2013 in Review
As 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the past twelve months. At this time last year I wrote a post called “New Year’s Resolutions” and discussed setting goals before New Year’s Eve. It is easy to have big dreams and set high goals after a few beverages and while others are boasting of their impressive resolutions.
My main point was to seize the day and set realistic goals while you are in a rational state of mind. My focus was to encourage my readers to change their diets and increase their physical activity. The combination of the two is the best way to control your health and achieve your weight and fitness goals. Trying to achieve these goals with only one method requires too much work and often fails.
Here is a review of how this approach worked for me in 2013.
Running and Fitness
Near the end of 2012, another blogger mentioned that they were setting a goal of 2013 miles in 2013. When I looked at my Garmin report it showed that I had run 1,765 miles in 2012. I thought that with a little extra effort, I could achieve 2013 miles also.
Unfortunately, when I looked at my Garmin report, I failed to account for two flights that I recorded on my watch.
I had several cross country flights in 2012 and I recorded two of them on my Garmin. It was pretty cool and highly amusing to hear my watch beep every 5 seconds as we hit cruising speed. Maybe it was my battery, but the maximum mileage my watch recorded was 811 miles. Garmin also said my altitude of 35,958 was an invalid number.
With an overly ambitious goal of 2013 miles, I ended up running 954 miles in 141 recorded activities. In 2012 I ran 883 miles in 138 activities. In 2013 I increased my total miles by 71, my runs by 3, and my average distance increased by 0.59 miles.
What I find most encouraging and indicative of my fitness level are these numbers:
Ave running heart rate: 2012 – 161 2013 – 156
Ave speed: 2012 – 6mph 2013 – 6.9mph
I was able to run harder, have a lower average running heart rate and set 8 new PRs in 2013. One of those PRs was set at The Baystate Marathon where I finally broke 4 hours and came in at 3:47.
At 49 years of age, I managed to soundly beat a two-year old marathon PR set on the same course. There are days when I feel the wheels of time grinding me down. My eyes and ears are not what they used to be, but my will, heart and legs are stronger than ever.
While I did not achieve my unrealistic goal of 2013 miles, I achieved a goal I had not even thought about. While I had planned to get a marathon PR in 2013, I did not plan on 8 PRs. My previous PR record in 2011 was 5.
Time in the Gym
On a rest day I don’t exercise my legs. Over the past few years I have been doing core strengthening and upper body work in the gym. In 2013 I started being more diligent about getting to the gym and started following routines. Watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games I couldn’t help but notice how well toned the women sprinters were. They didn’t just have great legs. They were totally fit. They wouldn’t be wasting their time in the gym if it didn’t help their running.
I started the year doing low weight high rep chest and shoulder work as I tend to hurt myself with high weight and lower reps. I also started doing some ab work and an extended stretching routine. In October I saw “The Bomb: Lower Body Circuit” on PFITblog’s “At Home Leg and Butt Workout”. This leg workout is killer and I still cannot get through three sets. My legs feel stronger all ready, and I highly recommend it. No equipment required and it can be done anywhere.
Following my own advice
While I advised my readers to make physical activity part of their healthy 2013, I followed my own advice. I ran more miles. I was more focused in my training and I significantly increased my gym workouts. I feel my increased effort and dedication paid off in a big way. I feel stronger and my running continued to improve throughout 2013.
Changing Your Diet
My second piece of advice for 2013 was to “change your diet”. You can lose weight for good by changing your diet. A friend of mine used to drink 10 cans of Coke every day at work. Instead of coffee he had Cokes. A few years ago he quit drinking Coke and he lost about 20lbs. He still eats big steaks and potatoes loaded with butter, but cutting the sugar in those Cokes continues to make a huge difference for him.
Quitting soda or donuts is what I consider low hanging fruit. These are obvious sugar bombs that will kill any diet. Many experts suggest keeping a food journal for a minimum of two weeks. If you Google “apps to track your eating” you will get over 54 million hits. As you can see there is great interest in this method.
Many apps are free and can be downloaded to your smart phone. You can also stick a notepad in your pocket and write everything down. There are sources on line where you can plug in what you wrote in your note book and figure out how you did.
Understanding what you are eating is the first step in gaining control over your diet. If you are not aware of what you are eating, how can you do anything about it? If you have never tracked your food intake for two week, I highly advise it.
Most runners all ready pay attention to what they eat. I rarely drink soda or go to a fast food restaurant. I almost always bring my breakfast and lunch to work. Doing this allows me to maintain control over these two meals. I have no problem driving past a McDonalds or Dunkin donuts in the morning.
Since the easy stuff in my diet had all ready been done, I had to move onto the more difficult areas in 2013. I love Italian sandwiches, ham and cheese and things like that. Unfortunately, cold cuts are full of fat, sugar and preservatives. There is some controversy over how harmful these preservatives are, but my main goal was avoiding animal fat and excess salt.
I started bringing left over pasta for lunch and quite often PBJ sandwiches. There are two local companies that make peanut butter that contains only ground peanuts and salt. One is Teddie Peanut Butter in Everett, MA. The other is Superior Nut Company in Cambridge, MA. Many commercial peanut butters add sugar and saturated fats for flavor and texture. Neither of these ingredients is good for you.
Years ago when The Atkins diet was all the rage I switched from white bread to whole wheat. I knew that, just like America, I could not possibly give up bread, so I figured whole wheat was a compromise I could make. This year I read “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis. I was shocked to discover that two slices of whole wheat bread have a higher glycemic index than a Snickers bar!
There is great controversy over his book and his ideas. What I have come to understand is that the more refined the grain and the finer the granules of flour are; the worse the food is for you. Wheat contains starch which your body breaks down into sugars. If the wheat is coarsely ground your body cannot break down all of the starches into sugars. So while whole wheat bread is better for you than white bread, stone ground whole wheat flour is better than finely ground whole wheat flour.
Dr. Davis is also big on the non-gluten diet. I do not have any problems digesting gluten; I am just trying to find ways to avoid surges in my blood sugar.
Here is a post that discusses the controversy over wheat bread and the statement that a Snickers bar has a lower GI than two slices of whole wheat bread. Here is the link to my blog post “Fig Newtons and the Glycemic Index”. I’m far from an authority on the subject, but this post gets hits almost every day.
I also removed most dairy from my diet in 2013. My purpose in doing so was to remove more animal fat from my diet. I ended up switching to vanilla almond milk which was like having dessert in a glass. To reduce the amount of sugar I am drinking, I have been drinking more of the non sweetened almond milk. Soy milk was okay but sweetened vanilla almond milk was delicious.
The Great Awakening
A few months ago a fellow runner asked me what changes I made to earn 8 PRs at the ripe old age of 49. Most people are slowing down at my age. I told him nothing really. Then I proceeded to tell him about the dietary changes I made and how I believed that consistent training was more important that massive mileage. After I listed all of the dietary changes I made it dawned on me that I had done something new and that these changes must have had some effect on my performance.
If he had not asked me the question and I proceeded to list everything out, I may not have actually thought anything was done. The changes were easy for me. I had to consciously initiate them and I did not make the effort to do so uninformed. Looking back on the past twelve months I do not recall feeling like I was depriving myself of anything. I still ate hamburgers and ice-cream, but I lost my desire for certain foods.
A combination of small modifications in my diet and an increased focus on my exercise routines allowed me to add muscle, maintain my weight, run 8 PR races and place 3rd in my age group twice in 2013!
I took the time to develop new habits and make several small changes. You can too.
What changes did you make in 2013? Do you feel that they had a positive impact on your health or athletic performance? What are your running goals for 2014?
Live well my friends
© 2013 andrew nagelin