Recovery and Running after an eight day break

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Making my best Billy Idol face after a successful run after not running for 8 days.

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I’ve been sick for the past week. I had a very bad cold and sinus infection which took me a long time to recover from and kept me from running. While I wanted to run each and every day I was sick to keep from losing the progress I’ve worked so hard for, I was too weak, felt too badly, and was suffering from a lot of pain. I also didn’t want to stress my body to the point where it lengthened the duration of my recovery or made matters worse. So, I did the smart thing and waited it out.

I will admit that each day I didn’t run added some anxiety. I thought about how bad my legs would hurt when I finally got back on the road. How they would feel like concrete. How my joints would ache, and how I would feel like quitting after every step. I worried about my ability to get back on the road and run a decent pace and not have my heart jumping out of my chest. I mourned the loss of all the time and effort I put into getting to where I could run a comfortable pace for a decent distance without over-exertion. I thought it was all lost.

It turned out that I worried for nothing.

It wasn’t my fastest or longest run, but it was close to my fastest. I decided not to look at my watch for split times and just run; let my body dictate how fast I ran. I wanted to be able to get back to it without trying to push too hard. I was surprised at how fast I was able to run with comfort. I think I know how horses feel when they transition from a trot into a gallop. At a few points during the run, I didn’t actually feel like I was running. I felt like I was gliding on a pair of legs that were beneath me without being really attached to me. It was kind of surreal, and I liked it.

In the end, I finished my 3.51 mile run with a 9’48” pace overall with a time of 34:30. I’m very okay with this result, and I am no longer worried about lost progress. Turns out, the body bounces back pretty well if you allow it to heal. Also, there’s a chance that the week off from running helped my legs heal up a bit. Not that they were hurt or injured, but I’m sure the muscles had a chance to rebuild and prepare for my upcoming runs a little better. I was also able to start with my 50 push ups. I was worried I would have to bump back down to 40, but that wasn’t the case. I actually feel like I can bump it up a bit next time.

It feels good to be back on my feet again.

Mad Respect to the Ultimate Fitness People

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After my great run this morning; I really enjoyed it. What is wrong with me?

Crossfit, marathons, body building, triathlons, biathlons, etc. People who take part in those have my utmost respect. I have said in the past that I can’t be someone who does those things, yet I find myself creeping ever so slowly into their camp.

No. Not yet. I said creeping. Please keep reading.

This morning as I ran, I found myself not wanting to get going. I thought about stopping a few times not because I was tired or wore out or even in any pain. I just didn’t feel like doing it. After the first half mile, I still wasn’t into it, but I kept going.  Then, something crazy happened. I not only felt like finishing the run, but I actually added an extra mile to it. It felt good. The last half was a little tough and I started to feel it in my muscles, but then after the last mile was done, I went for another quarter of a mile. Why?

Because I could.

I can’t say I pushed myself with my pace this morning, because I didn’t. I didn’t set out to break any records or make any personal bests. I just set out to run on this brisk (43 degrees!) morning to continue my journey in getting fit. What I found  was that I started getting a good feeling from exceeding a past accomplishment.

This is new.

Since doing my first Whole30 and going Paleo, I’ve been pretty adamant about not needing exercise to lose weight. I still maintain that it is not necessary, and that’s super-important for those who are physically unable to exercise or who are like I used to be and just flat-out refused to exercise. That’s okay: you can still lose weight! But then, it isn’t enough. You lose weight, but you find that you are weak and that you want something more out of your body. You start doing something to get some exercise. The next thing you know, you’re adding miles to your runs and feeling GREAT afterward.

So I get it. You people who do the extreme physical activities; you’re not weird. You’re not so strange to me anymore. You’re just way farther ahead of me in this journey, and far more dedicated. I don’t know that I will ever get to exactly the same level as you super-people, but I am finding that I am enjoying being able to be physically active and to push myself a little here and there.

It feels good. And dammit, I never thought I’d be the person saying this, but I’m glad I started running. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in the past 10 years.

Move. Do something. Anything.

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Me after a great run recently having accomplished many personal bests.

My sister used to tell me this. “Don’t set out to run a marathon on your first day. Just get up off the couch and move. Do something. Do anything. Just don’t sit your life away waiting to die.” I used to think she was crazy. Why would I want to be uncomfortable and sweaty and work hard for something I don’t care about, anyway? What’s the benefit of being fit if we’re all going to die, anyway?

Well.

Let’s go over some of the benefits of being fit.

  1. Comfort. Life is more comfortable when you’re fit. I can bend over, reach my shoes, run up a flight of stairs, play with the dog, and have “Mommy and Daddy time” without as much effort anymore. Seriously; life is so much easier when you’re fit.
  2. Clothing. I can shop off any rack in any store now. The mainstream clothing stores stock clothes that look nice for people who are “Average,” and I’m “Average” now. The clothes not only fit better, but look good, too.
  3. Self esteem. Yes, this is a real thing, and it does matter. We all try to say it doesn’t, and that we all feel fine when we’re fat. I used to tell people all the time that I was completely fine with the size I was. I lied. Every damn time. I wasn’t fine. It hurt, I was sore, I was tired, and I felt horrible because I didn’t look anywhere near what I wanted to look like. We can’t change our faces or who we are, but we can change our body size and health through diet and exercise. Being fit helps you feel better about yourself which makes it easier to eat right and make health and fitness decisions. It also helps you with social situations. When you feel better about yourself, you’re more confident, etc.
  4. Health improvement. I know, most people would put this first, but who in the hell cares about health improvement if they don’t want to exercise in the first place? I mean, if you cared so much about improving your health, you’d already be exercising. We all know without being told by some ol’ Marine that exercise improves your health. If you don’t know that, you are probably still in the second grade and should stop reading the Interwebs and go out and play with your friends now. Go on, get out of here!
  5. Not dying. Seriously; this is better than a health benefit; it’s an existence benefit. I have stated before on my blog the dire condition my health was getting into. Now, I’m literally fit enough to rejoin the military. I call this a huge bonus.

My friend Steve has started walking and riding his bicycle since downloading Pokemon Go! onto his iPhone. He gets exercise walking around, hatching eggs and catching Pokemon. He said to me that it wasn’t much compared with what I do, but he enjoyed it. I told him that it doesn’t matter what I do, and it’s not a competition. Do what you can do. Do what you enjoy. Just do something.

A Day of Personal Bests

file_000-67Today was a day of personal bests for me, and I couldn’t be more excited! I started the morning off as I always do; with push ups. Today, I decided to go up from the 45 I’ve been doing for the past few days by doing 50 push ups and I did it! It was hard and I had to push myself a little, but I got to 50 and stopped. Could I have done more? Probably, but not many more. I’ve been doing a good job of avoiding injury, so I didn’t push myself to a breaking point. Just to 50 and stopped.

Then came the run. I decided to stretch out the legs a little and start with a faster pace. I normally don’t like to do this, but I decided to stretch the pace by increasing the distance my legs kicked out, and I concentrated on the feeling in my feet as I pushed the ground away from me. It’s hard to explain, but I could actually feel the speed this time. I got into a comfortable run pace and held it steady for three miles, which is a huge win for me.

I didn’t look at my pace or splits during the run; I wanted to just give it what I thought I needed to give to get a decent time, and it worked. I was able to run 3.52 miles with a 9’26” pace! My two mile time was 18’08” (my goal was to do it under 19′) and my three mile time was 27’46” which for my age would be a passing (decent) run in the Marine Corps PFT. This is a benchmark for me. I wore my USMC dress blues this past weekend as I was within the height/weight regulations, and now I’m able to run within the USMC PT standards as well. If I had a pull up bar and someone to hold my feet, I could have done the pull ups and crunches to see what score I could get for my age. Maybe some weekend I’ll go to a park with Sherry and take a PFT to see how I do.

I am very happy this morning! My weight is still declining, my physical abilities are increasing, and I’m feeling great. I have a good burn in my legs today from pushing it out a little harder than normal, but none of the bad pain. And to think, I just started running on September 10th of this year, and already, I’m running sub-10 minute miles. Heck, I’m almost to running sub-9’s consistently!

Back-to-back runs

Friday morning, I ran. This is not a big deal, and normally isn’t blog worthy in and of itself, but what is significant is that I ran after running Thursday and not taking a rest day. My pace was on-par with my average runs, and the distance was 3.5 miles.

I did have a little bit of pain in my left hip, but I think that was because I pushed it and sprinted in the last mile a few times. Maybe I’m not ready for that just yet, but the run itself was nice, and I wasn’t in any discomfort or pain with the exception of the little aches I get typically when I start. I infer those as my muscles saying, “Dude. Why are we doing this. You know, you can just stop and we’ll stop bothering you” which then turns into, “Oh well. You’re not going to stop. We might as well join the rest of the team and just get through this.” It typically happens around the .5 to 1 mile mark and then the rest of the run is just fine.

My ultimate goal is to run 5-6 times a week without it being hard. I don’t want to run super-long distances, nor am I looking to break any land/speed records. I just want to go out, run 4-5 miles, and feel normal afterward. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there, and that feels good.

Now, however, I think that maybe running 4 times a week max is a better plan for the time being. After taking three days off to allow a spot on my heel to heal (haha),  a lot of other pains and aches I’ve been having have gone away. I think I needed the time to rest and to let the joints and muscles heal a bit. I haven’t been pushing myself hard, but maybe back-to-back runs are a bit much for me. Only time will tell, and we’ll see. The point is, I’m not going to push it to get to daily runs just yet. Maybe after another month or two, but for now, I’m okay with every other day.

As for push-ups, I’m up to 45 consistently now. I’ll likely up that to 50 soon, but again, I’m pretty pleased with the progress.

Skipping Run Days

Tuesday, I skipped a run. I’ve been running every other day since September 10th, and it’s been working pretty well. I want to get to a point where I can run every day, and I thought that would begin Tuesday morning, but when the alarm clock went off, I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t have the overwhelming motivation to go anyway; I ran Monday, and I could still feel it in my legs. So I stayed in bed for the extra 45 minutes.

I’m glad I did.

I felt refreshed, energized, and well-rested Tuesday morning, something I haven’t felt in a few weeks. I’ve been trying to get enough sleep, but it’s looking like I haven’t been. If Monday night’s sleep and how I feel the next morning is any indication, I need more sleep.

In all honesty, I don’t ever skip actual run days. For me, these have been every other day. Tomorrow, for example, will be a run day, and unless Mother Nature is unleashing hellfire and fury from the sky, I will be out there running. I feel that my rest days have been every bit as important as the run days, and I think that these rest days have played a large role in my avoiding injury and making the progress I’ve been making.

On my non-run days, I am going to try to run, but it’s not an imperative. Yet. If I run, I’ll run. If not, then that’s okay too. But on my run days? It’s go-time!

Running with music vs without

runneredgeI have completed all my runs while listening to music. I prefer listening to something that keeps me motivated and pumped to keep running. I use my iPhone to play the music which is in a belt pouch that I wear while running. It’s reflective, and it fits really well; I don’t feel it at all while running. I use a set a Phaiser Bluetooth headphones that work remarkably well. I accidentally let the charge die on them on my last run, and I ended up running the last mile without music.

I thought that running without music would be harder, or that I wouldn’t like it. I used to run without music for my entire time in the Corps as running with a Walkman was always a disappointing experience and running with a CD… please. I remember how much I would fixate or concentrate on my breathing and I remember not liking it.

So there I was, listening to Sumo Cyco singing “Interceptor” (I love that song, especially while running) when all of the sudden, the Bluetooth voice said, “Power: low” and then shut off. I went from hearing really powerful and driving music to hearing… me, breathing hard. I noticed that my breathing wasn’t in-sync with my steps, and for a while, that continued until I noticed that I started breathing in a rhythm in-sync with my steps. For every six steps, I inhaled once and exhaled once. It was very efficient, and my pace actually improved.

At the end of the run, I felt good. It was a good, hard workout, and I felt as if I’d accomplished something. It turned out, I did. My average pace for the 3.45 miles was on-par with my best runs, and the pace actually improved mile after mile which is the opposite of how my runs have typically gone up to this point.

I don’t know if I’m going to run without headphones. I really enjoy listening to music as I run, and it helps take my mind off the running and allows me to think about other things. However, when I concentrated on the running and breathing, my pace improved and my breathing became more rhythmic. Maybe I need to do more experimenting with this.

Do you run with or without music?