Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gym Rat


In my last post, I mentioned that I would start running at least a mile a day to try to get back on track. While that hasn't happened, I did have a much better week thereafter running / working out. I ran, often with additional "cross training" on 5 out of 8 days. I can live with that. This past week, I went to the SEMR Beer / Group Run in Royal Oak and ran today (Saturday). That's it. Oh well. I'm done beating myself up about it. I'm trying.

Fun at the SEMR Beer Run - Included a 5k-ish run, beer and prizes.

I don't love working out inside, as I'd rather run outside, but it seems to be working out for me at the moment. Two of the five workouts last week were done at my home on my crummy treadmill. It is a hand-me-down that has a belt that moves, but it is relatively narrow and is not particularly comfortable to run on, but that's about it. I don't think the mph listed is particularly accurate. 6 mph on this treadmill is much more difficult than at the gym.

The gym I go to is Planet Fitness. For the price, it is tough to beat. They have two levels of membership - the standard one, which includes access for your home club only, for $10 a month and PF Black, which allows you to bring a guest, use other clubs and use of the hydromassage, massage chairs and tanning for $20. (There is also an annual fee of something like $39). I chose the $20 membership mainly to use the hydromassage and to be able to attend other Planet Fitness locations (though I have only done so once so far).

My local club is only a couple years old and it has already expanded. There is the main room, an area for a 30 minute circuit, tanning rooms, the massage and hydro massage rooms, red light therapy room (not sure if I buy the value of red light therapy yet), a smaller, new room with mostly cardio machines, and locker rooms. The machines are all in good shape with about half of the machines being less than 6 months old. The treadmills are the most comfortable I've ever run on. They're still treadmills, but they are good ones. They lack most fancy, custom workout features but have adequate preset programs. The ARC Trainers, Ellipticals and such are good too. Bikes are fine, but again lack programs allowing heavy customization. The weight machines are fine for anything I would use them for.

Overall, the vibe is pretty casual, which is what they shoot for. There is a dress code (no jeans, nothing overly revealing), they discourage grunting and they have a lunk alarm for the lunks that drop weights. I haven't heard the alarm this year. If you are "hardcore gym guy / gal", this place isn't for you, but if you're a casual gym user, it generally has what you need. There is no pool and no child care, which may be issues for some (I would love child care).

The weather continues to be brutal, I cannot run in my neighborhood because the roads and sidewalks are ice and snow covered, and my schedule continues to be unfriendly to running, but I'm not giving up. I'm still determined to be in shape for two spring half-marathons and any other races I may do.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Inauspicious Start

I almost titled this post an auspicious start, because that is what I thought I meant. Just to make sure, I looked it up and auspicious means encouraging or favorable. Inauspicious is what I really meant, which is exactly the opposite.

2013 ended with a race on New Year's Eve, the New Years Resolution 8K run in Flint. This is the 3rd year in a row that I've run this race, put on by Riverbend Striders. They put on good, low frill races for a fair entry fee. The races I've done with them have the shirt as an option, which I like. The entry fee was $25 with a hooded sweatshirt and $15 without. I chose without this year, because I have more than enough hooded sweatshirts (I could use ones without hoods).

It was in the upper teens and I may have skipped it if not for posting it on the Facebook page of a local running group and seeing that one of my running pals, Kevin, said he was going to go. Aw... I probably would have gone anyway. The race itself was fine. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as windy as predicted and the weather was manageable, though most of the roads were snow covered and somewhat slick. I finished a couple minutes slower than the previous year, but I was OK with how it went and I was glad I raced.

The race wasn't inauspicious, but the start of 2014 has been quite inauspicious (last time using that word today). I did a 3 mile treadmill run about 8 days ago and then a 2 mile run during the middle of a snow event that would leave us with about 15 inches of the stuff.

It really was snowing, but Google + decided to add the snow effect.

I was able to run a couple miles on the unplowed roads. With all of the slip-sliding, it was challenging
Those runs weren't the bad part. The inau.... bad part is that I didn't run for 6 days in a row, which is exactly what I said I shouldn't do in my post about running goals for 2014. This lull was weather-influenced (that's what -14F temps will get ya) and schedule influenced. With the weather, not only was I not going to run outside due to road conditions and temperature, I had to get up early each day to shovel and to get ready to get to work on time. With the extra time for travel and increased need for concentration on the roads, I felt wiped out by the time I got home. Add to that evening activities for the kids and running didn't happen.

I have decent excuses. but as I struggled during my "easy" run at Indian Springs Metropark this morning, they didn't matter. It was way too hard and indicated to me that I need to step it up if I want to meet any of my goals this year.

I have decided to take drastic moderate measures to get back on track. I am implementing a plan where I must run at least a mile every day. Erica from Life as a Running Mom has a 2 year daily run streak going and it seems to work well for her. I have a one day daily running streak. My hope is that, if I get myself ready to run one mile, I'll usually end up doing more. I don't care if it is on the home mill, the gym mill or outside, I need to get back in the habit.

Here's to the streak! *cheers*

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Goals for 2014

Hey ya'll or Hey you guys! It all depends on where you're from. I took a NY Times Linguistics survey and it told me where I was from, just in case I forgot:

And it was pretty darn accurate.

Anyhow, a new year brings a new list of running goals. I feel that setting goals is nearly essential in making progress in my running endeavors. Without goals or plans, I tend to do "whatever" and end up not running as much as I want or need to (to improve, to maintain health and for mental well-being).

Since the Detroit Marathon in October, I have continued to run, but not nearly as much or as consistently as during the summer when I was training for the marathon or even as much as I did during last spring, when I was drifting. The weather, lack of daylight and family / holiday schedule have played a big part, but not having any goals did as well.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party to set goals for 2014 and begin to act to meet those goals with some modicum of urgency (20 bonus points for using modicum in a sentence). For the most part, I have tried to make these goals simple and to allow myself, if I should fall short of completing the full goal, to be able to complete portions of the goal and feel some level of accomplishment. So, without further delay, here are the goals I plan to work on for the upcoming year:

1. PR (set a personal record best time) every main distance I run, from 5k to Half Marathon (or Marathon).

This would seem, on the surface, to be a quite formidable task and I will admit it won't happen without a good deal of effort. I continue to maintain that, if I apply myself, I can be significantly faster than I am right now. When I was on my marathon training plan in 2013. I PR'd both the 10 mile and half-marathon distances even though they were not goal races (I ran them as part of my training, not as the goal of my training - the main difference was that my training was not geared towards those races and, perhaps more significantly, my preparation in the week or two prior to these races was different than if these were "goal races").

The plan: 
I am going to start a half-marathon training program oh... about now! I'll probably use a Hal Higdon plan (Novice 2 or Intermediate) with some tweaks to accommodate my schedule and preferences. These are 12 week programs and it just so happens that, at the end of 12 weeks, I plan to run the Rock CF Half Marathon on Grosse Ile. This is a flat course I am familiar with, having run it in 2012 and 2013. If the weather cooperates and I train as I should, I intend to PR at this race. I may also run a late April or May Half Marathon because I want to and to act as a back-up race in case Rock CF doesn't go as planned.

To PR a 10k race, I simply need to run a 10k race (which I am not pacing) while I'm in "race shape". I have beaten my 10k PR during the course of at least one longer race and have come close to it in practice when I wasn't racing. Not planning any special training for this distance.

For the 5k PR, I plan to be "in shape" after completing my half marathon training, then shift to a plan which includes more speed work and exercise to train my body for a shorter, faster race. I would hope that, by mid June (about the time of the Open Door Julie Run) that I would be in a good position to PR (PR can be a noun or verb, apparently). The good thing is that, should I falter at any one particular race, you can find a 5k race on any given weekend.

This leaves the marathon. I don't know if I will run a marathon this year. If I do, it would likely be the Chicago Marathon. I grew up in the Chicagoland area and that is a race that I want to do at some point (I considered trying to get into the race this year before deciding that it would be better for me to run in Detroit - which is where I have lived for over 15 years now). It is a popular race, and there is no guarantee that I will get in, especially if they decided to go to a lottery. If I don't get in, I will either think about running the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis (I guess that would be my 3rd city I feel some connection with) or not run a fall marathon and instead focus on a fall half marathon, where I could hopefully beat my spring half- marathon times.

2. Run a 20 minute 5k.

Not since high school have I run a 5k race under 20 minutes. My 5k PR is currently 22:16 and I hope to beat it as part of Goal #1. 20 is a nice round number and it has been in the back of my mind ever since I committed to running. I know I can do it (and knowing is half the battle).

Knowing IS half the battle. The other half involves a lot of work and the doing.

The Plan:
Run fast. Seriously, I think the main thing I need to do is to run fast and do so more often. I considered making this year 100% about meeting this goal and forsaking all other distances and goals, but I'm not willing to do that at this time. I am committed taking up to a couple months where getting ready for this distance is my primary focus. I'm not sure of any specifics about how I will get to 20 minutes, but I don't need to know that right now. Hopefully by late March, I'll have a better idea.

3. Run 1000 Miles.

I was supposed to do this in 2013 and didn't (I think I ended up with 858). If I run over 1000 miles, that should mean that I won't have too many periods of time when I run once or twice a week. I have learned that this isn't enough to maintain, much less improve.

The Plan:
Try to run at least 3 times a week. I should run 4 to 5 times a week when I am "in training" so, if I keep to the plan, those periods of time should not be a problem. It is when I am not training for something that I tend to wander. I may be "in training" for something for the good part of 9 months if all goes well and I do not get hurt. This should be OK since the training isn't all-out-all-of-the-time. There will likely be at least 3 different cycles during training and each will have a time to ramp up (which may be dialing back from the previous cycle).

4. Help keep my family participating in exercise.

I have a little bit of control over this one, but hopefully, I can help. We all need to be active and try to stay healthy.My wife is planning to walk 1000 miles this year and she can do it, but will need our support. My oldest daughter ran cross country last year and may run track this year (if it is available to her grade - at the moment, it is not). My son can begin to train to run if he so chooses - I think he has some natural talent for running if that is something he wants to do. My youngest daughter has boundless energy and goes all of the time. In fact, if she wants to turn it down a notch, I'm all for it.

The Plan:
My wife needs to self-motivate - that is on her. As a family, we can encourage her and help her deal with things around the house and, more importantly, the baby so that she can get some time to do her walking. It would be nice if, at some point, the baby would be willing to walk with her a little bit, but I'm not counting on it.

My daughter is a good kid and student. She needs to find some motivation as well. I try not to push, but I want to be encouraging. At this point, I just want to set a good example and give her every opportunity I can to be active. The same is true for my son, with the added issue that he loves his video games and watching videos about other people playing video games (I like games too, but don't really get Minecraft and get watching videos about that game even less). They both could use a bit of competitive fire and I'm not sure how to instill this in them. Is it simply something that you have or you don't? I think it can be learned to some extent.

I have learned enough over the past 3 years that I can train them all to walk / run or help in other sporting endeavors. The main thing is to be there for them and help as I am able.

I'm looking forward to this year and hope to do well! Best of luck to all of you in 2014!