Category Archives: Road to recovery

Countdown to racing season

Gone with “Road to Recovery.” Hello to “Countdown to racing season.”

Is the left calf 100 percent healed? Not exactly. And the right calf gets awfully tight sometimes, but neither ailment is enough to be considered a hindrance toward impending goals.

And that’s why it’s time to be out with the old.

A couple weeks ago, a friend who runs a paralegal service here in Greensburg and who is a physically fit marvel, made a fitness-changing suggestion via a Facebook message.

“Have u tried compression socks when running?”

Now, compression socks became part of my life five, six months ago. Wore them to walk the dog. Wore them after the gym. Wore them to work. Wore them after visiting the chiropractor. Not once did I wear them to run.

Well, now both legs are adorned with compression socks every time I run, whether it’s a long, time-consuming one to bolster distance endurance; a hilly battle of survival on the streets of Greensburg and its surrounding areas; or a shorter, fast-paced burst to improve speed and kicks. Those socks may look odd, but they’ve been a fitness blessing.

And they’ve helped me become re-energized for the upcoming racing season.

First up is the Pittsburgh Marathon, which takes place Sunday, May 3 (the same day as our seventh wedding anniversary). I’ll be part of a relay team, headed by the friend who suggested compression socks to run with. From there, the plan is to sign up for some 5k, 10k, 10-mile and possibly an adventure race or two while gearing toward the Greensburg Half-Marathon, which usually takes place in late September.

Then, in 2016, barring any significant setbacks, I’m running the Pittsburgh Marathon in its entirety.

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Road to recovery, 2/18/15

Metallica’s “Fade to Black” filled the room with a melodic, thumping beat. It’s delicate guitar – Kirk Hammett is an ax master – and surging tempo offers the perfect backdrop for a difficult climb.

Forty people – Wednesday’s morning spin class at LA Fitness Greensburg was a sell-out – catapulted from their seats and piled on the gears to reach the instructor’s desired RPMs. Not sure about the other 39 people in class, but hard rock/heavy metal songs coupled with a difficult climb get the adrenaline pumping. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the song, even if the sweat started rolling off my head.

We were about 20 minutes into a particularly difficult 60-minute spin class, and I’m partly to blame for everyone’s troubles. Before the class, I was talking to the instructor in the locker room, and he asked what ride I wanted to do.

“I don’t care about the ride,” I told him. “Let’s get crazy. I’m ready.”

Famous last words, right?

As for that strength during “Fade to Black,” it didn’t last long. I kept riding hard, but Wednesday’s spin class was exhausting.

And much as that is my own fault.

When it comes to exercise, I go full-tilt. I see no point in not exerting effort during the workout. If I’m lifting weights, I move quickly, use a lot of weight (for me) and never do less than double-digit reps. In spin class, there’s no time to slack. A lot of riders don’t take it seriously, and they barely break a sweat. Fortunately for me, I’m a married man and a father. Tuning things out is a strength. I could actually teach lessons on it. So their lack of effort is lost on me. On the treadmill, I always add minutes from the previous run, throw in wild inclines or an intense kick at the end.

Only the strong survive. No pain, no gain. Yada, yada, yada.

The point is, I enter the gym every day with a goal of leaving it a better person. My want to push myself is partially responsible for the left calf injury I suffered about six months ago. Thanks to extra stretching, chiropractor appointments and common sense, the injury hasn’t returned.

And it better not, as I’ve committed to participating at the Pittsburgh Marathon as part of a relay team. It’s part of a slow, gradual build toward running the entire marathon in 2016.

It’s going to happen. I’m sure of it.

Now, off to the chiropractor for a 2 p.m. appointment. He’s going to strip down both calf muscles today. I won’t be able to walk later, but I’ll be able to keep on running.

Road to recovery, 1/22/15

Blogger’s note: The following is the third installment of a new series on Kovak’s Corner, highlighting the trials and tribulations of overcoming middle age and injury en route to a return to top running form.

It’s Thursday, and I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in a couple weeks. It made waking up and getting Anna to school a challenge today, and, even more challenging, was psyching myself for my weekly weightlifting session with Erin.

She only likes to lift once per week, so the focus is on upper body, particularly the triceps and back.

Lucky for me, once movement starts, things get a lot easier.

Unfortunately for me, I ate some serious ground beef Wednesday. Yesterday, after spin class, Erin and I tried eating lunch at Winghart’s, a burger/whiskey chain that moved into Greensburg about a year ago. The prices are a tad high, but the quality is solid. I went for a burger with gruyere cheese, bacon and mushrooms. It was excellent and, since I’m not a fan of leftover burgers, I ate the whole thing. For dinner, I ate the leftover half of Erin’s burger. It, too, was delicious.

About 25 minutes into Thursday’s lift, those burgers hit me.

Thankfully, I fought off the strong urge to skip cardio and got to the treadmill. Runs have continued to go well and speeds have steadily increased recently. But, given my tender stomach, today I opted for 20 minutes at 7.0 mph – my fastest pace post-injury. About 16 minutes in, I decided to run the final minute at a 4 percent incline. It increased to two minutes of incline, keeping the 7.0 mph pace.

In the locker room, I bumped into my friend Kevin, who teaches spin class among other things at LA Fitness Greensburg. I ran through my activity and he said, “You’re back.”

Think he might be right.

Road to recovery, 1/14/15

Blogger’s note: The following is the second installment of a new series on Kovak’s Corner, highlighting the trials and tribulations of overcoming middle age and injury en route to a return to top running form.

Yoga class last Wednesday night at LA Fitness Greensburg was certainly interesting. For starters, it was me, one other dude and about 25 women.

Some of the movements, like one-legged squats with the other leg to the back was challenging. Sometimes, I had to regain balance. Other times, I had to stop and watch how the movement should be done because, let’s face it, I don’t speak yoga. There were times when the music, mood and movement all matched. It was exhilarating and, occasionally, sweat-inducing.

Yet, I could feel my core strengthened and my balance improving. Hopefully, continued classes will help with lower-body flexibility, which is the main reason for giving this long-used exercise form a try.

This week’s workouts went great. Monday was a chest and abs day. Tuesday was biceps, pull-ups, dips and a 40-minute run at 6.6 mph. Earlier today, I focused on triceps, legs and abs but started and ended my workout with 17 pull-ups followed by 20 dips. (FYI, this gets the blood pumping at the start of the workout and really gets the muscles singing after a 40-minute run to cap the festivities. And, BTW, don’t do chin-ups unless you’re really going big on biceps day. Pull-ups not only work the biceps, they work just about everything in your back and shoulders. They’re my favorite exercise, next to running.)

In a few hours, yoga sessions No. 2.

Thursday, more lifting and running.

Friday, spin class.

Saturday, more lifting and running.

Things are going well. Only occasional tightness in the left calf.

Happy fitness to all!

Road to recovery, 1/6/15

Blogger’s note: The following is the first installment of a new series on Kovak’s Corner, highlighting the trials and tribulations of overcoming middle age and injury en route to a return to top running form.

Monday (Jan. 5) went well. It needed to after obligations got in the way of missing the gym or any type of training Sunday. It’s rare to go a day without exercise, but the day off renewed focus for Monday’s session.

The day started with some heavy, isolated preacher curls on two separate stations. Followed up with front and back leg curls before heading back to biceps. After elevated curls and seated curls (all with heavy weight and four sets of 12 reps), it was time to return to leg work for kickbacks and leg presses. Given the extent of my left calf injury, leg work took an extended breather, but this marked a second “leg day.” Not going heavy yet, just getting the muscles used to the work. Stronger legs should help in the quest to make 2015 injury-free.

After biceps and legs, it was time for some ab work. Oblique twists and the seated-crunch machine before heading upstairs at LA Fitness Greensburg for a run. Since returning to running, I’ve gone for two outdoor runs and two treadmill jogs. This marked the third treadmill jog, and it went for 40 minutes at a moderate 6.5 mph. It only covered 4.35 miles, but my longest run in months was a significant personal achievement.  At my peak, I could run on a treadmill anywhere for 7.5 to 8.3 mph for an entire run (usually between 30 to 60 minutes) with a two-minute kick adding .5 mph to the speed.

But this is about baby steps on the journey back. Overdoing it could derail progress.

And there’s a voice inside telling me to go harder. The 40-minute jog felt great. My breathing was excellent, heart rate good. Basically, I felt great after my 2-minute cool down.

Today, Greensburg-Salem has a two-hour delay. So, the gym will have to wait until 11 a.m. And it’s going to be an abbreviated visit because a trip to the chiropractor is scheduled for 1 p.m. A quick chest and ab workout followed by a 30-minute run at 6.6 mph (one click faster on the treadmill but 10 fewer minutes than Monday).

On Wednesday, barring another delay or school cancellation, it’s morning spin class (my spin instructor has been instrumental in getting back on track) followed by evening yoga – my first yoga class.

Thursday will be a day off from cardio and a first visit to a massage therapist.

Have a great workout out there!