Category Archives: Life

Curing Your Sleep Problems

Photo by Kristin Vogt on Pexels.com

Here is a topic near and dear to my heart, an important facet of health that I’ve been working on as much as my diet and exercise.

The single most important aspect of your training development outside of the actual exercise is your ability to get good sleep. Even the important factor of your diet serves in large part your ability to effectively sleep, and its positive effects on your health will be limited if you aren’t sleeping well.

Over 1/3 of U.S. residents surveyed report they don’t get at least 7 hours sleep, and it’s no surprise nearly 40% report some sort of sleep disorder. While some may try to pinpoint the cause to some sort of disorder, the reality is that our choices play a substantial role in how much sleep we get or don’t get.

Unless you’re caring for a newborn child (during that period, they’re often going to wake up overnight and there’s little you can do about that), those choices were to a substantial degree probably avoidable. Even being compelled to keep a complicated, troublesome schedule due to career or family concerns is to some degree a preventable product of life choices. We often choose other priorities over sleep and don’t realize what a mistake that is.

But I digress, and that’s a whole other topic. Barring such extenuating circumstances, most people have ample opportunity to get good sleep every night, and they just don’t. And they may not be fully aware of what else they do aside from just staying awake to deny themselves of that opportunity to sleep….

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How A Busy Schedule Improved My Nutrition

I’m currently working in a fairly isolated location across town, and some weeks I’m working longer than 8 hours. My schedule many workdays is wall to wall booked:

  • Wake up
  • Perhaps run as time allows
  • Prep for work
  • Go to work and work 8-10 hours
  • Commute home
  • Work out if I didn’t get to in the morning
  • Eat dinner
  • Prep food and clothes for tomorrow
  • Go to bed.

On many workdays I can’t leave the client facility because I only have 30 minutes for lunch, plus even when I can the best food options are halfway across town. In this location there’s no supermarkets or viable restaurant options nearby. I won’t eat garbage fast food or something off a vending machine or convenience store counter. Even if any of it was satisfying (hint: doubtful), the near total lack of useful nutrients will crash my energy levels in the afternoon, in a job where I need to stay engaged and proactive.

And, of course, I’m now endurance training. I need to stay fueled for those morning and/or afternoon runs. I can’t just eat a minimal diet or whatever happens to be available and expect to perform as needed in these workouts. Plus, I have to maintain my overall health and not make choices that will contribute to illness or burnout. The food I eat has to support not just my general day to day health but what I am doing in training.

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Forty Two.

Today is birthday number forty two. I am working long hours today on a time sensitive work project so Friday’s work will begin early and end around 6pm. I don’t have a whole lot of interest in doing anything special for my birthday, other than probably this post. I rarely do.

Taking stock: As my personal life completely changed, I did what I could to maintain my training until other priorities and situations slowed or stopped it. I went to training for a CPT certification, and even though I’m ready to go its acquisition was delayed quite a bit (still in process) due to…

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Two Common Strength Training Mistakes

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

I spend a lot of time in the gym with a lot of people who work out. Social media shows me countless others who also work out, train others, etc. I don’t have a Kinesiology degree but I know what I’m talking about. I preface with this because some of you are not going to like what I’m going to say next.

The two most common mistakes I see people make with strength training are:

  1. People train like a powerlifter, with powerlifter goals, even though that’s not or should not be their goal.
  2. People train continuously without taking any proactive, conscious training breaks.

Why are these problems?

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October 2020 Marathon Status Report

As for my next marathon… the ongoing Coronavirus situation and the looming work situation has led me to reconsider how 2021 will go.

At this point, I don’t think Vancouver will happen in 2021. Even if Coronavirus fades out and Canada re-opens the currently-closed border, I will be so new to my job that I doubt I can command and receive a week off from work. And I don’t want to rush to a destination marathon on a Friday night or Saturday morning, run it Sunday, and have to hurriedly fly back for work on Monday. That’s not worth the trouble and will probably lead to a bad marathon.

Plus, the way the schedule lays out… I would only have 16 weeks after the Lake Mead Half to train for Vancouver, so instead of recovering from a strong Lake Mead effort I’d have to immediately begin training for Vancouver the next week.

And that never minds that, if Coronavirus is still a thing, Vancouver organizers may just go ahead and cancel the race for the 2nd year in a row, or make it purely Canadians-only.

The writing’s on the wall to forget about Vancouver for 2021, run a different marathon instead, and think about doing Vancouver in 2022.

I still want to train for and run a marathon in late spring after Lake Mead, so I spent the previous few weeks looking over the 2021 race calendar. Local or nearby marathons are my best options, where I can drive a few hours each way to get there. Even if sore and beaten after a marathon, I can handle a 6-8 hour drive home and work on Monday if I at least get a good night’s sleep after the race… which means unless there’s a holiday on Monday I probably need to pick a Saturday race.

But alas! A few weeks after the projected Vancouver 2021 date is Memorial Day weekend. And though that’s a shitshow travel weekend, there happens to be a Sunday marathon in Southern California: The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon between Ojai and Ventura, only about 5-6 hours away from home (and that’s if traffic is expectedly bad through the Mojave Desert).

Since Memorial Day is the following Monday, I would have a full day to recover and drive home after that race. They also have a fairly generous refund policy if their race is cancelled.

Plus, Memorial Day weekend allows for a week off after the Lake Mead Half, and then 19 weeks of training… making the Running On Air plan a perfect fit. After the relatively strict pacing demands of this current Half training cycle, the looser workout requirements of the Coates plan would be easier to follow.

So that will probably be the marathon plan for at least the front half of 2021. Again, the Vegas summers make marathon training very difficult, so I don’t know if a 2nd 2021 marathon could work right now.

If I repeated the Coates plan for a late 2021 marathon, and I still have no trouble waking at 4-5am, plus work schedules don’t ask me to come in before 8am… training could be do-able in manageable morning heat.

There’s also the somewhat conveniently timed St George Marathon on October 2, 2021. The timing would allow for 2 weeks off after Mountains 2 Beach in May, and then 16 weeks of training, which fits several plans. St George is only 2 hours from Vegas, so getting to the city for an overnight or weekend stay would be very easy, as would getting home.

Otherwise, I’ll pivot to training for shorter races, or to once again focus on strength training. Or maybe I just train to maintenance and focus more on helping clients as a coach/trainer. We’ll see: It’s a ways away.

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Current October 2020 Training Status Report

I have been training for a half marathon to be determined in early January, though (as long as it’s not cancelled) that half marathon will likely be the Lake Mead Half Marathon on January 9.

I’m on the 5th week of an algorithm-programmed Garmin plan, and have done quite well on all runs throughout the plan. By maintaining the GPS-estimated assigned paces, I have actually completed my easy training runs with an average pace of about 10:00 per mile (6:13/km), far faster than I had previously run my easy runs.

These faster easy runs actually have been little trouble to complete, thanks to one simple adjustment: I focus on maintaining a light, quick cadence over anything else. I used to run at about 160-165 steps per minute, and am now doing all my runs at 174-178 steps per minute. Clearly the extra steps per minute are making a difference not just with the average pace, but making that pace easier to sustain. For whatever reason, this was always hard to do in Chicago, but has been very easy to do now.

The Garmin algorithm plans to have me run a 1 mile time trial on Wednesday, from which it should program my subsequent speed, tempo and long run workouts. The last mile I ran about a year ago came out to a disappointing 7:34, and my documented PR is 7:05.

According to Garmin’s race predictor, I apparently have the fitness to smash my PR’s in the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and of course full Marathon. The Electric Blues Daniels tables indicates from these that I could probably run the mile in 6:33. I don’t foresee running that mile time after having done no speedwork for a while, but to break 7 minutes on a mile trial would be terrific.


I have also cross trained quite a bit during the training plan. It might be a big reason I’ve been able to improve so quickly.

After taking on a Garmin Badge Challenge to bike 300K in a month, bike 16 hours, and walk 16 hours… I ended up riding the spin bike at the gym almost every day, about 45 minutes each time, which at my usual 95-110 rpm came out to about 12-13 miles each go. I also walked about a couple miles most days to get those 16 hours in.

I’ve also continued strength training with my mostly upper body push/pull 20 minute workouts roughly 3-4 times a week throughout all this.

Between all this training and the 5 running workouts each week, I’ve probably logged about 8-10 hours of total training (not including the walking, which I generally don’t count as training) each week since beginning the Garmin plan. There were many days I’d spend 2+ hours at the gym, aside from my running (none of which, by the way, was done on a treadmill; all of my running was outside in the morning).


Other than feeling understandably weary at times, I haven’t been too beaten up or worn down by all this.

One key to that is maintaining a protein rich diet, eating to maintenance calories instead of a calorie deficit, and having given a backseat to intermittent fasting.

I’m focusing more on fueling for recovery and eating to a minimum of energy availability. This leads to a slight calorie deficit when I hit the minimum calories, though I’ve still managed to get my bodyfat to 18% while keeping my weight around 170-172 lbs (78kg).

The other key, obviously, is getting enough rest. I have slept an okay amount, and for me I usually do get less sleep than average during summer due to the heat and extended sunlight hours. I generally sleep better during winter when it’s dark more often. Naturally, I wake up rather early, often around 4-6am, and I go to bed around 9-10pm. I have also taken advantage of all this free time and taken naps on various days, which slightly helps. Now that I’ll be working again, naps will only be an option on the weekends and holidays.


After last month’s extensive cross training, I’m going to scale that back and diversify that a bit more. After sticking almost exclusively to the spin bike, I’m now going to mix in sessions on the rowing machine and the ARC Trainer, and will probably cross train less frequently than the “pretty much every day” I had been doing.

I can now take it easy on the walking, doing it only to make sure I get 10,000 daily steps in (an ongoing Seinfeld calendar goal of mine, which is now at 32 days straight and counting). Plus I generally train less time on the rowing machine (I like to row for 20 minutes max vs the 45 minutes I always go on the spin bike), so that will lead to shorter gym visits than 2 hours.

Also, of course, working again means I have fewer time windows to work out. The early morning runs will remain, so long as I can finish workouts well before 7am so I can shower/dress and commute to work. I can also train following work most afternoons (unless a situation demands overtime, of course), and will probably do my cross training then… crowded gym be damned. The weekends of course are wide open.


So, in all, I am once again seriously training. I am training a lot. And I’ve been able to train consistently at a higher level than I have before.

But what about my marathon plans? Well… I’ll get into that in a bit….

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10+ Thoughts on Building Training Breaks Into Strength And Endurance Training

Runners typically train for a race through 8-24 weeks of focused, progressive training, then take a break of either reduced or no running for some time afterward.

It just occurred to me that:

  1. People who primarily strength train as their exercise never train like this.
  2. Many who strength training typically see their development and progress hyperbolically slow after training for some time, and take for granted that this is normal.
  3. Serious runners also see their progress hyperbolically slow after years of mostly continuous hard training for some time, and take for granted that this is normal.
  4. Except for a weeks/months long “offseason” where they basically don’t train at all, most serious runners train continuously for their entire season with few, often brief planned breaks
  5. Runners could benefit from peak-and-valleying their training season in the style of a 12 month grade school. Basically, you ramp training around recurring goal races, with the plan to downscale training in the week(s) following those periodic goal races.
  6. Strength trainees may see more progress if they were to build regular periodic training breaks or “de-loads” into their training. Basically, progress training as usual for 8-24 weeks, then take a week or more where training stops and/or volume (whether reps, weight, frequency, or all of the above) are substantially, pointedly reduced. You rebuild, re-load energy and drive, then resume training a few days/weeks later really to attack the weights/road/water/bike/etc.

6a. Unplanned breaks like injuries and other life emergencies don’t count. Your body and mind are taxed and have to heal in other ways during breaks like these, and aren’t as fully available to rebuild and heal the way they do during a conscious, planned break in training. Sure, some recovery can happen, but imagine how you feel after a very stressful vacation. Are you “refreshed” and 100% when you go back to work or school?

  1. I imagine a lot of the stalled progress in muscle growth and other “GAINZ” most strength trainees experience would cease to stall if they consciously built to a scheduled peak over weeks/months, then made a point to take a 1-2 week break afterward before resuming.

7a. Fitness loss is minimal during a 1-2 week extended break. As distance running’s Hanson Brothers have attested, the body tends to reap direct benefits from a key workout (and conversely, experiences a loss of fitness from a lack thereof) after 8-12 days. You can probably take a week off before resuming training and experience little to no loss in strength/fitness from where you left off. Two weeks off, and the loss would be very slight, to the point where after a couple weeks of gradually resumed training you’d be back to where you had left off.

  1. So now, I’m looking at you, runners. Many of you have the right idea, where you start training mainly to run a goal race, train hard for that 8-24 weeks, then run your goal race and take it easy for a few days/weeks. There are certainly many things you could do better, but you have the right idea.

8a. And then there are some of you who continiously train, and train hard every week. You don’t take many planned breaks, maybe after a marathon or a longer race, but otherwise you’re doing high intensity workouts and/or high volume almost every week. And then you’re wondering why you get injured or you constantly have nagging injuries.

8b. Some of you call them “niggles”. I call them red alarm signals that you need to take a few days off.

  1. This doesn’t mean don’t run unless you’re training for a goal race. This means your training should more consciously ebb and flow, at the very least follow a 3-5 week continuous cycle of gradually increasing volume to a peak before a week of lighter training. But what could benefit you most is longer 8-16 week cycles of gradually progressing volume, then or preceding gradually increasing intensity, before tapering and/or a goal race, followed by a 1-2 week period of reduced or eliminated training at a substantially lower intensity.
  2. Plan breaks into your training before life makes you take unplanned breaks from training.
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