I’m Hungry and My Pants Don’t Fit

That seemed like a good place to start.

I just ate supper. I’m still hungry. And I spent most of the day trying to keep my shirt and pants in place, even with a belt on.

In the process of trying to maintain some semblance of healthy decisions, my body has been changing and adapting. I’ve dropped a few pounds, but I’ve also had some weight shifting around.

And now my pants don’t fit right.

This should be cause for celebration, but I’ve explained my weight fluctuations before. I’m not going to start gloating now. I’ve put on 15 pounds in 6 weeks before without knowing it, so I can’t rest on 5 pounds lost or pants fitting a little loose. No, I have to keep plugging away because I’m prone to decisions like this:

@rendrags, mistakes were made

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

And this (same day, BTW):

Bad decisions

So right now my pants don’t fit, but I’m not throwing them out yet, and I’m not buying out Old Navy’s slightly slimmer pants.

Instead, I have to keep plugging away. I keep doing vinyasas. And I keep leaving myself just a little hungry. It’s all about the process.

I don’t like to celebrate my accomplishments because I think celebration makes it feel like you’re done. You’re never done. Maybe when I can go from crow to handstand, I’ll say I’m done.

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But that is not this day. On this day, my pants are just a little loose. And we’ll live with that for now.

Adios.

-Q

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Why I’m in pain (almost) every day

This is a long one guys. And pretty much no jokes. I know. I always have jokes but not today. If you’re not in the mood to stick around for a while, I’d recommend going elsewhere.

I played football growing up. I was never great or anything, but I played, which means I lifted. When I was 14 or 15, I was doing squats with a weight that shouldn’t have been a problem (225 pounds). But for some reason on a rep, my hips went up and my shoulders didn’t. I dropped with the weight onto the catch bars and wrenched my back in the process (had a spotter, but no telling if it happened slow enough that he would have been any use or if he was just a shoddy spotter).

Being the little idiot that I was and living in the football culture that I did, I never sought treatment. This was a time when coaches were still yelling, “Water makes you weak!” and had us practicing full pads in 115-degree heat (though thankfully that was the one day they didn’t mind us drinking water). These same coaches were big on the “Are you injured or are you hurt? If you’re hurt, you can keep playing.”

Well, I could keep playing. I went through at least a solid two weeks of pretty awful pain, but I was able to do everything. I just had to twist to one side every time I stood up from tying my shoe. Totally normal stuff. Eventually, the pain went away, and everything went back to normal.


 

So that’s the start of the story. Of course, we know that’s not the end of the story. We know that if that was the end of the story, it would be a quicker story. Unfortunately, things stopped being normal eventually. Slowly. Like that frog they always talk about sitting in a pot as the water is brought to boil around it without the frog knowing.

I hate that I’m the frog in this story.

When I stopped playing football 3 years later, something new started to happen. My back started to hurt. It would take years to figure out the reason my back started to hurt was due to inactivity. After hurting my back, I was ridiculously active. There were times where I was consuming 3,000 calories a day and still losing weight (I had a habit of losing 10 pounds every football season and then having to fight to put it back on in the following months). I was running, I was lifting, and I was running some more. There was a point in my junior year I was doing 3 workouts a day: lifting for powerlifting in the morning, running and lifting for football in the middle of the day, and running for track in the afternoon.

I never thought of myself as someone who was in great shape, but I shudder to even think about 15 workouts every single week.

Now the pain wasn’t really bad at first. It was more dullish aches than anything else. It was weird. I didn’t like it, but I suspected it had something to do with the incident three years earlier. But I still didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t an everyday thing.

But it kept getting worse. And I did start to notice, vaguely, that the pain was more present when I was relaxing than at any other time.

When I moved to Florida, I had 6 weeks to kill. Aside from furnishing my apartment, I really had nothing to do, so I sat around reading and watching TV. And my back gave me problems for that. Randomly, I saw a PBS informercial thing on pilates and they talked about it helping back pain. I had back pain, and the lady on TV was talking about back pain. Kismet.

I went to the bookstore to find a book on pilates or yoga (they seemed like basically the same thing to me). I opted for yoga because it seemed more guy-friendly. Hell, Diamond Dallas Page even had a yoga book geared toward men, and this is before his yoga products were widely known. While DDP helped steer me to yoga, I wasn’t buying the broga book. Years before #masculinitysofragile started making its way around the worldwide weberverse, I knew I wasn’t going to be played like that. I bought a generic hatha yoga book and went to Walmart to pick up a yoga mat. Well, an exercise mat anyway. I had tile floors, and the yoga mat didn’t seem like it would give me enough cushion for my knee (which was correct, and that’s an injury story for another day).

This is the only time in my life that I managed to do yoga every day. My mornings started with me working through the beginner flows, progressing a little bit every day.

And my back stopped hurting. My knee wasn’t giving me trouble either. Eventually, I could touch the floor for the first time in years (at one point in high school, I could stand on those thick bumper plates and touch the ground, but that was a LONG time ago).

It was magic, but the magic had to stop eventually. I had work to do.

Once I fell into the routine of working on my Ph.D. and my assistantship, yoga was never a daily thing again. I would do my best to keep up with it, but getting 2-3 sessions a week was the best I could do, and there would be weeks where I wouldn’t practice at all.

And my back got worse. A lot worse.

Eventually, I had a different injury. This time it was costochondritis. It’s a cartliage issue by the sternum. And if you think you have this, you get told to see a doctor to make sure you’re not having a heart attack first. That’s fun. It took two solid months to properly diagnose the issue, but I started physical therapy, and things got better.

Except my back. It flared up for a few days worse than it ever had before. I was in the office one day and had to just lie on the floor for a little while to get what little relief I could. I was a grade-A jerk when this was going on.

The PT didn’t have anything terribly useful to tell me beyond it looked like a muscle spasm. Except it really wasn’t. That muscle had always been raised. It wasn’t a spasm because that’s just how it was. If I put my back to a wall, I would tilt a little (same with lying on a hard surface). I’d had someone who was giving me a back rub tell me how pronounced the difference was. And I was starting to pay attention. Things weren’t the way they were supposed to be.

So I got a massage. Yep. I did that instead of going to the doctor. I haven’t had good success with doctors, and I’d been dealing with the pain for so long, that it didn’t seem all that bad. Just more of the same, even if it was worse. Remember, I’m the frog in this story.

I should note, the PT said a massage might help. It did, but the problem wasn’t fixed. I’ve gotten into the habit of getting at least a couple of massages every year just to help. I don’t know what it does, if anything, for the long term, but it makes me feel at least a little better for a little while.

Eventually, I moved again, but there was no extended downtime before starting the next job. I showed up in Mississippi at 7 one evening, and I was leaving for work at 7 the next morning.

Luckily, this transition did spur me to one thing: I was going to find a yoga class. Hopefully.

Before I left Florida, I joined a friend for a couple of yoga classes. It killed me, but it also showed me I could get more out of yoga with a teacher than I could get on my own most days.

Despite being a small town, there’s a studio here. I went to a class, but I hated it. I really did. I didn’t gel with the teacher, and I got next-to-nothing from the session. I decided I’d go back one more time for a different teacher. If I didn’t like it, then I’d figure something else out. But it worked. I’ve talked about my Goldilocks teacher before, and that was her. It was just my speed, and I don’t think I can properly thank her for being a pleasant person and teaching a class that was just enough to push me without wanting to throw a block at her.

I was only doing two sessions a week, but two sessions was better than zero. Over the next year and half, I kept up an ok habit of yoga, except for a 2- to 3-month lapse. I was managing, but there was a problem. There was a spot on my spine that was becoming sensitive to the touch. I couldn’t do certain poses the way everyone else did because I’d hit that spot, and it would hurt. I knew if something on my spine was hurting, then it was probably best not to agitate it (I should note that I use a regular yoga mat in classes because of peer pressure, so I don’t know how the cushiony exercise mat would fair for this problem).

And it got worse. That spot became more sensitive over time. And my back was having more flareups. And it was exhausting. Physically and mentally exhausting.

My breaking point had been reached, and I finally saw a doctor. Actually, that’s a lie. I told a doctor about this at some point after moving here. He had me bend over to look at my spine and didn’t say anything. This is a part of that history of bad experiences with doctors that I was talking about.

When I saw a new doctor, I told him about the history, and he was checked me out. He had me bend over to look at my back. He noted the raised muscle on one side, and we did an X-ray. Quick and easy.

Sort of.

The technician took a while to come back into the room while I was on my side, and I started getting paranoid. My parents smoked my entire childhood, and I’ve never had X-rays other than the dental variety. I was paranoid my lungs were going to show something. Of course, that wasn’t it, but I was still paranoid, and when you lay on your side longer than expected, it’s a surprisingly vulnerable position.

The X-ray showed curvature of the spine. I wish I had taken a picture, but I didn’t think to. It’s a shock to look at something and without a medical degree know that what you’re seeing isn’t what you’re supposed to be seeing. Scoliosis was never used as a term (just curvature), but based on the curve I was seeing and what the internet says scoliosis is, that’s what I’ve got. Yay.

I should back up at this point to talk about the obvious. Prior to the injury, there was no back issue at all. In fact, I was checked for scoliosis in the months leading up to the incident. The fact is, I don’t know when things really went too far. I spent the first 3 years afterward not having any issues. I was so active, there really wasn’t the opportunity for flareups to occur. So I don’t know when my spine got out of whack. I just know that it’s 15 years later and my spine’s out of whack.

Here’s the fun part: There’s not really much they can do for me. It’s not a severe case, so bracing and surgery aren’t really required. The best I can do is manage the pain, the doc said. Physical therapy and a chiropractor were brought up as options. I’d had success with PT before, so I opted for that (I’m also terrified of a chiropractor touching my neck).

Big mistake. Mostly.

The PT was a d-bag. When I went to schedule, the person I met with was confused as to why I was sent to them with that diagnosis. When I came back for the appointment, I met the PT for the first time, and I wanted to punch him in the face.

He started grilling me about why I was seeking treatment now instead of earlier. Evidently, being in pain for ten years and having a new issue spring up in the last year weren’t adequate reasons for him. It was like he was suspicious of me. He made it abundantly clear that PT wasn’t going to fix the problem (I knew that); it would just help me manage at best (I also knew that). I explained that daily yoga was the only thing that had ever helped for a good amount of time, and then he was confused as to why I wasn’t still doing that. He didn’t seem to grasp that I didn’t have an extra hour every day to practice (and it’s really 2 when you throw in travel, showering, etc.). Even at home, it still takes 30 minutes to get a good session in.

I’m ranting. I’m still mad about this encounter.

He gave me some stretches to do, got kind of condescending about yoga even as he was telling me I should do more yoga, told me to be mindful of my posture (as did my last PT), and gave me nothing on strengthening muscles.

And that’s when he lost me.

He wanted to improve my flexibility (awesome) but didn’t want to strengthen my core muscles (not awesome). He could grasp yoga’s benefit for flexibility, but he didn’t seem to grasp that it was also benefitting strength that helped keep me upright.

I’d be lying if I said I got nothing from this. He did give one tip to keep me sitting up straight better: roll up a towel and wedge it behind my back to prevent slouching (like the slouching I’m doing right now as I type this up… I should work on that). He was adamant about this. He said the fancy back supports exist, but a rolled up towel would work just as well. Even a paper towel roll would work. Guess what I had access to back at the office?

IMG_6099

But it was mostly a waste of time. I got a bunch of stretches that are variations of what I was already doing with my breakfast routine, with a couple of extras thrown in, and I got told to basically be on my way. And I’m not going back there ever again.

Now it’s been about a week since the X-ray and getting told something that I’d always suspected: I’ll be stuck with this the rest of my life, and the best I can do is manage the pain.

And that’s so damned depressing.

The finality of it’s been a bit much, even knowing that’s what I was probably going to be told. I’m having to manage a condition (never mind that I’ve been managing it for years already). No matter what I do, in all likelihood, this will always be around.

Something you might not know, but Kurt Cobain and Hank Williams both suffered from back pain. Look how they ended up.

This is being dramatic. Their pain was worse than mine. And there are people a lot worse off in this world. This won’t kill me. This won’t even prevent me from doing the things I want to do. I’ll just be in pain a good amount of the time. And that’s tiring.

That said, I went to the doctor because I was fed up. I’m tired, but I’m not stopping, so we need a plan.

Of course, the plan’s been in place for a while; I just have an X-ray showing why the plan is necessary.

Before diving into the (sort of) plan, I have to acknowledge two things that cause my back to ache more often than it otherwise would. The first is weight. I know my body, including my back, likes me a lot better when I’m under 180. Around two years ago, I cleared 200 for the first time. That sucked. But I’ve been slowly losing weight and getting back to where I was originally at (and hopefully I can take off some more).

The Super Awesome Year of Me wasn’t planned for nothing. I mixed in some other things, but there’s a reason seven of the months were about diet and exercise.

The second thing that causes me problems is running. After runs, I often have an achy back from putting my feet to the pavement. Weight is a likely contributor, but the way I run doesn’t help either. I haven’t noticed it as much the past few weeks, so I guess slowing down my runs has helped.

So, what am I doing to take care of this issue?

More of the same. Yeah, it’s not a blockbuster plan, but it’s a plan built on sustainability.

I already mentioned the Super Awesome Year of Me, but I left out that one of those months is yoga. I’m going to do daily yoga for the first time since 2009. I hope this finally gets me somewhere again. The PT might have been a jackass, but he was right. I need to be better about making more time for yoga. Flexibility and core strength are more than enough to justify it, but I also need the mental benefits to counteract the other mental carryover from this.

In the meantime, I’m just going to have to keep stretching because upping my mileage to attempt a 10K is going to keep me out of the yoga studio more than I’d like. I should probably throw in more core exercises, though I won’t have a prescribed workout because the PT’s an idiot. Again, I’m still mad.

The other thing is to keep dropping weight. That’s a must for a lot of reasons, but at the very least it take stress off my body and lessens the impact of every step. I’ll never weight 150 again (and I don’t really want to), but I think I can drop down to 170 and keep enough muscle to still be the awesome person that I am.

That’s a lot to take in. I commend you for making it this far, but I have one little thing to add: I haven’t told my family. And I don’t know that I will. There’s not much I can do, so this is just something for them to worry about for no good reason. So if you see my parents, could you keep this on the DL? Heck, I’m not even posting this to Twitter because I don’t want work acquaintances seeing this, but we’re all friends here, right? Awesome.

-Q

My Torrid Affair with Data

I love data.

There. I said it.

It’s taken me years to acknowledge this relationship. And it’s a difficult relationship. There are those out there who don’t approve of a relationship with data. They say people and data shouldn’t mix. They say you should run by feel. Eat ’til you’re full. Judge your shape by the fit of your clothes.

But that’s just not good enough for me.

I want data. Pure unadulterated data. I want to see those data points. I want to see those means in their uncovered glory. I want to see those graphs lying there in front of me.

I need data because without data I have a habit of failing.

Let’s look at the most sadistic thing I do first. I weigh myself daily. At the end of the day.

I once told someone I weighed myself every day and they kind of flinched. Then I said I did it at the end of the day, and they thought I sprouted a second head. The reason I do it is the same reason other people won’t. It’s punishment if you have a bad day.

Every single day, that scale is weighting (get it?) for me. I can’t go off the rails with my food because I know I can ingest a lot of food, enough that it will make a measurable difference. Just today I ate a pizza for lunch. Not pizza. A pizza. As in a pizza that should serve multiple people. I didn’t need that, but I did it anyway.

I also know when I don’t log daily, my weight can creep up on my without me realizing it. I gained 15 pounds in 6 weeks once without even realizing it. I had stopped weighing myself. To go back to the feeling thing, I felt the same, but I clearly wasn’t. I didn’t put on 15 pounds of muscle in six weeks.

And on the plus side, I lose weight better that way. I was able to drop 15 pounds over the span of about 2-3 months in part because I was meticulously weighing myself.

That gets us to the second thing I do. I count calories. Usually.

Unfortunately, this is the easiest to slack off on because it takes the most work (though it’s probably the most beneficial). I use MyFitnessPal to track my meals when I’m behaving.

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. I can save meals. I can search restaurant items. And it factors in activity level, which is linked to my Fitbit.

What’s great is that it tracks nutrients. It’s a lot harder to ignore sodium when you more than double your daily allotment. It’s also great about letting me know I don’t get as much fiber as I think I do.

Again, it’s not perfect. It’s prone to user error. This is where I do a second sadistic thing. I overestimate the calories I eat when I’m not sure. I always figured it was better to be wrong and have a happy surprise in weight loss than to be wrong and have the opposite. It’s not fun, but it works. When I actually log meals.

That’s the other big issue. I’m a slacker. I haven’t logged a meal in weeks. Partly it’s because I’ve been cooking new things. This is going to sound stupid, but sometimes I’m too tired from cooking to log meals. I just want to eat my food and be done with it.

I can’t go without the tracker, though. The problem is I don’t know what I’m eating. I can’t go by feel. I shoot for about 2,000 calories a day. When I think I’m eating carefully, I naturally hit about 2,500. When I’m eating to satiation, I clear 3,000, easily. I ate 2,500 calories in one sitting without even realizing it (and I know I’ve eaten more before in a single meal). I like to eat crappy food, so if I don’t track, I think I’m splurging a little and I end up eating more food in a sitting than most people on the planet get in a day.

And the third thing I do is track my exercise and activity.

I do this a couple of different ways. First and foremost is the Fitbit (a.k.a., the slacker tracker). This has been a fantastic device when I haven’t been breaking them (and I’m learning other people don’t have the issues I have with breaking them, so there’s that).

The steps are the main concern. They’re a great overall indicator. It’s hard to pretend you were active when you only hit 5,000 steps.

The one I wasn’t expecting to have a big effect was the sleep tracker, but that might be the one that’s had the biggest impact. I could guess at my steps in a day, but I was never tracking sleep. Big mistake. When I’m dragging, I can usually see it on the sleep tracker. Tracking my sleep has been great for ensuring I stay a functioning human being.

And it integrates with MyFitnessPal. It’s not a perfect system. But it’s an indicator. I care less about the exact numbers than just having a gauge to see if I’ve been moving around much.

The other aspect of activity tracking is tracking my workouts. Once I started using MyFitnessPal, I was able to take guesses, so it was alright. Throwing the Fitbit in allowed me to see specific steps and flights of stairs (though it severely underestimates distance). But it was a consistent means of measuring.

But now I can actually track my runs through Zombies, Run! The GPS on that allows me to see my runs, including pace and elevation. I don’t integrate this information into MyFitnessPal, but it lets me see my runs over a long period of time. And it also shows that my mileage took a severe dip once I switched away from the 5K training app. Turns out I was better off with the small version of the app than the full version (or I just need to extend the time I’m out and about).

And I say all of this to say another thing: I need the data because I use the data. I don’t just collect data and do nothing with it.

I see what I’m eating and what’s eating up calories, so I make a tweak. I see that I’m sleeping 7 hours when I think I’m sleeping 8, so I adjust my bedtime. I see that my 5K times aren’t getting better (and are possibly getting worse), so I have the opportunity to extend my workouts based on long-term trends.

This is what data can do for you. You don’t have to be afraid to measure. You don’t have to get fanatical. You don’t have to measure every single time (and honestly, sometimes it’s nice to take a run unplugged). But you have to measure consistently. There are going to be fluctuations, and if you only measure sporadically, the fluctuations can make things look a lot better or worse than they really are.

I weigh myself every day because I’ve seen 5-pound swings between days. If I only weighed myself once a week, I could ruin my week (or get an invalid boost) based off of a rogue day. That same day when I’m weighing daily is an outlier, and I know it, but I also can see why it was an outlier. I can identify what I did or didn’t do and make corrections.

So don’t be afraid of data. You don’t have to obsess over it or write it love letters, but you also don’t have to give it the cold shoulder. You can experiment with data; it’s not just college students who do that.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Phases of Improvement: Brainwashing My Way to a Six-Pack

Health, fitness, wellness, whatever you want to call it, is an iterative process. You don’t get from point A to point B by just piling on ad nauseum. You have to be methodical about the process.

If you’re just going blindly, you run a few risks. First, you could really hurt yourself if you add too much too soon. Second, you could just burn out on the process if you overdo it. Third, you might get nothing because you don’t really have set goals for what you want to accomplish. Fourth, well, I don’t have a fourth thing. Fifth, you’re going to be inefficient in your process. Hey, I guess I had a fourth thing after all.

Recently, I’ve upped my effort again. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to maintain it, but I know I’ve got a better shot right now than I had at the beginning of the year.

I thought I’d walk you through the process. It worked for me, but it may not be right for you. It’s a very slow build, which may drive some people nuts. At the same time, there are people much busier than me who may not even be able to sneak this in.

I guess you’d say the base started after moving and doing yoga twice a week. I’d injured cartilage in my chest about 9 months prior to that, so my workouts had been derailed in that time. This was a nice intro back into physical activity for me. This was also when I dropped 10 pounds. This was about a four-month period. Toward the end, I started realizing that I needed more overall activity, so I started parking farther away at work and began contemplating the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

This gets us to the next stage: adding running. For about the next five months, I was doing three to four workouts a week, mixing running and yoga, with running taking priority. Just adding running had a big impact on my personal time. I was already noticing I had a lot less of it, and running could leave me wiped and unable to actually enjoy that time on many occasions.

Then in May I added weights at the expense of yoga. I was doing four to five workouts a week, mixing running and lifting as best I could. Because they both can be pretty impactful, causing a good deal of soreness if I pushed too hard, I had to be careful with both. I still threw in some light yoga every now and then, but I wasn’t nearly consistent enough to consider a part of the routine, and it usually only lasted a few minutes, enough time for me to basically stretch out achy muscles.

And now, we’ve gone off the deep end. I’ve been recommitting to yoga, which means my week can have up to 6 workouts (2 of each), depending on my schedule and timing of 5Ks. I’ve actually worked it so that I have 3 rest days, which is nice. It means I know I’ve got a couple of days that are going to eat my lunch, but I also know that once it’s done, it’s done. The trick with this schedule, especially early, is that I can’t push very hard in any individual workout. I’m trying to get a good balance, but if I tweak a muscle in one, then the other two workouts are in jeopardy and could lead to more injury.

So far, so good in the new routine. I’m being very careful with how I manage my time and how I fuel and rest so that I can keep up the pace. At some point, I’m sure a curveball will come in and send a week completely astray, but the longer I can maintain, the easier it will be to get back in the cycle when I fall out of the cycle. And if I survive this, I’m going to look freakin’ awesome. Like seriously. Reality show producers will want to follow me just to bask in my awesomeness. They won’t even want to film me because they’ll know my level of awesome is simply unattainable for mere mortals.

But yeah, so how is all this working out for me? Well, the 10 pounds I dropped last fall were pretty much it. I’ve fluctuated some a little above and a little below that, but that 10 pounds has pretty much been it for weight loss. Now because of the increased activity, I’d at least like to think there has been some weight redistribution that’s occurred.

Now there is one caveat to all of this: No matter what, adding more workouts means you lose other leisure time. This is something I’m really struggling with. I like to play guitar. I like to read. I like to veg out and watch TV shows occasionally.

These things have taken a serious hit over the past year, and aren’t going to get any better in the coming months if I maintain my workout regimen.

I’ve had to get more creative. I watch TV as I eat, do dishes, etc. I sneak in reading time whenever I would otherwise be goofing off on my phone at odd moments (thank you e-reader apps). The guitar hasn’t really been helped, but I do try to be more mindful to play on the days that I’m not swamped with work or workouts.

So that’s that. I’m trying push myself a little further without getting crazy. Who knows? Maybe I’ll push myself easily enough and far enough that I’ll be in great shape without even realizing what I did to myself.

Party on, Wayne.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Fatty vs. The Scale

If you’re lucky, this post has never applied to you and never will. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve had to worry about your weight before.

Now it’s all about perspective. I’ve never been truly overweight. I’ve never had a doctor tell me I should lose weight. That said, I have seen my weight fluctuate a fair amount, and I have busted the button on a pair of khaki pants before, so I’ve had my moments.

I think the easiest place to start is with the effect of weight on running. From a very easy, logical place, we can tell that carry around extra weight is going to have a negative effect on running times. It’s simply a matter of having to haul around 10, 20, 30 pounds extra.

The exact effect can’t be determined exactly because everyone’s different. That said, there are estimates. For a marathon, every pound over would be an extra minute to your time. Another was that for 10 pounds you lose, you can shave 20 seconds off your mile (or a minute off your 5K).

This doesn’t substitute for training. It doesn’t mean you should just purge and ignore your nutritional needs. It does mean that maybe you should pay a little closer attention to your weight. You know, food for thought (see what I did there?).

Of course, this is all just science. It’s abstract. It’s not real to my life. I can look at a calculator and see that dropping 5 pounds would give me a 30-second drop on my 5Ks, but I can also look at the pizza I picked up after a run and think, “that looks delicious. I should eat all of it one sitting and then wear a crown.” I’m not kidding about the crown.

So how do I make this topic real? What makes it count? As much as I love data, I know that’s not what’s going to drive a sustained change. Data will only give me an indicator of what is or is not successful.

We can make this real by showing the real effect on our lives. And since this is my blog, I’ll share the real effect on my life.

I’ve never been a serious runner, probably never will be. At least not a long distances. I was built for sprints. I can put on muscle like someone who’s trying to get from point A to point B very quickly, provided they’re never more than 100 meters apart. After that, my body starts to give on me, especially my lungs.

My legs may not enjoy distance running, but it’s my lungs that crap out on me first. When I’ve been running, I’ve only had to stop because my legs were tired a couple of times. The rest was because my lungs couldn’t keep pace (I get to be the outlier for some article I read about how cardio capacity will improve before the body can).

While I haven’t been a faithful runner, I’ve done all right the past 5 years, with some bad spots. And in this time, I’ve weighed between 170 and 205, including running at all these weights.

I liked running at 170 a lot more than running at 205.

Go into the weight room, grab a 35-pound weight, and then run a mile with it. You’ll understand the difference sooner than later.

Of course, not all weight is created equally. The 190 I’m at now is better than the 190 I was at about 3 years ago. But weight is weight. And over the course of a 5K (which is relevant seeing as how this is the Super Awesome Year of the 5K), I notice the extra weight I have to carry up every stupid hill.

And yet, this is still just a bit too abstract for me. I only did 3 5Ks and a Rugged Maniac prior to this year, so I don’t have a real catalog of experiences.

No, I had something else that makes me aware of when I’m carrying extra weight. Two things, really. My knee and my back. I hurt both in high school, and they only get worse when I’m inactive. Over the years, I’ve noticed I move around a lot more easily when I’m not tipping the scale where I shouldn’t be. And whether the weight is the direct reason or the indirect reason (via helping me move around more easily), my knee and back don’t trouble me nearly as much when I get close to 180.

I’m going to take this little journey on one more route before we finish up, but first I need to fess up to something. I can actually lose weight very easily. I dropped 15 pounds over 3 months once. I dropped about 10 over a different month. I was eating healthy. I wasn’t starving myself. And it was easy.

I also put on 15 pounds in 6 weeks once. Because Fatty likes his cake.

I love to eat food. I managed to stay away from many vices, but food and beverages weren’t one of them. Just today I realized I had some ice cream in my freezer and I got way too excited over that fact.

Even though I know what it takes to lose weight, even though it’s actually pretty easy for me to drop 10 pounds healthily in a matter of a month or two, I still have trouble losing weight because I want to stuff my little piggy face full of pizza, burgers, and ice cream (and I’ve had all 3 within the past 3 days), and I can undo a week’s worth of work in one sitting if I’m feeling particularly vengeful.

So when Fatty fights the scale, he’s got a good reason. I may not be overweight, but I’m definitely not at an idea weight. And while weight isn’t a goal for the year (only doing a 5K every month is), I am hoping it will be an added bonus.

-Q

#ihaterunning