Tagged: strength training

Fall training update: Where the heck did a whole month go?


I guess I have to laugh at myself a little bit here…the title of my last post – remember that, a whole long 4 weeks ago? – spoke of “consistency” and my struggles with it; so I follow that with a total lapse of writing…at least it was a consistent failure, right?

Fortunately, my training has been progressing much better than my writing, in many ways. There have been some adjustments, caused by circumstances, but on the whole I am satisfied with how things are going. Let’s take a look:

1. Rather than doing most (or all) of my training alone, as I did last year, I have made a commitment to get coaching and support from a running club; three of them, in fact! I do track workouts and long road runs with the Houston chapter of Runner’s High; race/run roads and volunteer with the Houston Striders; and race/run trails and volunteer with Houston Area Trail Runners. The support and camaraderie is priceless…I don’t know how I managed without these wonderful friends!

2. I have established a regular, varied routine of workouts – speed work, tempo runs, long runs, recovery, rest days – and I am sticking to a written plan, which helps me build mileage gradually, avoid overtraining and injury, and allows me to see steady progress from week to week, which increases my self-confidence as well.

3. I have had to cut back on my cross-training, and drop my personal trainer, which I really regret – but I have plenty of resources to help me develop a decent strength-work routine on my own.

4. The reason for losing the trainer is that I lost something else as well: two weeks ago I became unemployed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ You may remember me talking about The Hero…the new manager at my office who appeared determined to send me down the road at the first opportunity? Well, he got his chance – I missed work a couple of days, and even though I did check in daily with my project manager, and the jobsite supervisors, and my foremen at the site; even though I was taking phone calls and emails from home, without pay; even though the job never lost forward momentum, but remained three weeks ahead of schedule; even though I was back at work first thing Monday morning; he chose to accuse me of not being a responsible team player, and had already assigned one of his people to take over my responsibilities; I was to merely “assist” him…which meant that I would continue doing exactly what I had been doing, but with no authority, and no credit for the work…also without the promotion, pay raise, and perks which had been promised to me. When I expressed my lack of enthusiasm about this new arrangement, I was Heroically informed that my time there was finished…four years of hard work, undone in fifteen minutes.

I can’t deny that I have enjoyed a respite from the stress of work, but of course that cannot last…bliss doesn’t pay the bills, after all ๐Ÿ™‚ I have some leads, and some friends who will help me out with temp work until I find something permanent. The hardest part is resisting the temptation to go “off schedule”…to keep my workouts on the normal routine, and keep my days available for work and work-related activities; even if that means filling the day with those nagging chores that I never had time to get done ๐Ÿ™‚ I have to admit – I will be glad when normal becomes normal again!

In the meantime, the calendar turns its pages, and my fall races approach…the first one is less than 4 weeks away! (I’m sure glad that all the major ones are already paid for; the extra ones that pop up have to be weighed carefully, as added expenses are not our friends right now.) I hope to be more regular about posting updates, as well…I hope that these little notes I send out encourage, inspire, or at least entertain someone – why else would I be doing this, if not for you, my dear readers?

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

How are you coming along with training, racing, and life?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments ๐Ÿ™‚


Fall training update, New Hope Week 3 – Consistency (more or less)

The third week of what I am calling “serious” fall training had more ups than downs, more hits than misses, so I am counting it a victory by decision – here’s how the points tallied up:

Monday: Rest – Still loving that I start the week with “nothing” to do… can’t get easier than that!

Tuesday:ย  45 min weight training + track workoutย  – Another gym day of upper body/arms/chest…by the time I was done, I was having trouble changing shirts to head out to the track ๐Ÿ™‚ This was followed by the first real week of speed work and I have to call it a “win”! The workout was 8x300m w/ 100 m walking recovery, with a 2 minute rest andย  1x800m final lap; I ran what felt like a good effort, and when I checked my data later, I found that most of my intervals were at 7:00 to 7:30 pace, much faster than I had imagined! I book-ended this workout with a 1 mile warm up and a 2 mile cool down, for a total of 5.5 miles for the day.

Wednesday: Rest – Needed this off day this week, delayed onset soreness was kicking my butt ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Thursday: 30 min weight training + 3 mi tempo run (1 mi easy, 1 mi GP, 1 mi easy) – I had to squeeze this workout into the schedule, because I got a last-minute call to help with a city inspection at another jobsite at 7pm; so I told my trainer I would just “freestyle” it and get with him later in the week. I chose to focus on legs, so I did leg curls and extensions; hip abductions and adductions; leg presses and calf raises…whew!

Iย did this week’s tempo run on the treadmill (not my favorite, but expediency was the rule of the day). I cut it short, with a one mile warmup, one mile at GP, and one mile cool down. Next week I hope to extend to five miles total, with 3 at GP – got to get those numbers up there!

Friday: Rest – I woke up early with a terrible migraine, so there was no going to work; I spent the day in bed sleeping through the worst of it. By evening I was functional, but decided not to push it with a run.

Saturday: Rest – Since all of Friday was lost, and Saturday started off with me being light-headed and nauseous, I extended the rest interval another day – run away and live to fight another day :/

Sunday: 8.9 mi trails (13:20/mi avg) – I went out with the intent to atone for all my lost miles, and I think I did a pretty fair job of it! My first loop on the trails was kind of laid back, just enjoying being out in the dark, alone, with no one but the bunnies I kept scaring into the tall grass for company ๐Ÿ™‚ On the second and third loops, I made it my business to keep up with the “fast” runners in our group; I surprised myself by being able to keep up and hold conversation the whole way…maybe I need to start thinking of myself as one of the fast runners too!

The day’s total also includes a special event, the #HATR #beermile…for the uninitiated, a beermile is a run where each participant must consume a 12-oz can of beer, minimum 5% alcohol, at the start of each of 4 laps on a marked 1/4 mile course; if you “vent” once, you must run a penalty lap, the second time is a DQ. I certainly did not “win”, but I did finish all 4 beers and all 4 laps, and a great time was had by all!

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 20-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 3 runs,ย  17.3 miles, 2 strength training days

While none of the last three weeks has been letter-perfect in execution, I can say that I am very well satisfied with the level of consistency I am maintaining…I am getting out there on a regular basis, I am getting nearly the mileage I want, and I am getting a variety of workouts each week. I feel quite confident that I will be able to attain most, if not all, of my goals for the fall, and in any case, I know I will be further along in my overall fitness than if I had done nothing – and that counts for a lot!

ย Do you struggle with “less than perfect”?

What tips do you have to share on coping with the balance between “what could have been” andย  “what really is” ?

I’d love to hear from you!!

Fall training update, New Hope Week 2 – Getting better!

The second week of my training “reboot” was just as successful as the first – maybe even more so, as I was able to add some new elements..things that I had planned to introduce later on, but they seem to be fitting in well right now! Maybe my body hasn’t lost as much of that hard-won conditioning from earlier in the year as I had feared, maybe I am just being over-cautious; either way, here is the the way it was:

Monday: Rest – Having my rest day land on the first day of the work week is quite possibly the single most brilliant thing I have ever done! So many things go crazy on Mondays, just knowing it won’t interfere with my workout schedule is so freeing…work is stressful enough without creating more conflicts!

Tuesday:ย  45 min weight training + track workoutย  – After a hard-core return to activity last week, I have settled on a regular schedule with my trainer; this week we started with arms, shoulders, chest and back. (I’m starting to wonder if telling him that I am training for a Spartan Race was such a good idea ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I think have also got the scheduling down so I can get my gym time in, and still make it to the “new” track workouts I have added on Tuesdays.

The run portion was broken up into 3 segments – a 1.5 mile easy warn up (11:19/mi), a 1.5 mile cool down (10:33/mi) and in between, my first session of speed work with the Runner’s High coaches: a one-mile time trial to place me with the correct group. I kind of sand-bagged the trial, I must admit; but I was encouraged to discover that I was actually running at the pace I thought I was running at – I paced myself for what felt like a sub-8:00 mile, and I came in at 7:50, so I guess my sense of timing has developed pretty well over the last year! Next week I will be doing intervals, and I’m buying a stopwatch…I want to get all I can out of these workouts ๐Ÿ™‚

Wednesday: Rest – Still keeping this extra day off in the rotation for now, probably until after the Capt’n Karl’s 30K in September; then I will up my weekly mileage with another “easy” or “recovery” run.

Thursday: 45 min weight training + 4 mi tempo run (2 mi easy, 1 mi GP, 1 mi easy) – Today’s session was all about the legs: squats, bear crawls, box jumps, kettlebell carries, and then a crazy stability exercise, standing on the BOSU ball while my trainer threw a medicine ball at me from all directions – I only fell off twice, so not too bad!

I followed this with my first tempo run of this training cycle, running 2 miles at 11:15/mi, then one hard mile at 9:20/mi, then cooling down with one mile at 10:30. I was pretty well wrecked at the finish, but it felt great while I was going!ย  (Doing legs at the gym and tempo runs in the same day may not work for everyone, but if I can sustain it, how awesome is that?)

Friday: Rest and sports massage – Back in March, I met a guy who was doing massage demonstrations; he specializes in a mixture of Swedish and Thai massage techniques, particularly aimed at runners (he runs ultras himself, so he has the unique knowledge of runners need). We spent two hours working on my calves, ankles and feet, focusing on the lingering issues I have had with my Achilles tendons…it hurt, I cannot lie, but in that wonderful way that lets you know it was exactly what you needed! By the time I got home, I had such a sense of increased motion and flexibility, and such a relief from the “normal” pain and stiffness, that I wondered how I ever thought that was normal!! We will be seeing more of each other in the future, I guarantee that!

Saturday: Group long run (5.4 mi, 10:28/mi avg) + no weight training – This was my first time running with RHC on the regular Saturday group run. Road running with a group, at a set pace, is something entirely new for me, but I have to say it was really enjoyable! Our coach follows the “long slow run” philosophy, where you should go about 45 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace; since I am currently training with the 4:30 marathon group, that works out to 10:30-10:45 per mile, or slow enough to carry on a conversation. I took advantage of that, let me tell you! Many of the people I ran with are casual acquaintances from other races, especially Brazos Bend (where I volunteered at packet pickup in the morning, and also worked the finish line after I ran my 50K) so we had an immediate connection. Getting to know more about others, as well as promote trail running in Houston, is a welcome distraction from the monotony of long runs! I also tested myself just a little…when the 4:00 pace group passed us with about one mile to go, I decided to step up and finish with them,,it was a stretch, but I did it!

The rest of the day got away from me, between running errands for my dad, taking care of stuff around the house, and the unexpected thunderstorm that knocked out our power for several hours in the evening…so the gym workout went by the wayside ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Sunday: 5.1 mi easy (55:32, 10:48/mi) – That power outage last night also caused all the cell phones to go dead, so we had no alarms to wake up with this morning, thus I missed the group trail run. But I will do my best to roll with the changes and not get derailed by things going “wrong” (read “according to my plans“) so I got out right as the sun went down and matched yesterday’s miles – score!

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 20-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 4 runs,ย  18.4 miles, 2 strength training days

So that makes two record-breaking weeks in a row where I met all my training goals – or at least the spirit of the goals…even the days where I was “off” I did something positive and fitness-related. I am learning that, for me at least, I need to have small one-step-at-a-time goals that give me a continuing sense of accomplishment…something to buoy me up and carry me through the times when it isn’t going quite so well.


Do you set “baby steps” along with the “big picture” goals?

If not, why? If so, how are you doing keeping up with them?

I’d love to hear from you!!

Fall Training Plan, Part One: Call me the Ace of Base

So we find ourselves on the far side of the Fourth of July…the point which in many minds marks the middle of summer, the time to get serious about goofing off ๐Ÿ™‚ Most of us are familiar with workplaces gone barren from the number of folks away on vacation; schools have completed the summer sessions, and students finally get a taste of freedom before fall returns and drags them back to their desks and studies. But in a runner’s heart, thoughts are already turning to the goal races (and possible Boston qualifiers) of the fall and winter season: Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.,ย  New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Honolulu, Houston…the possibilities are dauntingly endless. (Please don’t comment just to tell me about your favorite race that I missed…it is not my intention to try to list them all ๐Ÿ™‚ No, wait…On second thought, please DO comment to tell me – I would love to hear first hand experiences more than ads placed by promoters!)

Just as endless are the training plans! As I began my second trip down this road, running through the summer and preparing for the “big ones” coming up on my calendar, I wanted to be better informed and better prepared than last year. I spent weeks reading books, blogs, and magazine articles; plans, programs, and promises galore clamored for my attention, each one saying, “Try me! Follow me! I will get you to the finish line, better/stronger/faster than anyone else!” Mostly, I came away with information overload…if too many cooks spoil the broth, then too many coaches cramp the trainee. I have decided to stick with what I was doing at the end of last season, while making a few (characteristic) personal tweaks that I feel are necessary to cover my somewhat schizophrenic conflicting varied goals this year.

The basic plan is Hanson’s Marathon Method, which is typical of a growing trend in training plans that devalue very long runs in favor of shorter distances done at more aggressive pacing, and place greater emphasis on targeted physiological responses to specific workouts. However, since I am not running just a marathon this season – in fact, that is my final goal race this year – I have added to and re-arranged some aspects, and included others which address my particular needs. Besides, I ‘m a guy; if I don’t screw with it, it isn’t really mine ๐Ÿ™‚

My plan divides pretty naturally into three segments: building base; building speed; and building endurance. Today I will focus on the first phase, Building the Base, which I define as regular, steady workouts designed to increase weekly mileage and core strength, giving me a solid foundation to work with as I get into more race-specific training later down the line. This is especially important to me since I have fallen way off a disciplined routine since early spring, when I was running 6-7 days a week and logging 100-mile months…I know I can’t just leap back into that without a very real probability of serious injury derailing me completely (much as I did last year, when I crash-trained from my first 5K up to a half-marathon in only 6 weeks…and spent 6 months paying for it with Achilles tendonitis) This time around, I am giving myself a few “easy” weeks of basic runs at a relaxed pace, just to get re-acclimated to being on my feet. I am also doing regular strength training – I have a gym membership with late hours that fits my schedule,ย  and I meet with a personal trainer twice a week to target specific areas that will be a big help with the Spartan race, and with my overall form and fitness as well. Keeping that 50-mile ultra in mind, I am doing my “long” runs on the trails, running with a group that measures runs in hours more than in miles; plus the variety inherent in technical trail running makes me stronger overall, and will surely lead to faster running on flat, smooth streets! (I also have a few 30K trail races mixed in at roughly monthly intervals, to keep it interesting ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Put that all together, and it looks something like this:


So far, three days into week one, all is looking well! One thing I like is that I can made modifications as needed, because LIFE, without wrecking the whole thing…that was one of my previous failures – getting confused about the difference between disciplined and rigid, and feeling like missing one particular day – or even a few of them – meant that I was ruining everything; if our lives never meant having to adapt, how boring would that be?

So what do you think? Remember, I am not any kind of professional, or coach, or trainer, or expert…I am just one runner who is trying to apply what has worked for me in the past – and remembering what hasn’t worked – and going from there. What I am doing may not be right for anyone else (heck it might not even be right for me!) but this is what I am working with, and we shall see how it goes! I will keep you all updated on my progress through this phase, as well as the occasional race report or random collection of thoughts; and before this segment is done I will be posting the next five-week section, Building the Speed…stay tuned!

Do you follow a traditional plan, or build your own?

Ever trained for more than one race at a time?

I’d love to hear all about it!