Mar 11

The Year of Reinventing Myself


I turned 40 last summer. It wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be. The weirdest thing a few months later was thinking to myself how I’d now outlived John Lennon. Yeah, I know. I’m such a deep fellow.

I’d been running for a couple of years, mostly since giving up my gym membership for the great outdoors (okay – PAVED outdoors). A few months before I hit my “milestone” birthday, I’d switched from wearing running shoes to Vibram Five Fingers, which, naturally, changed the way that I ran. I’ll not get into the whole biomechanics stuff (there’s piles of that stuff available online). I did, however, notice that any knee pain after longer runs (10K+) had disappeared. In the latter part of the summer, I kicked off the footwear and began running completely barefoot until I’d gradually built up enough padding to run 10K unshod. That was kinda cool. During the winter months, I’d been holed up indoors more that I cared for on account of trying to balance work/home/school/family life. Needless to say, I’ll be starting from scratch once the weather warms up.

As I wasn’t being too active, burning bunches of calories, etc., I got myself a 35lb kettlebell to do some two-handed swinging. Any regular gym-goer will expound on the virtues of building muscle to burn calories (even while you’re loafing about). I wanted to get back into that discipline. Just before the Christmas season, I started getting more serious about the kettlebell and checked out books and articles by the training master: Pavel Tsatsouline. After reading about another serious kettlebell’r, Tracy Reifkind, and her routine, I got myself a GymBoss timer for intervals. I’m still trying to figure out a good routine for myself, but 20 minutes (off and on) of two-handed swings thrice weekly is kicking my ass just fine, thank you.

I’m sure I’d read somewhere that losing weight falls under the ol’ 80/20 paradigm. 80% of weight loss is due to eating better/right; the other 20% is exercise. I’d dabbled in GI and ABS diets over the years to little or no avail. Since I was falling into a good exercise routine, it was time to fix the biggest component of my life: FOOD! I’ve never been 100% vegetarian, though I hated eating meat when I was growing up, not because I had “morals”; I just hated the taste and texture. The only exception had been chicken (when battered, breaded, fried, etc.). I never went for tofu or any alternatives (I didn’t even TRY tofu until I was in my early 30s). I’d never been a regular salad-eating-kinda-fellow and tended to pile on the carbohydrates WAY too regularly. I’d lived on pizza, chicken fingers and wings, grilled cheese, burritos, veggie burgers and subs for far too long. Since I was changing a lot of basics in my life, I needed to change the most basic. This coincided with looking seriously into the book and philosophy of a gentleman called Ori Hofmekler and The Warrior Diet, which is generally based around eating foods like light protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, yoghurt during the day, and a large meal in the evening. I’d probably eaten only a few spoonfuls of yoghurt in my life. It’s now a near-daily part of my eating, along with raw almonds, blueberries and raspberries, along with a protein shake. I’ve even been drinking my coffee black for about three weeks now and don’t miss the cream or half-and-half.

I’d given serious consideration and, after examining my diet long and hard, especially over the amount of “dead” or processed foods I’d consumed, decided that, in addition to all of the other changes I was making to my life, I would switch to a vegetarian diet. Just because I hadn’t been eating meat regularly didn’t mean I’d been vegetarian, on account of there being very little vegetables or “live” foods in my diet. I used to joke about being a Pastafarian when I was a teenager; either that or a breadetarian.

So, if you’ve got any must-have recommendations for cookbooks, websites, etc., let’s have ‘em!

In keeping with my ongoing pursuit of self-improvement, the other big facet of my life that is also being quietly worked on is the other four-lettered word: budget (okay, six-lettered). If you’re like me, I’d recommend starting with J.D. Roth’s Your Money: The Missing Manual and his site: Get Rich Slowly. I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I’d like with either of them, though I am trying.

Oh man, am I trying.

Aug 10

Writer, Writing, Writest

I’ve wanted to get back at writing for ages now. I’d read about 750words.com, probably through reading Sean Bonner’s site, and thought it sounded pretty nifty. Using the Internet for good (i.e. self-improvement) is always a welcome change. Sure, I could just use something like Word or a text editor to write with, but the idea of logging in somewhere that required more effort than pecking out 140 characters, or trying to come up with a snappy/pithy comment, or one-button-You-Tube-embedding, seemed appealing.

Well, here I am.

I think that I’m *finally* coming to the realization that content doesn’t have to be mind-blowingly brilliant, just semi-worthy of reading, even if by accident. I’m not going to crank out the kind of stuff that has people linking away to my doorstep (that’s not the initial plan, anyhoo). I mean, if I’m going to go to the trouble of paying for space, a domain name, installing a CMS, etc., the least I could do is actually do SOMEthing with it. [ zinger about ‘nothing’ being the least I could do goes here ]

Naturally, coming up with 750 words on a semi-regular basis that are worthy of reading will always be a challenge, though more so at first. Writing about what you know has been the ol’ adage. My problem is that I tend to know a little bit about a lot of things (but I don’t know enough about you – sorry, couldn’t resist), which can either be a blessing or a curse. I haven’t decided yet. I hope to be able to peck out anything from personal interests and updates, to what/where I am at this stage of my go around the sun, to anecdotes, to whatever flights of fancy I’m engaged in.

At present, I’m fighting, and winning, the battle of the bulge. It was two years ago yesterday that I decided to put on my running shoes and head outside, rather that to the local gym. I’d been using a treadmill for approximately one year before that, getting myself to running 5K IN A ROW without stopping. I’d even been so brave as to run 10K on the treadmill one evening years ago. For the first 35 or so years of my life I’d never set foot in a gym. Once I started going, I went pretty regularly, especially since there was a kids’ room where I could drop my son off and he could play with his Nintendo DS for a couple of hours while I exercised. Notice I didn’t say “worked out”, because that would have you thinking I’m all buff from lifting weights. Once I was able to attain 5K on the treadmill, the thought of running along our local bike trail seemed like it would be easy. It wasn’t.

I’m sure there are pile of sites out there arguing the pros and cons of treadmill v asphalt running. I’m not going to bother with contributing to that exchange, as I can only speak from personal experience. Treadmill running was much easier. The first time I went outside for a proper run as an adult was along our local bike path. I didn’t have any gadgets to measure distance, stride, times, etc., just me, my shoes and my son on his bicycle, all on a nice Saturday morning. About 10 – 15 minutes into my run, I realized just how easy I had it using a treadmill. This run was fucking HARD. I started to get really bummed out, thinking, “I can do 5K on a treadmill, no prob – what the fuck is going on here?” Once I hauled my sorry carcass home, I went to Google Maps to plot out my route and figure out how far I’d just run. To my surprise, it was a bit over 6K, which made me feel better about myself. From then on, I bought myself a Nike + iPod kit and haven’t set foot in a gym since.

Less than a year after my first outdoor run, I ran my first and only competitive race (so far). I ran the Mississauga 10K in a little over 51 minutes, which I’m lead to believe is an okay time. I say “competitive” when it was really more just participatory, though I’m sure there’s still some merit to it. I’ll have to flush that thought out some other time.

I’ve lost over 30lbs in approximately three years, exercising at home, using soy milk each morning and not eating French fries with every other meal. I’ve also taken to running with minimalist footwear and going out on the occasional barefoot run. But that, my friends, is another story.

Oct 08

Running Commentary

Today's run brought to you by Blonde Redhead's 'Misery is a Butterfly' (one and a bit times)

Back in early August, I decided to give the local river trail a run, instead of the trusty ol’ treadmill at the gym. By the time I got home, I was wrecked and bummed that it had taken so much out of me. Having run 5K on the treadmill thrice weekly for around a year, I had hoped to have a bit more stamina. However, once I Google-mapped my route, I felt a bit better knowing that I’d run closer to 6.5K. I haven’t been back to the gym since, and let my membership go.

So, two-and-a-half months later, I’m now running 10K around three times a week, and have lost around 12 pounds. I decided to use the money I was now saving on the gym membership and pick up the Nike+ iPod transponder-thingy to keep track of my runs (note: if you don’t have Nike shoes, pick up the Runaway).

I don’t have plans to run a marathon or half-marathon anytime soon; just to lose weight, improve my current time(s) and get off the couch a few times a week. The only possible downside will be shopping for a new wardrobe this spring.

Ah yes, first-world problems, indeed.