Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 28 and 29: A Step Forward, A Step Back

Doubling up on an update here because it's been a busy week.

It's been so busy, in fact, that twice this week I had to do my running after my normal bedtime (I like to be asleep by 11:30). Running that late just doesn't work out well for me: I'm usually tired when I start but by the time I get home, shower and get to bed it's typically an hour later and I'm wide awake.

Earlier this week I had a really bad night of sleep and it seems like it's compounded itself ever since. Smoke alarm batteries went dead in the middle of the night Monday night. Tuesday was fine, but both Wednesday and Thursday I ran after 11 and lost some sleep there.

I'm definitely noticing fatigue creep into my work. I've stumbled through some rough radio interviews this week because I can't concentrate. Laura had to drive so I could sleep in the car on the way to Friday's Brewer game. It might be the first time I've slept in a car in decades. It was my second daytime nap this week, which also might be a record.

So my one thing for Thursday was finding a way to get a run in, because it would've been easy to skip it and go to bed.

My one thing for Friday was...nothing. I failed yesterday. I didn't get much exercise, I ate like crap, I was a drain on Laura and I'm not really better off today in any way.

I could make excuses for it: As I mentioned above I've been running on short sleep all week. I also was pretty busy yesterday, having produced seven posts for BCB, gone out to lunch with a friend, driven to Milwaukee and back and attended a Brewer game. But excuses aren't the point. The goal is to find a way to do one thing better each day, and yesterday I didn't.

Did I exercise on Thursday? I burned off 460 calories on DDR and ran 1.2 miles.
Did I exercise on Friday? Not really, unless you want to count my one mile dog walk.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 27: Extra Unexpected Exercise

I had the morning free yesterday and Laura and I were supposed to go pick raspberries. Our normal place was picked out, though, and another "shot in the dark" didn't work out. With options 1 and 2 out of the picture, we decided to go get breakfast. Then I followed a detoured road in the wrong direction and got lost.

While trying to figure out the way back, though, I stumbled across something else: A walking bridge that could take us across a lake and lead us to a spot about half a mile from our destination. So we parked the car and walked the 2.6 mile round trip. It took a little longer but we had the morning free anyway.

It was a nice reminder that exercise doesn't always have to be work for the sake of work. 

Did I exercise today? Yes, I walked the aforementioned 2.6 miles and ran 1.2 more after 11 pm when it was cooler.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26: Make It Fun

I'd guess that I'm like most people when I say that I rate most of my exercise options on a scale ranging from "completely unbearable" to "a necessary chore." It's pretty rare that I actually enjoy getting sweaty and uncomfortable. That makes it something of a challenge to commit to significant workout time each day.

I don't recall what made me think of it, but about a week ago I got the urge to play Dance Dance Revolution. I played it a lot in college, and even owned and wore out a pair of control pads. At some point over the last half dozen years or so, though, I had tossed the worn out pads. My PS3 isn't backwards compatible, so I would've had to hook up an old system and find obsolete equipment to play the game.

Anyway, a quick search about a week ago revealed that Amazon has a bundle including the PS3 version of the game and a control pad for $27.99. At that price it was more than worth a shot.

The game arrived yesterday and I gave it a shot for the first time this afternoon. It's not exactly how I remember it, but I was able to download some of the songs I remember from previous editions and get a pretty good workout out of it. I'm still relatively good at the game, even if I have probably put on about 30 pounds since the last time I played it.

I have a few complaints about the game that I'm still trying to find ways to work around:
  •  Previous editions of the game featured a lot of upbeat Japanese-sounding pop and techno. This, for example, is one of my favorite songs from a previous version. So was this. Regardless of whether this is or isn't your style of music, it at least had a solid beat and a fast rhythm. Those are DDR songs. Lady Antebellum, Jason Mraz and Train are not what I had in mind, but they're what's on the new game. Thankfully I was able to download some stuff that was more my speed.
  • One of the primary modes of the game is "Club Mode," where you start with the easiest songs and build your way up while being constantly evaluated to decide if you're ready to advance. The game is really slow letting you advance, though, so at this point for me it's just a mishmash of slow songs on easy levels with no exercise value.

With that said, I had missed DDR a lot and I've quickly remembered how much fun I used to have playing it. If you call sometime in the next few days and I don't answer, it's probably because I'm in my living room stepping away.

Did I exercise today? Yes, I spent about an hour playing DDR, then took a short break before going for a 1.2 mile run.

June 25: A Meatless Game Day

The Timber Rattlers are on a homestand this week and the Brewers come home for the weekend, so Laura and I are spending much of the week at the ballpark. Monday night I covered a T-Rats game as media, we're going to T-Rats games Wednesday and Thursday nights and heading down to Milwaukee on Friday.

Spending that much time at the ballpark is going to make eating reasonably this week an interesting challenge. The food at Fox Cities Stadium is good, but my usual top choice (a bacon cheeseburger with fries) is exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to avoid lately.

Adding another wrinkle to the plan is the fact that yesterday was Meatless Monday.

As I mentioned on Saturday, though, I went to the farmers market this weekend and picked up a pretty good assortment of healthy produce. So, instead of eating at the ballpark last night I made a very vegetable-heavy soup out of the following:
  • An onion
  • Two carrots
  • Two celery stalks
  • Some garlic scapes
  • A zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Roasted Peppers
  • Blue cheese
  • Basil
  • Chicken stock (a slight Meatless Monday cheat. I could've used vegetable stock but didn't have any on hand)
  • Gnocchi
We had to eat dinner pretty early (around 4) to make the plan work, but it turned out reasonably well. The soup (pureed) was kind of an awful color but tasted good and was certainly healthier than what I would have eaten otherwise.

Did I exercise today? Yes and no. I didn't run. Running every day just seems to pound on my legs and make me dread going out. So I've decided to try a new running routine: Seven days on, one day off. Tuesday will be the first day back on.

I did, however, play eighteen holes of disc golf (before 7 am, thanks insomnia!) and go on a 1.9 mile dog walk.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 24: Eating Out A Little Better

Every other Sunday is the last day of Laura's week of work, and we have a routine where I deliver dinner for Laura and her co-workers that night. We almost always do takeout (it makes it easier to get something everyone will like), but our options are somewhat limited. We seem to rotate pretty steadily between pizza, Chinese and subs. As you might imagine, I don't typically pursue the healthy options.

So tonight, instead of grabbing something nutritionally disastrous, I grabbed dinner for Laura's office at Panera and had a salad. It wasn't the healthiest salad ever (it had steak and blue cheese on it), but it's better than I usually do.

Did I exercise today? Yes, I ran 1.5 miles around noon today. We also walked the dog 1.6 miles this morning.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 23: Eating Fresh

Today, as I do every summer Saturday, I woke up and my first stop was the farmers' market. Here's what I brought home this week:
From left to right that's asparagus, blueberries, zucchini, goat cheese, sourdough bread, red potatoes, tomatoes, salad greens and peaches. 

By itself this haul is not a monumental accomplishment. Having these things in the house, though, will hopefully help me cook homemade healthy meals over the next few days. Meatless Monday is only a couple of days away.

I'm having a real issue today with exercise. I've loaded up on excuses: First I didn't get up early enough to go before the farmers' market, then I was too full, then it was time for lunch, then it was raining, then I had a party to go to and now the Brewer game is on. I've had a bunch of sugar today and the most strenuous things I've done were picking strawberries and playing an hour of Root Beer Tapper. I'm hoping I'll feel like going for a run after the Brewer game.

Did I exercise today? Not yet. Yes, I waited until after 10 pm but did get a 1.1 mile run in.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22: Working Out Together

As I mentioned yesterday, I used a rare in-season off day to get ahead of schedule and buy myself some extra time today. I used that time this morning to take my wife on an hour-long hike in a nature preserve near our house.

It was nice to get a chance to spend some time together this morning, because our early schedules typically don't line up. Laura starts work at 11 am, and 6:30-noon or so is usually the busiest part of my day. On her work days I usually see Laura for a few minutes when she brings me breakfast (if she has time), and again as she's on her way out the door. Most of the time I'm too engaged in my work to have much more than passing conversation.

Anyway, today we got to spend an hour together and we both got some much-needed exercise out of it. It's a good day.

Did I exercise today? Yes. I haven't been able to find a distance-labeled map of the trails we walked this morning, but I think we hiked about two miles over most of an hour. I also ran 1.14 miles when we got home to keep my running streak alive.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21: Taking Advantage Of Opportunities

Today is kind of an unusual day schedule-wise, but the opposite of the way yesterday was. Yesterday I had to pare down my responsibilities in order to find time to prioritize getting a run in. Today I had lots of time.

The Brewers are off today, the Timber Rattlers are out of town and, as such, I had a rare in-season day without baseball to watch or cover. I finished most of today's immediate responsibilities before 1 and after a run, my calendar was open.

I took advantage of the chance to run some errands this afternoon, then came home and used the evening to get some work done in advance to hopefully lighten up my schedule a bit over the coming week. As of this writing I've produced six posts tonight that will run on Brew Crew Ball over the coming days, and I hope to finish one more once I'm done here and start work on tomorrow's daily responsibilities so I'll have time to go exercise with Laura in the morning before she has to go to work.

"Working ahead" was supposed to be today's only goal, but as it turns out I also got some extra exercise in. It's a beautiful night in Appleton tonight so I took a break from writing to take the dog for a long walk in addition to my run.

I have no idea how much of this is physical and how much of it is mental, but today I noticed I'm feeling better. My energy level is up, my soreness level is low, I'm more cheerful and the more mundane parts of my day didn't bother me as much today. I could just be having a good day, I guess.

Did I exercise today? Yes, I ran 2.08 miles early this afternoon and, as mentioned above, I also went for a 2.28 mile walk tonight.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20: Keeping The Streak Alive

Today is kind of a tough day, schedule wise: I got home from the ballpark after 1 am and I'm responsible for previewing and recapping a day game at 1 pm. In the middle I had to take a car in for repairs, and my lawn is in pretty serious need of mowing.

Today would have been a pretty easy day to use my schedule as an excuse to not worry about this project and just drop back into a normal routine for a while. I didn't, though: instead of spending all morning buried in my work I lightened my plans a little bit and still found time for a short run.

That single short run (about 1.2 miles) isn't going to change my life, of course. But it is a little better than what I'd normally do on a day like this, and that's the point of this project.

I went to last night's game with a friend who's seen this space and asked me, "So, you're eating better these days?" I am, but this project is about more than that. Sometimes it's going to be about exercise. Sometimes it's going to be about time management, or life/relationship maintenance, or other things I need to work on to help improve the quality of my life.

June 19: Doing Better At The Ballpark

As a pretty dedicated baseball fan who happens to be paid to write about it, I spend a fair portion (probably an average of two days a week) at the ballpark. Before this season I bought a scorebook with room for 26 games in it. I've already filled that scorebook, used the spare pages from an old one, bought a scorecard and gone a couple of games without keeping score. That's 31 days at various ballparks since March.

Unfortunately, eating well at the ballpark is a real challenge. Most of the foods you think about when you go to the ballpark are things that would kill you if you ate them every day (and you'd die ridiculously in debt from paying for them, too).

So my task for yesterday, as I headed down to Milwaukee to watch the Brewers and Blue Jays, was to find a way to eat a little better on a game day. Sadly, it didn't go very well.

The Brewers do have a pretty nice stadium map showing where you can find various food throughout the ballpark. What they don't have is many stands serving interesting healthy food. You can grab a premade wrap or sandwich or a Caesar salad at the "Grab and Go" stand can wander around the ballpark for a long time lamenting the lack of healthy options, I guess.

After pursuing the latter option for a while, I finally settled for the most uninteresting grilled chicken sandwich I've ever had in my life. It consisted of:
  • A white hamburger bun.
  • A piece of chicken.
That's it. Now, you're probably not thinking "Yeah, I'd pay $6.75 for that." I did, but I won't again. And you may not be surprised to note that after eating a piece of chicken on processed white bread, I was still hungry. So I wandered for a while again, got disappointed by the options again, grabbed a bag of peanuts and went to my seat.

As I was opening the bag of peanuts, I noticed something that surprised me. The 8 oz bag of peanuts contains six "servings," and each one contains 14 grams of fat. That single bag of peanuts, by itself, contains over 130% of your recommended daily allowance of fat. I ate about a third of the bag at the park last night and this morning I'm throwing the rest out.

It's worth noting that Miller Park has a pretty lenient carry-in policy. The people around me during the game last night certainly took advantage of the ability to bring in Subway, bags of chips, bottles of water and whatnot. It looks like that's more or less the facility's only viable healthy option.

Did I exercise today? Yes, I ran 1.6 miles. Running outside in June is proving to be a real issue. I'm working on finding ways to adjust my schedule to run at better times.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012: Meatless Monday

Today's single goal is more or less covered in the title: I meant to go through the whole day today without eating meat. I had a little with breakfast (leftover quiche derailed my plans), but that's all.
Going meatless for a day by itself isn't really a healthy change. I could have, for example, gotten by with three servings of mac and cheese today (I know a thing or two about mac and cheese) and technically met this goal. That's not the point, though. The point was to replace a couple of servings of meat with something healthier, like some fruits or vegetables. Here's what I ate today:

  • A panini with nine grain bread, homemade pesto with asparagus, spring garlic, basil, greens and nuts and a slice of Muenster cheese.
  • A salad with greens, a few crumbles of blue cheese and half a peach.
  • The other half of the peach
  • A piece of low-sugar homemade strawberry rhubarb crisp.
  • Pasta with more of the pesto mentioned above
  • Broiled sesame garlic snow peas.
Add in breakfast (half a peach with yogurt and granola, a slice of quiche and a single piece of cinnamon cobblestone) and I got something like five servings of vegetables today, plus 3-4 of fruit depending on how you count the peaches.

This wasn't my healthiest day ever (especially since I blew my goal with breakfast) by any means, but it's a start.

Did I exercise today? Yes, I ran 1.5 miles. Going to try to run every day for a while again.

Time To Try Something New

It's been a while since I've used this space. I tend to get so wrapped up in my work elsewhere that I forget it's here. By the time I'm done writing there sometimes I don't feel like writing anymore. But sometimes I need an outlet for things that have nothing to do with the Brewers or baseball, and now is one of those times.

My health has never been fact, it's been in something of a slow, steady decline more or less nonstop for about a decade now. I distinctly remember the first time I stepped on the scale and weighed over 200 lbs. I remember being caught completely off guard the first time it showed 217. Then 230. And 248. And now it's around 270.

A slow, steady decline has become the status quo for me because it's comfortable and easy. I don't worry about what I eat, I exercise when I feel like it (and I most certainly don't when I don't), and it's rarely become a major issue for me because I'm usually not getting too fat to be comfortable...I'm just slowly packing on pounds at a pace that allows me to get used to being this fat before getting fatter.

I've tried a variety of things over the years but I've never stuck with them very long because I don't think wholesale change is sustainable. Making major adjustments in your life is great when you're motivated, but you're going to have days where you're not. And when you've been depriving yourself of something you want, for example, a month without ice cream, that first bowl/scoop/carton is all too easy to fall back on. When you're already unhappy, failing there won't make you feel worse. And there's nothing more demotivating than going from X pounds to X-10, then falling off your routine and crashing back to X+5.

With that said, I need to do something. I had a moment over the weekend where I put on a piece of clothing I've owned for years, it no longer fit but I had to wear it all day anyway. It really made it hit home that this slow, steady decline may be comfortable but it's not headed somewhere I want to go.

So, now that this intro has you thoroughly depressed, here's my plan: Each day I'm going to do better in one way. Every day I'll pick one thing that's preventing me from living in a more healthy way and for one day I'll focus on improving it. It's that simple. No major diet changes, no life overhauls. Just a conscious effort to focus on and remove individual unhealthy habits, 24 hours at a time.

Some days the changes will be bigger than others. Today's was a small one, in the grand scheme. Some days I'll have time to write about them and some days I won't. As I mentioned above, I don't always have the time/desire to write once my other obligations are done.

I'm reviving this site more as a personal space than a community, but you're certainly welcome to ride along. I'd welcome your ideas for things I can try for a day, your support or your notes on things I'm working on. If you're interested in reading about this or seeing how it turns out for me, bookmark the page and keep an eye on it.