Monday, November 19, 2012

Strength training for hobbled runners

Back around 2002 or 2003, I used to run a big loop around the area, up and down hills, with my friend Joann. That all stopped when I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003 after noticing that I was having trouble finishing the St. Patrick's Road Race.

Afterwards, she said she had noticed that I was having trouble keeping up with her. I had chalked it up to her superior fitness level, but it was obviously more than that.

Though we're no longer running partners, we're in the same book group. She's a nurse and a personal trainer, so I value her opinion about fitness. As the last meeting wound down, I told her that I really want to get back into running shape but don't seem to "have it" ever since my falls over the summer. Tennis is OK because there is not the constant motion.

This time last year, I was training for the Turkey Trot, held the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Holyoke, and soon after that for the St. Patrick's race, which I ran in March. Those are the rhythms of the local running scene, but not for me this year.

Jo told me about a client who was no longer able to run, and who, despite initial reservations, grew to like the strength training she did instead.

"What you need is strength training," Jo said.

So on Saturday, I went to the exercise room that she has in her house and she gave me a program.

When I got to the stop of her stairs, I paused and said, "I'm walking like a little old lady."

"You're too young for that. Let's get to work," Jo said.

We started with jumping jacks (jumping jacks?") and went through three circuits, with aerobics in between. She wants me to use free weights, and she made a good point: It's fine to use the machines at the gym as I've been doing (erratically), but machines provide all the stability, while using free weights makes you work on your balance.

At one point she got down on the floor and did some push-ups, telling me to do the same thing.

I stood there and looked at her.

OK, she said, put your knees down, lower yourself towards the floor, and do the intention of a push-up.  That I could do. I wonder, is there such a thing as the intention of strength-training without actually doing it? It's so much more fun to open the door and head out running. But that is not to be for now.

We'll see how it goes. I am going to walk the dog and then come home and get to it...unless I am too tired.

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