Working through the runs

After starting another round of physical therapy, I seem to be making progress with my hamstring injury. Yesterday, for example, I ran 4 miles outside. I ran 4 on the treadmill on Monday, 5 on Wednesday, and a bit over 3 on Friday morning. Yesterday was the first outside run in a few weeks while I allow time for healing. All in all, it was the highest mileage week for me in months. The hamstring still bothers me when I sit. Apparently when you sit, the top of the hammy is irritated and that seems to be the source of the pain. This morning, I’m sitting on the MBTA commuter rail car after an hour drive (in my car) from home to Union Station in Worcester MA. It started bothering me about 20 minutes into my drive and now is just irritating enough to make sitting in almost any position uncomfortable. I’m perfectly happy to not have a seatmate so I can fuss without bothering some poor soul. My PT has been moved to my office, consisting of twice weekly, 30 minute sessions involving deep tissue massage and ultrasound treatments. They seem to help, right up to the point where I’m sitting still for over 15 – 20 minutes.

Since this injury, unlike many running ones, impacts me more when I’m not running than when I am. So to allow myself heal properly I have basically cancelled plans for any fall races, but am determined to keep building my base mileage and stay as injury free as I can. This mostly means 3 – 4 runs each week and mostly on a forgiving treadmill at the Y. Now that the weather is becoming cooler, I am anxious to get back on the bike as well. The upcoming weekend might just be the right time for that activity. I just purchased a new headlamp and over the summer, acquired arm warmers and warmer gloves. Additionally, I should be receiving two new short sleeved bike shirts emblazoned with my company’s logo. Some big European manufacturer was engaged to produce these for the biking community at work. We received a 50% discount (still a steep price) so I ordered a couple of them. Since Europe basically takes the month of August off, we’re expecting them to actually ship soon. I’ll be styling when I ride during the ever shortening evenings after work. If I’m cold, I will add the arm warmers.

So it’s going slow but sure – ready for a healthy spring with a great (treadmill) base!

Old Goal, New Focus

My Injinji toe socks. While a pain in the butt to put on, once on correctly, they do an amazing job of protecting my overly sensitive feet.

My Injinji toe socks. While a pain in the butt to put on, once on correctly, they do an amazing job of protecting my overly sensitive feet.

One of the things that has been on my bucket list since I started running was finishing a marathon. I have toyed with this in the past, especially before running the past two half marathons. In the midst of actually running, I was positive I would never want to run further. Today, I am pretty sure that I have a full marathon in my future.

I have been running 3 miles at a minimum but mostly either 4 or 5 miles with each trip to the gym. It has all been treadmill mileage but 14 – 18 miles in a week have been adding up. If the week goes well, I run 5 miles on Sunday, 4 on Monday, 4 on Wednesday, and 4 – 5 on Fridays. So with the higher Friday run, that is 18 miles in all. This is what I did this week, except for the fact that I ran 5 on Friday morning and then again 5 today.

I’m still using the Galloway method, and the GymBoss as a timer to get my run/walk ratios down to a science. Mostly, I have been using a 3 to 1 ratio of running for three minutes, walking for one minute. My run intervals have been pushed faster after warm up, still retaining sub ten minute miles back to back. When I move my runs outside, it will be interesting to see what my speed is – but is sure to be slower than inside but less painful than it has ever been thanks to the walk breaks that have become an integral part to my current success.

Working on the Weight

This looks like every road in our neighborhood and on the drive to work. While pretty, it is a fast reminder that winter is still going strong and spring is at least a month or more away.

This looks like every road in our neighborhood and on the drive to work. While pretty, it is a fast reminder that winter is still going strong and spring is at least a month or more away.

The contest at work to lose five pounds in six weeks has just two weeks to go. I weighed in this week after a hard 4 1/2 mile treadmill run using my GymBoss and a 3/1 ratio. I knew that I had lost water weight, but generally have been feeling better since I’m working much harder on the treadmill. I was down a total of eight pounds since the contest began – success in any book. I attribute the loss to being somewhat more aware of what I am eating and significantly more aware of how hard I am working in the gym.

I’ve had my Nike+ Fuelband for over two months now and have made my daily goal with only a few exceptions. The funny thing is that if I work from home, I miss my goal each day. If I’m at work, I have to haul my butt down the 1/4 mile tunnel to the main building multiple times. I use that walk as an opportunity to get in a spurt of exercise – walking with conviction and not taking a leisurely stroll like most people do. One half mile later, I’m back from the main building (aka The Big House) with a bit more oxygen hitting my brain and a few more fuel added to my fuelband.

So success to date for the contest, and a few weeks more to hit it out of the park with a very successful completion. Time to run through the finish line and not come to a screeching halt at the end.

A Contest at Work

Last Friday, we got a bit of snow. The temperature was so cold that the snow crystals looked different. The temps were in the single digits and the snow was very, very light - so much that you could have used a snow blower to clear a driveway.

Last Friday, we got a bit of snow. The temperature was so cold that the snow crystals looked different. The temps were in the single digits and the snow was very, very light – so much that you could have used a snow blower to clear a driveway.

We are having a bit of a contest at work that should be, individually, easy to win. The contest is to lose just five pounds in six weeks. During this time, there are several holidays, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and six weekends. Being the motivator I am, I threw out another challenge to my work teammates to join together and provide camaraderie to help everyone make the goal. Of course, I am the team captain for the team. The company program will have a prize drawing for everyone losing the weight in 6 weeks – something like an iPod.

I work with a team of computer architects – very smart and very competitive. We have three such teams within my company, but only one other team is co-located with ours in a separate building. We work closely with that team but they have a different manager and are also highly competitive. So what better way to build team cooperation than to create a contest between their team and ours. They have a total of 12 individuals that make up their team and we have 11 that make up ours. While the real contest at work is for individuals to lose weight, we decided to make it, how can I say, interesting. Nothing like a little inter-team competition, right?

The winning team (that is to say the team that the most individuals meet the goal of the 5 pound loss in 6 weeks) will be served a healthy breakfast by the members of the losing team (again, the team that did NOT lose the weight). While there are more detailed rules, this pretty much covers the bases. There is an additional drawing that will be held at work three months after the initial 6 weeks for anyone who has kept the 5 pounds off (another iPod). So we are upping the ante one more time and having the prize of the healthy breakfast delivery happen again for the team that keeps the weight off for that period as well.

All in all, a healthy way to foster both team building and team competition at work.

Still Walking, But Running Faster

Jake and I finally visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend. The Hall is a tremendous tribute to basketball. Basketball was created in nearby Springfield College, less than a mile from where the Hall is located.

Jake and I finally visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend. The Hall is a tremendous tribute to basketball. Basketball was created in nearby Springfield College, less than a mile from where the Hall is located.

My 3-1 run-walk ratio has continued but with increasing success. I have been using my GymBoss Max for a couple of months now and have found that the 3/1 ratio has allowed me to slowly increase my speed on the run portions, knowing that I actually will recover on the walk portions. Yesterday, for example, I was running at 6.1 to start, then quickly increased to 6.3, 6.5, and 6.7 MPH on the run intervals. My walking remained at something over 4 MPH (4.1 – 4.2 mostly), even as my run intervals went faster and faster. By keeping an eye on the treadmill timer, I know where I am within my 3-minute run interval. One trick I have used is to start at say, 6.3MPH for a minute, then increase to 6.5 for the second minute, ending with a 6.7MPH final run minute. I’ve also been somewhat successful in just running at 6.5 or even 6.7 for the entire 3-minute interval. Towards the end, I was upping at least a minute at over 7 MPH and finishing the final 30 seconds with an 8 MPH sprint / fartlik.

While exhausted at the end of my five miles yesterday, I was able to deliver a solid 9:24 average pace including walking. A year or two ago, I couldn’t have ever thought to run that fast over five miles AND I walked for 25% of the time. The best part — my body wasn’t screaming at me either immediately following the run or later in the day. Sure, my knees were a bit stiff when I got up after sitting at my desk for an hour or two, but that would have happened if I had run or not. Overall, I am extremely excited about my progress and how well I can now run a five mile distance on the treadmill.

On a final note, I have loved keeping up with my Nike+ FuelBand. It pushes me further, makes me walk a bit more, and increases my knowledge of how non-sport specific activities count. Snow shoveling, taking the stairs over and over and over at home, and walking from my building to the main one at work several times each day (1/2 mile round trip) all count — and now I have proof. I just set a new month long goal of 21,000 NikeFuel points each week for four consecutive weeks. Here’s hoping to not mess up for an entire month.

A New Way to Measure

 

My new Nike+ Fuelband

My new Nike+ Fuelband

Late last week, I received my Nike+ Fuelband. After firing it up late Friday, I wore it yesterday to measure how far I walked, how many steps I took, and how much general activity I performed while not going to the gym. One of the things that I don’t generally give myself credit for is the stairs in the house and the general running around done over a weekend. The guidelines for activity are to set a daily goal of 2,000 NikeFuel for general, non-active or people with desk jobs. This was a great place to start to figure out what my activity should be.

Yesterday was my first full day of wearing it and I ended up with 2,550 for the day. Lots of stairs, some work outside, and a bunch of sitting. The one thing that I do like is the fact that it shows me the activity level on a continuous chart, plotting my peak active hour (4 – 5 PM), and when I hit my daily goal (6 PM). It also shows 4,000 steps, 986 calories burned, and just under 2 miles walked during the day. I don’t like to sit down much and apparently climb the stairs many times each day.

Today, I’m headed to the gym, so expect to blow away my numbers from yesterday. After a week or two of wearing it, I should be better able to know my daily activity and set a much more realistic daily goal. For now, I’m silently capturing metrics that will prove out to have some value down the road.

Running, Walking and Eating Turkey

Our popular dryer, mounted above the deep sinks in our laundry room. This is where I dry my workout clothes. This includes my Injinji toe socks that I’ve been wearing for all my long runs.

Our popular dryer, mounted above the deep sinks in our laundry room. This is where I dry my workout clothes. This includes my Injinji toe socks that I’ve been wearing for all my long runs.

On Thanksgiving morning, I decided to go for a run. I didn’t know it would be the longest run of the year.

Since starting the Jeff Galloway run/walk method of running with my GymBoss timer, I have only been using the treadmill. Thanksgiving morning weather was nice – not too cold, not too windy. My wife and daughter headed to the gym and I felt great so, to borrow a line from Forest Gump, I just decided to just go for a run.

I took off without much of an idea of how far I would go. Since this was the first run outside in several months and the first outside run with the GymBoss timer, I was totally playing this by ear. I figured I would run my normal 3 mile loop – out of my neighborhood, around the exterior loop of the adjoining neighborhood, through the path in the woods that hook into the park, the loop around the park, then back home.

A mile and a half into the run, I was feeling really good. The 3/1 ratio forced walk breaks were helping me significantly and I wasn’t tired at all. At this point, I was on the exterior loop of the adjoining neighborhood, with either the choice of either a left turn towards the park, or a right turn onto a long straight away heading away from my house. I decided to turn right and make a (significantly) longer run out of the excursion. This was a familiar route, one of my normal runs from my half marathon training days. It was a route that I took on multiple weekday mornings back then, and I knew exactly what was ahead of me. Depending on how to end the run, it was either a five or six mile loop. When training for my first half marathon in Virginia, we would run 10K Wednesdays. Six miles at night, through the only neighborhood that had street lights. I’d run this same 10K distance by myself in my half marathon training on Wednesday mornings before work. I was almost always late to work and almost always sore all day.

At the end of what is a five mile loop is the hill back into my neighborhood. While I know I have to cover that hill at some point, I wasn’t ready to stop. So I kept on running, finally taking a left turn into the park and heading home. The run ended up being six full miles, my longest in almost two years. At the end, my body felt pretty good. I wasn’t fast (10:55 average pace), but I wasn’t sore at all. I worked around the house all day without feeling like I just wanted to nap. The complete run is shown here if you’re interested. The 1000+ calories burned eliminated any fret over eating a fantastic, yet simple Thanksgiving meal. We had gingerbread for dessert, not pie – my waistline appreciates having a diabetic mother-in-law visiting. Lower calorie desserts are the norm at home, when we have them at all (yes, even at Thanksgiving).

I’m really liking this run/walk method and know that if I keep it up, I’ll be in better shape and my knees / legs won’t be screaming at me after a long run.

Running, or is it Walking?

In the Portland, Maine harbor. This was taken next to where we ate with our good friends the Jenkins from Richmond.

In the Portland, Maine harbor. This was taken next to where we ate with our good friends the Jenkins from Richmond.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a GymBoss Max timer. It basically allows me to set up intervals for a run/walk workout. So far, I’ve used it four times using a 3/1 run/walk ration. I run for 3 minutes, walk for 1 minute, then repeat up until my time or mileage is complete. While the first few minutes seems easy, by the end of 45 minutes, I cannot wait until the running is over and the walk breaks begin. Thus far, I’ve only used this on the treadmill but cannot wait to do this outside to see if my outside runs are a bit better using the run/walk method.

Yesterday was my best running workout in months. I used the 3/1 run/walk ratio on the treadmill. The treadmill at the YMCA doesn’t have a real interval setting that I can program, so I have to switch to running faster and walking slower manually. I decided that I wanted to go for 45 minutes so took off using the 6 MPH button for running and the 4 MPH button for walking. It seemed to work out okay for me. I’d run a bit faster than I wanted in the beginning, but then have to crank it up after warming up to push the running to 6.3 or 6.5 MPH during the last mile or two. Thirty minutes in, I was feeling great. I’d finish my walk period ready to run and ready to push the speed a few tenths higher than 6.0. I’m sure that the music I had cranking in my ears helped, but occasionally got a grin from the combination of the music and how great I was feeling running. Three minutes later, I was thankful for the walking period but ready to go just 60 seconds later.

Today, I am not stiff at all — very different from when I used to purely run (slog along) for 45 minutes. I used to feel guilty for taking walk breaks but now it’s just part of the program. My knees and the rest of my body seems to thank me. I am certainly feeling better at the end of the run than before so think there’s something to this new method!

First Day of My New Workout

As summer fades to fall, the leaves are starting to come out in their glorious colored splendor. Everywhere I drive, I want to take out my camera and get yet another leaf shot. Last year’s leaves were ruined by the late October storm that left much of our area without power for more than a week.

As summer fades to fall, the leaves are starting to come out in their glorious colored splendor. Everywhere I drive, I want to take out my camera and get yet another leaf shot. Last year’s leaves were ruined by the late October storm that left much of our area without power for more than a week.

After meeting with one of the trainers at our corporate gym, I have a whole new set of core-focused exercises. Doing them, I feel like an uncoordinated dope, but know that I need to stop caring about what I look like and know that they will greatly assist in getting rid of my belly and will strengthen my core to allow for easier running.

The exercises consist of warming up by running for 10 minutes (a slow mile or so), then performing four exercises for one minute each, then repeating the four for another minute each. After a quick break, I do four different exercises for a minute each, then repeat. Cooling down consists of another short run and stretching. The logistics of having to set up for each group is a bit strange since you are supposed to go from one exercise straight into the next for each group. Having a bench, mat, and weights laid out without getting in someone else’s way could be difficult at the YMCA, or with a bigger crowd at the work gym. With a bench, mat, and a couple of weights, I could do this at home but would need to be in our Florida room so I wouldn’t hit the ceiling with the pogo jumps. I think I’m going to hit the ceiling at the gym, although I’m a foot or more from the ceiling at my peak.

The first set includes two sets each, as many as I can over one minute periods for each exercise:
• Push up jacks
• Squat presses with weights
• Step ups (or box jumps)
• Reach crunches

The second set, again two sets each, one minute for each exercise:
• Plank rows
• Lunges with twists (using a kettle ball)
• One-legged pogo jumps
• V-crunches

I attempted to do this routine for the first time last night and definitely didn’t get through an entire minute for each before moving on to the next exercise. But, I learned a couple of things:
• Don’t use the big kettle balls for lunges
• Don’t use the tall bench for the step ups
• Bring lifting gloves for the plank rows
• Do use lighter weights for the plank rows to help with form
• Use the mirror when doing the pogo jumps

So I am determined to do this at least once a week to help with my core. After a month or more of this, maybe I’ll feel a bit less awkward and feel less like I’m going to pogo myself into the wall.

Another Month, More Effort

Sunrise in the Nantahala National Forest, NC. Nantahala is Cherokee for “Land of the Noonday Sun” since the sun sometimes reaches the bottom of the deepest parts of the forest at noon.

Sunrise in the Nantahala National Forest, NC. Nantahala is Cherokee for “Land of the Noonday Sun” since the sun sometimes reaches the bottom of the deepest parts of the forest at noon.

August and September were challenging months to actually get workouts done. Not only did Sue travel a few times, but we took Kaite to college in Maine. Then, we traveled to Georgia to finish packing up Sue’s Mom and transported both her and her car to New England over a few days. I took the car and got to travel via Richmond to play for a day. While the drive was somewhat difficult the last day, the time spent with friends in Virginia made the detour totally worthwhile.

Sue and I have gotten back to the gym, just not on a regular basis. I worked from home one Friday that she was out of town and drove myself straight to the YMCA after dropping her off at the airport. I was up before 5, then pushed myself to burn 750+ calories that day – ready to drop early in the evening.

I have an appointment with a trainer at my corporate gym this week, so am looking forward to having a new set of activities that will hopefully work more of my core to reduce the belly and make the runs a bit easier.