You have probably heard me say it before, but I enjoy running! You probably think of my running along the lines of this satire from The Babylon Bee: “Deranged Lunatic Running For No Apparent Reason” (Is it satire? Really?)
Anyway, I bring this up because I received some devastating news this week: A running event I have been training a year for is now cancelled. Stupid COVID!
I’m sure I might have mentioned at some point I have been training for the Ultra-trail Australia 100 km run through the Blue Mountains (I’m a little annoying like that). Sadly, while the event was supposed to be held last May, then postponed to October, the event is now cancelled for 2020 altogether. There is just no way the organisers can meet the restrictions currently in place and those restrictions are not likely to change in time to run the event.
I am thankful they tried to meet the restrictions and hold the event, but we must all be honest and recognise this year has ruined all that is good and holy! (Okay, maybe I’m stretching this a little too far)
What makes this news even harder for me is I have been training for this event for 12 months!
Training to run 100 km involves, well, a lot of running. This is the kind of mileage that requires you to get up early in the morning more often than you want and to spend more hours on the trail than you would like. The fitness level for this event demands endurance and hill repeats. Lots of hill repeats!
I do my long runs on Mondays, which is my rostered day off. Once I drop off the kids at school, I then drive to Royal National Park or the Pipeline Trail to Woronora Dam. I then run for 3-5 hours, drive home, take a nap, and hopefully wake up in time to pick up my kids from school again. That is practically a whole day!
Lest you think I’m complaining, know that I love running the trails. It is quite peaceful, as long as I don’t fall in the water or off cliffs!
The bigger issue is overtraining. According to Molly Hurford, writing on the MapMyRun blog,
Most amateur runners consider overtraining to be something that only impacts elite or professional runners, but if your baseline has been training for three hours each week in the past and you’re suddenly up to five hours weekly, that jump could be enough to put you in a state of overtraining and heading toward burnout — especially if life is stressful around training. Remember, your body doesn’t distinguish between sources of stress, it just reacts to them.mapmyrun.com
In my case, I’m used to many hours of running each week. As a result, I have pretty good aerobic fitness. But, I am at risk of overtraining because my life has lots of stress in it these days. The extra running, while peaceful, exacerbates this stress and I am experiencing some of the symptoms she noted:
- Constant brain fog
- Disrupted sleep
- Struggling on formerly easy runs
Therefore, I am currently taking her advice and have taken a week off! I’ll be back on the trail next Monday. Care to join me?
Measuring Your Fitness Level
Another symptom Hurford did not note, but I certainly notice in myself, is increased stiffness and soreness. In my knees and lower legs especially.
I have caused some damage in my knees in the past and really do not want to make this any worse. I stretch as much as I can but the more kilometres I run, the more I notice stiffness and pain in my knees and lower legs.
And, the fact is, I’m not getting any younger. As I get older, I know that taking a fitness assessment and monitoring my mobility becomes increasingly important. I don’t want the stiffness and soreness I experience due to running to interfere with my quality of life and span of life. Physical fitness requires aerobic fitness as well as anaerobic — in other words, as a middle-aged man, I need to be strong and flexible.
According to Brett and Kate McKay, writing for The Art of Manliness,
As people get older, balance, flexibility, and strength all decrease. Picking things up off the floor, getting out of bed, getting off the toilet, or picking yourself up after you fall down become increasingly more difficult. Without any intervention, a person can physically atrophy to the point where they can no longer move about.artofmanliness.com
Previous research by Dr Claudio Gil Araujo and his team has led them to develop a simple physical fitness test called the Sitting-Rising Test (SRT). This test predicts mortality based on physical ability. The test involves starting from a standing position and, without leaning on anything, lower yourself to the ground. Then get back up again. Depending on how you get down and back up, the good doctor has some advice for you.
Danny Clark, and his team at MovNat, have prepared some videos to show you various ways to do the SRT. Start with the easier ones and work your way up until you can do them all. If there’s one you find difficult, work at it until you can do it proficiently.
Starting with a score of 10, subtract points for the following:
- -1 point if you use a hand for support
- -1 point if you use a knee for support
- -1 point if you use a forearm
- -1 point if you use one hand on knee or thigh
- -1 point if you use the side of a leg for support
If you score fewer than 8 points on the test, then you are twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher. Those who scored 3 or fewer points were more than five times as likely to die within the same period.
In other words, get up off your ass and get moving!
Going through the SRT, I can do the Cross Squat Get Up. How about you?
If this fitness testing seems too tame for you, then why not try the General Physical Preparedness test! This physical assessment has been developed by Chris Feather, founder of Sydney’s 98 Gym, considered to be Australia’s toughest gym. When working on GPP you are working on general conditioning to improve strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and skill. (menshealth.com.au)
- 2000m row/ski erg in under 7 minutes
- 1 x deadlift at twice your bodyweight
- 1.5 x bodyweight back squat
- 75% bodyweight strict overhead press
- 1 x bench press at 1.25 times your bodyweight
- 15 x strict dead hang, no kip pull ups
- 100 burpees in under 7 minute
- 50 box jumps in under 3:30
- 10 km outdoor run (flat) in under 50 minutes
- 10. 5 minute front leaning rest (Hold at top of a push up)
I can run 10 km in less than 50 minutes on a flat course but I’m not sure about anything else. How about you?
I think this fitness assessment might be meant for younger men than I.
Strength and Flexibility
Why am I telling you all this? If you want to have a long life, then you have to monitor your physical fitness! As you get older, it becomes harder but it is never impossible to get fit again.
Running is most definitely the easiest way to get fit. The only problem is this exercise focuses on aerobic fitness (or cardiovascular fitness, if you prefer). This is the endurance side of fitness. There are two other sides which must not be neglected.
The next side of physical fitness is strength. Strength is also relatively easy to fix, with a little time and effort. You don’t need to become He-Man, with bulging muscles, but it is always good for men to be strong.
Sadly, most men focus on one of these and ignore the other. This is a big mistake.
The biggest mistake of all is to neglect the final side of physical fitness: your flexibility (or mobility, if you prefer). You don’t need to be able to do the splits, whether forward or side splits, but you do need to be able to bend over and touch your toes, at the very least!
In the reading I’m doing these days, it seems as if flexibility is actually the most important side of fitness for those growing older. Next in importance seems to be strength, followed by endurance.
Training for a big endurance event does not leave me a lot of time for focusing on strength and flexibility. Trying to includes these into my regular routine is contributing to my being overwhelmed, stressed, and overtraining. Yet, I want to live and live long! So I’ll just have to find a way to balance all three in equal measure.
How about you? How are you managing to balance strength, flexibility, and endurance into your fitness routines? Do you have any plans to increase your fitness level? As they say, the best time to start was 20 years ago; the next best time is tomorrow.