Author Archives: Steven Gomez

A 30 Day (Swolework) Challenge

This past month I decided to do, and completed, a 30 Day Swolework Challenge.

Why? I like doing research, so in late June I acquired and read AJAC’s Shred30 program. Shred30’s premise is for bodybuilders to train one muscle group every single day for a month (typically in final prep for a bodybuilding competition). While tough for even serious bodybuilders to do, the extra work improves the strength, definition and density of muscles.

Obviously, I’m no bodybuilder, not even close. I’m an endurance athlete, and usually strength train with a 15-20 minute whole body workout maybe twice a week. I sampled some of the Shred30 workouts, and even the couple workouts I did were rather tough for me. At this stage, I couldn’t imagine doing 30 days of these nor did I fit the workout’s target audience, so for now I certainly wasn’t going to do Shred30.

However, I was drawn to the idea of 30 straight days of strength training. I haven’t done more than maintenance-volume strength training in a long while. And the idea of a 30 day trial or challenge is hardly new. You adopt a habit for 30 days and see how you evolve with it. After 30 days you’re free to dump it, and if it works really well for you it’s likely to stick once you’ve built the habit.

As I mentioned last month, I backed out of the Chicago Marathon. I have no intention of running a marathon this fall, so I have no serious need to endurance train until late summer (I have no planned races before October). This means I could back off endurance training and strength train as a 30 day challenge if I wanted. So I decided to do so through July 1-30.

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The Red Swolework Suit

Off the heels of developing my Full Fourteen workout, I gradually condensed this to 12 exercises, one set a-piece. Each major muscle group works as a primary mover in at least one exercise.

When you track strength training workouts in Garmin Connect, it shows a heat-map of muscle groups worked. Any muscle not worked is gray. Any muscle working as a primary mover is red, and any muscle working as a secondary mover is yellow.


When I do this workout, every muscle group turns red. When I first posted the Garmin heat-maps of these workouts on social media, I’d claim in jest that I had put on a Red Swolework Suit. Eventually, I just called this workout the Red Swolework Suit.


The Red Swolework Suit is 12 exercises, each 1 set of 8 reps, at a suitably challenging weight when applicable. If trying any of these exercises for the first time, I’d recommend wasting a workout sampling unknown exercises at different weights until you find a weight heavy enough to be challenging but do-able for 8-12 reps. You don’t want to finish the 8th rep with shaking arms and not able to do another rep. If you need numbers, I’d say aim for 60% of your 1-rep max to start. You can always increase the weight next time if an exercise turns out way too easy.

Also, when using weight, I use dumbbells or machines. You can use a barbell if that’s what you have or prefer. Also, there’s a million diagrams of most of these exercises, so if you’re not sure what I’m talking about below then just web search the listed exercise for diagrams and instructions.

The Exercises, in rough order:

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No Chicago Marathon. Change of plans.

I have decided to withdraw from the Chicago Marathon, and do not plan on running a marathon this fall. This is despite having paid a pricey entry fee that I obviously will forfeit. Rather than go into a long screed on what became an increasingly simple, straight-forward decision, I’ll write in brief bullet points. I can always add detail later if requested. Reasons:

Too many signs pointed to this Chicago trip being a bad idea.

– Early Canadian wildfires have already covered the city in consistent smoke, and they should continue throughout the rest of summer into fall. There’s a good chance it will persist into October for the marathon. That’s not good air to run in.

– The crime situation in Chicago has gotten worse. While it’s better than the Covid riots, it’s still by accounts of people I know there markedly more dangerous than it was while I lived there. CPD’s understaffed and not really addressing problems. And it goes hand in hand with the next problem, but there’s a lot more vagrants on the trains and at the stations than there used to be.

– The transit situation is unreliable now. CTA while I lived in Chicago was for the most part reliable. But after Covid CTA also lost workers and the train/bus service got more sporadic and unreliable. It still hasn’t improved much, and I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I need to rely on an unreliable system to get around at all.

I wasn’t really excited about running this marathon anyway.

– Frank Shorter famously said you should not plan your next marathon until you’ve forgotten about your last one. Though I’ve long since recovered from Vancouver, I’m admittedly not quite invested in the idea of building towards another marathon.

– It is notoriously difficult to train for marathons in Las Vegas during summer due to the heat. Even indoors, gyms minimize the use of their A/C, and indoor temperatures (which I regularly measure during workouts) are closer to 80°F, uncomfortably warm for endurance workouts, especially long ones. And it doesn’t cool off until mid-October… after this marathon would have completed. It’s not a given I’d successfully get ready for a fall marathon in those conditions.

– Marathon training is very demanding, and there’s so much else I wanted to work on this summer instead:

– I want to dedicate a block of time to serious strength training. When marathon training, I only have enough bandwidth to do some lighter whole body strength training a couple times a week, if that. If not for marathon training, I could strength train more often and work on building strength if not muscle.

– Marathon training doesn’t realistically allow for speedwork and 5k/10K/Half-specific training. Sure, you can do speedwork, threshold tempo work and such while marathon training, but its benefit on your marathon fitness is ancillary at best and you should carefully avoid overdoing it, especially when you’ve got to build around longer easy workouts. If not for marathon training, I could build to some of the 10K workouts that worked very well for me in 2018-2019. I haven’t had much chance to work on them since moving back to Vegas.

– I want to work more on running in this extreme heat, without having to worry about running suitable marathon volume. When marathon training I pretty much have to do all my work indoors, as the 100°F+ temperatures take a lot out of you at short distances, let alone the longer duration workouts you need for marathon training. Many in town go ahead and do it, and most of them burn out on training after a few years. I would like to avoid that and take the pressure off outdoor sessions by not needing to run long for more than a couple hours if that.

That’s all I’ll say on that for now. I’m working this month on a project involving some different training, and will go into more detail on this once the month is completed.

Vancouver Round 5 confirmed for 2024

I had considered not doing Vancouver next year. But, after weighing it over the last three weeks, including during my final few days in Vancouver this year, I decided Round 5 will happen once again on schedule next May.

I had other spring marathons I had been thinking about doing, especially overseas. I also had considered staying close to home next year and doing closer, local marathons in Utah and similar. Depending on how my fitness develops this next 6-12 months, I may still consider doing them as long training runs, or perhaps their half marathons if I really want to.

I’m also mindful that we lucked out with some mild, cloudy weather in Vancouver the last couple years, and that the other shoe could drop next year with sunnier, more difficult conditions a la 2018 (which I DNF’d for different reasons, but most finishers struggled badly with the warmer weather). Of course, you can never really tell until the race approaches what kind of weather you’re going to get, but the course is hard enough without it being hotter and sunnier. In fact, just the brief instance of sun we got this year really knocked a lot of runners over in mid-race. It’s been better than usual the last couple years: Is it nice and cool again in 2024, or do we get the heat lamp?

However, the expense to go overseas is rather great. I’m on schedule to pay off remaining debt by next year, and then I’ll have a lot more disposable income to work with. As it stands, I’m able to work with finances to make Vancouver happen and perhaps another trip or two, but that’s about as far as I feel comfortable going with them. Even just the airfare and hotel for Vancouver is around $3K USD, just for a non-stop flight at a decent hour and a decent hotel near the places I frequent.

As for staying home and running local, the Utah marathons have the added challenge of being higher altitude than where I train. Most are about 4000-5000′, and that would create an aerobic challenge on top of running the actual marathon. While I could be swayed to do one or more anyway as a training tune-up, I’d like for that to not be Plan A.

Plus, I really enjoy the fresh nutritious food in Vancouver, and am quite familiar with it. Going somewhere new, I’ll have to figure out my entire diet for the trip from scratch, and running a marathon in a new land and different time zone is hard enough. Never mind how long and uncomfortable a transoceanic flight is. Maybe some other time.

I certainly have no problem with going back to Vancouver. I’ll probably go a day earlier than I did this time, as the Friday afternoon arrival made the logistics a bit tight before race day. I’ll probably still stay several days afterward, and fly back Friday instead of Saturday so I can have the full weekend at home before resuming work.

Debriefing Vancouver 2023, what I have learned, and summer training plans

I had a full week in Vancouver after the marathon before heading home and made a point to enjoy the vacation. While in town I probably didn’t set in front of a laptop for more than an hour at a time before flying back to Vegas. Plus, this week at work was somewhat busy, as I not only had to catch up after a week away but we also had a plan to execute this week and that always requires considerable work. So there wasn’t much time to debrief or really write out how I felt about the new training process and how I handled the marathon, before now.

Having just switched my entire training approach two months before, I was as curious as anything how my body would handle the marathon. I threw out any sense of racing or pace in advance, and just set out running easy with the plan to enjoy the scenery and adjust as needed. Thankfully, my sleep had been better than past years and I was better rested for this marathon than any of the prior ones.

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Checking in (finally), one week from Vancouver 2023

Hello from the coal chamber!

I decided not to post in March and April while training for this year’s Vancouver Marathon. I was experimenting substantially with my training approach, and wanted to stay focused on that training without writing quickly-dated posts about what I was doing. I wanted the freedom to shift gears without having to possibly explain away something I was doing just a day or a week or a month ago.

I feel pretty good. I have trained more this past couple months than I’ve been able to in any month since I began seriously endurance training so many years ago. I’ve avoided soreness, even though I’ve certainly have carried substantial fatigue for days or weeks at a time.

Until this weekend, for which I planned two total days off, I had aerobically trained on 56 consecutive days. I had no problem getting to the gym or the park and working on any of these days. Worst case scenario, I was somewhat tired, and just took it easy with the session.

A couple weekends ago I logged my longest uninterrupted workout ever by time, at 4 hours 26 minutes. On several of these long workouts I was comfortably able to (at least briefly) run at threshold pace and effort over 3 hours into the workout. In prior long workouts I’d have slowed badly by this point with fatigue and sometimes pain, and doing such a thing wouldn’t have been possible.

Still, I am going to wait and see how it feels to run Vancouver this next weekend before doing a full writeup on what exactly I’ve done in training. For all I know, this still ends up being a brutal fall-flat performance and there will remain a lot more work to do. So I don’t want to parade this as an ultimate solution for anyone in advance, when the experiment has yet to conclude.

I don’t intend to run the marathon hard or all out. Much like 2019 after coming off a prior DNF, the goal for this one will be to finish strong, as well as see how well I hold up through the longest run.

I have done far less specific running, but far more low-zone aerobic cross training, yet have spent much more time on my feet than I did while training last year. The average volume has been a lot higher. The average intensity has been a lot lower. All the running I’ve done in the last month has felt much better than the average of how it’s ever felt before. Usually, before, high volume of running would gradually wear me down. I haven’t had a bad run in over a month.

The basics of what I’ve been consistently doing:

  • Every work day morning, I get to the gym by 6:30am and train until just before 8am, when I head to work. This is mostly easy aerobic cross training, some running where applicable.
  • There are some days where I’ll head to the park instead, weather permitting (though for the most part this winter and spring in Vegas, it has not), for a run. Usually though I go to the gym.
  • Most afternoons, following work, I go back to the gym and lightly train for 20-30 minutes before heading home. Occasionally I go to the park and run, but again weather and circumstances haven’t allowed much of this.
  • After all of these training sessions, I briefly stretch before leaving.
  • On Saturday, I train long, 3+ hours, cross training and some running.
  • On Sunday, I run a couple easy miles outside, whatever intensity I feel like but usually pretty easy effort.
  • I strength train in the morning once or twice a week, before cross training or running.
  • I have intermittent fasted almost every day, not eating a meal until noon or so. At work I will have coffee with coconut oil and marine collagen, but other than this no nutrition until noon.
  • I have a large meal around 6-7pm and get to bed by 8-9pm. I pretty much eat the same dozen or so clean, whole foods now and stopped getting any kind of takeout (the only exception being use of Xact nutrition in long workouts for training, as the Marathon will be supplying it on course).
  • I nap a lot on the weekends.

I used to go out for coffee on work day mornings and stopped doing that, having coffee when I get to work instead. The local coffee industry took a hit, as I even stopped going out for coffee on the weekends! I got back to french pressing coffee on weekends (plain, though; no oil or peptides). When I go for coffee in Vancouver it’ll be the first time I’ve gone out for coffee in weeks.

The impetus for changing all this actually wasn’t for my running or to save money. It just felt better! I noticed a clear difference in my energy levels during the day, workweek or weekends, and decided it was important to me to adopt these routines. So sticking with them was much easier than before.

I just wanted to check in and let everyone know I haven’t disappeared, that I have been training a lot and just decided this time to keep quiet about it. I’ll have more to say on the nuts and bolts when I debrief Vancouver and know how it all did (or didn’t) benefit me.

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Solving the case of Garmin’s missing Altitude Acclimation

Ever since I’ve gotten my Garmin Forerunner 945 (FR945), I’ve had a minor problem. Minor in that it basically doesn’t affect tracking for any of my training, but that one of the included Garmin Connect metrics doesn’t appear to be working properly (at all, really) because of it.

The FR945 comes with temperature and altimeter readers, which allows Connect to track Heat Acclimation and Altitude Acclimation using tech and code designed in conjunction with a company called Firstbeat.

The heat acclimation function works fine. Las Vegas becomes hell during the summer, and Connect has readily noted my high percentage of heat acclimation after many of my walks and runs in the 100°F+ heat. My calculated heat acclimation only dissipates to zero towards winter as the temperature finally dips and stays below 60°F.

However, the altitude acclimation hasn’t really worked as described. Garmin per their manuals tracks altitude acclimation at as low as 800 meters, 2620′.

The Vegas Valley metro area is a giant bowl surrounded by mountains that varies in altitude between about 1600′ and over 3000′ depending on where in the Valley you are.

I work in Summerlin near the western edge of town, and the altitude at my workplace is about 2720′, above the minimum measured threshold. I train nearby, and most of my running is in a neighborhood that sits between 3050′ and 3200′ in altitude. Any running I do in this area should (per Garmin’s description) count towards altitude acclimation, and most of my running is at this altitude.

I live and train on weekends at a lower 2300-2500′ on another end of town. I don’t expect this to count, but again most of my training by time/mileage/incidences/whatever you want to count is near work at the higher nominally eligible altitude.

However, other than after a long weekend trip to Flagstaff last May, Garmin has never shown I have any altitude acclimation. After the Flagstaff data wore off, my acclimation has always shown up as 0.

According to their documentation, however, all my tracked run training over 2620′ should have triggered an altitude acclimation reading. It’s not happening.

Is something broken? Are there other disqualifying parameters Garmin’s support materials do not spell out? I had no idea.

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