Run, run, run

Selfie post-run this past Monday morning at 5:30 a.m.

I took a two-day break this past weekend from running due to the many activities we had scheduled that required a lot of physical activity. I didn’t want to over-do it and risk an injury. Oddly, on Saturday evening, my legs were very tired but also uneasy. It’s as if they really wanted to run, and without running that morning, they felt like they were filled with nervous energy. On Sunday, the feeling was gone, and it actually felt nice. My legs felt like they were healing from the previous day’s heavy use (I was working in the garage building props which required a lot of squatting and up/down movement).

By Monday morning, I was ready to run. I set out with a comfortable pace and surprised myself with a second-best pace since starting six weeks ago. I also ran almost 4 miles which, while not my longest distance, was probably the longest I’ve run and felt so comfortable. Again, I could have run longer, but time was of the essence and I couldn’t spare the time to run the extra distance.

People mistakenly assume that my weight loss has been due to running. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, since running, I’ve only lost about 5 lbs, and even that has been very hard fought. My weight goes up from time to time, and right now I’m actually up a few pounds from my low of 177.7 lbs. I’m hoping to get back down to that weight and perhaps even lower, but it requires a lot of discipline and hard work.

I lost over 100 lbs through diet alone, and by diet, I don’t mean through a weight-loss diet. I changed the way I eat, and I have adopted the Paleo lifestyle which is not a weight-loss diet like Adkins. It’s a way of eating for the rest of my life. The fact that I ate good food in normal portion sizes has allowed my body to shed the excess weight and get down to a normal weight. Now that I want to lose another 12 lbs, I’m having to work for it in a way I haven’t done in a very long time, but it’s rewarding and I’m finding that I’m actually able to enjoy it quite a bit.

As the weather cools, I will have to wear long running pants and long-sleeved shirts, but I’m ready for it. My headset, belt (for holding my iPhone) and shoes are all set, too. Most importantly, I’m motivated to do it, and I am enjoying it. Sometimes I have to force myself to enjoy it, but I find it really helps to make it easier to run faster and to get more out of it if I’m enjoying it. “Fake it until you make it” really works. Try it!

So many changes in my life: who am I?

Me after a run with my amazing Phaiser Bluetooth headphones. Seriously great.

This is something I never thought I’d be doing: browsing Amazon and Woot! for running gear. Fortunately, I have shorts I like, and enough shirts to last me for a week. I have a belt that holds my iPhone when I run, and a really amazing Phaiser Bluetooth wireless headset that has been all kinds of amazing. The Brooks running shoes feel like they weigh nothing at all and fit perfect (thanks to Fleet Feet). Next up: some running pants. It’s getting cooler out, and anything under 50 degrees is downright cold to me. I want something covering my legs when I run in weather that cool.

I haven’t shopped for exercise equipment or PT gear in a very long time. With the exception of the kettle bells Sherry and I bought a few months back, Academy was a place I went to for ammunition, not exercise clothing. Now, when I go there, I find myself looking at shirts, shorts, sock, shoes, etc. It’s not that I need anything, but I want to have ideas and numbers in my head for when I do.

There are many indicators to myself of how much life has changed. I have so much more energy in the mornings partly due to the better sleep I get now. My appetite has normalized to allow me to eat three times a day without snacking. Better yet, I don’t have snack cravings, and foods don’t tempt me anymore! I feel normal in my clothing: nothing binds, feels weird, or falls off me due to having an odd body shape (when my stomach was huge, it was always a battle to keep pants up even with a belt; I refused to wear suspenders). I can run up a flight or two of stairs without getting winded and I find myself not getting colds or feeling run-down anymore.

I realized this morning that I have a life I always wished I could have: A beautiful wife, great kids, a beautiful home, amazing and loving friends, a good job, a nice car, and a dog who drives me nuts sometimes but ultimately is a sweet and loyal buddy. I have no needs, only wants. It’s a good place to be. I want to enjoy this as long as I can. If eating right and exercising helps me do that, then I’ll gladly do it. It’s no imposition.

A final thought. There are many who have fought harder battles and who are unable to exercise like I can today due to physical limitations thrust upon them. I run for myself, but this morning, I decided to also run for them. I actually thought of all the veterans that can’t be out on a morning run like I was today. I picked up my pace to honor them. I plan on picking a week in the upcoming weeks where I’ll run 25 miles over the course of 7 days. It’s not much, but it’s more than I’ve run in a week since being on active duty in the Marines. It’ll be tough for me as a new runner, but I’m up for the challenge.

Starting Every Day Running

ej5kThis morning, when I woke up, I actually felt sad that I wasn’t running. I could have; I had the energy and my legs felt like they were ready to go, but it was too late in the morning. I had run out of time.

Starting tomorrow morning, I’ll be running daily. Everything I’ve been reading says that daily exercise is better than just the 3-4 times a week I’ve been doing. Also, I feel that after a month of running, my legs are now ready for daily runs. I’m going to take it easy, as I have been, and still stick to my 3-4 miles per day for my runs with perhaps a little more distance on Sundays, but I’m not looking to be an elite or even a competitive runner. I’ll cap at “Pre-competitive runner,” as these classifications go.

My last runs have been good. I’ve been experiencing all the things that the experts say I should experience, and I’ve avoided the bad things that runners should avoid. Running daily will put more stress on my joints and muscles, but the benefits are too great to ignore. Being older, I need to maximize the exercise while I can to benefit my cardiovascular system. I also need to make sure I get stronger/faster soon. I will soon be entering the National Guard and will be required to attend a school over the course of 18 months that will be very physical. Being (most likely) the oldest guy in the class, I’ll have a target on my back to the instructors, and I will have a lot to prove to the young guys. Having had this head-start with running will go a long way to ensuring my success.

It’s taken a month, but it feels like I just started. I am happy that I took my time and took this gradually. I now feel ready to run daily. Had I jumped into that too quickly, I’m sure I’d have experienced shin splints, pulled muscles, etc. Tortoise vs hare. No need to try to be fast very quickly. Working up to it slowly has been far more successful than any other training plan I’ve tried in the past.

Adding Exercise to Paleo

I’ve been asked if I’m still eating Paleo now that I have started running. Some people are concerned that I may not be getting the right nutrients or enough calories to support the increase in calorie burn through running. Well, the easy, simple, and true answer is yes: I’m still Paleo.

There is no hard part.

I eat the same way I always have. Well, maybe I eat a little bit more, but in terms of ingredients, it’s exactly the same. For example, for breakfast, I ate an extra slice of bacon. After my run this morning, I just felt like I needed that extra slice, and now a couple of hours after breakfast, I can honestly say that I feel better than I would have without that extra slice.

For lunch today, I’ll have the exact same size portion I have been eating for the past 13 months, and for dinner, I’ll do the same with perhaps a muffin for dessert. Otherwise, my diet is the same as before. The only real difference is I add a tiny bit here and there to round out my nutrition to stave off any hunger. I’m working to increase my calorie deficit as well as getting fit, so eating a lot more would defeat a big part of the reason I’m running.

I don’t eat a lot of carbs. I have greens and some vegetable with my meat at every lunch and dinner, but I’m not loading up on them. I haven’t felt lacking in energy with the exception of one run, and that was in the heat after work when I was tired. Otherwise, on my morning runs, I feel energized and ready. I will even say I feel good. Today’s run was exceptionally good.

So, in my experience, adding exercise to Paleo is sort of a natural progression and doesn’t require any real additional food or planning other than maybe to add a fruit or some extra serving of something maybe twice a day to offset the increase caloric load on the intake.

The Three Pains of Running Over 40

file_000-51I found that there are three pains when it comes to running. I used to think there were just two: good and bad, but after getting back into running as an older guy, I found a third: the old man pains.

Here, I’ll go through the pains of running.

Good pain. This is the muscle ache you feel after a good run. It’s a pain that says, “Good job on that last run. You worked it. Now give us a day to heal and get stronger and you can go again.” I used to really hate even this pain, but I’ve grown to embrace it as a sort of trophy of my efforts.

Bad pain. This is when you pulled or hurt something. This is typically a sharp pain and needs to be paid attention to. This also tells you that it’s time to back off a bit and heal before heading back out again. I dread bad pain. I’ve been lucky in the past month to have not been visited by bad pain.

Old Man pain. This is what I feel in the mornings when I wake up. Either a hip or a knee are the usual culprits. I find that this old man pain makes it a little painful to walk, but once I start running, the pain goes away almost immediately. If I set a good pace and stretch out my steps, the pain goes away even faster. The strange part: when I finish a run and start walking again, the old man pain can sometimes come back (like it did this morning).

Part of my ability to get back into running in a way I never have before was recognizing that running involves some level of discomfort just as studying for exams involved mental discomfort. Anything worth acquiring requires discomfort in one way or another as well as delayed gratification. I knew I wouldn’t be running 6 minute miles within a month of starting back up, but I’m nearly at 9 minute miles after starting at 12:30 minute miles just four weeks ago. I consider that solid progress, and running 3 miles every other day hasn’t been nearly as bad as I made it out to be. I still plan to start hitting daily runs soon.

Another Run in the Books

Look at my tiara. I framed the photo like this on purpose.

This morning’s run almost didn’t happen because I was lazy. However, I thought of the people I’m friends with who write post-run and post-workout reports on Facebook and of the times they wrote something to the effect of, “I didn’t feel like it today,” or “I didn’t want to, but I did it anyway.” They motivated me and I pulled myself out of bed and just did it.

Once I got outside, I did my push-ups (30 this time) and with my heart beating faster, I let my Fitbit sync up with GPS and I hit the road. I stretched out my legs a little more this time than normal and my pace reflected it: 4:24 for the first half mile, and 4:57 for the second half mile for a total of 9:21 for my first mile)! That’s my best time so far (since Active Duty)! I kept the pace for the first mile and a half and slowed for the last half to just over a 10 minute/mile pace. I’d like to get to about a 7:30/mile pace eventually, but for now, I’ll take the sub-10 minute/mile pace. It’s a good place to be after three weeks.

It is getting easier. My legs didn’t feel so thick today. I can’t describe it any other way. For the past few weeks, I could never shake the feeling where my legs felt thick, or as if they just didn’t want to loosen up. I’m not talking about stretching; they just felt like they didn’t want to run. That changed today. The only limit I felt was how hard I wanted to breathe. My legs were up to the task, and with the exception of a little bit of aching for the last 1/4 mile, it actually felt pretty good.

I can’t say I love it (yet? lol) but I do enjoy it. The music helps. A lot. I’m still fine tuning my running playlist, and may eventually post a link to it here (it’s on Spotify), but right now, I’m not sure I’m entirely happy with it. There are a few songs that have moments that just aren’t conducive to fast running.

I am backing off from the daily running thing for now, though. The day off really does help my legs heal and recover a bit, and I can feel the difference that day makes. I try to walk a little on the off-days that I don’t run, but I’m thinking four times a week is plenty of running and my progress so far has been pretty good, so I feel it’s enough to keep me progressing.

So, as I say on Facebook, I didn’t die on this run, so it was good. Now I find myself looking forward to the next run.

Extreme Exercise

ej5kI made an admission a few posts back: I actually enjoy running. I also dismissed the idea that I would never be able to like exercise in the future. I clearly have changed my opinion on it. However, there’s one thing I’m very certain about: I will never enjoy extreme exercise.

I get it; some people not only love it, but thrive on it. They truly enjoy pushing themselves to new levels of fitness, strength, and speed. Heck, I understand wanting to get better and stronger; that’s what I’m doing with my running ad push ups. However, I don’t see myself doing two or three different workouts in a row in a single day. I don’t see myself wanting to really push so hard that I’m left a puddle of sweat afterward. That’s not enjoyable to me.

I enjoy the gains I’m realizing after working out. I enjoy the fitness it’s bringing me, and the ability to take a long hike through a new city’s trail system without effort. It was truly pleasurable and a reward of all the work I’ve been doing on my runs. But that’s about it. I run to be fit, not to prove anything to myself or to anyone else.

I am not, nor would I ever begrudge anyone who does engage in extreme exercise. It’s neat to watch, and I enjoy reading the new levels of fitness people reach. I’m forever motivated by these very same people whenever I think about skipping a run for no good reason. However, I don’t want to run so hard that my muscles want to explode, or do so many push ups that I can’t brush my teeth afterward.

I feel fortunate that I’ve found a workout routine that is working for me. It allows me to make gains, get fitter, and not feel hurt or broken afterward. That’s the key for me: a manageable amount of pain for gain. I am not lazy, but I’m not a fan of pain. I accept some soreness, but pain is out of the question. It’s not a badge of honor for me; it’s a matter of quality of life.

The bottom line is that everyone needs to find what works for them. Also, realize what is working for you may not be what’s best for someone else, and vice-versa. What I do and write about is all about my journey and helping others find theirs. If mine works; great! If not, I encourage you to find what does work and go with it!

Another run completed (Run 10!)

The picture lies. It was 3.01 miles. The Fitbit didn’t get a solid GPS signal during the run.

This morning, I completed my tenth run since starting my exercise plan. Today also marks the beginning of the fourth week. According to most professors of habits (if there even is such a thing), habits are formed after doing something for three weeks. If that’s the case, I should now have a good habit among all my other habits. According to lots of exercise gurus, you start getting fit after three solid weeks of exercise. Maybe that explains some of the things I’ve noticed.

My legs were still a bit sore from all the walking we did on Saturday, but I went ahead and just took one step followed by another, and so on. As usual, I was finally warmed up at about the 1.5 mile mark, and the rest of the run was just a matter of waiting it out until I was done. I went my new 3 mile course, and I finished in 30:33. That’s a little over two minutes faster than my last three mile run. I also had the best half-mile split times of any run to-date. What makes me happiest about this is that my heart rate was the lowest of any run yet: 140 average BPM. This, despite the fact that I ran faster than I ever have.

I also didn’t have any real aches or pains other than the fact my legs were a little sore from the Saturday walk. At a certain point, all the pain went away, and it was just me, the music on my Bluetooth headset, and my steps. I actually (gasp!) enjoyed it!

As for push ups, I started with 10 and I’m now up to 25. I know I can do more, but I’m still not really pushing myself. I do as many as I’m comfortable with, and right now, that’s 25. In four weeks, moving from 10 to 25 makes me happy.

It gets easier. It gets enjoyable. I am the first person to say this was impossible to expect, yet here I am. Give it a try. Give it three weeks. I did, and I’m glad I did. My life is better because of it.