The Warrior Dash (Ohio 2)

Last Sunday I did the Warrior Dash with a group of people from work. For those who may not know, the Warrior Dash is┬á a ~3.1-mile course with 10-12 “obstacles” you must complete to get through the course. It’s harder than a typical 5K that way, but it also isn’t straight running. We didn’t do it for a time – there were people in our group that couldn’t even run the entire thing – but it was fun to finish anyway.

I think the obstacles were a fair balance between “challenging” and “things most able-bodied people will actually be able to complete”. There were some water obstacles: one place with chest-high water and logs you had to climb over; one deep-water swim, only maybe 10 yards; some wading through streams and mud. There were a lot of climbing obstacles too: climb up these platforms then shimmy over the top and drop straight back down to the groups; a cargo net climb; a cargo net elevated parallel to the ground you had to crawl over; a tiny platform up against a wall with handholds over water.

They weren’t “easy”, but they weren’t death-defyingly physical. I didn’t feel like I wouldn’t be able to do any of them. Overall, I definitely think anyone in decently active shape would be able to finish the race. (We actually ran most of the race in-between obstacles, although we then did have to stop and wait for most of our group.) Anyone who sits around all day might have a little trouble – but may actually be able to complete the obstacles, with enough effort.

You definitely get dirty, though. The final event is a belly crawl through probably two feet of wet, slimy mud. there’s barbed wire over the top so you have to go through the mud, and it’s deep enough that you just get coated from about the chin down. I know part of the fun of the race is getting filthy but that just felt cheap. And the way they hose you down at the end isn’t great or efficient or anything. I don’t really mind mud, though, I’m just saying. ­čśŤ My bathtub is still recovering!!

Overall it was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t mind doing another Warrior Dash and actually trying to race it! Although it was also fun going in a group, and it would be hard to ‘race’ as a group. It’s a fun race, and it’s hard, but it isn’t nearly as terrifying as they make it out to be. I recommend it!

 

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Hello!

So I’ve been keeping this blog for two months now. I realize I’m not doing a very good job of being social – browsing blogs, reading other workout blogs, trading comments, etc. Part of this is that I’m usually using WordPress on my iPhone, through the app — which makes it easy to reply to comments that are already there, or to read blogs you’re already connected with, but isn’t so fab for finding new things — and part is that I’m just busy, and I don’t have tons of time to troll the Internet looking for fun healthblogging friends.

That doesn’t mean I’m not interested, though! I love to chat and communicate and trade ideas. So if you’re thinking of leaving a comment or want to talk, please do!

One of these days I’ll have a “Runners / Swimmers / Lifters / General Healthers Friending Meme.” Until then… I’ll stick with the people who have already come across my little path here, haha, and just work on continuing to blog all the time!

Week 08 Update

Well, I ended up taking both Tues and Wed as rest days. I don’t necessarily feel too bad about it; the thing in my neck is still bad. I’m going to physical therapy next Tuesday and I don’t plan to do any weights until the physical therapist tells me what is and isn’t a good idea.

Thursday I ran about 4 miles. I did a warmup, and then 3mi worth of 0.5mi hard / 0.25mi easy intervals, then cool down. Doing the intervals I made a point of focusing on effort rather than speed – the route I run for a 4mi run is hilly out and downhill back, so I focused on perceived exertion level and heart rate instead. Especially for the rest intervals – something I have trouble with; I focused on jogging not walking but going easy enough that my heart rate actually came down. It was one of those runs I didn’t expect to feel as good as it did; it was hard while I was going but I felt great afterwards.

Friday (today) I went back to the pool, and swam for 40 minutes. I got myself a cheap waterproof watch, so I was able to structure a workout a little better this time:

  • 5x100s free on 2:00 easy as warmup (10:00)
  • repeated twice, 20:00 total:
    – 5×50 free on 1:00, hard (5:00)
    – 25 breast, 25 back/kick drills, easy, 200 yards straight (5:00)
  • 25 breast, 25 back/kick, 25 free, easy, for 500 yards in 10:00

1900 yards total. Longer than Monday’s swim. Like I said, I’ve noticed that what I have trouble with is my breath, not my endurance – if I stop to catch my breath in between each 50 I can keep going and going, and when I’m doing easy back/breast/free I can keep going and going for 10 min with no stopping. I am pleased with all of this. Also pleased because my body has that overall tired feeling from a good workout, without any pain. No sharp stabs or deep aches. I just feel like I had some really good exercise. is this what working out is like for other people?

Nothing now until the Warrior Dash on Sunday — I hope to update with some photos!!

Let’s Talk About: Health, Pain, and Stress

Often when I see other people healthblogging, they talk a lot about their workouts: how long they ran, how much they lifted, how far they rode. What we do is an important part of any workout: it’s a metric we can use to judge results, to explore improvement. The workout itself seems like the core focus: do the workout, improve yourself. Complete the workout, challenge yourself. Through a system of workouts, get better, beat your PR. Work out –> get healthy.

This is true. But health is a holistic thing: it involves a lot more than lifting a barbell or running a mile.┬áAnd if you’re really interested in health, there are factors other than your actual workouts that are going to come into play as these things settle into your life. I want to talk about two of them today: pain and stress.

The reason I want to talk about them personally is because they’ve been on my mind recently, maybe more than my actual workouts. I have a difficult time dealing with both, and so I think it’s time for me to get my thoughts out there. A lot of bloggers throw around the words listen to your body – but what does that mean? How do you learn to speak your body’s language, and how do you learn what’s a warning sign and what isn’t?

Pain
Pain is part of life, part of having a body – but it’s especially a part of working out. We work until we are in pain, because then we feel like we have pushed the hardest; it’s in healing us from that pain that our body improves. We lift weights until failure, until our muscles burn and ache and we can’t walk or lift our arms for two days afterwards; we run long and slow for hours until we’re pushing the limits of endurance, until our feet feel blistered and our ankles and knees feel like stones and our lungs are gasping. And then we take a rest day, and we do it again, and eventually 7 miles feels like 5, and 60lb feels like 35lb, and suddenly we’re better than we were before.

The pain that I want to talk about isn’t the good ache of a challenging workout. It’s the sharp ache of an injury, or the lingering ache of a strain, or the recurring pain you get during that first two miles.

Here’s the thing: if you let pain talk you out of a workout, you’ll never work out consistently. Or, I wouldn’t, anyway – I’m constantly in pain, somewhere. On a good day I’m hovering at a 2-3 on the pain scale (of 10). If I waited until my body was 100% to do a workout, I would never do a workout. Ever. My question is: how do you tell when you’re just using pain as an excuse to skip a workout, because you’re lazy or tired, and when your pain is a message you should listen to and take an extra rest day?

I’ve tried both methods. When I was training for my half marathon, nothing got in the way of my training plan. As long as I could move, I would still run. Sore ankle? Still running. Back hurts? Still running. Got the flu? If I can breathe, I’m still running. Might be a stress fracture? Run on it anyway. I did well at the half, but then I had to take almost an entire month off to heal up overall; I had to start training for another race afterwards, but after that race, I had to take off a long period of time. And what I remember most about those months of training for the half was just hating running. I was tired, I hurt, I didn’t like doing tempo runs because they were hard and triggered my asthma, I didn’t like doing long runs because they took up so much time and triggered my asthma, I didn’t feel like I was getting better and it was agony. But on the positive side, I showed that I could stick with a plan through anything, and I also showed myself that plans work, consistency works: I got so much out of that dedication when I raced that year. I was better than I ever thought I could be.

But I’ve also tried the other side of it. After both my big races were done that year I knew I needed a break, so I decided that I would start erring on the side of a rest day: if I felt like I needed the break, physically or mentally, I took the break. If I didn’t feel like running, I didn’t run. If I didn’t feel like lifting, I stayed home. If something hurt, I’d try to take care of it with ice and heat and rest. And over the course of that, I lost almost all of my fitness, and gained 10 pounds. I’m not trying to say that heavy/fat = unhealthy here — but what happened for me was that I took the concept of a break or a rest day and used it as an out, a reason to just do nothing.

It’s something I’m struggling with now as I face the races I’ve already committed to and this awful thing in my neck/shoulders that won’t stop stabbing me. Do I take it easy, but then lose what I’ve gained? Or do I work through it – as carefully as I can – even though it makes the pain stay? Some pain is a message from your body saying I’m making you stronger; some is a message from your body saying cut that the hell out. I’m listening, but my body isn’t telling me what it wants me to do for it.

There has to be a place that’s healthy. Or healthier than either of the two extremes.

Stress
Stress is a part of life, too. Nobody gets a free ride. We have to work a job, to make money; we have to feed ourselves, and keep our homes, and care for ourselves – and others – too. Adding a workout plan into a life that’s already busy – work, school, chores, social life, etc – can fill up time, real quick. If working out is supposed to be so healthy, why does making that 7:00pm trip to the gym add so much stress, take so much effort?

When you’re stressed out, it can be that much harder to find the time, the willpower, the motivation to work out. Yes, we’ve all heard about endorphins and cortisol and how physical activity can relieve stress and combat those horrible hormones — but that doesn’t mean much when you left the house at 7:00am and worked all day and it’s now 6:30pm and you haven’t eaten dinner and you really, really, really don’t want to go run that 5 miles. Or is that just me? I don’t think, I’ll feel so much better after that run! I think, oh god, I don’t have the energy to do that.

It’s another thing I’m struggling with right now. My job has been more stressful than ever since January, and although it’s finally starting to come back under my control – now, in August – a lot of the damage has already been done. My dentist is pretty sure I’ve given myself TMJ because I’m so stressed out I clench my jaw during the day and gring my teeth in my sleep: I’m going to need a night guard. My doctor is pretty sure that I’ve triggered this pinched nerve in my neck through a combination of overworking it (lifting heavy weights) and stress – hunching my shoulders, carrying knots in my neck and back, and sitting at the computer: I’m going to need physical therapy. I’ve done a lot of damage to my body in the last six months, carrying all of this stress.

And it makes it harder to work out, not easier. I’m exhausted and stressed and all I want to do is relax. Maybe part of it is that I haven’t yet found a workout – or training plan – that I enjoy, but the last thing I want to do is go run 5 – or 7 – or 3 – miles. I want to sit on my couch covered in cats and do nothing. So is it healthier to give myself that break, or to make myself run? Where’s the balance between relaxation-time and workout-time?

 

Being healthy isn’t just about what you do and what you eat. It’s about how you live.

7 Basic Things To Know If You’re Going To Start Weight Lifting

  1. Come to terms with ignoring the scale. Weight lifting isn’t going to make you lose pounds. Muscle weighs more than fat, and since the point of lifting strong is to gain muscle, chances are you’re actually going to go up a few pounds on the scale. However, it will make you look better: pounds of muscle will look thinner / slimmer / trimmer┬áthan pounds of fat, so it may look like you’re “losing weight” when you aren’t.┬áRemember: the number on the scale is meaningless. Use measurements in inches (gained/lost), or use your overall health, or what you can lift: don’t use the scale as a success metric.
  2. In general, clean up your diet. If you’re going to be lifting weights to build muscle, you have to fuel that muscle, and you need to fuel it right. You shouldn’t be in a huge calorie deficit – make sure you’re eating what your body needs every day. Calculate your BMR and your exercise expenditure and make sure you’re eating enough. And if you feed your body crap, you’ll get crap: focus on cleaning up that diet too. Lean proteins, vegetables and fruit, complex carbs: don’t lift weights and eat trash; don’t just eat more, eat better. If you don’t eat enough, or you don’t eat right, you’ll be wasting your time with a weightlifting regimen. You don’t have to count every calorie; you do have to pay a little more attention.
  3. In specific, eat more protein. If you’re going to be lifting, you need to feed the muscle itself, specifically, by eating protein. If your muscles don’t have the protein they need, they won’t grow, and then what’s the point? Some guidelines say eat 1 g protein per lb body weight daily. Others target overall food macronutrient consumption: 40/40/20 protein/carbs/fat. The basic rule is, if you’re gonna lift, get your body more protein or – again – you’re wasting your time.
  4. Lift heavy (if you can); Push hard. In general, lifting heavy weights for fewer reps is more efficient than lifting light weights for many reps. You’ll build more muscle faster with less time at the gym. Be aware of the possibility for injuries, and know your body’s limitations, and work with them. But in general, aim to do fewer reps at a higher weight. You don’t necessarily have to work to ‘failure’ every single time, but pushing through a set with heavy weights until you legitimately don’t feel like you can push any harder means you’ve actually done something. And lift heavier, push harder, the next time you’re in the gym.
  5. Do compound lifts with free weights. The machines may look less intimidating, and doing weight machines is better than doing no weight-bearing work at all, but the machines are actually less efficient. They isolate muscles (rather than using multiple muscle groups and getting a full-body workout), and they stabilize you by having you sit or lie down (again, using less overall muscle, balance, and core strength). Learn to do compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, lunges, presses. Learn to do them with free weights: barbells, dumbbells, a squat rack.
  6. Remember your rest days. When weightlifting, when you push hard through a heavy set, you’re actually microtearing your muscles; it’s in healing these microtears that you’ll actually grow muscle and build strength. This is what the protein’s for, but the muscles can’t build themselves back up if you don’t give them a rest day. Make sure you aren’t overworking. That healing period of rest in between workouts is when your body is actually growing stronger!
  7. Be as consistent as you can. Lifting weights once a week every once in a while will still be good for you, but you may not see any significant gains. Try to stick to a schedule of 2-3 times per week, and try to stick to that for a period of 6-8 weeks at minimum. This kind of change can be slow, and it depends on what kind of fitness you’re coming from. Don’t give up if you don’t see any changes within a week, and don’t quit if you have a bad week or miss one workout. At the same time, don’t skip your workouts and wonder why nothing’s changing! Stick with it.

Week 08: In the Pool

Yesterday I visited the new gym I am looking at – as a guest/visitor – and swam ~30 min of laps. The basic workout I did was this:

4 x [4 x 50 freestyle + 1 x 50 backstrone/kick drill + 1 x 50 breaststroke]

1200 m total (48 laps)

I didn’t go hard, and I didn’t go fast: I’m not out of shape overall, but I’m out of practice as a swimmer. I still remember a lot of my mechanics: how to do good freestyle, how to rotate your body during backstroke, the usual. But my breathing is ridiculously out of whack (which makes sense… you don’t have to hold your breath and breathe in periodicity when you’re running) and that makes me tire early (although after catching my breath on each 50 I always had the energy to do another 50 – I just had to catch my breath first).

I’m surprisingly sore today. I realize that with any new workout, you’re going to be exhausted easily, but my upper body feels like I’ve done something new and unusual with it (which I guess I have).

I really think this is a great solution for the time being. Tuesday is a rest day, and then Wednesday I’ll do a 4.5 mi run. Thursday I’d like to swim again, if I can.