Injury & Weight Gain: An Update

The Bad News

About a year ago I started to gain weight, and went from 165 lb average, to a 175 average, and that creeped up to a 185 lb average. Waist size went from a rather loose 34 to a rather snug 36. The problem started when I tried to maintain my weight at 165, then 170, and failed.  In the meantime I injured my left knee, and have just confirmed that it has arthritis.  I will know more after May 22ed when I visit an orthopaedic sports doctor.

The Good News

There is still lots of good news. My peak weight, before I started to loose, was up around 245 plus pounds, and a size 46 inch waist size was tight. I would have been satisfied with 185 if I had been convinced it would stop there.  I did not.  I have given up running for the meantime, but suspect that the doctor’s advice will be to continue to avoid the sport I love.  During the process I learned a lot, and am taking up competitive race walking under the theory that it will not be so hard on my knee. The weight is starting to go down, partially because it is warmer now, and I am out of school with more free time.  Less stress.

What I Learned

What did I learn?  A lot, and I plan to learn more.  First of all I think I lost the weight too fast, and that steep weight lose has had an effect on my metabolism.  Most BMI calculators say that I should be able to eat 2000 calories net per day.  I have found that number to be too high.  For me it is 1400 calories.  I suspected my metabolism might have had something to do with it, but was pretty much convinced after I went back down to 1400 net calories per day, renewed  a stricter diet  (avoiding high glycemic  foods such as pasta, potatoes, etc.), and then started to see the weight come off again.  At around the same time the Biggest Looser story broke which told how research had shown that most of the contestants gained back a lot of weight, and an altered metabolism was suspected as the culprit.   Thinking it was starving, the body wisely went into a survival mode as it slowed down metabolism. We use a scale, the body seems to have other metrics. You can read the article online at the New York Times. Was that what had happened to me?  Maybe, and then again maybe not.  I suspect there are a lot of factors that come into play with weight loss, and the science is just not there yet.  In the meantime, I have resigned myself to the 1400 calorie ceiling and found a way to keep it that seems to work for me now.

The Way Forward

One strategy that I found that worked for me was a schedule that included shifting my meals to later in the day, and essentially eating four of them.  Around 300 – 350 calories at noon, the same amount at 4 p.m., and then 600 – 800 for supper at around 7:30, and finally a late snack.  Noon and lunch do not vary much at all.  Supper and the late snack calories vary depending on how active I have been. I know it breaks a LOT of the rules but it works for me.

I also discovered how much it meant to me to have fitness goals, and  incorporate competition into my goals.  Not that I was that competitive for my age class as a runner, but because I found those competitions to be tremendously motivating.  What to do?  Race walking. It has always appealed to me since I was a kid when the renowned race walker Larry Young could be seen around town training.   Walking VERY fast. By the way, Larry Young competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, and is the only American ever to medal in race walking in that venue.  Larry attended Columbia College on the ONLY race walking scholarship ever awarded by a college in the United States.  Hometown boy made good.

Race Walking

I know I could just go out and walk.  There is also Nordic Walking, and fitness walking, and then just kind of making up your own thing. Strolling.  While walking is natural to us, race walking requires a very specialized technique that you have to learn. Starting with Larry Young  I have a rather long history of being interested in race walking which I will write more about later. For now, suffice it to say that the first and only time I have race walked was over thirty years ago, with my oldest daughter and we were both disqualified.  I plan to do something about that.  I will compete again this summer, fully expecting to be disqualified, but have decided that next year my goal is to be competitive in my age group while  avoiding being disqualified for the wrong technique.  Stay tuned.

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Shoelaces?

Yes, this is a post about shoelaces.  Sort of.

No matter how, or how well, I tied my shoes they would come loose whenever I walked or ran.  It did not happen all the time, but it happened often enough for it to be bothersome, and, I suppose, somewhat dangerous. I also had problems whenever I rode my bike and my right shoelace would get caught between the chain and gear.  Last year when one of our local athletic stores (the kind that is locally owned and caters to serious bicyclist, runners, and swimmers) had their annual shoe sale I made a discovery.  A bucket full of these little doodads called cord locks.  I think they started out being used on clothing and sort of migrated to shoes.  I thought I would try a pair during an upcoming 5k because I did not want to stop in the heat of competition to tie my shoes.  A rookie mistake like putting your number on your back.  I have been hooked every since.

Cord lock for shoestrings
Cord lock for shoestrings
IMG_1979
Cord lock closeup.

This is the original pair that I am still using. I now own four additional pairs in various colors.  At first I thought they might break, come loose, or somehow otherwise fail to meet my satisfaction. They have exceeded all expectations, to the point I keep them on my training shoes, my competition shoes, and my beater shoes I wear for everyday use or to do house chores. I can honestly say that I no longer have issues with loose or tangled shoelaces, and the shoelaces last much longer.  I also discovered it is easier, and faster, to get my shoes on and off.  Plus there is a bonus use.  You know those running shorts, with the tie string, that keep coming loose on you when you run?  One of these bad boys makes that problem go away too.

You can see how I put them on.  The trick is to not to cut the laces too short, but yet keep them long enough so you can get in and out of the shoes.  As a general rule I cut the cords short enough so I cannot step on them.  That seems to be short enough so that they do not get caught up in the bicycle as well.

I suppose the one drawback is they look kind of geeky.  I don’t care. There are fancier methods such as stretchy shoe strings, with fancier fasteners,  but this is a simple fix.  I love things that work.  I really love simple things that work well.

10,000 Steps?

This is the first of a three part series of posts about walking for fitness, and it will begin by focusing on the 10,000 step fitness phenomenon.  The next two posts in the series will deal with inexpensive, but effective,  devices for counting those steps that can help keep you motivated.

kara and cody
My two faithful running companions Cody and Kara. They never failed me.

When I started getting in shape over four years ago, like a lot of people who have let  themselves go, all I could do was walk. I had a pair of well worn New Balance shoes (pictured  in my banner photo), some old school baggy sweat pants, t-shirts, a pair of cheap jersey gloves,  and a hoodie sweat shirt when the weather was cool.  I wore my regular winter coat when it was cold.  That was it.   I would usually walk at night and take the dogs with me. By the way, I have found dogs to be the most willing, and reliable, walking companions.

I just walked, without measuring anything, and without listening to headphones, and without even a cell phone.   I have no idea how far I walked, how many steps it took, or how long I was out there.  There was something pure, elemental, and Zen-like about the whole experience.  A kind of innocence if  you will.  I was unencumbered.  However, to begin making progress, or at least progress I could measure, I needed some kind of metric.  The first one I came up with was the intriguingly simple idea that walking 10,000 steps a day should be my goal. Where did this idea come from?  It certainly did not originate with me.  In fact it has been around for awhile. The idea of walking 10,000 steps originated in Japan. The website http://www.livescience reports that:

The origins of the 10,000-steps recommendation aren’t exactly scientific. Pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s were marketed under the name “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter,” said Catrine Tudor-Locke, director of the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.

The National Institute of Health (NIH)  has weighed in on this fitness practice, and provides some more background:

A value of 10000 steps/day is gaining popularity with the media and in practice and can be traced to Japanese walking clubs and a business slogan 30+ years ago. 10000 steps/day appears to be a reasonable estimate of daily activity for apparently healthy adults and studies are emerging documenting the health benefits of attaining similar levels. How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health.(2004)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14715035

That was from ten years ago, and the 10,000 step goal has become a fixture in the fitness world.  It has become institutionalized if you will.   You can follow the link to the NIH site to read their short report that goes onto provide some rather sensible guidelines that still make sense today:

  1. <5000 steps/day may be used as a ‘sedentary lifestyle index.
  2. 5000-7499 steps/day is typical of daily activity excluding sports/exercise and might be considered ‘low active.
  3. 7500-9999 likely includes some volitional activities (and/or elevated occupational activity demands) and might be considered ‘somewhat active.
  4. >or=10000 steps/day indicates the point that should be used to classify individuals as
  5. >12500 steps/day are likely to be classified as ‘highly active’.

How far is 10,000 steps?  It varies according to the person, but the number I found most prevalent when I looked it up on the web was that it is about 5 miles for the “average” person, and for most people that is at least an hour of walking.  Unfortunately, most of us fall far short of that number.  The New York Times reported in 2010 that:

Americans, on average, took 5,117 steps a day, far short of the averages in western Australia (9,695 steps), Switzerland (9,650 steps) and Japan (7,168 steps). The findings were published in the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The Pedometer Test:  Americans Take Fewer Steps, by Tark Parker-Pope

A friend of mine who was using 10,000 as a goal at the same time I became interested in it was working as a physical therapist in a hospital.  It was not a sedentary job. At work she was constantly on her feet and walking the corridors of the hospital, and  assuredly walking more than the average person.  Yet, she told me that she needed to walk a mile or two after she got off work to meet the goal.  How could that be? Our lifestyle, how we have arranged our physical space, and the way we operate within it has to be at least partially responsible.  Regardless, I think there is universal agreement that in this modern world we need to be more active. Counting our steps turns out to be a reasonable metric, and a goal of 10,000 steps a reasonable goal.  Walking is also accessible for most people, and for many people who could not otherwise exercise.  I know it was for me. It is also for all practical purposes free.  It does not require a gym, and I walked for over a year with whatever I could scrounge from my existing wardrobe.  That is what running ugly is all about.

In my next two posts I will review two relatively inexpensive methods of keeping track of how far you walk, that are also reasonably reliable, and easy to use.  One tethers to a smart phone and sells for around $25.  The other is a pedometer that you wear like a wrist watch that does not require a cell phone, and has some other helpful features for about the same price, and it is the one I will be talking about in my next post.  I purchased that pedometer for my  father who is 79 years of age, and I am giving it to him tomorrow.