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 #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!

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.

TWIR #69: work is bad for my body

Well, I am now three weeks into the new gig and it’s safe to say it’s not been kind to my body. Since starting I’ve had the nagging fear that my sciatic is about to wreak havoc on me and, by the end of the week, my SI was back to it’s annoying old ways. I’m working hard to convince my better half that this is a sign I should take more time off work. No job is worth my body falling apart yet again. So far, he’s steadfastly resisting my attempts to retire early.

Saturday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 6.5 (awful) km
Observations: Good lord, this was not a good run and there was no reason for that. It was overcast and cool for the first time in days. I’d had a good night’s sleep. I even had a breakfast apple fritter for fuel (don’t worry, I also had an egg on toast for actual sustenance). Come to think of it, maybe the apple fritter was to blame. No matter, it was a bad run and my lower back wasn’t happy with me the rest of the day. As it turns out, that was the beginning for my sciatic and SI issues. Moral of the story: don’t run on the weekend. It’s just not worth it.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 3.5-4 holes of a 9-hole golf course
Observations: The lone form of exercise for my day was carrying the golf bag for the last two holes. I certainly got no exercise from my game since it was such an abysmal disaster that I completely gave up.

Monday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: I consider this one of two good workouts the entire week. I was a bundle of energy care of going to bed at 9pm on Sunday night. I did hills. I did sprints. I did standing hovers. It felt good. Even my SI appreciated the lack of impact and forward lunging. The week was off to such a promising start!

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I am convinced that, despite all my efforts, my arms and shoulders are actually getting weaker. I was dying during this workout, and literally dripping sweat. Of course, that could’ve been due to the fact that their AC was out. Trust me when I say that lack of air flow in a small, training studio does NOT lead to pleasant aromas. My SI and sciatic seemed fine during and after the workout, which lulled me into a false sense of security for Wednesday’s planned workout…

Wednesday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 6 km
Observations: Ugh. Running mid-day in the summer is no bueno.  For a city with so many trees there was a surprising lack of shade on my chosen route. It was hot. I was sweaty. None of the water fountains I ran past shot water more than 1/8 of an inch beyond their spout. Gross. Although a terrible run, I was still happy to fit in a workout after the ridiculous morning events that caused me to miss my usual a.m. workout. On the downside, my SI and the muscles surrounding my sciatic nerve were less thrilled with my workout choice. As it turns out, they weren’t ready for a run yet.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: I got up earlier to get to the gym earlier and somehow still ended up with only a 45 minute workout before hauling ass to work where I narrowly missed making it to my first meeting on time.  On top of that, my SI was not digging the vast majority of exercises and, by the end of the day, was feeling decidedly like the old days and that is not a good thing. This only cemented my belief that work is bad for my body.

Friday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: You know those mornings when you just don’t want to get out of bed, and even once you’ve been up for the forty minutes it takes you to drive downtown to the gym, and even still once you’ve been on the spin bike for a solid 10 minutes, you STILL refuse to resign yourself to the fact the workout is happening? Yeah, today was that day.  In the name of honesty, I’ll tell you that I used lighter tensions whether I was climbing, seated, standing or sprinting. I do believe that this particular spin bike feels harder than the one I usually use, but that could also be a total cop out.  On the plus side, my SI was a little better today. I’m hopeful that by avoiding running over the weekend it will work itself out. Wishful thinking rarely gets me anywhere, though.

Alas, me and my questionable SI are going to sail off into the weekend with a glass of wine in hand as we organize for a townhouse complex garage sale. Personally, I think it’s an idea fraught with potential to be a total shitshow, but we also have a ton of stuff that we really need to ditch. What better way to spend half a Saturday, right? Yes, that was laced with sarcasm. Happy weekend, y’all!

TWIR #66: oh insufferable heat

We pacific northwesters are so delicate when it comes to heat. We complain bitterly about the never-ending rain and grey skies that plague us for about 10 months of the year, and then when the sun finally graces us with its presence we all walk around saying things like “ugh, can you believe this heat?” You just can’t please us. I am typically a fan of the sunshine and warmth so long as I don’t have to do anything terribly taxing.  But let me tell you, it takes a toll on my running, which has already taken a bad hit this past year.  On top of that starting a new job threw my workout schedule into a tizzy. Translation: this was a bad week for workouts.

Saturday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 9-hole round of golf + campground-walks-with-wine
Observations: I had really good intentions of running. Really good.  I don’t even know what happened but the option of golf was presented to me and I’m determined to get better so I had to say yes. Then by the time we got back it was hella hot and the only solution was to drink poolside ciders. Obviously.

Sunday
Activity: sort-of-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 9-hole round of golf + laziness
Observations: I knew a proper Sunday workout wouldn’t happen after Saturday’s cider and wine fiesta. Plus it was hella hot again. We opted for another round of golf. Although not at all strenuous, standing around in the sun waiting for my turn to tee off made me sweat enough to fool myself into thinking I’d worked out.

Monday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 6 km
Observations: Determined not to let the whole long weekend get away from me without at least one workout, I forced myself to run. After a weekend of laziness and drinking, it did not feel good. I am amazed I even lasted 6 km.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations:  We were back to our usual training shenanigans, which meant all manner of unenjoyable exercises.  This week’s worst exercise prize went to pulling a prowler loaded with weights while doing walking lunges. I’ve always felt bad for animals that have to haul lazy humans around (horse-drawn carriages, dog sleds, etc.). Now I feel even more sorry for them.

Wednesday
Activity: attempted run
Relevant Stats: 3 km (no, that’s not a typo)
Observations: This run went nowhere fast, literally. I had zero gas in the tank, zero motivation, and it was so, so hot even though it was only 10:30 in the morning. After one particularly long uphill stretch, I called it quits. Also, the steady flow of sweat dripping down my back and into my pants (I know, it’s TMI) was very unpleasant. I thought I’d go to the gym to make this into a decent workout, but it was my last day of freedom before starting work so I opted for 48 Hours Mysteries instead. I think that was the right call.

Thursday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: first day of work…eek!
Observations: I knew I wasn’t likely to fit in a workout and I was right. Between the ungodly early morning and meeting a million new people, which is about my least favourite thing, I was ready to crawl into bed by 4:30 pm. I haven’t had a headache in ages, but I had a raging one by the time I got home. It wasn’t a bad day, but man going back to work is rough. I barely made it to 9pm before falling into an epically deep slumber.

Friday
Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 15 min. spin + 20 min. strength
Observations: This wasn’t the workout that I envisioned. I had great hopes of a full hour workout. Somehow I underestimated the commute downtown combined with the walk to the gym and found myself short on time.  I worked up a good sweat but even I know it still wasn’t enough to make up for the rest of the week.

This is a shameful workout recap. I am going to blame the heat even though I know that wasn’t really the cause. I like a good scapegoat.  All I have to say right now is TGIF.

I feel you man.

TWIR #65: energy rebound

I am not at all religious but I’d like to say a big thank the lord almighty that my energy seems to have returned this week. Maybe it was the extra rest days I’ve been scattering throughout my week, which begs the question of whether I should always take more rest days. Or maybe, maybe I’m just a master at finding any avenue to be lazy. No matter, it was a better week. Let’s just leave it at that.

Saturday
Activity: run/hike
Relevant Stats: unknown distance, 40 minutes
Observations: I started with a hill run that felt like death care of my our weekend getaway being in a town about 500m higher in elevation than our home town.  Then I discovered a network of trails and had to keep climbing and climbing because that is what I do when I discover trails that lead to better views. It was worth it, and I felt much less guilty about all the wine consumption later that night.

Sunday
Activity: sort of planned rest day
Relevant Stats: high amounts of car-sitting
Observations: Well, I could have revisited my trails Sunday morning, but I just didn’t want to. Instead, we had a leisurely morning before packing up the car and heading home, which was fine until we hit the Fraser Valley at which point the never-ending stop and go traffic made me want to tear my hair out. I wasn’t even the one driving. Road rage is real my friends.

Monday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: mother f*@#ing carpet cleaning completed
Observations: I will never again in my life clean carpets myself. My lower back was wrecked from two measly sets of stairs. Between the carpet cleaning and errand running, I had little time nor energy left for a workout. I attempted a run and made it half a block before my lower back said a flat out “bitch please!”

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: OMG I broke a full on sweat and my legs were burning by the end. We took it up a few notches and had a legit workout and suddenly I realized that my two weeks of abstaining from any real strength training was palpable in every single one of my muscles. Note to self: don’t slack on strength training anymore.

Wednesday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 7 km
Observations: It was the perfect day for a run. It was cool and overcast and I was psyched to run without heat. You can probably predict that the cool and overcast weather lasted for about 1 km of my run. Murphy’s Law clearly states that the sweltering sun will come out at the precise moment I think that I’ve lucked out with perfect running temperatures.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I strength trained on my own! And with full sets! And mostly with full weights! I even forced myself to do negative pull ups. After the last two weeks, I considered this to be a major feat.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: My plan today was to do a short hike in the Fraser Valley, but apparently hoards of people trying to make an early long weekend getaway wreaked havoc on the highway.  All I know is that it wasn’t moving and our radio traffic station listed at list four major problems. The hike wasn’t meant to be. It then took me almost an hour to get myself off the highway and to the gym. Excellent use of time. At least my workout was a good one. I feel good about a couple of decent strength workouts this week since I’ve been slacking in that department lately.  With this workout in the books, I’m ready for the weekend. Bring on the sunshine, beer and campfire hot dogs!

Let’s keep this train rolling and let’s celebrate the moment that seemed to spur on a decent week of workouts:

Yesssssssss.

Happy weekend.

TWIR #64: the week of exhaustion

I have no explanation for how tired I’ve felt this week. I stopped taking allergy meds late last week, and yet for the better part of the week I continued to feel beyond exhausted. I had little desire to work out, and napped frequently. If this is still related to seasonal allergies, may I be the first to say that pollen can kiss my ass.

Saturday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I think this may have been my only good workout the entire week. I remember being tired, but not so much so that I didn’t force myself to do negative pull ups on my own. That’s saying a lot.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day + putting green
Relevant Stats: amazing 30+ foot putt!
Observations: No, I’m not attempting to claim that going to the putting green is exercise. It is not. I merely wanted to brag about my amazing long putt. Seriously, it was beautiful. It was a fluke, of course, but beautiful nonetheless.

Monday
Activity: yoga
Relevant Stats: 90 min.
Observations: I wrote about this on Monday, but my body simply did not want to do anything remotely intense.  I’d forgotten just how difficult yoga is when you lack any semblance of flexibility.  I wished desperately that I had a legit yoga block. Instead, I had to use various makeshift items like books, or a small upturned basket, or a tin box. Resourcefulness at its best. At the end of the day, my legs felt the best (i.e. least tense and stiff) that they’ve felt in ages, so I think it was the right call.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I sort of thought I’d bounce back from yoga day and be ready for intensity. Sadly, this was not the case.  The early morning wake up call on Tuesdays is always rough, but it felt even rougher this week. My SI and lower back were also causing me issues. My trainer has noticed that my right shoulder isn’t functioning properly again, which is causing me to strain my SI with certain types of motions. Good grief. Will my body ever function properly? I rounded out my day with not one but two naps. I told you I was tired this week.

Wednesday
Activity: mostly an unplanned rest day with some half-assed yoga
Relevant Stats: 30 min. yoga
Observations: Honestly, I was going to do nothing on Wednesday. I spent most of the day dreading any kind of workout. After popping out to run an errand (at 3:00 in the afternoon, no less), I had a brief surge in energy and contemplated a run. By the time I got home, the moment had passed and I thought yoga instead. My heart and body were not in it and I abandoned course after a pretty weak 30 minutes.

Thursday
Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. stairs + 50 min. strength
Observations:  It took everything, and I mean everything, to get me to the gym. I had no interest in going. Once again, an early morning trip into the city had left me tired and unmotivated. I forced myself to the gym and somehow managed to stick it for an hour. If I’m honest, it wasn’t a great workout. I wasn’t drenched in sweat by the end, so there was little pushing it. Oh, also, there may have been another afternoon nap. WTF.

Friday
Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 7.5 km (!)
Observations: I expected today’s run to be short-lived and painful so I meant most of the morning dreading it. Sometimes the universe hands you a most unexpected good run, and today was that day. All things considered (tiredness, still-not-so-great-SI, mental state, etc.), it felt pretty good and I was able to run a reasonable distance (for me these days).  I do enjoy when my workout week ends on a high note.

There is no hiding the fact that this was a piss poor week for workouts. I can only hope that whatever crippling source of exhaustion struck me this week disappears as quickly as it came. If it is just allergies, all I have to say is:

Pollen, if I’m unfairly blaming you for my tiredness, I’m sorry. But chances are, it’s you.