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:

Short article on food choices

And the article that tells you not to beat yourself up so much




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.”



Running to Meditate

One of the interesting things I’ve run across is the dichotomy between people who are for running with music and those who are against it.

I like to look up articles along the lines of “Why I hate running” and “How to not hate running.” They almost always come back to this.

So starting with those who want music, they do it for distraction. Running is a chore for a lot of people and many treat music as an outlet.

One of the arguments is that you’ll sync up your running to the beat of the music, so you could possibly keep up a quicker pace if you pick the right music. For others, it’s just a distraction to help them forget they’re running.

Up until recently, I haven’t run with music, but I have to have my phone for the zombie app and it includes music, so I’ve just started listening to music when I run. Mostly, it’s just an energy boost the same as it is all the other times I’m listening to music; I’m just trying to alter my mood to match what I’m hoping to accomplish. It’s no different than romantic music playing during a date or sad songs at a funeral. I’m trying to channel something. I’m in the camp of trying to distract myself. I have trouble not taking off like a rabbit being chased, so music helps provide a tempo to go with so I’m not fighting quite so much.

Another use for music that I’ve heard is to run a song and walk a song. This alternating approach isn’t new to most runners. It’s a pretty typical way of getting in shape at the beginning, and it’s a good way to run farther without getting as tired.

I’ve never truly done this, but I got caught the one time I sort of did. When I was still lifting, I would warm up with at least a mile on a treadmill (I realize for real runners, this is a laughably short distance, but it’s a lot to me). When I would get in better shape, I would up the distance, maxing out at 2 miles for a warmup. When I was just getting past a mile and trying to increase the distance, I said to myself “I’ll keep running until this song is over.”

I picked the wrong song. Muse’s “Uprising” had just started. The video isn’t ridiculously long (4 minutes), but the album version is 5 minutes. I wasn’t banking on another 5 minutes. What made it worse was that the song has a lull in it that makes it sound like it’s coming to an end before it just picks up and keeps going. I’m trotting on this stupid treadmill thinking, “Dear Lord, when is this stupid effing song going to end?!”

I’m not sure there’s any real lesson to this story other than maybe know your rock music better before you force an ultimatum on your wheezing butt while you’re on a treadmill.

Now of course, there are arguments for not using music.

One big issue is safety. If you’re listening to music, you might not hear the car. I’m afraid of getting hit by a car even when I don’t have headphones in. The compromise is to listen with one earbud. I have not done the compromise because I’m stubborn, and if I’m listening to music, I want to hear the music. And when I’m hit by a car, we’ll all know why.

Another issue is some people are seeking a meditative state. For many, running is what clears their head and allows them to relax and let go of whatever’s bothering them. I get somewhat close to this when I don’t have music playing. I’m paying attention to my surroundings, my breathing etc., but I try not to think. I focus on my body but not my thoughts. Of course, once I start getting my ass kicked in the run, I’m no longer in a zen state; I’m in my personal hell.

Of course some people aren’t seeking a meditative state; they’re thinking. They’re working through ideas. They’re mulling over what is going on in their lives. I can’t help but do this every now and then, but I don’t like it. It’s too easy for me to think about something that’s bothering me. I’m literally and figuratively trying to run away from my problems. So without music, I’m more meditative than thinking if it’s a good day.

Aside from endangering your safety (maybe I’ll take that one earbud out eventually), I think it’s all moot. Who really cares if you’re listening to music? Try both. Whichever helps keep you putting one foot in front of the other, keep it up. It’s like shoes. People have really strong opinions, but for most people, it’s just what feels best to you.

But since we’re talking music, this is my current running playlist that shuffles in between the dialogue of my post-apocalyptic zombie story. It’s a preexisting list, so maybe at some point I’ll build a list with running in mind:

  • Against Me!
    • Up the cuts
    • thrash unreal
    • white people for peace
    • borne on the fm waves of the heart
    • white crosses (this is an awesome song when you want to pick up tempo)
    • I was a teenage anarchist
  • Alkaline Trio
    • Mercy me
    • Radio
  • Bad Books
    • You wouldn’t have to ask
    • It never stops
    • Baby shoes
  • Fun
    • Out on the town
    • Carry on
  • Gaslight Anthem – 45
  • Hot Water Music
    • Drag my body
    • The traps
    • Trusty chords
    • State of grace
  • Kevin Devine – I could be with anyone
  • Spoon – The underdog
  • Theory of a Deadman – I hate my life (maybe a bit masochistic for a run)
  • Trampled by Turtles – Wait so long
  • The White Buffalo – How the west was won
  • RAC – Let go
  • Yonder Mountain String Band – Out of the blue

Here are some articles on the issue that take a more journalistic approach to it:



The Neuroses of Deciding Where to Run

As a runner, there’s a dilemma I always face: run away from the world or run in the middle of it.

It seems like a fairly straightforward issue. Everyone has their own preferences.

So let’s jump right into the meat of it. I’m slightly neurotic, and I can find things to worry about. It’s common for people to think while running, and I do. I just happen to think about unpleasant things a fair amount of the time.

Among the many things I think about while running, why is that asshole running so much more easily than me, why do I see so many cops this early in the morning when there’s no one around, why did I eat that for breakfast, if I throw up now can I still finish my run, and nope, if I throw up, that’s it for this run.

Now these neuroses also show up when I’m making my running choices.

Running Wild (see what I did there?)

My prime goal when I’m running away from the world is to do just that: get away from the world. I don’t like people watching me run. Win or lose in a run, I don’t want a crowd.

People are weird. They yell things, drive too close, and just act in all around obnoxious ways at times.

I’m glad I’m a guy because I can only imagine how bad it is for women. I’ve had people yell things at me a few times over the years, and I hated it. I have friends who say they have people yell something every time. That’s just messed up.

I’m a shy introvert. I want no part of the attention, positive or negative.

There’s also the issue of people getting in the way and you getting in the way of people.

When I run alone, I don’t have to worry about other joggers who are very clearly doing a better job of maintaining their pace, and I can’t help but feel a bit in the way when I’m walking and literally getting in the way.

Now more worrisome is getting in the way of a car. People don’t pay enough attention, even when you’re wearing bright neon running gear.

I become a twitchy little jackrabbit when it comes time to cross a street and there are any cars in the vicinity. I don’t feel like being roadkill.

And let’s not forget about the people getting in the way of me as a runner. I had people who waddle in groups taking up the entire path. I’m clearly wheezing loud enough to be heard, but they never seem to get the memo to scooch to the side for two seconds.

So when I’m running in a more nature-oriented area, I’m getting away from people. It’s just me and my running.

But it’s never that simple is it?

The City Slicker

There are entirely too many stories of bodies being found by joggers (see exhibits A, B, C, and D). There’s also sorts of none of that happening.

When you’re running out in the middle of nowhere, people don’t yell at you. They also don’t hear when you yell, whether it’s because you found the body or you’re at risk of becoming the body another jogger finds.

Running by yourself can be straight up creepy at times. I lived in Gainesville, Florida, for a few years, and in the middle of UF, there were gators (and not the kind the kind wearing nikes). My preferred path for getting away from people circled a lake that had sizeable gators. Luckily, I only saw one while running, though it was only about three feet from the sidewalk.

There’s one stretch that went right next to some vegetation that you can’t see a foot into. And where you can see, there are paths gators traverse. I was always prepared to take an awkward flee into the road in case something wandered into the path looking for a tired jogger.

So I’m a touch paranoid about running in the wilderness. I don’t want to be the person who steps on a rattlesnake or gets eaten by a bear. And we’re not going to mention the possibility of running into people in the woods.

I like to think, for better or worse. Running helps me not think (mostly because I’m too freaking tired to think). These thoughts tend to disappear (mostly) when I’m running, but they’re still there.



Making a change

Greetings and salutations.

This whole running process is a part of a larger process to make a positive health change. Again, it’s just trying to make a bunch of little decisions that will look like a bigger decision later on. Plus, I like reading, so how can I not share books that I think helped out?

A couple of books I’ve enjoyed before I started this journey are The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. They take different tacks, but they are both about the process of making a positive change.

The Willpower Instinct provides practical applications of research dealing with self control (McGonigal is a Ph.D. who teaches a continuing education class this book is based on). Basically, there are times we do things we shouldn’t and there are times we don’t do things that we should. We know what we’re supposed to do, generally, but we still mess up along the way. What you can get from this book is ways to short circuit your ability to cheat yourself and ways to better incentivize or practice making good decisions.

Looking at an application to running, I would much rather sit on the couch than run. There are a couple of things I do to keep myself on task. For the day-to-day goal-keeping, I keep running gear at home and in the office so that I can’t forget them one place and use that as an excuse. For the bigger picture, I tell people about my goals. And they then ask me about these goals. Some people are positive and some aren’t, but either way I know that they’re paying attention and that little bit of shame/guilt helps keep me on task (this is a trick I learned as a teenager to make me do something I might chicken out of later). Neither of these things will get more to put my shoes on and go outside, but they still help.

This is just a brief summation of the book, and I may come back to the book later to provide a better outline of what includes because it has a lot of information.

The Happiness Project is a bit broader. It is what it’s name implies. Rubin decided to document a yearlong happiness project where she set new goals each month, one of which being to boost energy, which included exercising better. What she does that others might not is take a very meticulous perspective on tracking change. She sets goals and tracks whether or not she met them every single day. Her website also provides resources for people looking to make a similar change.

Rubin’s book takes an individual’s view, so you’ll find things you like and things you don’t. But it’s still an interesting read because you’re getting someone’s thought processes as she goes about trying to make a bunch of little decisions that hopefully equal a broader outcome. She has other books, but I can’t vouch for them. They’re staying on the same track, though, in terms of focusing on happiness.

Both of these books really come down to mindfulness, if you’re looking for a common thread. When we pay better attention to our feelings and behaviors, we give ourselves a better chance to make good decisions. We can’t always win, but we’ll do a lot better if we understand why we keep trying to eat the last piece of cake.

Because I like to discuss things I read, you should expect me to talk at some point about The Blerch by The Oatmeal, which relates to my own little beast that I’ve named (Fatty) and relates pretty well to some concepts in The Willpower Instinct. All of these readings come back to motivation and why people do what they do (whether it’s good or bad).



What’s all this then?

It’s always important to keep the end in mind, so we’ll start there. I set a goal to do a 5K each month in 2015. That’s it. I’m not aiming for times. I’m not aiming for weight loss. I’m just aiming to cover 5 kilometers once a month.

Now it’s not that simple of course. There’s always a why. The why is wanting to make slightly better choices. I’m a big believer in small decisions. Take the stairs, cut out one Coke you would have had. Park a bit farther away from the entrance at a grocery store.

I was never going to do a marathon a year from. I have zero desire to do so. But 5Ks are manageable. Now hopefully, I’ll be running the whole distance and improving time throughout the year, but that’s a hope, not a goal.

So why write about this experience? Partially because I’m a narcissist who likes talking about himself, partially because I’m hoping to contribute something to other people who want to run but don’t feel like running marathons, and partially to make sure I’m held accountable.

I have no idea what this will include. I’ll document my little adventure, and I’ll share interesting, relevant information. And I might share completely random things. I reserve the right to make random posts whenever I want.

– Q