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Cold hands, sore arms

It’s the end of week one of the hundred push-up challenge and time for an update. The good news is that I completed everything I was supposed to, so currently on track with it. 

If you’re not aware, the hundred push-up challenge is a six week incremental training programme, which should prepare you to complete the challenge at the end of it. There are three workouts each week, and each workout consists of five sets. The format is typically the second set is higher than the first; the third and fourth sets are the same lower number; the fifth set is pretty much do as many as you can.

So how has the week gone? First of all, I managed a total of 174 push ups this week over the three days. That seems a great start. On day one I felt my form was a little off at the beginning so made sure I was concentrating on doing push-ups correctly, rather than semi-formed ones that could end up causing me problems in the longer challenge. 

On Wednesday, my day two, I found my pectorals were still a bit sore from the Monday workout but I managed to complete the five sets, and by today, day three, I was feeling good again. The last workout was challenging but doable and I made the mistake of looking at the numbers for week two when I’d finished. Looks like the challenge is going to be a bit of a steep curve up to the hundred!

For anyone else following the challenge I’d love to hear how you’ve been getting on and also hear your thoughts going into the next week(s) too.

Bit of a stretch

I’ve been thinking more about how I can add some more variety into my training. I’ve said it before, we’ve all said it before, this means cross-training. 

I’m reasonably fit, but I’m geared entirely for running. The bits of me that need to move for running can move pretty well, forwards and backwards, causing the relentless gasping for air as I go. The rest of me isn’t quite so in tune. The classic groan-as-you-sit-down/moan-as-you-get-up routine. 

I’ve written about swimming and cycling as cross-training, but this week I’ve been thinking a bit broader and have targeted some stretching exercises. Apart from some stretches before and after a run, I’ve never taken on a specific stretching workout. As an intro I turned to my watch for guidance. 

I found a couple of useful options under workouts on my watch: Yoga and Pilates. I wasn’t entirely sure what the difference is, or which is the right one to choose, so will have a go at a workout of each. 

I decided to start off with Yoga. There’s a workout on Garmin Connect called Yoga for Runners, the perfect thing for me. Two things from this in hindsight: firstly, this is an intermediate level workout. I am not an intermediate level yoga-ist, I’m barely a beginner. Secondly, the workout lasted half an hour, a duration that can be referred to as “a long time for a beginner to do yoga”.

Looking down the list of stretches before I started, I counted 91 individual poses. There were ones I’d heard of (Child’s pose, Cat Pose, Thread the Needle Pose), one’s I hadn’t (Peaceful Warrior Pose) and technical ones I liked the sound of (Standing Single Leg Forward Bend with IT Band Opener). There was no sense of irony lost on me that the final one was called Corpse Pose lasting a minute (or possibly eternity). 

The workout went as well as could be expected. I didn’t know most of the poses and struggled to meet the demanding timeframes set by my watch. It displayed very helpful graphics of the movements as we went along but with sometimes only ten seconds to do them, we’d already moved on to the next one. 

It’s all a learning thing though, and I can’t expect to be good at it immediately. It clearly needs time to get familiar with the routine. But it felt ok – the range of muscles and bits of body worked out was excellent and it felt good that this was designed for runners. It’s something I’ll return to in the off days, and hopefully will see benefits in my running from it in the future.

With stretching now ticked off I can move on to… no, wait. There’s another: Pilates for Runners; a 30 minute intermediate workout. Oh well, next up then, some pilates!

Don’t get X, get X

There was a glorious moment several years ago in my running career when I realised that to maintain my fitness I didn’t have to exclusively go out running. And better than that, doing different activities means different muscles are exercised which is generally a positive thing for running too. A welcome to the world of cross-training.

The problem I’ve found with cross-training is that I run out of calendar time. My goals over the years have always been directly linked to a particular race, and usually a targeted finish time for that race. As it gets closer to the race date I tend to reign in the cross-training and focus on running only, as if every final mile of tarmac run will shave seconds off my final time.

This is a shame as different activities keep things interesting. I’ve done several different activities for cross-training but have most consistently come back to cycling. To be clear, not lycra-clad, ultra-light road bike cycling, no triple figure distances sought out on a damp Saturday morning; I prefer to take my bike out and go exploring through the wilderness. Handily, there’s a good amount of countryside and overgrown footpaths nearby, and I count myself lucky to have such an amount of rich ground to traverse.

My bike is a heavy mountain bike I’ve had for over ten years. I’ve barely had to do anything with it, apart from the odd spray of WD40, so probably needs a bit of a service. No matter through, it has kept going, and kept me going through the years, and between us we have uncovered much undiscovered local territory.

The bike will handle anything, but I prefer the fair weather – I don’t mind a bit of rain, but would rather be out in the sunshine, hacking through some backwoods and overgrown trails, half unsure of my legal grounds for being on that particular piece of land. Any problems I can always feign ignorance – ‘is this the footpath that goes to Sprattlingborough?’. 

This type of exploratory cycling has additional benefits for running: it gives a great insight into potential new running routes and is ideal for scouting out the best hills for bolting up and down. Running will be my main goto fitness routine, hopefully for many years to come, but there is something about running that means there is never an option to stop, once you’re off you’re off. Maybe it’s the way I set out to achieve a target time in the first place, maybe it’s a concern about cramping up if I stop. And this is where cycling wins out – what better thing to emerge from an uncharted piece of woodland into a village, complete with a welcoming pub. Even in the height of training season it would seem churlish not to stop in for a quick pint!

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