Thursday, July 05, 2007


At the gym I belong to a lot of people ask me for advice about running. My gym is at work and it's small so most people know that I run a lot, so I guess it makes sense to them to ask me. Whether or not they're wise to look to me for advice, is not for me to decide. Anyway, a lot of people ask me about how to deal with things like side-stitches, IT bands, and the like (not unlike the blog world!)

The answer, at least in my mind, to most of their questions is to ease into running, allowing the rigid old body to adapt to the abuse. Sure, humans were meant to run, but they were meant to run regularly (read: daily), not every other year or so! You can't expect a body that has adapted to sitting in a chair day in and day out to suddenly be capable of winning a 5k race. It just doesn't happen. It takes a long time--years. I'll be running regularly for 3 years straight on August 1, and my body is still adjusting. Somehow, me and my body have a deal worked out. It tells me it is struggling to adapt and I figure out a way to make it more comfortable.

This post is how I help the old bod to feel comfortable in its relatively knew role as a runner. The first thing I do is I stretch every day. I can't remember the last time I went a day without a full leg stretching routine. I stretch on vacation, I stretch at work, I stretch at home half-asleep in front of the tube before bed. I've stretched in the shower. I've stretched in the car, on picnic tables, on a concrete parking lot, on a blanket in the park, in the bed of mrp's truck. Somehow, I manage to squeeze it in. I stretch my quads, then my calves, then my hamstrings, then my IT bands, then my lower back, then my abductors, then my adductors, then my butt. Most days I do this routine--30 seconds each muscle group x 2--twice a day. Amazingly, with all this stretching, I'm not any more flexible than I was the day before. However, I'm not crippled, so there's the payoff!

The other thing I do, and I admit, much less consistently, is strengthening. When I was in school last year and had more free time, I used to go to the gym and lift weights twice a week. Well, now that I'm all grown up and in the working world that has long fallen by the wayside. It's hard for me to allocate my precious time to something I hate to do. Since school, I did manage to do Jane Fonda leg lifts to keep my hips strong and my it bands in check, but that's it. A couple of months ago, when I switched away from running during my lunch hour, I started attending an abs pilates class 2 x per week. Before I started that class I thought I was in shape. After the first class I realized I am a huge wussy. I look in better shape than most every body in there, but those ladies ab exercised me under the table! I had to take breaks every few reps, lest my back snap in two. But I've gotten in shape pretty quickly. I can hold a position even with the teacher trying to push me out of it. I can hang out in a plank position for hours. Well, actually a couple of minutes.

That brings me to my next point. My upper body is pathetic! When I do planks, my abs don't sag, but my upper arms and shoulders BURN! Yikes! I know I need to do something about it, but since I hate lifting weights I just kind of hoped abs class would have some tangential effect on my arms. Well, I opened my e-mail the other day and there was my upper body strength salvation. My coach commanded me to do calisthenics including--wait for this--push-ups! It's like I'm in the army! Today I started and I did 2 sets of 7 (yes 7!) whole push-ups. And the big-boy kind, not those wussy knees-on-the-ground chick push-ups (and yes, I see the irony in referring to other people as wussy when I'm bragging about doing 7 whole push-ups!) So, with all of this I fully expect my body to be a happy runner all summer.

Anyway, I wonder if, after watching me awkwardly work through my new calisthenics routine, anyone asks me for advice in the gym any time soon!


Jim said...

Excellent advice on the stretching, Salty. I know EYE don't do nearly enough of it.

GP said...

I'm not a big fan of weights, but I've become on-the-verge-of-religious about light weight training over the past six months. Sure, it helps with swimming, but the general upper-body strength has help me in other ways. Like moving furniture and kicking park pervs' butts. And I'm sure in running as well.

I'm not sure what your evenings are like, but when I have some real downtime, I take to my free weights. They stay hidden under a table in my living room for easy access. So, in the time that I would be staring at the wall or watching TV, I get in my weight training.

After a while it became a routine. And while I can't say it's my favorite thing to do, it makes good use of time (esp. when you have an alread-packed schedule). PLUS: I am prepared whenever a good arm wrestling match arises. And, really, what else matters?