Above is the "no bullshit" version of the crap that's gone on for the last three weeks.
After improving my time by more than a minute during the first week in April [#2] over the last Park Run in March [on the 31st] , and maintaining regular training, on the 14th of April [#3], disaster struck.
My calves cramped up early on; it felt like they'd locked up completely, and shortly after hitting 3km I was forced to walk. After walking 1.5km they were still locked up. The progress from the first two weeks was suddenly, horribly, switched around from a 1 minute improvement to a 3 minute + slide backwards.
It didn't many any sense!
Also, after 3 weeks of training on a daily basis my weight was stuck at 100 + Kg. That didn't make sense either.
To be honest, I was so despondent going into week #4, I started to skip sessions for the first time. On a 3km run on the Tuesday, I ended up walking at least half of it. My calves were tight, sore and locked up on virtually no training.
What was going on? It didn't many any sense!
But then I started to figure it out. Although I'd committed to not writing at all in April, I decided to start work on a pet project about halfway through the month, or two days before #3. In those two days I was sedentary, and sleeping badly, and in fact on the morning of the 14th, I wrote for an hour or two before the Park Run. The impact of that was immediate.
The lesson is this:
1) No matter how much you've trained in the past, you CANNOT transition from sitting for hours at a time to running!
2) If you sit for hours on any particularly day, and you don't exercise on that day, your fitness doesn't remain stable, it goes in reverse - your muscles weaken. You have to make up for these reversals.
3) Sometime during the last 3 weeks I raised my chair, which actually caused more tension on the back muscles, and also caused a greater weight on the calves because they're effectively hanging in the air. Worse still, the edge of the chair was cutting off circulation because the hamstrings were pressing against the edge of chair. All of this must be considered in a scenario not of a youngster, but an older person, heavier who is sitting for hours at a time. You simply CANNOT sit like that and expect your legs to be functional, let alone ready to be run, the moment you decide you're finally ready to stand up and go running.
The dilemma of course is, if you write/sit to make a living, you can't wave a magic wand and simply stop working. The trick is to combine both, to find a balance that works.
Going into week 4, I tried a few different things.
Firstly, I lowered the seat, secondly I tried to maintain exercise in the last few days leading up to the run, and thirdly, I made sure I wasn't sitting at all on the morning of the run.
I also happened to sleep a lot better during that week.
I was very nervous for #4 because a slow time would basically mean back to the drawing board; possibly me having to quit writing [quit work] until I could rehabilitate my legs. As you can see from the screengrabs up top, #4 was a 12 second improvement on #2.
One reason I think played into this improvement was my weight dropping, from as high as 102/103kg the last few weeks, down to 97/98kg this week.
So as it stands, for April, and there's 1 Park Run to go still before the month is out, I've already improved 1 minute 12 seconds. In other words, I'm on schedule in the first month in terms of carving at least one minute off each month, every month.
For next week [#5] I'd like to get close to 31:15, simply because by the end of May I'd like to be under 30 minutes. For all this self-congratulation, I'm still very aware that anything slower than 25 minutes for 5 kilometers is very average, and slower than 30 is embarrassing. Sitting excessively and out-of-whack sleeping patterns are clearly the unknown factors in this whole equation. Without them this project would be tough but doable. With them part and parcel of the equation, it means quite a lot of exercise is undone during work hours, and that not only complicates progress, but slows it down.
So that has to be factored in as well.
If I hit a ceiling in a few weeks, or months, and I imagine I will, the answer will likely be to cut out work/writing/sitting completely, until that ceiling is breached. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.