Friday, October 30, 2009

Kicking off the holidays

First off, let's get this out of the way. I am so glad I committed to running a race in December. Knowing I have a fitness goal is going to be so useful in November. I should find one in January to help survive Christmas while I'm at it.

We've already had some snowfall (yes it melted immediately but that's not the point), Sam Adams Octoberfest tempts me at every turn, Halloween is in full swing (funny how goes from being a day to a "season" when you're a parent), and my brain is already daydreaming in its idle moments of roaring fireplaces, turkeys, and apple pies.

In other words, the holiday season has begun. And it doesn't end until a week into January at least (when the last "we never got together at Christmas, so let's catch up next week" meeting happens), and you could argue it stretches all the way through the superbowl....

I can't stress enough how important it is for me to have a strong running program during these months....

With my Couch-to-5K runs complete I'm now ramping up my run times and distance. The past couple runs have been 3 miles at about a 12:00 pace. I want to keep that pace and increase the distance to 4 miles over the next few weeks. I need to be able to run at this pace for 45 minutes or so. Then, I will begin specializing my runs:
  • one long run a week which can be slower but will continue to grow to 5, 6 miles and beyond
  • one fast run a week which is only 30-ish minutes and which will push my pace closer to 10:00
  • one normal run a week which is at a comfortable pace for 45 minutes

I'm not there yet, but that's my plan. Adding a fourth run is possible but not a priority.

As for my fitness, my weight is where I want it to be through the end of the year. Honestly I'd love to lose another 10 pounds before Christmas but I'm not going to sweat it if I don't. Just staying around where I am through the holidays will be a victory, especially with my running increasing steadily during that time.

Yes, I know it's all head games ... but as long as they work, I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Toys and progress

I work from home one day a week, and usually eat at my desk while working ... because I burn up "lunch hour" time exercising. Today I went for the second to last run in the Couch-to-5K workout, and did it outside with my new toy -- a Garmin Forerunner 305. It's a combination fancy stopwatch, GPS receiver, and heart rate monitor.

The run itself was fine, though the added feedback from the Garmin impacted me in a number of ways. I felt slow a couple times, and saw that I was, so I sped up. I felt over-exerted at times, saw how high my heart rate was, and got worried, because I really didn't want to slow down. I felt good a few times, and saw my pace was higher than expected, and it put a smile on my face.

But the real interesting data comes when you get home and upload it all into the PC. I can look at the map and say, right, when I came over this hill my HR was here, but my pace was also fast, looks like I was trying to run up it strong, and here I slowed down and ... well, whatever. It's fitness geekery at its finest and I look forward to tinkering with it.

What concerns me is how high my HR was going for the entire duration of the run. During warmup and cooldown it stayed where I'd expect, but it jumped up above 160 for the majority of the time I was running, and peaked up over 180 a couple times. It's not that I can't run for 30 minutes at this exertion level; clearly I can. But if I don't find a way to lower that HR, it's going to put a cap on my long distance running.

Looks like I have something new to ponder over the winter.

Fitness update: hovering on the south side of 200 pounds for past week, with weights fluctuating in a 2-pound range. Completed Week 9 Day 2, which I believe you can see here. Jess has finished the C25K and next week will start increasing her times. I find myself struggling more with junk food cravings; combination of seasonal shifts and less drive to deprive myself now that my weight is lower?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2010 and beyond

A couple posts ago I said I wanted to outline some goals for next year, so here are some fuzzy and ambitious thoughts.

  • I would like to train for and complete a 10K in 2010, and do it in a way that lets me continue to run afterward. That means running smarter than last time.
  • I will experiment with a heart rate monitor for training purposes.
  • I want to build my mileage so my weekly long run is over 5 miles.
  • I plan to fix up my bike or get a new one, and experiment with adding cycling to my fitness routines.
  • I will adopt some sort of strength training.
  • I will find and maintain a healthy weight.
  • I plan to select a half-marathon training program and begin seriously pursuing it before the end of 2010.
  • I plan to always be in training, because I know it helps keep me focused.

If all goes well, I would like to run a half-marathon in 2011 and a marathon in 2012.

Super-secret goal is to run the 10K in the spring and do the half in fall of 2010, but that requires extensive bodily cooperation. We shall see.

Fitness update: completed week 8 of C25K. One week left. Ran into people at a work event who hadn't seen me in a few months, and they said I looked good. Didn't have any dress shirts that fit right, which made me both frustrated and happy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Learning Humility

The honeymoon is in full swing. I'm in love with running, especially outdoors. I'm in love with the scale, that keeps rewarding my hard work. I'm in love with my smaller jeans, my smaller shirts, the last hole in my belt. I'm on top of the world.

Like I was in October 2007, falling in love with fall and with running (for the second time in my life).

I'm hovering around a milestone weight, just like I was in September of that year, when I bought myself a subwoofer to celebrate hitting 200 pounds (funny how I kept using it after I shot back past that weight :) ).

I took a few moments today to remind myself of the struggles that come with this. To remind myself that I've been down this road before and I know the pitfalls. I know it isn't as easy as it feels right now, and I have many posts written to remind me of that.

September 2007, I talk about staying motivated. In March 2007, I posted about getting back on the wagon.

I could look into my posts and see if I could find recurring themes. Like this post, written in 2007, which I could have written many times in my life. But why settle with 2007? I could go back to 2005, and see if I could find the post where it first became obvious I was on the road to losing my fitness that time. I was stunned to realize it came so quick after my 10K race. Talk about a race hangover; that one lasted 2 years.

And then I pull out something I wrote in August 2007, and realize it's just as true now as it was then:

this is all a cycle -- that we advance, we fall back, we learn and we forget ... but until the ticker runs out, we still have a chance to do the right thing.

I'm not here to be a pessimist. But whether I stay on the straight and narrow or fall off again, I love where I am today, and I will remember that tomorrow. But I know who I want to be, and know how to be that person. Hopefully I'm learning each time I take this trip and will do a better job this time around.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Q4 Goals - Fitness Edition

At work we're supposed to be writing down what our goals are for the final quarter of 2009.

I figured I'd do the same here for my personal goals. On a fitness front:

  • Drop below 200 and remain consistently below 200 through end of Q4.
  • Incorporate higher percentage of healthy fats

  • Run every week in Q4.
  • Complete C25K in October.
  • Increase distance/time in both November and December
  • Run the Hot Chocolate 5K in December with Jess

My goal is not necessarily to make drastic changes in Q4, but rather to drop another 5 pounds or so by Thanksgiving, maintain that loss through the holidays, while increasing my endurance.

These are achievable goals. I expect to succeed.

Later I'll share my fuzzy 2010 goals, which include some more grandiose ideas.

Progress update: Sunday morning I ran the first workout of week eight of the nine week C25K. I ran it outdoors, and with every outdoor run I remember more and more why I fell in love with running. Five workouts to go before I can say I'm "done" but I feel it's just a formality at this point. Saturday morning the scale gave me a sub-200 number for the first time in ages, but it only lasted 24 hours. I'll be back down there soon enough. So everything I need for Q4 is coming together.

Fitness snapshot

Life is made up of small victories: finishing the sixth week of my C25K plan and starting week seven with a beautiful outdoor run in fall sunshine.

Life is made up of small setbacks: eating fried food out at restaurants two days in a row and watching the scale not budge for a week straight.

Life is full of small compromises: deciding onion rings were going to satisfy my cravings more than beer, and skipping the beer.

Life is full of promise: a solid total cholesterol score (124).

Life is full of caution: a terrible HDL score (25) tells me I need to pay more attention to healthy fats.

That last one deserves some more commentary. I did a simple cholesterol screening at work; it only gave me a couple numbers and it was meant to trigger more conversation with my doctor not serve as a real guideline. But the 124 number was improved over what I remember my numbers being a couple years ago. The 25 number, though, is new.

HDL values above 60 are healthy. HDL values from 40 to 60 are normal. Values below 40 increase your risk of heart problems.

25 is significantly below 40.

The technician asked me if I exercised regularly, and I felt guiltless in saying "yes". I did more research on HDL. Exercise and weight loss are the two biggest predictors of HDL increases, and I'm working on both those. But what's also important is eating enough healthy fats: avacados, fish, olives, nuts. And as a ruthless calorie cutter, I know I'm guilty of throwing out the good with the bad.

So now I have a dietary action item other than losing weight. And next time I see my doctor, I'll ask for a full blood workup. I'll need to understand if what I'm doing is good enough.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Put the book in the bag

Our town library is having a fundraising book sale next week, and we decided to help out. Since we've had our daughter, we've made extensive use of the library's free childrens' programs. Jess and the baby are there weekly. The staff know our names.

So we got out our full complement of cloth grocery bags and started packing books away. I warned Jess early on that I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to give all my books away. Some I had no problem; though I enjoyed reading Stephen King's Desperation, say, it wasn't special in any way. But then I got to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I read in Las Vegas, and I had trouble putting it in the bag. I didn't even love the book, but I remember feeling it was important.

The same happened to American Psycho, which I read on a plane (on the plane to Vegas, actually). I have distinct memories of holding that book in my hands, feeling like somebody would be reading over my shoulder and judge me based on the difficult subject matter of the book.

The Mars trilogy, which I loved (even though sometimes the books dragged on for pages describing rock), also went into the bags. The Life of Pi, another book I paused and said, "Wait, this was important."

But then I remembered something. My entire marriage has been a struggle against my wife's urge to clean up loose ends and my desire to hold onto sentimental objects. And never once have I regretted letting her win one of those arguments. So I gave in, again.

In the end we filled 7 bags with books and donated them to some very happy staffers who will use them to raise money. And someone else will get the experience of enjoying a book I already enjoyed.

(and I'm secretly plotting to buy a Kindle)