Friday, 30 July 2010

Underwater Swimming and the Search for Evidence it's Good

Day: Thursday
Duration: 15 minutes
Workout: 10 underwater lengths with about 45 seconds rest between each (pool=30 metres)
Food: eggs & strawberries with cocoa, an hour later.

I am trying to find out whether underwater swimming can benefit overall fitness. I have mentioned before that I read breath holding can increase growth hormone production, but I now can't find the article.

Given its nature and how it feels, I have a hunch it has to be beneficial, but it would be nice to see some research. Either way, our gym is closing for refurbishment next week and their replacement services do not include a pool - so my ambitions to progress with the underwater swimming will be prevented, thus depriving the world of at least some evidence, albeit n=1... ... Read more

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Weights and Good Viddles

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
: 27th July

5 x 5 Chin Ups (weighted - 15kg, 10kg, 7.5kg, 0kg!)
5 x 5 Dumbbell Bench Press (30kg, 28kg, 26kg, 24kg)

Then alternated:
3 x 20 Ab Crunches (slow, bringing legs towards my head at the same time, and squeezing hard)
3 x 10 Alternating Dumbbell Upright Rows (18kg)

Then alternated:
5 x 5 Romanian Deadlift (with dumbbells - 48kg, 44kg x 4)
5 x 5 Barbell curls

Total Time: 40 minutes

Food, an hour later:

I have been losing a lot of weight recently (more on that here) and getting a bit twitchy about muscle loss. Having run a long mountain race on Saturday (post here), my options for intense exercise were limited to non-quad and non-calf affecting activities.

Thus, an old-school, mainly-upper-body, throw-some-weights around session with my gym partner seemed like the ideal tonic, followed by a day of good eating. This was lunch:

...and I am about to tuck into a whole rabbit for dinner. Tomorrow I shall fast, then on Thursday I will hit the pool for some underwater lengths but a more modest day of eating. ... Read more

Monday, 26 July 2010

International Snowdon Race - A Bone-Crunching Run

Date: Saturday 24th July
Time: 02:34:31

This was as an opportunity for a long, easy training run to prepare for the Borrowdale fell race in a couple of weeks. I am still slightly concerned about some pain at the site of my knee surgery last November, so I also wanted to take it easy for that reason.

Lightning and I started right at the back of the field - this is probably the best-known mountain race in the UK, so there would be a fast field which we didn't want to hold up; and there were chips in our shoes anyway (one of the benefits of a well-known race) so our true times would be recorded electronically.

Getting the tags onto the Five Fingers initially looked to be a challenge, given that the instructions explicitly mentioned attaching to laces, but the reverse turned out to be true.

Lighting gets ready before the race.

Waiting to start at the back.
On the podium, fell-racing legend Kenny Stuart poised to blow the starting horn

For a while, I thought I was in last place, as Lightning forged ahead to challenge his personal best from last year; but I was enjoying the steady pace. It's liberating to run in a race and not be concerned about being overtaken or catching others up. In fact there were quite a few people behind me, I later found out.

I ran the whole ascent. Ironically, this was made possible by my slow pace. Had I wanted to make faster progress I would have needed to power walk on the steep sections. As it was, I took small, bouncy strides on my calves when it got steep, happily accepting the slow progress.

The weather was pretty foul. No visibility to speak of, plenty of drizzle or rain, and some wind. No doubt it often gets a whole lot worse up there, but that was little consolation to someone hoping to enjoy the exhilarating views on the way up.

The electronic chips were a perfect fit for the Five Fingers...

...but required more fiddling for people with laces!

Snowdon is a gruelling race, especially for someone wearing Five Fingers. The route is almost entirely on rocky and stony ground of varying types. There is little respite from the bone-crunching, ankle-challenging variety, making the downhill a tough gig even for the pros. Until this race I had though the Skiddaw fell race was tough in that respect, but now see it in a more benign light.

On the way down, I ran faster. My goal was an average heart rate below 160, and of course downhill is much less effort. About two thirds of the way down I lost my footing and crashed to the ground, knee first. Yes, that knee. For about 30 seconds I sat laughing to myself between grimaces of agony, something onlookers might have found a little puzzling. The irony was killing me.

Click for a larger version

The first aid people were on me like a shot, which was impressive. After a minute or two the pain abated and I realised I could stand. They sent me on my way with a silver Superman cape and the offer of Haribo jellies. "Should I rub the them my knee?" I was tempted to ask.

I shuffle-ran the remainder of the downhill, which took 45 minutes.

Later in the year, we are running the Ben Nevis race, the largest mountain in the UK. Having walked Nevis I know that the terrain is rather similar to Snowdon. Yikes.

As I sit here with ice packed on the knee, I am pretty sure it's a different part of the knee that took the impact, and there was no discernible damage to the site of the original surgery. The new bruising seems superficial. I am seeing my consultant on Tuesday, an appointment I already arranged before this race. I will also seek an opinion on whether Saturday's impact caused any damage to worry about.


I decided to run the race more or less fasted - an early breakfast, then no food until the evening - a hunter having some leftovers in the morning before embarking on a long hunting expedition and then not being rewarded until the evening when the prey had been dragged home and finally cooked.

By the time I tucked into that lamb I was very hungry... and it tasted good!

5 hours before the race at 9am....

3.5 hours after race race at 8pm....

slow-cooked lamb, broccoli, beetroot, spinach
... Read more

Friday, 23 July 2010

Random, Intense Swimming

Thursday, 12 minutes at Woodcock Sports Centre Swimming Pool, Aston University.

First, two lengths front crawl warm up.

Then, 10 lengths front crawl, trying to keep 4 strokes between breaths and work as hard as I could for the distance. After 5 lengths, I was struggling not to breathe more, but focused on controlling it. I reckon I was working at 85-90% and was pretty out of breath by the end.

Finally, after a minute of rest, two underwater lengths, with about 1 minute of rest between. I got the usual panicky lung spasms towards the end of each, but swam through them.

The pool is 30m.

I should do more underwater lengths - perhaps 10 in a session sometime. They really are a unique addition to a varied portfolio of activity - no other part of my program involves breath holding, which I recall reading has various benefits. It certainly makes me feel good afterwards and I can't help thinking it must contribute significantly to overall fitness.

Food: Eggs, raspberries, blackberries, coconut cream, cocoa. Divine. ... Read more

Thursday, 22 July 2010

15-Minutes of Weights Takes Heart Rate to Max

Wednesday, at home - 15 minutes of weight training with no real rest between sets.

Dumbbell Bench Press (10 @ 28kg)
Alternating Dumbbell Upright Rows (10 per side @ 20kg)
Ab Crunches (20, slow, bringing legs towards my head at the same time, and squeezing hard for 2 seconds.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows(10 @ 28kg)

I did the exercises in this order, rotating through them 3 times.

Heart Rate: ignore the dark blue bits. The red dots show where the workout started and ended. I peaked at 181. Since I am 38 years old, the formula suggests my max is 220-38 = 182. By doing my weights as a circuit without rest, I am clearly increasing the intensity. However, I do think my heart rate goes higher when I do Tabata rows, which I hope to record properly next time, suggesting that my max could be higher than the formula suggests.

Food: Egg, fruit, coconut cream, cocoa, 90 minutes later:

... Read more

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Weekend of Long, Easy

Saturday: 19-mile bike ride round the canals of the West Midlands, UK

Total time: 3 hours 45 minutes

Food: I fasted all day, then tucked into roast chicken & roast vegetables in the evening, several hours after the bike ride ended. I felt duly rewarded:

Sunday: long, easy hill/trail run around Ercall Wood and the Wrekin.

Total time: 2 hours 38.
Heart rate: monitor stopped working, but I am pretty sure I was 140 - 160 most of the time.
Altitude profile (in metres):

Food: fresh crab and salad:

This was eaten a couple of hours later than expected, thanks to my idiocy in locking my car keys in my own boot. My running partner Lightning had to drive me home to get the spare, a fine gesture considering this took a couple of hours out of his Sunday. Since I'd also had no breakfast, I was pretty hungry by the time I tucked into this.

Knee Problems

Recently increasing my running mileage appears to have aggravated my knee. At least I think that's what caused it. Hard to tell. Over the last month, the site of the surgery has grown steadily more sore. Fine in the normal plane of movement, but sensitive to twisting.

This is worrying, because those internal stitches are supposed to have totally healed. I have a meeting with my consultant next week. Clearly it can't be all bad, otherwise I would not be able to do these things. However, I need to know whether I should stop doing them and let it rest, or whether he is going to tell me I need more surgery. If he tells me this, I will think very carefully about whether it's something I am willing to do.
... Read more

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Two Weeks of Workouts in a Slideshow

IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS: Don't click on the big play button - it will open a Picassa window. INSTEAD: click where it says "The 2 weeks start..." towards the bottom, then when the play buttons appear, use them to move to the next slide.

... Read more

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Tabata Rowing Pain Captured on Video

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University (and at work)
:28th - 30th June

Monday: as many press-ups as I could do (40), in the disabled toilet at work.

Wednesday: Tabata rowing machine - eyeballs out. Here's the video. I ate this afterwards.

The press-ups were a spontaneous thing. Obviously. There can't be many people who plan a press-up workout in the disabled toilet. It was either that or in the middle of the office.

The Tabata rowing was very much planned. I had been fearing it. We have our Skiddaw race (9 miles, 2700 feet) on Sunday and I want to give my legs plenty of chance to recover from recent training. A rowing Tabata seemed like a way to maintain fitness and familiarity with pain without unduly hitting the leg muscles.

As well as recording it on video, I also had my heart rate monitor running. The idea was to create an overlay onto the video showing how the pain mapped to heart rate. Alas, I discovered the limits of bluetooth. Evidently, 2 metres is too far. Next time the phone will be in my pocket.
... Read more