strength training

Monday Run-Down: Wake Up Call!

 

A complete weight training workout can be perf...

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Last week I mentioned the fact that I tweaked my back somehow while doing a bootcamp session that past Sunday. I made a goal of doing what was best for my body, and not pushing myself to work out as long as my back continued to hurt. And so until yesterday, when I did a yoga practice, I’d been about as sedentary as one can be while living in New York and relying on public transportation to get around.

My back is feeling better, but boy am I ever in a funk. I felt so good coming off that week of consistent running, and it sucked to get derailed by an injury. Exercising consistently has always been a key factor for me when it comes to keeping depression at bay, and not having the option to get my run (or anything else for that matter) on really bummed me out. Needless to say, I am really happy that my back is feeling better and that I can get back to running this week. Feeling this crummy (physically and emotionally) is just no good.

I’m even happier, though, that I didn’t end up with a more long-term injury. Hurting my back served as a major wake-up call, and was a reminder that for years I’ve been getting off easy in that I’ve really neglected doing any strength training, and ignored developing the muscle that could have prevented an injury like this one (or a more serious one) from side-lining me. I think that when you’re a runner, it’s easy to get a bit complacent, and figure that since you’re doing pretty solid cardio (and doing some decent work on your quads, calves, and hamstrings), you’re in good shape overall. Chances are that if I’d spent more time working my core and my glutes, I wouldn’t have had to take last week off at all. Let this be a lesson to us all!

So, time to hit the weights, right? I’ll still need to take it easy this week given that the last thing I want is to work my way back into another injury, but I’m aiming to incorporate some dedicated core work, and maybe a strength training session or two (this is at least something I will be working toward if I don’t end up fitting it in this week). I’m trying to find a strength program that I think will work for me, so if you have any suggestions for beginner programs, let me know! In the meantime, I want the week to go something like this:

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 4 miles/core

Wednesday: 4 miles

Thursday: yoga/core

Friday: rest

Saturday: 6-8 miles

Sunday: 4 miles/core

Pretty simple, nothing fancy. I’m aiming for about 15-20 miles, although more than anything I’ll be trying to keep tabs on how I’m feeling. Hopefully I’ll be able to do enough to get a bit of an endorphin kick–something to shake me out of the doldrums I’ve been in the past few days.

My goal is to do three core workouts, and to run at least three times. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that this will be an improvement over the past seven days!

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Looking Back on 2011

A blank slate

2012: a blank slate. Image by Tojosan via Flickr.

I’ve started, stopped, and erased this post 3 times today. This is attempt #4. I’m determined to make it the one that sticks. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m having a hard time writing a year-end post (especially considering I’m under absolutely no obligation to do so) and I think it’s because overall 2011 kind of sucked. I mean, it had its highs, but for the most part it’s full of a lot of stuff I want to leave behind me.

More than anything, when I think about the past year, I think about how much I was floundering. A lot of my blog posts ended up being declarations about starting new challenges, changing habits, improving this, no longer doing that…none of it stuck, and it leaves me wondering why I kept returning to the idea of overhauling something in spite of an overall lack of success in doing so.

Looking toward 2012, I still feel like something has to change. I need to shake things up somehow; I’ve been doing the exact same things for the past several years, and just sort of coasting along without doing much to break out of my routine (or more appropriately, rut). And clearly, it’s not really working. I mean, right? If it were, I think I’d probably not be sitting here writing this!

I’m not really sure where to start, to be honest. But I guess the best place is by identifying some of the things I would like to do, and then determine what, among those things, is reasonable. And so:

  1. Follow through on more things, i.e. run the races I’m registered for, follow my training plans, etc.
  2. Take more control over the way I deal with food, because even though things have gotten a lot better, there is still a lot of room for improvement
  3. Blog more often, and put more time into it overall
  4. Spend more time working on other written material to submit to other sites
  5. Get a job (I’m not a fan of unemployment, really)
  6. Do more yoga (and more running, too, since 2011 didn’t see much of that)
  7. Develop a cross-training (slash strength-training) routine.
Did I miss anything? Is that all? Probably not. But it’s a good start, and that’s what I was looking for anyway, so that’s that. And now, to let those things sit a while, and see what (if any) insights develop in the next day or so.

In the meantime, can we get to 2012 already?

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Rest and Work: the delicate balance

After yesterday’s unanticipated 7-mile run I decided to make today a rest day.  My training schedule calls for 3 miles, but I couldn’t think of a good reason not to put that run off until Friday and let my legs recover from my hill training and longer mileage, and let my entire body recover from the fact that I slept terribly last night!

 

(I still haven't bought any gold star stickers!)

 

It feels so good to take a rest day, and it feels good to need one as well!  Usually I don’t consider the days I don’t run “rest days” because they’re really just days when I’ve skipped a run for whatever reason, and not days when I’m taking care of myself and letting my body recover.  I do have those when I need them, but they are few and far between when my running is less consistent!

When I was reading Hal Higon‘s Marathon, I thought it was kind of funny how much he stressed the importance of rest days.  He is very adamant about the importance of taking them, and mentions how essential they are to balanced training several times throughout the book.  Although I thought he was going a bit far at first (I mean, how many times do you really have to say it, Hal?), I realized after a while that it is kind of easy to reach a point in training where you start thinking, ‘Hmm, I could fit in more miles if I skipped this rest day’ or ‘I could get a streak started if I didn’t take off this Friday’, or whatever.  There is something very tempting about running every day, although I don’t think my body would really be all that game–I would definitely crash if I tried it.

The truth of the matter is that rest days are a really important part of training, just like Hal Higon says.  I mean, the guy does know what he’s talking about, after all.  Taking the rest you need can help you steer clear of overtraining and injuries, and make it possible for you to get more out of your other workouts because you’re more energized and rested for them.

Right now, my schedule calls for two rest days a week.  The problem is that it gets kind of tricky at a certain point–I have all my running planned out, but as I’m increasing my mileage, how do I keep making time for yoga?  I want to continue to run 5 days a week, but I also want to try to get in a couple days of strength training as well.  The yoga I can see working into a day when I’m running, but I think strength training and running on the same day would be a bit difficult for me.  Is it okay to strength train or do yoga on a rest day?  Does a rest day just mean you don’t run, or should you really not do any activity at all?  I’ve used the same training plan for all three marathons I’ve run.  It has you run five days a week, has one day of pure rest, and one day of rest OR cross-training.  But! I’ve never cross-trained, so I have no experience to work from!

I may be making false attributions here, but I’m convinced that one of the reasons why I’m so bad about strength training consistently (I mean, other than the fact that I just don’t like it all that much) is because I’m never sure when exactly to do it.  My yoga always gets less consistent when I run more, too.

Has anyone figured how to work this delicate balance?  If so, I would love some advice!

Embrace:Me 30-day challenge day 13: Dudes, I am going to bed!  I know it’s only 9:13, but the goal is to be kind to oneself, right?  And bed is the only place I want to be right now, so I can’t imagine how I could possibly get any nicer.  Sure, the laundry needs folding, I could do some tidying up, maybe even a short yoga practice.  But then I would be violating the terms of the Challenge, and we can’t have that happening.  Goodnight!

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Chicken Legs

A complete weight training workout can be perf...

Image via Wikipedia

Because it seems like I feel nauseous just about every other day, I finally went in today to see my doctor and see if we could find out what’s up.  While I was there we talked about running and training in general, and he asked me to do a few simple movements to test my strength.  These were things like standing with my feet shoulder-width apart and raising my toes, then rising up onto my toes, then squatting, and then doing two one-legged squats on each leg.  Everything was fine until we got to the one-legged squat part, at which point I faltered and almost fell over.

“Hmm,” he said, “Have you been weight training?”

“Er, no.”  I replied sheepishly, since it was pretty clear that a sheepish reply was in order.

“You should start.  Your legs are pretty weak.” he said.  “It would really be good for you.”  He wasn’t being judgy or rude about it, but I immediately felt diminished.  I wanted to protest: ‘But I do yoga!  I do so much yoga!’ and ‘I run hills!  I’m GREAT at running hills!  You should see me!’ (it’s true, I’m pretty good at running hills, which tends to be good for strengthening the old legs.  Or so I thought).  What an ego blow.  It made me think of something my boss had told me that a sports doc had told him at one point while he was recovering from an injury: “You’re old and brittle.”  Yikes.  Even delivered in the nicest, most caring tone possible, hearing things like this does not feel good.

I have tried so many times to start weight training and it never takes with me.  But now that I’ve been called out on it, I feel like I absolutely have to do it no matter what.  My doctor is right, too, it would be really good for me.  From a running perspective alone, weight training yields great benefits.  For one thing, it helps to prevent injury.  As Tom Holland explains,

I contend that running doesn’t cause injuries, but rather illuminates our weak links and allows us to see what we need to improve upon. There’s no greater way of determining how to improve our bodies than by listening to and accessing how we respond to running.

By pinpointing our weaknesses and working on strengthening them early on in life, we can build a strong musculoskeletal system that will carry us through our later years with little or no pain.

Strength training also helps you to get faster, make running feel easier, and make your body more efficient when running.  I don’t need convincing when it comes to why I should be weight training.  It’s just…I don’t know.  I have a bit of a mental block?

For one thing, I have no idea where to start.  I know all the basic exercises.  I know a lot about strength training in general.  I’m just not good at putting it all together and then staying interested.  Mike sent me a few links to workouts from Stumptuous that look like they might be my speed, so maybe I’ll start there.  According to my doctor, I really just need to be doing two days a week, and mostly targeting my lower body just to bulk up my wee chicken legs a bit.  I guess I can handle that.

So, any advice?  Is strength training a regular part of your fitness routine?

Embrace:Me 30-day Challenge day 5: Today I have been a real cranky pants, and very resistant to doing anything nice for myself.  So I forced myself into a quick session of yoga through Yoga Download.  Of course I feel better since doing it!  Isn’t that how it always works?  I’m planning to spend the rest of the evening being nice to myself, too.  It’s just one of those days where I need the extra care.

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The Blog Effect

I enjoy blogging.  I like writing a lot, and I also like being connected to a community of people with similar interests.  I find it cool that I can share experiences with someone I’ve never met in person, or keep in touch with people I don’t get to see or talk to that often, through an online journal.  As with many things, though, I have to be careful about both blogging and reading other peoples’ blogs because it’s so easy for me to develop distorted thoughts about the snippet of things that I read or see on the internet.  When I’m not careful, I get a little bit overwhelmed by other blogs–people my age seem so successful, and so happy, and their pictures are so beautiful, and they’re eating such healthy food, and they’re in such good shape, and…see what I mean?  I get a little bit carried away and I have to remind myself that in blogging, we have complete control over what we present to the outside world.  Depending on how much we want to reveal, we can give a pretty thorough image of what our day-to-day lives are like, or we can have transparency in some things and let people fill in the gaps with others.  For some, filling in the gaps can be a dangerous exercise.

I think, though, that the positive aspects of blogging outweigh the negative aspects.  For one thing, a community of readers can be a tremendous resource.  This is fortunate, because I’m kind of long on questions (well, relatively, anyway) short on resources right now!  I’ll start at the beginning.

I went running this morning before merrily (ha!) heading off to work.  Even though I’ve only done it twice recently I’ve found that running in the morning does me a ton of good during the day.  My mood is better, I’m not thinking all the time about having to run when I get home, and worrying that it might get too dark before I can get my running shoes on…in short, I enjoy it and I can see myself making a habit of it.  The problem is, I can’t really get out of bed early enough in the morning to eat much of anything and drink a whole lot (I do try to combat the dehydration that inevitably sets in overnight) and run the distance I have planned.  Some day I’ll be lightning fast and this won’t be a problem.  But that day is a way off.  As a result, I end up going running on an empty stomach and with a bit of a dry mouth.  What usually happens is I run along very comfortably for about three miles, and then I start to get thirsty and hungry.

These aren’t huge problems, and I know how to deal with them.  It won’t be too hard to grab a banana or something else that’s easy to digest (maybe a gu) while I’m changing out of my pajamas and into my running clothes, and I can carry a water bottle with me.  But this morning, I also noticed that my upper body just felt really heavy.  Not sore, not stiff, not tense, just very heavy.  As though I was sort of hauling dead weight.  I kept shaking my arms out a little bit as I was running, but since I wasn’t really tense, that didn’t really do anything except make me look funny.  I ran less than 5 miles, but by the time I hit my fourth mile I kind of wanted to crawl home.  My legs felt fine, my lungs felt fine, but man, my upper body was just wasted and it made me feel so lethargic (my fourth mile split, though, was on par with my previous miles).

I’ve realized while training for this marathon that I really should start doing core strengthening exercises.  Sometimes, after long runs especially, my lower back gets a bit sore or tired, and my abs feel the same way.  I’m wondering if maybe the fatigue I was feeling in my upper body was related to a lack of strength?  Or maybe it was connected to being dehydrated and running on an empty stomach?

I did a little bit of poking around on the internet and found a surprising dearth of information on anything that sounds like what I was experiencing this morning.  So I’d really like to know if anyone else has felt the same way?  Any theories or solutions?  Maybe this is punishment for letting my yoga practice fall by the wayside.

As a post-script to this post, I’d like to add that as I was looking through the images that Zemanta (or whatever it’s called) proposed to accompany this post, I found one of a naked woman blogging.  Um, thanks but no thanks.  This is a family blog.