By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
April 21, 2016
It all started because Jon and his wife Christa wanted to go on vacation or something. At the time, I was still kind of just trudging along with the workouts, dealing with a little injury of my own and not worrying too much about fitness at that time. I have to admit, I was kind of pigging out quite a bit, for even though I wasn’t running at all, I was still eating like a voracious animal that had not seen any food for days, maybe even years. While I only gained five pounds in the process, I still felt like I had let myself go. Like I had become “2014 Steve” where just about anything I saw I would eat and Chipotle was always on the menu. Of course, the fact I did not gain nearly 30 pounds is not gonna happen. Not this time!! So here I was, getting ready to be off for more than a week and I was eating too much. At the time, it just sounded like I really needed to get my diet into a different place, but what this really meant was the fact I needed to start running again. I needed to actually use the fuel I was giving my body. I needed to reboot my training regimen in a way that would allow me to slowly rebuild while also reaffirming my love for fitness. I needed to do a challenge.
Now, there is a lot of these challenges all over the internet. Heck, I get accosted for these challenge groups all the time, wondering where they get the idea that I really need to get a Brazilian Butt or why I’m trying to lean out my hips. Of course, this is all contradictory to what I naturally do with my own fitness. Of course, I still want that nice butt and those leaner, love-handles-less hips (I mean, what former fat guy wouldn’t!). I don’t have a problem with the thought of these groups, for I think they are a good starter template for trying some different things. While I often discourage people from going full out when it comes to a new and physical endeavor, I typically take it a step shorter in order to assure success. Like when people ask how I decided to go vegan, well, I have to give them a long explanation about my desire to continue a more environmental path in life while also being a true “animal lover.” Well, once I turn someone off with that explanation, they ask how I managed to give up dairy and meat. Well, the easier part for me was to give up dairy. After a month of anger and uneven mood swings, I really got the hang of it. After giving up the most difficult aspect of a plant based diet, giving up the likes of meat was easy. I even inadvertently gave up soda and all fruit juices (for I make my own blends instead these days!). So naturally, my philosophy is similar to these challenges, mostly in regards to moderation and frequency. I always tell people to start slow, regardless of how motivated they are and how desperate they are. If they asked me how they can start a running regimen, I often tell them to start with a lot of walking….and I mean a lot! I don't really get the confidence to actually run until I was doing more than three loops around the main running path at Reid Park. One of my friends asked me how to start a weight lifting regimen, which I stated “body weight.” He seemed rather surprised but hey, if you have trouble just doing your own body weight, how in the world will you really develop an acumen to do actual weights. Of course, I often times refer to my own experience to everyone that might ask, which is certainly what suits me. I’m not going to tell someone to start out “balls to the wall,” for I have seen far too many people o the running path at Reid Park who tried running long distances, only to vanish and never be seen from again. I am not an online “coach” that has to tell you what to do and tell you what you should do. I just rather tell you what I did.
Anyway, back to this whole challenge thing. Now, this wasn’t something I consciously started on my own. With Jon out of the picture for a decent amount of time, I merely started my own little challenge to test my running. You got that right, I was just seeking out a way to keep myself in shape, and since I wasn’t terribly interested in doing push-ups and sit-ups every day, I decided a decent running program would work. So here I was, on the edge of boredom and unclear what I wanted to do. It took a good four days after my last workout before I started my own personal challenge on March 21. I remember that day vividly, for I shot out like a cannon and ran .60 miles on my first five-minute interval! To put it in perspective, I had not run for a month and then burned out a huge distance. Typically I shoot for .53 or .54 miles per five minute interval, and I usually settle for anything above .50 when I have a long day at work or finished a workout. Anyway, here I was at the end of my run and I was gassed! I ultimately said “Never again!” primarily because I had forgotten to run in the span of a month. Fortunately I managed to reel it in a little bit, doing a more steady pace that was befitting to my level of endurance at that time. It was a rough beginning to say the least, for not only was my body getting angry from the new challenges, I was dealing with a lot of wind during those days. Yup, Arizona does get a little windy during the “Kite” month, and that makes for some bad running conditions when you run alongside a riverbed that has nothing but sand and loose dirt. One day was made even worse when some guys were running their ATVs through the riverbed and the dust was blowing right in my face, even though I was a good 20 feet above them. Not even being on the high ground can save your butt at the Santa Cruz River Wash! I went pretty wild that first week, running eight times in nine days. This included a respectable workout from Jon on the ninth day! I mean, I did deadlifts and push-presses with the barbell and then went for a run. What the heck!
Now naturally, I was pretty stupid, trying to run just about every day. This kind of worked for a while, mainly because my job was being a real pain in the butt and not giving me the kind of hours I really needed to live. So instead of getting angry, I naturally ran. Like I always said, being able to do this is one reason why I joined the “I Run For” foundation, which is a charity group meant for runners that want to sponsor disabled people (mostly kids) that cannot run. I was interested in the project when one of my fellow runners on my Ragnar Del Sol team got extra medals for her follower named Wesley. Truthfully, I think I am a shoe-in for the program, especially since about 90% of the sponsors are women! I think just being a man should get me fast tracked through the system (I am in the midst of a 15-week waiting list), so I definitely can’t wait to get paired up with someone. By the time I do, I should be talking about the Ragnar McDowell Mountain Race and the slick double medal I will be getting! Hopefully I would be able to get someone both of those medals! One of the biggest highlights of April was when I did the Tucson Heart and Stroke Walk in an Angry Birds costume. I have to tell you, I wish I had some kind of video recorder on me at the time, for the number of perplexed faces were quite extensive. Every other car along the road was honking at me. Old people were wondering if I lost a bet, younger people were either perplexed or laughing, and other people on the path that were walking or running certainly got a good chuckle out of the moment. But, here is the lesson for all of you to take in….just be careful when you are doing something like this!
As you may've imagined, I went through a couple injury spurts during this time. During the final two weeks of my challenge, I only ran five times total. Why you may ask? Well, let’s just start with the darn blood blister I got. This always seems to happen when I do a lot of walking, and the day where I finally got a rather valuable cooler for my father back, I inadvertently injured my foot because I was breaking in some a rather hard and rough pair of Vans. After a few weeks, I have now broken them in and they are cool to wear, that first day was a nightmare. I maybe walked a mile or two in them on some excruciating pavement and certainly deserved the pain I received. I knew I should have worn my decent Perry Ellis shoes! Oh well, after cutting off the loose skin from the blister, I had to sit a couple extra days to not only let it dry out, but also lose some of he sensitivity that had crept in. That’s what kind of happens when you expose your skin after ripping off the hard top layer. So I lost four days right there, but got back on the horse with a vengeance, ripping out a five mile run on my first day back. I was still bothered a little by an ankle injury, mainly because of the altered state of walking I had to do to keep from aggravating my blister.
I would have to say the best day of the challenge came on April 16th when I decided to really push the limits. Having taken a couple extra days off to let my ankle rest, I went for a 7.35-mile run that I did at a 9:50-minute per mile pace. Not bad for a guy that had not been running at the distance for a while, even though my best times were more than 30 seconds faster. I mean, I did a similar distance at Ragnar Del Sol and finished six minutes faster! I shouldn’t judge myself like that, for right now I am just trying to get back on the horse and prepare for some longer distances. Now, I have talked so much about the running part, just how did I do? Well, during the span of the 30 days I went through this running regimen, I ran on 19. I felt like running on the last day, but more on that later. Amongst all those runs, I totaled out to 71 miles. Now sure, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but you have to remember I was still working as well as going to the gym. Throw in the fact I was doing some other challenges, like a squat and sit-up challenge, and you can see why I was losing some momentum. Heck, on the last day of the challenge, I was pretty much dying. Without Jon to monitor me (he was at his son’s track meet), I decided to keep the weights light and the movements simple. I did five set of five reps o the deadlift, calling it a day at 285 pounds. I probably could have gone to 305, but like I said, I was already tired when I showed up. I then moved on to some hang cleans, starting out with five sets of five. But I already knew that was going to be a mountain, so I went with five sets of three, settling at 165 as my top weight, especially since I was having trouble just doing that. I then did some over head presses and barbell rows, going lighter than normal with both movements. I didn’t really feel mad about anything, I was just dead tired from the combination of work and lack of sleep.
Truthfully, I have decided that I will take a couple days off and once again do another challenge. After today’s workout, I will start another 30-day challenge to test my limits and continue my running regimen. Until then, I would say my first 30-day challenge, one all my own, was a good one.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.