Category Archives: General health

Ensure your running fitness by building a Running Floor

Finding it hard to keep up with mileage demands? Finding yourself taking days off and skipping workouts?

If you want or need to run, but find much of your workout schedule daunting or find you don’t have the time you want/need to run… the key is to do a little bit of running rather than no running at all.

For example:

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The Control Rest Day Baseline, and using it to successfully carb cycle

Yesterday with the day off I did nothing, in terms of training. No running, no strength work, nothing particularly strenuous. I actually drove to get coffee, since I had vehicle-related errands to run that day. I did a minimum of walking… not easy to do in Chicago when you live in Wrigleyville and you do most of your business on foot.

Okay, big deal, just a rest day, right? Well….

… it had been a while since I’ve taken stock of my working basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the rate at which you would burn calories in a day if you did nothing but lay or sit there. For men my size and age, this is somewhere around 1650-1700 calories.

You do more than sit around all day, so to find your baseline calorie burn you multiply that BMR by a standard multiplier.

  • Sedentary people who drive everywhere and never exercise can use 1.2 as their multiplier. You multiply your basic BMR by 1.2 to get your actual basal metabolic rate.
  • If you get any exercise once or twice a week, or you walk to get around everyday, your multiplier may be closer to 1.3.
  • If you work out every day it may be as low as 1.5 or as high as 2.0, depending on what you do for workouts.

Of course, I can’t just set my baseline at 1700 calories multiplied by a standard multiplier. My daily activity can vary widely, as a Chicago local who gets around on foot and runs a lot. Even if I don’t run, I may walk anywhere from 20ish minutes a day to several miles, and there’s no rhyme or reason relative to my training as to how much walking I do. Plus, this completely ignores strength training and any other physical activity.

I’ve had days where, with identical training (or lack thereof), I’ve burned anywhere from 2100 calories to over 4000. So, plugging my estimated general activity into a BMR tool and spitting out a number isn’t necessarily going to help me.


I still want to get enough to eat, while not overeating. I still do have tracker data that shows an average weekly calorie burn, which is around 3000 calories per day during training. But there’s more to it than that:

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Why is my resting heart rate going up?

 

When I first got my Fitbit tracker, back when I first began seriously training as an endurance runner, it initially showed my resting heart rate’s (RHR) beats per minute (BPM) in the high 60’s.

As I continued training, my resting heart rate came down and settled around the high 50’s. Sometimes it would drift up, but often it came back down to around that number.

I noticed that generally it would increase during times of substantial stress, and that it would decrease with proper rest and exercise.

Suddenly, during the late summer and early fall, my resting heart rate started slowly climbing. Suddenly it settled into the mid 60’s and nothing I thought to do could bring it down. Resting more didn’t help. Eating more or less or better didn’t help. Exercising more or less didn’t seem to help.

At some point, not at the same time as last year, it began to come down again and settled around the high 50’s, low 60’s.

And now my resting heart rate’s risen again. It had settled around 65 for several weeks, and nothing I’ve done has gotten it to move. Now suddenly it’s climbed to 68… but at the same time I think I realized what has caused it to increase.

It’s not a lack of rest: I’ve actually slept rather well, and I haven’t trained at anywhere near the volume I’ve trained before. Outside of residual soreness from workouts and Sunday’s cross country race I haven’t been all that sore, tired or hurting. My energy levels by and large have been great.

It’s not a lack of exercise. I’ve now ramped back up to about 25-30 miles per week, and I’ve done multiple speedwork sessions as well as some long runs. The only difference from my last training cycle is I’ve taken days off and not held myself to much of a strict training schedule.

It’s not even post-marathon weight gain. I’ve had my RHR go lower even after gaining weight, and I’ve had it rise after losing weight. There’s not much correlation between my resting heart rate and my current weight.

It’s not illness. I haven’t been sick and I’m not sick right now. I don’t feel any passive symptoms like unusual tiredness or soreness. I’m in good health on that front.

It’s two things.

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Quick thoughts on how to find comfortable, fast, efficient running form

Think quick. Think low. Think short, swift movements.

If you’re trying to run fast, I’ve talked about how most fall into the trap of longer, lunging strides… instead of shortening up enough to where they can turn their feet over more quickly. The latter will cover more ground in the long run, and is a much more comfortable way to run faster than usual.

When starting your run, begin with a trot, and gradually accelerate the turnover of steps in that trot.

Many also fall into the trap of swinging their arms far too much, extraneous movement that wastes energy and not only tires you out more quickly but slows you down.

The only directions your arms should drive is back. Your arms should naturally repel back forward, allowing you to drive them back once again. In fact, and this is admittedly from various running form texts, your arms should ideally not swing in front of you at all. The farthest forward your elbows should come is right beside your obliques.

And your arms ought to be low, and stay low. Yes, I’ve seen (and know) plenty of runners who run comfortably with their arms high in front of them. Like a baseball pitcher with a high leg kick, it’s a quirk that works well for some and their style. For most, the most efficient form for your arms is low and driving back while not propeling far forward.

A good way to think about running is to run with the feel a hovercraft… or like a plane taxi-ing along the runway. The latter glides along the pavement, occasionally firing the engines just a little bit, enough to move itself forward.

If you’re not sprinting, look to find a rhythm that feels like you’re briskly gliding low along the pavement. Your legs aren’t lifting too high with each step. Your arms are low to the ground. Your steps are smooth, swift, so short and imperceptible that if you didn’t know any better you’d swear you had no legs and were in fact gliding like a hovercraft.

This smooth rhythm also making slowing down or stopping for obstacles easy and seamless, as well as gliding back into your desired pace once you’re running again.

At the very least, it feels a lot better than grunting and pushing out hard steps to try and run fast. You may find smooth is faster anyway.

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Why do your legs itch when you run?

Many experience itching on their legs whenever they go out to run, regardless of weather and regardless of what they’re wearing. Why?

Well, nothing’s biting you and you don’t have some sort of skin condition. So over the counter remedies aren’t going to do you much good.

The reason your legs itch is because when you start running, you activate previously dormant nerves in your legs. The sudden stimulus compels your legs to send the sensation of itching up your nerve fibers back to your brain.

So your legs itch, and the temptation is to think that something’s happening on your skin. But the reality is that your legs are basically waking up and using more energy. Often, if you continue running through it, the sensation passes.

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Final thoughts on Vancouver 2018

StanleyPark

Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC Canada

I didn’t go on a lot about what happened with the 2018 Vancouver Marathon, which I had to DNF at around 5K due to heat exhaustion.

There was a lot going on in my personal life right when that race occurred, which undoubtedly impacted my health leading up to the race.

My work situation had been stable until about a month before the race (for various reasons, mostly beyond my control), to the point where I decided to resign shortly after I returned from Vancouver due to how bad the situation had gotten. It felt like, and still feels like, exactly the right decision. My working life even without the full-time salaried stability got a lot better since (EDIT: And I’ve since been hired on full time in a new career that’s much better in too many ways).

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Do you really need a doctor?

I want to talk a bit about seeing the doctor.

Many Americans go to the doctor just about any time they get sick, even when the illness can only heal on its own (like a cold). And then we wonder why healthcare has gotten so expensive.

The overlooked prime contributor to health problems is people’s own lifestyle habits. A diet heavy in processed food, light on natural whole food, a lifestyle devoid of physical activity and sufficient sleep, and the resulting penchant for quick, rampant obesity are all easy contributors to nearly all of America’s most common health problems, from chronic colds to heart attacks to even cancer.

You are what you eat and what you do. Your body is the scoreboard for the health of your lifestyle. It usually won’t lie.

A doctor will rarely do more than blithely address a patient’s need to improve their lifestyle, and to their credit there isn’t much more they can do than that: Most of a patient’s contributions to their own bad health are a product of bad habits that a doctor can’t really do anything to address.

A doctor can’t stand over you 24/7 and rouse you from the chair to exercise or slap the processed food out of your hand. They know you need to fix your diet and can tell you so when you visit them, but that’s about as far as they can go.

So that leaves the person in the mirror. To be honest, most people lack a sense of accountability. This is why so many people go to the doctor far too often for just about every ailment, regardless of how much can be done about it.

You can avoid going to the doctor most times, and if you’re reading this chances are you have already taken far more steps to address your health than the average person. You have the ability to take your own countermeasures, in many cases more effective than anything you could pay a doctor to prescribe you.

A good metaphor for this approach: Let’s say you accidentally knock a small hole in the drywall of your apartment. Whoops!

You can either call the maintenance guy to come fix it, possibly costing yourself $50-100 for the repair and labor, possibly costing yourself part of your security deposit, or even a higher rent the next time you renew your lease.

Or you can buy a wall repair kit at a store like Home Depot for $10-15, find and buy a small can of some matching paint for even less, and quickly patch it up yourself.

And you can do the same thing with your health, because many of your health problems can be addressed by paying attention to how you handle your diet, your sleep, your exercise and your emotions.

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Using the glycogen equation

I’ve referenced this a few times. Jonathan Savage crafted an equation, out of 1993 research from Dutch professor JA Romijn, that estimates the percentage of energy you use from glycogen, vs fat, based on your effort relative to your VO2max.

y = .0021x² + .7896x – 21.031

… where X is the percentage of your VO2max and y is the percentage of caloric energy that comes from glycogen.

So, for a simple example, if I do a run at an effort equal to 70% of my VO2max:

(.0021 * 70 * 70) + (.7896 * 70) – 21.031


10.290 + 55.272 – 21.031


44.531 % from glycogen

Note: Yes, this is a massively reductionist estimate, ignoring all sorts of factors, not to mention the VO2max percentage is itself a guesstimated assumption based on what you believe is your VO2max, with your given x-percentage probably based solely on your running pace and/or heart rate. But correlative observation and evidence indicates that it’s more accurate than other methods, so here we are.

Anyway… at 70% effort, if I burn 123 calories per mile, then 54.8 of those calories will come from glycogen, with the rest coming from fat.

If (based on other quantitative assumptions) we can say I have 1208 calories of glycogen stored in my lower body, I can run about 22.0 miles at this effort before my lower body runs out of glycogen.


Now, this number probably seems low to many experts, who are used to assuming that the glycogen rate is closer to 65-70%.

At the same time, most coaches and runners are used to pushing harder on regular runs (even recovery runs) than they should. Many run their marathons harder than their bodies probably should, and it figures they burn out of glycogen before mile 20. So it would figure that most would assume a 65ish% glycogen burn rate.

Even Daniels‘ metrics flattens the slide on his similar VDOT metric, where as you drop below an 80% effort it flattens the change in the percentage of max until it assumes a rough minimum of about 80%. I would posit you can (and many do) their comfortable easy runs at far less than 80% of VO2max.

More than anything the Romijn/Savage Equation, while counterintuitive, is probably closer to an accurate estimate of glycogen use than other estimates. It’s one I go by.

Where am I going with this? Basically, this equation has some uses.

  • Let’s say you are trying to eat low carb, or at the least carb cycle to improve your insulin sensitivity and in turn how well your body utilizes ingested carbs. If you’re doing serious endurance training, you probably do need carbs. If you know your training volume and intensity, you can figure out how many carbs you can eat on a given day to fuel or offset the glycogen your body will burn that day.
  • This can help you get an idea of what pre/post workout or race nutrition you need to fuel or recover from your workout. Your protein needs should remain fairly static, and of course you need not worry too much about recovering fat since we all carry so much. But your carb needs can vary dramatically.
  • Similarly, this can help you figure out an accurate fueling plan for a marathon or longer race. By knowing exactly how much glycogen you need, relative to your estimated glycogen body storage, you now have a hard figure of carbohydrate calories you know you need to ingest. You can plan accordingly.
  • This can also help address the larger question of how many carbs you need on average. Perhaps you can set a low baseline, like 100-150g a day, and then add carbs based on how many you may burn in a typical week. The equation can give you a fairly accurate number.

There are I’m sure other examples. I’ll leave it to you to find possible ways to utilize this data.

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The two questions that will always keep you moving forward

Stumped? Here’s two questions to ask that will get you back on track towards what you’re working for.

What’s the main goal behind what I’m doing or making?

What’s the message you’re trying to get across? What does this thing you’re making or doing need to do, and why?

Start with the main idea, and then build around it. All roots grow from the same tree. Every essay has a main idea, supported by 2-4+ sub-ideas, each built around their own sub-ideas, etc.

A runner for example can run to get in better shape, and everything they do (how they train, how they eat, etc) can be built around that main goal: To get in better shape.

What’s my next step?

Once you understand your primary objective, this can better frame the 2nd question: What is the very next you need to do to move ahead? There’s a bunch of things you probably need to do. But there’s only one next step.

  • For runners, it’s typically literal: Taking the next step and going on that run.
  • For that five paragraph essay, you need to write the next sentence, even if it’s the first part of an outline of all those main points.
  • For that tree to grow, get it (or seeds) in the soil and get some water on it.

 

Knowing what you’re working towards, and knowing what to do next, are the keys to getting and staying in motion towards what you want.

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Game Night meal plans, and planning meals around events

The Loyola Ramblers men’s basketball team begins their season tonight with an exhibition game. I have season tickets and I go to pretty much every single game I can for both the men’s and women’s teams.

Over the last couple months I had found a rhythm with cooking dinner on weeknights that suited me fairly well. I’d often return home from work and running either around 6:00-7:00 pm, or after a racing team workout a bit after 8:00pm. I would spend an hour preparing my typical meal, usually baked chicken with either baked/boiled potatoes, or boiled pasta.

However, the start of Loyola’s season poses a clear problem on weeknights. With these games starting at 7-8pm, lasting around a couple hours, followed by a not terribly long train commute home… I walk in the door sometime around 9-10pm.

I like to get to bed before 11pm at the latest, and obviously coming home at 9-10pm doesn’t allow much time to cook dinner before 11pm. Staying up late just to cook a decent meal is not workable. The conventional meal plan isn’t going to work.

I don’t want to buy a ready-to-eat or easy-to-bake $7-12 meal on the way home after every game, because that gets expensive in a hurry, and most workable options are not the most nutritious. Plus, it’s likely I’m already going to need to buy something to eat after leaving work, before the games. I can’t go 8-10 hours without a meal.

Of course, I also don’t want to rely on eating arena food during the game for the same reasons.

I also don’t want to rely on some sort of snack food, which in my experience doesn’t really satisfy, which poses a huge problem overnight as I tend to wake up overnight when hungry.

I also don’t want to prepare a meal in advance and then re-heat it in the microwave when getting home. Never minding the lacking quality of such a meal, microwaving can sap or zap various nutrients, plus materials from the plating can leech into the food. I avoid microwaving food in general.

So… what to do? Going entirely without is not a workable option while running regularly. I’m not going to just miss games to get my meals in, of course. There has to be a way to make this work.


And it turns out there is.

Recently I bought an egg cooker device at Target. I once had a Cuisinart Egg Cooker in Seattle (that I had to dump once I moved to Chicago), and it worked quite well with making steam-poached eggs. It turns out this cheaper Copper Plate model does just as well, steaming two eggs at a time in a few minutes.

I had been eating steam-poached eggs as a snack, but it’s entirely possible to steam them and eat them as the protein portion of a dinner.

While I could prepare rice in my Aroma Automated Cooker to be ready when I return home… a more nutritious solution would be to boil about 400 calories of pasta, and also heat some marinara sauce to eat with it. Combine the eggs, the pasta and the sauce, and that’s a decent post-game meal, in less than 20 minutes.

It certainly beats paying for a sandwich or a burrito every time I come home for a game.


This is one of many possible examples of the meal planning my training requires. You can’t cut corners with nutrition any more than you can cut corners with your training

A lot of people, when life intervenes, elect to either cut life and focus too much on their training, or to skimp on meal planning only for their development and health to suffer in kind.

But with some advance effort you can totally find workable solutions that avoid having to cut corners in any way.

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The conflict between running and testosterone

Men face a potential problem if they train as dedicated runners: The risk of diminished testosterone levels.

The sustained stress of endurance running is enough to have grown a movement cutting down distance running and other aerobic exercise (typically lumped together under the term “cardio”) as detrimental to adults’ health, especially to men’s health. Many recommend that men restrict their running and other “cardio” to more brief, high-intensity, interval training.

It’s not just the Manosphere who has taken issue with running. Former US-marathon record holder Ryan Hall retired at 33, and cited low testosterone levels as a prime motivator for his retirement.

Personally, I haven’t worried about it as much: I had practiced a less than stellar diet and lifestyle in previous adult years, and that would probably hurt my T levels more than running 30-50 miles a week as a healthier adult has today.

And of course my health, strength, vitality(, and yes, libido) have honestly gotten better as I’ve continued my training. Whenever I have felt… let’s say, diminished in a fashion typical with low T levels… it’s often a combination of particular heavy training, and some other stressor like my work situation, a lack of sleep, bad diet, or a number of other things that themselves would be T problems whether or not I was running.


There are a lot of reasons distance running contributes to lower testosterone, and I believe a lot of them are preventable.

First of all, many people do most of their running harder than they should. This is slightly counter-intuitive, as manhood is often associated with doing things strong, hard, fast. It makes sense that they would gravitate to sprints and other Tabata workouts over longer runs.

The conventional Man Approach to exercise (hard/fast/strong) works just fine with the most conventional form of male exercise: Weightlifting. All your work is done in very brief, high intensity bursts. Literally no aerobic capacity is required to successfully push weight, whether or not you choose to incorporate extra aerobic or anaerobic effort.

However, when you bring that modus operandi to running where hard, fast, high-exertion running is all you ever do when running, it doesn’t work as well.

While higher intensity running can be successfully done one to three times per week, most of your running should be easier, dialed back to where every step is strong, yet comfortable. A lot of men, however, run too hard on their regular, easy runs.

Often, form is a key reason men run too hard too often. If you’re straining to reach your legs forward, you are pushing too hard. And pushing too hard too often leads to a sustained overdose of cortisol, the stress hormone that is the bane of testosterone. That, not the running in itself, is what’s reducing T levels in men who run a lot.

Slow down on your regular runs. Jog at a pace where you feel in full control of every inch you move, where you know you have the strength and control to stop on a dime if necessary, where you know you can run like that for another hour, tall and strong, not hunched forward squeezing out extra effort. Save that effort for your speed intervals… though to be honest you should be tall and strong and in control for those too.

Running can and should be a strength exercise, whether you do it for 45 seconds in a rep or 60 minutes in a 6-7 mile run. The power of your glutes and core muscles should be carrying your every step, without undue strain to your tendons, bones and ligaments.

Secondly, the classically slight body of a typical runner is in some part a function of actively minimizing weight to maximize pace. I certainly am not slight at 5’10”, 162 pounds, and while I always look to shed a bit of fat here and there, I also value maintaining my muscle… especially having reached 40 years of age.

But a lot of it is also the conventional diet habits of a runner. Many don’t take in anywhere close to enough protein to maintain their muscle. Despite their emphasis on carbs, many don’t eat enough carbs before or after most workouts, underestimating how much glycogen they burn.

The end result is muscle gets broken down over time. While that helps get them leaner, it also can compromise not just overall strength and health… but for men, their T levels. The hormones respond in kind to the incredible shrinking distance runner’s body, and decrease overall production of various hormones including testosterone.

It can be counter-intuitive for a runner to try and preserve mass. But muscle does aid in performance, not to mention represent a key component of overall health. A greater emphasis on protein intake and muscle preservation can help counteract other elements of training that can compromise T levels. There are other ways to burn extra fat without sacrificing valuable muscle.

I’m not going to go as far as to say running’s negative relationship to testosterone is a myth. There are true factors that can contribute to diminished T level over time.

But distance running should not be considered a death sentence for manhood. By changing a few paradigms of how men approach training and lifestyle, men can easily maintain healthy T levels and enjoy the better health and rewards that running can bring.

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An impromptu birthday run, and thoughts on aging (even when others don’t notice)

Most people go on an abbreviated run and hope that it’s long enough to count in their training long.

Me? I go tonight on two short runs, to and from the store to get ice cream, and hope the runs aren’t long enough to count. Here I am trying to stick to my guns on a two weeks hiatus following the marathon, and yet opportunity calls.

See, today is my birthday, and I turn 40 years old. I figure why not treat myself? Ice cream makes sense. A 2 mile round trip run… possibly less so, but I certainly enjoyed it.

A lot of people get to this stage in life and face a mid-life crisis. Their health and figure has declined. They’re fighting father time.

Me? I probably feel and look better than I did at 30. Hell, I feel a lot better than I did at 38 or 39. A combination of all this running with substantial improvements to my lifestyle habits have dramatically improved my energy levels, my physique, my health.

So, I realize the number is a specter given it’s a midlife number. Any notion of youth your age offers is pretty much gone at 40. You’re a man, and you’re pretty much on the “old” side of the spectrum.

Meanwhile, I still get mistaken for being 15 years younger, and I’ve let a lot of twentysomething ladies down when I break to them when I was actually born. You have to look closely for telltale signs of my actual age. My face at point blank range looks just weathered enough to indicate I’m no kid. My hairline has mostly held the line, but the front base of hair has gotten a bit thin at the top of my forehead. People get weirded out and some even laugh when I make any effort at being authoritative, because it looks like a college kid trying to act like an old man.

But otherwise people still think they’re dealing with a twentysomething. Maybe it gives me as many chances I wouldn’t otherwise get, as it takes away chances I otherwise would get. Maybe if I race as a Masters runner people will immediately cry foul and accuse me of lying (especially if I win an age group). If I went to see a doctor about some old man thing like a heart scan or (heaven forbid) a prostate screening or something, he’d probably laugh and wonder why a kid thinks they need something like that.

I’m not crazy enough to think I’ve turned back the clock or I’ll be young forever. I feel the bone-and-joint creakiness of having passed 30 now and then and have for years. I just have gotten in good enough condition that it doesn’t really hold me back. I realize I’ve got to work hard to take care of myself to maintain what I can as I age, as much as grow in any way naturally possible.

I ran to the store and back at an 8:35-8:40 mile pace. I couldn’t have imagined running comfortably that fast back in 2010, and certainly couldn’t have imagined that eight years later I’d be running like that, in better shape than I’ve ever been.

P.S. I couldn’t decide between Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup and Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone. So of course I got both. The former got crushed just now, and I’ll eat the Caramel Cone some time down the road.

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Want to stay warm in winter?

This occurred to me about halfway through a brutal cardio workout in my otherwise cold apartment (bearing in mind that it isn’t even that cold yet).

There are two very easy ways to warm up during the winter, if you’d rather not blast your heater too much, or it’s so cold your heater isn’t really keeping your home warm.

One, you can cook. Use the oven, use the stove, use whatever generates heat. Cook a full meal. The meal itself can provide some temporary warmth, but a 350-400 degree oven or a hot stove will also provide some warmth. Learn to love cooking again if you need some help dealing with the cold.

Two, you can do serious exercise. The easiest and most direct way is to do an aerobic or circuit exercise program that really kicks your ass, in the not-quite-comfort of your own home. During warmer months, you may sweat enough to need a mop. But in the winter, your overheating may be exactly what your body needs to counteract the cold seeping through your walls into your bones. The added circulation during and after the workout will help keep you warmer than you were before.

Another helpful exercise method is to run outdoors, if you can handle it. I run all winter, and it makes acclimating to the cold easier to spend any extended amount of time active in it. Plus, after about 10-20 minutes of running, you warm up about as much as you do any other time of year. What may overheat you in summer is exactly what you might need in the dead of winter. Once you get inside, it not only will feel warmer than the outdoors, but you’ll be warmer and able to handle the cooler indoor air a lot better.

So, while most people want to curl up under a blanket during the coldest months, your best bet to warm up and stay warm may be to do the opposite. Get busy, and get warm! And probably cook a nice meal as well.

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Circuit training, aka strength and cross training in the interim

So even though I still have a week of no-running left to go, nothing is stopping me from beginning my next phase of training.

So I went ahead and began this program this afternoon:

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I had bought and followed Adam Rosante’s 30 Second Body a while back. The program did help me some, but was at the time challenging to follow.

It’s a full body circuit training program that mixes a variety of compound squats and plank movements (like burpees) done as fast as you can properly do them for 30-60 seconds at a time. None of the movements seem hard at first glance, or even as you begin the intervals. But after a few of them, the relatively untrained body begins to feel tired, and that’s when you realize you still have 15-30 seconds left.

Right now it’s probably a perfect program for me.

  • I want to improve upper body strength, core strength and overall flexibility that may help my running once I get back into training
  • I also want to improve my overall physique, which will never be a 10 out of 10 but could always use some improvement in muscle definition.
  • With marathon training complete, and no imminent goal races on the horizon prior to next spring, I have plenty of time to primarily invest myself in a valuable physical activity other than running.
  • I also am hesitant to re-invest in a gym membership (having let my most recent one expire right before the Chicago Marathon), and am not sure that pushing weight is the best way to improve my overall conditioning right now anyway. Eventually, I want to get back in the gym, but I think I can get more out of something else.
  • Plus, this allows me to develop some overall aerobic and anaerobic conditioning aside from running… which in a lot of ways should help my running.

Would I recommend it over other similar book/video-based programs like Body For Life, or 30 Day Shred?

It was very difficult for me to do, and stick to. Granted, while I wasn’t super active at the time I first tried it… I used to do yoga, Pilates, and perform theatre and dance, so I’m no stranger to intense floor exercise.

I still found the 30 Second Body workouts to be an ass-kicker. I found myself many nights turning to the stop-gap 5 minute workouts listed in the book, simply because after a tough workday I didn’t feel I had it in me to do a full longer workout. Being a lot better trained physically these days, I’ll probably stick to the full workouts every day this time around. But they are very demanding. They will loom large every night I go to do them.

Two things to Rosante’s credit:

  1. My difficulty despite my other experience is proof that the workouts will challenge anyone. Someone in great condition will be challenged by them just as much as someone who doesn’t exercise otherwise.
  2. The workouts don’t prescribe a minimum rep count: If for example it takes everything you have to do 2 of Adam’s designed 3-Point Plankers in 30 seconds, then that is all you need to do for that interval. You only do as many reps as you can physically manage with good form, as fast or as slow as you need to go.

The 30 Second Body still incredibly challenging, but it’s not like an aerobics class or  a racing team workout where you may struggle to keep up with everyone else. You work at your own pace and capability, and that’s all you need to concern yourself with. In that sense, the workout plan can be done by anyone.

… provided you can safely do all the needed movements. Never mind good form (which Rosante doesn helpfully outline up front in the book). Some people can’t brace much of their weight on their hands for a plank movement. Some people’s knees or hips won’t allow for a compound squat exercise. Rosante does offer modification options for all the exercises to be done differently, but the more physical issues you have with key joints, the more likely this plan may not work for you.

I’m fortunate to be in good condition and able to do all of the movements, even if some moves are quite difficult for me. Some people meanwhile have wrist or shoulder or knee problems. Those folks, and even some who are not particularly athletic, may be better off with a more conventional workout plan.

Still, I really like the 30 Second Body program, and athletes looking for a cross training break from their pursuit of choice may get a lot of value from this six week program of intense circuit training. Non-athletes who feel ambitious, and promise to be careful about practicing the program, can also get a lot out of the 30 Second Body. That’s who Rosante originally designed it for, after all! Rosante is an accomplished personal trainer, so he has a pretty good idea of what people in general, let alone his clients, can handle.

As with any new exercise program, see your doctor, eat and rest right, be careful, blah blah blah: We’re adults. I think if you can handle doing a classic squat, push up, and burpee without your limbs exploding, you can get a lot of value out of Adam Rosante’s The 30 Second Body. I’m planning to do so myself this fall, starting about an hour ago.

Also, I need some bananas. My glycogen stores need some help!


The 30 Second Body is available at the link below:

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Training ambitions, and the unexpected prime obstacle to meeting them

Given I currently have some extra time on my hands, I’m reviewing my upcoming schedule in preparation for winter training. I want to work towards 60-70 miles a week this next training cycle, which may sound scary to the uninitiated until I mention that I was topping 50 miles per week without much trouble during Chicago Marathon training.

While I’m open to staying with a training load around 40-50 miles per week, I do want to stretch out and give 60+ a shot by extending my weekday runs, making sure I go 120-150 minutes on Saturday long runs, and mixing in some brief morning or lunchtime weekday runs in addition to my typical postwork runs. If it turns out to be too physically demanding, I can always scale back to a more regular workload, but for all sorts of reasons I’ll get into someday I believe I can now handle the larger workload.

That said, the biggest obstacle to running more miles isn’t whether my body can handle it, or even the wear on my shoes (my budget is tighter than it was a year ago, but I can always buy another 1-2 pairs of training shoes if I need it).

The problem is whether or not I can eat enough to compensate for all the extra calories I would burn.

I’m looking to get my diet super clean going into this next training cycle, as well as make it more affordable and simplified. An optimal diet that served all of the above only fed me about 2400 calories. That is well and good for weight loss, if I’m not running more than a couple miles every day. I would obviously be running much more than a couple miles per day.

Again, every mile I walk or run burns about 125 calories. I have actually been walking more the last few days, and have hit 3000 calories burned the last couple days despite no running. It’s fairly easy for me to burn calories when I’m active, and during my 30ish miles per week training days I would easily burn 3300-3500 calories.

If I’m running closer to 9 miles per day, that’s an extra 600-650 calories per day I’d burn, and even if I make the extra effort to take it easy in the rest of my life, I’ll easily burn 3500-3600 calories per day.

Okay, you may say… you’re looking to cut fat anyway, and this would be a great opportunity to shed some more of it, right? What’s the harm?

One of the reasons you don’t want to run a huge calorie deficit is the risk of muscle wasting. While it’s in general considered a cardio exercise, running requires substantial lower body strength, and along with depleting glycogen stores you break down lower body muscle. Proper nutrition allows you to rebuild those damaged muscles as well as restore your glycogen stores.

You’re already playing with fire when you run a calorie deficit, and being able to do so safely during training requires some mindful planning and execution. Even then, you should not run a deficit of greater than 500 calories a day. If I’m going to burn 3500 calories a day, I need to take in about 3000 calories to prevent myself from burning out or getting hurt.

And I probably should not take in as much fat as I have. I’m not looking to go low-fat with my diet revisions, because again the body absolutely needs dietary fat. But I do want to work on staying within 80-85g of fat per day, which means the answer to my dilemma is not as simple as committing to pounding a frozen pizza every day.

And as much as I’d like to go paleo or similar, I don’t want to compromise my performance or development by avoiding carbs and the needed glycogen.

Okay, so just eat a bunch of carbohydrates, right? Well, easy to say sure, since I’m going to burn them every day.

But there’s only so many carbs I can stomach. Most healthy carb-rich foods can be very dense and contain a lot of insoluble fiber. I found during my “sure, I’ll carb load” diet phases in previous years that the most carbs I could handle in a day is about 400-500g. And I could only hit that mark now and again: On a daily basis I can’t consistently consume more than 350g of carbohydrate.

Right now I’m eating about 300-400 calories of potatoes with dinner. I can probably handle about 3-4 bananas at most, and eating all of the above means taking in an uncomfortably large amount of insoluble fiber. Either way, I don’t think I can stomach much more than that.

Plus, your stomach can only process so many nutrients before just passing the rest or storing the difference as fat. Carbs do get stored as fat once the window closes on your body’s absorption capabilities. So eating a ton of carbs isn’t really an easy solution.


So, looking at my diet, after factoring in the foods I do and can consistently eat… I realized I had a deficit of about 600 calories if I want to train at a higher volume. How to cover it?

One answer is to swap out potatoes (at least on some days) with semolina-based pasta. I mentioned fusilli as a pasta of choice, though organic elbow macaroni is an option as well thanks to its density. Both provide more carbs in a meal (as many as 60g extra, plus some extra protein) than potatoes do overall.

However, potatoes provide a ton of potassium that pasta does not. It can be possible to supplement the traditional way: By making pasta with marinara sauce. I eat my pasta plain with salt, broth and coconut oil for seasoning. But a cup of marinara sauce adds about 800mg of potassium, which would cover most of the gap.

While it’s not totally my cup of tea, I’m not opposed to quickly heating a cup of marinara or similar pasta sauce and dumping that onto the pasta for dinner with my chicken. And, while not as much, pasta sauce also comes with a few extra carbohydrates.

I also find that sometimes at work I need an afternoon snack. If I commit to quick-prep oatmeal, that can provide some extra carbohydrate on key days.


All of these options of course have a common problem: They’re processed foods. And while inexpensive, it gets away from the whole food philosophy I’ve been working to follow and maintain with my diet. I wouldn’t want to eat these items exclusively, let alone every day.

None of this is to say I’ve found the solution. These are mostly just the options I’m considering ahead of 2019. The good news is I don’t have to find an answer now. Go-Time for this plan would be about 2.5 months down the road.

But it does present an interesting dilemma: If you want to train high-mileage, how do you make sure you get enough energy to eat to maintain that workload?

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My dietary staples: The food, drink and garnishes I build around

The one thing about serious running that I enjoy the most is how it compelled improvements to every other aspect of my lifestyle: My diet, my sleep habits, my personal habits, life decisions, etc.

Even when I’m not running, those things remain very important in general. In a sense, training never really stops even when you take a break from running. Because your diet is one aspect of your training. Your sleep and resting habits are aspects of your training. Your general activity and life choices are all aspects of your training.

And so when people finish a goal race and take a break, they do one of two things with their lives. They either stop training, or they continue to train.

And I’m not just talking about running: In fact, after running a marathon or longer, you definitely need to stop running for a bit. But in a way: Training is life, and life is training. You’re either training to improve, or you’re not.

Anyway, let’s talk about food.


As I’ve said I eat about 80% clean or better. I’m down for pizza, burgers, fried food, burritos, chips, some alcohol now and then, etc… as much as anyone. There are times where processed stuff might be my best option for a given meal.

But every other time, I eat clean: Baked and boiled food, raw fruit and vegetables, water coffee or tea. I cook using only olive or coconut oil. I season food with garlic salt and maybe 1-2 other garnishes (no sauces). To cover my bases I take a multivitamin and supplement with fish oil, a cal-mag-D3 citrate pill, and Vitamin K2. I rely on simple food items I know I can comfortably consume, and I stick to eating those most of the time.

Some of this food can be classified as processed, though by and large what I consume is a sclose to its original form as is reasonable.

Chicken

I grew up eating a lot of chicken. At some point in my 20’s I suddenly developed a rash whenever I ate it, so I had to stop for a while. At some point in the last decade, I found out I could eat chicken without problems again (perhaps farms were adding some sort of toxic hormone before?), and now it’s once again my top protein staple.

I mostly eat chicken thighs, and occasionally will mix in drumsticks if the store is short on thighs. Wings don’t provide enough meat, and chicken breasts provide too much plus take more time and effort to cook and lack important fat. Thighs fall right in the sweet spot.

I always bake them in the oven at 350-400 degrees, either over coconut oil, or on a bed of potatoes.

Potatoes: Yukon Gold or red

Penn Jillette lost over 100 pounds subsisting on potatoes, and for good reason. They are probably the most potassium rich food you can eat, and are a clean quality starch with loads of other vitamins.

Conventional potatoes are generally super dirty and I ain’t got time to scrub them off nor do I want to lose nutrients by peeling them. So I get the much cleaner gold or red variety, and I eat them cubed with the skin. Reds tend to be dirty from time to time depending on what variety you get, so often I go with the golds.

I either bake 3-4 of them cubed, over olive oil in the oven (a basic recipe my mother showed me a couple years ago), or I boil them in a large pot. They are typically a side dish with meat.

Fusilli pasta

Before I got into potatoes, this was my dinner side dish for a good long while. Of course, it’s not a whole food product (derived from wheat semolina), and it lacks the potassium and vitamins present in potatoes. I definitely noticed the difference health-wise once I switched.

However, a heaping serving does have a bit more protein, and a lot more carbs, plus it’s easier to prepare than the potatoes. I still have it from time to time.

I have tried other brands, but Whole Foods’ 365 still makes the more palatable version of fusilli I’ve had to date.

Coffee

I love coffee. I don’t pound 4+ cups a day like other addicts, but I still have a cup almost every morning. It provides me a strange sort of relaxation with its caffeinated energy.

I’ll drink 8-16 oz, depending on how much I’m in the mood for. I always drink it black and not after 12pm unless it’s decaf (even then I pretty much avoid drinking it at all after noon).

I’m not super picky, even though I often like to go to independent local shops and roasters to hang out over a cup.

I used to brew coffee at home for work, but now rely on whatever’s freely available at work. That could change again if my next long term workplace lacks decent coffee, but if my current work situation sticks then I’m probably sticking with their coffee for the long haul.

I’ve considered giving coffee up for a little while as an experiment (I’ve quit it a few times before with decent results, but I like it too much to stay away forever). It’s not an experiment I’m in a hurry to try.

Coconut oil

I cannot remember the exact source or information that led me to try coconut oil, but once I did I was hooked and now that’s mostly what I cook with.

Coconut oil, along with being a quality saturated fat, along has anti-fungal properties. People even use it as a topical agent for that reason. I don’t really, but I do like to think that if I had a candida issue that it’s long since been crushed.

Because of a low flashpoint, it doesn’t fry well, but all I do is bake with it. You can safely eat it raw as-is with a spoon, though there aren’t many cases where you would want to do so.

I have phases where I put a spoon of it in my coffee as a poor man’s bulletproof coffee. I haven’t done it in a long while but could be swayed to start doing it again.

(TRUE) extra virgin olive oil

I had a come-and-go relationship with olive oil over the years, but after learning more about the difference between bogus mass produced olive oil (which is often mixed with vegetable and canola oils), and true olive oil… I have fallen in with California Olive Ranch’s extra virgin olive oil.

I use it for baking potatoes in my large Pyrex pan, and when the occasional meal out of a box requires a spoon of butter (I use the olive oil instead, with great results).

Garlic Salt

Garlic salt is my at-plate seasoning of choice. I season food to taste with it. I am partial to Frontier Co-Op’s Garlic Salt. Since it’s not as manufactured, it does tend to clump in humid hot conditions if you forget to put the cap back on, but it’s still the best I’ve found.

I don’t drown my food in salt, but I’ll sprinkle it liberally on potatoes and pasta. I may sprinkle some on meat while cooking as the situation calls, but I usually use it at the plate.

Oregano

Oregano’s healing properties more than its flavor are why I garnish baked dishes with it. I can’t imagine a dusting of the stuff works any miracles, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. And it does help the flavor of food.

Others will use it with other seasonings, but I only use it with garlic salt or powder.

Garlic powder, or pure garlic

Speaking of which, I will season meat and potatoes with garlic powder before baking to add some end-game flavor. If I’m in the mood to crush cloves of garlic, I’ll buy some bulbs from the store and get to it. However, it’s easier to just use the powder, so I just go with that.

I hope I don’t reek of garlic. I can’t tell anymore, since I use the stuff so much with my cooking. I avoid mainstream mass-produced brands, but otherwise I don’t have a strong preference with garlic powder.

Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt

It’s getting harder for me to find a store that carries Jane’s fine mix of dried garlic, onion, garnishes and salt. Stores in Seattle (where I discovered it) definitely carry it in spades. But the only place in Chicago I’ve reliably found it recently is Treasure Island Foods, and they are unfortunately closing for good. Instacart claims that Whole Foods carries it but I’ve rarely seen it available there. I’ll need to find another store that has it or I won’t be using it again for a while.

It’s a little too thick to use as an at-plate seasoning, so I generally use it like garlic powder, as pre-cook seasoning for baked dishes.

White or brown rice

Growing up in a Filipino household, we ate white rice with just about everything we had for dinner. It was rare to eat a dinner where the side dish was something else. The family would mix it with butter, but over time I grew to enjoy it plain or with salt.

Living in Seattle I grew an affinity for brown rice, and cooked that a lot more frequently than white rice. I developed a few recipes, and would often carry a batch to work in plasticware to either eat for breakfast, or for lunch. Learning about the presence of arsenic in brown rice, I shied away from it in recent years, but I still do eat it, cooked out of my Aroma automatic rice cooker.

Currently I like to bring seasoned rice with me to work and eat that for lunch with…

Sardines in olive oil

I first dabbled with canned sardines back in Seattle, long after first seeing my dad eat them from time to time. I found them okay, but wasn’t that into them.

That changed during my current work situation, when I wanted to bring a suitable meal to work and eventually discovered that wild-caught sardines were a convenient protein to eat with rice. Getting them with olive oil also helps season the rice a bit more, making lunch a pretty full dish.

Sardines also have the advantage of providing Omega 3, which I get some of via fish oil supplementation and the occasional salmon meal. But it’s great to get it regularly with such an easy, portable lunch dish.

I’m partial to paying a bit more for the King Oscar brand, which I’ve found to taste noticeably better (less “tinny” and more like wild-caught fish). This is pretty much what I eat for lunch every weekday right now.


 

So those are my current food staples. This always evolves, and in a few years some other combination of food may suit my needs better.

But one key to why these foods work for me, along with being minimally processed and/or organic, is that they are affordable and for the most part readily accessible. It’s easy to form habits of eating these foods on a consistent basis.

I’ve definitely noticed the difference with my health and my running performance in the long run from eating this kind of food.

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