A Diet-based Week

I’m still off of running this week, but I couldn’t sit around and do nothing.

Tuesday: went to PT, then swam for ~21 minutes (11x100m at about ~1:40/min pace)

Thursday: legs and abs at the gym, then an 1800m workout I got off of swim plan.com (warmup, drills, 100s free/breast/back, etc) which I did in ~32 min.

Friday: arms and abs at the apartment complex gym.

I planned to swim again over the weekend, but the lingering flu/sniffles, bronchitis cough, and general feeling like garbage convinced me to rest up instead.

One thing I did this week was get back into the habit of tracking my diet and counting calories. in the past I’ve counted cals on and off, mostly to pay attention to macronutrients (carbs/fat/protein), but I stopped doing it at the point it became a little over-the-top. However, since I’m so limited in workout options right now due to my health, I’ve decided to start paying attention again, and use this as an opportunity to improve my diet.

Anyway. I set my target at ~1700 cals/day. I know from an O2 test at the gym that my BMR is ~1450 and my maintenance level is ~1950, so 1700 seemed a good target to me for slow loss — enough to keep my hypoglycemia under control and keep me from feeling hungry, but a small deficit that I can then increase with exercise as my options open up. I was good at keeping up with it – wiexes summing and the good old law of averages I came in at just under 1700/day as an average for the week. I’ve got good meals planned for this week and I’m planning to weigh in tomorrow (as well as do some measurements) so that I can start this the right way.

This week I’m hoping to swim every other day. It’s what I’ve got left right now, and I am really loving the feeling of being in the pool and competing these grueling workouts. If my neck/shoulders/back feel okay I will add in the weight work; if not, just swims.

I have an MRI on Friday and hopefully I’ll know soon after that what’s going on up in there.

Tuesday: Fun with Intervals

Last night I did a fun interval workout that pretty much smoked me. I’m sore today! (It feels strange to be sore from running; most of the times it’s my lungs that die first, leaving my legs relatively unscathed. But today, I am sore in the hamstrings a lot!)

Here’s what I did. I was on a treadmill – it’s kind of necessary to pull off a run like this. So if you’re looking for a fun and challenging way to step up a treadmill run, BAM. I did this at 1% incline as well.

  • warmup: 0.5 mile easy (for me, 5.5 mph)
  • intervals: 1:00 fast, 1:00 jog. I started at 6.5/5.5, and then ramped up/down with each progressive interval. So for example, my first six minutes went: 6.5, 5.5, 6.6, 5.4, 6.7, 5.3, at 1:00 each.
    I went all the way to 7.5/4.5, and then went back to 6.5/5.5 until I hit 2.5 miles of total distance on the interval portion.
  • cool down: 0.5 mi easy @5.5mph

this was hard! I was really sweating at the end, and those last couple intervals at 7.4 and 7.5 mph were hardcore. But I managed to do it without my asthma triggering, and the bronchitis cough afterwards wasn’t any worse than usual.

I now feel like I should have been doing a lot more speed work in preparation for my leg of the relay! But oh well. I’ve been so sick and injured; I have to admit to myself that I can’t do everything.

Weekly Summary / Weekly Plan

This week has been a strange balance of renewed motivation and further illness. On one hand, I joined Fitocracy, set up workout challenges with my friends, started developing a weight training plan for/with my roommate, and overall felt a lot more motivated and excited about getting to the gym in general.

On the other hand, I have bronchitis, and have for a full freaking week. I couldn’t really take work off because this is a week of big meetings, so I was just drugging myself and hoping the cough would go away. I guess it explains why last Tuesday’s run was so awful! I went to a minute clinic on Friday, and yeah, bronchitis. In a bad way.

The Akron Marathon Relay is in 12 days, so I’m trying to balance “getting better” with “putting in that last little bit of training as much as I can because the last 8 weeks have been so horrible for me and I’m already going to suck at this run.”

Last week:

  • Tues: PT + Ran 5 mi
  • Wed: Weights (legs mostly), Swim 20min
  • Fri: PT + 35 min elliptical (because bronchitis)
  • Sat: 1 mi warmup run + weights (arms mostly)
  • Sun: 6 mi easy run + various weights

This week’s plan:

  • Mon: rest, hopefully get over bronchitis!!
  • Tues: run 4-5 mi, intervals
  • Wed: weights (legs mostly) + swim, 20-30 min
  • Thurs: rest
  • Fri: last 7 mi run before the marathon relay!
  • Sat: some weights (arms mostly)
  • Sun: 3 mi easy run / 20-30 min swim

I am so close to this race, and then afterwards, I’m free from running and I can do whatever I want to (swimming… 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. And 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.

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.

 

Week 07 Summary; Week 08 Plan; Doctor Update

Week 07 Summary: 14.7 miles (4.5 mi speedwork Wed, 7 mi LSR Fri, 3.2 mi easy Sun) plus abs on Monday.

There was only one weight session in Week 07, and that’s because on Thursday I went back to my doctor’s office to go over my x-rays. The x-rays report that I have arthritis in my spine. The degeneration is what’s causing all of the nerve pinching and the tense muscles. I also have arthritic degeneration in my toes, so I guess it isn’t a huge surprise to hear that it’s in my spine too. It’s depressing and scary, though: depressing because there isn’t much you can do to fix arthritis; you just have to avoid aggravating it or setting it off ; and scary, because I need to confirm that it’s osteoarthritis and not rheumatoid arthritis (RA is an autoimmune disease which might explain some of the other things I’ve been suffering with over the years, but can be fairly debilitating).

When I asked the doctor what this meant for working out, he told me that I could continue doing anything that didn’t hurt, but that he recommended avoiding heavy weightlifting (especially upper-body, anything focused on lats or traps) and high impact (running or high intensity cardio).

There’s irony here:

  1. I’ve been lifting heavy a) because it’s the most efficient way to build muscle and b) because it’s a proven way to stave off osteoporosis in old age.
  2. I’ve been running a) to keep up cardiovascular health and b) to improve (to what extent I can) my asthma.
  3. #1 and #2 are apparently what is ‘causing’, ie. setting off, my arthritis. These “good-for-you” exercises are actually acting as trauma to my body. So what I’m gaining in one place I’m losing in another.

I want to talk about this at some point on the blog, because I feel like this is an important place I’ve found myself: This is why it’s so important for us to define health in a way that makes sense, for each body. People have talked for years about how heavy weights are the only way to ‘get slim’, to the point where it can get very judgy or preachy. And here I am, evidence at 30 years of age that not everyone can do “the best” workout.  Is heavy lifting still “healthy” for my body if it keeps me hovering at a 5 on the pain scale of 10, if it aggravates my neck to the point where I can’t drive a car? I don’t think so, but I think the industry has a ways to go until that message is received.

So based on that, what’s gonna happen during Week #08?

  • Technically it’s a rest week for me; also, I’m doing the Warrior Dash on Sunday 26 August. However, I still want to maintain running fitness. I did ~15 miles last week; I’m going to aim for 12.6 this week as a rest/race week. 4.5 miles of easy speedwork, 5 miles easy on Friday, and then 3.1 miles at the Warrior Dash.
  • I won’t be weight training this week either. If I have a free day I may try to do some core work, but I also won’t beat myself up if I simply take it as a rest day.
  • I’m going to try a new gym that has a pool. I haven’t talked a lot about it here, but I was a state-level varsity swimmer in high school and I have always loved swimming. And when you’re looking at low-impact cardio and muscle-building activities, I’m not sure you get much better than swimming. I have a couple free trial passes to a new gym that I’m going to try twice this week (Mon and Thurs) and if I like the rest of the gym and the pool, I’ll be doing a 3-month trial period and incorporating lap swims and intense pool cardio into my overall workout plan.
  • Physical therapy. The doctor prescribed some PT for my neck, and I’m super whiny about it, because PT is expensive (especially on my insurance :/ ) and time-consuming. But I need to go if I ever want to figure out what’s wrong with my neck/shoulders/back.

I’ll update as I can. Has anyone gone through PT before? Any words of wisdom?