Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Livestrong Challenge

As mentioned in my previous post, this August I am planning to ride 100 miles as part of the Livestrong Challenge charity event. This will be a big milestone for me, because even when I was a young lad that rode constantly, I never once attempted to tackle a 100 mile ride before. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into...

At any rate, if you would like to show your support for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and support me while I train for this event, a you can donate online here:

(Note: donated money goes to the LAF, not to me! However, the more donations I can get, the more motivation I'll have to successfully complete this ride!)


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Building Jason 2.0

It was around May, 2007. I finally had enough. Enough struggle. Enough suffering. Enough pain. I was also sick of being winded from climbing a couple flights of stairs, and having to suck in my gut to button my pants.

That's right. I was sick of being fat and lazy.

As you can see from the diagram of Jason 1.0, I was primarily composed of fat and weakness. Those rolls in the diagram are not from a billowing shirt. Nope. Fat.

Now, I know... some of you might look at me as say "Jason, you're really not that fat." Well, yes and no. While I certainly wasn't to the point of having to wash myself with a rag on stick, I was most certainly overweight. You have to understand, I'm what they call an "ectomorph". That is to say, I'm a thin person - or should be a thin person. Common descriptors of ectomorphs are things like "delicate", "lean", "thin", "Hard Gainer". I've been skinny most of my life. To put that in some sort of perspective, when I graduated from high school, I was 6' 2" and probably less than 170 lbs. See? Skinny.

The other thing to note is that I'm one of those people that puts all of their extra weight on around the waist. This is not good. They say that people that distribute their fat evenly around the body can live long and healthy lives, even though technically, they are overweight. I'm not one of those people. People like me that put all their weight on around their trunk are much more likely to suffer from thinks like heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc.

In other words, what I'm trying to say is that I was really a skinny person trapped in a spare tire. My "fragile" body was going to collapse as a result. But Mr. Fat's days were numbered. I was formulating a game plan.

Step 1:
Adjust how I eat. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a thing for food. All kinds of food. I don't do diets. I've tried, and failed. You will not be able to sustain any kind of diet that deprives you of the things you love. And I love all kinds of food. So, my plan is to keep eating whatever the hell I want, but use my brain a bit more in doing so. For instance, in stead of skipping breakfast, and then getting so hungry at lunch that I gorge on junk, I will now eat smaller, regularly spaced meals throughout the day. The trick is to eat something relatively small before you get hungry. That way, you're body's not going into a defensive mode and forcing you to eat more than you need, just because it doesn't know when food is coming along. I'm not religious about this, but much better than I used to be, and it makes a difference.

Step 2:
Get active again. Back in the day when I was truly skinny, it was easy to stay that way. Primarily due to the fact that I typically cycled 100+ miles a week. For whatever reason (laziness?), I stopped riding regularly close to 15 years ago. Huge mistake. Well, I'm getting back in the saddle again... literally. A couple years ago, Cherie and I bought some new mountain bikes, but this starting last summer, we really got serious about putting them to good use. The fact that we live in Philadelphia, which has the largest municipal park system in the US, certainly helps. We have a lot of bike-friendly places to ride. There is even a mixed-use recreational path that goes from our doorstep (practically) all the way to Valley Forge Park - a round trip of ~42 miles. No more excuses. And now that we've made it a habit, we really love riding regularly. Well, I always loved it... but now Cherie has developed a fondness for it as well.

Step 3:
Get back to the gym. I've been going to the gym on and off for years. Which usually means, a few months on, followed by a few years off. Starting last July(ish), that's changed. Cherie and I are both going regularly now, and the results are starting to show. Part of my motivation for hitting the gym? Simple: muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does. That means, if I can keep my overall body weight approximately the same, but lose most of the fat while replacing it with muscle, my basal metabolic rate will naturally increase. What does that mean? It means I'll burn more calories without even trying. Which means, it will be harder to gain fat as long as I keep my eating under control. Nice.

Step 4:
Set goals. I'm the sort of person who needs to set goals. Setting a tangible milestone to work towards really helps keep me focused. Last fall, Cherie and I were to take part in the City of Hope charity bike ride here in Philly as part of the team from Sutter Home. It wasn't a super long ride - only 25 miles - but we made sure we were in good enough shape to pull it off with ease. Here we are with the Sutter Home group, including 5 time (and currently reigning) National Criterium Champion, Tina Pic from the Sutter Home women's pro team.

It was a fun ride. Alot of good people.

This year, I've decided to bump it up a notch. My goal for this year will be the 100-mile Livestrong Challenge "century" ride, which is scheduled for late August here in Philadelphia. Even when I used to ride all the time, I never once banged out a ride of this distance. 50 miles is about the most I've ever done in one day. But this year, I've decided to pull out my old road bike from the basement, blow the dust off it, and get some serious training in once again.

That's my goal. For now. The fact that I'm putting it in writing here for the world to see just helps to solidify my commitment.

It's a somewhat personal challenge, but the fact that my success will help contribute to a good cause gives me even more motivation.

Oh, and my overall fitness progress so far? Since last June, I've lost 25 pounds overall and went from ~23% body fat, to ~16%. By August, I hope to be close to 10%.

Wish me luck.