Building A Better Self: July 2021 Edition

I not only finished Friday with 34 miles this week, with this weekend and a long run workout still to come (after 36 miles last week), but I did so despite insomnia on Thursday night and my air conditioner problem messing with my sleep earlier this week.

While obviously tired, I didn’t feel burned out, and I had the energy in me to pump out 30-45 minute training workouts on the treadmill after work, AND run 1K-2K on all my work breaks (except only for Thursday afternoon, which I walked). I played everything by ear and was willing to bail on any of the above if I simply didn’t feel well enough to do it.

But I did all of the above. No stimulants (outside of the same 12 oz of coffee I have had every morning for years and years), no crutches, no supplements I hadn’t already been taking for a while. Even now, other than understandable general fatigue (and yes I got decent sleep last night), I feel okay.

How am I doing this? I haven’t taken a complete day off from training since June 23 (10 days ago)

There’s a few new things I’m consistently doing. Some regular readers already know about, but some things not as much:

  • Stricter post workout recovery nutrition. I used to only get aggressive with post workout nutrition after tougher workouts: Long runs, speedwork, anything where I got particularly worn out. Now, I make a point to fuel as soon as I can after most workouts. I also, instead of just eating a meal of what happens to be available, I’m making sure this fuel are things like protein shakes, fruit, eggs, lean meat, whole food vegetables or starches. I drink water, at least 8 oz whether or not I’m thirsty. If I’m in reach of supplements like Hammer’s Mito Caps, I also take one of those.
  • More consistent leg strength work. Previously I was careful and admittedly more occasional about weight bearing leg exercise like lunges or squats. This was largely because I’d feel sore after doing these for a couple days afterward. Now I’m doing them whenever I strength train, and with the other steps I’m not feeling sore or stiff in the days after these workouts. I’m doing a lot of goblet squats and…
  • … ATG split squats. The Athletic Truth Group (ATG) have devised a training system that has rehabilitated hundreds of people with blown out knees and helped people develop resilient durability and strength in their lower bodies. One of their signature exercises is the ATG Split Squat, which is as much a very deep lunge as it is a squat. In the progression of this exercise you lunge far enough for your hamstring and calf to come together end to end, and the end result over time is greater strength in both those muscles as well as your knee tendons. ATG claims this “bulletproofs” your knees by making the surrounding muscles and tendons much stronger. Can’t say I can argue with that.

(A good resource for ATG’s work is a now-famous YouTuber who goes by the handle “kneesovertoesguy”. Worth a look.)

  • Strength training with more consistency but less volume. When I previously strength trained I would go heavy and make sure to do 4 sets of muscle group exercises. Now that I’m running a lot more, I dial back the weight to a challenging but nowhere near max weight, and for some exercises (like the leg exercises) I may only do 2 sets and couple them with different exercises for that muscle group. I still strength train 2-3 times a week but now the training is more balanced and not as intense.
  • More running, obviously. Running shorter distances multiple times everyday not only provides extra practice but builds in extra recovery between the miles, and gives more room for gradual supercompensation. It’s made my running muscles stronger and more resilient. I can take more of a pounding, and that reduces the amount of soreness I feel while increasing the work I can do when fatigued. Also, not to mention, it adds extra mileage bit by bit in addition to my full training workouts. I probably log about 15 extra miles a week just jogging out my work breaks.
  • More stuff in small pants pockets. While this is a weird one, realize on work break runs I’m in my slacks, and I don’t remove stuff from my pockets. For some reason, more pants nowadays have smaller pockets, and this means to avoid stuff falling from those pockets onto the ground… I need to stand up straighter, with better posture. Incidentally, this is closer to the posture I need to run with. It better engages my core muscles, and while I have to slow down a bit, the running in itself feels easier because I’m more balanced and various muscle groups are compensating less. This has gradually chiseled away at better form and balance in my running.
  • “Red” Light Therapy. Planet Fitness has what they call “Total Body Enhancement”, a light therapy machine named the Beauty Angel that over 12 minutes bathes you in a non-UV white light (which technically is still “red” light though you can’t see the red) that supposedly has healing properties. There is also a vibrating floor-plate function that purports to provide a workout but I’ve found gives more of a lower body standing massage effect. However, after deciding in the last couple months to use this Total Body Enhancement more I’ve found that I’m recovering a lot better. Perhaps there’s something real to it? Or maybe the 12 minutes of relaxing in a wash of white light and at times standing on a vibrating plate just helps with cooldown? Either way, I’ve noticed a benefit, and I’ve noticed I do feel wearier and even a tad sore after workout days when I don’t use it. So I’m going to give it credence and give it credit. There’s written material out there vouching for red light therapy (like this) if you want to do some research.

All of this put together has helped, though don’t think I still don’t have room for improvement. Some workouts are still a struggle. I still don’t run as fast at easy pace as I believe I still can (and yes, the cumulative fatigue and extreme desert heat is part of that). I’m still currently struggling to run long (I’ve only topped 10 miles twice since the start of the year). My diet can always use some improvement, and obviously my sleep for all sorts of confounding reasons is far from on point right now.

But all of the above has helped me quite a bit, and hopefully once we get to the other side of Vegas summer and it begins to cool down, I’ll start to see more results in addition to what I’ve seen so far.

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