Training Tuesdays: reflections on a year without any real running

I sometimes cannot believe that it’s been a year and a half since my injury. At first, I tried to get right back into the rhythm of regular running, determined not to lose an ounce of fitness.  I realized, though not as quickly as I should have, that jumping back into running was doing my injury no good. I pulled back on my running a little bit, then a little bit more, then even more than that.

Now, a year and a half later, I’m reflecting on a year of negligible running. I went from consistently running 10-15 km, 3-4 times per week to training for an ultra marathon to going weeks on end with no running at all.  My longest run since last October? 7 kilometres.  Even that distance is a…distant (pun intended) memory. I used to so firmly believe all these (mostly irrational or untrue) things about running that my running and exercise routines were bordering on obsessive. On the other side of my injury, I can see how my overly rigid views about running weren’t always healthy. For instance:

1. Running is the only way to stay fit: Sure, my cardiovascular fitness and endurance are a far cry from what they used to be, but it doesn’t mean I’m not still fit. I was just incredibly super fit back then. What I am now is hella strong. Just the other day I did tricep dips for the first time in about a year (my trainer and I never do tricep dips, but trust me when I say she gets my arms working), and they were so easy. I remember that I used to struggle to do five. So yeah, maybe I can’t run a 10k anymore, but I can rock multiple sets of tricep pushups, deadlift 110 lbs, run with 90 lbs on the prowler, and do negative pull ups  That’s something.

2. I’ll get fat if I can’t run: I’ll be brutally honest and admit that my running obsession started out mostly as an attempt to counterbalance my serious sweet tooth.  I always thought if I didn’t run, I’d have to cut out any and all sugar. Well, I eat way less restrictively than I used to, never run and, though I don’t know the exact number, I don’t believe I’ve gained anymore than 10 lbs. And you know what? I’m happier not obsessing over running an extra 5 km several times per week just to keep that 10 lbs off.

3. I have to run for a long time to see running’s benefits: I used to plan my days around my workouts and runs, sometimes fearing I was bordering on obsessive. If I didn’t run for at least an hour, I didn’t feel like I’d had a good enough workout. Well, the tides have changed. Now, 45 minutes of non-running is a good workout day for me. I workout less, have more flexibility in my daily schedule, and I don’t feel any worse for it.

I’ve said before that I sometimes struggle with the fact that I may never run distance again, but honestly I think those moments of struggle just reflect remnants of my old ways of thinking about fitness. The reality is that my SI is way more stable since I’ve stopped running. I’d probably be happy getting back to one or two short runs a week, and that’s more because I like to exercise outside than anything else. If I never run an ultra, never run half marathons or, hell, even if I never run a 10k again, I think I’m going to be just fine.

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TWIR #79: a whole lotta walking

Well, I’m just going to confess. I worked out twice. Twice in one week. I’m not kidding. I was travelling. I got sick. Excuses, excuses. But before you judge, just know that I walked and walked and walked. And walked. Sure, most of that walking was to bakeries and other treats, but let’s set that aside. This will be short and sweet, so let’s get to it.

Saturday
Activity: walk, walk, walking
Relevant Stats: 14 km
Observations: We walked from King West to the Distillery District, and back again, and then a whole bunch of other walking to parts of Toronto I can’t even name. Especially with a cold, I feel like that’s pretty impressive. My reward (and more to come on all these treats): a fancy-ass dipped soft serve treat. Worth every kilometre walked.

Sunday
Activity: more walking
Relevant Stats: 15 km
Observations: Walking was one of the few things that unclogged my stuffed nasal passages, so I kept moving as much as possible.  I longed for gelato, and spent most of the afternoon scanning streets for it, yet somehow came back empty handed. Don’t you worry, though, there were plenty of other treats (again, more to come on all my travel sweets).

Monday
Activity: airport sitting
Relevant Stats: 6 hours at Pearson (ugh)
Observations: My big lesson from Monday was that it is never a good idea to attempt to save money by sharing a cab to the airport at an earlier time than you need to. I arrived already knowing I’d have to kill three hours before my flight, but then my flight got delayed by two hours, and then by another hour and suddenly I spent the entire day, often livid, in windowless gates deep in the bowels of Pearson airport. My reward for this was a giant slice of carrot cake from the famed Magnolia Bakery when I (finally) arrived in New York.

Tuesday 
Activity: epic walk
Relevant Stats: 17 km
Observations: The sun was shining. It was 80 degrees in October (!?!). I walked to one bakery, then to the opposite end of Manhattan to another bakery. That’s commitment to finding baked goods. While I’m under no illusion that 17 km of walking balanced out the caloric intake, all that walking was certainly healthier than taking the subway.

Wednesday 
Activity: strength training (!!!) with minimal walking
Relevant Stats: 45 min. strength training + 5 km
Observations: OMG, I made it to the gym! Finally, after nearly a week off, I visited the Sheraton’s supposed world-class fitness centre (you already know how I feel about hotel gyms). It was a decent workout, and I even managed to knock out some negative pull ups, from which my arms have still not recovered. My reward: more cake and attending the live taping for Late Night with Seth Meyers (!!!!!!). A good day.

Thursday 
Activity: strength training + walking
Relevant Stats: 45 min. strength training + 15 km walkig
Observations: This workout was even better. I actually felt awake and energetic, and I still managed to bust out a long-ass walk in search of a stuffed cookie which turned out to be my greatest disappointment.  Let me tell you, though, by the time I got back to the hotel at 6:50 pm, I was done with walking and done with New York (yes, that is possible).

Friday
Activity: mostly sitting on airplanes but some walking
Relevant Stats: 9.2 km walking
Observations: I am always amazed when I accumulate any kilometres on travel days. I had to get up at 4:25 a.m. today, which is really just a completely ridiculous hour at which to get out of bed. Somehow, I managed to wander airports so aimlessly that I had almost 4 km of walking under my belt before I even got home, where the sunshine beckoned me to walk another 5ish km.

Although I had some good adventures and some great sugar finds, I cannot tell you how happy I am to be home, lounging in pajamas before 7 pm because, let’s be honest, I probably won’t make it up past 8 tonight. It was an exhausting week of travel and I’m looking forward to some solid laziness, but also getting back to normal with my workouts. I promise a more typical TWIR next week. Until then, happy weekend y’all!

Tuesday Fitness Fail: Lost Tennis Opportunities

As we were packing up our house, I came across my tennis racket. I haven’t used my tennis racket in about a decade. In fact, when I say “my racket”, I actually mean the hand-me-down racket that boyfriend gifted me because I discarded mine years ago in Calgary when it had already been sadly neglected for close to 5 years. Suffice it to say, I haven’t played tennis in 10 years, so when I came across the tennis racket and had to decide whether it came to our temporary rental or went into storage until we move into our new place, the decision seemed obvious: send it into storage.

My thought process went something like this: I haven’t played tennis in 10 years. I don’t have anyone to play with, anyways. Where would I even play? It’s almost winter. I’m rusty and out of practice. It takes up too much space. The list goes on and on. All I can say now is: rookie mistake.

As it turns out, there are tennis courts all around me. There are some right across the street. There are other nearby courts. Worst of all, just 1.5 km from our house, there is a court with a practice wall! This was the most devastating of discoveries because the practice wall eliminates my most significant obstacle: having no opponent. It also doesn’t help that we’re having a gloriously sunny and mild Fall so far, which makes me want to do nothing but get out there and dust off the old backhand.

Now, every time we walk past a tennis court, I stare at it longingly, and imagine my poor tennis racket stuffed in a box with other fitness gear, never to see the light of day until next Spring. I think about how I could be getting my (supremely mediocre) game back in action. I imagine my former hustle, lightning fast chasing down balls. My whole game used to revolve around my hustle. When I imagine all of this lost opportunity, I kick myself and wish that I’d had the foresight to anticipate that the magical confluence of free time, neighborhood parks and balmy autumnal weather could resurrect my game.

TWIR #78: test run

We are in our new ‘hood and there are parks galore around us and I couldn’t resist attempting a bit of running. When I say “a bit” of running, I really mean it. It’s now been so long since I ran that I’m actually not physically capable of anything more than a bit of running. Sigh. At any rate, so far the body is holding up okay. Fingers crossed that it lasts. We’ve also been going for daily post-work walks, which is lovely now that I get home from work at a reasonable time, and good for a bit of extra movement every day. While they are certainly not workouts, every little bit counts and I feel far better for it…although I was questioning our commitment to daily walks the day that I tripped over a very large and very dead rat on the sidewalk. Yikes! Good thing I’m not afraid of rodents! This seems like a great time to transition to the week’s workouts, doesn’t it? No one wants to talk about dead rats.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: moving day!
Observations: There was nothing restful about this day. We moved all our temporary belongings, of which there were many, and many of which were very heavy, from upstairs to downstairs. Then we loaded them into our cars. Then we unloaded them into our new place. There were a lot of heavy things carried multiple times. There was also last minute house-cleaning , new house unpacking, and then the mad rush to get ready for a wedding that evening. Needless to say we were exhausted. We left the wedding at 10 pm, an unacceptable hour at which to leave a wedding, but trust me when I say I was ready to roll a good hour before that. So yeah, not a real rest day in my books.

Sunday
Activity: pitch and putt course
Relevant Stats: 3 hours (!!!!) of slow ass golf
Observations: We walked our new ‘hood and discovered way too many tasty temptations. I’d like to say that the walk and world’s slowest round of golf worked off the giant dulce de leche donut I consumed, but I know it didn’t. Still, it felt like an active day and after Saturday’s balls to the wall activity level, a bit of a legit rest day was in order.

Monday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I must’ve been working hard on the spin bike because a personal trainer came up to me to tell me so, and then asked if I needed help training for anything. I resisted the urge to tell him if a year with my actual personal trainer didn’t have me running ready, I doubted he would be able to. All in all, it was a short but decent workout. I’m starting to forget what one hour cardio workouts feel like. I’m sure one would kill me now, anyway.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: She had me towing the damn sled with weights again. Ugh. I have to tell you, I was excited for this session because it was my first where I didn’t have to get up at 5 am to make it there. I thought I was going to feel fantastic. I did not. My best guess is that the 45 minute drive I used to make allotted sufficient time to wake up, plus I used to down an entire travel mug of coffee before the workout. I had neither of these things for this week’s session and I felt sluggish and exhausted the entire time.

Wednesday
Activity: spin + elliptical + strength
Relevant Stats: 35 or 40 minutes
Observations: This was by far my worst workout of the week. I had high hopes because it was my last work day for the week and I thought my pre-vacation happiness would bolster my workout. Nope. I was trying to check in for flights when I first got on the spin bike and let’s just say I was having issues and, as I am wont to do, I got supremely frustrated beyond the point that anyone should over checking in for flights. I had no patience for spinning, and then no patience for the elliptical. Only when I was back squatting out of my rage was I happy with my workout.

Thursday
Activity: new neighborhood park workout!!!!!! And RUNNING intervals!!!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I love, love, love my new neighborhood and its proximity to a park that has a running track and good concrete blocks for all sorts of interval workout exercises. Plus it’s now brisk in the mornings so I don’t feel like I’m going to die from the heat. The best part, though, was that I RAN to the park (calm down, it’s maybe 500 m from my house), and then RAN laps in between walking lunges, push ups and other sets of exercises. You have no idea how happy I was. It was a legitimately great workout, but I was also ecstatic to be working out outside. Now I just have to survive the next few days without an SI setback…

Friday:
Activity: semi-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: ugh.
Observations: I have learned that planning a workout on the first day of a trip, no matter how short, is often just a pipe dream. After two hours of sleep and waking up feeling like a cold may have descended on me, I gave up on any hope of a workout.

There we have it, another week of workouts down and another weekend ahead. Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians out there! We’ll be wandering the streets of Toronto and meeting my baby nephew for the first time. My goal is to fit in some travel workouts, too, which is infinitely more challenging now that running isn’t a great option for me. Wish me luck!

TWIR #78: moving. ugh.

I know I told you on Wednesday that I wasn’t going to write a whole post complaining about moving. And I’m not. I’m just going to kick this post off with some bitter complaints and then move on. Moving sucks. I am tired, my body hurts, and I cannot believe we have to do this all over again in five months, albeit on a smaller scale. My workouts have not been great this week and I am 100% okay with absolving myself of responsibility and blaming the entire week of mediocre workouts on the move. Nevertheless, let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: golf + packing
Relevant Stats: Official Last Day of Fun for the week (capitalization to indicate I am not kidding around)
Observations: I begged my better half to take me golfing Saturday afternoon after we spent the morning running errands and packing only to find ourselves staring into the face of hours more of packing. I needed fun, damn it! And golf is the last fun thing I remember doing this week. I knocked 3 strokes off my best score to date, hit some damn good (for me) shots, and got my putting back on track. Such a shame that the season is almost over and all my mediocre skills will get even rustier over the winter.

Sunday 
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: packing, packing and more packing
Observations: I didn’t plan to take Sunday off. Saturday’s golf wasn’t a workout after all. Between a farewell brunch with a good friend, trying to pack all kitchen non-essentials, and tackling the heinous chore of sorting my clothing, I knew a trip to the gym wasn’t happening. Unfortunately, my poor packing form (i.e. hunching over boxes) had left my back in such a state that running, my usually reliable back up plan, was not an option either. Workout fail.

Monday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I am starting to think that I exist in some sort of alternate universe on Mondays, one in which my memory no longer serves me. For the second week in a row, I cannot clearly recall my workout. I know I did spin because I always do cardio the day before my personal training session and, since I’m still not running, that means spin. However, I am guessing at the time frame. I know it wasn’t a long workout because I was rushed for time between meetings. Does it really matter? All that matters was that is wasn’t for long enough.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations:  My most vivid memory from this session was the horrid return of prowler chest press pushes. I have no idea if that is the correct name for this exercise, but I can say with certainty that ‘horrid’ is an understatement as a descriptor. Still, it was my first good workout of the week, so I will try not to whine too much.

Wednesday 
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Hallelujah! I broke the 35 minute spin barrier! Thanks to carpooling, my options were to stay on the bike for longer or sit around in my office for my carpool buddy to wrap up her day. I should thank her for my best cardio session in a while. And by best, I mean longest, because I still feel like death any time I try to do sustained cardio.

Thursday 
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: I am a prowler fanatic. I loaded that bad boy up with 90 lb again and rocked some high and low prowler pushes. Sadly, my SI doesn’t appear to be a huge fan of this, but I am determined to beat it into submission. I was proud of this workout. I worked up a good sweat and my legs were dead at the end. Winning combination.

Friday
Activity: spin and…stuff
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 8 min. random strength(ish) stuff
Observations: I had nothing in the tank. Nothing. My legs were dead tired and all I wanted was to face plant into my lunch salad. I know, salad isn’t at all exciting. That’s how hungry I was, though, so much so that I wished every turn of my feet on the pedals was taking me closer to my giant lunch salad. But it wasn’t. Because spin bikes are stationary. This is my long winded way of saying that it’s a miracle I made it to 30 minutes on the spin bike. I then tried desperately to do some serious strength work but mostly wandered aimlessly between sets of random arm exercises because my legs hurt too much. The end.

I’d say happy Friday, but it will not be for me. As you’re reading this I will be meeting with new landlords or cleaning or loading up our cars with our temporary belongings. None of those things are fun. I do hope your weekends are looking brighter than mine.

TWIR #77: if it’s not one thing, it’s another

I can’t tell if my SI is actually better this week or if it’s just been overshadowed by a really, really annoying neck issue that cropped up after my personal training session. Either way, I’m left wondering if my body has just reached the age at which it is going to experience constant problems like this. I feel too young for that so my preference is to believe that I’ve just been cursed with a body that doesn’t want to get back into alignment this year. With that upbeat preface out of the way, let’s see what this week’s workouts had to offer.

Saturday
Activity: hike(ish)
Relevant Stats: 4.4 km return
Observations: My SI was killing me all morning and I had no idea whether a short and steep hike would help or hinder the situation. It turns out that it helped my SI, but did not help my productivity. I had been a packing machine all morning before I left, but upon returning home was able to accomplish nothing other than eating chips and watching This is Us (by the way, totally don’t get what all the fuss is about on that one…).

Sunday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Still afraid to visit my local gym, I opted for an at-home strength workout. While some may say that can’t be a good workout, I assure you it can be. I don’t even have any heavy weights at home but I find that increasing reps per set and the number of sets leads to just as effective a workout as at the gym. Bonus of at-home workouts: watching Definitely, Maybe in the background. Who doesn’t love a cheesy Ryan Reynolds movie?

Monday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: unknown time
Observations: Sometimes I think “I’ll remember how long I worked out for by the time I write my post at the end of the week”, and then I realize that I give my memory way too much credit. I do not remember. I am not even 100% sure that I was on the spin bike, but I know I didn’t run and I know I didn’t do strength training three days in a row, so by process of elimination I am left to deduce that I spun.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: This was the beginning and the end for my neck. I don’t know whether the culprit was multiple sets of negative pull ups after weeks, maybe even months, of not doing them, or whether it was the stress of trying to keep my hands and legs in sync while doing backwards bear crawls. Let’s be honest: in any given training session there are a plethora of exercises for which my feeble body might try to overcompensate with random muscles, yes even including neck muscles. The only good thing about this week’s session was that I did not have to tow any weights behind me.

Wednesday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: avoided all snow in Edmonton
Observations: I had to take a quick trip to Edmonton for work, and not packing gym gear made for my smallest carryon bag yet. Even I was impressed! But that’s not the point. The point is that it snowed on Monday and was set to snow Wednesday evening, and I somehow perfectly timed my trip between winter conditions. I actually like snow, but I stand firmly in the camp of September being TOO SOON for it.

Thursday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: This was not a good workout. My legs and lungs had nothing to give. Maybe it was the fact that I woke up at 4:41 and had trouble falling back asleep. Maybe it was the wine on Wednesday night. Maybe it was just my general state of crabbiness and malaise. Whatever the cause, I did not enjoy the experience and couldn’t wait to get off the damn bike, thus only spinning for 35 minutes. Am I great at making excuses for my lack of exercise motivation or what?

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Good God, pushing that prowler will be the death of me. I couldn’t find any 35 lb weights to put on the prowler today, so I went with the 45 lb weights. Let’s just say that trying to run with 90 lbs loaded onto a prowler is harder than I thought it would be.  These legs are gonna hurt tomorrow. All in all, though, today’s workout was an outstanding rebound from yesterday. I’m finding, once again, that my strength workouts are great lately while my cardio workouts are abysmal, which probably means I really should be focused more on rebuilding my cardio fitness. But I likely won’t, because who really likes doing what they “should” be doing.

That’s another week of workouts under my belt and a weekend of packing to look forward to. Yes, that was sarcasm. Happy weekend, and here’s hoping that I don’t somehow injure another part of my body attempting to push boxes of heavy kitchen gadgets out of the way. Seriously, I have a lot of kitchen gadgets and they are hella heavy.

Monday Musings: on having what started as a running blog when you can’t run

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this blog was created to write about training for an ultra, and yet these days it has nothing to do running let alone ultra training Instead, I write a mish-mash of anything and everything that comes to mind.  That’s not necessarily problematic, except for, you know, the name of the blog and all, which is a daily reminder of the fact that a) my blog’s name doesn’t at all reflect its content and b) maybe it never will again.

Did you see how I snuck that in there? That was my sad sack moment. I’ve started to question whether I will ever be a real runner again. At times, my body seems fiercely committed to SI instability, perhaps as a highly effective avoidance technique. I don’t even really like running, after all, but I equally dislike not being able to do things when it’s not my choice not to do them. Regardless of the reason for my prolonged injury and its impact on my running habits, what seems clear to me is that having a blog about training for an ultra when one can no longer run at all is a major contradiction.

This leads me to a series of hard-to-answer questions, such as:

–Do I change the name of the blog? Or is that giving up hope that I might never run again?

–Do I continue on as is? Is that my way of sending the universe a small sign that I’m committed to getting back to running so that the universe might then return my ability to run?

–Do I even fundamentally believe the universe works that way?

–If I were to change the name of the blog, what would I even change it to? It’s not like I have a clear topical narrative that screams out a new potential name, unless I were to call the blog “Mish-Mash of anything and everything that comes to mind”. That would be perfectly fitting, but not at all catchy.

–Does anyone even care what the name of the blog is when I have such a small followership (totally not a word but I’m using it anyway)? This is the most existential of questions, and I cannot help but be reminded of the “if the tree falls in the woods…” comparison.

I clearly have more questions than answers. I also realize that I’m still wrestling with more than just the blog name itself. The real issue is my concern that I will never be a runner again. The good (and bad) thing about this little writing space is that it forces me to come face to face with these larger issues surrounding my injury. After a year and a half of dealing with this injury, I am still shocked when I am surprised by the realization that a seemingly cosmetic issue, like the name of my blog, is in fact not a cosmetic issue at all, but rather something far deeper.

And so I will continue wrestling with these questions in hopes of finding peace of mind. As I do so, maybe this blog name will change or maybe it will stay the same.  In the meantime, I welcome any suggestions on alternative titles because, as it turns, not anyone can run an ultra.