Category Archives: workout

Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon. A runner’s viewpoint.

It seems like it has been a long time since the NYC Marathon.  A lot has happened and a lot did happen over the two weeks before and after November 4th.  I am going to try to give you an idea of my emotions, thoughts, and opinions leading up to and after the race.

Monday October 29th.  “The night of the storm”

Monday night’s Hurricane Sandy was one of the craziest nights of my life.  I can’t even comprehend being anywhere near a class 2 or a class 3 hurricane.  Hurricane Sandy started as a class 1 hurricane and was actually downgraded before it hit land.  I have never in my life seen or heard wind like that.  The sound was frightening to say the least.  The wind started to pick up around 4 or 5 p.m. and continued throughout the evening.  At around 7 o’clock I got up to let my dog out before it got really bad outside.  I opened the French doors into the backyard and Wrigley stood there and gave me a look like what are you crazy.

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I then brought her to the front of the house where we have an overhang and she could go behind the bushes and underneath the overhang.  She quickly went and came back in.  As I was closing the door and giving her a treat for going to the bathroom outside there was a loud BANG and the lights went out.  After scrambling for a flashlight I made my way upstairs to do a quick scouting report and here is what I saw in our bedroom.

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That night we spent in the candle light worried about more damage and double checking that everything and everyone stayed safe throughout the storm.  I wish I could say that I got a good night’s sleep in but between the wind, the hole in my roof and being worried about the safety of staying in our house I didn’t sleep much at all.  We called the Fire Department and they came over in the middle of the Hurricane to make sure we were safe.  I was amazed at how brave they were just walking down the streets and shining flashlights on a dark street to find our house.  They surveyed the scene and informed us that there was no wire damage or any other damage other than the structural damage from the tree in the backyard which is now on the house and poking into our bedroom.  They gave us an option of staying in a shelter nearby.  We declined and the firemen left I am sure to help out plenty of other people affected by Hurricane Sandy.  That night the little sleep I did get was on the floor downstairs away from the potential of falling trees.  When we finally woke up at daylight we immediately went outside to surveyor our property and the neighborhood and just check out everything.   It was amazing the number of trees and wires that were down.  Driving around the roads were so damaged that you could hardly get anywhere.  Here is what my backyard looked like the next day.

ImageThe next day was spent checking on my family and moving sections of tree logs out to the street while the tree guys climbed and sectioned the huge tree off of the house.  The following week I didn’t work once. I was busy searching for emergency supplies, trying not to freeze without heat even when the nights dropped down into the 20’s.   The entire week was nothing but a blur.  To say that I was thinking about running a marathon would be a lie.  I had no contact with the outside world.  I had no Television.  We don’t get a newspaper delivered.  My only contact with the outside world was through twitter and facebook.  Around Wednesday I started thinking about the Marathon and social media only made my marathon week a nightmare.

When you are training for a sporting event the week of the event usually is crucial.  Maybe not physically but mentally.  The whole week is about getting yourself in the right place mentally to run 26.2 miles.  The plan was to get a lot of sleep and to be very strict with my diet.  The Hurricane ended those two plans very quickly.  I planned on doing a 3 mile run on Thursday followed by a 1 mile run on Saturday.  I was able to to my 3 mile run on Thursday but my body just felt terrible.  I was cold and I just could not warm up.  I felt like I had lost all my athletic ability.  My diet was out of my routine and I was starting to worry about putting on some weight before the race.  At this point I really had no idea what was going on in NYC or anywhere to be honest with you.  When I eventually started looking at twitter and following the search NYC Marathon I quickly learned that things were not ok in parts of New York City.  One of the first things that I saw was Mayor Bloomberg announcing that the marathon would go on.  Then the president of the NYRR talked about how the course was not effected at all and the race would go on as planned.  They said that there would be some changes to the schedule leading up the marathon with a few events being canceled.  Mayor Bloomberg even said that he expected almost all of NYC to have power by Sunday.  That was the only thing that I knew about NYC and the Hurricane.  To be honest I was a bit surprised that the Marathon was expected to go on as normal but listening to the press conferences it seemed as if there was not much  to effect the race.  I didn’t exactly feel like I was primed for the race but as far as I knew at that point the race was on so I needed to get ready quickly.

From that point on Twitter exploded with negativity and misinformation that  that I have never seen for any event before.  First of all let me start by saying I thought the marathon should have been canceled.  After it wasn’t and the reasons were given I thought ok it’s on and I am going to run.  Mayor Bloomberg and the NYRR’s said that they expected everything to be as close to normal as you can get.  Let me say that I think Twitter is a great thing.  It can give voice to a group of people against a corporation who otherwise does not care what one individual thinks negatively about their business.  If an insurance company rips off a customer in the past that customer could complain and no one would care.  Now, if enough people Tweet to that company directly it will effect their public relations and the company does have to respond because it can effect their bottom line.  In this case I have no doubt in my mind that Twitter shut down the NYC Marathon with 47,000 runners and 4 million spectators.  Whether or not that was the correct thing to do is up to your opinion.  I think it was the correct thing to do. I think the race should have been canceled earlier than it was.  What bothered me was the reaction and the negativity and the mis-information about the race.  People from Minnesota were talking about how runners were going to be running past dead bodies during the race.  People from Chicago were saying that public transportation was being used when in fact the NYRR had said that they hired private transportation to shuttle runners to the starting line.  Others were talking about throwing things at the runners because the runners were being so selfish for running a race that brings 350 million dollars into the city and keeps business profitable that just spent a week with no business whatsoever.  There were literally thousand of tweets per second regarding the NYC Marathon with 9 out of every 10 being negative.  Some people were saying that the runners should run right to Staten Island and help the people in need (which they did) after the marathon was canceled.  Meanwhile 98% of the people I am sure did little on their own to raise money or to physically help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy.   This type of Fake Outrage is what makes Social Media a potential negative because misinformation becomes fact very quickly and it just snowballs until someone responds to the mob’s demands.  Fake outrage is so easy when all you have to do is write a 140 character tweet.  If you had to actually leaver your computer and do something then there would be less outrage.  The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that people were complaining about food, water, and resources being used for the marathon instead of going to people in need.  This seems like a valid complaint which I agree with .  What bothered me was that the Knicks played to a sold out Madison Square Garden that same weekend.  They played on Friday night.  Forget about waiting until Sunday for everything to clear up.  Not one tweet about resources being wasted at Madison Square Garden that night.  On Sunday the New York Football Giants played at home.  The stadium was full and there were ambulances, police officers, food, EMT’s, and plenty of other “resources”  being wasted on the same day that the marathon was supposed to be run.  They even held a pre-game ceremony with “first responders” to honor them and their service.  Why were they there for a glorified parade which many people called the marathon.  Shouldn’t the same people who were so active on Twitter have been outraged about the Giants game.  Again, this is all fake outrage.  It is so easy to click Like on your Facebook or to retweet something without even checking the source.  Social Media shut down the NYC Marathon.

After nearly a week of reading this reaction on twitter I was so stressed out with what to do about the race. I had spent months training for this marathon and did I really want to waste all that training.  On the other side did I want to run if the race and the media was totally negative about the race.  A marathon is supposed to a positive experience.  A symbol of mental toughness and the ability to overcome any obstacle.  I wanted the full NYC Marathon experience where you come off of the bridge on First Ave to a roaring crowd and a wave of positive energy.  Did I really want to run a marathon under these conditions.  Everyone of my friends who I asked for their advice had said that I should do it and don’t listen to all the chatter but many of my Facebook friends also liked a status that said cancel the NYC marathon. It was probably one of the most stressful weeks in my life.  This was supposed to be my second marathon for the second year in a row.  I had said that this would be it for a while.  If I deferred that means I would have to do marathon training for three consecutive years because this year I did everything but the race.  Who knows what next year might bring?  I could get injured or I could just lose the motivation and the desire to compete with my previous best.  At this point I was honestly torn.  On Friday might after a horrible week in which a tree fell on my house and I had no power and all I had read online was that  marathon runners were selfish and spoiled.  Friday night I was 90% sure that I was going to defer to next year.

A lof of friends offered their condolences when the race was canceled and I think they expected me to be more upset about it.  My response to them was the same.  I was glad that the decision was taken out of my hands. My mood immediately changed and it was as if a huge weight was removed from my shoulders.  I have always been a guy who enjoyed the process of building up to an event.  I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with credit or praise.  When I was coaching baseball I enjoyed the practices much more than I did the games although my teams always had good records.  When I was a player and I pitched a good game I would usually not want to emphasize the good performance but instead think about the next day’s practice.  I have now completed training for two marathons and that experience in invaluable.  Don’t get me wrong I loved the feeling of finishing a race and I did have a time goal in mind for New York.  I was not just looking to finish.  If the NYRR allow me to compete again next year I am going to be there the first Sunday in November and hopefully feeling the wave of positivity entering onto First Ave about to finish my third marathon.

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What an Amateur Runner Thinks During a 20 Mile Training Run. Warning: Explicit Language.

Mile 1: “My heart is racing. Do I need to slow down? No, this is my pace. Just relax and I’ll settle in.”

Mile 2: “I’m going a little fast. I should slow down. I don’t want to run out of gas in the end. Well, maybe I should keep up this pace while I am fresh. Either way my last few miles are going to be slower. Maybe I’ll just split the difference and run a little faster than my race pace.”

Miles 3-4: “This is easy I can do this all day. No problem. These new sneakers feel great.” (Rosalita, jump a little higher Senorita, come sit by my fire I just want to be your lover, ain’t no liar Rosalita, you’re my stone desire)

Mile 5: “My hip feels a little tight. I hope it doesn’t get worse. What am I going to wear to the marathon? If it’s cold I guess long sleeve T-Shirt and shorts. What if it’s really cold? I guess I have to wait until the week of. When I get back from my college reunion I can start thinking about the logistics of the race.”

Mile 6: Another runner approaches. Look at this guy. I am so much better than him.” Give a wave.

Mile 7: “I can’t wait for next weekend. My reunion is going to be so much fun. I haven’t seen Blair in a while. I wonder who else will be there? I have to try my best to not get too drunk or eat too much while I am there. I don’t want to ruin the marathon with one bad weekend. I am supposed to run 12 miles that weekend. How the hell am I going to do that? What places do I need to show Ann? She’s never been there. I guess just show her around campus and around town. Not much there. “When should I take my first energy Gu? I feel fine now. Maybe 10 and 17. Ann is making Chili for dinner. I can’t wait for that. I love Sunday dinners. I hope she makes Brownies. The ones with the spicy cayenne are so fucking good with vanilla ice cream. I am going to have 3 beers with dinner and finish the week off with an Irish Coffee. I deserve it. I am probably going to burn 3000 calories today.

Mile 8-9: Zone out. Silence for 2 miles and then. “Shit I slowed down quite a bit. Quick body scan. My hip feels a little tight. am I babying it? I don’t think so. I should be fine. My Right hamstring is really tight. Probably because of my hip. Fuck. Why did I slow down? I wasn’t paying attention. Maybe I need my first Gu now. Wow Mint Chocolate is not bad.” ( But now you’re sad, your mama’s mad And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money Your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money Oh, your daddy says he knows that I don’t have any money Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
‘Cause a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance)

Mile 10: Approaching my mom’s house. “Halfway. I need to refill my water.” Say Hi to everyone and quickly head out. “The longer I stop the harder this will be. I just need to get this over with”

Mile 11: “Ok Halfway. That wasn’t too bad. Just do it again.”

Miles 12-13: Approaching Madison High School. “Madison is really good at football this year. I wonder how they would do against a bigger school? I think PJ vs Madison would be a close game. I don’t think Madison could beat Delbarton. I wonder how many kids on Delbarton’s team are from Madison? They have to have at least a few. What if all the skill player’s from Madison were at Delbarton? Then they would be really good. That kid Goodwin is going to Rutgers. Why is he at Madison playing shitty competition? I am sure a few of the privates tried to get him to transfer. Delbarton is going to beat Pj I think.”

Mile 14: Zone out until Jeep Wrangler passes. That is nice. I can’t wait until my lease is up. I think I like the Jeep. Damn my Hamstring is really tight.” Stop at red light and wait for cars to pass ” Holy shit my knee kind of hurts. All on my right side. Probably has to do with my hip. I hate having to stop in the middle of a run.”

Mile 15: Girl on a bike passes me. “Fuck her. She has wheels that’s why she passed me. Try running. Biking is so easy.” UpHill. “Ugh I have to run uphill now after 15 miles. I guess the marathon won’t be flat. Just suck it up you pussy. Stop whining. This is why a marathon is a mental challenge instead of physical. Anyone physically can run a marathon. You just have to run a little more every time until you get to 26.2. Eventually you can do it. It’s a simple overload Top of Hill principle I ran two marathon because I am tougher than other people not because I am better.

Mile 16: Overweight Man running in sandals approaches “Look at this moron. He must have just read Born to Run. He’s going to have an injury within weeks. Time to take my next Gu. Wow Peanut butter is really good. I miss Peanut butter since I banned it from my diet. I was like an addict. I couldn’t stop eating it.” This Gu is really good. I think I’ll bring Peanut Butter to the marathon.”

Mile 17: “Come on I am so close. 3 miles is nothing. I think I have the beginnings of a blister on my foot. Damn that’s not good. I hope it’s not too bad. Maybe the new shoes or maybe I need new socks. Damn. What if that happens during the race? I guess just suck it up and finish. I should buy new socks.”

Mile 18: Runner passes me “Fuck her. She’s not that fast. She is probably running 2 or 3 miles. Does she know I am running 20? Maybe I should tell her. I probably look terrible right now. She probably thinks she is so much faster than me. I bet she has never run more than a 5k.”

Mile 19: “Oh boy. I am slowing down. Hold it together for 2 more miles. How am I going to do 7 more miles? I guess I did it before I can do it again. Maybe if I let this car hit me I can stop. No, that would be bad.”

Mile 20: “My legs feel numb. That can’t be good. Stop thinking negative you asshole! ” Just run. Car makes a sharp turn. “Oh what the fuck! That fucking dick. He couldn’t let me cross the street. Does he know that I am running 20 miles today? Figures that he drives a fucking BMW. What a prick. Ok quick body scan My right hip is sore. My right hamstring is really tight. I think I have a blister on my right big toe. My legs feel numb. My left kneecap sort of felt weird when I stopped. I wonder what that is about.”

Approaching Finish. you got this. you got this. Around the corner and I’m done. Wow. That was pretty good. Body scan again. everything feels ok. That wasn’t so bad. I can walk that is good. I bet I’ll be sore tomorrow. Who cares. That’s the last long training run. Now I can taper. 12 miles next weekend and then 8 and then the race. Shit I better not gain weight while I am tapering. Who cares? Time to shower up and get a Guiness. I love Sundays.”

High School Strength Coach. Necessity or Luxury?

We didn’t have strength coaches when I was a kid. That’s just a bunch of B.S. Why does every kid have a personal trainer? Why do schools need strength and conditioning coaches? I could maybe understand at the elite college level but High School? Are you kidding me? Well let me tell you:

1. When you were a kid you climbed trees.

2. When you were a kid you on the weekends you didn’t want to stay inside all day because that’s where the parents were. You wanted to go outside and be with your friends.

3. When you were a kid you didn’t have play dates, you just rode your bike over to your friends house and knocked on the door.

4. When you were a kid you played a sport even when coaches weren’t around to run practice.

5. When you were a kid you would occasionally get in a fight and no parents would ever be called.

6. When you were a kid you may have climbed over a fence or two.

7. When you were a kid video games just weren’t that good.

8. When you were a kid you played pickup games without referees or umpires.

9. When you were a kid you had playgrounds that were open to the public.

10. When you were a kid you had P.E. class every day.

11. When you were a kid getting hurt meant a broken bone.

12. When you were a kid you played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring.

13. When you were a kid meals at restaurants were 33% smaller.

14. When you were a kid you could do 5 pullups.

15. When you were a kid staying home was boring.

16. When you were a kid if you got cut from the team that didn’t mean you gave up athletics.

17. When you were a kid (depending on your age) girls didn’t work out.

18. When you were a kid you didn’t need the best equipment to try a sport.

19. When you were a kid you walked to school instead of having your parents drop you off and pick you up.

20. When you were a kid lacrosse was for non-athletic kids or you had never heard of it.

(Sorry. I had to throw that in there)

The fact of the matter is that today’s kids are so unprepared to play sports that they need a strength and conditioning coach. All of the physical strength and stamina that you would gain from your upbringing, today’s kids have none of it. Yes we all have accepted the fact that today’s athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster than your grandfather’s generation. What we also have to accept is that tendons, ligaments, and soft tissue injuries are happening at a much greater rate than your grandfather’s generation. Kids tear ACL’s and sprain ankles. Kids are suffering from injuries as a direct result of their lack of physical activity growing up. ACL and meniscus tears are happening at an increasing rate of 11% over the past 15 years. When a kid plays a sport now he or she usually plays it year round. This is leading to over-use injuries. Because of the lack of physical activity as a youngster the child’s body is not equally balanced enough to withstand what they are currently being asked to do. Kids need to develop a more well-rounded physicality in order to stay injury free. They need to work on muscular imbalances and correct them. They need proper instruction on how to land in a correct position. This is something your generation might have just known from jumping over fences and out of trees but today’s girls are tearing up their knees at an alarming rate because they have no idea how to land correctly. A strength and conditioning coach will keep in mind the total athlete and not just train them as if they were college athletes or professional athletes. A strength and conditioning coach would have progressions starting with body weight exercise and functional exercise that your generation learned in a P.E. class. If you can’t do a pushup then you should try bench pressing. If you can’t perform a overhead squat without corrective measures than you shouldn’t be doing a clean and jerk.

Today’s High School athletes need a strength coach because of the way they were raised. It is a job that is out of necessity rather than luxury.

Top 10 IPhone apps for health and fitness

10.  LifeTimes Fitness. If you belong to this “Globo gym” you just know.

9.  Running Pace Calculator.  Want to figure out how fast you have to run to do a 2 hour half marathon?  This it it.

8.  Healthy Grocery List.  Find better options in your super market

7.  Men’s health urbanathalon.  Training for the race or just want a killer workout. Try this.

6.  Runner’s World Smart Coach.  This guided me through my first marathon.

5.  Fooducate.  This is the best option to scan your groceries and see if they are really healthy or have misleading labels.

4.  Nike + running.  If you use Nike products this tracks runs and gives you a personalized homepage with graphs and charts.

3.  Hal Hidgon Marathon training.  This is what I am currently following for the 2012 ING NYC Marathon

2.  Nike fuelband.  Syncs through bluetooth so you can know exactly how active you are each day.

1.  MyFitnessPal.  Track your daily eating habits and you are 100% more likely to lose weight.

T minus 2 months until the ING NYC Marathon

November 4th is less than 2 months away so I thought I would share my progress so far.  In order to properly explain what I have been doing I have to go back to last winter.  For those of you who remember it was an unusually mild winter here in New Jersey.  We go next to no snow and therefore I was able to run the entire winter.  Normally I take about 2 months off because of my distain for the treadmill.  Take a look at my 2012 running chart thus far.

http://nikeplus.nike.com/plus/activity/running/llopesl55/year/2012#graph

Because of that I decided that I need to take 2 weeks off in the beginning of June to kind of recover and regenerate for the upcoming marathon training.

Coincidentally enough my wife and I took a trip to San Francisco.  I saw a lot of runners out there and the weather was beautiful for a run however, I resisted and took the entire trip off.  Not to say that I didn”t get any physical activity.

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I managed to squeeze in a few bike rides and check out the scenery that way.

For those of you who know I am a teacher full time so being off for the summer has allowed me to train for these fall runs.  I typically train extremely hard during the summer.  I often would work out twice a day with a run and a lift.  My typical summer week looked like this.

Monday:  Lift chest triceps.  Sprint workout.  1.5 mile warmup  2 400’s 4 200’s 8 100’s.  1.5 mile cool down

Tuesday:  Lift Back and biceps.  LifeTime Fitness Run club.  Usually anywhere from 3-6 miles.

Wednesday.  Lift abs, lower back, and shoulders. Occasionally hit the Morristown Running store run club for a 5 miles run.

Thursday.  Lift Legs / functional training.

Friday.  Off day or just stretch and foam roll with a little core work.

Saturday.  Morristown Run club.  5 miles.

Sunday.  Long run.  started at 6 and worked my way up to 13 by the the end of the summer.

That was my typical week from June 20th until August 28th.

I was loosely following a Hal Higden marathon training plan.  This plan allows 2 weeks of progress with every third week as a scale back week. One of the things that I did this summer that I have never done before is run of tired legs.  Partially because I wanted to make an effort to go to the two run clubs whenever I could and also I think it will help me down the road.  I have always avoided running on consecutive days.  My thoughts were that at 190 pounds I am big for a distance runner.  In the past I have always done 3 runs a week with at least a day off in between.  With that workout plan that I just mentioned I ran on 4 consecutive days for 2 months.  I had a slight anterior knee pain on one side but that went away.  I had some issues with cramping in my calves but no more than usual.  Now that I am in my longer runs and that I am back to work full time I am scaling it back to 3 runs a week. The exception is on my scale back weeks where I will add a 4th run for that week.  Hopefully as I get closer to the marathon my legs will feel light and refreshed from all those back to back days early on.

Here is my workout plan for the next 2 months until race day.  It is a little lighter than suggested especially during the week but I am hoping that the back to back sessions plus going a little more early on will get me to the finish line.  From this point on I will also scale back my lifting sessions to only twice a week with total body workouts each day.  I will add a third day where I will do core, stretching, and foam rolling as well.  I will eliminate all lifting of legs with the exception of during those scale back weeks and once I start to taper I will discontinue lifting of legs altogether.

Sept 10th:  4  miles fartlek  , 5 miles easy, 16 miles long

Sept 17th:  4 miles fartlek, 5 miles easy, 3 miles easy, 12 miles long (scale back)

Sept 24th:  4 miles fartlek, 5 miles easy, 18 miles long

Oct 1st:     5 miles fartlek, 5 miles easy,  3 miles easy, 14 miles long (scale back)

Oct 8th:   5 miles fartlek,   5 miles easy, 20 Miles long

Oct 15th:  Taper begins. 5 miles easy,   5 miles easy, 12 miles long

Oct 22nd:  4 miles easy, 5 miles easy, 8 miles long

Oct 29th:  3 miles easy, 5 miles easy, Marathon.

With perfect weather and everything going my way my goal is 3:50.  That is an average of 8:47 a mile without setback.  I would be fine with anything under 4:05.   2 months is a long time so a lot can happen between now and then.  I am sure that I have to deviate from this plan slightly because of one thing or another but that is where I have been and where I am headed.  November 4th 2012.

Product Review: Nike plus sport watch

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Nike plus watch sponsored by TomTom. I have been using the Nike plus platform for almost 4 years with relatively little problem.  As a runner I enjoy being able to track my progress.  The Nike watch is a good looking watch that you can wear with any athletic gear and not look out of place.  It allows you to check your running history and running record with the touch of a button.  This is a great motivating tool because it forces you to always think about how you can improve your running habits.  Each run has a date, per mile pace, calories burned, and lap times which can be configured in your settings.  I choose to break down my runs into mile intervals.  This allows me to see if I went out too fast on a 10 mile run or if I need to adjust my splits on a 5k.

When running the watch has a GPS feature which creates maps, and tracks elevation on your run.The GPS can be a little time consuming to “link”. They do have a quickstart button if you don’t like to wait around or if you are running with a group of people you can choose not to use the GPS feature.  I have done this when the GPS doesn’t link but if I have the watch I want to use all of it’s features. Without GPS you can still see pace and distance just not your route.  You can see pace charts directly over elevation charts and see correlation in your runs.  As soon as you are finished simply unhook the watch band and plug the USB into any computer.  This will automatically bring up the Nike plus site where you can sign and see your personal running website.  Here you can set goals, see trends, and even form social media connections with other Nike plus users.  The site also automatically posts to Facebook or Twitter so you can annoy all of your friends and show them when you go on a run while they sit on their couches and watch TV.

The one negative would have to be the Nike site which occasionally has issues with being too slow and clumsy.  Although since they updated it this past summer it has been much improved.  I guess when you are dealing with a global company like Nike the overall traffic volume just jams up the site.

The Nike watch sells for $169.00 in stores.  If running and technology is your thing then I would definitely recommend it.

Random thoughts from a weight loss journey.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about the problem of belly fat versus fat that is collected in other areas of the body.  Belly fat is a more serious indicator of a potential health problem down the road.   Heart disease and stroke being the number one risk from fat around the abdomen.  The U.S. Army has even included waist circumference as a measure to predict healthy potential soldiers.  The used to use BMI and body fat percentage solely.

Now, how do you specifically target belly fat.  The standard answer that a lot of personal trainers will give you is that you can’t spot reduce fat.  For example, if you have fat around your bicep than doing curls will not get rid of bicep fat.  But, there is some good news for people who worry about this excess fat around the abdomen.  If you read my blog you know that I am a runner.  I am running the ING NYC Marathon this fall.  I have also said that distance running is not a way to reduce body fat.  Instead to reduce body fat high intensity sprints and power exercise such as full body olympic movements will help torch body fat.  Well here is where it gets complicated.  A recent Duke University study focused on cardio endurance training vs high intensity resistance training and their responses to visceral belly fat in particular.  Visceral fat is the fat that sits deeper in your belly.  It surrounds your organs and is much tougher to get rid of than subcutanous fat which is more superficial and lies just under your skin.  The Duke study found that endurance training actually helped get rid of the visceral fat more so than high intensity training.  This is why you can sometimes see a runner who has a very “skinny frame” with a higher body fat percentage.  If you look at them in a sweater you might say they are really skinny.  However, if you asked them to take their shirt off you might see some belly fat.  However, because their belly fat is that subcutaneous fat they are not at risk for heart disease etc.  Now. think of the olympic weightlifter with a huge belly.  This guy is powerful but he has the classic “beer belly” look.  He is at risk for a heart attack much more than the runner.

So, what does this mean for you.  If long term health is your goal.  I would try to amp up your cardio.  When I began running I could barely run a mile.  It’s just classic overload principal.  Start slowly and add on a little at a time.  Maybe add 10% a week at the most.  When you first start don’t worry about distance just run for a time.  Say 10 minutes at first.  Then the next week 11 minutes.  A good way to keep you motivated would be to sign up for a 5K or a 10K a few months down the road.  These races are everywhere and they are a lot of fun with other people running alongside you.  If you currently work out 4 days a week then maybe do 2 cardio days and 2 weight training days.  When I was 290 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week and lifted weights.  I could bench press 340 pounds.    But to work on that overall health and reduce fat you need to focus on diet and add cardio.  Keep in mind however that I didn’t start running until after I lost 60 pounds or so.  Diet is the key to all of this.

Lastly, but probably the most important is diet.  When you are lifting weights you need protein to repair muscle tissue.  However, if you trying to lose weight then you have to worry about total calories.  I always say get to your ideal weight first then worry about shaping your body the way you want it.  I use a smart phone app.  There are a bunch out there.  Loseit, MYFitnessPal, or FatSecret are all good.  MyFitnessPal is my favorite.  If you don’t have a smart phone they also have a website.  Most people will tell you that eating at home is the best way to control weight because you can control the food that you prepare.  However, with these calories trackers you can look up the calories in a menu item at say subway or Dunkin Donuts and make better choices.

This may sound obvious  but many yo-yo dieters just don’t do this.  EAT FOODS YOU LIKE!  If you are chewing carrot sticks and you just hate them then how long do you think you are going to do that?  Find lower calorie options that you actually like to eat.  I can’t answer this for you but there has to be something out there that you enjoy that is not 1000 calories.  If you don’t do this then your diet will be temporary.  You want this to be a permanent change in the way you eat and not a diet.

Cheat Days are a must.  There are things that everyone loves that they just can’t have when restricting calories.  My cheat day is usually Saturday night and sometimes Sunday if I am training for a race.  I will usually have a few beers and dessert on Saturday nights along with dinner.

Don’t diet at special events.  Christmas is not a time to worry about your weight.  If you start to live this way you will always be aware of calories and what the calorie count is.  It will always be in the back of your head.  If you feel that you have control over your diet then go ahead because you can always get back to your routine.

It takes 14 days to create a habit.  I would recommend that when you start this new lifestyle that you are extremely strict for 2 weeks.  No cheat days for at least 2 weeks.  Your body will adjust and you won’t feel as hungry after two weeks.

Eat to not be hungry.  Don’t eat until you are full.  Think about this.  I am a foodie.  I love food but biologically we eat because we need energy.  Our bodies signal hunger.  Once that signal ends than we no longer need to eat.

Eat when your hungry.  If you are hungry Eat!  Usually just a small amount of food will actually end your hunger.

Successful dieters are boring.  They tend to eat the same things over and over again.  Because they know that it is something they like and they know the calories.  It makes it easy and convenient.

Finally, crate your own Eat This not That.  Men’s health popular program that lets you make small changes to your diet that will save you calories each time.  This was probably my number one weapon for weight loss.  For example,  I stop at Dunkin Donuts everyday after work.  I used to get an Iced Coffee and a muffin.  I go from work as a school teacher right to my personal trainer job and needed something to hold me over until dinner.  After learning that a muffin at Dunkin Donuts has 600 calories and a chocolate glazed donut has only 350. I switched to a donut.  How many weight loss guys will tell you to eat donuts!?  But I just saved myself 250 calories a day 5 days a week.  In three weeks if I did nothing else I would lose a pound right there.  After a few months of ordering glazed donuts I also like egg sandwiches.  The Ham, Egg, and Cheese, on an english muffin is 290 calories.  Bam!  I just saved 60 more calories a day.  3 months later they have an egg white flatbread turkey sausage sandwich.  That is 210 calories.  It is basically the same size and it fills me up just as much.  I just saved 80 more calories a day.  From my original muffin I am down 390 calories a day every day of the week.  My original daily snack when I started going to Dunkin Donuts was an iced coffee with cream and sugar and a muffin.  700 calories.  Now I get am Iced Coffee with Skim Milk and splenda and a bacon, egg, and cheese wrap.  for 215 calories.  I did not make all of these changes at once.  That is the key.  I changed one thing and when I got used to it I then changed another thing.  Think about your daily habits and how you can make small changes one at a time.

Coffee with no cream

No cheese on a sandwich.  (would you really miss it)  that’s 150 calories.

Mustard instead of Mayo

Diet soda instead of regular soda

Brown rice instead of white rice.

Weight watcher’s bread vs your regular bread.

Lite beer instead of regular beer.  etc

Find which swaps work best for you and remember choose one thing at a time.  All of these swaps for me took place over the course of several years.  If you tried it all at once then you would miss it too much because you are too close to your old habits.  Start with one swap and then let it become a habit.

Book Review. The Long Run

ImageThe Long Run is a book written by Charles Butler about a NYC fireman / fitness enthusiast named Matt Long.   Matt was one of the first responders during the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.  For a while his parents thought that he and his brother, also a firefighter, might have been missing.  He was on of the heroes after 9/11 who stayed day after day and helped search for the missing. He owned a few succesful bars in NYC the most well known is Third and Long.   After long nights at the bar, no pun intended, he was an avid runner, cyclist, and swimmer.  He considered running his passion.  The book begins with him running the NYC Marathon in the annual battle between the NYPD and the NYC Firefighters.  He finished 4th among all of the Firefighters and set his new personal record for the marathon.  In doing so he also qualified for the Boston Marathon which is an amazing feat.  Any recreational runner will tell you how hard that is.  Matt Long also ran the Lake Placid IronMan and planned on one day qualifying for The IronMan in Kona, Hawaii.

The book goes into great detail on his upbringing from a large family raised in New York.  The author does such a great job painting the picture of Matt as a family man and a firefighter than when his accident happens you really feel for him as if you know him personally.  He seems like the kind of guy who you want to have a beer with and just share some stories/

During the NYC Transit strike  in 2005 Matt was supposed to meet some buddies for an early morning workout.  Because of the strike he has no way to get across town and knew that he would never hear the end of it.  So despite it being Winter time he hopped on his bike and headed across town to meet his workout buddies.  On his way a city bus made an illegal turn from the wrong lane and without seeing Matt he crashed into his bike.  Matt was pinned underneath bleeding profusely with broken bones in his legs, hips, and shoulders.  He need almost 70 pints of blood just to keep him alive and the doctors told his family that he had a 5% chance to live and if he did live he would never walk again.

The book then follows his amazing recovery with something like 30 surgeries to follow.  The severe bouts of depression that follow and of course the moment almost 3 years later where he finally accepts that he will never be the person he once was.  The book even gets into the fact that he wasn’t married and his coming to grips with the fact that he now has serious doubts that he ever would be because of his disability that left him unable to have children.

If the book ended there it would be pretty depressing but the amazing recovery of Matt Long bring him from being completely immobile for almost 3 years to running the NYC Marathon again.  It was a roller coaster ride of a book and is a great read for any runner and any person who is suffering from a lack of motivation.  If Matt Long can run a marathon after the setbacks that he had than I honestly believe anything is possible.  It is a true case of mind over matter.  Matt’s mindset that made him a great athlete before his accident as the same determination that made him a Marathon finisher after the accident. This book was a great read for me and I highly recommend it for any weekend warriors like myself.

The Long Run can be found on Amazon.

2012 ING NYC Marathon

I ran the Baltimore Marathon just this past October so I wasn’t planning on entering another marathon so quickly.  I was going to focus on strength training and some shorter races.  My plan was a Warrior Dash in July, the Men’s health Urbanathalon in October, and maybe a few 5k’s sprinkled in.  However, when I watched the NYC Marathon last year it was pretty amazing.  So, I started doing some research online and finding out a lot about it.  Apparently they are making it harder and harder to get in.  Here are your options to be one of the 40,000 + runners.

Here is how you can apply for next year’s race.

Join a ING NYC Marathon pre-approved fundraising team.  I looked up Livestrong which sponsors a team.  I would need to raise 15,000 dollars for their charity to get in the race.  Although it’s a great cause I have 2 jobs so that wasn’t happening.

Get a professional exemption.  I don’t think my 3:57 time at Baltimore is quite up to par for “Pro” status.

Qualify by completing another approved race leading up to the ING NYC Marathon.  Ok, let’s look up the qualifying times.  New York Half Marathon for my age group.  1 hour and 23 minutes.  Yea not gonna happen.

Lastly you could enter your name in the lottery.  According to the website depending on how many applicants you have between a 6% and a 12% chance of getting accepted.  They do have a rule that if you get denied through the lottery for 3 consecutive years than you gain automatic enrollment the following year.    I decided I might as well pay the 7 bucks and enter my name and maybe 3 years from now I can do my next marathon.  (I recently found out that they are getting rid of the 3 year rule but I didn’t know at the time.)

I play the lottery pool at work all the time and have yet to win that lottery but somehow I won this lottery.  With about an 8% chance I am now running the 2012 ING NYC Marathon on November 4th.  Oh boy now I have to get my mind right to train all over again.  Here are my initial thoughts.

I never really stopped running after my last marathon.  I continued with my normal routine of trail running in the fall / winter and road running when the weather gets nice again in the spring.  NJ typically has bad winters with lots of snow for at least 2 months and I hate running on a treadmill so I usually take at least 2 months off during that time.  This year that never happened so I have been running non stop.  So, to avoid burnout and overtraining I am going to keep running until about June 10th and then take 2 straight weeks off.  During this time my wife and I are going on a vacation so that will work out perfectly anyway.

I still have that Warrior Dash in July but I had to postpone the Urbanatahalon because it is just too close to the marathon date.   In the mean time I am focusing more on speed training.  My runs are anywhere from 3-7 miles but I am trying to increase my pace to about 7 minutes a mile.  I am experimenting with lighter sneakers (Brooks PureFlow) but I don’t want to overdue it because I don’t want an injury.  I am not a typical 120 pounds marathoner.  I weigh about 190 pounds depending on the week.  I am also experimenting with a weighted vest for my shorter runs.  The Nike Sparq weighs about 12 pounds and I have been wearing it on shorter runs of 3 miles or less.  The last thing I have been doing is more fartlek type runs which I tend to neglect when my miles get longer and longer.

Once July hits I will start my official marathon training.  Last time I used Runners World Smart coach app on my phone which worked out great.  I did modify it slightly and I probably will again because I am in a running club that runs out of LifeTime gym in Florham Park.  So on those days I will just do whatever run is on the run coordinator’s schedule.  I enjoy having the appointment of meeting with the group at a certain time.  It keeps me motivated during the hot summer months.  The basic routine of the Smart Coach is 2 weeks of increasing mileage with one week of decreasing.  The beginning of the week are the shorter runs with speed work built in.  The weekend runs are the longest.  During training I will run 4 times a week until the mileage gets up past 12 then I will cut it down to 3 times a week.  I also intend to strength train all throughout the marathon training but less reps and no more than 70% of my 1RM.

With about 3 weeks to go before race day I intend to stop lifting legs all together and with 2 weeks to go I will taper my runs to keep the legs fresh for race day.

It’s always bough to set goals for a marathon because so many things can come into play or go wrong but as of right now I would like to finish around 3 hours and 50 minutes and set a new PR for that distance.  My goals os to be consistent all throughout the race and not have any outlier miles mixed in.  If you read my blog on the Baltimore Marathon I had that one mile which was over a 12 minute pace right as I crested the hill on mile 21 that really bothered me.  Image

So, ready or not I am running the 2012 ING NYC Marathon with about 43,000 other people.  As I get closer to race day I will let everyone know what I am wearing so you can play where’s Waldo on TV.

1 Rep Max

A strength coach can’t just assign sets and reps to his or her athletes. The coach should also mandate the load as well.  Anyone who has coached knows that a good coach can get his or her athletes to overpeform.  When left to their own accord athletes might not get that extra push.  Everything should be based off of a 1 rep. max and then the coach should assign a percentage of that max.  The core exercises can be 1 rep max tested but for the ancillary exercise you can estimate using charts like this.

http://www.nsca-lift.org/fly%20solo%20program/1%20RM%20Poundage%20Chart.pdf

For the sake of this article let’s say that we are training a High School football team starting in the off-season. You would try to create different workouts based on positions but in a High School that is often tough to do.  Players can switch positions quite often and many times their bodies are not developed enough to elicit much change in workouts types. Because you will be spending a lot of time on instruction in a High School setting it might be better off to create a uniform workout with the exception of the upper class-men who are more advanced in their training and have a clear position on the field.

On day number one I would test all my athletes in the squat, bench press, deadlift, and power clean.  Of course this all depends on previous experience.  If I felt a kid was not properly trained to perform these lifts then other precautions would have to be used.  However, for athletic performance let’s assume that the athletes have experience and can safely perform the exercises given.  If a kid is underdeveloped but has the lifting background then you could use a 3 rep. max to ensure safety.  For example, in a High School setting before an off season program you 1 rep max test the Juniors and Seniors.  However the freshman and Sophomores might not be able to handle the heavy loads and they could potentially injure themselves.  For the younger kids you would have to separate them into trained and untrained.  The untrained kids need to be taught biomechanics while the trained kids  can proceed to testing.

The ancillary exercises that I had mentioned might be things like a bent over row or  triceps extensions.  These exercises don’t need to be tested and can be assigned a number of sets and reps with instructions of when to progress and when to back off.  Remembering that not all training is linear.  Sometimes a recovery workout is the best workout.  If you continually increase the volume from week to week eventually gains will be compromised.

The further out from the season that lighter your 1 Rep max percentage can be.  For example if you are in a 8 week macro-cycle and this is week 1 you might start at 60% of that 1 rep max. The athletes should do 10-15 reps with no more than 30 seconds recovery.   Building up muscular endurance early on in the off-season will help the athletes to not burn out too quickly.  In weeks 3-5 you can increase towards more of a strength workout.   In a strength workout you would assign maybe 80-90% of the 1-rep. max.  During this phase the athletes might do 6-8 reps for multiple sets with full recovery in between sets.  In weeks 5-7 the athlete should adopt a power component to include lower reps.  They might do 3-5 reps at 70-80% of the 1 rep. max with again full recovery in between sets.  In the last week leading up to the season would be a good week to begin those recovery workouts that I previously mentioned.  In this week the athletes would begin to perform their maintenance workouts.  The intensity would decrease in order to prepare for the increased time spent with skill work in their respective coaches.  This would also be a good time to add plenty of foam rolling and flexibility work to help the body recover fully.

As you can see that 1 rep max determined the loads of the exercises which determined the volume for each athlete.  It is a vital factor to improve performance leading up to the season.