fitness · running · training

Tracy Grapples with Scaled Back Around the Bay 30K Training

Image description: Tracy head shot, smiling, sunglasses, ball cap with a buff to cover ears, ear buds, and a zipped up running top, urban landscape of road, buildings, and two small trees in a winter garden in the background.

Yes, I’m a proponent of doing less, scaling back (also see “Let’s Be Realistic: It’s Okay to Scale Back”), starting small, and that whole family of kinder, gentler approaches to working out. But hello, I’m training for the Around the Bay 30K on March 31. That’s less than three weeks from now.

And the furthest I’ve run in recent weeks is 24K (or was it 22K?). And that’s the furthest I’m going to run. Because my running coach, Linda from Master the Moments, has me working on intensity over distance. I confess that I have told her more than once I’m worried that I haven’t done the distance. She assures me that I can.

It’s an approach that I’m not used to. Usually when I’m training for a distance, I make sure to cover that distance at least once, even exceed it sometimes, to feel confident that I can do it. But this training cycle I went to India (where I only got in one treadmill run) and I’ve been doing a lot of treadmill training this winter, and when I got back from India I got slammed with a cold, and just generally life has been harder than usual so I’ve needed more sleep.

So when I got back from India Linda switched things up. First, when I had that cold, she had me doing ONLY easy runs. “Just get back into it,” she said. “Get your legs used to moving again.” It felt like permission to do something that I needed to do. What it accomplished was that it got me moving where a more daunting commitment would have had me saying “forget it.” Linda is smart that way.

But I expected that when the cold went away (it’s just started to subside and not quite all gone), she would be upping my distance again. But instead, two weeks ago my “long run” was 45 minutes (Anita did 24K with the Running Room). Then this weekend it was an hour: 30 minutes easy, 15 minutes moderate effort, 15 minutes hard effort (Anita did 26K with the Running Room).

She increased the intensity on the in between runs too. For example, I was assigned 6x800m repeats at a hard pace (I managed 4x800m), with a warm up and cool down to equal 8K (I managed 7K).

Here’s the thing. I’m doing it but I’m feeling nervous that it’s not enough. Again, Linda reassures me that I will finish. Switching up the paces, especially with the hard effort at the end, reminds me that I have more than one gear. I have done 30K before (heck, I’ve done 42K before), and I wasn’t nearly as fit when I did that, so in some sense I know I can do it. Also, I was having IT band issues manifesting in my knee before India. Now nothing. Mind you, that only kicked in at 20K, so I guess we’ll see on race day.

And here’s the other thing: I am enjoying the training and feeling strong. Yesterday I went out for that 60 minute with the increasingly difficult paces, and it felt amazing. It helped that spring was in the air. I’m going to need to strategize my Around the Bay a bit, breaking it up into 10K segments. I am a little concerned that I won’t be able to keep up with Anita, who is a machine right now, clocking the mileage in preparation for ATB.

But I guess we will see how it goes on race day. I’m less keen to do 10-1 intervals than she is because, to be frank, though I can look forward to the rest intervals, I find it hard to break my momentum and restart it again. I realize there are pros and cons, but psychologically I fare better with a walk-through-the-water-stations strategy than a 10-1 interval strategy.

Have you ever done a long race on training that puts intensity before distance? if so, how did it go?

cycling · fitness · training

March matters

Last March, exactly a year ago today, I posted to Facebook: “Feeling hopeful. Really hopeful. First time on the spin bike without any pain when pedaling while standing. No pain while using big gears either. Phew. There’s hope.”

This March I’m happily riding, indoors and out, and thinking about training for the summer ahead. March is very important training month for those whose summer activities start in June or so. I’m not racing but I do have a very serious cycling event in June, the Newfoundland bike tour.

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Image description: Rust coloured hills, green meadows, cyclists on a blue road. Newfoundland’s scenic Viking Trail. https://www.theloop.ca/10-bike-trips-that-will-make-you-fall-in-love-with-canada/

In order of events, it’s the 5 boro bike tour, the Newfoundland Bike Tour, the 1 day version of the Friends for Life Bike Rally, and then the Tri-Adventure. See here.

Chris Helwig, my former cycling coach posted to Facebook the other day about why March matters for cyclists: “March is here. In my humble opinion this is the most important month of the year for anyone racing road or MTB or even athletes just wanting to ride faster for group rides or in general. This is the month that sets you up for the rest of the spring and summer. Even if your winter so far has been mediocre, having a good volume and quality March can assure you have a great season. So clear your social calendar, dig into those trainer rides during this cold spell and get it done!!!”

There’s still a lot of snow on the ground and it’s cold. I’ll commute to work but training rides are indoors still.

This Saturday Sarah, Ellen and I met up at the Bike Shed to ride for a bit. I think I might just leave my bike there for the month and ride lots.

What’s your plan for the month of March?

femalestrength · fit at mid-life · fitness · Martha's Musings · motivation · training · weight lifting

Fostering resilience through fitness

By MarthaFitat55

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Image shows a small fire surrounded by stones in the woods. In the background, a person wearing jeans and a plaid shirt holds a small branch. Photo by Jenelle Hayes on Unsplash

Every day I find myself using something I learned in my almost ten years with the Guiding movement.

While I might not ever go camping in the woods again by choice, should I land there, I know how to build shelter and fire and how to find water. I use my map reading and orienteering skills when I travel; I am conscious of my footprint on the earth and what I need to do to take care of it.

With my Brownie pack and my Girl Guide company, I learned to be part of a team, to solve problems jointly, and to respect others and their gifts. I learned to set goals, to acquire new skills, and to cultivate resilience and strength in myself and others.

I am grateful to the fabulous women who gave their time to support us girls in growing up to become competent, committed, and engaged members of our society.

Today is Thinking Day and I am reminded of what a great space for girls and young women the Guiding world is to learn some practical skills. And this reminds me that I have found or built other spaces where I can continue to grow and develop.

Like the gym. Not the gym of my childhood though. That place was fraught with stress and fear, the kind that is negative and immobilizing. While I know my gym of today can sometimes cause me stress (hello, wonky hip) and a little fear (goodbye Jacob’s ladder), it’s the good kind of stress and fear.

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash
Image shows a gym with green carpet and grey tile. In the background, a person moves ropes while another does pushups. Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

The gym is a place for me where I can build the skills that will make me strong, and I hope, keep me that way for a very long time.

The gym is a place where I can push myself to try new things. And it’s a place, when things don’t work, I can try again, or figure out a way to do it differently.

The gym is a place where I learn how marvelous our bodies are: for the things they do naturally and the things they don’t and the things we may need to re-learn how to do all over again.

For me, the gym has become a place of opportunity and a place where I value physical strength, in the same way being in Guides developed and supported others kinds of strength.

How about you? What does the gym mean to you (if you go to one)? What are the other places where you grow and support resilience and strength through fitness?

MarthaFitat55 is a writer lifting all the things, physical and mental.

fitness · training · weight loss

High intensity interval training and weight loss: Yawn!

It’s all over the fitness media this week. For weight loss, you should go for high intensity interval training over other forms of exercise.

According Runners World, “Interval training could help you lose more weight than a continuous moderate-intensity workout, according to a new review and meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Interval training may make your body more efficient at burning fat, the researchers believe.”

But why is weight loss even the question? Why not sports performance or other training goals?

I confess this was my reaction: Yawn.

I shared the story with the other bloggers and Catherine chimed in, “Also, for those who are not actively competing, there’s the issue of what we LIKE to do and what we can sustain over time. I’ve done plenty of HIIT, but these days I’m not up to it mentally. We shall see as the weather improves– hill repeats do have a certain masochistic appeal– but right now steady state is a happy place for me.”

Then Mina, “I don’t even like the phrasing “not up to it” in this context, because it implies a shortcoming or deficit. No activity is sustainable, unless we like it. In fact, I’d Kondo-ize that statement and say that maybe we shouldn’t do activities that don’t spark joy. Recognizing, that we will need to sweat a little and experience some false starts to find what activity that is. Even if our goal is competing, we better be loving the training to get there. Basically, I think we feel best when we are pursuing our personal version of excellence and when that excellence has meaning to us (which likely involves some meaning for others, too).”

What’s your response to this report?

Also, I then ran into an interesting critique of the headline version of the review’s results. Read the whole thing here.

Yoni Freedhoff writes, “Last week saw the publication of a new study in the BJSM entitled (highlighting mine), “Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT)“. Understandably intrigued given a prominent medical journal was suggesting there was a magic bullet for fat loss, I clicked through, and then reading the piece I learned that the amount of fat lost that the BJSM was calling a “magic bullet” was a 1 pound difference, one which the study’s abstract’s conclusion described as, “a 28.5% greater reductions in total absolute fat mass (kg)”. Duly surprised, I then took to Twitter to poke around and found that one of the study’s authors, James Steele, was tweeting out a corrective thread to his own study’s hype – hype which understandably and predictably led to an onslaught of media overreach.”

That post is worth reading. It’s totally not boring.

cycling · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays · trackers · training

Her digital assistants are tracking and watching over Sam

So last week I was in Clermont, Florida riding my bike. Instead of my super short commutes and running errands by bike, I was logging 50+ km a day in some pretty hilly territory.

I use my Garmin bike computer to track rides. It uploads rides to my phone where both Garmin Connect and Strava provide analysis. See above.

I’m also letting Google Fit track my activity. It counts steps and active minutes, sets goals, and provides commentary. See below.

What’s amusing is the different tones they take. Strava is all about bike training. In serious tones I’m told that my mileage has taken a substantial jump and I should be cautious about overtraining. That was even after our rest day!

GoogleFit is all positive thinking. “What workout! You deserve a break.” But that sounds like it would also be okay if I didn’t take one. It’s just cheering me on.

My own ‘rest day’ motivation was something else entirely.  I wanted to enjoy all 5 days of riding. For me that means taking a break. I wasn’t really worried about overtraining. But I also didn’t take a break because I’d earned it. I’d rather ride more.  If I were a stronger rider in January I’d rather ride all 5 days.  But I’m not and so I didn’t and I’m okay with that.

fitness · Guest Post · martial arts · training

The Importance of Trying and Failing (Guest Post)

Last week, I broke a brick with a palm strike.

But more importantly, before I did that, I also failed to break a brick with a palm strike.

Let’s back up a little. I teach taekwondo at a martial arts studio that just celebrated its third anniversary (yay us!) As part of our celebrations, some of the students and instructors did a small demo including forms and board/brick breaking. This wasn’t my first time putting my hand through cement for fun and training. So I stopped in to my neighbourhood Home Depot to pick up a small stack of paving stones for us to smash, much to the consternation of a few employees and customers who saw me wandering around the store with a stack of bricks under my arm instead of in a cart.

four rectangular bricks in the trunk of a car
I made it back to the car all by myself with them though!

Our demo was great, for the most part. We had a bit of trouble setting up our brick breaks in a spot where we had a good surface and people could see us. I don’t think I was entirely focused, and even though I’m pretty strong, I can’t get away with relying just on muscle and body weight to make it through. So even though I hit the brick good and hard on my first attempt, it wasn’t quite right, and it didn’t budge. (Much to the concern of some of our poor audience members, mostly our students and their parents.)

Deep breath.

Second try, all good. No damage to the wrist or hand, just a bruise.

At the risk of trying to justify things after the fact, I’m glad I had the chance to let my kids see me fail before I succeeded. I find a lot of them are still learning what is to be rewarded and what is to be valued, and I like teaching them that effort and perseverance are to be valued, not only success. And also that you can be good at a task and still sometimes fail to perform it successfully.

(This, incidentally, is part of why, during my day job as a philosophy teacher, I’m perfectly happy to say “I don’t know” to student questions when appropriate. If they think they have to know everything to be a professor, they’ll probably never see themselves as capable of it.)

But maybe failure is a feminist issue. There are some interesting gendered questions here, after all, with letting my students see me fail. The (much larger) man who was also part of the brick breaking demo broke his on the first try. I suppose I could worry that I’m just confirming stereotypes about women being weaker, but I don’t think we have to see it like that at all. I think it’s inevitable that we all fail, and one of the privileges of being a man in sports is that you’ll have lots of readily available male role models with a wide variety of trajectories of success and failure. But the girls (and non-girls) I teach know I’m successful at taekwondo. I have a 4th dan black belt, and teach them how to kick several days a week. So why shouldn’t they see that even their teachers will sometimes have to display the very perseverance that we demand of them?

fitness · Martha's Musings · planning · swimming · training · weight loss · yoga

Strategic planning for the fit feminist

By MarthaFitat55

I work as a strategic planner as well as a communications strategist and trainer/facilitator. In the last few years, I have jotted down a series of goals as an informal strategic plan for myself. This year I decided to take a couple of days to be more structured about how I plan as I want to achieve some specific things by 2020. (As a side note, there isn’t anything really special about that date for me lifewise, but I like round numbers and that one appeals to me.)

I have five categories in my plan: work, home, family, relationships, and fitness. This isn’t a priority listing. My plan is a series of circles, and these overlap and separate over time.

When I first began working on fitness as a goal to get me to 55, it was pretty simple: I wanted to show up. Five years later, I still show up, but I have refined my approach somewhat. In past years, I have added learning how to do pull ups, how to get up from and get down to the floor, and increasing the weight on the bar for deadlifts, squats and bench. I also wanted to mix things up so I added swimming and yoga to the mix. The past six months have been busier than I expected with work and family commitments, and more times than I liked, fitness fell by the wayside.

Thus the need for a more focused approach, because I know when my life gets busy, the time I set for fitness can get chewed up by other Imporant Things.

I decided to apply the questions I use when I help organizations develop their own strategic plans. I ask three questions to get started: why do you want to do this? what will you achieve? and how will you make it happen? I then ask two supplementary questions: when will this happen and where?

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Image shows a spiral-bound, lined notebook with a fountain pen resting on a blank page. Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash

My why is pretty clear: I want to be healthy and active for a long time. My what is also pretty straightforward: I want to be fit and active. The how is also known: I like weightlifting, I enjoy the flexibility of yoga, and swimming gives me a way to connect with my body differently than the weights or mat can offer. I’ll be identifying some key benchmarks in these objectives, because measurement is a way to keep me focused and accountable.

My biggest challenge is the “when” as there are many demands on my time. The drafting of a strategic life planning document gives me the opportunity to make certain promises to myself and those promises are getting plugged into my calendar so I have away to be accountable.

Over the coming months I’m going to track how my plan is working. What are you thinking about doing in 2019 to keep you on track with your fitness goals?