Monday, October 25, 2010
Some times you find nutrition in unexpected places. Well, not *complete* nutrition, but, well... let me explain.
So, In order of importance, here are the nutrition items that I track on a daily basis:
As you can see, sodium is on the list, but towards the bottom. As with most Americans, I eat much more sodium (3,000mg - 4,000mg) each day than is recommended (500 - 2,300mg). And while my blood pressure isn't high, it is a little bit above normal (120-140 over 70-80) and enough that my doc asked me to pay attention to it.
So color me surprised when I looked back at this weekend as found that I only at 1,606mg on Saturday. Turns out, that was the day I ate In N Out for dinner.
Well, it sure wasn't In N Out (1,027mg) that dropped my sodium level for the day. It was my lunch. Two medium baked potatoes, light beer, a banana, some cheese, butter, grapes, and some OJ. Only a total of 199mg of sodium! Much better than the frozen meals I usually at for lunch during the week.
And as a double bonus, I had 2 potassium-rich foods (potatoes & bananas) and even managed to fit a fast food dinner into my day without going over my calories. All in all a very satisfying and successful day of eating.
And I may have to start bringing some potatoes to work.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Whenever I huddle in one of my SparkTeams, I usually say "Make It Happen!" The reason for this is what I believe is one of the most important virtues in life - Responsibility. When I look at the world around me, I see a lack of personal responsibility. People making excuses and trying to place blame everywhere except for where it squarely belongs - on themselves. Sure, there are definitely times when things happen that are out of our control and that's a part of life, but in most parts of our lives it's not true and too often we are too quick to pass the buck and say "that's life," or "it's not my fault," when things happen that are definitely in our realm of responsibility.
So, that's my personal campaign. It has worked for me and it can work for you. Don't think you have enough time to be healthy? SparkPeople is full of people who thought that, but have proved themselves wrong. Think you have too many other important things that come first? You'll find a lot of SparkPeople that have proved that wrong, too. Take me, for instance. My wife and I could not get healthy or get to the gym. We even had a gym in our apartment building! We just didn't think that we had the time in our busy schedule. Then we changed our mindset and decided to try to put the gym first and then plan the rest of our schedule around it. Guess what happened? We are both able to make it to the gym for 30-90 minutes, 6-7 days a week, and are still able to get everything else done that we did before. Our excuses were controlling us, until we took responsibility for our time and took control of ourselves.
Every time I think I can't do something, I think about the countless number of people with debilitating injuries or illnesses that have accomplished way more than I ever have. I have never run a marathon, yet there are people on the Biggest Loser than have been in much worse health than me and they have run marathons. I've seen 60 year-old men and men with one leg complete the Iron man. If a man in the late stages of Multiple Sclerosis can ride his bike 100 miles in 2 days, then I certainly can wake myself up early to get in a 3 mile run.
What does it take? It doesn't take superman or a body of steel. What it takes is for a switch to flip in your head from letting your poor health or weight or whatever you excuse may be that's holding you back, to realizing that you are in control. Once you take control, become responsible for yourself, and push the excuses aside, you can "make it happen." I can't guarantee you'll be an elite runner, or an elite anything, but you CAN run, you CAN make it to the gym, and you CAN eat healthier. I've known people who could not run more than a couple hundred feet and insisted that they were not cut out to be runners. I've seen them take control and push themselves to see what they could achieve and are now running 7 plus miles a day. And I've read about countless numbers of others who have achieved the same and much, much more.
Think you can't do it? Browse the SparkPeople blogs. Watch "The Biggest Loser." Maybe it's time to re-evaluate your excuses. If you do, you will find that you, too, can "Make It Happen!"
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I have a terrible time writing blogs on any kind of regular basis, so as weird as it may seem, I have two new blogs in the works. However, my enthusiasm for writing them has waned since I lost half of one after Blogger said it was saved and the other one I only seem to think about while I am running. I also have the idea for 3 other blogs, but they are suffering from the same lack of writing excitement. Hopefully I will build up the time/energy to write one. Maybe after I drink that Monster in the fridge... Or maybe I need to go for a long run this weekend and bring a pencil and some paper along with me... or a voice recorder.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Today, I crossed the street.
This street had a name. "Grand Teton Dr." This street also had another name. "Mental Hurdle." Today, I crossed the street. Twice.
According to my half marathon training schedule, today called for a 4.5 mile run. However, next week my miles bump up and I run 5 miles on Tuesday and Thursday. So, shortly after I began my run, this morning, I thought to myself, why not go ahead and run 5 miles to get a jump on next week's schedule and see how it goes?
So, I did what I also do. I thought it about. And I thought about it. And I thought about it some more.
Right around 1.5 miles into my run, I had to run a short section with no sidewalk and it always makes me a little nervous to be that close to cars, in the dark, with them coming at me from behind where I can't see them. That's why I usually avoid this particular section of road on my runs. However, there I was, and as I neared this end of this short, less-safe section, i noticed that my anxiety had translated into me running a little faster. I was happy to be running faster and hoped I could keep up my new anxiety pace.
When the turn for my 4.5 mile run arrived it was finally decision time and I felt good, so... I kept going straight. No time like the present! A quarter mile later, I arrived at Grand Teton Dr.
Now, my "5 mile run" is actually 4.98 miles as mapped out on the SparkPeople Map Tracker because I usually take the side of the street that is on the "inside" of my 5 mile loop. From fiddling with the Map Tracker, I figured out that crossing Grand Teton is .01 miles and if I crossed Grand Teton and ran on the other side of the street and then crossing back again, I would run that extra .02 miles to stretch my run from 4.98 miles to 5.0 miles, even.
.01 miles is one hundredth of a mile. That's approximately 53 feet. Crossing Grand Teton and back would increase my run by 106 feet. Of course, I had run this route a few times before, but had I ever crossed the street to do the extra .02 miles? You guessed it. No. Here I am running 20 miles a week and 5 miles or more a day and I can't even run an extra 100 feet?
At SparkPeople, so many know and learn just how much of a difference the little changes can make, but also just how hard taking just those one or two small steps can be. Adding 10 minutes of exercise a day. Drinking one less can of soda. Eating one healthy snack instead of an unhealthy one. One small step at a time to changing your life for the better.
When I ran in high school, these small steps were steps I would not take. I was the opposite. I walked when I should have run. I ran less instead of more. I complained and quit instead of pushing and overcoming. I won't say I would have been a star - it's possible, but debatable and it's beside the point - but I had the potential to do better. I could have been a lot better, but my decisions to take the low road and not to push myself those extra steps made me into a middle or back-of-the-pack-runner and I never got to see just how good I could have been. When I hit my senior year and I began to realize and start to do what I needed to do, it was too late.
Now, I know what I need to do. I need to push myself. I need to take that extra step or two. So, today, I decided to run 5 miles instead of 4.5. I also ran 5.0 miles instead of 4.98. I crossed Grand Teton. It was only 100 feet. Probably less than 40 extra steps. Not even enough to make a difference in my calorie total for the day. But it was a Mental Hurdle that I crossed. I overcame it. I plan to do it again.
Today, I crossed the street.
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Sunday, October 10, 2010
This weekend my wife and i brought our 4.5 month old daughter to see her grandparents, family, and friends in Los Angeles. We left bright and early Saturday morning and planned to leave to return home on Sunday afternoon. I do all of my running in the mornings and as part of my training schedule, Sundays are my long distance run, so that meant that I had to do today's 7 mile run on the hilly streets of La Crescenta.
I used the SparkPeople Fitness Maps route creater to try and calculate how far I would need to run to meet my mileage and found that I would have to run further than I expected. Running around my house is very flat. The most elevation I can gain is about 8 feet on the bridge over the beltway. However, i knew that running 7 miles around La Crescenta was going to involve and undulating landscape with at least one or two real hills with elevation gains of at least 100 feet. I didn't want to wind my way through residential areas of town, so the best three options were routes that I vividly remember from high school - either i would need to run the cross country course in the park, twice, or i would need to choose to run over "Golf Course Hill" or "Hospital Hill."
I finally settled on running an out-and-back that would take me over the top of Golf Course Hill, around an extra loop to increase the length to my requisite 7 miles, and then return me back to my parent's house. Golf Course Hill begins at the parking lot of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course and runs up and over a little pass next to the interstate as it crosses the Verdugo Hills and leaves the Crescenta Valley. To the top of the hill is approximately three quarters of a mile with an elevation gain of 150 feet. We ran this hill regularly in cross-country training and even did 200, 400, 600, 800 meter repeats. Needless to say, I do not have fond memories of this hill, but do know that i would be a good workout for me, now. Having run no hills in Las Vegas, I had all but resigned myself to the slow plod up the hill, but was determined to run the entire way up. I knew it would be difficult to match my usual 11 minute/mile pace, but if anything, i was going to try, and even if i ran 13 minute miles, i was going to run the whole hill and the whole route home. No excuses, if, ands, or buts.
Getting to the hill involved an slow, incremental, uphill climb of 325 feet over two miles, which felt like a bit of a struggle at times and slowly reduced my confidence for the real ascent up "The Hill." Yet, before i knew it, there i was, at the base of the hill. I looked up at my old nemesis, but there was no time to stop to reminisce and get slowly re-acquainted - I had a hill to run. So, up I ran with the short quick strides i learned to use those 20 years ago. My pace was not too fast, but not slow as i waited for my legs to begin complaining about running a steep hill for the first time in forever. I ran, and I ran and I ran... And then I saw the top of the hill not far ahead. I had yet to tire or noticeably slow and instead I sped up as the top neared and the grade lessened and then before I knew it I was cresting the top. I tried to conceal my excitement, but my smile could not be contained. I ran down the other side to my 3 mile turn-around point and then re-crested the hill and soared back down Golf Course Hill. I had conquered. My training was paying off and I could feel it. It felt awesome.
I continued on, and as my run neared the end and i closed in on my parents' house, I checked my watch and it read 68 minutes. This could not be! I must have calculated the mileage wrong! I was confused and disheartened. I racked my brain to quickly try and think of a route that would add some extra mileage to my run. I made up my mind and ran a couple extra blocks and crossed my fingers that i had added enough distance. When I reached the house and checked my watch I had run for 76 minutes. Surely, I prayed, I had at least run 7 miles on the dot.
After my cool down walk, I ran inside and jumped on SparkPeople and mapped out my run, again, and was overjoyed to see that not only did i run at least 7 miles, i actually ran 7.34 miles and even better, i had run just under 10:20 minute mile pace!
I ran a hilly run for the first time in ages and not only had I found my run up the hill much easier than i expected, I felt better than i expected, and i also ran much faster than i expected! What an amazing morning run. And that big, bad Golf Course Hill? Not really so big or so bad.
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