Me and Ashley, out for a . Once again, she’s a much better running companion than she is portrait model. 🏃🐕

Because of dog-related complications, I didn’t get good stats on the run, but it was about 2 miles and maybe 30 minutes (including time to water the dog and pose for photos).

A photo showing half of my face and almost all of Ashley's, taken out on a run

The books say not to take your dog running until they’re at least a year (better: 18 months) old, so they’re running on mature bones and joints.

Early on, I instead let Ashley take me on runs, letting her drag me on the leash while she sprinted off in random directions at breakneck speed for 30 or 40 seconds, only to cut in front of me and then come to an abrupt stop. It wasn’t really satisfactory. After I fell and badly split the skin on my knee, I mostly quit doing that. If I wanted to go for a run, I’d leave the dog behind with Jackie and run by myself. But that was unhandy for all of us.

Now that it’s spring, and we’re getting some nice running weather, I thought I’d see if Ashley could run with me.

Me with Ashley, who is refusing to look at the camera.
I took a bunch of pictures of us yesterday, but never got one that included Ashley looking at the camera.

I’d done some preparation: In the winter I took a “loose-leash” walking class, and she’d gotten a lot better at walking with me. For loose-leash walking I wrap the leash around her chest and then back through that loop you can see on the collar in the picture. That has a couple of positive effects: the leash is effectively shorter, and when she does pull, the friction from the leash constricting around her chest makes the pull gradual, rather than an abrupt hard yank. The key, though, is that it serves as a signal that I want her to walk like a pet, and stay by my side, and she’s gotten pretty good at doing so.

Yesterday I thought we’d give running together a try, and it worked great! I walked her a few blocks on a long leash, so she could get her sniffies in. Then, once we reached a multi-use path that’s about a quarter mile away, I put her on the leash wrap, and started running—and she did just what I wanted her to! She ran along, next to me, at my pace. She didn’t try to run off in some other direction. She didn’t try to sprint ahead. She didn’t lag behind like she didn’t want to run. She just loped along next to me.

It was great!

I had neglected to bring water for her, so I was a little worried that she’d overheat, but she seemed to do okay. We ran a mile, then turned around and walked partway home, but when it seemed that she wasn’t overheated, I picked up the pace again and we ran the rest of the way back to our starting point, then I put her back on a loose leash and we walked home (where she did proceed to drink a whole bowl of water).

For future runs I will bring water. I’ll also make a point of getting out early, before the weather gets hot.

If this doesn’t turn out to be a one-off thing, and she’s willing to run with me on a routine basis, I’ll start taking her running every other day, sticking to short runs for a while to make sure we don’t over do it, then gradually increase the distance until one or the other of us hits some limit or another. (I’ve been routinely walking her over 6 miles nearly every day, so we’re both already in pretty good shape.)

I’ve had a draft post that was originally called my “fall workout plan,” and then called my “late fall workout plan,” but that I never posted because while I was sick I couldn’t work out at all, beyond walking the dog. I will post it. Perhaps not until it makes more sense to post a “winter workout plan.”

25 lb dumbbell and 45 lb kettlebell in front of some weight plates.

In the meantime though, I am, finally, back to doing workouts, and thought I might talk about what I’m doing, because my workout plan is to do workouts very similar to what I’ve been doing over the past week or so.

  • Two weeks ago, Sunday November 11th was a HEMA practice session.
  • Monday I did some kettlebell swings with my adjustable kettlebell adjusted to 40 lb. The previous week I’d done 10 x 10 swings emom (every minute on the minute), so I went ahead and did 10 x 11 swings emom. I’ll continue bumping that up until I hit 10 x 20, and then I’ll go up in weight and drop the reps back down to 10. (There’s a 45 lb kettlebell in the fitness room, and I own a 53 lb kettlebell, so I have a couple of options.)
  • Tuesday I did a 1-handed club workout with my Adex adjustable club at 10 lbs, doing 9 x 5 L / 5 R outside circles, shield cast, and inside circle. That was pretty easy, so I did one more set with the club adjusted to 12.5 lbs. That worked okay, so I decided I could use that as my working weight for a while.
  • Wednesday and Thursday were rest days.
  • Friday I went back to 1-handed club swinging, doing 5 x 5 L / 5 R with the new, higher, weight of 12.5 lbs.
  • Saturday was a rest day.
  • Sunday was another HEMA practice session,
  • Monday and Tuesday were rest days.
  • Wednesday I did kettlebell clean and press, with the kettlebell adjusted to 20 lbs, doing 6 x 4L / 4R in a reverse ladder. (That is, I did 4 clean & press with the left hand, then 4 with the right hand, the 3 left and 3 right, then 2 left and 2 right, then 1 left and 1 right. Then I put the weight down and rested a couple of minutes. That was 1 set. I did 6 sets.) After that I bumped the weight up to 25 lbs and did one more set, which went okay. I think I can carry on with 25 lbs going forward.
  • Thursday I did 10 x 12 kettlebell swings emom with the 40 lb kettlebell. Then I did some 1-handed club swinging, doing 5 x 5 L / 5 R. I’d have expected that I’d have done 6 sets, but 5 is what I wrote down in my notebook.
  • Friday was a rest day
  • Today, Saturday November 25th, I went to the fitness room and did a (mostly) bodyweight circuit. I did 3 rounds of 5 exercises, each for 30 seconds, then with 15 seconds to rest and move to the next exercise. I did jump rope, negative pull ups, goblet squats ( with 20 lb and 25 lb dumbbells), push ups, and hollowbody holds. That’s pretty close to what I was doing during the pandemic, except the fitness room was closed, so instead of dumbells for the goblet squats, I had to just do more reps without weights.

Back at the end of September I came down with West Nile Fever, which made me pretty sick for a long time. The only time in my life before I was that sick for that long was when I had Mononucleosis when I was a freshman in college. That time I was sick for most of the term, and it took several weeks of the Christmas vacation to fully recover.

With West Nile it took about three weeks to recover from the acute phase of the illness. That is, I had a fever constantly for three weeks. Then it took another three weeks to get my energy levels back. For that period I could walk the dog, fix breakfast, and then do one thing, after which I needed to go back to bed and take a nap.

Temperature data from my Oura ring: I first showed a fever on September 25th. My temperature spiked up to a high of 5.3℉ above baseline on October 6th, and didn’t really settle back in to normal until November 6th.

As of a couple of days ago, I think I’m back to full health. I’ve been doing workouts—not as frequently as I’d like, but often enough that I’ve been able to start pushing the weights up again, although not up to what I doing before I was sick. I’ve been for a couple of runs, both of which were harder and slower than I’d like, but were okay—I didn’t feel like I was sick, just like I hadn’t been running enough the past few weeks.

On Sunday I got a Covid booster, so I felt slightly less energetic Monday, but that has already passed.

After too many weeks, I finally feel back to normal!

Because I use wearables to capture as much information about myself as possible, I can go back and see how my illness affected my activity.

Graph of my walking distance for the month of October.

Between returning home from vacation in August, and getting sick in late September, I averaged between 6 and 8 miles a day, mostly walking the dog. (Separately I got in a run each week, pushing that day’s mileage up over 10.) In October (as you can see above) my distance fell to between 3 and 4 miles each day until just about the middle of the month, then gradually started increasing. I exceeded 6 miles on October 15th. I didn’t reach 8 miles until October 30th.

Now I’m right back to 6 to 8 miles a day, same as before I was sick. And today I went for my first run since September 26th. It was a pretty crappy run, but better than not running.

During the pandemic I followed something of a training plan—a mostly bodyweight exercise plan with minimal equipment beyond a pair of gymnastic rings, based largely on Anthony Arvanitakis’s Bodyweight Muscle books and YouTube channel.

Post-pandemic (once my local fitness room reopened, and exercise equipment became available again), more activities became possible. As they did, I added some in. With extra stuff to fit in, I let the program go. Instead I began exercising more intuitively—simply trying to fit in my strength training and my running as best I could. Each day I’d decide what to do influenced by how I felt, and what I’d done (or hadn’t done) the previous day or two, trying to cover all the bases, while allowing adequate time for recovery.

It has worked pretty well, but not as well as I was doing with an actual program. However, I don’t want to go back to the bodyweight rings program, because I feel like I’m getting real benefits out of the kettlebell and heavy club activities. So, I’m working on roughing up a training program that includes all the stuff I want to do.

Goals

It probably doesn’t make any sense to talk about the activities I do without thinking about the goals I’m trying to achieve.

Of course, I want to feel fit and healthy.

In the spirit of Peter Attia’s Centenarian Decathlon, I want to not only be capable of all the activities of daily living, but have enough reserve capacity now that I’ll still be able to do those things when I’m eighty, ninety, or (as I like to joke, except I’m totally serious) eleventy-one.

Among those things are the obvious—be able to hike a few miles on a rugged trail, climb a steep hill or several flights of stairs, carry a heavy bag of groceries home, put a suitcase in the overhead compartment, get down on the floor and back up again, etc. Besides those, I also want to be able to do well at longsword, which requires the ability to stand and walk in a low lunge, hold the sword with my arms at full extension (both forward and over my head), etc.

Fitness Activities

I figure the first step is just to document the activities that I think will support these goals, so that I know what I want to fit into the week. Here’s my first pass at a list. (Note that I already do an extensive warm-up every day, because it makes me move and feel better all day, whether I do a workout or not. I also walk my dog, and she rather insists on at least 6 miles a day.)

HEMA practice

My group has 2-hour meetings three times a week. They’re mostly skills training, so not too intense, although now that I’m approved for sparring the intensity has gone up.

Running

I want to go for two runs per week. One is a “long” run, in the 6–10 mile range (although I may want to work up to half-marathon length). The other is a “fast” run, which might include sprints, hill sprints, or just a hard run in the 3–4 mile range.

Kettlebell swings

This is primarily to work the muscles of my posterior chain, which needs a regular workout to keep me functioning well. In particular, I learned the hard way what happens if I don’t work my glutes. Currently I’m doing a heavy/light cycle, where I alternate between swinging an 18 kg (40 lb) kettlebell and a 24 kg (53 lb) kettlebell.

For the light kettlebell I’ve worked up to 10×19 swings emom. For the heavy kettlebell I’ve worked up to 10×12 swings emom. I try to add one swing per set every week.

Somewhere around sets of 25, I’d no longer get any break at the end of a minute. I don’t yet know if that’ll mean I’ll be able to do 250 straight swings.

Heavy club swinging

This is one of my newer additions, and I have already seen it do great things for rotational strength, plus grip, arm, shoulder, and core strength. As the weight has gone up, it has started hitting the legs as well.

I do three exercises (outside circle, shield cast, inside circle) in sets of 5 left and 5 right, and I work up from 5 sets on each side, adding one set every workout or two, until I get to 10 or 12 sets on each side, and then go up in weight. I’m up 8 sets with a 13.75 pound club. Soon I’ll go up to 15 lbs.

Kettlebell clean and press

This one seems especially useful for longsword, where you often need to hold the sword over your head, with your arms near full extension.

I do these as a reverse ladder, starting with 4 reps on the left and 4 reps on the right, then 3, then 2, then 1 rep on each side. Then I take a short break and repeat for some number of sets. Each workout (or every other workout) I add one set.

I just did 7 sets. I’ll work up to 10 or 12, then either increase the weight or else start the reverse ladder at 5 reps left and right, and go back to workouts of 4 or 5 sets.

Gymnastic rings circuit

Versions of this were my main workout all through the pandemic, when fitness rooms were closed and kettlebells impossible to come by. These were push/pull/legs workouts preceded by a starter and then ended with a core exercise. I had at least a couple variations of each exercise, so the starter was often jumping rope, but sometimes some sort of quadruped movement, push generally alternated between dips and some version of a push up, pull alternated between pull ups and inverted rows, legs was often air squats, but sometimes hindu squats or lunges or wall sits, and core was often hollowbody hold, but sometimes planks or reverse planks or V-ups.

I’d set the number of reps of each exercise at what I thought I could carry through for 3 rounds, and the 3rd round I’d aim to push to technical failure.

Toward a schedule

Putting all these things into a weekly schedule has proven to be difficult.

Me standing in zornhut

One issue is that my HEMA practice sessions occur at specific times, so there’s a certain lack of flexibility in the schedule there.

Besides that, there’s simply more stuff I want to do than fits easily into a week.

One solution to that would be to abandon the idea that “weekly” is the right structure. I could fit things into, let’s say, a 9-day cycle—but there are enough inconveniences with that, that every time I’ve considered it before, I’ve ended up sticking with weekly.

I’m pretty close to having a first cut at a weekly schedule ready to post. Look for it here in a day or two. (Update: It took much more than a day or two, but you can now see my Personal exercise program for winter 2023-2024.)