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Eating My Words

31 Jul

I thought this blog was for you. I started this blog because I wanted to inspire others to be more active and make lifestyle choices that promote wellness. Those words even sound like fluff as I type them. This blog has come full circle to bite me in the backside. I’ve been lapped by myself and now I’m eating my own words. Apparently this blog is for me. click to read more

Get Your Own Race Bro

5 Jul

One-hundred percent of this blog up till this point has been positive and uplifting and I plan to keep it overwhelmingly so, but can I go on a bit of a rant? Am I allowed every now and then? I’ll shoot for ninety-eight percent positive, but I feel it imperative to warn you against becoming the kind of guy outlined in this post. Trust me, you don’t want to be this guy. click to read more…

Speed Freaks

3 Jul

As I type these words there is a cool wind that rushes past me at regular, seventy second intervals. It’s a welcome punctuation on a scorching summer day in downtown Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Such predictability is man made of course and in this case it’s man powered.

A pack of one-hundred cyclists blasting past at 30 MPH, wheel-to-wheel in a ninety minute battle, ten feet in front of my iPad screen is an exhilarating way to compose a post. Swatches of spandex color blurs into undulating graffiti on the brick main-street businesses. It’s almost beautiful. Wait, did I just type that out-loud?? *sputtering* I mean the color blur, not the spandex. Yeah. click to read more…

The Surprising, Life Changing Reason you Need to Keep a Food Journal

8 Jun

I’m a convert. I just did a 180 in my attitude toward food journaling. I did NOT want to do it, but now I’ll sing praises of its merits from the roof-tops.

PLEASE KEEP READING! I WAS JUST LIKE YOU!

Nearly every doctor, dietician, and trainer I talked with about weight loss told me to start a food journal. My reaction was the same each time they’d talk about it. I would nod my head the whole time, not in the “I agree” vigorous motion, but the slower, glassy-eyed, “I’m only pretending to listen so you’ll leave me alone even though I know you’re right,” kind of way.

Stop Nodding!!

I tell you, I’m on your side. I get it. Here are the three reasons I didn’t want to keep a food journal:

1)It’s a lot of work.

2)I knew what it would say and that it’d be ugly.

3)It’s a lot of work.

These are fantastic reasons when you don’t really want to make a change. If you’re in this boat, I urge you to read my last post found here: http://www.realmenshowleg.com/tough-love/.

Good Technology

I know there are many arguments about how technology has not benefitted society. I know a lot of folks these days say they long for the simple times of old. I’m not one of them. Simplicity is a high virtue in my mind, but I say it’s still out there and available for those with the courage to buck cultural norms.

In my case technology has saved the day. I was in the throes of despair again about the prospect of food journaling one day when I thought, “There’s got to be an app for that.” Turns out there is… are. Lots of them. I got the one that looked the most user-friendly and polished. I got the myplate app by www.livestrong.com.

My iPad goes everywhere with me. I’ve ceased to be ashamed by how much time I spend on it. I’m thinking about having it surgically attached somehow. Leave a comment below if you have ideas for me about how to do that. Duct tape might be a good secondary option.

Your smart phone probably goes everywhere with you, no? Put that data plan or wifi to good use and log your food. All you do is search from a HUGE list of foods and adjust your portion sizes. Starbucks lattes? Yep. Your neighbor’s chihuahua/husky cross-breed? Probably. It’s got EVERYTHING in the database. As I write this I’m challenging myself to find some obscure food brand that isn’t included. So far I haven’t.

The app does the rest. It tells you how many calories you should consume to meet your weight loss, gain, or sustain goals. On the top of the app it shows a bar with how many calories you have left for the day. As you log the food you’ve eaten, that number goes down. You can track weight and there is a detailed break-down of the nutrients you’ve eaten when you’re synched to www.livestrong.com. There is a category for water and you get an appropriate amount of calories added when you perform a particular exercise.

Burnout

The technology and interface will dazzle you. The weight loss will thrill you. Then you’ll get sick of doing it. This took me 2.5 weeks. I stopped. I gained a couple of pounds back. I started again and I’m going strong because I see a deeper impact than I expected to food journaling.

The Surprising, Life-Changing Reason you NEED to Count Calories

I’m like a really terrible anorexic. Before I started food journaling and counting calories I was a slave to guilt. I never knew how much food I needed and I always assumed I was eating too much. I was never really free to enjoy the gift that is food, but I was never free to abstain from over-indulgence either. I was a mess.

The Truth Hurts

Sure I learned where I over-indulged with food. I found I that I didn’t drink enough water. I discovered that I didn’t eat enough protein and ate WAY too many carbs.

SPOILER ALERT: You’ll find the same is true of you. Us Americans love our carbs. Carbs are good by the way. Carbs are your main energy source, but you don’t need that many unless you’re training. This is another good reason to exercise. If you want more carbs, you’ve got to earn ‘em.

In Control

Suddenly an amazing thing happened as I started to face the sordid reality of my eating hobbits: I stopped eating hobbits. Okay, had too much fun with that typo, I mean: I started feeling free. Free from guilt and shame over my eating. I enjoy my food so much more now. I have less stress because I’m in control of my caloric intake level. I still make bad decisions, but I log them anyway.

I Ate This

The MyPlate app has a brilliantly labelled button that says “I Ate This” to finalize the food you’ve just entered into your journal. It works both ways. When you’re ashamed of eating that HUGE pack of dots it is a confession that unburdens your soul. It is also a celebration of a healthy food choice. “I ate this and I’m proud of it!”

Twenty-something males may get out of hand with this button in their all-you-can-eat pizza eating contests. Maybe if they had this app they’d stick to Halo all-nighters.

For me, I’ll keep hitting that button roughly thirty times a day on my ever-present iPad friend. It’s still work, but it feels vaguely like a game to me and guess what? I’m winning.

**For the record, since logging calories I’ve lost three pounds and I have about twenty-five to go to reach my optimal racing weight. Just wanted you to know that I’m still there fighting it out in the trenches with you. Even after I lose the weight (and I will) I commit to leaving no man (or woman) behind in this fight.

Tough Love

6 Jun

Rise and shine buttercup! It’s time to get to work. (especially if you’re reading this at work) I’ve listened patiently to you for far too long about how you want to get back into running/exercising and I’m about to go all Nike on your lazy butt. JUST DO IT!!!

Tough Love

No, I will not apologize. You had it coming. I love ya. You know I do. In fact I care enough to call you out. I want you to live out your dreams and the irony is that in order to live your dreams, you have to wake up.

Awakenings

I woke up one morning two years ago and looked down at a scale. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Then I got off and checked to see if the kids messed with the calibration again. Nope.

Later that day my wife talked with a colleague who had decided to run a marathon. He was even heavier than I was at the time. He hadn’t done any training, but was tired of his sedentary lifestyle. I was fascinated. I was primed.

I signed up a week later. I had a little over three months to get my fat butt ready to run a marathon.

Go Beyond What is Possible

I didn’t know if I could do it. I gave myself a 40% chance. I had to try. I was desperate to get out of the fat body that I knew was not me. Sometimes you have to set goals so audacious that you wonder if it’s even possible to achieve them. I’ve since realized that I always need a goal like that to keep me vibrant.

What Do You Want?

Let’s get real here. Do you want to get fit, or do you want your potato chips? It’s not that simple of course, but what I’m getting at is do you want to get in shape, really? Is that desire strong enough to override your desire for comfort. It’s time we stop kidding ourselves.

We LOVE, flipping LOVE our comfort. We tell ourselves we need it. Can you give up your TV time? Can you pull yourself out of bed before work to run? That may require that you not stay up chatting on facebook or watching a movie late into the night. The ten o’clock news isn’t getting any better.

More Tough Love

Guess what… you’re not special. You’re not unique. I’m not your mommy so I can say that. You’re an adult. We make decisions. Many of us have kids. Many of us have more than one job. Life is hard. I’m sorry, but it is.

It’s precisely these commitments though why we can’t give up an active lifestyle. We need to be sharp and engaged. You NEED to exercise or you’re going to die before your time. Your family and friends need the best you. Forget getting in shape for you. That’s selfish. Get in shape, find adventure and life for THEM.

Do it Anyway

I know your kid was up teething last night. Do it anyway. I know your battle-mage is about to reach level 36 and unlock a really cool spell. I know the finale is on TV tonight. I know you’ve been pulling overtime for 4 months. I know you still have that nagging head-cold that’s dragging on for a month. Do it anyway. I know your dead-line is approaching, that school is looming, your dog died, your grandma is ill, your truck blew up and you need a new furnace. We all have times like this. DO IT ANYWAY.

That phrase has transformed my life. The irony is that for a long time I had no excuses to not exercise. Then I suddenly had three kids three and under. That’s when I got better about organizing my priorities. I realized just how selfish I was. Year one of fatherhood was not pretty. I had to decide what father I wanted to be. I chose to engage. I’m no hero. It’s what every dad should do, but they don’t. Grow up and live for something bigger than yourself. You’re not a kid anymore. I know it’s hard. DO IT ANYWAY.

I wouldn’t be this abrasive if we hung out for coffee and you poured all your guts out. Sometimes we need a sympathetic ear. But then I won’t blow sunshine anywhere it doesn’t belong either. Sometimes us guys need a kick in the #%$. In the words of my high school band director:

“Those that want by the mile, but try by the inch should be kicked by the foot.”

The Race

I fought through shin splits, plantar fasciitus, dehydration, poor nutrition, depression, and finally an achilles injury that my doctor told me not to run through. I listened. Kinda. I spent an entire month running only in the deep end of a pool, suspended by a foam jogging belt. I did three and four hour workouts like that, moving along at a blazing .001 MPH. Yeah, it was boring. I did it anyway.

I didn’t know as I lined up on race day if I’d finish or not. I’d been faithful to my training and it was out of my hands at that point. When I got to mile eight some energetic spectator pointed straight at me with deranged fire in their eyes and yelled, “Brandon! Today is your day!” (we had our names printed on our bibs, it was a nice touch). Hope surged through me when I heard that. It stirred that deep desire I’d had since I was a kid to finish a marathon.

I get goosebumps even now remembering what it was like to cross that finish line. I held my arms up high. I wept. Real men celebrate. They’ve worked too hard to be afraid of what others think of them.

Fat Dude in Short Shorts

9 May

I don’t feel like being funny today.  It happens sometimes.  I mean, if a co-worker falls or knocks something over, I’m still going to crack wise and laugh at them, but that’s about all I’ve got right now.

I guess it’s not just that I’m not feeling funny today;  I’m frustrated, passionless and downright sad.  

I’ve run a lot of miles in the past two years, but the fact remains:  I’m still fat.  

Incognito Fat Dude

Those of you who know me might have cocked an eyebrow at that declaration, but it’s true.  I hide it fairly well.  Most of my extra weight is belly fat.  I wear my vertical stripes and black teeshirts and none are the wiser.  Okay, I don’t, but I do have a gut that hasn’t budged for years. I’m 5’10″ and I weigh 196. That’s 36 lbs overweight. For a runner, especially an ultramarathoner, that’s not good.

Some days it doesn’t bother me much, but some days, like today, it sucks the joy out of life.  

But You’re the Crazy Running Guy…

It’s true.  I’ve burned over 7000 calories on some of my more epic running adventures.  But guess what happens after I complete my 15+ mile runs… I get really, really hungry.  I get so hungry in fact that I tend to gorge myself if I’m not careful.  Self control goes out the window.  

That’s part of why some nutritionists and weight loss experts suggest eating lots of smaller meals throughout the day, or having a healthy snack of vegetables or the like between meals;  it keeps you in control of your eating.  When you get really hungry your stomach overwhelms your brain.  Your stomach is a jedi that likes to use its mind tricks on you.  The force is strong with mine.

I told you I wasn’t funny today.

The Long Haul

I’ve gone on several runs over 5 hours long. I’ve done a 7 1/2 hr 40 mile run. While I’m running I don’t struggle with overeating. The problem is, even with these crazy long runs, there’s still more time in the day that I’m not running than when I am.

It’s these long stretches that get me. These long non-runs are killers. Most of the time I do pretty well. Then it’s 15 minutes of temptation that blow my efforts out of the water.

I’m tired of losing. You lose this battle long enough and you feel like a loser. You feel helpless. You feel pathetic.

You feel like giving up.
I’m there.

But I’m not going to– give up that is. I’ll tell you more about my plan to reclaim my health and my passion in the next post, “The Joy of Running.” No really, joy. And don’t worry, it’s catching.

Heros of the Real Man

5 Mar

Even the confident running man in all his bare-legged glory needs inspiration to carry on sometimes.  Here at RMSL we have our go to list of heroes to return to for just that.  Call it a short list of short shorts who’s who.  These men braved the tides of conformity and followed their conscience to pave the way for the rest of us.  

John Stockton

John Stockton

Hint: John Stockton is the little white guy in short shorts.
Photo Credit: AP


An old-school veteran, Stockton was the last superstar in the NBA to don short shorts.  He was unwilling to follow the ridiculous trend to baggier shorts.  Clearly it worked.  He was a no-nonsense, work hard and get it done player, nothing like the money-grubbing prima-donnas of modern times.  

He was basketball hall over famer that leads the league in career assists by over 4000.  In his iron-horse 19 seasons he missed only 22 games due to injury.  He was consistently voted by his peers as one of the toughest players in the league.  If that alone doesn’t stop you from making fun of his uniform choice, you may well consider his buddy and teammate, the legendary NBA big man Karl Malone.  That’s 300 lbs of hurt you don’t want. (In the photo above he’s the guy immediately to the left of Stockton with arms as big as your torso)    

Dear NBA Players Association,

You all look ridiculous.  Real men wear short shorts.  Your fathers and grandfathers knew this.  You’ve lost your way.  You should be ashamed at what you’ve become.  The only team that should be okay with not donning sensible shorts is the New York Knicks (short for knickerbockers) due to their unfortunate, yet legally binding team name choice.  

BTW, real men also wear knickerbockers.  Rock em short on the run, kick the knicks on the links. Real men know how we do it.

Bjorn Borg

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated


His name literally means “bear fortress.”  I don’t think I really need to go on.  

But I will.  He was the no.1 ranked tennis player of his time.  He still holds the record for the most French Open wins.  He is considered the 1st tennis “superstar” by winning over 1 million dollars in a single season.  

“Ice-man” as he was known by opponents wore shorter shorts than even I’m comfortable with, but it only galvanizes my respect for him.  The long, flowing hair pulled back by a sweet sweatband are the subject matter for another website, though they do earn him bonus points here at RMSL.

Steve Prefontaine

steve prefontaine

Photo Credit: Jeff Johnson

Here I could have chosen any competitive racer of past or present because they all know that short shorts make you faster, but I had to go with “Pre” for obvious reasons.  The man is an American running legend.  He was Nike’s golden boy for good reason.  Ever heard of Nike?  Yeah, Pre pretty much put it on the map.  

Here’s where I get all inspiration on you.  You can’t read about Pre and not be inspired to hit the road/trail/track so here you go:

He held the American record in races from 2000-10000 meters.  He had 3 NCAA track titles at the University of Oregon and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 19, a record of its own.  

Pre was just edged out of a medal in his only olympics appearance would have certainly challenged again if not for his tragic death at the age of 24 in an auto accident.  

Pre had many notable quotes over his short, but outstanding career (and encourage you to google them), but none to me carries more weight in my own training and life than this:

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

You May be a Runner if…

20 Feb

Just about every weekend I do a “long run.”  For me these range anywhere from 12-40 miles.  I get to say 40 on the high end because I just did that last Saturday.  I spent the majority of Sunday in bed.  I thought I would share with you some of the self-inflicted complications running provides my daily life.  Some of you will relate, the rest of you… well I hope you laugh a bit.

I know this is long cliche, but you may have a running problem if:

- You spend one day a week laying in bed unable to move.  

- You park in the “seniors only” spots at church the day after a long run and figure that God is a merciful God.

- You consider wresting a walker from an old man because you think you need it more than he does.

- You don’t take the walker from an old man because you know that in your current state he would beat you down if you tried. (you mess with a man and his walker and the tennis balls come off!)

- You fall over at work on Monday as your legs fail you randomly.  (One day my co-workers found me lying on my back laughing at myself.  They kinda think I’m crazy there and I have no arguments to the contrary)

- You take ice-baths after long runs and your kids gather around to laugh at Daddy’s funny high-pitched noised as he dips into the water.

- You pound endless bananas even when the grocery store only has neon green ones left in a futile effort to stem the build-up of lactic acid.

- You “run” the day after a grueling long run to amuse your wife and kids.

- Your moaning and lack of mobility frighten your kids.  (the day after one long run my 4 yr old prayed for my healing of her own volition while my 3 yr old fetched my slippers and my 6 yr old rubbed my shoulders… I’ve got an awesome crew)

- On Sunday you think that’d it be okay if you never ran again, but by tuesday you think you’ll go insane if you don’t.

- You think that Gu and Clif Bars should be included in the food pyramid.  

- You refer to a meal as a feed.  Feed is for cows… which, incidentally, you feel like after such a gorging.  

- The only tee-shirts you own are from 5k races.

- You have another closest to house your finisher medals… I’m thinking about making a wind-chime out of mine. I think I just stumbled onto my retirement hobby.  

- You weep at the start of the Boston marathon.  I mean, I don’t do that, but I could see how one would;  all those dedicated runners training privately and coming together to form this massive wall of cohesive humanity living their dreams… *sniff.  So beautiful.  Real men weep with joy and longing for Boston.

-You work so hard to finish ahead of the cute girl next to you only to have her congratulate you and find you puking in the bushes.  Yeah, that happened to me.  I didn’t end up with her number…

Enough about me.  Please, continue this list below in the comments!  
 

Who Wears Short Shorts?

8 Feb

A. Men. The running man.

It’s time to reclaim our birthright. Society has duped us for too long. Basketball started strong and has sagged in its claim on the superathelete. Shorts for men have gotten so long as late so as to be classified as capris. Capris for men aren’t cool. Don’t listen to the Europeans. (and if you’re European, rise up!)

This site is launching soon. For now, enjoy an explanation of how this site came to be here: “Know thy Inseam“. I promise you’ll laugh… or at least snigger.

Rockin it above the knee,
Brandon Swanson