Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Second-guessing my goals

I have decided to take the entire week off. After all, I am on vacation. Besides, I'm not crazy about exercising in front of people (even family...) But the week has also given me some time to reflect on what I am planning to do. Am I being too ambitious? I mean, a 10K in March. A 5k in May. And a marathon in October? I can't even run a single mile without walking right now... I'm lucky if I can go half a mile most days!

I think the real kicker for me was watching my sister run on mom's new 'mill. My sister is a natural athlete. Everything "sports" has come easy to her. I don't ever remember her having to put a lot of effort into anything to be able to be good at it. Yes, she practiced to get her pitching aim better, but the act of throwing came naturally. So does running. She flows smoothly, she has a steady pace and controlled breathing. I look like a retarded water buffalo compared to her.

Perhaps my opinions will change when I get home... but it's been a disappointing week for me.

Spoiled Rotten - How to Store Fruits and Vegetables

Perhaps you do it once a week. Perhaps only when you trace those sulfurous odors to your refrigerator's crisper drawers. But eventually, you toss out spoiled fruits and vegetables. Lots of them. Researchers at the University of Arizona recently spent a year tracking families' food-use habits. Working with the United States Department of Agriculture, they interviewed the families about their eating habits, collected their grocery receipts, watched them prepare meals, and then sifted through every last discarded lettuce leaf, slice of bread, burger and bean.

The results, reported in 2002, were pretty shocking. The families tossed out an average of 470 pounds of food per year—about 14 percent of all food brought into the home—at an annual cost of $600. Every day, they discarded more than half a pound of fruits and veggies. In total, Americans chuck a fourth of all the produce they buy, mostly because it's gone bad, says Timothy Jones, PhD, contemporary archaeologist at the University of Arizona. Nationally, we dump $43 billion worth of food every year.

Wasting produce is, well, a waste—bad for our wallets and bad for the environment. Plus, who wants to make a salad when confronted with a bin of rotting sludge? All this led us to ask: How can we keep produce fresh longer?

If your produce rots after just a few days, you might be storing incompatible fruits and veggies together. Those that give off high levels of ethylene gas—a ripening agent—will speed the decay of ethylene-sensitive foods. Keep the two separate.

Use trapped ethylene to your advantage: To speed-ripen a peach, put it in a closed paper bag with a ripe banana. One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. Mold proliferates rapidly and contaminates everything nearby, so toss any spoiled produce immediately.

For longer life, keep your produce whole—don't even rip the stem out of an apple until you eat it. "As soon as you start pulling fruits and vegetables apart," says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University, "you've broken cells, and microorganisms start to grow."
Cold-sensitive fruits and veggies lose flavor and moisture at low temperatures. Store them on the counter, not in the fridge. Once they're fully ripe, you can refrigerate them to help them last, but for best flavor, return them to room temp.

Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more. But separate them so their flavors and smells don't migrate.

The ABCs of Fresh

"The main way to lengthen shelf life is by using cold temperatures to slow food's respiration, or 'breathing' process," explains Marita Cantwell, PhD, a postharvest specialist at the University of California, Davis. In general, the warmer the temperature, the faster the rate of respiration, which is why refrigeration is critical for most produce. But while you want to slow it down, you don't want to stop the breathing altogether. "The worst thing to do is seal fruits and vegetables in an airtight bag," says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University. "You'll suffocate them and speed up decay."

Some fruits emit ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds ripening and can lead to the premature decay of nearby ethylene-sensitive vegetables. Put spinach or kale in the same bin as peaches or apples, and the greens will turn yellow and limp in just a couple of days. So the first trick is to separate produce that emits ethylene from produce that's sensitive to it. (See "Gas Wars" sidebar.)




Bananas, unripe

Bananas, ripe
Brussels sprouts
Lettuce and other leafy greens
Sweet potatoes

There are also some innovations to help extend the life of your fruits and veggies. Some products actually absorb ethylene and can be dropped into a crisper, such as the E.G.G. (for ethylene gas guardian), which is shaped like, you guessed it, an egg (see photo), and ExtraLife, a hockey puckÐlike disk. A variety of produce bags are also on the market, such as those by Evert-Fresh and BioFresh, which both absorb ethylene and create an atmosphere that inhibits respiration.

At least as important as how you store produce is when you buy it. Do all your other shopping first so that your berries and broccoli don't get warm—and respire rapidly—while you're picking up nonperishable items. Get the produce home and into the fridge as soon as possible. If you'll be making several stops between the market and kitchen, put a cooler in the car. Shop farmers' markets soon after they open: Just-harvested greens wilt rapidly once they've been in the sun for a few hours.

Even under optimal conditions, fragile raspberries will never last as long as thick-skinned oranges. Eat more perishable items first (see "Fastest to Slowest Spoilers" sidebar). And if you still find yourself with a bushel of ripe produce—and a business trip around the bend—improvise. Make a fruit pie, a potful of soup or a great big vat of tomato sauce, and throw it in the freezer. You'll relish your foresight when you get home.

Fastest to Slowest Spoilers: What to Eat First
You can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables with just a single weekly trip to the supermarket, with proper storage and a little planning.

The key is eating the more perishable produce early on. Use this guide, right
created with the help of Marita Cantwell, PhD, postharvest specialist at the University of California, Davisbased on a Sunday shopping trip. The timing suggestions are for ready-to-eat produce, so allow extra days for ripening if you're buying, say, green bananas or not-quite-ripe pears.

And remember, looks count. Appearance
vivid green spinach; smooth, unbruised peaches; plump orangesis the best clue to whether fruits and veggies are fresh to begin with.
Eat First:
Sunday to Tuesday

Green beans
Mustard greens

Eat Next:
Wednesday to Friday

Eat Last:

Bell peppers
Brussels sprouts

Winter squash


My Legs Hurt Until Mile 3. What Gives?

My Legs Hurt Until Mile 3. What Gives?

12/06/2010 7:08 AM

I'm training for my first half-marathon. I experience a great deal of pain in my lower legs for the first three miles or so. The funny thing is, after the three-mile mark (or occasionally four on a really bad day), the pain goes away. I have tried stretching before and during the run, and I have been professionally fitted for the right shoes several times, but nothing seems to help. Any advice would be helpful! Thanks, Katelyn

Katelyn, the most likely reason that your pain is disappearing around the 3- or 4-mile mark is because your lower legs have finally warmed up by that point. As we run, blood flow and body temperature increase, which helps the body’s soft tissues become more pliable.

However, the lower leg has a large amount of thick connective tissue known as fascia. Fascia covers both bones of the lower leg (the tibia and the fibula) as well as the space between these bones. Fascia is very fibrous and tough, which allows it to provide support and protection to these bones, but it also means that it takes fascia longer to warm up.

I suggest you consult with a sports medicine professional, specifically a sports-oriented podiatrist or orthopedist, for a proper diagnosis. The pain could be the result of a number of conditions, so the correct diagnosis is needed before determining your treatment options.

In the meantime, it is important that you allow the time on your runs for this 3- or 4-mile warm up period. Run slowly or walk first, and also try some walk/run/walk breaks to facilitate the warm up and reduce the stress on your lower legs, then gradually increase your pace. Thoroughly warm up before stretching; stretch after the 3 or 4 mile warm up period or at the completion of your training run.

Stretch your calves by extending one leg behind you with your knee locked and bending your front knee. This stretch targets the gastrocnemius, the most superficial calf muscle. Then stretch the deeper muscles of the calf, the soleus and tibialias posterior by bending your back knee. You can increase the intensity of these stretches by elevating placing a rolled up hand towel under the ball of your back foot. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat several times.

Best Wishes!
Susan Paul, MS

Susan Paul has coached more than 2,000 runners and is an exercise physiologist and program director for the Orlando Track Shack Foundation. For more information, visit


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Food Trends: Canning, men cooking, local

CHICAGO, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Home canning, more men cooking and buying local food top next year's expected food trends, officials at The Food Channel say.

The Food Channel, along with CultureWaves, Mintel International and International Food Futurists, identified the most significant food trends that will drive how people eat throughout 2011.

"The new economy has created a boldness and willingness to change how we work, how we cook and how we eat. All of our 2011 trends reflect that in some way," Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel, says in a statement. "One example is baby boomers wanting to age well. For example, trend No. 10 explains they are eating for better sex, more energy and the ability to work longer."

The Food Channel's top 10 trends for 2011 are:

-- The canning comeback, something grandma did is gaining popularity for both economy and health.

-- More men cooking because of layoffs.

-- People wanting to get food grown locally.

-- Americans are of tired of being told what they can eat.

-- Social media working as a food guide and coupon source.

-- Corporations thinking like small businesses to respond to a changing market.

-- More fresh foods daily via gardens.

-- Bringing chefs to schools to improve taste and improve diet.

-- Eating out of the box, because change makes people comfortable with more change.

-- Eating for better sex and better health to live longer and healthier.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Treadmill vs the Road

I went for a run on Saturday... nothing too strenuous, just a 3-miler, using the toys trying to maintain a pace of 170, while watching my heart rate. I set the interval timer for 5 minutes run / 1 minute walk and turned on the metronome...

First off, I am not in good enough shape to run 170 steps a minute for 5 minutes straight without maxing out my heart rate (which I am trying to avoid...) I backed the interval timer back to 2 minutes running and continued on... but by the end of the run, I was almost at reversed intervals - 1 minute of running to 2-3 minutes walking. My ankles and shins hurt, my lungs felt horrible, and my motivation fell through one of the sewer grates.

That's when I started thinking of the differences between the treadmill and the road. When I ran on the 'mill, it didn't seem to hurt as much. My guess is because it's a softer surface... ? I know I like the "open air" and changing scenery of running outside, but I am starting to think I need to find someplace much softer to run than the roads...

I am also starting to think my form is effecting my pain levels. I must not have the Chi Running form right. I guess I will have to re-read some of the book and watch the DVD again. This morning, I sent an email to a local Chi Running trainer asking for his advice... there's a one-day course in March - the day after my 10K. So I may sign up for a private lesson... perhaps having his trained feedback will get me to where I need to be. I've also started to scour the used listings for a 'mill of my own... the station just isn't an option for me these days.

I leave for my parent's house in two days, so my running may taper more (which means it will be non-existent...)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Play time

Last night, I was at the ambulance station for my duty shift, and decided to use the treadmill for a bit, to play with the new toys and to test out my ankle.

First off, that metronome is annoying! And I didn't know my legs could move that fast, either... not that I was covering a lot of ground, but still. The interval timer was nice, and was very easy to keep up with. The 'nome is going to take some time to get used to, I think, especially since I normally take a longer, slower stride. Both of the electronics were easy to use, quick to understand, and I can immediately see the future benefit of using them. Excellent...

My ankle fared quite well. I had no pain or discomfort during the run, and only minor stiffness this morning. Granted, I only ran about 2 miles... and with the quick pace, my stride was REAl short - especially for a tall guy like me. I did have a bit of shin discomfort, but in talking with one of the career EMTs at the station (who happens to have a degree in physical therapy...) it is most likely caused by tight calf muscles. She gave me a few exercise/stretches to do to help relax that.

For the first time in a long while, I finished my quick routine feeling excited and optimistic about running.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another toy!

My second toy arrived in the mail yesterday! It's a simple Metronome, which others have suggested I use to maintain a steady cadence. I'm actually really excited to get to the track (or a treadmill, since it's snowing today...) to try out both this and the interval timer. Hopefully my ankle feels better by the weekend - I'd like to try to start doing some short run/walk intervals, just to keep my lungs in shape. I also need to pump up my bike tires, so I can ride that on the flywheel... so much to do, so little time to do it all!

My First (and Second...) Race Entry

(written Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2010)

I must be crazy! I can't even run a mile without getting winded right now - and yet, I signed up for TWO... yes TWO... races today.

The first is the Marine Corps Irish Sprint 10K on March 26, 2011. The second is a hometown race - the Frederick 5K, on May 7, 2011. Part of me is really excited - but a part of me is scared beyond belief right now! We'll see... maybe this will help keep me motivated. I sure hope so, because entry fees are non-refundable.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I’ve been contemplating my situation a lot lately… mostly while laying in bed, waiting to fall asleep. I am starting to think that I am afraid of pain. I seem to do everything I can to avoid pain, whether it be a physical pain (my ankles and shins…), an emotional pain (closed relationships…), or a mental pain (memories that always seem to keep me down…). All day long, I think about running, about how nice it looks outside, and how I want to go home and run… but then I get out of work, drive home, and plop on the couch. I look at my running shoes and think about how I should go run, but I don’t do it. The last time I ran, it hurt. Pain is not fun. Therefore, running must not be fun. But I want it to be, so badly.

Perhaps I am not as afraid of pain as I am of success. If I look at my life in a much more broad sense I can see other patterns… degrees obtained, but no licensure; hobbies studied, but never performed past the classroom; opportunities with some risk but with great potential are turned down. I could go on… I think I am afraid of succeeding at something. I already know I hate the spotlight, which is why I always take the pictures, but am rarely in them. I don’t like to be the focus… and success makes you so, whether intentionally or not. Maybe my lack of running stems from some deep-seated psychological issue, and I will never equate to anything more than a basket-case runner-wannabe.

Or perhaps I am just lazy…

Monday, December 13, 2010

Under the Weather

Oof - so the last four days haven't been very good for me. I spent most of them in bed, feeling miserable. Of course, that sets my training back a bit. To be honest, I haven't worked out in over two weeks, hoping my ankle pain will magically go away... tonight, I plan to run, so we shall see.

On a different note, I am going to look at a used treadmill tonight. I need something cheap, but sturdy for my "big bones". With the weather consistently in the teens with winds in the 20-30 mph range, running outside is quickly becoming a non-option.

Friday, December 10, 2010


My newest toy has arrived!

After reading about it online somewhere, I decided to purchase an interval timer to help me train properly. After reviewing a few of them, I decided upon the GymBoss Interval Timer.

Ordered on Monday, it arrived yesterday - quicker than I expected! I can't wait to play with this puppy! I will, of course, give my full review after I have become familiar with it...


Hello and thank you to all who bother to read... my name is Jason. In a nutshell, I am overweight, out of shape, and I want to change that. I've watched a few of my friends when they go running, I've listened to them tell stories the day after a big race or event, and frankly, I want to be included in that "group". So I've begun to run... as clumsy as I might feel.

I've met with some resistance as I've begun, and those "insiders" have proven to be fairly "exclusive" which has been a disappointment, but the desire is still there. Some of my setbacks have been physical - I have a recurring issue with sin splints and ankle pain. I've recently taken a 2-week hiatus to let things heel up, and I plan to start again... from the beginning. In my time off, I have discovered and begun to study Chi Running (see for more information). I have yet to apply the principles I have read about and watched, but am hopeful that this new style will help alleviate my pain problems...

To motivate me, I have set a few goals... my first goal, which sounds simple to those who have been running for more than a month, is to run a 5k race... without walking. For me, that feels like a huge obstacle. My "big goal" for 2011, though, is to run in the Marine Corps Marathon in October. So long as I don't putz around too much, I should be able to get into shape and make a go at it safely, without risking too much damage to pride or body. And obviously, through all of this, I hope to lose some weight and start leading a more fit lifestyle.

If you please to follow me as I run back into a shape other than "round", I welcome you... perhaps we shall meet on the trail some day... but until then, have a good evening.