About six weeks ago, I bought a pair of running shoes. I had been putting on weight over the winter, because I have not been cycling or exercising, except walking to work, and consuming too many calories. I went for a first run on a Saturday afternoon, running over a kilometer, before breaking down and walking for a rest. I ran and walked back, and then I was sore for 3 days. The next weekend I worked on my kayak, pulling the old seat out, which involved lifting and peeling it off the glue – a prolonged resistance exercise. I was sore for another few days. At the end of that week, I was browsing in Munro’s Books and found a remaindered copy of The Runner’s World Complete Book of Beginning Running. It had a couple of chapters with programs for beginning to run. It looked like a useful book, so it was an easy deal.
I followed the 10 week program. Week one, run one minute, walk two, 10 times, 4 times a week. Week two, move to running two, walking one, then three-one and four-one. Week three moves up running 5 and 6 minute intervals. Week four moves up to running 8, 9, 10, and 11 minutes, with one minute breaks. It’s always a half hour, with a short walk to cool off at the end. A half hour fits in to my morning before work, and I can run in light rain and fairly strong winds. The program is working. There are some aches and pains, but I am always able to get back on schedule. I have the energy to run in the morning. Over the last couple weeks I have also managed a 20 k. in the evening at least one day a week.
I live close the water. I go out my front door and walk a block to Dallas, and then it’s one k. east to corner of Douglas, at Beacon Hill Park. That’s mile 0 of the TransCanada Highway, and the site of the Terry Fox statue. One more k to Cook Street. I have been going further along Dallas, to Clover Point I expect to work through the 10 weeks and then keep running 30 to 45 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week. I don’t want to spend too much more energy on running, as the increased daylight and decreased rain is making cycling more attractive.
The book has been a good value. It presents most information about diet, stretching, vitamins, general health and gear that a regular reader might have pulled out of years of reading Runner’s World, and lays it out in a nicely presented package. I picked up the last couple of issues of RW – there isn’t that much in those issues that isn’t in the book. I liked the diet information. They shoot down the idea that everyone should drink 8 ounces of water 8 times a day or the idea that coffee, as a diuretic, dehydrates. Their diet information is more focused and current than you might get from the Canada Food Guide or the USDA pyramid, with more information on safe fats, and many suggestions about specific vitamin rich vegetables. There is a slight tendency in to promote vitamin supplements and addititives. The book has the same information on basic stretches and strengthening the “core” that I see in current issues of RW and Bicycling.
I don’t think I want to read the magazine regularly. I have been happy to read a few issues to get ideas and information. The stories about high level racers are kind of Sport Illustrated, specialty edition. The gear reviews are not interesting. There are generally a couple of stories about people saved by a fitness epiphany. Last month it was about a chef who weighed 400 pounds, lost 160 on a medically supervised emergency diet, and then lost 40 more after he started to run. I think Bicycling, another Rodale Magazine, likes to publish the same kind of stories. But the articles in each issue on diet and nutrition have been good. I’m on the edge of becoming one “worried well” group, but I don’t think I’m likely to start reading Prevention and getting all holistic, organic and alternative.
A sidebar in one article in the April issue of RW mentioned Charles Stuart Platkin’s book, The Diet Detective’s Count Down, which is basically a “counter” listing calories, carbs and fat in a long list of fresh, generic and brand name foods. The Diet Detective’s special feature is that his charts estimate the number of minutes of walking, cycling, running, swimming, yoga or dancing required to consumer the energy value of the food . His tables are set for a person of 155 pounds, and he assumes low to moderate pace. For cycling, his moderate pace was under 12 mph. The limitation of this approach is that he has to use one average weight and a handful of activities. The advantage is that has unpacked the formulas used by doctors and dietitians and worked out the implications of food choices.
The Diet Doctor says that he used the Compendium of Physical Activities to get the energy consumption values for his standard 155 pound person and his six activities. The Compendium which was published in two leading articles in medical literature, in 1993 and 2000. It’s online at the University of South Carolina, which publishes a short guide and the revised table. The table works in units called Metabolic Equivalents or METS. Multiplying your weight in kilograms (divide pounds by 2.2046) by the MET factor for any given activity produces the number of kcal (aka large calories or Calories) per hour burned in that activity.
I put the factors for several activities into a spreadsheet. According to that table, a person weighing 155 pounds, cycling at 19 to 22 kph (12 to 14 mph) burns 564 calories per hour. Increase the speed to 22 to 26 kph, and the calorie consumption goes to 705. Running 5 mph is 8 METS, the same as cycling at 19-22 kph. A 155 pound person would burn 70 calories sitting down. A 200 pound person burns 90 calories per hour at rest, 725 cycling at 19+ kph, and 905 at 22.5+ kph. Alas, a 200 pound hot lover would burn less than 30 calories in 12 minutes of vigorous sex, which charts at 1.5 METs. You’d have to do it five times to burn off one beer!
I have lost weight, but not directly because of running. The two hours of running burns about 1200 more calories per week than I might have burned sitting and reading. Energy spent has to exceed input by about 3500 Calories to lose a pound. I have mobilized some of my obsessiveness around running and cycling to remember to eat healthier, and to eat less.