Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Training log - Week ending 12/25/16

This week was 42 miles of running and 12 "miles" of pool-running -- training log is here.

This was a rebuilding week, as I shifted from pool to land-running again.  While my normal schedule is to take Monday and Thursday as my pool-running days, I moved things around this week so that a) I had a pool-running day after each two day set of running on land and b) (more importantly) I could meet my friends for the traditional White House Christmas Tree run.

That meant that Tuesday and Friday were planned to be my non-running days this week.  Which was convenient, because I woke up on Tuesday with a bad head cold, and spent much of it in bed.  By Wednesday, I was feeling slightly better - enough to "go" back to work (I telecommute, so I don't generally take sick days unless I'm really non-functional) and to try an easy run.  I felt better after the run, so it was apparently the right choice.

By the end of the week I was past the point of being contagious, and ready to reintroduce myself to society.  Which was fortunate, since that was my designated day to try out "Solidcore."

[It's worth noting that during my training cycles, I'm conservative in my fitness routine - sticking to the cross-training and workout structures that I know work for me (and more importantly, won't get me hurt).  Times like now, when I'm in between cycles, are when I get to experiment with other stuff, be it side-crow pose in yoga, or hard swimming workouts, or Solidcore.  Or maybe spin class, some day.]

The class relies heavily on Solidcore's version of a Pilates reformer - like a reformer, it has a padded platform (a "carriage") that moves back and forth on rails, with different springs that can be hooked or unhooked to add or reduce resistance.  Unlike a reformer, it also has a padded stable platform on each end, marked lines on the carriage, and two sets of cables with handles at one end of the reformer (a Pilates reformer only has one set of cables).

The routine itself (at least for the class I took) could be broken down into four stages - we opened with what I'd call "active planks" - holding the plank position and then doing various pikes or crawling on one's elbows.  From there we transitioned to a sequence of squats, with one leg on the floor and the other on the reformer.  We were encouraged to squat very deep, and to use bars on the reformer to balance, so the exercise emphasized strength, not balance.

Then we moved on to the core section - more planks, side planks, pikes, and crunches using the reformer, before finishing with some arm strengthwork - using the cables that were attached to the reformer while kneeling on the reformer.  Then you're done, and you immediately leave the room.  (well...after high-fiving your neighbor and wiping down the reformer). It's a short and aggressive workout that is performed at full intensity throughout.

There's not really any mobility work or stretching - it's just pure strengthwork, using your own body weight plus a bit extra resistance from the cables or small handheld weights.  You work one body part at a time, with no rest breaks, before moving on to the next.  The work itself consists of controlled slow movements, interrupted with the occasional pulsing movement.  Thus, a great deal of the workout involves eccentric work- the controlled lengthening of the muscle, as opposed to concentric or isometric work.

[to explain the difference between the three types - when you perform a biceps curl using a dumbbell, the curl itself is an example of concentric work - the biceps contracts/shortens.  When you slowly lower the dumbbell after, in a controlled lengthening of the biceps, that's eccentric work. If you were to perform the biceps curl partially and then hold the weight still, that would be isometric work.]

Solidcore's focus on slow eccentric work here is notable - while concentric, isometric, and eccentric work all build muscle, it's generally eccentric work that makes you sore and shaky.  For a real life example, you can just remember your last marathon.  Or rather, the sore quads after.  While the soreness and stiffness in other leg muscles fades fairly quickly, quad soreness can persist long after the race.  That's not because you use the quads more than other leg muscles when running (at least, hopefully you don't), but because the quads work eccentrically, especially when running downhill, while the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves are working concentrically.

So...do a workout grounded in eccentric work, and you're sure to be sore after.  Combine that fact with the aggressive start to the workout (no "easing into it" here), the exclusive focus on one muscle or area at a time, and the warmth of the room, and the workout is designed to seem intense and to leave you sore and stiff after.  Loud music and an encouraging instructor add to the sense of achievement.

I left the workout with mixed feelings about it.  I think Solidcore appeals to people who like feeling sore and shaky and accomplished after a workout.  But, there are other ways to earn the same level of fitness and strength without that manufactured soreness and discomfort, it just takes more time and a well-structured gym routine.

As an analogy, consider two track workouts, each being 6x800 with the same goal paces and the same recovery.  The only difference is that one is preceded by 20 minutes of easy jogging plus some drills, while the other workout is performed cold - you go from standing still right into the first 800.  The workout performed without a proper warm-up will unquestionably feel harder and most likely leave you more sore after, and you'll also get it done in less time.  But was it really a "better" workout?  Again, it depends on whether your goal is to improve your running while minimizing risk of injury, or to feel accomplished based on how tough the workout felt and how sore you felt after.

Solidcore is very good for people who have very limited time and need to be in and out.  The workout lasts 50 minutes, and it is a very timely, orchestrated 50 minutes - no running late here.  The facility itself was also very nice - impressively clean, with tons of "extras" like hair ties, mouthwash, and hand towels.  The instruction quality was very good - very clear cuing and no missed movements or spending less time on one side versus the other.  (full disclosure - the instructor is a friend).  Overall, it's a high quality experience.

Despite that, I don't think Solidcore is for me.  At least not as a regular thing - I may go from time to time to be social.   As I had suspected when I signed up, the workout focused on what I've already got: core strength, and upper body/quad strength.  In fact, it honestly wasn't too different from the workout one gets riding a strong horse (which I had suspected, based on others' descriptions).  But, in order to avoid running injury, I obsessively and continually work on my personal weaknesses - hip mobility and flexibility, ankle strength, and one-legged balance.  And my current mix of yoga and heavy weightlifting addresses those areas well, while Solidcore barely touches them.

But, that's me.  I would recommend Solidcore to anyone who wants a fitness routine that leaves them feeling accomplished and stronger, while not requiring a major investment in time.  It would also work for a runner who has a very weak core, and often "forgets" to do their prescribed core work (though it'd be more efficient and cheaper to just remember to do your core work...)

I would strongly recommend Solidcore to anyone trying to stay in shape for equestrian sports who doesn't have enough time to get out to the barn during the week - about 90% of the movements in the class I took translate to that sport.  In fact, Solidcore is just about the best way I've ever experienced to replicate the physical demands of a hard riding lesson without actually, y'know, riding a horse. Just make sure to warm-up and cool-down on your own before and after.


Monday: In the morning, 6 easy miles (9:07) - Christmas Tree Run I -  plus yoga.  Foam rolling at night.
Christmas Tree Run I

: Bed and foam rolling and Tylenol.

Wednesday:  8 miles (9:21) and foam rolling

Thursday: 10 miles (9:08) and some upper body weights and core, plus foam rolling.

Friday: In the morning, 12 "miles" of pool-running. Solidcore and foam rolling in the afternoon.

Saturday: 10 miles (9:20) and yoga in the morning.  Foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday: 8 miles (8:51) - Christmas Tree Run II - followed by upper body weights and core.  Foam rolling at night.
Christmas Tree Run II

1 comment:

  1. I find your assessment of SC really interesting. When I had mono (and was in denial about how long it would last) I purchased a two-pack to go with some friends. I never ended up using it because I was sick for the next two months, but like you- it was more of a social thing anyway. I know some people who swear by solidcore, but it's expensive and I think you can get a great core workout at home (and without the hassle) just by doing basic exercises. Anyway, nice week!