Oops… more time off than I wanted

I ended up taking another week off from running. This was unintended, but between the weather and being busy, I didn’t have the time I needed to get my runs in. I ran once last week, and although it was a great run, one run a week just doesn’t cut it. If the weather cooperates for me this afternoon, I’ll be running after work.

I will take it easier than normal. I usually tend to go out and run really hard after not running for a while, and the last few times I did that, I was sore. Really sore. So, tonight, I’m going to resist the urge to blaze the roads and I’m going to shoot for a slow and easy pace. I may even dial back the distance a bit and then work more on the speed Wednesday or Friday this week.

The important part of getting back into fitness after any missed periods of time is getting back into things with the knowledge you can’t hit it with the same intensity and expect to just pick up where you left off. You need to dial it back a bit to avoid injury. I will be heeding my own advice this afternoon, and while it’ll be annoying to run so slowly, I need to do so to keep from injuring myself. I want to run pain-free on Wednesday.

The Scale

This is the nemesis of nearly everyone I know who is trying to change their lifestyles to a healthier one. We have been taught all our lives that our weight directly correlates to our health: high weight is poor health and lower weight is good health. While this is an oversimplification, it does have some basis in truth. However, weight is not a one-stop indicator of our health and wellbeing.

I’ve written in the past about TOFI (Thin Outside/Fat Inside) and how dangerous it is. These people are able to appear thin (they weight less), yet on the inside of their bodies, their arteries are clogged with cholesterol and they suffer from heart disease, diabetes, and other typically weight-related maladies. This group of people shows why using the scale alone is not a good indicator of your overall health.

I weigh myself daily. I know that not everyone can do that. However, I do not use the scale as my sole indicator of health. I also consider the following:

  • How I feel. This is the most important one. Do I feel energetic? Do I feel rested? Was I able to sleep through the night? Do I feel hot when I shouldn’t?
  • How I look. Do I have any swelling? Puffiness? Am I retaining water? How do my cheeks look?
  • How my clothes fit. Are my pants getting tighter? Do my shirts still fit loosely? How does my wedding ring feel on my finger?
  • Blood test results. This is a good one, and since I do annual physicals, I use this data to determine my actual physical health.
  • EKG. As a person over 40 in the military, I receive an EKG test annually which is also a good indicator for how healthy my heart is.

The scale is one data point among a data set that tells me how I’m doing. It should never be used as a single-source for determining how healthy you are. Sometimes, the scale will read something contrary to everything all other data points are telling you. That happens to me a lot. I’ve learned to not invest too heavily in the number and instead focus on the overall picture all the data points paint. I’m much happier for it, and I don’t sweat it when the scale reads up for a day or three here and there. I know I’m healthy, my nutrition plan is solid, and my fitness is good.

What’s the best shortcut to losing weight?

I get asked this a lot. And when I say a lot, I should say all the time. People are always looking for shortcuts to lose weight. The problem is, there was no shortcut to gaining the weight. We didn’t get overweight overnight, yet we want to lose all that weight immediately. The sad news is that it just won’t happen that way. There are no shortcuts.

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However, there are ways to make it a little easier. For me, it was Whole30 and Paleo. I was able to continue eating delicious and filling foods that made it feel like I had found a cheat code to life. Eat delicious food and still lose weight without starving between meals?!? YES, PLEASE!!!

I didn’t exercise at all while losing the first 130 lbs. Let me restate that just in case you somehow thought it was a typo: I didn’t exercise at all while losing the first 130 lbs. All I did was change my diet. On top of that, the diet I changed to allowed me to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner while enjoying what I ate and getting full after each meal. The content of my meals kept me free from cravings. If that’s not like using a cheat code in a videogame, I don’t know what is.

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Mindset is important. I’ve said in the past that it’s the foundation upon which your success in getting healthy and losing weight is based upon. As long as you have a positive mindset and you will accept nothing that sabotages your progress, you will succeed. Perseverance is key, and when you are in it for the long game, the little dips and bumps fall away and give way to the successes and triumphs.

Anything worthwhile takes time and effort. Losing weight and getting healthy isn’t easy, and there are no shortcuts, but there are ways to go about losing weight and getting into better health that make it seem almost like a shortcut. Almost.

Stop putting it off

file (2)I know there are more than a few people reading about doing something, anything, to eat healthy, lose weight, and maybe even to try to get fit. I have one simple message with a lot of explanation after word: stop procrastinating and start now. Make today Day 1.

I get it. There’s a lot of stuff to read, and a lot of information to digest (pardon the pun). You want to make the best start, pick the best plan, and give yourself the best chance to succeed. That’s all well and good. But you’re not making ANY progress unless you start. And you might as well start now.

What should you do? For starters, cut sugar. All sugar. Anything that’s got added sugar and a crap-ton of carbs. I’m not saying cut fruits, but really limit the amount of fruit you eat. Don’t use fruit as a crutch when trying to eat better food. Sugar is sugar, even when it’s natural. Next up, try to limit the grain intake. Personally, I follow Paleo, so I exclude grains from my diet completely, but limiting them (if you’re not considering Paleo) is a good start. Also, get rid of dairy. And stop drinking alcohol. With these four things, you’re well on your way to a good start, no matter what you decide: Keto, Paleo, IF, CICO, Atkins, or others.

What do I recommend? Start with a Whole30 and transition into Paleo. Why do I recommend this? Because it helps get you off sugar and resets your body from a lot of the anti-nutrients present in foods like grains, legumes, soy, and dairy. After the first few days (to first few weeks depending on how much sugar you normally eat), you will begin to feel a lot better and more energized. You will feel more awake, and you will feel free from cravings. Then, once your body is clean from the effects of sugar, you can transition into Paleo which is just an extension (as far as I’m concerned) of Whole30 with a little more leeway in foods (like breads made from nuts, pizza with crusts made of anything not grain-based, etc).

The hardest thing to do is to get something stationary moving. Once you get it moving, however, momentum helps, and it becomes easier and easier to pick up speed. Living a healthy lifestyle is the same. It’s tough to get started, but once you do, it gets easier and easier. The lifestyle my wife and I live today was unimaginable three years ago, yet here we are, living healthy, eating well, and fit to boot!

You can be where I am. You won’t get there in a day or a week, but eventually, you will get there. I used to think it was so far off, but the next thing I knew, I was down 130 lbs, running, and looking at losing that last 20 lbs.

What a Run!

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I had to take two weeks off from running due to being busy, travel, weather, and last week, due to having a very bad cold, but I got out there and ran yesterday after work and ended up with my best 3 mile time on that track in a very long time! I know that the three solid weeks of running at high altitude in Pennsylvania has a lot to do with it, but I thought that with two weeks off, it would have negated any improvements I would have otherwise seen if I’d have been able to get right back into running when I got back. What I was able to do yesterday was nothing short of spectacular.

As for how I feel the morning after, I have to admit it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’ve got my post-run soreness (which isn’t so bad), but otherwise, I feel great, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay for tomorrow’s run. I plan on riding my bike easy today after work, although that’s not yet set in stone. I have been pretty careful about allowing my legs to rest between runs, and since yesterday’s run was the first one in two weeks, it might be wiser to let the ol’ legs rest a bit tonight and maybe start the biking thing between runs after another run or two. We’ll see how I feel after work today.

The biggest victory aside from my stellar pace is the fact that I got out there and got this run in. I really didn’t want to. I was dreading it not only because I’d been out of it for two weeks, but because I was tired. I didn’t sleep enough the night before, and I just didn’t feel like I had the energy. But, I just pushed through and got started anyway. I figured I’d just run it and get it over and done with because I’d feel so much better afterward. I was both wrong and right.

I was wrong in that I was going to just put in a lazy, slow run just to get the run done, but when I started running, I felt fast. I don’t know why, but my legs felt like they needed to RUN. So, run I did. When the pace voice (from my Garmin app) announced my first two-minute split time as 8:05/mile, I was pretty surprised. When she announced my second two-minute split time as 7:30/mil, I was shocked. That motivated me to push it some more and to try to get the best time I could, knowing full well that I hadn’t run in two weeks and that it might hurt.

I was right in that I felt better after the run. My legs felt tired, but they were not painful. My arms after doing my 60 push ups felt remarkably decent, too. I drank a chocolate/coconut water after the run, and I’m pretty sure that the carbs I drink or eat after my last 10 runs or so help me with recovery quite a bit. I’m going to keep up with that.

There are many days where I just don’t want to run, but I do it anyway. Why? Because not running feels worse than the run itself. The hardest thing to get over for me is just starting. Just getting into my running gear is the wall. Once I’m dressed, it’s a few steps to begin, and then I’m good. There are as many reasons available to skip a run as there are stars in the sky. Character is what we are showing when we ignore those reasons and stick to a run for the most important reason of all: our fitness.

No Run Yesterday: Possibly Tonight

Well, I had intended on running last night, but I was still having some lingering effects from my cold, so I decided to play it safe and not run. All evening, I felt that I had made a mistake by not running, but this morning, as my nose was still running a bit and I was still feeling a bit under the weather, I came to the conclusion that it was probably the right call.

I might run tonight if I feel up to it. I NEED to run at this point. My legs feel weird: I think it’s the muscles turning soft with the lack of exercise. (Probably not, but that’s how I imagine it) If the weather cooperates with me, I’ll likely do it unless I feel too weak, tired, or am still coughing by then.

The point of this, besides documenting my progress with my fitness, is that your first priority should be to remain healthy. If you are sick from a cold, flu, or other malady, you need to heal first before exercising. Some folks say exercise while fighting a cold isn’t so bad. Perhaps they have some data that backs them up; I don’t know. What I do know is that anytime I physically exert myself while sick, I tend to feel the effects of the illness even more, and it more often than not gets worse. Take care of you first. Then take care of the fitness.

Getting over the cold

It took about a week, but it feels like I’m finally getting over this horrible cold I had. It was so bad, that I had to stay home from work last Thursday. Fortunately, Sherry brought home some medicine that actually made me feel better Thursday night, and I was able to go to work on Friday and actually enjoy a weekend of normalcy.

Next up for me is resuming the strict Paleo diet and hitting the roads by running again. It’s been two weeks since I last ran, and I really, really am looking forward to getting back out there. I was just getting to sub-8 minute miles, and I know that I gave back some of that progress through not being able to run for two weeks. No worries; I’ll get there again. It’ll just take another 2-3 weeks. It’s also good for my emotional well-being, and also helps me burn some calories to create a bigger deficit on the days I run.

I run every other day, typically. I’d like to work up to running daily, but at 51, my joints and muscles seem to recover better with that day of rest, So, I’ll stick with the four times a week plan unless I somehow get much stronger/faster/better. I do have a few Army schools coming up, and two of them will require daily exercise. Before I go to those, I’ll definitely have to work myself up to doing dailies. I’ll hate it, but I’ll get it done and I’ll make sure I get it done better than as many other soldiers as possible. Even at my age, I’m fiercely competitive, and especially because of my age, I have to prove to everyone above and below me that I am an asset and worth being in my place.

Getting over this cold means more than just being able to smell, taste food, or take a breath without a stuffed nose. It means being able to resume my normal life, to get back to running, and to get back to improving my run time, run distance, and heart health.