Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Running Is Hard Work

Last week I managed to meet my mileage goal of 10 miles with 12 miles. This week so far, I'm up to 5.8 miles of a 12 mile goal. I'll be running 3 miles tonight and half a mile Thursday, leaving a mere 2.7 miles to get to this week's goal of 12. Which I'll probably exceed, depending on what I do on Saturday and when.

My body is feeling the exhaustion of adding all of this physical activity into my routine. My mind is tired and fuzzy by the end of the work day. I really want to institute nap time.

But I know that this will pass. My body will adjust. I just need to get through these first few weeks of change.

I had been hoping to take the Lucky Peak trail for training starting in April. It's a nice 11 mile round trip with nearly 3000 feet of gain. Perfect for spring training, except for the fact that the Boise River Wildlife Management Area remains closed to protect the deer and elk still wintering in the foothills.

Okay, okay, I support keeping the deer and elk safe and unstressed by the presence of humans. But it does mean that I'll have to figure out a different training route. I'll probably head over to 8th street and make a route out of the foothills trails up there. I've hiked there before, and as long as the trails aren't too muddy, they'll do. They just lack the simplicity and challenge of the Lucky Peak trail.

Worst case scenario I'll be at the gym wearing a full pack and walking on the incline treadmill. Possibly alternating with the stair climber - not the step machine, but the one that's like an escalator. Heck, I might even try the Jacob's Ladder with a pack, just to see how it feels. That's not actually a bad worst case scenario.

This is going to be the first time that I'm starting out my hiking season with a solo hike, and a long challenging one to boot. Sure, the elevation profile isn't too bad; I'll start around 6000 feet and descend for most of the journey. But I'm going to be pushing my pace each day and the water situation is not guaranteed to be reliable. I'll have about 14 hours of daylight each day, so a pace of 2 miles per hour should be fine, even with breaks and time to break and make camp.

I'm working on researching the route and Ambrose is preparing the gps with the route (fingers crossed that works). I haven't started on food prep yet, though I'll be going no-cook again. I can handle not having hot food. Though now that I write that, I'm reconsidering because instead of traveling in late summer I'll be traveling in early May when the temperatures will tend towards the chilly side. Maybe I will want to have a stove and some drink mix for warmth and comfort.

There's still a lot of work to do, preparation physical, mental and logistical. I'm excited.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ramping Up

This year's backpacking season is going to start much earlier for me than usual. With a planned hike from the Nevada border about 100 miles north on the Idaho Centennial trail taking place in the first week of May, I need to have my legs and my mind prepared.

March is going to be all about running and planning. I actually hadn't run at all from mid-December until the beginning of February. It used to be that if I didn't run once a week, my right hip would get all gimpy. But one week and then two and three passed and it didn't get bad. So I just let the running slide - partly because of the weather, and, I'll admit, partly out of laziness.

With the return of relatively temperate weather, someone at my crossfit box started up Saturday running, and I did a nice little 2 mile run in 40 degree weather in the rain to kick off my running training on 3/4. Maybe I should place some of the blame for my subsequent cold on that run, but I'm glad I did it. I wanted to get 8 miles that week, but I only managed 4.7, all of which happened last Saturday (3/11), but in two chunks. I would have run more, but my old ITB/hip issues reared up.

I've learned by now though that the best way to get past that pain is to make sure my running form is good and run through the pain. I ran another 3 miles the next day, which was painful, but do-able. I even wore my hydration backpack with 5 pounds of weight in it, just for that little extra something. And yesterday, I ran half a mile, just a little warm up before doing my pull up workout. That didn't impact the hip at all.

Based on my previous solo trips, where I tend to go much faster/harder than when I'm with my husband on backpacking trips, I know that the hip pain can hide. I might not have any issues hauling a 30 pound pack at an easy 1 mile an hour pace, but try 35 pounds at 3 miles per hour and I discover the hip pain.

My plan as I ramp up my activity for the May hike is to delve and discover that hidden hip pain and work it out before I start the trip. I will push myself to run fast in this month of March. I will do back to back, long distance, weighted hikes on weekends in April. I will research and prepare as much as I can for this journey, because 100 miles in 5 days through a desert isn't going to be a walk in the park.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Best Exercise...

It's the one that you'll do.

Ten years ago, I would never have believed that I would be the kind of person who wakes up at 4:30 in the morning so that she can have just enough time to get dressed, have a bite to eat and walk to Crossfit for a 5 am workout.

I'm not sure I would have believed it five years ago.

But that's what I'm doing. And I like it.

Not the getting up early part. I hate hearing the beep of the alarm and being wrested from sleep. I don't like making myself get up when all I want to do is snuggle hard under the covers and snatch another hour of sleep. But I love the feeling I have by 6 am. And, often, I love the workouts. Not always - I have my nemeses at Crossfit, especially wall balls and that air bike, but I really like lifting. I like getting the techniques down better and better, being able to life heavier and faster.

And I can do pull ups now. Not just one, here and there, but multiples with consistency.

The exercise that I do seems crazy to a lot of people. I know it would have seemed crazy to me all those years ago. But I do it. I get up super early and I throw myself against the challenge of the day's workout and it makes me feel good.

I run to keep my legs in shape for backpacking, but it's harder to get myself running than it is to go to Crossfit. I've got excuses, of course. I'm a slow runner. My shoes are wearing out. But the excuses fade away when it comes to Crossfit. Sure, I'm not the strongest, the fastest, the best at any movement, but I love trying new things and getting better. I love participating in the Crossfit Open, seeing my ranking near the bottom of the women's scaled - but not at the bottom, because I'm completing the workouts.

I've found the work that I want to do with my body, and I no longer lack for motivation.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Goals and the Open

Now that I've accomplished my pull up goal, I want to figure out a new goal for the board. I still want to work on pull ups, especially kipping now that I have the strength to work on those, but I want to try a different goal for a while - pull ups in some form or other have been my goal for nearly two years. It's time for a little change.

The Open is a goal of sorts, but it doesn't feel like a goal per se. I am competing in the Open, doing my best and enjoying myself. This year, my box is having a Friday night throwdown instead of a Sunday afternoon one. I like the idea because it's more fun to party on a Friday night, but I dislike it because it messes up my routine of doing the workout on Friday and then maybe re-doing on Sunday. I mean, I could still do that, but it isn't an easy set up anymore. And if I do Friday night, there's no way I'll do Friday morning. The Open is too intense for that.

Since last Friday was the last day of my 28 day low carb high fat diet personal challenge (lost 5 pounds and definitely lost more fat than that), I didn't go to the throwdown. I did 17.1 at 5 in the morning (scaled, 211 reps) and my lats were so sore 5 minutes after I finished that I knew I wouldn't be able to do it again in less than 14 hours.

This Friday, I'm planning on doing it in the evening, because I'm coming back from a business trip on Thursday night - no way I want to get up early after that. I know from experience that I won't be well rested after the conference - and I'm introvert enough that spending 4 days with people will deplete me. So I'll be well-rested in a way for 17.2, because I won't have been working out. And exhausted in a way because I probably won't be getting 8 hours of sleep each night. I'm looking forward to seeing how I do.

I'm seriously considering a double under goal for my next. I know that I'm improving on those, but I think some concentrated effort would yield better results - and that kind of work might help increase my aerobic capacity which would be helpful overall. But I'll still be doing my pull up workout, working on kipping pull ups and just trying to get fitter. I like what I've done with myself over the past 3 years of doing Crossfit. The overall goal is just like the one with writing - never stop learning, never stop striving to improve.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Who Can Do 5 Strict Pull Ups?

I can!

On Sunday, February 19th, I went to the open hour at crossfit so that I could do my pull up day 2 workout without going all the way to the gym. I wanted to let my body get some rest this long weekend and so I didn't plan to do the WOD. I went a little light on my farmer carry, 35# rather than 53#, when I normally do 45# at the gym. I got the workout done, including my abs, and then waited for about 5 minutes, chatting and resting my arms up from the max time hangs I'd done at the end of the workout.

And then I decided it was time to try. I'd been stuck at 4 strict pull ups for nearly three weeks. I could smell the breakthrough, especially after taking Saturday completely off.

I seriously considered asking someone to record my try, but in the end I was too shy and too nervous. I thought I wouldn't be able to do it if I drew too much attention to myself. So I hopped up and got to pulling. By the third rep, I knew I was going to get it. The fourth rep was only as hard as the third usually was. And the fifth happened.

At least, I'm pretty sure it did. I hadn't had a full breakfast before going to workout, and, to be honest, I was feeling a bit muzzy headed. I wasn't entirely sure, so I didn't ring the bell and I didn't post about reaching the goal I had recorded on the goal board.

But on Monday, February 20th, I went in with a plan. The WOD consisted of a choice of overhead squats or back squats, then a short metcon of one of those movements plus jump ropes. My original plan was to work on back squats, so as to save my arms for the post-workout pull up goal attempt. But when I was there, I decided to work on the overheads - mostly because I really like them.

We were to do 8 sets of 8, working up to a heavy set of 8. I knew my one rep wasn't that heavy, so I started really light and went up very slowly. I'm pretty sure my pull up training helps with the overhead squat technique, in that my shoulders are much more developed than they would be if I weren't working on those pull ups. I got a personal record on my last set of 8, hitting 70 pounds.

And then I did more overhead squats in the metcon - 7 minutes of 10 reps overhead squats and 10 jump ropes. I did it at 45# and with single unders. At 10 reps, I probably could have done double unders, but I'm approaching the Open with the mindset that if there is jumping involved, I'm more likely to be doing scaled singles so I should practice them.

We stretched and cooled down. I got my phone and asked the coach to record for me, which he was happy to do.

He also cheered me along as I pulled my chin over the bar, once, twice, thrice, four times... five times.

And then six times.


I got 6 strict pull ups and crushed my goal. Then I ran around the box whooping, rang the bell with a running jump and I swear the glow still hasn't faded. Now I get to start working seriously on kipping pull ups. And chest to bar pull ups. And maybe someday... dare I suggest... muscle ups?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Breath Control

In Crossfit workouts, especially ones with designated rest periods, I frequently hear the admonishment to "control your breathing." It isn't aimed at me specifically, but at everyone. Lower the heart rate, control the breathing, prepare for the next burst of activity as best you can.

I wasn't particularly athletic growing up, and was never into playing sports in more than a cursory fashion. I was never coached on such techniques and sometimes I felt like I didn't know how to control my breathing. I would just do my best to slow it down and press on.

On the other hand, I've been singing for as long as I can remember. Starting with Beatles songs with my dad and brother while my dad played guitar. Choir at church, where I sometimes acted as cantor at a weekday morning Mass when I was in gradeschool. The Young Naperville Singers for a year and a half. And I played the flute in school bands from 4th to 12th grades - I can't play the flute during a workout, but my body has the memory of the breath discipline playing requires.

So every now and then, a song I can sing along to would be playing during those rest times - playing loudly enough that I could tell myself that no one would hear me singing along and believe it. And I'd sing along and my breathing would be under control, just like that.

It happened yesterday. We were working out in pairs, which gave one person rest while the other worked. And while I was waiting for my turn on the rower, "Dog Days Are Over," by Florence and the Machine came on. I sang along and found that without any more effort than that involved with singing, my breathing was under control. I didn't feel out of breath. I felt ready to attack when it was my turn to sit and row. I even kept singing a bit while I rowed, giving a push with my diaphragm at greatest extension.

I guess I'll need to figure out something I can sing to any music, because not everything that gets played during workouts is singable - either I don't know the song or it's just a bunch of boom-boom electronic music without lyrics. Don't get me wrong, I like boom-boom, I just don't feel inspired to sing to it.

And I think that bringing that knowledge that I do have of breath control, no matter where it originated, will be helpful in future workouts. If anyone at my box hears singing during the Open, it'll probably be me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Diet Challenge Redux

Back in October/November, I participated in a 30 day nutrition challenge. Basically, a low carb, high fat diet with an emphasis on hydration and sleep. I lost about 10 pounds in the course of the 30 days, and I dragged my husband along with me - although his following of the dietary rules was a little bit looser than mine.

Getting through that - especially the first week when I wanted bread, cookies, crackers, anything crunchy and carby and sugary - felt like an accomplishment in and of itself. But there were other benefits. It caused me, and my husband, to look hard at our dietary habits and make some changes.

We became less "treat" oriented. No longer were we buying ice cream every week (or every pay period). Candy intake got cut down significantly. And I found I didn't miss those "treats" as much as I thought I would.

I would never have broached the idea of trying that kind of diet again, but it turned out I didn't have to. My husband liked the results enough to want to do it again. We are not likely to ever go low carb full time, because of backpacking. (There may be a way to do backpacking low carb, but that is not how we hike our hike.) But periodic refreshes of our diet are another matter.

And so we've undertake a 28 day challenge - 28 days because that's two pay periods and fits better into our grocery shopping schedule. We're 12 days in, and doing well.

One thing that I'm doing differently is following my husbands lead (to an extent) and being looser in my restrictions. Because I was trying to lose weight as part of a challenge, I used an app to count calories and tried to make sure my caloric intake was low each day. This time, I'm just eating mindfully and keeping an eye on the scale and my body. I might try using the app again in the third or fourth week, but I think the first two weeks need to be devoted to letting my body adjust to the change in macronutrients.

Besides, it isn't solely about weight loss this time. I want to retain or gain strength as I continue to go to Crossfit in the weeks leading up to the Open. I want to practice discipline in restricting my diet, a kind of mental dress rehearsal for surviving on backpacking food during my solo trip. The weight loss is nice, but I know that some of it will come back when I reintroduce carbs on February 25th. Just 15 more days.

Not that I'm counting or anything...