Posts Tagged ‘tracking’

MVP #056 – How to Run a 6-Minute Mile – Breaking Through Barriers

MVP #056 – How to Run a 6-Minute Mile –

Mocha Vegan Performance Podcast Episode #56 is available for your listening pleasure. Learn how to accomplish more than you ever thought possible!

MVP #056 – How to Run a 6-Minute Mile – Breaking Through Barriers


So you want to run a 6:00 mile or an 8:00 or 10:00 mile. You want to improve. YES! Identify your goal:

Let’s use the 6-Minute Mile.
One mile = 4 laps around the school track.
4 x 1:30 = 6:00
Half-lap pace would be 45 seconds or a quarter lap at 22.5 seconds.
You get the idea. Break down the goal into a small enough piece so that you can nail it! Then each week try to increase the number of times you can repeat this ‘miracle’ of new performance. Keep score, track your results and let me know how you do.
Running faster, lifting more weight, eating something better than a sleeve of Oreos when you get home. Performing any of these activities will require you to endure some pain. You have to train yourself to deal with some discomfort in order to enact change.
Habits are difficult to uproot. Try something fun and brush your teeth with the opposite hand or put on your pants with the other leg first.
Keep in mind that in order to change a habit, you must add in a replacement for that habit and practice it. Stick with in and you’ll be reporting that 6-Minute Mile in no time!

Listen in.

These notes are from last year (March 2013). One of the many tools that I brought into my toolbox was My Fitness Pal. 

I am loving this journey!  I am now consistently drinking 18 cups of water per day (6 of my water bottles).  I owe much of my consistency to the iPhone application My Fitness Pal.  It has a simple water cup tracker to help keep up with your hydration. It has a built-in bar code scanner now allows me to log things as I go, after the fact or even at the grocery store.

It is great.  I can actually scan items right at the grocery store and add them to my foods or a meal as zero servings and then put in what I actually eat when I do.  It is VERY convenient.  I enjoy weighing myself most mornings and understanding the body works on a cycle.  I also love that I can drink tons of water and it doesn’t stay with me.

2014 update:
What I eventually discovered was that I am most hydrated in the evening; that is typically when I weighed the most – after dinner / before bed. I figured out the daily cycle based upon weighing in at different times of the day when I was off work last year and in close proximity to a scale.


When I was regularly tracking my weight, I liked to use my morning weigh in after a bathroom break. I could measure without clothes, before I got dressed and it takes away many of the variables that provide uncertainty when tracking your weight. Things that leave doubt in your mind can steer you away from your goals. Find a private spot, weigh in naked and you eliminate the concern about whether your clothes weigh five pounds or a half pound; they are not a part of the equation.

I have learned so much. It helps to be a little obsessive about tracking what you are doing. What many people think is an unhealthy obsession can more aptly be termed LASER FOCUS.


By weighing in multiple times per day, at the same times each day, I discovered that you cannot rely on an individual weigh-in or snapshot to evaluate where you are in the process. My weight would fluctuate as many as SEVEN POUNDS during a single day or two.

Only by looking at weekly snapshots over several weeks can you see if you are trending up or down in weight.

Back to 2013:

My TapouT XT workouts 6 out of 7 days a week are extreme in their intensity and test my resolve, but the calories added to my daily food intake are worth the effort.  Plus the changes in my body are fun.  I am really starting to burn fat around the middle and I really didn’t think it was possible.  I had always just considered that the spare tire would remain no matter what I did…I guess I just hadn’t found the right thing yet.

Keep smiling,


Why do you think many diets or exercise plans fail? Yes, beyond the fact that quick fixes are not sustainable. Think about what happened that last time you started a diet or made a New Year’s Resolution. You start with an end in mind – perhaps a goal to “lose a few pounds” or to “become a distance runner” someday. Let’s start with diet:

The first day, you have a modest breakfast, a healthy lunch (or so you think) and what seems like a good dinner. And do so for a week. Yet, when you step on the scale the following week, you have actually gained a pound! What could have gone wrong? It IS hard to say. Perhaps your meals weren’t as modest as you thought. Since you weren’t previously a salad eater, that “healthy” salad may have been loaded with hard-boiled egg, bacon bits, cheese, meats, rich salad dressings that were calorie dense additions to those already delicious croutons on top.

What about the running / exercising approach as a resolution. Things always go well at first, don’t they? The gyms are notoriously packed the first half of January every year. Then there seems to be a slow dwindling of the people who arrive on a regular basis. Even getting a personal trainer is not a guarantee. Some people with less limited financial resources that me can retain a trainer for a long time as someone to hold them accountable for their efforts and progress. Let me try to save you some money and point you in the right direction.

Your first visit to a personal trainer – when they are interviewing to be your trainer (aka selling you a package of training sessions) will involve a tour of all of the types of equipment in the gym. Some of those with improper form might be pointed out, noting that you have to be careful not to do a certain thing so you do not hurt your back, etc. They sit down with you in a small office and ask about your goals. This is where they do something very valuable for you: They help identify what EXACTLY you hope to accomplish. You may want to lose or gain weight, become stronger, run faster, look good in your new gym clothes, who knows, but they will ask the right questions so that you COMMIT to a future version of yourself. The really good salespeople will help you visualize this new-and-improved version of you so that you don’t know how you’d possibly leave without signing up for their ongoing assistance. I’m not saying not to do this, because I learned a lot from Kevin when he helped me about ten years ago after I lost my first 50 pounds or so. He helped me understand how to do things beyond the equipment.

If your budget doesn’t allow for such a thing, there are endless other options, but they all involve one common thing: TRACKING. Tracking just means keeping score consistently so that you can make course corrections and keep your efforts moving you towards your goal or goals. In order to know where you’re heading, you goal should be SMART. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive goals.

Here’s how it works: You goal should be specific, i.e. “I want to lose twenty pounds in five months.” You have said how much weight you want to lose, good. Not just identifying that you want to thin down a little. This goal is also measurable because you could do weekly weigh-ins and see if you are moving forward. For the goal to be achievable, that is subjective, but you will know (in your heart of hearts) if you are setting the bar too high. Remember that extreme behavior shifts are typically very difficult to sustain in the long run. Most diets that exclude certain types of food or severely restrict calories ultimately result in the weight coming back. Take small positive steps by tracking your food intake and just looking to see what things that you normally eat may be causing you to maintain a higher than healthy weight. I remember Coca-Cola being the first thing to go when I tried WW on-line. It became OBVIOUS that this was something with no nutritional value that simply added calories to my day.

Make sure your goal is relevant. If your goal is something you don’t really care about, you won’t try hard to reach it. You have to feel the need for the goal, to have a strong reason WHY you are seeking the goal in the first place. And, finally, time-sensitivity is critical to goal-setting. I’ve been down this road many times in the past. I want to lose some weight. Ugh. Let’s go back to 20 pounds in five months or 20 pounds in a year. Once you set a reasonable, attainable, period of time it becomes math and common sense to make an actionable plan.

Let’s say my goal IS to lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks for the sake of keeping it simple. That would be losing one pound each week. Whoa, that sounds too scary, so I am going to say 10 pounds in 20 weeks. That means you would lose one pound in two weeks. And, like I touch on earlier, tracking what you eat with a food journal or an app or website like My Fitness Pal, can help you identify trouble spots and evaluate progress. My Fitness Pal (MFP) helps you calculate how many calories to eat to reach this goal. Here’s how it works: One pound is created when you eat an extra 3,500 calories – calories in addition to what your body requires to function based upon your size, gender and activity level. The same works in reverse. Once you have eaten 3,500 calories less than your body requires, you will lose one pound. If your goal is to lose a pound in two weeks (14 days), simply divide 3,500 calories by 14 days to reach a daily deficit of 250 calories. Even without tracking you might quickly decide that the Coke and handful of candy that you have during your workday might be adding up to 250 calories. And, if you could simply replace that soda with water and pass on the candy…it can be that simple. Habits are tricky things.

It is always good to consult with your doctor before changing your diet or exercise patterns. Please do not try to match numbers with the weight loss shows on television like Biggest Loser. These are unhealthy endeavors and the contestants are very closely monitored in a closed environment in most cases.

Track your food if you want to lose weight. You will see patterns. Track your runs if you want to run a distance race. Just make sure that your define your goals as S.M.A.R.T. goals so that you can make a plan that measures (tracks) your progress towards your goal.

A couple of resource links that I used to help for weight loss and/or training for a race:

My Fitness Pal There are great community forums here. I am phipps3113 on MFP.

ONTRI This website guided me through training for my first half marathon in 2004, my first marathon and my first few triathlons. They have free or paid plans. I always used the free ones. There are great forums with lots of people willing to help, just like on MFP. This gives you a place to log what you accomplish so you can see how you are doing.

Please tell me what your goals are. Goals in your head are just fantasies. Get it in writing, make yourself accountable by telling the world. If you aren’t ready to tell everyone, send a message just to me. I’d be happy to help.

Snooze…snooze, yawn, stretch and slowly slide out of bed. I am not late. This is the Lost Dutchman. No crazy lines. Park and walk for a while, but get there in time for a minimal wait at the porta-johns and start the race.

I wore my crazy orange shoes. I don’t wear them often because they broke me in good the first time I tried to run in them. Within a mile-and-a-half they removed the skin from atop a toe ON EACH FOOT! I am such a softy, seriously, I had to take the shoes off and complete the last 3/4 mile barefoot. The cars driving by must have really thought I was strange – running barefoot and carrying those crazy orange shoes.


Today I came armed with socks. I even put some body glide on top of my toes (just in case). I hydrated heavily yesterday AND this morning. I had a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter and about one cup of my green smoothie. I have been having green smoothies every morning for about six weeks now. It has become a forever habit. I will write a post about my smoothie very soon and tell everyone what I put in it in case you need a nudge to get started. Remind me if I forget, thanks.

I looked at the starting area when I arrived ten minutes or so before go time and thought how cool that you are not forced into corrals based upon your race number and predicted finish time like some other races. I looked at the sign next to the front area that said 5:00 pace. Woa, how cool would it be to someday line up in there and BELONG there!?! I glanced back and saw my friend 9:00 and I looked back at 6 and 7, but I was thinking about 8-minute miles. That doesn’t seem that fast, right? 13.1 times 8 gets me to 1:45…

Let’s see how it goes.

I miss the start taking a quick pit stop, but that clears the area a little and head out fording the sea of energetic runners. After 3 or 4 minutes I see my wife, Lynn, and wish her well. I will see her again on the way back. I thought about my number again, 8.

There was a good downhill in the fourth mile, so I tried to bank as many seconds below 8 minutes as I could in anticipation of being tired and dealing with hills and the morning breeze starting to pick up later in the race. I tested my pace, but didn’t have much extra to give, so I focused on cadence. Quick turnover to keep the steps light. I did not want to make that fatal flaw of taking too large of a stride in a slow cadence and actually slow myself down even more. I was slowly passing people, one-at-a-time, through the entire first half. I hit the turnaround at 52:26 and my fear became real – I had used half of my self-allotted 1:45 and I had uphill, wind and tiring legs to contend with.

Quick feet, Mark, focus.

I saw my brother-in-law at mile 7 (he was at 6.1 and doing very well). I encouraged him and kept moving. I saw Lynn around mile 7.6 and she asked me when she’d finish (I of course rounded up – she beat my prediction).

I had considered taking a Gatorade or Gu, but that wasn’t how I did things. I drank water at each aid station. At mile 8 or 9 they had bananas and that’s how I do things. Thank you!

Things slowed down when I made the next turn. That incredible downhill from the outward half was now up AND into the wind. I considered slowing and getting behind a couple of different people and drafting. I couldn’t spare the seconds as I lost 49 seconds over miles 10 & 11. Then I saw the big hill. Brain takes it all in and informs body that there is no way.

Step step step step step. Fast and light.

The banana from the aid station is now in my bloodstream and sugar helps me subdue my negative thoughts. I dumped water on my head at the last two aid stations and that helped take overheating out of the picture. I enjoy the scenery and pass more people now that I am back within the 10K course. Lots of people. No worries. I move left to the center line like an 18-wheeler getting ready to pass on a two way road. I rode that line for almost a mile. RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE!

Hello Mr. Hill.

The hill seemed to stare back at me. I pulled aside another runner with the green race number like my #1638 and described how I felt. He said it was mental. “You’re right, thanks!”

I accelerated into the hill.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I was winded and the last half mile looked pretty long with my new 170-something heart rate going on. I remember thinking 220 minus my age is EXACTLY WHAT MY WATCH SAYS. Let’s get ‘er done already.

I was happy to cross the finish line – it made me smile big now, writing this, at 1:44:56. My official time was less, but it was really cool to beat that seemingly unattainable 1:45 and just under an 8-minute pace. I am convinced that my new found plant power is always improving my body. Slowly reversing the damage done by years of abuse by food and drink.

This is the first of many milestones and I invite you all to come along for the ride. I will teach you everything I know so that you can feel what I felt crossing that line yesterday.

Small positive steps and intentional change will take you to the goals you never dared dream. My best half marathon was my first – 1:54 in 2004. Ten years older and ten minutes faster. I want the next ten minutes in less time than that.

Here’s to you runners and runners-at-heart. Pursue your dreams. Aim high –  I love that saying:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.― Norman Vincent Peale


Green smoothie time!

Green smoothie time!