Did you ever sing that song when you were a kid? The Elephant Show was a favourite of mine and they always sang that song during the Halloween episodes. Anyway, a walk down "kids' shows" memory lane wasn't the point of today's post, but I suppose that could be good material for another day. :)
Nope, we are not talking Thunder Cats and My Little Ponies today: today we are talking my muscular system and how sore it is.
I've been a competitive athlete for most of my life. I went into retirement at the ripe old age of 25, but as I am sure you are aware, the flame has not quite gone out. Knowing that, I have taken a few years to figure out what sport would suit me and what would be something I could dedicate myself to. I thought about rowing and cross country skiing and explored each avenue a bit, but I always came back to the triathlon. Since Mr. K and I are moving to Scotland and we will have better access to things-because the city has sidewalks and a public transit system, what a novelty-I have started making the necessary arrangements for a disabled athlete to train with the local triathlon club. As many of you know, the club has been more than helpful and even a member of the governing body of Triathlon Scotland has agreed to have a meeting with me once we arrive and get settled in Edinburgh. All of this is fine and dandy, but trying to train up until our departure has been interesting.
While I was staying with my parents I was able to use the pool about twice a week. To me, that wasn't enough water time, but it was a good start. I had contacted a local running club in the hopes of finding a guide to run with, but no one returned my emails. So, I did the next best thing and trained on an elliptical. There is a slight problem with the elliptical as it does not exactly emulate running and not all muscle groups used for running were targeted in these workouts. I did not have access to a bike stationary or otherwise, so that aspect of the triathlon was neglected. I felt like I was making some progress with my fitness and was starting to feel good about getting to Scotland and really training.
Now that I'm back in SC I've had to become quite creative. I no longer have any way to get to lane swimming since this city is completely and utterly inaccessible-no sidewalks, limited bus routes Etc. I also definitely do not have anyone to run with either and with it being 100 D.G F outside, I'm not sure outdoor running is safe. Despite this set backs, I refuse to let the work I've done in the last three months go to waste. I do have a bike mounted on a trainer in the house, whom I have named Matilda since she and I spend a lot of time together, and a few other pieces of workout equipment, such as a chin-up bar, that I have begun to utilize. There is also a steep set of 14 stairs that goes from the downstairs of the house to the second floor and these have also come in handy.
I did not intend to ramble on and on about the difficulties of training for a triathlon as a disabled person: you have heard that already. I have already gone on and on about the problems of training when you need a guide and can't find one, the extra expenses and attitudinal barriers that I have come across and will continue to run into. My point today was to go on and on about working out and how amazing it is to be able to swim 2 kilometres and not be sore, but run the stairs in your house and do 30 push-ups and have your arms feel like they are going to fall off. Okay, maybe "fall off" is a bit over dramatic, but they are quite sore.
I've talked a lot to friends and family about exercising. A lot of them would ask me questions, which made sense I suppose since it was my job for eight years. People want to know how to lose weight and I think that in itself is the problem. Being skinny does not automatically equal healthy. I know a few people who are incredibly skinny, but are definitely not healthy. Sure weight loss helps and I'm not diminishing the importance of weight loss if that is something that a person or his/her doctor thinks is necessary, but just having the scale say the right numbers is not an indication of a person's health. I think the most important element to weight loss is changing a person's mindset. Think of it as a lifestyle change to be healthier. Drinking more water, exercising and eating more nutritional foods is the best way to go; and when you're exercising, don't feel like you have to run a marathon. Taking the stairs up to work every day or walking to the grocery store or taking your dog for a walk every morning would be a good start. When I was a competitive swimmer, the goal was not weight loss, it was being healthy. An athlete cannot perform at his/her peak if they are under nourished, dehydrated or under weight. But again I am digressing.
Sunday was the first day of my new creative workouts. I set out a workout of running the stairs eight times-up/down was considered once-10 push-ups and 20 crunches and repeat stair running followed by 20 squats and a plank held for 30 seconds times two. My goal was to go through this workout twice. I figured the stair running would simulate hill running in a triathlon and the other activities would assist with core stability and strength. I was shocked when I reached number eight of the first set of stair runs and my heart was pounding and sweat was pouring down my face. I couldn't believe it; it was like I had been sedentary for the last three months. I continued through my workout, knocking back two of the stair runs to five times instead of eight. I wanted to push myself, but needed to be able to walk the next day. Here I was winded from running stairs for less than two minutes when I had been able to go for half an hour or more on the elliptical with the tension cranked way up. If I didn't know anything about exercising I would have thought that I had lost all of my fitness on the trip down and that I was in horrible shape, but I know that is not the case.
One of the largest mistakes that some inexperienced athletes, or people just working out for fitness sake, make is that they do the same activities over and over again, utilizing the same muscle groups every workout. This basically causes your body to get used to that activity and requires you to go farther and farther to get the same results. This would be good for athletes who are building up a fitness base. You want to be able to go further each time so that you are in better shape and can sustain yourself in races or during games. If you are exercising strictly for weight loss purposes, then a lot of workout programs will suggest a technique called Muscle Confusion. P90X is a good example of this type of exercise, but a person could do this on their own without needing to purchase expensive exercise DVDs. This is pretty much what I did when running up/down the stairs as well as with the push-ups and crunches. I had been using a specific set of muscles on the elliptical and even though those muscles were fit, the muscle groups I employed to run up the stairs or to perform the push-ups were different and not fit. Thus, my sore Pec muscles (AKA your chest).
This Muscle Confusion is not a new concept to me as it was something we used in swim practices in order to maximize our workouts, but I became acutely aware of it after my workout on Sunday. Our practices would be mostly conducted in the water, but various "sets" were designed to use different muscles to make the entire body fit. Plus, we were supposed to do core workouts and some cross training running and lifting weights. Some of us did Yoga as well to increase flexibility and to keep our bodies from becoming injured. The muscle soreness I experienced on Monday reminded me of the importance of working out all systems. For example, your core muscles are important for support and stability and even though they do get a small workout while you are running/swimming and/or cycling, you need to dedicate a workout at least three times a week to this specific muscle group to ensure they are as strong as they can be. Having strong core muscles, for example, could be the difference from fatiguing on the bike and losing form. With the loss of good positioning, your other muscles will begin to tire and you will not be maintaining an aero dynamic position anymore; hence, making you go slower. I had not done core specific workouts when I was up at my parents' and after Sunday's little reminder, I will be making sure that it is a part of my routine. In fact, I changed today's workout from a bike ride to a half an hour of core. Besides, I rode Matilda yesterday and my bum hurts. :)
I guess the point of this very long and slightly convoluted ramble is that, the human body never ceases to amaze me. As an athlete I was taught to be aware of my body and as a massage therapist I was given the opportunity to delve even deeper into the workings of the body and yet I am still learning about it and continually being amazed at the intricacies of these physical shells we have been given and use every day.