The Necessary Hobby

So I’ve talked about The Running Hobby for the past couple of posts.  It’s probably the most dominant hobby I have.  It hasn’t been without it’s consequences, though…

When you decide to get in shape, you do it for different reasons.  You want to lose weight.  You want to fit into those skinny jeans again.  Your high school reunion is coming up.  But when you develop a passion for something, those other reasons melt away.  Don’t get me wrong — Running eight miles a day in the middle of a steamy Great Lakes summer with the sun broiling down on my head while training for a fall marathon that I know will start in sub-40F temps isn’t really fun.  But the feeling of accomplishment once that daily run is done… It’s hard to beat.  Having each day get a little better, a little easier, a little less draining.  Training runs with friends where you can all laugh and complain together.  And posting that medal picture on Facebook after the race is done?  Rapture! [Yes, the medal pic included with this post is just another gratuitous opportunity to show off the bling 🙂 ]

Hobbies like running, however, make things complicated.  You get hurt.  Things get tight.  Things are thrown off-balance.  And when you pop over that “40” mark, you often find that your body doesn’t want to bounce back quite as quickly.  That’s where things like cross-training can help.  The idea of cross-training is to find something you may love less to do on your days off in an attempt to develop other benefits.  Some of these benefits may include developing other muscle groups.  Improving your balance.  Improving your flexibility.  Improving your stamina.  These all sound like great ideas, right?

So I continued my workouts with Trainer Mike.  He’s awesome.  He really is.  He’s encouraging, funny and puts the Energizer Bunny to shame with his eternal enthusiasm.  He’s also incredibly knowledgable about sports nutrition and eating strategies.  I learned more from him than I learned from medical school in terms of how our bodies fuel and what really makes a calorie worthwhile.  He and I have worked out for years.  I must confess, however –> If I’m not scheduled for a workout with him, I never pick up a weight or do a pushup.  I’m completely unmotivated.  I’ve tried other forms of coaching like P90X [which actually is a great set of balanced workouts for motivated people], but I haaaaaaaated doing them for more than a week.  Even worse, I found that as I continued to strength train, I started to develop injuries.  Subluxing my left second rib during any upper body workout became a regular trip to the chiropractor.  Quad strains, hip flexor tenderness, wrist pain… The most depressing part of it all was that even after training like this for literally years, I never seemed to get any stronger.  These nuisance injuries were never enough to keep me from working out, but they would be bothersome enough that I would have to put off doing my planned workout for the next day [or more] until the aches and strains improved.  My race training plans become more and more spotty since I was too sore to run regularly.

At one point, Trainer Mike suggested that I try pilates.  That’s when I met Miss Cassie. She’s adorable, but she’s a taskmastress — she kept me accountable for every little detail during our workouts.  I enjoyed the pilates much more than the regular strength training.  Cassie made sure that my form was perfect and that my reps were appropriately slow so I could really develop core strength.  My posture improved.  My neck and back pain subsided.  This was great!  More benefit and fewer injuries?  Love it!  Sign me up! But… I still found that if I wasn’t working out with Miss Cassie, I would have zero interest in doing the workout on my own.  Again, if my abs were particularly sore after a workout, the race training plan would suffer.  With my work schedule, trying to work out with Cassie and Mike and keep up with a running plan just wasn’t happening.  I was spinning wheels and getting caught in the spokes.

As fate would have it, both Cassie and Mike had to take some time off of work for medical reasons.  I suddenly found myself without any trainer at all.  So I picked out a great hardcore running plan [the Hansons method] and trained for my marathon all year.  Loved it!  I felt awesome for the most part.  By the end of the training season, however, I was pretty tight.  I had neglected my stretching.  I had zero cross-training benefit.  And I was pretty sure that my right buttcheek had turned into a rock at some point…  I vowed to change my ways once the marathon was over.

So my third full marathon came and went.  I found a comprehensive strength training plan designed specifically to improve your running in the off-season that I could do from the comfort of my own home.  I had it all planned out.  So I started on Thanksgiving with the first workout, which went well.

And then I gave up.

I still hated strength training.

I tried to convince myself that I would do this again for the next week, but it was to no avail.  As December loomed, it dawned on me that I would never EVER willingly strength train unless I was forced to do so.  With three weeks until my spring half marathon training plan was set to start, I resolved to pick some kind of cross-training that would help me out.  I had to.  I was in no shape to start a new season.  I was still limping a bit from the last race.  I needed to find a new hobby… One that would help me to recover from my accrued damage that wouldn’t make me gag at the thought of doing it every day.

And that’s when I remembered Kassandra…


Some Queries…

  • Do you really like all of your hobbies?  Or do you find that some hobbies are more of a convenience than a passion?
  • How much influence do others have on your hobbies?  Would you still do that hobby if you had to do it alone?  How many of your hobbies are like that?
  • How do you determine if your hobby is interfering with your life?


Gratuitous Side Note:

The Hansons Method for full and half marathon training has been my go-to plan for over a year now.  I had tried all sorts of other plans… The ramping-up-to-20-mile-long-run plans, the three-day-a-week plan, the five-day-a-week plan, the train-with-the-fitness-club plan… Nothing worked.  I just couldn’t get enough mileage in every week to really be effective.

It’s taken me a couple of marathons to see where I have erred, but I am now convinced that Luke Humphrey and the Hanson brothers have a plan that works for me.  Granted, I have also realized that I need to beat my work life into submission in order for this plan to work… They have you run 5-6 days per week.  You never run more than  16 miles at a time for the full marathon training, but you’ll run 8-12 miles three or four days a week to make up for it.  At the end of it all, though, I realized that my aging body needs the smaller more frequent running chunks in order to really see the benefits.  If you struggle with the 20 mile long run as I did, you might want to check these guys out.  And no, I am not endorsed by them in any way.  In fact, I’ve paid them for online coaching for my last two races.  I’ve tasted the Hansons Kool-Aid, and I am a fan. 🙂


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