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!

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.

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 #75: still fighting the SI battle

Another week has passed and the SI is still not stable enough for me to run. If I’m truly honest, I don’t miss running. I’ve never loved running.  But I do miss the ability to run, and the fitness that comes with it, and not being able to run makes me fear I’ll never be fit again. Of course, I understand that this isn’t actually true, yet it’s how my glass-half-empty little brain works sometimes. With that whining out of the way, here’s what the week’s workouts held:

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: poolside cider consumption: 3
Observations: Ahhhhh, rest days are glorious when they are spent basking under the searing sun, shellacked in layers of sunscreen, and holding a cold cider in your hand (or two…or maybe three…but not all at once, because I’m somewhat civilized). We made it the campground mid-afternoon and proceeded immediately to the pool for lounging and I accomplished no activity except hoisting a drink to my mouth occasionally and then consuming grilled meats and birthday cake before falling asleep at the ungodly hour of 8:30 pm.

Sunday
Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 6.5-7 km return
Observations: I haven’t been to Mount Baker in two years and, the second we arrived, I wondered how I’d managed to stay away for so long. It is truly one of my favourite places in the coastal mountains. We hiked a short but ultra scenic trail (also in the blazing sunshine) and enjoyed epic, sweeping views before the smoke rolled in. Also, man am I out of hiking shape!

Monday
Activity: golf!
Relevant Stats: 9-holes, all poorly played
Observations: Okay, okay, I know golf isn’t a workout, but carrying your own golf bag in the blazing heat does make you hot and sweaty as hell. Plus walking uphill with that thing is no joke. My game sucked. It all fell apart when some chick on the second hole totally stole my ball. Granted, my ball had rolled from my fairway into hers, but still I know she just wanted its hot pick-ness. I was not impressed and I swear it’s why the rest of my game suffered, and not at all because I suck.

Tuesday
Activity: golf!
Relevant Stats: a full 18 holes!!!!!
Observations: Somehow it was determined (not by me, I assure you), that I was “ready” to play a full 18-hole course, first thing in the morning and on a weekday when we could be relatively sure we wouldn’t be paired up with actual golfers. I picked up my ball on a few holes so as not to hold up the group behind us, but I consider it a major accomplishment to have been 3-4 shots over par on the holes I actually did play start to finish. It was tiring playing a full round, but my boyfriend bought me a cookie halfway through and I always respond well to treat bribes.

Wednesday 
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I sometimes wonder if my trainer will ever have me stop towing things like a work horse. Seriously, every week she seems to add yet another exercise in which I have a bunch of weight chained to me while I walk, run, lunge or crawl. It’s beginning to be a bit much. On the plus side, and despite my SI being a giant pain in my ass (well, tailbone actually), she assures me my mobility and form look great.  The best part of my session, though, was the very end when she told me we’d done a lot of loading and not to run the next day. I had no intention of running but being ordered not to run feels good.

Thursday 
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: I really wanted to have a good workout, but I slept terribly the night before and then decided to get up super early to fit in a good gym workout. Instead, I managed a half hour then got to work ridiculously early. Also, I was asleep before 9 pm. Early mornings are so not my thing. I am sort of used to them by now, but I still despise them.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Much like last Friday’s solo strength training session, I know this looks like a short workout but I promise you it was brutally tough. I forced myself to use the prowler again, even the heinous arm-only pushes which left my arms feeling like jello. There was also a lot of single leg step ups and squats that will likely leave me with tender glutes tomorrow. It felt good and I quit just as my SI was starting to send me its telltale warning signals.

Now, it is Friday yet again and I have to say I like this three-day work week thing. If only my employer would go for that deal…Happy weekend to all and to all a good night.

TWIR #74: sneaky SI

I had a good weekend and a great training session this week and it all fooled me into thinking my SI was back to its stable self. Well, it was not, hence the title “sneaky SI”. I always find it frustrating when my SI decides to get all moody and unstable, and this week was no different as you’ll see. Without further adieu, let’s do this!

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: new cider destination located
Observations: For a rest day, I fit in a decent amount of activity. We did a long beach walk and a driving range session (another consistent round of straight shots!). And we spontaneously visited a nearby cidery where we discovered some not-too-bad ciders to quench our summer thirst.  The day proved to be too much excitement for someone in my household (and that someone, for once, wasn’t me), who ended up dead to the world by 8 pm. We live a wild life.

Sunday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 9 holes of golf
Observations: If you want to know what will kill your motivation for a remotely substantial workout, it is Sunday brunch. After a brie and mushroom eggs benedict, no real cardio was ever going to happen. Instead, I vegged aimlessly until finally I declared “I want to golf!”. It’s not a workout, but I did have to carry my own golf bag and it was 32 degrees outside, so a significant amount of sweat occurred.

Monday
Activity: row + spin
Relevant Stats: 5 min. row + 2 lacklustre shoulder exercises + 3o min. spin
Observations: They took away one of the spin bikes in the cardio area, so I was less than pleased when I discovered the sole remaining bike in use. I decided to give the rowing machine a try, hoping that whoever was on the bike was near the end of her workout. After five minutes of rowing, I remembered that I despise rowing. I decided to go for a strength workout instead. Two exercises into my set, during which I was watching the spin bike like a hawk, the bike became available. I finished my morning with a measly half hour on the bike and called it a day.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I found my new least favourite exercise: pushing the prowler only using my arms. Just when I think my arms are getting stronger…Other than that, I felt like I was back in fine form. My weighted squats were good. My push ups were good. My single leg dead lifts and sumo deadlifts were good. My hips were hinging properly. All seemed right with the world until…

Wednesday
Activity: run FAIL + spin
Relevant Stats: 2 km run + 2 km walk back to the gym + 15 min. spin
Observations: …this run. I started out feeling okay but by 1 km in, I wasn’t so sure if running was a good idea. Around 1.5 km in, I was certain it wasn’t a good idea. By 2 km I had enough twinges and tension occurring around my SI that I knew I had to call it a day. It was doubly frustrating and annoying because I had to waste most of my remaining workout time walking back to the gym. Sneaky SI strikes again.

Thursday 
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 42 min.
Observations: I know, you’re probably thinking ‘why 42 minutes?’. Well, I was in a good rhythm at 40 minutes and didn’t want to stop, but by 42 minutes I knew I’d had a good enough workout. I did sprints and massive hill climbs and standing hovers and everything else in between and there was no backing off or slacking off in this workout and 42 minutes was enough. Trust me, this workout was legit.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: I killed it in this workout, even though my SI was unhappy with any single-legged activities, particularly step ups and side step ups. But I still rocked the prowler. Determined not to appear like a sissy next time I’m with my trainer, I decided to try the old arm-only prowler push from Tuesday’s session. The only problem: the track at my gym is twice as long as the one at my training studio, and I fear appearing weak. So essentially I pushed the damn thing twice the distance just so people on the elliptical machines wouldn’t think I was lazy for stopping half-way. I clearly worry too much about what people think of me.

With that, the weekend is nigh and I am taking an extended long weekend to lounge poolside and golf and generally relax, and I could not be more thrilled. I will not let the fact that it’s September bring me down. Summer is still alive and well in spirit in my neck of the woods, and I fully intend to take advantage, sneaky SI or not. Happy weekend!

TWIR #73: my physiotherapist broke me

Well, my physiotherapist told me last week that he was trying to “move things around” in the soft tissue around my sciatic and sacroiliac. Mission accomplished, I suppose. The pain has moved right in. I spent most of this week in damage control mode. On top of that, I’m ultra peeved because I can’t sleep on my stomach because of SI pain for the first time in a really, really long time, and that’s how I best fall asleep. Enough griping, and onto what I accomplished this week:

Saturday
Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 12 km, 260 m
Observations: Such a sad, pitiful, minimal climb through the forest for uninspiring views. All I ended up with was a sore and seizing lower back. At least I had good company, and a post-hike beer flight. Beer is never better than after a hike, even when your hike wasn’t really all that hard.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: tried to heal my SI with a massive brunch (it didn’t work)
Observations: I awoke stiff and sore and thankful that I had planned absolutely zero exercise for the day. I did not plan the rest of my day so well. I got up at 6:30 and thought that eating a tiny bowl of cereal would somehow tide me over until an 11:30 brunch date. It did not. I spent most of the late morning ravenous, and then proceeded to eat my weight in eggs, bacon and waffle. I regret nothing.

Monday
Activity: spin + strength
Relevant Stats: attempted spin for 5 min + strength for 30 minutes
Observations: I tried to spin but any standing spinning or significant tension was causing some serious SI discomfort. I gave up on the bike and opted for some easy strength training, which honestly didn’t feel much better. By late afternoon, I’d also developed an odd and random wrist pain and tingling in two of my fingers. Translation: not my day.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I really appreciate my trainer more and more every week. Not only did I text her the day before our session to tell her my SI was not happy, but then I showed up and told her my wrist was messed up and my fingers sort of numb. She took it all in stride and had me do some weird shoulder stretch that actually helped my wrist almost immediately. She is gifted. But she did make me do pushups, so she’s still not my favourite human.

Wednesday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: It was a miracle! A solid spin session! A spin session where my legs and lungs held up! As you can tell, I was excited. I would’ve spun longer but I still feel guilty about my mid-day workouts and try not to be gone for the full 1.5 hours it takes for me to fit in a full workout and shower.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: This was day two of feeling solid. My SI was definitely not feeling normal, but it held up relatively well as long as I kept the weights reasonable and focused on form. However, my greatest accomplishment today by far was not eating a single yam fry, garlic free, or deep-fried potato croquette at an after work social. Never you mind that I went home and ate the world’s largest tacos…

Friday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength
Relevant Stats: 10 min. run + 35 min. strength
Observations: I ran! It almost killed me and it was on a treadmill with a TV screen, which I hate. I mean, can anyone actually run with that stupid screen blocking their entire field of vision? I really wish you could clip them on and off…Okay, I’ll stop ranting. The point is that I ran without pain, even if only for ten minutes, and then had a good strength workout to boot. Win.

At least I can say that by the end of this week I feel better than the beginning.  Here’s hoping my body holds up enough to hit some golf balls this weekend.  Whenever I write something like that about golf, I have a moment when I don’t even know who I am anymore.  Happy Friday! Get out there this weekend!