I've spent more hours at the gym since moving out here than I accumulated in probably 5 years in Memphis. This doesn't even include time spent working in an office that happened to be housed there, either. And I've learned something about myself. I'm not a "fitness" person. I'm not talking about specific fitness here, such as swim, bike and run fitness. I want to find success in racing, so of course I want to gain specific fitness in those sports.
I guess I'm truly a triathlete, because it's this "general fitness" fitness I can't get into. Recently there was an article on the Science of Running blog about Crossfit. He had some really great points that I'd have never taken the time to research thoroughly or write out. And it got me thinking about the big Crossfit Endurance guy (I don't know if he developed it or what) who trained for and completed an Ironman and maybe a 50 miler? There are a lot of people who now subscribe to his theory that all you need is this program to make you strong enough to do it. I say sure, but most people could finish an Ironman or 50k given a few months and a little SBRing. But did they COMPLETE it or COMPETE in it? I would put this guy in the completion category. Which is totally fine, if that's your goal. That's not my goal.
I'm all for strength training to boost endurance sports performance. But I think there needs to be a lot of specific training in there too. When I was racing well years ago, it was nothing for me to pop out 10 pullups or bench press close to my weight, or any of these other things that the general fitness population feels is so specific to general fitness. What irony. And I wasn't even doing crossfit or spending over an hour a week on strength training.
Core fitness is another big fad that's everywhere lately. Someone actually said to me yesterday about her half marathon, "My legs got so tired at 9 miles! I think I used my legs too much, and I should've been using my abs instead." What a rookie mistake to use your legs the whole time while running. What was she thinking? I did ask her what her long run was, and yes, it was 8 miles. So it's gotten into her head now that if you don't have a "strong core," you won't perform well in anything. Off she went to a 30 minute core specific fitness class. I promise I had a 6 pack from doing nothing but endurance exercise in the past.
I found a great article on the same Science of Running blog about exactly this, the fad of core training (this might be my new fav blog-- they even reference my friends and professors' articles from grad school). They've summed up some research that shows that the core muscles are activated more by actually running than doing back extensions, for example. Again, not to say strength training is unimportant, but that there are better, more efficient ways to see benefits in the weight room. Like Olympic lifts. There's another point in the article about unstable surfaces for core training, which I am just now learning about. Maybe I won't waste my money on another Swiss ball anytime soon. But if someone's goal is to be the best cruncher in abs class, then by all means, keep crunching.
Since I'm defining fitness differently these days being pregnant and all, I've really started to appreciate how consistent my runs have become. I felt like the last two years were filled with regular training that produced random results. I never knew when I'd just melt down on a run or feel unusually fatigued on the bike, doing the same workout but taking 20% longer. These days I run my long run of 8.25 miles in almost exactly the same time every week, despite the weight gain (which is not so consistent lately, and mostly trending up sharply). Today was surprisingly an exception. I was sore from squatting and not feeling "on" for the run. I got to the first mile 30 seconds faster than usual and continued that trend for a few of miles. I ran 3 minutes faster than I have in months. I might credit the beautiful weather and the fact that I could wear a tank top and shorts. Maybe the smell of sunscreen does something for me.
While gaining weight I'm determined that some of it will be muscle. I'm actually liking having a little more mass on me. I recall more than once when I've had friends (usually guys) comment on my slightly bigger size in a complimentary way. And thinking back, I was faster with that extra muscle. Recent browsing through old pictures gives me proof that I am actually scrawnier now. Time to fix that! I really enjoy TRX and Olympic lifts, so I plan to stick to it and start seeing some strength gains.
Another encouraging trend for me is the way Jeremy's running has suddenly gotten fast. I think I had lost all faith in this whole "training" concept for a while, but now it's working for him. He's doing long training runs faster than I ever recall doing the distance in training. My faith may be restored!
What really makes my heart rate go up when running. Bear track or barefoot runner track?