Monday, May 20, 2013

And now for something completely different: A post about running

So, I've noticed a trend here: Lots of posts about dieting and not much about running. This post is an attempt to rectify that problem.

I have four races on my calendar in the coming weeks:

Bare Bones 5K, May 25

First, the Bare Bones 5K this coming Saturday in Salisbury. This is mainly an opportunity to check my fitness level as I come off of my recovery month after Boston. As the weather starts warming up, I generally start slowing down, so a big challenge for me this summer is to see how well I can adapt to the heat. So far the forecast is actually for relatively cool temperatures -- low 60s -- on race day, so maybe I'll be able to go all out.

Next, the Main Street Challenge, which is a nighttime race, and an opportunity for Roberta Villneff to try to break the 5K state record for her age group. I'll be running right by her side at her planned 21-minute pace, and I'm very much looking forward to it! I think I'll bring a camera to this one.

The Peachtree 10K is a chance to run in an absolutely enormous event:

55,000 runners participate each year, making it more than twice as big as the Boston Marathon.

My 5K PR of 18:03 puts me in the seeded wave, which is going to be fantastic -- I'll be just behind the invited runners right at the front of the pack. Needless to say, in Atlanta in July, it's going to be hot, so once again I don't plan on PRing in this race, but I would like to break 40 minutes if at all possible. 

Finally, the Grandfather Mountain Marathon is a notoriously tough race in the North Carolina mountains, but I'm looking forward to it as a "no pressure" event because I will certainly have no chance of PRing. That said, to prepare for it I'm planning to do more hill work, and this past Sunday was a prime example. I had an 18-mile run on the calendar and I knew it was going to be a muggy morning, so I started early, at 6 am. Jeremy joined me for the first 6 miles, an out-and-back on Grey Road, the hilliest road in town. Next we joined the regular Sunday 7 am crowd for 10 more. I still had two miles left as I slogged back into town, but fortunately Sam was willing to run those miles with me, so I had company the whole way. It wasn't a fast run, but I got my hill work in, and I feel like I'm starting to get back to prime running shape, so that's good news. Details of Sunday's workout are below.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Yet Another Weight Loss Update

I've now been working at losing weight for four weeks, and while I'm still making progress, it's not as fast as I had hoped. I'm down to 181 pounds, just one pound less than at my last update. That was 11 days ago, and at that point I had lost 5 pounds in about two and a half weeks.

Here's the updated graph of my energy balance for the entire period:

I've made one significan modification from last time: Instead of just averaging the plots for each measure, I've inserted trendlines. So you can see that while my consumption has stayed pretty much flat, I've been burning progressively more calories over the course of the diet. That means net consumption, which is just food consumed minus energy burned, has actually been decreasing over the course of the diet.

So why has my weight loss stalled? It's possible that I simply measured at a point that was artificially low last time. In fact I had a period when my weight went up during this period. Here's the full graph of my weight over the course of the diet:

As you can see, by May 10, my weight actually jumped above what I had reported on May 6, and even two days ago I was above my May 6 weight. But I think there's a bigger issue, which is that my body may have adapted to a lower level of caloric intake. In order to make additional progress, I'm probably going to have to eat even less. So for the next week I'm going to adjust my target calorie balance 200 calories lower. I'm going to replace my highest-calorie snack (a granola bar) with carrots. I'm going to eat lots of carrots. Then I'll get back to you on Friday and we'll see if (a) I was able to keep to that diet and (b) whether it made a difference.

For an example of the kind of workouts I've been doing lately, see below.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Nutrition / weight loss update

In the lead-up to Boston I mentioned that I was trying out a new nutrition plan. So, you might ask, how's that going?

Actually, not too bad! I'm not tracking the dietary categories the way Fitzgerald asks every day, but I did take a look at the foods I'm eating and I've found that, for the most part, my revised diet matches Fitzgerald's suggestions:

This chart shows how many servings of each type of food I had for the first week I was using Fitzgerald's system, and you can see that with the exception of meats, I'm following his suggestions. Fitzgerald says that you should have more of each item to the left of the scale than the right of the scale, and if you remove the meats from the equation, I do just that.

He also says it's okay to omit some categories entirely. If you're a vegetarian, you just omit meats. If you're a vegan, omit dairy too. To my mind, this means I'm actually doing fine -- I'm sort of like a half-vegetarian. If I ate more meat (e.g. 20 servings of lean meat and, say, 15 servings of fatty meat), then I could create a perfect hierarchy, with the number of servings gradually decreasing from left to right. But I choose to eat less meat, so in my mind that's fine.

Fitzgerald also says that the recovery period after a marathon is the best time to lose weight. I've been trying for over a year to get down to 175 pounds, so I figured I'd follow his recommendations. He says to just maintain his diet plan, but consuming fewer calories. Also, he recommends adding weight training to your fitness regimen, so I've done that -- My plan is to lift three times a week, and I've done that now for the past two weeks.

So how's the diet going? Again, not too bad. Since I started tracking calories on April 17, I've gone from 187 pounds to 182, a loss of five pounds. I use the website myfitnesspal to track calories, and according to the site's recommendations, to lose 1.5 pounds per week, I should be consuming a net of about 1,500 calories per day. Net calorie consumption takes the total calories consumed and subtracts out calories burned through exercise. In the past, I've found that the calories burned, as calculated by the site, are a little optimistic, so I created my own system of tracking my exercise that discounts my calories burned by about 30 percent.

This graph charts my energy balance from April 17 to yesterday (since I'll still be eating more today):

As you can see, I'm averaging about 2,200 calories consumed per day, and 660 calories burned, for a net of about 1,700 per day. That's more than my 1,500-calorie goal, but I've still managed to lose 5 pounds in less than three weeks, so perhaps myfitnesspal isn't overly optimistic about calories burned after all.

The graph reveals quite a bit more than that. Saturday is my rest day, and also a day when I tend to consume more calories than average -- I drink more, and I go out for meals more. I consume more than average on Sundays as well, but since it's also my long run day, my net calorie consumption on Sundays tend to be lower than average. Midweek is when I do best, since I can easily get into a routine on those days.

You can also see that my calorie expenditure has been gradually increasing over the three weeks; that's intentional as I continue to recover from my marathon. By May 13 I'll be fully recovered from Boston and ready to start a quick training cycle as I prepare to run the Peachtree 10K in July.

Hopefully by the end of May I'll be down to my target weight and will be able to return to a sustainable level of calorie consumption. Keeping my consumption down has been a little easier this time around than in the past -- I'd like to think that's due to the addition of weight training to my regimen. That said, it still has required quite a bit of willpower, especially when eating out. Losing weight has never been easy for me, and this time around is no exception. I'll try to post a few more updates as my plan progresses. In the unlikely event that you want to follow along at home, you can check out my myfitnesspal profile.