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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Medical Research and the Media

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"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."
-Albert Einstein

I admit to being a bit of a fitness and health dork, so I read up a lot about different studies that come up in the news. Just because some new groundbreaking study comes out, doesn't mean that the results are all that meaningful. With a little research, you can quickly find out more about how the study was performed, what population was it done on, etc. Most of the time the media picks a small, controversial nugget of information from the result while leaving out the explanation.

The scientific process takes time to ensure that results of an experiment are repeatable. This explains why there is so much conflicting information in the media. Research studies have shown that high saturated fat intake is linked to a greater incidence of cardiovascular disease1, but other research shows that a diet high in saturated fat may diminish the risk of heart disease2. Both statements could be accurately stated based on two research studies that came to opposing conclusions. Which one is correct? Both deal with very specific populations.

Reference 1 is the landmark study by Ancel Keys that pinpointed saturated fat as a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. There are many articles suggesting that Keys "cherry-picked" the data from his seven countries to fit his hypotheses. The original data was from 22 countries, but the other countries were left out of his paper because the data from those countries didn't fit nicely with his hypothesis that saturated fat led to cardiovascular disease. I picked it as an example because it is a perfect example of "research" not necessarily being infallible.

The research suggesting that saturated fat decreased the likelihood of heart disease was done on a population of postmenopausal women who had symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Do those results apply to a 20 year old endurance athlete? Maybe or maybe not. More research needs to be done to get to the bottom of those results, but media deadlines waits for no such clarification.

I'm simply saying that just because we have easy access to lots of medical information and a media that is willing to subvert "fast-track" the scientific process doesn't eliminate the need for consumers to do their own research. As always, consumer beware.

1Keys A: "Seven Countries: A Multivariate Analysis of Death and Coronary Heart Disease." Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

2Dariush Mozaffarian, Eric B Rimm, and David M Herrington: "Dietary fats, carbohydrate, and progression of coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women." AJCN 2004 80: 1175-1184.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Find Thy Limiting Factor

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In the beginning of a training program, physical changes come quickly. Your body adapts at the fastest rate that you will ever see in the first six months of a training program. After that the rate of change begins to slow down as your body becomes accustomed to your new lifestyle. You can continue to improve for a long time, in the case of certain adaptations like aerobic capacity, for many years, but at some point you must become smarter about your training.

Once you have a foundation of consistency and adequate intensity, over time, progression will become more difficult. You must work on your limiting factor. You can get complicated in trying to determine what is holding you back, or you can do it the simple way: Figure out what you hate doing the most. Nine times out of ten, the thing that you hate doing the most is holding you back from further improvement.

You Squat Like a Girl...A Weak One!

So, using myself as a lab rat, I decided to see test that hypothesis. I run lots of miles weekly in order to train for ultra distance running events, but I also strength train as a form of cross training. I decided to test my strength levels on a few key lifts and compare them to other guys at my weight and level of training. I don't consider myself an advanced lifter, by any means, but I have been lifting weights seriously for several years and consider myself squarely in the middle of the "intermediate" category. To make a long story short, I fell pretty much in the intermediate category on all lifts...with one glaring exception, the squat. Now, I'm aware that lots of low-intensity running negatively effects leg strength so, it wasn't altogether a shock to see that when compared to other guys at my weight, I have the leg strength somewhere between the level of your grandmother and a 12 year old girl. And I should mention that I HATE SQUATS. Why? Because I suck at them, or at least I always thought I did. Now, my speculated squat suckage was confirmed.

For the last several months, I've forced myself to do squats at every strength session, with the goal of adding weight each time, even if only a little, and my strength has continued to increase. After 2 months of hard work, I think I'm approaching the leg strength level of a 14 year old girl. Woo Hoo! And the more I do them, the less I'm hating them.

While there isn't much carryover from the strength training to performance, or endurance, in my runs, I have noticed that my legs seem to handle the beating of the long runs a little better. Aches and pains in the smaller leg muscles, like the hip flexors and adductors, have all but disappeared. Coincidence? I really don't think so. Anecdotal evidence suggests that by strengthening the small muscles that oppose the strong running-related muscles, I've decreased the propensity for injury and decreased the discomfort on long runs. That translates indirectly into me running further which is definitely a goal.

The moral of the story is: Work on your weakest link, no matter how much you hate it.

OK, enough for today, I think I need to find some other exercise to hate.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Dear Flabby

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Can cardio exercise kill you?

Is it possible? Yes, but it's very rare. I know Jim Fixx dropped dead while running, but it was a congenital heart defect...dammit! Actually, intense cardio is more likely to cause death because it exposes heart defects that may not be known. If you have concerns, schedule a treadmill stress test to determine if you have a heart issue that may cause problems with intense exercise. Many more people die each year from complications that could be avoided by doing cardio exercise (cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, etc.) than die from intense cardio.

Can you get fat eating salad?

Depends on what you put on it. Most vegetables are not very calorie dense and are okay, but watch out for the cheese and high calorie dressings. There is nothing magical about a salad that will make you lose weight if you load it with a cup of ranch dressing. And if you are going to wolf down 1000 calories, wouldn't you rather just eat a cheeseburger? If you hate salad and drown it in dressing to choke it down, you won't achieve your goal of losing weight. Deprivation doesn't equal weight loss. It is more sensible to cut down the portions of the foods that you like.

How many calories are in a tablespoon of honey?

About 64. Want to know how many calories are in almost any food, even some brand name foods? Try the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

How many times a week should I go to the gym to lose weight?

Weight loss is not a function of how many times you go to the gym. Spending 40 hours a week in the gym won't result in weight loss if you eat enough to feed a small family. You must balance the calories that you eat with your activities. Burn more calories than you consume and you will lose weight.

I want to lose muscle!

That's a new one. Okay, here's how you do it...create as large a calorie deficit as you can, as quickly as possible. Starving yourself is a great way to make your body start using the protein in muscles for fuel.

1. Eat as little as humanly possible. Think less than 1000 calories per day. Try one of those crazy, cleanse diets or live on grapefruit juice for a week or two.
2. You won't have much energy for cardio, but do it anyway. That should help create a larger calorie deficit.
3. Stay away from strength training or weights of any type. Those things preserve muscle.

Do these three things and you'll drop weight quickly. A large portion of that weight loss will be muscle. Good luck on the road to puny-ville!

What is the shortest, easiest workout ever?
You're doing it now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Process of Progress

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OK, let's get something straight, right now. Simply getting out there and doing the same thing, i.e. running the same speed/distance or lifting the same weights will not lead to improvement. If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got! There is nothing wrong with lifting the same weights if maintenance is your goal, but don't spend the next two years lifting the exact same weights or running the same 3 mile loop and wonder why your squat or your 5k times haven't improved. The following three factors, in order, are essential for improvement.

Consistency Leads to Dedication

Consistency is the foundation on which a successful training program is built. The body requires a constant cycle of overreaching beyond your comfort level, followed by adequate rest and recovery to lead to supercompensation, i.e. your body becoming stronger, faster, etc. A good analogy is pushing someone on a swing. By consistently and repeatedly timing the small amount of force that is a single push, you can move the person much more than you could with only a single push. Randomly timing those nudges won't result in any significant movement. Focus first on consistency before mucking things up with complicated strategies to improve.

Intensity = Effort

If you are religious in your consistency to following a plan, next concentrate on intensity. Workouts must be done with the intensity necessary to force your body to adapt. Consistency may be the foundation, but without the proper intensity, you will never get off of the ground. Workouts should never be painful, but overreaching, or pushing a little beyond your current level of comfort, by definition will be uncomfortable. Your muscles may experience a burning feeling. Some soreness the next day may result. These effects are common if you are working out with the intensity needed to get stronger or faster. Again, if your goal is to maintain your current state of fitness, you don't need to cross the threshold into discomfort, but if your goal is to improve on your current level of fitness, you must push beyond your comfort zone.

Progression Requires Planning

Progression is at the top of the graph because it is not possible without the previous qualities. Consistency and intensity are required to make progress, but ironically, they don't guarantee it. Progression must be planned. If your goal is to run a half marathon and you can currently only run 3 miles, what steps must you take to increase the amount of distance that you can run? Running the same 3 mile loop will not magically result in the ability to run 13.1 miles on race day! You must slowly add to the distance that you can run increasing your maximum distance by small manageable amounts. If your goal is to get stronger, how can you expect to get stronger when you lift the exact same amount of weight for 6 weeks, or God forbid, 2 years. The answer: You can't!

By applying these to your workouts, given enough time, you can achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Never stop pushing!

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The Supplement Game

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In 2000, 17 billion dollars were spent on dietary supplements. The desire for a pill to solve all that ails us is pervasive in our culture. We want...no expect...some smart guy to provide the answer to all of our problems, for three small payments of only $19.99. To even begin to try to unravel all of the available supplements would be an monumental task. Instead, here are some supplements that seem to have a substantial amount of evidence that they can provide some benefit.


The common view of multivitamins is that they are a good "insurance" policy against vitamin deficiencies. As long as they contain vitamin and mineral amounts near the Recommended Daily Allowance, you should be OK. Again, these should only serve as a supplement to a healthy diet. If you are eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, you shouldn't need a multivitamin. If it makes you feel better, then take them.

Individual Vitamins

If you choose to take additional amounts of individual vitamins, be aware that you can have too much of a good thing. Your body can rid itself of excess water soluble vitamins (most of them) through sweat and urination. Be wary of excessive amounts of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), though. Large doses of these vitamins, especially Vitamin A, can accumulate in your body and cause headaches, vomiting, liver damage, coma, even death.

Fish Oil (Mayo Clinic)

Many claims have been made about the benefits of taking fish oil supplements. As with anything, these benefits are dose dependant...and remember, it the amount of the actual Omega-3 fats that cause the effect. Read the label on your fish oil supplement to make sure that you are taking enough to make a difference. Just because each capsule contains 1 gram of fish oil, doesn't mean that each capsule contains 1 gram of EHA/DHA. Read those labels! Here are some that "make the grade" according to the Mayo Clinic, as well as the dose of EHA/DHA needed to reproduce the effect in parentheses:

  • Reduces blood triglyceride levels (2 - 4 g per day)
  • Reduces risk of heart attack in those who have already had a heart attack (1 g per day)
  • Small reduction in blood pressure (2 - 5 mmHG) (>3 g per day)
The link to the Mayo Clinic also lists many other purported benefits of taking fish oil and details the strength of the evidence supporting those effects. Many things are listed, but the evidence is scant or non-existent for all but the ones that I've listed.


Very popular supplements to help with joint pain. Both supplements have been individually shown to help with osteoarthritis pain, especially of the knee. Glucosamine Sulfate is a component of cartilage and Chondrointin Sulfate is made from cartilage, so the popular reasoning is that they help rebuild cartilage. There is no evidence suggesting that taking these supplements will rebuild deteriorating cartilage. The effects seem to be related to these compounds having an anti-inflammatory effect.

Yeah, but this horny goat weed/siberian ginseng has cured my arthritis/bunions/irritable bowel syndrome? How do you explain that smart guy?

Well, is it the horny goat weed or the placebo effect? Would a sugar pill have had the same effect? Clinical trials use double blind studies where neither the researcher or test subject are aware of who gets the real medication or a sugar pill. In these cases, 30-50% of test subjects who receive the sugar pill report feeling better. Very few herbs, medicines, vitamins, or dietary supplements can do better than this. Medicines that can't outperform a placebo are shelved, but dietary supplements are not required to meet the same scrutiny. I guess if you can afford the supplement, it seems to help, and does no harm, it's okay for you, but that doesn't make it a panacea for everyone with your ailment.

If you choose to take supplements, remember that supplements are just that...SUPPLEMENTS. No supplement can undo the effects of a poor diet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Top Nine Ways to Get Fat...Stat!

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Obesity...it's the new black. Thin is out! Fat...that's what it's about! A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University predict that by 2015, 75% of adults in the U.S. will be clinically overweight or obese. Don't be left behind in the, ahem, stampede, to keep up with the Joneses. Here are my top ten tips for livin' la vida grande:

  • Skip breakfast - Cultivate your appetite and hunger by not eating anything for breakfast. Have no fear, you will make it up, and then some later in the day.
  • Eat lightly throughout the day...then pile it on at night - To pack on some prodigious poundage, you must have the appetite to eat vast amounts of food. By eating lightly throughout the day you can be ravenously hungry to get in as many calories as possible in the evening. Cookies and ice cream calling your name? Well, answer that call!
  • Pass on the Protein - Protein consumes too many precious calories in the digestion process and keeps your metabolism high by repairing muscle tissue. Does that sound like a recipe for success in largeness?
  • Supplement with Soft drinks - How can you get more calories in without curbing your appetite and hasten your way to becoming a fabulous fatty? It almost brings a tear to my eye to think what a gift soft drinks are to the world. Work as many of them into your day as possible. Starbuck's froo-froo drinks are a wonderful addition, as well, especially those Christmas-y drinks like the Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog Latte. Hell, have two! It'll get you to your goal of becoming lusciously large that much quicker.
  • Strength training...NOT! - leave the protein and the strength training to the meat heads and gym bunnies. Ripped, hard bodies? That's so 1982! In 2015, ripples rock! Hard bodies? More like, hardly able to move your body. That's what I'm talkin' about. Don't lift weights...those things are heavy. Lift Twinkies instead!
  • Forget the Fiber - Fiber is filling...not good for the future, formidably fat-alicious.
  • Cardio, shmardio! - Burn calories? What, are you crazy? That's for the losers in the 25% minority.
  • Vanquish the Veggies - Vegetables are too low calorie and high fiber. Drink ketchup instead...wouldn't want to negatively effect your health.
  • Can you say "refined carbohydrates"? - Say it, yes? Spell it, maybe not? Either way, a key to larding up is to consume as much sugar, flour, and white rice as possible. Stick with these foods and maybe, just maybe, you will claim the coveted moniker, morbidly obese.
Would have done a top ten list, but this...sugar...rush...is...making...it...hard...to...focus.

Excuse me, but I've got two bags of Cheese Doodles with my name on them.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Picking the Perfect MP3 Player

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Well, it's a fact, lots of people like to exercise with MP3 players. I have one, rarely use it on a run, but in the event that I find myself needing to workout in a gym, or need the distraction in a long race, it is an invaluable tool to mentally keep me going. There are lots of models available to choose from. Some of the basic features that you must consider:

Storage Space

All MP3 players have a certain amount of storage space to store songs. Using Apple's numbers (4 MB per song), you can get approximately 250 songs per GB of storage space on the device. Some models have small amounts of storage space and will need to be loaded frequently if you want to listen to new songs, but some models have space to store you entire music collection. I honestly don't think I could fill up anything more than 4 or 8 GB, much less a 160 GB IPod! Consider how much storage capacity you really need before you are seduced into buying a top-of-the-line model. The caveat to this is video. More and more of the new players are coming equipped with small video screens and the capability of playing videos and movies. If you get one of these models and want to store movies, then make sure you get one with plenty of storage space because movies really take up lots of space on the device.

Battery Type

  • Built-in Lithium Rechargeable
    • Pros: Very low on the hassle scale. Just plug the device into a computer and let it charge up.
    • Cons: What if you take your beloved MP3 player on a trip where you don't have access to a computer? You may need to buy an additional accessory to charge it up on the go. Another con is that those lithium batteries eventually begin to lose their charging ability and need to be replaced. You will need to send in your device to be "repaired" or try to replace it yourself.
  • Standard battery
    • Pros: Easy to replace the batteries, and they are available everywhere.
    • Cons: You will be replacing the battery very often, especially if it has an LCD screen. MP3 players tend to chew through batteries at a phenomenal rate. You can partially offset this disadvantage by using rechargeable batteries, which I recommend.
Accessory Availability

Without a doubt the Apple line of MP3 players has the most available accessories. It is the most popular MP3 player around and many companies are trying to sell products to users of the device. Everything from armbands and docking stations to...ahem...personal massage accessories. That might explain their popularity. Just make sure you investigate what accessories are available before you buy the device. You don't want to find out that you can't charge it up any other way than connecting to a computer once you've purchased it.


Consider how you will be getting music to fill your player. All players will allow you to "rip" your CD and put the resulting MP3 files on the player. Other options include buying your music online, or paying for a music subscription service.

Ripping CDs

For those unfamiliar with the MP3 "lingo", ripping CDs means copying music from a CD to your computer in a form that can be placed on the player. All players will have some facility to do this, and you will be able to put any music that you currently own onto the player.

Buying Songs Online

The undisputed king of online song sales is iTunes. But there are others, such as Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, Rhapsody and many others that also sell music online. Make sure that your player works with the service from which you intend to purchase songs.

Music Subscription Service

Another option for acquiring music is through a subscription service, such as Rhapsody or Napster. These services generally charge a set monthly fee, and you can download as many songs as you like as long as you continue to pay for the service. This option has the most potential for snags with certain MP3 players. If you intend on using a subscription service, make sure that the player you purchase works with your chosen service.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not-So-Healthy Health Foods

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Excessively Sweetened Yogurt - The worst offenders here are the "fruit-on-the-bottom" style yogurts and the super sweetened, kid-friendly yogurts. If a cartoon character is on the box, beware of the sugar content. Fruit on the bottom yogurt is another example of taking a healthy food and turning it into something not healthy while still allowing people to rationalize to themselves that they have made a good choice. Don't fall for this trap.

Breakfast Cereals - The largest breakfast cereal makers are doing a great job of plastering the 100% Whole Grain label on all of their cereals, which is great, but don't be seduced into believing that makes Fruit Loops healthy. Consider the sugar content, as well. Flip over the box and look at the Nutrition Facts label. Glance at the grams of sugar and divide by 7. Each 7 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of sugar. For example, Kelloggs Fruit Loops contain 1/4 cup of sugar. That's a heck of a lot of sugar for a 3/4 cup serving size!

Energy Bars - Need a "pick-me-up" when the afternoons doldrums hit? Walk on down to the nearest vending machine and grab a Power bar. Athletes eat them, why shouldn't you? Whatever! The fact is that the lack of energy you feel has nothing to do with a lack of energy. Even the leanest people out there have enough fat stored to run hundreds of miles. Do yourself a favor and start exercising. Get your body using those fat stores instead of growing them. And those energy bars, from a nutritional standpoint, differ very little from plain, old candy bars. If that's the case, which would you prefer, a sawdust textured power bar or a tasty candy bar?

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cold Weather Running

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The leaves have almost completely fallen and the evenings are beginning to have a distinct, chilly bite to them. The mornings, well, they are downright frigid. So what's a runner to do to avoid having to resort to the forsaken "dreadmill" to get in those miles. Here are a few tips for keeping warm when the temperatures drop:

  • Layer up - You've heard it before and I'm telling you again...the best defense against the cold is to dress in layers. Layering clothing traps air between the layers that insulates you against the cold. Think that fluffy down coat is warm because the down is a good insulator. Wrong! It's the air trapped between the feathers that does the heavy lifting to keep you toasty. A second benefit of layering is that as you begin to generate heat from running, you can remove layers that are no longer necessary. The only thing worse than being cold on a run is sweating in your own personal sauna when it's freezing outside.
  • Beware the Wind - Remember that the air trapped around your body is the real insulator. Without a windproof jacket, that warm layer of insulating air surrounding your body is constantly stripped away leaving you chilled to the bone. Wind jackets vary dramatically in technical features, and in price, from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. The cheaper jackets will stop the wind as good as the more expensive jackets, but they will also trap moisture leading to the dreaded personal sauna effect. The pricier jackets tend to be made with fancy technical fabrics like Gore-Tex that keep wind and water out, but allow moisture to escape. Personally, I'm incredibly cheap and opt for a less expensive wind jacket that contains a marvelous, technological wonder that allows me to control the amount of moisture release based on conditions. It's called a zipper. The mid-priced jackets tend to be made with water and wind resistant materials and have multiple zipper vents that lets you adjust the amount of ventilation depending on current conditions. For those looking for a functional jacket that won't break the bank, I would suggest one of these mid-priced items.
  • Stay Away From Cotton - Cotton is the most common fabric used in clothing, but it is a terrible choice for athletic clothing. Cotton absorbs sweat and doesn't wick it away from your body. The sweat doesn't evaporate, the clothing sticks to you, then chafing ensues. Not good. There is a huge selection of shirts, socks, underwear, and pants, all made from moisture wicking technical fabrics available at your local sporting goods store. And it doesn't have to be expensive. Prices for this type of clothing have dropped dramatically in the last few years if you are willing to buy things that are not name brands. Don't expect to save a bundle buying things made by Nike or Under Armour.
  • Don't Forget To Hydrate - Even though you can't feel yourself sweating in the dry, winter air, you must continue to hydrate. Dehydration is as big a problem in winter because people forget to drink. The more dehydrated you become, the more you will be susceptible to the cold and to hypothermia. Drink, drink, drink.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fast Food 4-1-1: Burger King

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McDonalds Big Mac

Worst Choices*

Triple Whopper w/Cheese**
BK Quad Stacker
Double Whopper w/Cheese

Best Choices



King sized French Fries
Medium Chocolate OREO Sundae Shake

*All menu items are listed in their unadulterated form. You can cut down on fat and calories by leaving off the sauce, which is invariably mayo-based.

** Even w/o cheese, the aptly named triple whopper packs 1100 calories.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Holidays are On the Way

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All of the articles that I've been reading on the Internet for the past few weeks have been discussing ways to handle the Thanksgiving holiday, carefully examining which foods are best to eat and which foods are forbidden. Here are some of the well-meaning suggestions that I've read...if you're into this sort of thing:

  • Eat only the breast meat with no skin.
  • Have a slice of that pumpkin pie, but only eat the filling. Leave the crust.
  • Make those mashed potatoes with skim milk and no butter.
  • Skip the pecan pie, it's got 500 calories per slice.
  • Skip the cranberry sauce, it's just sugar.
Wow. Some holiday, huh. If you've read any of my posts in the past, you know that I'm definitely a proponent of eating healthy. But I'm also of the opinion that holidays and special occasions should be just that...special. If you want spend the holiday counting calories, knock yourself out. I won't fight you for that extra helping of steamed veggies, if you let me have your piece of the pumpkin pie.


It doesn't matter what you do for 10 days out of the year, i.e. holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. What really matters is the other 50 weeks of the year. I think it's a case of mistaken priorities to freak out over the holidays, but ignore the remainder of the year. Most people mistakenly believe that they gain 10 pounds over the holiday season. The reality is that those who do gain weight, gain closer to 1.5 pounds over the end of the year holiday season. Not great, but not 10 pounds, either. When you step on the scale on January 1st and find yourself 10 pounds heavier than last year, most of that came from the first 10 months of the year, not the last two.

Pick 4 days during the months of November, December, and January (i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas party, Christmas, New Years, etc.) and eat whatever you would like. Just don't use the holiday season as an excuse to lose control for 3 months and eat like crazy all day, every day.

Whatever you decide, remember to enjoy the holidays.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Pimp Your Ride

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I consider myself pretty fit right now, but I've also been a fat slug in the past. Lots of people look at me with sorrow because I eat healthy and don't eat very much junk food. "Oh, Scott, poor thing, won't even allow himself to have a single dessert. That's no way to live." The irony is that during my fat slug period, I did eat whatever I wanted...with unabashed abandon. I frequented restaurants and loaded up on desserts of all kinds. As a result, I felt terrible. And I don't mean terrible in some Freudian guilt complex sort of way, I mean terrible as in lack of energy and lethargy. Feeling terrible was the norm.

Well, I had a epiphany and started exercising and eating healthier. I haven't looked back since and as a result, I feel better all the time. I do occasionally indulge in junk food, but the negative effects are even more pronounced. So the benefits of those fat-laden, sugary morsels are now outweighed by the costs...and I like it that way. Here is an analogy that I like about our bodies and the food that we eat.

If you drive a Yugo, you won't be able to tell the difference between regular fuel and premium fuel, either one means crappy performance because you've got a crappy car. If you drive a Corvette, premium fuel means better performance you can feel.

Do yourself a favor, upgrade your body to a "better" model through a better diet and exercise. You've got to pimp your ride.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fast Food 4-1-1: Starbucks

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Ok, ok, so Starbucks is not technically fast food, but lots of people, including me, frequent them and they are fraught with danger for those looking to make healthy choices. Most of the drinks contain plenty of calories, fat, and sugar and they pass under the radar because few people consider how many calories can be shoved into a drink.

McDonalds Big Mac

Worst Choices

Strawberries and Creme Frappucino w/Whipped Cream (Venti)*
Eggnog Latte
Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
26 (5 g Trans Fat!)

Best Choices**

Cafe Americano
Various Tazo Iced Teas***

* The highest calorie drinks are all Frappucinos. I only listed this one because it is the absolute highest calorie item on the menu, but all other Frappucino flavors have very similar numbers.

** The best choices are simple coffee drinks. If the drink contains milk, choose skim or lowfat milk. Use less sugar or an artificial sweetener.

*** The Tazo teas are sweetened with sugar, but given the other choices on the menu, I don't think they are a bad choice.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Number One Rule You Must Follow to Lose Weight

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One of the interesting things about running this site is that I get to see what people who end up here are searching for. Yesterday, someone asked the question: What is the number one rule the you must follow if you want to lose weight?

The answer: You must burn more calories than you consume. That's it. Whoa there, Scott? What about dieting? What about exercise? What about fat-torching weight loss pills? Well, here's why they are a secondary concern.

I've started to exercise, but I'm not losing weight. Why not?

Great. Starting an exercise program is a great start and you may lose weight as a result, but it isn't a guarantee. If you burn 1500 calories per day including your new exercise program, but continue to eat 2000 calories per day, you WILL NOT LOSE WEIGHT. That's the bad news. The good news is that you aren't gaining weight as quickly as if you didn't exercise. If this is you, and weight loss is a goal, you must eat less and/or exercise more.

I'm eating healthier, but I'm not losing weight. Why not?

Again, eating healthier foods is a positive change but eating "healthier" doesn't mean that you will be in a calorie deficit. If you are sedentary or only exercise a small amount, then your daily calorie requirements are quite low. Switching to healthier choices is a good start, but may not get you to consume fewer calories than you burn.

I'm taking the miracle pill being hawked by Richard Simmons. Why am I still not losing weight?

That's what you get for listening to Richard Simmons. Even the prescription medications available for weight loss, require that you follow a "sensible diet and exercise" program to work. If you are following a "sensible diet and exercise" program in the first place, you wouldn't need the medicine! So what is causing the weight loss, the pill, or the sensible diet and exercise program.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Make yourself a slave to good habits!

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I can hear the groans now. Scott's gone off on another unrealistic tangent that "regular people" can't do. I know, I know, you don't have the time. When the day is done you are just a shell of your former self...totally devoid of energy. Let's face it...we are all slaves to our routines and habits. These daily rituals help us get through the day. Make sure that you are a slave to healthy habits, not unhealthy ones. Here are some healthy activities that you should do each day:

  • Eat breakfast - I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again, "Don't skip breakfast". A good breakfast sets the stage for a great day.
  • Eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables - Few people eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day. These foods provide the essential nutrients that our bodies need to be healthy and strong. They also tend to be very low calorie dense foods so they are great weapons in your weight loss arsenal.
  • 30 minutes of exercise - Someone a lot busier than you is taking the time to exercise, right now. No excuses. I know you're busy. Take 30 minutes each day to do something. Go for a walk. Stretch. Do some quick strength training. Go for a run. Take a yoga class. Try cardio kick boxing. Whatever floats your boat, but make sure you do something each day.
  • Drink more water - Water is necessary for each and every biological function. Don't shortchange yourself by being dehydrated. Aim to drink one gallon of water per day.
Remember, it's hard to start a new habit, but once it becomes a habit it will just be an everyday thing like brushing your teeth. Start making changes that will benefit your health and life, today!

"I am here out of habit."

Make sure "here" is where you want to be.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Running Surfaces Rated

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Concrete - Without a doubt the worst running surface possible. The problem...it's hard. Really, really hard. A few miles a week on concrete sidewalks might not set you up for an injury, but as you increase your mileage, try to find a softer surface to run on, as lots of concrete running dramatically increases the likelihood of injury.

Asphalt - Now you would think that asphalt is just as bad as concrete, but it is not. It's actually about 8 times "softer". The real problem with running on asphalt roads is not the hardness, but the camber of the road. Roads are designed to shed water and are actually higher in the center and lower of the sides. This leads to a surface that isn't flat and can cause injuries.

Sand - Well, sand is nice and soft, right? Not when you run on it. It compacts into a hard unstable surface. Running on the beach is especially hard on your body because, like asphalt roads, the sand slopes toward the water, leading to an un-level running surface.

Dirt - Dirt trails are the best running surface. They tend to be softer and easier on your body than any other running surface. On some trails you may need to watch out for exposed roots and rocks. Well groomed dirt trails equal running nirvana.

Grass - Grass is also a very good surface to run on from an "injury avoidance" standpoint, but grass tends to hide uneven ground, so you should be cautious.

Treadmills - Treadmills are a good choice for running, but they do tend to change your stride, as you are propelling yourself up more than forward. Consequently, you will land harder, but treadmills can provide some extra cushion to accommodate. Some other good points are that temperature and weather are not an issue. But, in my not-so-humble opinion, that is offset by the fact that "dreadmill" running is so bor-ing.

So, here is my list of running surface, ranked best to worst:

  • Dirt
  • Grass
  • Treadmill
  • Sand
  • Asphalt
  • Concrete
Now, get out there and run.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Alcohol and its effect on fat burning

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Alcohol is a powerful chemical depressant that effects our body in many ways. Here are a few reasons why alcohol and weight loss don't mix:

1. Empty calories

Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, less than fat, but more than carbs or protein. These are completely nutritionally empty calories that would be better spent on nutrient dense foods.

2. Lowered inhibitions result in greater food consumption, usually calorie-laden food

You can't go out for a drink without getting something to snack on. And we all know that nothing goes better with a beer than...a salad? Ha. I don't think so. How about some cheese fries, or nachos? Now we're talking. The types of food that people eat while imbibing certainly don't help the situation.

3. Alcohol halts fat metabolism

Your body cannot metabolize alcohol and burn fat at the same time. All fat burning stops until your body has processed and eliminated alcohol from your system. Went out on a bender on Friday night? It could take up to 3 days to eliminate the alcohol, and no fat burning is taking place during this time...only fat storage.

4. Lowers testosterone levels, raises estrogen levels

One of the many jobs of testosterone in the body is to synthesize protein into muscle tissue. Lowered testosterone levels halt this important repair process and over time can result in a lowered metabolism. Estrogen is partially responsible for the storage of fat in the body and increased levels help this process along. Alcohol causes increased levels of estrogen and with it, more fat storage.

Having a drink or two occasionally won't have a huge impact on your weight loss goals. But if you have a glass of wine or a beer every day, and you are not achieving your weight loss goals, consider cutting down on your alcohol intake. It may be holding you back.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You can't bank fitness

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Fitness is a current status and is in constant flux. Unfortunately, you can't save fitness for a rainy day. Exercising every single day for a month doesn't mean that you can skip a month and expect to hang on to your fitness. It is a "use it or lose it" proposition. This is why consistency is so important. Progressive improvements require consistency!

Here are some tips to maintain consistency

1. Schedule your workouts

Everyone is busy these days. Don't let that be an excuse to skip workouts. Don't tell yourself that you will exercise "when you get an opportunity". It's funny how that opportunity never materializes.

2. Always do some type of workout during your allotted exercise time

Don't have time to do a full workout? Take an opportunity to stretch. Normally, run 30 minutes, but you don't have time? Go out for 10 minutes. Even if you can't get out to do a "complete" workout, make the time to do something. Even if you only go out for 10 minutes, that's better than nothing. It helps maintain the habit and you'll feel better for it. Excuses are easy, making lifelong, healthy changes are not.

3. Reschedule your workout if something comes up that cannot be avoided.

Sometimes things come up that simply cannot be avoided. If you know you won't be able to make your normal workout time, it's best to try to reschedule to get it done before your normal workout time. If you wait until after your normal workout time, you are more likely to just skip it.

4. If you must skip a workout, don't let it become a habit.

If you absolutely cannot do a workout, don't get into the habit of skipping them. Under not circumstances allow yourself to miss any of the next 3 workouts! That should get you back into the groove.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Recipe: Thai Coconut Chicken

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I'll start posting recipes of some of the things that I cook regularly with nutrition information, and more importantly, how much time it takes to prepare. Apparently, my family is out of the ordinary because we cook meals regularly, as opposed to ordering pizza, going to restaurants, or heating up things that come in a box. I'm curious about how much time we actually spend cooking meals, so I'm going to time how long it takes to cook each of the meals that I post.

I'll start by saying that this isn't exactly the healthiest thing that I cook, but it sure is tasty. This recipe is more a "lightened" version of an atrociously unhealthy original recipe. Even then, it isn't too bad, but it is a little higher in saturated fat than I would like thanks to the coconut milk. I've subbed the light version, and that helps, but it's still got more than I would like. Oh well.

By the way, I'm not exactly a professional food photographer so the pictures will leave much to be desired. Trust me, it tastes good.

Start to finish time: It took me 36 minutes, including defrosting the frozen chicken


1 can light coconut milk
1.5 pounds of chicken breasts
1 small onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt to taste
Serrano peppers finely minced to taste, I use 2
1-2 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
about 2 tablespoons minced ginger root


Start by heating the oil in a large thick-bottomed skillet. While the oil is heating dice the onion, chop the cilantro, and mince the ginger and put these aside. When the oil is heated, put the onion, garlic, and ginger into skillet and sautee for about 5 minutes on medium heat. While this is sauteeing, cut the chicken breasts into approximately 1/4 inch slices. Turn the heat up to medium high and toss the chicken slices into the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the chicken begins to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the can of coconut milk, the cilantro, and the chopped peppers. Mix it up good. Now would be a good time to taste it and see how much salt you need to add. I think I usually start with about 1/2 teaspoon and work up from there. Simmer the sauce until the liquid is reduced by about 1/3, or for about 10 minutes. Once the liquid has been reduced, turn off the heat and squeeze in the limes to taste. My wife likes it "limey" and I use 2 limes. Start with 1 and work up from there.

That's it. We serve this over brown rice, usually with a vegetable of some sort. The recipe makes about 5 servings with this nutrition information per serving:

Calories: 256.1
Fat: 12.4 g

Protein: 33.8 g

Carbohydrates: 1.05 g

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Four Minute Workout of Death

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That's right in only 4 minutes, you can do an effective, proven fat-burning workout. It's called the Tabata protocol, named for the Japanese researcher who "discovered" it. It is a very specific, precisely timed, interval technique. Now to be totally accurate, including the 5 minute warm-up and cool-down, it would be a 13:50 workout. DO NOT SKIP THE WARM UP AND COOL DOWN if you are going to try this. You are going to need them.

Tabata, the researcher, studied the effects of this protocol versus a more typical, moderate exercise program and this protocol increased aerobic capacity even more than the moderate program while at the same time increasing anaerobic capacity. Yeah, yeah, but what about fat loss, you ask? Well, it turns out that the participants in the study burned more fat using the interval protocol than the moderate cardio protocol, even though the moderate cardio group burned more calories during the exercise sessions. How is this possible? The interval protocol was so taxing that the participants using it had an increase in metabolic rate that lasted for many hours following the actual interval sessions, leading to a total calorie burn exceeding the moderate cardio group. What this technique lacks in terms of time spent exercising, it makes up for, and then some, in intensity.

Protocol Specifics

  • 5 minute warm-up
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 5 minute cool-down
That is basically 8 "bouts" of 20 second intervals of real work separated by short, 10 second rest periods. Now that doesn't sound too bad, but more explaining is required. The only times that you are really working is during the 20 second intervals marked "hard". When I say hard, I mean HARD. This doesn't mean pick up the pace a little. This doesn't mean reading a magazine while doing your intervals. I mean, ALL OUT, Dorothy, we are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore - HARD! Those 10 second rests between the hard bouts will be the shortest 10 seconds of your life.

Exercise Choice

What I haven't mentioned so far is anything about what exercises to do. The great thing about this protocol is that the actual exercise doesn't really matter. You can sprint the hard parts and jog the easy parts. Pedal hard on a bike then back off for the easy parts. Treadmills don't work very well because they take too long to ramp up to top speed, but stationary bikes and elliptical machines should work fine. You can also do body weight exercises like mountain climbers, squats, jump squats, etc. The possibilities are limited only my your imagination. Again, in choosing an exercise, follow these two criteria:
  • You must be able to quickly increase to maximum intensity. Sprints outside work great...treadmills do not.
  • The exercise should be include as many muscle groups as possible. Squats are great...bicep curls are not.
This is a program that you should ease into. I don't recommend you switch your 3 cardio sessions a week all to Tabata sessions. Try doing it one day a week to start, then gradually do more.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

You must challenge your body to change it!

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The American Heart Association in conjunction with the American College of Sports Medicine has released it's newest set of guidelines for physical activity. Adults age 18-65 should get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days per week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 times per week. Moderate activity is equivalent to a brisk walk and noticeably accelerates your heart rate. An example of vigorous activity is jogging and causes rapid breathing and a substantial increase in heart rate. Combinations of moderate and vigorous exercise can be used to meet the weekly activity recommendation. Additionally, adults should engage in muscle-building, or strength training activities twice during the week. People who engage in greater amounts of activity than this further reduce the risk of chronic disease and disabilities, as well as unhealthy weight gain.

So, here's the deal. This is the minimum recommendation for health. It's a good start. If you follow these guidelines perfectly, but make no change to your eating habits, don't expect to lose tons of weight, or to make huge changes to your body composition. To lose significant amounts of fat requires more hard work and consistency. If you have never been an "exerciser", start with this recommendation as an initial goal. Consider it an investment in the ability to really torch fat after you've gotten in better physical condition.

Don't let your own expectations of what you think you should be achieving hinder your progress or discourage you. It takes time to gain weight, and it takes time to lose it. Time is on your side. Let it work for you.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Ready...Set...Go! Palo Duro 50 Mile Trail Run

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This weekend was the 23rd annual Palo Duro Canyon 50 Mile Trail Run at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, just south of Amarillo, Texas. My running partner, let's call him Fit Club Don, and I were scheduled to leave on Friday to get to Amarillo in time to check out the park and attend the pre-race briefing/spaghetti dinner. We had been checking the weather reports for weeks and we knew it would be a scorcher. On Thursday, I obsessively checked the predicted high and each time I checked, the days predicted high was getting hotter and hotter, so I finally decided to quit checking to ensure that I wasn't personally responsible for making the days high temperature reach 100 degrees! It finally leveled off at a high temperature of 90 degrees, matching the record high for that day. Oh boy, this was going to suck.

We arrived in Amarillo shortly after noon and drove down to the actual park. It didn't do us much good to drive around as the race was going to take place exclusively on trails, but it eased our nerves a bit to see the start/finish line area and figure out the best way to get there in the morning. The park is really quite nice, which is totally unexpected if you have ever been to Amarillo, the flattest place on Earth. The canyon is actually the second largest canyon in the U.S. behind the Grand Canyon. You can see some pictures by clicking on the Palo Duro Canyon State Park website.

After a quick look around at the start/finish are, we headed back to town for the pre-race briefing and pasta dinner, which was good, but otherwise uneventful. Then it was back to the hotel to double check all clothes, food, drinks, etc. for the next day and get to bed by 8:30. Boy, those ultra guys know how to par-tay!

Rise and Shine

The alarm went off at 4:30am to give us time to get to the park and get a good parking spot. Even though the race started at 7:00am, the park gates opened at 6:00am for runners and we wanted to get as close as possible to the start area. It turns out that we got a great parking spot...the race ran right in front of the truck and we were able to keep all of our supplies in the truck and just stop there when we came through on each of the loops. I forgot to mention that the race is a series of four, 12.5 mile loops on trails through the park. So the runners actually come back to the start/finish area twice, not including the last time. This worked out nice because it meant that we could keep all of our extra clothes, food, drinks, medical supplies, in the truck without having to prepare drop bags for remote aid stations.

We checked in with the timekeeper and mulled around the park for an hour or so until the start. It was a little breezy and a nice 55 degrees or so. There was a big fire going to keep everyone warm and as an extra bonus, a guy playing the bagpipes. Very cool and actually kind of eerie, with the fire going. We got our water bottles filled with my special homemade endurance formula. I could tell you what's in it, but then I'd have to kill you. I prepared two bottles, but Fit Club Don chose to take only a single bottle. (foreboding music plays in the background) He likes to "live on the the edge" apparently. As 7:00am rolls around the 50 mile and 50k (31.25 miles) runners line up together at the start line and with a "Ready...Set...Go!", we were off.

Traffic Jam - 12.5 miles

There were a total of about 150 runners who started at 7:00am, about fifty 50-milers, and about one hundred 50k runners. That is not many racers by any standard, but this is a trail race and the trail was quite narrow. The first mile was somewhat rugged and there was quite a traffic jam and it took about 2 miles for everyone to get spaced out enough to run at our pace. Fit Club Don was a bit peeved, but I was OK with it. We probably lost about 4 minutes in the first 2 miles, a drop in the 50 mile bucket, but ultimately we made the time up because we hit our goal for the first loop with a few minutes to spare. Another factor that slowed everyone down was the fact that we started in the dark. Everyone had headlights on, but that amplified the traffic jam problems for the first 20 minutes or so. We were told that on Tuesday there had been a severe thunderstorm and that there was mud on the course, but it was easily avoidable. Well, as I plopped down into 2 inches of mud, I wished I could have seen it to avoid it. Oh well.

After about 3.5 miles, we came to the first aid station and pretty much blew through it. As this stage in the game, we were fresh, had plenty of fluids and didn't need to hang around. At short, local races, most aid stations typically have water and a sports drink of some sort. Marathons might also have Gu, bananas, and pretzels. Ultra aid stations are like oases in a desert. Water, sports drink, chips, cookies, M&M's, PB&J sandwiches, date raisin bars, fig newtons, boiled potatoes, and even more things that I can't remember. Plenty of good things to eat and lots of helpful volunteers to get you what you need so that you can get going.

Now, I had been to the park before, but I don't remember it having so many ups and downs. The sections between the first and third aid stations were definitely the toughest. This section was remote, rocky, and VERY exposed without an ounce of shade. Again, not a problem for the first loop, but as the day wore on, the heat combined with the exposure in this section was BRUTAL. Once we made it to the last aid station, we had it made. The segment between the last aid station and the start/finish area was in the lower part of the canyon and ran mostly alongside the river. It was shady, cooler, not rocky, and much softer on the feet. On every loop, we looked forward to getting to that section.

Our goal time of 9:00 to 9:30 hours was probably too aggressive, even under the best of circumstances, i.e. not blazing hot, but with the heat, I think it was out of the question. In the cool early morning, it still looked doable and we hit our goal time for the first loop.

Second Loop - 25 miles

We took a minute to refill water bottles. I again took 2 bottles of my endurance drink and again, Fit Club Don, inexplicably only took a single bottle of sports drink. (foreboding music in the background, even louder this time). We reloaded up on Gu and each drank an Ensure for extra calories. Off again. The second loop went smoothly, albeit a little less quickly. Fatigue was beginning to set in, the heat was starting to increase, and I had to take pit stop at one of the aid stations. We focused on getting from aid station to aid station and just continuing to keep going. I drank one bottle of my endurance drink, but completely lost my taste for it. I ended up refilling with water at an aid station and dumping out about half of one of the bottles of endurance drink. I just couldn't stand the taste anymore. Fit Club Don did refill his one bottle with water. By the latter part of the second loop, the heat was starting to crank up. A quick check of the weather for the day shows that it was approaching 82 degrees for the last hour of the second loop and the heat was beginning to be a factor. We didn't meet our goal time for the second loop, but we didn't miss it by much, and considering the terrain and heat, we were pretty OK with how we were doing.

Third Loop - 37.5 miles

We again came into the start/finish area to refill bottles. By now both of us were drinking water exclusively. The sweetness and stickiness of the endurance drink was just too much to handle. I refilled two bottles with water. Fit Club Don, FINALLY, decides to take two bottles, one water and one endurance drink, I think. The plan was to drink an Ensure between each loop, but I just freakin' forgot to in the rush to get going. I think Don said that he did get his in. Just before we left the start/finish area, Don stopped at the aid station and got ice in his water bottle. I only remember that because about 5 minutes later, I regretted not doing the same thing. Off we go...into...the...depths...of...hell.

The third loop was brutal. By now the temperature is hovering around 90 degrees and we've got 10 miles in the most rocky, exposed area of the park. About 5 minutes into the loop, I realized that I forgot to drink the Ensure. I had an extra Gu so I went on ahead and ate it. By now, dehydration is beginning to have a significant effect on Don. He's really struggling to keep going and this is the section that is longest between aid stations. Don's figured out that it was dehydration and the heat that was getting to him and he started really drinking a lot to try and catch up on his fluid intake. We kept on plodding along until we finally reach the first aid station...and the one thing that allowed us to finish the race. At all of the aid stations, except the most remote one, showers had been setup to allow runners to drench themselves with water to stay as cool as possible.

When I got to that aid station, turned on that water and got under it, I thought I heard angels sing. It was so cold, it knocked the wind out of me, but damn, it was refreshing. The experience was every bit as miraculous for Don. We got going out of that aid station with a renewed sense of vigor, which lasted about 5 minutes, before the heat boiled it out of us, but every little bit helps. The only way that we were going to finish this race was to take advantage of the low humidity and windy conditions, by staying wet. As the water evaporated off of us, it cooled us down significantly. For the remainder of the race, I used one water bottle to keep myself wet and cool, roughly six more hours, and one water bottle to drink between aid stations. We just kept on keeping on for the last 10 miles, pushing from aid station to aid station and water shower to water shower. There was nothing exceptional to report, except that it was hot. Damn hot.

Git 'R Done - 50 miles

We didn't come rolling into the start/finish so much as limp in, battered and beaten. Physically, we were still in pretty good shape. Soreness, yes, but 37.5 miles had a tendency to do that to you. Otherwise, just fatigued, and tired of fighting the sun. We both refilled water bottles, with ice this time and consciously passed on the Ensure. The thought of drinking it almost made me puke, so that was as close as I got to actually drinking it. After a quick drench we were off to get the last loop done. This was what we paid for (yes, we PAID to suffer through the race). The last loop was slow and steady. The first half was still pretty hot, but we finally started to get some relief from the heat as the day wore on and the shadows got longer. We just continued dumping water on ourselves and it got us through this thing. By the tail end of the fourth loop, most runners were toast, and we were no exception, but we did manage to pass a few people.

Don was now fully recovered from his dehydration and I was just keeping up. The focus was still on making it from aid station to aid station, particularly waiting for the aid station that marked the beginning of the trail that ran alongside the river. We would be out of the heat and on soft trail for the last 3.5 miles and by this time we needed both. We finally got there and we were able to pick up the pace a little bit due to the mental boost. These two horses could smell the barn and they had a little more giddy-up left after all.

We got to within the last mile, when, out of nowhere, one of the runners that we had passed about 5 miles back, came up behind me like a rocket. I told him, "Knock yourself out." and let him pass. Don was a few steps ahead of me and the trail was pretty tight, but Don wasn't letting him pass. We come out of the woods, and as we pass the truck, Don chucks his water bottles and takes off with this guy right behind him. Wow, they are actually racing! I also toss my water bottles at the trucks and try to let them pull me in a bit quicker than I would have done otherwise, but I don't have much pep left so I'm not actually in the race. As Don and Rocket Guy get to the last turn, Rocket Guy turns on the afterburners and smokes Don like a cheap cigar. Ha ha!

A few seconds later I come through the finish line and I walk up to Don. "What the **** was that all about?" When Rocket Guy passed me, Don glanced over his shoulder and thought that he might be in the same age group, so if they were, they might be competing for an actual age group placing. It turns out that they were! Rocket Guy got second place and Don placed third. Everyone who knows Don...if you see him, make sure and congratulate him for his effort! (or at least rag on him for losing second place).

Post Race Observations

  • Fifty miles is a helluva a long way. Sure, we trained hard for it, but you still must continue to push on long after most sensible people would stop.
  • Those Injinji toe socks kick total butt! Fifty, dusty, sandy, water-soaked miles and not a single blister!
  • We didn't run anywhere near our predicted time, but we ran hard and more importantly SMART. Conditions could have easily stopped us from finishing but we changed our plan and still ran a good strong race.
  • Total calorie burn during the race: 6000 calories! Sweet!
Next race...The Rocky Raccoon 100 (as in 100 miles) in Huntsville, Texas in February. Pray for my knees.

Friday, October 19, 2007

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Like You!

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As I get closer to a race, I usually get lots of questions about training, how much do I run, etc., to train for long distance races. My mileage tends to fall between 50 - 100 miles per week with most of that taking place over two very long runs on the weekend. Here are some other questions answered:

"When I grow up, I want to be like you. My weekends are so busy, I can't do anything else."

Cry me a river. I get up at 3:15, to be out running between 4:00 and 4:30am. On the longest run weekends, one weekend every 4 weeks, I'm out running until about noon. On 2 of the other 3 weeks a month, I get up and get my running done by 7:30am. I'm usually back home before my family is fully awake. On the final weekend of the 4 week cycle, I don't run at all. There is always a way, if you want something bad enough. The question is, "How bad do you want it?"

"Do you just go home and sleep all day after doing all of that running?"

Actually, I'm doing lots of landscaping around my house, and I usually come home and dig holes for trees and shrubs all day! On the one weekend a month where I put in 60-85 miles over Saturday and Sunday, I admit, I'm pretty whipped. On those weekends, I really don't get much else done. But to accommodate my family, the other 3 weekends in the 4 week cycle, I either don't run or I'm home before anyone even realizes that I was gone. My wife calls the off weekends the "wife clause" in my running plan.

"Well, that's just crazy. I can't do that."

You can't, or do you choose not to. There's a difference. I'm not suggesting that everyone should be running 100 miles a week, but not having enough time is no excuse to get a moderate amount of exercise each week. Make it a priority and schedule time to do it. It really is that simple.

So, what exactly is your excuse for not having time to exercise?

"The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what the unsuccessful people are not."
-E.M. Gray

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