Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ability and Desire: Week ending 2/23

Working in the fitness industry has its occasional perks. In my story, they aren't money, but people. Working with athletes of any kind is fun, but my heart leads me to those that seek health before performance. I gravitate toward those that need a more gentle approach to guidance in their search of a fitter, more disciplined self. Whether because they've made bad decisions in the past, someone's bad decisions have impacted them, or the simple and inescapable fact that time catches us all, there's always room to improve. To do better, feel better, and chase a better version of ourselves. Goals and obstacles come in many forms and many magnitudes. One person's 100mile race is another person's stairs from the basement to the kitchen. Honesty is what measures the task, not the opinions of others. We know in our hearts if we're challenging ourselves.

A man asked me for some advice on the topic of aerobic training for his cardiovascular health. We talked about his medical history, any diagnoses, and his schedule. We used his preferences and personality to find an outline of a week that works for him. He told me stories about why he decided to take control of his life, and I could identify. The blessings that come from helping a person like this are simple: I got to know someone. He told me about his life and how he wanted to improve it. I advised. I'd love to think he got something out of our talk, and I'm sure I did.

He asked about my life, telling me I looked like a swimmer. I told him about some of my running exploits and plans for travelling to find a home and further my education. Before he left, he told me about the importance of actually wanting to do such a thing. "Keep in mind that lots of people have the ability, but few have the ability and the desire." He explained that when he was younger he had the desire and not the ability, and that the inverse happened when he got older.

This man may think I was just being polite when I told him I enjoyed our conversation. My most sincere desire is that he understands my gratitude. I've been a little lost lately, worrying about where my life is going and what I'll do to leave this world a better place than I found.  For whatever reason, I seem to have ability. The most precious thing of all is desire. It can't be bought or earned, but rather has to emanate from us. I'd rather feel lost and keep looking than let the desire slip away. We have to keep asking what we can get(and give) from each hour, each day, and our lives. Getting the most from each day comes from receiving  and giving love without dwelling on it.

Sort of an incomplete thought, but I guess they all are. 

1: 6 miles. Kind of a blah workout. 10 minute warmup, then 10x400m w/ 400m rest. first 7 were at 15% grade, last 3 were 5% grade at 11mph(5:30 pace...ish). The last three were admittedly easier than I'd like, but steep grade of the previous reps wore me out. I did the last three fast so I could get to the library to study. Letting go of the numbers when running at a steep grade is difficult for the ego. I

2: Gettin' swole. Wearin' headbands, takin' swelfies on my swell phone. I'm periodizing the weight training, starting with a hypertrophic phase, then a strength phase, and finishing up with an endurance phase. Mostly because breaking things into small chunks makes it less boring.

10 miles with Evan and Rob. Easy out and back on some crowded streets in Grand Rapids. Warmer weather meant less layers and faster turnover. 7:10 pace felt pretty good, even after yesterday.

0. Very little sleep and waking up at 5am for work kicked my ass. Walked to the Rec center, then bailed when I felt dizzy. Food and sleep. I'm allergic to a full day in a factory I guess.

3 miles + workout. Kept the intensity up in the workout and rested less between sets, mostly because I was tired as hell and wanted to get home. Moving for 90 minutes and lifting still has to be good. I'd like to alternate days of "circuits" and heavier lifting.

1 hour. 6(?) miles around town. Through campus, then downtown, where I proceeded to slip on ice and land right on my ass with my feet up in my air. I fell so awkwardly on the frozen cement that I saw my own ass hit the ground and cut my calf at the same time. I'd be embarrassed, but I haven't got time to take myself seriously. Quick pace on the clear sidewalks, then marching through the knee-deep, sharp ice on W Main. Socks and longer tights would have been nice.
1 hour. 8 miles with Evan and Ephraim. Standard Piss Cave loop. This sunny weather with barely freezing temperatures is awesome. Makes me actually want to run again.

A rather quick workout before work started. 15 minutes on the track that got progressively faster(small tracks make me neurotic), then 15 minutes at 15% grade. I'm not sure if a new pair of shoes gave me a placebo effect, or if the questionable breakfast sandwich I had prior was giving me super powers, but the 15 minutes of uphill was done at the same pace as the 7x400m repeats early in the week. could be anything I guess, since Monday felt awful the whole way through.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week Ending 2/9

Hey, look, an exercise log. How nice.

5 miles + weights: A larger loop to get me to and from the rec center, with chest, shoulder, and tricep exercises. I'd say it was my first "real" strength workout. Prior to this, I was just trying to encourage the neurological adaptation that comes with starting weight training. Short workouts with basic movements. This time was a solid 45-50 minutes of free weights, moving in different planes and having to keep my body stable. The run was just a standard 20 minute jog on either end of the workout.

6 miles. Of plodding and wheezing and slipping at Al Sabo. Deep snow is losing its charm quickly.

4 miles + weights + rowing: Tried to take advantage of the clear sidewalks and ran at a quick pace to the rec center. Back, bicep, and legs resistance training. Doing "biceps" on their own seems like a pinnacle of douchebaggery, but I'll tell myself that the core and back have to be engaged during all of the exercises. 15 minutes on the rowing machine as well. The rec is so crowded that I have to fight the urge to freak out and head to the nearest exit.

8ish miles around Grand Rapids with Jeremiah. A nice jog at a good pace where we could find clear roads with little traffic.

1 hour of cross-country skiing. Classic style skiing on ungroomed trails is certainly a workout if I try to keep a decent pace. I wanted to make it my "long run," but my upper body was giving me little signs that I might be doing too much too soon. I managed to sweat when the thermometer read 0 degrees, so I'll call it a win for the day.

AM- 3 miles + squats. A little restless after my shift at work, so I did 100 "floors" on the stair climber at ~100 steps per minute. 3 sets of squats and some pull ups before eating. I'll call it a bonus workout.

PM- 4 miles. a quiet, peaceful run in the dark around town. I slacked around until almost 9pm before going out.

5 miles - "workout" - 1 mile warmup. 7:35. I forgot how running on a 200m track makes me obsessive over splits. There's a clock on the track. On the treadmill, I went with a 6x800m at 15% grade. Slow as molasses at 10 min/mile, but my heart was in my throat. It is what it is. Cooldown mile at 7:35 as well. pull-ups, uneven monkey bar things, and push-ups on the TRX strap dealies. Don't mind my technical jargon.

35 miles + weights + xc skiing. Nothing spectacular, but I managed to get my ass moving every day and get the intensity up. Something to build on. Same as with life in general, one day at a time. Make the building offset the tearing down.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Living in the Cold

Boredom has given me a lot of time for introspection in these winter doldrums. This isn't incredibly up-beat, but it's a semi-complete thought.

The land is beautiful and frozen. I'm cold and clumsy
I've been trying to hit the trails lately, but the snow has been getting the better of me. I attempted a jog this week. About a mile in, I realized that I was really sluggish in spite of nearly 9 hours of sleep. My upper respiratory tract felt inflamed and phlegmy. I slowed it down to a crawl and took the time to observe what was around me, just embracing the fatigue. Being sick and wandering around in the cold alone made me nostalgic for a time that shouldn't necessarily give me warm feelings, but does.

These cold winters remind me of my childhood. I struggled with Asthma every winter because of allergies to all things indoors. Close up the house, and my bronchi follow suit. Sometimes the only remedy among nebulizers, inhalers, steroids, and pills was to go outside and let the cold air in(a rather unscientific approach). I'd have attacks that refused to let me sleep. Many nights, my mother or father would carry around outside to calm my inflamed airways and help me relax. As time went on and I got older(and heavier), I either didn't want to bother anyone, or was told that I knew what to do. I don't have any recollection of times when I've been more certain that I was going to die. I suppose having no air in one's lungs will do that.

I'd wander around in the yard at night, crunching my feet into the snow, taking deep breaths in and feeling the air make its way in. I was terrified often, alone in the darkness around our rural Michigan home. The sensations that stay with us over time are fascinating. I can feel the itchy liners of my boots because I didn't bother to put socks on. The frozen air would rush up the sleeves of a baggy coat. Lights on in the house became further and further away, and illuminated my foggy breath less and less as I slowly plodded around. Moving and feeling the cold air felt rejuvenating. There was no magic amount of time it took to breathe more freely, but I learned that until I really relaxed, I was just faking it. It was a scary thing for a rather fearful child like me to face. I couldn't just say to myself, "okay, it's been long enough. I'm cold and I heard a sound. Good enough. I feel better." The fear and breathlessness had to truly subside. It had to be real before I could sleep.

I'm not particularly motivated to train right now, but getting outside is helping me keep it all together. I suppose that's the good part about being a recreational athlete. Also, there are snow angels to be made.

a blurry picture of me smiling to offset the gloomy nature of this post.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A log that went off track

Super low volume this week. As I look for full-time work, try to study for my part-time academic pursuits, train for a race, and generally get my shit together, I've been thinking a lot and doing a little. It's embarrassing, but I'm trying to change it.

A first full week of a new experiment. I'm attempting "bulk up" for the first time in a while. After a couple important people in my life told me I was looking thin, I initially scoffed and thought, "heard that before." I weighed myself and found that I'm down a little weight...again. My pants fit about the same, I don't feel sick, and I'm eating as much as I feel like. Living away from my parents' house has removed a great deal of candy and abundance of food, but cutting out unnecessary junk is a lifelong goal of mine anyway. I don't see a skinny person when I look in the mirror. My BMI is 21, which is in the middle of normal. I'm certainly not overtrained, and I'm not injured.

Somewhere in between vanity and practicality, I'm finding that I want to be more than just a runner. I've heard "you're built like a runner" before. Sort of like "you're crazy!" it's a compliment that isn't a compliment. I want to be a stronger, more well-rounded individual. My current lifestyle is devoid of any physical challenges that aren't self-imposed. No hay bales to toss, no wood to split. I'm back to carrying a backpack instead of a 6 foot long angle grinder. Long story short: I'm getting soft. I hate the idea of going to a gym to maintain my body. I wish there was something more productive I could do with my overwhelming amount of down-time and physical energy. Energy should be expended to make the world better, or at least keep your house warm. Maybe I'm preserving it for when I get the chance to lift that car off of a child or dig an old lady out of a snowbank or enter a planking contest to win $43,547, the exact cost of an unexpected surgery for a family member...or something like that.

Adding resistance training has given me an outlet for some extra energy, and hopefully will give me a little size and strength as time progresses. I'm also actively tracking my calories for the first time since a diet recall in my undergraduate studies. I'm using the popular MyFitnessPal app. This alone has been a really enlightening experience. Not only was I missing my estimated caloric needs for my level of exercise, but there were days where I was far under the amount of energy needed to break even on a rest day. To get up to my desired weight(roughly 160lbs), I'm needing about 3500 calories per day. After an hour run and some weight training, this is even higher. I've spent so long preparing for ultras that I've gotten used to something close to starvation(for lack of a better term). How was I even able to do this? Shouldn't make sense. Has some genetic or acquired factor(like ultrarunning) lowered my metabolism?

I've gained a few pounds and feel pretty good so far. I'll have to hit the running or skiing pretty hard in coming weeks to build fitness, so I'll have to try to get a handle on this whole "eating" thing. This has been a fun experiment that drives home the point that assuming you're doing everything right without truly, objectively monitoring yourself is arrogant. "I'm right because I'm smart, and smart people don't do shit wrong" is how we get ourselves into messes.

To summarize this incoherent rant: Losing weight. Feeling weak. Lifting weights. Putting them back down. Eating more. Helps me sleep.

Here's the exercise for the week. I know, riveting shit going on. I'm excited for the upcoming 50miler in the Spring, even if this weather is making miles a bit tough.

Monday: 7 miles(?) Took a solo trip to the arbs. I'm not sure if I'm getting used to the cold, or just sick of caring about it. Bundled up and headed to the trails. Had them all to myself since the entrances hadn't even been plowed. Any part of the trail that has wind exposure was completely drifted over, and was waist-deep. I maintained a running gait pretty much the whole time. Also stopped to do some sort of body weight exercise at each of the benches in the park. Zero degress. Pushups. Waist-depth slogging. Why I would voluntarily do this, I'm not sure. Somewhere recently, I read the line, "it doesn't have to be fun to be fun." Makes no sense, but sort of captures the (absence of)rationale for some running endeavors.

Tuesday: A long day and no sleep on the road for work, so I thought(read: bullshitted) that running while exhausted could be worse than not running.

Wednesday: 6 miles. To the rec center, 3x1 uphill(15% grade) miles on the treadmill. Running on such a grade is exhausting to me, and is quite humbling. Since I don't have a group to do workouts with at the moment, this will have to suffice. A cool down, then chest/tricep/shoulder exercises. Jog home with a six-pack of IPA(you know, for weight training).
For a little confusion, I present this, which I creatively stole from the internet.
AM: 3.67858695 miles with Evan. Drove up to Yankee Springs, only to find inexplicably hellacious conditions on the trails. The snow was packed, yet incredibly slippery. I've been running on snow during this winter of the "Polar Vortex," but this sucked a gratuitous amount of balls for some reason, according to us. Our 1.5 hour jaunt was cut short by me getting my car stuck, then again by our obvious lack of fortitude. Not like we have races coming up or anything. As usual, Evan kept a better pace, so I followed, breathing heavily and feeling like my former chubby self in 6th grade gym.

AM: 2 miles. gym workout. 15 minutes of jogging on the track. I'm ashamed to admit, but it was enjoyable. A flat, warm, easy pace that was faster than I've run in a while. With all the weather's tribulations, each step is a different movement, recruiting different muscles and requiring reflexes. This was different in that it was a more meditative practice of doing the same movement repeatedly and trying to be mindful it. Not something I'll enjoy on a daily basis, but it had a calming effect. Back, bicep, and leg exercises after that. Given how tired weight training makes me, I'd say I'm in need of it more than I realized.

Core exercises and a short run. On my feet for a shift at work, but I'll be damned if I make that "my life is a marathon" excuse.

I did a pull-up at work. yep.