Category Archives: Fitness

First Trail of 2016

FirstpicWith the February weather opening a nice window of sunny Spring-like weather over the weekend I took my wife and daughter on a long hike into the Hoosier National Forest along Lake Monroe.  This was a particularly special event for me.  All my life I’ve typically gone into the woods alone.  Due to my wife’s past fitness level, she had never been able to go with me this far down a trail.  This year was different because several months ago my wife started a fitness/weight loss program and stuck with it.  The result? I was getting to share my hiking and nature experiences and knowledge with her.  For the first time in our relationship, we were going on a day long hike.

Besides completing the trip, we had three goals. I wanted to have more than just a small hike. I wanted an afternoon and into the evening kind of day on the trail. It had been since December that I had gotten into the woods and I wanted a full day to reset my nature batteries! The first goal was to stop at mid-point, have lunch and just settle down for a bit to enjoy the energy. Since we were in a National forest we were going for a quick fire, some high quality hot-dogs and s’mores. A classic choice for sure.

The second was to try out our hammocks. My wife had purchased an ENO Singlenest for me as a Christmas gift two years ago. Though comfortable, it was not well suited for my height. At Valentine’s Day, she surprised me with a Doublenest hammock and then gleefully claimed the Singlenest as her own. For this trip I’d be showing her how to set the Singlenest up with the straps and she would get her first chance to try it out. I would try out my Doublenest and maybe catch a nap!

Finally, several Bald Eagles had been seen in the area we would be in and so our third and final goal was to hopefully see one of those majestic birds once we got to the lake’s edge.  Not much else we could do there except put ourselves in the right spot and keep our fingers crossed.

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Ectomorph Blues

My program from Next Generation Personal Training is now three weeks underway. It’s funny for me to admit this but the scariest part is not the workouts or the personal training session.  It’s the meal plan!

You see, I am an ectomorph.

Even more so, I’m a 40+ year old, 6’8″ ectomorph.

There.  I said it.

I don’t like the term  because it makes me sound like an extra for either an episode of Star Trek, Dr. Who or the sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  “Cue the Ectomorph!  No.  No!  Cut!!  We need someone with skinnier arms!”

 

ectomorph

A more recent term I stumbled upon, which soothes my ego a bit more, is Hard Gainer.  That’s more like it!  I can growl as I say it and sound like a pro wrestler!  (You can’t do it with “ectomporph.”  It just isn’t the same effect.  At best I just sound like a new character for a Mortal Combat game.)

What this all means is that I have a very hard time gaining weight and mass.  I’ve had this issue my entire life.  You can’t imagine how frustrating it is as a young man to work your ass off and see very little in gains.  All your friends are making it happen.   I’d workout.  I was active.  I did everything from martial arts to Ultimate frisbee.   Yet, nothing would really change.  In those days, I was 6’8″ and 180 lbs.  Most of this is due not to a lack of exercise but my intake of protein and calories.  In my 30’s, things changed up a bit and I climbed upward into the 200 or 210 range.  I still remember how happy I was the day I pegged 200.  It wasn’t really “healthy” weight but I was happy it was going up.  Yet, no matter what, I couldn’t gain any healthy mass.

It was because of one particular thing I was completely underestimating.

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You’re Still Here

When I find myself worn at the end of the day and still looking an hour long workout in the face, a blank word processing screen or maybe just frustrated with the job and or ignorance and hatred around me, I like to watch short motivational interviews.  While watching one a week or so ago, I heard a quote from motivational speaker, Les Brown.

“Oh no, there is no guarantee you will show up tomorrow. There are a lot of people who were here yesterday, but they’re not here today. There are a lot of opportunities that were around yesterday; they’re not here today.”

When I heard those words they stuck with me.  Maybe it was because of my own recent experience.  My mind rolled it around and around and then I came up with a slight variation.  It’s my mantra.  I try to carry it with me into and through every workout, every day going into work, every time I sit down to write, every night as I go to sleep.  Sometimes I forget but, lately, it seems to have a memory of it’s own, popping into my head like a helpful genie.  It goes like this.

“There were people around yesterday that wanted to be here today.  They’re not here.  You might be the one that doesn’t show up tomorrow.  You have today.  You have right now. “

I’ve said it to myself so much it’s not really the words anymore.  It’s the essence behind them.  The key is taking the time to really sink into the concept that, really, you may not be here tomorrow.  What does that look like?  How does it feel?  What immaterial things disappear?  What dreams for the day come to the fore?

I’m no stranger to history and philosophy and I was struck with the similarity it carried with all manner of ancient thought regarding the concept of Death and “Not being here tomorrow.”  There is a massive amount of literature and internet links out there on the concept of carrying Death with you.  It’s not my intent to go deeply into all of them.  However, I did want to present some of what I found.

First, I thought it was very similar to the Hagakure, the 18th century  treatise on the Samurai code.  That simple idea that by acknowledging Death daily you fully experience Life.  I did a bit of digging and found this little gem written by Daidoji Yuzan, an Edo samurai.

“One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind…the fact that he has to die. If he is always mindful of this, he will be able to live in accordance with the paths of loyalty and filial duty, will avoid myriads of evils and adversities, keep himself free of disease and calamity and moreover enjoy a long life.”

And the unstated, “If things don’t go well and you accidentally step in front of a bus, at least you were at peace with your impermanence!”

I also found a reference that I was unable to validate to an original source.  I have no idea which “masters of old” he is referring.  Regardless, I thought it was pretty good.  It came from Philip Kapleau and “The Zen of Living and Dying

“Masters of old advise, ‘Stick the word Death on your forehead and keep it there.”

Finally, while bouncing around the web, I found a great piece by the Dali Lama.  If you want a more in-depth read I highly recommend it.  I’ll leave you with this part of it.

“Our present lives, however, are not forever. But to think: “Death is the enemy” is totally wrong. Death is part of our lives. Of course, from the Buddhist viewpoint, this body is in some sense an enemy. In order to develop genuine desire for moksha – liberation – then we do need that kind of attitude: that this very birth, this body, its very nature is suffering and so we want to cease that. But this attitude can create a lot of problems. If you consider death is the enemy, then this body is also the enemy, and life as a whole is the enemy. That’s going a little bit too far.”

Dalai Lama’s Reflections on the Realistic Approach of Buddhism… Part One: Advice on Death and Dying

I’m far from any kind of guru or samurai and I think sticking Death on your forehead would make for a very weird tattoo.  It would probably, depending on the job, cut down on job interviews.  Would maybe a post-it note work? It would probably fall off a lot.  I think it might also get you a visit from your office Human Resources.

Joking aside, I’ve simply found a nugget of old wisdom, a phrase that works for me and which, oddly enough,  brings me peace with a daily thought process and routine.   I feel blessed to have stumbled upon it.  It’s a helpful reminder and it brings me focus about what is important.  I share it in hopes it helps someone else down the road.

 

 

Investing in Yourself

In my last post I mentioned the commitment and investment of working out and getting healthy.

What I’m spending financially in September on my health goals and personal training, once it’s all said and done, could do a lot of things.  It could get our family a new television, a new computer.  It could buy a new set of winter clothes.  It could help get our old car ready for winter.  I had to get my brain around spending that money on myself in order to get healthy, especially with the fact that I am not overweight or in poor health to begin with!

I wanted to discuss it further here because I think the idea it’s ok to invest money on our health while we are healthy is something which is not thought about or supported in our culture.   We are taught to consume and to play and to have fun, to spend millions of dollars on items we are told we “need.”  It’s even alright to spend money on fixing ourselves AFTER we have consumed too much; IE – food, movies, video games, etc.  Yet, when it comes time to spend that money on ourselves and improve ourselves, when there is no “obvious” reason why we should do it, the mind (and the minds of your friends and family) seem to take a stutter-step.  At least this is what I found mine doing.  Why is that?  What is it about our culture that teaches us to hesitate on our goals like this?

I latched onto the idea of an investment.  This is my investment to myself.  However, it is also an investment for my family, for my wife.  By getting healthy I am insuring I am able to help carry items in my son’s move, to pick my daughter up for a hug, to go for a long, adventurous hike with my wife to see beautiful wilderness or to help my mother as she gets older to help keep up her house with outdoor maintenance chores.  When I go to volunteer, as I did last weekend for a food drive, I could carry more bags of food to the waiting car.  I could stand longer on the concrete and hand out flyers without my back or feet hurting.  The amount the investment will return on itself is incalculable because it does not focus entirely on dollars and cents.  It has a much higher payout down the road.

On the fifth week of my Spartan workout (my second 4th week because I repeated it) I had to do my workout later in the evening.  It was close to 9:00 PM, going on 9:30.   I had a full day under my belt and not much food in my belly.  I was tired.  When I took a breather I muttered, “Why am I doing this again?”  I laughed because the answer came to mind immediately.

Because, right now, I’m building the body I will grow old in.  As time goes by, do I want it to be strong and healthy or weak and problematic?

As I looked at our budget and what my wife and I are doing for ourselves, I shared this thought with her and she agreed.  Our souls may be fiery meteors of energy and life but our bodies are infinite and will, eventually, decline.  We, right now, are building those bodies as strong as we can so we can, hopefully, grow old in them.

And that, hands down, beats any kind of new television, clothes, laptop.  Besides, when I get in better shape I won’t need a car in winter, right?

I’ll just super leap over to my job!    Problem solved!

 

Was That Just 30 Days?

What a month it has been!  New job position, GenCon, my son off to college and finishing my Couch to Spartan plan.  As August comes to a close it feels like I can finally come up for a bit of air.  Let me catch up and get things to the present!

GenCon – WOW!  What a great weekend!  I’ll hopefully put something up on the game blog this weekend.  Personally, it was a huge success.  Having four days with my son, surrounded by gamers, games and old friends.  Well, it was like coming home.

Old Pals

           Ran into some old pals at GenCon.

Despite what Life and the REALLY creepy hotel threw at us, our workouts went off without a hitch!  The hotel, which was run-down and scary, informed us that the workout room which had been promised was “under construction” and we could have a free pass to Cardinal Fitness just down the road a few miles.  I asked calmly if they would be open at 5 AM or at 12 AM for me to do my workout.  With a sign, the clerk muttered, “Uhm, no.’

It was road work for us then and definitely a challenge to pack it all in.  The typical schedule ended up being all day at the Con where we walked about 3 – 5 miles then back to the hotel by 11PM.  Up at 4:30 or 5:00 AM to do a workout (except for Sunday morning.  I got in a workout after I got home that evening.) and then breakfast, shower and then back to the Con to find a parking spot by 7:30 A.M.   I was very proud of my son who, being new to this exercise stuff, ran it like a champ!  His diet was very restrictive and so he took portions of appropriate food with him in his backpack and ate on schedule throughout the time at the Con.  It was hardcore but it showed me that you really CAN get through a 4 day convention on $40 of pre-purchased food.  (More money for buying games, right?!?!?)

Workouts – Once GenCon was finished I came back to four very intense work weeks and to finish up my Couch to Spartan plan.  The workouts ramped up in intensity and the summer heat decided to do the same.  I was undaunted and pressed through a couple of 95 degree days.  During Week 4 I made a pretty crucial decision.  I decided to repeat the week.  This decision was different than before which had it’s roots in wanting to take it easy and not pushing.  The decision to repeat came from the simple fact my form was off and sloppy when it came to the exercises.  I opted to repeat the week, work on the form and then power into the final weeks.  It worked like a charm!  My form improved and so did my strength and I finished the plan strong and feeling good.

During this time I also decided to research what I needed to do for more bulk and discovered that, for my height and size, I was eating way too little in protein.  I changed that up one night by eating three hamburgers (no bun) and a huge portion of vegetables.  The next day, I felt amazing.  It seemed to activate some long lost, dormant metabolic rate within me and I feel that was when I started to REALLY see improvement.   Our grocery budget will, undoubtedly, suffer for it.

The Success – Last weekend my wife and I went zip-lining at a place called Go Ape in Eagle Creek Park as part of a birthday celebration for her sister.  Being nervous about heights I was apprehensive but decided I wanted to do it.  What I didn’t know was that it was not JUST climbing up and then zip-lining down.  No, it was climbing up a rope ladder and then going through an obstacle course hanging in the trees 40 feet off the ground! (You’re attached the whole time.)  The zip-lining was the easy part.

The success came from having the strength to do the entire course without any real issue.  Though my nerves were a bit shot at the end I was delighted I had been able to do it all and feel strong throughout.  My wife felt the same way and we both agreed that 6 weeks ago we would not have been able to do it at all.   She would not have had the strength and my weak and injured shoulder would not have allowed it.  This was a realization for us.  It showed us that there is a world of adventure waiting for us out there to explore as we grow in strength and conditioning!

The Marvel Zone – I finished the Spartan program about ten days ago.  My wife had spoken with a few of her weight-loss trainers about my situation and what I was training towards.  They had suggested I come in and have a consult with the owner who was an obstacle race veteran and who had regularly worked with people who were trying to gain weight and strength.  I thought it was a nice way to transition out of the previous series of workouts and I took them up on the offer.  Last Monday, I began my free week with Next Generation Personal Fitness and went to my consultation.  After a great meeting where we both admitted to being superhero fans he began calling my plan “The Marvel Zone.”   How can I go wrong with a plan name like that?  (Though I’m still using the hashtag #bigdamnwookie)

hulkfitnessThe Plan = Starting on Monday I begin a nutrition plan for muscle and weight gain for 4 weeks.  It’s a daily plan with accountability.  I know quite a bit about eating healthy and even eating for weight loss.  I know very little about the concept of eating for healthy weight gain so I’m looking forward to it.  Along with the nutrition,  I’ll be working with a personal trainer to help me focus in on crushing any obstacle race that gets in my way next year!  In addition to my ongoing road/trail running I’ll also be hitting 2-3 fitness classes a week.

No, it’s not cheap but it’s a commitment.  It’s a commitment to myself and to my family.  It’s a chance to take it to the next level and really move forward on some goals I’ve had my entire life.  More on this later as this post has already grown longish.

I can’t wait.  More to come as things begin to settle down and I move forward.  Fall is right around the corner which means a lot more trail running and outdoor workouts to come!

Working Out GenCon

Another challenger arises!

Tomorrow morning my son and I head north to GenCon, the largest gaming convention in the country.  This is a very good thing and I’ve been looking forward to it all year.  (Next year, depending on how this workout thing goes, I might even do some costuming.)    I’ve been going to GenCon for mucho years.  I’m no stranger to what I like to call “the hallowed halls.”  For the event coming up, I’ll be posting pics and commentary over on my game blog.  Feel free to wander over there if you want to see more.

However, because I know this arena, I know where the pitfalls lie and what dangers lurk!  The challenge comes in the fact that I have three workouts to get done over those four days.  My son, who is also in a workout program, has four workouts to get done.  “No problem!” you might say,  “Get those workouts done at the hotel either before or afterwards.”

This is a true statement and exactly what we are going to do.  However, it’s easier said than done.  Here are the details.

  • Our hotel is not close and we have about a 20 minute drive.
  • We need to be downtown by no later than 9 AM to stand any chance at all of decent parking.  The real deadline is 8 AM.
  • Most nights we will not be returning to the hotel until around Midnight and we will be wiped out from lots of walking and enjoying ourselves.
  • We each have 30 to 45 minute workouts.   We also need to shower afterwards and clean-up.
  • We absolutely have to get a good breakfast before hitting the convention floor.

You should be able to see where this is headed?  It would appear that we are looking at around a 5:30 or 6:00 AM wake-up time for us to get those in, get cleaned in the hotel room, get breakfast AND make the downtown parking garages in time.

Inconcievable!!!

Tomorrow is somewhat easier.  My son has a rest day and I plan on hitting my strength/calisthenics first thing in the morning.  It will be tomorrow and the weekend where the real test will happen!

The secondary challenge comes in the fact that it could be a struggle to find healthy food in this haven for dice, food trucks, board games and soda.  Oh, it can be done but it will not be easy.  We’re packing our own snacks and protein bars for back-up.  Though I am not placing myself on any kind of strict diet just yet, I’ve been trying very hard to watch my sugars and any kind of fried foods, etc.  My son is on a very regulated diet with his program.  We are going to have to dig deep in our creative convention exploring skills to find what he needs.  I’ve scouted out at least one vegetarian option for him and I’m sure we will just have to be creative when the time comes.  (Or walk a butt load of city blocks to find a good food place.)

Will we have the skill rankings and the fortitude scores to succeed?  Will we succumb to the seduction of late night gaming and an inability to hear our alarms in the morning?

There’s only one way to know for sure!

Onward!

A Defining Moment

This weekend I started Week Three on my journey of intensive training.  (It was actually week 5 as I had started doing workouts two weeks prior.)  I plowed through my running day with no problems and felt great afterwards.  Sunday was my calisthenic and strength day.  According to the workout plan, sets and exercises were amped up one small step towards reps.  My energy was down a bit but I was ready.  I could do this.  I was excited for no other reason than the simple fact I would be putting those Bear Walk Holds to good use and actually doing some Bear Walking.  I was also going to start doing Crab Walks.  How exciting!

I opted after warm-up to do it outside.  The sun was out and it was warm.  It was also humid and because I had decided on a lazy Sunday morning, it was about mid-day.  That laziness choice would bite me in the butt and teach me a solid lesson later.

My set rotation is push-ups, plank holds, squats, lunges, side lunges and then bear and crab walks.  Today, I was to do 4 sets.  A pretty tight and efficient workout.  Right after my first plank I knew I was in trouble.  It seemed like all my energy went into holding that plank and as I went into squats I was sweating and tired.  The heat quickly went from mild to oppressive over the course of the set.  (I’d not looked at the temperature before going out and found out later the heat index had been up near 90.  Smart move!)

I took my break eagerly and then hit Set Two.  After Set Two I was a mess.  My Pandora music station wasn’t working for me.  My form had been bad throughout and it felt like the wheels were coming off.  Not only that but mentally things had started to crumble.  I started having variations on the following thought, “This sucks.  Maybe I should just repeat Week 2?” or, “You’ve not done that much and look at you.  You’re no spring chicken.  Take it easy.  Just stop here and you can reset to Week Two.”  And, my favorite, “The air conditioning feels so good back at home…”

I almost bought into it.  I was gasping for air, my shoulders were on fire and I was pretty miserable.  It just seemed like I had nothing in my tank!  On top of that my monkey mind was chattering about how uncomfortable it was.  I took a knee after that second set and decided to take a longer break to get everything back under control.  So, with my knee pressing into the concrete, sweat rolling off my nose and chin,  I stayed there until I could get my breathing back.  I did some mindfulness meditation around my breath and went inward.

Did I want to tap out?  No.  Did I want to reset to Week Two?  No but maybe I should…  And that’s when something clicked.  Wait a minute.  Should?  Should?!?!  It was time to look at that word a bit more closely.  I was told several years ago to be careful about “shoulding” on myself and how the word itself should (ha!) be avoided.   I realized this was a defining moment for me.

In the past I would have opted for the reset to Week 2.  The “should” would not have come up.  I would have mumbled some excuses to myself and taken the reset.  Make no mistake, I was miserable in that moment.  Yet, somehow, I latched onto that one word and while I focused on my breathing and on the moment, everything fell into place.   It was not just a simple choice at this moment.  It was a big choice.  It was a defining choice.

Thinking back on it I wonder what it looked like on the outside?  I like to tuck myself away, back in an out of the way corner near my apartment’s workout building.  I doubt no one saw me in this moment.  If they had, it would have been a simple sight.  An exhausted middle-aged guy, on one knee, recovering and getting his breath back.  “Gee, he looks tired.”  That’s it.  No sign whatsoever of the inner battle, struggle and decisions going on.  How turbulent it was internally!  How often do we see athletes like this and we just think, “Oh, they’re just getting their breath back,” and have no concept of the battle being waged on the inside.

I made a decision.  I was going to finish this damn thing.  I would take breaks if necessary but I was not resetting to Week 2.  I was finishing this damn workout.  As I stood up it was as if the Pandora Gods were looking out for me because what happened to play next?  Battle without Honor or Humanity from Kill Bill, Vol. #1.   It was perfect.

Make no mistake, it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t nice.  It wasn’t smooth, sure movements.  It was a battle with myself with no honor and I’m real glad I was alone in that secluded corner because I was spitting, cussing and growling my way through every rep.  Either I went down or it did.  It was more than the “breaking through” I posted earlier.  It was a fight with deep self-esteem based beliefs and habits that had made a little rat’s nest inside of me.  When the fourth set and my past habits lay broken and bleeding on the concrete behind me I was exhausted.  I stumbled home and had to use both hands to lift my water bottle because my arms were shot. The rest of the day was a downward spiral towards sleep and I crashed out at around 7:30 or 8 PM.

But, you know what?

I walked away from that spot knowing I had won, that I had surpassed anything I had ever done in my past.  And that feeling?  That sense of completion, attainment and courageously breaking new ground?

It was, and still is, amazing.

(However, next time, I won’t be waiting to do my workout at Noon in the middle of July!)

Post edit – Looking back over my workout schedule I saw that I was not required to do 4 Sets at all.  This week only required 3.  *headdesk*  😀 But I did it anyway, right?  RIGHT?

More Than Just Working Out

I decided to move ahead and do a light run on Monday.  With the family schedule getting jam-packed with the Otter Wife’s own training and schedule, I was unable to run until about two hours after dinner.  I’m glad I did because I was treated to an amazing sunset and some lovely evening weather.  It was a perfect time to be out!

SummerSunset

Tuesday morning, I woke up from sleeping on my right side and the soreness in my right hip had returned.  As the day rolled forward the stiffness stuck around.  It’s about a 3 on a 1-10 and more an annoyance than anything.  I made sure to get up from my desk at work about every 45 minutes to walk it out.  Luckily, Tuesday was a rest day and after forcing myself out to do something Monday I gladly kicked my feet up and chilled out last night.

As the family scrambled for coffee, breakfast and prep for the work day, a topic of discussion came up.  Maybe it goes without saying but my middle son is starting a workout/weight loss program for the first time.  A lot of this is new to him.  Getting healthy, and I mean going the whole route of exercise, diet and habit changes, requires a change of focus.  It  is so much more than just “working out.”

I think this is, ultimately, what bounces people off the path of getting fit.  It’s not the workout.  It’s everything else that comes along with it and what you have to sacrifice to do it!  If all I had to do was workout 45 minutes five days a week to be healthy, so what?  A little soreness, yeah.   A little exhaustion, alright.

However, in order to do it right, it’s much more.  You have to change your diet and your habits.  If at all possible, you need to shop mindfully as well as make your own meals.  This also includes lunch at work.  This takes time.  You also have to clean up after your cooking.  This takes time.  In the summer even a short thirty minute workout can drench me in sweat which tacks on a shower and clothing change to my day, sometimes twice a day if it’s bad outside.  That’s more time added.   In no time, that simple idea of a 45 minute workout can turn into almost 2 extra hours.  Now, you’re talking close to 10+ or more hours a week.  When you tack this onto a work day that often stretches to 9 or 10 hours (with prep for the day and travel and errands to and from), a need to get at least 7-8 hours sleep, and, well, you can see where this is going.

It’s not the workout.  The real discipline comes with all the things surrounding the workout.  That’s where the sacrifice comes in and can be tough to match if you have young kids or are, for instance, working two jobs.  It’s also a challenge if you are just in an entirely different life pattern or in a different habit of what you eat.  No more quick stops at the fast food joints!  Instead, it’s time in the grocery store, time in the kitchen, time in the gym.   You also cannot forget that buying solid, healthy food is more expensive.  Now, you have a time sink AND a money sink.

Sure, the number of push-ups, squats and miles running help strengthen you but it’s the recognition of the need to change habits, your thought patterns, and making sacrifices to them that get you moving in the right direction!

Today is my first big workout since the weekend.   The weather looks to be perfect and I am thinking of going to a nearby woods and lake to do it.  Give me that over a gym any day.

Is it weird I’m actually looking forward to it?

 

On The Envelope

I appear to be right on the edge of over-training.  I pumped through a great workout yesterday.  My left knee was bothering me a bit but it seemed to ease up ten minutes into the workout.  Several exercises, in particular the planks and bear crawls, I did to complete, muscle quivering exhaustion.  At the end, I found myself lying on my back, on the concrete, in the hot weekend sun with sweat pouring off of me and, oddly enough, feeling tired but good.  It took about fifteen minutes to get cooled down and after some food I started to feel much better.  In that time I stretched and eased myself down.  A few hours later I bent over to grab some clothes off the floor and felt what I thought was the beginning of a cramp in my lower back and hip.  It was just a light ping and I even laughed about it as I stopped, laid down and stretched it out.  No more than a 2 on the 1 – 10 scale.

An hour later some serious stiffness was starting to develop and it was going into the range of a 5.  I stretched some more and walked it out.  Ibuprofen helped.  This morning, it was not too bad.  A minor tightness that could very well feel better by this evening.  However, something else happened this morning or, I should say, didn’t happen.  Usually in the mornings I wake up and after a small bit I feel pretty good.  Since working out I usually feel pretty strong and confident in the morning.  I can feel the muscles and the sense of solidity.  This morning that feeling never showed up.  I felt weak and just kind of “blah.”   I know what that means and  I could almost hear the warning klaxon going off in my head.

During my high school years on the basketball team, I suffered a lot of injuries and exhaustion.  I remember nights where I lay in my room with aching joint pain unable to sleep or awoke at 3 in the morning with severe cramping.  At the time I thought it was just me and, I realize now, it caused some self-esteem issues.  I learned, in my college years after a sports physiology class and some martial arts, that as a fast growing 6’8″ basketball player, I had been over-trained and mis-trained by the coaching staff.  I had been growing too fast and some of the exercises they put us through, while fine for a normally growing teenager, were actually doing damage to my joints and body.  Hence, the injuries and exhaustion.  This got brought home to me this weekend during my high school reunion.  I was able to see some pics of me from the basketball team.  I also got to see pics of me on the junior high team.  I was surprised to see that in Junior High I had the initial beginnings of bulk and muscle.  When I looked at the later High School pics I was surprised to see myself as I remembered from that time, thin, stringy and no bulk.

Taken during a run.  Small plants growing in muddy tire ruts in a parking lot.  Tenacity and Zen rolled into one.

Taken during a run. Small plants growing in muddy tire ruts in a parking lot. Tenacity and Zen rolled into one.

Tomorrow is a rest day.  The question going through my head this morning is, “Do I push through a running day today, taking it easy, or do I go ahead and just take two days off for recovery?”   I would not call my hip “injured” at all.  The thought of calling it such makes me chuckle.  It’s just stiff.  It seems to warm up and do better through movement.  However, on a more general level, am I pushing myself too hard?  As much as I hate it I do need to be respectful of my age and my current level of conditioning.

I’m going to chew on it through the day and gauge the stiffness throughout the day.  An injury will piss me off more than I can describe right now.  At the same time, I don’t want to shy away from the hard work of simply stretching out a kinked muscle.  Depending on how I feel this evening it may or may not be Go Time.

I’ll keep you posted.

I also welcome any thoughts or bits of information on the matter!

Quick Edit — Since my muscle issue faded through the day, I did decide to do a workout today.  I did modify it into a light run.  It was perfect.  Afterwards, I felt good and was treated to an awesome sunset to boot!

 

Pushing Through

The first week of my Spartan workout is done and down.  Due to several factors including an intense work week and high heat with humidity, I was NOT up for the workout.  When Otter Wife asked after work if I wanted to go see Mr. Holmes (which I want to do very much) I replied, “I’ve got to do this workout first and I’m afraid if I wait till after the movie I just won’t do it.”  She replied, “Then you better go do your workout!”

This was the first time on this path I did not want to do it.  I was sore.  I was tired.  Inspiration was low.  It was humid and hot outside.  My energy, even after a quick and healthy snack, was near zero.  I knew the one thing that would get me going would be music so I strapped those shoes on my feet, got a bit of pre-workout water in me and powered up my phone’s Pandora station.

Five minutes of jogging for warmup and then squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, bear crawls and downward dogs for me!  Because I was wiped out, I opted for our apartment’s indoor facility and the treadmill.  However, once down there, my phone’s signal died for some reason (never had happened before) and I lost the safety net of my music.  Nooooooooo!  I looked around the Friday evening empty gym and decided it would not do.  I did the jog outside.  My knees were stiff, legs hurt and after two minutes in the heat I was already sweating.  What did I do?  I pushed through it.  Trust me, I was no epic image of running but I was moving.  A thunderstorm was rolling in to the north part of the county and I wished I could coax it, reach out to that dark gray cloud wall and pull it toward me.  I love running in thunderstorms.  The storm ignored me however and stayed away, deciding to taunt me for the rest of the evening with the occasional, slightly less than hellish wind gust.

With warm-up done, I headed back down into the other side of the gym for the calisthenics.  My shoulders and legs were still stiff but not as bad.  The gym continued to be empty.  I would be working alone.  Right as I got started, my music signal that had done an excellent job of boosting me through the running, cut out.  Once again, the signal was gone.  I fiddled with it but realized I was just distracting myself.   The only way I would get my music would be to go back outside.  I wanted that music but I really didn’t want the heat.  I was already zapped and the heat was not going to help.

“Screw it,” and I headed outside to be with my music and the heat.  It wasn’t until after the first full set of exercises that I started to feel some welcome endorphins.  By the second set, with sweat dripping into my eyes, the stiffness left but I was slowing down.  By the third set, I had perfectly arrived at complete muscle exhaustion and I learned a valuable lesson.

It’s not a good idea to push to muscle exhaustion while doing a plank on concrete.

I walked home a soggy, exhausted, tapped out mess.  Yet, as you may have guessed, I was smiling and happy.  I’d not given up and I’d not taken the easy road.  There is a positive feeling you get when you overcome those thoughts and emotions that might have kept you inside and away from discomfort.  It helps get you back on track and ready for the next day and the next and the next.

Yes, I had totally used my music as a crutch to get there.  It’s something I will need to work on in weeks to come.  For now,as I ramp up to my goals, it’s what I need.  There will come a time soon enough I’ll put the crutch aside and see how I do.

OnThePorchAs if it knew I was done, the storm I had hoped for finally arrived.  After cooling down, I went out to my front steps.  I sat there drinking it in, wiped out but happy.

This morning, as I write this, we are looking at a heat index of 105.   Today is a running day.   I really don’t want to run this morning.  I wanted to relax, write, enjoy my morning and then get the run in the evening.  Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.  I’ve got to go now.

As I was told a long time ago, “and that’s what separates the children from the adults.”

Apologies for any editing errors above, I’m kind of rushed.

Wish me luck!