Friday, April 27, 2012

Building The Active Runner Dad: Greg.1 -- Part 2 The Long & The Short

I have been working toward Building A Better Greg for several years now, and I have revised my approach many times over the last few years.  According to one of my early Blog entries, In 2009, I weighed 316 when I went to the Doctor in January.  In 2010, I weighed 282 when I went to the Doctor on Jan 6th.  Currently, I am at 268, which may not seem like a lot of progress for someone running around 20 miles a week and going to the gym 4 to 5 days a week. Especially, when you compare this weight loss to the amazing results that you see all over the Internet these days.  I'll admit sometimes when I see dramatic before and after pictures from people, who dropped 40 pounds in 10 weeks, jealousy tends to crop up a bit.  But, I remind myself that slow nature of my results is not do to a lack of effort on my part.  Instead, it is the result of a conscious choice to take the long approach to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.
I saw this on the web and think it illustrates
 my idea of the long approach really well. 
The long approach to weight loss is not easier, nor do I say it is always superior to a shorter intensive approach with drastic lifestyle changes all at once.  Obviously, what works for one person, may not work for another.  But, this approach has been working for me, and I think it is a pretty sound way of getting results.  I have come to believe in incremental lifestyle changes that work toward building a healthier, stronger, and more active version yourself.  Rather than attempting to make wholesale dramatic lifestyle changes all at once.  Gradually making small changes, which build upon on another until achieving a healthier lifestyle seems lie a more sustainable and logical approach to me.  For example, rather than suddenly trying to get up every morning at 5am, go to the gym and workout for and hour, do yoga, and take up a restrictive diet all at the same time, my idea is pick one of these changes and do it until it becomes routine -- then ad in another element.  Let's say you begin by going to the gym five days a week and working out for an hour, and it takes six months before it is no longer a struggle and is just part of your routine.  Then, you begin to work on changing your sleep habits to get up early for morning workouts and a better sleep schedule, which may take another three months.  As these major lifestyle changes begin to build up other smaller changes might also begin to work there way into your life, things like watching less TV, evening walks, eating less takeout, and breakfasts at home.

This long approach is not an excuse to go easy or get complacent.  It takes a lot of dedication, honest sustained effort, and the drive to keep moving towards your goal over long periods of time without giving up or backsliding.  Naturally, this approach is a less scale conscious approach.  I could write for hours about how much I hate to see people obsess over numbers on the scale when they are trying to lose weight.  Yes, those numbers are important and seeing results on the scale is important, but the scale is the lease effective way to measure the progress of your health.  The scales do little more than offer frustrations and false hopes to people.  Personally, I weigh in sporadically at best, and mainly do it as a means of confirming something that I already know.  If my jeans are more loose than normal and running times are beginning to improve, I'll go to the scales for confirmation that I am losing weight.  Conversely, if I feel like I am not progressing and need to change my routine, I'll go to the scales to see if my progress has stagnated or reversed. 

The scales don't have the answer.
The major benefit to this approach is that the changes in your lifestyle are more permanent and sustainable.  Personally, when I began working out, I was motivated to got to the gym, but I wasn't motivated to give up junk food, or to go to bed at 10:30 and get up at 4:30am.  Those things changed over time when I was ready to commit to them fully, but I am pretty sure that had I attempted to make all those changes at once, I would have gotten frustrated and given up within six months.  Let's face it, I didn't get to being a 330 pound inactive, junk food addict, in six months, a year, or even two.  I got there incrementally over the course of years.  Bad habits built upon each other until I reached that point.  It is folly to think that most people can turn on a dime, completely change there lifestyle, and sustain those changes all at once.  Some people can, but these people are the exception -- not the rule in my opinion.  Most often your body will begin to actively work against your efforts because it will see a sudden dramatic changes as a sign that something has gone wrong and you are in danger dying.  It will slow you metabolism and send hunger signal to your brain in an attempt to stop this sudden weight loss.  Yet, time and time again we see people try these dramatic life changes often encouraged by the diet and health industry with promises of quick results with little effort.  Most often, they succeed for a short while then flame out.  Only to get more discouraged and upset.  We all know that there is a lot of money to be made by the promise of quick results and little effort.  Not many people have patience these days, so these weight loss plans with celebrity spokespersons and dramatic testimonials have a wide appeal.  But personally, I am in favor of an approach that requires tons of hard work, willpower to change, and results that may be slow but are long lasting.  So, my suggestion to people who are striving for those dramatic before and after shots is to think about what you really want.  Do you want some fleeting attention or a long lasting life change.  If a life change is your goal, why not take it slow and let healthy habits build upon each other?  Your body will resist these changes less and your results are much my likely to last your lifetime. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Building The Active Runner Dad: Greg.1

Here is the first installment of a new focus here at Locker29.  I am going to be a parent soon, and my fitness journey is no longer all about me.  No, this Blog focus will not change into a place where I share photo's of my child and detail their growth (I am sure a few of those will pop up from time to time), but the focus will be the detail's of my quest to provide my child with a blueprint of a happy, healthy, and active lifestyle.  I did not grow up with good examples of active healthy living.  Some of this was due to the times, and other parts were due to circumstances.  Yes, I was often told that I should go out and play, exercise, or play sports, but I wasn't around people, who incorporated healthy activities or good eating habits into their everyday life.  I am not blaming anyone.  More, I am just trying to except what I see as my responsibility as a parent to provide those examples to my child
Me Running on Vacation in Hawaii

Therefore, it is my number one mission to provide those examples to my child.  I want them to always think of their father as someone, who loves to be active.  I want them to see me as someone, who eats healthy foods.  And, I want them to grow up thinking that this lifestyle is normal.  My thinking has been moving in this direction for some time now, and I have even considered changing the name of this blog to reflect this direction, but have ruled out a name change for now.  However, the main focus of this blog will now be detail my efforts to be in the best shape of my life when my child enters this world and embrace the healthy life that I want for my child.  Currently, my diet is pretty healthy.  Luckily, my wife Hiroko, is a very supportive partner and agrees with me on the importance of good health.  I am exercising a lot.  But, there is still more that I can do and must do inorder to insure that I provide the example that I want.  I know that becoming a parent is going to bring about a lot of changes in my life, and I have told Hiroko that I am willing to give up all of my current hobbies with the exception of running and exercise.  I am even prepared to give up watching the Raiders and hockey before I give up running.  For anyone who knows me well, these word might seem unimaginable.  But, I've been building towards this level of commitment over the last few years, and I would not have brought a child into this world if I weren't willing to their best interests above my desires.  I hope that my friends and readers will be active participants as I try to build Greg.1 -- The Active Runner Dad.  And, I hope that you will enjoy reading about my attempts to put my words into practice.   

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tar Heel 10-Miler Race Report: 4/21

I picked the Tar Heel 10-miler based only on distance.  Ten milers and 8ks are kind of the black sheep of distances in running, but they are my favorites.  Therefore, the Tar Heel 10 miler appealed to my desire to race the 10 mile disance.  Later, it fit really nicely into my race schedule after I decided to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  I liked the idea of having a 10 miler two weeks before the half as kind of a trial run.   The one major drawback of this race would be that I am not familiar with Chapel Hill's campus and had no idea what the course would be like.  I knew that it would start and end in the UNC football stadium, would incorporate a lot of local sights, and was famous for having a large hill at the end of the course, which didn't bother me.  I have a strange relationship with hills because I complain about them frequently, but in reality, they don't really bother me that much, and I kind of enjoy running them.  This is pretty evident in that I love running in Umstead Park, which would never be mistaken for Kansas.  However, I had heard horror stories about this hill that made it sound like something just shy of K2.

My Plan: I didn't have a firm race time goal.  Instead I wanted to see if I could hold a pace at or under 9 minutes over 10 miles.  My 5, 8, and 10k times recently all indicated that I can, but I haven't done it, so I wasn't confident in my ability.  My idea was that this race would be a great test of my ability to hold my half marathon pace.  However, as we lined up for the race, I wasn't sure where I wanted to line up.  The organizers did a great job of organizing the start by pace, and I had the option of joining either the 9min group or the 9:30 group.  I debated about where to go for some time before deciding that I had come to the race in order to test myself, and a 9:30 pace was not testing myself.

Meb greeting the runners!
The Race: As I said, I don't know much about Chapel Hill (the town or the university).  My guess is that this course was drawn up as to incorporate landmarks of the town and campus.  However, at times, I couldn't help wondering some comic genius hadn't let a sadistic 3 year old with a hatred for straight lines and flat surfaces map out the course. 

Doesn't it look like someone gave a kid a map, a crayon, and Red Bull and said knock yourself out.
The elevation changes were equally random and kind of sadistic as well.  The hills were plentiful, but only a few were tough.  The last hill called Laurel Springs Hill was the only one that really concerned me because I live too far away to drive the course before the race and still had no idea what it would be like.   I decided to envision of the worst of Umstead's hills as a way to prepare.  The first two miles had me so confused that I didn't know whether to scratch my watch or wind my ass.  We left the stadium, ran up and down some hills came back into the stadium, ran through the stadium and left again.  My Garmin, Old Bob, got so confused that at some point I ended up with two tenths of a mile extra.  Not sure if that was real or not, who knows, heck, it maybe they were just the two tenth's of a mile that the Cary Road Race shorted me late weekend.  Actually, I just think that it was a phantom from Old Bob losing signal in the stadium tunnels three times in under a mile.  In addition to being confusing the first two miles of the course had a lot of little hills, only one of which really seemed to slow people down.  I did the first mile in 8:41 and the second in 8:53.  I wasn't worried about going out too fast because I was feeling fine despite the hills.  Somewhere over the course of the third mile, I saw someone wearing a 9:00 pace sign and tried to keep her in sight for the remainder of the race.  I would lose her from time to time as the race went on, but we stayed pretty close until the big hill at the end of the race.  I wasn't trying to run with her, but when she turned up in the crowd of people near me, I took note.  If I had more knowledge of the city or the University, I am sure that I would have enjoyed this course on a different level, and reflecting back on it after the run, I actually did enjoy it.  But, at the time, it was a little maddening with all the twists, turns, and hills.
The course was hilly as Hades!

By Mile 3, the course seemed to calm down, and I was able to enjoy myself more.  I had my hand held water bottle, so I bypassed the water stops, which I think was wise.  The morning air was cool with a nice breeze, but as the day went on the humidity increased and turned the race into a sweat fest.  Miles 4 and 5 were strait runs through campus and down Franklin street, which are the only areas of Chapel Hill that I really know well.  I did mile three in 8:58, four in 8:50, and five in 8:53.  During mile five I took in a Goo, and noticed that I was doing well on my time.  At the five mile marker, I felt like I was running strong and knew that barring any mishaps that I would PR the race.   Mile six took us into some residential areas that were hilly, but nice and shady, which seemed an even trade.  I did mile six in 8:52.  One thing, I noticed was that the crowd support was somewhat thin, which seemed odd.  I thought there would have been more people out cheering, but there were tons of volunteers, and my guess is that many of the local were actually in the race.  I had heard that this year's field was over 5,000.

Mile seven was nearly all down hill.  Most people enjoyed this huge decline, which was a certainly a change.  I couple of times, on areas of the street that were on a sideways slope the unevenness of the hill and the downhill put a lot of pressure on my left knee, but once I moved to the middle of the road, the pressure eased, and I was able to enjoy myself more.  I resisted the urge to open up my stride and gallop head long down the hill like some people were doing.  Instead, I just tried to maintain my pace and control, which served me well later on the uphill portion.  I did gain some time on the downhill and finished the mile in 8:44.

At some point during the last few miles runners from the 4mile race merged with people doing the 10 miler, which I had been warned about in the past.  I didn't notice when it happened, but I started to see more people on the course, who were going at a slower pace during mile 8 and others, who were going much faster and smeed more fresh than the people that had been running near me, but I wasn't bothered or hampered in any fashion.  Miles eight and nine cover what is called the Laural Hill Challenge (special prizes are awarded to people with the fastest time up the hill), and there are timing mats placed at the foot and top of Laural Hill to time how fast runners are able to ascend the hill.  I made the climb in 8:27 and did mile eight in 8:51 and mile nine where the bulk of the hill is in 9:57.  The hill was no joke, but it wasn't harbinger of doom that I had herd horror stories about.  After Laural Hill my legs were burning, but I would have been able to have done better on it had I known what to expect.  I kept expecting on more massive climb with each turn, but that killer soul stealing climb never came.  I was able to recover pretty quickly from the hill and regain my stride and pace over the last mile, which found us making our way into the stadium yet again.  I didn't have much of a kick at the end of the race, which I take as a sign that I pushed myself throughout the run and didn't have extra energy to spare at the end.  But, I did the final mile, which was almost all down hill, in 8:38 making it my fastest mile of the day.

My Official Time was 1:31:15, which was a new PR.  As I mentioned earlier, my Garmin picke up some extra distance, but I am fairly certain that this time there was no real issue and the problem was just the result of Old Bob losing signal in the stadium.  At the finish of the race, we received nice reusable water bottles and a sweet little medal.  At the end, I was a sweaty mess but had a great time.  I am not sure it this race will fit into my spring schedule next, which like my fall schedule will be a bit smaller due to some impending life changes, but I know that I'll be running this one again in the future. Congrats to everyone who took part, and if you didn't next year's your chance!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Run Raleigh 5k:

The Run Raleigh Half Marathon & 5k are in the first year, and I didn't really account for them in my race plans for the spring.  I hadn't planned on running either race, but Hiroko's company was one of the sponsors of the event, and I was offered a free entry into either race.  As tempting as a free Half Marathon might be (and it is really tempting), it just did not fit into my plans, so I opted to run the 5k.  I was already singed up for a 10k the day before, but I figured that a 5k wouldn't mess things up.  As it turns out, I had a blast. 

Hiroko and I arrived just as the Half Marathon folks began their race, and we were able to take a few pictures of some friends, who were running the Half and then make our way to the starting line for the 5k race.  Hiroko wasn't planning on running too hard and only wanted to finish under 30 minutes.  I wasn't sure how I was going to run, but as we neared the start of the race, I noticed that with the size of the field, I might be able to place fairly well and maybe challenge for my age group, so I decided to run it for real and see how things shook out.  I won't bore you with the details, but I ran well finished 21 out of a field of 264 and came in third in my age group.  It was a small race, but I was able to tie my PR of 24:43.  Hiroko came in well under her 30 minute goal, and placed second in her age group.  Unfortunately for her they had her gender wrong, and only awarded prizes to the overall age group winner.  However, none of those things could put a damper on what was a really fun day.  Next year, I'll be looking for this race when I plan out my spring schedule and hope to make a run at the Half Marathon.

I met this sweet boy after the race.

Hiroko took this picture of me after I made the turnaround

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cary Road Race 10k: Disappointment of a Course Miscalculation

I am still very new to running and racing in many ways, but sometimes I forget that I have only been running since June of 2010. Because after having run 33 race in less than two years, I have experienced a lot of both good and bad on race day: side stitches -yep, unexpected PR's -yep, inexplicably wretched runs -yep, rain, heat, wind, cold, humidity -yep, malfunctioning timing equipment -yep, malfunctioning - Garmin -yep.  Now, that is not to say I've seen it all.  I haven't, nor do I want to make such a claim.  My point is that as you run more races, you understand that pulling off a perfect race for both the organizers and the runners is really an amazing accomplishment.  As a runner, I am aware of the huge amount of effort to race organizers put into a race.  And, I hope that the understand how much time and effort runners put into attending their race.  As a runner, I can forgive just about any unforeseen problems that might arise on race day, with the exceptions of  course miscalculations.  The first time, I ran a race where the course was short, it was part of an event that was incredibly disorganized and was the culmination of a really lack luster effort on the part of the race organizers.  I was not expecting course problems from The Cary Road Race because it is an event that has been run for nearly 34 years, and take place on a course that is defined by it setting on greenway going around a large pond.  The race make use of two public streets, which are clearly marked for the race.

However, as I was running in the 10k on Saturday I noticed after the second mile of the race that my Garmin was off by nearly two tenths of a mile from the course markers.  The first turnaround had not been as clearly marked as it was last year, and there did not seem to be anyone directing runner which side of the road to run on.  Even though the course markings were off, I continued to run hard hoping that my Garmin was just off, which often happens in races do to running tangents, but two tenths of a mile is a lot to be off in the first 3 miles of a race, but I hoped against hope that Old Bob had just flaked on me because I was having a banner race.  After the three mile mark we run the course again and as we were heading to the turnaround again, I was fighting off a cramp/side stitch while climbing a hill, so it took me a while to notice that a cone had been set up, and the turn around had been moved back about a tenth of a mile to where the ground had been clearly painted 10k turnaround.  My fear that the course was short had been confirmed, but I was having a great race.  Even at the right distance, I would have shattered my 10k PR, so I decided to run hard and stay in control of the only thing I had control over at this point, myself and how I ran.  I ended up running strong and finishing the race over 4 minutes and nearly two tenths of a mile under my 10K PR.

A while back when this happened to me at the Free to Breath 5k, my frustrations boiled over because it was a culmination of series of lapses on the part of the race organizers of the event, but this time I just felt disappointment because I had run a good race and had been looking forward to breaking my 10K PR and not setting a new standard for my six miler.  But, I am learning quickly from these races that I can only control myself and how I run, and sometimes not even those things are really under much control.  I still have a hard time forgiving course errors and will most likely not run this race again, but rather than get overly frustrated by the error, I was able to move past it and take some pride in knowing that I still ran really well.