Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Road to Goofy

So it officially begins... Sort of.

The actual training plan for the Goofy Challenge begins in September. But the enormity of the Challenge definitely warrants preparation. So I have worked out a long term training plan which includes the preparation of the preparation.

The current agenda is paying off big time. Cross-training in the form of P90X3 is starting to show it's benefits. The program is tough and it has been challenging to get used to the extra work besides running, but the purpose was to come out stronger out the other end and its working. Yesterday, I ran probably the best 4 miles I have run in a long while. I've been losing weight slow but steady, just the way I want it and I've been eating better than ever. Now, it's time to focus all that into the specific task that is the Goofy Challenge.

The main part of course, is the running. I've been running steadily about 3 times per week. Now I need to specify those runs into regular runs, workout runs and long runs. Regular runs are what are usually called easy runs but I refuse to call them that. Nothing easy about running long distances if you ask me. Fun? Of course! Good for you? Definitely! But easy? Not if you are doing it right.

Workout runs have a specific purpose. Tempo runs, speedwork, hills... they all fall in this category. One of my runs per week will be a workout run. I will be very careful in this area as this is what I believe got me into knee trouble the last time.

Long runs are, of course the bread and butter of the training plan. I will be adding distance very slowly. Starting early affords me this time to get my body used to it. Eventually I will add a second long run to start "simulating" the Goofy Challenge conditions so that will be 4 runs a week total with 2 long runs on consecutive days. Again, being very careful to avoid injury. I know it sounds like a lot but it really is alright. In fact, apart from the extra long run, its not that much different from my current schedule.

Then, there's racing. I feel weird even saying it but I've hardly raced this year. In fact I haven't raced since the Puerto Rico Half Marathon but that has been by design as I focus on cross-training and other things. However, racing will be an important gauge of where I'm at training-wise. There will be three races that I consider part of my training plan. First, the Popular Bank's 5K, which I have done every year since it was my first race ever. A PR here is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. Then in September there will be the Lola Challenge Weekend. This one will be very important as it will involve running a 10K on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday. I call it the "Mini-Goofy". I can't think of a better way to make sure everything is going according to plan than this. Finally in November I will again run the Diva's Half Marathon. Yes, it will be done in a tutu. Can't really back away from that at this point. On both of these instances, I'm not looking for a PR of any kind. I just want to finish and feel good afterwards. If I can pull that off, it would be great. If I can run the Divas Half and wake up the next day without any major ill effects I would definitely hop on the plane to Florida in January with a whole lot of confidence.

In the cross-training department, I'm currently halfway through P90X3. I think I have made enough emphasis on how tough but rewarding this has been. As I reach the peak of run training and therefore, mileage, cross-training has to be brought down in intensity as I focus more on running. I was thinking of doing a second round of P90X3 back to back but after some thought, I think it would be better to try something that is lower impact. There is a great program called PiYo that is lower impact but still challenging that I'm very interested in. If I end up doing it, I'll tell you all about it when I do.

And that's pretty much it. The Road to Goofy in a nutshell. Nothing is written in stone though. I will be adjusting things as I go along and if you guys have any suggestions I'm all ears so bring it on!

Monday, June 22, 2015

An Important Announcement

I admit I've been struggling a little bit about how to approach this post and in some moments I actually thought about not writing it at all. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I think it's important I talk about it for a bit just so you know where I'm at and since it is part of this fitness journey then why not?

As you may have read here lately, there have been some pretty big changes going on as I ramp up my efforts on my way to the Goofy Challenge. Nutrition, diet, even the entire family approach to how we deal with health and everyday life has changed and so far it has been a very positive experience for which I'm very happy, especially having my wife on board working out and eating better. One of those changes is cross-training and P90X3 which has kicked my butt in a million, albeit good ways. The effects of that have also been very positive, even if I have been sore most of the time for the past 4 weeks or so. People at work and friends are starting to notice the changes.

Which is why, I decided to become a Beachbody Coach.

Beachbody is the parent company that makes P90X3, plus many other workout videos and they have a business opportunity where you can sell their products and earn a commission for it. Coaches also give support to the people who buy the products through them at no extra cost to keep them accountable and increasing their chances of finishing their program and stick to their workouts and nutrition, thus adding value. For me, the logic behind the decision to do this is: If people ask me what I'm doing and I tell them, and they end up buying a video or Shakeology because of it, is it a bad thing that I earn a commission? For something I was going to tell them anyway? Heck no!

This is not something I was planning to do but then people actually started asking "You look good. What are you doing?" so I felt I should look deeper into it and give it a try. After all, we have three girls to take care of and money doesn't grow on trees. Plus, I got running shoes to buy you know. I see bloggers promote and endorse products they believe in all the time and in my case, P90X3 has proven to be a game changer in my fitness journey so far. I feel this a logical next step.

However, I do want to make a few things clear and put your minds at ease.

What I won't be doing

The Fat Runner has been, and will always be about my running journey and sharing it so that maybe it can help others. That is not going to change. I will not be pushing products on this blog or trying to convince anyone to buy them. 

I will also not pester anyone I have met through this blog to buy them either so friends and readers, rest assured I have not turned into a greasy car salesman and you can continue reading knowing that this place will remain what it always has been.

What I will be doing

You will see banner ads that lead to my personal Beachbody coach page on this blog. There were ads there before so the only difference is, you will see more Beachbody ones than the others. Hopefully, it will prove to be more profitable than the 18 bucks Google says I have made so far with Ad Sense... (and I'm rounding up)

When I do a workout like P90X3, I will mention it like always so you know what I'm doing fitness-wise. It is part of my journey after all. It will not be to sell it to you. If I try a new workout from them, I will review it as I always have, both the bad and the good. Just like I do when I report on running gear, watches, my bike etc... I know that cross-training is an important topic for runners and we are always looking for both practical and functional options so my reviews will focus on how these workouts impact runners.

Plus, there are several videos I have my eye on that I would like to try out and as a coach, I get a discount so it's like... cool. Win-Win.

You will see on my social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...) mentions and invites for Challenge Groups. This is the support part I was talking about earlier. I will be setting up these groups for people who want support and accountability while doing the workouts. A haven if you will, so they can share their experience and motivate each other. I can tell you that the support I have received from friends online has been an integral part of why I have made running a really important part of my life so being able to pay that forward is something that interests me very much. So, when you see me mention it on social media you will have a head's up and will know what I'm talking about.

Of course, I will not turn you away if you ask me about it and I have always been here to help. If you have always wondered about these videos or Shakeology or anything else I'm always more than happy to answer your questions and help out in any way I can. This blog has put me in contact with some pretty awesome people and opportunities so I'm always more than happy to repay in kind.

So that is pretty much it. 

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Mystery of Running Shoes

Do any of you actually know when your running shoes are done? You know, that point when you can longer use them anymore for running?

Based on my experience, I'm kind of surprised no one has come up with something -anything, really- that lets us know for sure, that your shoes are done. That person would make a lot of money with that.

The thing is, that all the running shoes I have bought so far (OK, most of them) look just as good after I've used them as when I bought them. Right now, I have two identical pairs of Brooks Beasts: One new, one spent. They look the same and yet I can't run on the old ones without major knee pain.

I used to go by pain. When I ran and my joints, hips and back started to hurt I knew it was time for a new pair. Most (sane) people will tell you that when you reach that point you are past the time to change them but that's what I did. But that was before I started to have knee issues. Now, the knee is the first thing that starts to hurt. Way before anything else. What's worse, I can't yet identify if the knee is hurting because I need new shoes or simply because it hurts. (Yes, it will hurt from time to time)
Ahhh... fresh pair of Beasties.
The newest pair of Beasties I bought last week were long overdue apparently. When I talked about my running funk and about how running didn't feel right, it seems the shoes where part of the problem. On the first run with the new shoes, I ran the fastest 3 miles I've been able to run in a long while. Probably since the Puerto Rico Half Marathon in March. Why? No knee pain.

This is bad news. Not because of the knee perse. I'm learning to deal with that and I'm hoping it gets better as I lose more weight. It's because now I have to buy shoes more often. On average, I've heard running shoes can go 300-500 miles before they are spent. I was already below that, reaching 250 miles if I pushed hard enough. This last pair was done with 210 miles. Crap.

Such is life. You know, Brooks Running should sponsor more Fat Runners. That, or I also hear that there's a bunch of stuff in the human body that there's two of that you could survive without one of them. You know, like kidneys and lungs and stuff like that. Apparently there is a market for that...

How about you guys? How long do your running shoes last? How do you know it's time to change them? Any tricks you can show me?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Winds of Change

So a lot of stuff going on in The Fat Runner household...

We're cross-training ourselves into shape. Hopefully a nice shape. As far as shapes go, round doesn't seem to agree with my running. The biggest change by far though, has been nutritional. A complete 180 degree turn in that area and so far, our kitchen makeover has proven to be for the better. We have severely cut back on fast food and other processed stuff and the effects are already being felt.

Chicken Sausage Frittata
 My wife started feeling funny about two days after we started. I've been thinking of a word to describe what she was feeling and the best I could come up with was malaise. A general feeling of malaise. She felt weak, with no real desire to do much. I thought at first that it was the onset on a cold or something like that. Then, she told me "I feel like I need to eat candy or something sweet." Well, she didn't need to say anything else after that. She was going through withdrawal. A natural side effect of eating home cooked meals instead of processed is that you consume a lot less sugar. Sure enough, a couple of days later she was feeling great and I'm kind of surprised about how great actually. She is also doing P90X3 and she wakes up every morning charging to do it. Amazing how we get used to things and let them take over.

Then there's me. After a week of eating as clean as I have in a very long time, I was faced with the situation I was kind of dreading. I was on the road, no lunch from home and hungry. I had to eat something so after much pondering I settled for a Mexican food place and had some tacos. I went heavy on the salad and went for chicken instead of beef trying to at least minimize the damage. An hour later I was regretting that decision. I had to get to the bathroom. Bad. The tacos were really not agreeing with me or my stomach. I've never had any problems with eating fast food. Believe me. But after only a week of better nutrition my body just said "Hey! What happened here? You were throwing in the good stuff!"

Panko breaded Tilapia, asparagus and rice with beans
And it's not like we have been lacking flavor-wise. I love to cook so I took this opportunity to revamp our diet as a challenge. Chicken Marsala, Mexican Tostadas, Open-faced Bacon and Egg Sandwiches... it has all been made at home with healthy recipes and it has all been good. Of course, I've had to manage my time a little better to be able to cook. My wife is taking care of dinners (and subsequent lunch for me the next day) while I do breakfasts and try to keep it interesting on the weekends. Not only are we feeling great but the cut on fast food, as I mentioned in the beginning, has been severe, which is a good thing. Where we were doing 13-15 meals eating out, the average these past two weeks has been about 3-4. Not bad right?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Galloway Tips - The Power of the Group

Here we have the latest words of wisdom from our buddy, our pal, Jeff Galloway. This particualr set of tips ring very true for me. As someone who has run almost every single mile solo, I was very strongly reminded of the benefits of running with others during the Philadelphia Half Marathon, where I scored a HUGE personal best. As you can read in the race recap, a big part of that was the fact that I had an amazing running partner with me who pushed right until the end. The benefits cannot be overstated. So without further ado...

The fun of running with a group pulled me into the sport 57 years ago.  Running and training with my friends Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter Bill Rodgers, brought out the best of running in me—while we became good friends, and Olympians.  As I travel the US this season, for our Galloway training program kickoffs, I see the same fun, support and friendship development.  I hope to see many of you at our free clinics.  Here are the ways I’ve observed runners of all abilities improve more and have more fun when in the right group.
1. Great friendships
2. The miles go by quicker—telling stories, sharing life experiences
3. Guidance in running with the right group for you, with the appropriate run walk run strategy
4. Because the group is waiting for you, you will stay motivated and get out there more often
5. You’ll learn about some interesting races, places to run, fun running experiences
6. On the really tough workouts and races, the group will pull you through
7. Access to tools for management of nutrition, fluids, motivation, aches/pains
8. The right group leadership can fine-tune the pace of each workout, avoiding injury/exhaustion
9. Helping others who are struggling bestows an amazing sense of achievement
10. Sharing the empowerment of finishing a long run can change your life
Most groups, like our Galloway programs allow runners to try them out for free.  Together we can celebrate fitness and inspire others to improve the quality of their lives.

So there you go folks. Go out and run and make sure you drag someone along with you. At the very least, let yourself be dragged by someone else.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

P90X3 - My Initial Impression

It's pretty amazing how the body adapts to things. Human beings really are creatures of habit. There was a time, when running was as foreign to me as the Chinese language and yet here we are, several Half Marathons and a Full Marathon later, training for the Goofy Challenge next January. Oh, I still struggle  on runs and obviously there is still a long, long way to go in my running journey but that initial shock of starting something I had never done before is long gone. My body has certainly adapted and I'm a stronger person for it. And I have very nice calves.

But running, while not a total body workout, is a total body sport and one of the main problems runners suffer through is muscle imbalance. In other words, we have strong legs and weak upper bodies, which I mentioned in a previous post, causes poor running form and makes you get fatigued faster among other things. Which is why pretty much every running plan or program includes or recommends cross-training as part of your training. What exactly that training should be is mostly left up to you. I chose a set of workout videos called P90X3.

I explained here about how I stumbled upon this particular instrument of torture and how Kat is helping me figuring out how to both run and do this program at the same time. Well, as I approach the end of my first week doing this thing here are some observations.

This is really tough
"En guerra avisada, no muere gente." Or so goes a famous saying here in Puerto Rico. It roughly translates to: "When the war is announced, nobody dies." I have never understood this saying but it's a way of saying that if you know what's coming, or if you signed up for it, you shouldn't be complaining. In that respect, there were no surprises. This thing is kicking my butt and showing me I have muscles in places I didn't know I had. And I should know because they all hurt. This program is no joke. The original P90X had hour long workouts and for this one Tony Horton (who created it) essentially condensed that into 30 minute workouts so you can finish faster. In fact, in the included guide, Tony recommends doing X3 first, then going to the original but that doesn't mean that one is harder than the other. My opinion on this is that they are factoring in that it will be easier for people to manage such a tough program in shorter time chunks and after you get hooked (hopefully by seeing the results it can get you) then you can try the longer workouts.

This is not P90X: The Short Version
I own the original and I can tell you P90X3 is not the same stuff rehashed. Because the original is longer, Tony takes the time to do other types of exercises and focuses more on weights. With X3, the exercises are more functional (at least, that's the word that come to mind) and in some ways complex. It's a jam-packed 30 minutes for sure and while I'm suffering a bit, I like it.

I suck
Not having done a lot of cross-training(read: none) over the last three years, I sure wasn't expecting to breeze through these workouts but wow! I'm in pretty bad shape. Sure, I can run 5 miles no problem but my upper body strength? Zero. Push-ups and pull-ups? Can't do them. And don't get me started on my core, which is so important to proper running. When it comes to abs, I make the Pillsbury Doughboy look like Ryan Gosling.

And then there's X3 Yoga...

I swear, I think Tony Horton made this video just so he could laugh watching me try to do it. As runner, I knew tight hamstrings was in the cards. In fact, when I saw the Orthopedist for my knee, he mentioned that it was so. But this... is downright comedic. And it's not just the hamstrings. I'm about as flexible as a medieval boarding school. Having said that, I also begrudgingly admit that this is the video  I will likely benefit from the most.

Of course, the beauty of this program lies in it's variety. The program is divided into three blocks separated by recovery weeks with different workouts for each so I'm merely skimming the surface here. There is a lot more to it than this. So I will let you know how it goes as always.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Major Kitchen Makeover

"You can't outrun a bad diet." I can't begin to tell you how many times I have heard that over the last three years.

Not only do I keep hearing it, but I live it on a daily basis. It's really simple: When I watch what I eat, I lose weight. When I don't, nothing happens or worse, I gain some back. No amount of running can save me from that fact. Nutrition has got to be on point.

A while back I wrote about a documentary I watched called Fed Up that really put things in perspective about the need to cut back on processed foods and especially unneeded sugars. My family was totally stuck in the "Buy fast food because I don't have enough money to go grocery shopping./I don't have money for groceries because I buy fast food all the time." circle of total viciousness. I wanted to do something about it. Especially now with the Goofy Challenge coming up.

So last week I told you about how I will begin cross-training and stuff. Well, my wife bravely said she will do P90X3 too. In fact, she already began doing them. Before me. I'll explain why in a bit. The thing is, with so much positive energy going around the house (and a tax return check arriving at just the right moment) we decided to just do it and last Saturday I left home and when I came back, the mini-van was filled to the brim with good, fresh, wholesome food. Fruits, veggies, lean beef, fish and poultry and mostly unprocessed stuff. It felt so good to see the fridge filled with the good stuff.

I also sat down with the wife and developed a plan on how we were gonna eat. Essentially three meals and two snacks per day. Thankfully, we are already experts at using MyFitnessPal so tracking all this will be pretty easy. Also, as the resident chef of the house, I have been looking for healthier recipes as well as developing some of my own. Some exciting times going on in our house. Keep in mind, we didn't buy any "diet" products. No "low-fat" or "light" anywhere to be seen. I also bought some protein powder for after our workouts.

More than anything else, our goal right now is to severely cut down on fast food. Weekends especially are really bad in our house. This week has been pretty stellar so far.

So last Monday, my wife began P90X3. Why not me? It seems my excitement got the better of me or something. I must have been jumping for joy while I was sleeping Sunday night because when I woke up Monday morning, I could hardly move my neck. It was really painful. I spent the next three days like that. I'm a lot better now. It still hurts a bit but now I can move my neck somewhat. Things happen for a reason though because during the week, Kat sent over my running/P90X3 hybrid schedule so now Monday I begin full on. The bad part will be that my wife will already be past the "soreness stage" and I won't be able to make fun of her any more just as I will be going through it myself. Not fair at all.