Thursday, February 25, 2010

Calorie counting with Fitday

Over the years I have resorted to calorie counting sporadically when I have had a few or more than a few pounds to lose, and when the usual weight loss measures (eating less, exercising more!) don't seem to work.  Like everything else, losing a bit of weight is all about the details.  Most people probably take in many more calories than they think, on a daily or weekly basis.  That tiny little packet of peanuts you get on Southwest Airlines, containing what appears to be about 16 peanuts?  80 calories. A measly single Reese's Peanut Butter cup (51 grams or about 1.5 oz)?  A whopping 260 calories.  My biggest problem is portion control: most of the time I just don't know when to say when.  Of course there is a massive difference between the calorie content of half a cup of whatever you load on your dinner plate, and a full cup.  Those excess calories are the ones that the body squirrel away as fatty deposits, nicely settled around the middle, the thighs and pretty much everywhere you don't need or want them.

The only way to really know if you're taking in fewer calories than you're burning is to keep track.  It can be tedious and time-consuming initially but programs such as FitDay and Calorie Count make it relatively easy as you can enter 'recent foods' and 'custom foods' quite quickly.  I don't know about everybody else but we tend to eat a lot of the same things all the time.  So it's not too huge an undertaking to enter some custom foods and start keeping track.  If you keep good records day to day you will soon be able to manage a daily deficit of say 500 calories, and slowly but surely the pounds will come off. The human body is a relentless and very accurate calorie counter!  I have been counting calories since February 14 and have lost just more than 4 pounds during the two weeks since then.  Without my usual 20 to 30 miles of running per week. 

On the running front - alas - there is nothing to report as I have not run since I busted my left calf muscle two weeks ago.  In fact I seem to have re-injured myself a couple of times since then, once on a little light jog with Daisy (more for her benefit than mine) and then again yesterday trying to warm up for a personal training session.  So I am extremely frustrated with the injury, and resigned to probably not running until some time next week at the earliest.  I have been massaging the calves, and did a couple of sessions with a neuro-muscular massage therapist whom I have used with great success for many years.  John Rodriguez usually works wonders, but it looks like this time my calves are being particularly unresponsive to treatment.  I hate to think that it is the result of just too many (40!) years of regularly pounding the pavement.  Who knows?  In a couple of weeks time I will probably be feeling fine and re-discovering the joys of running.  All dark thoughts of having to 'retire' from my favorite pastime will be something of the past. I hope.

From early next week I will be on the road again, this time a short trip to South Africa to attend my 40th High School reunion on March 6 and then a few site inspections in the Kruger Park area, followed by a similar program in Cape Town and elsewhere in the Southwestern Cape.  It will be extremely hectic as I will be going from one property to the next one literally every day while I am there.  I have not been in the Cape for more than 10 years so it will be fun to get back there and see how everything has changed.  Some things have hopefully stayed the same.  No doubt it will be windy!  I will send some updates from time to time via Facebook.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Good news, bad news

The good news?  Kathleen won 2nd place in the female masters category in this morning's Run Away with my heart 5-mile run in Spring, north of Houston.  Our running club the Houston Striders swept all three places in the female masters group!  Congratulations!  The bad news?  I was in 12th place overall and feeling strong when a left calf muscle popped and I was reduced to hobbling back to the finish line.  Looks like I will be MIA from running for the next 4 to 6 weeks; will be spending more time than I care to, on the ergometer.  My calves have been supertight since the half marathon in mid January, so this was no surprise, will just have to re-instate a regular calf strengthening/stretching program.  Just when you think it is safe to get back in the water...

Other news:  the boys will be back from Uganda early next week - they had some amazing experiences with gorillas and chimpanzees.  We will be posting a trip report and pics soon!  And I managed to snag a heavily discounted ticket to South Africa, so will be there from March 4 to 15, and will be attending my 40th High School reunion. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We would have had wings

If we were meant to fly, yes indeed we would have had wings. As a species we went in a different direction, and c. 12 to 14 billion years after the ‘big bang’ start of the universe, here we are earthbound and ambulatory. And as mammals go, we are slouches. The fastest amongst us - Usain Bolt and the like at maybe 25 miles per hour – would be hard pressed to outrun an angry hippopotamus. Have you seen a hippopotamus out of the water? No elegant racer that one.

We compensated by inventing and perfecting flying machines. Maybe I should take back the 'perfecting' part. Somewhere between the demise of the Concord and the present day, the 'perfecting' stopped and flying became just another boring and mostly annoying mode of transportation. Nothing glamorous like the golden days of flight when a trip on a Pan Am Clipper Flight 001 from San Francisco around the world was like taking a luxury train journey somewhere. You were pampered – in coach! - all the way to Honolulu, Tokyo, Beirut (does anybody still fly there?), and beyond. Back in its heyday Pan Am was not called the ‘Ritz Carlton’ of airlines for nothing.

So why this flying talk? Our two boys just arrived in Dubai, en route to Nairobi, this morning. 16 hours, 20 minutes non-stop from Houston to Dubai on Emirates. 8,164 miles total, apparently the world’s 6th longest commercial flight. #1? Singapore to Newark at 9,539 miles, taking a whopping 19 hours and 10 minutes, in a Airbus 340-500, cruising speed about 540 mph. Is 500 mph the best we can do, 106 years after the Wright brothers first took to the air on December 17, 1903? Do we really have to return to the moon or spend billions of taxpayer money to explore Mars? How about putting some of that money into finding a cure for slow commercial flying? Not counting the late lamented Concord, transatlantic flights have been stuck at about 500 mph for about 20 years now. Want to travel the thousand miles between Johannesburg and Cape Town? It’s going to take two hours. New York to San Francisco? 2,500 miles = 5 hours in the air. If you’re lucky. There are trains that have a top speed of almost 250 mph! It’s not as if flight is impossible at higher speeds either. As long ago as 1976 a Lockheed SR71 Blackbird was clocked at 2,194 m.p.h. New York to San Francisco in about an hour and a half? Now you’re talking! Atlanta to Jo’burg in just over 4 hours. At that speed heck yes I will be there in March for our high school reunion. At 500 mph? Maybe not.

Running update:

This might turn out to be a good year for both of us. Kath and I are both running practically every day, 5 or 6 miles or so. Despite the weather. Houston has suddenly turned into Seattle. Since early December 2009 the only way to tell them apart is not having Mt. Rainier in the distance, and there’s not quite as many coffee joints and only about half as many people dressed in black, here in Houston. I might have to find a special place to dispose of 2 pairs of running shoes which are this close to being toxic, what with the incessant water, mud, moisture and resulting moldy conditions. Beyond the lousy conditions, it’s been fun. Kathleen took 2nd place in her age group at the Texas Med 5k last Saturday, under bitterly cold conditions. And I managed an okay time of less than 23 minutes. Well off the PR but will have to be happy with that for now. Better times ahead!