Monthly Archives: October 2013

Week 41: workouts

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to take it a bit easier.  Don’t get me wrong: I really love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I’ve finished a week full of solid workouts.  Those weeks are probably when I feel at my strongest and happiest, when everything is balanced and less stressful.  But life isn’t always easy sailing.

A large part of my desire to take it easy is the fact that it’s Adam’s off-season, so when he’s willing to skip a workout I’m right there with him.  We appreciate this time while it lasts.  Come January, we’ll be getting up early and making it work.  For now, though, it’s time to take things slow and enjoy some down time.

Monday morning I slept in and took it easy.

When I woke on Tuesday morning at 5am, I briefly considered going back to bed, but I decided that my day would be better if I began with a swim.  It was the coldest it’s been in a while – low 50’s – but the indoor pool was still open to the cold outdoor air.  I didn’t spend much time getting ready before I hopped in to the (thankfully!) heated pool and began my warm up.  I swam 200m, 100m kick, 50m one-arm, 50m catch-up, 8x50m, and 8×25.  Adam was right there with me even though he was freezing (since he wasn’t swimming hard to keep warm).  He taught me how to enter the water harder/deeper with each stroke while keeping my arms more to the outside.  This felt much more natural and I felt better able to leverage my strength.  It’s something I’ll need to keep working on.  After jumping out of the pool I couldn’t stop sneezing and this continued through most of the day, perhaps due to allergens in the water.

Wednesday morning I slept in again.  Well, I did actually get dressed for a lifting workout and made it all the way down to the car before Adam and I decided we’d rather sleep in instead.  Like I said, it’s that time of year.  I think we both benefited from the extra sleep.

I am really loving my swim workouts, though, so I woke at 5am once again on Thursday to swim.  It was chilly and rainy which, I think, kept many people from joining us at the pool.  It was so quiet and peaceful by ourselves.  The workout itself felt easier, too.  Unlike Tuesday where I was gasping for breath at the end of each repetition, this time it just felt easy.  I swam 200m, 100m kick, 50m one-arm, 50m catch-up, 200m, 2x100m, 4x50m, 100m kick, and 100m free.  It probably felt easier because I was better able to engage my muscles by entering the water deeper and crossing over less when reaching forward.  I was really happy when Adam said my form was looking better.  I could feel the difference for myself.  My form still needs lots of work, but it was great to have that positive feedback.

Friday morning I was looking forward to a lifting workout before we began a road trip to Indiana, but we stayed out late the night before with a good friend and it just didn’t make sense to get up early.  We spent 10.5 hours in the car later that day, so I didn’t get any kind of exercise – not even the walking around.  It’s amazing how being so sedentary can really wear you out.

Saturday and Sunday were spent celebrating the wedding of one of my best friends and then making our way back to Baltimore.  It was more time in the car, but I’m glad we were able to make it.  We could have found time to work out, but it just wasn’t high on the priority list.  I think too much driving time and lack of “our food” made it sound unappealing.  Instead it was a weekend of rest and celebration.  Not a bad combination if you ask me.


Week 40: workouts

This week the stresses of life took control during the first part of the week and caused me to back down a bit to take a mental rest.  I also went heavy on the lifting and had to re-evaluate my running schedule.  With the addition of swimming to my morning workouts, my twice weekly short runs have taken a back seat and I’ve lost some of the running fitness I once had.

Monday morning I woke at 5am to lift weights at the Meadowbrook gym.  I did an 8 minute warm up on the treadmill before embarking on the usual heavy weight circuit.  I don’t mind repeating a workout many times, but I could probably benefit from mixing it up a bit.  I did 5x pull-ups and dips with 50 lbs removed, 10x inclined push-ups, 6x 10lb dumbbell curls, and 8x 10lb shoulder presses.  I did three sets, then abs, then another two sets.  Something I did during the ab routine, though, tweaked my right knee and I found myself limping afterwards.  It felt like an IT band issue (which I’ve dealt with before).

Monday night and Tuesday morning were awful for reasons that I won’t go into, so I skipped my swim workout that morning.  That night and the night before I also didn’t eat dinner because I was so stressed and I just wasn’t hungry.  I definitely wasn’t my best self.  Life happens and working out isn’t always the best way to deal with stress.

I continued my workouts on Wednesday morning with another lifting routine.  I began the workout with 8 minutes on the stationary bike, then focused on back, chest, and abs by doing two types of exercise for each.  My recent lifting workouts hadn’t left me as sore as I’d like to be so I decided to really push it this time.  When I got home from the gym I went for a 2 mile run around a nearby park.  I could tell I hadn’t been running much recently, and I was dizzy when I finished.  Overall, though, I was happy to have finished the run in 19:33.

Thursday morning I woke at 5am to swim even though I was sleepy.  During the warm up, everything felt natural and I had the best swim thus far.  I focused on keeping my arms out to the side more to utilize more of my back.  I felt ready to swim longer than I had previously.  Luckily Adam had the same idea (and he’s the one who plans these workouts for me).  I did 200m warm up, 100m kick, 50m one-arm, 50m catch-up, 300m, 200m, 100m, 100m kick, and 100m backstroke.  I took my time and enjoyed the longer distances rather than sprinting.  I felt much more comfortable in the water than I was just a few weeks ago.

Friday was another 5am lifting routine at Meadowbrook with Adam.  I could tell I was still tired from Wednesday’s workout, but I managed to finish the same routine I did on Monday.  Instead of doing push-ups, though, I used the bench press bar with Adam as my spotter.  At the end of all five sets we did the ab routine together and this time I didn’t have any trouble with me knee.

On Saturday I spent the entire day working on a paper for work, so I didn’t get to exercise or do my usual chores.

For my long run on Sunday, Adam and I stayed around home rather than wake up early to drive to the trails.  I planned to do six miles, but that was overly ambitious.  I hadn’t been running lately and it showed.  Luckily Adam was there to help me rethink my approach.  We decided to keep that long run to just four miles and increase the distance over the course of many weeks.  I would start with biweekly two mile runs and a four mile run on the weekend, then add a half mile for the shorter runs every couple of weeks while keeping the long run at double the length of the shorter ones.  This seemed like a much more manageable approach.  I struggled through my 4 mile long run in 40:52.  I had heartburn the whole time and my quads felt super weak.  I’ve plenty of room to grow and it’ll take work to get my running back to where it was in May.  Hopefully I’ll be able to regain that running strength without giving up my new-found interest in swimming.

Week 39: workouts

After a series of hard workouts and standing most of the days at work last week, I was unprepared to handle the tough schedule I had planned for this week.  I sometimes hate backing down, but taking care of my body and mental health it worth it.

I planned to lift on Monday morning, but I was exhausted when I woke up and my quads were killing my, so I opted to sleep an extra two hours to 7am.

Tuesday morning, though, I was up at 5am to swim with Adam.  I’m very grateful he was able to make the time despite his very busy schedule this week.  It was the coldest morning so far, and the pool was still open to the outdoors, but it turned out to be tolerable since the pool is heated.  I did 200m warm up, 100m kick, 50m one-arm drills, 50m catch-up drills, 2x100m, 4x50m, 8x25m, 100m kick, and 100m backstroke.  I was nice and warm by the end of it.  It was actually really cool to swim in the cold air since it created a thick fog over the pool.  I had trouble with the water coming up my nose, but was able to work through this.  Hopefully that particular issue will lessen as I become more acclimated to swimming.  I specifically focused on keeping my legs together while kicking and turning my body to breathe.  My quads still felt sore.  Overall, it was another good swim.

bike-gearWednesday morning I woke at 6:15 to be suited and ready to bike when the sun finally rose at 7am.  Adam joined me yet again for a bike ride around Baltimore, but this time we chose a different approach: we took a longer route to get out of town but did so on less-traveled roads.  It was my favorite route so far.  We rode for a total of about 15 miles through nearby neighborhoods then onto Charles Street.  To turn around on Charles we had to make a “Copenhagen left” by crossing at the crosswalk instead of making a left-hand turn like a car (which can be tricky with multiple lanes of traffic).  The temperature was below 50F so I bundled up warmer last week and the weather turned out to be perfect for my cold weather gear (though I could have gone warmer, too).  My legs were tired from the beginning of the run and my breathing was heavy but at no point did I feel it was too much.  At one point while we were stopped on a side street waiting to turn left, I lost focus for a moment and started to fall to the right with my foot clipped in.  I immediately realized what was happening, called out an expletive of impending doom, and somehow managed to unclip myself just in time to recover.  It was a close call.  Thankfully I managed to laugh it off, but if I was on my own it probably would have shaken my confidence instead.  It’s made a huge difference having someone who cares about me along for the ride.  In total we finished the 15 miles in about 1:30:00.  I enjoyed the ride, but felt like a zombie for most of the day at work.  I was just completely exhausted.

On Thursday I woke at 5am feeling more tired than usual.  I thought about going back to sleep, but Adam’s presence convinced me otherwise.  I knew I would appreciate the swim later in the day.  It was still a little chilly out but not so bad.  I did have a lot of trouble with water going up my nose, though, since I’ve been sniffling and sneezing for the past few days.  With a little effort I managed to avoid this by starting to breath out as I put my face into the water.  I swam 200m, 100m kick, 50m one-arm drills, 50m catch-up drills, 4x25m 4x100m, 4x25m, 100m kick, and 100m.  I was swimming the 25m in about 24 seconds at my fastest.  It was my best swim yet.  It’s going to be a little sad when this stops being the case!  I remember feeling limited by my pectoral strength during the second half of this workout.  When I got home I crawled back in bed and took an hour nap while Adam went out for a run.  I felt like I had a chest cold, but I didn’t feel as exhausted as I had been the day before.

Friday morning I purposefully slept in to avoid getting really sick.  I was sad to miss my lifting workout, but I felt better later in the day so the extra sleep was worth it.

On Saturday I took a rest day as usual.

My long run on Sunday was rough.  Adam and I woke at 5:50 to drive to the Gunpowder Falls trail where we planned to run.  I remember feeling very emotional on the car ride there, though I couldn’t pinpoint any one cause.  I tried to keep it to myself and let it pass.  The initial route we chose was an out-and-back on one of the longer loops for six miles total, but once we started running I knew we would have to cut it short.  The route was extremely hilly.  I found myself walking up the steepest parts about 2.5 miles into the run.  There weren’t any rocks like at Loch Raven – only tree roots – but these posed a problem on the steep descents.  Thanks to my emotions running high that morning, I also had trouble with my asthma.  After 3.5 miles I had to stop running and I just started crying out of frustration and a sense of helplessness.  I hate when emotions trigger my asthma – it frustrates me more than anything else.  I eventually decided to call it a day and jog the quarter mile back to the car.  Adam was very supportive, but I felt disappointed that we couldn’t have enjoyed the run more (especially since we went so far out of our way to get there).  It wasn’t a great run, but sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.  In total I ran the 3.75 miles in XX:XX minutes.  After I stretched at the car I took a few minutes to say hi to the three horses that were grazing next to the parking lot.


Week 38: workouts

Without a doubt, working out consistently over the past several months has been a mental boost as well as a physical boost, and I’m lucky to be able to do it.  Every night before bed I write down five things I’m thankful for and my workout makes the list every time.  This week was no exception.

On Monday morning I woke at 5am to lift weights at Meadowbrook while Adam swam.  I was feeling pretty sleepy when we arrived and just wasn’t feeling motivated to work.  Jumping in the pool usually takes care of this problem on a swim morning, but that wasn’t an enticing option before lifting.  I opted to wake up by running as a warm up.  A mile and 9:40 later I found myself awake and ready to go.  Watching the swimmers while I ran also served as inspiration which helped me get moving.  I did 12 repetitions of cable row, bench press, shoulder press, skullcrushers, and curls for three sets, then my ab routine, then two more sets.  It felt really good.

Tuesday morning was another 5am wake-up, this time for a swim workout.  It was chilly outside with temperature in the high 50s, but the indoor pool was just warm enough to be comfortable once I swam a few laps.  I did 100m free and 100m kick for warm-up, 50m one-armed drills, 50m catch-up drills, 100m kick, 100m free, 4x25m free, 100m kick, and 100m cool down (50m free, 50m back).  My legs were, as usual, wobbly getting out of the water.  I tried to warm up with a shower in the locker room, but the water simply didn’t get hot enough.  Winter is going to be tough.

On Wednesday I was lucky enough to have Adam join me (once again!) on an early morning bike ride.  He’s been great about trying to find beginner-friendly routes around the city since I’m not comfortable sharing the road with too many (often impatient) morning commuters.  We’ve only had moderate luck, so he suggested we try driving out of the city to start.  I was happy to give it a shot.  After a half hour drive, we set out from Oregon Ridge around 7:30am and immediately felt the chill of the 42 degree air.  My teeth were chattering for the first few minutes until we turned onto a sunnier road.  At that point it became tolerably cold.  Unfortunately the first long stretch was packed with cars and trucks going both ways on a reasonably well-paved road with a one-foot shoulder.  It was more than a little harrowing.  After five miles we turned onto a beautiful little picturesque road with cows and horses and absolutely no cars.  Now that’s what I’m talking about!  If only such roads existed for more than a mile at a time.  The second half of the ride was thankfully much quieter, though it was also much hillier.  My quads felt shot on the climbs and I found myself gearing up to take it easy – but instead of making things easier, I just found myself going slower for the same level of effort.  I actually considered getting off the bike and walking it up the hill at more than a few points.  I simply didn’t have the power I needed.  Near the end of the ride my asthma acted up on an easy climb and forced me to pull over to recover.  As usual, it probably had more to do with emotions than physical strain.  It was a frustrating and scary moment.  After that I just tried to shake it off and finish the ride.  We finished the 15 mile ride in 1:05:00, and I was happy to be safely on the ground again.  Despite the chaos, I was happy to have done the workout and was thankful to Adam for all the work he’s done to help me get started.  Routes don’t always work as planned, but it’s helpful to know I have someone by my side to help when things get tough.

I was up at 5am again on Thursday morning to swim.  There was a chill in the air and I was comfortable in my sweatpants and fleece, so I hoped the folks at Meadowbrook had finally closed the wall separating the indoor and outdoor pools.  No such luck.  To my surprise the majority of people were still swimming outdoors.  Because of the cold it was hard to get in the water, but it was only really chilly for a few seconds – nothing compared to the bike ride the day before.  I did 100m free, 100m kick, 50m one-arm drills, 50m catch-up drills, 200m free, 100m kick, 4x25m with paddles, 4x50m, 100m kick, and 100m cool down.  I was definitely feeling the cardio aspect after the 200m and each 4x25m and 4x50m.  I could also feel my quads were tired from the day before.

I was excited to get out Friday morning for another lifting routine with Adam.  He convinced me to try fewer reps with heavier weights, and I’m glad I did.  After a 3/4 mile warm up on the treadmill, I did pull-ups and dips with 50 lbs removed for 5 reps.  I tried doing push-ups from my knees with elbows in, but they were tough so I had to shift to working on an incline.  That’s something I need to work on!  I also did shoulder presses and biceps curls for six reps each to round out the circuit.  In total I did five rounds of this circuit before finishing with an ab workout.

Saturday was, in some sense, a celebration of sport though I didn’t personally partake.  In the morning Adam and I had the pleasure of witnessing a high school cross country competition that took place in a nearby park.  It was really inspiring to see those kids working so hard and still having fun.  It made me wish I had the courage to start running when I was their age.  Afterwards, Adam had to leave to man a beer tent at a local cyclocross race sponsored by Twenty20 cycling company.  Man, those athletes are amazing.  If you’ve never seen a cyclocross race, find one!

On Sunday I went for another 7 mile long run at Loch Raven with Adam.  It rained quite a bit the day before and the trails were too muddy for my taste, so we parked in the same place as last time and stuck to the road for the run.  After the initial downhill portion I wrote about last week, it continued downhill and increased that distance by maybe 50% compared to the hill and trail combination.  We soon crossed a bridge that provided a beautiful view of the reservoir.  Throughout the run we saw lots of spiders on their webs by the side of the road – enough to make me glad I wasn’t on the trails.  The air was cool and it was a relatively peaceful run, but by the time we turned around at 3.5 miles I could tell the rest of the run would be tough.  The run was hillier than I’m used to.  I took it steady on the big hill at the end of the run and managed to finish without having to stop.  But, man, I was so done by the end.  My asthma caught up with me a little bit on this last hill, probably because of the humidity.  My phone said it was 100% humidity when I work up that morning.  Overall, it was a very good run and I was proud that I finished.  It was a great way to start the day.  We even had entertainment while we stretched at the car – a very territorial little dachshund!