Tag Archives: weight loss

CommiTTmenT (You Don’t Need New Year’s Resolutions)

A few days ago, I posted a roundabout look at New Year’s Resolutions and my general disdain for them. And freely I own that I’m a cynic and a Grinch about lots and lots of things. But I don’t think I’m wrong. Most New Year’s Resolutions fail, right? I mean, you apparently need look no further than any gym. Gyms sell enough memberships in January to keep them in the black for the entire year. Regular gym-goers spend January and February griping about the resolution-makers that clog up the gyms during those months. They go and buy their memberships filled with purpose and zeal. They arrive at the gym without a real plan and mill about, hopping on a treadmill here, a bench-press machine there, and then they go home, feeling good about themselves for getting out of the house. I’ve read ridiculous stories in the last couple of days about sign-up lists of over an hour to get on a treadmill. An HOUR! (Protip: run outside and feel less like a rat on a wheel!)

Of course, by the time March comes around and the realization has dawned that it’s hard making time to go to the gym regularly, and that it takes work and discomfort to make the change they want in their bodies, the herd thins out. Why? I think there are two factors at work.

First is societal pressure. At the New Year, everybody is making resolutions to change his or her life for the better. “New Year, New Me!” And they promise to lose weight, cut back on vices, start working out, save more money, be a better person, and on and on ad nauseam. Problem is, they’re making these resolutions because they’re supposed to. It’s that time of year, after all, and people are going to be asking what your New Year’s resolutions are, and you want to have something good on your ledger. Which is one of the worst reasons to make a decision about changing your life, not to mention, it doesn’t work.

The reason it doesn’t work is the second factor: commitment. Or rather, a lack of it. If you want to make a change in your life, it takes time, and thought, and hard work, and a hell of a lot of sticktoitiveness. You know, “commitment.” The average New Year’s Resolution is made in a haze of misery about the state of a life lived over the previous year. It’s a lament after looking at oneself in the (literal or metaphorical) mirror. It’s born of frustration and disbelief (how did I let things get this way?) because it is based in the moment. But in the self-centered, instantaneous-feedback world of iPads and Twitter and name-your-app-or-device-that-has-I-or-me-or-my in its title, it’s hard for us to think outside of the moment.

Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen in the moment. I look in the mirror and recognize that I didn’t go overnight from 175 pounds up to almost 200. It’s easy to think that the change was sudden, but no, the fact is I worked hard at making myself that way by not fighting against my own momentum for about a year. I’d have to be an idiot to think I could decide on Jan. 1 to lose weight and start turning it around right away. Except that’s exactly what happens. People buy their gym memberships, go dutifully for a few weeks, don’t see the type of radical change they’re looking for and/or expecting IMMEDIATELY, think “fargo it”, and go back to the couch. People decide they’re going to write, and they do so religiously for a few weeks, but then it dawns on them that it’s actually work to write and it takes away time from other things they’d rather do, and it’s over. If you look around, you can find scads of blogs with twenty or fewer posts. They create the blargs, full of that mystical swill that makes us want to share and tell stories and paint pictures with words, and then slowly the gumption peters out and the blargs fall discarded like so many chewed-up tires by the roadside. (I’m painfully aware of this, because the title I wanted for this blog is in use by a woman who created a blog to talk about her pregnancy and wrote all of 2 POSTS back in 2011. Fargo!)

No, change takes commitment. It takes a good, long, hard look at the self — and not just the self we see, but the self we are: the love handles and the laziness and the fact that we can’t climb a flight of stairs without breaking a sweat and the fact that it’s so much easier and more inviting to watch hours of Reality TV reruns than it is to pick up the pen (virtual or otherwise) and create something. It takes a plan of action, not just jumping into the deep end of the pool and hoping for the best. It takes patience and an acknowledgment that it takes time to change your momentum: every step you take toward a new self is a step twice as hard, because you’re fighting against the current of your own bad decisions. The good news is, each step unburdens you just a little bit as you drop the bad momentum and build good momentum. It’s slow going, is all, and it takes commitment to weather the storm.

The point is, you don’t need New Year’s to make a change in your life. Or maybe you do. Ultimately it doesn’t matter when you make the change, the important thing is that you make the change. But don’t make it because you have a glass of champagne in your hands and the balls are dropping.

What’s that? Oh. Ball. The ball (singular) is dropping. Don’t make a change because it’s the time for making changes. Make the change because it’s time for the change to be made, and commit to the work that the change requires.

Happy New Year.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

There Are Good Runs, and Then There Are Exceptional Runs

This summer has been a bit of a running renaissance for me.

I got my latest start in running a little over two years ago, flew a bit too close to the sun back in January, crashed and burned at the beginning of the year and have been clawing my way back, clutching at gnarled roots and jagged cliffsides ever since.  Today, I went for my first “relaxed” 10k run in more than a while, and I’m happy to say that I feel damn good afterward.  But it’s not the run I want to talk about.  Er, rather, it’s not the distance.

In trying to get myself out of the injured dumps, I’ve been running this summer with a mind toward becoming more complete: running more trails, especially, but also varying my workouts and working to stay healthy rather than just trying to spin the wheels on the odometer.  I think it’s paying off, but more importantly, I think I’m really getting to enjoy my runs again, rather than facing each one with the fear that the next step is going to injure me again and set me back for a couple months.

This morning found me on the Atlanta Beltline, a series of paved “trails” that wend through and around downtown Atlanta.  It’s been much-touted by colleagues of mine and runners I know in the area, but is one of those things I just hadn’t gotten around to doing (man, that’s a long list).  Mainly I’ve avoided it because it doesn’t jive with my minimalist philosophy of running to drive half an hour just to go on a leisurely run; I prefer to just step out the door and go.  But a facebook group of local runners scheduled the event for this morning; said group is composed of some folks I know from high school and some others I’ve not met yet, so it seemed a good time.

Just by the by, does anybody else have horrible luck when signing up for casual “events” on facebook?  I’ve tried this one or two other times and everybody seems to bail at the last minute.  You see where this is going.  I pull up to the meeting spot at five minutes til the start time and I see a big smiling crowd of zero people.  Yep, ten people signed up as “definitely going” and I was the only one.  Except for my pal from high school, J.  He hops out of his car and hits me with a warm grin and a hearty handshake and a “great to see you.”  We chat for a few minutes about how pitiful it is that nobody else has slogged their butts out of bed on a Saturday (seriously, what are you doing that you can’t get up at 5:45 to go for a run??), then, after allowing enough time for any reasonable latecomers to show up, we’re off.

We set an easy pace — J’s a lot faster than me, but he’s logged a lot of miles this week and wants to relax a bit, and I’m a bit jangly over attempting my first six-miler since a race I ran (and probably overran, to be honest) a month ago.  And my first six-miler ever in my Vibrams, for that matter.

A lot of people, when recounting their runs, like to give a breakdown of each mile, the highs and lows, the hills and the hurts, but that seems silly to me.  I could no more recount each moment of a good run — let alone a good long run — than recount every bite of my breakfast this morning, and it wouldn’t be good reading besides.  (Now, whether the alternative makes for good reading…)

First, a review of the trail.  The Beltline is a very long series of trails, I found out, but we ran a stretch of it from Piedmont Park East over to Ponce de Leon, then doubled back and took a tour of Piedmont Park.  The line is a very well kept, spacious jaunt through residential areas and commercial developments, under overpasses and through great sweeping vistas of the Atlanta skyline.  Nearly every overpass or concrete wall is adorned with the sort of tasteful graffiti that almost feels like an art exhibit.  And the line is so popular that it’s absolutely bursting with runners, bikers, walkers, rollerbladers.  We must have passed or been passed by a hundred people or more in our four miles on the line.  I’m sure that’s nothing new to regulars in the area, but for a guy like me who runs out in the burbs and, on a good day, glimpses maybe three or four other runners in my heavily trafficked zones (none at all otherwise), it was a welcome sight.  Made me feel less like a lunatic on an island and a little more like maybe a guy in a bodysuit at a convention.  Still not totally normal, but at least at home among the other freaks.

Then, the fact that I was running with a guy I’ve not spoken to in any meaningful capacity for oh, about fifteen years (please kill me).  We ruminated a bit about running, a bit about life, a lot about people and marriage and kids and pop music and only a little bit about work, with the kind of easy, unhurried conversation that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise.  You bump into somebody in line at the DMV or at the grocery store, and he’s got someplace he’d rather be, something he’d rather be doing, and he doesn’t want to waste time getting there and doing it.  You settle in for an easy six miles and you find there’s no need to rush things, you let the talk drift where it will.

To top it off, as we hit the turnaround and headed back for the trailhead, I look up and see my young Padawan cruising toward us.  This is a guy who saw me start running and lose thirty pounds two years ago, then took up running himself and has since lost in the neighborhood of one hundred pounds.  He now runs races about every other weekend and is a big contributor and participant with running groups in Atlanta.  Unfortunately, he lives on the opposite side of town from me, so we’ve never actually had a run together — and we didn’t today, because he was hustling along, late for a meeting with his running group.  Still, seeing him in action was just another shot of good vibes on an already good morning.

An hour passed faster than it had any right to.  The run finished, we headed back to our cars and agreed to try and meet up again soon.  I like to think it was the sort of agreement we’ll follow through on — it’s hard to lie and be phony after you’ve just run six miles — but whether we do or not, I’m thankful for the time we had today.  Running is one of those things that binds people together in ways that don’t even make sense a lot of the time, and it certainly brought J and me together today.  I’m one of those hippy-dippy people that thinks there is no such thing as a bad run; that every time you lace up you accomplish something.  But even if there are no bad runs, certainly some runs are better than others.

Today’s was exceptional.

Clicka Clack

The body has all sorts of delightful ways to remind you that you’re getting older.  Some are obvious, others are subtle.  Some are tsunamis that strike without warning, others are the slow inevitable creep of continental drift.  (I’m looking at you, my slowly-but-surely receding hairline.)  Today I’m keenly aware of one nasty one in particular — my crackling bones.

I’ll go ahead and be judicious and say that it’s possible I can’t attribute the cricks and cracks in question entirely to age, but I’m living in denial that my running career of the last couple years is causing lasting damage to my body.  It’s not.  IT JUST ISN’T, OKAY?  Now that that’s settled…

I posted last week about another kind of drift, that being the outward slide of my waistline and the upward trend of my bathroom scale.  Okay, my wife was pregnant so it was impossible to be careful about what I was eating, not that I was trying anyway, but that’s over with now, Sprout the Second is a month old tomorrow (!), and it’s time to restore normality.  So: diet starts this weekend, and my new exercise regimen has been ramping up for about a week and a half.  Or maybe two days.  I don’t know because, as I’ve mentioned before, my house exists outside of space and time as we know it.  Or, at the very least, space and time are playing silly buggers on me.

Anyway, that new regimen has me doing some bodyweight exercises on days on which I do not run.  I have a feeling that this is a pretty good way for things to start off because on the first few days I did these exercises, I could not climb stairs properly afterward, nor could I reach the top of my head to wash it in the shower.  I have it on good authority that destroying your muscles like that is a good way to wake them up, so those must be good signs, yeah?  That workout is getting easier, so I’m ramping it up, doing extra sets and extra reps.  But during yesterday’s session, I dunno if it was especially quiet in the room or if I was in a higher state of awareness due to the blood flow or the dizziness induced by my 60-second plank attempt, but I heard a funny sound while I was doing some jumping jacks.

Quick sidenote on the jumping jacks.  I’m not sure if I’m doing them wrong, and I feel that I must be, because they are the easiest part of the workout for me.  Unless of course I perfected the technique in 5th grade gym class and my muscles stored it in memory which is tapped into and processed with perfect efficiency now twenty years later.  That works, right?

Whatever.  The jumping jacks are easy, but I hear a sound.  Sort of like when you have a handful of pop rocks in your mouth; a low crackling that fades in and out as you open and close your mouth.  Or maybe like the consistent repetitive clack clack of chips at a poker table.  Damn, where’s that coming from?  Oh, it’s just my entire both feet clicking and crackling away with every jump.

I’ve had a pretty constant pop to my right ankle for a lot of years: the detritus of a pretty gnarly ankle sprain that I never went to the doctor for because I’m a man.  It goes off if I rotate my ankle in bed or flex the foot going up or down stairs, stuff like that.  But this noise is not that.  This is my entire foot, in fact both feet.  I tune in more closely as I finish the set, and it’s like I can hear dozens if not hundreds of tiny little bones and ligaments and tendons clicking and sliding and ticking against each other like a bunch of ball bearings trapped in a spider web.

What do I do with this information?  Go to the doctor I saw a few months back for my plantar fasciitis and say, oh, yeah, now I can hear every bone in my foot move when I do jumping jacks?  He’ll only tell me to stop doing jumping jacks or stop running, so that’s right out.

I guess I just have to accept that this is my new body, one that makes all sorts of noises I wasn’t planning for it to make.  (I’m sure my wife could tell fantastic stories about my unintentional emissions.)  I have another birthday in a few weeks, maybe by that time my entire skeleton will calcify and I won’t be able to scratch my nose without sounding like a set of dominoes falling down a marble staircase.

Enough Inertia

I made a mistake yesterday.

No, it wasn’t the four hours of Sherlock that I watched.  Sure, I could perhaps have put the time to better use, but watching Benedict Cumberbatch in action is never the wrong thing to do.

No, it wasn’t the mediocre writing session I had.  That sharknado is gonna happen, I’m down with it.  The only mistake would be giving up and giving in, and letting the Howler Monkey bite my throat out.

I stepped on a scale.

I’m not going to lie and say it was a great shock to me that I had put on weight.  No, I’ve been on this expectant father trip before, I know what it entails.  Diet and healthy eating kinda go out the window when the wife is eating for two, and well, we’ve made all this extra food anyway, something broken in me since childhood won’t let me waste food on a plate.  Long story short, dear sprout #2 has left me about twenty pounds heavier than I was a year or so ago.  I say a year ago because that’s when I stopped looking at scales in general, not because I was upset at what they had to say but because I’d achieved a level of weight loss I was happy with and didn’t see the need to confirm that I was maintaining.  I was running around twenty miles a week, so I didn’t have anything to worry about.

Needless to say, not only have I fallen off the wagon, but the wagon circled around to pick me up and accidentally ran over my neck.  It’s time to dust myself off and get back on the horse.  (And I think I’m mixing up my metaphors again, goldfinger it.)

Running has been about self-improvement since day one for me.  Somewhere along the way it turned into fun, as well, but that doesn’t let me off the hook for the reason for the season.  I didn’t start running to have a good time, I started it to get my asgard in shape.  And it worked.  Trouble is, when you run a lot, and your metabolism kicks up, you start to feel like you can really eat just about anything and get away with it, which is true to a point, that point in my case being when I tore my foot up back in January and then got plantar fasciitis in my other foot just as the first foot was healing.  So now I’m working on getting back into running like I was before, but I’m twenty pounds heavier and my feet are still a little gimpy.

But I’ve also had the wrong approach with my running of late, which is the running scared approach.  I’ve been running scared of injury, running just to maintain, running to keep weight gain at bay.  I haven’t been running to improve, which is why I haven’t been improving.  I’ve been running most of my miles at just over ten-minute pace for the past couple months now.  For me, for the level I was at before January, that’s kinda pitiful.  So, no more ten-minute miles!  If I’m not improving, I’m backsliding, and there has been quite enough backsliding for one year, thank you very much.

But that’s only part of the equation, a fact I was able to ignore two years ago.  See, I was such an out-of-shape mess when I started running that the shock to my system when I started up was like turning loose a leaf blower in a ball pit.  Total havoc, and I cleared out a lot of balls and lost a lot of weight.  It wasn’t the whole picture, but I was happy enough with the results that I didn’t care about that.  I had lost the equivalent of a big-asgard bag of dog food in weight, who was I to complain?  More running won’t shock my system like that again, though.  I know that because I’ve been ramping up my mileage a little at a time since March, but I’m still gaining weight and I’m not getting any faster.

Time to start focusing on the diet and even doing some exercise aside from running, which is really going to be a test for me.  The only reason I’ve managed to stick with running so long is that at some point I tricked myself into thinking it was actually enjoyable and was therefore not really exercise.  But I have some tools in my pocket, a lot of resources, and I’m frustrated enough with myself that I think I can finally get this fitness thing sorted, and sorted properly.

So, no more lazy running.  No more getting down on myself about my writing.  (Yeah, right.)  If I’m not moving forward, I’m moving backward, and I’m too damn old to be moving backward anymore.

Speaking of moving forward, the novel is at 90%.  Feet don’t fail me now.  Except I don’t write with my… you know what I mean.

%d bloggers like this: