Tag Archives: running

Let The Games Begin!

Part 1 of 3
I’m not signing up for the actual CrossFit Games Open this year like I’ve done in years past, but I do plan to do all the workouts on my own. What makes CrossFit different from many other fitness endeavors is that its a community. We all are doing the exact same workout. Its why I love Ashtanga Yoga too. Somewhere, someone is doing the exact same sequence I’m doing. So when I’m doing the CrossFit WOD and I’m struggling with something, I know there are thousands of others feeling the same struggle. I know I don’t have to feel pity on myself even though I’m doing this by myself. And, since years of teaching yoga, I’m not fraught with comparisons anymore. But I’d still like to know that my effort is comparable and that I’m on track with my fitness.

Part 2 of 3
Since I am a Master’s athlete, I am strongly considering doing the Festivus Games (for real). I honestly struggle with some CrossFit movements, so actual competitions would be difficult. But this is made for the novice-intermediate athlete. And I’m sure I could work with the Rx weights and movements of the intermediate athlete, I’ll probably do the Master’s options. Yes, I can do lot of pullups, but I’m not going to be shy with only doing ring rows. Being a yogi means that I’m OK with whatever I do. No judgement, no self harm.

Part 3 of 3
I am signed up for the Wanderlust event in Chicago this May. I used to be an ultramarathoner. Going out for a 6 hour training run wasn’t a big deal at all. And a 50K race was my jam! But injuries started to creep in to where it was difficult to run a half mile without my calf going haywire. In the old days, a 5K was a warm-up for something bigger. Now, that’s going to be my race. But you know what? Even in the little things, we should strive to do well. So I’m using the Festivus Games training as my training for this race. I can shift to more specific running in the few weeks prior. My muscles and heart will be strong already.

So that’s my plan and should keep me occupied until Summer. Then I’ll be ready for swimsuit season — haha!!!

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To Rest or Not To Rest

samsthiti

That is the question.

I still hear the prevailing wisdom that says that you absolutely need to chill out and rest at regular intervals. As in, do nothing, sit, sleep, nada!

OK, I’m on board with that. But let me throw a few nuggets your way that may change your mind.

There is a lot we don’t know about rest, recovery, and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). If you think about it, there are several ways that we gain and grow from exercise. One is the predominant idea that if you get sore, you have broken your body down so much that when you heal, you’ll be stronger than before. Another idea is in creating physiological and mechanical efficiencies in your body. If you repeat a movement, like running, rowing, or lifting, your body builds neural frameworks that enable that to happen better. In addition, if it has a heart pumping element, then the heart is continually laying down new cells and those individual cells become more efficient at pumping blood. I believe this all to be true.

The latter case where you’ve had a neurological or physiological challenge that improves efficiency, its quite possible that less recovery is needed. There isn’t a structural component that needs to be “cleaned out”. But for the former, where it is possible that muscle breakdown has occurred, fibrin and collagen and healing lymphocytes are sent to the site of trauma and a more defined recovery needs to take place. Picture the arms that connect an old choo-choo train’s wheels to make them rotate. Each one of these arms is now clogged up with gunk, whether sludge, mud, or other debris. You can either sit and wait for the rain, wind, or other natural processes to wash the gunk away. Or, you can go in there and clean it up manually.

First of all, I’m a firm believer that sleep is the numero uno (#1) priority in recovery. You don’t get any bragging rights for sleeping less. If somebody tells you they function just fine with 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, they are blowing smoke up your nether-regions. You need those repeated 90 minute cycles that lead to hormone growth producing REM sleep. Each cycle is progressively deeper and more effective. Without this, you’ll not grow or recover and you’ll likely end up sick and injured. Sleep, then nutrition, should be your first priorities. You can’t make hormones if you are not eating healthy fats, proteins, and carbs.

So back to the choo-choo train’s clogged levers. Old school exercisers and mothers around the world would tell you to rest (aka do nothing). In the old days, the doctor would put you in a cast and tell you not to move for weeks if you had broken something. Now, we know that leads to frozen shoulder types of ailments. Today, you can get a major hip replacement and the next day the doctor has you walking laps around the 5th floor of the hospital. Its a totally different mindset from what was previously thought.

ACTIVE RECOVERY should be your mantra today. If you feel sore from doing Murph (run 1 mile, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats, run 1 mile for time), the answer is not to lay down for 3 days and let your body recover naturally. You need active recovery. That is, go for a walk, a run, get a massage, take an Epsom salt bath, or, heaven forbid, do a workout.

The massage and bath are passive ways to recover. But they are very effective in that kneading those muscle fibers clears out the junk around the muscles. It also moves the lymph, which doesn’t have its own circulatory pumping mechanism. Lymph is what carries all those T-helper cells and other healing hormones. It also carries the bad stuff away, the toxins and broken bits of tissue. All of this makes sense in old school recovery and shouldn’t be overlooked today.

What is a newer concept is the active recovery. OK, maybe not that new. We know that running, riding your bike, walking your dog, or swimming can all be effective tools to recovery. They are doing the same things as passive recovery. What many haven’t explored, however, is the idea of actually working out again. I mean, you just broke down the muscles, how can you possibly go back and do more? But its true.

When I wrestled as a kid, I was always sore. But somehow, we’d run, do some exercises, and get our bodies warm only to go back on the mat and work at 100% every day. In Ashtanga Yoga, the Primary Series is called the healing series. When someone was tired or sore, the founder Pattabhi Jois would say “You Do!” And somehow, you get on your mat and find yourself all better again. There is something to hopping back on the horse and getting stuff done. Its not a macho or boneheaded kind of thing. It is a matter of physiology and mechanical efficiency. You gotta clean out those levers of the Choo-Choo.

Olympic weightlifters train up to 2 long sessions a day for 6 days a week. And remember, they only have two primary movements, the snatch and clean & jerk. Runners often run every day. And a carpenter swings a hammer every day. Get your sleep, eat well, and try to workout often. Travis Mash, coach and record holding powerlifter, says that youngsters may do better to take a day off now and then. But as you age, he says that we should lower the intensity slightly and workout more often, like every day! This keeps us well-oiled and functioning at full capacity.

Sleep, eat, and keep moving EVERY day!

Side Butt

bodybuilder

Wait! Before you run away. Listen to what I have to say.

Writers are inspired by what they are feeling in the “now”. And right now, I’m feeling very sore in my gluteus medius region a.k.a. the “side butt”.

One way we can divide human movement is in unilateral and multilateral movement. These aren’t exclusive of one another, but they are generalities useful for discussion.

Unilateral Movements (mostly)

  • road or track running
  • bicycling
  • most resistance lifting (Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, …)
  • other cardio (elliptical exerciser, rowing, …)

Multilateral movements

  • most sports (basketball, soccer, baseball, racquet sports, …)
  • trail running
  • yoga

I point these out because, for one, we may be deficient in our side butt muscles. Any time we have a deficiency, we compensate in other areas and this can lead to long-term problems and injuries. Secondly, if we do movements or sports that use side glutes, then it makes sense to strengthen them more.

There are numerous exercises that are commonly used to target the side glutes. Side leg raises either free or with cables/bands and side-wards running or bounding. These are great dynamic movements, but isometric and isotonic contraction that focuses on weight bearing may be more effective (which we do in yoga).

Yesterday, I spent a considerable amount of time in Warrior 3, dancer, side angle, and triangle poses. These are all incredible side butt poses, but the most incredible may be half moon (ardha chandrasana). Warrior 1 & 2 and many other poses target side glutes as well. I may be biased, but there is no better builder of side glute muscles than yoga.

glutes

Pictured 1) gluteus maximus (posterior view), 2) gluteus medius, 3) gluteus minimus.

Muscles 2 & 3 help abduct the femur (leg opening) from your central axis. This helps stabilize the hip joint and adds considerable stability in movement. If you do squats and your knees turn inward, these are the muscles that help keep you knees in line with your feet. Its a major weakness in many novice and women lifters. Outer hip strength helps prevent injuries like hip dislocations and even knee and ankle trauma. It can also add fullness to your appearance in jeans or even a bikini (oh my!)

I never recommend that you do one pose for a bodypart or for a specific sport. There are no quick fixes. So I always say:

All yoga is good yoga

Our bodies are interconnected. And when you do yoga, it encompasses every little muscle of your body plus breath, balance, and mind. When you do Warrior poses, think about strength as you press into your feet. This engages those side glute muscles. And spend plenty of time in half moon pose as well.

image

(yours truly doing a half-moon in the urban jungle)

CrossFit flipped on its head

crossfit hspu

CrossFit programming can be variable from box to box. I have visited several boxes and have a CrossFit Level I trainer certification myself. With slight variation, the programming generally follows:

  • Warm-Up: rowing, jogging, maybe a short bodyweight circuit
  • Mobility: targeted to the workout of the day (WOD). This may involve elastic bands, yoga-type stretches, massage balls or rollers, or PVC pipes.
  • Strength work: usually a characteristic rep scheme, like 5 sets of 5 reps (5×5), and possibly percentages of your 1 rep max for a movement. It may be to get to a 1RM. An EMOM (every minute on the minute) may be tacked on to this as part of strength or as part of the WOD.
  • WOD: This could be any nature of scheme that cranks your heart-rate and may or may not involve heavy weights. It could be an EMOM, AMRAP (as many rounds or reps as possibly in a given time limit), couplet or triplet involving 2 or 3 movements with a set number of rounds, chipper (reps for each movement that you chip away at), or other scheme.
  • Cool-Down: This is similar to a warm-up and may involve a mobility element.

I’m a yoga teacher and have a daily personal yoga practice. So, mobility is not a big concern for me though I still do specific movements associated with the WOD. But, I’ve changed from what may be standard programming and it has been working for me. Ideally, I don’t do Olympic weightlifting movements in a WOD. Not that I feel it is unsafe, but it could develop poor movement patterns. And I focus on Olympic weightlifting anyway, so I don’t need to do it in WODs. So here is my daily programming:

  • WOD buy-in: I’ve heard James Hobart, CF guru, talk about going “Jaguar“. This means with little or no warm-up, which sounds unsafe, but its what I’ve done with success and have yet to be injured doing a WOD. I usually pre-plan my WOD, but sometimes I do it based on feel. I’ll program away from sore muscles. My WODs are mostly couplets and triplets per Chris Spealer recommendations. I’ll do a 21-15-9 or other rep scheme. My time domain is almost always in the 5-10 min range. I realize this is not random nor does it cover all my bases. I feel those bases are covered elsewhere. This provides me with the heart and body work that I need. It is also my warm-up for Olympic lifting. I’ll do a couple reps of each movement and then start right in without much warm-up. My goal is not to get sore; it is to pump up my heart using mostly strength movements.
  • Olympic Weightlifting: This is my strength work. Many times I’ll start with squats (front, back, overhead, other) and end with pulls. Despite there being only two lifts, the snatch and clean & jerk, the combinations are endless. I may just do the lifts as singles and then a few drop sets. I may do complexes getting time under tension. Or I may break apart the lifts and focus on multiple reps, like cleans, hang cleans, snatch balances, or jerks. I do a Max Lift Friday every week, so I don’t usually do singles during the week. But I do Olympic lifts almost every day.
  • Cool-Down buy-out: This is my strictly cardio element. It may be a quarter or half mile run repeat, 1 or 2K row, or similar Ski Erg. I may do intervals or a straight time or distance. I often wear a heart rate monitor and stay in a zone for 5-15 minutes.

I rarely go over an hour for a total workout. Sometimes I will do yoga-related strength work, like arm balances and hand stands, pistols and pushup related movements. Otherwise, I can do this every day if I can. I never feel overtrained or fatigued. But I do get sore. I can always program away from the soreness though and the active recovery is good for healing.

For me, this program enables me to do whatever I want. If I want to do a trail running race, I do a run on the weekend, but that’s the only additional specificity of training I need. I wouldn’t change if I were to enter a CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting competition. Its good for everything.

Feb: Lunge Every Day

Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.

I listened to Cory Gregory for about the 5th time this morning on The Barbell Life podcast. He espouses the Squat Every Day axiom along with several others. I think he went 600 days squatting every day, hard and heavy! Now, Travis Mash, an elite powerlifter, and others follow similar guidelines. The book by Matt Perryman “Squat Every Day” is an excellent reference for these ideas. But many are talking about it.

But before you think this is a fad, hear me out!

A story is told of Milo of Croton who, when he was young, saw a calf in the field and hoisted it onto his shoulders. Every day he would go out and lift the calf. Only over time, the calf grew larger and eventually was a full-grown bull. Regardless of the story’s truth, there are people who actually work hard every day. They swing a 10 pound sledge hammer every day in rain and cold and heat. Nobody says “you need a rest day”. Nobody says “you need to swing your sledge on alternate days”. Roofers roof; miners haul; mothers pick up toddlers; and some kids may walk a mile to school every day. Nobody will tell you to take a break from your duties. Weider and Atlas developed ideas for lifting since the 1950’s and we claim their ideas as fact. When they are not really based on science. But people still take rest days, which is fine, but they aren’t always necessary. Olympic weightlifters lift 6 days a week for hours twice a day. And they only see steady progress. We adapt. We survive.

Perryman, in his book, talks a lot about soreness, fatigue, overtraining, and all these other things that we’ve concocted in our minds to avoid doing the hard work. I hate to sound like some muscle-headed Neanderthal, but most of our excuses are fluff. There is a French speaking man (sorry to forget his name) who says “Burn the questions”. Don’t ask, should I do this today? Am I too sore to workout? Why do I have to do that? Just do it. My softer side will say, keep moving. It rushes synovial fluid to your joints, it lengthens muscles thereby releasing scar tissue, and it moves lymph to usher healing hormones and growth factors to speed the process of healing, recovery, and strength building.

Over the years, I have dedicated a month, usually in July and November, to Squat Every Day. I always gain so much from doing that, not only physically, but mentally as well. Cory not only talks about squats, but he also Lunges Every Day. He started doing lunges for a quarter of a mile. And sometimes, he’d work up to a mile of lunges. If you have ever done lunges, it doesn’t take too many to make your buns so sore that its hard to sit down or stand up. That’s how good they are. Cory and Travis also talk about if you have a hole in your fitness, if you want to get your heart beating without running, if you have back or sciatic pain, then lunges are for you. And if you want to build buns for Spring Break that are shapely and strong, there is nothing better.

So lunges it is. I have an Advanced Rocket Yoga training coming up in the end of February and a CrossFit competition in April. The timing is perfect for Lunge Every Day!

Running from the Road

Most runners have had incidents of wild beasts or, even worse, untamed people during their running journeys. I’ve had people yell expletives at me and throw things like beer bottles and cans in my direction. But two incidents put me over the edge.

One early morning at dusk, I was not even a half-mile from home when I approached an intersection. I was just moving off the sidewalk on the right side of the road. I saw a car approaching from my left turning right but didn’t quite make the turn. He jumped over the rumbled median and came directly toward me in my lane. I had to race to the curb to get out of the way. I looked directly into the driver’s face and he was completely stone drunk. I watched as he nearly bounced from curb to curb as he drove away. I lived in my first starter home in a fairly nice neighborhood of working class people. I was in grad school at the time and I wanted to build equity instead of losing money on rent. My street led back to a not so nice “projects” that always concerned me. People would stop in their car right in front of my house with the subwoofers booming. They would eat their fast food and then politely dropped their trash into my yard. But I still cherished my home. So I ran home from my near collision to make sure my home and my wife and dog were OK. He could have swerved into something or someone special to me.

Another early morning with only the streetlights illuminating my path, I was running away from home again. This home is my current home in a very nice neighborhood with very nice neighbors. I call it Pleasantville since nothing can possibly go wrong. People are polite, they pick up dog poop, and wave hello to relative strangers. We are mostly University folk or other professionals in our community. But, as I cross the tracks into an older section of town, I pass through a thoroughfare of sorts. It is a two-way street that is double wide for parking along the side, only nobody really parks on the street. So, I am on the right side of the road again, even though I’m usually on the left. But when I feel most safe, I run on the right. It was a wide road. A car was approaching with lights on from the opposite direction. It stayed in its lane the entire way, that is, until it got to me. There wasn’t another car anywhere to be seen, yet he swerved all the way over forcing me to race off the road and roll into a fence. I could see what looked like two older males. They must have had something against runners or society in general. It was obvious that they were hell bent on being mean that morning since there was no reason for them to turn into me.

Those two incidents were the icing on the cake. It forced me to swear off of roads completely. I’ve run in all of the lower 48 U.S. States and Hawaii and abroad. And these bozos ended my road journeys. I already preferred trail running, so I hung up my road shoes for good. That’s not to say that I haven’t had experiences on the trails. But animal encounters, stinging nettles, and cactus are not out to get me. Evil people are just evil. In backpacking, they say the most dangerous parts of the trail are trailheads. Miscreants are too lazy to go far down a trail. Its only the idiots who sit at trailheads who are out for no good.

I love the trails. I enjoy sharing with friends, but I prefer to go alone. All I hear is the wind in the trees, babbling brooks, birds singing, and the pitter-patter of my running huaraches or bare feet. I have this connection with the trail that I love. Its led me to ultramarathons and experiences that nobody gets to see but me. I’m obnoxious that way. I know others have seen it, but I imagine in my dreams that I am the only one.