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Quasi-beginner discouraged by lack of progress (Read 142 times)

tikigal


    I've been jogging for a while but do not seem to be making any progress. Looking for pointers and perspectives on what I might do differently.

     

    Background: I am generally fit, but not young, and I do have health issues. I am a 59 y.o. breast cancer survivor on hormonal therapy.  I also have pernicious anemia. I mention these because they can affect muscle mass, bone mass, and general energy level down to the cellular level. I have never been overweight, always been active, primarily hiking but also gym, skiing, kayaking, swimming, yoga, tai chi. I was an occasional and half-hearted jogger for years but never really pushed myself. I have a decent diet.

     

    5 and a half years ago, I finished cancer treatment with the goal of doing the couch to 5k plan and running in a real race as a way to celebrate survivorship. Since then I've gotten up to running 30 minutes at a 3.6mph pace (barely more than my walking pace), then I'd get a cold or go on vacation or get a bout of fatigue and lose almost all my progress. After this latest back-to-square-one, I decided to switch things up and at least get the benefit of high-intensity workouts, so I switched to a faster (5mph) running pace, also thinking that maybe a faster pace would train my body faster, too. I couldn't make even the small increments in the C25K at that pace, so I designed my own where I only increase my run intervals by about 30 seconds each time. But I still can't seem to progress.

     

    I've read about experienced runners hitting "the wall", and I seem to hit the wall really quickly. I can't say that it's being out of breath or leg pain but kind of a combo of both; I feel like every part of my body is screaming "STOP!" I can progress pretty quickly in the miles I can hike or swim, but with running I have a completely different experience. The last couple times I did my full workout (two sets of 2.5 and 5 minute jog intervals) my legs ached immediately afterwards and continued aching for 24 hours. I've never had something where the muscle ache started immediately, that's always a next-day-after-overdoing-it thing. I hoped that meant I was building muscle, but it didn't seem to help at all...my last two workouts I felt weaker, not stronger.

     

    I got so discouraged today that I just gave up halfway through....which is not what I want to be doing. I know I need to change something in what I'm doing...I'm just not sure what. Or is it not that unusual for a woman my age to progress this slowly?

      I mention these because they can affect muscle mass, bone mass, and general energy level down to the cellular level.

       

      This might well be (the)(a) root cause of your lack of progress.  Maybe somebody who knows more can chime in.

       

      Another possibility is that you are really unlucky in your choice of parents.  When I started running at age 51, it took me a full year until I could run 20 miles per week, and 3 more years until I could run 40 miles per week.  A friend started running at the same age, and was able to maintain over 40 miles per week after his first week.

       

      Combine your medical situation and possible genetics, and you have a real challenge.

       

      Do your legs ache all over, or just one or two particular muscles?  How often do you run?  Most fairly serious runners try to run about six days per week, with the real serious ones running seven days and multiple times on some of those days.  You might try running six days per week, with the running portion short and slow enough that you do not have aches and pains.  If you walk 30 minutes, and only run 30 seconds in that time, it's still a run.

      runnermom61


        Look up the Maffetone Method -- it's a great way to build a base.  Keeping your HR in the low range will help build up running endurance with less overall stress.  Note that you will most likely be doing a run/walk to stay at the low HR, especially near any hills.  https://philmaffetone.com/method/     Hope this might help!

          How often (how many days) are you running a week? Being able to improve at running has more to do with consistency than anything else. I would say that if you aren’t at least trying to run 3x per week, you will not see many gains at any reasonable rate.  Running slowly is nothing to be ashamed of. You have to train yourself to go the distance often before you can traverse it faster.

           

          Running is hard for anyone!   A lot of it does involve discomfort which must be pushed through. As long as you don’t injure anything, leg soreness is to be expected especially when you start out.  It takes at least 10 days for a training effect to take place. Many times you will have a dip in fitness before a gain. This is because your body is “overreaching”, going slightly beyond what it is capable of.  Keep at it consistently and your body will learn and adapt.

           

          The anemia can be a negative factor because it will make it more difficult for your blood to deliver oxygen efficiently to your legs and thus make it harder to run. If you can get the anemia under control it will make running easier.

           

          Some people decide that running is just not their thing!  Nothing to be ashamed about there either. There are plenty of other “aerobic” sports. Cycling is one that comes to mind that can be just as engaging and fun.

          "When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up against them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels."  Ezekiel 1:21

          GinnyinPA


            Is your anemia under control?  I had issues with ferritin after I had been running for a few years and it was much as you describe.  All of a sudden, running was very very difficult. I could walk and hike without issue, but the lack of oxygen to the muscles meant I could not hold any kind of pace at all. After I addressed the anemia, i was able to run again comfortably and happily.  You may need iron infusions rather than just pills. Talk to your doctor.

             

            The leg pain my be from trying to push the pace faster than you are ready to be running. Go back to your slow slow jog and try to run longer rather than faster.

            tikigal


              Thanks for the quick and thoughtful responses!

               

              Re: genetics. My Mom was captain of every girls' sports team in her high school (mind you this was in the 1930s so there may not have been much competition). Alas, I do favor my Dad's side of the family, so I probably inherited more artistic ability than athletic prowess. Although I never swam competitively, I seem to swim at a decent pace without a great deal of effort...after years not swimming I was the fastest swimmer in the fast lane at the local pool. Maybe having long skinny legs is better for swimming than running.

               

              Definitely will read up on the Maffetone method. I see it recommends getting a heart-rate monitor; I've been thinking of getting one that also measure heart rate variability, because that is supposedly something that can be knocked off kilter by chemotherapy.

               

              The last few months I've been running every other day. Ideally I also get some exercise, either hikng or HIIT, on the in-between days, but I think I've been pushing myself too much on the running days so I've slacked off on the in-between days. I don't schedule rest days because there are enough times that I get too busy with other stuff and end up skipping a day. I also do yoga 20-30 minutes pretty much every day.

               

              The leg ache is pretty much all over...not like it's one over-used muscle or something. It was very odd how that happened after both workouts; I've don't usually have muscle pain unless I'm doing some new exercise.

               

              I went back and continued on the treadmill after my post, but this time I just set if for 4mph and walked for 32 minutes...that's a fast enough walking pace that it's a challenge, and I found that it was actually easier to run for bits of it than to struggle to keep up with the treadmill. So I alternated back and forth. I think I'm going to try that for a while...listen to my body and forget timing my intervals. Since I'll mostly be walking I can push the time up to 40-60 minutes as well. In another thread on this forum I read a suggestion for a newbie to increase aerobic capacity first by long, fast walks, before trying a run. I'm not that new a newbie but I thought that was a good idea.

               

              My goal all along has been to get up to running 30 minutes 3x/week, consistently, then work on increasing speed and/or adding time to reach a full 5K.

              tikigal


                Is your anemia under control?  I had issues with ferritin after I had been running for a few years and it was much as you describe.  All of a sudden, running was very very difficult. I could walk and hike without issue, but the lack of oxygen to the muscles meant I could not hold any kind of pace at all. After I addressed the anemia, i was able to run again comfortably and happily.  You may need iron infusions rather than just pills. Talk to your doctor.

                 

                The leg pain my be from trying to push the pace faster than you are ready to be running. Go back to your slow slow jog and try to run longer rather than faster.

                 

                The pernicious anemia is a B12, not ferritin, deficiency. My husband gives my B12 shots every two weeks so I'm not stuck on the typical once a month schedule at the doctor's office. I do take iron and folic acid since they support B12 metabolism, but my levels in both of those have always been fine.

                 

                And I agree, the faster pace was a bad idea. I'll push myself on the HIIT days and go back to my usual plodding pace on running days.

                Daydreamer1


                  A lot of good thoughts posted. I'll just add some from my own experience.  You may want to consider what medications you are on as some of them can limit your ability to tolerate or progress physically.

                   

                  I'm completely healthy in that I have never had any major illness such as cancer etc.  My cholesterol does run high so I was put on a Statin for it quite a few years ago.  About three years ago I noticed that my depression was getting worse as was my fasting blood sugar levels. I'll spare you all the details but I quit taking the Statin about a 12-16 months ago. Depression much better, blood sugar levels better and very surprising to me, I'm running much better.  The last two years my legs just didn't want to tolerate me pushing hard. They just didn't want to respond.  I'm quite certain that it is related to getting off the medication.

                   

                  There are a host of side effects from the various medications that we take and I could offer many examples of people who went on a medication and their performance fell through the floor.  My wife took a beta blocker for a short time and could barely walk up a flight of steps with out turning gray.

                   

                  I'm not telling you to stop any medication, just to consider that that may be part of the issue.  When taking a medication it's all about risk vs. benefit and your overall need vs. tolerance of it's effects.

                  tikigal


                    Daydreamer, the medication may indeed be having an effect. And the chemo, even though it was 5+ years ago, could still be having an effect (about a third of BC patients still have fatigue 5-10 years post-treatment). After 3 months of chemo I felt 10 years older, and I'm far from the only one to say that. And I recently read a medical study that said that chemo agents can cause effects to the body that are consistent with 20 years of aging! And the hormonal treatments are intended to dry up any remaining estrogen...and it's the loss of estrogen from menopause that causes women to lose muscle mass and bone density. So it's like I'm in uber-menopause.

                     

                    Supposedly the best way to combat fatigue from cancer treatment is exercise...for the first couple of years exercise made it worse, but that was likely because I was using up my B12 stores too quickly. That's why my husband now does the injections. So far a biweekly schedule seems to keep me out of a slump.

                     

                    I sympathize with your wife's reaction to a beta blocker. I was given one in my 20s as a migraine preventive, and I got so disoriented I actually couldn't find my way home. Really scary stuff. Needless to say I did not stay on that!

                     

                    What I'm hearing from everyone is that I need to take it slow...be super patient with myself...maybe even let go of the notion of progressing at all but just do what I can, pushing myself but not so hard that I end up going backwards instead of forwards.

                    Daydreamer1


                      Daydreamer, the medication may indeed be having an effect. And the chemo, even though it was 5+ years ago, could still be having an effect (about a third of BC patients still have fatigue 5-10 years post-treatment). After 3 months of chemo I felt 10 years older, and I'm far from the only one to say that. And I recently read a medical study that said that chemo agents can cause effects to the body that are consistent with 20 years of aging! And the hormonal treatments are intended to dry up any remaining estrogen...and it's the loss of estrogen from menopause that causes women to lose muscle mass and bone density. So it's like I'm in uber-menopause.

                       

                      I sympathize with your wife's reaction to a beta blocker. I was given one in my 20s as a migraine preventive, and I got so disoriented I actually couldn't find my way home. Really scary stuff. Needless to say I did not stay on that!

                       

                      I've had a few family members get chemo and while a life saver, it certainly has some bad side effects.  One of my aunts had it for breast cancer. She's not doing the best overall but then she also takes at least 10-12 medications that are not related to the cancer. Some of her children have gotten quite involved with her and were trying to identify which medications she should be taking and which ones were making things worse. They've found a lot of overlap and medications that she's on for reasons that she no longer has.  Not always very easy to say the least and sometimes the doctors just want to keep prescribing more and more. Been reading a lot lately about doctors who are trying to spend more time deprescribing   medications and have found that less is more sometimes.

                       

                      In regards to the Beta blocker my wife was on it for migraines as well. Never got disoriented like you did but had chest pain, short of breath and walked around looking like she was going to have a heart attack. She ended up trading migraines for menopause induced hot flashes.

                       

                      Good luck and just keep plugging away.