The magic of Parkrun

Studley Parkrun

A photo of Studley Parkrun twenty minutes before the start. The familiar flags, the hubbub around me, the keyed-up sensation in the stomach … here I was, at 8 AM last Saturday. Six months ago, if you’d asked me, I’d have said I might never do a 5 kilometer Parkrun again. But now I’m light and getting fit and it was time to try my closest Parkrun. I’d previously done ten Parkruns out east, twice as far away, electing for a flat route and, honestly, a bit scared of the ups and downs I predicted for Studley. Well, the run was sweet: slow but steady, in perfect weather, happy amongst people exercising in fine spirits. I came fifth in my age group (there were six but who counted?). I adored the entire experience.

Huge lunch

Lunch

Here’s the undisputed upside of my Whole Foods Plant Based experiment: the lunches. This huge plate of vegetables, tofu, white beans, condiments, and so on, is three times the size of the lunches I used to have. It is scrumptious. And, because I’ve been meticulous in eliminating oil, it’s only 500 calories, far less than a typical cafe lunch (for example). Because everything on the plate is good for me, instead of being bad for me or (depending on your view on certain foods) neutral, my blood pressure is sashaying downwards, I’m still slowly losing weight, my mind is clear, I’m sleeping soundly.

Of course the experiment’s downsides are legion. I’m not eating the foods I really like (don’t get me wrong, I like everything on that lunch plate, but hey, yummier things do exist). Eating with others can be agony. I get drooling visions of goodies withheld. Oftentimes the food I look forward to is the food I’m not going to eat. Sigh.

Exercise milestone

Strava training log extract

Last week was the first week in years in which I ran (with no downtime walking) at least 5 kms three times. Indeed on Saturday I jogged 6 kms! Every session feels so much easier at 77 kgs than was the case at 85+ kgs. I now have ambitions to keep up steady running and ramp up distances until I can do the 10 km run at Run Melbourne In October. Just two months ago, the very notion of such a goal was risible.

This diet is working! (At least for now, I’m still treating it as a personal experiment.)

I’m also back to a full three sets at the gym, and am exercising every day. I’m being reasonably diligent at my weekly roster of stretches, and hope this week to fully comply.

This diet is working!

Another staple

Spice mix

This WFPB diet takes up much more time in terms of food preparation and eating. The vegetable meals are so huge! I’ve noticed how the experienced practitioners end up organizing their food far more systematically than most people do.

One example. Banning oil (and in my case, minimizing salt) blunts food of its classic tastes, so you end up adding tons of spices and herbs. This in itself sucks up time, and the result is sometimes hit-and-miss, a melange of tastes that doesn’t quite work. So today I made my first spice mix, just whizzing up various dry spices. It tastes complex and spirited. Potatoes air-fried with this dusted on tasted terrific!

Health Big Year: the exercise portion

Jogging legs

New Year’s Day, the morning mild, the streets whisper-quiet. I have a goal today. With weight at last under control, back down to 77 kgs (and oh so easily, this WFPB food regime sings!), let me attempt a jog out of my suburb into the adjoining one, a 6 km effort I managed only three times this year and not at all last year.

I do not huff and puff. Instead I control my pace to keep my heartrate in Zone 4, below the Maximal zone. The ground zooms past. So sweet is this easy effort that I almost lose track of time. I’d fretted my legs would rebel over the final, extra kilometer, but no, I plod up the ultimate rise. I could have gone on…

Suddenly my head fills with plans. Jogging plans. Small plans to a “real” runner, but to me, it’s like a new world opening up.

What a start to the year!

Brain retraining

Complex diagram

On the exercise front, I’m increasing my “load,” that is, the total weekly kilometers, slowly and surely, seeking for once to avoid a knee or calf or tendon or foot injury. But on the writing front, today I just jumped back in and put in seven hours of labor. Should I have eased back into it? I can’t afford any delays, so no, the answer is no. I did find myself yawning, a trifle headachy, midway through the day, but I stuck with it. I guess I’m retraining the brain through bludgeoning it.

Back into Gleep and Bepo

Scribbles about early reactors

I’ve lost a bit over a fortnight of work while obsessing about the new Whole Foods Plant Based diet. I’ll now sink back into improving the draft about early British reactors with scientist-jokey names/acronyms like Gleep and Bepo. Around that time in the mid- to late-40s, other reactor names included Zeep, CP-2, Zoe, and X-10.

I feel a sense of relief. Looking back, I’ve been worried about health, diet, the whole shebang, for months now. Now I get back to doing what I love, the work.

Lipoprotein(a)

Blood test extract

Whenever a medico talks to you about heart disease, they put you through a risk factor calculator. A key factor is family history of cardiac problems. This has bothered me because you might merely inherit your parent’s bad diet/exercise/smoking habits, rather than possess a genetic problem handed down.

Well, I’m a bit wiser now. My first bloods since the August scare included, on the insistence of Dr Mackay, my “second doctor,” something called Lp(a). Lipoprotein(a), that is. I had no clue what it meant until he wised me up. 10-20% of the population has this marker, which indicates the presence in arteries of another sticky protein like “bad” LDL. It’s genetic and can’t be “fixed” with diet/exercise/etc. or with any pills.

As Dr Mackay put it, once you know you have a high Lp(a), you need to “tick all the boxes”: keep yourself lean; lower your blood pressure; exercise; avoid dairy/eggs (let alone meat); and get your LDL down to below 2 mmol/L. This new WFPB diet is an attempt to do just that.

The psychic pressure of blood pressure

Blood pressure monitor

One of the reasons I’m trying out a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet is that I bought a blood pressure monitor after my heart scare in winter. I had never paid any attention to my blood pressure. Why should I? I was fit and healthy! Whenever a GP took my blood pressure as part of an examination, I forgot the funny numbers immediately. Even when, more recently, I began to be told that I on the “high end of normal blood pressure,” I blocked out the message.

In July I could not reel off the numbers at all, so I bought a cheap machine in September and began recording daily numbers. What a wake-up call! Essentially I was at 140/95, sometimes at 150/100.

Five months into the diet, the numbers vacillate but the trend is definitely downhill. I’m recording under 130/80 and last week’s average was 150/85. Pam is at 110/something. Is there any hope of me eventually getting down to that level?