The Long Road... #2014reboot

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Monday, March 24, 2014

#479: Leg Day #Rebooted

Never Skip Leg Day
Leg Day. Speak the words above a whisper, and watch weight lifter's faces turn pale.It conjures memories of hugging the squat rack until the room stops spinning, staggering like a disconnected marionette among the benches, praying you can get to the sauna without crashing to the floor in a heap. Clenching your jaw and your fists tight, as you desperately scan the walls for a trash can to throw up in.

Leg Day. 

It isn't for the faint of heart. 

But Dude, you can't spend your whole week doing bench presses and bicep curls in the mirror. You'll turn into a  Macy's parade baloon. The above picture may be photoshopped, I don't know, but I've seen this boy's kin folk all over town. The guys who only work the pretty muscles, the mirror muscles, the ones that show up in selfies. It's kind of sad. 

Real lifters do legs. Hard. Brutally hard. And the results can be amazingly beautiful. Maybe you find her sexy, maybe you find her creepy, but I promise you, Oksana Grishina didn't get legs like that without working hard at it. She earned every cut and curve. And definition like this does not come cheap.

A body builder's legs may be awe inspiring, but they are not really ideal for a distance runner... and they are not really attainable for a 53 year old man without the genes, the training, or the little bag full of steroids that make them happen. 

Pushing deep squats till you puke may feel macho, and it will make you strong as a bull, but it won't get you to mile 26 without a lot of pain, fatigue, and, to be honest, chafing. That much bulk just isn't built for distance.

Consequently, runners don't train their legs like that. Lifting gigantic weights with the biggest muscles in your body takes a lot of strength, and runners kind of need their strength... you know... for running. You aren't going to get much training value from road miles if you've left the best of your legs in the weight room.

Still... Dude... you gotta work legs. Not for bulk, and not for brute strength, but for muscular endurance. And just a little vanity. Cause, I gotta tell you,.. my biceps may resemble sausages hanging from the ceiling of a Brooklyn Heights Deli, but when the light hits them right, and you look from just the right angle, the Fat Man can have some badass looking gams. Hey, it isn't much, I admit, but you play the cards life deals you.

So here's how I'm doing Leg Day, now that racing season is upon us.

The organizing principle here is "Do More with Less." Low weight, high reps. My goal is to execute each rep with perfect form, through a full range of motion. 

After a quarter mile on the treadmill and some prisoner squats facing the wall to get the juices flowing, I hit the rack.

Supersets, 3 x 10, 30 sec rest
Barbell Squats, Barbell Split Squats

3 x 10, 30 sec rest
Romanian Dead Lifts with Barbell
Machine Leg Curls
Machine Leg Extension

2 sets, 30 seconds each, 30 sec rest
Plank (side, front, side)
Bird Dog
Dead Bug

It's a quick workout, and left me feeling pumped but not burned, so I thought I'd get a little creative with a finisher. Usually I'll finish with some vigorous cardio on the rowing machine or a bike, but since I knew I'd be running with the kids at the Y in a couple hours, I decided to finish with 20 minutes of kettlebell swings. 

Better make that 15. 

It's been a long time since I rang the Bell, and I forgot two things: what an intense workout it is; and how badly out of shape I still am. The good news was, I didn't drop the weight through the studio floor, or slip and fling it through a mirror. But it's going to take me a while to work back up to those 30 minute swing fests I was enjoying out in the sunshine, back when I was in racing shape. 

Finally, I spent about 15 minutes on some yoga and stretching, hoping to diminish some of the soreness I'm sure I'll be feeling around 3:30 this morning.

Oh yeah. Then I went for a 2 miler with a 10 year old girl who kicked my butt every step of the way. She pushed me as hard as I could go. But she never dropped me. That's right. I'm bragging. I am as tough as a 10-year old girl. Maybe you aren't impressed by that? Maybe you've never met a Kentucky girl.

All in all, a pretty good workout that burned an absurd amount of calories. Might even make up for the pizza I ate yesterday...

And, Dude... even if I do say so myself... The old legs do still look pretty good when the light is right...

Peace,
Pennsy





Sunday, March 23, 2014

#478: Reasons To Race

A friend recently advised me, "Write in the morning, and revise in the evening." So tonight, I revisited and revised a post I put up earlier today. I don't take a lot of mulligans on FMR, but I'm making an exception in this case. I this comes closer to what I want to say... Pennsy


Lexington is getting a Marathon! I was so excited to learn about it that I registered on the first morning. Haven't run more than 2 miles in months, 40 pounds heavier than the last time I raced, and I just registered for a Marathon. The good news is, it isn't until May of 2015.

Fifteen months. That's a long time to prepare for a Saturday morning run. You need some good reasons to do something like that. Here are some of mine.

As 2013 came to an end,  I reflected on my own values, and how they should guide me, I decided that I had to start by practicing Strength. The Strength to take action. The Strength to respond. The Strength to do the things God is calling me to do. To serve. To help. To teach. To learn. To run. I took this very literally, focusing my workouts almost entirely on the weight room and building muscle and flexibility. My body felt weak, slow, tired, and fat. My spirit felt the same way. I let the squat rack and the dumbbell bench be a metaphor... every rep was another ounce of potential realized.... every stretch was another inch of increased readiness and flexibility. And as my body begins to change, I feel my spirit changing, too.
After strength, comes Courage: doing what's right. It means living with honor and personal integrity. Being the man I want to be... the man I say I am. It means accepting that I'm not in control, and that I don't need to be. As I reflect on my life's greatest stumbles, I think a failure of personal courage may be the common denominator. Why? Lots of reason, probably. But the one that comes to mind right now is that I've never really known or believed in my own strength. There's always been a voice, I call him my "Toxic Passenger" in the back of the bus, heckling me. "You're going the wrong way." "You're going to come up short." "They're going to laugh at you." "She's going to dump you when she figures out who you really are." He's always been there. Probably always will be. But what's changing is that I don't take his word to be gospel so much anymore. He tells me I'm weak and that I never follow though. Time was, I would just nod sadly in agreement with him. But now, when I hear him grumbling, I remind myself of all the deadlifts. I remember the miles. I touch the finisher's medal from the Pittsburgh Marathon, and I just smile. I'm stronger than the Toxic Passenger thinks I am. I've proved it. And I didn't do that by being the fastest or the smartest or the best. I did it by lifting one weight at a time. Taking one stride at a time. Running a race I could be proud of, and letting the results take care of themselves.
If strength is the bow and courage is the arrow, then Compassion is the bulls eye. Study alone? Yes. Run by yourself? Certainly. Pound out one more set in the weight room after everyone else has hit the shower? Every time. But do it because someday, someone is going to need that strength and courage. Somebody will have to be ready to run for help. To push the car out of the ditch. To go "the extra mile," whatever that mile turns out to be. To serve with compassion. When I read the story of Jesus,compassion is the defining quality I see in his character. Here was a man of unlimited strength and courage, whose every move was guided by the joy and the suffering that he shared with each person he met. The Incarnation is the story of a God who walked among us and shared not only our lives, but our hearts... our passions. The Creator became a creation and chose not to rule, but to serve. My most gratifying races were the ones I ran with a purpose that was bigger than myself. To honor The Five. To support Actors' Guild. To raise money for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. I am still settling on how I will use this race to serve, but rest assured, I have no intention of doing this one alone.You don't run fifteen months just so you can get the tee-shirt.
And then, there is Joy. You don't make joy. You don't earn it. You can't coax it along. You can't force it. You can't expect it, plan for it, demand it, and you sure as hell can't guarantee it. Joy is rare, like a perfect, spring afternoon. You don't create it. You receive it. Joy is Grace. It is God's gift to you, not because you deserve it, but because every now and then, the universe peeps open and gives you a glimpse of the heart of God and for that moment, you bear witness to the Image in which you were made. Joy isn't payday. Joy is... everyday. All in an instant.. And somewhere along the road, I know there will be times to smile, to weep, and to laugh out loud for no other reason than the joyful knowledge that a life lived with strength, courage and compassion is a life that pleases God... and the gift of Joy is God's testimony to that pleasure.
You know what? 2014 is gonna be a great year for a run.

Peace,
Pennsy

Monday, March 3, 2014

#477: Snow Day

After dinner last night, I needed to burn off some calories, so I headed off into the sleet for 4.5 slow, slippy miles. It was not the most fun I've ever had on the streets, but the payoff came this morning when I stepped on the scale. I'm down 13 pounds from my still unpublished but trust-me-its-awful maximum weight at the start of my current reboot.

Several inches of snow followed the sleet overnight. Woke up to some serious weather and road conditions. The Y cancelled classes, but I wasn't sure how many of my LIVESTRONG at the YMCA participants could get the news, so I volunteered to drive in and help make the calls to everyone. The Honda was not happy about having to be out and about this morning, and expressed her displeasure with a door latch that froze OPEN after I managed to pry the thing open without busting any of the door seals. I sent out a call for advice, and my friend C suggested dousing it with WD-40... which worked, of course. I believe that anything that's worth fixing can be repaired with a can of WD, a roll of Duct Tape, and a 12-inch pair of judiciously applied Vice Grips.

At the gym, the boss and I sat down and called everyone. My favorite response: "Are you crazy! I wasn't going to tread a foot out in this!" Something tells me I have failed to instill an appropriate level of fear in my charges. Since I was already there, and the crowd was decidedly thin, I decided to hit the weight room for my "Never Skip a Monday" workout.

Conventional wisdom says that you do your hard cardio AFTER you lift weights. Otherwise, you are too tired to give the iron your all. I was able to validate that today. Started out with 30 hard minutes on the treadmill. Longest jaunt so far. Also my quickest. I was able to sustain 12:00 miles for nearly the whole workout. That's almost 3:00 slower than what I was doing a year ago, but you know... it was quite a year. So I felt pretty spent, but encouraged by my progress.

After a little walk around the hall and some water, I checked my print-out... Deadlifts. Naturally. And my legs were already feeling puny. Then of course, there was someone using the power rack. Now, you don't actually need the rack to do deadlifts, but that's where the free barbells live. I hate taking one from the bench press boys... especially on Monday which is the high holy day for Cult of the Pecs. So I stepped over to the New Thingy. 



I don't remember the New Thingy's real name. It isn't a Smith Machine. The video shows you one of those. I don't like the Smith. The New Thingy has lots of rods and slides and bearings that allow the weight to move forward and back, not just up and down. I don't trust the straight lines that the Smith machine forces you to track through. Especially on big lifts. I hate squats on the Smith, and I would never use one for Deads.

Since I was already tired, and using an unusual apparatus, I switched from full Deadlifts to straight legged Deads. Here's a pretty good demo of that variation.



This lift still hits the hams and glutes, but doesn't require the same full body effort of a Deadlift that pulls from the floor. To be honest, I didn't think I was up for too much iron anyway. After the Deads, I took advantage of the open space to do some walking lunges with dumbbells, then arm work, including a very unimpressive three sets of assisted pullups.

 

I really like this machine. One of my life goals is to someday execute 10 unassisted pullups. This is a tool I'm using to get myself to the first one. I have a loooong way to go. (note to other pullup aspirants... weight gain make this a much harder goal to achieve.)

After finishing up with some of what I think of as "vanity work"... curls and presses designed to make my pathetic upper arms look big and strong... I did my core exercises on the mat, then staggered back out for a 10 minute wring down on the Vario... another very cool and versatile machine. Here's a pimped out promo from the manufacturer... lusicious patio companionship not included with the family friendly YMCA model...



Its basically a sexier version of an AMT, and I like it for the range of motion and what feels like zero impact on the joints.

And as a special added bonus, guess what came on my iPod as I was finishing up?


Even with the Inferno, this snow day workout wore me out. Once I had stretched and cooled down, I came home, had some leftover spaghetti squash, and crashed. In the long run, I'm hoping that exercise will give me more energy, but for the time being, these long workouts take just about all I have.

Woke up feeling fidgety. I would go for a walk,but the streets are still hazardous, and even the best citizens are having a hard time keeping their sidewalks clear. And the truth is, I'm still feeling spent. So I'm writing instead. And you know what? You've really helped me to feel better. Thanks for listening.

Peace,
Pennsy
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