Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reflecting on running

Reflections like the corners of mind, haha kind of cheesy start but oh well. This week has been a lot about reflecting on how far I have come over the last few years. It all started Wednesday while watching the Biggest Loser where are they now special as I scoffed at someone finishing a 5k in an hour and eighteen minutes. My wives response was don't judge you once were there too. And oh how true that is, I remember those agonizing mile and half walks that ended with me having such agonizing shin splints I didn't want to move for an hour afterwords. The reflections continued that same very night when I ran my first 5k with a 10 minute or better pace the entire distance. I have completed a 5 mile run with no walk breaks but that was at a much slower pace of a 10:43 mile. A year ago I would have been hard set to run a 50/50 ratio of 5 miles walk/running. Then came Thursday which I designated as an offday but decided to walk home from the mother and laws house to burn off a few calories from all the turkey consumed and it was so cold that I ended up breaking into a run more than a half mile from my house just to get home and get warm.

I remember when I first started to try and run the last block of my walk and how it left me so out of breath by the time I reached my door but so proud at the same time. Running that half mile was nothing oh so very easy and didn't even get me breathing heavy by the time I reached my door. It was a sheer testament to how far I came without even trying to do so proving to myself how much progress I have made. I ended my week by running a 27:40 5k Friday night, when I first ran my very first 5k I came in at time of around 39 minutes and walked well more than half of it way back in March. Here I found myself running the entire 3.1 miles and never dipping below a 9:31 pace ending with an 8:55 pace and my fastest 5k ever. I blew the socks of all my previous 5k's and I walked away from the treadmill knowing if the gym wasn't closing at that very minute I could have easily done a mile or two more at that intense pace.

It seems so amazing how far I have come in the last two years and yet I still can't get past thinking how my 20 year old self at 190 pounds who would run a mile then walk the second half mostly home was in better shape. Part of my mind knows that 20 year old wasn't in better shape than I am now and that there is now way he could have run a 27:40 5k or a 5miler non stop in 54 minutes or completed a half marathon. But another part always thinks he was in better shape because he could run that 2 miles and he was 40 pounds lighter than I am now and didn't have all this terrible excess skin that I hate so much. I remember those 2 miles runs back when I was 20 and stopping afterwords in front of the mirror with a good sheen of sweat on my face so proud of what I had just done and not realizing it really wasn't that much.

So sometimes its good to reflect on things like how easy that half mile run was just so I could get home and get warm and remember how hard those single block runs were or how hard it was to run from home to first base in my kickball league. It makes everything I have done worth it and makes me want to accomplish more so I can look back at this time and say remember when you ran your first sub 28 5k well now your running 20 minute 5k's :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

I watch the biggest loser every week and I am a fan of the show as it really is great to see others go through the journey I went through. But sometimes despite all the good they do and the people they inspire I think sometimes the show can be just as harmful as helpful. They don't let on that %50 of the contestants gain the weight back the moment they get home and they seem to gloss over the fact that they have created the perfect bubble of conditions for the contestants to lose weight in. They remove all distractions work, family, friends, social lives and put them in the perfect situation with a gym on site and 8 hours of workouts every day, a perfectly stocked kitchen and all the trainers and medical staff one could hope for. Honestly if you couldn't lose weight in this bubble they create then you will never lose weight but by not showing this they give false hope sometimes to people who don't realize all the hard work that needs to be done to achieve that kind of success.

Once home the contestants find the conditions less than ideal and once more fall into bad habits and I think some of that is instilled by the Biggest Loser and their trainers. They try and pound in to the contestants that you have to be perfect %100 of the time, that you can't eat out without special ordering or that you have to pre-pack and pre-prepare every meal you are going to eat and that is a bad way of thinking. That is a very slippery slope to be on because once you slip and your no longer perfect its easy to abandon everything you learned because gone is that perfection they tried to instill in you. When there is nothing but success or failure and only perfection then once you lose that perfection you have failed and those contestants will abandon everything they learned because the Biggest Loser has made it so black and white and not allowed for any shades of gray.

All this was brought to a forefront tonight when Bob Harper via his facebook page challenged everyone to have a sugar free Thanksgiving. I can't but be flabbergasted by what he was thinking in issuing such a challenge. I know he means well but I think honestly what he is asking is a good intention that just leads to hell. If you can't have a piece of pie on Thanksgiving when can you have a piece of pie and by denying yourself something you might want how long is it tell you will crave that thing even more. Losing weight and maintaining weight isn't about perfection it is about balance and if you can never ever have a piece of pie again that isn't balance that is a disaster in waiting.

I barely dieted yet despite that I still lost 177 pounds in less than two years, and not because I was perfect but because I found balance. I balance my workouts with the calories I consume and took the time and effort to find that balance. Are there days that I don't want to run or go to the gym, you bet your ass, and are there days when I skip the gym or a workout, hell yes. But by not always having to be perfect I am able to find balance in my life and it has let me lose the weight and keep it off and has made it so I have no fear of ever gaining it back. I won't be going to the gym on Thursday and I will be eating pie but am I worried about gaining all that weight back, no because Rome wasn't built in a day nor was my weight loss achieved in a day. I will be back on the road running Friday or back in the gym but come Thursday I don't need to worry about all that and that is why what I have done worked and will continue to work.

Shame on your Bob Harper, despite all that you have done and all those that you have inspired you need to realize sometimes asking for such perfection can be just as harmful and counter productive as all the good you have done.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mental Road Blocks and the fat man mentality

Today I learned something, that after two years and 175 pounds lost that somewhere deep down buried and burrowed in deep there is still that fat man mentality that I have not completely eradicated yet. When I run I sprinkle in walks, I average about a ten minute mile with about 9 minutes of it running and 1 minute walking. And I felt I needed these walk breaks as I wasn't physically able to run non stop for any great distance or time. So despite being able to run a 28:59 5k I still walk about .20 of the 3.1 miles.

But lately I have been visiting the forums on runners world and most of the veteran runners have told me to turn down my speed and just try and maintain that speed for an hour non stop no walk breaks just running. The fat man cried in my no I can run that far or that long without walking. But I was listening and willing to experiment, so I turned the treadmill down to a 5.5 or a 10:54 mile and was like lets do this.

Mentally that first mile was just overcoming how slow it felt, I didn't break a sweat at all the first mile it was just more mental agony as I forced myself to go slower. By mile 2 I was like ok I am ready for a walk break even though physically I didn't need one my mind kept telling me you need a walk break you need a walk break. So I was like ok we will just run a 3.1 then you can have a walk break that is a nice 34 minutes without walking (which would be a personal record for me without taking a walk break). And I got to the 3.1 and I was like no no no lets do something a little further lets say 40 minutes maybe a 3.5 miles that would be a great place to stop and take a walk break. I hit the 40 minutes and was like you know what I am only 4 minutes out of doing a full 4 miles running lets just go there. At mile 4 I broke through something I realized I didn't need that walk break, I still felt great physically and I was only another 11 minutes out from finishing a full 5 mile run no walks, no stops (I sipped water but never allowed myself to turn the treadmill down as I kept it at the 5.5 the entire time) so I just kept going.

I ran non stop for 5 miles in 54:33 (I'd have run further and finished out the hour but I needed to get home and cook dinner and I left for the gym a little late) and realized something valuable. Something somewhere my mind is still telling me I need to walk when I don't, I am fine physically to keep going but there is this major mental roadblock that I hadn't even began to scale until today. I am physically able to do those runs, I dare say I could run a full hour non stop at a 10 minute mile pace, I had just not overcome that fatman's mentality that I needed to walk and without turning down the speed I might never have discovered that.

People probably thought I was crazy, I was so pumped between mile 4 and 5 that I became kinda animated, there is that Miley Cyrus song Party in the USA that is a great fast tempo running song I like and everytime the put your hands in the air part came on I actually put my hands in the air haha the song really gave me a lift and was just so much fun that last mile that I listened to it twice.

So today I found lurking in my deep dark corners of my subconscious that fat man and I took the first steps to beating the crap out of him and kicking him out of my head forever and it felt so great.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Self Training Versus Formal Training

At work me and another guy split the duties of IT and network technologist for a small non profit. He is entirely self taught while I am formally trained having gone to college and obtaining a Bachelors degree in Computer Information Technology. Now he is good at what he does and I am good at what I do despite our different training methods. I am a lot better at code and software issues and he is a lot better at hands on and hardware issues. So that brings up the question of which is better self trained or formally trained.

The reason I wonder about this is money is really tight and hard right now and I think I have an entirely different skill set I wish I could sell and use. That skill set is in losing weight and working out. And just like my coworker I am entirely self taught in this field. I learned everything by doing it on my own or going to a boot camp or talking with trainers and I feel I have a lot I could teach someone trying to lose weight and or get in shape. And much like my coworker my lack of formal training doesn't hinder me it can actually help me sometimes as I know how to do it and I know how to work hands on so to speak with weight loss.

I wish I could pay for and go take classes and get certified as a fitness instructor or a personal trainer but with money so tight that just isn't going to happen. I have so much I could teach and pass on but my lack of formal training holds me back, no one hires a personal trainer without that certification and or training but that doesn't mean I don't have a lot I could teach. Heck I am fairly confident I could train and workout someone to help them lose weight from all the knowledge I garnered from doing it on my own and from attending boot camps and talking and researching ways to lose weight.

Heck I would love to use my writing abilities to write about my story and get paid too, I just don't know how to go about it and its frustrating.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oh you dreaded down time

Tonight will be the first night I run since running my half marathon on Saturday. The last two days I have been recuperating and just going on easy two mile walks to rest and loosen up my muscles but that is not what has me so antsy. What has me at a loss is for the first time in months I have no race to train for, nothing to shoot for. Sure the Saint George Marathon is on my list as I plan on running it next year but that isn't until October of 2011 almost 11 months away. Every single training plan I have seen for a marathon is 4-5 months long. That means until May of next year I have nothing to train for, no 5k's (the first thing I trained for in August), no 12k's, and no Half Marathons to run.

So what is a runner to do, what does one do with the down time, the lull in between races. Do I still continue to run my long runs every weekend like I have the last two months as I prepared for my halfer. Running three miles a day is a given as I love to run but where do I go from there.

I think I might work on my speed work and maintaining my runs without having to walk. My goal is still to run the Swiss Days 5k and I want a time under 25 minutes, heck I might even shoot for 22 minutes. But will the speed work throw me off my ultimate goal of running a marathon. I find myself at a loss but forget all that nonsense its time to run :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Running without a net

When I was twenty years old I first tried my hand at running, I ran because I felt overweight when I was probably the lowest weight of my adult life. At the time my running consisted of a two mile run that was mostly downhill for the first half and then uphill home. Regardless to say I ran the first half and walked most of the second half home. Two miles seemed like a good distance and I was still overcoming those horrible Junior High PE moments where they had you run a mile and you came in with the embarrassing 12 minute mile. So to run that first mile in 8-9 minutes was a major accomplishment and I strove for nothing more than that. After awhile my running routine fell off and it became that always trying where you would run for a week or two then four months would pass and you would try again. Soon I became so heavy that the running turned to walking and then the walking turned to nothing.

Fast forward a decade and I found myself seriously obese maybe morbidly so and out of shape so much so I could barely run the ninety feet from home plate to first base in a kickball league I signed up for but despite this I began in earnest once more. I didn't start with running instead just like a toddler I had to master walking again. Walking a mile and half left me with such bad shin splints that I was incapacitated for a half hour afterwords. But I kept on plugging and moving forward determined to lose the weight once and for all and be able to run once more. My running began with me just sprinting the last block home of my then daily 1.6 mile walk. Then it progressed to not just running to my door but running an extra block to check the mail. Eventually after watching an episode of the Biggest Loser and seeing Michael a contestant managing to run a 5k well over 100 pounds more than I weighed I managed to master the mile once more. Running that whole first mile and then managing my first 5k ever on the treadmill. The pride in finishing a 5k was enormous and left me with a taste for wanting to do more, not longer distances but just to have better and faster times at that 3.1 mile distance run. I even dared several 10k's and soon found myself addicted to running, I had never run more than two miles when I had been at my peak physical condition and weight of my adult life and here I was still a little heavy and I was running 3 miles and 6 miles and learning the metric system to boot.

I signed up for my first 5k, the Washington County Fair 5k and ran it with a time of 32:16 what a great feeling it was like walking on clouds, gone was that fat man who struggled walking a mile and half and now here I was an official 5k runner. After finishing they handed out fliers to the Peach Days 12k in just 3 weeks. What are you thinking there is no way you are ready for something as long as a 12k in just three weeks, that is 7.44 miles, these thoughts bombarded my brain. But I had been running a 5k 4-5 times a week now and while it was exciting to run my first official race it really hadn't challenged me. I ran a few more 10ks in the upcoming weeks to my first real running challenge but because I had not ran that distance yet I found myself super nervous the morning of. I managed to eat half an apple and that was it and around mile 7 I came down with some mild muscle spasms but I wrote them off as charlie horses or something else not really knowing what they were and I was so close to the finish line I finished with ease in an 1:25:03. This was my first foray into running without a net, training on my own, and with so little knowledge that I had no idea why my muscles felt like that.

Still addicted to running I found myself signing up for another 5k the Swiss Days one in 3 weeks. While 5k's had became fairly easy someone I had run the 12k and 5k with suggested it and I couldn't help myself at shooting for the goal of under 30 minutes. I ran that 5k with a 31:15 and while my time was a whole minute better than my previous official 5k I was so mad at myself for not getting under 30 minutes I wanted to rerun the race the moment it was over (I have since ran my first 5k ever under 30 with a time of 29:49 and running 2.85 miles of it and only having to walk a .25 mile) but since the 5k's had become so easy I wanted a challenge again and I wasn't about to sign up for another 5k just so I could finish it in under 30 minutes, I decided the next 5k I would do would be the following years Swiss Days 5k again when I would shoot for an under 25 minute time or even better yet a 22 minute time.

Now I wanted something longer a half marathon, something so challenging it was daunting. I looked at several and decided to give my self a full six weeks and sign up for the Snow Canyon Half Marathon on November 6h a mostly downhill race like the Saint George Marathon I want to run in 2011. My training began with 5 mile and 8 mile runs and extended to a 10 mile run until abruptly after an 8 mile run I found myself limping and an even shorter run of 3 miles two days later left me almost incapacitated for nearly four days. I had never thought about running shoes, I was running in a very nice pair of Nike shoes and they had done so well for me. Who knew that improper shoes even if they were nice shoes could leave you limping for days, I found myself once more running without a net, not trained and not nearly knowledgeable enough. So we went out and bought me a nice pair of Nike running shoes and the difference was night and day, it was so fantastic that I ran the day I got them even though I had the flu and found myself throwing up on a business two miles into my run. But the shoes were great and made such a difference.

Because of injuries and then the flu I was only able to fully run only once in nearly ten days so after a long lay off I went for my first good run in a long time. I had planned on 3 miles but I had so much energy after 3 miles I could not stop and did 5 miles instead. Even after 5 miles I had so much energy that I found myself dancing in my living room and a wife telling me I should go run some more to burn off that energy. This taught me about tapering, wait what is tapering, it is time to recover before a long race something most runners do and something I had not given myself in months and because of my injury I had stumbled upon it like a blind man. Where is my net once more as I fall again and again.

Now with a little knowledge and preparation my half marathon quickly approached and I felt I was ready for the first time, heck I had the shoes, I knew about tapering and took three days off leading up to the race. Race day is here and I am so excited and nervous I sleep in fits and finally give up at 6:20am and get up despite the race being at 8:30 and me not having to be there tell 7:30. Very nervous and excited I find myself again without an appetite but I had read a good breakfast is important so I force down half a bowl of cereal and a banana. The race begins and I am feeling really good, I fly through the first 5k of the race and in just under 30 minutes and even after 6 miles I am still around a 10 minute mile pace. At way station at mile 7 I grab a GU, something I had researched online the day before when I saw they were offering them not knowing what it was, where oh where is my net, but having read that many people find them disgusting I pocket the GU instead thinking I will try it after the race and not throw myself off during the race. Pain sets in around mile 11 but I am still good, heck I am two miles out and feeling ok still I can fight through this. But at around mile 12 those muscle spams I got during my 12k return and not mildly like before but with a vengeance. At this point I had likely burned through every calorie in my body and my body was screaming FEED ME SEYMOUR FEED ME. So close to the finish line I am not about to give up, I run in spurts until the muscle spasms force me to walk as other runners encourage me on as I am visibly struggling. I manage to finish with a time of 2:30:35 which is great as I had been shooting for two and half hours all a long.

I am a little disappointed though as had it not been for those spasms I might have got a time under that two and half hour mark instead of just barely over it. Tired and grumpy and hurting a little I try that GU and yes it was like licking a slimy toad but the effect is almost instantaneous and I feel better like a light switch being switched on. Here I was struggling and the whole time the solution was in my pocket, where oh where have you gone net.

I am not done though not done by far, I am learning as I go and running without a net but I am loving every minute of it. I still plan to run the full marathon next October and am looking forward to my next race. I am a runner now, maybe a runner without a net but a runner still. Gone is that 415 pound man that could barely walk a mile and a half along with the 170 pounds I shed in becoming a runner. I AM A RUNNER, now help me find my net I seemed to have misplaced it somewhere.