up a bit to room temperature. Poke a hole in the wide end with a safety pin.

Next, get your pot of water boiling. Of course, you want enough water so that the eggs will be submerged when you put them in. I always salt my water, but this probably is inconsequential.

When your water is at a rolling boil, gently add the eggs. (Use a spoon or something so that you can put the eggs in without breaking the shell.) I use the ridiculous double wire whisk/tongs that they sold on late night tv. In fact, that's the only use I've found for those things.

Boil the eggs for 16-20 minutes, depending on how hard you like your hard-boiled eggs. You might get away with boiling for a shorter time, but I've never tried.

Now, this is where the important part begins. A couple of minutes before time is up, prepare a bowl of ice water. I mean ice water. Use half a dozen ice cubes and fill with the coldest water you can get.

When time is up, gently take the eggs from the pot and place in the bowl of ice water. Let sit until cool. Move the eggs to the refrigerator.

What you have now are eggs with shells that you can gently break on a couple of sides, then peel off the shell. (I typically start the process on the big end.) Kind of push sideways as you peel off the shell and membrane so that they sort of slide off and you can get it all off in maybe one or two big pieces. It's seriously wonderful.

How do I think it works? Here's my pseudo-scientific (and probably wrong) explanation: On top of letting air and pressure out of the eggs while boiling, the pinpricks allow water in when the eggs are submerged in the ice cold water. So when you move the eggs from the hot pot to the cold bowl, they suck in just a little bit of water. This water provides a layer of moisture which makes the peel and membrane separate just a bit from the egg. When you peel the egg, there's no picking off the shell piece by piece; it almost wants to come off easily.

Voila! Enjoy your easy to peel hard-boiled eggs as nummy snacks! If you don't eat all (or any of) your yolks, be sure to save some for your doggies or ratties or most other fuzzy animals. They don't have to worry nearly as much about the 9 calories per gram of fat.

(Oh, and sorry for the awfully fuzzy picture. I took it with my iphone and then gobbled up the eggs before I saw the quality online. My bad.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Threat of Deprivation Here...

Yeah. So I got that whole deprivation thing off my chest. And now...?

First off, I'm finally healthy again. It's been a slow climb up, but I think that - today - I can finally say that I'm 100%. Yesterday might have been 99.5%, but the weekend certainly was not there. But I got out there and ran, swam, and weight trained. Whew.

And then I got back inside and ate. And ate. And ate.

Am I really that hungry? I'm pretty sure the answer is no. So what's going on?

OK, so I let myself eat at or around maintenance while I was sick. I mean, come on. Should one really throw a caloric deficit on top of everything else when one is suffering from a virus? I say, no reason to kick a body while it's down.

Well, the body's back up. But so is, apparently, my appetite. Or my belly. Or... something.

Fear not, there's nothing to be ashamed of. Although I hit 2855 calories today, Fitday assures me that I still have achieved a caloric restriction of 31 calories today. So there, take that, healthy but "bingey" eating! (HBBE, for short.) No fat blasting today, but we're not building up reserves, either.

Let's reflect, shall we?
  • Breakfast: great. Too little fat, though. About 450 calories. Had a nice savory oatmeal/egg/vegetarian "sausage" fritatta-type dish and a green smoothie.
  • Morning snack: good. Still low in fat, but OK everywhere else. About 190 calories. Another green smoothie. My morning snacks are a bit low since switching to smoothies. Maybe I should add some nuts here...
  • Lunch: good. I made up for some fat here (the ranch dressing always does it), but it was about 410 calories (42% fat). Leftover dinner, salad, half an orange.
  • Afternoon snack: Here's where the HBBE started. I landed at 55% fat for the "meal" and very little protein. It started with a quesadilla, almonds, and a ZBar. Finished and should have been more than satisfied. Nope. The True North almond clusters called to me. Um, yeah, let's top off all that fat and carbs with... more fat and carbs! Anyway, they called and I answered. More than once. Still, the HBBE ended with under 850 calories. Certainly not good and not balanced, but let's reflect once again on my past history with Jack in the Box. Yes, things could definitely have been worse. Let's move on.
  • Um... second snack? Went to therapy, swam, came home. The almond clusters called to me once more, so I had to put them all in my belly so they'd shut up. Clearly, we will think twice about allowing almond clusters into the house again. Damage: 340 more calories, mostly fat with a little carb/protein.

I can list the rest, but I think it's pretty inconsequential right now. Here are the lessons I'm taking from this.

One: I need to consider planning on cooking dinner right after arriving home. The too-big, unbalanced afternoon snack has occurred on more than one occasion. Sure, it's a little early to have dinner around 3:30 to 4:30, but it makes more sense to continue something that clearly isn't working.

Two: I need to hard boil some eggs and get some more easy-to-grab protein sources stocked up. I suspect that if I had gnoshed on some good proteins, this wouldn't have spiraled like it did.

Three: I need to figure out why I'm willing to eat when I'm not really hungry. Sure, no big damage done, but some part of me is trying to tell me something. I need to figure out how to listen so I can deal with it.

OK, I think I've set up some food for thought. Tomorrow's a fresh day. Chicken thighs are already defrosted and ready to go for tomorrow's... um... Linner? Dunch? Meal#4? Nevermind; I'll figure that out later. One thing at a time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This is Not About Deprivation

First, please note that I'm sick. So, when you peer at my empty training log, too-variable calories, or nearly certain upcoming plateau (or worse: weight gain), your sympathies are appreciated. Wait, strike that. Your sympathies are appreciated now as well. I can use all the happy, healthful thoughts anyone can spare.

OK, on to today's topic. This one has been jumping out at me for a while. It hits me when I see people talking about how to avoid or replace some particular food that apparently needs to be banished. It smacks me in the face when I look at the nutrition log of someone who simply can't stay on a diet, and it turns out that they're eating maybe 1000 (or fewer) calories of typical "diet" fare. It nudges me when I see certain coworkers dining on only a large bowl of edamame for lunch. It really stopped me dead in my tracks when one of those coworkers walked past me with a half-eaten platter of nachos and apologized.


Yes, as she walked by, she said that she was sorry. She knows that I'm working hard to lose weight and didn't mean to parade "real" food right in front of me, knowing that I'm probably starving. I was flummoxed.

Who's starving?

Well, I suppose I'd be starving if I only ate a big bowl of edamame for lunch. (What kind of lunch is that?) I'd be starving if I eliminated anything that was "real food" from my diet. I'm sorry, but everything I eat today is real food. (Note the italics.) What else is there? No, no need to answer. I know the alternatives to real food. On both sides.

I'm going to posit this: For the greater part of my adult years, I rarely ate real food. I'd subsist almost entirely on food I could get handed to me while I sat in my car. At other times, I'd subsist on almost entirely on protein-based foods, including pancakes made with some sort of protein-based substance. Some times, I'd eschew all "bad" food, and dine on only things that grew out of the ground or had some sort of "organic" label affixed to them. At other times, I'd subsist on almost entirely packaged foods with some sort of "diet" or "100 calorie" phrase plastered across its colorful wrapping. (The colorful wrapping, no doubt, making up for the lack of color inside.)

All of these diets, for better or worse, were devoid of real food. Whether it's all fast food, or all low-calorie fruits, vegetables, and pieces of cardboard masquerading as low-calorie crackers, it's not real food.

But, yet, all of those foods, together, can be real food. The key, I believe, is balance.

It's like basic chemistry. Hydrogen isn't water. Oxygen isn't water. It takes balance to create water. The same thing goes for real food. It's not only hamburgers, and it's not only carrot sticks. It's a delicate balance that satisfies our bodies and minds.

If you enjoy red meat, then go ahead and have a nice, juicy steak for dinner once in a while. But skip the starchy vegetables with oil and choose, instead, two servings of yummy vegetables. Have some nachos when you want them, and increase the amount of fruit and vegetables later in the day. Want waffles? Go ahead, once in a while, and make sure you're getting in protein to balance the sugar.

Perhaps I have a different perspective because I have the luxury of room for calories. I'd rather exercise more than eat less. The good news is that I can keep this up all the way to my goal weight and beyond. I've done the math. Since I'll be active, I'll be able to eat 2000+ calories per day even at maintenance of my "ideal" weight of 135 pounds, if I take myself tha far. I may need to take it down to 1600-1800 when I'm crawling to the target weight finish line, but you'll never see me sit down to a plate of carrot and celery sticks trying to desperately maintain a 1200 calorie diet. Honestly, I don't think anyone should pull down their calories that far.

For a time, years ago, I attended OA, Overeater's Anonymous. Now don't get me wrong, there are people with legitimate eating disorders, and perhaps OA helps them. But here's my problem: How do you abstain from food? Every meeting, people would lament about how they failed at abstinence. Well, of course. You cannot abstain from food. You must not abstain from food. Food=life. We know that, right?

I recently looked for synonyms for the word "diet", knowing that when I use it to refer to my daily nutritional intake (i.e. what I eat), some people might confuse it for me going "on a diet". What did I find? Here you go:

Wait, what? The definition of diet is "abstinence from food"? Seriously? Look at the other words. Regime, restriction, starvation. This is awful. If this is true, then Food=Life, and Diet=Death. I'm not kidding. Look at those synonyms again.

At least the picture looks better a little farther down the thesaurus.

Much, much better. Definition: daily intake of food. Synonyms: daily bread, edibles, grubbery (how fun!), nourishment, nutrition, subsistence, sustenance.

We've got to realize that food is nourishment. It is also grubbery. I think. Let's skip that one. It is also goodies. Yes. Diet, our daily intake of food, is both nutrition and goodies. Why not? It's all about balance. And balance needs everything. We can be unbalanced one way just as easily as we can be unbalanced the other way.

When we want to lead a healthy lifestyle, we need to remember that real food is part of the second view of diet, not the first. Healthy living is not about abstinence; it is about nourishment. It is not about deprivation; it is about sustenance.

My advice: When someone starts talking about "real food", or about eliminating some "bad food", smile and nod, and be gently sympathetic. Then sit down to your meals of healthful, balanced, real food. When they peter out and become frustrated that they just can't continue on their deprivation-based diet, and wonder how you're able to continue improving your health (and reducing your weight, if that's your goal), then remind them that it is not about deprivation. It is about balance. And it's about eating real food.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Random Observations Part II

OK, time for some more happy observations: 
  • My heartrate drops down quickly. Almost too quickly. When I drop to a walk from running because my HR monitor yelled at me for working too hard, it seems that I have to start running again almost immediately, or it will yell at me again for not working hard enough!
  • I think I'm ready for my smaller swimsuit. When I climbed out of the pool the other day, my current one was actually hanging down in spots and baggy.
  • Fruit really is the food of the gods. I am in ecstacy when I eat juicy cantaloupe, pineapple, or - particularly - pummelo.
  • Whoever gave dark meat a bad name should be flogged. Broiled chicken thigh has got to be one of the most perfect foods. Protein, iron, flavor, and just enough fat to make it sizzle without adding anything. KFC can't compete.
  • I'm not sure whose calves I have, but they're not the ones I was using a few months ago. These are much nicer.
  • When I wear pants that fit (not the baggy pants I'm safety-pinning so they'll stay up), I have a decent tush. I wonder if I stole that from the same person I stole the calves from?
  • When I wear clothes that fit properly (again, not baggy clothes that hang on me), I get compliments left and right.
  • When I look in the mirror, I feel... almost... normal. Maybe I never should have felt otherwise, but I did. That feeling of conspicuousness is eroding.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Issues

OK, I'll start with the bad. And the issues. They sort of go hand in hand.

Elsewhere in Internetland, I entered into a conversation about fat loss. When someone said that, second of course to cardio+strength, cardio is the best way to lose fat. I argued that point. (And still maintain that strength training is the best way to lose fat.)

But that's not what I'm upset about right now. I can debate that stuff all day long. My mistake was using a personal experience as evidence for my argument. Big mistake. Because what happens then? Yes, it's apparently an open invitation to critique my personal training priorities.


Seriously, if I want help, I'll ask. I've done it before. I have resources, I use them, and then I make informed decisions. If I need help, I'll post a question on one of the forums I frequent.
Maybe I'm ridiculously petty or defensive, and maybe I walked right into it, but it bothers me when someone offers unsolicited advice. Somehow, it's awfully insulting. I try to avoid doing it myself (or, at the very least, apologize when I can't stop myself), and I don't think it's too much to ask that people don't pass judgement on my decisions unless I ask.

It's even worse when someone claims that my priorities are "ridiculous". Yes, this person said that word. He's in another country, so I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't understand the connotations, but the word still stings. Hey, let me post something about how I'm eating twelve donuts a day and wondering why I'm not losing weight, and then go ahead and call me ridiculous. I'll join in. But while my methods are working, why question them?

The discussion was never even supposed to be about me.

Yes, these are the issues that I battle.

I'm still pondering my visceral reaction during a conversation with my mother. (Note: I try to never let my mother know I'm losing weight. Yes, this is being dealt with in therapy.) She sent me a magazine with a note about some articles that have to do with weight loss. The note said something like, "Read it or throw it out, I love you anyway." The "anyway" gets me. "Either way" would have been so much better. But that's my mom.

But wait, it gets better. When she brought it up in a recent phone call, and I tried to change the subject, she made some reference to how losing weight is difficult. I slipped and said, "Well, I'm trying." Her voice turned to instant sympathy and she said, "I know," as if it was a forgone conclusion that I was failing.

Um, no. When I try, I succeed. The question is why, sometimes, I stop trying. Wait, strike that. The question is why, in the past, I have stopped trying. There, that's much better.

OK, so we've covered the bad and the issues. Now for the good. On the bright side, I have to adore a coworker. She's a triathlete. I won't say that her accomplishments come easily to her, but I am going to appreciate that she's an accomplished athlete. I'd dare say that she's a natural athlete. Anyway, my point: Here I am, all 215 pounds of me, and what does she do? She invites me to join her and her friends in a marathon. A half marathon is available, but nothing less. Yes, it's not until October, but still.

I love it when people can look past the appearance and recognize that I can accomplish great things.

It doesn't matter that I know that it's out of my current grasp; it's wonderful when someone gives me the benefit of the doubt.

Especially a "real" athlete.

I owe her a hug.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Food on the Wagon Tastes Better

Well, isn't that weird.

For some reason, I decided not to go to the gym today. OK, I'm tired; it's understandable. When contemplating dinner, nothing sounded good. Well, let's be a little more accurate. I seemed determined to have fast food, and nothing sounded good. I decided that Doritos would be good, though.

OK, 7-11 it became. I'll take a free day. (That seemed to be the plan, somehow, before it even became the plan. Weird.) So, anyway, she who is so determined to eat junk food... how about Doritos, Stouffer's Lasagna, a chocolate bar, and a coke. Well, that's certainly some crappy food, isn't it? That's something I would do regularly in my past life.

So, here we go. One free day and some good old fashioned junk food.

It tasted... like... meh.

Shouldn't it have been delicous?

Isn't it always more delicious than the healthy stuff?

Well, isn't it?

Apparently, it isn't.

I had the same "problem" on recent controlled (reasonable; within caloric limits) "cheats" at fast food. I chalked it up to bad cooks or stale food. But it seems that no, really, crap food tastes like crap. I'm not missing out on any delicious food after all.

Have I really been wrong all this time?

When did healthy food become the delicious food?

Isn't that weird?

Isn't that wonderful?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Running by Heart Rate Preliminary Evaluation

Warning, this is an extremely boring post. If you're not in the mood for some number crunching, feel free to watch this youtube video on how Mike from Dirty Jobs stays in shape on the road, and then wander around youtube for some more entertaining education. (Not that you'll catch me doing burbees any time soon.)

OK, let's take a quick look at my running progress from my heartrate training. To recap, I have two basic runs: a "base" run where most of the run/walk occurs at 70-80% of my HRR (heart rate reserve), and a "tempo" run where most of the run/walk occurs at 80-90% of my HRR. It goes without saying that the base run is much longer/farther than the tempo run.

It should be noted that nothing exists in a vacuum. I've been swimming, weight training, cycling, and elliptical training since beginning this training method. There are surely cross-over benefits.

With that said, I am certainly very optimistic from this early data.

Let's look at my base runs first. I'll eliminate the first run because that was a hilly course. The following three were about the same course (if not the same distance). On the second run, I ran 44% of the time. By the fourth, I ran over 50% of the time. In the core running split, I ran/walked at a pace of 14:52/mile for about 39 minutes. This improved to a pace of 14:34/mile for about 44 minutes. That doesn't sound like much, but remember - this is only a difference from the second zone 3 run to the fourth zone 3 run. I say: Not bad. Remember also that this is a very easy run/walk. I'm frustrated when my monitor tells me that my heartrate is too high because I'm really not feeling stressed.

It gets even better when I look at my "tempo" runs. Because these have been basically on the same course, I could compare first to fourth, but - for consistency - I'll compare second to fourth. Now, because the core running split time increased from 12 minutes to 16 minutes, it's a little misleading, but I did improve from running about 44% of the time about 48% of the time. More importantly, I had to take four walking breaks during that 12 minutes, but only had to take three walking breaks during the 16 minute session. Best of all: I improved from a 13:11/mile pace to a 12:38 pace. Remember that I am in no way pushing myself harder (because my HR monitor prevents me from doing so). Rather, I'm simply becoming a fitter, more efficient runner.

Now, the weird thing is that I still do struggle mentally on my "tempo" runs. I expect myself to have to slow down to a walk, but my HR monitor tells me to suck it up -it isn't so bad. I have caught myself running faster to push my heart rate up (and thus justify a walking break), but I realized the short-sightedness of that and now consciously avoid it.

So, overall, I think my running plan is on the right path... so to speak. I'm proud of myself. But I'm also preparing myself for a lot of walking during my upcoming 5k event. That's OK. I'll blame it on the hills. At least I'm getting out there.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Body Shall Not be Shortchanged

Well, isn't this interesting?

I'll start at the beginning. (Where else?) The majority of this morning's smoothie, I have to confess, went down the drain. In retrospect, it should have gone into the compost bin, but mistakes were made. The other mistake, the primary mistake, was an overdose of a certain ingredient.

Basic recipe: Blueberry/blackberry juice (I had to get rid of my Naked Juice leftovers somehow), spinach, frozen banana, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, protein powder with greens. Delicious, right? Yep, I agree. Here's where I went astray: goji berries.

Now, I'm going to assume that goji berries are generally fine. I've eaten snack bars with goji berries and been OK with the unusual flavor. In fact, having purchased a pound of the stuff, I'd better get OK with them again. I think the mistake was the quantity.

When I took my first taste, I was so impressed with my ever-improving smoothie skills. No need for agave nectar, even! Not bad. I doled it out (half now and half for my morning snack) and went on with breakfast.

Then I noticed it. The undertaste, I shall call it. It wasn't even an aftertaste, really, it was always there. It was a smell, as well. It tasted like funky plastic. I tried to overcome it; I really did. I couldn't. Half the morning smoothie and all the snack smoothie went to waste.

The rest of the day I ate crappishly. Not awful, just not very good. I had a salad and two mandarins with lunch, but had little fruit and vegetables otherwise. To make up for the lost calories from the smoothie, I had granola bar type snacks.

After work, no shock here, I was ravenous. Jerky, quesadilla, clif nectar bar, dark chocolate. I simply would not be sated. Wowzers, I realized when I entered it all into fitday, I ate enough calories to cover dinner! Dinner, hours later, became fried eggs (reduced yolk) and catsup. (I really needed to catch up on protein.)

So, what for dessert? Well, here's where it gets interesting. (I know, finally, right?) I looked at my options: dark chocolate, cereal, pudding, ice cream. What did I settle on? Cantaloupe. That's right. After years of dieting on and off, I have absolutely never been a "fruit for dessert" person. But that's what I wanted. And it was the most delicious cantaloupe I've ever eaten. Somehow my body was starving for fruit. Well, no wonder as I hardly had any all day. Sometimes the belly knows what the body needs.

The body shall not be shortchanged.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Day Two

Not only did I survive, but I went on to the pull routine today. Compared to yesterday, it was a walk in the park. (Well, as far as intensity. I couldn't exactly do many reps for all the exercises.) There's something about those big-muscle exercises like lunges and squats that really get the blood pumping. Even push-ups seem to be more intense than what I did today.

Perhaps that's a very good thing. Follow up an insanely difficult (but rewarding) day with an easier day.

Oh, what exactly was this easier day? Again, it's an elliptical sandwich: elliptical to warm-up and a bit of cardio, then a resistance circuit, then back to the elliptical to cool down. The resistance was three circuits of (modified) inverse rows, standard crunches, chin-ups (to the equalizer), and leg raises (an ab exercise that hits the obliques a bit more). The only problem is that the transition is a bit difficult because the equalizers don't stay in the same position between the four exercises. I'll have to plan more carefully next time.

So it looks like a plan that should work for the next couple of months. Now to make sure I continue on plan this time.

Monday, March 02, 2009

If I don't show up at work tomorrow, here's why...

OK, time to come clean. I got these cool Lebert Equalizers for bodyweight strength training (because, somehow, I've developed some weird aversion to isolation exercises). I tell people all the time to consider strength training. I got some advice from the John Stone fitness forums on improving my equalizer routine. I was even offended when my doc told me, quite some time ago, that I should lighten up on the strength training and do a ton of cardio.

So, what have I been doing for the past month plus? That's right: zero strength training and a ton of cardio. What a maroon.

Now, let's shift to a few hours ago. There I am, at home, considering my options. Running is out because it's raining nonstop and freezing cold. (I can take one or the other; I can't take both at the same time.) I still haven't figured out how to do my HR running routine on a treadmill while tracking running vs. walking. Clearly, biking is out as well. I could drive over to the gym for a swim, but I'm just not in the mood and I want something tougher. I have a shiny elliptical in the guest room for days like this and it's calling to me. It hits me: Time to use the elliptical for purpose #3.

Sidebar: I had three main purposes in mind when I plunked down the cash for my elliptical. 1) Cardio for mornings. 2) A cardio option for days when I can't/won't pull myself away from the television. 3) A cardio option for strength training days that doesn't make me feel like a complete loon by doing toe-taps and other standard aerobics tripe. (Don't get me wrong; aerobics in a class are great. Aerobics to a tape are ok. Aerobics all alone to your own music? Not my thing.) OK, moving on.

So I firm up my equalizer routines (push/pull), create a heart monitor program for the whole thing, get suited up, and go. First up: the elliptical. First bit of good news: the elliptical is getting easier and easier. I no longer feel like I'm killing myself just on the lowest level. I'm easily able to get and keep myself in the heartrate zone I want. Great. Twenty minutes later and I'm feeling worked out but not overly worn out. Perfect.

Next up: The Equalizer Push routine. The exercises: Assisted Lunges, Modified Push-ups, Assisted Single-leg Squats, and Dips assisted by feet. The plan: Three non(ish)-stop circuits with two minutes rest between each circuit.

More good news: Assisted lunges are waaaaayyy too easy for me now. (Hey, how'd that happen?) I'll have to get something harder. Bad news: I've lost strength in push-ups. Expected. I'll build back up. Oh-my-gawd-what-the-hell-is-this news: Who the hell came up with assisted one-leg squats (much less unassisted one-leg squats)?!? Three. That was all I could do, and that was with a hell of a lot of assistance. Three. Egads. On to dips and a successful set of twelve... until I realize that my feet are way to close in. Ah well, next set was harder.

But still, those single-leg squats?!? Absolute insanity. (And if you think I was able to maintain three per set, you're not paying attention.)

I catch my breath in my two-minute break and reconsider my plan. My primary plan is now to survive. Yes. Merely to live through the insanity I have wrought. Two circuits later and I climb back on to the elliptical. Yes, climb. This is not just a figure of speech. It takes all my strength and will to get on there. Through the whole ten minutes my legs are rubber and I'm having a heck of a time keeping my heartrate low enough for a cool-down.

But I actually met both goals. I did the elliptical-circuit-elliptical routine. And I survived.

But if I'm not at work tomorrow, I've collapsed somewhere between my bed and the front door. No need to knock. Just bring me some fresh fruit and jerky. And water. Maybe a pillow. I'll be fine.