Tuesday, January 31, 2012

9.0 mph ACTUALLY EXISTS on a treadmill

Tonight, in an attempt to make my cardiovascular system capable of running 10 miles without stopping just two months from now, I flung myself down to the gym, where I set the treadmill to a 1% incline and proceeded to do Week 3 of Couch to 5K.

Here's the news: I started my first running segment (90 seconds) at about 5.8 mph, but I was feeling good and quickly pushed it up to 6.2 mph. Did the second running segment (3 minutes) at 6.5. Third running segment (90 seconds) zipped along fairly easily at 7 mph. Fourth and final running segment (3 minutes) started at 7, but my footfalls weren't keeping up with Aerosmith's beat, so I pushed it up to 8. Now I was barely keeping up with the beat, but I still felt like I could do more...

For the first time in my life, I pushed the treadmill up to 9 mph!

I kept it there for over 30 seconds before my body forced me to pull back. I quickly dropped down to 8, 7, 6, and finished the last 30 seconds with a 5.5 jog.

The key takeaway here is not just I managed run at 9 mph for half a minute and not go shooting off the back of the belt (that's a 6:40/mile pace!), but also that my speeds were generally off the chart the whole time. Except for that part at the end where I really pushed myself... it was all so... easy! When has 7 mph EVER been easy? Sure, I didn't hold it for very long - just 90 seconds - but just a few weeks ago, even holding a 5.5 mph jog for 90 seconds was treacherous. I felt like I was going to die. And today it was EASY!

Is this all just a quick reaction to a bit of applied exercise? Sure that's part of it, but I think there's more: For one, my diet today was pretty clean. I started with a spinach florentine bagel with butter, and coffee. With butter, cream, and sugar, we're probably close to 700 calories. So far not so good, but after that, the next thing I ate was a wild rice mix with grilled chicken breast and sauteed walnuts! It was positively delicious, and probably no more than 600 calories. A few hours later, I had some whole wheat pasta with three turkey hot dogs: 500 calories, perhaps. And throughout the day, I had been partaking of sweet Honeybell oranges. Add 200 calories for the juice and fiber.

All told, before I went out running at 9, I had consumed about 2000 calories for the day, most of them pretty solid grains and protein. My body had no gooey cheese to contend with, no disgusting deep fried BLECH to clog the veins. I was appropriately fueled and my body had rebuilt itself from the last time, and I was ready to go.

(Oh, and due to frequent massages with The Stick, my calves didn't tighten up at all.)

For the first time in years, a really good run! To cap off a really good day. I might just make this 10 Miler after all.


Addendum: Upon reviewing the archives, I am shocked to learn that tonight's experience is about exactly where I was, cardiovascularly, in 2003 -- nine years ago! Take a look at my 2003 description of a treadmill run. I wasn't knowingly using the C25K program, but my method -- run till my pulse hits 170, walk till my pulse hits 130, rinse and repeat -- is essentially exactly what I'm doing now. Wow! This means that I might be in just as good shape as I was when I was 23; I just have a little extra padding around the middle, that's all!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sickness derails fitness: NEWS AT ELEVEN

Ah, January 16. I remember it well. As readers of this blog may recall, I worked out harder than I had in years. I warmed up with 20 minutes on the recumbent bike, then did an intense upper body workout, and THEN did a bunch of running on the treadmill. I got the speed up to 8 mph at one point. I felt exhausted, and amazing.

But there's something I neglected to mention in my last post. You see, while I was running I felt great, but right afterward, I felt a tightness in my chest. It wasn't a heart attack or anything, but it did feel kind of hard to breathe. I've never really had asthma, but it felt kind of like what I thought asthma might feel like. I came home and Googled "exercise-induced asthma." Such a thing exists, so I chalked it up to that, and vowed to take it a little bit easier in the future.

Then, calamity: Over the next week, I got very sick. My main symptoms? Fatigue... and chest congestion. It turns out that while I was KILLING myself at the gym, my body was also trying to fight off a bug that has been going around DC, and which has cleared all the DC-area drug stores of every formulation of Mucinex. By working out so hard, I inadvertently compromised my immune system.

I fell off the wagon. I couldn't exercise, and because I was sick, I decided it was okay to treat myself with some of the foods I love.

When you go to the gym every day, and exercise hard, and eat well, you build up a momentum and it is easy to keep it going. You always have energy and you WANT to exercise! You WANT to eat nutritious foods! You just naturally want to build on success. Your body has no desire to consume pizza and donuts, because it will just make it harder to exercise, and it will undo the very real gains you are making at the gym.

The flip side is also true. Once you fall off the wagon, it's really hard to get back on. The momentum is lost. It sucks, and it's hard to get started again.

And I don't even want to think about how much pizza I've eaten over the last week. And donuts. Ohhh the donuts.

I know what happened, I know what I did wrong, and in the future if I feel myself coming down with something, I will take it really easy until I know I'm in the clear. I've had almost two weeks off, and my diet has been horrible, and the scale reflects that. Now it's time to get back on the wagon. It will be hard for a few days...

But then it will be easy again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Hardest Workout in YEARS

I don't have a lot of time because I want to go to sleep, because I am exhausted, because of what I am about to discuss. Today I was at the gym for two hours and I pushed myself harder than I have in years. I started with 20 minutes on the recumbent bike to warm up (getting my pulse up around 150), then did about an hour's worth of upper body resistance training, and THEN to follow that up, I decided to do one of the Couch-to-5K Week 2 programs. This means I was walking for about 15 minutes, interspersed with 9 minutes of running for 90 seconds each. And this wasn't just any running. It went something like this:
  • Walk 5 minutes
  • Run 90 seconds at 5.5 mph
  • Walk 2 minutes
  • Run 90 seconds at 6.0 mph
  • Walk 2 minutes
  • Run 90 seconds at 6.5 mph
  • Walk 2 minutes
  • Run 90 seconds at 6.5 mph with 1% incline
  • Walk 2 minutes
  • Run 90 seconds at 7.2 mph with 1% incline
  • Walk 2 minutes
  • Run 90 seconds at 7.5-8.0 mph with 1% incline
During that last run, when I pushed the treadmill up to 8 mph and held it there for at least a minute before I "dropped it down" to 7.5 (normally "dropping it down" would be to 4.5 or 5!)... just WOW. I felt incredibly invigorated. My arms were pumping. And I absolutely could not have gotten through it without Aerosmith. 

Another cool thing is that I took my pulse right after the final run, and it was just a little over 160. I wasn't even in my top 10% heart rate zone!

And when I learned that, I realized something pretty awesome: I don't know if I'll be able to train myself to run the 10 Miles on April 1st, but I have no doubt I'll at least be able to run the 5K. And not in 42 minutes like 4 years ago, either. I've got 74 days left till the race. I haven't even begun to fight!

Mmm dinner
My food today was equally healthy:

  • Chocolate protein shake and banana (500 cal, 44g protein)
  • Grilled chicken with whole wheat pasta and sauteed peppers (~700 cal, 40g protein) 
  • Vanilla protein shake with skim milk (500 cal, 54g protein)
TOTAL: 1700 calories, 138g protein

I know, that's pretty low calorie-wise, but I just haven't been hungry. Whole grains and slow-digesting protein powder keep me pretty full.

The scale has been hovering around 210 lately but I'm convinced 208 is at my doorstep!

Addendum, 7:50 am - 208.4!!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Regrets and Rebounds

I did a bad thing. On Sunday night, after eating well all week and losing weight, I decided it would my "Free Day" (a la Body for Life), and I treated myself to a major eating binge. MAJOR. I ate basically a large stuffed crust meat lover's pizza from Pizza Hut, AND an order of cinnamon sticks with extra icing.

It was tasty. I felt like I was getting away with something. I went to sleep, fully intending to get right back on track in the morning.

When I woke up on Monday, I literally felt like I had a hangover. I could feel my body trying to fight all the poison I had fed it. I was dizzy and nauseous and lethargic all day. Even the next day, I still felt out of it. I slowly got back on the healthy eating wagon, but it wasn't until Wednesday that I finally felt like myself again.

That's the bad news. The good news is that I came back to the light. For the last couple days I've been eating clean, and working out hard. On Wednesday I did 20 minutes on the recumbent bike, a bunch of heavy leg presses, and 60 Swiss ball crunches! Today I did week 2 of "Couch to 5K," putting the treadmill on a 1% incline, and toward the end I had pushed my speed up to 7, 7.5, and then 8 mph! My pulse shot up over 180, but I felt great, and I could have kept going, and I could have pushed it even faster. And, even more amazingly, my calves didn't tighten up at all! I have been massaging them regularly, but I was still surprised the tightness has left me so quickly. I haven't run without tightness in years!

I am in love with Syntha-6 protein powder, both chocolate and vanilla flavors (although the vanilla may be a bit too sweet for me -- I'll have to see if I can tone it down: does anyone know how to make something less sweet?). This protein powder keeps me full for so long, that by evening I'll wonder why I am suddenly hungry, and then realize that I've only eaten 1200 calories the whole day!

All told, the pizza-and-cinnasticks incident pushed my weight up by 2.6 pounds, but as suspected, most of that was water weight, and as of this morning I was lower than last week. I am soon to cross the 210 threshold. Next goal: 200. Final goal: 190. Then I'll reassess.

Onward! :-)


Thursday's Food Log:

  • Banana - 100
  • Vanilla protein shake - 200, 22g
  • Grilled chicken, spinach salad, wild rice - 500? 30g?
  • Vanilla protein shake - 400, 44g
  • Banana - 100
  • Orange - 50
  • Glass of chardonnay - 100
  • Whole wheat pasta and chicken breast - 800? 50g?
Total: ~2250 calories, 146g protein

Friday, January 06, 2012

Beautiful night for a walk

Today after work I went to the gym where I used a really nifty machine called the "Vertical Traction" by Technogym. It's kind of like a high-tech lat pulldown machine that really works your arms. I LIKED IT. Unfortunately I had to cut my workout short because I forgot my sneakers, and I looked ridiculous sitting there in shirt, shorts, and... black dress shoes.

So I showered and left to go meet some friends at a pub about 1.5 miles away. I could have taken the Metro, but it was such a beautiful night, I decided to walk!

About halfway there, I realized I was right in front of the White House, and I took a few moments to make several Skype mobile video calls to some somewhat amazed family and friends.

"Who WOULDN'T want to FaceTime with that handsome man?!?" -Ari

I then thoroughly threw away my healthy eating plan for today by sharing a trio of appetizers with friends: Big fried pretzel things, vegetable spring rolls, and grilled chicken skewers (at least there was one healthy option). Oh, and a pint of Strongbow.

My eating choices for today were not that great, mostly because I didn't make my meals last night and I waited until I was hungry before heading out for lunch. But I kept the calories low enough that I won't gain today:

  • Syntha-6 Protein Shake (400 calories, 44g protein)
  • Chipotle burrito: chicken, brown rice, pinto beans, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guac, lettuce (1200 calories, 65g protein)
  • Bar food: Deep fried pretzel thing (~300), chicken skewer (~100 / 15g), veggie spring roll (~150), Strongbow 20 oz (230): (~800 calories, 15g protein)
TOTAL: ~2400 calories, 124g protein

Definitely not what I would call "healthy," but perfectly adequate for a resistance-training Friday. And I have to have some fun sometime or else I won't be able to stick to a mostly-healthy eating plan for the rest of my life! (...eek, it sounds scary when I put it like that).

Tomorrow I'm meeting a friend for lunch at a deli about a mile away, and I've already decided that if the weather isn't too bad, I'm walking. My friend Josh lost a TON of weight by walking all over Boston (and watching what he ate). I can too!

The smallest belt hole!

Today I noticed that my pants were loose so I went to adjust my belt, and it turns out I only had one belt hole left! Now I am on the smallest one and that just feels so awesome. And look at the awesome graph! It looks like this "Calories In < Calories Out" thing really works!

Food Log

  • Syntha 6 (400 calories, 44 grams protein)
  • Chicken, rice, quinoa (~600 cal, 30g)
  • Subway 6" turkey melt (400, 25g)
  • Chicken and barley soup (160, 14g)
  • Two sticks of string cheese (160, 16g)
Total: 1720 calories, 129 grams of protein

I'm not purposely starving myself, I swear. That protein drink just keeps me SO full, and by pre-emptively eating just before I get hungry, I am basically never hungry at all and don't get any cravings! 

I'll probably get hungrier once I'm exercising regularly -- things are really tight right now with rehearsals every night, but after Saturday the 14th my rehearsal schedule will drop down to ONE PER WEEK. I am sincerely looking forward to having almost every other evening free. It's time to take care of Me.

PS - I just noticed how many exclamation points I used in this post. Please accept my humble apologies.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Forgot my shoes AGAIN

Well, I was planning to hit the gym today and do a little running on the treadmill, and I managed to bring everything I needed -- shorts, T-shirt, extra socks, extra underwear... the only thing I forgot was my SHOES! Again! I always forget my shoes! Alas.

The good news was that my calories were pretty low today:

  • Protein shake (400 calories, 44g protein)
  • Potbelly Tuna Sub + chips + Mt Dew (1400 calories, 50g protein) - yes yes, I know, but it kept me full forever)
  • Chickarina soup (260 calories, 16g protein)
Total: < 2100 calories, 110g protein

I've got chicken and rice cooking in the kitchen right now, so my lunch tomorrow should be back on track. I'm on this.

Tomorrow's lunch!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Food log

  • Coffee with cream/sugar (100, 3)
  • Subway Cold Cut Combo (900, 42g)
  • Protein drink (400, 44)
  • Chicken and dumpling soup (320, 14)
Total: 1720 calories, 103 grams protein

Thoughts: Boy that protein is filling!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Stats for Vacation Week

  • FOUR: excursions to the gym, at which I lifted many heavy things, began to learn to run, and kept my pulse up very high, hovering around 150 but blowing past 180 when necessary!
  • THREE: healthy meals taught to parents: Whole grain rice with tofurkey sausage and peppers; whole wheat thin spaghetti with butter and chicken; and the tastiest protein shake you'll ever find.
  • TWO: family members who are PUMPED to continue eating right and working out. AND
  • ONE: redheaded man who has returned to the DC, eager to get back on the eating-right gym wagon. Left DC at 214.8 lbs; returned to DC at 212.6 lbs.
The long green shaded area is the VACATION!