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!


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