Posted tagged ‘strength training’

Ready for Race Day

May 7, 2012

It’s Monday morning and I head out for an easy five mile run.  The sun shines warm and bright on me, and on the tiny new leaves on the trees.   The full moon has pulled the low tide farther out than usual and I can see dozens of seaweed-covered granite boulders poking their heads up on the shore of Back Beach.  As I run, I make my plan for this week.  I will back off on the miles, ice my heel and arch, refrain from any crazy plyometric sessions, and ease up on strength training—in other words, rest a bit so that I can run the Twin Lights Half Marathon this coming Saturday and finish strong.

Today is the third day in a row for running.  There is a part of me that still doesn’t trust myself to run the distance.  While I rest, I plan to spend some time adjusting my attitude.  I am going to get in my own head and boss myself around.  I am going to muzzle  the chattering monkeys.  And then, I am going to let go of everything and be present each minute of the race.  I like the plan.

The monkeys are already backing off this morning.  Each stride is relaxed.  My breath comes easy—I can sing along to Girl Talk, The Black Eyed Peas, and Foster the People.  I run along Granite Street and close my eyes for a moment to fully appreciate the scent of the hedge of flowering lilac bushes along the sidewalk.  The sweet pungent blooms bow gently over my head and I think of my Nana and how she loved lilacs, magnolias, and lilies of the valley.  This feeling of being in the moment, with good memories tagging along, takes me to the place that makes running magical for me.  I am not thinking about the race.  I am not thinking about my foot, whether it is hurting or not.  I am not thinking.   I am just being.

I make sure to cut my loop short so I stay within my self-imposed five mile limit.  I curve around Phillip’s Ave. and turn right instead of left, easing down the steep hill toward the ocean and the old Tool Company.  The water, visible to the left of the building,  glistens and sparkles in the early morning light.  The clean smells of ocean, low tide and flowers are the core of my awareness.  As I turn back onto Granite Street, I run past a few walkers.  A car horn sounds and I see the hand of someone I must know but don’t recognize wave to me from their window.  I raise my hand back, but don’t even look to see who it is.

I take the big hill slowly, not pushing, but when I come to the long, easy slope that heads back to town, I speed up, letting my body go as it wishes.  My legs feel long, long, long today and I can feel myself flying.  My feet barely have time to make contact before they pick up to stride again.  I sprint down Broadway, cross Mount Pleasant, then slow down to a dog-trot as I turn onto Atlantic.  A small sadness sets in, as I know I will be backing off the rest of the week.  That was it, the last real run.  I will take a couple more short jaunts, but otherwise stick to the plan.  I’m ready.


Trial Run

April 25, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am three miles in.  My mind is playing the new, annoying game of “Can I Really Run This Far?” that has kept me from attempting to run long enough to prove I will be able to complete the Twin Lights Half Marathon in May.  The air is cool; the sun bright and warm.  The ocean is a rich, deep blue and calm.  Small waves lap the shoreline as I pass Front Beach, Back Beach, and Andrew’s Point.  My foot is feeling pretty good these days, the plantar fasciitis is slowly going away.  The insurance company has approved enough visits for physical therapy so that I can have the full ten treatments of cold laser therapy and it is working.  I am walking without a limp.  I am running, as my physical therapist tells me, with near-perfect bio-mechanics.

Today my goal is to run 11 miles in under two hours, although I have told my husband not come looking for me unless I am gone for more that two and a half.  I want to be left alone to win the game and toss it out for good.  Today’s run will decide whether or not to withdraw my entry for the race. I run up Phillips’ Ave., the hill long and slow.  I take my time, not pushing too hard because, after all, I have not run longer that six and a half miles in quite some time, maybe two months or more.  My mileage has dropped from 45-50 miles per week to under 25.  I have been cross-training like crazy, though.  Kickboxing, boxing, cycling, core and strength training at the gym two or three times each week have kept me in good shape.  I am trembling a bit on the inside despite it all, wondering if I have lost my distance mojo.

The chattering monkey in my head makes me wonder if I should turn left at the top of Phillip’s and head back.  I wrench myself to the right and cross the road, heading for Halibut Point instead.  I focus on my music, my breath, the sunlight bathing my face.  And suddenly I am there, running through the park as if I have been doing it all along these past weeks.  My legs are strong.  They carry me along the dirt trails and down to the Bay View path, then up and out along the fresh new mulch path back to the road.  I head back toward town, my stride easy, no longer wondering if I will be able to complete today’s goal.  I chug up the steep hill by my house and keep going.  I take Marmion Way the long way around and turn left onto South Street.  When I reach Eden Road, I cross and loop back around.  From this point, all I have to do is run straight home and I will be done for the day.

I glance at my watch as I approach my house.  1:42′.  I cannot keep the grin from spreading across my face as I climb the back steps.  I think about the way it feels to be surrounded by runners—listening to their breathing mix with mine, their footsteps pounding out a rhythm that gives me a beat to move faster and faster as we surge through 13.1 miles to the finish line.  I will not withdraw.  The game of “Can I Really Run This Far” has just been exchanged for “I Know I Can Do This”.  I will run the half marathon.  I will run strong and I will finish.

Healing the Heel

January 11, 2012

Plantar fasciitis is a weird ailment.  There are days when I have no pain at all, running my beautiful route past beaches and granite cliffs, watching the waves crash onto the rocks, breathing in the cold salty air.  I don’t even think about my heel on those days; I sort through my thoughts, make plans, or just zone out and be.  On the days when the pain is bad, I hobble out of bed, limping, afraid to put weight on that right foot, knowing the sharp, shooting sensation will make me catch my breath in agony.  I flex my foot, test a little weight, then a little more, holding onto the headboard of my bed, then the stair rail beside it, waiting for the tight band of tissue in my foot to give enough for me to walk.  I stumble down the stairs to the kitchen and by the time the lunches are made, I can walk. Usually by the time I have driven my daughter to school, the pain has subsided enough that I dare to consider six or seven miles, promising myself ice as a reward if I can get through it.

It doesn’t hurt when I am running, usually, but most of the rest of the time it’s pretty bad.  I had it in my left heel a few years ago and it lasted about 18 months.  Now I have it in my right heel and it is seriously cramping my running lifestyle.  Not that I have decreased my mileage by much, but I am still making an attempt to take care of my poor, sore foot.  I am icing and stretching the arch, the heel, the Achilles, the calves on both sides.  A body therapist is coming tomorrow to spend an hour or so trying to grind away the scar tissue.  It hurts.  I can hear the tissue as I press my fingers into it.  It is like shattered glass—sharp slivered sound  that brings tears to my eyes.  I rub through it anyway.

Extra cross-training is a bit more appealing this time around, since I have added kickboxing, boxing, and Kenpo karate to my list since my last bout.  Plyometrics don’t hurt or bother my heel either, so I do an hour or so each week of mad-high jumping in my living room, forcing my heart rate and Golgi tendons out of their comfort zones.  I have increased the weight I use for strength training, so am building more muscle.  I know it’s a good thing, cross-training, but the running addiction gets the better of me.

There is a lot of advice out there from runners, doctors, orthopedists, trainers, and massage therapists about how to manage this heel tissue situation.  I have tried ice, orthodics, resting, gait adjustment, massage.  Bio-mechanics have been cited as a possible problem.  I’m sure it’s a combination of these things, or at least some of them.  I have worn various shoes, taken time off from running.  I have to live with whatever choices I make, I know.  I’m not going to push so hard that I do permanent damage, but it is a struggle to know where to draw the line on days like today, when the sun is bright, the air clear and crisp and all I can think about is running.  I’m not going today.   Tomorrow the day will not call me like this, with its snow, slush and rain and I will have two days of rest under my foot.  Friday there is boxing and weight lifting.  By Saturday, maybe I will be ready for a long, easy run.


March 15, 2011

The original title of this post was “Gym Rat”, but since I limped almost a mile home from my run this morning, I decided to delve a bit deeper into my vocabulary and psyche and find the truth here.  What I have discovered is that it’s really about the repercussions of perfidy, with a touch of James Cameron thrown in for good measure…

I recently joined a local gym  to learn how the equipment works.   I want to help some of my personal training clients who have gym memberships; my personal trainer certification course did not include learning the functions and use of gym equipment.  If a client really loves the gym and that works for them, I need to be able to adjust their exercise prescription to accommodate what they want.   I also thought it would be a great opportunity to mix up my workouts.  After the amazing Body Combat class I attended with my friend Charlene, I realized how much I loved the way it felt to move my body so differently.  The gym I joined is very affordable and only about 10 minutes away from home.  It’s open every day from 5 am to 11 pm, and offers a few classes.  Not Body Combat, but kick-boxing, spinning, and kettle bell classes.

I learned on my first visit that I should have made an initial appointment if I wanted someone to show me around.  I also learned that the gym has a solid core of members, many of them also personal trainers.  Friendly faces greeted me as I made my way around the machine circuit, and a woman who was working out stopped to show me how to use an entire roomful of machines.  She was tiny and unbelievably strong, without a lick of judgment.  She quickly demonstrated upper body and lower body moves, then waved me on each piece to try.  She kindly adjusted the weights so I could actually perform a set of reps on each one without rupturing my muscles.

My second visit included another learning session, this time with a kind and patient man.  He took his time instructing me on equipment I had not yet tried.  He showed me how to check my form in the mirrors.  Every wall in the gym is mirrored!  I felt self-conscious and had a hard time focusing, but after a little while, I got into it and felt like Wonder Woman  after an hour.

I met one of my clients on the third visit, and was able to go through most of the gym fairly knowledgeably, planning out a program for either a fast, intense workout or a longer, more relaxed one.  We used the treadmills and the elliptical machines last, and reviewed intervals on both.  I left him jogging on a treadmill, both of us satisfied with the new plan.

I made three trips to the gym last week.  Some muscles ached a little bit, but overall I felt pretty good.  I ran before I went each time, not trusting I would get an adequate workout without it, and also because the thought of not running outside was unbearable.  I have found a couple of things I love:  a pull-up assist machine, an upright core machine, and a weighted squat machine.  All three give me the support I need to work upper body, core, and lower body in a fresh new way.

I have also found a couple of things I strongly dislike:  the elliptical and the treadmill.  One of the best aspects of running for me is the satisfaction of landing.  I was not aware of this until I used the elliptical for 15 minutes.  I felt like I was in the film Avatar.  I remembered when the avatars ran, they seemed to glide, barely touching their feet to the ground.  Each time my leg came down, it just slid behind me.  My quads seemed like they were about to explode.  I could not find a rhythm, could not find a cadence that made me feel grounded.  And that grounded feeling translates to my mind and all that I am when I run.

Another aspect of running that satisfies me is movement.  Specifically, forward movement.  The treadmill is stationary, even though I’m running.  I could not let go of the feeling of being out of control, of being about to fall.  A nasty sensation of not being in the driver’s seat (or the runner’s feet?) overwhelmed me as the belt went around and around beneath me.  I held the side handles for dear life, raising the incline to 12 to try and lose that feeling.  12 was fine, actually, since I like hills, but not really what I wanted in terms of running.  Here’s where the perfidy comes in.  To top it all off I felt guilty, as if I were cheating on my one true fitness love.  Even as my legs spun around and around the belt, I found myself fantasizing about being outdoors, feeling the air against my skin, my feet softly landing on the ground like butterfly kisses over and over again.

My running partner Sue and I went to the gym together on Sunday.  She showed me her regular upper body routine, I showed her some of the lower body machines I had learned, we did core work together, then we split.  She hopped on one of the elliptical machines while I finished a circuit I liked from last week.  I joined her for and extra 15 minutes of cardio. Right away my left quad started to twinge.  Avatar!  Avatar! I just wanted it to be over.  I wanted the real me.  Outside.

So—lots of new moves, and extra workout time.  I should be feeling pretty good.  But I miss my free weights.  I miss my living room.  I miss the plyometrics and balance work.  And although I am still running outside, I somehow sense an ugly, passionless infidelity when I am at the gym.

Now for the repercussions.

This morning I planned to run the usual six miles.  The cold spring air opened my heart and my mind; I decided to go on to Halibut Point.  I have finally figured out a loop from the street that takes me through the park and all I could think about was the view of the sea from that long dirt road, with the feel of the earth beneath my feet.  The connection between mind and body is strongest in this place.

My left quad started feeling cranky as I exited the park.  I slowed down, easing my way along the side of Granite Street.  I foolishly turned onto Curtis Street, then Stockholm, thinking that the pain would subside.  I slowed even more when I turned down Story Street, and took it easy all the way to Beach Street, skipping the lovely downhill sprint I adore.  I wanted to run home.

I made it to the bandstand by Back Beach before listening to my body and giving in.  I walked the last .8 miles home, shoving the pain and fear back down each time it rose up inside me.  I fought back tears, trying to distract myself from the throbbing ache in my thigh and the acute awareness of the short two months until the Twin Lights Half Marathon.  I hobbled through my front door, swearing my allegiance to what works for me, ready to heal and get back to training for my first half marathon out in the real world.

Crazy Strength Training with Charlene

February 24, 2011

My friend Charlene is a powerhouse.  She’s pretty, petite, slender, and in excellent shape, able to do five pull-ups while barely breaking a sweat.  She’s the friend who took me to Body Combat.  She’s a friend who is really good at sharing, too.  She and her husband have been doing the P90X series for about a year, incorporating it into their regular workout schedules, along with down-hill and cross-country skiing, fitness classes and cycling.  They keep an extensive set of free weights at home; I asked if I might join her for strength training last week. I thought it would be fun to work out together, and I was itching to have the chance to use heavier free weights to see how I would do.  Not so itchy as to join a gym, maybe though, to see if I should invest in heavier free weights myself.  Giving me her biggest smile, she invited me to join her whenever I wanted.  We decided on Tuesday morning, after my run and after she dropped her daughter off at school.

We lifted free weights and combined that with low body strength, executing multiple sets of squats with rowing, then sets of lunges with curls.  I usually work out with 15 lb. weights, and do drop sets with 15s to 12s.  Standing in the bright sunshine of her husband’s office, looking out at the ocean with loud pop music pumping from his computer speakers, I used 25 lb. free weights for rowing squats, 20 lb. weights for curls, overhead press and lunges, 25s for triceps kickbacks, and 25 to 20 lb. drop sets for chest presses.  We did triceps push-ups.  (Charlene did about 20 full body tri-push-ups in a row.  I did about 15 “girl” ones.)  We did regular push-ups.  (Charlene did 30.  I did 20.  My last 5 were weak.)  She demonstrated a one-armed push-up!  We did front raises with the 20 lb. weights while doing an isometric Plié squat.  I had started off feeling cold, but by the time we had finished out sets, I was down to my capri pants and tank, dripping with sweat.  I looked at my pile of discarded fleece and sweats on the floor and grinned.  My friend turned to me.

“How about we go downstairs?  I usually do the Ab Ripper after this.”

I thought she meant a video she and I both shared.  It’s a Pilates video, not too bad, the Ab Ripper segment is about 10 minutes long and I can do it, no problem.

“Sure.  I need some more water first, though.”

We bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen, refilled our glasses, and went into the living room.  We laid out yoga mats on top of the rug, and Charlene fiddled with the television and X-Box until the video came up.

“Is this from the P90X series?”

“Yeah, but it’s only 20 minutes.  Plus, there’s a couple of things I skip, so it’s only about 15 minutes long.”

I stretched out on my mat and waited.

I am a trainer.  I know the upper quads are considered part of the core, but this was ridiculous!  The first three exercises just about wiped me out.  My quads were screaming as I tried to execute “Crunchy Frog” (you really don’t want to know) but then we moved onto a couple of exercises that focused more on the abs.  I was keeping up pretty well until the P90X guy, Tony, had us roll onto our hips.  It was a side sit-up, wherein you perch on the side of your glutes, raise your legs up to a low V, then, with your fingers linked behind your head, you crunch your elbow on the same side down to your knee.  I could feel my sit bones grinding into the floor right through the yoga mat and the rug beneath me.  We switched sides after 25 reps. (Okay.  Charlene did 25 reps.  I did about 8 before giving up.  I did try the other side but the pain was too much.  I stopped.)

I was able to do most of the rest of the video with some serious effort. My favorite was leg climbing, where you lie back, raise one leg straight in the air, keep the other flat on the floor, then use your hands to “climb” the raised leg all the way to the foot.  25 reps on one side, then 25 on the other.  Charlene finished it up like it was a piece of chocolate cake.  She popped up off the floor and offered me a cup of coffee.  I rolled over onto my side and groaned as I accepted her offer, asking if she was willing to repeat this with me next week.  She said yes, of course.

What I learned:

My fitness rule ‘challenge yourself’ is a really good rule.

I am a strong runner.

I could be stronger.

I need to buy heavier free weights!

No Deal on the Table

March 9, 2010

Fitness rule for today:

Make fitness non-negotiable.

Think about your life.  You get up in the morning.  You eat breakfast  (I hope) or at least have a cup of tea, or coffee, or a glass of juice.   If you have kids, you take care of them.  You feed them breakfast, then get them off to school or daycare.  You go to work.  When you are hungry, you eat.  You go to bed at the end of your day.  This is what makes up your day, with a variety of activities in between.  Some you choose, some you just have to do.   Do you ever say to yourself, Wow, I’m really hungry.  But I’m not going to eat today. or Oh, I have to go to the bathroom but I don’t really feel like it.  I’ll just hold it. How long can you not eat?  Or not pee?  You can’t, at least not for too long.   You take care of these basic elements and functions because your body asks you to do them.  You do them because they are not negotiable items on your daily checklist.   These are the things you have to do.   There is no deal on the table when it comes to real life.  Taking care of our bodies is what we do instinctively.  Sometimes we forget that fitness is part of that care taking.  We only listen when our bodies protest with aches and pains.

When you listen to your body, you hear a variety of comments from it. Some of the comments are complaints.  I’m hungry.  I’m thirsty.  I’m tired.  I need a hug. You might also hear My knees are stiff.  My back aches.  My head hurts.  I’m sad.  Lonely.  Anxious. You might hear I’m full.  I’m bored.  I want some company.  I need some sun on my face. I feel the need for a walk in the woods, or on the beach. Get up!  We have a leg cramp!   Move!!! Your body, when you listen, asks for activity.

So how do you make fitness non-negotiable?  You treat it like food.  Like sleep.  Like going to the bathroom. You find a way to fit in into your day.  It’s hard, I know.  There is only so much time in your day.  There’s a show you absolutely cannot miss.  You have to attend a business meeting.  How do you know that show is on?  How do you remember when your meeting takes place?

You do it by keeping track.  You write it down on your calendar.  It’s a reminder on your iPhone or your Palm Pilot, the same as for your meetings, and for keeping track of doctor appointments, the children’s game and lesson schedules, and friends’ birthdays.  That is how you begin.  It’s what you have to do.  Soon, you will hear your body.  You will feel the response, and you won’t need to write it down to remember.  It becomes like eating and sleeping.  It becomes what you do.

For me, I drink my coffee, a chia fresca, and dress in running gear.  I keep lip balm in my vest pocket, and a little pile by the front door with my music, gloves, sunglasses, and tissues.  I do what I have to do for my family, then I do what I have to do for me.  If I have an early client, I wake up earlier and run.  If I can’t go in the morning, then I go later, even though it’s not my favorite time of day to run.  I run.  So I do.  Period.  On the bad weather days, I focus on strength and core work.  It’s what I do.  My body loves it, and expects it the same way it expects to be fed breakfast, lunch, dinner, and rest.

Those complaints you hear from your body will stop when you are attentive and work to attain the level of fitness your body needs.  Strength and resistance training build muscle, making your arms, legs, and core strong to support yourself.  Cardiorespiratory/ aerobic exercise makes your heart and lungs strong, giving your body more endurance. It releases endorphins that make you feel happy and exhilarated.   Flexibility training relieves muscle pain and stress, making basic daily activities easier.  The benefits of physical exercise are immense, and free. All you have to do is make it non-negotiable.