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!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Heart Rate Update

I’m a few weeks into heart rate monitor-based running, and things are going well.  Actually, I think it should be re-named “patience training,” because it has required substantial patience on my part.  I soooo want to go faster!  But I’m trusting the heart rate feedback and sticking with it, which has led to some very slow 5k training times.  Once I build up to 10k at my aerobic heart rate (155 bpm), I’ll start incorporating intervals and tempo runs to improve my heart’s tolerance for higher rates (race paces).  My first scheduled race is a 5k at Thanksgiving, so I’m confident I should be in decent shape by then.

What has helped me greatly in my heart rate efforts is the Garmin Forerunner 610.  This pricey device has the benefit of giving me both audible and vibration alerts whenever I jump out of the correct zone.  I have it set at a high of 162 and a low of 153; this has led to an average of my 155 bpm target over the course of a run.  This is the best zone to perform “easy” training in (for me; everyone is different and it is based upon your max and resting heart rate), and also burn fat most efficiently.  With my old MotoActv, I’d have to check the watch constantly to see if I’d left my zone.  Not a problem anymore.  I’m still learning about the 610’s capabilities, but I’m loving it so far.

Easy to set heart rate zones in the 610 touchscreen

I’m also 25 miles into my new Adidas Boost shoes.  I switched to the Boost from the Kinvara because I need more support because, well, I’ve gained a lot of weight!  My lower legs were really feeling it, and I though the Boost would help.  Initially, it didn’t see that they would; I experienced a lot of calf and shin pain.  However, after a couple of weeks my legs are feeling quite good.  I think it is a combination of the heart rate training and the shows.  The training really forces you to slow down.  You are building so slowly that you experience little in the way of muscular pain; it seems to keep the development of your muscles in sync with the development of your heart.  The shoes, on the other hand, are quite “cushiony” (great word), but you can still get a feel for the road under you.  Significantly different than the Kinvara, but over time I’ve become used to the feel.  And they're quite bright!  They’re keepers, although I’m interested to see what kind of mileage I can get from them.  I’d tear through Kinvaras quite rapidly.  After 250 miles, they looked like toast. 

Bright yellow Boost!

Perhaps the greatest thing about heart rate training is that I’m not over working myself.  It seems easier to stay on track because I don’t doubt that I won’t complete each run every day.  The monitor lets me know when I need to slow or walk, so overburdening my muscles isn’t an issue.  We’ll see how it goes over the long haul; so far so good.

One of my most significant accomplishments during the last few weeks is that I incorporated a run into my vacation.  It was fun running somewhere different: Las Vegas, Nevada!  I couldn't run on the is just too busy, but it was cool running off the Strip and seeing all the huge hotels and sights.  And it wasn't that hot...the humidity was low.  It is tough to stay on schedule when you're on vacation!

The High Roller; a new huge Ferris Wheel near Harrah's in Las Vegas.  Taken on my run in early September '13.

Accomplishments since August 1, 2013:
Back to double-digit running weeks (11 from Sept. 8 – 15)
Lost 12 lbs.

Here’s to your progress!