Monday, February 28, 2011



Get in wayback machine!  Quick catch-up post for Friday (and Saturday), a cross-training day.  It was CHISL'D day (their name, not mine) which meant lots of cardio.  Today's class was done in a style affectionately dubbed "Rambo Run."  This means jump-roping.  Lots of jump-roping.  

It starts out easy enough.  10 seconds of jump-rope, followed by a strength exercise (e.g. dumbbell curls, presses, rows, arm raises, push-ups, and lots of weighted lunges). Without breaking, increase to 20 seconds of jump-rope followed immediately by a different strength exercise.  Same sequence repeated for jumps of 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, and 60 seconds before decreasing the times by 10 seconds per sequence until you're back down to zero (total of 6 minutes jumping rope).  Not all of the non-jump-roping interludes were strength exercises.  Toward the end, there was a set of 10 "all out sprints" back & forth in the studio.  That. Sucked!

Once the Rambo Run was concluded, core exercises commenced (crunches, bicycle crunches, hip-ups, 'windshield wipers,' and Supermans).  The last brutalization after all of that was "7 up, 7 down pushups" with a partner.  Both start in push-up plank position and hold (or try; it gets tough toward the end) to hold that position when not doing push-ups.  First person does one push-up, then the other person does one.  The First person does two push-ups, then the other person does two.  Then 3, 4, 5, 6, on to 7 before going back down (6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) the same way.  49 push-ups.  This was one of those workouts I needed an extra towel to clean up the floor when I was done.  Great class!

As I mentioned above, this is "catch-up" day and Saturday is/was my off-day for the week.  We had some good friends over for dinner and ignored common sense in terms of diet (it was "cheat day").  There are some weeks where I really need the cheat day and others where I take it, but don't really go hog-wild with it.  Saturday was a hog-wild day.  Chips, oodles of honey roasted peanuts, Chicken-bacon-garlic pizza and pepperoni-mushroom-onion pizza, garlic bread, two bottles of fine wine (2007 Little Vineyards Petite Sirah - the only winery where we maintain a Wine Club membership, and 2000 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino), several samplings of home brew from the Uberbrau Kegerator, and the grande finale of Peanut Butter Pound cake with chocolate frosting.  

The day tipped in at just under 5000 Kcal including 209g (almost 1900 Kcal) of succulent, delicious fat (for reference, that's about 3 "normal" days' worth on my 3000 Kcal per day diet).  With 17 miles on the schedule for Sunday, I'll find something to do with it!  When I did my half marathon training, I used to try to have cheat day be on my long run day, but I was only burning around 1000 Kcal per run (or about double a normal workout).  With the full marathon training, my shortest long run burns over 1500 Kcal and my longest will approach 2500 Kcal.  I almost need both weekend days to pre-load and recover-eat from runs that long.  

The problem is getting "healthy" calories in the tank.  Wine & beer (and junky food) are part of cheat day, but they are certainly not the best thing to fuel your body for distance running!  I can definitely see how pro athletes can have weight problems when they retire.  When you're extremely active, it takes so much food to maintain your current level that you end up resetting your baseline for what's an acceptable amount to eat.  My plan for my training continues to be to have an "eat anything and everything" dietary cheat day once per week and then balance intake to output for the remainder of the week, always trying to err slightly on the side of over-fueling.  So far, so good!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

If "2 Out Of 3 Ain't Bad," then 4 Out Of 5 Must Be Pretty Good!


Another Thursday, another [hated] tempo run.  If you're a good blog-stalker, you already know that I was sore from Kettlebell class and that I've been having some issues with pain in the ball of my right foot.  My scheduled run for the day was a total of 7 miles -- a 5 mile tempo run at my Long Tempo pace (between 7:12 and 7:24 minutes per mile or 8.1 to 8.3 MPH) bookended by an easy mile lead in & run-out.  

My typical warm-up before running is some active stretching, one of the PT exercises I got last fall to help deal with some knee pain resulting from overactive hip flexors, and a little work on the IT Bands with a foam roller.  The active stretching typically gives me an idea what's going to hurt.  I start with doing a lunge into a knee lift (pulling my knee to my chest) and then stepping that leg forward into another lunge and repeating, holding each position for at least a full second.  After doing some of those, I swap out the knee lift with a hip stretch; instead of pulling my knee to my chest, I pull my ankle up to my pelvis with my knee off to the side.  

The run itself never materialized the way I wanted it to.  The warm up went okay, but my right hammy did not want to loosen up and my ankles just felt sore.  I started off with a brisk walk and gradually built up to about an 8:30 pace.  At 3/4 of a mile, I took a 60 second break to stretch a bit more.  When I hit a mile, I dutifully cranked the treadmill speed up to 8.3 MPH (7:13 pace) and started the tempo run.  

This was one of those runs where there was never any comfort zone.  Ankles were sore, then shins, then hamstrings, then feet, then quads.  I could never settle in to the run and before I had run 2 miles the sole of my right foot felt like there was a fire in my shoe.  I slowed down to a walk for a few hundred meters to see if I could perform a mental and physical reboot for the run.  It only worked briefly and when I realized that my foot-strike and stride was significantly different between my right & left foot,  I made the decision to shut it down a mile short of my 5 mile goal.

I absolutely could have sucked it up and completed the run, but there's always that risk that if I push it, I'll end up tweaking something that affects future workouts.  Keeping perspective is important.  My long term goal is to run the marathon, not complete every workout perfectly on the schedule.  Obviously I can't bail on every run, but the reality is that missing or shorting a run here and there isn't going to affect my long-term goal, especially when "pushing through it" may have more long term consequences.

My plan is still to run 17 miles this weekend and my goal is to get my body ready for that.  Every week is a learning experience for how my body responds to the new stresses I'm putting on it.  Fortunately, I'm a quick learner; I just need to make sure I listen to what it's telling me!

Friday, February 25, 2011

"That was me, Tommy Lasorda..."


Wednesday is Kettlebell day, therefore Wednesdays are good days.  By the time the marathon rolls around, you'll be sick of hearing me yammer about Kettlebells.  As I've mentioned, I typically blog a day behind and I can comfortably say that I am still store from Wednesday's KB class.  AWESOME!  It's been a while since I've been sore from a workout.  Soreness is the feeling of progress!

I took my own advice from my last Kettlebell post and went heavier than I usually do.  I also went for simple.  Instead of swapping around 4 or more weights, I pulled only the 24kg (~50lb) and 16kg (~35lb) weights.  The workout was triple-sets -- 3 different exercises done back-to-back, repeated 3 times with ~30 seconds of rest in between.  An example would be 25 KB swings, 15 squats, and 10 push-ups.  Lather, Rest, Repeat.

Over the course of the workout, I ended up doing 75 swings, 10 snatches to each side, 3 Turkish get-ups on each side, 45 squats, 36 deadlifts, and 45 step-back lunges on each side all with the 24kg weight.  I did 45 Mason (aka Russian) Twists to each side and somewhere around a dozen overhead presses with the 16kg weight.  I had to drop down to a neighbor's 8 or 12 kg weight to finish out the overhead presses.

I had tried the snatches & get-ups with the 24kg KB before, but never as part of the actual workout (and I have done some workouts where I used the 32kg for lower body work and some sets of swings).  Having to maintain control of the larger weight as it moves around was definitely a good challenge to grip strength.  It also made the workout more rewarding to push outside of my comfort zone and have success.  

I'm still a long ways from my 2011 goal of being able to do a getup with the 32kg kettlebell, but I'm making progress.  Being able to hoist the 24kg weight from the floor to an overhead position in the getup 3x in a row was something I wasn't expecting I would be able to do when class started this week, but I knew I that I had to give it a whirl and I'm glad I did!

2011-FEB-23 Diet Log

It was a year ago this week that I started my two-week trial at Synergy Fitness.  That first group class was a slap-in-the-face reality check of how out of shape I really was.  I have been genetically blessed with a fairly active metabolism and a lousy, high fat, high carb diet combined with zero physical activity put me at a starting point where I was literally in the worst shape of my life and going the wrong way.  With twin infant girls, there were certainly realities of parenthood that would inevitably necessitate both more physical strength and certain more stamina than I possessed.

I threw myself at that first class.  It's similar to the BodyPump classes that involve moderate cardio with weights and a total body workout.  I learned that I couldn't do 10 normal pushups and that I apparently don't have any use for triceps on a day-to-day basis.  By the end of the class, I almost couldn't do the exercises with only arm-weight.  It wasn't that I was in pain (I was) or that I was gassed (I was), but I was at a point where my brain would send an instruction to perform a motion and the muscle was not capable of a response.

I lived on Ben Gay and Aleve for several days.  Everything hurt.  I could barely lift my arms to bathe or eat.  There were times where I resorted to using my left hand under my right elbow to help move the fork toward my mouth.  All major muscle groups were insanely sore to the touch.  That Monday and the aftermath was singularly the worst physical experience of my life.

On Tuesday, I went back and gutted it out through a Spinning class.  Lesson learned: cardio helps sore muscles.  The best my body felt for about 72 hours after Monday's class was the few hours after that spinning class on Tuesday.  Wednesday was a bit of time on the elliptical machine and Thursday, just barely starting to feel human again, was my first intro to Kettlebells.  I *may* have used something as heavy as the 8kg weight, but I know I stuck with the smaller KBs. Friday through Sunday I rested and then started all over again on Monday.  

In some ways, I miss that time.  The growth and progress was measurable.  Being sore the next day from a workout feels good in the sort of way that you feel like you accomplished something.  It is so much harder to get to that point today and the gains in terms of strength and the overall changes in physique that come with adding muscle and losing fat are much more incremental now. Setting big goals is my way of keeping motivation toward building a better me.  Declaring them "out loud" to anyone who will listen provides a level of accountability to stick with it and ensure I do what I said I was going to do.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What it takes to gain (or lose) a pound


Tuesday was "back on the program" day with this week's Interval run.  The Intervals were done at a descending distance and ascending pace.  For reference, 800m is half a mile and 400m is a quarter mile.
  1. 1200m @ 15.9 kph 
  2. 1000m @ 16.1 kph
  3.   800m @ 16.3 kph
  4.   600m @ 16.4 kph
  5.   400m @ 16.6 kph
  6.   200m @ 16.8 kph (actually ended up doing about 300m at 17.0 kph).  
My recovery was a 300m walk at 4MPH (6kph) between each interval.

These were all done at my "A" pace (3h20m training plan).  My ankles continue to take time to limber up, but my calves felt stronger than they have in weeks, so I'll take that as a sign that this whole plan is working.  

I had this really strange sensation like the support structure of my right shoe completely collapsed during my 1000m interval.  It wasn't painful, but it literally fell like the underlying structure of the shoe broke and the ball of my foot could feel the hole under the insole with every step.  These are brand news shoes with less than 20 miles on them, so I know it's not wear & tear.  I stopped after the interval and used part of the recovery time to remove the shoe & check everything out.  Nothing was obviously wrong, so I re-tied and set about completing my run.  Strangeness.

This is the link to the training plan in Google Docs I'm running with (there's a tab there for the half marathons I ran last fall, too).  I need to populate a few more weeks out in the near term, but so far everything is going to schedule.

2011-FEB-22 Diet Log
2011-FEB-22 Run Graph (Nike+)


I'm getting back on The Diet and (this may sound odd) but I'm going to make a commitment to marginally over-eat for a while to see how my body responds.  I've had my input vs. output pretty well dialed for months and one of my goals for this marathon training is to NOT lose muscle mass.  That means I need to keep my daily caloric intake a) consistent throughout the day (no binge eating), and b) equal to or greater than the amount I'm burning.  With the exception of long-run days and off days, that means I'll need somewhere between 3000 - 3100 Kcal to stay level.

Generally speaking, gaining or losing a pound of fat accounts for 3500 Kcal.  To lose 1 pound in a week, I would need to eat 500 Kcal per day under my burn (basal metabolism + activity).  Likewise, to gain a pound in a week, I would need to have a 500 Kcal per day surplus in my diet.  I hear people talk about gaining significant weight in a short period of time (e.g. 2 or more pounds in a week) and blaming a few bad meals for the result.  While it's certainly possible, it would require substantial effort to over-eat by 1000+ Kcal per day for 7 days in a row.

As an aside, the quickest way to gain "fake weight" is through hydration.  Water is heavy.  8.34 lbs per gallon.  To prove this to yourself, weigh yourself, fill a pint glass to the brim with water, drink it, and weigh yourself again.  Congratulations!  You just gained a pound and you're not any fatter, less fit, more muscular, or whatever-you-tell-yourself-when-the-scale-goes-up.  Sure, diet matters and the cumulative effect of little cheats and over eating will eventually make itself known, but getting hung up over minor, short-term fluctuations is fruitless.  

If you're honest with yourself and know what's going into the tank and if you're honest with yourself about the intensity and duration of the exercise you're doing, the equation of "What's going on?" is a simple one. In some cases, adding a 100-200 calories per day can IMPROVE weight loss if your calorie deficit is too low, so you can't game the system by attempting to survive on 800 Kcal per day while exercising for 45 minutes. It's all about balance and finding that sweet spot where diet + exercise = the result you want.  If you're not satisfied with the results, make small modifications and see what changes.  What's the worst that can happen??

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life at 88 MPH?


Re: the Title of today's blog, Monday was a "don't" and I feel lazy for it.  There.  I've said it.  I was sore from my run on Sunday, but my arms, shoulders, core, back, and chest were fine.  My excuse is that we were having satellite TV (Dish) installed and that took up more of the day than I expected and before I knew it, there was no good time to get a work-out in.  

But I could've.  I just didn't make the time.  I did manage to whip out a few sets of push ups and pull ups before going to bed, but it was simply to rationalize that doing SOMETHING (anything) was better than doing nothing.

In the grand scheme of things, so what?  It happened.  Now it's in the past.  Can't be changed.  Move forward.  

So much of people's hang-ups and obstacles with diet and/or fitness gets distilled down to what they did (or didn't do) that day, or the day/week/month/years before.  "Today I ate Oreos and drank delicious egg-nog on the sofa while watching a workout DVD*; oh woe is me!  I can't diet!  I can't work-out.  Pass the Bon-Bons and the remote..." 

Every day is a new choice.  Don't allow your past dictate your future.  If you don't like where you are today, you don't need a DeLorean to go back and "fix" what led you here.  Accept that you are now who you are and take responsibility for what led you to where you are today.  If you don't like it, set a new course!  Each day, dedicate yourself to making the right choices to get to your goal.  Will you get there the first day you start?  Not if you set a good goal!  But each day, you make the choices that lead you closer to that goal.

Training to run a marathon isn't something you do in a week or a month; some say it takes over a year to get in proper shape to train for a marathon.  I take my training day by day and I know that at some point I'm going to skip a run or a workout for any number of reasons. The key is to look at the big picture and know that missing one day (or several) isn't going to destroy any chance of reaching that goal.  The cumulative effect of training is what's going to get me over the finish line, not any one workout.  Diet is the same way.  I *plan* on blowing out my diet one day a week knowing that the overall impact isn't going to affect my long terms results if I stay on-task for the rest of the week.

Stop wasting energy on wishing things were different in the past and start spending energy in the present to make a better future.

* FYI, dunking the cookies into the egg-nog is acceptable... and quite tasty!

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Is this Mandatory, or is this Optional?"


I took a day off from blogging yesterday.  It was an off day from training in preparation for today's long run of 15 miles and, once in a while, a break is good.  Even though Friday's travel day was an "off day" from exercise, there's no relaxation that comes from getting up at 7AM and working, either in the office or traveling through 3 hops and 4 airports, until 11PM that night.

Up until today, the furthest I'd ever run was 14 miles and that was once during my half marathon training last summer and that beat the hell out of me.  I didn't get "healthy" from that run for months and fought lingering knee pain from IT and hip-flexor issues.  I was still not feeling great from last week's activities and the weather forecast of "feels like single-digits" wasn't acting as a strong motivator to get out and literally pound the body against the frozen pavement for over 2 hours.

But I did.  And every mile was better than the last the one.  A run through my neighborhood is just shy of 4 miles and 4 "laps" measures out at around 15.3 miles.  Starting out, my ankles were the worst; stiff and painful with each stride.  Fortunately, it was limited to the ankle and didn't get to shin splints or calf cramping.  

After the first lap, the stiffness was replaced by what feels like bruising of the ball of my right foot (or, more likely, I became aware of this pain when the ankle pain subsided).  This isn't a new feeling and I'm optimistic that it's just the lingering effect of running in what I really hope were worn out shoes. Today's run was in a brand new pair of Saucony Progrid Guide 3s I picked up on clearance and they felt solid (well, except for that patch of black ice I hit; that sucked).

My goal going in to the run was to complete the distance.  Period.  My Training Plan wanted me to do the run at 45 seconds per mile slower than my projected marathon pace (MP) or somewhere between 8:12 and 8:24 per mile (MP is around 7:24 - 7:36, depending on my goal).  When I trained for the halfs, I never hit my pacing (other than my interval runs) until around mid-point in the training, so I'm letting my body find a natural pace I think I can maintain for a long time and just trying to settle in to it.

By neighborhood laps, here's how I did:
  • Lap 1: 34'15" (8:49 per mile)
  • Lap 2: 33'44" (8:42 per mile)
  • Lap 3: 33'08" (8:32 per mile)
  • Lap 4: 30'26" (7:51 per mile)
Average time: 8:31 per mile.  I'll definitely take it!  I finally started feeling STRONG just at the tail end of Lap 3 and clearly picked up the tempo for the last lap.

Taking a page (and some motivation) from Mike French I started and ended the run with a set 25 jumping jacks and 25 pushups -- just a little mental game to tell myself that I finished as strong as I started and still had energy in the tank for more.

2011-FEB-19 Diet Log (yesterday) -- I'm experimenting with splitting my "long run" calories over two days.


Briefly, I wanted to share a bit of motivation and a cool fitness challenge I picked up a few months ago.  The challenge is called, "30 the Hard Way" and is performed by Martin Rooney of Training For Warriors.  Aside from the challenge, I absolutely love his "Mandatory v. Optional" lead in.  It epitomizes personal fitness and, on days like today, marathon training.  Running 15 miles was not mandatory, nor was bookending that workout with a total of 50 jumping jacks & push-ups.  I chose the option of getting off the couch and out of the house and I'm glad I did it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

“Mind your pace, boy!”

As my week of travel draws to a close, I took advantage of a run-perfect day in Shreveport to do my prescribed Tempo run along the river.  The temperature was maybe 60 degrees, skies were slightly overcast and a light breeze was blowing up (or down) the river.  I was out of work a little early and had plenty of time to get back to the hotel, slam down a Clif bar (Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch) and half a bottle of water, and gear up for a run.

Those who run for fun seem to be minimalist runners -- strap on the shoes, make sure you’re clothed, and go.  I have my fancy-pants Injinji toe socks, my heart-rate monitor (which also gives terribly inaccurate, but consistent pace information at a glance), my RoadID, my iTouch & headphones for music and integrated Nike+ for collecting marginally accurate run data (this is where the “run graphs” I post come from), a water bottle for hydration, my sunglasses to keep my eyes safe, and my Batman-like running belt with integrated head-lamp, tail-LED-light, and pockets to hold my Droid 2 Global with Runkeeper (and/or iMapMyRun) and some energy gel (preferable Clif Shot Bloks).

On the agenda today was the run I struggle with every week – the Tempo Run. Like Track Repeats/Intervals, Tempo runs are done at a pace faster than race-pace, but obviously for a shorter distance.  This week’s plan was to log 7 miles, the first & last mile at an “Easy” pace of about 8:30 per mile.  Unless I transcribed the plan wrong, the middle 5 miles were prescribed at my projected marathon pace (MP) of around 7:30 per mile.  By comparison, the first 5k (3.1 miles) race I ran last May was done at a 7:26 pace.

Unlike Intervals, there is no expected recovery time during the run and, unlike the Intervals where you can break the effort down to “Only 400m to go… Only 200m to go…,” the effect isn’t quite the same when you say, “Okay, 20% done, only 4 miles (or about half an hour) of this hell left.”  I need to un-lend my FIRST book (done yet, Mary?) and re-read a bit about the goals of the Tempo and plot out my next month of training soon. 

From what I recall, the Tempo run is designed to improve “running economy” by putting your into a slightly less acute place of stress than an Interval, but to run basically at the edge of your muscles’ physical limits to train them how to process the lactate by-products of heavy, sustained use.  The feel for me is that a tempo pace is one where you start running and wonder how in the WORLD you’re going to sustain that pace for the duration of the run.

The hotel-to-run-path route was just over a mile and a quarter and the “easy” run out there didn’t bode well.  Ankles were feeling stiff and I think it was a carryover from the Insanity Fit Test the previous day. With the exception of a short walk interval at the half way point to suck down a caffeinated gel and another brief pause to wait for traffic at a crosswalk, I succeeded in running the full tempo portion of the run, but fell short of the target pace at an average of 7:51. 

The run/bike path was marked every ¼ mile and I started giving myself an incremental target goal of doing better than 2 minutes per quarter mile (which, for you non-math majors, would equate to being under 8 minutes per mile).  Once I hit the end of the 5 mile portion of the run, I treated myself to about a quarter mile cool-down walk before kicking it back up for the Easy run back over the bridge to the hotel.

With tomorrow being a travel day, there will be no “Training Log” per se, but I intend to use the day to talk a little more about my Training Plan and provide some insight into the tools that I use to facilitate my training.  If there’s anything you’d like to see me write about or know about, drop a comment!  I’m working on lining up some guest bloggers to provide a change of pace from my daily rambling prose.  If you or someone you know would be interested, let me know!

2011-FEB-17 Diet Log (MyFitnessPal)

Waking Up the Neighbours


I never run on back to back days.  Since yesterday was a run (Intervals) today was intended to be cross-training day.  When I'm at home, I have predictable gym schedule for cross training and it's hard to get the same quality of workout on the road.  The fitness centers often either lack suitable equipment or are so crowded that workouts become an exercise in futility.

My BFF Deb is psycho-rabid BeachBody fiend and I knew she had Shaun T "Insanity" DVD series sitting under the stack of P90X and Chalean Turbo Kick/Jam/Fire/Pump/etc. workouts, so I asked to borrow the series.  I'd seen the infomercials and was intrigued by the concept.  If you haven't seen the infomercial, the link above had a surprisingly-low-quality video showing the gist of the program.

Frankly, the workouts looked beyond my ability (or at least beyond what I was willing to commit to).  But I needed something for The Road and Insanity runs on the belief that your body is your gym equipment.  With my marathon training in fully swing, I'm not looking to do the whole program, but the style of the workout seems suited to what I need to be doing for cross trainings.  The starting point of the program is a "Fit Test" that consists of eight one-minute exercises with around a minute of break in between.  You count the reps for each exercise, write them down, and then, if you follow the program, you repeat the test every few weeks.

The test itself, with its warm-up and cool down runs about 25 minutes and, if done at maximum intensity, is a pretty solid workout in and of itself.  Since one of me goals for my marathon training plan is to maintain my overall level of fitness through training, the Fit Test seemed like a good place to start to set a baseline and also get a feel for the Insanity program.  These are the exercises that comprise the Fit Test:

(the Globe Jump is jumping back, right, forward, left as one rep)

My results were:
  1. Switch Kicks: 70 (realizing I may want to ask for a ground-floor room next time.  Whomever was underneath me must have wondered what the HELL was going on above them -- good thing I wasn't doing this at midnight!)
  2. Power Jacks: 64 (feeling good at this point, heartrate is up)
  3. Power Knees: 74 (my glute started cramping at this point)
  4. Power Jumps: 35 (I became acutely aware that I had quadriceps and that they were becoming angry)
  5. Globe Jumps: 8 (toward the end, more energy was focused on getting both feet under me and not crumpling into the bed, desk, couch, or window when landing).
  6. Suicide Jumps: 20 (I've done these enough in the gym that I don't mind them, but I was definitely ready to not jump any more!  I sure the person in the room beneath me shared that sentiment.)
  7. Push-up Jacks: 35? (I started listening to the DVD and lost my place in counting near the end.  35 is pretty close)
  8. Low Plank Obliques: 53 (good exercise, breathing hard, but definitely should have done better here)
That may not look like a lot (only 8 minutes of work-out, right?) but my calves (already displeased from the 4x800 sprints yesterday) were sore for the rest of the night with my quads feeling fatigued.  Walking down the stairs of the hotel to dinner hurt.  I like workouts that make me sore (and they're getting harder to find!), so this could be up my alley for a travel burn-out!  Maybe post-marathon I'll try the program as part of my training for the Race to the Top of Vermont and the 100 on 100 Relay.

FEB-16-2011 Diet Log

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Perfect Hotel Workout for Race Training


Interval runs are perfectly suited to life on the road.  Most hotels have a working treadmill with pace & distance readouts. While they may not be perfectly accurate, they'll get the job done!  A typical interval run (also called track repeats) lasts for only about 5k of distance and mixes stupid-fast running with walking or jogging recovery periods (I walk my recovery periods at 4 MPH).  Each lap around a track is 400m or just about 1/4 mile.  Done at the proper pace, you get an exhausting running workout done in about 30 minutes. 

The idea behind Intervals that you run at short distance (200m to 1600m) at a near-sprint pace for that interval and then dial it back and recover for a few minutes (200 - 400m) before cranking it back up again.  This cardio workout helps train your legs to run FAST and is key to increasing race day speed.  It also allows you to safely train at very high intensity levels for short periods of time and strengthen your cardiovascular system.   

Today's workout was prescribed to be a 4 x 800m run, short by this plan's standard.  As I've mentioned before, I have a Realistic plan of run paces and a Fantasy plan of run paces.  My goal is to run as close as possible to the Fantasy plan paces and not fall below the Realistic plan paces.  In this case, each 800m interval was to be run between 9.9 and 10.1 MPH or right around a 6 minute mile.When I trained for my half marathons, I was running at a slightly slower pace and it's amazing how much difference a few up tics on the speed dial makes!  

For this 4 x 800 workout, I never felt truly comfortable for any of the intervals.  The pace was blistering.  It  was so fast that I had difficulty even getting a consistent stride down on the treadmill at first.  When you run at a slower pace, if you stride a little shorter or a little longer than usual, the belt is moving slowly enough that your body can stabilize almost immediately.  When you're running on the edge, those little differences in stride are hugely magnified as the belt grabs your shoe and whizzes beneath your body.  My goal when running these sprints is to try to run so that it feels like I'm pushing the treadmill belt with every step vs. just trying to keep from being another one of those America's Funniest Videos clips of a dude zipping off the back of a treadmill into the dumbbell rack.

I am happy to report that I completed the entire workout at my Fantasy pace.  My feet were literally burning for the last two intervals and the wind-sucking kept starting earlier and earlier in the interval. But at just shy of 3 minutes per burst, it didn't take much convincing to get to the half-way point.  From there, split it in half again and get another 200m.  Now there's just 200m left and you can suck it up & hold it together for 200m.  

The cruelest part of this whole exercise?  To dial the speed back down, you have to PRESS and HOLD a button on the somewhat-vertical control pad.  Laws of motion state that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  That means that to apply and maintain force on the button that brings the speed down, I'm also pressing myself away from the treadmill, making me have to exert more energy to maintain the run pace while also keeping that "SLOW DOWN!" button depressed to keep the pace coming down, down, down.  Funny how it seems the speed-up always comes faster than the slow-down. 


As someone who really doesn't like running (but likes to run as fast as I can when I do run), I look forward to my interval days.  Aside from the physical benefits, if you run at a pace that pushes you, it can be a great motivator.  Even though the intervals are run at a very fast pace, the time & distance is being relatively short, so you can just will yourself to suck it up & get to the recovery zone.  For many of my interval runs, I come to a point where I feel like I just barely hold on for one of the intervals and am not sure I can do the full distance of another.  But I do, and it's even harder to get through it, but I do.  And there's another one (or 4) after that.  You just take them one at a time and focus on getting that one complete.

I know a lot people don't do intervals (or hills) because they don't like them.  They just run 5 days a week and assume that logging 40-50 miles a week is "Training."  That would be like a NFL Quarterback just working on throwing for every workout.  You may have that throwing motion perfected, but it'll do you a fat lot of good when a Defensive End uses your head as a garden hoe because your legs weren't training to evade a pass rush.

I've come a long way in a short time as new runner and it has most certainly NOT been from logging miles.  It's come from training every aspect of my body in as many ways as I can to be a better ...whatever!  Runner? Golfer? Biker? Tennis, Basketball, Football player?  Husband? Father? Trash-Taker-Outer and Roof-Shoveler-offer?  All of those things!  Right now I am specifically focused on this Marathon and I know I need to train my joints, mind, muscles, heart, lungs, etc. to do this and, like it or not, running intervals is part of getting there.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the road again


Finally.  Eight consecutive days of physical punishment came to an yesterday as I finally took my first rest day.  Eight days covering a distance of over 34 miles.  Eight days burning over 6800 Kcal.  I was definitely ready for a rest day, it was just unfortunate that it had to come in the form of a travel day that started with check-in at the airport at 5AM for a week-long business trip.

Cramming myself into coach seats on two regional jets and a 737 for 5 hours of my day was far from the ideal way to spend an off-day from training, but it was certainly nice to get to the hotel in the afternoon and just be able to not worry about getting a work-out in.  


Maintaining a diet on the road is difficult, but it can be done.  Later this week, I'll share some of the things I do to try to contain the damage of eating out for 3 meals a day.  Dining while traveling is worse.  There's rarely time for a sit-down meal and, unless you get a first-class bump, getting anything substantial on a plane is virtually impossible.

For me the net result is that I'm typically hungry until we do dinner and I scavenge for the rest of the day (as evidenced in my diet log, above).  I pack high-calorie bars.  Clif Builder Bars are awesome, but I've lately been traveling with the available-at-Costco Clif bars (the old school ones), Kashi CRUNCH bars, and Zone bars.  One of those and a bottle of water usually quiet my stomach for a while.

It's still never enough and the lack of proper nutrition certainly doesn't play nicely with the stress of travel, running on little sleep, and being in a giant petri dish for a significant portion of the day.  The problem with eating healthy is that it's hard to find 3000 healthy Kcal in a day when for a significant portion of that time, you don't realistically have easy access to ANY food.

The result is that when dinner rolls around I'm hungry and my body is strongly craving everything (fat, carbs, protein) and my body wants to play catch-up.   ...and more often than not, I let it.  Right or wrong, I know that tomorrow is back on the work-out bandwagon for another 6 days and I'm going to need the energy!  So get the food in, rehydrate, go to bed, get a good night's sleep, and get up ready to roll in the morning.  Giddy-up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Must Break You.


After yesterday's rooftop adventure, I was fully planning to wuss out on my long run.  I have 3 parallel plans -- one for the Beginning Marathoner (which I am), one for an experience runner targeting a 3:30 finish (which should fit my abilities based on my last half marathons), and a 3:19 finish that's my "push the envelope" training plan and a Boston Qualifying pace for a 40-44 year old (the 3:15 for a 35-39 year old is realistically out of reach).  The n00b plan put me on 8 miles for Week 1, the other two put me on 13 (my shortest distance run of the plan.  I went to bed beat, tired, and a little bit sore on Saturday night, planning to do the smart thing after a hard day of show removal and run 8 in the cold & snow.  That plan went to hell when I woke up and felt... fine.  So I figured "Game On!" and laced up for a nice half marathon distance.  

I've learned that the best way to complete a long run is to run half the distance out and turn around (or a run one big loop).  You typically feel fine going out and then, when you get to that halfway point, you have little choice but to complete the workout and get home. For those who live in the area, the loop I ran was from my neighborhood, out on Rt 15 to Jericho, down to the end of Lee River Rd. and back to Rt 15 on Plains Rd and back home.

Miles 4 - 6 are on Lee River Rd, a rolling, twisty section of road that has hills on the left and farm fields on the right.  Running down through this valley, I started thinking about Rocky IV and his training regimen in the Siberian wilderness -- chopping wood, running up snow-covered mountains, and farm work.  Contrast that with the mechanized, supplement/steroid driven (I know there's a difference; no preaching) plan used by Drago.  This weekend has been very much about getting outside and doing work vs. going to do workouts in a gym and work on my pecs.

I may not be doing one-armed switch plyo pushups or hauling a dog sled with my trainer on it through 2 feet of powder (no ideas, Hallas!!), but I like to think I've got a little Rocky in my soul.  I sure felt a little Eye of the Tiger when I turned onto Plains Rd. just past the half way point, knowing that I was on my way home.  I was temped to run to the top of the driveway when I got home and give a loud, "ADRIAAANNNNNNN!!" yell, but the dogs would've started barking & woken the twins from their nap.  Yelling another woman's name tends to be frowned upon by most wives, so for a variety of reasons, I decided it was in my best interest to NOT do that.


There's a metaphorical angle to this story as well.  When the towering Russian approaches Rocky in the ring and coldly declares, "I must break you," Rocky replies with confidence, "Go for it."  In many ways, that brief scene sums up how I feel about running this marathon, or at least, how I did when I signed up for it back in January.  You could say that Marathon itself or simply the training for it is analogous to Drago.  Big.  Intimidating.  Has killed people.  Those kinds of scary things.  

And here I am.  A dude who's barely been running for 10 months stepping in to the ring against this beast.  Am I in-frickin'-sane?  Well, maybe, but I went looking for a challenge and I found it.  The training for the race is daunting and the knowledge that the race distance is still about 25% longer than the longest training run I have planned certainly has the making for an epic showdown on race day.  

So when I'm staring down that 13, 16, or 20 mile training run or toeing the start line of the race in May and that big, dumb Russian voice starts saying, "I must break you," my determined response will be, "Go for it.*"  

*This assumes the race and/or training plan doesn't have fists, in which case my response would be probably be more along the lines of, "NOT IN THE FACE!"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Could P32F be the newest million-DVD-selling fitness craze!?


Saturday or Sunday is my planned off day from exercise.  This weekend, Saturday is my "off" day and Sunday will be my long run.  The "off day" is important to give you mind and body a bit of a rest and re-energize for the coming week.  So it was with a certain amount of dread that I drove home from work on Friday night after having received call that the upstairs ceiling was wet in at least two places.  

Wet ceiling means leaky roof (yes, the roof that was just completely replaced 2 winters ago; Twin City Roofing: not recommended for what is now an increasing number of reasons!).  Leaky roof means the only way to stop the leaking in the short term is to remove the source of water.  In this case, the water came from a ton (probably more) of snow on our relatively-flat-pitched roof.  Short of arson, there was only one way that snow was coming off the roof. 

Since it would have been a real pain to do the whole "accidental fire" thing (and somewhat suspicious to the fire investigators when I miraculously managed to "save" every bottle in the wine cellar before the house went up), I shoved a path to our storage shed which contained the little 16' extension ladder that allows me to get to the garage roof.  After shoving a path through about 24" of snow on the garage roof, I dragged it up behind me and ascended to the main roof.

The next two and half hours made me grateful that I took it upon myself last February to leave my life of sloth behind.  This winter moreso than most, just about anyone in America can identify with shoveling snow.  However, most of them aren't removing 24+" of compressed snow from an 1100 sq ft 2nd story roof in the middle of February (and chipping drain channels in 8 - 10" deep ice dams on the edges).  And that's when the eureka moment happened.  

More on that in my Musings, below, but first, a bit of background.  I'm a fan of functional fitness vs. physical fitness.  I was disappointed when the term "functional fitness"popped into my head last February when I was trying to figure out what my core fitness goals were and I googled it. The gist of functional fitness is that having a "gym body" is completely useless if you aren't able to do anything meaningful with it (like shovel a big-ass roof or pull-start the electric-start snowblower when the power goes out in a blizzard).  It was pretty clear that I couldn't take credit for the catchy name, but it at least proved that once in a while I have good ideas.  

2011-FEB-12 Diet Log -- Note, I typically don't track "cheat days," mostly because I tend to pick & snack, get take-out or go out and basically just let it all hang out, but I'm going to give it a whirl this weekend just to see where I end up. 


So I'm up on the roof, bitching about spending my "off day" burning somewhere between 1200 & 1500 Kcal to deal with something I shouldn't have deal with ("I'm not even supposed to BE here today!"). I first get the bright idea to call up my Kettlebell instructor (Mike Blount, Synergy Fitness) and offer him the "opportunity" get a great plyometric, stability/balance focused workout for free!  My mind fast-forwarded and I could hear him laughing, then that laughter fading as the phone was pulled away from his ear to find the "end call" button on his new Verizon iPhone.

And then came the moment of genius: BeachBody: North.  An entire DVD series dedicated to functional fitness through means of typical activities unwillingly engaged in by those of us living in non-beach-like climates.  There's wood chopping, wood hauling, sidewalk/driveway shoveling, and the mack-daddy of them all, ROOF SHOVELING -- a long, sustained full-body plyometric (you need powerful, explosive moves to hoist snow from the peak over the edge) workout performed while wearing 10 pounds of bulky foul-weather gear that simultaneously works on core stability as you navigate a slippery sloped surface. 

Tony Horton, gimime me a call, let's talk!  I've even got the name picked out for you; P32F (get it??!)  

(Just in case Mr. P90X passes up this opprortunity, Tony Little, I'll give you a crack at it, too!  Can you modify that Gazelle thing to work with snowshoes?)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fridays: The Day I Love to Hate


Fridays are the probably the gym day I look forward to the most... and the least.  The class I do is somewhat cheesily called CHISL'D and is designed to be cardio-heavy with something "else" thrown in to keep it fresh.  I love the class for the cardio push and the feeling afterwards that I've made the most of those 45 minutes of my day.  It's also typically the hardest workout I have in the sense that it pushes me harder than I can typically push myself.  

This week's class was jump-rope-heavy -- 1 minute of jumping between "other" sets.  There's a move the trainer (Matt Hallas) has dubbed "Man-Makers" which involves a two-armed dumbbell curl while lunging, doing an over-head press while down in the lunge, stepping back up from the lunge while uncurling the weights, repeating that sequence with the other leg, then dropping down to do a push up on the dumbbells, doing a renegade row on each side, pop back up, and repeat again & again. (For added fun & excitement after the rows, do a T-pushup on each side instead of a regular push-up). 

Class started with the weighted lunges and built up to the full-blown thing step by step, each time moving down & back through the width of the fitness studio.  Other elements were weighted sumo squats, pushups, alligator walk w/ push-up, plank, bear crawl, crab walk, sprints, frog-jump/burpees (and certainly a number of other things I've already blocked out), and finished with several minutes of core abuse.  Matt kept talking about the "breaks" we were getting; I'm still not sure if the jump-roping was the "break" or if the other activities were supposed to be the "break" -- neither felt like much of a break!


Weekends are my dietary "cheat" days.  I typically don't bother tracking my food and just take an overall break from spending any mental energy on what I eat.  I still try to eat a lot of the 'right' stuff, but I'll allow myself to eat/drink whatever I want (and as much as I want).  Either Saturday or Sunday is also my "off day" from exercise with the other being devoted to my Distance Run.  This weekend, I'll be running on Sunday, so Saturday is designed to be my off day.  

Marathon training is going to bring an interesting challenge to eating on the weekends because I'll still need to be cognizant of ensuring I'm properly fueled (and hydrated) for the exercise effort I'm going to put forth.  Me thinks there's going to be some trail & error over the next few months before I get that nailed down.  Here's hoping I'm a quick learner!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yes, I really do eat over 3 million calories per day.

Today's workout was a 6 mile Tempo run done on a treadmill.  The first and last 2 miles were to be run at a prescribed "easy" pace of 7.1 - 7.2 MPH (around 9:15 per mile) with the middle 2 miles being run at 8.7 - 8.9 MPH (around 6:50 per mile).  Twas not a fun workout by any means and my calves are still screaming at me. So far, no knee pain and no Achilles pain.  I ordered a new pair of Saucony Progrid Guide 3 shoes on closeout from RunningWarehouse.Com ($41.xx after my 15% Active.Com discount).  My "old" shoes may be toast, meaning my current trainers will get moved into the "outdoor" run slot and the new shoes will go for indoor work until the weather is better.

2011-FEB-10 Running Graph
2011-FEB-10 Diet Log

I get asked on a regular basis (typically with some degree of animosity) why I track my food or get comments like, "I wish I could eat what you eat!" (by which they *really* mean, "I wish I could eat that many calories a day.")  There's also a secondary part which is, "Why do you feel the need to taunt me by having daily postings of, 'Erin ate 3072 calories today and was under his calorie goal.'?"

The last one is easy.  Accountability.  It's a lot harder to cheat on a diet or cheat on exercise or forgo your goals if you don't have some level of public accountability.  That's also a large reason why this blog exists and why I haven't been shy about sharing the fact that I'm training for a marathon.  I'm sure some people see it as being boastful or arrogant, but the truth is the training plan that lies in front of me scares the bejeezus out of me and I need every bit of motivation I can find to run 20 - 30 miles a week for the next 16 weeks.

The maintenance diet I have settled upon is high in protein and low in fat.  I've thrown out the metabolic calculators and figured that my normal, no-exercise day burns up about 2600 Kcal.  When I add a gym workout, that adds another 450 - 550 of "burn," giving me an average daily need for 3100 Kcal.

[science alert]
The "Calories" you see listed on nutrition labels are actually in kilocalories (or in 1000 calorie increments). A calorie is standard unit of measurement of heat energy. 1 calorie is defined as the amount of heat energy required to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. 1 gram is essentially 1 ml -- a small amount! A kilocalorie is therefore the amount of heat energy required to raise 1 kg (or 1 liter) of water 1 degree Celsius.
[/science alert]

I'll get into my specific diet in another musing, but the main reason I track my food so closely is that I need to make sure I hit my mark every day without shoveling junk food (or booze, which is quite capable of making up for a calorie deficit) into my pie-hole at 10PM at night.  During my marathon training, my goal is to maintain the strength that I have built in the past year.  In order to do that, I need to not only maintain a solid cross-training plan, but I need to ensure that I fuel my body with enough energy to meet its daily demands.  Tracking my food & exercise allows me to ensure that my system is running in the black on a day to day basis.