Saturday, January 31, 2009

Starting The Warrior Diet

I was hoping to do a snowshoe race today, but my left hamstring has been bothering me all week. I went to do an indoor track workout on Tuesday night and I couldn't run beyond 200 yards without it tightening up. I was busy with school work (report cards) and other things so I haven't worked on the hamstrings like I should. I decided it was safer not to race and probably won't run the Freeze Your Buns 5K tomorrow. I did start something exciting today and it was sort of like a competition.

I had been reading about The Warrior Diet online. Last night I bought the book. It was written by Ori Hofmekler. This morning on a lark I decided to make a drastic shift in the way I look at food and meals. I wasn't sure what would happen and I wasn't fully committed to doing the diet, but I gave it a shot and it made for a very interesting day.

I know I need tons of work on my eating and haven't found a way to get off the foods I like to eat that are not good for me. The past year I have felt the effects of food on my body as well as the cravings and habits that keep me eating the same way. I love sweets, chocolate, and ice cream. I have been eating less of these things the past few years but as I eat less I still am not eating well. I generally find myself eating and craving food throughout the day and then I never feel good after eating it. I do miss the days when I could eat whatever I wanted to eat, but those days are long gone and I need a better and easier nutrition plan that fuels my body and muscles and doesn't just keep me full throughout the day.

So I started The Warrior Diet. Basically you undereat most of the day and then at night you overeat. There is a lot of reasoning behind this strategy, but basically you are eating less during the day to stay alert and active and then at night you sit back and enjoy your food. It is supposed to change the way your body deals with food and help you get stronger, leaner, and more alert. You also are to eat low on the food chain. So you eat fruit, vegetables, and nuts during the day and eat healthy food at night.

I started the day with a full glass of water, something I have been doing for a month now. I have found I like the taste of water in the morning. I didn't eat anything for a few hours and then I ate an orange. I lost the craving for my normal bowl of cereal and felt fine all morning. By the time lunch time had passed I was still feeling pretty good. I had another orange and a few cashews. I was feeling better than normal for this point of the day. I liked how I felt and decided to commit a bit more. I went to Trader Joe's and got some supplies. I had a small amount of cashews and a couple of strawberries and did some light kettlebell work. At dinner I had a salad with some whole pea pods and some seedling things I had bought earlier. Sarah had made a nice steak and broccoli meal from the Precision Nutrition book. I noticed it smelled and tasted better and I was enjoying the eating. I finished with some rice. For desert we heated frozen blueberries and a bit of honey on the stove and then put it over plain yogurt. It was very good. I enjoyed my food more than normal and feel great. I have enjoyed the day of controlled fasting and eating immensely.

What you have to realize is that I ate no cookies, ice cream, diet soda, or other bad things that I usually eat daily. Who knows if the plan will work for me or not. If not I learned and tried some things I never did before. I have never had just a piece of fruit for breakfast in my life. I love cereal too much. It worked though. I ate more oranges in one day then I ever have. I had three. I ate uncooked broccoli for the first time. I had plain yogurt (I did put stuff on it) for the first time. I felt great all day and had feeling (sort of edgy) in my belly but I never really had hunger pangs. I am going to keep at it. Sarah was so interested in what I was doing she says she will start doing the same thing tomorrow. I don't know how it will fit with running once I get back heavy into it. Hopefully when I figure out what to eat before a workout I will be fine.

All in all it was a very fun day today. I am making such a huge paradigm shift in the way I eat that I am curious and hopeful that I will see good results. It seems simple enough for me. I would love to lose those cravings throughout the day and learn to eat healthier foods throughout the day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Second Snowshoe Race: The "Evil" Feel Good Farm 7.2K

photos by Steve Wolfe

Yesterday I participated in my second snowshoe race, "The Feel Good Farm" 7.2K snowshoe race in Lyndeborough, NH at the Feel Good Farm (this place even has its own theme song!). I wasn't sure that the race would "feel" as good as the farm's name "advertised". Do check out there web site. This seems like an awesome place to return to.

Like last week's race, this one was organized by Michael Amarello and 3C Race Productions. Last week's race was a stroll in the park compared to what was in store for the small number of participants at this race. As I drove up to Lyndeborough, I noticed it was a beautiful place as well as being quite hilly. I also noticed that all of the other participants looked like hard-core athletes. I saw in the distance the hill we had to run up two times. I was not happy!

The start was open enough for a couple of racers to be next to each other but at the first corner it turned into a single track race. I was amazed at how fast eventual winner, Jim Johnson took off. Then three racers followed in pursuit. I was next when I hit the single track, but I noticed one thing (one horrible thing) my body was completely out of balance. My left hip seemed to be a couple of inches rotated in front of my right hip. My shoulder followed suit. As I pushed the pace, I was often thrown to the right side and I ended up off balance, out of kilter, and had to throw my arm out to try to stabilize myself. I also realized that I had one or two guys behind me so I was trying to go fast and not slow them down. I was sucking wind but trying to be competitive. We approached a tree down over the trail and had to straddle over it and then again over another tree. Soon after that second tree, I couldn't hold my balance any more and I fell down. This allowed the two racers to go by me. I bet they were happy and probably chuckling a bit.

I slowed the pace down a bit because I was not comfortable running so off-kilter. I also had a knot in my left hamstring, the whole "meat" of the muscle was tight, tight, tight and just knotted up more as I extended that leg. I fell a couple more times, sometimes my legs got tangled up, sometimes my balance was so bad I fell to the side of the course. I was starting to get very nervous about what I was doing out there but the worst was yet to come Steve Wolfe's pictures show how horribly off-balance I felt and it felt worse than it looks.

We then hit the hill! The hill just kept going up, turning and going up again. I even fell a couple times going up. I had to walk! Looking behind me, near the top I saw two racers catching up. The downhills did not seem as severe as the uphills but I found myself holding back due to my balance and stride issues. By holding back I noticed my snowshoes had little grip and on each step my snowshoes would slide in the slushy snow.

This is called walking up a big hill. (video by Steve Wolfe)

Here is race leader Jim Johnson showing how it should be done.

We had to cross a small stream. The way I kept falling, I was very nervous because I didn't want to fall in the water as we "S" curved it through the stream. I made it but was starting to think about making this into a one-lap race. Also on the downhills, one competitor, Scott Mason, went by me. He was flying down the downhills in a controlled abandon and putting a lot of distance between us. I wish my body would move smoothly like that again. It looked like he was having tons more fun then I was.

I started telling myself not to quit. I knew my awkward stride was not good for me today. I knew I was not moving like I should, but you can't just stop and stretch in the middle of a race! I knew that it could be dangerous for me to lose my balance and run into a tree, but I hate quitting something I have started. So I swallowed my pride and set some goals. I had fallen 7 times the first loop. Goal number one was to fall a fewer number of times on the second loop. I also decided that I would "run" as much as I could up that hill and get some good lung work in. Maybe I could even try to catch Scott, who was already long out of sight. As I hit the start of the second loop, I said to race director Michael Amarello that this was "evil". I said the "evil" word twice, but I was referring to the course. In the write up of the race, Michael mentions that I called "him" evil at this point. For the record, I was calling the course "evil", but on reflection, I would like to call him "evil" too. So whatever he heard me say, it was accurate!

I plugged away on the second loop. I hit the hill and tried running up it-even though it was a slow run. I eventually saw Scott appearing ahead of me. I kept at it and eventually passed him, but I was winded and had to walk a bit again. On the downhills he passed me and with his very loose stride put additional distance between us. He told me after the race, he went downhill like he does when he goes mountain biking. I went downhill like an old lady.

Here is a video of me nearing the finish and snowshoeing in a sloppy manner.

Here is a video Steve took from the summit of the race.

I was more than happy to finish this race. It was an accomplishment, even though I finished 9th out of the 12 finishers. I only fell 5 times the second loop! I know I can do so much better than this, as this race was more a battle against my body than a battle against the course (well that was there too!). Scott's downhill running ability enabled him to beat me as the first in the 50+ age category by 44 seconds. I am 0 for 2 since turning 50! Here are the results of the race:

1 30:57 Jim Johnson 31 M Salem NH
2 34:57 Robert Jackman 26 M Warwick RI
3 35:48 Tim Cox 35 M Northwood NH
4 36:27 Dan Verrington 46 M Bradford MA
5 39:09 Ben Keefe 28 M Providence RI
6 39:33 Ron Bedard 44 M Westminster MA
7 42:57 Austin Stonebraker 29 M Dover NH
8 47:55 Scott Mason 51 M Warwick RI
9 48:39 Jim Hansen 50 M Nashua NH
10 49:36 Joe Merriam 49 M Franklin NH
11 50:28 Brian Gallagher 59 M Rochester NH
12 1:08:46 Diane Levesque 55 F Rochester NH

Here is an animoto video I made using some of the fantastic photos taken by Steve Wolfe of the race.

I am not sure what I cam going to do next week. There is another "more difficult" snowshoe race on Saturday and the Freeze Your Buns 5K on Sunday. I would like to do both, but will need to get my hamstring loose to be able to do that.

I have been extremely happy with my work on my posture since the beginning of the New Year when I found that holding my knee close to my chest and pushing out as hard as I can helps realign my pelvis a bit. In fact for all of January I have probably felt the best ever in many years. But this only extends to sitting and standing. I have not had the hip flexor-psoas issues that sometimes hits my left side for days or weeks at a time. When I feel a tightness in my front left hip. I do the "knee push" on both sides. I can't tell how it works or even what is the exact way my pelvis should react when "pushing". All that I know is that shortly after doing this, I get relief from the "impending" tightnesses. I am thrilled with this. However, at first my right hamstring was reacting to this. I was struggling through my Tuesday night track workouts. Now it is the left hamstring. I have been spot checking muscle tightnesses rather than being consistant with one type of stretching.

I think my body may be telling me it is time to find a gentle type of yoga stretching routine, now that it seems I have more control over my hips and sacrum. I think a full body workout may help with the new tightnesses I am experiencing.

Anyhow I really enjoyed talking with the two guys who owned or worked the Feel Good Farm. They knew a lot of information about athletics and in a brief 15 minute of so converstation we touched on Alberto Salazar, Lynne Swann,and Mikael Barisnikov as well as the martial arts and ballet (not going there!) while talking about imbalances, older bodies, and recovering form. I was shown a squat stretch, not as deep as the indiginous squat I wrote about here. I may get back to trying that to work on realignment issues.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Snowshoe Race: Beaver Brook 5K

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On Saturday I did my first ever snowshoe race. It was the Beaver Brook 5K Snowshoe Race in Hollis, NH put on by 3C Race Productions. I have had my Tubbs 10K racing snowshoes for maybe 10 years but I have never raced in them. I hate the cold! In fact that was the first time I used them this year. I used them twice last year and then it has been a few years since I have taken them out. I did have fun. Fortunately it was a fairly straight, easy, and packed down course. Unfortunately, I was hoping that being 50 years old and in a new age category that I might be able to win my age group. Nope, in this race the age group is 40-55.

It was very cold in Hollis but the air was pretty much still. I wasn't sure if I was going to be dressed right but I was clothed perfectly, except for my socks. I just used cotton socks and my feet got wet as I was wearing an old pair of racing shoes.

Almost 50 people entered the race and I was hoping to finish in the top 10. The start was about 150 yards to a 180 degree tight turn. It was also run in an open field and thus the snow was not packed down. At the gun the top guys sprinted for position and they were kicking the snow so that it was falling up and making it hard to see. After the turn we were on the packed down trails. I was about in 20th place and was curious about how to expend energy in a race like this.

As things settled down I looked around and decided I should try to pick off people slowly. I saw Kara Haas just a couple of people ahead and knowing she is a very fast runner I decided not to go too hard because maybe I was going faster than I should. I started going by people and making my passes staying the same distance, about 20-30 yards behind Kara. After about a mile, a group of racers were packed together, I had to weave in and out and put in a burst to get clear of them and I did it quite easily. Then on a short downhill, I got my legs tangled and went down face first into the trail. I felt like a doofus, but got up and no one passed me, but I never passed anyone else again either.

All of a sudden, the lead racers starting coming back. It was an out and back course. Quickly I hit the turnaround and realized that I wasn't that far behind the leaders (maybe 30-40 seconds). There weren't a whole lot of people ahead either. I didn't count but I figured I was top ten. The return trip on the course was more uphill. I was running the whole thing by myself. There were two people ahead that I could see. Finally the finish line came. I was glad to be done, without crashing. It was a very fun race.

I ended up finishing eighth overall. I was not even the top 50 year old, as Scott Graham was two places and 23 seconds ahead of me. I ended up 1:27 seconds behind the winner, Rob Smith.

You can view photos and a slide show of the race here.

Next week 3C Race Productions puts on the Feel Good Farm 7K Snowshoe Race in Lyndeborough, NH. January 31 has the Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Classic in Gilford, NH. On February 14, there is the Horse Hill 7K Snowshoe Race in Merrimack, NH. I may do two or three of these races. I know the Horse Hill course will be a bit more technical and hilly as I did a couple of workouts last year on my snowshoes there with Steve Wolfe.

This morning I got up in the falling snow to race the "Freeze Your Buns" 5K, but when I got there it had been cancelled. Oh, well I felt that this weekend I should be able to win my age group in a race. I didn't! The 50's sure are hard!

Here are the results of the snowshoe race. The course was short of a 5k. It was advertised as 4.5K.

1 19:05 Rob Smith 41 M
2 19:20 Christopher Smith 42 M
3 19:22 Benjamin Keefe 27 M
4 19:30 Dave Hannon 37 M
5 19:43 Kara Haas 38 F
6 20:09 Scott Graham 50 M
7 20:14 Nathan Hausman 30 M
8 20:32 Jim Hansen 50 M
9 20:48 David Katz 47 M
10 21:06 Austin Stonebraker 29 M
11 21:08 Jay Myers 38 M
12 21:20 Bob Hill 41 M
13 21:27 Mike O Connor 44 M
14 21:36 Paul Funch 58 M
15 22:02 Ron Bedard 44 M
16 22:15 Peter Floss 45 M
17 22:31 Brian Bigelow 49 M
18 22:56 Brian Crockett 50 M
19 23:07 Warren White 51 M
20 23:31 Tim Rothfuss 39 M
21 23:39 Jennifer Shultis 40 F
22 23:48 Brian Gallagher 58 M
23 24:02 Bryan Wiemann 46 M
24 24:16 Laurel Valley 46 F
25 24:39 Norman Collard 50 M
26 25:03 Allen Beebe 59 M
27 25:10 Mary Smith 26 F
28 26:06 Tim Dunn 35 M
29 26:12 Michael Amarello 45 M
30 26:21 Diane Levesque 55 F
31 27:00 Gary Reuter 69 M
32 28:22 Mark T Lorden 51 M
33 28:34 Joe Kidder 48 M
34 29:25 Carlos Hernandez 41 M
35 29:37 Ed Bacher 53 M
36 30:41 Chris Twardowski 37 M
37 31:49 Thomas Callahan 48 M
38 32:56 Davia Moore 25 F
39 33:24 Donnie Funch 58 F
40 33:26 Joan Callahan 49 F
41 34:01 John Goldrosen 58 M
42 34:21 Frank Pisano 52 M
43 35:16 Emil Chiauzzi 54 M
44 41:16 Ben Bacher 12 M
45 44:13 Stephanie Kaminaris 32 F
46 1:25:52 Tina McCoy 45 F
47 1:25:53 Anony Moose 45 M

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Time for a New Age Group

It may not be a milestone I want to hit, but today I enter a new age group. According to a recent thread at here is what are considered respectable times by someone who is 50 years old. It wasn't bad being called a "Master" as a runner in the 40s, but what is the deal with being called a "Senior" when you are in the 50s?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Recovering Children in Africa: Great Stories of Survival and Giving Back

I have always interested in the continent of Africa. All children enjoy the animals that grace that continent. My parents visited Africa when I was a child and I still have the African hat they brought back for me from that visit. As a runner I admire the great runners of Kenya and Ethiopia and consider Halie Gebreselasie to be my favorite athlete. Getting to know some of Sudan's "Lost Boys" through my sister's family taking in four boys has only heightened my interests in the stories and troubles affecting many people and countries in Africa. Recent news articles that I have read and music that I have been listening to tell the story of how some have escaped their horrendous pasts and achieved a new life full of achievements. They are also giving back to the children in home countries trying to make a better world for them to survive and live in. So here are some of the best stories possible from some of the worst childhood experiences imaginable.

Lopez Lomong ran the 1500 meters in the 2008 Olympics for the United States. He was also selected by the United States athletes to carry the USA flag into the opening ceremonies. Lopez Lomong is one of the Sudanese "lost boys" who escaped the fighting in his own country by walking with other children to a refuge camp in Kenya. He came to America with other "lost boys" in 2001. My sister's family took in four of these Sudanese boys which was well chronicled in the Boston Globe. Their stories of survival, meager rations and little hope to escape their situation, and then the trip to America where they had to learn about a completely different culture and way of life are fascintating.

These "lost boys' embraced getting the opportunity to get an education and to work. Many of them are starting to make a mark in this country and on the world. Some even became exceptional collegiate runners: like Macharia Yuot and Lopez Lomong. A recent article on explains how Lopez Lomong recently opened a school in Sudan. According to the article only a shockingly small number of students complete primary school in Sudan,

"The primary school he opened in his village of Kimotong will increase access to education, something sorely lacking in Sudan. Only 2,500 children in the country of more than 7 million people complete primary school each year, according to
the New Sudan Education Initiative. Of that number, only 500 are girls."

"To be able to see a young girl showing up in the morning to go to
school, that just opened my heart," Lomong said. "I'd like to be able to do more
things and be able to get my people, my fellow Americans, to get involved."

Here is the video of Lopez Lomong making the USA 1500 meters team at the 2008 Olypic Trials.

Julius Achon is a two time Olympian for his native country of Uganda. He is also the 1996 NCAA champion in the 1500 meter race. He currently works with Alberto Salazar's Elite Nike Project in Portland, Oregon. He uses his salary to support orphans back in Uganda as well as his family. His uncle, John Akii-Bua, was the 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 400 meter hurdles.

When Julius was 12 years old he was abducted from his home and forced to become a child soldier by a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army. The rebels drugged the children and forced them to kill, steal, and torture. Julius escaped after three months and rejoined his family. His running prowess enabled him to get a full scholarship to George Mason University in Virginia. His story is told here. Julius has a website that descibes his charity, history, and career as a runner.

Here is a video where Julius tells his story.

Emmanuel Jal is not a runner (as far as I know) but he is an international hip hop singer. At the age of eight he became a child soldier in Sudan. Three years later he escaped and wandered for three months with about 400 other child soldiers to reach safety. Only less than 20 of these "lost boys" survived the journey. He was later rescued by a British aide worker named Emma McCune, who smuggled him into Kenya but died in a car accident less than a year later. Friends helped pay for him to continue his schooling. He now sings about his life and the world he lives in from the peculiar point of view of his own history as a child soldier. I have been listening to his music the past two weeks and greatly enjoy his cd "War Child".

Here Emmanuel Jal is singing his tribute song to Emma McCune "Emma" at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday celebration. Peter Gabriel introduces Emmanuel Jal.

If you want to learn more about what I have learned about Emmanuel Jal and his music you can check out my music blog Sing-a-long Songs as Scriptures" right here. Emmanuel Jal is also setting up a school for children in Sudan. You can find out about Emma's Academy here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Men's Journal Article on Resistance Stretching

The January 2009 issue of Men's Journal magazine has an article on resistance stretching as well as a guide to some of the stretches. You can go to the Innovative Body Solutions website here to read the article online. Just find "The Better Way to Stretch" article on the front page and click on "read the article". This is the website where you can also buy the "Resistance Stretching with Dara Torres" DVD, a very worthwhile and inexpensive investment if you are interested in learning how to do resistance stretching.

One thing I learned from the article is that there are two different types of muscle tightnesses according to Andy O'Brien, the strength and conditioning coach of the Florida Panthers hockey team. He says there is "adaptive shortening" of the muscles due to scar tissue or injury. He's says this is a permanent shortening of a muscle. It doesn't say it here, but I guess this is where you may need a therapy like active release technique (ART) or something I have never tried called the Graston Technique. The other type of shortening he calls "tonic shortening". This would be when your muscles get tight due to excessive work, like running a marathon or a hard workout. In this case it is your nervous system tightening up your muscles and thus your range of motion. He suggests that resistance stretching helps you to train your nervous system to relax and thus it allows you to be more flexible.

Here are some other posts I have made on resistance stretching.

My Top Two Recomendations to Help You Recover Your Stride

Resistance Stretching: This is what Dara Torres does!

More on Resistance Stretching

The Genius of Flexibility Video 1.0 Review

More on the Dara Torres Resistance Stretching DVD

The Growing Influence of Resistance Stretching

SNAP!!! What in the World was That? OK don't stretch too hard!!!

Hold Steady and Stay Positive After getting stretched by a professional.

Partner Resistance Stretching

Improving a Hamstring Stretch

A Recent Article and Video on Resistance Stretching

This is the only book I know on Resistance Stretching.

You can get the Dara Torres "Resistance Stretching" DVD at Amazon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Recent Article and Video on Resistance Stretching

Here is a newspaper article on resistance stretching. It is from News 8 in Autsin, Texas. Cat Fitzgerald is the resistance trainer. There is a video on the site where you can see how he stretches rock climber Andrew Higier.

"The concept is really simple: resist when you stretch," Cat Fitzgerald, a certified RFST trainer and director of Hara Health in Coral Gables, Fla., told Ivanhoe.

Unlike regular stretches, which hold muscles in a passively stretched position, RFST actively lengthens muscles by stretching while moving them through their natural range of motion. Many people overlook stretching as a nonessential part of their workouts, but experts say it is the key to maintaining a youthful and healthy body."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Off to an "Unrestricted" Start

In only a couple of weeks I hit the 50 years old milestone! I am looking forward to a new age group.

Whatever I did to my sacrum after the Millennium Mile has been helping my balance and stride ever since. I never can figure out exactly what happens with how my body works. For now my legs and hips are running very smoothly and I can only guess it is because something adjusted back in the sacrum area. My legs swing free. I don't have the tight spot at the back of my left hip and my hip flexors and left leg don't feel like they need constant stretching or adjusting. I can balance on the left hip evenly and the left knee doesn't take pressure on the inside (and buckle in). The left ankle doesn't turn out so much. My left foot can balance on the ground pretty much fully. So this is how most people feel? Last week no amount of tugging, stretching, or pulling could relieve those symptoms.

It makes me consider a lot of things that point to what causes my running (and balance) problems. I am waiting for it to fall apart but am enjoying the feeling of strength instead of imbalance while it lasts. I am getting in good hour plus runs on the treadmill and feel very much even and balanced while doing that running. It is amazing how when the bones are in the right places how easy running, shoveling snow, and everyday movement can be! They best word I can give is "unrestricted".

Matt Metzgar sent me information on a book he has been reading called "The Ageless Spine". One sentence said basically that when the bones of the body are positioned in a natural relationship to each other then the muscles are simply relaxed and free of tension, and therefore inherently flexible. Yes, for the past few days that is how everything feels: "free of tension". Now "how do I keep it like this?" is the BIG question.

In thinking more of what I did after running the mile race to remedy the tightness and imbalances I had, I remembered I did only one other movement or stretch besides the sacrum movement. I saw it on Mike T. Nelson's blog. It is an advanced Z-Health psoas muscle stretch (not found on the DVDs that I have). I did this about an hour before I did the sacrum movement. One or the other or both really helped. Those are the only two stretches or movements I have done all week (while I feel great) except for some resistance stretching on my hamstrings. So far so good!

While checking out Mike Nelson's stretch, youtube referred me to some other interesting variations of stretches and movements that may be good to try some day. This is the Cook Hip Lift. It is a functional training movement (possibly form Gary Cook?) that uses a tennis ball to help you do the standard hip lift or bridge. Sebastian Gonzales has some other intesterting variations on stretches that I'll have to try someday later.

This is a standing Psoas stretch.

The Postural Syndrome Band exercises look really good for after you have been sitting a long time. I did try these and they feel real good for that tightness between the shoulder blades/

You can find the rest of his videos here.