Thursday, November 16, 2017

Is It working?

I wrote recently about my goals, how I currently train, creating and finding motivation, and a little about my running routine.  Apparently a few people have found this interesting--at least they clicked on the link!  When I have spoken to people in the past about working toward a goal, I told them to set the goal, develop a plan to achieve their goal, work the plan, then reassess.  Essentially, I have told you about the first three steps in my personal program.  Now, it is time for me to reassess.

Yes!  It is working, at least in some areas.  I have not taken a lot of measurements and a lot is subjective, but that can be positive as well.

1.  I am feeling better at the beginning of my runs, even if I do not warm up.  The legs are responding to a moderate pace right away.

2.  I have been sore.  This is great!  I am actually working hard enough to earn delayed onset muscle soreness.  Previously, I had thought I was working hard but would not be sore.  I think this is a direct result of doing the CrossFit-style workouts, logging my times/weights/rounds, and working each time to do better.  I have PR'ed almost every workout in the last 8-ish weeks!

3.  I hopped on the scales once recently--the first time in months.  My weight was slightly up, but my percent body fat was down.  Thus, lean body mass was up which means, more muscle!  At least that is the inference I am making.  Of course, there is error to consider along with water...probably some other stuff if I thought about it.  Whatever!

4.  I have changed my running routine a bit, so I cannot be sure if I am yet any faster.  As I have already said though, I feel good in the Merrells and I feel good at the start of each run, certainly better than in previous months.

5.  My watts on the bike are going up.  I am getting off the bike afterward completely spent too.

So, the plan is working; at least I am moving in the right direction.  I have made some minor changes in the routine, but I will write about that later.

Thanks for reading.  I hope someone is deriving some benefit from me sharing my journey.  I know writing about it is helping me.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Minimalist Running

Great shoes for rowing, by the way.
Several years ago I tried barefoot running.  I will not bore you with why, but I did it.  I tried the Vibram Five Fingers and later had two pairs of Merrell minimalist shoes--one for trails and one for roads.  I covered a lot of miles in all of them, even a few half marathons.  At one point, I bought another pair of more traditional running shoes, a New Balance stability shoe.  I think this was after I hurt my foot and I returned to running.  Some would blame the minimalist running for my foot injury--maybe; maybe not.

My point is: I am back in my Merrells (I discarded the others prior to the move.)  I had been thinking that I needed to lose some weight before I ran in them again.  However, I tried them on a short run during the summer and I felt fine.  I do not run in them all the time right now, but I am doing most short runs and speed work in them.

As an older runner, i.e. over 40, I need to protect my feet and ankles as they account for about 50% of all injuries in runners over 40 or so.  I also have an annoying on-again-off-again case of what I believe to be posterior tibialis tendinopathy (sore foot in simple terms) that I need to manage.  To do this I have been doing work in the agility ladder (also good for the hip musculature which will help protect the knee) and I do a lot of strength workouts, including some plyometrics, barefoot (in my living room).

Result: my feet are feeling good in the Merrells and I think I am faster in them.  Bonus!  Also, I think I may be tripping less often.  So, when the barefoot running craze comes back around, be sure to strengthen your feet first.

This is what I run in now, most of the time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


After my recent vacation, I returned home with a souvenir head cold.  Awesome!  So, my planned rest break (other than thirty miles of walking in three days in Italy) was extended, although it was not what I would describe as quality recovery time.  On the tenth day after my last pre-vacation workout, I completed some running hill repeats and a strength workout.  The next day I was tired, a little sore, I had a headache and was still feeling the symptoms of my cold, blah blah blah... I was compiling excuses not to work out.  Even with all my fitness and health-related degrees and credentials and years of experience in the exercise field and in training myself, I still struggle with motivation at times.

Then, I got a message from my good friend, Sarah, through Facebook Messenger:  "Working out today?"  @%$&!  "Well, I am now!!"  I replied.  As I told her, the message was just the kick in the butt I needed.  We continued chatting and I told her what workouts I had planned.  Then, I proceeded to destroy two CrossFit-style workouts and run some hill repeats.  Without Sarah's initial nudge and subsequent conversation, none of that would have happened.

I have written about ten different CrossFit-style workouts for myself, all with time or repetition goals--goals that I can attempt to beat each time I do them.  Over the last month or so, I have improved nearly every workout each time.  After at least two of the workouts, I have had to lie down on the floor for a few minutes to recover.  I have also set power goals for my cycling workouts which I have been doing on my rollers.  During my planned thirty-minute ride over the weekend, I had to stop at about fifteen minutes, because I was exhausted after killing my one-minute power goal during three intervals.  So, my programming is forcing me to work harder.

My point is, motivation can come from different sources.  Sometimes you need a nudge from someone else--look for this.  You can also create your own self-motivation with goal setting.

This is the guy I'm looking for in the mirror
(2010 Tri-ing to Help)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This Training Cycle

I have shared my goals.  The next logical step is to have a plan to achieve them. I have tried various approaches over the last few years.  Unfortunately, I think my age is working against me a bit.  I think training solo might be limiting my progress a little too--no one to compete with or to push me.  Obviously, I cannot do anything about my age (other than attempt to defy it) and I will still probably train solo for various reasons.  So, I just have to train intelligently and follow my own advice.  Right now, I think that means working harder with consistency.

My current focus is on multiple, short, intense workouts, mostly a combination of the following:

1. Running: hill repeats or 1/4 mile repeats; 3-5 days weekly; 30-45 minutes total.

2. Cycling: on my rollers, mostly 1-minute intervals recently; 1-2 days weekly; 30-45 minutes total.

3. CrossFit-inspired workouts; 10-15 minutes; 7-10 weekly.

Of course, this means multiple workouts in a day, some days as many as three. Full disclosure: I usually plan my workouts ahead each week, but frequently life happens and I do not fit them all in.

Anyway, today's example:

Early-ish morning workout:
35# dumbbell swings with sit ups
x50, 40, 30, 20, 10 for time.

Midday workout:
45# overhead lunge
pull down (using bands)
supine windshield wipers
x10 each for 10 minutes, max number of rounds

Afternoon workout;
Hill repeats x40 minutes

I planned a fourth workout after the run, but didn't have time prior to a work obligation.

Side notes: I train at home, using some bands, an adjustable set of dumbbells, and my body weight.  I also work mostly from home and have a flexible schedule.

It seems to be working.  All the strength workouts are getting faster or I am doing more rounds.  I also feel better at the beginning of my runs--I do not seem to require as much of a warm up.

I will continue with this for a few more days prior to a recovery week while on vacation.  We are going to Italy! Then, I will ease back into a routine over a few days and return to this schedule for a week for sure.  After that, I am thinking I will change my running focus a bit, but continue with the strength workouts as I am doing.

Anyway, time to BRING IT!

Yes!  You too!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Where To Begin?

Since I hurt my foot back in 2012, I have struggled with my fitness level.  Being busy with the move to Scotland and getting settled here did not help.  I have been exercising regularly and currently, I would describe myself as fit for my age--nearly 47.  However, in the early 2010s, I would have described myself as fit, period.  I was competing with athletes much younger than me and was getting progressively faster.  I have not given up on returning to that level, but progress is much slower.

So, goals (in no particular order):
1. Lose weight; partially for vanity, partially for performance by improving my body composition and my power to weight ratio and, of course, for my health. My measuring device: my favorite black belt--I'm on the second hole and I want to be back in the fourth hole.  Also, I want to be back near my high school graduation weight--175 pounds, around where I was in the early 2010s. Honestly, I do not know what I weigh right now, perhaps 190-195 pounds.

2. Exceed, match, or at least approach my running PRs:
5k, 20:38
10k, 46:43
13.1, 1:37:26
This will be tough.

3. Increase my cycling wattage.

4. Achieve 365 fitness: ready for anything physical on any given day or within a reasonable amount of time for training, e.g. run a half marathon within 6-8 weeks or compete in an obstacle course or adventure race.

5. Stay injury-free.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I'm Back!

I suppose the main reason I stopped posting is that I got busy with other things, primarily moving to Scotland. You can read about that here. I'm settled now, but I actually considered shutting down this site/blog. However, on a run today, creativity struck and here I am!

I'm going to change focus a bit. I want to continue to use this as an outlet for my exercise expertise, especially since my current work does not provide that. But instead of teaching, sharing information, etcetera, I plan to use it as a sort of exercise journal for myself, providing me with some accountability and discipline. It might help me justify my own training and hopefully promote some discourse. Ideally, others will derive benefit from it as well. 

I plan to keep my posts short. Frequency will depend on my other obligations. I may incorporate Twitter and Facebook as well.

Watch this space.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Drink When You're Thirsty! A summary of Waterlogged by Tim Noakes

Dr Tim Noakes is a South African physician, professor, scientist, and ultra marathoner known to many runners and coaches for writing Lore of Running now in its fourth edition and considered to be the runner's "bible."  At least partially inspired to write this book by the death of a marathoner from exercise-associated hyponatremic encephalopathy, Noakes reviewed and analyzed the scientific research related to hydration in endurance sports, frequently adding his own data.  This research has culminated in his own evidence-based guidelines for hydration, electrolytes, and the prevention of so-called heat-related conditions.  Most of these guidelines have been adopted (in some fashion) by various sport governing associations including ACSM, USATF, and the International Marathon Medical Directors Association.

If you want to know the scientific basis for these guidelines and learn more about the physiology and biology, I encourage you to read Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports.   Otherwise, I shall summarize here his guidelines:

1. Your body will tell you what it needs, if you listen. (Keep in mind the human body has robust biological controls.  Nothing in nature is wasted; everything has a purpose.  To deny this would be to deny evolution or, if you prefer, the perfection of creation.)
2. So...drink ad libitum, according to the dictates of your thirst.
3. And...there is no need to increase your daily sodium intake above that dictated by your appetite, nor to ingest additional sodium during exercise.
4. Dehydration is not a disease, nor does it contribute in any way to any illnesses associated with prolonged exercise.
5. Much of what you believe about your personal well-being is the result of targeted manipulations by industries whose principal focus is their commercial fitness and not necessarily your health or safety.  (Marketing!)

This advice is contrary to what many athletes are doing.  It is also contrary to the advice I have given over the years.  I am trying to remedy that now. 

I am sure many athletes and coaches will question these guidelines, thinking that drinking less and being more dehydrated or not supplementing electrolytes for example will put athletes at risk.  This is what the scientific evidence says:

Exercise-associated Muscle Cramps or "heat cramps" result from altered nervous control of muscles. Cramps are not improved or prevented by fluid or electrolyte intake.  Recover from cramps with rest, maybe stretching.

Heat Exhaustion is just the condition (heat) under which an athlete choses to stop exercising.  Basically, it is just exhaustion.  It is a condition that the brain uses to ensure the athlete ceases activity before the body temperature reaches heatstroke range.  Fluids and electrolytes will not prevent this.  Acclimatization to the heat will.  Treat this with rest and cooling the body.

Heatstroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches 42 degrees Celsius.  Body temperature increases as a function of body size and exercise intensity, e.g. average running speed (think 5k pace versus marathon pace). Generally, with sustained exercise, the core temperature rises, but it seems that the body is able to maintain homeostasis, just at a higher (and still safe) core body temperature.  Again, hydration has little effect and electrolytes have no effect.  In those that get heatstroke, it seems to be a function of heat production, because even after they are cooled, there is frequently a secondary spike in core temperature.  Heatstroke can be prevented with rest, allowing the core temperature to decrease periodically.

Most athletes who collapse after a sporting event are suffering from Exercise-associated Postural Hypotension.  The blood-pumping action of the calf muscles, the second heart, stops and the body does not respond fast enough.  The brain doesn't get enough blood and the athlete passes out.  This can be treated by elevating their legs and hips above their heart and head for a few minutes.  Fluids, electrolytes, or sugar will not help.  Athletes should continue moving or lie down after an event to prevent this.

Exercise-associated Hyponatremia/Hyponatremic Encephalopathy is brought on by drinking too much fluids too fast, diluting blood sodium so quickly that the body cannot maintain a safe range.  This seems to occur in predisposed individuals, possibly with hormonal differences: usually slow runners in long events--back-of-the-packers.  It is not related to sodium deficiency.  It was rare if not completely absent prior to hydration guidelines which instructed athletes to drink as much as possible, staying ahead of their thirst.  This was the impetus for Noakes' research and book, leading to his hydration guidelines shared above.

To summarize, athletes do not need extra electrolytes nor do they need to drink any more than their thirst dictates. Doing otherwise will not improve performance or prevent illness, and in some cases, it can actually be fatal.