Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dress for stress

Many people who begin an exercise program start by spending money. Exercise outfits, shoes, health club memberships, watches, music players, navigation devices and performance enhancers. You can buy gadgets that tell you your speed, the calories you burned and even record your route. You can buy gels and drinks that keep you going when your body has run out of stored energy. You can even buy belts with pockets and loops to keep it all in. There are backpacks that are actually a giant canteen with a tube to suck the water from as you exercise.

A natural activity like walking or running becomes a very expensive endeavor. What was play now becomes an expense that must be planned for and then you can become so hung up on the gadgets and garments that you lose one of the basic reasons to exercise, releasing stress. If you could just get a new pair of tight knee high compression socks then your shins wouldn't hurt..., The list of items you can't do without becomes endless and there is always that 'something', that if you had it you could be so much faster and go so much further.

So what do you really need? The most important pieces equipment are good fitting comfortable shoes designed for how your body moves. Get professional help when picking them out, a running specialty store is the place to go for your initial fitting. The sales people at most stores like Foot Locker and Finish Line do not know how to fit you with the proper shoes. If you must take a day trip to another city to find a running specialty store then do it, it's worth the effort.

When buying your exercise clothes, go with function instead of fashion. Pants that are to long and drag the ground behind your shoes my be fashionable but can also injure you. Buy pants that fit comfortably a pair of pants or shorts that are to tight in the waist will restrict your breathing and will chaff you to tears. Shirts also need to allow freedom of movement and not have tight places that rub. Once you have a comfortable pair of shorts or exercise pants and a loose fitting T-Shirt, along with a proper pair of shoes you are ready to go.

I prefer to keep my exercise attire simple and functional but the goodies and gadgets make it more fun and interesting as you progress. New stuff makes a good reward for reaching your goals and to keep it fresh. But at the beginning just get the basics and get out there and get your miles in. Earning your stuff makes it more special.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda

Friday, January 28, 2011

Standing Outside the Fire

At least once a month I like to listen to the song, "Standing Outside the Fire". It is the theme song for the Special Olympics and is full of meaning for all athletes. Adult athletes especially should listen to it once in a while.

Some of the words will really hit home for anyone who has trained for an athletic event, be it a local 5K walk or a World Championship competition. To be willing to lay it on the line, to give it your all, to give full measure. I have done 5K races and been so spent at the end that I didn't have the strength left to peel my after race banana. Those are the times when regardless of the results, I'm at peace with my effort.

I might have finished in the middle of the pack but I know I gave it my best. When I see the guys who run the race and then run it again since they didn't get enough, I wonder, how fast could they have done it if they had really put their heart into the effort. I think that is what separates the really great athletes from the thousands of others who could be, if they would just push through into that magic effort level of champions.

To have the courage to see what it feels like to push your limits is indeed a glimpse of magic for an athlete, no matter if your a 20 year old collage sprinter or an over 60 race walker. If we train for health and fitness, then a really hard effort isn't really necessary. But if you train to see just what your made of and to learn what you are capable of then you have to push those limits.

Next time you train, go full throttle, hold that effort as long as you can and then hold it a little longer, see what happens. Perhaps you will find yourself in a magical place. When you stop standing outside the fire and dare to burn. It might just change your whole way of thinking about what you can do.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How NOT to do a Goofy Challenge

I have just returned from Walt Disney World where I completed an event called the Goofy Challenge. This event consists of a half marathon on Saturday and then a full marathon the following day. An event such as this should never be taken lightly and the chance of injury is significant. You should never do such an event without at least a minimal amount of training. All that being said......

Sally had never done an endurance event before this year, during this year she had trained for and successfully completed two 5K races and a 10K. Her official half training started toward the end of October so she had at best two and a half months to get ready. About this same time our weather turned unseasonably cold so her training was walking in the mall. I started her with walks of 30 min 4 days the first two weeks, walks of 45 min 4 days the third and forth week and walks of an hour 4 days a week the next two weeks. Then we added a walk of an hour and a half one day a week for 2 weeks along with 3 other days of an hour. Then she increased to a walk of an hour an 45 min for 2 weeks and finally a walk of 2 hours for two weeks still keeping the other 3 days at an hour. She did the half marathon walking at a pace right at 16 min a mile, with a potty stop and 2 stops to massage out a toe cramp she completed the distance in 3 hours and 38 min.

I've said many times and it's worked for a lot of people, that working up to a couple of 2 hour walks can get you through a half marathon. Unfortunately this was all the training I got also. I had developed a bad PF injury and was just recovering when Sally started her training. I was going to increase my training during that time but ended up catching a bad head and chest cold the last 2 weeks before the trip to Disney.

The half with Sally went smoothly for me and except for tired feet I felt fine. Then we walked the two miles back to the hotel, had a light lunch and took a shower and a nap. When I woke from the nap I couldn't put weight on my right foot. I hobbled into the bathroom and ran a tub of hot water and sat in it massaging my feet and calves, after about 30 min of this I dried off and tried walking again. I could walk but my foot was still very tender. We walked a couple of miles to Epcot and back slow and easy, to get some dinner. Then I took some Advil and went to bed. At 2am when it was time to get up I was able to walk pretty good so decided to try to do the marathon.

I grabbed a couple of pool towels on the way to the bus so I could sit on them at the staging area and the start. I knew I had a slim chance of finishing with the training I had leading up to here so as soon as I got to the staging area I sat on my towels and didn't get up till time to walk to the start corrals. At the start corrals I sat on my towels till it was time to go. Then I stood up and did some easy stretching and got ready to go.

When our corral started I was with Robert and we had decided to do our own race and not try to stay together. I went out at a 14:30 pace and my plan was to just try to hold that pace as long as possible to build up a time buffer for later in the race when my lack of training was going to be a demon to battle. I ended up keeping that pace for the first half and then finally slowing to about 15 min a mile for the second half. I had problems with soreness in my right arch, my left toes and balls of both feet. I popped a couple of the pain tablets at the Med tent and pressed on. I drank Powerade at every water stop and had about 4 bananas and a couple of gels. My energy level stayed good and the pain pills took the edge of my foot issues.

I was enjoying the race but expecting any time to have a melt down but the slow pace and the just keep moving attitude worked. I finished in 6:33, not pretty but in the book and then it was beer and party time. I did come away with a new confidence and resolve to get my fitness level back to where it needed to be.

Thanks for reading.

Rambling Panda