Showing posts with label diet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label diet. Show all posts

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lighter but no faster

Running route or AT-AT?
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

Yesterday morning's rain forced me onto the dreaded treadmill, but there was nothing to dread. We've been having an issue with the treadmill tread bed being stuck on incline. Even when set on a decline, the angle was elevated. My wife uses the treadmill daily and has not enjoyed running uphill her entire workout. I played with the controls and somehow got it unstuck.  

I know my evangelizing about minimizing sugar is getting tiresome, but I can point to it as the reason for a string of good runs. My last treadmill experience had been at the fitness center in our hotel in Boston. I ran very well that day, partly because I'd been off of processed sugar for a week and partly because I  fitness center treadmills. Despite using our far less exotic Free Motion machine, I felt rock solid on Friday, without the fatigue (some of it mental) that I usually experience when I run on it.

I got out early enough this morning to avoid direct sun. I decided to change up my route and followed Jericho Turnpike down to SOB Road so I could check out the newly paved path from beginning to end. Although the heat was moderate, the humidity was rising. Those conditions would normally be enough for me to consider cutting my run short. I didn't cross my mind and, in fact, I ended up adding another half mile to my four mile target.

I'm not sure how much of my running improvement has come from the physical response to a change in diet. I'm sure some of this is due to being six pounds lighter since I started paying attention to sugar and simple carbs. Despite all that good stuff, I'm still as slow as ever. I did try to focus on speed a number of times but I couldn't sustain it for more than a couple of minutes. Once I'm confident that I can tap into my newfound energy, I'll pick up the pace.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Around the track without a buzz

Hey, you, get offa my track!
Today's run (track): 4.1 miles

I did my best to get out early today and I made it to the track by 6:30 AM. The sun was still low in the sky and the temperature (73°) and humidity (69%) made for decent running weather. As I made my way down the drive toward the track, I looked over and  saw there was a runner making his way around. I was disappointed because I really hoped to have the place to myself. I'm not a misanthrope, and I love to run with my friends, but I do enjoy the solitude of the empty track. Oh well.

I started out easy, but I didn't feel the energy I've come to expect since reducing my sugar intake. I worried that the lift I've been getting was a short term gain, and that my body has since adapted to the change. I did feel stronger as I ran, but still had some residual fatigue. I got through my intended laps without a problem, but stopped short of finishing the workout with a set of intervals.

Could this be less obvious?
When I got home, I grabbed a K cup from the same box I'd used for my morning coffee. I noticed that I'd mistakenly made decaf. So this morning's track run was done with neither carb loading nor caffeine. Knowing that made me feel better about my run. Especially at the end, when I poured it on for the last 200 meters and had plenty left in the tank.

I suppose I could also consider reducing my caffeine intake at some point, but I've read that caffeine is actually health positive in moderate doses. I'll stick with managing complex carbs and sugar for now.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dealing with the white stuff -- snow and sugar

Backyard trekking
Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles + snowshoe
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I had lunch this week with a work colleague who told me he'd given up added sugar just before the holidays. He looked like he lost at least 20 pounds. I asked him if he misses sugar. He said if he wants something sweet he's happy to have a piece of fruit. I often think about the amount of sugar I consume and I know I often exceed the recommended limit of 50 grams per day.

I know that if I try to quit sugar cold turkey I'll fail. However, if I pay more attention, I can probably step down my sugar intake over time. I started watching sugar content on Thursday and substituted sugar laden stuff for more savory options whenever possible. I estimate that I cut back about 50% through Friday and through most of today, but our post-dinner ice cream was a setback.

I worked from home on Friday and managed to get in a few miles on the treadmill. I usually start my work-from-home days around 6:00 AM which is when I typically start my commute. Once my wife finished her workout, I jumped on the treadmill. While I find the treadmill mind numbingly boring, I appreciate that it's a better indoor workout than the elliptical. Still, my patience can only handle about thirty treadmill minutes at a time. Once I hit 5K I was done.

My schedule was tight this morning so I got on the treadmill early. I wasn't feeling very motivated and would probably have stalled another hour if I didn't have such a tight window. It was tough going at the start, partly because I set my speed about 5% faster than on Friday. I eventually adapted and felt far better through the second half of the run.

Later in the afternoon, I pulled out my snowshoes and spent 40 minutes going around my backyard. The snow was better than the first time I tried this during last week's storm. The temperature had risen and fallen over the freezing point over the past week. That resulted in a nice firm crust that kept me from from sinking in too deep. After a while the snow shoe-ing motion began to feel very natural and the drifts in my backyard created some mogul-like challenges. My friend FS said she likes that snow shoes allow her to get up and over rock faces. In my case this afternoon, that was my back deck.

Exploring new horizons around the deck and swing set
After I'd finished my snow shoe workout, my wife put them on and did her rounds in the back, followed by my daughter. I may go over to the adjacent middle school tomorrow and try them out on the athletic fields. I would be fun to to see what it's like to trek more than a quarter mile without having to make any turns. I'll probably end up on the treadmill in the morning, but I'll be thinking about snow shoe-ing and low sugar snacking to distract me from that tedium.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The good and the bad of weight loss

Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

Weight and running are often linked together. Many people run either to lose weight or to keep their weight at an optimum level. Some serious runners starve themselves to the point of emaciation because the less weight you carry, the less work is required to hold a pace. I took up running in 2008 when my weight slipped into the unacceptable range. By improving my diet, reducing portion sizes and running almost daily, it only took a few months to reach my target.

Over the past six years I've held my weight steady. Except for a period in 2010 when I lost a lot of weight due to pneumonia, I've stayed close to my original target. But over the last year I've put on a few pounds. Not enough to require me to go up another pant size, but enough for me to re-assess my diet.

I plan to reset and drop back down to my ideal weight. My question is how low do I go? From a running perspective, I would probably see better performance if my weight were 3-5% lower than my current target. I can get there, but I'll pay a price. When my weight drops below normal, the first fat to go is in my face. I end up looking wan and drawn. So much for my maintaining my boyish good looks.

For now, I'll work on getting back to normal and decide whether to go lower when I get there. The Runsketeers will be doing mile time trials next weekend, so I'll see if I can make some weight reduction progress over the next eight days. I may be naive to think it could make that much of a difference, but you don't see too many elite runners who resemble Homer Simpson.

I'm sending good thoughts and wishing for good weather for SIOR and TPP at tomorrow's 10 mile Run to the Brewery. You guys will rock it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Biting the hand that wants to feed you

Okay, one would be nice, for old times sake
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Not too many years ago, the end of the business year meant lavish holiday parties and lots of gourmet treats provided by our suppliers. Times have changed and so has our business. The still-recovering economy did away with most of these parties. The gifts that are sent are typically modest, though no less thoughtful. Do I miss the days when walking from one end of the floor to the other meant passing dozens of trays of holiday food for the taking? I'll admit I do, a little. Harry and David, Wolfermans and Dean and Deluca gift baskets come but once a year.

The upside to this is that less holiday food means less holiday calories. I do appreciate that. The one remaining food-related thing is the holiday lunch. Not the industry parties like before, but smaller get-togethers with supplier partners at nice midtown restaurants. I'm in that phase right now, desperately trying to maintain a proper diet as I get through this week and next.

Last night I met some industry friends for drinks and that was fun. I had one beer which is 100% more alcohol than I've consumed over the last two months. I got home around the time I usually go to bed but I laid out my running clothes before retiring. This morning I did my 25 minute treadmill workout and it felt surprisingly good. If I moderate my lunch choices and maintain my workout discipline I may have a chance of getting through the holiday lunch period in as good a shape as when I started.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Running daily beats fried clams

Some people think this stuff makes you gain weight
I'm back on the work week schedule and, after two weeks, I'm taking my usual Monday rest day. It was great to be on vacation in New Hampshire and Maine. Although being away from home often presents situations where the availability of healthy food choices is low, I managed pretty well. I believe that is due (at least in part) to running every day while on vacation.

Although I've seen articles that claim that running isn't an effective method for losing weight, I strongly disagree. I lost almost 20% of my body weight in the three months after I returned to running in 2008. Aside from suddenly being very active, that change was also due to focusing on portion sizes and better food choices. Today, as a 20 mile per week runner, I eat smart but I don't diet. No matter what, my weight generally stays within a pound or two of my targeted range.

As long as my clothes fit I never really think about my weight. But after a week of fried clams, chowder, pizza and other "vacation" foods, it's nice to finish in the same shape that I started.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fast and furious today - could it have been my diet?

The Garmin missed it big on first lap
Today's run (track): 4.25 miles (3 mile tempos plus 8 x 200)

My running experience on Saturday was disheartening and my poor performance caused an alarm after I started reading the July issue of Runner's World. This issue's theme focused on people who use running to raise money for cancer research and on those runners who are coping with the disease. One story quoted a runner whose running performance was unaccountably slipping and a checkup revealed some horrible affliction that is (happily) now under control.

I'm not really a hypochondriac so I didn't take any of that to heart, but I was still puzzled by my bad run. Paul, a local runner who I met at the NHP 8K, suggested that my diet may have left me depleted of needed carbs as an explanation for my failure to generate speed during yesterday's run. He knows his stuff and suggested trying more complex carbs the night before a long run. He competes a lot and tunes his pre-race meals according to distance and time of the day.

I took Paul's advice and (for dinner) had a modest portion of Garden Delight Penne Rigate with roasted chicken, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower mixed in. Earlier that day, I had a recurrence of the sinus headache that plagued me a couple of weeks ago. Around 4:00 AM this morning I got up and took two Pseudoephedrine and went back to bed. I woke up at 5:30 feeling great. After a couple of cups of coffee, I headed for the track.

My plan for today was to generate some speed after yesterday's tough run. It was humid, but not too hot, and the cloud cover was thick. I started with a mile warm-up at a brisk pace (7:50 min/mile) and then ran 8 x 200's averaging 6:50/mile overall. For me these were blistering paces. The Hattori's performed well on the track, my landings were much more front than mid-foot and neither my feet, ankles nor calves balked at the strain.

I followed the speed work with two miles of "easy" running, maintaining an 8:20 pace through that distance. I haven't managed that pace over two miles in a long time, clearly the speed work had activated those fast twitch muscles. What a difference a day makes. I'm no longer feeling that I'm on an unstoppable performance decline and I'm thinking that I need to do speed work more often than once every three weeks. Perhaps a trail run tomorrow will be a great coda for this 4th of July long weekend. Speed's not an issue on Monday -- I have nothing left to prove.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The surprising power of raw clams

Given that I rise at 3:50 AM most weekdays my interest in late night business dinners is fairly low. I made an exception last night because the situation warranted it. My hosts were in a generous mood, their business is based in New Orleans and after attending the Superbowl on Sunday they were still in a celebratory mood. Before I knew it the waiters had constructed a large three-tiered serving platter covered with every kind of fresh seafood that you could imagine. It was indulgent but great and I ate more than I normally would. Many find raw cherrystone clams unappealing but to a New Englander who spent his summers on Cape Cod, it was a rare treat. Although the wine was well selected and ample I avoided alcohol and my head and body thanked me when I stepped on the treadmill at 4:00 AM this morning.

As I've been doing throughout my recovery, I began today's run at a fairly modest pace. I'm finding that a slower start really helps me later as I pick up speed. I expected my protein-rich dinner to bog me down but the effect was fully opposite. Even as I moved the speed control faster on the treadmill I felt like I still had a lot more in reserve. When I came to the end of my running time I felt great, no pain with some real gain. I felt so good that I kept going longer than I'd planned. The energy and strength I had this morning has made me wonder whether my diet that's high in vegetables and whole grains is not balanced with enough protein. It's hard to know how much last night's dinner really affects your morning performance. If fresh shellfish, mussels and clams give me a boost like that again I'm going to rethink my strategy for pre-race meals.

Monday, November 23, 2009

So exercise and healthy eating is not enough?

In reading through New England Runner Magazine I came upon an article by a nutritionist about the balance between activity and diet. The writer's point was interesting, summed up with this quote: "[M]any runners burn far fewer calories than they realize, they are actually couch potatoes the majority of the day." Her position is that the average person sits over nine hours per day and even competitive runners exist in a cycle of activity, rest and recovery where R&R may be proportionately much higher than exercise. According to the article, a study of senior citizens showed that one additional hour of exercise a day with no additional food intake yielded no reduction in body fat. Supposedly the subjects failed to lose weight because they slept more and were more sedentary throughout the day.

If this is truly the case I'd expect to see more runners with weight problems. Perhaps there are. It's hard to gauge the fitness of other runners by sight. Aside from the ripped Ironman tri-athlete types who clearly focus on constant activity it's challenging to know just by looking. I'm thin and run with what I think is good form but I've been passed in races by people who I would never guessed were runners (and competitive ones at that).

So fitness is clearly more complicated than exercise and diet. All the same, I did lose a good deal of weight that way. I suppose I could introduce even more activity into my daily routine to better balance the sedentary/active ratio. In the end it would only mean my new pants, shirts and suits would need to be replaced yet again. Frankly, I'd prefer having a percentage point or two of body fat over another round of clothes buying and tailoring.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad advice and some that's good

This morning, while on the elliptical, I watched one of those celebrity entertainment programs (I think it was Extra) before the news came on. There was a lot of discussion about nutrition and they had a guest trainer to the stars who talked about a healthy diet that included five small meals a day.
I think that's a reasonable approach, in fact I've heard the term "grazing" to describe that type of diet. What bothered me about this diet were the meal-snacks themselves: egg whites, cheese and meat. The portion sizes were small but the balance was completely off. There were no vegetables or fruit or whole grains. I'm sure that following this diet and training would help a person lose weight but unless the person was taking supplements I can't imagine it's a healthy approach. During other parts of the show they featured diet snacks, all of which included Philadelphia cream cheese. This was clearly sponsored and cream cheese is probably a better choice than butter or lard but I think it's disingenuous to represent the main ingredient in cheesecake as particularly healthy.

I eat small portions in my four daily "meals" - pre-post exercise, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Total calorie intake is low and I am careful to balance to the food pyramid. Knock on wood this diet works since I rarely get sick and when I do it's usually a mild cold that leaves after a day. Yesterday, due to scheduling issues, I missed lunch and barely noticed. I had something small on the fly to remind my metabolism that I’m not starving so it should keep working. I remember a time six months ago when missing lunch would be much more noticeable.

I hope people recognize that just because a famous trainer on television promotes a diet that is disproportionately balanced toward protein it doesn’t mean it's a good choice.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nutrition, running and weight

I've written before about my observations related to workout effort and weight. The key point is that maintaining an ideal weight should not be viewed as a complex series of actions related to diets that force unnatural behavior and/or over-training to burn off calories. Simply put, if your focus on fitness and weight maintenance isn't sustainable your results won't be sustainable. Last August I decided that my diet and level of activity were unacceptable and chose to change my behavior. I never considered any changes related to quick weight loss because that wasn't the point. The point was more about managing cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure by introducing more activity, reducing portion sizes and making better choices for foods. Everyone has their own unique body chemistry and what has worked for me won't necessarily yield the same results for others. But I have been successful in meeting all my goals to date.

This morning I weighed in (I only check weight once a week, always in the morning before my run) and noted that I have largely stabilized at a weight that is 13% lower than my benchmarked weight from August '09. My BMI has gone from 27.2 to 23.6, and my cholesterol, triglyceride and other vitals have all moved well into the normal range. My average running distance has increased almost 30% since August and this is also key to getting to full equilibrium. As weight has come off the effort required to run an equivalent distance has decreased. Increasing distance while maintaining the same safe and satisfying diet has allowed me to reach a level that is both sustainable and healthy.

Now that I have reached this point I need to think about where I go from here. I do plan to keep increasing distance and I'll need to build more muscle to increase my performance. I may need to eat more to do that because without the right level of protein a runner can do damage to muscles when pushing hard. I suspect that may be why I experienced a hamstring pull doing tempo runs a few weeks ago. It's all about balance. This is my typical diet. You can compare it to Sedentary Man's:

90 calorie Special K bar (high complex carbs, low sugar, low protein)
Half cup coffee, .5 oz. non-fat milk

200 calorie Larabar (nut varieties, high protein)
6 0z. coffee with fat free milk

Stir fry with tofu, vegetables, brown rice and low sodium soy sauce
Whole fruit

Boca burger, whole wheat bread
Sun Chips
Trader Joe's Omega nut mix (1.6 oz.)
Whole fruit

I've been introducing small portions of chicken into my dinners, typically mixed with vegetables, to increase protein levels. I also add edamame to increase protein. As I've said before, it's really about listening to your body. At this point I believe I have the balance right. Compared to August I have significantly more energy and I am far less stressed. Good results are motivating and the level of effort required to maintain my balance is reasonable enough so that I look forward to my daily workouts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fitness equilibrium - what's your natural weight state?

After four months of focusing carefully on diet and training I believe I have reached my equilibrium point. Based upon my normal workout routines, nutrition choices and portion sizes I have stabilized my weight. Only if I consciously change my diet and/or increase the level of my routine will I further reduce my weight. Now the question is, "What do I really want?" According to the BMI calculators I am in the category of Normal. I have a friend who watches his diet and runs over 40 miles a week and his BMI score is Obese. He sure doesn’t look it.

I don't have the time to exercise more frequently but I can increase the intensity of my workouts and runs. I should probably do that anyway to increase strength and performance. I could eat less but why? If I eat the same and work out more intently will my weight go up because I'm building more muscle mass? If my weight does increase will I care? Is it worth thinking about everything you eat to maintain a weight that could not be achieved through a healthy diet and normal exercise?

I will benchmark this to see how things go over the next few months with no change in diet but a modest increase in workout effort. I really don’t care about my weight as long as my HDL, LDL, triglyceride and blood pressure levels are normal. Maybe it is time to buy that HRM watch.

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