Motivation Monday – Get With The Plan


Happy Monday … I think? I am having a hard time typing because an arctic wind is bringing back the cold with a vengeance and my hands felt stiff after my run. Kind of brings me back – to a week ago! Boy it is easy to get used to high temperatures in the 40s like the last few days!

Yesterday was a family day – Lisa was off, the boys had their last day before back to school after February break, so we got to hang out, plan meals and do grocery shopping, and try to figure out what our summer looks like between college visits and hopefully getting a real vacation this year!

This past week I saw several blog posts related to ‘the plan’ – some of it was about how to keep yourself going even as so many people lose track of their ‘New Year Resolutions’, but for others … it was more like they were validating their own choices by declaring everyone else wrong – and few things tick me off more than that!

Anyone who has been reading knows the struggles we have been facing with Lisa’s food allergies and sensitivities and how after talking to her ENT we’re trying to adapt the Paleo diet around her allergies. Also, long-time readers will remember that last October 1st (day after her birthday) she shredded her ankle, which has been a long recovery and road back to being able to exercise. And finally, a big part of this blog is my running, continued racing at half- and full-marathon distance and plans for an Ultra this year. So there are loads of ‘plans’ floating around our house.

So let’s take a look at how to get with ‘The Plan’!

The ‘Diet Plan’

I have talked about how I naturally tend towards loads of fruits and vegetables, especially when running … but at the same time I discuss my ‘unhealthy relationship’ with food.

When Lisa went on Weight Watchers about 10 years ago that changed our lives. We had always been reasonably healthy in terms of exercise and eating well, yet both had occasional issues with weight ramping up. For me it was a matter of running and restricting and my weight came under control. For Lisa it had been hard ever since Chris was born, but eventually as she said it was time to admit that it wasn’t ‘baby weight’ anymore!

Weight Watchers was great because it rewarded healthy choices and pushed you in the direction of accountability. You track everything, and how you prepare foods matters. And since we are both science-minded, it pushed us to learn more and more about the various types of foods we liked and portion control and proper menu construction. It was eye-opening and educational – and it informs our eating to this day.

But Weight Watchers has many flaws – in that it still focuses on the ‘number’s game’, rewards filling yourself with ‘nothing’ foods, ignores ‘fueling’, and favors ‘chemical soup’ like fat-free yogurt and salad dressings over natural choices. It is a flawed plan – but one that works for many because it helps them learn how to eat properly.

Yet I have seen people bashing Weight Watchers and fat-shaming the people on those programs. Why?!? What good can that possibly accomplish?

For me, I applaud anyone who wants to take control of their intake and the foods they consume.

I have been around long enough to see myriad fad diets come and go, and while most of them have your health at their core (importantly NOT ALL DO), there is NOT ONE PLAN FOR EVERYONE. Here are two basic things I belong to be true:

Any diet with a ‘title’ is making money for someone… FROM YOU! That is important because when there is money involved – and the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar inductry – people’s motivations come into question.
When a diet will twist its core principals to get mind-share … not sure how to close that. But think about it this way – if some primary advocates of Paleo prohibit rice, yet allows fully processed bacon, beef jerky and sausage … you can sniff the money trail.

Also, let’s get back to what I consider the greatest piece of eating wisdom ever spoken, from Michael Pollan:

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

That maxim contains in it the greatest wisdom – moderation. Not an ‘I am right’ mentality

Also, while I don’t like absolutes, here is what we have discovered as I tried to move out family to a ‘semi-Vegan’ lifestyle over the last year or so, and as we now try to help Lisa work within the boundaries of the Paleo diet:

– Neither Paleo nor Vegan are sustainable long-term solutions for someone with nut allergies and soy sensitivities.


This actually ties back to what I said about ‘compromising principles’. Because as we looked up having snacks or desserts on Paleo, there were loads of options that are not really keeping with the priciples of Paleo – refined flours (not from grains, though) pastes, ‘milks’ and so on.

The same is true for nut allergies – once you remove everything that would send Lisa either to the hospital or running for Benadryl, there are huge holes in Paleo and Vegan plans. The solution for many are powdered supplements – which are extracts made in factories of ‘natural derivatives’. Sure you can justify it if you work REALLY hard. But let’s just not pretend that protein powders and other processed supplements are examples of or compatible with ‘eating clean’. They are not.

The Exercise Plan

Cross-Fit! Jane Fonda! P90X! ULTIMATE! All of these plans scream at you – and their adherants are adament that THEIR way is THE right way … and the only way. Or the most hardcore … or SOMETHING!

Go for a walk? Should be running.

Hike a crushed path through the woods? Should be doing off-roads.

Biking? Not a real biker unless you do a weekly ‘century ride’

And so on…

Some of this comes from a good place – as a runner I want everyone to experience the joy I derive from running. I mean – it is such a great thing that I willingly get up at 4AM every day and go outside for over an hour it temperatures exceeding -20F! How nuts is THAT?

But on my runs, there are a few people I see most days – there are two people walking dogs, one I see until ~20F and the other to nearly 0F. And there is the biker I see about 9 months out of the year – he pushes it as much as possible, but eventually has to head inside. What do we all share? A plan – our plan is to GET OUT THERE. And we work that plan every day.

The Race Plan

As a casual morning runner disconnected from races and the ‘running community’, it felt like runners emerged right around Patriots Day (it’s a Massachusetts thing) and disappeared a week or so later.

What I didn’t realize until much later was that these people held an aspiration that many of us do – to run in the Boston Marathon. But like so many others, while they had the desire, they didn’t have a plan, and quickly the motivation subsided and the habit never formed.

Running a road race requires planning if we want any reasonable expectation of doing our best. Of course, there are MANY plans you can follow:
– Run less, run faster
– Hanson Method – very long daily runs
– Hal Higdon Training Programs
– Galloway Run-Walk plans
– McMillan aerobic/anaerobic plans
– etc …

If you spend even a few minutes looking at these and many other programs, you will realize something: several of them completely contradict other plans. Meaning if you agree with one, you MUST disagree with the others, right?

Well, not really. What it means is that you need to realize that ‘agreeing’ only means you found what worked for you. And therefore other plans are NOT what works for you, but might very well be what works for someone else.

The RIGHT Plan!

One of the strongest common components of plans in all of these areas (as well as organization, relationships, parenting, etc) is … money. People worldwide spend BILLIONS buying books and DVDs and CDs that promise us THE ANSWER to all of our problems in all of those areas.

Often they have a celebrity out front talking it up and selling it, or an attractive spokesmodel or someone who has seen success. But again – it is money. Do you think Samuel L. Jackson is hawking Capital One credit cards for free because he liked the rewards program and volunteered? No – I’m sure he would have happily taken Morgan Freeman’s Visa job in a second … it is all about the paycheck.

So here are my feelings:

– The RIGHT diet plan is the one that has you feeling healthy and good about yourself and feeling physically healthy while and after eating.

– The RIGHT exercise plan is the one that will have you doing it every day.

– The RIGHT race plan is the one that gets you to the finish line uninjured and in a time you are satisfied with.

Are there plans that you can use to more closely match your goals and needs and personality? Absolutely – that gets back to my old saying “What works for me … works for ME.”

MOTIVATION: Find your plan, and OWN it. Remember the mantra – Plan Your Work + Work Your Plan + Organization = Success!

What is working for YOU on the Diet / Exercise / Race Plan front these days? Have you noticed a stronger push every now and then for one plan or another? What else drives you nuts?

13 thoughts on “Motivation Monday – Get With The Plan

  1. I think one of the main reasons I’m not vegan is my nut allergy. I became a vegetarian more than 10 years ago for moral/ethical reasons, and I just wasn’t ready to put in the effort to become a vegan, which I thought was the best choice for me. Then a few years ago I kind of tried and realized it was going to be a tough road without nuts, and while I’m fine with soy, much of it is processed.

    • Thanks Carina – we are trying some coconut milk this week for her, to see how she tolerates that. And I fully support people making dietary choices for whatever reaon that makes sense to them, whether health, fitness, moral, or whatever. It is always less fun when our bodies make those choices for us! 🙂

  2. As I start back running I have been doing a lot of thinking about what plan I want to follow. At first of course I am going to be slowly adding back in mileage and going off how my body feels, but at some point I Need to get a plan together. Sometimes I research and find a plan online and other times I just come up with my own and incorporate parts of different theories. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with all the options out there!

    Hope you and Lisa figure out what will work best for her soon 🙂 I know it must be frustrating for her! Love how involved you are in this with her!

    • Thanks Sara – it is challenging, but we did a huge food-shopping yesterday and spent tons on lean meat and fish. It is weird since I have spent most of the last two years working on non-meat protein sources to switch over.

      It is really frustrating for her, but I look at it this way: it is easy for me. I mean, I don’t have ‘texture issues’ with foods, I can (and do) eat pretty much anything (except clams, which I found out one year at Boston Chowderfest), can eat the same thing again and again, and so on. So I can deal.

      Good luck coming back to running – I think you are on the right track avoiding a ‘plan’ at the outset and just adding back and listening to your body. I hope things go well for Wes, as obviously Patriot’s Day is much closer than he would like at this point …

  3. I love the philosophy you advocate here. The bullets at the end of the post are great, in all aspects of life find what fits with you. I’d add personal finance and religion to the list of things that could benefit from that same approach. Find the saving/spending/investing methods that work for you, not what some analyst or TV personality forced down your throat. Find your own connection with (or absence of connection with) God/spirituality/religion without insisting everyone else is wrong.

    One thing you mention in the post “chemical soup like fat-free yogurt”. I’d love to learn more about that, as I’ve been under the impression that fat-free yogurt is good.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly that what works for one may not work for another, so you have to find what is best for you given your specific situation. I don’t diet but I tend to try and follow a “Zone”ish way of eating, but at the end of the day, I eat what I want (which is mostly clean and healthy) and if I want a cookie or piece of pizza, I eat it. For my training, right now, I listen to my PT, he knows better than I what will work (and I am finding out he is 100% right.) Again, this is stuff that works for me right now, maybe not in the future but I will recalibrate if it starts to not work anymore. Excellent post!!

  5. Great post, especially the The Right One/plan is the one that works for you, not others. I find if there is only one answer or their plan “guarantees” a certain result, I tread warily and have a healthy sense of skeptism, especially when like you suggest – when there is money involved- your’s going to someone else, although I would like to believe that most personal trainers, coaches or dieticians, should have your interests at heart – it is still “caveat emptor” buyer beware. So we need to be willing to do personal research, learn the ropes/basics and know what is being sold and if it is right for us.

    Great post

    • Thanks! I think your point “that most personal trainers, coaches or dieticians, should have your interests at heart” is very much true – the individual person who is helping you on a one-on-one basis really DOES care. But if they get a plan named after them and start a ‘gym tour’ or whatever selling books and DVDs … personal time with them is much less meaningful.

      Also, as you pointed out recently – not only is there no ‘one plan’ … as we go through life there isn’t even a single plan for each of us!

  6. AWESOME post! Goes back to the message I so wholeheartedly believe in … that one “plan” (for anything) can never be perfect for every single person. For what it’s worth, I do think that Weight Watchers is one of the best “branded”/ fad/ pop culture diets since it does focus on balance … if you can just use the “points” and not buy all of the processed junk they sell, it can be good for short-term weight loss. But, in the end, of course, you know I love Michael Pollan’s quote, and I think that eating real food that works for YOUR body is far better than any packaged plan!

    • Thanks so much as always! 🙂

      I hadn’t even thought about the Weight Watchers products. Of course I never went to any of the meetings, but perhaps unsurprisingly I got heavily involved and adopted the key lessons: tracking, accountability and monitoring everything you eat.

      At this point my philosophy is that I will eat anything I chose … but I chose very carefully what I will put into my body. Like that pizza I put on Instagram … Lisa bloated up within an hour and we both felt like crap that night and had the ‘junk food hangover’ the next morning. It is a reminder of how you are NOT supposed to feel when you eat!

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