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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Entries in fitness (20)


The Running Man

A year ago, I decided to get serious about running again. That has turned out to be one of the better decisions I’ve made.

Since then I’ve run at least three times a week each of the last 52 weeks, completed a sub-two-hour half-marathon, and run a total of 811 miles. My cardiovascular endurance has skyrocketed, my recovery times have dropped, and my overall tolerance for discomfort in the service of improvement has increased dramatically. Now I’m running 15-18 miles a week (I’ve stayed above the 15 mile/week threshold for the last six months), and I’ve started working with a personal trainer on improvement other aspects of my physical fitness (mostly upper body strength).

Running four times a week, working out with a trainer twice a week, getting down to SCA fighter practice in Northridge almost every week: This seems like a lot. It is, but I’m enjoying doing it. And I didn’t take it on all at once. A decade or so ago, I encountered this wisdom on a running email list: “People tend to overestimate what they can do in a year (and underestimate what they can do in three).” I avoided overestimating what I could in year by not even thinking about it. I just focused on building things one week, one month at a time.

Where will I be with this in year? Who can say. But I’m very happy with where I am now.


Link Roundup for 26 September 2012

I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve seen a lot of improvement recently in my ability to focus and get things done. Here are some ideas that helped me do that.


The Plan Starts Now

If everything goes according to plan, eighteen weeks from today I will be celebrating the absurd accomplishment of having run 26.2 miles in a surprisingly short amount of time.

I know that not everything will go according to plan, of course. My hope is that enough things will that I’m still able to do that celebration. The key for me now is to follow the plan as closely as I can, to devote as much energy as possible to making sure that if something gets in the way of pulling this off that it’s not my own lack of commitment or motivation. I’ve gotten pretty lax with my exercise routine in the last few weeks, and that’s been okay. It’s not anymore.

For the last few months, my vision of 2012 is that it’s the year I do two things: Run a marathon and finish a novel. Time to bear down on that first one.


Becoming More Flexible Means Moving Differently

A few weeks ago, my friend Judd sent me an article about Kelly Starrett, a Crossfit trainer in San Francisco who is very serious about injury prevention and recovery. He’s made a name for himself as the Mobility Guy. That’s his word; most people would call it stretching, but it’s clear that to him it’s more than that, and his approach fascinates me. Another article Judd sent me has links to double handful of YouTube videos of his mobility workouts that are especially useful to runner, and in one of the last ones, he lays out his priorities, in decreasing order of importance: joint positioning, motor control, muscle stiffness, and then overall length. When most people talk about stretching to prevent injury, they’re really only thinking about the last one. Kelly’s strategy eventually gets around to that, but it’s much more about breaking down the muscle tissues that lock you into the limited-range-of-motion movements that will cause you injury.

That notion of breaking things down and building them back up has been following me around lately. I realized at some point this fall that the reason the running workout schedule I’ve been following has three consecutive days of running in the middle of the week is to force my muscles gently beyond the breakdown point on the third day, so that my body builds them back up stronger, faster, better. Reading Born To Run got me thinking about the whole barefoot running thing. Some of the arguments in that book about how modern running shoes actually keep people from learning how to run in a way that prevents injury are pretty compelling. As Christopher McDougall puts it in an article on his website “[U]ltimately, the debate isn’t about Bare Soles vs. Shoes. It’s about learning to run gently. Master that, and you can wear — or not wear — anything you please.” That evntually lead me to look at the Vibram FiveFingers website, where I found their guide to how to transition to running in their minimalist shoes.

What all of these these stress is the importance of proceeding slowly and listening to your body as you learn how to move (and be) better. That’s been a major theme of 2011 for me. I know that I’ve done a lot of things wrong for a while, and I know I’ve needed to make changes. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got Yoda leaning over my shoulder, whispering “You must unlearn what you have learned.” But I’ve come to realize that as long as I’m mindful of the feedback my body is giving me, I can unlearn a lot.


Born To Be Read

One of my Christmas gifts this year was Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, which I was familiar with as the book that brought the nascent underground “barefoot running” movement to the mainstream. After devouring it within the first twenty-four hours I owned it, I’m pleased to report it’s more than that.

In some ways, it’s similar to Daniel Pink’s Drive, in that it takes the conventional wisdom about a particular topic, points out how science has poked holes in that wisdom in the last several decades, and proposes an alternative hypothesis. In Drive’s case, the conventional wisdom is that sticks-and-carrots are the best way to motivate people; in Born To Run’s, it’s that running is bad for your legs (and feet, and knees, and other joints). We evolved to walk, says this bit of wisdom, so running long distances leads inevitably to injury. As the book goes on, we discover more and more that points to this conclusion (and its basis) being incorrect.

Where we start, though, is with a trip McDougall takes to Mexico, where he encounters the Tarahumara and a man called Caballo Blanco. The story of how this eccentric ended up in Mexico, his dream for holding the ultimate long-distance running race, and McDougall’s quest to make it happen, and his struggle to compete in it is the narrative around which all of the sports science is woven. And while that story starts off a bit overwritten (the first chapter makes the Tarahumara sound like a remnant of lost Atlantis), it gets good fast. It’s a tale of improbable feats and unlikely characters that sucked me in, which is why I finished it so quickly. For me, fun story + science = great read, even if I’m not that into the topic. When I am — like I am with running right now — it’s a recipe for a book I can’t put down until it’s done.