Archive for the ‘Strength’ Category

An Ambitious Plan

So, half marathon training is underway. It has gotten started in spits and spurts. The first week was fine, no problems except that first team run was very hot and humid and my guts threw a fit. I couldn’t finish the 4 mile route; I turned back early.

The second week was fine, but I missed the training team weekend run because I was onsite for the ACL practice all weekend. That was a great, energetic weekend, but when I got nipped on the back of the leg by a dog, opening up one of my spider veins, it set my running back a bit while that healed up enough not to reopen.

So Saturday’s six miles were the first miles I had run in over a week. I was nervous. I hadn’t run anything over 4-5 in a while and I hadn’t run at all in a few days. It turned out just fine. I paced with some women who were trying out the intermediate team (they found the novice to be a bit too novice) and stayed with them for about 4 miles. That was great until I realized I could push it a bit faster, so I asked if they minded if I went on. Of course not, so I picked up my pace a bit and went on.

After a little while, I was joined by Cooter Coach Greta (I am on Team Red Bellied Cooters, in case you are wondering at the term) and she and I ran together, talking and just going. She helped me get over that subtle and very long hill heading east on Grove Avenue that ALWAYS kicks my butt. My pride kept me from asking for a walk break, and I never really needed it. By the end, the last little bit at McCloy and the hill back up to the Stadium, I was very tired but determined, and that hill did not stop me. I felt like a hero when it was over.

Okay, an 11:35 min/mile pace hero, but still. I was very happy.

Sunday, rather than a rest day like the novice schedule says, and which I am used too, Sunday is now a 5 mile day. Unfortunately, I waited until the sunniest, hottest part of the afternoon to go out, and my legs let me know in short order that just because I had had a great run the previous day, I was not going to get a repeat performance. By the 3 mile point, if I had had my cell phone on me, I might have called for a pickup. I was just that tired. I am glad I didn’t though because I did finish out my 5 miles, and the last mile was hard but it was mostly downhill and that was good for my brain.

I overcame.

Mondays are for cross training. Thinking of the higher mileage schedule, I have decided to apply much more running focused cross training exercises. No Michelle Obama Shoulders Plan right now (though my shoulders still look pretty damn good from the training early in the summer and an active late summer). For now, it will be strength training focusing on my core and my lower body with the goal being to prevent injury. Also, I am going to really try and add some yoga workouts into my weekly routine. That will probably mean setting the alarm for 5:30 in the morning, and my discipline for that is WEAK.

One of my favorite fitness bloggers posted an article last month on strength training for runners to prevent injury. It was exactly what I needed to read and today, I put it to good use.

I am not used to circuit training; I am more programmed towards strength building through heavy lifting, then one minute or so rest between reps. Circuit training was surprisingly challenging; I broke a serious sweat. I followed Tamara’s suggestion to pull one exercise from each of the 4 categories: single leg hip thrusts (both sides), a 30 second plank, lateral lunges (both sides), and a bent over dumbbell row with 15 pound dumbbells (that was when I noticed my shoulders don’t suck, haha). I did the 4 exercises with no rest between, then a second repetition. I was challenged enough that I did not do my planned 3rd rep.

I liked that workout; I didn’t need special equipment and I could probably do it at home if I dug out my heavier dumbbells or found my E-Z bar. Afterwards, I did about 10 minutes of timed stretches focusing on my lower body and back, and especially on my IT band and lower back. I like that I can swap in and out different exercises if I am bored with say, hip thrusts, then I can just switch to the hamstring curls with a ball.

My goal is to do that workout twice a week; Mondays and Fridays would be the ideal. It feels ambitious to say I want to run 5 days per week, cross train 2 days per week, and then find some way to squeeze a yoga session in there as well.

It is a lot, to be sure, but I want to run my best time ever this November. Really, I do, and the only way to do so is train harder than ever and avoid injury. I have to shave about a minute per mile off my pace to reach my goal so speed work, tempo runs, and strength training and stretching will be extremely important to staying healthy.


Owie, Again

I am dancing around the edge of being injured again. Another very common, typical runner injury; my left piriformis is angry at me. In the colloquial, my butt hurts.

It isn’t crippling, although every now and then I will get gasp-inducing shocks of pain in my left hip when I take a step, but they have come down in frequency since I started addressing the issue with stretches starting back on Sunday.

I am frustrated because I know the reason I am hurt; I sit at a desk all day and I have extremely inflexible hip flexors and weak hip abductors. Even Dr. Green commented that I have extraordinarily inflexible hip flexors when he was adjusting me back during the last round of IT problems.

It is not my habit to really stretch out after a run; I am time-pressed, I am overtired, I am rushed to get back to the office/home/wherever, insert whatever other excuse here. Further, I haven’t done any sort of strengthening exercises for my hips and glutes. As I said even in my last blog post, I haven’t been doing any lower body workouts aside from running. Well, the hens have come home to roost because of all my excuses.

Of all the possible times to be injured and need a little bit of rest from running, this isn’t the worst possible time at least. The next two weeks will see me sucked down the rabbit hole of SCA activities, and I have no long runs planned at all. I will keep my short runs on my schedule, and keep the stretching going that I have been doing. I need to find a hard ball to use on the piriformis muscle itself because the foam roller cannot get deep enough into the mass of muscles in that area. I need to keep up my daily stretching I am doing when I wake up in the morning. But I also really need to incorporate something like yoga into my routine, and I have known that for a good long while.

Like last time, I will set myself up a treatment plan including stretching, deep tissue massage (with a ball), and strengthening exercises. If it doesn’t resolve in the next 2 weeks with my own homework, I’ll call Dr. Green and get on his calendar. I guess I also need to find a yoga class at the Y to take on a semi-regular basis too.

I just wish yoga was as fun as running. I suppose it is more fun than being injured, though.

The Next Thing

I haven’t updated much about my weight lifting program, primarily because it isn’t very exciting. My focus is mostly on my arms and shoulders and back; I know it’s a fallacy but I tend to want to let all my miles do the lower body strength training. I know that isn’t a good idea, but it’s where I am at right now. It’s hard to want to do squats when your legs are worn out from an interval workout the day before. I am just inherently lazy.

My schedule has been running on Monday, Tuesday (speed/quality workouts), Thursday, and a long run on Saturday. Wednesday and Friday are in the weight room. Sunday is my rest day. With 4 days spent running and 2 days in the weight room, you can tell my focus is still on cardio endurance, and since I have a couple of races coming up in the next 2 months (Corporate 4 Miler and Dauber Dash), that seems appropriate.

I call my weight room workout my Michelle Obama Shoulders Plan (MOS Plan) for what should be the obvious reason (hint: it has nothing to do with politics). I want my back, shoulders, arms, and chest to look awesome, but I also want real strength. I want to get back into SCA fighting, at least melee fighting. I have no idea how to arrange that yet, but Grace is getting older and it is getting just slightly easier to let her be a little more independent. Aside from the fact that I need to get back to practicing technique and just getting helmet time in, I need to make up for my lack of physical mass with strength and endurance.

My lifting list is usually compromised of:

Bench presses
Bent over and Bench Rows
Lateral Raises
Pectoral Flys

I aim for three sets of each, and I like 10 reps per set; if I go up in weight, I might drop it back to 2 sets or I tend to find myself hitting failure around rep 7 or 8 on the 3rd set. I try to rest a minute in between each, or sometimes I double up lifts, like doing bench presses (if I am using dumbbells) followed immediately by bench rows, and then rest. Time and equipment usage are both issues in the weight room at the James Center Y, which is crowded every day with the same crew of gym rats. Doubling up saves me time and helps me vacate a bench faster so someone else can use it.

The lightest weights I am using are 7.5 pound dumbbells for those lateral raises. I finally reached a 50 pound bench press last week when I actually got to use a barbell and bench press rack (this rarely happens when there are 4 or 5 guys waiting to use it and all benching between 175 and 240 pounds). I am up to doing my shrugs with 30 pound dumbbells in each hand. I am being very cautious with deadlifts (Romanian Straight Legs lifts to be specific) because a back or hamstring injury would drop me for a good long while, but I am up to 50 pound deadlifts. I should probably do my planks first rather than last because depending on how my lifts went, sometimes my planks don’t make my full 1 minute rep because my arms are trashed. I do them last because they are done in another area and I try to be among the first of the lunch crew in the weight room or the crowding becomes an issue.

Now, I have been coming to this weight room for almost 18 months, but admittedly, not consistently. When half marathon training gets deep or I am heavy into Pennsic or Gem Joust prep, weights fall by the wayside. But there are coworkers of mine in there, and they know me and I know them. So what makes it weird is that no one, even the people who know me and see me at work, ever acknowledges my presence.

On one hand, I am okay with this. I am the only woman I ever see in the weight room at the James Center between 12-1 p.m. Period. I don’t exactly want to be singled out and I don’t want to waste much time chatting about football or work or anything. At the same time, it is kind of awkward to be completely ignored; particularly by people who know me and talk to me outside of the gym.

Last week, the cone of silence was finally broken. One of the trainers came up and spoke to me. He talked about how he wished he saw more women in the weight room and it was encouraging to him to see me in there. I told him how I had heard derisive comments about “Man Land” in the women’s locker room and that I wished it wasn’t so myself. That said, I get why women would avoid that particular weight room. Like I mentioned, there is a core group of rats in there every single day, and they seem close knit and they lift really heavy, and male or female, that can be an intimidating scenario to enter. But the compliments the trainer paid me did make my day.

Ultimately, I have seen progress in how much weight I can move around and I have seen progress on what my arms, shoulders, chest and neck look like. The next area I want to see progress in is my will to put armour on and go out and fight. If I can will myself to run 13 miles, and will myself to lift 50 pounds, then I can will myself into putting on my gear and facing my friends with a sword in my hand.
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The MOS Plan and What Now?

(This has turned out to be a massive brain dump and I am posting this because I have deleted every single other post I have typed recently; a quick way to get into the habit of muzzling oneself.)

I am being almost literally crushed by the sheer volume of paper on my desk that needs to be scanned into our shared drive so the attorneys can all access this discovery.

So on that note, let me take a few minutes for some “me time” and blog, instead!

As is typical for me after a major race, I have gone radio silent. Not that I haven’t typed up probably a dozen blog entries since 3/16, but for whatever reason, I either find I don’t want to convey what I typed or what I typed doesn’t convey what I actually mean.

The week after the race, I was so jazzed about it that I almost immediately signed up for another half marathon taking place on April 13th, the Dismal Swamp Stomp. I felt amazing, knew I was in great shape, and I wanted to run a flat course and see what time I could come up with.

Real life sent me crashing back to sanity and I have relented from that madness, but I haven’t quit pretending I am training for it. Last Saturday, 15 minutes short of exactly one week post-Instant Classic, I was back at City Stadium with the hardiest of the former Shamrock Training Team who felt like coming out post-race. I put in 6 surprisingly fast miles and came home thrilled. This year’s post race recovery has been a dramatic 180 degree turn around from last year’s recovery. I am hoping to manage to get 7 miles in this Saturday morning before real life requires my immediate attention.

Like I promised myself before the race, I have also gotten back into the weight room, getting back to my Michelle Obama Shoulders lifting program. It is exactly what it sounds like; a weight training program designed to give me an awesome looking body from the waist up.

Bench presses, push ups, deadlifts, rows, military presses, shrugs, raises, and so forth. Some planks and birddogs, too. At least that is one half of the MOS plan. The other half is diet, where currently, I am failing miserably. I’ll get that under control eventually. I’ll get there, just not today.

So what am I driving at? I don’t have a specific goal. I want something but I can’t quite figure out what it is. I know I want to get stronger, fitter, faster. I want to blow last year’s time at the Dauber Dash straight out of the water. I want to have arms and shoulders that are worthy of wearing sleeveless shirts.

Bah. I don’t know. My dander is up and I feel the need to do something out of the ordinary. Maybe I should take up BotN/ACL as someone suggested? Maybe I should just go back to SCA fighting as my husband suggested? Maybe I should look harder at that MMA dojo as the She-Bitch in the back of my brain keeps suggesting? I don’t know. If the suggestions I keep getting are any indication, maybe violence is the answer?

Maybe I just need to focus on getting my shoulders to look like I want them too and getting my miles under 10 minutes?

Back on My Feet

After an entire week spent recovering from the Cold of the Decade (not really, but that’s how it felt), and not having run the first step all week, I chose to skip the training team run and map out a longer route at home. I do love running in my neighborhood. It is familiar, there are some sidewalks, there are some very quiet sections, and if I got in a real bind, help would only be a short distance away.

Saturday, the wind was insane. It was at its worst along Cogbill Road in front of the high school there; the wind was so cold and blowing so hard, it made it very hard to breathe, similar to taking a cold shower, when you are gasping from the cold. It made for a much slower run than I was hoping for, but I was still happy with my results. 9.5 miles in 1:53 and some change. My pace was better than the 11 mile run the previous Saturday, but not tons better.

The best part was that I ran in my new Brooks for the first time. I was worried that 9.5 miles was too long for a first run in them, but they were great. For the second week in a row, I got a calf cramp, which this time progressed to soreness behind the knee. I don’t know if that behind the knee soreness was related to the heavier shoes, the fact that the left foot is the one that overpronates and these shoes stabilize that, or if it was something else entirely. Still, soreness or not, I loved the shoes and a 9.5 mile break in run did not hurt my feet in any way.

Yesterday, I lifted.

Leg Press: 3 sets, 10 reps, 170 pounds (woo! Up from 150)
Hamstring Curl: 3 x 10, 50# (I always feel like I am risking my lower back with this machine.)
Squats: 2 x10: 27# (slowly working my way back to a standard 45# barbell.)
Calf Raises: 3 x 10 holding a 35# dumbbell (up 5#).
Back Extension: 3 x 10 w/ a 15# dumbbell
Crunches: 2 x 15
Reverse Crunches: 2 x 10

Short, sweet, hard. I love lower body days. There isn’t anything complex about these workouts. I could add lunges, but I always feel like I am risking a knee injury with lunges.

Tuesdays are for speed and that means either more structured intervals or a less structured fartlek run; I’ll decide when I put my feet on the treadmill. My bootie is a little sore today from the increased weights on the leg press machine and my squats and the run will either improve that soreness or kick it into high soreness, but that will be okay. It just means I am getting stronger.

I am feeling so very much better than I did last week. Mentally better, physically more energetic, and physically stronger.

The countdown is on. The last long training run is this weekend. Someone has already posted a suggested 12 mile route and it takes me out way into the West End, past St. Mary’s hospital. It is a little mind blowing just how far 12 miles looks on a map.

I say…bring it on.


Slogged through 4 slow, irritable miles today in the chilly, damp air. Did a LOT of walk breaks for some reason and even had to stop to help a lost runner from out of town try and find her way along the Canal Loop. I felt frustrated, too hot (wore an unnecessary rain jacket), and fatigued. When I got back and mapped my time and route, my pace was slightly faster than the last couple of times I ran the same route and was faster than the pace I need to make my 2:30 HM goal. I don’t even pretend to know what gives but I will take what I got.

I am starting to think about life after a half marathon. What will I do with all the new found free time? What can I do to avoid the seemingly inevitable weight gain that most runners experience after a race?

I am thinking that since weight gain is almost inevitable due to increased appetite but fewer calories being burned in the first few weeks after the race would be a perfect time to focus on muscle building. To build muscle, you have to eat. To keep all that food from getting used as fat, your best bet is to build muscle.

So that is becoming my plan at least related to my fitness levels. After the race, I will cut back on my mileage but go way up on weight lifting. My next scheduled race isn’t until June, and that is the Henricus Dauber Dash (check the name! I have to run this!!!) where due to the obstacles, extra strength will help a whole lot.

I confess, the idea of not being in training is a little scary. I have been at this a while now, months actually, I like having a daily and weekly plan laid out for me, and I like the results of the work I have put in. When I wake up on Sunday, March 18th, for the first time since December 3rd, I won’t have a schedule to turn to. The day won’t be specific for something, whether it be rest, speed intervals, a long run, or weight training.

So after the first week after the race, I will definitely continue my “training” but not even close to the levels I am working at right now. In fact, I am most looking forward to extra time with Grace and Byram. I hope to find family-friendly active activities for us to do as a group. Walks at the park, swims at the Y, maybe eventually even bike rides together at the state park once we are all able and equipped for such a thing.

I really want my family to be active together and I have this little fantasy of Grace and I running races together when we are both a little older. How amazing would it be to cross a finish line together with my daughter one day? That thought, that visual image stays in my mind on some of those hard, long runs and helps me keep going.

A Little Ironic and Ass Backwards

So yeah, rest works.

I felt a thousand times better today than I had all week. I was psyched to hit the weight room at lunch and I am looking forward to my 8 miles tomorrow (though I do wish it would be a tad bit warmer).

Felt like committing attempted homicide on my entire upper body so I upped my weights across the board in general and hit it. I will write it out in the order I have my lifts listed on my sheet but that was not necessarily the order I lifted in.

Dumbbell Bench Press: 2 sets x10 reps w/ 20 pound dumbbells.
Dumbbell Military Press: 2 sets x10 reps w/ 15 lb dumbbells
Shoulder Shrugs: 2 x10 w/25 pound dumbbells
Lateral Raises: 1 x5 w/ 10 lbs dbs, 1 x10 w/ 7.5 dbs (holy crap these are hard)
Bent Over 1 Arm Rows (both arms) 2 x10 w/ 20 lb db
Standing Rows: 1 x9 w/20 lbs and 1 x7 w/ 20 lb dbs (failed both times)
Lying Pec Decks: 2 x10 w/ 12.5 lb dbs
Lat Pulldown: 2×10 w/ 27.5 lbs
Cable Row: 2×10 w/ 5 plates (no clue about the actual weight; the plates were just number 1 though however many there are; I am guessing somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds?).
Back Extensions: 2 x10 while holding an 8lb medicine ball
Crunches: 1 x10
Reverse Crunches: 1 x10
Plank: 1 for 1 minute (New record!!!)

This workout left me feeling amazing. My hands were trembling as I unlocked my locker. My pencil marks on my sheet were barely legible from my shaking arms. I left the Y with one of those true highs where I couldn’t stop grinning, felt amazing, and was warm all over so that I didn’t need a coat over my short sleeves.

Created a MyFitnessPal account to track my calories since I forgot the old system I used to use. Yesterday, even with fully trying to consume more calories, and with one regular beer and one unusually dark beer (Southern Tier Chocklat Stout; so good!), I came in at less than 1800 (which is where MFP wants to see me at based on weight and height, but it does not factor in my activity level). Today, I have already mapped out much of the days calories including our planned dinner, and I am almost 700 calories short for the day currently. I don’t want to up my calories with pure junk, though that would be easy to do, but I need a calorie boost in small packages. I already eat nuts, I got some 70% dark chocolate squares (had one today in fact for an added 55 calories), I drink milk (nutrient dense and calorie dense without being especially filling), and I am drinking protein shakes.

I think for now I am going to aim for 1800 calories or there about per day and see if the 200-400 calorie increase helps my energy problems; if not, I will have to go to even higher calorie foods at meals to get myself above the 2000 calorie threshold.

When I underwent gastric bypass, at the time, it never occurred to me that there might come a time when I was counting calories again just to make sure I was getting enough energy.

Yes, it does feel a little ironic and ass backwards.