Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bowling For Food

Today I am thinking about food. Most days I don't think about food. I just eat. And eat and eat and eat. I am a unconscious eater. I don't necessarily eat poorly, but no one is perfect and we all have our kyptonite in the kitchen. Mine by the way, M&M's. I will knowingly destroy a bag of M&M's. I am much like a Koi fish in that regard. As a Koi will grow to the size of the bowl, aquarium or pond you place it in, I will eat as many M&M's are in a bag, regardless of size of said vessel. 

Most meals I am very good about where I eat, what I eat, how it is prepared and how much I put on my plate. For the first round. It's that damn unconscious mind of mine that puts a second portion on my plate. It certainly doesn't hurt that my wife is a wonderful cook. (cliche').  The good news is that without even really trying, a part of my subconscious I have trained well, I eat pretty balanced meals. 

Some meals, mostly late snacking, when I am tired and my defenses are down, I'll find myself suddenly several handfuls into a bag of corn chips, dried fruit or nuts. Unconscious eating habits. I can be on point for 90% of my day, but that 10% of the time easily adds 50% to my daily caloric intake. 

Part of my issue with eating to much is that over the last two months I have also changed my workout routine. I have completely changed physical activity from all endurance based training for Ironman distance triathlons to a balance of functional strength training and endurance for obstacle course racing. While I have focused a lot on the types of exercises added and subtracted, I did not dig deep into the affects it had on my latent caloric expenditure. I burned a lot more calories in training for Ironman distances than I am in this new paradigm and I did not change my eating habits to reflect that. 

So back to the title of this post, Bowling For Food. I have this bowl, a Guyot Designs Squishy Bowl. It has a capacity of 16oz. There is really no reason for me, at any meal to be eating more than 16oz of food, so I have used it control my portion size for the entire meal. Yeah, I know, its a stupid trick. But it gets me back to really thinking about how much I am putting on my plate and after a few weeks of positive reinforcement, I am no longer subconsciously eating. Sure I am occasionally tempted to fill it full of M&M's but I do have that much control over myself. 

Also, I am going back to the questioning my eating motives. Again a stupid mental trick but it forces me to ask a question regarding if what I am doing in the pantry is a planned or unplanned attack on my caloric intake. Now what I do in there is a conscious decision. I always prefer affirmations, but sometimes those become just repeatable phrases that mean nothing. A question makes you think. 

Last trick isn't really a trick but the tried and true background to controlling intake, writing down what is eaten and how many calories it is. I am OCD enough to do this diligently and honest enough when I do it to recognize, "That handful of candy would taste really good, but I just don't want to waste the time, figuring out how many calories and it would be embarrassing to show that to someone for accountability." I will scratch out on paper or spreadsheets all that jazz, but on my iPhone is an app called, Lose It! which is very user friendly for tracking food intake and meeting goals. 

The flip side to tracking all the calories going in, one must track all the calories going out. Since I usually wear some device that tracks exercise calorie expenditure, it is a nice change in the day to add something that shows a caloric deficit that has a positive impact on the total calories for the day.

I mean look, I am long in the tooth at diet and exercise, and even I need to hold myself accountable to how I eat. I eat healthier than most, but I can still over eat healthy food and gain weight. Now I can get myself back on track with just a few sleight of hand gestures like bowls and post-it notes because I am 'feeling' the effects of subconscious eating and being at most ten pounds over my race weight, acceptable in almost any athlete post season. I am not in a full fledged medical or physical requirement to lose 30, 40, 60, 100 lbs. Efforts  that requires serious and drastic lifestyle changes to what, where, how and when, someone eats.

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Back to the beginning!

Here is the situation. Mistress is a phenomenal swimmer with perfect form in all strokes with a long history of competitive swimming. She went through college on a PAC10 swimming scholarship. Mostly swimming the mile, she would swim 25-30 miles a week. She gave up swimming for several years for us to start our business and our family but over the last year she has joined a Masters Swim program and most mornings is out the door to a early morning swim workout. 

Fall sunrise

At first this didn't bother me. I've had ultimate freedom the last year, so for me, I can workout at anytime I want during the day. I wasn't beholden to o'dark workouts to fit in a session before work. I could stay up late, sleep in and still get two quality workouts a day if I so desired. For an athlete training for ultra distance races staying up late and sleeping in are rarities, so I ensconced myself in that model of living as a symbol of my new trappings. 

Of course this new reality came with its downside. Minus a dedicated time to workout every day, I did my workouts a disservice with uninspired training or creating elaborate workouts to emphasis the fact that I wasn't trying to fit it in before having to do something else. This lack of schedule, this lack of accountability took it's toll in others areas of my life and before you know it, I feel like I've cheated myself out of my fitness the last couple months especially. 

This reminds me a quote from the Princess Bride, (bold for effect)
Inigo: I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I’ll stay. I will not be moved.
Brute: But the Prince gave orders –
Inigo: — So did Vizzini — when a job went wrong, you went back to the beginning. And this is where we got the job. So it’s the beginning, and I’m staying till Vizzini comes.

Back to the beginning!  Back to routine. Back to keeping a schedule. I am taking back my mornings. I am not foolish enough to think I would pop out of bed with vip, vim and vigor but I got out when I didn't really need to, to do what I really needed to do. 

I have nothing fancy planned for these first few weeks of early workouts, as really its not my main workout of the day like morning workouts used to be. Back then Mistress was in the house and taking care of the littles. Now that falls to me when she at Masters. I'm not planning on any 15 mile runs or 3 hour bike trainer sessions. My goals is to get out of bed with Mistress, which means going to bed early, then a few repeats of a familiar routine I do of push ups, ab exercises, pull ups, squats, burpees and plank for time. I vary each set with different hand placements , switch up ab exercises or a wall sit instead of plank. Add stretching tight muscles and if the littles stay in bed a bit longer some treadmill. 

Today was Day 1 and I got through the set 1x before Mo woke up needing his medicine and get ready for school. I am not used to working out in my living room so when I did crunches I saw the fan blades needed cleaning so I did that. The wood floor had dried playdoh and dog hair so I swiffered that.  The dog thought every time I did a burpee it was time to lick my face. In other words, I got up, got dressed, got through one circuit and got the room ready for me to do more in it tomorrow. 

That is progress and if I can integrate this morning routine back into my life and just get 1% better every day at it, I will be happy. 

It's not enough exist. I am going to live. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

I what?

Whether its getting to close to a pan of frying bacon and having hot grease 'pop' into my eyeballs, you just can't rinse bacon fat out of your eyelids. Or totally doing an endo trying to pop the front wheel of my mountain bike over a curb, but the backpack full of beer was okay, none damaged. I tend to go through my day responding to my self deprecating moment with thinking, "I, what?"

Sometimes I just don't realize what I am doing or why I am doing it. Later on I realize it was part of some Rube Goldberg scheme to include exercise into every facet of my walking day. Thus you have me mountain biking with a half rack of PBR in a backpack. For the extra weight of course. Sometimes I just try things beyond my ability, like obviously trying to ride a mountain bike over a curb. Or frying bacon. 

And just so you know, you really shouldn't walk around a mall with a backpack full of beer. It's not that there is anything inherently illegal about it, you can almost feel like if you were suddenly transported to an alternate dimension like, a pool side in Las Vegas, to party with vapid plastic bombshells celebrating your awesomeness, with nothing but what was on you, that you would be totally prepared. (photo courtesy FHM)

No sadly the reason you don't carry a 40 lb backpack is because you can not fit through the ridiculously small spaces between mannequins and shelves. "I, what? Knocked over your seasonal transition mannequins with the latest fall fashions on it. Crap. I'm sorry."  And even with my hands tucked into my pockets the employees where following me around like I was about steal everything. Everything. My only saving grace from mall security being called was because I look closer to 50 than 15, so I'm just some eccentric (though obviously fit and handsome) old guy and not the normal demo of a pimply faced skinny jean hipster shoplifter. 

So it is a series of lessons learned over the weekend. First, you don't need to physically place your face in a pan of frying bacon to see if its done or not. Tongs work pretty good at bringing that stuff to your level, out of the pan. Second, realize you don't normally ride a mountain bike with a backpack full of heavy stuff and some cities have really high curbs.  Lastly, walking around a mall with a heavy ass pack on your back is great training for stuff like obstacle racing, backpacking, shopping with your wife at Christmas, but it gives the same impression as walking into a bank with the mask of a famous President over your face. 

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MaeCare Day 4

Spending time with grandpa yesterday cut into our playground time, so I made a deal with Mae, no park because we have to go to the pet store but you can have a fish. Meet, 'Girl', her male Beta. She is very happy. 

Mae and I are on our own again for most of the day. I can't say I am the best food provider. For breakfast she had corn chips and a carrot with ranch dip and apple juice. Now she is watching a Tinker Bell movie and double fisting old ring pops. She gets one after each swim practice during the week but never finishes them, thus the leftovers. 

She is going to be part of  my workout today. Its nice out so I am going to carry her a couple miles to the pharmacy and back. A good upper body workout carrying her. Maybe get her on my shoulders and do a quarter mile of lunges. We've been working on a version of the press up that cheerleader squads do. She stands upright rigid and I do a clean and press by holding her calves. A core/balance workout for her, and I get to do 20 reps of a upright press while shes up there. Also thinking of trying to pull a wagon behind me, if she gets tired. Still thinking of how to tie it around my waist so its hands free while we walk. Some rope for waist and maybe duct tape to constrict the handle joint to keep it straight. 

Mo has football practice tonight and then I'll end the day after that with a special team meeting for future racing with AZTRICLUB. 

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So many places to post, so little time

Day 3 of Daddy led MaeCare. Split a pumpkin pie pop tart for breakfast. Watching Return to Neverland, again. (And for the hundredth time Mae, I can't find pixie dust). Hoping for a trip to Grandpas to say hello, the pet store for supply's & maybe some park time, (play for her, workout for me). Then a quick jump in the 'hot pool'/Jacuzzi to wash off the sand, Mac & Cheese for her and then nap. 

My neck has been jacked up since last Saturday, so even my limited training has been very painful. Jarring motions worse than muscles straining so no running. Mistress heard me vomiting from nausea when she got home from work and forced me to finally go see my good friend Dr. Banas at Banas Sports Therapy

Feel much better this morning and will try some endurance training on the treadmill. I can tell when I slack on my indoor running, (my pick up bonus running) when my DVR is backed up with multiple new episodes from shows I watch when I run. 

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Never saw me like that

I take time every day to find time to be alone and meditate. I focus internally, pray, give thanks to many people and things that have happened to me lately,  and generally just appreciate the fact that I can think, act and have fun for another day. Yesterday is the past, tomorrow isn't guaranteed, that's why today is called 'present'. And I like to acknowledge that. 

Often when I meditate I try to visualize myself accomplishing a task perfectly, either an important task for the day like making dinner and screwing up or if it is close to a race, I'll self talk and visualize myself from start to finish highlighting key areas of mental and physical toughness. It is rare that when I mediate I get creative sparks of inspiration or see visions that I was not prepared to consider. Yet when those happen they are like lightening bolts to me. And I had one the other day. 

I was sitting in all places my hot tub, not my usual spot. I had just started my mediation routine when out of nowhere I saw a vision of myself in my mind that was so real it was like a physical blow. I saw myself physically looking like nothing I had every accomplished before. It wasn't a fantasy version of adventure or attractiveness, I still looked like a cross between Quasimodo and the Elephant Man. It wasn't lying in a pool of blood or broken bones. It was just me. Transformed by the results of hard work and dedication that based on the training I have done in and out gym over 30 years I have never obtained, because I had never tried that path. The previous efforts had me going from one extreme or the other, power based or endurance athlete.  My vision was something else.Something better. Something greater. 

Since then I haven't been able to get the vision out of my mind. It has affected my eating, it has affected my training. I've completely rethought my training protocols for the rest of the year. In fact in that vision, I knew immediately how I got there. It was if someone from the future handed me a script of what to do, exercises and routines I had never done suddenly came to my mind as if I had done them for years. It has affected so much that even if I obtain half of the vision I will be successful. 

It blows me away at how much stronger the mind is than the body. If we only take the time to open ourselves up to the possibility that we don't know everything. 

It is not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


It is always a fine line between sharing and protecting when you run a blog. While I am pretty open and honest about the ups and downs of my adventures and especially my endurance pursuits, I have debated about today's topic. However, as it as really affected my training and my personal life, I can think of nothing else to write about. After some meditation, I think I can say what I need to say, without triggering too many spiderbots and the reader will get it. 

For the last oh, 15 years or so, I've taken a pill everyday for a condition with my thyroid. Its a condition that affects millions of people around the world, I am not special, albeit 90% are female. Mistress says it is my body trying to express its feminine side.  In real life, I am not really shy about sharing this information but in that setting I know who I am speaking with and there is an implied sense of security or shared trust as conversations are a back and forth, give and take, and not posted forever online.

Based on years of conversation and research it seems the dose I get is pretty small.  So I didn't exactly care earlier this year when I ran out and the missed the doctors appointment required to test and refill my prescription for the next twelve months. I've missed days and an occasional week here and there with very little problem. Plus I can't stand doctors, hospitals, blood draws, all that crap. I've been through too many of those scenarios to conjure up rainbows and unicorns when the appointment draws near. I figured, "It's a small dose, what kind of problems could I have?"

Two months later, the longest period I have been without, I'm willing to admit I have completely SABOTAGED my body in the process of testing my limits. Nothing really new about that epiphany, is there.  It is not as if I have become a crippled invalid or unable to function in society. Hardly. But I have all the classic symptoms back and my frustration has trumped any hesitation I have about going to the doctors. So today I get tested and back on the program.

My symptoms are not uncommon, though everyone tends to exhibit different progression or regression of the common traits. I get cramps in my legs and back really easy, usually while sleeping, when I wake up it takes an hour to loosen up. Not so good when 90% of my exercise uses my lower body and I am used to early morning workouts. Totally lethargic. My usual sleep pattern is about 5.5 hours a night and never naps. Currently I sleep 9-10 hours a night, wake up exhausted, need to lay down mid day and I'm ready for bed at 8pm. There's some other symptoms worth mentioning but as those two points above really affect my day more than anything else.

So that sabotage is over. Back on the drug and back to hopefully a less sleepfull night and more energetic day. Less working out the night time leg cramp and more just working out cramping legs.

Its not enough to exist. I am going to live.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Getting to the bottom (& back up) of a Burpee

Burpees are known as the hardest cardiovascular exercises to perform in consecutive repetition. The term 'burpee', according to various online sources, is coined after an American psychologist Royal H. Burpee who in the late 1930's developed the Burpee test,consisting of a series of exercises performed in rapid succession, meant to measure agility and coordination. Further reading did not provide what the actual test movements were, so that leaves current definitions as a benchmark. 

To begin with, lets all agree that the foundation of a burpee is the squat thrust. This is done by dropping from a standing position into a frog like stance, kicking or thrusting both legs backwards entering a push up position, then bringing the legs back under the body and standing upright. Whether this is the entire definition of the exercise, or not, is debatable.  I'll begin the debate with two unimpeachable sources.

1. Oxford Dictionary definition: a physical exercise consisting of a squat thrust made from and ending in a standing position. 

2. The current Guinness Book of World Record holder for burpees is Mr. Patty Doyle from the United Kingdom. In 1994 he did 1,850 in one hour. According to Guinness, Mr. Doyle did not perform a push up or jump, therefore reverting to the Oxford definition. 

So two of the most widely accepted sources of definition and execution define a burpee as synonymous with the squat thrust. But wait a minute. Those are a bunch of Brits defining how to do a burpee. I'm an American. What do the pointy headed, 4-eyed, know-it-all's on this side of the pond say about how to do it right?  

Most people learn of the exercise for the first time in military basic training. Depending on branch of service, it may have been called a Burpee, or 8 count push up, 8 count squat thrust or some other permutation of titling.  Current US Army doctrine from manual TC 3-22.20 describes a  burpee as the 8 Count Push Up;  A squat thrust with two push ups in the middle. As an army veteran and a former Drill Instructor who taught PT, I certainly recall 'burpees' as called the 8 count squat thrust, which added a push up and jump (standing upright was position 1) to a squat thrust. 

In my opinion the real confusion on what does or does not constitute a burpee comes from a company called  Crossfit, or more specifically its affiliate gyms and individual advocates. Between local clubs having autonomy in workout protocols and individual acolytes interpreting the centralized online Workout Of the Day (WOD) and everyone videotaping how they do things, any yeah-hoo with a video camera can upload a clip with 'Burpees' in the title, diluting the subject by presenting hundreds of conflicting videos on the matter. 

My irritation is that this isn't really found in other affiliation groups or schools of thought. If someone practices yoga, a downward dog, warrior one pose or sun salutation is the same if its in a studio or someones living room. It is the same with martial arts. If you follow an  certain art, a follower can enter any dojo of that philosophy and with very little prompting from the Master, fall right into place based on a practiced consistency. 

The standard burpee, endorsed by Crossfit for years, mirrored the Army 8 Count Push Up. Thanks to internet videos, or perhaps a general lack of leadership, doctrine or care from the parent organization to not enforce a standard methodology, people started filming how they do the burpee and some variations have made it into common practice, all the while not denoting the change in their version of the exercise. Most notably is the change from a  push up, into a more fluid body drop into a prone position where the chest and thighs touch the ground. Another variation includes hand clapping at the apex of the jump, (which by the way is taken directly from the US Army jumping jack). 

Since Crossfit type WOD programs are often subjected to a posted time request as a method of  competition, my secondary issue of a push up and jump being considered burpee SOP, is followed by my disdain of change based on ego. Specifically I believe people who endorse substituting a prone body drop over the push up are muddying the waters of what historically is a considered a burpee in an effort to shave time, therefore they are creating short cuts and I consider the change unworthy. On the other hand, adding a hand clap to the jump should be prescribed as an additional movement in the description of burpee and not assumed a part of what is a classic technique. I won't deny hand clapping is a progression to a burpee, but I don't consider the body drop to prone a regression or progression, I consider it a mutation. 

I'm calling out Crossfit specifically because their model represents the standard of publishing WOD but I make this charge against all WOD programs that utilize burpees. This annotation style is nothing new as many WOD will describe if the burpee of the day includes using dumbbells, a weighted vest, pull ups or olympic rings, so why not 'drop into prone', or 'clap at top'? In comparison, I will say that Crossfit and most WOD publishers do an excellent job describing differences in doing pull ups in a circuit, using terms as kipping, straight arm or hanging to mention a few methods. I am just asking for either leadership from them or for anyone to step up and say, "Hey, for the burpee, this is what the standard is, and anything else needs to be considered a stated change." Is that too hard to ask? 

Why should there be clear definitions?  Is it really necessary? Well, depending on some of the WOD I receive from multiple sources, it makes a big difference on what the standard is. If the workout is to run 5 miles and perform 50 burpees per mile, the difference of those burpees including push ups, or not, really affects the time and outcome of that training day. If that WOD instructs the performer to do five sets of a six exercise circuit and the first exercise is 50 push ups and the last is 50 burpees, is the person doing 50 push up movements or 100 per circuit?  300 total or 600 total for the workout?  

At least the Brits, endorsed by Guinness have an definitive position, a burpee is a squat thrust. Maybe these should be called English burpees. The American burpee would follow the standard 8 count squat thrust the military and Crossfit (originally) endorsed. I'll make the concession that regardless of doing an English or American burpee the ability to include a push up and/or a jump is based on the progression or regression of the person doing the exercise. Any technique that allows someone to complete of a WOD and feel they didn't cheat themselves did it right that day. And if someone calls you out for not doing a push up, or body drop or jump or jump with a hand clap,  you can confidently state you did them according to Guinness standards. Now, is that a good thing or bad thing? 

It's not enough to exist, I am going to live.