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 the 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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Elusive Creature Known as Cross-Training

To classify this running journey so far as successful would be a gross understatement. I have now been running continuously since March of 2012. That's three whole years of running. There are very few things in my life that I have done regularly for so long. So Happy Birthday to me!

There have been tough times for sure and not everything has happened according to plan but where is the fun in everything going right?! More importantly, the idea of stopping is not even in the vicinity of my brain. All this, coming from a guy that would have preferred being injected with the bubonic plague instead of going out for a run.

There has been one thing (actually there have been several but you know, one thing at a time) that I just can't seem to get a grip on and as the title of this post suggests, it's cross-training. With the Goofy Challenge now officially in the schedule, I think it's time I give it another go.

When I started running, I knew about cross-training but avoided it. This was on purpose. I wanted to focus on just running and did not want anything else to distract me. It worked. Running became part of my life. Now there's one more thing to add.

Past attempts have been unsuccessful. I joined a gym a while back. Planet Fitness was just starting to open gyms here in Puerto Rico and the price was surely right, especially compared to other gyms I've been to. I was very excited. The reality was that it became a bit of a scheduling nightmare. With three little girls to take care of, feed, bathe, do homework, comb their hair and put to bed every evening, the time I had to spend at the gym was short before my guilt-o-meter started to kick in. Rest assured, my wife never complained. Not once. I just couldn't shake the feeling of unfairness of it all. Of course, it didn't help that the place was absolutely packed to the rafters every time I went. It seems I wasn't the only one who saw the price/convenience potential of it all and signed up as well. It would take me twice as long to get a workout in simply waiting around for things to be free so I could use them. This got old really quickly.

Now, with more PF's popping up everywhere and the "hot new thing" factor wearing down, this is something I'm not totally discarding in the future. Plus, kids grow up right? This whole assembly line process we go through every night will get easier. I mean, they have to begin doing stuff by themselves eventually. Right? Please? Anyone?

Cycling on the other hand, has been a total success. My knees are certainly thankful. Does it officially count as cross-training? Well... I think yes and no. While it has helped immensely, it does nothing for the upper body which is sort of the point. Not only is good upper/lower body balance important in running and your running form but I also have the upper body strength of a 6 year old. How many pull-ups have I done in my life? None whatsoever. I'm actually afraid that if I run the Disney Half or full marathon, that the toy soldier from Toy Story, who usually stands on the exit ramp on the way to Hollywood Studios will tell me to do push-ups (as he often does) and I won't be able to.

And now, something from the past comes back and opens up some possibilities.

A long while ago, when man was young and the dragon was already old (brownie points if you where that is from) I did a workout video called Turbo Jam. This is from when I was avoiding running at all cost. Think of it as a Zumba kind of thing but more kickboxing than dancing. It was kind of cool. My wife loved it but some of the moves didn't seem to agree with my back. I did it for long enough to muster the courage to order and try P90X (they are from the same company). If you haven't heard about P90X, then you probably don't own a television. At the very least, you probably don't have cable.

P90X was very tough but I liked it. The problem was that the workouts are very long. Once I started running I tried to get the DVD's out from the dust and set up some sort of hybrid running/workout schedule but I didn't really know how to go about it and again, the length of the workouts were kind of problematic. I was improvising and was a bit afraid of doing more harm than good. Fast forward to present time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Five Ways to Get Faster - Jeff Galloway Tips

Here are some more tips from Jeff Galloway. It's all about speed today so if you are looking to reach some new PR's or if you have been struggling to get to a new level you might want to pay attention to these today. Hope you guys find it as helpful as I do. Especially the stuff on running form.

-Frank

Longer Long Runs

Increasing the length of the longest long run has produced the greatest amount of improvement that I've seen among my coaching clients.  Several surveys have shown more than 13 minutes of time improvement when runners increase their longest long run from 20 miles to 26 miles before a marathon.  Comparable time improvements are experienced in 10K runners and half marathoners when they increase their long runs above race distance as noted in my YEAR ROUND PLAN book that covers all the distances.  Long runs must be at least 2 min/mi slower than current ability, with liberal walk breaks.  The slower the pace, the quicker the recovery.  I suggest doing the long runs every 2-3 weeks.

Speed Repetitions—increasing the number

My runners have improved by an average of over 6 minutes in a marathon (3+ minutes in a half marathon) by increasing the number of speed repetitions to 14 x 1 mile for the marathon, and 14 x 800 meter for the half marathon.  I recommend that each of these be run 30 sec/mi faster than goal pace.  The recovery interval is a 5 min walk between miles and a 3 minute walk between 800's.  These workouts prepare one to maintain or pick up pace at the end of the goal race, instead of slowing down.  See GALLOWAY TRAINING PROGRAMS & HALF MARATHON books for details (www.RunInjuryFree.com).

Improve Running Form

Most runners I've monitored have improved several minutes in a marathon by fine-tuning their running form.  As the mechanics become smoother and within one's limits, there is a significant reduction in aches, pains and injuries.  The two best ways to improve form are water running and cadence drills.
•        water running uses the same basic motion as when running on land, using a flotation device so that the feet don't touch the bottom of the pool.  When done for at least 15 minutes, once a week, the legs find a more efficient path through the water—eliminating extraneous motion.
•        The cadence drill is done for 30 seconds, counting the number of times the foot touches the ground.  This drill is detailed in most of my books.  I've found the key to improving speed on the mechanical side is quicker turnover.

Race in Shorter Events

Dropping down a standard distance or two can improve your mechanics for running faster and your ability to handle a higher level of oxygen debt.  On non-long-run weekends, during a half marathon program, try some 5K or 10K races.  When training for a marathon, race at the 10K or half marathon distance.  At first, the faster pace of the shorter distance may seem awkward.  But after several short races, you will adapt—especially if you do some speed training for the shorter/faster event.  These performance improvements can translate into faster times in the longer distances.  My book 5K/10K details the training and the racing strategies for these events.

Hill Training


The only way I've found to build strength for running is to run hill repeats.  On a moderate grade hill, start at a jog and pick up the turnover rate of the feet and legs as you go up the hill, shortening your stride.  Walk down the hill for recovery.  Don't sprint, and follow the other hill training guidelines in my books and at www.RunInjuryFree.com.  The strength from hill training will allow you to perform better in speed sessions which will help you improve in your goal race.  You'll also run faster on hilly courses, during your races.


Monday, May 4, 2015

What a week!

I'll be honest and say there wasn't a lot of running involved but there was some running and I seem to be digging myself out of this funk and that is a good thing.

First, this last week was the first time in a while (probably since finishing the Puerto Rico Half Marathon) that I felt I was running well enough to actually count as running. It helped a lot that I was able to run during the week with some consistency. I'm not out of the woods yet but it is definitely getting better.
It's on now
Then, on the 28th I officially signed up for the Goofy Challenge! Oh, things just got real for sure. Plus, my brother, who so graciously joined me last time and gave me so much support, asked me to sign him up for the Half Marathon, which will be his first. No longer a spectator, folks. It will be nice to have some company during the challenge, even if it is for only a third of it but I will take it. Not gonna lie. I'm a little scared, but it's a "good" scared. I just have to remind myself that thousands of people do this every year and that there is an even more insane group of people who run the Dopey Challenge. This is doable. I can do it. I will share my game plan for this challenge soon.

It was good that my brother asked me to sign him up (he was on vacation). By the end of the day, the Half was sold out. The 5K and 10K lasted a only a few hours and as of this writing the only things left are a couple of Goofy spots and the marathon. Does anyone need reminding of how popular these races are? If you are on the fence, go and sign up right now for what's left. You might not get a chance later.


Finally, it was my 10 year wedding anniversary! Of course, I was not about to let such a momentous occasion simply go by. I mean, 10 years of this poor woman putting up with me... she needs a medal all to herself. We don't really get a lot of chances to go out just the two of us with three little girls running around, so we took advantage of my Mother's offer to take them for the night and abused it. LOL I dropped them at noon on Saturday, then we went to the movies and saw Avengers: Age of Ultron (WOW! Loved it!) then we went to dinner, then a comedy show, and finally ended up at a Frankie "The Jet" 's house, where we saw the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight and as a bonus, the last moments of nail-biter game 7 between the Clippers and Spurs before the fight started. We got home at about 2am. The last time we did that was... uhmm... give me a sec... actually, I don't think we have ever been out so late. We sure crammed as much as we could to the day.

So quite a busy week but a very good one at that. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On a Running Funk

I hate this part. But the good thing is, that usually when this things happen you come out better and stronger on the other end so I have that to look forward to.

I'm in a running funk.

After the Puerto Rico Half Marathon, I've been having a lot of problems with my runs. Everything hurts, I can't sustain speed, everything feels wrong and weird. I'm hating every minute of it.

Some of it is the temperature change. As it gets warmer here, performance goes down along with it but there is more to it than that I think. It doesn't hurt that my work schedule has been absolutely crazy the past few weeks. The lack of continuity is surely adding to the situation. I was also sick recently so a lot of stuff going on right now.

But worry not my friends! Things like this happen all the time and this too, shall pass. Next week, registration for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend opens to the general public and finally signing up for the Goofy Challenge should light the fire under my butt that I need to get out of it.

How about you guys... anyone doing Marathon Weekend in 2016?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Four Ways To Energize Your Day & Clear Your Brain - Jeff Galloway Tips

OK gang here is another set of great tips from the Main Man, the Michael Jordan of running, the Purvaeyor of the Run/Walk Method, Jeff Galloway!

It's natural to become focused on the big things in life, and worry about outside forces, building stress.  A few simple lifestyle adjustments can result in greater control over attitude and energy, while reducing stress and fatigue.  Yes, you can exert more control over your life, produce positive attitude hormones, and blend together body, mind and spirit by planning and taking action.
 
•        Walk or run, one day and a walk (or cross train) the next.  While the exertion will wake up the muscles, you're away from the phone, allowing the mind a little freedom.  Most who start with a blank mental state, finish their exercise session with the day planned, and a few new ways to deal with problems.  Others like to walk/run during lunch hour, while munching on an energy bar.  This can clear out morning stress and prepare mind-body for the challenges of the afternoon.  Many evening exercisers believe that the weight of the day's stress is erased or contained with the after-work workout.  Scheduling these outings gives you control over your existance.
•        Don't sit--walk!.  The addition of a few extra short walks, throughout the day, will energize the body and activate the mind.  Park farther away from work, the food store, the transit station, etc.  Many of my clients use a step counter for motivation and calorie counting.  It helps to find one that is consistent and reliable (usually @ $30).  Shoot for 10,000 steps a day.  You are rewarded for  getting out of your chair (or  the couch) more often.  These short walks burn fat, which adds up (up to 30 pounds a year!).  The best reward is the head clearing effect, which can power you through the mid morning or mid afternoon energy crises.  Even a 3-4 minute “recess” walk at work, can result in clearer thinking, more energy, and greater self-confidence.   
•        Eat more frequently.  Each time you eat, even a small snack, you'll boost your energy level. The longer you wait to eat, the more likely your metabolism will slump into drowsiness and laziness.  This also means that you're not burning many calories.  If you divide up your daily calorie budget into 6-9 snacks a day you'll burn more fat (up to 10 pounds a year).  Eat a snack every 2-3 hours, and you can feel better all day.  It helps to choose foods that have (percentage of calories vs total calories) about 20% protein, about 15% fat and the rest in complex carbohydrate.  This combination will leave you satisfied longer with fewer calories consumed.  To experience a fat loss, consumption can be managed through websites or journals.  For more information, see A WOMAN'S GUIDE TO FAT BURNING by Jeff and Barbara Galloway.
•        Help someone exercise. The psychological benefits are significant when you help someone improve the quality of their life.  Offer to walk (run, hike) with your spouse, parent, friend co-worker, child—or all of the above.  My books WALKING & GETTING STARTED have proven programs with motivation which can lead you  and your “coach-ee” through the training. 



Be sure to visit RunInjuryFree.com for more information.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To get the medal... or not.

One discussion that often pops up over at Team Run Disney (and if you are even mildly interested in Run Disney events you should check it out) is the "Should I get a medal even if I don't finish the race?" question. To put it softly, it is a very controversial issue. Not only do people feel very strongly about whatever position they have taken on the matter but they also defend said position with passion and warfare.


Just in case you don't know what I'm talking about, let me frame it for you: You are running a race. For the sake of making things more interesting, lets assume that you have invested a lot of time, sweat and effort training for this race. As luck would have it, you are forced to cut it short and not finish. This will probably be a hard blow to take after all you have invested to get to that day. Then, a race official hands you a medal even though you did not finish. What do you do?
My first race medal
This is a particularly hot topic in Run Disney circles because, while in many races you don't even get the chance to choose whether to take it or not, it seems to be Disney policy (based on the experiences that many have shared on this subject) to give you the medal no matter what. In fact, many people have taken the medal only after much insistence from the cast member handing it to them, having declined to take it many times over. I'm only assuming here. I don't know what is the official position on this but my guess, this is just Disney being Disney. They could very well be thinking "Hey, you paid for the medal. It was part of the entry fee so you should get what you paid for." I could be wrong of course.

But the fact remains that you are being handed the medal. Do you take it?

This is where it gets ugly. There are many people who feel they should not take it. No matter what. Their position is very simple: The medal is a symbol of completion. You earn it for finishing a race. You don't finish, then you should not get the medal. This, I feel is completely fair and understandable. In fact, this is where I personally stand on this issue. If I were handed the medal in that situation, I would not accept it. Even if the person handing it to me insists, believe me, I can insist right back. No medal for me. Period.

Now this is where it gets a bit complicated, because if the reason for not accepting the medal seems simple and straightforward, the reasons people have for taking the medal are as varied and numerous as there are grains of sand on a beach. Furthermore, I think they are all valid as well.
The brass ring
I'm one of those people who likes to look at both sides of an argument so even when I feel strongly about where I stand personally, I can totally understand why someone would feel the opposite way. In fact, I will often defend the "other side" just to stir up friendly discussion sometimes. I have talked with, and read many stories of people -some who I admire very much- who have been swept at Disney races and were handed the medal and they have taken it and I understand the reasoning behind every single one of those stories. Like I said, there are many reasons but to mention some of them, people have taken the medal as reminder to do better next time and try harder. To them, the medal becomes a symbol as well. Others have given them away to people they feel deserve them. Heck, some have even taken them just because they don't want to argue with the cast member and they accept them just so they will shut up. I can totally understand that.

And you know what? It could just be that you felt  you paid a lot of money to run this race and you just want something to show for it. Disney races are expensive! I might not agree, but heck, they are indeed expensive. More power to you.

And yet, the discussion pops up and people get upset. I don't understand this. If you would not take the medal, fine. But if someone else does, why would that upset or anger you? You didn't take it. You followed what you thought was right. The fact that someone else did will not change that. Worse yet, you might not know the reasoning behind that person's decision to do so. When I hear about someone taking the medal, my immediate question is "what happened?" Not to argue with them, but because I really want to hear their story. It does not upset me at all. 

Me, taking the medal after saying I would not. Now, that would upset me. Then again, like Dennis Miller used to say: "That's just my opinion. I could be wrong."