Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Food as Fuel

It's no secret that on my get-healthy journey my relationship to food has evolved. It started out pretty simple: Cut calories, reduce junk food intake, eat more fresh foods. And, at the time, that was good enough. I was seeing results.

Fast forward to present day. My activity level has increased drastically since last year at this time. The introduction of longer, more intense workouts has changed my dietary needs. A couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to feel dizzy during my strength circuit workout. When I evaluated things afterward, I realized that I'd only consumed about 400 calories up to that point in the day. I'm an evening eater, so I'd developed the habit of saving most of my calories for dinner and a snack/dessert. Clearly, this strategy wasn't going to cut it anymore. It's tough to go out on a successful run or kill a strength training session when your body has no fuel to go on. Duh--right?

So, I've been working on changing my relationship to food yet my body what it needs to do the work I'm asking of it. This is happening none to soon as I'm starting official marathon training in a week and a half! The major change I've made is spreading my calories out throughout the day better. I still eat my low cal breakfast and lunch, but I've added in a small mid-morning snack (usually a small apple or handful of grapes) and a pre-workout snack (I'm a huge fan of a banana or a spoonful of peanut butter prior to a run). This has forced me to work harder at planning healthier dinners, which benefits both B. and me. A sugar-free real fruit popsicle or a pudding cup tops out my night. And, if all goes well, I'm still within my calorie allowance for the day.

So, instead of thinking of food only in terms of calories and how it affects my weight loss, I'm focusing on food as fuel for my activities, while still being mindful of not over-consuming. This also applies to food/beverages that hinder my fitness goals...The girl who used to love a bottle of wine or two on a weekend night barely drinks one glass every couple of weeks now. I also avoid caffeine on days I run (the better to focus on hydration). And, I'm (trying) to limit dairy other than yogurt b/c it seems to affect my allergies (weird but true)...This one's tough as a frozen custard is my favorite thing in the world...sigh.

Summer has been a great time to start changing my eating habits. The availability of fresh fruits and veggies makes it easy to get more fiber, and because they're mostly low cal, you can really fill up on them. I've also learned to love protein in the form of peanut butter, hummus, beans, etc. By the time fall/winter rolls around and my desire for comfort foods increases, hopefully these new habits will be solid.

It's nice to feel like I'm not starving until dinner time. It's nice to go on a run and not collapse when I get home. I've noticed an improvement in strength both during my strength training sessions (I can do most of No More Trouble Zones with 8 lb weights now!) and during runs (the local hills are getting easier and easier). I'm sure marathon training will require further tweaks to this new food philosophy. I'm trying not to obsess about how this might affect the loss of my last 8 stubborn pounds. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, May 24, 2010


Remember these lovelies I bought back in January?

Now, they look a little more like this:

The color was my greatest concern about the shoes when I bought them. My old running shoes were black and despite being pretty beat-up, they still looked clean. The mesh portion of my new shoes has gone from gleaming white to dingy gray. What's a girl to do?

I've done the prerequisite Googling only to find a lot of contradictory information. One site will say to put them in the washing machine while another will say that's the worst possible thing to do. Another said the dishwasher was a good way to clean running shoes...but the idea of shoes in the same machine we clean our eating utensils just seems gross (and not much better than a washing machine if it's indeed so bad to do that).

To this point I've taken a wash cloth to the leather parts, but that hasn't done much good for the mesh areas. I feel like getting them soaking wet is a bad idea for preserving the integrity of the shoe. I paid a pretty penny for these, so I'd like them to last that full 300 miles if possible. But, who wants to run in grungy shoes?

So, I turn to you, fellow runners...How do you keep your good running shoes clean? Any techniques, tips, or tricks?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Questioning the Biggest Loser Model

*Update* -- Turns out I didn't get the Target bike. I took B. with me to check it out since he's the cyclist in the family. He showed me several elements of the bike that weren't particularly well made and informed me that when bikes like these break, they're done. It costs way more to fix them than they're worth...So, I'm going to save my pennies a little longer and get a bike from a bike store where they'll custom size it and do all the maintenance.

On to the topic of the day...Last night, I was doing my usual Wednesday night long-ish run. It was one of those runs that reminds you what it felt like to run when you first started out. I think it was a combination of fatigue and allergies, but my legs felt like lead, and it was hard to breathe. So, about 4 miles in, I was desperately trying to get my mind off my discomfort and started thinking about the Biggest Loser Marathon episode I'd finally gotten around to watching on Tivo yesterday.

Whenever I see it, my first response is, "Well, if those people can do a marathon, it looks good for me..." But during this season's episode, I was struck by the ridiculousness of asking people who have only recently become active to complete a marathon. Granted, the contestants aren't required to run, although many of them do run at least part of it. During the pre-race segment, I watched Daris put on a knee brace and say, "This is what training too hard gets you." Duh. Even experienced runners usually spend more than 4 weeks prepping for a marathon. It seems like the show is risking the orthopedic health of the contestants for the drama of a long race.

I was also very surprised by the state of the former contestants who joined this season's final four at different points in the run. With the exception of the petite dark-haired woman, they were all quite a bit larger now than in the clips they showed of their particular season finale show. It got me thinking that they must have been working themselves silly and restricting their calories to the extreme to get that thin for the finale--something that was unsustainable in the long term. I've only watched the past two seasons of the show, and I do like watching, although sometimes I'm not sure why. I do enjoying hearing the contestants personal stories and seeing them take control of their lives. One major thing I don't like is the way weight loss is obtained. While the weight loss the contestants make in the 5 months or so of the show is dramatic and, on some level, inspiring, I don't think it's the healthiest.

Take for example, Koli (and even Sam while he was on the show). Once they started getting to a reasonable weight, they were in it for the money, whether they still "needed to be there" or not. There was more than one instance of footage of them working out at all hours of the night to burn extra calories. And, when he went home, Koli found out how hard it was and went to another training camp in Las Vegas. The show is setting up an abnormal expectation. People don't have the leisure to work out like that in the real world. To me, that will inevitably lead to either an unhealthy obsession with exercise or weight gain.

As far as injuries, I hate the footage of Jillian pushing someone to keep running when they're physically exhausted that ends with them falling and skidding off the back of the treadmill. That would be an injury risk for a fit person whose joints aren't already under extreme stress. When Ashley fell of the treadmill at at least two different times I can recall earlier in the season, I couldn't believe that her knees/ankles were still in working order when she got up. I know Jillian and Bob are professional trainers and there are doctors monitoring the contestants, but I feel like safety is sometimes pushed to the limits for the excitement factor the producers want to see.

The changes I'd make to the show would make for terrible television (nothing like reality tv as we know it). I'd take away those stupid temptations and even the prize money (saving your life is a pretty good prize). I'd lose the concept of voting people off. It undermines the support system they're encouraged to develop by turning it into a back-stabbing drama-fest. I think there should be group and individual therapy sessions so they can figure out why they're unhealthy instead of having Jillian give them her oversimplified cliches about being unhappy with themselves. There would be more segments about teaching them to shop and cook and eat out. The workouts would be tough but focus on listening to their body/knowing physical limits and extending those limits safely without over training. And, if anyone has to go home at all, it wouldn't be the one who didn't lose enough weight...People who are losing weight are doing fine. The person who's still struggling needs to stay in the supportive, structured environment. My show would be more like Intervention than the a reality tv game show. Like, I said, really boring television, but probably more helpful for the morbidly obese than the equivalent of crash weight loss.

Anyway, that's my rant for the day...

What do you think? Are you a fan of the Biggest Loser?
How do you feel about their methods?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cherry Blossoms on Wheels

I know this is technically a running blog, but I dream of riding a bike for cardio on days I don't run or when my knees just need a break from running.

I saw this one in Target recently. It's not fancy. I won't be riding it in any races. But, it's reasonably priced (for someone who will probably ride casually and only occasionally), and I think I'm going to go purchase it later this week.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Just a Little Something

It's been raining for like a week straight...maybe more. I need a little sunshine!

Since I've gotten in good shape, I haven't ever run just one mile. I always run at minimum three. So I have no idea how fast I am. Of course, I could estimate from my splits on longer runs (usually around 9:30-10:00), but I have this fantasy that if I had only one single mile to run that I could really blow it out the water...relatively speaking. I dream of a sub 8 minute mile. To that end, I think I'm going to sign up for Big River Running's Macklind Mile on July 4th. It'll take mere minutes of my holiday (the dollar amount it will cost to sign up is actually higher than the amount of time it should take to finish...) and I need some races to be excited about between now and October.

I'd like to blog a little more and further procrastinate on doing an exercise dvd...I'd like to complain about how difficult it's been for me to workout and eat right lately and make a hundred excuses as to why. But I'm not. I'm going to get up and make at least one good choice today. Here's to good choice #1--may there be more to follow.

How fast can you run 1 mile?
Any of my StL peeps want to join me for 1 quick mile on 7/4?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quest for Shorts

When I went running on Monday evening, it was in the low 80's. I wasn't too hot, but I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to feel the wind on my legs. Even more so this summer when the Midwest gets all hot and humid. Maybe it was time to look into getting some shorts.

I've previously avoided shorts for running because a.) my legs were flabby, and b.) all the shorts I had rode up and I spent the whole time yanking them back down. But, times have changed. My thighs are far less jiggly (dare I say there's even some muscle tone). However, no matter how much smaller my legs have gotten, my upper thighs are still dangerously close together, and I was worried that shorts would still sneak up. There's also the issue of their ghostly whiteness, but that's another blog...

I'd already done some research on the subject of good running shorts, read all sorts of reviews in running magazines, websites, etc. The pair with the best reviews consistently was Nike Tempo Shorts:

After work, I stopped at Sports Authority to pick up a pair. I tried on both size medium and large. One of the articles I'd read said to make sure there was about half an inch of room in the crotch but no more. This was pretty accurate for the size medium, but there didn't seem to be much room in the legs. They just felt too small. I remembered reading in a customer review that these ran small, so I tried on the large. With these, there was definitely more than half an inch room, but the legs felt much more comfortable. I jogged in place in the dressing room, and it seemed like a win. No bunching. They were also on sale for $24, so I brought them home.

I was planning a 7 mile run and decided to try them out. In the future, I will try out shorts on much shorter runs. Much much shorter runs...

My first impression was, "OMG, what is that jiggling??" Apparently, compression tights, well, compress the wobble. So much so that I was convinced it no longer existed. But, I'm here to tell you, it's alive and well. Maybe all that shaking will work it right off like...sounds like a product from an infomercial. Anyway, I was less than a mile from the house when the bunching began. "Nooooooo!!!!" I thought. Maybe I just needed to adjust the placement of the waist band. I tend to wear things low on my hips, and maybe these needed to be up a little higher. No luck. I spent the better part of 7 miles intermittently tugging them down. Before I'd left the house, I'd also thought to swipe some Body Glide on my inner thighs, just in case. Thank goodness I did. The glide wore off before I got home, and I'm missing a thin layer of skin in that vicinity, but it could have been far worse.

And, so the quest for the holy grail of running shorts that stay put up spandex:

Anyone have insights on great running shorts for those of us with, uh "muscular" thighs?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Just Checking In...

Sorry I've been MIA for a little bit. What have I been up to?

I'm S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D! Some changes have taken place at the job, and in addition to being super busy, I'm nervous to see how it will all shake out in the end. I also do some freelance work, which has added extra pressure. And, there have been, and will be for the next month or so, lots of personal obligations to keep me on the run. My refrigerator also still cools (thankfully) but makes the most horrible sound while it's running. The good news was that the building manager showed up to take care of it fairly quickly. The bad news is that due to the recent energy rebates, Lowes can't deliver it until this Thursday. It's so loud around here I can barely think. I can only imagine what the neighbors think.

For me, stress usually translates into eating badly. I'm trying to hold it in check I swear, but I've definitely been eating more than usual and craving the usual suspects of ice cream, candy, and the like. I've come to the conclusion that I need to be drinking more water, but I'm having a really hard time choosing H2O over the caffeinated drinks these days.

I've also been struggling with motivation. My official marathon training program doesn't start until June, which is great considering all the stuff I have going on in the month of May. I'm using this time to get used to running 4 days a week and being able to strength train after two of the shorter runs like I will be doing when training starts. But, it also leaves me feeling at loose ends. I like having a goal in mind. It makes every run or strength session feel like it has a purpose (b/c I guess being healthy isn't enough of a purpose??). I've still been doing the workouts, especially with all the guilt about the bad foods I've been consuming, but I haven't been feeling inspired. Maybe I need to sign up for a 5k or something...

Anyway, excuse the downer post...I prefer to think of it as being real. It's normal to get worn down by the journey sometimes, right? The important part is figuring out how to snap out of it. That's what I'm working on now.

What works for you when you need to snap out of a workout funk?
Any tips for increasing water intake during the day?