Saturday, December 19, 2009

What a difference 10 degrees can make...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I dislike running on the treadmill. But I tolerate it... And you want to know why? It's because I HATE the cold! It's like my own personal kryptonite... And so it was totally out of character for me when I decided to man-up and try to tough out a run through the cold two days ago on Wednesday.

I figured: I'm a runner now, I'm strong, I'm tough, I've ran 26.2 miles non-stop, I ran hill workouts in 106 degree weather this summer, I CAN DO IT!!! So I put on my gear (1 pair tights, 1 pair warm-up pants, 2 pair sock, 1 long undershirt, 1 t-shirt, 1 hooded sweatshirt, stocking cap, and mittens A.K.A. 1 load of laundry) and headed out into the 26 degrees of winter cold for a nice four miler.

It didn't go so well. The first mile I was freezing. I thought to myself "You'll warm up as you keep moving"... WRONG. I just felt like I was getting colder... and colder and colder. By mile 2 I was starting to get tin-man knees and there wasn't an oil can in sight. My mile 3 I was running on popsicle sticks. By mile 4 I felt like the Encino Man (I'm talking about the part where Pauli Shore finds him frozen in a block of ice, not the part where he's dressed up super cool and riding on a skateboard).

So bottom-line: it was miserable. I was running along and hating it. It was the type of run that made me question why I was doing this in the first place. Made me question what's the point of any of this... That was Wednesday.

Friday, I decided to try again (good thing us runners have such short memories). This time it was 36 degrees instead of 26 degrees but I gotta tell you... What a difference 10 degrees can make! I guess it's the whole freezing point thing... you know, under 32 degrees F, where water vapor freezes like ice-cubes in your lungs, and icicles form on your mustache (if this happens to any of my female readership let me offer my condolences right now). Below freezing, where the body (which is made up of over 50% water), begins to turn into a block of ice. Below freezing, where you can slowly feel yourself dying from hypothermia every step you take... (did i mention that I hate cold).

But 36 degrees. Man! How toasty! I felt great! I whipped out 6+ miles at an 8:05 pace with my heart-rate at 78% of MHR. No treadmills, no El Gordo the trainer, no naked old dudes to avoid... just me and the open road. So I just gotta remember... I HATE the cold, but I LOVE running. So I just got to power through. Keep building that base. Keep working that core. And if I can stick with it, then come spring I should have a frontier of speedy-fast races within my grasp just waiting for me to PR them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Weigh-in of the Weight Loss Challenge

Last night I went in for my final weigh-in... 6 weeks of hardcore dieting, excessive exercising. 1 week of eliminating all sodium from my diet. 1 day of hardcore working out in two layers of gym pants and 3 layers of sweatshirts... and it all came down to this :

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI
Week 3 (Nov 23rd): 167.7 lbs, 16.6% body fat, 27.1 BMI
Week 4 (Nov 30th): 166.1 lbs, 16.9% body fat, 26.8 BMI
Week 5 (Dec 7th): 162.9 lbs, 19.8% body fat, 26.3 BMI

Week 6 (Dec 14th): 157.4 lbs, 15.4% body fat, 25.4 BMI

A total weight loss of 12.25%. All in all not bad, but still not enough to win the 500 dollars. Turns out someone had dropped over 40 lbs for an over 20% weight loss. Analyzing my strategy I'm pretty sure i could have squeezed in another 5 or 6 pounds in by adding a little more weight on the initial weigh-in and losing a few more pounds during the 6 weeks, but it still wouldn't have been enough to win.

Also, just to make sure everyone is clear, I didn't actually lose 22 lbs of body weight in 6 weeks. Because first off I "gained" 6-8 pounds on the day of the initial weigh-in by drinking several pounds of water and eating several pounds of food. I Also sweated off an additional 4-6 pounds on the final day of the weigh in... so all in all I lost more like 10-12 lbs during the 6 weeks which is actually a lot more reasonable in terms of healthy weight loss.

I'm a little disappointed I didn't win, but I'm pretty happy about losing the weight. Hopefully I can continue to lose weight over the next couple months. I'm weighing in at around 161 as of this morning, but I'd like to get that down by spring for the sake of my running speed. Judging my before and after shot I'd think I could probably stand to lose another 10 pounds before I get to true running sleekness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nature pic of the month

Totally brief and non-run/exercise related... but I just couldn't resist showing off some of the truly stunning nature photography I captured last night...

just for clarification sake that's my spayed female dog doing the nasty with my spayed female cat... oh man, the fun just doesn't stop around here.

In other news I stepped on the scale at around 162.5 this morning... final weigh-in for the weight loss challenge is tonight. I have all day to sweat off all the extra weight I possibly can (without putting myself into a coma at my wife's request).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tales from the Gym (part 2)

Chapter 2: El Gordo the Fat Trainer

Here follows the second installment of my multiple part "Tales from the Gym"... in my previous entry I discussed my thoughts on the rather liberal nature that some of the older gentleman display themselves in the locker room... (As an addendum to that post I would like to add that they have now taken up dehumidifying their post shower neither-regions with the hair dryers that are conveniently located right next to the locker room scale which I occasionally like to use)...

In this follow up post I would like to change topics and present you with the tale of one of my favorite employees at the gym...

At my gym there is a personal trainer who I call El Gordo (The Fat Man). I call him this because he is obese. Now I don't want to sound fat bias. I've struggled with my own weight from time to time and I can only admire and commend the overweight people at my gym who are working hard to improve their physical condition. That being said, I have to draw the line at fat personal trainer.

How are you supposed to listen to fitness advice from someone who doesn't even follow it himself? Case in point, he is the guy who is in charge of running the weekly weigh-ins and during one of the weigh-ins he was eating a plate of chicken nuggets and fried rice... I mean seriously man? You're eating fried food at a gym while you're supposed to be overseeing a group of people who are participating in a challenge about losing weight?

But what's worse than his obesity is his attitude. I might be able to overlook his portly nature if he brought something else to the table (besides deep fried twinkies, shame on you Good Morning America) but the guy also happens to be the most annoying guy at the gym. He's always goofing around with the patrons, loudly telling inappropriate stories, sitting around on the machines, and stepping out onto the indoor track and conversing with his buddies while people are trying to run. Come on... if anyone should know better it should be a gym employee!

And on a personal note, this is the same guy who keeps telling me I'm overweight because my BMI is over 25, and believes that my body-fat percentage jumped from 16% to 19% in one week even though I lost 4 pounds over that time.

So listen up boys and girls... if you're at the gym running on the treadmill or laying on the benchpress and you here creaking floor boards and a loud and jolly laugh (did I mention he has a really loud and annoying laugh which is nearly constantly erupting from his fat face) you may be in the presents of El Gordo... Be afraid... Be very afraid!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I just got some real bad news.

Okay, lets start with a little back story...

As you may or may not know the country has been going through a bit of a recession and here in Peoria, Illinois where the whole city revolves around Caterpillar it's been pretty hard to miss. Last December I was working for a engineering outsourcing company that dealt primarily with Caterpillar. At that point Caterpillar and in turn the company I was working for began having waves of lay-offs. I remember going into the office everyday, stressed out, wondering if I would be the next one to go. Pretty much all my co-workers felt similarly and lets just say the atmosphere of the office was downright depressing...

Then in March everything changed for me.... One day I came into the office, stressed out, bags under my eyes from lack of sleep caused by anxiety, and I found out that I wouldn't need to come in to work anymore. It was fantastic!!! Not only did it free up about 40-50 hours a week for me to do whatever I wanted but all the stress of possibly getting laid off was lifted... On top of that, the government decided to pay me 10 dollars an hour not to work!

So I decided to start marathon training. Now normally they don't recommend you jumping from 6 miles a week to 40 miles a week in such a short time, but when all you have to do all day is run, stretch, ice, and recover it's actually possible. Over the next few months I improved my running tremendously. I also built a deck, ripped up the carpet in our house and refinished the old wood floors, and remodeled the kitchen. My wife also appreciated how the dishes are always done and the laundry is always clean, folded, and hung.

The marathon came and went so I needed a new way to spend my time. Enter the weight loss challenge. The last few weeks I've been spending about 4 hours a day at the gym doing weight work and cardio circuits and I've been burning upwards of 2000 calories a day just from exercise (not even including the weight lifting)...

Then today I got a call... turns out my dream life is coming to an end.

See a couple days ago my daily routine was rudely interrupted by this little annoyance called a "job interview"... and today I got a call with an offer for a job. I accepted the job immediately and am now dealing with the fact that come January 6 I'm going to have 40-50 less hours a week to exercise and otherwise screw around...

I know you all must feel real pity for me right now... try to be strong (as will I) and we can get through this little set back together.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Road to Recovery

For the last couple weeks I've really gotten serious about doing my ITB stretches multiple times a day, stopping running as soon as I feel even the faintest twinge, and really working the tendon out with a foam roller that I found at my gym (, I'm really falling in love with the foam roller... it hurts like a mutha-f*cka when I'm applying it but the aftermath of feeling my ITB tension release is somewhere close to orgasmic). Still it just didn't seem like it was improving... And just as I was finally starting to let the frustration and self pity of my ITBS get the best of me I received a glimmer of hope in the form of a stellar running workout...

Check it. Today I get on the treadmill ready to try my usual recipe of walking a quarter mile, running a quarter mile, rinse and repeat. So I start running my first mile and when I come to the end of it I realize that I feel great; not even a hint of ITB pain. So I turn up the speed by :34 seconds per mile and decide to try a second mile... finish up the second mile and still not pain so I crank up the pace by another minute per mile and pound out another mile, and then another, and then another... now I'm feeling tired so I back the pace off 30 seconds and proceed to crank out two more miles... for a total of SEVEN MILES!!!!

At that point my ITB still wasn't bothering me, but I was starting to get tired and I figured I had already overdid it by about 5.5 miles so I better stop...

So the tricky part now is to force myself to proceed with caution... I got the ice on right now, and I plan on doing only cross-training tomorrow no matter how great my legs feel or how much I want to run... and after that I have to somehow will myself to take it easy for the next couple weeks. I'm finally on the road to recovery, but I know from experience that it's one road that you don't want to race down.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Week 6 of the Weight Loss Challenge

Last night we once again weighed in for the weight loss challenge at my gym... 5 weeks down, one final week to go.

This previous week did not contain the diet busting temptations of a Thanksgiving feast or the schedule disrupting factors of a 18 hour drive from NYC to Illinois so I expected to have some decent losses. Here's how I did.

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI
Week 3 (Nov 23rd): 167.7 lbs, 16.6% body fat, 27.1 BMI
Week 4 (Nov 30th): 166.1 lbs, 16.9% body fat, 26.8 BMI

Week 5 (Dec 7th): 162.9 lbs, 19.8% body fat, 26.3 BMI

Not bad! I dropped another 3.2 lbs, in spite of the fact that the body fat measuring device tells me that I gained about 3% body fat... I once again told the trainer overseeing the weigh in that their device was completely inaccurate (I tell him this every week) and he once again gave me a dumbfounded stare like I was full of it (he gives me this look every week).

So reviewing the numbers... a 1.9% weight loss for the week and a 9.2% total loss for the competition.

Looks like I'm shooting for under 160 for the final weigh in. During the next week diet is going to be key. I'm going to continue to eat clean, but I'm also going to begin eliminating as much sodium out of my food as possible. I'm guessing that this change alone could allow me to drop several pounds of water weight... looks like I have about 6 days of unsalted boiled chicken breast to look forward to.... groan.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A blog about running???

When I first started this blog I had just finished running the Chicago Marathon. I had just run 26.2 miles straight (no walking, hopping, skipping, jumping) although to be honest there was quite a bit of run-hobbling, grimacing, groaning, and grunting.

My thoughts at the time were: "What's next"... check the URL:

The idea at the time was that now that I had completed a marathon, the next step was to complete another one... except this time I want to do it fast... fast being a relative term of course, but in my case (as for so many others) I'm thinking Boston Qualifying...

And I'm not strictly sticking thinking marathon's either. I want to PR some 5ks, 10ks, 15ks, half-marathons. And on top of that I want to place in my age group. Heck I want to win my age group.... In fact, I'd like to win an entire race (btw anyone know about any obscure races?)

I mean check out my banner... This is supposed to be "the awe-inspiring musings of a midpack recreational runner during his meteoric rise to elite status and beyond!".

I mention all this because I haven't had much to say about running lately. This is because I've been struggling on and off with IBTS for the last 2 months. I've still been getting in some milage (maybe 10-15 a week) but it's been pretty pathetic milage (mostly running a mile or less then walking then running then walking... etc). Mostly I'm just getting frustrated... I really love to run now and I especially love long runs so all this stop and go on the treadmill is driving me crazy.

Fear not though... I realize this is just a shortterm roadblock in a long road of progress and that I'm going to eventually overcome it... just know that I'm looking forward to the days when I can start posting about the killer run I had, or the amusing antidote that happened to me while I was out on the road...

Until then, it's off to the gym for some more treadmill and crosstraining... Blahh!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

One year later...

It's the beginning of December... Significant to me because I suddenly realized that I've been exercising and working out consistently for over a year now. Which caused me to reflect on my epiphany that caused me to exercising in the first place...
It happened on a Sunday afternoon in November. It was one of those brisk Midwest autumn days; the type of day where you just have to be outside. The sun was out and the air was crisp. Sweatshirt weather. My wife and I were out that afternoon enjoying a friendly game of Frisbee golf (my favorite kind of exercise at the time) at Washington Park, near Peoria.

I was teeing off at the third hole. I judged the distance, reached back for a little something extra and let the Frisbee fly. I’m still certain to this day that the Frisbee was sailing on its way to a hole in one if not for the sudden crosswind that caught my Frisbee in mid-trajectory and sent it drifting into that pine tree.

Looking up into the tree I could clearly see my Frisbee secured in the grips of a forked bough about 15 feet up.
“No problem” I thought to myself “I’ll just climb up a couple branches till I get to the one that seized my Frisbee and then shake it out.”

Sounded easy enough. What followed was not a pretty site.

Reaching up I grabbed a low hanging branch and attempted to hoist myself up into the tree. After some extreme and wasted effort I realized that I no longer possessed the strength to pull my own bodyweight up into the tree. No problem though… I next attempted to use the trunk of the tree to walk my legs up to the branch I was hanging from. After some kicking and squirming I was able to walk my legs up onto the branch and wrap my legs around it, all the while hanging on with my hands. I was now dangling from the branch by my arms and legs but still a long ways away from actually climbing into the tree. I spent the next minute squirming and rocking, trying to somehow get the leverage and momentum I need to hoist my bodyweight over the branch and into the tree. Finally I succumbed to defeat. My arms and legs were scraped from the rough bark, I was huffing and out of breath, my self-respect was decimated, and all the while my wife stood by laughing and jeering at me… truly pathetic!

Suddenly I felt old. As a kid I used to climb trees all the time. I didn’t even have to try. I was like a human freakin monkey or something. I even remember climbing a tree or two in college (while possibly being inebriated to boot)… but at some point in my life I had lost that ability. Some unknown morning I had woken up and unbeknownst to me I had lost the physical ability to climb a tree.

It was at that moment as I stood there huffing and puffing, hands on my knees at the base of that tree that I knew it was time to do something about myself. C’mon… I’m about to turn 30! I still have plenty of life to live… but there I was a shell of my formal self… I had let myself become a sedentary, middle-aging, slightly overweight pud… this was NOT OK!!!

Fast forward to today... While I still haven't attempted to climb a tree I'm pretty sure that I could do that with no problem... in fact on somedays I feel like I could probably swing through the forest like Tarzan... But what's really important is how I feel. I used spend my days feeling lethargic, having to force myself to gather the energy to complete even the simplest of tasks. Now I'm full of energy! I'm steadily approaching the age of 31 but feel a lot closer to 21 then when I was turning 30.

I want to say that I feel like a whole new person but really I think it would be more accurate to say that I feel like myself again...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Week 5 of the Weight Loss Challenge

Starting Week 5 of the Weight Loss Challenge... only 2 weeks left.

Thanksgiving provided a bit of a hurdle this week but I still managed to get my cardio in and keep my diet in check for the most part... here's my new stats.

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI
Week 3 (Nov 23rd): 167.7 lbs, 16.6% body fat, 27.1 BMI

Week 4 (Nov 30th): 166.1 lbs, 16.9% body fat, 26.8 BMI

Despite my deep-fried turkey and the literal pound of butter I used while cooking Thanksgiving dinner I still managed to lose some weight although supposedly the body fat percentage went up a little bit??? Still weight loss is weight loss in this competition and I lost another 1% this week and am sitting at 7.4% for the competition...

I have no idea what other people are doing so I'm not sure where I'm sitting but I'm pretty sure I'm really going to have to focus and pull out all the stops for the next two weeks if I want to have any shot at winning the 500 dollar prize.