Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Gentler Path to Running

OK, so I made it to week six of the c25k a while ago. Technically, I made it past that. But, really, it was torture. So it's no surprise that I stopped. (Well, to be fair, I also began swimming a lot more because I really began to get it.)

And then it hit me: I have a 5k in, um, seven weeks!

Well, now, that could be a problem.

So, I have two options: Restart and continue the c25k or select another way of training for the 5k. (Well, technically I have a third option of not running the 5k in April, but come on... that's not really an option, now is it?)

As much as I like the c25k, it came with one major problem: I would push myself very hard. I have a habit of doing that. I think I've admitted before that I'd rather die than be last on a hike. (Actually, I did get over that with last week's snowshoe hike with the Sierra Club; I decided that being last would, indeed, be a bit better than having to be rescued by a helicopter.) But my point still stands: I push myself hard.

With the c25k, I'm frequently running in the 165-175 bpm range, even reaching up to 180. (That's quite high for someone with a historical max HR of 185 bpm. I'm still working up the courage to truly test my MHR.) According to everything I'm finding, that is actually in the anaerobic range, and I'm not truly building my aerobic base. Instead, I'm torturing myself in a range referred to as "hot", which does build the lactate threshold, but which even very fit people have difficulty maintaing for long. Well, isn't that interesting?

Warning: technical and yawn-inducing stuff follows. Grab a cup of coffee. That is, of course, if you don't already know my blog well enough to have a cup in your hand already.

So, what to do? After reading around, I've decided two things. One, I'm going to start using my heart rate reserve (HRR) to compute my training zones. This makes sense for me because I've always found given heart rate ranges based on percentage of max HR to be too wimpy, and this gives me somewhat higher ranges. Two, I'm going to use HRR training to spend more time in specific HR zones. I'll have hard days where I'm training in zone four (which still should keep me below 173 bpm, so it will be less torturous than before), and I'll follow it up with easy days in zone three, maxing at 159 bpm. (I don't know whether I should do anything other than warm-ups and cool-downs in zone two.)

Today I went out on a zone three run/walk. (That's the (fuzzy) data you're looking at on the right. Yes, there was much more walking than running, but that's OK. (I also went out on a slightly hilly trail, so that was an additional factor.) In the end, I could tell that I worked out, but I was never really breathing hard. In fact, I felt energized when I got in my car, rather than beat down. According to every resource I own and every one I could find on the internet, that means I was in the perfect zone for increasing cardiovascular fitness. (Isn't that weird? To train aerobically, I should never be breathing really hard. Sort of counterintuitive, isn't it?)

So, here's the basic goal: Go for a set distance for each run/walk while maintaining a target heart range. Try to run more and walk less each time. If everything I read (and believe) is correct, I should be able to slowly transition to running the entire distance.

Now, will this get me to running my 5k by April 11? I'm not sure. But I can always run/walk it. More importantly: Will this get me to running at a pace I can actually maintain and enjoy? That, I'm pretty sure, is a yes.

Comments and suggestions are more than welcome. Assuming anyone kept reading to this point. It's OK if you needed a second cup of coffee. I understand.

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