Building Better Base Fitness, and Using the Gym While I Can

Shortly after the New Year began, I poked my head into my gym to see how they were handling Nevada’s 25% max capacity restrictions, and found that it was mostly business as usual. Because of this particular facility’s vast space, even with a crowd they don’t come close to capacity, so as long as some machines are shut off, as long as everyone is wearing masks and spaced apart, everything can proceed as normal.

I had been developing a home strength training plan during the preceding weeks with useful results (and I’ll share this at some point soon). But with my gym open and available, I’m taking advantage of the strength training and cross training equipment while it’s currently available.

After taking a few weeks off from training in December, I wanted to ramp back up into training. But I didn’t want to just run and run as I did in the past, as I found the demand of so much running led to me running slower than I liked or having to take more total days off from training.

I knew from the past year or two that I could comfortably cross train while ramping running back up, allowing me to quickly rebuild aerobic fitness and augment strength while my neuromuscular fitness developed more gradually.

While I’ve only been able to run a few miles every other day, and do some additional neighborhood walking… I’ve rode the spin bike at the gym every day, plus strength trained with full weights every other day.

The following quality workout day looks initially daunting:

  • 45 minutes on the spin bike
  • 16 minutes strength training (an abbreviated version of the 20 Minute Workout)
  • A 3.5 mile run back in the neighborhood
  • When reasonable and useful, a 1.3 mile walk around the neighborhood

That seems like a killer day on paper, especially when noting that everything other than the optional walk has typically been done before 12:00 noon.

However, my spin bike sessions are typically very easy, about 50-60% of my max heart rate. This is barely 45% of my VO2max, and some would argue it doesn’t even count as a workout. I’m basically just circulating blood and burning some fat. It’s slightly more aerobically demanding than a walk, and while brisk it’s almost relaxing at times.

My current strength training is basic foundational intensity, done at about 50% of my 1RM, and only 3 sets of 12 reps instead of the 4 sets of 6-12 reps I had previously been doing. I’m not looking to go hard on swolework until I have worked myself back into the swing of what I had previously been doing.

The run is still moderate in intensity as that’s my primary discipline. Because it’s a bit colder in the desert right now, I’m also doing these closer to midday to increase sun (and Vitamin D) exposure. But even with these runs I’ve been stopping for brief rests during the run to get my heart rate back down. At times my usual pace gets me into the lactate threshold, and I prefer to average a lower heart rate on these runs so sometimes (even though I can finish the run without stopping) I’ll stop and take 1-2 minutes to breathe and relax.

So even though technically I’m burning a number of calories and putting in hours akin to a longer run, these workouts are so light and broken out that I’m not exactly exhausted at the end of the day. A bit tired, sure. Somewhat sore at times, sure. But I’ve stuck to this schedule voluntarily and not needed to take any total days off from training.

My eventual plan is to be able to run everyday if needed, to the ability to run at least 3 miles a day. A training regiment like this helps fast-track me, because I can accelerate the aerobic rebuild and augment the neuromusuclar rebuild with the strength training. The run itself is not all that demanding, and yet all the cross training effectively builds upon the running without overloading my training volume.

As for nutrition, I’ve actually been eating quite a bit, and improved consistency with eating healthy, whole foods rich with necessary nutrients. If anything, adding a few pounds during the layoff indicates I’m getting enough to eat without any adjustments. And so far, so good, on managing appetite and meals as I resumed this regular training.

There are no races to train for right now, and as I mentioned before I have no intention of training for any races. However, I do want to improve my base level of fitness in a sustainable fashion in 2021. This would allow for a shorter training curve when I can once again train for a goal race, a concept from Primal Endurance that I can get into later.

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