Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The starting pistol cracks

This week marks the beginning of my official 18-week training schedule. I'm resisting the overused phrase "inauspicious start", but it really does not feel like anything special. Did 3 miles yesterday, three today, will do three tomorrow, then 6 on Friday. Pretty much a typical week from the last few months.

As I mentioned before, this training feels a bit like an actual race. So this point feels like the first half mile-- off to a good start, lets see what we can do here. The next race stage (for me) is the "oy, can I really keep up this pace for the rest of this race?". I wonder if I'll feel that during the training as the mileage ramps up.

Anyway, the humidity is here, big time. We went from monsoon season to high humidity, with practically no bright crisp days.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Keeping faith

I've been thinking of the role of faith in the challenge of weight loss maintenance. One definition of faith that I have found useful is that it is a belief that helps you to do what you know is right, when there is no visible evidence that it is doing any good. This can apply to great and important matters, but it is also helpful for the relatively trivial matter of weight maintenance.

Here's an example. I may be watching the scale and seeing no progress. But I have been pretty good in my eating and exercise. It looks like all my effort is not doing any good. But I have faith, based on past experience, that the dial will eventually move in the right direction.

It can also be applied to behavior. It is easy to get discouraged if I slip into a day or a week of overindulgence. I can worry that it's no use trying, that I will slip back into all of my old ways eventually. But I must believe that every good day gets me closer to the changed life I want to live.

In case you're wondering about all these recent posts on weight loss/maintenance, this is becauase this has been a non-running week, so I'm concentrating on my diet. I'm taking this week off to play it safe, since next week is the start of official training.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Flipping the switch

In the last post I mentioned the book "Flipping the switch", whose title inspired me, tho I have not read it. So what flipped my switch? I'm still not sure exactly how it happened. Like most overweight people I had wanted to lose the weight, and most I made some effort towards that goal. But the efforts were always temporary. I had many good reasons to lose, and the sum of all the good reasons was an enormous incentive, but still I could not make the big change.

The decisive factor was when a couple of family members decided to go on the Atkins diet. I had looked into this diet but decided I didn't like it. Not liking it, as in thinking it was a bad idea. I read one of his books, and found his tone troublesome-- a little too fanatical. Also, I was at that point in time feeling inclined towards becoming vegetarian, so I found myself liking it even less. I knew that many people had some sucess with Atkins, and expected these family members would too (they did, temporarily). So at that point I imagined the possiblity that my kids would mainly know two kinds of people in their family: the overweight (including myself) and the slim Atkins dieters. I knew there was a more sensible way, but the only way I could promote it would be to live it.

Somehow, that was enough to do the trick. There are many other factors that helped me stay the course once I got going. Also, there have been a few slight setbacks here and there. But I believe the turning point was the realization that I had to live what I believe, or else the kids are never going to buy it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The best books I've never read

In my weight loss and maintenance journey, I've been inspired by books I've never read. More specifically, it is the book titles, combined with the reviews I read, that end up shaping my thinking. It's possible that I'm misinterpreting these books (after all, I have not read them), so of course don't take this as a review of the books, or even necessarily an endorsement.

The first book is The Philosopher's Diet, by Richard Watson. The gist of this (I gather) is that one can can use reason to obtain weight loss. The goal is clear, the means are obvious: eat less, exercise more. One just has to just do it. In other words, don't look for any magic cure or trick. That's the bad news. But the other side of this is good news: you can do it, if you can redirect your way of thinking.

It was reading a description of this book that literally started off my 50 pound weight loss. I would have actually read the book, but at the time I was feeling too frugal to buy it, and I couldn't find it in the library. But it really got me thinking. Also, it lead me to a helpful website (see below).

The second book is Flip the Switch by Jim Kadras. The gist of this one is that everyone who sucessfully maintains a weight loss has had some kind of Turning Point moment. After that, it is easier to stay focused on the goal. Not that the actual work becomes easy, but that you have a new orientation that helps you stay on track. Inherent in this conversion idea is that you are making a permanent life change. You don't diet and exercise temporarily to lose weight, you eat an improved diet and exercise because that is the way you want to live the rest of your life.

Now for the web site I mentioned above. While I was deciding whether to buy The Philosophers Diet, I was Googling around looking for reviews, and found one on this site, The Skinny Daily Post. The two contributing authors have written many thoughtful articles concerning the mental game of weight loss/maintenance, as well on cooking, exercise, etc. Much of it is written from a women's point of view, and there's a bit of "You go girl!" attitude, but I still find it very helpful and inspiring. This is where I learned about the Gmaps Pedometer, by the way.

So, if you are seeking inspiration you may want to investigate these titles. Definitely check out the web site.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Hills made to order

I live in a hilly neighborhood. In my quest to find a training route for hills I tried a loop that starts practically outside my front door. Alert readers might note that my last post made it sound like hills were hard to find. The reasons I didn't think of the neighborhood right away is that first, I do most of my daily runs at the office, and second, the hills close to home are rather steep. I'm not sure 'rolling' would be how most people would describe them.

Still, I decided to give it a go. The route I picked is only a couple of blocks, includes a very steep uphill and two steep to moderate downhills (and a few gradual uphills that are negligable). Turns out it was a nice route to run. I did one lap, felt pretty good, and did a second. I could have done more, but I felt that I would be risking injury to do too much too soon (it's the downhills that concern me).

Judging from my time, I guessed that this course was roughly a mile. Well, as it turns out, the gmaps pedometer reports it as exacly 1 mile. I mean, within 1 or 2 percent! This almost seems like fate.

Anyhow, my plan now is to do some hill workouts every once in a while. When I start doing my long runs at home, I can add some hill miles at the end, to mimic the CCM experience.

So far, so good. I'm waiting to see what the effect of yesterday's run will have on the knees (I find I feel things most the second day after a new workout).

Friday, June 09, 2006


Thinking about those Cape Cod hills

I've been looking at the message boards on the C.C.M. web site, and seeing some discussion about the hills in the final third of the course. Looks like they should not be underestimated. The consensus is that each "rolling" hill is in itself not a big deal, but they come one after another and the cumulative effect can be rough if you are not prepared.

I've been looking for ways to add hills to my runs. The Charles River paths, while otherwise ideal, are very flat (if you don't count the bridge crossings). At home, the rail trail has a long grades, but not a lot of short rolling hills. So I think I will have to use a little ingenuity to come up with workouts that give the effect of back to back rolling hills.

Today while running an easy three miler around Fresh Pond, I tried a variation. Along the north side of the pond there is a scenic detour that goes up a small hill and then back down again to rejoin the paved path. It is a dirt trail with some uneven terrain, so I can't keep an even pace as on a road. Still, its a hill. So I tried taking the detour, doubling back, then turning around once more for a third pass, then going on my way on the paved path. Either I'm really good, or the hill isn't substantial enough, because I didn't feel the least put out by this (I suspect the second possibility is more to the truth).

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Inspirational reading

I just finished Hal Higdon's excellent marathon book. The last chapters are on the mental games during the marathon, and on what to do after you finish. I found myself getting pretty excited reading this. I am eager to be in the race, pushing my limits. Sure, I will probably feel miserable for a good deal of the time, but there is something about the challenge that is irresistable.

Then there is the image I have of crossing the finish line, starting the recovery process, the space blanket, the rehydrating, etc. As some point I will be thinking "This is something noone can ever take away from me!".

Actually, the very last chapter is a detailed description for each of the 18 training weeks. This was a little more sobering. Higdon makes comments that show how much experience he has running training groups. For example, as the midweek runs get longer he says that for many the biggest challenge will be making time around the work schedule for the runs. Exactly! That's one of my biggest concerns. However, it's comments such as these that fill me with confidence that this program works for regular people like me. The book is not written for some elite group, but for everyday people. I can do this, as long as I can budget time for it.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Approaching a starting line, of sorts

I have my training schedule printed out and taped to my wall. This shows the starting date of my official training as June 26. I think of this as a starting line that will end when I finish the marathon in October. I have some of the same feelings of excitement and nervousness that I feel before a race.

The schedule starts off quite easy-- no more demanding than what I am doing on a good week now. After the first couple of weeks it slowly ramps up. I feel pretty confident that I can keep up with this progress. What concerns me most is how I will stick to it through thick and thin (barring serious injury). If I have a tough week due to family or work, I'm going to have to be very diligent about preserving my training time. This might mean going to bed at 8:30 to catch up on lost sleep, even if there's other stuff I'd like to do. Or waking up very early on a week day if I have been unable to get the long run done on the weekend.

Between now and June 26, I'm planning on keeping up my light to moderate workout schedule (10-15 miles a week). I think the most fruitful thing for me to do now is to focus on weight loss. I've been a little sloppy on my eating habits lately, and missed the opportunity for some progress on that front. I'd like to be below 200 by the start of official training. Every little bit lost is that much less risk of injury.

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