Back to the Y

My wife and I just joined the local YMCA. We’re both tired of being out of shape and way too heavy. After looking at the local gym options (YMCA and 24-Hour Fitness), we figured out that the Y had better options including multiple pools and many classes. So, we joined last Sunday. Thursday evening we went for the first time.

We were both on treadmills and after a bit of walking, I decided to run a bit. 2 minutes of a slow run and 2 minutes of a faster walk. Run, walk, run, walk. While I never ran faster than 5.7 or 5.8 MPH, it was a start back to running. The 45 minute treadmill workout from Runners’ World I used to do will be back in no time. The wife can’t run – she has a condition called Thalassemia (minor) which is a form mild anemia and doesn’t allow oxygen go bond to her red blood cells. This means that with any heavy exertion due to cardio activities, she can go into an asthma attack. Not good. So, walking, yoga, bike and elliptical machines are where she can do the most good for herself. I’m going to concentrating on running.

Now time to focus on getting back in shape with my wife by my side, at least most of the time.

August 2018 Update

When I last wrote this blog, I was a few years younger and still trying to be a runner. Since heading full fledged into the divorce, my desire to take out my aggression due to a failing marriage have fallen by the wayside. Since then, I have met my best friend, my true soulmate. Our families met originally outside of Boston around 1631. They travelled together to found Hartford, Connecticut in 1633 or so. So for more than 375 years, our families have been together. She is just about 10 years my junior, so keeps me on my toes. She and I met at work, with my divorce in the rear view mirror and hers in progress. We were friends first, bemoaning the past and ongoing divorces, until we just realized that we could be friends first, there to support each other. Friends first, then we realized that we were truly destined to be together. A year + later, we eloped and started the rest of our lives together.

With the divorce, I was blessed to get a now-15 year old stepson. Being under the driving age, he gets taken everywhere when he’s with us (split custody arrangement), other than when he can take his bike. We live near a phenomenal bike path that is part of the East Coast Greenway, linking Maine to Florida (although it’s not 100% completed). Ironically, I rode on this path multiple times before I ever knew my wife existed.

One issue with our doing physical things together is that my wife has a medical condition that prevents her from engaging in strenuous cardio activity. The oxygen just doesn’t bind to her blood cells the same way that most people’s do. So, while walking on a path is fine, running on the same is not. Also, she’s afraid of bikes, so biking is out for her. But, as she just hit another birthday, it’s time for the two of us to get serious about getting back in shape. It’s time to join the YMCA near us and get back into doing whatever each of us finds enjoyable at a time that works for each of us. It will be both together and separate and we will both be better for it.

I’d be kidding myself if I thought it won’t introduce stress into our lives, but for a great outcome, I’m willing to give it a go.

Cabo infinity pool

Running – seriously this time

For years, a full marathon continues to sit at the top of my bucket list. I get the feeling that this will be much more achievable next year if I get a half in this year and substantially build my base. It is my agenda to be moved by mid spring to a home much closer to one of the best trails in the state. Living less than a half mile from it will remove excuses to get out there both on my feet when running and on my bike for excellent cross training opportunities. While I have used this trail a dozen or more times for good bike rides, it is a 25-30 minute drive from my apartment so not ultimately convenient. Living 1/2 mile from it takes that excuse off the table. One of the issues I have with my current apartment is that to run, I need to run through an area that is not the safest area. To address that, I could get in my car and drive but I’ve found that to be the reason I’m not running.

As 2016 starts, I find myself joining the hoards of people headed back to the gym after a long absence. The thing is, I haven’t been absent that much. I have pretty much skipped the mid-week workouts and only have been hitting the gym on one of the two weekend days. My intent this year is to get back to running consistently. I have been doing a Runner’s World 45 minute treadmill workout for most of my runs. It allows me to run without killing my knees and, generally, feel good when I’m done. The one thing about that workout is that it starts with 5 full minutes of running – and I find that difficult to do when not properly warmed up. But, I work through that and move through it. There is a 4-minute run, followed by a minute of walking, then a 5-minute run. Those about kill me, but it’s time to set hitting them as a goal over the next month or two.

One concern I have regarding running both a half and a full marathon is that I plan on doing the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method. Finding a group for long runs will require that I find another group using similar methods. But whe running o. My own, using my gymboss timer is challenging at times because I cannot hear it or feel the vibration at times, and it is set to a solid number of minutes in and with the intervals. That said, in the gym, the timer works very well. I have no idea how the Galloway method works with group long runs. I guess I’ll figure that out!

Air Line State Park rail trail ride

While not my first ride of the year, this was my longest. A co-worker (George) and I took off from his house and drove to the start, about 20 miles away. We headed south on this beautifully maintained trail (there are always a few spots with exceptions). We took our time and enjoyed the late afternoon ride. We didn’t hit the trail until almost 4:30 which allowed the weather to cool a bit. The biggest challenge was the shaded part on the return trip, especially where it was wet. Riding this with a road bike left no room for error when negotiating the ruts that were occasionally present. The shadows were becoming longer so the sunglasses came off to better see the road vs. the shadows.

Air Line Trail

Rail trail in Air Line State Park

Thanking a coach

I haven’t played football since the tenth grade. I started playing when I was in the fifth grade, and pretty much played continuously through tenth grade. When I first started playing, I was pretty good, relative to the other scrawny kids playing. I was bigger and I was stronger than many boys were at that age, probably because of where my birthday fell which drove me into being older brother than mostly younger boys. In addition, it likely had to do with the fact that I was outside practically every minute I could be, from morning until night, other than for school. I spent a bit over four years living on a farm, where I had acre after acre to roam. Being outside with my dog, or by myself was just what I did every day.

So in the fifth grade, after playing baseball for a few springs, it was time to add a fall sport to the mix. I was already a fan of the game, and was a fan of the Baltimore Colts long before they moved to Indianapolis. I loved the game, and loved the scrappy play that fifth graders could dish out. Both the first and second year I played, I was elected by the coaches to the all star team. After sixth grade ball, I went on to play during all three years of junior high before high school.

To level set, my high school played football with some of the best schools in Pennsylvania. We were among the largest schools (AAAA), and this was back when Pennsylvania was the dominant state for football. It was only natural for anyone who played to continue playing into high school, so I played again in tenth grade. Back in the ’70s, we had three years of kids at the high school, rather than the four that are normal today. But, with three junior high teams feeding two high school teams, there was lots of talent making up the high school teams.

Our coach, Steve King, was a high school English teacher. He was a gentle giant, with a big, loud voice, but cared for his players. As I look back, he was actually smaller than I am today, but a giant in a tenth grader’s eyes.

Coach King was a good coach. I remember him being fair and equally tough on all of his players. While it was long ago, calisthenics and leg lifts were part of the daily routine. When I look back at those practices, I remember the physical exercises followed by practice of the basic moves. Coach followed the style of Joe Paterno from Penn State. The methodology was basically to practice and execute the basic moves better than your opponents. Move the ball down the field a few yards each play, then score. It was a simple plan that worked for PSU for years.

Over the years, I have talked about the coaching style of Coach King, drilling the basics into us over and over. We paid little attention to the fancy plays, but could execute hose basic plays better than anyone else. Basic blocking, basic tackles, and basic running plays. Most plays were good for 3-4 yards at a minimum, enough to get that first down with each series of downs. Did we win every game? No. But I remember a good season with players trained on the basics and ready to make solid contributions on the varsity team the next year.

While many people remember their high school sports with memories of a special game or special victory, I remember the experience of playing and the true leadership of Coach King. Those lessons have served me well throughout my life, and have been shared many, many times.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Coach King through Facebook. I loved sharing the memories of his lessons and the value they have delivered throughout my life. I’m thankful that I could pass that along, and thankful that I could let him know that he made a contribution to my life. It’s not often that you can tell someone that from so far back in your life, so when you get the chance to say thanks, jump on it. They deserve to know.

Last one in the gym is a rotten egg!

As 2014 came to a close, I was the last one in the gym at my apartment complex. It was 9:15 or so and I did a 45+ minute run/walk workout from Runner’s World (and Jeff Galloway). It’s a workout I do often, although have problems running the full 4 and 5 minute segments in the later part of the workout. But last night, I successfully did both of them at 6.1 MPH. My slow run is 5.6 (2 minutes) followed by an easy run at 5.8 (3 minutes). A minute of walking, then 2 minutes running, walk for 1, etc. Eventually, it gets up to multiple 3 minute runs followed by a minute walk, then the 4 minute run, 1 minute walk, and 5 minute run. It ends with 2 minute and then 1 minute runs, each followed by a minute of walking. All in all, it’s 45 minutes if you stick to the plan. Yesterday, I kept going to take it above 50 minutes with the last few minutes of running at a much faster pace. Then, a brief cooldown and a cold walk back to my apartment. All in all, it was a great way to end 2014 on a high note!

100 pushups

Today was my first day of the 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups plan. I started with 8 pushups, waited 30 seconds, did 8 more pushups, paused for another 30 seconds and then did a total of 12 pushups. I am supposed to do this 3 days a week, following the specifics in the book. Tomorrow, my arms and pecs should be sore – and even more on New Year’s Day.

Let the abs, chest, back and glutes sculpting begin!

Hiking with my sister

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My sister came to visit last weekend so we took the opportunity to find a new place to hike. She is in good shape so the hike wasn’t an issue, no matter whet we ended up going. I had always wanted to visit this tower which is a landmark in the greater Hartford area.

Finally back on the bike

An upstream shot of the Connecticut River, taken from the Windsor Locks Canal Trail trailhead

An upstream shot of the Connecticut River, taken from the Windsor Locks Canal Trail trailhead

I finally got things settled enough with my new apartment that I took advantage of the beautiful, late summer / early fall weather and went exploring on my bike on Sunday. The bridge pictured here is about a mile from my new place, and takes you from the eastern shore of the CT River to the western shore. While a busy road, it has a nice bike path on the side (separate) that has a path into the parking lot for the Windsor Locks Canal Trail.

Once in the parking lot, you cross through a small gate, over the canal and onto the path that runs between the canal and the river. It is just under 5 miles in length, so not too long, but run really close to the river in many parts. The river is mostly calm at this point, and there are are a few spots with benches that allow you to sit and watch the river and wildlife. A friend from work told me that they close the trail for a few weeks each year while the eagles nesting near there are sitting on their eggs or after the eaglets are born – presumably in the spring.

There were not too many people on the trail, surprising given the gorgeous weather – I guess many were home sitting on their butts, watching other people do athletic things (AKA watching football). When all was said and done, I rode 19 miles – not bad after a long stint of not riding at all. Now my legs are a bit sore, and I’m paying for weeks of inactivity. But, I loved the ride and pushed myself further than I thought I would The bonus was finding this trail which I will use for some upcoming fall runs – at least until they close the park for the winter!

Once again, I was happy to discover such a gem of a place practically in my backyard!