Tag Archives: Free Form Fitness

Who are you cheating?

Sorry for the lack of a post last week. I kind of went on a bender. Not a drink- yourself-to-death-Nicholas-Cage-Leaving-Las-Vegas kind of bender, but a bit of a bender nonetheless. It was my birthday on the 14th and there were a few events as part of the weekend. It was a mini-milestone,35 years, so a maxi-weekend was in order. Saturday, there was the Brewery Market in Hintonburg. It was a great event. Kalin and I met up with our friends and enjoyed pints of local beer … for over six hours. Sunday, my actual birthday, was the traditional dinner at the Highlander. As usual, a great time was had by all. Monday, Kalin and I had dinner with a few of my friends who couldn’t make it Sunday. Tuesday, while not an official birthday event, was the monthly Mill St. Tweet Up. It was a great end to four days of fun.

I’ve been thinking about the nature of cheating again. Once again, it’s the Lance Armstrong case that has me thinking about it. It’s not Lance, specifically, that has me looking at the bigger picture but that entire era of professional cycling. Earlier this week, the UCI accepted the USADA report and stripped Lance of his Tour du France titles. Despite promising defiance, Lance, himself, removed reference to his Tour victories from his Twitter bio.

A footnote to this whole affair is the UCI, in stripping Lance of his titles, decided to do what the Grammy Awards and many other music industry awards did when confronted by the Milli Vanilli controversy and elected not to award them to the best finisher who didn’t dope.

Yes, I just compared Lance Armstrong to Milli Vanilli. I’m sorry if I insulted the talented vocalist who actually sang those songs.

If you think they did this because they couldn’t find a finisher who didn’t dope, you’re probably right. Most of the competitors who finished second and third behind Lance have already had those titles revoked for positive drug tests. Since so much time has passed, verifying the blood sample of the guy who in came in 38th in 1999 is just too difficult. The cleanest finisher probably finished so far back he didn’t actually have to provide one.

For purposes of our discussion, here’s how the dictionary defines “cheat”:

cheat

verb (used with object)

1. to defraud; swindle: He cheated her out of her inheritance.
2. to deceive; influence by fraud: He cheated us into believing him a hero.
3. to elude; deprive of something expected: He cheated the law by suicide.

verb (used without object)

4. to practice fraud or deceit: She cheats without regrets.
5. to violate rules or regulations: He cheats at cards.
6. to take an examination or test in a dishonest way, as by improper access to answer
7. Informal. to be sexually unfaithful (often followed by on ):Her husband knew she had been cheating all along. He cheated on his wife.

 

Lance certainly cheated in pretty much every sense of the word. There were long standing rules against what he did and he did it anyway.

 

However …

 

Everyone else did, too. It was the dirtiest era of a dirty sport. Yes, the UCI had rules against performance enhancing drugs, but did a pretty piss poor job at enforcing them. Laws without the promulgation of force have no effect. I think Aquinas said that.

 

Most sport federations are often behind the proverbial eight ball when it comes to doping and testing techniques are often catching up to the drugs they’re testing for. There’s a reason why samples are kept for years. It’s so they can be examined as the testing techniques catch up to the masking techniques hiding the drugs. They’re even worried about genetic enhancements.

With hero after hero being taken down by testing agencies, we’ve become socially conditioned to not believe in human greatness in athletics until some drug test confirms it. Look at the reaction to the gold medal swim Ye Shewan did in London this summer. Even one of the top people in the IOC’s anti-doping agency said the obsession with doping was detracting from the majesty of sport.

 

No offense, bud, but when your old boss, Dick Pound, goes around saying things like only 10% of dopers ever get caught and can’t open his mouth without levelling an allegation, you can forgive us if our default mood is skeptical. You still can’t differentiate some illegal drugs from Propecia, a legal prescription drug to counter baldness.

 

I was a bit of a witness to this in my last year as a fatty. I was back in New Brunswick to work a number of events that my boss was attending. The biggest was the opening ceremonies of the IAAF Junior Track and Field Championships. Track and Field geeks can correct me if I’m wrong about this, but this the age group prior to when atheletes would be able to qualify for the Olympics. I think the upper end of the age limit might have been 16. Beautiful opening in Moncton’s new stadium. There was even a girls race as part of the ceremony. After it was concluded, the winners were taken backstage and the performances continued. The ceremony ended with the medal presentation for the race. Why the downtime between the end of the race and the presentation? The winners, and a couple of randomly selected athletes, had been taken to a room and had urine and sweat tests administered.

 

That’s how deep-seated the suspicion upon athletes has become; they’re testing teenagers at the equivalent of the world’s biggest high school track meet.

 

Maybe sports should give up the ghost on enforcing prohibitions on performance enhancement and just go to an all-doped format like SNL did in the 1980s (Unfortunately NBC Universal is pretty good about keeping its content off YouTube, so I can’t find a region unrestricted clip. Trust me, kids, it’s hilarious). If we’re going to treat athletes, pro and amateur alike, as dopers until proven clean, maybe we should just let them dope. After all, if everyone does it, it’s not really cheating.

 

It’s not cheating, unless you’re the corporate sponsor of the one honest athlete of the games.

 

Oh, you thought this was about athletes’ safety and the purity of sport, didn’t you?

 

Before they dropped his ass, when was the last time you saw Lance cycling without the Nike logo on his uniform? The companies that sponsor events and atheletes have a vested interest in two things: 1) their guy winning, 2) their guy winning in such a way he doesn’t drop dead at the finish line. Dead atheletes make horrible spokespeople. Same with ‘roid rage cases. Sponsors want to see their athletes’ photo on a box of Wheaties, not a mug shot on the Smoking Gun. There have been plenty of cases where sponsors have been culpable in their athlete’s doping, and the bad publicity is enough to drive share prices into the toilet.

 

For those of us that compete in sports for the fun of it, there’s no rationale for this kind of cheating. First, it’s expensive. There’s a reason why sponsored athletes engage in this type of cheating. They can afford it. If athletes lived off winnings alone, they’d probably take home less after expenses than you and I do. For people like us who do a couple of events a year, the payday just isn’t there.

 

It’s harmful. One of the side effects of some performance enhancement drugs is shrunken testicles. Given that Lance already lost one to cancer, you’d think he’d be concerend about the viability of the other one. Nope. The desire to win trumps all. My desire to one day have a family trumps my desire to cross a finish line first.

 

For those of us who are on that weightloss journey, cheating means departing from the nutrition plan or slacking off on the exerices. In that instance, you are truly cheating yourself. I know. Remember, I was there. Every now and then I couldn’t resist and indulged a little bit. My usual nemesis was movie theatre popcorn. There were also a few special events where I didn’t have good options available or just plain indulged. Each time, the consequence was that I was up a pound or two. That was a pound or two I had to lose before I could post a net loss for the week. I had to discipline myself to think that every time I weighed in up a pound it would be another session before I reached my goal. Those additional sessions cost me money. Frequent readers will know while I don’t mind splashing out money, I do mind not getting the value for the expenditure. Only I could control the value I got from my sessions, so it was up to me to be disciplined.

 

Shortcuts didn’t help much, either. One fat burner supplement taught me a valuable lesson in reading labels.

 

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or amateur. There are rules in life, written and unwritten, enforced by a series of consequences and rewards. I think we’ve all learned in the last few weeks the answer to the question, “Who exactly are you cheating?” In the end, it’s yourself.

 

Allons-y!

 

My new normal

When I started this journal of my weight loss journal, I argued with rising obesity rates that obese was the new normal. It’s been almost two years since that entry, but the Globe and Mail caught up last weekend.

As this week passed, I reached a new milestone. It’s been a year since I reached my goal weight. This year, I celebrated, but nowhere near as bad as the two week food bender I went on during my downtime between finishing with my trainer and joining Greco. Since I had just completed my second half marathon and was in recovery mode, I had a few indulgences. Well, not really. Kalin and I did splurge at St. Louis a couple of hours after our race, but we had just run 21.1 km. I think we can handle it. Might have had some junk last weekend, but other than that I’ve kept to my usual good habits.

I’ve had a number of questions about how disciplined I am in my eating habits and exercise routine. The truth is, I’m not. I don’t feel disciplined. I pretty much eat what I want. The difference is what I wanted then and what I want now are two different things.

When I started this last year, I truly needed discipline.

The biggest change to my eating habits was the no starchy carbs. In fairness, it was the only change. The nutrition plan I was on didn’t keep me from eating meat and most of the vegetables I like, but gone was the baked potato with the steak, the spaghetti carbonara with my chicken, the pizza crust with my pizza.

I needed the shock therapy. Starting from scratch with new eating habits helped me build a new routine that would not just get me out of the fat suit I was living in, but keep me out once I got to my goal weight. I was also working in a relatively fast paced environment in the Senate of Canada (I know most Canadians reading that last sentence are probably gobsmacked to see the word “fast” in any sentence referring to our Senate) which forced me to adapt my routine to the workplace. I was lucky to have a kitchen with a fridge and microwave where I could store and re-heat meals. There was also a cafeteria on the fifth floor and the Parliamentary Dinning Room (but staff rarely go there without their Member/Senator).

The main thing I learned very quickly if I was going to be successful: bring dinner, too. Some days were harder to judge to when it’s going to be long day so be prepared to have dinner at the office. A routine sitting day can become a long sitting very quickly. I might have to fill in for my boss at an event or represent him at a reception. Stuff like that. While the cafeteria stays open until the House rises, anything remotely healthy would be gone after the supper hour rush. If you have your own dinner on hand, the worst that can happen is that you don’t need to use it. In that case, it’s there for lunch the next day and you have a slightly less heavy bag to lug. Some days, I would eat before I left just so I wouldn’t have to cook when I got home. There were also days where I was hanging around the office between the end of the workday and when I would go to my Running Room clinic so I would eat then. 

As some carbs and fats were added back in, I found the ones I used to eat frequently I no longer craved. I like my whole grain pasta, particularly on the Friday before  a long run on Sunday, but I don’t covet it. For all the talk of bacon in the news these days, I’ve bought all of 1lb since January 2011. Don’t blame me for the impending shortage.

Exercise was another routine I had to start from scratch. I wasn’t a total coach potato when I was fat, but I couldn’t/wouldn’t sustain a commitment to an exercise routine to save my life. When I started with my trainer at Free Form Fitness, I started with two sessions a week for six weeks and then went to three. I also needed to find a time that wouldn’t get continuously pre-empted by my professional duties. For me, the sweet spot was the morning. I was not a morning person, but I realized that I was only going to make it to my sessions if I scheduled them for the times when I knew I didn’t have to be at the office, prior to 8 am. Paying for the service also helps. I can be rather spendthrift, but I want to get my money’s worth. Showing up to my appointments was the only way to do that. Having started this new routine in January, it meant beginning and ending my days in darkness.

Today, I’m working out at Greco LeanandFit four times a week (and may ratchet it up to five) and running three times a week. I’ve completed two half-marathons, both with sub-two hour finishes.  

Speaking of running, I’m instructing again. I’m leading the 5k clinic at the Slater St. Running Room. Kalin is helping me as a pace leader. One of the big challenges with instructing the 5k is it’s the gateway drug to running. Some are using it get back into the sport after years off or recovering from an injury while some are new to running altogether. As such the groups spread out rather quickly on the runs and it’s difficult to effectively supervise everyone. The faster may get out of earshot rather quickly and may run longer their body is ready for. I’m glad she’s going to help where she can. Wednesdays can be long days for work, but I’m thankful for the help.

Going back to shorter distances and slower speeds is going to mean some modifications of the routine. Probably going to have to work out a little bit more to earn that Mello’s breakfast on Saturday, but at this point it’s more “Been there. Done that. Bought the T-Shirt.”

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m hitting the road for the weekend. No, there’s subterfuge this year. Mom knows I’m coming home for the weekend. It’s a testament to the fact that I’ve so altered my routine that I can go to the old haunts and not succumb to the temptation to indulge … or at least space out the indulgences to fit the routine.

I’m a creature of  habit and my habits sucked. Only by starting from scratch and building new habits, could I succeed. Succeed I did. Succeed I continue to do.

Allons-y!

Never Alone

One week before showtime!

We finished speed training this week, which marks the second-to-last phase of the half marathon clinic. Twitter followers already know of my Garmin fail at the end of the workout so no link to the activity report. Lesson learned: the seven day period you’re doing a combined 38K  (20K LSD, 6K Tempo, 12K speed training) is probably the week you should not rely on a single battery charge.

D’oh!

It’s probably for the best. I can’t remember if I had remembered to pause it when I had to go … umm … err… “find a golf ball” in the woods after the first 1 mile repeat. I thought I left my “golf balls” back at the “pro shop”, but it was pretty apparent my “golf bag” was full and wasn’t going to wait until we were finished “our round”.

Wow, that’s more about golf than I ever want to write about.

I tend to wax nostalgic towards the end of clinics. You don’t spend training with the same people three times a week for 17 weeks (or longer for the repeat offenders) without building a few bonds. Every pace group is different and they’re usually quite fun. There’s always a few rabbits, but that usually works itself out. With just a few practice runs left, looks like everyone in my group is going to make it to the start line (knock on wood).

It’s important to remember while we are on our own on race day, the race is not a solitary experience. Among the thousands running with us are the friends we’ve trained with. During race weekend, I probably spotted and managed to say a quick hello to most of my pace group from that clinic. There’s also the friends cheering along the sidelines as well as the ones at home checking Facebook and Twitter for that ever important finish result.

There’s also the people we do our “other” training with. Like most runners, I cross train. Regular readers will know that I currently do my cross training at the Greco on Sparks St. I certainly wouldn’t have made it this far without them. Going to the early morning classes gave me an excuse to drag my ass out of bed in the morning four days a week while I was unemployed. Now waking up at 7 for the 8 pm class seems like sleeping in. There’s a pretty good crew of regulars there for the morning workouts. Sometimes we’ll tell the folks coming in for the 8 am class what they’re in for, especially the bonus rounds, only to have the trainers change it up a bit. We’ll never embellish, though. If anything, we undersell the workout to lull them into a false sense of security (I think they know better by now).

Unfortunately, one of the guys is leaving to go backpacking for a few months through Asia. Since this morning was my last workout for a couple of weeks (usually take two weeks off to taper then recover for the race), he’ll be gone by the time I get back. Wish him the best and hope to see him in the new year when he’s back.

This run will also be special in another way. It’s the week of my one year anniversary of reaching my goal weight. Who would have thought when I posted my first note about my weightloss in January of last year that I would have made it to my goal, exceeded it and maintained a healthy lifestyle?

I didn’t.

Truthfully, there was a lot of upfront trepadation and it took a few weeks of settling into my new routine of morning workouts and following the nutrition plan before I had the confidence in myself to know I could do it.

I’ve said it before, I wouldn’t have made it without my support system, my friends and family.

Whether it was lifting the weights at the gym or running a race, I was never alone.

Surround yourself with your friends on your journey and neither will you. 

Allons-y!

Responsibility

I was going to leave the Olympics behind and write about something else this week.

This morning, though, I read this article and had another idea.  It’s actually a recurring theme of mine: personal responsibility. For those that don’t want bother to click the link, it’s an interview with Jared Connaugthon, the Canadian Olympian who inadvertantly left his lane for a few steps in the 4×100 relay and turned a bronze medal finish into a disqualification.  My own thoughts watching that race was something akin to “Here we ago again. Another rule that was barely enforced in qualification heats is suddenly Gospel in the finals.”

Say what you will about that night, but you have to admire that Jared’s first instinct wasn’t to moan or bellyache about the uneven application of the rules but to man up and take ownershio and responsibility for his mistake. Perhaps it’s telling of our modern society without shame or guilt that the simple act of saying, “I made a mistake”, has become a testament to character.

Lord knows uneven judging seemed like it was going on like mad in London. I tried to re-find an article I read on some of the more egregrious facepalms in officiating over the last couple of weeks, but gave up when “london 2012 officiating mistakes” garnered 10,800 hits.  Who would have thought that boxing would be the new figure skating? Any large, global event is going to seem to have a disproportionate amount of lousy refs and officials. Whether they are actually worse than usual or not  is almost irrelevant. With the magnifying glass of the worldwide media at every event, one mistake will inevietably be blown up. That said, they probably should be. A lousy official on the world stage, is probably a lousy official back home. A sport is only as good as the fair application of its rules.  The more lousy officials exposed and sent home in disgrace, the better.

I doubt London was worse than any previous Olympics. The Salt Lake City games brought us the scandal of fixed figure skating competitions, something that was well known in the sport for years. Any sport that is based on subjective judging is a prime candidate for corruption. That same games, in the women’s hockey final with the US, our  team faced such a disproportionate amount of penalty calls from an American ref that even the Americans in the arena began booing. In a scored sport, there’s a simple, yet not necessarily easy, solution to overcome one-sided officiating: score more than the other team.

As we saw our athletes not make it to the podium, or in some cases even the finish line, we often saw them take to post-event interviews, social media, etc., and apologize. It’s not that they actually did something wrong, but their own sense of disappointment is magnified a thousand fold by the feeling they had let down the hopes of their country. At  the root of their apology is taking responsibilty.

One of the reasons I find the trolls so nauseating is that I know as bad as the insults the armchair quarterbacks are tossing out, the atheletes are beating themselves up even more.   Making fun of pro athletes one thing. They’re paid by very rich companies to win games. Don’t like them, they probably didn’t hear you over the sound of their bling. Trolling our Olympians, though, has about as much class as making fun of the disabled. They’ll spend the next four years replaying those moments in their head and figuring out what do next time to get that medal around their neck. Trolls hit “post” on their 140 characters of mental masturbation and move on. With blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become a society of theFat Comic Shop Owners from the Simpsons.

Brain to mouth filter? In the age of social media, it’s the brain to keyboard filter.

When I decided to take responsibilty for my own situation and start this journey last year, there were several times I missed a personal goal. Whenever a weigh-in didn’t go as hoped, the light at the end of the tunnel moved back just ever so much. When my ref, the scale at the gym, gave me a lousy call, I didn’t call it out. I doubled down. I worked harder, ran faster, ate better. It took longer than planned, but I got there.

I’m still there and staying there. I like it there. As I’ve pretty much gone all in with running and moved into half-marathons, I still can’t slack off on the food now that I’m at a healthy weight. It’s not like I won’t burn off the occasional junk food with my training schedule, but I won’t have the adequate fuel to get through it. At this part of the  schedule, it’s pretty typical for me to burn about 1200+ calories on a Sunday long run. My breakfast will be a bowl of steel cut oatmeal, almonds and some berries. I’ll have some electrolytes in my water and take some energy gels starting around the 8k mark.  If that bowl of oatmeal is going to get me to the 8k mark, I’m going to need to eat properly the night before, too. That’s not to say I’m not going to have fun on a Saturday night, but I’m not going to be an idiot, either. One of the reasons I took on pace leading in my Running Room clinics is the additional responsibility to show up because others are depending on me to help them reach their goals.

My body isn’t a temple. It’s supercar. I need the high test gas, not regular.

Allons-y!

… Mmmm Fooood

I hear there’s a big football (No, non-North Amers, not soccer, the other one with pads and stuff) game this weekend. I’m told that this game is often used as an excuse to gather together drink and eat copious amounts of food. Seems like as good an excuse as any to write about one of my favourite subjects.

Let’s start with a hard, maybe uncomfortable, truth.

Fat people like food.

That’s it.

Pretty simple.

Fact.

The reasons may be conscious or subconscious, but the point is their brain signals to them food=good. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy food, the problem is when you enjoy too much of the wrong things and don’t compensate on your activity level, you’re going to run into trouble. It’s not even that fat people don’t like exercise. I know a lot of overweight people who are quite active. Some wish they could be more active, but the extra pounds they are carrying have ruined their joints.

Of course, the opposite is true, too. When people who don’t like food refuse to eat or eat and then purge, they’re setting themselves up for big health trouble.

The relationship you have with both food and exercise is just like any relationship you have with human beings. You need to maximize the healthy ones and end the unhealthy ones.

Like all relationships, it will be a work in progress. Unlike the toxic girlfriend/boyfriend you broke up with, you can’t kick food out of your life. You can’t change your locks on food. You can’t change your phone number on food. You can’t send your new boyfriend to explain how the world works to your old boyfriend. Sorry, you’re going to have to stay together for the kids’ sake.

You may be stuck with your relationship with food, but at least it’s an open one.

Newt Gingrich’s favourite.

To reach your fitness goals, you’re going to have to say to a few lovers, “It’s not you, it’s me,” when it really is you. It’s not that you don’t like them; you don’t like what they do to you. They’re the friends that are good to you but not for you. You want something they just can’t provide: nutrition.

Unfortunately, it won’t be a clean break up. Your favourite bad-for-you foods are the proverbial stage 5 clinger. They’re waiting for you to break up with that skanky ho you dumped them for so they can swoop back in. They’re never going to grow up and meet Mr. or Mrs. Right.

I know. Some of the former flames I thought I left in other provinces and even other countries have found me here in Ottawa. One has now formed an unholy alliance with one of my new loves. Covered Bridge Potato Chips are now being sold at Freshii, my favourite spot to grab a quick, healthy post-run meal.

F

M

L

I wonder if they talk about me? The ex seems determined to get back together with me, so is probably talking smack to the new love as we speak. Dear Freshii, don’t listen to her.

If you’re lucky, you’ll make it to your goal without backsliding. If you keep your fitness regimen as part of your maintenance plan, there may be a temptation to have the occasional quickie with the old flame. After all, you told them it was you and now you’re better, right?

You could always do for your former food flames what your real life, human friends helped you do: make them better.

I love to cook. A person who loves to eat should love to cook. In the Ten Minute Cooking School segments in his DVD extras, film director Robert Rodriguez likes to say cooking is like making love; you’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life so you better be good at it.

When I first went into Free Form Fitness to meet for the information session, the owner, Rob, asked me if I was on a desert island and could ask for one food item what would it be.

My answer: MacGyver. I’d claim to be a cannibal and ask for MacGyver as a meal only to use him to get my ass off that island!

And once MacGyver got me off the island?

Shepard’s pie.

Mmmm. Shepard’s pie.

Since potatoes of any kind were out of bounds on the early stages of the meal plan, I needed a substitute for the topping. A lot of recipes call for the ground beef to be cooked in ketchup or chilli sauce, which is thick ketchup with chilli peppers mixed in. Both are high in added sugar and were also no-nos on the plan. Corn was also a no-no, but I wasn’t much of a corn in shepard’s pie person

My phase 1 substitutes – the ketchup/chilli sauce is easy: salsa, the hotter the better. You only need a couple of dollops. Two tablespoons of salsa is 10 calories. Two tablespoons of ketchup is 50 calories. The meat and whatever veggies you use (I use carrot, celery, and onion) will absorb the excess juices. For the potato substitute, cauliflower puree. Steam the cauliflower, toss in a blender with some yogurt, a clove of garlic, and a pinch of sea salt. You may have to keep adding cauliflower to thicken the mixture to mashed potato consistency.

In phase 3 when complex carbs were back on the menu, roasted sweet potatoes became the topping with a little mozzarella cheese on the top for colour contrast instead of cheddar. Sweet potatoes are so naturally creamy they mash up quite well with adding any dairy. I call this version my cowboy pie, since cowboys are the shepards of the southwest.

Yeah … that’s it.

Pizza craving? I found this recipe for cauliflower crust pizza. One of those packages of pre-chopped cauliflower from the salad section of your grocer should be enough for a full sized pizza. It also holds up well for leftovers.

Fried chicken? This one is work in progress. Toss some almonds into a food chopper and chop to the consistency of crumbs. Throw the crumbs on a plate and season with your favourite herbs and spices. Wrap boneless breasts in plastic wrap and flatten by pounding with a heavy pan (This helps them cook faster and evenly in the pan. If you’re going to try baking the breast, you can skip this step). Dredge breasts in flour, beaten eggs, and then crumb mix. Fry in a pan heated with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Few minutes a side and you’re good to go.

Burger? Have a hamburger. Just don’t have the bun if you are in the early stages or sub a whole wheat/multigrain roll in the later stages. If you’re ordering at a bar, no fries. Get a soup or salad as a side.

Getting the nutrition equation right is going to be key as I train for my first half marathon … and my second.

That’s right, I wrote second. Registration for the Canada Army Run opened up this morning.  Since I was up late last night, I went to the website and registered not long after it opened. It’s September 23rd, a week earlier so it doesn’t conflict with Battle of Britain commemorations and the Terry Fox Run.

Yes, despite just starting the training for my first half marathon, I’ve registered for my second.   The popularity of the race means you need to register early. Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon is already 85% sold out and we’re a little less than four months away from race day.  Getting the coveted black jersey to add to the collection this year. I registered the 2:15 time, but am going to train to finish under that. I also indicated a size medium for the jersey. I wonder if that will be too big by September.

We actually had our first training run of the half marathon clinic on Wednesday. A quick 3K tempo run. Since most don’t realize the half marathon training schedule begins on Wednesday with our first clinic night the following Tuesday, there weren’t a lot of people. The two that wanted to run with the 2:15 group quickly fell back to the 2:30.  Since we have over 50 people registered for the clinic, I’ll have more next week.

In fact, I’m thinking of taking up this challenge:

I’ve always been a big Drew Carey fan. I loved his show. Now that he’s on daytime TV, I sort of lost touch of his career until he guest starred on episode of Community.  At first, I only recognized him by his voice. I think of myself as the last person to get starstruck, but when I see people, famous or otherwise, go through what I’ve gone through and have come out the other end the better for it, it powers me onward.

So Drew’s time will be my goal. Not my immediate goal, but my long term goal. I’ll keep doing half marathons until I reach it.

Allons-y!

This is the end …

… of my year.

What? Did you think I was calling it quits on the blog?

You should know by now I like writing too much to let this drop. It’s also a great tool to keep myself accountable.

I also have low self-esteem and am in constant need of affirmation from others.

Okay, go ahead and call bullshit on that last sentence.

Not the last potato I would see in October.

In truth, I have the Doors song stuck in my head. Some techno pile of pablum on the playlist for my Greco classes samples the opening in its chorus. It’s not as bad as the techno cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb I heard at Freshii one night

I almost didn’t make it. While I reached my goal weight with Free Form Fitness at the end of  September, I added a few pounds between the end of my time there and the beginning of my time at Greco Lean and Fit.

I worked the extra pounds off and then some at Greco. The indulgences of New Brunswick and a relaxed exercise routine during my trip home for Christmas holidays added a few back. Renewed food discipline and increased exercise, four Greco sessions to make up for the loss of a run night, beat it back the weight to below 170.

By the numbers

                       Worst (Sept 2010)     January 13 2011    January 13 2012

Weight (lbs)          250ish                                   234                              165

Body Fat %              ?                                           36%                           21.9%

BMI                            38                                          35.6                           25.1

Neck (In)                17.5                                         17.5                            15

Chest                         52                                           50                               38

Waist                         42                                          42                               32

I’ve gone from looking like

Don Corleone

to

Don Draper

While most of my friends wished 2011 goodbye and good riddance, I was kind of sad to see the old girl go. While it did end on a low note professionally, the preceding 52 weeks taken in total simply constitute the best year of my life. I accepted the challenge of getting to 170 lbs and I exceeded it. On a dare, I took up running, committing to do a 5K race. I not only survived that race, but a found a new passion. I did four more 5K races since then and went from 32:35 in May to a personal best of 27:25 in September. I’ve deepened my existing friendships and made a lot of new ones.  Becoming an instructor at the Running Room reignited my passion for teaching.

How much have my looks changed? The facial recognition feature of iPhoto hasn’t recognized me since July. I have to manually

That’s how I did this, but why did I do this?

To protect my side gig as a Ricky Gervais impersonator. Ricky lost weight, so did I.

Well, not really. Seeing some high profile celebs that I’m a fan of, like Ricky Gervais and Jonah Hill, get fit this year helped strengthen my resolve to succeed, but the resolve was already there.

I knew I would have to do this eventually. In 2004, I clocked in at 244 lbs and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I had the choice of the CPAP machine or lose weight, so I hit the gym and got my weight down to 180 lbs by the time I left New Brunswick for my PhD studies in Washington, DC.  I had no idea my weight had crept back on me over the next five years. The sedentary lifestyle of the graduate student combined with the penchant for stupid food choices lead to it all coming back and then some.

In many ways, this last year has felt like the Doctor’s regeneration sequence. I look different. (I’m sure you’re getting sick of the Doctor Who references, but I’m not.) I feel different. More energy. More stamina. I go to bed earlier, but I also get up around 5 am almost every day.  Farmers and fishermen don’t get up this early (at least this time of year).

I am still the same, though. Think of it as the 2nd Michael.

The next year has a lot to live up to. The blog will continue while I actually go an entire year not fat. What you’ve read up until today was just the prologue.

There are challenges ahead. Some, like the half-marathon, I’ve set for myself.

Others have been thrust upon me. My old flames, my most psychotic stalker ex-lovers have found me. First, Covered Bridge Potato Chips found its way to the Organic Food Store near Vicky’s.

Now ….

My greatest enemy has found me. Five Guys. The Daleks to my Doctor. They stalked me all the way from Washington. Time and space meant nothing for them in their dogged pursuit of me.  They crossed a border. This litter was at the foot of the stairs to my apartment building when I came home from a movie Monday night.

They’re here. There’s one in Riverside, a mere 3.5 km away.

The Doctor ended the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks by placing the whole conflict in a time lock, literally locking them away from existence.

I don’t quite have that capability. I’m just not going to go  to Riverside.

The answer is that simple: just don’t go. If Tron: Legacy taught us anything, sometimes the only way to win is to withdraw from the game.

To quote a great admiral:

Allons-y!

You Say You Want A Resolution 2 – A Little Help From Your Friends

Have you hit the gym yet?

No?

Probably a good thing. Most people who try to lose weight for the sake of an arbitrary resolution, hit the gym as soon as it re-opens on January 2nd, do a bunch of exercises, wonder what the hell they are doing, and never see the inside of the place again for another 365 days.

If you read my post yesterday, you already know the importance of calling in the professionals to give you the customized information you need so you can build a plan to not just shed a few pounds, but change your life.

In two sentences: Their job: make a plan for you. Your job: JFDI.

Once you have your plan, there’s another thing you’ll need to ensure success: friends.

In my second post, I wrote about the importance of the real, as opposed to virtual, social networks in our lives. It actually came out of my PhD research on the voting patterns of US expatriates. I started to get interested in their chapter arguing that obesity was contagious. I started to wonder if the opposite was true, that weight loss is contagious, too. I looked at how I was now surrounded by people who were all involved in some form of fitness.

Was it emulating their behaviour that got me on this journey? I don’t know, but if it wasn’t for my friends, I wouldn’t have succeeded.

There are two kinds of friends one keeps around: those that are good to you and those that are good for you. I’ve come to learn recently that just because one is the former does not necessarily mean they are the latter. Those that are the latter will likely include characteristics of the former. A friend that is good to you is not necessarily bad for you, but may be more reinforcing of your baser instincts. A friend that is good for you helps you become a better person. They see in you what you cannot see in yourself.

Did I confuse you? The point is the friends that are good to you might be the equivalent of the bag of potato chips. They’re tasty, but too much will kill you. The friends who are good for you are more like sweet potatoes roasted in olive oil. Still delicious, but also low in simple starches and full of vitamins.

I am lucky to have more of the latter than the former. The decision to go on this journey was by no means a natural one for me. I was quite content the way I was. Looking back, I was the proverbial pig living in the mud, content because it was all I knew. That self-deprecating sense of humour I mentioned in previous posts? A mere smokescreen in place of true self-esteem.

While a lot of friends have helped me on this journey, I need to mention two in particular: Christian and Vicky. If you want to succeed, surround yourself with Christians and Vickys. Find your own. These two are mine.

I’ve known Christian since 1997, when he was a first year at St. Thomas and I was in my second year. He was a band geek and I was just a geek. We became fast friends. He even asked me to serve as best man at his wedding, an honour I greatly accepted.

It was Christian, he of Bald Guy Running, who convinced me to train for the 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend. He was going to slum it with the 5k (he previously did the half marathon for that event) to support his wife, Ramona. I’ve joked that he got me drunk one night and signed me up to the cult of the runner. The truth of the matter, though, is I thought completing a race would be a good intermediate goal. I was supposed to do cardio on my days I wasn’t working out with my trainer, so why not put that activity in the context of a goal that would serve my ultimate goals? He convinced me. I, in turn, talked our friend Michael Clements into doing it, too. Frequent readers will recall that I didn’t know that I had successfully talked Clements into it until he surprised me by showing up on race day with a bib.

Christian, channelling his inner Fred Durst before the Army Run.
Next year, we’re running the half-marathon together.

The 5k dare lead me to the Running Room for my first clinic, the Learn-to-Run 5K. After I completed that clinic, I was asked to be group leader for a combined 5k/10k clinic and, after that, asked to instruct a 5k clinic. Not bad for a guy who bought his first running shoes in February.

The person who really got the ball rolling, though, is my friend Vicky. Ironically, I met Vicky when I quit my job. In the summer of 2008, I realized that despite my best efforts, the PhD field research wasn’t going to get done by commuting between Ottawa and DC. I had called off three research trips, two because work needed me elsewhere and a third because no one was hanging around DC to be interviewed in August. My looming departure forced my office to find replacements for myself and another co-worker who had left in April. Vicky was hired about a week before I packed the Uhaul for Washington. We really got to know each other when I came back the following fall. She eventually left for another Senator’s office, but we kept hanging out. She’s one of my best friends.

By the way, “best friend” is code word for … best friend. Since readership has spiked recently, I figure I should be proactive and not let anyone jump to conclusions. She’s an amazing person who I am lucky to have in my life.

She was the catalyst, the lynchpin that allowed all the ingredients to come together to make this happen, the lever that pried the immovable boulder to roll down down the mountain. Over dinner last December, just before our Christmas holidays, it was Vicky that suggested Free Form. I had just told her about my drop in suit size. She told me she was planning on trying it and suggested I check it out, too. It would further our friendship. Beginning a pattern that would recur throughout this journey, making life choices over food and drink, I said, “sure”. The rest is history.

Getting ready for the Army Run.

I’ve relied on Vicky a lot in this journey. She’s been there for most of the major milestones. She saw me off at the start line for Ottawa Race Weekend. We ran together for the Army Run. She even took me shopping for my first batch of new clothes to get me through the spring sitting. She was pretty astonished to find out not only pretty much everything I owned came from Moore’s, but I hadn’t even stepped foot in most of the stores in the Rideau Centre that didn’t have the word “apple” or “gamestop” in it’s name. I didn’t even know some of these stores actually sold men’s clothes.

The only time she judged me is when I tried something on that looked truly awful. Yes, I tried on some stuff that was truly awful. Not Herb Tarlek awful, but awful nonetheless. Thankfully, she has laughed with me instead of wretching at the utter ghastliness of my sense of modern fashion. I’ve appreciated her honesty, because this stuff isn’t cheap.

Everyone should find themselves a Christian and a Vicky. The funny thing is neither of them told me I should lose weight. They asked me to join them on their journeys. While I’ve written about my own journey, theirs are no less important to me.

You may have noticed a lot, and I mean a lot, of Doctor Who references in my blog posts. Pretty obvious it’s my favourite science fiction show, isn’t it? For those not familiar with one of the longest running TV show in the history of the medium, the Doctor is a Time Lord, a time traveller, who goes about time and space in ship that looks like a British police box. He frequently has a human companion, our entree into his world. The recurring theme of the show is being “bigger on the inside”. He crashes, always crashing, rarely landing smoothly, takes on a companion or two, makes them better over the course of a season or two and then leaves them behind to seek their own destiny.

I always thought I was the Doctor in my friends’ lives. Seems like I’ve come and gone just as frequently the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, DC is great, but it’s no Gallifrey. As you might have noticed throughout the blog, I can prattle incessantly. Sartorial choices come from a different era. Even have a piece of paper conferring the title of Doctor … just not the kind that actually helps people. Turns out, however, I was the companion. They made me bigger on the inside, or smaller on the outside, or … See what I was saying before about prattle?

They saw in me what I couldn’t see for myself: the man I could be. It just took me 9.5 months to dig that man out of a fat suit and see him for myself. I like him and can’t wait to see more of him.

I will never be able to truly repay this debt of gratitude. I can only hope to be as supportive for them in their journeys as they were in mine.

I’m trying. Where Vicky suggested Free Form Fitness, I suggested we continue our journeys with Greco. It was a special to Parliament Hill staff that came in the form of one those e-mails that comes from someone whose apparent job it is to send a dozen messages a day, so she originally ignored it and deleted it unread. I was always paranoid my Chief of Staff will ask me to look up some obscure e-mail when we’re off-site so I would never delete a message (still not sunk in that I’m unemployed. That sentence was originally in the present tense). After serving as her instructor for the 5K clinic, I coaxed Vicky into doing the half-marathon clinic and race with me in the New Year.

So, the lessons thus far for those embarking on their journeys:

1. Call in the pros

2. Surround yourselves with the friends who are good for you, Christians and Vickys

Once those walls are in place:

Put one foot in front of the other.

JFDI.

And … of course …

Allons-y!

You Say You Want A Resolution

I was planning on distilling some final thoughts/year-in-review type stuff on my weight loss journey in next week’s regular blog post.   Of course, waiting for airplanes this time of year gives one time to get ahead.  Also, a retweet from Philip DeFranco has created renewed interest in the blog.  All things considered, I figured a series of quick posts may be in order.

Since many of you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, you’re probably trying to figure out how you’re going to accomplish it.

This is no place for amateurs.  Call in the professionals. 

I’ve  succeeded on my own but failed on my own more than I succeeded.  You can buy a million books and google a million diets, but you’re probably going to fail.  The books are written for a broad audience, not you and your circumstance. I must have picked up a dozen diet books over the years.  Put most of them back on the shelf when their nutrition plans started breakfast with … eggs.

I hate eggs.

Yuck.

Bleh.

I’d flick through the pages to see what the substitute for eggs was.  Egg whites.

Real genius, guys (and girls).

If I wanted the substitute or additional information, there was a lovely website I could go to get what I was looking for … with a paid subscription.

What is this? Dragon’s Den? Did Kevin O’Leary put you up to this?

I tried NutriSystem, once. I tried it because I liked the idea of a month’s worth of food arriving by mail. I had just recovered from a few days of illness when the cupboards were bare, so this appealed to me.

Good Lord that food was awful. It made me want to get sick so I could go to the hospital to have better food. Despite shedding a few pounds on that plan, when the second month’s supply arrived, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. I happened to look out my apartment window and saw a homeless person dumpster driving in my building’s parking lot. I left the box outside where he could find it when he climbed out of the bin and called NutriSystem to cancel my service.

Whether you get a personal trainer like I did, a nutritionist, a doctor, Weight Watchers or whatever, get advice tailored to your needs and goals.  You’re going to need to spend money to lose weight. You’ll either need a gym membership, equipment, gear or, like me, all of the above.  I did a trainer. I had a friend in grad school who had great success with Weight Watchers. The point is to get expert advice for you as an individual, not you as one of the teeming masses.

Instead of throwing good money after bad advice, pay for advice for you, not the millions of people that watch Oprah. To use the language of my generation, your professional is narrowcast, their professional is broadcast.

JM and me on my last day at Free Form Fitness

For me, hiring a trainer, JM at Free Form Fitness, created the motivation to succeed.  I like my money. I like spending my money on stuff. Stuff I can see, stuff I can use. If I didn’t show up to my sessions, I would be out money.  I was paid decently at my old job, but the training ate up pretty much all of my disposable income. If I didn’t follow the meal plan, I would be out money.  Ironically, if I did everything right and succeeded, I’d still be out money, but I would see the results for which I paid.  In that case, it would be money well spent.

Big picture: I may not be able to afford a tropical vacation this year to show off a beach body, but I would have a beach body to show off next year.

The best thing about calling in the pros, is that you don’t have to figure things out. That’s what you pay them for.

Their job: come up with a plan for your success.

Your job: JFDI – just fucking do it. (Apologies for the strong language. I try to keep the blog cleaner than my real world language)

Now that I’ve reached my main goal for the year, my target weight of 170 lbs, I’ve switched experts. I’m going to Greco Lean and Fit. As my sessions with JM were expiring, Greco had a special on for Parliament Hill staff and I still was one. It’s not personal training, but it’s still infinitely more effective than going solo.
When I was talked into taking up running by my friend Christian, I went to the experts, my local Running Room. I learned a lot from my Learn to Run instructor, Jen, and the 5K clinic instructor, Maya, and now I have two clinics as an instructor under my belt. Going back to being a student, though, and taking the half-marathon clinic.

The boss, John Stanton, CEO of the Running Room, and myself at the Army Run 3K Friendship Warm Up Run

If you stick with your resolution, you’ll improve your life in ways I can’t begin to describe. The short version is: even if you don’t feel bad now, even if you’re not sick or suffering from some weight-related malady, losing weight will make you not only feel so much better, it will make you be so much better.
I’ll share a few more of these this week.
Until then,
Allons-y!


Week 51 – Home I’ll be, Part 2

Fredericton

(expletive)

I’m still in Fredericton.

Forgive the Captain Willard moment.  I’m actually enjoying my vacation back home.  It’s a much needed break from the pressure cooker that is Parliament in the weeks leading up to the Christmas break. I usually take off within a few hours of Parliament rising.  This year I waited until Monday so I could get in another Running Room clinic night and Sunday practice run with my 5K clinic. Even with a couple of days to get ready, it’s still like the scene in Spaceballs where the ship comes to an emergency stop while travelling at ludicrous speed.

My Christmas vacation usually takes three distinct phases:

Phase 1 – Prepare for Christmas. This is the aforementioned Christmas shopping.  Luggage restrictions make it impossible to get my shopping done in Ottawa.  I also like to coordinate with my sister and parents what was already purchased for the nephews.  I also knew what Santa Claus was giving them.  For the wee ones who may be reading this, I am an Agent of S.A.N.T.A. I am part of an intricate network, like Uatu the Watcher, who observes and reports to inform  the man up north’s naughty and nice list.  For all the hype I made of my dread of the mall this time of year, I ended up spending more on supplements to get me through 2 weeks at home than I did at the mall on presents. For the nephews, I actually used the Claus’ suggestion of an art set for Wes and a chemistry set for Andrew, both of which I found at a pair of stores owned by my friend, Luke Randall, Endeavours and ThinkPlay. I don’t know why I bother going to the mall as I usually end up buying the boys’ presents at Luke’s than anywhere else.

Did they like their presents? You decide:

 

There’s also the health aspect in preparing for Christmas.  As I mentioned, I have to stock up on supplies to keep nutrition plan compliant. While mom is more than happy to offer to pick some things up at the grocery store for me so it’s here when I get home, I’m loathe to give her the full list of what I need.  The good son, I am, I don’t want her running around town looking for brand X supplement when I know where to go to get the brand I want at a reasonable price. So I have her get the simple stuff that she was going to buy for the house anyway like frozen berries and yogurt and I’ll get the rest.  I still have half a jug of whey protein at home from my summer trip, but I didn’t want to brave the holiday hordes at Costco for the rest, so I went to GNC for the veggie greens, fish oil and protein bars. I spent about $150 after tax for two weeks of supplies. The leftovers will be stashed until my next visit.


Of course, no visit to Fredericton is complete without the return to the old haunts.  I made more than one stop at the Garrison District Ale House. The food there is great and they have the biggest beer menu in town. Of course, the only beer I care about this time of year is Picaroons Winter Warmer, from our local microbrewery which won the award for best brewery in Canada this year.  I lucked out this year that the Boyce Farmer’s Market is actually open twice this year during my vacation. Last year, Christmas and New Year’s both landed on Saturdays. There was a special Christmas Eve market on the Friday and then it was closed until January 7th. I flew back to Ottawa on January 2nd.

Phase 2 – Survive Christmas.  Christmas at the Read household is a three day affair.  Since my sister has a young family, we go to the early Christmas Eve mass at her parish on Fredericton’s north side, St. Theresa’s.  The competition for seats can be quite fierce, so we go early for the early mass. The tradition at St. Theresa’s is that the children bring bells  and ring them every time they say “Amen” during the mass. My ears rang for hours afterward.

After mass, we gather at my parent’s place for dinner and give my nephews their Christmas presents from us. When we got back to the house, we discovered Santa had come early for myself and my parents.  This stressed my nephews to no end. Suddenly they were scared Santa had passed over their house because they were not home in bed.  I had to download the NORAD Santa app for my iPhone to show them that he was still on his way.  I guess he delivers to employees first ;).

On the food front, I was mostly responsible.  Our Christmas Eve dinner is a smorgasbord of meat. It consists Mom’s sweet and sour meatballs, cabbage rolls, and meat pie. Dessert is a five layer blueberry tart.  I kept my portions reasonable.

I made my parents post-run Christmas morning brunch of whole wheat French toast with organic hot Italian sausage and hash browns.  The hash browns were an indulgence, but I added onions I threw in some onions that were leftover from when we barbecued steaks earlier in the week so there were veggies.

Hey, I ran 5K in -20 windchill.  I earned that brunch. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/136307218

Christmas dinner was the traditional turkey and all the fixings. Mom cooked me some sweet potatoes along with the rest of the veggies so I was spared the simple starches of their white cousins.  My brother-in-law’s mother made the turkey. His grandmother made the stuffing, of which I had only a spoonful. My sister made dessert, a gingerbread cake with lemon sauce. I would like to say I had a only little bit of dessert, but my sister’s definition of small portion and mine are two different things.  She was the natural athlete in the family, so she can get away with it.

Phase 3 – Recover from Christmas.  The nephews can be pretty rambunctious.  They’re 9 and 6 and love to wrestle with their Uncle Michael. Andrew even brought boxing gloves to our house this morning. Since my parents thought it was a good idea for the boys to sleep over Christmas night, I was under pretty much constant assault from mid-afternoon Christmas Day until lunchtime Boxing Day. They are savage and relentless. Needless to say, I was battered and bruised and needed time to heal up. I thought the mall was going to be killer.

Andrew has developed the Read sense of humour. He drew a picture this morning of small person wearing big, red gloves hitting a larger person a little below the waistline. He handed it to me and said, “This is what I’m going to do to you.”

My response, “If you ever want to have a cousin, aim higher.”

Part of the recovery means getting back into the exercise routine that I allowed to lapse over the holiday weekend. It’s a little difficult to keep the routine of waking up at 5:00 am and walk to the gym when the gym is now 5k away along a highway with no sidewalk. I’ve gotten my usual runs in.  After posting last week’s blog on Friday, I went for a run in a snowstorm and enjoyed it immensely. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/135991133 Sunday, Christmas Day, I went for the aforementioned morning run in -20. There is something oddly invigorating about a cold weather run.

On Wednesday, I ran with the local 5K Running Room clinic. They were MIA last week because they had the opportunity to drill with the track coach at University of New Brunswick. In a funny twist, it turns  out the instructor for the local clinic is the wife of a classmate of mine from high school. Fredericton is a very small town.  It was a cold, rainy night and  didn’t know the route, so I kept this one slow and paced myself with the group. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/137213530

Both Mom and my sister got me guest passes to Goodlife so I could go the gym while I was home.  These were actually my first solo non-run, non-swim workouts since I started this journey and, Good Lord, working out alone is capital B Boring. I clocked some time on the elliptical to warm up and then did a couple rounds of the circuit machines. It was a good workout, but just dull. There were a lot of little things that made me miss the gang at Grecoleanandfit. They gave me a shower towel out of courtesy, but it was going to be $5 if I took out a membership. I guess Loblaws, the owners of Goodlife, take their marketing cues from crack dealers. The water fountains were on the municipal system.  If I wanted filtered water, there were plenty of Aquafina bottles for sale. There were also no spare toiletries or comb in the change room.  The water and toiletries I can understand, but paying for towels? Really? Fail. It’s not like I’m the big city guy coming to Palookaville telling the yokels how to run their business. I’m the local guy coming home and using a national chain, yet it feels like I’m slumming it.  I guess the locals at Free Form Fitness and Greco have spoiled me this year into thinking little things like towels included in your fees or can of body spray if you forget your deodorant is the way it’s supposed to be. In the end, they were free workouts and unlike the last time I was given a free pass to Goodlife, I didn’t have to go through a sales pitch every time I showed up for a workout.

Unrelated note: if your parents named you after a totalitarian dictator, it’s not shameful to have your name legally changed as an adult. It’s smart. You’ll find life a lot easier, especially if you’re in sales. Just saying.

Haven’t decided on New Year’s Eve yet. I know. It’s tomorrow. As Dave Attell would say, “There’s people who have a problem with drinking and driving. I call them cops.” New Maryland’s geographic location vis-a-vis Fredericton makes it a perfect location for the Fredericton City police to stage a New Years Eve checkpoint at the city limits and they do. Every year. This means if I want to drink the car stays home I and I cab it.  There’s a few events in town that I wouldn’t mind going to, but between tickets and cabs it’s going to be $100 before I have a drink. Oh, if I go out, there will be drinking. Given the situation that’s waiting for me back in Ottawa, that money might best be saved for other purposes like the necessities of life or my registration for my half-marathon clinic.

I’ve actually gotten out of the habit of going out on New Year’s Eve. The last few have been non-events for me.  For some reason, I usually pick up a bug and get sick. Usually it’s whatever my nephews have picked up from school.

Remember, young parents, once they hit school, they bring home more than report cards and art projects.

I figure other years, I picked it up while travelling. Last year, God, himself, struck me down for having the gall to chill out in my parents’ hot tub during a snowstorm. I was out like a light by 10 o’clock. The sound of fireworks on the television coverage of Times Square in New York woke me up and told me it was time to move from the couch to bed.

2010

I have once again tempted fate this year, hopping in almost immediately upon my return home. I event repeated this when we had a second storm. So far, I have not felt His wrath. I even smoked a cigar, a Montecristo Churchill, a going away gift from the office.

Before you ask: yes, I’m wearing a bathing suit. Get your mind out of the gutter.

BTW, how are those for before and after shots?

It seems like any plans I make for the night have had fate intervene and expectations dashed, so I will make none of the former to increase the likelihood of the latter being exceeded. Besides, I have a run in the morning. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve run hungover, but I would really like to PB on this one, even if its unofficial, since it’s the last 5K race I run for a while.

My real new year begins at the end of next week. As you can see from the title, I’m starting week 51. For those not up on math,that makes just another week before my year’s journey is complete. That will be more of cause for celebration than the arbitrary passing of a date on a calendar.

Sure, the year is not starting on the best of notes, but I intend for my coming period of unemployment to be like Hobbes’ state of nature: nasty, brutish, and, most importantly, short. I’m sure if I throw the vigour into the job search that I threw into this journey, I will be just as successful.

That written, some cutbacks will be necessary in the short term.  There’s a Beyond the Rack purchase of suits that arrived a week and a half late that will be heading back as soon as I get to the apartment. When I received an email update that it was still pending, I called and tried to cancel it but in the couple of hours between the email going out and my phone call it had arrived at the warehouse, been packed for shipping and was awaiting pick-up.

The operator gave me the good news: I was getting a free upgrade to express shipping so it would be at my apartment in Ottawa before Christmas.

Dude, I’m calling from Fredericton … New Brunswick. I won’t be back until the new year. Oh well, the ten business day return policy will not have expired by the time I get back and three federal, therefore Canada Post, holidays between then and my return will be helpful.

Until the work situation is sorted out, the clothing purchases are on hold.  I bought a little bit more athletic gear with a Running Room gift card that was a gift from my sister and brother-in-law, but that’s the final purchase for a while.  My pre-Christmas shopping trip  and late summer and early fall purchases have me well stocked for winter wear. I was tempted by some items that were 50% off at Robert Simmons, but decided against it. My suit and shirt collection is sufficient until the paycheques start rolling in. I really don’t need to worry about clothes again until summer. Pretty much everything I bought for last summer is now too big. Even the aspirational Speedos are now baggy, and I don’t mean that in a pervy way. I’ll worry about that in May.

Until then ….

Allons-y!

Week 40 – Victory Lap

First, some apologies. I remained relatively silent on the ol’ social networks last week and when I was on, I was lying through my teeth (or fingers since it was in the written word) of my status or whereabouts. The reason last week’s post was in the middle of the week had little to do with reaching my weight goal (though that seemed as good an excuse as any) and more to do with the reason I wouldn’t be around on Friday. I was driving to New Brunswick to surprise my mother for her 60th birthday. A little hard to write and post while driving a Dodge Charger in the middle of Nowheresville, Quebec.

Fellow Whovians will remember the first rule: the Doctor lies.

And lie I did. Especially when I let it slip that I would be in New Brunswick on the weekend. I would recover by saying “New Brunswick? I meant New York. I was going shopping in upstate New York for their Columbus Day sales. You know I don’t have clothes that fit me anymore. I would have to leave New York at 4 to make that appointment. Freudian slip, I guess. You now where I want to be this weekend.” Matt Smith and David Tennant would have been proud.

Mom was none the wiser and genuinely surprised when I showed up at the front door Saturday night. My sister, in on the surprise, sent me a BBM from the party: “Mom’s telling everyone how you’re going to Syracuse.”

Thanks to those that helped keep my cover.

I think I finally learned the lessons from previous trips and did well on the nutrition side of things. Did have a Subway sandwich for the first time this year as lunch, but the lunch options where I stopped at Port Jolie were a Subway, Normadin, or Tim Horton’s. Normadin had a rather long line to be seated and I don’t like the sandwiches at Timmies’ since they stopped serving roast beef. Subway was the least bad option. Just a small steak and cheese on 9 grain bread. Managed to almost get through the whole order in my weak conversational French until a combination of being low on energy and a very fast-talking cashier forced a “Huh?” out of me. “For here or to go, Sir?” It’s time I can go a little easier on my food choices without considering that I have fallen off the wagon.

It was Thanksgiving this weekend in Canada. For any US readers, the celebration of Thanksgiving in October as a commemoration of Martin Frobisher’s 1578 exhibition to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage made for a great laugh on How I Met Your Mother, but isn’t exactly true. The voyage is listed in Wikipedia, though, as part of the history of the holiday, so it must be true. I’m told Star Wars is a true story, too. We have a shorter growing season here in the north, so the harvest is earlier and therefore we made our statutory celebration of the harvest earlier. Every few years or so, it lands on my birthday. One year it landed on my 19th birthday. Back then every bar in the city was closed on statutory holidays. No free drinks on my first day of legal drinking for me 😦

Thanksgiving dinner meant a few deviations from the nutrition plan. Since I finished with Free Form Fitness, I’m not following their plan as strictly anymore. Don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the wagon. Although if you ran into me a the Boyce Farmer’s Market on Saturday you couldn’t be blamed for assuming otherwise. Once again, I indulged in old habits, but in my new ways.

I had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. For the first time in my adult years, I’m truly fit and healthy. I’m wearing clothes in sizes I haven’t worn since junior high. People I’ve known for years don’t recognize me. It’s fun to see the reactions of people when they clue in. Sometimes its even helpful when an old associate doesn’t recognize me.

I’m mostly thankful to my family and friends for their support during this journey. I certainly wouldn’t be here without them. There are two kinds of friends one keeps around: those that are good to you and those that are good for you. I’ve come to learn recently that just because one is the former does not necessarily mean they are the latter. Those that are the latter will likely include characteristics of the former. A friend that is good to you is not necessarily bad for you, but may be more reinforcing of your baser instincts. A friend that is good for you helps you become a better person. They see in you what you cannot see in yourself.

I am thankful that I have more of the latter than the former. The decision to go on this journey was by no means a natural one for me. I was quite content the way I was. Looking back, I was the proverbial pig living in the mud, content because it was all I knew. That self-deprecating sense of humour I mentioned in previous posts? A mere smokescreen in place of true self-esteem.

There’s quite a few I should name, so forgive me if this drones off like an Oscar speech. If I forget to name you before the orchestra plays me out, I’ll make up for it when next we meet in person. Since starting this journey and writing about it on Facebook and now WordPress and Twitter, I have received hundreds, maybe thousands, of comments. Your support has been instrumental in my success. Like the cheering section in the last kilometre of a race, your words of support have kept me going.

There’s a few friends out there who have been great examples as what one can achieve when one puts in the effort. Friends like Christina and Meghann, who I knew in high school or as undergrads, lost touch with only to be reunited over Facebook. Seeing how they transformed themselves made me realize when I started this that I could do it, too.

Very early on in this journey one of my best friends, Christian, he of Bald Guy Running and now Insightfully Bald, convinced me to train for the 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend. He was going to slum it with the 5k (he previously did the half marathon for that event) to support his wife, Ramona. I’ve joked that he got me drunk one night and signed me up to the cult of the runner. The truth of the matter, though, is I thought completing a race would be a good intermediate goal. I was supposed to do cardio on my days I wasn’t working out with my trainer, so why not put that activity in the context of a goal that would serve my ultimate goals? He convinced me. I, in turn, talked our friend Michael Clements into doing it, too. Frequent readers will recall that I didn’t know that until he surprised me by showing up on race day with a bib.

Christian, channelling his inner Fred Durst before the Army Run. Next year, we're running the half-marathon together.

The 5k dare lead me to the Running Room for my first clinic, the Learn-to-Run 5K. After I completed that clinic, I was asked to be group leader for a combined 5k/10k clinic and, after that, asked to instruct a 5k clinic. Not bad for a guy who bought his first running shoes in February.

The person who really got the ball rolling though is my friend Vicky. She was the catalyst, the lynchpin that allowed all the ingredients to come together to make this happen, the lever that pried the immovable boulder to roll down down the mountain. Over dinner last December, just before our Christmas holidays, it was Vicky that suggested Free Form. I had just told her about my drop in suit size. She told me she was planning on trying it and suggested I check it out, too. It would further our friendship. Beginning a pattern that would recur throughout this journey, making life choices over food and drink, I said, “sure”. The rest is history.

Getting ready for the Army Run.

I’ve relied on Vicky a lot in this journey. She’s been there for most of the major milestones. She saw me off at the start line for Ottawa Race Weekend. We ran together for the Army Run. She even took me shopping for my first batch of new clothes to get me through the spring sitting. She was pretty astonished to find out not only pretty much everything I owned came from Moore’s, but I hadn’t even stepped foot in most of the stores in the Rideau Centre that didn’t have the word “apple” or “gamestop” in it’s name. I didn’t even know some of these stores actually sold men’s clothes.

The only time she judged me is when I tried something on that looked truly awful. Yes, I tried on some stuff that was truly awful. Not Herb Tarlek awful, but awful nonetheless. Thankfully, she has laughed with me instead of wretching at the utter ghastliness of my sense of modern fashion. I’ve appreciated her honesty, because this stuff isn’t cheap.

Everyone should find themselves a Christian and a Vicky. The funny thing is neither of them told me I should lose weight. They asked me to join them on their journeys. While I’ve written about my own journey, theirs are no less important to me.

You may have noticed a lot, and I mean a lot, of Doctor Who references in my blog posts. Pretty obvious it’s my favourite science fiction show, isn’t it. For those not familiar with the longest running TV show in the history of the medium, the Doctor is a Time Lord, a time traveller, who goes about time and space in ship that looks like a British police box. He frequently has a human companion, our entree into his world. The recurring theme of the show is being “bigger on the inside”. He crashes, always crashing, rarely landing smoothly, takes on a companion or two, makes them better over the course of a season or two and then leaves them behind to seek their own destiny.

I always thought I was the Doctor in my friends’ lives. Seems like I’ve come and gone just as frequently the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, DC is great, but it’s no Gallifrey. I can prattle incessantly. Sartorial choices come from a different era. Even have a piece of paper conferring the title of Doctor, just not the kind that actually helps people. Turns out, however, I was the companion. They made me bigger on the inside, or smaller on the outside, or … See what I was saying before about prattle?

They saw in me what I couldn’t see for myself: the man I could be. It just took me 9.5 months to dig that man out and see him for myself. I like him and can’t wait to see more of him.

I hear the orchestra playing, so I will close by saying I have the best best friends in the world. While I gave thanks to them, all of them, this Thanksgiving, I will never be able to truly repay this debt of gratitude. I can only hope to be as supportive for them in their journeys as they were in mine.

Allons-y!