Welcome to my fitness blog, started in December 2005 and dedicated to tracking my two primary fitness pursuits: kendo and distance running. I went from 260 pounds in 2004 to my current 160 pound range. This blog is my daily record of trying to stay fit.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 22: an unforeseen off day

Kendo: off day, from entirely unforeseen circumstances. The logistics of my Tuesday evenings are rather complicated. After work I drive from my campus to home (around a 40 minute drive), quickly change clothes, then head to a little town called Willow Branch to pick up my daughter (she lives with my ex-wife in Willow Branch), around a 45 minute drive, as she exits the bus following her school-day in nearby Greenfield. We then drive to the area near the dojo (another 40 minute drive), where we eat a quick dinner, then attend first her judo and then my kendo class at Mudokwan. It's a good enough system, I suppose, but involves a lot of driving, and a tight schedule leaving little room for sudden changes.

Unfortunately, this evening saw just such a sudden change. When I picked my daughter up from her bus stop, she told me she wasn't feeling well: she looked very pale, and likely was running a low fever. She and I decided to simply drive into Greenfield to eat, after which I would take her back to Willow Branch and her mom, and then (hopefully) still make my kendo class. Alas, it was not to be; she felt nausea in addition to everything else, so we turned around from dinner, drove to Willow Branch, and then I was interminably delayed by the evening rush hour traffic along I-70, as well as construction zone that slowed traffic to a crawl. In the end, I missed my kendo class, as well.

These things happen, and I suppose one could argue that a day off from kendo practice every once in a while isn't necessarily a bad thing. Still, I now won't be able to do any bogu work this week, which is irritating.

Running: 4 miles. Ran the stairs in the Wellness Center this morning, 42 flights for a 4 mile run.

April 21: beginning a very busy week

Kendo: good home suburi and kata. In addition to the focus on various details and techniques, I'm also trying to focus on proper, relaxed breathing--something my sensei suggested in a recent conversation.

Running: off day. Lately, I've allowed myself one off day from running per week. Today was an exceptionally busy day of grading and various work-related matters, so this seemed a good day for doing so. I did however managed some good walking, both on the basement treadmill and around Billericay Park before my stepson's evening baseball game.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kendo and running: finding a "way"

Kendo and running have always been a rather uneasy fit for me. I like to think they are the two equal sides of my fitness regimen--the yin and yang, so to speak. But in fact this has normally not been the case.

Running for a long time has been my dominant fitness activity. It was the primary means by which I was able to drop 100 pounds back in 2004, and it was the impetus for beginning this blog the following year. I genuinely feel that running saved my life; without it, I would have continued my downward spiral into obesity, with all the health problems (mental and emotional, as well as physical) this entailed. I depend upon running, on almost a daily basis, to keep my fitness compass pointed towards true north. All else is secondary.

Kendo included. I attended my first kendo class at Mudokwan dojo in January 2006, almost on a whim. I had wanted to try kendo since high school, but various obstacles (my obesity most of all) prevented me from doing so. In a way, Where running was the chief means by which I defeated obesity, kendo was the way I celebrated that victory: "look, I'm fit, and now I can do a demanding physical activity like kendo." This thinking sustained my kendo for years. Running was the foundation; kendo was an enjoyable but secondary concern.

Somewhere along the way, however, things have changed. I cannot precisely pinpoint the moment, or the reason for the change. I think it began a couple of years ago, and it's been slow and subtle; a gradual increase in the amount of time and energy I devote to thinking about and practicing kendo. Probably my attainment of dan ranking played a big role, along with the great good fortune I've enjoyed studying under Imafuji-sensei, who always emphasizes kendo as a deep moral philosophy, an approach to life generally, rather than a mere past-time.

Whatever the reasons, kendo has, slowly but surely, taken center stage in my thinking about fitness. And when I use the term "fitness," I mean far more than merely maintaining my body weight, or simple physical status. "Fitness" for me as becoming something deeper and more holistic--physical status, yes, but also a certain mental, emotional and even moral approach to daily life.

This more holistic understanding of "fitness" in turn reflects (again) the increasing influence of kendo in my thinking. The term "kendo" itself carries certain connotations: "do" being a suffix that suggests something much deeper and more complex than simply a set of techniques, or a collection of physical activities. When kendo began to develop from earlier practices of "ken-jitsu,"its practitioners (many of whom were unemployed samurai seeking to find new justifications for their sword techniques in an extended age of peace in Japan) argued that "kendo" must be seen as an over-arching philosophy--the "way of the sword," applied to everyday life. This meant not just the pursuit of excellence in swordsmanship; it also meant a profound inner mental state ("mushin" the "mind of no mind"), cultivation of a powerful spirit ("kiai," "seme," and related concepts), and a certain level of precision and discipline.

This idea of kendo as a "way," broadly and holistically defined, makes kendo an eminently worthwhile fitness pursuit ("fitness" also being broadly defined). I began kendo as a whim, but if it had simply remained as such, I likely would have eventually quit. There are a lot of other hobby-style pursuits out there, after all, that keep one physically fit and are considerably less trouble than kendo. But as my kendo has broadened and deepened, I've found that it possesses much deeper meaning for me.

It has in fact become my central fitness activity, and has largely replaced running as the foundation of my fitness life. This is not to say I am contemplating an end to my running. I will always be a runner, I think. But rather than try to maintain this increasingly difficult duality between running and kendo as co-equal pursuits (or, running as a primary pursuit) I should just go ahead and admit that kendo has gradually become my defining fitness activity, with running as an important but secondary concern.

I need now to figure out a new approach to my running. I'm not sure what that will look like, yet. Likely enough I'll simply tweak and refine what I do, rather than make truly radical changes. But I need to rethink my running as an activity in service of, rather than contradictory to, my kendo. I need to think in terms of finding my "way," kendo-based, with a rich running component. I'm not quite sure how to do this, yet. But before I find those answers, at least I have a sense of which questions to ask.

Weekly plan, April 21-27

Kendo: good things happening here, I believe, though in relatively small and subtle increments (usually the case with kendo). I've found over the last month or so a workable, regular routine: early morning suburi, uchikomi-dai at least once a week, and class at Mudokwan on Tuesdays. I've come to see my home suburi as an opportunity to primarily address issues of detail and technique, while Tuesdays at the dojo are opportunities to focus on seme, zanshin, and building my inner kendo spirit through "hard training."

This is a solid approach, and it is yielding good results. More generally, I'm finding  success with this routine in integrating kendo into my everyday life. My sensei has observed that kendo does not really have much meaning if it isn't properly woven into one's daily life outside the dojo; this is, after all, "kendo," the "do" suffix carrying connotations of a "way," a general path to follow, more than a mere skill set (or, still less, a "sport," heaven forbid). I've been planning a longer blog post on this subject, but for now, I'll just observe that my weekly kendo approach seems to be bearing fruit in this regard.

Running: (last week: 30 miles, 7 distance). Good things last week here, too. I need to do a longer blog post about this, as well, but here I'll just record that I'm trying some new things in my running (influenced by my kendo), and that part of this new approach is to get myself out of the unfortunate running rut within which I've been trapped all winter long and do better, more purposeful runs.

I'll get all of this up and running on the blog this week. My running plan for the week: a slight increase--32 miles--with a 10 mile distance run at some point during the week.
I'd like the week to look something like this:

Mon.: off
Tue: 4 miles, stairs
Wed.: 3 miles, hills
Thu.: 5 miles, stairs
Fri.: 3 miles, hills
Sat.: 7 miles, trail
Sun.: 10 miles, distance

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20: back on pavement

Kendo: morning suburi, and kata. Where the latter is concerned, I'm focusing particular attention on the men-nuki-men of the shidachi part of the second kata. I really need to get my left foot further back, and make the entire movement one smooth motion.

Running: 7 miles. After two days of trail running, I returned to the pavement this afternoon, running my Lantern Road/116th street route. The weather was again perfect, and I had a lot of company with fellow runners, bicyclists, and whatnot.  A nice run to end a good running week.

April 19: more trail running

Kendo: morning suburi (albeit a bit later in the morning, this being a Saturday; around 7:00am). My routine at the moment looks like this:

1. mokuso
2. sonkyo
3. joge-buri (20)
4. katate-suburi (60)
5. sayu-men (120)
6. sho-men (120)
7. kote-men-do (12)
8. sonkyo
9. kata

In kata, I'm working on the details of the first three kata. I'm concentrating lately on keeping my left heel at the proper level (I tend to lift it too high), as well as eliminating any and all unnecessary movements.

Running: 5 miles. Another trail run at Town Run, pretty much a repeat of yesterday's run, save for the fact that the trail was of course more crowded. This isn't a big problem; I've learned to keep my ears open for the sound of a trail bike as it approaches from behind (no earphones, of course; why wear earphones on a trail run?), and then get out of the way. The bikers at Town Run are all quite friendly, so no worries.

Anyway, this was another fine run. I also managed quite a bit of walking: nearly four miles, between a neighborhood walk and an evening treadmill walk. Altogether this was a 27,000 step day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 18: on the trail

Kendo: I have the day off (Good Friday), so this afforded some extra kendo time. In addition to my morning suburi, I was able to do more uchikomi-dai. A generally good practice on both counts.

Running: 5 miles. My first trail run of 2014, at Town Run Trail Park in Carmel. This is the only real trail close to my house (the head of the trail is about a fifteen minute drive), and while I would like to get some more variety in my trail running--I have this trail nearly memorized--it's a good place to train for trails. I was feeling it, too; I've not done much trail running in several months, and given the fact that trail running tends to work slightly different muscles than pavement, I was pretty sore when I finished. Still, a very good run.

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 17: more stairs

Kendo: Thursdays offer a bit more room in my schedule for practice, and with an empty house in the early morning I can make all the noise I wish, so today after my usual suburi I did uchikomi-dai. I'm feeling some progress here; most of my strikes were right on target and crisp, and I think all the focus on katate-suburi is beginning to pay off with better and stronger left-hand-only strikes on my target men. I still need to improve my fumikomi, however.

Running: 4 miles. In my ongoing efforts to do targeted, focused runs with purpose (I still need to put up a blog entry about this), I ran another stairs workout in the Wellness Center: 21 laps, 42 flights of stairs. I was feeling it in my upper quads when I finished, but nevertheless a good run.

I'm also doing quite a bit of walking, as well, to add to the steps on my little pedometer project. This afternoon I arrived at my stepson's baseball game a bit early, and walked a couple of laps around Billericay Park--approximately two miles, I think. Along with my run, I managed over 22,000 steps today.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 16: long day, split run

Kendo: 5am suburi. I pursued my usual routine, and worked on kata, as I've recently begun to do. In particular I am trying to eliminate any unnecessary movements, and I'm trying to improve my men-nuki-men for the shidachi part of the second kata. I need to get my left foot much further back when stepping away from uchidachi's cut.

Running: 6 miles. Good day here. I ran a hills program on one of the Wellness Center treadmills this morning--level 2, which isn't much, but a good start to working hills training into my training.

Normally a short morning run in the Wellness Center is all I can manage on a Wednesday. But it so happened that my work schedule required me to remain on campus much further down into the afternoon than usual. I had about a two hour space in the early afternoon, so I climbed back into my running clothes and ran three more miles. A little sore by the evening, but a good running day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 15: better class

Kendo: a good class this evening in the dojo, better than last Friday. My various gaffes and failures Friday in fact helped make this evening a better experience; trying to learn from my shortcomings, I practiced tonight with a better focus and determination to avoid those errors. I had a pretty good kata session, discovering quite a few detail issues I need to address in my execution of the first three kata. In bogu, drills went well, and I had a good jigeiko bout with Park-sensei. A solid class.

Running: 3 miles (walking). I go back and forth on just how much running I should do on Tuesdays, when I attend kendo in the evenings. On the one hand, I need to save my energy for the dojo; on the other hand, I dislike missing a running day, especially given my usually light teaching load on Tuesdays, when I usually have a bit more time.

Today, I aimed for a bit of a compromise: a walk on the basement treadmill in the morning. This seems a good solution; I get a bit of light cardio, while still having something in the tank later for kendo.