I started the day with the kids in typical fashion. Breakfast and Khan Academy. One of them spilled a bowl of dry Cheerios. The problem occurred not when I stepped on the cereal but the bowl. On the hardwood floor it turned into an ice skate and I went careening into a cabinet of crayons and art supplies, losing my balance and crashing onto the floor. At some point in the cartoon-like moment I twisted my right knee — my bad knee.
Back in the day, I lived in San Francisco where I discovered summers were given to the fog and chill Mark Twain alluded to in his famous quote. When I made trips back to Iowa, where I grew up, I would enter local running races and experience the difference between a San Francisco July and an Iowa July. Lacking the adaptation that heat exercise can give, the fitness I brought with me to the local Cedar Rapids 10km road race seemed to drain away at about the three-minute mark.
If I stayed in Iowa a couple of weeks though, I would train in the hot, humid weather, and adapt quickly. I’d suffer for a few days but after that it wouldn’t bother me as much. And I’d race again, able to sustain something pretty close to the pace I could run in San Francisco.
The last three summers here in the Boston area, I’ve been testing this idea out. Today I pulled over the car next to a baseball field and slugged my way through 200 burpees.
Heat Exercise Report
My report is this: I’m still in an adaptation phase with high-intensity heat exercise as I begin a plan to lose 20 pounds. My heart rate was steady for the first 100 (which I performed in sets of 25).
Things got ugly through the second 100. The sun was punishing. Sets of 25 crumbled to sets of 10 or 12. My heart rate climbed into the 170s. The feel of the field grass and the thick air reminded me of two-a-day football practices, back in the Augusts of Iowa.
Back then I didn’t know much about the underlying concepts of training and exercise. All I recall knowing was that after a hot-weather session of calisthenics or sprints, it was good to have it over. I’d be dizzy and burning with thirst, but at least I could x it out on the calendar.
Hopped on the scale today — an unceremonious beginning in a journey to lose 20 pounds fast. I weighed in at 195 pounds. In early January I weighed 180 pounds, something I had worked hard to attain with a pretty uncomplicated plan: daily burpees, occasional kettlebell swings, and skipping meals.
Then it was backslide time, 15 pounds worth. I combined 1) a stressful job situation with 2) the general chaos that comes with being a parent of a six-year-old and three-year-old and 3) being in my mid-50s. And not sure but mixing wine and late-night early-Covid cable news and maybe even some ice cream might just may have contributed to poor sleep and weight gain.
As a consequence, my right knee has steadily become arthritic. Excess weight lights up joint arthritis. I can’t run without a painful limp when I’m heavy.
I can stretch, mobilize, strengthen, and take fish oil day-after-day and still limp when I try to run. Weight, it seems, is the key problem. When I slipped under 180 late last year I noticed I could run without limping and pain.
My motivation to get back to being able to run is basic in these times of the pandemic lockdown. Our kids like to run laps around the house and be chased by Mom or Dad. My wife, Gretchen, is great at this, bounding around with them as they giggle and sprint. I, however, am not pretending when they leave me in the dust.
There was a time I was a pretty decent runner. I doubt our kids will judge my running ability by a list of personal race records from the 1990s. Unless I change things, they will always know me as being a slug.
Lose 20 Pounds in 10 Weeks
So the goal is to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks. The true reward will simply be being able to run again and enjoy it. And to be able to run with the kids even though I’m an old dad.
Famed Olympic wrestler and University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable has said “there are all kind of ways to motivate yourself.” Taking this cue, once I burn myself down to 175 pounds or less, I will have earned the right to sit in the sun and drink a beer at a nearby brew pub. Or maybe hear in town at The Stones. They have a good beer selection and they’ve converted their parking lot into (for my purposes) a kind of beer garden.
Good beer = carbs and calories. I’m waging that at 175 pounds I should be able to go out for a run the next day to burn it off.