Monday, May 31, 2010

saving my sanity, one run at a time

I'm still running.

If you follow me on Twitter or you've friended me on Facebook you already know that, of course. You've seen the RunKeeper and LoseIt! updates.

What you can't know is that I'm in another discouraged phase.

According to my scale I haven't lost any weight in two weeks. For a week or so, running wasn't working out well. Even eating has been a challenge.

What's really got me down, however, is my current job and the fact I feel stuck in it. I've been applying to one new position a week but haven't heard a thing. I know that if I persist the right one will come along, but it's hard on the soul to have my hopes dashed over and over.

Finding the motivation to run in the evenings when my days are spent on work that is more depressing than satisfying is tough. I'm always rewarded when I push myself to get out the door in the evening, but that push requires significant faith some days.

I want a new job. I want to be passionate again about my work, I want to feel valued, I want to feel alive. Running does those things, but I can't make money running.

On the other hand, I believe that if it weren't for running, I'd be seriously miserable. Running reminds me there is more to me and to my life than my job.

Running moves me forward even when I'm not doing it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blessings, disguised

How cheated do you feel with the ending of "Lost" ?
That was all the email said. It was from my brother and I received it Tuesday, two days after the finale but less than 12 hours after I'd finished watching it from my TiVo.

I wasn't surprised by his question.

My mind had wandered for just a moment during that last scene between Christian and Jack: "A lot of people are going to be pissed about this", I thought.

I remembered the early speculation that the LOSTies were all dead from the crash and the Island was some sort of Hell/Heaven/Purgatory. Such theories represented the backlash against the popularity of the show; they were a way to dismiss how passionate people were becoming about the mysteries and the characters.

Now, before me, Jack was coming to understand that he had, in fact, died. Instead of feeling cheated, however, I felt moved.

The LOST finale is one of the two most powerful pieces of pop culture I've experienced.

(The other is Truly, Madly, Deeply. Give it a go if you like tear-jerkers. And dead people.)

The finale, especially the last 20 minutes or so, as everyone comes to realize and accept their condition, resonated with me more than I ever could have anticipated. It took me back to the night I sat holding my mother's hand, at her bedside, coaxing her gently into whatever light or darkness awaited her now that her body had been irreparably damaged by cancer.

She was ready to leave and I wanted her to know I understood. I whispered to her that it was okay, she could go now, we would be alright.

Watching Christian explain to Jack that it was alright for him, too, to move on, I felt intimately connected to the message. It was profoundly true and I was astounded that someone else knew it.

Here's what else I know:

Jack died on the Island. At the moment of his death he found himself in Sideways world, believing he'd had a past that he'd never had. He had died but he wasn't ready to leave, not by himself. He needed his tribe, and they needed him. That was Christian's message.

(I loved, by the way, how the writers drew attention to Christian's full name, just before it took on its real meaning for the character - very clever!)

The scene shared by Ben and Hurley, so lovely I found myself crying again the next day as I tried to describe it, emphasized that we won't move on until we are ready. Ben wasn't prepared to leave with the others, deciding instead to 'sit for a while'. This is true with life just as it may be with death.

Season 6 gave us two stories: the end of Jack's life and the end of Jack's dying. We didn't realize we were witnessing Jack's dying until it was nearly too late to appreciate and I believe that may have trapped some viewers, giving them an opportunity to confuse themselves about what they'd witnessed.

Neither story implies that the events on that very unusual, nearly-magical Island didn't happen. They did happen, and they led to Jack's death. But the Island experience wasn't the only journey the LOST team gave us: they also gifted us with some wonderful possibilities for our own destinies.

So no, I don't feel cheated.

I feel blessed.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

live and learn

It's not a coincidence that this week has been a significant learning experience and another of the most discouraging periods in my running life.

Only once since I planned it have I completed the 33-minute run that is my most recent goal. Today I set out to run the entire thing, refusing to walk except during warm-up and cool-down.

As of today, I've attempted that run four times. Except for that one success, I've had to walk a little each time when I'm supposed to be running. This afternoon, I ran about three kilometres of it and walked the remaining two-plus.

I felt slightly nauseated as I walked, but running made me feel very weak in the legs, like there was no strength to draw from.

Most of all, I felt hungry.

In fact, for the first time I since I started this journey of fitness and weight loss, I've been hungry quite a lot this week. When I started to consider the reasons why, I couldn't see anything different. I've been eating carefully, using Lose It! to ensure my carbohydrate/protein/fat proportions were reasonable.

I have to admit, however, I've been putting more emphasis on protein lately, particularly after reading somewhere that I should be getting around 100g/day.

Not only that, but every weekend I've splurged a little. I've had Chinese food or sushi or a chicken curry dish at a local restaurant. Nothing too extravagant, but maybe it's been enough to fuel the week. Last weekend I only had a piece of chocolate cake during my brother's birthday party; not exactly enough to inspire these legs to action, I'm thinking. I didn't even share in the steaks and hamburgers; I cooked myself a chicken kabob and vegetables, instead.

So this week I've been non-stop hungry but I couldn't figure out why. I've consumed the same number of calories but food isn't filling me up. Then, last night, I ate a Lean Cuisine Meat Lasagna.

Instant satisfaction.

It was instantly clear, too: I haven't eaten pasta or rice or potatoes - nice, starchy carbs - in ages! In fact, I'd been avoiding them, thinking I'd lose weight faster.

I got on the scale this morning, by the way. I've been so damn hungry, I knew I might see exactly what I did see: zero weight lost for the week. My metabolism has slowed down to compensate.


So I was pretty down on the whole thing this morning. It was worse after another disastrous 'run'.

Still, I know I'm doing my best. And tonight I've just eaten 3/4 cup of rice and a pasta/vegetable mix I like. I cooked up a ton of extra rice and plan to use it up this week. I'll do what I have to to get myself back on track. I want to be able to run 33 minutes three times consecutively before I move up to 36 minutes.

I don't know if this will do it. I may have to make more adjustments. I know I have a lot to learn about nutrition and exercise and I'll allow myself the time I need.

I'll try not to beat myself up for having put myself in this position of weakness. I'll try not to feel discouraged at my still-lumpy body.

I'll try to remember that it can't all be downhill.

Monday, May 17, 2010

miles, shmiles

I think I ran five kilometres.

In fact, it may not have been the first time.

Saturday I officially finished the Couch to 5K program. I ran my last 30 minutes with guidance from Get Running, my favorite C25K app. It was a good run, though a little cold.

Sunday I decided to run again. I thought it would be good to get in the habit of running as close to every day as I could manage. There are people who do that, right? I'm sure I've read about people who run five miles or five kilometres every day....

I learned I wasn't anywhere near being able to run every day when I hit the 17-minute mark and had to start walking. My legs were so tired.

I tried running again after a minute or so, but it was a no-go. I walked for another two or three. Then I was able to get back to running. I finished the last kilometre or so that way.

Because I wasn't relying on Get Running anymore, I decided to try a new app. I've used Map My Run a few times online and had intended to get the paid app, but after I read some reviews at the iTunes store, I went with RunKeeper Free instead, and I had a fantastic experience with it.

In fact, I learned something significant: I was much closer to running 5k than I'd ever believed.

My route, according to Map My Run, was 1.44 miles long. I had clearly indicated that I'd gone in one direction for a length of time and then returned the same way, and that's the distance Map My Run gave me.

RunKeeper not only clarified that I'd done more than 1.44 miles, it showed me each kilometre there and back. Just check out the map above to see what I mean, then compare it with this one.

Holy crap! That's five kilometres on there! w00t!

Yes, I walked some of it, but damn, I'm close! I thought I had ages to go before I hit the 5k mark.

I'll be buying the 'pro' version of RunKeeper soon, but I'm pretty impressed with the free one. Even the RunKeeper Web site is worth a move from Map My Run; it doesn't have that horrid advertising all over it and it gives me clear maps, elevation representations, speed and pace information, and practical options to configure. Best of all, every user gets the same experience; a fee will get me more detailed reports about my fitness activities but I'm not nearly anal enough for that, yet.

By the way, the app isn't the only new technology I've added to my running experience: I dug out a heart rate monitor I'd purchased when I used to cycle regularly. It needed new batteries - and changing the one in the watch portion almost caused my head to explode - but it's given me a good idea of how much work I'm putting into the running. It's also given me a desire for a better monitor, one that can track calories - RunKeeper Free told me I'd burned 423 calories on Sunday, which sounded very familiar - but I've spent quite enough money on this activity in the last month. More gadgets and gear will have to wait.

Oh, and so will another run. But my legs will thank me for that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

one left

Today, at work, as I was passing some glassy surface, I saw my reflection.

I did this. I have created these results because of the work I've done. This is my outcome.

Specifically, what I noticed was the area around my breastbone. It's starting to have contours; I can see the shape of the bone. The fat really is leaving my body.

Sure, there are some spots that are still heavily basted. My belly, lower back and butt are going to be flabby for at least another couple of months, maybe even until the fall. But even they must be changing, judging from the way most of my pants don't fit well anymore.

This has not come from some magic trick. I have not gotten lucky. I have worked hard and I've turned my back on gorgeous donuts, my beloved french fries and especially the extra-large triple triples from Tim Horton's (450 calories each, thank you very much).

I'm 45 years old and I'm finally giving myself the body I've wanted for the last 15-20 years. It would have been so much easier to do it when I only had 10 lbs. to manage, but 30 is proving do-able, too. In fact, I may find that I only have to do 20, as the muscle weight I've gained makes 150 lbs. look much better than I would have expected. I will be re-evaluating my goal when I hit 140 lbs.

I am changed. I have had enough of the drug-like pleasure-foods. They no longer entertain me.

I can attribute my new view of junk meals to Food, Inc and to The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. Of course, I had to be open to the changes, but I've always been that. My whole life has been about doing the right thing, and when I don't do the right thing I obsess about doing it.

The physical changes are thanks to Couch to 5K. My success with Couch to 5K is very much due to the Get Running iPhone application and its developer, Benjohn Barnes. Benjohn has followed me on Twitter, commented on my blog entries and even listed my blog on the forum for Get Running. His encouragement has added real value to my experience; there is no other app that gets users such hands-on attention from its maker.

There are two friends who've had a regular and significant impact on my progress with C25K, and they're both named Jason. The younger of the two Jasons has been running for longer than I have and has encouraged me both by running races and by giving me the best mantra ever: "Just kick ass at all times."
The elder Jason (still younger than I am, of course), encouraged me by starting the C25K program after hearing me talk about it. He's just a few weeks behind me but it's such a big help to have someone to talk to about it.

I have one run left in the Couch to 5K program. I'm so grateful I've made it to this point.

Here's to kicking - and shaping - ass.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

the homestretch

I have two runs left before I graduate from the Couch to 5K program.

Yes, it's been that long since I began. I can barely believe it myself.

Tonight I ran 30 minutes for the first time. It was easy, but I wasn't expecting it to be. Much of my day had been one screwup after another, so when I got on the treadmill I kept it at 4 mph, just in case.

Speaking of the treadmill, that was one of the things that didn't go right. Here it is, almost mid-May, we've been having glorious temperatures and seem to be a full month ahead of the usual spring schedule in Nova Scotia, and today was a craptacular 8° Celsius (46°F) with gray skies and the occasional cold spit of rain.

I could have run while wearing some of my winter cycling gear but I think I would have been uncomfortable so I played it safe and stayed inside.

My last run of Week 8 was also inside, but that was because I needed a nap - as I  often do on Thursdays - to restore some of the energy that had been sucked out of me during the week at work.

Have I mentioned that my work is incredibly draining? You'd think I was a babysitter for a vampire family instead of just a product trainer.

I made another purchase towards my jogging kit, by the way:

They are Sennheiser MX85 Sport II earbuds and I like them very much. I didn't have to adjust them a single time during tonight's workout, they were comfortable, provided excellent sound, and I got them for $45 at Future Shop on Friday.

Best of all, they're sweat-proof. My original iPhone earphones do not respond well to the waterfall of moisture that comes off my noggin during a run and I got tired of hearing tunes in just one ear.

I've been thinking a lot about how to follow up C25K and my plans are currently as follows:

  • I find it tough doing that first workout after two days off so I'm going to run at least every other day.
  • I will extend my run time by 10% every week. Next week, in other words, I'll run for 33 minutes. I may stop once I reach eight hours, however. Haha.
  • I'm going to install MapMyRun on my iPhone. I've been using it online and I'd love to have it track my progress.
  • At least once a week, on one of my 'off' days, I'm going to run the nasty hill just up the road from my home. Should be good for a laugh. And for a nice ass, if I play my cards right.
  • My ultimate goal, unless I move from where I currently living, is to run the 10 miles from my home, through the main portion of Kingston, and back home via Bridge Street. I have no idea how long it would take me to reach that level of fitness.
All of this is open to change, of course. I'm nothing if not inconsistent.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

pwnasaurus rex, that's me!

No more glue!

Tonight's run was significantly easier than Sunday's. No thoughts of quitting, though it was fascinating to monitor how the level of difficulty would increase and decrease in waves. There were even short periods I found quite enjoyable!

Funnily enough, however, I didn't get much further than I did on Sunday. I'd show you the new run but Google Maps Street View is being a turd.

I may not have made much progress with my distance, but my blister has at least doubled in size. Even so, it didn't hurt as much as I ran, in part because I'd covered it with a band-aid. I'd also purchased some special socks; I'd read they'd be effective preventing blisters. They were certainly an improvement; the blister got bigger because of the stupid band-aid.

The socks, by the way, were $10 for two pair at Cleve's. Apparently Nike doesn't make them anymore (the package is dated 2007), but I'm happy enough. Besides, they seemed to be all Cleve's had.

While at Cleve's I looked for a waist pack that would hold my iPhone and a water bottle. Sunday I'd run holding each one of them. It wasn't a problem, but I preferred to have my hands free.

The store had this, for $60:

It's called the Fuel Belt Helium 4-bottle holder, if you're interested.

I wasn't paying that much for something that was way more than I needed, so I walked through the mall, checking at Rogers and The Source for armbands that would at least hold my iPhone. I figured I'd get a water bottle belt in New Minas on the weekend.

The Source had one armband for $35.


On to Zellers.

And that's where I found it:

Now, as the reviews at the above link explain, the water bottle does bounce around a lot. I managed to adjust it against my pelvic bone and found it wasn't too bad in that position, and I actually did get used to it. As for the iPhone pouch, it wasn't as well-fitted as I would have liked - the seams would make it tough to adjust the volume using the iPhone's buttons, for example - but I was able to swipe the screen even through the thick plastic window.

My only meaningful complaint about the belt is that I couldn't adjust it so that it stayed firmly in one place. I'll be playing with that a little tonight to see if I can improve it.

I paid $20 for it, however, so I will not complain. I will get as much use out of it as I can until I find something better.

Equipping myself is proving quite motivating, I must say. I've also been getting more compliments on my appearance lately, which is more encouraging than people realize.

It's exciting to be through that last phase of discouragement and I'm pleased to have made it this far through the Couch to 5K program. When I began C25K I couldn't imagine myself running 10 minutes, let alone 28.

I gave the program my faith, I got some fantastic help from the Get Running (Couch to 5K) app, and here I am. On my way to a whole new way of living and being.

Yay, me!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

the 20-minute mile

Today's run - Week 8, Day 1 - was the most significant one of all.

First of all, I ran outside for the first time.

I prepared for my adventure the same way I prepared to start Couch to 5K seven weeks ago: with a shopping trip.
At Cleve's in New Minas I got a great Saucony shirt for just $20. It's brighter and bluer than it appears in the image below, and I love it.

I also got some awesome shorts from Sportchek, also in New Minas.

I've never seen an online store include such a horrible image of a product, but there you are. What you can't see is that there are two bright squares of colour on the left side: one pink and one orange. Also, they look way better on me than they do in this image.

Hell, they looked way better than this when they were still on the hanger!

The manufacturer is Matrix, a brand I'd never heard of, but they were only $25.

With money spent, I was committed. I felt nervous about running outside - the issues I've had with moving my body in public (drunken hours on a dance floor don't count) could fill volumes - but I was determined. I felt good about the progress I've made and knew I could do it.

I was right about being able to do it; what I didn't expect was how tough it would be.

I was concerned about my pace so I used a Motion Traxx podcast to ensure I ran at about 4 mph. Even so, I'm not sure I reached that.

It turns out that running on pavement is noticeably different than running on a treadmill. I realized quickly that the treadmill had been helping me move forward and now that I was on the road, I didn't have the forward momentum I was used to. I was running but I felt like my legs were in a vat of glue.

Today's run was for 28 minutes. I've never been more eager for the lovely lady's voice on my Get Running app to tell me that I was half-finished.

The first 14 minutes were difficult. The last 14 took everything I had, or so it seemed. I wanted to walk, I wanted to quit running, but I didn't.

My friend Jason ran a 10-mile race in Philadelphia today. Thoughts of him and his accomplishment are the only reason I ran the entire 28 minutes.

I don't know if I can describe how hard it was to do what I did. My legs felt so heavy and sluggish. I developed a blister on my left foot and every step burned. I survived by getting myself from one driveway to the next. I felt like I'd never run a moment in my life before then.

Of course, I feel really, really proud. I'm determined to do it again.

I understand so much better why I haven't lost more weight. The treadmill has been deceptive. On the bright side, now that I'm outside, the strength I'll gain will be extraordinary by comparison.

Also, check out these numbers: 124, 265, 400. Any guesses as to what they are?

They are the three versions of calories I burned on my run. The first comes from Map My Run, I believe. The second is from the pedometer I wore during the run (which said I ran 2.65 miles). The final one is what the treadmill would have told me I'd burned.

I think that means I have to go with the first. Which means, in turn, that my entries in Lose It! to date have been wildly inaccurate.


I can't be too upset with the treadmill, mind you. It's always given me two calorie measurements: one for fat, one for something else. I see now I should have been going with the fat calories burned.

So I'll make the necessary adjustments.

Besides getting outside more, I have another new goal: to extend today's run further and further. Here's what it looked like, by the way:

It ain't 10 miles by any means, but the mile is mine and I'm happy to say so.