View from a run

My Oura ring produces a “readiness” score each day, and I’ve found it to be a pretty good indication as to whether or not I’m up for a long run or a hard workout. The times I’ve ignored it when it said I needed to take it easy, I’ve often found it was right and I was wrong. Today was a rare instance of the reverse.

According to my plan, today should have been a rest day. But I wanted to go for a run.

The ring gave me a readiness score of 88 (out of a possible 100), which is rather above my average (my average this month has been 80), and I took that as a license to go for the run I wanted, instead of taking the rest day my plan suggested.

Turns out—this time—my plan was right and my ring was wrong. I went for my run, but I felt tired and sluggish throughout.

It wasn’t a catastrophe. I didn’t hurt myself. I just don’t think I did myself much good. I ran to Colbert Park, did three hill sprints (in actuality, feeble jogs), and then ran home again. But I didn’t have any oomph behind the sprints, so I don’t expect they’ll have done their job in terms of boosting leg strength or aerobic capacity.

The Oura ring’s readiness score has been a very reliable indicator for me—which is why it helped me fool myself this time. So this is a good reminder to me to interrogate all of the factors that go into making a workout decision—my plan, my intuition, my ring, etc.

So one thing I’m doing is looking back at the factors that feed into the score, looking to see if there’s one that looked better than it really was.

Nothing really jumps out at me. Given the same information, I’d also figure that I was ready for a hard workout. (In fact, I had that information, plus my own sense that I felt ready for a hard workout. That’s exactly how I overrode my plan and went out for a tired, tiresome run.)

Oh, well. Insert your own pithy “live and learn” aphorism here.

I’ve been working on dips for a while, but not with great consistency until just the past three or four months.

For a long time I was doing bench dips (where you put your hands behind you on a bench, stretch your legs out in front of you with your heels on the floor, and then push with your hands to raise your hips up to the level of the bench), to try to get my triceps strong enough to do real dips. In the fitness room there are some bars that can be put on the squat rack so you can do bar dips. I wasn’t really strong enough to do a good bar dip, but I’d sometimes do partials or negatives.

For parkour, you want to do wall dips, but I don’t know of any good chest-high walls in Savoy, so I haven’t practiced those in a long time.

Since I got my gymnastic rings around the end of March, I’ve been working pretty steadily on ring dips. (Which are much harder, because while pushing yourself up you also have to be able to stabilize your body.)

I’ve been following pretty much the usual progression—working on just a ring support (where you hold yourself in the top position for a dip), on negative dips (where you just lower yourself), and on partial dips (where you lower yourself only part of the way down, and then back up).

I’ve been gradually increasing the range of my partials, and a few days ago I thought I was doing a full, proper dip. I wasn’t really sure though—there aren’t any mirrors out under the sycamore tree where I hang my rings. So today I got Jackie to come and video me, so I could watch what I was doing:

I think those first two—especially the second—are legit dips. (The third, of course, is just a negative.)

I’d heard this, but I’m not sure I really believed it.

I’ve been running in “barefoot” shoes for a good 5 years now. The improvement in my gait was dramatic and immediate. But serious barefoot advocates are very firm about the point that it’s only when you run with actual bare feet that you acquire the huge upside that comes with barefoot running.

Reduced injury rates (due to the improved gait) are one of those upsides. Increased running efficiency (due to the improved gait, but also due to not having to carry the weight of a shoe on each foot) is another upside.

But there are alleged to be further sources of improved efficiency that come from barefoot running. When you’re actually barefoot, you’re going to hit the ground much more gently (because without cushioning it would hurt to hit the ground hard). Your foot is going to hit the ground with zero forward velocity (because if your bare foot slides along the concrete, the friction will cause blisters almost immediately).

In both cases—not slamming your foot into the ground, and not grinding your foot into the ground—the upshot is improved efficiency.

But it’s one thing to hear that “improved efficiency” is a thing, and another to actually see it. Check out this comparison of a run from one month ago, versus a run today.

Here’s the first three-quarters of mile of a run from one month ago, wearing minimalist shoes:

I left off the first few tens of seconds because it took until then for my heart rate monitor to stabilize on my actual heart rate. Then I went on for about three-quarters of a mile (out of a longer run) to match the distance that I ran today.

The things to note are that I ran at a 14:20 min/mil pace (very slow), that my heart rate averaged 117 bpm, and that the majority of my run was spent in zone 3.

Now check out my graph from today’s run, run with actual bare feet:

I’ve matched the distances (the former is the first part of a much longer run, the latter my entire barefoot run today). Today’s run was at a considerably faster pace (37 seconds per mile faster), while at the same time keeping my heart rate considerably lower (averaging 109 bpm, entirely in zone 2).

I have to say, this is very promising for future endeavors. I need to boost my confidence a bit, so I feel comfortable going for longer runs barefoot. I also need to get a bit more familiar with pacing—my MAF heart rate is probably more like 124. I need to figure out what it feels like when I run that pace barefoot. Because: who knows how fast I can run at that heart rate barefoot?

(The shortcode below won’t work until I get an updated version of the plugin for displaying GPX maps.)

I’ve been following a new workout plan by Anthony Arvanitakis (the latest iteration of his Superhero Workout), and one of the points that he makes is the importance of warming up. (“If you don’t have time to warm up, you don’t have time to work out.”)

Warming up is important, but as he’s made clear elsewhere, it’s actually the second step in the pre-workout process.

The first part is checking in.

Checking in

You want to check in with your body, but even before that, you want to check in with the venue.

I don’t have a good history with this step, which is a big part of the reason I’m writing this post: I’m documenting what I think I ought to be doing as part of the “warming up, but first checking in” procedure, in the hope that it’ll help me remember to do it.

Check in with the venue

Look around to see who else is there. Is anybody doing anything that might interfere with your workout?

Yesterday the folks mowing the lawn arrived in the courtyard where I’d set up my rings just as I was just starting my workout, and I ended up needing to take my rings down and move elsewhere. That was okay—but if I’d done a better job of checking in with the venue in advance, maybe I’d have been able to find a spot where I could have finished my workout without having to move.

Is there anybody doing anything that you might interfere with as you do your workout? I would have been in the way of the lawn mowing people. Other times I’ve gone someplace where people were setting up to do a family reunion picnic or something similar, and I’d have been in the way.

Especially in these times, there are other things to think about in terms of other people. Is there any chance that police or security guards might take issue with what you’re doing? Any chance that the people you interact with might themselves be malefactors of some sort? Best to avoid them, if you can.

I tend to do my workouts fairly early in the morning, but long enough after dawn that I don’t tend to have to worry much about such things. That doesn’t mean they can be entirely ignored.

Besides other people, look at the space itself. This is especially important for parkour, where you need to look for all kinds of hazards.

If you’re going to do parkour vaults, but also plyometrics, make sure the thing you’re going to put weight on is strong enough. Make sure it won’t tip over, or collapse under your weight, and also make sure that your planned activity won’t damage it.

Make sure that the zone where you’re going to land is free of any slipping or tripping hazards (water, ice, grease, sand). Is there anything that might roll? Is there anything with a point or a sharp edge?

Is there enough room for you to safely execute whatever move you have planned?

Check in with yourself

This can be before your worm-up, or combined with it. The key is to pay attention.

Are your tendons, ligaments, and joints free of pain? Do you have access to your entire normal range of motion? Does anything catch or click or grind as you begin to move? Are your muscles sore from recent workouts?

Are you focused? Are you confident that you know whether you can go all-out, or need to limit yourself in some way to stay safe?

None of these things would necessarily make you abandon a workout, but (depending on the extent to which they ease up as you begin your warm up), they might prompt you to modify your planned workout.

Anthony has a warm-up video here:

As I say, I’m not especially good at this. I tend to arrive at the venue with a workout in mind, and immediately jump into it.

I’ve gotten a bit better at getting my warm-up in. I have too many body parts (wrists and feet especially, but also ankles, shoulders, hips, and knees) that act up if I try to stress them before they’re warmed up. I’ve learned not to skip this part.

My qi gong practice does a very good job of warming up most of these parts. I also go ahead and do Anthony’s warm up routine as well (very similar exercises), and then throw in specific activities that I know I need in particular due to my own movement and injury history. (I use some wrist warm-ups from my long-ago aikido practice, for example. I use a ball to mobilize the joints in my feet.)

As I say, I’ve about gotten the warm-up part under control. It’s the check-in process that I’m particularly prone to skimp on. Hopefully, writing this post will remind me not to forget this part of a workout.

Looking over Anthony’s older videos, I came upon this one, which talks about a procedure for doing a check-in procedure ahead of the warming up:

It’s pretty good.

A fascinating (Marxist!) perspective on Daniel Quinn’s “takers versus leavers,” focusing on carnivore versus vegetarian eating:

The history of colonisation is the history of the conquest of lactose-intolerant peoples by lactose-tolerant populations, and of non-grain eaters by grain-eaters.

The case for red meat – Redline by @puddleg