Tuesday, December 04, 2012
My sister is contemplating training for the Lincoln Marathon, which will be run (I think) the first week of May. She has a week or so to make up her mind before registration opens, and then she needs to act. Registration is expected to fill up fast.
That gives rise to a little bit of sibling rivalry. I run faster than my sister does, but she runs farther than I do. If she's training for a marathon, that puts the dream of a half marathon into my head. Specifically, the Flower City Challenge half marathon, which was run a week before the Lincoln Marathon in 2012. It's scheduled for April 28, 2013.
I had registered for the 2012 version. Then I hurt my foot. It got better, but I wasn't training when I needed to. So I swapped down to the 5K on the same day, so as to salvage something from my entry fee. I got a nice tech shirt, and I learned after the fact that I came in first in my age group in the 5K. Note that this wasn't a great accomplishment; the leader of my age group in the half came in at about the same pace per mile for 13.1 miles as I did for 5K. Guess which race the real runners entered?
I got too ambitious after that, and re-injured the bad foot. Right now, I'm almost back to running regularly. True, I ran 4.31 miles in 30 minutes today, for an average pace of 6:58 per mile; but I won't count the running as regular until I can consistently run 3 days a week. I'm close, but I haven't demonstrated that I'm there yet.
But sibling rivalry and Mr. Testosterone have me thinking about a half. I looked at some training plans. There are a couple of things to think about in the plans I looked at. First, they all want me to run 4 days a week. I like that concept, but I don't think my foot is ready for that. Maybe, if I'm lucky, the foot will be ready in a month. That would be incredibly good timing for starting a 16 week program aimed at running a half at the end of April.
Second, they all want me to run slow. That is a challenge for me. At a couple of early points in my run this noon, I deliberately tried to back off the pace a bit. I think I did back off, just a little, from where I started; but I warmed to the effort later and finished at a fairly quick training pace.
I'm not dumb enough to think that all the experts telling me to run slow are wrong. I just haven't figured out how to do it. I also suspect that "slow" for me may not be as slow as the suggested pace in the training programs; an 8 minute mile would be slow for me, assuming I can learn to do it.
Third, the training programs I looked at tend to be structured for runs on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. That's a good schedule for me, as I currently work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and can run on my lunch break. But the mileage gets piled up later on in the schedule. I ran 4+ miles today. I don't think I have time to run 6 miles on a lunch break. I'll have to adapt the training to fit my schedule, somehow.
Then there's injury prevention. It appears that weight lifting is important for preventing running injuries. If I put 4 days a week into running, finding the time to lift weights will be a challenge. I think I have part of that puzzle solved, as it's more time efficient to lift at home than it was to lift at a gym; but it remains to be seen whether I'll crash and burn if I try to structure a week with 4 runs and 3 lifting sessions. Probably there will be one or two days a week with both a run and lifting weights. Have to think about how to not overdo things on days like that.
The Flower City Challenge has some noticeable hill work. That was a concern of mine a year ago, but I think I figured that part out. I found some hills near home to train on. If I can train at all, those hills are still there. I'd like to run some of them even if I don't end up running a half in April.
That's where my aspirations are right now. Then I come back to reality, and realize I'm still rehabbing a bad foot. Backing off enough to not aggravate the foot trumps building the cardio ability to keep running for 90 minutes. When I get back to where my reality is right now, a half doesn't look practical.
But I don't have to register for the Flower City Challenge right now. It won't sell out, and cheap registration lasts till January 19. Maybe by then it will look more possible. Or maybe it will be definitely ruled out without shelling out the entry fee.
. . . and let's not think about the Rochester Marathon until after I demonstrate that I can run a half. I've got another requirement for long races that I hadn't thought about a year ago. I require that training for and running the race doesn't keep me from regular non-competitive running after the race.
Friday, November 30, 2012
One of my signature quotes is from David Campbell, "Discipline is remembering what you want." This has been an important concept for me in making the small day to day choices of what to eat and when to exercise. Sometimes that small decision that isn't worth very many calories is easier to make when I remember what I want. The cliche, "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels," doesn't do anything for me because I don't particularly care whether I'm thin as long as I'm not fat.
I have to rephrase that cliche for what I want: Nothing tastes as good as being able to run a 7 minute mile feels. Nothing tastes as good as being able to do pullups feels. Both of these are accomplishments that didn't happen until after I hit goal weight.
But there's another piece of the weight loss and maintenance puzzle that is complementary to remembering what you want. That piece is, being aware of what you are doing. It's hard to make good choices when you aren't even aware that you're making choices at all.
Lack of awareness on the eating side is not a new concept to me. There's a book by Brian Wansink titled Mindless Eating: www.amazon.com/Mindless-Eating-More-
I bought that book and read about half of it some time before I found SparkPeople. Like many self-help books, it has one simple idea expanded by research and interesting examples. The idea is, people eat for a lot of different reasons than just being hungry, and they usually aren't aware of why they're eating. Many times they're not aware of how much they're eating, or even that they ARE eating. Wansink advocates a variety of strategies to be mindful of what you eat.
I tried some of Wansink's strategies, and they weren't sufficient for me. But his concepts were a good start, and helped me out when I started tracking my food on SparkPeople. The concept of being aware of what I'm eating is still very important in maintenance. So is the Nutrition Tracker.
For me, tracking my food is the key to awareness. There are the days when I see that I'm ahead of where I want to be, and get myself to slow down. There are days when I see that I'm ahead of where I want to be, and use that awareness to adjust what I eat later in the day. And there are days like today, when I got to dinner and found that I needed to eat 300 or so more calories to get to my minimum for the day. On either type of day, without tracking I would be unaware that I was eating too much or too little. Then when my weight moved up or down, I would not know what to change to correct it.
Another aspect of tracking as awareness is that the Nutrition Tracker works like a calorie budget. No food is forbidden, but some are so expensive that I don't eat them or don't eat them very often. The 150 calories for a one ounce package of Doritos just aren't worth it, even if I can stay in range for calories and all the macronutrients. But I wouldn't know that without awareness of what I'm eating, and I wouldn't have that awareness without tracking.
I've read several blogs over time where different Sparkers find that they don't have to track what they eat in maintenance, they can just eat reasonably. I'm sure that works for some people. Maybe some day it will work for me; but I kind of doubt it. Awareness is key to making good food choices, and being aware without tracking looks to be nowhere near where I am right now.
There's another side of awareness in maintenance, and that's awareness of activity. I say "activity" rather than "exercise" to be more inclusive. There's a lot of daily activity that burns calories but isn't formal exercise. I get quite a bit of this type of activity without being aware of it. And there's the rub. If I'm not aware of doing it, neither am I aware of when I stop doing it. And when I stop doing it, I burn fewer calories. Absent an adjustment of what I eat, I'll gain weight.
Lack of awareness of either eating or activity means that if my weight changes, I don't have a clue why. From the way a lot of people talk about weight gain, I'm sure that there are millions of people who are unaware of both eating and activity, and thus have no clue why they gain weight or how to change their situation.
A fortunate thing happened when I signed up for SparkPeople. My sister gave me a pedometer. I managed to break that pedometer, I think from dropping it enough times to create small cracks in the case then sweating enough moisture into it to kill it. But by the time that happened, I was hooked. I bought replacements. Yes, plural. When a pedometer dies or gets lost, I want to take its replacement out of a desk drawer instead of having to shop for a pedometer.
Why is a pedometer so important? Because it gives me a gross awareness of how much I move. Before I started wearing a pedometer I didn't know that I walk more on work days than on days at home. I didn't know that Sundays are very low activity days, absent a conscious effort to do something. I wouldn't know that I compensate for running by walking less afterwards. And I certainly wouldn't go out at 8 PM to walk around the block so as to defend a streak of 10K+ step days.
I need the pedometer to be aware of how much gross movement of my body I do. I track steps on SparkPeople, but that's more for the stupid motivational trick aspect than for pure awareness. Watching the pedometer through the day is where the awareness comes in.
Without the pedometer, I might not realize that the NFL is hazardous to my activity level. It is, and I can limit how much I watch because of that; but the limit wouldn't be there if I didn't know I needed it, and I wouldn't know I needed it without the awareness.
As with mindless eating, before using a pedometer routinely and tracking exercises on SP, I wasn't really aware of the activity choices I was making. I'm sure I made some poor choices, and at times made some consistently poor choices, without being aware that I was making choices at all.
Today I'm babying a bad foot. Instead of running, I walked. Instead of walking briskly, I deliberately walked slower than usual. It was kind of hard to hold to a pace of over 16 minutes per mile. But I did it. I made that choice because getting that foot better enough to run is important to me. I was disciplined enough to make that choice because I remembered what I want.
But I wouldn't have been able to make that choice if I weren't aware of how the foot felt, and aware that walking vigorously has aggravated it in the past. There are two sides to discipline. I have to remember what I want. And I have to be aware of what choices I'm making, as well as being aware of how they affect what I want.
Nothing tastes as good as being able to run feels. And no NFL game is as important as maintaining my ability to run and to do pullups. But I need to be aware that choosing to eat too much is choosing to add fat, and I need to be aware that choosing to watch the NFL is choosing to be inactive for an extended period. Absent that awareness, I could make bad choices regardless of how well I remember what I want.
May we all remember what we want, be aware of what choices we make, and be aware of how those choices support getting or maintaining what we want.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Yesterday I got an email from the local running store/race organizer. A lot of it was advertising fluff that I didn't care about, but it also had upcoming races. There's a Jingle Bell 5K on Saturday December 1, at a community college not far from where I live. And there's a Reindeer Run 5K on Saturday December 15, close to where I pay to park by the month. After Thanksgiving's successful 10K and solo runs Saturday and Tuesday, I had visions of entering both of these.
This morning reality set in. While doing my light jogging up and down the hallway, the good news was that my sore thigh is enough better that I wouldn't even notice it if I weren't trying to evaluate its status. The bad news was that my bad foot was a bit worse than it was on Tuesday. I could probably run on it; but it's time to admit that running 3 times in 7 days has aggravated the foot, and it's best to give it a rest today.
I briefly considered doing run/walk intervals, before good sense took over and I admitted that I'd take the day off intervals if the foot felt this way. I thought about just deferring today's run till tomorrow. Then I thought back to a past blog where I wrote that it would be best to just skip a run and take a bit more rest, rather than messing up my Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule. So I decided that tomorrow will also be a non-running day.
Like the quote says, discipline is remembering what you want. I want to be able to run 3 days a week. I want it bad enough to not do it now, so that I can get to where I can do it consistently. That's not the answer I want, but it's my reality right now.
So today my cardio was just walking. I may have walked more vigorously at lunch than I should, but it wasn't a terribly long walk. Tomorrow will be more of the same, plus errands on my Friday off.
The happy part of reality is, I have free weights in my basement. ON2VICTORY said some nice things about my setup, and that got me to appreciate it more than I had. After I quit the paid work and before dinner, I went downstairs and got a nice weight lifting session in. That helped me feel like I'm not a total slacker today.
Tomorrow will need to be a non-lifting day, or at least no heavy lifts. I also need to make tomorrow a non-running day. But because I have tomorrow off, I can be leisurely about my breakfast routine and be sure to get some kettlebell work in addition to the normal pullups and pushups. That, plus walking, will have to be good enough for tomorrow.
Saturday it will be time to evaluate whether the foot will let me run or I need yet another day off. I still *might* be able to do the Reindeer Run 5K; but I don't have to make that decision this week. If I don't do an organized race, it's OK. Being able to run regularly is more important to me than being able to run in an organized event, even if that event gives me decorative antlers to wear.
And that's my reality right now. I'm close to being back to running regularly, but not quite there yet. I'll get there; I just don't know precisely when I will.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Work is getting a bit busy right now. That's unusual for this time of year, but not unheard of. For work purposes, it would have been good to put in six to twelve hours over the four day Thanksgiving weekend. In reality, I did nothing but monitor emails (without responding) over that weekend.
I'm not sure whether that was the best thing to do for balancing work, leisure, and health; but it sure felt nice to have those four days. And I got two runs and two weight lifting sessions in on those four days, so I guess fitness won over career.
Now it's payback time, and I need to be diligent about doing the paid work between 8 and 5, and maybe sneak a bit of time in after 5. This tends to cut down on the step count, as "being diligent" in my line of work translates to sitting down more.
Today I am thankful that I can work at home 2 days a week. This arrangment allowed me to run 5K on my lunch break in spite of having a conference call scheduled right at 1 PM. The added time overhead of getting between the office and the gym would have precluded this on days I work in the office, even when I still had the gym membership.
The lunch run went well. Because of the tight time schedule, I deliberately held it to my flat 5K course from home, and went with shorter stretches than I would absent a time deadline. At 38° F (3°C) with a chilly southwest breeze, it wasn't quite cold enough to need gloves; but it was cold enough to drive me inside to do my stretches. The run timed out at 21:30 on 3.11 miles, for a 6:55 pace per mile. I'm not sure how much of that was just feeling good and running on a flat course, and how much was hurrying to be sure I got through in time to be on the conference call.
Got to a stopping point on work by 5:30, and broke for dinner. By the time I was done with that, I was feeling better. Sat down to write a blog, and the words weren't flowing. So . . . it's 7 PM, and I want to be in bed by 9:30. And the pedometer says I'm a little light on steps. Guess I have time for a short weight lifting session, and pacing between sets will be enough to get the step count up to average.
I know, lifting weights on the same day I run isn't ideal. But tomorrow is a packed day, and it's a given that I would get neither a run nor a weight lifting session in tomorrow, even if I had taken today as a total rest day. So let's do the weights this evening, but not overdo it. Be satisfied with a major leg lift, a push lift, and a pull lift.
For the pull lift, I decided weighted chinups. Left my jeans on, and strapped on 5 lbs. of ankle weights. Weighed myself, and it came out 173.4 (as compared to this morning's weight of 161.4 dehydrated and in my underwear). Managed 3 sets of 10 chinups with the weight, with a minute between sets. That third set was a lot more challenging than the third set of 16 pullups at stripped down body weight this morning. I see a dip belt in my future, to better incorporate chinups and pullups into weight training.
For the major leg lift, it was deadlifts. Warmed up at 155, then said what the heck. Let's try 205, which is a sentimental number. That's where I first deadlifted my weight. I did 3 sets of 8 deadlifts at 205, though I had to reset my grip twice during the third set. Then I racked the bar, and thought about playing with 215 or 225. Ended up deciding that 205 is enough for today.
For the push lift, I did dumbbell chest presses with my new 45 lb. dumbbells. Got three sets of 10 in and tested them with incline chest presses at a 30° angle. (I already knew I couldn't manage the 45 lb. DBs on incline chest presses at 45°.) No dice, couldn't get the presses started. But I did manage a set with 42.5 lb. DBs (= 40 lb. DBs plus 2.5 lbs. of Plate Mates). I'd failed with 42.5 DBs at 45° incline chest presses last time I tried.
The interesting thing is, this short exercise in lifting weights fit into a half hour total time. I'm loving the time efficiency of lifting in my basement, as compared to the gear up and gear down time required to get to a gym. The time efficiency makes it practical to just do 2 or 3 lifts; if I were going to the gym, I'd feel that this little wasn't enough to justify the time spent gearing up and gearing down.
So what's the point of this rambling? Mostly, it's notes to myself. I need to remind myself of a few things to remember as work gears up and demands more of my time and attention:
1. Running 20 minutes is much better than not running at all. Instead of worrying about wanting to run more, take the partial rest to let the bad foot get better.
2. Weight lifting doesn't have to take a lot of time. So make up your mind and do it, instead of playing Sudoku on the iPhone twice.
3. Getting the exercise in helps with controlling the food intake. I've noticed a tendency to eat from stress on work at home days. Looking forward to a lunch run helps control this in the morning, and having run at lunch helps control this in the afternoon. Then when my calorie count is normal instead of above average at dinner time, the evening feels more normal and less stressed.
4. Point in time check on the body: The sore thigh is almost normal now, and will likely get better even if I am running 3 days a week. Weight lifting seems to help the thigh. The bad foot may or may not be getting better, slowly. It will require continued monitoring, and I might have to take a day off running now and then to facilitate the recovery.
Gotta keep my head in the game. When work is slow, I might slide by just going through the motions on diet and exercise. But with work as it is now, I need to pay attention and get the exercise I can in the time I have. I have the time; I just have to use it wisely.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
The follow-up question to my fast time in the 10K on Thursday was, how would the sore thigh and bad foot hold up? It turns out that they held up pretty well. By this morning, the sore thigh felt not quite 100%. The bad foot was not as good as it has been, but not terribly bad. Throw in the anticipation of a mostly sedentary afternoon chatting with my daughter, and I decided to try a continual run this morning.
The temperature at my front porch was 31°F (-1°C) as I went through my morning routine. Got to the point of getting dressed for a run, looked out the window, and saw snow showers coming down with some flake sticking to the driveway and grass. Okay. I know how to dress for this weather, and it's unlikely the snow will accumulate enough to need different shoes.
Went out with the plan of running 5K or maybe a little more, depending on how my body responded to the run. Running felt very good. At the 3 minute mark, the RunKeeper app told me my average pace was 7:15. Perfect. I definitely don't want to run as fast as I ran for the 10K. The first mile announced itself at 7:19, and I figured an average pace between 7:15 and 7:30 was just what I wanted today.
The run was feeling pretty good, so I added some twists to the route to get the time up to 25 minutes or so. That put in one trip up the small hill, and down by a path I don't usually take. I had remembered how to dress for the weather pretty well, except I didn't think to put on any lip balm; I missed it a bit when headed into a cold westerly wind. Later in the day, that west wind became nastier; but it wasn't bad for my run.
Late in the run, I was feeling good enough that I decided add another detour to get the run up to 30 minutes. Gotta get that sixth Spark Point, you know. Back to my driveway didn't quite manage that, so I went a couple driveways further, then had to turn around slower than expected because of snow on the shoulder. But turning slowly is better than falling down, any day of the week.
The slow turn got my time up to 30:15, for a distance of 4.1 miles. That works out to an average pace of 7:23 per mile, which was fairly consistent through the run:
I started the run in snow showers, which let up by the time I'd gone a mile. For the last part of the run, I had sunshine. But the snow shower left my driveway wet enough that I had to go inside for my stretching.
Take stock of things, listen to your body. How are things going, Kevin?
The sore thigh reacted very well. It was better at the post-run stretch than it has been since it made me pay attention. I noticed that my soleus muscles were really tight and needed particular attention on the stretching. I recall that a strained soleus happened during my first round of training to be a runner. Probably ought to do something for the soleus. The gastrocnemius muscles were fine; maybe an underdeveloped soleus is just something I need to pay attention to if I want to run. It's too soon to tell for sure about the bad foot, but at least there isn't a clear warning that the foot has an obvious problem.
On general principal, I'm not going to run on consecutive days until the bad foot feels like it's 100%. By that time, the sore thigh should be ancient history. I'll probably have other bumps, bruises, and sore parts to deal with between now and then, too; but I'll worry about those as they happen.
I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be able to run again on Tuesday, though perhaps I won't be able to squeeze 30 minutes in. 20 to 25 would be good enough for runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a longer run on Saturday or Sunday but not both. Realistically, there are going to be times when I need to skip a running day because of how my body reacts. I think the smart thing to do then would be to skip a day rather than try to shift the schedule.
Still, even with the need for continued monitoring of the sore parts, it feels really good to be out there running again. Maybe this time I can achieve last year's goal of continuing to run through the winter. Just have to be smarter about *how much* I try to run when I have time off in late December.
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