At the end of December and early January, I felt like everyone around me was focused on New Year’s resolutions more than usual. Or maybe I was just paying attention to how people wanted to change and deep down inside I wanted to as well. I just wasn’t as vocal about it.
And who could blame me? When it comes to running, I honestly was ready to let loose. I wanted to do so many things to have a great rest of the winter, but after two years of on and off injuries and some downright laziness, I had some self doubt that I just didn’t express for everyone to see. Quite honestly, the first few months of this year were a make or break point for me. I either succeeded or failed. There would be no gray areas — I did not want to settle for mediocre.
That dedication to changing myself with running has helped me overall as a person. I feel better about everything. And if just a few more things can fall into place personally in the next few months, I feel like this year will be the best year ever in so many ways.
With my running, it all started with a run in the rain and then a few days later running in the mountains. If I could do that with very little training, I felt like I could do anything. So in the first quarter of the year, I haven’t told myself “no” with anything. I’ve become a “yes” man for the most part and not let excuses get the best of me.
I’m ending the first quarter with 257.8 miles — far and away the most I’ve ever done in the first quarter of the year. It makes my 1,000 miles goal seem much more realistic than just putting it out there at the beginning of the year. Since I haven’t come close to 1,000 since 2007, making that statement on Jan. 1 didn’t make any sense; that’s why I waited so long. I’m over my fear of injuries and it’s time to focus on this big-picture goal.
As I look ahead to the next three months of the year, my goals are simple: run every day in the month of April; run at least one 5k (I’m signed up for one on April 17); and stay above the 1,000-mile pace. Everything else is bonus.
As March and the first quarter of the year come to a close, I keep thinking about “what’s next.” But I’m not sure why. Back in February I mentioned a goal that I had in April: running at least one mile every day in the month. While another “big” race would be nice, I can’t afford to pop out $75 or more to run another half marathon right now. My fitness is there to do it and my mind is too, but it’s important that I shift my focus to this bigger personal goal of mine.
Ideally I’d like to have as few 1-mile days as possible — maybe a couple a week to serve as “rest” days. Otherwise, I want it to be running as normal. Just more often. To keep with my goal of running 1,000 miles for the year, I’d like to get at or above the monthly pace of 83.3 miles to stay ahead of things.
On paper it looks and sounds easy; pulling it off, though, is the challenge I have yet to face. Along the way I do plan to run a 5k, so my desire to race will still be met. But this will be like a month-long race and the opponent is me and proving to myself that this can be done.
Over on Daily Mile today there is a lot of talk about goals for this spring and summer. This is one reason I love doing the Shamrock in March — I’ve gotten a big race out of the way. Just less than three months into this year, I’m near 250 miles already. Usually, though, I slack off and have a pretty rotten April, which leads to a poor showing in May, which leads to “starting over” with training in June. The problem in the past couple of years is that I haven’t had any bigger goals to focus on. I’ve either been injured or worried about being injured, so I don’t do anything in the nicest months to run.
But now that I’m healthy and I’m all jazzed up about running again, it’s time that I have some more hardcore goals. Injuries be damned.
As I’ve hinted at before, I am now officially making it a goal to run 1,000 miles for the calendar year. I really wanted to set this goal at the end of 2009, but I needed to see how training for the Shamrock Half would go. I needed to make sure that a few days after that race that I wasn’t hurt and that I could keep running. Well, I can keep going. While I have some soreness, I’ve run twice in three days since the race, something I would have never considered doing in the past. While I’ll likely tone it down a bit, it’s time for me to focus on the scope of the year and getting to quadruple digits for the first time ever.
It’s here. Normally I would say “finally,” but training for the Shamrock Half Marathon this winter has been the best training I’ve done in a long time. In a way, it’s sad to be over. In another way, though, this is like training before training with the Richmond Marathon later this year. Or maybe something bigger before then — that’s not a decision I will make right now. My focus in Shamrock.
And go figure that at the end of this “season” that I’m starting it like I did Jan. 1 — with a cold. This one isn’t nearly as bad and I think allergies might be attributing to it. It’s just kind of weird that in the moment I let my mind and body rest, I get a cold. Last week I took my first two-day break in almost two months and it happens. I know the body needs rest and I will always, always, always rest up when I need to. But I’m just mad.
Assuming that this is a normal cold and by week’s end it’s gone, my focus for Shamrock will be like it always is — to do the best I can possibly do. Last year was the most satisfying Shamrock I’ve done. Two years ago was the most disappointing ever. Three years ago was the biggest surprise ever with a sub 1:45 time. My goal since that race has been to beat that time, but my training just hasn’t been there like it should be. Whether I did enough this year or not will be answered on Sunday.
My approach to this race is simple — don’t get caught up with the speeders at the beginning, make my first mile or two the slowest, get in a good pace for the middle miles and then figure out at mile 10 if I can do it or not. If it’s realistic, I’ll go for it. If it’s not, I won’t hurt myself trying to do something crazy.
OK, I’ll admit it. I still eat too much. However, I am eating better. In these first two months of the year I have cut back on many foods I absolutely love, ate a lot more fruit and gone back to ordering veggies instead of fries the few times I have eaten out.
But last week when the scale seemed stuck again, I took a long hard look at my diet and knew what I had to do: cut out the bread. Every meal on Friday, which is my “cheat” day anyway, had bread in it. I know what some people will already say — you just have to eat less of it and eat the right kind. It’s not that simple. I grew up in the South where, guess what? Families eat and eat and eat and eat bread of all kinds.
When I was in college, a northern friend pointed out to me that when I ate I had a fork in one hand and bread in the other to scoop the food onto the fork. Then I looked around — so did everyone else in my life. It seems lately to fulfill my hunger I go for bread. At work if I get hungry, it’s very easy for me to grab a sandwich instead of opting for the apple I brought.
While I’m content that I have lost some weight, I know I can do better with my eating. The changes I have made are working a little bit, but I really think getting rid of bread will go a long way.
This does not mean that others around me have to stop eating bread. (Mom, I know you’re reading this …) Six years ago when I lost weight, I completely cut out things like cake. People felt bad for eating “that stuff” around me. It didn’t faze me. I know this first week may be a bit tough, but once I get through it I’ll be OK. I already had to avoid the temptation of a biscuit tonight. Normally I would have had two.
My overall goal is to lose weight slowly, but I really, really want to get back into the 180s before race day on March 21. Like I mentioned before, my first goal is to get back to 189.9 and then set another goal. Like with my running, this is a huge overarching goal for this year and beyond. I’m not planning to void bread out of my diet forever, but I need to learn how to get back into control of things. Taking it out completely for a while with an occasional “cheat” is a step that just works for me.
In my nearly three years I have been blogging, I end February the same way — I talk about how great it was. But in those two Februarys, there’s been a key element missing: a good January. When preparing for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March, I’ve only put together two good solid months to start the year, and that came before I started blogging. So while a great February is good in words, it hasn’t translated well to race day. Yes, I’ve been satisfied overall with my races, but in the end I’ve been somewhat disappointed too. February is key to having Shamrock go well; two good months though set me up for the rest of the year. And in 2007 — the year of my marathon — things for the most part went well until the very end of the year. That includes the PR in Shamrock.
I know that’s a drawn-out way to explain how I feel at the end of this month, but things are just different these days. Oddly enough, I’m not overly focused on the Shamrock Half — that race is just part of what I hope to be my best running year yet. At the end of 2009 there was a lot of talk from me and others on making 2010 the best year ever from many standpoints, and so far not many people are actually following through. The New Year hype got a lot of people like usual, but not me.
Following running more than 75 miles in January, I followed February up with 92.5 miles. My mileage for the year is more than 30 miles more than this point last year. More importantly though is the quality of these miles. I had four double-digit runs around hilly Bedford, all in a pace around 9 minutes a mile. I’ve had some faster shorter runs than usual too. I’ve kept things mixed up, rather than stale one-pace-only runs, which is the trap I have fallen into in recent years.
Also this month I’ve had to battle the elements — cold, snow. sleet, rain, wind … ice-covered sidewalks have made many runs a battle. This will very likely be one of the top 5 coldest Februarys around here. At least the weather has been consistent, but I’m pretty tired of it. I keep thinking that if I can do this well when it’s this cold, imagine how great it will be once it’s warmer.
As I look ahead, I have some changes coming for March. With my diet, there are some things I need to do to lose more weight. Things have been up and down all year, but I’m now at just a little more than 4 pounds down for the year. At this pace, I would be where I want to be by the summer, but I need to do more in the next few weeks. I’ll save that for another post. I also know I need to get back into cross training. That will happen, but I’m just pumped about where my running is right now. I also plan to do the 100 push-ups challenge sometime. My elbow gave me some trouble earlier this month and I decided then to just hold off on this program until I get over that disappointment. I need to do that when it feels new again. The try, re-try pattern is frustrating, so I just wanted to back away for a while.
While things are going great right now, I know I need to not settle on things. I need to continue to run harder, stronger and longer. There is no such thing as being too focused when it comes to running and my health. January and February have only been a good start to what I think is unlimited potential.
Sorry, but when I wrote this title, I couldn’t help but think of this awful song. If you need to take a trip back to the 1980s, check it out. Sad thing is this video is from a few years ago, but looks like 20 years ago. It takes me back to my childhood and those cheesy love ballads that I knew nothing about (and probably still don’t understand).
Anyway, I rarely dream about running, but last night I had continuous dreams about the Virginia 10 Miler, one of the best organized races I have done and my first long-distance race back in 2006. Of course, that was in my pre-blogging days, so I don’t have a well-documented account of that race besides my memory. The dreams were just weird — at times I was running super fast; there were moments in which I couldn’t pass people; I missed turns. There were great moments and some awful moments.
Who knows what a dream like this means other than the fact that I have running on my mind. And I’ve been thinking a lot about some bigger goals for this year that I’m not ready to reveal. I just want to get through the next three weeks before making any public announcement …
I never, never, never, never discuss my actual weight on here. I always just say I need to lose 10 or 15 pounds. I don’t like to talk about it really. I don’t mind talking about once weighing 220 pounds and then getting down to 180 six years ago — but I always hesitate to bring up the fact that I gradually gained some of that weight back.
I’m a big fan of “The Biggest Loser,” and it amazes me each season what these people can do in a short time frame. But believe me, that type of weight loss isn’t easy. Plus they get to work out for six hours a day, have strict diets and have constant supervision. And that type of weight loss doesn’t pertain to me. I also need to realize that I’m not 25 anymore and that my metabolism is different from before and that when I say no cookies (except for Friday) that I mean no cookies. My thought process has been this: if I think about it enough, the weight will come off.
Well, no, it doesn’t work like that. I can’t think it off. I can rely on faith to help set my mind straight — once I win the mind game, I can win the physical game. Once I win both those games, I can win the battle with the scale. It’s a work in progress, but it’s happening. This month has been a good test for me. While I have mostly stayed away from my “No List,” I haven’t done enough. Creating that list, though, has helped tremendously. Now I need to take the next step — I need to be stricter; I need to eat less; I need to talk about my weight more.
So that’s what this blog entry is about. My weight. On Jan. 1 I weighed in 197.2 pounds. This month I kept Friday as my weigh-in day and will continue to do so — it was kind of nice for Jan. 1 to be a Friday. My other Friday weigh-ins have been 194, 195.2, 195.2 and 193.4 today. So that’s 3.8 pounds lost this month. Although I didn’t set any goals for the start of the month, I would have liked to have been down 5, but I’m happy with nearly 4 pounds lost in that time frame. Do that again next month and I can finally be back in the 180s.
As far as goals with weight loss are concerned, I learned from several years ago that it’s best to take things a few weeks at a time. My end goal at this time is not important. It’s the little steps I have to take to hit that end goal that are. Goals within goals, mini-goals — whatever you want to call it. But right now at 193.4 pounds, my next step is to get to 189.9 and be done with the 190s.
The important thing to me now is that I feel great. My attitude toward running has changed this month and my attitude toward food is slowly getting back to what it used to be. I’m focused and I’m fearless of what lies ahead.
I hate the word “diet.” Better yet I hate adjectives that go along with diet – low-carb, South Beach, Atkins, Taco Bell. So let me put this out there – I’m not going on a diet. That implies that at some point in time I change my eating habits and go back to eating what I want once I get to a certain weight. That doesn’t work. However, in order to lose weight, my portions and calorie intake have to change for a certain amount of time for the pounds to come off. Exercise alone will not work.
I’m not happy with my weight. On Jan. 1 the scale read 5 pounds more than a year ago. While I had plans in my head to lose weight, those extra few pounds put those plans into motion. For me, it means going back to what I did six years ago to lose 40 pounds – I have to be strict about what I put in my body for a few months. Otherwise I’ll keep eating the same old bad stuff. While I’ll continue running, my weight will otherwise not shift more than 5 pounds. Now that I’ve gone through several years of training for races and seeing what my body can do, I feel ready for this challenge of losing weight and training at the same time.
While it’s easy to eat what I want during the higher mileage weeks of training, this time around is different. I shouldn’t weigh more than 190 pounds, but I can’t seem to get under than number. In fact, I want to get to 180 pounds and then stay in the 180-185 range. Not 185-190 …and certainly not 190-195, which I’ve been in for quite some time.
So to start this process of losing weight I am making changes that worked for me back then. You can call it a diet if you want, but to me it’s a lifestyle change. This time around it’s a matter of returning to the lifestyle of eating that was working just fine a few years ago, but I’ve let a lot slip, obviously. So today I create my “no” list, and I create “cheat” Fridays. This means I have certain foods that I will not eat, and on Fridays I will let myself enjoy SOME of them. Even Bob on “The Biggest Loser” has said that it’s important to let yourself indulge once a week. I’d go crazy if I didn’t. And at some point once I get to where I want to be, it’ll be normal for me to not eat certain foods so often. I think that’s the problem with me right now – I let foods like pizza and french fries become a “normal” food in recent months. And candy shouldn’t be a regular thing.
So here is what is on my “no” list right now with some explanation.
* French fries: this includes all variations of french fries. This means sweet potato fries, cheese fries and Chick-fil-A fries. I have voided fries before, only to say that sweet potato fries were OK and that the word “cheese” made it different. My hope is that if I limit them to once a month, if that, that they’ll become good again. Now they just taste like they tasted when I was a teen – normal and bland.
* Some pizza: this is a touchy subject because I have “carb-loaded” with pizza before. And pizza is a perfectly fine food when made right. So the time has come to actually eat pizza that has some nutritional value to it. So pizzas with toppings such as regular pepperoni and sausage are out. Frozen pizzas are out. For this “no” item, it’s more of a matter of what can I do to make this a “yes,” and the simple answer is to change how I eat pizza. And the easiest way to make it healthy is to make it at home. That doesn’t mean taking it out of a Tombstone box and turning the oven on – it means putting some effort into making the crust, adding healthier toppings, eating a salad while it’s cooking and not dipping it in ranch dressing.
* Ice cream: the fact that I don’t regularly eat ice cream makes this a special “no” food. This is a “no” item that doesn’t make the cut on “cheat” Fridays. I will treat ice cream like I have in the past few years – I’ll eat it after my next race.
* Cookies: when looking back over the past couple of months at what I’ve eaten, this may be my problem. Cookies are so easy to eat. One cookie is fine. Two may be OK. But not two in the morning and two at the end of the day. That’s what the holidays will do to you I guess.
* Candy: I sit next to 25-cent Peanut M&M’s and Reese Pieces dispensers. You figure that one out as to why candy is on this list.
* Soft drinks: Soft drinks, including diet, are “no” items. They’re just bad and do nothing for me anyway.
And that’s it really. Other than the things on this list, I have to get my portions under control. I feel like I eat relatively healthy as it is — I just eat too much of everything.
My plan for now is to have a weigh-in day once a week, on Fridays. I think Fridays are good since it’s my cheat day — if I’ve had a good week, I won’t feel so bad eating something that I wouldn’t normally eat. If it’s been a bad week, cheat day probably won’t mean anything.
And now that I’ve put this out there, I feel like I can hold myself more accountable. It’s up to me to blog about my weight and nutrition issues, but it’s also up to you my fellow readers, family and friends to remind me about it. Otherwise it becomes a non-issue and not a big deal. But this a big deal to me, so thanks for your help in advance.
Getting sick puts me in a bad mood. What’s worse is getting sick without really being sick, meaning not having a fever. I’d almost just rather be all-out sick for a few days and then be done with it. But here I am now a week into having a cold, and I think I’m on the tail end of the worst of it. We’ll see how tonight goes. Anyway ….
* I almost put off “31 in 31″ for another month with the way things started, but I quickly realized if I put it off then I probably wouldn’t do it. So I’m sticking with it, no matter how bad the first five days have gone with my health. Sometime this week I’ll create a tab for “31 in 31″ to document this process better as well as explain some “rules” for it. My hope is to be minimal with it this month and to have a more intense month later this year. A tab on my blog will remind me of what I’m doing. It’s all about accountability.
* Speaking of accountability, I weighed in on Jan. 1 5 pound heavier than a year ago at this time. I’m so mad at myself for that, but at the same time I have no one to blame but myself. So that being said, I’m starting this year off like I did 2004 — weight loss is a top goal of mine this year. While it’s not a diet, the first couple of months of making changes make a big difference. It’s all about making lifestyle changes — many changes I need to make are ones I’ve done already, but I haven’t stuck with it. So expect a “no” list from me soon on foods I am staying completely away from for a while.
* I finally got my first run in tonight. It wasn’t much since I’m battling this cold and due to the fact it’s so cold outside. But it was nice to get out and get in a couple of miles. (Day 3 of “31 in 31″ by the way ended up being 50 sit-ups.) Speaking of the weather, it looks like this whole country got shifted to the Arctic for the winter, so it’s time to suck up and get out in it. Just be safe out there, dress in layers and take it easy.