Sunday, April 26, 2009


Decided to do the 60. Completed the 60. Butt hurts. Hands hurt. Rest now. Write later.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Cyclist Must be Crazy

Call me crazy(/ier). I signed up for the Flatflower 30mi ride. Now that I've driven all the way out here, I'm thinking of doing the full, hilly 100 miles.

HA! No, not really. BUT... I am seriously considering doing the Flatflower 60 miler.

I mean, it's hill-free. I've done over 20 miles with hills. 30 flat miles just seems... so... so... inconsequential.

No, you don't need to remind me of the last time I shot for 60 miles. If you remember, despite "cheating", I did actually ride over 60 miles. But it's not quite relevant because that was quite some time (and pounds and fitness, back and forth) ago.

So... what to do? I really think that I can do it if I pace myself properly. I'm thinking, what, a nice leisurely 12-14 miles per hour? (Flats, remember.)

Since the 30 and 60 overlap each other, I can actually start with the 30 and see how I feel at the first rest stop before making a final decision.

Oh, the conundrum! I really don't want to have to rely on SAG support. On the other hand, I don't want to do less than my capabilities. (And, really, I did kind of load up on calories and carbs at today's Spaghetti feed... so those calories/carbs need to go somewhere...)

Well, all I can say right now is, "Stay tuned." It's bound to be epic one way or the other. Wish me wisdom!

(Oh, and for those wondering about my integrity: I actually asked during check-in about switching to the 60. The answer: "I don't care what you do! People change the routes all the time, adding hills or whatever." Um, ok then...)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Get Thee to a Banana Tree!

That's what Shakespeare might have told me if he saw me in the pool today. If he were alive. And knew that potassium helps with leg craps. And knew that bananas... Oh, nevermind; you get the idea.

I've gotten Charlie Horses before - in the middle of the night. Agony, you surely know. It's been quite some time since I've had them. I've never gotten them while awake and exercising. Much less in the pool. Egads!

In the middle of a crawl length: the right calf. Owie owie owie! Thank goodness it's a shallow pool! I can't imagine how I would have thrashed around if I couldn't have just stood up (on the no-cramping leg, of course).

OK, fine. We'll cut out the six-beat crawl. Cool it down a bit with a two-beat crawl and on to breast stroke. Five minutes later: the left calf. OOooowwwww!!!!!

The woman in the left lane stopped, empathized, and suggested I stand on it. I politely told her that she must be kidding.

Now, ready for the shocker? I still trudged on and met my goal of 1800 yards today. Go, me!

And go, me... go get a banana!

(Oh, for anyone keeping track: I did get up early on Wednesday, but "slept in" on Thursday (planned) and Friday (cold/windy). Let's see if I keep it up.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Lost the Argument... But the War is not yet Over

So, here's how the argument with myself went this morning upon the ring of the alarm:
  • OK, there it is. Let's get up and go!
  • But it's cozy and warm and I'm really tired.
  • Do you remember how good it felt yesterday to get out and run? Our gear is all ready to go.
  • Yes, that was nice, but we're really, really tired and a bit worn down. When's the last time we took a rest day?
  • Um.... I dunno....
  • Aren't rest days important?
  • Er... yes... I guess...
  • Let's think about it. You can't take a rest day tomorrow because you have a club ride. Thursday is your partner run. Do you really want to wait until Friday to rest?
  • Why, you're awfully convincing.
  • I know I am. Reset the alarm and all will be well. We can get up early tomorrow.
  • Promise?
  • Of courzzzzzzz........
Of course, this entire exchange took about three seconds. Perhaps fewer. And it is true; my last full rest day was a full week ago. Now I just need to make sure that I don't let myself make a habit of this. Is it a coincidence that I was dragging at work today? Yeah, I don't think so either.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Up at the Crack of Darkness?

I don't know what got into me. Yes, it's true: I've been thinking that I should get up and go walking and/or running with the dog before work since we got her sometime in November. I think I may have even gotten up for a few morning walks with her. (Few in this case equals no more than two. Probably one.) Since then, she only wonders why I take her out of the kennel to simply watch me make breakfast.

It's been cold, you see; it's been winter. When there wasn't ice or snow, there was cold. I mean these are bitter cold mornings. I have to get up early as it is, and it's even worse if I have to get up and out into the freezing cold. Well, I guess that excuse has well outlived its validity.

Cut to the first Monday back to work from spring break. What did I do? I heard the alarm go off, reset it for some more sleep, rethought, and actually got up. At 4:15 I climbed out of bed, dressed, clipped on my headlamp, clipped the dog into the hands-free leash, and went for a run.

Did you catch that? 4:15 A.M. Ante meridiem. That's a quarter after the middle of the night.

It. Felt. Great.

And the great feeling lasted all through the workday. Now, I need to hold on to the memories of that greatness, that alertness, that feeling of starting the day with physical accomplishment, and even the wonderful sounds of the sweet birds and frogs who sang to us despite the lack of dawn.

I need to hold on to those memories because something tells me that I'll need every single one of them to talk me out of bed tomorrow morning at 4:00 a.m. If I'm successful, this could be the beginning of a wonderful thing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Week to Go and I'm Ready! (I think...)

Egads! A mere week from today I'll be riding in my first organzed ride in quite some time (the Chico Flatflower). It's only thirty miles, so I don't think I'll need to "cheat" like the last one. (Ahem, yeah... But, really, is it cheating when it's not really a race? I don't think so, either.)

So, anyway, I think I'm ready. It's a flat ride, but I haven't ridden with other human beings in quit some time, so I figured I should get out into a club ride. So, swallowing all those self-conscious fears that always come up in times like this, I joined today's "slow" ride. (Did you notice the quotation marks?)

Wowza! We started fast and got faster! Sure, I kept up fine in the beginning, but I forgot the primary rule of rides: save a little energy for later. Don't go all out! So when those hills I already knew would kill me came... they almost really killed me! Ah, but I made it up them all without having to stop (or be completely dropped)!

Of course, that extra mass that turns me into a "hill slug" really helps on the downhills. If they would have gotten out of my way, I really would have shown them how a fat chick can zoom! (Ahem, downhill, that is. I zoom downhill. Just so we're clear.)

But, man, I got a workout! I averaged 14.7 mph for the 21.75 miles, which is quite a bit faster than the 13.7 mph I averaged the last time I rode a similar ride. (Just imagine how high my average speed would have been if I let myself take the descents the way I normally take them!)

So, I'm ready for next week. I think. No, I know. Heck, if all else fails, there's always SAG support, so at least I won't have to cheat. So I'm ready enough.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Visual Reminder to Help Avoid "Fast Filth"

I've written about the disappointment from recent indulgences in fast food before, and others have told me that they have had similar experiences. Of course, the part of me that loves fast food occasionally pretends to have a better memory than the fit me, so I've been reminded of the "meh-ness" of fast food on more than one occasion. Those mouth-watering photos don't help, either.

Wouldn't it be nice to remember the blandness before forking over the dough (and, of course, filling the belly)? Thanks to West Virginia Surf Report, there's a visual "Ad vs. Reality" photo project available to help the fit sides of us win those argument against our lesser halves.

A yech-inducing sample follows, but head on over to the Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality for the full run-down. (Via LifeHacker.) Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Plan in a Nutshell (Part II)

Alright, I'll admit it; I've procrastinated. I promised a second part to "my plan" (part I is here) and it's taken too long. I honestly have thought about this on and off, frearing that it's all too convoluted, but all I can do is put it together the best I can. After all, it's just basic math. But somehow, when I try to write it out, it sounds overly complicated. It's not; it's just math.

Once again, the standard disclaimer applies: This is what works for me. It may not work for you, and it certainly isn't expected to work for everyone. (Although, I'll say it, I'd be surprised to find it not work for someone.) But there are some different schools of thought regarding the finer points, so I'm not going to stomp my foot and insist that my way is better. It's not. It's just my way.

Now, on with today's topic: creating and maintaining a caloric deficit.

First off, losing weight is fundamentally simple. It's even better than that vague off-hand remark so often thrown around. It's not just, "Eat less and exercise more." It's this: Eat 500-1000 calories fewer than you burn. That's it. Bam. Done.

(Note, what follows is lengthy and somewhat complicated. I've posted a simpler method at the bottom. It's not my method, but it works for many people.)

OK, fine. More information. First, you have to figure out how many calories you per per day without exercise. I'll call this the AMR (active metabolic rate). Note that I'm not talking about BMR (basal metabolic rate), as we really don't care about that. We want to include those calories burned by getting ready for work, walking around during work, and chasing the kids or dog around after work. That all counts. But don't count what you burn during exercise (yet). Unless you're very, very consistent with your workouts, you're going to want to account for that separately. (Yes, this is one of those finer points, but I'll give my reasoning soon enough.)

So, how to figure that out? If, like me, you use Fitday, you're set. It'll do the math for you. If not, I'm pretty impressed by the recommendations from NutritionData. Leave the "minutes/day of additional exercise" blank and, unless you have a very active job or home life, select "somewhat active" (if you are relatively homebound, you might want to select "sedentary"). So, for my height and weight, it tells me that I'll need to eat 2511 calories per day to maintain my weight (without exercise). That's my AMR, my starting point.

Now, of course, I don't want to maintain my weight! I want to lose weight. That means that I should shave off 500-1000 calories per day. That sets me at eating between 1511-2011 calories per day. (Yes, that is quite a bit more than the 1200 calorie per day diet many of us have been recommended for decades.)

But wait, it gets better. Don't you exercise? I know I do. You know what I love about exercise? (Well, other than the adrenaline, endorphins, challenge, accomplishment, and ever-increasing strength, of course.) It lets me eat more. No, strike that, it requires that I eat more. If I go out for a walk, I probably don't need to eat more. But when I go on a long-ish bike ride and burn over 500 calories (or often over 1000 calories), I will eat more. I want to make sure that I feed my body properly, not punish it for going above and beyond. So, let's say I burn an extra 300 calories. Now I get to tack that on to my food allowance for the day. Instead of eating between 1511-2011 calories, I should eat between 1811-2311 calories on that day. And I'll still lose weight.

I do adjust per day. Some people argue against that, but let's just say that this keeps me sane, and that's what matters to me (and the people who have to survive being around me). It also, I believe, is teaching me to eat per my needs. Why eat more on days when I don't do much, and why fight off fatigue and headache on days where I push myself to an extreme?

So, the formula boils down to this:

(AMR) + (calories burned from exercise) - (500 or 1000) = daily calorie allowance

For my example of burning 300 calories, it ges like this:

2511 + 300 - 500 = 2311 (this is the upper limit)
2511 + 300 - 1000 = 1811 (this is the lower limit)

To lose weight, eat between 1811-2311 calories on that day.

That's a ton of math to do, I know. It works for me because I use fitday (the offline version). Some people use spreadsheets, or there are other tools that figure out net caloric deficits. Fitday does the math for me and all I look at every day is my deficit. Is it between 500 and 1000 calories? If so, I'm good.

(It's safe to start reading again here.)

Now, I promised a simpler method for people overwhelmed by the above. Figure out your average minimum exercise. Go back to NutritionData and (re)submit your information with your exercise. (Or switch to "active" or "very active".) It'll give you an AMR which includes your exercise calories. Take 500-1000 calories off of that and eat within that range every day. (For example, it gives me 2784 calories if I include my exercise, so I'd shoot for 1784-2284 calories per day.)

Now, again, this works for many people, but it doesn't work for me because it doesn't allow me to make up for calories burned on long hikes, long bike rides, or psuedo-brick workouts.

Wow, that's not much of a nutshell, is it? Ah, well, that's part II. I think I had a part III planned, though I can't currently remember what it was for. I'm sure it will come to me. When it does, I promise to make it more brief and coherent than today's post. Well, I promise to try. That counts, right?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Two Milestones in One, Baby!

Random milestone: This is my 100th post. Not so much of an accomplishment, but worth mentioning.

Now this... this is an accomplishment:

I swam a swimmer's mile today! Woohoo! 33 laps (66 lengths) brought me to the swimmer's mile of 1650 yards. Go, me!

Yeah, it took me 45 minutes. I did take a few short breaks. I did the breaststroke for my warm-up and cool down (5 laps), did some skating drills with fins, and used some backstroke recovery for some otherwise rest-free laps. But the bulk, undoubtedly, was the crawl.

Not bad for someone who could, not so long ago, barely crawl 25 yards without dying. (And couldn't do more than 50 yards breaststroke.) Worse yet, according to the instructor I once trained with, my crawl looked like I was being electrocuted. So I can call this a significant accomplishment. Next up: swimming 1650 yards, pure crawl, without any rest.

For now, though, I'm going to bed for some deep sleep.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Picking at Nits: Wish Me Luck Edition

I may bother some folk with today's post, but I've got to get this off my chest. I see it all the time at Gyminee, and only rarely at John Stone Fitness Forums. I don't pay enough attention to see it anywhere else, but I know it's out there. Anyway, here's today's nit:

People set a goal, say losing twenty pounds, announce it, and then say, "Wish me luck!"

It's the luck part that bothers me. You see, I don't believe luck has anything to do with it. To imply that it does, I think, sets people up for failure. Oh, I didn't lose the weight. What bad luck! Of couse, there are others that will blame themslves for having poor will-power, which I don't necessarily agree with either. Both of these situations, blaming luck or blaming will-power shifts the focus away from where it frequently needs to be: on the method.

Not able to lose 20 pounds on an extreme low-carb diet, and cheating all the time? Must have low will-power, right? No, perhaps your body is telling you that it would, indeed, like some fruit and grains once in a while. It's time to rethink or readjust.

Not losing any weight even though you're eating all low-fat food? Must be bad luck, eh? Probably not. Have you been looking at calories? If not, you'll probably be surprised to find that a lot of low-fat foods have added sugars. (And vice versa.) Time to change your plan a bit.

You get the idea. If something isn't working, don't jump right to will-power, and certainly don't blame luck. Here's an analogy: Have you ever seen a mechanic say, "wish me luck" before going to work on the car? Does he blame himself for not being able to diagnose the problem right away? No, of course not. He tinkers and fiddles, determination on his face, until he figures it out, testing the system properly before making each change, like a scientist.

Yes, it's all about science. When we make these changes in our lives, whether losing weight or becoming faster in a sport, we need to take act as methodological scientists.

Luck doesn't enter into it. Luck is for lottery tickets against ridiculous odds. Luck is for kicking a ball through the goal posts against a number of uncontrollable variables. Luck is for anything we can't fully control.

This, however, we can fully control. Luck doesn't enter into it. That's good news.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

What then?

Ah, the joys of needing new clothes. I finally went shopping recently (and, yes, took some goodies to the tailor). After spending a few dollars at that old stand-by for larger women (Lane Bryant), I "earned" some Real Women Dollars. For the uninitiated, those are basically coupons on future purchases. It's actually a pretty good deal.

Of course, I returned to redeem the coupons (and buy some pants this time). (Oh, thanks for asking! I'm down to a just slightly tight 18 in most styles. Yes, I'm very proud, considering that I have been up to a 26!)

So, back to me at the store. I'm standing there, waiting to pay, and looking at the "Real Women Dollars". I then wonder to myself: When I lose so much weight that I can no longer shop at Lane Bryant, will I no longer be a "real woman"?

Yes, I do crack myself up.

The next day, I shared this story with a coworker.

Without missing a beat, she sweetly responded, "No, you'll then be a skinny bitch."

I've decided that I can live with that.