Friday, December 19, 2008

Comments fixed

I fully intend to "go public" with this to friends and family in the new year so I finally spent some time figuring out how to let everybody- not just people registered with Blogger- be able to post comments. I truly hate having to register for stuff on the internet, and I would not want to try to force that on anyone, so I'm hoping it's fixed now.

Mental Health Day

We had a lot of bad weather- well not as bad as was forecast- this morning, and because all the local schools were closed, I decided to take today off from work. It would give me a little extra time to finish the laundry and dishes, pack, clean off the car and shovel our spot, etc. etc. Anyway, I'm definitely glad I did. I would have stressed about being ready had I gone to work, and honestly, I probably would have accomplished very little.

My hip is feeling much much better. I ran outside yesterday and have decided I need to get some of those chemical hand warmers. Most of my body was okay, but my fingers, OW!!!! Today was 6mi on the treadmill in the afternoon. Note to self: burrito + running- even 3 hours later- = a bad idea.

I'm leaving tomorrow to visit family for the holidays so posting will be sporadic. I'm so so so happy to be able see everyone and to thaw out a bit. It's hard to be so far away from family sometimes, and it's stressful to move to a new place- especially one with such a different climate. I'm happy we are here in Madison, but it will be nice to be "home" (as if I knew where that was) for a little while.

Safe travels to everyone out on the road!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ow! My hip!

So the bad news is that my hip hurts. Rewind back to Saturday when I did 12 miles wearing YakTrax, a lot of it on a very slick bike path. My hip hurt A LOT by the end of that run, but I blamed it on the YakTrax and ice throwing off my gate. I figured I'd take my regularly scheduled two days off from running and be back in business today. Well, it didn't work that way.

I got up this morning, and my hip was aching. It didn't really hurt Sunday or Monday so I'm not sure what is up with that. The air temp was -6 so I wasn't into running outside, and evidently our neighbors have started doing Bikram yoga at night so it was too hot to run inside on the treadmill. I threw everything I needed for the day together and went to the gym to do the arc trainer. I like this machine a bit better than the ellipticals they have (it takes longer for my toes to go totally numb), but I'm afraid maybe it's irritating my hip area. I've been taking Advil, and I'll definitely foam roll it once I get home. I'm supposed to do strength training tonight, but we'll see how doing squats and lunges feels. Ugh!

At least I'm not trying to train for anything. It honestly doesn't matter if I run or not this week. And the next two weeks will be on and off with exercise anyway because we'll be traveling. It would probably be better for me to ride the exercise bike or swim rather than keep elliptical-ing, but I feel anxious about not being able to work out very much over the break, and I don't want to turn 2 weeks of reduced activity into 3.

I actually haven't even tried to run on it since Saturday. Maybe tomorrow it will feel better enough that I'll try running on the treadmill at the gym. I can always switch off if it starts hurting.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ack, it's freezing!!!

I was surprised to see that it had been more than a week since I last posted. I know I was sidetracked last week, but I thought I'd gotten at least one in there.

Anyway, it is insanely cold outside right now. The high was 9 degrees, and the windchill brought it down to the -15 - -20 range. I had to cover my face with my hands to walk from the gym to work this morning. Unbelievable! This is officially the coldest day of my life up to this point. It was an especially rude reminder that it's still winter after yesterday when it got up to the high 30s, and almost all the accumulated snow melted.

Running has been going. I haven't done any specific workouts lately. Mostly just checking it off the list. But I have made a couple important decisions about the upcoming running year.

The first is that I'm going to train for the Mad City marathon this spring. I'd been going back and forth about doing a spring marathon, and if I did, which one, but it seems like the right decision. It gives me the most time to train, the most time after ARVO to get over being sick if I come back with something, and I don't have to travel for it. There's no benefit to any other spring marathon that outweighs the benefits of staying in Madison. Plus, hopefully I'll have friends here to cheer me on.

The second decision is to continue a triathlon-style training program, but to do the Your Ultimate Marathon Training program from Runners World rather than do the FIRST workouts. The FIRST workouts are... intense. And I'm sure if I could do them, I'd be in a great place to run a marathon. But I'm afraid that I'll either get hurt or get frustrated not being able to hit the paces prescribed and stop speed training. I had good results with the RW 1/2 marathon training program, and I think whatever I'll be missing out on in intensity, I'll make up for in enjoying the training process. Part of enjoying the process for me is feeling successful after a hard workout. I'm just not sure I'd ever have that feeling on FIRST, but I know I will with YUMTP.

This week is kind of weird for working out because there's no tri-club spinning. So I'm just playing it by ear. The same will be especially true next week while we are traveling and visiting family. It will be my goal to workout as much as I can, but not feel guilty when I can't.

Well, it's about time to steel myself for a frigid wait for the bus.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas is coming

I don't have much to say fitness-wise today. I did 6mi on the treadmill this morning before the roads and sidewalks were cleared. I wasn't sure if our sidewalks would be plowed over the weekend so I played it safe and stayed indoors.

Here are a few holiday pictures to help get in the spirit. A few are from our trip to Chicago. One is of the ornaments I made this year. The last is my Christmas gift from Daniel. It's a wooden nativity scene cut like a puzzle. Evidently the artist who made it is local to Madison. She'd also done a Noah's Ark, a panda, a brontosaurus, and some other neat things.

Friday, December 5, 2008

You can't always get what you want

As you can tell from my December goals, I was riding high off my race last week. I was all set to start another hard week of training, but Mother Nature and my body had other ideas.

This has been the first week of really snowy/cold/yucky weather. One of my coworkers said it's more like January right now than a typical December. It bodes well for my winter/early spring training that I'm still able to get out there and run, but I think it's to the point where I can't continue doing speed work outside. The condition of the sidewalks changes too frequently to try to run all out. And because I really felt like running outside this week I wasn't able to do any of the FIRST runs.

Also, all that fatigue I thought was going to hit me last week hit this week. My run Tuesday was very slow and tired, and, after a hard spinning workout on Wednesday, I just had to take Thursday off. I'm glad I did because I actually felt like a human being after work, and because I was actually excited to run this morning (even though it was -4 with the windchill). I also didn't go to dry land yesterday, but I'm planning to do my workout DVD after work.

I still haven't figured out what races I want to do next year, but I'm a little more hopeful about my ability to train decently during the winter. I think I'm going to revise my goal of continuing the FIRST runs and do the treadmill speed runs in my Training for Multisport Athletes book.

Recent workouts:
Mon- Spin
Tues- Run 6mi easy, workout DVD
Weds- Spin (hard)
Thurs- Rest
Fri- Run 6mi easy, workout DVD?

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Update

It's the first day of the last month of the year. 2008 has really flown by.

I think I skipped November in my monthly fitness goal update, so I'll try to go by what I remember by October/November/Fall fitness goals were.

Ran a 1:48 1/2 marathon in Oct, meeting my sub-1:55 goal.
Ran a 50:01 10k in Nov, meeting my sub-51 min but, alas, not my sub-50 min goal
Ran a 23:40 5k in Nov in the middle of the 10k above, meeting both my sub-25 and sub-24 min goals.

I've been messing around with lifting but nothing serious. If I had any goals for this, I definitely did not achieve them.

Lots of thinking, not much action. Pretty much the same as above.

December goals:
Keep up with the FIRST workouts.
Figure out what to do race-wise for next year.
Try to keep up with running and XT-ing while on Christmas break

Try out the dry-land practices for tri club
Strength train 2x per week, even if it's just push-ups while I'm away.

Commit to keeping special treats limited to special days.
On "feast" days, eat until 80% full.

Welcome to The Holidays

Thanksgiving is over, our long-awaited Chicago trip is over, and Christmas is only 24 shopping days away. Even I, the mean-old-lady-in-training who cringes at the sight of Frosty making an appearance before the day after Thanksgiving, am starting to get in the spirit.

I may not be crazy about all the craziness around the holidays, but one thing I do like is the food. And there's plenty of it. The difficulty I have is that, while Christmas and Thanksgiving are only two days of special occasion, they have a way of turning into two months worth of it. My desire to eat healthfully is always undermined by that little voice that says "Oh, but it's a special time of year. You won't get X until next year." Unfortunately, when that happens every day, treats become the norm rather than a special occasion.

Even though his message is about being frugal with money rather than with calories, The Simple Dollar has this post about how to keep treats special.

First, he asks readers to identify treat-become-habit and STOP. If Starbucks used to be a once-a-week special Saturday trip but is now firmly fixed in your morning routine, stop going to Starbucks. If eating a treat out of the break room used to be reserved for Friday afternoons and now, with the profusion of treats during the holidays, you find yourself there every afternoon, STOP.

That's the point where my inner 8-year-old starts to whine, "But you never let me have any fun. Why can't I eat a cookie at Christmas?? Everyone else is doing it. It's only this once?" And honestly, it's pretty easy to cave at that point (at least for me).

This is where The Simple Dollar's second suggestion comes in. Replace the treat-habit with something you like just as much but is more in line with your goals. Create an enjoyable morning habit that involves brewing your own coffee. Find an afternoon snack that satisfies your desire for junk in a more healthful way (maybe an apple with peanut butter).

One thing I've taken away from reading from/about people who have really good physiques is that they don't get where they are by treating diet as a form of punishment. When asked how she eats the way she does (one could call it Spartan) to keep her great figure MizFit says simply that she only eats stuff she really enjoys. She just chooses things she enjoys that fit with her goals. Clarence Bass has the same approach.

The only exception to this rule I've found is ChickenTuna who says she hates exercising and eating right but is content to do it because she wants to be hot (and she most definitely is).

Based on these ideas, my goal for this holiday season is to pick a few days to enjoy all the tasty Christmas foods but to commit to limiting myself to those few days. I think this will allow me to enjoy holiday treats even more because they will still seem special and hopefully spare me the Christmas 5.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ending the year on a high note

I ran the Berbee Derby 10k Turkey Trot this morning. I'm pretty sure this will be my last race of the year because it's going to start getting really cold pretty soon. I was honestly not that excited about the race because I've been feeling kind of "off" the last couple days (even though I've had good workouts), but I had some friends who were racing and this was to be my 8th race of 2008 so I was committed to going and running.

Probably because my last two races didn't go very well, I was even considering hanging back and running with friends just for fun, but when the race started, something in me just clicked, and I took off. I tried to tell myself not to look at my watch until the end of the race because I was sure I would be dissappointed, but I did glance down right at the 5k mark to see I'd finished 3.1 in 23:40- a big PR for me. Unfortunately I slowed way down from there. I still finished in 50:01- a PR for sure- but still in the 50's. It wasn't a perfect race, but it was scenic, fun, successful, and a great way to start Thanksgiving.

Here were my mile splits - try not to laugh too hard to my monster bonk at the end (there was a big hill, I swear it!)- 7:34, 7:42, 7:37, 8:05, 8:22, 8:53.

It was a gently rolling course, which I liked a lot and makes me start to wonder if the Country Music Marathon is right way to go. Decisions, decisions. I really need to get an idea of what I'm going to do about this whole spring marathon thing so I can plan the rest of my race schedule.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Surveying the Literature

I haven’t posted in a few days, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it. I’ve been spending a lot of time checking out other health and fitness blogs, trying to come up with a list of “required reading.” I wanted to get a mix of “sciency” and motivational, and I think I’m accomplishing that. The problem with exploring blogs is that they link to other blogs, and I have about 100 pages bookmarked as “Oh that’s neat!” that I want to come back and explore.

However, here are a few that I really enjoyed reading and seem to come up over and over again as I explore the world of health and fitness blogging.

1.Modern Forager- Definitely sciency. He seems to be a major figure in the paleo/Crossfit world of nutrition, but he has a lot of interesting posts about the “smaller side” of dieting- ie. vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

2.Mark’s Daily Apple- About an 8 on the sciency scale. His angle is primal rather than paleo fitness. Don’t ask me the difference, but you can read about it on his website. Lots of great tips on cutting back on grains.

3.Life Remix- Basically 100% motivational. This is actually a collection of blogs that focus on personal development topics- many of them health and fitness related. Probably my favorite is The Simple Dollar. On the outside this blog seems to have nothing to do with fitness, but I’d argue that many good financial habits can be extended to personal health and fitness.

4.Caustic Musings- Motivation with info, but not too sciency. She’s a young married woman with a demanding job who still puts in the hard work to have a great bod. The best feature of Caustic Musings is that she’s tried a lot of different diet and exercise programs, and has presented her results and feelings about each of them. Want to know what’s it’s like to do Body For Life? P90X? Red Carpet Ready? Turbulence Training? It’s all there.

5.MizFit- Definitely motivational. She proves that it is possible to be a working mom with awesome biceps. Lot’s of good advice for being a super fit normal person.

6.MarathonMe- Motivational- This guy runs a marathon every month. Wow. He’s in the mix because blogs 1-5 are fairly anti-cardio. I love to run and bike, and I’m amazed at what he can do.

7.Get out there and run already- Another very motivational running blog. She’s another working mom who just happens to train hard and be really fast.

8.The Great Fitness Experiment- Looks like a mix of science and motivation. I honestly haven’t had the opportunity to read much on the site, but it seems like she tackles a lot of body image issues as well as health and fitness.

M- Spinning
T- Easy 6mi run
W- Spinning
Tomrorow- Turkey Trot 10k

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend workout roundup

Now that I've got new format for the blog, I'm planning to devote the weekend to an update on running and to anything interesting going on for us in general.

This week was a pretty strong training week for me. I had a good interval workout Tuesday and tempo run Thursday. I think this was the first week where I really felt like the FIRST plan was really working as it was supposed to. Meaning that I felt refreshed and ready to work hard on Tuesday and Thursday rather than feeling like all my workouts were a steady grind. Yesterday's long run was not the best, but I got out there and did it.

But there was an important lesson in this. I had a bad workout on Saturday (at least in part) because I deviated from my training schedule. I ran on Friday even though, according to my plan, I should have swam or taken a rest day. The problem was that I let my eating habits throw everything off. We went out for pizza for a coworker's birthday on Thursday, and there was chocolate sitting around in the kitchen in the afternoon. Needless to say I overate on Thursday, and the anxiety of overeating caused me to over-exercise on Friday, which caused me to have a crappy workout Saturday.

An important part of training is keeping good notes (hence this blog and my training log) to see trends and identify what works and doesn't work. I need to keep in mind that what I eat isn't just about what seems appealing at the time, but that it can have a profound affect on my training. I need to eat in a way that allows me to be able to take my easy and rest days as they were meant to be taken. If I don't, then I ruin my hard days. Rather than trying to make exercise drive my diet and my body composition and running myself into the ground, I need to put my focus on my diet and let my training and body composition flow from that. I need to remember that, in the regression equation of what I look like predicted by what I do, r-squared for diet is .8 and r-squared for exercise is only .2. And getting that under control will let me rest and train hard without guilt.

And so begins my primal diet experiment. From today through Wednesday I'm going to experiment with not eating any grains or dairy (except for milk in my coffee). Four days was enough time to feel a big difference when I went off Diet Coke, but Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and we'll be in Chicago over the weekend so I'm allowing the experiment to end before then so I'm not setting myself up for failure. I figure one of a few things will happen.

1. I'll really feel a difference, either in my digestive health or mentally about what I'm eating, and I'll have no problem sticking with it.

2. The review will be mixed, and I'll try picking it back up again after the weekend.

3. It'll really suck, and I'll have to decide if I want to try to commit to doing it for two weeks (this was how long it took Joel Friel to feel better when he switched to paleo) to see if I can make the switch.

So even though I don't want to go on and on about it, I may put a little diet blurb down with my workout blurb if I have something interesting observation about it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I should have gone into bike sales...

A friend who does triathlons made a joke once that you can't spend less than $50 on anything involving cycling- even a water bottle.

And as far as I can tell, that's pretty much true. You'd think plunking down $1500 or $2500 on a road or tri bike would have you out the door, flying down some rural highway at 80mph, but you'd be wrong. Nooooohhhh... if you want to fly down some rural highway at 80mph without damaging your knees or nerves or getting horrible neck strain, you have to get said bike fitted (for another $300 or so, according to this NYT article).

Now don't get me wrong. I do an hour of spinning (riding on an indoor exercise bike with a group) twice a week. I know how uncomfortable a poorly adjusted bike can be. I've tinkered around with mine quite a bit this fall, and I still can't get through a ride without my knees down going numb. This does not make for a very effective final sprint.

I really really enjoy biking, but I don't have and probably won't buy (at least not until my future children are out of college) a good road or tri bike because it's just so darn expensive. The bikes are expensive, and they break, and maintenance is expensive. The fitting is expensive. The clothes are expensive. It's totally insane. I'd love to know if there's another sport out there that's more expensive than cycling. I'm having a hard time thinking of one. SCUBA? Gold collecting?

On a completely unrelated note, the high here today was 19 degrees.

On another completely unrelated note, the marching band is playing Run Around Sue, Brown Eyed Girl, and Crazy Train this afternoon.

6mi run easy
Walking to and from the meat lab

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Being different. Trying new things

As I've been searching around the internet, looking for possible blog posts, I've discovered there's a whole world of people out there dedicated to eating like early man. The idea (and it's not really a new one) is that our bodies evolved to eat lean meats and plants- not the dairy and grain we've started giving them since the dawn of agriculture. Even though we think of agriculture being around forever, there's actually even more forever in human history when it wasn't.

One of the best paleo/primal websites I've discovered is Mark's Daily Apple. Not only does Mark have great information and personal anecdotes on his site, he has a dedicated reader question section where you can ask him anything about fitness and nutrition (and he answers e-mails every quickly!)

All this leads up to the fact that I'd like to try moving toward a paleo/primal style diet. I have terrible problems with diet and strength training monogamy, but I do believe that playing around with your diet and exercise plans can help you find that "sweet spot" that really works for you. Maybe the reason I can't stick with dieting and strength training (as opposed to running and cycling which I enjoy tremendously) is that I haven't found programs that really fit my needs.

So what led me to decide to try to really overhaul my diet? And why now, right before the holidays? A few things, really.

1. It appeals to me because it's unconventional. I've started working out using the FIRST training plan. It's a totally unconventional approach to distance running- you only run 3 days and do some kind of non-weight bearing cross training activity (I enjoy indoor cycling) 2-3 days a week- but I'm having good results, and best of all, I'm enjoying my workouts even more. But the traditional approach to running says the only way to improve is to run every single day and always add more more more mileage. But that wasn't working for me. It was too hard on my body, and my hard days and easy days began to blend together into a boring sameness. So I do believe that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and tell common knowledge it has to step aside for new thinking.

2. I gave up diet soda again 5 weeks ago. I think this is important for two reasons. The first is that, it used to be if I pricked my finger, I bled Diet Coke. I drank a ton of it, and I couldn't imagine giving it up. But I did. And even though I still have occasional cravings, I'll never go back to it again because of reason two: I found out it really hurt my stomach. It's weird because while I was drinking it, I had no idea it was causing the bloated feeling I got every once in awhile. Because I drank diet soda all the time, I didn't realize it was the cause of my discomfort. When I quit drinking diet soda, my midsection got smaller within a day or two. Even though I've gained about 5lbs and some body fat since the summer, I actually look leaner now just because I quit the soda. All this leads me to believe that I there are foods that I "can't live without" that I can live without, and I might feel a lot better without the grains and just not know it yet.

Mark's primal eating plan (see his site for the difference between primal and paleo) guides people to eat vegetables, fruits, lean protein, nuts, and oils, abstain from all grains and dairy, and keep carb grams low. He advises people, especially people who have been on very high carb diets like yours truly, to start making changes to gradually work toward those goals. This should help avoid the cloudy brain experienced by people who go low carb all at once. For athletes, it also helps to find the right amount of carbs to include in your diet (which is the fewest you can get away with while sustaining your workouts).

We still have some rice, pasta, tortillas, and oatmeal in the cupboard that need to be eaten or given away, but I'll be shopping for groceries this weekend with primal eating in mind. Thinking about it, there's a lot of our go-to dishes that would be easy to primal-ize. Two examples would be stirfry without sugary sauces or rice and fajitas without tortillas. And eating out at restaurants really isn't a big deal because the nicer ones almost always have a good salad option. Will it be hard and weird to go to Panera and not get a baguette? Will I feel like I'm missing out? Maybe at first, but I have to wonder if it will be like diet soda, and I'll feel so much better with grains out of my system that, even though I get cravings sometimes, I'll never go back to the dark side.

One final point about the diet. Mark says over and over again on his website that 80% of body composition comes from what you eat (and if you take a look at his pictures, he knows what he's talking about). I've been trying to make exercise be responsible for 80% of what my body looks like, an it just.isn't.working. Right now I feel like my diet causes me to have to exercise. What I want is to be able to say, "I think I need to take some time off. Good thing my diet will keep me from gaining weight."

So we'll see how it goes.

8mi with 5mi tempo
1 set of stairs
Upper body and abs???

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Scarlet C

Most people know that last summer New York City passed a law requiring restaurants with 15 or more outlets to post nutritional information for each menu item right next to its price. So a few months later, has the food climate in NYC changed?

This NYT story from late October gives a few anecdotes to show that it has. It describes how a mediocre seller at one restaurant became the #1 favorite once customers found out that the entree only had about 350 calories vs. the 600 or so in the former best seller. Some restaurants are switching to lower fat and calorie versions of their old recipes to prevent customers from going into sticker shock, and some are just reducing portion sizes to make their dishes seem healthier.

So is this a good idea? I think so, but probably not for the same reasons the New York City Council does. Sure educating the population is great, but this campaign taps into one of the timeless methods of changing human behavior: shame.

A Venti-size mint Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino® blended creme with chocolate including whipped cream has a whopping 680 calories and 21 grams of fat. Would you buy one if you had to see that nutritional information right next to the price? Yeah, maybe. But would you still buy one if everyone around you in line knew you were ordering a 680 calorie "coffee"? Or would that healthier 120 calorie sugar-free vanilla latte start to look a lot more appealing?

I can just imagine the battle of wills that would go on inside my own head:

Will The First: You want the chocolaty chip frozen goodness!

Will The Second: No, the barrista will judge you. She'll wonder if you can't read, don't understand Arabic numbers, or are on a suicide mission.

Will The First: But it's so much tastier than the sugar-free latte. Plus, sugar-free hurts your stomach.

Will The Second: That skinny girl ahead of you just ordered something with only 100 calories in it. You don't need more than that.

Will The First:
It's not that big of a deal. You rarely come here. You might as well treat yourself.

Will The Second: If you order that drink everyone in this entire Starbucks will know you are a fat slob with no self control.

At that point Will The First would probably give in. Maybe not to the sugar-free vanilla latte, but it could definitely compromise on something that wasn't so... over the top.

It sounds a little silly, but if you don't believe that public shaming works, just ask all the smokers who used to be cool and now have a "filthy habit."

60 min spinning
2 sets of stairs
lower body DVD, abs

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The healthiest diet in the world

Is the Mediterranean diet the healthiest diet in the world? Better than the 7th Day Adventists? Better than the diet of those 100-year-olds on Okinawa? The New York Times Health Experts seem to think so.

Writer Dr. Peter Libby, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, bases this conclusion on a study released in September by the British Journal of Medicine. The NYT article says that, compared to other diets, individuals who eat a Mediterranean Diet are at a decreased risk of developing heart disease and cancer. Dr. Libby hypothesizes that the reason the diet works compared to others is that 1.It has genuine health benefits and 2.People can actually stick with it long term.

One important point: Although the NYT article makes it sound like the Mediterranean diet is being compared to other diets like Atkins, South Beach, DASH, etc., what is really being compared is adherence to the Mediterranean diet vs. non-adherence. Right now we'll have to suspend disbelief that there isn't a One True Mediterranean Diet.

Adherence to the diet was defined as doing more Mediterranean things (like eating fruits and vegetables, cereals, olive oil, a little red wine), and abstaining from non-Mediterranean things (like red and processed meats and dairy) than the average (median) person in the study. So say the median number of fruits eaten per day by study participants was 2. A person in the study who ate 3 fruits per day would earn a "Mediterranean point". If the median number of servings of red meat per week was 4and a participant ate 7, he or she would not get a "Mediterranean point". The idea is that people in the study with the most "Mediterranean points" were the healthiest.

Although the whole "studying diet as a whole rather than individual nutrients" movement is great, the part of the study design that interested me the most was its focus on compliance. One of the most difficult parts of doing a randomized controlled study on diet is figuring out what to do with the people who go off their diets- and many do.

If you randomize someone to Atkins, and they eat cookies everyday anyway and gain a bunch of weight, do you keep them in the Adkins group for analysis purposes or do you move them in the no-diet group? One argument says, "They sure weren't acting like they were on Atkins so we don't want their weight gain to mask the effects of Atkins on the people who actually complied." The other argument says, "If Atkins wasn't such a crappy diet, then that person would have complied. We need to know that there are people who try Atkins and gain weight because they can't/won't follow the rules."

All this does seem to lead to the conclusion that the benefits of the Mediterranean diet come from 1. Actual health benefits particular to the foods (from what we do know about the micronutrients, etc.) and 2. The fact that eating fruit, vegetables, cereal, olive oil and drinking wine is enjoyable, actually.

So what about the Adventists and the Okinawans? Maybe being vegetarian or eating seaweed and bean curds are just as healthy as the Mediterranean diet, but are not as easy to comply to. I don't think that's the real answer to why these diets weren't found to be the "world's healthiest", but I'll get to that in a minute.

A major limitation to the study is the way the study authors defined the Mediterranean diet. There are a lot of differences in the cultures and cuisines in that region. There is no One True Way. The authors say these regional/cultural differences wash out compared to the difference between what they call Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean.

However, when you get down to the fine print, what is really being studied here is compliance to a diet that these researchers have defined as good and have called Mediterranean. Maybe because the term is already mainstream? I'm not saying the diet of that region is didn't influence the selection of the study diet, but I am saying that those dietary practices are not exclusive to that region. If you look at other groups with low cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality rates, you see the same things: lots of fruits, veggies and grains, few red and processed meats and dairy.

So what's the healthiest diet in the world? The one you've heard about 1000 times before. Call it the no crap diet. There is a healthy way to eat, but I don't think this study shows that at any particular region "owns" it.

7mi with .75, .65, .5, .35, .25 mi intervals
2 sets stairs
upper body weights

Monday, November 17, 2008

Leave comments!

Recently I've had a couple people tell me they've enjoyed reading this blog, which is exciting because I do intend to "go public" with it (as in send out a mass e-mail to friends/family who I don't connect with via Runners World or Facebook to alert them of its existence) someday.

I've held off on doing that so far because I don't feel like the concept for the blog has gelled in my mind yet. I started it this past summer when I began doing speed training because interval feature in the training log I've been using wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I wanted more detail and fewer fields to fill out. But then I started thinking about the blog more as a way to share my life with people who are far away and also to practice writing about interesting things I've read.

Right now it's sort of a weird mish-mash of all three. Ideally it would be mostly reflection on topics that interest me with a daily update about my training and an every-so-often update (with pictures, etc) about my life. But then the problem becomes... exactly what do I write about? How do I pick topics? I'm trying to get in the habit of posting every day, and it becomes pretty tempting at 3pm to just naval gaze in order to have something to put on the page. Hence all the diet posts. But that's boring to everyone... even me!

So here is my request to anyone "out there": leave comments! Nice comments, please! Even if it's just to tell me you've read the blog. And let me know if you have any ideas about topics to post about or where you see the blog going. For example, someone asked me how I get up early every day. I could write about how I get up early and the pros and cons of being an early riser. Because there are definitely cons. I'm sure there comes a point when I blogger can basically generate his or her own ideas, but the good ones always respond to reader comments/questions. So readers, if you're out there, please say "hi."

2 sets of stairs
Lower body and core

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The weekend is always too short

It's 4pm on Sunday, and it feels like the weekend has flown by. Just when I get used to not having to get up at 5:30 and not having to be productive all day, it's time to turn around and get cranking again.

Yesterday was my long run day. I did 12mi in right under 1:48, which was exciting because it's the first time I've finished a long run with an average pace faster than a 9-minute mile. I'm still thinking about training and marathons, but I'm back to the idea of just doing Mad City in the spring. I don't see a huge benefit to any of the other marathons I've considered- or at least not one that's greater than not having to travel.

In order to celebrate fall (and push the Christmas craziness back a bit- at least in my mind), here are a couple pictures from Madison this fall. One is me right after I cut my hair, one is D. firing a gourd into a lake, and the last is our pumpkin for Halloween. Hopefully it's obvious which is which.

Friday, November 14, 2008

OMG. The weather is beautiful. Get me out of the office!

It's a quiet day at work and a beautiful day outside. You can't imagine how much I want to be out there. It has rained every single day for at least the last week, but today it's warm and sunny. And I am inside. Very sad, indeed.

I'm thinking that as long as the weather holds, ( seems to think it's nasty outside, but it's definitely not) I'm going to do another run after work and call it my long run for the week. I know that you don't get the real benefits of a long run if you split it in two, but I like to have one 12-miler in the log every week, and I don't think it'll matter too much if I fudge this one a bit. Besides, tomorrow we are supposed to be back to rainy, cold, windy, and nasty. I'll save a short run for that, thanks very much.

Also, I have so many great ideas for Christmas/baby shower gifts to make. I think from now on I'm designating Sunday as craft day. I should have my ornaments finished (or ready to be finished) by the end of the South Carolina game tomorrow so I can start on some new stuff. I can't say what they are right now, though, because someday I'm going to "go public" to friends and family with the blog, and I don't want to give away any surprises.

I'm excited because I love it when I see the perfect gift for someone and it's even better when I can take part in making it so it has that personal, memorable touch!

6mi in the am, hopefully 6 more this evening
Walk to work
No stairs (which is probably a large part of the reason I feel so antsy right now)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big Fat Red Marks

Yesterday I had a big fat failure on my No S diet. I came home from work and the leftover cookie dough was just calling to me. It was screaming out for me to eat it. Nothing else would do. And I ate every last bit of it. And after dinner, because I’d already failed, I had a couple handfuls of white chocolate chips. After 2 weeks of compliance, I let myself say “screw it”.

So I’m going to take this opportunity to refocus myself. First I’m going to list my 5 biggest excuses and responses to them. Then I’m going to list 5 things I’m going to do to re-motivate myself.

Excuse Central:

Excuse: I’m not overweight. My clothes fit. I’m never going to be overweight.
Response: I gained 5lbs this fall with that kind of thinking. No, I don’t have a weight problem now, but I will if I keep gradually gaining 5lbs every 6 months.

Excuse: I need to fuel my runs.
Response: Taking weight off will help me get faster. Good runners are lean and they still have plenty of energy to train.

Excuse: But I like junk food.
Response: So does everyone else. That’s why I’m going to have a really great treat every week on my long run day and on holidays.

Excuse: I’m huuuuuungry.
Response: That’s why the no junk thing is so important. I don’t want to waste my calories on non-filling crap. Also, I think when I let myself eat really low fat for a long time I start to crave crap. So increase the healthy fats. Or I just distract myself until the next appropriate eating time.

Excuse: Once I’ve failed or if it’s a cheat day, I might as well go crazy.
Response: I do think it’s better for me to have just one designated cheat a week rather than a cheat day because cheat days are “go crazy” days for me.


Get the junk out of the apartment. If it’s not there, I generally don’t crave it.
Make a motivational collage I can look at in the morning and before I go to bed.
Weigh myself every day.
Track my calories on Daily Plate
Limit myself to one treat per week, but make it really really good.

8mi with 5mi slow tempo
1 set stairs
Upper body and Pilates videos

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day to everyone who is serving and who has served in our armed forces. This is the most free country in the world, and we owe a large debt to the men and women who have made that possible. Most just give the gifts of talent and time- letting the US military control their lives for a few years- but many give the gift of their lives. I guess by definition you can't be a vet and have been killed in war, but it seems appropriate to honor all of our service men and women today: both those who lived to be vets and those who didn't.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of "coupledom" for D. and I. I didn't plan anything special, but I think it's an important milestone to recognize at least verbally.

7mi with 4x800 at 6.6, and 3x6.7
As a side note: I'm trying a new experiment where I use a perceived exertion scale to pick paces when I do intervals on the treadmill (because I'm much slower on it than I am outside). So I tried to hit these intervals at a 7/10. I'm thinking 400s can be done at 8/10 and tempo at 6/10. Then, like I've been doing in spinning, I can adjust what my "7" is as I get faster. I'm actually hoping that I have a treadmill "epiphany" soon where I can run at my normal outside paces without it being soooo hard.

2 sets stairs
Walk on treadmill (it's nasty outside)???

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cost/benefit analysis

Conventional wisdom says that, to get the best value for your money, you should always buy in bulk, never buy small packages, and never never get anything out of the vending machine.

But is this always true? Can a case ever be made for buying something out of the vending machine, and moreover, is there ever a situation where it truly is the best value for your dollar?

Here’s the situation. I usually eat a carb-y snack in the afternoons, but because I’m trying to lose some weight, I don’t want to have a huge bag of pretzels or box of crackers lurking at home or in my office. So I have an optimization problem. How do I balance my desire to spend as little as possible on snack food with my desire to keep temptation at bay?

For comparison, one bag of pretzels from the vending machine costs $0.90. That’s $4.50 per week for snack food. Kind of pricy, but because of the price and the fact that I have to go all the way downstairs to get it, I only eat one a day.

A box of crackers from Trader Joe’s is about $2. It has 8 servings in it, and, in theory, should last me an entire week and has less than half the cost of a week’s worth of pretzels. Empirical evidence suggests otherwise. The last two weeks I’ve brought a box of crackers to work it’s been empty by the end of the second day. And then I bought pretzels the other three days. That adds up to $5.50. This is a bad deal for both my wallet and my waistline.

Pretzels in bulk have the same problem. It’s only about $2.50 for a large bag with about 17 servings. That’s a little more than 8 days worth of vending machine servings. Definitely a better deal, price wise, but I can guarantee you that I’d eat the whole thing in a week. So is it worth $2 for me to eat only 5 servings of pretzels per week rather than 8.5? I think so.

So using my own cost/benefit analysis, I believe that buying pretzels from the vending machine is definitely the best deal for my wallet and my waist.

Quick Diet Update- Rather than giving up pretzels and crackers and worry about what I can and can’t eat after dinner, I’ve worked out a weekday meal plan for myself. I’ll spare you the details because it’s not interesting, but I’ll be tracking compliance on my HabitCal now. And because I’m not going to track soda anymore, I’m going to start tracking No Gum. I feel like that’s a better replacement than eating after dinner, which is going to be covered under the meal plan anyway.

Recent workouts:

12mi in 1:48:28
Bikram’s yoga
Walk 2mi on treadmill
2 sets of stairs
Walk home
Upper body and core sections of DVD

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thankful Wednesday

Unlike many people, I thought both the candidates running for president would be a good choice, so I went to bed early last night knowing that I'd wake up happy with the result. President Obama it will be.

While I was walking home after a busy and productive day at work, I was thinking about all the things I'm thankful for. Here's a list of 5 big ones and 5 small ones.

Big Stuff:
1. My wonderful husband. He's always there for me through the good times and the tough times. He knows not to take me too seriously or let me take myself too seriously. And he can always make me laugh.
2. My family. Not only my parents, brother and extended family but my-inlaws as well. I'm so lucky to have people who care about me and support me unconditionally.
3. My job. Evidently a lot of people applied for this position, and somehow they chose me. Any time I think I don't want to go to work on a Monday I remember how sad and useless I felt during the long periods I wasn't working.
4. Our home. We have a warm, clean, safe place to live. Our community is really pretty isolated from the rest of the city so the only people who come here belong here. It gives a sense of safety that I doubt I'd get anyplace else in the city. No worries about leaving my clothes in the laundry room or running out for a minute without locking the door.
5. My health. Sometimes I feel down about not having a "perfect" body, but mine is healthy and strong and allows me to do things (like run 2 marathons) that many people with "better bodies" couldn't dream of doing.

Little Stuff:
1. Beautiful 70-degree weather in Wisconsin in November.
2. Being able to walk to and from work.
3. Being serenaded by the marching band each afternoon.
4. Cooking and baking, especially when something I make turns out unexpectedly good.
5. Going to bed early and reading. I love that I can do that.

60 min spinning
2 sets of stairs
walk home from work

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

No real post for me today. I'm going to watch the election hoopla and homefully do a few pushups and get another ornament finished.

I did do my first speed workout in awhile. This was workout from the FIRST marathon training program. See below for details. I didn't hit the split times, but the book says that's pretty normal the first time you do it. The first mile was kind of slow, but the second two are about what I'd expect.

7mi with 3x1mi (8:13min/mile, 7:58 min/mile, 7:52 min/mile)
Walk home

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thoughtful Monday

I was hoping that yesterday's sermon would inspire my post today, but not so much...

However, I found this post on the Carrie and Danielle that had this advice about dealing with people in everyday life: Remember that you never really know what someone else is going through. That jerk honking at you when the light turned green .005 seconds ago- maybe he just found out his wife was cheating on him. The waitress who forgot to bring you a refill 3 times. Maybe she just found out her mom has cancer.

I know I'm guilty of snap judgments when someone does something to "wrong" me, and it makes my blood pressure rise about 5 points. There are some things that a stranger (or friend or loved one) has done to irritate me or hurt my feelings that I still haven't gotten over even years later. But that only hurts me. Letting go is healing, and letting go immediately is the way to good emotional health.

So I will start trying to make my response to an irritation be, "I don't know what they're going through." Even if my initial reaction is to get angry, I'll try to stop, take a step back, and remind myself that whatever happened probably had nothing to do with me, and I should cut this person some slack. Wouldn't I hope others would do the same for me?

2 sets of stairs
Walk home from work
Home strength training

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Value of a Dollar

Whereas it helps me to write when I have a predetermined topic, and

Wereas I want not to bore everyone too much by writing about the same things over and over again,

I hereby declare Saturday's topic as Running and General Fitness and Sunday's topic as Financial Stuff.

Some ideas I'm still throwing around for Monday-Thursday are: Spirituality, health news, personal organization, being a good steward of the environment on a budget- and hey, that's four ideas. So maybe I'll work with that unless I come up with something better.

But the point of this post is how developing a budget really made me stop and think about how I value money and how I use it. Now that D. is back in school, finances are much tighter than they were when we were both working. Before saving just happened because we weren't running out and buying big screen TVs and personal watercraft each weekend. Now I'm afraid if we don't consciously put money aside each month, we just won't.

After we determined how much to put aside for savings, we had to decide what was important to us. Obviously paying the bills, but then what? Fitness is important to us so that needed to go in the budget. Some money needs to be allocated for clothing, food, household stuff, gifts (especially with Christmas right around the corner), gas, travel, and the other things that always seem to come up (like getting our electric mattress pad laundered). Not only was this a good exercise for our financial health, but it led to some major introspection (at least for me).

Here are the two major things I learned about myself while working on the budget:

1. Taking a closer look at how spending in one category decreases what I have in another really made me think about what I value.

One example is clothing. I've been trying to put together a more adult, work appropriate wardrobe now that I'm a "grown up". Both my parents and in-laws have generously contributed to this. I really started getting into waching What Not to Wear and enjoying shopping for new clothes and purses, etc.

Before, when I didn't think about where money was going, I'd buy something if I liked it because I don't have expensive tastes or shop much, and we always had more than enough. But now I really see the tradeoff. What would bring me more happiness? A new outfit or to save that money to take a trip with D? I already have plenty of clothes that I like, that fit and are appropriate for work. Why should I just accumulate more of the same when I could do something really special with that money?

Also, I've noticed is that I only want that stuff when I see it. Turn off What Not to Wear and throw away the catalogs, and I'm much more content with what I have.

2. How "expensive" a think is depends a lot on how conscious you are about how much you are spending.

I could also call this the Yoga and the Coke Machine Phenonomenon. Really what I was thinking of is Massages and the Coke Machine, but Yoga has a nicer ring to it. At the end of last month I was having a lot of pain in my right lower back and hip. This happened to me once before, and I let it get away from me and develop into a real problem. But one heavy duty massage and a lot of stretching made it go away. So faced with the same problem, I really wanted to get a massage to try to loosen it up. But massages are expensive. And you know they are expensive because you see that you are paying more than a dollar a minute for something that has a luxury connotation to it.

Contrast that with the vending machines down stairs. It's really easy to walk down to the vending machine each day and grab a soda and a snack. There's no luxury connotation, and it's easy to go down there and feed dollars in because "it's cheap".

But really, what is more expensive? The massage or the vending maching? And what has greater value? One really good massage a month costs $65. Now let's say I get 1 20oz soda for $1.50 each day and buy one snack for $1 each week day at work. How much is that? $65. The point is that I'd always assume that the massage was way too expensive becuase I knew how much it cost. The cokes and pretzels were fine because I had no idea how expensive they really were. So what would I rather have? The massage, definitely!

The same is true for yoga. The yoga studio we are going to on a trial basis has community classes on the weekends for $8 a piece. That sounds really expensive. But that's about the same price we pay for lunch out on Saturdays without blinking an eye. What is more important? What is more beneficial to us? I'd say the yoga classes, for sure.

Swiming lesson

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Well, my 5k today did not go very well. I thought I felt good and prepared. I thought I pushed myself. But I finished in a pretty abysmal 26:10ish. Even worse than the Homecoming 5k. It was on grass and they did have us run up this Indian burial mound deal, but still... I used the course as an excuse last time. It seems pretty lame to do the same this time.

It's funny because, even though I'm slightly dissappointed, I'm not really that upset about it. I guess I should be happy that I'm not ruining my day dwelling on it. I just need to use this as motivation to train harder during the week and get prepared for the Burbee Derby. I was thinking about doing the 10k, but right now I just want to do well in a 5k because I feel like that's what I've been focusing on this fall. That race is basically my last shot before the end of the year.

Well, I'm going to go watch the UF/GA game and work on some ornaments.

2.4mi warm up
3.1mi race
2.5mi cool down

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Working hard should feel... .hard

I remember reading an article on this topic awhile ago in a copy of Runners World, but I couldn't remember enough specific details about it to find the story on the magazine's website.

Anyway, the idea is that the human body has a lot of self-protection mechanisms to keep it from hurting itself, but we can override this message through the power of positive thinking. For example, you are doing track repeats and during the last repeat you're feeling out of breath and nauseous. Are you (probably) really about to have a heart attack or die from lack of oxygen? No. But your body doesn't even want to approach that point so it starts screaming for you to back down.

So then how do people work out through all that unpleasantness? How do great athletes manage to suffer through all that pain day in and day out to become great? The answer isn't that they eventually become so talented running fast is a breeze and they just don't feel pain anymore, but instead they've learned to think about that pain in a different way. They remind themselves that the discomfort is what they are striving for. It's not an indication of a crappy workout but rather a great one where they are pushing themselves. They tell themselves that feeling a little sick at the end of a 5k means they raced hard and that tired is exactly how you want to feel at the end of a marathon.

I like to try to remember this whenever I'm faced with a difficult situation- especially if it's an "in the moment" decision whether to stick with something difficult or to give into the temptation to quit right then.

If you're dieting and someone brings in a huge tub of your favorite goodie, it's going to be hard to resist eating it. But if you tell yourself, "Well, dieting is supposed to be hard," it seems to make resisting easier. You're empathizing with yourself but not giving in.

Another time I use this is when I'm doing a tempo run or repeats. Sometimes feeling physically bad is kind of scary, but if you tell yourself that the workout is supposed to be tough (earn your rest!) and you're supposed to be tired/winded then all of a sudden the tone of the workout goes from bad (physical pain and doubt) to good (pride over sticking with something difficult).

6mi run
2 sets of stairs
Walk to work

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Working hard and resting easy

This point seems to be coming up again and again for me in different situations, and I hope I'm starting to internalize it.

Before, back in my undergrad days when I first caught the exercise bug, I thought working out meant getting on the elliptical for an hour a day, day in and day out. It didn't matter what what time of day it was, whether it was convenient or not, whether I was sick or tired, or anything- I had to get on that elliptical and do random level 18 every single day. Although I wasn't particularly concerned with being a better athlete in those days, it probably didn't do much for my fitness after the first few months, and it definitely didn't do anything for my disposition. I had stagnant exercise syndrome (SES).

Everyone *knows* that the best way to improve fitness/athletic ability is with variety and a combination of intensity and rest. But old ideas and habits can be hard to break. When I got into running, I started running for an hour every day- same speed, same route, day in and day out. I was starting to get interested in getting faster, but I wasn't. So I did more of the same. Running for an hour and fifteen minutes or an hour and a half- same speed, same route, day in and day out. Did this help? No.

So I tried weight training. I added 3 hard days of lifting each week on top of a fairly large volume of running (and some stressful life stuff including a very long commute). But I quickly became frustrated with my total lack of progress. In fact, I was getting weaker each week rather than stronger or even maintaining!

I was committing both of the classic workout sins. In the first case, I had absolutely no variety in my runs. No speed, no tempo work, no long runs. Everything was exactly the same. In the second case, I was not balancing work with recovery. I was simply trying to do too much, and instead of backing off, I thought the cure was to do even more.

I admit that both of those devils still live on my shoulder to a lesser extent even today. It's easy for me to talk myself into ditching a tough run for an easy one and it's easy for me to think that- in terms of working out- more is always better.

But now I'm in rehab for SES, and here are four treatments I've learned:

1. Diversifying your training- Rather than running every day, I run three days per week, go to spinning two days a week and swim once or twice. I know there is a danger of adding too much here, but I have a personal cap of one cardio session a day to keep me from overtraining. This program also lets me "get excited" about each workout because it's not the same thing I did the day before.

2. Train with a group- Right now I'm doing spinning with the triathlon club two days a week. I've already met some nice people to chat with, which makes the 5:30 wake up call a little easier on those days, and the workouts are always challenging. And the best part is that I don't have to challenge myself. I let someone else do it for me.

3. Earn your rest- This is the best mantra I know to help ward off SES. If your rest is too easy, don't make your rest harder, make your workouts harder. If you don't truly rest, you won't be able to workout harder the next time, and you get into the vicious SES cycle. I've even taken to saying this to myself while doing a difficult tempo run or interval, but it also applies to diet as well. In the No S diet, Reinhard Engles advises readers to work hard on N days and "earn" weekend S days to recharge for the hard work of N days. If you let the line between N days and S days become mushy, you end up exactly where you were before the diet.

4. Remember that you won't improve if you are unwilling to be uncomfortable- Even though the working is kind of awkward, the idea is right on. This is something I want to reflect on more tomorrow, but I feel deserves a mention in this section because SES is all about staying in your comfort zone. You don't leave that comfort zone by doing hard workouts our challenging your notions about how much rest you "need" or "deserve".

2 sets of stairs
Walk home from work
Home strength program

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Long Run, Ice Cream, The Baconator, and Yin Yoga

Yesterday I did my first long run in 2 weeks. It was fairly boring because we had a home football game, and the crowds kept me from running pretty much anywhere besides the Lakeshore Path. Which is pretty- but less the 4th time than the 1st. Anyway, I finished 12 miles in 1:50:48 (9:12 min/mile average pace). I slowed down a bit at the end- I think part of it was due to boredom- but I didn't run any miles with an average pace slower than 9:15, so I was pretty happy with that. I need to start doing some real speed training this week rather than the easy fartlek stuff I've been doing so far. I'll probably also try to extend the length of my treadmill tempo run by 1/4 mile. I'd like to try to bring it up to 3mi by the end of Nov. and then start working on adding speed. I think a 3mi tempo run once a week through the winter will have me in a good place for marathon training to start in Jan.

D and I went to The Chocolate Shoppe for ice cream last night. I had a double scoup with Chocolate Galaxy and Caramel Apple Pie, and D tried Yippee Skippee and Heaps of Love (I think). We were sitting, eating our pint-sized bowls of ice cream, when a commercial for the Wendy's Baconator came on the radio. I said, "Ewww. Who would eat that? It's so unhealth... Oh, wait, what am I saying?" As if a giant bowl of ice cream was somehow any healthier than a giant bacon burger. I guess how you view the "badness" of a food depends a lot on how much you enjoy it.

I did find a new, healthier love yesterday in Yin Yoga. Inner Fire Yoga, a local yoga studio, held an open house yesterday so people in the community could try classes for free. D tried a Bikram's class, which he said was "hot" and "hard", and I tried Yin Yoga . I absolutely loved my class. We only did about 10 poses total- none of which were strength oriented- for about 5 minutes apiece. Holding each pose for a long time allows you to really feel where you are holding tension, and allows gravity to slowly relax and lengthen your muscles. When we first started star pose (seated, knees out to the side, feet together) my head was probably 8 inches above my feet. But I gradually felt my back and hips and neck relax, and by the end of the pose, the full weight of my head was on my feet. I enjoyed it because it eliminated all the elements of yoga I generally find frustrating (basically not being able to do the poses at all), but because the stretching was really intense, I still felt like I was doing something. I could actually feel different muscles "let go" of tension and relax. Even today I feel much less sore after my long run and my hips and back feel more relaxed than normal. D and I decided to do their special offer of unlimited classes for 2 weeks for $10, but afterward I would like to try to find a CD or something so I can keep up with it. The stretching and meditative relaxation are totally addictive.

Workout- Saturday
12mi run in 1:50:49, Yin Yoga

Workout- Sunday
Swim lesson???

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Bad Pioneer

The other day I was thinking that I would have made a very bad pioneer...

This first occurred to me when I was doing the dishes after letting them pile up for at least a day or so. I thought, "Man, I thought doing the dishes was annoying when all I had to do was stick them in a machine and turn it on. I wish we had a dishwasher in the apartment." All things considered, doing the dishes isn't that bad but 1. It's a chore. It's annoying and 2. It's absolutely impossible to get them clean the way a dishwasher can. Even the clean ones. The ones I really scrub are still kind of dirty when I put them away. But then I thought, "Dang. What if we only had a couple dishes so I actually had to wash them after every meal, and what if I had to take them down to the river so I had access to water (or had to scrape and reuse them dirty if there wasn't water)? That would really stink. And 100 years ago I probably would have had to do just that- or at least go out and pump the water and wash them in some kind of tub or something.

I think playing the mind game "What would I have had to do to accomplish this if I were a pioneer?" is great for giving silly complaints some perspective (not that I won't still be full of silly complaints).

Another one happened last night. I met D for dinner on campus and then went back home to veg while I waited to pick him up after his exam. On the way home on the bus I kept thinking about how good it would be to have some of that cookie dough in the fridge. And when I got home, I changed into my pajamas and ate some cookie dough. Not too much. Not all of it or enough of it to get a stomach ache like I might have done in the past, but the point is that I broke my diet on a complete whim. I enjoyed it while I ate it, but then I thought to myself, "What would Laura Engles Wilder have done in this situation?" Did she eat cookie dough in the covered wagon crossing South Dakota in a blizzard? Heck no. She was probably happy to have some very non-sweet non-chocolaty bread once a day. Even in 2008 there are many people who don't have enough food to eat. Cookie dough is not even an option to consider.

So hopefully I can keep that in mind if I have another cookie dough emergency the rest of this week. Can I seriously not make it without eating something sweet or eating after dinner until Saturday? It's kind of pathetic if I can't. Last week and the week before (which is not marked on the Habitcal- it was a trial run week) I had 2 failures each. Let's see if I can make yesterday the only failure for this week. I only have 3 days- including today- before I can junk food all I want on Saturday.


Today's workout:
60 min spinning
At home strength workout- lower body
2 rounds of stairs

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Homecoming 5k

So after being sick, and taking time off, and going out of town, and taking more time off, this week I've finally started to feel better and actually prepared for a race. I did a couple fartlek runs, 2 spinning classes, one pump and tone class, yoga, and an easy 8 mi run yesterday. I'd planned to do a couple other races in the last two weeks, but feeling generally crappy kept me from actually registering and running for them.

Anyway, since I've been feeling better, I got it together to run the UW Homecoming 5k. I thought that no matter what I'd definitely PR because my 5k PR is pretty slow compared to my 1/2 marathon time. But it didn't happen. I blame the course because I finished the race with someone who ran the same 1/2 marathon in about the same time as me and because I felt like I really pushed myself through the race. I was passing people all the way until I had some bad (skip the next few words if you're squeemish) dry heaves, and a few guys ran by me in the end. The course started out going straight up a large hill and was fairly hilly the rest of the way. Had we just gone along the Lakeshore path I think that level of effort would have landed me a sub 25min definitely- maybe even close to 24min. As it was, I finished at about 25:40. I was pretty unhappy with the time and the almost puking, but the more I think about it, the more I think I should be happy with my effort, and not worry about the time.

It is going to result in me changing my race plans a bit, though. I was originally going to run a Turkey Trot 5 miler on Nov 1, but I'm switching to do the 5k to chase that elusive sub-25min (maybe even sub 24-min) time. And if it doesn't work in this next race then I'll try again at the Burbee Derby on Thanksgiving. If I'm happy with my 5k time in the next race, I'll do the Burbee Derby 10k.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October Goals

I thought I'd break up all my updates into categories so they'd be easier to review later- if I ever actually do that- haha. So here are my goals for October:

1. Run a 5k
Conservative goal- Under 25min
Challenging goal- Under 24min

All I have to do to complete my fall 5k goal is run at an 8min/mile pace (24:51 finishing time). A 7:40 min/mile pace would get me under 24 minutes (23:49). I'm not sure that I can run faster than 7:40, but I think that would be a reasonable, challenging goal. My 1/2 marathon time predicts a 23:30 5k time, which is somewhere in the 7:35ish min/mile range. That might be too agressive, but who knows? I think I run a little better in races than in training because I've been up for a little longer- I'm looser and my body temp is a little higher- so that might give me an edge. Plus I'll have about 2 weeks worth of training under my belt by the time I race again.

2. Run a 10k
Conservative goal- Under 51min
Challenging goal 1- Under 50min
Challenging goal 2- Under 49min

McMillan predicts a 48:51 10k time from my 1/2 marathon time, which is about a 7:50 min/mile pace. That may be too fast for me, but again, who knows, and I have additional training time. There are several races I'm interested in during the month of October- I just have to decide which one I want to do for my 10k and which for the 5k. Because the two races I'm mainly interested in are back to back weekends I'm thinking I'll do the 5k first just because the recovery will be easier. Not sure about that.

3. Resume strength training
Conservative goal- Group strength 1x per week
Challenging goal- Group strength 2x per week

I want to get back into strength training but I know that realistically I just don't work out very well on my own. Plus I honestly don't/can't spend the time I would need to achieve the goals I've set to get stronger at particular lifts. I'm primarily a distance athlete and doing an endurance style weight training program is more in line with my goals than a strength style program.

4. Push-ups
Conservative goal- Push-ups 3 days/week
Challenging goal- Push-ups 4 days/week

Despite what I said above, I don't think the push-up goal needs to be scrapped. I want to continue with the ReconRon plan (well, go back to the beginning and start it over).

5. Continue with intuitive eating. Stop trying to fix everything with additional exercise. Find a balance between life and working out. This is the workout plan I have in mind:

U- Rest/swim lesson
T-1st run workout, group strength
R-2nd run workout, group strength
S-Long run

I was getting a bit antsy thinking about how spinning and especially swimming burn a lot fewer calories than running, but it seems that the more exercise you do, the harder it becomes to lose "the last 5lbs" so I'm thinking this looks like a good balance. Plus being home most evenings gives me more time to cook, practice piano, work on Christmas ornaments, etc and not be sooooo tired like I am when I do doubles.

Can't think of anything else right now... hopefully I'll do a better job keeping this thing updated.

First FIRST Run

So I've been saying that I'm going to start doing the FIRST training plan, which mixes 3 days of running with 2-3 days of intense cross training. This morning I did my first FIRST workout from the 5k training plan. I'm interested in using FIRST to training for the MadCity Marathon next spring, but because I want to do a few 5/10ks in the next few weeks I thought it made more sense to do the 5/10k workouts (they are basically the same). This morning I did a 2mi warm up, 8x400 with 90sec recover, 1mi cool down. Here are the paces for my 400s. They aren't super consistent, but it's a start. Repeats 1 and 3 were a little on the slow side, but these were supposed to be run at a bit faster than 5k pace (or in my case goal 5k pace because my current 5k time is way slow) so they were in pretty much the right range.

1- 7:42 (min/mi)
2- 7:26
3- 7:41
4- 7:10
5- 7:36
6- 7:25
7- 7:16
8- 7:20

Great 1/2 marathon

1/2 Marathon

I meant to get back on and write about my 1/2 marathon for some time now, but it just kept getting away from me. I was a little worried about how the race would go because I had a little respiratory thing earlier in the week before the race, but after taking some easy days, I felt great. Everything about the race went perfectly. The weather was wonderful, the course was flat, I did a great job with pacing... I couldn't have asked for a better day. I tried to run not fast but "purposefully", and I was able to hang in there the whole way. My lap times were:

1- 8:27
2- 8:26
3- 8:17
4- 8:09
5- 8:17
6- 8:05
7- 7:54
8- 8:16
9- 8:19
10- 8:21
11- 8:19
12- 8:21
13- 8:18

For an official time of 1:48:41 (8:19 min/mile). It's pretty amazing to me that I ran this entire 1/2 marathon as fast as my last 5k. I'd really like to try to qualify for Boston next year. If I can keep making progress like this I think it might be a reasonable goal.

I was pretty wiped out after the race and needed to take a few days off to get my energy level back up. I need to remember that hard, well run races need adequate recovery.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ready to go

I'm ready to go for my 1/2 marathon next weekend. I hope I'm ready to do a little tapering this week. Most of my runs call for a few fast intervals so maybe that will keep me from feeling too antsy. I know that tapering isn't that important for a shorter race like this, but I want to do the best I can. There's a possibility now that I won't be able to do the race, and that would be dissappointing, but I'm going to keep my hopes up that it will work out.

The plan is to take the week off from weight training and do only one workout per day (no swim/bike doubles). I'm going to check out the tri team's spinning class tomorrow, and if I like it, I'll probably join the club. It will give me a good opportunity to do some different workouts during the winter and hopefully meet some fun people.

I'm excited both about the race and about starting my new tri-style training program after it's over.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Been a long time

It's been a long time! I guess that's what moving and starting a new job will do to you.

Running has been going very well. My "easy" pace has fallen close to 9min/mile, and I have been good (well, up to last week) about doing all my key workouts during the week. I've found that thinking of my 1/2 marathon pace as "purposeful" rather than "comfortably hard" helps me get the right pace. I just can't run hard anything for 13miles.

My 1/2 marathon is coming up in two weeks, and I've set some goals:

Conservative goal- 1:55

Considering I've done my last two long runs at 9:05 pace and it felt very easy, I think this is a most do-able goal.

Moderate goal- 1:50-1:55

Again, based on my training times, I don't think I'll have any problem getting in this range.

Pie-in-the-sky Goal- Close to 1:50

Probably won't happen, but if all the stars aligned and Jupiter was in the 7th house (Who's house?) then it could happen. It would be a very fast race for me, but not absolutely totally out of the realm of possibility.

I've decided after the 1/2 I'm going to try a FIRST-type plan to get me through the winter and maybe to run the Madison Marathon next spring. So rather than running 5 days per week I'd swim/bike/row three days per week and run (but more intensely) the other three days. I'm going to try to do spinning with the tri team here (not super convenient location-wise, but it might be a good way to make friends) and am taking some swimming lessons starting next week to help me get back in shape for that. I swam 2000m last week and it wasn't pretty.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tempo Thursday

Did 6mi with 4mi tempo today. I like having a fairly flat path to do tempo runs rather than having to use the treadmill or a track. I ran at an average pace of 8:17/mi which I would call "comfortably hard" although it is faster than my 1/2 marathon goal pace. At the end I felt like I could have kept going but was very happy I didn't have to.

I really need to get back in the gym. I planned to go this afternoon but I was so tired I took a nap instead. Oh well, maybe tomorrow. I have been doing fairly well with my push-up routine. I'm flirting with the idea of doing the strength class rather than lifting on my own. I know I'm more likely to go to a class than to work out on my own, but I also know that the classes don't make you stronger like focusing on a few good lifts will. It'll probably depend a lot on how difficult it is for me to get to the classes after work, but I'll at least try it out when they start in a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


We are now in Madison. Our stuff joined us yesterday. Running took a backseat during the move, but I was able to run a few times while we were traveling and I have run three times since we moved in. I think I've found a good regular daily route through campus, and a friend has pointed me to a good place to do long runs on the weekend.

Last week was basically worthless as far as quality workouts go, but I did try to pick up where I left off in my training program this week. The funny thing is that I ran the loop yesterday (which has some minor rolling hills) one minute faster than I did the same distance just on the flat part with two fast miles. But a good run is a good run- I shouldn't complain if it comes on a quality day or a regular day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Last Albuquerque long run

I did my last Albuquerque long run along the Bosque Trail yesterday. It was hot and quite humid for Albuquerque but I ended with a 9:26 average pace. I was even able to speed up- actually speed up, not feel like I was running faster but actually running slower- at the end. I'd give my total time for the run, but for some reason my Garmin skipped a mile somewhere in the beginning. Very strange. And it's not like I could have skipped a mile. It's an out-and-back course. I ran from mm8 to mm2 and back- 12mi.

Last Thurday I did a tempo run on the treadmill that also went very well. I did 2mi at 6.8, then 2 at 6.9, .5mi recovery, then 1mi at 7.2, moving down to 7.1. The second mile was definitely tougher than I thought it would be, I think because my brain was "done" after the 4mi tempo. The good part is that I know next time I can do the entire 4mi at 6.9. My goal will be to be able to run the tempo run at 7.0 by marathon training time because that's what the RW Ultimate Training Plan suggests as the tempo pace for a 9min/mi goal pace marathon.

Friday I went to spinning and today I'll be packing all day. I'm actually glad I have something physical to do because this has been such a great training week, I want to go out and run more. But I know I have to resist or else I'll be back to slogging along.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Speedy Monday

I did my Monday speed workout on the treadmill today. 2mi warm up followed by

2x [1200 CI, 800 CI, 400 PI] with 400 rest in between each. I did the CIs at 7.2 and the PIs at 7.7 at first and then backed off to 7.5, which is more in line with 5k pace rather than goal pace.

The thing that I noticed about these intervals is that they start out feeling harder than on the track, but once I get going, they aren't actually any harder. I think I sometimes psych myself out of doing speedwork on the treadmill because it will be "too hard" but now I have confidence that if I just hang in there during the adjustment period, it won't be too bad at all. Plus, a little practice dealing with discomfort is not a bad thing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The coming week

Here's the plan:
M- 8ish miles inc. 1200 CI, 800 CI, 400 SI, 1200 CI, 800 CI, 400 SI
T-6 mi
W-6 mi (may swap with Thurs)
R- 8ish miles inc. 4mi PI followed by 1mi CI. This may get swapped for Wednesday due to time constraints. I have to take D to work every day this week because we only have one car now (yay!). I should try to do it on the treadmill, but I find it harder to stick with a tough pace on the TM than on a flat road or the track. We shall see.
F- XT. Probably my last spinning class at the gym.
S-12 mi
U- rest

That ends up as 42mi- sounds about right to me.

July in review, August prospective

I relized this afternoon that August had snuck up on me.

YTD mileage= 1096.7- Slightly more than 35 miles per week on average.

So July in summary:

The good-
  • 143.8 miles. Averages out to about 29mpw. I'm putting this with good and needs improvement. It's good because we traveled so much, and I was able to keep up with running on both trips. It needs improvement because I dropped long runs basically all month, and I really need to get my milage up if I want to hit 2008 miles this year.
  • Kept up with speed training. I'm not feeling intimidated by it anymore, and I actually kind of look forward to the workouts to see what I can do.
  • Kept up strength training (for the most part) despite being busy with the move and traveling.

The not so good-

  • 143.8 miles. I said it all above.
  • I need to get back into long run shape. Lots of 12-14 milers between now and the 1/2 marathon- maybe a 16 in there too just for good measure.
  • I skipped a 5k I'd been training for. Granted I had an ache and I really enjoyed seeing friends that evening instead, but I am a little dissappointed I didn't do that race.

Ahead for August:

Goals are-

  • Keep up the speed and tempo workouts.
  • Keep up with strength training.
  • Keep running while we travel.
  • Keep up with stretching.
  • Run a 10k (or maybe a 5k) at the end of the month.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Workouts

Friday I did my first tempo run of the training cycle. I was supposed to do one last week, but it got skipped due to being out of town for Rockygrass. I did 4.09 in 35:37- an average of 8:42min/mile. I know I started out a bit fast and slowed down after the first could miles, but I the pace never felt too hard.

Today was my first long run- 12mi. Again I started out around 9-9:30 pace, but slowed down quite a bit by the end. I'm hoping that it's partially the heat, but I know part of it is being out of long run shape. It's kind of daunting to think about running at my tempo pace for 13 miles, but I have 6 more weeks of tempo and long running to work on it.

Tomorrow will be a rest day. I'm going to help at the finishing area of the La Luz run. It's a pretty tough race, and they have a lot of great athletes show up for it, so it's a fun thing to be part of.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back again

Last weekend was our last "weekend away" trip up to Colorado for the Rockygrass music festival. I was suprised and pleased that I got in runs both Friday and Saturday mornings.

Monday was another speed workout. It was the same workout as last Monday but at the track this time.

I did a total of 7 miles in 1:03. Here's the breakdown on the intervals:

.75mi at 8:36 pace (this one was supposed to be at goal 1/2 marathon race pace)
2x .5mi at 8:13 and 8:01 pace (these were at 10k pace)
4x .15mi at 7:41, 7:58, 7:25 and 7:24 pace (these were supposed to be about 5k pace but I definitely ran them faster because the interval was so short- I have to say, I like 200m repeats)

Otherwise, I'm up to 12 pushups and doing downward dog for 1 minute every day after my run. I'm trying to up my pushups by 1 each Sunday and Wednesday to get up to 25. I'm sure I'll hit a sticking point somewhere in there, though.

Also, I really need to do more long runs in preparation for the 1/2 marathon in Sept. That's my biggest weak point right now, I think.

I did have one sign on Monday that I'm making progress, though. On one of my recovery laps in between intervals I slowed down as much as I could, and I realized that I basically cannot run as slow as a 10 min mile (on flat ground) anymore. That used to be my regular pace. That's very exciting.

Thursday will be 2x2mi at goal pace. I hope I find it easy to "get in the groove" at the right pace, and it feels easy enough that I think I can hold it for 13 miles!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Been a long time

It's been a long time since I've updated this thing.

Last Thursday I did my last key workout for the 5k I'd been training for. 1mi at 5k goal pace with a warmup and cool down. I ran the mile at 7:50 pace, but it felt hard, and my stomach did not feel great. I think it was partly because I was getting used to the altitude again after being in SF and partly because I tried Nuun for the first time and mixed it in warm water. Yuck. The Camelbak electrolyte tablets are much better. Those 10 calories of sweetness goes a long way.

So anyway, I took Friday off, had an easy run on a slightly different course Saturday, and woke up Sunday morning to do an easy run before the 5k that evening. Unfortunately my right hamstring cramped up over night, and I couldn't even run a mile that morning. It was not a "this seems like it will go away once I've warmed up" kind of pain, but an "I need to stop because I can't extend my right knee all the way" pain. I hopped on the elliptical for an hour but still held out some hope that I would do the race later. Well, we were invited by some friends to go see the Batman movie and go out to dinner so I scrapped the race completely and enjoyed the afternoon in a different way. In some ways I'm really dissapointed that I didn't run this race. I'd been training for it. I probably could have done it. Now I have a cute t-shirt that I'd feel guilty wearing because I didn't actually run. But in some ways it seems like it just wasn't meant to be. There'll be other 5ks.

Yesterday I was back on the training wagon, starting the first week of 1/2 marathon training. I'm using the Runners World "Your Ultimate 1/2 Marathon Training Plan Intermediate" but modified to add extra miles. I did the first workout on the treadmill: 1200 at goal pace (I did this by going 2min at 6.8, 2 at 6.9, 2 at 6.8 and 1 at 7.0), then 2x 800 (2min at 7.2 and a little more than 2min at 7.3), and finally 4x200 at 7.7. I did the workout on the treadmill in case my hamstring started bothering me I could just jump on an elliptical. I'd say the most noteworthy thing about this workout is that I didn't have any anxiety going into it. In fact, I really wanted to move through my warmup quickly so I could get started on the speed part.

Today was just an easy run of 7mi. I'm also thinking about some strength training/ yoga goals that I'd like to work on for the end of the year to help keep myself motivated. I think I'm going to post those on one of the side bars.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back in action

I was gone for the weekend in sunny (but chilly) San Francisco. This was to be our last big trip "out west" before we move up north.

For the first two days, just walking around was exercise enough for me, but I got in two runs on the hotel treadmill at the end of the trip when we had some downtime.

Last week was the "peak workout" for my 5k on Sunday. The goal was to run 5x1k at 5k pace, but really I was running them at more like my goal pace.

I decided to drive to the track and do my warmup and cooldown there to see if that helped me not feel so wiped out after these workouts, and I think it did. The break down was

2mi warmup

.65mi in 5:08 (7:54 pace)

.64mi in 5:03 (7:56 pace)

.65mi in 5:08 (7:54 pace)

.64mi in 4:57 (7:45 pace)

.65 in 5:001 (7:40 pace)

2mi cool down

Overall I was pleased both with my ability to do the workout closer to goal pace than my old race pace and the fact that I did the last two intervals the fastest. Running an 8min mile will let me sneak under 25 min. I'd have to run about 7:45 to beat my old PR of just under 24min. I don't think the second will happen, but as long as nothing weird happens, and I really push myself then I don't think I'll have any problems breaking 25min.

I also ran 2x1.5 on the treadmill at the hotel Monday. I was able to handle the pace remarkably easily, but that probably just means that it wasn't calibrated correctly and I still had my high altitude adaptations. Now that I think about it, today was the first high-altitude run I've done since I've been back so that may explain why I felt a bit sluggish.

Tomorrow will be 2.5mi w/u, 1mi at 5k pace, 2.5mi c/d. After this Sunday I'll start 1/2 marathon training. Do I have a 1:55 in me? We shall see.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Feeling better

Well, two days off + one yoga class = feeling much better. I did a 2 mi warm up and 4 mi tempo run on the treadmill today. It felt a little tough around the half-way point, but I was really happy that I hung with it. I would have like to do 8, but I needed to get back to get ready for the moving appraisal guy. I'll plan to do about 8 tomorrow, 8 with speed on Thursday, and 8 on Saturday, which will put me at 30 miles this week. Just fine because it's a back down week.

The main thing is that I need to remind myself that this training "cycle" is about adding speed, not endurance- although I guess the 1/2 marathon training is both. So rather than trying to ramp up to 50 mpw before my 1/2, I'm going to try to stay in the neighborhood of 35-40mpw. From experience, that's the highest milage my body is comfortable with, so I should stay in that zone but add intensity. After the 1/2 marathon I can hold the intensity constant (say one 3-4 mi tempo run and one run with 4-5 800s or even just fartlek-type stuff) while I increase my milage. I think if I can get comfortable in the 45-50 mile range by January I'll be set to do the Pfitz or Ulitmate Marathon training program without problems. Ideally I'd like to be able to start around 45mi and peak at 60, but that may not be realistic this year.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

June in review and plans for July

So this is a few days late, but this year is really flying by!

June was good for getting back into the groove with running and lifting weights. I hit a 40 mile week and I feel like I'm finally getting some development in my arms and shoulders. I think yoga has also been helpful as far as recovering from my workouts and staying free from injury. I ran a 5k in 25:21 and started a full 4-week training plan for my next 5k. Speed training has not been as scary as I thought. I've been able to meet my goals in most cases, and, if not, put forth my best effort and realize that not every day will be my best day. I started back on the No S Diet as far as sweets go (I can have them Fridays and Saturdays but not during the rest of the week) and am committing to eating at home when I'm home by myself and not buying smoothies or other snacks out. I'd like to lean out a bit, and hopefully additional miles + cutting out unnecessary junk will help that happen.

I have two more weeks of the 5k training plan before the next race on the 20th. I hit 43mpw this week and hope to be back in the 40s after this back down week. I'd love to get under 25min in the next 5k and think it's possible if I really push. Last, I'll spend the last two weeks of July starting a 9-week 1/2 marathon training program for the Fox Cities Half on Sept 20. Tonight I'm going to work on putting it into my calendar while D watches his last two episodes of The Tick.

Long term, I wanted to run 8 races in 2008- that looks like maybe one more 5k before Fox Cities and maybe the North Face Endurance Run half in October. That last one would probably be more of a "to finish it" kind of race, but it sounds so hard core. How can I pass it up?