Saturday, January 28, 2012

Improving the diet

Nope this isn't the post that says I'm back to tracking my calories so I can actually lose some weight. Tho' I hope that post happens soon.

This post is about how if you are serious about your health, chances are you could make some changes to your current eating habits. If you stop and think about what changes you should make to be healthier, I'm guessing most of you think about the things you need to cut down on, or cut out completely. I'm with you there. I eat much differently now than I did 4 years ago. Which was probably differently than I ate 4 years before that.

Looking back, I think one of the first big changes I made was no artificial sweeteners. I think that was back in 2000. That eliminated diet sodas from my world. Which meant Soda was practically gone from my diet because I rarely drink regular soda. I don't think I'd be lying if I said an average of 10 a year. Honestly it's probably less than that. This change was partially inspired by my Aunt having some bad reactions to NutraSweet. Once I was away from it for awhile and I drank a diet soda, I felt that I had some minor reaction to it as well. Hard to explain as it's in your brain. Never the less, it really made it easy for me to just decide that stuff didn't agree with me and there is no reason I should consume it. So I haven't. If you are curious about the medical research on this go here. I figure the Mayo Clinic is reputable enough for most people to accept their findings.

The other things I've done are much less dramatic sounding than that Artificial Sweetener issue. Things like Fried Foods are a very unusual for me now. I remember how the smell of French Fries would basically be enough to make my willpower crumble and I'd have to have a few, or more than a few. But then I'd realize how those French Fries made me feel. Eventually instead of the smell triggering the desire to eat them, it had become almost a warning signal. Obviously it took awhile for that to happen but decisions about having fried food are pretty seriously weighed out.

Anyhow, cutting things out of my diet isn't what I wanted to talk about. I was going to discuss the issue of adding things INTO the diet to improve your overall nutrition. I eat a ton more vegetables now than I did 10-12 years ago. 10 years ago, I think I figured potatoes were vegetables so I had it covered. Now I'll eat gigantic salads for lunch with nothing but balsamic on it for a dressing. Another more recent addition has been Sushi. I'm not sure what inspired me to try out raw tuna and raw salmon. I'm glad I did tho'. I'm guessing I'll have that once a week now. Yes I'm aware there are some concerns about mercury and parasites. Hopefully I don't run into those types of problems.

I've just started adding some other things this past week. I fired up our juicer and I'm working on figuring out how to add Kale, Beets and other greens and vegetables into the mix. There are some vegetables I just have a hard time consuming. With a juicer, you can hide these things behind apples and oranges and limes, and so on.

I was inspired to go in search of a juicer after watching the movie "Fat Sick and Nearly Dead". It took us awhile to find the deal we wanted. So I kind of lost momentum on the importance of trying to add in really healthy juices to our diets. So our juicer sat unopened...

Then last week, my dad sent me this TED talk called "Minding your Mitochondria". I associate Mitochondria with "improvement as an athlete", as those are one of the cellular adaptations you are trying to inspire through your training. So already it was a must watch for me. As it turns out, it wasn't about being an athlete at all, but has everything to do with being healthy. Check it out.

I wish she didn't bring up the Paleo Diet and the whole hunter gatherer thing. I think that leads people to some questionable conclusions if they search more information about that on the internet. We live in an amazing place where you can get foods from every corner of the world. I'd rather she stressed the importance of "gathering" a variety of whole foods and working them into your diet. That's kind of what I'm trying to do right now. It makes sense to me.

Your body is good at making what it needs and even pretty good at making you crave things to direct you towards what you need or can't make. I hope you can see how you still might end up deficient in something. It may take years for that deficiency to cause a noticeable problem tho', at which point how easy is it to right the ship and get back on course?

That's the motivating factor for me right now. Juice it up and Take Your Medicne! In the form of Food. Hopefully SuperFood! Meaning perhaps I won't be sick as often. Maybe my recovery from workouts will improve. Maybe I'll keep my health and strength for decades to come. I'm also hopeful that it will change my tastes a bit more and I might make further improvements in what I'll eat day to day. I can tell you already, I've eaten more beets and kale in the last week than I have in the last say... 40 years.

So there you have it. As I get better at making recipes for this juicer. I'll post up some of the good stuff over on our other blog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gaining Momentum.

Last week I went to see a doctor about my right foot. I’m just concerned that my attempts at working through the problem might actually be making things worse. (kind of like my hamstring stretches) I really don’t want to do something that’s going to cause long term damage.

After explaining to the doctor what problems I’ve been having, I felt that he was completely underwhelmed by my situation. As if I wasn’t damaged enough to even be in the office. Or it could just be that’s just the way he is. I’m hoping that’s the case.

First thing was to get a couple x-rays to make sure that nothing is broken. Nothing was broken, but it looks like I do have a heel spur. (looks like a rose thorn growing out of your heel bone) He didn’t find the spur to be anything to be concerned about. That surprised me, but what do I know about these things?

Now I’m waiting to schedule an MRI. I think that’s going to let them get a look at cartilage and tendons. Of course I’m hoping that they don’t find anything bad. I’ve always wondered what happened with my ankle in the fall of 2010. This is probably my best chance to find out.

In addition to all that. I’ve got Sole Inserts in all my shoes. It definitely provides me with stability and really cuts down on the after run pain, for my right foot. Also I’ve been wearing the boot when I sleep. Things are improving. I should probably start icing my foot daily as well. If it’s just a matter of keeping it stretched out and keeping the inflammation/tendinitis away, I need to make it more of a priority.

Last week was the first week in a very long time that I actually completed my entire workout schedule. That was a good feeling. The metric isn’t speed right now. It’s about being consistent. So finishing the schedule is a step in the right direction.

The other thing that really got me feeling good about things was my run on Sunday. We ran our big hill loop. This course has some serious climbs, which also means some serious declines. The roads were a mess with packed snow and some slush, so it was extra challenging. Anyhow it’s a 6 mile run at the end of which I actually felt good enough to actually RUN! It’s been sooooo long since I’ve been able to do this. Typically my hamstring reminds me that it’s not well and I just have to keep my strides short to try and keep from injuring that further. Not this time. Finally! Running with a good stride. Finishing off the run with a hard effort. That was a big confidence booster. Maybe speed workouts WILL be on the schedule this year!

Speaking of schedules. Some of you might wonder what I’m doing for a plan/training schedule. Well I’m pretending that I know what I’m doing and taking the best of all the different things I’ve done over the last few years. Keeping in mind that I really don’t want an injury or want to end up with shingles or something like that again.

The first thing was to make a plan that allows me to sleep more. I’m trying to take 2 days a week completely off from training. I’m also trying to limit the number of weekday mornings that I have to wake up early to two. Once for a run, once for a swim. I may be kidding myself about this working, but I’m going to try it.

The second thing is my run training. A few years back, I ran a ton of hills during the winter (2 of 3 runs a week were hills, we even ran hill sprints later in the progression). This set me up with a really good run base. I think my biggest mistake with that plan was as we ran longer, I didn’t spend enough time recovering. Hopefully I can manage that aspect better this time. This plan definitely isn’t a Heart Rate Run training plan. I’m not knocking that method. As I said before, I’m going with stuff that seemed to work well for me in the past.

The Third change is my weight training. It took me a long time to figure out what I didn’t like about my plan last year. I guess I should say, I think I figured out what I didn’t like. Early in the schedule each exercise was one set then move on to the next. I did make some gains with this but they seemed marginal. I think it’s because by just doing one set, it was very much like going out for a run, and only running one mile. Or going to the pool and swimming 100m. What I’m saying is my muscles weren’t even warmed up and the set would be done. So I’m going to change to a method where I do more sets, so they are ready to work for the “main set”. As for the build/progression over the length of the entire schedule, I’ve got an outline of an idea but largely I’ll be making it up as I go along.

Swimming typically has been my strongest event. I don’t think I showed that last year tho’. I certainly don’t feel like I’m anywhere near that being the case now either. I realize that it’s the least important event in the sense of time given the position in the pack that I’m typically in. But I enjoy it. It’s something I want to be better at. (heck, at this point, I want to be as good as I was). It doesn’t look like I’m going to have a group to swim with again this year, so I’m thinking I’ll contact Coach Q again. I’m hoping he can help me build my swim plan and give me a lesson every now and then.

Biking: I realize this is the area with the biggest payoff in terms of time but for whatever reason, it’s the one I care about the least. I think part of the reason for my attitude here could be my frustration in getting myself setup well on my bike. Last year I felt everything but my right foot/cleat was pretty good. So I started making adjustments to try and get that right foot set right. Well I feel like I got it, but now the left doesn’t feel correct. As I said, it’s frustrating.

I do enjoy going out on weekends and riding around NJ. I feel we are in a really nice area of NJ in terms of variation of difficulty and safety during our rides. I should just go buy us some nice CX bikes or mountain bikes and some winter riding gear. Maybe then I would stay more inspired about cycling.

But what’s the plan? Time in the saddle, hill repeats and speed work as I get closer to race season.

A better plan would probably be to find a group ride and try to climb my way into one of the better groups. I’m sure there is a lot I could learn. Maybe in the fall once Tri season is over and I’m back in shape, but I doubt it.

All in all, I'm feeling much more positive than I have in quite awhile about all this. Later on!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Just Like Starting Over

Obviously I haven't posted much recently. More than anything else this has become a journal of my triathlon training and such. Well, there hasn't been much of that going on to write about. Which is crazy seeing how we are signed up for a half iron in June.

A few years ago an international distance race in June had me intimidated enough to force me out the door to train non-stop. I didn't think I'd reach the finish otherwise.

Then last year I had paid for the Mark Allen Plan and wanted to make the most of that. So that kept me on track as it would be a waste of money not to stick with the plan.

This year I'm not sure what I am yet. Other than really looking forward to being in better shape than I am right now. (Just under 190 for the record)
Injury free would be nice too but I'm not sure my right foot is ever going to be normal again. (I really should go to a doctor about that). All my running in November/December would be followed by a very painful right foot later that day and maybe a day or so after. Finally I decided to throw my Sole Inserts back into my running shoes. Wow, what a difference. I can now run without crippling myself for a few days. That is a step in the right direction.

The other good news is that right hamstring/glute issue I had the 2nd half of 2011 seems to have finally healed up. I still worry about it as I run but I don't think at my current effort that it's an issue at all. It's just I spent so many months being concerned about it, it's going to take time to forget about it. I really believe that by not stretching (and not training much) was the key to that finally getting better.

So here I am about 23 weeks out to our first of two half irons for the year. I've got 2 Olympics scheduled about a month before that happens. What's my plan? What are my goals? It's 2012 everyone has already posted all their resolutions, hopes and dreams for their year. What am I waiting for?

2012: I'm going to attempt to get that "just like starting over" feeling and be alright with it. What does that mean exactly? Well, in terms of my training, even tho' I have a schedule, I'm going to try and be more aware of how I'm feeling and allow myself to stray from the schedule.
I can't say for sure but I think that is how rolled going into Mooseman for the first year. I seem to remember I hardly ran at all the 4 weeks leading into that race because I kind of overdid it running the Brooklyn 13.1. When I got to Mooseman, I felt great. I had a blast. Could I have run faster? Maybe? I just remember getting to many of those races feeling fantastic. That's part of what I'm looking for.

I said that part about "being alright with it" because I'm thinking my times at the finish line aren't likely to be Personal Bests. My finish times may very well take a back seat to my bigger goal of just becoming very fit and healthy. Maybe I'll be lucky and the finish times will happen too. That would be amazing considering the lack of "base" I have right now. What I'll write next truly shows why I feel like I'm starting over.

(More for the record info.)
Running is my strongest event at the moment and running 6.5 miles in an hour is about all I've got in the tank.

Swimming: I forget what the pool looks like. Seriously. My last couple workouts have been 1000m and out. My right shoulder (the one I fell on at the Tango) reminds me that I'm old or that it's injured or whatever, at the start of every swim. Within a few 100's it's warmed up and forgotten about. It's just I've got zero endurance. Or speed for that matter. 1:50 100's is "fast".

Biking: Also a complete re-do. I finally got back on the trainer the other day. Doing anything in the large chain ring was too much effort for where I am at physically right now. The HR just climbed right up any time I'd shift up there. (I managed 15 miles in 55 min on the trainer the other day)

I'm sure for someone that is really competitive. This would be completely frustrating. For me, this feels like familiar territory. I seem to weigh 190 every January. I'm just glad I'm still motivated enough to want to do these workouts. And hopeful that I might manage myself a bit better this season than last season. That! Was frustrating.

Work has been taking a lot out of me lately. I find myself working through stuff in my head all the time. I'm even dreaming about it. That makes it sound worse than it really is. Trust me, it's all fine. Often I wake up with an answer to something I've been thinking about. I brought this up because that's one of the reasons I've been so off the grid with Blogs, Facebook, Twitter... I'm just tired of looking at the computer at the end of the day. There is a pretty good chance that will turn back around eventually. (I'm sure you can hardly wait.)