Saturday, May 03, 2014

Four Weeks In

So after running five times in Week 1, I came down with a minor leg injury. Acute pain just below the knee that I first thought was pretty minor and could be run through. I laid off the running for several days but continued with boxing (okay, really just hitting a heavy bag) and strength workouts. Then I tried walking a zombie mission to strengthen the knee.

Turns out, it wasn't the knee. It was the shin muscle where it attaches just below the knee. After my power walk, I worked camera on the evening newscasts, three more hours on my feet, and the next day, I could barely walk. My calves and Achilles were tight and on fire, and the shin pain was worse than ever; basically, everything between my knees and feet hate me. I tried to keep up the boxing and strength work, but torquing my body on the cross punches also stressed the legs, and I was even getting acute pain when I planked for push-ups.

I ended up laying off training completely for another week, except for some stretching to get strength and flexibility back in my lower legs. I bought a set of Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotics to help with my overpronation problem. But the pain continued to persist for several days.

So going into this past week, the fourth week since I officially decided to shift things into gear, I was getting pretty discouraged, partly because of another new thing I was trying. When I get into a cycle like this, I tend to get a little obsessive, and being a little nerdy, I like looking at numbers. But in the past, I've found it was better not to track my progress too closely. I had to learn to ignore daily fluctuations in weight or off-days where I couldn't improve my speed or lifting reps or poundages. The body does not work in smooth predictable lines.

But now there is a wider array of ways to track everything, so I decided to take the advice of Timothy Ferriss and just load up on data. I signed up with myfitnesspal to track my diet, which keeps much closer track of what I'm doing than a simple written food log. Zombies, Run! gives me fairly detailed data on my runs. I splurged on one of those digital scales that tracks bodyfat and muscle percentages. That plus records of my workouts has all been going into spreadsheets.

So the problem, at the beginning of Week 4, having spent about 2 of those weeks getting minimal exercise because of the injury, was that my numbers weren't improving much. I was losing tiny bits of weight due to the diet, and my fat/muscle ratio had improved ever so slightly from the few strength workouts I had logged, but we were approaching a month in with very little progress to show. I had a moment where I wondered if I would really be able to push on with this, or just accept that I was getting older and couldn't get back to where I'd been ever again.

But this week has been really encouraging. The leg pain was gone almost entirely, and when I gave it another easy test run on Sunday, it felt good. More importantly, it still felt good the next day. My strength workout felt like I was starting over from scratch, but I'm hoping that it'll come back quickly. I made some tweaks to the diet based partly on the data I was seeing from myfitnesspal, and the numbers are starting to move in the right direction. My subsequent runs have been much better, and I'm now running almost two miles before dropping to a walk. It feels really good to actually be able to keep running when the voice in your ear says, "Keep running to get there before the zombies," instead of walking and just imagining a day when you might be able to run. I haven't turned the zombie chases back on yet, though. I still get twinges when I try to sprint, so I'm going to condition my legs for a least another week first.

The new plan going forward, at least for a few weeks: three days running/boxing (I don't always hit the bag before I run--I'm having trouble now with skin scraping off my knuckles, which may call for new gloves or wraps), two days of strength and conditioning work, one day of yoga for flexibility and stability, and one day of stretching. I have a long way to go still, but I'm running faster, getting stronger and most importantly, feeling better. And I'm even starting to cook again, so I'm eating better while saving some money on food.

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