Monthly Archives: September 2013

Week 37: workouts

On Monday morning I went to the Hopkins gym for my lifting routine.  I wasn’t in the mood to run for a warm up, so when I arrived to the gym I decided to try a machine I’d never used before.  It was very much like an elliptical, but it didn’t have such a restricted range of motion – something between an elliptical and a stair climber.  Anyway, I loved it.  I spent ten minutes warming up and really trying to open up my stride to benefit my hip region which tends to get really tight during runs.  Afterwards, I stretched my lower body before beginning the heavy lifting.  This time the routine was four repetitions of the following: 12 assisted pull-ups and dips with 70lb removed, 5 knee push-ups with elbows in, 30 total side crunches, and 30s planks with arms extended.  I’m hoping the planks will help strengthen my wrists, arms, back, and abs in preparation for full pushups when I get stronger.

Tuesday was an early morning since Adam had to be into work by 8am.  We woke at 4:50am which wasn’t too bad since I was actually looking forward to my swim workout (despite my dream that night in which I got caught in several tidal waves).  Oh the drama.  We arrived at the pool around 5:30am and swam until approximately 6:15am.  In that time I did 100m warm up freestyle, 100m kick, one-arm drills, 50m kick, catch-up drills, (something else) and 100m cool down.  I probably forgot something in there since I wasn’t trying so hard to remember everything.  I took less rest between sets this time so I could really feel the cardio aspect of the workout.  It tired me out!  I have plenty of room to grow in this regard and I’m looking forward to it.  I had a couple 50m swims with good form, but once I started to get tired my breathing rhythm was disturbed and my form got worse.  I am getting more comfortable turning my head to breathe, though, and I’ve had less trouble with water getting up my nose.  Despite all the drama/anguish I’ve felt leading up to my swims, I’ve found it to be very calming and peaceful.

Wednesday was a run day for me this week.  I set out to run a 5k up north just after sunrise (around 7am).  It was warm and muggy enough that my sunglasses fogged up the moment I stopped running.  During the run I felt some discomfort in my left heel/ankle and tried to focus on improving my form which has felt rather sloppy lately.  During the run I didn’t feel the need to check the distance or the time – the route finally felt like a routine and I was in a good place mentally.  I didn’t think ahead and feel the need to rush and cover “all that ground I had left”.  No, I just focused on where I was at the moment.  This attitude reminded me of swimming where I’ve felt the need to rush to finish the set so I can breathe, when in practice it makes more sense to slow down and focus on breathing enough during the set.  Overall I finished this 5k in 29:51 and I felt good about it.

I woke at 5am again on Thursday to join Adam for another swim workout.  We were in the pool for only 35 minutes or so, but it was my best swim yet.  I swam 100m warm up, 100m kick, 50m one-arm drills, 50m catch-up drills, 50m kick, 4x25m fast, 50m fast, 50m kick, and 50m cool down.  My form was the best during the fast parts when I was breathing every third stroke.  I’m much more comfortable breathing on my right side, so I’d like to practice breathing on both.  After the workout my shoulders were killing me, my right especially.  It seems that keeping the same lifting routines while adding two swimming days is making my shoulders a bit unhappy.  They’ll get over it eventually!

Friday morning I joined Adam at Meadowbrook for a lifting routine.  This required another 5am wake up, but I was happy to get the workout out of the way earlier and leave more time in the morning for other things.  The weight room at Meadowbrook is much quieter than the one at Hopkins and much less crowded, so I think it’s worth the drive.  This time I did 5 sets of 12 reps for the following exercises: assisted pull-ups, flye, skullcrushers, and curls (skipping shoulders since they were so sore).  Adam and I did our ab routine after the third set.  When we returned home I went for a short run around the neighborhood.  The weather was a little cool and felt great.  I finished the 2 miles in 18:37 then stretched.

I didn’t do any workouts on Saturday and I was feeling pretty grumpy by the end of the day – not sure if it had anything to do with the lack of exercise.

lr-runOn Sunday morning I went for my first long run on a trail.  I left home with Adam around 7am when the sun was just rising.  We arrived at the Loch Raven Reservoir and parked at the top of a big hill.  The start of our run was a long downhill portion which served as a nice warm up, but I knew it would be tough on the way back.  At the bottom of the hill we hopped on one of the trails.  It was much hillier than the routes I’m used to and there were a ton of rocks along the path.  It felt like we were running on a riverbed.  What I didn’t realize at first was that our path was also a bike path and the rocks were likely there to help prevent erosion.  This became clear when two bikers went flying past us a mile and a half into the run.  Luckily we had plenty of time to see each other and make way, but that certainly wouldn’t be the case for some of the sharper turns.  Next time we’ll be sure to seek out trails where bikes are banned.  For almost the entire run I had my eyes on the ground, planning my steps, so I didn’t really get to enjoy the scenery, but the fog, cool temperatures, and general quiet were enough to make me appreciate the new location.  We turned around at 2.5 miles to spare my ankles and lower legs and make sure I wasn’t too fatigued to navigate the rocks.  On the way back I did catch a root or a rock and trip, but I wasn’t going fast and it was only a mild setback.  We made it out of the woods with only the long uphill back to the car.  I did my best to grind through it and finished the 5 miles in 58:07.  Despite the rocks and bikes, I’m really happy with the way things turned out and I’m looking forward to coming back soon!



Week 36: workouts

I have some exciting news to share this week: I’m officially learning how to swim for exercise!  Way back in the fourth grade I took swimming lessons that taught me how to handle myself in the water and we had a pool in our backyard for a time growing up.  It was enough to get me through the Notre Dame swimming test many years later, but not enough to make me feel comfortable in the water.  Well, that’s about to change.  I signed up for a winter membership at Meadowbrook (pictured below) and swam twice this week with Adam’s helpful guidance.

meadowbrookOn Monday morning I felt really sore (knees especially) from my long run the previous day, so I opted to warm up using a spinner rather than by running.  For twelve minutes I kept the cadence high and the resistance low.  After my warm up, I did a workout inspired by Adam’s new bodyweight routine, but using the handy assisted dip/pull-up machine.  I did twelve dips and twelve pull-ups with 70 lbs removed (a lot!), then tried to do some push ups.  In the process I felt so much strain in my right tricep I had to stop.  Instead I used the flye machine they had nearby.  I also did planks to work on my ab strength.  I repeated this cycle four times in total.  Afterwards I used a form roller to work out some soreness in my legs and I felt pain from this process for the first time.  Later that (Labor) day I spent a lot of time cleaning and reorganizing the apartment so I was on my feet more than usual.  My knees and heels were really hurting by the end of the day which I took as a warning to back off on the downhills during my runs.

Tuesday morning was my first swim workout in the Meadowbrook pool!  I woke up at 5:30am and was in the water with Adam by 6:15am.  I was intimidated enough that I intended just to kick with the kickboard to acclimate myself to the water and the early morning while Adam did his workout.  Luckily, he instead convinced me to try some real swimming.  It was rather warm out so we used one of the 25m outdoor lanes.  This was especially awesome since the sun rose sometime during the workout, though I was too distracted to notice until we finished.  In total, I swam about 500m and kicked 250m with plenty of breaks to rest in between laps.  I had quite a bit of trouble with water getting up my nose and into my sinuses so I had to practice breathing out my nose.  I found that it helped to start breathing out just before my face went underwater.  This wasn’t a strenuous swim workout, but it did a lot for my confidence and I felt very accomplished afterwards.

wed-bikeOn Wednesday morning Adam and I were joined by our friend Adrien for a bike ride around northern Baltimore.  It was relatively cool so I had to wear long sleeves under my cycling kit.  As usual, I forgot to start my watch until five miles into the ride, so I don’t have the full route.  According to Adam’s GPS, we covered 15.8 miles in 1:18:00.  It was great to have the guys there for company and to look out for me as we shared the road with some early commuters.  It will still be a while before I’m comfortable enough to go out on my own, so I’m grateful that they took the time to go slow with me.  By the end of the ride my legs were tired and my triceps were killing me, but I was happy to be out riding.  I was especially proud that I didn’t have any trouble with the clip-on cycling shoes!

I woke up at 5:30am again on Thursday to swim at Meadowbrook.  This time we opted for one of the less crowded indoor 25m lanes.  I practiced my freestyle and did my first set of drills to work on form and practice breathing.  I was still having trouble with my nose, but I felt pretty comfortable by the end of it.  My last few laps were freestyle with breathing every third stroke (rather than my usual two) and I felt good though I could tell I need to build up a lot of strength before I can handle sustained swimming.  The drills were one-armed strokes and catch-ups with a pull buoy to keep my legs high in the water.  My kicking tends to be sporadic when I’m uncomfortable/struggling so these drills helped my calm down a bit and tone down the kicking.  Overall, it was a great workout and I felt very accomplished by the end of it.  When we got back from the pool, I went out for a 5k run to maintain my running fitness while I play around with swimming.  I felt really slow at the beginning – low on energy and possibly water – so I’ll have to be more conscious of this next time.  I felt stronger by the end and finished the 5k run up north in 29:26.

Friday morning Adam joined me at the gym for another lifting routine.  I did just a kilometer run for warm up since I was feeling pretty tired from my workouts the day before.  I did four sets of 20 reps for back, chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps with an ab workout in the middle.  I could have gone harder, but I was still glad how everything turned out.

On Saturday I took the day off from exercise since errands and a 1pm Orioles game ate up most of the daylight hours.  I like to exercise, but I’m not going to pass on grocery shopping to do it!

On Sunday morning Adam and I were joined by Adrien and Howard (from work) for my 8 mile long run around the harbor.  After last week’s tough run along the Jones Falls trail, I was really looking forward to this easier run.  This was also my first time running in a group where I’m clearly the slowest runner there.  Luckily it didn’t cause much stress since I knew the guys would be receptive to any suggestion that we slow down.  At the very least, I knew Adam would be there to look out for me.  That said, it all went very well.  We started from Boston Street Running as usual and I was conversational until about 3.5 miles in.  At the six mile mark I had to stop to rest, something I don’t usually like to do.  I could feel my body temperature rising with my face starting to flush and my heart rate wouldn’t go below 180.  I stopped in the shade for a little more than two minutes during which time i experienced a very minor asthma attack (no inhaler necessary).  I don’t know if it was stress or the heat, but I was glad when it passed and we could continue running.  I was on my own for the last half mile as Adam and Adrien raced to the finish and it really made me appreciate how nice it was to have them there for the rest of it.  Overall I finished the 8 miles in 1:23:08.  It was a good run and not nearly as brutal as the one the week before.  I actually had some energy left for the rest of the day!

Week 35: workouts

Well, vacation time was over and it was back to the real world and work!  Instead of falling back into the usual routine I mixed it up a bit.  I finished my first trail run and took a new route for my long run.  Adam even joined me in the gym for one of my lifting routines.

On Monday morning I went to the gym for my lifting routine, but I did something different this time: I ran to the gym as a warm up.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but it’s hard to stick with it when I’m sore from a long run the day before.  This time I took a longer route than necessary and ran a mile in 8:48.  I felt pretty fast and I could feel my leg muscles were working, too.  After the run, I took the opportunity to stretch my calves and hip flexors which always seem to be tight.  I then did 4 sets of 12 reps for my back, chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps with an ab workout in the middle.  I also made sure to stretch my upper body afterwards – something I’m usually pretty lazy about.  I felt really good about this workout and my arms were shaky that morning (tired but okay).  It was a great way to start the week.

Monday night I arrived home around 8pm and wasn’t at all hungry for dinner.  I forced myself to eat and went straight to bed, but I still felt sick when I woke up Tuesday morning.  It felt like a light chest cold.  Even though I felt dizzy and weak, I still wanted to go to the track to see how it would go.  By the time we arrived I was feeling better, but the 3/4 mile warm up was hard.  I did drills with Adam then opted to run at a steady pace rather than attempt intervals.  I managed another mile before I started to get really hungry and feel heartburn so I stopped and stretched without pushing it any further.  The workout was good for me mentally even though I didn’t get to push through it – that fresh morning air is often the best part of day and I would have missed it if I had just opted to stay home.

On Wednesday, though, I slept in.  Adam is taking a break from hard-core training and we decided together to skip the cycling workout we had planned.  It was a lazy morning.

IMG_20130829_082820Thursday morning Adam and I drove to a nearby park for some trail running.  I was really excited about the change from our usual limited routes around home.  What I didn’t expect was how hilly the route would be compared to what I was used to.  It was also muggy enough that my glasses fogged up a couple times during the run.  I had to work a little harder than usual, but the new scenery was enough distraction that I didn’t mind so much.  Adam and I ran together for the first kilometer or so before he took off at his pace.  After 2.5k I turned around to head back to the car and luckily didn’t get lost.  Adam caught up to me before the end and we finished the run with a brutal set of stairs (why??!).  In the end I ran the 5k in about 33:30.  Considering the mud, railroad ties, and hills I’m very happy with that time.

On Friday I went to the gym for my lifting routine and this time Adam tagged along, too!  I ran my mile warm up in about 9:30 and did some dynamic stretching before hitting the weights.  I use dumbbells for the most part but Adam wanted to stick with bodyweight exercises so we opted for different routines.  I like the idea of bodyweight exercises since they’re easy to do when traveling and might be good if I find myself without a gym membership in the future.  That said, there’s something I really like about using the dumbbells in the gym.  I did 4 sets of 20 reps with abs in between and a quick stretch afterwards.

On Saturday I took the day off and kept myself busy running errands.

JFTSunday morning was by far the hardest workout of the week.  Due to the heat and humidity we decided to run from home so Adam would have a chance to properly shower before going to work that day.  The Jones Falls trail sounded appealing after trail running on Thursday so we set off through Druid Hill Park up to Clipper Mill.  We didn’t know exactly how long it would be, but we’d biked the course before so I knew roughly what to expect.  Well, as it turns out, hills are much less memorable when you’re tackling them on a bike.  The route was hillier than I had remembered, but I did learn how to take advantage of the downhill sections by leaning into it and letting gravity do the work.  At one point I was flying and I felt like my leg muscles weren’t working at all – it just felt automatic.  My heart rate did go up, though, during the downhill stretches.  In retrospect I realize this was hard on my knees so I’ll take it easy when doing this in the future.  On the way back we hit a huge hill (Union Ave) that seemed to last forever.  I had to pause halfway to catch my breath even though I was barely moving.  With the humidity and the hills, this 7.33 mile run in 1:20:28 was much harder than the slightly longer run I’ve done in the past around the inner harbor.  For the rest of the day I felt like a zombie, but that was partially a result of the heat.  It was a hard run, but I’m glad I did it.

Week 34: workouts

This week we returned from our busy but wonderful trip to Milwaukee and various places in Michigan.  Monday was my first day running in well over a week and it was a good reminder regarding the importance of consistency in training.

On Monday I set out for what I knew would be a difficult run.  I was feeling a little sick the day before so I set out to run two miles instead of the usual three.  With the upcoming travel, too, I figured more days of slightly less running would be a good way to go.  I took my usual route up north and my legs felt really tired.  I struggled with some light-headedness and heartburn, but I finished the 2 miles in 19:26.  Even though it wasn’t comfortable while I was running, I very much enjoyed going for a run before breakfast.  That quiet time in the morning, the feeling of accomplishment, and the feeling of well-being later in the morning are part of my home routine – something I missed while traveling.

I felt a little better for my run on Tuesday.  This time I took a route to the south and ran 2 miles in 19:52.  I had cramps for most of the time and the run still wasn’t pleasant, but it was a far cry from the discomfort I felt when I first started running two years ago.  A short break can set me back a bit but it also serves as a reminder of how far I’ve come.

On Wednesday I woke up early to run before we left for Ocean City to vacation with Adam’s family, but my calves were sore so I opted to take the day off instead.

ocean-cityThursday was our first whole day in Ocean City and I started the day off right with a short run with Abbey and Shane.  The pace felt fast, but my breathing wasn’t heavy as we ran along the main street.  It seemed like just the right effort.  We finished these 2 miles in 19:08.

I was on my own for my Friday morning run along the same route as the day before.  I felt pretty good so I pushed the pace a little.  I felt like I was flying – it was great.  My heart rate was high (above 180 for at least half and I topped out at 190).  With that effort I ran the 2 miles in 17:36.  The time surprised me a bit, but I was glad to see the extra effort pay off.

Saturday morning I was lucky enough to have Adam join me on my run.  I was feeling a little tired and sore from the day before so I didn’t feel inclined to push it.  We ran a relatively comfortable pace and finished the 2 miles in 19:34.

By Sunday I was pretty tired so I took the day off and let my legs rest a little.

Overall, I’m really happy that I managed to run most days this week, even though we were on vacation.  It was a great way to start the morning and it set me up well for future workouts.  Staying in one place definitely helped, but I’ll be sure to work in at least a couple runs next time I’m away from home.  Exercise/running is part of my life now and there’s no need to leave that at home!


Week 33: workouts

There’s not too much to say about week 33 except that it was wonderful and I didn’t do any workouts.  I had time away from work and spent the week with Adam driving all over Michigan to visit family.  It seemed like every minute was packed with family time so I took a break from the workouts.  In retrospect it would have been nice to work in a few runs, but I’m still happy with how the week turned out.

mackinacOn Wednesday Adam, my little brother Mike, and I spent the day on Mackinac Island.  It was a little chilly, but still a beautiful day spent cycling and walking around.  I also had some fun taking pictures on the ferry ride home.


Next week is more vacation – this time with Adam’s family – so let’s see if I can log some miles and remind my legs how to run!