7 Things to Remember When Traveling

This week I had a quick trip down to Atlanta for a business meeting.  Left on Tuesday afternoon, came back on Wednesday afternoon.  Traveling tends to completely hose up my weekly food and running routine, though I’m starting to notice some patterns. Without further ado, here are seven things that it is important to remember when traveling:

#1 – Calories consumed in an airport count. So one of the associations that I’ve always had with traveling is an all-bets-are-off mentality about food (though, to be fair, that was a common mentality whether I was traveling or not).   This was both about quantity (hey – gotta fuel up so I can sit on this airplane or in this car!) and quality (immediate access to beef jerky and Dr. Pepper and cheese danishes?  Umm, OK!).  I’m not sure where that association came from, but as far back as I can remember it has been there.  It is as though travel food magically is different than “regular” food. So, yeah … it is not.  Crappy food is still crappy food.  And too much of it is still too much of it.  Walk away from the fried chicken.

This is still fried chicken.  Tasty, glorious fried chicken.
This is still fried chicken. Tasty, glorious fried chicken.

#2 – Water is your friend. We hear that airplanes dehydrate us all the time.  We hear it so much that we might be tempted to ignore it, or block the message. Yeah – don’t do that. Because dehydration on airplanes is real.  That little thing that you twist to get the cool air blowing on top of your head?  That thing is blowing almost perfectly dry air that is nearly guaranteed to make your skin itchy, chap your lips on the spot, and drive you to extreme thirst.  And ginger ale, while great on airplanes, doesn’t do the rehydration thing enough. Drink your water.

#3 – Bring your running shoes.  They are a pain in the ass to pack.  And you might wind up not using them while you are there because of unforeseen timing pressures.   But if you don’t bring them, you are guaranteed to miss a workout.  Guaranteed.  Just knowing that I’d have to justify having brought the damn things is sometimes enough to get me to get up and go for a run.  Take your shoes – you’ll be better for it.

#4 – Plan accordingly for treadmill access. Whichever hotel you’re at almost certainly has a fitness center.  Most of them that I’ve seen have a large stability ball, a weight-machine-system thing, an elliptical or two, and at most 4 or 5 treadmills.  Some only have 2 or 3 treadmills.  Now, because you were traveling and didn’t want to pack anything more than shoes, socks, shorts, & shirt, you aren’t geared up to run outside.  You’re also in unfamiliar territory and may not want to risk getting lost.  So you plan on getting up and hitting the treadmill for those morning miles. You … and everybody else in the hotel. Rush hour (roughly 6am to 8am) at the hotel fitness center is almost certainly going to be busy.  And unless you are OK with the elliptical or something different, you may be disappointed by treadmill access.  If possible, plan to go during a strange time (evening, middle of the day, etc.) or get there earlier than you normally would. Also – treadmills suck.

Soul crushing, isn't it?  I hurt just looking at it...
Soul crushing, isn’t it? I hurt just looking at it…

#5 – There will be doughnuts. When people are hosting a meeting that includes out-of-town guests, they naturally want to be seen as hospitable and accommodating.  They want to be good friendly hosts.  And for whatever reason, that usually means doughnuts.  Plates and plates of doughnuts. They’re going to look yummy.  And let’s face it – they’re going to BE yummy.  There are several ways to deal with this – politely eat half of one, or even a whole one that you considered in your broader day’s meal plan, or claim you’re diabetic or whatever.  But you’d better have a plan for how you’re going to deal with that glorious plate of doughnuts, or it is going to deal with you.

Doesn't it look yummy?
Doesn’t it look yummy?

#6 – Shit happens. So on my trip this week, the travel gods were not with me.  They chose yesterday to get the pound of flesh they were owed for a largely uneventful travel season for me.  And that meant, for a large list of reasons, I was stuck looking for dinner in suburban Atlanta at roughly 11pm on Tuesday night.  And I was unable to resist the siren call of the black letters in the yellow boxes.

Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia.  True story.
Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia. True story.

Yep – Waffle House. And I’m just going to straight-up tell you like it is … my triple order of hash browns (scattered, smothered, and covered) was glorious. Glorious. And I don’t feel guilty. However…

#7 – If you know that kind of thing is likely to happen, plan accordingly the rest of the week. Yeah – I knew that was likely to happen.  So I’ve mostly planned accordingly.  But you DO have to plan accordingly, because otherwise the whole thing will come off the rails.   How do you stay on plan and strategy when you travel?

Weigh In / Long Run 12-21

I’m not going to call this week good, but it also wasn’t bad.  Let’s just go with “not bad”.

Weight:  273.8

Weekly Gain / (Loss):  (0.4 pounds)

Total Gain / (Loss):  (53.6 pounds)

Weekly Mileage:  20.3

I’m going to start posting mileage now, too.  Part of the point of all of this is to generate a touch of accountability to the 5 of you that are regularly seeing this (also – hi!), and that should extend to the mileage as well.

This week involved work travel for me, which is always a very dangerous thing.  For whatever reason, leaving for a trip has always felt like “no rules” time for me, and I struggle to turn that off even for very short business trips.  Also, on these trips I’m not always in control of food selection, so that hurts, too.

And this week was Cincinnati, so … Skyline Chili, yes.  Montgomery Inn, yes.  (Pro-tip – when they come around and offer to put the bib on you, let them.)  Unobstructed access to chocolate in the meeting room, yes.  BUT – salad in the airport coming back, also yes.  Running my miles (even though I had to use a treadmill), yes.  And generally not screwing up too badly – yes.

So I lost a touch of weight this week, which was good.  This upcoming week, which of course includes Christmas, will also be challenging, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself.  One of the reasons that we do all of this is so that we can enjoy ourselves on Christmas.  And I intend to enjoy myself, and re-double efforts with food after the holiday.

12-mile run for the long run, and overall it felt very good.  I was in a good mental place for the distance, which helps – because after awhile that just becomes a mental exercise.   If you’ve done a swift burst of math, you’ll notice that this week I only ran 8 miles outside of my long run – and those would have been the treadmill sessions.  Thursday and Friday, when I was scheduled to do another 3 or 4 miles, just didn’t happen.  I’ve got to stop letting those fall through the cracks.

Mileage is ramping now – 14 miles scheduled for next weekend, 15 the weekend after that.  So it begins.

Weigh In / Long Run 12-14

Another good week.  Numbers:

Weight:  274.2

One Week Gain / (Loss):  (2.4 pounds)

Total Gain / (Loss):  (53.2  pounds)

It is amazing how getting back at it makes a huge and immediate difference.  In the last two weeks I’ve gotten back almost everything I had lost … and if this upcoming week is simply the exact same as this one then I’ll be at my low weight again and right back on track.

So … this is going to be another good week.  Traveling for work this week, which is typically difficult for me to manage, particularly with food.  But there is no time like now to figure it out, is there?

Long run this week was a race, the Ted Corbitt Classic 15K in Central Park.  The short version is that it was a snowy race and the park was beautiful.  I’ll post a race report at some point this week.

Onward!

Weigh In / Long Run 12.7.13

I knew I was having a good week, but this is ridiculous – and teaches me a lesson.  First, as always, the numbers:

Weight:  276.6

One Week Gain / (Loss):  (6.4 pounds)

Total Gain / (Loss):  (50.8  pounds)

Holy crap.

As I wrote in last week’s weigh-in, I rededicated myself to tracking my Weight Watcher’s points this week – and I was able to do that.  Didn’t even use my “bonus” 49 weekly points.  But then I also hit the streets hard running again this week, too.  I did miss one little 2 mile run, on the cold and rainy Friday morning, but I’m not going to beat myself up about that.

This morning I officially got right back on the marathon training schedule and did my scheduled 10-miler.  This was only the third time I’ve gone at least this far – and the other two were the half-marathon and the long run in preparation for the half-marathon.  My run overall was strong-ish, especially considering that I’ve basically taken a month off.  There is no way I can expect to come back and run these miles fast – I just have to be prepared to ease into them.  And that, in general happened today.  I did not negative split this one like I have some of my long runs in the past, but my two strongest miles based on time (as well as perception as I was running) were mile 4 and mile 8.  So … I’ll absolutely take it.

So here’s what I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks:  be skeptical about the scale.  I just don’t think I lost over 6 legitimate pounds of fat this week.  This was about water retention primarily, with some timing thrown in.  Not that I hadn’t gained weight, just that if I can knock 6 pounds off all at once then it wasn’t exactly hard-to-reach fat, was it?

That also means that I really hadn’t gained 10 pounds over the last 4 weeks, either.  Yes, if I hadn’t taken the right steps, then that would have become permanent.  But if I just went by the scale, I’d have thought I was failing miserably and been tempted to give it up … at least until after the holidays.  Instead, I put my head back down and had an amazing week.  There is a lesson in that.  If only I could articulate it.

Next weekend is the 15K in Central Park, which I’m now much more optimistic about.  In the meantime – 6 pounds!  Yay!

Weigh In / Long Run 11.30.13

Though I hoped otherwise, I knew this was coming.  I didn’t dread it as much as I did last time, though, because I know what is about to happen.  The numbers:

Weight:  283.0

Two Week Gain / (Loss):  5 pounds

Total Gain / (Loss):  (44.4 pounds)

No way around this except to say that I’ve had a very rough month.  What I am convinced happened is that a series of bad choices around food finally caught up with me when my body forced a rest period from running.

So I’ve lost all of this weight with Weight Watchers.  There are good and bad things about any diet or system that you use, and overall I’m a fan of how WW handles this – eat what you want, but we’re going to teach you how much of what is appropriate, and if you can’t handle that, you’ll be hungry.  It’s helped me an awful lot.

Back in late summer, heading into (or maybe just coming out of) the last of the half marathon training, I decided that I was going to see if I could make it without tracking points.  The goal is to be able to eventually not need a system that I pay for – to be able to handle myself with food and exercise in such a way that I can maintain my weight.  And I think when I’m in maintenance mode, that’s probably going to be doable.  In weight loss mode, however, I find I struggle.

I’ve been eating badly now for weeks.  Pretty much whatever I wanted.  But since my mileage has been consistently high, I’ve been able to maintain my weight.  I’ve been frustrated with a several week plateau, but I haven’t been gaining weight.

And then a whole bunch of stuff happened all at once that has dramatically dropped my mileage for the last 3 – 4 weeks.  I’ve been traveling, for both work and personal trips, which shouldn’t matter but does.  I got a nasty cold that required me to back way off.  And then I did one of my boneheaded things and injured my toe.  So I’m way behind where I need to be in my mileage.

And this graph demonstrates clearly how out-of-whack I let it get.  Of course, Thanksgiving was in there, but that’s just an excuse.  This should not be happening.

Here and now, though, it stops.  I did a 6 mile run this afternoon (instead of my scheduled 9, but I went), and I’ve tracked my WW points for the day.  WW tracking is back on – no bite passes my lips until it has been logged.  And the mileage starts back up … now.

There was a time that this kind of blip would cause me to throw up my hands and quit.  This was a clear demonstration that I couldn’t do this and might as well quit now.  And go eat a bag of Oreos or something.  But not this time.

Not this time.

Weigh In / Long Run – 11/18/13

This is not a post I’ve looked forward to making.  I put it off until Monday evening, but I can put it off no longer.

The numbers:

Weight:  278.0

Two Week Gain / (Loss):  4.6 pounds

Total Gain / (Loss):  (49.4 pounds)

I’m in a funk.  A funk like I haven’t felt around this part of my life in a long time.  Ever since roughly the half marathon my primary struggle has been food.  Eating well is not something I’m good at, and achieving goals relieves some pressure.  So I’ve struggled both with the content of my food – I’ve been eating a lot of crap again lately – AND the quantity.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve purchased a bag of cookies at work and eaten the whole bag.

The whole damn bag.

That used to happen regularly.  Of course, I also used to weigh nearly 330 pounds.  Though I had never cut cookies out completely, I’ve been able to keep a lid on the binges like that.  And lately I’ve really struggled.  This, I’m convinced, is the root of my recent several-week plateau.

I didn’t gain weight, though, because I was still running.  In preparation for the Ragnar I kept at it, and kept the mileage at a respectable level.  But lately that has gotten funky, too.  I’m not hurting, not injured.  I just don’t feel like it.  My legs feel dead earlier in runs than they did.  And getting up in the morning (or, as important, going to bed in the evening) has become a real chore.

And then this week I got sick.  Head cold – it was awful.  I walked half of Thursday’s run, and I haven’t run since.

I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and he calls this feeling the running blues.  Apparently this is common, and happens after big races and big goals (hello, Ragnar?).  And that makes me feel immensely better.

Because this feeling isn’t OK.  I think my body was telling me to rest, and for the last several days I have rested.  And for the next couple of weeks … I will do my mileage, but I’m not going to push too hard.  I’m going to ease back into this … but I AM going to get back into this.  My official marathon training schedule actually started last week – so I’m back.

Time to get to 50 pounds down again.  And start pushing for that next 50.

A Few Words on Food Drives

‘Tis the season for giving.   And that urge to give, that desire to be helpful in a world that needs it, is a glorious thing, a ray of light in what can be an otherwise bleak world.  But here’s the thing.  We are VERY BAD at making efficient choices.   Inefficiency = waste, and waste = not helping people that need help.   So lets boil this down to one sentence:

 If you really want to help people who are hungry, don’t give food to food banks, food pantries, or soup kitchens – give them money.

Lets do some math, shall we?

(there is some rounding here – the scale works, regardless of how you round)

At this link, you can buy bulk pasta:

http://www.alibaba.com/product-tp/123143095/Vega_Spaghetti_and_Short_Cut_Pasta.html

That link takes you to dried spaghetti noodles that you purchase by the metric ton.  1 metric ton = 2,204 pounds of spaghetti.  And they charge, on average, $700 for that much pasta.

$700 / 2,204lbs = $0.32 per pound.

Now – this link takes you to the cheapest spaghetti noodles I could find available at retail:

http://www.amazon.com/Anna-Spaghetti-Pound-Bags-Pack/dp/B001L49AT6/

Here, you get 24 pounds of spaghetti (which is still an awful lot) for $30.99 with free shipping.

$30.99 / 24lbs = $1.29 per pound.

Now – you won’t be buying a metric ton of spaghetti for donation, but you might buy 24 pounds.  And you’ll be doing the equivalent of setting money on fire.  Because a food bank WILL buy it by the ton.  And that means that if you give them the $30.99 instead of giving it to a retailer, they can buy nearly 4.5 times more food than you can.

If we assume that 1 serving = ½ pound, then you can buy 48 servings with $30.99.  They can buy 212.  Put another way – for every $30.99 you spend, you’re taking 164 servings of food OUT of the system.

I did this with spaghetti, but it works with just about anything – cereal, canned goods, fresh vegetables, etc.  And this is just for direct food purchases – food banks also get matching donations, which scale this up, and they receive food from the USDA for free or very nominal amounts.

And this is for real food, food that addresses nutritional and hunger needs.  They don’t need your dusty cans of chili sauce or Rotel.  Or your expired food.  Or really anything else but your money.

If you simply must give food rather than money, then at least don’t use it as an excuse to clean out your pantry.  Go buy new cans, and buy “meal-in-a-can” items.  Things like Chef Boyardee products, Campbell’s Chunky Soups, or other items that can be a single meal are the best, because they are the easiest and the least likely to sit and spoil.  Think about it this way – if you have no home, and no money for food, how are you going to cook spaghetti and sauce?  That’s not how you’ll think.  Instead, you’ll take a can of Chef Boyardee Raviolis and put them in a sink full of hot water at the mall, or the Home Depot, or anywhere you can.  And then you’ll get something resembling a hot meal, at least.

That’s sad, that people are heating cans of raviolis in public sinks.  But it is reality.  And we should work with the reality we’re given.

Give, and give generously.

But if we’re smarter about it, we can do more with it.

‘Tis the season