62 Day Challenge: Introduction

I was going to do this as a second, secret, tumblr, but I can’t figure out how to format anything there, so you’re stuck reading this here on Milo. Sorry. Luckily, the vast majority of people who visit this site visit the BQ(Q) pages, so they should be spared my navel gazing.

 

Here’s the deal: I’m a reasonably fit 41 year old father, runner, and lawyer expecting a second child in June. In May, I’m running the Brooklyn Half Marathon in what will probably be my last race for some time.  I want to set a PR. More than that, I want to shake things up with my health and fitness. I want to crank things up a notch, challenge myself a little; see if I can meld the stupid and the healthy into a little mini project before the second baby comes and my life becomes a series of diaper changes and sleepless nights.

So, inspired by the funny and strangely motivational Live with a Seal, and that dude’s crazy project of eating like the Rock for thirty days, I’m doing my own little challenge. I arbitrarily set it for 62 days because that’s how many days it is from today until the Brooklyn Half.

The Challenge:

  • 10 hours of exercise a week

My big one. To me, there’s something special about hitting that ten hour mark. It takes commitment, and it produces results. I’ve reached ten hours here and there over the years, but never consistently. Until now.

Exercise, for this goal, means physical activity undertaken to improve my health. It includes all the stuff you’d imagine: running, biking, weight lifting, push-ups. It also includes stretching, balance work, and foam rolling. It does not include just walking around, even when that walking around is to try to reach my step goals (see below)

  • Stay ahead of the Garmin

I have a Garmin 225 that I use for running and daily step counting. The default setting on the watch is that every time you hit a step goal, it increases the goal slightly for the next day. For the past two weeks, I’ve met or exceeded the step goal every day and the goal keeps going up. I’m going to keep that going until it’s time to taper for the half.

  • 100 push ups a day

These can be done throughout the day in sets of varying length. I just need to get 100 a day.

  • Fruit till noon; vegan till six (Monday – Friday)

I’ve been following Mark Bittman’s Vegan till Six diet off and on for a while now, and I’ve seen strong results. Now it’s time to take it more seriously; recommit to it; and double down by sticking with fruit till noon. I’ll surely write more about this later, as well as about the Lean 13 Program from Nutrisystem . I hope this leads to some weight loss, but more importantly, a further drop in my cholesterol. I’m only committing to doing this Monday-Friday, but I’ll try to eat healthy on the weekends.

Note: I do not ask Thai restaurants if they use fish sauce in their tofu curry, nor do I ask the the guys at the deli if they used beef stock in the vegetable soup. I used to be a guy who did those kind of things, but that was many, many years ago.

  • Five minutes of meditation

I’ll surely write more about this as well, but study after study has shown the benefits of mediation. I struggle to find the time for this, so set this goal at what I think is a completely doable, no possible excuse, 5 minutes. Honestly, I hope to do more, but to meet the challenge, 5 minutes is enough.

Caveats and Exceptions:

My little corner of the working world is obsessed with “smart goals” and “identified contingencies”. So here’s the caveats and exceptions:

I’ll be doing a mini taper in the two weeks before the half, so the ten hours of exercise and staying ahead of the Garmin, won’t be applicable for the final two weeks of the challenge.

Additionally, I’ll allow one “off” week of not hitting ten hours during this period. Shit happens, people. I want to make these goals “smart” and not give up on the whole plan just because one thing goes wrong.

For the next 62 days, I’ll be filling out a little template here with my work-outs, what I ate, how long I mediated, etc. It will be at least as fascinating as watching paint dry.

Review: Buettner’s Blue Zones

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest
Dan Buettner

The first book in the Blue Zone empire. Though it is at times silly, this is a must read for anyone interested in longevity.

If you’ve been living under a rock, let me briefly explain the conceit of this book. “Blue Zones” are areas of the world which have abnormally high levels of centenarians. In the book, Buettner and his team go to five of these zone (Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California,
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Icaria, Greece) and attempt to discover why it is that people in these communities live so long.

A lot of anecdotal evidence is collected, some of it more scientific than others, but all of it fascinating. Buettner takes this information and develops a set of nine guiding principles for a long, healthy life. These include:
1. Moderate, regular physical activity.
2. Life purpose.
3. Stress reduction.
4. Moderate calories intake.
5. Plant-based diet.
6. Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.
7. Engagement in spirituality or religion.
8. Engagement in family life.
9. Engagement in social life.

In other areas of this website, I write quite a bit about these principles. Here I’ll just say that while the subject matter of this book is fascinating, the presentation can be a bit annoying. As what is basically a popular health and wellness book, it has all those annoying side bar anecdote things plus silly cute stories of old people, and maudlin reflections on how fucked up the modern world is. I found it often annoying, but also essential. Hold your nose, and get through the corniness. There’s a lot of very important information here.

Recommended.

Review: Bittman’s Vegan Before Six

VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good
Mark Bittman
I’ve written separately about my own efforts to follow the “Vegan Before Six” diet, so I’ll limit this to a review of the book. While you don’t need to read this to follow the VB6 guidelines, it helps. No surprise, Bittman is clear, concise, and cuts through the dieting bullshit to get to the crux of the matter – you should be eating more plants, less meat, and no crap. He backs up this basic (but often hard to follow) advice with solid science and helpful recipes.

I genuinely think the world would be a better place if more of us ate like Bittman recommends. You should check it out.

Recommended.

On Turning an Ox Into An Antelope

I come from a long line of oxen.

My grandfather John was over six feet tall and tipped the scale at over two hundred pounds of muscle. He boxed in the Irish bars of the Bronx, then settled into a life as a car mechanic and garage owner. He was an ox — the kind of man who dug wells for recreation.

My grandfather Tom grew up as a runner for the New Haven Rail Road, chasing down workers in homes and bars and bringing them in to the job. Later, he’d help run a tobacco farm, working in the fields before and after days at a engine manufacturer.

My father is equally as stubborn and strong. He came up on his family’s farm, crouching beneath muslin, weeding broad leaf tobacco. When I was kid, weekend activities with my father would often involve moving yards of stone from one end of the yard to the other, or digging a trench to lay a drainage pipe. He found these activities relaxing. I found them interminable. My father was an unskilled hand, but he could work all day. My childhood weekends proved that. While the man spent his working life in an office, he still has the hands of a farmer.

When I was born, I was the biggest baby at Bridgeport hospital. Ten pounds, two ounces. I was eating solid food within months, and if family legend is to be believed, could put away a pound of shrimp before I was a year old. I was always big for my age. I was on the swim team throughout my youth, but it never came easy. In hindsight, football probably would have been a better sport.

All of this is to say that, by genetics, I’m built to be big and strong and pull shit all day long.

I am meant to be an ox.

Me.

But that is not who I want to be. I want to be fast and light and run all day long. I want to cover ground gracefully and efficiently. I want to out distance my predators.

I want to be an antelope.

In my physical life, I’ve always responded best to strength training, and worst to aerobic conditioning. If I look at a weight, I put on muscle. If I run fifty miles a week, I barely improve my 5k time. This is my fate. If I want to move from ox to antelope, I’ll need to get faster, through long miles and speed work. I’ll also need to get thinner. There’s just no other way.

Dream me.

For too long, I’ve let me running cover up for the fact that I’m not a particularly healthy eater. With the miles I run, I can avoid getting fat, but until I start watching what I eat, I’m never going to get thin.

So how do I go about that? Being me, I’ve taken a somewhat extreme approach and decided to do the Whole 30, eliminating from my diet refined carbs, sugar, alcohol and a whole host of other things. I started yesterday. I’ll have more to say on this diet in future posts. But for now, I want to note that I know this is unsustainable, and I know the science behind these type of low-carb no sugar diets is still evolving.

I don’t care.

I’m not doing this because I think the Whole 30 is a sustainable way to eat. I’m doing it to reset a number of bad habits I’ve formed over the years. I need to stop thinking a beer or two is an every night thing; I need to stop having a bag of chips at lunch.

I need to start from scratch and rebuild my diet in a more sustainable way — into a diet where beer and chips aren’t outlawed, but they’re not the default either.

I need to build this antelope from the ground up.

Losing It

Yesterday, I ran.  But only three miles.  No real pain and no need to rush things.  After that, I spent about forty five minutes on push-ups, pull-ups, handstands, stretches and balance drills.  it was low key, and it was fun.

Last night was exactly the kind of thing I’m interested in right now.  Long term, I’m not sure where my exercise is going, but all the things I’m interested in (i.e. running, cycling, rock climbing, mountaineering, etc.) reward the thin. I’m never going to be Dave Graham, or Ryan Hall, but I could always stand to lose a couple of pounds.

Dave Graham, 5′ 9″; 137ish; crushing some problem

Ryan Hall; 5’10”; 130ish, killing it at the USA marathon trials

meandjackintube

Me; 6′; 175ish pushing a kid in a giant plastic tube

Currently, I’m weighing in at 175, which is about where I’ve been for the past year.  I’d like to see what it feels like to be about ten pounds lighter.  So while I am on this find myself reexamination of my working out life, I’m going to actually watch what I eat for the first time, half-heartedly track calories, and see if I can slim down a little.  I’m not going to go on a diet, but I am going to try and be smarter about what I put in my mouth — cut down on the carbs and beer, and re-up on the greens and water.  I’ll update my weight in the weekly training totals going forward because I know there is absolutely nothing you care more about than how much I weigh.  Lets see what kind of results I can produce.