Saturday, July 17, 2010

My iPod Running Playlist

Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, so they say. Music also has the ability to alter or moderate one's mood, for better or for worse. Furthermore, music can be used to drown out noises like your idiotic co-worker who sits in the next cubie over and has been coughing and grunting incessantly for the past five years. And music can make monotonous chores and activities tolerable.

I need my music when I run, no if's, and's, or but's. A lack of music is sufficient cause for me to cancel a run rather than try it without my sweet tunes. It inspires me, fires me up, and keeps my brain busy.

The following are the songs currently on my iPod's "Running" playlist, presented in alphabetical order.

Bad Romance/Telephone; Lady GaGa
Hey, these songs have a good beat and you can to them.

Buddy Holly; Weezer
Sometimes, there's a song you like, then time goes by, and you get sick of it. Then eventually, years later you hear it again and remember why you like it. That's why this one's in the rotation. Unfortunately, I'm getting sick of it again, so it looks like Buddy Holly may end up crashing. What...too soon?

Carrie-Anne; The Hollies
From Buddy Holly to The Hollies. Lately, I've been experiencing a bit of a British Invasion re-discovery/obsession. Always liked this one. But...what is Carrie-Anne's game, anyway?

Downtown; Petula Clark
See "Carrie-Anne"

For All The Saints
Hymns can be very stirring for the soul, and this one really does it for me. I particularly like the next to last verse, which talks about how a "distant triumph song" lifts the spirits, renews our energy and helps us to soldier on. Appropriate, no? This is by far one of my favorite hymns.

"...and hearts are brave again, and arms (AND LEGS!) are strong...

Happy Together; The Turtles
See Petula Clark and The Hollies. Now if only I can get the image out of my mind of Mario and Yoshi frolicking through a field then eventually punching each other out...

Head Over Heels/Our Lips Are Sealed; The Go-Gos
Catchy, upbeat, definitely gets the legs going. Also, it has some lines that are fitting for a runner...

"...been running so long; what I need is to unwind.."

How You Like Me Now; The Heavy
Oh, this one's a pure "posturing" guilty pleasure for me. Hey, I started out at 220, and now I'm down to 180. So, how do you like me now, sucker? That, and the pseudo-James Brown funky beat makes this one a good running companion. And I almost never have the image of that damned sock monkey from the Kia commercial running through my head anymore.

I Wanna Be Sedated; The Ramones
Fast, frenetic, and short. Like a good run!

I Won't Back Down; Tom Petty
What's that you say? I'm not getting any younger, the weather is hot, and I should take it easy? Screw that, pal...I won't back down!

"..gonna stand my ground; won't be pushed around; and I'll keep this world from pushing me around..."

It's The End Of The World As We Know It; R.E.M.
My all-time favorite song ever? Not on my running playlist? Yeah right...

Jocko Homo; Devo
The synthpunk industrial beat of this song makes it a perfect running choice, and the mechanical noises in the song's bridge bring to mind pistons and machinery pounding away rhythmically. I find my legs pumping in time with that beat, no matter how tired I am. And if there's no one else on the running path, then yeah, maybe sometimes I indulge in the "call and response" of "Are we not men? We are DEVO!"

Random observation: When Mark Mothersbaugh does the "we must repeat" call and response at the end of the song, he sounds like Ed from the cartoon Ed, Edd, and Eddy. You know, the dumb Ed.

"Okay, let's GO!"

Leaving New York; R.E.M.

Quite possibly the most beautiful R.E.M. song ever. It's a nice slow-down song, helps me maintain a more mellow pace.

Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me); Reunion
One of the leftovers from my recent 70's kick. This one's starting to wear out its welcome.

The Mesopotamian s; They Might Be Giants
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal and Gilgamesh! This song from their latest CD is bouncy and upbeat. Never fails to perk me up a little.

Monster Zero March
A very recent addition, this instrumental theme totally kicks ass. No matter what state I'm in, no matter how hot it is, or how far into my run I am, this one kicks me into overdrive. Absolutely love it.

Onward Christian Soldiers; Stretch Arm Strong
A punk version of another of my favorite hymns. Fast, uptempo, and just a lot of fun.

"...we are not divided; all one body we; onward Christian soldiers; on to victorrrrry..GO TEAM!"

Story Of My Life; Social Distortion
I love this song, and it's got a good beat to it.

Superman Theme; John Williams
Do I really need to explain this one!?!?!

Supernatural Superserious; R.E.M.
The guitar work, the fast tempo, and the progressively more complex drum work make this one a good way to get my blood moving faster.

Tell Her No; The Zombies
Another of my British Invasion selections, but this one's starting to irritate me, as I find myself paying closer attention to the words. So basically, the singer is telling this other guy that if the singer's girl tells this guy that she loves him and wants him, he should just tell her no. What a wuss! How about "stay away from my girl or I'll rip your goddam lungs out, chump!"? Yeah, this one may be out the door soon. Love the band name, though...

Tessie; Dropkick Murphys
Hmmm...let's see...anthemic song, extols the Red Sox, and gives you a chance to yell out "Two...three...four!" as well as the ever-popular "Oi!". Yeah, I'm there...

Tubthumping; Chumawumba
This one should be obvious...the heat and the exertion is ready to knock you down...but you get up again! It's never gonna keep you down! Good morale-boosting song.

"...I drink a whiskey drink, I drink a vodka drink; and when I have to pee, I use the kitchen sink!"- H. Simpson

Working Girl; The Members
Obscure punk/new-wave song by slightly less obscure punk band. Good harmony during the chorus keeps this one on as a sing-along, but I think it's time is drawing to a close.

You're My World; Helen Reddy
Funny, but every iteration of my Running playlist has ONE unabashedly mushy song on it. In the past it's been songs like "Somewhere in the Night" by Barry Manilow, or "(I'll Be) The Greatest Fan Of Your Life" by Edwin McCain. Who knows. Maybe it has something to do with the endorphins that get churned up after I hit the "runners wall". I actually tripped over this one because, in checking British Invasion playlists, I initially found an earlier version done by Cilla Black (a protege of George Martin). That's when I remembered, "Hey! I've always liked this song!" I just think that Reddy's version is better. So this one serves as the requisite mush song.

Songs That May End Up On The Playlist Sooner Rather Than Later
The 1812 Overture (Finale)
Whip It; Devo
Twist and Shout; Beatles
Always Look On The Bright Side of Life; Monty Python

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Outed! Yes, We HAVE Been Dieting!

As can be ascertained from recent photos of Carol and me, things are finally getting to the point where the evidence is becoming...well...evident. Carol and I have been quietly engaged in nutritional warfare since the beginning of the year, and it's time to finally come clean about it. The whole truth, now with 20% less fat.

We've been back on the Weight Watchers program for months now, supplemented by exercise.

Those of you who've been paying attention know that we made a similar attempt last year. In an effort to try and stay more accountable, I made a huge deal about it on Facebook, such as posting mysterious numbers (e.g. my current weight) in my status. My reasoning was that, if people knew I was on Weight Watchers again, it'd keep me honest. After all, who likes to screw up in front of friends, family, acquaintances, and such? And since my own profile is public, I surely didn't want to possibly give other people a sense of schadenfreude if I failed.

It was a radical experiment, but with limited success. The problem that Carol and I have found in past attempts at doing a "food plan" is that we eventually get bored with it due to lack of variety, and it just...falls by the wayside. Old habits, as well as the lost weight, return like a Crisco-smeared boomerang.

So, avoiding the loaded language involved in calling it a "New Years Resolution", on January 2, 2010, we embarked on Weight Watchers again. We would've started on January 1st, but it was impractical; too much leftover Chinese food and Mimosas. But we decided to get back on it and this time see it through to the end because hey, eventually it becomes a quality of life issue. Let's face it...extra weight means a greater likelihood of health problems. Getting older also means a greater likelihood of health problems. You can do something about ONE of those, and can't do anything about the other. And so....what will you do about it?

We decided this time around to tell no one. Not a soul. Eventually we relaxed that a little, letting family in on it, plus a few select folks. For as long as we could get away with it, it would be our little secret. We'd just do the Weight Watchers thing....take more walks, and when the weather got better, I'd resume running, and when the time was right, Carol would join a gym.

But how to alleviate boredom? Enter Hungry Girl.

For those not in the know, Hungry Girl is this media figure who, as her tagline goes, is not a nutritionist; she's just hungry! Who can argue against that? We all get hungry! Bottom line, she has come up with a slew of amazing recipes that liven up a food plan and stave off boredom.

And so, that's what we did. We already knew the point values of many of our favorite foods, so it was easy to get back into it. We then simply supplemented our meals with Hungry Girl stuff. And by "stuff", I'm talking about recipes for things like onion rings, chili dogs, buffalo chicken salads, chocolate lava cake, margaritas, strawberry daiquiris, and nachos, all with the common characteristic that it all tastes fantastic, as opposed to tasting like ass.

So, people around you are gorging on restaurant food and you can't? Fine. You hang in there, go home, open an HG book, whip up a huge plate of point-friendly (and once again, it must be noted "good"!) nachos, and a frosty margarita. Really...what have you missed? Thus, you're more inclined to stay on the plan. Morale and appetite are served, and everybody wins.

Thus far, I've lost 40 lbs. Carol has lost more even than that. Our old clothes are fitting again, we're getting new clothes, we've decided that cameras are not hateful curses from Satan's bottom after all, and there'll be times that I'll see my reflection as I pass a mirror and admit that I'm not really that hideous after all!

I'm at a point in my running distance that in previous years I didn't get to until the fall. Carol has joined a gym and is pumping iron. We take long walks at lunch, and sometimes at home we even get up extra early and take long walks in our area.

We still have a ways to go. Clearly, we'll be on this thing right up to the -ember holidays, and very possibly beyond. But we've finally hit upon a formula that works, and we don't feel like quitting now. In fact, we feel better when we're on it. I'm at 180 now, and according to my doctor's height-weight tables (drawn up by drug-addled elves from Unrealistic Land), I'm supposed to be at 160.

I find that laughable. The lowest I've been at was 156, and I resembled a deformed lollipop. Really. A long torso, shorter-than-average legs, and a large head. Lollipop time. I've had to keep nervously looking over my shoulder to see if there was an owl wearing glasses and a mortar board and going "Let's find out..Ah one, ah two-hoo, ah three...CHOMP! Three!"

So the jury's out on 160. We'll see when I get to 170.

Here are some things I've learned/observed so far on our journey of sustained loss:

1. It's amazing how much of our social life revolves around food. It's so hard to get away from it. Best you can do is try to get the point counts for the things you plan on eating. That in fact is one of the best pieces of advice..plan ahead. Bank your Weight Watcher points, eat light leading up to the get-together.

2. One of the best ways to start a diet like this is to admit, right up front, that hey, eating is a pleasurable experience! It's great! And then from there, realizing that you're dealing with a very tempting, very pleasurable, but ultimately very fattening experience, you consciously make the effort to cut back.

3. Which leads to this point: No pain, no gain. It IS hard. It IS a pain in the butt. But if you're someone who feels entitled to do what they want, when they want, or make excuses, or rationalize, you will fail. Eventually you reach a point where you have to put your foot down and say "Enough. No more excuses. No more rationalization. No more 'I've had a rough day, I deserve a treat'. It ends now." And it takes patience. It's a slow process. Crash diets don't work. A slow, 1-2 pound loss a week is ideal.

4. It's amazing how many aches, pains, and instances of soreness, have gone away. My resistance to colds, which has always been pretty good, has gotten better. Many aspects of life have significantly improved, too numerous to mention.

5. On a related note, as hot and nasty as it's been lately, I've somehow managed to tolerate this heat better this year (and I'm notorious for not taking heat and humidity well, as in "Jack Torrence 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'" notorious). Perhaps it's because I no longer have the equivalent of four 10-pound bags of sand hanging off my shoulders anymore? Carrying around extra weight makes you tired, hot, and more susceptible to getting sick.

6. You know what really helps torpedo a diet? Free food at work. Thing to remember is, the food's cash-free, but it's not fat-free. And if you tend to pick, graze, and nibble, then you're in deep trouble. So you avoid it altogether, if that's what you have to do. And when people keep trying to push it on you, you keep refusing. Know your limitations, and work within them.

7. On a related note to that one, nothing stops well-meaning obnoxious food pushers better than saying "Look, I can't eat that, and it's for health reasons." As persistent as people can be, they tend to back off if health is involved. The older you get, the more likely you'll get things like high blood pressure, and such. Being at a healthy weight can help mitigate stuff like that.

8. Females Reacting To Carol Losing Weight, Part One: It's amazing how many "Eat hot death, bitch!" glares I've personally seen Carol get from some women. Hey, if it means that much to you, then take some of that energy you spend in being pissed off at someone for trying to improve themselves, and go do something similar yourself! That's why Carol never begrudges anyone who's worked hard to lose weight because frankly, yeah, the process does suck. It involves self-denial, and self-denial is remarkably un-fun.

9. Females Reacting To Carol Losing Weight, Part Two: I've had some women come up to me and say "Carol looks so good! She's lost so much weight!" When I've thanked them and suggested that they tell her in person, they're horrified, bless them, because they don't want it to be taken the wrong way.

10. Females Reacting to Carol Losing Weight, Part Three: There's a very special, very select group of women, and these are the ones who are currently or who have recently had their own weight loss experience. These ladies are cool. They compliment Carol, and sometimes, when it's an in-person situation, I see Carol and them exchanging knowing glances, the kind of glance that says "Boo-ya, we did it!"

10. Females Reacting To Me Losing Weight: I've had some women compliment me on weight loss, and leave it at that. That's perfect.

11. Males Reacting To Me Losing Weight: Men don't tell other men that they're losing weight, lest they be mistaken for being gay.

12. Males Reacting To Carol Losing Weight: Men like the idea that other men think their wife is hot, and I'm definitely no exception. A few have popped up on the radar recently, apparently only now realizing something I've known for over a decade, namely that my wife is beautiful and hot. Unfortunately, many guys desperately need to take a page from the "woman's book of complimenting the opposite sex on their weight loss". Complimenting is one thing, trying to start a flirtation (unsuccessfully, as it will always end up being), or saying stuff that's getting into "You're crossing the line" territory, is a whole other thing, and one that neither of us appreciate, even if that is not explicitly stated. Look, but don't touch. Compliment, but leave it at that.

13. If you absolutely, positively must fall off the wagon for a day, make it just that: for a day, then get right back on it again. Don't stretch it into two days...three days...a week...a fortnight...a month... It's a slippery slope. The last time we deviated was because of events that involved a death in the extended family. That's how "fascist" we've become with this. Hey, for us, it works. And it's interesting to note that when we deviated for that one day, despite the enjoyable act of unrestrained uncounted eating, we felt like crap afterward, and longed to be back on the plan.

14. Plan..that reminds me. Plan ahead. I know I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Carol and I have been taking a look at our social calendar for the next two months, and we're staring down the barrel of a few diet-busting events. In two weeks, there's a gaming convention. Any con-goer will tell you that overeating and overdrinking go together with cons like peanut butter and jelly...and donuts....and pizza....and nachos....and beer...and steak...and cheesecake... And two weeks after that there's a gathering that will entail lots of drinking on a Friday night, with a special dinner the following night, and more chances to drink, snack, and drink some more. It'll be unrealistic to say "No thanks". There's no way in good conscience that either Carol or myself can turn down a big plastic syringe filled with a jello shot that glows like the resurrection serum from Herbert West: Re-animator. We can't, so we won't. But once that weekend gathering is over, back on we go. And believe me, we'll be glad to do so!

15. This one relates to Number 8. Now, some may call us paranoid, but we've seen this happen time and again, during previous diet attempts. You announce to people that you're dieting. Within a week, people who don't normally bring in snacks and food for everyone start doing so. It's the oddest coincidence. Now, we're not saying that every time someone's brought in food it's been as an act of sabotage, in fact, it's safe to say that the majority of the time it's simply motivated by being a nice person, but there are some cases where the timing is noteworthy enough that it makes you go "Hmmmm..."

16. The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight. It's not a cliche, it's the truth. Furthermore, the closer you get to your goal, the harder it gets, because you have less to lose, and you're struggling through weight numbers that you probably haven't been at in years.

And so, yes, it's official: we're dieting again. The so-called secret is out. But this time, we have the variety, we have the incentive, we have options. We're both past our halfway point, but the road's about to get bumpier.

Wish us luck.