2016-08-22

In Which I Declare Non-Wimphood

Everyone likes to go fast, and no one likes to be a wimp. It is the primary conflict of the distance runner. Putting in solid mileage involves extremes of weather, distance, effort, zen, and perseverance; there’s nothing wimpy about that. If a runner doesn’t set aside time to pump some iron, though, he soon finds himself withering away at the upper body and shriveling to skin-and-bones. You don’t want that.

Neither do I. Thus, now having spent the better part of a year running diligently, to the exclusion of a daily strength training regimen, I find myself in what can only be called a pickle. I’ve done a lot of butch running this year; I’m all man, baby. But my muscles are fading fast. I’m told it’s not their size that counts, but how I use them – but how can I be sure?

It’s safe to say this turn of events stems from my growing obsession with GPS fitness trackers, which enable me to track my runs and almost immediately review the data interpretations of my running. It’s not that I’m obsessed with data; I’m not that much of a wimp! it’s just that when I happen to see the little “running guy” icon hovering over six of the past ten days, it makes me wonder if I can get him to hover over a seventh day. Having done that, I wonder about an eighth day. Now I’m up to nine, and ten seems like it’s right around the corner for me. See? Manly! Not wimpy.

Look, if you award me a score related to something I happen to be doing a lot anyway, I will attempt to improve that score.  Because I’m no wuss. And besides, I’m doing whatever it is anyway. Granted that there are people in the world who take this to dangerously obsessive levels, relentlessly flogging themselves for failing to improve their largely meaningless points tally. Me, I’ve been running and working out for so long that it hardly matters anymore. I am either already obsessed or I have demonstrated over the years that obsession is not a risk for me here. The reader is invited to draw her own conclusions about that, but the bottom line is that, for me, fitness trackers are more boon than bane. Bring on the arbitrary milestones!

While I’m coming clean about all this, I may as well get another one off my chest: I’ve been syncing my data with a fabulous browser-based application called Smashrun (find it at Smashrun.com), and this has taken my running to even greater manly heights. Smashrun provides all the same statistics that my nascent running apps provide (Microsoft Health, Garmin Connect, Strava, etc.), and then adds to that large dollops of additional information to binge on. Smashrun will tell you how long ago it was that you ran a similar distance, how your last run compares to other, similar runs, how it compares to similar runs ran by similar runners, what healthy or unhealthy food your calorie burn corresponds to, how many days in a row you’ve been running, and more. Then, to sweeten the pot even further, Smashrun gives you arbitrary badges and points as you log your miles, as if to say, “Hey, you’re just three days away from another bauble; why not go for it?” Dutifully, I do. Wimp? Not me!

And yet, the tone has changed. Earlier in the year, I was using my Microsoft Band 2 to guide me through interval training a few times per week. But since that data isn’t classified as “running data” in Microsoft Health (instead, they call it a “guided workout”), it doesn’t sync with Smashrun as a run per se. In other words, I might do five miles of interval training but never get credit for it on Smashrun. This is not a weakness with Smashrun, it’s just a data artifact. It is what it is. But since I don’t get Man Points – er, I mean arbitrary Smashrun points – for these workouts, I’ve taken to just going for a run instead! That way I get the mileage and the points and the badges and, ultimately, the cool satisfaction of knowing that I’m not a wimp.

Overall, I’d say this has worked out quite nicely for me. I’m running more often, putting in more miles, running them at a faster pace, improving my blood glucose control, and having fun while doing it. There’s just one little problem: my upper body muscle mass is disappearing. I’ve turned myself into a weakling, a wimp, a wuss, a Nancy-boy, a stick figure. You get the picture. (No, I won’t post one.)

There is one, final confounding factor here: the rotation of the Earth is too wussy for my manly ambitions. That is, there aren’t always enough hours in the day for me to succeed in strength training, and running, and then participating in all the aspects of life (such as they are) that are not directly tied to those two things. I’ve tried berating the Earth, but it doesn’t seem to be listening to me right now, so I have to cook up new ways of achieving my goal of Ultimate Tough Fitness Guy, meaning that I want to do all that running I’m doing and not lose muscle mass while I do it.

This can most often be achieved with the world-famous two-a-day workout strategy. Now, I’m not saying I’m a wimp – definitely not saying that – but lately I haven’t had enough time in the morning to get myself to the gym and back and still manage to, you know, maintain a steady stream of employment income. IF only there were some way to get a good muscle-building workout in the morning without having to give up my job. Now that would be manly!

Then I stumbled upon a solution, in the form of a website called Darebee.com. Darebee offers free exercise plans, motivation, tools, and most notably the “workout of the day.” These workouts can all be done at home and are brief enough from a time perspective that I can actually get a second workout in without getting fired. I’d call this “manly,” but I should mention that Darebee was started by a pretty cool woman named Neila Rey, so the word doesn’t quite fit. Instead, I’ll just call it awesome. And while it may strike a blow to my male ego to convert my pursuit of “ultimate manliness” into a pursuit of just being as awesome as a person like Neila Rey, the reader shall kindly forgive me. (Especially since, as faithful readers know, I never write like this, so you can probably assume all this “manly” stuff is tongue-in-cheek.)

And so goes my next undertaking: Maintaining a consistent, progressive running regimen while completing the Darebee workouts of the day, simultaneously.


I can do it. I’m no wimp!