2014-01-31

Much Easier

It would be great if guys like me could easily sculpt our muscles to the point that we look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (back in the day) and have the ability to run great distances. In the real world, though, it's a trade-off: The more upper body mass, the harder it is to be a distance runner. No two ways about it.

Still, I sometimes surprise myself by how much easier it is to run when you're not carrying around a lot of upper body mass. After struggling for more than a year at paces far below my comfort zone, and distances far shorter than I'd prefer, a bout of food poisoning resulted in my quickly shedding major muscle mass. And the result is that I've become my old self again! Mile pace times under 6:30? No problem. Long runs? Bring 'em on!

There's no doubt that the shedding extraneous muscle mass has been the source of my rediscovered running prowess, but still, it's important not to draw too many of the wrong lessons here. Looking back over the course of the blog, it's a fairly consistent case that any time I make a major change to my fitness regimen, I make a lot of significant gains in a short period of time, before ultimately reaching a point of diminishing returns and stagnating again. This was as true of my body-building experience as it is of my recent running revival.

What should we make of it all?

Well, one important lesson to keep in mind is that if you're starting to feel like your workouts are getting stagnant, it's time to make a change so that you can recapture the good feelings.

A second lesson is that making continued progress is more difficult the more progress you've made. You might want to modify future expectations accordingly. Aim for smaller benchmarks. There are only so many 30-second PRs you can reasonably expect to have.

A third lesson is not to over-estimate early progress. You might just be getting a taste of the lowest-hanging fruit. The real challenges may yet be ahead.

It's Friday. That's all I got.