Running Again

I’ve started running more over the last two weeks. I’ve gotten to where I can run 5K without too much difficulty. I just need to work on my speed.

20140719-094435-35075707.jpg

This was my second personal 5K this week. I beat Monday’s time by 2:13. I think dropping the 4000′ in elevation between Utah and Texas, & having it be the most ridiculously pleasant July ever in North Texas might be contributing factors in the improved time.

When I was on high school cross country my average speed for a 5K was about 20:15 with a PR of 18:56. I think I’d be happy to be able to do less than 28:00 by the end of September.

Here’s Monday’s run by comparison:

20140719-095059-35459073.jpg

Advertisements

Keeping it up – Healthier Life Check-in

I haven’t had much time for any blog posts the last couple of weeks.  Starting right around the 4th we had a bunch of family come to town, followed by my son’s baptism, followed by spending time with said family, camping, birthday parties, etc, etc, etc…     It’s actually been a lot of fun.

I’ve been able to stick to my cardio goals, but I’m still having problems making my strength training happen regularly.  I just kind of get to it when I get to it, and I’ve missed some workouts because of that.  The thing is though, that I’m starting to see actual results:

  • I’ve lost 12.6 lbs, that’s the equivalent of 1 1/2 gallons of milk.  Think about having to carry a carton and a half of milk everywhere and then suddenly noBiking up the Passt having to anymore.  It makes a difference and I can totally feel it when I work out.
  • Last Saturday, in the morning I biked from Park City High School to the base of Deer Valley
    and then back.  Then in the afternoon, I hiked from Trial Lake to Wall Lake in the Uintas, and half jogged/speedwalked back to camp to make sure we could get dinner started.  Lastly, in the evening, I again biked.  This time 4.6 miles uphill to Bald Mountain Pass; over 1000 feet of elevation gain, with the starting elevation over 9700′!
  • Then Monday, I was out doing my 2-mile jog and I got 1 1/2 miles in and was still feeling good, so I decided to see if I could jog a 5K without having to walk at all.  I made it 4.85 km in 34 minutes, and to make sure I finished in under 35 minutes I actually sprinted the last 150 meters.

All of that stuff would have been unthinkable back in May, but each time I accomplish something that I know I couldn’t have done just a few weeks ago, it just makes me want to keep going to see if I can do even better:

  • Yeah, 12.6 pounds is good, but I still need to lose another 19.1 pounds to get down to a healthy body-fat percentage. Another 13.1 pounds past that to get me to ideal!  Still, if I feel this good having gone this far, I know that going further will be even better.
  • Yeah 4.6 miles uphill on my bike was great, but what if I could do a full mountain loop.  One of these days, I’m gonna do the Alpine Loop around Timpanogos or the Nebo loop.  That will feel amazing.
  • Being able to jog a 5K is great, but my personal record from high school was 18:96.  Yes, I’m in my mid 30’s and will never return back to that level of performance, but it doesn’t mean that I couldn’t someday be sub-24, running 8 minute miles again.

I just want to keep my eye on the prize so I don’t get complacent with where I am right now.

On a different note, one thing that I’ve learned in the last weeks, as my cultivated diet gave way to family gatherings, BBQs, and buffet meals is that people don’t seem to think it is good manners to pull your phone out and counting the calories of all the food in front of everybody. Yet, trying to get to it later means you end up forgetting some things.  So for that last 10 days or so, I didn’t do the immediate journaling during my meals.  Instead, what I did was skip all the major treats (birthday cake, ice cream, etc.), and then during meals make sure my plate was about 1/2 to 2/3rds as full as most other people’s plates.  Lucky for me, my family tends to be healthy, so the food was good, and since they all maintain good body weights, I figure if I eat 50-70% of what they’re eating I’ll be right in my goal of 1800 cal/day.  Luckily the strategy paid off because my weight loss is staying right where it has been the last two months.

I did allow myself one major exception to my diet though:

photo 2

The best s’more ever!

Hey, I was camping! You can’t go camping and not eat at least one treat. (Don’t worry, I only ate half)

Finding my Place in Higher Ed – #MormonPositive

Continuing my theme on stories from my life where the struggles of being Mormon made my life better.

For those of you unaware, I work professionally as an Academic Advisor.  I currently work for Brigham Young University, but I started in this field 4 years ago (this month!) at the University of North Texas. Prior to that I worked for about 20 months as a Financial Aid Counselor, and before that I bounced around in a few different jobs trying to figure out who I wanted to be professionally. I love being an academic advisor, it is a fun job for a person like me.  And given that my education allows be to become a licensed counselor and working for a university allows me access to free and discounted continuing-education opportunities, I love that I still have a lot of potential for growth professionally (and personally) in the coming decades before I retire.

The interesting thing about all of this is that if I weren’t Mormon, I sincerely doubt that I would have found this career path and I don’t know if I would have ever found so much happiness in my career. In fact, if you were to look at the type of student I was in high school or my undergraduate, you would have never thought that I could become what I currently am.

You see, I was a bad student. It wasn’t that I wasn’t bright, or that I didn’t understand things that were being taught. It was simply that I was terrible about finishing my homework. During middle school and high school, I’d do fine on the tests but I would never read my assignments or do my worksheets.  I’d average out to a “C” when all was said and done, but it was entirely based on my test grades balancing out a bunch of ZEROs on all my homework. One thing that my dad and I would always argue over is that sometimes he’d find an assignment I hadn’t done in the morning and he’d make me complete as much of it as I could during breakfast and he’d make me do it between bites of cereal and tell me to turn it in even though I’d only complete about 25-50% of the assignment. For some reason though, I was more embarrassed to turn in an incomplete assignment to my teachers than to tell them I didn’t do it, so I’d keep it stuffed in the bottom of my backpack. I knew I’d get a lecture from my dad when my teachers would send home progress reports with a bunch of NHIs (Not Handed In) for all my homework assignments, but it didn’t matter. (I think I’m personally responsible for 60% of my dad’s baldness.)

After deciding that the arguments weren’t worth it, my mom finally hired a tutor for my my junior and senior years of high school. She wasn’t there to teach me anything about school subjects, her only job was to track all my assignments and create a schedule for me to get them done. It helped.

Thanks to my extra-curriculars (Academic Decathlon being the #1) and straight A’s in seminary, I was admitted to BYU out of high school.  That was remarkable in the late 90’s, my high school GPA probably put me in the bottom 5% of admits.  Today, theUndergrad Graduationy wouldn’t have bothered with the likes of me, I was too much of a risk.  In fact, I was a risk. Without the skills needed to manage my study schedule without a tutor, and since so much of the work at the university level requires self-directed study, my past habit of being able to at least get passable grades thanks to my test scores didn’t work.  I was failing my tests too. Somehow I pulled off graduation, but I spent all my time as an undergrad in and out of academic probation.

So, what does this have to do with being Mormon? Well, as you can imagine there were many times that I was ready to call it quits on this whole school thing.  I wanted to take the easy way out, just get an associates or a professional certificate and just get on with life. I probably would have done that if not for one thing: my Patriarchal Blessing.

I don’t want to offer too lengthy a description of a Patriarchal Blessing in this post (you can learn more here), but in short it is a blessing of guidance given typically during teenage years that offers inspired counsel for how to live your life. Most items said in the blessing are broad guidelines that relate directly to scripture. It is a personal thing though, so often we can find very specific guidance in those broad guidelines.

One of the guidelines in my blessing reads almost more like a commandment. My blessing counsels me to “continue throughout your life in your education and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.” It seems like a good bit of counsel for just about anyone to follow, but it felt very personal to me each and every time I’d get another email telling me that I had to go to the Academic Support Office because I was back on probation. So many times I wanted to call it quits and walk away, but thanks to a few words spoken to me during a blessing given by a total stranger, I kept on trying. And eventually, my efforts paid off and I graduated.

The story doesn’t end there though.  After three years out of school and finding myself professionally unfulfilled I began to realize that I needed more education to move forward again. The thought of putting myself through the stress of schooling again, and this time while married and with children, was almost too much to bare. I still had that counsel to lean back on though: “continue throughout your life in your education and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.” So, I eased my way back into school. I started with some independent study, then took some leveling-courses to get back into the swing of things, and then got into grad school and finished my Master’s, and I did so with a 4.0 GPA.  Every semester, as I’d get my report card, I would already know that I had satisfied the requirements for A’s, but I was still amazed to see them added to my transcript.Graduate Graduation

The most interesting thing about this story to me is where it actually led me. I didn’t plan on becoming an academic advisor when I started grad school, that was just a tangent that was supposed to help me pay my way through my master’s program.  Now though, I work every day with students who struggle the same way I did and don’t know how to turn it around. My life and experience with school has helped me develop knowledge and wisdom to help these students. I know how to help a struggling student change his or her habits in school, and it’s not a theoretical knowledge, it is genuine knowledge that I learned through effort and trial. Seeing these students who struggled like I did, and then make their lives better is what makes being an academic advisor the funnest job I could ever ask for.  And, it would have never happened if not for a stranger, who when I was 18 told me to “continue throughout [my] life in [my] education and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.” Another reason I am one very happy Mormon.

New Week, New Goals!

I’m now over two months into my summer goal to become healthy.  I’m really glad that I’m doing a coached program because in the past this was about as long as I was able to last on my own, but I’m feeling good and confident, so you’ll have several more weeks of these blog posts coming from me.

My goals for the coming week are:

  • Run 2 miles 2 times
  • Do my strength training workouts 2 times
  • Attend spin class once
  • 300 minutes of cardio

So far the biggest challenge I’ve had is getting the 300 minutes of cardio, I’ve been averaging 210-240/week.  With Friday being a holiday I might actually make it this time.

 

Projection vs Actual

Blue line: Projection / Red line: Actual

I’ve been doing good when it comes to tracking my weight these past two months.  Last week I mentioned that I had hit a plateau.  In hindsight I don’t thing that it was a true plateau, but my weight measurement on 6/18 was an outlier. Basically I looked like I lost more weight than I really had.  As you may recall, when I got my 2nd BodPod measurement I tracked out an estimate of what I would lose based on the changes I had done during the 3 weeks between my measurements.  I had lost an average of 1.101 lbs/week in between my BodPod Measurements, so I created a spreadsheet to see how long my goals would take if I maintained that pace.  The blue line on the chart is where my weight would be if I kept up the 1.101 lbs/week trend.  The red line is my actual weight loss.  So even though I look like I gained weight between 6/18 and 6/25, I’m still beating my estimate. A fact that makes me very happy 🙂

Another bit of good news is that based on my projections of losing 1.228 lbs of fat/week and gaining 0.128 lbs of muscle, my body fat percentage should now have passed below 30%.  I won’t know for sure until the last week of my program, but if anyone asks, I’m going to tell them that I am now officially “overweight” and I’m no longer “obese” (Again, using these terms based on actual body-fat percentage, not the stupid BMI. According to my BMI, I’ve never been obese & I would be “healthy” with a 26% body fat!  Stupid BMI…).

So to recap: Still working hard, glad I have a coach, 1 new goal, 3 repeating goals, not a real plateau, & now just overweight.

See you next week!

 

PS: the chart above was based on my weigh-ins at the gym.  I’ve also done my Wii Fit almost every morning in the month of June.  Here’s the chart from that:

 

 

June Wii Fit

 

Do you like my Mii?

Science vs Religion? Not a Problem for Me #MormonPositive

So far in my #MormonPositive series I have written about experiences in my life that were stressful specifically because of my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but how experiencing that stress made me a better person.  I’m going to break from that pattern a little bit today and focus on how my membership in the church prevented me from experiencing a stress that impacts some religious people.

I have never to my recollection felt any conflict been my religious beliefs and science, and I attribute that entirely to the doctrines of my church.  For me:

Evolution, not a problem.

Physics is fascinating, has never made me question God.

The age of Earth/Universe, sure 4.5 & 13.5 billion years respectively, again not a problem.

 

At one time during my freshman year of college I thought about being a physics major.  I didn’t pursue it because I didn’t have confidence I could learn that math, but I blame that on my public schooling education, not my religion.

For some reason there seem to be people in other Christian denominations (and occasionally some individuals in my own church) who seem to think that science is a threat to their faith.  Also, there are scientists who seem to think that religion in general is a threat to further learning in science.  I find myself comfortably outside of both camps.

There is such a fascinating legacy of scientific thought within the Mormon community.  Some intriguing quotes worth pondering:

“The origin of life whether human or inferior, must be lodged in some character whom I have not seen! Follow it back, no matter whether it be for six thousand years, six millions, six million millions, or billions of years, the figures and numbers are immaterial, I must have come from some source, my natural philosophy teaches me this. But, leaving the natural philosophy of the child free from false tradition, let us inquire. What does the philosophy of the Christian sects, or many of them, not all, teach? “God made the world in six days, out of nothing!” This is very wrong; no child should be taught any such dogma. God never did make a world out of nothing; He never will, He never can!” [Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, pg. 248, 25 Sep 1870].

“Miracles are commonly regarded as occurrences in opposition to the laws of nature. Such a conception is plainly erroneous, for the laws of nature are inviolable. However, as human understanding of these laws is at best but imperfect, events strictly in accordance with natural law may appear contrary thereto. The entire constitution of nature is founded on system and order.” [James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, Deseret Book, SLC, 1966, originally published 1899, pg. 220.]”

“Truth is truth forever. Scientific truth cannot be theological lie. To the sane mind, theology and philosophy must harmonize. They have the common ground of truth on which to meet.” [John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist, originally published in 1908, Bookcraft, 1964, pg. 156].

“Since the gospel embraces all truth, there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion… I am obliged, as a latter-day saint, to believe whatever is true, regardless of the source.” [Henry Eyring, Faith of a Scientist, p. 12, 31]

This perspective has been very helpful for me.  It means that I can watch Neil deGrasse Tyson’s documentaries or TV shows and thoroughly enjoy them.  I meant that I could work as the academic advisor in the Biology department for a major university in Texas, and never feel even the slightest bit of conflict.  Now, I find myself working for Brigham Young University and I see around me so many scientists in the top of their fields with no conflict between the experiments they conduct, the lessons they teach, and the peace they have found through the practice of our religion.

I know that conflict occasionally erupts and a person will claim that they are being torn between his/her scientific principles and religion, and much attention is focused on those events, but I think that is more the exception than the rule.  So many of us in the LDS Faith find comfort, knowledge, and synchrony between both science and religion and experience no internal conflict.  For any out there who do, please take the time to understand that truth is truth and that it is the limits of our minds’ that might prevent us from seeing the ties between religious truth and scientific truth, not the lack of ties between the two.

Milky Way 2005
Additional Readings:

Henry Eyring, The Faith of a Scientist

Science Meets Religion

Evolution and the Origin of Man

Diet Soda Killed My Root Beer Habit

I’ve thought about writing this for one of posts for my “Becoming Healthy” blog project, and thanks to reading a related news article, I decided to finally do it!

Why Diet Soda Will Never Top the Real Thing

The above article was on the Real Clear Science Newton Blog this morning, and it hit on something I’ve totally noticed within myself and my eating habits.

Confession: I LOVE root beer.

I like going to specialty soda stores and trying out the various flavors. I get in discussions about the best bottled vs the best canned root beers.  I am adamant that sarsaparilla is NOT root beer.  I can tell the difference between a cane sugar and a corn syrup root beer.  I love root beer sweetened with honey.  My least favorite root beers are those that incorporate a black licorice flavor into the taste and bouquet of the soda.  I’m very particular about the quality of ice cream I will use for floats (No soft serve or vanilla bean for me!). Yeah, I love root beer.

My favorite can-buy-anywhere root beer:  A&W

My favorite dessert root beer: Henry Weinhard’s

My favorite overall root beer: Abita

My favorite float root beer: Stewart’s

And yet, if you’ve been following my blog, you know that in early May of this year I started a diet and exercise regime to get my body fat percentage back in control, and to feel better about myself and my appearance.  What room is there in my daily calorie budget for the occasional root beer?  Zero.

Delicious, foamy root beer

That doesn’t change the fact that I love root beer.  I’ve tried diet root beers in the past and without exception they were all terrible. Nothing redeemable about them whatsoever.  They all had a harsh chemically aftertaste that completely overpowers the flavors of the sassafras, vanilla, molasses, nutmeg & whatever else the brewer chooses to include.  I did find one exception though, and that is A&W 10.  It has a bit of that chemical taste, but overall the root beer flavor comes through pleasantly.  With my coach’s permission, and her assurance that all those rumors about artificial sweeteners messing with metabolism are not supported by scientific study, I bought a 12 pack for the occasional indulgence.

The last time I bought a 12-pack of root beer to keep in my office was back in February or March.  I noticed a funny thing happened.  I would crave a root beer around 2:00 or 3:00 pm, during the afternoon drowsys, and since there were plenty of cold root beers in my mini-fridge I’d have one.  The next day around the same time, I’d want a pick-me-up and the root beer craving would hit me bad, so I’d have one.  Then on the third day, I’d grab a root beer without even thinking about it.  Before I’d know it, my 12-pack was gone.

With the 12-pack of A&W 10, I let myself have one, but then the next day the craving never hit.  Three or four days went by and there were still 11 can in my fridge.  I’d have one with my lunch, but then the next day I was happy with a glass of water.  I find myself satisfied with the flavor, but indulging in one can leads to zero craving for a second root beer the next day. I think that speaks to the addictive nature of sugar.

Since there is no caffeine in most root beers the only addictive element in the soda is the sugar itself.  I occasionally drink Dr. Pepper, but since I’m not a coffee or tea drinker (obviously) and I’ve never had a period in my life when I had a daily indulgence in caffeinated soda I can drink caffeine for a pick-me-up, headache relief, or an overnight drive without developing a caffeine craving.  So I guess for me, at this point in my life, sugar is potentially more addictive than even caffeine is.

Well, I’ve been “sober” from refined sugar in both root beer and my favorite candies for almost 8 weeks now.  In a few months, when I finally get to a point that I’m satisfied with my body-fat percentage and overall health, I’ll need to be very careful about reintroducing full-sugared root beers and other sugar-heavy snacks into my diet so that they don’t become habit forming again.

7 1/2 weeks in, hitting a plateau

So, I’ve been working at this healthier-self project for 7 1/2 weeks now, and I’ve hit my first weight-loss plateau.  I’m actually 0.5 lbs heavier than I was last week.  It was bound to happen eventually, but I’m sure that I’ll work through it. This week my coach provided me with a two strength-training workouts that I’m supposed to alternate and do 2-3 times per week.  I’ve never been properly trained on how to use strength-training as part of a workout routine, so this will be good.  We’re focusing right now on exercises that don’t require gym equipment so I can do them anywhere.  Still, since the goal is fat-loss, the majority of my workout time will be spent on cardio.

One thing that I’ve been curious about is regarding my daily calorie intake.  I know my RMR is about 1760, so I’m supposed to keep my daily intake between 1800 & 1900.  I’ve been wondering though about those days that I do some serious exercise, like if I go on a day-long hike that burns 2500 calories, should I eat those calories?  What about days I only exercise a little bit and burn 300-400 calories, should I eat those?  My coach answered that calorie burning in exercise is so unpredictable and unmeasurable on an individual basis, that I should never do a calorie-for-calorie recovery of exercise.  Instead, if I have a major work-out day I can up my daily intake to about 2300 maximum. Perhaps that’s why I was never able to lose more than 15 pounds on my own in the past.

The big news for this week is that my blood profile finally came in from the hospital.  It turns out that while I might be carrying around way too much fat, my cholesterol is totally fine.  I’m in the “desirable” range for my total, HDL level, LDL level, and my HDL/LDL ratio.  In fact, I was barely in the “desirable” range, and could very well be in the “ideal” range by the end of my Y Be Fit program.  Yay!

This coming week, my goals are:

  • Get up to 300 minutes/week cardio workouts (still hitting between 200 & 250 / week)
  • Attend the faculty/staff spin class (couldn’t last week because of finals)
  • Follow my coach’s strength-training guide at least twice.