Enough S’nuff: How I kicked the can and quit tobacco for good

I hear the term “addictive personality” every once in awhile, and I am pretty sure I have one.  According to the internets, an addictive personality refers to a particular set of personality traits that make an individual predisposed to developing addictions.  I have always thought there was a positive side and a negative side to having an addictive personality.  I would attribute my dedication and disciplined approaches to work, exercise, and nutrition as positive addictions.  However, the negative side has been a dominant force throughout my life.  Since the young age of 11 I have battled an addiction to nicotine and tobacco.  This has been a constant struggle and I have officially quit smoking  or chewing only to turn to the other.  For over half of my life, I have quit chewing / dipping a few times, each time I returned for some type of expected comfort.  I have gone nicotine free for fourteen months, eight months, and two months before.  I have tried prescription drugs and nicotine lozenges / gum with only temporary success.

The day my first son was born, I decided to take my last dip of snuff ever.  When being a dad got tough, I took my last first dip ever.  It wasn’t until I saw my son spit, emulating his daddy, that I got serious.  Until that point, my tobacco use was just affecting my life, right?  Kids have a way of showing you just what you look like when they repeat your actions.  How could I tell my son he can’t spit but I could?

I reflected and analysed my previous attempts at quitting.  The prescription meds worked for the longest time, but the side effects and dreams were too scary to use again.  The gum and lozenges make me sick to my stomach and I know people that are more dependent on their lozenges than they ever were on their cigarettes.  I thought I would have to go cold turkey again.  Just remove something from your life without filling the void?  That was a recipe for disaster.

That was when I found Teaza pouches.  Teaza is basically a flavored tea bag that you can dip.  There was no transition period.  For me, it was just a complete swap over.  After the three hardest days, I didn’t miss the nicotine.  I didn’t miss the spit cans, or keeping secrets from my family, or the mood swings throughout the day.  I didn’t miss the dependency.  I didn’t miss the planning that went into making sure I had enough snuff to get through the work day.

My attempts to quit in the past had failed because I didn’t have a reward for quitting.  I would be proud for a few weeks or months and then think “What did I get for this?  Nothing? Okay, I guess I have nothing to lose if I go back.”  Or I would forget what quitting was like and rationalize that I could always just quit again.

With Teaza, I still get the act of dipping.  I am putting something into my body that is not harmful (caffeine notwithstanding).  I am completely nicotine free.  And I sometimes forget about it for whole days.  I can go days without it.  I am in control.

I am going strong for 7 months now.  I don’t even think about snuff anymore.  I don’t consider getting a can even when I expect to be traveling or drinking.  Teaza is there when I think I need something in my mouth.  It keeps me from drinking too many sodas or snacking throughout the day out of boredom.  It lets me focus on what is important.  Teaza fills the void I have needed to fill for 25 years.  For that, I am so appreciative.

What does this have to do with running?  Well, I have found that Teaza is also great as a caffeine supplement during workouts.  When I run with a Teaza pouch, I don’t get dry mouth, water tastes great (flavored), and I get a better workout.  The last one is probably a total placebo effect but I will take it.  My intervals are faster and my long runs are longer.  In fact, I took a Teaza to hammer out the last 5 miles of my last marathon at my targeted pace.  You probably know the closer you are to that finish line, the louder you mind is screaming at you to stop.  Teaza was my mental hack that day and most workouts since.

If you are a tobacco user, try Teaza.  If you aren’t, but just want to try something different, try Teaza.  There are several flavors and variety packs available.  Let me know what you think!

The 5 Push-Up Workout

What if I told you that you can get noticeable results from 5 push-ups three times a week.  You can commit to 5 push-ups every other day, right?  You can fit that workout into a commercial break during The Bachelor.  The question now is: will you?
Here is the catch.  You have to do them in a specific manner.  So heed these instructions:
  • Get in the up position with hands just outside of shoulder width
  • Lower yourself slowly, count 8 seconds to get to the lowest position, without touching the ground with nose, stomach, or chest
  • Keep your back straight and abs tight
  • Your head can be facing down or forward, just don’t move it much once you start
  • Raise yourself back up slowly, count 8 seconds up.
  • Just before you get to the very top, the point where you want to lock your arms, stop
  • Repeat 4 more times
  • Breathe throughout – don’t hold your breath

It is okay if you struggle with even the first one.  Do not be surprised if your form falls apart before you get to 5.  However, once it does, stop for the day.  In two days, try again.

The goal is to get to 5 push ups, with good form, at 8 second count up and down.  Once you get there, increase the count to 10 seconds.  Once you achieve that consistently, increase to 6, then 7, then 8 push-ups.  If you get there, keep increasing the count.  Do no more than 8 push-ups, even if you can do 20 seconds up and 20 seconds down.

Slow push-ups are body-shakingly tough, but they build size.  Just follow the steps and pay close attention to your back, abs, and do not lock your arms at the top.  Locking your arms will make you want to take a break.  Taking a break ruins the workout.  You are basically training to failure by keeping a constant load on your upper body.  The number of push-ups don’t really matter.  The amount of time under load through the range of motion is critical.

Give it a shot for a week or two and see if your mirror starts to give you a pleasant surprise.  Let me know if you hate it or love it, too!

The 4 Hour Run Week: The Bare Minimum Marathon Training Plan

I have just trained for a full marathon on basically one run per week.  Since I am working full time, raising a toddler and preparing for another baby and a future move, I dedicated just one day a week to a run.  My running partner kept to his 3 – 5 runs per week, and, I’ll admit, I struggled to keep up for the first few weeks.

However, once I had regained a solid base long run of 12 miles or so, I could hold the pace.  I could actually pick it up at the end.

While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend training for a full marathon on just one run a week, it can be done.  I believe running twice per week makes for a much better recipe, if done right.  Each run should serve a specific purpose, and not just be miles for the sake of miles.  This plan isn’t based on miles.  Therefore, you shouldn’t risk running junk miles.  This plan is focused on time and how you use it.  Whatever your goal marathon time, that is the target for training hours per week.  This is true even at the end of the plan when you should be running 20+ mile long runs.  So, if you are a 4 hour marathoner, you will only need 4 hours of training per week.  And if you can’t achieve the two runs in the target time, you should consider changing your goal time.  This isn’t a miracle plan where you can just run a BQ by under-preparing.  You still need to get the miles in on your long run.

Here’s how to do it:

The first run is the long run.  We want to do these about a minute per mile slower than marathon pace. Really, if you have a heart rate monitor, use it to ensure you stay aerobic for most of the run.  For long run progression, I like to do what I call the Texas Two-Step… That is two weeks of increasing mileage by 2 miles followed by one week of dropping back 4 miles.  So, I would go 12, 14, 10, 16, 18, 14, 20, 22, 18, and then as many 20+ mile runs until 2 weeks before the marathon.  Using the 4 hour marathoner as our example, once you get up into the 20 milers, you should be completing your long runs in 3:30.  (Checking the math – 4 hour marathon = 9:09 min/mile.  10:09 min/mile for 20 miles = 3:23.)

Run #2 is a mid-week interval run.  I have been experimenting with “sets” of a 0.3 miles hard (since my GPS watch won’t do 0.25s) and 1:30 rest.  I like to use a time based rest so I can try to get my heart rate down, whether it is by jogging, walking, or a dead stop, it is still just a minute and a half before I have to pick it up again.  Do a 3 minute warmup, 6-8 sets, and a 2 minute cool down.  See more detail here.  That is it.  In total, this workout should take no more than 35 minutes.  And, unless you keep adding sets after 8, that time should go down as you gain speed.  If you can hold 7 minute pace for a quarter mile, 3 min + 8 sets x (1:45 / quarter mile + 1:30 rest) + 2 min cool down = 31 minutes.

Let’s review.  The 4 hour marathoner, at the peak of this training plan should be doing his long runs in 3:23 and his interval runs in 0:31.  That is six minutes shy of four hours per week.  Shoot, that gives you plenty of time to crush a full upper body workout.

Again, this is the minimum effective dose for marathon training.  If you want a more traditional plan, contact me and I will be happy to help.

Welcome

Welcome to RunningHack.  I started this site just to share and discuss some of my experiences, experiments, and advice associated with the world of running.  Bear with me as I get started with this blogging thing.

Over the years, I have tried many tips, methods, training plans, and hacks to improve my running performance.  I am getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t, both of which I  intend to bring forward here for a lively discussion.

Thanks for checking this out and come back!