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Category Archives: Fitness

Fitness Answers

Okay, I’m thinking I’m starting to get this. But it’s not easy.

There’s basically no one whose job it is to help me figure this out. The chiropractor thinks the spine has all the answers. But not one of them ever thought to tell me that working out could help me hold an adjustment to the point where I don’t need their services so much. At the gym, the physical trainer is quick to say, “I’m not a doctor.” And the doctor…? I’m just glad she had the sense to throw me at a physical therapist. Because some of her direction was just plain wrong.

I write down everything I do. Every type of exercise. Everything that hurts. When it hurts. How it hurts. How long. I get out these papers and start talking and they tune out. Most of these people, they have a lot of patients to serve. The system is to get as many people in and out as quickly as possible. Thinking and listening isn’t so much on the agenda.

So the answers come from comparing notes from people that are genuinely into fitness. The medical type people… they can confirm this sort of common sense stuff… but they never really get the idea that it would be a good thing to convey it to anyone. (Your mileage may vary. And I hope it does.)

So here’s the problem. I go on a fitness kick… end up working my way up to doing five mile run. I do three in a week… but we’re going hiking. In my head, hiking doesn’t count as “real” exercise. So I go on this hike the same day as I do a five mile run. And I find out that rapid elevation changes can make even a four mile hike into a killer. I wipe myself out and end up hurting my knee.

Then after doing some physical therapy a while… I end up run/walking about three miles. (Longer than I expected.) I stretch. I ice it down. I don’t hurt it all… until the next day. Muscles in my leg start spazzing out…!

Then I switch to biking more. (It’s not as hard on my knee.) Again, a lot of what I do doesn’t register in my brain as being “real” exercise. I don’t count my commute as exercise. It’s just “activity” in my head. I bike to the gym, work out, and bike home. Then later that afternoon I do this 20 mile bike ride and my knee ends up complaining for the last six miles of it.

Maybe you already see the problem. Good!

So I ask a trainer how she trains for a marathon. She does 40 minutes on the treadmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Saturdays she runs only one mile. Sundays she does her “big” run… steadily increasing it up until the event.

Here’s another clue: if Vox Day has a big soccer game, he doesn’t do a huge workout the day before.

This sort of planning real athletes take for granted has not been on my agenda at all. And another thing. My approach to fitness is to pick one activity, and then do more and more until I injure myself. All of my assumptions about how to work out are setting me up to find these breaking points. Like… if I was training for a marathon, I’m the sort that would do two in one week. (I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s the gist of my “method”.)

So I know what my limits are– five mile runs and twenty mile bike rides are right about where my reach is right now. The physical trainers have evened out the muscles in my legs. (I’m symmetrical now. Long story.) And I know it’s worth my time to go get some real running shoes from people that know what works.

But my plan now is something more like this:

  • Gym workouts Monday, Wednesday, Friday… but I don’t do leg stuff on Fridays.
  • Four mile bike rides to and from work on week days.
  • The big bike ride on Saturdays. Working up from 12 to 15 to 17 to 20 miles… hopefully with no knee weirdness.

If that goes well, I’ll cool it. Maybe switch to some jogging to make sure I can get back to those one and two mile runs I used to do all the time. Take a break… and then maybe plan out how to hit that 30 mile mark in a completely separate plan.

(The strength training at the gym is what makes going beyond the limits possible. Especially the running can take its toll. Cranking that up arbitrarily doesn’t do anything for my health. I really like running for some reason. But mainly… it’s most useful as a test to prove that I’ve gone beyond wherever I was physically three months ago.)

But yeah, I suppose picking reasonable goals, changing things up, and leveraging your rest periods is just common sense. I’m just glad it only took ten weeks for me to piece this together.

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Two Months of Fitness

My favorite trainer was back today after being gone for a few weeks. He could tell right away that I had gone up on the size of dumbbells I using.

Back then I was working through my first case of tennis elbow and was terrified that I would hurt myself somehow. I quickly moved up from the five pound weights to eight pounds. And I would have hung around the tens for a while longer. But if there are a bunch of women in the class, then all the eights and tens get used up. So I moved up to the twelves and have gotten used to them.

I think back to month one and it seems like nothing. I was doing five mile runs then because I didn’t know what was wrong with my knee yet, but gosh it was a real struggle to get into the gym three days a week for forty-five minutes each. I never really got sore, but I was dog tired a lot of the time.

Lately, I’m doing closer to six days a week and between an hour and a half to two hours each time– plus biking to the gym and back on top of that. I suspect I’m at the point where improving my diet will give more results than spending more time at the gym. But I’m much less afraid of getting hurt at the gym now. In fact, due to a chronic knee problem I have always been terrified of the gym. Of course, weights turn out to be a huge part of the cure for that sort of thing, so my instincts were opposite from what I really needed to do for years.

I know exactly how far I can run or bike before hurting myself now. A month of time consuming physical therapy did not work a miracle, unfortunately. I don’t know what to think of that. Surprisingly, I don’t skip leg day anymore. In fact… lifting weights makes my ailing knee feel better.

Gaining a newfound familiarity with your limitations… it can be a real downer. I can’t tell you how bad I wish I could be training for a half marathon right now. But it’s off the table at the moment. And I can’t console myself with insanely long bike rides while I work through this, either. On the plus side I’ve got a pair of biceps that I just didn’t have four weeks ago. And there’s nothing stopping me from hitting the gym as much as I want. But I tell you… there’s nothing like not being able to do something that really makes you want to be able to do it.