My New Normal

Going Forward – the New, New Normal

I am SO glad I said “yes” to the course; and so grateful my hip and feet gave me no cause for concern. After however many years it’s been, I’m baaack.

I’m much slower now. Even though I had lost around 30 pounds long before I started this journey, I’m still carrying about an extra 40 pounds around with me and I do believe that is a large factor in my current speed.

I continue to run 3 times per week, but if I have a day when I just cannot get it together, I don’t sweat it and take the day off. Not more than once a month. As slow as I am, I am actually faster now in portions of my runs. I discovered when running the same route I had to pad more distance on the end to run out the clock.

I also started mixing it up between running on the sidewalk and running trails. We have a lovely huge off-leash, multi-use park here where the trails form a loop to and from the parking lot, so I can bring my wee pup with me and let her run, sniff and catch up as she wants while I run the trails. I’ve discovered I can run much further on dirt than on concrete.

September 24 I ran 30 minutes non-stop for the first time. I mash up running 10:1s and non-stop. In the old days, once I could run 20 minutes non-stop I quit run/walking and just added time until I could start running for distance – my shortest route from my house is 3 miles (just shy of 5 km).

October 4 I ran 5 sets of 10:1 for the first time. During the following week I ran 42 minutes non-stop. At this point, my legs are the indicators of how tired I’m getting. As I run slow enough to talk, my fitness level is now such that, even if I start to breathe a bit heavier it’s tolerable. My leg soreness is the sign I’m either extending my distance or going too fast (for me).

Goal setting is key. Knowing what I want to achieve is the only way to keep motivated. For me, as always, I don’t intend to race — I just want the fitness and endurance. Ultimately, at this age, I will be happy to be able to run 10K once a week with two other runs between 3 and 5 miles. If I can get there and make that my weekly fitness routine I will be content.

Dealing with the Weight

Now that I have a dependable and enjoyable source of exercise and fitness, I will begin efforts to drop some more weight.

I had joined Weight Watchers for about 2 years and had lost 30 pounds. I was working on the next 25 when they changed their brand to WW and shifted their focus from weight loss to healthy eating. Their points system changed and I put on 15 pounds. The most obvious thing to me was the new seeming disregard of caloric intake.

The former points system worked for me. It was healthy eating and I changed a lot of habits for the better, but following the new system let me play the zero points game with foods that should never be considered “have as much as you want.” Like lentils. Great healthy food, nutritious and excellent source of fibre. They also have nearly 400 calories for 1/2 cup. Zero points. Things like this made it very easy to stay on the plan with a halo over my head while the pounds came back on.

Of course there was no access to the old points system once the switch happened, so I had to resign my membership. I have managed to maintain my current weight since and use My Fitness Pal to make sure I’m on track.

That being said, I am going to re-commit to starting serious weight loss efforts with the My Fitness Pal app next week (it’s Canadian Thanksgiving and until the leftovers are gone, it’s pointless to start).

Yes, you can be fit and fat. My doctor even told me she didn’t care how much I weighed as long as I was eating properly. And thanks to the initial Weight Watchers system, I have learned what that is and how I can enjoy eating healthily (even if I do a bit more of it than I should =^D).

Winter. What to do?

It got nasty cold here today, a little below freezing with a big wind. I took the day off. Even just going back and forth from the car to the stores to do my weekly shopping left me with a chill that made me have to wear a sweater in my house. So what the heck am I planning on doing once winter is really here?

I don’t know. I used to run throughout the winter. I usually had one fall per year that bruised either a hip or a tailbone, but as I now have more potential for serious injury in a fall, what do I do?

Initially, I think I’ll keep it up until some serious snowfall. As long as the sidewalks are clear I should be fine. Running the lovely trails with ice, however, is another issue. I think there is a crampon device a person can put on their shoes to provide traction. I have something similar for my boots to take me to and from work (they wouldn’t hold up to running) and they have allowed me to be fall free on icy sidewalks for the last 3 years. If I can find such things I will most likely get them. Then my only boundary will be the temperature.

The coldest I ever ran was -38 Celsius (which is pretty near -36 Fahrenheit). That turned out to be a mistake as the water bottle inside my jacket next to my body froze solid and after two miles I knew I was in trouble. A couple of more experienced folk returning from their run stopped and walked with me back to my car. Generally speaking, runners are good folk. I was lucky. And I decided I would not run colder than -25C (sorry, I’m not going to do the math – it’s cold).

No, your lungs don’t freeze. Oy! Your body temp is 98.6F (37C). By the time -30F air gets to your bronchi it’s warm. As long as you dress for the weather, you’re fine. And it’s amazing how much heat you generate when you’re working hard. Sometimes you even feel overdressed.

I don’t know that I’ll stay at running 3 times a week through the winter. I do want to maintain a level of fitness so I don’t have to start all over again in the spring. I may switch to 10:1s for the winter and keep it to around 3 or 4 reps of that – so, shorter runs that will reduce risk of injury. That would do the trick and let me create a pattern of growth in the warm weather and maintenance in the snow. Seems sensible to me on first blush. Let’s see how it goes.

MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

Winter has come upon us and I’ve only run twice in the past two weeks. Back in the day I would take the winter off and re-build each spring, but at this age the starting over is brutal and having done it once is quite enough, I think.

And it’s bothering me. I’m a little scared of losing everything I’ve worked so hard to build. But it’s not safe. The weather here has been absolutely bizarre; we got rain yesterday afternoon that eventually froze and turned into snow last night and it’s still coming down. Mother Nature’s skating rink covered by about 4″ (10 cm) of snow, so far.

Another issue: by the time I get home from work it’s dark and I don’t feel safe running alone in the dark.

My goal for the winter is to maintain. I don’t need to build time or distance over the next few months; I can do that when spring has returned and conditions are ideal. Maintenance of fitness requires only 1/3 the effort expended to build, so technically I could maintain by running once per week, but it would be a longer run. I’d rather do less more often, which is a good option.

Possible solutions:

  1. I was thinking about skipping rope in the basement over the winter. I hear it’s even better cardio than running; a 10 minute skip is like a half hour run, and it gets the arms involved which is a good thing.
  2. I was thinking about taking my running gear to work and running at lunch. The sidewalks are usually pretty well maintained downtown and it would be light with lots of people around, so safety would not be an issue.
  3. Another option would be to completely change it up and swim (not a fan of wet hair at -20C) or sacrifice all enthusiasm and go to a gym (egad!). Yeah, no. Number 3 is not going to happen. Not on a consistent basis at any rate.

I like Number 2 and it’s feasible and relatively easy. Mentally, I still get to run a couple of times during the week and hauling the gear to and from isn’t too horrible. I can either squeeze in another run on the weekend or go downstairs to skip. (Skipping is HARD. If you’ve not done it since you were a kid you’d be in for a surprise trying it now.) There’s a whole training plan for building up to a 10 minute skip that starts with 30 seconds. Remind you of anything?

It’s key to find something enjoyable that guarantees consistency and frequency throughout the season. It doesn’t have to be the same activity, it just has to permit a valid workout: heart-health and good muscle use.

Good luck to you and to me for the winter!

Oh! I’ve lost 2 pounds over the last couple of weeks, once Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en were done. (Darn those snack-size candy bars!)