Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: By The Numbers: Mileage

     2011 has been stellar looking at the big picture. There has certainly been highs and lows, but that is just the way it goes with endurance sport competitions. Its like a sine wave, you take the peaks with the valleys and when your peaking athletically it feels real good and the competition results are amazing, then its time to recover and the stats start looking not quite as good. I like to participate in events year round weather I'm high on a peak or down in the valley, because for me its more about being healthy and active than it is about race results.

     That said, I do want to end 2011 here on Cardioholics Anonymous with a year end activity report. Not only is it important for me to use this post for reference material when I devise my next training plan, but some who might read this might get inspired to do something similar. Monitoring and logging activity data is a great way to help understand why as an individual I might be in the particular shape I'm in. One website, dailymile, helps me with this a lot. All of these charts are generated from the dailymile site. It is important for me to post this on the last day of the year, but fractional data may change some final numbers when dailymile updates the data tonight. If that happens I'll update this post.

     All: Total mileage for this year including run, bike, swim, walk, hike, and elliptical machine is coming in at 4259 miles. I didn't keep records for 2010, but I'm almost certain that 4259 miles is a qualifier for the most active I've ever been.

     Swimming: My goal of swimming 104 miles in 2011 turned out to be the most consistently challenging fitness related activity that I participated in this year. I don't like to makes me sad...but just getting to the pool 3 and 4 days a week and working on getting better at something that I truly don't enjoy proved to be incredibly rewarding. I'm still below average with my speeds in the water, but at least I'm not way below average anymore.

     Cycling: I originally started 2011 intending to ride 2011 miles, but I hit that target sometime in the late summer, so I bumped it up to 2400 miles just to keep me motivated.

     Running: My race schedule determines my run mileage, so I didn't set an arbitrary goal to run a set number of miles. I run 3 times a week (usually 4, 6, and 8 miles) when I'm not training for a half or a full marathon, and I run 4 times a week gradually escalating the weekly mileage when I'm training. Knowing in January that I was going to train for one half and one full marathon in 2011 I roughly figured I'd run about 1200 miles. Turns out I ran just under 1400.

     All in all it was an exhaustive year of training. I'm glad I did it. 2011 will stand out as a high mileage year in all 3 disciplines. I'll probably try to beat it someday, but I can't say what the long term future holds. I don't see me putting this much effort into training in 2012 though.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This is a NO CAN'T ZONE...easily defeated need not proceed!

     Maybe it was my fault for not making it clear. This blog is about what IS possible. We all have about the same capacity to make ourselves healthy, but some of get bogged down with life and literally let ourselves go, like I did. That's fine, and maybe some folks enjoy their obesity, that's fine too...I myself wasn't too concerned about being obese. My motivation for fitness primarily revolved around health statistics and avoiding pharmaceuticals.

     Certainly not everyone who might read this blog is going to be like minded, that's fine, go do your your thing. This blog is about what you CAN also do, IF you want to. (I also enjoy the occasional creative writing exercise, but thats neither here nor there.) I usually spend 60-90 minutes a day doing some combination of running, swimming, cycling, lifting and/or stretching. I'm also known to use an elliptical machine from time to time. Nothing super human about that. I do it, and you can too.

     Granted, I seem to possess a certain capacity for finishing races with above average results, but can to...if you want to.

     The raw facts is that from age 38 to age 40 I got faster, stronger, leaner, and healthier than I ever dreamed possible when I started this whole fitness bit. That is what the human body is capable of when it is conditioned properly. You CAN run, you CAN bike, you CAN swim, you CAN get strong, you CAN get flexible, you CAN eat right, you CAN lose weight, and you CAN get healthy. If you do enough of it then eventually you CAN win your age group in a race or even win the whole thing! (If you wanted to that is)

     So in conclusion, while I usually refrain from the profane, I do just want to say that if you happen to read this blog and think some weak ass lame shit like "Wow, that guy sure is athletic, but I can't do those things, so he shouldn't talk down on unhealthy eating, sedentary lifestyles, and obesity so much.", then carry that weak ass lame shit on to some other source of reading material.

Monday, December 12, 2011

(Re) Establishing the (run) Base.

     Defeated, deflated and dejected by the lack of performance at his recent asphalt based running events, the fitness enthusiast responded in the only way that he knew how. Recalibrate, start over again from ground zero. A full month had now passed since the Richmond Marathon and in that time his fitness strategy had been mostly concentrated on strength building. Yes, their was a 5k thrown into the mix too...just to keep things from tightening up, but for the most part he had only ran short distances with little to no intensity.

     The first 4 weeks of strength training had proven to be invigorating. His goals had been simple, meet intermediate standards for 5 key power lifts. One of those lifts, the Bench Press, had proven to be of minimal challenge since his routine training had kept him somewhat proficient year round. The other 4 lifts, the Military Press, Squats, Deadlift, and Power Clean were new territory and his expectations were based on much less certainty. Ultimately, the Power Clean had been abandoned due to concerns about technique and safety, but the other 3 were progressing quite well and a growing anticipation of successfully meeting the standards was undeniable.

     Strength training was essential to his overall fitness strategy, Body Building, however, was not. The "need for speed" was his primary motivator and with 4 weeks remaining to get tuned up for the Frozen Toe 10k it was time to adjust his routine accordingly. Strength training had left him powerful, perhaps powerful beyond measure, but strength alone was a peripheral consideration when seeking to yield a high quality finish at a 10k trail race.

     Goals for the Frozen Toe, however, had not been established yet. A "high quality finish" could mean many things and for now the idea was simply to establish a solid running base so that when training for the Blue Ridge Half  started in February that he would be ready for it. The Frozen Toe would be an important event for him to gauge his fitness strategy, but it was not an "A" race.

     Still, a race is a race and goals would have to be established. Recent statistics from his last 2 asphalt based races suggested he might be entering a plateau with his running performances. Pushing past a plateau was not something the fitness enthusiast had a great deal of experience with. For almost 3 years faster times and higher placed finishes had been something of a given. Now he would have to learn to measure success by  more abstract standards. Regardless of what numbers he would come up with he did know one thing...on race day he would give it all he had and as long as he did that then he knew it would be enough.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2011: By The Numbers: Vital Signs

      If you've looked at this blog before you may have noticed a tendency of mine to ramble on about numbers. I do get a certain satisfaction from pushing my limits and testing my boundaries with the whole swim, bike, run, lift and stretch routine, but the numbers that matter the most to me are the numbers that got me interested in active living in the first place. That would be weight, BMI, Fat %, and blood pressure. I'd say cholesterol too, but I only check that once a year, so I don't have enough collective data to include that one.

      A few years ago my health statistics didn't look so good. I was obese and my cholesterol was getting to a point were I was going to need medication. I decided to skip the whole pharmaceutical racket and opted to give clean living a try instead...lets see how thats working so far,,,

Weight (click to enlarge)

BMI (click to enlarge)

Body Fat (click to enlarge)
Blood Pressure (click to enlarge)

      Looking at the charts I'd have to say I'm statistically perfect. Getting these numbers with zero pharmaceuticals is icing on the cake. If you want results like these, I have a suggestion...Ask your doctor if eating right and getting off your ass is right for you!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marathon Recovery/Strength Training Progress

     July 25th 2011 was the day I started training for the Richmond Marathon and Nov 12th was the day of the event. During this 16 week period one of my main goals was to not lose any significant amount of upper body strength as measured by my bench press stats. Previous marathon and half marathon training cycles had diminished my upper body strength by roughly 15% (estimated since I didn't keep good records back then).

     I decided to do my 12 Exercise Free Weights Routine with a Heavy Weights/Low Reps strategy 2x a week on Thursday and Sunday with a hope that it would be enough to maintain my base strength (meaning that I would be able to perform the same routine over the course of the training cycle without reducing the weights). The only exception I made to this was the bench press itself where instead of 12 reps I decided to take it to failure and I alternated between 120 lbs on Thursdays and 130 lbs on Sundays. (Starting out in July failure occurred at 12 reps @ 120 lbs and 10 reps @ 130 lbs).

     For the first 10 or so weeks the failure rep stayed about consistent, then I was completely amazed when sometime around week 10 of the 16 week training cycle my bench press failure rep started kicking in later and later until I was eventually doing 22 reps @ 120 lbs and 17 reps at 130 lbs. Having nearly doubled my muscular endurance for this exercise at a time when I was running 4 times a week for 40-50 miles was not something I had thought possible. The fact that I had about given up cycling during this period may have played a role, and I was still swimming roughly 2 x week just for the record.

     With the marathon just weeks away I knew it would be ill advised to change up my strength training routine, but I knew something good was happening with my arms and chest so I was looking forward to using my post marathon recovery period to focus on strength training with an emphasis on discovering my 1 rep max for 5 popular power lifts. I already had done a bench press 1 rep max at 160 lbs back sometime in the early summer and I had a good idea based on the one rep max calculator that a big improvement was on the horizon for my bench press 1 rm.

     What I discovered was that the 1 rm calculator gradually becomes more accurate as the weights increase and the reps decrease as I progressed closer to the calculated target. Based on 22 reps at 120 lbs the calculator estimated me capable of a 288 lb lift. My first 1 rm attempt after the marathon was at 190 lbs and that failed so I knew I had to reevaluate the dependability of the calculator.

     Since I was having such great results lifting 2x week I stuck with that to some extent, but I started adding 10 lbs to my bench press each time and I also started doing a few lifts on non lifting days for testing purposes. A few days after I took 160 lbs to failure at 9 reps I was able to complete the 190 lb lift and a few days after taking 170 lbs to failure at 7 reps I was able to complete a 200 lb lift making that my new 1rm! In theory I suppose I could keep progressing this pattern to a 220-225 lb lift, but I have 4 other lifts I'm working on and I'm happy where I'm at with the bench press for now, so I just don't see a need.

     With about 1 week remaining in my post marathon recovery/strength training cycle, I won't be devoting as much time to lifting since I need to get my run base built back up in time for the Frozen Toe 10k on Jan 7th, but I plan to keep doing some testing until training for the Blue Ridge Half starts sometime in February, then I'll let it plateau again.