New training goals

Happy New Year! A lot of people bring new goals or new habits to a new year – I’m not a fan of that. Unfortunately the countdown to the next adventure happens to coincide with the new year though, but that doesn’t matter! In March we’re heading back to Mt Bogong to do the Conquestathon again. This time last year we’d been training for a while already, but this year it just hasn’t happened. With 8 weekends and 10 weeks to train, there’s not a huge amount of time – but there’s definitely enough.

With that in mind, there’s two things I need to do to improve on my time and performance from last year.

  1. Improve my cardio
  2. Lose some weight

Getting the weight off means there’s less weight to lug up (and down!) that mountain. Improving my cardio means that I can go longer, go stronger, break less often, and break for shorter amounts of time. I was quite happy with my recovery times last year, but I was still stopping too often for my liking. I want to move more, stop less, and be still for less time when I do stop.

I haven’t mentioned improving leg strength in those goals. Although I can always do with improved leg strength, I also know that I have enough to get me up the mountain. More would be better, but it’s not the main focus.

So with all of that in mind, I’m aiming to get to the gym at least four times per week in the lead up to Bogong. Between PT sessions, workouts with J and a few of my own ones thrown in, plus our practice hikes, I think I’ll be fine to maintain that. Fingers crossed for some results.

4/01/2016

  • (70 kg deadlift x 3) x every minute for 5 minutes
  • (40 kg deadlift x 10) x every minute for 5 minutes
  • 5 minutes rowing (at a pace where I can still breathe through my nose)

A semi-dislocated shoulder. A step backwards.

stepping backwards

How does it feel to not be able to hold your handbag in your left hand? What is it like to feel that your shoulder may drop out of its socket if you pick up your water bottle?

It feels scary. It feels foreign. It feels unstable, like your shoulder might drop out of your socket. It feel embarrassing, a little humiliating and, most of all, it just feels fucking frustrating.

For two and a half years I have paid $50 twice a week. I have invested in gym gear, for the first time in my life. I have sweated, sworn, ached, felt proud, risked a lot, and trusted my very movement to a personal trainer. I have invested all of this to strengthen my somewhat unstable shoulders to make sure that, unlike my mother from whom I inherited them, I would prevent them from dislocating rather than having to rehab after the fact.

But today, merely half an hour ago, my left shoulder slipped. It didn’t dislocate, to be fair, but it slipped enough to make a popping feeling, to feel my muscles twinge, to leave my left arm feeling vulnerable and helpless. I wasn’t doing anything that I’d classify as risky- I was pulling a rope, bringing a reasonably heavy sled towards me. But I got enthusiastic, sped up, and forgot to brace my shoulder. A reminder that no matter how long I train for, no matter how strong I get or how much I achieve in the gym, my shoulders will always be vulnerable. A reminder that no matter how many times I’ve done a movement, no matter how practiced I am, no movement can ever be routine. I must always be alert, concentrating, aware of every muscle in my back and shoulders- how they’re placed, how they feel, how they’re working.

And now I’m left sitting in my manual car, wondering how the hell I’m going to drive home when my arm feels too vulnerable to pick up even my handbag.

Clenching my bum

I’ve had a realisation in the gym. I’m sure my PT’s been trying to tell me this for ages, and I heard him, but I didnt’ get it. So here it is: when I engage my glutes, everything gets easier. It doesn’t matter what exercise I’m doing, or what area of the body I’m focusing on – when my bum’s clenched, everything’s better. I’m sure there’s exceptions to the rule, and I’m sure I’m not supposed to be doing it all the time, but for now it seems that engaged my glutes in helping to engage other back and core muscles that I struggle with otherwise. It’s bringing some kind of balance to my body that I’ve been missing otherwise.

Last night I was doing some mid-weight clean and presses, and some bicep curls and presses. Often when doing these movements I do well for the first 6-7 reps (out of 10) but struggle for the final couple. Engaging my glutes meant that suddenly my stability increased, and although the final reps were difficult they were as hard as they’d been before.

So I’m sure this is something that the whole world knows. I’m sure I’m behind on the times, and what I’m saying is going to be pretty ‘duh’ for anyone reading this. But it’s somewhat of a revelation for me, it’s making life easier, and I’m excited to see what I can achieve now that I’m adding some of this stuff into my workouts.

Finding motivation: counting down to Spartan

Spartan-Race-Spartan-Logo2

I’ve lost some motivation recently. Not only with my eating (which didn’t surprise me at all), but also in my training (which did). Losing training motivation snuck up on me and yes, it surprised me a bit, because for the majority of the last 18 months my motivation’s been strong. While I’ve not enjoyed specific exercises, or had down days in the gym, for the most part I’ve wanted to be there and I’ve wanted the results. But over the past couple of months I’ve found myself consistently thinking about skipping-out on PT sessions, and dragging my way through them when they do happen. My PT’s noticed it too. At the start of the year I set a couple of goals for myself- weight loss (not specific), to be able to deadlift my own body weight, and to do a pull-up.

Turns out I’m very motivated by an end-point, but when I set that end-point myself I don’t work so well. This isn’t new to me- I’m constantly dealing with this exact same thing in the workplace when it comes to deadlines- but it’s a new concept for me in the gym. Needless to say, with no ‘other-imposed’ due date on those goals, they weren’t pushing me very hard.

Late last year I completed The Stampede, a 10 km obstacle event. It’s not a race- it’s supposed to be fun, supportive and non-competitive. My partner couldn’t do that event, so we’ve been keeping tabs on the obstacle race calender for a similar event to do together ever since. There’s been plenty happening across the first half of the year, but none of them at a convenient time. Anyway, Spartan Race recently announced their next Melbourne dates and races – on September 12 their running a 7 km, 21 km, and completely insane 42 km. So we signed up for the 7 km.

It’s crazy, but the day after I paid my cash and signed up, my motivation in the gym shot through the roof. Suddenly I had a six month time frame in which to achieve some fresh goals, and my mind was really really happy with that. Spartan seems to have a lot of monkey-bar style challenges (although it’s hard to tell, because they don’t release a map of the course), so my first goal is to improve my grip and upper body strength enough to be able to complete at least one of those obstacles. And if I can do one, hopefully I can do more.

We’ve signed up for the 7 km, because let’s face it, 21 km is just a bit nuts. The furthest I’ve ever run non-stop is about 3.5 km, and I’m definitely not up to running that right now, so my second goal is to get my running back up to a fairly decent standard. I’d like to be able to run 5 km of the 7- which should be doable, seeing as there’ll be obstacles breaking up the running. So it’s back to the Couch to 5km running app for me- and with six months, I know that’s realistic. I think the time-frame is the best bit about all of this. Not only do I have my motivation back, but I also have goals that I can actually achieve in the time frame. Run 5 km, do one monkey bar obstacle, and of course generally kick the rest of the course’s bum.

I know Spartan is a tougher, more competitive course and environment than the very family-friendly Stampede, but I’m really looking forward to giving it a go- and giving my body a go at pushing hard.

I climbed a mountain (and a great quote from Socrates)

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted (again!!). There’s been a bit happening since I last wrote here, and there’s more to come, but I’ll write about that very soon. Perhaps even this afternoon.

In the mean time, I’ve stumbled across a quote that I love:

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

– Socrates

I did a quick google search to see if I could find a great image to go with this quote, but none of them quite matched what I picture in my head. I love this quote- it quite nicely summarizes why I’m starting to do some physical challenges at the moment: because I want to see just what I’m capable of, and what my body is capable of.

mt bogong summit

The summit of Mt Bogong

On the weekend, I climbed Mt Bogong– the tallest mountain in Victoria, and second tallest in Australia. It measures in at 1986 metres, of which I climbed about 1600. The track to the summit at 6 km long, so when you consider that I was gaining a metre’s height for every 3.75 metres I walked, you’ll understand that it’s a pretty steep ascent!

My work colleagues (and my temporary PT, actually) have all been asking me why I did the Bogong climb. Why would I want to spend two days lugging a 15kg bag on my back up a mountain, only to turn around and come back down again (having spent the night in a tent eating re-hydrated food)? There’s a couple of answers. Firstly, I’ve been looking at Mt Bogong since I was a kid and wondering if I’d ever climb it. I always assumed I wouldn’t (couldn’t?). Secondly, my dad was doing the hike and I really enjoy doing these kinds of things with him. Thirdly, I love the Australian alps. I’ve spent time in them all of my life, and I have a particular affinity to them in the summer months when the flowers are out and nothing’s covered in snow.

But the main reason (although only marginally more main than the others) relates to the Socrates quote. I wanted to see what my body is capable of. What I’ve learned is that my body is most definitely capable of climbing Mt Bogong. Today I’m sitting at my desk feeling surprisingly good. My calves are a little stiff, and my hip flexors are too, but it’s only mild. My body has taken the recovery of the climb in its stride. It was slow going getting up the mountain, but I made it- and I’m even contemplating doing it again. In one day, instead of two.

Maybe I’m a little bit crazy, but I want to know what my body is capable of- and I think it’s capable of that.