Day 15 – fitness while locked up

I’ve been injured for about a year and struggling with my workouts. Prior to the last year, I gave up running due to foot pain, so that also limited what I can do. An injured shoulder + back pain meant working out was not working out for me.

Ironically, now that all the gyms are closed,, I feel ok. As long as I take care of my self and watch how I’m sitting and stretch, stretch, stretch.

Claudia is graciously hosting classes on Zoom. Even though her awesome gym, Fitness Movement, is closed, she’s helping us all stay in shape. After taking a break from classes since Thanksgiving, I’ve been cautiously trying to get back at it. I’m so much better at being consistent when I have someone telling me exactly what to do!

I set a goal for myself to hit all three rings on my Apple watch last week, and I DID IT! Let’s just say the doggies are getting a lot of walks!

So what’s next? April is coming, and I’ve never hit a perfect month for all three rings. The move goal — sometimes. I missed March due to my flight to New Zealand. Apple watch basically says March 1st didn’t exist for me. Can I do it for April? I’d like to try.

Anyone out there have an Apple watch and want to start a competition? They last 7 days and are based on points assigned daily for each ring. Let me know and we can figure out how to connect.

the path to strong

My friends and family all know I’m not a huge fan of exercise, specifically when it comes to strength training. Oh, I occasionally go to yoga, and I run, but other than that? Nope. In 2015, I hired a personal trainer at my gym, in the hopes that it would motivate me and get me to a place where I could/would consistently do strength training on my own.

Unfortunately, that plan did not work out. The first trainer was awesome, but after a few sessions she received a promotion  and wanted me to come on Saturdays or to another gym location. When we couldn’t make it work, she set me up with another trainer to take over for her. 

The next trainer did not seem to know or care about my fitness goals. There were no progress measurements, no record of each workout, and sometimes she actually gave me incorrect information. She’d say “oh this is the best you’ve done at this exercise, you’re really making progress” … umm, we’ve never done this one together, so how would she know? Every session it was more of the same, squats, squats, squats, and other exercises that were also squats (burpees, ball slams, etc). There was no consistency or plan for the upper body portion of the workout, it was something different each session. I fired her, and then I didn’t go to the gym for 6 months. Maybe longer than that.

Recently, I started having more and more issues with back, hip, neck and shoulder pain. All of it seems to be related to poor posture, weak glute and hip muscles, and overall, lack of strength training. I decided that I need to take control, and finally put some effort into strength training. I’ve also decided to focus on lowering my body fat percentage rather than looking solely at weight loss in terms of total body weight. I’d rather be strong and healthy and weigh a little more than be “skinny fat” where the pounds come off but it’s all muscle mass that’s being lost. I’ve been there before.

My goals are to make it to the gym at least once a week, yoga once a week, plus continuing with my running. After my last half marathon, I’ve been having some issues with my adductor muscles and the psoas on the left side, so I took it easy for several weeks and have stretched more often.

Oh, and by June I want to be able to do unassisted chin-ups. Then I can move on to pull-ups!

believe in your own power to transform

Here’s a look at a typical gym session:

Cardio Warm-up
5 min

Upper Body
Chin Up (Assisted)
3 sets of 10

Lat Pulldown
3 sets of 10

Tricep Extension
3 sets of 10

TRX/Lower Body
2 sets of 10

TRX squat
3 sets of 15 

Forward walking lunge
3 sets of 10

Backward walking lunge
3 sets of 10

Cardio finish
5 min

what makes you faster?

There’s a lot of advice on how to be faster. There’s so much that it can actually be overwhelming to figure out what advice to follow.

Here’s a sample of things you can do to run faster:

  • Run slower (the thought being recovery is important and distance is important)
  • Run faster (intervals / tempo / speed workouts)
  • Run hills
  • Strength train
  • Run more (distance, duration, etc)
  • Lose weight
  • Run with a faster cadence
  • Change/improve your running form

So…. in July, I have run at 2 minutes per mile faster than usual without an increase in my perceived effort.I’ve been trying to run faster for a long time and I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck. I feel like I’ve tried everything… but I really haven’t. What’s my secret?

Running slower doesn’t seem like any advice to me, I’m so slow, if I run any slower, I’d be walking, so that one is out for me. Running faster makes sense, but I’ve always struggled to incorporate speed work into outdoor runs and found tempo runs easier to accomplish on the dreaded treadmill.

I don’t live near any hills and hill runs on the treadmill are just torture, so that’s not gonna happen regularly. I’m also really bad about going to the gym, and I have tried strength training in the past and I didn’t seem any noticeable speed gains.

Run more…. ah, I’m struggling to just run what I do now.

Lose weight…. I’ve lost about 20 lbs in the last 18 months, and I don’t think that’s it either. But I can see that if you weigh less it might take less effort to go faster.

That leaves us with the last two. Run with a faster cadence and change/improve your running form. I didn’t really set out to do either of these things, and I don’t think this explains ALL of it, but it is some of it.

I was out for a run earlier this month, and when I came around the corner on to my street for the final stretch, I sprinted the last block to my house. I noticed how different my running form is when I’m going all out versus when I’m at an easy pace. I would almost say if there really is a difference between running and jogging it would have to be form!

On my next run, I decided to try to incorporate more of the form I felt when sprinting into a regular run. I set out to do 10 1-minute intervals with a recovery period in between. What I had observed about my form while sprinting is that I’m more upright, my knees come up higher, my heels kick back farther, and and and… my cadence is faster.

I read an article online that with good running form, your feet should be landing just under your body and that you should be minimizing the time your feet spend on the ground. Trying to put your feet out too far in front, or push off behind you is actually counter-productive. So, while I was practicing my sprinting form (but at a slower speed), I tried to think about keeping my feet on the ground less and moving quickly.

I noticed right away that just trying to maintain this form made me faster. I could not go my usual easy/snail pace. It just didn’t work. And 1 minute was easy. At least it was for the first 8 intervals. By the last 2, I was struggling after ~40 seconds, but that’s ok. I was running out of air, which tells me I need to focus on breathing.

And that brings me to my last point. Breathing.

For the last month or so, I’ve paid more attention (in general) to how I breathe and how breath is connected to everything. Yes, I know, this is very familiar to anyone that’s done yoga. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention all this time in yoga class, or maybe I finally figured it out. Either way, I’ve been working on making sure I breathe more fully and into my diaphragm and not using just my lungs. 

Certainly, I have more work to do both on the breathing and my form, but I’m feeling energized by this unexpected speed burst this month. Let’s hope it helps me in my 10k that’s coming up soon!

–> What makes you run faster?


target pace or target heart rate?

Every time I sign up for race, I come up with a training plan. I’ve done this since my first 1/2 marathon, and I did it then because I really had no idea what I was doing without a plan, and thought I needed the focus of having a plan. Without it, I don’t think I would have finished the 1/2 marathon.

There’s a plethora of training plans online, and as well as many books on the subject. It can be quite daunting to select a plan. One thing I found particularly challenging was finding a plan that didn’t involve running 4-5 days a week with extremely high mileage. Yes, I understand that a 1/2 marathon requires putting in some miles. 🙂 But I didn’t want to kill myself doing it.

When selecting a training plan the first time around, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was so overwhelmed by the choices, but I found Greg McMillan’s website to be very informative and a personalized plan wasn’t very expensive, so I went for it. I loved that his plans were mostly time based and not mileage based and my personalized plan worked out well. I have used his plans as a baseline ever since.

Recently, I’ve started to feel that my training isn’t getting me where I want to be. I know a huge part of this is consistency, as I will often stop running for weeks, sometimes because of travel or illness or just a lack of time.

Here’s a good example:

FullSizeRender 2

As you can see, I didn’t run very much at the end of February and the beginning of March. I have a really good excuse though, I had a 102 fever and a horrid cough. Since then, I’ve done a good job of running at least 3 times a week, consistently.

I’m also curious to see if running based on target heart rate, and not a target pace will help. I’ve done mostly time based runs at a set target pace, and I’m not seeing the improvements I would like. My endurance is definitely better, but the speed improvements are very little. In some ways, I feel the target pace is holding me back, as I’m trying to hit that, when in reality, I could be running faster.

So far this year, about 1/2 of my miles have been outside. This is a big change for me, and I’ve noticed that when I set the pace based on what I feel is easy, I’m running faster than my target pace I would set on the treadmill. And not only does it feel good to run at the faster speed, it feels easier. I had one run on the treadmill last month where I felt I could barely run for a minute without wanting to stop and feeling completely out of it.

While writing this, it occurred to me that maybe I don’t need a target anything. I should run however feels good on that particular day. If I’m aiming for a speed workout, something that pushes me, and for an easy run, whatever is comfortable.