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My Introduction To Hashing… Or The Best Running Event Ever!

This weekend, I was officially introduced to the world of the international group known as Hash House Harriers, or as they describe themselves: a drinking club with a running problem.

Hashing was the best time I’ve ever had running!

So before I get too far, I guess I need to explain what Hashing is. Hashing follows thee basic rules of a Paper chase or the Hound and Hare game. The ‘hare’ starts off the run and creates a trail. He leaves powder or pieces of paper to mark the trail. He creates ‘checks’, or forks in the trail where he tries to throw the ‘hounds’ off the trail. A few minutes later all of the ‘hounds’ are released to chase the hare. They run trying to find the trail, most likely following a false trail and finding their way back to the ‘true trail’.

The major differentiator between hashing and a traditional paper chase is that the hashers LOVE TO DRINK! The chase is meant to be one big open social event. You exercise. You party. It’s awesome! Now, you don’t have to drink… but come prepared to DRANK! Don’t worry about the extra calories, you’ll burn them off.

Before I get to my hash recap, I want to give you 5 reasons you should stop what your doing, look up your local hash group, and sign up for the next run:

1. Mixes up your run.

Hashing isn’t just running on the street at a set pace like most of your runs. Hashing takes you off the beaten path: through fields, down abandoned streets, under overpasses, in drainage ditches, wherever the hare decides to take you, you go. Not only do you mix up the path, you mix up the pace. You may run for a while, stop to find the trail, or sprint to catch up to the rest of the pack. I definitely used some running muscles that hadn’t been worked in a while.

2. Discover your city

I’ve lived in my city for 6 years, yet I have never been to 95% of the places I ran during my hash. Discovering new places while your running is a little different than driving by places. You’re in the place experiencing it as opposed to driving by and observing it from the outside. Since your running in all directions, you get turned around pretty easily, which brings on some extra excitement when you realize where you are after pushing your way through a wall of brush and overgrowth.

3. It’s like college for grownups

If your in the same boat as me, you have a real job, a wife, kids, responsibility, you probably sometimes long for the days when you were in high school or college; the days you went out with your buddies and drank beer and told dirty jokes and didn’t have many cares. In one night, I satisfied all my yearnings for college days of yore. My wife and I got a babysitter, and went out and had a blast. Between the bars, the house parties, and the fun people, it was like reliving the best parts of college. Just for a night, I could revert back to my 21 year old self, and have 40 other people in the same boat.

4. Age and Fitness don’t mean a thing!

The way the run is set up, you can be out of shape (within reason) and still keep up. The trail can be run or walked, so no worries if you aren’t a runner. In fact, the walkers sometimes do better because they can fall back and let the runners run all over the place trying to find the trail. In the hash I went to, there was men and women ages 21 – 60, weighing anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds. We all walked across the finish line within minutes of each other. The only thing everyone had in common, was were were wanting to have fun.

5. We all need a little bit of ritual

At the end of the trail, we all joined together in a circle to thank the hare for the greta trail, to properly introduce all the new hashers (by making them drink a beer), to welcome or welcome back hashers from other places (by making them drink a beer), to call out the people that didn’t come in costume (by making them drink a beer), and to tease the people who wore new shoes (by making them drink a beer… out of their new shoes). While it is definitely an alcohol heavy event, the important part was to open up, meet new people, and have a great time.

WARNING: I will admit, hashing is probably not for you if you are easily offended. Some of the jokes, rituals, etc. are in what some might consider poor taste. But I say, open up your mind, join in, and you will have a great time.

My Hash Recap

My first hash was with the Rocket Shitty Hash House Harriers on their 250th hash. They teamed up with a local running group, the Dixie Daredevils, to raise money for the American Cancer Society (Running, Drinking, and Philanthropy?!). For the big event they set up a pub run, which is a hash that starts, has multiple pit stops, and ends at different bars along the trail.

This hash took place in downtown Huntsville, AL and followed a course that went about 4.5 miles (not including the false trails). We started off at a bar called the Furniture Factory for our “Pre-Lube”. I admit, I was a little nervous going into the run. I’ve had a little practice drinking and running, but 5 miles and four beer stops, could I handle it? You bet I could!

Luckily, we were able to find a last minute babysitter, and my wife came with me. I had invited another couple we are friends with and they met us there as well. He had done some hashing in Nashville, which was good because I had already had beer when they were giving the hash instructions. I introduced myself as Just George, since it was my first hash and I haven’t earned a hash name yet (each hasher has a special hash name that is given to them by the group).

So after a group picture, the blessing of the hare, and another beer, the hash had started. The first leg was a little confusing. I didn’t know all the rules, so I just followed the pack, but I stayed too close to the front runner, because we got way off course and had to make our way back to the larger pack, you had found the right way to go. The sun was still out, and the temp was around 90, so it was a hot run. I’m glad I’ve been training in the heat, because I was doing much better than some other people. The first path took us over some train tracks, under some underpasses, and across parking lots.

After about a mile, we stopped at a bar called Leanne’s for some refreshments. That’s where the picture at the top of the page was taken. As soon as we walked in, we had bottles handed to us. I nice cool beer had never tasted as good as it did after a mile in the hot sun. My wife even drank one, and she’s not a beer person. I drank one beer for me, and half of my wifes beer and we were off again!

I though it would be bad running with so much beer on the stomach, but to be honest, I never even noticed it. I was amazed how it didn’t affect my running at all. The next leg was around 2.5 miles. The course got harder at this point. We went down old road that have grown over, through fields that needed to be mowed, across a drainage ditch that we had to climb down into (and up out of), through an old mill campus, and finally to some bar that I’ve never heard of. Well at that bar, this was waiting:

So after two more beers and some good conversations, we went off on the last leg of the run. I would have to say the last leg was the hardest. It had gotten cooler since the sun had gone down, but that caused a new problem: it was dark. We were warned to bring flashlights, so we were at least a little prepared. During the last phase, the trail took us through some broken fences, a field that had grass, weeds and shrubs waist high, followed by some ditches that were hard to see. I’m glad I had my Vibrams on and was light on my feet, there were a few times the ground wasn’t shaped the way I expected when I landed.

After a few lost trails, we finally made it to an open gate that led to someones back yard where tiki torches, coolers of beer, and many boxes of pizza were waiting for us. After everyone flowed in and had a chance to relax and enjoy a refreshing beverage, they started the circle.

The circle started by thanking the hare for the great trail (which it was great). They then announced all of the named hashers and welcomed back any that had missed a few hashes. They then introduced all of the virgin hashers and hashers that were visiting from out of town. Of course all of these thanks, announcements, and introductions came with a beer for each of them to chug. Of course, the lucky ones were special enough to dring out of the sacred vessel (yes I realize what it is).

The best part of the night was that the Dixie Daredevils met their $15,000 goal to run the Hood to Coast relay in california for the American Cancer Society. Those girls were super cool and knew how to have a good time. Very proud of them.

For anyone that is interested, my beer tab looked like this (I drank shitty beer on purpose): Pabst Blue Ribbon, Coors * 1.5, Bud Light * 1.5, Keystone Light (my broke college days favorite), and a Bud Light Yuengling mixture out of the sacred vessel.

After a little too much beer and a lot of fun, we decided to get back to the real world and head home (babysitter was paid by the hour :) ). Luckily I woke up the next mornign feeling great, which was an extra, unexpected bonus!

I had a blast. My wife had a blast. Our friends had a blast. I’m so glad we all went, and I will definitely be back at the next hash.

Have you ever gone hashing? Tell me about your experience.

A Very Belated Geek Into Shape Update

What’s going on all?!

I know it it has been way too long since my last blog post or podcast.  If you have been a long time follower of the blog, you see a trend that I have periods of inactivity. That’s just how my life goes sometimes. But I appreciate all of you who still take the time to stop by and visit the site.

I thought I would take a moment to give a quick update about what’s been going on in my world:

I met my goal weight! And then some!

I started my latest fitness push in December 2009. So the classic BEFORE picture:

BEFORE – December 25, 2009 – Playing the role of the jolly fat man too well

And here is where I am now! Well, this is technically me before Thanksgiving 2010, but I can assure you, I made no extra progress in the month of December, and I’m just a few pounds less now, so close enough :)

AFTER - November 2010 - Me and the family.

I finally got down to 190, which was my goal weight. I then proceeded to drop down to 185.5 at my lowest. Since then, I have been up and down between 185 and 190.  It feels fantastic to set such a long term goal and meet it.  In 2010, I went from 236lbs to 186 lbs — 50 pounds! I went from a tight size 38 pants to a comfortable size 34. All of my XL shirts are now awkwardly baggy.  I’ve had to buy all new belts too!

I want to thank all of the people that have supported me along the way. So to all of you, a very heartfelt THANK YOU!

There is some bad news though. Now that I’m at 185 – I realized that I am still not in shape. Most of my weight loss was accomplished by just being more gooder than badder. I didn’t eat great, but I ate better. I didn’t work out every day, but I did more than before. But now that I have slowly got back into the normal weight range, I look in the mirror and realize that I still have more work to do.

The good news, though, is how I now feel like I’m in control of my body. When I was 230+, I never felt like health was attainable. I had fat man syndrome. I saw guys with six pack abs on the beach and never thought I’d be able to be in that club. Since I have tackled the initial weight loss, I started to realize how much my body is capable of. I now know that if I want six pack abs, all I have to do is work hard at it. And since I have shed all the extra weight, it won’t take long at all. It’s as if a whole new world of fitness possibilities has magically opened up. More on that later.

For reference, here is my before picture from Christmas 2009

A New Geek Into Shape Project

Another reason I have been absent is that my limited spare time has been focused on another project. It is slightly related to what Geek Into Shape is all about. I am in early development of a new website/app that will be super cool. I’m not going to spill the beans on this just yet. I’ll be contacting some of my blogging friends to beta test the website once I have it at a decent point. There is the possibility that I might move my whole geek into shape efforts over to this new project, but I’ll stick with it as a side project for now.

2011 Goals

I realized that I never did the traditional “What I plan to do this year” post. So I’ll do it now. As I mentioned, my world has opened up to what I believe I am capable of. I know I have always been capable of doing these things, but this year I am in the right, positive mindset to make this shit happen! So here are my 11 goals of 2011

  1. Run five 5k races
  2. Run two 10k races
  3. Run a half marathon
  4. Run the Warrior Dash
  5. Have a six pack (or some semblance thereof)
  6. 100 Pushups in a row
  7. 25 pull-ups in a row
  8. Less than 25 minute 5k
  9. Increase flexibility (palms on ground during standing toe touch)
  10. Read 10 books
  11. Launch new Project

So far, I have made positive progress on all of my goals. I’ve got my first 5k and 10k of the year scheduled for March. I have already registered for the Warrior Dash! I’m ready to rock these goals!

In conclusion…

Well, that is all I have time for right now. As always, I will try to make some extra time to blog and come up with new content, but as of now I am in a mainly consumer mode. Of couse, the last time I made that statement, I went through a posting frenzy :) Hopefully that will happen again!

Have a great day and weekend!

Fitness Morals I Learned At The Movies

I have come across about 7 bajillion posts relating fitness to movies lately – well, more like 5 - but I have been thoroughly enjoying how each person relates the movie plot and morals to real life fitness issues.

Here are a few that I’ve really enjoyed:

The Matrix Guide to Running
halfofjess.comThis is a great article about taking the red pill, breaking out of the totally weak matrix, and becoming a running badass… The One.

007 Ways to Become the James Bond of Health
healthylifestyledesign.comThis article gives you 7 tips on how to become a bad ass fitness spy!

Make Optimus Prime Proud – Start Transforming Your Life
nerdfitness.comAnother killer post about the fitness journey is just a bunch of small transformations that end up with you being a truck.  Not sure about the end-game on this one, but it is still an awesome post.

I wanna join in!

Since everyone else is doing this, I thought I would join the fun and relate movies I like to fitness — QUICK-FIRE STYLE!

So here are 9 fitness morals I have learned from movies.

Forrest Gump - Running back and forth across the country will surely make you lose a few pounds. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Wizard of Oz – You may wake up one day, and realize you’re in a strange world of fatty fatness, having left your past, fit self behind. But at some point, you have to leave the lollipop kin — and the soda-pop-kin, and the Krystal-burger-kin — behind to follow the yellow brick road to get back home – the healthy place where you belong.  You’ll likely pick up some new fiends on the way and run into a wicked witch or two, but keep going down the path.  Just stay away from those damn poppy fields.

WALL·E – A lot of people have plenty of support, but every so often, you may be the left alone as the only one in your fitness world, left to fend for yourself.  But keep at it, day after day, as if it were the most important thing.  You never know, one day you might need to impress some hot robot chick or even shape up an entire space station of morbidly obese people.

Pulp Fiction – Like this movie, your fitness routine might seem all over the place. A jumbled set loosely related exercises. Chest here. Quads there. Throw in a dash of running. How does it all tie together? Who cares! This movie was freaking awesome. So I guess all I’m saying is: DON’T DO COKE!

Goodfellas – You may start off as some no-name fitness newb, but set your goals high.  Once you set your goals, do whatever it takes to meet them, even if that means murdering [your muscles]. I don’t remember how this movie ended, but I think it ended with you being in great shape and living happily ever after.

Rudy - Do I even have to say it?

Groundhog Day – When it comes to trying to lose weight, it may seem like everyday is the same day: wake up, exercise, work, cook, eat, clean, exercise, sleep. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Add variety.  When you get bored of the norm, do something different. Go play a game of basketball, switch from the treadmill to the track, try to save a homeless man… you know.

This Is Spinal Tap – So many here:
1. Don’t forget to document the day to day of your fitness routine.
2. Every once and a while, you might spontaneously combust, but you can always start again.
3. Don’t stuff the front of your pants.
4. Sometimes, you might get trapped in an big plastic pod of no progress.  Just keep on going and you’ll eventually bust on through.
5. Never forget to crank it up to 11.

Hustle and Flow – Move faster and drink a lot of water (which will make you pee, hence the flow)

You’re Welcome!

I know these last 9 morals will help you move forward in your fitness journey.

Ok, probably not.

But hopefully it at least made you crack a smile.  Once again I wanted to thank the bloggers I mentioned above who had real posts that made me think differently about some of my favorite movies and boosted my healthy mindset.

Do you have any movies that have taught you something new about fitness? Post a comment!

George

Fitness Achievements, Where Are You?

Why is it we spend so much time on this mundane game mechanic known as achievements?  Wait, I know the answer…

BECAUSE IT’S MY CRACK AND I WANT MORE ACHIEVEMENT POINTS THAN YOU NOOB!!!1!

While I have limited myself in the last few months (I just earned the Father of Two achievement), I always seem to get stuck on this simple game mechanic.  Achievements in World of Warcraft and Mafia Wars, Medals in Farmville, traits in Lord of the Rings online, the mayor-ship and badge system in FourSquare and Gowalla.  I will kill the Eff out of some boars just to get the next achievement, and I will spend waste a lot of time doing it. Which led me to a realization that there is a total lack of this addictive mechanic in online fitness tracking world, where it could provide a big benefit.  Daily burn has medals that display on your profile when you win a challenge, which is similar, but it is not as autonomous as I would like to see. If I and many others will happily do nothing to get a little “ding” that means nothing in a game that (let’s face it) means nothing, why wouldn’t the same psychological boost help motivate me to do a little extra during my workout?

So I think I will use this post to propose just a few fitness achievement that would fit in great in the average fitness tracking site.  Of course you will have your basics: lost 10 pounds, lost 20 pounds, ran 5k, etc), but I prefer to take the World of Warcraft approach in coming up with these, which means that there are a few achievements that are obvious, but most try to throw in humor and pop culture references. Also, some of these are negative achievements that you don’t want to get.

  • A Friend of Tortoises – Walk one mile or less  in 30 minutes or longer
  • Go Speed Walker, Go! – Walk a mile in less than 10 minutes
  • A Proclaimer Part 1 - Walk 500 miles (does not have to be all at once)
  • A Proclaimer Part 2 – Walk 500 more (that’s a 100o total) Da-da-da-da.
  • Girly Man – Bench press exactly 45 pounds (that’s the bar alone)
  • Lost My Sit! (-ups) – Do 6 sets of sit ups with the following rep counts: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23,  42
  • Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it – Eat more than 4000 calories in a single day
  • Noob – Win 1 fitness challenge
  • 1337 – Win 25 fitness challenges
  • Cylon Prototype – You weight 87 pounds.
  • Greg Kinnear Would be Proud – You ate a bowl of soup
  • John Henson Would be Proud – You ate a second bowl of soup in the same day
  • Joel McHale Would be Proud – You really need to lay off the soup

These are just a few silly ideas, but I was having fun coming up with them.  The more I thought about these for this post, the more I wished that someone would implement this system, because I would love to be surprised these pop-up as I logged my work outs and food.  It would give me a reason to log more.  It would even give me a reason to change up my workout, or give it that extra umph to earn an achievement.  I love these little bits that might lighten up the tough process of losing weight, while at the same time, gives you a reason to work harder.

Do you have a fun fitness achievement ideas?  Leave me a comment.

Falling Off the Horse, but Not Breaking Your Ass

Photo courtesy of Stuck in Customs

Photo courtesy of Stuck in Customs

So let’s see…. If you look at the last post, you see that I have been M.I.A. for the last two months.  Well guess what I have been doing?  Working, playing video games, and yes, gaining weight.  I have done it.  I have fallen off the horse, right when I was doing so well.  I initially started thinking about a blog post about how not to fall off the fitness horse, but I realized that no matter what I tell you, or what I try myself, it is going to happen at some point.  Almost everyone stumbles whilst on the the epic journey to Nonfattiesville.  So instead I though I would give a few tips on how to get back into the groove for those who are currently rubbing their sore back and watching the horse run away.

  1. Don’t be mad at yourself. -This stuff happens.  You tried very hard, but life can very easily get in the way.  This is just one of the stops on the way to your goal.  Is this enough motivational stuff?  Just suck it up!  Accept your new flabbier position and do something about it!
  2. Don’t dwell - There is no point in spending too much time trying to figure out where you went wrong, just start moving again.  Even if you figure out that it was a hectic work schedule or the release of a new game, there is most likely nothing you can do (or are willing to do) to change you behaviors when those things happen again.  Instead, just start right back where you left off as quickly as possible.  If you really want to think about it and dwell, do so during a nice long bike ride.
  3. Give your muscles a small grace period, but no more. I understand the urge to say, “It’s been two months since I worked out, maybe I should start with a couple weeks of walking,” but don’t start too slow.  My opinion is you need to kick back into your old routine as soon as possible.  At the most, cut your old routine in half for the first time back, but hit it harder the next time.  The time to fully reach you old performance may change depending on how long you have been out of the game, so be the judge of your own body.  Just don’t make excuses to slack off when you could be burning off the weight you gained.
  4. Can I have some of those fries?

    Can I have some of those fries?

    Diet starts today! Do not have any “LAY OFF ME I’M STARVING!!! Diet starts tomorrow,” moments.  There is no excuse to dig yourself deeper in the hole because the time of day or week.  Don’t use artificial time milestones, such as tomorrow, or after vacation, to set your schedule.  If you know you need to start eating right again, then start right now!

  5. Track immediately. If you read my last blog post, you would know that I recommend tracking your weight even when you are not actively working at it.  Well, I didn’t do that great of a job.  But the key point still stands, track your weight no matter what.  I gained 10 pounds in two months.  I don’t like thinking about it, but I really don’t like looking at it on a graph.  It gives me tons of motivation to try to make the last two months look like an outlier in my overall weight loss trend.

Hopefully, these tips will provide a little bit of help after realizing you’ve slipped.  Just start again and keep going.  Remember what Yoda used to say about trying?

Become a Gardening Geek

Photo curtosy of Shelley & Dave

Photo courtesy of Shelley & Dave

A few months ago, Josh posted an article about the cost of healthy eating.  He points to a study from the American Dietetic Association that shows the cost per kilocalorie of “healthy” foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruit, and grains, was over ten times more expensive than “junk” foods, such as crackers and chips.  The difference was still growing at the end of the study, which doesn’t look promising for the cost differential today.  This really got me thinking about the difficulty of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for a family who is trying to live on a moderate or reduced budget due to the economic times.  When you are worried about paying the rent or the mortgage, trying to get out of debt, or saving up that emergency fund, cheap frozen pizzas or the fast food dollar menu really allow you to save some bucks.  But overtime, this lifestyle really starts affecting your health, which could lead to costly medical bills in the future or even the inability to go to work.  It really comes back to bite you in the end.  What is the solution to this dilemma?

Start your own garden.  (Well, this is not really the full solution, just something I thought would help) The idea of starting a garden from scratch is probably intimidating to most people.  It is to me.  But I started thinking about all of the benefits of creating your own garden:

1. Cost - I started researching what it takes to start and maintain a garden, and the results really surprised me. I found a blog called GetRichSlowly that is featuring a series called the GRS Gardening Project.  For this project, they are measuring the cost, time, and rewards of building a garden from scratch.  Within the first six months, the estimated spending a total of $318.43 on seeds, fertilizer, and water thorugh the first six months.  They are on their currently on the 11th month and have estimated $606.97 worth of food has been harvested from their garden.  This means that they actually saved money by not having to buy food, and this happened during their first year of gardening.

2. Nutrition – We all know that the food typically grown in gardens is healthy.  I won’t beat the dead horse that leafy greens and bell peppers are healthier than a Waffle House Double Texas Cheese Steak Plate.  We all also know that the fresher food, the more the nutrients will be preserved.   But one of the things you might not think about when you start your own garden is that you are in control.  You control what soil, fertilizer, and pesticides are used.  You control the quality of the seeds and the time when you harvest.  These are all key factors in the nutrition benefits of freshly grown foods.

3. Fitness – The Garden Fitness Plan on GardenFitness.com said it best:

Research shows that gardening for 30-45 minutes most days of the week has significant health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as contributing to healthier bones, muscles and joints. Elements of gardening such as digging, weeding, trimming shrubs and mowing the lawn can require the same energy requirements as other physical exercise activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics.

I thoroughly suggest checking out all of the information on GardenFitness.com.  It is a great resource.

4. General Physical and Emotional Health – Along with the nutritional and fitness benefits there are other health benefits as well:

  • The time spent in the garden and in the sun will give your body its daily source of Vitamin D.
  • The time spent gardening can  give you a nice silent moment to reflect on your day, think about a problem, or just clear your head.
  • Seeing the garden through, from planning to completion,  provides you with a sense of accomplishment.
  • The fact that you are experiencing the natural process of life: new life, nurturing, growth, decay, re-birth, brings you closer to the Earth and that always is a peaceful feeling.

5. Family and Education – Gardening can also be turned into a great way to connect with your family.  It allows you to spend time with your wife and kids away from the TV or the Internet.  It provides a break from the normal hustle and bustle of family life.  It is also a great educational tool for children; from concrete things like science and  nutrition, to less concrete topics like patience, persistence, and the value of hard work.

I plan on starting my own garden next year.  I have never been an outdoorsy type of person, but I am so excited about this idea.  I plan on keeping everyone informed on the progress and provide tips where they apply.  I’ll probably do my own version of the GRS project to add another data point to the cost and time metrics.  If you are interested in starting a garden with me, please drop a comment or send me a tweet.  Remember:  Have fun and stay active!