Achievement Unlocked: 5+ Mile Run

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Tuesday’s 5+ mile run. Bonus: our home behind me.

I did it. I didn’t set out to do it yesterday, but it happened and I’m really happy about it. I ran 5+ miles on a run, and I didn’t die.

When I set out for my run in the late afternoon, I had 3+ miles in mind. My normal comfortable run is 3.5 miles, so that was probably what I was going to do. However, when I hit the 1.5 mile mark, I decided to go a little further. When I hit the 2 mile mark, I decided to go for the extra half mile. This is important because to get back home on the route I like to take, that would mean another 2.5 miles to get back home. When I got to the 2.5 mile mark, I was feeling great and headed back. I didn’t feel any discomfort until about 4.25 miles when (and this is no joke) my nipples started burning. My shirt was so drenched with sweat that it became heavy against my skin. My running made the shirt rub against my chest, which in turn rubbed against my nipples. When I got home, they were on fire.

More notable than my burning nipples, however, was the fact that I didn’t have any other discomfort. I felt good, my legs felt good, and upon looking at my heart rate during the run, it only went up to 147. That’s really good! That means I didn’t push nearly as hard as I could have.

All in all, it was a good run. I felt good during the run and didn’t have any muscle pain or difficulty with my breathing. As I joke on Facebook, I didn’t die, either. That’s always the best part.

Another exercise post: this one about rest

file_000-52A common mistake that nearly everyone I know has made when getting into exercise is doing it too much. Being motivated and wanting to make progress quickly is something we all go through. I wanted to hit the road every day when I started running again, but this time, I let my brain override my overwhelming desire to get out there every day and I sat out every other day. This turned out to be the single most important key to my success in being able to continue running without injury for my first three months of running.

How I started back into running

The only plan I had was for 30 minutes of nonstop running. I didn’t care about my pace or speed: just shuffled along for 30 minutes. Looking back, it was a laughably slow pace, but I did it; I made it all the way through without stopping.

I continued by increasing my pace every time until I started noticing that the distances I was running were creeping up. I hit two miles, then two and a half, then three… and I was up to four and a half when I got sick and had to stop running for nearly two weeks.

That two week break was hell for me. There’s no other way to put it. I wanted to get out there so badly to run. I had time to think about what was compelling me to go, and I think it came down to the following:

  1. I had begun to enjoy running. It was something I was looking forward to every other day, and not being able to do it actually made me feel anxious.
  2. Didn’t want to lose progress. I had been increasing my pace and distance nicely, and I was very proud of the progress I was making. I was feeling good after runs, and sometimes, even during them. I didn’t want to go back to when runs were difficult.
  3. Had a 5k coming up I was training for. I was hoping to be in as good of shape as I possibly could before the run. With the cold hitting me when it did, I was unable to train until a week before the run.

Where I am today with running

Now, I’m back to my regular running. My last run was 3.53 miles at a 10 minute mile pace. It’s not my fastest, but it was comfortable. I will not push myself; I will do as I did before I got sick which is to allow my body to gradually get used to the distance and increase the pace enough to remain comfortable. I’m not competing with myself or in any hurry. I do push enough to keep improving, but I’m not looking to win any races, so I’m allowing my body to make its increases naturally. I am also making sure to take a day off between runs. This seems to be helping so much with regards to the progress I make. By giving my legs time to heal and strengthen, I am better able to get back out and run a little harder each time.

This isn’t a novel concept. It’s what I’ve been taught since I was in the Marines: a run/rest cycle is important to safely build muscle and stamina.It has been working for me for the past three months. I recommend you try it yourself.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

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Me after a run. I really enjoy running now. I never thought I could.

I run three to four times a week. I’ve reached most of my running goals rather quickly, and at this point I am just running and building my stamina and speed slowly and naturally. I used to have a goal of running every day, but I’ve decided that if it happens, then it happens. If not, running three or four times a week is probably enough. I also do fifty push ups before I run, and I try to increase it by 5-10 whenever the current number of push ups I’m at starts to feel too easy. I have a goal of 100+, but no timetable.

I firmly believe that I’ve had such success with running because I’ve taken it slowly and let my body dictate the pace and distance increases. I haven’t gone out and pushed myself hard, and when I felt a little off, or while I got sick two weeks ago, I held off from running. Returning to running was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and the body bounced back quite well. Monday night’s run was very enjoyable after running only once the week prior and not at all the week before that. I was very worried it would be difficult or that I would be out of breath. Neither were true.

I think it’s important to take into consideration your current physical ability and take it slow. I was told by a wise Gunny back in the Corps that you want to get out for 30 minutes of solid activity. Build the pace and distance each time within that 30 minutes. Once you are fully active in that 30 minutes, expand the workout as needed. That’s what I’ve done, and I’m really happy with the results. I never went out there to push myself super hard, and as a result, I’ve successfully avoided injury so far.

In past attempts to reintroduce an exercise regimen into my life, I have always ended up injured and unable to continue. This made me depressed and always led to me gaining weight. This time, I was smart about it, took my time, took it easy, and let the increases come naturally. I can’t be happier with my results.

My specific plan was to start with a slow jog. I jogged for 1.63 miles in nearly 30 minutes. My success for that run was that I jogged the entire time without stopping. I increased my pace and distance with each successive run, and I gave myself at least one day and sometimes two to recover between runs. Nearly three months later, I’m running over 3.5 miles with every run sub-10 minutes (and nearly sub-9’s) for each mile. The best part; I do so without really getting out of breath or over-exerting myself. These are comfortable runs that I enjoy.

Running used to be hard for me because I didn’t enjoy it. Now that I do it regularly and have learned to enjoy it, it’s become something I look forward to. It’s a part of my life, and I’m happy when I’m running. I find that I am less stressed after a run, and that overall, I’m a happier person because of it.

How much exercise is enough? As much as you feel is enough to meet your goals, whether they are physical or emotional. I can’t tell you what that is for you. You need to get out there and figure it out by doing.

Running my First Official 5k in Over 25 Years

The last 5k I ran was when I was a Corporal at NCO School at MCAS El Toro when I was 24. We did it as a formation run, and we finished in under 24 minutes. We then ran back as individuals to “pick up” other runners and help motivate them to the finish. It was a good time, and one of the rare times that I remember a run being fun in the Marines.

Fast forward 25 years and I’m about to run a 5k on my own volition and I’m actually looking forward to it. Sherry and I will be running the Jingle Bell Run tomorrow morning in The Woodlands, TX for the Arthritis Foundation. So many in my family and my wife’s family have been affected by Arthritis that it only makes sense for Sherry and I to run and try to raise some donations to help fight it.

I am honored and humbled by the donations received for tomorrow morning’s run, and I’m thankful to those who donated. I’m going to do my best in the morning and try to set a good time for me to work on in the coming months/years as more of these 5k’s come along.

I did bang my knee pretty hard against a printer today, and it is a little sore right now, but I’m hoping that time and if necessary, some Motrin will help make it feel normal when it’s time to run in the morning. Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to it. I have warm running clothes I’ll wear, and the only real dilemma I’m facing is whether I should run with my Bluetooth headphones (as I always do) or without. I haven’t quite decided yet. I guess I’ll see in the morning.

Wish me luck! I will be posting with a post-run report tomorrow!

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.

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!