Friday, December 14, 2012

245.6 - Running and the slowest kid in school

Right, like fat kids would run while holding ice-cream.
I think the right starting point for this post is to explain the charity race to those who didn't have the pleasure of participating in one. Schools in Jamaica, and many influenced by the European tradition typically have an athletic grouping for their students. At my schools, the clubs were color associated, but I digress. The clubs all competed on one week each year in a series of events using the most athletic of their members to participate in various activities to earn points for the club. A healthy competition to say the least, and for many it was a fun event.

Then there were the slow kids. The ones who didn't make it into the qualifying races because ... well, look at them? Why waste time? Yeah, I was one of those kids. I had one event. The Charity race, open to any student who didn't qualify to be in other races. Every year, I entered, from prep school to high school I always entered to try for those points. I'd close my eyes and focus all my efforts on moving my legs as fast as possible and every year I was the last kid across the finish line. Every. Single. Year. Now, I want to go on record as being against the feel good 10th place trophy. I don't want a trophy for losing, but dammit, losing all those races did nothing for my self esteem or my ego.

Today I can run a 5K in just over 30 minutes. When I started running, I could run for about under a minute before crashing. This is how I made the transition.

First off, I needed the right tools, here's a few things I recommend:
  • A heart rate monitor.
  • A GPS tracking tool for running.
  • Comfortable breathable clothing.
  • An MP3 player
  • A strap/case/clip for that MP3 player that keeps it in a controllable, safe and DRY location.
I started off with a routine at LA Fitness assigned to me by a trainer. The point of the routine wasn't to push it to the limit, but to maintain my heart rate for an extended time. Here is the set.
Racing for a Charity, How you like me now?
  1. 45 minutes on the treadmill
  2. 20 minutes on the elliptical
  3. 15 minutes on an exercise bike (no recumbent bikes or bikes with backs, if you can quietly read a book, you're not exerting enough)
  4. 10 minutes on the stairs to cool down.
I looked at him like a mad man. I mean .. that's an hour and a half of activity. WTF dude. How am I supposed to spend all that time doing that? I can't ... well, I can try anyway. I made it through the first one, and it was pretty rough. I came back and did it again and it was easier. I got my heart rate monitor and stopped holding on to the metal monitors on the machines. Keeping it in the zone is the goal. Too high and I start getting really tired, too low and I'm not getting the best benefit. I was surprised at how little effort it took to stay in the zone at first. I was doing 3mph on a level 6 incline on the treadmill for the entire time (BOOOORING) about 4 to 5mph on the elliptical, no idea on the bike (I used the stationary bikes in the spinning room) and some light pace on the stairs. Having my heart rate feedback was critical and useful for avoiding early burn out. Having my MP3 player kept me motivated, and I played with the tempo of the songs I used for motivation, breaks and pacing. As this continued, I incremented the incline and speed of the treadmill. Slowly working my way up from 3mph and 6(degrees? I have no idea) to 3.5 mph and 8. At some point, I decided to try it. Running, just a shot, I was losing weight, I was making progress, I was feeling less and less tired from all the exertion, I knew if I could control my breathing, I could try it.

My first run lasted 5 minutes, I was super excited, I had never run that long before, only sprinted, I think it was 5pm, which for me was hauling ass. When I finished the 45 minute set, I tried it again at the end and I had 10 full minutes of running in one workout. So I started adding more running and using walking breaks to balance out my heart rate, still walking on the incline to do so. Well, now there's an app that tells you when to run and when to walk and how to pace yourself and get ready for a 5K from a lack of activity. I don't trust a running program that has no way to monitor how well your body is reacting to the stress, but that doesn't make it a bad idea.

The cardio I do nowadays is more along the lines of "Fartleks" where I stay level and modify my pace so that I can run for higher exertions for short periods, then rest and resume. It's helping my to jump ahead speed-wise. Forcing my body to grow more accustomed to the faster pace and bringing my control and heart rate into balance. Thanks to that, I have been consistently improving over time in 5Ks, runs and even dancing all night and partying with friends. I enjoy the energy I can sustain and it all started with some very difficult first steps, and the right set of Phat tools.


  1. This blog really is inspiring. It is a gem.

    1. Thank you, I try to be informative, but I try harder to be honest and open with my struggles, and my successes.

  2. I was looking on TeamX for motivation and saw you posted about your blog. This picture of you was my inspiration for today. Keep it up Craig. Great job!!

    1. Thank you. I truly appreciate that :-)