Welcoming back some snow sports; Running through the snow, skiing in the park, and sledding with the girl…
Is it possible to be fit while being completely out of shape? Perhaps that is a contradiction in definition, but lately I’ve been feeling that way.
Random aches and pains.
Localized malfunctions during runs.
Struggles with getting my hydration and electrolyte balance just right.
I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard along this running fitness path for a few solid years and it’s netted some amazing things, but the other side of that lucky coin has been some pretty hard core damage to other bits and pieces of my body.
As we plan for a winter beach vacation and I look down the barrel of age forty, now just a year and a bit away, I’ve been contemplating how to balance out the super-endurance, super-fit awesomeness of running with the increasingly frequent breakdowns of this aging organic shell.
It’s more than food. More than eating. More than tweaking. It’s a lifestyle change… yet again.
And summer seems like a great time to contemplate hacking the process yet again. Simple hacks. Realistic hacks. Hacks to the way I think about living that have compound results that can last a lifetime if implemented properly. It’s not magic: it’s behavior adaptation towards the positive.
Part 1: Target Acquired
Right now, I want to start thinking about three different, but interconnected body hacks, each of them tough, but I think with some simple mental reprogramming that I can go a long way with each.
Flexibility – Improving my muscle function and elasticity through improving my flexibility. I’m going to need to do a lot more reading in the coming weeks. I’m not even sure how to evaluate improvements in this.
Nutrition – Eating and drinking a lot better. I need to balance my diet, reduce my caffeine intake, manage all those sapping micronutrients, and –y’know– generally eat like a grown up with more veggies and less simple sugars. Oh, and definitely more liquids. All that good stuff: we’ve been here before.
And then the big one:
Strength – What has me worried is that a lot of these aches and pains are due to me neglecting basic strength over the last couple years. I’m not talking about getting buff, but simply that core strength and general muscle mass balance ties to all sorts of the little things that have hobbled me in the past year. I’m thinking of setting up a basic program to follow. And it’s probably going to hurt a bit at first.
The SMART goals — simple, measurable achievable, realistic, and time-linked — will follow in coming articles. Stay tuned.
Ok, so we’ve had the bike for nearly a week, but I’ve only clocked about an hour of riding… or twenty-five klicks according to the on-board computer. I do realize now, however, why I never found much success on a treadmill (waaaaay back when we had one.) Last night I cycled for sixteen minutes. During that time I read a chapter in my book and finished a lesson in Duolingo on my phone (which is harder than you might think while trying to maintain a spin pace!) But sixteen minutes felt like forever. For. Ev. Er. I can run for hours, but a few minutes on the bike is mentally draining. I’ll keep at it, but it’s going to take some mental adjustment.
Another “Hackable Me” post, which for the newbies is a few words on incremental personal self-improvement: a personal hack of mind-body-soul to ultimately better myself. I’m not a DIY, fixer-upper, read-this-book-to-change-your-life sort of self-improvement guy. On the other hand I tend to consider that (a) publicly scrutinized goals and (b) introspective evaluation of those goals through words tends to lead to making me a better person. This is some words to do with that.
So, of course, the ultimate test (and not exactly a passing grade result I might add) of this process has been starting on the long weekend. The Easter long weekend. The long weekend wherein there is an abundance of chocolate and ham dinners and red wine lurking around every corner and…
On another note, I’ve run every day in April so far, so I’ll shut up about the other stuff. Six consecutive runs plus those three prior to my last-Monday break means I’ve run a little more than seventy klicks in the last ten days.
And set a couple personal records in the process, so that negates the chocolate right?
The Hack of the Increased Cross-Training
I run. Then I run a little more. And then I go running again after that.
That’s all well and good, but there’s something to be said for balance. I’m not sure what exactly, but I’m sure there is something. Though, what I’m saying is that I recognize a gaping deficiency in my training schedule and in an effort to enhance, focus, improve… whatever we’re calling this thing… I’m going to hack my cross-training.
Oh, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, isn’t it?
I’ve tried a lot of things: swimming at the local pool, cycling around the neighborhood, weights, tai chi, yoga, and I’m sure there are a few more things I’m missing. But I know myself: I run because I can wedge it into my chaotic lifestyle and hectic schedule. But only barely. It’s an effort many days.
To look at me some days (right now I’m sitting on the couch with a laptop, for example) you may not describe that schedule as hectic, exactly. I admit, it gives the appearance of sheer laziness sometimes. However, an outside observer would be remiss in denying me the sedentary obligations of a committed father. Sometimes it’s a dad’s job to sit on the couch… or at least stay in the house somewhere. It makes going for a swim, or ride, or yet another fitness session out of the house a little tough to justify. My evil and lazy subconscious knows this and plies it as an excuse to pop in a movie or load up Netflix and call it a night.
So, I bought a stationary bike. I’m excited. According to the shipper’s website, it’s en route and should arrive tomorrow…. in a giant, ninety-six pound cardboard box. And having spent at least a few hours on this long weekend avoiding the chocolate by cleaning out a third of the space in my office, I now have an awesome little corner near the window and facing a television where I should –and I will, thanks to some aggressive goal-setting– park myself and finally fit in that all-important cross-training.
Bit the bullet and bought a stationary spin bike for my cross-training. I’m too lazy to got to the gym, but the basement is only a few steps away. And it has a TV.
People who walk on cross-country ski trails… you just made the list.
Karin gave me a Garmin Vivofit for Christmas. It’s one of those little wrist-mounted activity trackers. Being a Garmin, it fits in nicely with the fitness gadget ecosystem I have going already (running watch) and tracks my steps and sleep… or at least how much I move around when I sleep. It looks like it’s going to form the core of yet another step-up in my self-quantification efforts as we move into 2015. Turning everything I do into a number… does that make me more aware of what I do and thus healthier? Or does it just make me neurotic? We’re about to find out, I guess.
The Christmas money is spent. Gone. And then some. We collected bits and bites of cash here and there as parts of various gifts from parents and grandparents –thanks again, by the way– and after puzzling about how we could spend it in some meaningful way (and not just pay off the Christmas bill) we opted to do something we’ve been meaning to do for a few years now. Claire is finally old enough, so we strolled over to the local outdoorsy store and bought a family set of cross-country skis — poles, boots, bindings, and all. They should be assembled for pick up later this week! Let’s hope the weather cooperates for New Years!
My resolve has softened over the past year or so. It’s tough to explain why, but I feel it here and there and leaking through the corners of my mind, infiltrating and weakening whatever willpower and motivation has kept me strong in better days.
It is. But it shouldn’t be.
As much as I hate to admit it, when I pursued some health-based goals a couple years ago I had given myself a number of small incentives. When I write it down it seems weak and petty, but it’s during those weak and petty moments –and we all have them and they are usually them moments we point to when we try to assign blame upon our fails– that we make small mistakes, take tiny missteps, bend the rules, break from the plan, and assert our inevitable failure with ready-baked excuses. Having an incentive to tilt the scale a little bit is how, in those weak and petty moments, we resist the second cookie, make ourselves run when the snow makes you want to cuddle up on the couch and watch Netflix instead, or make whatever choices are making us stronger and fight the inevitable entropy of life.
In 2012, back when I lost 40 pounds and got in awesome-sauce shape, I gave myself goals –yes– but I also gave myself reasons to reconsider. And, I will fully admit, some of those were silly material rewards that shone unflinchingly and steady against the uneven flicker of the distant intrinsic reward, unshaped and unformed in the far off and uncertain future.
Entropy has crept upon me. Not deeply. Not irreversibly. But measurably and in ways that I can point to in my day-to-day existence and assign blame upon individual choices.
So, despite my willful, mindful push to reverse that in recent months –which doesn’t seem to be working– I’ve decided to add incentive.
My goal is a number in my head. And it’s only the number because the number in quantifiable, measurable, and trackable. It relates to my health and well-being, how I feel when I wake up in the morning, and what my quality of life is going to look like for the next twenty years. The number is not important here, but it is a finish line for this altered plan.
My plan is the same as before. Eat better. Expand my fitness a little bit more. And make healthier choices about how I spend my days and my nights.
The incentive is tied to so many things. I’ll write more on that later –if only to nudge along my own personal inspiration and keep the incentive fresh in my mind– but with a girl who is blossoming into a curious pre-teen, a camera hobby that is always looking for new challenges, and the merest blip of a little kid inside me who has always wanted one– but when the goal is met, the challenge succeeded, and the race won, I’m going to buy Claire and I the coolest telescope my budget will allow.
Let the moon shot challenge begin.
My Pebble watch got a firmware update this past week and with it spared me the need to spend about a hundred and fifty bucks. See, I’ve been contemplating getting one of those little fitness trackers, the little wristband kinds that monitor you over the course of a day, tell you how much you’re walking or sitting on your ass, and then upload it to the internet for (presumably) public shaming purposes. But through a partnership with Jawbone (who makes the UP band and app) Pebble now has that functionality built in. I optimistically set my daily step goal at 15,000… because amazingly enough I do walk about ten thousand steps every day, on average, without any extra effort. I am writing about it for two reasons: (a) like I said, it saved me spending about $150 on one of those dedicated straps which I would have worn for a couple months then set aside anyhow, while I’ll still probably be wearing my watch a year from now and (b) it just buzzed at me to let me know I haven’t moved very much in the last 30 minutes as I’ve been sitting here in a cafe writing blog posts. *sigh*
That there is a direct correlation between my volume of training and my overall fitness level.