Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goals: Short Ones, Long Ones, Skinny Ones, Fat Ones

When I was in High School I was fearless. I set goals and I accomplished them regardless of my failures in the process. As a Freshman, I ran for Freshman class Chaplain (It was a Christian school thing). I lost that race to a girl who was later removed from her position for mooning some classmates at a retreat (not a typical Christian school thing). The next year I ran for Sophomore class President and won! Building on that momentum, the year after that I ran for Student Body President and won that one too! I was good at goals and I was better at achieving them.

Something happened in college though. I don’t know if it was that the scope of the goals was changing or if it was the fact that there were so many things I was trying to accomplish I just couldn’t focus on any one of them . Unfortunately, I built on that momentum as well. For years I was goal-less. Oh I wanted to accomplish things, BIG things. I just didn’t know what they were… other than awesome. That formed the foundation for a funk that has taken years to overcome.

A couple of months ago, when I first started running with our Tuesday group, I set a few fitness goals for myself after running the obstacle course a few times

1) To be able to do 10 pull-ups without dropping to the ground for a rest
2) To be able to climb a gym rope with no knots*
3) To complete a set of monkey bars without dropping to the ground. (not playground monkey bars, the ROTC course monkey bars at the local high school)

*as a side note, if you are wanting to learn to climb a rope ITS has a great article on the proper technique

Goals 2 and 3 got nailed yesterday! Coming from a guy who has been overweight and understrengthed (yeah, I make up words) for about 80% of my life, this is a big deal. It made me realize a something that I have only understood conceptually for a long time: Goals are absolutely critical because they are momentum builders.

I climbed that rope yesterday and felt like a million bucks (even though climbing a rope has to be one of the most unnatural feelings ever), then I completed those monkey bars and felt unstoppable! I’m currently maxing out at 7 pull-ups but absolutely cannot wait to get to that magic 10. And I’m willing to work, sweat, and sacrifice to get there. That last bit, sacrifice, is a dirty little word that gets in the way of a lot of us accomplishing anything.

So I’m going to issue you readers a challenge: Set a goal for yourself. It can be a big one if you want but try to think of a small one. Maybe it’s running a mile without stopping, maybe its finishing that book that you started reading back in June, maybe you need to sign up for that mission trip or start going to that Bible study. Just think of something that you can’t do right now either because you are physically unable or because it makes you too uncomfortable.

Now I’m going to ask you to put your own feet to the fire. Post it. What is your goal? What is that awesome (or just kind of neat) thing that has been just out of reach in your life? Now… What are you willing to sacrifice to get you there?

Monday, October 7, 2013

keep at it, keep at it...

     For the record, this running thing truly is a challenge for me. I hurt my foot running last week and that took a little wind our of my sails. But, I'm in this thing and I will see it through, but it is hard to stay at it. Especially since running has been my nemesis for a very long time. Another little victory today though, I do a little cross fit/cross training work out with some guys and we always go run a lap around the building, typically, I'm in the top 5 or so, well, maybe top 10, but today, I came in first. I have never been the first when it comes to running, but today, I was.  One small victory for Nick, one giant leap in this mission to conquer running. So that little win has helped me keep going. So I will keep at it. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cool Nights and PRs

This is what a perfect night for running looks like
One of the terms which became very familiar to me when I started running was “PR”. It stands for Personal Record. And for many people who run regularly, it’s just as valuable as a blue ribbon or a first place medal.

To put it into perspective, think about Boxing. You are pitting one athlete against another. Both could be elite competitors and in peak physical condition but if you have one boxer weighing in at 220 pounds and another at 160, the match is going to be pretty one sided. To correct this, boxers are divided into weight classes.

Running doesn’t have that luxury. At best, most races are divided into age brackets but at 27 years old, I’m likely to be matched up against some guys that have about 26 more years of experience in athleticism than I do. When you consider that many races have literally thousands of competitors and only one guy is going to win in each of the 5 or so age categories, what do you suppose keeps competitors showing up to these races that they are destined to lose?

The PR.

Running is a unique sport in that even while competing against no one you are able to compete against an equally matched, equal weighted, equal aged competitor every time. Yourself. You can make mental notes of everything around any particular run: How do you feel? How much sleep did you get? What did you eat today? How much water have you consumed? What route are you running? What is the elevation change? The temperature? The humidity? They all factor in and you begin to know which conditions are going to help you peak and put up another record.

Last night was a perfect storm of sorts. I had consumed about 100 ounces of water throughout the day. I had a day full of high fat, low sugar foods, (I promise the debatability of such a diet will be addressed, albeit from a layperson’s perspective, in a future post), the conditions outside were a prime 60-65 degrees. From the moment I took off I knew it was going to be a banner night.

I ran a route I have come to affectionately call The Beast. There is a neighborhood right next to my office that forms somewhat of a figure eight on the map. At the peak of the 8 is a hill. A beast of a hill. The kind of hill that as you are running up you have to set a new goal every 10 feet or so, forgetting about the top, just to keep moving forward. But then you get up there and find a beautiful downslope for almost a mile. If you have anything left in the tank when you get to the top you can keep a remarkable pace almost the whole way back to the finish. Last night I had more than enough left in my tank.

There is a line in the parking lot that I have measured off to represent a complete 5k after you have run the figure 8 loop. I reached that line after 26 minutes and 47 seconds last night (about an 8:29/mile pace). A full minute and 8 seconds faster than my previous record. It was a huge PR and a huge record to beat sometime soon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting Done and Getting Gone

Well we took off yesterday with our typical Tuesday afternoon run with a slight modification proposed by Nick and me. The guys were wanting to either run to the school and do the obstacle course again or put in a 6 mile loop that Ben mapped out. Since yesterday was Training Day 1, Nick and I proposed that the guys could do whatever they want but we would be peeling away at the 15 minute mark to run our way back to our vehicles. We caught a fair amount of flack from our guys (as well we should) for beginning training and immediately dialing back the intensity scale on our typical routine but I have no doubt the we will be happy we did so this time next month.

Bear in mind that  while each individual run will be scaled back (with the exception of every other Saturday), we will be running a lot more frequently. Repetition, especially wrong repetition, is a recipe for injury. The shorter, more frequent runs of our training program are designed to help us identify bad habits early and make the necessary adjustments before we start cranking up the distance.

It turns out that once we stuck our necks out and suggested a shorter run for the afternoon, everyone else followed suit. Except Jeff, when we turned around he just kept going. I’m not sure anybody knows exactly where he ended up.

The highlight of the afternoon was when we finished I asked Parker if he would take a picture of Nick and me for the blog. You know, first training run ceremonial type stuff. Nick was a minute or two behind us in finishing so we caught our breath and stretched a little while waiting on him. Trouble was, when Nick finished, he slowed to a walk, gave us each a high five and walked directly to his car and drove away! He didn’t say a word. He didn’t even take his headphones off! He was like a rockstar walking off stage and into the dressing room. And like his own personal groupie I did my best to get my phone out and snap a picture of him before he was gone.

This was the best I could do.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Today Is The Day

Start Line of The Color Run: this was the first race I ever ran in.
They don't even keep time!
It was months ago now that we decided to run this race. Neither of us ever ran more than three miles at a time. Not on purpose anyway. And here we are:  Day 1 (well, technically day 3) of training. Our first official training run.

I’d love to make a bigger deal of it but the truth of the matter is that with all of the work we have put in up until now, all the weight loss, all the weight lifting, all the running and hydrating and running some more… all the nutrition, it’s just the beginning. We are about to double down. We are about to have to start cancelling plans or turning down invitations because Saturday is long run day. And somehow I’m OK with that.

So follow along, or better yet, come with us! You can see the training schedule posted here. I’ll do my best to post where we will be running and when we will be there whenever possible. We will be doing these shorter 30 minute runs all the way through our training as well so if you’re not a runner you can get up at any point and join us.

On most of the short run days we will be taking the out-and-back approach rather than running a loop. The training schedule calls for a 30 minute run so bring a watch, set it for 15 minutes, and get running! When the timer ticks down, turn around and start coming back. Theoretically runners of every fitness level should be both starting and finishing together with this approach. It’s always better with a buddy.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Keeping It Interesting

I'll never forget the day I was working at a summer camp and the students there were in the throes of a water fight. There were a handful of kids that were kind of standing off to the side awkwardly. They wanted to get involved but it almost seemed like they didn't know how. My buddy, Noah, leaned over to me and said "Grady, we are the last of a dying breed". He meant that we were the last of a class of kids that was encouraged to go play outside. One that our parents didn't always know where we were and frankly, they were happy about it. It meant that we were outside making a mess instead of inside making a mess.

Now, before I go off and start sounding like an old man: The truth is that Noah was a couple years older than me. I was very much on the fringe of that class. I was a bit more protected than him. I was softer.

The last video game system I owned was a Play Station 2. And while we may still be a few years away from seeing one hung on the wall at Cracker Barrel, I’m proud to say that most kids would consider it an antique today. It means it’s been that long since I’ve been consumed by such a machine. I’ve found better, more constructive forms of entertainment. They’re called WODs.

Here's an example of a Spartan WOD
When we post a workout, you may find yourself wondering where we get these crazy ideas and why we would subject ourselves to more than one round of burpees. Well I’m about to reveal the secret: I’m a subscriber to the Spartan WOD. In fact, when you see a photo of my workout log with “SWOD” written across the top, that’s an indicator that the routine came from that day’s Spartan WOD”

WOD Stands for Workout Of the Day. It was a term popularized by Crossfit and it is a novel idea. I like the Spartan WODs mostly because they are e-mailed directly to my inbox every morning around 1:00 and they are like a little idea tap to take advantage of each morning. Also, they rarely require equipment. A good running track or an athletic field with a pull-up bar and most of the time you are good to go.

If you are looking for a place to start working out, allow me to suggest this WOD from back on August 26th. It’s a lower intensity workout and a great way to get a taste of one of my favorite ways to train. So go get to it. I promise you won’t get bored.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sitting Out or Stepping Up

One thing I have learned about training is that there are a hundred and one different philosophies regarding when it is appropriate to train, how important rest days are, whether or not “over training” is really possible, and how best to recover. These opinions are set by certified trainers, nutritionists and fitness experts and despite all their education and certifications, they can’t seem to agree. So finally after a certain amount of research, I decided I would just listen to my own body. If it’s telling me to push, I’ll push. If it’s telling me to stop, I’ll push a little more just to be sure, and if it’s telling me to stop with a big flashing red light, I’m going to stop. I’ll call it the green, yellow, red system.

Green: carry on as usual
Yellow: speed up and get through it
Red: Stop, no questions, just do it

I get a yellow light from  about the half mile mark to the two mile mark on nearly every run I do. My knee will ache, I’ll get a stitch in my side, or sometimes I’ll even feel nauseated. I think it’s just my body’s way of letting me know it wasn’t quite ready for this today. That’s the kind of thing you push through. Red lights look a little different. An intense pain or an ache that lingers through till the next day. Those are the kind of things you need to look out for.

Ultimately my advise to you would be the same advice I give myself. Listen to your body. It can handle quite a bit more than you give it credit for. (I heard a quote the other day: “Your legs aren’t giving out, your head is just giving up” Man did I have to remind myself of that a few times during yesterday’s 400m sprints!) But it can wear out. Keep an eye out for something that looks like a lingering injury or a pain that is new and unfamiliar but understand it’s supposed to hurt.