For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Stairway to heaven--Stepmill to hell.

MRI  image from inside a sarcomere in my left
 quadricep after finishing my workout
Add stepmill to the list of cardio equipment that can incapacitate me in seven minutes.

Tuesday marked the first day I decided to 'go back to normal' on my workouts.  My new plan involves a bigger variety of equipment including the stepmill.  I'd tried it out last week but was a bit skeptical that it would be able to provide the required difficulty, but though i'd give it a shot.

Based on that previous trial  (where i did 1:1 intervals, each interval being a minute long) I decided to try 1:2 intervals which meant only 2 work intervals for 2 minutes each.  The work intervals were at the max level (level 20) and the rest intervals at level 11.  I was on a Matrix brand machine.

I made the intervals, but barely.  The resulting experience was a combination of what i've felt on my best bike workouts and my running through jello workouts.  The final 30 seconds i felt as though everything was in slow motion - my legs heavy like i was trying to lift my feet out of molasses.  I was sure i was going to clip one of the stairs and be sent sprawling as i counted down the final 20 steps.  After i was done, the molasses went away but still my legs screamed at me and refused to let me walk with anything resembling a normal gait for at least 10 minutes.

And no back pain the day after which is the best part--I'm happy to hobble around, it just needs to be for the right reasons, like my thrice weekly trips to the Inferno.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The upside of injury

I like to think there is always an upside.  In this case, the limitation of my back have led me to explore other training options and I've found a good one in the last place I thought i would: the elliptical machine.

I have always thought that elliptical machines were incapable of generating enough intensity for the likes of my workouts.  Yeah, you could set the resistance really hard but the nature of having your feet just resting on the platforms limited the amount of work you could really do, and I imagined the amount of work I was looking to do vastly outstripped this potential. Turns out I was wrong (my wife won't be surprised!).

My lovely elliptical trainer.  She's meaner than she looks.
I finished last week out with two elliptical workouts (after realizing I couldn't row or run) on two different machines--for some reason my YMCA has three different brands of ellipticals!  Both were awesome.  The second one was a bit too awesome and I failed miserably on the fourth of five intervals.  The program was a 30:30 interval (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy) and I'd set the level to 20 (out of 30 possible).  After a 3 minute progressive warm-up, the intervals started--30 seconds at level 20 where you're instructed to keep the cadence above 60, followed by 30 seconds at some lower level (11?) where you're told to 'walk' at a cadence under 45.

For the first interval i was jazzed and 45 felt ridiculously slow and easy and so i kept the cadence above 60 on the rest portion.  By the last interval i was struggling to keep the pace above 40 and had lowered the work interval portion down to level 16.  Ouch.

I was pleasantly surprised by these workouts.  They were HARD.  yeah, maybe i'm still not quite back to where i was before Belize, and sure, they are 'new' which might make them seem harder, but i'm not even coming close to tapping the potential of these machines.  Cardiovascularly I felt like i was doing a tabata--my heart rate was through the roof on the work intervals and I was desperate for the rest intervals to last longer. I also felt like both my legs and arms were getting pushed hard--there was definitely a full body feel to the session, similar to what I feel when doing intervals on the rowing machine but with activation of some of my 'pushing' muscles as well.

So needless to say, I'm psyched.  I'll probably alternate cycling workout and elliptical workouts until I can run again, and then maybe alternate all four (biking, rowing, running, elliptical) once I'm back to full health.

But for now, well the Chiropractor is waiting.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Train Wreck

My back is a mess.  I've got bone spurs on my vertebrae, twisting in my upper spine, and compressed disks in my lower spine (and some major misalignment).  

My best guess based on thinking 'back' (and the X-Rays) is that i've been ignoring and compensating for a minor high jumping injury from 2006.  The bummer is that i wasn't even really jumping that high!  But the day after i took that leap was the first day i experienced the spasms and shooting pain up the left side of my lower back in the nerves.  

The problem has come and gone over the years and I've sought treatment (a couple sporadic visits to the chiropractor or a massage) when it has gotten particularly bad.  It's always been worse with stress.

The first week of February was one of the most stressful I've had-I was planning my first race of the year (the iceman triathlon) and two days after the event had to be packed for a four day adventure race--in which i was participating--in Belize.  The Week before the Iceman the pain showed up out of no where.  I mucked through - spending lots of time stretching my back and complaining about it.  I still managed to get my training in. Exercise has always seemed to loosen up the muscles and keep the nerves from being impinged upon.  I even went to a chiropractor twice but it didn't seem to help much.

The Iceman was a success as was packing and the race in Belize.  Four days of physical activity kept me from thinking about my spine at all and I harbored a deep seated optimism that i was once again in the clear.

But then came the aftermath of four days of physical activity.  The pain got progressively worse during the full travel day back to North Dakota.  In the days following it got unbearable.  With a straight, stationary spine i had almost no pain.  But slight and sudden movements that i couldn't really predict or prevent (unless of course i didn't move at all) were debilitating.  Glancing over my shoulder to check my blind spot while driving nearly caused me to pass out.  This was the worst things had ever been.

So i went back to the Chiropractor and this time got X-rays.  My hope that the issue was tight muscles causing a temporary misalignment was, obviously, dashed.  

Today I go for my fourth visit of a 20 visit plan and am gradually starting to get some relief.  When things were at their lowest I became unexpectedly depressed--spending hours thinking about all the simple things I feared I'd never be able to do again:  somersaults, climbing, child's pose.  Hopefully my ruminations about a future I really don't want will help me look at recovery and maintenance more seriously and take the proper steps.  

I'm now confident I'll heal and be able to get back to all my normal activities.  Training wise, I'm still unable to run or row - but haven't really missed much as the week after Belize was 100% recovery and the following week was slated for 'rebuilding' - normal workouts at slightly less than baseline level to gauge my return to full fitness.  I managed the biking one this week but to be honest it was a bit hard to admit that I wasn't going to be able to do the rowing without potentially hindering my spinal healing. 

Apparently it takes a long time to clean up a train wreck.