Last Updated on November 16, 2021 by David Vause
2021 was not the best of years for me. During the 2020 lockdown, I flourished using the time off to work out and study data science in Python. By October, I was running and lifting regularly, was down to the low 140’s, and had made it through Python for Data Science, Visualization in Python with Matplotlib, and Machine Learning with Python. Then we went back to work.
Unlike most of the Federal Government, our Agency reconstituted the workforce in October 2020, excepting high-risk individuals. My employer has taken all possible measures to suppress COVID spread. Masks are mandatory at all times, except while eating. Partitions have been erected between desks. Meetings are banned. Messaging on walls, emails, and websites constantly warn of COVID and track infection numbers and vaccination rates. But behind this is constant muttering and whining from those who oppose masks and shots. While the precautions are necessary, the dissent makes the atmosphere oppressive, like being under siege. The 12 months spent under those circumstances have eroded my energy and positive outlook. I’m on the threshold of retirement and have acquired an increasing sense of purposelessness. The stress at work, as with so many Americans, enticed me to self-medicate at home with too much wine. The excess calories inevitably took their toll, and I gained eight or nine pounds.
My weight gain has not been strictly due to excess ethanol. My 2019 Marine Corps Marathon was shockingly slower than my last in 2012, so I decided to include some speed work in my running. I read Run Less, Run Faster, which advocates less running volume with workouts of greater intensity. I have essentially been running long, slow, distance, nicknamed LSD, for 15 years. My brain rebelled against the much higher effort prescribed in the repeats and tempo runs. But I did them and found that despite the faster paces advocated in the program, I could still complete the workouts without excessive effort. More importantly, the intensity grew on me emotionally. I found the run exhilarating and empowering. I came to enjoy the effort. It is wonderful, as I near 70, to feel increasingly strong.
I diverged from the FIRST plan in that I did not run less, wanting to maintain my usual ramp-up in mileage as I prepared for my eighth Marine Corps Marathon. I embedded the FIRST workouts into my longer miles unwittingly subjecting myself to much higher stress than envisioned by the plan’s developers. Unfortunately, I repeatedly injured myself this year as a result. It wasn’t until my third injury-motivated layoff from running that I finally fully understood that I could not sustain that intensity and volume. Injury is unusual for me. I typically need a layoff once every two or three years. In 2021, it was three in a single year.
Even when I’m not ramping for a marathon, I typically run 25 to 30 miles per week. The numbers are obvious. I got a surplus of 150 calories for each glass of wine I consumed. And, I lost a deficit of approximately 3,000 calories a week during the multi-week layoffs. This makes for a bad year.
Six weeks remain in the year. Each December 31st, I try to look back on the year and vow to continue the positive trends that I either initiated or continued across the year. I turned 66 this year, incidentally, my last before retirement. And I put on eight pounds. What can I do to fix this?