Monday, October 12, 2015

Tales of Training and the Taper

Yep, I’m running a marathon soon.  And I blame that on the free beer samples.

There I was, wandering around the Shamrock Race expo, grooving on  3 ounces of complimentary beer, when the booth for the Columbia Gorge Marathon hove into view. Before I knew it, I had signed up. To run a marathon. 26 miles.

For a long time after that, nothing happened. I kept running my paltry 20 miles per week or so, grabbing two-mile runs at lunchtime and essaying longer runs on the weekends.

In mid-July, after a disastrous 12-mile effort during which I fell and thought I’d cracked a rib, I knew I had to make a change. So I hired a coach.

I knew Yassine from classes at PSU. We graduated in the same cohort from the Physical Exercise and Activity concentration of our major. Yassine is an ultra-runner and a coach. His speciality is endurance running (duh. He’s an ultra-runner). He’s also super warm and likable and not intimidatingly young. He understands the limitations (and strengths) of older runners.

I was initially very ambivalent about hiring a coach. It seemed like an extravagance to spend that much money on myself. But within a week of working with Yassine, I knew I made the right choice. Oh sure, I could have written  my own training plan--I have a lot of textbooks lying around with just that sort of information in them.

But having a coach is about more than a training plan. It’s about peace of mind. Before I hired Yassine, I was always second-guessing myself. I’d go out intending to run 8 miles and stop at 7 because, well, maybe I needed to preserve my energy for the next day’s run. Or I’d skip speed work, telling myself that hill work was a fine substitution. And I worried that I would train too much (UNLIKELY) or too little.

Working with Yassine took the guess-work out of things. Every Monday he posts a plan for the week and I follow it. Before I might have skipped runs here or there because I was too busy or the moon was in jupiter. But with some accountability, I hit my targets--even if I had to haul my ass out of bed  at 5:30 am to do it. It was easy because I didn’t have to expend all the mental energy I had been to decide whether or not I was going to run--I just ran. 

The best part is that reducing my anxiety about the training has allowed me to relax into it. I want to enjoy every dang run of the training, and for the most part I do.

I’ve enjoyed peaceful evening runs in Forest Park where I’ve had the entire place to myself and rowdy evening runs on Mt. Tabor, rocketing through the roller coaster of hilly trails the park has to offer. I’ve enjoyed long tours through the streets of Portland, running through bustling hipster shopping districts and tree-lined streets.

A trip to Cheyenne offered three distinctive runs: A five-miler in Denver in 90 degree heat; a long spin on the Greenway in Cheyenne through the streets of my childhood; and a gorgeous run on the mountain bike trails of Curt Gowdy State Park, a scrubby, rock-strewn high desert environment.

I haven’t lost sight of how lucky I am to be able to do this. How lucky that my body has held up. It feels very self-indulgent at times--I’ve used a lot of resources on this, time and money that could have been allocated less selfishly. So I’m grateful to the people who have been on the short end of that stick, like my daughter who has very graciously informed me a number of times how much she appreciates me being out of the house for extended periods of time.And to my beau, who shuttled me to runs far and wide and plied me with delicious foods afterwards to speed my recovery.

My hardest training is behind me now. I'm on my taper. The hay, as distance runners like to say, is in the barn and thanks to Yassine, I'm ready for a great race. Thanks, too, go to those folks who shared a run and some uplifting conversation, helping me get where I needed to go--I’m talking to you, Belinda, Jonanna, Stephanie.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pyramids and Palindromes

I have a friend who knows word games backwards and forwards. Mark Saltveit is, in fact, the World Champion of palindrome creators. Flatteringly, he attributes some of his success in 2012's World Palindrome Championship to working out with me and thus getting into shape for the grueling competition. Which, makes a lot of sense when you realize that exercise improves your brain as well as your body.

The second World Palindrome Championship has just been announced and Mark has only a scant two years to get in shape for it.

Mark needs a workout that will condition him for the mirror-image nature of palindromes. So for 2017's competition, I've written him a pyramidic palandromic workout plan--each of the two exercises work opposing muscle groups of the body.  

Push-ups (chest) and Bent-over rows (back)
Grab a pair of 20-pound dumbbells and perform these two exercises as noted:
Do 15 push ups and 1 bent-over row
Do 14 push ups and 2 bent-over rows
Do 13 push ups and 3 bent-over rows

CONTINUE UNTIL:

Do 1 push up and 15 bent-over rows

Shoulder Presses (shoulders)and Jumping Jack Lat-Pull-downs (lats)  
Grab a pair of 20-pound dumbbells and a heavy resistance band: 
Do 15 shoulder presses and 1 jumping jack lat pull-down
Do 14 shoulder presses and 2 jumping jack lat pull-downs
Do 13 shoulder presses and 3 jumping jack lat pull-downs

CONTINUE UNTIL:

Do 1 shoulder press and 15 jumping jack lat pull-downs.  

Pyramid of jump squats, which works muscles both in the squatting and in the jumping.
Do 5 jump squats
rest 20 seconds
Do 4 jump squats
rest 15 seconds
Do 3 jump squats
rest 10 seconds
Do 2 jump squats
rest 5 seconds
Do 1 jump squat
rest briefly
Do 2 jump squats
rest 5 seconds
Do 3 jump squats
rest 10 seconds
Do 4 jump squats
rest 15 seconds
Do 5 jumps squats

Perform this workout 2-3X per week and you will be an unbeatable competitor no matter which direction you're coming from

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I May Have to Change the Subtitle of this Blog

...to "Finding Fitness after Fifty."

I Can Haz Cheeseburger?

Yes. As it turns out, you can haz cheeseburger. If you're tired of paying exorbitant prices for recovery drinks, gels, bars, and powders, you'll love this study out of the University of Montana. According to Science Direct, researchers exercised some bicyclists long enough to suck all the sugar out of their muscles. Then they fed one group some sporty foods like Gatorade and Power Bars. They fed the other (SMALL AMOUNTS) of hamburgers and french fries. Then they made them do time trials on their bikes. There was no difference in performance between the two groups. But that doesn't mean you can down a Double Double Animal Style. Noted Brent Ruby, director of UM's Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism,an author of the study, "A lot of the articles out there are totally misrepresenting the study," he said. "We had participants eating small servings of the fast-food products, not giant orders of burgers and fries. Moderation is the key to the results we got."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review -- The First 20 Minutes

Gretchen Reynolds's The First 20 Minutes has been out for a year, but it is definitely worth talking up. Reynolds writes exercise and fitness articles for the New York Times. She is great at translating the convoluted world of exercise research into fun-to-read general-interest pieces without dumbing the material down so much that the reader feels pandered to.

The First 20 Minutes covers recent research on fitness, health, and longevity. Maybe I love it so much because the whole book is devoted to the idea that exercise can prevent everything from diabetes to dementia.

It's not really a how-to book, though she gives sane and sensible exercise prescriptions. It's more of a "why" book. If you have been trying to talk yourself into regular exercise, reading this could be a powerful motivator.

Her approach is that everyone needs to be active, but not everyone needs to run marathons. Twenty minutes of walking every day will bring a host of health benefits--though probably not weight loss. 

She covers topics of interest to exercisers both casual and serious--hydration, stretching--and explores au courant movements like barefoot running.

The section on inactivity is especially chilling. Studies showing that sitting kills come out with some regularity, but Reynolds really drives the point home. You will buy a stability ball for your office chair after reading this.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Apt Epithet

A friend and I were working out together when, out of the blue, she leveled this charge at me. "Well, you're a vegan exercise nut." To be fair, I was making her do v-ups on a concrete platform in Mt. Tabor at the time, but still.

It made me reflect....Am I a vegan exercise nut? Well, ever since January 1, Sage and I have cut out dairy and eggs from out diet (I still have a little half-and-half in my coffee cuz I'm a backslider). I don't really identify as a vegan, but I guess I'm following a vegan diet right now.

You might ask, "What the hell are you guys eating?" As Sage points out, our vegan diet is not all that removed from our vegetarian diet. Dinner most nights these days is a big pile of roasted veggies, plus either beans, quinoa, Field Roast sausage, tofu, tempeh, vegan cheese quesadillas, or maybe some pasta. It sounds limiting, but our meals are very satisfying. It's basically what we were eating before, except for using real cheese on the quesadillas.

Every so often, I freak out that Sage isn't getting enough omega 3 fatty acids. But I never worry about her B-12, iron, or protein. She gets iron from the beans in our diet and my obsession with cast iron cookware. She gets plenty of protein. And we go through B-12 fortified soy milk like nobody's business.

Had my cholesterol checked last weekend--142 total cholesterol. Vegan for the win.

And as for being an "exercise nut," well, my habits speak for themselves.


Officially a Bike Commuter

Somehow, without me really realizing it, I became a full-time bike commuter. Just like almost everything I've taken up after the age of 40, I started out saying to myself, well, I'll bike to work occasionally, but I'm not going to make it a habit or anything. ("I'll go for a jog, but I'm not going to be a runner or anything." "I'll take a few courses, but I'm not going to get a degree or anything.")

Now I'm averaging a solid four days a week of getting to work by bike. Here are the reasons I love it:

* Saving at least $50 per month on gas.
* Don't need to think about getting in my cardio after I get home--I've already done it!
* Puts me in a good mood transitioning to and from work.

One thing that has helped is that the winter was a pretty dry one. I was drizzled on plenty, but there were only a couple of times that I got full-on soaked.

Happy bike commuting is all about having the right gear. A warm, insulating layer, a pair of gloves, and some "hot hands" hand warmers and I was set even for my midnight commutes on below-freezing nights.