Saturday, January 19, 2013
This was a tough blog to write. It took me two days. It's pretty easy for me to write pep talks reminding myself of what I need to do. This isn't one of those blogs. It's an introspection to figure out how I feel about my success. I've sorted some stuff out in the writing, but I don't have any conclusion on what I'll do about it.
Last week, I got an email from SP inviting me to submit my success story. I clicked the link, read the questions, and decided that I needed more time to think about them and answer them well. I haven't done that yet.
The next day, my sister posted a blog mentioning that she got a similar email, and wrestled with her emotions after self-identifying herself as a success. I told myself I'd get to that success story the next day, but I didn't.
Yesterday I got a SparkMail from the At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team pointing at a message board post soliciting success stories from team members. The post was substantially the same as the email. I am reminded that I still haven't done that story.
Part of it is inertia. I get used to doing what I'm doing, running or working or wrestling with a sore thigh and trying to figure out how much rest it needs, or trimming the last 100 calories I added to my nutrition plan because I won't be running as much as I thought, and so forth. The success story falls through the cracks.
Part of it is mental energy. I get busy at work, and at the end of the day I don't want to work that hard mentally putting things in a decent order to tell a success story.
Part of it is that I don't feel all that successful when I'm resting a sore hip instead of running. But that's an obvious red herring, because the non-response predates the hip flaming out.
If I do a surprise inspection of my emotional closet, the biggest part is that I don't really think I'm a particularly inspiring story. A few years back, it was said of a noted politician that he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. From a weight loss and fitness perspective, I know quite well that I started on third base compared to many other people here.
Life is not fair. When it comes to weight loss and maintenance, the deck is stacked in my favor. How is it stacked in my favor? Let me count the ways.
1. I'm male. That gives me a margin of error that the ladies don't have. In the weight loss phase, I was typically eating 1900 calories per day. That's a lot easier to manage while still learning to give up junk and deal with fresh produce than 1200 or 1400 calories would be.
2. Not everyone has a fast metabolism. I do. I read other folks' blogs about having a bad week and gaining 5 pounds. I have to have a bad month to gain 5 pounds, and it hasn't happened since I started tracking food. I'd rather not think about how many calories I had to eat to gain 5 pounds in a month.
3. I'm an empty nester. This means I control what food is in my house, and I don't have to deal with anyone else when I prepare meals or snacks. This is HUGE. If I can avoid social situations, it's very easy to stay on plan. There's no case of a wife or child wanting a favorite high-calorie meal that I also love. Granted, I think I could deal with the social pressure now; but not having to deal with it was an enormous benefit during the weight loss phase and while slowly transitioning how I ate from optimized for low cost to optimized for health.
4. I've never been morbidly obese. Three times, I've been obese by BMI standards. None of those times lasted long, as I was able to get back into overweight land simply by exercising more (sometimes, just walking) and trying to eat only when I was hungry. This is probably a benefit of being a male with a fast metabolism; I did not suffer as much from terrible eating habits as other Sparkers did.
5. I run fast. I didn't know this when I started with SparkPeople; it came out of the 5K Your Way training. I trained to be able to run for 30 minutes, and had a 7:43 or so pace per mile the first time I did. By the time I finished the 5K training, I had a training pace of 7:10 to 7:25 per mile. That has got faster with practice and a few more pounds dropped; and running that fast certainly helps with keeping the fat off. But I can't tell you how to train to run fast, because I didn't train to run fast. The pace is just what happened when I trained to run continually.
6. I didn't have that much weight to lose. My initial weight loss goal on the Spark was to lose 21 pounds, from a starting weight of 196.6 to 175. In hindsight, I probably ate less than I should have in the weight loss phase; but I got away with it because it didn't last very long.
So, the big picture is: I'm a guy with a fast metabolism who can control what food is kept in the house, doesn't have to contend with an immediate family creating pressures on what's for dinner, can run at a pace that burns a lot of calories, and didn't have that much weight to lose in the first place. All I really had to do was track what I ate and be a bit more consistent getting physical activity. Is it any wonder I achieved my goal? It's like starting on third base, with a world class bunter at the plate to help me get home.
That's how I was successful, and I don't see how it's useful to great masses of people. A lot of what made me successful was simply my nature and where I started from. Life is not fair, and I recognize that I had the weight loss journey much, much easier than many other people.
Now, success at maintenance . . . that's an interesting thing. I think I still have it easier than many others, but my advantage might not be as great as it was for weight loss. I still have that fast metabolism, which gives me an incredibly generous maintenance calorie range. I do have to change that range in response to how active I am, with the scale passing verdict on whether I get the changes right. But even at the lowest that my maintenance range has been (70% of the highest it's been), the range was higher than what most female maintainers report. And it's a whole heck of a lot easier to cope with mistakes and fit all the necessary nutrients in if you have more calories to play with.
Now that I think about it, there might be something in here to make a success story; but it will be a lot of work to tease out the themes that might be generally helpful from the pure blind luck that doesn't apply to everyone.
I don't know if I'll respond to that request for success stories or not. It will be really hard to do so thoughtfully and helpfully instead of just bragging about results that weren't as much work for me as they would be for a lot of other people.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
I spent much of the fall of 2012 learning to listen to my body. That paid off with a transition from not running, to walk/run intervals, to running 3 days a week, all without a major reinjury. I can think of that as passing Listening to the Body 101.
It now appears that this learning experience is continuing into the Spring 2013 semester. Call the current process Listening to the Body 102.
It's Thursday, a work at home day and a scheduled day for a run. The run didn't happen.
The light jogging up and down my hallway this morning showed that I could still feel the sore hip. It was better than yesterday, but not quite as good as Tuesday before running. So it wasn't a tough decision not to run today. It wasn't even a tough decision not to run tomorrow instead of today. I definitely need to take the day off, and not run before Saturday. I'll see whether I can run Saturday, which is not a sure thing at this point.
This breaks a streak of running 3 days a week at 6 weeks. That's sad, but it makes me reflect on why I track that streak.
Originally, I set up the goal of running at least 20 minutes 3 times a week when I finished the 5K Your Way training. I was concerned that without the structured training plan, I'd let the running slip. The memory of pushing myself to finish a 40 minute run was fresh in my mind, and I wanted to be sure I ran enough to be in shape for the 2012 Chase Corporate Challenge.
Well, times change. It turns out I love running, and I don't need the streak to motivate me. It's kind of fun to track the streak, but if I let the streak be a STUPID motivational trick, it could get me injured. So I need to break the streak this week, because I'd rather not have a long break in the streak like I had in 2012.
So far, this is review from Listening 101. Listening 102 is asking for a bit more discernment.
My bad foot is better now than it's been in a couple of weeks. Resting a sore hip also benefits a slowly recovering foot.
Instead of running today, I walked. It was 25°F with light snow flurries and an 11 mph wind out of the north. I layered up well, and my torso was comfortable; but my hands still got cold, even in ski gloves. It was definitely better weather for running than walking; but proper listening insists that today is not a day to run.
Because it was cold, I kept moving pretty briskly, completing 3.08 miles in 40:48, for an average walking pace of 13:14 per mile. I'm pleased that the bad foot was not bothered by the aggressive pace; the last time I walked a 13:30 or so pace, the bad foot complained.
And then there's the subtle things the body is saying. The past few nights, I've slept 8 hours or till the alarm, whichever came first. The body is whispering that it needs to heal. Before the hip acted up, 7 to 7 and a half hours was all I could sleep.
And speaking of sleep, I'm having to re-learn how to sleep. Pre-spark, this was easy. Sleep till the alarm, nap through three snooze cycles, and get out of bed. On Saturday, turn the alarm off and sleep till I wake up. Now, it's a bit different. Go to bed when I get tired, aiming for 9:30 though usually not getting there that early. Wake up before the alarm. Now I can get up, but I need to pay attention. Am I really that well rested, or will I benefit from rolling over and napping a bit more? My emotional state with respect to what's going on today can get me to wake before I should, and sometimes the right answer is to go back to sleep anyway.
Tomorrow is a day off work, the last of the leftover days from 2012. I think I'll just turn the alarm off if I sleep that late, and see how much more sleep the body is willing to soak up. That can't hurt the sore hip, and could help it get better faster.
And now, off to bed. The fact that I can sleep in tomorrow is no reason to stay up late tonight, particularly when the body is telling me that it needs a bit more sleep than normal right now.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Today is Tuesday, a work at home day. After getting an odd sore muscle in my hip Saturday, it was a day to be careful on the run.
My light jogging up and down the hallway showed that I could feel the hip, but it wasn't very bad. I decided I could run on it today. However, doing Turkish getup/windmill combos with a 45 lb. kettlebell turned out to be too much for the current state of the hip. I did one on each side, paying attention to where the sore hip complained. Hmm. Windmills would be a good stretching move for this muscle. When it gets better, I need to be doing the TGU/windmill combos more frequently than I have recently.
Because I wasn't so sure about the hip, the plan was to run a twisty 4.3 mile route around the neighborhood, with several opportunities to bail out for a shorter distance. This is possible because the warm weather last week, culminating in a high of 69° F on Sunday, got rid of all the snow that was closing off the side roads and sidewalks to running. I still have a small patch near my mailbox, and we could get more later this week; but road conditions are good today.
The spring weather is gone, but it was still pretty nice winter running weather at 34° F (1° C) with SW wind at 7 mph. Since this is a short run, I figured I'd go a bit faster than a 7 minute mile. Sure enough, mile 1 announced itself at 6:42. My pace slowed a little when I got to the three small hills, but it was comfortable running for the first 18 minutes.
Then I began to feel that sore hip. I thought about it a while, and decided to keep running till 20 minutes. The hip felt a bit better, but it seemed wise to take one of the opportunities to turn toward home sooner than planned. Not long after that turn, I decided I'd just run to the 5K mark and stop. So that's what I did. Pulled out the iPhone, and watched the app. When it got to 3.1 miles, I hit stop and slowed to a walk.
That timed out to be 3.11 miles in 21:06, for an average pace of 6:47 per mile. The hip was not as bad as Saturday, but it was worse than when I started running. I walked home and thought about things.
With that short a run, it hardly felt like I needed to stretch. I stretched anyway. For the hip, I did three slow windmills on each side, using an 8 lb. dumbbell to be a reminder weight so I'd hold good form. I may do more of those tomorrow, assuming the hip isn't good enough to support using a real weight.
I freaked out just a little when I went to shower, and saw in the mirror that my hips didn't match each other. I had visions of a displaced joint, but it turned out to only be a swollen muscle. I should have known that from the fact that I could put weight on the hip. And the swelling wasn't all that obvious with clothes on, even with just underwear; it was that nude view in the mirror that was startling.
Worked the afternoon with an ice bag kinda sorta on the hip, off and on. It's a difficult location to ice when I need to be sitting and working at a computer, and I didn't have the ice bag in the optimal position most of the time; but it was better than doing nothing.
Now is the puzzling part. This is kind of like deja vu all over again. A year ago, it was a thigh, I kept running, and I ended up with a foot injury that was probably the result of an altered gait and pushing myself too hard. I'm not pushing as hard this year, but I wonder how much is too hard? I may need to take Thursday off from running, sigh. I'll see how the hip is by then. I only have two days to rest, instead of the three from Saturday to today; but I don't think the hip is as bad now as it was after I ran on Saturday.
Longer term, I wonder if a half marathon is just too ambitious for me right now. I definitely look at running differently with a goal date of running a half than I did when the goal was just to keep running 3 days a week.
I don't know yet what I'll do for running the rest of the week. Possibilities include keeping the Tuesday - Thursday - Saturday schedule, if the hip reacts well; taking Thursday off entirely to give the hip a couple extra days to recover; taking Thursday off, running on Friday, and moving the long run to Sunday; or just cutting back on distance.
Oh, well. First I need to see how the hip reacts tomorrow and Thursday. Then on Thursday, I'll have a decision to make.
Reminder to self: Running three days a week in May is more important than running a half marathon on April 28. Act accordingly, Kevin!
Saturday, January 12, 2013
The past few weeks, I've had a Saturday routine. Get up early, go through the breakfast and minor exercise routine, interspersed with laundry. Go for my long slow run in the morning, and get my laundry out of the way before my daughter shows up to do her laundry. Lunch with daughter, nice chat catching up on what's going on with her life.
Today, the schedule was made more challenging by tax training from 8:30 to 4:30. If I got up at 5, I could fit the long run in before training; but then I wouldn't get the laundry done. That decision was easy because I slept in till 5:30. Got the last mandatory load of laundry into the dryer before leaving for tax training, and lunch with daughter stayed on schedule. This forced the long run into the afternoon, starting at 2:45 to be sure I had daylight.
The good thing about this was that I got near-perfect running weather. 56° F, SSW winds 9-11 mph, and it felt so good that I told RunKeeper it was sunny. I later realized it was only hazy sunshine and being in a really good mood.
I was in such a good mood that I started out just running. When the app told me my pace was 7:22 per mile after the first minute, I made a conscious effort to slow down, but didn't really slow down as close to an 8 minute mile as I have in past runs. I need to work on that.
The plan was to run for 9.4 miles. This was mostly the same route as last week's 8.3 miles, with an extra detour near the end. Aside from failing to control my pace very well, it was a good run through the first 6 miles. Along about that point, I stopped caring about the pace. After all, it was only another 3 miles or so and I still felt good!
Two days of highs in the 40s and a half day of warm rain yesterday had left the shoulders all clear of snow, and the sidewalks mostly clear enough to run on, given that I could trust the wet spots to be water and not ice. There were only a handful of spots where I was running on sidewalks and had to alter my stride to avoid patches of snow and ice from either total failure to clear sidewalks or a business plowing the sidewalk shut at the intersection with its driveway.
I was composing in my mind a blog about how nice it was, and that this would be the longest continual run I've done in my life; but that turned out not to be the case. A bit after the last opportunity to turn and bail for less distance, I got an ache in my right hip. It's an odd spot, kind of like I just moved hard sideways into a brick wall. I had this same ache two weeks or two ago, and it altered my gait on Sunday. I didn't blog about it because it got better by Tuesday, but I remembered it.
Mr. Testosterone told me it was only another two miles, just keep running. I told him to shut up, stopped, and fumbled with my iPhone to stop the RunKeeper app. Then I turned around and retraced part of my route, walking the shortest way home as my walking cooldown. I listened to Mr. Testosterone too much a year ago. This year, I want to keep running even if I don't stretch the distance as much as I (or Mr. Testosterone) would like. So I did the adult thing, and quit when it hurt.
Back home, I stretched, found dinner, and got distracted by the Denver-Baltimore game. Through the evening, I kept getting up to walk around the house doing more laundry, and various other household tasks. I recalled that last time, the hip got better with gentle use more than with total rest.
So, the total run turned out to be 7.88 miles in 58:07 for an average pace of 7:23 per mile:
RunKeeper shows a total variation of 113 feet in elevation. Running the hills felt good. I got to where the gentle inclines were pretty much like running on level ground. It was all good, except the part about having to stop before I was done. And even then, the bad foot didn't complain any more than anticipated. It was a different ache that stopped me.
But that's the way it is. First priority is, stay healthy enough to keep running. If it turns out that I can't stretch to 13 miles by the end of April, that's the way it turns out. That's my mantra, anyway. I need to keep reminding myself of this, because having paid the entry fee to that half marathon makes Mr. Testosterone's voice a bit louder.
Right now, I'm glad I didn't realize I was only a mile and a half short of done instead of the two miles I was thinking. If I'd been thinking it was that short, I might have listened to Mr. Testosterone. And that would have been a really stupid thing to do.
I think I'll be able to run a shorter distance on Tuesday, and that's Plan A. There is a chance that I'll need a Plan B, but I'll address that if it happens. I think if I had kept running that last mile and a half, there would be a major chance I'd need a Plan B for Tuesday, and some chance I'd need one for the following Thursday as well. Been there, done that. I'd rather not go there again.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
It's the first quarter of the year, and life gets a little busy for me. This year, there's an early timeline for the annual pointy-haired performance review process. It's my least favorite part of the job, but it has to be done. As is typical, the pointy-haired nonsense lands right when I'd like to use my time and energy for work that will actually make a difference to my employer. But I deal with that.
At the same time, my volunteer job doing tax returns for low income people is starting up. I've spent some time getting up to speed for this year's training, and will spend some more time on that Saturday. Then I'll put 8 hours a week into the volunteer job from January 21 through April 15.
On top of all this, I committed to running a half marathon on April 28. A rational observer might ask, "What on earth is he thinking???"
Good question. I know that my paid job is going to be busy, and I know that I have a time commitment to the volunteer job. But Saturday, when I mentioned the Flower City Challenge to my daughter, she asked if they had a 5K. Yes, they do. Then she said she wouldn't do that one because she won't get her tax refund (i.e., won't have money) until after the price goes up beyond what she's willing to pay. So I opened my mouth and said I'd pay her entry fee if my foot got enough better for me to sign up.
The bad foot didn't complain at all on Sunday, and was good enough to let me run on Monday. I didn't run on Monday for other reasons, but I could have. So the decision was made. Yesterday evening it turned out to be convenient to go pay the entry fee, and now I'm committed. I'm not just committed to myself, I'm committed to giving my daughter a ride to the race venue with me.
So, how am I going to manage this, with a busy work schedule plus a volunteer job? I actually have a plan. The plan is to run 3 days a week, with a long run on the weekend, and gradually stretch the long run till I can cover the distance. I have 15 weeks to get there, and the last week is traditionally a taper.
I might do a little speed work, or I might not. Speed is not the focus. Running the entire course is the focus. The course for this half has a stretch of continual incline starting about at mile 6, and lasting 2 or 2 and a half miles. It starts out gentle and just gets steeper and steeper till it gets into the hilly part of the city and goes up and down quite a bit. So . . . I'll be doing a lot of hill work in training. I have some hills that I can get to from home that I can practice on.
The weekday runs will be time limited because of the work schedule. I can afford 30 to 35 minutes running on a day I work from home, like today. In the winter, I will likely run the route I ran today quite a bit. It has a 65 foot variation in elevation between the highest and lowest point, with two little hills that are fairly steep where I'm going up.
This morning I got up early, though not as early as a week ago. I debated about whether I had enough time before work, and decided to run anyway. It was cloudy, 36° F (2° C), SW wind 7 mph, mostly dry asphalt on the shoulders. Traffic was heavier than a week ago, because I was later into the commuter hour. I covered 4.66 miles in 32:07, for an average pace of 6:54 per mile. Splits were as follows:
I can do this two days a week, weather permitting. After a week of no new snow and some partial melting, I'm feeling better about making it through the winter running this year. It's amazing how even 2 or 3 days of not having to shovel snow improved my outlook on the weather.
The real action will be the long slow run on the weekend. The plan is to run 9 miles or so on Saturday. That means Saturday afternoon this week, because I have more tax training Saturday morning. When I get into the actual tax prep season, it will be running in the morning before volunteer work in the afternoon. I expect to vary the route for the long run, as it gets longer and longer.
The wild card is how well the bad foot tolerates stretching the distance. It's feeling pretty good about things after 4 weeks of the long run being roughly 8 miles; I'll have to see how well it likes 9 miles. But that's something I'll deal with.
If it turns out the bad foot doesn't get enough better to let me run 13 miles by the end of April, I can always back down to the 5K. I'd rather not have to do that; but I think I want to run 3 days a week in May more than I want to complete a half marathon at the end of April.
Oh, well. I can worry about the mileage not stretching out far enough if things play out that way. Right now, I'm happy that the mileage stretched to 4.6 miles being comfortable by the time I needed that distance to be able to run on the plowed shoulders.
And the snow under foot? If it happens, it happens. My new shoes came in, so I can make a pair of screw shoes out of an older pair whenever I need to. I'm leaning toward not making them until they're absolutely necessary. I got through one major snowstorm without them. If it doesn't get any worse than it's been, I might not need them at all.
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