Gym Rat

With my plan of tackling the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon (SF1HM) with run/walk intervals in mind, I decided to do all of my runs this past week on the treadmill.  That way, I could stop whenever I felt any pain and not have to walk more than 1/4 mile back to my car.  I don’t mind intervals on the treadmill — in fact, if I have to run on the treadmill at all, I feel compelled to constantly change a setting, ANY setting, just to break up the monotony.  However, it’s pretty mind-numbing to do 2:1 run/walk intervals for over an hour.  Luckily, my gym is awesome in a number of ways.  First, they have a ton of machines, so I can be a treadmill-hog in peace and not have someone who’s waiting for a treadmill breathing down my neck and giving me dirty looks.  Second, they have a wall of TV screens so I can be constantly amused or befuddled by a combination of cable channels, like the Food Network, ESPN, and CNN.  What I have learned is that while CNN may be on a 24 hour news cycle, they basically report the same story (usually something scandalous or tabloid-worthy) on repeat for hours on end.  (I realize that this might be common knowledge; it’s just been so long since I actually watched CNN.)  Third, they have random treats, like free bagels and coffee on the 2nd Tuesday of every month, which I just happened to randomly come upon this past week.  Score!  Fourth, and very importantly, they have free wifi, which allows me to watch Netflix on my iPhone.  Confession: I started watching Gossip Girl yesterday while on the stationary bike.  Don’t judge — it’s pure fluff and doesn’t require substantial amounts of concentration, which is perfect for the gym.  Finally, membership is only $10 a month!  This makes the cheapskate in me extremely happy.

With 3 runs and 1 bike session, I did a total of 4 workouts at the gym this week.  So, it’s a good thing I actually like going there!

Here’s how the week went:

Mon: Rest.
Tues: Run/walk (2 min: 1 min) 4.5 miles.  Bonus: free bagels!
Wed: Swim 1200 yds — a new distance record!
Thurs: Run/walk (2:1) 6 miles.
Fri: Rest.
Sat: Run/walk (2:1) 8 miles.
Sun: Easy bike spin. 11 miles.
Misc: almost daily rolling; strength exercises 2 times

How did I feel? While I can’t say that I was completely pain-free last week, my hips did feel tons better.  I think the more frequent walk breaks helped to relieve whatever was going on in my right hip.  The achiness/dull pain that I did feel was mostly in my low and mid back, so I’ve been taking extra time to stretch, roll, and use a heat pad on my back to loosen it up.  I was really happy to run/walk 8 miles on Saturday without any significant pain or hitch in my stride — a world of difference from the week before!  As an added bonus, I’ve been able to average ~11:30/mile with the walk breaks, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to make the 3 hour cut-off at SF1HM with plenty of time to spare.  So, things are looking up!

Despite these improvements, I know that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done in terms of complete recovery.  The run/walk thing is just a band-aid to get myself to the finish line at SF1HM.   I’ve been reading Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry, which I hope to fully review once I put the advice into action.  A main argument of the book is that in order to be a good runner, you should also be a good athlete.  That means working on stability (core, balance, posture) and laying that as the foundation, and then building strength on top of that.  In Chapter 9, Dicharry outlines a number of tests looking at range of motion, stability/balance, and strength.  I did really well on some of them (yay for toe strength and control!) and horribly on others (my squats – both double and single leg – are laughable).  After the tests, Chapter 10 is full of basic exercises that help address any deficiencies identified in Chapter 9.  So, for the next 3 weeks, it looks like I’ll be up to my neck in clamshells, squats (“chair of death”), donkey kicks, hip hikes, bridge walks, and single leg balances (especially on my right leg).  When I’ve finally mastered all of these exercises, I can move on to the advanced strength exercises, which includes a lot of very hardcore-looking exercises with a Swiss ball and plyometrics.  I’m hopeful that these exercises will help, but if not, then the next step will be to seek advice and opinions from a medical professional.

And because blog posts are more fun with photos, here’s one I took yesterday at the Run to the Lake 5K:

RC and LJ after the race, very happily standing in front of the ambulance instead of being in it (as was the case last year).

RC and LJ after the race, very happily standing in front of the ambulance instead of being in it (as was the case last year).

A special shout-out to RC, who came in 5th out of 17 in his age group and in the top 20% overall!  It was really fun to watch the various runners at the finish line.  Some people looked like they were in complete agony, which is how I always feel at the end of a 5K, while others looked like they were barely breaking a sweat.  The overall winner was a young guy, Carter Mackey, who finished in a speedy 16:44, almost 90 seconds ahead of the next competitor.  Anyway, spectating really had me itching to race.  I’ve been thinking about focusing on shorter distances for the rest of the year, which seems like a smarter way for me to return to racing.  We shall see!

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Howdy! I'm a 30-something recovering former academic living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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17 comments on “Gym Rat
  1. Jan says:

    Glad you’re enjoying Anatomy for Runners! It was seriously a life-changing book for me. That being said, I haven’t exactly started the exercises yet. LOL I do intend to…I do!

    • Jen says:

      Haha… yeah, it’s tough to commit to the exercises because there’s a lot of them – especially for me! What I told myself is that Dicharry recommends that you “only” have to do them daily for 2-3 weeks, and then progress to the next level exercises, which you “only” have to do 2-4x a week. I guess it’s not that much effort/time (big picture-wise) to stay injury-free.

  2. Mike says:

    No matter what or how many distractions, your focused ability to work out on the treadmill makes you a more dedicated runner than I. That was another benefit to having PF that I forgot to document… because it was a foot injury I was unable to do any high-impact training, treadmill included. Admittedly I can see the benefits, I just can’t bring myself to step up on that belt when any other alternative is available.

    I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that Jay Dicharry helps you transform yourself into an injury-proof running juggernaut, and soon.

    Your title got me thinking how the term “gym rat” has never made sense to me… I’ve never seen a rat in spandex. “Sweating like a pig” is another one… and what about “crocodile tears” or “cat got your tongue”? “Donkey kicks” on the other hand, those I understand.

    In any case, not to digress… congratulations to Ron on his 5K showing, he’s the bee’s knees!

    • Jen says:

      It’s funny that you wrote this today, just as I’m reaching the limits of my treadmill tolerance. I’m thinking about switching it up on Thursday with a few shorter out-and-backs at Lake Chabot. I mean, I’ll need *some* hill training for SF1HM, right??

      Yeah, I was having the same thought re: “gym rat”! I’m sure there’s a good story behind each of those sayings…

  3. Cathryn says:

    I’m in awe of your gym ratting too. But mainly I’m just jealous of your incredible gym deal. With the free wifi they’re basically paying YOU!

    Good luck with the exercises. I have been vowing to do some core work for about a month now. Maybe tonight.

    • Jen says:

      Haha, “maybe tonight” was my refrain for far too long. Core and strength work was always at the bottom of the list, and now it’s become a priority. Not like I have a choice, if I want to run healthy again.

  4. BT says:

    I’m very impressed with your dedication to smart training in all of its possible forms… Well done.

  5. Grace says:

    WHAT is this amazing gym? Free bagels, wifi, all the cable TV your heart desires, $10 a month? I am wicked jealous – my fancy gym membership with all the locations and classes costs, oh, 10 times that. (But it’s worth it, to me, because that’s the only way I will get my strength training done.)

    And yes, CNN cannot hold my attention on the treadmills either. I’m extremely impressed with your 8 miles on a treadmill. Good luck with recovery – strength work is like medicine for most of us runners!

    • Jen says:

      Yeah, I have NO idea how this gym makes money. Well, I should point out that there’s a “VIP” option of $20/month (big spender!) where you can go to other locations and also have access to tanning beds and massage chairs. My old gym was $70/month, but it was month-to-month and had a pool and lots of different classes. The biggest downside to my new gym is that they don’t offer any classes — no yoga, no spinning, no aerobics — nada. It’s definitely one area where they keep the costs down!

  6. vttrailgirl says:

    Looking forward to your review of Anatomy for Runners. Totally curious about it.

  7. Angela says:

    Heh, welcome to my world ca. 2010, giving my PTs the stink eye. All the squats. All the clam shells. All the planks. This is why I am in the gym 2.5 hours a week. :P

    Glad to hear the run-walking is going well & things are getting better! The treadmill was my implement of choice earlier this year when I was just starting to run again for the same reason–it’s nice to know you can get off any time.

    • Jen says:

      Yeah, I consider these exercises payback for all of the times I decided not to tag on 10-15 minutes of core or strength work just because I was lazy or late for something. 2.5 hours a week sounds pretty good to me — these exercises are currently taking me about 1-1.25 hours a DAY, but the hope is that the high numbers of reps will help improve my neuromuscular control.

      As for the treadmill — it’s both a blessing and a curse. I’m actually venturing outdoors this weekend to do short loops at the San Leandro Marina for my long run. I decided that, even with Netflix, 2 hours on the treadmill is too much!!

  8. MILF Runner says:

    I hope the SF race goes well and there’s no increase in pain or injury. If you’re looking for a long hike buddy once that’s over, please hit me up! And the book sounds pretty perfect. I’m going to find it, get it, read it and DO it. I’m very impressed by your diligence. Keep up the smart, good work :)

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