Running and Rest

A photo taken by a potato of me on the treadmill. I was actually on my cool-down when I took this which is why the photo is a bit blurry. Ok, a lot blurry.

I’m a little older than your average health blogger: I’m 51. I didn’t start on my healthy lifestyle journey until I was 48, and at the outset, I knew I couldn’t play by the younger people rules when it came to exercise. I have done a pretty good job of minimizing injuries by taking a day of rest between my run days, and it’s worked pretty well. The only time I have run afoul of this plan has been any time the National Guard has required me to run day after day. That’s when my body quickly starts to show its age, and I sustain injuries. Unfortunately for me, I was reminded of this yesterday when I decided to run the day after a good run day.

Now, before I go much further, I want to state that my goal is to run 5 days a week. For the past three years, I’ve run a day and then took a rest day, but I want to take my running and health to a better level, so I’ve begun daily, or almost daily runs. My running yesterday was possibly a bit premature, as I was off from running all last week, and I should have taken a day off and then done a two-day cycle followed by another day off followed by a three-day cycle. But no, I went right into it and now my right knee is sore.

I knew yesterday that I wouldn’t be able to run tonight. I’m going to the shooting range with my friend Steve, and there won’t be an opportunity for me to run, so I figured I’d put in an easy-ish 2 mile run. That two mile run turned out to be a much more difficult and painful experience than I had anticipated, but to be fair, once I got past the first half mile, the pain subsided and didn’t return until I was sitting at a table after dinner and tweaked my right knee. Now, it’s tender and I’m being very careful, but it is definitely sore.

Am I injured or just hurt? Well, I think I’m hurt. I think my knee is not used to the amount of running I’ve done in the past two days, and I think it’s just some minor pain from exerting more than usual. It doesn’t feel like I’ve injured anything which would make the knee hurt regardless of what I’m doing. Right now, as I am sitting here writing this article, there is no pain at all. If my knee were injured, I’d feel it.

Rest is a very important component of exercise. Most people tend to overlook it much as they overlook sleep’s importance in weight loss. Perhaps my goal of running 5 times a week is aggressive or not possible, but I’m going to keep trying for a while. I am taking off today and tomorrow from running, and I’ll likely put in a slow-ish three mile run on Saturday, take Sunday off again, and then hit the treadmill on Monday. I’ll report back then on how my knee is doing.

Indoor Running

I didn’t take any photos of me running indoors yesterday, but I kind of wish I had. It’s the first time I’ve run on a treadmill within the past 25 years or so, and it went a lot better than the last time.

Sherry recently bought us a treadmill to use when the weather outside isn’t conducive to comfortable or safe running. I have a rule that I don’t run when the temperature is lower than my age, and this winter has definitely thrown a lot of cold days at us. Then, there are rainy days, and in the summertime, oppressively hot days. It was common or me to use the weather as a cop-out to keep from running. Now, that’s gone. I can get my three runs in a week as long as much schedule permits.

I did a three mile run in Tustin, CA last night. I say I did it in Tustin because with the new treadmill we have, it’s possible to pick a route on a map, and then it displays your route through Google Maps Street View. It’s very cool, and I got to see some scenery in a place I lived for a long time but that I haven’t seen in a long time. It made the run memorable and entertaining, keeping my mind off the running.

I also really liked the fact that the treadmill has shock absorbers, so my knees didn’t ache quite as much as they do when I run outside. I may start running more and more on the treadmill, if only to save my knees. It’s also nice that it forces me to keep a pace, although I was able to raise and lower the pace a bit here and there to help me get through the run at in a time I was happy with.

I actually look forward to running on it. I may even run again tonight for a few miles.

Sleep… Sleep… Sleep…

It is SO important, it deserves it’s own blog post. It’s the secret ingredient I rarely see discussed when people are talking about losing weight and getting healthy, but in my experience, it tends to be the most overlooked aspect of success in my own weight loss. Case in point: the past few weeks.

This weekend, as I wrote about yesterday, I drank quite a bit on Saturday night and I didn’t get any sleep. The result was an increase of 3 lbs on the scale. Did I actually drink 3 lbs of liquid? Of course not, but the body reacts to alcohol by retaining water as the liver works to rid the body of the toxins. That means a gain in water weight, and typically it comes off with good adherence to a low-carb/no-sugar diet and getting a lot of sleep. I have gone days with little sleep after drinking, and I always found that it took up to 5 days for the extra water weight to go away.

Well, this week, I got 10 hours of sleep on Sunday night and a solid 7.5 hours last night, and this morning, I’m back down to not only my pre-weekend weight, but actually even lower. I hit 182.0 lbs today. That makes getting back into the 170’s a real possibility.

So many people who are trying to lose weight do so through overloading on exercise. At the most basic level, weight loss happens when you expend more calories than you take in, so I guess if you can exercise enough, you should be able to lose weight. The problems arise when you consider the quality of the calories and their effects on the body as well as the number of calories physical activities actually burn as compared to the calories you eat. That’s why I say all the time that it’s very difficult to out exercise a bad diet. Another little ditty I preach quite often is “You lose weight in the kitchen; you get fit in the gym.” I need to come up with something that talks about how necessary sleep is to weight loss.

My quick ingredient list for successful weight loss

  • Paleo Diet (or Whole30, Keto, Atkins, low-carb, etc)
  • Portion control: eat a sensible amount
  • No snacking
  • Intermittent Fasting (IF) if possible
  • Exercise: 30 minutes every other day (or every day if you can handle it)
  • A minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night (this varies person to person: I need 7 while someone younger may need more and someone older may need less)
  • NO SABOTAGE: that means no cheat days, cheat meals, cheat snacks, etc. If you are serious about losing the weight, this is a small price to pay. You need to change your relationship with food. Going back to a bad boyfriend or girlfriend from time to time is not healthy. Neither is going back to bad foods.

So, to sum up, do the things in the above list, but importantly, GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!!

Drill Weekend After Effects

A poor-quality photo of me this past weekend by one of our M777A3 155mm Howitzers

I had drill this weekend in the National Guard, and it went pretty well in terms of eating. Saturday, I had some BBQ chicken that was actually quite tasty for lunch, and then for dinner I had some more BBQ, but this time it was a little bit of brisket and some turkey breast. What wasn’t so good was the alcohol I consumed Saturday night. It’s just something that happens, and I don’t regret it. What I regret most is that I only got 3.5 hours of sleep that night.

Sunday, I ate carnitas with grilled vegetables for lunch, and for dinner, Sherry made me a plate of the smoked turkey with some mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. I then went to sleep early, and woke up 11 hours later for work this morning. I feel well rested, and the scale wasn’t too nasty: up 3 lbs (which I know will go away by tomorrow or Wednesday just by eating right).

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or if you’ve taken the time to read old posts, you’ll know that I advocate not missing out on social events, holidays, and special occasions because life is short and it’s worth living. One meal, or one evening of drinking isn’t going to derail you if you’re committed to the long game: being healthy for the rest of your life. Sure, it will set you back temporarily from seeing results on the scale, and in most cases of drinking, it will even make your weight go up. But this is artificial, as most of this is water weight from your body retaining fluids while it continues to process alcohol from your body. I find my body bloats for three days after drinking. Your experience may differ from this.

From my perspective, as someone who is very near my personal goal weight and who is in more maintenance mode than anything else, it’s okay to imbibe from time to time. What I did over the holidays was dumb (cookies, sweets, and hot drinks), but one night a month or so? That’s acceptable.

So, it’s back to the strict diet for me starting yesterday. I’m looking forward to seeing the numbers on the scale shrink again, and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting back into the 170’s later this week or early next week.

The Trend Continues: Getting More Sleep is Key

Another morning, another good reading on the scale. I even had wings and sweet potato fries last night with Sherry after I picked her up from the airport after a business trip, and I was sure that I was going to weigh more today than yesterday. However, I made sure to eat perfectly all day and I got 8 solid hours of sleep. I’m telling you; getting the right amount of sleep seems to be the secret weapon to losing weight consistently.

I can trace my weight loss spurts to times I’m getting enough sleep, and plateaus seem to happen when I’m not getting enough sleep. I need to keep that in mind this weekend during drill, as I’m pretty sure I won’t get enough sleep tonight or tomorrow night. Sunday, however, I’ll be all about getting into bed early and getting as much sleep as I can before waking up for work Monday morning.

People think that regular exercise is the most important ingredient for weight loss. It’s not. First, it’s the diet. If you eat crappy food, you will get crappy results. If you eat good food, you will see good results. Second, you need to get enough sleep. Period. Third, stick to the plan. That means resisting temptation, keeping your portion sizes normal, and persevering when you feel like a cheat. Remember: there is no cheating on a diet. It’s sabotage.

This week has been good to me. I know that the trend will end soon, and that I’ll hit another plateau for 2-5 days. But knowing it’s coming helps to soften the blow. Once you get to know how your body responds to diet and inputs, it’s easy to track where you are in your progress and to anticipate what’s coming next. It also helps a lot when diagnosing a stall and to help get you back on track.

I shouldn’t be surprised

I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore when I make steady progress with my weight loss and size loss, yet I still find myself giggling. Not always internal giggling, either. My wife hears me in the bathroom in the mornings; when the scale reads a heavier weight than the morning before, I groan. When I lose weight, I say something like, “Nice.” But when it happens three days in a row? I giggle.

It feels good to see the results of sticking with the plan. Sometimes, we have to rely on trust and faith to get us through when, regardless of the effort, the results just aren’t there. I had that happen for weeks at a time, and I had to push through the doubt and temptations and just do what needed to be done: eat right, get sleep, avoid foods with added sugar, and avoid alcohol. Of course, I voluntarily sabotaged myself a few times along the way, and I have nobody to blame for that but myself. But instead of wallowing in that blame game, I brushed myself off, got right back up, and kept at it. The reward: 5 solid lbs gone.

I have more to go, but I know I’m on a roll, and the motivation level keeps getting higher and higher. It gets easier to deal with the plateaus when you’re just coming off a good loss trend. I know it’s coming within 5 lbs or so, and I’m ready for it. I won’t be surprised about that, either. But I won’t be sad, either. It’s all a part of how our bodies work, and how we lose weight/size.

Wednesday Motivation

It’s the middle of the week, and I have drill in the National Guard coming up this weekend. That means a lot of work, long hours and honestly, a good time. I get to see a bunch of men and women I enjoy working with, and respect. They also motivate me to continue working hard to maintain my weight within regulations for my height.

This morning, I weighed myself (as is my daily practice) and I found that I had lost 3 lbs since Monday. This is a good thing, since Monday morning’s weigh-in was frightening. I’m at least headed back in the right direction, and sticking to the plan is giving me results. The bad news for me is that I will be unable to run tonight, tomorrow night, or Friday (and likely not at all this weekend, either) due to a very tight schedule. I might try to get to bed early tonight to wake up and run in the morning, but with the weather as it’s forecast to be, it’s unlikely.

However, there is good news in the consistency department: Sherry ordered a treadmill that arrives Saturday. That will take away my excuse of inclement weather. If it’s too hot, too cold, or raining outside, I’ll still be able to get a run in. I’m actually pretty happy about that; I want to get more consistent with my running.