Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vital Signs

Guess what?! I get to write a post about running again-yay!

This time I'm approaching my base build using a method I once swore up and down I'd never use: heart rate training (I have been doing this on the bike for a while now). While I always have and always will be a proponent of maintaining the ability to read your own body-I'll admit that I am not always the best at doing this. So I went outside my training box and started running not by pace, but by my 'vital signs'. So how's it going?....

I've been in the run rebuilding phase for the last month now and feel like I've made significant progress. As soon as my schedule allowed a run of :30 min or more, I have shut off the GPS function on my Garmin 405 and just run by time and HR. So far, I like it. I have been using the mantra "purpose over pace" and have solely been focusing on re-training my engine at the cellular level before thinking about doing any kind of hard stuff. For running, I'm keeping it simple for now, focusing just on being around 70% of my max HR, which is about 146 BPM or less.  In taking a 6-month break from racing, I've got lots of time. Here are some of my initial observations from the early stages of this experiment:

  • My breathing and cadence seems more even. I can even lower the HR a bit if I focus on taking deep, slow breaths on the run. 
  • I'm not sore in small localized areas (hello, red flag!) like I so often was in the past. 
  • I feel more relaxed when running. 
  • I don't even notice I have the HR strap on. 
  • I'm actually practicing what I preach to the athletes I coach-especially my long distance triathletes.
  • Perhaps the most surprising one is that I don't find myself thinking about pace very much. Sure, it crosses my mind, but the "big picture" is so much more important. This is BIG for me. 
Mentally this has helped me progress at an appropriate rate because I now have some biological evidence that I need to slow down (may my running partners rejoice;)). In slowing down I can really focus on fine-tuning my mechanics and getting stronger. And I LOVE feeling stronger.

After reading numerous articles and consulting with some of the best athletes around (including being called out by Camille Herron for taking an easy run at too high a HR!) I have began to re-learn what an easy run really should feel like. Easy. Besides, the sports scientist in me likes objective biological data. I'll be curious to see how it affects my future races- but who knew a little device I once thought was restrictive would actually help me enjoy running more?

There are several formulas out there to determine HR zones. I recommend getting a lactate test and obtaining a true max HR before getting started. The most important thing is that most training be done sub-threshold as to minimize stress on the body. Lower HR = less energy output = lower stress response = faster recovery. Purpose over pace. Pow!

For me this will be an easy run staple. My recovery plan calls for 2 more weeks of timed runs, then I'll start tracking mileage again. Maybe I can get it a little higher at some point?? For now though, who cares-I'm just loving the feeling of having my Brooks laced up and hitting the trails.

Mind your vital signs and stay the course.


Raina said...

So happy to see you are doing this! I have been enjoying it too- most days. Had a little adventure with it his week as well. It is easy to run "easy" too fast, and hard to run in the interval zone hard enough (outside of racing) for me.
Congrats on following your own advice! You'll be glad you did.

Richard said...

Good job adopting something new into your training plan.

K said...

Turn off the GPS? What? I never thought to do that!!!

We need to talk. Starting to embrace the HR method as well. I need to get that max HR nailed down before I begin.

So excited to see where this will lead you, A!!!

L.A. Runner said...

You know by now how much I love this. It's something I've thought you needed for a long time. YAY! I truly believe the key to increased mileage is slowing down. Without a doubt, this will make you stronger and improve your runnning. I can't WAIT to see the results from this. You are going to be on FIRE! So proud of you, many hugs!