I’m Batman

So I’m trying to figure out if I should do a gimmick for each of my races.

Basically, I want to have a little bit of fun and possibly confuse the other runners. Something like what this guy is wearing:

And so I have to think about what I have available. I have my Blerch shirt.

Most definitely not me, but I know the feeling.

The other option is going the superhero route. I’ve got one superman t-shirt and two running shirts. One of those is Captain America. And what would the other make me?

The incomparable Michael Keaton. The only portrayer of Batman who made you think Bruce Wayne might actually be crazy.

At least I’ve got chicken

I like making bad decisions. Bad decisions are awesome.

They’re just SO much more fun that good decisions. Can’t we all agree on that?

Take for instance my lunch choice today. I could have had some shrimp and broccoli over brown rice. I could have had egg and spinach muffins. I could have done any number of things, but what did I do? I had Popeye’s. I had a three-piece dinner, with a biscuit, mashed potatoes, and red beans and rice.


Now why did I make this bad decision knowing damn well it was a bad decision?

To the layman, I just wanted something that tasted good, and it was delicious. So freakin’ delicious. Epic poems were written about this meal by Homer, but he ditched it not realizing the Popeye’s would come to be.

Or maybe I was rewarding myself for running this morning (longest distance so far).

But it was still a bad decision.

If I ran the entire distance (and most surely did not), I burned 320 calories.

And how much did I ingest for my little reward?

The chicken was about 650 calories. The biscuit was 260. Mashed potatoes were 110. And the red beans and rice were 230. (1,250 for those of you keeping score at home).

My little reward for my run netted 930 calories.

So let’s think back to Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct. There is a lot of evidence that we just make pretty terrible decisions when we aren’t being mindful of what we’re doing. We overestimate calories burned and underestimate calories ingested. We think we’ll make better decisions tomorrow.

But wait! I know all of this, and yet I made a bad decision. I was very mindful that I was making a bad decision.

So why would I do this? For a couple of reasons, actually. Not the most sound reasons but reasons nonetheless. There are alternatives that would be better than 1,250 calories in one sitting, but I’m ok with this bad decision.

The main reason I’m comfortable with this is that I know I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not going to beat myself up over one bad decision (or the many more that I’ll make along the way). This was a bad step, but I’m doing my best to make as many good ones as possible. I’m being much more active, and I’m doing my best to make good food choices easier for me to make on a day-to-day basis. I know it’s for the best, but it does take a lot of the fun away from my meals.

A secondary reason is that I know you can’t abstain every day. It’s not sustainable. At some point, I will make a bad decision. If I hold it off as long as possible, I could do worse damage. 1,250 calories may sound like a lot, but I can clear 2,000 very easily. And when I know I’m going to make a wondrously bad decision, I don’t half-ass it. I go all out, and I eat the absolute worst food you can imagine. Honestly, this was a calculated decision. I knew I was eating Popeye’s before I even went running. It wasn’t some last-minute decision. I knew exactly what I was going to order, including the sides. My food options were very healthy in the apartment, and I would want something more than eating all my food in one sitting. I knew I would eat this and call it quits instead of just eating nonstop all day.

So, yeah, I made a bad decision. I’m good with that, though. I know I’m making the right long-term choices, even if there was a short-term fling with a greasy abomination. And much like Leeroy Jenkins, at least I’ve got chicken.

Leeroy Jenkins



And so it begins

Happy New Year

And so it begins. For the next 12 months, we get a new 5K. I haven’t made the final choice for January, but I’m either two or three weeks away from it at this point.

I’m so screwed.

If I was being chased by a bear, I could make it about a mile. This isn’t going to end well.

But that’s the point. Right now, it won’t end well because I haven’t been in shape the past few months. The point is to get in better shape. The point is to scare Fatty away for a few more months. The point is not to become an overweight statistic.

So, I’m screwed. This month. But maybe not next month.

So far, my body is holding up reasonably well. My knee isn’t acting up an inordinate amount. I won’t be able to run all of the first 5K, but I’ll give it the old college try to see what we can do, and hopefully I can stay under 35:00 this go.

I’ve done three 5Ks before. The first came out at about 31:00 even though I walked large chunks. The second one was around 27:00 with a bit of walking. The third was around 22:00 because the organizers missed the memo on marking the route, so everyone ran really well that day.

A week after that last one, I got sick, and then work and health combined to make sure I wasn’t able to run consistently the next year, which is how we got where we are.

And so it’s a new year, and what are my resolutions? I have none. I never have any, really. I set a goal (goals are more concrete than resolutions; more specifically, they’re measurable) to run a 5K each month, but I set that back in November, so that hardly even counts as a new year’s goal.

Somehow, I survived the holidays. I managed to get in a couple of runs, which weren’t fantastic, but they’re much better than the runs I wouldn’t have taken otherwise.

I also dropped more than 5 pounds at one point.

Hmm… Maybe that shouldn’t have happened.

I ended up getting sick a couple of days after Christmas. Either a stomach virus or something I ingested, but I can’t really figure out how I got sick. No one else got sick, though I was around people the entire time. I also didn’t eat anything no one else did. So, it remains unresolved.

Not that it matters. All that matters is that for one day, I was not a functioning human. The next day, I was an almost functioning human. The third day, I was an exhausted human. And on the fourth day, I was functioning, and then beginning my trip home on the highway.

By the time I got home on the fifth day and woke up somewhat refreshed on the sixth day, I thought I was good to go. I wasn’t brave enough to run just yet, but I thought I’d give yoga a try.

It was different. Usually there are at least 5-10 people. There were only two of us in class because it was New Year’s Day: me and another person I don’t know. The class was great, and this meant class was tailored more to us and tips/suggestions were specific to us.

That said, I thought I was good to go. Turns out, I was still a bit more tired than I thought I was. My legs, in particular, were shot. Just completely shot. Between the extended chair poses, crescent lunges, and warrior poses, I was about to fall over. I was pouring out sweat. Like an obscene amount. I get dehydrated just thinking about how much I was sweating.

But I needed that. I needed to have the absolute crap kicked out of me.

And so it begins in earnest. I’ll resume normal activities, keep trying to make slightly better food decisions, and keep running from zombies two or three times a week.



Christmas Running

Running over the holidays is always a tricky game to play. As little of a runner as I am under normal circumstances, it’s even worse when I’m at home.

First and foremost is the disruption of my normal routines. I’m eating a lot more just because we eat out more back home than I do on my own. I also sleep at different times because everyone else is sleeping at different times. Going to sleep at 10 doesn’t really fly when everyone else is up and watching TV.

And the food. It’s hard to run because there’s just so much food sloshing around. I about made myself sick two days ago when I went running. I’m hoping to make it out today, but we’ll see if that happens.

But we’re making progress in finding races. As January is closing in, more 5Ks are showing up on searches. Unfortunately, they’re more than an hour away, so I’ll have to figure out the best way to handle that.

I did find one in February hosted by a fast food chain, so that should be entertaining.

I’m even trying to see if I can find one around trips I’m taking, so that could be interesting.

It’s a short post. There’s no grand statement or even useful advice. Just well wishes that if you’re a runner or fitness person that you’re doing better as you swing into your holidays than I am.



’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.



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.



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.