Inspired by a runner who got — and then got rid of — prediabetes

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Melissa Renner regularly rides her bike to work at the Allen County Public Library in downtown Fort Wayne — how cool is that?

Last week I wrote about how I’ve recently switched from monitoring carbs to fat grams. While it’s true that part of it is just shaking things up for variety’s sake, the underlying reason is that I was pretty inspired by an interview I did with a fellow runner who discovered she’d developed prediabetes.

In this week’s News-Sentinel column, Melissa Renner describes how she tackled her problem by joining the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program. She lost 15 pounds and got her blood sugar back in the normal range not by counting carbs – which is what most people associate with diabetes – but by counting fat grams.

“We focus on fat because it’s the most calorie-dense thing we eat,” explains Dan Wolf, a DPP lifestyle coach who lost 65 pounds and lowered his blood sugar readings when he went through the program in 2011. It’s also considered a more sustainable approach – which is what Renner told me she’s found to be the case as well.

I may or may not “sustain” my current focus on fat grams. But after talking with Renner, I do know that I’m going to have my blood sugar tested sometime soon – just in case.

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Breaking through self-imposed speed limitations

How do you run faster?

Training helps, obviously. But believing you can do it and knowing how to pace yourself are huge.

After week 3 on Hal Higdon’s advanced 5K training program, and finally equipped with a GPS watch I’d borrowed from my son, my sister and I were startled to discover we’d just clocked a 9:35 mile four miles into what was supposed to be a “fast” 5-miler.

Look, I know that’s not “fast.” And in reality we could’ve gone faster – unlike some runs we’ve done on this program thus far, we weren’t in danger of puking at the end of this one. What was surprising to us is that we realized we’d been operating with a glass ceiling in regard to our potential speed.

In my sixth year as a runner, we’ve probably pursued a fairly typical midlife course in that we started out with the goal of running a 5K, then kept increasing distance without too much thought or expectation as to how much faster we could get.

For a while now we’ve thought of anything under 10 minutes per mile as “fast” for us. And as for anything under 9 minutes a mile … well, we’ve clocked the occasional 8:45 on the first mile of the Swiss Days Race 5K, but never thought it was anything we could sustain or possibly surpass.

Doing this training program “blind,” without a watch the first three weeks, may have been a blessing in disguise because we’ve just mostly gone as hard as we could for whatever distance we were supposed to run. On Saturday, if you would’ve told us to run at a 9:35 pace, we probably would’ve said, “Are you nuts?” But there it was. And it wasn’t even our best effort.

We didn’t hold that pace for the full 5 miles. We’ve still got a ways to go at figuring out how to pace ourselves. But we’re starting to believe we really can get faster, and we’ve still got 5 weeks of this training program to go, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Here’s what happened on week 3 of the training plan:

Monday: 3-mile easy run. What I did: 1000-meter swim. (I’ve been making Mondays my swim day and fitting this run in elsewhere in the week.)

Tuesday: 6 x 400 @ mile pace. What I did:             Attempted this workout with my sister on the River Greenway but still hadn’t come up with either “official” distances or a reliable timing mechanism. We did run 6 approximations of what was called for over 4 miles, and it felt like a great workout. But we’ve really got to get on this documentation thing.

Wednesday: Rest or easy run. What I did: 4 mile tempo run to pick up the car at the high school. The “tempo” portion was actually only 1.5 miles, but I shaved a minute off my previous best for that segment.

Thursday: 35-minute tempo run. What I did: Traci wanted to run hills so we decided to do this week’s 70-minute long slow run on the hills over by Vera Cruz. It was astonishing how easy this felt. We did six miles total, going out and back three times in two different directions, and I don’t even specifically remember going up the killer hill that last time – we were distracted about some topic of conversation, I guess.

Friday: Rest. What I did: Rest – for my legs, that is. Quick 800-meter swim to work my upper body..

Saturday: 5 miles fast. What I did: Traci and I weren’t sure how to mentally do a “fast” 5-miler – what pace should we aim for and would we freak out trying to hold it for 5 miles? So we decided to start out easy for half a mile and then keep accelerating from there. Our splits were 12:21, 10:25, 10:04, 9:36 and then 9:51 for a total time of 52:21. We learned a lot from this run can’t wait to try it again in a couple of weeks.

Sunday: 70-minute long slow run. What I did: I was going to do Monday’s easy 3 miles but I was surprised how dead my legs were after yesterday’s run. Instead I jogged 20 minutes or so and then walked another 20 minutes.

Total miles: 22

Cross training: 2 swim sessions for a total of 1800 meters. Definitely need to get that bike fixed!

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A kid’s point of view: Softball feat shows I can run better now

colleenxcselfieBy Colleen, age 12

Here’s a sign I can run better than I used to: In Monday night’s softball game I got my first ever triple. And in Wednesday’s game I got a home run on errors!

My “home run” was actually just a hit to the shortstop, but I got all the way to third on an overthrow and then kept going when they threw the ball to the wrong person. The catcher dropped the ball and I was safe. My team went nuts! And I loved it, because I’ve never been able to run fast enough to do that before.

I feel like a different person now. Someone who can turn a hit to shortstop into a home run. :)

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Did staying off the scale help me run faster?

I had a couple of great runs the last couple of days, and while that may have been mostly due to the cooler weather I couldn’t help wondering if part of it had to do with the fact that I’ve been skipping my daily weight checks this week.

I never thought about this before because stepping on the scale is such a regular (and seemingly necessary) part of my postfat life. But the reality is that when I see a higher number than I expect, that often drags me down when I run.

I’ve always interpreted this as, “Well, of course I’m having a bad run, I’m toting around an extra (fill in the blank) number of pounds.” But is it really true that an extra 2-3   pounds would have such a dramatic effect – or is it more likely the psychological baggage that drags me down?

All I know is, when I tackled yesterday’s fast middle segment of a 4-mile tempo run en route to pick up the car at the school, I felt unencumbered and ready to go. And I shaved a minute off the 1.5 mile stretch that I monitor for time.

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Changing up the diet game keeps boredom at bay

I love how the concept of what constitutes “good” and “bad” foods changes from diet to diet.

I’m not being sarcastic here. I like to change up my diet from time to time, and one of things I love about doing that is that some foods I was previously avoiding can be savored without guilt.

After several weeks on the Slow Carb Diet last fall, for instance, where you’re allowed to eat fruit only on cheat day, it was amazing how satisfying it was to splurge on something as simple as an apple or even a strawberry.

Whereas during the early maintenance phase after my weight loss, when I was counting Weight Watchers Points Plus,  I really loaded up on fruit because it was considered a “free” food – you didn’t have to count it. I’d eat 3-4 apples or bananas a day, just to keep myself full so I wouldn’t eat other crap. They tasted a lot better than carrots and celery, but I ate them so frequently I wasn’t paying much attention to the taste at all.

Just in the past week or so I’ve been dabbling with monitoring fat grams, and for the time being it feels like being on recess. Cereal, baked potatoes, low-fat popcorn – suddenly all this stuff is dietarily desirable again, which is weird cause it feels like eating treat food.

Ideally, I’d have some kind of natural appetite control and just eat whatever sounds   good in modest amounts. It works better for me to count something – calories, carbs, whatever – or to limit my food choices in some other way. Periodically changing up what I count, or what I’m focusing on, keeps me from getting bored and makes me really appreciate the foods I do get to eat.

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Advanced 5K training: Week 2

This was my second week attempting to follow Hal Higdon’s Advanced 5K training program. This time I did get all the workouts in. Trouble was, the hardest runs were all bunched together without a rest day or easy run day to break them up and allow for recovery. So there remains some fine-tuning here in terms of fitting this plan into my schedule.

I should note that this is an “advanced” program but I am not an “advanced” runner, except perhaps in terms of age. My goal is to run a 26:15 5K at the Swiss Days Race in late July, which last year would’ve been enough to win the 50 & over age group I’ve recently graduated to. That’s a pace of 8:27 per mile, and I’m nowhere near that yet.

This particular 8-week session is timed to a trail race that tends to have considerably slower times. My goal for the Waterfall 5K is to run 9-something per mile.

Here’s what this week’s plan called for, followed by what I actually did each day.

Monday: Easy 3-mile run. What I did: Swam 800 meters. Short workout, but I like that I’m zeroing in on a regular swim day.

Tuesday: 8×200 at 800-meter pace. What I did: Wanting to save the speed workout for a day when I could run with my sister, I decided to tackle the 4-mile fast run I failed to get in on week 1. At this early point in the program I was aiming for 10 minutes a mile but knew I’d be limited by toting my “dumb phone” stopwatch and by not having someone to push or help pace me. I really hustled on the first 2 miles and when I checked the dumb phone (DP) at the turnaround, it read 19:45. Yay! But I was beat. So I took a 60-second breather, then ran the 2 miles back home in 20:04.

Counting the breather, that amounted to 40:49 for 4 miles. (If I’d kept walking on the course during my breather, it might’ve been slightly less than that.) At any rate, that’s my baseline for this distance. Hopefully it gets better soon.

Wednesday: Easy run or rest. What I did: Traci and I tackled Tuesday’s speed workout. Last week we made a pretty good guess on the quarter-mile  points on the River Greenway and we thought we’d just cut those in half, but in reality that didn’t work very well. We did, however, get in 8 sprints of about 1-minute each, walking a 400 in between and jogging a half mile warmup and cool down for a total of 4 miles.

It felt like a great workout, but I was aggravated in that I wasted so much mental energy wondering which point to run to. Next time we definitely have to find a place where we can mark out 200 meters so we can just focus on going as hard as we can.

Thursday: 30-minute tempo run. What I did: I was supposed to meet my sister for a nearly 6-mile run on our favorite trail, which we decided could qualify as our 60-minute  “long run” on this program. Because I had to go pick up and then drop off the car at the high school in order to get there, however, I decided this would be a good way to stretch out my long run.

As it turned out, we had to lop about a mile off our trail run due to time constraints. But adding in 1.5 miles picking up the car and 3.5 running home the long way after dropping it back off, I wound up with a 10-mile total.

Friday: 4-mile fast run. What I did: Amazingly, this was the third day in a row I was able to meet my sister for a run. Since I’d already done the week’s fast run, and since she wasn’t crazy about doing that anyway, we decided to do Thursday’s tempo run. Since we aren’t very good about recognizing a certain pace, we decided to do half a mile easy jog and then begin accelerating every half mile. That worked pretty well, except that by the 2-mile turnaround we were already going about as hard as we thought we could sustain.

And this is the problem on running “blind,” without a watch: We had no idea what pace we were running. But we knew we were working hard, and we maintained the mystery pace on the way back — even though the last half mile was a definite struggle.  (There was no puking involved, but the feeling was definitely there for both of us.) Total: 4 miles.

Saturday: Rest. What I did: Three miles easy bike ride.

Sunday: 65-minute long slow run. What I did: Since I did 10 miles on Thursday, settled for a 4 mile easy run.

Mileage total: 26

Cross-training: 800 meters of swimming plus 6 miles of cycling.

This was a disappointing week for cycling in that my bike is in need of repair and the Trek mountain bike several family members share was making some noise as well, which made me leery about riding it on two trips I likely would’ve made otherwise: 15 miles round trip to a substitute teaching job on Friday and 20 miles round trip to the state park for Thursday’s trail run. (I wound up driving to the trail run and not taking the sub job.) Gotta get these bikes fixed ASAP!

In the meantime, I took out our 12-year-old’s  vintage “10 speed” for a test ride to see if it felt like something I could rely on for emergency transportation. I don’t like riding it much, but I do think it could get me where I need to go if it’s not more than a few miles away.

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A kid’s point of view: A surprising thing about change

By Colleen, age 12

What do you think  the most determining factor in change is? This quiz I took on psychology today’s blog let you choose from five answers: your genes, your upbringing, a combination of both, a combination of both plus luck, or something else.

Uh, Mom? When are you going to take a picture of me playing soccer? Hello?

Uh, Mom? When are you going to take a picture of me playing soccer? Hello?

I chose D, which was genes, upbringing and luck. But the answer was E, “something else,” and that turned out to be so simple: Just making a conscious, specific decision to change is what helps people do it.

This is cool because it supports my ‘positive’ mantra, which is nice because i thought it was just the placebo effect. But the article says you can’t just be positive, you need to be specific about what you want to change. That seems doable, don’t you think?

In other news, my big sister got accepted into a master’s program this week, right before her graduation from Manchester University. She is a psych major who is going to work with autistic kids. Isn’t that awesome? Also, the high school baseball team played a sweet game last night to beat Homestead 3-1. It was really a battle, so the Norwell fans were really excited when we made the last out. Now if we win on Tuesday, we will become conference champions! (I normally gripe about my brother, but I like to cheer on his team.)

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