Wednesday, December 31, 2008

When I first started

My blog buddy Lisa has started a new weight-loss blog as she is ready to take on the challenge that such an endeavor presents. She asked for some tips and I figured it would be great to share them right here.

New Year's of course is a day away and if I could guess at what the most popular resolution is, I'd venture to say it would be to lose weight. There are very few of us who don't desire to shed weight, whether it's a few pounds or 20-30 percent of your body weight.

So I'll take the opportunity now to blog about the beginning stages of my own weight-loss adventure and some of the tips I picked up very early in that path.

I think what helped me out the most was patience and faith. I had to have patience because there is no way you can see results right away. You can have the best workout ever, run a mile more than you thought you could, pedal on the bike for that extra and satisfying 15 minutes, keep up with everyone else in the step aerobic class... but one fantastic workout will not meet your fitness needs. You can't lose 10 pounds by doing that. It is, to borrow from Lisa's other blog, one step at a time, or in this case one workout at a time.


If you stick with it, you will see results. They won't come soon enough - believe me, they don't - but before you know it, we'll be getting ready to welcome in 2010. That day is an inevitability, and you need to put yourself in a position now to have succeeded by then. You must be patient and give your workouts a chance to bear fruit.

And you also must have faith that what you are doing is correct. You must sell your program to yourself. If you don't believe wholeheartedly that what you are doing will lead to positives, then you won't succeed. If you don't think your 2-mile run is worth it, you won't try hard enough while running, won't push yourself, won't give that extra effort that is required in many if not all workouts and you probably will step off the treadmill or turn back around to the start well before the 2-mile mark.

When I sat down with my personal trainer back in March 2006 weighing in at a hefty 308.6, I didn't know what was in store for me. I didn't know if my weight loss was possible, if the money I had just put down would be a waste of resources, if I would be up for the challenge. But I did know that I needed to do something. I did know that I wanted to see my daughters grow up. I did know that I didn't want to embarrass Yvie when she finally went to school by having a huge 300-pound dad pick her up from school. I did know that I had reached the end of my rope, that there were no more excuses, that I had to do it now.

What better place than here? What better time than now?

I believed. And I had patience. And that started me off on this incredible journey to where I'm now going to start training for a half-marathon, thinking about the possibility of running a full marathon, planning on four races in 2009... I never EVER thought that was in my future.

More importantly than specific workouts or healthy recipes (which I'll blog about either later today or in the days to come) is the right mentality. That's really the only foundation for success.

That's how I approach many things now, with a belief in what I'm doing is correct and the patience to see it through. That got me to where I am today and it can lead anyone to where they want to get.

Get those resolutions ready!

Are you in? Are you going to make New Year's Resolutions?

If so, good for you. Remember that you want to keep your resolutions specific and realistic.

And one other thing you might want to do - especially if you have a blog. You may want to write out your resolutions. Sometimes just having something in print makes it seem more concrete, more real. You say words sometimes and they carry as much permanence as the air you breathed out while speaking them. But when it's in print and staring at you, it feels real. Like, oh yeah, it's going to happen after all.

If you're unsure about committing to the resolutions or don't want to set yourself up for possible (and public) setbacks, let me show you the lead. I will post my own New Year's Resolutions here, on New Year's Day of course, and I will update you on their progress. I have one major resolution so far and at least one other one that I plan on developing. I'm still giving it some thought as to how to phrase it correctly - can't be too vague after all. Of course, I'm hopeful of staying committed to my own resolutions, and I know my major one will be difficult but necessary at the same time.

Anyway, I'll post my resolutions tomorrow and then will check back on them throughout the coming days/weeks/months if need be. After all, if we're going to commit, we need to make sure we are in it for the long haul.

New Year's LB style

I asked for it, I got it...

I was tagged by Lisa of One Step at a Time and now need to tell you what my five favorite things about New Year's Eve are. It's funny because I've never been much of a New Year's Eve party person, even before my social life died a quick and painful death around the time my first girl was born.

But I've got five things that I like to do on Dec. 31 nonetheless.

5. Follow the rest of the world. It's strange sometimes how our world works. We'll be still in 2008 when Sydney and Tokyo are already a year ahead of us. It's fun to see celebrations in Moscow, Berlin, London, wherever really, during the day and then have people across America celebrate the start of 2009 while we anxiously await our own celebration here in California.

4. Try and watch a movie. Key word is "try" since my wife has problems staying up past 9. Her commute takes a lot out of her... at least that's what she claims.

3. Try and stay up until midnight. Okay, this one is hard for me too. Usually though I like to stay up until the witching hour to personally welcome in the New Year.

2. Reminisce about the year gone by. Lately, they've been very good and motivating sessions as I've been able to take pride in my weight loss and lifestyle change.

1. Spend it with my family. Christmas and Thanksgiving are nice because we spend it with our respective sides of the family - parents, siblings, etc. But New Year's Eve is nice because usually it's just us, the three Buenos and the non-Bueno.

Okay, the second part of the tag is I have to tag someone... well five someones but I'll just tag one person since I'm kinda new to this. I'll tag Thrasher's Wife of Forty-Something and Counting since she may not have a topic today and perhaps I'll save her the trouble of figuring one out.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Slowly but surely

For the last month or so, I've taken on a bit of a different approach to working out. During the holidays, it was difficult to get out and find time to run. Part of the difficulty in finding such time was soccer. I'd gotten into refereeing high school soccer games and that took a big chunk of time usually in the middle of the day.

While I've blogged about the fitness aspects of officiating before, I've not gotten you up to speed on the officiating itself. So I figured I'd take the time to do so now.

At first, I was nervous about it. Quite nervous. If you were around for the days leading up to my first game, you know how the nerves got to me and affected me. It wasn't a very fun time, to be honest. But once I got tossed into the fray, I had no choice but to adapt.

And I have. Slowly but surely, I'm feeling more and more comfortable out on the soccer field with a whistle in my hand. Now, I'm not quite there yet, not quite 100 percent comfortable and I honestly don't think I will be comfortable this season. I think I need to get a year or two under my belt until I reach that point. Mostly it's because I feel like I need to encounter as many different situations as possible so I know how to handle them, and each game it seems like something different happens, something that I haven't encountered before. For instance recently, I had a game where the goalie fell to the ground and a goal was scored. I didn't look at the goalie to see if players were on him and holding him down but simply fixed my gaze on the ball to see if it was going to cross the goal line or not. Next time, I'll look at both the ball and the goalie.

Basically I have one rule, one mantra I live by out there - Don't Mess Up. All I need to do is call the game correctly and not miss anything major. So far I think I've done a good job with that. I've called penalties, given out yellow cards, warned players against physical play, things like that that can be difficult to manage.

One of the things I expected and have received has been criticism from parents and to a lesser extent coaches. Parents can be unbelievably harsh some times. Sometimes the tiniest bit of contact between two players can incite parents to call for my head and question my ability to see. The criticism can be quite vicious. Recently, for instance, I overheard parents telling each other that the game I was calling was one of the worst officiated games they'd seen in quite a long time. I try to laugh that off because it can eat at you if you let it. I'd like to see parents watch the game and stow their nasty remarks but that's never going to happen.

Ultimately though it's gone well, about as well as I could have hoped for to this point. I'm not quite a top area soccer referee but I'm slowly improving and making strides. Most importantly, though, I'm getting more and more comfortable out there. And for me right now, that's the most important thing - no nerves and more comfort means a more enjoyable time.

Active groups

I came across a pretty interesting group recently. On the ever-reliable, there is a section dedicated to groups of people who are trying new things this year; for instance, there is a group of people running their first marathon and the site will track their progress as they train for and run the marathon.

There's also people competing in a triathlon, which for me would be impossible since I don't know how to swim (gasp!). Yeah, I never learned. For a while now I've been told (pestered?) to take swim lessons... but that's another topic for another day.

Then there are also some people who are on the opposite end of the fitness spectrum: rookie runners and women who want to lose baby weight. I was the first in '08, a rookie runner, and in many ways I still consider myself a beginner. I've only ran one 5K, and haven't run a race longer than a 10K and haven't run more than eight miles in any setting ever. I'm looking forward to my first double-digit mile run... but again, another topic for another day!

I hope to follow these people's progress and if something interesting catches my eye I'll blog about it. Figured I'd pass it along, if nothing else to let you know that at all levels and all types of different people, goals are necessary and important towards becoming fit, maintaining your fitness and challenging yourself.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Training plan for the big one

Or is it the big half? This may be the plan I follow to train for the half-marathon. I punched in some numbers on and this is what it spit out at me, a 12-week plan.


Motivational Mondays (Dec. 29)

Let's get motivated! Why? It's the only week of the year where you can officially kiss old habits goodbye and usher in a new era with the drop of a hat... or actually, the drop of a ball would be appropriate.

New Year's is upon us and with it comes hope, encouragement, the chance for something new. New Year's Resolutions are as much of a tradition around this time of year as champagne (or sparkling cider) and Christmas trees. Every year, seemingly everyone makes one or three or 12 resolutions.

Now, there is a trick to making them work. There really is. You have to want something but you have to want something that is realistic. I would love to have a barrel chest, broad shoulders and biceps that bulge out of my sleeves but that is about as realistic as wanting wings and the ability to fly. First, I'm not genetically engineered that way, to support that kind of muscle mass. And secondly, I can tell you right now that I will not commit that much time and energy to build up my arms. I have time and energy for distance running, not pumping iron.

Be realistic. Set realistic goals. And be specific.

"I want to lose weight" is an unrealistic goal... or if anything a bit too vague. "I want to lose five pounds by Feb. 1" is a much more realistic and attainable goal.

"I want my house to be clean" is not realistic (around here anyway). "I will clean my kitchen on Mondays, the bathrooms on Tuesdays, the bedrooms on Wednesdays and the living room on Thursdays" is more attainable.

Don't set yourself up for failure by making poor New Year's Resolutions. It will work against you. Failing to meet goals or live up to far-too-high standards will be counterproductive.

I will set realistic New Year's Resolutions for myself. I can think of three off the top of my head that will probably become resolutions in some fashion or another. I will share those later in the week so look out for that. And I will think those through thoroughly and decide if I can attain such goals or if I'm only setting myself up for failure.

Because the last thing I want to do is long for a chiseled chest and wind up with flab.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

5K training possibility

My first race in 2009 will be the Ontario Mills 5K. Hopefully. I haven't signed up for it but I want to. Why the 5K? I figured it would be a good way to start off the year. It wouldn't be as challenging as a 10K but would be worth the effort nevertheless. I want to see if I can improve my 5K time from June (25:05) and see where I stand in terms of running in general.

I went to to see about their training coach. You just toss in some numbers and it spits out a training schedule. I trust them so I will use this as a guide for my half-marathon training. What about for 5K training? Possibly.

Here's what it says I need to do for the next four weeks, starting Monday:

Weeks 1-4: Rest, 2 miles at easy pace, Rest, Speedwork total of 5 miles, Rest, Rest, 6-mile run.

The only differences between weeks is that in the third week I need to run seven miles instead of six and the fourth week is the race day on my long run day.

Is it something I can do? Yeah, of course. I will probably change the speedwork to interval training though, or maybe a tempo run.

Will I do it? I guess I have one day to decide, right?

Seven things

Many of my blog buddies took time recently to give some info on things we readers may not have known about them, and they took turns tagging fellow bloggers. Sadly, I was not tagged.

Give me a second to wipe my crocodile tears.

Anyway, I figured I'd jump into the fray uninvited, what with me being the party crasher that I am. So here are seven things you trusty readers may not have known about me.

1. My wife did not take my last name. We were both journalists when we met and she had been trying to establish herself and her byline was important to her. But really, she just didn't want to change her name and I think she used that as a way to justify it to others. She didn't need to because I didn't care then and I don't care now. Her not having my last name doesn't make her less of a wife or anything. My daughters both have my last name, so we're three Buenos and one non-Bueno.

2. Sweet Potato Bread turned me on to cooking/baking. Seriously. It was the fall of '07 (waaaaaay back then) and I wanted something with some sweet potato in it. My wife was a good baker so I asked her to make something but she was cool to the idea. I found this recipe for Sweet Potato Bread on and it came out great. So that led to more recipes which led to more and eventually I realized I had a love of cooking/baking. I have since relieved my wife of her cooking/baking duties.

3. I tried (unsuccessfully) once to take a poop in corn field. I went to Mexico for a month in 1992 (between my junior and senior years of high school) and fell in love with the place (stayed with grandparents in my mom and dad's hometown). While there, I went on a trip to a city some six hours away with a large group of people from the town (probably 50 total) as part of some Mexican independence day festivities. On our way back, we stopped off for lunch and I ate too much. I knew bathrooms were going to be an issue so I hadn't eaten much on the three-day trip but I indulged. We made another brief stop, near a patch of six houses that passed for a teeny tiny town. I went to a house with my uncle to ask to use the bathroom and an old man laughed, pointed to a cornfield and told us that was the bathroom. I had to go really bad so what was I going to do? Well, I won't go into detail but let's just say there was some stage fright involved, and suddenly the urge went away.

4. I have a severe dislike of "white" food, white as in they have the same color. I don't like Alfredo sauce, mayonaisse, sour cream, Ranch dressing, cream cheese. I made this Alfredo sauce a few times actually and my wife loved it. I could not have disliked it more. Now, I do like some other "white" food, like milk, Monterey Jack cheese, mozzarella cheese, white chocolate... it's just some of the major ones that are really popular that I don't like for some reason. I know, it's strange.

5. I don't have a middle name. My parents didn't give me one. I always thought it was weird to have a middle name growing up, but I gave my girls middle names. The oldest has my grandmother's name (Esperanza) and the youngest has my mom's name (Raquel), although I really wanted to name my first girl Esperanza. Sadly, I lost that battle.

6. I speak German... a little. I took three years of it in high school and two semesters of it in college. I haven't ever really used it but if I were to be dropped in Munich or Hamburg for six months I know I'd be speaking it well shortly. Why German? When I registered for my high school freshmen classes, Spanish was all full and I didn't want to take French so I went for German. I like the language actually and I try to say things every now and then German. I have used it before. The first time was actually in France. I went with my wife's family to Kaiserslautern to visit my brother-in-law. We went into France for a day and stopped to eat but nobody in the place we went to spoke English. They all spoke German though so I ordered us some pizza. I also used it in Munich to help navigate through the city. I would have made my respective teachers proud.

7. I have two tattoos. I got my first one when I was 22, a sun on my left leg. I got the other one in 2000, a sun on my back. This is what my first one looks like (sans the group's name around the circle) and my second one is also a sun (except I put a "T" in the middle for my wife, her name begins with a T). I really want to get two more tattoos but I've been met with resistance. See, I wanted to get something to symbolize my weight loss, something I could see every day. I want to get Japanese symbols on my forearms. I want to get one on each arm. It would be great motivation for me. When I'm struggling or feeling tempted to do something I shouldn't, I'd only have to look down at my arms to remind myself of the trouble I went to, the work I put in just to reach my goals. I want to get the symbol, or Kanji, for discipline on one arm and on the other... not sure. One of the following probably: focus, commitment, strength, determination. Those are some of ones I've kicked around. I really want to do it but I don't know if I can get everyone on board with my decision.

Okay, well if I haven't driven you off by now, I guess you know a little bit more about yours truly than you probably bargained for. I'll get back to fitness-related stuff shortly.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another food journal

Earlier today, I wrote about my first day in the post-splurge recovery program, aka it's-not-Christmas-anymore-so-don't-eat-any-more-cookies. I logged my food from Friday and found out that I had eaten only 1310 calories.

So I'm back at it again today. Here's what I've eaten thus far:

Breakfast - Coffee and zucchini muffin (450 calories)
AM snack - apple and trail mix (200)
Lunch - (I sorta skipped lunched, was reffing... so 0)
PM snack 0 apple and trail mix (200... what, it was good)
Dinner - Haven't eaten it yet but my brother-in-law is bringing us some In n Out since we're watching his 7-year-old daughter for the night... no, it's not a fair trade... but the burger has 480 calories.

If I don't deviate from that, that's 1,330 calories. I've got a few to play with so we'll see how the evening goes.

ADD: well, it didn't go well. They brought me a Double Double with fries. The burger has 670 calories while the fries have 400 calories. I didn't eat all the fries so I have myself a total of 1,020 calories. With the other food I had throughout the day, its a total of 1,870 calories.

I try to stay at or under 1,800 or so, so I went over by a little. Argh! That's what happens when I don't control my meals.

What a tease!

A while back, my blog buddy The 5th Sister had asked me some advice and info on intervals and heart rates and all that good stuff. I told her, sure, I'll blog about it because I have this great book about training with a heart rate monitor. I went to look for the book and I looked and kept looking and nothing. I told her I'd blog about it when I found the book.

Well, several weeks (months?) later, I found the book. And the info on intervals. Really good info too. The kind I'd promised.

So am I going to blog about it? Yes, absolutely.

But not now. In a few days. I want to give it the proper treatment so when I have some time when I can be unperturbed, I'll blog to my heart's content about it.

Good first day

Christmas came and went and so too did my poor eating habits, at least for the first day after Christmas.

I don't log my food anymore. I used to when I had my trainer and that helped but it was hard for me since I would tend to wait to compile my list of food until the end of the day instead of after every meal or snack and I'd forget to do it some days so it was never quite accurate.

Anyway, I'll log my food intake for yesterday here along with calories, if nothing else to prove to myself that I can get back on track in no time.

Breakfast: 1/2 cup coffee, energy bar (250 total)
AM snack: apple (70)
Lunch: Spinach and pepperoni wrap (410)
PM snack: baby carrots (30)
Dinner: Broccoli soup (400), sliced ham (150)
Grand total: 1310 calories

I guess I could have splurged on a cookie or two... That's the benefit of logging your food. If after dinner you realize you still have 200 calories to play with, you can indulge a bit.

So all in all, Friday was a good day both in terms of a workout and food. If I string enough of these good days in a row, before too long I'll be back on track.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A good kind of pain

It had been a while since I last ran. I did a pair of games earlier this week but I hadn't done much actual running (intervals, distance, whatever) since a trip to the gym nearly two weeks ago.

I had the chance to go to a local high school track today and did just that, opting for that instead of the gym. I don't often have the chance (or frankly desire) to run on a track but I felt that I should take advantage of the opportunity. I figure I may have/need/want to incorporate running on a track in the next year so I might as well get a bit of a test run in on the all-weather track.

Anyway, I got the track and it was nearly deserted. I wanted to run but didn't know what kind of run to do. Should I do intervals? Go for a distance, maybe five miles? Maybe try out a tempo run?

In the end, I went for the intervals. Well, it wasn't my usual interval run but it was something my brother concocted over the summer. He suggested once to run a mile as a warm up, walk a cool-down lap, then run two miles... but not at the same pace. Actually, he suggested to run the straightaways and jog very lightly around the turns. Another cool-down lap and then you have a four-mile run that is challenging, burns loads of calories and helps you build up your stamina.

I decided on that run even though I wasn't totally looking forward to it. After all, it's a bit of a challenge... but screw it! I didn't go to the track to walk.

Here's how the run broke down: one mile run, one lap cool down, two miles of sprints (total of 16 springs - two per lap, one mile run, one lap cool down.

I ran a mile in a slow and easy pace. It took me about nine minutes to run it and I was just getting into a groove when I finished the run. I walked for a lap and then went into the sprints. It didn't go off without a hitch, though, because just as I was about to accelerate into my first of 16 sprints, my iPod froze. It's given me problems for about five months now, off and on. The iPod will freeze for no reason, fully charged and everything. It hadn't happened in a while but it did today.

But it was just another challenge. I ran the sprints nonetheless, with just the sound of my shoes hitting the track, my own breath heaving and doing its work to help me along, and the occasional whirr of passing cars. I tried not to get into a countdown - 15 more, 14 more, 13 more... That can get exhausting mentally. It can make things seem longer or more difficult than they need be. I prefer to count up - one down, two down, three down, 13 more...

It was tough physically because I hadn't run much lately. I felt my heart working hard and I had the stats to prove it. For most of my first mile my heart rate was at or around 160. At the end of my cool down lap it went way down to 118 or so but by the end of my first sprint it was back up to the high 160s. Eventually it settled into the mid-170s during my sprints. Interestingly my heart rate didn't dip down very far on the light jogs. During the first mile it stayed in the high 160s but near the end my heart rate did not go beneath 170 for anything.

I crossed the 16th sprint, jogged lightly and went into my mile instead of opting for sprint number 17. I went into the final mile jog feeling both exhausted but capable of completing the last mile. I made myself run harder once I got to the third lap - I felt like I could give more and I did. Eventually I finished the run and felt exhausted. Still, I felt like I could have gone on if I had to.

Before I go on, here are the heart rate stats: Time - 43:28; Avg hr - 167; Max hr - 184; Cal - 698.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this run was the sense of accomplishment. It wasn't necessarily for having done the run but for having started on what promises to be a challenging year of running. Now, this wasn't the official first training run but it is the first run of what will be more and more runs in the days and weeks to come. This will lead into actual training for the half-marathon and other runs. And that's quite an feat.

My sentiments exactly

Christmas is over now and while there is sadness every year when Christmas has come and gone, I can't say that part of me is happy.

Usually, it's the part of me that has absorbed the brunt of the damage the holiday season brings: stomach, hips, thighs...

It's over. The indulge-fest known as the holiday season is no more. I was going to write a whole thing on it but my newest blog buddy has said plenty on the matter, and she really took the words right off of my fingers. Santa didn't bring me all the fitness stuff I longed for (okay, he didn't bring me any of the fitness gear I had hoped) and I think it was because I was a bad boy this season, bad in terms of food. Too many cookies, muffins, breads - and much of it was my own doing, stuff that I made. But now it's gone and I can stop playing pastry chef.

In terms of what it means to me, I am hoping to make it out to the gym today. I'd rather run outside but I don't know if I can swing that, so a trip to the gym is my next-best option. I was supposed to have some soccer games to officiate today but they all got rained out (waterlogged fields from the week's rains) so I need to figure out some sort of physical activity on my own.

Even if post-Christmas duties (like cleaning the disaster known as my kitchen) take over, I can take solace in one fact: no goodies for me today, unless you count the cup of coffee I'm sipping while typing away. I've got some broccoli in my fridge that is begging to be transformed into some soup, and carrots and apples that are longing to be consumed as my a.m. snack.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas through the years

First off, I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. It's my favorite day of the year and I'm very excited that it's arrived and that you've chosen to spend a part of your holiday here with me.

It's interesting sometimes when you look back on things, to see how time really does go past so quickly. Many times, we often go through life a bit too quickly and when we stop to reflect and look back on things we realize that a lot of time has passed.

I try to soak in as much of the day-to-day stuff that I can - in particular things that pertain to my daughters - because I know my life is changing ever so quickly. There is one marker I've used over the last four years to gauge how life is and has been, how things have changed and evolved. Christmas and, more precisely, cookies.

It's a time-honored tradition around here, to make Christmas cookies with our daughters. It's not something we plan per se but we've done it now four years running so why not count that as a tradition?

It's even more so because of these: I've shot snippets of videos over the last four years and sometimes it's amazing to look at the first one and see my daughter how she was then and compare her to how she is now. This is excellent motivation as well and it helps keep me grounded. It really wasn't that long ago that, for no real reason, shot video of my wife and daughter making cookies. And now I look forward to shooting the video and making the cookies myself. I think the first two years of this tradition my wife used store-bought cookie dough but last year and this year I've made everything myself, from the dough to the icing, thanks to All Recipes.

Anyway, here are the videos:

The first one, Yvie is two and Kennedy (probably asleep) was all of two months old:

Yvie can talk just fine by 2006 while Kennedy is taking in the action from her high chair:

Kennedy is up now and watching first-hand but Yvie's the one who is most excited:

This one was shot just a few days ago. See how big my girls have gotten?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A new weapon

Now that I'm all but officially running a half-marathon, I've done some research into the sorts of things I need to do to prepare for the race and to build up my strength, stamina and endurance ahead of this grueling race.

One of the first things I'm learning about is the tempo run, and I like what I'm reading.

A typical temp run, according to Runner's World, goes something like this: a 15-minute warm-up, 20 minutes of a challenging but manageable pace capped off with a 15-minute cooldown. That's 50 minutes of running but not all the same speed or pace.

The 20-minute run in the middle is the key, of course. It helps build up the lactate threshold (and I'll blog more about this later this week) in your body; that is, the LT measures how quickly the body fatigues at a certain pace. The the higher the LT, the more stamina you have. By building this up, you will be able to maintain your pace for a longer time.

I've not run specifically this way so it will be interesting to see how it works out for me. Initially I don't think it will be anything I'll dislike. I tend to run at different speeds throughout my longer runs (and 50 minutes to me counts as a longer run). Usually I start slowly and build up to a pace but I alternate for most of the run. I usually close out a race with a sprint at the end, and although I'm probably running pretty slow (I'm usually nice and exhausted by that point) I try to finish off strong.

Tempo runs, I believe, can be varied. For instance, I could run 10 minutes on each end for warm-up/cooldown with a 30-minute tough-but-doable time in between or extend the time to have an hour's worth of running. I'm thinking this run would be best suited for outdoors although it would be easier to adjust running speed at the gym. I'm just trying to get in the mindframe of running outdoors more often.

Regardless, though, the tempo run seems like a good addition to my arsenal of runs. And if I'm going to run as much as I think I will in 2009, I need as much ammo as possible.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

LB's Running Playlist 1

I labeled this my Running Playlist 1 because at some point there will be a Running Playlist 2.

I must say I'm proud that I finally sat down and made a playlist. I actually have three others but I sorta just threw those together.

While making this one, though, I remembered why I don't do this more often. I tend to over-think things sometimes and this is one of them. I tried to find the perfect complement to each song, was careful to not mix genres, tried to avoid certain groups and stick to certain others but in the end I just grew frustrated with the amount of time I was dedicating to it.

So here it is, my first playlist dedicated to running long distances:

Stop! by Jane's Addiction
Mayonaise by Smashing Pumpkins
Rebels of the Sacred Heart by Flogging Molly
Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
For Reasons Unknown by The Killers
Know Your Enemy by Rage Against The Machine
Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones
Thoughtless by Korn
Salty Dog by Flogging Molly
The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
Rocket by Smashing Pumpkins
Battery by Metallica
All These Things That I've Done by The Killers
Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Iz

Quick, pick the song that doesn't fit. Yes, it's the last one. It's actually a really slow and mellow song and I figured that I'd need a song like that to listen to while cooling down. Not sure how that's going to work out though. I'll let you know how this playlist works when I run to it, which hopefully will be within a day or two.

Before and after Christmas

Some before and after pictures. One is from Christmas 2008 and the other from Christmas 2005.

Can you tell which is which?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Motivational Monday (Dec. 22)

Guess what's three days from now? Yeah, Christmas. It's one of my favorite days of the year, and has become so particularly now that I have children. They love the season and the newness of it all and I am just having fun soaking it all in. So how does that translate into motivation? Well, easily actually. If and when I think of my girls while I run, it usually drives me to snap back to attention or continue plowing through.

But that's not necessarily the theme of today's Motivational Monday post. No, Christmas actually brings back a great memory that is quite motivational for me and always has been. I don't remember the specific year this incident happened but I'm guessing it was 1986 or so, give or take. And it really brought everything home to me about the season and the spirit of giving.

Growing up, we were poor. Dirt poor. We grew up living in a trailer on a dairy farm in Temecula. Now, if you're not familiar with Temecula, it's a thriving community of maybe 70,000 people on the southwestern edge of Riverside County. It's about an hour drive from San Diego and about 40 minutes from Riverside. But back in the 1980s, it was just a small little town, probably had about 15,000 residents. I actually remember calling it Rancho California and preferred that name.

We moved out there when I was five as my dad got a job as a dairy hand. His job was simple: herd up the cows, take them to the stalls, stick machines on the cow's nipples, flip a switch and milk them. It was a rather nondescript job, about as far from glorious as you can get. He worked split shifts, going in from 9 am to 2-3 pm and then going in at 9 pm until 2-3 am, worked six days a week and did so for many, many years.

Our trailer was pretty shabby, consisting of a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom. In the bedroom we had a bunk bed and I slept on the bottom bunk, my older brother on the top while my parents shared their mattress, which lay on the ground with no box springs or frame, with my younger brother. Five Buenos crammed into one room. I didn't know any different so to me that was normal. We had no phone, no cable TV, nothing fancy. We had a VCR but didn't get one until the late 80s. To me, fancy was having your own room. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have my own room with posters and a TV and phone and toys galore.

In the heyday of our time in then-rural Temecula, we got a visit around one Christmas from Santa Claus, although he drove a pickup truck and not a sleigh pulled by reindeer. I remember the scene vividly. I was playing with some toys in the living room and my mom was washing dishes in the kitchen. It was sometime in the morning when we heard a truck pull up to the big dirt patch in front of our trailer. My mom asked who it was. I told her it was Santa Claus. She was irritated and asked me to stop playing. Just then, Santa knocked on our door. She went and opened it - a big, sliding glass door - and Santa handed her a sack of gifts. He said "Merry Christmas," walked back to his truck and drove off.

My mom had tears in her eyes; my brother and I were super excited. We had a big bag of gifts, wonderful gifts, and we were going to open them all up, every last one of them. And once we finally opened the toys, I believe on Christmas day, I was in heaven. There were toys that I liked, toys I longed for and I had them at my disposal. My favorite was a blue Corvette transformer named Tracks. It was great, although back then I believe I described it as radical. We had so much fun opening those gifts. Some of them weren't the best but we enjoyed them all nevertheless.

Looking back on it now, it probably was some sort of gift drive held by some sort of local group or charity who targeted poor people. That was us, poor people, though we were happy nonetheless. The enormous generosity displayed that day and during that season did not truly sink in until years later. When you are 10, you just don't have that kind of perspective. Now, though, I understand how generous and kind people can be and how much of a difference things like that make in people's lives.

I'd like to think that molded me in some way, that that incident helped me realize generous acts can go a long way. In my own life, I've done a lot of things that took time and effort and had little immediate payback. For instance, I mentored at an elementary school for a year when I was in my early 20s and tried to be a good role model to the children I was assigned to. That year was all about giving back to the poor, to a community of children who were happy to receive attention and whatever small gifts we could provide. And in general, I always try to be generous and take an extra minute whenever I can to help people.

Now with children of my own, I try to show them that life isn't all about the material things, that it's nice to give and share. They're too young for this now but I want to start a tradition one Christmas. I want to take them out to a store and have them pick a toy they really want to get, no matter the price. Then, I want to have them take that toy, brand new, unwrapped, and donate it to a similar charity as the one that helped me out so many years ago. They might balk at first, might force me to pry the toy away from their hands, but in the end they will learn first hand about the spirit of giving, learn how much they can impact others' lives.

That story is so inspirational to me that I only need to think about it for a brief amount of time to get motivated, really to do anything.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Playlist enhancer: Battery by Metallica

Alright, this is some heavy stuff here. If you 're trying to get through a tough part of your run, as in the last stretch of a grueling jaunt, this is for you. I actually set up a playlist (yay!) for a 50-minute run and this song is towards the end of it. I timed it that way, so it can help me make one last push.

You have to be careful with this, though. These kinds of songs can give you a big boost, but it might be a bit much. If I put a song like this in, say, the 20th minute of my 50-minute run, I may give too much of an effort there and might become exhausted earlier than I should or would have otherwise.

Either way, though, it kicks some major ass.

Pain is back

I went out this morning and played soccer. It's something I like to do, play soccer on Sunday mornings with my brothers, cousins, uncles, etc. Usually we get a good game of 4-on-4 or something.

Being as it was cold this morning, I got a t-shirt to wear underneath a jersey I like to play in and tossed a sweater over that. Once at the field, I took the sweater off and played in my jersey with t-shirt underneath.

Now, perhaps it wouldn't have been a problem had we not been able to score. We played up to 10 with a break after one team gets to five. The first half, though, took 57 minutes to complete as our marksmanship was anything but precise.

Midway through the second half, I started to feel the pain again, the all-too-familiar but not-quite-pleasant pain. It came on kind of strong too. First, my right nipple hurt and then it was both of them flaring up. When I first felt them, I believe the score was somewhere around 7-5 with us losing. I tried to push through the pain but it just got worse. I finally stripped myself of the jersey and played with just the t-shirt, thinking that one less layer would equate to less friction.

Big mistake. It actually increased the friction on my now-protruding and flared nipples. I tried to hold my shirt away from my body while I ran but had little luck. By the end of the super-extra-long game, I was in utter pain.

I didn't expect to run that much and I wasn't thinking properly in the first place anyway. I was only concerned about the cold in the morning. I paid the price though. On my drive home, I took off my t-shirt but the stupid seat belt kept scraping against my nipples. More pain. I tried to hold it away from my body but it was no use. By the time I got close to my house, I'd taken the seat belt off. I put on some hydrocortisone when I got home but so far it's not really done much to take the pain away. I'm just airing them out, seeing if that helps.

Definitely one of my new year's resolutions will be to have and keep nipple cream handy. I want to try that cream combination that was recommended to me but without a running program I've not had the time or need to go and get all the supplies for it. Now, though, I will make it a point to get it. That and stop wearing t-shirts when I run or do any physical activity whatsoever. My poor nipples can't handle it.

On the positive side, I ran and ran and ran and ran... here are the stats: for the first half, I averaged 162 heart rate with a max of 184 and burned 879 calories over 57 minutes. The second half, I had averaged 163 with a max of 185 and burned just under 800 calories in roughly 45 mnutes when I stopped the monitor because we'd scored what I thought was the game-winning goal. I had another 8 minutes with an average HR of 163, max of 179 and burned 115 calories. Also, we lost the game but I did have an awesome pass that led to a goal.

No running buddies

Since I've been running now, I've pretty much gone it alone. I've figured out the races I've wanted to run, planned out my own training regimen and executed it all on my own. I never really thought about running with anyone. Until this morning.

On an early-morning outing, I drove by several pairs of runners. They were jogging at an easy pace, probably one that you could hold a conversation with. It struck me at that moment that it would be great to have a jogging pal.

I don't, though. I go it alone, and while that's worked well so far I'd imagine it would be great to have a running partner every now and again.

I suppose I could look into finding a running group. At the last race I participated in, there were several runners wearing the same t-shirt for a running group they were part of. Something like that could lead to finding a running partner or two that I could run with.

For now, though, I'll have to continue my solo journey towards my goals. I'm glad I have my iPod to keep me company.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The first step is the toughest

A longtime friend of mine began today the same process that ultimately changed my own ways: he started seeing a personal trainer.

My friend has been overweight since I've known him, and the last couple of years he's packed on more pounds. He's a teacher so I'd imagine he takes some abuse from students about his weight, and although I'm not sure his ultimate motivation for seeking out a personal trainer his schooling life probably played a role in his decision.

Now, it may seem simple; seeing a personal trainer and getting in shape may seem like logical steps for someone who battles weight problems. But it's not quite that straightforward. There are lots of reasons to get healthy and try and lose weight but there are more reasons to not. At least, that's what you tell yourself when you have more than 100 pounds to lose. That's what I used to tell myself.

"What's the point? I'll never lose all this weight."

"This isn't really going to make a difference."

"It's far more work than it's worth."

It's not easy to get over that mental roadblock. It's difficult. Challenging. In more ways than one. Basically, you are being asked to change the way you look at food, change the way you look at exercise, and do it quickly, like as in yesterday.

It's more comfortable to just do nothing, to stay in the comfort zone you've built up for yourself and forget about losing weight and just indulge. There's no difficult decision there.

So for my friend to have broken through, signed up for a trainer and worked out that way for the first time is fantastic. As I told him, the hardest steps were the ones he already took. For the rest, all you have to do is follow instructions, place your faith in the trainer and be true to yourself. It's really that simple.

It may not seem like it at times but it's true.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Healthy snacks

Snacking is important, but snacking on the wrong kinds of things can be devastating. I like to snack twice a day, once between breakfast and lunch and once between lunch and dinner.

In general, I try to keep my snacks at or under 100 calories. That's not always realistic as sometimes - especially now during the holiday season - I make bad choices.

Here's a list that I keep handy and helps me plan my snacks out. Some of the things on here are ballpark figures, like the apples and such. But it helps me keep perspective of what's a good snack and what I should include in my diet. The pickings from the 25-calorie bunch are slim but if you mix a 75-calorie snack with one of them, you can get a decent sized return for your calorie investment.

25 calorie snacks: 5 stalks celery, 5 zucchini sticks, one cup green beans, one tomato, one small plum, one prune, one stalk broccoli, 9 brussels sprouts, half cup cooked spinach, two whole cucumbers, one cup cauliflower, 7 oz lettuce, two large dill pickles, one marshamallow

50 calorie snacks: one peach, one cup watermelon cubes, half cup raspberries, half papaya, half mango or kiwi, half cup applesauce, one slice cantaloupe, 10 small cherries, one small apple, two apricots, half cup fruit salad, one large tangerine, one sesame breadstick, two graham crackers, three ritz crackers, 10 oyster crackers, 5 animal crackers, one fig bar

75 calorie snacks: one slice bread, one slice American cheese, two shortbread cookies, one large pineapple slice, three cups air-popped popcorn, one Milano cookie, one medium apple, one hard-boiled egg

100 calorie snacks: one cup puffed rice and half cup skim milk, half English muffin and half tsp butter, one slice toast and one tsp jelly, one rice cake and one Tbs peanut butter, half cup vanilla yogurt, one cup skim milk, one apple/pear/banana, one cup chicken rice soup, one cup peas and carrots, four oz shrimp, two oz turkey, half cup sherbet, 10 walnut halves, 15 almonds, 30 pistachios, half cup oatmeal, one cup fruit cocktail, one ear corn, one tortilla, one small oatmeal cookie, one frozen fruit bar

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What kind of runner am I?

Besides a Muddy Runner of course...

I've never really thought about this. I've only been running for about a year, though, so I can't say I've given a whole lot of thought as to what sort of runner I am. Long-distance runs like the half or full marathon scare me and I'm not fast at all so I sort of see myself as a middle-distance runner. That's what I've determined in my first year of running.

But Runner's World posted the question steps to help you figure out what kind of runner you are. So I figured I'd go through the steps here to figure out the answer to this question.

Identify Your True Calling (in form of a quiz)

- How many hours a week do you devote to training? First choice (2-3) is out. I'd have to go with choice B, 4-5, although I'd love to get in six hours or more a week.

- How would you describe the perfect training run? The middle choice, running right at the edge of your abilities, not backing off from a difficult effort but not pushing so much that you're out of steam.

- If you could skip any workout each week, what would it be? I don't like workouts that don't seem long enough so choice B is the best choice. Choice A is any run that takes more than an hour. No way. I welcome hour-long runs.

- When you're out on a group run, you stand out from the pack by: I don't like to surge to the finish and I don't like to feel fresh at the end of a long run so choice B - sticking with lead group no matter how much they're pushing the pace - seems best again.

- When you get injured, what typically precipitates the problem? Choice C - I've not had any major injuries (knock on wood)... unless you count the nipple pain!

- What's your philosophy when it comes to spending money on a race? Choice B - about 50 bucks a race is okay. The Mud Run was 50 bucks incidentally, and even with the hotel I rented the night before in Oceanside it was money well worth spent. Every cent.

- When you're choosing a race, what matters most? C is the one that fits the bill - it should feel like a big deal. I'm all for convenience but to me all the races I've ran in have felt like big deals, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

- What are your race distances where you had the best finishing times? Probably the 5K was my best time so A.

Now I have to tally up the points and interpret my score.

I am a middle distance specialist! Yay! Here is the description:

It may feel like the world revolves around the marathon but you may not have to go that far to experience greatness: 10-milers and half-marathons could be for you. Some brush off middle distances as "practice" but running them, you'll be part of a renaissance - as 13.1 milers become the most popular races, many have taken on the big-league feel of marathons and they don't require as much money and time.

Now, before I go on, if you want me to post the full quiz with all options and the way to interpret your score, I'd be more than happy to. Let me know.

Okay, well, that's great then. I am a middle-distance specialist. I don't like to run anything less than three miles to be honest. And again, the thought of running 20 miles just scares the crap out of me. So I've settled into this comfortable yet challenging groove of running 6-8 miles, and now I will challenge myself next year to double that.

It's great knowing that I'm meeting my true calling in running. If it said I was a long-hauler, I would have had to reassess my running and race plan for next year. But 10Ks and half-marathons comfort me.

My new mag

About three years ago, you could have lumped Runner's World magazine along with Cat Fancy or Golf Illustrated in the category "Stuff I Have No Desire to Read."

Now after my fitness renaissance, I'm quite giddy that I finally bought my first Runner's World magazine.

I haven't had the chance to read it in detail (otherwise you probably would have seen a post or three about it already) but the first thing I noticed about it was the words at the very top: "2009 Marathon Guide."

Oh boy. The big one. The Marathon.

I'm not quite there yet but all signs are pointing to a marathon in my future. I've got a pair of half-marathons in 2009 that I'm eyeing and that's the next natural step in my progression. It scares me though, so much so that I don't really want to entertain the thought right now or even commit to one. What's the point? If I do run one, it won't be until 2010.

Still, I can't say that it's not in the back of my mind. This Runner's World magazine has only brought it to the forefront. For now, though, I'll try to enjoy reading the magazine and trying to pick up tips that will help me as I run.

As far as cats and golf... the respective renaissance for each of those hasn't quite happened.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold and wet and harrowing

Gotta love mobile blogging. I'm in my truck right now, listening to some music to pump me up, staring at the cold bitterness that awaits.

I'm about to step onto the artificial turf here at this school near Corona and the weather is not exactly inviting. The rain has been harsh all day and has shown no signs of letting up. There is just enough wind to make it feel a notch or two beneath uncomfortable.

And I get to run around in this nastiness for a couple of hours!

Both teams are already here so any last minute chance of a cancellation is gone. Its just the players and refs now united against the terrible weather conditions.

I can't say for sure but I don't recall any sort of workout or activity I have had in the last couple of years in such weather. Hopefully I can get enough running in so that I don't really feel the cold. If the girls aren't just standing around I think I will be okay.

Regardless, its a bit of a rite of passage. Soccer isn't baseball, where a few drops of rain will force cancellation of a game. We have to do it and I for one am up for the challenge.

ADD: Okay, it's about four hours later. The game was canceled. Can you believe it?After all the time I spent in the truck blogging, psyching myself out, it was canceled. I got a call five minutes before three telling me as much. I went out to the field to talk to the coaches, who had just received the call as well. They were a bit irate. I was too, because I wanted to get the game underway. Apparently the school thought it was a liability to play in that weather. Fine, but they could have made that decision at 10 am; it's not like the storm came from out of nowhere.

All dressed up

Since I began to actually care what I put in my body, one of the first things I realized was that salads were not all they were made out to be. Typically, the word salad conjures up images of healthy fare, food that will help keep the calories down and won't make you feel guilty for having licked your plate clean.

That is not entirely true. Some salads at certain restaurants can come close to or exceed 1,000 calories, and that is pretty high no matter what kind of food you're eating.

One of the reasons salads can start to rack up the calories is the salad dressing. If you are not careful, you can turn a decent meal into an unhealthy one with an extra drizzle or three of the wrong dressing.

Men's Health helped sort out the salad dressings, though. Unfortunately, there are only four salads they recommend and four that they say you should stay away from, but that is a good figure nonetheless.

Here are the salad dressings to avoid (all serving sizes are two tablespoons unless noted):

Hidden Valley The Original Ranch Dressing: 140 cal, 14 g fat, 260 mg sodium
Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing: 110 cal, 11 g fat, 530 mg sodium
Ken's Steak House Creamy Caesar Dressing: 160 cal, 18 g fat, 280 mg sodium
Cardini's Roasted Asian Sesame Dressing: 120 cal, 10 g fat, 360 mg sodium
Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing: 90 cal, 8 g fat, 300 mg sodium

And these are their top five choices:

South Beach Diet Ranch Dressing: 70 cal, 7 g fat 300 mg sodium
Newman's Own Lighten Up! Italian Dressing: 60 cal, 6 g fat, 260 mg sodium
Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers Caesar Delight Vinaigrette (10 sprays): 15 cal, 1 g fat, 85 mg sodium
Ken's Steak House Lite Asian Sesame with Ginger & Soy Dressing: 70 cal, 4 g fat, 450 mg sodium
Annie's Naturals Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing: 100 cal, 10 g fat, 75 mg sodium

Now, I am loyal to Kraft for some reason. I don't know why but I always buy the Kraft kind of salad dressings. However, I always get the fat free kind or the light kind or whatever they call it. Here's the info from the label of my favorite kind of salad dressing, Thousand Island.

Kraft Fat Free Thousand Island: 45 cal, 0 g fat, 260 mg sodium.

Compared to the good choices, this fits in well. Only the spray kind had fewer calories per serving and all had some fat content.

I guess that's one thing I can say that I don't need to improve, although I could diversify. The Italian dressing seems intriguing. Ultimately, though, salads around here are what they are supposed to be, a healthy alternative to the standard meal. Although, I can't go adding extra dressing because then I'll have defeated the purpose.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Playlist enhancer: more from The Killers

This is one of my favorite songs from The Killers. I enjoy their music quite a bit but this song probably along with Shadowplay are my favorites from them.

Maybe it's because I don't hear it as often as some of their other stuff but I love the rhythm and the lyrics and everything. I can slip this song in between a couple of other, harder songs like stuff from say Rage Against the Machine and it will fit in nicely. This song has helped me in outdoor runs and at the end of interval runs. It's funny how you can remember certain parts of certain runs because you listened to a particular song and can conjure up the memories.

Anyway, here's the video for For Reasons Unknown:

On deck for 2009

I had planned my 2009 races carefully, or so I'd thought. I had set a goal of running a half-marathon on June 6 and had all but let all the other races fall into place around that.

But then life had a way of throwing a curve ball.

The Camp Pendleton Race series is set for 2009 and the Mud Run dates are up: June 6, 7 and 13 will be my only chances to participate in the Mud Run a year from now. That sort of forces me to choose between running a half marathon that day or run the Mud Run.

I choose the Mud Run. If that's the choice, it's not exactly a tough one when it comes down to it. There are only three Mud Run races, and they are all within an eight-day span. There will be lots of other opportunities to run a half marathon next year, and I've even found a few.

My tentative (and revised) plan for 2009 now is this:

Jan. 24 - Ontario Mills 5K
April 19 - Redlands Half Marathon
June 6 - Camp Pendleton Mud Run
Sept. 19 - Camp Pendleton Half Marathon

That's four races in 2009, or at least the first nine months of 2009 anyway. I may consider running the Mission Inn Run again, possibly the 5K or 10K. But I'm not sure yet on that one.

If you notice, that's two half-marathons in 2009. That's a lot of mileage and a rather rigorous training schedule. However, they are all spaced out enough from each other to allow for proper training and, just as important, rest time in between training.

I figure the Ontario race will serve as a bit of a wake-up call. I'll have to do some sort of limited training for that, and hopefully it won't really be limited. Then, after that I'll have to start training for the half marathon. There will be just enough time in between those races for me to train the way I've wanted to train for it, over 10 weeks in a slow buildup for what will be the biggest race of my life. Then, there will be enough time to rest and train for the Mud Run. I'll be interested to see how the training goes once I'm done with the half-marathon. Being that I'll have run 13 miles or so in a race, I think (well, actually I hope) that the training for the Mud Run won't be as tough on me as it was in 2008, when I had little previous training leading up that point.

The second half-marathon is also a maybe. It will either be that one or the Disneyland half-marathon, which is a couple of weeks before. Or another option will be some sort of 10K around that time. I'm not sold on yours truly being able to train for and run two half-marathons in one calendar year, but that's what I want to shoot for.

Am I excited? Actually, yes, I'm quite excited to have goals again. However, I need to temper that excitement since I won't actually train for them until next year. I've still got a lot of time between now and then. But at least I know that 2008 will have served as a great foundation for future races and runs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday's jaunt

It felt so good to get on the treadmill and run this morning. Lately, my "workouts" have doubled as soccer games... well, it's actually the other way around. But still, the only running I've been able to get in has been at soccer games. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, I did games last week on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and two on Saturday. That's a lot of running (and abuse from parents, but nevermind that).

Anyway, today I reverted back to my usual 42-minute interval run. As I wrote before, this run I use when I've not run in a while and when I need to jumpstart my workouts. It fit the bill pretty good today. I started to record my heart rate after the 5-minute warm up and stopped it a few minutes from the end, and during that time I averaged 161 and got to a high of 186 and burned 510 calories for good measure.

I've got two games on Tuesday and single games on Wednesday and Thursday but I will try and squeeze a run for distance in there at some point. Now that I've got one run under my belt this week, I'm bound to have success later in the week.

Motivational Monday (Dec. 14)

It's all about goals this week for me. I have set a goal or two for this week in terms of running but more importantly I've started to plan out my race schedule for 2009 and laying down the foundation of what promises to be a year full of runs.

I'll go more into detail about the actual races in a future post but I will say that the race list on the right side of the page will change dramatically. It's all because of the Mud Run as the dates have been set and it sort of forced me to plan around that.

In short, though, I've got at least four races planned - 5K, 10K (Mud Run) and possibly two half-marathons. Already, I'm getting excited about the possibility of training for such races and setting such goals.

That's really the best motivation for me: goals. When I have something to shoot for and something to plan around, I do my best. If I have something to aim at, it really drives me. Conversely, if I just tell myself 'Oh, I'll run so many miles this week' without a long-term goal in mind, it feels as I'm just running aimlessly. And I am to an extent, just running without a plan.

We all need goals, fitness goals and nutritional goals. Whether it's a 5K walk you want to participate in (for instance, one goal I'm trying to help my wife set for herself) or the monster of all races (a marathon), goals help you define strategies and plans to reach them, which forces you to decide on the necessary steps to meet them.

So what are my goals for this week: I'm running intervals today at the gym. I have games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so I want to get in a distance run later in the week, possibly on Thursday, and make another trip to the gym on Friday and/or run outside on Saturday. It's supposed to rain this week here to so outdoor runs aren't likely but if it clears up that would be grand.

And I'm just enthused though to have set some goals because now it feels like I'm running toward something.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I miss running

I didn't run much during Friday's game. I have three games later today so I'll probably get some good running in.

But one thing's for certain: I miss running. Distance running. Running 4-5 miles or more. Maybe Monday I'll be able to run.

Until then, I'll just be counting the minutes until my next run.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Do as I say, not as I do

After writing about the ills of cheese and how much of a fiend I've become, I went against my better judgment and made a meal that isn't exactly healthy. I made wet burritos for dinner on Thursday. What exactly is a wet burrito? It's a burrito covered in melted cheese. This is far more of a gut bomb than a regular burrito since the regular burrito would only have a portion of the cheese a wet burrito has.

I decided to document this wayward dinner and share it with you. Normally I share tips on how to maintain your fitness levels and achieve your goals but, since it's the holidays and I'm in a spirit of giving, I figured I'd give you a way to enhance your meal plan by packing calories in it.

To start, you need the following: ground beef, rice and refried beans. Mmmm.... you can smell the calories already.

Then, take some Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese from the trusty two-pound blocks sold at Costco for 4.99 and grate it up. You could use just one kind of cheese but where's the fun in that?

Afterward, heat up a tortilla on the stovetop. Otherwise, it ain't gonna work.

Then take the properly heated-up tortilla, add beans, rice and beef of your choice. You can also add whatever else you'd like here; I chose cilantro but you could also add some onion, jalapenos or whatever else strikes your fancy. Just don't add cheese because, well, you'll see.

Now, what differentiates this from a regular burrito is this key ingredient and procedure. First the ingredient: tomato sauce. I like the Mexican-style tomato sauce because it is already infused with lots of good spicy stuff, namely peppers. Some are spicier than others but they're not going to burn a hole in your tongue. Here's my preferred brand:

Take a rolled-up burrito, place it on a cookie sheet and spread this yummy salsa fresca all over the burrito like so:

Then sprinkle cheese on top. Trying not to pile too much would be futile since this is the key step in all this after all.

Pop it into a preheated 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes or until the cheese has melted through and Voila!

Some yummy goodness. I served mine with Mexican Rice II from All Recipes garnished with cilantro and a lime on the side. Next time I might consider just putting the burrito on an oven-safe plate and melting it there since you get all the residue and stuff that stayed behind on the foil. Then again, aren't these enough calories to begin with?

And for the record, I had just one of these gut bombs although I really really REALLY wanted to make myself another. That counts for something, no?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In your face

Just had to share this. Can't say that I've encountered this before and not sure if I would have done anything had I gotten to it. Really, though, that's what number seven gets for trying to interfere with the play.

Cheese fiend

I have become a cheese fiend. Before marriage, I didn't really drink coffee nor did I care much for cheese unless it was on pizzas or cheeseburgers. But now, my wife has successfully converted me into a coffee nut as well as a cheese fiend.

Lately, I've been very open to trying new cheeses. I get a block of cheese at Costco for relatively cheap and I like to slice pieces of it off and chow down. Not the healthiest I know but it's damn tasty.

There are some cheeses, though, that are better than others. Thanks to Men's Health, I know a little bit of what kinds of cheeses to avoid. In general, they aren't going to tell you to go out and get blocks of cheese but what little info they give is useful.

The recommended cheeses are:
Kraft Sharp Cheddar 2% Milk Slices: 50 cal, 3 g fat per slice
Athenos Traditional Feta (1 0z): 80 cal, 6 g fat
Kraft Natural Low-Moisture, Part-Skim Mozzarella Shreds (1/4 cup): 80 cal, 5 g fat
Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar (1 oz): 70 cal, 4.5 g fat

And to avoid:
Kraft Deli Deluxe Sharp Cheddar: 110 cal, 8 g fat per slice
Kraft Cracker Barrel Vermont Extra Sharp White 2% Milk Cheddar (1 oz): 90 cal, 6 g fat, 240 mg sodium
Kraft Classic Melts Four Cheese Shredded Cheese (1/4 cup): 120 cal, 10 g fat, 310 mg sodium
Treasure Cove Blue Cheese (1 oz): 100 calories 100, 8 g fat, 380 mg sodium

If you are going for the sliced cheese, anything more than 100 calories per slice is just not good. You can get down to as low as 30 calories per slice if you get the nonfat kind, and honestly with those you can't tell the difference if you use it in certain types of foods. Sometimes for instance I'll melt the cheese over a sandwich and it tastes fine.

Still, the lack of quantity with regards to their choices is probably because cheese in general can pack the calories. Nachos, lasagna, pizza all are examples of foods loaded with cheese and all have lots of calories. It's no coincidence though that all are quite tasty, so just arm yourself with some knowledge. has all the info on all the cheeses, such as one of my favorites Monterey Jack and the block I passed on at the store recently, mozzarella. If nothing else, I know what I'm getting myself into when my cheese craving becomes too much.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Playlist enhancer: Erasure

Okay, not all of the songs I listen to while working out are rock. Some aren't exactly tough either.

This qualifies as "not rock" and "not tough" but it's still a good workout song. Since I do normally listen to hard and tough songs, this is a change of pace and to me this seems like a bit relaxing. It's upbeat and helps me maintain through a rough stretch or finish off a good run/bike ride.

I've listened to it quite a few times with success. It's a good thing, though, that I can't actually see these guys when I'm working out because the feathered boa look isn't really one for me.

It's the most wonderful interval run of the year

All I want for Christmas is to have time to run. I haven't had any lately and when I do, I opt not to because of my afternoon refereeing duties.

But I do long for distance runs and interval runs, for a time to plan out my running schedule a week at a time, to commit to a runs on certain days and follow through with them, to having pain-free... well, let's quit while we're ahead.

One of my favorite runs, pretty much my go-to run when I need something to jolt me back to running or set my training regimen straight, is this interval run. I've mentioned it before - I usually call it "my favorite 42-minute interval run" - but I've not dedicated time to it before now.

Intervals have helped me a tremendous deal. I don't think I would have been able to have accomplished what I accomplished in 2008 without them. Interval runs are simply runs in which you change the pace and speed of your runs in set increments of time. For instance, during a typical interval run I will walk, run slow, run fast and run faster and I will do so intermittently. For instance, I'll start with a walk, build up to a run and then alternate between slow and fast, then walk, then back to slow/fast, walk, etc.

How does this work? For me, it got me used to running when I was already fatigued. With exhaustion already settled in, I was able to fight through that and build up my stamina and endurance by running tired. It forces your heart to work harder than it would during a run that is pretty much the same pace for a sustained period of time. Also, during interval runs you burn more calories than you would otherwise. So if you run a half hour worth of intervals or a half hour at, say a speed of 6.0, you will burn more calories during the interval run.

To me, though, the best part is not having to run for so long. I like to run, don't get me wrong, but sometimes it's easier to get up for a run knowing you will have the chance to walk and run slower and that you aren't necessarily shooting for a particular distance.

This particular interval run was part of a series of runs given to me by my brother-in-law. He was recovering from some major back surgery and a friend of his designed some workouts for him to help him get back into a routine of running. Prior to his back surgery, my brother-in-law had been quite active. With the help of these workouts, he was able to recover fully from his back surgery. His friend has a Master's Degree in Physical Therapy so I trust his work. And frankly I'm proof of its success.

Now, I have only tried a handful of the runs he gave me partly because I fell in love with this run. It worked so well, I didn't feel the need to go on to any other one. Now, below you will see percentages. It is the percentage based on how fast you can run. I will explain how I do it afterward.

Here is the run:

5 min warm up
12 min (1 min 60%, 1 min 90%)
3 min easy recovery
6 min same as above
3 min easy recovery
4 min same as above
2 min easy recovery
2 min sprint
5 min cool down
42 min TOTAL

So basically there are 24 minutes worth of running during this time. The rest is walking. That's quite appealing. If you try to gear up for a 42-minute run, it may be difficult but if you know you will be able to walk for nearly half that time, it may not seem so bad.

Another great aspect of this is that it can suit your needs. The percentages are based on the person running so if the person can only do limited speeds, then it can easily be tailored to suit them. Plus, the more experience you gain and the more stamina you build up, the more you can adjust this run to suit your needs.

When I first started running this, my low was about a 5.5 or 5.7 and I believe my high was around a 6.8. The sprint was an 8.0. Now, my low is 6.0, high is 7.5 and my sprint is at a 9.0. I don't know how much higher I will go but for now this suits me fine.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Putting the baby in carrots

A couple of weeks ago, I started taking a look at certain veggies to help point out their positives in an attempt to incorporate them into my own diet.

A few weeks later though and I find myself not willing to try a new vegetable. The first one I looked at was sweet potatoes and so far so good; they've become regulars for me. But now, I've decided to look at something that I'm not quite as enthused as I was about the sweet potatoes.

Carrots. Baby carrots actually. It's not that I dislike the taste or anything, but baby carrots are, well, vegetables. But I've actually found success in snacking on them. They aren't the most filling things but sometimes when I'm in the mood to put things in my mouth I just set out a bowl of baby carrots and after a while the mood passes and instead of having downed several handfuls of tortilla chips, I had jammed a lot of good stuff down my throat.

Here are some statistics on the baby carrot: per 3 oz, baby carrots have 30 calories, 1.5 g fiber and 200 mg potassium. The fiber content is what's most appealing to me, that and the low calorie count. By themselves the carrots aren't filling but if I have some carrots and then an apple, that's a decent snack that is usually pretty filling. When you combine the 1.5 g fiber in the carrots with the 3-4 g fiber in the apple, in one sitting you've gotten about one-fifth of your fiber intake. Now, I prefer baby carrots because they are ready to eat but the regular sized carrots with skins on actually have more nutritional benefits. One 3-oz serving has 2.5 g fiber, for instance. I suppose it's a taste and convenience thing for me, but I may consider the regular carrots the next time I head to the store.

Still, I need to try and find a way to serve the carrots as a side dish rather than just eating them plain as a snack. I found some recipes here but now the fun part is sorting through them and figuring out which ones would still be relatively healthy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Motivational Mondays (Dec. 8)

It's the start of a new week but that doesn't mean I'm quite motivated. Today is the start of another long week but will be the only day of the week in which I'll get some actual peace and quiet. I've got soccer games Tuesday through Friday as well as three games on Saturday (yes, three).

I'm getting more and more comfortable settling into games as I talk to fellow refs about how they handle certain situations. This week I will actually have two varsity games so I won't be alone for those matches, and the other two are within a mile or two of my house so no driving too many long distances.

But still, I'm not going to let relatively minor things dominate my entire week. In the grand scheme of things, those games are important but I don't want to have to worry about that and overlook other things. I still have to get my girls dressed every day, get my oldest to school five times, my youngest three times, make sure they are fed after school, taken over to their sitter's for the afternoon; and on top of that I've got to get the house in order, go to the grocery store, plan out the week's meals (lunches and dinners) and, oh yeah, Christmas shopping.

So the slate gets filled pretty quickly. And while it's easy to feel overwhelmed, you just have to remain focused on your goals. Times like these, and lately that's been every week, you need to think about your goals and plan other things around it.

My fitness goals for this week... mostly, those will be taken care of by reffing. However, I would like to get in one or two distance runs this week as crazy as that may seem. I will have time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings to go to the gym or run around my block. Games have done me well in terms of providing me the fitness I need and I don't see that slowing down.

Also, I've got to hit my nutritional goals. I had an off week in terms of sweets, mostly because of the weekend. But I will get some greens into my meals this week. Spinach would be good. Maybe some broccoli. I've done well to get sweet potatoes regularly into the rotation, so that's another veggie I can count on. I may get some carrots to provide myself a healthy snack option. Apples and oranges and bananas are plentiful.

So when trying to sort out my week, all I have to do is focus on my goals in order to help get me through. Goals are vital, whether they are long-term goals (I want to run a whatever race whatever months from now) or short-term goals (I want to incorporate broccoli into tonight's dinner). It gives you something to shoot for and that's a great starting point.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Another possible solution

My latest saga is not yet complete, the one a friend referred to as "titillating."

The Vicks did not cure my, um, upper chest condition. But some helpful advice came my way recently, from a pharmacist no less. If it's pharmacist approved, then I must try it, for it shall work.

Here is the advice I received (thanks TG!): Mix Vaseline, lanolin and 0.5% hydrocortisone ointment in a 1-to-1-to-1 ratio.

That just might work. The vaseline alone I figured would work but adding the other two ointments seems to provide not just lubricant but also some sort of healing qualities. Lanolin, as was also well recommended, helps treat chapped lips, diaper rash, itchy skin as well as sore nipples. Hydrocortisone, meanwhile, helps treat skin conditions brought upon by rashes, insect bites and allergies, to name a few.

So this concoction seems as if it will work splendidly. During my runs, I don't feel the nipple too much, but once I'm done the sensation starts to hit and I ache. Funny thing, it usually affects my right side more than my left. Not sure why that is but when I've bled the heaviest it's always been from my right side.

Now, I probably don't have to worry too much about this condition in the coming week. I have games to officiate on every day save Monday coming up, and I will probably rest or ride the bike at the gym on Monday. But - here comes another promise - before I go on my next run, I will have purchased the necessary ingredients to make my own nipple-saving cream.

Will it work? I'll have to try it and blog about it afterward. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will, for my upper chest's sake.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Playlist enhancer: Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly is a bit of an unknown band. Typically, they've gotten overlooked I believe because they don't quite fit into any one category. Are they alternative? Not compared to alternative bands. Are they hard rock? Not really. Metal? No. Punk? Yeah, I think they've been lumped into the "punk" category. Consequently, they don't get much airplay.

Anyway, "Drunken Lullabies" is one of their better songs. I like it because it's quite upbeat and can help me both get pumped up or cool down if I've listened to a couple of hard songs in a row.

Sorting out breakfast sides

In my ever-expanding quest to diversify and expand my breakfast options, I figured I'd take a look at breakfast sides. Typically, I eat an energy bar for breakfast but below I talked about my want and desire to find a good cereal and ultimately decided to go all the way and look at what else makes for a healthy and nutritious breakfast.

You think of breakfast and you think of eggs, bacon, sausage, maybe some oatmeal along with, of course, cereal. Now, I don't like eggs so that's not really something I need to explore for myself but I'll mention them as they are a key part of most breakfast tables I'd imagine.

All of these statistics are courtesy of Men's Health.

First, the stuff they recommend you avoid:

1. Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon (per two slices): 70 cal, 6 g fat, 380 mg sodium
2. Egg Whites (2 large eggs): 35 cal, 110 mg sodium
3. Ore-Ida Original Roasted Potatoes (3/4 cup): 130 cal, 5g fat, 380 mg sodium
4. Hilshire Farm Lite Polska Kielbasa (2 oz): cal 110, 8 g fat, 530 mg sodium
5. Banquet Brown 'n Serve Original Links (3 mini links): 200 cal, 18 g fat, 490 mg sodium

Again, I don't much care for eggs but yolks provide vitamins A, B and E and choline, litein and zeaxanthin, which apparently are beneficial. The egg whites have protein and little more. Also, a Harvard study showed that people who eat the most potatoes - one serving three or four days a week - have a 14 percent greater risk of diabetes.

As far as the good stuff, there are some decent choices.

1. Oscar Mayer America's Favorite Bacon (two slices): 70 cal, 6 g fat, 290 mg sodium
2. Whole Large Egg: 70 cal, 5 g fat, 70 mg sodium
3. Quaker Quick Grits (1/2 cup uncooked): 260 cal, 0 mg sodium
4. Al Fresco Apple Maple Chicken Sausage (two links): 140 cal, 6 g fat, 340 mg sodium
5. Banquet Brown n' Serve Turkey Sausage (three links): 110 cal, 7 g fat, 290 mg sodium

The list corresponds to each other, so instead of item 1 from the first list, they recommend you have item 1 from the second list. It's startling to see the difference in some, for instance turkey sausage as opposed to regular sausage. The turkey sausage has almost 100 fewer calories and 200 fewer mg sodium.

Now, turkey doesn't always equate to good as the turkey bacon is actually worse than the regular bacon. But in the case of sausage turkey is best.

As with the cereal, I'll have to try some of these out. I'm interested in tasting the different types of sausage available and I may incorporate some bacon every now and then as well. Let's just hope, as with the cereal, that it's all tasty as well.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stomach's gotta adjust too

Since I started my afternoon adventures on the soccer field, aka officiating, I've had to juggle many things around. I was usually around the house in the mid to late afternoon, handling naps, trying to feign some attempt at cleaning and, most importantly, making dinner. I'd eat lunch around 12:30 or 1 and then dinner would be ready anywhere from 5:30 to 6:30, depending on.. well, lots of things.

Now, that's not an option. I'm getting ready to go out to my latest game and I will be out of the house by no later than 2:30. I figure I won't get home until 5:30, possibly later. Can't cook, can't handle naps, can't do any of that stuff.

While I've been able to make sure my girls are taken care of, I've not quite adjusted to the rest of the new found turmoil. I've still tried to eat lunch around the same time but that hasn't quite worked out. On two occasions this week, I showed up to the game and still felt a bit, well not full but it didn't feel like enough time had passed from when last I ate.

So today, I tried something different. I tried eating more during the morning than I usually do. I didn't have a lot of time (surprise!) so I didn't have a sandwich or wrap or something like I normally do. Instead, I cut some pieces off a block of sharp cheddar cheese and had a baked sweet potato. Again, not the greatest options for an all-around complete lunch but it's something.

I hopefully will be able to show up and feel energized, not hungry, not full, not anything except ready to go. Next week I have four games that start at 3:15, Tuesday through Friday, so I will have to figure out my eating schedule and what kinds of foods to eat. If today works out, I'll try eating sandwiches at around 11 am instead of the 12:30 or 1 option I'd given myself.