Tag Archives: cross training

Walking Backwards

I wanted to go to the gym before work in the mornings again. This is also because I wanted to cut down on going out for coffee in the mornings. I didn’t want to sit at home and commute during the rush hour either. A key reason I leave early for work (as well as work out right after work) is to avoid the heavier traffic.

But as I ramp up my mileage in base training, I notice that even simple low-impact spin bike workouts left me unduly worn out each day. Runalyze training stats also showed my TRIMP/monotony/workload-ratio ran unsustainably high when I combined both.

So I cut out cross training aside from strength workouts twice a week. I also cut down on the length of my walks during work breaks.

With this, and without the morning gym workouts, my training stats all fell back in normal range. While demanding for now, my added mileage felt reasonably comfortable.

But I still wanted to make use of the gym in the morning. There had to be something low-impact I could do without it being mind numbing (I can’t lay down and stretch for 60 minutes). Yoga’s a bit too much. Strength workouts are 20-30 minutes and not 60 for a reason. The elliptical and spin bike again were too much. Even a normal treadmill walk was a bit too demanding.

I decided last week to start with reading my Kindle on a treadmill while going as slow as reasonable. The default at the gym is 1.0mph, way slower than usual for me, and I just kept it there while reading. This went okay, but towards the end I got an idea.

I’ve dabbled occasionally in my lifetime with walking backwards, both out in the world and on the treadmill. It certainly isn’t super challenging. I’ve occasionally seen people at the gym do it on the treadmill as training.

I decided on impulse to try it during my last few minutes on the treadmill, and turned out it worked fine. Minimal impact, super easy, no real danger. My Garmin showed it was much lower in effort than normal walking.

Next time out, I tried walking 1.0mph backwards on the treadmill for a whole half hour. Went fine, and Runalyze showed the TRIMP impact is about 40% lower than a normal walk of the same length.

It turns out that walking backwards not only has known training benefits, but also benefits those with lower back and hamstring issues.

The often-constricted hamstrings move more eccentrically in a backward walk, improving their range of motion and better engaging them. Recall that I had serious hamstring problems both last year and in 2019. I’ve had none since, but I certainly don’t mind preventative work to avoid them with better hamstring fitness.

Backwards walking also reduces dynamic stress on the knees and improves motor function of the surrounding muscles, not to mention the frequently neglected tibialis muscles along the shin.

So, I started doing treadmill backwards walking on weekday mornings. It does sometimes leave me a bit weary, though that could also be the cumulative effect of the other running. I still strength train in addition a couple days a week, but other than that (and short walks on breaks) no cross training.

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The Treadmill-ARC Aerobic Crossover Workout

Since ramping my training volume back up I’ve had an ongoing problem with staying in an aerobic, zone-2 type of heart rate zone during my “easy” runs.

The general rule is always to run as slow and as easy as you need to in order to stay in zone 1-2 (up to 75% max heart rate). When you’re undertrained and you go to run easy, what often happens is your heart rate steadily climbs at the same effort, until finally there is no pace slow enough for you to continue running.

From experience, I definitely have the aerobic endurance to go for hours, but I often get into 75-80% of max HR after a while, and then it’s no longer an easy workout. It’s more of a moderate, or what Jack T. Daniels would call an M Pace workout. Different stimulus, different training result, than I’m seeking. Even if I walk for a bit, when I run again it just spikes right back past zone 2. Walk breaks do no good. I’ve redlined my cardiovascular system for that workout, and there’s no going back.

Lately my 45 minute easy training runs, while I can complete them, are rather arduous. Whether the gym is well air conditioned or not, I was struggling and my heart rate would typically get into zone 3 before I was done. I actually got to the point where I was dreading the idea of doing another one. That’s not good. I’m not going to just beat my head against that wall again.

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Checking In 10/3/2021

Yesterday I spent about four hours at the gym, with 3:20 of that on the treadmill and elliptical.

I wanted to spend a full three hours running on the treadmill, but about 67 minutes in I felt a twinge in my right hamstring that didn’t quickly disappear. So I shut down running and moved to the elliptical, where I could work pain free, and spent another 2 hours 13 working at a high zone 1 low zone 2 effort.

I was tired when finished and understandably stiff but not in any pain beyond workout soreness, and this morning while sore I don’t feel at all beat up. After relaxing a bit, I’m going to strength train and ride the elliptical for 80 minutes today, and we’ll see how I’m feeling tomorrow morning. That my right hamstring is not bothering me much at all (beyond feeling a bit sore, like the rest of me) and I can move normally tells me I shut it down at the right time.

Was it running on the treadmill once again? Not really… I wasn’t struggling at all with my steady easy run, and the brief surges every 9-10 minutes weren’t terribly fast or difficult. If the twinge didn’t suddenly appear I wouldn’t have had much trouble (beyond fatigue, obviously) running that way for a full three hours.

The only possible thing I can imagine led to it was that I paused the treadmill for a bit to take fluid and fuel. While pausing the treadmill was planned and helped recover, doing that resets all the treadmill settings (a bug/feature of these mills).

While I obviously got the treadmill back up to speed, I forgot to restore the 1.0 incline I had originally set, and that may have caused some undue strain in the later minutes. An incline generally helps reduce the needed extension on your stride, which is easier on your body even if climbing takes a bit more effort. The pounding of running on the mill can be exacerbated by this lack of incline by causing a hamstring-constrictive overstride.

I also noticed the twinge happened during one of the 30 second surges. The surges were a bit faster than I had originally planned, but were still comfortable, and I think the incline might have been a bigger factor. It probably didn’t help, though.

Finally, it’s worth noting I ran the workout in my Topo ST-3’s, which are minimalist low-drop shoes. There was no support, which I usually prefer. But that probably contributed to any extra pounding from the above issues. I don’t know for sure that a more supportive shoe would have avoided the problem (a bigger sole could have caused an easier heel strike that would have produced more of the aforementioned overstride). But fatigue usually exacerbates any pounding from the lack of support, and while not causing the problem I imagine that didn’t help.

I will probably test out a work break run on Monday and that should give me a good idea of whether I need more rest, or it will be fine as long as I’m not on a treadmill.

Some good news is Vegas will finally cool below 80 degree (F) highs this week, so I can probably run outside after work again. Monday will still be a bit warm in the low/mid 80’s, but Tuesday after work will be around 75 degrees, which works great. If I run on pavement and stay off the treadmill, I can probably avoid further trouble. A couple of turns on The Big Loop this week will be good for my fitness and form.

Side note, and this is probably a good time to have started this, but I started taking RejuvenZyme, a blend of systemic enzymes that aid in recovery through combatting inflammation and actually consuming excess scar tissue. The Tissue Rejuvenator I currently take does have some of these enzymes, but like most supplements they exist more for digestion than any recovery aid.

The particular unique enzymes in RejuvenZyme are Chymotrypsin and Serrapeptase. These are hard to find in any vitamin or supplement blend, as most producers focus on digestive enzymes (which are not hard to find). You usually have to get each separately and take them with your stack, but I was fortunate to find a blend that has all of them plus some other essentials that work with them like Bromelain and Papain. It wasn’t cheap (the bottle of 120 I got was about $48), and no one really carries it: I had to go to a specialty store in West Las Vegas aptly called Stay Healthy(!) to find them.

But if this does work for me, I do think I’ll recover quicker and avoid exercise-related inflammation. Plus, of course, it would help with whatever issue popped up yesterday, and speed along its healing.

For now, I’m taking it mostly easy today aside from the planned cross training workout. Maybe I’ll take a nap. Busy week of training starts tomorrow, with rest days Thursday and Sunday, though it’s a down week so Saturday’s training isn’t currently planned to be terribly long. The real hammer week will be the following week, ending with my planned Vancouver getaway. After that, we head downhill into the taper for Indy.

More to come.

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Checking In 9/20/2021

Hello from Las Vegas. After morning coffee, I gassed up and drove straight back into town. I ran some morning errands, then hit the gym for an hour on the elliptical that was rather comfortable given the hours spent running yesterday. I followed that with a rowing machine session, my first swolework in about a week, and then out to finish more errands before the day was out.

I slept in this morning but feel alarmingly good… energy wise. Physically I’m still feeling beat up from the waist down after Saturday’s running. It’s all fortunately soreness: My left leg feels otherwise normal.

Today was supposed to be a scheduled day off. But I had a planned errand tonight pushed back to Tuesday night, so I’m going to make tomorrow the scheduled day off and do some light training today. Compared to yesterday my soreness feels a lot better, and some easy training will help move things along before resting tomorrow. It’ll be like a soft rest day followed by an actual rest day, helpful after the long workout this weekend.

Vegas has finally cooled off to where afternoons following work should cool to the high 80’s Fahrenheit, and I think attempting some brief post-work running sessions outdoors is worth a shot. Worst case scenario I have one brief, overheated session and I just bring training back inside the next day until further notice. But either way it will have to wait until at least Wednesday or Thursday for an attempt. (I notice there’s also a bit of wildfire haze this morning, so I guess that works out)

If I can resume workouts in the evening, that opens up my options quite a bit. If work break runs beforehand feel okay (and they’ve been feeling good since I’ve resumed them this past week), I could build back up to around 6-8 miles of interspersed easy intervals during training days. As of now I think it makes the most sense to still cross train early in the week, coming off heavier longer weekend workouts, and then work more on outdoor training later in the week as my legs bounce back, with one or two rest days in-between each week.

If I manage 4-5 weeks of consistent training this way or close to it, I think I can still be fairly ready for Indy.

One thing I really liked about this weekend’s long running is that, even though I hadn’t really done it at all in a couple months (outside of the 8+ miler I ran through Flagstaff three weeks ago), going long again was like the old adage of riding a bike: My body remembered how to do it even though I hadn’t trained anywhere close to it in a while. And yes, I stopped a lot in large part out of an abundance of caution.

But as many would tell you to fear, I wasn’t hurting and out of gas 3-6 miles in just because I hadn’t been doing 60 minute runs in a while. It took about a couple hours of running before my body really began struggling, which you’d expect even if you were well trained and had been running regularly for a while. It’s the other old adage: I listened to my body, and my body was able to handle quite a bit cold-turkey.

And it’s another good sign that, the day after, I was easily able to get back in the gym and cross train like before plus a little extra. It looks like overall I’m in good condition given I had to basically shut things down for a while.

Part of that is being patient and willing to pull back on my training, but also focusing on consistently eating good foods that foster recovery rather than inflammation. I’m not going to pretend my diet is anywhere close to perfect (hell, I had chicken fried steak Saturday night after the long run, and yes it was great), but most of the time I’ve been pounding clean protein, fresh fruit, and avoiding anything (else) fried. My supplement stack isn’t anything different other than maybe some extra Omega 3 some mornings. I always try to get Garmin’s recommended amount of water and at least get pretty close. Perhaps I’m getting more consistent sleep lately and that’s helped. But nothing I did during that recovery period was crazy-different outside of leaning heavily on cross training and being touch-and-go patient with my training.

So I’ll continue to be patient as I ramp up training, continue to listen to my body and give whatever volume and quality efforts I reasonably can going into October.

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Checking In 9/17/2021

I took yesterday off from training, and I clearly also took yesterday off from writing. I’m traveling this weekend and plan to run long before I return to Vegas.

If I don’t run on any breaks today, then tomorrow it’ll have been four days since the last time I ran. Given how little I’ve run over the last two months that’s not the end of the world. And I don’t want to needlessly get tired or sore the day before trying to run long.

The main goal is to run long this weekend and as long as I’m up to that task then I’ll be in good position for next week and beyond. My long elliptical workouts have helped keep me in the aerobic and physical shape needed to run easy for a long period.

And it’s not like I need permission to stop and rest over and over throughout the long run. I plan to slow down and relax a lot on this weekend’s running. The important thing is to cover however much distance I can and give myself that neuromuscular stimulus to recover from.

If somehow I end up in good fitness to run Indy in November (rather than barely passable fitness just to finish) I’ll have semi-accidentally stumbled upon a solid marathon training approach: Focusing on cross training for easy aerobic work, focusing more in the early going on cross training and strength training, and then transitioning more into heavier running on the back end of the training cycle. I won’t say that I’m sure it will work, but I obviously suspect that this approach could end up working out once it’s done, even if it was a circumstantial product of necessity.

Obviously I don’t want to go too hard and try to make up for lost time. That’s not possible and you’ll only burn yourself out and get hurt doing that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t train seriously for 5-6 weeks and make substantial progress to get in marathon shape. All is clearly not lost yet.

So, busy day today ahead of travel, and I’ll probably turn in a bit later than I’d like. But now that it’s cooling off it’ll be rather cool at altitude anyway (even cold if I’m early enough), so starting a long run late in the morning isn’t going to be a problem. My biggest concern will be suitable shade from the sun.

More to come once I’m on location….

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Should you strength train before or after a run?

Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything besides daily check-ins. I’ve finally found a topic I want to separately discuss.

I’ve talked about this before, when you as a runner want to strength train with your endurance workouts, and whether to do it before or after the run.

First of all, I offer the caveat that serious endurance training will always compromise growth and development in any strength training you also do. Your body physiologically does not compartmentalize its recovery and adaptation to multiple simultaneous forms of exercise. Your finite hormonal and nutritional resources will spread recovery efforts across everything in your body that needs repair.

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Checking In 8/22/2021

Today’s long workout was an exercise in moderating expectations.

I had hoped to try and do some treadmill running, which I hadn’t done since the hamstring issue began. However, I had woke up this morning with some hamstring soreness, and I suspected those plans weren’t going to go according to plan.

I started slow and planned to do a 10 minute warmup in increasing increments, but I got barely into the 2nd increment before I realized shutting it down was the best idea, and so I did before the vague soreness got any worse.

In fact, I got on the elliptical, thinking perhaps I’d knock out another 80-120 minutes, and for a change it actually began to feel sore about 15-20 minutes in. So I shut that down as well.

I decided to try an old friend, the spin bike, even though my last experience with that provided some pain and soreness. But I remember that was on the recumbent version and I had yet to try the regular spin bike.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the spin bike felt fine. Incidentally, Garmin this weekend has a challenge badge for 40K (24mi) on the bike, so I gave the spin bike a good hour and 45 minutes. Maybe it wasn’t a long run, but this was certainly close enough for now.

I have some hope to do some Easy Intervals this week. If I can get them in, my Indy goal might still remain within reach going into September. We’ll see.

Over coffee this morning, I did some meal planning for this week. The challenge is I spend about 12-13 hours at work or to/at/from the gym training. I want to see if I can clean up portions of my diet and effectively fuel an increase in training volume.

So far I had been eating a light breakfast, and I think I’m going to start cramming more fruit and protein into that morning meal. I also swapped out nuts for more fruit, as I’m already taking in quite a bit of dietary fat and want to see if paring that a bit will help shed some extra weight. I also wanted dinner to be more consistent, as I’ve mostly been grabbing whatever’s most readily available and best a fit for what nutrients I need. If I can eat lean protein each evening, that will set me up nicely to sleep well that night.

I managed to get the needed grocery shopping for all this planning, and will look forward to seeing how this goes this next week.

This is the kind of stuff I can get done when I decide not to travel for a weekend.

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