Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dealing with Changes

So I haven't posted in awhile. My excuse is better than yours. For anybody who doesn't know, I went from being the father of a beautiful baby boy to being the father of a beautiful baby boy & a beautiful baby girl. Leila joined us on Monday, June 14. My world has been a whirlwind since then.

I've been quite good to myself in some areas with everything going on, quite bad in others. As far as my Mental Health Goals go, I'm failing left & right. I'm writing, but nowhere near an hour a day -- maybe 10 minutes one day, none the next, and then an hour because I make myself. And, whenever I make myself do anything, it feels like work, and that's just entirely counter-productive to what I wanted. I don't think I've been able to meditate at all since the 14th. I'll make myself sometime soon. No, I won't make myself, I'll set aside the time. There's a big difference in there.

As far as eating right, I've been doing that, mostly . . . may be sneaking in some non-raw food for lunches, but I've been running when I can, been snacking healthily (except when the mommy's group brings over lemon bars - you see, because lemon bars are especially evil and therefore must be attacked), and continuing my "pushups whenever I have to close my office door" routine. Things are working, mostly.

The next two weeks, however, are especially crazy -- it's tech week for Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Carlisle Theater, so I have rehearsals most every night. I may be able to run some, I may not. I may be able to keep my food intake according to schedule, I may not. I may find time to meditate/write, I may not. My immediate goal is to simply keep my head above water. Don't stress, just "be healthy". Tough times will pass. Choppy waters will become smooth. Just weather the storm.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Setting Goals

I knew when I started to get back into regular workouts & trying to eat right that I needed to set goals for myself, both long & short-term. The only other time I've tried this, there was really "don't look like a fat bastard in your wedding photos". It mostly worked (didn't look fat, always look like a bastard), but since I didn't keep my eyes on anything down the road, my plans unraveled shortly after the wedding.

So, these are my goals . . . my rules for my goals are pretty laid back. No goal is too large. No goal is too small. Goals can be modified at any time. If a goal has to be removed, for whatever reason, it still exists in my head, to be resurrected when the time comes.

Endurance Goals

These are quite easy to define. I'm learning that, as long as I don't care about my times, I'm not so bad at endurance sports.

  • Run a marathon - I'm eyeing the Harrisburg Marathon in November of this year. This means that I need to continue training at my current pace (despite the fact that there will be an additional baby around any day now).
  • Cycle a century every month. Yes, century = 100 miles. It's far, but I know I can do it, and I have plenty of pretty scenery to help me.
  • Complete an Iron Man. Yes, it's crazy. I know. But, I really think it'd be an accomplishment that I'd always be able to look back on & smile. Maybe the Lake Placid event in July of 2011, maybe some future one -- I'm not setting a timeframe for this. I just want to do it. Of course, this means that I'll have to start swimming regularly at some point.

Mental Health Goals

Because, let's face it, if I'm struggling mentally, what's the point of anything else?

  • Write for at least an hour a day. I need to be creative - the writing can come in the form of blog posts, a short story, a novel, music . . . just create something that wasn't there before, whether or not other people will ever read it.
  • Meditate every morning. I've gotten really, really good at getting up & making myself go. It's what I do. For just a few minutes, though, I need to make myself stop. It doesn't have to be long - but for just a few minutes, turn off my mind, turn off my body, & just be.

I managed a second workout yesterday. Duffy took the baby to her sister's, so I had a little while with nobody around at home, and the weather was beautiful. Since I skipped the morning run, I decided to fit an afternoon run in . . . glad I did. 13 laps around the park (9.1 miles) & felt great afterward. This morning, I went back up to the bedroom & spent some quality time with the kid after dealing with the puppies before running 4 miles. Legs right now, a bit sore, but they'll be fine by this afternoon.

So, what about you, my reader? What goals do you have set? What are you working for?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Non-Scale Victories

When I did my "serious weight loss" before & immediately after my wedding, I modeled everything after the Weight Watchers plan. My then-fiance did Weight-Watchers, I figured out the "point formula", and ate according to that plan. I never went to meetings, though - I'm just not really a "share your feelings" kind-of guy (that's why I have a blog, so that I don't have to look at you when I do share my feelings), and it always seemed that meetings were more like group therapy than anything else.

As I've written before, however, that whole plan blew up in my face when I stopped following the plan. If you look at the chart, you'll see that I was becoming obsessed with numbers - and those numbers are essentially meaningless unless you're a prize-fighter.

So, now that I'm completely & unequivocally ignoring my weight, what are my landmarks? Well, Weight-Watchers talks of the "Non-Scale Victories" (NSVs). These are the times that you've noticed something, physically, that aren't related to a scale reading.

  • I still have the tuxedo I owned in high school (hey, when you're a musician, you need to own a tux). For awhile, symphony concerts would consist of me debating whether it was better to shove my fat ass into my tux pants or simply leave them unbuttoned (hoping that the jacket would cover things). My last concert, I not only fit into these pants, they were a bit loose.
  • I can take off many pairs of shorts without undoing the buttons and/or I need to wear a belt to keep them up.
  • I find that I actually want to run when I have the choice between running & walking from point A to point B.
  • I'm able to do more push-ups in a single-sitting than I was ever able to, even when I was skinny & taking Kung-Fu.
  • At the grocery store the other day, somebody actually said to me "you look like you're in your 20's, how's the night-life in Harrisburg?"
  • I've actually passed another runner during my morning jogs (I'm still not a speed freak, but it is nice to know that I'm faster than "random person X", as "random people A, B, C, and D" all typically run right past me on these same jogs).

How about you, my health-conscious viewership? What have you noticed as "better" that has little to do with a scale reading?

I started my workout this morning fully intending to run. But, being outside just wasn't doing it for me. The weather was so humid it was sticky, and the fog was so thick that I couldn't really see across my street. So, instead, I changed things up just a little bit: twenty minutes on the spinning bike, twenty minutes on the rower, then my standard push-ups & sit-ups.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How not to get healthy

My roommate my senior year of college had some weight issues. I don't take such a statement likely, as, well, my "in my head" version of myself includes seven chins. But he had weight issues, and they trumped my own.

Now, my senior year of college was probably my strangest one with regards to my health. Since I only had a partial meal plan, I did a lot of my own cooking for the first time ever, and I actually discovered that I loved to cook (to be vulgar, eating is nearly as good as sex to me. Cooking? it's mindblowingly-awesome foreplay). I certainly didn't understand food as I understand it now, but for a college senior, I ate a pretty decent diet.

I didn't have any classes until 10AM, yet my then-fiance was leaving for student-teaching by 7, and I felt the need to get up with her. At least an hour of that time between me getting up & hauling my ass to class was spent at the gym just about every morning (the other time, reserved for studying, was spent in front of a computer or the playstation, because I was awesome like that). I was hardly "skinny" or "fit", but I wasn't obese, either.

My roommate, however, wasn't quite following the same lead, and was eating truly astonishing amount of crappy food. So I was surprised when, suddenly, one day, he came home with a case of Slim-Fast. It looked like he was going to up & make a change for the better.

So the first day I was home, after he brought the Slim Fast home, I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was going about things all wrong. The program was "a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, a sensible dinner." He ate his normal "bag of tater-tots" breakfast, washing it down with a slim-fast.

A better friend would have told him to change things up, to explain what he was doing wrong. But, sometimes, I fail, miserably, at friendship. The only plus to his plan was that he severely cut down on snacking between meals while this attempt lasted. I don't know if he gained or lost weight, but, on a college-student budget, he couldn't continue the plan for long (that shit's expensive!), so it was back to whole milk before too long with breakfast, and snacking throughout the day soon thereafter.

So, why the hell am I telling this story? It's not to be mean, it really isn't -- my old roommate, if he reads this, is a kickass band director with a beautiful family these days & I wish him only the best. No, I'm posting it because I L-O-V-E to eat, and I could totally see myself walking down the same path as he was walking down here.

What would I do differently, if I were a better friend & had a time-machine? First, I would have convinced him to completely avoid the gimmick. I'm sure Slim Fast has worked for millions, but I'm also sure that it primarily works for people looking to lose a few pounds here & there, not to combat a lifelong battle with "how to be healthy".

Next, keeping budget in mind, I, personally, would have cut out "bad for you snacks" altogether at the house. I was burning a LOT of calories during the day, and could afford empty calories (in addition to beer, an absolute staple of my college diet). But, you know, if you're making a ton of money, you might be able to afford going to a strip club every night -- but that still doesn't mean it's something you should do. Instead of Doritos, tortilla chips, & pretzels (my staples), I'd have snacked on carrot & celery sticks, apples, pears, bananas... basically, the diet I'm eating at work these days. Yeah, I know it sounds sucky, but after a day or two, the "chip craving" leaves me. And, I'm not looking to solve my roommate's problems here - I'm simply trying to be as good an example as I can be, offering whatever I could (and considering how much cheaper the "rabbit food" is than the "good snacks", I'd have had more than enough to share). For those times when my body called for something more than "rabbit food", maybe a little cheddar, or some yogurt, or a peanut butter sandwich.

Again, I love food, and the idea that anybody would restrict their food intake (as somebody who has done just that) sickens me. I'm all for eating massive amounts of food when your body says "I would like to eat massive amounts of food", I just make sure that when I'm eating said massive amounts of food, that my choices are providing nutrition & not just caloric intake.

And, if you're going to eat tremendous amount of food, make it good food. Tater tots are fine - they're fun, they're bit-sized, but, as an adult, they kind of suck. In the time it takes to preheat the oven & get the baking sheet out, you can make a kick ass guacamole, bean dip, or hummus. A few minutes more? A bruscheta. This stuff isn't "difficult", it just takes two minutes with a recipe.

If I've learned anything from eating as I'm eating now, it's that my body does actually say "I'm full". When my weight is rising, it either didn't say so very loudly, or I was completely not listening. Intuitive eating works - it just takes a long time, sometimes, to communicate with your hunger level.

As for my own workout this morning, I walked the dogs & my ankle just wasn't fully right . . . I probably overdid it in the run yesterday. So, I skipped my run this morning, opting to lift weights & spin. I watched the first half of Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death while working up a sweat, because I needed something silly this morning.

Park Usage

I know I sound a bit like a broken record, but I do almost all of my running around a park in my neighborhood. This is the park where George W. Bush played softball when he made a campaign stop in Carlisle, making my life downright odd as I passed through multiple security checkpoints just to get home. Around the park is a .7 mile trail - partly packed gravel, partly asphalt, and the trail is far from flat -- running around it multiple times provides for a really good workout.

Because the park is nice, I'm rarely alone during my morning runs. While I seldom run across another runner, people walking for fitness, people walking their dogs, parents & children playing catch, kite flyers, you name it. This morning, though, was a bit different.

I crested the first hill right around 5:30 & saw a woman, maybe in her mid-40's, maybe a bit older, sitting on a yoga mat in one of the grassy areas. "Cool", I thought, "she's meditating". Yet, as I passed her, I couldn't help but notice the pervasive aroma of marijuana. She looked up, we made eye contact, & she coughed & exhaled. I laughed, continued my run . . . when I made my way back around, she was no longer there.

For anybody actually keeping track of my workouts, I managed 12 laps around the park, or 8.4 miles, just under an 1:10. My legs feel great (honestly, they do).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just where does the energy come from?

This weekend has been a strange one. It's hardly the last weekend that I'll have with a Saturday night gig, but it was the first. And, because of the gig (and the great-unknown that was my opportunity to nap), I chose not to work out. Well, I walked the dogs with the kid attached to my chest (see picture, right), plus my "everyday regimen" or situps & pushups, but that was it. It was threatening to rain all day, but I actually thought it would have been a good day to bike. With me needing to stay up until weird hours of the morning, though, the physical activity was minimal. I did not get a chance to nap.

I went to the gig, and rock, it did. The thing about gigs is that they're actually a workout in themselves. I mean, there's the unloading & setup, there's the actual playing. Despite the fact that I'm always drinking a beer, performing takes energy. Those of you who have seen me play know that I'm not somebody who "just sits there". I physically can't play if I'm not moving, and moving a lot. Performing always makes me work up a sweat.

Anyway, the gig isn't the point of this entry (again, many of you may be asking, "there's a point?" . . . screw y'all, I'm getting to it), it's how the rest of the weekend played out.

The horrible case of the missing CJ

I truly feel bad about this one, and it should probably be put on the "parent blog", but more of you read this blog & I think you'll enjoy the story.

I pull in a little after two AM, unlock the front door, & the dogs go crazy (as they're wont to do). I go upstairs to take a look at the sleeping situation. Duffy was asleep, the three dogs were lying down, and CJ was asleep in the bed.

Seeing as he was out cold, I went to put him in his crib. But, as I was still a bit amped up from the gig, I decided to head to watch TV downstairs, rather than wake up my wife.

Well, just as I'm walking down the stairs, I hear a very worried gasp from the wife. Somehow, she had managed to sleep through me walking into the house, the dogs going absolutely crazy, me picking up the kid & delivering him into the crib. Yet, something woke her randomly after all of that & she was convinced that the kid had crawled off the bed or something.

So I finally managed to convince myself to go to bed around 3AM, though I was likely awake until 4. There is no greater high for me than playing in front of a crowd, and getting off of that high takes time. So I only had an hour or two of sleep before CJ started crying.

I got out of bed, threw a bottle in the bottle warmer, changed the kid, and fed him. It didn't take long for him to fall back asleep (maybe I should stop spiking his formula with Ambien?), and I managed another hour or two of sleep.

Right after 7AM, the dogs started wrestling. Well, Hobbes was trying to lick my face / get my attention because he wanted a walk. Snickelfritz was on the floor wondering why I hate him as I won't get out of bed to throw a ball. Cosmo was busy leaping-at and landing-on Hobbes from varying angles of the bed. Somehow, the rib & the kid slept through all of this.

So I walked the dogs around the park a few times.

When I got back in, Duffy had to head out, so I got daddy-duty. CJ & I played. I fed him (at one point, he somehow grabbed a hold of the spoon I was using to feed him & flung sweet potatoes & peas all over the place . . . even had to clean some off of the ceiling), we played some more. He's teething & very fussy . . . but, considering the cute factor that "hold me all of the time" mood isn't the worst thing in the world.

Eventually, he finally went down for a bit of a nap, & I tried to follow the fabled "sleep when baby sleeps" advice. I really did try, but the end of The Evil Dead was on, and I love that movie. I finally managed to close my eyes about 25 minutes after CJ fell asleep, and two minutes later, he was up again.

Then I got hit by a cleaning bug. I should state, up front, that I'm pretty goshdarn messy. I actually have a grand-plan to keep everything orderly & organized, but if I don't have the time to actually do things right, I avoid cleaning. Well, my basement (and there is no complaint to me ever calling it "my basement") was bordering on dangerous to navigate. So, I cleaned it -- started at the desk, then worked my way through the rest of the area -- throwing out what I didn't need, ensuring that anything I did need was in a proper place, and then dusting & mopping (a few years ago, I replaced the indoor/outdoor carpet with rollout "garage flooring" so that any cleanup would be as simple as a pail & a mop). It took several hours. I felt better.

The saga of the baby raccoon

Right at the beginning of my run, I got startled as something moved quickly as I ran past a wooded area. I jumped to avoid whatever it was, stopped, & saw a wounded baby raccoon acting incredibly erratically.

I stopped my run & called 9-1-1.

While I waited for the police to arrive, the owner of the house across the street from where I was standing came out . . . he told me that he'd wait for the cops & that I should get my run on. So I did.

Now, the trail that I run allows me to view the woods that I passed for about a third of the track. I saw the cops arrive as I finished up my first lap. Once I could no longer see what was going on, I heard a gunshot. Cops were still there after my next lap, but they were gone by the time I completed my fourth lap around the park.

I ran four miles in heat & humidity. I was hoping for between seven & ten miles (no real reason for such a goal), but with the early detour (see sidebar, right), the heat, and the realization that the grass was likely mostly dry, I packed things in and went home to mow the lawn.

So, for those keeping track at home: little sleep, hardcore basement cleaning, four mile run, and now I'm mowing the lawn. I really had to question what was up with me. All I can think is, being active leads to your body wanting to be even more active.

Today, I'm at work, and I haven't a clue where my weekend went . . . skipped my morning workout because, well, I just wanted more sleep, but I'm going to plan to finish the lawn (the sun went down as I finished up slaughtering about 2/3 of the damn grass that insists on growing back). I'll see about morning runs and/or bike rides for the rest of the week, but won't be biking into work, just in case "that call" comes in.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sometimes, you need to break your own rules

I woke up & spent an hour incessantly & relentlessly pounding. I'm sweaty, out of breath, & have a silly smile on my face.
-my incredibly clever & uproariously hilarious double-endentre tweet from this morning

This morning was type the morning that a cyclist dreams of. Temperature just on the "warm" side of cool with a tiny breeze. Not a cloud in the sky.

It had rained, heavily, the night before, so the humidity was barely registering. Yet, there was the feel of water in the air, as last night's rainfall evaporated. In all honesty, it felt like I was at the shore . . . now if only I were cycling to the beach, instead of the office.

I started the trip as I normally did - taking it easy. But, the day was just too precious. Days like this, where the weather smiles upon you & I find myself on the road, are few & far between (with a newborn on the way, they may go into hiding for the season). I broke one of my cardinal rules.

When I started biking, I didn't have many rules - but the one I've stuck by was that I would never push myself on the way into work. I didn't want to pull into the office all sweaty & tired. I'm already burning a boatload of calories, so as long as I'm not running late, why would I? Well, days like today are why. I pushed myself. From the first hill, up through the driveway to the corporate parking lot. And the cycling gods smiled on me, too - there's one typically busy left-hand turn I need to make. Yet there were no cars in sight. There are 7 traffic lights I need to ride through, yet only one was red, and I only had to stop for a minute or so.

The typical ride into my office takes me between 1:15 and 1:25 on the Bianchi outfitted with the XTracycle (steel frame + a 12 pound add-on that changes the aerodynamics of the bike so as to allow you to carry more). My fastest ride ever was 59:29, on the Giant (aluminum frame, weighs 8 pounds less than the Bianchi did before I had it altered), without any gear. Today, I completed the ride in 58:00, despite a fully-loaded bike (change of clothing, lunch (carrot sticks, beet salad, guacamole), and my work laptop). I'm not tired - I'm feel freaking amazing.

On top of everything, despite my absolute "avoid the scale" fanaticism I have with my general well-being, I can't help but notice results. I'm going to save most of it for another blog post, but it's kind of awesome to actually see that my body is changing for the better.

For food today, we have grapefruit, cherries, beet salad, carrot sticks, hummus, guacamole . . . and as it's Friday, I just about have to eat all of it. Mmmmm, yay!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guacamole & Meetings

So I mentioned that I went to my nephew's first birthday party on Saturday. My sister asked me to bring my guacamole. See, guacamole is one of my two favorite "healthy" snacks (hummus is the other). Well, it turns out that I make a pretty decent guacamole (my hummus sucks), so the recipe is to the sidebar, right.


  • 7 avocados
  • 3 slightly-overripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro
  • 1 tsp. old bay seasoning
  • Lime juice to taste

Mash the avocado, mix in other ingredients, squirt some lime juice. Transport / serve with at least an avocado pit or two to prevent premature browning.

I was hoping to bike into work today . . . it would have been a nice day - the temperature before 7 hit 70, so I wouldn't have had the "sweating heavily while freezing my balls off" conundrum that I typically face on the bike ride in. This afternoon is calling for scattered showers (with late thunderstorms). Riding in a thunderstorm isn't particularly fun, but a small rainstorm is actually somewhat pleasant (as long as you give yourself enough distance to brake). The rain cools you off (nevermind that the temperature usually has dropped a little), and cars tend to give you an extra-wide breadth.

Unfortunately, I have an offsite meeting today, so biking wasn't an option. This morning, I walked the dogs, fed the dogs, and spent some time on my spinning bike watching Dexter (my ankle is still a tiny bit tender - it's annoying, as I thought I was fully back to normal, but I'll give it another day or so).

This afternoon, depending on when I get home (and the weather), I'll give my lawn another once-over with the mower. Maybe run a bit if my ankle is up for it, maybe a quick bike ride. Tomorrow, I do plan to bike into work (it's kind of awesome to get three hours of a workout without actually spending three hours of your day), so that's that . . . this weekend, well, we'll see.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Holiday Weekend / The Benefit of Crosstraining

This weekend was memorial day weekend, and that means that it's traditionally a very active weekend for me. This year proved no different.

Saturday morning came & the weather was iffy. I fully intended to mow the lawn, but it was spritzing, the grass was soaked, & I just wasn't feeling it. So, I ran. Well, first I got up, took the dogs for their walk, and Cosmo absolutely was all wound up after we walked & he ate. So, I tried to run with Cosmo, but he's a completely different animal without the other dogs around, refused to break into a trot. If I wanted to run with him, it was going to mean dragging him around as he looked for his two co-conspirators, and that wasn't going to be fun for either of us.

So, no Cosmo on the run . . . I managed four miles, though I didn't time myself. By the time I was done, the sun was starting to break through. I showered, packed the kid up, and made my way to my sister's house for Jacob's first birthday party.

The full day was spent with family, and food, and drink. It was pretty awesome. I love my sister, and I love my family. I love wine, and I love beer, and I love food. Really, what more could we want to do on a Saturday afternoon?

Sunday, I woke & finally tackled the lawn. Well, I got up, stumbled around, took a boatload of allergy medicine, tried to figure out why the lawnmower wouldn't start, found that it had no gas, found that my gas container was empty, drove to the gas station without my wallet, drove back home, got my wallet, drove back to the gas station, filled the gas container, got myself a cup of coffee, and then enjoyed the cup of coffee in the sun while letting my mind rest for a bit.

To combat early sunburn at the beach, I decided that it would be best to mow the lawn without a shirt on. The Pennsylvania sun, in mid-morning, in early May, isn't all that dangerous on the UV scale, and if I can get my pasty white chest to absorb a little color, I might have better luck come August at the beach. My biggest fear was that a neighbor went by the nickname of Ahab & would choose to restart the hunt for the white whale in an ocean of long, green grass.

Well, I finished the lawn about 2 hours before I needed to go anywhere, so I figured it was prime time for a bike ride. I hadn't been "out" just for fun in awhile -- I prepped the Giant, and managed 35 miles along the Yellow Breeches creek & through Boiling Springs before heading back home.

It was during this ride that I started seeing the benefit of cross-training. I'm a pretty strong cyclist, in that I can muscle my way through just about anything. But, on the "slight-uphill climbs", I usually peak & allow my forward momentum to carry me for awhile. Generally, it's a pretty pleasant way to ride, but since I've been running, where you have to constantly keep yourself working (or you stand still), I found myself powering after the plateaus. Just those different muscles working in a slightly different method meant that I was moving much more quickly. Running hasn't helped my climbing on the bike, at all, but I feel much stronger immediately after a climb, and it's awesome.

After riding & showering, we headed off for a picnic. Memorial Day food is just awesome. I left the picnic, napped, then friends showed up with ice cream . . . all in all, a good day. Of course, when dinner time came around, the wife & I called a bunch of take-out places, trying to figure out why nobody was answering. See, in Carlisle, most places are closed on Sunday, but, as I had the next day off, it was Saturday in my mind, and Saturday in the wife's mind. We eventually got Chinese (wonton soup for the Rib, veggies in garlic sauce for me).

Memorial Day has traditionally been my first real big solo ride of the season, and I wanted the trend to continue. I had grand plans of riding a century between Waggoner's Gap, Doubling Gap, and King's Gap, but I slept in a bit too late, with too early an afternoon picnic, to attempt it. So, I switched to simply ride the 100k (65 mile) Tour de Cure course, altering the very end to a hillier path back home. The day was beautiful, and I stopped to take some pictures along the way.

The Yellow Breeches Creek.

The Yellow Breeches Creek, again.

The start of the King's Gap climb, the ride that absolutely kicked my ass three years ago & made me start taking cycling seriously.

The view from the top of King's Gap, altitude 1,186 feet.

Ultimately, it was a great ride, and I then spent the afternoon with more family (we introduced Cj to the pool at Grandy's house . . . we'll have pictures on the parenting blog once we have them). I wish more holiday weekends were like this past one.

Of course, after all the running around, and then sleeping like crap because my brain would not shut off, I slept in a bit this morning . . . I'll make up for that tomorrow :-)