Completed my first 5k!

file_004I did it!

This morning, in an uncharacteristically cold 39 degree morning in The Woodlands, TX, I completed my first official 5k run: the Jingle Bell Run benefiting the Arthritis Foundation.

We got there at 7 am and while Sherry went to the area to wait up for some employees of hers to show up, I waited in the car to keep warm. It was VERY chilly out there, and with the wind chill, it felt like 24 degrees!

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I headed back into the cold to stand in solidarity with her at around 7:30 am, and I kept warm by doing push ups. I did 70, and yes, it did warm me up!

After getting the preliminaries out of the way, the run began and I started off strong with a first half mile pace of 8:16. I kept below 9:10 for the first two miles and let my pace slow a little for the final mile to a 9:42 and a 9:30 with the last little bit down to a 7:31 pace. In the end, I finished at 27:37.5 with an average pace of 8:55/mile. These are all personal bests for me, and I’m very proud of the numbers considering I had to lay off running for almost two weeks. Had I not had that break, I’m sure my time would have been much better.

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But, it is what it is. I’m proud of my accomplishment in running a 5k after starting running exactly three months ago today. Sherry and I were talking about how she ran this last year (she had a personal best today as well!), and when she suggested that I run this with her this year, I told her back then, “I don’t think I’ll ever do one of these.” After today’s run, I told her about some more that are coming up that I want to do.

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It was a good time, and it felt good to be out there among the other runners. I haven’t run with that many people since I was in the Marines. It felt good to be back.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

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Me after a run. I really enjoy running now. I never thought I could.

I run three to four times a week. I’ve reached most of my running goals rather quickly, and at this point I am just running and building my stamina and speed slowly and naturally. I used to have a goal of running every day, but I’ve decided that if it happens, then it happens. If not, running three or four times a week is probably enough. I also do fifty push ups before I run, and I try to increase it by 5-10 whenever the current number of push ups I’m at starts to feel too easy. I have a goal of 100+, but no timetable.

I firmly believe that I’ve had such success with running because I’ve taken it slowly and let my body dictate the pace and distance increases. I haven’t gone out and pushed myself hard, and when I felt a little off, or while I got sick two weeks ago, I held off from running. Returning to running was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and the body bounced back quite well. Monday night’s run was very enjoyable after running only once the week prior and not at all the week before that. I was very worried it would be difficult or that I would be out of breath. Neither were true.

I think it’s important to take into consideration your current physical ability and take it slow. I was told by a wise Gunny back in the Corps that you want to get out for 30 minutes of solid activity. Build the pace and distance each time within that 30 minutes. Once you are fully active in that 30 minutes, expand the workout as needed. That’s what I’ve done, and I’m really happy with the results. I never went out there to push myself super hard, and as a result, I’ve successfully avoided injury so far.

In past attempts to reintroduce an exercise regimen into my life, I have always ended up injured and unable to continue. This made me depressed and always led to me gaining weight. This time, I was smart about it, took my time, took it easy, and let the increases come naturally. I can’t be happier with my results.

My specific plan was to start with a slow jog. I jogged for 1.63 miles in nearly 30 minutes. My success for that run was that I jogged the entire time without stopping. I increased my pace and distance with each successive run, and I gave myself at least one day and sometimes two to recover between runs. Nearly three months later, I’m running over 3.5 miles with every run sub-10 minutes (and nearly sub-9’s) for each mile. The best part; I do so without really getting out of breath or over-exerting myself. These are comfortable runs that I enjoy.

Running used to be hard for me because I didn’t enjoy it. Now that I do it regularly and have learned to enjoy it, it’s become something I look forward to. It’s a part of my life, and I’m happy when I’m running. I find that I am less stressed after a run, and that overall, I’m a happier person because of it.

How much exercise is enough? As much as you feel is enough to meet your goals, whether they are physical or emotional. I can’t tell you what that is for you. You need to get out there and figure it out by doing.

Running my First Official 5k in Over 25 Years

The last 5k I ran was when I was a Corporal at NCO School at MCAS El Toro when I was 24. We did it as a formation run, and we finished in under 24 minutes. We then ran back as individuals to “pick up” other runners and help motivate them to the finish. It was a good time, and one of the rare times that I remember a run being fun in the Marines.

Fast forward 25 years and I’m about to run a 5k on my own volition and I’m actually looking forward to it. Sherry and I will be running the Jingle Bell Run tomorrow morning in The Woodlands, TX for the Arthritis Foundation. So many in my family and my wife’s family have been affected by Arthritis that it only makes sense for Sherry and I to run and try to raise some donations to help fight it.

I am honored and humbled by the donations received for tomorrow morning’s run, and I’m thankful to those who donated. I’m going to do my best in the morning and try to set a good time for me to work on in the coming months/years as more of these 5k’s come along.

I did bang my knee pretty hard against a printer today, and it is a little sore right now, but I’m hoping that time and if necessary, some Motrin will help make it feel normal when it’s time to run in the morning. Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to it. I have warm running clothes I’ll wear, and the only real dilemma I’m facing is whether I should run with my Bluetooth headphones (as I always do) or without. I haven’t quite decided yet. I guess I’ll see in the morning.

Wish me luck! I will be posting with a post-run report tomorrow!

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

160205I was able to get out and run tonight. After not running this morning and agonizing about it all day, I made the decision to hit the road and get my run in. I’m glad I did. It was a bit cold out, but the rain had ceased for a bit. I took advantage of it and ended up having a great run.

My first mile pace was really good and slowed with the second and third miles, but overall, I finished with a decent pace that I’m happy with. Since I was only able to run once last week and not at all the week before, it felt good all things considered.

Now, my legs feel pretty good. I was expecting them to feel like concrete again, yet it didn’t happen. They actually felt decent. Even my breathing was good. I just wasn’t as fast in the second and third miles, but I didn’t feel like dying, either. Just a good, comfortable run.

I plan on running again Wednesday morning (giving myself the every other day schedule for now) and I have the 5k coming up on Saturday morning, so I’ll likely not run on Friday morning to prepare for the 5k. I’m going to try to go fast on that one to see what I can do. I am sad that I lost two weeks of preparation, but at least I am feeling 100% so I can do the run on Saturday morning.

Not being able to run due to weather

file_000-52I had every intention of running this morning but the weather had other ideas. It was 49 and raining, and not just a sprinkle. The skies opened up and were dropping as much water on us as physically possible. There was no way I was going to go out into that.

I’m still getting over this bad cold and the last thing I wanted to do was to give my body another shock and prolong what is hopefully the end of this cold. So, I stayed in. It was hard to do, and there were moments I almost suited up and went out anyway, but I listened to my head and not my heart.

It’s hard when I was only able to run once last week and none the week before. Fortunately, I know I will be able to get back out there this week and run. I will surely be a little sore afterward, and my time may drop a bit, but I will be able to complete 3-3.5 miles and I’ll feel better afterward. I just have to wait.

If it’s not raining when I get home from work, I will run today. If it is, I will try again tomorrow morning. Either way, a run is happening soon. Just not this morning.

Recovery and Running after an eight day break

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Making my best Billy Idol face after a successful run after not running for 8 days.

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I’ve been sick for the past week. I had a very bad cold and sinus infection which took me a long time to recover from and kept me from running. While I wanted to run each and every day I was sick to keep from losing the progress I’ve worked so hard for, I was too weak, felt too badly, and was suffering from a lot of pain. I also didn’t want to stress my body to the point where it lengthened the duration of my recovery or made matters worse. So, I did the smart thing and waited it out.

I will admit that each day I didn’t run added some anxiety. I thought about how bad my legs would hurt when I finally got back on the road. How they would feel like concrete. How my joints would ache, and how I would feel like quitting after every step. I worried about my ability to get back on the road and run a decent pace and not have my heart jumping out of my chest. I mourned the loss of all the time and effort I put into getting to where I could run a comfortable pace for a decent distance without over-exertion. I thought it was all lost.

It turned out that I worried for nothing.

It wasn’t my fastest or longest run, but it was close to my fastest. I decided not to look at my watch for split times and just run; let my body dictate how fast I ran. I wanted to be able to get back to it without trying to push too hard. I was surprised at how fast I was able to run with comfort. I think I know how horses feel when they transition from a trot into a gallop. At a few points during the run, I didn’t actually feel like I was running. I felt like I was gliding on a pair of legs that were beneath me without being really attached to me. It was kind of surreal, and I liked it.

In the end, I finished my 3.51 mile run with a 9’48” pace overall with a time of 34:30. I’m very okay with this result, and I am no longer worried about lost progress. Turns out, the body bounces back pretty well if you allow it to heal. Also, there’s a chance that the week off from running helped my legs heal up a bit. Not that they were hurt or injured, but I’m sure the muscles had a chance to rebuild and prepare for my upcoming runs a little better. I was also able to start with my 50 push ups. I was worried I would have to bump back down to 40, but that wasn’t the case. I actually feel like I can bump it up a bit next time.

It feels good to be back on my feet again.

Mad Respect to the Ultimate Fitness People

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After my great run this morning; I really enjoyed it. What is wrong with me?

Crossfit, marathons, body building, triathlons, biathlons, etc. People who take part in those have my utmost respect. I have said in the past that I can’t be someone who does those things, yet I find myself creeping ever so slowly into their camp.

No. Not yet. I said creeping. Please keep reading.

This morning as I ran, I found myself not wanting to get going. I thought about stopping a few times not because I was tired or wore out or even in any pain. I just didn’t feel like doing it. After the first half mile, I still wasn’t into it, but I kept going.  Then, something crazy happened. I not only felt like finishing the run, but I actually added an extra mile to it. It felt good. The last half was a little tough and I started to feel it in my muscles, but then after the last mile was done, I went for another quarter of a mile. Why?

Because I could.

I can’t say I pushed myself with my pace this morning, because I didn’t. I didn’t set out to break any records or make any personal bests. I just set out to run on this brisk (43 degrees!) morning to continue my journey in getting fit. What I found  was that I started getting a good feeling from exceeding a past accomplishment.

This is new.

Since doing my first Whole30 and going Paleo, I’ve been pretty adamant about not needing exercise to lose weight. I still maintain that it is not necessary, and that’s super-important for those who are physically unable to exercise or who are like I used to be and just flat-out refused to exercise. That’s okay: you can still lose weight! But then, it isn’t enough. You lose weight, but you find that you are weak and that you want something more out of your body. You start doing something to get some exercise. The next thing you know, you’re adding miles to your runs and feeling GREAT afterward.

So I get it. You people who do the extreme physical activities; you’re not weird. You’re not so strange to me anymore. You’re just way farther ahead of me in this journey, and far more dedicated. I don’t know that I will ever get to exactly the same level as you super-people, but I am finding that I am enjoying being able to be physically active and to push myself a little here and there.

It feels good. And dammit, I never thought I’d be the person saying this, but I’m glad I started running. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in the past 10 years.

Move. Do something. Anything.

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Me after a great run recently having accomplished many personal bests.

My sister used to tell me this. “Don’t set out to run a marathon on your first day. Just get up off the couch and move. Do something. Do anything. Just don’t sit your life away waiting to die.” I used to think she was crazy. Why would I want to be uncomfortable and sweaty and work hard for something I don’t care about, anyway? What’s the benefit of being fit if we’re all going to die, anyway?

Well.

Let’s go over some of the benefits of being fit.

  1. Comfort. Life is more comfortable when you’re fit. I can bend over, reach my shoes, run up a flight of stairs, play with the dog, and have “Mommy and Daddy time” without as much effort anymore. Seriously; life is so much easier when you’re fit.
  2. Clothing. I can shop off any rack in any store now. The mainstream clothing stores stock clothes that look nice for people who are “Average,” and I’m “Average” now. The clothes not only fit better, but look good, too.
  3. Self esteem. Yes, this is a real thing, and it does matter. We all try to say it doesn’t, and that we all feel fine when we’re fat. I used to tell people all the time that I was completely fine with the size I was. I lied. Every damn time. I wasn’t fine. It hurt, I was sore, I was tired, and I felt horrible because I didn’t look anywhere near what I wanted to look like. We can’t change our faces or who we are, but we can change our body size and health through diet and exercise. Being fit helps you feel better about yourself which makes it easier to eat right and make health and fitness decisions. It also helps you with social situations. When you feel better about yourself, you’re more confident, etc.
  4. Health improvement. I know, most people would put this first, but who in the hell cares about health improvement if they don’t want to exercise in the first place? I mean, if you cared so much about improving your health, you’d already be exercising. We all know without being told by some ol’ Marine that exercise improves your health. If you don’t know that, you are probably still in the second grade and should stop reading the Interwebs and go out and play with your friends now. Go on, get out of here!
  5. Not dying. Seriously; this is better than a health benefit; it’s an existence benefit. I have stated before on my blog the dire condition my health was getting into. Now, I’m literally fit enough to rejoin the military. I call this a huge bonus.

My friend Steve has started walking and riding his bicycle since downloading Pokemon Go! onto his iPhone. He gets exercise walking around, hatching eggs and catching Pokemon. He said to me that it wasn’t much compared with what I do, but he enjoyed it. I told him that it doesn’t matter what I do, and it’s not a competition. Do what you can do. Do what you enjoy. Just do something.

A Day of Personal Bests

file_000-67Today was a day of personal bests for me, and I couldn’t be more excited! I started the morning off as I always do; with push ups. Today, I decided to go up from the 45 I’ve been doing for the past few days by doing 50 push ups and I did it! It was hard and I had to push myself a little, but I got to 50 and stopped. Could I have done more? Probably, but not many more. I’ve been doing a good job of avoiding injury, so I didn’t push myself to a breaking point. Just to 50 and stopped.

Then came the run. I decided to stretch out the legs a little and start with a faster pace. I normally don’t like to do this, but I decided to stretch the pace by increasing the distance my legs kicked out, and I concentrated on the feeling in my feet as I pushed the ground away from me. It’s hard to explain, but I could actually feel the speed this time. I got into a comfortable run pace and held it steady for three miles, which is a huge win for me.

I didn’t look at my pace or splits during the run; I wanted to just give it what I thought I needed to give to get a decent time, and it worked. I was able to run 3.52 miles with a 9’26” pace! My two mile time was 18’08” (my goal was to do it under 19′) and my three mile time was 27’46” which for my age would be a passing (decent) run in the Marine Corps PFT. This is a benchmark for me. I wore my USMC dress blues this past weekend as I was within the height/weight regulations, and now I’m able to run within the USMC PT standards as well. If I had a pull up bar and someone to hold my feet, I could have done the pull ups and crunches to see what score I could get for my age. Maybe some weekend I’ll go to a park with Sherry and take a PFT to see how I do.

I am very happy this morning! My weight is still declining, my physical abilities are increasing, and I’m feeling great. I have a good burn in my legs today from pushing it out a little harder than normal, but none of the bad pain. And to think, I just started running on September 10th of this year, and already, I’m running sub-10 minute miles. Heck, I’m almost to running sub-9’s consistently!

Back-to-back runs

Friday morning, I ran. This is not a big deal, and normally isn’t blog worthy in and of itself, but what is significant is that I ran after running Thursday and not taking a rest day. My pace was on-par with my average runs, and the distance was 3.5 miles.

I did have a little bit of pain in my left hip, but I think that was because I pushed it and sprinted in the last mile a few times. Maybe I’m not ready for that just yet, but the run itself was nice, and I wasn’t in any discomfort or pain with the exception of the little aches I get typically when I start. I infer those as my muscles saying, “Dude. Why are we doing this. You know, you can just stop and we’ll stop bothering you” which then turns into, “Oh well. You’re not going to stop. We might as well join the rest of the team and just get through this.” It typically happens around the .5 to 1 mile mark and then the rest of the run is just fine.

My ultimate goal is to run 5-6 times a week without it being hard. I don’t want to run super-long distances, nor am I looking to break any land/speed records. I just want to go out, run 4-5 miles, and feel normal afterward. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there, and that feels good.

Now, however, I think that maybe running 4 times a week max is a better plan for the time being. After taking three days off to allow a spot on my heel to heal (haha),  a lot of other pains and aches I’ve been having have gone away. I think I needed the time to rest and to let the joints and muscles heal a bit. I haven’t been pushing myself hard, but maybe back-to-back runs are a bit much for me. Only time will tell, and we’ll see. The point is, I’m not going to push it to get to daily runs just yet. Maybe after another month or two, but for now, I’m okay with every other day.

As for push-ups, I’m up to 45 consistently now. I’ll likely up that to 50 soon, but again, I’m pretty pleased with the progress.