’tis the season

The Christmas season is upon us. And with the festivities comes the food. And the sleeping. And the not exercising. And then a little more eating.

I somehow made it through Thanksgiving without gaining weight. It was a herculean effort. I deserved a crown of olive leaves.

I’m still not quite sure how I pulled it off. I was militant about what I was eating. I have not been so militant as I’ve started Christmas vacation. In the last 36 hours I’ve had 4 Cokes, Burger King, Sonic, Chick Fil A, Funyuns, and chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.

And a salad. I’m hoping that salad has super powers.

I’ve never been terribly good about staying in shape over Christmas or eating well, so we’re going to see if we can break a trend this year.

In high school, the two weeks off led to a hellish first day when we got back to our offseason workouts. I don’t want to get back to running in January and see my lunch in reverse, especially when I know I’m going to do a 5K in January (you know, with that being the overall theme of this blog, that should be somewhat apparent).

It’s interesting to see what the popular media has out there for tips. They mostly focus on food. The tips on eating healthy over Christmas are abundant but kind of useless. The tips always come back to “Don’t eat things you know are bad for you”

People tend to know what they should and shouldn’t eat, as well as how much they should eat. We just make terrible decisions. We’re the best at terrible decisions.

And so I’ll just try to use common sense.

I’ll try to eat slightly healthier options (starting tomorrow since yesterday and today were clearly a wash). I’ll try to move around when I can. And I’m going to run, even though #ihaterunning.

I brought two sets of running gear with me. I even mapped out a route, so I know where I’m running.

This week was a bad week as it was. My knee was acting up after my Sunday run, so I haven’t been out since then. I even only managed one yoga session since to allow me to rest (and to prep for the trip).

I’m just afraid of losing what little progress I’ve made to a vacation, so hopefully a 2 or 3 runs can be squeezed in while I’m here.

-Q

#ihaterunning

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Quoting Dead Presidents

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

I like a good quote. Sometimes we’d like to say something and someone else said it better. In this case, JFK beat me to the punch.

Sometimes you pick the difficult choice because it’s the difficult choice

You pick the difficult choice because you believe it can make you better.

The best athletes want to go up against other great athletes. They know it increases the chance they’ll lose today, but they also know it’ll increase the chance they’ll win tomorrow.

So what does that have to do with what I’m talking about? A little and a lot.

To get in better shape, I try to make the tougher choices. I try to push my body and mind a little bit further so that I can be a better person for it.

Something that folks I work with don’t quite get is why I don’t park as close as I can to the office. It’s because I want to walk. I more than doubled my walk to the office for the sake of more than doubling my walk to the office. That extra time spent walking burns more calories, puts my body in a better position to be functional, and it helps me clear my head.

Eating healthy is also a tougher choice. Good, fresh food is more difficult to find than the McDonalds and Chick-fil-A’s that litter the country. And our bodies want that fatty food because it still thinks storing fat’s a good idea.

And running. Running is hard. I don’t want to run. I don’t want to jog, anyway. Sprinting can be kind of fun when you’re pushing yourself to your maximum for a moment. But jogging sucks. I jog because it’s hard. I jog because I’ll be exhausted and out of breath. I jog so that tomorrow I can be a little less winded as I take the stairs for the umpteenth time instead of the easy elevator.

But I don’t always make the right choice. I hate hills. I like to walk up hills instead of running them. I’m happy in the short term, but I’m paying in the long term.

If you know how muscles are affected by running, you know your hamstrings work more going up hills and you’re quads work more going down hills. Guess which muscles are more sore because I haven’t been running up hills, but I have been running down the hills? Yep, my quads. They’re shot. They’re shot because I made the easy choice on most occasions on my past few runs.

And so next time, I’ll make the hard choices. I’ll run up the hills. I’ll eat my vegetables. I’ll keep walking to the office. And I’ll keep taking those stupid stairs.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Me Vs. Fatty

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I’ll go further into the concept of Fatty today.

Fatty is the one who makes bad decisions. Fatty is the one who eats all the food. Fatty is the one who won’t get up off of the couch.

Now this isn’t a unique concept to me. The Oatmeal produced a comic about running, that focused largely on The Blerch. Part of the reason I latched onto this comic so well was because it was very insightful and felt very reflective of my own experiences. I don’t have quite the same visualization when I think of Fatty, but it gets the point across pretty well.

At the heart of it is the fact that I’m scared to death of being fat. When I was little, I was pudgy. Only a sadist would have called me fat since it was the age of 5 and earlier, but I was round. Like a baby-sized bowling ball. Then around 6 or 7, I got skinny.

From that point on, being skinny was easy. In fact, throughout high school, I struggled to put on weight. I was doing multiple sports and constantly running between track and football, so I had trouble adding weight.

And then I got to college.

At first it was nice because I was lifting almost every day, and I put on 15 pounds of muscle. This was the first time I wasn’t running constantly and was able to actually put on weight. But then I fell out of the habit of working out, and I learned what bad weight gain looked like.

From this point on, I got into a little battle with myself. I’m not sure when I started conceptualizing the bad guy as Fatty, but it happened, and it stuck.

It was partially because it was funny, and partially because it felt true. It was like this little fat kid was sitting around trying to eat the worst junk food and then sit around not being active.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple, but it’s not that far from the truth.

If you check out The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, you’ll see some pretty interesting research about how people can make better decisions and why people make bad decisions.

One of the concepts that comes up is that when we’re making bad decisions, it’s almost like someone else is making the decisions. For me, that’s Fatty. For The Oatmeal, it’s the Blerch.

What gets interesting in this process is that one of the best ways to beat Fatty (or whatever you choose to name your alter ego; You can always go with Ethel) is to remove choices from Fatty’s discretion. I read it in the book, but it’s something I’d already been doing when I was being smart.

For eating, the best thing I can do is portion out my food into multiple meals when I cook. I don’t even eat what I want to eat first. I split the food and put the containers away before I grab the plate for my current meal. This is about the only way to keep Fatty from overeating. And even then, I have to make sure I don’t get bored and grab something else to eat.

For working out, it was harder. I was a gym goer and a weekend runner for the longest time. During the week, it depended on me waking up early because I wouldn’t go when it was crowded after work. I would do go for a while, but eventually there was nothing I could seem to do to get myself up. I’d pack my bag and have my gym clothes ready, but I just wasn’t ready to function between 5 and 6 in the morning. Eventually, I would get sick, tired, or just busy, and I’d fall off the wagon.

I didn’t find a good rhythm until I started running after work. The gym bothered me with the crowds, but it was never that crowded outside after work, so taking my running routes worked out just fine.

But Fatty could still win this game. It was too easy to forget my gym bag at home. I actually took all of my running gear to the office and stashed it in the desk. I had three pairs of running shoes, a couple pairs of running shorts, some shirts, socks, and even a bunch of lanyards so I could run with my keys. I had preferred options within each set, but I was good for running in any of that gear.

And lastly, I guilt Fatty. I tell people my goals. It sounds stupid, but it works. For better or worse, it always seems to work. Once I let people know my goals, I become hell-bent on achieving them. Some people are supportive, which is nice. And some people want to see you fail, which works even better for motivation.

So we’ve figured out how to outsmart Fatty, but what’s with all this alter ego business?

There’s some sort of disassociation that occurs between us and the parts of us that make bad decisions. That’s where Fatty comes in. Part of us wants to make good decisions, but a part of us also wants to make bad decisions (of course they’re not really bad decisions in historical terms; eating fatty food saved your ass over the winter before there were McDonalds on every corner).

But there’s another alter ego to contend with. It’s your future self. A lot of times we make bad decisions today because we think we’re going to make a good decision tomorrow. I can have fast food for lunch today because I’ll eat healthy tomorrow. The problem is that tomorrow comes and we make bad decisions again because we’ll make better decisions the day after tomorrow.

So what’s the deal with this particular alter ego? It’s a sort-of alter ego.

Really, our future selves are almost treated as completely other people. When we think of our future selves, our brain is firing like it’s a different person. And for some inexplicable reason, we trust that other person to make better choices.

But there’s a trick. There’s always a trick.

Not everyone makes the bad decision. So what’s the difference? Turns out people who tend to make better decisions today have a different view of their future selves. Their view of their future selves in more in line with their view of their current selves, so they’re not seeing this future decision maker as some separate entity; they see this future decision maker as a part of who they are currently.

And so it’s Fatty all around us, even in the future. I don’t believe it’s turtles all the way down, but I’m starting to believe that maybe it’s Fatties all the way down.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Yeah, this is basically it

I love it when our friends at buzzfeed sum things up perfectly

http://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/i-cant-believe-i-got-out-of-bed-for-this

So tired I almost forgot to title this

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I’ve been so busy this week even my shoes can’t stand up straight anymore.

But it’s been a good week. An exhausting week.

I got in three runs which isn’t fantastic, but it’s still consistency, and my knee is holding up (barely).

I also got in two yoga sessions, one relaxing and one vigorous that I somehow survived (barely).

And I went bowling and imbibed enough to put down a baby elephant and survived (barely).

I’m operating on the margins right now, so it’s interesting. I’m doing my best not to fall off the wagon, but it’ll still be a few more weeks before this feels like a routine instead of an obnoxious thing I’m doing to abuse myself.

Running is getting my priority and everything else is being planned around that.

First and foremost are meals. I’m über picky about what I eat on days I run. I’m pulling a combination of calorie bingeing so that I can still function while trying to avoid completely awful decisions so I don’t see my lunch in reverse during the workout. That said, my only ambition is to eat all the food.

The next thing is yoga. When I wasn’t running, I had set classes I attended. Now I just try to make it to a class when I can on days I’m not running (and my knee’s not being a jerk). Yoga’s my most important exercise. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done that has never left me injured or battered. I might feel tired, but I also feel better. Running and lifting don’t always have that effect. But it’s secondary to running because of how taxing running is. I’m trying to make sure that I’m doing SOMETHING every day. I managed to succeed this week, and I will celebrate by sitting on my ass all weekend. And it’s worked out fairly well because I got pretty close to my calorie goal each day. This is my hardest goal to hit. My continuous activity started Sunday, so I’ve done pretty good. Much better than I’d be had I not been going out of my way to do something.

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And of course, I foam roll after every run. It’s a meticulous process, but it seems to help muscle recovery and my knee. It’s not fun, and since it’s post-run, I stink. But I roll and try to hit all those muscles in my leg that hate me after a run, as well as my back, which absorbs a lot of the abuse.

It’s been a good week, I can barely stand, and I’m sure I’ll have something more interesting to say another day when all my energy wasn’t drained trudging around.

-Q

#ihaterunning

The Hunger

I was forced to apologize to my friends and loved ones earlier this week because I ate all the food. All of it. It was terrible but oh-so-tasty.

The day after I work out, I have no further ambition than eating as much as I can possibly get away with and then eating just a little bit more. I actually gave myself pretty bad indigestion Monday night after going well over 1,000 calories more than what I should have.

One of the things that’s always been difficult for me when I’m working out is trying to manage the sheer amount of food I want to eat. At that point, it actually becomes a motivator to stay active, so at least there’s a fringe benefit of fatty eating all the food. There’s this weird guilt that comes from knowing I’m going to eat all the food, so I should probably at least pretend to be active. So far this week, I’ve managed to do something active after work, whether it was running, yoga, or just bowling.

Now as I start the prep for my 5K per month journey, I was also hoping to get a bit leaner. I’m by no means fat, but I’m carry a bit of extra weight, which I can feel the effects of, especially in my knee. This of course makes it more difficult to stay active. Not a fun game to play.

Once I cross the 180 threshold, it starts to take its toll. And then I hit 200 earlier this year for the first time, so I’m beginning the slow fight to get back under 180.

Can’t say that I’m doing terribly great, but I managed to turn the direction of my weight change and got close to 190, though I’m stalling out now that I’m running again.

Weight loss isn’t my goal, but I do think it’s a part of reaching my goal. The fact is, the 5K per month business isn’t a real goal; it’s just a measurable I’m using to help ensure that I’m staying active and taking care of my body.

And so I run. And I hunger. J’ai faim. Tengo hambre.

I just want more and more and more and more. It’s more of a battle to not overeat when I’m active than it is to actually stay active.

And of course, I’m being careful not to undereat or miss out on eating a balanced meal, but it’s no fun sitting at home in the evening contemplating a second supper. I don’t want to hurt myself, and I’d rather be a bit fat than malnourished.

This hunger has always been the case; I’ve just tried to be smarter about it.

I felt like a champ at 18-19 when I figured out I could eat healthier options without really cutting down the amount of food I ate, and I ended up trimming off 10 pounds of fat in a month or two. I was also lifting most days and running a fair amount. And I was still a teenager. Damn teenagers and their intact metabolisms.

At least I know I’m not the only one who deals with it.

When you look up this type of thing, the most common thing I see is about what foods to eat to help you feel full. Being careful about what I eat helps a little bit. A very little bit. No amount of protein and fiber makes me feel full (in fact, too much fiber has the opposite effect and leaves me feeling drained instead).

In terms of workouts, yoga’s been the best at keeping my appetite under control, which is in line with some research on the matter. Guess it’s partly the mindfulness and partly the lower intensity of yoga compared to weight lifting and running.

At the end of the day, the big thing that works for me is tracking. Even if I don’t always win the day, I’m at least holding myself accountable and seeing where I’m messing up.

I use a Fitbit to monitor my activity, though I don’t treat it as gospel knowing it only guesses. I use myfitnesspal to track my food, and so these two apps give me a good idea of when it’s been a good day and when it’s been a bad day. At least starting to run again has gotten more more good days on the Fitbit.

The following are some articles on the matter.

A pretty comprehensive article: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/eating-help/control-cravings/control-your-post-workout-appetite/

Short article on food choices http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2012/08/12/how-to-deal-with-post-workout-hunger/

And the article that tells you not to beat yourself up so much http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/exercise-and-hunger/bgp-20056155

-Q

#ihaterunning

Child of the Universe

It’s a cold night out. My body’s aching from a bit too much fun the night before, so I’m not running; I’m doing an easy, relaxation-based yoga instead.

I’m here to find the calming yin to rough ying of day-to-day stresses.

We work our way through the floor-based poses, stretching out my sore legs, my aching back, and my tense ribs. Breathing in deeply, letting go of outside struggles. Letting go of the pain in my knee. Letting go of work.

The lights progressively dim. The practice slows down. More time for breath. More time for introspection.

Slowly close into Savasana, letting go of any final tensions, scents of lavender and tangerine work their way through the studio.

Finishing up and finding that last little bit of inner peace that’s been hiding deep inside.

And as we finish up, all I can think is, “Jesus, I need to go for a run.”

-Q

#ihaterunning