Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Upper body lifting

Last night, the gym was crazily crowded. I really need to lift in the morning, especially on days when I've got bench presses scheduled. It seems that college boys are mostly interested in the vanity lifts. They want to do bench presses, biceps curls, and anything that makes their upper body look bigger. When I hear them talking about "triceps days", I find myself laughing quietly.

I lift for a number of reasons, but I think my reasons are very different than those of the typical male college student. They seem to focus on acquiring the muscles that will be noticed by females. I'm certainly not beyond vanity, but I'm quite happy with the one female in my life, so I'm not in the gym to turn my body into some sort of evolutionary advertisement.

My lifting is more about how my body performs rather than how it looks. I like being strong and seeing my lifts increase. I like the power I feel when climbing mountains, due to doing lots of leg work in the gym. I feel like lifting helps my bike riding. And, I know it helps my skiing. I think that lifting helps me to control my bodyfat levels. And yeah, I like it when my wife notices changes that come from lifting. My wife has certainly transformed her body through lifting and she is way fitter now than she has ever been.

On squat days, the only people I have to contend with to use the squat rack are older lifters. The older lifters know the value of squats and deadlifts and they do these lifts regularly. It seems that the college students do these lifts on occasion, mostly because some program tells them they "have to".

End of rant, I suppose.

So, I waited a while for a bench to do my bench press/bent-over supinated barbell row superset last night. It was an interesting superset, alternating between 3 reps and 9 reps. On the 3-rep sets, I used my highest weights for these lifts since last winter, which felt good. I'm thinking that by December or January, I'll be ready to set PRs in all three of the power lifts - bench press, deadlift, and squat.

After the first superset, the rest of my workout was something that didn't require the in-demand equipment, and I got through it fairly quickly. I worked hard and my arms are sore today.

Tonight after work, I'll get out for a hilly but easy-pace five mile run. I'll probably be wearing tights and rain gear for the run - it's that time of year. By tomorrow morning, wet snowflakes will be hitting the mountains.

The weather for the race on Saturday morning looks ominous - cold, pouring rain, potential thunder, and just maybe some wet snowflakes at higher elevations. If it's really wet, the route I've used for this race in the past could be dangerous. There is one small cliff that I've climbed on the upper mountain in the past. It's truly a small cliff, no more than 8-10 feet high, but a fall would not be pleasant. And, if it's icy or raining, it could be extra-exciting. Because I ski at Mad River Glen fairly often, I know the mountain well. I'll have to figure out the best route based on the conditions on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If I'm not a runner, why am I racing on Saturday?

The application has been sent in for the Stark Mountain Hill Climb race on Saturday. It's been a few years since I've run this race. Well, truth be told, I've never really run the race. It's straight uphill most of the way, so I've power-hiked it twice in the past. Two years ago, a new course record was set by Dave Dunham, in a time of 23:51, vs. the old record of 25:23.

It's been so long since I've run it that I can't find any prior results in the electronic running logs on my USB key. Those logs go back to 2004. It's very doubtful that I ran in 2003, because I ran Wasatch that year and a 5K the next weekend, so I doubt that I raced a 3rd weekend in a row.

I've done the race twice, and those two times were most likely in either 1999, 2001, or 2002. In 2000, I was training for the NYC marathon, so I probably didn't run it that year.

I'm trying to remember my times. I'm pretty sure that the two results were close to each other, near the back of the pack, definitely under an hour, and that's all I can remember. My times might have been in the 40s or the 50s - I just don't know. It's very unlikely that I was sub-40 either year.

I haven't climbed a steep hill since the first few miles of WS in June. I haven't raced since that day either. Well, it's questionable if I even raced that day.

So, Saturday should be fun; it's a brutally tough but fun course in the mountains and there is a slight chance of snow on the ground at higher elevations by Saturday.

Last night, I did a lower body lifting workout. Last week, this workout left me sore for days, even though I took it easy on the weights. Last night, I increased all the weights including new PRs for front squats and Romanian deadlifts, and yet I don't feel sore today. Yet.

Tonight is upper body lifting.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Still a runner?

My friend Tom wrote a blog post a few months ago, wondering whether he was still a runner or not. I'm feeling that way these days.

Over the weekend, I looked at my training since WS. My longest week just cracked 20 miles. This past week was 9.3 miles. I'm running 1-4 times per week, and the runs are all short and with minimal intensity.

Assuming my hamstring gets back to being healthy, how long will it be before I'm really running again? Soon, I'll be skiing every weekend rather than running. I'm still lifting 4x per week, although I'll drop that to 3x during ski season. But, I worry that after 25 years of calling myself a runner, that I'm drifting away from being able to use that term. It's almost like running is my cross-training sport these days.

Mostly, I want to be healthy and enjoy whatever it is that I'm doing. I'd prefer to focus on running, but my body is not yet ready for me to do that.


Lazy weekend

My wife and I ran an easy 6 miler on Saturday morning, and then I pretty much goofed off for the rest of the weekend. I had been planning to go longer, but I was tired and sore from workouts earlier in the week, so I decided that the easy 6 my wife was planning was enough for the day. Sunday was a much-needed rest day. The hardest work I did on Sunday was going outside to grill some steaks in the rain. I'm curious about the course conditions for the Vermont 50, which was yesterday.

My wife is tapering for the Leaf Peeper's Half Marathon next Sunday. I ran just under 1:38 in that race last year - my fastest half since I turned 40 in 2002, and I ran just over 1:30 in 2000 while training for the NYC marathon. But, this year, a sub-2:00 time would be a miracle and I'm not running the half. There's just no point in paying money to run a super-slow half marathon.

However, that does open another option for me. My wife's race is Sunday and one of my favorite races is on Saturday - the Stark Mountain Hill Climb. This is done at the Mad River Glen ski area. MRG has a single-chair chairlift that serves some of Vermont's wildest skiing - no snowmaking, no grooming, lots of trees, and lots of steeps. The race starts at the base of the single chair and finishes at the top of the lift. But, there is no defined route to the top. The only goal is to get there as fast as possible using any route you want. I've done the race twice before, and for me, it's really a power-hiking event. But, I have to mail in my app today or I'll be too late. The last time I did it, the upper half of the mountain had a light coating of snow, and that's a possibility for this coming weekend.

Autumn is really arriving in VT right now and this week is going to be cool and damp. Our first higher elevation snowflakes of the season may arrive by Thursday morning.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Short run

I finished my guitar lesson last night just after 6:00. The thunderstorms hadn't arrived yet, it wasn't dark yet, and running is better than the stupid stair climbing machine.

So, I headed home, turned on my Forerunner to let it start finding satellites, and then changed clothes. By the time I'd changed, a light mist was falling. I decided to do my basic easy course of 3.3 miles, but push the pace a bit. It's downhill on the way out and obviously uphill on the way home.

By the time I've finished one mile, the drizzle was turning into a rain. The dog that normally bothers me at mile 1.5 wasn't willing to leave her porch to chase me. When I turned around at 1.65 miles, the wind had picked up and a steady but light rain was falling. I'd done the out portion at an average just below a 9:00 pace - not bad for having really sore legs from lifting on Monday. And a wonky hamstring.

On the way back, I pushed the effort even more as the rain intensified. My pace didn't really increase, but it didn't drop much on the uphill sections. By the time I got to the last quarter mile, it was pouring. Hard.

Moments after I was inside the house, I heard the first rumble of thunder. I had to towel off in the mud room before I was allowed inside the house. From the front door, I was sent straight to the shower.

I did 3.3 miles in 30:06 - 14:45 out and 15:21 back - sub-9:10 pace. Regretfully, that's hard for me right now, but three weeks ago, it was not even possible.

Today is a leg day at the gym and the workout looks easy. I'm sure it's a trick.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


My hands hurt. My forearms hurt. My shoulders hurt. My abs hurt. My hamstrings hurt from Monday's leg day. Everything hurts.

I was going to run before work this morning, but it hurt to roll over in bed, so I slept in.

Last night's workout was bench presses, barbell rows, barbell corner presses, barbell corner rows, T-push-ups and reverse push-ups. It didn't look that hard. It beat me up.

Today is a busy work day. Then, I have a guitar lesson. I'm hoping to squeeze in a workout after my lesson. If I can move by then.

This post is brief because it hurts to type.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lower Body Lifting

My schedule called for lower body lifting yesterday and this would be another test of my hamstring and its progress.

I deliberately kept the weights low, not wanting to risk re-injuring myself.

I started with front squats, and after my warm-up, I did 115 pounds. That's slightly less than a few weeks ago and it felt pretty good overall.

Next was Romanian deadlifts and I wanted to be very careful with these. Since the injury, I've been bending my knees slightly on this lift, which is not correct. When the legs are straight, the upper hamstrings are stressed a lot, so I've been very careful not to do this. I started at 135 pounds and eventually moved to 185 pounds. But, while I had my legs straighter than in the past few months, I still bent the knee just a little bit to be safe.

Next was trap bar deadlifts, which I did at 225 pounds. And then lumberjack squats. These are done with one end of a barbell in a corner and weight on the other end of the barbell. You hold onto the end of the barbell holding the weight and do squats with that weight. I was doing 3 sets of 15, so I started conservatively with 45 pounds on the 45 pound bar. After one set, I realized that was too easy, so I moved up to 70 pounds, which was just about right.

I finished up with some bodyweight squats where you jump up into a tuck position and then land, heading right back into a squat. These were for time - 3 x 20 seconds.

I think I did a good job of not going too hard. I feel a bit tired, but not sore today. Today, however, I'm just going to do some upper body lifting before I run again tomorrow.

It's nice to be able to do training with my legs again, after a ten day break. But, I still need to be conservative and not risk destroying any healing that is ongoing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A pair of runs

I'm allowed to run again now and it's clear that the PRP treatment is doing something. But, it's also clear that I'm far from 100% as well.

My first run was a six miler. I started with one downhill mile, then four mostly flat miles and finally, back uphill in the last mile. I took it really easy in the first mile and felt OK. When I got to the flats, I tried to simply run by feel. I would glance at my Forerunner at times, and my pace was not very consistent. Sometimes, I was moving at 8:30/mile and other times, closer to 9:30. But, since I've been injured, all of my runs have been closer to 11 minutes per mile. I hit the five mile mark in just over 47 minutes and it then took me almost 12 minutes for the last uphill mile. Six miles in 59:06. Excluding one ill-advised 5K not long after I got hurt, that was my fastest run in months. In some ways, that's depressing to think about, but I'm trying to focus on running now rather than the past few months.

I was out of town for the weekend and had a long drive home yesterday. I got home about 5:30 and after driving for almost 8 hours, all I could think about was going for a run. I changed quickly and went out for a four miler. It's very hilly where I live and when I want to run four miles, I go downhill for two miles and then come back uphill the entire way home. I hit the 2 mile mark in just under 18 minutes and it took me just over 20 minutes to get back home. The last time I ran this route, it took me 45 minutes and this time it was just over 38.

So clearly, some things have improved already. But, I'm far from completely recovered. What I've noticed the most so far is that the hamstring muscle is bothering me again and my IT band is tight. So, I've been using my foam roller to work on those two areas.

What I have to see over the next few weeks is whether or not everything seems to loosen up and make my stride more comfortable. It's definitely better than it was and running is more fun now than it's been in a while. But, I've still got some healing and rehab ahead of me.

This week, I can start doing lower body workouts in the gym again. My upper body has been pretty sore for the past couple weeks because I've been doing so many upper body lifting workouts.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ski season?

At lunchtime today, I tried on a couple new pairs of ski boots. I need to get some new boots this year, and it's time to start evaluating them so that I can order the boots while "pro form" pricing is still available.

The shop didn't have the boot that I most wanted to try, but I tried two other boots, one of which I really liked. Regretfully, the shop doesn't do pro form pricing, so I doubt that I'll buy boots there.

"Pro form" is a quid pro quo of the ski industry. Gear manufacturers want ski instructors in their gear. When teaching lessons, we get asked questions about gear all the time. The equipment manufacturers want the instructors to say good things about their products.

Before the instructor can say good things though, the instructor has to purchase and use the product. That's where pro forms come in. Instructors can buy equipment at a discount, either directly from the manufacturer or a participating retailer or a product rep at the mountain. Because instructors go through equipment pretty fast, by skiing so many days per year, they are usually in fairly new gear. Every year, I tend to buy either boots or skis and Last year I bought skis. The customer asks about the gear, the instructor says good things, the customer buys the gear and everybody is happy, although a few people are a bit poorer for the deal.

I think the same sort of stuff happens in every gear-intensive sport. Good bike racers don't pay full price for their rides, good runners don't buy shoes at all, etc.

Skiing is the only sport where I've ever remotely qualified to get a "professional discount".

Two days until I can run again.

Saturday night's weather forecast is calling for the possibility of widespread frost!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Busy and resting

I've been swamped at work all week. I'm doing a bunch of testing for a new portion of our company's main product line, and the product has to work well. Since I wrote the code, I am trying to be really thorough in my testing. I don't want others to find a bug that I might have missed, and I certainly don't want a patient or doctor to run into an error in our product.

Last night, I was beat when I got home and I just took a rest day. Today, I'm feeling the same way, I'm not sure when I'm going to be done working, so I think I'll rest again tonight.

Tomorrow, I'll get in some sort of workout in the morning though. I hope.

But sometimes, work takes priority.

I am taking Friday off to drive to PA to visit my sister, uncle and mom. I'm allowed to start running again on Saturday, and I'm just counting down the days until then.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Counting down the days

My hamstring is feeling much better. I don't mean that the injury itself necessarily feels better, but the discomfort from the PRP treatment is mostly gone. I feel comfortable just moving around, and I really feel like I could try running right now.

Of course, if the PRP is doing its job, my body is in the process of generating new tissue and that tissue can't possibly be fully constructed and ready to do any real work yet. So, as much as it pains me, I'll wait until Saturday to try to run.

After paying almost a grand out of pocket for the treatment, it would be pretty stupid to ruin things by being impatient.

At the same time, I HAVE to do something. For the past two days, I've done upper body lifting, so I doubt that I'll do that again today. That leaves walking, the stair climber or indoor cycling, none of which sounds particularly appealing.

Or, I could just practice the guitar for hours, but my practice last night was really frustrating. I think the guitar and I need a day away from each other right now. My wife told me that she is very impressed by what I've accomplished in just a few weeks, but all I can think about it what I'm not doing yet. Of course, that's pretty typical to how I approach everything. Every success simply raises the bar.

One of my readers mentioned to me that she broke her foot playing the guitar. I wonder if it was frustration that resulted in her kicking the amp. If so, I know the feeling.

We are clearly entering autumn here in New England. This is my favorite time of year to run, and I'm hoping that I can enjoy a few weeks of good running yet this fall.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Relaxing weekend

With my wife and son out of town for the weekend, and the recovery from the PRP treatment limiting my workouts, I've had a very relaxing weekend.

Friday night, my daughter and I went for groceries. I stopped at the guitar store to look for some music books that included simple tunes. I ended up buying four books - two books of "easy" rock tunes, one book with "three chord" tunes, and a book of Nirvana tunes. There are a few Nirvana songs that seem like they should be fairly easy, with "All Apologies" topping the list.

Saturday morning, I took garbage to the dump, went to the farmers market, and then went to the gym for some upper body lifting. I've been doing a lot more upper body lifting recently because of my hamstring, and my pull-ups are getting much better. Yesterday's workout included 8x3 pull-ups alternated with overhead barbell presses, also 8x3, and all with short rest. I was very happy with how I handled that superset.

After the workout, I headed home to watch the Penn State vs. Syracuse game. At one point, the camera panned right by where my brother's seats are (which is where my wife and son were sitting yesterday), but I couldn't find them. After the Penn State game, I turned on the Michigan-Notre Dame game with no volume and pulled out my guitar. I practiced for about an hour, spending most of that time on All Apologies. The notes are easy, but even after an hour, it still barely sounded like it was supposed to. I did notice later that I was supposed to change the tuning of the D string for the song, so maybe I'll try that today.

After I practiced the guitar, my daughter and I headed to Burlington so she could buy a book and we could go out to dinner together. She had requested dinner at A Single Pebble, which is one of Vermont's best restaurants. The founder of the restaurant recently retired, but our dinner was still fantastic. I let my daughter pick our dinner and she ordered all of the classic items from their menu.

When we got home, I watched the second half of the Ohio State-USC game and then stayed up late watching stupid TV shows.

So far this morning, I've slept in and wasted the rest of the morning on the internet.

In a little while, I'll go lift again and then take the dogs for a walk. Pretty exciting!

And then, I'll probably pull out my guitar again and spend an hour or so wondering how long it will be before I can really play the thing. The really scary thought is how long it will take me before I "understand" the thing and I'm not simply trying to re-create sounds using a book with instructions for beginners. But, I'm committed to practicing the thing.

Oh yeah, my hamstring is still a tiny bit sore and the range of motion is restricted a bit. By restricted, I mean more than before the PRP treatment. I'm allowed to do some very light stretching and walking, so maybe that will help there. On Saturday, I'll be in PA visiting my sister and mom, and there is a very flat rail trail there where I'm planning my first post-PRP run.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Things to do when you can't work out

Last night, I played the guitar for over an hour. My left index finger is perpetually sore or even partially numb these days. I think my wife is glad that I'm putting time into the guitar, even if what I'm playing doesn't really sound like music yet. I know that if I don't play it a lot, I'm going to get grief for spending the money.

Right now, my son is just starting lessons on the electric keyboard. My daughter is about to switch from playing the flute to playing the sax, although I think she really wants to play the drums. Our house is going to be noisy at times, but my guitar amp has the most power, so I'll be able to win. It's a good thing that no neighbors are close.

I know that the key for me is practice, so that's what I'm doing. Last night, I was working on the rhythm part of Jailhouse Rock. I also worked on Green Day's recent hit "Know Your Enemy". To be honest, there are only four chords needed to play most of that song, and two of them, a B and and E make up most of the song. But, one of the chords is a barre chord on the 7th fret, and barre chords are really tough for beginners. I have to cover up all six string with my index finger on the 7th fret, and do it in a way that each string is held down firmly, so that each string plays properly. Then, I have to use my other three fingers on other frets to finish the chord. The other main chord is a power chord, where not all of the strings get played. And, the fingering is very different for each of the two chords, so it takes me forever to move from one to another. So, I could play the song, but I'd have to record it and play it back at about 4x for it to sound remotely familiar.

I did have better luck last night with Rod Stewart's Maggie May, which I'm starting to get down.

Another thing I can do during my downtime is reading. With both The Daily Show and Colbert Report on a hiatus, there's nothing to watch on TV anyway, except for college football.

I tend to read non-fiction, and I tend to obsess on the topics of diet and exercise. I guess the fact that I've been a hard-working athlete for 25 years, yet I still always weigh more than I like keeps me obsessed there. I'm always searching for the "magic bullet" so I can finally get lean and be a good athlete. By the time I figure it out, if I ever do, I'll probably be too old to be competitive anyway. But, below are some books that I've read in the past year or so that I've found interesting and worth the time to read:

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes
The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Cordain and someone else
Slow Burn, Stu Mittleman
The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting, Cosgrove and Schuler
Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe
Built for Show, Nate Greene
The End of Overeating, David Kessler

There are a few others, and I even read one non-fitness book about the baseball Hall of Fame recently. That book greatly disappointed me, to be honest.

Of all the books above, the one I find most interesting and challenging is The Primal Blueprint. My diet and workouts have been greatly affected by that book, and I'm finding that my fitness and body composition are improving slowly but steadily. In many ways, the Primal Blueprint is a breezy read, but it comes to most of the same conclusions of Good Calories, Bad Calories, and it does it without the detailed science. I loved both books, but they are vastly different.

Lastly, I'm reading a lot online at the Precision Nutrition web site, through their coached eating and exercise program. My core workout schedule through the end of November comes from that program. This is my second time through the program, and the first time was a failure. But, I was the cause of the failure, not the program, and I'm finding that doing the program the right way is helping me to create some better dietary habits.

At times, I think I read too much and certainly obsess too much about these topics, but it's clear that something is wrong with the way that most Americans eat and exercise. I think it's become clear that for most people, exercise cannot overcome a bad diet. Exercise can cover up weaknesses in a diet, but to be really healthy, both diet and exercise need to be in synch.

I think another thing that stands out from this reading is that we are all different. We have different body types, different genomes, and different reactions to diets. There are certain ultrarunners who thrive on low-fat, high-carb diets. I think those diets are a disaster for me these days, and my diet tends to be based on quality proteins, quality fats, lots of fresh veggies and fruits, and some nuts. That diet would probably leave some other people feeling like crap.

But, the "Cheetos and Mountain Dew" diet is probably not good for any of us. I think.

After writing all of that, I think the guitar may be important to me right now because it stops me from thinking about everything else.

I'll get in some easy workouts this weekend, and enjoy an entire weekend with my daughter. My son and wife will be at the Penn State-Syracuse football game this weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just like April

I feel just like I did in April when I first hurt my hamstring. Well, maybe not quite as bad. Sitting is uncomfortable but tolerable. My range of motion is restricted right now, I'm sore, but it's not too bad overall.

I'll take the dogs out for a walk after work today. I'll walk on the roads rather than trails to keep the risk of a fall or re-injury to a minimum.

I mentioned to the doctor yesterday that I had tickets to the Penn State football game this weekend, and he was a little freaked out. Then I clarified that my wife and son are going to the game and I'm staying home. He didn't think it was a good idea for me to spend 10 straight hours in a car right now.

So, for the next few days, I'll put some extra time in at work, do some easy walking, make sure I continue to eat well, practice my guitar, sit on an ice pack periodically, and then enjoy a weekend with my daughter.

Overall, based on my recent workouts and the minor injuries that have popped up, a period of reduced activity will be good for this old body of mine.

I'm really glad that the PRP is behind me and I can now wait and watch for its results.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

PRP - Three Needles

The first needle was to remove about a cup of blood from my body. This wasn't too bad despite the large needle size, and it was done quickly.

Then, while the lab spun down the blood, the doctor and ultrasound tech tried to find the injury spot with the ultrasound machine. Eventually, they were convinced they'd found the area. By now, the blood had been spun down and the injection was ready.

Injection number 2 was some lidocaine, although I'm not sure how much it helped.

Injection number 3 was the PRP. It was done with a 22 gauge spinal (long) needle. It seemed to take forever to get the needle to the right spot and it was somewhere between uncomfortable and painful, tending towards painful.

For the next ten days, I'm not allowed to run or do lower body lifting. I can walk, I can swim using leg buoys, and I can do upper body weights. In ten days, I can start running easily and I can start doing lower body weights at low levels of effort.

Right now, I'm just going to relax a bit.

Today's the day - PRP

Last night, I decided to do an upper body lifting day for the second day in a row. I thought it would be tough, but I felt better than expected. I pushed up the weights on almost all of my lifts and had a good workout. I'm curious where I would be if I tried a max weight bench press right now. Of the three powerlifts, my bench press lags far behind my squat and deadlift. But, I feel like my bench press is coming along pretty well right now.

My arms weren't too tired to pull out the guitar last night and practice for an hour or so. Sometimes, it almost sounds like part of a song is coming out of the guitar. But, I change from one note or chord to another so slowly that things that should be recognizable aren't.

Last night, I was working on the opening of the Scorpions' song "Hurricane":

"Here I am, rock you like a hurricane"

It was only after I told my wife what I was trying to play that it clicked for her.

I have the openings to Ironman and Smoke on the Water down pretty well, but I imagine most second graders could do that as well.

I got up early this morning and did an easy 45 minute run before sunrise. I probably won't be allowed to run for a week or two, so I wanted to sneak in a run before the PRP treatment.

I'm working today from the hospital where I used to work. In 90 minutes, I head upstairs to register and then have about 8 oz. of blood taken. That blood will be spun down until they can extract a few cc's of platelet rich plasma. Then, I'll get at least one lidocaine injection to numb the hamstring area before they inject the PRP into the vicinity of the torn tendon. Then, it's up to my body to heal itself.

So, I'm looking at a minimum of three needles today. Yuck!

But, if this treatment works, my running gait should be close to normal in just a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If it's not one thing...

So, the minor injury to my right leg is actually in the groin, not the hamstring. That became apparent yesterday when I was doing an upper body lifting workout. One of the lifts was barbell push presses, and on the 4th rep of the first set, it felt like my leg just exploded. I had to sit down for a bit and then walk around the gym until things settled down a bit. I was able to complete the workout, but I made some minor changes. Instead of push presses, I did just presses, with no lower body motion at all. And, instead of iron crosses, which require a squatting motion, I did a simple dumbbell complex.

After lifting, I spent three hours doing yardwork at home. The whole family pitched in, including the kids. After a few hours, we were all tired and exhausted and soaked with sweat. The only solution to that was a celebratory end-of-summer, end-of-yardwork ice cream cone. There were many smiles when I made the suggestion. My wife and I eat ice cream very, very rarely, but even she was thrilled with the idea yesterday.

After our ice cream, we gave the keys to the new car to my son to drive us home. He was a bit nervous, but he did a great job. His control of the car while it's moving is really excellent. He had one exciting moment when he came around a corner and an oncoming car was in the middle of the road. But, he deftly moved as far right as he could, and the other car moved out of the way. He said he was prepared to take us off the road to avoid the collision if necessary, which was the right answer.

He's still perplexed by manual transmission issues, but he's getting to drive automatics in driver's ed in school. Eventually, it will all come together, but he's making good progress. He can't get his license until next June anyway.

Today, I think I'll rest my right leg again, so I'm going to do my Friday upper body workout after work tonight.

Tomorrow, I don't know if I'll train or not. I've got my PRP treatment at 10 a.m. tomorrow, so I'd have to do something early. I might do an easy run if my leg feels OK.

This week is a good time for the treatment. I'm swamped at work (I worked a lot this weekend) and my wife and son are going out of town to see the Penn State-Syracuse game on Saturday. So, my daughter and I will have a quiet weekend together. We'll probably both spend some time playing with my guitar. My left index finger remains sore from playing, but I'm slowly seeing some improvements. Lessons start this week or next.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sometimes, it's nice to not have a fixed goal out there

Usually, I thrive on races. It's not the race itself that matters so much, but rather the focus that a race gives to my training. Right now, I have no target race. I'm simply working on staying fit, trying to lose some body fat, and waiting for my hamstring to get better.

So, while I start each week with a training plan for the week, I can change things around whenever it's convenient. Yesterday, for example, I was planning to do a lower body lifting workout. But, I was still sore from my Thursday lifting workout, so I decided to ride my bike instead.

I decided I'd ride for about two hours and had a really nice ride. I pushed a bit harder than I'd planned and I was tired by the end, but it was a good workout. After the ride, I goofed off for the rest of the day. My wife and daughter are still out of town, so my son and I had a relaxing day. I did some work, watched a movie, cleaned the kitchen, and watched a baseball game on TV.

My wife ran 27:10 in her 5K on Saturday. Her goal was sub-27, which would have been a 40+ PR for her (she ran 27 flat at this same race 7 years ago when she was 40), but she couldn't quite pull it off. After that race, she decided to stay at her parents' camp a bit longer and skip the race this morning. I was only going to go to the race because she wanted to run, so today's workout was suddenly changed. So, I decided I'd do my lower body lifting day today since I'm finally not sore.

Then, this morning, while I was waking up and stretching a bit, I managed to do something to my right (non-injured) hamstring. You know you're getting old when you can pull a muscle in bed while doing nothing at all.

It's just a minor tweak to the hamstring, but I'll play it safe. So now, my plan is to do an upper body lifting day today and then lower body tomorrow. After I lift, I'll mow the lawn. What an exciting life I lead!

The PRP treatment for my hamstring is in two days. After the treatment, I'll have to take it easy for about two weeks or so. Even though my training has not been targeted to an event, I'm still working hard almost every day of the week. I think some forced rest, or at least some easier training days, will be good for me right now.

Last week, I lifted four times, rode my bike twice for a total of 3.5 hours, and ran once for 90 minutes. That's about nine hours of training. I'm enjoying the variety in my training right now, but I'd really like to get back to being a runner.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Better than expected

I had to run my 8 miler solo this morning, because my wife was out running her 5K. I haven't heard any results from her yet and I might now hear until tomorrow night. After the race, she headed to her parents' camp in northeastern VT for a visit.

I was sore from my last two weight workouts and I was really apprehensive about the run, but it went surprisingly well. I was two minutes slower than last week when I ran the loop with my wife, but I was very happy to run that speed.

Now, I'm watching the Penn State game on TV rather than doing some housework I should be doing.

Tomorrow, I am planning to lift before I put a half-hearted effort into a tough 8 mile race on Monday. I certainly hope that my wife beats me on Monday considering how fit she is right now.

My left index finger is sore and a little bit numb from too much guitar practice. I guess this is my first guitar "injury".

Friday, September 4, 2009

It really did look easy

But, with each passing hour, I seem to be more and more sore. Now, my quads are getting sore.

Upper body lifting in half an hour. I hope I can make it.

It looked so benign on paper

Here is last night's workout:

Bulgarian Split Squats: 4x9, 150 seconds rest
Walking Lunges, 8x3, 30 seconds rest
Single leg Romanian deadlifts: 4x6, 30 seconds rest after each leg
Lateral squats: 4x4, 60 seconds rest

This was a leg day with no barbells. How hard could it be?

On Monday, I'd done front squats, back squats and deadlifts in one workout. This had to be way easier. Or so I thought.

For the BSSs, I used 2x30# dumbbells. The weight was perfect for that number of reps and I just barely got through the last set. Hard, but not too bad so far.

Then the lunges. I used 2x50# DBs. The rest interval seemed to last about 10 seconds at first, and 5 seconds by the later sets. Suddenly, I was soaked with sweat.

On to the single leg RDLs. I used 2x40# DBs for these. I have to be a little bit careful with any type of RDL these days. They really stress my left hamstring injury and I don't want to injure it any more than it's already hurt. If I was completely healthy, I would have used at least 50# DBs for this lift. As I worked through this set, I started to feel the accumulated effects of the workout. This wasn't as easy as it looked.

Finally, one lift to go. To be honest, I really dislike lateral squats. It's a lift that nobody else does and they look really dorky. I was using a single 70# DB last night, held at chest level in two hands to start. Then, I lift a leg high to make sure I get the hip to "open up" as I step to the side, dropping to a squat with my weight on the extended leg. Then, back to the middle position and repeat on the other leg. Four sets of four. By the time I was done, I was completely soaked with sweat. I just sat on a bench for five minutes, recovering and toweling off, before I grabbed my bag and headed home to cook dinner.

I'm sore today.

Tonight I'll do an upper body workout after work. Tomorrow, I won't get to run with my wife, so I'll do 8 miles on my own. My wife, son and daughter are all racing a 5K tomorrow morning, and somebody has to go to the farmers market. So, I'll do the shopping and then run on my own while the rest of the family races.

I'm really proud of my son, who volunteered to run with his younger sister, so my wife can actually race rather than run with my daughter.

I spent some time working on open and power chords with the guitar last night. I was trying to play some signature riffs from well-known songs. Some of the songs I worked on were Ironman, Jenny (867-5309), and Maggie May. Ironman was the only song that I got down so that my wife recognized it. And even there, I got the first five notes down, but the four 16th notes to start the second measure were a struggle.

As I was practicing last night, I was thinking about Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers". I kept thinking about the Beatles and Gladwell's magical 10,000 hour mark to achieve excellence in a discipline. If I practiced for an hour a day, every day, it would take me until I'm 74 to be an excellent guitar player. But, if I don't practice, I'll eventually be 74 anyway (or dead) and I won't be any better than I am now. I may as well keep going.

Five days until my PRP treatment.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bike Ride

I was tired yesterday and my hamstring was complaining. At the same time, the day was too beautiful to do nothing at all. So, after work, I picked up some groceries, picked up my daughter from school, and headed home to ride my bike. I decided that I'd ride for about 90 minutes, but I wouldn't push the pace at all.

And, that's just what I did, and it was a nice, pleasant ride.

Today's scheduled workout is a lower body lifting workout, and I decided to do it this evening rather than getting up at 5:00 to lift before work. So, I'll stop at the gym on the way home tonight for my lifting.

This coming weekend, there are a number of local races. There is a big 5K on Saturday - a race I run most years. Last year, I surprised myself when I ran 20:51, about 45 seconds faster than I thought I'd run. This year, I'd be lucky to break 28 and I'd probably hurt my hamstring, so I'm staying away. My wife will run the race though. She hasn't run since 2002, when she ran 27:00, and I'm pretty sure she'll beat that time this year.

On Monday, my wife and I are both planning to run a very low-key local 8-mile race. This race was popular in the 70s and into the 80s, but died out many years ago. Last year, it was resurrected and it's now more an "event" than a race. I've been told that as many as half the participants walk the race and most are there for the big pot luck afterwards. We didn't run the race when it was brought back last year, but we're planning to do it this year. Hopefully, my wife won't beat me too badly.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Yesterday, after work, I had been thinking about going for a run. Instead, my son and I took the dogs for a walk. I was just dragging - tired and feeling beat up.

By 8:00 last night, I was in bed. I read for a little while, but I was asleep really early. I was too tired to even play around with my guitar for a while. I slept until 6:30 this morning - very late for me. After a few rest days last week, I had a series of great workout days. And then, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck.

This morning, my hamstring is sore - more than usual as of late. So, rather than running tonight, I think I'll go for a bike ride. The bike seems to be kinder to my hamstring than running. It's going to be a beautiful day and I want to do something outside, so a bike ride should be perfect.

Tomorrow morning, I have a tough leg workout in the gym, so I'll definitely take it easy on the ride tonight.

Seven days until my PRP treatment.

And, the college football season starts tomorrow night. The entire reason that I have a satellite dish is so that I can watch college football. My brother got his season tickets for Penn State recently. He is giving me two pairs of tickets (games against Temple this month and Minnesota next month), and then he and I are going to the Ohio State game together in November.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

August Review

I had a great overall month in August, despite a relatively low number of running miles.

I ran 57 miles, in a total of 11 runs, with a long run of 10 miles.

I rode my road bike 3 times for a total of 95 miles, with a long ride of 46 miles. All three rides were hilly.

I lifted 15 times during the month, doing body split workouts each time (upper body or lower body only in a single workout).

I played around with my diet, virtually eliminating grains and sugar, just to see what would happen. I did have one meal during the month that included bread and a dessert, but otherwise, I stayed away. My weight dropped four pounds during the month. I also believe that I gained some muscle mass, so my fat loss is probably greater than 4 pounds. It was easier to make these changes than I thought it would be. I used fresh fruit for my carbohydrate needs during or after workouts.

I completed my 3rd consecutive calendar month without alcohol. I can't remember the last time a summer passed without a few or more gin and tonics passing my lips. I'll continue that habit into the fall.

My hamstring didn't get any worse, and my running gradually got faster through the month. I don't know if that's because I dropped a few pounds, because my hamstring is slowly healing, or something else. But, my runs this past weekend were the best I've had since before I got hurt in April.

And, I bought a new used electric guitar.

All in all, it was a pretty good month.

This morning, I started September with a tough upper body lifting day, including 5x5 of neutral grip pull-ups. I actually managed to get through the pull-ups, something I could not have done a month or two ago. I added some core work to the end of the scheduled workout today.

Tonight after work, I'm going to take the dogs out for a walk, but nothing tougher than that. Tomorrow, I'll go for a run. It looks like the first half of September is likely to be sunny and warm, despite cold temperatures last night and tonight.

Eight days until the PRP treatment.