Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day of the 5k

So I competed in my first ever sanctioned 5K event yesterday.  It was local to the area I live and train in, pretty minimal in cost and seemed a good way to keep myself motivated.  Overall, it was a good learning experience filled with both positives and negatives.

The Negatives:  One of the issues I ran across was timing.  I had forgotten about this race and only stumbled upon it again a couple of weeks ago when I was starting into the diet and fitness plan.   I knew I'd only been back to running for a couple of weeks, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to run the whole thing.  Even so I decided to give it a try. 
        On the day of the event, I was awaken early by a bad dream related to something else going on in my life.   I knew there was no way I was going to go back to sleep, so I got up, had a banana and some coffee, and got ready.  I'd never competed in any 5K before, so I decided to get there a few minutes early to be sure I had everything squared away.   The event started about a 1/2 mile walk from my house, so I headed out walking about an hour before the run was scheduled to start, giving myself some time to stretch and warm up along the way.  Well, the problem was it took me about 30 seconds  to check-in and get my packet.  So there I was with 40 minutes to go, waiting.  More importantly, trying to stay warmed up.  It didn't happen.
        The other issue was the start.  By all accounts from the folks I talked with after the event it was a sloppy and unusual start.   The event hosts had done a nice job warning folks in 5 minute increments of the approaching start, but when time came to actually start the event, it was pretty much "Hi-everyone-Thanks-for-coming-Ready?-Okay-Go!" About that quick, too. It caught quite a few folks off guard.    Personally it got me flustered a bit and got me away from my plan to basically stick to doing a training run (I have a couch-to-5K interval-style training app on my phone I like to use).  I started out by jogging right away and cramped up before I even made it to 1/2 a mile.  Perfect.

The Positives:  So I had to walk earlier than I really wanted in order to get the cramps to dissipate.  This caused a couple of unexpected positives, namely me to re-focus myself and to come to the realization I was likely going to walk much more than I had expected.  It also allowed a very nice lady named Cindy, who was primarily walking, to catch up with me.  Cindy told me she was pretty sure she was the last person competing and it motivated me to keep up with her.   I didn't really want to be last, but I definitely didn't want to be last by a wide margin.  So we walked and talked and it was great.  Shortly after the 1 mile mark I could tell that even though I was walking faster than I normally do that I was recovering from the leg cramps.  Thanks to Cindy I was able jog/walk the rest of the distance.  Most importantly: I FINISHED!

Overall I've got a long way to go to be able to  finish an entire 5K running the whole way, but for  having only been training for a little longer than 2 weeks I'm okay with the results.   I didn't do as well as I would've liked (I finished last overall), but that just means I have room for improvement.  The truth is that I'm never gonna set any record pace or see a overall 1st place finish.    Still, at this point I need to stay focused on getting better rather than worrying about how I compare to other runners.  If I can stick to the plan and keep doing what I'm doing I'm already headed in the right direction.

My Weekly Stats:
Starting weight:             304lbs
Weight at last update:    291lbs  (-6lbs overall)
Current weight:              290lbs  (-14lbs overall)
Exercise completed:      3mi walking,
                                       8 mi run/walking
Other notes: I wish I'd had a faster time in the 5K, but I finished in under an hour which is pretty
much the only goal I had besides to finish.  My final time was 52:25 for an average pace of 16:51/mi. There is definitely room for improvement there but everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Perception Is The New Reality (Pt.1)

 (Author's note:  One thing that happens for me when I run or bike is that the repetition frees my mind to wander.  The next 2 posts are a result of that wandering and thus a little away from the usual topics up to this point.  Feel free to offer feedback or insight.)

 Like it or not, for many people perception equals reality.  What do I mean?  Think about the first time you meet someone:  Instantly you size them up, note small clues about them like if they are wearing too much perfume, if their clothes are neat and tidy or those clothes are ill-fitting.  And of course you notice their physical build. 

Maybe it is a selfish line of thinking or maybe it is lack of self-confidence on my part, but I am under the belief that if you are overweight people take you less seriously than if you are thin.  I don't think I'm alone in this line of thinking.  Thanks to advances in technology and media we have become an increasingly visually-based society.  This makes sense if you look at the way our bodies are wired.  We constantly use input from our senses to make judgment calls like if if a neighborhood is safe, if it is going to rain, if we should wear long or short sleeves or if the traffic is clear for us to turn. And things as digital media, smart phones and the like have increased our reliance on our visual sense.   So it is only natural that we apply the same rules when we meet people.  When we make assumptions based on that data is when things get problematic.  

Now, I know that I'm painting in broad strokes on this topic, but bear with me for a little longer.  Think about any overweight/obese people whom you might credit with a celebrity status of sorts.  You might throw out some names like Kevin James, Kirstie Alley, Rosie O'Donnell, Gov. Chris Christie, Michael Moore, Roseanne Barr, Kevin Smith, or dare I mention her, Oprah (I'm preparing my legal team for the forth-coming libel lawsuit as we speak) .  Now, certainly many of these folks have gained fame by being quite opinionated as well, but even so, the majority of them seem as notorious as they do famous.   I'd even go so far as to wager that Oprah's rating were higher when she was thinner or openly struggling with her weight, simply because we more readily identify with people who admit that they have a problem, but there still is a certain notoriety attached to her because of that struggle.   Why is this?

I believe it is because, for many of us, our eyes cause us to be dismissive of a person far before our ears do.  We look at a person that we deem as overweight and start to make assumptions about them:  they have little-to-no self-control,  perhaps they have emotional issues, or maybe they are simply lazy.   We have trouble viewing them as leaders and get caught up in viewing them as stereotypes. 
And  it doesn't end there: "Numerous studies have shown that the obese are less likely to be hired and promoted than their svelte peers are. Women in particular bear the brunt of that, earning about 11 percent less than women of healthy weight, health economist John Cawley of Cornell University found."   Certainly, these are not ideals of which to be proud.   And they are also not exclusive to weight.   The truth is we'd all like to think we take the high road, but more often than not our perceptions, right or wrong, tend to stand in our way.

 To be continued...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

So this week was a bit more of a struggle.  If you'd asked me 2 weeks ago what I'd have trouble with in this whole deal, I'm certain I'd have said eliminating the carbs.  The reality is that has been the easy part.  As far as the diet goes, the only real issues I've had this week was actually eating as many times as I'm supposed to eat to help build up my metabolism and avoiding temptation when out and about.   Towards the end of last week (Week 2), I allowed myself to eat lunch at a local sit-down restaurant.  It was a good experience as I was able to food I like but still keep to the plan. It was also good as I avoided temptation to eat food that was far from being on the diet.  The sad part is that I couldn't remember the last time prior to that that I'd gone more than a week without eating food from a restaurant.  Frankly, in retrospect that is a pretty embarrassing revelation.  It's amazing how big an impact removing those types of things can have on a person.  But like everything else, little things can add up quickly.

The real struggle for me was continuing to maintain the exercise regimen. I'm generally a morning workout type guy, but I had a lot of trouble dragging my butt out of bed last week.  This was complicated by a minor health issue and some less than ideal weather, so I didn't get out nearly as much as I should have.

Studies show that on average it takes a person 66 days to form a habit.  If I let myself to slide it will become a habit I can't afford if I really want to see this whole thing through to the end.  So no excuses.  I have to get better, work harder and just keep going.  This week is a new week and it is mine to dominate. I just have to keep fighting.  I have to make getting fit a new and continuing habit.

My Weekly Stats:
Starting weight:             304lbs  
Weight at last update:    298lbs  (-6lbs overall)
Current weight:              291lbs  (-13lbs overall)
Exercise completed:      3mi walking,
                                       3.4mi run/walking
Other notes:  On a lighter note, while I didn't do as much cardio as I would've liked this week, I did have a little bit of fun dusting off the Wii Fit.  I did some rhythm boxing and some other light/short cardio games, but the big surprise was that I did some of the yoga for the first time and actually kind of liked it.  I was amazed how much it helped me with my posture and some chronic low-grade back pain I've had.  So I'm thinking it may actually get incorporated into my weekly workout regimen.  I've got to say that I probably would have never guessed that one.   Oh, and for anyone who has ever golfed with me, Wii Fit thinks I could be a professional golfer.  BWAHAHAHA!!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

You Are What You Eat?

So, perhaps one of the biggest head scratchers of my whole "Commit To Fit" campaign has been learning the diet plan I'm using.   Of course, there are big portions of it that are universal healthy eating cornerstones like limiting portions, reducing sugar intake, combining the plan with exercise, etc. Thankfully, as I mentioned before, I love vegetables.  My awesome spouse, who is also taking part in the diet plan, is tremendously talented in the kitchen and has seemingly enjoyed trying her hand at some creative uses of vegetables.   I've enjoyed such incredible dishes as stuffed baked zucchini,  cauliflower rice and smashed cauliflower (better than mashed potatoes if you ask me), and
a delicious green and kidney bean salad.   The part which has confounded me most is what is an essentially unlimited ability to consume protein.   This means as long as I use 85% lean ground beef or lean turkey I can have as many hamburgers as I desire.  Newer, revised versions of the plan encourage at least 2 portions of dairy, like string cheese or cottage cheese, as part of the daily intake.  It just seems so totally counter-intuitive to what we learn growing up, things like the food pyramid.  The idea of a balanced diet does resurface after the initial 2 week "Phase 1" but, for now, the fact is that I'm totally able to eat baked pepperoni chips, garlic herb cashews and cheese sticks and still lose weight.  It is almost too good to be true.

Since I'm speaking about too good to be true, I'd like to point out one last quirk of plan, the "Oktoberfest rule," as it too is certainly an idea I can get behind. Being born in Hamburg, Germany, the Oktoberfest is a special celebration for Dr. Agatston, one of the main folks behind the diet.   He recognized the need to forget the diet some days for people to enjoy special celebrations, hence the Oktoberfest exception, and the diet allows any amount of beer to be consumed on a single day of celebration.  This can be adopted for other celebrations as well (though ideally not with great frequency) with examples including St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, or a birthday.  To this concept is music to my ears.    My beer fridge is prepped to get started (see picture). Challenge Accepted!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Week 1: What have I gotten myself into?

Okay, so I've decided to lose weight and begin training for a triathlon. 

 Right.  That sentence sounds so simple.  Like everyone does it.

So, where to start?

After contemplating this question for a short while, my brain fixated upon a four letter word.  Decorum prohibits me from posting that first word which came to mind, but thankfully my brain quickly came up with a second, more helpful and less colorful four letter word: Diet.   There was no way I was going to complete a half-marathon as a 300lb, out of shape competitor, let alone finish a triathlon. I needed to lose the baby weight, turn my keg of a beer gut into a six pack, drop the full-sized spare tire for a donut-sized one.  Mmmm, donut.  This was not going to be easy.   I needed a plan.

Recently I had incurred some abnormal pain in my shoulder/neck region.  After 2 days of toughing it out, I put aside the machismo and went to the doctor.  Of course, worked into the duration of said appointment, my svelte Latino doctor felt the need to point out not only had my weight gone up, but that I was at my heaviest point in our entire patient/doctor relationship. This didn't surprise me.  He told me I needed to exercise, at least 30 minutes every day.  Frankly, this was not a surprise to me either..  What did surprise me was his next suggestion:  Limit carbohydrates.  Significantly.  Period.  This was a change-up pitch from my by-the-book doc. 

Enter the South Beach Diet.  This seemed to me the best possible diet as it allows for meat, nuts and perhaps most importantly, cheese, all things I really like, while portioning and controlling the carbs.  It also doesn't actually mean ridding oneself of carbs like some other diet plans, just adjusting and limiting that they come primarily in the form of "good carbs," such as vegetables and whole grains. Thankfully for me, I've always been a big fan of vegetables as well.    After talking it over with my significant other, we both decided it was something we both wanted to do.

So this past Monday it started and thus far the results have been fairly solid.  I've weighed myself 3 times this week and each time the weight was less. I'm at least back down under 300lbs.   Sure some of it is likely water weight, but it is a start and definitely a move in the right direction.  The first 2 weeks, so innocuously labeled "Phase1," is all about ridding one's self of simple carbs, sugars and cravings.  To me it read like this:  No pizza, chips, pretzels, pancakes, potatoes, chocolate and no beer.   Wait, what?  No beer for 2 whole weeks?  I new there would be sacrifice involved, but NO BEER? Oh the humanity! I guess I'll just have to saddle up and ride on.

Well, now it is Sunday, and while I'll say I haven't gone without cravings (chocolate chip cookies, salt and vinegar potato chips, and, of course, beer) I've gotta say it has been easier than expected.  Some days I'm struggling to even eat as much and as frequently as the diet plan guidelines recommend.  I've been tracking my eating and calorie intake and have stayed right in-line with my goals.  Exercising has seemed easier because I'm fueling my body with the right foods.   I even woke up this morning (a day off from training) and WANTED to go for a run.  Frankly, that is a first for me and a thought that makes me happy.  To me that is what this whole experience has got to be about:  Wanting to make changes.  Wanting to eat healthier. Wanting to get fit. Wanting to train for and run a triathlon.  Wanting to be a better me.  All I can do is stay committed and ask you all to stay tuned.

 For those of you kind enough to keep checking in, mark your calendars:  I'm planning on posting updates on Wednesdays and Sundays.   On Sundays I'm also planning to post some weekly stats about how the training is going and any achievements I might reach.  So below is the first installment of those updates.

 My Weekly Stats:
Starting weight:             304lbs   
Weight at last update:    304lbs  
Current weight:              298lbs
Exercise completed:      5mi walking,
                                       10.9mi cycling (stationary bike),
                                       1.58mi run/walking
Other notes:  I registered for my first 5k, The Fox Chase 5k, which is a mere 2 weeks away.  I'm going to run as much of it as I can and walk the rest.   Go team!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Well, first things first, let me welcome you!  If you've managed to find your way to this blog, more than likely you know me in one capacity or another.  But even if you somehow managed to stumble across this page through some random web surfing, let me at least say thanks for stopping. 

This blog is an attempt to hold myself accountable to a goal I set for myself about a year ago:  To compete and finish a triathlon. The original goal was to train and complete one before I turned 35.  There isn't a lot of time to meet that original goal left, so for the sake of being practical (as well as for the sake of not killing myself), I've decided to tweak that goal to completing a triathlon in the next 3 years, if not sooner.  That may seem like a lot of time, but give me a minute more to explain it.

Now, training for and competing in a triathlon is a tremendous test of stamina and fitness for anyone, no matter how excellent of shape they are in physically.   I mean, how many people really travel anywhere these days by swimming, biking AND running to get there, especially when the combined distance is 15 miles or more?   Now,  lets add some more perspective by explaining that if someone were to ask me about the shape I'm in I would probably answer them with one word:  "Round."  See, I've never really been a runner.  And currently I've managed to allow my weight to reach a scale-tipping 300lbs.   A round number for certain, but certainly not one I find nice.   So my plan is to change it.  I'm hoping to do this in several steps:  eating healthier, cross training and running until I can successfully run a 5k, a 10k, and at least a half marathon.  Maybe if all goes well enough I'll even consider trying a full 26.2.   Of course, if I expect to complete my ultimate goal of completing the tri I'm going to have to do some swimming and biking as well.  So it should be a total piece of cake. 

So that leaves me with the last part, which is to ask that, if you like what I'm trying to do, or if you just enjoy reading in general, please stop by now and again to check up on me.  If you like, let me know what you think of this whole crazy idea, or even if you just think me to be crazy.  Drop some words of encouragement, be it encouraging me to meet my weight loss and fitness goals, or simply to encourage me to take a writing class so I can "suck less."  Either way it'll be nice to hear from you, I'm sure.  And thanks for indulging my crazy.