Tuesday, January 01, 2013
On December 31, 2011, I went to bed at my normal time. This was a novel thing on New Year's Eve, prompted by an emphasis on getting enough sleep learned from SparkPeople. It worked out well.
On December 31, 2012, I remembered the previous year and chose to go to bed at 9:30. I've been getting enough sleep lately, so I was up at 5 before the alarm on a day when most people sleep late. I was leisurely about my morning routine, and still made it out to run by 7:15.
The forecast had called for light snow showers, slowly falling temperatures, and slowly increasing wind. When I went out, it was 28°F (-2°C) and cloudy with WNW wind at 11 mph. The predicted snow showers were not in evidence. Because it was not yet full daylight, I wore my headlight and taillight; but traffic was light. This was an anticipated benefit of running early on New Year's Day.
Had a pleasant 4.64 mile run, finishing at 32:32 for a 7:01 average pace per mile. I felt really good, and it was tempting to keep running for another two and a half minutes to get that next Spark Point. But I held to the planned route. My bad foot handled this distance well on Christmas Day, and reacted well to a reduced distance last Thursday; I want to give it a chance to react well and still be able to run 8 miles on Saturday.
Late in the run I thought I was getting a feel for what negative splits are like, but after looking at the splits I think I just used the first quarter or half mile as a warmup:
Later that morning, I did my normal budgeting for January. I use a program/method called YNAB, which is a zero-based budgeting system with a delay. What that means is, I budget for January with income I receive in December, and for February with income I receive in January. January's budget was routine, but I should have lower net pay in January due to the expiration of the temporary Social Security tax reduction. So I did an estimate of what that would do to my net pay, and trimmed 3.7% out of my par budget for February to put it where I can easily adjust it for actual January income.
Knocking 3.7% out of the par budget made me think about choices. As I was contemplating that, it struck me that this is similar to adjusting the daily calorie range for the nutrition tracker. At least, it's similar the way I do it where I track everything and eat to the ranges.
I have participated in many internet discussions on budgeting, sometimes with people who make over twice what I do but have trouble making ends meet. It's easy to say that they ought to have it very easy, and to a certain extent they do. Once they realize they can't spend more than their income, they have a lot of places where they can cut spending to fit income. But the cutting is painful for them, even though they're cutting stuff I never added into my budget in the first place.
I was reminded of this by my sister's blog from yesterday, The Facts of Life: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
In that blog, she discusses how some people (males, with me as the prime example) get way more calories than other people (women, particularly petite women like her) and how she needs to suck it up and deal with it even though it isn't fair. She concludes that she can appreciate that her life is good even if she can't live on my daily maintenance range, which she described as being a binge day for her. How she emotionally feels about my issues of dealing with the changing maintenance range must be much like I feel about people with two or three times my income having trouble making ends meet. There will be intellectual understanding, but perhaps not much emotional sympathy.
But here's the deal in maintenance: From time to time, I need to adjust my calorie range up or down, in response to what is going on in my life and how the scale is reacting to my life. I don't want to outgrow my clothes, and it's dangerous to my health to lose too much weight. Those incremental calorie changes are like incremental budget changes. They require choices. In the case of calorie reductions, it means giving up food I've become accustomed to eating. I got some practice with that in 2012, as I had to reduce the calories I ate by as much as 25% in response to injury making me unable to be as active as I had been. That was an adjustment, much like cutting the budget. I had to find enough calories of food that I was willing to give up, while preserving the appropriate minimum amount of protein. (Minimum amount of fat is rarely an issue, and minimum amount of carbs is never an issue for me.)
In the case of an increase in the calorie range, it's not just making the numbers go up. I have to find something to eat to stay above that minimum number, on a consistent basis. That turns out to be trickier than budgeting an increased income, where the increase can always go into retirement savings or some other form of deferred spending. I can't defer eating calories I need this week. Finding a way to eat another 100 or 200 calories per day, and spreading them around so they don't all pile up in the evening, requires thoughtful decisions.
Actually, it's not the single increment of 100 calories; it's the cumulative effect of reversing that 25% reduction, plus adding a bit more to it, 100 and 200 calories at a time. One step is easy to sneak into the evening; but at some point, I need to eat more at breakfast, more at lunch, and more during the day so I'm not at the crash and burn point before I get to evening.
It's a good problem to have. I also have to remember that life is not constant. At some future point, I will be less active than I am now and need to trim those calories out of my nutrition plan. That's easier than adding, because trimming the calories will mean getting back to a way I ate somewhere on the trip of adding calories. The memory of how I did it before will make the decisions easier. But either way, adding calories to the plan or cutting them, is okay. It's just something that I need to do to successfully maintain my weight.
Monday, December 31, 2012
Most of my recent blogs have focused on fitness and injury recovery. On this last day of 2012, I'd like to look back at weight loss and weight control, a.k.a. "maintenance."
2012 was the first full calendar year of maintenance for me. On January 1, I weighed in at 165.0 lbs. I thought I was done losing weight. 165 had been a stretch goal for weight loss that seemed unachievable, and I got there!
On December 31, I weighed in at 159.8 lbs. I wasn't trying to lose weight in 2012, I was trying to make the weight trend go sideways. The rear view mirror says the trend didn't truly become sideways until about the start of May. For the first four months of the year, I kept adjusting my concept of goal weight downward. Some time during the middle of the year, I settled on 160 to 163 as my desired goal range. Since May 1, I count 8 days when my weight was outside that range, 2 higher and 6 lower. The last three low points were December 23, 24, and 31, all at 159.8.
There's no secret why the weight is doing what it is; I've been running more, and not eating enough more. I'm trying to correct that. My current calorie range is the highest it's been since I've been on SparkPeople, and I may have to move it up another 100 calories to get myself to consistently eat a little more. This is scary. I did quite well on 2800 calories per day, and it's hard to adjust to 3100 calories. But I know it's way too easy to add an extra 2000 calories if I don't track.
Fiddling with the calorie range in response to what the scale does has worked for me in 2012. The lower end of my calorie range (which I think about much more than the upper end) has ranged from 2200 to 3000 calories in 2012, depending on what was going on. Here's what the weight did in 2012:
Longer term, here's what the weight did from 2002 to 2012:
Edit to add: The labels didn't show up as well as I hoped. From left to right, they are: End of 2004, First time weight lifting. End of 2007, Budget becomes major focus. Summer 2009, 2009 Rodent Diet. July 2011, Started SparkPeople. Early October, 2011, Started maintenance.
One of the nice things about weighing daily is that I can look back at where I've been and connect it to what was going on in my life at the time. I won't bore you with all the details, but here are a few highlights that relate to how I ended up in maintenance on SparkPeople.
I went through a divorce process that lasted from August 2002 to August 2004. In late 2004, I made my first serious effort at weight loss, focusing on eating only when I was hungry and getting some exercise, primarily walking. I took up weight lifting in January 2005, and I was impressed with my success on the weight front. Then I bounced off 185, which was still 3 pounds above the top of healthy BMI for me.
Various things happened in my life, and I struggled to maintain. At the end of 2007, my daughter dropped out of college. This simultaneously increased my expenses while cutting my after-tax income. As a result, my major focus in 2008 had to be learning to budget. I was successful; but the weight piled back on and I achieved my lifetime high weight of 221 in late December, 2008.
In 2009, mice were spotted where I work. My employer instituted a new food policy: No food at the desk. All food brought for consumption must be in sealed containers, and must be consumed in the first floor cafeteria. No open containers food were to be on the working floor. I jokingly called this the "rodent diet," and it helped me lose weight down to 191. Until the restrictions, I did not realize how many times I was mindlessly wandering away from my desk for a piece of chocolate.
After the rodent diet restrictions relaxed, I tried to maintain the same discipline, with mixed success. I got my weight down to 185 again, but failed to keep it there. In the summer of 2011, I visited my sister. She was thinner than I remembered ever seeing her before in my life, and she nudged me into SparkPeople. I grudgingly admitted that I couldn't out-train a crappy diet.
I set what I thought was an ambitious goal, 175. I achieved that in 12 weeks and spent 8 more weeks nominally in maintenance but actually losing another 10 pounds while learning how to not lose weight.
The weight loss phase with SparkPeople stands out on that graph, doesn't it? The rodent diet showed a comparable result of losing, but the loss wasn't sustained. However, with SparkPeople I think I've figured out maintenance. Yes, that sideways trend is short on the scale of 11 years; but it's a sideways trend of more than a year, and a tight sideways trend of 7 months.
These days, I'm more focused on the fitness side than the diet side. I'm concerned with how much I can run, how many pullups I can do, how much weight I can lift. These things aren't trivial; but managing my weight is a higher priority. It just happens to be a fairly easy priority to achieve, which allows me to have a lot of attention for other priorities.
I can't believe I just wrote that managing my weight is easy. But there you have it. I benefit from living alone and controlling the food that comes into my house as well as the food that goes into my mouth. If I weight, measure, and track everything, it really isn't that hard. The only tricky part is recognizing when the targets for what I eat need to change. And I've got some weight graphs showing I've managed to do that acceptably well in 2012.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Today is Sunday, a non-running day and a traditional day of rest. I don't feel as beat up as I did a week ago, but there's nothing major on the exercise agenda. That leaves me some time to take stock of where I stand and think about a lot of different pieces of the fitness puzzle.
Today I didn't get a walk in before church. I needed the time to clear snow from the driveway, for the fourth time in 24 hours. As I was shoveling, it struck me: I'm not sore, even though I muscled the snowblower around once and shoveled twice yesterday, throwing snow over the piles at the side of the driveway both times.
This is why I lift weights. I may motivate the lifts with the idea of squatting my weight or deadlifting 137% of my weight, but I lift to have functional strength. To me, "functional strength" means I can do real stuff. Like shovel snow and not be sore the next day.
The bad foot is clearly not up to running today, but it's better than it was last week on Sunday. Today it let me walk at a 14:30 or so pace, while I was over a 15 minute mile last week. RunKeeper even reported a split pace under 14 minutes for the last part of my walk when my bladder was motivating me to hurry toward home.
Not feeling creaky today is a big deal, considering I had my long run yesterday and also had over 20K steps, the highest I've had in one day since I've tracked. Really? Didn't I run 9 miles once? Turns out I didn't. I ran 8.89 miles in 65 minutes on December 31, 2011. I had over 19K steps that day, but didn't break 20K. Yesterday I also added some steps from shoveling snow twice and from some shopping.
I looked at some of my blogs from last December and January. In hindsight, I see the genesis of the injury problems that plagued me for most of 2012. I banged up my right thigh, and kept running on it when I should have taken time completely off. This altered my gait, and probably caused or was a major contributor to my foot injury. I hope I've learned the appropriate lessons from that; but I'll find out for sure only if I haven't.
The work schedule returns to normal on Wednesday. I'll try to hold to the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday running schedule, possibly with minor variations to work around my volunteer job doing taxes. If we get a normal winter instead of the mild winter we got last year, this could be challenging. For now, I'm happy with a 4 week streak of running three days a week.
I have a couple weeks to decide whether I'm going to sign up for a half marathon on April 28. I like the idea, but the bad foot could still require me to back off. I don't particularly want to downsize to the 5K in 2013 like I did in 2012. Right now, the indicators are that the foot is getting better; but will it get enough better to run a half by the end of April? I don't know at this point.
Right now, I'm feeling pretty good. I'll get my 10K steps in today, but not a whole lot more. I might lift weights this evening, or I might defer that till tomorrow. I could get three weight lifting sessions in this week, but it's likely to only be two per week after that while I have both a full time job and a volunteer job going on.
That about covers the details. Now, what are the bigger picture goals?
1. Don't get injured, and recover from the foot injury.
2. Run 3 days a week.
3. Support running with appropriate strength training.
4. Run a half marathon.
Remember the priority order, Kevin. Don't let that fourth priority mess up any of the first three.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
I found one way to stay warm walking in cold weather: Run 8 miles first. Then the half mile walking cooldown doesn't feel cold. Too bad that's a method that can't be used every day.
It's Saturday, the day for my long slow run. The weather forecast had Rochester on the northern edge of the next snow storm, with snow showers early, followed by light snow, followed by more snow showers. Translation: It was supposed to snow all day long.
I got up this morning, and saw my driveway was black. Snow isn't here yet, good! The plan was to run early, before the snow got deep. I find running with snow in the air pleasant; it's snow on the ground that sometimes causes me concern. I figured I was in the clear, and went with steel cut oats for breakfast. As a result, I didn't hit the road till almost 7:30, when it was practically full daylight.
At that point the temperature was 26°F (-3°C), with NNE wind 9 mph and light snow in the air. My driveway was coated in snow. I'm outside in my straight running shoes, not having a functional pair of screw shoes right now. The short warmup up and down my street convinced me the snow wasn't deep enough to be a problem yet, so off I went. I ran a route that was mostly the same as last Saturday, with minor variation late in the route.
I was able to run in the traffic lane much of the time, and the quality of the snow covering on the shoulders made it practical to run there when there was oncoming traffic. Since there wasn't much new snow on top of the foot or so already on the ground, it wasn't all that big a deal. And the wind wasn't as bad as a week ago. I was able to hold a fairly steady pace.
Over the course of the run, the snow accumulated enough that screw shoes would have been a real convenience on the side roads late in the route. And I could have run on the shoulders earlier to preserve the screws. But it worked out OK with straight running shoes.
The elevation and pace chart, plus splits:
The slow pace at the beginning is mostly because I fumbled with getting my iPhone back in its holster during the 5 second delay for starting. I nominally was aiming for an 8 minute mile pace, and ended up at 8.05 miles in 1:03:08 for an average pace of 7:51. Close enough, and it felt comfortable.
The bad foot felt better before the run than it has in some time. I think the shorter run on Thursday helped. Then it complained about walking around the house barefoot after the run; I put shoes on as soon as practical. While the 8 miles irritated the bad foot, I don't think it's quite as irritated as it was the past two weeks. Tomorrow I should know for sure. In any event, about 8 miles still looks like my limit for long runs right now.
The rest of the day was dominated by the weather. My daughter called to cancel her Saturday visit for laundry and lunch. She lives in a denser population area, and wanted to stay home to defend her on-street parking place. Or, as she put it, go move her car, shovel her parking spot, and re-park every three hours so she can get out tomorrow.
Where I am, which gets less lake effect snow than were she is, I've cleared my driveway twice and need to go out and give it a third pass. By 11 AM there was enough snow to justify using the snowblower, but I got by with just a shovel the second time. I think I'll get by with a shovel for the third pass as well.
Such is winter in Rochester, NY. I expect I'll have minor amounts of snow to deal with for the next 2 or 3 days or until the next storm comes through, whichever comes first.
Friday, December 28, 2012
It's Friday, a non-running day for me. I went out for a walk early this morning to count as cardio and get some steps in. This afternoon, my step count was lower than I liked, so I went out for another walk.
I was cold. The temperature wasn't all that cold, at 25°F (-4°C). I was dressed appropriately for the weather, or at least I thought I was. But it just plain felt cold.
Yesterday I was cold clearing the snow off the driveway, and cold running errands. But then I was comfortable out running yesterday afternoon.
This afternoon, I walked at the same temperature, the same degree of cloudiness, and similar wind as I ran in yesterday. But I was cold. Then it hit me.
Part of why I felt cold was because this is as cold as it has been so far this winter, and I'm not properly acclimated to it yet. But the bigger part is because I'm a runner. Walking just didn't warm me up enough for comfort.
Running has many benefits. I get a lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, and the ability to lift weights to the limit of my muscular strength without necessarily breaking a sweat. But I also get to feel cold in temperature that was comfortable walking weather, before I was a runner.
Oh, yeah. I'm carrying less fat around now, too.
So, what to do? I suppose I can learn to dress warmer for walking than I have for the past four decades. Or I can run a bit when out for a walk, just to warm up. Or maybe I'll get lucky and I'll simply acclimate to the cold, and not notice it so much in a week or two.
Thinking back, I was cold when I was losing weight in the summer of 2011. Most work days, I took breaks to leave the air conditioning and walk around the building, in order to warm up. But in the summer of 2012, in maintenance mode, that wasn't a problem. Other things noticed in hindsight lead me to believe I was on too restrictive a diet in 2011; but since I didn't have to stay there all that long to take the weight off, I got away with it. Perhaps I was cold then because I wasn't eating enough to stay warm.
That's another possibility for right now. My weight is hanging out at the low end of my desired range, and has dipped below the range recently. I bumped my calorie range up to force myself to eat at least in the middle of my former range; perhaps I need to eat toward the middle of my current range? How much do I really need to eat to support my running habit?
It's another maintenance puzzle. Either I'm cold because my cardiovascular system is too efficient for walking, or I'm cold because I'm not eating enough. Or perhaps there's a bit of both going on. I'll have to try one thing and another, and see what works to make me comfortable walking in cold weather on non-running days.
One thing I know for sure: Sitting on the couch wrapped in a blanket is the Wrong Answer to this problem.
Get An Email Alert Each Time MOBYCARP Posts