Lessons learned from a habitual outdoor runner

Tag: eating

You’re slim, why count calories?

Screenshot from 2018-12-06 09-50-44

People watch us. Over time they may be curious enough to ask some questions as to what makes you tick.

Most people in my acquaintance did not know me when I had a 38″+ waist and was around 230 pounds. When or if they hear I run a lot often the conversation turns to my habits. Some have found it strange that I track my calories after losing the weight so many years ago.

I do record my food, and my Garmin tools document my exercise. When I say I track my calories, it’s more superficial than scientific. I know folks who are into the macro-nutrients, proteins, carbs, various fat sources, etc. I think those are great, but they bore me to sleep.

I am in health-maintenance mode, where I want to remain healthy to do battle against the forces of time and environment. The better prepared the soldier, generally, the more success in fighting.

I saw a doctor posted an article on LinkedIn called “Health: One Measure to Rule Them All” where he explores so many elements of our healthy living. A few quotes from his article:

We do not routinely direct our collective will at the true, root causes of our decline.

Even despite the terrible toll of opioids, depression, despair, and suicide- diet is the single leading cause of premature death in America today.

Keep fighting the good fight!


My morning foods

First thing out of bed – an 8 oz glass of water. This seems to wake up the digestive tract a bit and hydrate after sleep.

My morning exercise routine burns over 1100 calories. I have to consider what the body and muscles need to perform while not eating too much or things that will hinder the exercise.

I’ve tried variousĀ fruits, drinks, and snack bars, but what I’ve settled on a regular basis is homemade no-bake energy-bites. You can find various recipes online, ours includes the following:

After my initial in-home exercises (I’ll talk about these in another post) and before my run, I consume another 8 oz glass of water and an energy-bite. I have found this is enough for about 6 miles without getting hunger pangs. Often the hunger pangs are noticeable around the 7-mile mark which I temper with water. When I get over 10 miles, the water is not enough to satisfy, but we can talk about that later as well.

Post-run I need to rehydrate with 12-16 ounces of water. The last few years I’ve included a super-food powder (currently this) in the water to help replenish the bodies needs. I’ll do a post about supplementals later.

I start my breakfast with a Smoothie. The content has varied, so I’ll share the basic ingredients I’m currently using.

I mix this all up in my Ninja-mixer, and it’s like going to Dairy Queen every morning, without the mysterious junk, sugars, and fat.

Finally, I have a bowl of cereal. I have a few go-to combinations like plain shredded wheat mixed with Life (Kroger brand) cereal. The other regular mix is a little Kroger’s Musili with Multi-grain Cheerios. I use unsweetened almond milk in my cereal.

If I have time, I add a cup of hot tea to start the day.

With all the above, I’m usually around the 700 calorie restoration point.


You are unique!

The health and nutrition topics have millions of resources and solutions available, so why even bring it up? Because I will share what I’ve tried and learned, without trying to sell you anything.

Each of our bodies is unique!

Keep that in mind with any advice you’re given. You are the only person who really knows your body and how you feel. Sure there are generalities as we have similar biological structures, however, we are each a unique being in our own unique place in life and what works for one may not work for another.

We have been conditioned to listen to the experts, the professionals, and authorities. Yet in practice, we should use those experts as resources to learn from and not blindly accept what we “should do”.

Try things out for yourself. Try different exercises, sports, techniques, foods, supplements, drinks, and combinations. One thing that will make us end a good routine is boredom, there is no need to get in a rut and become tired of the same old thing. Our bodies and minds like routines as they are easier but not usually healthy for long.

Make yourself try things, change up your running route, play a different position, try new foods. There is research that dives deep into how our digestive systems and core health can actually maintain the body systems better through variety. Check out the science over at Viome, it is very intriguing.

I try to run different routes whenever possible, there are days where the weather patterns keep me on the same path due to wind, rain, temperature, etc. When those constraints are gone, I’m looking to change it up. Variety can provide energy and adventure. The same with food, I have my go-to items, but I also go out and eat things that are not part of my routine to provide options for my body.

Being unique is not a destination but rather a life-long discovery of who you are and what makes you function optimally while adjusting to your age and life situation.

Where to begin?

It wasn’t difficult math – consume less, burn more.

Sometimes the hardest things in life are simple… but not easy!

Over the years I halfheartedly tried some dietary changes which usually ended silently when a convenient excuse arose. The determination was real this time, it was “do or die” (literally). On a podcast, I had heard Michael Hyatt mention an app he was using called LoseIt which helped him manage his food and exercise. I found there was a free version for the web and mobile devices, so I created an account to track my intake and outflows. It’s a great tool that provides a composite of your health efforts, and I became a zealot user, it was always in use.

I really didn’t get down to the minutia of tracking every carb, sugar, or salt, but I was tracking the high-level calories in and out.

Of course, I was hungry all-the-time! I found low-calorie foods to help me curb some of my cravings. While the sodium levels probably went too high, I found beef jerky, pickles, and of course veggies could help with the need to chew on something yet keep the calories fairly low. I switched to almond milk. I found a low-calorie bread that didn’t taste like cardboard (which I still eat years later) and had light mayonnaise with thin deli ham or turkey. Cereal was fairly easy to measure and in a large variety and was often used as a meal other than just breakfast. I found that wrapping a quarter of a boiled egg in a slice of 15 calorie thin deli ham was a delightful treat. Pretzels were a lower fat filler. And so on I went, recording everything I consumed. There were no restrictions other than the calorie count had to stay on target.

On the calorie burn-side, I knew I had to get moving in order to burn something more than the basic metabolic rate, so I started with walking. I walked two to three times a day. I walked a few blocks at a time at first, then kept adding distance as time and energy allowed.

After a few weeks of walking, I tried jogging. Here is this overweight late forties “plumpkin” trying to jog around the block. I couldn’t do it! I could barely jog one side of a city block, so I’d keep walking the block until I got the energy to jog a bit more, then continue walking and so on. This seemed to go on forever, but I’m guessing it was less than a month now looking back. When I had the jog-mostly-around-the-block thing under control, I opted to try longer walks.

On the south-side of our community is a 2 mile square around some farmland, this became my new workout course. First to walk it, then to jog between power-poles, and alternate jogging and walking around this square. Again, this took time and repetition, but eventually, I could jog one side of the square (.5 miles) walk one side, jog another, etc. I remember seeing a runner out on a country road beyond the square and wondering if I could ever get strong enough to go beyond this track I had yet to conquer. All in time and all with effort…


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