Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Winter's back...

I had the sneaking suspicion that the way the weather was spoiling Calgary with temps warm enough to run in shorts would end spectacularly. Unfortunately, I was right. If it had been constantly cold instead of 4 weeks of mild weather, it would certainly have been easier. I actually took today (tuesday) off to avoid the commute to work. I still went to the gym though, glad I did. Tomorrow will be warmer, -25 as opposed to -30, but windchill is going to be -36. Indoor track again, but still beats the treadmill hands down. Friday is going to be -22, so I will probably go out for that, if the windchill is low.

If I do head out, I'll most likely dress the same as sunday, when the cold snap began.

Head and hand-wear at the top: 3 thin pairs of gloves, pair thin of mittens, neck gaitor, balaclava, hat, ski goggles. 2 thin tops, one thick top, running jacket, tights, track pants, socks (1 pair).

It's fun in a challenging kind of way, I enjoy the bewildered looks I get in all that stuff. My body clock had started thinking of spring though, so it's tough to deal with this time. However, even though I don't like the track, the point is to keep on running. 
It's going to ease off over the weekend, so next week will be back to -5 to +5 range. Just in time for the start of marathon training! It seems very fitting that this cold snap comes to an end just as the training cycle leading up to my May 27 BQ attempt begins. The new route looks great, but I'll leave that for later. In the meantime: winter, you are relieved, sir.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Let's get (a bit) technical. I tend to do the same things for the same day of the week, though the total km of each run or the length and number of intervals changes when I'm in a training cycle. Still, the framework is usually the same. So below is the general pattern for a week, followed by a breakdown of my gym workouts.
I don't enjoy the gym all that much, at least when compared to running. The description is a little more complex than that of my runs (maybe that's why I prefer running?). Training run descriptions are largely total distance and pace, gym and weights more varied. I might take some pictures one day if anyone wants more explanation (!)

Weekly framework:
Sunday: Long run. Anywhere from 13 to 18k in the off season.
Monday: Recovery run. 9-12k, not too fast.
Tuesday: Gym routine (see below for details).
Wednesday: speed run. 2.5k warm up, then short intervals of 1 or 2 minutes, with 1-3 minute cooldowns in between, 1.5k cooldown. I do the intervals at a minimum pace of 3:50/km. 9-12k total.
Thursday: Gym routine.
Friday: Tempo run.  2.5k warm up, then long intervals of 5-8 minutes, with 3-5 minute cooldowns in between, 1.5k cooldown. I do the intervals at a pace of between 3:50 and 4:00/km. 9-12k total.
Saturday: Gym routine with 40 minutes on exercise bike at the end.


-5 minute warm up on bike.

-Weights: alternate between arms and legs - 3 sets of 15-17 repetitions at each station/ weight machine with 30 seconds rest between sets. I use 5 stations for legs and 4 for arms. I'd need pictures as I'm bad with the names (some include hip abductor, hip adductor, lat pulldown, hamstring curl, bicep curl).
-Wobble board: stand on it for 2 minutes while holding 20 kg kettle bell, holding it in front, then switching to holding it behind. Next, hold 10kg/ 25lb weight in each hand and balance on one leg for 45 seconds, then switch to other leg and do twice for each leg. I changed recently from the bosu ball.

-ABCs: running drills around the track: 3 each of knee lifts, kicks (knee lift, kick leg straight, snap down), and butt kicks.

-Crunches/ stretches: Do "scissor stretch", as I call it, to stretch the inside upper legs. Use a wall, and your imagination (a little).
Followed by 30 crunches - I elevate my feet and rest them against a wall so the knees are at 45 degrees, and while doing a crunch keep my arms fixed and slide my hands up towards the knee and back down. I learned this from an article I read by former 110m hurdles record holder Colin Jackson. It stops the use of the legs and that awful neck-pulling many seem to do.
Stretch one leg across the body while lying on back. Stretches outside of upper leg and butt muscle. A good runner's stretch.
Crunches and other leg stretch.
20 of another kind of crunch - don't know the name. Lie down completely flat. Lift one leg straight up, with knee bent a little (5 degrees or so). At the same time, lift opposite arm, and touch outside of shoe with fingertips. Alternate with other leg/ arm. This works the abs more on the side.

-Roller. Every part of the leg, lower and upper. This includes turning over to do the inside of the upper leg. I've become much less injury-prone since I started using the roller.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Getting in shape started in January 2007

Here's the weight loss story that my blog sub-title alludes to. While I never actually said the words "my new year's resolution is...", the decision was made in January 2007 to start exercising.
May 2000
I had grown up being fairly slim, cycling quite a bit, including to and from school. Exercise was on/off during university and after graduating, when I lived in China. It was my first years in Canada (2003 onwards) that I was sedentary and ate more and more. I believe too that in one's late 20s, the metabolism also changes. I'd been used to eating anything I wanted, but it gradually started to show. Below is probably the worst I got to - estimated weight 105 kg/ 230 lbs. I didn't weigh myself, part of an ostrich-approach to living I had.
December 2005
August 2006
Having got the job I wanted in December 2006, I joined the gym in the basement of the building I worked in. The inner lecture I gave myself went something like: "look at yourself, you're about to turn 30 and you're horribly out of shape, none of your clothes more than 2 years old fit you..."
So I went to the gym 3 times a week for just half an hour each time. Without having read anything about it, I had what in hindsight was the absolute correct attitude for starting off - this is going to hurt, I'll feel worse before I get better so should only even start thinking about how much fitter I might be at the end of the year.
The first workout on the elliptical proved just about the near-death experience I thought it would be.
September 2007
I'd played some football/ soccer over the summer, but the team winning the "Riley Cup" was little to do with me. This is more to do with having the ball control skills of a cement mixer than fitness, though that too was still lacking at that early stage. What I remember also is A-Chang (my wife) saying how I "couldn't run", though I was slightly better than in 2003 when I'd taken part in a match in Shanghai that featured a couple of retired professionals.
Not having paid attention to what I was eating up to when the above photo was taken, I'd lost maybe a couple of kg up to that point. When I saw the doctor, she told me my cholesterol was double what it should be. I remember the following few months clearly, though I don't have any "during" photos which is a small shame.
From the food point of view, I cut out ice cream completely and turned down all cake, chocolate and all the other nasties. "You are the enemy" I would silently say to such food (it's not really food anyway is a revelation I came to later). At my company's monthly birthday celebrations, I would show up to sing "happy birthday" but forewent even a monthly slice of cake. At dinner time, I often put some in my lunch box for the next day, and A-Chang found our grocery bill plummeting as well as requests for us to have more fish and less meat.
Workouts at the end of the year went up to 5 times a week. In mid-October 2007,  the gym scales said 97 kg, then a steady 93 kg over Christmas. About a pound a week for this early stage. Since I already had a base of fitness, I noticed I could go quicker on the treadmill. It wasn't until the new year that it became noticeable though.
In about mid-January I went to 7 days a week in the gym. Somewhere there was a tipping point where weight-bearing cardio workouts get easier, so you go harder, and because of that the body consumes more, and so on. A beautiful vicious circle. I remember getting on the scales at the doctor's office in late January - she put it at 200lbs, and adjusting the smaller slider raised an eyebrow when nothing happened. The solid lump of fat that my waist had been must have in a sense liquefied, as by now my belly became very wobbly and bouncy.
April 2008
Between new year and the above photo, I lost weight at the rate of roughly 1.5lbs per week. The average human being somewhat passive, it's only around February that many started to notice. As if I'd lost it all in just one week, a few concerned co-workers asked me "are you ok?" I still fondly remember those questions. When asked how, I answered truthfully, "more exercise and sensible eating."
Bumping into a former teammate from the above football team, the favourite question asked of me from that period has to be "where's the rest of you?" A few people I hadn't seen for a number of months couldn't hide their astonishment, and in fact several would fail to recognize me - "thought it looked like you", etc.
Another mainstay of that period was having to adjust to baggy clothes for a while. One time at work, my trousers literally fell down, and I had to hurry back to my office holding onto them with one hand. I then drilled a new hole in my belt. I got quite good at that, I drilled at least 2 more that I remember.
By April I was down to about 80 kg, or just over. The lowest my weight got to was 73.5kg in I believe early August. I felt my energy level declining once I got to that point. One of the trainers at the gym said, " I don't see you doing any weights. You've lost all the fat you're going to lose by now, do some strength training because you now need the muscle power to back up the cardio you do." Since then, I'm generally around 76-78kg, depending on time of year and where I am in a race training cycle. 
Summer 2008 I started running, I'd done a bit in my early teens, and my Dad had done quite a bit since the mid-1980s. It took a month or 2, despite being in good shape, to find my running legs. It was just to get myself outside when the weather was nice, as the gym I was at was in a basement.  
May 2009
I had the idea to enter the half marathon distance at the Calgary Marathon in early 2009. This was my first ever running race at the age of 32. It was intended as a "victory lap" more than an ongoing hobby. I was pleased to finish in 1:46:15, 410th place out of 2,800. The addiction took hold in September, when I took part in a 10k. In a small field of 30, I finished 3rd overall. Most of the rest of my races since have been duly reported on in this blog.

My running obsession was borne out of my weight loss and is largely how I keep it going. It is not how I started, though I recommend newcomers try it too. The point though is to do something, and the best and some might say only way to improve one's health is to do so naturally - adjust your diet by eating less and a better composition of foods and exercising more.
It's good to be able to say I'm proud of myself, which I affirm every time I do a race. Not to sell myself short, I still insist that I'm nothing all that special. Persistence and patience is what got me to my present state. A blunt truth when it comes to a sedentary person taking up exercise is that no-one should expect to notice results until at least 3 months down the line, and do not start out too hard. I kept at it, and like others who`ve done the same, one day you notice that you`re not out of breath walking up the stairs and you`ll want more. Give it a try, it`s the best addiction there is :)
October 2011

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Resolution Run 5k race report

A fun race a 6pm on New Year's Eve, with a free jacket thrown in! It's got a start/ finish line and a clock, though there's no chip-timing or official online results afterwards. As if that stops me from getting competitive..

I wore last year's orange jacket just to be different, this year's blue is a good look too though. It was started by a police helicopter hovering above - the race raises funds for it. Pretty certain that the paths would be clear of ice, we got off to a flying start. The one guy dressed for spring took off, and it was clear he'd be first within about 10 seconds.

The route did a quick 180 around the courtyard by the ymca, prompting me to say "where the hell are we going?" He and the lead bike with the blinking lights was so far in front, the lead group of us wondered briefly about one of the turns. The pace of the group settled down a bit, and I felt I could comfortably go quicker, so I passed by on the left, fully expecting most to stick with me. After the turnaround at the 14th street bridge, I noticed I couldn't hear anyone else, and once I passed under the c-train bridge again I found I had a 30 or so metre lead.

I would have looked at my watch but it was too dark, and I couldn't hear its pace alerts as I had a hat on. With the satisfaction of being second, and first place literally out of sight, I backed off slightly as I went up the ramp to Prince's Island Park, directed by a one-man-party course marshall yelling "happy new year"!

It was a nice finish with quite an enthusiatic reception, I finished in around 21:10 with my garmin saying I had done 5.1k. So perhaps a 20:30 or so.

Like the caption says, I came second! Though it's only been 2 months, I must have missed racing more than I thought. Now I'm really looking forward to 2012 :)
The headcam vid turned out quite well, probably due to the music again.