Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And now for a plan . . .

I have set some goals for myself for the next year that are going to be a bit challenging for me.  I plan to compete (or at least demo) in the Triad Highland Games at the end of April and then do the Tough Mudder race sometime over the Summer or early Fall.  In planning my training for both events, I've had to do some self-assessment which has proven rather humbling.  I'll admit it.  I'm kind of lazy and thrive mostly on bravado and stubbornness.  But, when it comes to actually having to perform at a high level, you can't fake it and bravado will only get you hurt.  You either have it or you don't.  Luckily, I'm not too far off the mark and have a good idea as to how to get the rest of the way there.

The Highland Games are a collection of events that mostly involve throwing heavy things, the most recognizable event being the caber toss.  (Picture a guy in a kilt tossing a log and you're mostly there.)  They also throw stones, hammers, and other weights for height and distance.  The weights that the women throw range from 12 lbs to 28 lbs.  As you can imagine, this is not easy.  It requires strength, power, speed, and most of all, skill.



I've never thrown a hammer or caber and I won't have very many opportunities to practice.  I can, however, continue to practice my other throws (leaving large craters in my lawn) for height and distance.  I have a considerable base of strength and power for my size so although getting stronger will certainly help, it is more important that I be able to translate that strength and power into my throws.  Squats, power cleans, and presses combined with consistent throwing practice should get me some respectable distances/heights.

And then, it will be time to focus on the Tough Mudder.

I'm thinking that hill is a lot steeper than it looks.  
Aside from a belief that death is not, in fact, imminent, the Tough Mudder requires that you not only be strong, but that you also have the ability to sustain long efforts of running in combination with full body strength efforts such as climbing and crawling.  You need to be able to push, pull, and move your own bodyweight up and over large objects and obstacles for a period of about 3-4 hours while running.

Not sure how trying not to drown fits into all this.  Not sure you can really train for that other than to reassure yourself that you are not about to die.
Training for an event such as this requires that you develop a good base of strength and then transition that into strength endurance as you increase your running distances.  Strength endurance is the ability to sustain strength efforts over a long period of time.  In other words, as you approach the competition, you must switch your strength focus from maximizing the amount of weight you can lift to increasing the number of times you perform a particular exercise.  For example, while I may max out my squat at 160 lbs for 3 repetitions when building strength, I would ideally squat less weight, lets say 100 lbs, for 12-15 repetitions when trying to increase strength endurance.  (This is a horribly oversimplified example and I would probably make my strength endurance training more event-specific.)

Did I mention I was scared of heights?  
So, what do I need to do?  (Aside from get my head examined?)  Well, I'll get started with the basics.  Squat, deadlift, power clean, press, bench press, pullups, pushups, prowler, and run.    Standing core work with a medicine ball or kettlebell will give me the core endurance I need to stay upright through twelve miles of running and obstacles.  And of course, I need to pay special attention to all of my aging joints, just to make sure they don't stage a revolt.  So, a few curls, shoulder rotations, and maybe some agility work to keep things sound.  As I get closer to the event, I'll incorporate some running specific postures such as lunges and contralateral work (this is a complicated word that means exercises that use your opposite arm and leg) into some muscle endurance workouts designed to mimic the challenges of the obstacles.  The goal being simply to be able to sustain my efforts and condition my heart and lungs to handle that sort of challenge.  This will all be organized into some semblance of a progressive training program.

All good training plans pay attention to the individual so as I develop my training plan, I'll be tweaking things here and there to make sure I continue to make progress.  I'll be developing my training plan in concert with those of my running partners, all of whom are going to need an individualized approach.

So, overall, looks like I may be able to transition from Highland Games to the Tough Mudder simply by stepping up my running efforts and maintaining my strength.  I may have to throw in some obstacle specific strength training as I get closer to the event and will definitely have to add in some muscle endurance training leading up to it.  And as for the anxiety about imminent death, meditation.  Lots and lots of meditation.

1 comment:

  1. Sara, this is awesome. Congrats on going public about your goals and challenges. You should know the internet is cheering you on.

    When I was a boy I read a story in the sports section about the Boston Marathon. Women weren't allowed to run at the time. One woman ran anyway, without a number, alongside her husband. The race organizer tried to tackle her to make her stop. You've come a long way baby.

    Go get 'em!

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