Bigger, better and certainly faster

I’ve been going to the gym very regularly; it’s literally around the corner so it’s super easy to go. It’s as if it’s in our apartment building, but without the increase in strata fees.

Today I did my standard thing, and took some photos and details of what equipment is available at the gym. I am planning on seeing an exercise physiologist that runs for some development exercise programs. I feel like I’ve rehabbed my back and hip sufficiently and now we’re going for progress work.

In my accident prone past, I have seen physiotherapists that do not run, and I have not had a great experience, so that’s my selection criteria for all medical professionals to do with sports injuries, or anything that impacts on my ability to exercise. They need to do the thing that I do.

I’ve also made a list of qualities I’m looking for in an exercise plan, restrictions and guidelines that improve the chance of success.

Firstly, it has to avoid inflaming my foot issue (right foot, capsulitis, second toe). I think I’m on the home stretch with that, but I need to have that sorted before we get really stuck into anything else.

Secondly, I need to even out the strength and ability of each leg. I know that my weak side is my right side. I’ve been doing eccentric one legged squats and concentrating on not dropping my right hip, and that’s easier, but I know I have a hamstring strength discrepancy too. On that point, I want a personally measurable; almost KPI measurement for leg strength and discrepancies.

Which leads into my third goal; I need to work on the musculature that will improve my running form. I’m fed up with tripping up on trail, I need to lift my foot up higher, and I can do it, but it feels unnatural. I think the unnatural feeling is related to muscle weakness, so I want to work on that.

For more specific requirements; I know I’m much happier to do a set time of activity. I’ll be more keen doing something like 2 minute long continual exercises, instead of some arseing about with 4 by 7 sets with 60 second recovery. That just feels like wasting time.

I have a tabata timer on my phone which makes things like 10 times 15 second glute bridges easier, because I don’t have to count seconds and repeats, but I still want minimal stationary rest time. Sitting around in a gym annoys me. I don’t want to piss about.

I need to know how to do an exercise. When I can’t work out how I’m supposed to feel the exercise, I just won’t do it. Activity without obvious purpose is ignored.

The whole show needs to be a maximum of 45 to 60 minutes, in and out the gym door. By the end of that time frame I’m bored. Because I’m so close to the gym I’m not wasting time getting changed at the gym, so it’s not like we need to factor in driving and showering time.

I prefer to do my cardio outside. If you’re putting me on a treadmill then I want to know why. I will happily run in pissing rain and cold, don’t assume otherwise.

I have learnt that I generally prefer free weights over machines, but when it comes to something like abdominals and back extension, machines are more fun because the weights are far far heavier and I’m less likely to injure myself with a poor technique with a machine.

Lastly, I would like to do whatever routine regularly. I pay to access the gym, it’s literally around the corner from my apartment, I don’t mind going frequently. Once a week is nonsense. More is better.

Doing things that make you happy.

Back in January one of the pieces of advice the GP gave me was “do things that make you happy”. This was at the back of my mind when back in November I decided to withdraw from this year’s Six Inch.

I had signed up through FOMO (fear of missing out) instead of desire back in July when entries opened. While we’d been trail running for training, I hadn’t been enjoying it like I used to. For the first time ever I’d had a negative voice in my head – it had three specific chatty lines:

“Ooh, you won’t be able to keep up that pace on race day – that’s way too fast if you want to survive 47km.”

“Ooh, you want to be a bit careful here, you might wreck your ankles again on that surface. Better slow down.”

“Ooh, that pace is a bit slow, you won’t make the cut-off for the aid stations at that pace. You need to be a tiny bit faster.”

Marry those three lines together, and you have the funnest vicious circle ever!

It came to a head when we ran a training run on Yaberoo Trail near Yanchep National Park, and I had a tiny cry when I realised I needed to withdraw. We got to the National Park, and Vince, Didi and Jez ran on and did the Ghosthouse Trail, while I sat down under the trees at one of the tables and composed my email to Dave Kennedy, withdrawing from the race and offering my services as a volunteer.

I hit send, and instantly felt simultaneously relieved and stupendously excited – if I wasn’t doing Six Inch, then I’d be on fine form in February to do the Busselton Half Marathon, and then the new Runningworks Thornlie Half Marathon. After the last time I did Six Inch it took me until past April to do anything over 10 kilometres.

A couple of weeks later we did a loop of the Munday Brook trail in Karragullen and I loved every minute of it, and happily ran along without that chatty negative voice in my head. I’d done 29km on the Six Inch course with Marnie a couple of weeks before the Yaberoo run and in amongst that were some amazing downhills that I sped down and thoroughly enjoyed, but this time that joy was throughout my run. It was inspiring.

Dave gave me a few options for volunteering, and I accepted the finish line assistance role, which it turned out was being the presenter of finishers medals to everyone who had raced. This was just what I needed – I got to see everyone finish, and for the first time ever I got to see the fast guys run further than the trail dogleg at Aid 2. It was a surprisingly cold and wet December day, and Scotty Hawker and Nera Jareb both managed new course records – Scotty coming in in 3 hours 15 minutes, and Nera coming in 3 hours 42 minutes. I stood at that finish line for four hours, handing out medal after medal to the half and full marathon finishers, and enjoyed every minute.

One person crossed the line at 6 hours 53 minutes which was my finish time in 2014. I remember thinking while watching him barrel down the finish chute “That’s a really bloody long time to be out on course. It is definitely time to work on speed.”

So that’s my goal now – I need to be faster, probably over all distances, but definitely on trail. The negative voice in my head might have technically been correct, but now I have more of a concrete plan which has definitely quieted the negative spin. Jeremy is fully supportive of this plan – I have lots of road race plans this year, including my personal Kimetto Challenge, which is to get a half marathon time of 2h02m57s (or less!) because that’s the World Record time for the marathon and would make me half as fast as Dennis Kimetto. I also need to get out on trail and use Bickley and Munday Brook trails to give me 12 months of trail running practice, not the inevitable “four months before Six Inch” push. (Assuming I enter in 2018).

Interval sessions are also on the horizon – with one fun bonus that I had been previously vaguely conscious of, but unaware of official confirmation. Every time I’ve ever done intervals in the early morning I have felt wildly cheery afterwards. I thought it was just the inevitable early morning smug “I’ve totally exercised already, bitches! I don’t have to do anything more today!” feeling that you can sometimes feel, but no! It’s actually brain-derived neurotrophic factor!

We were at the launch of Yokine parkrun and our friend Sarah came along. We were talking afterwards and she mentioned that interval sessions are like DIY antidepressants (Sarah’s a psychologist). She later found me this Journal of Applied Physiology article: High-intensity interval training evokes larger serum BDNF levels compared with intense continuous exercise which explains it all, but how cool is that?

So I have a bit of a plan, inspiration, and a pretty positive outlook. And I intend to keep following my GP’s advice “do what makes you happy”, because if it doesn’t make you happy, why try and force something?