Friday, December 07, 2012
I've blogged before about the fitness maintenance puzzle: How much is enough? As with maintaining weight, there is no easy answer of what to do. There probably is no single answer that will work all the time.
I think I've entered a new phase of rehabbing my bad foot. I'm less focused on how the foot feels day to day, and more focused on doing things to promote general fitness and reduce the chance of future injury. Today's agenda was, get in a long walk (because it's a non-running day) and lift weights. I got that done, but perhaps not in the optimal way.
Right after breakfast I went for a 5.2 mile walk. The idea was just to walk, not to push it. As is typical, I started out slow then got faster as I warmed to the task. Ended up taking 76 minutes to walk 5.2 miles, for a typical to slightly slow average pace. Ideally, I should have been slower; but it appears that I'll get away with this one.
Then I took a nap. I was tired, and I don't know whether it was because I woke up too early (half hour before the alarm, and decided not to roll over and go back to sleep), or didn't eat enough carbs early to support that long walk. Whatever. After the walk, a nap, and a shower, it was pushing noon. Half the afternoon went away to running errands. Eating healthy has me making a lot more trips to the grocery store than I used to.
Just before dinner, I got my act together to lift weights. The idea was to just do three major lifts. For the legs, I did deadlifts. For the push exercise, I did standing dumbbell shoulder presses. And for the pull, I did weighted neutral grip pullups. That's it. Three sets of each, with a little bit of play around the edges. I worked hard enough that I should feel the DOMS tomorrow, but I didn't work up a sweat.
Time was, when I deadlifted a challenging weight for 3 sets of 8 reps, I'd be dripping in sweat. Yeah, it was in a gym that was warmer than my basement is right now; but most of the issue was that I was overweight and not a runner. There have been more changes to my body in the past year and a half than just shrinking the waist and butt to fit into the same size jeans I wore in high school.
And that's a bit of an attitude issue. Since I became a runner, I can do 3 sets of 8 deadlifts at a challenging weight without working up a sweat. I can feel in my legs and arms that this is all I can lift, but my cardiovascular system isn't terribly worried by it. Because I'm not working up a sweat, it doesn't feel like I was doing anything.
Intellectually, I know this isn't true. I deadlifted almost 25% more than my body weight, for 3 sets of 8 reps. Then I threw on 20 more pounds and deadlifted 136% of my body weight for 3 reps. The shoulder presses weren't as impressive in terms of weight lifted, but they were challenging enough that I could only do 9 reps instead of the desired 10, 2 out of three sets. And adding a 10 pound plate to a dip belt kept me from getting to 10 neutral grip pullups for the second or third set. I was working hard enough for this to be real strength training.
But it doesn't feel like I did anything, because it didn't challenge my cardiovascular system. Half the point of this blog is to remind myself that I did enough, even though I feel like I didn't do that much.
The good part about this is, it makes weight lifting more time efficient. Lift, stretch, hydrate, done. Total elapsed time, less than an hour. Got the important lifts done. Tomorrow I won't lift heavy, but I need to be sure to get some kettlebell work in to keep my core strength up.
There are a gazillion weight lifting training plans out there, and I'm not following any of them. I'm kind of winging it, doing lifts I already know how to do, trying to get to the weights 3 times a week and do enough to keep the muscle I have. If I develop a bit more strength, that's good; but it's not the ultimate goal. Maintenance is the goal. That, and avoiding running injuries.
But maintenance is not steady state. I think I'll be living with strength gains and strength losses for the long haul. If I can keep the losses small, I'll be content with small gains that just get back the territory lost.
And that might not be the final answer on how to maintain muscular strength; but it's the answer I have today. And it's good enough for me today, this week, this month. I'll worry about finding a different answer when this one stops being good enough to get me to maintain my strength.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
After thinking things through yesterday, I coped pretty well with an odd work day today. I was up before the alarm, and got a longer pre-work walk than I usually do on work at home days. Grabbed lunch in a hurry at 11:30 to make the mandatory webinar from noon to 1. There were audio problems, so after stringing us along to 12:30, the Powers That Be admitted it wouldn't come off and would have to be rescheduled.
The good news is that I got a short walk in before 1. The bad news is that there will be a reprise date for this webinar, which will no doubt be conveniently scheduled to take my lunch time instead of normal work time. It was a beautiful day for a walk, withe the temperature at 39°F (4°C) and sunshine. It was great running weather, but the time wasn't there for stretching afterward.
So, plan B. Run after work. Now that we're deep into Daylight Wasting Time, it gets dark early. And the temperature drops a bit from the high at noon; it was 35°F (2°C) and dusk when I hit the road.
The nice thing about being in my second year of running is, I don't have to think very hard about how to handle the changing weather. I just open my closet and pull out a solution that I found a year ago. In this case, it was a heavier weight, white compression shirt to go over a lighter short sleeved compression shirt instead of a quarter zip jacket. White, for visibility in the dusk. But by the time I got dressed for running, it was apparent that it would be full dark before I finished.
So, open the closet and pull out the reflective harness, headlight, and tail light. Batteries are still good. Check. This was actually my first evening run with the visibility gear for darkness; last year I was running in the pre-dawn dark and seeing it get lighter as I went. Today I ran in the dusk and saw it get darker.
Early evening can be expected to have more traffic than early morning. And this is Christmas shopping season, which means there will be drivers who don't know where they are going. In recognition of the season, I kept the run to the residential neighborhood, where there shouldn't be the shopping traffic. I only have to worry about commuters coming home, some of whom may be tired and not paying much attention.
I'm pretty sure the lights helped a couple of drivers see me. Twice I ran into the gutter as cars came around curves on the residential streets. I would have been okay on the side of the road, but better safe than sorry. Until today, I didn't realize how much I relied on looking at the drivers' faces to see whether they were aware of me.
The traffic was more than in the morning, but really not unliveable. It was interesting to see the beam from my headlight become more useful in seeing where I'm going, as opposed to the way it fades out as dark turns to dawn. When I got to the end of my run, I left the lights on for my walking cooldown. I remember last year, I was turning them off so as not to annoy drivers with the blinking tail light after it was light out.
The last surprise was that I went inside to stretch. Normally, I prefer to stretch outside unless it's too cold or too wet. This evening it wasn't too cold or too wet; just too dark. I could have stretched in my driveway anyway, seeing my watch (to time the stretches) by my headlight. But I found I preferred to come in where I have more light. That's odd. The dark didn't bother me running, and it's never bothered me walking; but I wanted light for stretching. That's kind of odd, but there's no harm in stretching inside.
RunKeeper reported 4.29 miles in 31:31, for an average pace of 7:21 per mile. That average was actually a pretty steady pace, as I was trying to run a sustainable pace and not hurry. Good enough for a 4 or 5 mile run, but I'll need to learn to run slower if I want to stretch the distance. Running about a half hour fits the bill for today. The bad foot isn't 100%, but isn't complaining much about abuse. I'll see how it feels Saturday, then decide what I'm doing in the way of running then.
If it turns out that I'm up early on Saturday and the foot is feeling good, maybe I'll go for a dawn run. Just have to see how I feel and what the weather is like.
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Pausing a few minutes between work and choir practice on Wednesday, I need to think about the rest of the week.
I won't get my run in on Thursday lunch, because I have a mandatory conference call scheduled from noon to 1. That, and enough real work that I can't afford to take an hour off some other time. Maybe, if the weather cooperates, I might get a run in on Thursday evening.
I'll have to think about how to be reasonably active tomorrow, in spite of the work load. My sister talks about her line in the sand; I need to figure out where my line in the sand is for work at home days when there's more project to work on than time available.
If I get a run in on Thursday, that shoves weight lifting to Friday. Friday is a nominal day off, but I really need to do some work at home stuff. The last two Fridays I took the time mostly off, but deadlines loom. And the deadlines will cut into the time I'd like to spend on my own priorities, including exercise. Gotta think about time management. This is not something I've been historically very good at.
But for right now, the priority is an hour to unwind, choir practice, then home to bed. Tomorrow I need to hit the work projects hard, which means I need to have firmly in mind exactly what breaks I'll take to get steps in. As I think about this, a run in the evening sounds like the best choice for getting the 10K steps tomorrow; that means I need to be aware of how the changed schedule affects my eating patterns. There's another danger point.
With luck, thinking about this in advance will prepare me and I won't be back tomorrow evening with a blog about how badly I fell off the wagon.
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.
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