[Disclaimer: These results may vary and I am not recommending or condoning anybody follows or adheres to my training routine, gear, or plan. These are my results and my results alone.]
Sometime in February of this year I decided that I was going to run the Air Force Marathon. I then thought, “well, why not just make this the year of running?” So that’s what I’m doing this year, I’m running. Like any new endeavor I started with research and an assessment of fitness and gear.
Just Go. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been pretty fit and was a decent runner in the military – consistently scoring in the tops of my age group – so just going felt pretty low risk. Admittedly, I was a bit weary given that I had tried to renew my running regimen several times after I left the military only to be consistently derailed by injuries. Nevertheless, I assumed that being 40 lbs lighter versus last year (and 10 lbs lighter than when I left the military) would help my joints a bit. So I started running three times a week on a basic 2 minutes walk / 1 min run tempo for 15 minutes. I did this for many weeks starting back in October, slowly building up endurance, distance, and total run time. I took careful notes and was extra conservative.
The Shoes. After reading Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Body and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall I became a full convert to minimalist running and was immediately ready to start running barefoot. I was ready for my body to remember how to run naturally, unimpeded by “stability” running shoes and running-store-recommended orthotics. I wanted to break my legs’ & feet’s dependence on over-weight, chunky running shoes and was ready to step out and run on my bare tootsies. Bring on the dog poop & mud! Fortunately, reason (aka my wife) prevailed and I decided (she decided) to slowly ease my way into lower drop running shoes. I ran on Nike Free Run’s for 2-3 months and then switched to even lower drop New Balance Minimus for 3 months – all orthotics free, all pain free. I’m now running on Skecher’s Go Run and I couldn’t be happier – a perfect blend of low drop and just enough cushion. The beautiful part – and key take-away – of using low drop running shoes is that I immediately feel the moment my stride or gait deviates from my naturally imbued running form. I’ve actually become a more efficient runner and feel as if my feet and ankles are stronger (if that’s even possible).
The Races. I’m currently signed up to race the Flying Pig 10K and the Air Force Marathon. I’m also planning on running the Summit Fest ½ Marathon but haven’t yet signed up since I still have to de-conflict summer family travel plans. Assuming my body holds up, I’d also like to run the Vegas Tough Mudder with my brother in October and then finish up the year with a few short races near Thanksgiving and over the Holidays. Some might argue that the running plan & race schedule seem a bit aggressive especially for one year and my beginner status. Perhaps, but I have run in the past and my build up & prep to this year started 6 months ago. I just wasn’t aware or thinking that I was going to make 2012 the year of running until a few weeks ago. I don’t plan everything. I often just go with what life presents me. In this case, it happens to be running.
When the topic of fitness or nutrition comes up in conversation, people are often surprised to learn that I’ve been over-weight three times in my life. Based on their lens, they assume that I’ve “always been thin” or athletic. They often guffaw when I tell them that I too have struggled with managing my weight; or they sarcastically retort that I wouldn’t possibly understand their struggles, or that I have it easy since they have always been over-weight. In response, I wryly point out that nobody is born over-weight (at least not by choice); that being overweight is the result of successive failures in moderation and discipline, failures in caretaking that occurred prior to and after birth. I make a lot of friends.
Healthy food makes me fat?
I became overweight as a pre-teen, in my early twenties and then again about two years ago. In each case, I became roughly 20-40 lbs overweight and each time the weight gain was mostly a result of my nutrition; simply: I ate too much. Unfortunately, I often find that folks that are looking to lose weight, and ask my opinion, often spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the type of food (e.g. Paleo, juice only, no juice, no sugar, more fat, no fat, no carbs, go vegetarian, etc) or more exercise. As I’ve said before, exercise is good for a whole host of reasons but increasing exercise alone won’t necessarily help you lose and maintain weight, only proper nutrition can.
Growing up my Mom was pretty militant about having only “healthy” foods in the house; e.g. no processed cereals, no soft drinks, lots of fruit. Yet I still gained weight. Why? I ate too much. As I got older I became a pretty dedicated exerciser (high school sports, college intramurals, top 1% on military fitness tests, etc) so how is it that I gained 20lbs? I ate too much. After the military, I continued to exercise 5-7 times a week and eat healthy: no soft drinks, no fast food, 8-10 servings of fruit & vegetables, and focus on whole food. Yet, I went from 175 lbs to 205 lbs two years ago. How? You guessed it, I ate too much. In every case of weight gain, it wasn’t exclusively the type of food I ate or the level or type of exercise. I consumed entirely too many calories, period.
Losing the Weight & the Super Duper Food Scale
The first two times I lost the weight I had external motivators. My Mom was a tough cookie, she had to be as a single Mom of two boys (more on that in a separate post), she was able to motivate me to lose weight in her ever-loving way, “you’re fat, stop eating peanut butter sandwiches before you go to bed.” Simple, direct, effective. The second time, I had the Military: fit to fight, combat-ready, peer-pressure, and “fat-boy” club are all very motivating monikers.
This most recent time, however, I had no external motivator. It all came down to me. You know what? It’s really hard to lose weight on your own. Fortunately, my body did me a favor, it started hurting. Every time I tried to go for a long run, everything hurt. Then I started having all kinds of gastric issues. So what did I do? I bought a food scale. More accurately, my wife bought me a food scale and told me to measure everything I ate. She made me read labels. Did you know that only sixteen, plain, no salt, raw almonds equal 100 calories?! Sixteen! (That’s not a lot) I had no idea. I was grabbing a handful as a snack almost every day…nearly 4x the calories. So naturally – and here is the hard part – I decided to track everything I ate for two weeks. In the end, I was over-eating by nearly 2x at every meal and snack. One food scale, a little label pre-reading, and hard discipline for two weeks; result: I lost 40 pounds last year and I’m training for my first marathon. It took some time before I got to the point where I instinctively knew how much food I needed versus wanted, but it was worth it.
I only eat rice cakes.
So do I only eat tofu, non-fat, non-sugar rice cakes 24-7? Yes. Just kidding. Of course not, I love food. Better stated, I love good food. I just don’t eat the entire menu. My wife and I eat out and order rich, savory food, but we split the plate. I’ll eat fast-food, but split the fries or get a salad on the side. I eat chocolate by the truckload. Just. Not. All. At. Once. In other words, now that I have a baseline of how many calories I need (many, many months later), I'm able to manage what I eat without having to exclude anything.
Over time, I have also made other healthy food choices over the year like reducing overall fat intake, less sugar, and eating more fiber; but these are merely tweaks and refinements. It wasn't food's fault I was over-weight, it was mine: when over-ate, I gained weight – plain and simple. So if you’re looking to lose weight, don’t focus on the refinements or quick fixes of what type of food you’re eating, or what one thing you should eliminate from your diet to fix it all. Start first with how much you’re eating. Track everything for two weeks, one week, or any length of time you’re able to stomach (pun intended). Then talk to your Dr. and/or a nutritionist to see how many calories you really need. You’ll be surprised.
It may be hard but enduring change doesn’t occur overnight and you may regress (I did three times). Nevertheless, moderation is the key. Keep it simple and buy a food scale. After all, you weren’t born over-weight. Even if you were, blame your parents and go buy a food scale. Good luck.
What is the difference between being comfortable versus being complacent? I have no idea, so I challenge myself. Challenge my thinking, my parenting, my husband-ing; attempt to challenge my assumptions and my understanding of things. I won't get it right all the time so I welcome all constructive feedback. The goal? To "...be satisfied with life always but never with one's self." (George Jean Nathan)