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Getting Through the Tough Times

When I first got on MFP in 2011, my biggest problem was food; too damn much food. That and overcoming heart disease. I took all the suggestions I could find - well, except for cheat days. I never did those. I got smaller plates, a food scale, got rid of the junk food and read a lot of food labels.

Good or bad or otherwise, I logged everything. Well, except for sex. I put that in as golf.

I lost 66 pounds in a year. I ran a little, and then a lot. I have run 7 marathons. Life happened, I lost a job, I got cancer 5 damn times, my wife and I split up. I managed to keep running and keep my eating in check.

Then October came. I was running a race, feeling good, down to my lowest weight in decades and I got sick during a half marathon. I pooped in the woods. It was embarrassing, but it made for a good running blog.  :)

Since my race, I have been having all sorts of nausea, cramps, and GI distress.

I have been to the doc and had blood tests, given samples of everything but my nose hair and had a CT scan. I honestly can't even count how many times I have been. Suffice it to say, I don't bother wearing underwear so I don't have to take it off all the time.

As far as I know, I don't have any other cancer. Good news!

They did find some spots on my liver and one on my left kidney. I am being referred to a renal specialist for that follow up. There is one thing which bothers me about the spots. That is that, on occasion, they are precancerous. My history with such precancerous indicators is dismal.

The latest on everything else is this: Skin cancer has been at bay since July when I had surgery. My PSA which was 7.6 in July, after going to the healing prayer rooms twice, went down to 4.5 in October and it is now down to 4.0. It is stable but still above normal (2.0). I have a biopsy scheduled for late February and another one in July.

So what about the food?

As my body is changing without my permission, I am struggling with the food again. I gained some weight and didn't really feel like running. I logged my worst mileage for a month in last 4 years.

I have been working hard managing the food again and now I have lost some of the aforementioned blubber.

I know lots of folks on here are emotional eaters. I can be one too. Running has helped me feel so much better both physically and mentally. Antidepressants are one of meds I got off of on my fitness journey. So what am I doing to combat the tough times?

- Coffee, it's a simple pleasure. I got off it for weeks a few years ago and it didn't fix anything they said it would.
- Packing my own lunches and snacks helps me eat quality food.
- Portion control and a food scale are essential.
- I schedule my runs and spinning time in a calendar.
- I layout my workout clothes in advance. Some days it is SO hard to walk past the easy chair and get dressed to run. If I sit down, I lose the battle.
- Scheduling all my doctor's appointments on one day makes it emotionally easier.
- I schedule fun activities in advance. I don't need to sit around my house for too long with nothing to do or I end up eating. Again, the calendar drives me. Otherwise I plop at the dining room table and eat.
- I am living life and some day is no longer in my vocabulary. I am not going to die wishing I had done something.
- Prayer helps me cope with things I can't change.

My Top 10 Get Fit Suggestions

After a few years on MFP, I have figured out a some things about weight loss, fitness and running. Most of it I didn't learn in the forums. ;)

The most important is this, weight loss and fitness is fragile!

Since I got on MFP, I learned how to run, I received a few medals, and I even ran a couple of marathons. I also learned that few reach their goal weight, but sadly, many more don't make it.

How fragile is it? A few cancer surgeries caused me to be down and out over the years. I gained 13 pounds the last time! That is almost 20% of my weight loss. One would think, with all that I have learned, that I would have cut back the calories while I was healing. I found it very hard to do that.

It's not just the lack of activity, but the emotional eating which I was in denial about. Running is my antidepressant. I am happy to be back down 3 or 4 pounds. My current health condition has been limiting me to shorter runs, but I am coping.

So what are my secrets to success over the years?

-1 I weigh myself weekly and do measurements every 3 months. I had to add it to my calendar.
-2 Measuring my food portions for the few food items I buy with a labels (which I read) is done on a food scale.
-3 I buy new underwear when I need it. It's my secret pleasure.
-4 Making time to sleep 8 hours means I get enough rest. I don't always sleep that long, but I am in bed that long.
-5 I take a few supplements that seem to work. I still take one BP med but that is better than 6.
-6 Running 3 days a week whether I want to or not helps me in so many ways. I try to cr0ss-train or run 2 more days. Some weeks I even run a 6th day. I have averaged about 120 miles a month.
-7 Walk 10,000 steps a day and take the stairs is my daily baseline.
-8 I log onto MFP daily! I still need to be here.
-9 I don't consume sweet drinks or food (with or without real sugar) except an occasional piece of birthday cake.
-10 There is no fast-food, pizza, white flour, rice, white potatoes or tofu 363 days a year. Tofu is 365!
-11 As a vegetarian, I happen to eat a little beef, lamb, pork, chicken and fish in small quantities.
-12 There is NEVER junk food in the house or I will eat it.
-13 Sticking to superfoods as often as I can. Fruit, veggies, nuts and spices are on that list.
-14 Using one and two cup containers to help limit my food consumption works!
-15 There is always a 20oz bottle of water nearby. I average about 60 ounces per day; more if it is hot.
-16 Scheduling my runs and workouts like they are doctor's appointments helps!
-17 Make a food plan for the week and eat sushi out once.
-18 Once a week, I shop, cook and package lots of meals to freeze.
-19 As much as I would like to, I don't smoke crack.

I know, that's more than 10. The same thing seems to happen with food.

As always, thanks for your support, comments and votes.

Running - The Quick Start Guide

Running is better than drinking alcohol and I dribble a lot less. The problem with running is, well, me! I don't really like it, but I like what it does! It's my private place, and don't share too many of the thoughts that I have out there... well except the person that let their dog crap on the sidewalk in front of the Middle School; that person I am hunting down and DNA has already been sent to CSI (Vegas of course!)

I didn't like running, hell, I didn't like getting up the front steps. In my book, gasping for air was for pearl divers, not for me!

There are three aspects to running: aerobic capacity, mental fortitude and physical stamina. All three must be trained for. The purpose of training is to force your mind and body to adapt to longer and faster runs.

The most important thing to remember in running is DON'T GET INJURED! OK - maybe to have fun!

----------------------------------------------- PLEASE NOTE -------------------------------------
If you have never run before, I suggest the following for 2 weeks prior to running so that you don't get hurt. This is especially true if you are older or very obese like I was. You probably should check with your doc too.
4 times a week:
- Warm up with a short walk.
- Do some simple strength training and stretching. Squats lunges, high-knees and planks. Stretching can be simple things like touching your toes, laying on the floor and pulling your knees close to your chest. You should feel a stretch, but NO PAIN!
- Walk the distance you want to run. Say a mile in 20 minutes. Even a 5K in an hour.

- Shoes: Shoes are your best protection against just about every possible runner’s injury. (Please note they do not protect against pregnancy or STDs.) After you have had a gait analysis and are properly fitted for running shoes at a running store, then you can start running. A gait analysis will help you determine your running mechanics and find shoes with the proper combination of arch support, control, and cushion. Your shoe size/width, weight, whether you intend to run trails or on the street, your running experience, arch height, foot strike and pavement contact are part of the analysis - oh, and your favorite color. I am going to name some of the more popular brands simply to help you do some research. Adidas, Altra, Asics, Brooks, Hoka, Karhu, Merrell, Mizuno, New Balance, Newton, Nike, Reebok, Saucony, Skechers, Under Armour and Vibram. Please be aware that some running shoes are not avaiable at all specialty stores. Others are available at outlets. One more thing; running shoes are not for walking and walking shoes are not for running.

You need to know all this so that you can select the right brand/model for you.

I like this shoe site. It will help you begin to understand to complexity of picking the correct running shoe.  (Did I say people who recommend brands and models make me mad?) I also went to a podiatrist because I got plantar fasciitis from steep inclines on the treadmill. Then there was the chiropractor who is a runner. Both were very helpful in shoe selections. One of the docs said wine and a hot tub would help. How can you go wrong with that sort of medical advice?

- Training Plan: Couch to 5K (C25K) is very popular. There are others, but for most of the newbies, you probably can't run to the mailbox. Intervals will help you begin the aerobic capacity training and begin to build the confidence you need to achieve your goal.

I believe the basics of a good run are posture, running form, pace, and breathing.

- Posture: This is the skeleton of good form. It should remain unchanged in your run, so taking some time to learn it is essential. Strength training is very helpful for maintaining good posture and form throughout an entire run. I recommend 20 pushups a day (nothing touching the floor but hands and feet!), 20 lunges, 20 squats, 50 jumping jacks and few 1-minute planks. (Google them if you need to. All are easy, at home sort of stuff.) It takes about 10 minutes with some light pre-run stretching.

- Warm-Up & Stretch: I do a 5-minute warm-up where I walk, walk faster, do a loosening up bounce with exaggerated knees up and kick backs - on my toes. I rotate my torso and let my arms flop around. LOOSE is what you need to do. It looks like you are the happiest running drunk on the planet but my neighbors already know I am an aberration. I follow up with some easy stretching of the leg muscles. Side-to-sides to A-frames, lunges, calf leans, and back leg lifts. I hold each one for 10 seconds - just an easy stretch with no pain. I just stop along the roadside by the pond and enjoy the view for a minute. You need to warm up first!

- Form: It's simple, but it makes a difference. Posture is constant during your run. Form is controlling the variables such as arm swing, forward lean, foot-strike and stride.

Good posture starts with standing tall (loose) extending your spine up, and making room so that you can breathe from your diaphragm (why planks are important!).

Lean forward at your ankles, not your waist, until you need to take a step to keep from falling. That is the proper position. You'll be looking ahead about 30 feet, have your chin up and your neck in line with your spine. If you are looking down in front of you (bending at the neck), you'll probably be in poor posture.  (Try a school track for practice - looking well ahead and running the street can cause you to trip at curb cuts and the like.) Imagine a straight line from your ankle to the top of your head. Do not bend at the waist! Many runners need to concentrate on pushing the hips forward a little.

- Lean: Part of your running form. It is the gear shift. More lean, more speed. You want lean enough so that you are striking your foot flat but towards your toes. (Heal hits actually slow you down and often mean that your stride is too long.) It takes practice to control it so that you hit flat (mid-foot) with your weight on your toes. Some shoes will cause you to be even more on your toes with a toe strike. If you overdo the lean, you'll take off, keeping the lean too far back and you'll drag your heals. I like to practice on the treadmill at 3 degrees incline or a hill. This way you can go slower and focus on leaning from the ankle without having to go too fast.

- Arms: Keep your arms loosely swinging with your forward momentum. It takes practice to give them enough push to swing so they actually pull you forward but stay loose.  You want to use the rhythm of this energy, not just expend it swinging them. Exaggerating the swing is a waste of energy you'll need later on. Keep your forearms parallel to the pavement. I practice on (up) hills where it is most apparent. Arms need to be loose - don't run with clenched fists! That may work for sprinting, but not long distance. Your back will love you for this! Keep your hands relaxed, open and loose with your left thumb at 1 and the right at 11 o'clock.

- Breathing: This one is tough for many runners. It needs to be done with a rhythm. For my first year, I ran to very specific music and my breathing was "in time" with the beat. I can't breathe well through my nose, so I do both in and out with my mouth. Others breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. You need to practice on a slow jog. Breathe in over a left-right step combination, and out of the next left-right combination. You can also try it with just one set, but you need to be moving along pretty fast.

Breathing to capacity is essential to supply oxygen as part of the metabolic process which powers the legs. But for the longer distances, you need to increase (through training) "volume oxygen max" or VO2Max for short. If you are breathing deeply you'll have more O2 and as your V02Max increases, you'll see gains in distance and speed.

The problem for many of us who have been sedentary is this: we have shallower breathing and it will take focus to change that. The aerobic adaptations with take time, but using your lungs to full capacity will have immediate results.

- Pace: This is a tough one and everyone has an opinion. Here is what I do. I practice my pace on the treadmill with music that fits the tempo. Do 2 miles at an even pace with music that is that same tempo for the pace. IE: Tom Petty's "Breakdown" at 6 miles per hour. Get a few faster songs to practice faster paces.

Pace is also directly linked to V02Max which is a large part of the cardiovascular puzzle. The other one is heart rate. I recommend a heart rate monitor, not just so you have statistics about your running performance, but so you can see the improvement in your VO2Max and efficiencies of changes your running form.

Miles and minutes are the building blocks of running. You build miles and add them together. Run a mile, walk a minute, run a mile, walk a minute, and run a mile. There's your 5K. If you can do a 10-minute mile you'll be done in 33 minutes.

- Variation: I run for pace 2 days a week. These are shorter and faster than my weekly long slow runs. Each run has a training purpose. For now, just mix it up.

- Practice: Break it down. Practice breathing in "time" to your stride. Go run with solid form as far as you can. Keep the pace slow and even and focus on LOOSE, lean, and a slight arm swing.

When you have the form and breathing down, then work on the faster runs. Better to get the technique down now, and then ramp up the speed. Muscle memory will begin to free you up to focus on other aspects of your running. I promise the lean (at the ankle) and using your lungs to capacity will increase your time in one day.

- Sex: Good sex makes lots of things better. When the kids are around, waffles is adult code for sex.
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