Reward Based Running

First, a confession. Today I had oatmeal for breakfast.

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It was totally everything I hoped and dreamed it would be.

Anyway, my chosen workout today was a 4 mile trail run. I generally don’t like to do my “long” runs the day after lifting, but being tomorrow is the start of spring gobbler season, I don’t want to be running around in the woods while folks are trying to hunt. Especially opening day. So I set off for my wilderness release this morning, the weather was gorgeous, my legs felt surprisingly fresh, and I got my 4 miles in in under 50 minutes, and considering the terrain, I’m totally cool with that.

Trail running is one of the most liberating activities I’ve ever practiced. It requires full body mindfulness, no plugging in the headphones and just pounding away at pavement, no zoning off, you have to be in tune with your surroundings at all times.

This is good for me because I’m a lazy ass rewards motivated person. I don’t like to get out of bed in the morning unless I’m getting paid, be it in cash, accomplishment, or opportunity. I will admit, road running and hitting a PR is fun and all, but it is nothing like the “payment” I get when I’m running a trail.

I am motivated by interesting sights like big fucking rocks (or Pennsylvania sex stones, as we call them):

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and small bubbling brooks:

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I would rather climb giant hills to witness this, than say stick to the flat road and see drug deals on the street corner.

I am motivated by the fear and excitement elicited by being in an environment shared by animals that could actually kill me if they wanted to. I would rather outrun a bear than that homeless guy who follows me around on his bicycle and asks me for cigarettes.

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I like that I can trudge up a mountain slowly knowing I’m saving my strength for an instance where I might actually need it, and to regain speed I can sprint across lakes and float down hills.

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I like that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and if that means getting knee deep in a mud puddle, so be it.

It’s fun, it’s cathartic, and the stumps, stones, and sounds are all a constant reminder to take it one step at a time, slow down when you need to, and go fast when you feel it.

I’m definitely inspired by my new undertaking and the rewards I’ve been reaping from it, be it in awesome photo ops, newfound confidence in my strength and abilities, and something that meshes amazingly with my love to lift and gives me my coveted “outdoor time” that protects my sanity.

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Out of Hibernation

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last checked in. As much as I love the blogging community, the wonderful friendships I’ve formed, and the outlet for my fitness related musings, I am eternally heinous at committing to any semblance of a writing calendar. The fact of the matter is – these past few weeks have been a blast on the training front, chaotic on the work front, and any fun “me time” I’ve had leftover I have been trying to spring clean my house, study for my ISSA, and spend some qt with my fiancĂ© outside of a work setting. All in all, I get my summer help back at the bar starting next Sunday, which means until then it’s work, train, eat, sleep (in any order that I can fathom.)

In the upcoming months, I’m going to use my blog mainly as a sounding board for my daily workouts and training schedules. It’s easier for me to pop in and write posts like this than it is to try and find fresh features every day. Plus, I do this whole blogging thing for selfish reasons – I like to be able to look back and see how far I’ve come, and hopefully summer 2013 is going to be so epic that I will cherish these little updates looking back.

This week is my deload week on 5/3/1, meaning lighter lifts. I remain completely infatuated with 5/3/1 no matter what my training focus is, and I love the flexibility it allows. Yesterday I did my deload squats and bench presses, along with some accessory work, and then set off to do some hill sprints:

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This obviously is not the hill I sprinted. This flat part however is the top of the hill that I actually sprinted. That beast is on the agenda in the future though.
I ran about 1/2 mile to said hill, sprinted up and jogged down 5 times (with a minute or two break at the bottom) and then jogged the 1/2 mile back as a cool down. Definitely kicked my ass, and I definitely need to start doing this more regularly.

Today is “active recovery day” – I did a restorative yoga video and some core work. I have seriously neglected my flexibility for a long time, and it’s reflecting in my squats. Yoga has actually become a regular part of my training program lately not only because on days after a hard workout it helps to get blood flowing to all your body parts, but increased flexibility within reason improves your performance in any athletic arena. Also, taking an hour to do something serene and calming before a chaotic workday helps me go in with a better overall attitude. And if you’ve had to work with me lately, I assure you that’s a good thing.

My first 5k in over 10 years is coming up in less than a month. I guess I need to come clean with everyone here real quick – I actually really love running. I like being outside, I like being alone in the woods, I like seeing improvement every day in my abilities. I generally have only been trail running, with a road run sprinkled in for timing and pacing purposes once a week or so. My base as a lifter has made me a tank – I love that I can conquer so much distance and technical terrain without much experience as of late. If you are a runner and have any doubt that lifting will hurt your performance – come chase me through the woods. Seriously.
I love how heavy lifting makes you better at everything. Not just picking up heavy stuff, but it conditions your body to do so much more. I never doubted it for a minute, but since I’ve been exploring other athletic endeavors, it has proven itself tenfold.
My motive behind this 5k is to actually get used to racing procedures before I take on some more serious and less local events. Also I like to scope out new parks and stuff that I could potentially train in. Plus as a future personal trainer, it’s good to get out in the community and show your athletic prowess. Plus Aaron bet me a pair of Tiffany’s sunglasses I can’t run it sub 30. (Don’t judge. Though I am essentially a cheapskate, if it comes in a little blue box and I don’t have to pay for it, I’m all over it.) At the moment I am having doubts of this sub 30 – but I’m just putting that thought out there so it can marinade in my brain for the next 25 days.

Ok ramble time is over! I hope everything is well in all your worlds, and I promise to make my way over to your blogs soon and catch up! Until then, have fun with your training, and treat your body kindly!

Spring Fling Shakeup

I know I spent the last month lamenting over the end of cross country ski season, but now that the temperatures have started to thaw my icy heart, I can say with confidence, I’m ready to tackle spring.

The upcoming months are proving to be exciting ones, and I’m definitely reaching outside my athletic comfort zone with a handful of obstacle races, mud runs, and a duathlon to look forward to.

Trying to fashion a structured training program around my many flippant goals was an adventure in itself, but I was really looking for an excuse to buy some glitter gel pens anyway, so it was all good.

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I have kind of tormented over sharing this stuff with you guys, only because I typically take a stance that is more pro lifting and less cardio, and I 100% still do. If you are just trying to get in shape or lose weight, that in my humble opinion, along with a tight diet is the optimum way to go about it. I’m torn between saying something along the lines of “do as I say, not as I do,” and “oh, fuck it, you’re all the conductors of your own personal train wrecks.” You have to train for your current goals.

The fact of the matter at hand is – I need to be outside when the weather is nice, I like to eat a lot of food, I like “free” t-shirts, and if it means I can get out of and or show up late for work every once in awhile, I will run, climb, bike and crawl my big ass all over the tri-state area.

All day yesterday, I blocked out my next 6 weeks of training for my upcoming adventures, after Bethany, who is doing Tough Mudder with me, told me about hers. My first concern, which should be anyone’s was avoiding injury. I made sure one day a week was blocked off for rest, and I made sure another day of the week was super easy and short. I also left room for stretching and yoga on a regular basis.

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This is what old glitter pen and I came up with.

My next biggest concern was retaining a solid strength training program. Although the allure of blazing through trails in the woods on a beautiful summer afternoon and trying new physical feats that test my mental and athletic competence are calling my name right now, I want to be ready to compete in powerlifting by December. I also wore fat pants all winter so I could build some muscle. I’m not wasting that effort just to play in the mud. I stuck to my 5/3/1 program but tweaked the assistance work to include some more heavy, strength building moves as opposed to the more hypertrophy focused boring but big program I was following before.

It’s a pretty well known fact that I’m not a skilled runner. So obviously, I need to run a few times a week to build that skill set a little more. Most of my runs right now are short, with an “interval run” during the week where I run 2 minutes and walk 1 minute.

I also programmed in a few circuit training sessions a week in order to work on explosive strength moves as well as “cardio.” These will be especially beneficial when Mudder rolls around because of the nature of obstacle courses.

Most of my training sessions are kept under an hour, except one day a week when my focus is training for multiple hours in order to get acclimated to being under tension for an extended period of time like long races require. This session is split between various types of training, and is followed by a rest day.

I’m so excited to start this next chapter in my training experience, and I’m pumped to see what my body is capable of outside of just the strictly lifting shell. I’m excited to gain personal experience to apply towards my clients’ training in the future in the realm of not only performance, but nutrition for such activities. Basically, I’m ready to shake things up this spring!

Anybody else training outside the box this summer? How was the transition for you?

Jump around. The Plyo Chronicals

Recently, I’ve been tweaking my training to help manipulate my current athletic goals. Always a constant is increasing my strength. More recently, though, I’ve started training for some obstacle races and the like, which has forced me to shift outside of my comfort zone, and add a little more cardio into my life.

As a powerlifting purist, it can be said cardio can be counterproductive to strength gains. Obviously, if you are wrecking your body with hours upon hours of steady state anything, and not eating enough to support said activity, you’re going to waste some muscle and feel like ass when it comes time to lift. This is why we have to get creative. We have to strive to get the most gain out of our cardio bucks, preserve muscle mass, encourage adequate recovery, eat enough… it’s kind of a hot mess if you dwell on it.

I have been integrating HIIT and other forms of circuit training into my regime in order to meet my cardio needs, and one form that I’ve been particularly keen on lately is Plyometric Training. Without going all science nut on you, plyometrics are explosive exercises that typically involve jumping. I really like this article about plyos as it goes into great detail on the how’s and whys and an overview of a few various exercises. Basically, Plyometric training can help aid in the “explosive” muscle contraction you undergo in your sport. As a powerlifter, this means the bottom half of a squat or bench press, or the entire deadlift (in my opinion). Every sport requires some element of explosion, and the more power you have behind the movement, the more force you can exert, which translates to bigger, stronger lifts in my opinion.

Plyo workouts can also completely wreck you in a short period of time. However, you only get what you put in. I treat my Plyometrics as a strength building move, I do each exercise with a full range of motion, and my goal each rep is to jump higher, squat deeper, or go faster depending on the exercise. I rest between sets and exercises. Even though you will get sweaty and your heart will pound, when you do plyos you’re getting a two-fer – building explosive strength and pounding out some cardio.

I dedicate one workout a week strictly to plyometrics. Usually, it’s a day when I’m short on time, but still want to squeeze something in. I also pick one lifting day and do Plyometric exercises in between sets of my assistance work. It’s an easy way to save time in the gym and still accomplish the sprinkles on your already hardcore training cake.

I whipped up this little nugget for you guys to test drive if you’re looking to dabble in plyometrics. I suggest you do this on a carpeted floor or outside in the grass, as plyo can be hard on the joints. If you’re a beginner, rest longer between sets and cut back the reps to maybe 5 per set. Make sure you are adequately warmed up before doing this, and I don’t suggest doing jump training on back to back days for recovery purposes:

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As you get stronger and more comfortable with these moves, you can integrate other plyo exercises into your training including box jumps and plyo push ups.

I have definitely seen results from training this way, in that there is a little extra “oomph” in my squats which were lagging for a minute there. I’m sure you can find a practical application for this kind of training regardless of your sport, I know we did a ton of this in my high school track days, and I was one hell of a hurdler. I like the concept of being explosive and dynamic – and I like that a little goes a long way.

Anybody else specifically train plyometrics? What are some of your favorite moves?