Forming a running habit

After writing about how surprisingly motivational the Google Fit weekly running goals are for me, I thought it’d be nice to post an update:

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It took quite a bit of work and more than once I caught myself saying “if I don’t get a run in, I’ll have to wait a long time to push an incomplete week out the other side.” (If that phrasing makes any sense.)

The result was me having more back-to-back runs in the week: generally one 5k and a 7k, and a long run on the weekend. Maybe it’s not the structured approach to running I’d been hoping for, but it’s running.

Glory Days

I think a lot about the song “Glory Days” and of the danger of becoming a person who lives in the past. (‘A lot’ in this context means at least half a dozen times in my life.) The thing is, I used to run pretty regularly and it’s weird for me to struggle to get something done that used to be so fundamental to me.

I can rationalize that my kids are getting bigger, that I’m doing more with them, that I didn’t use to try and code a website in the same off-time that used to be just for reading and running. Nonetheless, it’s important to me that I continue to be the kind of person that I want to be, rather than assuming that having once run a marathon means I get to claim “runner” status forever.

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Burpees

Yesterday, I did something that I’ve been talking (to myself) about doing for a while: I added exercises to my run. Six times in my usual 7km run, I stopped and did 5 burpees.

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I don’t know why I picked them over any other exercise, except that they have the reputation of being super hard, and I was ready to have my butt kicked. Even more, I was ready to push myself into being seen being different. And they’re certainly different.

How was it?

First, let me say that I might have forgotten about them, except that I certainly feel the workout still. And I kinda like that.

Next, in addition to the fact that, although I felt self-conscious for the last set, my shyness decreased with each set, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty. It’s a funny thing to say, but for such a (self-perceived) nature-loving, Earth embracing hippy, I don’t get dirty very often. And, doing the burpees, I had to… and I liked it.

The last thing I wanted to mention as I reflect on them is that it was a fun change to start seeing the run as the ‘recovery’ part of the workout. I mean, after just five of them, I was so out of breath that I was glad to be running again. And that’s not how I usually thing about running.

When will I do them again?

My new short-term goal is to add a fourth, short run to my running week and to try and get the thirty burpees in just four sets…

If I do or don’t, I have to say that I’m feeling more active now, and I’m enjoying that level of activity.

Fitness in January

So, I don’t feel especially pushed to evaluate how my December training plan went, as I didn’t really make a detailed plan.

I was right that December is a hard time to focus on fitness and came away with these takeaways:

  • Trying for three runs per week was a good idea. I wound up very willing to compromise on the nature or quality of the run (shorter than planned? the day after a run day? No problem) and managed to get at least two runs in each week. Some, I even got in three including a few thirteen-kilometer runs.
  • There’s not really a point in hiding your fitness routine. I tend to hide the fact that I exercise. Nobody likes the fitness guy, right? So, I’ll talk about it only generally. And, during the first part of our hosting family, I didn’t get any exercise at all in (except some walking as we showed off the city). Then, after telling them that I do planks and that it helps with my back pain, it became easier to exercise in front of them.
  • I want to focus on abilities. It sounds weird, but nobody cares about reps. I say this because I can do a grand total of zero pull-ups. And, I could make a list of progressive goals for pull-ups, but that’s not what I get excited about. Instead, I’m still working on pull-ups, partly to do any (an ability) and as a stepping-stone towards tree-climbing and, possibly, bouldering.

The January Plan

Here’s what I’m looking at as I think about January:

First, I’ll be taking my son and a friend to a trampoline hall that has ‘ninja obstacle courses’ (I guess similar to American Ninja Warrior) and I look forward to measuring myself on those. (Also, to possibly turning two boys into workout partners.) She doesn’t know it yet, but because she’s feeling left out, my daughter will probably be taken bouldering with me this month as well. Another test of my general fitness.

To that end, here are the routines I’d like to have:

  • Running three times a week. Again, I’ll settle for the regularity now, and focus on the quality of the runs later.
  • Continuing the planks. I don’t get them done every day, but I think I can say I get them done two-thirds of the time and that they really help my back, as well as my overall feeling of strength.
  • More upper-body stuff. I have a sort of informal pull-up workout in my to-do list, and I get them done most of the time. To be honest, I’ve toyed with the idea of adding burpees to my run, partly for the workout and partly to force myself to accept looking weird in front of other people. Can’t hurt, can it?

Lastly, I think it’s good to have a goal to work towards, so there will be a 5k run for time at the end of the month.

The November Fitness Review

So, November was the first month I really wanted to stick to a written training plan. Ultimately, that training plan, while not very ambitious, was something of a stretch goal. I didn’t get it done but did do more than I would have without it.

Successes

I’m counting the fact that I still try to get my plank workout in each day as a success. It doesn’t always happen (happened early today, I’ve learned that I’m more disciplined in the morning) but it happens more often than not. And, as an extra plus, my back, shoulder and arm pain is much improved, if not yet eliminated.

My foot hurts less severely and less often. I’m chalking that up to the foot exercises and will continue them.

The realization that running form matters. While out on what should have been a hard run, I decided to focus more on form than intensity, because my food had been acting up. I was surprised that it was just as effective — as measured by speed — as focusing on intensity would have been, but not quite as mentally draining. (Focusing on actually doing something seems easier than just trying to push myself.)

Failures

For a variety of lame reasons, I only hit my three-times-a-week goal twice in November. And, that was evident in the fact that I slowed down for the first time ever in my monthly 5k for time. It was 28:38 this month, as opposed to 24:37 in October.

Summary

It’s ridiculous to think I’ll get a lot of exercise in in December. December is the month that I spend the rest of the year trying to work off. Still, the experiment was good enough that my next step will be making a plan for December. At least, for the time up to the holidays.

The Allure of the Pull-Up

Can you remember gym class in, say, eighth grade? Everyone was made to hang onto a freestanding pull-up bar and do “as many pull-ups as possible.” I put that last bit into quotes, because I don’t recall anybody doing any. It was like saying “jump to the moon and back as many times as possible.”

Nobody felt bad that they couldn’t do pull-ups, because nobody else could. (I should say that, due to scheduling, all of the music nerds in my high school had gym class together.)

Then, years later, I joined the National Guard and went to basic training. Fortunately, we were not required to do pull-ups to get out of basic training (you had to be able to do push-ups, and I would have lost sleep over it, if I hadn’t been exhausted every night) but there was another one of those freestanding pull-up bars.

Watching a lot of the other trainees bust out five or even ten pull-ups, I have to say that I no longer felt like I was normal in my inability.

Since then, though I’ve remained unable to perform even a single pull-up, it’s been one of the “milestones of manhood” that dangles in front of me every time I think that I’m ‘fit enough.’

I’ve run a marathon. I’ve run several half marathons. I can do more pushups now than I could in the Army. I like to think I’m ‘fit enough.’

And then, I remember that I can’t do a pull-up.

While I think about how I can get in shape for that, let me leave you with this.