Two a Healthy Life

One couple on a mission to become healthy


Leave a comment

Book Review: The Power of Habits

The Power of Habits

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg takes a fascinating look at why people behave the way they do and how these behaviors transform into habits that control most of the perceived decisions we make on a daily basis.  While analyzing ones habits can be applied to anything that you want to change, there is especially good information for people that are starting a new diet or exercise regime.

One of the main concepts of the book is what Duhigg refers to as a habit loop (which Alex has already mentioned in a previous blog).  Habit loops (much like the idea of a computer program loop) stem from some cue (visual, audible, etc) that triggers our brains to perform some type of routine (smoke cigarette, eat cake) that produces a reward (nicotine, sugar).  These habits run deep and even after we have broken a bad habit, years later a cue can still trigger a desire to perform these old tasks.

The book is very approachable and doesn’t use a lot of complicated jargon or delve too deep into the science behind the ideas, but rather uses concrete examples of individuals, companies, and organizations to illustrate key points.  I listened to the audio book and for those on the lookout for a great listen; the narrator has a voice suited to the material that will make you just want to sit a listen till it’s done.

The only issue I had with this book is that it is light at the end on ways to change bad habits.  However, from all the examples given, one can deduce effective ways to change or start new habits.  If you are trying to start a running regime, keep your shoes and workout clothes by the bed so they are there when you first get up, then after a couple weeks the routine will become habit.

Personally I am trying to get to the gym more.  I noticed that when I get home, I have little motivation to go all the way back out to the gym (though running is easy because I just change and I am off).  To fix this I have bought a bike lock and plan to stop at the gym on my way home, instead of going home first.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in changing their bad habits or creating better ones.  What I really took away from it was the hope that change is possible.  I remember being overweight (after another failed diet) and thinking “this is it, this is how much I am going to weigh”.  At that point I thought there was no way to change.  But there was!  I don’t know the exact changes that made it stick; however, I know that writing this blog and having someone to lose weight with has made a big difference.

Thank you for reading, now go out and get this book!

 

The link below goes to a great chart for how to go about anayzing and changing habits.

http://charlesduhigg.com/need-to-break-a-bad-habit/


1 Comment

Channeling my inner tortoise

8139271342_41a042b917_b

Photo by matea2506

It is a classic tale, the tortoise and the hare, speed versus determination; however these two paradigms can be applied as approaches to running.  Being a typical man, when I started running I simply wanted to get faster and continuously pushed to turn in quicker times on my runs.  As I have mentioned before, I ended up over-training and having some knee issues.  Now that I am back training, I am approaching running from the other side.

Alex has never been concerned with how fast she was running, but chose instead to focus on how far she runs.  To date, she has never has any issues with over training or injuries (knocking on wood now).  We recently did a run together (our first run ever together) and it was ironically liberating to have to slow my pace so we could run together.

This experience put a spotlight on the issue of speed for me.  I continually try to push my pace (though I know I should be focusing on strengthening my legs and slowly inching up my mileage), so after that run I have committed to slowing down.

The marathon training plan that I am following has two runs a week for 30-45 minutes, but does not specify anything about distance you should run.  I am now using these runs to focus on my technic (breathing, foot placement, stature) and am recommitted to slowing down so that they are not as physically demanding.

This new strategy can be seen in the couch-to-5k and many marathon training plans that incorporate walking as part of the program.  Walking helps reduce the amount of stress on your body during a run, and can help people to increase their mileage more than running continuously can.  This all feeds into the idea of slow and steady build up.

I think I am like most guys, and when you tell us to slow down or take it easy, we just want to get out there and rip it up even more.  But what I have learned thus far is that the safest approach is one of slow determination.  With enough training you can eventually morph into the hair, but we all need to start out as a tortoise.

Run on!


Leave a comment

Of good runs and bad

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimolsonphoto/8358642701/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Photo by Kim Olson

On Wednesday I had a good run; I think the first good run of my marathon training and since coming off an injury late last year.  There are those runs, that from the beginning you just know you’re in the zone, your steps feel light, your breathing is synched, the whole act feels fluid.  Not all runs are like this, in fact, most aren’t.

I am not one of those people who would tell you “even the worst day of running is better then the best day of being a couch potato”.  There are some days that my runs don’t feel good, where I am tried and it is a struggle to keep going and not turn around (and sometimes I do).

There was a piece on NPR a few days ago (listen above) that was about how in the facebook generation we have turned into a society of braggers, where people only post the good news online and leave out the rest.  To some extent I feel I have been that way on this blog, putting down the successes and not admitting the failures.

Over the course of the several months were I was dealing with knee issues, I was depressed about not being able to run, and I let a lot of the habits I had built for myself go by the wayside.  I went from 155, back up to, at one point to 170 (this was also in the middle of the holidays, but no real excuse).  Now I am back down to 163, but it is still a struggle to get back down to where I was.

What I am really trying to get at is that, even though I may sound like I have it all together from my posts, there are still those days where all I want to do after work is come home, get in my PJs and watch TV while gorging on ice cream.  As Newton said, objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by a force.

Not every run is going to be great, not every day of dieting is going to feel good.  By I can honestly say that since I have gotten back on track the last several weeks, I feel way better then I did when I started to slip and eat junk again.  Keep your eyes on the horizon, remember why your doing what your doing, the long term goal, and keep in mind those really great runs.

Onward!


Leave a comment

A Race at Lands End

route

He Said:

Today we did another DSE run (they host them every week, so if your in the Bay Area you should come check one out, $5 for a race isn’t bad) the first one we did was the Embarcadero 10k and today’s race was the Golden Gate Vista 10k.

One of our friends had told us about it so Alex and I agreed to do the run without really reading anything about it or doing any research on the course.  The run was at lands end in SF and for those who don’t know, this is one of the hilly parts of the city (I know, where is it not hilly).  The run starts on a trail and then goes along the coast, where it peeks on a hill (or small mountain) over looking the Golden Gate bridge.

Without having looked at the map or realizing where the run was going to be held, it was a little bit of a shock when we got there and our friend told us it was going to be hilly.  The first half of the run went fine, knowing that there were going to be hills, until we got to the mini-mountain and struggling to get to the top of this thing.  There were a couple of guys in front of me, and just seeing them keep going helped to motivate me to keep going.  Getting to the top without stopping was my accomplishment for the day and it did make me feel good about the race.

Over all I ran the race in 54 min, which with all the hills was better then I thought I was going to do.  My comment to Alex in general about the race was how strange it still is sometimes to think that we just wake up and run six miles now.  Both of us agreed to the run without really thinking about it and not worrying about not being able to complete the run or dying along the road on the way.

Cheers to 10ks.

Onward

Left to right: Me, Nathaniel, Billy and Alli.

Left to right: Me, Nathaniel, Billy and Alli.

She Said:

A few weeks ago my best friend’s girlfriend asked Nathaniel and I if we would like to do a 10k with her and my best friend.

Without really worrying about it I told her we would do it – not even knowing the name of the race where it was or anything other than the fact it was in San Francisco and only cost $5 to participate in.

It’s so amazing to me that a year ago I couldn’t even jog a ¼ mile without dying and now I’ve completed a half marathon and can run a 10k any given Sunday without really worrying about it.

The only thing I do differently leading up to it is eat a different breakfast than I would normally eat. Usually I like to have a banana and orange juice before a 10k but today I had toast with peanut butter and orange juice.

Anyways – the date kind of snuck up on us and just after 8am this morning Nathaniel and I were pulling into a parking lot near Sutro Baths in San Francisco with our friends in the car behind us.

It was a brisk morning and we were quite cold as we checked in, paid our fees and just stood around waiting for the 9 o’clock start to roll around. A tall guy (about 6’5’’) sidled up behind Billy and was eyeing him really obviously.

It annoys Billy when people comment on his height or react strangely to him because he is tall so I told the guy “Yeah – he’s taller than you.” Which really embarrassed him and he wandered away…

Soon it was time for the race to start and Billy (the only one of us who has done a marathon) told us the course was going to be hard. I seriously hadn’t even known where the race was until we got into the car and were heading north towards the city … but Billy telling us it was going to be hard worried me a little bit.

We took off at 9 am and the big group of us went looping through the parking lot and then off road to a nice trail with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The view was fantastic for most of the run and around mile 1 we hit a staircase and I had to climb it – not running.photo-5

To be fair- the stairs were spaced really strangely for running. Only really tall people would be able to run them normally but for the rest of us you have to either bound up them or take a strange step and a half for every stair.

Those stairs were the only thing that really killed me on the run. I was dying by the time I got to the top of them (partially because my muscles were still cold).

I noticed a long time ago it takes me about two miles to start enjoying a run – after that I can cruise a long for a while and just be really happy to be out moving.

During the Las Vegas half Marathon I felt like shit from mile 0-2 and 9-13. Everything in between was fantastic.

I caught Billy and Alli on a long sloping hill near the three-mile mark and passed them near the top of it. Alli (sorry if this annoys you) is a lot thinner than me but doesn’t run as much and she has asthma. If she ran as much as I did she would totally kill me because I outweigh her by 20-30 lbs.

After I passed them on the downhill portion of that hill it was probably another half mile till we started climbing again. And then it was maybe another mile of long sloping hill.

I didn’t actually need to stop at any point on the race except for the stairs although I did walk with Billy and Alli for a few minutes.

The last big hill it came down to just making myself do it. I was slowly trotting up it and near the top stopped and took about two walking steps before I told myself I was being lazy and that I could finish it – and then I started running again.

Although the course was hilly and hard I set a new PR today by about 2 minutes.

I was really happy with how I did and it has me motivated me to start running on a more regular basis.

Onward!

photo


Leave a comment

The sick days of winter

With the cold season abound it was only a matter of time before one us came down with something.  One of my coworkers who sits right in front of me was sick all week and finally my body gave in and I started to come down with a sore throat on Friday.  Alex has been burning the candle at both ends the last half a week and now she is sick as well.

Nobody like being sick, and every time I get sick I question how we haven’t figured out how to prevent it yet.  However, I have noticed that since I have started to eat healthier I get sick a lot less then I used to.  Other then medicine and rest, the other remedies that I try to stick too are drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep, and continuing to eat healthy.

The last suggestion on that list is something I never would have thought of in the past.  When I would be sick I would think chicken soup and that would be it.  But if we really are what we eat, then when your body is fighting off a parasite you need all the nutrients that you can get.  Alex and I usually eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day, but when I am sick I make an extra point to get as many as I can so I can feel better.

Just remember to take care of yourself, but don’t let being sick keep you from eating right or sticking to your routine.

On(achoo)ward.


Leave a comment

Getting High….breathing in elevation

IMG_2456Alex and I went snowboarding this past weekend (as I am sure you can tell from the picture) and other than being sore the next day due to falling we were both pleasantly surprised at how well we did.

We stayed at a lodge close to Heavenly, so close in fact, that in the morning we didn’t even need to drive to the ski resort, we just grabbed our gear and walked.  One thing I noticed (and later pointed out to Alex) was that I didn’t get out of breath walking up the hill to the resort.  The reason this stuck me is because Tahoe is at a high elevation (Olympians go there to train to be acclimated to high elevations) and when us normal sea level folk go there we tend to huff and puff due to our lack of acclimation.

Not being out of breath at the top of the hill was one of those small things that really cemented in my head how far we both have come.  Back in the day I am sure that I would have been out of breath when I got to the top of the hill.  And I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to go snowboarding all day (since it has been eight years since I went last time) without being extremely tired at the end.

What this whole experience taught me is that while we want to lose weight to look a certain way, or fit into a specific size of jeans, what being in shape allows us to do is—well anything we want.  I was able to go sky diving last year because I wasn’t over the weight limit (which used to be a concern for me) or go snowboarding when I want to because I know I am fit to do so.  Being healthy will not only help you live longer, but will make the time you have here as active as you want it to be.photo

Onward!


Leave a comment

Dying of Thirst: The New Coke Campaign

Coca-cola recently released a new commercial that is part of a bigger advertising campaign “coming together” that is focusing on obesity.  The following video is a keystone to this new campaign:

Coke mentions that of the 650 beverages in their portfolio, they offer 180 that are low or no calorie, but that is only 27.69% of their beverages, one of which is Dasani their water brand.  While I do give them props for adding calorie contents to the front of cans and introducing smaller portioned sizes, the industry (lead by Coke) is still fighting the Bloomberg ban on large soda sales in New York, which are sold in sizes that do not list how many servings or calories are contained in the beverage.  How is that “making it easier for people to make informed decisions?”

More calories per servicing then regular coca-cola

More calories per servicing then regular coca-cola

“For elementary, middle, and high schools our industry has voluntarily changed its offerings to primarily waters, juices, and low and no calorie options” states the ad, however, back in 2008 California schools (along with other states) “required elementary and middle schools to stop providing soda or allowing it to be sold in school vending machines [and] the ban has now gone into effect for high schools as well”.  I fail to see how states passing bans on soda in schools is the beverage industry voluntarily changing to serve healthier options.  Furthermore, the juices that they are touting (in the video it is Odwala Strawberry C Monster) which you can see the label to the left, has 240 calories and 43g of sugar for a 12-oz serving.  Just for comparison a similar serving of regular coca-cola has 140 calories and 39g of sugar.  How is this juice low calorie or a better option then soda?

“All calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-cola and everything else with calories.  And if you eat and drink more calories then you burn off, you’ll gain weight.”  Of all the lines in this ad, this is the one with the most truth in it.  All calories count is the best advice for people trying to loose weight.  And the only gripe I have about coke saying this is that soda is about an empty as calories get.  The human body, while amazing, is very poor at judging calories consumed in liquid form, which is why you could drink a 500 calorie milkshake and not fill anywhere near as full as you do by eating a sandwich and some chips for the same number of calories.

The most striking feature of this ad, is that while the subject is looking at the obesity problem in America, there is not one obese person in this ad.  Coke made sure to include beautiful, healthy looking people (some may have been a little heavy), with BMIs in the normal range.  How are they helping this issue, by not showing the people that they are speaking of?

At the end of the day, I would rather eat a sandwich then drink a coke.  I would rather have a hamburger then a milkshake.  My calories are precious and I want them to make me full, so I will stick with tap water and tea and leave the calories on my plate.


Leave a comment

A habit breakthrough

Yesterday I had a breakthrough at work.

I was sitting at my desk after eating my lunch (I know you’re not supposed to eat lunch at your desk, and I often don’t as I try to walk at lunch) and I realized I was still hungry and wanted to go up the hill for something sweet from the grocery store.  The thing was, I knew that I wasn’t actually hungry anymore, I was bored.

I was bored because I was at work, and the internet is locked, and I was listening to an audio book that I had listened to before (Born to run, highly suggested) so I already knew what was going to happen.  I acknowledged to myself that I was bored and that I need something to do.

So I downloaded a new audio book and started to listen to it.  Instantly I was engrossed in the book, and as a little time went by I was not hungry anymore as I started to digest my lunch and my body knew it didn’t need anything more.  The breakthrough was controlling the urge to eat more and forming a new habit to actively analyzing why I thought I was still hungry.

I might not be able to do this all the time, but as we try to watch what we eat or stick to those resolution diets, we need to be vigilant for those queues that are telling us we are hungry, because most of the time you’re not hungry, you’re bored, or thirsty, or simply in a habit of eating.  Looking at these eating habits will aid you in your efforts to continue to be healthy.

Onward!


Leave a comment

Dream Big

He said:

The gyms are busy, the streets are full, everyone is on the healthy bandwagon so it must be New Year’s resolution time.  Alex and I went to the gym last week and about halfway up the stairs we both dreaded the amount of people that would be there because of New Year resolutioners (however our fears weren’t warranted as it wasn’t anymore busy then normal).

Many of the articles I have read recently on New Year resolutions  mirror each other in trying to help people actually achieve their goals and not give up midway through February.  The best advice I have read is to set smaller goals to start out with, and keep the larger goal in mind for the future.

It can be daunting to say “This year I am going to loose 70 pounds” and for years I dreamed of loosing that much weight and always got frustrated and gave up before I reached it.  It is much easier to focus on loosing ten pounds, or five pounds, or two pounds and then once you have accomplished your first goal you can move on to the next one.

Alex and I both want to run a marathon this year.  After trying to train last year and injuring myself in the process, I figured that I had to take a new approach this year.  I start my six month training program tomorrow (I know six months really), but I realized that I was too focused on the time I wanted to run the marathon in and not on the whole experience.  This time I am going to go a week at a time and hopefully will fulfill my goal before the year is up.

Even though I know I have the marathon out there in the future (I told Alex we have to sign up for it by the end of the month) Alex and I are both going to sign up for a half marathon sometime in March or April, and some 10ks coming up soon to help give us something closer to focus on while seeing the dream of the marathon further on into the horizon.

Remember to dream big, but keep the goals reasonable.  If you can manage to do that you will wake up one day to find that your dreams have become your realty.

Onward!