Category Archives: Life

How I Built A Training Schedule Around A Different Work Schedule

To preface all this, I have a weird work schedule now. Not that the schedule isn’t normal for me personally (I am working it every week, after all!), but it’s not a schedule most people work.

It’s an office job where I work from about 10-11am until about 8-9pm, an early swing or 2nd shift, and I work Thursday through Monday. That itself is no big deal.

What’s weird is that some days are worked in the office, and some days are worked remotely at home. Because most of the office works a traditional Monday through Friday schedule with office closed weekends and some holidays, there’s no practical reason for me to come to the office on weekends and holidays‚Ķ though the stores I interface with are open weekends and holidays.

So I work remotely at home on Saturdays, Sundays, and business-open holidays, while going to the office (when open) on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. (Of course, with the current Coronavirus risk, this can always change and I could end up working remotely everyday if that situation gets suitably dangerous again.)

Getting back to more relevant material, this adds several wrinkles to training. I’ve mentioned before that my schedule now allows me to train comfortably every morning, without having to wake up early. I can also sleep in as needed, and the reduced sleep deprivation improves my long term recovery.

However, once I get off work around 8-9pm, it’s highly impractical to train at all being so close to bedtime. So on work days I need to train during the morning, unless lunch and work circumstances allow me to sneak out and get a quick workout in during a late afternoon lunch break.

On the flip side, having to work out early in the day means spending my work day sitting, which really helps with recovery. There’s no afternoon commute or stress to complicate recovery‚Ķ especially if I’m working from home that day: There is no commute!

With all of these opportunities and advantages, I have slowly carved out a template for a weekly all-around training schedule.

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Reflecting on our COVID Hibernation

two green cactus plants at daytime

Photo by Yigithan Bal on Pexels.com

I have not had a whole lot to say in the past month, because there hasn’t been much to add to what others have told you.

After the COVID-19 outbreak problem took off across the world, and two NBA basketball players were found to be ill with the virus, shutdowns and lockdowns quickly followed. Within a couple of weeks, almost everyone in the Western world was ordered to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons, while most businesses were ordered to shut down. Events, including races, were cancelled.

It will be weeks, possibly months, before we can resume what we previously knew as normal activity. Currently, Nevada and most states are being told that the earliest anything may re-open is May 1, 2020, and even that could be postponed if needed.

Meanwhile, I personally was fortunate enough to keep my job remotely with no change to my compensation. So the biggest change to my life is that I have nowhere I need to go. Yes, Vancouver 2020 was cancelled, as were basically every road race before the summer.

With no need to train before Victoria 2020 marathon training this summer, I decided to shut down non-essential training myself after Vancouver 2020 was cancelled. At first, I ran as little as twice a week, and maybe went on a walk or two. I ran if I felt like it, but that’s it.

Now I’m running a bit more regularly, albeit not terribly far, and certainly not all that hard. I’m following Budd Coates’ basic 14 day training cycles as outlined in Running On Air, which has me currently running 2-3 miles, maybe one longer run, about 4-5 times per week.

While Vegas temperatures are currently still reasonable, I’m going out for 20-30 minute runs (and possibly some extra walking) during the late afternoon following the workday. I take longer walks or runs on neighborhood trails at least once during the weekend. Once the desert heat kicks in for summer, I’ll need to switch to early morning runs.

I’m of course eating lighter and as clean as reasonably possible. Not having a convenient option to go to a restaurant or grab something quick at a store, plus having all day at a home that thankfully is well stocked with cooking supplies, makes cooking and eating at home the most suitable option almost every time.

The flip side is, by staying at home all day, I get far less natural physical activity, meaning fewer calories burned… even if I get myself to exercise or go out for a run. I burn maybe 2300-2400 calories in a day even if I did work out, or made some maniacal effort to stay active like get up and do squats or push ups every hour.

Generally I work around this by:

  • Intermittent fasting, aka skipping breakfast.
  • Eating a lighter lunch
  • Eating only two official meals a day, the lunch and dinner before bed
  • Avoiding snacks

In the past few weeks I have lost about 6 pounds of fat, whereas in previous, busier months I had struggled to lose any fat at all. I had a goal for Vancouver 2020 to get down to 160-165 pounds before May (I weighed as much as 185 this winter). Previously I had stalled around 178-180 lbs at my best, but have since gotten to around 174-175 lbs (and hopefully falling). The irony is that, now that I’m not marathon training, I might actually get to 165 before May.

While most people in the US are getting comfy and eating a lot of junk food during lockdown, I decided to really clean up my diet and eat right as much as possible. Even with a minimum of exercise, it has paid off, plus generally I feel better.

Part of feeling better also is that, as others’ anxiety has gone up… my stress has gone substantially down. As mentioned, I still (remotely) have my day job, meaning I’m not worried about income and paying bills. I realize compared to others that this is currently a luxury.

That said, I have to work weekdays, and my job has pivoted to where I do quite a bit of day to day work and regular web conferencing, plus larger ongoing projects. So there’s a lot to do. However, being at home, not having to commute… it’s had a calming effect on my life.

Plus, (though I still need to eventually sit for the NASM exam) I had just finished a very stressful CPT training program (right before COVID really blew up), and truth be told it was very hard for me to handle plus work plus marathon training plus home and family concerns over the final month. I actually reached my breaking point towards the final two weeks, and though the end of the program was a relief… the lockdown in itself was almost an added level of relief by eliminating work and commute related stress. Today is a total contrast to what my life was like in February. I went from everything hitting me at once to now being practically forced to do as little as possible.

With my basic needs met (my family has done a good job securing needed food and supplies), I actually feel pretty comfortable with life right now. My biggest concern aside from work needs is to make sure I eat healthy and get enough exercise to maintain some fitness and not gain needless weight.

I’m not going to join the train on any public service announcements regarding social distancing or lockdown etiquette. We all know where we’re at and I’m not going to add any new information. We know it’s going to be a while before live races are a possibility.

I for one am not interested in virtual races. That’s fine if it keeps you motivated, but I also feel like this forced hibernation is an opportunity in its own right to relax, regenerate and reflect. I want to use the time accordingly rather than fish for more ways to keep me occupied. We’ll have the chance to run races eventually.

Eventually I may offer some feedback on effective training ideas for runners while in lockdown. But for now, I’m going to make the most of our collective hibernation.

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Avoid the Novel Coronavirus (and other illnesses)

Coronaviruses are in general quite common. You may actually get one once every year or two. However, we’re experiencing mass panic over the current novel coronavirus strain, which has killed a few thousand people in China among the many thousands infected, and sent entire nations into a panic.

There are a handful of truths regarding this novel coronavirus:

  • Most of the people who contract the worst form of the novel coronavirus will make a full recovery without any required medical intervention, just like most people who get a common cold or the flu.
  • The death rate of the novel coronavirus is actually quite low. About 1-2% of people who have reportedly tested positive for it have died from it, and almost all of the deaths have been in China and Italy, where tens of thousands (again, nearly all known cases) have been diagnosed. Virtually all of the people who have died from the novel coronavirus either have seriously compromised immune systems or live in abjectly unsanitary conditions (and that’s assuming all stats are accurate, which is highly questionable). Sure, I’d be worried about the health of either population, but the vast majority of those reading this are in a much better situation.
  • Regardless of anything anyone does, there’s little people can do to prevent its overall spread, quarantines or not. It’s an airborne virus, and a common type of virus at that. It’s like trying to eradicate or quarantine the flu or common cold. Good luck.
  • The current quarantines are more a product of systemic panic than necessity.
  • Other governments are semi-thoughtlessly following in kind with their own over-reaching quarantines, not realizing they’re parroting a needless overreaction from a totalitarian government. This never minds major events that have elected to cancel said events in response to the hysteria. In most cases, they’re making a panic-driven mistake.

All of this said, this novel coronavirus strain is worth concern, the same way any major flu strain or flu season is worth concern.

As always, there are things you can and should do to safeguard yourself from illness and give your body the best chance to flush and resist that illness should it find its way into your system.

However, I have useful advice beyond the standard “wash your hands, take your vitamin C, avoid crowds, etc”. Here are some tips for you to help your body and immune system withstand any potential exposure to any illness, not to mention the novel coronavirus.

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Cross Training With the ARC Trainer

ARCTrainerI’ve talked about the ARC Trainer’s benefit in runner cross training before. But how do you effectively use it?

The machines are infrequently used for a reason. Most people aren’t just not comfortable with the machines… they don’t really know how to integrate it with their fitness goals and training plans.

I pointed out a key valuable use in my previous linked post: To cross train as part of runner training. But most are not totally sure how to best utilize the machine and its many settings.

I’m going to share 10 tips on how to get acquainted and effectively utilize the ARC Trainer in cross training for your fitness or goal race… possibly even for other fitness goals as you wish:

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Is Getting Up Early to Work Out A Good Idea?

view of sunset on road

Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky on Pexels.com

So a lot of people make themselves work out early in the morning because it’s easier to find time then to work than it is to work out towards the end of the day. It’s less likely something will come along to derail your workout, whether circumstance or flagging motivation following a busy day.

I will note that in my long fitness history I’ve tried both working out very early and working out in the evening. I personally find there’s a lot I need to do to prepare for and get to work each morning, and I’m not usually clear headed enough to efficiently do most morning workouts either way. Others’ mileage will obviously vary.

The reason I don’t just set the alarm and wake up earlier is because the negative effect of losing sleep is greater than the positive effect of a morning workout, even if bio-rhythmically I come correct and learn to wake up earlier (and I already wake up naturally around 6am).

What happens if the previous night runs long or I otherwise have trouble getting to sleep? Now I spend the following day sleep deprived, along with all the negative hormonal effects of not getting enough sleep. The resulting cortisol and loss of growth/recovery hormones is actually a key behind lacking training results, faster aging, aging in general, not to mention illness and other psychological/health problems.

It’s more worth it to me to fit a workout in after work during the early evening, and it helps that I’ve developed the discipline to consistently do those workouts. Now and then I am able to get in a productive 6am workout after having slept well, but I realize that cannot be a daily thing with my current schedule and lifestyle… plus some workouts are too long for 6am to be a sufficient starting time.

So this leads me to talk about a couple things:

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Break up easy workouts when life gets busy

people walking on street

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Often I have days where I need to get in an extended regular run, something like 60 minutes or 6 miles, but my schedule ends up so busy there isn’t a suitable block of time available without compromising my recovery (e.g. losing sleep by having to wake up early or working out so late that it affects sleep later that night).

For example, I wake up no later than 7:00am (usually more like 6:00am) to get ready for and then commute to work. I work until 5:00pm, and often I’d have the rest of that night until needing to get to bed around 9:00-10:00pm. I often do my training runs in the evening around 5:30-6:00pm after commuting.

But say on this given example day I have a webinar appointment at 6:00pm, which lasts until 7:00pm. Since I need to set up equipment shortly before 6pm, this doesn’t leave more than 30 minutes for a run, which isn’t enough time for a 60 minute run, or since I’m not Mo Farah I cannot run 6 miles in 30 minutes.

I could just not work out that day. But let’s say for whatever necessary reasons I was not able to work out Monday. And if I defer this workout to Wednesday I lose the last day off I have this week, and my training schedule is such that five days of running in a row might be too much. But if I just cancel this workout, I lose so much training volume that it negatively affects my needed development and could be too costly a setback.

What a bummer, huh? I should just cancel my goal race or scale down my race goal, right?

Absolutely NOT.

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Losing weight and specific needs with training

After returning to Las Vegas, I gained about 15 pounds before arresting what was clearly not a positive trend.

I have since lost about 5 of those extra pounds and am working on the rest, while also training for the Vancouver Marathon. I had to first correct the most important factor behind that weight change: Diet. I like my family’s home cooking, but they like to eat too much. I had to correct any controllable eating patterns I had fallen into, and eat better quality food as well as eat less of it.

I had eating patterns that made sense for me living in Chicago, where I traveled everywhere on foot and trained at a higher volume of running than now. Living in Las Vegas, where I now need to drive just about everywhere, and didn’t need to walk nearly as much, I needed to pare down how much I ate.

Still, even ramping up mileage in training for Vancouver, even now that life’s gotten a lot busier between my CPT study and work demands… I struggle quite a bit to get my scale weight to move downward.

I decided to look towards history for answers… and by history I mean my own personal history:

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