Early morning hours

It’s funny to me how I started Bonkless to write about running and fitness tips and tricks, and here it’s become all about my injury and path back to fitness lately. Eh well, I believe in letting blogs expand into different areas as they please, so in any event, here we are.

I was at the gym at 7 a.m. this morning for a hard upper body, cardio and abs workout, which was great. I love starting the day both ahead of schedule and with a workout. As my workout buddy says of working out first thing int he morning, “You’ll already have done the hardest thing you’re going to do all day.”

Plus, there is something really satisfying to me about being up, dressed and out of the house before the sun comes up, don’t you think?


Fight The Bonk: 12-Week Fitness Challenge Redux

I took on a mega-fitness challenge, but my timing sucked. As some  of you may know, when I’m not running, I am a literary blogger, author, editor and festival founder. Well, in the calm before the storm of the literary festival, in March, I took on a modified version of the Body for Life 12-week Fitness Challenge.

Well, that was kind of dumb timing. But, it had its good points. For one, I was working out and not stressing out through the festival in late May, which is also known as my busiest time of the year. But, it did lessen my workout focus in the week that followed, when I was planning for live stream author interviews at Printers Row Lit Fest. But, that’s ok.

A blog I really love is Slow Mofo, by John Frenette of HellaSound. One thing I like so much about his blog is that Frenette isn’t afraid to try new things and doesn’t blame himself when said new things don’t go to the letter. Because, really, what does ever go exactly as planned? Right.

So, with that in mind, I’m starting over. Granted, I’ve never really been in terrible shape but I’m in better shape than I was when I first started the fitness challenge back in late March. So, I’m not starting from the same place this time. So what? I’m starting again, in any case. Part of the fitness challenge is to photograph oneself at the beginning and end of the challenge. On my first time at bat with the challenge, I did Day Zero photos, and was shocked when my halfway point photos looked exactly the same. But, that’s also okay. I could feel a difference, and really saw a difference in my running economy, and that’s what counts.

And why, prey tell, am I doing this? Why not. I mean, really, why not? I’m active and in shape, but I think it’s time to bring it up a notch. I don’t want to just be fit, I want to be strong, have better running economy, expand my fitness activity horizons and be in better health. And, I don’t want to stop at the 12-week challenge. Nope. I want to declare this the summer of uber-cross training and of expanding my fitness horizons.

So, the new 12-week Fitness Challenge is on. It’s inspired by the Body For Life program, but I’m adding to it for variety. And, I’ll document it all here. Because, you know, why not?

Training: Marquis de Sade

marquis_de_sade_tshirt-p235494237771224733qw9u_400Listen to me: This is called the Marquis de Sade for a reason.

I don’t endorse anyone who wants to do this drill more than, say, once per month, for the record. Let me just open by saying that. And then, only really do it if you really want to be badass and push the envelope and kick everything up a notch. Because that’s what it’s for; it’s hard work, but it’s really effective. So get your head in the right place before you try it, is what I’m saying. Here’s how it goes:

Run 400 meters at just under 5-K race pace; then easy run 400 meters.

Run 300 meters at one-mile pace; then easy run 300 meters.

Run 200 meters at slightly faster than one-mile pace; then easy run 200 meters.

Run 100 meters at close to all out (but still not quite a full sprint); easy run 100 meters.

Now do it twice more. Not enough? Not swearing up a storm yet? Then easy run 400 meters and do one or two more sets. But– and you must listen to me– that’s it. Nothing else. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Fight The Bonk: Tight Shoulders = Slower Pace

stretchSpending time hunched over the laptop and the general stress of certain jobs (or, the absence thereof, as the case seems to be all too often lately) causes tension in the neck and shoulders, which, believe it or not, carries over to running. Granted, running, as those of us initiated already know, eats stress nicely, but still! The bonkfighter is all about being proactive, no?

When you have stiff shoulders due to tension, it limits the ability to swing arms freely forwards and back. When this happens, the arms take a less neutral side to side motion, which does not a lot to propel the body forward and mostly just wastes precious energy and causes unnecessary fatigue.

However! Try this:

  • Take mini-stretch breaks throughout work time. Seems minor, but matters.
  • Lower right ear to right shoulder. Press gently on your left temple with our fingertips. Hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side. Aim for a stretch here, not a neck-crack.
  • Raise right arm up, keeping elbow locked straight and palm facing forward. Hold arm between your elbow and shoulder with your left hand. Pull (gently please!), hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side.

Twice a day, then, do the following to strengthen the shoulders:

  • Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides with your palms facing in. In one slow, constant motion, rotate your shoulders up, backward, downward and forward, bringing them toward each other. Hold them for a second. Do it in reverse, rolling shoulders until arms return to starting position. Do two sets of ten reps. Hold dumbells to make it more challenging as strength improves.

The Rehab Diaries: Slap Happy

Want to know what else to do when off running and working out and strictly prohibited from any challenging activity besides physical therapy?

You scour the web for completely ridiculous fitness video clips, that’s what.

Fight The Bonk: Airport Gyms

ohare-airportIt was one of those “Of course that has to exist!” sort of moments when I heard about AirportGyms. The site’s selection of US and Canadian gyms to help fight the bonk during a layover is pretty in-depth with a gym in or near just about every airport I checked.  But, I wasn’t satisfied with just a website, so I checked out the gym associated with Chicago O’Hare Airport since I’m, you know, right here.  At $11 for a day pass, it’s not quite a bargain by gym standards, but consider that it’s attached to the airport’s Hilton Hotel and is a pretty nice gym. Then, consider that a soggy airport sandwich is about that much and suddenly it seems like an excellent deal. Ish.

Race-Ready In One Week (Or, Runnerly Butt-Covering 101)

Say you go to a cool running store and get all revved up and decide to wing it at a 5k about a week away. Or, say you get a glass of something in your system and pop off with some sort of “pssh, of course I can run that race in a week”-ism (I’m not going to name names). Just say.

Said race will be a wing-it job, for sure, and one hopefully you’d enter into with at minimum of maintenance mileage as regular part of your world at the very least. Of course, we all know that we need more than a tiny little week to prep for a race, but sometimes inspiration and opportunity meet and we find ourselves going there anyway. So, if we must hop into a 5k at the last minute (and plenty of us do from time to time), we can at least put ourselves into the best possible condition to have a good race with one week’s time to prepare, yes? Yes.

Monday: Just get in a few easy miles. Accept that you’re not likely going to run a PR and just loosen it all up. Trying to cram for a race is, well, frakkin’ silly. It’ll get you to physical therapy faster than it’ll get you to the starting line. So, chill, and just have a good run today, and let your brain think about running a race in a few days and feel the race-mode mindset.

Tuesday: Okay, on Tuesday, do a tempo run for the number of minutes it will take you to race the 5k. If you think you can do the 5k in 20 minutes, do a 20-min tempo run with one mile to warm up and one mile to cool down. This run will just remind you and your body and your brain what it feels like to be running faster.

Wednesday: Run a few easy miles. Remind yourself to keep your expectations modest here. I’m all for gusto and doing the impossible and aiming for stars, too, and I’m not saying it’s not possible to pull something incredible out of thin air on race day, but don’t be stubborn and injure yourself. Just use this race as a test to see how far removed you are from your most recent PR and use the results to think about future training and racing goals.

Thursday: Run two 800-meter runs at goal race pace with equal time of slow-jog in between as recovery. The goal here is to run a mile’s worth of distance at the pace you think you can sustain on race day and this short workout will help you figure out what your race pace should be without wearing you out, or making you super sore, blah blah blah. If the two repeats are brutal, the race pace you’re aiming for is too ambitious. Remind yourself this race will be a test to see where you are and leave it at that.

Friday: Run a few very easy miles or just take the day off– either decision won’t make or break the race at this point. Do what feels right, do what’s in your head. It’s pretty mental at this point.

Saturday: Do a good, solid half-hour run then four 100 meter strides with brief recovery slow-jog periods in-between. Do the strides at your anticipated race pace to simulate a strong finish. The speed will wake up you fast-twitch muscle fibers and make the early sections of the race the following day (which will be a bit slower than this, obviously) feel easier.

Sunday (race day!): To avoid going out too fast and bonking out, divide the race into rough thirds. Pull out of the gate with a nice, strong and conservative pace the first mile, say about ten seconds below the race pace for which you’re aiming. For the middle mile, find the groove and settle into race pace. By running first two-thirds with some degree of restraint, you should be able to kick it a little bit for the final mile and make a strong finish. Then, as soon as possible after the race, spend about ten minutes in a cold bath or swimming pool. It won’t feel as good as a hot tub, but the cold water will stave off inflammation.

Ahem, and it’ll help you recover quickly so you can train for real for the next race. I’m just saying.