Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Use it or lose it

I had a conversation with one of my students today. It started with him asking if I planned to go running today. He reasoned that the weather was nice, so given my triathlon training, I would probably be taking advantage of it. He's certainly got a point. However, I didn't run today. I didn't intend to. The last run I did was a 5K race on Saturday (4 days ago), and today is the first day I haven't felt really sore (delayed onset muscle soreness). But now I feel a bit guilty that I didn't run. If the soreness is gone, it's time to push forward!

I shifted the conversation with my student to what physical activity he did on a regular basis. He said "I really want to, but not much at all these days." He used to be a body builder in high school and that carried into his freshman year of college. I remember that. I had him as a freshmen in his first semester, and he was very well muscled. He told me today that since his freshman year, he has lost 25 pounds. Much of that was muscle loss because he stopped lifting weights. He said his arms are 8 inches smaller in circumference and his maximum bench press had decreased from more than 300 pounds to 225 pounds. Now what you need to know is that this student is short, so the fact that he can still bench 225 pounds is impressive to me. I'm more than 12 inches taller than he is, and my maximum bench press is around 145 pounds. At least it used to be, a couple years ago.

I've probably shrunken a bit as well. I stopped weightlifting because it was more work than fun, I never had a goal, and I often hurt myself to the point where I'd have to take 7-10 days off to heal. It was definitely a case of "two steps forward and one step back," and I'm not even sure if I netted one step forward. Regardless, anything I gained in strength or physique is gone. My upper body is really quite slim.

Maybe I'll work on it again next month when I'll have more time to lift weights. I'll have the whole summer to get stronger and maybe make weightlifting part of my habit again. I'd like that. But I'll still need a goal--something attainable, something safe yet challenging. For example, maybe I could work on my arms and increase my upper arm circumference by an inch (to 12 or 12.5 inches). Obviously I'd work other muscle groups, too.

Or maybe my goal shouldn't be in terms of size, but rather in terms of strength or accomplishment. For example, I'd like to be able to do a lot of pull-ups (10 in a row?). I think doing pull-ups would do a lot for my upper body strength, and it would help with my swimming strokes.

Speaking of swimming, I'd like to set some goals for that, too. My best friend trains in the pool by doing 400 IMs (individual medleys) over and over for a total of 2600+ yards. My workouts are shorter and are composed of mostly freestyle. There is no reason I can't match what he does in the pool.

Except, I lack the motivation at times. I find that a lot of my blog entries have this theme. When things are going well, I don't tend to post to my blog. So my readers are likely to have a much dimmer picture of my life of fitness. Sorry! The reality is that I usually have good motivation, so the goals I set forth above are realistic and I think I will in fact work toward them. Let me end with a list of all the great things I've done...rather than a list of things I wish I had done.

Accomplished so far in 2012:
  1. I have run 37 miles. This is an increase of 264% compared to last year during the same time period.
  2. I have swam 48 miles. This is an increase of 77% compared to last year...
  3. I have bicycled 189 miles. This is an increase of 497% compared to last year...
  4. I have set 10 personal bests in swim competitions including: 25 Free, 50 Free, 200 Free, 500 Free, 25 Fly, 50 Fly, 100 IM, 25 Back, and 50 Back. Even the number of personal bests is up this year compared to last year (10 versus 7).
  5. Competing in the 100-yard butterfly event at a Master's Swim Meet.
    I competed in one additional swimming competition and beat a college student half my age by a significant margin in the 400 Freestyle. I did it in 5:53.02, which was well below the 6:03 I was expecting.
  6. I have done one 5K run so far this year and my 8:05 pace crushed my old personal best of 8:54 (set in November 2011). My average running pace today is an improvement of 19% over the average pace I had in April 2011.
  7. I have done 13 weightlifting workouts (despite what I report above, I haven't actually given it up entirely). This is exactly half the number I did in 2011 during the same time span, but something is better than nothing.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Joy of a Longish Bike Ride

I rode 14.7 miles today at an average pace of 15.1 mph with a net climb of 1,650 feet. This is the longest bike ride I've done since at least October 2011. This is not to say that I haven't been on the bike recently. In fact, I've logged 189 miles in the last six months...but mostly this has all been in 5-mile increments. So I celebrate!

I'm also going to have to come up with a longer course for next time. Until now, I've had a few smaller loops that I take, and for today I combined them all into one big loop. It will be fun to add a little more distance the next time. And there will be a next time, because I've got some training to do:

  1. The Bike MS ride is coming up in early June. I'll be riding 150 miles over two days.
  2. The Pittsburgh Triathlon is July 27th, and I am planning for this to be my first international-distance race. The bike portion is 40 km.
  3. I'm doing another couple sprint triathlons in August, including one with an 12-mile bike race August 12th...
  4. ...and one with a 13-mile bike race on August 25th.

So those are my goals; I just have to keep going. I wanted to write this little post so that I remembered the good feelings I had to day after my ride. I felt energetic. I felt I had better concentration after the ride when I was at work. I felt endorphins. I was pain-free, which is significant given that my shoulder has been sore from swimming and both knees felt kind of achy--also from swimming (breaststroke). The next time I say to myself "Maybe I should go on a bike, I don't feel like it," I want to remember the good feeling I get after it's over. And of course, it's fun during the ride, too, or at least interesting--

  • How fast can I go down the first big hill?
  • Will I have to stop for the traffic light in the first little town I ride through? (I actually like to stop at the traffic light, as this gets the attention of people in the restaurant at the intersection. I'm glad to give them something to talk about)
  • Can I manage the slight incline out of town without downshifting to my lower bracket?
  • How winded and tired will I get climbing the beast of a hill that comes next? How slow can I go without having the bike fall over?!
  • I always enjoy the horse pasture and broad view at the top of that hill.
  • I enjoy that wide, smooth road near the airport that never has any traffic.
  • I enjoy the extra risk I take past the airport where the country road becomes narrow, steep (up and down), and traction is reduced due to all the black sealant applied to the road surface. Some of those hills are so steep going down that I have to ride my brakes all the way, so as not to exceed 35mph and/or lose control.
  • I like the forested patch of road I encounter after crossing the highway.
  • I like the open view I find at the top of the next hill by the cemetery. In fact, by the time I get there, it seems like it's all downhill from there. I zoom more freely down the next road that goes past the lake.
  • I zoom around the traffic circle and then relax as the paved shoulder expands and I can take my time going up the last climb.
  • Lastly, I enjoy crossing from the right side of the airport road to the left in order to use the left turn lane onto the road that takes me home. I'm amazed that the road sensors there are sensitive enough for my bicycle to trigger the traffic light.
--That's a long list of interesting things along my 14.7-mile cycling route. Now think of how many more things I can add to this list as I lengthen the route and cycle for longer periods of time.