Run Forrest, Run!

I lost a lot of my enthusiasm for running after reading this article (be warned, it’s a little contentious and not very PC) and my cardiovascular fitness took a nosedive as a result. I got interested in high intensity interval training (HIIT) and developed a love for kettle bells instead. When I did occasionally go for a run my limbs felt heavy, and I took my laboured breathing and tight chest as an indication that I’d lost condition, and I didn’t like it.

For a while (and before reading this article), when I was living in Nelson, instead of jogging four or five kilometres at a steady pace like I used to do, I would do a series of sprints along Tahunanui Beach or up the Maitai. I’d jog for a while to warm up, then sprint as fast as I could for as long as I could, then when I couldn’t go any further I’d slow to a walk until I felt completely recovered then I’d sprint again. Each successive sprint got a little slower and a little shorter but man it was fun! I mean how often do adults really get the opportunity to do an all-out sprint in everyday life? I’d say pretty much never, unless you make it happen.

Now that it’s winter and I have a gym membership I’ve been doing a little running challenge. The premise is pretty basic: to run two kilometres as quickly as possible. It came to me one evening when I was on the treadmill doing some dreaded steady-state cardio (the article I linked to at the start of this post states that excessive amounts of steady-state cardio can lead to fat gain and hypothyroidism, especially in women, and especially when caloric restriction is also happening). It was all feeling rather pointless as I had no particular goal or aim in mind in terms of speed or distance. So I thought why not challenge myself to see how quickly I can run two kilometres.

Below are the 10 runs I did over the last couple of months, with my final run time being three minutes and 21 seconds quicker than my initial run time.

Date Run time Distance travelled first Time of day Notes
14/05/2014 13:25 Evening No strategy
16/05/2014 12:22 Morning Fasted except coffee
21/05/2014 11:33 Morning Fasted except coffee
31/05/2014 11:13 Morning Yoghurt and chlorella beforehand
06/06/2014 11:03 Morning Fasted except coffee
10/06/2014 10:39 300 m Evening Brussels sprouts and bacon for lunch, used Gymboss for first time
18/06/2014 10:30 400 m Mid-morning Porridge for breakfast
26/06/2014 10:26 300 m Mid-morning Coffee and banana only
04/07/2014 10:21 500 m Mid-morning Porridge for breakfast
08/07/2014 10:04 500 m Afternoon Steak and veggies for lunch

 

For the first five runs I just used the timer on the treadmill, which meant I started out walking for a few seconds as I got the treadmill up to speed. After a while I realised that I was losing too much time by doing that so I started using the stopwatch on my Gymboss, which allowed me to get up to a decent speed before I began. I also rowed for one kilometre on the rowing machine set at the highest resistance as a warm up each time – this took about five minutes. Initially I thought factors such as time of day, food eaten beforehand, and running strategy – such as when to try and run the fastest – might influence my run time, but in hindsight I think that my determination to improve on my previous time was by far and away more powerful a tool than nutrition or time of day. There were times when I wasn’t felling particularly energised beforehand and I would think to myself “I don’t think I’m gonna make it any quicker this time” but my mental fortitude seemed to make up for what my legs were lacking on the day.

I could keep going with this challenge and maybe continue to shave off a few more seconds each time, but I’m pretty happy with my final time of 10 minutes and four seconds, and I’m also getting a bit bored with running.

If you read Kiefer’s article and are worried that running will make you fat, please don’t be. However, I do agree with him that excessive running coupled with under-eating will probably ruin your metabolism, make you feel awful, and force your body into starvation mode where it will hold onto fat in an effort to stay alive. My advice would be get off the treadmill and run outdoors, in nature, up hills and along beaches, and do it because you love it, not for punishment. And eat sensibly too.

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The nine day challenge that didn’t end

By the end of my last six weeks with no no-drinking rules I felt decidedly disgusting. I was bloated and lethargic and exercise had somehow crept right off my agenda. Sure, I move around at a moderate pace for most of my waking hours, and I train with my clients, but that’s at an intensity that’s right for them, not me. Plus, my last drinking day had been a doozie – Baileys, red wine and white wine all in one day. I needed to snap myself out of my stupor; a physical challenge was in order!

I’ve talked about Mike Chang’s workouts before, they’re fairly high intensity, 20 minute sessions made up of a variety of bodyweight resistance exercises, something that anyone can fit into an already busy schedule and do in the comfort of their own homes. You watch the video and you do what you’re told – easy. The first one is a fitness test where you do a series of six exercises, each for 45 seconds, for a maximum number of reps. Watch this video for the demonstrations. The next eight workouts alternate between working the upper body and lower body, and once you’ve made your way through them all you do the fitness test again.

Unexpected things started happening once I adopted a daily exercise habit. I thought it would be a real drag fitting the workouts in, especially on the three days where I work from 7:00 AM until 3 or 4:00PM, but I found myself diligently getting up at 4:44 AM (because it looked cooler than 4:45) and getting them done early. Within a few days it felt more normal to do them than not to do them – which is all a habit is really. Then I found myself wanting to do more exercise; it is only 20 minutes a day after all. One day I went for a run, another I went to Mum’s yoga class, and then the other morning I found myself casually picking up my kettle bell and giving it 50 swings in between my sun salutes and spinal rolls.

But this is the best part: once I got through all the workouts and did the fitness test for the second time (results are in the table below) it seemed silly to stop, so I just kept going. In the last 15 days I’ve only missed one day – I was tired and in need of a break so I met a friend at the beach instead of being a slave to my workouts.

Exercise 05/02/14 13/02/14 24/02/14
Push ups 22 37 33
Jumping squats 27 33 40
Mountain climbers 75 90 96
Burpees 13 13 16
Butterfly 23 31 31
Prone knee to elbow 20 28 38

I’ll keep going until it’s time to do the fitness test a third time, then I’ll decide if I want to carry on. This is what my back looks like at the moment, the light is in my favour, but the muscles are all mine.

I did the fitness test for the third time this morning – a pretty good result. I would’ve liked to have done more push ups but my triceps were still sore from doing a Muay Thai session with teenage boys a few days ago. At least I improved on the blasted burpees!