Monday, February 25, 2013

Pushing myself to run faster

On Saturday I brought The Roommie on a run with me and she kicked my butt! I've been somewhat faithfully following Couch to 10k and I'm on Week Four now, which is a recovery week. The running interval was only two minutes with a two minute walking rest afterwards and I only had to repeat it five times. So it didn't look too hard on paper. In reality, though, I was exhausted.

The Roommie weighs 30 pounds less than I do and is three inches taller. She's generally in better shape and doesn't mind suffering while running, but hates to push herself when biking. So when we ride our bikes I smoke her, but during a run I struggle to keep up.

Saturday was no different. She was always several steps in front of me and probably could've gone even faster but didn't want to lose me. While I usually hate following people when I exercise, this was actually really good because it pushed me to run faster. I was definitely uncomfortable during every single one of the running intervals, but that's how it should be. I need to push myself so I can eventually get faster and I haven't been able to do that on my own for several weeks now. It's much easier to settle into a slow trot.

We ended the run with a 10:17 min/mile average which is significantly faster than I've been able to run by myself. This also showed me that I can run at a quicker pace than I think I can and more importantly, that I can hold it for more than 30 seconds.

This translated to the strategy for today's run as well because I ran to the same point of exhaustion as Saturday (not a full sprint but I could definitely feel it in my lungs) and was able to hold it for the whole two minute interval. It also helped to have three minutes to recover after each running interval because I could go a lot harder and maintain the pace throughout the whole workout.

The next run is going to be a beast: Three minutes running, one minute walking, nine times, which translates to 27 minutes of actual running. I haven't gone that long since November 2010 so I'm not going to be using the pushing myself strategy of the past few days. Instead, I will focus on maintaining a decent pace (11 min/mile) and holding it for the whole run interval. This way I won't hate myself by the time run number five rolls around, which is what happened several weeks ago and nearly caused me to quit running altogether.

The second day of each week is generally an easier day so I'll work on increasing speed during those runs by pushing myself, while focusing on simply getting through the hard first day of the week runs.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I can now warm up in my warm-up pants

I finally cleaned out and organized all the clothes in my closets and wardrobes because it was getting out of hand. I had stuff stashed in drawers and hanging up in the closet, most of it too small and unwearable. So I devised a new system for storage, grouped my shirts by size, and got everything put away very nicely.

After three days of doing this and trying on a bunch of shirts to see if they fit, I decided to give a pair of warm-up pants a try to see if I could actually get them over my butt. When I received them as part of a team kit a couple of years ago I was ~15 pounds heavier than I am right now and although I could get them on, they weren't comfortable at all. You could tell they were stretched tight across my thighs and I could barely move without feeling like they would rip at the seams (they aren't made of stretchy fabric), which defeated their purpose of being for warming up prior to practice or a game.

But today, they fit almost perfectly! They're not exactly the loosest pants I own, but I feel like I can run around and not bust out of them, which is progress.

I honestly can't notice a difference in my body size even though the scale is moving so it was nice to see that I am in fact getting smaller even if it's not yet obvious to my eye. At the same time, after looking at all the awesome shirts I recently bought that I love, I'm kind of bummed I'm getting smaller because these clothes I have now won't fit for very long.

Since I will continue to get thinner (remaining at this weight is NOT an option) I'm just going to have to give them as much love as I can now, which means ratty shirts are out and awesome shirts are in. This is yet another reason to start caring about how I dress instead of wearing baggy pajama-y clothes all the time, so I've been wearing my nice sweaters practically every day. The shirts are one thing, but sweaters from my mom are something I will miss.

The bright side is I will soon get to wear all the shirts from several years ago that I also love but can't fit into anymore. And I'm sure when I revamp my wardrobe to accommodate my smaller size there will be just as many awesome shirts that I will fall in love with. And hopefully my mom will be so ecstatic about my weight-loss that she will buy me more soft sweaters.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Trial by fire

I started refereeing rugby recently because I can't keep losing more of my left meniscus and this seems like the best way to stay involved in the sport without having to undergo any more surgeries. I asked the scheduler to assign me some games for the upcoming season and so far most of them have been boys and girls high school matches, which is typically how you begin your refereeing career. But then I got the schedule for the second half of March and lo and behold, I'm reffing a Division II senior women's match. And by "senior" I don't mean the women that spend their days in Florida playing shuffle board, but more like the people my age: Too old for college rugby but too young for the Olde Girls. They're still pretty good.

Let's just say that I'm a little terrified, only if "a little" means "incredibly". Not only am I not comfortable reffing such a high-paced game that is going to be full of infractions, but I am not in shape to run for 80 minutes straight. Typically that comes out to about 3-4 miles, with stoppages and play staying in one spot, but that is still way more than I've been running recently. I think I'm up to a little over 2 miles at an 11+ mile/minute pace, but that includes stopping to walk every 3 minutes. In short, I'm nowhere near OK to referee that match.

It's a month away so I still have time, but I definitely have the fear of God in me. Prior to going to visit my parents last week, I was so done with running. I think most of this was the fear of suddenly having to run for 3 minutes straight (I'm back to doing Couch to 10k and had just begun Week 3), but I just wasn't having it. I probably could've walked faster than I was running at the time.

But then California happened, and the sunshine and warmth and vegetation in said sunshine and warmth somehow made me start running again. It actually began to I switched up the music on my iPod and since I was at sea level my pace dramatically increased, both of which contributed to this fun version of torture.

Then I came back to snowy Colorado and didn't feel like doing anything all over again. My knee was bugging me because I had been running on concrete in California so that was a way to justify sitting on the couch, as were the six inches of snow we got a couple of days ago.

This laziness lasted until I got the "You're reffing the women's match in a month" email. And so today I went for a run over snow-covered trails in the frigid temperatures. If not for the burrito from lunch that kept wanting to come back up, I think I could've had fun and run a decent pace. But I had pushed myself too hard on the first interval (9:47 min/mile for three minutes) and every time I had to run after that I wanted to vomit.

Other than that, it was beautiful outside and with this game hanging over my head I have suddenly found motivation to push myself while running, which is something I've struggled with for a while. I can torture myself to near-exhaustion on the bike but for some reason as soon as I get winded when running I just give up. But I want to be a good referee and for that to happen I need to be in running shape. Unfortunately the only way to do that is to run more and harder so it's a necessary evil.

Moral of this very long story: Don't eat burritos before running, and fear of failure is a great motivator.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Less than half fat!

My legs are less than half fat! I'm sure this occurred sometime during my stay in Southern California but my parents don't have a fat percentage scale there, so I only saw it once I got back to Colorado this week. BUT, my leg fat percentage is finally less than 50%. And soon enough I will be in ONEDERLAND!

I say "leg fat" and not "body fat" because the fat measuring scale I have is one you stand on and it sends pulses up one leg and down the other to measure fat composition. So there is no upper body measurement. But as long as fat percentage is going down somewhere in my body then I'm happy. And it's great to get better legs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hitting new lows

I weighed myself this morning and I'm down to 204.0 lbs, which is totally unexpected. I spent a lot of last week drinking heavily and haven't done any exercise since Friday afternoon. Yet yesterday morning I managed to weigh in at 206.0 lbs (202.0 a few hours later, but I disregarded that as an anomaly) and this morning I was down to 204.0 lbs. This is all on my parents' scale because I'm home in California for the week so it could all be totally off from mine. But the first day I was here my weight was comparable to what I was weighing in back in Colorado. So I kind of believe it.

This new weight is the lowest I have been since November 2008 and is just a bit lower than my most recent low weight of 206.5 lbs in May 2011 after which I shot up to my highest weight ever (224.0) within eight months. So it's been a while since I've been here. With my current commitment to healthy eating and the relative ease of the process this time around, I have a feeling this weight-loss trend will stick around for a while.

Every weight I hit from now on will be the lowest in over 4 years, which is crazy to me!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Losing weight without dieting

I've been instructed by myfitnesspal to limit my calorie intake to something significantly lower than what I'm used to eating. And it has been a struggle, to say the least.

First, it's hard to say "no" to beer and peanut butter cups on a nearly daily basis. But I've gotten pretty good about consuming those things only when I really want them instead of out of boredom. That's cut down on my calories quite a bit.

Second, decreasing my portion sizes and relearning what a normal meal is has also been a challenge. But with measuring cups and scales I've been able to readjust my understanding of what I should be eating and I don't look at my meals like, "That's it?" nearly as much as I used to.

But the most difficult part of all this has been finding a way to eat all my regular foods without going over my calorie allowance. I've said before that I don't eat a lot of junk food (with the exception of beer and chocolate). I don't really like sodas and I've never felt the need to smother everything in cheese and butter. That is not to say I don't like cheese and butter, because I very much do. But I grew up on a normal dose of this stuff so cutting it down to normal levels hasn't made as drastic a change weight-wise as it has for other people. And I really like fruits and vegetables. Always have and always will. I eat them voraciously which really can be a problem.

As a result, I don't have weight-gaining habits that are easily identifiable and thus changing the most common things hasn't had as big of an effect on my weight-loss as it does for other people. I simply need to eat less of everything I currently put into my mouth, whether it be fewer trips to the pho place (take-out portions are deliciously ginormous!) or less ice cream in my bowl.

My goal for losing weight this time around is to make it sustainable and learn to live a life that will last me for years after I've reached my goal weight. For that to happen, I can't eliminate entire food groups, like carbohydrates, because I can't stay away from bread and pasta forever. Yeah, I could probably do it for a year or two, but not forever. As soon as I bring carbs back into my life, I'll most likely gain weight and/or have to learn how to moderate it then. I'd rather do the learning now instead of putting it off until I'm (hypothetically) thinner.

Another thing I'd like to avoid is eating the stereotypical diet foods like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes or Crystal Light instead of the occasional soda. Normal-sized people eat full-fat ice cream and mashed potatoes and manage to stay normal. I have a regular metabolism, so why shouldn't I be able to do that? (Besides the obvious...because I'm losing weight and need a calorie deficit to make that happen.)

I can't always control what is being served to me at dinner parties, restaurants, or a cafeteria, and therefore it will most likely be the farthest thing from diet food. As a result, I want to be able to function in the real food world without always worrying about full-fat meals being put in front of me. This doesn't mean I will always order the 4-cheese macaroni and cheese bowl every time because my skinny friend does it. But I don't want to be that person who doesn't go out to eat with people or avoids dinner parties because I'm worrying about what will be served.

So the question becomes, how do I eat fewer calories without changing my diet? I guess it all comes down to portion control, will-power, exercise, and moderation. I can still have my gnocchi but I won't make it the main part of my meal. Baking cookies can still be fun and delicious, except I won't be eating the entire batch of cookie dough in one sitting*. And that beer will cost me an extra 15 minutes on the bike. I'm okay with those things because they all seem so normal, while having spaghetti squash instead of pasta just isn't.

None of this will be easy but I am seriously getting the hang of it slowly but surely. I still slip up occasionally and sometimes I can't resist the allure of that chocolate bar on the coffee table. But I try to make sure I earn my nights out and don't eat more calories than my body burns. If I learn to survive and be happy on 1500-1600 calories of normal food now, I can definitely keep that up for longer than this diet will last. As I get thinner I'll lose weight more slowly if I keep with these calorie goals, but I can offset that by exercising more. Or by that point I will have learned to get more bang for my buck with regards to food so dropping to 1200-1300 calories won't be so shocking for my body. And when I get to a more manageable weight, I do plan on being more active. My out-of-shapeness is holding me back from doing things right now, and I hate that.

Maybe I'm being incredibly naive and should embrace this new life of "dieting". Maybe I just need to suck it up and accept that I will no longer have those potatoey mashed potatoes. But I really don't want to. I want to be normal in the food world because for as long as I can remember I've been the opposite of that. I've worried too much about my weight and about what I eat and I'm so sick of it.

I know that food and choosing what I put into my mouth will always be a problem for me, and I will always struggle with my weight in one way or another. But I'd like to minimize this crap by at least eating normal foods, maybe less of them and less frequently, but normal foods nonetheless. I can't be on a "diet" forever, so why should I be on one now? It simply goes against everything I hope to accomplish with this current lifestyle change, one that seems to be working...for now at least.

*Notice the positive verbs I'm using here? "Can" instead of "can't" and "won't" instead of "can't"? It's been shown that people who use power words have better success with whatever they're trying to achieve.

And I can totally see that. Saying I can't do something is depriving myself of it and when I feel deprived, I don't continue with the "diet". So now I just don't do things instead of not being able to do things. It's worked surprisingly well for me.