From Slouch-Potato to Expedition Fit – week 2

From slouch-potato to expedition fit is my challenge to turn someone with a basic level of walking/cycling fitness (myself!) into someone ready to take on a challenging expedition in three months time (an epic ski-tour covering the historic route previously trod by Shackleton across S Georgia in the effort to start a rescue attempt for the rest of his Endurance Expedition after their boat sank having being trapped in ice for several months). And it’s fair to say that although I’d regard myself as being “unfit”, it’s not really a true level of unfitness, just that I’m a lot slower than most of my mates on the hills!

Week 2 of training – running in groups is better than running solo!

It’s been a pretty good week – I found a local running training group very near to where I live, and had the shock of my life when I was the fastest in the group on my first session 🙂 Ok, it was the beginners group, and I’ve since moved up to the much faster and fitter intermediate group now.

I’ve also been arm-twisted into having a go at the circuits sessions two days after the main running session. It’s tough, it’s a long way from my preferred forms of exercise (it’s indoors for a start!) but it seems to work on lots of muscles that I never even knew existed. And it’s been strongly recommended as a way of making sure that you develop fitness in balance – so that you reduce the risks of injuring yourself from training only the specific muscles you need for eg hill-climbing and leave the opposing muscles weak. Apparently this unbalances your skeleton and makes it injury much more likely). So, in the interests of rapid progress on fitness and with a goal in mind, I’m going to endure it for the next 3 months, and see how much difference it really does make. Although it possibly wasn’t such a good idea to do my first session straight after a 14mile walk around Matlock!

And today’s training was another running session with the running group (now the intermediate group). It was pretty tough, and not just for the extra pace and distance the faster group is used to. This time it was interval-training running up a gentle hill, and I was definitely the slowest on the longer distance intervals. The training involved seven cones (well, six plus the end of the field), spaced at intervals with the first one more than half way up the field. We had to run to the first, walk back, run to the second, walk back etc, until we’d reached the end of the field, then the pattern reversed so we were doing slightly shorter intervals with every run. And of course this was all at “race pace” – ie sprint nearly as fast as you can.

The first cone felt brutally hard, and it was only sheer stubborness that got me to it without stopping – I’d not have made it if I wasn’t so close to the others in the group. The second and third were equally as hard for the final 10m of each. The fourth was getting harder, and by the fifth cone onwards I was really struggling with the distance. But I was really surprised that by the time the distance dropped back to the third cone, I was beginning to hold my own again on speed (though working harder than most, judging by my need to suck in huge gasps of air) if not on recovery time needed!

I’ve decided on a rest day tomorrow to let the legs recover from that. But even after just two weeks, I’m already noticing the difference. I’m really astonished how much difference it makes training with a group of folks who aren’t so far ahead of you in speed and ability that you feel you’ll never catch them up. At this rate, I may just be fit enough in time 🙂