Friday, December 31, 2010

december: out with a bang

Let's take a look back...

December Goals
Finish the Jingle All The Way 10K under 1:05 (more on this later). Smashed it, with a new PR to boot.
Stop living off of noodles, tomato sauce, and cheese.  Eat a vegetable, for crying out loud. Semi-success - lots more fruits, some more veggies.
Keep planning the workout dates. (Anyone?) Looking back, I actually had lots of workout dates - mostly running.  Who wants to go lifting?
Do some Christmasy things in DC I've never done before. Done!
Work up to 20 mpw.  Don't stress about pace. Finishing the month at 18 mpw, 24-26 mpw including pool miles.
Finish the swim in Key West without having a giant anxiety attack because of a fish. Finished solidly, albeit much slower than I'd hoped.
Buy some new dress clothes and DON'T RETURN THEM. I have not yet returned the Target dress pants.  WIN.
Maybe - MAYBE - try to not eat 45 cupcakes this month.  Maybe.  Maybe indeed.

I think it's pretty fair to call December a month off from training.  I continued to ramp up the running, but I took more rest days than usual, and spent much more time eating & drinking than I have in a while.  I kicked off the month with a vacation to Key West with some awesome friends, and then was welcomed home to a new puppy, Molly.  I was fortunate enough to be paced to a strong 10K PR, my goal comeback race.  I spent my recovery time trying to prevent the house from being destroyed, and worked out with CAR for the first time.  I mapped out the training plan that will hopefully get me to the starting line of a 13.1 for the first time in my life.  I decided after the trainer party to take the month of December off from cycling in a bid to let my twiggy knee thing heal, which I think it just about has.  I'm still having weird tightness in my piriformis/glute, but I'm on the attack.

But more importantly, I had lunch and dinner and drinks and more lunches and more drinks with friends, taking the time in the holiday season to set aside OCD worries about what 1 or 2 or 3 glasses of wine or an extra cupcake will do to my waistline and instead enjoy the time we had together.  And I had no problem taking this time off - skipping a lifting session to have dinner with an old friend that is in town, or sleeping in after 2 martinis with the boys.  I don't think that my training actually suffered from my temporary laziness, or that I was affected in a permanent way.  I do know that when January 5th rolls around, I will be chomping at the bit of that training plan, ready to roll.  

I'm not one that sets resolutions, per se, because I like to have shorter-term goals than that.  But when 2009 closed out - the kind of year where I spent most of my time gritting my teeth and blindly rutting forward, waiting for life to cut me just a little bit of slack - I did take the time to write down some goals I wanted to achieve in 2010.  I sent them to myself in an email that has been in my inbox all year.  
I think it's safe to call 2010 a major success.

Miles run: 84, 13 of those in the pool.
Miles cycled: 0
Rest days: 5, including today.
Secret weddings arranged: 1
Sympathetic butt injuries (thanks, you two): 1
Weeks left of school: 8
Number of times I've said the word "NO" to Molly: 2349823
Massive hangovers: 1

January Goals
Go easy on yourself at the beginning of this training cycle.  Remember to breathe.
Only make lasagna once.  Okay, twice.
Swim at least once a week.
Pool run at least once a week.
Try & cook the spaghetti squash.
Break 100 running miles for the month.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

three things thursday

1. Butt.  Ow.

2. Stress.

3. Champagne.  Tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a year in races

What better to follow a year in photos than a year in races?

I kicked off last year with the Fairfax 4 Miler - my first day of running in almost 8 months - on New Years Eve.  (Yes, I know New Years Eve was in 2009, hush, I make the rules).  We filled our water bottles with vodka (not a good idea, it makes you very slow) and headed out into the pouring sleet for a very definite personal worst.
12/31/2009 - Fairfax 4 Miler - 51:51

Next up was the rescheduled Love the Run You're With 5K.  I'd been very slowly returning to running and just wanted to break 35 minutes and not feel any lingering stress fracture pain in my foot.  It was also the poet's first race.
2/28/2010 - LTRYW 5K - 33:17

Excited by how good I felt in this race, I started to stack things up (this is called foreshadowing).  I ran my first-post-injury 6.5 mile run in Bloomington, IN, about a week before the 4 Courts 4 Miler.  I wasn't trying to race this one, just running for the free beer.  This hill is a bitch on the way back.
3/13/2010 - 4 Courts 4 Miler - 44:31

I had shoulder surgery a few weeks later, and made the devastating decision to try and train for the CB10M in about 6 days time.  I signed up for the Crystal City 5K's but only managed to run one of them (with a MASSIVELY swollen right arm post-surgery), limping from IT band pain the entire way.

I launched into a self-designed, and then PT-designed rehab program after this race which last several months.  My next race back was a sprint triathlon - the 14.08.

After a moderately successful walk/run during the tri, I signed up for a 5K to see how things were going.  I was also getting pretty close to the end of my patience with injury.  I picked the Crystal City Twilighter 5K on one of the hottest nights of the summer.  I struggled the whole way.

After running this 5K, some running friends decided to put together a meet-up at a 5K the following weekend.  I decided, over a pre-race beer the night before, to go after my PR.  Miracles abound - I PR'd.

Cycling took over for a few weeks as I got myself ready for the Reston Century, an unplanned 107 miles.

Inspired by my recent PR, I tried to walk/run 4 miles on the treadmill a few weeks later, and everything fell apart.  I got myself scheduled for surgery and hunkered down into recovery.  My first trip back out was for the Great Pumpkin Ride (44M), a day that started off freezing and ended up incredibly pleasant.

As I worked my way through recovery, I decided to sign up to walk/run some road races, if for no other reason than to get off the treadmill for a while.  No times goals, just listening to my body.  And these were all great races - time spent running with friends, enjoying being outside again.

Due to all the swimming I was doing during rehab, I signed myself up for the swim leg of a triathlon relay.  It was a great getting-over-my-fears kind of experience for me, and prepared me for hopefully many more open water swims.  Maybe with less panicking and backstroke.

And finally, my goal comeback race, the Jingle All The Way 10K.  Desperately trying to balance not coming back too soon and wanting to run strong.  The result?  A massive PR.

What's up for next year?  That's another post altogether (thank goodness, this one is long enough).  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

a year in photos & weekly wrap

I have shamelessly stolen this idea from Liz, who shamelessly stole it from someone else, which, I think, is how bloggers survive in the wilderness.
A weekend in Vegas.
The big snow.
I go back to Bloomington.
Graham grew out of his puppy-ness.
We visited Albuquerque.
We think shaving Graham is a good idea (it's not).
One of many, many summer nights with friends.
Graham learns to swim.
I have surgery.
I am surprised.
The Eagles tear it up.

Molly comes home.

Weekly wrap:
Monday: 55 minutes lifting (legs), 40 minutes/2000 yard swim
Tuesday: 55 minutes lifting (arms/chest/back), 40 minutes/4.25M run
Wednesday: 65 minutes lifting (L), 70 minutes/7M pool run
Thursday: 65 minutes lifting (a/c/b, then at PT), 20 minutes/2.25M elliptical, 20 minutes/2.2M run 
Friday: 60 minutes lifting (L), 35 minutes/4.05M tempo run
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 50 minutes lifting (a/c/b), 64 minutes/6.75M run

Also - MPW: 17.25 land + 7 pool run = 24.25.  I'm getting there!

Monday, December 27, 2010

a very merry

I hope everyone had a wonderful and relaxing weekend!

We spent Friday night first going to church for Christmas Eve services, and then off to P.F. Chang's to fulfill the poet's Christmas wish - to eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve.  Ah well, it was delicious!  We also attempted to get everyone to sit still for just freaking two seconds to take a picture, but this is as close as we got.  Graham can barely breathe and Molly is about to make a lunge for freedom.
Saturday morning we slept in pretty late (almost 8am!) and then got up for the big present-opening event.  Molly got a pink pig.
 Graham got a moo cow.
And then they spent the rest of the day fighting over each other's toys, in the spirit of family Christmas everywhere.
The poet and I went easy on the gifts this year for a variety of reasons, but I did get him some warm running clothes so now he has no excuse not to suck it up & tough it out.  He surprised me by registering me for the Pacers Spring Fast Pass, which registers for me for the two races on my calendar already, plus seven more (those darn Crystal City 5Ks!).  So now my spring weekends in April are almost completely booked - even more reason to take it easy in January and do everything I can to stay healthy.

I made a huge lasagna for our Christmas dinner, which we ate and then promptly took multiple-hour Christmas naps.
When we woke up, we finished off National Lampoon's Christmas vacation while drinking hot cocoa and working our way through my last failed cookie cake.  It was a relaxing, happy, peaceful Christmas.  I hope everyone out there was able to spend time with their loved ones and celebrate!

Friday, December 24, 2010

happy holidays!

Happy Holidays, blog friends!  May your holidays be filled with joy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

three things thursday

1. PEOPLE!  I will take a rest day!  

2. Due to work schedules, new puppies, and a seriously low tolerance for traffic, we aren't traveling for the holidays this year. Which likely marks the first time in 12 years that I haven't spent a significant amount of time either in a car or an airport (or both) in order to celebrate Christmas.  I almost don't know what to do with myself.  We have big plans to stay in our pjs all day, cook a big dinner, and just generally relax and enjoy the holiday.

3. I've been thinking, this month, about how different my life was a year ago.  Every once in a while I get a glimpse back, and almost everything has changed - for the better.  And for that, I am thankful.

Happy Holidays.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

wordless wednesday

Maybe the most amazing race shot ever.

Caption contest time!  The most hilarious comment (it must make me spit hot tea on my desk) will get a running-related surprise in the mail!  I like things that make me laugh and you guys love free stuff.  Could be Gu, socks, chomps, bloks, who knows?  Ready, go!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

national half marathon: training plan

So, amidst spluttering about my inability to read, I signed up for the National Half.  Over the weekend, I worked out a training plan, and after much input from my awesome running moms girls, I think it's final.  Final but very flexible.
(click on it to make it much, much larger!)

Many notes:
You'll notice I've laid out mileage, but not pacing.  My only goal for this race is to get to the starting line healthy.  That's it.  I'll probably have rough time goals in my head as I get closer, but I am not setting any at the outset.  Mileage is what's important, not pacing.  I've also left a pretty big spread each week on milage, to give myself the ability to do a little more if I'm feeling good, or shut it down if I'm feeling rough.  As long as I hit somewhere in the weekly range I've targeted, I'll be happy.  I plan on doing track and tempo workouts "light" for much of the first month, because I know the increased intensity is going to wipe me out for a while.  But otherwise, the first 3 weeks of the plan look pretty close to what I'm doing right now.

I don't have a lot of rest days built into the schedule.  I've left room, though, to take off Monday, Wednesday, or Friday as needed throughout.  I love swimming on Monday as a recovery from the weekend, and I think it's unlikely that I'll rest instead of pool run, but Friday will probably turn into a rest day more often than not, and that's okay.  I'm also still planning on lifting 4 days a week - only because my body is so used to it - but if I start to become overly fatigued, I'll cut back or leave out entirely some of the lifting.  And - as I said yesterday - yoga will definitely be in there, but I'm not going to plan when or how much, I'm just going to do what my body asks for as I trundle along.

I've got two tune-up races laid out - the LTRYW 5K on February 13th, and the 4 Courts 4 Miler on March 12th.  The 5K I'll race flat-out, but the 4M I'll decide day-of whether I'm going to race it or just wedge it between the rest of the miles for the day.  I also may run it as a recovery run, and do the long run the following day, depending on how I'm feeling that week.  

And, I just realized as I'm looking at this, we're going on vacation January 3-5.  So I'll probably take all 3 days completely off so I can come back rested and ready to rip a great big hole in this training plan.

Any input or advice?  Snarky comments about how much I LOVE COLORS!?  More thoughts about my purple toes?  Let me have it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

lots of odds & ends! (& weekly wrap)

I'm not sure what happened, or why I wasn't paying very close attention, but we are deep in winter.  What happened to fall?  I do love winter, though.  Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I did a lot of things this weekend that I only get to do near the holidays.  Friday evening I went to see the NSO put on "Messiah."  It was fantastic, and if baking 850lbs of baked goods last weekend and burning Christmas candles hadn't gotten me in the holiday spirit, this most definitely did.  Saturday brought swimming and napping and Christmas parties galore.  And Sunday morning brought one of my favorite things: running outside in the crisp cold morning (it truly is one of my favorite things, despite my bitching).  The only thing missing was the text-message-renegotiations on what time we were meeting, as I ran with CAR for the first time.  6 easy miles that felt harder than they should have, with the Egyptian-Magician-approved 2 minutes of walking sprinkled in every 2 miles or so.  Icing on the cake?  My darling Eagles score 782 points in 18 seconds, winning the game to stay first in the league.  

Last Thursday marked 13 weeks post-surgery and tomorrow will mark the 7th week of running.  I've returned pretty slowly.  My first week started at 8 mpw.  I've added 1-2 miles per week, but I've also been cutting back on the walking, therefore increasing the intensity as well.  This week I clocked out at 17.7 miles, plus 6 in the pool.  That puts me in good shape for my goal of being at 20 mpw by Jan 1.  My legs are definitely feeling the slow-but-steady increase, but I'm hopeful that it's just an adjustment period.  I also am going to switch to running 4 days a week instead of 3, because it's starting to get tough to get the mileage in that I want over only 3 days of running.  I'm going to keep doing every other day, except will add an easy day after the longer-run day.  And I am very aware that I'm probably being overly careful and thinking about this way too much, but I desperately want a healthy season.  

But while I've been super careful about the running, I've been slacking on the other things - namely, the foam roller and the ice.  I took an ice bath after my longer run last week, but haven't managed another one since, and didn't ice after running yesterday.  Last night I had my first foam-rolling tennis-balling session in quite a while, and it was teeth-clenchingly, eye-wateringly painful.  I need to be doing that every night - and after a few days, I know that it will feel amazing.  Suck it up, self.  This is the easy stuff.

I found a yoga class that I like, and I've been trying to plan the first month ($50 unlimited) for a time when I can maximize it, but I think I just need to suck it up and go.  As long as I go more than 3 times, it's worth it, so I shouldn't stress about being out of town for 3 days during my intro month.  Although I probably shouldn't go until my disgusting knee heals, as I can't kneel down on that side because I'm still bruised.

And, one gross question.  What causes this?  
Please don't say "shoes that are too small" because a) I wear running shoes a half-size larger than my regular shoes already and b) I bought 2 more pairs of the 2150's when they were on sale at Sports Authority and threw out the receipt.

And finally....the weekly wrap.  It's been a few weeks since I've posted one (oops).
Monday: 1:10 lifting (legs), 35 minutes/1500 yards recovery swim
Tuesday: 40 minutes lifting (arms/chest/back), 32 minutes/3.4M run, 20 minutes/2.2M elliptical
Wednesday: 60 minutes lifting (L), 20 minutes/2.25M elliptical
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 50 minutes lifting (a/c/b), 1:18/8.3M run (in 2 sessions, one at PT), 60 minutes/6M pool run
Saturday: 40 minutes/2100 yards swim
Sunday: 58 minutes/6M run

Friday, December 17, 2010

things about running

So.  The verdict of the Egyptian Magician is that I ramped up the intensity a tiny bit too much over the past two weeks, which has pissed off my piriformis (Latin for "pear-shaped" - thanks a lot).  Anyhow, a few elbow-to-the-butt beatings, some stretching, and some time riding the baseball should leave me good as new.  In thinking about it, I did ramp it up a bit too quickly.  My mileage did not increase, but I dropped out some of the walking.  The week before the 10K, I went from walk 2 run 8 to walk 2 run 20, and there was a 3-mile run and a 2-mile run without any walking at all.  That plus the all-out effort in the 10K has resulted in a pain in my ass.  So I'm going back to the walk/run for the next few weeks - which I had actually done anyhow.  This morning I did walk 2 run 10, and while my legs still feel heavy from the 10K, everything else felt decent.  

I also finally got back in the pool this morning for some pool running with Amy, although my legs were trashed after a combined gym TM + PT running total of 8.5 miles PLUS a PT beating.  However, I took it very slow and easy in the pool, and actually felt better when I got out than when I got in.  

And finally, my IT band has been quiet as a mouse.  The scar is still lumpy and gets destroyed at PT (ow), but feels fine while running.  I do believe that it is causing my tight hip flexor issues, but I can run.  I am running, and it doesn't bother me at all.  Which is a reassurance for me - as if I still needed it - that surgery was absolutely the right call for me.  Let there be peace.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

three things thursday

1. The ouchie butt pain I felt on Sunday, both pre- and post-race, is still around.  I think I might have bruised something when I ate sidewalk last week, but it feels like the top end of my IT band is yanking on my glute pretty hard.  It feels good to stretch and it's definitely a little better each day, but something is kinda sorta of not right.  I'm in to see the Egyptian Magician tomorrow, so hopefully it's just a tiny sore place that he can beat to death and it will then go away.  

2. I keep telling myself that I know that I'm a badass, therefore, I don't need to go outside and run in the cold to prove it.  Dear Self, you are being a giant wimp.  GO OUTSIDE.  Two years ago I spent most of the winter shaming someone else into running outside ("It's not that cold!" "It's not snowing that hard!" "We'll only do eight ten miles!").  Folks, bring on the shame.  

3. I bought a mint chocolate candle yesterday.  It makes my life better.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

and then there were two

We've now had Molly home for a week.  Life is pretty different.  All of our days are sponsored by the word, "NO," as we try and train her to NOT put everything she sees in her mouth.  She's 12 weeks old, which is much older than G was when we brought him home at 7 weeks.  Some things are easier - she's already been started on crate training, so she doesn't cry throughout the entire night.  She'll whimper for a few minutes, but then goes to sleep.  It also means that she can go a little longer without needing to go outside, so I'm not stressed about going to the gym and running to the store and her having an accident in her crate after being left in there for 2 hours.  She had a few accidents in the house the first couple of days, but now I think she's learned how to tell us that she needs to go out.
However, she's totally different than Graham was.  Graham was pretty quiet and timid about exploring his new environment, and while he gets excited when people come in the house, he's generally pretty laid-back.  And he's always been shy around other dogs.  Molly is the opposite.  She is fearless and funny and brave.  She's already been caught leaping off the back of the couch, although she has stopped trying to climb the Christmas tree.  She has no problem running up to Graham and taking a toy right out of his mouth.  She'll growl and bark at him if he tries to get it back, which he is doing more and more.  So much of this past week has been playing referee as they learn how to coexist.  We can tell that they already love each other, though.  If Graham goes outside, Molly will run around and look for him.  And when we crate Molly, Graham will lay down in the dining room and watch the crate.  Tails have been wagging nonstop.  
All in all, I think it was the right decision for us, and I'm starting to realize that there is no perfect time to bring another dog home.  But when I saw Molly for the first time, I knew.  She was the one.  Our family is complete.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jingle All The Way 10K: race report

When I started running again on October 26th, I had no idea what my fall/winter was going to look like.  But I targeted the Jingle All The Way 10K as my "comeback" race.  At the time, I had no idea how my running would be going, so I simply hoped to be able to start and finish pain-free.  When I bought my first pair of post-surgery running shoes, I picked up a JATW10K postcard at Pacers, and it's been sitting on my bedside table ever since.  A daily reminder of what I was working towards.
As I've built up over the past 7 weeks, various goals have come and gone.  As my running progressed, the soft time goals in my head kept dropping.  1:20.  1:10.  1:05.  And finally, 56:59, to solidly PR.  The universe laughs.

I had probably one of the worst run-ups to a race I've ever had.  On Friday, I grudgingly headed out into the cold to run 2 little miles, just to shake things out.  My HR was high.  I was coughing.  Tired.  Had a stitch in my side.  Who knew 2 miles could be so long?  And then finally, heading up a tiny hill, my shoelace got caught on a tree branch and threw me - hard - at the ground.  Road rash on both palms.  A nasty gash on my knee, ripping through the fabric of my too-expensive CW-X tights.  And - as I discovered later - huge bruises on both knees, as well as my right hip.  I limped home, dripping blood on the sidewalk and cursing.

Saturday morning I woke up incredibly sore from my sidewalk tumble.  So I decided to skip the swim I had planned and instead spent all day baking - and tasting - peppermint cupcakes, chocolate chip peanut butter mint cookie cake, and Christmas-decorated butter cookies with a friend.  The poet finished school on Saturday, so we went out to the Melting Pot to celebrate, where I had bread and cheese and marshmallows and chocolate and carmel and cheesecake and - without thinking - a martini.  I drank several glasses of water and we got to bed early, but at that point I basically stopped mentally planning a PR.  Oh - and the forecast - 44ยบ and rain.  

I woke up about 2 hours before my alarm to a dull pain in my lower back.  I tossed and turned until the alarm went off, and when I went in the bathroom to get ready, discovered the reason for my lower back pain.  Fantastic.  I got dressed anyway, kissed my babies, and we left.
I met up with Amy to get my number, we parked 384 blocks away, and headed to the start.  The poet was kind enough to come spectate, and let me wear his jacket and carry his umbrella as we walked to the start.  By the time we got there, I had to pee.  Liz came and got her number and waited for me, and I was next in line to pee when we heard, "GO!" and everyone started.
So I jumped out of line, we worked our way around to the start, and went.  Liz was kind enough to start with me, and I was just planning on hanging with her as long as I could.  My rough plan was to start around 9:15 pace and work my way down from there.  We chatted through the first couple miles, and while I felt like we were running a bit fast, it was still a pretty comfortable pace.  I was trying not to Garmin-watch, but I glanced down at the 3-mile mark and was pretty happy to see 25:xx.  I felt Liz pick up the pace at the turn-around, after declaring that she was going to run me to my PR and, "not let me wimp out!"  Friends are good. 

I started to feel the pace, though, and put my headphones in around this point for an extra push.  I know that running a 10K is about feeling extremely miserable during the last half, so I just tried to keep running and not think about it too much.  Between miles 4-5, my hip flexors started to burn like crazy.  When we passed the 5 mile mark, I looked down and saw 45:xx and knew I was going to PR.  I tried to pick up the pace even more, but I was out of gas.  I got a wad of snot stuck in the back of my throat, and didn't have any energy to hork it out, so instead I just grunted like an elephant for most of the last mile.  When we came over the little bridge and onto Ohio Drive, Liz picked it up even more (wench, I've been chasing you for 6 miles), and I just yelled, "OWWWWW."  A bunch of people laughed.  Losers.

As we were coming into the finish, I was watching for the poet.  I finally saw him just before the finish, bent over, fiddling with his umbrella.  Um, you're supposed to be race photographer extraordinaire!?  I yelled his name and he looked over, surprised.  He caught this shot:
I'm in the white top, black pants.
He had set a timer on his phone when I crossed the start line, and knew I was trying to get into the 56:xx range.  The reason he almost missed me?
OWWWWW is right.  I busted a big hole in that daggone PR.
Get it?  53!  Snerk snerk snerk.  Also, our hair looks amazing.

As soon as I stopped running, my calves and quads tightened up quite a bit.  We grabbed some water and chatted for a minute, but it was freezing cold and I was soaked, so we headed back to the car.  I made the brilliant decision to take an ice bath when I got home, but I only lasted for 8-9 minutes before giving up and turning on the hot shower.  I took a very long nap, and then spent the rest of the day with a completely upset stomach.  Ginger ale, bread, maybe a cupcake, then more ginger ale and bread.  I honestly don't care if my stomach is angry after a race, as long as it behaves - which it always has - during.

So, a few things to mull over.  This hurt like a bitch, but it's supposed to.  I felt good enough to chat my way through the first half, which is a big step - being able to chat through three 8:44 miles without a break.  I didn't walk at any point.  I slowed down at both water stops just a tad, but no walking.  I did stop once to tie my shoe, in mile 2 (stupid jingle bell).  When I was done, I had absolutely nothing left in the tank - a feeling that I haven't had probably since the 4-miler I ran last March.  It's a good feeling.  I was - and still am - incredibly sore and am limping around like a gramma, but hopefully the swim I did this morning (and the hot tub time after) will help loosen things up.  I don't think I injured myself, I just think I ran pretty hard for a long time and I haven't done that in months.

Looking at the numbers... I don't want to analyze things to death, but I do know that my 5K PR is about to take a hit.  My second-half 5K split was a 25:49, which is both faster than my official 5K PR and my unofficial 5K PR.  Also, this race is based on 7 weeks of walk/running - no speedwork, no tempo runs - and tons of cross-training, all of which I am going to keep up.  The next few weeks will go back to rocking the walk/run, and I'm going to be so careful about everything that is sore and hurting right now, but I feel like I can finally say: I'm back.  I am on my way back.  And it feels so good.

Friday, December 10, 2010

things I know about lifting

Lately, I've gotten quite a few questions about the lifting that I do.  I realized that I was just typing the same thing over and over.  Instant blog post, just add water and hit publish!

Lots of disclaimers, first.  I am not certified or licensed or anything like that.  I have not studied lifting.  What I don't know about lifting would make a much longer post than what I do.  Over the past 4-5 years, I've been in physical therapy quite a few times due to injury.  From that, plus some reading online, plus some working out with friends, plus an occasional workout with a trainer I've put together a lifting rotation that works for me.  Every body is different and requires different exercises and routines to make things work right.  I am constantly tweaking this based on how my body responds.  When I have questions, I ask my PT or someone at the gym or I look it up online.  If you print this out and take it to the gym and follow it step-by-step with no modifications for your own body and level of fitness, you will almost certainly be struck by lightening and drop dead.  

A few other notes.  I have broken up my lifting into two days - a legs day and an arms/chest/back day.  However, I do core exercises on both days.  I try to pair the things I'm lifting in opposition with whatever cardio I am doing.  If I am running that day, I will lift a/c/b.  If I am swimming, I will lift legs.  It doesn't always work out that way, but when I am mentally planning my week, that is my goal.  Post-surgery, I was lifting 6-7 days a week for an hour because there wasn't a lot of cardio I could do, and I couldn't mentally handle swimming every day.  As I've added cycling, then running back into the mix, it's pretty seriously affected my energy levels, so I dropped down to 4-5 days a week of lifting, 45-60 minute sessions.  When I'm in a more serious running or cycling program (cough National Half cough), I think I may even drop it down to 2 days a week, or I'll do shorter sessions 4-5 days a week, depending on how I feel.  I think that there are pretty serious benefits to be found from lifting even one day a week, and there is an endless amount of ways to put together a lifting program.  If you are lifting for the first time, I loudly and strongly advocate signing up for a few sessions with a trainer so you don't tear something or drop a barbell on your head or break your neck.  It's very easy to hurt yourself if you don't know what you are doing, and proper form is crucial.  

Okay, so now that I'm done saying everything I need to say to avoid getting sued: lifting.  Both days are broken into two sections: a free weight/body weight section and a machine section, roughly 20-30 minutes each.  Most of the free weight exercises have come from being in PT, and are designed to target certain weakness, as well as my core & little stabilizers.  Here's what yesterday's legs workout looked like:
It took me 55 minutes to do this.  When I first started, it took me a lot longer because I was really focusing on form (I still am, but my body has the muscle memory now).  The first half, I do as a mini-circuit, with no rest.  I alternate the first two sets of Bosu squats.  I put a set of 50 crunches in between every set of side lifts and windshield wipers.  I put a plank in between every set of donkey kicks.  The second half (where the weights come in), I allow 60-90 seconds of rest between sets.  I never raise the weight on more than 2-3 exercises per week, and when I do, I generally raise it by the minimum available (usually 5lbs).  I do 3 sets of 12-20 reps because I am not trying to grow Hulk muscles, I am trying to be flexible and strong - and there is an infinite amount of discussion among lifters about how many sets/reps to do and for what purpose.  This is just what I believe is true and works for my body.  Occasionally I'll throw in a day of 4x6-8 reps of a much higher weight on the machines, but I haven't noticed it making a difference in how I feel or progress.  Other people may see a big difference.  As the people who know me in real life can see, this has not made me super ripped.  But I feel strong.

For those of you that may have been living under a rock for the past 8 months, I have IT band problems that are linked to weak/tight hip flexors, which are likely linked to weak/tight glutes and adductors.  I also have left/right imbalance issues due to various surgeries and injuries, which is why I have so many exercises in here that target using one leg at a time (all the squats are single leg except the second set, also side lifts, donkey kicks, windshield wipers, all of the cable exercises, and single leg press).  I have monster quads and calves that need no encouragement, so while many of these exercises target quads & calves secondarily, I don't do much quad or calf work at all.  Also, while my core is activated during almost every single set, I still do crunches and planks to target little core muscles.  I hate planks more than anything on earth, but I do them every day that I lift because I'd like to run again someday.

This is what my arms/chest/back workout looked like this morning:
Again, the first 6 exercises are free weights and are done as a circuit with no rest.  When I started lifting after my shoulder surgery this spring, I was doing 2x10 chest press, pec fly, and vertical row - all with no weight.  And that's it.  I've worked up from there.  I discovered this summer that I was still having shoulder problems (weak lats and a funky rotator cuff), so my PT added in all of the cable work, some of the rows, and the shoulder swings.  I do roman chair work between the pec flys/rear delts, I do the planks and some of the cable work during machine rest.  

I have a bigger spreadsheet that is the sum total of my lifting, and I add and remove as my body changes.  My twiggy knee thing is preventing me from doing lunges, so those aren't in the rotation right now.  I pulled one of my triceps just the tiniest bit last week, so some of the tricep work isn't in the rotation right now.  And on and on.  As with anything, the most important thing is listening to my body and being constantly reactive.  Sometimes I get to the gym and only do the body work weights.  Sometimes I'm feeling great and I add in a lot more core work.  I generally lift on the weekdays - both because I try and do my longer rides/runs/swims on the weekend and because my gym is kind of obnoxious on Saturdays and Sundays.  If I have a ride or race coming up, I'll adjust my lifting the week before and generally leave it out the 2-3 days leading up to the event.

Here's a copy of the big spreadsheet.  The exercises in the rotation right now are marked with day 1 or 2.  The names of things are generally what my PT calls them - you can google the name or just email me and ask if you can't figure something out.  I'd love to hear about the lifting that everyone else does, and if you have any questions, please ask!  If this is too hard to read, drop me an email and I'll send you the actual spreadsheet.