Born to Run

This Post was originally published on September 12th, 2014

Last year I decided that I wanted to push myself and run a 5k. More important than just setting a goal for myself I vocalized it. I distinctly remember telling the first person that I was going to give it a shot and having her roll her eyes. I understand why, I have a pretty bad record for following through on fitness goals, and I was also pretty hammered when I said it. After procrastinating for 7 or 8 months I finally got on track (running pun) and starting to make strides (another running pun).

I have always hated running, there is no way around it, running sucks. I hated it during the 5 years that I was on the track team. I hated it during the rush bowl practices. I still hate it now. The thing with being fat is that the fatter you get the harder it is to get started with any new workout regimen. But finally if you have enough determination then you can overcome. I committed to using couch to 5k, this fascinating little app that does not include as much couch time as suggested by the title. This app really broke everything down to easy to try segments instead of just plopping the daunting task of running a long distance on you.

I have always been terrified about being judged for running (or doing most anything physical) and overcoming this mental barrier was huge for me. I found myself running at night and hoping that people didn’t see me, but in time I found that when you get going there is no time to worry about what other people think. In fact since this is Vermont the only things that have ever been yelled out of car windows were words of encouragement. I did have one issue where I was hassled by 5 Middlebury College douche bags while running through town. Once I turned around and calmly told them that I would beat all 5 of them so badly that their brains would leak out of their ears and their rich mommies and daddies couldn’t do anything about it I didn’t hear anything else out of them.

After suffering through the first week of barely being able to jog for 60 seconds I was eventually able to pull things together and get up to speed (running pun). I dealt with a lot of soreness and I think that I discovered a bunch of new muscles that I had never felt before. Over the first few weeks I was able to see huge gains and was able to push myself further and further as I got into it. Soon I was not doing the intervals, just running for 20 or 30 minutes at a time for the first time in more than a dozen years. By mid June it looked like this was going to be a cakewalk and I would be able to keep this up forever.

Unfortunately during the end of June I hurt my hip pretty badly. This totally derailed me, especially since I tried to push through it and wound up hurting myself worse. After taking a few weeks off I started feeling better but didn’t have to motivation to get started again. Even when I did get jump started it was hard to keep to the three times weekly routine that I had been on because of travel, work, and just plain feeling like I didn’t want to run. One good thing was that I met a girl who is really into yoga and she inspired me to start doing some yoga stretches after my runs which have really cut down on the soreness. This is one of the serendipitous things where someone comes into your life at just the right time and makes a suggestion that makes a difference in something completely different. I suppose that I have been the beneficiary of some pretty good luck.

I have also been lucky enough to have a huge amount of support from my friends and family members. From offers to run with me, to words of encouragement, to validation of my accomplishments I have been able to draw on a wealth of support. Even though I am a very internally motivated person having this external motivation just fueled the fire and made me want to do better every day. For all of those who have supported me I thank you from the bottom of my heart and ask that you keep it coming.

It is funny to look at how far I have come from the first gasping 60 second jog 4 months ago. I bought special running shoes, and one of those phone holder things that are supposed to fit around your bicep but barely fit my forearm, I even have a post workout ritual. It is strange. I have learned a lot about myself from this journey and hope to keep learning. I have found several things that work for me, and several that don’t so that I can exploit my strengths and focus on my weaknesses. It is pretty cool, not to mention I am down 25 pounds since February and feel stronger and healthier than I have in years.

I don’t think that I am going to be able to run the entire way tomorrow. I have been lagging behind for the past few weeks and haven’t been as motivated to train. But that happens. I am just going to go out and do my best and will finish even if I have to crawl across the finish line. I already registered for another race on October 5th in Albany, so that will keep the cycle of motivation coming. I will probably struggle to transition to going to the gym this winter, but I am confident that I can keep this up. I am not good at following through on fitness goals, but this time I think that it is different. I have seen what I have been able to accomplish and the results that I have been able to achieve in just a short time. While this may not be turning over a whole new leaf maybe it a step in the right direction (one final running pun).

Thanks again for all the motivation, and keep it coming.

Advertisements

Fat, Drunk, & Stupid is No Way to Go Through Life

This Post was originally published on February 28th, 2014

I made it. For those of you who doubted me I will accept forgiveness payments in cash, check, or beer. In fact screw the cash or check payments, I just want beer. As of 4:30am (my weird rule about when the new day starts) I will be able to once again imbibe the delicious nectar of the gods known simply as booze.

I think that taking the Sobruary break was really beneficial in several ways.  Most importantly it helped me to evaluate my relationship with one of the central things in my life. As with every one of these lifestyle experiments that I try I have to look back and see how it can affect my future. Going in I had three main areas where taking a break would be very beneficial and I think that I was able to make progress in all three areas.

First I looked at this from a health perspective, to kill my tolerance and start trying to live healthier. I have to assume that a bite has been taken out of my tolerance, I guess I will have to test that out during Saint Patrick’s Week. If I die of sun poisoning after passing out early then I guess you can blame sobriety. I have found myself drinking more water both at home and at work I feel like I am well hydrated and generally feel better. Oh yeah, by not drinking my calories and being more active I was able to make some big strides and I am down more than 10 pounds over the past month.

Secondly I looked at the economic benefits.  Every dollar that I saved by not drinking this month was more than offset by the $1,000 I had to shell out in taxes. I did save a lot of cash on beer alone, but I also found myself adjusting how I did other portions of my shopping. The market where I do most of my shopping has a great beer selection by not slowing down to peruse the cooler I found myself powering past the chips and sodas that are located in the same aisle. I suppose that this could be folded in under healthy living, but in reality I identify it more with economics since my weekly grocery spending has dropped by a decent amount. Also my electric bill was lower because I unplugged my beer fridge, gotta go for the little wins.

Lastly I was intrigued by the social aspect and the challenge of being sober in a world where I am so identified by beer. I went to Boston for a few days for a birthday celebration and was able to stay sober in one of the drunkest cities in the western hemisphere.  But I was worried about how my friends, many of whom I haven’t seen since college, would react to me standing there drinking water. Lo and behold except for a bit of good natured ribbing they not only accepted it, but were very supportive about me giving this a shot. I won’t lie to you and say that not drinking for an entire month was easy, there were a few days where I wanted to put on some bluegrass and sing my sorrows into a bottle of Jack, but overall I think that I was able to get it done with few regrets.

Now for the other shoe to drop. This break wasn’t all positive. For instance two of my best friends came up to Vermont for a beer event and didn’t call me because they were worried that I would be tempted and fall off the wagon. I was kind of hurt by this, but to be fair, for Heady Topper I might have fallen off the wagon. This is the best example of a social problem, but not the only one. I shied away from going out for dinner or to hang out with friends because I was following the out of sight out of mind tactic, plus I worked 24 of the days in February so I was pretty damn tired. One of my friends came over a few times for dinner during February and I could tell that he felt kind of uncomfortable to be drinking alone in front of me, but I think that we were able to make it work.

So where do I go from here? Honestly I am not sure but I feel like there are a few things that I can do to to keep the benefits going forward. I know that this weekend I am going to work beer back into my system gradually. Attending the drunkfest that is Magic Hat Mardi Gras is probably not the best idea for gradual inebriation, but I am driving so that should keep everything in check. I was thinking about installing a weekly quota system or a taking X number of days off would probably fail. With a stringent system like any diet it is just too easy to have one slip up and throw the whole thing out the window.  I would also spend most of my time trying to work around the systems that I put in place instead of just going with the flow.  Instead I am thinking about doing a weekday quota of 24 ounces of beer, or a limit of 1 beer if I am drinking by myself. This will allow me to have dinner or go out and grab a beer after work with friends, while keeping me from downing a 6 pack in my recliner. Since I spend so much time traveling or going to events on weekends I am going to use them as cheat days without limits, but I hope that drinking less over the week will keep me from drinking a ton on my cheat days.

One of the motivating factors that got me interested in taking this break was how I was using (or abusing) the Untappd app. I am going to start using it again but instead of approaching it with the Pokemon gotta catch em all mentality I am going to use it simply as a way to remember what I have had and what I though about it. If I get badges that’s cool, but I am not going to chase after them, as we all know we don’t need no stinkin badges.  I will also embrace it as more of a social tool that helps keep me in touch with my friends who I don’t talk to enough.

It has definitely been an eye opening 28 days. I think that I have grown personally while shrinking a bit physically. I managed to spend more time sober than I have during any period in the past 10 years, which I think was a pretty good accomplishment. Tomorrow will be the resumption of the rest of my life, but I can always look back and say that I pulled off sobriety for an entire month, short as it may be, who knows maybe I will make this an annual thing. I hope that I made some of you proud, thanks for the support. For the rest of you don’t worry your beer swilling idol is back.

 

May the Force Be With You

This Post was originally published on February 25th, 2014

May The Force Be With You

A few months ago I made a great investment. I bought a fitbit force. For those of you who have never heard of a fitbit I dont blame you, I just stumbled across it on the interweb while drunk. The idea is that it is cross between a pedometer and an smartwatch. I is loaded with Technology that allows you to track steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, “very active minutes”, it also tracks your sleep and functions as an alarm clock. The sleep tracker feature was what really sold me on it, but that was the factor that I feel most let down by.

A little background. When I switched jobs a few months ago I thought that the exercise that I was losing from not working 12 hours on my feet would be off set by the extra time that I was planning on going to the gym. I also rationalized that I would not eat candy for meals because it was readily available or do the 8pm zombie walk through the supermarket to get whatever I could scarf down before falling asleep on the couch. I had some things throw me off my game and derail my well intentioned plans to get into a gym going schedule, I am now working on getting back in the groove but it is still a struggle. Even when eating better I found that the relatively sedentary work setup was hurting me and after months of thinking how the dryers at the new laundromat were shrinking my shirts I decided to take some steps (pedometer pun) in the right direction. I suppose that it has always been in the back of my mind, sometimes in the front of my mind, that I really need to get my shit together and get more active but now is my chance.

The idea for a fitbit came up when I stumbled across a sale for this strange sounding device that looked like a watch. I did a little more research and decided to shell out the $130 for something that I figured I would try for a month or so and then would lose interest in. By day 5 I was already convinced that this was a good investment. I wear my fitbit all day and it tracks pretty much everything that I do and I only have to charge it for 2 hours every 10 days. I pair it with my phone over bluetooth so that I can track the stats and view how well I slept or how active I have been. I have set a daily goal of 10,000 steps (5 miles) and have set absolute minimums for myself (6,000 steps) where if I dont hit it during the normal day then I walk laps around my living room until I hit my goal.

It is funny how you trick yourself into doing a little bit more just to hit a goal. I find myself parking further away from store, or pacing around, or leaving something upstairs so that I have to put in a little more effort. On Sunday I was bored at Rite Aid and found myself walking laps through the bays pretending to find meds so that I didn’t look weird. I like these little games that keep my mind focused on hitting these goals. It was also cool to see what you can do in the course of a normal day. I can track that whenever I walk over to the nursing home I can add 800-1000 steps, on days that I dont go over there and stay in the pharmacy I just have to work that much extra after work. When I wandered around Boston a few weeks ago I was actually able to hit 20,000 steps and can now use that as a benchmark.

As I said before the feature that I was really sold on was the sleep tracker. It is pretty cool to wake up, sync to my phone and see an image that shows the quality and length of sleep. The tracker uses an algorithm to track movement and assign it a category of awake, restless, or asleep. Unfortunately as an insomniac I am only able to fall asleep by lying still and forcing myself to sleep. Because I am not moving the tracker shows me like I was in a deep sleep even though I was lying there wide awake. Even though the figures about how much I was sleeping are overestimated I do like having the information at my fingertips. The silent alarm wakes you up with a really strange vibration on your wrist which is much better than getting jarred out of bed by my phone. Even better is the fact that I cant reset my alarm without going into my phone, turning on bluetooth, updating the time, and then syncing the devices which is way to labor intensive for sleep me that just wants to push the alarm back by 15 minutes.

I have a friend who also has a fitbit and we were able to connect about how great they are. He actually saw me wearing it and thought that I had stolen his when he was drunk the night before. Whenever I see someone wearing one, or hear someone talk about it I always feel like they are one of my people. It is kind of the same thing that I have whenever I see a dude with a beard, “you might be an asshole, but you have a good beard so I automatically respect you.” George Takei even did a podcast about how great this type of wearable tech is, while showing all the options (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxcmwX-Rtug). This type of community is important whenever trying to push forward and reach fitness goals.

The point of the fitbit is not just to track your steps or your sleep, it is trying to show you how tracking can improve your life. They offer options on their website and app to track food, exercise, glasses of water, and most importantly weight. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t own a scale until 2 weeks ago. This is the simplest way of tracking your body short of marking how tall you have grown on a doorframe and I wasn’t able or willing to do it. I got on the scale and was pretty shocked by the numbers. That is the bad news, but the good news is that I have put in place a system where I weigh myself every morning and while I see the fluctuations as of this morning I am down 10 pounds.

I really can’t wait for this winter to be over. Not just for the normal reasons of wanting to spend time at camp drinking beer on the deck, but because I can’t wait to walk outside. That is strange to me, I normally dont want to walk anywhere, but every day that I get out of work I just want it to be nice out so that I can go for a walk. Last year I literally scoffed at my doctor when he said something along the lines of “maybe I will see you walking the bike path this summer.” I am even looking forward to trying to walk the 4 miles round trip to work. These ideas wouldn’t have been anywhere on my radar before the fitbit. I wouldn’t have know my limits or what I can do, or what I already do during a day of work, and now that I have motivation to do more.

One quick down note, the fitbit Force which is the model that I use has been pulled off the market. Apparently people are

having pretty gnarly reactions to something in the band. I haven’t gotten the reaction yet and will keep wearing mine until I do or until they release a new version that I can trade mine in for. If someone is interested then I recommend the fitbit Flex which is a cheaper model that will work fine.

I think that the fitbit was definitely a good investment, but even the best investments are nothing without follow through. I think that I am going to need a lot of help and motivation as I try to be more active and get healthier. I would like to actually run a 5k some time this year (there I said it so now you can shame me if it doesn’t happen) and start doing other things that will help me move forward and live a better life. Plus I hear that the more active you are the more beer you can drink, and everybody knows how I feel about beer.

From Russia With Apathy

This Post was originally published on February 6th, 2014

The Olympics are the pinnacle of sport.  Relatively unknown athletes laying it all on the line to represent their home countries by participating in sports that nobody cares about except for a few weeks every 4 years striving to bring home the gold before fading back into obscurity.  Seriously what could be better than that? Jingoistic pride (check), great stories about underdogs (check), there being no I in team (check), beautiful women wearing form fitting clothing (check), “average” Joes slaving away to become the best at their sport (check), wonderful performance art (check), people laying it all on the line for glory (check), and of course curling.

I love the Olympics, and just about everything that they stand for.  I grew up with a poster from the 1980 Lake Placid games on my wall.  I have been to several Olympic sites in Placid, Park City, Hotlanta, and even Barcelona.  The romance behind representing your country and being the best in the world (take that Canada) gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling every other summer or winter.  Hell I even started growing my beard as a form of protest during the Beijing Games, well protest or being too lazy to shave.  I love the Olympics and feel that they are something that I always look forward to… until now.

Whenever you don’t like something for whatever reason it is always good to examine the why of the matter.  Why is this year different that the past 16 or so years that I have followed the Olympics with a fervor?  Is it because Putin is an asshole?  Well that probably has something to do with it.  I have never been a big fan of the iron fisted ex KGB bigot, but hes not my president so what does it matter.  The spotlight of the games have shone a pretty bright light on the issues going on in Russia, and instead of using this opportunity to help his country Putin has basically just shouted “I DO WHAT I WANT” and then taken a shot of Vodka.  Maybe its the vodka?  I hate that Russian firewater with a passion too.

It seems that most of the news coverage about the Olympics has revolved around plumbing and housing.  The tandem toilets, the toilets that were somehow built without flushers, the fact that Russia is shitty, the cameras in the toilets, its just getting out of hand.  Sochi was named as an the host city like 8 years ago and apparently they didnt get their shit together.  In 2008 I stayed in the same University of Utah dorms that the Olympians stayed in during the 2002 games.  They were standard college suites and were actually pretty nice and a lot of thought and planning had been put into them.  The people who planned the Sochi games didn’t even buy enough pillows, its nuts that they are expecting the world’s best to perform in what winds up being shitty conditions.

Nobody will accuse me of being an animal activist.  I like animals all right, but I really don’t love animals.  The fact that a week before the opening ceremony there were so many stray dogs roving the streets that they had to start poisoning and shooting them is just disturbing.  You have been building these stadiums for years, HOW DID YOU NOT NOTICE THE PACKS OF FERAL DOGS ROAMING THE AREA UNTIL LAST WEEK?  If they would have had their shit together they probably could have fixed this issue in a humane way.  Seriously if you cannot pull your own head out of your ass ask for help, there is somebody on the tandem toilet who can assist you.

There are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent and made off these Olympics.  The sponsorship and the TV networks and all the expense of building the facilities and the pomp and circumstance, but the athletes get none of it.  The American athletes have to even pay for their own flights.  How crazy is that?  Everybody is getting rich except for the people who train for years and will get nothing out of it except a few minutes in the spotlight and possibly their face on a Wheaties box, and that doesn’t even matter because Wheaties are the bastard step child of cereals.  It really grinds my gears that the commercialism of the games doesn’t give back to the people who make it possible.  How is it that the richest nation on earth cant even foot the bill for plane tickets for those who represent it on the international stage.

I doubt that I am going to watch any of this year’s Olympics, and that is a shame.  The fact that I don’t have a TV probably plays a roll, but if I wanted to watch something then I could find a way.  NBC does a very good job (Bob Costas is #1) and they probably stream at least the important stuff online.  This feeling of apathy, or even antipathy is very unnatural when it comes to me and sports, maybe its a hangover effect from an anticlimactic Superbowl.  I hope that all the athletes go out there and reach for glory for themselves and their nations, and despite all the bullshit that the games go off without a hitch.  Maybe by the time the summer games in Rio roll around I will have regained my passion for the sport in its purest form, but until then I will just have to monitor the medal counts and hope that we beat Canada.  U-S-A.