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.

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