Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fall 2012: A Retrospective

Well, here it is almost four months since my last post. Time flies when you're having fun. I've been having a lot of fun: one day at a time.

As I reread my last post, I'm elated that my apprehension regarding carrying over good summer habits into fall were misguided. (Or at least unwarranted.)

Credit the fact that my new habits were well instilled by summer's end, or credit my pigheadedness. Either way, my lifestyle has been upgraded to include much better habits of exercise and nutrition.

As August ended, school began. I've begun my fifth year teaching at the elementary level, after having completed 10 years at the 7th/8th grade level. Last year I was involved in completing a Preliminary Administrative Service Credential Program. This year, I'm involved in providing some on-campus support for a new district-provided software program called Illuminate. What I'm mostly involved in at school is being a part of a team that aims to provide a positive educational experience for all students. We make a difference in the lives of our students, and often, in the lives of the families. It's very rewarding work.

I was concerned that work responsibilities would interfere with my running and eating. My work schedule did provide some challenges, but the challenges have been met. I'm still eating five or six meals a day, with a good dose of protein and good fat in each. I'm still limiting my carbs to post-workout meals. I'm still running three or four days a week, including a longer weekend run.

As a result of my lifestyle changes, I've continued to get more fit. The book Younger Next Year has helped me to become younger this year. I've had many comments about my summer transformation into youth. I think it mostly had to do with losing enough overall fat, so that my face thinned out. I also grew my hair out: no longer a buzz. One of the best birthday gifts I got in November was a reading on my scale that put me five pounds under what my driver's license read. One hundred and ninety put me just outside the high end of the healthy range for my age and height. Where I used to have a gut, I now have a waist! Who knew that my goal of running three times a week for 30 minutes would provide such side benefits? I. am. pleasantly. surprised!

I've continued to follow the rules of the Precision Nutrition program, which mostly means I eat well and often. I also get enough sleep. I have a blender at work, and I take a giant salad for lunch each day, with a good slab of meat thrown in (4 to 6 ounces). My main shortcoming has been on my water intake. But if good hydration is my biggest health challenge, then life is good. And it is.

I completed my 10 week running program, and I've begun my next phase: continuing to build endurance without injury. I traded in the annual school pancake breakfast for the school's annual 5K: a Turkey Trot. That was back in early November. I ran a personal best over that distance, and now I've returned to running 3 miles every other day. Because I run various hilly routes, that distance and pace continues to provide the needed stress to trigger positive adaptations: I'm getting fitter. Woo hoo!

All-in-all it's been a great start to the school year. That's how I mark time: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. Summer vacation, Thanksgiving vacation, Christmas vacation, and Easter vacation, punctuated with school quarters and on-going responsibilities. A good mix of being productive, being engaged in work and play, plus enjoying family, friends, and projects. Perhaps next I'll write about some Winter goals? (Mostly, I'm hoping to do more of the same! Plus, I'm enjoying the football season on TV.)

I hope you all had a good fall, and I hope that  the winter finds you navigating your journey with a good mix of on-going improvement and good fun!

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Sorry, no pictures. I'm away from my camera and my store of pictures.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer 2012: A Retrospect

CSUF: Arboretum/trail
Looking over my posts since last May, I can see that I've been on a trek towards improved fitness. I've done it a little at a time, and I'm enjoying the journey.

My weight has gone down 11 pounds this summer. I broke the 200 pound barrier. My Calorie King app predicts I'll hit my 187 goal by December. Wouldn't that be nice? (In '08 I once got down to 190, but 187? Haven't seen that since I don't know when. Decades maybe.)

I've got a 10 week plan for running developed that should carry me through October.

I've got a nutrition plan that should be sustainable through the school year. I've upgraded my eating habits.

CSUF: Same plant, up close.
Last summer I did a major decluttering program (FlyLady.com) that has made my home much more pleasant to live in.

This summer I did a major decluttering program that has made my body much more pleasant to live in.

Along the way, I've done a few household projects, done a bit of vacationing, done a lot of BBQing, and done a fair amount of watching grandkids.

All in all? It's been a great summer: a pleasant mix of relaxation, restoration, and being positively engaged in life. I've read some books, run some miles,  watched some TV, and even done a bit of professional development.
CSUF: Up close... same plant.

So now what? The 2012/13 school year begins tomorrow. Summer projects will turn into Fall projects. My projects are all part of my life-time Process Of On-Going Improvement (POOGI); a POOGI that includes being Younger Next Year, which includes training for the endurance event called life. It's all a matter of balancing  purposeful stress with  intentional rest which leads to positive personal adaptations.

That's the plan. What really happens will be the inevitable dance that happens when plan meets life, but that's half the fun. That's what I call Navigating Through Life!

CSUF: Floral eye candy.
Enjoy the voyage!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nutrition: The backbone of body recomposition?

Bike path at CSUF
The last month has found me enjoying my summer vacation. The weeks have been well balanced with rest, relaxation, interacting with grandkids (and their parents), exercise, and a lot of BBQing.

My running has continued and improved. My last two jogs were of the two mile variety, and I maintained a slow jog through out. One of my goals is to run one half an hour, three days a week. My walk/jog/runs are becoming much more jogging, and a lot less walking. Yeah! (Progress -- slow but sure.)

Two weeks ago I had a nice run, but during the post-run stretch, I overdid it and strained my back! C'mon! I took it easy for a few days, and I'm back (95%). I learned one stretch not to do! (The one I made up!)

Ball field: CSUF -- from right field
The last few days my wife and I have been helping the Haan's with some child care while Joanna, my oldest daughter, was in Montana visiting my youngest daughter, Danielle (her sister). In addition to watching kids and running, I've been learning about how to improve my nutrition in order to cut fat and gain muscle (aka body recomposition).

Since Februrary, I've accomplished some body recomposition as the result of my new habit of running. I've added muscle, especially to my legs. In addition, I'm losing fat. My total weight is down about 8 or 9 pounds, which means I've probably lost at least 10 pounds of fat and gained a couple of pounds of muscle.

Increasing my understanding of nutritional complements my recomposition efforts. I found an online resource in Dr. Barardi and his team at at Precision Nutrition (Pn). Their website provides a wealth of information, while at the same time, they keep it simple.

Softball field: CSUF
My mantra for 2012, "I am in charge of my habits, I let it be easy," fits in well with Pn's philosophy. They emphasize small, but important, incremental changes in habits. It has been said that form follows function, and a lot of what we are physically, is a result of the functions of our lifestyle: sedentary or active, ignorant or informed. Pn tries to help improve our compliance -- habitually doing what you know you should. They do it in baby steps, one new habit at a time.

Some of my best mentors in life have been authors. I think I've found a new mentor over at Precision Nutrition: I call him -- The Doctor. (Perhaps he'll help me enjoy new fitness adventures, a little at a time?)

I'm fine-tuning my eating (and drinking) habits based on what I'm learning. "Slow but sure wins the race, " especially when attempting to change long standing habits of diet and exercise. "Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out!" Turtle on! (That's what I'm doing.)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Running is my friend.

CSUF Blooming Jasmine

Trail running is my friend. It helps release the endorphins and create a calorie deficit for the day. I'm trying to make a habit of burning 500 more calories a day than I eat. That should equate to one pound of fat burned a week.

I'm grateful that I live in a town that has horse/biking/running trails that make it easier to run on trails. I find it so much more interesting and relaxing than running on streets or on a tread mill.

Today I did a 3 1/2 mile trail run. My "runs" are really walk/jog/runs. I generally walk up the steeper hills, then I do a controlled run on the way down. When the ground is mostly flat, I generally just jog, aiming to keep my heart rate at a level of intensity that helps me burn fat.

CSUF Soccer Field
When I started out running in February, I could only run for a minute or two, then walk. Today, for the first mile or so, I actually ran/jogged for about 10 minutes straight. I was pleased. I've built up some stamina, some cardio/vascular capacity. I keep a running diary, and it indicates that on one mile run back in April I logged a 12 minute mile. So that's the time I'll be trying to beat. Perhaps I'll visit a local track so I can log my quarter mile splits.

CSUF Bike Trail
Getting back into shape is a slow process. It took years to descend into my own personal canyon of decreased fitness, and it will take me some time to hike out. But, I'm glad that I'm going in the right direction, and I'm glad for the personal indicators that help me to see progress.

Onward and upward!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Projects?

My daughter Joanna asked me, "So Dad, what summer projects do you have lined up?"

Tennis Courts at CSUF
I paused. My to-do list is very short this summer. With a 10 week summer vacation from teaching, I could, and have done, some pretty substantial multi-day projects in the past. But this summer, my to-do list is kind of puny: wash the dog, fix the sprinklers, repair a window screen, etc. Nothing big there.

Seeing my indecisiveness, Joanna stated the obvious for me: "Well, I guess your big project is your fitness project."

"Oh, yeah. That," I replied, seeing for the first time the elephant in the room.

Water anyone?
I started running back in February as a part of New Year's goal: "I'm in charge of my habits. I let it be easy." I wanted to improve my fitness: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Running was going to be a key component. I hoped to build up to running three days a week, 1/2 hour a day.

Since then, I've established running into a habit. Oh, yeah!

That habit has enabled me to pursue another part of improved fitness: weight loss. Surprisingly, all my running since February really hadn't effected the scale much, although I've done some reshaping: gaining some muscle, and losing some fat... even my face shows it. But the scale hasn't.

I'm very happy with the improved stamina, flexibility, and core strength I've gained, but I decided to readdress the weight issue. At 6 foot tall, 216 pounds was too heavy. Just ask my blood pressure. Since February, I have dropped five pounds, and yesterday's blood pressure was the best it's been in a year, back in the normal range. A pound a month weight loss, while building muscle, is okay, but I wanted to see if I could speed things up a little on the fat loss.

Soccer Stadium at CSUF
"I find it easy to achieve my goals with the help of God and others." That's another one of my affirmations. This time, Joanna supplied a puzzle piece that got me thinking. She said, "Well, they say that if you split the calorie difference, the deficit you want to create, between fewer calories eaten and more expended through exercise, they say you'll lose weight." Hmmm...

Ponderer that I am, I decided to just exercise 500 calories worth a day (3,500 calories a week) which is a pound of fat burned off. In addition to the exercise component, the nutrition part is this:  Eat well: 1750 calories a day, aim for 30% protein, 45% carb, 20% fat, 5% alcohol -- 7 meals a day (250 each) at 7, 9:30, 12, 2:30, 5, 7:30, 10.

On the stadium's wall (CSUF)
So does that sound like a summer project or what? Racquetball, yard work, and house work are rounding out the 500 calorie a day deficit project. I use my new Timex heart rate monitor during exercise to capture the calories burnt and a couple of computer Apps to track other parts of the program. Part of my cool down routine is logging the data! 

I'm about a week it to this new experiment, and I'm happy with the results. I maintained my 210 lb. weight for 3 or 4 days, then, after a blip up after some good celebratory eating, I dropped to 208 for two days in a row. That's where I am now.

I've got a plan. I'm working the plan. And I'm having fun doing it. (Summer projects: Don style.)

(The pictures are taken from the iCare 5K race course at CSUF. I ran the race in April with Joanna, then came back later with a camera. Enjoy.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Reflections on the trail...

Mom & Me: Shore House Cafe
This morning I did my weekly long run, which is now 10K (6.2 miles). I've only done it twice. Last week was the first. The path I run is part footpath, part equestrian trail, and part bike path. I run through chaparral, along baseball fields, golf courses, and even a few blocks of homes. Today I saw a red tailed hawk, about 50 feet away.

I noticed striations (lines) across the foot path that looked like someone had lightly drawn some antlers through the dirt. Upon closer inspection, I discovered they were ant paths! They had trodden down the dusty path to form their own foot paths. Later, in the neighborhood part of the trail, an asphalt driveway across the path was bounded by some two-by-fours. This barrier not only gave a nice edge for the driveway, but created a super highway for the ants. There seemed a lot of traffic for a Sunday morning. But then, ants are probably not about weeks, just days/nights, and perhaps seasons. (An occasionally rain.)
Sunny Flower

Under one huge tree that was all abloom, I stopped and listened. The tree was abuzz with hundreds and hundreds of bees. (They also were busy on a Sunday morning.)

The trail was very hilly and though most of it is just dirt, some parts are covered with crushed granite or heavy gravel. Heavy gravel is difficult to run up, and a bit dangerous to run down. Going uphill, I discovered that the edges of the pathway were more lightly strewn with gravel. So on the return trip, I asked myself, "What would Robert Frost do?" And I took the path less graveled, and that made all the difference!
Sunny Flower's Familiy
This trail is a less traveled trail in Fullerton, in part perhaps because of the steep stretches it contains. I thought about Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken, as I ran. It reminded me of my own life. Like the narrator in the poem, 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 (I took a road, just one less traveled by.) 

Yesterday, I started rereading a book I read for the first time in 1976, Be Here Now, by Ram Dass. As a result, I enjoyed today's run even more. I also am rereading The Ultimate Beginners Running Guide: The Key  to Running Inspired.  As a result, I ran with better form. One of the "prizes" I got from last week's 10K along this same hilly path are two slightly blackened toenails. I changed the way I laced up my shoes, and I made sure I landed softly on the side of my foot. I also practiced leaning into hills as I walked up them, leaning from the ankles, not the waist. 
Hibiscus at Cal State Fullerton 

One other epiphany along the trail was encountered at the vista points. At one vista point, I missed the vista and instead watched some golfers teeing off. Silly me. How often have I missed the point of the life lesson because I looking around at others, instead of paying attention to lesson? On the way back, I ignored the golfers and took in the vista. The experience made me wonder about how many of life's lessons I'm still missing due to inattention? Vistas can be epiphanies, but they aren't always. It was a reminder to me to stay awake!
The start and finish line of my first 5K.
So, those were some of reflections on the trail from this morning. Parts of the run I just enjoyed the crunch of my feet on the path, the breeze in my face, or the "good morning" of a fellow biker/hiker/jogger. Sometimes, I just enjoyed the company of the ants, birds, bees, and squirrels. I like the road less traveled by. You?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Yeah June!

I spy six Haans!
Back in February, I embarked on a goal towards becoming a runner. My goal was to be fit enough to walk/run 30 minutes, three times a week. For the last two weeks, I'm on target. The slow road to improved fitness has been a rewarding one. This morning I posted this on Facebook:

‎1) Set some goals. 2) Make a plan. 3) Work your plan. 4) Fine tune goals/plans. This morning I did #3. 5+ mile route. Walked uphill (50 minutes). Jogged/walked back downhill (35 minutes). Climbed into my car... and said, "That felt great!" A milestone from my beginnings back in February. Woo hoo!

Papa Haan and his twins: Easter egg hunting!
I'm discovering a zone of fitness that includes walking/hiking/jogging/running. Thanks go out to my kids and fellow runners whose examples inspired me, and to authors who have coached me.

Oh, look here, under the ramp!
As June has arrived, and the school year comes to a close, I look forward to scoping out some new local trails to explore in my running this summer. On top of that, my daughter Joanna wants to play some racquetball! I took up running because I couldn't find a good racquetball partner. Vicki White was my all time favorite, but she moved up to the Pacific Northwest. She and I used to play once, sometimes twice a week. (My nephew John is fun to play with also, but he's a young dad and very busy.)

Looking for the hard-to-find eggs now.

Regardless, as June begins and summer vacation looms, I foresee some good times: on the trails, on the court, and around the house.

Hello June. Hello summer. Hello fitness!
Rachel eyes the chocolate that filled the eggs. A happy Danny!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mothers' Day (not for everybody), Optimism (for the over-thinker)

Happy Mothers' Day!

Chip: Visiting me at my desk.
To all who provide mothering!

Not all mothering comes from biological mothers, and not all biological mothers provide good mothering. It's not even gender specific: I was a Mr. Mom for a couple of years after my first wife's death. I mothered (and fathered).

This week at school, a fellow teacher called and asked if I could host a boy in my class for 45 minutes or so. He had been removed from his home due to extremely poor mothering. He really didn't want to make a Mothers' Day card along with the class. Kudos to this teacher for being aware, and for giving the boy an option. This teacher knew some of my story, and knew I would understand and provide a safe, warm place... away from the majority, who, rightfully so, love their mothers. Regardless of the day being celebrated, mindful souls know that others may have good reason why they don't enjoy or even like a certain holiday. School mimics life in that regard. We are a multiculturalistic society, with majorities and minorities of every shape and hue. Even on Mothers' Day.

* * * * *

Optimism: Can it be recovered and cultivated? 

A month ago I read a post written by a very bright junior or senior in high school who was feeling blue. Some of her dreams were being reality checked as she got closer to college and adulthood was coming into closer view.

Been there. Disillusionment is a tough row to hoe.

So I wrote her a poem. A poem for those who are at a point of personal despair: great or small, or somewhere in-between. Especially for those who think a lot. Depth of mind can sometimes drowned optimism and hope.

I give you:

I  Wonder If
(for We_the_pieces)

I wonder if hopelessness is an affliction caught by those who think too much?
Chip: Investigating a bug sighting.

I remember considering the quote,
"This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel,"
and thinking,
"No, it's a tragic comedy to those who do either."

I remember sitting in my room alone,
listening to the mournful singing of Neil Young's
"Everybody Knows This is Nowhere."

I remember sitting in a church,
thinking about the fruitlessness of living.

But somewhere along the line...
Maybe it was Harold and Maude?
Maybe it was Cat Stevens' song:
If you want to sing out, sing out...

I don't know how, but...
I recovered my optimism.

Chip: Checking out Heidi, the dog.
And, I decided to cultivate it.

Perhaps hopelessness and giving up is like the flu
caught by young thinkers, who...
when mental health returns...
decide to live life with an informed naivety.

The Dreamer returns...
but now she knows some of the science of navigation.

The Dreamer returns...
but knows something of pace, goals, possibilities,
and boundaries.

I wonder if...
in the life of a thinker...
there are tides,
and turning points.
I spy: The Haan family (6 strong)

I wonder if...
health of mind is as much a game of fitness
as health of body.

Do you wonder
if you think too much?

I don't.
I. am. a. thinker.

And I like it that way.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Running and other happenings!

The view from my front yard: morning.
Well, it's three weeks since my last post, and I'm still running!

Six days after my last post, I ran my first organized 5K -- a smallish event put on by Cal State, Fullerton: the iCare 5K. I ran it with Joanna, my 32 year-old daughter, or rather, she slowed herself down to run it beside me. It was a golden moment: a father/daughter shared memory worth cherishing. And I did.

Half-way through the race, when the course took us through the Arboretum, we heard the cheers of Joanna's husband and four children. Another golden moment, enjoyed despite a pounding heart and tired legs. I had practiced and planned for the event, and met my three goals: have fun, finish, and run faster than some of my co-workers had recently run in their 5K. (I set a personal best, one which I don't plan on breaking for a while.)
Seating for two? (Front yard.)

My other goal was "Don't hurt yourself." And although my legs were pretty tired and wanted to cramp up, they didn't. We all enjoyed a pancake breakfast at the event, after my two granddaughters ran their first organized 1K race, which Joanna had signed them up for. I stood at the finish line and cheered them in.

It was a fun day, and I was only somewhat sore for a few days afterward. I gave myself a couple of days off, and then resumed my training ways.

My running is the cardio part of a fitness regime intended to include strength, cardio, balance, and flexibility. Recently, I've added fat loss to the mix of intentions.

One thing I did not long after the iCare 5K was to research and order a simple heart rate monitor: the Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor. It took me a week or two before I took the time to learn how to use it, but it has enabled me to change my exercise program from being mile based, to being Time in Zone based. The Zones are percentage ranges of Maximum Heart Rate, and they help me not to overdo my training. They also help me to find the level of intensity needed to burn fat.

Big sky: front yard view (the park)
One surprising aspect of my three month running journey is the lack of weight loss. I'm hoping that I've gained muscle, and I think that I have, but now that I have established a good fitness base and training program base, I'm fine tuning my life to win the battle of the bulge.

I already had many of the tools and understanding on how to accomplish slow, healthy weight loss, but a week or so ago I re-implemented some things I've learned via Tom Venuto's "Burn the Fat, Build the Muscle" program. I used the program some years back to lose 22 pounds. Over the past three years, I found too many of the pounds I'd lost.

The last go around I did not have as strong of a fitness base. I mostly just walked. It worked, but it wasn't as much fun as what I'm doing now. For example, on Friday, I packed a mini-gym bag and after work, I put on my running shoes and enjoyed a two mile jog along one of the many running/biking/horse trails that thread through Fullerton, my home town. This morning, I did another two miler. I'm getting close to my goal: running for 1/2 hour, three days a week. Only the last week have I been able to run (very slow jog) for 25 minutes straight. (That's two miles at a 12 and 1/2 minutes a mile pace on a slightly hilly course.) Nothing impressive, but it marks a few milestones for me on my personal journey toward improved fitness.

After the iCare 5K, I went back and walked the course, taking pictures along the way. My intention is to start including some pictures on this blog again. I had depleted my collection of pictures and hadn't taken the time to upload and include some pictures. But now, I've remedied that.

So enjoy! (And thanks for stopping by.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Breaking the Four Weeks Barrier!

Back on March 17th I wrote the following:

My New Year's affirmation is "I choose to be in charge of my habits. I let it be easy."

Fitness is nothing more than the result of habits, mostly involving exercise. So I've decided to let it be easy.

I'm using Psycho-Cybernetic's visualization techniques to create a new image: Don the Runner. (He's fit. He can run 30 minutes at a time, three days a week. At 60, he looks back and says, "It was in February of 2012 that I began to run. That's when I became a runner.")

I picture myself on Tax Day (April 15th) running. Why?

To avoid becoming this statistic: "80% of runners stop after 4 weeks!"  But 20% don't quit. I intend to be the one out of five who doesn't quit.

Today is Tax Day, and yesterday I did a practice 5K in preparation for next Saturday's race, the CSUF iCare 5K. The day before yesterday I built an eight foot privacy fence for my back patio. In the process, I strained my left calf. I found that out about three minutes in to my 39 minute run. Ouch.

Today my leg is much better. I'll be doing one to two mile workouts this week, and not very many of them... saving up for the "big event."

But the big event is really today: Don the Runner lives in my mind. Too often we let a false self-image impose non-existent boundaries. (Yes, there are some boundaries... I'll not be running any sub-six minute miles. I'm pretty sure that boat has sailed.) But what many say is impossible, really isn't. What we often say to ourselves in the guise of an Inner Critic, isn't really true, but we act as-if it is. Silly us.

On FaceBook Is yesterday:

Rereading Psycho-Cybernetics (hard copy... no e-book available). 1st read in 2008. Only I'm reading backwards through the chapters. Notable quotes?

"...the past need not predict the future."

"What now appears to be a miracle to others is simply my working to change my own self-image." Jeanne Sanders (Muscular Dystrophy sufferer)

"Little hinges swing big doors." W. Clement Stone

(This book -- Psycho-Cybernetics --  and this author -- Maxwell Maltz --  fathered the self-help movement and peak-performance via visualization.) 

What if... you discovered that many of your limits were self-imposed because you believed some lies about who you could become? 

What if...

Today, I'm celebrating Tax Day, because I'm still on the journey to improved fitness. A journey that includes running. A journey I'm enjoying as I stroll through today... Tax Day... and the four-week-80%-quit day. 

I'm rereading Max's book, and I may post more notable quotes here. 

I'm using his methods to realize New Year's goals. What do you want to realize? What would you undertake if you knew success was assured? What lies are your Inner Critic whispering in your ear to keep you from attempting what you are truly capable of? What if you could install an Automatic Success Mechanism? Would you?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Learning to Love Running: Books along the way!

I know runners. Only a few of them, as they are a fairly rare breed. All but two of these runners look as fit as most of the early morning runners I see out when I drive to work. I've often envied them for their sense of priority, level of fitness, and commitment. But I've only once before attempted to join their ranks.

The first time was a somewhat haphazard attempt that involved a new pair of shoes and some horse trails. I don't think I did more that three runs, and the dream faded.

I recently posted this on a running web-site in response to someone who was just getting back into running. He was looking for encouragement as he was starting over:

"I'm just starting out... or actually five weeks in. I'm moving out of "sedentary confinement."

I was very active in my teens and twenties, and played racquetball well into my 40's. Now "playmates" are harder to find, so I'm turning to running. I'm 58.

My first race (5K) is in two weeks. My son runs, and so does one daughter. They've been encouraging me some, but mostly it's  been books that have helped me: The Quotable Runner, Running for Mortals, The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Running, Wooden: A lifetime of Observations on and off the Court, and now I'm starting The Accidental Athlete.

I'm talking it slow and trying to avoid injury on the way to improved fitness. I'm just barely at 12 minute miles over a 5k distance: run 3, walk 2.

In the past I've only exercised as a by-product of having fun: playing sports. Now, I'm attempting to fall in love with running and a life of training. My goal: Run 1/2 hour three times a week, with off days of strength, flexibility, and balance work. Plus a few "spa" days thrown in as needed.

Long post. Hope it's helpful."

I'm re-posting my comments here because it contains clues as to where I've found some of the information and motivation that has helped me persist on my journey of improved fitness.

My nephew John stopped by with his wife and new baby yesterday (Easter) to say, "Hi." He mentioned that my FaceBook posts on running have got him thinking of taking it up again. I think a history of shin splints which hobbled him some time back. I was pleased the my postings have served to motivate. That's one of the main reasons I write.

"Motivation for change is always difficult. Staying motivated, almost impossible."

That has been my thinking for a number of years, maybe even decades, but for the last few years, I'm trying to reprogram myself into thinking more along these lines:

"I choose to be in charge of my habits. I let it be easy."

"I choose to move forward towards my goals at an easy, sustainable pace."

"I choose to achieve my goals, with the surprising help of God and others."

And, "I choose to let my future unfold at its own pace. Opportunities find me."

Positive change is exhilarating, affirming, and empowering. It's also fun. I believe that much of what limits us is our own unchallenged thinking about the difficulty level of positive change. If we can escape the flip-the-switch-into-a-new-life mentality and instead adopt a little-by-little-sustainable-pace mentality, then I think we'll enjoy life more as a Process-Of-On-Going-Improvement. A POOGI, as Eli Goldratt calls it.

I used to be more fit because I had more fun and played more. I'm rediscovering the joy of movement and athleticism. I'm moving toward adopting a new and improved life-style of fitness. I'm letting it be easy. I'm enjoying the journey. And I'm listening to the helpers who are cheering me on, including those who write books.

One of my runner friends used to say, "By the yard it's hard, but by the inch it's a cinch." Pace. Outlook. Improvement. Let it be easy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Week 5: Running Reflections

I've finished my fifth week of training/running. So far. So good. I'm still running. At this stage, that's the goal.

My daughter calls this stage of a runner's life "the time of low-hanging fruit." In my last post, I agreed with that, in this post, I issue a protest: The fruit is not that low.

Today I planned out a 5K practice run on the campus of Cal State Fullerton. In two weeks, I'll be running on campus again, this time participating in my first 5K race, the iCare. It's a very small event as far as number of participants, but for me... it's my first 5K race.

Back in the day... school days... I ran to win. But these days, I'm running to get fitter. Five weeks in, I can tell it's working. I'm gaining in strength and stamina. (And I haven't hurt myself -- much.)

My plan for today was to try to run for three minutes and walk for two over a 5K (3.1 mile) distance. The run portions were slow jogging, but not my slowest. At the end of each of the three minutes runs, I was sucking wind pretty good. At the end of the first mile, I was wondering if I could maintain the pace for two more miles.

This is low-hanging fruit?

I did enjoy the flatness of the route. I did attempt to look around at the lovely trees and landscaping. I learned how to squeeze the water bottle while running rather than trying to tip my head back. I learned that a visor is a better option that a full cap to keep my head from overheating. And I finished mile two.

Although the campus is flat, there is an ever-so-slight incline north-to-south, and the final mile was due south: aka downhill. I used my watch to time my mile splits instead of my cell phone: that worked. I was pleased to see that I was still making 12 minute miles (5 mph), even with the 3:2 run:walk ratio. I trekked through the last mile, and I cut the last walk/recovery portion to make sure I broke the 38 minute mark. I finished with an unofficial 37:12: a new Personal Record. (Bonus: my time was in the ballpark of my co-workers' from two weeks back.)

I took a long time to cool down, enjoying the afterward. I found myself less tight, more flexible, than I've been in years.

Seven hours later, as I sit writing this, I'm surprised how good my legs feel. At this point, I feel like I'm developing heart and lung capacity. And that's a good thing, because if these are the days of low-hanging fruit, I'm not even going to think about when things are going to get hard.

But I don't think my daughter was saying things were going to get hard, she was just pointing out that these are the days of big improvements. I'm looking forward to a time of well-earned plateaus: a time of running three times a week for thirty minutes at a clip without any major sucking involved.

That level of fitness should outfit me with the baseline needed not only enjoy running, but for enjoying the many other activities that require decent levels of strength, balance, flexibility, and stamina.

That's the goal, but it's the journey that needs to be savored. Journeys should lead to new commencements. But only for those who trek on!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Running: Week Four -- Reflections.

I am one month into a new life: a life as a runner. Granted, I'm a very beginning runner, but a runner none-the-less.

So much of what you can accomplish depends on what you think you can accomplish: self-image determines a lot. Self-image is a lot like self-talk, only with pictures, imagery, and imagination.

I logged a little over 11 miles. The week before I did 10. (My goal for the coming week is still 10.)

Talking with a seasoned runner, my daughter, this is a fun time in a runner's journey. She calls it "A time of low-hanging fruit." A time of 10% increases in miles run... in a week. A time when you can shave a whole minute off of your mile split. That's where I am: A time of low-hanging fruit!

There are other sports that aren't so beginner friendly, like tennis and surfing, or water and snow skiing. An example of another beginner friendly sport would be racquetball. You can have some fun right from the get go.

So here's my week of low-hanging fruit:

Sunday, I did a mile of power-walking  followed by some very, very simple yoga. (Yoga is also beginner-friendly.)
On my Monday holiday, I did my 5k practice, mostly walking, as noted on my previous journal entry. (45 minutes).
On Tuesday, I took a "spa day." No workout. Just recovery. Muscles and joints were grateful for a day off.
On Wednesday, I did the one mile/simple yoga routine again. Just being nice to recovering muscles.
On Thursday I tried a morning run/walk (1 minute running, 2 or 3 minutes walking) on a new route, in the early morning light (6:15 am-ish). I logged a 14 minute mile. (That's down from the 14 1/2 minute pace of my 5k on Sunday. Low hanging fruit improvement.)
On Friday I did a 1 mile walk with strength training intervals. It's equivalent to a two mile walk.
By Saturday, I was ready for my "big" run/walk of the week. Some years ago, my wife and I used to walk some of the horse trails in Fullerton, my home town. So I charted a two-mile course, and tried a two-mile mid-day walk/run. I experimented with a one minute run, two minute walk... just to see if I could keep it up for two miles. I did. Woo-hoo. Each mile was at a 13 minute pace. I was just trying for the run/walk ratio. The pace took care of itself. As my daughter noted: More low-hanging fruit. A good cut off my mile split.

Two co-workers did a 5K on Saturday, and logged a 38 minute 5K. Nicely done. They were hoping to break 40 minutes. (IF I could tag on one more 13 minute mile on top of the two I ran/walked, I'd be at about 40 minutes for the 5K (3.1 mile) course.)

April 21st is my debut in an actual 5K. My daughter is sponsoring me and running with me. It's her way of mentoring her old man into a life of fitness and fun. I guess that's my new target: to be prepared.

I looked at the times for the 55-59 year-old-men in the event my co-workers ran, and found very few entries. I'd be toward the middle or back of those that ran even in that age category. But then again, in that age category, most didn't even make it to the starting line. That's what I'm aiming for: the starting line. The finish line will take care of itself, based on preparation.

I finished a book yesterday by basketball coaching great John Wooden of UCLA fame. Several times he refers to this quote:

“The journey is better than the inn".” 
― Miguel de Cervantes SaavedraLa Numancia

I'm enjoying the journey. And the people I'm meeting along the way.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A practice 5K on my day off.

Today was a furlough day. In California we are facing a state-wide budget crunch, so the state has given school districts less money. It has also given them permission to provide fewer days of instruction, thus allowing them to give teachers days off with no pay: a furlough day. I think we have seven this year, equal to a 3 1/2% reduction in yearly salary. But I have to say, I'd rather have days off with no pay, than the same number of days for the same pay. At least this way is fair. (Except the kids lose seven days of instruction.)

So this furlough day is an extra day off for me. So what did I do with it?

Well, for starters I did an experiment. Since I've signed up for a 5K walk/run, I decided to see if I could do one. Last night, I found a course: here. I printed myself a copy. Got up the next morning. Ate breakfast. Showered. Put on my running gear, including my new shoes. And drove to the "starting line."

Then I drove the course, and since it followed city streets,  I made some mental notes about mile markers. 1, 2, and 3 mile markers fell in nice places.

I started out walking. I wanted to be conservative. I thought I could walk at least at a 3 mile per hour pace, which would put me at one hour for the course. I set out briskly, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that much of the course had a dirt path (crushed granite) alongside the sidewalk. I also did the 1st mile in 16 minutes. The first mile was mostly flat, but the second mile was slightly uphill. I tried to keep the pace up, and I finished it right at the 32 minute mark. The rest was downhill!

I wanted to see if I could run for a minute, so I did. It's about 130 steps going slightly down hill. I walked some more, ran a few more times, and finished the last mile in 13 minutes, for a baseline Personal Record (PR) of 45 minutes. Woo-hoo!

I did a cool down walk and stretch afterward, and then I drove home. I logged my miles and time in my runner's log, and thought I'd chronicle my latest chapter here. So I did.

This is my ** happy dance **.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao-tzu

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Runners Run Races?

Recently I posted this on FaceBook:

‎"...the difference between a runner and a jogger is a signature on a race application." (Dr. George Sheehan) Now race applications are signature-free and on-line, but my name is being put on one: the CSUF iCare Festival's 5K Run/Walk. My daughter Joanna is the instigator... supporter... and sponsor of this event for me. April 21st, 2012... here I come! One of my mottoes from the early '70s: "Behold the turtle! He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out." 40 years later, I'm still making progress... and I'm still sticking my neck out.

So it's official... I'm going to run in an organized running event. I'll be lining up in the rear. My goal will be to finish. Whatever my time is... it will be my Personal Record (PR). A new baseline for a new chapter in The Life and Times of Don Evans (a book with a very small readership, but very important to me!)

I already had a training schedule. I have the shoes. And now I have a race date: April 21st. My daughter noted that the date is a week or so after Tax Day, which marks the eight week threshold that 80% of beginning runners don't reach. I'm trying to be part of the other 20%. 

I'm on week three of my running journey, and the race comes as week eight will be beginning. 

John Bingham, a runner and writer, says of himself, "

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."

Change requires courage. There is always a risk of failure. But then... the main goal is to show up, prepared, and to be glad that I'm fit enough to undertake my first "race" in over  40 years. That's what I'm shooting for. 

And it feels good to be on the road to my 2012 dream: I choose to be in charge of my habits. I let it be easy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Running: Week Three -- Reflections

Toward the end of my previous blog I noted this:

I'm on a new journey of fitness, discovery, and self-mastery. I'm living my dream for 2012: "I choose to be in charge of my habits. I let it be easy." Running is a part of that dream. 

Being in charge of my habits is the dream. Improved fitness is the result of improved habits. Improved habits is the result of discovery and self-mastery.

I've discovered a few things over the past week:

1) I'm more out of shape than I thought. 
2) My joints (especially my ankles) are a potential weakest link, and they require strengthening.
3) Muscles can be transformed quicker than joints, so I need to progress at the rate of joint health.
4) Running for life requires a balanced training program.
5) A balanced training program requires attention to cardio, strength, balance, and flexibility. 
6) A balanced training program also requires built in time (patience) for recovery.
7) I have accumulated sufficient knowledge and equipment to build a balanced program.
8) Improved fitness is a day-to-day way of life that needs to be savored and enjoyed: the journey needs to be fun!
9) Logging miles (in a spreadsheet) is validating.
10) Firing up my metabolism once a day, if not twice a day, will help me to burn more calories, especially the fat ones. ;-)

One of the other habits I wanted to improve was my independent reading. As a side effect of becoming a more knowledgeable runner... that is happening as well. 

Ain't life grand?

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Label: Running

I'm in the process of building a new habit. I'm becoming a runner.

I've already become one in my mind, and my day-to-day routine is now two and a half weeks into the new habit.

I'm run/walking three days a week: Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are cross-training days for strength (but not legs). Fridays and Sundays are for stretching and/or Pilates. That's the plan, and so far so good.

My New Year's affirmation is "I choose to be in charge of my habits. I let it be easy."

Fitness is nothing more than the result of habits, mostly involving exercise. So I've decided to let it be easy.

I'm using Psycho-Cybernetic's visualization techniques to create a new image: Don the Runner. (He's fit. He can run 30 minutes at a time, three days a week. At 60, he looks back and says, "It was in February of 2012 that I began to run. That's when I became a runner.")

I've done about a dozen run/walks so far. Too many the first week. Now I'm learning. I bought some new shoes: running shoes. My first pair ever. (Though I did buy some trail running shoes once. I tried that until I sprained an ankle.)

This time... I'm going to try to be smarter.

I picture myself on Tax Day (April 15th) running. Why?

To avoid becoming this statistic: "80% of runners stop after 4 weeks!"  But 20% don't quit. I intend to be the one out of five who doesn't quit.

So, I'm beginning a new label: Running. This is the first entry. I've been providing a bit of a running commentary over on FaceBook, but I decided to move some of that "chatter" over here, where I can muse on.

I'm on a new journey of fitness, discovery, and self-mastery. I'm living my dream for 2012: "I choose to be in charge of my habits. I let it be easy." Running is a part of that dream.

If I can master my habits... What then? I don't know, but Dr. Seuss gives me some clues:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose. 
You're on your own. 
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go....
Dr. Seuss, Oh! The Places You'll Go!

Monday, February 20, 2012

I used a table saw!

I am a self-taught handyman. No offense Dad.

My dad could fix a TV (back when you had to test bulbs), but that's all I can ever remember him fixing. He could also install drape rods which he did to help my mom in her home business. I think he may have used an old hand-me-down drill that his older brother gave him. That drill, which still mostly works, is in my garage now. I used it just last week. I used it to drill lead holes before I used my other new drill to drive screw into boards onto a fence I installed. Yes, I installed a fence!

The fence came in panels, and I hung them on metal posts. I recently added an extension of the fence across my driveway which creates a nice little patio outside of my garage where I've set up my new BBQ.

The fence across the driveway required two gates, which required angled braces. It's hard to cut good angled braces by hand, although it's just a cut through a two-by-four. I decided to attempt to use a table saw that sits in a corner of my garage, a table saw my son, who lives in Canada, inherited from his wood working Grandpa Ken.

Well, I used some cool clamps, also inherited, and made my four cuts. They are nice, and for an hour or so my garage reeked of the manly scent of fresh cut lumber. (And my gate hangs better now.)

Life is a POOGI, an Eli Goldratt term meaning Process of On Going Improvement. Lately, my improvements have included learning table saw 101.

Go me!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lessons at the Bathroom Sink (Four generations.)

When I was about 12, I remember watching my dad shave. He must have had his wallet nearby, because I asked him, "Dad, why does your drivers' license say that you have dark brown hair?"

"Because I do, Son."

"Hmmm... more salt-and-pepper as you say."

"Hmmm... Be quiet son."

And so I learned a lesson from my dad, who was in his late 30's at the time. Time moves on, hair color may change, self-perception may lag behind.

* * * * *

Recently my grand-daughter informed me, while we looking at old photos, "Grandpa, you used to have brown hair!"

"Hmmm... Yeah, it's more salt-and-pepper now." (Getting heavier on the salt, I must say.)

So I'm wondering, Grey hair must weigh a lot because when I had brown hair, I weighed 25 pounds less!

* * * * *

My two year old grandson has an age-appropriate habit of putting his finger in his nose. Recently, as he was sitting on my lap, he started aiming for mine. I love the little booger, but... some things are private!

During an inattentive lapse, he got what he was after, but it wasn't my nose, it was my mustache. He likes feeling it.

* * * * *

Once upon a time, when my 32 year old daughter was closer to two, she used to visit with me while I shaved before going to work. One day, I shaved off my mustache. She was alarmed! "Shave it back on," she pleaded.

Just for fun, I used to put some lather on her cheeks and "shave" it off with the back side of my razor.

* * * * *

Good times and memories around the bathroom sink, facial hair, and salt-and-pepper hair. I wonder what stories they will tell?