I started this blog in November 2020 with a retrospective of my November 2019-November 2020 weight loss and fitness journey. You can read that post here. If you prefer the short version, here it is: As a result of meticulous research and implementation of diet and exercise plans I lost 70 pounds over the span of five months while increasing the duration, intensity, and types of weekly physical activities. Here’s a link to the post where I discuss my early plans and sources in greater detail.
After the COVID19 global pandemic derailed my intention of using road races and Iron Man 70.3 races as motivational targets, I discovered the joys of trail running. Interestingly enough, the inherent social distancing created by the sport resulted in trail races becoming the first racing events to reopen in my region (the PNW of the United States for my international friends). You can read my reflections about my first-ever Trail Race in this post. The race that inspired that post was the Fort Ebey Kettles Trail Half Marathon, the first of the 2021 Northwest Trail Runs Half Marathon Trail Series.
At the time of this writing (4/29/2021) I am the points leader in this series both for overall men’s points and for my over 40 Masters’ age bracket. I’m not sure how long this lead will last as the better, faster runners return to racing this spring and summer but I’m going to enjoy being out in front as long as I can! Also, while I’m realistic enough to know I’m not fast enough to really compete with the sport’s best runners, I’m also competitive enough to do my utmost to claw for the best result possible. So I revised my training plans from March onwards to prioritize trail running performance over multi-sport/triathlon.
In pursuit of improving my half marathon pace on trails that can include elevation gains of 2000 feet or more over the span of 13.1-ish miles I’ve been working to build power and strength over the past few months. Because I’m over 40 and because I abused my body too much in my teens and twenties, I’ve been suffering an increase in strains and training injuries lately, which brings me to the purpose of this post.
Throughout the past year+ of intentionally improved fitness I had incorporated yoga into my weekly routines in order to stave off the sort of injuries that plague distance runners and cyclists. And it was working beautifully. Over this past winter, as I quit open water swimming (I got tired of the brain freeze ice cream headaches from the frigid waters of the Puget Sound) I also let my yoga practice slip from a daily routine to a once-twice a week thing, to a “I don’t feel like doing it” chore. This left me with running and cycling as my routine fitness activities. Both of these sports, pursued without appropriate cross training, will overdevelop certain muscle groups and leave other key parts of the core and legs underdeveloped. This is the path to the dark side of overuse injury.
It took a few months of using KT Tape anytime I was running longer than 90 minutes to realize that my rapidly reducing mobility score was increasing my injury risks and contributing to why I was on the verge of injury each time I worked to increase my power both on the bike and in running. DUH. I realized I had, once again, become the athletic equivalent to the Old Testament nation of Israel. When things went well for OT Israel, they turned their backs on God and ultimately suffered greatly as a result. So then while they were suffering greatly, they’d cry out to God, return to their faith, and things would eventually improve for them. Then they’d get complacent again and have another fall. Repeat ad nauseam. As a nerdy book-lovin’ kid growing up as a fundamentalist I used to get so annoyed with the people of Israel. Now that I’m a nerdy book-lovin’ grownup (also a recovering fundamentalist… trying to be anyhow) I realize the story of the Old Testament people of Israel is my story. So, like the dumbass ancient Israelites, I returned to the righteous path of working on key strength and mobility routines before and after each workout as well as while seated at my desk working on the day job.
I’m pleased to report that in only a few weeks of diligence towards my flexibility/mobility and core strength I have regained much of the range of motion I lost over the winter months of yoga neglect. I’ll use the remainder of this post to share the free resources I find most helpful in this pursuit.
The very best online resource I have found is Eric Wong AKA “Coach E” of Precision Movement. I love his materials because he explains the why of each activity in precise terms that are accessible for the layperson. It’s impossible to remove all jargon from explanations without losing specificity, so he does a really nice job of elaborating on key anatomical, movement, and physiological terms when necessary. I also like that he provides many routines that can be accomplished at work if you have a standing desk, and even tailors many to movements you can do from an office chair.
I’ve tried just about every YouTube Yoga and Yoga app that can be found. I struggle with most of them, either because the instructor’s tone of voice and music choice turns me off, or because I find their yoga to be too intense, too “woo-woo” or too sleepy for me. The free resource I’ve found to be the perfect fit for my needs and taste is the Nike Training Club app. It’s neat because they have a great variety of instructors, and you can integrate Apple Music playlists into any session. I find their demonstrations and explanations of each move to be just what I need to understand how to do with the movement without taking me too far outside of my zone with lengthy yogababble.
I can’t vouch for how it works with Android, but if you’re an Apple user like me, give NTC a shot. Link to Nike Training Club website.
I’ll connect all of this to my personal faith journey in this way. Mobility exercise is a lot like prayer. I don’t naturally enjoy it or want to do it. The more regularly I engage with it, the more helpful and rewarding it becomes. And once I begin to reap the benefits of steadfast practice, it’s easy for me to want to quit doing the very thing that got me there. So I often quit, get hurt, and need to remember the importance of daily faithfulness for long term results. It’s almost as if the more successful I feel, the greater my risk for complacency becomes. And the more miserable I feel (as the result of my own complacency) the more likely I am to engage/re-engage in the daily practices that will lead me through my misery and into greater strength, injury-resilience, peace. Weird, huh?