Tag Archives: Training

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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Enough of that training plan already

So a week before Saturday, with a 10 miler looming on the schedule, 12 weeks into an automated Garmin half marathon training plan… I decided to pull the plug on the plan.

I wasn’t struggling. Save for one or two runs where I couldn’t nail pace (one was a nightmare session where I was running uphill into a 30 mph headwind), and a couple of workouts here and there that I circumstantially had to delete, I had done every workout and had hit the prescribed training paces on all of the other runs. This was 5 runs a week, four in a row with a long run buffered by days off. I had started with a lot of cross training and then backed the cross training off as the volume and demands at work went up. I was doing okay and I noticed I had decent general energy at work.

However, the scheduled runs completely took away my flexibility with workout scheduling. I had to do X workout on X day, X miles, X pace. Often I had to plan my day around the workouts rather than vice versa. With a tough work assignment, a cross town commute, and a resulting long work day with few gaps… at this point I need to be able to decide how long midweek workouts need to be, and have the luxury of scheduling them either before or after work. At this point I was doing all my workouts after work because they required about an hour. If I could knock it out in 30-40 minutes, I could do it in the morning, but few of them were that short at this point.

It turns out there was another external complicating factor to go with it. Rising Coronavirus concerns at the time were likely to wipe out the planned half marathon in January, and I had no real personal need to independently run 13.1 miles outside of an organized race. Now we know a 2nd wave of restrictions are taking hold, not to mention a looming risk of increasing cases for the winter, and in all likelihood everything’s going to be cancelled for a while once again.

Plus, and yes I realized I had accepted this up front, but 18 weeks is fairly long for a sub-marathon training plan. The 12 weeks I had trained is a more typical training plan length for a half marathon anyway. That seemed like a good time to call it off, if I was going to call it off early. At least I spent the time doing focused, quality training.

So I nuked the plan, and after taking a couple days off, plus some very busy subsequent days at work, I ended up taking the whole week+ off, my only subsequent exercise being some 20-30 minute walks during the day. Again, I’m a big proponent of extended training breaks during the year to let the body recharge, and this for me is a good chance to take one.

Even if I take the rest of this week off and let two weeks pass before running again, I still have built up a suitable amount of fitness to run long 12+ miles and run 3-6 times per week for up to 30-35 total miles. I also have substantially improved the pace and work in my regular easy runs, which is a boost going forward.

If I want to roll the dice on a May marathon happening, I can begin serious training for that at the end of December. At this point, needless to say, the chances of gyms being open are pretty small, and I shouldn’t count on being able to lift weights or cross train on cardio machines. It’s running and calisthenics, or bust.

But this time around I’ll go back to building my own training plan, and giving myself the option to run shorter on most weekdays so I can get those runs in during the morning. The if I need a quality or longer workout outside of the weekend I can get one in during a weeknight as needed.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving.

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Block Scheduling: Aiding Recovery By Batching Runs

This scheduling trick was a so-called happy accident. I partially did it out of necessity, and then discovered it was a sound approach with my current schedule.

My current training plan requires 5 days of running per week. Once I added in 8-10 hour workdays, the required commutes, and all the outside logistics required in-between… getting these five workouts in became rather difficult.

Add in the limited time before work to run, and a 45-60 minute morning workout that requires you be awake and ready to run by 5:00 am most days, and I realized keeping my daily morning run schedule would too often be impractical, if not a sleep-deprivation and burnout risk.

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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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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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Back To Work (And Its Training Challenges)

After about 7 weeks since the end of my last job, I went back to work full time this past week, a project/assignment based salary administrative and accounting position. There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn.

While this quickly solves the problem of once again securing regular compensation, the tradeoff is that after 7 weeks of having all the time I desired to train when I wanted, I now need to fit training around a work schedule again while still being able to decompress, rest and recover properly.

One good bit of news is that almost every project situation will require a traditional 8 to 5 Monday through Friday schedule again. Having trained around that for years, I know I can do it.

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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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