Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Finally on the right calorie track

It took a while but my weight is down by a little more than a pound, and I seem to have the daily calorie tracking process (on a 'per meal' basis) going again.  1800 calories are actually quite a lot, even spread out over 24 hours - provided you don't count the lemondrop martini. Clearly I still have a problem confining the adult beverages to 'weekends only'...  It is all about motivation, I am led to believe.  What is my motivation?  Duh, to lose weight.  Or maybe to run faster.  By losing some weight.  Can't the process be the motivation? I suppose not. You have to have a goal.  Ok then, mine is to weigh 155 lbs or less by the end of October this year.  So that I can run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  There's motivation for you!!

Anyway I have resumed working out with a personal trainer two to three times per week, Monday, Wednesday & Friday - the third session being dependent on my schedule which can sometimes get a bit hectic on a Friday.  My trainer Amy is superb:  very encouraging with lots of positive reinforcement, a method which was sorely lacking in my younger years.  We learned and progressed mostly out of fear or necessity:  do this - or else.  Let's face it, it is much nicer having someone praise you for doing 20 push-ups than fearing a negative outcome if you fail.

Took a rest day yesterday (it is all part of Sally Edwards' program not to get injured or over-trained) and did a good 40 minute run this morning, including 2 miles in Zone 4 (140 to 158bpm). Will be joining Kathleen tonight at Rice University for a parents function from 6:00 to 7:30 - we will probably get a bite at Jenni's Noodle House afterward.  Better yet, I should prepare the Pesto Soup with Gnocchi from Post Punk Kitchen so that we can come straight home and have something that's good and good for you...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tweaking the weight loss program

Clearly my weight-loss program is not working - yet. After almost a week of 'dieting' I am still pretty much exactly where I was at the start, stuck at 173 lbs. I am going to have to be a lot more diligent with portion sizes for one thing.  A couple or so restaurant meals also bedeviled last week's effots (veggie burger & fries at Beck's, vegan BBQ sandwich & fries at Field of Greens).  It is no mystery what needs to be omitted from those orders.  On the positive side I am not gaining weight, and my exercise/running program is gathering steam.  Did another 5 miles this morning (with 30 minutes in Zone 3) for a total of nearly 15 miles over just three days; the best I've done since before the start of the Africa trip in March.

Tedious as it sometimes can be, I am going to have to start counting calories again.  For steady weight loss my maximum daily calorie count should be around 1800 total (400 for breakfast, 200 for a mid-morning snack, 450 at lunch, 200 for late afternoon snack, 450 at dinner and 100 for a snack one hour before going to bed).  This is based on a program which a nutritionist designed for me last year.  However, by the time I received the program I had already lost the weight I wanted to lose. Hopefully it will do the trick this time!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More vegan cooking

I tried two new recipes today; both recent entries on the Post Punk Kitchen (Isa Moskowitz) blog.  The first one was a Tofu stir-fry with avocado, basil & peanuts and the other a rather different Wheatberry 'Paella' with chickpeas and lentils.  Of the two the stir-fry certainly had the most popular appeal (it will definitely have to go into the regular rotation), but in terms of texture and taste, the  wheatberry had a lot going for it too.  

Kathleen and I saw an excellent Two Part movie at the Museum of Fine Arts over the weekend:  Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Friday) and Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (Sunday), both starring the superb Vincent Cassel n the role of Jacques Mesrine ('MAY/rine), an infamous French gangster from the 1960's and 70's.  The movies are based on the autobiography of the astonishing life of crime led by Jacques Mesrine, who was assassinated by the French police trying to leave Paris in the late 1970's.   Cassel is perfect in the role of this violent, impulsive, narcissistic criminal who escaped from prison four times, seemed to have a never-ending stream of attractive women in his life, yet failed dismally as a son, husband and father.  A cautionary tale if there ever was one.

A pretty good 5 mile run today, with 30 minutes in Zone 3 (123 to 140).  Calves definitely better, slight tightness left on the right, a round of foam rolling helped.  Starting to feel some plantar pain in the left foot (will these injuries never cease...) Will be doing icing regularly starting today, also rolling left foot with special grooved wooden roller.   

155 or Bust Day 6:  Too much candy yesterday (it is Easter, that is my excuse).  Will avoid it today.  Oats & almond milk for breakfast, veggie korma for mid-morning snack after running. Stir-fry with tofu over rice for late dinner.  I would have to rate today a 3 on a scale of 5, in terms of meeting my long-term goal.  Will strive for a 4 tomorrow!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

First 5 mile run in a while

It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fast, but I somehow managed 5 miles this morning along the Bayou, after a half mile warm-up walk with Daisy.  In preparation for starting Sally Edwards' Half marathon training program on Monday, I am trying to establish my heart rate training zones. It is proving to be rather difficult especially to nail the actual 'threshold' or T-1 level.  Supposedly it is the point at which you find it difficult to keep a normal conversation going, while running.  Doing the test this morning, I came up with 140 bpm; will work with that for now and see how it goes.  It may be a little bit higher but I really don't want to be testing the limits too soon.

I was disappointed to find that our local Borders store (well actually the one on Kirby, they closed the one near us at Gessner & Memorial) did not have a copy of 'Appetite for Reduction', Isa Moskowitz'  new vegan cookbook with lots of reduced calorie and low fat recipes. I've prepared several recipes from the book already (scrounged them from the web) including Bistro Broccoli Chowder (excellent), Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Tofu (will be making it again soon!), 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma (liked it a lot, but will spice it up a little more) and OMG Oven-baked Onion Rings (disappointing, flabby and the bread crumbs didn't stick properly).  I also tried a Cumin Lime Tofu recipe which I found on the web (apparently the recipe is from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan) and it was ok, not nearly as good as my 'standby' baked tofu recipe which is the marinated Asian tofu from Veganomicon.

This afternoon we are volunteering at a Rice University Track meet, should be interesting - and hot.  It is a scorcher and will likely top out at 90F.  With very little to no cloud cover. Should be fun!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who knew maple syrup is good for you!

Day 3 is never quite as much fun as Day 1.  At least I started the day off with a good helping of oats - prepared a big batch of steel-cut oats in the pressure cooker  so all I had to do was measure out 1 cup, add about a half cup light vanilla soy and a tablespoon of maple syrup.  I never knew that maple syrup is positively  good for you until I saw a reference to some recent research in an article a few days ago.

In a new study conducted by the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Navindra Seeram discovered that pure Canadian maple syrup contains more than 20 compounds linked to human health. Several of these antioxidant compounds are reported to contain anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic properties.

So goodbye to the articificial sweetener which I've enjoyed with breakfast until yesterday.  Maple syrup it will be from now on.

Getting back into both a workout program and back into running have turned out to be quite challenging.  My abs are sore (from some situps and related exercises), my shoulders are aching (lat pulldowns) and my calves remain borderline at best (run-walk) despite regular foam rolling.  Physically I am probably in the worst shape right now than I have been in nearly 10 years. There's a lot of work to be done. 

Even so, my thoughts have turned to running another marathon, likely the Mohawk-Hudson in upper NY State in October.  It will be a long journey from where I am now to being able to comfortably finish a 26.2 mile race, never mind trying to race it.  To get the process going I will follow Sally Edwards' half-marathon training plan in her new book 'Be a Better Runner'.  I have always been intrigued with the relationship between training/racing and heart rate training zones.  Edwards' plan makes extensive use of heart rate data to figure out how easy or hard one's running efforts should be.  So from this afternoon I will be strapping on the Polar HR Monitor to establish some benchmarks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

155 lbs or bust

It's time to start getting serious about dropping some weight.  Again.  Collars are tight, belts seem to be shorter than before, and the scale doesn't lie.  Yes I have added about 12 pounds since reaching 160 just about a year ago when I was in South Africa for my 40th High School reunion.  So to start laying the groundwork for what might turn into an attempt to again qualify for Boston at the Mohawk Hudson Marathon in October this year, I need to reduce the mass to 155 lbs or less.  This is Day 1.  Nothing too dramatic, just cutting out snacking between meals, checking and if necessary measuring portions, reducing fat intake a bit more, limiting wine & beer to weekends only, and keeping a food diary.

My calves are still sore from last Thursday's run so taking it very easy, mixing short 5-minute runs with walking; total of just 3.5 miles this morning.  Will add 20 minutes of rowing and some strength workout (stretch bands) after work today.

Looks like I might have to go out and buy Isa Moskowitz' 'Appetite for Reduction', her 'diet' vegan cookbook.  I made the Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Tofu on Sunday and it was a big hit.  Today I will be making the Bistro Broccoli Chowder.  Just what the doctor ordered on day #1 of a weight-loss program!  I happen to have some frozen home-made vegetable stock on hand, so this should be good!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bert's Africa pics

Still working on my trip report but a selection of my photographs from the Botswana & Namibia trip can be seen on Picasa at this link:

Bert's March 2011 Africa photographs

there are a few good leopard shots, lots of lions, and some really nice Hartmann's Mountain Zebra photographs.  They are almost as photogenic as East Africa's Grevy's Zebra.  An interesting sequence is the one of the young male lion who had been left behind by his mother, while she was (likely) out hunting.  We observed this little chap for the better part of an hour and he acted every bit the pokey little puppy.  Looking for mom in every direction - especially in the direction she had walked away - and clambering onto both a termite mound and a tree stump to be able to see better. 

Have a look!

Not so good news:  My calves are sore from trying to come back too soon, too fast, so I am reduced to walking.  Should hopefully be ok by the end of the week.  

Really bad news:  it appears that our much adored Boxer - nearly 3 year old Daisy - may have suffered irreversible effects from heat stroke.  She has been having seizures which culminated in a prolonged episode in the middle of the night (last night) so I have been up since 2am, with a visit to the emergency vet hospital etc.  Very traumatic, not to mention expensive ($1,000) and right now the prognosis is pretty grim.  We have had awfully bad luck with dogs lately, having had to put our gentle Jake (also a boxer) down about 3 months ago.  I really hope we are not going to be faced with the same terrible dilemma with Daisy. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Back from Africa

It has been well more than a months since Kath and I set off to Paris for a few days, then Namibia (Skeleton Coast Safari) and I went on from there to various other places in Southern Africa, ending with a few days with the family in Pretoria.  All this means a lot of work has been piling up here in Houston, but the trip was fantastic.

Skeleton Coast was simply otherworldly, interesting time at Doro Nawas with outings to San rock engravings ; petrified forest, fascinating San interpretive walk, hundreds of oryx, springbok,  beautiful black-maned lions at Kalahari Plains, leopards hanging from trees at Tubu, cheetah kill @ Selinda, wild dogs, mating leopards at Dumatau, excellent water activities at Banoka, and vehicles swimming at Duba... And lots of lions everywhere, climbing onto all kinds of things including woodpiles and termite hills.

Here are three of my favorite pics from the trip, so far - haven't even looked at them all yet:

A very relaxed leopard at Tubu Tree Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

A young lion cub at Duba clambered onto this vantage point, awaiting the arrival of its dad, the dominant male lion in the area (Tsaro pride).

These two Hartmann's Mountain Zebras obligingly stood still for just a few seconds right in front of a bush at Desert Rhino Camp in the Kaokoveld region of Namibia.