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, which I continue to recommend to anyone looking to lose weight. I tried a competing weight logging website,, 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 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!