Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BFB Day 4

Much cooler here by yesterday morning after a cold front blew through.  Made for a nice brisk 5-mile run with Daisy along the bayou - heart rate initially around 110, eventually settling around 125 to 130bpm. 

By late afternoon, it was off to Rice University's Rec Center for a mix of rowing (just over 7000 meters in 20 minutes), spinning (8 miles) and a mile on the treadmill.

Finally, I joined the Houston Striders for the first Tuesday track event at Reagan High School at 7pm. Warmed up (again) as it was below 50F by then, and managed 12 X 200 meter repeats at about 10K pace, with slow 100 meter intervals.

On the cooking front, nothing very exciting so far this week except a really tasty wheat berry salad; found it on the internet - Ellie Krieger's Wheat Berry Salad.  I just lightened up a bit on the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, reduced it to just 1 and added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard instead.  I love the 'whole wheat' taste of wheat berries but have not found many good recipes for them.  This one is definitely a keeper.  

Weight down slightly again to 175 pounds; bodyfat percentage is 24.7%

Monday, November 29, 2010

BodyFat Blaster Day 3

It may be too soon to tell but my weight is down to 176 this morning, hopefully the start of a downward trend!  I don't think I've quite got the hang of the Accu-Measure fat measuring caliper yet; my bodyfat percentage seems to have increased slightly to 26%.  For now I will ignore the discrepancy and put it down to 'no change'.  According to the analysis at EXRX.net my lean bodyweight is 129 pounds and I'm lugging around a whopping 46 pounds in fat.  Ouch!

No time for strength workout today, but got some running in at least.  Started off this morning with an easy 5 mile run with Daisy along Buffalo Bayou. Rounded off the day with about 4 miles or so running (monthly pub run) with the Striders.  Kept the beer consumption to a minimum!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Good start to Bodyfat Buster program

I made a very good start to what is likely to be a 12+ week program to get my bodyfat percentage down to 12% or so.  On Saturday, Kathleen and I and Daisy ran 5 miles, and 6 more miles today.  I added another mile on the treadmill at Rice Rec Center as well as a total of 40 minutes on the rowing machine, about 13,000 meters or so total.  And for the first time ever 3.42 miles of spinning: the 'Coastal Run' course on an Expresso spinning bike.  Fun! I will definitely be doing more of that in future.

Plenty of strength training on top of that:  a mix of rear deltoid and pec fly exercises, shoulder presses, lat pulls, low cable pulls, cable push downs and lower back extensions on Saturday.  On Sunday, a mix of resistance band training and ab exercises including catch, reverse crunch, lying leg raises, toe touch, pullthrough, seated ab crunch, open leg balance, bike kicks, quadruped hip extensions and isometric back extensions.  All while listening to Grand Funk Railroad and then Emerson Lake and Palmer.  There's nothing like a musical nostalgia trip to make the muscles push through the discomfort zone.  Try hard enough and you can almost pretend that you're (still) in your 20's... As if.

On the dietary front the two days were mixed, at best.  On Saturday I got very close to my self-imposed 1800 calorie limited, until a late night mini-binge, coming home after a late movie.  The third and final installment of the Stieg Larsson trilogy: The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  What a disappointment.  Boring boring, overly long, extremely wordy and totally not worth seeing.  A near complete waste of 142 minutes of my life.  Watching Noomi Rapace onscreen was the only redeeming feature of a complete disaster of a movie.  She is really something.

Sunday was pretty good too (oats for breakfast) but lunch was a slight bump in the road.  Kath and I went to Udipi Cafe on Hillcroft for their weekend buffet.  Ten bucks get you a superb variety of vegetarian options including a southern Indian version of what South Africans know as 'pap': a stiff maize meal (corn) porridge, subtly flavored and studded (in this version) with nuts.  Delicious!  We were the only two Anglos in a room of about 25+ Indians and most of them piled their plates with large helpings of this item.  Together with naan, some fried 'donuts' of sorts, various curries, salads, chutneys, masala and spring dosai, lentil soup and many others.  Both of us overindulged - but hey it's a buffet.  You're supposed to stuff yourself, right?  I'll be good tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Measuring fitness

How do you measure fitness?  Endurance, speed, marathon pace, weekly mileage, race results?  As a group, runners probably don't think about this much.  We are runners, ergo we are fit.  We run marathons or races of some kind, which gives us a license to eat what and how much we want. Not so.  There are many runners who suffer from underlying (poor) health conditions mainly because of bad dietary choices.  Borderline obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, the same diseases that affect the general non-running public, can and do affect runners who do not pay enough attention to their diets.

You would think that vegetarians or vegans who exercise regularly would be even less likely to suffer from these 'couch potato' diseases.  Probably so to a degree, but not entirely.  Fat vegetarian is unfortunately not an oxymoron.  And vegans don't all have the body composition of waif-like teenage girls. Alec Baldwin is but one high profile vegan who is rather beefy, shall we say.  You only need to look around you at a vegan Meetup to realize that an ostensibly healthy diet does not translate into a trim, fit body. 

So what is one to do?  It would be wise to start with an annual medical checkup.  This is where problem areas first identify themselves.  Didn't know that you were pre-diabetic?  The results of a fasting blood sugar test will make you sit up and take notice in a hurry.  So would a realistic look at your blood lipid composition, cholesterol levels and many other indicators.  Just as important for us older 'athletes' is a colonoscopy or at least a flexible sigmoidoscopy at age 50 or even earlier depending on whether there is a history of colon cancer in parents and siblings.

And finally, you could invest a few dollars in an inexpensive fat caliper such as the Accu-Measure, to make a really honest appraisal of how 'fit' (or fat) you are.  If you are anything like the average American man or woman, your body mass index is likely too high.  I know mine is because I checked it this morning.  A whopping 25 percent.   Which for my age is in the 'overweight' category.  Yes I have some excuses, notably not being able to run as much as usual due to a balky knee, but clearly there is more to it than just the running.  Despite not eating any meat or dairy products and very little extra fat, my 'calorie in' and 'calorie out' balance is not right.  The remedy?  Start calorie counting with immediate effect and limit my daily intake of calories to 1800 until I can get the BMI down to 12%. I will be making a few more visits to the gym as well. Starting today!  

Monday, November 22, 2010

A 30+ mile week

First week totalling 30+ miles since July this year!  Knee still not 100% but I can detect slow improvement from week to week.  I am putting it down to the combination of capcaisin three times per day and running exclusively in Vibrams.  Also some foam rolling before and after most runs.  Haven't tried to increase the speed yet, all miles done at a very easy 10+ minute pace.  Speed can wait.  Just happy to be doing some half decent mileage for a change.  Hopefully it will help to whittle down the extra 10 pounds or so which I have accumulated around my waist over the last 4 months.

Next on the agenda:  Talk to a trainer at Rice Rec Center and set some body fat percentage goals for the end of January 2011.  Worked out at Rice for the first time last Thursday and I was impressed with the range of equipment; also the gym was not crowded at all at around 6:00PM which was surprising.  Will be back there on Tuesday.

Prepared the Pinto Picadillo from Vegan on the Cheap last night.  Interesting flavors but nothing like the real thing I'm afraid.  It was quite nice served with brown rice; also did some baked Asian-style marinated tofu.  Where do you get your protein?  Pinto beans + tofu + brown rice = probably more than we needed.

Lunch yesterday with friends at Goode Company Taqueria on Kirby.  Won't be going back there soon.  Literally nothing on the menu suitable for a vegan, except perhaps the tortilla chips and salsa.  I had to settle for a salad which despite our explicit requests to the contrary, came with pieces of hard boiled egg and feta cheese.  Their beans have pork in it, the rice has chicken pieces, they do not have veggie burgers or portabella fajitas, nothing... You'd think that a restaurant owner would try to maximize his/her profits by catering to all segments of the market.  Apparently not.   I called them this morning and spoke to the manager; apparently they are working on their recipe for portabella fajitas. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joining Rice Rec Center

I will miss my trainer - Frank - at the Fast Results Fitness center down the road, but this is a recession.  There's no way I can rationalize shelling out from $65 to $85 per 1-hr session for a Personal Trainer, compared with $25 per month to join the Rice University Rec Center, with its superb range of equipment and facilities.  And should I need more help with training, a package of 20 sessions goes for $800, i.e. $40 a pop. Sounds more like it.

So as from tomorrow, it is goodbye FRT, hallo Rice.  Big advantage to being a Rice employee spouse.  Of course it is a longer trip to get there and back, but Kathleen and I are planning to work some gym time into our weekly running schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when we run in the midtown and Heights area.  I guess we will see how it works out.  It might be fun to run out there on the weekend as well.  Maybe stop at Jenni's Noodle House on the way back...

Looking back on my 96 PT sessions (starting in December last year) with several personal trainers, I think the overall program was a qualified success.  I'm far from buff, but not a sack of potatoes either.  If it weren't for the 20 pounds or so of excess blubber around my middle (mostly) I might actually be able to locate my long lost abs.  As I wrote in an earlier posting, they were last seen around 1978.  Barring some major change of course, I fear they may never be found,  gone forever like gas at a dollar.

Of course hope is central to the human condition.  Were it not for hope, and the seemingly inextinguishable belief we all hold that tomorrow is going to be better than today, it would be very tough to face adversity and the daily blows we take to our psyche and our physical selves.  So yes, even well into my middle years (pun definitely not intended) I still believe that those pesky itinerant abs are going to see the light of day again.  They are there, just waiting to be re-discovered like a species once thought to be extinct.  No need for an expedition into the Amazon to find them either.  Just some will-power, and several more miles per week running (knee permitting) should do the trick.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lemongrass Noodles with Mock Duck

I did say that I was going to prepare the Lemongrass Noodle Bowl with Mock Duck - it turned out quite well too.  Other than the faux duck, the only 'difficult' ingredient was the lemongrass itself - because I had to drive about 3 miles to an Asian market to find it.  The rest was quite simple:  prepare a marinade and marinate the 'veggie duck' for a couple of hours.  Prepare the broth, cook some sliced onions, ginger, lemongrass in the broth, strain it, and keep warm.  Then prepare the noodles, fry the mock duck and assemble in bowls, with lots of herbs and other veggies for color and contrast.  The recipe is on the PPK site.  Photograph tomorrow.

Couple of good workouts today:  Ran an easy 6 miles with Daisy on a very cool and rather damp morning, lots of squirrels and bunny rabbits along the trail on the edge of Buffalo Bayou.  Average heart rate just over 120bpm with a couple of stops here and there. I really don't want to jinx it but the knee seems to be slowly getting better, despite increased mileage... Last week I managed about 27 miles which was probably my highest week in more than 4 months. 

Over lunch time, 50 minutes or so workout with Frank at my local 'Fast Results Fitness' studio.  The place is looking really good nowadays, here are a few pics:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Life in the big city

What do I like about living in the big city?  You can take in a performance of Madame Butterfly with world-class singers like soprano Anna Maria Martinez and tenor Joseph Calleja.  Fantastic.  Have a very late dinner at Piola's in midtown - Italian-style pizza with the best crust you might ever bite down on.   Or enjoy a superb glass of wine for only $5 at Vintropolis in the Carillon Center on the west side of town.

Better yet, discover a little mom and pop joint on Wilcrest called San San Tofu.  It is a restaurant with one of the best (and cheapest) vegan buffets in town.  It is also a grocery store of sorts. Where you can buy a bewildering variety of rice and noodles and lots of really interesting food to go, like faux barbecued beef, lemongrass 'chicken' and an astonishingly good  vegetable soup.

What really made the trip out on the Beltway to Wilcrest was finding some frozen 'veggie duck'.  I have a recipe here from the Post Punk Kitchen for Lemongrass Noodles with Mock Duck.  It calls for canned mock duck; which you can likely find somewhere in Houston.  Even so it was a pleasant surprise to see several packets of frozen 'Vege Duck' in the freezer at San San Tofu.  Coming up tomorrow?  Lemongrass Noodles with Mock Duck...

Four miles early this evening along Buffalo Bayou with Kathleen and Daisy.  Knee seems to be improving in small increments week by week.  Is it the Capcaisin?  Is it running on the Vibrams exclusively?  I guess I might never know, but whatever it is, I'm keeping on doing it.

Tent duty today at the HMSA 25K but took my camera along a shot a few pics here and there.

My running buddy

Never has there been a keener partner on the run than Daisy... 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Goodbye running shoes, hallo Vibrams

I took a big black trash bag filled with running shoes to the Goodwill store yesterday.  A three mile drive was all it took to get rid of nearly 5,000 miles of running.  Many seasons of exertion, exhilaration, disappointment and achievement, now unceremoniously bundled into a sack.  A couple of days ago I had separated all my old shoes into pairs, made sure they all had insoles, and piled them up in the garage.  There's nothing pretty or exciting about a pile of used running shoes.  Lying there, they lose all sense of function and grace.  Not an ounce of athleticism, a whisper of speed or a promise of victory.  Just 18 sad-looking pairs of old running shoes.  Hopefully in new hands they can find new life.

It was no sudden rush of altruism which led to me gather up the old shoes.  For several weeks now, I have been running in my Vibram KSO's, hoping that the quasi-barefoot style would help with my vexing left knee injury.  The theory being that running barefoot or practically barefoot is more natural with reduced likelihood of a poorly fitted running shoe having a negative impact on  your feet and legs. No more worrying about pronating or supinating or any of a dozen other shoe-related issues.  Just strap on a pair of Vibrams and your feet will find their own equilibrium.  Running in a pair of Vibrams does do one thing for sure: it shortens the stride. With such minimal heel support, there is no way you can bounce along on your heels as so many runners do.  Without the thick padding under your heel, you are pretty much forced to lean forward, take much smaller steps and land more on the ball and center of the foot.

I'm on week 4 of 'Vibram only' running, and so far so good.  The knee issue seems to be slowly fading away despite my mileage having increased to about 30 miles per week.  Hence the decision to take the big step and get rid of all those Asics.