Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pet Peeves & Torture

Perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves is when people continually complain about things, but then never look for ways to improve the situation.  In relating this to my running, whenever a malady comes around, I need to figure out ways to improve it, rather than continually complain about it.  One that I’m anticipating is problems with my back that usually arise during longer distances (9, 10, 11 miles or more).  How can I fix that?  Cross training, of course, but more specifically core workouts. 

In order to up the ante as far as cross training goes, I decided to give an “Ab Ripper” video a shot.  I’ve seen a few DailyMile friends using “Ab Ripper X,” part of the P90-X system, for core work previously.  These Ab Ripper videos are from Tony Horton, a guy who makes videos intended to torture people.  They are produced by “Beachbody,” a company that churns out many of these types of videos.  I have no interest in a six pack, mind you; I just want to develop my core to help me with my running.

I scoured the ‘net and found a couple different options.  First is “Ab Ripper 200,” an older video of a six minute ab routine.  Six minutes can’t be that bad!  I also found that the “Ab Ripper X” is just an add-on workout at the end of the P-90X series, but is available on Ebay as just a single DVD (the entire set is expensive!).  Ab Ripper X is a longer workout; about 15 minutes, I believe.  I ordered both.

The first to arrive was the older Ab Ripper 200.  I popped this into the DVD player and proceeded to follow along during the (less than) 6 minute routine.  You lie down for the entire thing, so even better!  It took about 30 seconds for me to realize that there was a problem here.  This is six minutes of non-stop, pure ab hell.  The exercise are explained and demonstrated well, and Mr. Horton provides good tips while he tortures you.  But this is not easy.  I was able to do about 60% (maybe) of the exercises. 

Not the author.
I decided to do the video again the next evening.  Same results; except I dropped to about a  50% success ratio.  The following day, my entire abdominal region is on fire.  I have a feeling that this should help me develop my (apparently non-existent) core moving forward.  Perhaps I’ll get adventurous once my mid-section starts to feel normal again, and try the longer Ab Ripper X.  How much torture can one take?

Enjoy your progress!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Progress, Socks, & Songs

Meb agrees!  Slow progress is the way to go.  SOURCE: Running Times, Oct. 13
I’m settling into the new schedule of running, which includes speed work, recovery runs, and long (slow) runs.  Heart rate is a factor in all of them, and I continue to see improvement.  Here’s an update on the different types of runs and my experience with them so far.

Tempo Tuesdays

As I last reported, I started out way too aggressive with my attempt at tempo runs.  My structure is to run one mile at aerobic pace as a warmup, then a distance at anaerobic pace, and then a mile cool down back at aerobic.  I scaled the anaerobic interval back to 1.25 miles, and I’m adding a quarter mile per week to build up more slowly.  This is still very challenging to me, but doable.  I can definitely see the benefit to these runs.

Interval Thursdays (alternate)

Intervals are another area where I plan to progress slowly.  Right now, it is a warmup, four repeats of 1 minute redline heart rate, then two minutes aerobic (cool down) heart rate, then a final cool down.  I’ll increase this to five, then six intervals.  After that, I’ll increase the redline portion to two minutes (maybe three down the road).  I’ve found that redline just means to run as fast as I can while maintaining decent form.  My best pace on my latest was 6:47 per mile; something I definitely can’t keep up for long.  These runs so far have only been two miles, but they kick my butt! 

The fall is such a great time of year to run!  Seen on my run...

Hill Repeat Thursdays (alternate)

These aren’t new to me.  Hills tend to eat me alive, so I see these as an absolute necessity.  Jeff Galloway (pretty reliable source) has Tweeted out before that hills are like strength training for the legs (@jeffgalloway).  I actually look forward to the challenge of a good hill workout.  This is simply running up the best hill I can find under the circumstances, and cruising back down.  I push my heart rate into the anaerobic (above the lactate threshold) zone on the uphills…progressively higher as the workout goes along.  Feels good!  (easy to say that now, from the comfort of my chair)

Long Run Saturdays

I’ve started to “tinker” with the long runs a bit, allowing myself to run above the aerobic zone.  I figure that I’m not likely to stay in that zone during races, so I need to get my body used to pushing higher.  Plus I’m at the point where any increases in long runs will be gradual, as I have no plans to run anything longer than a 10k until April (plenty of time). 

I’ve learned that the lactate threshold is a real thing.  Staying under it on previous long runs, I always felt fresh and in good shape at the end.  When I pushed even slightly higher than the aerobic heart rate zone last Saturday, the pain was evident at the end.  It wasn’t disabling pain, but very noticeable.  Just that dull, lactic acid pain in your legs.  Really interesting to see the correlation between heart rate and lactic acid production in the muscles. 

Recovery Runs (Sunday, Wednesday)

This is a vital component of any heart-rate based plan.  In my view, this is the one component a lot of people neglect.  They simply run hard, all the time, for various reasons.  Easy miles are important to help build the capacity for distance, while still taking it easy on the body.  They’re better in many ways than a day off, but they still allow for a recovery by not pushing a hard workout. 

See?  From the Runner's World daily calendar, 2013.

Need for Cross Training

I’ve got to figure out how to get some cross training in.  I’m really struggling with this.  The two days I don’t run, Mondays and Fridays, would be good for me to wake up and hit the gym, but I’m having a hard time prying myself out of bed those days.

I’m going to try a couple of core workouts out of the P90X family (Ab Ripper X) to see what that does.  My core is not good, and it tends to hurt me when I get up to the half marathon distance.  I’m going to make this a priority for now, and try to figure out a way to increase upper-body workouts at the gym down the road.

Weight Loss

I’ve hit a milestone: 20 lbs down since early August.  I still have a ways to go, but I’m at a weight that I actually ran a half marathon at (my slowest, but still!).  I had my first stumble on Tuesday night, when I couldn’t sleep due to ravenous hunger.  I got up and devoured a few things I shouldn’t have.  I’m not dwelling on it, though.  One slip over about three months ain’t half bad. 

I’m not sure that there is much to socks; they aren't going to necessarily change your form or anything.  However, I do think it is important that they wick well and stay put.  Running socks can be expensive! 

I’ve bought quite a bit of “stuff” from Roadrunner, and these socks have been great for me.  They’re at least reasonably priced.  These have a bit of compression around the arch, which I like having experienced plantar fasciitis in the past.  Whether they prevent PF, I’m doubtful, but that bit of compression seems supportive to me.  They’ve never moved around on me, but aren’t so tight that they’re bothersome.  They wick quite well.  I buy the low variety, as I’ve experience rear ankle rubbing problems with the no-shows and some shoes.  These are my go-to socks unless it is cold outside; that’s when I go with merino wool. 

Song to Run To

In the spirit of “Two Gomers Run…”, I offer a suggestion for a song to run to.

“This is Gospel” by Panic at the Disco.  Might sounds a little weird at the beginning, but it has a rousing chorus, so give it some time.  A good, spirited song to pick you up a bit if you’re lagging.

Enjoy your progress!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Heart Rate Running: Is it Working?

I just wrapped up my first week of running under a new plan.  This week included five days of running; different from my customary four.  I’ve also introduced two runs that are intended to get the heart accustomed to operating at a higher level (above the aerobic, fat burning zone).  This week included a tempo run and an interval run.

So how did it go?  Well, there were some mixed results.  The tempo run was rough.  Looking back, though, I should have known that it was a bit too much too soon.  It wasn’t the tempo run itself that was the problem; it was that it was scheduled to be a five mile tempo run.  This means one mile at the aerobic pace that I’m accustomed to, then three miles at the higher anaerobic pace, and finally the last mile at aerobic pace.  The problem with this plan is that I’ve been running 3-5 miles at aerobic pace, and zero at the higher pace.  So I’m not sure why I thought I could do three. 

Spotted a heron on my long run Saturday!
And I couldn’t.  But I adjusted on the fly and did about a mile and a half at the higher heart rate zone.  So the more logical plan is to slowly build up to this five mile tempo run; starting at a three mile tempo and gradually adding a bit to the higher heart rate zone as I go.

The interval run was more realistic.  Five minutes warm up in the aerobic zone, and then intervals of one minute in the highest heart rate zone (“red line”) and two minutes in the aerobic zone…then a five minute cool down.  I did four intervals, and while challenging, I was able to do it for the most part.  I’ll increase the intervals, both in frequency and duration, as I move forward.

Runner’s World recently posted an article that claimed (via research) that intervals need to be at least 3 minutes in length in the difficult zone to be of maximum benefit.  I suppose that this is true; however, you have to start somewhere. 

Heart Rate Training Update

So how is this heart rate training thing going?  I’ve noticed that there are some positive results.  The goal of heart rate training is gear the body to run at a better pace for certain heart rate zones.  You can’t really adjust your max heart rate, but you can run faster at a lower heart rate over time.  In order to look to see if this has happened for me, I have to select a run that has been consistent over the entire period.  My “recovery” or “base” runs have been consistently at 5k from the beginning.  I have always kept them in the same aerobic heart rate zones, as well.  I never cheat; the only time I run outside of this zone is for the last ¼ mile, which I run without regard to zone.  Here is what my average pace has looked like:

Week one:          13:40   
Week two:          13:30
Week three:        13:17
Week four:         12:53
Week five:          12:28

I’d say it is pretty good progress overall; almost a minute drop in pace over this period.  Keep in mind that these runs include walk breaks for when I exceed the aerobic zone; walks that bring the heart back down to where it should be.

Shoe Review Update: Adidas Boost

The "Boost foam" is holding up very well after 100 miles
I am becoming quite accustomed to the Adidas Boost shoes.  Maybe the best thing I can say about them is that I rarely ever think about them.  I’ve got over 100 miles on the Boost now, and they’ve shown very little in the way of wear.  I switched from Kinvaras; quite a different shoe.  But one thing I’ve noticed is that the Boost are holding up better in the sole than the Kinvaras did.  I can destroy a pair of Kinvaras at about 250 miles; partially because I’m a larger runner.  I have a feeling that the Boost will last well over that, although only time will tell.  The one complaint I’d have is that the toe box is fairly small.  This is not an issue I’ve ever had with previous shoes, but it is noticeable to me in the Boost.  It caused a slight problem with my left foot, but it has since corrected itself and I tend to lace up the shoes looser now. 

I hope everyone is progressing well!


Friday, October 11, 2013

October @Stridebox Review

Got my first Stridebox today!  More info about Stridbox can be found here:

Here’s the little box that was in the mailbox:

Smaller box than I expected, but packed!

Inside, in recognition of breast cancer awareness, there was a pink “Run for a Cause” sitcker, and the wrap was pink:

The first thing I pulled out was a sample of Perform pain relieving gel.  I’ve never used it; however, it is from the makers of BioFreeze, which is a product I’ve used.  It is great for temporarily relieving spot pain, so I’m assuming Perform is similar.  I've used it when I can't sleep because an ankle is nagging me, for instance.  I’m sure I’ll find a use for Perform in the future, as I tend to hurt from time to time!

From the makers of BioFreeze; for when it really hurts!

Next is a couple of sample packages of RockTape.  Again, not a product I’ve used, but it seems to be similar to KT Tape…which again I have used.  I’ve had some success with KT Tape before, so this should be useful as well.

RockTape...StrideBox must think I'm likely to be in pain in October!  (They're probably right)

Fluid natural performance sports drink is next.  From what I’ve read, it is what it says: an electrolyte replacement drink mix that is made from clean, natural ingredients.  I’ll give this a shot soon and see what I think.

A “That’s It” bar was included.  Simple concept: the bar is made from an apple and from cherries, and is “free” of all the bad fillers.  Marketing is straight to the point.  I’ll be interested to try this, as well.

The natural stuff!

I’m very familiar with Honey Stinger Waffles!  I’ve never had a chocolate one, but I love the regular versions.  I’ve been eating them prior to my weekend long runs, so I’m looking forward to slamming this one down, as well. 

Interesting energy gel: Chocolate #9.  This gel does not have sugar, but is sweetened instead with agave.  Supposedly it will not result in a sugar high/low, but a steady supply of energy.  Not sure how I’ll do with Chocolate gels on long runs, but I’m willing to try and see what I think. 

Ignore the Lance Armstrong endorsement; Honey Stingers are great!
Continuing with the natural theme, there is a Raspberry Fig Bar that is 100% natural in the box. 

Finally, a little “backpack bag;” I’m not sure what you call them, but I have a few that I’ve gotten from trade shows and from expos.  This one is mesh, though; it would be good for workout clothes. 

I’m looking forward to trying out the products; that is what Stridebox is all about.  Maybe I’ll find something that I’ll like for the future!

Enjoy your progress!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Change of Pace

Change of Pace

I’ve certainly been known to ride the roller coaster of running quite well; the ups, the downs…changes of pace here and there.  But this isn’t a “oh no, he’s changing plans again” thing.  To date, I’ve been quite pleased with heart rate based running.  It has just become very comfortable for me.  Comfortable to the point that I believe that it is time to intensify things a bit and move on to the next phase. 
The uphills are actually more difficult...
It was my plan to spend two months doing nothing but aerobic-zone runs to build myself up for the next phase.  I’m not all that far off.  I had a few weeks of Couch to 5k, which really likely mimics heart rate training because it provides walk breaks (bringing your rate down into the zone).  Additionally, I believe I’ve been aided by having run in the past.  Even though I’ve lost a lot of fitness, I think I’ve gained quite a bit back more quickly than I did before because of that prior base.

So what is the next step?  I’m pushing outside of this comfortable, slow-paced aerobic zone that I’ve been using for all of my runs into some different types of zones with more challenging workouts.  I’ve found different data to indicate where each zone is approximately, so I’ve adjusted those to a best match of where I should be.  When you’re researching heart rate training, you’ll find some subtle differences where the zones are (percentage-of-max-wise), but generally they’ll increase from energy efficient/recovery at the low end, to aerobic (fat burning), to anaerobic (glycogen burning [lactic acid producing]), to red line (fast twitch/interval) zones at the high end.

My weekly plan will look like this:

Tuesday: 5 mile Tempo run: 1 mile (warm up) aerobic zone, 3 miles anaerobic zone, 1 mile (cool down) aerobic zone

Wednesday: 3.1 miles aerobic zone (for recovery, an “easy” day)

Thursday:  Intervals: one or two minutes in the red line zone, followed by one or two minutes in the aerobic zone, repeat 4-7 times


Thursday (alternate):  Hill repeats up to (but not into) the red line zone; recovery (downhill) portion in the aerobic zone.  Thursday workouts will alternate between hills and intervals. 

Saturday:  Long slow distance (minimum of 6.5 miles) in the aerobic zone

Sunday: 3.1 miles aerobic zone (another “easy” day)

This plan draws off of the principle of hard/easy days.  You are never to have back to back hard days.  You either take a day off, or have an easy run squeezed between.  Hard days include: tempo, interval, hill repeat, or long runs. 

I’ll start this next week, but for a trial I did one mile (mini-tempo) during my five miler on Tuesday in the anaerobic zone.  It wasn’t a problem, and I still felt good at the end of the run, but I could tell that the lactic acid was present more than before (a little more stiff).  Just more proof in the pudding, to me.

We’ll see how this goes.  I’m excited for the change, and to see how this plan impacts my average heart rate moving forward. 


Since I started running, I've gotten into the habit of always having a water bottle with me.  It doesn't matter if I run 3 miles or 13; I have it handy.  My philosophy is that if I don't have to be thirsty, then why should I?  I never carry it in a race, though; no problems switching from a constant source to an aid station-based source.

For most of my short runs, I only need a small bottle.  I've tried three different types: the Fuel Belt Sprint, the Amphipod Thermal Lite, and the Ultimate Direction Fastdraw.  These are in the 10-12 oz range.  

The Ultimate Direction Fastdraw; great, reliable bottle.

My favorite is the Ultimate Direction.  It is more secure than the Fuel Belt; I've never had a bottle slip out.  Also, it is easier to open while running.  I've had the "nipple" pop off of the Fuel Belt before.  This has never happened with the UD.  Once you get a couple of carriers ($14.95 for bottle and carrier), you'll only need to buy bottles for replacements ($5 each) or just replacement tops as they become scratched or worn (takes a long time).  The Amphipod is a decent choice, but the UD has a better pocket for money, ID, small packets of nutrition (like Sports Beans), or even tiny MP3 players like the Shuffle or Clip Zip if you want to stash that kind of stuff.  I put the UD bottle/cap in the dishwasher all the time; never a problem.  You can machine wash the UD carrier (I don't know if it is recommended, but I have several times).  Highly recommended!

I hope your progress is going well!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

...and the Heart Beats On...

Heart rate running continues for me.  I’m still in the initial building phase at this point, which involves staying in the aerobic zones.  This is recommended for a period of about two months.  I started using heart rate as a guide on August 7th, but I hadn’t figured my max correctly and was at too high of a zone.  This was corrected on September 9th.  I’ll continue to do all my runs in the aerobic zone (the target rate is 155) until October 29th, when I’ll start to throw in different runs and zones.

Seen on my run; morning sunrise is beautiful this time of year!
How do I stay near my target of 155?  I have a 5 beat per minute “buffer” on each side.  The Garmin 610 is set to vibrate whenever I’m outside of this 10 beat per minute zone.  Trust me: it can get frustrating!  There have been times that I’ve wanted to rip the watch off and throw it; not because it is wanting me to increase my heart rate, but because it jumps up too high too quickly (usually on hills).  But I remember how much I paid for the thing, so I deal with it.  Whenever it gets too high, I walk until it hits the low end of the zone, and then I run again.  On occasion, I’ve had to pick up my pace to get it above the low number, as well (starting to have to do that more and more; progress?).

It lets me know (often), when I'm zoned out.

After about two months of work (October 29th), I’ll finally break out of that zone.  At that time, I’ll start doing tempo runs, intervals, and hill repeats.  These will all be in a higher heart rate zone (different, depending upon the type of run).  These runs will (supposedly) get my body/heart accustomed to operating in a higher heart rate zone, and also lower (supposedly) my average heart rate; meaning those aerobic runs will increase in pace.  That’s the theory; that’s what I’m testing.

What have I noticed so far?  I think it is important to keep in mind that I’m early in the game.  I’d say you can figure that I’ve been at it for about a month.  I haven’t really noticed that my pace has quickened any.  However, I have noticed that the runs have become easier.  I’ve also noticed that I’m not in as much pain as I was at the start.  Today, in fact, I had a run of 4 ¾ miles (I’m slowly building distance twice per week) and felt like I could have run it again when I was done.  Granted, it was very, very slow, but so was my first heart rate run.  But I was exhausted when I completed that one. 

Another thing I’ve noticed is that when I do push into higher zones (I cheat over the last quarter mile of each run and ignore the monitor), it still feels comfortable.  I think that there is something to this; that my heart is conditioning nicely. 

Finally, while I haven’t noticed a huge drop on the scale from week to week (although I’m down 14 pounds since August 1st), I’ve noticed inches are coming off quicker than weight.  Perhaps this ties into the ability for the aerobic zone to burn fat as a primary fuel source?

I’ll continue on this path and see where it leads.  It will be interesting.  I feel like I’m progressing and that’s what is important.

To your progress!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reality Running

Each day while I’m out there adhering to the principles of heart rate-based running, I think of new names for it.  Previously, I called it patience running.  This week, the term “reality running” is ringing true with me.

The reality is that I lost a lot of fitness over the course of about six months.  Ceasing running at all and feeding like a starved grizzly bear, I packed on weight and lost the ability to run like I used to.  When it comes to health, reality is much better than denial, though. I can’t immediately go back to where I was.  I have to do a reset and build toward it again.  The best approach to do this is to be honest with myself.  Where am I truly at: weight, fitness level, blood pressure, mental state, etc.  I’ve become more obsessed with true numbers that provide me these answers.  The results can be unnerving, but they can also provide me the knowledge that I know I can improve.  That is why heart rate running fits neatly within my current frame of reference.

I’m not a doctor, a fitness expert, or anything of the sort, but when I gain an interest in something I tend to devour all the information that I can.  I’ve studied up on several sources about heart rate running, and there are several things about it that appeal to me.  I’ll try to share some information about the process as I go along.  Before worrying a bunch about what zones you should be in and such, I think it is important to consider the rationale of “why.”  This is particularly true because you’ll be damn frustrated initially with heart rate-based running, because it’ll force you to go very, very slow. 

Yes; this slow!

The first step is to build your aerobic base.  When I first got into running, I’d read all of these training plans that advised to “run at 75% effort.”  I’d think to myself “What the hell is 75% effort?”  When I’m sitting on my couch, watching “Breaking Bad” or “Wheeler Dealers,” getting off of the couch to refill my Diet Pepsi can seem like 100% effort.  Well, the heart rate monitor will tell you.  Seventy-five percent effort is 75% of your max.  One hundred percent effort IS your max.

So to start with, I have to stay in my aerobic zone; which is the zone where the body burns the most fat.  As someone who is trying to lose weight, it sounds great, doesn’t it?  Well, it is.  But as someone who is trying to go fast, it is not.  It is slow to the point that I often have to stop to walk to get it back into the zone (primarily on hills).  It is slow to the point that occasionally I am running at a pace that might or might not be faster than walking; I’m not sure.  However, running in this zone for about two months is important to build this base.  Once this is done, I’ll be doing some other types of runs (tempos, intervals, hills) at a higher heart rate in order to start to push into anaerobic zones, which should help to build speed and drive that average heart rate downward.  You can’t change your max rate, but you can change the heart’s efficiency and the average rate.  Over time, you’ll be able to run faster at that aerobic pace, and your body will become accustomed to using fat as fuel (hello, long runs!) rather than overly relying upon glycogen, which will deplete faster than fat as a fuel.  You’re training your body to use fat as fuel, and in the process you’re not killing yourself to do so. 

This is the process I’m in, in a nutshell anyway.  There is much more about it in “Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat (sic) Idiot” by John Parker; the best source I’ve found about it.  The book is more than a decade old, but strangely there are not a lot of other sources about it that are better or newer.  Odd to me, considering that heart rate monitors are pretty commonplace now as they’re integrated into most of our GPS watches.

A good primer

So that’s the rationale for “reality running” for me.  And so far, so good.  I’m trying  my best to ignore the pace, and focus upon the fact that after 4 miles I feel little to no pain and I feel like I could run again  after 4-5 hours of rest (note: I don’t!  Only four days a week right now). 

I hope all is well with you!  To  your progress!