By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
March 31, 2016
The strangest feeling a person could have is picking up right where they left off. I always wonder what it would be like to take an actual vacation, one where I did not have to worry about anything and then have to return to the real world. Would I long for more? Would I start saving up for the next? I wouldn't know, for my “vacations” seem to be forced time off these days, where I want to actually work but the powers that be tell me not to. Such is the conundrum of this time of year, where we all stress about filling out some simple tax paperwork and then watch our hearts leap for joy or sink into despair as the little counter on the side of the webpage you are doing your taxes on keeps going down, especially when you have multiple W-2s to input and the first one shows you have a refund of $1,500 coming! Yup, I didn’t get anywhere near that, for I’m just too darn “rich” to be getting that sort of write-off. But that is the nature of the beast, for you always get very little back and soon have to make the decision on what to spend it on. A weekend in Las Vegas? Some much needed car repairs? A nice gift for your significant other? Or do you actual save it? I have no idea what I need to do with my meager sum this year, for I want to visit some friends in San Francisco, friends in Austin, family and friends in Denver and try to save up for a new car, bed, glasses and some new clothes. Yup, so many decisions to make on the subject, for all my clothes are frumpy and look awful these days.
Now, I’m just venting a little, for work is slow and I’m losing hours and money like crazy. Fortunately I did my taxes first and managed to catch up on all my bills, but the struggle will soon start up all over again. So I guess it was kind of good that I got a couple weeks off; time spent away from the blog and from life in general as I try to reset some things in my life. Like always, it is never easy, for I really want to start kicking into gear in regards to a healthier looking me, and I figure I need to get my butt in gear some time. It was rather strange that I made that assessment for change during the time Jon was off on vacation. You see, he has to let loose and unwind every now and then, and thus took off to Las Vegas where he and his wife Christa returned to the scene of the crime that was Ragnar Las Vegas on Mt. Charleston. Okay, it wasn’t 16 degrees like it was that fateful day last November, but it was still cold according to them. Either way, I was a bit inspired by the fact they were doing some working out while on a hike, lifting logs and going all “Rocky 4” on the world while the underlings in the valley of Vegas used machines and growth hormones. I got to admit, if I was working out on a top of a mountain or something, I would have been singing some pretty bad 80s anthems, like “Moment of Truth” (https://youtu.be/MqZQsv1QPA4) or “Eye of the Tiger” or “Hearts on Fire.” (for the longest time, I thought all those songs were by Survivor!) I can imagine myself running up a full mountain in the span of a day, helping some old guy get his cart picked up and doing one armed push-ups in a barn. Okay, scratch the push-ups but the rest of the stuff I could certainly do. Of course, I was rather disappointed in the Parsons when they told me they didn’t do any Rocky 4 style shenanigans!
So here I was back in Tucson, still with no gym membership, and wondering what the heck I should do with myself. Well, I thought the simplest solution would be the best one…just start running! Okay, ever since Ragnar Del Sol, I have been one lazy little runner. Typically I have a good post race high that would last me at least a couple weeks, but a week after the race I kind of aggravated my achilles, so I was forced to do nothing for at least two weeks, waiting until I got some new work shoes that gave me a little comfort. I still need to start seeing my usual chiropractor and massage therapist again, but then again….food takes priority! Either way, I figured out how I wanted to stay in shape….start my own little 21-day Challenge. Now we have all sorts of challenges to choose from, and it seems like most of them are centered around the idea of starving yourself to death or starting some new eating regimen. Now I did not prescribe to either, for I did not feel the need to take on a more challenging version of a plant based diet (at least not yet) and I really didn’t want to do some glute and squat challenge (once again, not yet). So I decided to make my personal challenge a comparative challenge, one that I can use down the line and compare it when I try the challenge again. Right now, I am keeping it simple, doing a battery of runs and weight lifting sessions that will help me rebuild some of the lost gains I had from the two weeks I didn’t work out. Needless to say, I will be working on the mileage, for I really lost my mojo when I stopped with the running and became good at the couch potato-ing.
So on March 21, I did a little 3.18-mile jaunt that I ran way too fast for. I faded badly on the second half of the run, but for the first time in a month, I finally got out and did something. The burning lungs were actually worth it! I followed that run with a couple more in a row, progressively getting worse with the per-mile time and then deciding to take that Thursday off. I didn’t do it for any reason other than the fact I really needed a day off! But I continued with more consecutive runs. I even ran on Easter Sunday, which was a boon of good vegan food for me. Since our family is getting more and more healthy as well as privy to the dangers of dairy, it is getting easier for me to actually celebrate and join in the festivities. Now of course, they still made some ham and dairy-filled mashed potatoes, but there was never a moment where I felt excluded or like my selection was extremely limited. Heck, it was genius for me to get some hummus and pita chips (Stacy’s to the rescue!), for this was the first time in a long time where we didn’t have some mainstream potato chip at our party like Doritos or something. I had my fill that day, eating this cauliflower dish that my aunt had made, cutting it up into such fine granules that it looked like rice. She topped it off like asian rice as well, putting sautéed onions and peppers like you would at a stir fry joint. Of course, I mixed in with some teriyaki tofu and it was a masterpiece. And of course, I made a nice contribution as well, bringing in some Field Roast Celebration Roast and some good bread and vegan cheese, allowing those that wanted to to make sandwiches (I had three unfortunately). I also enjoyed some delicious IPAs from Dragoon as well as some good coffee and I was in no shape to really do anything the rest of the day. But lo and behold, despite a belly full of food and a body filled with gas, I went out and did a short run in spite of my own trepidation. Sure, I wasn’t doing anything crazy in regards to length, but I was pushing myself in a way I had rarely done….forcing myself to try to be better. Of course, this was all during the time I was breaking in some new work shoes, which predictably left me a little sore and tired at the end of a 10-hour work day. All in all, I ran eight times in 10 days, totaling out for 27.1 miles and averaging out near nine and a half minute miles despite the wind and the rising heat (summer is going to be here early this year!)
Now if you think running is difficult to do after such a long lay-off, imagine having hit the gym after two weeks away. Now Jon kind of took it easy on my, but I also took it easy my myself because I knew the challenge that was awaiting me. I opted to focus on what we called the “Core Four,” or the most basic weight lifting procedures you need to restart or begin a workout regimen. So I busted out 50 dead lifts at only 205 pounds to start off with. I stayed with a low weight mainly because all four of my lifts were going need some energy, plus I didn’t want to hurt myself. I then followed that up with 50 bench presses, taking my sweet time considering I had burned up so much energy with the deadlifts. Jon had told me to go lighter on the dead lifts, but would I listen….NO! So I did the benches at 135 pounds, knowing this would be a tough weight to do with 50 reps. It was extremely brutal, but I got the job done and moved on to the easy portion of the workout for me, killing the 50 barbell rows that I had assigned myself. I was able to get through this one pretty quickly, for there is a reason why my traps are starting to get a little bigger and why my neck continues to get leaner and tighter (even if the turkey chin is taking its sweet time!). I finished off the day with some overhead presses, going for 125-pound lifts and much like everything else, plowing through 50 reps. On some days, I might have gone for some other exercise that would have pushed me and taken even more energy out of me, but I opted to stick with those basic four and move on with the workout. I’ll admit, I was still feeling the burn lat that day when I decided to do a short run. I had blown up nine workouts in nine days at that time, and you could see in my face the pain I was putting myself through as I commemorated each worth out with a selfie. But with the two-a-day done, I had come to an interesting epiphany.
Later that night, the same team I had run with at Ragnar Del Sol was doing some early recruiting for the Ragnar McDowell Mountain Race in November. Now I already knew I was going to do the race, for I want the gigantic medal that is being given for doing both of the Arizona races. Earlier in the week I had joined an organization called “I Run For…” which is like a sponsorship program for people who do races and run for those that are stricken with diseases or conditions that keep them from doing so themselves. Right now, I am on 15-week waiting list, and that all depends on whether they decide to take me at all. But in the aftermath of that decision, I kind of envied what my old teammate Laura had done for her sponsored runner during Ragnar Del Sol. She managed to get Ragnar central to send an extra medal to the young boy she was running for. I thought that's the coolest thing, which is why I hope Ragnar will honor my request to send a duplicate double medal if I am given a sponsorship by then. But I won’t make it easy on myself either. Right now, if all falls into place, I will be running the “Ultra” version of the Ragnar McDowell Mountain. Since the trail run series is already expensive, why not make more bang for my buck by doing double the mileage. To put it in perspective, the most miles I have run so far at a Ragnar is 19.1, and this November I will be slated to do 31.4! On trails, not streets! Now this all depends if enough people sign up for the Ultra, for the price tag on it is pretty steep and it isa long ways off. But that is the great thing about life. You set some goal and see just how hard it really is to do it. I got seven months to significantly increase my running distance and my strengthen my legs. Up to this point, I continue to have cramping problems going into the final run of all the Ragnars I enter, so this means I will have to start doing a little actual research on how to combat that problem and do some more uphill running. I will not know whether I am on an Ultra squad until a couple weeks down the line, when the final tallies are made and the people who wish to run are confirmed. I already know I’m going, so who knows what distance I will get. But I sure as heck know this is something I have wanted to do for nearly three years. I guess it is time to stop putting it off!
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
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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.