Training: Sept 5-18

Yellow has always meant "day off from running". I am living in a world of yellow.

I was originally going to title this post “Cross-training: Sept 5-18″ but then decided against it. Although “running” has always been synonymous with “training” the fact of the matter is that I can’t run at all anymore. So cross-training is my only training. Therefore, “cross-training” is now synonymous with “training.” I may as well drop the compound and save you a few milliseconds of download time.

A week and a half ago I joined a gym. Now I spend much of my time there. I feel like I’ve been going there for six months.

Cross-training is a total grind, let me tell you. It takes hours. There’s a lot to do: spinning, ellipticalling, weights and circuit training, general stretching/strengthening, and lots and lots and lots of pool running. And it’s all indoors.

Outside the windows of the gym the air is cool, crisp and dry. It’s perfect running weather. I have a terrible feeling that, after suffering through probably the hottest summer I have experienced since moving to NYC in 1984, I will miss the fall entirely and — if I’m lucky, that is — find myself out running in another brutal winter.

But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I need to focus on the here and now. The exploration into what’s wrong with me continues next week. Or at least I hope it does. The person Sandra wants to send me to is proving difficult to get hold of. In the meantime, I am bracing myself for the worst. Sandra is starting to say things to also prepare me for such eventualities. Things like, “I did this pool running for two months when I had IT band syndrome and ran a good marathon afterwards.” It’s helpful and not helpful.

I got incredibly depressed on Friday evening. Meaning “in tears on the couch with vodka” depressed. I don’t usually do this, but what set it off was trying to run and failing again. Reading about stress fractures keeping people out for six months was also a contributor. And, really, it’s looking at my race times and seeing that the last time I made any real progress was two years ago.

These days, I have a tremendous amount of time to think about things while I’m driving to and from the gym, and plodding along in the pool. I often find myself wondering why I’m so driven to continue. One insight emerged during an interview with Houston Hopeful Julie Wankowski (to be published soon) one evening this week. She described her first sub-3:00 marathon in magical terms. It was one of those rare, ellusive “perfect” races. Such races are transcendental (see also: Flow). Those experiences are among the few during which I’ve felt most alive, masterful and accomplished. I offered to her that those magical races are what keep us striving mentally, despite failure, stagnation, injury and other setbacks. And they keep us training. Or, in my case, cross-training.

Spinning: initial impressions

First an injury update: I am so much better that I’ve been given the all clear to go to the track on Monday and attempt a run. I can run until I feel pain, or for 40 minutes, whichever comes first.

Okay, this morning was the third day of my gym-enabled cross-training odyssey. I was told to meet Coach Sandra for the 9:15 spin class. I have never spun. I admit that the first time (about 12 years ago) that someone said they “did spinning” I couldn’t imagine what that meant: spinning around and around? Crazy Manhattanites!

No, like most things it turned out to be a case of some normal activity having been rebranded (and made expensive) by someone much smarter than I. It’s more than stationary cycling. It’s Spinning®! See? Now you can charge a lot for it.

So I apparently did everything wrong today. I’m getting used to this. First I showed up to the spinning studio to find people frantically wiping down the bikes as if there’d been a toxic spill in there. I was trying to figure out if they worked there, but they definitely didn’t, as they resembled me. So then I was trying to determine if they were from the last class, or waiting for the next one. I think it was a mix.

My first question: why bother detoxifying your bike at the end of the class if the next person is going to detoxify it themselves anyway because they didn’t trust you to do it?

With some unease, I saunter over to a bike that’s not receiving this extended foreplay from anyone. I suppose I can claim it, but I have misgivings since people seem strangely attached to certain bikes. I start to adjust its seat and, just as I’m about to climb on, a woman (who was nice about it) comes up and says, “That’s my bike.”

Why does being in this gym take me back to Junior High shop class? I don’t know how anything works and I’m in danger of sawing my fingers off. I continue my strategy of asking strangers for help and she directs me downstairs to a desk where I have to ask for a bike. She helpfully adds that if there are none available, I can come back up and see if the person who claimed it doesn’t show up at 9:15. Then it’s mine for the spinning.

There are no bikes, according to the front desk guy. So I go back up and spot one lonely bike. Sandra is still nowhere to be seen. So I wait for 9:15 and climb on it. The music starts. What I’ve dreaded: I have no idea who it is, but it’s mindless, loud and shrieky. Fortunately, this club understands its demographic and soon enough they are playing Stones, Hendrix and (meep! bad choice!) Golden Earring. Take that, Gen Xers!

Sandra comes tearing in and finds the other sole bike, up at the front, near the instructor’s. (Can you guess why I didn’t take that one?) She questions me with a thumbs up. I return the thumbs up and we’re off.

The class starts. It’s led by a woman wearing something that looks like a customer service headset. She seems calm. But in five minutes she’ll be yelling at us: “Go fast! Turn the knob a quarter turn right! Stand up! Sit down! Position 2! Saddle!” It reminds me of the sole Catholic Mass I went to one Christmas Eve (don’t ask). As happened on that evening, everyone seems to magically know what to do when. I can’t make her out half the time over the din, and I always seem to be standing up or sitting down at the wrong time.

I pedal like mad and realize that standing up while pedaling is hard. At first I lean my forearms on the handlebars, but that’s tiring. So I figure out that you need to be very straight and move your feet as though you’re stomping grapes. It’s somewhat similar to the elliptical in that regard. I also realize that I pedaled too hard during the warmup (and my legs are shot from two days of elliptical and water running) and I’m already tired at seven minutes in.

The next 38 minutes go by slow. The music helps to distract me. I can see why it’s there. Plus we’re supposed to pedal in time to some songs — but not to others! It’s all very confusing. But I eventually figure out how to pedal while standing properly (and see that doing this at higher resistance is easier than at lower resistance). My thighs are burning, as are my calves. This is what is supposed to be happening. I will be spinning throughout marathon training — three times a week. It is Sandra’s substitution for hill workouts.

Then 10 minutes of stretching. Then 30 minutes in the pool, pool running again. I’ve gotten better with yesterday’s practice. But I’m told I need to go faster. If I’m not hurting, I’m not going fast enough. This is becoming a common theme.

Then, after that, it’s back to Sandra’s massage table where I am, amazingly, a lot better. Like at 95% of perfect. I have no idea what’s happened — whether it was the last session, or the pool running or what — but I have one remaining knot (the one in the gluteus) and it’s tiny. We will still work to get rid of it, but at least when I’m walking and doing all this other stuff, it’s not even something I’m aware of.

Even if I can start running again next week, we won’t do hard running until October. I like that she’s cautious, given my history. With all this other stuff I can do to maintain/build fitness, there is no reason not to be cautious.

Next week: the weight room.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers