Tag Archives: Training

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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An Elite Runner’s Job Isn’t Just Their Running

Sometimes people discuss the number of hours per week an elite sponsored runner trains, which is often in the 10-15 hours per week range. Inevitably someone brings up the argument that the sponsored elite runner’s job must be a nice job, only having to work 10-15 hours per week.

Let’s never mind the clearly exhausting effort that 10-15 hours can require, and how it’s obviously not the same as someone sitting at a desk 10-15 hours a week let alone 40.

Let’s also never mind any promotional or media work the athlete has to do as part of their written commitment, or any required travel.

Don’t forget that part of your training includes your diet, your recovery, and how you manage the rest of your life. If any of this falls short, it adversely affects the quality and results from your training.

So in effect, an elite sponsored athlete, facing high expectations with their race results, also is working when they are recovering. That is effectively part of their job: Eating right to fuel recovery as well as future workouts, getting the needed rest to recover from the last workout and prepare for the next, etc. All of these tasks are in effect part of their responsibility to their running because they are necessary to get the needed results when they do run.

So no, an elite runner’s job isn’t just the 10-15 hours a week they run. It’s also the hours of meal prep and consumption, the hours where a point is made to stay off their feet and rest even if they want to go out and do something, eating food they’d rather not eat because it’s healthy and essential to their recovery, etc.

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Checking In 10/11/2021

I pretty much took the weekend off, after all.

On Saturday, I had to take my car in for service and some other errands. By the time I returned home I was actually fairly exhausted, a good deal more than usual. I also still had the same lingering hamstring soreness from earlier that week. I decided not to train and just took it easy. In fact, I turned in rather early, with the sunset. And that was around 6:45pm.

Yesterday, Sunday, I rode long on the spin bike, about 105 minutes, but otherwise nothing else. Again, I took it easy, outside of going to the store and doing laundry.

Today I feel like a weird ball of energy… maybe this is what it feels like to have energy and not be tired? I do get so used to being tired and exhausted from training and life that perhaps I mistake having energy for being jittery? I haven’t had coffee yet. I slept reasonably well last night, and though I didn’t sleep much Friday night I definitely slept well Saturday night.

In any case, I also don’t have hamstring soreness this morning. Two days off allowed that to dissipate. I will slowly ramp today back into training, as we’re now into peak week… maybe peak fortnight, depending on how much I can handle next week as well. That will be the last week of intense training, as I’ll then have two weeks to Indy and will begin to taper.

I didn’t watch Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, and of course I’ll be working today so I won’t be watching Boston. Is it exciting, or do I have any feelings of missing out? Not really. It’s great to see people chasing their victory laps. But I’ve had mine, and hopefully will complete one of my own next month.

I don’t get the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out) much at all these days. I feel comfortable mentally about where I’m at, even if I’m not yet where I want to be. I can continue working where I’m at on where I want to go, without seeing someone else’s victory lap and feeling bad, antsy, FOMO, etc. Good for them, and I still feel good about where I am.

I ran Chicago three years ago (the dreaded Hiccups Marathon), and do want to run it again someday (even if I find the massive Chicago crowds annoying). I like the course and experience, and much like Vancouver 2019 I want the next time around to go right and be able to run that marathon out on my terms. It’ll also be good to see some of my old Chicago people once again. It may not be next year, but at some point I’ll run it again.

Boston? Maybe in the (admittedly unlikely) event I qualify, sure. But otherwise, I’m not interested. It’s a pedestal marathon for many, but I don’t think nearly as much of it as others.

As for more accessible marathons… Vancouver 2022 remains a possibility. I had actually considered not running another marathon for at least a year or two, and focus on training for other distances.

But after all the problems I’ve had with the Indy training cycle, I want to take a month or two off from hard training and then it’d be nice to take advantage of the Vegas winter conditions (actually ideal for marathon training) and get it right this time. Vancouver, presuming they hold the race (I think we’ll be out of the Coronawoods by then and they’ll do it), would be an ideal end goal.

That’s not to say I couldn’t still focus on those other events, and maybe just restrict my Vancouver training to a long run every week or two, and a longer tempo/pace run every week or two. Any other training would still benefit my marathon fitness, should I decide to run it next May. As long as I did a marathon-specific run every week, I could still maintain and improve that long fitness to some degree.

That’s to be figured out down the road, though. For now I still need to get ready for Indy, and this week of wall to wall training is all about that.

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Checking In 10/4/2021

Yesterday I ground out 80 minutes on the elliptical and (for the first time in a week or so) strength training. My legs still a little bit sore this morning, but nothing that should stop me from training.

… well, nothing but forgetting my running shorts! Again! I did this a couple weeks ago, and though going home to get them after work and then going to the gym isn’t a hassle, doing so does waste valuable time and limits what I can do when I get to the gym.

I like to form habits that avoid forgetting things like this. For example, I’ll stow key items for work in my backpack so I don’t end up forgetting them, since I take my backpack to work and they’ll obviously be there.

The only reason I haven’t done the same for my shorts is when I get home I usually just came from the gym so I’m wearing them. I don’t always think to take them off and put them in my backpack. I should, obviously.

I only own a couple pairs of shorts anyway, so perhaps this is a sign to go before work or during lunch and buy another pair of training shorts. Then when I get home I can stash two pairs of my shorts in the bag so I have an “emergency pair”.

Tonight I’m riding the elliptical and strength training again, and will see how I feel tomorrow, when Vegas should be a lot cooler and the post-work evening should be closer to training conditions. Presuming I feel okay and the temperatures are acceptable, I have plans to run and then possibly sneak over to the gym afterward.

With 33 days to go until Indy, even after 3+ hours of training Saturday I remain concerned about readiness for the race. The main goal this week is to knock out back to back to back 45-90 minute aerobic or running sessions, and possibly get some of that running done outside.

If I get to Thursday feeling okay and having trained well I’ll see how long I can go this weekend, though Plan A right now is not to go terribly long Saturday or Sunday. So if I’m not feeling up to a long workout, then it fits, so long as I get in 45+ minute sessions both weekend days. The next weekend in Vancouver will include a long workout.

If possible I’m going to once again stay off the treadmill. I got what I needed out of it this weekend, and while the workouts were strong and beneficial, I don’t want to push any injury risks if running outside is going to do my body better.

More to come.

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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 10/2/2021

There won’t be an outdoor run today. The weather was fine, but I clearly needed to sleep in quite a bit, which for me is until about 6:30am, and at that point it’s far too late in the morning to get to starting a long run and not end up in too hot conditions for the run to go fine.

So the plan today and tomorrow is to work on the treadmill at easy pace to marathon pace, by swinging two workouts. Plan A was to do a long run of about 16-18 miles today and an hour of running tomorrow, and in each I’d stop and walk after 2 miles for fluid and fuel, as I will when I run Indy.

Workout 1 is an easy interval style long run, running most of it at an easy, slow pace where every 10 minutes I’d briefly surge to marathon pace, then dial back to easy pace. I’d pause every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel, then resume. Obviously the gym treadmills stop at one hour, so that break would be a bit longer, but I’d restart and get right back at it until I’ve done three hours.

However, if not feeling like death, the 3rd hour would increase 15 minutes in from easy pace running to marathon pace running, with 30 second surges to Easy Interval pace every 10 minutes. Again, I’d stop every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel as before.

Workout 2 is a marathon pace workout that should take about 80-90 minutes, and basically practices the mechanics of race day. I start with marathon pace, then slow to a walk at 2 miles to take fluid and fuel. Once situated I get back to marathon pace until I get to 4 miles, then stop the treadmill outright for fluid and fuel in a more extended break. Once ready, I restart the treadmill and repeat the process, ultimately doing four long marathon intervals of about 2 miles each. The reason I don’t do a full hour ending with a runout is I want to simulate the true mechanics of running between the Indy aid stations, and ending each hour with a shorter run-out screws that up.

I could start on the treadmill today and find it won’t work for my body to go 3 hours today, so then I could pivot to Workout 2 and only do an hour, maybe only do three 2-mile intervals since I’ll have been running a bit by that point, then take it easy the rest of the day and go for the long Workout 1 tomorrow.

However, Workout 1 today and Workout 2 tomorrow is the plan for now, and I believe that can work just fine. If I get through this weekend with both completed as planned, I’m in very good shape for Indy given where I was a month ago.

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