It’s Really Easy to Write A Book. It’s really hard to write a book.

I’ve worked on and off on material for a book on running. I’m generally not a fan of writing a book to write a book. I decided to write one knowing I have and follow a unique approach to running that others don’t teach, and that can serve runners in ways that other approaches do not or cannot. So I know I can write a book of value.

Before life changed and got crazy this year, I intended to finish at least the raw manuscript this year. Alas, I ran into pressing work and life needs that became more important than pounding out pages. Work on the book frequently got pushed aside during the past few months. Only in this past month did I seriously resume work on the project. I still plan to finish a manuscript, but probably more like early next year than before the end of this year.

Nowadays, technically, it’s actually very easy to publish a book. Gone are the days you had to submit a product to a publisher and hope they gave you a chance. Now, literally everyone with internet access can publish a book direct. Once you complete a manuscript and design a cover, you can e-publish the book on Amazon or other channels right now. You could even host a PDF of the book directly on a website of your own, and charge whatever you want for it using a paywall. Nowadays, the hard part of writing a book is the writer’s own lack of a work ethic.

… or, as I’ve discovered, finding the time. Writing a book is a deep work task. You can’t multitask, or fit it in while washing the dishes or running other errands. To work on it at any time requires a dedicated focus.

That, more than anything, kept me from working on the book. I know my subject matter. Even given the vast scope of the topic, I can at least write on everything (leaving editing and revision to sort it out later). The only writer’s block I had was other pressing matters: Moving out of Chicago, sorting out a change in career, the logistics of all of the above, not to mention any training I’ve needed to do and maintain.

Only now, with more time on my hands in Las Vegas, do I see the importance of available time and bandwidth in writing a book. As long as you have consistent writing habits, the actual process of writing the book should be the easy part.

So, you’re probably asking… what IS the book that I’m writing?

Well, let me actually write it first!

Forty One.

white and blue floral table lamp

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Today for me is birthday number forty one. Spending 41 at home with family, not worried about having to go to work today, is certainly not bad. (We might head out for dinner later!)

Taking stock: If I slowed down at all in the last year, it’s largely been due to a relative lack of training, and attention to other matters in my personal life. Also, while certainly not terrible, my diet certainly could have been better. Thankfully I haven’t experienced any noticeable age related decline. I could probably knock out the same 1:45-1:55 400-meter repeats, or 7 minute miles, if I resumed training to do so.

The important constant in my life is to keep moving and keep things mostly clean: Diet, lifestyle, work, habits. Las Vegas is far more sedentary than I’m used to but I make sure to get out and get moving every day.

I had considered not running any marathons next year, but Vancouver came calling and I realized I had to answer, so I definitely will run that. I’m starting to think this is an annual pilgrimage and I’ll achieve legacy status within the next decade.

I’m thinking about the possibility of a 2nd marathon late in 2020. Seattle at the end of November is a clear and obvious candidate. But some peers have mentioned Victoria BC in October, and visiting there again would be pretty cool. However, the training schedule (as Chicago was in 2018) would be cramped so soon after Vancouver. Seattle meanwhile offers more time.

I do have the option to still run Chicago next year (cancelling 2019’s bid came with the benefit of buying an auto-slot in 2020 if I wanted it), but never minding huge crowds, the hefty entry fee, a typically difficult trip into and out of Chicago, having to secure lodging since I no longer live there… it’s the same weekend as Victoria, and thus offers the same cramped training schedule problem. So maybe not.

Being back home with family in Vegas does make long runs and some other training more challenging. But it’s great to be near them again, and not have to air travel for family events.

I’m keeping my options open for work going forward. Barring a good offer for permanent employment, I’ll likely operate as more of a freelancer. I have some workable options that would at least allow me to pay debt and maintain bills through next year.

The key with work is having the flexibility to travel for Vancouver, and not interfering with my family events this next year. Some permanent roles could prevent that, so along with being obviously up-front about my plans during discussions I need to be selective.

A flexible schedule also makes training easier. Up until now I’ve had to plan my runs completely around a work schedule, like most. But if I can dictate when I do or don’t work, then I can do it the other way around, planning around training! A big benefit of this is being able to do longer workouts any morning of the week instead of just on the weekends.

Now, if someone offers me the right permanent role, forget about it (as long as they allow my travel next May!). I’ll go ahead and plan my workouts around work as before. There’s obvious benefits to a permanent job that would make it worthwhile. The benefits have to outweigh the drawbacks, and can’t come with any dealbreakers.

The plan for now, and I’ve been gradually working towards it these last few weeks, is to resume a normal moderate training volume. The cross training options I’ve developed for myself have helped a lot with bridging the gap and smoothing the resumption of regular moderate-distance runs. The goal is for the average daily run to be around 6 miles (which I was doing a couple years back), and from there I can ramp up into marathon training.

This is a good year to direct energy towards multiple projects, and along with continuing to provide content here I’m looking forward to expanding upon the material I’ve introduced here as well as lessons I’ve learned from my running training and research. I was working on and off on a larger project this past year, and now I can really focus on getting it off the ground. More on that later.

The key will be to remain focused and mindful of the big picture goals, to not get too self-indulgent and let that detract from the work ethic I’ve built over the years.

I’m looking forward to forty one.

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Primal Endurance: An approach to making low carb endurance running work

Image result for primal blueprintBack in 2011, famous Primal Blueprint guru Mark Sisson wrote a post about how he’d train for a marathon. Mark’s no novice when it comes to distance running: He is in fact a former marathoner! His conversion to the lower-carb, paleo-style Primal approach to eating and lifestyle is in no small part a byproduct of his experience training to race the longest run.

Sisson of course generally discourages any sort of endurance training, prefering a more biologically natural sprint-and-saunter approach to outdoor activity akin to our prehistorical ancestors. Like many paleo-minded humans he’s more into occasional high intensity low duration activity surrounded by lots of regular but very low intensity activity.

This level of activity is of course a better fit for a lower carb Primal style diet, as endurance training traditionally requires a very high carb intake… intake that Sisson’s experience and research taught him can be damaging to your long term health.

However, a lack of carbohydrates can compromise the quality of your endurance workouts, let alone your race performances, since your body typically utilizes glycogen for extended endurance activity.

Sisson historically has preferred to avoid endurance training entirely and focus instead on what he’s found to be a more long-term sustainable lifestyle. His 2011 piece was more of a hypothetical, ‘If I had to train as a Primal disciple to run a marathon this is how I would approach it.’ Sisson’s piece definitely hinted that he had far more intel behind it, and that there was probably a book in him on the subject.

Image result for primal enduranceWell, eventually he did write that book. Primal Endurance by he and Brad Kearns spelled out the ideal combination of the Primal diet and lifestyle with the ideal training approach to maximize your performance in a marathon without the usage of carbohydrates and their glycogen.

I’ve given the book a gradual read over time, and while a lot of it reads like sales-letter filler for the Primal Blueprint (which seems superfluous since you probably aren’t reading the book unless you already own, have read and believe in the Primal Blueprint), what remains after filtering through it is a compelling and well-written approach to training as a Primal endurance athlete.

Sisson of course is hardly the only believer that endurance athletes can succeed with a lower-carb approach. Many ultra-runners have sworn by training low-carb to train their bodies to maximize fat usage in their excessively long races. Other non-ultra runners have sworn by training low-carb as well (I even know a few!).

I’ve long since argued (as many do) that accepting this lifestyle and swearing off most carbohydrates does to some degree limit your capability as a distance runner. In principle, I still find that to be true.

But there’s no denying that long term the endurance diet and lifestyle does take a toll on your hormones and to an accordant degree your health. I recall half marathon champ Ryan Hall being forced to retire in his early 30’s due to wanting to start a family and his training lifestyle compromising his body’s ability to do so.

I do think there’s a middle ground, mostly that you train in cycles and that you take breaks from training and the diet it demands. However, Sisson and Kearns argue that their recommended lifestyle can be practiced year round, in and out of training, without damaging your race performance.

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Running coaches should coach diet and rest too

abundance agriculture bananas batch

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Every running coach will give you a training schedule of workouts, when to do them, how to do them, and how to adjust those from day to day.

Very few running coaches will give you more than trivial, general feedback on how to eat between workouts, or on your resting and sleeping habits. This despite your diet and recovery being even more important than what you’re doing in workouts.

Without the nutrients of a sound diet, you will not recover properly between workouts. And without a proper amount of sleep, you will not recover properly between workouts.


So, there’s obvious complications to coaching a person’s diet and sleep along with their running.

What makes diet and sleep hard to coach is that, unlike what a runner does in their workouts, these are everyday-living factors beyond a coach’s control. A coach may or may not be able to stand watch over your workouts (many athletes are coached remotely), but there’s no way they can stand and watch your every move, let alone every meal, in your personal life. And they certainly can’t monitor when or how you go to sleep. Even if they told you what to do, chances are good you’d flake on a good portion of their instructions. And, of course, who wants to have their lives micromanaged? The advice probably wouldn’t be welcome for many.

Plus, there are countless different approaches to diet even within a given culture, let alone between cultures. Those who have tried to bean-count the caloric intake of athletes have produced more problems for those athletes than they solved in doing so. Never mind the substantial differences in a vegan or carnivore or Atkins diet. Even the macronutrient needs can vary from person to person, never minding their age/size/shape/health in general.

Most of all, coaching diet is considered the field of a dietitician, a field outside of the specialty of a coach better versed in crafting and moderating workouts.

Now, all of that said (and no, I’m not providing any scientific citations), I can posit that a large number of injury and burnout problems are in no small part a product of deficiencies in each said athlete’s diet and sleep. The vast majority of humanity, in all fitness levels, is deficient in one or more key nutrients, whether it’s as simple as protein or as micro-specific as a vitamin like magnesium or iron.


Still, you don’t need to be an RD to know that:

  • The first half hour following a workout is the best time to ingest protein and carbs
  • Clean unprocessed food is better fuel between workouts than processed food
  • On average you ideally consume as many calories as you burn in a given day
  • You need more protein than most would recommend if you’re going to train hard
  • The more intense aerobic effort you put in, the more carbohydrates you need to consume between workouts
  • The harder you work on a given day, the more sleep you need that night to recover most effectively

The only resource that I’ve seen address post-workout nutrition with any specificity is Matt Fitzgerald’s New Rules Of Marathon And Half Marathon Nutrition. The book’s recommended workouts are bookended by a recommendation of carbohydrate/protein volume to consume in the minutes following a workout. The book is written around learning to effectively fuel a workout, and the information in general is a bit dated (the book was published in 2013), so its use is a bit limited. But it’s still more feedback on training nutrition than most authors provide.

The subject of what to eat between workouts is a broad and sensitive one, granted. It’s one I’m not going to get into now.

But I do think it’s a subject that running coaches need to give more than mere typical consideration. It’d be helpful to at least get a baseline idea of how many calories a runner consumes, estimate how many they burn per mile and during other exercise, get a good grasp on what the runner prefers to eat, and come up with some sort of concrete plan of what they should eat between workouts.

(And if you do actually want to become certified, there is a path to that. It’s not free, and it does take time, study and effort, but you can do it.)

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Budd Coates “Running On Air” Marathon Training Plan: Who’s It Good For?

RunningOnAirWhile traveling last month I found a book by Budd Coates called Running On Air. The book details a new approach to rhythmic breathing during runs, the idea being that you learn the breathing technique in basic workouts, then train for races using it.

Again, I don’t do book reviews. But if you find yourself breathing hard on runs or otherwise struggling with your stamina, then this book is absolutely worth a look. It’s a somewhat easy read, easy to follow, and even if you don’t ultimately follow Coates’ approach to the letter your improved attention to your breathing patterns will in some way help your running. Consistent breathing helps your oxygen delivery, which allows you to run faster at easier intensities. Plus the book indicates that some natural breathing patterns can cause imbalances that lead to pain and injury; an improved breathing rhythm can help eliminate those imbalances.

However, that’s not why I’m writing this. The book of course has subsequent training plans from the 5K to the Marathon. And breathing principles aside, the book’s Marathon plan has some unique wrinkles that might make it worth a look.

The Budd Coates “Running On Air” Marathon Plan:

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It never has to be exactly 400 meters

photo of road near tall trees

This trail might not be exactly 800 meters, and that shouldn’t be a problem for your 800 meter repeats. Photo by Matthew T Rader on Pexels.com

Most writers refer to speedwork repetitions in meters because they’re often run on a competition track, and such tracks can measure out 100 meter increments. On a track, you can run exactly 200, 300, 400, 1200, 2800, etc, meters.

Of course, many don’t have access to a track, and many American runners don’t use the metric system given our nation refers to distance in imperial miles.

The easy answer for conversions is that 400 meters is about 1/4 mile, 1600 meters is about a full mile, and so on.

But another complication of not running on a track is that measuring out exactly a quarter mile for a rep, let alone 400 meters, on a public right of way is unclear and difficult. Our parks paths, landmarks, etc, aren’t ever spaced out exactly right. A space between two light posts, benches, ends of a stretch of path, city block, can be 530 meters, 0.3 mile, 677 meters, etc.

Plus, relying on your GPS watch for distance doesn’t solve the problem, because your GPS readings aren’t totally accurate. A mapped run often shows you running through landmarks as the GPS signal guesstimates your actual route. It certainly won’t measure out your exact distance or velocity. Map the actual route run on an Open Maps interface, and you’ll find a difference of several tenths of a mile.

So how do you run those 800 meter repeats, or quarter mile repeats?

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A tip for an easy, productive Double Workout Day

adventure athlete athletic daylight

If you do double workout days, a short jog isn’t your only option. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Higher volume runners practice doubles, where they add a 2nd shorter run later in a day after a prior regular morning run.

It’s a key to building those 120+ mile weeks that elites run. Otherwise, such a runner’s typical workout tops 10 miles and with few exceptions that’s not sustainable long term.

However, miles on your legs are still miles on your legs, and a runner wanting to avoid burnout and injury probably should avoid two runs on easy days.

Still, there’s value in endurance training with doing double workouts, and there’s an easy way to do two workouts in a day without taxing your legs through an extended run more than once.

Just cross train for the second workout. It seems so obvious, and yet so many don’t think to do it. Cross training is low impact aerobic exercise, and there’s a reason IronFit refers to the practice as “Free Miles”. Even if you’re not actually running, you’re working and developing aerobic fitness that will help you down the line.

On top of that, you’re resting bones, joints and muscles that have to do work on a regular run, and avoiding wear and tear that exacerbates the amount of recovery you need.

For example, you run 6-10 miles in the morning. You go through your workday. After work, instead of a 3-4 mile recovery run, you hit the spin bike for 45 minutes at an easy aerobic heart rate. Or you use the rowing machine for half an hour. Or the ARC Trainer, or the elliptical. You get the idea.

You could also do strength training for that 2nd workout instead, provided your body is up to doing so. The extra anabolic boost could jump start your overall recovery, especially when paired with a good healthy dinner and a lot of sleep.

Basically, there’s no law stating that to do a double workout day your 2nd workout has to be another run. Provided that morning workout was a full aerobic run, you could do just about any other form of cross or strength training for that 2nd workout and still receive dividends.

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Is it ever okay to do two quality workouts on back to back days?

woman in gray crew neck shirt running on brown soil during daytime

Cross country runners often train long the day after a race. It’s possible for others to do back to back hard, quality workouts. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

First, to clarify: A quality workout for runners is any run with more than 5 minutes of a challenging volume of running:

  • Fast or otherwise hard running
  • A very long period of running
  • A run with intermittent fast running (such as speed reps)

Secondly, in brief… yes, back to back quality workouts are not only okay but beneficial in some circumstances.

In fact, one demographic of runner actually practices this regularly: Interscholastic cross country runners.

Many cross country runners will run a race or a speed workout on Saturday (a quality workout), followed by their long run on Sunday (also a quality workout). They have an easy day Monday and then follow a more balanced schedule through the school week.

Now, is that healthy? Running guru Jack T Daniels will actually recommend in some of his Daniels Running Formula training plans that, during the peak phase, you do two quality workouts back to back. This is the only period in his plan that you do so. In other phases of such plans he spaces out the quality workouts as others do. In most plans you do the long run later in the week (while he is one coach whose cross country plans have you do a race or quality workout right before a long run).

So while many running minds recommend you avoid running quality workouts back to back, here is Daniels not only scheduling back to backs but in many cases putting them in the important peak phase. Are those other running minds wrong?

Well, no. Most plans might schedule more demanding regular and quality workouts, and perhaps their quality workouts require more recovery. Putting their workouts back to back may be a terrible idea. In Daniels’ case, the back to back quality workouts he schedules are not as daunting: A 3 mile cross country race and a long easy run. The 2nd workout in particular is done at a lower intensity, just for a longer than normal period.

Another training plan where back to backs are possible is IronFit. Because the rest days can be slid elsewhere in the week as needed, and because the workouts need to be done in order, it’s entirely possible that speedwork and a tempo run might be back to back.

Of course, most plans won’t dare schedule a back to back for the reasons stated. That said, they are not taboo. If schedule adjustments force the possibility, or you’re crafting your own training plan where you may need to book back to backs, there is a smart way to do it.

So here is how you should approach the possibility of scheduling a back to back:

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Speedwork tip: Using the track to maintain pace

people doing marathon

The track’s periodic markings can help you manage your pace during reps. Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

If you’re doing speedwork on a track, and trying to maintain a certain pace on speedwork reps… with some basic math, you can use each 100-200 meter sections on the track to monitor how fast you’re going.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to run 400 meters in 2 minutes (2:00). Your GPS watch will probably give inaccurate pace readings. This is not only because of the GPS margin for error, but because going in circles in the same location can lead your watch to believe you’re not moving much at all.

However, you can use the time reading and the markings on a track to keep pace.

To run a 2:00 rep for 400 meters, you need to travel 100 meters in 30 seconds (100 meters x 4 = 400 meters. 30 seconds x 4 = 2:00).

On most modern tracks, the 100 meter mark, 200 meter mark, and 300 meter mark will be indicated, along with of course the finish line at 400 meters.

At every one of those marks, you can look at your running time and see if more or less than 30 seconds has passed since your last measuring point. More than 30 seconds, and you need to pick up the pace. Less than 30 seconds, and you’re exceeding your projected pace (whether or not you need to slow down depends on your goals for the rep).

If you struggle with doing math on the fly, you can use your watch’s lap function to get your time between time-points.

This approach is similar to occasionally reviewing your speedometer while driving to make sure you’re not speeding. You can check your watch and make sure you’re on track for your desired pace.

So, if you wanted to run 400’s in 1:45, then you check to make sure you’re running every 100 in about 26 seconds (1:44 total).

If you’re running 800 meter repeats and trying to do them in 3:50, you can check every 200 meters to make sure you’re crossing at 56-57 seconds… or every 100 meters at 28-29 seconds.

And of course, if you’re not on a track but out and about on the roads or trails, you can do some math using measurements from Gmap-Pedometer to assess your time at certain timepoints. It’s not as even as the track, but will still help you in the same way.

Of course you don’t need to check your pace every 100-200 meters. Maybe you only check occasionally, or for the first couple and last couple segments, to make sure you’re on pace. But this approach will help you monitor your pace on reps and guide you towards speeding up or slowing down as needed.

 

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Training for a 10 Mile Race

A while back I discussed the racing strategy for a 10 Mile (or 15K) race. Here, I’m going to discuss an effective training plan for a 10 Miler.

The only resource I currently know of that offers a specific 10Mi/15K training plan is Hal Higdon. His plans are simple and sound, and if you followed one of his plans to the letter you’d probably be okay. But there are additional opportunities to progress towards peak fitness that the following plan should include.

The following 10 week training plan builds your 10 Mile pace and gets you ready to run your best 10 Miler:

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Run with a group but don’t let the group run you

three female runners having group picture

Running with a group can be rewarding. But make sure the situation is right for you. (Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com)

I never really needed an extra push to run regularly, to train for races. From day one I directed myself and had no trouble getting outside for runs. I wanted to run, I knew what I could do, what I wanted to do, how I needed to do it. I had no problem running alone, did nearly all my training on my own, and missed few workouts.

I ran weekly fun runs in Chicago largely to meet other runners, compare notes on how others approached running, and get to do some runs with the protection of numbers. I joined a running group in Chicago with the same mindset, as well as having a consistent time every week to do a quality workout.

Once joining them weekly began to get on my nerves and feel like an obligation, and especially once the workouts/runs began to interfere with my own training plans… I stopped doing them. I’m not one to hold regrets, but I do feel I waited too long and let it get on my nerves before cutting the cord. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking back I should have had a more casual relationship with the weekly runs from the get-go. I let it interfere with my plans for too long before breaking them off.

Vegas has a lower-key running community, and there’s one weekly run I participate in near home. Right now, still in a personal offseason of sorts, it’s no big deal for me to do it every week since I have no training plan that conflicts. Once that changes, then I can be more judicious about when to go or not.


All this is to say that running with a group can be valuable, but you want to make sure you know what you want out of it. Here are a few tips from experience banging my head against the wall and projecting expectations onto a group instead of being smart about running with groups:

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4 Months To a 4 Hour Marathon: Who’s It Good For?

Image result for 4 months to a 4 hour marathonDave Kuehls, an editor for Runners World, once trained Oprah Winfrey to run her first marathon. The famous talk show host ran her first marathon in 4.5 hours, incredible given Oprah not only wasn’t any sort of athlete, but had famously been overweight and actually undertook the pursuit of running a marathon in part to help her drop a few pounds.

Despite this, Kuehls’ subsequent 1998 book, 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon, didn’t pick up any major attention when released or in the 20 years it’s been out.

I had never heard of the book or (despite his having been a Runners World editor) seen any of Kuehls’ philosophies on running… until randomly stumbling upon his book at a Barnes and Noble in Michigan while on a work trip.

I took a peek at what first appeared a cheap gimmicky attempt at a running book. I turned out pleasantly surprised at Kuehls’ simple, sound apporach to marathon training. So, I’d like to go over it.

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Quick update: Moved on, returned home

I’m going to drift off topic for a bit and discuss my work situation, which I abruptly ended last week.

I took a traveling position in August, and traveled to Michigan for my first assignment. As challenging as it made running and working out, I was reportedly doing good work, and I felt okay about the situation… until everything came to a head during last week. By last Wednesday night I was convinced that I could not continue. After a few conversations, I resigned at the end of the week and returned home to Vegas. It was purely my decision. It’s for the best.

So I’m home. More below the jump:

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Adjusting diet to a work assignment: Detroit Edition

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Photo by Anon on Pexels.com

Hello from Detroit Metro, Michigan.

The below is a scenario I’m working through now that I’m in town, and a great example of the thought process required to maintain my exercise and training progress, as well as stabilize my diet while on the road long-term.

Currently I’m working the swing (aka 2nd or evening) shift on assignment. On the one hand this allows a lot of time in the morning to run or exercise. I ran a very comfortable 4.3 miler near my lodging around 10am on Wednesday.

But my assignment also requires I spend a lot of time on my feet walking the facility, and on that Wednesday I burned about 4000 calories that day.

Never minding how tired I felt at the end of the day… while not opposed to burning some fat after bulking up in Vegas, I also was worried I wouldn’t consume enough food (especially protein) to prevent muscle catabolization. I ate a solid pre-work meal, a light snack during work and then a ridiculously large processed meal before going to bed. Despite housing 3300 claories I was well below my overall burn.

Yesterday I decided to not exercise at all, just work that day, to see how much I burned. After a similar workday of activity, I ended up finishing yesterday with 3840 calories burned. I had done nothing physically but walk a facility floor over an 8-9 hour day. On a similar eating schedule I *only* managed 2900 calories, and of course still finished well short of my overall burn.

While not a bad dilemma for someone trying to burn fat, this still presents a dilemma.

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Bulking up in Vegas

After a somewhat surprising three weeks in Vegas (my employer and I expected to deploy me sooner, but fate intervened)… I fly out tomorrow on assignment to Michigan for a few weeks.

Much of the last three weeks were spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I didn’t really settle into a desired routine, knowing it would be completely disrupted once I was deployed.

Instead, I ended up inadvertently settling into a “routine” of eating a lot of good home cooked food, and sitting around when not at the gym cross training or outside at 6am for a hot desert, brief-out-of-necessity run.

I gained a somewhat astonishing 10 pounds. Granted, the stress of my move led to losing a few pounds right before I left Chicago, so I had some weight to gain back. But I rocketed past my previous 167-168 pound baseline within days, and spent much of my Vegas time in the 173-174 pound range. This despite a couple hours in the gym doing various moderate aerobic cross training and strength exercises most days of the week.

I imagine some of this is water weight from the new food, plus restocked muscle and glycogen lost during the Chicago move. But calorie wise it hasn’t been all that different from living in Chicago. But consider the dramatic (expected) shift in my lifestyle once I arrived in Vegas:

In Chicago (according to my Fitbit data) I averaged anywhere from 650-900 minutes per week of tracked physical activity (anything from 10+ minutes of walking on up), plus about 3000-3500 calories burned per day. Rarely did I finish a day having burned fewer than 3000 calories. Often I burned in excess of 3400-3500.

In Vegas I’ve averaged 500-550 minutes of trackable exercise activity per week, and maybe 2600-2700 calories burned per day. I’ve had perhaps 3 days total where I burned more than 3000 calories since arriving on August 26. That’s a substantial drop in burned calories.

The difference as expected was the amount of walking. Chicago required no less than several minutes of walking to get basically anywhere. In Vegas, you need to drive doorstep to doorstep since very little of the city is walkable in general, not just from sprawl but the extreme summer heat.

I’ve technically exercised more here in Vegas than I did in Chicago. The big difference that produced my weight gain has been the vastly diminished everyday activity.


I’m not terribly worried about losing the weight back. Once I’m on the ground in Michigan, have to walk facility floors for work everyday, and get more chances to run (the Michigan suburbs have decent sidewalks, plus the warm humidity, is far better for daytime running than the extremely hot Vegas desert)… my excess fat and water weight should peel right off. Plus, without home cooking, I’ll regain full control of my diet and be eating cleaner.

Was it okay to bulk up like that? Of course. Especially considering that the summer basically became my offseason. I’ve decided I prefer winter and spring running, and my primary goal race for 2020 is at the end of spring anyway. It wasn’t imperative that I begin training before January. I’ve remained however active I could.

The key is that I restored some lost glycogen and muscle mass. The latter is very important as you age, and having trained as a runner regularly for the last few years I haven’t really given my muscles a chance to regain much lost mass. This was probably the first serious chance I’ve had to do so. Plus I’ve gotten to do more strength training than I could in Chicago: Along with more available time, the gyms in Vegas are bigger and strength machines aren’t busy all the time as they were in Chicago.

Even though I haven’t run as much, I’ve maintained much of my aerobic conditioning with several hours of easy to moderate cross training each week, using not just the ARC Trainer but the new gym’s rowing machines, plus Joe LoGalbo’s Anabolic aerobic approach on the spin bike to get more bang for the buck out of the typically too-easy stationary bike. Occasionally, I’ve used the treadmill, though since the recent hamstring injury I’ve been careful about doing that too much.

So, I’m looking forward to not just the new job assignment but a chance to run regularly in a new place. More to come on that.

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How long will the offseason last?

So, two weeks after arriving in Las Vegas, it’s clear to me that finding time to run more than 10-15 miles a week will be tough until the temperature comes down.

Before beginning remote work duties this past week (I had the previous week off to move), I had no problem getting outside at 6am and getting at least 3-4 miles in before 7am.

However, most of my colleagues are 2-3 hours ahead in the Eastern US, and that requires I work an earlier shift. I get up at 6am PDT every day and starting work at 7am isn’t a problem. But it means that 6am runs are somewhat impractical. I did sneak out for a run during this past week, but I couldn’t go too far since I needed to be ready to work by 7.

Even though (for now) I usually finish up work around 4pm local time, by that point the Vegas heat has reached its peak. Running outside at all in those conditions is probably a suicide attempt.

Never mind the perceived heat index of the 105-115’F, 10-20% humidity conditions is around 120 degrees, akin to running in 75’F weather with 70% humidity. The mere temperature and abundant sunshine alone makes running outside at midday in Vegas very dangerous. The city has a handful of short, weekly 6pm fun runs, but even at that hour temperatures are over 100 degrees, and the sun will not go down for a couple hours. Even if do-able in short doses, it doesn’t lend itself to extended aerobic training.

Even the treadmill becomes difficult after about 10-20 minutes, and after my recent injury I’m looking to avoid using the treadmill for anything more than brief warmup runs or run/walking.

So this means:

  • More consistent strength training. Since my current gym now has a lot more space, a lot more machines, and is not nearly as crowded, I can fully strength train whenever I like rather than have to work around a crowd of Wrigleybros. I have settled into a pattern of doing a full strength workout every 2-3 days. Most work out on certain days of the week, but I prefer to space my workouts out by days-between.
  • A variety of cross training. I still have the ARC Trainer available, which is the best and closest approximation to running available. This new gym also has rowing machines and aerobic hand crank machines, allowing for extended aerobic upper body training that will leave my legs along while also giving my upper body a lot more dynamic exercise. We forget how much the upper body needs to work during running, so this is very helpful.
  • Extra time on the spin bike. I can either take a “rest day” by riding easy on the spin bike, or do some aggressive Anabolic Training intervals, a form of high intensity interval training similar to Daniels style repetitions: You go all out for 30 seconds, then ride easy for 2-3 minutes, repeat about 4-6 times. This form of HIIT is supposed to help generate helpful muscle-building hormones as well as test and improve your anaerobic capacity.
  • An offseason. I will still run at least a couple times a week, but I’m going to focus much more so on my cross training and strength training in the interim. I have and probably will gain a bit of weight, which is hopefully mostly added muscle mass. The cross training will help maintain general aerobic capacity and help maintain some fat burning normalcy.

I don’t need to begin training for Vancouver before January, and could begin some form of ramped up training as soon as early November. Since my new job poses enough of a challenge and adjustment in the short term, this is clearly not a problem.

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