Monday, March 30, 2009

Blessing in Disguise?

There's no doubt my shin injury has limited my training quite a bit over the past 6 weeks. ...and yes, at this point my elliptical machine nightmares contain more Screams than Jamie Kennedy's resume. ...but I'm happy to say it's not all bad news!

Now that I'm finally able to run 20+ miles on the trails again, I'm finding that all the extra work I've done in the gym (lifting, VersaClimber, and Elliptical) has really gone a long way to getting my climbing legs in pretty good shape. This realization definitely makes me think I'll be better off in a couple months than I would have been if I just stuck to my usual training variety of Run, Run, and Run.

Even as I start to ramp up the running miles again, I'll be sure to keep some of the same gym routine in the mix throughout the year to maintain the strength-gains I've experienced this winter and give my legs a few more impact-free workouts.

For anyone stuck rehabbing like me and looking to make the most of their non-running workouts to keep their legs and lungs in shape (or if you're just looking for an off-day workout), here's what I've been doing the past few weeks:

1) VersaClimber - I mentioned it a couple posts back, and I'm still convinced that this thing is a killer for getting the heart-rate up and blasting your quads, hammys, and glutes. I "warm up" by racing to climb 4,000 feet in 30 minutes (hint, start slow, especially at first...otherwise you'll come thisclose to passing out...and trust me, you don't want that - It's an awkward machine to fall off of!). After a 5 minute stretching/drinking recovery, I get back on for a series of three 1,000 mile climbs. I do them as fast as I can with only a 2 minute break in between. I hate this workout as much as my old "ten 1/4 mile repeats" back when I was a miler. Which is good, because I know that means it's really working my VO2-Max and lactate threshold levels: Two things that are basically allowed to snooze during most long runs outside.

2) Lifting - Here's a shocking truth for most ultra-runners: Just because you can run 100 miles, that doesn't mean your legs are strong. It's true! If you haven't experienced this realization yet, invite your grandma out to a nice Sunday tea this weekend. On the way home, stop off at your gym and be prepared to watch her squat more weight than you. Sure, you can blame it on that extra scone you ate upsetting your stomach, and grandma will believe you because, hey, she's grandma and she loves you no matter what, but deep down you'll know the truth. Here's how to fix it:

a) Start off slow and light. No need to give yourself *another* reason to be stuck on the rehab rollercoaster.
b) Focus on working one leg at a time. Don't let your already-dominant side take the lion's share of the weight.
c) Be sure to stretch before, during, and after.
d) Include squats, quad extensions, calf lifts, standing rows, and any machine that burns like hell when you use it.

After a couple months of lifting every other day (after my aerobic workout/run), I already notice a big difference in my hill climbing. Now, I'm not saying I'll be featured on the cover of Quad-zilla Magazine any time soon, but I can say that I have lots of new confidence in terms of my chances in a couple trail races coming up this year. ...and all this because I hurt my shin. Who knew the silver lining would be so bright?!

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