Revisiting the Process (and Accepting Failure Along the Way)

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Not very good at the running thing these days

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That picture has a lot of things behind it.

The good? Pretty sure that’s the farthest I’ve gone since my knee went full a-hole about a year ago. So that’s progress.

The bad? Today was the last day I could get in a 5K race in January, and I clearly wasn’t ready to cover 3.1 miles. I’m going to ignore the fact that I went from no running to a 5K in about a month 5 years ago and ran a 31-minute 5K.

So the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel is already off the rails. And that’s ok.

Right now I need to trust the process. As much as I want to stubbornly force my knee to behave or fully blow up, I know that might not be the best tactic. So I’m trusting the process to ease my way up to 5K mode.

I’m a big believer in process (see posts 1, 2, and 3 about process). It’s when I tried to do too much too soon (thereby violating the process) that things went off the rails.

But what is the process?

I’m glad I asked. Well, the process is a slow rising up in time that leads to mileage, but mileage is not the goal.

To help me cover more time, I’m doing a 1-minute run, 2-minute walk cycle.


But it saves my knee and my lungs. And those two a-holes are always plotting against me.

I’m keeping that rotation until I can do it for 30 minutes. Today I hit 24 minutes, which is the first time I went past 20. This is a slow process, but it’s still a process.

After I hit 30, I’m going to start lowering the walk cycles until I hit a 1:1 rotation. And then I’m going to start raising the running cycles and keeping the 1-minute walk cycle. And the whole time, I won’t go past 30 minutes. That’s when the trouble tends to start.

It’s a process.

But it can yield some awesomeness. If I start eventually hitting 30 minutes nonstop again (which I’ve done literally once), then I’ve basically got a 5K in my workout. And if I go crazy, running a 10K in 30 minutes is technically possible. Insane but possible.

For now, we’re at 24 minutes on a 1:2 cycle. It’s a process.


Complaining about the Cold

This post was supposed to be a rant about why diets and extreme fitness challenges don’t work long-term. They still don’t, but I’m not going to dwell. I can’t stop people from going on diets or trying weird fitness challenges.

Instead, I’m going to focus on doing a 5K every month this year…

I’m realizing how this looks, but hear me out: The 5Ks aren’t the real end-goal. They’re just to make sure I’m staying active. An incentive to not be a lazy sack of crap, even when it’s cold outside, which gets us to this post.

It’s cold outside. 4 degrees to be specific this morning. 4.

This throws a nondelightful wrench into the process (as opposed to a delightful wrench?). I don’t have the appropriate attire. Evidently the right answer is man tights. I could show you pictures of men in running tights, but I think we all know where this is really going:

I can wear pants over them, but there’s only so many pairs of pants you can wear before things start to get weird.

I also need to wear gloves and winter headgear. I have a beanie, but I’ve never actually run in it. I suppose it would do in a pinch.

All of this is to say I’m not adequately prepared for Oklahoma winters. I’ve never lived this far north (and the vast majority of the country begins laughing). Texas, Florida, and Mississippi. Those were my previous locales. I’m used to brutal summers. I’m not used to brutal winters.

The last time I played this little game, I was in north Mississippi. I bought pants and a jacket to run in, and I’ve got a little collection of long-sleeve shirts to work it out, but by and large, I was ok there. I don’t remember running below 30. In fact, two of the worst times I remember running were my first two 5Ks.

They were cold snaps. The first race gave me an ice warning (not to mention scraping ice of my windshield when I was running a little late getting to the race) and some icy spray as we ran over the bridge of a reservoir. The second had snow on the ground. Effing snow on the ground. Basically, these conditions were as bad as could be expected in that part of the world

And Oklahoma has the potential to be worse. So much so I’m not actually going to plan on a 5K. I’m going to keep an eye on the weather, and the first halfway decent weekend will include me signing up for a race last-minute.

This will easily be the weirdest year, because I might have to watch the weather through May. When the cold ends, the tornadoes start, and I don’t need that crap while I’m stressing over the race already.

If my knee holds up, I’m going to have to get a lot more flexible in my running patterns. Not to mention the fact that I need to cover at least 2 miles before the first 5K. I’m so freakin’ screwed. And I’m still cold.

But this what we do in the name of fitness. All I want for the new year is a six-pack. If I can’t have that, I’ll settle for a different kind of six-pack.

New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve briefly mentioned my disdain for new year’s resolutions before, but I don’t know if I ever gave it a full post. So here we are.

They’re a bad idea. Why? Because people set out to change their lives in some large and/or unsustainable way.

I’m going to bike to work. I’m going to cut carbs. I’m going to meditate an hour every day.

Usually they’re big changes that don’t actually fit people’s real lives. Or sometimes they’re just outright dumb. I should say I think dieting is dumb. Cleaning up your diet is good, but dieting is dumb. If you go on a diet, that’s inherently saying this is temporary, whereas if you change your diet, that’s saying this could be permanent.

And so I don’t make resolutions, not real ones anyway. I set a resolution to treat myself better each year. Whether it’s getting massage every month, staying a little more active, or just not beating myself up over things, I’m just trying to put myself in a little better position to succeed this year than I was in last year. I don’t always succeed, but I do my best.

But still, that’s not a real resolution. I won’t put that on the ‘gram.

What do I do instead? I set goals like running a 5K every month of the year.

Is it a big difference? Not terribly, but it reframes it. A resolution feels like a permanent thing being implemented with the idea of pretending it will become permanent. Things usually go to crap a month in.

Not doing it.

What I would like to do is set goals that force me to engage in better behaviors along the way. Running a 5K every month without making an ass of myself? Then I’d better stay pretty active throughout the year. Do I want to play an open mic? Then I’d better be practicing on guitar.

With the 5K goal, there’s no mileage goal. I’m not running every day. I’m just trying to stay active enough to pay 30 bucks for the privilege to run in a nicer neighborhood than I live in, and that’s good enough for me. And don’t forget the banana and Gatorade at the end.

So next year is the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel that no one asked for, but you’re getting it anyway. That’s my goal.

But what about that vague resolution? What will that consist of?

I honestly don’t know. I hope it includes travel to see old friends across the country. I hope it includes cutting myself some slack when I try something and fall on my face. I honestly hope it includes tough conversations that need to happen. And those massages. That’s the only thing that keeps me from punching people in the face, especially after those tough conversations.

Stay frosty, friends.


Note: This isn’t about running at first glance, but we’ll get there. Eventually.

On the other blog I keep (and the one I’m better about posting on regularly), I recently finished a book that, in part, talked about meditation. One of the concepts covered was impermanence: the idea that nothing lasts and everything changes.

I might be muddling it a bit. I’m not Buddhist. But you get the point.

This was one of those ideas that latched onto the back of my brain and just sat there. Why? Because it was something I implicitly agreed with.

I’ve had this happen before. I loved reading Good to Great and The No Asshole Rule in large part because they were explaining ideas I already believed (who knew people liked to hear things they already agreed with?).

And so it was with the concept of impermanence.

The idea is to live in the now and appreciate it because you know it’s leaving just as soon as it showed up. Where this really comes in for me is trying not to idolize the past.

When I did the Super Awesome Year of Me, there was the Draw Something month. I had a nice little collection of drawings. They weren’t nice drawings, but it was a nice collection. I really appreciated having them, so I gathered up my favorites and mailed them to some friends.


I did this because I didn’t want to bask in the finished work. The point of doing the work was doing the work. The final drawing was just a byproduct of the process. I was drawing for my own benefit. The final picture was never the point.

Pretty sure I called it disposability of ideas. In part I stole it from this comic by The Oatmeal. By recognizing the impermanence of the art (that sounds so freakin’ pretentious) and the way it made me feel, I would be better able to produce something I liked in the future.

The other area this philosophy shows up is that I don’t have heroes. I’d say it’s like never meet your heroes, but kill your heroes (not literally) might be the better explanation.

I don’t like to idolize people. People are just people. There are aspects about people that wow me, but there’s never been a person I just thought of as the ideal human being that I wanted to emulate. I try to recognize that one piece of awesomeness is usually accompanied by something less than awesome.

This can seem a bit pessimistic at first glance, but it was an important part of being an adult for me. I needed to be able to look around the room and be able to assert who I am without giving ground. In my job, I’m the youngest by more than 5 years as best I can tell. I have to be willing and able to get in arguments with people who get AARP mailings. I can’t afford to idolize the people around the table. They might have good ideas, but I also might have good ideas.

This comes back to impermanence.

I don’t idolize anyone, but I try to listen to everyone, even people I actively dislike. It isn’t easy, but I want to make sure I consider every idea as I hear it. If it’s something that pisses me off in the moment, I try to avoid reacting and let myself digest it for a while.

Nothing exists in a constant state. No one is perfect all of the time. And no one is wrong all of the time. I mostly try to deal with people in the moment without carrying baggage with me. In one moment you might be helping me out. The next you might be hurting me. One isn’t necessarily connected to the other.

So where does this all lead? It leads to living in the moment, enjoying it, and understanding the moment’s going to pass.

This is a fitness blog, so I could post about having to avoid past baggage, including the good (the days I could touch a basketball rim despite being under 6 feet tall) and the bad (the various injuries that have derailed progress over the year). But that’s not 100% what this is about for me. It’s about enjoying the moment. To a certain extent, the baggage doesn’t even exist in this conversation. The moment does.

So what is the moment? It’s running.

I got a new phone earlier this year, and I was deliberate about getting one that was the same size as my last one so I could keep using my arm band. Except the shape was just different enough to make it impossible to continue using the armband. And I’ve dropped the phone a bunch since buying it during my non-running time, so I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I don’t want to buy an armband only to need a new phone a few months later.

So I’m running without my phone. I’m running without music. I’m running without Sam guiding me through a field plagued with zombies.

Instead, I’m shuffling around campus taking in the sights and the sounds. I’m feeling my breath. I’m hearing my steps. I’m more present.

The moment was always going to pass, but at least when I disconnected from technology a bit, I could at least appreciate the moment while it was there.


Running Reboot: Revenge of the Knee

In the next 12 months, I will either be almost done with the Super Awesome Year of the 5K 2.0 or I’ll have a gnarly scar on my knee.


Not that kind of scar.

This decision came about for a few reasons. 1) My weight is creeping up. Me not being able to run isn’t helping. That’s my best cardio option. 2) I’m back to doing almost everything I was before the knee blew up on me. 3) The ortho person I saw here was hesitant to cut off part of my knee cap given what the issue is. He actually listed big scar as one of the down sides like I gave two craps about that.

But if he’s hesitant to cut me open, then I might as well be too (even though I’ve basically been delaying surgery since March).

So we’re rebooting the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

Some ground rules before we get rolling:

  1. Same as before, one a month. It’s not about doing 12 5Ks. It’s about staying consistent with running.
  2. Keep up the physical therapy-oriented activities of lifting and yoga. Part of the reason for the weight creep was the lifting and the ensuing spike in appetite, but I need to keep my legs strong.
  3. Cap my runs at 4 miles. 10Ks seem to be beyond the limit of my knee, and that’s ok, but if I can cover 3-4 miles on a regular basis, I can live with that.

That last one is a bit of a bummer considering this was supposed to be the Super Awesome Year of the 10K, but maybe my knee isn’t built for 10Ks. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do; my knee was not.

But this is all ok if I can regain my level of activity. So the journey started this week. I got my running shoes on for the first time in Oklahoma and got ready for a run/walk rotation to easy myself back into things.

Some notes:

  • They use Woodway treadmills where I’m at, and I’ve missed these bad boys. Treadmills are evil. Woodway treadmills are slightly less evil. I can’t remember which university I was at (I think UF) that had them, but I knew they were magical then. Just not as jarring to use.
  • Less jarring means less pain, but there was still some pain. It was within my regaining form threshold, so it’s nothing to note. Certainly better than I was when I was doing PT, so either things are better or the treadmill really is making a difference.
  • My cardio is crap. I knew this, but it’s a different thing to feel it.

But that was day 1. And now I live in Oklahoma where winters are winter. I’m going to miss Mississippi when I’m freezing my ass off in January. At least I’ll be running (or my knee will have fallen off and I’ll get that stupid surgery)


Adventures in Physical Therapy

On Friday, I completed my last day of physical therapy. I’m not magically cured, and I probably won’t be in running shape for a long time (if ever without surgery), but I’m getting around just fine, so we’ll call a win a win.

Let’s start with the basics: Physical therapy is where you go when you don’t want to or can’t have surgery. It’s also the place you go after surgery. All of this so you can get better.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done PT before. I had a chest injury three and a half years ago, and I finally decided to do something about my back last year.

I’ve played this game before, but each round has its own quirks, so I wanted to dive in a bit.

What stayed the same?

The biggest thing is the focus on getting to muscles you’re not used to getting. When I was dealing with the chest injury, I was trying to pull my shoulders back, so there were a lot of pulling exercises that got behind my shoulder blade in a way I wasn’t used to (I actually got nauseous the first day). And that trend continued. This time I was hitting my glutes and hips in weird ways (more on the actual exercises later).

Next, there was the assumption I’d do the exercises on my own. That lasted a full week here. The problem was (kind of) yoga (ok, the problem was me being lazy). The idea is they’re little exercises you can do on your own, and long-term, that’s what you’ll have to do.

And finally, I got a new band.


The first time I did PT, I got a yellow band. I was SO psyched they gave me a free thing (never mind I was paying for said free thing). Eventually, I got blue and black. This time, I didn’t get a band in the beginning. I was actually let down, but I already had three at home. But on the last day, they saved me and gave me a red one. Now I just need green.

I wonder if these colors are universal?

What changed?

The big difference was the clinic itself. Before, I’d done PT on campus. The first PT group I was with had a regular clinic off campus I went to once, but they were across the street from my office on campus in a smaller setup once a week, so that was a no brainer. This is the first time I’d been in a clinic. It was interesting. There was equipment everywhere (awesome) and people too (not awesome, especially when you’re doing stupid human tricks).

The people make up the next point. In a bigger clinic, there’s a bigger staff. Even when I’m only working with one person, there are 4-5 other PTs going, usually a similar number of PTAs. We’re in a bigger room but not that much bigger. There are also the staffers who handle the clerical work. I was used to the first place where there was a PT and a PT student. That’s it. Having so many people around meant you weren’t going to lack for access to people, but it also meant there was always someone who could see if you messed up (Exhibit A: on the penultimate day, I almost ate it trying to get an exercise band off my legs. And that’s how a conversation with a PT I’ve never talked to got started). I actually worked with two PTs and two PTAs. Never knew who I would see day to day.

Frequency of visits was the other big adjustment. I went three times a week for six weeks. I was used to weekly appointments. That was a much bigger time commitment, especially when I was having to drive 15 minutes (and more when they upped the intensity and I had to start going home to shower). The plus was I was basically forced into three workouts a week. There are worse things than exercising three times a week (plus 1-2 more when I was able to get into the yoga studio).

The last difference was the exercises themselves. But let’s give that a full section.

So what were you doing?

I was doing all the things.

The one consistent thing was a warmup. It started with an exercise bike, which actually hurt my left knee the first couple of times. Then they moved me to an elliptical. I hate ellipticals (and irony dictates that was one of the main final recommendations for me to do on my own).

This was sufficient to get me warm and make me a little self-conscious about returning to work without showering. Just not self-conscious enough.

Then the real work began. The real work changed a lot.

At first, it was just weird little exercises. One where I was bending my knee like was taking a step down. This progressed to standing on an actual step. And then a slightly bigger step.

Another that was an extremely abbreviate pistol squat. As I got that down, they had me dipping lower. It doesn’t sound like much, but 25 half squats on one leg get tiring.

One where I bent forward with one leg on the ground and one rising up like I was picking up a golf ball (or a screwy-looking warrior III from yoga). The weird part is they had me progress to an easier version of this for the longest time where I didn’t reach down as far. And then they added weight the last day. That fried my hammies.

I hated it the first day, but after that my favorite activity was the BOSU ball.

The first day was the wobbles. The wobbles make you feel like you’re about to be pitched off. I never got pitched off by a horse, but I was in danger of being pitched off by a piece of plastic. After that, I was a champ. The wobbles went away, and I could own that junk.

And then they had me balance on one foot. This wasn’t as bad as the first day, but when they stick you on the round side and say stand on one foot, you don’t necessarily think, “This will end well.”

The last week, I moved to using the leg press and a machine that was like an assisted jumping machine. Google tells me it was a shuttle machine. Basically, you lie down and then jump. It’s weird.

And then the core stuff. I hate the core stuff.

The core stuff was just 5-second planks for 20 rounds and then a side plank variation that consisted of me moving my leg forward and backward. That sound you heard was my glute/hip area experiencing post-traumatic stress. Eventually core got upped to doing side plank raise (or dying mermaid, as the PTA called it). That was brutal. Then another one that was a plank where I just touched alternating shoulders with alternating hands.

And finally, there was running. The last 4 weeks involved some running. Remember how I wouldn’t shower? That stopped the second they put me on the treadmill. One day, I was sweating so bad, I had to ask for a towel. I got a towel every day after that. And water.

Ultimately, I was in PT so I could run. My day-to-day life was returning to normal, but I want to be able to run (bet you never thought I’d say that with this blog title).

This is when the knee pain started to return. I wasn’t used to running, and my body couldn’t take it at first.

It wasn’t just my knee. My feet and ankles were also unappreciative of the endeavor. The first day was in cross-trainers. That was the last day for the cross-trainers. I moved to running shoes after that. Slowly (oh so slowly), the running got better and knee pain dissipated but didn’t fully go away. The way I put it to the PT was if I was running a race, I’d keep going, but if I was just on a run, I would stop. This never really got upped in the four weeks; I just got mildly better about the little they gave me.

They also gave me an extended warmup routine that will make me look like a goober if I ever do it in public.

But what about yoga and PT?

I’m glad you (didn’t actually) ask. Yoga will make you look like a champ at PT.

For real, do yoga, and then go to PT. They have you do planks and weird little exercises. If you know both, then you know I’m talking about both. The best was the BOSU ball. Aside from the first-day wobbles, I could keep pretty still, enough so to get attention from people working there who weren’t actually working with me.

That will be the extent I brag about being a PT champ.

All in all

I’d call it a 65-70% win. I’m not running yet and probably won’t for quite a while, but I got a lot of good exercises I can do on my own, and my range of motion and flexibility got a lot better over the period of PT.

Hopefully I can maintain where I’m at and maybe make a little progress as I move out of state, but you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Q and His Treacherous Knee

Or Q and His Knee Jerk Reaction

Or Q and Why Does My Knee Hurt?

This was my weekend a week ago:

And this was me less than a week ago:

There’s a theme here. I’m a week and half into unexplained knee pain. I know what’s happening (tendonitis), but I don’t know why (unless we accept that my knee is an a-hole argument).

I spent a week on steroids and that seemed to help, but then I tweaked it on day 5 of steroids, and three days later, I’m back in the kind of pain I was in before starting the steroids.

With a couple of other things, I’m now two and half weeks removed from my last run, which was just a light jaunt to shake out the post-10K creaks.

My goal was a 10K every other month, and it’s already in jeopardy, and not the cool Ken Jennings kind.

If I go after the race I’m targeting, I’m looking at basically 5 weeks to go from 0 to 10K.

That’s probably not going to happen.

This is going to be an interesting year.