mundane adventures in running
I have been surprisingly busy with work recently and have had less time than I’d like to run. On Monday I had scheduled a 15k jaunt to keep the miles up and make sure my legs didn’t seize up. I failed completely and wound up rushing to pick the kids up from school without having managed to run at all. The best laid plans etc etc.,
I’m still trying to hit my ultra before 40 target, so I don’t want gaps in my training. I’ve two months to go, and reckon i should be able to do a 50k if I keep the consistency*.
Training and childcare don’t mix so well. Being stuck at home, your options for running are pretty limited. The turbo trainer is a go-er, but it is noisy and deathly dull. Besides, my road bike has a mysterious flat (mysterious cos I barely ever use it, so how did it get a flat?), and the hassle of getting it out of the garage, fixing it, setting it up would have been an effort equal to that of doing the exercise. Strength training is also an option, but I’ve done a lot of that recently and didn’t really feel a pressing need to do more squats.
Something cardiovascular, something which would directly help with my running training. It dawned on me to try Hundred Up.
As a sometime fan of Chris Mcdougall, I’d come across Hundred Up ages ago**. It’s a simple drill to improve form and fitness: barefoot, walk on the spot for 50 steps raising your leg so the thigh is parallel with the ground (so pretty high), then run on the spot for another 50 steps doing the same thing. Then repeat ad nauseum.
The method was invented (or discovered) by a guy called Walter George. Others have written in detail about his life and achievements, and I won’t give chapter and verse here, but it goes something like: Walter wanted to race, he didn’t have time to train, he started doing hundred ups in the office in between work tasks. He also bathed in brine, but less said about that the better. Walter went on to become the world record miler. All this in the late 19th century.***
Mcdougall advocates Walter George and the hundred up as a drill for barefoot running. You can see why. It would be awkward to heel strike running on the spot, so you land on the balls of your feet. Lifting your legs so high means your body responds to the impact, and it works all the muscles in your calves, forces you to work your hips (as you lift your knee parallel). While I don’t believe there could be one go to running drill (except running itself, natch), this has got to be pretty close.
So, Monday evening. I got the kids to bed, started to prepare dinner (i.e. got it to the stage where i could leave it simmering on the hob without burning the house down) and got ready for a Hundred Up session.
I stripped to a vest and pants, and in front of the TV: half an hour of Walter George’s exercise. Hot, unfamiliar, but it was easy. It’s sufficiently easy that you can watch TV at the same time, shit BBC comedy is about the right level of engagement. I find turbo trainers weirdly distracting, and can’t distract myself from the tedium with TV, but i don’t have that problem with hundred ups.
But that’s easy in a practical and psychological sense, physically it’s tough enough. Watching my heart rate I was working out at 110- 145 bpm. I just pushed 145 on the fast bits (and only towards the end), so I never went into anaerobic respiration. Still, muscles that don’t normally get a look in started to ache and complain (in a good way).
I managed half an hour of this. God only knows how many sets I managed (and tbh, i imagine that God stopped watching in embarrassment as my face got redder and my pink boxers flapped about, sodden with sweat). At the end it felt like I had had an OK workout, nothing too mental, but an OK workout.
Next day: OW! Oh my god it worked my calves far more than I realised at the time. They are in agony now (Friday, four days on). It’s a good pain, insofar as it’s not an injury yet, just excessive use. It’s also an incredibly surprising pain. I don’t feel this bad after a long run. Even a 35km run wouldn’t leave me aching so comprehensively so long afterwards. I’m close to having to go downstairs backwards. My calves are too tender for a foam roller.
This is a good sign .Yes, I overdid it, and even though my body said 30 minutes was ok, it was totally excessive. But the signs are that it worked my legs really well, in new bizarre and exotic ways, and that probably means I should try it again.
Next: five minute sessions after gentle runs. I’ll work up to longer sessions, but for now I think my body would benefit from far, far less intense a workout.
*I am aware that counting 50k as an ultra is quite lame, I just need to do something before may. I can do a ‘real’ one after my birthday.
** This video (which I only just watched) explains the exercise in more detail. Chris draws spots on the ground and everything.
*** The wiki article is worth a read. Beer and Brine: The making of Walter George is on my reading list