Saturday, April 12, 2014

One Week Later

I might as well track my progress here. On the one hand, it has been a successful week. I actually worked out and ran more than my original plan called for. However, I might have actually shot myself in the foot by deviating from the plan.

The original plan: 2 workout days, 3 run days, 2 rest days. The actual week: 2 workout days, 5 run days (I ran after my workout on Tuesday), 1 rest day.

The results: my weight, body fat percentage and muscle percentage all held pretty steady from the beginning of the week to the end. No improvement whatsoever. My running pace actually got worse over the week from muscle fatigue and joint pain. I did have slight improvements in number of reps on my workout, but that's more a function of my getting used to working out again rather than an actual increase in strength. The only really tangible positive: I don't get as out of breath climbing the steep driveway at my ex-wife's house as I did a couple of weeks ago.

The tentative plan for next week--an even split: 3 workout days, 3 run days, 1 rest day. The workout days will build muscular endurance without the strain on my joints that comes from running until I've gotten conditioned to running again (I hope). And as gradually as I'm building intensity in the workouts, I don't think I need 2 rest days yet.

I'm also looking at tracking my diet with myfitnesspal, but that's tough, because I tend to throw things in at random without measuring when I cook. So we'll see what happens there.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Running Toward and Away

When I was a kid, I played a few sports, but I was never particularly athletic. Which is to say, I had the intelligence to pick up the rules and the physical coordination to pick up the basic skills quickly, but that ability to dig deep and push through pain, to thrive on the exertion and struggle, I never had that.

I always wanted, in an intellectual sense, to be fit, but I didn't want to pay the physical price of actually, you know, doing it. In fact, as Don Rumsfeld said, I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't realize that there was a whole level of really hard work you had to push through to get there. I just assumed that people who were really fit were just naturally that way, the way I was a naturally good speller for some reason. And since I wasn't naturally fit, I was just never going to be that way.

And then the Army happened, and I discovered whole new potentials within myself. I learned how to push through pain, and learned that I had it in me to carry heavy shit and run for miles and operate on very little sleep if I had to. The most important thing I learned in the Army was how to endure.

When I got out, I didn't want to give up being fit, but I also didn't miss the 5 a.m. PT calls. So I went in cycles, working out hard for three or four months to get in really good shape, then laying off for months or even a couple of years before buckling down and doing the hard work again.

And then the divorce happened, followed quickly by the Biggest Mistake of My Life (TM), which sent me into a downward spiral of depression and ennui. I was underemployed, which you would think would leave me plenty of time to work out, but I was suffering under such a weight of stress and guilt and self-imposed crazy deadlines on Hero Go Home that I could rarely bring myself to do it.

I tried a few times. I even wrote about it here (like when I bought the punching bag, or this time the year before that which ran into problems). But something--lack of progress or just lack of someone to notice whether I was following through or not--caused my efforts to peter out.

And then, when I got hired on at the station, I went from a part-time job where I was on my feet the whole time to a part-time job where I was sitting down all the time, and what little exercise I was getting disappeared. The last few months have seen me atrophy far beyond what I ever thought would happen.

All of which is a long way round to saying I'm trying again. I've had the rough outline of a plan for a while now and have been taking baby steps to make it happen. The thing that pushed everything into high gear this week? A game for my phone.

Well, not really a game in the traditional sense. Someone in my gaming group mentioned Zombies Run! so I decided to give it a look. And I think this was the piece I was missing.

Zombies Run! is a smartphone app that's half-game, half-fitness plan. You assume the role of Runner 5, survivor of a zombie outbreak, living in a small settlement surrounded by ghouls. You load a mission and as you run or walk or bike or whatever, it plays sound clips telling you the story, interspersed with music from your playlist.

Today, I ran the second mission, and my first using the full experience. With GPS tracking activated on your smart phone, it tracks your progress and average speed. And every now and then, it tells you there's a zombie horde on your tail. You have to run faster until they're evaded. Here's a pic of my run today.

The track of my speed is the blue area across the bottom. You see those two peaks? Zombie chases. I got away both times, although the second one was a close thing (it tells you how close the zombies are behind you, and they were really close right there at the end).

The right side recaps your run, describing the events of the mission alternating with graphs showing how quickly you ran during different songs. After the first zombie chase, I deliberately held my speed down so I'd have something in the tank for the next one. In fact, you can't really tell just from looking when I stopped running and started walking, because the speeds were almost the same.

So initial reports are, it's a success. I really think I'm going to stick with this, at least for a while, because I want to keep running missions. And because the way the missions are structured pushes me to work harder than I would without them, I don't see myself quitting for lack of progress. Especially since my distance, time and speed are being tracked, so I can actually see the progress happening with every run.

And I think the discipline of running three missions a week (my current goal) will help me stick to the strength training I currently have scheduled for two more days per week. So I'm hoping that in a couple of months, I'll be in much better condition. We'll see.