Tag Archives: quick thoughts

Adding the Overhead Squat

Training right now feels great. Yesterday was a rest day, and all I did was walk on work breaks and go 45 minutes on the spin bike.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Dan John, a long tenured strength and track and field throwing coach who has authored a few very insightful books on training. The best known of the bunch is Easy Strength with Pavel Tsatsouline, thouugh I’ve recently read Attempts, A Contrarian Approach to the Discus, and am currently reading through Can You Go?

There’s a lot of information and I obviously won’t go into all of it. In Contrarian, however, he references a lift that he found instrumental in developing athletes: The overhead squat.

It’s a typical Crossfit exercise, and simple in scope. You hold the barbell overhead. You squat, making sure your weight drops between your squatting legs, and then come back up with the bar still straight overhead.

John sums up the benefits as such:

  • You can’t fake or cheat the strength and mechanics required to do it.
  • It demands balanced strength, not just to balance the bar itself overhead, but all of yourself has to be strong and developed. This develops it
  • You develop strong, flexible legs, not yoga flexible/strong, but the ability to quickly, powerfully transfer more than bodyweight, e.g. a jumper, a thrower, a football or basketball player, a sprinter.

I like my five day strength circuit and I plan to stick with it for the next while. But I also have some redundant exercises in there, and swapping in a sub-max version of the overhead squat would be a decent addition. I’d start with light weight and gradually build up to see my current capacity.

Last week I briefly tested the overhead squat mechanics with the Smith rack at the gym and found that it would work just fine (I was lucky; if I were a couple inches taller or my arms were a bit longer, it might not have!).

John also mentioned the Power Curl, which is just a leveraged bicep curl using a full bar. I might mix that in, though it turned out the redundant exercises I mentioned were bicep exercises, and I may have enough for now. Adding in the overhead squat is probably enough for now.

More to come as I see how it works.

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Back On (The) Track

I’m sore this 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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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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Checking In 10/14/2021… Ideas about future plans as well

Yesterday I went to Far Hills for some easy hill running, but my legs felt like lead pretty much out of the gate and never did improve beyond a difficult slow slog. Though the 2nd mile was a bit better, the uphill sections felt brutally tough and after a couple of circuits I looped back to the start at 2.6 miles and decided to call it there, heading to the gym and using the elliptical instead.

It looks like Tuesday’s 5.6 took more out of me than I had thought. I had eaten a big dinner Tuesday and I not only slept well but woke up yesterday feeling pretty good. But my legs simply were too tapped out to do much.

Tonight I’ll just stick to the gym, strength train, do a 10 minute warmup on the treadmill and then train on the elliptical. I’m still a bit sore and tired in the legs, and at this point I ought to focus on rest and recovery for this weekend’s long workout.


Regardless of how Indy goes next month, I’m sure that over the rest of my life I’ll want to do at least three more marathons:

  • I want to run Vancouver at least once more, whether it’s next year or some other year down the road.
  • I want to run Chicago at least once more. I’m fairly sure it won’t be next year but certainly some other year down the road. I probably will need to move on from Vegas before I can train through a summer for it.
  • I want to run the Luxembourg Night Marathon, which happens every May. A couple people I know have run it and it’s apparently quite fun running through the capital of a compact country at night. This wouldn’t happen before 2023, and I’d want to learn German and French on a high-functional level (I know a bit but not enough to be useful) before making the trip.

But in terms of stretch goals, bucket lists, however you put it, that’s honestly it. I don’t have any real interest in any others. I’m ambivalent about how much more energy I want to funnel into marathon training as a general practice. Maybe that will change in a while.

But a summer of training in Vegas has shown me that conventional marathon training in Vegas is probably too difficult for my circumstances. The injury thing might have been a blessing in disguise, as the seven derailed weeks prevented me from running all that much. The trips out of state to run in cooler climates helped for sure, as did the little work break runs in high heat. But even if I were 100% any other needed quality training (tempo runs, speedwork) was simply too much to ask in the Vegas heat, or through the pounding of using a treadmill.

Some of the issue was my weight having gotten to 175-180 lbs (the 80kg range), and that my prior training worked while I was at 160-170 lbs. The extra pounding probably created problems that wouldn’t have happened at 165 lb. Getting away from high volume endurance training for a bit can allow me to eat a lighter diet and slim down a bit more.

Even now, my natural eating patterns are more conducive to 2000-2500 calories per day, great for fat loss and intermittent fasting, but bad for meeting the calorie needs of marathon training. I’ve had to do a bunch of extra eating to cover the calorie and recovery needs of endurance training.

As of now, I want to focus on other training following Indy, and am not in a hurry to get back to long slower endurance workouts for marathons.

After recovering from Indy I plan to restrict my marathon training to a long run every couple weeks or so, just to maintain the endurance fitness built for Indy. Then, if/when I plan to run a marathon, it’s not a huge, long project to get trained for it.

Any other training would be sport-specific training. Any other running would be easy intervals for overall fitness, tailored when applicable to any other distances I’m planning to race. And I wouldn’t need to do them or endurance train every day. I could wake up, feel sore, and just decide to rest that day, almost any day.

23 days to Indy. This weekend remains a key workout, so the next couple days will be easier to ensure I’m loaded up for that long run.

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