Friday, September 28, 2007

Ow, my back

So, I pulled a muscle moving and plugging in what Tea so helpfully dubbed my footrest. It's funny how flexible and strong the human body is, and how fragile it can be at other times. I mean, a pulled muscle is no big deal, but all I did was stretch things in a way my body wasn't expecting, and I've been sore on-and-off since.

So, ow.

I shifted my running by a day this week, which means I'm supposed to do a 3-mile run on the treadmill this afternoon. However, we have my brother-in-law and his family (wife + 3 kids) coming over tonight for dinner and a movie. Whether I can run today depends on when I get home, and when they show up.

Gripping, I know.

Let's outline this weekend's perils to my waistline:
- Lunch outing at work today, to a local park for BBQ
- Family coming over tonight for dinner and movie
- Gaming at Clint's tomorrow night (we don't call it beer&pretzels gaming for nothing)

On the other hand, Jess and I have a tentative date to do something outdoorsy on Sunday. Maybe a nice hike in the early fall foliage....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New toy

I had originally told myself I'd buy a $200 tech toy for myself once I dropped beneath 200 pounds. I ended up spending a bit more than that, but my new toy finally came in the mail yesterday.

And there it is! A new subwoofer. Here you see the little troublemaker of the house (Pumpkin) sitting on it.

I got it yesterday night, and spent so much time playing with it that I skipped my run. That's ok; I got it in today instead, and can get my third run of the week in on Friday instead of Thursday.

Flexibility, people!

In related news, my back is killing me, as I pulled a muscle trying to reach an outlet behind the TV to plug this bad boy in....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Drunken Noodles

So, much to my surprise, the almighty bathroom scale did not curse at me this morning when I stepped on it. Don't get me wrong, it noted with protest the extra junk I ate this weekend, but it didn't try to use scare tactics or otherwise shock and awe me into submission.

So how do I reward it?

A peer of mine at work has just returned after a long health-related absence. We took her for Thai food at my favorite Thai restaurant, and though I lingered long over the healthier options I just couldn't deny my true favorite dish there -- the Drunken Noodles. From the menu:
Fresh wide noodles stir-fried with ground chicken, egg, onion, carrots, green peppers, basil, and scallions.
I'm not sure what they are drunk on, but it's good stuff. It's not exactly a salad and a yogurt, my usual workday meal, though....

Still, if you could taste it, you'd agree it was worth it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Well rested and well, heavier, I'm sure

Jess and I spent the weekend in Newport RI, and we picked a stellar weekend for it! Sunny, warm but not hot, the leaves are just starting to change, the place was lively but not overbearingly crowded ... all in all, a wonderful getaway. I'd show pictures but we didn't take that many (like ... 4. I'll see how they came out).

Anyway, I ate too much, but didn't go full on insane. Still, I'm sure when I get on the scale tomorrow it'll tell me that I'm stupid and fat and lazy (oh, wait, that's what I'll read into it -- it just tells me a number).

However, we did throw on our running clothes and head out for a wonderful 3-mile run before breakfast today. The Cliff Walk was a beautiful place to run, though a little unforgiving as far as shade went. I had no problem with it, but Jess is a little spoiled by running all her runs on the treadmill with multiple fans hitting her. She's not used to having any sweat :).

I considered doing another mile after we finished our route, but decided to just stay with her and enjoy the morning together instead of splitting up after a nice time together. Not bad.

In unrelated news, apparently the Vanderbilts were pretty insanely rich.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Run, fat boy, run

No, not me -- the title is a movie coming out starring Simon Pegg (who you might recognize as Shaun in Shaun of the Dead). Check out the trailer for some running-related humor, including the title line spoken by a fit-looking Hank Azaria (whose recently-canned TV show, Huff, I still miss).

I did run, of course, after work today. I'm enjoying my new "regular" treadmill pace of 11 minute miles. 10 is still too fast, but 12 feels too slow now. Baby steps, I know.

In other entertainment news, my not-so-secret addiction to Survivor was fed this evening as I watched the first episode of their latest season. I can't get enough of this stupid show, and have been hooked through season one, through all its ups and downs. This week didn't disappoint, with all the usual trappings of a first season episode. I love the folks who say it's so much harder than they expected. It's not like this show is hard to find on TV. Just watch a couple episodes....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Makin' a post on the intervent

Nothing serious today -- just a silly video clip.

Ran my usual treadmill workout today, trying to increase my speed a bit by running intervals at a higher pace than usual. It makes the workout fly by, but man is it tough the entire time!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Weekend update

I was blown away by Tea's post about her 70.3 Tri this weekend. I don't know how someone can read that and not want to push themselves and test what they are made of.

My own weekend was nowhere near as exciting, though it was busy and fun. I drank too much Friday night (poker), drank more than a little Saturday night (gaming with friends), but ate well overall (well, mostly) and still got in my long run (another 4.8 mile neighborhood run) on Sunday. I finished the long run with plenty of strength left in the legs, which really makes me feel good about my prospects for increasing my mileage. Next weekend I'll be out of town, so I'm not sure exactly what route I'll run or how long it'll be, but when I get back I'll be running a modified neighborhood loop that goes up over 5 miles. Progress! My shortish-term goal is to get my long run to be 6 miles, and that'll be my baseline to train from for any longer races (like a theoretical half-marathon next fall).

I'm a little nervous about the coming months, just because I'm getting hooked on my long outdoor run. In a weird way, it's the highlight of my weekend. But the streets I run it on are fairly narrow, have no sidewalks, and will not be workable once it starts snowing. As soon as there are snowbanks, this route will be too dangerous to run. I guess I'll cross that bridge when that time comes. But the thought of pounding out 5-6 miles on the treadmill is a bit daunting.

In related news, I'm a card-carrying runner now. I joined a local running club! They offer free coaching, have weekly 5K runs (which are unfortunately 50+ minutes drive away), and help organize other group runs. It will be interesting to see what I can get out of it (other than discounts at the shoe store). My athletic "community" has always been virtual. Bringing it into meatspace is an interesting prospect.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Staying motivated

Recently, someone complimented me on my weight loss, and asked how I "got motivated."

Getting motivated is easy. You spend enough time trying on clothes that don't fit right, looking at pictures of yourself, and getting out of breath on easy physical tasks, and you'll get motivated.

It's staying motivated that's the hard part. This journey can be a minefield.

Here's an example. I am a social eater and drinker. I can "behave" diet-wise 7 days a week for weeks at a time, but as soon as I go out to dinner with someone, have friends over, go to a party, go to a BBQ, I have to fight this strong urge to just let loose and do "whatever." This is actually quite sustainable, as long as your special occasions stay far enough apart. But there are three big things that can make this particular behavior tough on my mental state.

First, when I had a lot more weight to lose, my Caloric needs were higher. So it is obviously easier to lose weight. When I ate "right," I was dropping 2 pounds a week. When I splurged, I was still dropping a pound. Progress was steady. Now, 45 pounds lighter, my Caloric needs are lower. My margin of error is lessened. I can easily undo 5 days of good work with 2 days of splurging, and I can perceive an undoing of 6 good days with one bad day, even if that perception isn't reality.

Second, life isn't a smooth graph. Things come in batches. In a given week there might be four "special occasions." And suddenly there are more "bad days" than good, and not only that, the bad eating on those four days threatens to become a new habit. A vacation can not just cause a loss of fitness, but can create new habits that undermine or undo progress for months to come.

Third, I no longer feel like my physical state is in "crisis" mode. I look "normal" as compared to my peers. So I feel like I should eat "normal" as compared to those same people. So if they are eating/drinking a certain amount, I automatically want to follow along. I don't feel like, "Well, I have to be more careful than they are, look how much fatter I am."

So how do I address these?

First off, there's a mental state I need to constantly stay in. This is my life. This isn't some "thing" I'm doing, this is my life. If I'm behaving in a specific way with the goal of it being sustainable only in the short term, I'm doing it wrong. So I need to mentally check on that periodically. Am I doing this right? Am I living this as a lifestyle, or as a diet? If the behavior seems short-term-focused, I need to address it. If my motivation is "to fit into these clothes," it's a motivation that will fail soon, and won't necessarily carry me any further.

Second, I keep exercising. My fitness increases with effort, even if I have an "off week" as far as diet goes. So I may get frustrated at my weight, but I find that I can run for 5 minutes longer than I could the week before, or I increase my pace on a 3-mile run by a certain amount. It gives me a place to expend effort in a positive direction no matter what. (Well, give or take injuries -- we all know how that can undermine this precarious equation.)

Third, I need to constantly work on finding a new balance. This fits into my first point, in a way. But basically we all have to seek out a balance at all times between enjoying the moment and living life in a sustainable way.

That last part is the real trick, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 1975

Today the world (or at least our corner of it) pauses to remember September 11, 2001. I pause as well. It's impossible not to.

But 9/11 has a different meaning for me, as it does for a small chunk of the population (say, 1/3 of 1%). September 11th is Jess's birthday.

On September 11 1975, my future wife was born. On 9/11/1991, a couple months after I graduated high school, I gave her a handmade card I put together in Print Shop, which showed Uncle Sam's finger-pointing "I want you!" statement. Inside, I added, "to have a happy birthday." We weren't dating yet.

Every birthday since then, we've celebrated together. Six years ago, the events everyone else associates with 9/11 derailed our plans quite a bit. We spent the day in shock, both of us having left work and watching everything unfold live on CNN. We refused to let the day's events shut down our celebration entirely, though, and we still went out for a steak dinner. It was without a doubt the strangest dinner out I've ever had, and I hope none ever match it.

Yesterday, we had another steak dinner (a day early; we couldn't make it work tonight). And what did we look back on? Not 9/11/2001, but 9/11/1991, when an over-clever 18-year old gave his best friend's sister a slightly inappropriate birthday card. We were dating four months later, and haven't looked back since.

Happy Birthday, Jessica. They haven't stolen this day.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Long Run Sunday

We had a little last hurrah for summer heat this weekend (at least, I hope it was the last hurrah), but the heat broke overnight and today it was in the low 70s. It was stupidly humid, but it was still decent running weather. I went for my long run today, and felt incredible the whole time.

Sometimes, a run feels like a chore. You're putting one foot in front of the other, you're tired, you're hot, you're sweating, you're hungry, you're thirsty, you've got a little pain in your foot, you're distracted by worrying about work, you're wondering what's for supper, you're micromanaging your distance and pace, you're annoyed at how your shoes fit, you're sick of the song on the iPod, etc.

Other days, it's like it was today (let's not lie, the first mile was a little bit difficult, but it always is tough to start a cold engine). You feel strong, you feel light, you feel fast. You hit hills with determination instead of dread. You look up at the world as it comes, instead of down at your feet. Your eyes are wide open. You view distance and discomfort as challenges and rise to them.

4.8 miles, today. I took the 4.5 mile run I've done the past couple weeks and added a small extra loop onto it. It gives me a short hill in the last half mile, and it feels great to come down off that hill and know the finish is so close. I think it'll be my new default long route ... until I add more.

Like I said. I felt indestructible today. The way I felt today is why I run.

I'll try and remember that when my knees are crying first thing in the morning tomorrow :).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Two Hundred

Hollywood made the number 300 famous this year, but I fortunately never hit the 300 pound mark. Back in February I started taking my fitness more seriously, tracking my weight, exercise, and food intake on a daily basis. I weighed 245 when I started (245 and a half, but who's counting?).

Today, 200.

All my adult life, I've been hanging around at heavier weights than this. Sometimes 210, sometimes 230. Last time I was seriously running, I managed to drop below this weight and hold it for a few months, but that's it. And here I am again.

It makes me a little nervous. I know how easy it is to ditch the good habits and start bad ones. But we learn primarily from our mistakes, and I've made enough of them to learn a lot. I know what I'm doing differently this time. I know that mentally, I'm in better shape than I was at the peak of my running last time around. The body has to follow -- it has no choice.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Defining success

Yesterday evening, we drove out to a family cookout. The traffic turned an hour's drive into two, and of course made us an hour late. We arrived hungry and stressed out, and probably ate more than we should have. Such is life.

But later, sitting around a small fire, chatting with relatives, all was well in the world. Funny how a couple hours with family, a little baby's smile, the undisguised admiration of your 11-year old nephew, and a rousing game of whiffle ball can make everything seem much better.

My wife's aunt asked me to explain what I do for a living. It's hard to explain software development to someone, and explaining that you manage a software team isn't that much easier. "Ok, so what do they do?" Heh. But she asked me if, when I was younger, I ever expected to be "this successful."

I'm not sure exactly what she was referring to. And I wasn't sure how to answer. Looking back at it, though, I think I have found success. Just perhaps not in the way she meant.

Sometimes it's not about what you achieve, but what you reach for. I feel like, this year, I've found a way to reach for the things in life which matter to me. And that has nothing to do with how big of a paycheck I bring home, or what I do from 9 to 5.

Did I ever think I would find that kind of success? No. I don't think as a teenager you really have that kind of grasp on reality. But that's not an easy answer to give someone, is it? So I just settled for "I don't know, really."

(Workout progress this week is a long run, a fast run, and an upper-body workout. On schedule so far!)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

New look, Fitness update

I spent a little time today tidying up the blog, looking at some new templates and trying to find a look I liked. I plan to keep making small changes. I hope you like what you see.

I've taken the past two days off from exercise, and it's downright bizarre. I feel like something is missing out of the day. I plan to get back on board the exercise train before it goes back to being the other way around!

My plan for the month of September is roughly:

3 runs per week.
Try for one longer than the other two, and if I feel up to it, make one faster than the other two too.I know I should buckle down and learn about all the different kind of runs (tempo runs, paces, heart rates, etc), but right now I'm just looking to improve my base running ability and experiment with what I'm able to do. Maybe I'll change my mind and formalize it a bit, but for now, that's my plan.

2 Walk/Bodyweight days per week.
I know that formal weight training will do more for me than a few pushups and situps will, but without equipment and without the drive to get equipment, I figure it's better than nothing. I like what I've been accomplishing with a simple bodyweight workout, so I'm going to keep it up for another month and see where it takes me.

1 flex day per week.
With temperatures dropping and bugs dying off, it's time to start hiking again. Or, perhaps, it's time to start thinking about raking. Either way, I figure there's going to be a day a week where I'll sneak in some activity that isn't "measured" exercise but isn't sitting on my butt either. On the other hand, if my flex day is not very active, I won't cry any tears over it.

1 rest day per week.
Our bodies need some rest. I will probably get mine on Mondays.