Running? - Done. Next?

Done with running?... again?

After an unsuccessful attempt at a 100-mile ultra-marathon in 2013 I proclaimed that I may be done with running.

This wasn't so. Yes, true, I pretty much stopped running for 3 months following that race but then I came back at it. With a vengeance. And I got it in 2014 when I raced, this time successfully, in the same bloody race.

So this time around I was much more careful to pronounce the end of my running career. However, it's now been more than one year from that infamous race and not only my appetite for running didn't come back; I essentially stopped running altogether.

There are many aspects that contributed to that state of affairs, not least of them the fact that I moved to central London, where hitting the trails is, ekhm, substantially more difficult than in California. And once used to the trails, hitting asphalt somehow isn't that tempting anymore. So this blog post might just be the case of me trying to convince myself of something after the fact to cope with that change, but let me tell you the story I came up with anyway.

You see, recently I had this idea. Running is great. But how about doing something that is better for general health and fitness? This can mean a ton of different things to different people so let me start by explaining what does it mean to me.

What is fitness anyway?

So, right, being fit sounds like a great goal but what does it really mean to be fit? For me fitness is a combination of the following qualities (in alphabetical order):

  • endurance,
  • flexibility,
  • speed and
  • strength.

It's easy to see that so far, with all the running, I was focusing merely on one of those qualities: endurance. I did occasionally work on strength (gym), flexibility (yoga and stretching on my own... although that was mostly a thing of my ancient past, i.e. modern dance years) and speed (running intervals) but those were just some half-assed efforts lacking focus and intensity.

And then there's the elephant in the room. Dictionary definition of fitness says:

the condition of being physically fit and healthy.

What I talked about above are the physical traits' aspect of the game. But, especially from the utilitarian point of view, being healthy is at least as important, if not more. And possibly the most important aspect of health that we have great control over, and, incidentally one I was completely ignoring until now, is nutrition. More on that later

Goals and role models

Ok, so I want to be fit. When working towards any goal, I think it's always helpful to have some sort of a yardstick to compare oneself against; some role models to aspire to.

So I was thinking: what kind of athletes encompass this kind of fitness, the qualities that I talked about? Two groups come to my mind: gymnasts and modern dancers. Gymnasts should not be surprising I guess and if it was then one Google search should disperse any doubt. And modern dancers might be surprising, but only to those who have never seen a great modern dance group. Or photos like the one on the left.

In terms of a single person whose physique I'd be after? Well, that's easy: Bruce Lee. He might be "small" for today's standards of ridiculously pumped up bodies but boy was he ripped! And he's scoring 11 out of 10 on every single dimension. Strength. Legendary. Flexibility. Do I even need to comment on that? Speed. There's that famous urban legend saying that they had to slow down cameras because otherwise his movement were too freakish fast. True or not the legend did not grow out of thin air; dude was fast all right. I guess there's only one person that can compete with the famous Bruce Lee and that's Chuck Norris himself... but that's a different story altogether ;)

Plan

So what's the plan? Most of all to diversify my training. Since I did invest more or less 10 years of my life into endurance training, I think I'll be taking that aspect a little more lightly, concentrating on the other dimensions, primarily strength. For now I'll be aiming at the following:

  • Weights 5x/week (gym or body weight training),
  • Cardio 3x/week (short, max 30min, HIIT sessions)
  • Stretching 2x/week (yoga classes or stretching at home).

Time permitting I may also try to join some acrobatics classes — something I always wanted to try — hoping that I'm not to old and won't end up broken into pieces and/or getting my ass kicked by little brats.

Either way, little time for running going forward and a much more diversified range of workouts than what I was doing until now. I've been following this program for approximately 3 months now and although I cannot (yet?) claim any profound changes, I do get the kicks out of following this program and hope to stick with it.

I also finally want to improve my game when it comes to food. At the same time when I started the program I also started my Food Challenge. What I'm trying to do is to cook myself everything that I eat. So far not only it was loads of fun but I also learned a lot. I started paying attention to what and how much I eat and it's absolutely shocking how I used to gobble up tons of calories from crappy foods. As long as I was doing my 10h+ of crazy running per week my metabolism was in over-drive and all was good, but no wonder that I was putting weight (and fast!) whenever I took a break from running.

Sadly, I had my share of slips, and in recent weeks even stopped the challenge, but I want to get back to it. Maybe not necessarily insisting on cooking all the food I eat, as that's probably not sustainable in the long run, but at least being mindful and conscious of what I'm eating.

Ok, that's it for now. Perhaps I'll post a progress report in a couple of months; stay tuned :).

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