Thursday, September 25, 2008

Err on the side of caution

As a fitness professional and experienced trainee, I knew the idea of entering the Baltimore Marathon and trying to run 26.2 miles was a foolish one. A half marathon would have been doable and I was actually still planning on doing that until other things took priority.

Sometimes life gets in the way of training. Work, kids, social events and other responsibilities are all valid reasons to miss workouts. I've got a fairly large home improvement project I am working on right now and it is one that requires immediate attention. Remodeling a 60sqft bathroom is not a huge task but it is a job that would take one man at least a week. And being that this is the upstairs bathroom and the one I use while I am half asleep in the middle of the night, I need to get this done ASAP! Commode downtime has to be kept at a minimum!

Anyway, back to the marathon bit, I'm not going to do it. Not even the half marathon. I may go out and hit the neighborhood route that day but we'll see how everything is feeling first. Pulling up the old floor this week had me on my knees and anyone who has done any floor work knows how tough that can be, even with knee pads.

This was definitely an unforeseen circumstance... but so was my run and the idea to run a marathon.

I just finished writing the article "Big Man Running" where I warned my fellow largemen not to increase their mileage too quickly. I actually found myself writing "do not go out and try to run a marathon". I figured it would be a good idea to take my own advice.

I am in no hurry to be anywhere or do anything when it comes to running. I think I'll err on the side of caution and get the idea of long, long distance running out of my head for now.

Just a few weeks ago I posted a blog asking the question "What is long distance?"... a week later I ran 10 miles. I think I found the answer to my question. Although I am new to the "blogosphere" I am finding some interesting things happen when you put your thoughts out there on the inter-net.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Single Greatest Personal Record of My Life

Though I'm feeling it this morning, yesterdays run was the single most incredible thing I have ever done in terms of exercise.

I ran 10 miles in 2 hours and 4 minutes!

My heart rate averaged 178 bpm and maxed at 190, but my cardio was good, it was my legs that died around the 9th mile.

My previous best was 3 miles in 30 minutes. In terms of distance, that's a 233% increase in mileage! And I more than tripled my duration!

In highschool my best mile run was 12:52, so for me to be able to run 10x as long, at a faster pace, it just blows my mind how far I've come.

My perspective on training, fitness and even nutrition has changed drastically over the last week, and the 10 mile run was the actualization of my new thought process.

A lot of things went into me being able to do what I did. Mindset, technique, new shoes and all the kettlebell training I've done leading up until now took part in yesterdays run. I mentioned before that I accredited my new found running prowess to my kettlebell training and I still stand by that sentiment, to some degree. High rep kettlebell training definitely provided me with the conditioning needed for a long duration physical exertion. There's something to be said about about trying to relax with 70, 106 or 140lbs on your chest before you explode that weight overhead again and again for as many times as possible. But cross training can only take you so far. If you want to get good, I mean really good at something, you have to "just do it". It's called the SAID principle - Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands - and it holds true with any kind of sport or activity.

I have found my groove in running. I have found the most efficient way to move my body as fast as possible while spending the least amount of energy. It is such a beautiful thing! I never thought I would feel this way about something I used to hate so much.

The biggest thing I have come to learn is the importance of proper breathing - diaphragmatic breathing. When you "belly breathe" the air that you take in acts as a cushion or a shock absorber for the rest of your body. This is HUGE for a 235lb man with broad shoulders and a large upper body. If you breathe shallow, like so many people do, if you only take that breath into your chest, you are putting unnecessary strain on your traps and many other smaller muscles in your neck and shoulder area that are now being assigned respiratory tasks, which is not their job. Once you learn to relax these muscles and take air deep into your belly, your entire upper body relaxes and you run smoother and more efficiently. The diaphragm is the muscle that is responsible for respiration - so use it!

Another thing I have become acutely aware of is foot placement - heel to toe. The weight shifts from the heel along the outside of the foot and is then displaced through the toes. If you get this right there is virtually no pounding or jarring of the body; again, you run smoother and more efficiently. I've also found that it helps if you prolong your stride a bit. If you extend your hip fully and allow your foot to push a little bit further behind you, this also seems to help the smoothness in which you run. I wouldn't say that I can run like the wind, but I think this is what people mean when they say that.

One more thing about stride is you need to be aware of is how high you kick your feet up. I recall when my brother and I would go jogging back in the day; any time we would run past girls he would get this noticeable bounce in his step and kick his feet almost high enough to touch his butt. If you're running for distance, you need to conserve as much energy as possible and butt-kicking your way through the neighborhood or around the track is no way to conserve your energy! No wasted movement, no wasted energy!

And perhaps the most obvious thing about running, to me anyway, is head and body positioning. Don't look down and don't bend forward. Stay as upright as possible and keep the head centered and balanced with the neck relaxed. Even though this seems like common sense, I tend to forget it sometimes and it doesn't take long for undue fatigue to set in. Fatigue in the head and neck area translates to fatigue in the mind, literally and figuratively.

The last thing I want to comment on about running is footwear. I picked up a pair of Nike Free 7.0 and ran 10 miles the first time I ever put them on. The right shoes makes a world of difference. These shoes are the closest thing to being bare foot besides those hideous Vibram 5 Fingers foot-glove thingys, and I am a firm believer that the foot was designed to perfection as is (under normal circumstances of course). I recently read a quote that said, "Smart shoes = dumb feet"... I couldn't put it any better than that.

So anyway, words cannot express how excited I am about what I now know I am capable of. I'm seriously considering running in the Baltimore Marathon next month. Imagine that... Maryland's Strongest Man in 2007 to Maryland Marathon Man in 2008. What's another 16 miles after you've already gone 10? I think I could do it in under 6 hours. If there are any distance runners out there reading this, I would love for you to weigh in your opinion. Is 4 weeks enough to train? And if it is, how would you train for it?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Vacation Week

7 days at the beach and I took full advantage of the amount of time I had to train. Here is what my week looked like...

Long Cycle C&J -
24's x 30 reps (5:30)
24's x 31 reps (6:30)
3 mile run (30:09)

Long Cycle C&J -
24's x 20
24's x 10 sets of 10
Swings -
24's x 10 sets of 10

Pull ups -
5 sets of 5
Rows -
3 sets to failure (alternated with)
Push ups -
3 sets to failure
100 bodyweight squats
Nautilus chest combo
Nautilus pull over
All exercises were done with limited rest in between sets. This was more of a circuit than anything. The squats killed me and left more sore for days.

Snatch -
24 x 100 reps (switch every 25)
Long Cycle C&J -
24's x 32 reps (6min)
15 minute interval jog on beach

One Arm Long Cycle C&J -
24 x 100 reps (1 hand switch)
Approx. 15 minutes of just screwing around doing whatever exercise I felt like
Approx. 20 minutes of jogging on the beach with a 20lb baby in one arm



10 mile run (2hrs 4min) Avg HR - 178, Max HR- 190.

Physically, I think this is the most amazing thing I have ever done. This is the single greatest PR of my life and deserves its own blog post, article, news story and special appearance on Oprah. I think a parade should be held in my honor! :)

In all seriousness, today's run was just shy of life altering. My entire perspective of what is possible changed in that 2 hours. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What is "long" distance?

In my last post I mentioned that a 1.5 mile jog was considered long distance for me. I say that because I have only on a couple of occasions went farther than that and I have only on a couple occasions been physically able to go farther than that.

After thinking about it, and after saying to the world (or really to just the few people that read this blog:) that a 1.5 mile jog is what I consider long distance, I felt kinda pathetic. 1.5 miles isn't long! I work with an 82 year old man who runs marathons and here I am all happy and proud that I can run a mere 1.5 miles without stopping to suck wind! That's BS.

So even though I had a few too many drinks and far too much to eat at a wedding the night before, I got up Sunday morning, did a quick JM warm up, took a sip of Gatorade and went out for a jog. I ran my route twice, only stopping for a couple seconds to retie my shoe (which I think hurt my rhythm) and still sprinted the final straitaway!

3 miles in 30 minutes... and to be honest, I could have kept going were it not for the chaffing on my thighs :(

I have only once before attempted a 3 mile run, and though that was 6 or 7 years ago, I don't think I performed as well as I did yesterday. I'm very pleased with my running ability right now, especially considering that I haven't been running.

I'm planning to see just how far I can take this. My next run will be a personal record that will shatter my previous best. Stay tuned.