Monday, May 28, 2012

Weight Loss Report: Month 1

A short while ago, I blogged about some weight loss goals I wanted to achieve before the end of this year.  Believe it or not it has been a month since then and I feel the need to reveal my progress report so far.  I have such a long way to go on this little journey that I have to celebrate the little victories along the way or else I might get discouraged.  It helps that I have several friends that have already reached the conclusion of their weight loss journey, so I have been spying on them for motivation.  Yes Tracie S., Jenny B. and Charles E., I am watching you but not at all in a bad way.  Looking to pampered celebrities and unrealistic fitness fads for weight loss does not inspire me.  It's the everyday people that bowl me over as they win their bulge battles while having to get up and go to work all day and manage family and real life pressures.  I see you and I salute you average-everyday-weight-loss-winner-guy.  If you are a fan of the old Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" radio commercials, you will understand that reference.

I am still too embarrassed to reveal my actual weight, but I will tell you I am 5.5 pounds lighter than I was this time a month ago.  Yes, I am making a big deal about that extra ".5" because no matter how small a victory it may be, I still earned it and plan to roll with it, baby.  My intermittent mini-goal was to hit the 5 pounds benchmark by the first of every month until I reach my overall goal.  June 1st is still a week away, so I hit this marker ahead of schedule.  Score one for me!  You can't see the lost pounds much.  No one else has really noticed it either, but I don't care.  I can feel it and it feels just as good as any race medal I have earned over the years.  What exactly did the missing 5 pounds do for me?  For one, I have been able to button up all the pants in my current size comfortably for the first time in a while.  There was no way I was going to go up another pants size.  My little weight loss venture started because I was no longer able to get the button on my pants fly to meet the hole on the other side and zip up without a little sucking in.  Thankfully this is no longer a problem.

One of my other goals was to add back strength training to my workout rotation.  Why did I stop weight training in the first place?  Oh yeah, because I hate going to the gym.  Aside from going to a good yoga class, I don't like being in a closed in space when I am sweaty.  Call me a little neurotic, but sweaty bodies belong outdoors in fresh air.  The worst time of day for me to go to the gym and get on a cardio machine is during that 6pm hour when it is packed with people like myself that come there after work to sweat out all the day's stress, meals and office aromas in a closed space of recirculated air.  Their body odor is a non-attractive mix of everybody they encountered that day and their hot breath smells of everything they digested.  Yuck!

Although I complain about it, I realize it is not their fault.  It is my own little pet peeve to overcome.  So to soften the blow of returning to a consistent gym routine, I have opted to go in the wee hours of the morning when it is completely empty of everything.  When I say early, I mean early.  Twice a week my alarm clock goes off earlier than any sane individual wakes up and I am in the gym about ten minutes after that.  My gym of choice (not my usual gym) is located one red light away from my house, so the lack of traffic is wonderfully predictable at that hour.  Once I am there, the familiarity of the free weights and hammer strength machines comes back to me and my competitive edge takes over.  It is hard to get distracted when the only people in the gym that early are the cleaning crew and the lady at the front desk.  Without any distractions, I have remained fairly focused during those early morning excursions thank Goodness.  The results of this effort should start to become visible after another 5 pounds or so comes off.

Weight loss fads really piss me off.  People tend to get all excited about whatever the latest diet fad may be and follow it to the letter.  They buy the books, the DVDs and make the creator of the diet a billionaire success story.  As soon as they reach their weight loss goal, they go back to eating crap and gain every single pound right back plus a few extra for good measure.  Fads have never worked for me, mostly because I hate doing what everyone else is doing.  My diet that has worked for me so far is broken down into three simple rules that I can live with long term.  First, I eat more whole foods and less processed foods.  That means I actually have to cook and prepare my meals ahead of time so I don't fall prey to the vending machine devil.  I carry an insulated lunch bag everywhere so I can eat on the go.  Second, I had to cut waaay back on my sugar intake.  Being the sugar addict that I am, this means I had to upgrade my drinking habits, breakfast choices, and my Starbucks options to accomodate lower sugar alternatives.  Third, I had to eat more lean protein.  My old vegetarian habits die hard, because I don't usually eat meat with every meal.  However now there is a serving of fish or chicken breast with lunch and dinner each day.  In addition to all this I eat a small meal every 2 to 3 hours (about 6 times a day), so hunger is a non-issue. 

This is nothing earth shattering or unique.  It is good old fashioned Weight Loss:101.  In month 2, I plan to change a few things.  My weight training will go up to three sessions a week and my cardio will become high intensity intervals.  The diet will continue on as-is and hopefully the sugar cravings will eventually disappear (yeah, right!).  Let's make a date to meet back here in a month and by then I hope to be able to announce additional 5 pound loss.  It is going on my calendar as a real appointment, so my super anal organized side will not allow me to break it.  Whether it all goes well or not during this second month, I promise to be honest about my efforts here so I can be honest with myself about what the next chapter will be.  Here's to hoping and working towards the best posible outcome.  Talk to you then.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spare Me

I once read one of those cute inspirational quotes that got my attention immediately.  Of course my memory is far from accurate about most things.  As I loosely recall its meaning it went something like this, "What you do in your spare time should be what you are doing full time".  Whoever wrote it probably had it phrased far better than the way I remember it.  However, it is not the verbiage that hooked me, but instead its meaning.  What some of us do in our full time jobs, we exert much effort on weekends and vacations to escape from them.  Our spare time activities are the things we escape to.  Big difference.  I am not talking about the mindless doodling we do on scratch papers when we are forced to sit through boring staff meetings or the hours we waste away watching reality crap on the boob-tube.  I am talking about the things we rearrange our weekend schedules for so we carve out time for that special "me" time that truly brings us joy.  The activity that causes us to walk away at its conclusion feeling a little lighter and rejuvenated.

One of my great fortunes in this life has been that my career choice has allowed me a lot of extra time to explore interests outside of work.  I finish my day job responsibilities early enough in the afternoon that I have time to do my consulting services on the side and still coach my girls running club twice a week.  Most of my running trips with my good girlfriends usually fall on long holiday weekends, so the time away from my three guys at home is minimal.  It is a charmed life by my standards and I give thanks for every blessing, big and small.  Lately however, I have been considering change.  Me? Change?  Yep, but don't get ahead of the story.  I am only thinking about it at this point.  I never expected to stay in only career my entire working life.  The hope was that I would evolve as I would age, with my interests and experiences swaying me in the next direction I would take.  My bud Steph and I have been mulling over several ideas about what the next phase of our lives will look like, career wise.  We have considered franchises, quirky mobile services, and any other practical inventions that busy mother runners like ourselves would use.  The problem is not coming up with ideas.  We have plenty of ideas.  The problem is narrowing down the focus to something we would truly love to do full time.  Again, big difference.

Last weekend we stood on the sidelines of Ironman Texas, while our friend Jenny took on the greatest physical challenge of her life.  The 140.6 mile course she tackled (and conquered) took months of strenuous training that made my rooty-poot marathon training look like a trip to Disneyland.  These regular folks transformed themselves into mega athletes as they trained their bodies to complete the 2.4 mile open water swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.  Nobody attempts an Iron distance on a whim.  They do it because something intrinsic tells them they can do it.  Their will is stronger than the task itself.  Their extreme love for the sport overrides the difficulty it takes to train for so many months to achieve a goal most of us would rather run away from.  It was not surprising to see so many of those triathletes cross that finish line covered equally in sweat and tears as their massive goal was achieved.  I left that event shaking my head in disbelief that these people were able to stay dedicated to their training for so many months just to let it all ride on their performance, good or bad, on this one single day.  They did not do it just for the hell of it.  It had to be for the love of it.

What do I love to do so much that I am willing to sacrifice for it without any promise of tangible rewards or huge financial gains?  What do I escape to when I am trying to escape from other responsibilities?  Where do my natural talents take over when my years of formal education and training begin to fade?  These questions have been bouncing around in my head for a while now.  Quite frankly they have crowded my every waking thought for the past week since our Ironman outing last weekend.  Those darn triathletes have me questioning if just about anything is a possibility.  They were all just regular Joes like me once but now they are accomplished Ironmen (and women!).  They turned their love for competition into a grand life achievement that no one can ever take away from them.  There was no money and no prizes at the end of their Iron distance experience, but they walked away from that race no doubt feeling that anything was indeed possible.  For one incredible day, their spare time activity was on full display for all us to admire.  Regardless of the pain and soreness they felt after completing that race, I will bet they only took a couple of days off from the sport before they hopped back on their bikes again in search of an open road.  They love the activity too much to have too much time away from it.  Is it possible to turn your unapologetic love of something into what you do full time?  Is it selfish and simply naive to seek this out at all?  There I go again with the endless questions.  Forgive me.  This quandary is the grown up equivalent of me wanting my cake and eating it too.

When work and home duties are neatly tucked away for the week, my spare time is spent either reading, writing or running.  If I don't feed the need to do these things regularly, my spirit becomes restless and weighted until I seek them out with a vengeance.  I escape to them feverishly when I have no one to answer to and nothing to account for.  If these are the things that keep me happily nourished, then surely I can figure out a way to bring them out of my spare time and into my full time.  It is like piecing a puzzle together, trying to come up with career options that fit all the elements together in a new nice neat order.  All this illustrates my point of how difficult it is to figure out my next phase when my interests are so scattered.  Who knows what ideas will finally come together when my reinvention is complete.  The top of my resume' should read something like "yoga-loving reader/writer seeks running adventures with scheduled breaks for coffee and spa pedicures".  Recruiters would beat down my door for the chance to hire me, right?  I will get back to you with a full update if I ever find a job that fits this very specific description.  Besides, you never know what possibilities are waiting when you spare the time to carve them into reality.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Goal Tending

It is that time of year when I start getting restless and start looking way down the calendar to which races I want to tackle in the upcoming season.  If you are unfamiliar with the season to which I am referring, it is the Houston marathon season.  Because of the oppressive temperatures and humidity, the bulk of the Houston marathon season is scheduled for the cooler months (October through March) when we enjoy a climate that becomes very dry and temps fall to anything below 70 degrees.  It makes for very pleasant conditions on race day, but it causes us to do most of our heavy training runs during the heat of the summer.  The marathon season was a bit abbreviated for me last year because of a multitude of other things going on in my world.  Everything turned out wonderfully in the end and I give thanks just for being at the start line of a few of my favorite races.  I had no goals for any PR's, or personal records.  Just being able to run a little and land a couple of race entries at the last minute was good enough for me.

This year is very different.  I am very different.  As I glance at the calendar, it must be noted that I am six months away from my 40th birthday and I am actually excited about it.  Who would have thought I would be happy about getting older?  I am not a big "birthday" kind of person.  Usually I prefer to mark the passing of each year in a low key fashion.  Dinner with a margarita and a red velvet cake chaser is plenty.  However this year, there are a few goals I want to accomplish by the time my clock strikes "40".  The last year was spent with me and my little clan being happy that we were able to simply exist in good health.  Everything else was gravy.  However going forward, the need to make the most of my time is beginning to gnaw at me.  I want to do more.  I want to do better.  Here is a list of the goals I want to achieve during this upcoming race season and before I face those birthday candles again:

  1. Goal Weight:  Have I not been struggling with this one waaaay too long?  Even I am sick of hearing myself whine endlessly about my weight gain over the last few years.  As I type this, I am officially at my all time heaviest weight.  Of course I'm not going to reveal that number to everyone out in the open (yeah right!), but I will promise you that I won't remain at this number much longer.  My big bad monster to overcome is/was/always will be my poor dietary habits.  My sugar addiction and mindless snacking are out of control.  I know how to follow a healthy diet and lean out with regular strength training.  I have done it before and I will be get there again.  My goal is to shrink 5lbs each month until my first major race of the season, which will be in October.    
  2. Strength Training:  While I am talking about the state of my body, why not tack on the fact that it has lost all remnants of its past muscle tone glory.  There was once a time when I was able to strike a good balance between my running and strength training workouts without missing a beat.  I took more care in building strength and lean muscle that enhanced my running and I was stronger overall as a result.  Less time was wasted and I felt more accomplished at the end of each visit to the gym.  My goal is to maintain a regular strength training regime with a minimum of two weight lifting workouts per week until my birthday rolls around.
  3. Speed Training:  Ugh!  The very thought of doing laps around a track makes me shudder.  If I've said it once, I've screamed it a million times - I HATE SPEED WORK!  But...and it is a big "but"...I want to get faster.  My running has suffered over the last three or so seasons because of my seemingly allergic reaction to doing any form of speed training.  All of my running time lately has been spent chatting and socializing with my buds, on runs held at a leisurely pace.  I am the slowest runner in the pack.  Although these social runs have been great for my spirit, my lack of track work has caused me to fall to my absolute slowest pace ever.  I was running faster than I am now when I just a newbie training for my first 10K.  My goal is to complete one speed workout per week until race season starts.
  4. Personal Record:  I plan to avoid full marathons this season and instead aim for several half marathons.  Because of all the above mentioned goals I have set, I don't want the distraction of having to schedule 18 and 21 mile runs into the mix.  The half-marathon distance (13.1) will have to do for this season's list of races.  Don't be fooled into thinking I am opting for the easy route.  I actually want to PR this season.  My personal best time in a half marathon is 2:13.  Sure it is mediocre and average by some standards, but it is the best I've done so far.  I want to do better than that this year.  My goal, with the help of  regular speed workouts, is to set a new half marathon PR this season.
  5. Run For A Reason:  The Houston Marathon has a "hero" option for runners to add to their race registration.  It is called "Run For A Reason" which allows runners to raise funds for one of the officially selected charities of the marathon organization.  One of the official charities is especially near and dear to my heart.  The Todd Krampitz Foundation was founded in memory of it's namesake as a means to raise awareness about organ donation.  I found out about this group for the first time while running the Houston half marathon last year.  For a couple of minutes, I had the pleasure of running along side two chipper young ladies in their bright green TKFoundation shirts while they carried a huge green flag advertising the benefits of organ donation.  Little did they know, I had already lived through the before and after of my beloved husband's successful kidney transplant.  Their actions that cold morning hit me deep in my spirit and I plan to join them in those efforts when I run the Houston half marathon this year.  My goal is to raise $350 while I train for the Houston half marathon that will be donated to the TKFoundation.

Well, there you have it.  If you read through that long "to-do" list and stayed awake, you deserve a cookie.  I won't be able to join in that cookie celebration because I have already started on the diet goal this past week.  You know the drill...more whole foods, less processed foods and less sugar altogether.  I am already down 1.5lbs and I plan to add to it as the weeks go by.  Wish me luck and drop me a line of encouragement if you catch me slacking.  Trust me, I will need it!