A breakthrough workout is one where you basically try to break the status quo, and do something your body is not used to in order to ‘shake up’ training and prevent plateaus. While the usual use of the term is for physical, e.g., higher intensity than usual, or longer than usual, there can also be mental breakthroughs in much the same way.
I did not forget my lock for my swims on Wednesday, Friday and this morning (or Thursday for gym work) and while this was great, that’s not a breakthrough… I felt much better in the pool this morning, so things seem to be going well there, but the breakthrough I want to mention was a run over the Christmas holidays.
I have been trying to get back in to running since probably August 2011, a few months after the accident. I was excited when the hospital physio finally progressed me to the treadmill, and even though we started at a 1.0, things improved quickly and all was going well. Then school started, things got busy, and I let it go.
Summer of first year, got back into it a bit. Still working through the recovery, it wasn’t easy and I mostly did short runs. School started again, and running took a back seat. Then in the summer I really wanted to get back, so I joined a study looking at running for ‘inactive’ people. They were comparing high intensity interval work (HIIT) with just running 30 minutes 4 times a week, and I fortunately got slated in the running group so had a month where I couldn’t let running slip.
I met some fun people, had some nice conversations and enjoyed the month, but once that came to an end I was on my own, and pushed myself a bit harder than I should have. In a few weeks my ankle was hurting and I decided I had to ease of running to let it heal. Next year, same thing again, I got back in, pushed too hard, and my ankle started hurting, so I backed off again. No matter what I did, every time I tried to get back in to running something went wrong and I didn’t continued.
This is where the breakthrough comes in. Over the holidays I had to bike across town on a Thursday afternoon for an appointment at the athletic center, and while I’m no stranger to riding in the snow, I checked the roads a couple hours early and they looked bad. The snow was coming down heavy, and even the busiest roads weren’t clear, so I decided to play things safe and run instead. Now I had been running lightly for a couple months now — mostly zone 1 running, and for no more than 30 minutes — but this was across town! This isn’t exactly a big city, but I was still planning on it taking anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Concerned about my ankle I was leaving the full 90 in case I ended up having to walk most of the way, but I was hoping just running slowly would be OK.
I take off early, even playing it safe on the walk time, and just walk for about 10 minutes, get out of the downtown area and decide it’s time to run. Maybe 3 minutes run and 2 minutes walk? I’ll see how I feel as things go. Running along a long block, I figure I’ll just walk at the next intersection, but it turns green right before I arrive and I figure why not keep running a bit more. Feeling OK.
This goes on until I get to a part where the sidewalk is completely snow covered and I can’t even tell where it is, so I am dipping into in-and-out driveways, running through car sales lots, and jumping on the road when there is no traffic behind me (and waiting for traffic when this wasn’t possible) but things keep up. Still feeling OK, I am over halfway across the city, up the only real hill, and just the last stretch to go. Still going!
Let me reiterate, I was going slower than I have possibly ever run, to try and make sure I was not putting any extra stress on the ankle than necessary. Regardless, I head along the last long road, and I am just a few hundreds meters away when 60 minutes has gone by. Not only have I somehow survived with no ankle pain, I am actually making a decent time! Moreover, because I left expecting perhaps a 90 minute washout, I had a lot of extra time, so I figured I would walk around an extra loop in the area instead of heading straight to the athletic center and waiting. I was going to walk the whole thing to get a good cool down, but after a few minutes I still felt good enough and wanted to run a bit more, so slow and steady I took it up again and kept going.
I ran almost all the way there! Maybe about 75 minutes, and no ankle pain, legs tired of course, but well. I was blown away, but before getting too excited, I then had my appointment, and had to get home after. I had a one hour session in the gym there, so figured I would just walk a slowwww walk home since my legs would be even more brutalized at this point, but as I stood on the sidewalk to head home I just felt like trying running, and sure enough, as before, kept things slow and I ran home.
Now I had to wait at some intersections, I walked some of the sketchy (snow/ice-y) parts, and walked maybe 1-2 km each way as a warm up or sketchy breaks, so it’s not quite what it sounds, but I made it. Almost 3 hours on foot with a 1 hour session at the gym in between, and my ankle was fine. This was a breakthrough for me, as slowing down seemed to avoid whatever kept on happening to my ankle, so I have been a bit more aggressive with getting my running volume up while taking advantage of long run = slow run, and so far things are still fine. If you’ll knock on wood with me, this year may be the year I finally get back into everything! *Knock knock knock*…
(Also, while my ankle was fine, I threw my compression pants on and basically lay down for the rest of the day, apart from walking the dog, and took alllll of Friday off, slept in, anything and everything to help the legs as they had been destroyed, regardless of the success!)