Mar 312013

Yesterday we took our customary, bi-weekly trip to the 2nd Street Market to get our local meats and cheeses, and have lunch from Cheeky Meat Pies. What I noticed, as we waded through the crowd and perused our favorite vendors, is that everybody there was happy. Everybody had a smile, a joke, a laugh, or a hug for a friend. The vendors we do business with recognized us and chatted warmly.

When’s the last time you had that sort of experience at a supermarket? What do you remember from your last grocery shopping trip? The people? The quality and wholesomeness of the goods? The prices?

Was it worth it?

Mar 302013

It’s amazing how something so superficial and small as a blister can completely dominate your nervous system. For the amount of “noise” my right foot was making, I thought surely there would be blood gushing from my shoe, but it was only this. I pushed out my first long-distance run of the season yesterday. I’m not sure if I owe this little guy to wearing substandard socks, or to a defect in the shoe, but right around mile 8, things got really painful, really fast. It’s always something…

Mar 292013
(Seriously, I will never get over the color of these Innisfree Eggs! Mixed with a little of Katie’s Corn-Jalapeno Salsa and with a little shredded white cheddar on top, it’s just a flavor explosion, for breakfast! When was the last time you poured this out of a box of cereal, or popped it out of your toaster?)

My sister posted a link this morning to this well-justified rant by Michael Ruhlman. Go read it, and then come back. I’ll wait.


Okay, so what do you think about all that? Does his advice seem counter-intuitive? Are you fighting a weight problem, and trying to do it by buying low-fat this and reduced-sodium that and zero-calorie the other thing?

Well, stop it. Seriously.

Mr. Ruhlman makes some excellent points regarding the desire for longevity instead of quality, and of the role the media plays in keeping everybody afraid of the bad food of the week. For his part, he says he chooses his food based on how he feels after he eats it, using the feedback his body provides as a guide for what he should eat more or less of.

That can be a very useful concept. The trouble is, do most people even know what their body is saying? The food education of most Americans is that if it tastes good (a nebulous term in the country that invented fast food) and it’s easy, eat it. And if you feel bad after, medicate it. The problem is with you, not the 1200 calories of Hungry Man dinner you just put down (with 2 cans of Diet Coke) while you watched fat celebrities jump into a pool.

No, seriously, that’s a thing now. And people look at me weird when I say I don’t watch TV.

Foods that are high in fats also tend to be highly caloric, and so they can make you fat, but it isn’t because of the fat. It’s because if you have 4 ounces of salad with 2 ounces of cheese on/in it, and 3 tablespoons of dressing, you just ate about 800 calories and thought you were eating light. And if you’re like most Americans and fairly sedentary, your body may only need about 1800 to maintain weight in the first place.

And your entree hasn’t even come yet.

If you’re trying to cut weight (aren’t we all?), the only known way to do that without surgery is to establish a long-term caloric deficit. You have to burn around 3500 more calories than you ate just to burn a pound of fat. To accomplish this, a lot of people go the diet foods route I referenced in my second paragraph. But what you find out when eating them is that they just aren’t satisfying. They lack flavor, substance, and very often nutritional content. So instead of enjoying that one rice cake as a 50-calorie snack, you’ve plowed through the whole package before you’re sated, and used up seven hundred calories of your daily allowable total.

The story remains the same for all manner of “diet” foods, literally from soup to nuts (seriously, those little 100 calorie packets of nuts? They make the airlines look generous). So here’s what I can recommend, from a whole lot of reading and no small amount of personal experience: eat well, just less of it. That’s right, eat whole foods, make them yourself, and don’t skimp on the salts, fats, carbs, or any other media-maligned food category. Just be honest about your caloric needs, and then be honest when accounting for your intake.

The breakfast I posted above consisted of four eggs (the horror!), a quarter cup of salsa and an ounce of Boar’s Head white cheddar (still looking for that local cheese source… anybody?). It was a bit over 400 calories, and had 27 grams of fat and over 500 mg of sodium. Surely I must’ve stroked out after eating it, right? No, dummy, I felt great. I paid some bills, went to the gym, ran some errands, and didn’t need to eat again for something like 6 hours. Because I was sated. Six small meals a day?

And where are you going to come up with six 300 calorie meals, anyway?

So do like the man says. Eat what your body likes. Realize that your body includes more than your mouth. And then use your brain to be honest with yourself about how much you need, and how much you’ve taken in already. If you need help, there are dozens of awesome food tracking apps, like My Fitness Pal or The Daily Plate. And if you have trouble figuring out the output part of the equation, try one of a handful of awesome gadgets like the BodyMedia Fit, FitBit or Jawbone UP.

You can do this, and it probably won’t be as painful as you thought. People lose weight every day, and still eat things they want to eat. Remember that in order to be healthy, you don’t go on a diet. You change your lifestyle. Make that lifestyle enjoyable, and sustainable.

Mar 282013

Since this is a blog about things that I do… This is another thing that I do.

Today I had the privilege of serving twice, in two very different capacities. In the afternoon, I served a friend by walking them through a handful of exercises, and then designing a weekly routine to help them achieve their fitness goals. In the evening, I served my God and my Church with my voice, singing as part of a duet for our Maundy Thursday service.

Before these, and in between, there were a few hours of frantic and frustrating errands and chores, and maybe even a little bit of road rage. But in serving others using the gifts I’ve been given, I found a couple hours of peace and relaxation. I’d do well to remember that in the future.

Mar 272013

I hang around a lot of very fit people. People who win the races they go to. 6-minute-mile types. 28-mph-average on a road bike types. One thing has struck me about nearly all of them. You’d expect that, being that they probably average 12% or less bodyfat, that there’d be a lot of light beer when we hang out socially. But not so. What you see in this very characteristic picture are mugs of Nugget Nectar, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, and Hoegaarden.

It’s continually struck me as an odd, but unavoidable coincidence, that the people I run and bike with, some of the fittest people you’ll ever meet, have a taste for some of the heaviest and craftiest beers. It seems trite to say we run and ride to drink beer, but maybe there’s more to it than the obvious joke.

Mar 262013

So I have this tongue-in-cheek observation/theory about weight loss that I’ve developed lately. When I was a kid, I was super skinny. Now that trying to get (almost) that skinny again, it’s odd how my diet has regressed back to what it was then. There’s a whole lot of cheese sticks, apples, and granola bars in my life lately.

And things like this, a double-decker PB&J, worth a whopping 850 calories! That sounds kinda terrible, but as workout fuel, it’s actually pretty good. Loaded with protein, starchy carbs and a little natural sugar (courtesy of some locally made “Traffic Jam,” this oozing pile of happy, followed by a big cup of black coffee, is what got me through my upper body workout today.

Said workout consisted of 6 sets of barbell bench press, ending with 12 reps of 175 (new PR). I followed that with sets of 50/20/20 decline situps, 3×10 cable machine tricep extensions, and 10 rep drop sets of overhead tricep extensions (50, 40, 30, 20 lbs) and easy bar bent over rows (80, 60, 40, 20 lbs), with no rest for the drop sets. Then I spun my legs on the stationary bike for a half an hour.

Getting strong while getting skinny is something that’s not supposed to be able to happen. But apparently it can, when you train like it’s your job, and eat like a skinny kid.

Mar 252013
For some reason, I really like how this picture turned out. Even though it was a terrible picture.

One of the things that was desperately missing from my training program last year was some programmed speed work for running. All I basically did all year was ratchet up my distances, until I could run a half marathon. As a result of not doing speed work, I didn’t get any faster. You’d think that’d be obvious, but I didn’t realize it until late in the season.

So a few months back, on a whim, I headed over to the indoor track at Wright State to work out with the 5Rivers Running Team. It’s a local running club headed up by a former nationally competitive runner, a sports physiologist from the University of Dayton, and some other very fast, very knowledgeable coaches. I was blown away, the very first time I went, at what an amazing experience it was. For the record, I’m pretty slow. And 8:30 mile is a really good day for me, and a lot of the guys in this club are deep into the 6s. But despite me huffing and puffing along, everybody was really positive, really encouraging, and it ended up being way more fun than I had expected.

We run intervals on a program every time we meet, and I can really feel myself getting faster, and increasing my efficiency, every time I’m there. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to start going twice a week!

Mar 242013

I love me some Little Debbie. Seriously, I’ve never met a box of Oatmeal Creme Pies, or Fudge Rounds, or Swiss Cake Rolls that I didn’t want to instantly destroy in one sitting. And I have. Sometimes multiple boxes. Hey, you were in high school once too, don’t judge me…

But I just don’t think I can do it any more. It’s not the calories, or the sugar, or the fat, or the sodium (all of which are mind-bendingly high for something that’s gone in 3 bites). They don’t make me sick, I’m not allergic to anything in them (that I know of). It’s what you see on the right. 63 ingredients. SIXTY THREE. And I could identify maybe… ten of them as actual food. Propylene glycol? That’s antifreeze. Why does antifreeze need to be in my oatmeal creme pie?

I have no idea how you get a couple of cookies with some whipped “creme” in the middle to have so many ingredients. It’s like each successive CEO of Little Debbie added a few more of their own, and they never took anything out. Insanity.

Well at any rate, as much as I love them, I just can’t do it any more. The more healthy and fit that I get, the more I can tell that my body functions better using real, whole food as fuel. Sorry Debbie… You just don’t have a place in my kitchen any more.

Mar 232013

I’m admittedly brand new to this road bike thing, and so I can’t really call this a review. But I’ve had a few decent little rides on my new toy so far, and beyond liking it far more than I expected to, I had some initial thoughts.

  • This thing is fast. It’s easy fast, almost like it’s cheating.
  • I know it’s not the lightest bike on the market by a long way, but given that my only point of reference is 20 years of riding mountain bikes (and mostly crappy ones)… Damn, is it light!
  • The drivetrain is everything a drivetrain should be. It’s smooth, it’s easy, and the gear ratios are spaced just right to maintain momentum when the incline changes up or down.
  • Speaking of the drivetrain, I’m a big fan of the big ring. The small ring… well, it gets me up when the hills get too steep, but that’s about it. I suppose that’s how it’s supposed to be. I need to figure out how/when to drop to the small ring without squandering so much momentum.
  • Did I mention this thing is fast? I know it sounds silly to the lifelong roadies reading this, but the novelty of the speeds is still fresh with me. 18 mph cruises on flat pavement are just natural. I can definitely see 20 as a normal speed in the not-so-distant future, and 25 comes super easy whenever I feel like kicking it up a bit. And don’t even get me started on descending. No sooner do I think about a tuck, than I’m going 35 or more. Nuts.
  • Which leads me to my last observation. BOY am I wobbly on this bike! I would guess it’s mostly mental, but I’m all sorts of shaky! Kinda funny, really.

I guess that’s all for now. First road bike, sure, but I think I picked a good one. I can’t see any reason to upgrade, like, ever.

Mar 222013

Not such a bad thing, in terms of nutrition.

I recently decided to get my shit together and finally get rid of the extra 20 lbs I’ve been carrying around for the last several months. That’ll make me 10 lbs lighter than I was all last season, and put me at an acceptable level of bodyfat. As they say, ounces are lost at the gym, and pounds are lost in the kitchen, so enter the food scale.

More than proper portion sizing, I’m using this to ensure the accuracy of my calorie tracking. I’m aiming for a significant and precise calorie deficit every day, and the only way to properly ensure that is to track every single thing that goes into my mouth. So until I get to go back to maintaining (some time in early June, probably), this thing is going to be present for nearly every meal.

Mar 212013

How in the world do they make their salads so calorically heavy?

I’m usually posting pictures of beer or cheese fries or some such debauchery, so I figured it was time I posted something I eat far more regularly. I threw together this salad tonight from mixed greens, baby spinach, carrots, peas, shredded chicken, feta crumbles and ranch dressing. I took the extra time to weigh and measure each ingredient so I could get a good hack at how many calories are in the thing.

331. That’s it.

Seems like every time I get a salad from Panera, it’s 600 or more, and not even this big. How in the world do they do that?!

Mar 202013

I had by body fat tested yesterday, using a BODPOD they have on base. It’s an interesting device that uses pressurized air instead of water displacement to calculate body density, and from what I read, it’s pretty accurate.

The numbers at the top are of good use to me. Being at 25% body fat isn’t good, but it’s not shockingly awful either, and I’ve just started a pretty aggressive cut as we go into race season. I had set a preliminary goal of 185 on the scale, and judging by the numbers from this test, that’d be a pretty attainable and desirable goal. Assuming a modest gain in lean body mass over the next couple months, I should drop my body fat by about 10% by the time I reach 185.

It won’t be easy, but then, nothing worth doing ever is.