October 2019

Week 8 – Jumping by Two

You’d think we’d be running 7 and 1 today. When I first took a running class, that was how things were done, except in the old days all times were run with six reps instead of the current variable rep limit.

This week we’re running 8 and 1s, and I must say I am a little intimidated. But that is tempered by the past 7 weeks’ experience. In not quite two months I have gone from a couch spud who needed to stop to rest during a spirited walk to someone who, last Saturday, ran an extra set of six minutes just because I could. It is amazing how quickly the body adjusts to accommodate the new demands.

More than the distance, or maybe in addition to the distance, the hard part is trying to ignore the passage of time. I’ve started wearing ear buds with my aged MP3 player to distract me. The rest of the class is usually way ahead of me, so I’m always being left to run alone. (There is one lovely lady who, a few times, ran with me to chat even though she was capable of keeping up with the lead group — always welcome.) This is why I say this class is not meant for all ages — running alone while seeing a group ahead of you laughing and talking and enjoying their efforts is, frankly, cruel. If I did not have the history I have; if I did not have the motivation I have, I would have dropped out to make up with my sofa for the rest of whatever. In the ten mile class, I saw a lady who I assume was about my age — and in that class was obviously fit and not overweight — who was running at a relatively slow rate compared to the others in her group. That implied to me that speed is affected by age. If I can improve to her pace, I will be a happy camper.

Eight minutes is a long time. But I do notice, when running on my own on my previous routes, that I’m covering some impressive distance. And music really helps. I do keep my volume set low enough to hear traffic and even to hear footsteps coming from behind as a safety measure. Funny when people yell “Good morning!” thinking I can’t hear after I’ve greeted them in a normal tone

Eight minutes! I did three sets on my own on Saturday. And of course I brag about it on social media. Darn right I brag. I’ve worked hard and earned the right. Next week we do 10 minutes running and 1 minute walking which is the goal for the course. Bring it on!

Weeks 9 & 10 – The Big One!

Ten and 1s! The goal for the course a week early. (We had class interceptions with a couple of long weekends so it worked out we got here early.)

Knowing today is the establishment of a new base level provides enough adrenaline that there is no fear of the ten minute span. That and the fact we’re only doing 2 of them. I have my tunes on. My playlist was created well over 10 years ago, and with my lack of exercise I’ve not heard it for a very long time, so the entertainment is augmented by the surprise of the next tune. Very cool.

A lot of celebrating for the whole group when we get through this. I am the only person in the class, including the instructor who took a week off to run a race, who attended every class (and lead it the week the instructor was away). So I secretly applaud myself for my wherewithal to hang in there and get it done. I am officially back in the running world and a happy camper.

The final week is a repeat of this one, so I suggest we add a set and make it three reps of 10 and 1 so there is a continued growth to the last class, and we do.

Full disclosure at this point, the class ended August 12, 2019. I have been writing this blog well after the fact and enjoyed looking back and reliving the terror and intimidation of the class. Haha!

The next couple of posts will cover my ongoing progress and come up to the present in short order. Spoiler Alert. Today is October 9, 2019. I can run 40 minutes non-stop and just ran my first five set 10:1. =^D

Going Forward – the New, New Normal

I am SO glad I said “yes” to the course; and so grateful my hip and feet gave me no cause for concern. After however many years it’s been, I’m baaack.

I’m much slower now. Even though I had lost around 30 pounds long before I started this journey, I’m still carrying about an extra 40 pounds around with me and I do believe that is a large factor in my current speed.

I continue to run 3 times per week, but if I have a day when I just cannot get it together, I don’t sweat it and take the day off. Not more than once a month. As slow as I am, I am actually faster now in portions of my runs. I discovered when running the same route I had to pad more distance on the end to run out the clock.

I also started mixing it up between running on the sidewalk and running trails. We have a lovely huge off-leash, multi-use park here where the trails form a loop to and from the parking lot, so I can bring my wee pup with me and let her run, sniff and catch up as she wants while I run the trails. I’ve discovered I can run much further on dirt than on concrete.

September 24 I ran 30 minutes non-stop for the first time. I mash up running 10:1s and non-stop. In the old days, once I could run 20 minutes non-stop I quit run/walking and just added time until I could start running for distance – my shortest route from my house is 3 miles (just shy of 5 km).

October 4 I ran 5 sets of 10:1 for the first time. During the following week I ran 42 minutes non-stop. At this point, my legs are the indicators of how tired I’m getting. As I run slow enough to talk, my fitness level is now such that, even if I start to breathe a bit heavier it’s tolerable. My leg soreness is the sign I’m either extending my distance or going too fast (for me).

Goal setting is key. Knowing what I want to achieve is the only way to keep motivated. For me, as always, I don’t intend to race — I just want the fitness and endurance. Ultimately, at this age, I will be happy to be able to run 10K once a week with two other runs between 3 and 5 miles. If I can get there and make that my weekly fitness routine I will be content.

Dealing with the Weight

Now that I have a dependable and enjoyable source of exercise and fitness, I will begin efforts to drop some more weight.

I had joined Weight Watchers for about 2 years and had lost 30 pounds. I was working on the next 25 when they changed their brand to WW and shifted their focus from weight loss to healthy eating. Their points system changed and I put on 15 pounds. The most obvious thing to me was the new seeming disregard of caloric intake.

The former points system worked for me. It was healthy eating and I changed a lot of habits for the better, but following the new system let me play the zero points game with foods that should never be considered “have as much as you want.” Like lentils. Great healthy food, nutritious and excellent source of fibre. They also have nearly 400 calories for 1/2 cup. Zero points. Things like this made it very easy to stay on the plan with a halo over my head while the pounds came back on.

Of course there was no access to the old points system once the switch happened, so I had to resign my membership. I have managed to maintain my current weight since and use My Fitness Pal to make sure I’m on track.

That being said, I am going to re-commit to starting serious weight loss efforts with the My Fitness Pal app next week (it’s Canadian Thanksgiving and until the leftovers are gone, it’s pointless to start).

Yes, you can be fit and fat. My doctor even told me she didn’t care how much I weighed as long as I was eating properly. And thanks to the initial Weight Watchers system, I have learned what that is and how I can enjoy eating healthily (even if I do a bit more of it than I should =^D).

Why Running?

If you’ve tried it and you don’t like it, try other activities to see which clicks with you. Give each activity a fair try — depending on how sedentary you are, the first few weeks are (or should be) tough — before casting it aside. You want to find something you like so much you look forward to your next exercise day. It should be a happy time — a time of achievement — an opportunity to get closer to the goal.

I had some pretty awful teachers in school and learned not to like team sports. (There’s always that interdependency and lack of control that I didn’t care for (or understand) at that age that probably had a lot to do with it too.) One reason I loved tennis is that it was up to me to do the work. I didn’t have to trust someone else who might not have been up to the task. I had only myself to blame. But enough of this self-analysis … Running for fitness has no opponent – you’re running against your earlier self to show growth.

Running needs one thing – a pair of shoes. You can do it anywhere. There is no official time limit. As long as you have clothes to take care of your modesty you can participate in running. It’s cheap. No memberships required, no travel to the club or the gym or wherever. The only thing you need to ensure you have the best you can afford is the shoe. Truly. Shin splints can be caused by shoes, your running form can be affected by your shoe. Your continuing ability to partake in running can be affected by your shoe. Get your stride and foot analyzed and get the proper shoe for your foot. Probably cost you in the neighbourhood of $100 CDN give or take $20. Shoes last around 500 miles (+/- 800 km).

The rest of the available gear is for your vanity for the most part. During this process I bought a running bra for the first time in my life. I’ve never spent that much money on a bra before, but it turns out my girls aren’t bouncing around like a couple of cantaloupe in a mesh bag when I run now. So that was a win for me. The rest of the stuff, like a t-shirt for $60 is ridiculous (especially when it contains a logo that advertises for the people who get a part of that money). I don’t like to pay money to advertise for someone else. That’s completely backwards – they should pay me to wear their advertising.

Once you’re so established that you are entering races to win, you probably need some of the fancier gear. As long as you’re just getting yourself fit and happy, your wallet can stay shut after the shoes and you’ll do just as well. (You can always ask for some special stuff for Christmas or birthdays. 😉 )

Running, besides being one of my favourite activities that gets me around neighbourhoods to check out landscaping or architecture, also burns calories like nobody’s business! The rule of thumb is about 100 calories burned per mile. Sometimes that mile takes 12 minutes or longer, sometimes for the younger folk it might only take 4 or 5 minutes. (It’s also affected by sex and weight, so just use it as a round number and not an exact measure for you.)

Extending my time

As of yesterday, I can run 44 minutes nonstop. I’m still really slow — I don’t cover a lot of distance in that time. Probably just over 5 km (average fast runners – not record holders – run 10 km in about that time).

Frankly, I’m still undecided about whether, at this age, it is healthier for me to run 10:1s or to keep extending my nonstop time. I suppose all I have to do is contact some running folks to find out.

Today is the first day back on the weight loss track. All my Thanksgiving leftovers are gone and I stepped on the scale for the first time in a couple of months to find I’m at the same weight as I was when I started running. Basically I have eradicated my over eating by my running. Returning to a proper eating pattern (lots of fruits and veggies, chicken breast and fish and no more donuts or chips) should have the weight coming off in rather short order.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m using the Fitness Pal app on my phone. It’s free to use and lets you enter your food through the day and calculates not only your calories, but lets you know if you’re getting a bit too much sugar or fat content as well as when you’ve hit your fibre goal for the day. It’s very good in my opinion. Future posts here will document my success.

Winter. What to do?

It got nasty cold here today, a little below freezing with a big wind. I took the day off. Even just going back and forth from the car to the stores to do my weekly shopping left me with a chill that made me have to wear a sweater in my house. So what the heck am I planning on doing once winter is really here?

I don’t know. I used to run throughout the winter. I usually had one fall per year that bruised either a hip or a tailbone, but as I now have more potential for serious injury in a fall, what do I do?

Initially, I think I’ll keep it up until some serious snowfall. As long as the sidewalks are clear I should be fine. Running the lovely trails with ice, however, is another issue. I think there is a crampon device a person can put on their shoes to provide traction. I have something similar for my boots to take me to and from work (they wouldn’t hold up to running) and they have allowed me to be fall free on icy sidewalks for the last 3 years. If I can find such things I will most likely get them. Then my only boundary will be the temperature.

The coldest I ever ran was -38 Celsius (which is pretty near -36 Fahrenheit). That turned out to be a mistake as the water bottle inside my jacket next to my body froze solid and after two miles I knew I was in trouble. A couple of more experienced folk returning from their run stopped and walked with me back to my car. Generally speaking, runners are good folk. I was lucky. And I decided I would not run colder than -25C (sorry, I’m not going to do the math – it’s cold).

No, your lungs don’t freeze. Oy! Your body temp is 98.6F (37C). By the time -30F air gets to your bronchi it’s warm. As long as you dress for the weather, you’re fine. And it’s amazing how much heat you generate when you’re working hard. Sometimes you even feel overdressed.

I don’t know that I’ll stay at running 3 times a week through the winter. I do want to maintain a level of fitness so I don’t have to start all over again in the spring. I may switch to 10:1s for the winter and keep it to around 3 or 4 reps of that – so, shorter runs that will reduce risk of injury. That would do the trick and let me create a pattern of growth in the warm weather and maintenance in the snow. Seems sensible to me on first blush. Let’s see how it goes.