Sunday, December 30, 2012

Oh My Aching Back!

Dec. 30, 2012

Today I'm 193 pounds of rolling thunder.

Actually, today I was more like 193 pounds of aching, limping thunder.

About two or three times a year I feel a twinge, and then the gremlins inside my lower back reach up and remind me that I'm not immortal. Not that I need such a painful reminder, I think those little guys just enjoy watching me do the old-man walk and listen to me groan when I twist the wrong way.

I've always admired those athletes that can put their mind in a place that pain doesn't matter. They seem to have a super-human tolerance for pain, and most of them do so by taking their mind to a special place where the desire to achieve eliminates the feeling of pain.

Me, I feel the pain. There's no masking when I'm at my physical limit. I generally have to shut down the engine, or at least dial it back a gear or two.

Now there have been times I've muscled through some difficult times out on the road on my bike, but they're nothing compared to what it takes to climb Alps or push the big gear at 35 mph. That's just a place I can't go.

But I also have a little voice in my head that seldom lets me skip a day of some sort of physical activity. It's the one that pokes you when you're driving around and you see bikers or runners out on the street, and you feel that pang of guilt since you haven't worked out.

So when I saw the sun shining this morning, I set my back pain aside and went for a run. My little voice was winning. My body, which probably would have benefited from a day off, pushed ahead fearing that snow or cold might curtail any further outdoor runs for the near future.

I started at a walk -- a little-old-man in a jogging suit walk. Then I tested the twinges with a little jog. Finally I set out on the familiar climb that normally serves as the beginning of my daily run.

While I knew my back would squawk, I totally underestimated the weather. It had been relatively warm when I stuck my head out hours earlier, but since then the wind had kicked up, and the sun had ducked behind the clouds.

So it was more the cold than the back that discouraged a longer run. While I never really caught my stride, I was glad to get out on the road and pound out some miles. 

Now with the help of an ice pack and some pain killers I'll limp through the evening with a chance to hear that little voice inside my head again tomorrow. 

Who knows which one will win this time?


Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 Is No Time For Fat Pants

Dec. 28, 2012

I got a blog message today that said to, "Put your fat pants away."

Good thought with only few days left in 2012. I don't know about you, but I've got regular pants, somewhat regular pants, fat pants and how-the-heck-did-I gain-all-this-weight pants.

I learned long ago that my weight on a scale isn't nearly as important as how my clothes fit. At least I like to tell myself that because it reassures me that I'm gaining muscle and not fat as I work out.

Fat pants are like the safety valve we all keep in the closet. You can fit into them, and only you are really embarrassed to be wearing a size or two up from normal, but it stinks when you think you've slipped and added five or 10 pounds in the last year or so.

Well, what can I say? Gravity sucks! Even the best of us who run, job, walk or roll face backsliding periodically.

But hey, it's a new day and we're on the brink of a new year. I read an article the other day that suggested you make a list all the things you have leaned on in the past year (chips, candy, cookies, etc.). But rather than do a giant knee-jerk wipe out of all the stuff at once, you pick one thing to stay away from for a while, and see how it works out.

The thought is that you make it a lifestyle change rather than saying you're on a diet. 

One of my favorites is eliminating accidental food. This is particularly important when you work in an office. Somebody brings in cookies or leftover Christmas candy and sets it in a high-traffic area and before you know it you've got party mix all over your desk and you're looking for more.

Accidental calories add up more quickly than you think. They can add 200 to 1,000 calories a day to your consumption. They're like little food gremlins that feed your need to binge and fuel the expansion of your waistline.

My other food downfall, like so many people, is drinking too much soda. I've been a diet soda drinker for years, so the calories aren't as much of an issue as the caffeine, sodium, acids and other unhealthy chemicals that are contained in sodas.

I'll admit it, I don't drink enough water. So my discipline is to drink equal or double the amount of water compared to the amount of soda I drink. If I want a glass of soda, that means I need to drink a glass or two of water.

It's not a great solution, but at least I don't have that giant caffeine crash at different points in my day. And I'd like to think that it's somewhat healthier than just a day of soda after soda as I crank out blog posts on my computer.

The key is to have a lifestyle that includes time to get up and move. Whether it's an hour at the gym or walking outside for 30 minutes. A combination of healthy eating and exercise will keep us all away from the "fat pants" sided of the closet in 2013.

Besides, think of all the energy it's going to take to climb back up from the bottom of the fiscal cliff.

Good luck everybody ... the World's Slowest Human.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Resolutions Are Highly Overrated

Dec. 27, 2012

Well we're just a few days before the old New Year's resolutions start to kick in.

You can usually tell it's getting to be that time of year when the television is filled with ads for Weight Watchers and NutriSystem and your email is full of get-thin-quick schemes.

I suppose I'm just like everybody else out there who wishes they were 20 pounds lighter so you can run faster, jump higher and drop everyone on hill climbs when you're out on the bike. And each year about this time as I leaf through Runner's World or Bicycling I think this is the year when a balanced diet replaces stress eating I'll make that 20-pound drop.

Well I'm just like the rest of the world. I get about a week or two or three into a program of drinking more water and eating better food and something always trips me up. Life has a way of tricking us that way, so I don't make any rash New Year's resolutions.

But there's still a part of me that would love to run and ride faster, so I battle on like the rest of America.

I snuck outside again today for a run. It was a brisk winter day, but a bright sun and proper clothing made the experience quite enjoyable. Left, right, left I made my way around one of my normal loops. Five miles in just about an hour or so seemed fairly reasonable. 

I usually run more by time than by distance. It feels a little more Zen that way, and I don't really stress out about being the world's slowest human.

OK, so I did indulge in a little self pity today when I stopped to walk up a hill and a woman with a noticeable limp due to what appeared to be a hamstring pull raced by me at a pretty good clip. By this point in my run I had pretty much given over to walking on some of the long rises in my route.

I thought the runner was pretty amazing, not only was she noticeably favoring one leg during her run, but she was out in shorts and a running shirt on a 30-degree day, while wimpy me had on three shirts, a jacket, a pair of tights and some wind pants. When she looped back toward me all I could think is "there goes a real runner."

So competing in an Iron Man triathlon is not in my future. But at last I'm out there moving and feeling alive regardless of the fact that I am the world's slowest human.

Good luck to all my friends who load up on New Year's resolutions this time of year. Remember, in a week or two, you'll be right back with the rest of us slackers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Caution: Fiscal Cliff Ahead!

Dec. 26, 2012

Happy Boxing Day or Merry Christmas plus one.

We somehow made it past the Mayan end of times, and now we're headed squarely toward the edge of the fiscal cliff. My greatest fear is that the new normal of the current recession will be replaced by an even newer normal after we drop off the cliff.

Since there is little I can do about it, I might as well run. Left, right, left ... you know the drill.

I wonder if the president and first lady are jogging out in Hawaii this week? You know, that whole fitness thing and setting an example for the youth of America?

In today's Runner's World quote of the day, opera singer Beverly Sills says, "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."

Somehow this spirit of hard work equaling success was stamped into the DNA of what we regard as the Greatest Generation. These were people who valued a day's work for a day's pay.

I'd like to think whether you're out on the road putting in the minutes and miles or working for a living that hard work will eventually equal success.

Like many runners, walkers and riders, I took Christmas Day off for a rest day. I'm also a bit of a chicken when it comes to cold weather. 

When that old thermometer doesn't crack the freezing mark I'm hard pressed to bundle up and go outside for a run. I just don't have that ice water in my veins that I see in folks who go tromping through the ice and snow in the name of fitness. I admire those hardy souls, but it's just not my style. I've heard the legends of bike riders rolling around with water frozen in their water bottles. That's "yikes" on my cold scale.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to lie on the couch eating Christmas cookies and watching bad college football all day. OK, I might watch some bad college football, but it might come while I'm riding my stationary bike and not lying on the couch.

It's been three or four days since I've gotten out on the mean streets and put my world's slowest human status on the line. I have to admit, the first two days of riding indoors instead of hitting the streets were kind of nice. Not nearly as strenuous, but a good change of pace.

But the guilt is starting to set in. I find myself looking at t he Weather Channel -- MTV for geezers is what a friend calls it -- and plotting out the warmest point of the day. Good luck with that since it's nearly noon and the thermometer has yet to pop past 20. 

But the sun is shining and the siren's song of the road is calling. I miss the warm weather and rolling over the hills toward fitness; skipping the shortcuts in the hope of getting to places worth going.

So hopefully I'll bundle up and get out there. If not, it will be back on the spin bike. 

Either way, happy Boxing Day!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas To All ...

"Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store." 

Dr. Seuss

Dec. 24, 2012

Happy Christmas Eve runners, joggers, bikers and friends.

As I sit here early on Christmas Eve morning I hear the clanging of the trash trucks and the constant drone of the morning news shows on TV. These are the sounds of the early risers in a world of late sleepers on the eve of the most anticipated day of the year.

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care -- check. With hopes that UPS and Amazon will deliver yet today with care. Otherwise, we're a little bit sunk on the present front. Say a little prayer for us, why don't you.

"Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles."

Edwin Louis Cole

I'm expecting it might take a miracle to get me out on the streets today. Baby it's cold outside, and I'm a wimp in the cold. Looks like it might be another spin bike day. They always say cross-training is important.

"The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live."

George Carlin

George Carlin, yah, it's old-school but so is Christmas. Nothing like cranking up the old movies, putting on some holiday music and letting the season wash over you on cold winter days like today. And I'm still debating that outside run. Maybe we'll go to early Mass, and I'll be off the hook. Hmmm.
And if you're like the rest of us, you need a little holiday cheer and a reason not to work for a couple of minutes. Besides, laughter burns at least 20 calories, so think of this as a way to enjoy the holidays while making yourself more physically fit.

OK, back after a little giggle break. Still debating that cold run? Forget about it, it's Christmas. My gift to you.

That's right, you naughty little elves, it might just be your duty to save Santa the trip.

"I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up - they have no holidays."

Henny Youngman

So have yourself a merry little Christmas and all that. Be thankful for the things you have and not the ones you wish you did. Be sure to pay your Visa bill when it comes and smile because it has an extra zero this month.

Just one last thought as you tuck the little ones in tonight.

Friday, December 21, 2012

There's No Business Like Snow Business

Dec. 21, 2012

There might be no business like snow business, but for runners, Day 2 of snow can go from fun to tromp around in too dangerous to navigate, in a big hurry.

So yesterday's excuses to ride the spin bike as cross-training gave way today to an adventure out onto the mean streets of the neighborhood. That and a drop in the wind and a sun-shiny day made for a perfect opportunity to get back outside.

Now normally I'm not a road runner. I'm content to traverse the sidewalks of my neighborhood. I have just never seen the point of running out on the road with the cars.

Yes, I've heard the arguments that it's softer and smoother to run on asphalt rather than on the concrete of the sidewalk, but normally I'm not buying it.

Plus, most of the road runners I see are out there moving with traffic or so far toward the middle of the road that they are in danger of being hit by an oncoming car. And don't get me started about people who run side by side.

Today was all about breaking the rules and living dangerously. Somehow the Earth had been spared the Mayan's prediction of a sudden end, so playing out of bounds seemed more like the order of the day than some rogue act normally reserved for miscreants.

That, and the fact that if I tried to do my normal loop on the sidewalks I could rest assured that a trip to the emergency room would somehow be involved.

After 2 or 3 inches of snow fell on Thursday most of the sidewalks were still caked with moisture. I was going to call it the white stuff, but by Day 2, it was more like the gray stuff, or the salt and pepper stuff.

Most of the snow was layered over a covering of ice that made the going a little treacherous. I've always had a fair respect for black ice, or that invisible slippery layer that can coat sidewalks and roads and make them extremely slippery.

So I set off on a road run, hop-scotching my way back and forth between open stretches of clean sidewalk and portions of roadway adjacent to the ice-covered sidewalk.

This method worked fairly well. At least until I got onto busy roads where leaving the sidewalk was no longer an option. Then it was a matter of looking for safe spots, running on the snow covered grass or slowing to a walk to get through icy patches.

But like I always say, a day you get to run is always a good day. The crunching of the ice and snow under my feet seemed to make the time fly, and I made it around the loop without falling.

And the biggest plus of all, we made it by the Mayan deadline without vaporizing.

So tomorrow, if you see the world's slowest human out running, give me a wave -- it's almost Christmas, you know!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let's Hear It For A Snow Day!

Dec. 20, 2012

With only one day left of the world as we know it, this could be a make or break blog update.

Say something profound, and whatever or whoever comes next will remember you in legendary tones. Just plop something down in the blogosphere, and you end up just another Webizen swept up by the the fallout from the end of the Mayan calendar.

The great thing is it's a snow day.

So if you were all set to take those high school finals today, never mind. First, it's a snow day. Second, the world will be coming to an end. So you might as well while away the final few hours by playing some video games.

Me, I'm not setting foot outside. Baby, it's cold outside. And windy. And slick. And ... (insert your own excuse here). And who wants to risk killing themselves with so few hours left for the world.

I'm just glad someone at our house was brave enough to get up and put on their jammie pants and jacket and head out into the cold and wind and get those front steps shoveled off. You wouldn't want the mail man slipping and falling on the last day of the Earth as we know it.

My guess is the sun will break out soon and well be back in the running business before we know it. Besides, this is a good excuse to jump on the spin bike, watch some History channel, and get ready for a little work from home action.

Today's Runner's World quote of the day comes from
Peter Magill, 2010 USA Masters 5K champion  

"No one is born a perfect runner. And none of us will become one. But through incremental steps, we can become better runners. And that's the beauty of our sport: There are no shortcuts, nothing is given to us; we earn every mile, and we earn every result."

So if we're all still around on Friday, I'll hopefully be a better runner and blogger. Good luck all!

Peter Magill, 2010 USA Masters 5K champion

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Take Advantage Of Bad Running Days

Dec. 19, 2012

I sense the cough and cold bug might be giving me back my body. Two nights in a row with no coma-inducing cough medicine and only a limited amount of coughing today.

So the road is out there calling my name. The breezy 30-degree weather is luring me inside to the spin bike. I'm even starting to rationalize the idea by thinking that I haven't cross-trained in at least three days.

Damn you Bob Schwartz.

Every time I start slipping a bit, and wanting to slack off, Runner's World sends me an inspirational quote that stops me in my tracks. Today's offering:

"Take advantage of bad running days and take advantage of good running days. Take advantage of running."

Bob Schwartz, Running Laughs blog

Yeah, Running Laughs boy, you got me. You had me at "Take advantage," Damn you Bob Schwartz.

Rather than run off the fiscal cliff of fitness, I'll probably find my cold weather stuff, lace 'em up and hit the road. The first 10 minutes are generally the worst as your body acclimates itself to the cold, and your internal motor heats up.

In addition to Bob guilt, I've got snow on my mind. For the first time this fall, there is snow in the forecast. Now I've lived in the Midwest long enough to know that just because the weather suits say it's going to snow 1-3 inches, don't start salting the driveway until you see those fluffy flakes start to fly.

But as a runner the forecast motivates me to get out there and run. So unless the rain starts falling, you'll see me out there running.

And remember, if the world's slowest human is out there enduring the cold, you've got no excuses. Just ask Bob.