Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First Run of the Season is a Rousing Success!

The 10 Mile Cherry Blossom Run is in less than 4 months and I went out tonight for my first jog in almost 8 months, expecting to be wheezing after 3 blocks, but.....

I MANAGED TO JOG 1.5 MILES WITHOUT STOPPING! I could have gone longer if I wasn't facing a 4% incline for the last quarter mile! So I walked most of the last bit home. Next time I should consider reversing this run so that I end with a very slight incline.

It is amazing what losing 14 pounds and getting properly fitted running shoes with inserts will do! I got the shoes a couple weeks ago, after two visits of 1-2 hours each, during which the good folks at the new Potomac River Running Store at Cleveland Park poked, prodded and analyzed me sitting down, standing up, walking and jogging. A pair of $95 Asics Cumulus and some inserts later, and my feet and legs never hurt or got numb at all!

Remembering what they told me at the running store after evaluating my gait, I shortened my stride and increased turnover. My back/left shoulder was a little tight in the last half of the jog but nothing major. Pretty balmy for December. 61 degrees and misty!

For once I realize how one can do an "easy run" and maintain a conversational pace and not take any walking breaks and actually enjoy it. Wow. I am really looking forward to this training period.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Matt! - OR - I Need a New Pair of Pants, AGAIN

One of my goals in this weight loss odyssey has been to wear my old pants again. You see, for one, I am kind of stingy, and I don't like buying new clothes when the old clothes are still perfectly good, and I could fit into them again with just a little discipline. Second, my goodness, what a thrill when they actually fit!

I am pleased to report I have had just such a thrill this week. My pants had been getting extremely loose, and I was below the smallest hole on my belt (where's an awl when you need one?)... On a whim, I ventured into the darkest recesses of my closet and pulled a pair of 33" corduroys off a hanger. Now, I had tried these on a month ago, and while I could squeeze into them and barely button them closed, they were very tight. But when I put them on yesterday, they fit... perfectly!! I hadn't worn those since 2004! (For reference, 2004 was my first year in law school, and the year I took the awesome picture at left.) As evidence that it's not just the brand of pants that let me fit into them, I point to the 34" Levi jeans I bought last month, which are now loose on me.

Loose!

This is all very satisfying, if a little odd: The last time I could fit into size 33-34 pants, I was 10 pounds lighter. This all leads me to believe I have gained some muscle in the intervening years. Awesome.

How is Matt losing all this weight? Has he broken down and started spending hours in the gym? Or has he stuck mainly to creating a diet-based caloric deficit? Will Matt ever breach the fabled 200-pound mark and sail down through a scale world that begins with "1," a world he hasn't seen for over four years?

Stay tuned for his secrets...

OCTOBER 2008


Trivia: Do any astute Still Waiting visitors know where the second part of today's headline comes from? Hint: It has to do with a Segway.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Have a Major Confession to Make

I have a major confession to make. This confession will chill the bones of every long-time Still Waiting visitor. Dearest visitors, you may be aware, from your frequent perusal of this site, that I have recently made substantial progress on my weight loss goals. I had hit a plateau, hovering around 207 to 208 pounds. It seemed that nothing I could do would push me below that 207 threshold. Then a few weeks ago I started to make stunning progress, now clocking in (as of this morning) at 202.8 pounds.

So what is my confession? Simple: I have not exercised at all. That fantastic home gym that I set up, costing me several hundred dollars, has gotten essentially no use over the past several weeks. I broke through the plateau with nothing more than a sustained caloric deficit. Any exercise I may have done was, shall we say, "nontraditional," and certainly "unintentional" in that it was not meant as exercise: I pranced about a theater singing songs with my friends. There were no weights, no spandex shorts, no technical T-shirts, and no running shoes involved. There were no Swiss balls, BOSU balls, tennis balls, baseballs, basketballs, or really any balls involved. Not once did I set aside time to exercise, put on my gear, and force myself to go to the gym or to run around like an unleashed mongrel up and down the rolling hills of my suburban Washington neighborhood.

All I did was move more and eat less.

This is a fairly monumental discovery. My friend Josh lost about 50 pounds a few years ago and when I asked him what his secret was, he told me, "I am following this great new plan!" I asked him, eagerly, what it was. He responded, with a big smile, "It's just four words!" I was beside myself. Good God, man, what is it! What are the four words!

He responded: "Move more, eat less."

Of course, I never believed it was truly that simple. Surely he had followed some sort of convoluted exercise and nutritional program. Surely a plethora of fancy electronics was involved, requiring straps and cables and sensors and various frequencies penetrating one's body and hooking up to a computer for detailed analysis!

Nope, none of that. He just stopped eating crap, didn't eat when he wasn't hungry, and walked around more. No Turbulence Training workouts, no killing himself at the gym, no supersets or drop sets or inverted half pyramid sets with a mandatory "10" at the end.

All he did was walk around and put the fork down!

So it turns out, that after many years of reading about all the different ways of losing weight, and analyzing all the various bodybuilding programs, I have been -- surprise, surprise -- over analyzing! You don't have to kill yourself. You just have to maintain a caloric deficit. It really is that simple.

Of course, it's not really that simple. You have to eat enough calories so that you don't lose muscle. And you have to eat generally the right type of calories -- 2000 calories worth of Baileys Irish Cream might be a good time but it won't do your body any favors. But as long as you eat a good combination of carbs, protein and fat, and burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.

Building muscle is certainly important. I spent several years going to the gym and pumping iron -- and believe me, the muscle is there. I catch glimpses of it regularly, hiding behind the Big Paper Towel. But at this point in my life, my main goal is not gaining muscle; it's losing fat so that I can see the muscle I have. For that, lifting weights doesn't appear to be necessary!

So I will continue doing what I'm doing, and -- barring any unforeseen binges -- continue making progress. At this rate I should hit 190 by the New Year!!!

My Superhero Name is "The Green Triangle"


You may ask, is it hard for me to lose all this weight? The answer is, no. Once you find a rhythm that you can live with, it's no big deal at all.

Mobile post sent by DCTenor1 using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3

Friday, October 03, 2008

Yet Another Glowing Review of the BodyBugg, or Better Living Through Technology!

Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that I am a technophile, wholeheartedly and unreservedly. Any time a gadget is introduced that promises to measure me, count me, cajole me, intimidate and or encourage me through the use of electronics, well, I am powerless to resist the pull.

It is even better if the particular electronic in question is capable of precisely measuring, and keeping track of, the vital signs of yours truly. Yes, if you can strap it on me and turn it on and measure the resulting heart rate/calorie burn/number of steps/whatever, well then my money is as good as gone.

If the gadget can further take those statistics -- the numbers, data points, and sloping trajectories that define who I am and what I'm doing -- and automagically graph those measurements, and give me a plethora of charts that I can feast my eyes upon, I will not just give you my money... I will give you my allegiance!

Well, friends, my allegiance now belongs to the BodyBugg, a miraculous device that used to cost $500, but now due to the miracle of advancing technology and the need to clear out inventory, only costs $200. $200 for a device that graphs and charts and loves me? Surely you cannot be serious. Oh, but I am!

Okay, so the question now is what exactly does this machine do. I'm glad you asked. I first saw the device strapped to a fattie on that hit reality television series, The Biggest Loser. The way it works is simple: you strap it around your arm, and go about your business. When you see fit to press a button on the device and wirelessly connect to your (sadly not yet Mac compatible) computer, the graphs miraculously materialize before your awed and inspired eyes.

As you will see below, the graphs show exactly how many calories you burn minute by minute, how many calories you burned for the entire day -- or whatever period you are looking at -- how many steps you took, when you took them, how much "physical activity" you got (where "activity" is defined as any time that you were burning more than 3 calories per minute), and much much more! The benefits of this piece of technology is that you can know, finally and demonstrably, exactly how many calories your body burns. You can then use this information to know exactly how many calories you need to consume each day in order to lose weight.

Here is a screenshot of my activity for Thursday, October 2:

The first thing you will notice is that I burned approximately 2800 calories -- which was my goal for the day -- and consumed below 1900 calories -- which is far below my upper limit of 2200. You will also see exactly when I burned those calories throughout the day. It is extremely useful for me to know how many calories I burn and when I burn them, because then I can plan my weight loss with an extreme level of specificity.

For instance, from the graph I see that I burn approximately 1.5 calories per minute when I am sleeping or sitting. This is very good to know because it means that, in the absence of any physical activity, I will burn about 90 calories an hour. So if my goal for the day (midnight to midnight) is to burn 2800 calories, and if I don't want to do any sort of exercise after nine in the evening (because it keeps me up), then I know that by 9:00 PM I need to have burned (2800 - (90 x 3)), or 2530 calories. (This time-based target will be much more useful to me when the "digital display" arrives -- this is a watch that is continuously synchronized with the BodyBugg and tells me how many calories I have burned at any given time. Until then, I will have to synchronize the device with the website in order to see the calories that I have burned.)

I also now know that walking will burn approximately 6 calories a minute, depending upon the elevation grade. So if I look at my watch see that it is 8:00 PM and I have not yet burned 2440 calories -- say I am only at 2380 -- then I can simply walk for 10 minutes and get up to 2440, thus putting it on track to reach my 2800 goal for the day!

Now, for many people, this kind of micromanaged caloric expenditure may seem like overkill. Skwigg, for instance, will probably just tell me to drink more caffeine and spend my free time running after the dogs like she does, and not worry about the specific calories. Fair enough. But for people like me, this level of numerical specificity gives me a feeling of control over my weight loss destiny that I otherwise would not have. It encourages and thrills me when I can set a numerical goal, meet or exceed that goal, and then at the end of the week look at graphical evidence like this:

Just look at that. A week ago, I was burning approximately 2400 calories during the day, and walking just a couple of thousand steps. By setting specific goals and making a daily effort to reach those goals, I was able to get to 2800 calories and over 8000 steps yesterday. Most of the steps came during rehearsal, but I have learned that where the steps come from doesn't matter at all; all that matters is that you take steps. Walking around the block or walking back and forth on the stage do the same exact thing! All that matters is that you move!

And, in the end, that may be the best thing about the BodyBugg: It PROVES, once and for all, that all you have to do is move. And it encourages you to move because you really want to see those "calories burned" numbers go up!

Now all I have to do is maintain an average daily caloric deficit of 600, and the pounds will melt off at a rate of approximately 1.25 pounds per week. At that rate, I will be below 200 pounds by Thanksgiving, below 190 pounds by mid-January, and below 180 pounds (!) by the beginning of April, just in time for the Cherry Blossom run. All without unduly killing myself at the gym, or unnecessarily restricting calories to the point that I become famished and cranky.

I haven't been 180 pounds in five years. If my new toy can help me get back down to that fit weight -- if it can encourage me to get back into a healthy and active lifestyle -- then it will be money well spent. And, more importantly, it will be yet more proof that one can achieve Better Living through Technology. And that will make this gadget-lover oh so happy!

* Note: This technophile wrote the entire blog entry you just read with my nifty MacSpeech Dictate voice recognition software. 99% accuracy. Better Living through Technology, indeed!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Matt's Fitness Goals

Okay. I was a bit too care-free with my weekend eating this past weekend, and so my weight seems to be leveling off around 209. While this is way better than my high of 221 in June (still can't believe it went that high... really? WTF?), it is still far from my ultimate goal (for the last five years now) of 180.

To that end, I now set forth realistic goals, and a plan, that will get me to where I want to be.

GOALS
  • Phase 1: 205 pounds, 36" waist (by end of September)
  • Phase 2: 199 pounds, 35" waist (by end of October)
  • Phase 3: 189 pounds, 34" waist (by end of December)
  • Phase 4: 180 pounds, 33" waist (by the Cherry Blossom Run -- i.e. early April)

  • More energy throughout the day, and quick sleeping at night.

  • Have the confidence that comes with looking and feeling great.
PLAN OF ACTION
  • Make time to exercise at least three times a week. Heavy weights. On extra days, throw in cardio (riding bike to work would count).
  • Never let myself be in an unexpected eating situation where cravings might take over.
  • Healthy pattern of fruit and a protein for breakfast (peanut butter counts); big lunch (but try to cut back on the Dew); light dinner (but never skip dinner -- at least have soup or protein).
  • Don't go crazy with food on weekends just because you "can." Eat what you want on weekends but only if you REALLY want it. (You know this, Matt. You've been here before.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Major Greenage

It's almost ridiculous. I've lost over a pound EACH of the past three
days. Before you go and accuse me of starving myself, here's my DGR
for yesterday:
  • 10 am - Wheat bagel with eggs, cheese and bacon (est. 700 calories)
  • 2:30 pm - Half of a tuna melt (rye, tuna, cheese, lettuce, lots of
    alfalfa sprouts), bag of chips, bottle of Mountain Dew (600 calories)
  • 4:30 pm - Other half of tuna melt (250 calories)
  • 8:30 pm - Can of chicken breast, two tablespoons of hummus, two
    teaspoons of olive oil (at least 300 calories)
  • Other fluids - A few glasses of water, and a couple big glasses of
    pink lemonade Crystal Lite (20 calories)

TOTAL: 1600-1800 calories

And I wasn't hungry. Yes, it's true that I am keeping my calories very close to my Base Metabolic Rate, and possibly just under, and possibly losing a teeny bit of muscle in the process. But I'm sure the bulk of this is fat loss. I also know that when I start exercising regularly again, my weight will go up temporarily as my body adjusts, holds more water, builds some more muscle, etc. But for now this is pretty good! I'm back where I was a year ago!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Preparations

So. Weekly weight graph continues to go down, with a fairly predictable pattern:



As you can see, I eat what I want on the weekends, and cool it during the week (basically having a light dinner on most weekdays). My weight spikes on Sunday or Monday, but then it goes down, and each week my weight is lower and lower. With (currently) very little exercise, I'm losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week.

But that will all change very soon, my friends. I am about to blast off. Last week my Powerblocks arrived, and they are truly wonderful. But I need a bench to really make good use of them. So I've also ordered a weight bench, and a Bosu balance trainer, which is really wonderful for working a lot of stabilizing muscles you otherwise never use. Once everything is set up, I will take a picture of my nifty home gym and post it for the world to see. And I will, of course, use it, on a daily (or mostly daily) basis!

My friend Jeremy is also on a quest to lose weight (about the same amount of weight as I want to lose), and he is succeeding. So I want to congratulate him on his perseverance, and assure him that he will not be the only one sporting a fit and trim look this New Year's...

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's great to have a recumbent bike in my house

Having just upgraded to a place with central air, I recently traded my now unnecessary room air conditioner for a very necessary recumbent bike. It's not very fancy and it only uses magnetic resistance controlled by a knob (as opposed to the hydraulic-based computer-controlled bikes at the gym), but it gets the job done.

Tonight I did 30 minutes on the bike, getting my heart rate up to 182 at one point - up around 95% of my max! As you can see from the graph, I generally like to keep my pulse around 70% of max, but it's crucial for me to really push myself a couple times in a half-hour workout. I learned the importance of pushing hard during my Body for Life workouts, when I had to hit an intensity level of 9/10 for several minutes, and 10/10 for at least a minute, to achieve the best results and the longest afterburn (body burning calories after I get off the bike). Any time I get my pulse over 180, my energy levels go through the roof for days or weeks afterward. It's awesome.

I'm already feeling very energetic -- it's like a shot of caffeine but without the jitters!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Calories IN

Hi everyone! So, the darndest thing... I haven't gone to a gym and exercised since my last post. Yet I have lost several pounds since then. In fact, I'm down to below 210, which I haven't been at since late December. Before you start yelling that it's muscle loss from not lifting, let me deflect that criticism by saying that my pants are looser and I look much better! Go ahead, scroll down to the bottom of the page and marvel at my weight graph.

I'll wait.

So, how do I do it? Simple: Don't eat as much. We all know that Calories In < Calories Out is the key. I have really been focusing on the Calories In part of the equation. I have a light breakfast, usually consisting of a banana and maybe some granola. I have a big lunch that I spread out over the course of an hour or two, usually consisting of a big turkey or chicken sandwich and, yep, a little bag of chips and a soda. That keeps me full for the next several hours. When I get home, usually after 7, I will have a light dinner -- an "Eating Smart" healthy frozen dinner from Safeway, or a can of soup or something. If my roommates want to order delivery I will usually go in with them, but I don't pig out anymore. For instance, a few nights ago we split a thin crust pizza. The first night I had 3 pieces, and the next night I had 2 pieces.

And the scale continues to go down!

It's not hard. You just have to not pig out.

Calories In < Calories Out. Pretty simple.

I look forward to the boost when I start upping the Calories Out side of the equation by riding my bike to work!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Exercise Cures Cancer! News at 11.

Last week I was so lethargic I briefly entertained the idea that maybe I had cancer.

I can laugh now, but the fatigue was INTENSE. I woke up tired, caffeine had no effect, I was tired throughout the day, and yet I couldn't fall asleep at night despite being tired. Once I finally fell asleep, even if I got 8 hours, I didn't awake refreshed. I awoke tired. And the cycle continued...

...UNTIL I hit the gym hard. On Saturday, in spite of my sluggishness, I forced myself to go to the gym and work out. I managed to bench press 50 lb dumbbells -- pretty good for me! -- and I did some ab work, and 20 minutes of interval cardio on the recumbent bike.

Friends, guess what! I don't have cancer anymore!

Almost immediately, I experienced boundless energy. And so, once again I have demonstrated to myself that lethargy stems from inactivity, and exercise cures it.

I've been packing and cleaning up to move from DC to Arlington this week, so I haven't had much time to continue the exercise, but I did bike 2 miles uphill last night, and today during a lull at work I stole 20 minutes to go downstairs to the basement gym and work the dumbbells. I've also been trying to eat (somewhat) healthier, and I have found a really good breakfast routine: a banana, a tablespoon of creamy organic peanut butter (mmm), and a baby cucumber! (Rudy loves it too, and has taken to flying to the top of the refrigerator in the morning and squawking to remind me that it's time for his Morning Peanut Butter.)

For the past week, I have awakened with energy and I don't need ANY caffeine throughout the day! No longer am I rushing to the coffee machine first thing at work. Indeed, I find I have no desire for it, because I just don't need it -- my energy is all there.

So, I'll keep sticking with my banana/peanut butter/cucumber breakfast and small meals throughout the day, weight lifting downstairs when I can squeeze it in, and bike rides to work. My new house is going to be about 6.5 miles from work via bike trail, so I'm sure the addition of 13 miles on the bicycle a few days a week will really step up my results even more.

Woo!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Preparations

I've been pretty torn up about the whole Tim Russert tragedy this weekend, and I used it as an excuse to veg out on the couch with comfort snacks as I watched the coverage.

But also, my Strength for Life book showed up this weekend and, as Skwigg promised, it is chock full of OMG-get-the-highlighter quality quotes. I look forward to starting the program.

I have been feeling very sluggish lately and I know that the best way to fix that is to get to the gym. So tonight I walked there and laid down on the incline bench with a 35-pound dumbbell in each hand and WOW did it feel comfortable in a familiar sort of way. I miss that feeling. I look forward to getting back into it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In Transition

My few faithful readers have probably wondered where I have wandered off to in the past couple weeks. Am I still running and working out? Am I still eating healthy and tracking my weight on a daily basis? One glance at the weight graph on the bottom of the page should give you the answer to that.

What has happened, you ask? Simple: I got a new job at a law firm downtown, and the past two weeks have been a time of transition. Now I am not blaming my job or anything ridiculous like that; I am simply saying that when I am in a time of transition, fitness tends to fall by the wayside. I promise it will return.

Today I found the gym in the basement of the building where I work. It's not very big but there are cardio machines, weight machines, and some free weights. By free weights, I mean dumbbells up to 35 pounds. How am I going to tire out my pecs with measly 35 pound dumbbells? Probably do a lot of push-ups beforehand. :-)

Incidentally, I tried briefly doing bicep curls with them, and I did four with each arm, no problem. This is kind of a big deal, because 35 pounds dumbbells used to be way too heavy for me to curl with. To progress!

Anyway, I plan to get down a workout routine soon. I have to, because the scale is creeping up and my energy level is going waaaaaay down... Per Skwigg's recommendation, I ordered a copy of Strength for Life (by the brother of Bill Phillips, who wrote Body for Life), and that will get here on Friday. So I'll get started with that soon

Friday, May 30, 2008

If the Mayor can do it...

I rode my bike to work again yesterday, and the results were encouraging -- I shaved 5 minutes off my time, traversing the 6.8 miles in about 32 minutes! For comparison, it takes between 20-25 minutes to drive to work in the morning, depending on traffic. So I'd say I make pretty good time on the way there. (The way back is a different story. That 300 foot ascent in 2 miles is killer -- little wonder it takes me 20 minutes longer to ride home.) As usual, full stats available here.

But this is not why I write. I write because today there is an interesting article in the Washington Post about Mayor Adrian Fenty, who, despite being mayor of our nation's capital, still finds the time to run three times a week and bike and swim twice a week for two hours at a time. Those around him say his dedication to fitness mirrors his dedication to hard work in office. I greatly admire anyone who can fit in regular strenuous exercise into an already busy schedule, and I hope to be able to emulate Mister Mayor even after my new law firm job begins next week (sapping away any extra time I currently have).

But what really intrigued me in the article was this gem:
At 6 feet and 180 pounds, Fenty appears the picture of fit, but he hasn't always been that way. In 2000 -- the year his twin sons were born, he wrapped up a long campaign for a D.C. Council seat, and he and his wife renovated their kitchen -- Fenty did not run a single time. He also reached about 215 pounds.

Six feet tall, 215 pounds, let work and life get in the way of his fitness... hmmm... remind you of anyone? The inspiring part is that he was able to drop the weight, keep it off, and now he runs amazing times (65 minute 10-miler; 3:40 marathon) and can bike 33 miles in 90 minutes. Oh, and has managed to become mayor in the process.

Fenty's fitness success story just goes to show that even if you have some rough spots, if you keep persevering, you will succeed in the end. A great story -- one I hope to emulate!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

First day commuting with the new bike (which I continue to love)

I rode my bike to the office today and I felt great! Here's how it played out:

The first 2 miles are essentially all downhill from my apartment to the Key Bridge. The biggest problem in this leg was making sure I didn't go TOO fast -- the pavement was wet and if I went too fast it was harder to brake. My max speed was about 20 mph but I could have gotten it up to 30 or more -- this is a FAST bike.

Then I crossed the bridge and went onto the Mt. Vernon trail, which is mostly flat but also has some lightly rolling slopes. The biggest surprise was that my rate of perceived exertion was way off. When it felt like I was working at a fairly easy 135 bpm, I looked at my Garmin and saw that I was actually working at 155 bpm! At certain points my heart rate got up to near 170! I would have been really working hard if I kept my heart rate that high while running -- but biking, it felt far easier to me. I think this is because my quads are WAY more powerful than my calves and core, so it wasn't nearly as hard for me to pump hard and keep the bike moving. Don't get me wrong -- it was still a major workout, and as the graph shows I kept my pulse above 150 for several miles -- but it didn't feel as intense as it actually was, if that makes sense.

After about 5 miles I started to grow a bit tired, but then I saw Reagan Airport in the distance and I knew I was nearing my destination. Shortly after the 6 mile point there was a Crystal City "exit" on the trail. The exit saw a fairly steep (but brief) uphill, and before I knew it, I was at my building!

I had no problems with traffic or pedestrians or anything. As I was on the trail most of the time, there was no car traffic to worry about, and because it was drizzly I only saw a few other cyclists and a handful of runners. There was plenty of room. I was wearing my bright yellow rain slicker just in case it started pouring. I didn't really need it for the rain, but it made me highly visible and it blocked the wind!

When I got up to the office I realized I was sweating profusely, which I hadn't really noticed before since it was so windy and cool on the bike. I was tired, but a few minutes later I felt great. Slightly tired but at the same time totally energized -- just like I feel after a great gym workout. The whole thing was about 6.8 miles and took 37 minutes.

The ride home wasn't quite as fun because whereas this morning I was starting with a 2 mile downhill, this time I was starting with 4.5 miles of flat land and ending with a 2 mile UPHILL. The ride took me about 10 minutes longer -- it didn't help that I had a massive headwind the entire ride. On the extra steep uphill portions I dismounted and just walked the bike up a couple blocks. But all in all I still had fun and got a GREAT workout.

When I got home, I freshened up and then rode the bike another 0.7 miles to rehearsal (and then back home afterward). In total, that's 15 miles today!

I am very excited about riding my new bike -- it's fun, exhilarating, and gives me an excellent workout. Here's a map of my journey...


View Larger Map

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Happens When I Don't Pay Attention. Also: Loving My New Bike!

It appears I've gone radio silent the last couple weeks. Brief recap: The Green Triangles continued for about 3 weeks, but then I stopped paying attention to my diet for some reason. I just stopped trying, relapsed into my old habits - a pizza here, a chinese meal there - and within one week, I'd undone the weight loss of the previous three. Ugh.

It's just so annoying to always have to be aware of what I'm eating, but it's fairly clear that if I stop paying attention for more than a couple days, the weight comes back with a vengeance.

It hasn't helped that I haven't gone running in a month! I know, I know. But after it became clear that I couldn't do the Detroit Half Marathon in October because of another engagement (I am singing "Springtime for Hitler" in a community theater production of The Producers!), my desire to give my legs a pounding every other day dwindled rather quickly.

BUT -- I got a bike! It's a Trek 7100, a hybrid, it didn't cost all that much, and it has a very comfortable upright riding position. The seat and handlebar grips are a very distinctive brown leather, and the frame itself is nickel/copper colored. Very classy -- it looks like the kind of bike one might ride to the market to pick up eggs and a baguette. I love it!

I've been meaning to ride it to work -- there are miles and miles of paved trails around here -- but it's been pretty rainy during the weekdays lately. Weekends, however, have been glorious, and this morning I rode up and down rolling hills to Foster Brothers to enjoy my blended chai, bagel with lox and cream cheese, and newspaper. I then rode up to Diana's place so she could ogle my new toy, and then she jogged alongside me for a bit until I bid my adieu and rode to Borders. After browsing for a while, I rode back home -- mostly downhill at that point.

In total, I rode about 8.5 miles! And it was fun! Here's the map:

Biking is a little harder than Segwaying (where you move with the power of thought), but it's more socially acceptable. No one stares. Well, I do, but only when I catch my reflection in a storefront window.

What? I'm a handsome man!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Two Weeks of Green Triangles!

I am very happy to report that I have had green triangles since April 20th! This means I have had almost 2 weeks worth of steady weight loss. As of this morning, my weight was 211 pounds, which I have not been for at least a month and half. Yes, the middle of March through the middle of April can best be described as "Month of the Red Triangle," in which I must have been carbo-loading for 30 days straight in a Herculean effort to beat 43 minutes on my 5K. Success!

The preceding paragraph is brought to you by PhysicsDiet.com, which I continue to recommend to anyone looking to lose weight. I tried a competing weight logging website, SkinnyR.com, but it lacked a very important feature: the blue moving average line. You see, as each one of us is essentially just an "ugly bag of mostly water," our weight fluctuates every day based on what we put into this bag. It can fluctuate as much as 5 or 6 pounds, sometimes more. It often amuses me when I go to dinner with a relative, who eats a lot, and then the next morning tells me he looked at his scale and OMG he has gained 6 pounds! Of course, the only way to gain 6 pounds of fat is by consuming approximately 21,000 more calories than you burn. Obviously, this happens all the time -- but it usually takes six months to a year for most people. Six pounds in one day? Food and water weight -- nothing more.

The moving average line is designed to smooth out the daily fluctuations in weight caused by food and liquid intake. If you look at my lovely green triangles, you will see that I did not technically continue to lose weight every day; at least three times over the past two weeks, I woke up the next morning to a weight gain of at least 1 pound, sometimes almost 2. But because I was still below the moving average, I knew I was making progress. Without those wonderful green triangles proving I was trending in the right direction, look what the last two weeks would have shown (on right). I certainly would have freaked out and eaten an entire pizza to comfort myself. I am happy to say I have not done that for at least a month or two!

To what do I owe the pleasant greenness? Simple, my friends: a caloric deficit. (You thought I was going to say Miracle Noodles, didn't you?) Of course the zero-calorie noodles are part of it, as is the extra walking I have done over the past week or two, as is the sporadic session here or there at the gym. But it is worth noting that I have not gotten to the gym in over a week, and I have not gone running in two weeks, and yet the scale continues to drop. nutrition and exercise are both important -- but when it comes to weight loss, Nutrition is King.

That said, the caloric expenditure needed for physical activity definitely contributes to the caloric deficit, and to that end, I have decided to purchase a bicycle! I ordered it on Amazon.com yesterday and it has arrived TODAY. I plan to spend this weekend putting it together. If all goes well, from now on I will be biking to work when it's nice out. That should really help with the calories. Expect a post on My New Bike soon!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Miracle Noodles are Simply Divine!

Last week I came across an intriguing text advertisement atop my GMail inbox. It stated simply, "Miracle Noodles! 0 calories, 0 carbs, www.miraclenoodle.com."

Well played, Mr. Noodle. You have my attention.

Wary, I clicked my way onto the site, where I was greeted with the intriguing slogan, "Imagine a World Where the Noodles Are Calorie Free"; a news report extolling their noodly virtue; a gazillion testimonials praising the Japanese for having the sense to create a zero-calorie noodle out of fibrous plant material; and a money-back guarantee offering to refund all of my hard earned dollars if I did not absolutely love the noodles.

Well, you know what?

I absolutely love the noodles. They're made of a water-soluble plant fiber that simply passes through your body. It has no taste of its own, but rather absorbs whatever sauce you put it in. I ordered the 20-pack of angel hair noodles and I'm already planning my next order. They are very easy to make -- all you have to do is rinse them in hot water for a few minutes and then dry them with paper towels. You then throw it into the sauce and food, and voila!

I have been waiting for something like this MY WHOLE LIFE. You see, fitness and nutrition experts have long known that most people eat the same dozen or so foods regularly. This definitely applies to me -- for years, my diet has consisted of cream-laden coffee for breakfast, tuna and turkey sandwiches for lunch, chicken and rice at night, and the once or twice weekly consumption off an entire "Meat Lovers" pizza or a General Tso's chicken combo with dumplings.

It was quite literally a recipe for disaster.

Some of those meals were fine -- there is nothing wrong with tuna or turkey on whole wheat. But there is something wrong with consuming large quantities of starchy rice at the end of the day.

Indeed, for the past several years, at dinner, I generally have eaten chicken with a packet of Uncle Ben's microwavable 90-second rice. It makes for a filling and tasty dinner, but it's about 500 calories of rice. In other words, it adds up. I have no doubt it has contributed to my half-pound-a-month weight creep over the last several years.

But I can't just eat chicken plain, or with vegetables and nothing else, like some cow or vegan or something equally weird and unnatural.

That's why these Miracle Noodles are indeed so miraculous! For the last couple of nights, I have used this as bedding for my chicken, and I am extremely pleased to report that it makes the meal no less delicious, and get this -- it keeps me full for hours! They taste kind of like rice noodles, except just a bit chewier. I have already lost weight!

Part of me is still suspicious -- how can anything this good have NO calories? Even celery has calories! In recent days my mind has wandered back to the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine found a "fat free" frozen yogurt shop that tasted delicious but was too good to be true. My friends, these noodles are equally too good to be true -- and yet they ARE true!

In other words, I was touched by His Noodly Appendage and I can never go back. BUY THESE DIVINE NOODLES TODAY!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

0.2 pounds heavier each day?

I don't understand it. I work out, I watch(ish) what I eat, and yet the scale still goes up 0.2 pounds a day. What's the deal?

Guess I just have to be more strict with my diet. Today's plan:
  • Hot & Spicy V8 (I swear I am addicted to these)
  • Smoothie I just made (berries, protein powder, Greens+, flax seed oil, honey)
  • Turkey on whole wheat with hummus (To whomever stole my mustard and mayo: THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY)
  • Almonds and raisins (keep them on my desk at work and graze throughout the day)
  • Dinner with a friend (don't know where we're going but I'll try to keep it light)
Tomorrow I'll jog another 4 miles, this weekend I'll keep working at the gym... Gotta have faith I guess?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Inspiring Ali Vincent is the First Female Biggest Loser!

STANDING ON STAGE last night, Ali of the Pink Team looked like a strip of beef jerky: skinny, yes, but all muscle. She lost more weight than everybody else that season, dropping 112 pounds of blubber to become a 122-pound piece of iron. I am thrilled for her.

It is good to see a woman biggest loser. Over the past five years, the men have dominated. That's because they simply have so much more weight to lose. Honestly, when the American public decided to vote Roger into the finale, I thought that Ali might be at a huge disadvantage. She was already tiny when the "on-campus" period of the show ended, and contestants were sent home to fend for themselves for the next six weeks. Roger, on the other hand, still had significant weight to lose. And he had been losing double digits each week.

In the past, every other winner has lost approximately 1/2 of their body weight. This time, however, nobody broke the 50% mark. Roger may have been able to: he started at over 360 pounds. Get below 180? Definitely doable with $250,000 on the line! However, when Roger weighed in, he was only down to 199. At that moment, I knew Ali was a shoe-in. She had lost 99 pounds on the ranch, and now in order to win she only needed to lose a total of 106 pounds. Seven pounds in six weeks? For the most dedicated and intense Biggest Loser competitor in ages? No problem!

Indeed, she ended up losing 112 pounds to finish at a sinewy 122. In the process, she had changed her entire lifestyle and focus. She began to believe that anything is possible. Indeed, as ├╝bertrainer Jillian "Beatings Beatings Beatings" Michaels likes to say, "when you connect your mind and your body and your intention, anything is possible."

Ali inspired me to get off my ass this morning and spend an hour at the gym. I did 25 minutes of intense bodyweight and dumbbell exercises, followed by 20 minutes of interval training on the recumbent bike, and afterward, I felt great. I was wearing my technical T-shirt that I got at the Cherry Blossom run, and the trainers there asked me how it was. I told them it was rainy and cold but exhilarating. I love having a race T-shirt! Not only does it make me feel proud, but it also lets other people know that, apparently, I'm a runner! Who would have thought?

I was also inspired to work out by the fact that yesterday at choir rehearsal, someone came up to me and told me that I look "skinny." What? Me? Skinny? Yes, she said, perhaps it was all the running I had been doing. Maybe, I responded, but my weight has basically been holding steady. The people around me nodded: that often happens when people start running, they said.

Well, yes, of course I know that. Muscle builds, fat melts, weight stays the same... but I didn't realize it was happening to me to such an extent that others noticed I look thinner! Anyway, that little bit of encouragement was enough to get me out of bed this morning and into the gym -- if I can look "skinny" after just a couple months of sporadic running and a few strength training sessions, imagine how I might look this summer!

Anyway, take a look at Ali's interview this morning on the Today Show. So inspiring!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Be Inspired by the Biggest Loser Finale TONIGHT! Be there or be FAT!

I would like to implore all of my readers to turn on NBC tonight at 8:00 PM and watch the live grand finale of The Biggest Loser, which has proven to be one of the most sentimental and inspiring shows on television.

Tuesday night has become my "Crying Night." Most of the week, I am impervious to emotional sabotage, a veritable brick facade through which no emotional daggers or spears can penetrate. But on Tuesday night, when the fat people start blubbering because of how horrible their lives have become, or when the newly-thin people start blubbering because of how wonderful they now feel, and when their friends and families start blubbering because of how great it is to have their new-and-improved friend back with them after five months on a Fat Ranch... well, it is impossible for me to remain stoic and calm. (I'm glad I watch the show alone! There's no crying in baseball!)

But that is what this show does to people. It is wonderful because it shows that even though everyone faces much adversity, with enough willpower and emotional support, one can succeed despite the odds. And, wow, have these people succeeded! As of the penultimate show, the four remaining finalists had lost insane amounts of weight, and no longer looked like contestants on The Biggest Loser. I am very eager to see what they look like tonight at the live finale, because since the last show, they have had six weeks to continue to lose weight. Frankly, I don't see how they can drop many more pounds without becoming anorexic or something, but they can all definitely build muscle and tone up. In previous years, formerly 400-pound men have turned into 190-pound musclebound cover models. It is really quite striking.

In addition to simple curiosity about how these people have fared, I also eagerly watch the show each week because it is so inspiring. If these ginormous people can lose so much weight, then surely I, a comparative Munchkin, can get off my ass and go for a jog every now and then.

So, remember, tonight at 8:00 PM EST, you will get to see a real life transformation. It will inspire and amaze you. Check back with Still Waiting tomorrow for a recap.

See Matt Tired... See Matt Wired!

I didn't want to run. I was exhausted. I just wanted to lay down and watch TV. But I forced myself to get out there, ended up running 3.8 miles, and I am so glad I did. It's also the first time I've run with music -- wow! So motivating, so inspiring! I'm never going back.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Motivating Power of Statistics


SHOW ME A GADGET that can record my heart rate, pace and global position, and I will show you my checkbook. As it turns out, however, some people aren't nearly as brimming with technolust. They just like to lace up and go.

More power to 'em. But in addition to missing out on real-time stats that can help them fine-tune their effort to squeeze the most out of every workout, they also miss out on stats that show encouraging long-term trends.

Take the above table, which displays some of the stats kept by my Garmin Forerunner 305. Last night I walk/jogged 3.4 miles along a very hilly route that I have run several times before. This time, it felt easier (see the previous post for more details).

Today I compared this most recent run to one along the same route one month ago. I am immensely pleased by the results:

It turns out that currently, despite running 11 seconds/mile faster, half a mile longer, and 75 feet higher, my average heart rate was 10 beats per minute lower than it was one month ago! This means I required less effort today than I did last month to push my body farther and faster.

Sometimes I'll borrow a page from my technophobic friends and head out the door with no wires attached. But that's an anomaly, and I'm glad I usually take the time to strap up: Subjective feelings of improvement are great, but objective measurements prove I'm getting stronger. And that's all the motivation I need to keep on improving!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I finally had a great run!

My first post-5K jog around my hilly neighborhood turned out great! I am very pleased to report that my legs neither tightened up nor went numb, and I was able to mostly jog (walking during parts of the uphills) at a conversational pace and maintain a fairly steady pulse, as the graph below shows. FINALLY!!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

New Goal: Drop the 'Law School 30'

I am sick and tired of the 30 extra pounds I have been carrying around since law school. It is time to get rid of them, once and for all.

Higher education has never been good to my waistline. When I graduated from high school, I was 166 -- mind you, I had neither muscles nor endurance, but at least I wasn't fat. ;-)

By the time I was a senior in college, my weight was up to 205. I had gained about 40 pounds -- that's 10 a year, on average. I was tired of it. And so, at the urging of high school chum Ian, I decided to lose it. In 2001, after a summer of hard Body for Life workouts and healthy meals, I had dropped 25 pounds. I was at 178 and feeling great. (And, as the 12-week before/after photo shows, looking pretty good too!)

From 2001 to 2004, I hovered around 185, give or take a few pounds. I didn't eat that clean but I didn't stuff myself on a regular basis. I exercised regularly, often making it to the gym 3-4 times a week, and I ran when I had the chance.

Then law school happened and I threw myself into studying. I stopped exercising as much as I had been, and I didn't pay much attention to what I was feeding myself. Like many law school friends, by the time 3 years were up, I had gained 30 pounds. As this seems to be fairly common, I am officially dubbing it the "Law School 30."

For the last couple years, I have been holding steady around 210. Sometimes I lose five or gain five, but I usually return to 210.

I don't like being 210. I feel gross and out of shape. I don't look as svelte as I like. (NB: It doesn't seem to concern the ladies, but I'd still like to look my absolute best.)

So now that the 5K is over, I am setting out on a quest to get back to my pre-law school weight -- 30 pounds. To that end, I plan to eat healthy and go to the gym regularly, following the Turbulence Training program, as well as maintain a base mileage of around 10 miles a week in preparation for the official half-marathon training I will start sometime in June.

I plan to post my meals in many of the blog entries, so that my readers can see what I am eating and encourage me and keep me on track.

I am confident that if I drop the weight, my running will improve to the point where I could run many many miles without stopping, and maybe one day even experience that elusive runner's high...

Wish me luck!

Today's Meals
  • Cup of low-fat cottage cheese (160)
  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat (300)
  • Tuna sandwich on whole wheat (300)
  • String cheese (80)

    Projected
  • Chicken, rice and veggies (700)
  • Protein shake (200)
Total: 1740
Workout

  • 30 minutes of bodyweight and dumbbell exercises
  • 17 minutes of interval training on the recumbent bike

Monday, April 07, 2008

Local Man Sets 5K PR; Still Waiting for 'Runner's High'

WASHINGTON, April 6 -- On a windy, rain-soaked morning in our Nation's Capital, a tired yet strong 28-year-old stood in the 5K Run/Walk corral about a block from the Washington Monument. As the bearded redhead hopped up and down, running in place to stay warm before the race began, he still didn't know quite what he was doing here.

"Everyone talks about the adrenaline rush I would get on the morning of the Big Race," Matt told me the next day over a plate of grilled chicken and steamed-in-the-bag vegetables, "but I never got an adrenaline rush. The whole thing was just too surreal. I was on 4 hours of sleep, and all I kept thinking was, 'I'm running a what, now? Who signed me up for this? Why am I not in bed?' I didn't know 8 a.m. actually existed on a Sunday morning!"

But early hours did exist on Sunday, as Matt found out when his cell phone alarm went off at 6, waking him from a fitful slumber that had only taken hold after 1 a.m. He pinned his number (20076) to his long-sleeved technical shirt, downed a cup of orange juice and a handful of Cheerios, and headed out the door. He arrived at the National Mall around 7:30 -- a full 70 minutes before his starting time.

"It appears somebody miscalculated," Matt said, cursing the efficiency of the DC transit authority. "Anyway, it was really neat down there, almost a carnival atmosphere. The whole thing was just like July 4th, except everybody was running!"

Having arrived so early, Matt had no choice but to walk around, sometimes jogging lightly to keep warm. By the time the 5K race was set to start, Matt had been warming up his legs for about an hour.

There was no "On your mark, get set, go!" that Matt had envisioned in his dreams. The only way Matt knew the race had begun was that everyone in front of him started slowly shuffling forward. It took about 90 seconds to cross the starting mats, and then Matt started.

To Walk or Not to Walk

"Everyone had warned me about starting too fast," Matt recalled. "They said I would get caught up in the excitement of running with a thousand other people. They said I should slow down! So I did. But not enough."

MILE 1 | 3:07 + 3:00 + 3:07 + 3:10 = 12:24
MILE 2 | 3:54 + 3:32 + 3:51 + 3:26 = 14:43
MILE 3 | 3:26 + 3:48 + 3:23 + 3:14 = 13:51
0.11 | 1:21

Indeed, as evidenced by Matt's unofficial mile splits, he hovered between 4.9 and 5.0 mph for the first mile. That speed, he says, would have been fine had he taken walk breaks from the beginning. But because of his excitement, he felt he was strong enough to run the first mile without walking.

"This was a race," Matt said. "I was supposed to push myself. I would have felt like a total idiot following Galloway's advice and taking walk breaks every few minutes."

However, after pushing himself for a mile, Matt -- who had originally signed up for the 10-mile run -- needed to walk.

"I was strong enough to run the first mile," Matt said. "But then I needed to slow down." For the next mile, he took minute-long walk breaks every 2-3 minutes.

At the 2 mile mark, he decided to try to push himself harder. "I had read somewhere that on a 5K my heart rate should be around 90-95% most of the time. Well, I generally was at around 170 for the few minutes at a time that I could maintain a run, but on my walk breaks I gradually dropped down to 150. I decided that I was going to only walk until my pulse hit 160, and then I'd pick it back up again."

So Matt's walk-breaks grew shorter. And yet, short as they were, whenever Matt walked, something ominous happened...

Battle with the Race-Walkers

"The entire race was a battle between me and the race-walkers," Matt recalled, poking at a microwaved baby carrot. "I noticed them as I ran past in the first mile. And I noticed them again as they walked past at the beginning of the second mile."

For the rest of the race, they would be lingering just behind, in the shadows, waiting to take the lead.

"There's nothing more annoying than a damn 50-year-old woman grinning giddily, holding her elbows high and pumping her arms as she marches past me while I am briefly recuperating at 2.5 mph."

2.5 mph?

"I'm a slow walker."

The battle continued until mile 2.5 or so, when Matt picked up the pace.

"If you look at my quarter-mile splits, you'll notice that the walking basically stopped with a half mile to go. Sure, I walked for a few second here and there, but I really wanted to give it my all."

With a half mile left, he left the race-walkers in the dust.

'Looking Strong, Number 20076!'

"People on the sidelines kept saying, 'You're almost there! It's just around the corner!' And I was still under 40 minutes, and I figured I might actually be able to meet my arbitrary goal of 42ish minutes."

"As I turned the corner, the cheers grew louder. I could see the banner in the distance. I had about a quarter mile left to go, and I vowed to finish without walking. I took off my hat and glasses and just steamrolled forward. My pulse was at 171, 172, 173, and around then I felt my entire body flush. I have felt this before at very high efforts -- I am positive it is my body switching from aerobic to anaerobic."

What does anaerobic energy production feel like?

"Like I said, it feels like a flush is overcoming my entire body. Everything suddenly feels warm -- my arms, my chest, my legs -- it's just different. It comes with a really hard effort, and when I feel that flush, I know I won't last more than another minute or so.

"With about a block to go, I closed my eyes and dug deep inside for the effort to keep going. As I opened my eyes I noticed that I had just passed a camera man -- he had snapped a picture of me as I entered the mental part of the race. Now that's a picture I'll pay money for!

"The finish line was 50 feet in front of me. I heard the announcer say, 'Looking strong, number two-zero-zero-seven-six!' It was like my winning raffle ticket had just been called. 'Yes!' I shouted, pumping my hands in the air. With a final burst and a huge smile, I crossed the finish line."

Matt's final time was 42:29 -- a pace of 13:41. It was his fastest 5K effort to date.

Final Thoughts

"I'm pretty happy with the time," Matt said, finishing his chicken and veggies. "It's about six minutes faster than I had ever traversed 3.1 miles before, and do you know why? Because my calves didn't tighten up at all. The past two months, almost every time I tried to run more than 1.7 miles, my calves would get extremely tight to the point of cutting off blood flow to my peroneal nerves, and then the entire front of my shins and top of my feet would go numb! This time, for whatever reason, that didn't happen. Maybe it was the frequent Stick massages, or maybe it was the flat course, or maybe it was hour-long warm-up. All I know is that finally, my legs worked as they were supposed to."

Matt has signed up for the Detroit Half Marathon on Oct. 19, which he plans to run with his good friend Diana. He already has a general plan for the next 6 months.

"I'm really going to have to focus on weight loss," he said, sipping a glass of filtered water. "I was 182 when I started law school; I'm 212 today. I was essentially running with a 15 pound dumbbell in each hand. Imagine how much easier this would be -- how much faster I could get -- if I just dropped the dumbbells."

Matt plans to consistently eat healthy, add regular strength training to his fitness plan, and exercise at least 5 days a week. He will start "officially" training for the half-marathon sometime in June.

"People ask me why I run, when it is so difficult for me. What they don't understand is that they've already answered their own question: I run because it is difficult. I run because I want to get better at it. It's a noble goal in itself, and it will bring me so many side benefits: more health, more discipline, more confidence. I run because I cannot... and I run because I can."

Matt and Heather after the run


Saturday, April 05, 2008

T-minus-10 hours and counting.....

Well, the 5K is tomorrow morning and I am starting to become nervous. Not because I'm concerned about times (I just hope to finish strong, no matter what time it is), but because I'm a little nervous about logistics. I take a bus to where, now? Metro to what? Who? And what do I do when I get there? And the Web site says I have to check my bags by 7:30 am but isn't that just for the 10 Miler at 7:50? The 5K doesn't start until 8:40!

I'm also a little concerned because the forecast calls for lower 40s and rain, and I haven't really run in the rain in a while.

Mostly though, I'm just curious about how my high-maintenance calves will act tomorrow morning. I jog/walked 2.5 miles this morning, mostly downhill, and it turns out they dislike running downhill almost as much as they dislike running uphill! They're like a prissy girlfriend I used to have: everything has to be just so, they need to be massaged twice a day, and they need The Stick on a regular basis.

Speaking of The Stick, I went to my first race expo ever today, and encountered the Stick guys! They were massaging people, sometimes forcibly. My friend Heather refused to fall prey to the Power of the Stick, but I was giddily trying them all out ("This one is the Big Stick, look at how stiff it is! Great for back massages! This one is the Little Stick! Perfect for shin splints!")

The whole thing was a lot of fun. I bought a nifty Nike shoe wallet I've been wanting for a while, and got my race goodie bag (which I haven't really looked through yet). And I heard a talk by Catherine Ndereba, known in the running world as "Catherine the Great" -- apparently one of the best Kenyan women runners ever. Fascinating Q&A session, in which I asked her why Kenyans are so good at running. Her response?

In Kenya, people run everywhere from the time they're kids because there is no good public transportation. Her school was 4 miles away, and sometimes people would run home for lunch, and they'd have to run back fast because if you're late the schools have corporal punishment! So that's 16 miles of frenzied running a day from the time Kenyans are little. Yeah, I'd say that would help breed fast runners!

She signed my race number and let me pose for a picture with her. I told her this would my my First Race Ever, and she seemed genuinely excited for me as she wished me luck!

On that note, it's off to bed for me. Wish me luck. Look for my first ever post-race write-up soon!!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Apologies to the One Person Fooled

I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the one person who was fooled by my assertion yesterday that I had completed a 5K in 28:13, when previously my best time was approximately 48:00. I'm not going to name this person -- she knows who she is -- but I will say that I fear for the future of crime-fighting in this country, when an expert criminal behaviorist with the FBI is so easily bamboozled. Here are some of the clues that should have tipped her off:

1. "...this morning..." -- I do not run in the morning. I may intend to. I may SWEAR TO GOD I'm going to get out from under the warm, cozy covers and fling my ass onto the streets below to run around like a little gerbil. But despite my best intentions, it is physically impossible for me to drag myself out of bed. Someone else might be able to -- in high school, my dad would resort to throwing water on me -- but it is physically impossible for a sleeping Matt to throw water on himself.

2. "...drove to the Washington Monument..." -- Even if, by some miracle, I managed to get up early to run, there is no possible way I could ever force myself to drive five miles away in order to run. Why? Just because it's flatter there? Because I want to "simulate race day"? Come on. Again, I may have grand designs, but in reality, I'm just going to run around the block.

3. "...free of any GPS technology..." -- I cannot doff my gadgetry that easily. I paid good money for the straps and cables and global positioning technology and the computer to link it all up to afterward and analyze my data to be able to determine with absolute precision whether I am running at the speed of a turnip or a kumquat. (There's a big difference.) I might forgo it for a brief jaunt around the block, but if I actually wanted to simulate race day, I'd definitely bring my gear.

EDIT: 4. "April 1..." -- The post was made on April Fool's Day. Everything should be taken with a giant grain of salt on April Fool's Day!

So, She Who Shall Not Be Named, I apologize for "fooling" you, but I am concerned that you were able to be fooled so easily. I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just you are responsible for solving crimes.

I kid, I kid! I'm sure you're a great crime fighter. Just remember, you're supposed to hold the skinny side of the magnifying glass.

In other news, that healthy chicken and veggies dish I made the other day? It remains just as delicious using different brands of chicken and steamed veggies. I had it again tonight with a bit of whole grain rice and it was absolutely delicious. It was actually better than my General Tso's chinese combo that I am in love with, except in a different way. It was delicious in a tasty, wholesome way. I did not feel all weighted down and disgusted by all the deep fryer oil. Blech. It turns out, Fresh is Good!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I ran my practice 5K in 28 minutes!!!

Friends, I am absolutely thrilled to be able to report that this morning I donned my questionable running shoes, drove to the Washington Monument, and proceeded to line up at what will be the starting line of this Sunday's 5K. I was loaded with caffeine, and fairly excited to see that the course was as flat as mapmyrun.com predicted.

Armed with nothing but shoes and a will to run without stopping, I toed the line, free of any GPS technology, and -- on my mark -- get set -- GO!

I took off at an extreme pace... and all of the tight calf problems I have been having seemed to magically disappear! Pleased, I decided to throw pacing out the window, and just see how fast I could git this thing done. At the halfway mark, I looked at my watch and was SHOCKED to see that only 15 minutes had passed -- and I was still filled with energy!! Remembering that Diana likes to aim for negative splits, I decided I would attempt the same, and instead of lengthening my stride, I followed Galloway's advice to quicken my turnover.

It worked.

As I approached the finish, which on Sunday will have a banner over it but today was just covered by an imaginary banner in my mind, I couldn't believe that I was under 30 minutes. And not just by a few seconds, but by a few minutes! As I passed under the imaginary banner, I stopped the timer on my watch, and looked down:

28:13

Ladies and Gentlemen, although I am still waiting for the runner's high, I finished that run in a state of euphoria. I can't believe I ran a 5K in 28 minutes!!!!! If I can do that on only a couple months of training, imagine how strong and fast I'll be by the time next year!

Here is a picture of me at the finish line. I can't wait to repeat this showing at Sunday's race. Thank you all for your kind words and support so far.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Compartment Syndrome?

The 5K run is coming up in one week and, although I am not yet nervous, I am becoming ever more curious as to whether my body will be able to hold up. I've been doing some research on the chronically tight calves that I have, that cause pain and numbness on many of my 2+ mile runs. Although shin splints do share some of the same symptoms, a telltale sign of shin splints is that the pain continues even after exercise ceases. In my case, the pain and numbness dissipate very quickly as soon as the exercise is over.

After much Googling, I am afraid I have come to the conclusion that I am most likely afflicted with what is known as "exercise-induced compartment syndrome," also known as chronic exertional compartment syndrome, which basically means that when I exercise, my calf muscles connected to my shin expand to such a degree that the sheath that contains the muscles, known as the fascia, does not have enough flexibility to expand and allow the muscle to function properly. According to the various websites I've seen, this leads to a very tight feeling in the legs, pain with each step, and tingling or numbness in the front of the lower legs and on the top of the feet as the expanding muscles and tight muscle sheath cut off blood flow to the peroneal nerve. Sound familiar?

The bad news about exercise-induced compartment syndrome is that the only foolproof method to completely relieve the symptoms is surgery. Apparently they cut along the length of the fascia, which gives the muscle room to expand without pain. However, surgery, like war, is a last resort. I have had this problem in the past, and I know from experience that when I drop a lot of weight, and generally get into better shape, my compartment syndrome symptoms virtually disappear. So I am hopeful that I can avoid a trip under the knife.

Currently, I have been able to reduce the symptoms by frequent deep tissue self-massage using The Stick. By massaging my tight calf muscles several times a day, I am able to effectively "pre-stretch" the muscles -- and possibly the fascia -- so that I do not get the symptoms while running. Most of the time, this is effective. Yesterday, I flung myself out the door and jogged 2 miles, walking twice for about 1-2 minutes each time, and I am very pleased to say that my legs were neither tight nor numb! However, a few days before that, I attempted a two-mile walk/jog, and my calves tightened up to the point where the pain was excruciating, and I had to walk most of the route. So, who knows. I have one week left until the race, and I will just do the best I can to keep my muscles limber until then.

I am also going to look into getting new shoes. I am told that several symptoms of compartment syndrome, and tight calves, and numbness, can be alleviated with the proper running shoes. Now, I had thought that my running shoes fit me just fine. But I haven't actually gotten fit for running shoes in seven years -- I have been using the same model ever since I was fit in a New Balance running store in 2001. All my friends who run in DC tell me to go to the Georgetown running company, where they will watch me run on a treadmill, and give me a shoe that will solve all of my problems. I am looking forward to this magical shoe, and I plan to go there as soon as the 5K is over. Well, maybe that week, as I am pretty sure that right after the 5K is over, I will be limping home and crawling into bed.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A great treadmill run -- finally!

In my experience, the days when you really don't feel like running are the days you have some of the best running experiences.

Today was one of those days for me. I had told myself that I was going to see if I could run a mile on the treadmill without stopping, but when today actually came, and I had free time, I really didn't feel like getting off the couch. Watching television is so much easier than running -- why run when I can watch reruns of Star Trek Voyager?

Ah, the Eternal Question. But instead of laying there, pondering, I decided to get off my fat ass and walk three blocks to the gym. I am glad I did. What followed was the best treadmill workout I have had in years.

I have never been able to test my Run-a-Mile-Without-Stopping ability when running outside, because I live on the set of The Sound of Music -- you know, rolling hills that are so much fun to spin around and sing songs on but a bitch to run on? I can't run a mile around here because I hit massive hills after half a mile!

Outside, I have been training at about 4.2 mph, which is a fairly slow shuffle. Today, I wanted to go faster. My goal? Run 5 mph, without stopping, until I have traversed one mile. Twelve minutes of nonstop running. Doable? I thought so. But it was going to be tough.

Once on the treadmill, I walked one minute to briefly warm up. Then I pushed it up to 5 mph, and we were off! The first five minutes were a breeze, as my pulse steadily rose from 130 to 150. I was still below 75% of my maximum heart rate, so it was still easy. But my pulse continued to rise, and soon it was approaching 165. Now it was getting tough. I knew that once I hit 13 minutes, that would be the one mile mark, so I was eagerly counting down the minutes until I could stop running. As I counted down, my pulse continued to rise. 170, 175, 179...

And there it hovered, around 175, for the last two minutes. It was hard... but I did it! As the clock hit 13 minutes, I hit the off button and jumped up on the handrails. Sweat was dripping from every part of me, but I had done it! I know it is kind of pathetic that my heart was working at 90% of its capacity to finish one mile at 5 mph, but I was still ecstatic. The last time I had an okay treadmill workout was one month ago, but at that point I had to use The Stick every few minutes, my legs tightened up incredibly, and I had to walk every few minutes. This is the first time I have been able to run one mile on a treadmill without stopping in several years. (I had been using The Stick religiously the past few days, and it paid off -- no tightness, no numbness!)

After the mile, I got off the treadmill for a few minutes, walked around, talked to some trainer friends, and eventually got back on the treadmill. My only goal for the day was really to see whether I could run one mile without stopping. Having accomplished that goal, I was fairly open about what to do next. I ended up jogging for a few minutes, walking for one minute, and repeating that several times, trying to keep my pulse around 150. Once I had hit 2 miles, my instinctual reaction was absolutely unprecedented, and it went something like this:

"Well, I have already gone 2 miles -- I might as well go 3!"

I cannot remember, ever in my life, having uttered something like that. I've already gone 2 miles, why not keep on going? What the hell is that? That is something a runner says! I'm not a runner! I'm a guy who is trying to run -- there is a big difference.

Unfortunately, just as I was a couple of tenths of a mile into my third mile, having pushed the speed up to 5.5 mph, the damned treadmill shut off. "WORKOUT SUMMARY," it said. Noooooo! Alas, my momentum was lost. After several seconds, I was finally able to turn the treadmill back on, but I only ended up running about 2.5 miles. Still, pretty impressive for me. :-)

After the 35 minutes of running/walking, I felt great. Hungry, as I hadn't eaten in about seven hours, but great. Full of energy, chipper, and just generally content. It was a great run, and I am extremely glad that I got off the couch today. Star Trek Voyager is nice, but not nearly as nice as an unexpectedly great running experience!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mountains and Flatlands

I have been slightly hampered in my training so far because I have no idea how fast or far I can run on flat land. You see, I live in the middle of what must have been a prehistoric mountain range, because it is impossible for me to run a block in any direction without feeling like I should have brought ropes and carabiners.

The 5K that is coming up in just over 2 weeks, however, is flat. How flat? As the map below shows, other than a slight 20-foot downhill at the beginning (and corresponding uphill at the end), it is completely flat. (Yeah, yeah, there are a few bumps here and there, but after routinely covering 300 feet of elevation on my training runs, a 10 foot hill over the course of a block is fairly inconsequential.)

Now, it is possible that my constant walk/jogging on hilly terrain will make running on flat land a piece of cake -- I know things get much easier once I hit the flat straightaway on Wisconsin Ave. after 2 miles of uphills! (See: When I'm Not Jogging Up a Mountain, I'm Actually Pretty Good at This.) But I do wish I had more flat running experience, if only to give me the psychological boost I need. Right now, having not really run on flat land from the beginning, I'm not sure how I will do.

So... maybe I should pre-run the course this weekend to get my bearings?

Tight calves, numb feet, and the power of prayer

I am surprised that I haven't updated my blog in an entire week. Well, work week anyway. I want to say a lot has happened in the past week, because it feels that way. But really, not lot has happened. I completed a jog of 3.7 miles Wednesday night, but I am using all of those phrases very loosely -- it was not really a jog, I barely completed it, it wasn't really Wednesday, and so on. Honestly, the whole thing was a mess. My calves tightened up within a half-mile, and although the soreness did not preclude me from running, it did get fairly excruciating at points. Oddly, the trouble this time was really with my left calf, specifically with a band of muscle that got so inflamed that I could actually see it swelling and pushing out my skin. Not a pleasant sight.

Oh yeah, remember how a few weeks ago my right foot and outside of my lower right leg went numb? Yeah, about that... this time it happened in both legs. Yes, that's right, after about 1.7 miles both of my legs started to go numb. As you might imagine, this made training difficult. It was distracting to try to practice proper form while I could not feel my god damn feet! I sat down for about five minutes outside the National Cathedral and prayed to Jesus for sweet, sweet relief.

Well, I wasn't really praying, and if I had it would not have been to this so-called "Jesus" character; it would probably have been to Obama. But anyway, that's all beside the point because I did not pray. I just rested. And after a few minutes, the feeling in my legs came back, and I was able to run the last mile or so -- with a liberal amount of walking.

The point is, I am a mess. Things are tight and numb and just plain rotten. But I persevere, because I am some sort of masochist, or something. Or maybe it's because I know things will get better as my fitness level increases, my legs become more used to carrying my weight, and for that matter, my weight drops. I know I am about 30 pounds heavier than my ideal. And I also know, from experience, that once I reach my ideal, the problems with my calves virtually disappear.

Unfortunately, I don't see how I can drop 30 pounds before the Cherry Blossom 5K, which is just over two weeks from now. Looks like I'm going to have to learn how to run through excruciating calf pain and numb feet...

Or pray to Obama.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Disgusting General Tso's Feeling

I just ate an entire meal of deep-fried chicken, fried rice with little bits of pork, several steamed dumplings filled with meat, and an egg roll.

I feel absolutely disgusting. If you look at my Twitter account, which is quoted at right, you'll see that I have come to a revelation of sorts: a good, solid run of 3 miles can make me feel far better than a good General Tso's chicken combination platter ever can. This is, in many ways, a momentous epiphany, because that is not something I would ever have said several years ago, or even several months ago.

On Saturday, after my easy three-mile walk/jog, I felt absolutely invigorated. It had taken 45 minutes, I worked up a good sweat, kept my pulse beating at a vigorous 150 beats per minute, and by the end, I had a big smile on my face.

Instead of taking the 45 minutes today to consume a massive meal that I did not need, I should have taken that time to go out and do the run that I was planning. I told myself that the reason I was not running is because it was too late and the run would keep me up. But, the answer in that case is not to consume a gigantic meal that will leave me feeling awful. The answer, if I choose not to run at all that night, is to have a light meal and do the jog early the next morning.

I am going to sleep now, and hopefully, I will be able to do the run in the morning. I know this has not traditionally happened. But, I also have not traditionally had such an epiphany as I have had tonight.

"...an entire meal of deep-fried chicken, fried rice with little bits of pork, several steamed dumplings filled with meat, and an egg roll."

God, even reading that makes me feel nauseous. I don't want to feel disgusting anymore. I want to feel invigorated. I want to feel like I felt at the end of my last run.

http://physicsdiet.com/chart.ashx?t=weightloss&s=2011-10-31&u=ztrawhcs