Friday, March 28, 2008

Week In Review

Mon: 55 min running (intervals); 30 min easy/fast cycling
Tues: 40 min swim, working on full pull before recovery; 60 min weight training
Wed: some snowmobiling and light hiking for work; no cardio
Thurs: 50 min run, including 25 min tempo run (joined for the last 7 min by my Tri Instructor, Ted-- nice to have some company, though I couldn't talk to him for more than a few words at a time)
Fri: 60 min Power Pump weight training class; walked 3 miles with 45 lb (the Pack Test for firefighter quals) in 42:39

Tomorrow: will do an easy pace longer run
Sunday: 30 min bike, 10 min run

Next week: more swimming, less biking and running as I let my legs charge up for next weekend's race

What Gives?

Don't have much time to write this morning before work, but I just got done with my Friday 6am Power Pump class, followed by my weigh-in, and I got the glorious news that I didn't lose a thing this week. I'm even up 0.2 lbs since last week. What the h-e-double hockey sticks?

Every day this week I've burned 200-600 calories more than I've eaten. I've ramped up my weight training again so my muscles are demanding fuel. I wake up hungry every morning. I feel like I'm burning everything that goes in. Yes, I splurged on Easter Dinner last Sunday, and definitely ate more than I expended that day. But not too unreasonably. And Saturday I think I had a few more calories from beer than what I burned for the day. Every other day for the last two weeks I've either come out even or had a negative calorie deficit. So why the heck did the scale not reflect that?

I have a few theories:
1. I didn't run before Power Pump this morning; thus I didn't take care of "business" like I usually do. So that could be a little weight that's usually not included in the Friday Weigh-Ins.
2. I seriously think my body has a lag-time that may be longer than others'/ longer than I want it to be. Back in the days when I was doing seasonal field work, it would seem to take 4-6 weeks of long field days every day before I'd start to notice physical changes such as weight loss and muscle gain. On the converse, once I quit working in the field and would be more sedentary for a while, doing data entry or working in hunting camp, etc., it would usually take again 4-6 weeks before the weight would start to creep back on (because, of course, I would continue eating like I did while doing field work... thus the 10+ lb seasonal fluctuations in weight).
3. Perhaps those 1-2 "cheat days" each week are too much?! Perhaps to kick off some weight loss I need to be uber-strict for a while? Ugh, that'd suck. But I really would like to shed about 5-10 lbs of the extra flab around my mid-section that seems to keep following me through life.

Short of liposuction, does anyone have some suggestions?!

Gotta run! (across the parking lot to a meeting)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A new min max

I hit a new heart rate yesterday. Now I know my max heart rate is at least 203 bpm. (quite a bit more than the “220 minus your age” calculation would tell me!)

I did a speed workout doing 8 x 400’s @ 2:00 (8 minute mile pace) with 2:00 recovery jogs. For the lay person, that means that after warming up for about 15 minutes at a nice slow pace, then doing a couple of quick pickups to get the legs used to turning over quickly (start from a jog, then over the course of 100m let the pace increase to nearly a sprint), I started my intervals. I’d run 400m in 2 minutes. Then I’d jog super slowly—slower than some people were walking—to let my heart rate and breathing recover a bit. Then I’d repeat the fast pace, then recover, and on and on for 8 fast sets. At the end I jogged slowly for about 10 more minutes, then walked a few minutes and did some active stretching.

The first few reps seemed pretty easy. But as the fatigue began to set in, my perceived effort was that the reps were getting harder and faster, even though I was keeping the same pace throughout. By the last rep I was seriously working. That’s when I spiked up to 203 for just a second. Wow.

It was a fantastic workout, actually. I noticed that if I would really focus on my form, especially leaning forward so I could let my heels float backwards and letting my core guide the way, I could really grab some more speed and fluidity. I had a couple of different thoughts running through my head at different times (spoken in the first person, from Carly to Carly, which is how I usually talk to myself in my head while running):
* Wow, I can’t believe Robyn is running 5k’s with this speed as her average pace these days. Holy crap, she’s really gotten fast! (and no wonder she was so pert and perky after running a half marathon with me at an average 11 min/mile pace!)
* I can run this pace for at least the last ¼ mile, if not the last ½ mile of my 5k that’s coming up next weekend. If I can keep a good solid pace for the first few miles and then kick it out at the end, that’ll rock!
* Keep listening to your breathing. Notice the rhythm. Be okay with the rhythm. Yes, you’re breathing differently than you do when running at an easier pace. But this is okay. This rhythm is not scary. It just is what it is.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A different kind of workout

I've always thought that a good belly laugh had to burn some calories. Turns out, it does! And laughing has other health benefits, as well. Here are a couple of snippets of information I found about laughter and your health, as well as a few Easter-y cartoons to jump-start your Laugh-Workout!

"At the European Congress on Obesity in Athens last week, VUMC’s Maciej Buchowski, Ph.D., reported weighty findings from a study he completed last year on how laughing — no joke — burns calories. . .
"This is a trivial study," Buchowski said later, about all the attention. As director of Bionutrition, he has certainly conducted scientific studies with more serious implications. But people take this news to heart. "People just understood this, it's something that they relate to themselves."
Seriously though, Buchowski found that laughing raises energy expenditure and increases heart rate 10 percent to 20 percent. Ten to 15 minutes of laughter could increase energy expenditure by 10 to 40 calories per day, which could translate into about four pounds a year.
"People can't eat at McDonald's and then expect to laugh away their lunch," Buchowski said. You'd have to laugh for 15 minutes to burn off two Hershey's Kisses and it would take an hour of chortles to burn one chocolate bar. But, he said, the important thing is that "every calorie counts" and every activity could help people lose weight. And, scientifically, this is one more step toward understanding how the body manages energy and burns fat."
- from the Vanderbilt Med Center Reporter

"Laughter activates the chemistry of the will to live and increases our capacity to fight disease. Laughing relaxes the body and reduces problems associated with high blood pressure, strokes, arthritis, and ulcers. Some research suggests that laughter may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Historically, research has shown that distressing emotions (depression, anger, anxiety, and stress) are all related to heart disease. A study done at the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at stressful situations helps mitigate the damaging physical effects of distressing emotions." - from

Friday, March 21, 2008

Up Tempo

Yesterday afternoon I called Amy from the parking lot of the gym, hoping she could help pep me up. I was whining that I couldn't find the motivation to go inside and do my Tempo Run. "It's just gonna suck," I told her. She asked me why, and I explained that a tempo run is one in which you run at a "comfortably hard" pace, in an effort to train your muscles to not fatigue once lactic acid starts to build up in them. So it's not an all-out run. But it's not a nice look-at-the-scenery jog, either. And the suckiest part of yesterday's run is that, becuase of our lovely first-day-of-spring sideways snowshowers, I had to run it inside on the track.
Anyhow, we got into a discussion about what tempo runs are, how they help, and how to do them. I've mentioned them before, but here's a few links to good articles that can explain things better than I:
"Your Magic Number" by Adam Bean-- good for figuring out your ideal pace for different workouts
"Secrets of the Tempo Run Revealed" by Arthur Lydiard

Well, to make a long story short, I finally mustered up gumption to go inside and hit the track. I fiddled through my warm-up, taking a few breaks to tighten my shoelaces, go to the bathroom, read the notices on the bulletin board... then I got to it. I ran at a 9:10/mile pace for 20 minutes. The first few minutes kinda sucked-- it was faster running than what I'd done in my warm-up, or what I'd do on a nice easy run. But after a few minutes, my mind got used to the fact that my legs were turning over quickly, that my breathing was faster than normal, and that my heart rate was up (I stayed in the 176-182 range, or about 85-90% of max). It felt different-- not like any old workout-- but it didn't suck. I made sure to have some good tunes cranking, and enjoyed passing people as I ran my many laps around the 200 yd track. When my 20 minutes was up, I smiled a great big smile, knowing that I could definitely keep up that pace for another mile, and perhaps even dig up a little more speed. The real test will be two weekends from now when I do the Run for the Trees 5k. But it was nice to feel fast and strong.

After a 10 minute cool-down, in which I ran so slowly it barely felt like I was moving (which brought my heartrate down to 156), I changed clothes and ran upstairs to a new yoga class. It was a great class-- we focussed on "Perception," or how your perceived effort can change how you feel about a pose, a life situation, or, as I was thinking about, a run. If I perceive a run as hard, it will be hard. But if I perceive the run as fast and fun, that's what it will be. For my next several runs I'll try to focus more on my perception of how I'm doing and how things feel when I intentionally change my perception.

Now I must perceive myself as being interested in my day job. Have a great weekend and a Hoppy Easter!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

You call that "Work?!"

After working for many years as a field biologist, where I was outside every day, tromping around through the woods in any kind of condition: 95 degree heat with smokey air; -20 degree frosty mornings; 40 degree rainy days where you're soaked to the core, etc.

These days I'm much more office-bound, and for the most part that's okay. I honestly don't miss those nasty days, of which in Montana there seem to be more of than anything else. Having a mostly office-based job keeps me inside where it's always 70 degrees. And I can plan my schedule around my job very easily (e.g. this afternoon I'll get out of here at 4pm, go for a 45 min run, then make it to yoga by 5:30).

But I do miss those rare stunningly gorgeous days in the field. The days where the temperature is just right (which, in the winter is about 20-25 degrees, 65-70 in the summer). The days where everything works right-- snowmobiles start easily and don't break down; I see cool animals, or at least their track in the snow; the folks I'm working with are in a jovial mood and laughter makes its way into our work-related conversations.

I had one of those days yesterday. It was fantastic. I toured a potential timber sale area on the Stillwater State Forest, about 20 miles NW of Whitefish, MT, with two foresters from the Stillwater Unit and our two hydrologists from my office here in Kalispell. It was a beautiful day-- warm enough that I was never cold (maybe I got lucky and layered up just right), intermittent sun and snow flurries, no wind, good snowmobiling as there was a firm base with about 8 inches of new powder, and everyone was in a good, fun-natured mood.

We got in about 2 hours of snowshoeing in all, walking around a couple different areas to look at the trees and potential for a timber sale. So a good bit of exercise with that, plus snowmobiling got me a good little workout since I haven't used some of those muscles very much this winter.

All in all it was a terrific day, and I thought I'd share some pictures:

standing on a steep slope, overlooking Upper Whitefish Lake (the little while spot above my head)

sign at Upper Whitefish Lake-- the bottom of the No Fireworks sign is at eye-level during the summer!

forest stand with a lot of bug-killed trees-- a potential for logging

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Now I know why I usually drive to the gym-- after running for 30 min, cycling for 45 (I increased the time because I was trying to finish reading an article in my magazine, so I figured I'd just keep pedaling), and then lifting weights for 40 min, I tried to run the mile back to my office. It's mostly downhill, but holy crud, it was one of the hardest miles I've run in a while. My legs were just done. Tired. Not willing to turn over.

I guess that's good practice. I can imagine having a similar feeling during the last leg of a triathlon. So it's good practice now and then to push on, even though hitch-hiking a ride back to the finish line sounds very appealing!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On a Diet

The last few weeks weren't pretty. I know I've put on some pounds, and I feel flabby. Gotta get those back off. So here's the plan:

6 days a week I'll shoot for ~1400-1500 calories a day, with a good balance of lean proteins (fish, chicken, tofu-- NOT corned beef!), complex carbs (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal-- NOT asiago cheese bagels!), and try to keep the fats low and focused on the good kinds of fats (from nuts, seeds, avocados-- NOT chocolate chip cookies), and I'll keep well hydrated (with water, decaf coffee, and tea-- NOT beer and diet Coke). One day a week I can splurge a little (choose to have EITHER a few beers OR dessert, but NOT BOTH!)

It's not going to be easy at first. I've reverted back to some of my old gobble-it-up-now, worry-about-it-later habits. Well, it's now "later." My first race of the season is coming up in just under 3 weeks, and I really don't need to be hauling these extra pounds down the trail with me. But I do need to make sure I'm getting enough calories to keep me well-fueled and keep my energy high. So to help with that, I'm going back to my old trick of using Fitday to help me track my intake and output. Here's what I'm doing today:

Breakfast-- oatmeal w/ protein powder, craisins, slivered almonds, and flax seeds (350 cal)
Snack-- apple w/ 1 Tbs peanut butter (180 cal)
Lunch-- mixed greens salad w/ 1 tsp olive oil & vinegar (60 cal); 1 can Progresso light southwestern vegetable soup (120 cal)
Snack-- 2 Wasa whole-wheat flatbread crackers (90 cal)
Dinner-- 1/4 cup (raw amount) quinoa (160 cal); 1 cup steamed broccoli (20 cal); 7 oz broiled salmon* w/ cilantro-chili-lime marinade (350 cal)
Dessert-- cup of hot tea w/ 1 tsp honey (30 cal)
Other-- 1/2 cup skim milk (in my coffee and tea; 40 cal)
TOTAL INPUT= 1400 cal

basal metabolic rate= 1420 cal
brisk walk to Target at lunchtime (10 min either way): 60 cal
run from work to gym via circuitous route (25 min, easy pace): 200 cal
cycling (30 min indoors, high revs plus some hills): 210 cal
strength training (45 min-- legs, arms, core): 90 cal
run back to work via direct route (10 min, easy): 80 cal
Total= 2040 cal spent, 640 of which from exercise

Fitday actually tacks on an extra 260 calories for "lifestyle." What this is getting at, I think, is the fact that you move around some during the day, getting coffee, walking up the stairs to your house, washing dishes, etc. These are added to the basal metabolic rate, which is the calories you'd burn if you just stayed in bed all day. So if I add on the lifestyle calories, I come up with 2320 calories burned for the day.
TOTAL OUTPUT: 2320 cal

Okay, so if we take the OUTPUT (2320 cal) minus the INPUT (1400 cal), I've come up with a 900 calorie deficit for the day. That kind of a deficit will be okay for a few days to jump-start my metabolism into a burning mode again, but for longer-term sustainability I'll try to shoot for a 500 calorie daily deficit-- that should keep my energy high enough, but also allow me to lose about 1 lb per week.

So that's the plan. Help me stick with it!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Top O' The Calorie Chart To Ya

Since tomorrow's St. Patty's day, I popped a corned beef brisket into the crock pot this morning so that we can have it with some boiled cabbage for dinner tonight. Corned beef & cabbage is one of Jim's favorite meals, and I don't mind it once in a while.

Corned beef usually comes from the brisket of a cow, or the chunk of fat/muscle that's nearly between the front legs, at the bottom of the neck. The meat is cured or pickled in a seasoned brine. According to Wikipedia, "the 'corn' in 'corned beef' refers to the "corn" or grains of coarse salts used to cure it. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the usage of 'corn,' meaning 'small hard particle, a grain, as of sand or salt.'"

As I was putting the meat in the crock pot, I couldn't help but notice all the fat, some of which I was able to trim off, but most still remains on and in the meat. Probably not the best cut of meat to eat if you're concerned about calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, etc.

So I hopped on the internet to find out how my traditional Irish meal would sit in terms of other cuts of beef. As I suspected, it's one of the highest fat & calorie cuts you can find. Good thing we only eat it on rare occasions. The chart below shows some different cuts of meats and their total calories for a 3 oz serving. Remember that 3 oz is a piece of meat approximately the size of a deck of playing cards!

Oh, look-- beef tongue is a much healthier option! As is fried liver! Ugh. I think I'll just have a small portion of corned beef, a large helping of cabbage, and skip dessert.

Last week on the road

This past week finished up my 3 week series of training classes for work. I was in Helena taking a class called "Introduction to Incident Information." Basically, I was learning how to be an Information Officer for wildfires (or other major disasters).

While dealing with fires isn't a primary responsibility of my job, I do work for a land-owning agency, so when we have a bad fire season like we did last year, anyone and everyone who can help is asked to do so. It's not required, but strongly suggested, that all employees have some fire qualifications. Plus, it's the only time that I can get overtime pay. Last year I was able to fully fund my trip to NC for the Outer Banks Half Marathon on overtime pay from fires.

There are lots of different jobs within the fire world. Everyone's familiar with the sooty, exhausted firefighter in the yellow shirt and green pants who's been swinging a pulaski all day long. I am fully qualified to do that, and to assist in operating an engine, laying out water hoses, etc. But honestly, that stuff sucks. I really don't like wearing long sleeves and long pants and 8" leather boots in 95 degree weather with nothing but smoky air to breathe. As you should know by now, it's not that I'm opposed to hard work. Heck, if it was a 65 degree day with clear skies, I'd be all excited to get a great upper body workout from digging fire line. But I hate heat. And smoke. So I decided to look towards other roles in the fire world...

So what other roles are there? First, someone has to be the head honcho in charge. This person is called the Incident Commander, or IC. For a small fire, the IC could be a mid-level supervisor on a local crew. As fires become more complex-- bigger in acreage, in tough terrain, threatening property, etc-- an incident managment team will most likely be brought in, a fire camp set up, and more resources (people & equipment) brought in to help. The IC oversees all operations and is basically in charge of coming up with the overall objectives. But that person has several folks working under him/her:

Someone has to feed those firefighters, and make sure they have the tools they need, and that there are showers available, and arrange to get their tires fixed when they puncture one. All those duties are part of Logistics. Then there's the Planning Section-- how do we actually hope to accomplish our mission? how many people do we need to go when and where and do what? do we need helicopters? if so, how many? Planning folks then talk to Operations people. These are the ones that actually get the work done, that are out on the ground directing the yellow shirts where to go and what to do. They also manage the air show. Then there's Finance, which is responsible for paying all these people, and for dealing with claims, and figuring up daily figures of the cost of fighting the fire. There's also a Safety officer who's looking out to make sure the operations are being conducted safely, that everyone wears their personal protective equipment, etc. Dispatchers are needed to call people up and ask them to come help, as well as help man the radio traffic and keep track of what's going on. And most of the time a large incident will have a Liason officer who helps the fire management team stay in contact with local agencies, such as the sheriff's office, volunteer fire department, and other landowners. Finally, someone needs to take care of letting everyone know what the heck is going on. That's the role of the Information officer(s). Information is responsible for organizing public meetings, providing interviews and tours for the media, writing press releases, putting up information boards in communities near the fire, etc.
That's what I'm most interested in doing-- talking, not digging. So in training last week I was learning to write press releases and fact sheets, I practiced giving phone and tv interviews (our instructors taped us and then played it back to critique us), we ran through a simulation exercise where we had to plan a town meeting, deal with concerned citizens who thought their house was being burned, coordinate with the Sheriff's office about evacuation notices, etc. It was a good class, and I look forward to being able to get some real-world practice later this summer.

In the meantime, I'll just stick with my regular pay check, and appreciate the free time I have to work out and play. And keep myself in shape enough to be able to go out and dig line if I have to! To that end, here's a re-cap of my stab at training this week:

Sunday: Tempo run in Frenchtown (45 min-- 20 min at ~90% max heart rate)
Monday: afternoon easy run exploring Helena (45 min)
Tuesday: 20 min cycle and 30 min strength (squats, lunges, pushup pyramind) in morning; 30 min cruise run with Allison in afternoon (the first time we've run together in a while-- it was great to have the company!)
Wednesday: 20 min elliptical and Sage's yoga podcasts in the morning (check them out!); 25 min easy run in afternoon (and then a most excellent Thai dinner-- if you're ever in Helena, don't miss Toi's Thai restaurant-- one of the best meals I've had in a long time!)
Thursday: 30 minute easy run with 10 min lunge intervals in afternoon
Friday: 30 minute bike ride and yoga in evening
Saturday & Sunday: rest/cross-training, working with Jim around the ranch
Total- 6 hrs: RUN- 2 hr 25 min; BIKE- 50 min; SWIM- 0 min; STRENGTH/YOGA- 1 hr 25 min; OTHER- 20 min elliptical

I'm looking forward to being back to my normal work week and workout routine starting tomorrow. And to getting back in the pool, since I didn't have an opportunity to swim this past week. But it was good to get some extra running time in, as I'll be doing my first running race of the season in just a few weeks. I'll be digging through a few more tempo runs and speed sessions between now and then, and also trying to shed some of the beer pounds I'm sure I've put on in the past few weeks. (not looking forward to this Friday's Weigh-In)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fitting it all in

Hi folks. Sorry about the lack of posts this week. What with all of the long work days, the socializing (read: beer drinking), and cramming workouts in at odd hours, I haven't had any time for posting. But at least I've been getting the workouts in. Which is good, because I've been waaay to lax on everything else (read: am seriously going to diet for a few weeks once I'm back to my normal schedule to see if I can't quickly shed off a few of the pounds I know I've put back on in the past few weeks).

So this is nearly the end of my second full week of being in Missoula for work. Usually I'm just here for the weekends, and up in Kalispell for the week. So the dichotomy of living in two different towns has led to a dichotomy in my overall lifestyle. Especially the eating/drinking/socializing. During the week, I usually work, work out, eat a small-ish dinner by myself, and go to bed early. On the weekends I don't count calories as much, drink a few beers, stay up a little later, and basically reward myself for my week's efforts.

The system works fairly well. At least if I'm only here on the weekends. But I've been on a "weekend" for two weeks now, and it's starting to feel gross. I haven't necessarily been going overboard with eating and drinking-- but enough that I can tell a difference in my body. I don't feel as clean or as fit. I've been a little fuzzy-headed from too much beer. And while I've had some good times hanging out with friends and coworkers and Jim, I'm ready to return to my more hermit-like existence!

Unfortunately, I still have one more week of travel ahead of me: I'll be in Helena all next week for work, staying in a motel and having to eat out a lot. Ugh. I've decided to go to the grocery store this weekend and stock up on good things to eat for at least all but dinner. I've been making ziplocks full of my oatmeal-protein mix, and then can just add some water and pop in a microwave. So I'll make some more of those for breakfast. Then for snack/lunch I'll grab a bunch of apples, peanut butter, baby carrots, graham crackers, etc. That should get me through the day, and then I can find a sensible dinner in the evening. The upside is that my friend Allison will be there, too, and she's a great health-conscious buddy to be around. We made sure to book our rooms in a motel that had a pool and fitness room, so we plan to workout together at the motel before work in the mornings. Hopefully we can help keep each other on track for dinners, too.

Wish me luck for one more week. I probably won't write much, if at all. But I'll be trying to make you proud!

Here's what I did this week:
Monday: biked to Frenchtown Pond (10 min), ran 2 laps around the pond (25 min), biked home (10 min); ab work and
pushup pyramid

Tuesday: swam 1200 yd at 6:15 am
Wednesday: ran during my lunch break (35 min)
Thursday: swam during lunch break (900 yd); biked with Kev after work (1 hr)
Friday: was supposed to meet Jenny for a run/walk this am, but she bailed; decided to work (aka write my blog!) instead; will do a tempo run this afternoon (it should be sunny and beautiful out, so it'll give me something to look forward to all day!); I should also do some abs and arms!
Saturday or Sunday: I'll squeeze in either a long run or long bike and some yoga