Category Archives: gym

Gym, turbo, run – it's OK, but is it enough?

By last Thursday evening, I’d had 7 exercise sessions in 7 days (and a 7 hour drive on the one rest day), so on Friday morning I did the sensible stupid thing and went to the gym.

I know about the benefits (indeed, the necessity) of rest but it is easy to feel that you need to make up for lost time – and I’m feeling that after Christmas, the knee ligament sprain and skiing. The best thing about the early morning gym visit was that the absence of any other exercise on Friday made it almost feel like a day off.

Of course, knowing that I should be taking rest days is not the same as actually taking them. Instead, I followed normal procedure and did an hour on the turbo, in a pool of sweat, for 28.44km (17.7miles) on Saturday afternoon watching more of the 6 Nations rugby. Good to see Rome bathed in sunshine as Oxfordshire was grey and battered by high winds.

Sunday continued with the wet and high winds theme of the last three weeks but I wanted to get in a third run in the (Monday to Sunday) week. I waited for the wind to drop below 40 mph and for the rain to stop and headed out for the same run as Wednesday, 13.4km (a little over 8.3 miles). Still running slowly – but faster than Wednesday.

I sometimes wonder if the first mile of a run will ever get any easier. It takes that long for my breathing and pulse to settle into a more comfortable rhythm. I’m sure it would be easier if all runs from the house didn’t immediately go up a small hill. Equally, it would help if I warmed up properly but I always have the foolish feeling that, with only a finite amount of energy to play with, I don’t want to use any of it before the run.

That leaves the week with 4 turbo sessions (90km – 56 miles), 3 runs (nearly 33km – over 20 miles) and 50 minutes in the gym lifting heavy bits of metal.

Despite all the recent activity, I’m not sure I’m in great shape for the forthcoming challenges:

  • The sportive towards the back end of April is about 150km with quite a bit of climbing – but I’ve not been out on the bike since the Lake District in October
  • The 16 week training plan for July’s 50km ultra starts in a couple of weeks but I doubt I’ll be up to the first week’s 31 miles by then.

Hmm. Realistically, the short term aim will have to be 3 runs a week, aiming for over 20 miles in total – and getting on the bike twice a week for a couple of hours in total (if indoors) or 4 hours (if the wind and rain are kind and let me outdoors). In addition, I’ll try a visit to the gym – and get back to running to it.

Importantly, I’ll try to remember that nobody is paying me to do any of this – it’s my choice and I’m supposed to be enjoying it.

More good news on Friday was that I’d recommended that two of the children we’d been working with on the balance bikes on Wednesday, should be tried on bikes with pedals on Thursday. Both cycled unassisted – bravo to them.

Turbo, turbo, run, labouring, run. Lacking a bit of inspiration

I took a day off on Friday after 11 sessions (2x gym, 2x run and 7x turbo trainer) in 11 days. Although I was on a (very small) roll, I’m sure I needed the rest. Not just physically, but mentally too (to say nothing of giving the washing machine a break).

Saturday (with a tight knee but better calf muscles) I did an hour on the turbo for 30km (18.65miles) while watching the Ireland v Wales 6 Nations rugby. Hard work but at a decent pace.

Well played Ireland – and well won England later in the afternoon, edging Scotland out in a really ugly game in atrocious conditions.

After only 7 miles of running the previous week, the aim was to do slightly more milage over the next few days. Unfortunately, Storm Caira arrived on Sunday, with heavy rain and winds of 50+mph (80+kph) so I wimped out – yet again – and resorted to the turbo trainer. I did just 45 minutes (well, it was Sunday) watching some of the France v Italy rugby, for 23.13km @30.8kph (14.4miles @ 19.2mph).

The storm had largely blown over by Monday, but it was still wet and windy. I was struggling to find the enthusiasm to get on the turbo trainer again so I went for a run instead. Strangely enjoyable despite 20mph winds and intermittent rain – and all the better for being finished just before the hailstones started. A gentle 4.4 miles, but it was an actual run.

As with most runs, I had twinges in knees, feet, ankles on the way round but nothing severe or lasting – and I even remembered to stretch my calf muscles after it.

Some of Tuesday morning was spent wheelbarrowing hard core for a soak-away at the cycle park, until a hydraulic leak on the mini bus tail gate put a stop to that. I took the remainder of the day off exercise but ran on Wednesday – 10.2km (6.3miles), not quick but a few miles under my belt.

It’s a bit of a labour at the moment – I guess I’m not enjoying the running as much as usual because it’s hard getting back into it and I’m worried about a recurrence of the knee ligament problem. I’ve probably also overdone the turbo trainer a bit in the last few weeks.

The ultra in July, and even the 90 mile sportive in April seems a long way away so I’m a bit short of inspiration. Still, I’ll keep at it – improving weather, getting out on the road bike (eventually) and more running without knee trouble will improve it all, I’m sure.

Turbo, turbo, run, turbo, gym (in four days – this is probably kill or cure. I make the odds 50/50)

My wife seems to think I spend more time here than with her. Not sure if she thinks that’s a good or bad thing

Mixed results from Sunday’s return to running after the knee ligament sprain. The knee felt tight and ached a bit but both calf muscles hurt a lot.

Now I remember that I’d experienced calf muscle problems back in early December and had vowed to make sure they were well warmed up before, and well stretched after, any running – and to use the compression socks. That was a vow I’d completely forgotten.

Of course, the problem is what to do now for the knee. Do I assume it simply needs more time to recover (although the 7 weeks I gave it should have been enough) or is this just the result of running for the first time for a while – or is it something else completely?

I decided to go easy on the running this week, replacing running with sessions on the turbo trainer. I know that cycling does not really help with running faster but, at the moment, running faster is not the key aim. The turbo helps in terms of keeping the cardio-vascular system going – and for now that’s a worthwhile outcome by itself.

Accordingly, it was on the turbo on Monday evening – 45 minutes for 22.3km @ 29.67kph (13.8 miles @18.4mph).

With improving calf muscles and a pretty reasonable left knee it was turbo again on Tuesday (45 minutes for 22.25km @29.66kph, 13.8miles). Reluctant and lacklustre but almost identical to Monday’s effort. I can’t help but feel that exercise should count double when you really have to force yourself to do it.

A gentle run with my wife on Wednesday morning, just 4.6km (2.8 miles). Her first run since my injury.

I went for my first ‘double up’ day since the turn of the year and followed the run with a turbo session on Wednesday evening. Oddly, it was faster than recent efforts – 45 minutes for 22.85km @30.5kph (14.2 miles @ 19mph).

Weights in the gym on Thursday morning, which made it 5 training sessions in 4 days (and 11 in 11). None of them very long sessions – but sessions nonetheless.

I know I can’t make up for all the training I’ve missed recently and it would be mad to try – but it’s still tempting. I feel the need for a rest day coming up.

Turbo, and the first run for 7 weeks post ligament injury

I said I’d resume running in February, post knee injury, but ducked out on Saturday. I guess I was putting it off as I’m worried it might not have healed.

Instead I did an hour on the turbo (29.9km – 18.6 miles). I think the turbo is good rehabilitation as there is no impact on the knee and keeps the movement nice and straight, but, to be honest, the running would have been preferable. It was hard pushing on beyond the 45 minutes that I’ve been doing recently.

Sunday was fairly unpleasant and blustery but I’d been putting it off long enough. I took Lady Macbeth’s advice, screwed my courage to the sticking place, and went for a run.

It was my first since spraining the knee ligament 7 weeks previously, so no heroics. I ran for just 6.77km (4.2 miles). The Garmin says I was running at just under 6 minute/km pace. I’m not sure it was really that fast.

Post run, the knee feels a little tight but everything bends where it should and doesn’t bend where it shouldn’t, so I’ll take that as ‘so far so good’ and wait to see how things are tomorrow.

Turbo, turbo, turbo, gym and a dead laptop.

The last nine weeks in a nutshell: Barbados, Christmas, New Year, skiing, sprained Medial Collateral Ligament. Great, but not exactly the training I needed.

However, all the holidays were all really enjoyable so perhaps the mental side of the (non)training has gone well and I now feel ready to get down to some hard(er) work. That’s no bad thing as the White Horse Challenge sportive is in April and the 50km ultra marathon follows in early July.

Skiing obviously involves a certain amount of exercise but it would be better if I walked up the slopes before skiing down – and I have no intention of doing that. Worse, staying in the French Alps involves eating a lot of bread and potatoes, which I usually tend to avoid, and even more cheese than usual. Being on holiday also means drinking on weekdays which I don’t normally do.

Accordingly, on Monday morning I was about 69kg – 2 and a bit kg over par (152 pounds, nearly 5 pounds over target). Reasonably encouraging.

I decided that I would not run until February to give the knee just a few more days for recovery so Monday evening it was back to the turbo – 22.02km in 45 minutes @29.13kph (13.7 miles @18mph). It was hard work and both knees were a little unhappy. I guess the skiing gave them both a bit of a work out – otherwise I can’t think why the right knee was protesting. Perhaps it’s just coming out in sympathy.

Another 45 minutes on Tuesday – 23.54km @ 31.4kph (14.6 miles @ 19.5mph), and 45 minutes again on Wednesday – 22.62km @ 30.16kph (14 miles @ 18.75mph).

Gym on Thursday morning for quite a tough 50 minutes, with most of the weights back to normal (but 5kg off leg curls and extensions).

No reaction from the knee but I gave the turbo a miss in the evening.

The other thing this week has been my wife’s laptop which died just before we went skiing. It turned out to be a real fatality – a completely defunct hard drive. We’d been talking about replacing it but hadn’t done anything until it was too late.

Of course, it then became clear that it hadn’t been backed up to the external hard drive for several months – and our ‘One Drive’ storage was full (and had been for a while) so that wasn’t helpful either. In a flash of inspiration I remembered that we’d taken a ‘cloud’ subscription when we bought it all those years ago (6 or more). Even more strangely I could find the links and the password so many happy hours were spent on Thursday downloading ridiculous amounts of data – mainly photos onto a new machine.

A very close call flirting with disaster which would, of course, have been all my fault. No sessions on Friday as the new laptop had not behaved properly in its recovery of the files from the cloud so another happy day on that.

First week back in harness – three turbo sessions and one in the gym in 5 days. Gently does it.

Next week is a bit important for me as I find out if the knee has recovered enough to start getting to a place where I can begin the ultra training programme in March.

All going downhill from here?

One of my favourite places – Les Carroz d’Araches, in the Haute Savoie, France

If there is a list of things not to do just after hurting a knee ligament, I expect skiing is towards the top of it. So, 4 weeks after spraining mine, I went skiing.

The drive to the Alps was trouble-free (but 13 elapsed hours which is a bit of a pain in general, and a bit ache-inducing for the knee). We could fly but we were being joined by our sons and one of their girlfriends so we drove and took a car load of our and their stuff while they were able to fly, a couple of days later, with just hand luggage.

I was reasonably sure that the knee was going to be OK to ski on – it’s just that I was equally sure that if I fell and twisted it, I was in for a very painful experience.

I considered loosening the binding on my left ski so it would come off more easily if I did fall – but it occurred to me that loosening the binding made it more likely that I might fall in the first place, so I didn’t.

Losing a ski because you fall is one thing, falling because your ski comes off feels much worse.

Of course, the falling over bit would not be a big issue for an expert skier – but nobody has ever accused me of being that. I am a reasonable skier for a 64 year-old Englishman who didn’t learn to ski until he was almost 30 – but that does not set the bar very high.

For me the conversation is more likely to go ‘why do you ski so fast?’ to which the correct answer is ‘because I’m not good enough to ski any slower’.

A good skier flows down a piste, embracing it, rather like water. Me, I rather wrestle it to death.

We took a day off on the Monday after Sunday’s dive out there and sorted out the apartment – but then had two glorious days skiing under clear blue skies. The snow was a bit thin on lower slopes but was in very good condition. We collected our sons (and a girlfriend) from Geneva on the Wednesday evening and had two more great days skiing on the Thursday and Friday. On Friday we were even the first on the slopes – although I’m not terribly keen on having to set an alarm when on holiday (or when not on holiday, come to think of it).

It snowed Friday afternoon and evening, which made Saturday’s skiing spectacular – although the weekend was rather chilly and a bit busier. After years of the misery of fitting snow chains I got winter tyres for the new car. Although they weren’t needed all the time, they worked fine when they were.

Older son and girlfriend also skied on Monday morning and then we took the three of them back to the airport for afternoon flights. For them, 4 and a half days skiing for just 3 days off work – an efficient use of their holiday entitlements.

We drove home on the following Saturday, after a few more excellent days on the slopes.

I skied reasonably sensibly and managed to have no falls – they say if you don’t fall, you’re not skiing hard enough, but I can live with that.

The knee worked OK and must have been helped by the knee brace but ached on and off throughout the holiday – especially if I tried to be more aggressive on the slopes – but without ever really hurting. One good thing about wearing a knee brace – it introduces a new highlight of the day ….. taking it off when you finish.

So, now back to training for this year’s cycling and running, injury permitting – but from what sort of fitness base will I be starting?

Another four books read during the holiday:

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan (a fairly simple but entirely charming book, well worth a read)

The Neighbour – Fiona Cummings (an enjoyable crime/murder/thriller)

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion (a very enjoyable and different novel with some fascinating insights)

Dark Water – Robert Bryndza (a pretty decent thriller, in my opinion)

Once or twice a day?

Stop sniggering at the back. Prompted by going to the gym Thursday morning and using the turbo in the evening, this is about whether two exercise sessions in a day is a good idea.

I expect I’ll look it up on the internet at some stage but no doubt there will be contradictory advice, so I thought I might actually form my own view first – like we all used to before the web was invented.

Starting from the assumption that exercise is good for us, I suppose it seems logical that exercising twice a day must be better as it means more of it (genius thinking so far). Pro athletes are more than likely to do more than one training session a day, so it must have some credibility. Done properly and safely, exercise can help with the heart, lungs, circulation, muscle, bone, flexibility, mood, balance, agility and many more – and I’m keen to sign up for improvements in all of those.

Ultra marathon training plans seem to incorporate back to back long runs at weekends ‘to get used to running on tired legs’. I’d assumed that was more of a mental conditioning thing but I wonder if it helps with the legs as well?

With weight training I’ve often seen it said that the last couple of reps before muscle exhaustion are the most valuable – I wonder if multiple sessions in a day has an echo of that too?

I’m sure there is some science here somewhere – but do I need to understand it to benefit from it?

For many people time will be a big factor – work rather gets in the way but if you exercise early to energise the morning, a stressful job would probably mean that you’d benefit from exercise in the evening to flush the stress out of your system?

For me, that working stuff is a thing of the past (although having time to train is the only thing I have in common with pro athletes). Not only do I have the time but, to be honest, I could probably do with more really beneficial stuff like exercise to spend it on.

On the downside, the biggest (aside from yet more smelly kit to wash) seems to be risk of injury. I can understand that and I’m aware that, in my mid 60s, I’m probably more prone to injury. However, it’s not like I’m doing incredibly long sessions at the brink of my capacity – my weight training is on machines, my running is at a modest speed, and I’m (almost) old enough not to be stupid. Injuries are something to be very aware of – I’ve had enough of them already.

One other thing I keep hearing is the risk of ‘overtraining’. I understand overtraining as a precursor to injury – but I’m not sure what it is by way of a risk in its own right. Is it just mental tiredness and general fatigue?

Unlike pro athletes, I make all this stuff up as I go along. While I’m sure that more training is, generally, a good thing, I’m equally sure that it’s perfectly possible to get it wrong. Unlike pro athletes, I don’t have a coach or a support team to tell me when and how to train – or, I guess, just as importantly, when to stop.

What I’m going to do is try this gently. For now, I’m thinking of doing days with two sessions, a couple of times a week. I’ll try to make them different sessions, typically a session in the gym in the morning and a run or blast on the turbo in the early evening. That should give a bit of variety, a sensible rest between sessions and a total exercise time of under 2 hours.

With a focus on hydration, nutrition, stretching, rest and being sensitive to niggles and early signs of tiredness, what could go wrong?

Seems sensible?