Olympic Triathlon Recap

Now that I’ve had some time to recover I wanted to take the opportunity to document my experience of completing my first Olympic distance triathlon. This was one of those items that has been on my “bucket list” since I first started taking an interest in triathlons 10 years ago. What has interested me about competing in triathlons has been that it is an endurance event that requires you to train multiple sports. In doing so, my thought process has been that you focus on different muscle groups to build strength and are more likely to reduce chances of injury due to the variety in training.

Being that this was a long term goal of mine, I started unofficially training for the event over a year ago by building my cardio up and formally training on a plan about six months ago. At first I started by making a commitment to getting better at each event and pushing the distance, as completing each stage was beyond my ability. I committed to training each event twice a week in addition to strength training. This averaged about 5-6 days a week of training with some days in which I would workout twice a day to fit everything in.

Over the last few months things really started to click. I gradually pushed the distance and pace for each event to the point where I was getting more confident in my ability to complete each event individually. The Olympic triathlon distance for each event is a 1.5 km (.93 mile) swim, 40 km (24.8 mile) bike, and a 10 k (6.2 mile) run. I started to break the training up into a shorter and longer session, where I would focus on speed for the short session and would complete the event distance or beyond for the longer sessions.

There were definitely some bumps in the road to being ready too. While I was able to avoid injury, I did end up losing three weeks to allergies which resulted in severe chest congestion and difficulty breathing. I tried to rest up but still pushed it at times I wasn’t fully healthy, which likely prolonged my illness. Lesson learned… hopefully. The other issue I ran into a was a logistical one, in which I only was able to open water swim on one occasion the week of the race, as with an early June event the water temperature was non-advisable such that hypothermia could set in. The irony was that the high temperature for June 10 the day of the event was 96 degrees. That threw me off as well for reasons I’ll get into later, but I just adjusted my plan to drink more water and slow the pace down.


So let’s get right into the race recap. That morning I got up early, 4 am like I do on any typical day. I had some nerves such that I didn’t have much of an appetite but I had my morning meal all planned out: oatmeal, yogurt, bananas, and a protein bar on the drive over. I arrived plenty early to get my packet and get everything set up. At 7 am the weather was still decent and the breeze helped to keep me cool as I waited in my wetsuit, which when you’re not in the water is basically a personal sauna.


The part that threw me off was I was mentally prepare for oncoming heat wave, but the heat was accompanied by sustained winds of 20 mph with 30+ mph wind gusts. So you can imagine what that does to a lake, turning a serene swim into a recreation of The Perfect Storm. I tried to practice swimming while I waited with all the other anxious competitors but struggled to stay afloat and establish a rhythm. Instead I decided that I needed to relax and made some small talk with some of the others, where I learned from the Course Director that “these were some of the most difficult conditions for a Minnesota triathlon event in years.” Nothing like a boost of confidence right?


As the swim started, I made it about three minutes before the panic started to sink in. Imagine lifting your head to take a breath only to be slammed back into the water as an oncoming wave hit you. I didn’t know if I was going to get air, water, or nothing at all when I tried to breathe. I’m not going to lie I definitely contemplated the possibility that if I didn’t get it together that I could drown. I then questioned why I would even try and I could just head in and move on to the next event. Ultimately, I thought of the hundreds of hours of training I’d put in and everyone that supported me in this process that there was no way I could give up. I needed to adapt and come up with another plan.

I started by being very deliberate about everything I was doing as I was now in survival mode and was committed to fighting. I made sure I was focused on getting deep breaths in and that I would be ok if I missed a few. At about 10 minutes in I caught out of the corner of my eye another competitor on his back doing the backstroke and realized that was going to be the key to my success. Nevermind I haven’t practiced backstroke in nine years, this was now my opportunity to really slow the heart rate down and stay afloat. I alternated backstroke and freestyle and progressed on. Another challenge was that there were only a handful of buoys to mark our course and it was difficult to see where I was going with the chaos. I’m fairly positive I missed the turnaround for the olympic distance and ended up doing the half marathon distance of 1.2 miles, but once I got to the halfway point at least I could focus on return to beach- which was now a speck out in the distance but something I could orientate to. At one point my legs started to cramp but I was running on pure adrenaline and nothing was going to stop me. As I approached the beach again and was able to stand there was a volunteer there to assist those in need of medical attention. I recall turning to her and saying “That was the most difficult #$%&* thing I’ve done in my life.” She laughed and just said, “You’re not the first person to tell me that!”

I then transitioned to the bike area where I hydrated and had a quick Honey Stinger cookie to get some carbs in. I got my cleats and helmet on quickly and off I went. Just like the swim, the bike course was a “there and back” where the first half was directly into the wind. I focused on staying in lower gears to not burn my legs out. Mentally I broke it up into two parts in that I needed to focus on completing the first 12.5 with the headwind and then I could speed through the last half. The second half ended up being a breeze (pun intended), where at one point I clocked my fastest speed on a bike of 35 mph downhill.

Once I got to the run, I started to become cognizant of the sense of accomplishment and that I was really going to do it. By that point the sun was beating down and I developed some significant cramping in my side that made the run difficult. I admit my run performance was poor and was a modified run/walk for the 6.2 miles. But I looked around and there were a lot of others who were in the exact same boat as me struggling to run by this point. I had revelation too where I thought back to where I was a little over two years ago, when I couldn’t run a city block if my life depended on it. By that point I was on the course for three hours and I was outrunning that past version of myself. I broke the run down by taking it minute by minute, counting down from 100 and when I couldn’t run anymore I would walk and start over. I stopped at every water station, talked to the other athletes on the course and cheered them on.


Which brings me to my highlight of the whole event. What I enjoyed the most was the support from the spectators and other competitors out there. At that point of searching for anything to keep you going and just hearing someone cheer on or congratulate you meant so much and gave me that needed boost. As I approached the finish line I spotted my #1 fan/mom along with my sister and niece at the finish line. That was all I needed to pick up to a full sprint after grueling it out over four hours and I got high fives as I completed my journey.


Overall, while the event didn’t go according to plan, I’m not sure there really is a way to execute a plan perfectly the first time around. I learned a lot about myself in the process and take pride not in the accomplishment of completing the event, but from how I chose to respond when faced with extreme adversity. You learn from your experiences, adapt, and persevere.

What’s next for the Get Well Cat? I’ve realized I need a break from endurance training and want to spend some time continuing to focus on weight loss, eating healthy, and reaching some of the smaller goals. I haven’t run a 5K since November and I am looking forward to setting a personal record this weekend and then I’ll be back scheming to take on another challenge.

Thank you again to everyone that’s supported me on this journey. Without putting these goals out into the ethers for all to see I can’t say I would be where I am today. My hope is that sharing my experience with you gives you the motivation and confidence to set your own goals, get out with a plan and to smash them. Get Well!



While training for the Freeze Your Gizzard Blizzard 10k in January, I happened to see a poster at my local community center for a Lazyman Ironman competition starting in February.  Ironman competitions are the ultimate test of physical endurance, as it is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run.  You need to be in excellent shape and train extensively for such a grueling event, as it takes on average between 12-16 hours to complete.  I’ve thought that an ultimate life goal would be to be in shape enough to be able to complete such an event, but the amount of training and endurance I need to build is such that this is likely at least a few years and sanity levels away.

But the “lazyman” version of the ironman intrigued me some more.  The thought behind it is completing the three events over the course of the month instead of in a row.  Not nearly as impressive I know, but the idea was that it would force me to start training more in biking and swimming, as I’ve neglected those two areas while focusing on long distance running and hitting my goal of running 50 miles in January.

So I busted out the stationary bike and got to it.  Biking was the most difficult part as it was the greatest time commitment at around 7 hours to complete.  I broke it up by riding 5-10 miles in the morning and finished off with a longer 16 mile bike ride today.  I also remembered that I enjoy parking the stationary bike in front of the tv or iPad and watching a show to occupy time.  As a slight aside, one way to motivate yourself is to only watch your favorite show or series you are currently into if you are on the bike/elliptical/treadmill.  It worked for me as I went through “Freaks and Geeks” for the first time.  Good show by the way if you’re 17 years late to the party like I was….

Dialing back the frequency of my runs also allowed for me to increase on distance. I ended up doing a couple of 10k runs and then felt really good in closing it out with an 8 mile run.  In the beginning of this month I didn’t miss running, as it was bitterly cold and icy outside and I’m tired of the hamster wheel (treadmill).  But recently we’ve had some record warm temperatures which have been perfect for getting outside.  It was nice to take advantage of that last weekend with the long run, my hope is to continue increasing my mileage slightly each week as I set my sights on a half marathon.

I also was able to have some breakthroughs with swimming over the past month.  Swimming was the easiest section for me to complete, but it only took a few sessions and I’ve gotten into such a rhythm that if push came to shove I could probably complete the 2.4 miles in one sitting.  But I’m still really slow, which is ok because my goal has been repetition of proper technique, I’ll work on the speed later.  I pushed my longest swim of 1 mile and felt pretty good doing so.  One tool that’s helped me was the gift of a Garmin Vivoactive GPS watch for my birthday, as I no longer have to count which lap I’m on.  A mile of swimming is 1650 yards or 112 lengths of a 25 yard pool.  Counting is hard!

In the end I’m proud to have completed the event by February 23rd, especially with having a sinus infection and a trip to the Wisconsin Dells with the kids.  It’s also put me in great shape to complete the Olympic triathlon this summer and I’ll likely try to use it as a framework for my ongoing training.  

A recurring theme on here has been showing that you’re capable of what you put your mind and body to when you set realistic achievable goals.  Completing an Ironman may never be realistic, but I’ll never know until I put myself up to the task and put the time and energy in.  But all of these smaller goals gets me one step closer to it.  Another month of crushing goals, now on to setting some more.  Until then, get well!

Run Bryce Run!

Running.  I have such a love/hate relationship with running.  I love to run because of the physical challenge it presents.  It’s an excellent form of cardio that pushes me farther than I can with other activities.  With running there’s something to that all or nothing approach I’ve found can’t be matched by other physical activities.

There are definitely aspects of running that I dislike.  Foremost in my mind is the risk of injury.  Running puts an incredible amount of repetitive stress on your joints, especially if you are overweight like I am.  I also have a history of getting injured, so just about every time I go for a run I have that lingering thought in the back of my head.  That’s why in previous posts I’ve talked about the importance of listening to what your body is telling you.  I haven’t hesitated about stopping mid-run if something isn’t feeling right, as I would rather trade one run for weeks or months of being sidelined with an injury.

Another challenge with running for me is that honestly sometimes I find it to be a bit repetitive and monotonous.  I found this to be the case especially before I had a concrete training plan and would somewhat run aimlessly and call it good earlier than I should have.  To combat the boredom, I’ve found it important to switch up where I run and the goal of my runs.  I also started to do things like run to the community center and meet my wife and kids to go swimming, so it’s not just running in a large circle or to a point and back.  Another thing I will do is switch between listening to music, podcasts, and sometimes I don’t even bring the headphones with so I can focus on my pacing and enjoy nature.

Prior to winter approaching us, I went on a bit of a kick starting in September of running almost every day.  I’ve found enjoyment of running to be heavily dependent on temperature, with anything below 30 or above 80 degrees to be too taxing on the body.  I’ve had runs below 30 where it feels like your lungs are burnt from cold air and above 80 where my heart rate has become too elevated from struggling to stay cool.  Fall is that perfect time of year here where the mornings are typically 40-50 degrees and perfect for being active outside.

One of the motivators I had this time was a training program I followed during this time.  I used the Nike Run Club app as I found it easy to use and set realistic training sessions that varied pace and distance well.  It also had weekly benchmark runs of 15 minutes that it then used to set goals for your longer runs.  The training plan I picked was for a half marathon.  Even though I have no intentions of running one, I wanted to start getting comfortable with longer distances.  For someone looking to get started, there are a handful of “Couch to 5k” programs (including Nike Run Club) out there that offer the same function.  The premise is to slowly build up distance and pace over time.  The beauty of a program like this is that it is meant for people who don’t run at all and you can keep doing the stages until you achieve your goal.

Another aspect of having an app to track your runs is seeing the tangible progress of setting goals for speed, distance, or duration.  After running for over a year straight now, I can see my pace go from over 11 minutes per mile to down to 9:30 on average.  It’s fun to set those goals and break them after putting the hard work in.  I recently ran a Turkey Trot 5K And finished in 29:15, beating my goal of running a sub 30 minute 5k.  My hope is over time to build my cardio to sustain this pace for longer distance/duration.

I’m now looking to shift my focus to running 10k’s as they present a greater challenge for sustained cardio.  I haven’t run one officially as a race in almost 10 years, so all the more reason as to why I should make that my next goal.  In doing the half marathon training plan I ran over 10k/6.2 miles on a couple occasions.  I had to stop the training plan recently with winter setting in and a job change (and change back for those keeping score at home) didn’t afford me the opportunity to keep training extended distances.  I’ve now started a new training plan on Nike+ specifically for training and set a date of January 21, 2017 To run the Freeze Your Gizzard 10k.  After swearing it off that I would never do it again last year with -40 below windchill and having scarlet fever to boot, there’s something about the challenge that’s appealing and the importance of having a race as a target to keep the training up during a time I normally wouldn’t be focusing on running.

But that’s really it in a nutshell, the whole reason I do all of this is for the challenge.  For me being healthy requires putting forth the effort do so and over time I’ve come to enjoy the challenge it presents to do so.  I hit two significant milestones I’m particularly proud of recently, which is 100 runs and 200 miles on the Nike+ app since I started using it a little over a year ago.  I never thought I would get this far, but I also know the sky is the limit for where I can go when I put my mind and body to it.

Where do I go from here?  After this I probably will switch my focus to spending more time swimming and on the stationary bike due to the challenge of running in the winter.  I still want to keep rounded in my approach and focus on building strength and cardio.  I am patiently looking forward to spring and summer activities, with the goal of beating my previous sprint triathlon time and my lofty goal of doing an olympic triathlon this summer.  Until that time, get well!

Set Goal, Smash Goal, Regroup and Repeat

Welcome back everyone and thank you for continuing to follow and support me on my journey.  In the previous post, I reflected on the last year and did a review of some of the lessons I’ve learned from trial and error. Hopefully some of these have resonated with you and you are on your own journey to healthier living as well.  For this post I wanted to do a quick recap of the triathlon and then put out some goals for the future.  

Overall the triathlon went great, much better than my expectations were for not having undertaken an event like this in 8 years.  While I am a firm believer in the concept of starting small and setting easily achievable goals, there also is something to be said for long term goals and achieving major milestones.  The triathlon was one of those major milestones, going from a position of barely being able to run a block to being active for over an hour in multiple events.

The biggest challenge of the triathlon was not necessarily the event itself but was my nerves, some self-doubt, and when my body didn’t work like I wanted it to towards the end.  I tackled the nerves by focusing on my breathing, making sure I kept a steady pace and stayed within a level of comfort.  I also ditched the headphones I normally train with to focus on what my body was telling me in the moment.  

This was a “sprint” triathlon, which designates the shortest distance triathlon offered.  Distance for sprint triathlon events vary and this one was a 1/4  mile swim, 11 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run.  The next level is the “olympic” triathlon, which is a .93 mile (1.5k) swim, 24.8 mile (40k) bike, and a 6.2 mile (10k) run at the end. While I won’t get into all the distances, it then goes up to half ironman, ironman, and ultra ironman competitions which just get silly because these events can go on for longer than a day.

The swim was relatively easy as it is a short distance and took 9 minutes to complete.  I actually went at a pace much slower than I trained, as I wanted to use the swim as more of a warm up than to exert energy and become tired early.  The hard part of the swim is getting bunched up in a group and having someone ahead of you kicking you I’m the head as you advance.

The bike was the surprising part. I had trained on a trail with hills and was use to a pace of about 16 mph.  This course was relatively flat and my strategy was to push hard on this section.  I ended up averaging about 20 mph and finished in 34 minutes.

In a triathlon your time in transition also count towards your final time.  The switch from swim to bike is the longer one, as you have to dry off your feet and throw your socks and shoes on.  The bike to run transition is a relatively quick one, I basically put my bike down and started running.  The hard part is the physical transition your legs have been engaged in peddling and have to switch to making strides while running.  I liken the feeling to starting to run in shoes made of concrete, as your legs feel so much heavier than they normally do.  Now I practiced the transition from bike to run several times, but the truth is that didn’t make it any easier.  I ended running the first ¼ mile or so and my calf muscles in my legs started to cramp up significantly making the run more difficult than I had hoped for.  I did my best to stay at a comfortable pace until I need to rest and the run ended up being a few more starts and stops than I had hoped for.  I ended up finishing the 5k in 33 minutes, which was about 3-4 minutes slower than where I normally run without doing the other events.  

Overall, it was an incredible experience and one in which I’m so glad I pushed myself to do.   It’s taught me how to take the time to achieve your goal and the value of putting your mind towards accomplishing something. Since then, I have continued to train regularly but I have shifted focus a bit to focus on running longer distances to build cardio.  I’m realizing this post is running long, so I’ll shift that discussion to my current training habits for next time.  

I now feel like someone who is in sprint triathlon shape, in that I could compete in the event at anytime now and have success. The other thought runs through my head is through all the hard work over the last year and a half, I’m now someone who could be described as athletic and not have it be the butt of a joke.  The weight continues to be coming off, after stalling in the 230-235 range for the last three months I’m suddenly sitting at 224.  I keep setting those weight goals in 5 pound increments and smashed the last one in less than a week.

So where do I go from here?  I am already looking forward to the Rainy Lake Triathlon next year and I now have a finishing time of 1:19 I’m motivated to smash that one next year too.  When the time is right I’ll continue to do 5Ks and 10K races to give me something to look forward to.  I just got the flyer for the Freeze Your Gizzard Blizzard Run and I can’t wait to run it with another year of progress behind my belt, not to mention running that race without having scarlet fever the next time around.

Part of writing this blog has been putting these goals out there to the world and using it as a way of holding myself accountable.  So to that end, I see no reason why I can’t compete in an olympic triathlon event and have that in my mind as an attainable goal for next year.  Over time I’ve learned to believe in myself and recognize that just about anything is possible if you put your heart and your mind to it.  

Until next time, get well!

A Year (and a Little More) in Review

It’s now been over a year since I started this blog to document my journey on making some positive lifestyle changes in my life.  I had hoped to write this post about a month ago when I hit the one year mark, but sometimes life gets the best of you.  I’ve been particularly consume with my family, my career, and training for the triathlon I ran today.  All good things.

Today was a special day for two reasons.  First was I hit a major milestone, which is I’m now weighing in around 231 pounds, or down 50 pounds since I started this most recent journey and about 75 pounds from my heaviest point in my life.  I had really hoped to lose that 50 within the first year of this journey, but when it came to that crunch time I learned to not fight the scale and to enjoy the ride.  I recently posted about this in a previous post entitled “I’m About Ready to Throw That Scale in the Garbage”.

When I started this journey, my primary motivation was making changes to feel better, but primarily I recognized I need to be healthy and active for my girls who are one and three years old.  While I still enjoy my weekend naps, I have more energy than ever and they are the ones keeping up with me, not the other way around.  I enjoy going for walks with them, taking them to the park, swimming together and we even got our three year old to run her first “fun race” this summer after a 5K.  I can still pick both of them up and every night end up carrying them together to go upstairs to bed.  One thing that resonates with me when carrying them is that the girls’ combined weight is equivalent to what I’ve lost over the last year.

In the spirit of sharing my experience and hopefully learning from my attempts at trial and error, here are some of the positives and negatives from the past year:

  • My daily diet which I call “carbohydrate avoidance” has gone much better than I ever expected.  I don’t miss breads, pastas, sweets, or even *gasp* beer, but over time I’ve learned they can be still enjoyed in moderation.  For more information on what I eat, check out these previous posts: What do I Eat? – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks/Desserts.
  • Once you really dive into nutrition, the knowledge can be a blessing and a curse.  While it has helped me to make smarter choices, I’ve also found that when I do “cheat” a bit I find that I get less enjoyment from eating because I know it sets me back from my goals.  Beer is another one, where I have maybe 1-2 drinks per week socially and the lack of enjoyment makes me wonder why I do it at all.  This is coming from someone that is a Certified Beer Judge.
  • When taking the carbohydrate avoidance to the extreme, your body switches from burning available carbs as energy to fat.  This process is called ketosis and can come with side effects during a transition.  Some folks call this “keto flu” leaving you with flu-like symptoms, cloudy mind, excessive sweating, etc… so always be mindful of what your body is telling you.
  • Being active can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to me.  I used to think you had to keep pushing yourself to go farther or longer to push myself.  While it is important to do that occasionally, I’ve had my greatest success just doing what I can when I can.  Sometimes its a 10 minute run or bike ride before work, or a quick 30 minutes at the gym.  The importance is consistency and keeping it up long term.
  • If you try to fit being active into your busy schedule, you’ll never have time.  If you plan ahead a week and schedule what you’d like to do, you’ll have all the time you need.
  • Try new things.  You don’t need to be an expert, heck I would say you barely even need to know what you’re doing.  I’ve never had formal training when it comes to lifting weights, I took swimming lessons 25 years ago, but I managed to incorporate both activities as the focal point of my plan to be more active.  There are so many ways to be active and you can get variety from focusing on pace, distance, duration, varying speeds/intensity, etc…  Variety is the Spice of Life!
  • Start Small.  Set your goals manageable and easily achievable so that you don’t burn out.  Don’t go out and say I’m going to lose 100 lbs, try 5 and when you lose that, try 5 more.  Don’t set out to run a marathon, run a block, then two, until you can run a mile.  I’d also recommend interval training programs such as the popular Couch to 5k apps out there.
  • What Motivates You?  As I mentioned above, for me it was my desire to become more healthy for my children, but for you it may be another reason entirely.  Whatever it may be, something needs to light that spark underneath you to realize this isn’t a fad, this is going to be a long term commitment to a better you.  Who knows, maybe it’s this blog?  🙂

I haven’t even mentioned the second major milestone, which is that I completed my first triathlon in eight years today.  As previously followers of this blog know, this is something I’ve been training for somewhat secretly for the past year.  It wasn’t until a few months ago that I fully realized I could do it if I put my mind to it.  I have to say I was incredibly nervous this past week leading up and I’m now relieved to have completed it.  I’m realizing this post is getting long, so I’ll save the details for a future post and discuss where do I go from here.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to thank you all for your support.  I can’t say I would be in the position I am today without all the positive encouragement and well wishes.  It helps to keep me motivated and to achieve new goals.

Until next time, get well!


Is It Getting Hot In Here? (Or Is It Just Me?)

Sweating is the natural bodily process whereby your body releases water and salt in an attempt to cool down.  It can occur for many simple reasons such as hot/humid weather, increased physical activity or consumption of alcohol, caffeine or spicy foods.  It can also be a sign that something with your body isn’t right and your body may be fighting off an infection, fever, low blood sugar, or withdrawals from certain medicines or controlled substances.  

I’ve come to realize I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to perspiration.  When I’m being physically active, I use sweat as a means of gauging how much I am exerting myself physically.  If I’m not sweating, chances are I’m not working hard enough and need to increase my activity.  If I’m drenched in sweat, then it’s time to slow my roll.  The key is finding that balance to reach an optimal zone for training.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past year is that it takes time for your body to cool down.  With my training schedule of trying to get biking, running, swimming and strength training in twice a week for each activity, I am active 5-6 days a week.  Often times I may do one activity in the morning and another over my lunch hour or after work.  There have been several times where I’ve gone for a run in the morning, hopped right into the shower, then get to work only to realize I’m still sweating like crazy.  

The other interesting thing I’ve learned is how much you can sweat from swimming.  You would think that being in a pool with water cooler than your body temperature would prevent the sweat.  But I’ve gone swimming over lunch and returned to work and almost an hour later I’m still perspiring.  In hindsight I’ve recognized I need to take the time to cool down and relax before running to the next activity, because no one likes sitting in a meeting next to the guy sweating uncontrollably.

Now that we are in the heart of summer, it’s also critical to be mindful of the heat and how much time you are spending outside.  I’ve found I’m more active with outdoor activities in the morning when the temperatures are in the 50s or 60s rather than the afternoon where it’s in the 80s or 90s.  I’ve also learned from timing my activities that my performance will decrease significantly when its hot out.

About a month ago I spent almost an entire day outdoors in 92 degree weather for a concert.  After being outside for several hours, I noticed that I was struggling to cool down and my perspiration started to become excessive.  Even though I was relaxing in a lawn chair, it got to the point where I realized if I didn’t cool down soon I was in trouble.  I’m pretty sure as I got up to go find shade and cool down I resembled an extra on the set of The Walking Dead.  I ended up missing part of the concert as I sat in the car with the air conditioning on full blast and drank water.  Eventually I was able to get my body temperature regulated, but it was an important reminder to always listen to what my body was telling me.

Sweating is one of those areas that is important to pay attention to as your body may be telling you to slow down, cool off, you may be fighting off an illness or something even more serious.  Unless you want to be known as the sweaty person, give yourself time to cool down before moving off to the next activity and make sure to stay hydrated.

Until next time, get well!   

I’m About Ready to Throw That Scale In The Garbage

Over and over have I discussed the importance of not relying on the scale as the only measure of success when it comes to making positive lifestyle changes.  You would think I would heed my own advice, but the truth is the number on the scale is so ingrained into our brain as the true and only way to measure change.  Recently I’ve had a few experiences to share as to why you might be better off throwing that scale in the garbage and relying on your own instincts as to what is progress and positive change in your life.

Part of the difficulty in writing this blog has been as it has progressed, I’ve wanted to move from surface level topics to get more personal and honest about how things are going.  Part of my success has been recognizing that I’m effectively participating in a marathon not a sprint.  My journey to make positive lifestyle changes has been focusing on making lifelong changes and there has been it’s share of ups and downs along the way.  Previously I had posted a chart of my weight over time and for the first six months it was a rapidly declining downward trend.  As of late, that chart looks like more of a flat line with a few ups and downs.  

Reality sunk in a few weeks ago when I was getting a health physical and was asked the question “Have you lost more than 10 pounds in the last six months?”  My initial thought was to respond enthusiastically “YES!” and talk about all the changes I have made.  I am proud that I’ve lost 45 pounds since last year and almost 75 pounds since I was at my heaviest.  Then I decided to look what the app said and I was incredibly surprised to find out I had only lost 9 pounds since December and the answer was actually no.

There are likely many reasons for this.  Some have to do with becoming more lax on my daily diet and reintroducing the occasional breads or sweets in moderation.  I still rarely consume alcohol anymore, maybe two or three drinks socially over a week.  The truth is I don’t get enjoyment out of it anymore as I see it as empty calories and setback to all the hard work I’ve been putting in over the week.  I’m more convinced that the strength training has really paid off as of late and I’m still losing body fat and replacing it with lean muscle.  The real proof is in how the clothes fit better, how I feel, and how slowly the inches are still continuing to come down.  

The other day I was talking to someone who was making some really good changes in their life.  In particular, they were making a conscious effort to get rid of the processed foods they ate by eliminating the sweets, carbs, and junk food.  The thing that got them hung up though was that the scale hadn’t changed.  They did acknowledge feeling better and we talked about how that’s what truly matters.

There’s another person I’m close with who has been doing a fantastic job of changing their lifestyle as of recent, even going as fat as utilizing a personal trainer to help.  Just like I initially went through the rapid weight loss, their weight has been flying off too.  That person experienced a setback the other day when they found out their scale wasn’t calibrated properly (it was on top of a sock) and they had lost 6 pounds less than originally thought.  I’m so glad that person took it with a sense of humour and is continuing to keep up the hard work.

So maybe throwing the scale in the garbage is the answer.  Or maybe it’s relying on your instincts to know you look and feel better than before.  That’s what this is all about.
Until next time, get well!

Setting the Soundtrack for Success

One of the ways that I have found success with being active is to combine activities that I enjoy so that I can experience them together.  What I am talking about in particular is supplementing my exercise routines with listening to music, podcasts, or even watching a television show or movie.  My challenge in doing so has been staying focused on the exercise routine and not letting the secondary activity be a distraction.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned how I vary my activities in that sometimes I will go for speed, distance or duration.  I’ve found that I can use music in particular to help me keep pace with the activity that I am doing.   This is where tempo of music can be helpful.  Tempo is the speed or pace of the music and is typically measured in beats per minute.  You know what else is measured in beats per minute?  That’s right your heart rate is also measured in beats per minute.  Coincidentally, most music falls within the range of 40-200 beats per minute, which is the same general range that your heart beats!

Part of endurance training is finding an optimal pace to which you are at a comfortable heart rate and can continue your activity without reaching fatigue, which is typically 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.  This is not your sprint pace or where you are engaging in hardcore training and pushing your heart rate to the max.  Same thing with your warm up routine where you want to just get your heart rate slightly elevated from resting.  I’m oversimplifying this by quite a bit and realized in writing this that it probably deserves a separate post of it’s own in the near future.

For me personally, if I’m doing a warm-up or cool-down routine I’m likely listening to some classical orchestra/symphonic or blues/jazz music.  If I’m doing an activity for distance or duration I tend to look for the mental distraction and put a podcast on or I’ve used a television show or movie that I wanted to see if I’m on stationary equipment such as a bike or elliptical machine. If I want to up the pace, I get into higher tempo music such as techno or alternative / rock.  For days that I’m doing strength training and lifting in the gym, I’ve found that I need to up the intensity to the max and will listen to heaviest of metal music.  The more double bass pedal and screaming angry guy that I have no idea what he’s saying but it sounds intense, the better!

Again I’m no expert here, but there’s something to be said psychologically about the way music can make you feel.  When I’m warming up I want to be relaxed and focused.  When I’m on those long activities, I want to energized, motivated, and maybe even distracted if I am going on a distance or duration that is outside my comfort zone.  If I am going for speed or doing heavy lifting / strength training, I want to be in a mood where I am almost angry and I am looking to attack what I am doing.  It’s all about matching the tempo of the music with the activity you are doing.

All this being said, I’ve also experimented with putting the music and technology down.  I’ve done this to focus on the activity that I am doing and listen to what my body is telling me.  Your brain isn’t going to be thinking about proper stride or form when you’re listening to the latest Bjorn Johnson Internet Program podcast or jamming out to Rush.   Try putting the gadgets down and get out there and enjoy nature and the surroundings for what they are.  Most importantly, get out there and do whatever the heck works for you.

Until next time, get well!


Variety is the Spice of Life

Life is all about learning from our mistakes.  Part of the purpose of this blog is sharing my experiences with becoming more active and losing weight to put out the successes and failures I’ve learned by trial and error.  The hope in writing posts like these is that it gives you ideas for switching things up a bit and inspires you to start making those changes as well.

One of the things I am the most proud of since getting the Get Well Cat gimmick going almost a year ago now has been that I have managed to avoid any major or really even minor injuries.  In a previous post I discussed the importance in being preventive and not pushing myself when something feels off or sore.  Another reason I would attribute to my success this time around has been the variety of means to which I have remained active over the past year.

Previous weight loss attempts were heavily focused on one activity in particular, primarily either running, biking, or using the elliptical machine.  Looking back over time I either became bored of that activity or got sidelined by an injury .  The bottom line is  I didn’t follow through long term.

This time around, I started with activities I enjoyed and started to add variety to those activities.  I started small by going for daily walks and visiting the gym 2-3 times a week to strength train, ride bike, or use the elliptical machine.  Rarely would I get bored of doing one activity because I was switching up the activities up so much.

It’s also important to recognize that there are many different ways you can complete an activity.  For example, you can walk or run for speed or distance and look to track your progress.  I’ve found success with the Nike+ running app on my smartphone as it tracks milestones such as your longest, fastest, or farthest run.  I now look to do two runs a week, one in which I run a 5k (3.1 miles) and look to keep a consistent pace and a second run in which I look to run 1 mile as fast as I can.  You can also think about adding resistance as a form of variety, such as walking/running on an incline or hills, biking in higher gears, etc…

Another popular method of training is called high intensity interval training (HIIT).  HIIT works by varying high intensity intervals with low intensity in your activity.  This is essentially how I learned to run again, by running for 15-30 seconds followed by 30-60 seconds of walking.  After doing HIIT running for several weeks, I then moved on to a Couch to 5K (C25K) app that gradually increased the running periods from seconds to minutes to miles.

Now that the weather is getting nice again, I spend less time at the gym doing my cardio activities and more time is spent outside.  I have a loose goal of running, biking, swimming and strength training twice a week for each activity .  Some of these activities overlap and I may run in the morning and go lift or swim in the afternoon.  The thought is by working different muscle groups through varying activities I can get stronger, lose more of the excess weight, but most importantly avoid injuries caused by over-training and being repetitive.

You may not be able to even run a block, but I know you can walk a mile.  You have to start somewhere right?  Try incorporating short bursts of jogging in with that walk to get the heart rate up a bit and that energy going.  Try running uphill or increasing the incline or resistance on your bike, treadmill, or elliptical machine.  Try to set new goals for speed, distance, or duration and crush them!

Being active can take on many forms, so I  encourage you to switch it up a bit and add variety to your routine. As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life!

Until next time, get well!

Listening To What Your Body Is Telling You

For this post I wanted to highlight the importance of maintaining a healthy balance in being active and resting.  Even though I’ve been riding on and off the fitness bandwagon for almost 20 years, I’m still amazed at how habits influence our mindset and desires.  Over time, I’ve learned to listen to what my body is telling me to and say no at times in order to avoid injuries.

In regards to habits and routines, what I’ve noticed is that when I am not active for a more than a few days my mindset shifts to more negative thoughts on being active.  It’s too much work, I don’t have the time or energy, or let’s save that for tomorrow are thoughts that still permeates my mindset.  I remember back to when I was in the precontemplative stage on making changes to my life.  I had taken years off of any strenuous physical activity.  I was starting to connect the dots in my head that I needed to make positive changes to my lifestyle but the obstacles of being overweight and sedentary seemed too great.  I started with regular walks over lunch and slowly introduced biking, jogging, and strength training.   Over time I noticed the positive benefits and feelings outweighing the negative ones.  Before I knew it I was hooked on establishing a regular routine of being active.

There are times where it feels like being active is contagious and the more you are active the more you look forward to the next activity.  There is a physiological component to this, which is your body’s release of endorphins during physical exercise.  Endorphins triggers a positive response which has been known to reduce symptoms of  anxiety, depression, and stress.  This physiological response is also known as the “runner’s high”.  I often wonder with individuals who are sedentary and suffering the effects of mild anxiety and depression, that what the body may be telling you is that you are lacking some basic physical activity.  I know that when I have a particularly stressful day, being active helps to give me the extra energy and confidence to deal with whatever adversity is facing me.

The second part of this discussion is once you are in tune with what your body is telling you, sometimes the desire for that “runner’s high” can be so great that the pendulum swings the other way from being sedentary to being overly active. It can be hard to stop pushing yourself to achieve new goals in speed, distance, or duration of your physical activity.  But if you don’t be careful, you may end up injuring yourself or burning yourself out.

There have been many times over the last year where I have been engaging in physical activity only to feel something isn’t quite right with my body or a particular muscle group.  Rather than risk injury, I’ve become more in tune with my body and shut the activity down.  For example, just yesterday I had intended on going for a quick 2 mile run in the morning with a goal pace of 9 minutes/mile.  Right away I noticed some soreness in my shins and left knee.  Instead of toughing it out, I slowed my pace down by an extra 2 minutes/mile and only completed one mile before returning home.  Had I felt the soreness was more severe, I would have walked straight home.  Today I feel great and can continue being active because I listened to what my body was telling me.

What is your body telling you?  If you are sedentary and experiencing some mild anxiety or depression, perhaps a little physical activity is the right prescription for you.  As always, please consult with your doctor as this blog is not intended to be providing medical advice.  This has been my personal journey with making positive lifestyle changes.  I hope you have similar success with your path as well.

Until next time, get well!