Wrap a wrap a wrap

A Friday Haiku

Another week gone

Where do they go? I don’t know

To join dryer socks?

Exercises come and go

If you’re anything like me (and if you are, I apologize), you tend to hate certain exercises and quickly get bored with others.

Running, I’m good to go, even if I sometimes take more days off between runs than I should; I still look forward to my runs and enjoy them (well, except for those first several minutes where you question your own sanity and wonder why you torture yourself so until the endorphins hit, the sun comes out, and the birds sing).

But other exercises I’ve always hated.

Stretching has always been my ultimate nemesis. I could neven touch my toes in grade school (and still can’t). So any stretching regimen I start ends quickly in pain and frustration. I don’t need such negativity in my life. I get it, I’m a failure at flexibility.

Push-ups are another. Loathe them. I don’t know what it is about them, but I really have to force myself to do them. Bench presses, on the other hand, I don’t mind and in fact, when I can feel the burn in my chest, shoulders, and triceps, I become motivated to do extra reps. But push-ups, I just collapse on the floor and give up.

Sit-ups and crunches I hate as well, and not because they sometimes hurt my back. I always need something to hook my feet under or I just sort of thrash away like a turtle on its back. In high school gym it was very embarrassing.

And that must be the reason for my dislike of certain exercises, there is some sort of psychological association with high school gym where all the other boys were towering over me, muscles rippling (think The Crusher from Bugs Bunny), and they could pound out dozens of push-ups, sit-ups, as well as the dreaded chin-up, and throw in an iron cross for good measure, while I’d struggle with my skinny spaghetti limbs trembling and flailing around, never accomplishing anything.

Now that I think about it, high school gym class was exactly like that for me.

Anyway, I meant to talk about how I start doing some exercises, but then quickly forget to do them, but I got off on a tangent on why I skipped gym all the time.

I was noticing a pain or weakness in my hamstrings and buttock the last few weeks when I step up onto something, like curbs or stairs.

Running was causing a strength imbalance and the stretches I attempted weren’t helping.

I realized I had gotten away from doing hamstring curls on my Weider Crossbow and doing rows on my CardioFit. I call them rows, but the machine is like the Tony Little Healthrider (see below).

These machines were all the rage back in the 80s, so I picked mine up at Sears after our stairstepper died (and Sears wouldn’t do anything so I wrote the CEO, then got a whiny letter from the store manager. “Why didn’t you contact me first?” Because I wanted you to squirm). The Healthrider seems more aerobic, with little resistance. My CardioFit has an adjustable piston to increase the resistence, making it more anerobic, although I’ve rarely dialed it past 2 (it goes up to a muscle- and joint-punishing 9).

Sorry, I did it again. The point is, after a week of this cross-training, my hamstrings feel much better.

And I apologize for taking forever to make that point.

Writing and editing and sex

I’d say I’m about 80 to 85% done with my first round of edits for my urban fantasy fairy tale.

This is the first time I’ve read it through. Strangely, I’m still very excited about it. That must mean it’s horrible.

Right now I’m editing for flow and continuity. I see where I called one character Bill, when his name is Benton. That’s what happens when you grab scenes from a trunk novel and don’t do a thorough read to catch things like that.

I’m back to a concern I mentioned several weeks or months ago about the relationship between two of the characters. They’ve known each other for less than a week and they’ve already fallen in love. Yes, I know such things happen in real life, if infrequently. And yes, I’ve read some urban fantasy romances and it seems the characters are jumping in the sack almost immediately. And therefore, I shouldn’t be that worried, but I am.

I’ve never written anything romantic before. I’ve never been concerned with the love lives of my characters. But beyond this being my first attempt at romance, its also my first attempt at writing a sex scene. To be honest, I haven’t even read very many sex scenes.

And this one has two so far. Scenes that, lacking any literary experience in the matter, I don’t know if they come off as hokie, or cliched, or downright boring.

I wonder if I should pass it to some beta readers to get outside reactions?

Weigh-In Friday

Despite only running on Monday, although I did do some weight training, and eating more than my fair share of my wife’s Dairy Queen ice cream birthday cake, my weight is down below 200 pounds at 199.7. Woot!

Designated Driver

For you couples out there, when you go somewhere together, who drives? The man or the woman?

I grew up in a time when men were the drivers and women were passengers.

Lately, I’ve been noticing more women driving with men as passengers and it still looks out of place to me.

Not for any sexist reasons; I certainly don’t believe gender innately makes someone a better or worse driver. Nor do I believe men are somehow ordained to rule over or control women.

In my case, I drive because for one thing, I get carsick as a passenger. For another, I drive my wife crazy because I don’t know what to do with myself as a passenger. I can’t read or play on my phone because of the motion sickness. So, I fidget, tap my feet, or drum my fingers, play with all the dials and switches, and constantly change the radio station. Being a passenger magnifies my ADHD.

So, very early in our relationship, my wife realized it was better for everyone all around if she let me drive.

Then she could read and play on her phone and ignore the fact that I wait until the very last second before applying the brakes.

Finally nearing the end

Since I spent most of this blog going off on attention deficit fueled tangents, I’ll spare you any political rants for the week.

TheRump is still an orange turd though. Never forget. Never normalize his hatred, bigotry, or incivility. Resist.

Enjoy your weekend. Here’s a song to send you off with:

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Ain’t myth-behaving

I recently read an article purporting to debunk several running myths. That article is here

Now I don’t know how evidence-based the debunking truly is, and by that I mean if the sampling size was large enough to realistically support their conclusions, but since they agree with my own beliefs I’ll accept them, and really, isn’t that how Americans operate? Look at the current election: People gravitate toward news sources that reinforce their own opinions, right or wrong, instead of challenging those beliefs in an effort to find the truth.

Whatever.

In this instance, I’m more than happy to point at the myth of heel striking and say, “Nanny nanny boo boo. I told you so!” Because it isn’t landing on your heel that causes the injuries, it’s about where your heel is when it does land. In other words, as the article says, it’s about overstriding, how far in front of you your leg is stretched when you do land on your heel. 

The myth is that landing on your heel shocks your body and actually stops you for an instant. And I’ve maintained that it doesn’t, because no one lands with their leg hyperextended and their knee locked. We land with our knee bent, just like midfoot or forefoot runners do. We just touch down  on our heel first  before the rest of the foot strikes.

I’ve been trying to run landing on my midfoot or forefoot, but that just seems like I’m running tippy-toed. Not natural and I tire much more easily.

Starting out or running a sprint, I’ll be on my toes, but once I hit cruising speed, then I start to heel strike. 

Whereas the current fad says ideally your foot should be under you as you land, mine is slightly forward. Not by much. Certainly not in the sense of overstriding. And I’m certainly not striking at the back edge of the heel the way they often illustrate it; I land flat on the heel.

So there. Take your silly fad and shove it. And that goes double for those barefoot runners who say you can’t heel strike barefoot. Bullshit. Again it has to do with the length of your stride and where on the heel you’re lamding.

The other myth they talk about that I found interesting was about running in the wrong shoes and how there is no evidence to show that buying running shoes based on over- or under-pronation or good or flat arches helps prevent injuries.

Which to me, is good news. I have been told I have fairly flat arches and over-pronate (my foot rolls inward) and that I should get a shoe with a lot of stability to prevent my foot from rolling. So I have bought motion control shoes based solely on that advice.  The Brooks Beast that I only ran in a couple times and used mostly for walking and most recently the Brooks Adrenaline GTS16. 

The problem I found with these shoes is they are not comfortable to run in. There is no flex because it’s made to prevent flex. Plus, they feel heavy. And even after taking out the arch support insert the store also sold me, I still wasn’t happy with them. It is like running in wooden shoes: No give.

Then I switched to a pair of neutral Saucony Grid Cohesion 9 and immediately suffered a thigh injury which I wrongly attributed to the shoe.

But it wasn’t the shoe’s fault. I didn’t overpronate myself into an injury, I had overtrained and simply ran too hard, causing the flare-up in my thigh/IT band. The injury had been in the making and switching to the Saucony was mere coicidence.

In fact, my last few runs, on the treadmill and outside, have been on a newly purchased completely neutral shoe not designed for “heel strikers,” and to be honest, they’ve felt great. 

So yes, the advice from the article is to buy shoes that feel good, that are comfortable on the run, because there is no evidence supportive shoes help prevent injury.

And lastly, (I won’t bother addressing pre- and post-run stretching since I know it benefits me personally and here we go back to the “‘murica! I’ll believe what fits my world view and dismiss the rest”), they address the myth of 180 steps per minute

Basically, it reiterates what I had questioned and that is 180 spm only works at a certain  pace. It only applies to a certain speed  (which for me is about 8 mph) and is pretty silly to attempt it at much slower speeds. So why even bother counting? Your step per minute pace is whatever you are comfortable with. It naturally increases as you run faster and decreases as you go slower.

So there. These myths show us one thing. Don’t analyze things too much because what they tell you to do today, isn’t what they told you yesterday, and wont be what they tell you tomorrow.

Run. Enjoy. Live for today.

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Push it real good

Running is a journey to discovery. I’m discovering that a lot of what I thought I knew was wro-o… was wro-on… was not exactly right.

Many of us think running is a natural activity; as children we fall into our stride, or so we think.

The fact is, children weigh a fraction of what adults do, so they don’t need proper mechanics to race around the playground all day without getting tired.

For instance, I was a long-legged, skinny toe head. I could run faster than most of the kids in the neighborhood. Basically, I never thought about mechanics, I just ran, letting gravity pull me forward as I threw my legs out just to keep from falling.

Less than stylish.

Since I never took track in high school, I was never shown proper running technique. Therefore, as an adult, I continued to run using gravity as the impetus for my forward movement.

But now I’m watching YouTube videos and reading articles on running mechanics to see what an overweight aging runner should do different from the skinny long-legged child.

So treadmilling has been helping me with stride and cadence. I’ve altered my strike from pure heel strike to Midwood strike.

But my most significant epiphany came while walking. In reading about stride, they talk about pushing with your rear foot. Yeah, OK. So? Doesn’t everyone?

No! 

While walking I became conscious of my stride. It happened when i was walking up a hill. I seemed to have more power going up than on a flat surface. Why? I realized on the incline I was pushing off my back leg, but on a flat surface I was not pushing off. So how then was I moving forward?

I mentioned it earlier. I was falling forward. Then I’d pull myself forward on the extended leg. Essentially, I was running backwards.

Instead of using my calves and thighs to push myself forward, I was using gravity and my hip flexor to throw my leg forward and then like you’d use your bicep to pull yourself up doing a chin up,  I’d use my hamstrings to pull myself forward!

This certainly explains why I kept pulling my hammies running the bases in my softball league.

Now when I go.for my walks, I’m concentrating on pushing off my.back foot. I can already tell I get more power and speed this way than I did just throwing my leg forward and pulling.

I just have to be conscious of it because if I don’t I notice I fall back into my old habit.

Always keep an open mind.

(Progress: Treadmilling 5k in 32:13. A PB.)

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Hip hop bibity bop

Several posts ago, “To thine own stride be true,” I said I didn’t understand cadence, which is how many steps you take per minute while running.

I was still at the beginning stages of getting back into running and I wasn’t sure how the accepted wisdom that a pace of around 180 steps per minute was achieved.

I suspected that one needed to run much faster than I was able to achieve at that time. Since I was only managing a 5 mph pace at that time, 180 steps per minute just seemed excessive and would have made me look like I was prancing uncontrollably (which brings up the mental image of an old western movie where a city slicker is being forced to jump around as the bad gunfighter shoots at his feet while the whole town stands around and laughs).

Last night I decided to set up my  phone’s metronome app at 180 beats per second while I did my normal 5k run.

First, I was correct in my assumption that 4 or 5 mph was too slow to try for 180 steps per minute.

I was almost there with 6 mph. I was just a bit slower (and I’ve heard that a range of about 170 or more is acceptable) than the metronome.

It wasn’t until I hit 8 mph that I finally was synchronized with the metronome. It was interesting and had an almost hypnotic effect, or might have if 8 mph wasn’t at the limit of my endurance. 

When I do intervals, I can only sustain 8 mph for 30 to 45 seconds before needing to return to a more manageable pace of 5 mph.

But it was enough to understand what they mean by a cadence of 180 spm. I think the metronome will become a standard part of my running workout from now on.

If you’re wondering about the title, it refers to a chant used in military marching to provide a consistent cadence for the troops. “Hip hop bibity bop, let me hear your left foot drop. Ooo that sounds so mighty fine, let me hear it one more time. Sound off, 1, 2, sound off, 3 ,4, bring it on down now, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1-2, 3-4!”

Oh, and for those curious about the end results from my post “A rash decision,” yes, the antiperspirant worked wonders. That night I was able to complete 5k on the treadmill at a good, steady pace without a recurrence of the rash and welt I experienced just three days prior.

I’d recommend antiperspirant,  but would suggest something without scents or dyes just in case that might aggravate the rash.

Run. Sweat. Repeat.

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No longer a chore

Today was a first.

I’ve been running regularly, three times a week, for about two months? I don’t recall. As I said, I didn’t start a running diary, so my first week of regular running is lost in the mists of time.

But I’ll go with a couple months.

Each day that I was due to run was just a day. I knew I plannedĀ on runningĀ that evening, but it never entered my conscious throughout the day. I never thought about it, I just got on the treadmill in the evening and ran.

Today was different. Today, I woke up wanting to run. I woke up and thought, “Today is Thursday! My run day!” Today, I woke up looking forward to my run.

And I spent the day in anticipation of that run. The day couldn’t go by fast enough.

You know what that means, right? Running has gone from something I had to force myself to do each time, to something I want to do. It’s gone from a task and become a habit.

motivation-is-what-gets-you-started-habit-is-what-keeps-you-going-quote-1

Today, I’ve become a runner.

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Run like no one’s watching

So far, on the road back to becoming a runner, I’ve logged approximately 52 miles. That’s not a lot if you consider I started several months ago and only became committed to the process 4 weeks ago or so. (Honestly, I should have started a running diary to keep track, but I’m lazy.) But still, it’s 52 miles farther than I’d be if I just sat on the couch.

I’m up to about 4.5 miles a week now. I run three times per week for about 20 minutes, which adds up to about 1.5 to 1.7 miles each time.

Numbers. *Yawn* Sorry. I never said there would be math.

When I first started out, I went straight to attempting a mile run at 5 mph, which translates to a 12 minute mile. That, as I’ve said, almost sabotaged my efforts, because it was too fast a pace for my out-of-shape overweight body. (Honestly, you’d think I’d learn. It took 8 weeks of boot camp before I was in shape enough to run a mile in under 12 minutes and I was 19 then. This is 40 years later!)

So I slowed down, to about 4 mph. Then increased it by 0.5 mph each week, or I increased the distance/duration. I went from running 12 minutes to last night I managed 22 minutes.

Slow, but sure wins the race to getting fit.

I’m now glad I bought the treadmill, even though it sat unused for almost a year. It keeps my pace for me. It has numerous programs and I’ve been playing around with a few.

Last night I set it so it alternated between slow and fast, like many beginner books on running recommend.

Walk for a minute, run for a minute. For the first week walk for a minute, then jog at maybe a 4 mph pace for a minute and alternate until you’ve reach your time/distance goal. A mile? 15 minutes?

The next week increase the jog time a little. Walk a minute, jog faster, 4.5 mph for a minute.

Week after increase your time or distance.

Each week, increase something, but gradually. The last few weeks I’m up to running 1.6 miles alternating between a pace of 4 mph and 5.5.

So last night I set it to walk at 3.5 mph, then run at 6 mph for a distance of 1.6 miles. This was my first attempt at 6 mph. I think that pace would still be too much for me if I hadn’t alternated with the slower than usual pace.

Oh! And I found the original inserts to my Asics Cumulus 16. I had put them in a pair of winter boots (after cutting off a few millimeters from the toe to make them fit). They don’t hurt my arch the way the expensive aftermarket orthotics do. Unfortunately, if I don’t lace the shoes tight enough, my feet tend to slip inside them. Trade off one annoyance for another.

Anyone can run. You just need to pace yourself. And you don’t need a treadmill, just a good quality pair of running shoes (don’t be an idiot like me and buy a pair 2 sizes too big). Get measured and fitted! And if you find street running too much for your joints at first, membership to one of those 24/7 exercise places that are popping up in every strip mall is only $10 a month. Skip two grande coffees at Staryucks and its paid for.

Get running.

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