Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I am not a runner. Once a year, at the end of May, I pretend to be a runner for the Chase Corporate Challenge. That's 3.5 miles, or just a bit longer than a 5K.
Every year since the first time, my goal has been to be able to run the entire 3.5 mile distance. Every year, I've fallen short of that goal. The reasons are many. I'm busy during tax season, so I don't train then. I don't switch gears naturally at the end of tax season, so I lose too much time there. A couple of times I tried to train, and overdid things.
Enter SparkPeople. I came here to learn to record and control what I eat. The site also promotes exercise. I know a bit about weight lifting, and I see what SP has to say on the subject is very basic and suitable for people with absolutely no weight lifting experience. I wonder if the same is true about their running programs?
So I take a look. I can walk forever, but I'm not a runner. The 5K My Way running program starts with walk 1 minute, run 3 minutes. I couldn't do that. Other programs start with walk 4 minutes, run 1 minute. That's a lot more walking than I need between runs.
So I looked at what the programs had in common. They all are structured in terms of walk X minutes, run Y minutes, repeat Z times, Z increases on day 3 of each week, while X and Y become more challenging each successive week.
The end point of the 5K running program is to run 30 to 40 minutes. (SP says "jog," but let's be honest. If it's worth breaking out of my walk, it's worth running.)
So I built myself a two week remedial program that I call weeks negative one and zero of the 5K My Way running program. I'm on Week Zero and it's working. Today I walked 1 minute, ran 2 minutes 10 successive times. Friday I'll go for 11. Next week I'll start Week 1 at the SP drill of walk 1, run 3 times 8. (They word it clumsily, listing the first cycle then saying "repeat 7 times," but the listed total time makes it clear what is meant.)
I got into this thinking I needed a formal pattern for a gradual buildup. I knew I needed to not go as hard as I could, in order to increase my capability instead of achieving what I can right now and being sedentary the next two days. But there's something else important going on here.
SP says they're training for a 5K run. I've always thought in terms of training to run 5k, or 3.5 miles, or 5 miles, or whatever fantasy distance I've never been able to run. But that's not what the training program is doing.
It's really training me to run 35 minutes.
That's an important distinction. Historically, I thought in terms of distance. Run 200 paces, walk 200 paces. The real training program works in units of time. Walk 1 minute, run 1 minute. (I still don't get starting out with the walk instead of the run, but I'm following that structure.) The end result is to be able to run consistently for a sustained period of time.
If I can run continually for 30 minutes, I'll be able to run continually for 3.5 miles. Even on the walk 1, run 2 drill I covered 3.67 miles in 32 and a half minutes (with a 2.5 minute walk at the end, because 10 cycles is where I am in training.) Running nonstop will trim at least 2 and half minutes off that, probably more.
The other thing I noticed was the step count on the pedometer. When thinking in terms of distance, running artificially looks worse than walking. It's fewer steps to walk/run my 5.2 mile loop than to just walk the same loop. But . . . it's more steps to walk/run 30 minutes than to walk 30 minutes. Greater distance, more steps, same time.
I'm beginning to get it. To train to run, and to get the fitness benefits of running, how far I run isn't the most important thing. How long a time I run is a better measure to focus on.
Next May, I want to be able to run at least 30 minutes continually. I'll be willing to stop sooner if it doesn't take that long to cover 3.5 miles. Slightly changed goal, but I think I have a better chance of meeting it than I've ever had in the past.
Monday, August 29, 2011
I've been on the SP site for seven weeks now. I track what I eat. I stay in my calorie range, and after the first couple of weeks I started watching the macronutrients and staying in those ranges.
I climbed back on the fitness bandwagon, walking more regularly, lifting weights, and actually using the gym I'm paying for. Last week I started training to run, with the aspiration of being able to run 3.5 miles nonstop at the end of next May.
The system is working. In seven weeks, I lost 11 pounds and the clothes that were tight are now comfortably loose. I'm not lifting as much weight as I did at my peak, but the strength is coming back. This weekend I weighed in at a 20 year low, though the weight has since bounced back up a little with rehydration.
And sometimes I feel like an imposter. What the heck am I doing here, with a lousy 21 pounds to lose (10 now), and fitness that came right back after 3 or 4 weeks of actually doing it? There are people here who have lost 50 or 100 pounds. There are people here who started out so obese that just getting off the couch was exercise, and they managed to turn themselves into runners. There are people here who are losing weight in spite of medical conditions that limit their ability to run, or even to walk. There are people here who work their butts off to lose a half pound a week.
I have it easy. I may not be young any more; AARP wants me to join. But I'm pretty healthy, and not *that* much overweight. Yes, I desperately need the nutrition tracker. Yes, the stupid motivational tricks are really helping me actually exercise, as opposed to thinking about exercising. But still, I sometimes feel like I'm freeloading on a system that was built for people who need it a lot worse than I do.
Sometimes I read about a situation that is so far from what I experience that I just can't think of a way to offer support without sounding holier than thou. And then I wonder, what the heck am I doing here?
Then I take a deep breath, and think about it. I'm here to develop habits that will maintain a healthy weight. I'm here because I am going to have to track what I eat for the rest of my life. I'm here because just posting a status that says I will go to the gym commits me, and then I actually DO go to the gym. I'm here because some of the other people here have some pretty good ideas that I can use in my own life. I'm here for pretty much the same reasons the people who look like they belong here are.
I'm here because my diet and fitness are better when I'm here than they were when I wasn't here. That's enough. If I happen to help anyone else too, that's a bonus.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Oh, I believe it weighs accurately enough. I just don't trust that the my weight is really as low as it says, and will stay that low.
This morning I weighed in at 185. That matches my low weight for 2010, which I touched last September 12. That was a jiggle down, between the weights of 186.2 and 186.8. It was kind of an artificial low, because I'd fallen off the fitness bandwagon some time earlier.
I expected to celebrate achieving a weight of 185. Not only was it my low weight for 2010, it was lower than any previous weight going back to 1991. But this morning's 185 doesn't feel like an achievement, because it's a jiggle up from yesterday's weight.
Yesterday I weighed 184.6. I didn't trust that weight enough to brag about it. It was down more than a pound from the day before, and I'm not normally seeing movement of more than a pound into new low territory these days. Especially not when it's more than a pound lower than a weight that was, itself, a new low for 2011. I figured I was pretty dehydrated, and I should bounce right back up there.
Well, the weight bounced back up, but not as far as I expected. Maybe this is real. If I weigh about the same tomorrow, I think I'll begin to believe it.
I just hope I don't blow it with the burritos I made for lunch this week. The nutrition numbers say they should work out just fine, but right now I'm not in a trusting mood.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
The theme for the Spark Diet Stage 2, Week 6 (which starts today for me) is finding the unexpected opportunities. The suggested action steps are a bit problematic:
1. "Batch cook a dish that can last 4-5 days." I live alone. I've spent 6 weeks or so learning to fix one meal at a time that fits into the diet. Batch cooking needs a whole different discipline. Batch cooking in general seems a bit silly for my situation, but I think I can do this. Pre-Spark, I made some tasty lentil & rice burritos. Part of the reason they were tasty was that I put on unmeasured amounts of sour cream and shredded cheese. I can measure the cheese with my trusty food scale, been doing that with BBQ chicken wraps and breakfast burritos anyway. And I can try substituting plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream, and measure that.
I envision doing one burrito at a time on the food scale, instead of my former assembly line of 8. But I'll be able to use the food scale to subdivide my lentil & rice stuffing more accurately. The stuffing is made, and I'll do assembly later this evening or tomorrow. We'll see how they turn out.
2. "Exercise entirely in 10-15 minute blocks of time this week." Ain't gonna happen. I understand the idea is to encourage people to do something instead of sitting; but I'm in week zero of training for a 5K. Coming up tomorrow is walk 1 minute, run 2 minutes times 9, which equals 27 minutes nonstop exercise. No way am I messing up the 5K training to fit a lame scheme that's supposed to make me think about fitting exercise into odd slots of time.
I do things like walk around the block on breaks at work; but I don't count that as exercise. And yesterday (end of week 5) I rearranged to fit 5K training into the lunch hour. I think I've got down what this is supposed to teach, and the action step just looks dumb.
3. "Exercise in one place that you normally wouldn’t (the office, the back yard, the garage)." I suppose I can look for some unusual place to exercise, just to get the 5 spark points. But it doesn't make much sense to me. Maybe take my kettlebells outside to the yard tomorrow, instead of using them inside, just to say I did it. Seems kind of silly.
One of the things I wrestle with is, what is exercise? I don't like to count mowing the lawn (though I did once, a few weeks ago) because I'd do that anyway. I don't count taking the stairs at work, because I did that all through the period when I was off the fitness wagon. I have counted my lunch walk at work, but I wonder. If "exercise" means getting the heart rate up to 60% - 85% of the max, I don't think those walks count. I don't have a heart rate monitor, but the last two times I stopped to check my pulse was 54% of the max while I was maintaining roughly a 15 minute mile pace.
Oh, and the exercise tracker keeps telling me to adjust my plan because I'm burning too many calories and need to eat more. I might do that, if I thought the calories burned calculation had any reasonable relationship to reality. But they don't really. They give either too many or too few for cardio exercises, and I can't tell which. They give no calories burned for strength training, when I know I burn more calories in a 30 minute weight lifting session than I would on a 30 minute walk. The basline metabolic rate is a guess based on some average. I'm seeing strength gains and weight loss on what I'm eating and doing; I think I'll keep it up for a while. Time enough to adjust calories if I stop losing weight or start losing it too fast.
Doing the batch cooking thing brought up another minor frustration. I made a recipe for ground beef substitute, which is lentils and brown rices cooked with beef bouillon. Pre-spark, this was a basic part of several things I did. It should be healthy enough to adapt for cooking on the SP diet. (Yes, the bouillon is high in sodium. I'm not particularly sensitive to sodium, so I don't care.)
I can't add an existing recipe to a new recipe, or to a food group. #!&^. Ended up adding the spices (which add some sodium) to the ground beef substitute to call it burrito stuffing. Then I took the recipe results, and hand entered them to create a food called burrito stuffing. I'll have to hand enter the results from the ground beef substitute recipe in order to use it to create a spaghetti sauce recipe.
Three decades ago I noticed the inefficiency of taking numbers generated by one computer and hand entering them into another computer. You'd think a site like SP would address this issue, and let me create a recipe of a type called "ingredient," which could then be included in other recipes.
Oh, well. For all the minor nuisances, the SP system is working for me. It has got me to eat better, and it has got me to get back on the fitness wagon. In the not too distant future, it's going to get me to move my 36" belts to the back of the closet and start using the 34" belts. I suppose I can work around a few things that don't make sense for results like that.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The 5K Your Way running program starts with walking 1 minutes, running 3 minutes, 8 times in a row. When I decided to start a running program, that was beyond me. So I started last Sunday at week minus one, walking one minute and running one minute.
Wednesday threw my schedule off. I had a prescription to pick up, so I did that after work. That killed the idea of the gym after work (normally Thursday, but I was feeling like I could handle weights a day early this week.) I didn't want to do the running, because I'd just done Day 2 on Tuesday. So I told myself I'd mow the lawn.
The lawn didn't get mowed on Wednesday. Instead, I sat inside and dealt with household paperwork. Then I went to bed early. That felt good. A light day was probably called for at that point.
But that put weights back on Thursday after work. Got home from the gym about 7, with nominally enough daylight to mow. But I was quite hungry, and by the time I'd fed the cat and myself, there wasn't enough daylight left. Summer is waning, even though the grass is growing almost like April.
That leaves Friday and Saturday. If I put off running till Saturday, I don't want to on Sunday and Monday will start the schedule conflicts with weight lifting all over. So it's run on Friday. But then there's the lawn. Dang, it's hard to get exercise and real life both in!
Tried something different. Packed my running clothes in a gym bag, and hauled it to the office. Went to the gym at noon, changed, and walked/ran where I normally walk. Did the walk 1, run 1 thing for 10 cycles, then walk 1, run 2 for 2 cycles. Total running, 14 mintues. That prepares for a ramp up to walk 1, run 2, times 9 (total running 18 minutes) for Day 1 of Week 0 on Sunday.
Came home after work, fed the cat and myself, and mowed the lawn. Without errands between work and dinner, there was enough daylight. We're definitely getting to the time of year when I get really tired of having the grass still grow; but now my weekend is free for other stuff. That's good, because I haven't done very well at getting both the mowing and the vacuuming done on the same Saturday!
Tomorrow is breakfast at 9 with daughter. I'm about ready to turn in now; if I wake up early, I may try some light running thrown in with walking my 5.2 mile circuit before breakfast. We'll see how it goes.
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