Thursday, January 31, 2008

The best laid plans


What a great time of year.

There's a buzz among Club members - nothing like setting a goal and laying out a plan to get the running juices flowing again. Just a few nights ago, I was practically gitty while packing my bag with my running gear in anticipation of the start of another training session; that and the fact that I hadn't run in a month and was eager to see how things were going with my body, from an injury point-of-view.

If you know me, you know I'm passionate about running, but passion alone doesn't get you to the starting line, discipline does. This will be my fourth attempt at training for a half marathon, the first three cut short by injuries of one form or another. I think I've done everything right this time and in a blog not so long ago, I made a commitment to being smart and getting in shape to start training for the May event. Let's review the checklist:

Take it slow. I will get back to form by taking it slow, never wimping out, but never overdoing it.

Check. Stopped running for a month to nurse an injured calf muscle; even gave up playing hockey, this is serious.

Lose weight. I will lose 30 pounds between now and the Halifax Half in May 2008. I will accomplish this by eating smart and exercising smarter. A smaller gut means less stress on my wonky lower back.

Check. Twenty-two pounds gone, eight more to go. Actually going to go for forty, so, eighteen more to go.

Have fun. I will enjoy every foot-strike while I am able, because I know how lousy it feels to watch from the sidelines, or worse, stare at the ceiling.

Check. This is never a problem but my usual feelings of euphoria have been intensified by being able to get back out with the group.

I've done my part, now its up to the running gods. Nobody knows how the future will unfold, all we can do is take it one foot-strike at a time. But boy it's great to able to take those foot-strikes again.

Destination: Halifax.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cut down, not out


It’s that time of year again. 

Health clubs are alive with the sounds of grunts and groans from New Year’s Resolutioners, determined to stick with it and lose weight this time.  Notice the emphasis on “this time”.  It has been well documented that eighty-five percent of diets fail.  Actually, diets don’t fail, people do, but why?

Believe me, I have experience with weight issues, both gains and losses, and in my “expert” opinion, most people fail to lose weight for at least one of the following reasons:

  1. The weight-loss goal is too aggressive.
  2. The weight-loss plan calls for a radical change in lifestyle.
  3. The weight-loss plan does not include physical activity.

Structuring a plan that defends against these pitfalls will increase your chances of losing the weight, and more importantly, keeping it off.

I want a quick fix

As human beings, we want it now and we don’t want to have to wait for it.  I know a lot of people who have set out to lose 25, 30 or 50 pounds only to fall off the diet wagon when progress seems too slow and in their minds, no longer worth the effort.  If twenty-five pounds is the goal, take a longer-term view and aim for a half-pound to a pound of weight loss each week.  A plan that is structured to allow you to meet your weekly goals will be more successful than one that calls for a 2 to 3 pound loss each week.  Make your goals attainable.

I’ll just join a gym

We’re busy people – most of our waking hours are committed to our jobs and we like to use our remaining free time to relax with family or perhaps a hobby.  I don’t know many people who lift weights either as a profession or as a hobby; there are such people, I just don’t know them.  That said, taking the little bit of enjoyable free time we have and sacrificing it for arm curls and squats is a recipe for failure.  I’m not slamming gyms or weightlifting for that matter, quite the opposite, but this type of activity needs to complement your plan, not form the basis of it.  There’s a reason why gyms are over-full in January, and looking for new members in March.

Pass the remote

To put it bluntly, I was a big frigger’ – 351 pounds at my best and the day I decided I had to lose weight (a little slow on the up-take heh?) I just needed a plan, a way to get there. When I began my weight-loss journey, no-carb diets were at their peak. It seemed everyone you talked to was on the 'Atkins' plan, some with good results, most with no results. The no-carb approach wasn't going to work for me.  Let me be frank - I don't believe in the Atkin's diet, I don't believe in the South Beach diet, I don't believe in the Slim Fast diet. The formula for losing weight hasn't changed since the Flintstones lived in Bedrock - you have to burn off more than you consume. As a society, we went nuts in the nineties looking at fat content on labels and trying to reduce as much as possible from what we ate; today, we're carb crazy trying to do the same. Both of these approaches, and many more, appeal to us because we think we can lose weight while remaining on the couch with our thumbs on the remote.  The problem with this approach is the minute you stray from one of these plans, the weight begins to pile back on with a vengeance. How many diet shakes can you consume for breakfast and lunch before you begin to start hating meal times?  Hear me - you want to lose weight?  You have to get your butt out of the chair and get your legs in motion. If you only added a little activity to your daily routine and kept eating the same way you always do, you would lose weight (or at least slow your weight-gain), slowly, surely and safely.

I must admit, I have an ulterior motive for writing this article.  A few people have come to me with a keen interest in counting calories, getting active and losing weight; this is in support of them.  We can get there, together, if we’re smart and patient.  The math hasn’t changed:

More calories burned than consumed = Weight loss

Knowing this formula will keep you more aware of what you’re eating and what you’re burning off.

Everything in moderation – just be sure to count it.