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2013 ING NYC Marathon Recap.

The NYC Marathon was all that I expected and more.  I had heard about the crowds and the noise level and the massive amounts of runners but you really can’t prepare for that unless you have experienced it.  2 Millions plus spectators who are loud and cheering for you like you are Derek Jeter.  Every recreational athlete should get to experience that at some point in their lives.

Race Day:

My alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. but I shot awake at 3:30.  I was quite anxious for the day to begin.  Every meticulous detail was pre-planned from what I was going to eat to how I was going to put on my layered clothes to prepare for the waiting outside at Fort Wadsworth.  Shower; Check.  Water; Check. Body Glide; Check. I got my cup of coffee and had my oatmeal and hit the road to meet my ride to Met Life Stadium. Getting to Met Life was a breeze at 4:45 in the morning.  There were hundreds of buses lined up ready to roll.  As we got on the bus I expected a fairly short drive but instead it took us an hour and a half.  The traffic getting near the Verrazano bridge was stand still.  It was tough sitting down for that long but we were going to have to wait around anyway so I reasoned that it was better on a warm bus than out in the cold.  When we got there the security presence was heavy.  Metal Detectors and wands were used. Bib numbers had to be shown to anyone who asked and several people asked.  Sleeping bags and even garbage bags which people planned on using to keep warm or to sit on were confiscated.  When we actually got to Fort Wadsworth.  The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation.  They provided coffee, water, gatorade, and bagels.  I decided to have a bagel around 8:30 because it had now been 3 hours since I ate my oatmeal.  There were people everywhere.  I didn’t know at the time but they later announced a record number of runners.  Over 50,000 would line up to attempt this year’s NYC Marathon.  Most just sitting down, trying to rest as much as possible.  Many waiting in the lines for the bathroom no doubt a combination of drinking water, sitting out in the cold, and just nervous energy.  There were people from so many other countries wearing their county’s colors proudly.  I noticed France, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Canada, and Germany just to name a few.

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I tried seeking out people who had run NYC before to get some tips on how to manage the day.  The Ford Wadsworth part of the day was like Christmas Eve as a kid.  You just know something amazing is about to happen and you can feel it in the air.  Finally at 9:00 they called wave 2 to the corals.

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Once inside the corrals the nerves started to come.  Last minute bathroom breaks because we were less than an hour from starting the world’s greatest race.  Now was also the time to shed the layers of clothes I had on over my race outfit.  It was a cold day and the wind was harsh at times but to be honest I am not sure if I noticed at the time.  I kept my hat and gloves on for the first part of the race only to shed them around mile 5.  As we made our way towards the base of the Verazano for the first time I really got a sense of how massive this was.  TV Cameras were everywhere and there was a stage set up where Mayor Bloomberg had just wished all of the runners good luck.  Someone sang God Bless America and did a great job but I have no idea who. Then before I knew it The cannon fired and Frank Sinatra Sang New York New York.

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The first mile was up hill to the crest of the Verazano Bridge.  You really couldn’t open up too much because the see of people around you.  On the sides of the bridge two NYPD choppers hovered what seemed like 15 feet away.  Everywhere you looked left, right, front, or back there were runners.  It somehow worked.  They start you based on your predicted finishing time so most of the people round you should run at around the same pace as you.  When you look at the overhead shots of the bridge you think you would feel claustrophobic but that really wasn’t the case.

Brooklyn was my favorite part of the race.  Everyone talked about First Ave but Brooklyn was unique in so many ways.  The energy was super high and the people were enthusiastic throughout. Each section had it’s own flavor and made the long trek through Brooklyn lots of fun.  There were DJ’s and bands and MC’s keeping the crowd going.  One of the best tips I received was to write my name somewhere on my body because other runners and people along the route would shout out, “Keep going Joe” , or “nice job Joe.”  Some of my favorite signs that people had were the girl with a Friday Night Lights Jersey holding the sign that said Clear Eyes Full Hearts, the popular catch phrase from the TV show.  Another guy had a sign that said Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.  Run now, Beer Later was another one that I liked seeing.  Brooklyn for me was the highlight of the race.   It was still early enough where I felt good and I was cruising on adrenaline.  The only downside was the strong winds mostly in my face which at the time I didn’t pay attention to but the combination of my adrenaline and the winds would maybe come back to haunt me later on.

The second half of the race started as you crossed the Queensboro Bridge onto First Ave in Manhattan.   The Queensboro was quiet and the first half was uphill until you crested and then started down onto the street.  When I made the left onto First Ave you could see all of the people lining the streets.  It was not quite as loud as I was told it would be but certainly First Ave had the most spectators.  They were holding signs and ringing cow bells and just cheering for their family and friends and even people they don’t know.  The marathon is a day where all the good it seems comes out in people.  Yes their are the elite runners with their tiny bodies running superhuman times.  To me the marathon is about the 99% of the runners who go into the day knowing they have no chance of winning.

Around Mile 18 is when things started to go down hill for me.  I started to feel a slight twinge in my hamstrings.  I knew if I continued to stride like I wanted to I might cramp up.  I have never felt that in my hamstrings while running.  Usually it was my calves or my hip but this was real.  I made a conscious effort to slow myself down and decrease my stride in order to not blow out my hamstring.  The shorter strides make for more ground time and more force being pounded into your legs.  By mile 20 it was over for me.   I was shot.  I had hit the wall.  This was not my first marathon but I had never felt anything like this.  I struggled slowly from 20-23.  I hardly even remember going through the Bronx and up into Harlem.  By the time we crossed back into Manhattan and into Central Park I felt as if I was going to die.  Every part of my legs were failing me.  My calves, my hips, my quads had seemed to take over for my previously ailing hamstrings.  Miles 23-26.2 were a slow crawl at best.  I even walked.  I walked and ran back and forth through Central park.  Each time I stopped I wanted to cry because I could see 3:45 slipping away but more than I just wanted it to be done.  The marathon had beat me.  My previous marathons I didn’t walk at all.  Now I was walking through water stops and even in between.  People were passing me left and write.  Having Joe written on my shirt helped me in the beginning but now I didn’t want people to know my name.  Other runners were trying to encourage me.  “Almost there Joe”.  Spectators were trying to help me but it was of no use.  I just could not make myself run.

The goal was 3:45.  8 minutes and 35 seconds a mile.  I can do that.  Maybe go 8:15 because I would slow down later on but still doable.  But something inside of me just says go as fast as you can. Looking back I am not sure if it was the wind in my face or my too fast pace but I crashed and I crashed hard. My first 10 miles were about a 7:40 pace.  I just didn’t trust myself and my training to slow down.  For some reasons I always have in the back of my mind that no matter how slow I go in the beginning I will still hit that wall later on so why not go fast now.  I should know better than that.  For someone reason I just can’t seem to make myself do it.

MILE TIME CHANGE AVG PACE
1
8:51 8’51″/mi
2
16:40 – 1:02 (11%) 7’49″/mi
3
24:36 + 0:07 (-2%) 7’56″/mi
4
32:11 – 0:21 (4%) 7’35″/mi
5
39:42 – 0:04 (0%) 7’31″/mi
6
*Fastest
47:05 – 0:08 (1%) 7’23″/mi
7
54:41 + 0:13 (-3%) 7’36″/mi
8
1:02:26 + 0:09 (-2%) 7’45″/mi
9
1:10:17 + 0:06 (-2%) 7’51″/mi
10
1:18:12 + 0:04 (-1%) 7’55″/mi
11
1:26:23 + 0:16 (-4%) 8’11″/mi
12
1:34:24 – 0:10 (2%) 8’01″/mi
13
1:42:35 + 0:10 (-3%) 8’11″/mi
14
1:51:03 + 0:17 (-4%) 8’28″/mi
15
1:59:27 – 0:04 (0%) 8’24″/mi
16
2:09:35 + 1:44 (-21%) 10’08″/mi
17
2:17:16 – 2:27 (24%) 7’41″/mi
18
2:25:53 + 0:56 (-13%) 8’37″/mi
19
2:34:44 + 0:14 (-3%) 8’51″/mi
20
2:43:59 + 0:24 (-5%) 9’15″/mi
21
2:53:07 – 0:07 (1%) 9’08″/mi
22
3:02:46 + 0:31 (-6%) 9’39″/mi
23
3:13:01 + 0:36 (-7%) 10’15″/mi
24
3:24:58 + 1:42 (-17%) 11’57″/mi
25
3:36:04 – 0:51 (7%) 11’06″/mi
26
3:47:25 + 0:15 (-3%) 11’21″/mi

Those last three miles were the most painful thing I have ever done in my life.  Not just physically but emotionally I was beaten.  I wish I could say I picked it up and crossed the finish line feeling great but I limped across that finish line.  Yes, in the video I put my hands up but to be honest I was just happy it was over.  I was shocked to see that I actually had PR’d.  I had beaten my previous best marathon by more than 2 minutes.  I said that I was done with marathons after this one and at the finishing line I was sticking to that for sure.  It was pure torture.  It wasn’t until today when I read a NY Times article that I was able to get some perspective on the whole thing.  They interviewed a guy by the name of Greg Cass. He is a very good but sub elite runner.

“That is both the gift and the curse of the marathon,” Cass said. “When you finally get it right, it’s the product of 30 variables that you have maybe 50 percent control of. When you get it wrong, you try to analyze all 30 of those variables. It’s nearly impossible to figure out exactly what went wrong and how to make it better next time. But that’s the goal. To take a look at what happened and go back to the drawing board. And, if it’s in the cards, to give it another go.”

If you told me 5 years ago that I would have run 3 marathons I would have never believed you.  That is the magic of the NYC Marathon.  99% of the people running have no chance of winning. It is only you against yourself and everyone wins.  Just by starting the race and doing the training and having the courage to finish was I able to see myself do something so amazing.  Am I really done with marathons?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just chasing something that will never happen which is the perfect race.  I am definitely not running one next year. I want to tackle some shorter races and try to get faster.  Maybe I will do some obstacle races because those seem like a lot of fun.  I want to throw myself into CrossFit a little more and see where that leads me.  I plan to get on that as soon as I can walk again.  One thing is for sure that for the rest of my life I can tell people that I ran the NYC Marathon.

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Spartan Race World Championship

We are seeing the race world evolve in front of our eyes. For years there were 5k’s, half marathons, and marathons to test our endurance and stamina.  But why are people putting in hours at the gym just to see the benefits go to waste.  Yes some of us work out for aesthetics but that can only take you so far or motivate you to do so much.  Some of us work out to feel accomplished and to feel able.  We are able to lift things.  We are able to climb things.  We are able to throw things.  We are able to prove our endurance at the same time as proving our strength and at the same time as proving our mental toughness.  The reality is running for 4 hours straight is not a useful skill that we can use.  In real life you will need endurance, strength, stamina, and the ability to use your body in every way possible.  If the shit hits the fan so to speak and the zombie apocalypse is upon us obstacle races are your battle field.  Ok so maybe the zombie apocalypse is a stretch but if you want something awesome and badass to train for to get a feeling of accomplishment like you have never had before start training for a Spartan Race today.

 

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Many of you know that I started doing Crossfit almost a year ago.  Crossfit defines itself as High Intensity, Constantly varied, Functional movements.  Basically there are no single joint isolated movements.  Instead of machines your body is the machine.  This is how our bodies move in the real world.  Never in life will you have to extend your knee without also extending your hip. Our bodies move as a unit and not as a series of isolated muscular contractions.  The Spartan Race is Crossfit brought to life.  Taking all the skills and improvements that you have made from Crosffit and utilizing it in an obstacle course setting.  If you want to add motivation to your workouts try signing up for a Spartan Race.  I would suggest doing it with a group of friends.  Many Spartans work together as teams to get through the course.  If Crossfit is the sport of fitness than a Spartan Race is it’s proving grounds.  Yes Crossfit has the Crossfit games but that is the elite of the elite.  Anyone can sign up for a Spartan Race and really see what you are made of.  From the average Joe to Navy Seals there is a Spartan Race for you.

The Spartan race was voted the # 1 obstacle race by Outside magazine. In a Spartan Race you can expect running, rope climbs, crawling, tire flips, mud, ponds, mud, hills, scaling walls ala Ninja Warrior, mud, carrying sandbags, mud, inverted wall climbs, barbed wire, fire,mud, and just general cool shit.  It’s an adult playground to say the least.  For some people this sounds like hell on earth but for people like me this sounds like a day full of fun.  Where else can you challenge yourself to these extremes and put yourself in real world situations at the same time creating a bond with a group of friends that will last a lifetime.  There is a saying that those who suffer together bond together. CrossFit does that for a lot of people and so does the Spartan Race.   Get out of the gym and complete a Spartan Race with your buddies.  If any JerseyStrong subscribers are interested in doing a Spartan Race use this link to get a 15% discount http://bit.ly/spartanwarrior.

To see the Spartan race course in all it’s glory then tune in on December 7th on NBC sports to see the Spartan Race world championships.  This is the extreme version of what you and your buddies will be doing but many of the same obstacles but done at a ridiculous pace and with more severe consequences.  If you want to see some of the world’s most well rounded athletes doing crazy stunts while tackling a 14 mile course with elevations of 12,000 feet then tune in.  Watch with your friends or Crossfit buddies then sign up for your own race using the link above.  

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As an added bonus for JerseyStrong subscribers anyone who comments on this blog post will be entered into a raffle to receive a FREE entry into a Spartan Race in 2013-2014.  That is a 95.00 value for FREE just for commenting on this blog post.  I do ask that you also share this with any friends you think may be interested. Retweet it or e-mail it a friend and don’t forget to watch the World Championship Spartan Race on December 7th. 

 

Marathon training week 3

This was a strange week. First of all a heat wave hit NJ.

As you can see this heat wave was no joke. 95 degrees every day with high humidity. My strategy was pretty simple. Drink abnormal amounts of water all day long. Run at night usually around 7:00 p.m. When running I make sure I bring water with me. I love my handheld amphibian water bottle. It cradles my hand and I don’t feel like I am going to drop it. My other secret weapon is my cool towel. You may have seen this towel advertised on TV. You wet it, rinse it, then snap it and it cools around your neck. I just tucked it into my neck under my shirt and it was nice and cool on my neck.
For two of my runs on the hottest days I went to Loantaka Park which is a paved trail with a lot of tree cover. That kept me out of the sun. My times were pretty good considering the heat. I made a point to run flat routes this week. It also helped me that this was a scale back week. For my long run I scaled back after two weeks of progress. Last weekend I did 7 miles and this weekend only 5. What does everyone else do during a heat wave? Tell me in the comments.

Monday: Crossfit
Tuesday: 3 miles easy pace and 9 mile bike ride.
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 3 miles and Crossfit
Friday: 15 mile bike ride
Saturday: Off
Sunday: 5 miles

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My Top 10 posts of 2012

These are the articles that received the most views in 2012.  I always love getting feedback and seeing the number of  views  for my articles so keep it coming in 2013.  This year I had people from all over the country contact me about my articles. I am always humbled and honored that people take the time to search me out for advice about health and fitness.  JerseyStrong was viewed in 60 countries worldwide.  In the month of December my articles for Stack Media made me one of the top 10 most viewed on the platform.  I sincerely hope everyone has a HEALTHY and happy new year!

1.  Product review of the Nike Plus Sport Watch

2.  High School Strength Coach.  Necessity or Luxury?

3.  How to Gain 4 pounds of muscle in 10 days.

4.  How to Warm Up Like the Pros.

5.  2012 ING NYC Marathon.

6.  Things I eat.

7.  3 Step Approach Guaranteed to Build and Protect Shoulder Muscles.

8.  The Ripped Lower Ab workout. 

9.  What an Amateur Runner Thinks during a 20 Mile Training Run.  Warning.  Explicit Language.

10.  How Long can you build muscle.

Of course there are other articles that were not the most viewed out there in cyber land but I think you should still check them out.

Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon:  A Runner’s Viewpoint.

I was also featured in Men’s Health Magazine this past year so this article was probably the most viewed overall because it reached millions of people worldwide via Men’s Health Magazine.  I included the link in my blog post.  If you haven’t seen it yet check it out.  Image

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.

Spring break and weight loss

Being a teacher has many benefits.  One of the biggest is the vacation time.  This past week was our spring break.  The weather has been beautiful here in New Jersey.  Spring has definitely started early and it even looks like summer isn’t far behind.  Lots of people are going to start a last ditch effort to lose some weight in the next few months before the summer hits.  For those people I want to share my spring break as an example of how to lose weight and also what not to do.

In my ten days off I gained 4 pounds.  I worked out even more than I normally do when I am at work.  Here was my workout schedule:

Friday – lifted chest and triceps for 1 hour and 15 minutes

Saturday – ran 7 miles

Sunday – off Easter

Monday – ran 4 miles and lifted back and biceps for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Tuesday – ran 2 miles with a weighted vest.  Lifted abs and legs for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Wednesday – Spin class for 1 hour.  Lifted abs and arms for 1 hour.

Thursday – Olympic lifts and functional movements for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Friday – Off day

Saturday – Lifted Total body for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Sunday – Ran 5 miles fartlek.

According to my Nike Fuel I burned 14, 781 calories from April 9th to April 15th.  In comparison the previous week I burned 13,620 calories.  I was more active in my week off than I was in my “typical” week.  So how did I gain 4 pounds?

Diet Diet Diet.

If you follow my blog you know how I talk about how important diet is.  I am sure not many people workout like I do.  I have the luxury of being a physical education teacher and a personal trainer.  I have easy access to gyms at all times.  In a typical week I am pretty busy and go right from school to the gym to working out.  I often don’t get home or sit down until 8 p.m.  On spring break I was home more often.  Sitting around the house leads to boredom snacking.  I definitely indulged a little more than I normally do.  The excess calories led to 4 pounds and it doesn’t matter how many weights I lifted or how many miles I ran.

Anytime you see or read something saying that lifting a certain way or doing this workout will result in weight loss I am here to tell you that will never happen.  I am living proof.  Not just for my ten days of spring break but for years.  When I was 285 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week without question or without excuses.  I didn’t run like I do now because my 285 pound frame couldn’t support running.  That would be an injury waiting to happen.  I was however, very strong.  I could bench press 345 pounds but I was very overweight.

If you want to get toned, see your abs, lose weight, get ripped, get shredded and or any of these things you need to get your diet in order.  Doing ab exercises all day long by the thousands will not help you see your abs any better.  It will strengthen your ab muscles but unless you have a low percentage of body fat you not see them because of the layer of fat above the muscles.

So, if you want to lose weight for summer focus on your diet first and foremost.  Then once you reach your target weight try to build muscle.

Now go eat some lean protein and I have to try and lose those 4 pounds.

Things I eat

Maybe the most common question I get about my weight loss and healthy living is “what do you eat”?  This post is not going to be a long winded article explaining why I choose certain foods but just a list of things I eat. Let me start by saying that I try stay under 2200 calories a day during the week and I go above that on the weekends.I also am very active.  Basically I eat what I like.  I don’t force down foods that I don’t enjoy.  I just try to find healthier options that I do like.   Saturday is usually a cheat day where I can eat whatever I want.  Then on Sundays I usually eat light until dinner time.  Of course this all depends on what the scale says on Saturday morning.        I use a website and a phone app called Fatsecret where I record my food and exercise.  I also “weigh in” every week and it graphs your weight over time so I can see how it has changed with my diet and exercise habits.  If I am at a certain weight then I can feel ok about my cheat days and if not I just make adjustments.  The other things that I concentrate on is getting at least 150 grams of protein a day.  That being said here the things I eat in no particular order.

Fage 0%

Chobain 0%

Dannon Lite and Fit yogurt

Eggs

Egg whites

Laughing cow cheese

Roasted peppers

Olives

Weight Watcher’s bread

Turkey breast

Mustard

Peanut Butter

Jelly

Oatmeal

Salsa

Dunkin Donuts.  Egg white flat breads and Ham Egg and cheese on a English Muffin

Coffee with splenda and low fat half and half

Chicken breast.

Vinegar Peppers

Subway oven roasted chicken with pickles, peppers, oil and  vinegar.  six inch double chicken no cheese

Tostitos Multi Grain chips and salsa

Frank’s red Hot sauce

Steak.

Amy’s frozen meals.  Enchiladas with Spanish Rice and Beans.

Soup.  any kind non creamy

Fiber One bars.

Thomas 100 calorie English Muffins

Butter

Sushi and Sashimi

Low sodium Soy sauce

Wasabi

Fruit.  Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, melon, pears, mango, blueberries, Bananas

Skim Milk

Peanut Butter

Jello Sugar Free

Jello Mousse Temptations

I eat the same thing over and and over until I get sick of it and then I will usually switch one of these things out for another but these are my staples of my “non cheats days”  As you can see I don’t think fat is the enemy.  I think Sugar and Bad carbs are the enemy.  If you don’t know a lot about nutrition I would suggest taking a look at Men’s health “Eat This Not That”.  I would also suggest keeping track of your diet and you begin to learn what groups things go into and also how many calories you are actually eating.

Trail Running

photo by Ann Lopez

photo by Ann Lopez

I love trail running with my dog Wrigley.  It is a great alternative to a road run which I do the rest of the year. It is also a great alternative to the gym.  A trail run works different muscles than a typical road run.  It provides a cross training benefit which can help keep you healthy instead of injury prone during a long running season.  When you hit the trails you are probably going to run at a slower pace than you would for a flat road run.  I typically run about 8 minutes a mile comfortably on the road.  On the trails that number can be anywhere from 10 minutes a mile or slower.  But because of the terrain you certainly don’t feel like you are taking it easy.  The major difference is your focus.  On a road run I can often wear headphones and just kind of zone out.   On the trails, you have to keep your eyes on the next step because of the tree roots, rocks, mud, or whatever other terrain can cause you to shift gears.  Mentally, you really have to concentrate on a trail run.  Sometimes on a downhill part its almost as if you are running put putting on the brakes at the same time.  You will have to lead with your heals in short choppy steps in order to prevent sliding down the hill on your backside.  If you can you should invest in a pair of trail running sneakers.  I use the Brooks Cascadia Cascadia 6.  Trail running shoes have a gritty sole that grips when you hit the trails on uncertain surfaces.  The bottoms of the shoes are not flat like road running shoes.  They also a bit heavier and sturdier than my road running shoes.  Just by switching sneakers once a week on a run that provides a great benefit to you feet and lower legs.  It will prevent stress fractures and overtraining injuries.

photo by Ann Lopez

Wrigley is an American Bulldog.  They are sensitive to heat because of their pushed in noses.  For her, I can’t bring her on a run unless it’s under about 58 degrees.  My trail running season usually starts about November 1st.  Once snow hits the trails and it is cold enough to stay then I am usually done for the winter because the snow leaves the trails too dangerous and too hard to stay on track.  In a typical year I trail run from November 1st until about Christmas.  Maybe I will get 8 weeks.  This winter has been so mild that I might get an entire season out of it.  In North Jersey we haven’t had any snow at all.  It’s been amazing for my trail runs.  Wrigley is a great running partner because she keeps me motivated.  She knows when the weekend is here because we sleep in a little longer.  When Saturday and Sunday morning comes and I walk downstairs in my running gear she gets pretty excited.  When the hat and the gloves go on then she gets really excited.  If I run out of the house without her she gets hysterical.  Wrigley had two knee surgeries in 10 months.  It is somewhat common for the breed type.  So last year she was not cleared to run.  After a slow rehab of just walking and then walking on hills she was finally cleared to return to running after about 9 months.  It was a half mile at first but this year I have done as much as 7 miles with her.  Generally we stay between 3 and 5 miles.  When we first started running I used to run her off leash.  We never had any problems and she would never run away or anything but I didn’t want to take a chance with her maybe running into another dog or a wild animal.  I recently found a leash that the human wears like a belt and it attaches to the dog’s collar with a bungee cord that provides a little stretch.  It also has a “fanny pack” that I wear under my shirt.  (Don’t worry). The brand name is OllyDog and you can get it at REI.  It  comes in super handy because I can carry treats for Wrigley which she is thankful and I can carry my phone for which my wife is thankful.

photo by Ann Lopez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this area we have quite a few trails options.  I love Lewis Morris Park in
Morristown.  http://www.morrisparks.net/aspparks/lmmain.asp.  It has several trails ranging from short to as much as 7 miles that loop around in circles.  If you live in Morris County go to MorrisParks.net.  If you are not local to NJ and you happen to have an IPhone.  Try this app by Nortface.  Trailhead.  It can help you find a local trail anywhere by you.  So next time you want to go for a run find a trail.  It will be a whole new experience and if you have a four legged friend bring her along too.  It’s a great bonding experience and it will keep you both physically healthy and mentally sharp.

photo by Ann Lopez