Rebuilding the Machine

Well, Frank—here finally is that next blog post you’ve been asking about. I know it’s been a while, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written my “next” blog post– wrote it, revised it, reviewed it, and then, at the last minute, realized whatever I’d said wasn’t worth sharing after all. Why? you might be asking. What was wrong with them? Well, I suppose this goes to the whole nature of why people write, and what they share, and what people want to read, but in the end what I’d written just seemed so self-indulgent and depressing, and maybe I needed to wallow through it, but you sure didn’t. No one else did. I mean, I was using words like “despair” and “midlife” and quoting Hamlet and it was all so gloomy. And I realize now maybe you are wondering what I’m talking about, what could be so terrible. Ha, that’s the thing. Nothing is terrible. Everything is good. In fact, everything is great! I just didn’t know it. Or maybe I knew it, but couldn’t feel it, so I just kept writing about what I was feeling, even though I knew that was wrong. Anyway, if I posted more regularly, I wouldn’t have to begin with apologies and explanations, and I hope this is the last time I have to do so. But enough about that. What is the news?

Well, the good news is my knee brace “seems” to be working. I say “seems” because I donjoy-oa-nano-x._1don’t want to get ahead of myself as I’ve had good stretches before, only to have my hopes dashed. But in the eleven weeks I’ve had my brace, the donjoy oa nano, I’ve done 24 runs, for a total 102 miles, including a 7 miler, without any of the sharp pain that had stopped me before. I’m not pain free, walking up steps sometimes still hurts even with my brace on, I still ice after runs, but at least it seems I’m in a position to manage the pain and finally put together a training plan to get back in shape.

That’s great news, you’re probably thinking. Great. So, what was the problem, what accounted for all those gloomy unpublished posts? Well, quite simply, being able to run further, I realized how out of shape I am. I am so slow! I call it “creepy slow” because I feel like I’m just creeping along when I run. I regularly do Amazing-Leopard-Tortoiseruns now at 8 minutes a mile! The first time I checked my pace I thought it must have been a mistake. But it happened again, and then again. And yes, I know it’s all relative, but it’s not just the pace, it just doesn’t feel right when I run, my body’s so out of synch, and I have to work so hard just to maintain it. I have to concentrate, I gasp for breath, my legs get heavy. At 8 minutes a mile! I can hardly believe it. When I wasn’t able to run, the thing I missed most about it was the feeling of it, which had always been so natural for me. But on some of my runs these past two months, I’ve felt like such a phony, a “creeper,” huffing and puffing my way through it and thinking to myself: this is not running. I know what running is, I know what running feels like, and this is not it.

So that frustration, that panic, that horror, was the germ of all my doomed earlier posts, and I’m so glad I didn’t share them with you because I know now I was seeing it all wrong. I guess I’d hoped to just pick up where I’d left off. As you know, though I haven’t run much, I’ve stayed in shape in other ways. I hoped it could just translate to running fitness again once my knee would allow it. But limping around and keeping weight off my leg for over 2 years, running a total of 417 miles since I hurt my knee, for an average of 3.7 miles per week (as opposed to the 50-60 per week I’d been averaging for years before that), it makes sense that I wouldn’t be able to run like I used to. I figured that out, and then realized it’s better this way. Being in such terrible shape is not a burden, it’s an opportunity.  To get back in shape!  I’m actually excited about being a slug because now I’ve got a real challenge ahead of me.

vitruvian_man_mixed wleaf copyI’m tempted to share with you some of the ridiculous things I wrote over the last couple months, but I’m going to resist and look ahead. It’s going to be a long, tough road and instead of focusing on running goals right way, I’m going to focus on “rebuilding the machine,” my body, that is, getting it back in shape and whole again so I can then go after my running goals. Knee willing, and thanks again to my donjoy oa nano knee brace (which I recommend for anyone after microfracture surgery), my training plan is:

Run 3 times/week. I’d like to average 15 miles a week to start, a mix of steady runs and interval workouts, strides every week. I guess the first hurdle I want to get over is maintaining sub 7:30 pace for 4 miles without feeling like I am doing a tempo run, then I’ll take it from there.

Spin class/ride my trainer at least once a week. These workouts are good for leg strength, a nice change of pace, and a chance to get a good workout in on cold, snowy, dark, icy days.

Swim 2-3 times/week. This is still a great cardio workout for me and good for overall strength. Maybe I’ll do a little aqua jogging, but honestly I get a better workout when I swim and I don’t think the aqua jogging helps strengthen my leg at all. Working the kickboard, though I do not enjoy it, is also a good way to get my legs stronger without any impact on my knees.

Weight room 2-3 times/week: I’ll focus on my legs and core, but still do some upper body stuff. More strength will help me when I swim and I’d still like to meet my goal of 12 pullups this year (I’ve gotten to 10). I’ve had to stop doing pushups because of shoulder pain, but if that goes away, I’ll see how many of those I can do.

PT once a week: Yes, I have finally started Physical Therapy. I should have earlier, but I was too optimistic, I guess, hoping things would right themselves naturally. But I’ve got a good therapist and she quickly discovered I have core weakness, glute weakness, and leg weakness. At my last session, she videotaped me running on the treadmill—just for a few minutes, at a jogging pace, and honestly, I felt like I wasn’t limping too badly, that my form was solid. But when I watched myself run, oh, the horror, the horror, it was nothing like I’d imagined. To see myself struggling like that, with my sloppy left leg swinging along, my foot slapping the belt of the treadmill, it was awful. But my mind had already begun to turn before that. This helps put things in perspective, I told myself. This explains why I’m so slow. This is my starting point and now I get to get better.

In addition to going to PT once a week, I need to do the core and leg exercises she prescribes 4-5 times/week. These can be done as part of my weight room workouts, after my runs, or just while watching TV. 15-20 minutes a day will do me a lot of good.

In addition, over the winter I’ll mix in a little cross-country skiing, Nordictrak, elliptical, rowing machine, jumping rope, et cetera. All this is dependent on how my knee feels. For now I’m going to put as little weight on it as possible on the days between my runs. But if I can get to the point where I can alternate running with Nordictrak or elliptical or biking, then I should really be able to get back in shape. Hopefully, the brace and my strengthening will allow me to do this (and you’re probably thinking I wish I’d gotten this brace a lot sooner, right? I admit I have thought that. But if I had gotten it sooner, I wouldn’t be on the brink of undertaking this great challenge right now, December 12, 2014. I’d probably be in good shape and running workouts at 7 minute pace easily—and how boring would that be? Really boring, right? This is so much better, and if by spring I’m back to feeling my old self again, well, then it’s all going to be worth it) .

So, Frank, that’s my plan. Apologies again for making you wait, and thanks for reading all the way to the end like I know you always do. In addition to my change in attitude, I think I’m going to change the format for this blog and actually start posting weekly, with workout details, turn it into a training blog once and for all and forget about all my philosophizing about running and bellyaching about getting old and congratulating myself on finding my lovely, perfect wife. I’m just going to write about getting back in shape finally! That’s what most running blogs are like. That’s how I imagined this would be when I started it. I just haven’t had the chance to do that yet.

I also think I’ll stop regularly putting the link to the blog on my Facebook page so don’t look for it there, because banfacebookreally, most of my Facebook friends are probably not that interested in my workouts, for example, the fact that I ran 8 gut-busting 400’s on the track on November 5th in an average time of 86 seconds and did the same workout again on December 5th with an average time of 83.5 seconds (that’s not bad progress, is it?). If all goes according to plan, I’m hoping to post a lot more information like that. And if I can’t, if my knee or something else fails me, well, let’s not think about that right now.  We’re looking forward.  Hope springs eternal, right?  I sure hope so.

 

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