Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): Pulling myself up

No frills, and no excuses … get in and get it done

This is the pull-up bar hanging in my garage. It’s been there for almost three years. The bar is made of the no-longer-used rings from our backyard play set, a salvaged metal pipe from lord knows where, and of course duct tape (to keep the bar from sliding around, since others use it [play on it] from time to time and may not anticipate the movement). I don’t use it as often as I once did, but I’m prone to rep out a dozen pull ups at a clip when I’m tinkering in the garage or hanging out in the yard.

Most important, these days it largely represents a down-to-earth no-excuses philosophy. Get in and get it done. Life is busy, but there’s no reason I can’t rip off a handful of pushups, sit ups, dips, pull ups, lunges and a host of other exercises from time to time, all from the comfort of my home (or garage). Get in and get it done. 

And seeing the pull-up bar at least twice a day (to and from work) in all its tattered glory, it finally struck me that I’m probably not doing all I should to make the kind of push at the 2012 Urbanathlon that I’ve been preoccupied with since the 2011 race ended.

Don’t get me wrong, hands down I know I’m a better runner today. Stronger, too. My weight hovers at 195 (haven’t seen that since Clinton was playing sax on the Arsenio Hall show). I’ve run with consistency and am getting more race-day reps under my belt with local 5Ks, 8Ks, and other events. All positive stuff, and I feel great.  No question if the race was held today I’d fair better.

But running with consistency and running with purpose are two different things. To add purpose to the consistency cocktail I finally decided to articulate and measure against a formal training plan. Plan your work and work your plan, as they say.

Below are the broad strokes of my routine for at least the next four weeks (as of this post there are nearly 17 weeks until the 2012 Urbanathlon). I’ll assess in a month where I need to make tweaks. Endurance, strength and speed are the end game.

Full transparency: I have to remain flexible and adaptive about all of this. This schedule is a best-case scenario and one I’ll work hard to maintain. Like with you, life is busy and things come up routinely (a timely example: this morning I awoke at 5 a.m. to get out early for my stair routine and outside was a rain/lightening storm with 60-mile-an-hour winds … no thank you). These are guardrails for an ideal week, and while I don’t delight in missing a planned workout, I’ll take it in stride when it happens and figure out how to do something active in its place. This should be fun and fulfilling.


  • Rest. A respite after my Sunday long run.


  • Stair climb (178 steps, 6 reps [1,068 steps total]). I’ll do this early before work. I run these.
  • Cross train. Mostly core, arms, shoulders, chest. I do this at the fitness center at work, so as long as meetings don’t get in the way, which they do on occasion, I’m here.


  • 5-6 mile run at a 7:30-8 minute pace.


  • Cross train. Mostly core, arms, shoulders, chest (I’ll rest my legs here). Again, lunch-hour fitness routine.


  • Stair climb/run (178 steps, 6 reps [1,068 steps total]). I’ll do this early before work.
  • Easy run. 3-6 miles at an 8-9 minute pace. This is with a run club at work, and participation is wildly inconsistent, so distance and pace vary depending on who’s there. The summer has been especially slow, in terms of participation, so at times I just run solo. In those cases I’ll do 6 easy miles.


  • Speed work. 8X400. I’ll do this early before the house wakes up.
  • Optional cross train, shortly after speed work. On Saturday mornings, when it works out, I train with a few friends and a personal trainer (kind of a standing meeting we have). Our workouts vary week to week, but it’s a total body workout in the worst way (kettle bells, medicine balls, dumbbells, resistance bands, hills, you name it).
  • More wiggle room on Saturdays. Sometimes things get hectic right out of the gate on Saturday, so I’m not always able to train in the morning, but in those instances later on I try to fill in the day with lap swimming at the YMCA or a free-for-all with pushups, pull ups and other Rocky IV type exercises. Just do something.


  • ‘Long’ run. 10 miles at an 8-9 minute pace.

I’ll see how well this routine holds up (meaning, how well I hold up). I don’t want to over train, but I do want to dial up the focus on specific speed, strength, and endurance drills, while maintaining some of the total body fitness work that rounds me out.

Curious where you have found the most training success (and what your proverbial ‘pull up bar in the garage’ is).


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