Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Still Running

Yeah, I've been away awhile. It's been one hell of a winter, with ice storms and sleet and an up-down-up-down temperature shift that is making me insane. First it was 10 degrees. Then, that very weekend, it was 60 degrees. My trees started to bud. Then it was 10 again and a big sleet storm his, freezing everything under a layer of ice. Then it warmed up again and rained. Then it was 10 again and we had an ice storm, followed by some snow. This was 4 days ago. Today its 60 and raining cats and dogs. The ground is frozen and flooded. There are still piles of ice where people shoveled it and yet we're wearing short sleeve shirts today.

Weather like this reminds me of why I'm currently a big treadmill runner. Can you imagine how my running would be doing if I were trying to run outdoors in all of this?

OK, so I'm still running, but I'm still slower than Christmas. Yesterday it occurred to me why. When I was a little kid my parents gave me a purple spyderbike for Christmas. That same year, or maybe the next, my best friend and his younger sisters all received neon-colored spyderbikes. We all rode together everywhere. And where we lived was extremely hilly. I remember one hill in particular, a road named BeBe Ann, or however you spell it. It was a road I passed on my way to the swimming pool all the time. It was so steep that even cars seemed to avoid it. I would pedal as far up that hill as I could. When I couldn't make it I'd pedal until I was at a complete standstill, then turn the front wheel and roll back down. I did that every time I passed that street just to see how many tries it would take me to finally make it to the top. It ended up taking years. I was little and my legs were little, too. But I eventually made it. When I wasn't trying to ride up this hill I was riding everywhere else. My bike didn't have gears. It was just one speed and one gear and that was it. Anywhere I rode to required me to pedal as hard as it took to get there. Being a little kid I didn't think this was a big deal. And I had no idea that I was making my legs extremely strong.

When my elementary school decided to have impromptu foot races in PE class I wasn't surprised when I was one of the fastest kids in my grade. I was already playing basketball and soccer and running track for a church league so I knew I was fast. But I assumed it was something that ran in my family, something I had inherited. My sisters were all fast and they had said running was something we were all good at.

But my brother wasn't. And neither was my dad. And none of his sister's kids were good runners.

By the time I reached high school I was bicycling everywhere all the time. I joined the track team and was fast, even fast compared to all the other kids in my grade all across the state.

All these years later I haven't ridden bikes on a regular basis in a very long time. And when I do ride my legs wear out fast. They're weak. Just a few years ago I used to harassed a friend of mine for constantly complaining about his running not getting any faster. I advised him to do strength training - sprint work, hills, fartlek. He ignored me and just kept running further and further distances while avoiding several extremely good, steep hills right across from his own neighborhood. The first race we ran together I beat him despite not having worked out in years. It made him mad.

Endurance runner

A few years later and I'm living in a city with virtually no hills for me to run. I live in the country where there are no street lights. By the time I get home its dark, so bicycling is a bad idea. As I've written here, I've been running on a treadmill for quite awhile. At first it was just a way for me to get back into the habit while taking it slow and trying to avoid injuries. Instead I had a string of injuries, (probably the result of wearing shoes without any arch support) none of which helped me increase my strength or speed. Since then all I do is run the treadmill. And its boring. And I'm sick of running the same treadmill in the same room all winter long. So I've been treadmill-fartleking way more than I should. Its not really a good, hard workout the way I've been doing it. Its more of an excuse to stop and walk which I then justify by running faster than I otherwise would have in-between. But you can't fartlek every workout, and if you aren't really pushing it then you're just walking a lot when you should be running and working on a steady pace.

So, yesterday I didn't run the treadmill. Yesterday I did leg presses, as heavy as I could go without exploding my knees. This gym has no squat rack and that's a real shame. All it has are machines. So I pressed and pressed, knowing that my legs are going to hurt badly the next few days the way they should after a good leg workout. Then I did leg extensions and stiff-legged deadlifts. It wasn't a huge workout, but considering I haven't done any strength training in a long time I thought it was a good start. I need to do a lot more of this. Runners can't simply run and run some more and expect that this will be enough to improve their times, especially if you're running long distances. If you want to get faster, or even get back to where you used to be, you've got to build muscle. And that's what I need to do.



  1. hahaha I feel like you wrote this post for me! I need to cycle up hills as well as run the bastards????? I'll stick to squats :-( they suck too. I'm still working on my lazy glutes - although the physio said they are better than one of his elite runners who has no glute activation & has pelvic fractures as a result of running 120kms per week with a lazy arse.

    Hopefully the end of winter is in sight for you & you can get outside. There is NO WAY I'd run outdoors in your weather/wilderness.............

    1. AlleyCat, lazy glutes? pelic fractures? Wow, I had never heard of that before! I thought you were just being funny at first.

  2. lol me being funny!! Dead serious this time!!!!

    It's all about what order the muscles fire in; & apparently some don't fire at all. The physio has you lie face down, puts a finger on your hammy & a finger on your glute, then asks you to raise a leg. They can feel what order the muscles activate in & in some cases the glute doesn't activate at all.

    The you are given exercises like clams & 1 legged squats amongst others to try & re-train your glute into doing some of the work instead of letting your poor ole hammie do all the work!!!

    1. AlleyCat, once again you have convinced me that I need to find myself a person like this to help me. I obviously need to do something differently than I have been, because this just isn't working for me.

  3. Something tells me you wrote this one for me.

    No, just kidding, AlleyCat.

    Hey, how's life? I was getting a bit suspicious: I bet he won the lottery and is now running on Bora Bora just for the fun of it.

    1. BlueGrumpster, me? Win the lottery? You bet your bottom dollar I'd be in Bora Bora, probably naked on a beach drinking margaritas or something. But no, I'm still here, still poor and still running badly.

    2. Well, why not? Some folks out there win the lottery on a regular basis, so why not you.

      I had to stop running. Doctor's orders, and it sucks.