Okay. It’s still hard to explain when people ask me how I’ve been preparing for Tough Mudder. As I sit here trying to figure out how to handle the logistics of this weekend, I’ll write this while it’s fresh in my mind.
When you say “strength training” or “functional strength training” people picture weight lifting. Like, Olympic weight lifting. Maybe dumbbells. I have to try to explain what kettlebells are, for instance. KettleBELLS, not kettleBALLS.
They picture someone trying to bulk up and get all muscle-y.
When I mention that there’s conditioning involved, what does that mean? A year and a half ago I would have — and did, actually — go to the Googles and do a little research.
If you’re thinking of training, I say do it. For the past few months, my training has been tailored to prepare me for TM so it’s been damn tough. It’s not like that all the time. It’s never easy, of course, but the intensity has been ratcheted up a few notches.
Today when I walked into the gym Justin explained that the Tough Mudder people were going to get a primer class. I was not expecting this, but it was inevitable, right. Apparently, it’s kind of like what they do in mental toughness class on Saturday mornings that I cleverly avoid like the plague. Except only two of us were doing it. Two other people were doing their programs. The Mental Toughness class usually has between ten and twenty people, I’d guess.
You rock, Sara. I love training with Sara. She’s one of the coaches and has a humble strength that is always inspiring. Always rises to the challenge.
So let me explain to my (current and future) friends and family what today was like. It was intentionally ridiculously tough. Crank up the endurance training and then a few days before the event you’re training for, you back off the weight and intensity and work on recovery.
I took a pic of the workout we did, written in red on the whiteboard.
My descriptions may be technically inaccurate. Don’t rely on me for the science behind the training. I try to remember what I hear but usually during workouts my brain diverts power to life support so … you know.
The “Warm Up”: For Power
4 stations, 15 seconds each as hard as you can go. 100%.
- Low box drill
- Med ball slam
That was tough. It shocks the system into action but it’s also the toughest part of the workout in a way. It’s like when you go hiking and the first 20 minutes you’re really stiff and winded. Then your body acclimates.
We were allowed to recover between each station, praise be to the fitness gods.
Oh, so that’s why Justin yells at me to go all out and stop pacing my effort.
- 30 seconds on the bike as hard as you can
I know I look like a crazy person. Throwing my arms into the handles. It’s the kind of bike where you push and pull handles as you pedal. Grunting with effort toward the end. Face contorted with effort and pain. Slid off the bike at the end to lay on the floor trying to bring my heart rate down. But the legs burning. BURNING! Walked around the gym a little. The burning never stopped, really, even though my heart rate went down. Then we had another 30 seconds on the bike. I said, “Are my legs supposed to have stopped burning by now?”
Justin said, “No. It’s more mental than it is physical.” With respect to effort.
I was like, “You’re going to have to yell at me.”
But like Justin says sometimes, it’s only 30 seconds of your life. You can do anything for 30 seconds.
- 30 more seconds on the bike. All out.
Here’s what I don’t understand. As soon as I started, my legs stopped burning. Or that became secondary as my body tried furiously to send fuel and oxygen to my muscles. Then about 20 seconds in I started to slip but not for lack of effort. I picked it back up a little. Followed by more floor sprawling. Legs on fire: quads, hamstrings, glutes.
I was questioning the meaning of life by that point. Seriously. I was not into it.
“What is the nature of suffering? Why was I programmed to feel pain? I could probably be fit without this much punishment, y’know. Zumba seems like fun and there are a lot of ladies. I wonder what it would take for me to pass out right now.”
Honestly, those were some of the thoughts in my head as I was laying on the floor. Then Justin told us the next part.
Gettin’ … uh …
Was this the endurance part? Where we were supposed to go from one to the next with no rests, no breaks. There are times at UA when you’re being told what you have to do and there’s a sensation of shock and disbelief and holy sh*t.
- Run down to Rt. 50 and back
- 30 burpees
- 30 push ups
- 30 pull ups
Oh that’s going to be tou…
- Run down to Rt. 50 and back
- 20 burpees
- 20 push ups
- 20 pull ups
Damn. This nigga crazy! He must be out of his m…
- Run down to Rt. 50 and back
- 10 burpees
- 10 push ups
- 10 pull ups
Mentally, I started making out my will.
Need I go into detail about what that felt like? At one point, between burpees and pushups Justin said, “No rest, Gary! People in the mental toughness class this morning went all the way through with no rest.”
I’m not proud of this, but I thought to myself, “That’s because they’re a bunch of assholes.”
Haha. That doesn’t even make sense. And they’re a great bunch of people. 🙂
I did walk a little on the run part on the last bits. I’ll admit it. It’s downhill on the way to Rt. 50. Of course, that means a little grade on the way back. I was wearing bright yellow today so I used yellow things as milestones. Get to the painted curb. Get to the yellow sign. F this. I’m going to walk for a bit. Until I get to the yellow paint mark.
There was a mockingbird sitting on a post watching me run by. Would have made for an amazing photo, especially with the new lens. Given my jogging pace on the way back, even sitting on a post I think that bird was somehow moving faster than I was.
Sara passed me, of course, well ahead of me. I have to say that I didn’t take Justin’s advice and try to catch up to her. Each time she passed me, though, she gave advice that made all the difference in the world.
“Find your breathing rhythm.”
“Long exhales will lower your heart rate.”
She was right, of course. A few long exhales and I felt the tingle of oxygen in my legs. I know that. That’s what I mean when I say intentional breathing. Ever since I heard a radio interview years ago where they said that gasping and panting are very inefficient ways to oxygenate your system. Humming as you exhale is a good practice to get your breath under control and improves that CO2 <-> O2 exchange.
But when I’m beat-ass tired, I will sometimes reflexively gasp and pant. I have to tell myself (or someone has to tell me), don’t be reactionary with your breathing. Like, don’t breathe because you’re working hard. Breathe to fuel the work.
The pull ups were jump pull ups. The running part allowed for some rest. Got the blood circulating so my muscles could function for the rest of the stuff.
I made it. It wasn’t pretty, but … hey. I had no idea I could do that.
After all that, I was laying on the floor and Justin says, “Imagine that. Times five.”
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