You’ll need to excuse me for a few weeks while I get the new-giddy-excitement of starting a new instrument out of my system. I should really be writing about the New York Marathon in less than seven weeks –and I will– but I’ve now officially distracted myself with an expensive piece of wood and string. Less than twenty-four hours later I realize that my first big challenge isn’t going to be reading music (which I can do) or finding notes (which is going to be tough, but mentally) but instead manipulating my 40-year-old digits into new and convoluted positions. I picked up a grip & hand exercising gadget at lunch, so with a mouse in one hand and my Grip Master TM in my other, hopefully I’ll speed up my ability to actually manipulate my fingers across the strings.
June 11 – Something You Are Doing
aka. Post 11 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
To say that I’ve been a little scattered when it comes to my cross-training is the understatement of the year.
See, I’ve got this marathon happening in November and in order to run it and still be standing at the end I’ve realized that I need to strike a better balance in my fitness life: dozens upon dozens of klicks is great, sure, but I’ve spent the last couple years dealing with dozens upon dozens of aches, pains, and setbacks that are mostly related to overtraining, undertraining, or imbalances in my training.
I need to do more strength training, really… is what it comes down to.
But life is busy. I have great intentions, and so I look at my available time and fitting in thirty minutes a day to lift weights or do squats or put a few spins on the stationary bike, all of it means carving something else out of that life and leaving it on the floor until (at least) November. And that’s fine. Expected. But kinda like saying I’m going to cut five hundred calories out of my diet each day and, oh look, see how easy it is to lose twenty pounds. That easy.
Uhh… not easy. Easier said than done.
My plan to fix this is simply to make more time. I figure there are a couple ways of doing this. The first option with the most benefit for the most people is to slow the rotation of the Earth so that the length of the day expands by about thirty minutes. Everyone gets a few extra minutes to fit in something they want to do, and me, I can fit in my cross training. And if that doesn’t work, plan B is to set my alarm and wake up thirty minutes earlier each day. Not as big of a payoff for everyone, but… y’know… there’s an app for that.
I’ve set up a bit of schedule for my found time: it’s a mix of strength training for core, upper body, lower body, and then some quality time with bike blended in for good measure… all at five-thirty in the morning. It will either make me stronger or more tired, or both, but I’m banking on the stronger.
Is it possible to be fit while being completely out of shape? Perhaps that is a contradiction in definition, but lately I’ve been feeling that way.
Random aches and pains.
Localized malfunctions during runs.
Struggles with getting my hydration and electrolyte balance just right.
I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard along this running fitness path for a few solid years and it’s netted some amazing things, but the other side of that lucky coin has been some pretty hard core damage to other bits and pieces of my body.
As we plan for a winter beach vacation and I look down the barrel of age forty, now just a year and a bit away, I’ve been contemplating how to balance out the super-endurance, super-fit awesomeness of running with the increasingly frequent breakdowns of this aging organic shell.
It’s more than food. More than eating. More than tweaking. It’s a lifestyle change… yet again.
And summer seems like a great time to contemplate hacking the process yet again. Simple hacks. Realistic hacks. Hacks to the way I think about living that have compound results that can last a lifetime if implemented properly. It’s not magic: it’s behavior adaptation towards the positive.
Part 1: Target Acquired
Right now, I want to start thinking about three different, but interconnected body hacks, each of them tough, but I think with some simple mental reprogramming that I can go a long way with each.
Flexibility – Improving my muscle function and elasticity through improving my flexibility. I’m going to need to do a lot more reading in the coming weeks. I’m not even sure how to evaluate improvements in this.
Nutrition – Eating and drinking a lot better. I need to balance my diet, reduce my caffeine intake, manage all those sapping micronutrients, and –y’know– generally eat like a grown up with more veggies and less simple sugars. Oh, and definitely more liquids. All that good stuff: we’ve been here before.
And then the big one:
Strength – What has me worried is that a lot of these aches and pains are due to me neglecting basic strength over the last couple years. I’m not talking about getting buff, but simply that core strength and general muscle mass balance ties to all sorts of the little things that have hobbled me in the past year. I’m thinking of setting up a basic program to follow. And it’s probably going to hurt a bit at first.
The SMART goals — simple, measurable achievable, realistic, and time-linked — will follow in coming articles. Stay tuned.
About two weeks ago I sat down and wrote out a plan for my half marathon training for the spring and summer. Most of that plan was based on a little bit of frustration that I’d been sick and hadn’t been running all that much this year. The plan kicked into effect one week ago today, with “Act One” taking the form of three solid weeks of strength-building training: in other words, the plan is to run every day for three weeks, fatigue my poor muscles, and build up both a “main floor” and a running habit.
Main floor, you ask? Ah, well, here comes the metaphor. See, training (in many things) is like a complex construction project, such as say, building a house. A bunch of guy show up, dig a big hole, use a port-o-toilet near the curb, and take inexplicably long lunch breaks. Or… well, maybe not exactly like that.
The metaphor that a lot of the folks I run with like to use is a more abstract version of building a house. You start with a foundation (the aerobic and endurance training) your build a main floor (the strength training) then a second floor (the distance training) and cap it all off with a roof (the speed training.) Many of those same folks seem to have taken the metaphor a little further, spending a heck of a lot of money decorating their metaphorical house with color-coordinated Running Room branded gear, but that’s a different sort of post altogether.
Act One, as I’ve dubbed it, is a kind of strength training for me. I’ve been running for a little more than four years. Going out for a casual six or eight kilometer run is, well… it’s just typical Sunday morning jaunt. I’m fairly much conditioned to that distance now. I did about seven kilometers this morning, and apart from the fact my feet were sopping wet from the slushy, new-fallen snow, it was not a big strain.
Running every day — days for which I’m eight for eight, by the way — is a kind of strength training. The body needs a day or so to recover from exercise, I’ve been told. These little clinics I keep enrolling in stress that point to no end: recovery, recovery, recovery! Take a few days to let your body heal, we’re told over and over. Or, that would be true if you’re still working on the so-called metaphorical basement of your metaphorical house.
What I’m feeling now, eight days in, is a heck of a lot of soreness. Not pain. Soreness. My legs don’t hurt. They just are telling me to take a day off. And I’m not going to listen… at least for another two weeks.
The result has been a little surreal actually. At about day five I had nearly crashed: it was all the energy I could muster to go out for my evening run. Day six? The same. But then yesterday, sore as I was, I just went out and ran. And ran. And ran. And did a little extra distance. When I checked my watch at home, my average pace was strong. Then I went out for a nearly-seven kilometer dash this morning, leading the pack for most of the way and drawing a few accusatory comments from other who figured I must have had the week off or something to be moving so quick. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I actually hadn’t had a break in that long.
I’m expecting a few more lulls. I’m expecting another near crash, maybe later this week or early next. But for now, the plan is working and Act One is playing out just as well as — if not better than — I’d expected.
For the entire month of June I’m planning on writing a series of blog-a-day posts based on a set series of open-ended questions to myself. This is one of those posts.
June 10th // Something You Have Felt
While this could have easily turned into a mature-rated post, I’m going to instead focus on something more G. You can thank me later.
So… hills. While running is largely a cardiovascular sport, I’ve been told that hill training is where the sport bleeds into the strength-building, weight-lifting, bench-pressing equivalency side of things. Most of the time we’re training our lungs and muscles to do hard repetitive actions over and over and over again, sometimes for hours, the whole ‘let’s go run up and down hills for a while’ thing is more about training those muscles to get stronger. Or so I’m told.
What I’ve felt for the last twelve hours or so is sore.
I alluded in my previous post to the fact that yesterday evening I was out doing hill training with the half marathon group. We start with a quick one-point-five klick warm-up run out to the hill — ours is the newly-paved road-and-sidewalk leading into the Terwillegar off-leash dog park — where we regroup and plan our attack. Then it’s down the hill for about three-hundred and fifty meters linear distance (which is somewhere between seventy-five and a hundred meters, I’m estimating, elevation change) where we do our turn around and trod right back up the hill. And we repeat this each week, starting with three repeats last night and increasing by one repeat until we’re up to nine.
Three repeats, when I haven’t done hill training in almost a year, is brutally painful. By the end of the third repeat I was breathing through my ears, huffing-and-puffing like a steam engine, as I pushed those last few steps.
And then, just when we think we are done, we do a nice cool down jog back to the store: another klick-and-a-half.
And something that I’ve felt all last night and for a while this morning is sore. Good sore. That post-hills sore that just feels so satisfying and rewarding.