Favorite shoes – Asics

I am a big fan of Asics running shoes. Having wide feet, and problematic arches, means that I need a wide shoe that has good support. Being a fat ass doesn’t help either, so that is a consideration.

When I first began running again seriously in 2005 or so (probably earlier) I started using New Balance shoes, mainly because they had a good selection in wide shoes, but alas, they really didn’t offer good support.

Then one day, I tried a pair of Asics and it was almost magical. Pain or discomfort was gone, I could run further, and more frequently without my feet being a limiting factor.

So, from that point on, I have been loyal, trying to shop sales, and closeouts, as they are not cheap shoes, occasionally trying something different with bad results, but I always return to the Asics line.

My main grief with them though is that they don’t last too well. I know that you are supposed to replace shoes frequently, and that it is suggested that between 300 and 500 miles of pounding pavement is the limit. Yet, it seems that before that mileage is reached, the soles are beginning to fall apart.

While I no longer can run (it really causes my plantar fasciitis to flare up), I do 6 – 7 mile walks 4-6 days a week, so the miles add up, and alas, the soles on my Asics I bought in January are about toast.

Sigh, time to go hunting for a new pair.

Injuries – Foot edition

I have battled the scourge that is Plantar Fasciitis for a few year now. First cropping up in early 2010, it is a painful condition that really needs lots of rest and strengthening exercises. Returning to physical activity too soon is a sure way to make it far worse, and last longer.

What I have now is not it recurring though. This appears to be a sprain in the tendon on the top of the foot (instead of the plantar ligament), and affects only the ligament on the large toe. Ouchies. I have had this for a couple of weeks, and it seemed to fade pretty quickly (i.e. heal), but it came back with a vengeance on Saturday after a 26 mile bike ride. I guess the stress of pedaling on the upper ligaments of my foot are aggravating it.

Sigh, rest, stretching, and vitamin I (ibuprofen) to see if I can get it to heal without a trip to the podiatrist. If that doesn’t work, I am sure it will be another series of prednesone will be in store.

Getting old sucks. If your feet hurt, you are miserable. And foolishly exercising when you are injured is stupid.

Fitness in the Desert-Hydration

I grew up in the SF bay area, a place with very mild climate. Yes, we got a couple of triple digit days a year, but in general the humidity was mild, it never got too hot or too cold, and I never really worried about hydration.

When I got to Arizona, it became a significant concern. I wasn’t going to let the climate curtail my activities, but suddenly, hydration became a huge deal. Even in the winter time when the temperatures are very pleasant, the humidity is so low that water is just wicked out of your body at phenomenal rates. In the summer, when the temperatures are in triple digits for three months, humidity is in the 20’s, you really need to be careful.

Water is important, but unless you are exercising for only a brief time, you need something that will help replace your electrolytes. I am definitely one of those who puts more salt out in their sweat, so anytime I am out for more than a half hour I have to rely on supplement.

My top hydration product I use is Accelerade. It is a mixture of carbs, electrolytes, and protein. This combination really helps keep me going for longer rides. I typically mix it a little weak. The amount for a pint, mixed into 24 or 32 ounces is about perfect. However, I can’t just have accelerade, even mixed weak.  I have to have water with me as well. With this combo, I can easily go for 3 or 4 hours even in 110F temperatures. The one down side is that it causes me to retain water like crazy. After a day of riding or hiking, I will actually gain 3 pounds or so of water weight.

When I am less aggressive in my exercise, I use a product called Nuun. These are tablets that you add to a pint of water. Mildly flavored, it has no carbohydrates, and a good mix of electrolytes. This is good for medium exertion efforts, my lunchtime jogs, mid distance walks, and when I cycle to and from the office. We discovered this product when we were preparing to hike the grand canyon. Space and weight were crucial considerations. We saw these little tubes full of hydration tablets and just popped them in our basket. Fast forward three years, and I rediscovered them, and am now a religious user.

One product that I prefer not to use is Gatorade. It really has too much sugar in it for while I am exercising, and it is too heavy when I am recovering.  I just don’t like it.

As a sufferer of coronary artery disease, I try to keep a low sodium diet. That works when I am not exercising, but when I exercise I quickly get the symptoms of hyponatremia, and that is far more dangerous than having too much sodium.  So I walk a fine line in balance, monitor my weight, and my blood pressure daily to understand where I am (and of course, I take lots of medicine)

All part of life in the desert.

Fitness then and now

Back in 2003/2004 I lost a ton of weight. I went from a peak of about 265#’s to ~185#’s where I stabilized for a long time. I did it the old fashion way, by eating less and exercising more. I counted calories, targeting ~ 1,400 a day (give or take). I started exercising in a gym (because I was really out of shape, it seemed the safest way to get serious), but graduated to running and cycling (even completing a 100km fundraising event that summer).

While I kept at that low weight for a long time, the following year we took a two week vacation in France, and I packed on a few pounds (don’t judge me, the food was OUTSTANDING).  Then I turned 40 (and 45) and the weight was harder to take off.  Just cutting my calorie intake wasn’t enough. Throw in plantar fasciitis and it wasn’t possible to do my daily exercise ritual anymore.

Fast forward until now.  I got back up to 232#’s in early 2013, and I wasn’t happy. I decided to get serious about it. Fortunately, there are lots of tools available today that were just not an option in 2003.

Perfect Diet Tracker – Byoni Systems. A great program that helps you set goals, and track your intake. It has an amazing database that users contribute to, and in the event that something is not there, it is trivial to add it to the database from the nutritional label. I can also enter in my exercise, so that I keep a running tally. Setting goals is easy (and it will warn you if you are being too aggressive, or losing weight too fast), and takes the guesswork out of the process. It is reasonably priced, and it is cross platform, so I use it on my mac as well as my work PC to track while I am on the road (it also has a Linux version too). It syncs with Dropbox, so my data is wherever I am at.

Runkeeper – Application on the iPhone. I started using the Nike application, but it was buggy and crashed a lot.  A friend recommended RunKeeper, and I haven’t looked back. It has all the exercise types listed, and tracks your progress cleanly. It also integrates with a heart rate monitor so I can accurately track my cardio work. I use it for walking, hiking, and biking. There is a great website that you can use to review and track your workouts. It shares automatically with Facebook and Twitter. For what I use it for, it is free, but there is a paid version that will help you train for things like Marathons.

BlueWazoo Heart Rate Monitor – A chest strap with a blue tooth sender unit, it pairs with my iPhone and RunKeeper app. Instead of just tracking speed, distance, and elevation, this option adds a real time tracking of my heartrate. Something I am concerned about being a victim of coronary artery disease.

Excel – I take my blood pressure daily, and track it in an excel spreadsheet.  I also daily track my weight (I weigh myself first thing in the morning, and measure my blood pressure before I drink coffee. Excel is a great tool for this, as it lets me graph the results in a variety of ways that are useful to me.

The world has changed, and the technology has made the exercise portion of fitness and the nutritional tracking to be more exact, and relevant to the process.

To date I have lost 22#’s in 2.5 months. A good pace, and I am satisfied.  About 20 more to go.

The downside of out of doors exercise

Not really a secret, I prefer to do my exercise out of doors. Whether it is hiking, or cycling, or even jogging, I vastly prefer to get out and pound the pavement (or trail). But it can be challenging when summer happens here in Arizona.
When the thermometer goes past 100F by 10:00AM, and at 5:00AM it is already 88F, it is difficult to get out and exercise. Yet I do it nonetheless. But I do take some precautions to make it a little more tolerable.
I take plenty of fluids. I have a camelback, and I fill the bladder with ice water (100oz). I also mix up a couple of water bottles with a product called Accelerade (thanks to Melinda Bullaro for getting me hooked on this stuff).
Wearing some of the perspiration wicking garments (Coolmax or similar) also helps you keep comfortable. If you wear cotton, it will soak, and it will make you miserable. But the wicking fabrics help you keep cool by efficiently wicking the sweat away .
But even then, it is a challenge to be out in the hot weather. You have to acclimatize as the temperatures begin to rise. I have been working on my fitness for a long time, so as it heats up, I am adjusted. Living in the desert, your body does adapt in some subtle ways. We do carry a lot of extra water. I am not sure how much, or why, but it seems to be quite true. When I travel to a high humidity locale, the first 3 days are miserable, as I dump the extra water.
Even with these precautions, it is important to know the symptoms of heat stroke, and to call it quits before you get into a dangerous state.
There is an out. You can join a gym, and workout indoors, but I hate the gym. A topic for another post…
(This is a test of the MacJournal blog connection)

Why I care about being able to jog for exercise

This week, I was happy as a pig in a sty that I was able to run most of a 4 mile loop at lunch. Some people might think that is an odd position to be happy about, but it really is a big difference.

I have battled with plantar fasciitis for over 2 years. It has limited me to moderate walking, and lately bicycling for my exercise. While walking is rather pedestrian (ha ha), cycling is actually a pretty good workout. But it isn’t a “great” workout.

The reason why is pretty easy to figure out with my handy – dandy heart rate monitor.

Walking, 4 miles per hour pace, I burn about 560 calories in an hour. My heart rate rarely rises above 80 BPM. This is fairly moderate exertion by any measure (heightened by the beta blocker I take)

Cycling, 19 miles per hour pace, I burn about 1,100 calories per hour. Much better, and certainly a better workout. The monitor tells me that I average around a heart rate of 120 BPM.  A pretty good aerobic workout, but again, it is affected by the medication I take.

Running. 6 mile per hour pace (very slow for me, but when I am in shape I can d0 8 minute miles easily). I burn about the same calories per distance as walking, but I go further in the same time.  I burn about 900 calories in an hour. But the real benefit is my heart rate.  I can overcome the beta blocker, and keep my heart rate between 130 – 145 BPM, a pretty good aerobic workout by any measure.

So, of the three primary avenues for me to exercise, running is clearly the winner in the aerobic sense, and pretty good burning of calories.  Cycling’s benefit is that I can keep up a 19 mph pace for 2 – 3 hours, and burn a shedload of calories. Something that I enjoy.

But running has one other major benefit, the fact that when I am traveling, I can pretty much run ANYWHERE. If I get up early enough, I can do 5, 6, or even 7 miles before a day of work.  All I need are shorts and shoes, and I am good to go!

BTW: Having a smartphone with a GPS and a bluetooth heart rate monitor makes tracking my progress easy, and VERY satisfying.

Exercising in the heat

Living in Arizona, it can sure be tough to get out and pound the pavement when the temps climb into triple digits. Many people recede to the gym, and work out in air conditioned comfort, but I have always hated the gym (variety of reasons). So I lace up my shoes at lunch and go for a run, or I ride my bicycle in to the off (always good for a 106F+ ride home).

People in the office look at me like I am from Mars.

But it can be done safely. There are precautions that you take, and symptoms that you look for while on your outdoor fitness excursions:

  • Pre-load with fluids. If you are going to run at lunch, drink 2 – 3 12oz glasses of water in the hour before you head out. Your body will need it.
  • Bring fluids with you. I go through about 16 oz for each 3-4 miles I run. If you begin to cramp, drink.
  • Put some electrolyte supplements in your water. In the summer I use Accelerade, a protein/carb mix that really does help recovery.
  • Don’t “start” cold turkey. The key is to acclimatize yourself. Start in early spring, and keep at it as the temps rise. You will not “shock” your system, and it will become more enjoyable (plus exercising regularly is a great stress reliever)
  • If you cramp, become dizzy, disoriented or “dazed” STOP.  Call for help.  The difference between a comfortable albeit it hot run, and heat stroke can happen quickly.  Carry a phone.

It isn’t for everyone, but if you prepare, and ease yourself into it, you can keep your outdoor fitness going, even in the baking Arizona sun. Use common sense, and don’t push too hard.

Fitness Update (was how I am trying to not be a “People of Walmart”)

Been a while since I updated. I started this quest about 2 months ago (actually April 9th, I started weighing myself daily), and I was 232#’s. I began counting calories, and tracking everything I ate, as well as trying to be more diligent about exercising.

In early May, I got back on the bicycle (first ride in 6 months or so, I was rusty and SORE afterwards), and have been getting more diligent about hitting the streets.

The weight has been inching down. Not as fast as I would like to see, but a pretty consistent 2+ pounds a week.  There have been some setbacks. My birthday dinner, and our anniversary dinner were good splurges, but they did slow the rate of decline. Additionally when I started getting more serious and regular about cycling, I suspect that I was trading adipose fat tissue for muscle tissue. My legs are coming back, and it feels great to ride for 25 – 30 miles at a stretch.

Today, I am at 214#’s, spitting distance to 20#’s off, and I feel pretty good.  I think I might be able to start jogging at lunch time again, something my feet and my weight have prevented me from doing.

The goal is to get to ~ 190#. That is a pretty comfortable weigh for my frame.  At this rate, by the end of summer, I should be able to get there.

Diet and fitness update

Last week was a challenge. With the holiday (grilled some yummy steaks), and our anniversary (tried another local Mexican place that is now our favorite), and two days of training a new sales engineer put a crimp on the diet. But all told, I came out of the week down a pound, and once the over abundance of salt worked its way out, my blood pressure recovered nicely.

This weekend, I got into the spandex, on the bike, and put almost 54 miles on. It is getting challenging, as even leaving at 7:00AM, it is already 85F, and rising to mid 90’s before I get back at 9:00AM. Next week, I will need to pull the Camelback out of its hidey-hole, and load it up.  The water bottles are no longer enough to keep me hydrated.

I am down to 215#, 25#’s to go to get to my target of 190.

(This afternoon, it is almost 112F.  It is safe to say that the ice broke on the Salt River.)