Author Archives: Steven Gomez

Back On (The) Track

I’m sore tihs morning, but not from stuff I spent the previous week recovering from.

Saturday I went track hunting, as Vegas doesn’t have particularly many open tracks to run on. High schools here keep their facilities locked and key. The most popular Vegas track from before, UNLV’s track, is closed until spring not just for maintenance and repairs but because, with the football team having new facilities, they don’t need to use it before next spring.

However, one other public track in the area is in Northtown at the Pearson Center, and when I went to visit Saturday morning the track was open and free to use, with a couple people running interval workouts. The track isn’t particularly old and the surface quality is decent. I walked on and after a brief track warmup worked for about 45 minutes on various jumping and running drills before leaving.

Obviously, my right hamstring feels better, as neither ham gave any sign of distress during any of the running, bounding and jumps I did.

I didn’t go super hard, as I had no water with me and the sun was out. Despite several rest periods I still burned more calories than I do on a typical 45 minute elliptical session, despite not running more than about half a mile and only being out there less than an hour.

After a week of no running, I’ll resume running and probably tinker with work break runs as desired. I want to focus more on the plyo and jump drills, but I probably need to do these every few days to allow recovery. Plus, I’m booked to run a 5K next weekend, so I’ll want to be somewhat fresh for that.

In the meantime, I should now have the space and energy to work on the easy intervals I haven’t really been able to consistently do. I have still been working the elliptical and spin bike at the gym (yes, I’ve gradually gotten back to the spin bike with good results), and as previously mentioned have been able to strength train almost every day with good results.

Even though I didn’t run much on the track yesterday I’d definitely like running intervals there. It’s a bit out of the way between home and work, so I don’t think I could go there every day there unless I wanted to shake up my routine so I could drive out there at 6-7am every morning… which I’m not in a hurry to do, and if just doing running and drills there’s a number of other places I can do that.

Still going to lay low with training through next week with that 5K next Saturday, but I’m looking to get back to normal running again.

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Checking In 10/22/2021

This week I’ve strength trained almost every day, spreading the exercises I’d have split over two workouts across five, along with leg and ab exercises I’d have previously done occasionally or weekly.

Some of these exercises are modified Rapid Fire Sets. I start at the lightest weight possible, do 8 reps and then after a 15-30 second rest move the weight up one step until it’s too tough to finish a set (aka to failure). Then I do 12 reps at half the failure weight, and move on.

Some of these exercises are standard 4 set blocks, the first and last set 12 reps at a light weight, and the 2nd and 3rd sets at twice that weight.

If the exercise is done on a machine where the weight can be quickly adjusted, I do Rapid Fire Sets. If I have to do the exercise any other way, I do a standard 4 set block.

I plan on three exercises. If I finish them all before 20 minutes are up, I pivot to light weight sets of 12 reps of seated cable rows, an exercise I do need to focus on. I do up to 4 sets, until I reach 20 minutes. (If for some reason every single cable row machine in the gym is being used, I have other needed exercises for which I can do easy sets instead. But I have yet to encounter this since starting this plan.)

I threw together a 5 day plan before I started, but (while I’m still finishing that 5 day plan) I have since adjusted the 5 day plan to better spread out the exercises, and will follow that plan once I cycle back to day 1.

It’s not such a big deal that the current v1 plan is not as organized, as the primary goal was to start this almost-daily training and see how my body responded. In fact, it’s better to have multiple muscle-group exercises clumped together in one workout or on back to back days and see what my body tolerates. Then, once I start v2 and those exercises are more spread out, I know my body can bounce back from that, or can push harder on key days since there’s more recovery time and less to do per day.

The smart strength trainers can agree that the details of the plan you follow is not as important as you actually following a plan that allows you to consistently train. That said, I have certain development goals in mind, and these exercises all fit what I can do and things I need to work on.

As I iron out the plan, I’ll eventually show the layout and why I do what when I do it. But so far, so good.

In addition to this, I’ve been riding the elliptical for 30-45 minutes after workouts, maintaining aerobic fitness while my leg issues heal up. While my right hamstring has a bit of lingering soreness, overall I feel strong in my lower body. I’m giving myself all week to not worry about running, though I may take a work break run today and ride the spin bike tonight to see how it feels today and tomorrow.

I have a couple of casual 5K races coming up this next month, which will help me see where I’m at. At least after all the issues this year I am sure I’ll finish these, and can maybe even race one or two of them.

More to come.

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The Next Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

Since withdrawing from Indy, I’m now focused on more frequent strength training, which I plan to do almost daily (though today is a rest day).

I’ve spread out all my strength exercises over a repeatable 5 day sequence, to do more sets of each exercise while only focusing on 2-3 per 20 minute workout.

I’m back to doing Rapid Fire Sets for key machine exercises, spending about 6-10 minutes on key machine exercises while doing a basic 4 set progression for any dumbbell and bodyweight exercises. If this progresses well, I’ll do a future writeup on how it all works together.

Even though my hamstrings ache a bit when I do it, I’m riding the recumbent spin bike easy as well, focusing more on circulation and general aerobic fitness than trying to build or maintain anything. I’m doing this no more than every other day, just in case it’s possibly aggravating anything rather than just an idle ache.

I don’t feel any hamstring pain most of the time. The only time I feel any sort of ache, aside from when I use the spin bike, is when I’m sitting for long periods. That might be why it aches on the recumbent spin? I’d like to think so, but still I’ll be cautious.

If I feel better in the next week, I’ll test out a short run this weekend. If that goes fine, I’ll gradually ramp back up to regular running, probably focusing on easy intervals with longer runs or races on weekends as the opportunity arises. But I’ll probably restrict myself to running every other day for a good while afterward, just in case running back to back workouts was causing the issue.

Obviously I’m not work break running anymore for now. I’m sticking to walking on these breaks for the next while, which feels comfortable for now.

Mentally, I’m good. What happened was slowly unfolding over weeks, so it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise it came to that. Admittedly, I wasn’t even particularly excited about or looking forward to Indy like I had with past marathons. I could see I wasn’t ready, that training wasn’t progressing the way I wanted, and I didn’t feel confident. So moving on felt better than it would have otherwise.

The goal with everything right now is to get stronger overall while healing up. Hopefully in a couple months I’m feeling great. I’ll continue working on this until then.

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10/17/2021- Game Over

I went out this morning for a long run, and 90 minutes later the verdict is clear: I decided to pull out of the marathon at Indy. I will not run.

I already had substantial doubts during a slow run near home that while comfortable did not feel great or provide much confidence. I felt good this morning, the fueling I was practicing was working fine, I was hydrated and it was obviously cool outside. But even after 3-4 miles I felt myself slowing, struggling, and was wondering how I was going to run 11-17 more.

Then right at the 10K mark, as the sun was beginning to rise, I felt a twinge in my right hamstring, and though it came and went I immediately shut it down. I ended the workout right there, turned for home and walked the entire way back. During the run I already was strongly considering this, but I knew at that moment I was plugging the plug on Indy. And I was completely fine with it by then.

After a couple of months of doing everything I could to try and keep marathon training going however I could with a left hamstring problem, I realize now that the closest I can get to ready is nowhere close to suitably ready to run a marathon. And, while I stopped in time and whatever’s up with my right leg is still minor and not all that painful, there’s no sense in this point in risking further damage. It had already been randomly aching for the last week, and clearly I need to give it a break because it’s not getting better.

Now I can take it easy for a few days and move along. I want to shut it down again for a bit and just let the hamstrings (including the left one that’s felt fine for a bit) heal up completely, while strength training, walking, and whatever cross training feels right.

I can’t even say I’m disappointed to not do Indy. This training cycle’s easily been the worst I’ve had to date. A marathon is typically a celebration of the training you’ve done, and to call this training cycle derailed would be generous. If it wasn’t the heat, it was an injury problem, preventing the kind of training I wanted to do to get ready.

Though I did a lot of cross training and several long runs, I don’t feel like I trained for the marathon at all beyond that. The last few couple months were a constant scramble to salvage any kind of training, rather than serious training for the marathon. I was invested in going up to this point knowing all this, and did all I could to get ready until it was clear that the answer was no. I’m basically writing off months of setbacks, and I’ll consider them all lessons. I did enjoy the road trips I took during the summer to try and get ready, even if ultimately I wasn’t ready.

Losing the fee for the marathon is no big deal. I can transfer the airfare for use on another trip (I have at least one in mind), and I am confident I can refund or defer the hotel. Explaining the cancellation of the trip to my work is as simple as the truth: I got injured and decided not to run. Most of all, I’m now saved the trouble of making a cross country trip in November, one I increasingly didn’t feel like I would enjoy (and after all, isn’t that point of doing this?).

Obviously I’m in no hurry to book the next marathon. Let’s see how I feel at the end of the year. Improving my training base once I’ve taken some time off will be my main goal, and I’d rather train until a lot closer to marathon-ready than I was should I decide to do it again. I also want to dabble in trying other stuff, and once rested I’ll have the time and energy to do it. I’ve fallen back quite a bit from what I’m used to do, and I want to focus (after a rest) on getting back to what I know I can do, at least over shorter distances.

So in sum, after tweaking and aggravating my right hamstring this morning, I decided to pull out of Indy and not run the marathon. I feel better about having done so, and look forward to resting up and doing different things the rest of the year.

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Forty Three.

This (technically) old horse has finished a 43rd trip around the sun. We think of it as turning 43, and some erroneously refer to it as beginning your 43rd year. But technically I have actually lived 43 years and begin a 44th year. (Take me to court if you disagree!)

Over the last year, I got a new job and it made a lot of things in general life a lot easier. Along with financially stabilizing my life after 18 months of uncertain work situations, the surrounding neighborhood combined with actual space to take breaks allowed me to walk and run outdoors on those breaks, which allowed me to do more running a lot more often. Even though these runs were short, typically 1-2 miles, they helped rapidly get me back in decent running shape. The financial improvement also allowed me to spend more to eat better food, which also helped.

Life in general isn’t anywhere near as stressful as last year. The previous year was rough across the board, and this year decidedly less so. Coronavirus was not one of the reasons, though. While we’ve all been half-in half-out regarding restrictions, the most they’ve done to my life is slow it down some and make it quieter than it was before. But 41-42 was full of admittedly bad work situations, which made doing anything else with my life difficult. Coronavirus forcing lockdowns was actually a relief. This past year, 42-43, was decidedly better both at work and beyond.

Last year I speculated on what races to run, and this year… not so much. I have a marathon coming up very soon, and go figure Indy wasn’t even on my radar this time last year. As my decisions often are, doing it was a spur of the moment headlong decision to decide on THIS one. It seemed right for where I was at and what I was looking for. Is it now? I imagine when the time comes to run it, it will lay clear what I am and what I want to do.

I’m now 8 pounds heavier than last year, at which point I was a less than ideal (but still better than now) 169.6 pounds (in my peak Chicago training days I ran at 160-165 lbs). I was at this time last year actively training for a half marathon that ultimately didn’t happen, so I was in better running condition than now, even though now I probably have better aerobic endurance than I did there. I hurt my hamstring during this summer, and if not for that I possibly would be in better overall shape than last year.

Most of the weight increase came during the holiday season, reaching 184 pounds in January 2021 before I took my current job and the above factors helped me gradually get my weight back down. After disciplined work, my weight’s currently cruising around 177-178 pounds, and I’m still working to get it to cruise lower without compromising my current training.

My role is a sedentary job, and I still have limited control in how I can store and prepare food, which requires some creative (and to some degree expensive) meal planning. But training for Indy did compel me to improve quite a few food habits, and now my diet is in large part as disciplined and clean as it’s ever been. If I had my own full, unencumbered kitchen, I’d likely slim down to my old weight rapidly. Still once Indy is a done, I can reduce my calorie intake, and that could help bring things down rapidly as well.

Training in general has become far, far more consistent for me than it’s ever been. Running has been difficult this summer for a variety of reasons, but I’ve made it to the gym almost every day in 2021 to do some sort of training, whether cross training, strength training, or what running I can do on the treadmill. Whether or not I’m in suitable condition to run a marathon, I’m in very good general fitness.

I did a lot of traveling during this summer, basically to try and run long in suitable conditions, but it got me to take a lot of road trips after a couple years of very little traveling. Expedia says I now have Gold status (which turns out has minimal relevant perks), which is how much traveling I’ve done.

After never spending much of any time in Flagstaff or Big Bear Lake, I stayed and ran in both places quite a bit this summer. While not opposed, the idea of living in either is to me more of a “if I get rich” or “if all sorts of circumstances fell into place” scenario. I don’t foresee leaving Vegas before my debts are cleared, and that’s going to take at least a couple years (though I’ve made substantial progress since taking this new job).

If this year showed me anything for the next year, it’s to not worry so much about expectations for the future. I have things I want to do, sure, but I’m not particularly concerned about them right now, nor do I have much to say about them before they become real plans and real action.

The present matters a lot more than it has in the last few years, and I’m certainly a lot more patient with a lot more things. I focus on making the most of the current moment, know what I’m working towards, and work towards it when the moment makes sense to do so. Sometimes, that means relaxing and not worrying about things for a bit. Sometimes, that means bringing the hammer down on some difficult work, and/or taking care of responsibilities.

43-44 is here and that’s all I have to say about that. Today is going to be a rest day. Tomorrow I plan to run long. And we’ll take that and the rest as it comes.

Checking In 10/15/2021

Yesterday I took a spur of moment work break run in the afternoon that felt okay. Then at the gym I did a full Phillips warmup, before a brief session on the elliptical and then some strength training to finish.

I wasn’t tired like Wednesday, but I did have a shorter session at the gym than usual. I ate a decent meal and, while it took some time to get to sleep, I did sleep reasonably well and feel alright today.

The gym to some extent has been a training lifesaver. Even with no treadmill much of the time, the elliptical and other cross training has provided a ton of aerobic volume.

At some point I’ll debrief on how training this summer went. Safe to say, it’s by and large been a disappointment. Never minding injury issues, I’ve been very limited in what marathon-specific training I can do, and even if I hadn’t been hurt or otherwise set back I’m not sure I could have done much more than run long.

I’ve noticed accounts from many other Vegas runners training for marathons that they’ve had a very hard time doing much more than that, even when getting up early to beat the sunrise on weekends. A lot of us were struggling with marathon training in the heat this year, and if anyone’s going to go forward with it next summer we’d all need a new edict.

Honestly, though, the final answer may just be that training through the summer for a fall marathon isn’t practical in Vegas. It’s fairly hard in most places because even without extreme heat there’s a lot of humidity. But the extreme heat here made it prohibitively difficult too often.

Even if all else was ideal I’d have still had to leave town for several of my long runs. I probably couldn’t do that every summer and I know most in Vegas simply can’t.

The flip side is that the relatively mild Vegas winter is almost perfect for training through winter for a spring marathon, whereas in other places snow and ice make it rather difficult. If I want to do Vancouver next spring, training for that would be a lot easier, and a more complete set of workouts.

I’ll have a much better idea of how I feel about the latter by the end of this year. Meanwhile, I’m in the final stage before Indy, and I still have work to do on a long run this weekend. We’ll see if I do it Saturday or Sunday (the pull of relaxing on my birthday Saturday is rather strong, but I also don’t want to put the long run at risk by pushing it back).

I have a game plan for this long run, and will probably do it close to home, plus I realize it might be a better fit to do it Sunday even though it’s a bit risky to put it off. If it all works out, though, I’ll like where I’m at with Indy a lot better than I do right now.

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The Bill Phillips Body For Life Inspired 10 Minute Warmup

A bit over 20 years ago, I bought the famous Bill Phillips book Body For Life. I won’t go too much into the premise of the book, its historical context at the time or its many flaws (including in-book product promotion). At the time, I found the template for fitness and diet interesting, so I bought it and followed the plan.

The book’s training method had you aggressively strength-train several days a week and follow some simple diet principles. For “cardio”, it had you do 20 minutes of effort-based high intensity intervals, which you can do in any aerobic-based way you desired, three days per week. I always used the treadmill. Back then I wasn’t the focused runner I am now, nor was I active beyond walking or cycling to commute, but I had enough fitness to run hard for some distance.

In short, the Cardio:

  • You start at a 5 out of 10 effort, whatever you feel that means
  • After two minutes you increase to 6 out of 10.
  • Each minute thereafter you again increase effort by 1, until you do a minute at 9 out of 10.
  • Then you scale back to 6 out of 10 for a minute, once again ramping each minute until at 9 out of 10, then falling back to 6 and repeating the process.
  • Once you get to 9 out of 10 for the 4th time, instead of dropping back to 6 you increase to 10 out of 10 and hold that for a full minute.
  • Then drop back to 5 and cool off for the final couple of minutes at 5 out of 10 to end the workout.

This workout always kicked me around, but I was always able to get it done. It was the only running I did, and you did it every 2-3 days so I had plenty of time to recover before the next one. I followed the Body For Life plan for a little while and then left it behind, probably in part because I lost gym access around that time.

In any case, this interval sequence resided in the back of my mind pretty much all this time. I still have the book but haven’t cracked it in a long while. The strength workouts I’ve forgotten as they’ve long since been replaced by far superior approaches.

But during recovery from my injury problems, as I started using the treadmill again, this approach came to mind as a warmup. It’s very similar to the 10 minute progressive treadmill warmup Lifetime Fitness taught me during my VO2max testing a while back. In that warmup, you jog for 2 minutes, and speed up by 0.4mph each 2 minutes before ending at a speed that is somewhat fast for you.

I realized that’s quite similar to how I did the Body For Life intervals. For 5/10 I would start at a 3.0mph walk. Then my 6 would be a fast 4.0mph walk. My 7 would be a 5.0mph slow jog. My 8 would be a 6.0mph steady run. My 9 would be a 7.0mph hard run. And the 10 out of 10 would be a nearly all-out (… well, at the time) 8.0mph run.

While the top intervals were harder than anything in the Lifetime warmup, the bottom intervals were of course much easier on me and allowed me to recover. The Lifetime warmup was harder to do because it required 10 straight minutes of progressively harder running (though, at least it was done after the fastest interval).

I realized doing an adjusted 10 minute version of the old Phillips workout as a warmup would be an easier and possibly more effective warmup, since I’d hit a faster top speed with a shorter duration, then have a walking period to cool off before re-trying.

I tried it recently and it not only felt better as expected, but I found it did a much better job getting my body ready to run at a higher intensity. So now that’s what I do as a warmup before any key indoor workouts (and you’ll notice I adjusted from the above paces a bit).

  1. I start at a 3.0mph walk for 1 minute.
  2. Increase to a 4.0mph power walk for 1 minute.
  3. Increase to a 5.0mph very easy jog for 1 minute. If too easy (e.g. I’m running into the front of the treadmill), I increase to 5.3mph, a more typical jog/recovery pace for me.
  4. Increase to 6.0mph steady run for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 6.2mph.
  5. Increase to a brisk, somewhat demanding 7.0mph for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 7.3mph.
  6. Drop back down to 3.0mph for 1 minute, and repeat the sequence.
  7. After the 10th minute, shut it down and go dynamic-stretch before the workout.

Since many of my treadmill sessions cruised around 5.5-6.5 mph, this whole sequence made that range feel very sustainable over a long period of time, suitably warming me up for a workout like that.

I not only do this warmup before treadmill runs but also do it before other cross training sessions, to ensure I’m at and can reach a suitable heart rate training range for a maximum training stimulus and benefit.

If I run near my gym, I could also do this warmup in the gym, then go outside and run. Sure, it can be awkward walking out of the gym 15 minutes after arriving, then back in the gym 45-75 minutes later.

I could also, with some discipline and adjustment, do the warmup outdoors by feel. That makes some sense after all, since the workout was originally intended to be done by effort rather than set parameters. I had an outdoor run yesterday that didn’t go great and had to be cut short. While not certain, perhaps it could have gone better had I thought to do an outdoor warmup like this.

You could follow the above sequence, with your own pace and parameters. Whatever a 5 out of 10 feels like or a 9 out of 10 feels like is up to you to determine (notice I don’t ever go to 10 out of 10, by the way; I stop at 9).

You could walk for 4 minutes and run just for 1. You could start at an easy run and just have it be all running. You could do it all on a spin bike or a rowing machine or elliptical. It’s up to you.

But I found this to be a great 10 minute aerobic warmup sequence, and it might work for you as well.

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