Monthly Archives: February 2014

Nutrisystem for Runners! Check Out this Marathon-Busting Smart Carb!

I had a question on Twitter recently after I tweeted this:

Blog Post

The question was:  “Are you still able to complete your long runs while on @nutrisystem?”

I tweeted back that my weekly long run is now only ten miles, but that I would increase the Smart Carbs as I ramped up my mileage.  That got me thinking that I’ll need a whole lot of low-glycemic, marathon-busting Smart Carbs to get me through those 20 mile training runs a few months from now.

I wandered into the kitchen and grabbed a can of Bush’s Best Original Baked Beans Seasoned with Bacon & Brown Sugar, a favorite that I’ve banished since going on Nutrisystem.  I had an idea that was just crazy enough to work.  If I broke the can of baked beans into smaller portions, maybe each would qualify as a Nutrisystem Smart Carb, even though the can as a whole contained an overdose of brown sugar.

I did some quick nutrition-label bean counting.  The results were not good for the Bush’s baked beans.  I’d have to split the can into five servings to be in the Smart Carb range of 80-120 calories, but each serving would still have 8.4 grams of sugar, which seemed like a lot.

I called a Nutrisystem counselor who confirmed the baked beans as I described them were not the best choice for a Smart Carb because of the sugar.  He recommended I consider a better type of bean.

I went back to the kitchen.  I found a can of Goya Black Beans:

Can and Label

The bean counting went better this time.  Now I could split this can into 3 servings with 105 calories and 7 grams of fiber in each serving.  A perfect choice for a Smart Carb that fits into a marathon runner’s diet.  A slightly-rounded half cup measuring ladle was just right for measuring the 3 portions.  I scooped out 2 portions and saved them in a container for later:

Counting Beans

Then I put the last portion on a plate with some spring mix and red peppers for the perfect Smart Carb mixed with veggies:

Black Beans & Veggies

I talked more with the Nutrisystem counselor about marathon training.  He recommended adding Smart Carbs as my mileage increases.  As the person who tweeted the original question recognized, the standard Nutrisystem 1800 calorie per day plan I started on will not provide the amount of carbs required for marathon training.  But adding low-glycemic Smart Carbs while staying on Nutrisystem seems like a good idea as I begin training for my next marathon.

And the Nutrisystem counselor encouraged me to call anytime and said they would create a tailored weekly plan to fit my marathon training.

Finally, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of Duke, Bush’s talking Golden Retriever, and so I’ll hasten to mention that Bush’s makes black beans that have the same great numbers as the Goya product I happened to have on hand.  And Duke doesn’t even have to give away the secret family recipe to us runners.

Here’s To All Our Little Failures

I’ve been on Nutrisystem for over two weeks now. I’ve dropped nine pounds so far, and I’ve increased my weekly running mileage to over thirty miles per week. I’m doing well, but last night was my biggest challenge so far. And I failed.

My wife and I went out to a restaurant. And not just any restaurant. We went out to Ron’s Original Bar & Grille in Exton, Pennsylvania; we had also gone to Ron’s for my last great four-course gut-buster the weekend before I started Nutrisystem. As we pulled into the parking lot and navigated around mountains of melting snow, I realized that I was returning to the scene of the crime.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing criminal about the great food at Ron’s. What was criminal was the way I ate before I went on Nutrisystem. Now here we were at the place with the bread pudding that, as one reviewer cleverly put it, “is to die for.” And my wife had already decided she was definitely getting the bread pudding.

As our fifteen minute wait turned out to be only about five minutes, I was already close to giving myself a pass for the night. I was working on three or four very strong rationalizations, all of which were built upon my success to date. What’s one night of indulgence as a reward after I’ve been doing so well? A server walked by with a large pizza.

After we were seated, it was easy to order a Diet Coke as my wife had a glass of wine. That was a no-brainer. But, as we looked over our menus, I thumbed through my Nutrisystem Eating Out Guide and began to feel like I was losing control over the situation.

What harm could one pizza or cheesesteak do in the grand scheme of things? How could I figure out what I could or couldn’t eat under this kind of pressure? The Eating Out Guide reminded me that anything with a dressing or a sauce was a potential dietary time bomb, the mother-load of hidden calories. I felt like the guy who brought the knife to the gun fight.

Then it appeared near the bottom of the menu just as I was about to fall off the healthy-wagon. Chargrilled 6 oz. fresh-cut salmon served with lemon and fresh dill butter, brown rice and steamed broccoli. I’ll take it.

We enjoyed our meal, but then when my defenses were down, coffee ordered for me in lieu of desert, the server appeared and gleefully announced that there were two spoons in my wife’s bread pudding. I savored the rum sauce-drenched sweet course vicariously and left the second spoon untouched.

When we got home, I scarfed down my Nutrisystem dessert cookies and then decided to figure out whether I had stayed on the plan or not. I had checked off the items on my Nutrisystem Daily Tracker like clockwork up to the point when we went out to eat. I took to Google for the calorie counts and made this table to compare my remaining Nutrisystem items to what I had at Ron’s:

Calorie Table

I had failed. I had busted the Daily Tracker by the amount of calories in a whole Nutrisystem dinner entrée. Even though I made a good choice at Ron’s, I had gone off the Nutrisystem plan for the day. I had failed.

But it was a little failure. Just like a strikeout was a little failure to Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, and a missed shot was a little failure to Michael Jordan. They failed many more times than those who achieved much less. I want to fail like those guys.

Here’s to all our little failures, as they are but the bricks in the road that leads us finally to great success! Bend but don’t break my friends! Have a great week!



Goodbye Treadmill, Hello Winter at Valley Forge

When George Washington and his Army endured heavy snow and freezing temperatures at Valley Forge during February of 1778, they were taking a respite from fighting, not from endless hours of plodding on a treadmill. But for me, driving to Valley Forge yesterday and slogging through five miles of snow and slush was a tactical decision that kept me on track with losing weight and getting back into shape. And there were a few unexpected history lessons along the way that made the cold and wet trek quite enjoyable once I got warmed up.

We had over a foot of snow and ice on the ground already, and there was more snow and rain coming down at about a quarter to twelve yesterday morning when I decided I couldn’t endure another mind-numbing run on the treadmill at the gym. The sun had been out on Friday, and if they had plowed the five-mile path at Valley Forge National Park, there was an outside chance it just might be runnable. I threw on my grey hooded sweatshirt and jumped into my Honda CR-V and headed down a slushy Route 23 to find out. The temperature on my instrument panel said 33 degrees.

As I approached the parking lot by the von Steuben statue, I saw a few cars. There were families with younger kids sledding down the small hill that leads toward the Grand Parade grounds. There were also a few people off in the distance walking along the path, which was a good sign. I got out of the Honda to take a closer look and saw there was only a light dusting of snow on an otherwise clear path. Nice! It had been plowed.

I started jogging slowly and took it easy on the downhill sections. As I neared the Washington Memorial Chapel, a woman passed me going the opposite way running at a strong pace. Then a guy ran by me like I was standing still. I was glad to see other runners out there. The path was slushy in places, but there was pretty good traction on the thin layer of fresh snow.

As I passed the main visitor center after about a mile-and-a-half, I saw a large crowd of at least fifty people standing around the log huts along the North Outer Line Drive. There was a voice booming through loud speakers telling anyone within earshot that the bayonet was the only weapon used when General Charles Grey attacked Mad Anthony Wayne’s camp in September of 1777.

As the mix of snow and rain started to soak through to my skin, I realized I didn’t have it so bad compared to being run through with a bayonet in the middle of the night in nearby Paoli.

A half mile further along the path there was another group of what I could now see were Boy Scouts gathered around also listening to a speaker, who was dressed in Revolutionary War clothing. He was talking about the role of African-American soldiers from the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. I stopped and walked so I could listen as I passed through the crowd.

The so-called “wintry mix” of precipitation continued as I plodded forth. There was yet another group near the National Memorial Arch as I proceeded along the South Outer Line Drive and onto the trail running adjacent to Wayne’s Woods. As I shuffled over an icy section of path to the four mile point near Artillery Park, I learned, again via loudspeaker, that the song “Yankee Doodle” was originally written by an English doctor to mock the American Troops.

As the dulcet tones of Yankee Doodle being played on a fife faded into the distance, I crossed Gulph Road and ran the final stretch of the slushy path along the North Inner Line Drive. I was wet and tired after taking well over an hour for my five-mile chug through the elements, but after hearing about Washington’s winter at Valley Forge during the entire circuit, I realized I was lucky to have it so easy.

Within a few clicks after returning home, Google told me that I had happened upon the 102nd Annual Pilgrimage and Encampment event which was attended by Scouts from across the U.S. and Canada. It seems these intrepid Scouts camped out for the entire weekend to better learn about what Washington’s Army had experienced all those years ago. And they didn’t let the weather stop them.

I guess it didn’t stop me either, but I can’t wait to get back on that treadmill today.

Have a great Sunday and good luck getting your workout in!

Success Through the First Five Days. So Far So Good.

As Zig Ziglar said, “Happiness is not comfort, happiness is victory.” I always remembered that quote, even if it didn’t stop me from knocking off an entire large pepperoni pizza from time to time. So even though my wife and son both laughed at the tiny size of the Nutrisystem pizza I had for dinner, I felt good about choosing victory over comfort.

The pizza was good. I put some onions on it and had a salad. I’m five days into Nutrisystem and it’s working great so far. The scale says I’m four pounds less than when I started. I’ve kept up with running and I like the food. The hardest thing is still not snacking at night. I am eating carrots or other vegetables instead of the usual stuff I used to eat.

Definitely not comfort, but starting to look more like victory.

Is February Too Late for a 2014 New Year’s Resolution? Heck No!

My 2014 New Year’s Resolution: To lose 35 pounds and run a 10K in under 45 minutes.

My story: It’s February 2014. I’m fifty-four now. When I took up running in 2001 after I hit forty overweight and out of shape, and then worked my way up to running Boston in 2003, I promised myself I’d never get out of shape again.

But then I had a few injuries, and one cheeseburger led to another. Like Lawrence Block says, although running is addictive, not running is even more addictive. So, like Block’s burglar Bernie, I traded the running addiction for the more powerful addiction to not running. And here I am almost ten years later tipping the scales at two-hundred pounds, forty pounds heavier than the day I ran my last marathon in the fall of 2004.

I have tried to run off-and-on over these years, but was never able to go more than a week or so without getting another injury. Pulled calves, rolled ankles, pulled hamstrings, plantar fasciitis, etc. I finally decided to go slower and it worked. Now I’m into my sixth week of running consistently, mostly on a treadmill. I decided to go on Nutrisystem to finally lose the extra weight and get back into running races.

My goal is to run the Great Race 10K in Pittsburgh in September 2014 in under forty-five minutes. I’m not even close to being able to run at that pace right now, but if I can get to my goal weight of 165 by then, I think I’ll have a shot.