Thursday, January 27, 2011

There is no next!

My exercise and fitness have been going really well. My doctor got back to me on my blood work, and I showed improvements in all categories. He advised me to, "Keep up the good work." I have seen some great results with my weight loss, 18 pounds since late November, and I am getting very near to my weight loss goal.

So, I started thinking, "what's next?" When I reach my weight loss goal, can I start eating all those things I miss, like greasy cheeseburgers and chocolate malts? No, not if I want to keep my weight down and my liver healthy. Plus, those things don't make me feel as good as they used to. Can I start working out less? No, not if I want to keep the weight off and achieve all of the fitness goals and races that I have set for myself. And again, I like the way working out makes me feel. Can I sleep past 4:30am? No, not if I want to keep working out and spend valuable time with my family.

That is when I came to the realization that there is no next! I have chosen this new healthy lifestyle because of the way it makes me feel and the health that it gives to my body and mind. When I do reach my weight goals, I may miss a workout or two, but I am not going to plan for it and I am certainly not going to feel good about it. I may splurge on some of my favorite foods, but I am not going to do it with regularity because it sometimes it makes me sick. This is my new life, and I am going to cherish it. If I don't have a weight goal in mind, I will find new challenges. I will continue to perform in races and rides, and I hope to improve on my times and speeds. I may even branch out into some new adventures, things incorporating my health and fitness with other parts of my life or goals that I have.

Maybe part of me wishes that I could go back to living the way I used to, while still maintaining my health and fitness, but my past has shown me that is impossible. So I am happy about my choices to live a healthier life. I will stop concerning myself with what might be next, and worry more about what I am doing today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Can cockroaches have heart attacks?

So, I have these huge cockroaches at my work. It's no big deal, and it is not surprising being that I work in the basement of a very old building. What is surprising is the size of these things. It is not uncommon to find a roach 2 inches in length. Most often I see these things in or near the guys bathroom. I avoid them if possible and step on them rarely, as I really cannot stand the crunching sound under my foot. Today, as I strolled towards the urinal in the men's bathroom, I came across one of these huge roaches. Avoiding this thing was impossible, so I simply kicked the thing to the side and went about my business. The roach ended up on its back and start flailing and kicking its legs and antennas, frantically attempting to roll back on to its feet. Then suddenly it stopped. After I was done with my business, I strolled over to the thing to see if it was just trying to catch its breath. It wasn't trying to catch anything; it was dead. This got me to thinking, "Can cockroaches have heart attacks?"

Reading the sign above, I can only assume that roaches can get cancer, but a heart attack? And I know my particular roach was working really hard to get flipped back over, but it certainly didn't seem like enough effort to warrant a heart attack.

I do know that people can have heart attacks. There are several examples in my own family that I can point out. I went for an extra long run this morning and Katie got worried I might have had a "grabber" when I had not returned in my normal time. For a second I thought the idea absurd, but I do know better. During my bout with poor health the doctor's were very concerned that I might be having some heart trouble. Plus, no amount of physical fitness can change your genetic disposition. There are two recent examples of physically fit individuals that I have known to have heart attacks. One guy was out for his regular morning run, had a heart attack and only survived after the people who found him contacted emergency services and started immediate CPR. The other guy was a close friend of my family and the cousin to one of my very best friends. He was running the Bix 7 last year, had a heart attack and died. He wasn't much older then myself, and was probably in better shape than even I. Women are not immune either. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in America.

Thankfully, after a treadmill test and EKG my doctor's have given my heart a clean bill of health. Now it is up to me to continue to eat right, exercise, and make sure that I have regular check ups with my doctors. I encourage all of you to get your heart health checked, at the same time discuss a good exercise program with your doctor, and start eating healthier. I don't know if cockroaches have heart attacks, but I definitely know that people do, and no one wants to be found upside down, dead on the floor of the men's bathroom.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Passing Grade?

I went for some follow up blood work for my liver problems on Wednesday. I haven't even received the results, but I can tell you for sure that I am not 100%.

To prepare for the blood test, I had to fast for 12 hours. I did it overnight and that part was not much of a struggle. Following the blood draw, I grabbed some breakfast from Hardee's, because I was in a rush to get to work and I felt like a little splurge. Big mistake. Before I had even finished the meal, I started to feel some minor pain and discomfort from my liver area. I was not the kind of attack that used to send me to the ER; the pain intensity and duration were nowhere near as bad as I used to be. But it was noticeable and had me concerned/uncomfortable for a couple of hours. In fact, the lingering effects lasted through the entire day. No real pain to speak of, but a consistent "funny" feeling for the rest of the day.

I am very curious what the blood tests will say about my progress, and I had been feeling really good about the progress I had made. I am exercising more and eating better than I have in my entire life. I have lost 20 pounds since this whole thing started, and I really getting into good shape. But it seems as though my body was providing me with a reality check. Though I may be doing better, I am far from fully recovered. I guess I hope I am at least getting a passing grade!?

Speaking of grades, the weather gets an F! I ran outside this morning in 2 inches of snow because I could not fathom the idea of running on the treadmill again. It was not a lot of fun, and things are only supposed to get worse. The weatheman is calling for 2-3 more inches of snow followed by temps below zero and wind chills in the negative teens. At least it's not my turn to run tomorrow (I love you, honey!). I do have to consider how I will do my lunchtime walking, and more than likely I will walk indoors through the halls. I am not excited about the idea of speed walking through the halls around co-workers, but what the hell. It's better than losing a toe to frostbite.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do it for Daddy!

Often times I find myself wondering if I am a good father. Do I spend enough time with my kids? Am I too tough on my little ones? Am I a good example to them? All too often I focus on being a financial provider for my family, forgetting that there is so much more that a father needs to do. A big part of me starting to workout and eat healthy has been the hope that I will be around for my children for a very long time and that I will be an active participant in their lives for many years to come. I spend time playing Power Rangers and house with my kids. I make warm healthy meals for them everyday. But still I question if it is enough.

I know that a big part of parenting is being a participant and advisor in their activities. For me growing up, it was athletics. My father was the coach for many of my youth baseball teams, and we would often have conversations about the Bears. My father would take me to football, baseball, and basketball games, and he was a big influence and advisor for my athletic competitions throughout my life. I am sincerely trying to do the same for my kids. Both Alaric and Amara have been to Illini football, baseball, and basketball games with me and Katie. I will coach a second year of t-ball for Alaric this summer. Neither of my children show an overwhelming interest in traditional sports, and to be honest with you, I am fine with that. I want my children to be happy in whatever they do.

I have been extremely happy the influence that Katie and I have had on our children in terms of fitness. Both kids see us working out on a daily basis, giving them an understanding of exercise to stay fit. During the summer, we will all go for family bike rides, and I am very excited to have the kids riding on their own in the years to come. On several occasions, the family will have timed races. When we are inside of the house, we time each other with a stopwatch to see how fast they can run from the family room to the front door and back. In the summer we race to the neighbors sidewalk and back. And they are very enthusiastic about it, often arguing about whose turn it is to run. I am very encouraged by my children's enthusiasm for running.

I hope my children's excitement for exercise doesn't diminish. I hope I continue to be an example of health and exercise throughout their lives. I hope they will look back one day and see me as a positive influence in their lives. I hope I am a good father.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You are what you eat?

If the saying "you are what you eat" is true, then I am probably a chicken, or a turkey, or possibly a vegetable. Any way you slice it, it doesn't bode well for me.

I was intrigued by some comments on another blog that I follow, as well as some of the emails from my "weight watchers" group. People are spending a lot of time talking about what foods they are eating, and I thought I might join in on the fun. I am a very serious creature of habit (one of the reasons that my unhealthy diet has been so difficult to break) and my diet does not change dramatically from day to day. However, this consistency does give me a pretty clear idea of my caloric intake on a daily basis.

For breakfast, I will typically have one of the following meals:

1. 2 egg white omelet with vegetables, turkey sausage and reduced fat cheese, one slice of toast with Smart Balance, and half of a banana

2. breakfast burrito with 2 egg whites, veggies, turkey sausage, reduced fat cheese and salsa in a whole wheat tortilla, and half of a banana

3. one serving of old fashioned oatmeal, turkey sausage and a whole banana

I used to eat a ton of whole eggs, but when I researched further I realized that egg yolks are full of cholesterol and fat. So I cut back to egg whites. They took some getting used to, but I really enjoy them now. The turkey sausage is much lower in fat, and is soooo much better than turkey bacon. Now, some research will tell you that eating a banana every day is too much sugar, but I recently tested low for potassium and I eat the banana for that particular mineral and hope that my exercise will burn off the excess sugar.

On the weekends, I will splurge and I usually make pancakes for the family. I have been trying to sneak in some whole wheat flour to make the batter, but I think the kids are catching on.

For morning snack I always eat a piece of fruit. Usually an orange, but occasionally an apple if the kids have left me any.

For lunch I almost always have a smaller portion of whatever we had for dinner the night before. For convenience, Katie and I plan our meals this way. If perhaps there are no leftovers from the night before, I will:

1. have a salad with low fat dressing. I usually add some diced lunch meat for protein, but I have to be careful because of the sodium.

2. on rare occasions have a slim fast shake. I am not real big on this as a main source of diet, but every once in awhile the limited calories and ease make for a good lunch.

3. on even rarer occasions I will have a cup of soup, but again I have to watch the sodium

Recently, for afternoon snack, I have been eating a protein bar. They are a little heavy on the calories, but usually provide me with the energy to make it through until dinner without over-snacking. Occasionally, I will eat some carrots or celery.
Dinners are by far the most creative meal of the day. Katie and I really try and mix things up with new dishes and old favorites. However, we almost always have a lean protein, vegetable, and good carbs. Regularly occurring dishes are:

1. Tacos with ground turkey and whole wheat tortillas

2. baked chicken breast, lightly breaded with a side of veggies or a side salad

3. pork chops, same as above

4. pork or chicken stir-fry

5. whole wheat pasta with ground turkey in the sauce and a side salad

The most important thing is portion control, and saving food over for lunch the next day has helped with that. If we eat everything for dinner, somebody is going to have to make a lunch and we just don't have time for that.

If we eat out (which we do with relative frequency), I try to stick to the same plan as at home (lean protein, veggie or salad, etc.). Occasionally, I will order a salad entree, but it usually has to look really good. Sometimes when I am out, because Katie and the kids don't like like them at home, I will order some red meat (sirloin) or fish (just about any).

None of this is to say that I don't splurge, I do. For example, last night Katie went to a meeting, and the kids and I had double stuf Oreos and milk. This was a tradition that Alaric and I started for "guys' night in", but we have included Amara as she has grown. I do try to keep my splurges infrequent, and I also try to do them on Friday or Saturday, giving myself enough time to burn them off before weigh-in Wednesdays.

So that is my diet in a nutshell (Also, I keep peanuts and cashews around for emergency situations), and if you are what you eat and if I eat healthy, then I guess I can live with that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year, New Goals

One of the great things about reporting my weight every week to a group of friends and family, is that it gives me some accountability to others. Not that I am letting them down if I gain any weight, but having to post the information every week to other people makes me think harder about what numbers I have to post. Therefore, I think harder about what I am eating and my exercise.

I hope the same can be said for posting some of my health and fitness goals for 2011. If I put these goals out into the world. i should be accountable that I actually achieve them. And though it seems a little tardy to be posting my New Year's resolutions, I really don't give a crap; there are only a couple people reading this anyway.

Weight Goals:

My new "weight watchers" group has been great. The accountability, encouragement, and advice have done wonders for my weight loss goals. As I move forward, I have 2 new goals in mind for weight loss:

1. I want to lose 10 more pounds by my birthday, March 10 (mark it on your calendars!). That would put me at my first goal weight, the same one I created nearly 2 years ago, but have yet to achieve.

2. I would like to lose 10 additional pounds by June 24. That is the first day of the Bike MS ride and I would really like to see how I ride being 40lbs lighter than last year (maybe I could have out-ridden that storm). I do not know if this is a weight that I can maintain, but I think it is worth a shot.

How am I going to lose all of this weight? I would like to see if I can run 500 miles and bike 1000 miles in 2011. If I can do that, I think the weight will take care of itself.

Race goals:

April- The Illinois Marathon Relay, Katie and I are running with my sister and her boyfriend. I am super excited about running this race. The distances will be tough, but the crowd and excitement around the race are second to none.

May- The Kirby Derby, I had a great time running this race last year and would love to do it again. I am still debating if I will run the 10K to try and break my time from last year, or running the 5K and really pushing my limits of speed to see how I do.

The Sangamon Valley Bike Ride, I finally got to do this ride last year and I had a great time, even with all of the rain and getting lost, etc. Probably will do 46 miles, unless the family rides along. I will definitely have to reconsider at that point.

(possible) The Soldier Field 10 mile, I am still back and forth on this one. I would have to drive to Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend, plus Amara's birthday is that Monday. But I definitely see this distance as a new challenge for the New Year and it is tough to beat a finish line at the 50yd line of Soldier Field!

June- The Bike MS: Tour de Farms, last year was my first year at this event. The rain completely changed the dynamic, but you can certainly see how great of an event this can be. Katie has even said that she would ride a bit this year! I am still anxious to see if I can ride 175 miles in 2 days.

November- Mahomet Public Library 5K, this is the first race Katie and I ever ran. I had to miss it last year because of illness, but I am very anxious to really burn up the course on this race!

You may notice a big gap from June to November with no events scheduled. I have looked around some and have found nothing that really fits into my schedule, nor my desire for a new challenge. The dates to the Tri-Illini next fall have not been announced, and that is a possibility, but unlikely if I cannot learn how to swim by then (I hear all you need is a good wetsuit). If anybody has any recommendations for other events, please feel free to let me know.

Blog goals:

You may have noticed a regularity to my posts since December. My goals for 2011 are to post 2 times a week (every Tuesday and Thursday). If I sneak another one in every now and again, great! But with my work, home, and fitness schedule, writing a post over my lunch break on my non-walking days is about my only option.

So, that is it! I have put my goals out into the world. Now, I just need to figure how to pay for all of it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Return from Mars

I had another absolutely great run this morning. In fact it was another personal best, 4.09 miles in 28:25! That is 6:57 per mile and a full 52 seconds faster than Tuesday, which was my former personal best. I have no idea where this new found speed has come from, but I have some sneaking suspicions:

1) Working around chemicals and magnetic radiation has somehow changed me into a SUPERhuman. While my son would find this extremely cool, I still have my doubts, as I have failed to levitate several times today and my x-ray vision seems to be on the fritz.

2) My watch battery is dying, and the stopwatch feature is counting the minutes much slower than actual time. This is just too depressing to think about. Plus, my new Nike+ sportband (Thank you, Grandma!) has served as confirmation.

3) (The definitive answer) In the immortal words of Mars Blackmon, "It's gotta be the shoes!"

With the gracious Christmas gifts of my sister and in-laws (Thank you!), I was able to purchase a brand new pair (cause buying just one would be silly) of running shoes. After long and heated debate, I settled on the Brooks Trance 9. Take a look:
Pretty sweet, huh?! When I arrived at the store,I was pretty sure that I was just going to get the same shoe that I had been running with for 2 years, the Asics Kayanu(sp?). It has been a great shoe for me, and I was completely comfortable with it. The salespeople were extremely knowledgeable, and were able to show me in graphic detail just how bad my flat feet are. But there was hope! They brought out 10 different pairs of shoes, in all kinds of shapes and sizes. As I was nearing the end we tried on the newest Asics, and I was immediately sold. It felt comfortable (or maybe just familiar) and there was little doubt that this would be my shoe again. But the salesperson had one more shoe for me to try on, the Trance. Grudgingly, I tried the shoe on, and was immediately taken aback. I didn't know how, but the Trance was actually more comfortable than the Asics. I ran on the treadmill for a couple of minutes and my life was completely changed. The Trance was going to be my new running shoe. The salesperson suggested that I try on one shoe of each the Trance and the Asics. So again I obliged, but only for a few seconds. I turned to the sales guy and said, "There is no doubt. The Trance is just more comfortable." I could not be happier with my decision! Not only are these shoes more comfortable, but they have tapped into some sort of "speed well" that has lied dormant for the past 2 years. Two personal bests down; sub-orbital flight to go!

Lastly, there is a (only slight) possibility that all of the hard work and weight loss (weighed in at 195 on Wednesday) has improved my runs times. But I am going to need to see a lot more empirical evidence before I am gonna believe that one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Meteors and Rockets

As I have stated in many previous posts, Katie and I run very early in the morning; waking up most days at 4:30am. I am usually on the road running by 5am (sometimes earlier, depending on my ability to move my bowels in the wee hours of the morning). In most any season, it is still dark out at this time. In the wintertime, such as it is, it is really dark out. And in the small town that I live in, you don't see much in these dark conditions. Occasionally, I pass by another runner, and usually the paper "boys" are out running their routes. But this morning I got to see something pretty rare, a shooting star!

I actually saw 2 shooting stars. The first one was while I was running on Kratz Road. I just caught a glimpse of it, and was initially very confused about what I had seen. I was literally thinking to myself, "What the hell was that?" I thought maybe it was a bat catching a reflection of the streetlight, until I realized there was no light that high in the sky. Little things like shooting stars and miscellaneous critters make my runs very entertaining. The second shooting star was while I was crossing Monticello Road on Chaucer. There was no doubt about this one, and it served as verification for the identity of the earlier sighting.

It was amazing that I was able to see anything at all, not because it was so dark, but because I was running so fast; I was flying. Seriously, I had my best run in probably 6 months. I ran 4.09 miles in 29:17. I could not believe it was happening. I ran a very strong first mile, but did not check my watch. No real reason other than I didn't want to feel defeated if what felt like a strong mile was really a weak one. I kept pushing pretty hard over the second mile, but things were going pretty easily, and I was feeling really good. Finally I looked at my watch, and I had done 2 miles in 14:23. I actually had to do a double take, just to be sure. I started to panic a little bit. I wasn't really sure why I was running so well, but I was having the run of the year! Over the next mile, my legs started to feel the pressure. A little ache in my hip (I blame the Ab Ripper X) and my quads were starting to burn, but I kept pushing. I was hoping for a 22 minute 3 miles, and was completely blown out of the water when I turned over 3 miles at 21:30. I figured the last mile plus was going to be tough, and it was. However, it also seemed to go pretty easily as I got more and more excited about my time. I put the hammer down (as much as a guy like me puts the hammer down) over the last quarter mile, and could not believe my eyes when I crossed my driveway. It was a great run and I am very excited still.

Now, I hope that transfers into some big weight loss, but overall I have kept things pretty even over the last couple weeks of the holidays. In fact, I think I will be weighing in at 195, which is exactly what I weighed on Dec. 23. Not bad if I do say so myself.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to a great year as I am.