Friday, 19 August 2011

Resolution about what this blog is about.

Today I sprinted! It was painful and glorious and now my calves are killing me. Feet too. Ow. We did 10 (ish) ten-yard sprints (five flying starts, five dead starts) 5 (ish) 40-yard sprints, and then the killers: 2 100-yard sprints. Yeouch. My calves have been sore for about a week now because I *finally* started doing what I have purported to do in this blog the entire time: run.
See, lately P-dazzle and I have been focusing on strength workouts. This is in part out of laziness and in part because once we get the weights out, both of us lift, and we put the weights back, we've already killed two hours and the world outside of fitness is imposing its demands and strictures upon us with stuff like showering before going to work.
Anyway, I've started to talk the talk and run I've just been doing a warmup jog before lifting, getting a feel for the new Vibrams (which I broke in and got extremely dirty on a hike last week), and trying to develop a technique akin to the POSE method. Who knew running had to be so complicated? The first time I took off on a warm up jog, which was a little under a mile long, I realized how great running feels and how much I've been missing it. Before this summer, I'd worked myself up to 3.5 miles and was feeling good about it. I haven't run that distance all summer, unfortunately, and I think that I've suffered for it in more ways than one. Much better athletes and runners have said this before me, but it really does affect my mood. So, now I'm renewed in my quest! It's time to start running more. I'm not planning on dropping the strength bit of training--it's been useful and gratifying--but I need to start pushing myself more. Especially since I started this blog with a deadline: February = 13 miles. Hoo boy.

So, sprints were good, I've been active, and I've been improving in my lifting! Just so I can gloat, I'm going to list my lifting stats as they stand now:

Back squat: 95 lbs (almost 100!)
Dead lift: 120 lbs
Bench: 65 lbs
Overhead Press: 50 lbs
Power clean: 75 lbs

To the seasoned lifter, this probably isn't much, but weight lifting like this is something I've never tried before, and it's been an incredible source of empowerment for me. It's nice to share these stats now with everyone--it feels like a motivator to improve so I can show you all the work I've been able to do. It's incredibly humbling at times because it is incredibly difficult, but it's also pretty cool to feel yourself push 95 extra pounds up with your back. Someday soon it'll be even more.

Thanks for reading, folks.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Shoes Make the Runner, Right?

Or lack thereof, perhaps.

I'm certainly not the first person to take on the issue of whether or not running shoes (in the sense that most of us understand them to be) are actually good for you and your running. Many would argue that we need them in order to run correctly: they provide arch support, cushioning for your heels--there's the idea that this is a case of human ingenuity and technology improving upon the bodies we were born with.

Of course, this is the ideology that I grew up with, that we need shoes with good arch support and fat cushy heels to make running possible. Then again, I also considered running to be something anyone can just do, no problem.

As you know (if you've been reading up to this point), this summer has proved to be a major shift in the way I think about fitness, and running has not been an exception. P-dazzle and I have come across a running technique known as POSE running. We're still in the early stages of learning how it works--it's a complicated technique that asks, in many ways, for you to unlearn a lifetime of thinking of running a certain way. Basically, it's hard, especially when you're trying to learn it from YouTube videos. But it is a legitimate technique--the man who developed it is an Olympic running coach, and it's commonly accepted in the CrossFit community--several of the trainers on CrossFit Endurance teach the method themselves.

My own motivations for learning this technique are that, for as long as I've participated in running, I've had persistent knee pain. Up until a few months ago, I dismissed this as the collateral damage of being active. However, it does strike me as strange to think that a body that is made for movement, whose ancestors have been moving for thousands of years, would have chronic pain because of the very same movement. At 22 years old, I shouldn't be dealing with joint pain.

So, P-dazzle and I have been taking steps to learn about this running method, which is rather difficult to do without paying to have a trainer instruct you. But we're working with the wealth of the internet, so we are still fortunate to have some reliable resources.

One thing that we've found, however, is that it is really difficult to use this new method with the traditional running shoes. One main tenet of the POSE technique is to do away with the heel-strike, which is how most of us run: slamming our heels hard into the pavement, leading us to need all that extra cushion that our running shoes so happily provide. The alteration that POSE makes is that the foot strike the ground not on the heel, but on the ball of the foot, with the heel lightly "kissing" the ground to get full calf extension. (There are other components, too, and many of which I don't have a very good understanding, but this is what has been essential to me so far.)

So, in order to develop my new runnin' skillz, I either need to go barefoot (which is awesome on grass, not so awesome on concrete) or buy some "minimalist" shoes. There are different ways to go with this option; you can shell out some big bucks for some Inov-8s, some Vibram FiveFingers, or some other brands that I am less familiar with. Unfortunately, this is a rather expensive option, so P-dazzle and I were resigned to the fact that we'd just have to wait til Christmas.

However, P-dazzle found a website that was selling Vibrams at a major discount, and so I splurged! They came last week and I've had a few opportunities to try them out, and they are pretty cool.

Here's a picture:

Because I was getting them at a discount, I was stuck with pink, but they're fun and I have definitely noticed a difference when I try running on the balls of my feet rather than my heels. Pretty exciting stuff. Hopefully this will put me on a more serious track with training; lately I've just been messing around and doing strength workouts instead of running and endurance.

Thanks for reading, y'all.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Grok Walkin'

In light of the confession I made in my last post, I bring to you evidence that I have begun to try and approach physical activity and fitness with a different, more open mindset.

P-dazzle and I often frequent Mark's Daily Apple, a blog devoted to the idea of a "Primal Lifestyle"--essentially, an approach to fitness that revolves around the idea that our bodies have evolved a certain way and that the most efficient way to use our bodies are to use them the way "Grok", that general primal ancestor on whom the Primal Community base their own fitness/nutritional/lifestyle behavior, did. At least, that's my take on it.

I'm including this brief overview because I find useful and reasonable the idea of using "primal living" as a template for how to act and live today. To be clear, I find this only useful as a template and not as an end-all, be-all guide to living life. Obviously "Grok" did not drive a car or even ride a bike, and he never got a taste of a delicious bagel slathered in cream cheese--sometimes you just gotta seize the day, even if it goes straight to your hips.

Anyway. My point is that the Primal Lifestyle, to me, carries with it some common-sense wisdom that speaks to me and makes sense to me in a way that a lot of other nutrition/fitness philosophies don't. I tend to be a moderate in almost everything, including this, so I am happy to pick and choose what I find gels with my own beliefs and ideas.

So, to return to the start of my post: P-dazzle and I find Mark's Daily Apple to be full of interesting, thought-provoking, and simply cool things, and we came across a workout dubbed the "Grok Walk." I don't suppose you'd be able to use the word "workout" in the narrow sense (much like I, in my lazy ignorance, tended to think of it), but it does involve activity, and lots of it. The idea, though, is doing a lot of low-intensity activity and making it something fun, something you could do any time, thusly integrating it into your life as something that you do--not because it's a workout to be parceled out at a certain point in your day, but activity as something that is simply a part of one's life.

So, the "workout" is prescribed as such:

"Complete, throughout the course of an hour-long walk:

30 Pullups
50 Squats
40 Pushups
20 Handstand Pushups
Climb Something, Twice
5 Short (30-ish meter) Sprints
Find Something Heavy to Carry for Seven Minutes"

P-dazzle and I set out to do precisely that. We climbed things (trees, walls, playground equipment) more than twice, did a sprint or two, some pushups, and I think I did about 10 squats. In our quest to complete the workout (though we weren't all that concerned about it--I'm nowhere near capable of doing a handstand, let alone 20 handstand pushups), we were sidetracked by a satisfyingly profound discussion that delved into issues that had been on our minds: questions and thoughts about religion, philosophy, the nature of Truth, the origins of Life and the Universe--you know, all the basic stuff. (I'm not trying to make us sound extra-intellectual or anything, it just happened to be a very philosophical discussion.)

We spent a good chunk of time arguing about extremists of all sorts at a park (gathering looks, I'm sure, from the few families who had brought their kids to play) as we climbed over the equipment, and found ourselves back home with only fragments of the workout done, but that didn't matter to me because what's been on my mind is the question of how to balance these things: cultivating an intellectual life, a spiritual life, and a physically fit life--and here it happened that I spent an entire afternoon doing all three!

(I've decided that to sign off this thing I'll say "good-bye" or "so long" or some such variation in a different language--but I won't look it up--I'll have to have learned it from a non-Google/search engine source. Intellectual life, there ya go.)

Adios, amigos.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Forgive me, Father Fitness, for I have sinned.

The primary function of starting this blog was to use it as a log for my training as a runner. But simply entering workouts and times/distances seems dry, even for the person writing it, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about the other purposes for which this blog could be used. It seems like most people use their blogs to explore/talk about/think about things in their lives that interest them, and lately for me that issue has centered around figuring out how to balance a life of physical, mental, and spiritual activity. So, in this blog, you're going to get three for one! Lucky ducks.

Anyway, just so it's clear: this will continue to be a blog about improving as an athlete, but it is also inevitably about improving as a human. After all, isn't that what most of us are trying to do?

So, to get this going in the right direction, I think it might be good to do the confessional thing and explain how I approached fitness/health/nutrition/physical activity for most of my life, up until about three months ago.

Part One: Joy is Lazy
I have to say, first, that I've never been much of a fan of being physically active. Or, to put it bluntly, I have spent most of my life being lazy. It's the danger of having a good life, I suppose. No need to be active when everything's provided for you, right? Instead the bulk of my value judgement has always been on intellect and book smarts. If you can't beat the athletes, play a different game. I've played the nerd-game and I'd like to think I'm pretty good at it.
Eventually, though, not being active led to issues with body image, which don't go away, no matter how good of a writer you are or how high your ACT score is. (FALLACY OF THINKING ACTIVE/MENTAL LIFE ARE SEPARATE) (It's complicated)

Part Two: Joy becomes an athlete...sort of.
At the end of high school it was pretty obvious to me that losing weight and being healthy were really only attainable by being more active. I started running, which was hard (I've always kind of hated running), but I felt pretty darn good about pushing myself, and I figured that running for half an hour and eating a semi-nutritious diet would eventually lead to perfection.

Anyway, I got better at running, fluctuated a lot, got bored with it, but still did it because I knew it was what I was supposed to do. But it was never for the fun of it, never really because I wanted to do it. It was something that I had to structure into my schedule, making sure to not leave any loopholes, lest I decide to spend the time doing something else (out of laziness). I was doing the duty but honestly, with resentment and reluctance. It was a chore and, even now, I sometimes would much prefer to sit and read a book or spend endless hours dorking around on the internet--oh, hey, blogger--than spending time outside, moving around--even just being on my feet rather than on my butt.

Part Three: Revelation
Essentially, my problem has been for a very long time that I view physical activity/fitness as something outside of my "real" life, something that I should do as maintenance, kind of like taking the car into the shop every 6 months.

But, the thing about that metaphor is that when the car's not at the shop being maintained, it's still running. All the time. And now it seems clear to me that bodies are meant for motion--in fact, everything we know about our bodies (and essentially, who we are) is that they perform best, last longer, and are generally better when they are frequently in motion. Brains too.

...Guess who wasn't so smart after all?

Luckily, I have been blessed (even though I don't always see it that way) to have P-dazzle enter my life with all his high-flown notions of activity, fitness, and nutrition. Bah. Now I have to get smart. I'll never admit it to his face but he's usually right. Especially about this.

All right, that's enough confessional writing for now. Next post (I PROMISE there'll be less time between this post and the next) I'll get down to business (to defeat the Huns. Or whatever invading army might be around...).

I still don't know how to sign off of this without sounding like a doofus.

Thursday, 30 June 2011's been a while.

This whole blogging thing is something of a shift from my routine so I've not been good about posting updates. I'm sure this has been said on many a blog, but it's hard to sit down and write everyday, especially when you don't have anything entertaining to say. I know I said that this was a blog primarily for me to keep myself motivated, but let's be honest. I know you guys are reading it. (It would be really awkward if no one actually read this...but then no one would know about the awkwardness. Funny how life works out.)

Anyway, it's been a while. (Hey, that's the name of this entry!) But NOT because I haven't been working out. Because I have! More or less. In the days after I posted my first entry, my workouts weren't so great. P-Dazzle and I were going to the YMCA in Mission Viejo, which is nice (especially because I get to piggyback on P's family plan and not pay anything). However, via P-Dazzle, I have been focusing a lot on building strength through weight lifting, and for some reason, the Y doesn't have a squat rack, which is surprisingly essential to the type of work we're doing. There is a slew of various other reasons why I don't particularly like working out at the Y--anyway, the point is that it was not conducive to a good attitude for working out, and my workouts definitely suffered. So, I didn't feel that I had much blog-worthy stuff to write about. I'll try to get better about posting more frequently...maybe self-deprecating humor would be a good way to get around talking about crappy workouts.

Luckily for me and my fluctuating attitude about working out, Preston's weight set came last week so now I can't use the excuse of not wanting to go ALL the way to the Y (and that I didn't particularly like going to the Y anyway) to not work out. We now have in our possession a very nice Pendlay barbell and olympic plates in 4x45, 2x25, 2x15; and iron plates in 2x 10, 5, 2.5 (weak light ones for me.) Since then we've been working out a system for how to fit lifting into the spin of life that's already here, but it seems to work out to do it on the back patio.

So, now no more excuses! My life as an athlete can begin! Right after I get done helping with VBS, and find a job, and clean the house and--nah, just kidding. P-Dazzle's too good of a motivator for that. So, to use this blog for what it's actually mean to be used, here's some workouts I've been doing:

Saturday, June 24th 2011
We did a metcon (Metabolic conditioning--not my terminology) that consisted of: 16, 12, and 8 reps for time of:
Kettlebell swings (1 pood...ha, pood.) and
Jumping pullups (for me. P can do real pullups.)

After that, at my insistence, we did more endurance-geared interval running, which consisted of 3x 400 m runs with approximately 2 minutes of rest in between. The goal was to keep the times for each run within 3-5 seconds. My times were 1:27, 1:31, 1:39. Excuse time: we were running in the middle of the afternoon in bright sunshine in about as hot a heat as coastal California can have. So there.

I've done more since then, (seeing as that's almost a week ago), but I don't want to draw these out too long. More to come about:


-The POSE Running method!

-General activity!

-Whatever I feel like talking about!

Stay tuned! Ew--no, wait...

Find out next time on-- bleh.

All this and more on the next installment of-- errhhhgh.

How on earth do you sign off of a blog and not sound like a doofus?

Friday, 17 June 2011


Today I sort of committed myself to running a half-marathon.

Before I get ahead of myself--It's not happening until February 2012. But running and I have always had an ambivalent relationship and the farthest I've ever been able to run is about 3.5 miles.
I do want to get in shape, though--it would be cool to be able to run that far. So, to keep myself on task I first thought I'd keep a fitness journal. But then I thought: why do that when I can expose myself and my musings to the whole wide world? Everyone else is doing it. Clearly that is the better choice.

So here we are. This is mostly for me to stay motivated (and it's nice to have an outlet for some writing, as well), but support, encouragement, and advice will always be welcome.

Anyway, to get things rolling, here's the workout I did today. I have been partaking in the sweet nectars of Crossfit (thanks to my boyfriend, who shall henceforth be known as P-dazzle), and today we did a scaled down version of Crossfit Football's metcon "Crushing Helen." We skipped the strength workout due to time restrictions and went down to the park after goofing around with medicine ball/sandbag squats.
At the park, we brought our trusty kettlebells along and mapped out an approximate 100 yd. running course. The workout is meant to go:

8 rounds (for time) of:
-100 yard sprint
-8 kettlebell swings (2 pood)
[I'm still not sure what "pood" means but P-dazzle is dictating right now...he says 1 pood is 16 kg or roughly 35 lbs. He thinks.]
-5 plyo pushups

We started out strong but by round two I wasn't as optimistic it could be done (+5 points if you get that reference).
We ended up doing 5 rounds instead of 8, and I did girly pushups and completed it in 6:14. (Minutes, not hours, guys.) I also used a one-pood kettlebell. P-dazzle tells me that 2 pood is really heavy, so I shouldn't feel bad, but I don't care because I'm too busy laughing about the word "pood".

It was a fun workout, and I realized how much nicer running is when you're barefoot and on soft cushy grass (something to keep in mind?). But, as I've done little running without shoes, my feet are now rather sore. Life's a trade-off.

Afterwards, we were talking with P-dazzle's mom who wants to get back into running marathons. Naturally, I volunteered to train with her and naturally, this is the result. So... LET THE GREAT EXPERIMENT BEGIN! (You guys should just accept right now that this blog will be littered with Arrested Development quotes.)

TTFN, I guess.