How to lose weight when you’re 46 years old and genetically disadvantaged

I promised my sister I’d post about my recent weight loss when I hit 125. I’m a little over 126, but I have a day off from all responsibilities today, so I’ll go right ahead since I expect to be down to 125 within a few days anyway.

When we got back from a visit with Jonathan’s family in England in May I weighed a whopping 141 pounds. I’ve been struggling with weight since late 2009. I’m still not sure why I put on roughly 10 pounds over the course of about 8 months. Nearly half of that piled on within about two months of starting a new birth control pill (Loestrin 24). Then the next 6 arrived very slowly over time. It may have been hormonal. My metabolism may have simply ground to a halt that year. Dunno.

Over the past 18 months of so of trying to shed the extra poundage, I could not get rid of it by eating sensibly, nor did heavy mileage help. I sought the help of a nutritionist and an endocrinologist late last year, also to no avail.

No wonder I'm so slow. I've been running carrying the equivalent of this box of cat litter for the past several years.

When I weighed myself on May 18, seeing a number over 140 — a weight that was flirting with what I weighed before I started running 12 years ago (an endeavor started because I’d gotten so fucking fat) — the same sense of shame and outrage that overtook me in 1999 reemerged. It galvanized me, inspiring a steely resolve: I was going to lose this fat even if people had to die.

In roughly two months, I’ve lost about 15 pounds. Fortunately, no one has died. It’s been a pretty simple process, but it has not been easy. Here’s how I did it, along with some observations and tips. I should note that I’m no medical expert and this has been an experiment on myself, not unlike the one William Hurt performed in Altered States. Although I have not yet broken into a zoo and eaten an antelope [2:20]. But, believe me, I’ve been close a few times.

Here’s what didn’t work

Going to an endocrinologist in search of a hormonal or other chemical explanation. I got tested for various things and got the all clear. I also got this annoyingly generic piece of medical insight: “Most women gain weight in middle age, especially around the waist.” Yeah, well, I’m not most women.

Going to a sports nutritionist. This was another useless exercise. For four months I followed a supposed expert’s advice, tolerated her insinuations that I was not being honest about what I was eating, and grew increasingly frustrated.

Going off the pill. Actually, that may have sort of worked, but it’s taken forever. Here’s something else I’ve observed: every gynecologist and article will tell you that the hormones in the pill are gone from your system in a week or two. I don’t believe this is true, based on several things. For one, I’ve had friends who were on the pill and went off it in an effort to get pregnant. Some of them took as long as six months to get knocked up. For another, the whole reason I went on the thing (beyond the obvious) was to regulate my wild cycles. I could swing 10 days in either direction. Yet for four months after I stopped taking it in January, I could predict my cycle’s start by not only the day, but also by the hour. In the last month I’ve started to go all wacky and unpredictable again. My weight loss rate has also picked up slightly. Coincidence? Again, dunno.

So what did work?

The nutritionist told me that my resting metabolic rate plus non-running movements resulted in a need for around 1850 calories a day. This was just to function. We based everything on that. I was told not to ever cut more than 500 calories a day from base + exercise output total (I don’t know what awful thing would happen if I did; maybe I’d actually lose weight?). Plus I was given elaborate formulas for how many grams of carbohydrate and protein to take in before a workout and in the hours after a workout in order to recover properly.

I’m sorry, but it was all bollocks. I lost no weight on this plan.

So you know what I did? I took the base calorie intake she had me on — roughly 1650 a day — and chopped it in half. That’s right: my new caloric ceiling was around 850. If I did any exercise, I’d add those calories back in. Here’s an example:

Base calorie intake: 850
Run 6 miles easy: 500
Total allowed: 1350

Following this rather parsimonious formula, I lost a little over 2 pounds the first week, then another 1.5 the following week. It’s varied from week to week, but it’s basically been around 1.5 pounds per week. During a PMS week, I usually stagnate, although I don’t gain water weight like I used to, so I think I’m still “stealth losing.”

There’s no secret to this

The laws of thermodynamics are absolute. Unless you’ve got a thyroid or other issue, if your body is deprived of external sources of fuel, it will start burning its own.

But it’s really hard to do

Aside from the behavioral challenges, I’ve got a few other things working against me. For one, I’m way over 40. If you think you can eat the way you did in your 20s and 30s, just wait. You can’t. For another, my physique lies somewhere along the body type spectrum between mesomorph and endomorph. I blame my Viking genes: you need a lot of muscle for hefting swords and engaging in extended bouts of raping and pillaging, plus you need fat to keep you from becoming too cold in Spitzbergen or wherever the hell my ancestors were from. I build muscle very easily, which is great if I want to be a power lifter, but useless for distance running. So I actually have to be careful about doing too much weight or other resistance work. For another, I hold onto fat like it’s going out of style. I gain it easily and then have a bastard of a time getting rid of it.

What does it all mean?

It means that while it’s possible for me to lose fat, it’s difficult and takes a huge effort and commitment. Have you ever tried living on 850 calories a day? It takes planning. It’s tedious. You’re hungry often. But seeing a pretty much constant weight loss of around 1-2 pounds a week is a great motivator. As I said to someone recently, I can deal with eating 850 calories a day for three months more easily than I can deal with eating 1200 calories a day for six months.

Are you ready to suffer? Here are some handy tips!

Use a calorie tracking program. There is no other way to know what you’re taking in and using up. I like Tap and Track for the iPhone.

Plan ahead. If you have a job that you travel to (as I have since I started this venture), pack your food. Apportion your calories among various food items and stick those items in your bag. If you eat all your food too early in the day, tough luck. You’ll only do this a few times.

Stop drinking. I shouldn’t have to explain this one. With only 850 calories to play with, there is no room for extravagances like liquor. Bonus: you’ll avoid embarrassing Ambien episodes.

Eat “big food.” These are foods that have a high density and volume relative to their caloric content. Examples are: fruits, vegetables, and lean animal proteins. I have gotten a lot of mileage out of grapes, cherries, nectarines, corn on the cob, steak and chicken.

Eat small amounts of fat throughout the day. For example, while nuts are very calorie dense, they will keep you full because they take forever to digest. Also, a cup of coffee with half and half will stave off hunger for a good hour or two.

When the hunger pangs get too bad, just close your eyes and think of England. Failing that, eat your own hand — preferably the one you don’t favor. It’s low in calories and you have another one if you need to make a phone call or something.

A special note for runners

Bear in mind that I’ve only been running 30-40 miles per week during this process and doing 2 hard sessions tops. I don’t know that I’d attempt this during a heavier training schedule. Also note that I’ve been careful to make sure I take in at least 200 grams of carbohydrates and 75 grams of protein a day. On days after a hard run or race, I’ll up the calorie intake a bit because I’m usually starving and to me that’s a signal that I need more food in order to recover properly.

Why am I doing this?

Because I not only looked a lot better when I weighed somewhere in the low 120s, but I ran better too. I am now running a lot faster, despite the heat and humidity. But more on that soon.

In which bloggers sing “Kumbaya” on the Upper West Side

For years, social scientists have pondered the question: Can Americans and Australians ever have brunch together? The answer is yes. Yes, we can.

Today Jonathan and I met up with a load of people, most of whom we’d never met. At least not in the flesh. With the exception of our friend (and my fellow podcast host) Joe of RunWestchester. But I’ve been following the exploits of Ewen (of About a Ewen) and Flo (of Girl in Motion) for several years. Ewen is here with his friends Joy and Mal on an epic tour of the U.S. (can’t imagine why they’d want to come to this 2,600 mile wide dump) and, fortunately for us, it includes an extended swing through New York City. Flo drove her ass all the way up from Philadelphia just to have lunch with us! But it gets better: also there was Flo’s friend, Heather, a newly minted masters runner who lives in New York and who had not seen Flo in sixteen years!! But, wait. There’s more: Heather had a stress fracture in her pelvis earlier this year in almost the exact same place I did!!!

It doesn’t get any weirder than that. Especially when this crew is involved.

In a symbol of the historically peaceful relations between our two nations, we exchanged cultural gifts. Ewen gave us Australia-themed drink coolers and fragrant soaps. We gave Ewen race t-shirts (he made out like a “bandit,” scoring shirts for the New York Marathon, Healthy Kidney, Scotland Run and yesterday’s Run for Central Park). Mimosas were consumed. Checks were split. Hugs were freely given.

Mal and Joy, who are non-runners, were extremely tolerant of all the running talk. Which is good, since we’re meeting up again on Friday evening for drinks and there will be even more runners there!!!! Joe and I will also see Ewen in Van Cortlandt for a 5K on Thursday evening, his first international race (not counting Tasmania)!!!!!

Ewen, Joy and Mal

Heather, Flo and Ewen

Me, Joe, Heather, Flo and Ewen

Jonathan threatens to usurp actual stuff from another continent

Race Report: Central Park Conservancy Run for Central Park

Well, I had a better race here than I did last year when it was, apparently, hot. Last year it was 82 degrees and 53% humidity. This year it was 72 degrees and 68% humidity. I don’t know what’s worse. Last year? Although I was verging on injury at this time last year. I ran this race three weeks before I’d suffer a pelvic stress fracture in the club championships that would sideline me totally for 3+ months, then take another 4 after that to run normally again. I was also fatter then. Fat is a great insulator, which is not so great in the summer in New York City.

So. Let’s move on.

At this point, I’m happy just to be racing, so I don’t go in with any goals other than to emerge at the finish without a new and exotic injury. A decent time is a cherry on top. But I’m not trained yet, so I’m not expecting PRs at this point. I came in at 29:16, which is better than last year’s 30:05 but well off my best on this course of 27:34. I am a winter racer, that much is clear.

Jonathan and I stayed at my dad’s place on 92nd, which was a good call. We could have a fairly relaxed breakfast (especially since I woke up 45 minutes early), then jog the 1.5 miles to the start. After that we parted ways and went to do our little warmups. To be honest, I felt like crap. My freelance gig has been exhausting and a daily three hour commute through heat has taken its toll. I also wondered if my legs were still beaten up from the Van Cortlandt race nine days ago. My strides sucked. So I stopped doing them and just figured I’d run within whatever the conditions (the weather and my own) would dictate.

On the way to the corral I ran into teammate Joni, whom I’d met just once before, way back in December at the Harriers’ holiday bash and had since picked his brain via email for an article I did about cross-training (he generously shared his yoga knowledge). It turns out he’s been injured since then. I empathized with his tale of woe. We chatted in the corral for a while and then fell silent to listen to what was one of the most honest renditions of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve heard in a while. The singer was having some throat problems and, midway through the song, she audibly cleared her throat. I thought that was great. You do what you need to do, sister. Then she finished up in full form, no longer held back by the frog in her throat.

The race started and, since we were toward the back of corral 2, it was a walk-stop-jog-stop affair as we made our way up to the start mats. As always, it was pretty crowded, but I was able to weave through people.

Going out too fast. Dammit.

I pride myself on being a runner who does not normally go out too fast. But when you race after a layoff, it’s impossible to know how fast to run. You never want to run too slow. Oh, no. Never. Not that. So this happens sometimes. What I don’t like is how long it takes to realize I’ve made the mistake and then the sense of trepidation that accompanies the realization. Oh, I’m gonna pay for this.

I felt great during the first mile. Of course. I even felt pretty good through most of mile 2. But as we rounded the turn on to the 102nd St. Transverse, my legs were not happy. So they went on strike. I must have lost about 15 seconds on that mile, plodding along. Joni passed me. “Good for him,” I thought. “At least he’s having a good comeback race.” Then, into mile 3 (which is always a bad mile, what with the rolling hills), teammate Becky appeared beside me and said “Hi.” That was nice. But she passed me, which wasn’t. Lots of people were passing me. Now I was getting mad at myself.

It was fucking hot, especially in the sun. Here is where I regretted joining a team whose colors are black and black. I made a mental note to keep bugging the management to give us a white option.

At a crest of a hill, four Harriers were out cheering. I’d seen them earlier, when I was running my folly pace. Now I just felt ashamed. But it was good to see them anyway. Being cheered at always helps, even as it brings up complicated emotions.

Toward the end of mile 3 I rallied. I enjoy the last mile of this course. It’s either downhill or flat and I always pick off shitloads of people in this stretch. It’s usually my fastest mile of the race. I picked out a bunch of Ponytail Girls and gradually ran them all down. Go, me.

Make the turn on to the 72nd St. Transverse. I like this stretch too, because I can make a wide turn (“Slingshot the turn!” in Larry Rawson parlance), pick it up and feel like a rock star. The finish is pretty close. The clock’s approaching 30:00, but I know I lost time in the start mat clog. It’s lying to me.

Cross the mat in 29:16.

Considering the crap pacing, I’ll take it.

Training: July 3-9

It may look like I’m still injured. But I’m not.

That’s more than I can say for my training log, however. Google Docs inexplicably barfed all over it and upon exporting it out to my Mac to try to save the file, I couldn’t open it. So now I have to work with it on Jonathan’s Windows machine, which creates the hideousness you see at right. Damn you, Google. You’re not worth $528.94 a share.

I ran every day last week. And, more important, I ran pain free every day. It was good.

But.

It was also hot.

So I did lots of running inside on the treadmill.

Which was fine.

Not ideal.

But fine.

Highlights of the week included my first Jack Daniels-assigned speed session. That went well. I did not run too hard. I did my strides on a few outside runs and realized that unlike in training cycles past, I was not too tired to do the strides. Good sign.

Then I tore up Suicide Hill in Van Cordlandt and won a muffin. With help from Jonathan.

On Saturday I got some culture and some miles in Prospect Park.

And that was that.

This week’s gone well too. I ran faster than previously on some treadmill speedy stuff. On Saturday I have a 4 mile race in Central Park. I love the bizarre 4 mile distance.

On Sunday I’ll meet some long-admired kindred spirits for the first time (and reconnect with a few regulars) for lunch, one from Philadelphia and one all the way from Australia. That should be fun. I hope he doesn’t make fun of our accents.

I ordered some flamboyantly awful-looking new racing flats.

But you’ll have to wait until the weekend to hear all about those things.

How happy am I not to be injured?

Do you really have to ask?

Google Search Oddities

I’ve had a real bumper crop over the past few days. I can’t decide which one I like the best.

“female torture drawings” (hmm)

“video girl fuck free sex in the garden” (paging e. e. cummings!)

“fucked by invisible woman” (okay, I think this may be my favorite)

“what races like chunky women” (I’d like to know the answer to this too)

“triathlon is for douchebags” (no comment)

 

Theatre Review: Endure — Run. Woman. Show.

What happens when the race of your life is your life? You get something like Endure: Run. Woman. Show., a 360-degree meditation on marathoning as metaphor. Melanie Jones, the creative force behind this immersive theatre piece, which takes place in Prospect Park and its immediate environs, found me through the miracle of Google and invited me to the premiere yesterday. I’m so glad she did.

Endure is a show in which you’re along for the ride, rather than sitting passively in a theatre seat. Wearing an MP3 player, you start at a nearby playground (after “registering” for the show and pinning on a race bib, which is also your program) and make your way to Prospect Park. Along the way, you’re taken on a sonic journey, with visual cues if you look carefully enough for them, as you make the transition from the workaday sidewalk world of Park Slope to the more timeless and untethered world of the park. Once there, you are quite literally led down the garden path, emerging at the crest of an overlook where, at last, you meet our narrator, Ms. Jones.

We’re at the start of a marathon now, with the cannon about to go off. And, as anyone who’s ever endeavored to train for and race a marathon knows, this is just the beginning, and you never know what’s going to happen over the next 26.2 miles. Marathons are a lot like life in that way.

I won’t give away what happens over the next hour, but I will say that the workout is more sensual and emotional than it is physical. There’s a little bit of running if you want to run, but you don’t have to. There’s a fair amount of walking, some of it quite brisk, but there are also many quiet moments in which you’re simply standing, watching, or, if you’re lucky, playing a small part in the performance.

The narrative is backed by an original soundtrack by Scandinavian composer Christine Owman and it’s a perfect aural backdrop: at times it’s spare and floating, with heavy reverb and overlays that lend it a dreamlike quality; at other times, it’s mournful and exhausted, reflecting the training and life grind that our subject is often trapped in, adhering to cruel deadlines of her own making.

There are dark miles. And there are good miles. And that middle bit is the hardest. It lasts so much longer than you want, or think it should. But time keeps going, so you have to keep going, on the days that you want to and the days that you don’t.

While you don’t have to be a marathoner to connect with this piece, it helps. You will “get” things on a level that others won’t: the strange mix of kinship and bloodthirsty competitiveness we can feel during a race; the sudden obsession with the weather; the math we do as the miles tick by, with OCD-like focus, and how our ability to continue to do that math fails as our glycogen depleted brains struggle through those later miles; how giving into a bodily function as basic as urinating becomes an epic mental struggle when held up against a race goal that threatens to slip away at any moment.

But these details are not what make up the meat of the show, which turns out not really to be about running at all. Instead, Jones presents how the dark side of marathoning — how quickly we can slip from hobbyist to enthusiast to cocktail party freakshow to runner as Carmelite nun — can mirror the darker sides of life. When other parts of our lives veer off the rails, many of us are tempted to look to the marathon as an emotional life raft, something that we can control and that will keep us afloat. What often happens, of course, is that instead, that most unforgiving distance, and all that goes into training for it, only serves to drag us further down under the waves. Rather than helping us to define ourselves through our determination and success, the distance becomes instead, with frightening and undeniable clarity, the embodiment of what we’ve most feared about ourselves all along: that we are failures. Failures at marathoning. Failures at life.

I’ll let you go see the show to see how this race turns out. Along the way you’ll see innovative use of public space, some striking visual metaphors, and a lot of blood. I can guarantee that you won’t be bored. If you run marathons, you’ll find common ground with the author, and if you don’t, you’re still apt to gain some insight about your own life’s journey, whether or not you’re taking it in racing flats.

Endure is brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed. I still can’t believe I got to see this for free.

The show’s running next Saturday, 7/16 (and possibly the following Sunday, 7/23) before Jones takes it on the road to Canada. RSVP here.

We’ll also have Jones on this evening’s New York Running Show podcast if you’d like to tune in at 8pm EST.

Race Report: Van Cortlandt Park 2×2 Relay

On Thursday evening I cajoled Jonathan into joining me for a race in Van Cortlandt Park. It was an evening of firsts: my first joint race with Jonathan; my first cross-country race ever; my first time on the Van Cortlandt course; my first time running in new, strange shoes; my first experience of winning baked goods.

It was also the first real race I’ve done since the Scotland Run 10K way back in April. That was a good race but since then my racing and running have left lots to be desired. A boatload of stress, travel and disaster in my personal life curtailed training for most of May. Then in the first week of June I suffered a calf injury that took a month to sort itself out. Since I have a few races coming up, I wanted to test out my calf to see if it could handle faster running on hills. I figured that if I was going to test it out, I may as well go for broke and run it up and down some serious hills. So Van Cortlandt it was.

Since I’m presently working in Manhattan, I had to drag my running gear into the city and dash off to the office bathroom to change into my superhero custume after work. Once in the bathroom stall, I discovered to my horror that I’d forgotten to pack a running bra. If you’ve seen me run (or just stand there, for that matter), you’ll know that this is an essential piece of running equipment for me. A quick, panicky call to Jonathan — complete with his wandering through the house, digging through drawers and laundry baskets — headed off this potential disaster.

The next order of business was getting up to the park. Fortunately, I work near Penn Station, so I hopped on the 2 express, transferred to the 1 local at 72nd Street, and snoozed through the 400+ stops up to end of the line in the Bronx. From there it was a quick walk up to race registration (at the Tortoise and Hare statue, directly opposite the sponsoring bakery, Lloyd’s Carrot Cake), where I met up with Jonathan, surreptitiously grabbed my bra for swap in the portapotty, and got ready to rock The Hill.

Side note: these races are bargains at $5. But, alas, this year they did not allow us to pick team names. Which is too bad because a lot of thought was put into our candidates: “We’re, Like, 100 Years Old,” “Amygdala Hijack,” and “Me Love You Long Time.”

The Trail Minimus 10

Before the race I experienced extreme indecision about what shoes to wear. I’d worn my new shoes: the New Balance Minimum 10s (trail), but so far I’ve just used them for walking around. For racing, I’d brought my Asics Dirt Devil Divas (I hate that shoe name), and had swapped the nub/cleaty things for the spikes. But after warming up in them along the gravel path that makes up about a third of the course, I was thinking those would drive me crazy. Every step was a hard shock to my feet. So I threw caution to the wind and strapped on the New Balance shoes. I’m happy to report that they are fantastic racers. Lots of grip, even on gravel, and they were great on the dirt hills.

I saw fellow podcast hosts and friends Joe Garland and Steve Lastoe and met a few people who were new to me. The race started a little late, but that was fine. I decided to let Jonathan run the first leg just in case my calf decided to rebel. That way, he’d at least get a good race in even if I didn’t. It was exciting to line up and wait for him. What happens is that the first runners start, running along the gravel path that will take them up into the hills of the park, then they come back along the path back to the start (so it’s a “lollipop” course). At that point we’re all waiting to hear their number called (and we can see them heading toward us). Once our partner reaches the start line, we give them a hand slap (or a nod or verbal attaboy or whatever) and start racing north ourselves.

The course is brutal, especially under Summer in New York conditions, which on Thursday were, as one Facebook friend called it, “Mombasa like.” But I raced at as high an effort as possible, perhaps holding back a little in the first half since I didn’t know how bad “the hill” would be. It was bad. I got passed by a few guys. But no women. Coming downhill was also a challenge, as light was fading and the path is quite rutted in spots, plus there’s a 90 degree left turn to make at the bottom. I was not about to blow the rest of my summer racing season by falling on my ass in the throwaway race. So I came down on the cautious side.

We finished in 28:20 by my watch, with Jonathan running a 13:04 and I a 15:16. That was good enough to get us first in the 100+ mixed couples category, which yielded two really good carrot cake muffins and two Barefoot Contessa-sized shirt tents. It was fun. I’ll go back for more races there, probably as early as July 21.

Us. I'm almost certainly saying something rude and/or smartassed to Jonathan.

While we were milling around afterwards someone came up and asked me about the Sunset and Suds 5K, which I remembered that my team, the New York Harriers, is involved with. I didn’t know much, although I told him where to go get information. Then he asked me lots of questions about the Harriers. It was then that I realized that when you wear a team shirt, this will happen. I extolled the club’s virtues (wild sex parties, free acid and discounts at Staples) and may have recruited a new member in the process.

Best of all, I didn’t get reinjured or even have any hints of a problem with the calf. Plus I enjoyed myself. Good race. I feel pretty confident going into the Central Park 4 Miler in a couple of weeks.

New plan. New rules.

Back in May, after my debacle in the Long Island Half, I put together a plan that consisted of 10K-specific training to get me to the NYRR Club Championships in early August, prepared to race my best 5 miler. Then both life and injury got in the way and I ended up with severely compromised training until about a week ago. So here I am, back at square one again, sort of.

Over the weekend I looked at that original well-laid plan, and at the races scheduled over the coming few months, and decided that if I was going to try something new (again), now was the time. I have a few races scheduled between now and the championships. But there’s one beyond that — the Fifth Avenue Mile — that intrigues me more than any other. Ever since I ran a decent 1500 last summer (~5:46) on no short-distance training to speak of, I’ve wondered if I could improve at distances in the mile range. I originally thought I’d skip the Fifth Avenue race, since I’m guessing NYRR will screw up the start and I didn’t want to get stuck in a crowd clog. But now I’m thinking that if I train properly then I have a perfect right to start up front. So I will. Train. And start up front.

I’ve thrown out the 10K plan. Between now and the Club Champs, I’ve got three races: a 2 miler, a 4 miler and a 5K, respectively. I could continue to do 10K training, but I’m going to go ahead and start training for that mile race. I believe I have enough endurance that those races will take care of themselves, if not be stellar ones. That’s okay. I want to focus on the mile race in late September. I have 12 weeks. (I was originally going to give myself 6 weeks.) I want to be as ready as I can be.

I’ve owned Jack Daniels’ training book, Daniels’ Running Formula, for a few years, but have never looked to it for training guidance. For one thing, his plans looked really hard and complex. Upon closer inspection, while they are still hard, they are not as complicated as they seem. Perhaps more importantly, they are quite flexible. Right now, flexibility is the name of the game for me. So I’m going to use Daniels’ 1500-3000 training plan (shortened a bit) to get me to my goal mile race.

Here are some of the characteristics I like about Daniels’ plan:

  • He provides either two or three quality workouts a week, but they are prioritized so that if you need to cut back, you can. You just make sure you do the first workout that week at least and preferably the second one as well. Since I plan to just do two quality workouts most weeks (or one plus a race), it’s pretty easy for me to spot which one to drop from week to week.
  • Speaking of races, there are lots of opportunities to fit races in as part of training. Almost every week features an option to use a race as quality workout.
  • He offers two plans: the A plan is more structured in terms of distances to run; the B plan is a little looser and gives you time-based goals rather than distance- or paced-based ones. I like this because it allows me to do workouts on the roads if the track won’t work out for some reason, plus it allows me to train purely by effort rather than obsessing about distance/pace. I’ve struggled with this tendency in the past (and have trained too hard as a result), plus it’s tempting to discount the effect of training in heat and humidity when you have set times to run. I can throw those out and just focus on effort now.
  • Within the workouts themselves there is latitude to make adjustments based on energy level, what distances are working best, etc. For example, today I had a bunch of varying repeats to do. I could do anywhere from 1000-1600 repeats. Since I was tired, I chose to do 1200s.
  • Maybe this is true of most 1-2 mile programs, but there are lots of shorter, faster intervals and fartlek segments. I love running 200s and 400s, and mixing those up with longer repeats. I’ll get to do a lot of ladder-type workouts.
  • The rest of the week is not regimented at all. The mileage I run from day to day, and how I distribute it, is up to me. As long as I take my easy days easy, do strides 4x a week and keep my weekly long run to under 25% of total mileage, I can do whatever I like.
  • Finally, there’s a ton of variety in terms of workout types and how they are structured: fartleks, tempos, track sessions…it’s all there and there’s lots of variation. This will keep me from getting bored and, I hope, be a good stimulus for improvement.

My rules are pretty simple:

  • As stated above, maximum of two hard runs a week, with little exception.
  • I will take a day off when I need to, and will do so anyway every two weeks at least.
  • If I feel injury coming on, I won’t run through it.
  • I won’t run my workouts too hard. I may even hold back a little in races.
  • If I’m unsure about how to adjust a workout, I’ll err on the side of caution and cut things down more so than less so.

So that’s my plan from here until September 24. After that I’ll probably take a week off, or just to do easy running. Then, if Daniels worked for me for the mile, I’ll go into his 5K-15K training plan for the El Paso 5K in Houston over Olympic Marathon Trials weekend. That will be a 15 week plan. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself…

Dad acts like douchebag. What do you do?

This afternoon I went for my bi-monthly (lately) trip to the gym to lift weights and torture myself in a variety of other ways. I am usually the only woman in the weight area, so I’m always feeling a bit like an interloper as it is, and as a result I’m hesitant to stand out in any way (probably dumb, because the fact that I have breasts makes me stand out plenty already).

Today I witnessed something that caused more than a little internal conflict. As I made my rounds through the leg torture device area, I saw what I think was a father/son duo using two machines: the leg extension and the hamstring curl. Dad was stocky and strapping. Son was about 15 and not strapping. Dad commandeered both machines (unfortunate, since not only did I need to use them both, but it meant I got to see what I’m about to report as I stood there waiting) and put the weight settings at levels that were fine for him and his stumpy legs, but way too much for skinny son: 100 lbs for the leg extension and 80 for the hamstring curl.

To put things into perspective, I usually set those two at 50. I have muscular, peasant stock legs, probably about equal in strength to those of your average slight, unfit, semi-developed 15 year old boy. Dad did his sets of 10, then instructed Son to climb on and do the same. Son was arching his back, red-faced, groaning just to get to a count of three. I was thinking, “This is a lower back injury waiting to happen.”

At one point Dad walked away and I was so tempted to go up to Son and say, as nonthreateningly as possible, “Those might be a little heavy for you. Try taking them down a few so you can do more reps.” But Dad looked like an asshole, so I stopped myself from getting involved. Then I thought, well, this is a potentially unsafe situation. Maybe I go alert a staffer. But they’re all 19-year-old guys and I’d risk humiliating the 15-year-old guy in addition to drawing Dad’s ire. So I didn’t do anything.

Even if Dad wasn’t being a macho idiot, at best he was totally clueless and unobservant. I felt really bad for that kid.

Amateur ethicists: What would you have done? What should I have done?

Posts I wish I’d written

We’ve been told for years that there are two types of runners: “slow twitch” and “fast twitch.” But those are just references to muscle fibers. What about runners’ heads and attitudes? Blogger Cris of Well. I’m TRYING to run… theorizes that, once we move into the mental realm, there are actually three types of us runners. I agree with her observations. And I am desperately trying to evolve from Type 2 to Type 3 at the moment. Read the post here.

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