Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The great outdoors

I went for my first outdoor run in ages yesterday, and it was a complex experience.

As I've discussed here, I've had some challenges with completing the C25K this time around.  While I've been improving my fitness, I have not lost any weight; I've struggled with getting the necessary dietary changes as part of my habits, and honestly have been more concerned with keeping up the exercise than worrying about avoiding french fries.

In fact, I never finished the C25K.  I couldn't do it.  I transitioned to a modified training plan, doing run/walk sets in a 4:1 ratio.  So, to "run" half an hour, I would do six sets of four-minute runs and one-minute walks.  I've been increasing the overall time spent doing this, from four sets to six, but am still topping out at a slow half-hour of this. I'm not really at the necessary endurance to complete a 5K.

It's been frustrating, but I also know the point of this journey is the journey, not the destination.  Every minute I spend active is a minute well spent.  It's just sometimes hard to remember this when your legs are cramping, you're out of breath, and you've only covered two miles, and you distinctly remember running more than five with less perceived discomfort.

With temperatures in the mid-70s, I decided I wasn't going to confine myself to the treadmill but rather hit the road.  I laced up, no watch, no phone, no expectations, and walked to the end of my street and then began a slow run down the roads I used to run back when I was doing this more regularly.  It felt good at first, and the weather was really rewarding me for my effort.  The air was warm but dry, and the breeze carried the smells of the wild grapes, fallen leaves, and the last mowing of the season.  Some of the trees were fully blazing, but most remained green.  It was an odd but entirely pleasant combination of late summer and early fall.

That beautiful part of the run lasted less than five minutes, though.  The pain started up in my shins (as opposed to my calves, where it tends to be on the treadmill) and got more and more severe.  I finally transitioned to a walk, and hobbled down the road a bit until the pain subsided.  I felt really awful, mentally, even as the pain disappeared.  I was frustrated and angry with myself, annoyed with where I've let myself get physically, doubting my mental strength -- the whole nine.

But I refused to give in, and began another slow jog.  I continued this unmeasured interval effort for about two and a half miles.  Somewhere in the middle of this, I stopped feeling frustrated and started enjoying the time for what it was.  I paused a moment and looked out at the pond.  I took deep breaths of the odd warm fall air.  I remembered runs from years gone by.  I let my mind wander, wondering what was up a path that led into the woods.

Something about the experience forced the issue in my mind.  I don't honestly care if I'm a runner or not.  But I know what makes me feel complete, physically.  I need to feel that I have range.  There's a mix of endurance and confidence that I need in my life.  I need to be able to look at a spot and know that I can get there under my own power and not be a wreck when I arrive.

I also need the outdoors.  This has never been about how long I can sweat on a treadmill.  It's about the roads, the hills, the pines, the wildlife, the pond.  It's about solitude, about feeling a part of something big and wondrous.  It's about the same things that drive me now to the hobbies I fled from as a young man -- fishing and hunting. 

It's not about running.  Running is how I've gotten there in the past, and maybe it's how I'll get there again.  But if I figure out a way to maintain my fitness and all I can be is a long-distance walker and hiker, I will still know I've succeeded if I can stand outside, look at a distant point and say, "I wonder what I can see from over there," and go find out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Week 5, Day 1 Complete

I mentioned in the last post that I had just completed the 9th workout in the C25K program.  For those doing the math, that's the end of week three.  Today I did the first workout in week 5 ... and yet more than  a week has passed, right?


I don't know if it's that I'm older, heavier, and less flexible than last time I did this, but I had a major setback when I started week four.  Week four contains two 5-minute runs and two 3-minute runs, with walks in between.  As I closed out my final 5-minute run on W4D1, my leg cramped up so bad I had to get off the treadmill.  I couldn't stand.  I tried to walk it off and get back on the mill, but I just couldn't.  It wasn't just pain, it was incredible cramping and tightness.  My leg didn't feel right for a full day.

I tried that workout three times.  I failed each time, with the same problem, at varying times in the workout.  It was depressing, but watching my wife's continued progress on the program kept me looking for a way to get better.

I tried a couple things to change it up, primarily involving slowing down and adding some stretching mid-workout.  I did that a couple times, until the cramping had turned into "mild discomfort".  Then I went back to week three, and did the whole of week three 10% slower than I had run it the last time.

With that under my belt, I kept the new slower pace and advanced to and completed week four.  And now the first workout of week five is complete.

It's mentally very hard to slow down this much, but even this speed is infinitely faster than sitting on the couch. And as my lovely wife points out, you can always speed up.  The right endurance, though, is the necessary foundation.  Get the endurance down first, and then worry about your speed.

And your ego.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rapidly Approaching 38

I am very close now to my 38th birthday.  My birthdays have historically been when I am in life-evaluation mode; rather than new year's resolutions I tend to set goals for the next year around my birthday.

So where am I at 38?  Struggling in some areas, coasting in others, and loving still others.  A lot is different at 38 than it was at 30 -- I have new hobbies, new responsibilities. 

38 is a tricky age.  With two years to 40, there's plenty of time to change a lot.  But it's also the case that my adult life has had plenty of time to harden.  A lot of "who I am" has a lot of intertia at this point.  I am unlikely to suddenly become an excellent craftsman who has no fear of putting in his own windows or building his own deck, let's say.  If I haven't acquired a taste for red wine by now, I probably won't.  Same with olives.  Sorry.  Nor am I likely to stop watching football, or drinking beer.  Or drinking beer while watching football.  So it goes.

But there's also a tipping point here -- I can do a lot in the next two years to define how I look back on my 30s, and set a real stage for my 40s and beyond.  It's never too late to start something great.

And that's why today, I ran the 9th workout of the 27-workout couch-to-5k program.  It's the best program I know of to get me back on my feet.  That's why I have set a goal, and am telling people about it, of running in the Hot Chocolate run this year, in early December.

Just reviewing my recent posts here tells me a lot about my love/hate relationship with fitness.  But the thread that runs through it all is running.  Ever since my first 30-minute run, I've never felt "right" when I couldn't do them at will.  So it's time to remind myself how it feels.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Slow but progressing

It's been nearly a month since my first post of 2011.  The treadmill is set up (again), but I have yet to do my first run of 2011. Most of my exercise this year has come from clearing snow -- something about that kind of "real work" makes me not want to stand and run in place.  We'll get there.

Where the progress is being made is in food choices.  Both my wife and I are taking this seriously and making an effort, using the same methods.  We've had success in the past, each with different approaches, but sharing our approach has made it much easier to shop and plan meals.

I'm down ten pounds this year so far.  I'm missing my junk food, but not missing those ten pounds.  I am looking forward to having a smaller frame when it's time to put on the lighter layers of clothes this Spring. 

Whenever that comes.  Right now it feels forever away....

Monday, January 17, 2011

What's new for 2011?

July 2010 was my last post here?  That's kind of scary.  As someone whose most prolific posting periods are around fitness work, it's clear what that means -- very little progress on the fitness front in the second half of 2010.

But 2011 is here, and with it perhaps some new goals and action plans.

I'm not looking to set weight loss goals here, but I am frustrated with where I am and know I need to make some changes.  I want to make strides in my endurance, strength, flexibility, and overall capability.  My minimum acceptable standard is being able to run 3 miles at will.  I'm not there, any more.  I've been there, and there's a strong correlation between being there and feeling happy, confident, and accomplished.  Getting there will require recouping some lost fitness.  Along that road I want to pay some attention to my core strength, balance, and flexibility. 

I think it will be interesting to write here, on this blog, a bit more often.  I know I have things I sometimes want to write about, which don't fit my family blog, or my professional blog.  So hiding them here is a nice way to get them out of my system :).  We'll see.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I talked in my last post about humility, track records, achievable goals, and all that.

Today, as I work through lunch, I am reminded of this.

The week I posted, I ran three times.
The next week, I ran once.  Stuff "came up" and ate up the time I blocked away for those runs.

I swore that wouldn't happen this week.  I looked at my calendar and was sure I'd have time to run.

And here I am, during the time I'm supposed to be running, cramming down a turkey sandwich in front of my computer.  "Something came up" at work and it demands my attention.  Maybe I'll finish this all up in time to steal away for a run, but I doubt it. 

This is how we lose this game.  One hour at a time.

It occurs to me as I write this that I've never figured out the secret to making time to run.  When my life is operating at a healthy pace, I have time to run. When things get out of control, running somehow falls away ... and that's when I need it most.

The unhappy truth may well be that I need to step way outside my comfort zone.  Run at 5:30 in the morning, or 9:30 at night ... because my lunch hour disappears pretty quick when work gets crazy, and in this job, it's crazy more weeks than it's sane.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I should know better

Let's just say that I am completely humbled by my own ability to discard lessons learned and regress in areas of fitness. 

This week I have gone for two runs (with a healthy dose of walking inserted). 

Past performance is not an indicator of future results.  But.  It feels good to be out there.

I realized something over the past few weeks.  My diet, my weight loss, these are important. I hate not fitting into the clothes I worked so hard to fit into.  But exercise is vital.  It's a canary in a coal mine -- if I'm not exercising, other things are probably also suffering.  My dietary success is always built upon my exercise success.  My mental health, my ability to cope with stress at home and at work is directly proportional to the regularity of my exercise.

It all came together when I saw some friends this weekend who have done such a kickass job at sticking with their fitness regimens.  I sat there envying them for at least an hour before I realized that a lot of what they had was within my reach, and all I had to do was make the decision to put on my shoes and walk out the door instead of firing up my video game when my daughter went down for her mid-day nap on Sunday.

So I did.

And I did it again today.

Of course, setting goals is important ... but right now my goal is to go for another run.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves.