Training & Recovery 7-27 December

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Week ending 13 Dec

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Week ending 20 December

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Week ending 27 December

Wow, three weeks behind with the updates.  I suppose I can blame the holidays, a heavy workload or just being lazy.  Probably some of all three.

Recovery and training progresses well.  I’m hooked up with some great friends around the country in a virtual “support network” to keep us all motivated and training hard through the holidays.  It has really helped me a lot as there have been any number of days these past weeks where I just didn’t want to train.  But the thought of having to explain why I slacked off to this group was just the extra oomph I needed to get back on the bike trainer, or off to the pool, or out the door in the very early morning to the gym.

Over the last week, I’ve really begun to feel normal again.  Friday was 14 weeks out and I had a great 5k run that had me match my Turkey Trot race pace, but at 15bpm lower heart rate.  That was a huge metric for me.  The next day I rode a 26ish bike loop, at a relatively casual HR and felt totally solid, including the long climb up Allen Rd at the end of the ride.  Another huge mental boost for me.

I’m swimming with a great Masters group on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and am about to jump into a much faster lane at the beginning of the year.  I’m currently leading my lane (1:50 pace lane) and am coming in well ahead of the listed pace.  So I’m being encouraged to move up, and will do so in two weeks.

January starts the bike segment of the USAT challenge and I’m going to switch into HIIT mode with TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest.  I’ll start with an FTP test on Saturday (2 Jan) and then try to hit 2 HIIT workouts and a long bike each week.  The week of 3-8 Jan I’ll have to figure out some way of training while I’m on the road for work.

Also starting January I’m going to switch out TRX classes for free weights, starting up with my normal winter program again.

Next week is supposed to be another short work week, but I know that I’ll be working a lot to get ready for the onsite stuff the following week.  Staying motivated and consistently training is going to be hard, but there are lot of people supporting me and pushing me forward.  It’s nice to have friends to which I’m accountable and can give me the encouragement (and large quantities of good-natured ribbing) that keep me recovering.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Again, and again, and again:  Consistency is key.  Something is better than nothing, and it ALL adds up.
  2. Tracking my metrics (HR, pace, power etc) has been really important to keep myself mentally sharp and not get too depressed about ‘where I was before’.  The big gains I’ve earned since surgery are clearly evident.
  3. Diet needs to improve.  The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to the diet that furthers my training.  Food is fuel.

Training & Recovery 30 November – 6 December

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The “off-season” is often a time to set up challenges, streaks or other gimmicks to keep training going.  I’m as guilty as the next person of really slacking off in the cold winter months, so I certainly understand the appeal of the challenge.  In discussions with other friends the subject came up about “junk miles” during these challenges. “Junk Miles” being a catch all for simply going out and swimming/biking/running or just “working out” simply to keep the streak going.  I think there is some merit to that for elite or even top-tier challengers.  But on the other hand for the 90% of us that participate in endurance sports for health, fitness and fun, the winter streak or challenge can be a good way to stay off the couch.

I usually participate in the USAT National Challenge each year, and this year I’m leading the Somerset County YMCA Multisport Club program.  Doing so makes my effort extra visible, so I’m going to try and stay on track, AND lead a number of workouts during the challenge.  I can’t keep up with a lot of the members (yet), but I can do bike trainer workouts or swim sessions and not have to chase people all day.

In the past, I’ve often just used these challenges to log “base miles” but it appears there is some science that says ‘base mileage’ may not be all it’s cracked up to be, especially for the time constrained amateur athlete.  So I’m going into each workout with a specific plan in order to improve a particular aspect of my fitness.  My swims are going to focus on form, specifically maintaining good form during very hard efforts.  On the bike, it’s seated hill climbing and regaining raw power.  On the run, it’s simply getting back to actually “running” instead of walking or walk-runs.

All of that is a very longwinded way of explaining this weeks workouts.  The USAT Challenge has extra points for swims in December, bike workouts in January and running in February.  So this week I had three swims, two bikes and one run.  The swims went pretty well, with Mon/Wed spent leading my lane for masters swim sessions.  I’m able to snap off some 1:15ish 100s and am doing so without getting choppy.  Thursday morning’s bike ride was miserable, just not feeling it after about 45 min, but stuck it out for the full 1:15.  Saturday’s ride was the exact opposite, as I was able to hold a reasonable pace for the whole ride, and didn’t completely run out of gas.  I did the same route that I rode on Thanksgiving afternoon, and felt a whole lot better.  Sunday’s run was the high point.  I decided to do a true walk/run split, by 1/4 mile segments.  That knocked 11 minutes off the same 5.5 mile route I did last week, and I felt strong and solid the whole way around both loops.  The run gave me just an additional bit of encouragement that I am improving and that I can continue to get back to at least the paces that I had prior to OHS.

Also, Sunday marked the longest unbroken streak of workouts since OHS.  11 straight days.  I’m certainly feeling the cumulative effects, and will be doing additional rolling/compression and other recovery work to make sure I don’t end up injured.  I’m going to press on through next week w/out a break to see how the body reacts.

In the coming weeks I’ll be doing the Tour of Sufferlandria again in January, and ramping up mileage & intensity for the 10k NJ Trail Series run in February.

It’s going to be a great winter.

Training & Recovery 23-29 November

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It didn’t feel like 6 hours of training, but there it is…  Mon & Wed I missed BOTH swims.  Mon I turned off the alarm vs hitting the snooze button (Doh!) and overslept.  Wed I got to the pool only to realize that I had forgotten my swim gear at home.  (Doh!).

But I had a good 5k running with a friend at the Morristown Turkey Trot, clocking a 38:15, over 3min faster than the Swamp Devil 5k and a tad over 12:00 per mile.  Slow, but a nice improvement over two weeks.  I suffered a bit on the bike ride later in the afternoon, but it was good to get out for a bit.  I think I went out way to hard on the bike, trying to keep up with Hootus, and that lead to suffering at the end of the ride.

The long “run” on Friday was my standard two-loops of Natirar with Tula.  I wasn’t feeling it when I started so I just planned to keep HR in ZR/low-Z1 and ignore pace.  I was surprised when I was having trouble getting HR into Z1 after a mile at under 15:00.  I decided to push up the two hills each loop which did get my HR into upper Z1, but it never felt really hard.  I was pretty happy with the pace results at the end of the walk and physically felt awesome; like I could have gone a bit longer.  I think I’m about a week or two away from actually RUNNING during my shorter runs, or a true run/walk approach to my long runs.  I’m also seeing HR drop pretty quickly after harder efforts, which is always a nice sign of improving fitness.

TRX classes are also starting to pay off.  I’m feeling stronger in my core, arms and legs, and the exercises are getting to be a bit easier to complete without surgical area discomfort (core, chest).  HR is a bit lower during the workouts as well.  A couple more weeks like this and I’ll be adding progressions to the moves.  Yay..

Monday starts two big challenges.  First, Fran starts at The Max Challenge, and I’m going to join her in the diet portion.  I need to really clean up my diet, and want to support her, so this is an excellent time to do so.  Second, the annual USAT Challenge starts up with a month of swimming in December.  I’m going to use the swimming in December to pile on a lot of base HR (ZR-Z1) training without a lot of joint stress on my body.  I’ll probably swim 3-4 days a week, Mon-Wed with the masters group at the Y, and Friday evenings and (possibly) Sunday afternoons.  I’m also going to throw in two 30 min base ‘walk/runs’ on the treadmill after TRX classes on Tues/Fri mornings.  The rest of the week I’ll do some easy bike rides to spin out my legs and maybe one longer bike ride on the trainer or outside depending on the weather.

Total workout times will likely stay in the 8-10 hour range.  I’m hoping that workload at my job continues at the same pace so I can keep up with this workout/recovery program.  So far it seems to be working.

Training & Recovery 16-22 November

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Not a great week.  Was pretty tired on Thursday, so made it a rest day, and never really got motivated to do anything sunday.  Still got some solid work done.  Two great swims and two great TRX sessions.  TRX is getting better as I’m able to do more with less soreness or HR spikes.  The Turkey Ride on Saturday with Cyclecraft was a TON of fun.  Beautiful skies, lots of people and got to ride with great friends.

Maybe the week was better than I thought

On the recovery note, the cardiologist took me off my last med (enalapril) so my BP is rising a bit, but I’m no longer dizzy when standing up.  I’m going to continue to monitor BP closely and we’ll see where it stabilizes.

Going into a busy holiday week is always hard on my training schedule, but I’m looking forward to being with family and friends and ESPECIALLY a short work week.

 

Training & Recovery 9-15 November

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Back to a full week of training.  Had a disappointing ride on Wednesday, just could not keep moving for the full 90 minutes I planned.  Simply ran out of gas.  But the week got better as I kept hitting the workouts.  Thursday I hit Masters swim and found my mojo again.  It was hard, and I was whipped at the end, but it was a complete, solid workout.  Saturday I experimented with my BP meds, and had a better bike workout, doing the full 90 min while watching the Ironman World Championship on TV.  It was a great ride, and a very emotional experiences.  I so love this sport, and as Sean Astin put it “I love identifying as an Ironman athlete, it’s badass”  Just writing those words makes me smile.

Sunday I ran my first post-OHS race at the Swamp Devil 5k.  I felt good and the weather was fantastic.  I started off at 11min pace, but that quickly started to slip.  I ended up power-walking the last mile simply to keep my HR under 150.  I finished in just under 42 min, which is a bit less than twice my 5k PR.  I felt bad about being so far behind my past level of run fitness, and was questioning whether I’ll ever get back to where I was before.  But I have control over my training and diet, so I’ll do what I can to hit all my goals in those areas and see what happens.

Lessons learned:

  • I have a great support network.  It was wonderful to have a bunch of friends waiting for me at the 5k finish line to cheer me in.
  • I’m really grateful for the new Masters swim sessions.  They are going to kick my ass each and every session, which will help my overall cardio fitness.
  • You can never be too well informed about your health.  I’m learning a lot about my medications and potential impact on my training and fitness.

Training & Recovery 2-8 Nov

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Short entry for a recovery week.  I was feeling a bit run down by Friday, and decided to make this week a lighter, recovery week and focus on swimming and TRX.  Well, the best laid plans often go awry.  I over extended myself on Tuesday’s TRX session (though I really thought I was going easy) and I could barely get out of bed Wed morning from DOMS.  I tend to forget how fast muscle strength drops off at my age.  So Wed/Thu/Fri were simply off days.  I probably didn’t need all three days to recover, so I picked it back up on Saturday with a 90 min bike ride and Sunday with a 90 min hike.  The bike ride sucked from the outset.  Very low pace, struggling with low BP sensations, and complete lack of power on any incline.  Sunday’s hike was better, but still pretty weak on the hills.  As HR increases, I tend to get dizzy, similar to how I feel if I stand up too fast.  I’m almost positive it’s the BP meds.  I think it’s time to meet with the cardiologist again and discuss my meds.

Lessons learned:

  • A solid reminder that we don’t get stronger from the workouts, we get stronger from the recovery.  Train Hard, Recover Harder.
  • Stretching and movement are VERY important after strength training sessions.  Keep the DOMS monster at bay.
  • A well planned recovery week isn’t a failure!  It sets you up for achieving more in the following weeks.

Training & Recovery 26 Oct -1 Nov

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Another solid week of recovery & training.  Two post-OHS firsts this week:  First swim in the YMCA pool (Wednesday), first outdoor bike ride (Saturday).

I was a nervous about the swim on Wednesday.  There is a new Masters group forming at the YMCA and I new there would be a lot of people there I knew.  I also knew I was in no shape to participate with the group.  I was also oddly self conscious about my scar.  It’s healed up nicely without any keloids, but it’s VERY visible, and I knew I was going to get a lot of stares.  I just decided to own the scar and the story and head into the pool.  I had a nice chat with Coach Ed, and said “hello” to the swimmers I knew, before I headed into the warmer pool for an easy workout.  I figured I’d just swim 100s until I felt out of breath.  I managed to knock off 1200 yards in about 26 minutes, doing the 100s on the 2:00-2:10, and coming in at 1:35-1:38.  I probably could have pushed to 1500, but just decided to call it a success while I still felt really good. I felt totally comfortable in the water, flip turns and all, and the surprising pace just goes to show how good form goes a VERY long way in maintaining swim speed.

Saturday was going to be a really nice day in the afternoon, and I wanted to get back outside on the new bike.  Again, I was nervous since my trainer rides have been so slow.  I had planned to ride out through the condo development and just do loops in the bike lane, but my ego got the better of me and I headed into the swamp to ride the brandy-new pavement on Whitebridge Rd. That also had the advantage of being a very flat out and bike ride.  I didn’t have a goal other than to be out for about an hour.  I felt really good and finished the hour with around 14 miles. At one point I’m clicking along in a solid Z1 pace at  around 15mph.  I did fatigue pretty quickly, and pace dropped off after about 45 minutes, but it felt really good to cruise on the bike again.  Especially on brand new pavement.  Like buttah!

Walking/running has been the hardest to come back.  I’m pushing my walking pace, and can now hold sub 17s for 2.5 hrs, and sub-16s for 5 miles.  I did do a very little running on two of the 5 mile walks, running for the 1st minute of miles 2, 3, 4 and 5.  HR went all the way up to 157 on one of the runs, but each time my HR came back down pretty quickly once I returned to walking.

That makes for three solid weeks of training.  As I type this on Sunday night, I’m feeling a bit of fatigue, but nothing beyond what I’d usually feel after 8hrs of training this week.  Resting HR and BP are good.  Legs are just a bit tired from today’s long walk (9 miles, 2:22).  I’m debating taking a recovery week next week, dropping training to around 5 hours.  On the other hand, I do want to get more swimming, and try TRX sessions, as well as more outdoor biking.  I think I should be able to put something together that gets the job done.

As for physical recovery, I don’t have much discomfort in my chest any longer, but have an annoying ‘click’ like sensation, mostly when lying on my back.  I can’t seem to recreate it on demand reliably, and it doesn’t seem to come from my breastbone.  I’ve had it for as long as I can remember post OHS.  It’s not getting worse, but doesn’t seem to be getting any better either.  It’s something that I’ll have to monitor and if it changes, ask Dr. Dixon about it.  It’s just annoying as hell.

What is really funny (to me) is these past three weeks are the MOST consistent training block I’ve had all year.

Lessons Learned:

(1) Don’t forget the lessons you’ve already learned so far.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  You own your reaction to any situation, and NEVER let an emotional situation derail your training.  Your training is building your emotional maturity by serving as an outlet for your frustration.

(2) Consistency is king.  This is rule #1

(3) Patience is queen.  This is rule #2

 

Training & Recovery 19-25 Oct

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Work is picking back up, so I wasn’t able to hit all the workouts I had planned.  A bit short of hours this week (planned for 8-8.5), but TSS was higher this week.  High point was Thur/Fri walks of 5 and almost 7 miles.  I was pretty wiped out on Saturday (fuzzy headed, cranky, tired) plus we stayed busy all day so I figured another ‘rest day’ was in order.  I felt a lot better by the end of the day so I think skipping the workout was for the best.  Saturday I got back on the bike trainer for a TrainerRoad recovery ride.  I got a very late start (5:00pm) but rode a nice Z1 pace.  Very low mileage, but I felt great through the whole ride and MUCH better than last week.  I’m going to try to get two rides in this coming week.

Since Fran was going to be away from home at the time I needed to be at the hospital for the Mended Hearts meeting, I decided to go ahead and drive myself.  I’m only 5 days out from the 6 week point, so I figured why not.  The earth kept spinning and I didn’t spontaneously combust. I did make a stop on the way home for Starbucks.  Because Decaf Mocha Frappucino Light…

Recovery & Training 14-18 October

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First week of ‘training’ in the bag.  Not bad for 4th week out of surgery.  I did 4×3.5 mile walks, most with Tula Mon-Thu, then a 6.75 mile walk on Friday, again w/Tula.  I was pretty tired on Saturday, so I made that a rest day.

Each of the walks felt better than the last, which is why I decided to push the distance on Friday.  Plus it was a beautiful day, and I really needed a mental break.  I was tired at the end, but I felt great.  My HR stayed steady, except on the hills where it sped up a bit from the effort, but nothing that I haven’t seen pre-surgery on the same route.  It also dropped back to normal pretty quickly on the downhills.  At about 5 miles, HR started to trend up a bit, but that’s to be expected when extending duration.

Since my HR was pretty steady on the long walk Friday, I decided to do a short bike ride on the trainer on Sunday.  I set up the road bike on the trainer, since it was going to be easier to ride with a sore/tight chest than the tri bike.  I decided to try The Sufferfest’s “Elements of Style” video since it’s pretty low intensity, focuses on form and is one of the shorter videos.  Also, I wanted to re-establish the winter training setup in the basement with the Cyclops Powerbeam trainer, TrainerRoad software and the new Garmin speed & cadence sensors on the road bike.

As usual, getting everything set up and reconnected was a snap.  Kudos to the folks at TrainerRoad for making this so straightforward.  I set my output to 60% of my pre-surgery FTP, and was up and riding in no time.  My goal was to keep my HR at about 120 for the ride, but for some reason I was riding at 130ish for most of the ride.  That was a bit more uncomfortable at first, but pretty quickly felt ok.  My crotch and left hand went numb pretty quickly, so I figured the elevated HR and other physical symptoms were mostly due to being off the bike for 5 weeks.

When I got done with the bike, and looked at the data I was pretty down on myself.  38 min, 4.5 miles, and 67w avg power.  Pretty poor showing.  But I figured it was a start, and I was better off than any number of other people weeks out of surgery.  You take what the day gives you and this is what I had today.   After I showered and got some lunch I still felt that ‘post-workout’ glow that I really love and all the bad vibes had disappeared.  Nice.

On to week two….

Recovery – 4-14 October

Quickie update…

Recovery continues and seems to be progressing quickly.  I’m off all pain meds, including Alleve.  As of Tues, 13 October, I’m off beta blockers and only taking Enalapril once a day. The allergy “drip” that has been a problem since I got home seems to be ever so slowly resolving itself, but will probably be another week before it’s all gone.  I’ll be glad to get rid of the cough.

Twice in the last week (Saturday 10 Oct, and Wednesday 14 Oct) I had higher than normal HR.  BP was fine, but pulse on 10/10 was 128 and stayed between 120 and 130 all day, despite doing nothing at all.  10/14, pulse was 89, but as soon as I did anything would jump into 110 plus.  On my 3.5 mile walk HR was 105/125/140 (low/avg/max) but the day before was 84/95/102 for the same route/distance/duration.  I also felt pretty hungry most of the day, and was sleepy after I ate so I’m wondering if there is some blood sugar issue involved.  On both days I did feel a bit more anxious/tense and didn’t sleep well the night before.  I’ll be keeping my eye on this set of symptoms to see if I can correlate to anything.

Dr. Dixon also said he thought I would feel that cardiac rehab would be a waste of my time.  I’m already walking briskly for over an hour, and the rehab center would likely push me into a reduced program under their protocol.  He said he would prescribe it if I wanted it, but strongly felt that I’d probably drop out quickly.  I have a call set up with the insurance nurse on Thursday 10/15 to go over my cardiac rehab benefits, so I’m holding off on any decision until I get more info.  Dr. Dixon also said that I could start running or other harder workouts so long as they were lower body workouts, and base my effort on how I feel.  I tried jogging a bit today, but with the already elevated HR, didn’t find that to feel so good, so I just kept walking.  Assuming I do feel better over the weekend, I’m going to try to setup and ride the bike on the trainer.  After 6 weeks, I should be cleared to engage upper body workouts, and I may try some light TRX work.

Lessons learned:

  • Going into this type of surgery otherwise healthy and fit means a much more rapid recovery
  • There will be days that are off.  Accept them and do what you can.  Progress is not linear.
  • Be grateful for the good stuff, so many people have many more complications & challenges.  Share your story, but be respectful that others have it much harder.