Tag Archives: LA Fitness Greensburg

EQT 10-mile training – Week 6 9/28/15

Not an Iron Maiden fan. Never have been, even with my musical roots firmly planted in the 1980s. But, when it comes to running in Greensburg – and most of Western Pennsylvania, hills are an unavoidable circumstance when piling miles on to a workout plan. That’s why my mind often thinks about “Run to the Hills.”

Now, this blogger has lived in tons of hilly neighborhoods – Dormont, South Park and Bethel Park among them. None of those communities seem to hold the number undulating roads as the City of Greensburg.

My home is located on Summit Drive, and it’s aptly named. If Summit Drive isn’t the highest point within the city limits, it’s awfully close.

Before left-calf injury No. 1, which happened in August of 2014, ascending Summit Drive to finish runs was a regular accomplishment. Over time, I found five different access points to scale the hill toward Summit Drive – each a different type of brutal.

Following left-calf injury No. 2 and a right-foot sprain and the subsequent decline in endurance and leg strength, climbing Mt. Summit became too much. During the first five week of following Fleet Feet Sports’ training program for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler, I didn’t attempt a full run up the hill home.

That changed in Week 6.

9/21/15 – More than a week passed since a treadmill run, so the timing was appropriate to work on consistent pacing again. A five-mile run in under 41 minutes, never running slower than a 7.4 mph pace.

9/23/15 – Back to the street of Greensburg for a run with a steady incline between miles 2.0 and 4.5. Yep, poor planning on my part. Traversed 6.43 miles in 54:58. Later that day, did a 5:30 p.m. spin class with Erin at LA Fitness. Talked to the instructor, my boy Kevin, before class. I told him about my run, and he told me about his 9:15 a.m. class. We questioned our collective sanity in tackling a second test of endurance that day so, naturally, he made class tougher than usual. Glad I did it.

9/25/15 – For the second consecutive week, Erin was working in Pittsburgh on Sunday, so that meant I had to get Anna to Sunday School. That eliminated Sunday as a long run day. I set out Friday morning for an 8-miler, and it was a strong run. Mile 7 was at a 7:47 pace, and I finished 8.44 miles in 1:11.00, including a 78-second stop for traffic at Huff Ave.

9/27/15 – The legs were slightly weak from Friday’s run, but, on Sunday while  Anna was in Sunday school, I put in 4.79 miles in 39:57. Miles 1-4 were strong, with paces ranging from 7:50 to 8:08. After Mile 4, it was time to climb Mt. Summit. The next .79 miles weren’t fast – it was a 9:50 pace – but I made it from the bottom of the hill to my front door. A huge barrier knocked down.

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EQT 10-mile training – Week 5 9/22/15

Inspiration, move me brightly. light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.

Some rise,
Some fall,
Some climb,
To get to Terrapin.

Counting stars by candlelight, all are dim but one is bright;
The spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best,
On, from the northwest corner, of a brand new crescent moon,
While crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune,
Terrapin station.
In the shadow of the moon,
Terrapin station.
And I know we’ll get there soon,

(Terrapin! )
I can’t figure out,
(Terrapin! )
If it’s the end or beginning,
(Terrapin! )
But the train’s put it’s brakes on,
(Terrapin! )
And the whistle is screaming,
Terrapin!

Let my inspiration flow!

Let my inspiration flow!

Those words – written by Robert Hunter, sung sweetly and soulful by Jerry Garcia and performed by the Grateful Dead – are goose bump-inducing. “Terrapin Station” – an epic, multi-part anthem performed 302 times by the Dead beginning in early 1977 – produces a state of euphoria. Its lyrics inspire freedom, and, for me, it’s the perfect running song. When a run begins to flatline and “Terrapin” enters my headphones, my legs and lungs find something extra. It’s like Jerry’s voice is guiding me through the run. My lips mouth the words. Sometimes, my arms even raise in triumph. (Yep, if you’ve seen a short, headband-wearing dud running the streets of Greensburg while jamming out, it’s me.)

Sound stupid? Maybe to some, but, to me, the right music is as essential to running as stretching, the right shoes, hydration and determination.

Music is moving, and the right songs can shave seconds off the pace and help set personal bests.

Generally, I prefer running to the Dead. From “Bertha” to “Promised Land” to “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider” to “Morning Dew” to “Touch of Grey,” the Dead’s expansive and easily accessible catalog provides ample choices for this runner, but it’s certainly not the only band worth a listen when pounding pavement or staring at the television screen on a treadmill. Glam/hard rock like KISS, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue and Tesla get the job done. So does rap, particularly the early 1990s gangsta sounds of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg (R.I.P.) and company. Eminem usually works, too. I’m not likely to see Foo Fighters live, but no song makes me dig deeper than “Walk.” I’ve nearly pushed myself to tears while listening to that amazing call to action. Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride,” Katy Perry’s “Roar” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” work perfectly.

It doesn’t matter what music moves you, but it is important to play the right music for you when breaking down barriers and going for goals.

Music played an integral role in a solid week of training for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler.

9/14/15 – Last week, I said on this blog that I didn’t mind missing Sunday’s long run because of illness. That’s only part true. Missing a run made me determined to make up for things, even if my sinuses weren’t cooperating.

After dropping Anna off at school and walking Ringo, I went to the basement for a programmed, 30-minute ride on a stationary bike. A couple moderate hills helped provide resistance and I covered 11.1 miles in 30 minutes. From there, me, myself and my tissues hit the streets for a 4.52-mile run in 34:39. My first mile was a 7:50 pace. The second mile was 7:12. Seven friggin’ 12! The third mile was 7:33.

Not going to fib, I surprised myself.

9/15/15 – Kicked the distance up to 5.38 and got it done in 43:58 – not as fast as Monday’s run but a solid pace.

9/16/15 – Erin had a rare Wednesday off, so we did spin class together. Great ride. Felt it for hours after completion.

9/17/15 – A couple of variables forced changes in schedule for the fifth week of training. 1. Erin was off Wednesday and Friday, and since I missed the long run in Week 4, doing two spin classes sounded like a good idea; and, 2. Erin was working in Pittsburgh Sunday. Anna needed to get to Sunday School and church, so that meant Sunday was not a good day for my long run.

So, with legs still tired from spin class, I stumbled onto the streets of Greensburg, where I completed a 7.03-mile run in 1:01.04. Given Greensburg’s terrain, hills were unavoidable, and I encountered four of them on this run. It was tiring, my pace wasn’t outstanding, but I conquered the distance.

9/18/15 – Second spin class of the week and, for the first time in 2-plus years of spinning, I didn’t enjoy the class. The music mix had too much pop. Only one song – Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse” – moved me. About 50 minutes into class, I was wishing I lifted weights instead, but I finished anyway.

9/19/15 – I digested plenty of vegetables Friday, which made Saturday morning slightly uncomfortable, but I had to get out before Anna’s 11 a.m. soccer game. I covered 5.23 miles in 43:09 – another decent, but not great run.

EQT 10-mile training – Week 4 9/15/15

It’s inevitable, barring an iron-clad constitution or an impenetrable immune system. Elementary-aged children catch some sort of cold early in the school year. Most parents soon follow.

Count me, and my wife Erin, among the many whose defenses were rendered useless to whatever nasty viruses Anna brought home from Amos K. Hutchinson Elementary School last week. By Wednesday, my sinuses were filled. By Friday night at work, they were releasing their nastiness en mass. I must have went through 15 tissues at work that night and sneezed enough to make a case to be part of an allergy study.

Running with a cold means my shirt is often a handkerchief. Whatever works!

Running with a cold means my shirt is often a handkerchief. Whatever works!

The cold was mostly a functional cold but, by Sunday, getting in a long run was going to be difficult. So, please don’t shame me, I skipped my first run in my Train to Run program with Fleet Feet Sports. (Don’t worry. I’m making up for it this week, even if the sniffles still persist and last week was a taper-down week.)

9/7/15 – A day following a successful 6.5-mile group run with the Fleet Feet Flyers, I hit the streets and put in 4.22 miles in 35:08. Not great, but not bad coming off my longest run since the Pittsburgh Marathon.

9/8/15 – A much-needed weight training session. One thing I’m struggling with during my 10-week training program is finding the time to lift.

9/9/15 – Congestion kicked in, but I surprised myself by running 4.03 miles on a treadmill at LA Fitness Greensburg in 32:48 following a brief weightlifting session.

9/10/15 – After lifting with Erin for about 45 minutes, I went back to the treadmill and put in another 4.03 miles in 32:45. Not going to lie, getting the two treadmill runs in while feeling under the weather bolstered my confidence. It wasn’t something I would have done when I was running well. I would have skipped the miles, chalking it up to not feeling well.

9/11/15 – Spin class with Erin. I CRUSHED IT!!!!! After class I told Erin, “The beast is back.” I ate those words 48 hours later.

9/12/15 – Coaching my daughter Anna’s U8 soccer team. Somehow coaching a team with 14 kids ages 6 & 7 is as tiring as a tough run.

9/13/15 – Sunday was the worst day in terms of congestion. I played hookie and didn’t feel terrible about it.

On to Week 5.

EQT 10-mile training – Week 2 8/30/15

It begins with a low, elongated growl. It quickly builds in volume and intensity. It’s followed by a mad sprint to the front door. By this point, Ringo, our loyal and overprotective Australian Kelpie, is in full intruder-bark mode.

Several things elicit such behavior from our 40-pound ball of muscle and madness – our mail lady, substitute mail carriers, UPS delivery drivers, passing motorcycles and the Sunday paperboy.

Somehow, Ringo senses the paperboy’s presence from our second-floor bedroom and, within seconds, he wakes up every living creature in the house, including Anna’s pet fish, Goldie.

This week, Ringo’s Sunday morning disturbance served as an alarm clock. It was time to get up, coffee up, hit the bathroom, gather belongings and make the early morning drive from Greensburg to the South Side Flats – a place I lived for 6 1/2 years as a fun-loving bachelor – for my first group training run for the EQT 10-miler with my new friends from Fleet Foot Sports-Pittsburgh.

For most runners, an early morning wake-up call and run isn’t mush of a thing. For me, it is. I’m the assistant night editor at the Observer-Reporter, a daily newspaper in Lil’ Washington. My typical shift runs from 3:30 to 11:30 p.m. Then, I have about a 50-mile drive home. I’ve worked nights and weekends in the newspaper business my entire adult life.

I'm hoping at least a few runners at Sunday's training run were as groggy as I was before it started.

I’m hoping at least a few runners at Sunday’s training run were as groggy as I was before it started.

In other words, I’m not a big morning person. And, yes, I worked Saturday night.

A couple of miles into my drive on Route 30 West, I realized I forgot my morning fuel – bananas for me and gas for the car. It required a quick stop to Sheetz, and I began wondering if I’d make the 7:30 a.m. start. I got there by 7:20, and was greeted by Fleet Feet’s Melissa Migliaro, who’s been beyond awesome since this training/O-R challenge started. She gave a quick rundown of what I could expect and, even with my morning brain fog, I’m certain I heard at least 50 percent of it. Melissa introduced me to Amy Zuckett of Fleet Feet. She was leading a group of runners near my pace, so I joined them for the early portions of Sunday’s 6-mile run, which touched parts of the South Side, North Side and Downtown.

More on that later. On to the weekly recap.

Monday, Aug. 24 – After running three of four days, Monday was lift day. Heavy chest and abs workout. My pecs were sore until Wednesday.

Tuesday, Aug. 25 – Did some pull-ups and dips before heading to a second-floor treadmill at LA Fitness Greensburg. I’m not a big treadmill fan, but I find doing a treadmill run per week helps build my pace, which was 7.3 mph for 4.02 miles.

LA Fitness frowns upon photo taking inside its gym, so consider this photo "sensitive material."

LA Fitness frowns upon photo taking inside its gym, so consider this photo “sensitive material.”

Wednesday, Aug. 26 – Tuesday’s run was a success, which made me excited to tackle Wednesday’s hilly road course. I covered 4.65 miles in 40:28. After slowing between miles 3 and 4, I picked my pace up by 11 seconds per mile to finish. This run was considered a triumph.

Thursday, Aug. 27 – Thursday’s goal was to run a shorter course but pick up pacing. Another success as I covered 4.01 miles in 33:33. Three consecutive good runs instilled confidence for Sunday’s long run.

Friday, Aug. 28 – Spin class at LA Fitness. Great, great workout. Best spin class since I bought cycle shoes. Feeling real good walking out of the gym.

Saturday, Aug. 29 – I enjoy weight training too much to abandon it, so Saturday was shoulders day. I tend to make my funniest noises on shoulders day. I also attended a seminar about good running form at Fleet Feet. Karen Harr hosted the program, and I found it highly informative.

That's me with Fleet Feet's Karen Harr before Sunday's run. If you want to learn about better running technique, you need to meet Karen. And, yes, I haven't grown since the last time you saw me.

That’s me with Fleet Feet’s Karen Harr before Sunday’s run. If you want to learn about better running technique, you need to meet Karen. And, yes, I haven’t grown since the last time you saw me.

Sunday, Aug. 30 – The time to run six miles – my longest since doing the 6.4-mile leg of the Pittsburgh Marathon May 3 – was here. The group I started with began an ascent of Arlington Ave. before a turn Newton St. to head back toward the South Side Flats. I went ahead of the group at Newton and caught view of another group – about five runners – descending those interesting South Side stairs. I followed them from a distance across 10th St. Bridge, onto Second Ave. and into Downtown. They stopped around Smithfield St. for a moment as I passed and meandered through downtown. At the 4-mile water stop, I grabbed a quick drink as other runners congregated. Now, I’m far from an expert runner but my 15-plus years of doing it tells me I’m not successful at starting, stopping and starting again. So, again, I soldered onward by PNC Park and across Clemente Bridge. My legs tired slightly at this point but the energy of Downtown helped provide a second wind, which would be needed crossing Smithfield St. Bridge. That’s when my body started to tire, my form got a little sloppy and I tried to remember techniques Karen focused on during the seminar. “Knee drive, knee drive,” I told myself. Too bad I wasn’t paying attention and missed the turn to the stairs leading to River Trail. No worries. It added a little extra mileage.

When I got back to the parking lot, I reached for my phone to stop the Map My Run app I was certain I started at the beginning of the run. Turns out, I never started the workout. So, I have no clue about my time. Not that it mattered. My focus was strictly on finishing, though I stood around for several minutes to stretch and change hoping to see a few people I encountered on the run. It didn’t happen. I’m taking it as a sign I ran well.

Sorry for being long-winded. It was a great week, and I’m excited for Week 3.

EQT 10-mile training – Week 1 recap 8/23/15

“You have to remember, you’re starting at zero base.”

Julie Amsdell, director of marketing for Fleet Fleet Sports Pittsburgh, said that to me during a fitting Thursday at the store.

Easier said than done, but this 41-year-old is getting comfortable with the fact my fitness is nowhere near where it was 13 months ago. And, in order to successfully build up and train, for the EQT 10-miler, which takes place Oct. 25, it’s something I continually reminded myself during the first week of training.

Unlike most people training for the race through Fleet Feet, I didn’t get started until Wednesday (two days later than the Train to Run program kicked off) and was unable to attend the first Sunday group run. The goal is to get to next Sunday’s run.

Day 1 (8/19/15) – Took part in morning spin class at LA Fitness Greensburg. Class lasted 60 minutes, and it was intense. My weight before class was 150.5 pounds.

Day 2 (8/20/15) – Took part in a brief 30-minute weight training session (core and back the focus) then took part in my first run in two months. I went 3.1 miles on a treadmill in 25:30. The pace was 7.3 miles per hour. I chose a treadmill so I couldn’t slow my pace.

Day 3 (8/21/15) – My legs were sore, but I took part in another spin class at LA Fitness Greensburg. This class lasted 65 minutes, and as the instructor Kevin told me afterward, it’s one of his two toughest rides.

Day 4 (8/22/15) – My first outdoor run since June 21, and I was unable to meet my pre-run goals mainly because I wasn’t ready to conquer the giant hill leading back to my house. (It’s called Summit Drive for a reason). Covered 3.64 miles in 30:08 according to Map My Run. Tired between miles 2 and 3 and endured cottonmouth near the end.

The Adidas men's Supernova Glide Boost 7 won the "run-off" Thursday at Fleet Feet Sports Pittsburgh.

The Adidas men’s Supernova Glide Boost 7 won the “run-off” Thursday at Fleet Feet Sports Pittsburgh.

Day 5 (8/23/15) – Second consecutive outdoor run took place at Twin Lakes Park. Two laps around the lakes covered 4.62 miles in 40:49 according to Map My Run. The trail around the lakes undulates in some places and includes a decent hill with a winding path. As I expected, my pace slowed on the miles with the hill included, but, my lungs felt better than Day 4.

My weight at the end of Week 1 is 149.5 pounds. I lost a pound despite having birthday cake everyday since Thursday, which happened to be my 41st birthday.

On to Week 2.

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!