Monday, July 25, 2016

The week ahead, July 25-31

The last few weeks have been, um, interesting. My running has frankly fallen completely apart: I've gone from yet another attempt to running an ultra, to just thinking about doing another marathon, to thinking the best approach would be just running with no goal race at all. And in the end, none of it worked, to the point that last week my mileage dropped precipitously and I just felt rather lost. This has been perhaps the worst running doldrum I've ever experienced.

With nutrition, I've tried the Whole 30 approach. This was not a complete failure: I've picked up some good habits, abandoned or greatly reduced some bad habits, and used the plan to become generally more mindful and deliberate in my eating habits. But after a week's worth of strenuous efforts, I found that the Whole 30 approach, while useful in some ways, isn't compatible with the high running mileage I want to pursue--in fact, the problems caused by the Whole 30 plan contributed to my running issues.

Kendo is the only facet of my fitness trifecta that is going well. I'm spending more time in the dojo, lately, my home suburi has been regular and focused, and I can feel myself improving. As always, the caveat applies that I have a great deal of work to do, on my shoulders, tenouchi, etc. But I'm feeling solidly optimistic about my kendo right now.

So, that's where I'm at right now: good kendo, iffy nutrition, and a mess in my running. But I spent last week bottoming out, so to speak. I sat back, took a deep breath, and surveyed just what has gone awry and how to fix it. With running, what are my goals here? How can I make those goals compatible with kendo? How can I run in a way that's meshes well with the other aspects of my life? What's realistic here for me, a fifty-one year old formally obese man with an extremely busy personal and professional life?

And I've worked out a detailed, long-range running plan--very long range, in fact. I'll blog more about this later in the week, but as things stand now, I feel better about my running. Maybe bottoming out was a good thing; I have a stronger sense of what I'm trying to accomplish.

Short term for this week, I'm aiming to get my running back in a good place: 30 miles. I'll need to complete most of this mileage early in the week because I'll be out of town during much of the weekend (see kendo below), and of course I'll need to cope with the heat dome we're all fighting right now in the Midwest; but I'll get it done.

As with nutrition--again, I plan a longer blog later this week, but my approach will basically be Whole 30 with modifications that suit my running.

And kendo? This will be another good week, I think. I'll do my usual home suburi, and Tuesday's class at Mudokwan, followed by a trip to Madison, Wisconsin Friday to participate in the Midwest Kendo Federation's annual seminar seminar. This will be my third seminar, and I'm very much looking forward to it. They have three hashidan from Japan teaching the seminar this year, and I'll be able to practice with a wide variety of different kendoka, from the MWK and elsewhere. I see this as kind of an intense kendo retreat.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 18-24: tough week

I spent the rest of the this week trying the first stages Whole 30 plan. Normally I tend to see nutrition as sort of an addendum to running and kendo, as far as the trifecta of my fitness life is concerned; I run, I do kendo, and oh, by the way, I watch what I eat. But the Whole 30 upended this: my nutrition plan is pretty much driving everything else right now.

That's the good aspect of this. "You are what you eat," the saying goes. My favorite runner, Scott Jurek, resoundingly echoes the sentiment, writing in his book Eat and Run about the many ways in which his nutrional choices supply the foundation for his running career. So this is one very good thing--maybe the best thing--about this Whole 30 plan; it forced me to not only make conscious and deliberate decisions regarding what I eat, putting those decisions at the center of everything else in my fitness life. As I blogged recently, I'm engaged in getting back to basics, scrubbing my floor, and rebuilding my fitness foundation. The Whole 30 was a good way to start.

And the bad aspect? My running more-or-less completely fell apart; I ended the week with a miserable 13 miles, my worst week in a very long time. I think the Whole 30 plan removed some things I need to do the sort of mileage I routinely run. Every single run this week felt as if I was bonking only a couple of miles into the run: weak legs, fatigue, nausea, etc. I don't what was the culprit, exactly--and I'm sure the heat wave we've been forced to endure here in the Midwest for much of the week is also to blame--but whatever the exact reason, I've just felt awful in the running department.

By Sunday, I decided that, while I'll use the Whole 30 as something like a template, I'm going to have to add back into my nutrition some things I think I need to support my running program. I'll blog more about this later, but as I end the week I feel a bit better about how my running and my nutrition function together.

As for kendo: a much better week. I attended both classes at Mudokwan (along with daily suburi), and got in a lot of good bogu work. I enjoyed a particularly excellent jigeiko with one of my senseis during Friday's class, one of those physical chess match exchanges that makes kendo so enjoyable. I'm feeling pretty good about my kendo right now.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 16-17: fundamentals and a floor scrubbing

I spent the last week doing some serious reflection regarding two of the three primary components of my fitness life: running and nutrition.

And kendo? While I'm always constantly re-examining and re-evaluating my kendo (especially in the dojo), I feel as if I'm in a good place here. Of course I have a much to work upon and improve: footwork, shoulders, proper tenouchi and seme being at the top of the list. But I have a clear idea of where I'm at and where I want to go with my kendo,at least for the next year or so. I'm also cautiously optimistic: again, with proper appreciation for my many shortcomings and difficulties, I think I'm gradually improving. And I have a lot of good kendo opportunities on the horizon: twice weekly dojo classes, the upcoming MWKF seminar in Madison, Wisconsin, and a shimpan seminar I think I can attend in Ohio at the end of August.

Kendo is the heart and soul of my fitness life; it furnishes me with an underlying structure and philosophy in my approach to other aspects of my fitness regime (really, for my life in general). Kendo has given me a better appreciation for the value of process, attention to detail, self-discipline and serious self-reflection. This is the way of the sword.

To that end, I'm reminded of an incident I saw in one of my favorite kendo films, a documentary titled A Single Blow. The subject of the film is primarily Naoki Eiga, a superlative kendoka who several years had reached something of an impasse in his kendo. Feeling as if he had lost his way, he went back to square one, beginning each morning by scrubbing the floor of his dojo (this particular segment of the film can be accessed here; and I have the entire documentary, available in Youtube, linked in my favorites bar to the right).

There is great value in periodically re-examining one's foundation, and returning to the basics, what we in kendo call kihon. Eiga-sensei did so for far different reasons then myself, and most other kendoka; but the underlying principle is sound. And to that end, I devoted the last couple of days to scrubbing my floor, so to speak, and trying to rethink the fundamentals of my nutrition and my running--applying kendo principles to other aspects of my life.

Nutrition: I've begun a 30 day long nutrition program, called the Whole 30. I'll not go into the entire program here, or the reasons why I'm trying it (there are several) but basically the idea is to use a 30 day time frame for wiping the slate clean: no sugar (that's the hard part, at least for me), no grains, lentils, lots of veggies--basically paring things down to fundamentals. This isn't really a "diet": rather, it is a way to hit a reset button on one's eating habits. I'll follow this for the prescribed thirty days, then make conscious, deliberate decisions regarding what I want to reintroduce. Scrubbing the floor.

Running: my running life is quite frankly a mess right now. I had as a goal earlier this year to finally complete my first ultra, a 50 miler in Wisconsin; then, I thought (for reasons I've explained in an earlier post) I would scale this back to doing another marathon, this one in Ohio in October. After abandoning both of these goals, I thought I'd just take a year off from training for any big race goal, and just run.

I've tried the "just run" approach for a couple of weeks now, and the results are pretty disappointing (and predictable): my running is slowly disintegrating, as I'm running fewer miles and with no sense of purpose. I suppose there are a lot of runners out there who can do that--who can just hammer out the miles, week after week, with no more larger goal in their head than staying fit. I admire such runners a great deal, but that's not me. As soon as I abandon a goal race, as soon as I'm just running to stay fit, my entire mental approach to running deteriorates. I'm not proud of this--it is a weakness as much as anything--but it is a truth I need to face. To keep running, and to avoid returning to my former obese state of twelve years ago, I absolutely must have a goal race.

But I'm entirely sure what to do yet. And there's the Whole 30, The authors of the plan point out that it will be tough going for the first few days, and a real challenge. So I think i'm going to use the 30 days to not just reset my nutrition, but my running life as well. I'm not sure what this will entail: I may very well return to old goals like running an ultra, but with a much firmer, solid foundation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 15: Friday kendo

Kendo: I was able to attend Friday's class; so being able to do so (and thus do bogu work twice this week) makes this a good kendo week. The class went well, though the 60 minute time (as oppose to our 90 minute classes on Tuesday) made things seem a bit brief. Got in some solid jigeiko, though I absolutely need to make proper fumikomi a priority.

Running: 3 miles (10.37) Terrible little run around my neighborhood circuit; slow and just generally flat.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 14: slower run

Kendo: morning suburi. Not a very good session--I kept getting interrupted by distractions--but I did manage to focus on a particular issue that one of my senseis mentioned during Tuesday's class. I'm not straightening my left arm far enough during my strikes, which shortens my extension. I need to correct this while avoiding bending my wrist too far.

Running: 6 miles (10.10) much slower than usual run today--or at least, what has been usual for me lately. Feeling a lot of muscle soreness.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 13: family day in Chicago

Off day, at least as far as fitness is concerned. My dad is visiting for the week, so he, Nathan and I drove to Chicago for the day, checking out the Museum and Science and Industry. A good, but frankly very long day.

July 12: new floor

Kendo: the highlight of our kendo class this evening? The floor. Our sensei has installed brand new, beautiful bamboo laminate flooring. This was sorely needed, as our old floor was worn to the point of possibly causing injury. The new floor is nearly perfect, and I think everyone greatly appreciated it.

As for the actual class: a grueling but rather solid evening, at least where my own kendo is concerned. I committed errors--my kata was off in my tsuki strikes in the third kata, I need to work on full extension of my left arm in my men strikes, and of course I still struggle to relax my upper body and shoulders--but I had some good jigeiko bouts. I think it helps that I am doing repeated jigeiko with higher-ranking senseis, whose formidable skills help elevate my own. I'm seeing openings better, and I think I'm doing a better job of selecting the proper moment to strike.

So, it was a good class. But man, I was wiped out when it finished. This is not all a bad thing, but I felt I had pushed my limits pretty well.

Running: 6 miles (9.52): a good run along Lantern Road. Mentally I'm focused on smoothness, ease of form and good breathing rather than pace, persay, but I'm glad to see that my pace is still coming in at a bit under 10 minute miles on average.

Monday, July 11, 2016

July 11: good start

Kendo: morning suburi, following my usual routine.

Running: 6 miles (9.52). A nice, easy and pretty smooth run early this morning.

The week ahead, July 11-17

Kendo: I was a little disappointed with last week, missing Friday's class when I was looking forward to doing kendo twice a week in the dojo; but otherwise things are going pretty well. I'm feeling more focused, especially since I decided to put my running race training on hiatus for a while and concentrate primarily on kendo. This week I'm pretty sure I'll be able to do both classes, along with daily suburi.

Running: My running plan right now is fairly simple: just run. Well, maybe not quite that loose and simple. My thinking right now is to forego training for anything like a serious race (other than the mini marathon in May 2017) for a year, during which time I'll re-establish a 40 mile week as my norm. In terms of the quality of my running, I want to work on smooth and easy form.

Nutrition: I'm starting a new 30 day plan July 18, about which more later. This week for various reasons I'll likely be eating more-or-less without a plan.